The Mechanics of a Post-Apocalyptic World: Degenesis Rebirth and KatharSys

Monday, May 25th, 2020 | Posted by Patrick Kanouse

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Degenesis Rebirth
Six More Vodka

In early January, I was at my local game shop (Hero’s Emporium) chatting with a clerk. I was there to run a game and was awaiting the players to show up. As gamers do, we talked about all the games we wanted to run, and he brought up Degenesis Rebirth. I scratched my head. “What is this you speak of?” He found an online trailer (and another). I then found their website (now replaced).

You may recall that in late 2019, Black Gate published a couple of articles (encountering it at Gen Con and discussing the setting) about the game they discovered at Gen Con. Those articles dive into the stupendous design and thought of this game by a German company called Six More Vodka. I will simply add that these are some of the most gorgeous RPG books ever created with one of the most interesting and thorough settings, and like E.E. Knight, I have been obsessing over them. Six More Vodka recently relaunched their website dedicated to the game with a ton of short fiction and setting information and — everything in digital format for free. Free. FREE. Did I say, “Free”?

Set in a world centuries after a series of asteroid collisions with Earth, Degenesis Rebirth’s games take place in a post-apocalyptic world. The asteroids carried (or did their destruction and opening up of the Earth allow something to escape?) an extraterrestrial substance — spores, etc. — that infect the land and people, twisting both to unrecognizable and dangerous new things. This infection upon the land and people was rightly called Sepsis. As Europe and Africa recovered and adapted, a number of cultures and societies (called cults) have established or compete for dominance.

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Pathfinder Second Edition and Virtual PaizoCon

Tuesday, May 19th, 2020 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

PathfinderGodsMagicSince GenCon 2019, there have been a number of great resources and supplements coming from Paizo to support their Pathfinder Second Edition roleplaying game. Last November, I covered the first two setting supplements, the Lost Omens Character Guide and Lost Omens World Guide. Players and Gamemasters alike have a slew of options available already, with even more slated to come by the end of the summer.

For those who don’t have time to plan or create adventures from scratch, they have one full Adventure Path, Age of Ashes, released, with the second, Extinction Curse, releasing its final volume in the next month. Each 6-volume Adventure Path for Pathfinder Second Edition takes players from level 1 through level 20, creating a truly epic campaign. Age of Ashes (Paizo, Amazon) involves the heroes discovering the secrets of an abandoned Hellknight fortress and its connection to an ancient evil force. Extinction Curse (Paizo, Amazon) is a circus-themed adventure, where the heroes must save the show while also investigating a plot to unleash an ancient curse, with a volume entitled Siege of the Dinosaurs. The upcoming Agents of Edgewatch (Paizo) is a fantasy cop adventure, as the heroes take on the role of law enforcement officers in and around the city of Absalom.

In addition, Paizo also releases a steady stream of smaller adventure scenarios to support the extensive Pathfinder Society Organized Play organization. Those adventures, available exclusively on PDF through Paizo.com, run about 4 hours per scenario, and players who play through them gain chronicle sheets that determine the amount of XP gained, as well as Fame & Reputation with various in-game factions, and of course gold and treasure. Characters also gain a variety of boons from these chronicle sheets, providing unique in-game benefits based on the previous adventures that they have completed. The structure of Pathfinder Society means that players can take the same character across a series of adventures at local game stores and conventions, and have the feel of being part of a larger adventure campaign.

Of course, that all assumes that game stores are open and conventions are taking place … but Paizo and gamers have stepped up to make sure there are opportunities to play, even in the midst of the dreaded “new normal.”

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Experience an Epic 4X Game with Heroes of Land, Air & Sea

Saturday, May 16th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Heroes of Land, Air, & Sea (Gamelyn Games, 2018)

I love elegantly designed games, and games with deep replay value. When I fall in love with a board game, it’s usually because it has simple mechanics, backed up with a rich and creative setting.

But mostly, I fall for games with a cool map.

While I was walking the floor at Gen Con 2019, I wandered into a packed booth where they’d set up several sample boards for the new Heroes of Land, Air & Sea game. Competing booths nearby had open areas with loud demo games underway, but the Gamelyn Games crew instead had simply set up a few mid-game boards, then walked away to allow attendees to gawk as long as they wished.

It worked. Readers, I gawked. This is a huge and beautiful 4X game (Explore, Expand, Exploit, Exterminate), with a 3D mapboard, gorgeous terrain, dynamic miniatures, and detailed accessories. It’s precisely the kind of colorful and deliciously intriguing play surface that brings gamers from far and wide just to ask, “What the heck is THIS??” Have a look at the set up below and see what you think.

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Flipping the Game: Uncertain Rolls in Traveller

Monday, May 11th, 2020 | Posted by Patrick Kanouse

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Traveller5 Core Rules, three volumes, 2019
Marc Miller
Far Future Enterprises

I was running a Traveller game the other night. My brother was playing in it and wanted to camouflage his characters — they had just crash landed their shuttle and fled approaching raiders — to avoid discovery. I asked him to make a roll based on his skills and characteristic. He rolled his two six-sided dice, and he did not hit the targeted number.

Tabletop role playing games — by and large — use dice rolls to add randomness to the success or failure of character actions. The dice are modified by character skills and attributes, environmental conditions, and other factors. From the perspective of the player, the results are often binary: succeed or fail — though some games introduce degrees of success or failure in a number of ways (most famously Dungeons & Dragons critical successes and failures by rolling a 20 or 1 on the twenty-sided die). Of course, many situations in real life have a level of ambiguity or uncertainty to the successor failure of actions.

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Vanguard Dream! A Sampling of Bushiroad Media, Part I

Sunday, May 10th, 2020 | Posted by John MacMaster

1A - Bushiroad logo

For a prime example of just how elaborately interconnected and cross-platform some multimedia projects can become – particularly, in Japan! – you needn’t look any further than the activities of Bushiroad, which is surely one of the most quickly expanding media phenomena out there, both in its home country and internationally.

Best known perhaps as a purveyor of card battle games, for which they regularly hold official tournament events all around the world, they have also made major incursions into the worlds of anime and manga, video games, music and nearly any other medium which might promote their various properties. In particular, the Bushiroad Music division has had an increasingly huge role in their operations; and that will be the main focus of this article as well. Not attempting any kind of a detailed overview, we’ll be looking primarily at two of their best-known franchises: Cardfight!! Vanguard and BanG Dream!

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Claim the Night in Terrors of London from Kolossal Games

Saturday, May 9th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

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Terrors of London (Kolossal Games, 2019)

As of today, May 9, Gen Con 2020 is still on. I find it very hard to believe the nation’s situation will change enough in the next 82 days that 60,000 gamers from around the world will feel perfectly relaxed gathering in halls in Indianapolis, packed together like attendees at a rock concert. I’m fairly certain that the powers that be will face reality in the next few weeks, and postpone or cancel the event this year. And if not, I can’t imagine it will be well attended — not nearly enough for it to break even, anyway.

That’s okay, though. I’m still unpacking from last year’s con, sifting through all the great games I picked up, and sorting through the many hundreds of pics I snapped as I wandered the Exhibit Hall. If Gen Con became a once-a-decade event it would still pay off handsomely for me, as I suspect it’ll take at least ten years to track down all the fascinating games I glimpsed during my arduous three-day walk through the giant Hall.

Today I want to take a look at Terrors of London, a competitive fantasy card game from Kolossal Games with a very cool Victorian horror theme. I only got a glance at it during my marathon trek through the Hall, but it stuck out. The component art was fantastic, and the premise — players are arcane Overlords assembling hordes of monsters and undead to secretly tussle for control of the smoke-shrouded city — appealed to me immediately. The whole thing has an Underworld vibe, and I can definitely see a leather-clad Kate Beckinsale fitting right in.

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Altered Initiative in the Altered Carbon RPG

Monday, April 27th, 2020 | Posted by Patrick Kanouse

Altered Carbon The Role Playing Game

In February this year, Hunters Entertainment launched a wildly successful Kickstarter for the Altered Carbon tabletop RPG. When it closed in early March, they had raised $372,547, having only asked for $20,000. While the creators finish the product for later this year, they provided a rules summary and scenario, which you can get from their website (where they call it a quick start guide).

The RPG is based on the Netflix series, Altered Carbon, which just released Season 2. In turn, the series took as its source material Richard K. Morgan’s book series, first published in 2002. The series is unabashedly cyberpunk. I recall reading somewhere that Morgan wanted to take every cyberpunk trope and cliche, toss it together, and see what comes out. The spin that the series takes to differentiate it was to turn whole mind upload or uploading our consciousness to a digital source into a routine, cheap task via a device called a cortical stack.

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When Disney Meets Mad Max: Aftermath: an Adventure Book Game by Plaid Hat Games

Saturday, April 18th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Aftermath Board Game 6-small

Gen Con 2020 is, as of this writing, still scheduled to take place July 30 – August 2, 2020. But now that other major events, such as the massive San Diego Comic Con have been canceled due to the threat of the coronavirus, I expect it won’t be long before Gen Con is canceled as well. I hope it isn’t, but frankly I think the only thing keeping it on the schedule at this point is blind optimism.

I’m enormously grateful I was able to attend Gen Con last year. It was terrific fun, for one thing, and incredibly eye-opening. I’ve been immersed in gaming culture since I started playing Avalon Hill games in high school, and I spend a lot of time keeping up with new releases and hanging out at the local Games Plus auction. But I had no idea –really,  no freakin’ idea — of the true scale of this industry until I wandered the massive Exhibit Hall at Gen Con. Too large to take in in a single day, the Exhibit Hall (and all its various annexes, sub-rooms, and spillovers halls) is something that every game fan should experience once in their lives. It is jaw-dropping in both scale and diversity.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you’re standing in a packed stadium with tens of thousands of t-shirt-wearing gamers, and thousands of booths stretching in all directions. But once the wonder of it all starts to wear off, there are always games that stand out. One of those for me was Aftermath, by Plaid Hat Games. Copies were not available at the convention, but a quick internet search assured me it would be in production by October. I waited impatiently, and ordered one as soon as I could.

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Coming to Grips with the Force in Star Wars: Force and Destiny

Monday, April 13th, 2020 | Posted by Patrick Kanouse

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In a previous article, I praised Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars role-playing game for its narrative dice system. With its emphasis on cinematic moments, fast play, and narrative moments inspired by the dice, the mechanics work well with playing in the Star Wars universe.

The Edge of the Empire and Age of Rebellion core rulebooks had rules for Force users, but their focus was more about scum and villainy at the edges of space or serving the Alliance for the Restoration of the Republic (i.e., the Rebellion) than about space wizards with lightsabers.

The third and final core rulebook, Force and Destiny, is where players and game masters can get their fun in with using the Force at the tabletop. Fully compatible with the other two rulebooks, Force and Destiny and its subsequent splatbooks expand the options for characters with Force powers. This article will not dive into the powers so much; rather, I want to focus on the mechanics of the Force and how it plays out and feels in this version of a Star Wars role-playing game.

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Rogue Blades Presents: It’s a Time for Heroes

Friday, April 3rd, 2020 | Posted by Ty Johnston

the-lost-empire-of-sol-front-cover-smallIn a matter of weeks, months, it has become a different world. Even within the confines of speculative literature and what’s oft referred to as nerd or geek culture, there have been big changes. For instance, disappointing to those of us who had planned to attend this year, Howard Days in Cross Plains, Texas, has been canceled, as have hundreds of conventions and gatherings across the globe. Closer to home for me, a board member of Rogue Blades Foundation, a nonprofit publisher focusing on all things heroic, we have had to push back to 2021 publication of the book Robert E. Howard Changed My Life (though The Lost Empire of Sol is still expected to be published next month).

Now don’t think this is grousing, complaining. I’m merely pointing out how some of the world has changed of late. For that matter, some of the changes aren’t all bad.

As a writer and editor, I normally work from home, so all this isolation most of us are having to contend with of late isn’t new to me. What is new for me is that everybody else is home. Including all my online gaming buddies. And most of them don’t seem to be working at home. Which means they have lots of time for Dungeons & Dragons. Which means I have lots of time for Dungeons & Dragons. And other games. Which means I’m getting less work done than usual.

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