Tag Archives: rpgs

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

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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?

Con Report: LTUE 2018

This was my fourth year attending the Life, the Universe, and Everything Symposium. Per LTUE.net, this is the purpose of the event:

LTUE is a symposium on science fiction and fantasy, centered around writing, art, literature, film, gaming and other facets of speculative fiction.

I’ll admit, after last year I came close to skipping the con in 2018. I’ll say Meri talked me into it.

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I’m glad we attended for many reasons, and I’ll get into some more detail on that momentarily. First–

The Bad

I’m a writer of speculative fiction both in standard prose formats and for role-playing games. You’d think this con would be right up my alley, and the first year I attended, you’d be right. I was very new to the world of writing, and EVERYTHING was relevant. Over the years, I’ve learned more, and less of the information was relevant. A shrinking amount, really. There were still nuggets, quite a few, but as a more experienced writer with published work and a group of experienced writer friends, they were much fewer and farther between (at least in the formal sessions and panels).

As Stephen King says in On Writing:

“You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”

I buy this line more every day.

The Ugly

The game track needed a boost. No. It needed resuscitation. There were only SIXTEEN game-related sessions out of 294 total sessions. Many hours there were no game-related sessions at all. Also, some game panels were woefully underpopulated. Several only had two panelists.

There is a ton of potential for crossover between game design and fiction and art, and those topics were barely touched.

I could go on.

The art room was sad and small. I don’t know if the con didn’t market appropriately to get the art room filled up or what happened there.

The Good

I’ll end with the good because I have sincere hopes that LTUE will return to form and keep the things that worked well.

All the brilliant and friendly creators and authors who attended and lent their talents and knowledge to folks in attendance.

Jo Walton’s keynote. Fantastic.

The Writing Fantastical Fantasy panel.

Two-thirds of the Board Game Recommendations panel.

Everything I attended that my writing group buddy Richie Franklin was involved in: the poetry panel and the Method Acting and Character Creation sessions in particular.

Meeting many wonderful people in person for the first time: Ben, Dan, Brian “Fitz”, Jim, Dan, Martin, Natasha, Rock, JC, and probably a couple I’m forgetting.

Seeing and hanging out with folks I already know: Alan, Richie, Steve, Dan, Drew, Shannon, Scott, Eliza, Emily, Dan, Angie, Michael, Yoxani, Rachael, Meri, Robin, Kassie, Emma and the rest of y’all. Ya animals.

Many of the art sessions my girls attended. They were delighted with their experience. My youngest also got a “best friends” picture with her favorite author, Brandon Mull.
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Playtesting Old West with Ben Woener was phenomenal. Super fun game. You’ll want to watch for his Kickstarter next month. This game is amazing.

That’s it, folks. I’ll probably be attending FyreCon in Layton, UT on June 21-23. Who knows, maybe I’ll even be on some panels or teach a class. Hope to see some of you there!

RPG Review: The One Ring

Will Rambles

The One Ring RPG has the distinction of being the first game I ran as a long campaign for anyone other than my kids after my return to role-playing. In a previous life, my favorite RPG campaign to run had been AD&D 2e in the Planescape setting. Something about Planescape always spoke to me.

I played in tons of different systems growing up and one of my favorites while I was still in high school was Middle Earth Role-Playing (MERP). When I came back to gaming, I immediately started looking into the possibility of getting my hands on some MERP books and was disappointed to find it out of print. Luckily, someone kind and thoughtful pointed me to The One Ring (TOR), and I politely declined and continued to pine for MERP. It wasn’t until I played in a one-off session of Ring that I saw the real potential of the system.

The rest is history. I ran TOR for nearly a year meeting a little less frequently than I might have liked, but I had a great time, and I hope the players did as well.

I’ve run one-off sessions here and there for other folks, and you can rest assured when the Moria box set comes out later this year, I’ll be among the first lining up for a copy.

The Review

The original release of TOR was a slipcased version with two books. I’m reviewing the current single hardcover volume.


1.) Size and Production Quality 

The core The One Ring book is hardbound and has good binding. The pages are semigloss and full color. It looks very nice with good call outs and is appealing overall. Also, at 336 pages, it feels good in your hands.

My biggest complaint about the entire game has got to be the organization of the layout. In my experience, this is not the area where Cubicle 7 games shine. Finding what you’re looking for isn’t always easy in a TOR book. In fact, since I was running this game regularly, I found myself adding more and more stickie notes, and doing more advanced note writing so I wouldn’t get caught thumbing through the book for some detail in-game.

At any rate, for $29.99 you can get the PDF on DriveThruRPG. It’s a decent price. The hardback copy is available pretty much anywhere you usually buy games (including Amazon). I recommend your FLGS (friendly local game shop).

7/10


2.) Art

I love the art in The One Ring. The core book cover is ok, but the interior art really speaks to me. Much of it is full color, there is plenty (who am I kidding though, there could always be more), and each piece is super evocative of Middle Earth.

9/10


3.) Content and Rules

Fantastic. Amazing. Wonderful.

So much effort here to be faithful to the source material and create rules and mechanics that evoke Middle Earth. MERP doesn’t hold a candle in any regard except for the fact that they did have more content, but TOR is catching up fast! I won’t spoil them all, but I love the opposition of the hope and shadow attributes for characters. The adventuring and fellowship phases of the game take place over seasons of the year so the more cinematic and action-packed portions of the game can take place while also allowing for social interactions and time for travel.  In other news, TOR has the most exciting and innovative travel system I’ve ever seen in an RPG.

10/10


4.) Game Master Section

Quite a lot going on here for a GM. While it isn’t the crunchiest game you could run, Ring does have some rules. It’s no minimalist or storygame style of RPG. The GM sections are useful. They guide you to create sessions for your players that evoke Tolkien’s world. Additionally, there is a campaign section detailing all the major event taking place in Middle-earth both before and during the game timeline. This allows for rumors and ideas to reach the characters even if they aren’t taking part in these events directly.

8/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

The Marsh-Bell is an in-depth fourteen-page adventure that’s great for starting characters. They’ll enjoy some familiar sights from The Hobbit, meet some familiar dwarves, risk danger, get to test some of their skill at fighting and riddling, and see the travel rules. All-in-all, it’s a solid introduction to the game.

8/10


Total Score: 42/50

This is not a bad score by any means. I own (and preorder) every book in the series as they are released. My single regret is that I don’t have more time to run TOR. It’s a game and a world I could explore endlessly.

UPDATE September 1, 2018: For the next 4 days you can get the full collection of TOR PDFs currently in print from Humble Bundle for just $15. Do this, and then you can grab a hard copy of the two must-purchase books for players at your table:
The One Ring RPG
Adventurer’s Companion

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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