Adventures in Middle-Earth 5e Play Review – The Second Journey, An Unexpected TPK

Last week, I reviewed our first Journey of the game. It went stupidly well. This week, I’ll continue the story of the first session and our second Journey. It goes stupidly. Again, I’ll discuss the mechanics of the system a bit and this time some battle numbers.

At the end I mention Cubicle 7’s January sale – 25% off Adventures in Middle-earth™ Player’s Guide and Loremaster’s Guide Bundle.

[Trigger Warning: Violence against D&D wolves. Not real animals, but in-game violence.]

 

***

In case you want to catch up on my prior Adventures in Middle-earth 5e Play Review articles:

***

Our Loremaster is Mike and our fellowship consists of:

 

***

Gwynnestri’s elven friend, Adabeuond, takes the fellowship to meet with King Thranduil of the Mirkwood Elves. Our goal is to gain his permission to travel north through his woods. After our great rolls for the first Journey, Gwynnestri obtains permission for all of us, even the dwarf, to pass through his kingdom and, in exchange, she agrees to report back what she learns.

The fellowship gets to stay the night at the King’s Hall and partake in their merrymaking. That night, Kort plays an ocarina (a haunting melody).

“Why an ocarina, cousin? Why not an oboe?”

“Because it doesn’t require a tongue, you twit, it’ll hurt more!”

(You see, Kort doesn’t have a tongue and it’s a whole thing.)

Our Loremaster, Mike, declares that a new Journey begins. We keep the same Journey roles as the first time around:

  • Kort, the Hushed, a Slayer, was assigned the Hunter position.
  • Gwynnestri of Mirkwood, Treasure Hunter, ended up as our Scout.
  • Robgud Clarfield, a Hobbit Scholar, ended up as the Guide.
  • Finn of Gondor, a 17-year-old human, took the Look-out assignment.

We lead with a roll for the Embarkation Table. The guide (me) rolls a d12 plus modifiers and the result was a 7: Feasts Fit for the Kings of Ancient Times. This was not a bad result as it gave the entire fellowship a +1 to all Skill Checks for the duration of this Journey.

Next, it’s the Journey Events Table and, I mean, how bad could that be? A second d12 roll (plus bonuses) for 12. Journey Events Table = Many Meetings? Fly you Fools! That led to a call for the Look-out to make a WIS (Perception) roll, which John failed.

Bookkeeping complete, the next morning (in-game) we continue walking along the side of the river. That night, the Many Meetings? Fly you Fools! and that failed Perception roll… ay, gawd… Yeah, that resulted in Finn spotting a 12’ wolf across the river, as you do in Mirkwood. His Nature check (17) confirmed it’s not a worg or a natural wolf of any kind. Finn, the 17-year-old human, points out the monstrosity and Gwynnestri, the elven Treasure Hunter, does a Shadow-lore check (13) to realize it’s The Werewolf of Mirkwood, an agent of The Necromancer, a spirit in wolf form, a foe far greater than the party could handle (as 1st level characters).

[NOTE: For Many Meetings? Fly you Fools!, the rulebook states that low-level parties should encounter enemies equal to their station… The Werewolf of Mirkwood is *not* equal to our station since it’s CR 6… but that is how Mike runs games sometimes.]

By now, the whole fellowship has an idea of what we’re facing so Kort, the Hushed, the dwarven Slayer, decides to wade across the river and confront it. Gwynnestri runs after Kort and talks him down from chasing down the werewolf.

From its position across the water, the werewolf summons 12 wolves (each CR 1/2). They split into two groups of 6 each with one group fording the river in front of us to attack while the other heads down river to cross. To get Robgud out of danger and let him use his bow, Kort tosses the Hobbit Scholar up a tree. Following suit, the human and elf climb trees as well. There is a campfire on the ground. This leaves Kort on the ground so he charges at the half dozen wolves that crossed the ford as we shoot.

The setup is: Trees with Robgud, Gwynnestri, and Finn in them, the campfire (for light), Kort, the 6 wolves, the river, and then the Werewolf of Mirkwood on the far side.

From above, we have Advantage on shooting so it’s a round of hits with damage like: Gwynnestri (11 damage to slay a wolf), Finn (6 damage), and Robgud (5 damage). The wolves lock with Kort. He strikes one with his mattock for 9 damage (killing the wolf). Many of the wolves miss Kort, but one hits. As a Bonus Action, Kort activates his Battle-fury (think Barbarian Rage).

From the trees, we continue to shoot the wolves that are not engaged with Kort. Gywnn does 15 damage (another death), Robgud does 8 damage, but Finn misses. Kort attacks doing 17 damage killing that wolf.

Throughout the fight, the Werewolf of Mirkwood has observed without becoming involved. This has been critical to our success since, you know, he’d tear through us like Hobbits at a buffet if he joined in.

For thematic purposes, the Loremaster gives Kort another combat action as Kort throws (NAT 20 + 5) the freshly killed wolf carcass at the giant werewolf. It hits the beast to no effect (because if he dove in, that’d end us) and combat continues. Gwynnestri shots the last wolf for 7 (Finn and Robgud miss). The last wolf attacks Kort for 4 damage but Kort kills it (15 damage).

Combat over, we survived and really didn’t take a terrible beating. From across the river, the Werewolf of Mirkwood glares at Kort. Kort flings the corpses of the wolves at the Werewolf of Mirkwood leading to a growl-off at each other. Intimidation checks of 16 to 14 leaves Kort slightly ahead. Everything seems good though there was not enough time for a Short Rest. Instead, Finn looks to the south to see more wolves coming (6 more). Only this time, the wolves were coming up our backside so the setup changed:

The 6 wolves, the trees with Robgud, Gwynnestri, and Finn in them, the campfire (which is too far from the wolves to provide light ending our Advantage), Kort, the river, and then the Werewolf of Mirkwood on the far side.

Add to that, Kort is so involved with the Werewolf of Mirkwood that he has Disadvantage on his Perception to even realize the wolves are coming up behind him. He rolls a 1 and a 1 because of the Disadvantage, so he takes a 1, totally oblivious.

We go with the same strategy. Between Finn and Robgud, they kill an incoming wolf. Gwynn kills one on her own (14 damage). Kort, completely distracted, gets hit by the incoming wolves (for 9 damage and 12 damage). Despite the Battle-fury reducing his damage and having some high starting Hit Points, he’s down to 3 HP. Still, he counterattacks and does 14 damage, killing another wolf.

With Kort on his last leg, Finn and Gwynnestri decide to climb down from the tree and attempt to distract the wolves and aid Kort. However, neither is successful in attacking or distracting the wolves. Instead, the wolves knock Kort below 0 HP, another hits Finn for 9 damage (so he’s just barely standing), and yet another hits Gwynn for 9 damage knocking her below 0 HP. There are 4 wolves left (2 fine, 2 wounded) versus Robgud and Finn. Finn flees for a tree while Robgud shoots a wounded one for 8 damage, slaying it. The last 3 wolves fail a homebrew morale check and flee.

On the ground, Robgud instructs Finn on how to save Kort with the Athelas while Robgud uses his one application of Hands of the Healer to restore Gwynn to 6 HP. Kort, just barely up after this encounter, glares at the Werewolf across the river. In a small bit of deference over a well-fought battle, the Werewolf of Mirkwood leaves back into the night.

For those keeping track at home, the Werewolf of Mirkwood (CR 6) and 12 wolves (CR 1/2 each) gave a CR total of 12, or 6, depending on how you count. Any encounter calculator will rank that encounter as “Deadly”. Had those wolves not retreated, we would have had at least two party members die during the first session. Had the Werewolf of Mirkwood joined in directly, I’d be telling you about rolling up a new character. However, it didn’t and the fellowship survived.

As well, this encounter should have resulted in 2 Shadow Points and a level of Exhaustion for each character, and a -1 to the Arrival Roll for the fellowship. However, since the encounter itself was so brutal, Mike let us skip all of the additional negatives. Instead, we got 200 XP each and could call it a night… [Until next Friday.]

 

***

Cubicle 7 is taking pre-orders for Adventures in Middle-earth – Bree-land Region Guide + PDF on there site (here). As soon as you order, you get the PDF.

Logo taken from Bundle of Holding’s Adventures in Middle-Earth for D&D 5e offering.

 

On Cubicle 7’s website, they have their “January Sale Offer!

25% off Adventures in Middle-earth™ Player’s Guide and Loremaster’s Guide Bundle for a limited time only. This bundle gets you both the Player’s Guide and the Loremaster’s Guide, with free PDFs of both.”

 

Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliated links to DriveThruRPG’s affiliate program and/or Humble Bundle’s Humble Partner program. 

Adventures in Middle-Earth 5e Play Review – The First Journey

The point of this series – a play review for Cubicle 7’s Adventures in Middle-earth for 5e – has been covered here, making my character, a Hobbit Scholar, has been discussed here, the character backstories ran here, and John McGuire shares the backstory for his character, Finn of Gondor, here, so with this column let’s get into the first meeting, the first job, and the first Journey where I discuss some of the Journey mechanics that AiME adds to the existing Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition system (labeled “FIRST JOURNEY” if you wish to skip ahead).

Our Loremaster is Mike and our fellowship consists of:

  • Gwynnestri of Mirkwood (often shortened to Gwynn). An elven Treasure Hunter (read, Rogue). Player: Rebecca
  • Kort, the Hushed, son of Korith, son of Hoin. A mute dwarven Slayer (read, Barbarian). Player: Stephen
  • Finn of Gondor. A 17-year-old human Wanderer (read, Ranger) with several possible backstories. Player: John McGuire (Tessera Guild)
  • Robgud Clarfield (often shortened to Rob). A Hobbit Scholar (read, Cleric). Player: Egg Embry (Tessera Guild)

Despite using this image, the journey we’re on is from the mind of our Loremaster, Mike, and not taken from Cubicle 7’s work.

 

***

FIRST MEETING

The story opens five years after the Battle of the Five Armies with our characters, largely unknown to each other, arrived in Esgaroth (Lake-town) for various reasons when Mike (Loremaster/DM) has Gwynn enter the inn. The cliche start to any campaign.

To understand the dynamic of this scene let me share that we’re playing online via Google Hangouts. Upon entering the busy serving room, Gwynnestri spots Kort, the mute dwarf that saved her life. She goes over to “speak” to him when the challenge of playing a mute character online comes up. If you’ve ever had a speech delayed, or mute, individual in your life, you know that communication is paying attention to subtle, and not so subtle, body language. To Stephen’s credit, he worked to create Kort in that space. However, what would be easy to bounce off of and react to if we were playing around a table becomes a concentration challenge online. Until you click on his window at the bottom of the screen, Hangouts cycles around to whoever is talking, which is not the mute character. If you don’t have his screen up, you lose the nuance of his performance and small moments when his character is “speaking”. However, keeping his window up all of the time means you lose out on the visuals of the other players and, especially, the Loremaster who screen shares maps to help with visualizing the settings. It’s a minor issue, but an impact to our play.

If you’ve roleplayed or written a novel/script before, you know that first scene, that first interaction, really sets the tone of your character. Rebecca decided to play Gwynnestri like no elf in Tolkien’s world, instead playing a take-no-guff heavy in the vain of a non-evil version of Marton Csokas’ Quinn from Into the Badlands (a show she’s never seen), or Stephen Amell’s season one Green Arrow from Arrow (not the Oliver character, but the violence-is-solution Arrow). Why did she go that route? Stick with me on this, my dice rolls for D&D combat can be summed up in the term, “apocalyptic”. As I’ve hinted, if my character had an oar, he’d miss water in the ocean. Prior to this campaign, every time Rebecca played a D&D character, it was a butcher. Lowest result? 19 with max damage. You know that player, they don’t participate in group combat, instead they lead the slaughter of wings of great wyrms while the rest of the party stays out of their way. My rolls are bad, but her rolls are the counter, they’re amazing. As such, she can play the violent hero because the dice let her stand tall.

Jolly Blackburn (Kenzer & Co) and Kevin Siembieda (Palladium Books) have *the* character talk. Used with permission from Jolly.

 

INTERLUDE

Rebecca and I played a D&D Adventure League game at Momo Con 2018. We were both 1st level but half of the group (8ish players) were 4th level and the encounters were a bit heavier for us. I, of course, missed everything. Rebecca was playing a 1st level halfling rogue. Her rogue killed… half or three-quarters of the monsters we encountered by herself. The 4th level characters had to defer to her. My session was: “Hey, this is my third CRIT failure in a row… I’m out of weapons to break or drop…” Her session was: “… and you rolled *another* NAT 20! With max damage! That’s another dead lizardfolk! There’s only a dozen left, do you want to charge by yourself or wait for the other players to join the fight? You’ll charge on ahead? Ok. Oh, another NAT 20. Should we just roll damage for fun?”

END INTERLUDE (Hopefully the relevance of the above Jolly/Kevin meme is clear.)

 

Back to surly Gwynnestri meeting mute Kort. It was the first scene of the campaign and one character is meant to be angry, the other quiet, and the scene was dying like casting Tyler Mane’s Sabertooth as Hamlet talking to Teller (of Penn &…) as Yorick. To save it, Mike interjected Robgud Clarfield, Hobbit, who I’d decided to assign a terrible English drawl. The accent I’m affecting is like someone based their English-English on the early punk singing voice of Billie Joe Armstrong when he was influenced by Brit punk but still from California. Shortest individual in the room, I play Rob as the sun rising in the morning on a world of good possibilities. While my counterparts… do not. So there’s a third Shakespearean character and it’s like English Pee Wee Herman. It turns out, that combination of characters was not meant to have deep philosophical talks so the deus ex machina… er, nobleman’s agent enters to offer us a chance to apply for a job.

 

NOTE: I should have stated this earlier, this is an original campaign and NOT a pre-made module. This is all from the head of our Loremaster, Mike. So, despite using the Mirkwood Campaign image above, this is not taken from that (so far as I know. I haven’t read the campaign book so I can approach this fresh).

 

FIRST JOB

We arrive at the noble home of Lord Haldeer. During the job offer we meet, and are paired with, Finn of Gondor, John’s character, a quiet 17-year-old done up in armor. The lord asks us to travel to Sadaphsan to search his ancestral family castle for heirlooms so he might learn more of his family’s history and why they moved from there to Lake-town hundreds of years gone by. We’re offered 1,000 silver pennies (is that a lot in AiME? I cannot say… yet) each for a trek of 150 to 175 miles. In terms of hooks, it’s not as hokey as finding a map leading to a dungeon and treasure, but it’s close. We pack a month-and-a-half’s worth of supplies and head out from Esgaroth along the river into Mirkwood.

FIRST JOURNEY

Our first Journey is from Lake-town to the Hall of the Elven King of Mirkwood to gain said King’s permission to travel through the whole of said realm to the foothills to the north. If you’ve read the Adventures in Middle-earth rules, you’ll know that a big difference between Dungeons & Dragons 5e and AiME is the Journey System. Unlike 5e, AiME has a specific set of phases for travel. These phases, and a change to the Long Rest system that we’ll cover in another post, create a palatable difference between 5e and AiME. In a Journey, there are four jobs that must be done during travel – Guide, Hunter, Look-out, and Scout – that have to be filled and rolled for at different points during the trip. We assigned the roles as follows:

  • Kort, the Hushed, a Slayer, was assigned the Hunter position.
  • Gwynnestri of Mirkwood, Treasure Hunter, ended up as our Scout.
  • Robgud Clarfield, a Hobbit Scholar, ended up as the Guide.
  • Finn of Gondor, a 17-year-old human, took the Look-out assignment.

Thus begins the first Journey. The Loremaster determines the Journey’s Peril Rating based on how difficult the terrain should be. Then the Guide (my character) rolls a d12 plus modifiers against the Embarkation Table. I rolled the maximum, which was a red letter day for me! We got Auspicious Beginnings, which made the journey easy. As well, we received a bonus on our next roll for the Journey Events Table, and Advantage on our first roll once we encountered something related to said table.

For the Journey Events Table, the Loremaster rolls a d12 and adds modifiers. In this case, we reached the middle result, The Wonders of Middle-earth, which gave us a chance to remove a level or Exhaustion or gain one. However, since the journey had been light, this had no impact on us. That said, we rolled well and gained a +1 to our Guide’s Arrival Roll.

For our encounter, we ran into an elven guard. Gwynn, being the elf, was put forward to talk to him. She did and then rolled her Persuasion with Advantage. The result was high and the elven guard turned out to be Adabeuond, who was Gwynnestri’s friend, and he guided us right in where we saw the majesty of the elven realm. No exhaustion, no problems.

For the Arrival Roll… well, we did not get to the Arrival Roll. Why did we skip the Arrival Roll? Learning a new system can cause that kind of challenge, you just miss certain rules.

Regardless, our first Journey was complete. Using AiME’s Journey rules was a smashing success to the point that we had no idea what we were in for with the second Journey. Just none at all… [Next Friday]

 

***

Cubicle 7 is taking pre-orders for Adventures in Middle-earth – Bree-land Region Guide + PDF on there site (here). As soon as you order, you get the PDF.

Logo taken from Bundle of Holding’s Adventures in Middle-Earth for D&D 5e offering.

 

***

Read my anti-clickbait clickbait article: “Everything We Know About the LORD OF THE RINGS Prequel So Far“! Guaranteed to be clickbait-tastic!

 

Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliated links to DriveThruRPG’s affiliate program and/or Humble Bundle’s Humble Partner program. 

Everything We Know About the LORD OF THE RINGS Prequel So Far

By Egg Embry | September 21, 1937 | Honest!

 

Amazon has let it be known that its forthcoming Tolkien series will be a prequel to JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. While looking for information about this prequel, reporters at the Tessera Guild unearthed a treasure trove of information when they contacted the Tolkien estate, who directed us to a prequel novelization.

While we cannot be assured of the name of the Amazon series, the novel is titled, The Hobbit. Based on the book, some of the characters in the story will be familiar to fans of The Lord of the Rings as it features a younger version of Gandalf who recruits one of the minor characters from LotRs, Bilbo Baggins (Frodo Baggins’ uncle), to thieve. There are dwarves. A mountain described as “lonely”. A dragon, which sounds like they’re already desperate to capture the Game of Thrones audience. After reading the novel, it is quite an unexpected journey.

The only thing that would be more unexpected is a clickbait article purporting to know anything about a series that has yet to be screenplayed. Yet, I’ve seen a variety that do just that.

Writer’s Note: “Screenplayed” is not a word. Which is ok, because this is not an article full of affiliate links to Amazon… er… well, it is that. Speculative clickbait articles that use the term “know” in the title imply factual knowledge instead of the specious fanboy wish fulfillment that they always turn out to be. As a site, if you’re desperate to write an article about something new and Tolkien, might I recommend interviewing publisher Cubicle 7 about their tabletop roleplaying game, Adventures in Middle-earth RPG for Dungeons & Dragons 5e. It’s new and Tolkien and excellent!

 

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliated links to Amazon’s affiliate program.

Adventures in Middle-Earth 5E Play Review – Character Backstory – Finn of Gondor

Egg Embry has been writing about the 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons campaign set in Middle Earth (by Cubicle 7) here and here and here. However, he hit a bit of a snag as either he wasn’t paying attention during the character introductions portion of the first adventure, or I made such a boring character that it has left no discernable impression on his aging mind. To spare my own ego, I’ll assume it was the latter. As such, he’s requested that I provide a backstory for my character Finn of Gondor.

But that would be too easy.

You see, I’m of the firm belief that you don’t really know your character until a few sessions into the game. Oh, you have an idea on what you want to play. Maybe it is why you picked the Race and/or Class. Or maybe you had a backstory already made up and wanted to use it to inform your characters actions. Or you might have a whole idea for a character arc in your mind and this is just step one out of twenty to get you to where you want to be.

With Finn, I’m still figuring certain things out about him. The things we know about him are that he is a 17-year-old human. The chain armor shirt he wears appears a little big on him (as does his clothes, his cloak, and probably his shoes as well). He’s quiet. Unsure of his place in the world and with the group. A group where being a human alongside a Hobbit, an Elf, and a Dwarf sorta makes him the odd one.

In game terms, he is a Wanderer (which for those who have ever played D&D would recognize as a Ranger). But this is someone who hasn’t learned everything he needs to know. The abilities that one gains as they rise in levels must feel earned (in my mind), so I’ve tried to have Finn make sure to study the other characters, whether it is in battle or hunting or tracking or anything else. His eyes are open, ready to soak in as much knowledge as possible. My hope is that since Adventures in Middle Earth is set up to have downtime between adventures (a Fellowship Phase), that I can grow with him as I learn more about the world through his eyes.

As to his backstory itself… well, I’m keeping parts of it close to the vest. So instead, I present 3 possible backstories:

Backstory 1

Finn of Gondor is the fourth son of a low level noble just outside of Palanir (the capital of Gondor). Two of his older brothers, upon coming of adulthood, have taken their place to watch for the Enemy along the border. While things had been somewhat quiet prior to the Battle of Five Armies (5 years ago), there has been more and more activity from the humanoid races.

Finn had a year to go before it was his turn to join them on the border when word had come back that his third brother, Colin, had died from a bandit attack while travelling to Lake Town. Finn’s father, Dervorin, unable to leave himself, was forced to send Finn to help establish connections and handle family business within Lake Town… which is what Finn was doing when he encounters the others.

Backstory 2

Finn of Gondor is not the fourth son of a low level noble just outside of Palanir (the capital of Gondor). He has no older brother. In fact, he has no siblings at all. His father is not Dervorin.

Finn of Gondor is the only son of a servant woman named Morwen, who works in the kitchens of Dervorin’s House. She has served the family as best she could over the years, and they have treated her well enough. Finn, when he wasn’t busy with his daily chores, spent his free time watching the sons of Dervorin learn the way of the sword and the bow. He watched them ride horses and was part of the hunting parties when such things were called for (where his duties consisted of trying to ensure no one’s thirst became too great).

He, like many others not born into wealth, dreams of something more than four gray stone walls and the livestock surrounding it. Finn wants to see the world. He doesn’t know what his purpose might be out there, but it has to be better than the one he was currently tied to.

His clothing, weapons, armor… all stolen from Dervorin’s House.

His mission in Lake Town… white lies to try and get him a leg up in the world… which is what Finn was doing when he encounters the others.

Backstory 3

Finn of Gondor is not the fourth son of a low level noble just outside of Palanir (the capital of Gondor). He has no older brother. In fact, he has no siblings at all. His father is not Dervorin.

Finn of Gondor is not the only son of a servant woman named Morwen, who works in the kitchens of Dervorin’s House.

Finn of Gondor is neither rich nor poor. He’s had no family and had a family of dozens.

Indeed, Finn is not even his real name…

A son of Gondor was killed by bandits, though whether he had three brothers or whether his father was named Dervorin… Finn of Gondor does not know. The bandits took Finn in a long time ago, took pity on him, and allowed him to stay with them for protection. They did things that he did not participate in, but he was as guilty since he didn’t leave. He didn’t know how he could.

And then the son of Gondor was killed by bandits. His armor and weapons and clothes just lying there… waiting for someone to claim them.

So Finn did.

He made his way to Lake Town in order to lose himself in the real world. Make something better than he had before… which is what Finn was doing when he encounters the others.

***

So there you go… the backstories of Finn of Gondor. One of them is likely correct and the others falsehoods.

I’m not even sure which one is the true one just yet…

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

Adventures in Middle-Earth 5e Play Review – Character Backstories

Cubicle 7’s Adventures in Middle-Earth for 5e Bundle of Holding (here) ends January 4th, 2019 at 10PM EST! This article is going up during its final hours. If you have not joined in, now’s the time!

Ends January 4th, 2019 at 10PM EST

***

NOTE: This is my third article and my goal was to get through the character backstories and to the first journey. However, I’m over my word limit for this week so the first journey will be next week. Sorry about my poor planning.

TRIGGER WARNING: Discussions of torture and mutilation.

 

***

I’ve given my initial reasons for writing a play review of Cubicle 7’s Adventures in Middle-Earth (for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition), I’ve touched on my character creation for the campaign, that leaves the character backstories to wrap up setup (at least, I hope so).

Our fellowship consists of:

  • Gwynnestri of Mirkwood (often shortened to Gwynn). An elven Treasure Hunter (read, Rogue). Player: Rebecca
  • Kort, the Hushed, son of Korith, son of Hoin. A dwarven Slayer (read, Barbarian). Player: Stephen
  • Finn of Gondor. His class has not been revealed yet, but he’s a 17-year-old human. Player: John McGuire (Tessera Guild)
  • Robgud Clarfield (often shortened to Rob). A Hobbit Scholar (read, Cleric). Player: Egg Embry (Tessera Guild)

 

BACKSTORIES

Thanks to Jolly Blackburn of Kenzer & Co for the picture.

Finn of Gondor’s backstory is… well, John hasn’t shared it yet. His character is young and human. [Sharing some website information, the first two Adventures in Middle-Earth articles (here and here) are the highest viewed pieces for the Tessera Guild for the past few weeks. As such, I think I’m going to pressure John to write his character’s backstory for his column next week. Wish me luck!]

[UPDATE: John wrote up the backstory for Finn of Gondor here.]

For the backstories of Gwynnestri of Mirkwood and Kort, son of Korith, son of Hoin, both were present at the Battle of the Five Armies (end of The Hobbit), and share lightly linked backstories.

Gwynnestri was a soldier in the elven army sent to help the humans of Dale to siege the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain.

Kort’s purpose for being there was meant to be in opposition. When word arrived from Thorin II Oakenshield of his desperate situation, his relative, Dáin II Ironfoot of the Iron Hill Dwarves, prepared an army to intervene. In our campaign, before he set out he sent a small group of dwarven scouts to get the lay of the land and make contact with Thorin II. Included in this group was Kort, son of Korith, son of Hoin. As the scouts came ready for the elves and humans, they did not expect the army of goblins and wargs. Most of the scouts were killed while Kort and a few others were captured. The orcs tortured the dwarves to learn what was coming. None broke. As the goblin army was being routed, Kort’s torturer cut out Kort’s tongue, leaving the dwarf to bleed out. But Kort did not. Instead, he freed himself, killed some retreating orcs, including some that were surrounding Gwynnestri, which resulted in saving her, the original enemy’s, life. In the aftermath of the battle, he learned that Thorin II perished. Kort, horribly mutilated, took the news to heart feeling that his failure to reach the Lonely Mountain and serve with Thorin’s company in the battle led to his death. After that, Kort has not been seen in the civilized world until Gwynn encounters him at the inn.

NOTE: Like many 1st-level D&D character backstories, Kort’s would have left him at a level greater than 1st, but he, I guess, learned nothing from all of that so he’s still 1st-level. Such is D&D.

Robgud Clarfield, an offshoot of the Byhills, Hobbit Scholar. Instead of being given to the right fine Hobbit calling of farming and communal interests, Robgud cultivated a particular trade in herbs and curatives and the lore of nature, yet without formal education. Naturally, that left his kin having to defend him against gossip accusing him of being a snake oil peddler, that there was more of Mordor than medicine to his ministrations. True, his doctorings might avail a mischievous stomach, a limb broken in twine, or some of the worst of the gout, but his poultices could smell less of the dung of the big folk’s world and more of the pleasant fragrances of the Shire. Right, now, he could be neater about it, and not offer to help the big folk or, worse, talk of them moving into the Shire. Of course, the Clarfields are from the very limits of the East Farthing and known to conduct a bit of business among the big folk of Bree. The Clarfield family reputation give them to be an unsavory lot for their mingling, and so a son that knows their ways is but to be expected. Rumors have it that Robgud spent time among the Eregionians and learned their particular methods from several of their kind or, possibly, from the elves. Regardless of the facts, either story makes him an embarrassment to the Clarfields, and even more so to all decent Hobbit folk. Robgud’s father and family patriarch, Cefil Clarfield, determined to remove the stain his son’s affairs place on the Clarfield name, and apprenticed him into a most unsavory profession, traveling agent, a mesh mash bit of business entailing travel beyond the Shire’s borders to conduct any number of transactions that no self-respecting, simple Hobbit would willing take up. Cefil Clarfield is only too happy to put his son to backpack and road so the family, and the Shire, might reap some benefit from a starry-eyed Hobbit scholar.

Why is a Hobbit of the Shire like Rodgud Clarfield so far from home, having taken up at Esgaroth? In the aftermath of the resurrection of Bilbo Baggins and the litigation therein (ending of The Hobbit), some here-to-fore unrecovered funds from Biblo’s adventures needed to be secured and returned to Bag End for disbursement. To be clear, Robgud is employed as a temporary agent of the estate, and was assigned this job via messenger never having met either party involved in order to act in a neutral capacity. Upon execution of his duties, his contract is complete and, as the campaign opens, Robgud has dispatched said sums for home and is, at the moment, without employ in Lake-town.

Background: Emissary of Your People

 

Next week… The characters meet up, get their first adventure, and do their first journey…

 

***

Interested in trying out Adventures in Middle-Earth for 5e? You can get most of the books as PDFs through Bundle of Holding (here) until January 4th, 2019 at 10PM EST. The price for Adventures in Middle-earth Player’s Guide, Rhovanion Region Guide, The Road Goes Ever On, Loremaster’s Guide, Wilderland Adventures, and the Eaves of Mirkwood & Loremaster Screen is not likely to get cheaper than what BoH and Cubicle 7 have it for there.

As well, Cubicle 7 has started taking pre-orders for Adventures in Middle-earth – Bree-land Region Guide + PDF on there site (here). As soon as you order, you get the PDF.

Logo taken from Bundle of Holding’s Adventures in Middle-Earth for D&D 5e offering.

Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliated links to DriveThruRPG’s affiliate program and/or Humble Bundle’s Humble Partner program. 

Adventures in Middle-Earth 5e Play Review – Preparations and Character Creation and Warden to Scholar

Last week, I rolled out the idea behind this column, doing a play review of Cubicle 7’s Adventures in Middle-Earth for Dungeons & Dragons 5e. Our first session occurred on December 1st, 2018. However, before that session there was a deal of work to be done, standard prep for an extended campaign. As it stood, one of our longtime players, Leland, had to step away for real world reasons. Down a regular, we started out our fellowship with Rebecca, Stephen, John McGuire (Tessera Guild), and myself, while Mike ran the game as the Loremaster. For characters, we each picked what we wanted to play without worrying what the other characters would choose:

  • Rebecca: Gwynnestri of Mirkwood. An elven Treasure Hunter (read, Rogue). Once the game gets rolling, Rebecca will find Gwynn’s voice early, which helps set the tone for the campaign.
  • Stephen: Kort, the Hushed, son of Korith son of Hoin. A dwarven Slayer (read, Barbarian) with a tragic backstory that I’ll share in the coming columns.
  • John McGuire (Tessera Guild): Finn of Gondor. His class has not been revealed yet, but he’s a 17-year-old human, and John is building him as just a pup, new to the wider world.
  • Egg Embry (Tessera Guild): Robgud Clarfield, a Hobbit Scholar (read, Cleric). I knew going in that I did not want to be a “spotlight” character, that I wanted to play a supporting role and that brought Robgud to mind.

[NOTE: In the interest of players enjoying the maximum freedom at the gaming table, I did not ask for their character sheets so stats will only be shared as I learn them in-game.]

Let’s talk about the character creation process for my character, Robgud Clarfield. Why a Hobbit Scholar? Well, that was my second choice. My first choice was a Hobbit Warden. When I envisioned the character, I knew two things:

  1. My dice rolls tend to be so bad that I cannot hit the broadside of a kobold. Decades ago, my 5th or 6th level Ranger, at full HP with a bastard sword, went one-on-one with a single 1e kobold. My Ranger just barely survived. The kobold escaped. That’s what my dice rolls look like in D&D.
  2. I wanted to play something outside of my norm.

Addressing those in reverse order, let’s start with my usual type of characters, which tend to be the whisper-growl of Kiefer Sutherland’s Jack Bauer from 24, or the “comic” relief character (without the hindrance of actually being, you know, funny). In other words, murder hobo down the line. For this game, I didn’t want to do that since, obviously, murder hoboing would be off by just a smidge in Tolkien’s world. Instead, I wanted to play my own version of Sean Astin’s Samwise Gamgee, or, for those that know him in life, my Tessera mate, John “Hope Springs Eternal” McGuire. I wanted to play the uplifting character that believes tomorrow will be a bright sunny day.

For my poor rolls… well, if nothing can be done to improve my dice rolls, maybe there was a class that would lessen my poor luck’s impact. To that end, I read the Warden class and really liked the first level ability, Warden’s Gift. As a bonus action that could be used a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier, you grant an ally a d6 to be added to any attack, ability check, or saving throw in the next 10 minutes. Replenish uses on a Long Rest. With that power, I would benefit the fellowship from jump while letting my allies make up for my poor rolls. I also felt that class had some basis in Sam Gamgee making it all the better to choose. As the class says, “Many Hobbit-heroes, for example, are Wardens (when they are not Treasure Hunters!)”

Yet, I’m a Scholar in the game, why’s that? As we got closer to the date, I got the news that ruined that character class for the min-maxer part of me: Stats would be the Standard Array. If you don’t know, the Standard Array in D&D 5e are a predetermined set of base stats (15, 14, 13, 12, 10, 8). These numbers are modified by Cultural attribute enhancements. In the case of Hobbits of the Shire, that’s +2 to DEX, and then Family Ties elevate them:

  • Harfoot: +1 to WIS
  • Stoor: +2 to CON
  • Fallowhide: +1 to INT

The Warden’s primary ability is Charisma. Using the Standard Array with a Hobbit of any Family Tie meant my maximum starting Charisma would be a 15 without exceeding the rules. That score meant my Warden’s Gift power would have 2 uses per Long Rest. In AiME, Long Rests are rarer than in standard 5e (more on that another time) meaning there’s a fair chance that I’d go several sessions only able to pass out two d6s to help the fellowship, which made the min-maxer in me balk.

Was that a fair assessment of the class? Absolutely not. The Warden has a list of excellent powers and would be a compelling addition to any fellowship, even if your Charisma is not 18. The choice to not pursue this class was is all about my personal hangups. Thus, back to the class options I went and there I discovered the Scholar (read, Cleric).

In hindsight, that hangup would prove to be providence. To learn about that providence, let’s turn to Lake-town and our first session… [Next Friday]

 

***

Interested in trying out Adventures in Middle-Earth for 5e? You can get most of the books as PDFs through Bundle of Holding (here) until January 4th, 2019. The price for Adventures in Middle-earth Player’s Guide, Rhovanion Region Guide, The Road Goes Ever On, Loremaster’s Guide, Wilderland Adventures, and the Eaves of Mirkwood & Loremaster Screen is not likely to get cheaper than what BoH and Cubicle 7 have it for there.

As well, Cubicle 7 has started taking pre-orders for Adventures in Middle-earth – Bree-land Region Guide + PDF on there site (here). As soon as you order, you get the PDF.

 

Disclaimer: This article may contain affiliated links to DriveThruRPG’s affiliate program and/or Humble Bundle’s Humble Partner program. 

PRESS RELEASE – Purchase Your JordanCon Membership Before January Price Increases!

Welcome to The Source!

With holiday season truly underway, we know things are probably getting pretty crazy for everyone. With that in mind, we appreciate you taking a few minutes out of your busy schedule to catch up with all things JordanCon! We hope you all have a fantastic holiday, and we can’t wait to see you all at JordanCon 2019! After all, despite all the great things going on, we still find ourselves asking, “Is it April yet?”

Membership Price Increase!

Don’t forget membership prices go up again on January 1st! Let’s be honest. You want to go to the con, and you need a membership to do that. So why not go ahead and buy it now before it gets more expensive? If money is tight, don’t forget that memberships can be gifted. Who wouldn’t want to get a JordanCon membership for Christmas? Whether you ask for it from one of your loved ones or you splurge and make it a gift to yourself, be sure to have your membership before the end of the year! And while you’re in the gifting spirit, pick up one for a friend or family member and bring them along!

Accessibility at JordanCon

Did you know that we offer special accommodations and services for those who need a little extra help attending and enjoying the con to its fullest? As we approach next year’s convention, we’re going to shine a spotlight on some of the services we already offer to our attendees and guests who need special accommodations, but we’re also announce some new things we’re going to be doing at JordanCon 2019 to make our convention even more accessible. Keep an eye on our FacebookTwitter, and website for more information in the coming weeks! Also, if you’re considering attending JordanCon 2019 but have some questions or requests for accommodations, please reach out to us at accessibility@jordancon.org. We would love to hear from you and help you in any way we can!

Overflow Hotel Information

The overflow hotel information was released last month on Facebook, so be sure to book your room before the block is full. Our overflow hotel this year will be the Fairfield Inn and Suites by Marriott, and the room block will run from Thursday through Sunday. While the link technically works until April 12, 2019, the rooms are only available with the discount until the block is full. Discounted, rooms with King beds will be $109.00 per night and rooms with two queen beds will be $129.00, so don’t miss your opportunity to get these rooms at the lower price! (Remember that you can still book a room at the host hotel. You just won’t be able to get the discounted rate.)

Adventures in Middle-Earth 5e Play Review – Preparing the Way and a Humble Reward

Since moving my “RPG Kickstarters You Should Back” column from the Guild to the Open Gaming Network, and taking over Angus Abranson’s “RPG Crowdfunding News” column on EN World, I’ve contemplated a new Friday column for the Guild. Something RPG-related, but less Kickstarter. Then, one of my two longtime DMs suggested an ongoing Adventures in Middle-Earth 5e campaign. Doing a campaign review obviously touches on tabletop roleplaying games, and it offers the broadest appeal by combining Dungeons & Dragons and JRR Tolkien’s world. Still, will writing about how my terrible dice rolls in a variant of Dungeons & Dragons 5e be compelling week-after-week? With those questions, I decided to sit on the idea for the time being.

Our first session was Saturday, December 1st, 2018 and, while it was a great start, I still had doubts about it being enough to justify a series to discuss it. Then, on Monday, December 17th, 2018, Adventures in Middle-Earth for 5e rolled out on Bundle of Holding (here) offering most of the books as PDFs. That made this campaign and article series feel more timely. The next day, Cubicle 7 opened up pre-orders for Adventures in Middle-earth – Bree-land Region Guide + PDF (here). Even as I was preparing this article, small pieces were coming together to push this forward like Humble Bundle offering LEGO® Lord of the Rings for free (through Saturday, December 22 at 10 a.m. Pacific time). But the clincher that made me decide that I need to do a play review was the month, December. For me, there is no month I associate with Tolkien’s work more, and that’s because of Peter Jackson’s adaptations:

  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – U.S. release date: December 19, 2001
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers – U.S. release date: December 18, 2002
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – U.S. release date: December 17, 2003
  • The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – U.S. release date: December 12, 2012
  • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – U.S. release date: December 13, 2013
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – U.S. release date: December 17, 2014

All of that together makes this feel like the right column to tackle right now. It will let me talk about the books, the system, the world, the campaign we’re playing, other adaptations (from the 1966 short animation to the upcoming Amazon series) and the characters. Each article will talk about some aspect of the RPG, Tolkien’s work, the movies, or whatever is appropriate to the moment.

Even with that, this would not have seemed practical without a few more life accomplishments that made playing Adventures in Middle-Earth for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition happen:

Cubicle 7 (left to right: Walt Ciechanowski, Jon Hodgson (holding the Silver ENnie Award – Best Rules), TS Luikart, Egg [*not* a part of C7], and Dominic McDowall) at the ENnie Awards 2017.

Since our last D&D campaign wrapped over a year ago, and I put hands on Adventures in Middle-Earth for 5e, I’ve wanted to play in a Middle-Earth campaign. The circumstances to make that happen came to pass on Saturday, December 1st, 2018 as a fellowship of four of us came together to adventure and, eventually, do some great bit of heroism (maybe). The Loremaster is Mike, and the fellowship consists of Rebecca, John McGuire (Tessera Guild), Stephen, and myself.

 

 

Interested in trying out Adventures in Middle-Earth for 5e? You can get most of the books as PDFs through Bundle of Holding (here) until January 4th, 2019. The price for Adventures in Middle-earth Player’s Guide, Rhovanion Region Guide, The Road Goes Ever On, Loremaster’s Guide, Wilderland Adventures, and the Eaves of Mirkwood & Loremaster Screen is not likely to get cheaper than what BoH and Cubicle 7 have it for there.

As well, Cubicle 7 has started taking pre-orders for Adventures in Middle-earth – Bree-land Region Guide + PDF on there site (here).

 

Let’s round out the introductory post with the variety of RPG systems that existed to bring Tolkien’s work to the tabletop:

  • Middle-earth Role Playing (MERP) from Iron Crown Enterprises (I.C.E.) was published through two editions from 1984 to 1999.
    • Lord of the Rings Adventure Game also from I.C.E. from 1991 to 1993. This game was a beginner’s version of MERP.
  • The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game by Decipher Inc. that ran from 2002 to 2006.
    • 2002 Origins Award – Best Roleplaying Game
  • The One Ring Roleplaying Game from Cubicle 7 that started in 2011 and is still going.
    • Awards and nominations:
      • 2012 Golden Geek – Best Art and Presentation
      • 2012 Gold ENnie Award – Best Free Product, Golden ENnie Award – Best Art (Interior)
      • 2012 Silver ENnie Award – Best Production Values
      • 2012 Lucca Games’ (an Italian convention) Best of Show for Best Role Play Game
      • 2012 Origins Award Nominee – Best Roleplaying Game
      • 2013 ENnie Award Nominee – Best Accessory for The Loremaster’s Screen and Laketown Book
      • 2015 ENnie Award Nominee – Best Accessory for The Darkening of MirkwoodENnie Award Nominee – Best Accessory for Hobbit Tales
      • 2017 ENnie Award Nominee – Best Supplement for Horse-Lords of RohanENnie Award Nominee – Best Writing for Horse-Lords of Rohan
    • Hobbit Tales from Cubilce 7 is a standalone storytelling card game that could be used with The One Ring Roleplaying Game.
  • Adventures in Middle-earth for Dungeons & Dragons 5e also by Cubicle 7 that began in 2016 and has the distinction of being the first time Tolkien’s works were officially adapted to D&D.
    • Awards:
      • 2017 Silver ENnie Award – Best Rules for Adventures in Middle-Earth Player’s Guide
      • 2018 Origins Award – Best RPG

As I was putting the finishing touches on this article, I received this email from Humble Bundle promoting their LEGO® Lord of the Ring giveaway (talk about nice timing):

“We’re giving away FREE copies of LEGO® Lord of the Rings for 48 hours (or while supplies last) in the Humble Store! This promotion is available from Thursday, December 20 at 10 a.m. Pacific time to Saturday, December 22 at 10 a.m. Pacific time.

Below is your link to LEGO® Lord of the Rings on the Humble Store.

https://www.humblebundle.com/store/lego-the-lord-of-the-rings?partner=eggembry

 

Disclaimer: This article contains affiliated links to DriveThruRPG’s affiliate program and Humble Bundle’s Humble Partner program. 

PRESS RELEASE – Fan Buzz Builds as The Fantasy Network SVOD Launches Founders announced early access at Gen Con Indy 2018

Fantasy Network

Fan Buzz Builds as The Fantasy Network SVOD Launches
Founders announced early access at Gen Con Indy 2018.

Seattle, WA. (December 2018)— The Fantasy Network, a joint venture of Arrowstorm Entertainment (The CW’s The Outpost), The Forge Studios (The Rangers), and Zombie Orpheus Entertainment (JourneyQuest) invited their audiences to early access at Gen Con Indy 2018. It is now available to the public.

The Fantasy Network is a freemium SVOD service with a mission to make creator-owned content accessible, shareable, and discoverable across the web, rather than locked behind a paywall. Subscribers receive first access to new releases and to a host of unique features, including the ability to contribute to wikis for each show and to help greenlight new seasons of their favorite shows for production.

The Network is positioned as a global hub for independent fantasy films and series, including syndicated, new, and original content. Each partner has contributed their own libraries of content to the network, including the Mythica series, The Rangers series, and The Gamers. They have licensed award-winning fantasy content from dozens of other independent creators, notably fan favorites Ren: The Girl with the Mark, AFK, and One Hit Die. They also feature a special channel dedicated to original digital programming from Gen Con LLC, the biggest gaming convention in the United States.

“Think of us as your first destination for original Fantasy Content”, says Ron Newcomb, owner of The Forge Studios. The network offers a premium subscription membership, as well as a significant library of free content. As a fan-supported and creator-distributed endeavor, the network not only directs support from subscriptions to the production of new content, but actively runs crowdfunding campaigns for the network’s content providers to empower fans to keep the stories that they love alive. They most recently worked, in parallel with Telus, to renew Canadian comedy One Hit Die for a third season.

But, what else makes them different? They invite content creators and fans to create their own commercial spin-offs in many of the worlds they have brought to life, via their opt-in Shared Cinematic Universe License Agreement (http://scu.la). Third-party films and series created under this license, beginning with the Strowlers Shared Cinematic Universe, will be eligible for distribution and revenue share on the network. Inspired by the Open Gaming License and the Creative Commons phenomenon, the SCULA is a filmmaker-friendly copyright alternative that empowers interconnected global storytelling and cultural exchange.

“Stories want to be free. By enabling storytellers to remix and reimagine the intellectual properties participating in the SCULA, we keep stories alive and relevant, rather than creating copyright orphans. This active and collaborative dialogue empowers fans and creators to set their imaginations free,” says Ben Dobyns of Zombie Orpheus Entertainment and CEO.

The trio of established production companies have each found success in the indie film world and are looking to bring their experience and skills together under one roof for the benefit of all. “We waited around long enough for someone else to do this, it’s now our time,” says Jason Faller of Arrowstorm Entertainment.

The network has launched with the proven streaming platform established by Zombie Orpheus and is now available on many IPTV apps. No matter the device or browser, they want you to have easy access. The Fantasy Network is currently available on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Chrome TV, Roku, and Amazon Fire.

As in many fantasy stories, this is about a journey against the odds. But as fantasy teaches us, we’re stronger together. The Fantasy Network looks forward to inviting more producers, subscribers, and contributors into their active community.

The Fantasy Network, LLC, is a privately-owned, Seattle-based independent film company. It looks to be a one-stop shop for all things fantasy. For more on the network, go to www.TheFantasy.Network.

###

All Hallows Book Sale

Welcome to the All Hallows Book Sale. For the next two days I’ve decided to offer nearly ALL my books (Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Horror, and Coffee Table Party Philosophy) either FREE or deeply discounted.

So…

Go here to view my entire catalog, including everything I’ve slashed for this event.

To get a feel for what I’m offering, check out some of my cover art right here:

dark_moon_daughter-initialcoverjuptereventcrop1cover101-qs-for-the-end-of-the-world-front-cover 101-questions-for-midnight-front-cover101-questions-for-single-people-front101-questions-for-women-covernether-kingdom-createspace-bright-coversoul-orb-new-ddp-cover-second-try

 

 

Dark New Cover Art – Let the Bodies

In the old world city of Ellerae, one person goes missing every day.

Poor little Mia doesn’t stand a chance.

Or does she?

Let the Bodies

One dead. Every night. Forever…

With new cover art by Tahina Morrison…

*

Let the Bodies also appears in the short novel – The Hecatomb.

The cover art (The Shroud) is available as an original painting here.

J Edward Neill

A Free Short Story by J Edward Neill

 

*

*

* * *

The Skeleton Sculptor

 J Edward Neill

*

On the morning the hunt began, we’d had a hundred men.

After three months, we were down to eleven.

We all knew how it would end.

But only a few got to see it.

My name is Costas. Those who knew me would’ve said I listened more than I talked. They’d have been right, of course. I was always a watcher more than a doer. I’d grown up in the Master’s service, in a mountain city graven of pale stone. In the Master’s Citadel, we had towers taller than anywhere else in the known world. We had women more beautiful than the sun, moon, and stars. Why talk, I thought, when surrounded by such glory?

And so I watched. And listened. And learned.

It was a perfect place, my home. I loved it.

And if I weren’t dead, I’d return there and never leave again.

* * *

Most of what I remember of our ninetieth night out was that my feet hurt. I sat beneath the full red moon, the campfire snapping at my toes, and I rubbed my soles until my fingers went numb.

For a short while, I didn’t care about all the men who’d gone missing.

I didn’t care about the Master’s orders.

All that mattered was that my sandals were off, my armor was loose on my shoulders, and my belly was full of stew. After all, there weren’t many of us left to eat the food we’d started with. There seemed no sense in dying hungry.

“It’s ten days home,” a soldier murmured across the dying campfire. “Which means if we leave tomorrow, one of us will survive.”

I looked at the other men. Five of us were hunkered in the scrub. We were sulking by the fire, our gazes inky in the night. The other six were asleep in two tents atop a nearby hill. I could see the lights of their fires dying the same as ours. The flames were red, just like the moon.

There was no wind that night. Only the scarlet light on the silent earth.

“So,” Aios grumped on the fire’s far side, “the one who makes it back home…he gets to die on the Master’s gallows ‘stead of out here in the grass.”

I listened while the argument began.

“We don’t know the others are dead,” Nikolas grunted. “Could be they’re hiding. Could be they’re lost in the hills somewhere.”

Nikolas wasn’t wrong, not exactly. We’d never actually found any of the bodies. But Aios knew better. So did I. Not that I said anything.

“As likely missing as swimming on the moon.” Aios glanced skyward. “They’re all dead and you know it.”

Philok, biggest of our cadre, rolled his massive shoulders. Tanned to gold by the sun, still packed into his hard leather hauberk, he was the only one of us who still looked fierce.

If any of us survive, I thought, it’ll be him.

“I want it to come,” Philok rumbled. “Let it skulk out of the darkness. I’ve a spear for it. There’ll be no more of our bones. Only its.”

It was wishful thinking, and we all knew it. Aios shook his head. Nikolas just looked afraid. Leuk peered over the fire, moonlight in his eyes, and went back to eating from his wooden bowl. He never talked, our Leuk. He was even quieter than me.

“Spears don’t kill ghosts,” murmured Aios.

“Mine might.” Philok glared.

Our huge friend had a point. His spear, a man and a half tall, leaned on a boulder near the fire. Its haft was as thick as most men’s forearms, its tip catching the moonlight just so. I’d seen Phi skewer a boar with it once. It’d split the poor, squealing thing in two.

But our quarry wasn’t a boar. It didn’t squeal. It didn’t die.

All it did was take the living away. And never bring them back.

The men argued more. They’d done the same every night for weeks. But by now no one bothered to get truly angry. We all figured if we started killing each other, it’d only make our quarry’s work easier.

Easy enough for the Ghoul already, I thought.

I rubbed my feet one last time and went to sleep.

 

* * *

It had started ages ago, this problem of ours.

It’d begun before I’d been born. Before the Master’s great-grandfather had been born.

Before any of us.

Back then, before the Citadel, before all the pale stone cities had sprung up along the coast, it had been a better world. At least, that’s the yarn our elders spun around the hearths at night. And so that’s the tale we believed.

A fine, quiet realm,’ they used to say. ‘Green pastures, hillocks teeming with olive trees, golden sun shining on endless vineyards.’

And no Ghoul.’

I’d never cared about the stories. Not as a boy, anyhow. In the Citadel, home of the Master, there’d never been any ghosts. The clap of hard sandals on marble streets had been our music, not the howls of mothers who’d lost their sons or or husbands whose wives had never come home. The stories we cared about had been of wars fought and won, of islands conquered, and of white-sand shores. We dreamed of golden coins in our pockets and raven beauties that would one day be ours if we served with honor in the Master’s guard.

We’d known nothing about the Ghoul.

And our lives had been better for it.

* * *

In the morning we woke to shouts again.

“It’s Saulos!” I heard Nikolas scream. “How? He slept in his armor! He’s gone, but his breastplate’s still here!”

“Where were you?” one of the hill-camp soldiers cursed another. “You were on watch! You were supposed to be guarding us!”

“I was on guard! I—”

Amid their shouts, I clawed away sleep’s last cobwebs and sat up beneath the dawning sun. It was hot already, and I was tired despite having slept so well. To defend against the Ghoul’s nightly visits, the others had taken to sleeping for only an hour or two at a time, if at all. Not me. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to be awake when death came for me, and so I’d almost always slept full nights…and weathered my nightmares alone.

I shambled up the hill. My sword pattered against my outer thigh, and the straps of my armor dangled without care. A year ago, I’d been a fresh recruit in the Master’s service, a newly-minted member of his honored guard.

And now what am I?

Dead.

I came to Saulos’ empty tent. It was just as the others had shouted. There lay his armor, all red leather and polished steel. Saulos had been a captain. His armor was better than ours, or at least prettier. It didn’t much matter. It lay on the ground, almost untouched. It looked like someone had snipped the straps off and carried him away while he was sleeping. There wasn’t even any blood.

As I stood there, the others fell into their ritual panic. Some muttered prayers. Others shouted that we should return to the Citadel at once. Both cries were familiar. Neither really mattered.

One of us alive is better than nothing!” cried a soldier whose name I hadn’t bothered to learn.

“The hell it is!” argued Aios. “You think the Master will understand when one man marches up and explains ninety-nine of his brothers are dead? He’ll smile, name the survivor a deserter, and hang his body over the cliffs for the gulls to laugh at.”

Aios was right. If there was one truly hard thing about life in the Citadel, it was the Master’s law. He didn’t suffer failure, not from his fabled soldiers. If our hundred never came home, it wouldn’t matter. He’d have a feast, sacrifice a few bulls, and send out two-hundred more men.

Though somehow I knew the result would be the same.

The men argued. It got vicious. Someone cursed the Master’s name. Someone else shoved Nikolas in the dirt. Philok shook his spear, and everyone finally fell silent.

I don’t know why I stopped watching and started talking.

Might’ve ended better had I not.

“There’s one place we haven’t looked,” I chimed in.

“Where? What place?” grunted Philok.

“The lighthouse. It’s only a day south.”

“Why there?” spat Aios. “It’s just one cripple in a rotten tower. He’s probably a hundred days dead. Besides, the lighthouse doesn’t work. Doesn’t need to. Ships don’t use that route anymore. They come up the river.”

“He’s right.” Nikolas stood and dusted off his armor. “We’re trying to help the villagers, not some lonely old cod stuck in a tower.”

They were right, of course. We’d not help anyone by marching down to the sea and visiting one old man in his tower. The lighthouse keeper didn’t even have a family. Never had, not that we knew of. Even if he was still alive, we’d not do the countryside any favors by rescuing him.

But that wasn’t my point. Maybe it should’ve been, but it wasn’t.

“Nikolas, you still have the map?” I blurted.

“Aye,” he said.

“Well. Fetch it.”

He did. In moments he marched down the hill and back up. The others stared at me like I’d just slapped the sun out of the sky. Wouldn’t have been the worst thing, considering how hot it was.

Nikolas brought me the map. It was big, the Master’s chart, and I unfurled it on the hillside while several others knelt beside me.

“There.” I pointed to a village by the sea. Veni, jewel of the south, sat on a beautiful beach right in the map’s center. It was a new city, paid for by the Master’s coin. We’d been there a month prior. None of us had wanted to leave. Until the villagers had made us.

“So it’s Veni. What about it?” said Aios.

I dragged my finger eastward along the map. I stopped at a nameless black ink-blot. It was the lighthouse. I tapped it twice.

“We’ve been to every other village, tower, and crumbling old fort along the sea. But not the lighthouse. Not there.”

No one could disagree with that. We’d marched to dozens of hamlets, fisherman’s wharves, and sad little huts along the coast. All of them had lost people over the years. By the dates they’d given us, we’d figured it out. One person had gone missing every night. Just one, never more, never fewer.

For hundreds of years.

And we’d only just now worked up the courage to try to stop it.

“The lighthouse,” I said, “it’s right in the middle of it all.”

I traced a circle with my finger. All the places that had lost people, all of them, lay within it. And in the circle’s center sat the lighthouse.

The men stared for several moments. I figured Aios would be the first to argue. He was, after all, the smartest of us. If anyone ever forgot it, he was always sure to remind them.

“Now just you wait.” Aios didn’t disappoint. “The Master knew about the lighthouse. He sent men last year to scour the old tower up and down. They didn’t find a thing.”

“Aye,” agreed Philok. “I remember. That’s what started this whole mess. While our soldiers were in the lighthouse, people were disappearing in cities three and four days away. That’s when the Master decided to start the hunt.”

I closed my eyes. I knew what I wanted to say, just not how to say it.

“What if the Ghoul doesn’t come home every night?” I finally exhaled.

“So it goes out on rounds?” Aios let out a morbid laugh.

“Maybe so,” I countered. “But it still has to have a lair, right? A place to retreat? What if it’s the lighthouse?”

“Nice theory, but after all these years the lighthouse would be stuffed with bones a thousand men high,” said Aios. “The Master’s men would’ve noticed, I think.”

“Or they’d have found the bodies along the way,” murmured Nikolas.

And they’ve never found any of the missing, I thought.

They’re right. I’m stupid to bring it up.

But wait. There was something else I wanted to say.

Maybe it’d been a dream. Maybe something else. If the morning hadn’t been so damnably hot, chances are my brain wouldn’t have cooked and I’d have never remembered it.

What was it I’d thought of?

Was it a nightmare I’d had?

A memory of my childhood?

“I think I was born out here,” I said.

“What?” Aios made a face.

Several of the other soldiers stood and left. I knew what they thought. They thought I was a fool wasting their time. I didn’t blame them. I heard them talk about fleeing home to the Citadel. They didn’t want anything to do with the map or hunting the Ghoul. They wanted to be home in their beds.

But Aios, Philok, Leuk, and Nikolas remained.

“I was born out here,” I continued. “Not in Veni. But close. It was near the sea. I remember my mother. I think I do, anyway. And I remember the rocks. And the lighthouse.”

“No you don’t,” spat Aios. “You were born in the Citadel, same as us. It’s just another of your dreams.”

“What if—” I started.

“I wasn’t born in the Citadel either.” Philok came to my rescue. “I’m from the mountains. My father was dying, so they brought me down to the Master’s fortress. My family figured I’d never have a life unless I served in the guard.”

Aios looked stunned. I nodded at Philok, grateful.

“I remember walking on the shore.” I stared off into the sky. “My mother sent me off to play while she worked. At least, I think she did. One day, I wandered near the lighthouse. I remember it. It was above me. Way above. And I remember seeing something in the cliffs beneath it. Was it holes? Breaks? Cracks in the rock?”

“Holes?” Aios shook his head.

“I think he means caves,” said Nikolas.

I looked at the three of them. They’d been my brothers for the last year. They knew I didn’t talk much, but when I did, I meant what I said.

“That’s right.” My eyes were wide. “Caves.”

It hadn’t been a dream.

I’d just remembered a part of my childhood.

And my mother, who’d I been made to forget.

* * *

Clouds gathered over the sea. Greys and blues smoldered in the sky, darker than the water. The hour was only late afternoon, yet the world looked ready for twilight.

We were terrified.

We’d every right to be.

The five of us mounted a last hill and caught sight of the distant lighthouse. It was an old, old thing, its stones bleached skeleton-white. It’d been built long before the Master’s time, long before any of us. I couldn’t help but wonder how many of the Ghoul’s prey the lighthouse had watched vanish.

One every night.

Hundreds of years.

I couldn’t make the numbers work in my head.

We’d walked all day. Ever since we’d split up from the other soldiers, I hadn’t said a thing. Phi, Aios, Nikolas, and Leuk had decided to join me. The others had chosen to go back to the Citadel and face the Master’s wrath.

Our group hadn’t lost anyone last night.

And so we all knew what had happened.

“I hope it took Diok,” chuffed Aios as we walked down the hill and into the fields between us and the lighthouse. “Never liked that prick.”

Nikolas sighed, “Maybe it’ll follow them instead of us. That’ll give us what…three more days?”

“Maybe.” Philok’s knuckles were white around his spear. “But what if there’s more than one Ghoul?”

None of us had ever thought of that before.

We shivered the notion away and kept walking.

The five of us drew nearer the lighthouse. Switches of dry grass skirled at our waists, dancing wildly in the wind. My feet hurt again. My ankles, too. The grass had nicked me in a hundred little places. If the Ghoul didn’t kill me, I half-believed the fields might drown me.

At least it’s not hot anymore.

By the time we came to the cliff, upon which the lighthouse stood tall and formidable, the rain began. The wind hit us and the storm’s droplets beaded on our sunburned skin. I looked my companions over. To a man, we savored standing in the rain. It was an island of peace in a world of despair.

“Are we going in?” Nikolas nodded.

“The lighthouse?” Aios smirked. “Why should we? We know what’s in there. Nothing.”

“Might be wise to weather the storm in there,” Philok held his huge palm open to catch the rain.

Aios looked annoyed. But then again, he always did.

“Fine.”

I knocked at the lighthouse door. The oak plank must’ve been two-hundred years old. It felt soft as soap beneath my knuckles. I rapped it ten times before Philok pushed me aside and kicked the thing in. I’d hoped the old man would answer. But the moment Nikolas fired a torch and walked into the great round room beyond the door, we knew the lighthouse had gone untended for months.

“Think he died all alone in here? Somewhere up there near the top?” Aios’s voice echoed in the void.

“Maybe the Ghoul got him,” said Philok.

“Why would it bother?” Aios cracked. “Old man was damn near a hundred. Pointless to kill what’s already dead.”

Except the Ghoul doesn’t care, I almost said. He takes children. Pregnant women. Venerable old men.

And soldiers.

We used pieces of the broken door to light a fire. With it blazing, we peeled off our armor and hunkered down in the shadows. The rain shattered the world beyond the lighthouse walls, harder than anything I’d ever heard. It didn’t feel natural. Bitter breezes flew into the windows, and stray drops of water swirled into the room, stinging our shoulders. No matter where I sat, the rain found me. I finally settled on the spot farthest from the fire. Leuk, stoic and silent, shook his wet hair when he sat down beside me.

“Maybe you were right.” Aios smirked at me while cooking up a pot of stew. “This place is creepy. I hate it. That old man’s body is probably up those stairs. The Ghoul’s probably waitin’ for us.”

“How do you suppose we kill it? I mean really, really kill it,” asked Nikolas.

“The Ghoul?” Philok rubbed his forehead.

“No, the fucking rain,” quipped Aios. “Of course he means the Ghoul.”

Philok didn’t flinch. “This spear.” He flicked the blade of his man-and-a-half tall weapon. “Or Costas’ sword. Or Leuk’s daggers. Doesn’t matter. Everything dies.”

“Does it?” Nikolas looked afraid again. “It’s been a few hundred years, right? It should’ve been dead by now. What if it can’t die? What if it’s…forever?”

Philok thought about it for a moment, and then huffed. “There’s probably no such thing as the Ghoul. It’s probably a family of murderers. Might be they’ve passed down the family secret over the generations. Fathers teaching sons…hell…mothers teaching daughters. ‘Here’s how best to kill a man, lassie,’ they tell the little ones. ‘A drug in his wine to make him sleep, then a knife between his ribs. No one’ll be the wiser. Not even the Master.’”

No one laughed except Aios.

I might’ve known.

We set up a watch. I went first, else I’d never have woken for second shift. The rain raged as I tightened my armor and laid my sword atop my thighs. I probably should’ve been afraid. As it turned out, I’d little energy left for fear.

I didn’t remember falling asleep that eve. I suffered no dreams, no nightmares. One moment I was sitting beside the fire, the mist collecting on my shoulders.

And when I woke, Nikolas was gone.

The others were still dozing. It’d been Aios’s turn to watch, but he was curled up beside the long-dead fire, looking little different than a sleeping boy. Dawn’s first glow crept into the high windows. In a pool of soft light lay Nikolas’s armor, his blanket, and his bowl.

And his sword, still in its scabbard.

If I shout, it’ll go like it always does, I thought.

I’ll be quiet. 

I knelt beside the patch of stone Nikolas had slept on. He’d lain there for some time, it appeared. The mist had gathered all around him, but his blanket was dry. I touched the brittle fabric, and in the cold light examined it.

No blood.

Not torn.

Almost like he left willingly.

And then there was his armor. The straps were sliced clean through, the same as scissors through twine. Looking at the hunk of leather and steel, I wasn’t sure why we even bothered with armor anymore. The Ghoul wasn’t afraid of it.

The Ghoul wasn’t afraid of anything.

I looked at my hand. My knuckles were bloodless. I realized I was squeezing my sword.

For all the good our weapons do.

I woke Philok first. He came to with a jolt, seizing my throat in his massive hand.

“Phi—” I coughed.

He let go of me. As I knelt there gasping, something in my eyes gave the truth away.

“Who’s gone?” he rumbled.

“Niko.” I sagged.

“No blood? No one heard him?”

“Nothing.” I rubbed my neck. “It’s morning now. He’s only been missing for a little while.”

We woke the others. For once, there was no panic. Leuk said nothing. He looked stoic as ever, no different than if he’d slept in his bunk at the Citadel. Frowning, Aios kicked at Nikolas’s things and glared at the rest of us, but kept his curses beneath his breath. This was what it had come to. We were dying one by one, and we hardly even minded anymore.

After a time, Philok dropped a helmet on his head, shouldered his spear, and marched to the bottom of the stairs that led to the lighthouse’s top. The weathered stone stairwell twisted up through a gaping hole in the ceiling. No sunlight spilled down from above. The inky darkness of the lighthouse’s hollow heart oozed down onto Philok’s face.

“I’m going up there,” he grunted.

I expected an argument. But Aios plucked up Niko’s sword, unsheathed his own, and nodded at Philok with both blades in hand. “I’m coming with you,” he said.

Leuk and I had no other choice.

With Philok in front and Leuk in the rear, the four of us stalked up the stairs. We emerged into the void above the room we’d slept in, and we saw slender shafts of light carving pallid lines into the darkness. The windows on the lighthouse’s sides were shuttered. The climb to the tower top would be done mostly in shadow.

Step by step, we marched. The lighthouse felt a thousand steps high. The musty air filled our lungs, while plumes of dust from our footfalls floated the same as stars at midnight. We wound our way up through the cold emptiness, at last arriving at the door to the lighthouse’s top. None of us knew what to expect. I held my sword with no more confidence than when I’d first set foot in the Master’s training garden.

“If anything’s on the other side,” Phi whispered, “kill it. Don’t stop cutting until your blades are down to nubs.”

We all nodded. Aios cracked a wicked smirk. Philok shouldered the door with all his might, breaking the door to pieces.

The sunlight poured over us.

We invaded the lighthouse’s top room. We were an army, the four of us, a cloud of fear and steel. Philok roared when he went in, and Aios growled. Leuk and I didn’t make a sound, but we were ready. Our blades were as sharp as any in the world. And they should’ve been, for we’d never used them.

But there was nothing in the room.

No caretaker.

No bodies.

No sea of bones or carpet of skin.

Philok looked disappointed. Halting in the sunlight, he rapped the butt of his spear on the floor and glared at everything. As for me, I couldn’t help but be relieved. I let my sword sag and my shoulders droop. After all, the sunlight in the tower’s top was warm and soothing. It swam over me, gliding in from each of thirty windows, sparkling on the giant glass lens in the room’s center.

I figured it was the last time I’d ever feel warm.

No. I didn’t figure. I knew.

“It wasn’t ever up here,” cursed Aios. “We’re idiots.”

“We still had to check,” argued Philok.

“Yes…well.” Aios shook his head. “We checked. And nothing. So now what?”

“Costas’s caves,” said Philok.

I could tell Aios had expected Phi to say it. “No. Not yet,” he grumbled. “Breakfast first.”

Too soon, we abandoned the warmth of the lighthouse’s top. I felt sad to leave so quickly. Halfway down into the dark, I realized I’d never even taken the chance to look out across the sea.

At the bottom, Aios prepared breakfast for us. It was hard tack and fried cakes softened with hot water, same as most mornings. It didn’t much matter. Cooking had always calmed Aios, so we never complained.

With only a rotten beam of lighthouse timber to burn, Aios’ kindling of choice that morn was Nikolas’s satchel. Nikolas didn’t need it, after all. But just as Aios snared the leather bag and began cutting it to shreds with his knife, I stopped him.

“Wait,” I said, “Something’s in there.”

Aios made a face. “It’s just a book. Tear out the pages. It’ll save us from sending Leuk out to collect things to burn.”

“No…” I grabbed the bag and pulled the book out. “Just use the satchel. Let me keep this. I want to see what Niko wrote.”

Aios squeezed his eyes shut. He looked like he wanted to kill me. “Fine,” he muttered. “But remember; the dead can’t read.”

While Aios cooked and Philok rummaged through the rest of Niko’s things, I sat in a pool of sunlight and cracked the book open. It was well-made, a far finer thing than Nikolas had any right to possess. I couldn’t believe that with all my hours of watching, I’d never seen him with it. And then, when Philok grunted that he’d found a quill and a vial of ink, it hit me. I understood.

Nikolas had been keeping a journal.

The book has the Master’s mark on it.

Niko had always been a lazy soldier.

But he’d learned to write far sooner than the rest of us.

The rest of the world fell away, and soon it was just me and the journal. I read dozens of entries. Nikolas had done his work well. He’d catalogued how much food we’d had, our movements beyond the Citadel, the people we’d questioned, and the names and ranks of the soldiers that had vanished. He’d even written the dates they’d gone missing.

I skimmed across as much as I could. Most of it was trivial, but the deeper I read, the more I saw of Niko’s personal comments.

And the more I was filled with dread.

He’d written things like:

One soldier from Camp B gone in the night. Left his armor and sword. No blood. Same night: A man from Camp C swore he saw a shadow moving. The camps: an hour apart.

 Rained hard last eve. Saulos’s tent-mate was taken. Grigora says he found tracks in the mud. Not one set, but two. Not sandal prints. Bare feet.

 Another gone last night. Bibi – Captain, 1st Company. But Camp D, upon returning from the city, says that Veni lost someone that same eve. It’s always been one a night. But maybe this was more.

Does it mean two Ghouls?

 Occurred to me that we should look beyond our borders. Ask if others have vanished on the same dates. I know we can’t – they’re our enemies in the North and West, but still.

More than two Ghouls?

 Why is it hunting only soldiers now?

 Does it know we’re coming?

 Will it stop?

 

I closed the cover. I couldn’t read any more. Aios dropped a wooden bowl in my lap and snorted. “Boring read?” he chuffed. “Books are for scholars, Cos. Now give it over. We’ll use it to make a fire for tonight’s dinner.”

“No.” I pushed his hand away. “I’m going to finish it.”

“Finish it?”

“Yes. Reading it. And writing it.”

“Why? You’ll be dead soon.”

“I know, but—”

“Fine. Keep the damn thing. Whatever helps you die better.”

I ate in silence. I say silence even though Aios talked the entire time. He rambled about how our lives had become meaningless, how our deaths wouldn’t matter because we had no children, no lands, and no possessions beyond our weapons and armor. Maybe it was true. Maybe we were dead men no matter what we did. But when he said meaningless, it didn’t sit right with me. Whether the Ghoul killed us for sport or the Master hung us for being failures, it seemed wrong to just let it happen.

I have to make it meaningful, I thought.

The journal. I’ll finish it.

Maybe someone will find it.

After breakfast, a deep quiet overtook the four of us. There was no fleeing for the Citadel now, we knew. Unless the Ghoul abandoned his hunt, we’d all be dead within eight days. And so we sat there for a time, sharpening our swords needlessly. I like to think we dwelled on the purpose of our lives, the good things we’d seen, and all the glory we’d hoped for.

But I knew better.

Philok dreams of destroying the Ghoul. Of being heroic.

Aios dreams of how he’d have done it if he were the Master.

Leuk dreams of the life he wanted. Of what might’ve been had he finished his twenty years of service.

And what do I dream of?

Death.

And then it ended. Philok stood, spear in hand, and looked at us. We didn’t say anything to him. We gathered our swords, strapped on our armor, and doused the fire. In a short, ragged line, we trailed Phi out into the sunlight.

And for all the glamour of the great blue sky, we felt the shadow upon us.

We left the lighthouse and walked to the cliff’s edge. As the tower fell behind us, I looked over my shoulder at it. The edifice was white as death. Its sides were smooth and ashen, its outer walls seamless. The old thing looked like it had sprouted right out of the cliffs. I was glad to be rid of it. I don’t know why, but I promised myself I’d write about it in Niko’s journal.

“Costas.” Aios’ voice pulled me out my daydream. “Wake the hell up. We can’t get down from here. See?”

I gazed over the cliffs and onto the dark ocean. The water boiled over the shore far below, the waves black and foaming. I imagined if one of us fell over the edge, we could’ve counted to ten before we hit the rocks. Aios was right. From our vantage, there was no way to reach the shore.

Or the caves. 

“We’ll have to go—” I began.

“To Veni,” Philok grunted.

In hindsight, I should’ve suggested we find another way down. A quicker way.

But Veni it was.

We marched.

And marched.

And marched.

That eve, tired and sweating, we descended out of the cliffs. Veni lay before us, sprawling and fresh beneath the violet sunset. It wasn’t a big city, but it was still beautiful at twilight. Strands of hanging lamps lit its rooftops the same as the stars. The waves were too rough for sailing, but I could see the masts stark against the sky, and I could hear the people’s laughter. I envied them. But I knew as soon as we soldiers were gone, the Ghoul would go back to hunting at random.

Some from the countryside.

And some from Veni.

“We shouldn’t go in there,” I said to the others.

“Why not?” Aios stared at me.

“We’re bad luck. We’re hunted men. Veni knows us. Even if they don’t kick us out, we’ll not be welcome.”

“The Master’s soldiers can’t be refused,” Aios argued. “If they deny us, it’s under pain of death.”

I looked down at the dirt path leading into the city. Sandy scrub and lonely trees pocked the twilit way. The sky was cloudless; no rain threatened us. There were a thousand places we could camp if we liked.

“I just don’t think we should,” I said. “The city can’t protect us. No one can.”

Aios looked ready to split me in half. “Fine. We’ll stay the night out here,” he said. “In the sand. In the dirt. If the Ghoul comes, you’re first.”

I almost hoped so. Not because I wanted to die. But because I wanted to know.

Beneath the endless stars, we made our silent camp. No one from Veni noticed us. Or if they did, they didn’t care. I’d rarely seen a night sky so bright as that eve. A million white pinpricks in a perfect black sheet, it seemed. Leuk and I stared at it for a long, long while.

By the dying campfire, I wrote my first words in Niko’s journal:

We make for caves east of Veni. Four of us left: Costas, Philok, Leuk, and Aios.

 We don’t hope to find anything. We’re going anyway. If nothing’s there, it’s my (Costas’) fault. I convinced them to do this by a feeling in my gut.

 And there’s something else.

I think the lighthouse is made of bones.

I closed the journal. I needed to focus. We’d agreed to do a double watch: Leuk and I first, then Phi and Aios.

I worried I’d fall asleep.

But it was Aios who drifted off during his watch.

And Philok who went missing.

I woke with Aios’ boot in my ribs. It hurt. I squinted into the early sunlight and saw him standing over me. He scowled, Phi’s spear shaking in his grasp. He’s gone mad, I thought. He’s going to save the Ghoul some trouble and run me through. But he didn’t. He just glowered and spat in the sand.

“Get up,” he said.

I complied.

“The caves. Take us now. Let’s finish this.”

“But—”

“It’s fine if nothing’s there. I won’t blame you. I might kill you, but I won’t blame you.”

We didn’t eat breakfast. We didn’t mourn Philok. Walking ahead of Aios and his spear, Leuk and I led the way down to the shore. At the ocean, a lone child saw us marching. He stood in the foamy shallows, throwing rocks into the water. He smiled at us, watching us long enough to see us pass into the shadow of a stark and terrible cliff. I thought it strange to see the boy all alone. He reminded me of myself, of all the mornings I must’ve spent doing the same as he.

We walked into the shadows. And he was gone.

“I dreamed last night,” I said as I walked on the narrow strip of sand between the ocean and the cliff.

“No one cares,” answered Aios.

“I heard a woman laughing.” I ignored him. “She whispered something in my ear. She had dark hair. She was beautiful. I didn’t want to wake up, even with you kicking me.”

“A shame you’ll never meet her,” he mocked.

Maybe I will, I wanted to say.

We marched. Was it for many hours? Or much less? I couldn’t have said. The ocean crashed against the rocks and swirled at our knees, drowning out all the world’s sounds. Guarded by the mighty cliff, the sunlight never quite reached us. But the shadows and the cold couldn’t slow me. I slogged on, convinced I was going to my doom, certain I still had some part to play.

This is what madness feels like, I thought. All these years of not much talking, and now the loudest voice is in my head.

And then we came to it, a great dark hole in the cliff wall. The ocean roared in and out of it, and the rocks like teeth crowned its top and sides. Twenty men standing side-by-side could’ve marched into the cavern’s mouth.

And all of them would be eaten.

“Fucking lovely.” Aios marched past me. He still had Phi’s spear in his grasp, and he was wet up to his chest in seawater. The salt stuck to him, and us, in powdery white patches. We were miserable. We hadn’t eaten all day.

“Got a lantern?” he spat at Leuk. Leuk shook his head.

“Torches,” I murmured. “Just three.”

“We’ve got some daylight left.” Aios pointed Phi’s spear into the darkness. “Let’s go kill this thing. Just think…we’ll be heroes.”

I fired a torch, and in we went.

We were fifty steps deep when I realized what we’d gotten ourselves into. The ocean’s rush faded at our backs, and the absence of light swallowed us. I squinted in the dark and saw other tunnels, black branches trailing into the underworld. I remembered a story someone had once told me about such places, and why no one should ever go into them.

“Four different tunnels.” Aios saw them, too. “Wonder how deep they go.”

I wished Philok had still been alive. He’d have known which tunnel to choose.

“That one’s half underwater.” Aios nodded at the farthest tunnel. The black hole gazed back at us, smiling as if aware of our fear.

“So we’re going into this one.” Aios pointed his spear at the nearest cave. It sat above us, its archway crusted in ancient limestone. A pile of broken shells sat beneath its mouth, deposited by the sea. It was the narrowest of the four.

And the darkest.

Leuk and I didn’t argue. We clambered up the shells ahead of Aios. At the tunnel’s mouth, I held the torch into the darkness and saw that it went down. Way down. Aios climbed up beside me, snared the torch from my grasp, and smirked at me as he marched straight into the blackness. “Three men wide,” he laughed at us. “It’s perfect. Not scared, are you?”

We were, but it didn’t matter.

Down, down we went into the cave. I couldn’t believe any place in the world could be so dark. The ocean’s crash fell away to nothing. The only sounds were the torch’s snaps and our rotten boots squelching on the stone.

We walked for what felt like an hour. Then two. The tunnel never narrowed, never widened. The air tasted stale. White powder sloughed off the walls wherever we touched, and our boots left footprints in places no other men had ever been. I was sure night had fallen outside, but I’d have given anything to be back out there, to let the Ghoul steal me from sleep instead of moldering away after a long, slow walk to the world’s bottom.

Our first torch died. We lit another. Moments later, we slunk out of the tunnel and into an unthinkably vast grotto. It was truly massive, the cavern we’d found. Our torch felt like a candle in the great darkness. Far above, a lone shaft of moonlight cut through a hole in the ceiling and pooled in the grotto’s center.

“What is this place?” I whispered.

“A cave. Big as Veni.” Aios’ gaze was wide and black. “A giant, empty coffin.”

“No. Not empty,” I observed.

I’d seen caves before. In the mountains east of the Citadel, we’d walked through tunnels and grottos. They’d had growths in them, daggers of lime and ancient rock. There had been beauty in those caves, elegance in the way nature had carved them.

But the shapes in this cave were different.

They were sculptures.

Something had made them.

We didn’t say a word. We were too scared to talk, and too weary. Wandering out into the pool of moonlight, we gazed at the many hundreds of pale, ghostly statues standing on the grotto’s floor. They were graven of white stone, and in my heart I knew they were made of the same stuff as the lighthouse.

Bones.

Human bones.

Most of the statues were of people. We glimpsed beautiful maidens holding decanters. We saw smiling children, some holding hands and standing in great rings, others all alone. As we walked through the pale, silent gallery of thousands, we saw old men and venerable ladies, soldiers and wealthy lords, beggars, fishermen, and stoic hunters. The sculptures were beautiful in a way. Whoever, or whatever had carved them had a talent like no other.

Somewhere in the midst of it all, Leuk tapped me on the shoulder. I looked back and saw horror in his eyes.

“What is it?” I felt myself turn pale.

He pointed at a row of sculptures removed from the rest. I took Aios’ torch and forged into the dark. We came to it, the part of the cavern struck least by the moonlight, and we stood there with our mouths open.

“Monsters,” I exhaled.

“Demons,” we heard Aios whisper.

The sculptures in the shadows were not of men or maidens, children or village elders. They were of monsters, malevolent and skeletal, with talons in place of hands, pale knives instead of teeth, and faces made of nightmares. Some had horns. Others had tails. All of them had strange writing on their skin, words and sigils from a language none of us knew. But the true terror lay in their empty eye sockets, which were huge and full of evil.

As I stood there, breathing not at all, I believed in my heart these statues mimicked creatures that must have existed. “How else could they look so real?” I uttered without knowing it.

Aios pointed his spear at one of the horrific sculptures. He looked wild with fear, sweating and cursing beneath his breath.

“We have to destroy them,” he hissed.

“How?” I argued. “There’s thousands. Tens of thousands.”

“Fine. We have to find what made them. Find it and kill it.”

“What if…” I looked up at one of the horrors. “…what if these are what the Ghoul looks like?”

“All the more reason to kill it,” Aios growled.

I didn’t know where to start. My fingers went numb, and a chill crawled down my backbone. We stood there, the three of us, gazing into the grotto, stricken still with our terror.

It would’ve taken us hours to search the cave.

As it turned out, we didn’t have to look at all.

The first thing I heard was the patter of footsteps. Aios and Leuk heard it, too. Bare feet, I thought. But…small?

Aios waved his spear in the direction of the sound. He crouched, looking deadly and afraid. And then I saw it, a little boy darting between the sculptures. He was naked, pale as a fish, and faster than any child had a right to be. At ten paces, he climbed atop a sculpture and leapt from its head to another, smiling all the way.

I shouted. Leuk pulled his daggers out.

The boy. It’s him…the one throwing rocks on the beach, I thought.

We were too slow.

The boy leapt from atop the statue of a milkmaid. Aios spun, screamed, and jabbed with his spear. He missed. The boy landed on Aios’s head, and Aios started screaming. I don’t know what happened to me. As they struggled, I just stood there with my sword in one hand and the torch in the other. It was like I knew:

No matter what I do, we’re dead.

I never expected Leuk to be the brave one. Never. The boy clung to Aios’s head, clawing and snarling. As Aios squealed, Leuk stuck his dagger into the boy’s back. For a single breath I allowed myself to hope.

Leuk’s done it. I backed away. He’s saved us.

No.

Three times Leuk plunged his dagger between the boy’s ribs, and three times he drew it out. If the boy felt anything, I saw no sign. No blood oozed from Leuk’s steel. The boy’s skin opened up like dry, cracked parchment, but knitted itself closed within moments. I didn’t understand how such a thing was possible. Nothing the Citadel’s wise men had told us lived up to the truth.

With one of Leuk’s daggers still in its back, the boy-Ghoul leapt off Aios’ head. He looked up at us, still smiling, as Aios collapsed dead on the cavern floor. I saw no blood. I couldn’t conceive how so small a creature had killed one of the Master’s warriors. I was paralyzed. My sword felt as though it were made of paper. My blood felt like water in the last moments before a long winter’s freeze.

The boy-Ghoul dragged Aios into the shadows. Leuk stared at me, and then went after them. I swallowed so hard it wounded my throat. I knew what was about to happen. Somehow, someway, I knew. And when I heard a second set of bare feet pattering, and when Leuk cried out his last breath, I sank to the floor in a puddle of my own fear. Perhaps it was cowardice. I knew my sword wouldn’t matter.

So I didn’t even try.

Many thousands of breaths went in and out of me. I closed my eyes, and the world went dark. I don’t know whether I slept, but at some point I lifted my head from the floor and gazed into the darkness. The second torch had burned out, and so I fired another. It burned beside me as I sat there, a red whisper in the vast darkness.

There was but one thing left to do.

I opened Niko’s journal, dipped the quill into the last of his ink, and wrote:

There is more than one Ghoul. There may be dozens. Or hundreds.  

In a cave east of Veni, they hide.

They’ve been here for thousands of years, I believe.

They sculpt whatever they kill. Murder is their art.

They made the lighthouse.

They made the cliffs.

They took Aios and Leuk last night.

Tonight they’ll come for me.

 

The ink was almost gone. I only had a few strokes of Niko’s quill left. I don’t what made me do it, but I stood and walked to the most terrifying of the Ghoul’s demonic sculptures. I wasn’t as afraid anymore. I stuck the torch in the creature’s hand, held Niko’s journal before me, and started drawing the strange symbols and words graven into the sculpture’s skin. The words were old, old things. Maybe they were magic, if such a thing existed. I’d already shut the boy-Ghoul out of my mind, but for him to have survived Leuk’s knives meant something I’d never understand was at work.

I drew as many of the words and symbols as I could. When the ink ran out, I hunkered down and gazed into the dark. I left the book on my lap. I had the foolish hope someone would find it one day. The shaft of moonlight was far away, not enough to see by. I knew when my torch burned out, I’d die even if the Ghouls never came for me.

I didn’t have to wait long.

Within a hundred breaths, I heard their bare feet on the cavern’s cold floor. The boy came first. He was naked and ghostly pale. White powder, surely bone dust, coated his arms up to his elbows. His fingernails were crusted in dried blood. He’d been sculpting, I was sure.

My sword lay beside me. I didn’t bother to pick it up.

And then the second Ghoul came. I didn’t know what I expected, but it wasn’t her. Naked and beautiful, she walked into the yellow sphere of light made by my torch. Her hair was raven, her eyes pale blue lanterns. She wasn’t terrifying at all, at least not yet.

“I dreamed of you,” I said to her.

She didn’t flinch.

“Are all of these your work?” I regarded the thousands of sculpted dead.

She shook her head. Only some of them, she told me without words.

I sat, limp and sweating, and looked at them. The boy was her ward, her student, or maybe even her child. She tousled his hair, and a plume of bone powder drifted into the torchlight.

He’s the next in line, I thought.

She’s teaching him.

Just like another taught her.

Without moving any other part of my body, I extended my arm and set Niko’s journal into the nook between two sculptures’ feet. I left my sword where it lay. It occurred to me that I’d never once used it. Ever.

The Master would’ve stretched my neck just for that.

The boy-Ghoul started for me, but the woman held him back.

And then she showed me what she was.

With her fingers, she pried the flesh back from her cheeks. She tore like sackcloth; the sound alone made me sick. Next she peeled back the flesh from her arms and collarbone. She was one of them, one of the monsters so perfectly sculpted behind me. Her true fingers were boney claws, her real face a horror of white bone. She had no blood in her. She was all sinew and marrow, a skeleton wrapped in human skin.

I understood why none of the missing soldiers had cried out.

She’d probably never shown them the creature beneath her skin.

All they’d seen was a beautiful woman or a handsome little boy.

And when she killed me, it didn’t even hurt.

*

* * *

If you enjoyed The Skeleton Sculptor, consider reading The Hecatomb or leaving a review here.

Thank you,

J Edward Neill

Nadya the Deathless – A new short story by J Edward Neill

Mother to a slain child…

Hunted for her power…

Some fear her…

Others adore her…

Those who know her best have named her…

Nadya the Deathless

Episode 8 in the Hollow Empire series

Now available on Amazon.

Tyrants of the Dead – An Epic Fantasy Trilogy

In a far and ancient land, Emperor Chakran dreams of conquest. His desire to resurrect the evil, world-ending Ur casts a dark shadow across an unsuspecting world. But as his army butchers its way across the realm, leaving only a vast, storm-riddled graveyard in its wake, a small band of warriors rises up to oppose him. They know what will become of the world should Chakran succeed. They know the Emperor is but a puppet to the true evil – the Tyrants of the Dead.
Follow Rellen Gryphon, Garrett Croft, and Andelusia Anderae on their voyage to stop the darkness.
If they should fail, the sun will die.
…and the night will forever reign.

Tyrants of the Dead – The Complete Collection includes all three epic volumes in the series:
Down the Dark Path
Dark Moon Daughter
Nether Kingdom

Fantasy & Sci Fi Spring Book Sale

Dark magic.

Evil sorcerers.

Fiery Witches

Ghoulish creatures.

Star-destroying vampires.

Get your spring reads right here. This week only (April 9th- April 12th) All titles are $0.99 or FREE.

 

Eaters of the Light – Coming Soon!

My name is Callista Lightbringer.

Although I’m not human, I am humanity’s last hope.

For a thousand years, I’ve warred against the star-killing Strigoi. I’ve destroyed billions. I’ve snuffed hundreds of their hollow, vampiric planets.

It’s not enough.

Alone, I must find the source of the Strigoi power. I must venture deeper into space than any living creature has dared to go.

And there, in the galaxy known as Hades, I must resurrect the light.

…and defeat the Strigoi forever.

 Eaters of the Light

 Sequel to Darkness Between the Stars & Shadow of Forever

 The night is darkest before the dawn…

The first chapter is free to read right here.

Coming in March 2018

Win a free sci-fi book – Darkness Between the Stars – No Strings Attached

Hey you.

Do you like sci-fi or fantasy books?

Cool.

Click this link for your chance to win a Kindle version of Darkness Between the Stars.

If you like the book, please review it.

Thanks!

Steampunk Fridays – Looking Forward Back

 

I started doing this series of blog posts at the beginning of July. My thinking was two-fold:

1 – Check out who might be producing Steampunk comics.

Obviously, I write a Steampunk comic (The Gilded Age), so I’m already interested in the genre. However, aside from the DC covers they did that one month or something else random to come out which might mimic the ascetics, I really didn’t know what other indy creators might be doing within the genre.

2 – Help potentially spread the word for those creators.

Comics should be this thing where we are always helping each other up. And if I like something why wouldn’t I try to get another person to like it?

3 – Content for the blog.

Some weeks are easier than others to figure out a topic. This really gave me a direction that the Wednesday blog sometimes doesn’t have (which I like the free-form, but this is focused – or as focused as I’m going to get).

4 – See what was successful for other Kickstarters (especially those in the Steampunk realm).

As I was pretty sure I’d be kicking off a Kickstarter sometime in the Fall, this was an excuse to start to drill down and see what might be working and what wasn’t. Looking at the pages for how they were laid out, the various Reward levels, and just the level of artwork on the page. I took notes of what I liked and what I didn’t like.

So if you missed any of the weeks, here’s a handy recap of 2017!

Interviews

Interview with Ken Reynolds

Ken Reynolds is the creator of the comic Cognition: a comic where the lead characters are a clockwork and an evil rat who stop supernatural entities.

And if your brain didn’t begin dripping from your ears, you need to check this out.

Seriously, the comic is all sorts of cool.

Interview with the Creators of Arcane Sally & Mr Steam

The team over at the Arcane Sally & Mr. Steam comic are clearly doing something with their Steampunk… Ghost Story… Victorian supernatural action-adventure… Love Story?

Interview with the Creator of Hinges

What I wrote in the introduction still holds true:

There are moments when you start reading a comic and you just know there is something about it which speaks to you. And maybe you don’t understand every little thing which has been set out in front of you… maybe those are the things you’ll figure out on a reread. But when you lock in, that’s all it takes.

When I sat down to check out some Steampunkish comics a couple of weeks ago and came across Hinges by Meredith McClaren, I thought I’d read a few pages and move on with my life.Bauble and Orio had other plans for me.

Bauble and Orio had other plans for me.

Interview with the Creator of The Legend of Everett Forge

Everett Forge is in the mold of many of those same Westerns. He’s clearly a man on a mission to destroy Omega’s entire livelihood. He’s a myth, a ghost story the Robots tell each other at night – make sure you lube all your joints of Everett Forge will get you.

Interview with the Creator of Boston Metaphysical Society

Take the X-Files, set it in an alternate history of Boston, and force the characters to have to deal with a different set of social mores and expectation than we deal with today. BMS has run a handful of successful Kickstarters (and have 6 issues collected in their trade), so you are going to get your full story.

The Gilded Age Interviews

As part of my month-long Gilded Age Kickstarter campaign, I collected the various interviews I’d conducted with much of the team over the previous year. There are still a couple of people left to talk to… it’s on the to do list.

Interview with the Creator of Monstrous

Monstrous stems from a lifelong fascination with monster movies and their misunderstood heroes.  Even when they’re completing evil, monsters are always the most compelling thing about the stories they occupy.  I’ve always loved the Universal Studios monsters and Ghostbusters and the Hammer Studios movies.  I threw all of those influences together with plots from John Wayne westerns in this strange steampunk hybrid. Monstrous is like all of these things I’ve loved for years having a party together.

Interview with one of the Creators of The Jekyll Island Chronicles

The Jekyll Island Chronicles is a graphic novel adventure series blending historical fact with heavy doses of alternate history and adventure. Book One, The Machine Age War, opens the story in the days following The Great War – a time when a brief glimmer of peace and hope quickly fades as a cryptic organization moves to threaten fragile governments and their people with a campaign of chaos and terror. 

 

 

Kickstart the Comic

Word Smith

This was the first of the series, focusing on Victoria who crafts words. Through the use of this magic, she is able to affect the world around her. This Kickstarter ended up funding, and I have my digital copy!

Imaginary Voyages of Edgar Allan Poer #1 KS Exclusive

Edgar Allan Poe has lost everyone he ever loved and now he is losing his mind. Haunted by his wife’s ghost and his many literary failures, the poet tumbles into a fantastical world created by his genius…and his madness. This world called Terra Somnium is a nightmare region that merges his macabre literary creations and mythological gods and monsters of old, all hell-bent on stopping him from escaping the land of dreams.

This Kickstarter funded and I believe the second issue was funded as well, so if you missed them, keep an eye out for issue 3.

The Invention of EJ. Whitaker

This was a case where the Kickstarter was long over, but I still wanted to shine a little light on the project. In fact, I need to reach out to the creators about an interview I’ve been promised!

When Ada Turner, a young Inventor’s apprentice, creates a flying machine in 1901, she’s introduced to the dangerous side of the Industrial Age.

Blood & Dust Volume 2

The Old West is really that last bastion before the industrial revolution kicks into high gear. But there is plenty of bleed between the two areas, the same as Steampunk and Weird West style stories. That Gothic Horror feel of monsters being in a place where, by all rights, they should not be. And whether it is a Steampowered invention needing to put the darkness back in its place or the sidearm of a cowboy – it feels all connected even if it isn’t a 100% match of genres all the time.

The Death Defying #1

Arthur Conan Doyle & Harry Houdini.

The writer and the magician.

They were once the best of Friends.

When their friendship went to hell, 

The world wasn’t very far behind.

Stoker and Wells – The Graphic Novel

In 1894 London, a 20-something H.G. Wells and a 40-something Bram Stoker meet and have a very unexpected 48-hour adventure that leads to the creative inspiration for both writer’s first great success – THE TIME MACHINE for Wells and DRACULA for Stoker.  It is not only a thrilling, scary, fun, and beautifully drawn adventure tale, but also a story about putting aside fear and insecurity and stepping into your true identity.

Kickstart the Game

1879 London Adventure and Sourcebook

1879 is FASA’s steamweird roleplaying game, that takes the place of Shadowrun in our cosmology. Due to a weird science experiment that opens a stable wormhole, Earth’s magic cycle gets jumpstarted in the late Victorian era, leading to a Gilded Age with elves, dwarves, snarks, and trolls. As the world adjusts to its new races, technological progress races forward, as the Age of Steam begins to give way to the Age of Electricity. Clockwork computers exchange data over telegraph wires, steam-powered airships chug through the sky, and industrial applications of magic churn out new wonders daily.

Westbound: Revolvers and Rituals

Westbound is a game of adventure on the frontier. You’ll explore the magical wild west, encounter other frontiersmen, fight strange new creatures, and strike gold or die trying. Robbing trains, shooting up saloons, and rescuing damsels is all apart of a days work for a Westbounder.

When the soil’s turned sour,

And the well all dried up.

When men in suits put a gun in your hand

And send you to war.

When there’s nothing left of your home,

But ash and regret.

It’s time to turn Westbound.

Game Reviews

Space: 1889

As I said in the breakdown of the RPG Quickstart rules: Take the best parts of John Carter, Warlord of Mars, a mix of the crazy-fun science fiction of Jules Verne and HG Wells, and top it off with some of the pulp stories from the 30’s and 40’s about adventures on other planets (before pesky real science ruined it for everyone). The Imperial nations of Europe decided to look to the stars to appease their appetites for materials for Queen and Country (or Kaiser and Country as the case may be).

Other

5 Steampunk Movies You Should Watch

As I was coming up with this list of 5 Steampunk movies, I had to admit that there aren’t as many as you might think there are considering the number of costumes I see posted all over the web (or at conventions like Dragon Con). The following aren’t necessarily the best, but these are ones who contribute in their own way to the genre.

Short Film – Eye of the Storm

This is a music video. This is a short film. This is amazing looking.

The story centers around a sky captain making his way across the sky, making peace with what came before and steadying himself on what may come next. Accompanied by a large dog-sized dragon, he sees the green glow just past an oncoming storm and must make his decision on how to deal with it. Whether he should avoid it or push through to the other side.

Batman: Gotham by Gaslight

With the trailer for the animated movie debuting, I thought it was more than time to give a little focus on a Batman related Steampunk story… that I have not read as of yet. Share in the story of my failure…

Gears and Cogs

A few of the things that had caught my eye over that week: Draw with Jazza, They are Billions (video game), and Brass Empire (card game).

***

I’m looking forward to even more this next year!

***

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com

 

All Hallows Eve Book Sale

Happy All Hallows Eve!

You’re here, which means you have the chance to unearth a ton of great books.

Several are free. Many others are only $0.99.

I’ve got fantasy, horror, sci-fi, philosophy, and even a pair of alcohol-fueled memoirs.

Crawl through the graveyard and go here here to view my entire catalog, including everything I’ve slashed for this one-day event.

To get a feel for what I’m offering, peruse some of my cover art below.

As always, I appreciate your Amazon reviews.

dark_moon_daughter-initialcoverjuptereventcrop1cover101-qs-for-the-end-of-the-world-front-cover101-questions-for-humanity101-questions-for-midnight-front-cover101-questions-for-single-people-front101-questions-for-women-cover101-xxxy-questions-front-coverletthebodies_kindlenether-kingdom-createspace-bright-coversleepersimageforbloggingsoul-orb-new-ddp-cover-second-trythe-circle-macabre-covermachina-obscurumthe-ultimate-quiz

Find me in these great locations: Facebook TwitterTheA Ur Hand G

Catch you later,

J Edward Neill

11 QUESTIONS ABOUT THE TINY DUNGEON 2e RPG WITH ALAN BAHR (GALLANT KNIGHT GAMES)

A minimalist fantasy RPG for both adults and children? If you follow my reviews on EN World, or read about my excitement when there’s an all-ages RPG Kickstarter, you know I’m looking for the perfect RPG that truly is for all-ages. Alan Bahr of Gallant Knight Games is running a Kickstarter for the second edition of Tiny Dungeon and it looks promising. To learn more, Alan agreed to answer some of my questions about his campaign and what got him into gaming.

[Disclosure: I game with Alan Bahr (Dan Davenport is our GM) so I’m biased.]

 

EGG EMBRY – Thanks for speaking to me about your Kickstarter, Tiny Dungeon 2e. What’s the game about? [UPDATE – This product is available now here.]

ALAN BAHR – It’s my pleasure! Thank you for inviting me. Tiny Dungeon 2e is a fantasy roleplaying game in the same vein of D&D, but with a very stripped down, minimalist ruleset. It’s fantasy roleplaying at the core essence, without extra rules and bits added in.

 

EGG – What inspired you to create Tiny Dungeon 2e? Or maybe a better question is, why will TD2e be better than 1e? [UPDATE – This product is available now here.]

ALAN BAHR – TD1e was a revelation in minimalist gaming to me. I can’t overstate how important it was to me. TD2e just improves upon the original. Streamlined text and rules, more options (while being minimalist), and a focus on addressing some of the core issues found in 1e. We’ve clarified lots of rules, and made an effort to upgrade the visual and thematic elements of the game.

[Editor’s Note – You can read a detailed discussion about the differences here.]

 

EGG – As of this writing you’ve blown past your goal and keep knocking down stretch goals, is the Kickstarter meeting your expectations or exceeding them?

ALAN BAHR – Absolutely exceeding. I’d expected to be more successful than our past TinyD6 Kickstarters, but this was a whole new level for me.

 

EGG – This may be more for me than the readers but what’s the starting age for this RPG? With a name like *Tiny* Dungeon, I have to know if children are a part of your target audience?

ALAN BAHR – They are! The game is very simple, and it’s a great learner RPG for teaching children how to play!

 

 
Art by Anthony Cournoyer and Design by Robert Denton!

EGG – With the Tiny Frontiers and Tiny Frontiers: Mecha & Monsters Kickstarters, you delivered ahead of scheduled and the delivery estimate for the Kickstarter is less than 5 months, what’s your game plan for reaching that goal?

ALAN BAHR – Simply put, do things on time, correctly, and deliver appropriately. We’ve got a lot of experience with this, and frankly, we’ve split our stretch goals into two Waves to make it manageable. Wave I is the corebook, GM screen, dice, and bags for the Deluxe Pledges. Wave II is a bunch of the later, more involved stretch goals.

 

EGG – As the publisher, can you highlight one pledge level/backer reward that you think is the standout for Tiny Dungeon 2e? [UPDATE – This product is available now here.]

ALAN BAHR – Oh man, The Deluxe Adventurer. You get two copies of the book (the LE faux leather hardcover, and a softcover for table copy), a set of dice, the GM screen and a handmade bag to store it all in. It’s a fantastic pledge level.

Deluxe Adventurer

The best of the best! All the fancy pieces, and a collectors edition hardcover for your shelf!

INCLUDES:

 

Custom Dice Bag

EGG – Tell us a little about you and what was the game that changed you into a gamer?

ALAN BAHRPendragon. I’ve written and talked at length about how great Pendragon is. All I can do is tell everyone to go play Pendragon!

About me, well I’m Alan. I like jazz & country music, subtitled martial arts movies, heroic stories, reading fiction, and I spend a long time as a data scientist and project manager in corporate America.

 

EGG – Why did you create your gaming company, Gallant Knight Games?

ALAN BAHR – I love gaming, and I see gaming as a social experience that helps us to transcend the issues that confront us as humanity. Tabletop gaming is an enlightening experience if done right and I want to bring that to everyone I can as affordably as I can.

 

 
Art by Anthony Cournoyer and Design by Robert Denton!

EGG – As a Kickstarter veteran, what advice would you give others thinking about launching a gaming Kickstarter?

ALAN BAHR – Ask someone who has been there successfully. Do your research. And listen when they tell you. Too many people ask me for advice, then disregard the advice I give.

 

EGG – What projects are you currently developing?

ALAN BAHR – There are a lot of TinyD6 games in the works (11ish). There’s also Candlelight (my 5e Gothic Horror setting), Shadow of the Dying Sun, Gallant, Bramblewoyld, Nevermore, and Revelator. Lots going on.

 

EGG – Any parting thoughts? Where can we find out more about Gallant Knight Games?

ALAN BAHR – Well, there’s Into the Black (GKG fan facebook group) and I’m pretty active there with previews and spoilers. Following me on twitter (@alanbahr) or GKG (@GallantKGames) is a pretty good bet. We could do better at updating www.alanbahr.net and www.gallantknightgames.com, but we’re working on getting those websites upgraded.

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

UPDATE – This product is available now here.

 

 

* * * * * *

 

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to DriveThruRPG.com.

Savage Worlds: Fast, Furious, and Fun! - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

 

* * * * * *

 

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

 

* * * * * *

 

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

5 RPG Kickstarters You Should Back – Tiny Dungeon, Fever Swamp, Survive This!, The Folio, and Robert Asprin’s The Cold Cash War

There are a number of exceptional RPG Kickstarters out there. This week I’m reviewing five of them – Tiny Dungeon, Fever Swamp, Survive This!, The Folio, and Robert Asprin’s The Cold Cash War. Let’s count’em down!

 

5) Robert Asprin’s The Cold Cash War by Battlefield Press International
Ends on Thu, October 5 2017 11:00 AM EDT.

“A role playing game setting, for the Savage Worlds and Cepheus System, based on Robert Asprin’s The Cold Cash War.

Image courtesy of Wayne Barlow
Image courtesy of Wayne Barlow

THE CORPORATE WARS ARE ON!

International conglomerates plot a complete domination of the free world, facing off against world governments, who want only freedom, in a calculated and vicious battle of wits and blood. Come see multi-national corporations have launched a lethal campaign against the world.

For the first time ever, a role playing game setting based on the original works of Robert Asprin and Bill Fawcett. This setting book incorporates the novel Cold Cash War and the Combat Command book Cold Cash Warrior.

Image courtesy of Bill Fawcett
Image courtesy of Bill Fawcett

Have you ever wondered how corporations fight each other? The answer is simple, they employ mercenaries in remote locations to wipe out each other. This is no easy task, but luckily the wars are conducted with advanced electronics known as killsuits. These suits simulate the damage taken by a soldier from nonoperational limbs to death, without actually hurting or killing the individual soldier. You can be a member of any of the corporations, such as Oil, Energy, Communications or Aerospace. You can be part of the Japanese Conglomerate. Battling for supremacy in the market without actually hurting your rivals employees. However, what happens when someone takes this one step further and starts employing mercenaries to take out your rivals, permanently? In this setting you play a a government agent, mercenary hired by a corporation, an information broker or a corporate executive. Get involved in corporate espionage, assassination or even stomping the enemy. If you do not want to be a corporate drone, then side up with one of the world governments. Its your choice, and the world depends on what you do. Try to stay alive and find out who wants you dead. You can find this out in this 250-page book for the Savage Worlds and Cepheus Engine (2d6 OGL Sci Fi gaming) game systems. Written by Stephen J. Miller and Jonathan M. Thompson (the team that brought you Gaslight Victorian Fantasy) and illustrated by the talented Eric Lofgren.”

You can read my interview with Jonathan M. Thompson here.

Egg’s Thoughts:

I’ve spoken to Jonathan at length about the Cold Cash War, attended a Q&A, and completed an interview with him. He’s a nice guy whose passionate about his products are infectious. When he’s done, I know that the Cold Cash War is going to feel exactly like Robert Asprin’s setting in both Savage Worlds and the Cepheus Engine.

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

4) Tiny Dungeon 2e – Minimalist fantasy roleplaying is back! by Gallant Knight Games
Ends on Fri, October 6 2017 11:13 AM EDT.

“Return to the minimalist fantasy tabletop RPG Tiny Dungeon in this revised rules, now with micro-settings, additional content, & more!

Tiny Dungeon returns in a newly revised and revamped edition!

The TinyD6 ruleset returns to fantasy in this revised ruleset, now with micro-settings and more!

Cover Art by Michael Leavenworth
Cover Art by Michael Leavenworth

Using the rules in this book, you’ll be able to play heroic adventurers, daring treasure hunters, imperious magic-users, and more! Explore numerous worlds and discover legends, adventure and fantastical beasts.

Character creation is simple, fast, and exciting. You pick your character type based on the exciting stories your Game Master is going to tell, you pick a few Traits that each grant a single benefit, and you’re done!

Sometimes as the GM, you don’t have time to plot lengthy, detailed worlds, but you want that experience. Well, we’ve got your back, and that support comes in the form of micro-settings! Micro-settings are short settings filled with adventure hooks, and designed to put your adventures and campaigns into high action-adventure.

Our goal is to fund a softcover edition, a limited number of hardcover collector’s editions, and the Tiny Dungeon 2e dice. We’ve planned several stretch goals which will increase page count, add more art, add more special rules but all of our goals will provide you with more fun and engaging fantasy content!

 

Tiny Dungeon uses a simple, fast, and dynamic ruleset to handle actions. The game uses up to three six-sided dice as part of action resolution.

If you roll a “5” or “6” on a die, your check succeeds. Most checks are made with two dice. However, if you are deemed to have “advantage” on a roll, you gain a third die to roll. If you have disadvantage, you lose a dice (rolling only a single die).

Characters are made quickly and easily. You will select a fantasy race (such as dwarf, salimar, goblin, human or more), three traits, and write down some basic information and you are ready to play!”

Look for my interview with Alan Bahr about Tiny Dungeon this Thursday on the Tessera Guild.

Egg’s Thoughts:

Disclosure: I game with Alan Bahr (Dan Davenport is our GM) so I’m biased.

Based on the volume of backers, there’s a lot of confidence this is a game being done right. Tiny Dungeons is a game designed for adults but is minimalist enough to make it ideal for all-ages. The game is focused on the rules and mini-settings instead of a massive world and overarching story. The fact that it’s a fantasy RPG for everyone makes this a game I’m ready to play! To sweeten the pot for RPG freelancers, they’ve already decided to offer this:

Gallant Knight Games will open submission for a line of PDF releases detailing new rules, micro-setttings, adventures and more!

This will be open to the wide world, and we’ll release one PDF each month in a subscription service via DriveThruRPG. At the end of the year, we will collate them into a year omnibus we will offer in print and PDF!

This will be paid work (we pay $0.10 per word to our writers), and you’ll work alongside Alan Bahr to prep these products for release (we’ll pay for art, layout, graphic design, editing, and more)!”

Play the game and submit to create content for it. I dig it!

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

3) Fever Swamp: an OSR swamp-crawl adventure by Melsonian Arts Council
Ends on Mon, October 9 2017 6:59 PM EDT.

“We plan to enter the Fever Swamp, plunder its treasures, unearth its secrets, and escape with more than an obscure disease.

Fever Swamp

The Melsonian Arts Council is a micro press publishing house which specialises in short works that startle and entertain us. Its output is by turns erudite, lucid and beautiful, or dumb, obtuse and ugly. We have previously and are still releasing peculiar zines, games and adventures.

Master Gearing is a local boy with dreams of big lights and tall cities. His works have appeared in Britain’s favourite RPG periodical, The Undercroft, and as stand alone moments of inspiration in the form of his collaborative Broken System #000.

Andrew Walter is an illustrator whose work has been featured in The Undercroft, Wormskin, and various other OSR products, as well as on underground metal and punk releases. He likes schlock horror and loud noises.

 

Fever Swamp is an adventure, compatible with Lamentations of the Flame Princess and most other Dungeons & Dragons clones.

The result of this fundraising effort will be an A5, saddle stitched, 30-something page book containing a geographically linked series of vignettes that explore the particular palette chosen by the author. Flavours of nihilism, questions of inherent evil, and the abject failure of civilisation. And dampness, so damp.”

Egg’s Thoughts:

Artistically, this has the most modern Adult Swim art style I can think of. It’s LotFP compatible so that decides some individual’s level of interest. Between the art and the setting, I’m curious how the full product will look from end to end.

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

2) SURVIVE THIS!! Dark Places & Demogorgons RPG Core Rulebook by Bloat Games
Ends on Tue, October 10 2017 9:00 PM EDT.

“SURVIVE THIS!! Dark Places & Demogorgons RPG Core Rulebook is an OSR roleplaying game set in the 1980s from Bloat Games.

“In the 1980s strange things happened everywhere!”

Bloat Games proudly presents our latest tabletop roleplaying game: SURVIVE THIS!! Dark Places & Demogorgons. Dark Places & Demogorgons is an OSR RPG set in the 1980s where you play as teenagers from a small town where strange occurrences began popping up all around. The adults seem lost as what to do, the police are as clueless as ever and aren’t helping. It’s up to you and your friends to figure out what’s going on and stop it from happening again!

Dark Places & Demogorgons (Blue Cover) Art by Tommy Stamper
Dark Places & Demogorgons (Blue Cover) Art by Tommy Stamper

Taking advantage of the Open Gaming License, Dark Places & Demogorgons use the familiar ruleset of 1970s Original Fantasy Roleplaying Game with some added modern mechanics and concepts to make a uniquely fun and entertaining game experience.”

Egg’s Thoughts:

Excited about the arrival of Stranger Things season two on Netflix? Need a game to get you into the headspace of the first season’s D&D? Bloat Games is offering the RPG you’re looking for, Survive This! The game looks like the best parts of retro fun! Much like Swamp Fever above, I’m curious how the final product will be presented. Will it have a uniquely awesome old school feel? (I’m betting the answer is yes!)

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

1) The Folio: Storyteller’s Arcana 1E & 5E gaming supplement by Art of the Genre
Ends on Wed, October 11 2017 2:50 PM EDT.

“1E & 5E Gaming Supplement for DMs and Players in the tradition of the old orange spine Arcana

So you are probably asking, what exactly is The Storyteller’s Arcana?  Well, when I was 14 I managed to get my hands on a newly printed copy of TSR‘s Unearthed Arcana and AD&D was forever changed for me.  That book introduced me to so many great wrinkles in the system, and over the past thirty-five years I’ve tried to translate my own gaming knowledge into a series of notes and rules that I think can resonate with all gamers, be they OSR die-hards or newly minted 5E campaigners.  By compiling and expanding on everything I’ve addressed during my time around a table, it is my hope that this new ‘Arcana’ will hold a special place on the shelves of gamers just as those old Orange Spine hardcovers do.

Is that a Larry Elmore cover? YES! Now I know that all the previous Orange Spine covers were done by Jeff Easley (as were the 2 Folio orange spines), but knowing how much Elmore has meant to the OSR community I thought it was high time to get him onto a classic hardcover.

Build on your Orange Spine Collection with a Larry Elmore classic cover!
Build on your Orange Spine Collection with a Larry Elmore classic cover!

What exactly comes in this book?  Well, obviously I can’t lay out all the details here, but I’ve broken this 128 page book down into three distinct parts and below you’ll be able to get a glimpse of some of the topics I’ll be covering.”

Wanna-lancer* Rewards:

“Pledge $750 or more

Ultimate Folio Fan

Backer receives all PDF and physical copies of the three hardcovers (signed), and an original piece of art from the project, and can help design a Trope NPC class that will go into the book (with writing credit). LIMIT 5”

*Wanna-lancer™ – A gamer that’s pursuing freelance RPG work. Some back RPG Kickstarters that offer rewards to create NPCs, spells, items, adventures, etc. in order to build up their resume, make contact with publishers, and learn what’s expected on assignments.

Egg’s Thoughts:

If I could, I’d post every cover for The Folio. Jeff Easley, Brom, Larry Elmore, and more… the cover art for this series is comprised of new work from my favorite childhood artists and they all show that they still have it! This art is everything I want in a 1e and 5e D&D-compatible RPG. Add to that, you can design a Trope NPC class for the book… there’s not a lot of instances where your work can appear under a cover by Larry Elmore, so this is a rare chance!

 

You can see examples of their work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

Signal Boost:

Long List Anthology Volume 3 by David Steffen 
Ends on Fri, October 6 2017 8:00 PM EDT.

“The third in anthology series of stories loved by Hugo voters, stories by Seanan McGuire, Mary Robinette Kowal, Cat Rambo, and others

Every year the Hugo Award administrators release a longer list of stories that received the most nominations by the fans who vote for the Hugo Awards.  The purpose of the Long List Anthology is to get more of the works loved by Hugo Award voters to readers in one convenient package. This is the third annual volume of the anthology.  There are some familiar author names in the book, as well as some authors who are new to the series.

Volume One and Volume Two were both funded on Kickstarters–including works by writers including Eugie Foster, Elizabeth Bear, Amal El-Mohtar, Aliette de Bodard, Scott Lynch, Rachel Swirsky, Kai Ashante Wilson, Ken Liu, David D. Levine, Alyssa Wong, Ann Leckie, and Catherynne M. Valente–and they both succeeded and have gone on to sell steadily on ebook vendors after the Kickstarter as well, selling more than 10,000 copies.

The base goal of the campaign will include only the short stories.  There will be stretch goals to add novelettes and novellas.  The goals listed here include only stories that I’ve heard agreement back from the authors–some queries to authors are still pending, there may be another story or two added as an additional stretch goal.  If these stretch goals are reached, I may add on other goals as well.

This project is not endorsed by nor affiliated with the Hugo awards, WSFS, WorldCon, or any associated entities. The Hugo name is used with permission. Please note that the anthology is NOT called “The Hugo Long List Anthology”. It is called “The Long List Anthology”, or the full wordy title: “The Long List Anthology: More Stories From the Hugo Award Nomination List”.  (I’m noting this because it’s pretty commonly referred to by the wrong name)

COVER ART

"The Alchemist" © Amanda Makepeace
“The Alchemist” © Amanda Makepeace

The cover art is “The Alchemist” by Amanda Makepeace.  You can find more information about her work on her website.”

Egg’s Thoughts:

Tessera Guild co-founder, Amanda Makepeace, has a beautiful piece of art gracing the cover of this book. Just as I gushed about the artwork for The Folio above, this is a chance to own a book with an amazing cover. Just as they recommend on the Kickstarter, check out Amanda’s website for more.

 

You can check out the first anthology on Amazon here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to DriveThruRPG.com and Amazon.com.

Savage Worlds: Fast, Furious, and Fun! - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

 

* * * * * *

 

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

 

* * * * * *

 

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

9 RPG Kickstarters You Should Back – Alien Bestiary, Artifices of Quartztoil Tower, IDENTECO, SideQuests II, and more

For this post, I’m reviewing nine RPG Kickstarters that are powered by the D&D 5e, Era d10, FATE, Pathfinder, Savage Worlds, Starfinder, and more systems. Nine RPGs that are running campaigns and hoping you’ll back them. Let’s count’em down!

 

9) Era: Balam by Shades of Vengeance
Ends on Sun, September 24 2017 6:59 PM EDT.

“Explore a solar system and defend Humanity from an alien fleet! Era: Balam runs on your choice of Era d10, FATE or Savage Worlds!

In this game, you are a pilot, with your own “Paladin” one-man ship, sent out to explore space and defend Humanity! Together with other pilots, you’ll form a squadron and head out into the black…

This game offers rules for space combat, salvaging materials and upgrading your fighter, a list of bases you can visit (both friendly and not-so-friendly), space-based dogfights and a variety of weapons from bullet-based to plasma cannons!

If you like games such as Homeworld, Freelancer or Elite: Dangerous, this is the RPG for you!

In Era: Balam, your ship is a part of your character, as much as the pilot.

It defines most of your physical statistics, providing a duality to this game which I’ve never explored before: while a pilot may technically survive without their ship, it will feel like they have lost a part of themselves.

A Paladin and its Pilot are a single character in this game, working together!
A Paladin and its Pilot are a single character in this game, working together!

The Paladin ships which appear in this game are fully upgradable, and provide various options as the players progress, including painlessly changing “Class” by replacing the Main Module!”

Want to learn more? Here’s the link to my interview with Ed Jowett about Era: Balam.

Egg’s Thoughts:

I’ve covered several Shades of Vengeance games in this column, I’ve interviewed Ed Jowett of SoV, and I’m freelancing on an Era d10 project for SoV, clearly I’m all for Vengeance. But among SoV’s games, what makes Era: Balam stand out? In a word, expansion. In this game you’re both your character and your ship, which explains this game’s setup concisely while offering a lot of cool options. Both the person and the tool have a role to play and together they elevate this RPG to be something akin to Star Wars: Rogue Squadron or Battlestar: Galactica. Add to that, this RPG is available for Savage Worlds, FATE, or Shades of Vengeance’s house system, Era d10, and you have a winner.

 

You can see examples of Shades of Vengeance’s work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

8) Pathfinder Modern Adventures by Higher Grounds Publishing, LLC
Ends on Mon, September 25 2017 2:00 PM EDT.

“Take up sword and gun to seek fame and fortune in this gritty fantasy game set in modern-day Earth.

“I know what you’re thinkin’, kid. With all the stuff out there, all the cash, treasure, monsters and adventure waiting to be had.. what the hell is anyone doing in a nine-to-five, waste-of-time job?”, the old dwarf grunted with a voice like rolling gravel. “Well, I’ll tell ya, it sure as shit doesn’t have anything to do with really livin’, that’s for sure.” The dwarf was eye level with the kid, even though the human boy was probably only a small fraction of his own age. Stubby fingers curled around his massive, braided beard and stroked downward, flattening out a few stray red-and-gray hairs that had gone astray. “It’s all about security. See, cities like this one got all kinds of that stuff. Vancouver. Atlanta. Hell, even the most dangerous hood in Detroit ain’t got nothin’ on the shit you’ll find taking up gun and sword and heading off into the tombs. Most folks’ll tell you that, and most folks are right. I done seen more death and carnage than any CEO could ever dream about in an entire lifetime. I’m the sole survivor of a group of seven of us.” the dwarf said with a half-psychotic grimace that may have been mistaken for a smile, showing off those yellowed teeth interspersed with gold ones that replaced the teeth that had been knocked out by god-knows-what. “It’s a shit life, being an adventurer. You’re going to go hungry. You’re going to get hurt. Shit, you will probably even die.” he said with a chuckle. “So why do I do it?” the dwarf peered at the kid with his one good eye and got close enough that the boy could smell the leather of his armor and the whiskey on his breath, “Kid. If you gotta ask, you ain’t ever gonna know.”

Pathfinder: Modern Adventures is a game of fantasy based in the real-world. It’s Earth, with a twist. Humans are not alone. There are elves, gnomes, dwarves and all manner of other strange creatures, hybrids and half-bloods earning a living and trying to get by. Nearly everyone just wants a comfortable, safe life where they are free to exist in peace, earn a liveable wage and die with a few grandchildren under foot.

Then, there are the adventurers. 

The adventurers make their living by scouring the lands trying to find old tombs, abandoned catecombs and places lost to time. They battle monsters, brave dangerous traps and explore the unknown. Some do it in the hopes of getting rich. Others do it to earn a name. Some simply want to test their own mettle. Adventurer’s leave the relative safety of the lives they know, working jobs, tending their home or living on the streets in order to explore parts of the world that no sane person would ever enter.

From the veil of the city, you might never see the truth of the world beyond. All the magic and monsters that only rarely creep into the cities themselves are waiting for a brave soul to come and face them, and earn vast richest and fame in so doing.”

 

Here’s my Q&A with Ray Machuga about Pathfinder Modern Adventures.

To read Dan Davenport’s Q&A with Ray, click here.

Egg’s Thoughts:

Ray Machuga of Higher Ground Publishing messaged me about this project before it came out (the press release is here) and the concept hooked me. The timing for a Pathfinder product that sits, more or less, squarely in the middle of the timeline between Pathfinder and Starfinder could not have been better timed. Starfinder is a hit and Ray’s product is the logical outgrowth of that – Modern Adventures. How would elves and trolls and mortgages and gazebos live together today? This is the game to answer that and offer new levels of adventures.

 

You can see examples of Higher Ground Publishing’s work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

7) Henchmen – A Fate RPG campaign world by Canterbury Games Studio 
Ends on Thu, September 28 2017 12:00 AM EDT.

“A Fate Core campaign setting of villainous henchmen in a hero thwarts Doomsday device world.

Your money will bring our Henchmen to life.

The Premise

Henchmen is a game in which characters get to explore the trials and tribulations of being little cogs in the grand machine of an evil organisation.  While many games focus on gaining power and overcoming foes, this game takes a slightly different approach.

You can play the game any way you want to, but we envisage Henchmen being played in two ways, the ‘day in the life’ tribulations of an expendable goon squad, or as a long ‘Villains Journey’ campaign. For the latter, we have outlined a ‘development arc’ of significant milestones, linked to each character’s personal journey from nobody to nightmare.

Unlike more ‘heroic’ games, Henchmen is not predicated on PCs succeeding on their various errands and missions.  Success might be achieved of course, but often failure, disaster and doom must be coped with, blame must be deflected and whatever credit is left must be seized.

The Evil Organisation is a unique Fate Fractal for Henchmen, with its own aspects, skills, Fate points and perks.  You might even think of the PCs as its stress boxes, since it will expend them to protect itself from consequences.”

Wanna-lancer Reward Levels:

“Recruited to Evil / Master of Evil / Master of Good
Pledge £100 ($129) or £150 ($193) depending on reward level 

Work with our team to design a Henchman/an evil organisation/an opponent for the Henchmen to join our existing examples. Cast yourself, a friend or a favoured character as…

Includes:

  • Credit as a Contributing Designer”

Egg’s Thoughts:

Want to be the villain? This setting is founded to be the stage for that idea as you play the no-goodniks! Canterbury Games Studio is offering several options to create NPCs or an evil organization for their FATE-based setting; so, if creating enemies using FATE is your idea of fun, Canterbury Games has you covered.

 

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

6) IDENTECO Core Rule Book by Humanoid Games
Ends on Thu, September 28 2017 1:00 PM EDT.

“A new cyberpunk-themed tabletop roleplaying game where your identity has become the most valuable commodity on the planet.

IDENTECO

IDENTECO is a game about the struggle to define humanity and retain identity in the highly digital era known as “The Static Age.” Corporations hold more power over the people in the world. They have created ways to monetize and commoditize a person’s identity using massive data farms and social engineering hacks to influence everyday life. Through carefully crafted marketing and slick branding, the Corps don’t force their will onto people, as much as they enforce their worth in people’s minds.

You play a character trying to survive in the Static Age, starting at the bottom and working your way up the social or corporate ladder by any means necessary.

IDENTECO is built on an new, modern D20-based system that emphasizes fast gameplay and rewards social interaction and role playing. Every interaction builds onto the story and the legacy of the characters. The more you play the game, the more you construct your character’s identity, or possibly identities. As the game progresses the thin line between famous and infamous depends solely on who’s watching.

 

​The year is 2099. The world is a much different place.

After a series of devastating terrorist attacks on America’s heartland by an unseen enemy the government was in disarray. The corporations were the only thing left to protect the populace and rebuild society. So they did. Like technocratic gods they rebuilt America™ in their image, and then used new economies of scale and political financial systems to reshape the globe. As a reaction to the attacks, the U.N. created the Centralized Human Identity Program (C.H.I.P.), a sort of universal I.D. program for the world. The C.H.I.P. is implanted in your arm when you are born and is encrypted using your unique DNA sequence. It standardized passports, medical records, employment histories, education records, and much more. It’s a sort of living history, if you will. And Corps have figured out ways to use this information for dubious means.

Now neon-speckled city-states called megaplexes have sprung up around the world. These enormous urban areas have reshaped the landscape, blending tech and corporate culture into shiny playgrounds for consumers and industries alike. There is a steep divide between the haves and the have-nots; those in the city, and those on the fringe.

Outside the cities, non-CHIPed folk live off what is left in the wasteland areas in between cities. Small settlements and simple cities act as rest stops for weary travelers and nomadic tribes. Out in the wastes, you battle beast and man to live a “free” life away from corporate influence. It’s a simpler, but no less deadly, place.”

Wanna-lancer Reward Levels:

“Pledge $150 OR $250
Entrepreneur OR Greaser

You get to work with the designers to create a custom Corporation OR a custom R.O.V. [Remotely Operated Vehicle] that will appear in the Core Rule Book, plus all the rewards at the Operative level.”

Egg’s Thoughts:

To help establish the feel of this RPG, Humanoid Games produced a prose anthology set in their world (you can check it out on Amazon here). This will give you a better idea of whether this game is for you. For me, post-apocalyptic cyberpunk presented in a variant d20 system with great art and wanna-lancer* options where I get to create a corporation and then fight it in the game has my interest piqued! Bring it on!

 

*Wanna-lancer™ – A gamer that’s pursuing freelance RPG work. Some back RPG Kickstarters that offer rewards to create NPCs, spells, items, adventures, etc. in order to build up their resume, make contact with publishers, and learn what’s expected on assignments.

 

You can see examples of Humanoid Games’ work at Amazon here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

5) Westbound: Revolvers and Rituals by Island of Bees 

Because John McGuire has an in-depth review of this campaign on the Tessera Guild, I’m going to link it here and let you absorb his thoughts on it. Steampunk Fridays – Kickstart the Game – Westbound: Revolvers and Rituals

 

* * * * * *

 

4) Alien Bestiary for 5E, Starfinder, and Pathfinder RPG by Legendary Games 
Ends on Sun, October 1 2017 12:59 AM EDT.

“A massive tome of nearly 300 out-of-this-world creatures for 5E, Starfinder, and Pathfinder sci-fi and space adventures!

In space, maybe no one else can hear you scream, but those cries of terror are music to the GM’s ears. While there are monster books aplenty for fantasy games, there has never been a truly encyclopedic tome of terrors from beyond the stars… until now!

Cover image is a placeholder. The final cover piece is out of this world!
Cover image is a placeholder. The final cover piece is out of this world!

The Alien Bestiary brings you hundreds of monsters for your space and sci-fi game, whether you play with the brand-new Starfinder Roleplaying Game or the 5th Edition of the world’s most famous RPG!

In addition, by popular demand we have added the Alien Bestiary Companion for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, which is now available to bring all of our awesome new monsters and your favorites from our More Monsters polls together, with an appendix guiding you to other awesome extraterrestrials already published in official Pathfinder sources.

The Alien Bestiary is a full-sized, full-color bestiary features at least incredible aliens of every description, from tiny robot walking eyes to Lovecraftian Great Old Ones, from humanoid races both friendly and foul to inhuman abominations from the darkest nebulas. Of course, fans of the star-spanning Legendary Planet saga will recognize the fiendish foes like the savage klaven footsoldiers, sinister jagladine genetic engineers, warmongering bil’djooli shock troopers, and many, many more!

Bil'djooli Shock Trooper, by Lance Red
Bil’djooli Shock Trooper, by Lance Red

In addition, as part of our continued partnership with Robert Brookes and the gang at Encounter Table Publishing, fans of the awe-inspiring Aethera Campaign Setting will also find more exciting additions to their spacefaring saga, from the invading taur and aether-touched infused to the organic symbionts, living machine phalanx, and, of course, the magnificently malevolent kytons!

That promise of 200 pages of marvelous monsters is just the starting point. As our Kickstarter goes along, we’ll be adding tons of terrific space-dwelling monsters from across the fantasy/sci-fi legendarium, from insidious intellect devourers and aboleth to parasitic viper vines, brain-eating neh-thalggu, space-warping hounds of Tindalos, murderous gugs, lethal lunarmas, a regiment of robots, and spectacular star-soaring solar dragons! Best of all, when you back this project YOU get to help decide which monsters make the cut! Vote early and often for your favorite featured creatures as we keep adding more and more to this beautiful book!”

Solar Dragon by Tanyaporn Sangsnit
Solar Dragon by Tanyaporn Sangsnit

Wanna-lancer Reward Add-ons:

Xenobiologist: Add $150 to select an existing monster from any published source; your monster automatically gets added to the Alien Bestiary and converted for Starfinder and 5th Edition rules. We can’t duplicate creatures from non-OGL sources, like 2nd Edition space-fantasy games involving a Jammer of Spells, but we’ll work with you to create something awesome and evocative of the original! Your pledge includes a beautiful illustration to accompany whatever you create, and you’ll be listed in that compendium’s credits as a Xenobiologist and you’ll receive a high-res PDF (and high-quality print along with a print order) of your sponsored creature!

Join the Space Program: Add $200 to submit a Starfinder or 5th Edition character for one of the races in the Alien Codex (or any of the standard Starfinder RPG races)! Your character will be included as one of the standard NPCs for your chosen race, and your character will be beautifully illustrated. You’ll be listed in the credits as a Astronaut Adventurer and you’ll receive a high-res PDF (and high-quality print along with a print order) of your sponsored illustration!

It Came from Outer Space! Add $300 to help design a new monster for inclusion in the Alien Bestiary! Your name will be listed in the final compilation as a Space Spawner and you’ll receive a high-res PDF (and high-quality print along with a print order) of the monster you create!”

Ysoki Rogue by Arrahman Rendi

Egg’s Thoughts:

Monsters for 5e, Pathfinder, or Starfinder, and you can create a monster for it, and they have art like the Solar Dragon… I know my level of interest is through the roof! I believe that this does not need any more selling, you know if you need this in your library or not so here’s the link.

 

You can see examples of Legendary Games work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

3) SideQuests II: More Easy Adventure Modules for 5E DnD by Dominic M.
Ends on Sun, October 1 2017 5:02 PM EDT.

“Another collection of one-shot 5E Dungeons & Dragons adventures, designed to easily implement into your campaign setting.

SideQuests are back!

SideQuests are a collection of short adventures designed for Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons. These one-shot style campaigns are designed to be compelling standalone stories that can be implemented, played through, and completed in just a few sessions. Whether you’re using them as a filler adventure between your own major story arcs, as one-offs to play with people unfamiliar to D&D, or just because you forgot to plan your next session, the second edition of SideQuests aims to be even more invaluable tools for your DM toolbox.

SideQuests II: The Covers
SideQuests II: The Covers

Each campaign comes with a variety of customization features: Adventure Hooks and Epilogues — so you can naturally ease your players in and out of each and every quest. SideQuests are designed to work in tandem with your own campaigns, so you can easily substitute anything within the modules for your own original content. Each volume also comes with a variety of role-playing, puzzle, looting, and combat scenarios, so players will enjoy them no matter what they personally value in a roleplaying adventure.

Every adventure module comes as a full-colour, beautifully designed PDF, as well as a more minimal print version: So you can either print the modules off, or run them digitally straight off of your laptop or tablet. Every module features stunning design, original artwork, and gorgeous photography.”

 

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

2) Dungeons & Dragons 5E Module: Secrets of Oyster Cove by Ramen Sandwich Press
Ends on Sun, October 1 2017 8:34 PM EDT.

“Places by the Way #3: Secrets of Oyster Cove is a short location module for Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition.

Welcome to Ramen Sandwich Press’ third Kickstarter campaign in support of Places by the Way. This campaign offers one last chance to pre-order copies of the Limited Edition of Places by the Way #3: Secrets of Oyster Cove.

Secrets of Oyster Cove

Places by the Way

For those of you who missed our first two campaigns, Places by the Way is a series of short modules that I’m creating for use with Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition. They work fine as short stand-alone adventures, but each Places by the Way module is meant to be a kit for creating a memorable interlude in a larger campaign. Each entry in the series consists of two versions sold separately but similar in content. One version is set in the Forgotten Realms, so Ramen Sandwich Press sells it exclusively through Dungeon Masters Guild. The other version assumes a generic setting and complies with WotC’s Open Game License. It’s available through DriveThru RPG, RPGNow and Dungeon Masters Guild, and a print version is available through Amazon and other online outlets.”

 

You can see examples of Ramen Sandwich Press work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

1) Artifices of Quartztoil Tower – 5E Adventure – Only $10! by Nord Games 
Ends on Wed, October 4 2017 12:00 AM EDT.

“An exciting 3-5 session adventure playable at any level for use as a side quest or part of a main storyline!

A town is beset by incursions from strange creatures; constructs of metal, magic, and old bones. All signs point to the mysterious Quartztoil Tower, standing tall over the mountains to the north, and thought long abandoned. Rumors of the magical secrets contained within have not gone unnoticed, however, and others are drawn to the tower by dark dreams, and darker voices…

Book Specs

Page Count: 50-60
Color: Full Color
Binding: Perfect Bound Softcover
Paper: Glossy”

 

You can see examples of Nord Games work at DMsGuild  here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

Egg’s Thoughts for SideQuests II, Secrets of Oyster Cove, and Artifices of Quartztoil Tower:

SideQuests and Secrets of Oyster Cove and Artifices of Quartztoil Tower are one-shot modules for 5e. They’re meant to be insert adventures between a larger campaign. They all have a great deal to offer and could fill a hole in your campaign or, collectively, be your campaign.

I want to draw attention to Artifices of Quartztoil Tower because the art is amazing and Nord Games has produced some outstanding products. Top that off with a $10 price tag and it’s a winner!

 

* * * * * *

 

Signal Boost:

Robert Asprin’s The Cold Cash War – A role playing game setting, for the Savage Worlds and Cepheus System, based on Robert Asprin’s The Cold Cash War. From Battlefield Press International

 

* * * * * *

 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to DriveThruRPG.com.

Savage Worlds: Fast, Furious, and Fun! - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

 

* * * * * *

 

 

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt orwall clock or ice tea glass!

* * * * * *

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

Dragon Con 2017 Recap

Dragon Con always feels a bit like coming home. Even when the numbers of attendees keep going up and up, even when more hotels are added, and even when we take over more and more of downtown, there is just something about Dragon Con that makes it feel different. Long before Georgia became Hollywood South, this was the place for those actors on the shows and movies we all loved would come by for a visit. They would gather us all around and tell their stories to all who would listen.

And for a little while, the gulf between our lives and their lives disappeared.

I hadn’t thought about it much before Friday night, but I’ve been coming to Dragon Con since 1993 when Chad Shonk’s father dropped us off at the entrance to the hotel and we made our way to see Todd McFarlane.

I still have my signed Amazing Spider-Man 300.

It was my first convention. Heck, it was pretty much my first idea that such things even existed. You mean creators of the Funny Books I love to read are coming to my town? I’m sold.

About 10 years ago I convinced my wife to come to Dragon Con for a day. Serenity either had just come out or was coming out, so virtually the entire cast was going to be there. She went, had a great time, and while it took a couple of years before she would be a regular, it has become our little vacation in the city for Labor Day Weekend.

2017

My big take aways for this year were:

  • Standing in lines is not a lot of fun.
  • Standing in lines and not getting into the panel you wanted is really no fun.
  • Being in the overflow room for a panel and then having the feed cut out is just right out.
  • Avoid the dealer’s room on Saturday if at all possible.
  • There are a lot of people in Downtown Atlanta on Labor Day weekend!
  • It never gets old to see the people coming in for the Chic-fil-a Kickoff Classic (college football game for those who don’t know) have confused looks on their faces at the various costumes running around.
  • The costumes continue to impress me year after year. I stand in awe to those people’s dedication to their craft.
  • I love listening to the actors when they are passionate about their work.
  • Catching up with friends might be the single best part.

This year took a different turn when the day before we were to go downtown, Courtney found a hotel room available within 2 blocks of the Hyatt. And we could get it for only Friday and Saturday night. Since we normally don’t go down until Friday and almost never go on Monday, this worked out perfectly.

Throughout the course of the weekend, we’re always amazed at the level of costumes and the creativity everyone has. Whether it is the Zoltar machine from the movie BIG to a robot controlled Stewie from Family Guy, people continue to push the boundaries for the next cool thing. Which is awesome to see, even if I don’t envy the amount of time it might take them to create.

Friday

Somehow on Friday morning, even after getting there at 9:30 for a 10:00 panel, we were forced to the overflow for Nathan Fillion. No biggie. He’s honestly entertaining enough that after a few minutes I mostly forgot he wasn’t in the room… until the Feed cut out for about 10 minutes, and then when they got the audio back, it was probably another 5 before we got the visual. Not anything crushing, but not the way we want to start things off. After seeing him, I realized we’re not doing our due diligence having not seen Con Men (though it was on this weekend, so I have them recorded).

After an aborted attempt to see Wallace Shawn (Inconceivable!) and a decision not to try to fight my way into the Stan Lee panel (they started lining up 2+ hours early), we decided to venture over to the dealer’s room in an attempt to see the wares before the craziness of the weekend really kicked into gear. Last year there was a line to get in by about 2:30, so we made sure we showed up closer to when it opened at 1.

Here’s the thing about the Dealer’s room that I’ll never understand: why is it people stand in the middle of the aisles and talk to each other? I don’t mean the “hey, let’s go this way” but full conversations. Given how packed the room gets, I’d think you’d want to do such things in an area where you wouldn’t be obstructing traffic.

While Friday’s trip was more about identifying potential buys on Sunday, Egg had put me on the look out for Kevin Hearne‘s Iron Druid Chronicles which my wife pointed out after about 2 minutes in the room. I ended up speaking with Kevin for a few minutes and grabbed a couple of copies of the comic.

The final panel attempt on Friday was one for the Gilmore Girls featuring Sean Gunn. Apparently, a room which holds 350 people is not enough by about 50 people and superfan that my wife is – was shut out.

I feel like this is the second time we’ve missed out on a Gilmore Girls/Sean Gunn panel… but maybe it’s just a false feeling of Deja vu?

We dropped in on TesseraGuild’s own Amanda Makepeace (and daughter) who was busy holding down her table in the art area. Prints were flying off her table and, spoiler alert, she ended up winning the “Best Space Scene” at the Dragon Con Art Show!

War for Jupiter

Saturday

Waking up on Saturday with an extra hour of sleep (due to not having to drive into downtown) was nice. I also realized that the 10 AM panels don’t necessarily fill up (unless you’re Nathan Fillion, I guess). There was no line, the Con could let you right into the room.

John Cusack was interesting as he’d never been to Dragon Con before, but he also wasn’t there to actively promote a project. So it really became a series of questions from the audience about all of his movies. I wasn’t sure if he just wasn’t as comfortable in such a setting or what. You could tell when he was really engaged with a question based solely on the length of his responses. Possibly because he’d answered the question a million time previously, some of his answers ended up being slightly longer Yes/No responses.

Though, I don’t want it to seem like it was a bad panel, far from it. Just that many times on these type question/answer sessions the worry is always “how many questions can we get them to answer?” and this was a bit more like “I’m going to get through all the questions.”

The highlight question was:

“Do you ever get stopped in real life by someone who wants 2 dollars?”

A laugh. “Every day… every day.”

The Flash panel reminded me that it is beyond cool that John Wesley Shipp is a part of the cast. To have that link to the old show and to see how much he respects these actors and the work they put in… it’s amazing. Danielle Panabaker was definitely the star of the panel as the majority of the questions went to her (many with the questions centered around her Killer Frost alter-ego).

The highlight of the evening was supposed to be The Barrowman Show. As soon as we saw such a thing existed we were set ongoing. Apparently, everyone else at Dragon Con had the same idea and it filled up completely. I can only imagine the craziness that went on behind closed doors.

Sunday

On Sunday, we began with another DC Universe panel: Arrow.

One thing about the highly entertaining Arrow panel or as it came to be called: Game of Arrow. Thea (Willa Holland) was/is clearly obsessed with the show. She had theories, she had thoughts about the end of the season. It was hilarious how she’d get going on a rant before the moderator tried to steer things back to Arrow. And then one of the others would push her to keep talking about it.

She says she wants to guest on a podcast to talk about it. I think you could do far worse than her. Plus she clearly knows her stuff. At the very least she’d bring a passion about the show!

Then it was onto a fan run panel about LEGION. If you haven’t seen the show, you can check out my review here. Lots of theories and thoughts were thrown out. I even supplied my own thoughts about the show – how maybe the reason we’re not sure of when exactly takes place is that just like any memories you have – we’re always wrong about when they take place. I mean, how many times have you thought a movie was only 5 years old when it came out over a decade ago?

In what has become a staple at Dragon Con over the last few years, I end up closing out things in the Venture Bros panel. Regardless of whether the show has a season ongoing or about to come out or nowhere near debuting… things are going to be funny and weird. This year the panel was made up of many of the voices from the show (including Dr. Venture and Wide Whale). Sadly, Doc Hammer and Jackson Public weren’t able to be there – apparently hard at work on the next season!

So I suppose I forgive them.

They showed off a book of artwork, sketches, character designs, etc. coming out in late Fall from Dark Horse which looked very cool (and something I need to add to the old wishlist). The trailer is here.

We capped off the evening with dinner with a couple of friends where we occupied that poor server’s table for far too long, but it had been far too long since we’d seen John and Jeane, so we didn’t have much of a choice!

I also attended a writing workshop session (as well as another writing related panel – at this point I couldn’t tell you what days they were actually held!) run by Michael Stackpole: 21 Days to a Novel. I still need to transcribe my notes, but I’m interested in giving the technique a proper try on my next project.

As we made our drive back, a little of the con depression began to creep in, but considering my month of Gen Con and then this convention that might have been exhaustion more than anything else.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list to learn about the upcoming The Gilded Age Kickstarter.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

 

4 RPG Kickstarters You Should Back – Sins, Vanagard, Pythos, and Vasty Wilds

This week I look at RPG Kickstarters for two narrative/storytelling games, two games featuring anthropomorphic animals, one high fantasy game, and one game called SINS and in my mind, those numbers total four games. Let’s count’em down!

 

4) Vanagard by Pendelhaven
Ends on Thu, September 14 2017 6:16 AM EDT.

“Vanagard is a collaborative table-top story telling game.

 

When the world was young, the Vanir gods explored the world tree and established their home in Vanagard. Freya, goddess of life and death gave birth to her Vanfolk- anthropomorphic animals with amazing talents and unbridled curiosity.

The Vanfolk come in many forms: wolves, bears, ravens, rabbits, among many other shapes and sizes. Their home is known as Phantom-Wood and many memorable stories can be forged within this mystical glade.

More often then not, Vanfolk curiosity and wanderlust lure them beyond the boundaries of their home. As they explore the world tree Yggdrasil, adventure is sure to find them.

When faced with challenges, the Vanfolk collaborate in order to persevere. Their teamwork forges their legacy as one of the most amazing creatures to inhabit this brave new world.

To get more of an idea of the possible stories, you can visit: Vanagard Stories

Vanagard is a collaborative story telling game that utilizes some role-playing and board-game elements. At its core, it’s a game of exploration, teamwork and adventure.

2-6 players will take turns revealing story cards and weaving a continuous story that will take their Vanfolk on an unforgettable adventure. While one player weaves a tale inspired by the story card, the others will play their Vanfolk, overcoming the challenges presented. Each player at the table will get a chance to reveal a story card and will get to spin their portion of the story. If you like the stories of Narnia and Red Wall, this game is for you.

The simple core mechanics ensure that Vanagard is playable by a wide range of player, from age 7 to 77. There are 6 talents in the game, and they appear on both Nature cards and Talent cards. These talents are used to overcome the challenges presented in the scene. Runes are drawn to set type and difficulty of the challenge.

Players may create their Vanfolk characters as they play, ensuring that you can jump right into the action from the moment you open up the box.

EXTEND the game with new card decks. As the Vanfolk increase their level, add-on decks present a natural evolution to the rules. These add-on decks include magic items (relics), spells, profession cards and other goodies that evolve the Vanfolk as they embark on a series of adventures.

Add-on decks will also include new tools for the story-teller, in the form of challenge decks, story plots and many more interesting features. All of these are optional add-ons allowing you to tailor the game experience to your personal taste.

You can check out an example of BETA play on our youtube channel: Example Play and Kids at Play

We will be uploading more videos during the kickstarter, so stay tuned!”

Egg’s Thoughts:

The art is fully human-anthropomorphic Watership Down featuring beasts facing the end times; their mission would be called a forlorn hope, but there is no hope – That’s the art. The game’s synopsis is not that dark, but these creatures rendered with thousand-yard stares evoke a world that has seen too much and is hurling toward its conclusion. There is pain and a tone that screams keep it serious and meaningful at the table and tell stories with gravity and that’s what Vanagard is, a collaborative storytelling game with elements of RPG and board games. As a system, it’s the gaming smorgasbord. As a setting, I’d love to tell tales that compliment the art.

 

You can see examples of Pendelhaven work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

3) Pythos Tabletop RPG by Star Lit Games
Ends on Fri, September 15 2017 10:00 PM EDT.

“Simultaneous action combat in a world of mythological fantasy, inspired by ancient myths and cultures from around the world.

Playtester Praise:

“I loved the ease of the system. Simple to pick up and use.”

“Straight forward and nicely balanced in complexity.”

“Really fun and unique.”

“Very simple and adaptable.”

“Great for a beginner to acclimate to a gaming system.”

“Having combat phases execute simultaneously lends itself to significantly more cerebral, methodical pace-making decisions; and larger, long-term plans are rewarded over spontaneous decisions.”

“Removes the ‘What is the optimal move?’ discussion from the table”

(On the topic of running combat) “It is very simple and straightforward to run. I was thinking ‘There’s got to be more to this.’ It is surprisingly easy.”

Pythòs is a high-magic fantasy campaign setting, but one shrouded in a mysterious veil of powers beyond mortal control. Gods are most certainly real, but their powers are limited and their ways unknown. Very few mortals can grasp their intentions, but everyone has their own beliefs. The practice of every form of worship (or lack thereof) can likely be found somewhere.

Even more terrifying than the gods, titans of colossal size and enormous power have existed since before the first dawn on Pythòs, longer even than the gods themselves. Many believe them to be physical embodiments of the forces of nature; their immense presence is only ever felt when they awaken from slumber for short periods of seemingly mindless destruction.

The people of Pythòs, referred to as mortals, are as diverse as the people of Earth. Mortals vary in size, features, skin color, temperament, and ideals; even more so with the existence of magic and mysterious heritages. There also exists vast cultural and technological diversity, with only a couple civilizations having discovered the strength of steel, while others having not yet realized the utility of iron or even bronze.

Much of this world was inspired by mythologies and ancient cultures on Earth. Some names of locations, peoples, monsters, gods, and titans can be easily recognized by those with an eye for history and culture, while other influences are more subtle. The result of this melting pot of ideas is a unique world where many mythologies come together to bring out fantastic stories of heroes and legends, war and magic, terrible devastations and glorious triumphs.”

Pythos Worldmap by Cornelia Yoder, http://www.corneliayoder.com
Pythos Worldmap by Cornelia Yoder, http://www.corneliayoder.com

Wanna-lancer™ Reward:

“Pledge $500 or more

Legendary Hero

Contribute a legendary character to the Pythòs core book (see the full description in the “Rewards” section of the story for details), and everything included at the “Virtual Pythos with the Creator” level.

Includes:

  • Contribute a Legendary Character to the Core Book
  • Play Pythos with the Creator Online
  • Pythos Core Book
  • Set of Action Cards
  • Set of Maneuver Cards
  • Everything in the “PDF Package”

Egg’s Thoughts:

Pythos is a high fantasy setting and a new system that features simultaneous action combat. If you’re curious about the mechanics, they have a video on the Kickstarter that explains how they address action. If their system interests you, they have a wanna-lancer* pledge level that allows you to leave an impression on the game by creating a legendary character for the core rulebook.

 

*Wanna-lancer™ – A gamer that’s pursuing freelance RPG work. Some back RPG Kickstarters that offer rewards to create NPCs, spells, items, adventures, etc. in order to build up their resume, make contact with publishers, and learn what’s expected on assignments.

 

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

2) Vasty Wilds: The Card-Based Board Game by Chuck Stover 
Ends on Mon, September 18 2017 12:06 AM EDT.

“A card-based board game for 2-4 players aged 12+. Expand the forest to gain progress and to bring misfortune for your opponent.

“One day, the Humans had tormented the Earth until it could take no more, and the Humans ended. Then the Voles created their civilization and disturbed the smaller things of the Earth until the Voles ended as well. Now the tiny creatures of the forest compete to find the artifacts and knowledge left by the fallen empires so that they too can mess it all up in their turn.”

In Vasty Wilds, players take on the role of a small forest creature chasing after objectives in an ever-expanding forest. The player who collects all her goals first wins! The variable setup of each game means the shape of the forest (the board) will be different with each playthrough.”

Clockwise: An arboreal squid, a confused messenger, and a brush quagga
Clockwise: An arboreal squid, a confused messenger, and a brush quagga

Egg’s Thoughts:

Not a role-playing game or a wanna-lancer opportunity, instead I am reviewing Vasty Wilds because the art made me stop and stare. It has shades of Mouse Guard in its subject matter and palette. I’m a fan that owns the Mouse Guard comics and RPG so when I say that Chuck Stover’s art reminds me of the work by his fellow Michigander, David Peterson, I mean it as a compliment.

The art is enough to make me curious about this card/board game and I may buy it just to look at the check out the pretty pictures. If you love anthropomorphic animals and great art, click the link to the campaign.

Oh… and this art…

Flying squirrel with a fork. Victory!!!!!

 

 

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

1) SINS – The Roleplaying Game by Paul Moore
Ends on Tue, September 19 2017 7:40 AM EDT.

SINS

“A narrative-driven tabletop Roleplaying game focused on telling the stories of powerful beings known as Nemissaries in a dying world.

At its heart, SINS is a narrative role-playing game, specifically focused on telling the stories of powerful entities known as Nemissaries – reborn individuals back from the dead with a wealth of mysterious powers, who have risen once more to fight an eldritch hive-mind of the undying, known as the Brood, in the post-apocalyptic ruins of a 22nd Century Earth.

For all its high-octane combat and supernatural forces, SINS is a cinematic game about choice, morality and the consequences which come from wielding great and terrible power in a world desperate for heroes and leaders. It’s also about embarking on life-changing adventures, battling supernatural horrors, and often, simply surviving life in an unforgiving world fraught with danger, where even the Nemissaries’ great powers won’t necessarily protect them.”

SINS

Wanna-lancer™ Reward:

“Pledge £150 or more
About $193

SINS – Shardwalker

– The opportunity to liaison and work directly with our writers to have an appropriated character of your own design put into our next book and first supplement – SINS: Manifest Destiny – as a Major NPC. This character will be worked into the lore of the SINS world, and fully illustrated in the book by our artist Will Kirkby. You will also receive a print of the original artwork.
– The opportunity to have one of our writers GM a session of SINS for you. We will liason directly with you to make travel and hosting arrangements for the game. Subject to travel costs and location.
– And more.”

Egg’s Thoughts:

SINS is a narrative game set in the post-apocalypse that features great art – that skull art is tattoo-tastic – and a wanna-lancer opportunity. Your character can appear in the book as drawn by Will Kirkby. If I backed this one, I’d have to tell the story of that skull.

 

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

Signal Boost:

Modern Adventures Tabletop RPG – Take up sword and gun to seek fame and fortune in this gritty fantasy game set in modern-day Earth. For the Pathfinder RPG system. From Higher Grounds Publishing.

 

Jump in your Starfighter for Era: Balam – A Project Of Earth – Explore a solar system and defend Humanity from an alien fleet! Era: Balam runs on your choice of Era d10, FATE or Savage Worlds! From Shades of Vengeance.

 

Robert Asprin’s The Cold Cash War – A role playing game setting, for the Savage Worlds and Cepheus System, based on Robert Asprin’s The Cold Cash War. From Battlefield Press, Inc.

 

* * * * * *

 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to DriveThruRPG.com.

Savage Worlds: Fast, Furious, and Fun! - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

 

* * * * * *

 

 

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt orwall clock or ice tea glass!

* * * * * *

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

 

 

 

 

3 RPG Kickstarters You Should Back – City of Seven Seraphs, Quests of Doom 4, and Gauntlets & Goblins

This week, I look at three amazing RPG Kickstarters. One for kids, one for 5e, and one with vibrant art that fits the angelic theme. Let’s count them down.

 

3) Gauntlets & Goblins by Ian Gibson
Ends on Saturday, September 9 2017 8:18 AM EDT.

“A Role-playing game for adults to play with kids. Simple and engaging.

Gauntlets & Goblins is the result of my nephew’s desire to play the kind of games that mommy, daddy, and his uncle played. I took the concepts of conventional RPGs and boiled them down to the absolute simplest form. As a result, G&G has all the essence of a full fledged experience in a package that a six year old can understand.

Gameplay: We use cards and symbols to make the game as manageable as possible for young players. Dice mechanics are simple, roll a set amount and count your successes. Spellcasting is a breeze with easy to grasp, conceptual spells like fly, enlarge, or disguise. Combat is engaging and exciting, but not overly threatening. If you run out of heart cards, you just fall down until it’s over.

Game will contain:

  • Four character classes, warrior, thief, mage, and cleric. Each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
  • Equipment cards of three quality levels. Swords, spell books, holy symbols and more.
  • Magic item cards to enhance your adventuring experience.
  • Spell cards that grant you magic that can be used as much as you like.

Try the playtest now! www.gauntletsandgoblins.com

Wanna-lancer™ Reward:

“Pledge $200 or more

Glittering Gold

You will work with us to create a magic item card for inclusion with the game. See the FAQ for guidelines.

You also get the physical edition of the game.”

Egg’s Thoughts:

Gauntlets and Goblins is an all-ages RPG on Kickstarter with an option to create content for the game. Why am I sold? Because I write all-ages game reviews at EN World and I review RPG Kickstarters with wanna-lancer* rewards right here. This is the crossroads of “journalist” Egg and wanna-lancer Egg. Getting to design for an all-ages game would be awesome! Need more details? Try Dan Davenport’s Q&A with Ian Gibson of G&G here. You can find the playtest for G&G here. This is worth checking out!

 

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

*Wanna-lancer™ – A gamer that’s pursuing freelance RPG work. Some back RPG Kickstarters that offer rewards to create NPCs, spells, items, adventures, etc. in order to build up their resume, make contact with publishers, and learn what’s expected on assignments.

 

* * * * * *

 

2) Quests of Doom 4 by Frog God Games
Ends on Sun, September 10 2017 12:33 AM EDT.

“Adventures worth winning for Fifth Edition, Swords and Wizardry, and Pathfinder.

Frog God Games wants your help in bringing to life 16 exciting and challenging adventure modules in the Quests of Doom series. Each adventure is already written and converted, and the maps and art are paid for – they only need to go through layout. After layout, they need to be printed, which is where you all come in!

Art from Quests of Doom 4

Each individual adventure was designed by a veteran author to offer a fun, exciting challenge to your players, and to easily integrate into your game world. If you prefer the Lost Lands Campaign Setting, each module includes specific location details and lore that fit seamlessly into the Lost Lands.”

Egg’s Thoughts:

Fifth edition rules, first edition feel; FGG lives that ethos. It’s Frog God Games, you can’t go wrong. Their work and track record speaks for itself. If you have not experienced it, instead of reading my thoughts, try some of their work like the Sword and Wizardry Complete Rulebook at a suggested PWYW of $0.00 here. After you read that, it will make backing this 5e, Pathfinder, or Swords and Wizardry Kickstarter campaign an easy choice.

 

You can see examples of Frog God Games work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

1) City of Seven Seraphs – A Planar Campaign Capstone for PFRPG by Lost Spheres Publishing
Ends on Sunday, September 10 2017 1:59 AM EDT.

“The City of Seven Seraphs is a fully developed Planar Metropolis for the Pathfinder RPG available in full-color Hardcover and PDF.

Nexus Base Class - Michael Sayre/Design, Liz Courts/Layout & Graphics, Vincent Coviello/Artist for Iconic
Nexus Base Class – Michael Sayre/Design, Liz Courts/Layout & Graphics, Vincent Coviello/Artist for Iconic

The City of Seven Seraphs is a Campaign Capstone sourcebook for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game©. Inspired by epic adventures in the Planes of the 2nd Edtion of the World’s Oldest Fantasy RPG, The City of Seven Seraphs will bring a home to planar adventure for the Pathfinder gaming community and infuse existing campaigns with a new level of otherworldly reality.

Amethyst Angel of the Eternal Dawning
Amethyst Angel of the Eternal Dawning

A fully-realized Planar Metropolis, the City of Seven Seraphs will be a 300+ page full-color, hardcover gaming manual with exclusive content for the Pathfinder RPG system including: 

  • Rich NPCs and Organizations: 14 Planar Organizations, the Parities, which focus on the core Dualities of the Multiverse. Each Parity will have its own story themes and mechanical support such as Archetypes, Prestige Classes, feats and more.
  • 8 Distinct City Districts: Each section of the City of Seven Seraphs will be fully expanded with its own section in the book with plots, locations and mechanical elements to create a vivid tapestry of planar possibility.
  • Planar Mechanics: Dozens of Feats, Spells, and Archetypes to support the Parities and allow your characters to take on the powers of the planes both in the City and in the worlds Beyond.
  • Bestiary & NPC Codex: Dozens of foes and allies statistics for easy use in your planar games. Varied CRs from 1-20+.
  • Expanded Compatibility: Full Support for both the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Occult Adventures system AND the Ultimate Psionics system from Dreamscarred Press. Optional support for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Mythic Adventures and Ultimate series expanded rules (including vehicles, social combat and intrigue).
  • New Base Classes: The book contains new base classes, the Nexus, a veilweaving class which gains the ability to take on the mantles of various outsiders to allow PCs to gain the powers of the Planes, and the Shadewalker a traveler of the dark roads between. Could there be more? We seem awfully fond of 7s.
  • New Races and fresh takes OGL Classic Races: New races like the judow, and inevitable-spawn people influenced by kyton or the a fresh-look at the ceptu (from Epidemic Books Oathbound: Seven) a races of telekinetic invertibrates!
  • Campaign Toolkit: Rules for planar adventure, intrigue and advice on how the City connects to your existing campaigns and links them to each other!”
New Nexus Base Class
New Nexus Base Class

Contributor:

N. Jolly (Racial Design and Planar Mechanics): “N. Jolly is widely regarded as a hero by most, having been involved in numerous successful kickstarter projects including the Forest Kingdom Campaign Compendium and Spheres of Might. Known for his skill with mechanics as well as flavor, he’s a well seasoned writer who brings his own unique flair to this project in order to make sure it turns out ehncredible.” Patreon link.

Egg’s Thoughts:

This art! It’s Pathfinder, it’s an interesting concept, but it’s Vincent Coviello’s art that pushes it over the top! Follow the link and check it out, it’s worth taking a peak just to see Vincent’s artistic skills.

Also, N. Jolly is contributing to this project. I’m shouting him out for no reasons other than he’s a nice dude and his work on this product is going to help knock it out of the park and it leads to my signal boost below.

 

You can see examples of Lost Spheres Publishing work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

Art from the City of Seven Seraphs… I mean, come on! This is soooooo nice looking!

 

* * * * * *

 

Signal Boost:

Let’s bridge to this first signal boost by mentioning that N. Jolly (from City of Seven Seraphs above) is working on Modern Adventures.

Modern Adventures Tabletop RPG – Take up sword and gun to seek fame and fortune in this gritty fantasy game set in modern-day Earth. For the Pathfinder RPG system. From Higher Grounds Publishing.

Read more about N. Jolly on this project here.

 

Jump in your Starfighter for Era: Balam – A Project Of Earth – Explore a solar system and defend Humanity from an alien fleet! Era: Balam runs on your choice of Era d10, FATE or Savage Worlds! From Shades of Vengeance.

 

Robert Asprin’s The Cold Cash War – A role playing game setting, for the Savage Worlds and Cepheus System, based on Robert Asprin’s The Cold Cash War. From Battlefield Press, Inc.

 

* * * * * *

 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to DriveThruRPG.com.

Savage Worlds: Fast, Furious, and Fun! - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

 

* * * * * *

 

 

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

* * * * * *

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

Gen Con 2017 Recap – Part One

You can read Part Two Here.

Before

For as long as I can remember, for as soon as we learned of its existence, there was talk among my gaming crew about going to Gen Con.

“More games than you can imagine.”

“Artists all over the place.”

“Play games until you can’t see anymore. Then wake up and do it again.”

Yet, it might as well have been El Dorado or some other bit of myth. When you are in Georgia, Wisconsin or Indiana or wherever the convention was being held (“somewhere in the Midwest, right?”), that might as well be on the other side of the globe. Add to the fact that none of us had any money at this point.

A pipe dream. And like most pipe dreams it lingered for a while. Random mentions of it throughout our college years, but no one was ever serious. Heck, we had Dragon Con for all of that “stuff” right in our back yard.

Then as our college days faded and with it all the extra time we seem to have in our youth… well, now we had money, but no time to go do it. And even though we still got together from time to time, many of us had moved away, got married, etc.

You know, the adult stuff.

But it was an itch for one of my friends, Lee. He had always been the one to bring it up. Sometimes out of the blue, always trying to gauge potential interest. Even as people wearied of Dragon Con embracing other “stuff”, he continued to look north.

Last year he was convinced. Sort of a now or never some 25+ years since originally bringing it up. Egg Embry joined him and off to Indiana they went.

I must admit I was jealous. I had the opportunity, but after the trip to Alaska at the beginning of summer, a trip to Indiana didn’t seem the best decision.

When they got back the talk had changed. It was no longer something they wanted to do again… at some point in the future, but they were already planning for 2017. And there was no reason for me not to crash their party this time.

Who would have thought the nerds and geeks would need to take over the football stadium. Awesome!

Day 0

As a comic writer, I’ve done a few conventions over the years, but aside from Dragon Con and New York Comic Con, nothing else compares to the size of Gen Con. They took over Lucas Oil Stadium (where the Colts play) this year because the Convention Center didn’t have enough room. 4-day badges sold out. 60,000+ people.

And every one of them either want to play games, buy games, sell games, or maybe just soak it all up.

We arrived on Wednesday night, managed to get checked into our hotel room, and then headed out to see what trouble we could get into, maybe grab a bite to eat, get the lay of the land.

Indianapolis is flat.

And after a few hours of walking around, I was extremely happy with this situation.

We’d already planned out our gaming sessions back in May/June. The goal was to play about 7 different gaming systems. You see, we’ve been pretty much Dungeons and Dragons players most of our gaming lives. We’ve dabbled in the White Wolf Vampire/Werewolf games. There were at least one West End Games Star Wars campaigns. Even a bunch of one-offs with Palladium’s Rifts and Macros sessions. But this was an opportunity to play different things, branch out a little bit, maybe even figure out that the might be *gasp* a better system than D&D.

Day 1

Vampire 5th edition was held at 10 AM on Thursday, which also coincides with the actual “start” of the convention (basically when the dealer room actually opens). What this really means is a mass of people – and by mass of people I mean thousands of people – are lined up in the convention center waiting to be let in. It was so packed in that area there was enough room for two people to walk past each other if you sucked in your gut and possibly leaned into the other people pressed against the wall.

So it would reason our game was at the far end of this area. If only we had Fezik to clear a path… drowning in the sea of people we somehow pushed, slipped, sidestepped, and probably pissed off a handful of people who thought we were trying to cut in line, we made it to the room and a short time after we started the game.

This was actually a playtest. Whether you’d played Vampire back in the day or not, they were making tweaks to the rules (a good thing for me because all I remembered of the system was that I rolled a lot of 10-sided dice). For the adventure, we were provided pre-generated characters. They had their various stats right there as well as a brief background and desires. Well, I say brief, but it was two pages worth of information before you even reached the stats.

The story was one of a drug deal gone sideways. Personally one of the best moments of the session was when the Game Master said to us “yeah, you’re pretty much off script at this point”. In my head, it was like we had figured out a loophole in the story – and since this was a playtest, it kind of meant we actually were contributing to making the adventure better down the road.

As to the system itself – I enjoyed that when you’re playing a vampire the Hunger is always present. Mechanically they simulated that by having one of your die a different color (red anyone?) and if you rolled a 10 on the special die then things could get… messy.

I did see something in this game that would come up again and again in other games we ended up playing over the weekend. Playing non-combat focused characters works really well in a campaign as there will be plenty of places to really roleplay your abilities, but in a four-hour session where you’ll never play that particular character again… well, it makes things a bit more awkward once combat actually breaks out. It’s not so much that I mind other players being able to do cool things in battle, but more that I wasn’t sure how I might contribute with sub par physical stats.

Lil’ Egg Embry Reporting…

After the game, we rushed out to meet Dan Davenport and his wife, Lisa, for lunch (both extremely nice people who made the wait for our food all the more bearable) (check out Dan’s Blog here). Egg had connected with him online, so this became a great opportunity to put a face to each other. Of course, I’m not sure they knew what they signed up for as Egg peppered the two of them for a complete history of their gaming days. I kept waiting for him to say”Egg Embry, press corps, follow up question on my previous question about the

“Egg Embry, press corps, follow up question on my previous question about the aforementioned item…”

When lunch was finished, we made our way back to the convention center and dove into the Dealer’s room…

***

Hope you enjoyed Part 1, Part 2 will be up next week.

***

John McGuire

John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. Want to read the first issue for free? Click here! Already read it and eager for more?

Click here to join John’s mailing list to learn about the upcoming The Gilded Age Kickstarter.

His prose appears in The Dark That FollowsTheft & TherapyThere’s Something About MacHollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at www.johnrmcguire.com.

8 Independent RPG Kickstarters You Should Back – Redshirts (Starfinder), Lion’s Vault, Mysterious Happenings at Furlong Down, Wicked Pacts, and more

A lot of good RPG Kickstarters get overshadowed by better known publishers or titles. Others, like third-party 5e or Pathfinder products, have to compete against a sea of competition. This week, I’m counting down eight [Good gravy!!!] RPG campaigns that deserve a look. Some of these offer wanna-lancer* rewards that are worth considering into if you want to build your RPG resume.

*Wanna-lancer™ – A gamer that’s pursuing freelance RPG work. Some back RPG Kickstarters that offer rewards to create NPCs, spells, items, adventures, etc. in order to build up their resume, make contact with publishers, and learn what’s expected on assignments.

 

8) Wicked Pacts by The Polyhedral Knights
Ends on Thursday, August 31 2017 10:14 PM EDT.

“A modern day Roleplaying game where players create various types of magic users. Urban fantasy magic meets gritty crime drama.

Wicked Pacts – Grunt Archetype

Unknown to the general public, there are chaotic societies filled with magic, supernatural creatures, and other beings trying to establish themselves in the enchanted world and to promote their self interests regardless of the conflict that ensues. Meanwhile, many of the responsible magic practitioners do their best to shield the Ungifted from the reality of their existence to avoid a modern day witch hunt.  It is in everyone’s best interest not to draw attention to their mystical world.

In Wicked Pacts players create magic users from various types of blood lines, from Pure blooded, half-blooded, Angel blooded, or Demon Blooded. Furthermore, there are a wide variety of magic training thus forging them into an archetype they can pick from in the game. Wicked Pacts features Talents, Complications, and a ton of Spells.

The game mechanics are designed to be fast and easy to learn, but not too easy it waters down the play and detail of the action. Wicked Pacts uses the regular polyhedral dice set and also what we call our Tarot Card element. Each character is linked to an Arcana card in a Tarot Deck. This card and many other cards can be used as fuel for the GM or the Player to affect various elements in the storytelling.”

Wanna-lancer™ Reward:

“Pledge $100 or more
Enchanter

For your pledge, you will be able to work with the creator to help design either a supernatural monster, organization or ultimate bad guy or adventure with full credit to your contribution.”

Egg’s Thoughts:

This is a new dice and Tarot Card combo gaming system that you can help fund. Or, if you want to create content for this setting/system, you can pledge to create a substantial element for it. You can write up an organization or adventure which could have an impact on the direction of this game. Their wanna-lancer reward gives you the chance to influence Wicked Pacts from the start.

 

You can see examples of The Polyhedral Knights work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

7) Lion’s Vault Module for 5th Edition D&D & Pathfinder RPG by 2CGaming
Ends on Friday, September 1 2017 12:00 AM EDT.

“The Lion’s Vault – Part 3 of the Fate of the Forebears adventure path for 5th Edition D&D and Pathfinder RPG.

Lion’s Vault is the third chapter of the Fate of the Forebears Adventure Path, beginning immediately after the close of City of Sands module. The players must now venture out into the desert wastes of the Mirrored Steppes to uncover the secrets of an ancient city in ruins. Characters must withstand an ever-present corruption that feasts on their will, while they race treasure hunters and bandits through trapped-filled ruins to find the corruption’s source, an unspeakable horror protected by an ageless guardian.

The 80+ page adventure is setting agnostic, but with original locations and written for both Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition as well as the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. The module will take characters from level 9 to level 11 and brings them through three narrative acts of a story arc, yielding 10-12 sessions of play. It is the continuation of the second module of Fate of the Forebears AP, City of Sands, which, in turn, picks up after the first module, Domes of Ishaq-Zahur.

In addition to the module, there will be an opportunity to pledge for digital assets in addition to PDF and print versions, which will allow you to easily run it online through virtual tabletop as well as at your table.

The destruction and terror the Nartheneen scepter caused on the metropolis of Archensheen will mark the city for decades. But even as the warring factions of the city fell to its power, it was clear that its evil source came from somewhere. Following a trail of disreputable treasure hunters, it is learned that a long-ruined Nartheneen city in the wastes of the Mirrored Steppes was the source of not only that scepter but all manner of evil and corrupted artifacts.

A dark corruption lies beneath the Nartheneen ruins, tainting everything around it—and this corruption is protected by ancient guardians who will stop at nothing to protect their secrets. What extremes must the adventurers reach to reveal the Nartheneen secrets and what horrors will awaken when they do?”

Egg’s Thoughts:

This is the first of five RPGs that are for either 5e or Pathfinder or both (six if you count Starfinder since it’s akin to Pathfinder/3.5e). With that in mind, each of these 5e/PF adventures deserves a look because they all have something to offer.

 

 

You can see examples of 2CGaming work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

6) The Mysterious Happenings at Furlong Down. 5th ed Adventure by John R Davis
Ends on Friday, September 1 2017 5:31 AM EDT.

“The Mysterious Happenings at Furlong Down is an adventure landscape (mini campaign) for 5th edition D&D. It is for 4-6 2nd level PCs.

The Restless Dead

The Restless Dead

The Mysterious Happenings at Furlong Down is an adventure landscape (mini campaign) for use with 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons. It pays homage to early 1st edition modules such as Bone Hill, Sinister Secret of the Saltmarsh and Against the Cult of the Reptile God. It also draws specific inspiration from the following 1980s small press publications: Starstone by Paul Vernon & the Adventures in Tortured Souls Magazine.

There are at least 20 quests / plots / mysteries to resolve. There is plenty for the PC’s to do.

This Kickstarter is to raise funds to pay for editing and to add as much art, from the most excellent Jonny Gray,  as possible. Some draft illustrations are shown.

This publication will contain:

  • A rural village to investigate, and save?
  • 20 wilderness encounters to overcome.
  • 10 site based adventure areas (with 11 maps), containing about a 100 dungeon ‘rooms’.
  • A random encounter table for the various terrains.
  • A table of rumour, worry and gossip.
  • A map for Hexploration outlining the ranges of the many foul, and fair, creatures that roam the land.
  • Total 32-36 page count PDF in two column format. Size 11 font. Approximately 20,000 words.
  • Access to an at cost Print On Demand.
Torbin, the Village Reeve, is a worried man
Torbin, the Village Reeve, is a worried man

A call for help from a PC’s relative takes the party to the area around the village of Furlong Down. All is not well. A strange pallor has afflicted the village teenagers; farmers report sightings of dangerous beasts. The county was once plagued by a now destroyed vampire, but it still casts a shadow the village cannot escape from.

The half elf scout, Eldrin, brings ill tidings
The half elf scout, Eldrin, brings ill tidings

The PCs should be 5th level by the time they have made the land safe once more. The adventure is suitable for a whole range of classes, and races.”

Wanna-lancer™ Reward:

Too many to list. They start at £7 (about $9) and let you create undead, sprites, warriors, and more.

Jared, Volunteer for the Village Patrol, is no match for the challenges ahead

Egg’s Thoughts on The Cruellest Mistress Of All:

I backed John R. Davis’ The Cruellest Mistress Of All Kickstarter and pledged for a vanity press reward. My pledge allowed me to get the adventure and the prequel as well as create and write a setting and NPCs. The reward let me write a location but John let me sneak in a pair of NPCs to enhance the flavoring. John was easy to work with, very open to my ideas, and offered a lot of praise (and may use the setting/NPCs in a future volume of his adventure path. That was a validating conversation). CMoA was a nice addition to my RPG resume and pleasant work experience.

For John’s campaign, I gave £15 (about $24 at the time). If I hadn’t pledged for that, I would have gone with the Forgotten Souls level (£14 or about $21) that included the prequel adventure, the adventure for CMoA and the gazetteer. My wanna-lancer cost was a pound or about $3 (all January, 2016 conversions and poor rounding). The adventure is fun, the art is solid, and my writing appears in the product. I count this as a win!

[UPDATE – 2017-08-29 at 13:23 – After I messaged John R Davis about this post, he emailed me about my CMoA submission –

Hi Egg
Thanks for the support
One of your merfolk is pencilled in to become sea-dragon food in Part 4 of Keranow! Might feel a bit guilty about that now!
regards
John

John cracks me up! Support his newest campaign here.]

Egg’s Thoughts on The Mysterious Happenings at Furlong Down. 5th ed Adventure:

Based on my experience with John R. Davis, this is an easy recommendation. I expect a great adventure, great art, probably some extras, and John is very open to including your ideas. The base cost is £5/$7 or you can create content for £7/$9. The extra cost is negligible and a great resume builder. I cannot recommend it enough!

 

You can see examples of John R. Davis’ work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

5) Redshirts: A Starfinder Comedy Adventure Path (Levels 1-3) by Happy Gnome Publishing
Ends on Friday, September 1 2017 6:49 PM EDT.

“Sometimes the greatest adventure in space is simply surviving the orders of your captain. Redshirts brings laughs to your gaming table.

Chief of Security, Mitzy Stuffington

Redshirts: Adventures in Absurdity (Vol. 1) is a Starfinder compatible Adventure Path, guaranteed to have your PCs laughing hysterically from one end of the galaxy to the other.

Critics have called it “The Office meets Survivor…in space.”

Unlike most RPGs which set up the PCs to achieve great heroic victories over threats to the very existence of the world, Redshirts is more a game of survival, as in can the PCs survive the ridiculous orders of the command crew. Redshirts is perfect for players wishing to emulate the tone of comedic Space-Opera settings such as Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Futurama, or Spaceballs. It parodies and builds upon popular Sci-fi settings and tropes, while building its own niche.

The final product will be between 100-120 pages, and will include 5 pre-gen characters for those that just want to pick up and play. It is available in PDF, softback, and hardcover (all in full color).

Redshirts plays like a combination of a Role-playing game and an improv comedy routine (always say “yes”), as the PCs run the crew’s most dangerous errands. Vol. 1 encompasses the first three “missions” and takes the PCs from level 1 to level 3.

  • Mission 1: The Terrible Tacos: When Captain Ginny wakes up after a weekend bender with an intense craving for tacos, she decides to send her newly arrived recruits on their first mission. Unfortunately for the recruits, the local Taco Galaxy is under deadly new management.
  • Mission 2: The Cheaper Cleaner: Stuck in a surveillance mission around a dying star, first officer Laisse Faire decides to save a few credits and send the PCs to pick up his dry cleaning instead of paying for delivery. He’s sure the quarantine around the planet won’t be a problem.
  • Mission 3: The Pirate Bonanza: When several important pieces of the ship’s engine go missing, the PCs are sent shopping at the local space pirate flea market with a budget of $0 and the Captain expecting change back. Can the PCs get the ship back in working order or will they end up swabbing the decks of a pirate ship for the rest of their days?

Redshirts: Adventure in Absurdity (Vol. 1) will include the following new things that can be used in any Starfinder game:

3 new specific settings (2 space stations and a planet) which will include statistics and maps.

6 new playable races including: Door-tu-Dorans, Plushians, Aggressians, Mongrels, Pointers, and Beardies.

15 new monsters/NPCs to challenge your PCs, each with full stat blocks and artwork.

Detailed backstory for the Confederation of United Nebuls, Terrestials, and Sidereals (The people who pay the PCs tiny salary). The name of this huge bureaucracy refers to the three types of creatures eligible for citizenship in the Confederation:

  • Nebuls (creatures born on non-human worlds or races without significant amounts of human DNA)
  • Terrestials (Creatures born on human worlds with a significant amount of human DNA)
  • Sidereals (creatures naturally born in space or difficult to categorize)”

Wanna-lancer™ Reward:

“Pledge $200 or more
Design an NPC

Backers at this level will work with the design team to create an NPC crew member that will appear throughout the Redshirts adventure path. This character can be of any race that exists or we can design a new one to fit it. The character will receive a prominent role in the overall storyline, and will have original artwork designed for it. This backer level will also receive front cover credit as a designer…

Pledge $500 or more
Design a mission

A backer at this level can work with us to design an entire 25-35 page mission including creating new NPCS, races, monsters, and a planetary (or space based) setting. Includes up to 5 pieces of original artwork based on your creation. Backers at this level will be credited in the front cover as a designer.”

Egg’s Thoughts:

Paizo’s Starfinder was crazy popular at Gen Con 50 and sold out in seven hours on the first day of the show. Rumor at the con was Paizo brought 150% of the largest inventory they’d ever brought to a show. 7 hours ate that. Demos for Starfinder had hour-long lines even on Sunday. There is an appetite for Starfinder that Paizo and third party publishers are working to meet. That brings us to Redshirts: A Starfinder Comedy Adventure Path (Levels 1-3) by Happy Gnome Publishing. Launched with a 60-day funding period, this Kickstarter used its longer-than-normal length to ride the growing wave of interest in Starfinder and reach a wider audience. They’re developing a setting that lampoons Star Trek within the Starfinder setting. Interested in designing a NPC or an adventure early in the lifecycle of Starfinder? This campaign offers an opportunity to do just that. You can show off your chops with one of the hottest games in 2017.

 

You can see examples of Happy Gnome Publishing work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

4) The Draw of Glenfallow, a 5th edition adventure module by Sinopa Publishing LLC
Ends on Friday, September 1 2017 9:00 PM EDT

“A role playing game adventure module for the 5th edition game mechanic. If you like Dungeons and Dragons this is for you. RPG DND 5e

Sample image from play test draft
Sample image from play test draft

Pieron was just another commoner until an encounter with a mysterious woman and a magical deck of cards changed his destiny.  Now Pieron is seeking out stout companions to aid him in claiming his birthright, the Keep at Glenfallow.

Overrun by monsters a century ago, the keep at Glenfallow now lies in ruin.

Will you help Pieron face unknown peril?  Would you dare to stand beside the future lord of Glenfallow as he struggles to retake what it is rightfully his?  Can you forge the destiny of a newly minted lord?

A host of monsters stand between Pieron and his destiny.  The malicious goblin chief lords over his subjects, and dark creatures stir in the catacombs beneath the keep.

Will you gamble your future on The Draw of Glenfallow?”

Egg’s Thoughts:

This is the third of five RPGs that are for either 5e or Pathfinder or both in this post. The Draw of Glenfallow is the first in a series from Sinopa Publishing LLC. This adventure is currently 48 pages and should grow a bit with maps and art. At $5 for “a PDF copy of the module, … [and] the Encounter Scale System printable encounter map pack”, the price is hard to argue with.

 

You can see examples of Sinopa Publishing LLC work at DriveThruRPG here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

3) What Lies Beyond Reason Part 2; Adventures for Pathfinder/5e by Pyromaniac Press
Ends on Sunday, September 3 2017 8:18 PM EDT.

“An epic adventure that explores themes of madness and obsession, of betrayal and consequence, and the hope of redemption.

The Mad God’s legacy continues to plague the Eternal City!

The Echo of Faith, a twisted spirit obsessed with atoning for her crime of deicide, plunges Anduria deeper into the darkness of the void. Her plans bring the unsuspecting citizens that much closer to the brink of annihilation.

Only a handful of souls are even aware of the coming darkness, and most of those cannot be trusted. The characters are all that stand between the city and utter ruin.

Having survived the mind bending energies of corrupt artifacts, the hungry predation of nightmarish creatures and the plans of sorcerers and devil worshipers, the characters stand on the cusp of understanding just how deep the crisis goes…

The continuing adventures begin to peel away the final layers to allow the players to see the bigger picture at play. All the hints and clues they have gathered so far begin to fit together.

“Sanitarium” (Adventure 4) details the fall from grace of the Healing Hands, an altruistic organisation that has been secretly harboring the divine corpse of the Mad God Aether. The acolytes are about to learn that the aphorism “The road to hell is paved with good intentions” holds truth, as their attempts to siphon off divine energies only accelerate the city’s woes, and that deals with infernal organisations never end well – for anyone. The city will never be the same.

As the dust settles, the characters, armed with knowledge of an arcane ritual that might arrest the slide into madness, must uncover why the city has been bled dry of much needed silver. “Seeking Silver” (Adventure 5) sees the characters uncover the oppression of a nearby mining community at the hands of evil forces and amoral merchants, and the seemingly unconnected events that are actually derived from the same source as the city’s troubles. They must confront a fallen ally and offer them one last chance at redemption…”

Wanna-lancer™ Reward:

“Pledge AU$ 70 (About $55)
Pyromaniac

…the naming and description rights (and statistical input) on an NPC Hero or Villain that will appear in the “Seeking Silver” adventure (submission guidelines apply). Your creation will have bust artwork in the book based on your specifications.”

Egg’s Thoughts:

Another option for the world’s most popular role-playing games, What Lies Beyond Reason offers an epic adventure. What’s the quality like? You can try the What Lies Beyond Reason Player’s Guide for free here. If you like it, they offer a chance for you to submit a NPC to the adventure and get the character drawn.

Also, let’s quote about…

“All of the products from the first kickstarter have received strongly positive reader reviews, but they have also been critiqued by Endzeitgeist a respected and impartial critic who is widely held to be the most prolific reviewer of 3rd party Pathfinder and OSR material to date, with a continually expanding catalogue. He has more recently added 5th edition material to his reviews. He has no compunctions about disassembling material and spotlighting its flaws.

All five products (6 if you count the Player’s Guide) were rated 4.5 stars or better (on a 5 star scale), with two – the Campaign Guide for pathfinder and From the Ashes (adventure 3) for both pathfinder/5th ed – receiving his personal recommendation.

This is a passion project for me – you will only ever get my best work. You don’t have to simply take my word for it, you can read the reviews here.”

You can see examples of Pyromaniac Press work at DriveThruRPG here and their free What Lies Beyond Reason Player’s Guide here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

2) Dimgaard Vol. XXI – 5e DnD Adventures by Dan Hass Endeavors
Ends on Monday, September 4 2017 12:59 AM EDT.

“6 5th edition adventures within 2 story arcs & 2 supplements: Blood Hunter CR0-20 & 1st level Adventuring Days

Dimgaard

Welcome to the 20th volume of Dimgaard’s 5th edition adventures. Thanks for the consideration. If you want to see what a Dimgaard adventure module looks like, here is a sample (the first episode of this volume’s Tyranny in Purple). Also, here is the first episode of the Fey Secrets series.

In this volume we continue with Fey Secrets. We present episodes 16 through 18. We also continue with episodes 5 through 7 of Tyranny in Purple. As bonuses we have the supplement GLD21 Blood Hunter CR0-20 and DGS30 Adventuring Days I (for 1st level PCs).”

Wanna-lancer™ Reward:

“Pledge $100 or more
Sponsor

…Have a favorite PC that you would like to see become a permanent NPC — cool. If you have a reasonable idea, we’ll probably be receptive.”

Egg’s Thoughts:

The Dimgaard adventure path series is huge. Want to try the campaign guide for free, DriveThruRPG has it available here. Want to be a part of one of the longest-running (if not the longest) Kickstarted 5e adventure paths? Here’s your chance to be a part of volume 20. Have a NPC or another cool idea that you want to use to help build this world? Dan Hass Endeavors is open to your ideas.

 

You can see examples of Dan Hass Endeavors work at DriveThruRPG here and the campaign guide for free here.

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

1) Raids: The storytelling RPG by Liam Thornton
Ends on Thursday, September 7 2017 7:00 AM EDT.

“A tabletop roleplaying game with dice. Quick to learn for gamers of all experiences, Raids lets players tell the stories they want to.

What is Raids?

Raids is an immersive storytelling role playing game. I use that description because the focus should be on the stories that the players are creating, with the rules acting as a framework and a guide, rather than constricting them. That’s not to say that Raids won’t offer a challenge for veteran gamers- the base setting is a dark fantasy world, where you’ll need to think carefully about your actions or else you’ll find it very challenging.”

Wanna-lancer™ Reward:

“Pledge £70 or (About $91)
Guest designer bundle

…PLUS- You will get to help design and name a creature OR a location that will be included in the rulebook with you listed as designer on the page, and receive an exclusive print of your creation’s artwork.

(Please note that we reserve the rights to make any necessary changes to the created creature or location, to ensure copyright laws are not breached and that it does not contain any offensive material.”

Egg’s Thoughts:

If storytelling RPGs are what you’re looking for, Raids offers a new system to consider. On top of that, you can create a creature or, exercising more of the creative-chops, you can create a location. The location could let you spread your wings a bit wider and add more to the world.

 

You can support this Kickstarter campaign here.

A human spellcaster by Kyle Wright

From RAIDS – A human spellcaster by Kyle Wright

 

* * * * * *

 

Let me give a quick signal boost to two games that just launched:

 

Modern Adventures Tabletop RPG – Take up sword and gun to seek fame and fortune in this gritty fantasy game set in modern-day Earth. For the Pathfinder RPG system. From Higher Grounds Publishing.

 

Jump in your Starfighter for Era: Balam – A Project Of Earth – Explore a solar system and defend Humanity from an alien fleet! Era: Balam runs on your choice of Era d10, FATE or Savage Worlds! From Shades of Vengeance.

* * * * * *

 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to DriveThruRPG.com.

Savage Worlds: Fast, Furious, and Fun! - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

 

* * * * * *

 

 

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

* * * * * *

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

Want your RPG Kickstarter reviewed? Have some RPG wanna-lancer thoughts to share? Contact me here or on Facebook (Egg Embry) or on Google Plus (+Egg Embry).

3 Kickstarters You Should Back – Stars Without Number, Manastorm, and After the Crash

Gen Con 50 was an incredible experience! I’m looking forward to sharing the stories from it in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I’m looking at RPG Kickstarters with rewards that let you create content for them while expanding your RPG resume. Let’s countdown this week’s.

 

3) Manastorm: World of Shin’ar Campaign Setting by Terran Empire Publishing
Ends on .

“Manastorm: World of Shin’ar – A new, full color, 500+ page Pathfinder/3.5/5e compatible campaign setting!

 What is Manastorm: World of Shin’ar?

Manastorm: World of Shin’ar is a new, full color, 500+ page Pathfinder/3.5/5e Compatible campaign setting featuring 16 new playable races – each with their own unique Hybrid Class. It contains 7 new Prestige Classes, 10 expansive regions, pantheons, new spells, feats, monsters, and more!

 

The planet of Shin’ar boasts 10 expansive regions to explore, from dust- choked ruins to far off enclaves guarded by logic driven automatons. Manastorm: World of Shin’ar introduces players to the Manasphere, a bubble of radiation that surrounds the planet, given off by mana crystals found deep within the planet’s interior. The Manasphere allows those who can tap into it’s unlimited power to fuel fantastic feats of magic and wonder. Players will be able to create new magical items from mana crystals that allow the user to cast stored spells on themselves or others, as well as allowing spellcasters to renew spent spell slots. Players must be warned though, the overuse of mana crystals can result in Mana Poisoning, and eventual death and rising as a Mana Zombie.

The planet suffers from events known as Lunar Quickenings. The Dri-jen Moon, the smallest of the planet’s two moons, has an erratic orbit. When it moves close enough to the planet, the moon causes all mana crystal deposits within the planet to react wildly. Bursts of raw mana saturate the Manasphere and cause fluctuations in its behavior. During these times, portals to unknown planets and planes of existence spontaneously open all over the world, depositing countless people and creatures on Shin’ar.

The vast majority of the peoples encountered on Shin’ar are not native to the planet. Many races have migrated to the world during Lunar Quickenings and found themselves stranded when the event ended. Portals to other dimensions and planets can only function during Lunar Quickenings. The Manasphere does not allow the opening of gates or portals outside of Lunar Quickenings, and it has a way to punish those who try to circumvent this. These events last for an indeterminate amount of time. Some have come and gone in the span of a few years, while some can last over a millennium.

Lunar Quickenings allow GMs and Players to include all kinds of “homebrew” races and monsters. While Manastorm: World of Shin’ar will offer more than enough to begin to play wonderful and exciting adventures and campaigns, the Lunar Quickenings make it so anything and everything can be encountered on Shin’ar.

Terran Empire Publishing will be hosting competitions to include new races and monsters from fans into future products.”

Egg’s Thoughts:

I covered “Manastorm – A Pathfinder-Compatible Campaign Setting,” the precursor Kickstarter to this one, here. While that campaign did not make it, this one is going strong. With content for 5e, Pathfinder, and 3.5e, this offers a chance to create a NPC across several systems and another reward to create a NPC and have it drawn. As well, Terran Empire Publishing is planning to host “competitions to include new races and monsters from fans into future products.” It’s a Kickstarter and a company to keep an eye on.

 

You can find the Manastorm: World of Shin’ar Campaign Setting campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

2) Stars Without Number: Revised Edition by Sine Nomine Publishing
Ends on .

“A revised full-color edition of the Stars Without Number sci-fi role playing game, with expanded material, new GM tools, and more!

The year is 3200 and mankind’s empire lies in ashes.

The Jump Gates fell six hundred years ago, severing the links between the myriad worlds of the human diaspora.

Now, the long isolation of the Silence falls away as men and women return to the skies above their scattered worlds.

Will you be among them once more?

Over the past seven years, Stars Without Number has sent thousands of daring heroes into the uncharted void. It has armed innumerable brave men and women with the tools they need to explore an uncaring cosmos and given bold GMs the techniques and resources to fashion vast sci-fi sandboxes of excitement and mystery. Light, familiar OSR rules have equipped readers with what they’ve needed to get straight to playing. More than that, the modular design has allowed thousands more to effortlessly strip useful resources for their own favorite games and systems. With its free basic version and dozens of additional resources and supplements,Stars Without Number has been fashioned to not only be fun, but to be useful to players around the world.

Yet now it is time to do more. Stars Without Number was my first serious effort at RPG publishing, the product of six months of fumbling with Adobe InDesign and a hundred dollars in stock art. It was an exercise of intuition more than artifice, and the years of practice and dozens of newer works I’ve written since that time have left me with the gnawing, constant awareness that I could do it better now. I know more, I’ve practiced more, I’ve thought more in the years since I first wrote it. It’s time to demonstrate that.

Stars Without Number: Revised Edition is an expanded, refined, full-color revision of the original edition. It adds more character options, more hardware, more ships, and more psionic options- but expanding the mechanical breadth of the game is only part of the goal. Just as importantly, Stars Without Number: Revised Edition is crammed with new GM resources, with new world tags, new adventure creation tools, and new support for sci-fi sandbox adventuring. And all the while, I’ve kept to my original goals of portability and modularity, so that GMs who want to use different systems or different settings can lift out useful pieces and use them directly in their own home games.

Don’t just take my word for it. Have a look at these takes on the original edition:

Egg’s Thoughts:

2017 feels like the Year of the Sci-Fi RPG.

Stars Without Number continues the trend with over 2,000 backers so far. Want to try sci-fi but you’re not sure if you want it to be SWN? Try the Free Edition of the rules at DriveThruRPG. They look awesome!

 

Try out all of Sine Nomine Publishing titles at DriveThruRPG here.

You can find the Stars Without Number: Revised Edition campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

1) After the Crash: A 5E Post-Apocalyptic Science-Fantasy RPG by David Dolph
Ends on .

“A world with mutations and long-forgotten artifacts. A world with sentient animals and plants. A world in need of saving.

This table-top role-playing game hearkens back to an earlier time when post-apocalyptic was meant to be fun. While some would describe it as “gonzo” we tried to create a setting that, while it may be full of bizarre characters, is a place where the characters need to fight to survive. This is a place where every decision can mean life or death, not only for yourself but your community.

WHAT YOU GET

In this 250+ page book you get the setting and a bunch of new rules and options for a post-apocalyptic world. This includes… [4 Races. 9 Classes. 27 Archetypes. 20 Backgrounds. 160+ Mutations. 60+ Artifacts. 40+ New Monsters. Starter Adventure.]”

Egg’s Thoughts:

This campaign includes a reward to create a NPC for the setting. That will let you experiment with expanded races, classes, etc that this campaign is offering. I’m curious about the mutations added to the 5e system and how they’ll balance out.

160+ Mutations. In a world full of genetic mutations, there are many that alter what a being can find as they move through the world, not to mention the fact that almost every race starts out with a random mutation. They include such mutations as Natural Weapon: Antler, Carapace, ESP: Perceive Thoughts, Life Energy Transference and Create Sap: Acid.”

 

You can find the After the Crash: A 5E Post-Apocalyptic Science-Fantasy RPG campaign here.

 

* * * * * *

 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to DriveThruRPG.com.

Savage Worlds: Fast, Furious, and Fun! - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

 

* * * * * *

 

 

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

* * * * * *

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

3 Kickstarters You Should Back – Legacy: Life Among the Ruins 2e, Luminous Echo, and Heroines of the First Age

It’s Gen Con 50 this week. I’ll be in Indianapolis gaming, meeting folks, and continuing my quest to jump from wanna-lancer* to freelancer. As I’m headed out of the door, let’s countdown three RPG Kickstarters that you should check out.

 

*A wanna-lancer is a gamer that wants to become a freelance writer.

* * * * * *

3) Heroines of the First Age by Voidspiral Entertainment
Ends on Friday, August 18 2017 1:01 AM EDT.

“An epic fantasy tabletop RPG about the larger-than-life legends and the mythical monsters that lived at the dawn of time!

 

 

HFA is a tabletop role-playing game about larger-than-life monsters and the dawn of civilization. HFA is the intersection between monstergirls, RPGs, and myth & legend. It will be delivered in color printed glory and instant PDF downloadability.

Heroines of the First Age is Powered by the Apocalypse, which focuses on the actions, reactions, and consequences of the things the players do in the game.

Inspirational Media: Utawarerumono, Nibelinglied, Maoyusha, Wintersun, The Epic of Gilgamesh, Monster Musume, Conan the Barbarian, Beowulf, Kobayashi chi no Maid Dragon, Black God’s Kiss, Everyday Life with Monstergirls, The Iliad, 12 Beast, Enuma Elish, Monstress, Myth, & Legend.

The Broad Strokes

There are two main assumptions that Heroines of the First Age makes:

Monsters make up at least a portion of the civilized peoples in the world. The Player Characters are heroines and heroes drawn from these demi-humans. There may or may not be baseline humans, depending on how your group wants to roll.

This is the First Age. It is the dawn of civilization. People are just coming out of the forests and caves to create towns and agriculture. Grand armies are being assembled for the first time in history. The world is fresh, new, and exciting, and there’s so much of it that has never been explored before.”

Egg’s Thoughts: 

They’re offering rewards that let you design a character, an archetype, and the chance to create a short story for their fiction anthology. “Story Commission – We’ll work with you to create a short story about a character of your choosing! It will be included in the fiction anthology PDF.” Want to publish a short story? This offer scratches that itch and adds to your RPG resume.

 

You can find additional products from Voidspiral Entertainment at DriveThruRPG here.

You can find this Kickstarter here.

 

* * * * * *

2) Luminous Echo: The Forgotten King extended campaign by Project Lux
Ends on Friday, August 18 2017 12:55 PM EDT.

“Be part of the expansion of the beautiful realms of Mhodica and The dream World

Luminous Echo is a world containing ten years worth of lore, characters, artifacts, and amazing weapons by world renowned artist Wen-M.

Our first project on Kickstarter, “The World Compendium” showcases these beautiful arts as well as an outline of the two realms. The campaign was a huge success exceeding over 300% of the goal thanks to 500+ backers. We were also able to expand the book by 25% as well as introduce base stats for 3 popular RPG systems of the community’s choosing. (DnD 5e, Anima, and Pathfinder.) We also invited some of our most beloved artists to participate.

Since our first campaign concluded last year, the book has certainly come a long way.”

Egg’s Thoughts: 

I reviewed the parent project to this Kickstarter months ago (here). The word for that Kickstarter and this one is “ART”! Gorgeous, evocative, detailed, and lovingly rendered art. It’s worth looking at just to drink in Wen-M’s stunning work.

In this Kickstarter, the vanity press reward allows you to design a weapon and a short story or a character and a short story. Both are good rewards and resume builders, but the real win is Wen-M will draw it and you get a sketch. The art for this is gorgeous enough to make that beyond tempting.

 

You can find this Kickstarter here.

 

* * * * * *

1) Legacy: Life Among the Ruins 2nd Edition by Modiphius Entertainment
Ends on Thursday, August 24 2017 12:07 PM EDT

“A tabletop RPG about rebuilding after the apocalypse, now funding its second edition. Tell your saga of rediscovery across generations!

Legacy Life Among the Ruines 2e

The World Before is fallen, torn apart by an apocalypse so extreme that reality itself was shredded and warped in its wake. 

Your ancestors survived thanks to a combination of luck, preparation and grit, and now the time has come to leave their shelters and start rebuilding the world. 

You soon find the wasteland has other inhabitants: families with different perspectives on the world, secretive factions with the own agendas, and bizarre monsters stalking the wasteland. 

As generations pass and your family makes sweeping changes to the world, what stories will you tell?

The first edition of Legacy: Life Among the Ruins was one of the first wave of Apocalypse World-inspired games, bringing a grander scale to the post-apocalyptic genre. Three years down the line, we’re making a second edition that brings together all the great things from the first edition and makes the changes needed for the game to be the best it can be.

With your help, I hope to fund a beautiful print run of the game to end up in your hands and in shops worldwide. I also hope to fund some cool extras: Legacy-themed dice, upgrades to make the book even nicer, dry-erase playbook handouts, alternate takes on Legacy from other writers, and more!

If you’d like to take a closer look at the game, I’ve put together a quickstart. This document gives you a jumping-on point for Legacy, letting you try out the core game rules and pre-generated player options before breaking open the full suite of options available in the main book.”

Egg’s Thoughts: 

Artistically, this project delivers all the images you could want of the back-of-the-figure-standing-defiantly-before-the-post-apocalypse-landscape-art! Two covers so far and they both scream against-all-odds.

What’s the system? A version of Power by the Apocalypse. I had a chance to exchange a line or two on Google+ with Douglas Santana Mota who is working on Legacy. He shared his thoughts on the system, “We believe it’s a game that is poised to satisfy gamers quite outside the [Power by the Apocalypse] tribe”. It looks and reads strong. How do I know? Well, they believe in the project enough to offer a quickstart. Read it and I think this will be an easy decision.

What wanna-lancer options do they have? Create a character playbook, a family playbook, or your own apocalypse. Create. Your. Own. Apocalypse. The Purple Spaghetti Apocalypse. It’s an option.

 

You can find additional products from Modiphius Entertainment at DriveThruRPG here.

You can find this Kickstarter here.

 

* * * * * *

 

Signal Boosting

Why am I signal boosting my EN World review of Hero Kids? Because that’s a fun all-ages game and well worth checking out! Why am I talking about Shades of Vengeance‘s Champion of Earth again? Because Ed Jowett is a nice dude and, if you’ve been following my blog, that’s my kryptonite.

[DISCLAIMER] I am in the beginning stages of doing freelance work for SoV.

 

* * * * * *

 

Gaming At The Kids’ Table With Hero Kids
Posted Monday, 14th August, 2017 03:46 PM

Read my review here or check out the game on DriveThruRPG here.

 

* * * * * *

 

Champion of Earth: Robots & Cyborgs join the invasion! by Shades of Vengeance
Ends on Saturday, August 19 2017 6:59 PM EDT.

In the first expansion to our fan favourite card game, new enemies join the invasion! Defend the Earth with brand new weapons!

You can find this Kickstarter here.

 

* * * * * *

 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to DriveThruRPG.com.

Savage Worlds: Fast, Furious, and Fun! - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

 

See you at Gen Con 50!

 

* * * * * *

 

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

* * * * * *

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by:

5 RPG Kickstarters You Should Back – Spire, HC SVNT DRACONES, Dark Obelisk, Sixty Mile Sky, and Befouled Maze of the Demi-Lich

The maze of a demi-lich, good dark elves, dark obelisk, mechs in space, and furries in space. Kickstarter is offering some variety in the RPG choices this week. Let’s count them down (and show some love to Battle for the Purple Islands and the Champion of Earth card game).

 

5) HC SVNT DRACONES: Sound and Silence by Weapons Grade Funk
Ends on .

“Sound and Silence is a comprehensive setting guide and lore expansion for the HC SVNT DRACONES role playing universe.

Sound and Silence is the first setting guide to the HC SVNT DRACONES role playing game. This is a lore book, full of beautiful artwork, expansive stories, and detailed information about the HSD setting and the roles players can embody there. For Guides, players, and fans alike, this book is the quintisential reference for culture, setting info, and history that didn’t make it into the rulebooks.

Sound and Silence is a single book broken down into two parts:

Sound is the name of the lore compendium intended for everyone’s use. It contains story ideas, descriptions of corp activity, layouts of cities, details on agent interaction so you can flavor your characters better, and a descriptions of unique grottos and universities for inclusion in your stories. Players and Guides can both go through this book without worry of spoiling anything in-game. Sound contains over 100 pages of content and is a great way to inspire people looking for character ideas for themselves of their NPCs.

Don’t know what this is… Other than weirdly awesome!

Silence is the second half of the book, containing detailed accounts of many of the aspects left vague in the HSD core rulebook. Things like the origins of the Palemen, what’s going on with Earth, and who the Shadow Presidents are. It has large sections on the nature of Transcendent technology and what humanity actually found when they made use of Hydra. This book is primarily for Guides, to give them fun things to let the players discover through play. It’s about 100 pages long and includes stories and behind-the-scenes info that make for great hooks in large operations.”

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

This campaign gives you the setting for the HC SVNT DRACONES rules system. The art for this project is beautiful. For most fans, sci-fi anthropomorphic decides their level of interest. In space, no one can hear you meow. At the gaming table, no one judges you. (Save the GM… literally part of their job.) A good rule set and a fun setting – like Sound and Silence appears to be – are going to go far toward creating a fun gaming night. Well worth checking out!

 

You can find HC SVNT DRACONES’ core rulebook here.

You can find this Kickstarter here.

 

* * * * * *

 

4) Dark Obelisk: Druid Enclave (Pathfinder/5E RPG City Setting) by Infinium Game Studio
Ends on .

“A richly-detailed RPG city campaign setting, the Druid Enclave from Dark Obelisk 2 has NPCs, Quests, lore, >100 maps, and much more!

TL;DR: The Value Proposition

If you’re looking for a richly-detailed, lavishly-mapped city campaign setting with plenty to do and see, Druid Enclave is an outstanding gaming asset for any Pathfinder or 5E/Fifth Editiongaming context.

If you want to get on board with Dark Obelisk, or if you are playing any Pathfinder or 5Eadventure that involves any city or Druid context, and want a way of fleshing out some detail, this book will be valuable to you.

Art credit Jack Kaiser
Art credit Jack Kaiser

What is This Book?

This product is a 300+ page full-color PDF and hardcover roleplaying supplement that will enhance any Pathfinder or 5E campaign in any setting.

The Druid Enclave will be a richly detailed hardcover gaming sourcebook, and companion to one of the most ambitious and massive indie RPG adventures in recent memory.

Finally, if you’re new to it, this campaign is the quickest, easiest, and best-value way to get on board with thousands of pages of adventure.

Creative Input Add-Ons

  • $75 Muse: Design a Character: Name, and help design, a character. Your character will be included in the book, and have custom full-color artwork associated with him/her/it. These Add-Ons will be limited to 5.
  • $125 Vibrant Muse: As Muse, but the character will have a persistent role to play in the greater Realm of Aquilae mythology and Dark Obelisk Adventure Path storyline. These Add-Ons will be limited to 2.”

Egg’s Thoughts:

I’ve mentioned the Dark Obelisk series before. This outing is more great fantasy material for Pathfinder. This project continues Infinium’s streak of beautiful art which is made all the more awesome because you can opt to design a NPC and have it drawn.

 

Want to sample some of Infinium Game’s work, they have several free products on DriveThurRPG here.

You can find this Kickstarter here.

 

* * * * * *

 

3) Sixty Mile Sky by Benjamin Arndt
Ends on .

“A game ruleset designed to run a Sci-Fi roleplaying game in a variety of worlds. This game uses a d10 system powered by the apocalypse.

What is Sixty Mile Sky?

There was a need for a sci-fi role-playing game that did not downplay the lethality of space, but remained story-focused and gave players a variety of explicit mechanics to deal with problems in non-violent ways. This game is build to fill that need.

Campaign design in Sixty Mile Sky is structured to create episodic sessions that all drive toward a main goal. That goal may change, or evolve as mysteries are solved or allegiances shift, but there is always a sense of overall purpose.

Mechanically inspired by games like Dungeon World, Blades in the Dark, and Dungeons & Dragons, Sixty Mile Sky is a d10 based game, where classes are equipped with moves to help guide the story and create dynamic answers to conflicts.”

Egg’s Thoughts:

This is a relaunch of the Sixty Mile Sky Kickstarter with a lower goal (already achieved). Everything that I liked about the original campaign is still in place. Still using the Powered by the Apocalypse system, still offering the option to design a NPC, weapon, or tool, and still a game that plays more heavily in sci-fi. Well worth a look.

 

You can find this Kickstarter here.

 

* * * * * *

 

2) Befouled Maze of the Demi-Lich, 5e DnD Adventure Module by Wyrmkeep Entertainment
Ends on .

“An adventure for 10th to 12th level characters who embark on a rescue mission against a lich and his bewitched maze.

Are you a gamemaster looking for an interesting and challenging adventure for your players that can be completed in one session? Well, I have just what you want: Befouled Maze of the Demi-Lich is a fantasy role-playing game mini-adventure module designed for a band of 6-8 5e DnD characters of 10th to 12th level.

A common saying among the wise is “Curiosity kills the rogue,” but sometimes interesting possibilities seek you out instead of the other way around. And so it is with a party of adventurers who decide to veer into the forest to investigate some strange lights. They find a small shine inhabited by a old, wizened man in grey robes.

He greats the travelers and reveals to them, via a tarot card reading, an intriguing side quest: saving a demigoddess’ beloved companion, who was kidnapping by a lich named Ulsus Malachite and held in a bewitched hedge maze.

The party is a little apprehensive about contending against a lich, even if the undead fiend is in a weakened state, but the old man’s hint of priceless rewards for a successful rescue, including one heart’s desire, makes the endeavor seem worthwhile.

Of course, this maze will surely be full of terrible beasts and devious traps ready to destroy the unwary, but such is way of the adventurer. Will the party survive to claim the prize? And what exactly does the lich gain by this kidnapping? So many mysteries…”

Egg’s Thoughts:

This game was on my radar to review and then the creator, Joe Pearce, reached out to discuss the book. I was happy he did (it’s nice to hear from the creators, especially the nice ones).

I love the OSR look of the project combined with 5e guts. The adventure revolves around a maze so the wanna-lancer* options are unique – dedicate a bench in the maze that offers a piece of the maze’s puzzle. I dig that it’s an out of the box vanity press reward. Well worth checking out.

*Wanna-lancer™ is a gamer questing to become a RPG freelancer.

 

Want to sample some of Wyrmkeep Entertainment’s modules, check out their DriveThurRPG here.

You can find this Kickstarter here.

 

* * * * * *

 

1) Spire RPG by Grant Howitt/Serious Business
Ends on .

“Join the dark elf resistance against their cruel high elf overlords in this urban fantasy-punk tabletop RPG.

Artist's impression of the finished book

You are a dark elf. The touch of the sun burns your grey skin, and you hide from the light in twisting corridors, crumbling temples and the lawless undercity of the metropolis known as Spire. The high elves, rulers of the city, alien and capricious, allow you to live here as an underclass forced to beg for scraps.

Your religion, your culture, and your people are being destroyed all around you. You have seen your fathers, your mothers, your grandparents subjugated by the high elves, and you have had enough. You have joined the resistance: the ministry of Our Hidden Mistress, worshippers of a forbidden goddess.

You have sworn in blood that the high elves will fall, that you will destroy them through subterfuge, and insurrection, and terror.”

Egg’s Thoughts:

Evil high elves versus good dark elves in a fantasy-punk world. The stylized art from Adiran Stone brings to life the idea of fantasy-punk with just the right amount of elves gone punk. Like so many projects, the art speaks volumes and this one puts me in mind of the setting.

For the wanna-lancers, their £165 pledge, Make a Mark, offers either an amazing deal… or they’re calling you a rube. You decide.

“You will be immortalised in the game as a hapless rube for the player characters to take advantage of, complete with a brief backstory and a suitably changed-up Spire name. We’ll work with you to make the NPC as gullible as possible (subject to final approval by the creators).”

 

Want to sample some of Serious Business’ games, check out their DriveThurRPG here.

You can find this Kickstarter here.

Spire RPG

 

* * * * * *

Signal Boosting

Why am I signal boosting projects from Kort’thalis Publishing and Shades of Vengeance? Because they speak to the RPG/CCG fan in me, and [DISCLAIMER the First] I am in the beginning stages of doing freelance work for each of these companies,  and [DISCLAIMER the Second] I have a small bit of material appearing in the Battle for the Purple Islands. Very excited about that last bit!

 

1) Battle For The Purple Islands by Kort’thalis Publishing
Ends on Thursday, August 10 2017 11:23 PM EDT.

“The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence returns; OSR scenario of warring factions competing for dominance in a purple world gone mad.

The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence has done well as an O5R campaign setting. I’ve been asked countless times if I’m ever going to go back to the purple islands.  Well, this Kickstarter is a resounding “YES!” to that query.

The purple islands (there’s three of them very close together, and are usually considered a single place) is an eldritch science-fantasy setting with gonzo sword & sorcery.  Both books will be usable with any sort of Lost World, Mars, Dream Lands, Hyborian Age, alternate Earth ruled by civilized apes or menaced by dinosaurs and sleestak, or a world of savagery, super-science, and sorcery.”

Egg’s Thoughts:

I covered this (and praised Venger) last week, it says it all. Well, not all… I have a small bit appearing in this Kickstarter. I’m proud of that.

Love. Me. Some. Venger. Through RPG, I’ve met a legion of incredibly nice folks. Jeff Duncan, Dan Davenport, Dan Dillon, Ed Jowett, Nathan Tucker, Chris Helton, Justin Halliday, BJ Hensley, and so many more that I’m forgetting. They’ve all been welcoming and I could not be happier to know them. High on my list of RPG friends is Venger. He’s helped me with direction, published some of my work via his recent NSFW Trinity of Awesome Returns series – Stairwell of V’dreenHis Flesh is Key, and High-Stakes Q’uay-Q’uar – and always been open to helping me along the path to RPG freelancer. When he launched his sequel to The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence, I was happy to support it.

Why should you check out Battle for the Purple Islands? Because it’s unlimited budget grindhouse glory in the form of a RPG! It may be purple, but Venger creates some dark games!

Why should you support Venger? Because, if you’re like Egg and you want to create fantastic games, reach out to Venger on Google+ or at his blog. He has worthwhile advice (and books of advice) to share. He’s open and direct with what works and what doesn’t. He’s worth talking to.

 

You can find this Kickstarter here.

 

* * * * * *

 

2) Champion of Earth: Robots & Cyborgs join the invasion! by Shades of Vengeance
Ends on Saturday, August 19 2017 6:59 PM EDT.

In the first expansion to our fan favourite card game, new enemies join the invasion! Defend the Earth with brand new weapons!

 

Egg’s Thoughts:

Shades of Vengeance is offering the core card game and/or their first expansion for it. It’s everything and the kitchen sink sci-fi which looks hilarious. I’m looking forward to the game.

 

You can find this Kickstarter here.

 

* * * * * *

 

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links to DriveThruRPG.com.

Savage Worlds: Fast, Furious, and Fun! - Available Now @ DriveThruRPG.com

 

* * * * * *

 

Egg Embry, Wanna-lancer™

Wanna-lancer™ Checklist T-shirt available at Cafepress

Interested in being a wanna-lancer? Start with the official Wanna-lancer Checklist t-shirt or wall clock or ice tea glass!

* * * * * *

Egg Embry wrote comic book short stories, edited comic book series, wrote and drew a webcomic, and contributed to comic book journalism across the 2000s. Now, he buys the opportunity to write for a variety of tabletop role-playing games in the tradition of vanity press. His purchases have been published by: