Black Friday for the Gamers

Long ago, I used to work in retail (GameStop/EB, Hastings and Toys ‘R Us) and after my experiences in the stores on Black Friday I think I suffered some sort of permanent damage that keeps me from wanting to leave the house on the day after Thanksgiving. Luckily, I don’t have to these days. I am able to do most of my shopping online.

Between the Black Friday deals at Newegg, Amazon, TigerDirect and a few other online stores, I can pretty much get whatever I want at a discount. The one thing that’s a little harder to nab are the deals on RPGs. That is, of course, unless I’m shopping at DriveThruRPG for myself or friends with tablets/laptops. Here’s a list of the Black Friday deals I’ve come across so far. I’ll continue to update this page through the day as I discover more.

Third Eye Games is offering 25% off their entire library, including the brand new Land of Seed and Blossom.

Spectrum Games has a list of deals on all their titles, including Slasher Flick, Macabre Tales and discounts on POD options.

From the DTRPG Newsletter: Starting on Friday Adamant Entertainment will not only be having a huge sale on all of their titles, they also have big contest going on. This year, one randomly-drawn customer from the sales period will be chosen to receive a brand new Kindle Fire from Amazon, as well as a year’s subscription to Adamant’s ebook line, launching in 2012.

Update: Nevermeet Press put their entire catalog up for 50% off as well. They’re offering D&D 4E, Stock Art, digital anthologies and then some.

 Update: Fat Dragon, makers of outstanding paper miniature products, has also decided to give us a special. They have brought their EZ-Dungeons: Basic Set out of retirement for this weekend only in addition to dropping the prices on their non-retired products.

Update: Noble Knight, “Where the Out of Print is available again”, is running their sale through Monday. Several good deals and they have more than just OOP products.

Update: Arc Dream, the people behind Wild Talents, Godlike, Delta Green and others, have 25% off their entire catalog. Savage Worlds Kerberos Club, you will be mine!

I’ll continue to update this post as I find more deals, so stay tuned.

In addition to gaming, I also like to read. I received a press release regarding DriveThruFiction which fills yet another niche for me since I love .epub books for my nook.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

OneBookShelf Announces Launch of DriveThruFiction, New Digital and Print Retailer

OneBookShelf, Inc., the parent company of DriveThruRPG.com and DriveThruComics.com, announced today that they recently launched DriveThruFiction.com.

DriveThruFiction.com is a genre-focused website that will offer e-books, audio, visual, and print editions of short stories, novellas, novels, and more. Readers can subscribe to their favorite authors and publishers in science fiction, horror, fantasy, and several popular sub-genres including steampunk and paranormal romance.

Independent and traditional publishers can take advantage of on-site marketing tools when they sign up for an account. These tools are unique to the DriveThru family of sites and are offered at no charge.

Currently, the website has dozens of new and established publishers already signed up including Apex Publications, Bards & Sages, Blackstone Audio, FW Media, Morrigan Books, Northern Frights Publishing, and White Wolf Publishing. There are also a number of authors publishing their own titles on DriveThruFiction such as Greg Stolze, Joseph Nassise, Paul S. Kemp, and R.A. Salvatore.

The publisher relations manager for DriveThruFiction.com is Matt M McElroy.

About DriveThruFiction: DriveThruFiction.com is part of the OneBookShelf family of sites that includes DriveThruRPG, DriveThruComics, RPGNow and WarGameVault. OneBookShelf has been operating e-book marketplaces for over ten years, sending millions in royalties each year to thousands of publishers and authors.

On the Web

Website: DriveThruFiction.com
Twitter: @DriveThruFic
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/DriveThruFiction/220171504716619

I have already purchased Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror and if I can find more gems like that one on the site then it has a bright future in terms of draining my wallet dry.

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Kids & Gaming

I just wanted to make a quick post about something DriveThruRPG is doing this coming week. Most people who know me know I am a big supporter of getting kids into gaming. When I was a judge for the ENnies (I say this a lot…) I ended up giving away a lot of the product that was sent to me for review after I was done with it. A large portion went to MisCon. One product in particular that I sent over was Ancient Odysseys: Treasure Awaits by Precis Intermedia. I thought it was a good little boxed set with quick mechanics and easily understood rules that would be good to get some kids introduced to roleplaying. That it came with everything you needed to get going was just icing on the cake.

So I give the boxed sets to MisCon, end up giving another one to one of the boys at the table that was there for the demo I ran and I got to see him tear into his first boxed set with the same enthusiasm I had when I was nine years old and opened my first one (Champions). The clincher was when he told me that he’d “have an adventure for [me] to play in next time!” Because of that experience I gave my Judge’s Spotlight award to a game that brought a kid into the hobby, but that wasn’t the only one…

Nominated for “Best Free Product” in 2010 was the Warriors Adventure Game. Here’s a story I shared on ENWorld (and other places) about it:

It’s a nice, simple, diceless system that has helped one kid I know really start reading.

Just to share a quick story, I had always seen Warriors books at my girlfriend’s work. One of her boss’s kids is always packing them around, so I printed him out a copy of the game, bound it up and left it at the shop for him thinking he’d like it. Turns out, he’s interested in the Warriors books but struggles like hell to read them. His mom told me he’s behind on his reading and they’re having him tested for learning disabilities, ADHD, dyslexia and so on because he gets lost in text really easy, gets frustrated and doesn’t read more than a couple pages at a time because of it.

Anyhow, I guess after he got his hands on the Warriors Adventure Game he sits down with his book and just powers through them, turning them into adventures for his brothers. For a kid that used to spend more than a month getting through one book he has been knocking them out at the rate of one a week on average.

And he made me a card

The point of this drawn out post was to say thank you to Stan! You really deserve the nomination.

Another nomination that year (Best Rules) was BASH Ultimate Edition. I gave a copy of BASH UE to the brother of the kid I was talking about above after one of the players in my con game said that he might be interested in it. Since giving those boys their games they have mixed and matched, created their own systems, played cats, superheroes, superheroic cats, Star Wars and the list goes on. I got a message in October ’10 asking if I would be interested in playing in a BASH UE-powered Star Wars game run by the boy I gave the book to. 2010 was a great year.

In 2011 I found myself back at GenCon and on Sunday evening I was at dinner with Mark Truman and Marissa Kelly of Magpie Games and Eloy Lasanta of Third Eye Games. After a lot of back and forth about game design, systems and goals Mark brought up the idea of getting publishers/writers/artists together to release a game each year targeted at kids. I thought it was a brilliant plan and even though I’m not a publisher/writer/artist I have already begun working with two groups for 2012 releases with just that idea in mind.

But the real reason behind this post is that DriveThruRPG has stepped in with a fantastic new event: Teach Your Kids to Game Week! Here’s some information in their own words:

We’ve got guest essays from Bill Walton of The Escapist, Kevin Kulp (MC of the ENnies) and we’ll be featuring a number of games we think are great for teaching kids about RPGs.

We are also looking for your stories, we’d love to hear about your experiences with kids in RPGs on our Facebook page and if you have a blog, feel free to participate in Teach Your Kids To Game Week with advice, reviews, suggestions and general enthusiasm. We have created a Facebook Event so feel free to drop by and show your support.

Check out the list of games they have provided. Take a gander at the Facebook Event they have posted. Post your stories about getting kids involved in the hobby, what systems you used to introduce games to younger players and anything else that will help spread some encouragement to others who are curious how to spark that creativity and love for our hobby in our kids.

Now, since I’ve been slacking on the posts here, I wanted to leave you guys with a list of games at DriveThruRPG which are on sale this month:

The code to use is EarlyShopRPG2011 and it’s good for 20% off all those titles through December 10th. In addition, I’ve got a $10 RPGNow gift certificate to give away to one reader. What I’d like is for you to post a comment below with a story of gaming with kids and having a good time. I’ll pick a winner from the posts and email you the gift certificate.

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A month later…

So it has been a while since my last post. I ended up going to GenCon, coming back to a day off and then diving into my certification studies once more. That has been keeping me pretty busy lately. I have also been looking to change the focus of the blog because I broke the promise. I should have known I’d crack at GenCon and crack I did…

I showed up in Indy on Wednesday night (8/3), got a ride back to the hotel with the Third Eye Games crew and stayed up for a while chatting with Eloy Lasanta. I had a game on Thursday and felt pretty confident that it would go alright but you never know…

Thursday I got up, grabbed breakfast and went down to the dealer hall to make sure Eloy had support at the booth. My One Year promise went straight to shit the moment I walked into the dealer hall. I picked up two copies of Savage Worlds Deluxe (one for me, one for a friend) and it was straight downhill from there. I also picked up Legend of the Five Rings: The Great Clans for a fellow RPGnetter that couldn’t make it to the show.

The game I was running, Apocalypse Prevention Inc., was scheduled for noon and when I showed up I had a full table. The adventure I was running was Seafood Chowder, available for free at RPGNow, and it went well. The thing about that particular adventure is that it is very investigation heavy and can end with no combat whatsoever, as was the case with that first game. Since most people want to experience the full game when they sit down to a con game I ran them through a combat and they all seemed to enjoy it. My buddy Corey showed up on Thursday to help us out and that night we went out to dinner.

When I got back to the hotel I was pretty much dead but that didn’t stop me from playing in an Age Past game run by the designer, Jeff Mechlinski. Age Past is a Kickstarter I backed after hearing about it from my buddy Tommy Brownell and I was pretty excited about giving it a try. After playing it I am really impressed with how the system works as well as the flavor of the game. I highly suggest checking it out. After that it was off to bed.

Friday I had two games to run starting at 10am. They both went fine but I was wiped out by the end of the day. The last game of the day is still very memorable for me as I had an 11 year old girl in the group. Part of the adventure involves a really scummy Loch named Solo who is a complete dick to the players. She got fed up with him and said “I pull my knife and tell him I’m going to make him into a fish fillet.” To her father – you are doing something very right.

After making a trip to the dealer’s hall I picked up Airship Pirates because the other guy running games for 3EG really wanted it and they only had 50 copies at the show. I got him one and also snapped up Dark Harvest and Supers! Like I said, my promise went straight to hell. I had to split pretty much right after since I had a second game to run, but mission accomplished!

I still had the ENnies to attend as part of the Third Eye Games Dream Date, so myself, Eloy and Melissa Gay (Part-Time Gods artist) all went over to the awards. I enjoyed my time there, sitting with Carinn Seabolt and Sean Patrick Fannon of SilverMist Studios and OneBookShelf as well as my group. I was disappointed to see that some of the judge candidates I actively dislike were elected but I hope for the best this year. At least one of my picks made it in (Kurt Wiegel). I ended up winning an silent auction that netted me Legend of the Five Rings, Eoris Essence, Shadowrun Attitude and a sketch someone did. I figure these will make nice gifts and the money went to supporting the ENnies, so I was happy.

Saturday was the day I was dreading. I had three games on my plate, two using the normal DGS system for API and one using the unpublished API Savage Worlds version at Savage Saturday Night. My first game on Saturday was a mess and pretty much sucked the morale right out of me. When I was able to hit the booth it seemed like I wasn’t the only one down in the dumps. Things got better and the second game helped to pick me up.

Finally, it was time for API: Savage Worlds Edition at Savage Saturday Night. That one I was pretty terrified of as no one outside of the playtest groups has gotten a chance to see the rules we came up with for the system. My players included Eloy, who hadn’t gotten a chance to play it yet, as well as Kurt Wiegel and four others. Kurt is welcome at my table any time. Our magic system was questioned but once the guy playing the adept saw it in action he liked it quite a bit. I got some good feedback, mostly about improving the Wolf Person racial bonuses (this one went from being overpowered to not powerful enough, apparently), and implementing training packages for API agents. These things will be definitely considered, and I actually appreciate the outside feedback on the game while I still have time to make changes before it goes to print.

Sunday came up quick and I only had one game to run here as well. Eloy ended up taking it for me, giving me a chance to man the booth for him. I really enjoyed being able to talk to people about the different games he had up and sold several books. Corey had that day off but still stuck around to help me out. He had been looking for a new game all weekend but nothing caught his attention until I sent him over to Cubicle 7′s booth. Once he saw Qin: The Warring States he was sold. See, he’s a huge fan of Romance of the Three Kingdoms (the books) and Dynasty Warriors and he feels like Qin is just the game he has been looking for.

In addition, being at the booth allowed me to catch up with a buddy who makes the trip over from Greece and we got to chat for a bit. He gave a bottle of raki (Greek moonshine, basically) to Corey and warned us that it would come on slow but hit him like a truck. Another guy came by the booth, saw the glass counters we were using in our demos and wanted one of the red ones. He picked up a d20 off the demo table and said “It’s my birthday. What do I have to roll to get one?” I picked up the other one and said “You just need to roll higher than me.” We rolled, he got a 3. I figured I would win the roll and felt bad about it, but I ended up rolling a 1. He walked away with his shiny red counter and I realized that I’m destined to constantly lose rolls at conventions. This time I was totally ok with it.

I got to see a demo for the Mistborn Adventure Game (our booth was right next to Crafty Games) and I am so stoked for that one. I am currently reading the first Mistborn book and the setting is amazing. The system that was developed for the game seems like it will fit perfectly. One thing some of you might know is that I hate to see people disappointed, especially when it’s because of money. The guy who did the Mistborn demo came over several times to check out Wu Xing. He was sold on the setting the minute I started explaining it to him and we did a combat demo so he could see how it worked. Thing was, he didn’t have enough left in his budget by Sunday to pick it up. I talked with him for a while, really cool guy, and decided that I’d help him out. I picked up a copy of the game for him as a gift and just told him to play it, get other people interested in it and that’d be enough for me. Turns out he was getting a copy of the Mistborn Adventure Game for running the booth all weekend and he had already pre-ordered his copy, so he is sending one to me! I was ecstatic because I got caught up in the booth duties and breakdown and was unable to do a pre-order for myself, so this is something that is very, very appreciated.

That night Eloy ran a Wu Xing game for the 3EG crew and friends and Corey was sipping his raki all night. When it hit, it hit him good. The game was fun. Once again my dice crapped all over me so I just rolled with it and was still able to be a good distraction, even though I couldn’t hit anyone that I was going up against. Some taunts, some insults, some spittle flying and they stayed focused on me, so it all worked out.

My full list of purchases ended up being:

Since getting back I have spent some time relaxing, going over the stuff that I bought while I was there and studying for the certification I’m taking in September. Once I’m done with the certification the blog will be getting an overhaul with the focus shifting to my next project. Hopefully I’ll succeed at this one instead of dropping the ball right at the end. Luckily, the new focus doesn’t require me not to buy anything. I learned my lesson.

For those of you that stuck through this with me, thank you. I’m sorry for the delays between posts. I learned a lot this year about time management and scheduling and will be making  strong effort with my next project to keep things moving at a steady pace. Even though I didn’t make it the whole year this time I think that I learned a lot and found some new gems in my collection of games. I mean, look at API. I went from buying the Haiti bundle from DriveThruRPG to checking out the game to working with 3EG and making a new friend in the form of Eloy Lasanta. I’d say that even with me breaking the promise toward the end I gained a lot from this little journey. It’s amazing to see what can come from a shift in focus.

Until then…

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GenCon ’11 and What’s on the Horizon…

Another long time without a post. Work, gaming, writing, prepping for GenCon… it has been a busy time.

I posted before that I was going to GenCon this year with Third Eye Games. I’m going to be running the Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. games at the convention this year and tickets have gone quickly. I always get nervous when I’m running games at conventions because that experience can either turn someone on to a game or make them never want to play it again. I’m hoping that people will realize how awesome API is and walk away feeling satisfied. The MisCon game I ran was enjoyable for me just because of the players I had, but I don’t know if they’re going to work API into their regular rotations or not. It was hard to get a feel for how much they enjoyed it but at least they all still talk to me afterwards.

GenCon takes that worry up to a whole new level because the people sitting at the table all paid for that spot. To me, that means they need to receive a top-shelf experience with the game. I’m really hoping that the games I have planned live up my expectations and that every player that walks away from the table has a great time and wants to play again.

There are a few (I think three) spots left in my GenCon games right now. The schedule can be found here.

In addition to running the normal API, I’ll also be running API Savage Worlds at Savage Saturday Night. This one I am completely petrified over. These are people who LOVE Savage Worlds and it will be the first public unveiling of the systems we designed to make it feel like API. I’ve got the scenario ready so really I just need to put it out there and hope the changes to the rules don’t rub anyone wrong.

In addition, I’ll be attending the RPGnet meet & greet again and catching the ENnie Awards while I’m there. For gaming, I plan on hitting Games on Demand a few times to check out Kingdom of Nothing, Apocalypse World and whatever else I can find time to play.

As for booths I want to hit, Savage Mojo is up at the top of the list. I’m hoping to get them to sign the copy of Caladon Falls they are holding for me. Cubicle 7 will see me because I want to get some copies of Supers! for my friends, Airship Pirates for my girlfriend and I’ll be picking up The One Ring for someone who can’t make it to the convention.

When I get back I’ll be turning my attention to reviewing again. I know I have talked about doing reviews and then those reviews never get posted because everything else piles up on me. Well, I’ve managed to get caught up on my projects and my certification exam for work is set for September. Once that’s done I think the blog will receive an overhaul and the formatting will be changed a bit. I’ll get into all this when I get back, but I think a change is definitely in order.

In other news, DriveThruRPG is having their Christmas in July sale where A LOT of products are 25% off. Check it out, there are many good deals to be had.

I’m sure I’ll be posting something after I return from GenCon. Hopefully it’s all good news. Hopefully Third Eye Games nets themselves one of those Judge’s Spotlight Awards at the ENnies, the booth sells out and Eloy goes home a happy man. Hopefully people decide that they really enjoy the games they play in and take those games home to their friends.

Wish us luck!

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DTRPG – Tell Us About Your Character

Tell Us About Your CharacterDriveThruRPG has been running a contest lately that asks people to submit their favorite character and tell them about it. Yeah, someone’s actually asking people to do that thing that makes a lot of us cringe. But… it’s working! Entries have been submitted and the final voting is posted over at http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/rpg_character.php

Get over there, cast your vote and help someone win some fantastic prizes!

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Issues and Updates

So I had a nice post all written up about my plans for Memorial Day weekend, about MisCon and about the stuff I’m working on. However, that post was eaten shortly after it was published because I was merging my hosting accounts. Here goes try number two…

MisCon was a blast. I ran a game of Apocalypse Prevention Inc. and Savage Worlds and was able to play in a game of Exploding Aces and Star Wars (the West End Games version). For the games I ran I was able to give all of the players a copy of the game I ran along with the dice they need to play. And, once again, the laws of probability decided to take a vacation. In API there was a crucial moment where the players were sneaking through the Roxy Theater during their investigation and a Stealth roll was required. Each player rolled a natural 20.

In Savage Worlds, the Joker is a big deal. You want the Joker because it allows you to act whenever you want during the turn, including interrupting other combatants, and gives you a +2 to all rolls (including damage) to everything you do that turn. During the game I ran there were only two rounds of combat where a Joker did NOT end up in a player’s hand. During those same rounds of combat I received a 2 around five times. I was told I need to stop giving out dice at conventions since the dice I give away always seem to roll exceptionally well for my players. Last year, during my BASH game, my Big Bad Guy was one-shot by one of the players. I found out at MisCon this year that the player who did that still uses those dice when he plays BASH. That makes me feel good.

In addition to the games, I met up with some friends that I only get to see once or twice a year, talked about things I’m working on and things I hope to work on in the future. It was a good time and I can’t wait for next year. But next up is GenCon…

I’ve mentioned a couple times that I am working on the Savage Worlds edition of Apocalypse Prevention Inc. The rules have been ripped apart by our playtesters, revised numerous times and were finally deemed ready. It’s out of my hands now so here’s hoping people enjoy it.

My next project is getting the final draft of my essay over to 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming for The GOLD Guide to Competitive Gaming.

When it comes to gaming I am still playing in a Hunter the Vigil game with my Saturday group over Skype. There was a bit of a hiatus due to illness, moving and the convention but we finally got things back on track. I’m playing Lawrence “Tommy” Thompson, a retired detective who can’t let the job go. I look forward to our Saturday game every week because I quite enjoy the group dynamic and Devon, from Shark Bone, is one hell of a GM.

On Sundays I am running Hellas. This is a game I was hesitant to run because I just wasn’t sure what the hell kind of story I would do for it. Luckily for me the character creation is AMAZING and the lifepath events ended up writing the game for me. I’ll post a review of this one later, once we wrap up our current game, but I can see myself coming back to Hellas time and time again.

On Mondays we are still playing Beyond the Mountains of Madness using Realms of Cthulhu. I think my players are having a good time with it but I’m kind of struggling with it. The story is so slow. I’m pressing on with it because I know it’ll get good eventually but it’s tough.

I’m currently re-reading Kingdom of Nothing by Gallileo Games. I’m loving it and can’t wait to play. In it, the players are homeless people who have forgotten who they are in an urban fantasy setting. It’s another one that will get a review once it sees some time at the table but the quick and dirty version is the game rocks. Here’s a blurb from RPGNow:

Kingdom of Nothing is a game about people who’ve lost everything, and their struggle to crawl their way back out of the cracks through which they’ve slipped. In it, players take on the role of a forgotten person. Something happened to them that was so horribly traumatic it brought their lives crashing down and forced them onto the street and into homelessness. A mysterious force called the Nothing has eaten their memories and manifested their fears as twisted monsters that threaten to destroy them.

Through the course of the game, they come to grips with the thing that destroyed their lives and regain their memories piece by piece. Players at the table collaborate to create your character’s backstory as you collaborate to create theirs. Throughout the course of the game, players discover the intense drama that led their character to get lost in the Nothing.

All in all it has been a good couple of months. Sorry the posts have been so sparse but I think I’m finally starting to relax now that MisCon is over and the API conversion documents have been sent off. Here’s hoping I can keep up with more regular posts from here on out now that the workload is starting to settle.

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A Song of Ice and Fire RPG

My buddy Corey has decided to take a turn at running a game and he went with Green Ronin’s A Song of Ice and Fire RPG since he got a copy of the pocket edition for Christmas along with Peril at King’s Landing. I have had very limited experience with this game so seeing it back at the table made me giddy. And it wasn’t just because of the Game of Thrones series starting up.

First off, the basic mechanics of SIFRPG are a simple d6 dice pool system where you roll a bunch of dice and keep a few, with higher rolls being better. The number you keep is usually determined by the governing stat you are rolling, with specialties upping total number of dice you roll. In play it works extremely well and moves things along nice and quickly while still allowing for a wide range of specialties and definition among the characters.

The thing with A Song of Ice and Fire and Westeros is that it is very politically driven. When I first got my hands on the RPG I was curious how it would capture the intrigue that is so pervasive in the books. The game handles it well, making the purely social character who can’t swing a sword if his life depended on it totally viable. This is something that makes me all sorts of happy, as I like diversity in the characters at the table and didn’t want to see the social side of the stories get sidelined in favor of combat.

Another detail that is very important to the setting is where the characters come from. The game started with us making our house, which ended up being an old house set in The Mountains of the Moon. House Dugan, as it came to be named, had stood with the Targaryens in the War of the Usurper, being loyal to the crown but not the king. When Robert Barantheon won and the Mad King Aerys was dead, House Dugan’s loyalty stayed with the crown. The house creation affects more than just the history, also providing a framework for your character by letting them know where they stand in the world. All in all, the house creation is fun and is a much appreciated feature of this game.

For Peril at King’s Landing, there are three of us playing. Mike is an anointed knight, Ken is playing a scout and I’m playing a horse trainer/retainer. I liked the idea of playing a simple man, someone who was dedicated to his craft of horse training and who traveled with the knight to the tournament at King’s Landing because the knight’s horse needed work. Mike’s horse, in the beginning, was not war trained (which is a big deal) and was a horrible fit for a fighting man since he had spent most of his starting money on his armor. My character, embarrassed that a knight of his stature would ride such a humble steed, helped to purchase a new, more majestic mount for the knight and began training it on the journey from The Mountains of the Moon to King’s Landing.

One thing that I decided for my character was that I wanted him to fight with a spear. In many games the spear is just not a good decision for a primary weapon. It’s something that aggravated the hell out of me in D&D, as my image of a Spartan or a Hoplite was dashed quickly by the other fighter who was using a long sword and dishing out far more damage than my meager spear could deal, and the actual use of the spear was never very detailed. In A Song of Ice and Fire, that changes. Do you remember Oberyn Martell from the books? He was known as the Red Viper, a warrior who fought with a poisoned spear. I instantly loved that character.

The game allows for specialties, like I was saying, that add bonus dice to your roll. My character has a stat of Fighting 3D, Spear 2B. What that means is I roll five dice when fighting with my spear and keep the highest three. In addition, I was able to take the ‘Spear Fighter I’ quality that allows me to make a second attack with my spear if I miss, but it’s at a penalty. I think it’s awesome, as it starts to feel more like I can use both ends of the spear in a fight and it gives my guy a flavor all his own when a fight starts. In addition, the spear I’m using can be wielded one- or two-handed, with a two-handed stance adding to the damage I deal. It’s a minor detail, but one that I enjoy. Combine all that with the Animal Cohort quality that I took, which gives my horseman an additional Fighting die when fighting next to my animal (which is my horse) and my character, a man who hopes to one day be known as the greatest horse trainer in Westeros, starts to take form.

Speaking of combat, one of the things that has always bugged me in other games is the way armor functions. I don’t like how, in D&D, heavier armor makes you harder to ‘hit’. I understand people’s arguments that the AC is an abstract means of determining how much damage gets through and so on, but I have always preferred systems that demonstrate how encumbering armor is while at the same time emphasizing the point behind it – the protection it offers. In SIF, heavy armor causes penalties to certain areas but can absorb a lot of damage. Mike’s anointed knight with his half plate was slow, often going dead last in initiative order where Ken and myself were wearing little to no armor and going quickly, but I don’t think he ever got hurt during gameplay. For myself, protected only by padded armor, one solid shot could damn near flatten me. It’s a trade-off, and one that I appreciate.

I also really like how hit and damage is calculated. For my spear fighter, I use Fighting (Spears) to hit, but I use Athletics for my damage calculations. This allows for a lot of flavor in the different styles, as a Water Dancer is going to seem much different than The Mountain’s brutal style of combat. Since Fighting is used in almost every case to hit, a high Fighting score will be useful no matter what weapon you use. Since the damage is calculated based on other stats it keeps the combat from being One Stat To Rule Them All.

The final point of combat that I really enjoy is how you can elect to take an injury when you are damaged, which reduces or eliminates the damage you take. The reason you would want to do this is because if you are ever reduced to zero health, the person who dealt the ‘killing’ blow will get to decide what happens. You could end up unconscious, dead, horribly maimed and the list goes on. The injury you take will impair you but, in my opinion, it’s worth it to avoid handing your fate to someone else.

I know that this is going to seem very disjointed and biased as a review, but I am having a hard time not gushing about this game. So far I haven’t run into anything that is glaringly wrong with the system but I am keeping my eyes out for the flaws. Right now I can say that my group is enjoying it, except for the one player who never read the books (he tried, just didn’t like them). It’s not an issue with the system, just that the names and places don’t mean anything to him so he feels a little left out. I think that’s something that any licensed game can run into but it’s the first time I’ve really encountered it at the table. It’s definitely an eye opener for me, and one area where I feel that Green Ronin could have done better by expanding the setting detail in the RPG in order to help people who have never read the novels get a better grasp on the setting. If you remember Game of Thrones by Guardians of Order, they gave more information on the setting but also included a ton of spoilers which I am glad that Green Ronin avoided. GR has put out the A Song of Ice and Fire Campaign Guide which I know has a ton of setting information, but I haven’t had any first-hand experience with it. I am betting that the book will clear up any issues I have with the limited setting detail in the core book. If I manage to get my hands on a copy I will be sure to follow up, letting you know if it does the setting justice.

In short, I am loving A Song of Ice and Fire. The mechanics are simple and work very well for what they are trying to do and the character creation is fantastic. The house creation is something that is both necessary and well implemented and the politics are definitely given the chance to shine. If I had to put a number to this one I’d give it a 9.5/10 – my only complaint being that the setting information in the core book being a little too concise though I can understand why it was done this way. Green Ronin and Robert J. Schwalb definitely deserve the accolades they have received for their work on this game and I highly recommend checking it out if you have ever wanted to play a game in George R.R. Martin’s Westeros.

Once we have gotten through Peril I will be posting my thoughts on the adventure.

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Loot! – I feel my resolve slipping…

One of the issues I’ve always had with RPGs is that I tend to grab for the new, shiny books or games regardless of whether or not I intend to play them. That was the point of this whole project – to force myself to focus on the things that I already have, the games that haven’t seen enough time at my table. In the event that I HAD TO have something new, I was limiting myself to the free rpgs out there because there are a lot of really good games available.

Along comes Loot! by Gamerati. Similar to Woot!, Loot! is a daily deal site that is focused on gaming. Board games and RPGs have been the focus so far and I have to admit that I have been very tempted. Today’s special is a starter box for Untold, an RPG I have been interested in for quite a while. I keep telling myself that my plate is too full, that I have too much going on to warrant buying a new game right now, but dammit… It seems like I’m having to tell myself that a lot since finding this site. I always say I should just forward the emails to my trash folder or unsubscribe from the list but every time I start to follow through I feel like I’m going to miss something good, that sale that I’ve been waiting for.

I know I’m weak, I’ll admit it, but Loot! hasn’t broken me.

Yet.

For those of you who aren’t in the same boat, you should definitely check this site out. A lot of good games have been offered up so far for substantial discounts. Many of the games I’ve had an eye on have dropped below my impulse purchase line with these sales but I’m not giving up. Instead, you all should be making the purchases for me and tell me what I’m missing out on. It’ll allow me to experience the games vicariously while supporting the companies that put their products up for grabs.

Speaking of discounts, DriveThruRPG has provided a list of products that are on sale for this month:

Dirty Secrets [Dark Omen Games]

Wraith Recon [Mongoose]

Lexicon of Traps [Ennead Games]

Shadow, Sword & Spell: Basic [Rogue Games] – I picked this up at GenCon last year and instantly fell in love with it. I like the 12 Degrees system, but I will admit that it takes some getting used to. There are a lot of little nuances that weren’t explained very well in the initial print of the book but they have been cleaned up and this edition is highly recommended. They also have Shadow, Sword & Spell: Expert now, which is definitely worth picking up.

Apocalypse Prevention, Inc. [Third Eye Games] – I love this game and can’t recommend it highly enough. I just finished up the scenario that I’m going to be running for MisCon this year and can’t want to run it:

The Magic of Movies

The 1950s saw some of the greatest movies of all time. From The War of the Worlds, The Ten Commandments, or Ben-Hur to 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and A Streetcar Named Desire. Abbott and Costello were names known to many and John Wayne was at the height of his popularity. It was a great time to be in the movie business… but why is API suddenly so interested in what’s happening on the silver screen? Why have they sent you and your team to New York City to investigate the Roxy Theater?

You are an agent working for Apocalypse Prevention, Inc., a global shadow organization dedicated to keeping the world safe from demonic invasion. It is 1959 and your orders are to find out what’s really going on at the Roxy…

The 20% Off code is:

DTRPGAprilPodBlog2011

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And now, back to the games!

With my (very sparse) recent posts I haven’t said anything about what I’m playing. I have still been active in my gaming groups, even with one of them kind of falling by the wayside due to schedule changes. Right now I’m in three groups. My Saturday group plays over Skype with my Sunday and Monday groups meeting face-to-face.

In the Skype group we finished up Smallville (which is AMAZING) and have been playing a game called Threshold, which was designed by Devon from Shark Bone Games. In it we are medical patients in the final stages of a terminal illness who are given a miracle drug called Elixir. Elixir halts the disease and allows the patient to perform superhuman feats. The catch is that the drug is not unlimited. If you burn it out through your powers then there’s nothing to hold back the disease, which kind of tethers you to the company that manufactures Elixir. There is a lot more to it but I’m not certain how much can be given away. Check out Devon’s posts over at the Shark Bone site to see what he has to say about it. As one of the players, I’m enjoying the hell out of this game which has dead simple mechanics and is more on the collaborative side than most of the other games I play.

Next up with the Skype guys is Hellas, I think. I haven’t played or run it before and neither has anyone else so it’ll be the blind leading the blind. Still, I can’t wait to give this one a go.

My Sunday group is going to start playing Peril at King’s Landing using A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying from Green Ronin. I have been wanting to do a fantasy game for a while and with George R.R. Martin announced as the 2012 MisCon Guest of Honor, along with Game of Thrones starting on HBO next month, I can’t imagine a better game to play right now. I made a retainer for the annointed knight in the group, working as a horse trainer and handler. The concept was pulled off well in the mechanics and I can’t wait to get started playing next week. Previously we had been playing the newest version of Gamma World but we didn’t end up enjoying it much. Character creation was, by far, the most enjoyable part of that game for us.

Monday’s group will be kicking off Beyond the Mountains of Madness tonight using Realms of Cthulhu. I have to say, I’ve hit many roadblocks with this particular campaign (the least of which is me just not being able to get through At the Mountains of Madness by Lovecraft) but I’m looking forward to finally starting it off. The Savage Worlds mechanics are some of my favorites so it’s nice to be using the system again, and Reality Blurs has done a bang-up job with Realms.  Previously we had done some playtesting for Third Eye Games’ Part-Time Gods and played Masks of Nyarlathotep, which ended in a TPK.

I’m also still working on the Savage Worlds conversion for Apocalypse Prevention Inc and it is sucking up A LOT of my free time. Still, I hope this turns out right because I’m having a lot of fun with it and can’t wait to start running it. I think that the changes we’re making fit well but the closed playtests start next month and we’ll see how it all turns out.

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Drowning in Awesome

AwesomeA while back I posted about how I was back to my blog and I’d be posting reviews on a regular basis for API. If you’ve been following along at all, you’ve noticed that I didn’t do it and haven’t made a post in quite some time. That’s because I got wrapped up in several fantastic projects.

First, I’m working with a couple other people on the Savage Worlds conversion of Apocalypse Prevention Inc for Third Eye Games. Things have been moving along and I find myself surrounded by API and Savage Worlds books whenever I’m at home, but this is a daunting task. The goal is to move the mechanics over to the Savage Worlds system but keep all the flavor of API, so we’re designing new systems for magic and cybernetics, introducing API’s martial arts styles and pushing the character creation portion of Savage Worlds to its limits and a little beyond. The deadline for this one is fast approaching so I have been buckling down to make as much progress as possible. Hopefully I’ll be able to post some teasers of the work I’ve been doing soon. This is going to be my first published work for any RPG material so I am absolutely thrilled to have been given this opportunity.

Second, I now have three official projects that I’m doing for 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming. The first is an essay for The GOLD Guide to Competitive Gaming which I’ve titled “The Rule of Awesome.” The other two aren’t ready to be talked about yet but I will say that my plate is loaded with work and I couldn’t be happier with the assignments.

How did all this happen? Our hobby is a tight-knit one and simple things can often turn into awesome opportunities. If you like a product that someone has put out you should definitely let them know through whatever means you have. A quick post on Facebook or your blog, or making a post on a forum to let others know they should check something out. That’s what I did and now I’m being paid to do the things I do for fun, which is pretty awesome.

This blog fell by the wayside because of everything that is going on but I’ll do my best to keep up with it. I’m still holding to my promise but I think I’m going to have to break it since I seem to have lost my copy of the Savage Worlds Superpowers Companion and I kind of need that book. At least I made it six months, right?

Right now I just want to say a big thank you to several people that have helped to put me on the path that I’m on. Some of them probably don’t even realize the impact they’ve had but I my experiences with these people have really helped to push me along:

Eloy Lasanta and I started talking when I decided to shoot him a message on RPGnet to tell him how much I enjoyed API. After all our discussions, he decided to give a guy who was never published one hell of a first chance in this industry.

Robert and Connie Thompson are the two co-owners of 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming and they have given me every opportunity to turn what I love into something tangible and (hopefully) profitable.

CJ Ruby has been a voice of encouragement through all this. He’s currently developing an original system for 4 Winds Fantasy Gaming and is proving by example that all of this is attainable.

The ENnie Awards allowed me to put something recognizable to my name and helped to expose me to the multitude of products and people involved in this hobby. I think they’re the ones that really lit the fire in me to move beyond just being a fan of the hobby and I can’t imagine I’d be where I’m at if not for the friends I made during my time as a judge. They were the reason I attended my first GenCon, where I got to shake hands with several members of the industry that I had been looking up to for years. My most memorable moment was meeting Kenneth Hite, one of my favorite writers, and talking to Brennan Taylor, a real force of independent publishing and excellent game designer, at the awards ceremony.

To all of you, thank you for all that you’ve done for me. Whether you know it or not, your encouragement, faith and words of wisdom have finally given me what I need to step into the ring. Here’s hoping it’s not a round-one knockout…

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