Category Archives: games

Cold Shadows: The Black Book

You can buy a thing I wrote!

I’ve been teasing on social media about having something published for a while. Soon it won’t be a novelty, but the norm. I have no plans to stop writing, and by nature of the famed throw mud on the wall principle, eventually, some of that muck is going to stick.

In the meantime, tabletop role-playing gamers (yes, like Dungeons & Dragons, Mom) can check out some of my work right now.

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When Gallant Knight Games reached out to ask if I would be interested in writing for one of the three core books for their super successful Kickstarter game, Cold Shadows, I checked my calendar, shelved the rest of my writing projects, and said ‘Heck yes!’ Probably not in that order.

At any rate, this is a game I was already super excited about. Previously, I’d played Blood & Honor, the game the rules are based on, and I backed the Kickstarter and anxiously awaited release. Little did I know, I’d be writing several thousand words for Cold Shadows myself. I even have an author tag on DriveThruRPG!

Just to set expectations The Black Book is a core book for Cold Shadows, but it is meaningless without Cold Shadows, and I also recommend Cities in Shadow. Both are brilliantly written (not by me) and together make up the complete game.

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Between the three books, you have a fully immersive cold war era spy RPG. If you aren’t familiar with DriveThruRPG, you can preview the books so you can check them out without paying. Right now these are only available in PDF ebooks, but soon they will also be available in print-on-demand as well. Kickstarter backers will be getting their copies in a few months.

If a government agency like the FBI or NSA show up at my house asking around about my web browsing habits, I probably won’t be too surprised. I googled some fascinating stuff for The Black Book, and I also used some of my world travel experience to add some fun details. If you’re so inclined, check it out!

P.S. If you use The Black Book in your campaign and wonder how it turned out so well, GKG had a wonderful team including top-shelf editor Wendelyn Reischel. If there are any errors or problems in the text, they are certainly mine.

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RPG Review: King Arthur Pendragon v5.2

Will Raves

It’s not fair. I mean, what game has a chance against Nocturnal Media’s King Arthur Pendragon RPG?

Am I giving away the ending? Oops. Please carry on.

The Review

I’m going to approach this review as if you know nothing about previous versions. That said, King Arthur Pendragon 5.2 is a mainly cosmetic update from KAP 5.1. I own both in PDF and 5.1 print-on-demand hardbound, and they contain mostly the same content. A few errata have been merged in, but otherwise, the two versions can be used interchangeably. Primarily, the changes relate to layout and art.

But, oh wow. The new art is impressive.


1.) Size and Production Quality 

The Pendragon book isn’t the most massive RPG book I own, but it’s nowhere near the smallest either. Most of my previous reviews have been of minimalist RPGs who’s rules could be distilled into a few pages if you wanted them to be incredibly dense. KAP runs 272 pages if you include the newly redesigned character sheets in the back.

The layout is improved from 5.1 as well. I can’t speak for the book quality since I’m still waiting on a hardbound copy from one of Nocturnal Media’s Kickstarters I backed last year. I’ll update this post when I have my copy.

At any rate, for $19.99 you can get the PDF on DriveThruRPG. It’s a decent price for a book this size. Once Nocturnal’s offset print run is available, you’ll be able to pick up hardcover copies as well.

9/10


2.) Art

The art in Pendragon 5.2 is masterful. It was pulled from the Spanish version of the game, where they also have additional updated products. I was lucky enough to flip through the pages of the Spanish versions of King Arthur Pendragon and The Great Pendragon Campaign on a recent trip to Spain, plus a fantastic GM screen that I bought tucked in my carry-on for the trip back to the US (pictured below), and they are all glorious. Full-color art and plenty of it, and that cover. Drool. I can’t wait to have it on my shelf.

spanishPendragon

P.S. That store in Barcelona had fiction and non-fiction books, RPGs, board games, Magic, and plenty of fun toys. They had a clean and pleasant atmosphere, friendly staff, and space to play (3 RPG sessions going on while I was in the store). The kicker? They had the absolute largest RPG section of any store I’ve ever visited in any country. Someone want to build one of those right down the street from my house? I promise to be a faithful patron– please?

10/10


3.) Content and Rules

Nothing new here if you are already familiar with perhaps the most excellent RPG ever created. I’ll summarize for those who may be unfamiliar.

KAP is, surprise, about ancient England and being a knight (male or female) and chivalry and romanticism and magic and a brilliant system for role-playing.

So aside from the fact you get to play a knight with the opportunity to make history, build a family and a legacy (all part of the rules), and potentially even join Arthur at the Round Table, there is also a deep and strange connection to Merlin and the magic of faeries.

However, for me, the system is the other standout element. It’s no wonder there are multiple games in production built from the KAP ruleset, including Paladin: The Warriors of Charlemagne and a forthcoming game set in feudal Japan. One of the things I love the most about the system is the Traits. I’ve never seen a game take a similar approach. Each trait is a matched pair like Prudent/Reckless or Valorous/Cowardly.

The total score of the pairs must always add up to 20 (e.g., if my knight has a 6 in Merciful, she has to have a 14 in Cruel). When a player decides to have their character act against their traits, the GM may ask them to roll. For example, if I want my knight Phillipa to spare the life of a peasant who caused her to be unhorsed and publically humiliated, I would have to roll under her Merciful score on a d20. If I fail, I will roll to see if I score under my Cruel score, if I do, I must behave cruelly. If I do not, I can choose for myself.

There are several reasons I like this approach as a player and a GM. First, it’s effortless to get into character when you know you’ll be rolling and facing the consequences of failure to follow your character’s natural path anyway.

There are also passions, skills, and attributes. All of them contribute to the effectiveness and demeanor of your character. Any of these stats may be raised over time, and as you gain glory (Pendragon’s experience… sort-of), you’ll have more opportunities to do so.

9/10


4.) Game Master Section

Considerable effort has gone into providing everything needed for a GM to run a game of chivalry, virtue, and bravery. The flavor of the game should be entirely apparent for players if you are following the guidance given here.

8/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

Ever want to fight a bear and become a knight and make “the leap”? I ran this adventure as a one-off RPG session for the first time a week ago for a group who’s go-to game is D&D. They loved it, with the exception that a couple folks rolled a few too many 20s. I’ve played this adventure as well, and I’d say its very well balanced and encourages the use of many of the Pendragon’s mechanics naturally and organically. It’s a good three hours at least if you run with the pregenerated knights from the back of the book.

8/10


Total Score: 44/50

I own almost the entire Pendragon library. Some books, more than one copy. It’s very high on my list of RPGs. The score feels good to me.

This is the first non-TinyD6 game I’ve reviewed. It held up well! Look for future Pendragon book reviews, and perhaps something Trek and/or Hobbit-inspired soon as well.

State Of The Writer’s Brain/Work

Hey all, it’s been a while since we’ve talked. I mean REALLY talked.

How’ve you been? Are the kids doing well? How about the dogs? Goldfish? Broom?

If you’ve been following along on Twitter or my Facebook page, you might have gleaned a few tidbits about what I’ve been up to. However, I think if you read on, you’ll find some surprises.

work-in-progress-2ohayi

What’s On Hold

The Galaxy and All Her Charms is officially on hold. What I realized is this: the story I have in my head doesn’t match what I’ve written. I’m not ready to write that story for many reasons. I readily admit, one of them is my lack of skill.

Good news though, I had some professional help to review what’s already written. I have some fabulous feedback I’m going to be working through, but for now, I have other projects taking precedence.

What’s Done

If you missed it, a second Clah tale is published. Clah Versus the Volcano: A Marshmallow Roast.

The first draft of parts 6, 7, and 8 of Rue From Ruin are in the can awaiting a revision and publishing here on the blog. I also had some professional feedback on the first few parts, and I’m going to do a bigger overhaul at some point and submit the resulting story to some contests and anthologies.

I submitted around 5000 words of RPG writing to be published in a forthcoming RPG game. I’ll keep the name of the game quiet for the moment. It’s due out later this year or early next, so I’ll share once there is something for you to see.

What’s In-Progress

My new novel, codenamed GIAO, is well underway. The draft is about 1/4 finished, and I’m writing on it regularly. This one is very exciting for me. I’ll write about some related topics as I go along. Maybe some worldbuilding posts and such.

Blog posts: I have one about paying for professional critiques (the short answer is: if you can afford it, do it). Also an RPG review a new version of one of my favorite games of all time King Arthur Pendragon. Finally, for those reading from work, I have several posts in various stages of completion on my tech blog: http://blog.dubmun.com

What’s Brewing

Another RPG project is in the works. This one is considerably more ambitious than the last, and I may be involved as more than a pinch-hitter. Very early stages, but I’m really excited about it. I’ll share more when the plans firm up.

I’ve also written up seeds of quite a few new stories and/or longer works. They aren’t worth sharing at the moment, but a couple of them are exciting.

Finally, I’m considering writing a webcomic. I’m talking to a few artists about an idea I believe translates well to the medium.

 

See ya around, and thanks for reading!

A New TinyD6 Game… Sort-Of

Updated 9/15/2017

In a way, this is even better than a new TinyD6 game.

I’ve written about TinyD6 tabletop RPG games on several occasions. Now the grandparent of them all, Tiny Dungeon, gets an update. The new 2nd edition includes tons of expanded rules for characters and GM tools. Also, MICROSETTINGS! Have I raved enough about MICROSETTINGS? I can never tell. A microsetting is a six-page primer with all the setup of a world complete with adventure hooks. They give GMs a great place to start without having to be too prescriptive or taking forever to grok.

Alan Bahr and team have done a fantastic job updating the original Tiny Dungeon (by Smoking Salamander Games) to the standard of Tiny Frontiers and Tiny Frontiers: Mecha & Monsters.

If you held off trying the original, or you loved it like so many of us, do yourself a favor and check out Tiny Dungeon 2e! The stretch goals keep falling. Get in there and help us backers fun out what else Gallant Knight Games has up their sleeves!

The Kickstarter funded in no time and the stretch goals keep falling. Get in there and help us backers find out what else Gallant Knight Games has up their sleeves!

Tiny Dungeon 2e Kickstarter

You can see Alan’s original blog post about the kickoff below.

Our newest TinyD6 game is live on Kickstarter! Tiny Dungeon 2e! Please, go check it out! I can only do this job I love because of support of others and their generosity in purchasing my products!

via Tiny Dungeon 2e Live on Kickstarter! — The Last Paladin

Tiny Dungeon 2e - Minimalist fantasy roleplaying is back! -- Kicktraq Mini

RPG Review – Tiny Frontiers: Mecha & Monsters

WILL RAMBLES

Here’s the deal folks. I’m not an RPG reviewer. I can’t pretend I’ve read all the books currently on the market, or even all the books I actually own. I love Tiny D6 games (Tiny Dungeon, Tiny Frontiers) as some of the best minimalist RPGs I’ve personally played, so I’m going to write an RPG review… even if it isn’t completely unbiased.

If you’re looking for my previous write-ups on Tiny D6 games, I can oblige. Just click the image below

tinyFrontiers print-and-play-rules-300x300

THE REVIEW

Fair warning: I play RPGs with the author of Tiny Frontiers: Mecha & Monsters on a fairly regular basis. I’ll do my best to remain unbiased, but keep this in mind.

Today I’m reviewing the Kickstarter edition of Tiny Frontiers: Mecha & Monsters by Alan Bahr .

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It’s a minimalist STAND ALONE (that’s right, you don’t need the original Tiny Frontiers to play) sci-fi RPG about giant robots and hyper-destructive kaiju, designed to play on the run, with new players, with kids, or just with your normal group when you are between campaigns.


1.) Size and Production Quality 

The Tiny Frontiers book isn’t huge. It clocks in at 164 pages in with gorgeous full-color illustrations and layout. There are sidebar callout, sensible tables, and has an overall clean look. It’s well organized and easy to read. The paper quality and binding are great. In short, the producers learned lessons from their previous projects. This book it top notch quality.

At any rate, the standard book is priced at $15 and the PDF on DriveThruRPG is only $10 at the moment. For my money, a huge bargain. It’s also available in hardcover print on demand for $30.

10/10


2.) Art

The art in Mecha & Monsters is far above average for an RPG. I’ve seen Ennie winners with worse art. There’s plenty of it, and it’s very evocative of the setting. I guess there could have been a little more? This is picking some serious nits.

9/10


3.) Content and Rules

For me, there are two areas where Tiny games really excel. This is one of them. The original TD rules are a great minimalist take with only 3d6 required to play. The Tiny D6 ruleset has been adapted for Mecha and Monsters with great effect. The game is still minimal and simple, getting out of your way so you can tell great stories together. Win.

9/10


4.) Game Master Section

In Mecha & Monsters, the GM section is a bit expanded over previous Tiny games. It has some nice guidelines for devastation, plenty of tables for random generation, and some guidelines for how to keep games about this particular brand of game fun.

8/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I LOVE MICRO SETTINGS. Part of the stretch goals for the Kickstarter were micro settings written by sci-fi authors, RPG luminaries, and generally talented folk. People like Steve Diamond, Robert Denton, Marie Brennan, and Elizabeth Chaipradikul to name a few.

I can’t say enough about how easy and fun it is to read a 3-5 page micro setting, take one of its adventure hooks, and run with a fun session. All this in mere minutes.

10/10


Total Score: 46/50

The highest score I’ve ever given. Not that I’ve given many.

I’d purchase this game again.

POSTSCRIPT: Alan Bahr runs a tight KS ship, and he is running an amazing Kickstarter right now for Nocturnal Media. It isn’t sci-fi or minimalist but is it one of my all-time-favorite rulesets (King Arthur Pendragon– it’s possible KAP 5.2 will be my next RPG review), and the game is absolutely gorgeous. Also, a huge chunk of the proceeds goes to the widow and family of Stewart Wieck. Paladin was a labor of love for Stewart. Check out the Kickstarter. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/nocturnalmedia/paladin-warriors-of-charlemagne
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RPG Review: Tiny Frontiers

WILL RAMBLES

I’m not really in the business of reviewing role-playing games. Granted, I’ve been playing them off and on for 28 or so years. My generation lived in the time when this sort of make believe was frowned on. A time when the most parentally appropriate handling of RPGs was to sell them, throw them out, or burn them.

At any rate, now I play RPGs with my kids. Take that, irony! It’s a nice way to bond, have a good time, and do something intellectually stimulating. I also find it helps exercise the creative muscle in my brain that I use for writing. Playing sci-fi RPGs helps me think through scenarios in The Galaxy and All Her Charms.

THE REVIEW

Fair warning: I play RPGs with the author of Tiny Frontiers on a fairly regular basis. I might not me the most unbiased person to write a review of Tiny Frontiers, but I’m going to do my best.

Today I’m reviewing Tiny Frontiers by Alan Bahr of Gallant Knight Games.

tinyFrontiers

It’s a minimalist sci-fi RPG system, designed to play on the run, with new players, with kids, or just with your normal group when you are between campaigns.


1.) Size and Production Quality 

The Tiny Frontiers book isn’t huge. It clocks in at 136 pages in with black-and-white illustrations and layout. The sidebars contain call-outs. It’s well organized and easy to read. My only complaint is the binding on the standard Kickstarter edition. It’s not the best and I think eventually it will fail. However, if you can get your hands on a Deluxe hardbound edition (good luck) it’s binding is perfection and has a handy bookmark ribbon to boot.

At any rate, the standard book is priced at $15 and the PDF on DriveThruRPG is only $5 at the moment. For my money, a huge bargain.

8/10


2.) Art

The art is quite decent for a first Kickstarter. It evokes the sci-fi setting effectively and there is quite a bit of it spread throughout the book. It feels very thematic to the game and true to the original fantasy setting, Tiny Dungeon.

6/10


3.) Content and Rules

 

For me, there are two areas where Tiny Frontiers really shines. This is one of them. The original TD rules are a great minimalist take with only 3d6 required to play. The statistical curves are good and the simplicity lends itself to easy understanding for new players and kids. Take those original rules and add brilliant adaptations for alien species, cybernetics, space ships, and mecha. Now you have yourself a sci-fi bonanza!

9/10


4.) Game Master Section

For a minimalist RPG, the GM section is pretty short and sweet. Some decent guidance and nifty tables for random generation of everything from planets to enemies.

7/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

There isn’t exactly a pre-made adventure in Tiny Frontiers. Instead, Gallant Knight Games gives us something I really love: MICRO SETTINGS. Part of the stretch goals for the Kickstarter were micro settings written by sci-fi authors, rpg luminaries, and generally talented folk. People like Steve Diamond, Ryan Schoon, Marie Brennan, and Dan Wells to name a few.

Micro settings are an amazing way to wrap your head around a quick idea for a universe of gameplay and include several adventure hooks to get the story jumpstarted.

I love them.

10/10


Total Score: 40/50

So, I’ve never done this, but I think 40 is a pretty dang good score.

I’d purchase this game again. In fact, I’m backing a follow-up Kickstarter right now: Tiny Frontiers – Mecha & Monsters! The new game stands alone, but can be used in conjunction with the original. It also has full-color art! This is a great chance to get one of those deluxe copies, and Alan has told me he’s going with a better binding on the standard version as well.

You can read my review of the completed Tiny Frontiers: Mecha and Monsters here.

I’ll tease you with the cover art:

tf_mecha

Tiny Role-Playing Games

Do you wish I’d quit blogging so much? Want to read more of my fiction? This is the post for you. I promise you a means to make me post more fiction. Read on.

—————–

Lately, I’ve been enjoying a personal renaissance of tabletop role-playing games. It’s been nearly 18 years since I role-played regularly. I’ll have another post soon explaining why I feel this is a valuable activity as a writer.

Today I’ll focus on a couple of specific games I think are great and, somewhat selfishly, I will pimp one of them to you without any shame or self-consciousness.

One of the fantastic things about RPGs is the time I spend playing them with my kids. I love the intellectual stimulation (for all of us) doing something other than watching movies or playing video games. Best, role-playing gets us interacting on a level I haven’t always been the best at as a father.

I have kids ranging from under 10 to nearly-legal adult so finding an RPG I could teach them the younger kids and manage to run successfully for the group was a bit of a challenge. At first, I was looking at Pathfinder and later D&D 5e, but these were way too detailed and crunchy.

Lucky for me, I know a guy.

Alan Bahr is a friend. If you know or have heard of Alan, then you know that he has probably read and played more RPGs than most people in the world. Being the insightful, enlightened guy I am, I scoured the internet for a game to play with my kids before I mentioned my dilemma to Alan. To his credit, he didn’t mock me (much) before pointing me to several great choices I could try with my kids.

One of the options was Tiny Dungeon, and it is the game that stuck with the family. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard, “WHEN ARE WE PLAYING TINY DUNGEON AGAIN, DAD?????” over the past several months. The number would be too large for display by 64-processors. When I can compose my blog from a quantum computer, I’ll give you an actual number. Don’t hold your breath.

Tiny Dungeon has a lot of things going for it, but its minimalistic rules are a clear winner in my book. You only need 3d6 (three standard six-sided dice) and an index card for each player, and you’re off to the races! Don’t get me wrong, the setting is lovely and lends itself to easy adaptation from other fantasy RPG adventures. The illustrations are fun, whimsical even, and the book also has a sample adventure that was a perfect intro for my younglings. Now, I’m writing my own fantasy campaign for the kids along with a short story that runs in parallel. Gotta keep those writing muscles lean!

My only complaint, if it can be called such, is Tiny Dungeons doesn’t work for a sci-fi setting. There aren’t rules for ships or mechs or alien races. If you know me, you might have a sense of why that would give me a giant sadface.

Enter Tiny Frontiers.

tinyFrontiers

As I earlier name-dropped, I know a guy. A guy named Alan Bahr. A guy who just happens to be an accomplished game designer with a high esteem for Tiny Dungeon. Alan has already made a big splash in the RPG world by designing the rules for the Planet Mercenary RPG. PM: RPG funded at nearly $350,000 just about this time last year. It’s been lauded by people like Steve Jackson. Yes, THAT Steve Jackson.

Alan and Gallant Knight Games have done an amazing thing. They licensed the Tiny Dungeon ruleset and created Tiny Frontiers. Not only will Tiny Frontiers scratch my sci-fi roleplaying itch, but it also features micro settings penned by amazing authors like Steve Diamond and Dan Wells.

Well- there’s a bit of a problem. Many of those fantastic micro settings don’t get made unless the Tiny Frontiers Kickstarter meets some stretch goals.

AND I WANT THEM.

So. Tiny Frontiers is already funded at nearly $6000. Here is the deal, folks. I’m offering two stretch goals of my own:

#1
In the spirit of sci-fi awesomeness, when the $12,000 stretch goal for TF is met, I will publish a beta version of Chapter 1 of The Galaxy and All Her Charms RIGHT HERE ON MY BLOG. I’ve been holding off sharing this with you. I’d like to wait a while longer, and I probably should. Tiny Frontiers means a lot to me, so I’ll take the risk!

#2
Also, if Tiny Frontiers should fund at or above $18,000, I promise to finish Rue From Ruin within one month. Cross my heart and hope to die.

I’ll put all extracurricular activities on hold. I’ll take time off work. I’ll do whatever it takes.

Am I manipulating you (and myself) a bit here? You betcha. Am I ashamed? Not even remotely.

So spread the word. Tell your mama. Tell your papa. Tell your friends. Tell anyone you know who roleplays or used to or thinks it might be fun or wants to get their kids into it.

Believe me; you won’t regret it. Tiny Frontiers is going to be amazing! Get on over to Kickstarter and back it now! Meantime, I’ll do what I can to make it worth your while from my end.