Tag Archives: Tabletop

RPG Review – WEG Star Wars 30th Anniversary Edition

WILL RAMBLES

Here’s a fun one. Star Wars The Roleplaying Game by West End Games was one of the first non-TSR games I played. It was so long ago, and I was so young and broke, I never even owned a copy.

Some very fortuitous circumstance came about to make this project a reality. West End Games was purchased by Nocturnal Media, but they no longer held the license to produce RPGs based on the Star Wars intellectual property. Fantasy Flight Games is the current license holder (after a stop at Wizards of the Coast). At any rate, Nocturnal, FFG, and LucasFilm all collaborated to bring this 30th Anniversary Edition to light. The core book has a lovely posthumous dedication to Stewart Weick as it would not have been made without his efforts.

As a fan of both the game itself and of anything Nocturnal Media was involved in, SW:tRPG30AE was a no-brainer purchase for me.

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THE REVIEW

Today I’m reviewing Star Wars The Roleplaying Game 30th Anniversary Edition by West End Games. This is a reissue of the classic RPG in a slipcase with the quintessential Star Wars Sourcebook. The review will cover the entire product as a whole.

1.) Size and Production Quality 

Sitting on my desk next to Star Wars Edge of the Empire, a modern game I’ll likely never review because I don’t love the dice system, SW:tRPG30AE is similar in size and weight. However, in terms of pages, SWEotE is 400 pages and change, while both 30th Anniversary Edition books combine for just under 300 pages. This isn’t to say the reissue isn’t packed with content, the font is smaller, and in the style of most older games, there isn’t a ton of graphic design taking up space.

Where I’m just a bit disappointed is with the paper. I’d hoped Fantasy Flight would have sprung for nice smooth semi-gloss pages, but instead, we get the same type of paper the original game was printed on: flat white paper slightly rough to the touch. Yes, the same twelve full-color glossy pages are sprinkled throughout the core book that were in the original. The Sourcebook has none, although it’s pages are the same iconic black+blue of the original.

That said, for the price, you’re getting two hardbound books in a gorgeous slipcase. I’m not that upset.

I recommend picking it up at your friendly local game store. Retail price is $59.95 (or a few bucks less on Amazon).

8/10


2.) Art

By modern standards, the art is still decent. It was fantastic for its time. I love those twelve glossy full-color pages so much. Everything else is black and white, and high quality. There’s also quite a lot by the standards of the time. As I flipped through SWEotE, a game with the gorgeous art Fantasy Flight is known for, I didn’t see a significant amount more than these books have.

7/10


3.) Content and Rules

Here’s a neat thing about SWtRPG30AE if you don’t already have a copy, it’s entirely rooted in the original trilogy. If episodes IV-VI are your jam, this is magnificent news. The Sourcebook is jam-packed with details about ships and other vehicles, locations, creatures, enemies, and info about your favorite characters.

And THEN, there are the rules. WEG D6 system was developed for the original Ghostbusters RPG and adapted for Star Wars. These rules hit a note I love and something you’ll see me talk about when discussing TinyD6 games. They are simple, not stupid. The rules have been remarked by some as having a bit of a scaling problem at higher levels, making it difficult for GMs to challenge their players. I can see that being partly true, but a good GM should be able to deal with it. Hopefully with WEG D6 2e is released, it will deal with those issues because I love this system and would love to see more games developed with it.

8/10

4.) Game Master Section

The book is laid out a bit funny. The “Gamemaster Section” is really just the game rules with GM tips and some fairly prescriptive guidance sprinkled throughout. The “Adventure Section” has some additional thoughts on running and creating adventures. Overall, meh.

5/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

There is an iconic, four-episode adventure included in the book. It’s pretty good, and I’d run it as an intro to the game if you have four sessions or an all-day affair. Also, there are ten “adventure starters” that show some of the variances of the Star Wars universe. Most of these would make fine one-shots or additions to an ongoing campaign.

On the toolkit side of things, the SWRPG Sourcebook has all kinds of good stuff you can use to put together a long-running campaign.

8/10


Total Score: 36/50

If I were adding points for nostalgia, Star Wars The Roleplaying Game would get an extra five at least. It’s a solid game.

You made it to the end! Have a fun pic of Harry, Carrie, and Mark with some stormtroopers as a reward.

harrycarriemark


A Final Note About My Reviews

RPG reviews are among the highest viewed articles I write, and I’m glad people seem to like ’em. I stick to games I enjoy, have played, and usually have run at least once. I avoid reviewing RPGs I’d score low because frankly, I can’t care enough about a game I don’t dig to write a full review of it. Life is too short.

I don’t accept review copies, but for full disclosure, I do use affiliate marketing tags on my links to DriveThruRpg and Amazon. Thanks for reading. See you again soon for another review!

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?

Games I Need (AKA Kickstarting Now)

I’ll be brief. After flirting with a couple of random Kickstarters back in the early days, I backed my first tabletop game (Planet Mercenary) in Spring 2015.

I’ve been racking up experience/victory points ever since.

At first, I went a bit crazy with it. I was backing all sorts of new games and related products by people who’d never Kickstarted anything before. I scrolled everything in funding state and backed anything that looked remotely interesting– and to her credit, my wife and I are still married. I’ve learned to be more selective to the benefit of the bank account and my sanity. These days I don’t take many risks with unknown companies and pledge for far fewer titles overall, but there are a few companies whose campaigns I never miss.

Two of my preferred creators have projects funding right now. I recommend checking them out:

Tiny Supers by Gallant Knight Games

Alan Bahr and Gallant Knight Games don’t miss deadlines. When they set a delivery date for a KS, it happens by that date if not earlier. Additionally, my love of the TinyD6 line for minimalist role-playing games is well-documented. Check the archives. This one looks like a blast and the current stretch goal is a comic with stats for the characters and an adventure at the end. These games are kid-friendly, but as the line goes, they are simple, not dumb. I’ve played plenty of TinyD6 games with kids and adults alike. If you like superheroes, don’t miss Tiny Supers.

escapeplan

Escape Plan by Eagle Griffon Games

EGG is a board game company I came across almost by accident. I backed Xenon Profiteer a couple of years back because it looked cool and wasn’t expensive. No other reason. Turns out it’s a great game and it was delivered fast. Now I also have Vinhos and Isaribi, and I’m waiting for The Scarlet Pimpernel to fulfill. Escape Plan looks simply amazing if you like a big crunchy board game and have people to play it with. I can’t wait to get it on my table.

If folks are interested in this kind of article, maybe I’ll write one occasionally. We’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, I’ll get back to work on the Zorro RPG.

RPG Reviews and Review Copies

For Immediate Release (Heh. I always wanted to say that.)

Be it known here and throughout the realm: I do not accept review copies of games in exchange for performing reviews.

It’s not you, it’s me. I only review role-playing games I’ve bought personally. Mostly only games I’ve actually been a game master for, but I may also occasionally review games I’ve only played.

but

If you’d like to enhance the odds of my reviewing your RPG, the only recourse is to invite me to play your game with you. I may or may not accept, but if I do, odds are I’ll buy a copy, and likely write a review.

I recognize there are sites out there doing this, it’s just not me.

RPG Review – Tiny Frontiers: Revised

WILL RAMBLES

Yep.

I’m back with another TinyD6 review.

Tiny Frontiers: Revised was unlocked as a stretch goal as part of the Tiny Dungeon 2nd Edition Kickstarter. As a backer of the original Tiny Frontiers, I admit my skepticism of a revision on a game that is good already. However, there were quite a few awesome new things built into the later TinyD6 games, and I didn’t mind getting those built in by default. When I heard there would be a new set of micro settings, I was sold 100%.

Now, I want to be clear, I wrote one of the new micro settings. It’s called “Bears. In. Space.” and I’m not reviewing it. If you should happen to pick up the book, I’d appreciate your thoughts on BIS. That said, this is the only section of the book I had any part of, I don’t earn any royalties, and I don’t feel biased when I write about the rules, the art, or the other micro settings.

THE REVIEW

Today I’m reviewing Tiny Frontiers: Revised the Kickstarter stretch goal add-on PDF to Tiny Dungeon 2nd Edition by Alan Bahr.

Its a newly revised edition of the very first TinyD6 game released by Gallant Knight Games back in 2016.

1.) Size and Production Quality 

The Tiny Frontiers: Revised book is a lean and focused 160 pages. It has a new (better) art style and has several extras here that weren’t in the original, but I’ll get into that below. The layout is great, as I’ve come to expect in the TinyD6 line.

The original Tiny Frontiers is also a great game I reviewed here. I’ll get into the differences below, but the original book is still available on DTRPG as “pay what you want”. Revised edition PDF is $14.99 ($6.00 DEAL OF THE DAY as of publishing this article). At the list price, I’d buy it. On sale? Wow!

9/10


2.) Art

The cover art is dazzling as you can plainly see! The interior art is black and white in an updated and much cleaner style, and there are a lot of pieces particularly in the Heritage section. Some reuse of pieces, but very little and only when it made sense. Similar to Tiny Dungeon 2E, my lone critique is that I’d like, and would pay for, more art in the style of the cover.

7/10


3.) Content and Rules

I’ll rehash some of this from Tiny Dungeon 2E because a lot of the improvements there have been brought across to Tiny Frontiers: Revised. Tiny D6 games are my favorite minimalist rules RPGs. Any 5 or 6 rolled on1-3d6 (depending on advantage or disadvantage) is a success. Simple and yet flexible for GMs. Lots of optional character creation rules like TD2E and has progression options built into the game. Some standouts: additional Heritages and Traits. Lots of them. Cybernetics and Psionics. All good stuff!

10/10


4.) Game Master Section

This section is enhanced with new rules and plenty of those random tables I like. It also now includes a small bestiary with some example creatures. Optional rules for hacking and combat are nice, as well as a fantastic and detailed reimagining of the starship rules.

9/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

TinyD6 uses MICRO SETTINGS. The great news is, TF:R contains a whole set of new micro settings. Now, if I were scoring with “Bears. In. Space.” included, I’d have to drop the number because I wrote it. I’m excluding that one, so all I have to say is WOW. I’m honored to have something I wrote resting among this company. Setting by Tobie Abad, Elizabeth Chaipraditkul, Steve Diamond, Dan Wells, Wendelyn Reischl, and Ben Woerner all stand out as a fantastic place to start your sci-fi adventure. I’m raving. I’ll stop.

10/10


Total Score: 45/50

This one grades out just as good as the new Tiny Dungeon in my opinion.

Super game. A very nice improvement on the original. Get it.

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