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The Chronicles of Future Earth Player’s Guide – Out Now!

The Chronicles of Future Earth Player’s Guide – Out Now!

Way back in 2018, I wrote an article for Black Gate about the Kickstarter we were running for my science-fantasy roleplaying game, The Chronicles of Future Earth. Subtitled “Cosmic Fantasy Roleplaying in the Post-Historical Age”, it was a world of long-forgotten ancient technologies, strange mutated monsters, gods, demons, and weird intelligent species fighting against forces of entropy and domination threatening to destroy reality. Using a radical new version of the Fate Core rules system, it was a setting which had inspired me for over twenty years, I’d published a novel in the setting, written RPG adventures and supplements, short stories, and more. Now it was going to be a massive standalone roleplaying game in its own right. I was excited. The Kickstarter funded 225% of its goal. It was going to happen.

Then, my husband was diagnosed with cancer, died, and my life exploded. No warning, fast, brutal. For several years I wandered lost, unable to even read more than a few pages, let alone write. But time and the friendship of good people, the support of the fantasy, SF, and RPG communities, all worked their magic, and slowly I recovered. Last year I published a “superheroic swords and sorcery” RPG called The Lair of the Leopard Empresses. This year, at last, and with an entire new company, Typhon Games, I published the first book in The Chronicles of Future Earth RPG — the Player’s Guide. John and the Black Gate team have very kindly had me back to give you an update on how the far future of planet Earth is looking, almost six years on!

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The Hobby Shop Dungeon, by Benoist Poire and Ernest Gary Gygax Jr.

The Hobby Shop Dungeon, by Benoist Poire and Ernest Gary Gygax Jr.

The Hobby Shop Dungeon Marmoreal Tomb Campaign Starter

The Hobby Shop Dungeon, by Benoist Poire and Ernest Gary Jr. Gygax is a marvel to behold.

One can utilize these books and maps for years — a complete setting loaded with maps, histories, set pieces, dungeons (arguably a mega-dungeon), wilderness, factions, heraldry, unique monsters, unique magic items, and adventure hooks abounding. It is quite a feat and an enormous labor of love.

Poring through it all, I’d say my favorite parts are the heraldry (very Greyhawk in spirit), the wilderness and dungeon maps, and the Prismatic Maze (sounds very Vancian).

I’ve assembled some photos from the box set below for you to enjoy. You can order copies from Troll Lord Games or from Isle of Games.

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A High-Tech Sandbox: Transhuman Space by David Pulver

A High-Tech Sandbox: Transhuman Space by David Pulver


Transhuman Space (Steve Jackson Games, March 29, 2018). Illustrated by Christopher Shy

In the 1990s, I made a big decision about tabletop roleplaying gaming: Rather than coming up with my own rules for running games, I ran campaigns using published systems. Some of these used my own original settings; some borrowed settings from published fictional or dramatic works, either as adapted by game publishers or in my own adaptations; and some used published original game worlds. I hardly ever used a setting more than once. But one that I found worth coming back to was David Pulver’s Transhuman Space, a setting for Steve Jackson Games’ game system GURPS.

As its name suggests, Transhuman Space was a science fictional milieu. Tabletop roleplaying has had a lot of these, going back to the classic Traveller, first released in 1977. For a long time, most of them built on the premises of what might be called classic science fiction: The stories of Old Wave authors such as Poul Anderson or Frank Herbert, and of later hard science fiction authors such as Larry Niven, or of the original Star Trek. That is, they were about aliens, robots, supermen, interstellar travel, time travel, parallel worlds, and psionic abilities, singly or in combination.

Transhuman Space does have robots, though they’re quite different from Asimovian robots. But it avoids all those other classic story elements. It has space travel, on an interplanetary (but not interstellar) scale, with human inhabitants from Mercury to the Kuiper Belt — but also with many machines that don’t need life support.

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Science is Sorcery

Science is Sorcery


Bloodstone (Warner, March 1975). Cover by Frank Frazetta

“Kane’s power is that of science, not sorcery — although with elder-world science, the distinction becomes blurred. But then, to the untutored minds the distinction is difficult to grasp, for this lies in understanding the forces at work, and in the laws they obey. For example, to produce a deadly sword to wield in battle, a master smith will use secrets of his craft to smelt choice iron into steel, forge steel into tempered blade, then balance, hone and haft the blade to the best of his art. Similarly, a wizard may utilize the secrets of his craft to forge a sword of starfire and incantations. Both swords seem magic to some club-swinging apeman, such as legend places on lands unknown to our civilization, but clearly one is born of science, the other spawned by sorcery…”

—Karl Edward Wagner, Bloodstone

In the hobby of tabletop role-playing games, the influence of J.R.R. Tolkien looms prominently, and the reason for this makes perfect sense: By the mid- to late 1960s, Tolkien fever (i.e., fervent esteem for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings) was reaching epic proportions, fueled by the mass market release of affordable paperbacks published by Ballantine Books. “Frodo Lives!” became a counterculture slogan on buttons, bumper stickers, and T-shirts. In the form of graffiti, it was spray-painted in subways and under bridges. Wargaming enthusiasts of the American Midwest were not immune to the hypnotic effect of The Ring, and in one wargame, called Chainmail (Gygax and Perren, 1971), a 15-page “Fantasy Supplement” in the back of the rules proved to be a primary progenitor of the world’s most popular tabletop role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons.

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The RPG Rundown is your Home for Lively Discussions of Your Favorite Games

The RPG Rundown is your Home for Lively Discussions of Your Favorite Games

YouTube is the place for serious gaming discussion these days. It’s not all fake Marvel trailers and dance clips. With the right connections and a little investigative spirit, you can find a thriving community where old-school gaming is very much alive.

Well, it worked for me, anyway. Mostly because one of those quality connections was Dave Munger, Black Gate‘s original site engineer and the man who wrote the first two posts on this very blog, way back in November 2008. Dave tipped me off to the RPG Rundown, a YouTube channel that covers tabletop role playing games. The lively and entertaining discussions there include new game reviews, industry news, player tips and info, and broader conversations on the very nature of role playing.

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Inspired by the Weird Fiction of Clark Ashton Smith: Castle Amber by Tom Moldvay

Inspired by the Weird Fiction of Clark Ashton Smith: Castle Amber by Tom Moldvay


Castle Amber
(TSR, 1981). Cover by Erol Otus

Castle Amber (aka Château d’ Amberville) by Tom Moldvay (RIP) is a classic D&D adventure that I first enjoyed as a player at age 10 and later as DM. Published in 1981 by TSR, Castle Amber has a wonderful cover by Erol Otus, and excellent interiors by Otus, Jim Holloway (RIP), Harry Quinn, Jim Rosolf (RIP), and Stephen Sullivan (he did the maps, I’m assuming).

I didn’t appreciate it as a youth, but this module was largely inspired by the weird fiction of Clark Ashton Smith — specifically his Averoigne Cycle of stories, which were set in a fictional counterpart of a province of France. Smith called this part of Southern France “the most witch-ridden in the entire country.” Smith has been a huge inspiration to me in my own RPG work, and I never tire of rereading his poetry and fiction.

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The Greatest City in Fantasy: Lankhmar, City of Adventure by Bruce Nesmith, Doug Niles, and Ken Rolston

The Greatest City in Fantasy: Lankhmar, City of Adventure by Bruce Nesmith, Doug Niles, and Ken Rolston


Lankhmar, City of Adventure
(TSR, 1985). Cover by the legend Keith Parkinson

I would like to round out my posts on tabletop RPG city supplements with my personal favorite: Lankhmar, City of Adventure, which is the home of Fritz Lieber’s Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. Published in 1985 by TSR for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, this book was written by Bruce Nesmith, Doug Niles, and Ken Rolston. The cover art is by the legend, Keith Parkinson, and the interior art is by the great Jeff Easley. Cartography by Geoff Valley, Curtis Smith, and Tracy Hickman.

Wow, I don’t know where to begin with this one! I absolutely adored the fiction of Fritz Lieber, devouring his Lankhmar works and even some of his sci-fi at a young age. Lieber was a friend of Gary Gygax, and he was among a handful of Gygax’s favorite authors. Thus, I think it’s important to note that the content of the Fafhrd and Gray Mouser tales was incredibly inspirational to Gygax, and this comes across in the tone and themes of D&D — which essentially is a melting pot of fictional inspirations. My point is, you can’t simply look at this supplement as a fictional property that was adapted to the D&D game, because the DNA of Lankhmar was already embedded in D&D to begin with.

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Creating a Fantasy Metropolis: Cities by Stephan Abrams and Jon Everson

Creating a Fantasy Metropolis: Cities by Stephan Abrams and Jon Everson


Cities (Chaosium, 1986). Third Edition. Cover by Dan & David Day

As a follow-up to last week’s post on the Forgotten Realms City System, today I have Cities, from the Universal Supplement Series, published by Chaosium in 1986 (previous editions were published by Midkemia). It was written by Stephen Abrams and Jon Everson, with cover painting by Dan and David Ray, and it was illustrated by Kevin Ramos.

In stark contrast to last week’s City System boxed set published by TSR — which was nearly all maps and practically no content — this supplement takes the opposite tack: no maps, all content!

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Remembering Waterdeep, the Most Famous City of the Realms: Forgotten Realms City System by Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb

Remembering Waterdeep, the Most Famous City of the Realms: Forgotten Realms City System by Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb


Forgotten Realms City System
(TSR, July 1988). Cover by Larry Elmore

City System is an interesting Forgotten Realms boxed set that was released in 1988 by TSR, written by Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb, and with cover art by Larry Elmore. Except for one very slim booklet, this essentially is a box full of maps (by Dennis Kauth), detailing the most famous city of the Realms, Waterdeep.

Now, I must admit, I have always favored Greyhawk over FR, because it’s what I cut my teeth on, but this set is pretty nice for the development of an enormous city in any campaign. Poster maps include the typical grid of the city, a beautiful, three-dimensional artistic rendition of the city, and then 10(!) poster maps that zoom in on different wards.

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From the Age of Splatbooks: Charlemagne’s Paladins by Ken Rolston and Roger Raupp

From the Age of Splatbooks: Charlemagne’s Paladins by Ken Rolston and Roger Raupp


Charlemagne’s Paladins
(TSR, July 1, 1992)

One of the more interesting developments during the AD&D Second Edition years (1989-2000) was the Historical Reference series of campaign sourcebooks.

These green “splatbooks” were well-researched, taking a broad view of history, myth, and legend, and looking at all of it through a D&D lens. Charlemagne’s Paladins is one such shining example. Written by Ken Rolston, illustrated by Roger Raupp, and with cartography by Gaye O’Keefe, this sourcebook adapts the historical setting of the Carolingian period into a quasi-game world, featuring the historical and legendary personalities and events of Charlemagne’s time.

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