Stormbringer, Stargates, and Fighting Sail: Ten Classic Unplayed RPGs

Wednesday, June 10th, 2020 | Posted by James Davis Nicoll

Empire of the Petal Throne-small Bunnes & Burrows Frog God-small Stormbringer Chaosium-small

Empire of the Petal Throne (PDF version of 1975 TSR edition), Bunnies & Burrows (Frog God Press, 2019), and Stormbringer (Chaosium, 2nd edition, 1985)

People seemed to like old RPG covers. Here’s a more pointless variation: the first ten interesting RPGs I acquired but never found players for.

Empire of the Petal Throne

Number one: that classic, M.A.R. Barker’s Empire of the Petal Throne, one of or possibly the first complex, non-faux Medieval European settings for an RPG. Professor Muhammad Abd-al-Rahman Barker’s world of Tekumel predated roleplaying games by decades. The synergy between a complete game world and early RPGs was obvious; as a result TSR was one of many, many companies to try their hand at publishing it. While it had (and has) its avid fanbase, the game never caught on in a big way.

I’ve owned a number of editions. Never played a one!

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Visit a Haunted Cyberpunk City in Punktown from Chronicle City and Miskatonic River Press

Friday, June 5th, 2020 | Posted by John ONeill

Punktown setting for Call of Cthulhu-small

Punktown: A Setting Book for Call of Cthulhu and Basic Roleplaying

Many many, oh-so-many years ago, I wrote an excited blog post about the planned final game release from Miskatonic River Press, which was slowly winding up operations. It was a Kickstarter-funded Call of Cthulhu setting book based on the setting for Jeffrey Thomas’s dark urban fantasy series Punktown. Here’s what I said, in part.

I’m a huge fan of Miskatonic River Press, and it’s great to hear they have something new in the works. They’ve produced some really terrific Call of Cthulhu products, including New Tales of the Miskatonic Valley, Our Ladies of Sorrow, and their Roman-era adventure The Legacy Of Arrius Lurco…. if Miskatonic River has to end their illustrious publishing career with one book, I’m pleased it’s this one. I think Thomas’s dark-future urban setting will make a terrific locale for a rockin’ CoC campaign.

Well, it was not to be. The years rolled by, and Punktown never surfaced. The illustrious Miskatonic River Press finally closed up shop, and I silently grieved for another Kickstarer destined to never see the light of day.

Or so I thought. And then, just last week, I stumbled across a reference to it. Punktown did in fact exist, in PDF and print-on-demand formats, and it was being offered for sale at both DriveThruRPG and Lulu. It had stealthily been released in 2018 by designers Chronicle City and Miskatonic River Press. Praise Nyarlathotep!

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Vanguard Dream! A Sampling of Bushiroad Media, Part II

Wednesday, May 27th, 2020 | Posted by John MacMaster



Part I of this 3-part survey was an introductory overview of the Bushiroad titles Cardfight!! Vanguard and BanG Dream!, and a look at how how the band Roselia was a feature of both projects. This time we examine how the newer female rock group RAISE A SUILEN is involved in both as well…

RAISE A SUILEN, the newer of the main girl-groups from the BanG Dream! universe, has a style of heavy keyboard-laden rock similar to Roselia, the band they consider their main rival. They also have some very distinct differences (aside from just being a completely separate band, with their own specific songs, I mean). They are not only newer, but their whole means of coming into existence was substantially different.

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

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


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, 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

Heroes of Land, Air & Sea-small

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


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

Terrors of London ad-small

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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