Celebrated poet and publisher, Janaka Stucky (Ascend Ascend), has launched a very unique and promising project on Kickstarter. It's called Ekphrastic Beasts.
What the hell does ekphrastic mean? Ekphrastic writing "is the vivid, often dramatic description of visual art."
Janaka has teamed up with four illustrators, Ellie Gill, Jeremy Hush, Joe Keinberger, and Nathan Reidt. Each of them will dredge up creatures from the depths of their subconscious and render what they invoke. Janaka will then take that art and create the names, backstories, and stat blocks for each creature, suitable for play in 5e Dungeons & Dragons. Hence, Ekphrastic Beasts.
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In an effort to stave off boredom during the great quarantine of 2020, our pals over at Chaosium have made their award-winning Call of Cthulhu The Coloring Book available as a free download.
They've also announced a Call of Cthulhu The Coloring Book coloring competition. Share your colored handiwork on social media with the hashtag #homewithchaosium and they'll reshare and will be giving away prizes to their favorite entries.
Images: Chaosium, Inc. Read the rest
James Floyd Kelly runs the excellent Tabletop Engineer channel on YouTube and Bexim's Bazaar, a monthly tabletop gaming magazine (to which I often contribute a game-crafting column).
Like me, Jim was a lover of 80s roleplaying game fanzines. Unlike me, he's decided to use Kickstarter's Zine Quest 2 campaign as an excuse to try his hand at creating one of these homemade, old school zines. His zine, entitled Tavern Tales #1: Lair of the Battle Mage, will be a 32-page mini-adventure delivered in the format of the classic gaming zine (5.5" x 8" size).
To honor the fun and uniqueness and rarity of the handmade, old school fanzines that have survived from the 70s and 80s, no more than 300 physical copies of Tavern Tales #1: Lair of the Battle Mage will be printed and mailed to backers. I'm going old school -- I'll be printing them, folding them, stapling them, and mailing them. I've created the 300 limit because I can only print, assemble and ship so many in the month of October. (Yes, more of Niloshis' tales may make an appearance in future zines, but not this one. Read it, play it, and then tuck it away for someone to discover in a few decades or more.)
If you haven't checked out the Zine Quest 2 campaign, do! There is an embarrassment of retro-gaming riches here.
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Snickelsox's guide to playing animated armor that is full of bees is full of surprisingly well-thought-through advice for anyone who should be tempted to role-play such a thing, despite their protestations that "this is dumb."
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For years, Keith Ammann has maintained his blog, The Monsters Know What They're Doing
, in which he carefully laid out the logical tactics that the monsters of Dungeons and Dragons would use in combat, based on their alignment, stats, and habitats, creating sophisticated advice for Dungeon Masters hoping to move their combat encounters from rote stab-stab-kill affairs into distinctive, memorable strategy-and-tactics affairs that created not just variety and challenges for players, but also depth and verisimilitude. Now, Ammann's work has been collected in the first of two planned volumes: The Monsters Know What They're Doing: Combat Tactics for Dungeon Masters
is one of the most interesting, thoughtful, smart RPG sourcebooks I've ever read.
Divinity: Original Sin 2 is a game that my MacBook can't even look at sideways with it it turning into a steaming slagheap of aluminum and silicon. The RPG, in it's PC and Mac iterations asks for too much for my poor laptop's increasingly outclassed 15 processor. Happily, I discovered that it's available for my Nintendo Switch, albeit with significantly scaled-down graphics (there'll be a review coming later.). I downloaded it the other night and, with the snow coming down hard enough here in west central Alberta's back country today, I spent around an 90 minutes playing the game.
I scarcely made any progress. It was lovely.
There's something about many modern games that gnaws at me. Even in open-world games, I feel like a fire's lit under my ass to get things done. Skin 15 whatzitbeasts. With minimal motivation, kill the outlaws camped on the outskirts of town of town (becasue the well armed local garrison can't handle them.) Go where you want to, but do these things. In. A. Timely. Manner. Even my favorite games of the past few years—Fallout 4 and Skyrim—which let you wander and do whatever, still do what they can to make you feel like there's shit that needs doing, yesterday. So far, and admittedly, it's early into the game, Divinity: Original Sin 2 hasn't made me feel this way. Perhaps it's that the narrative is slowed down by forcing gamers to read and consider their responses to NPCs. You have to consider your responses to everything, really: taking an NPC into your party when you're unsure of their motivations can change the course of the game. Read the rest
I grew up on RPGs, not tabletop strategy games, but the one exception was Car Wars, a dystopian science fiction game where you kit out vehicles with weapons and then fight them in giant duelling pits or in freeway battles. I loved Car Wars and played it like crazy.
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Oleg Dolya (last seen here for his amazing procedural medieval city-map generator) is back with a wonderful procedural one-page dungeon generator that produces detailed, surprisingly coherent quickie dungeons for your RPG runs (it's an entry in the monthly challenge from /r/procedural generation).
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I woke up this morning to two exciting announcements about crowdfunders for kid-oriented RPGs, which is outstanding news indeed: the first is a set of adventures for Martin Lloyd's superb Amazing Tales, a (four and up) kid-and-adult RPG that's endlessly fun and incredibly easy to get started with; the second is Destiny Dez, from Scott Wayne Indiana, last seen around here with his pacifist RPG Lotus Dimension, now back with an RPG for 3-8 year olds, in which "kids come up with their own plans to navigate situations before rolling a 20 sided die to decide their fate and move on in the story."
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Motherfoclóir is a delightful podcast about language and linguistics as they relate to Ireland ("foclóir" being the Irish word for "dictionary," and thus completely unrelated to that homophonic English-language word you're surely thinking of, c'mon). While that might seem like a niche topic outside of the Emerald Isle herself, a recent episode tackled something that's surely on everyone's mind: those fantastical pointy-eared aristocrats known only as elves.
Specifically, it's a conversation with Irish writer Orla Ní Dhúill, whose blog about elves, Irishness, and colonialism gained a lot of traction among fantasy fans across the globe.
Growing up as a nerdy Irish-American kid, I always understood there to be something vaguely Gael-ish about elves. Even though I didn't know why. Even though I knew it didn't make sense. Even though I knew that Tolkien himself was not particularly fond of the Irish (the language, at least, if not the people). Was it because they used an cló gaelach, the insular font so often associated with Irish Gaelic? Even in my later adolescence, as I wasted my measly weekend job wages on Warhammer 40K, I couldn't help but notice the inherent Irishness in the names and terms of the mystical Eldar alien race who are basically space elves anyway (spoiler: it turns out the Eldar language is, in fact, mostly just bastardized lines from Irish Gaelic proverbs).
The podcast episode is full of insightful exchanges on language and colonialism between Ní Dhúill and host Peader Kavanagh. You can listen below, or on your preferred podcasting platform. Read the rest
Sean K Reynolds' and Shanna Germain's free, short ebook Consent in Gaming (from Monte Cook Games) is a beautifully thought-through exploration of how game-masters and players can negotiate their own boundaries before, during and after playing RPGs, in a way that allows everyone to be mindful and respectful of those boundaries without sacrificing fun or intensity of game-play.
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I don't have a single piece of hardware that'll be able to play Cyberpunk 2077 when it's released. This fact didn't do a single damn thing to stop me from watching this 14-minute preview video, however.
Beyond getting a peek of the incredible environments that the game has to offer, the video, as its title suggests also gives a solid look at two play styles and massive number of character tweaks that will be available to players on launch day. Read the rest
I'd kill to see Fallout: New Vegas, Fallout 4, or any of the Borderlands games come to the Nintendo Switch. They're some of my favorite titles to turn to at the end of a long, stupid day when my brain is in desperate need of a bit of numbing. Sadly, so far as I know, there hasn't been a reliable peep on the possibility of a port for any of them. Happily, Engadget plopped out some news today about a game that could be the next best thing to the titles on my wish list.
Obsidian had already revealed its Fallout-esque sci-fi RPG The Outer Worlds will debut on PC, Xbox One and PS4 October 25th. Sometime after that, it'll land on Switch too. Nintendo's console is less powerful than Sony and Microsoft's ones, and won't pack as much punch as a typical PC, so it remains to be seen how well The Outer Worlds will run on the hybrid.
For this version, Obsidian is teaming up with Virtuos, which has helped bring the likes of Dark Souls Remastered and Final Fantasy XII: The Zodiac Age to Switch. There's no firm release date as yet for The Outer Worlds' arrival on Switch, but the UK eShop pegs the release date for sometime this year.
Obsidian was responsible for Fallout: New Vegas. From what I've seen in the trailer for The Outer Worlds, much of the humor of that old chestnut has made it alive into their space game. Read the rest
Heavy metal and Dungeons & Dragons have an interconnected history that goes beyond just being targeted during the Satanic Panic of the 1980s. Over at Kerrang, John Reppion draws the links from Black Sabbath until today. From Kerrang
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The November 1987 edition of UK RPG magazine White Dwarf was advertised as a ‘Thrash Rock Special’. “Your eyes and minds have been devastated by White Dwarf for the past ten years, now it’s time for your ears to get it!” an ad in the back of the previous issue warned. The magazine came with a free flexidisc whose single track, Blood For The Blood God, was specially written and recorded by British thrashers Sabbat for WD. Printed on the disc are the words “Based on Games Workshop’s Warhammer fantasy roleplay game”, making Blood For The Blood God the first ever official RPG tie-in metal record.
Two years later, death-grind band Bolt Thrower released their second album, Realm Of Chaos: Slaves To Darkness, on Earache Records. The album’s cover art came courtesy of Nottingham-based RPG maker and retailer Games Workshop. Many of the song titles and lyrics related directly to the store’s own sci-fi fantasy RPG, Warhammer 40,000 – of which members of Bolt Thrower were dedicated players. Copies of the album were even sold in Games Workshop, alongside the usual miniatures and rulebooks....
Perhaps the most overtly RPG-inspired band of the moment are Gygax. Named in honour of D&D’s creator, the Californian four-piece play Thin Lizzy-esque hard rock with themes lifted directly from the players’ handbook.
Vlad Taltos is the (anti)hero of Steven Brust's stupendous, longrunning fantasy series (which is nearly complete, a generation after it was begun!); Issue 220 of Dragon magazine (August 1995) included a feature by Ed Stark explaining how to play the human assassin and witch who lives amidst a race of nearly immortal elves, against whom he bears a serious grudge. I just love that there's a stats-sheet for Vlad! The only thing that would make me happier would be the next goddamned book.
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"Three Halflings in a Trenchcoat" is Redditor Sir_Platinum's homebrew fighter class for Dungeons and Dragons, wherein the halflings' dexterity bonus is canceled out by the need to maintain balance and movement speed is sharply reduced, but this is offset by a "Band of Brothers" effect that -- while not so good for hit points -- provides an armor class bonus, as well as the ability to make three attacks at once with all six arms.
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