Tag Archives: Alan Bahr

RPG I Love You: Cold Shadows

WILL RAMBLES

Hey folks! It’s been a while. I’ve been avoiding writing “reviews” since I officially joined the indie publisher club. This is not an RPG Review (although I’ve had one queued up for Cold Shadows for a while). I’m doing a new thing I’ll call an RPG I Love You where I’ll point out games I love and the reasons I love them. Honestly, I’ve never reviewed an RPG I actively dislike… it’s not really how I roll. Maybe there’ll be some mention about the things I DON’T love in an RPG I Love You, but that’s not the focus. Oh, and one more thing, the rating system I’ve done in the past is gone. Kaput. Finito.

Now that we’re done with the meta stuff, let’s see if I can still do this…

Cold Shadows is one of the games whose Kickstarter ran while Gallant Knight Games was an imprint of Nocturnal Media. Sadly, the death of RPG industry legend and luminary Stewart Wieck of Nocturnal came before the final product delivered. As fans of role-playing games, we are all in debt to Stewart on a level similar to that of Gary Gygax and Greg Stafford and the other progenitors of our favorite hobby. Mr. Wieck’s contributions are multitude, and when he was at White Wolf, he changed the industry forever with the World of Darkness line of games.

This RPG I Love You is dedicated to Stewart.

ColdShadows

I LOVE YOU, COLD SHADOW

Today I’m looking back on the Kickstarter edition of Cold Shadows, the narrative Cold War spy roleplaying game by Gallant Knight Games.

Cold Shadows enables groups to tell John LeCarre-style spy stories full of tense scenarios where agencies are the greater whole and agents serve the agency’s purposes– mostly.

It’s based on the Blood and Honor ruleset by John Wick Presents. I’ve played that one as well, and I’d recommend it for groups looking to tell narrative samurai stories. If your tastes run more toward samurai noir during the industrialization of Japan, you should also check out World of Dew by Woerner’s Wonderworks. Ben Woerner was heavily involved in Cold Shadows as well.

This game, like its predecessors makes certain assumptions about both the group and the GM and their capability to narratively describe things on the fly. Additionally, its focus on Agency first and above all is not just lip service, it’s driven both mechanically and thematically throughout the game.

If your game group likes a realistic spy stories and a good roleplaying good challenge, you’re in the right place!


Size and Production Quality 

Very nice book with quality semigloss paper and good binding. It’s not the biggest RPG in my collection, but there is plenty of content between the core book and the additional goodies (Cities in Shadow and The Black Book). Probably approaching couple hundred pages total in digest size format. Additionally, the page layouts are very thematic and aesthetically pleasing.

Art

The cover art you seen. Interior art is mainly photographic and thematic. It fits the style well. I’m a big fan.

Content and Rules

The theme of the content is very nice, although it can be challenging to find what you’re looking for in the book. Luckily, it’s not huge, so a little page flipping won’t be too painful. As previously mentioned, the rules are based on Blood and Honor. It’s a roll and keep system I haven’t seen in any games besides this line.

The gist is this, you have a pool of D6s for a given task based on your character’s setup. You’re going to choose how many you want to roll to try to hit your target. The remainder you keep, and each one allows you to say true things about your success (provided you did succeed). It can be a lot of fun when the group gets into this.

There are also subsystems for all sorts of assets spies might have access to in and around their bases of operation. This is a lot of fun to peruse and set up.

Overall, I think the system is extremely cool, but I’ll also allow that it may require an adjustment period for some players. Dropping a group of murder hobos into Cold Shadows probably won’t lead to a satisfying experience.

GM Tools and/or Pre-made Adventure

There’s a ton here, and I’m sure to miss something. Between Cold Shadows, Cities in Shadow, and The Black Book, there is plenty of content and information to run a game set all over the world and in varying time periods. I won’t go too into depth, but I will say if you have a historical campaign based in this world, there’s a ton of good content here written by some very talented folks. For the game itself, there are lots of fully realized agencies and cities you can put on the “board” for your players to explore.


Final Thoughts

I’m happy I was a backer of Cold Shadows. I even had the opportunity to do a bit of writing for The Black Book. It’s an excellent game (the best spy game on my shelves, and yes, I have a few). I had a chance to play a short campaign run by one of my teammates at work. Super fun time.

If you’re having trouble finding a copy, Cold Shadows and its supplements can be found on DriveThruRPG.

Zorro: the Roleplaying Game

Hi friends! More announcements rolling in. Please bear with me. This is why I’ve been so quiet recently. I’ve been working on top secret stuff!

I’m a co-producer and writer for the upcoming Zorro: the Roleplaying Game by Gallant Knight Games. Zorro Kickstarts starting this Wednesday at 10AM Mountain. Expect my social media feeds to be full of Zorro news for a while. I APOLOGIZE FOR NOTHING. Bringing this spectacular game to life during the 100th anniversary of Zorro is a once-in-a-lifetime gig, and I’m gonna be talking about it. A lot.

Truth is, when Alan Bahr told me he was getting the rights to make a Zorro RPG, I was ecstatic for him and GKG, and I knew I had to work on the project. Zorro was the first true North American vigilante hero and one I’ve loved since I was a kid playing with stick swords in rural Oregon. My dad always loved old shows and movies of daring do, and we watched the greats together whenever we could tune in on our old console TV. It’s one of my favorite memories of him.

It’s a delight and an honor to be a part of bringing a complete Zorro RPG to the tabletop for the first time ever! I’m over the moon to be working with Gallant Knight Games and the fantastic team lined up for Zorro. I’m excited to up my participation in the game industry and learn from the experienced folks I’m getting to work with!

The Kickstarter is live now! Check it out!

Con Report: FyreCon 2018

This was my first year attending FyreCon and the second year of this new convention overall. After LTUE in February, I was looking for other writing conventions where I could potentially make a splash as a presenter, and a couple of friends pointed me to FyreCon.

So, here is Drew Gerken with the participants from our Lean Worldbuilding Workshop. This was the final hour of the final day (and also my 7th hour in front of folks talking about gaming and writing in some capacity).

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FyreCon was a fun, if modestly-attended, event. I’m considering attending again next year. But first–

The Bad

The trouble with tacking on gaming at a writing con: it feels like gaming has been tacked on to a writing con.

Yes, there is a ton of overlap.

Yes, FyreCon is focused on genres like sci-fi, fantasy, and horror writing and these are very common in gaming.

It doesn’t mean the majority of attendees are there to talk/learn about writing for games and game design in general.

Also, most of the game sessions were in random rooms in a separate building from registration and the dealer hall. I felt like they might have garnered better attendance if it weren’t a hike/scavenger hunt to get to them.

Finally, Layton is a long drive for me personally. I had to sport for a hotel.

The Ugly

Similar to LTUE earlier this year, The game track needed a boost. Unlike LTUE, there were quite a few excellent panels and workshops lined up, just not enough folks there to attend. Marvelous game designers and writers like Shawn Carman, Alan Bahr, Charles Gannon, and more came to talk, and I frequently saw audiences ranging from 2-5 attendees. Great for those 2-5 people! It’s worth debating if the time special guests spent was a waste.

The Good

Fyecon-logo-purple-no-tag-01

There are a lot of things to like about FyreCon.

The facilities are roomy and well laid out. They were also convenient except for the sessions in the far building. The dealer hall was quite spacious. Common areas were pretty nice with lots of seating.

The sessions I attended were informative and worth going to. I particularly enjoyed Chuck, Shawn, and Alan and the information they provided and the good conversations we had. It almost felt like I had them all to myself at times.

I enormously enjoyed the ability to participate as a moderator, a panelist, and a presenter. The Lean Worldbuilding Workshop Drew and I ran was not only a complete blast to run, but it was also well attended, and everyone enjoyed it. We had such a great time, we’ve submitted a proposal to rerun it at LTUE in 2019, and we may or may not be in the early stages of developing a game around the concept.

Before and during FyreCon, I had some opportunity to converse with one of the excellent organizers, DawnRay Ammon. Her willingness to hear my thoughts and share thoughts with me about how the organizers are considering improvements for the game track next year impressed me.

I suspect that next year will be even better for FyreCon as this is a convention just getting started (remember, it’s only in its second year). Thanks so much for having me!

The real thing I always love about these events is the people. I hung out and talked and played games with many good friends and brand-new ones. We’ll go alphabetically: Alan, Chuck, Drew, JC, Larry, Michael, Natasha, Patrick, Rock, Shawn, Steve, and the people I inevitably forgot (dumb brain), you made this con for me. Thank you!

Moment of the Con

For after-hours gaming at Alan’s house, he ran the original Tomb of Horrors D&D module. I’ve seldom had such a blast or laughed so hard. Shawn Carman manufactured a background for his monk that had folks blushing and howling with laughter simultaneously. We also saw the advent of the great and mighty professional henchman Bronar who in many ways stole the show. Patrick Tracy’s creation spawned an entire series of flash fiction bits you can find here.

For my character’s part, the erstwhile fighter had something in the neighborhood of 4 wisdom (them’s the rolls). He eventually ended up involuntarily teleported to the opening of the tomb naked and penniless without a sword in his hand.

Oops.

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All in all, I had a great time, maybe helped some budding writers, and met some people I hope to see again. See you next year, FyreCon?

RPG Review: Tiny Dungeon 2nd Edition

WILL RAMBLES

First, I backed this Kickstarter.  Second, I’ve loved Tiny D6 games since the beginning (Tiny DungeonTiny Frontiers, and Tiny Frontiers: Mecha and Monsters).

I’m going to stop saying “I’m not an RPG reviewer” when it’s clearly something I like to do, and these posts tend to get a lot of traffic. Fair dinkum: I was in a regular game group with the creator of Tiny Dungeon 2e for a couple years, and even though we don’t live super close anymore, we still game together from time to time.

tinyDungeon2e

THE REVIEW

Today I’m reviewing the Kickstarter edition PDF of Tiny Dungeon 2nd Edition by Alan Bahr.

It’s a minimalist fantasy RPG based on the original Tiny Dungeon by Smoking Salamander Games turned up to ELEVEN. I picked up the original to play with my kids a long while back.

1.) Size and Production Quality 

The Tiny Dungeon 2e book is the largest “tiny” book to date at 194 pages. It maintains the art style from the original game (the same artist in fact), and the new layout is impressive, bringing the game up to standard with the newer Tiny D6 games.

The original Tiny Dungeon is also a great game and only 24 pages total! Hard to believe. I’ll get into the differences below, but the original book is still on sale on DTRPG for $2.99. Second edition is $19.99 ($17.99 as of publishing this article). If you’d like the Player’s Guide (the first half of the book without the micro settings), it will only run you $9.99.

9/10


2.) Art

The cover art is amazing! The interior art is black and white in the style of the original Tiny Dungeon, and there’s plenty of it spread throughout the book. Some reuse where it made sense, and I’m totally good with that. The critter section is fleshed out and has excellent art for tons of beasties your party could fight (including the dinosaurs). If I have a critique here, it’s only that I’d like more of that beautiful cover art. I’d pay for it.

7/10


3.) Content and Rules

Tiny D6 games are my favorite for minimalist rules games. Any 5 or 6 rolled on1-3d6 (depending on advantage or disadvantage) is a success. So simple. So powerful. This version has the most optional character creation rules of any Tiny D6 game and even has progression options built into the game. I’ll be getting these to the table soon with my daughters Zeep and Zook (not their real names) who started playing Tiny Dungeon when the younger one was only 7. I can’t express how happy it makes me that Tiny Dungeon is growing up with them.

10/10


4.) Game Master Section

As previously mentioned, there is an expanded bestiary in TD2e. 26 pages to be exact.  In addition, there are sections with advice on running games, and the extensive optional rules. I won’t spoil them all, but there is some enjoyable stuff in here including optional combat rules and old-school adventure generation tables.

9/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

Not the traditional pre-made adventure, but as has become the tradition with Tiny D6, MICRO SETTINGS. I’ve been waiting for micro settings for the fantasy realm since Tiny Frontiers was initially announced on Kickstarter.  If you aren’t familiar yet, these are a delightful take on creating a ready-to-go world you can grok after a few pages and create interesting and unique new adventures for. They also happen to be written by a super talented group of authors, games designers, and other highly creative people. As a GM, I prefer these to a full adventure since I almost always modify adventures to suit my tastes anyway.

10/10


Total Score: 45/50

A high score in the upper echelons of my scoring criteria.

I’d Kickstart TD2e again. Twice.

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
b15bb54accdf9b70a6f532efcf3a1fd4_original

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