Art of the Genre: AotG releases The Folio: The Roslof Keep Campaign

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016 | Posted by Scott Taylor

Folio 1-6 once again available in print!

Folio 1-6 once again available in print!

Today marks several large releases for Art of the Genre. The small press has recently restocked its The Folio: Roslof Keep Campaign books and now has them all available at their online store both individually, and in a package containing all 6 issues from 2015.

In a homage to TSR‘s Dungeon Magazine, The Folio combines incredible masterwork covers (featuring the likes of Jeff Dee, Jeff Laubenstein, Daniel Horne, Jim Holloway, Todd Lockwood, and David Martin thus far) that can be fully removed like the classic TSR modules of the 1970s & 1980s, along with detailed 3D maps, ‘Blue’ OSR maps, a fully formed campaign Gazetteer booklet and Dungeon booklet. Named for former TSR artist and art director Jim Roslof contribution to the cover of B2 The Keep on the Borderlands, this first campaign set takes characters from 1st thru 12th level in both 1E AD&D and 5E mechanics. If you’ve ever enjoyed campaigns the likes of Against the Giants, Bloodstone, or The Temple of Elemental Evil, then this is for you!

This series has been run exclusively on Kickstarter to this point so it is with great excitement that AotG now has the ability to offer these to all those who missed it. Copies can be purchased as a single unit or issue by issue, and remember all are in shrink wrap to keep them in mint condition. Interior adventures include: ROS1 Beneath Roslof Keep, ROS2 Tremors in the Machine, ROS3 Curse of the Violet Corruption, ROS4 Glade of the Burning Dead, ROS5 Deep Dive into Flooded Halls, and ROS6 Realms of Madness and Despair. The AotG website also includes digital bonus supplements for the campaign to help flesh out world and parties as they explore Mithelvarn’s Labyrinth and match wits against the Infernal Machine that drives it.

Coupled with the announcement of this release, AotG has also provided an incredible preview of two module trilogies for 2016 that can be pre-ordered with a Folio Subscription. Press releases for these promise the following.

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3 Days of Nemo

Monday, January 25th, 2016 | Posted by Managing Editor Howard Andrew Jones

nemoSome years ago I brought the attention of Black Gate regulars to a nifty solitaire board game from Victory Point Games: Nemo’s War. (Here’s a link to my review of the original edition of the game.)

The Kickstarter for the second edition was launched several weeks ago and now only THREE days remain to join the voyage and pledge for a copy of the game yourself. All stretch goals have already been met (and quickly!).

The first version was a grand adventure where players took on the role of the famous Captain Nemo from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and explored the seas of Earth while trying to stay clear of imperial powers. Well, actually, there are four separate ways to play the game, and not all of them involve staying clear of those powers… You can play as an explorer, a scientist, an anti-imperialist (voyaging around the world and inciting revolutions to lend support to captive peoples) or as a warrior. What goal you choose results in different ways to tabulate your final scores as the days wind down. For instance, scientist Nemo doesn’t get nearly as many points for blowing up ships as warrior Nemo.

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Ravenloft Returns: Curse of Strahd is Coming

Monday, January 18th, 2016 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Dungeons & Dragons returns to the Ravenloft setting with Curse of Strahd.

Dungeons & Dragons returns to the Ravenloft setting with Curse of Strahd.

The rollout of Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition has not been a rapid release of materials, as in some past editions, but a slower and more steady release of consistently good products, which focus on telling great stories over inundating players with new rule options.

I’m currently running my 10-year-old son and his friends through the Rise of Tiamat storyline – the first adventure released for 5th edition, spread across the two volumes of Hoard of the Dragon Queen and Rise of Tiamat. One of the more intriguing aspects of the storyline is a month-long caravan trip north to Waterdeep, with intrigue and subterfuge as you spy on the dragon cultists in the caravan without giving yourself away. Not necessarily the most natural storytelling option for a group of 10-year-olds, but they handled it well, and it gave an interesting change of pace for those who were used to more shoot-em-up style adventure play from video games.

While considering where to go when the dragon-themed plotline finished up, I was thinking of continuing with one of the other adventure books that’s been released so far: either the Elemental Evil storyline in Princes of the Apocalypse or the Rage of Demons storyline told in Out of the Abyss. Then came today’s press release that Dungeons and Dragons is releasing a new adventure module, Curse of Strahd, that returns to the classic Ravenloft setting.

Ravenloft is the classic, gothic horror setting for Dungeons and Dragons, and has long been a fan favorite. While the traditional enemies encountered are thought of as orcs and goblins, in Ravenloft these enemies look like pussycats (very ugly pussycats, to be sure), as dark forces and undead take a far more prominent role. Ravenloft is a realm where even an orc fears the sounds that come from the dark of the night.
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Wizards of the Coast Unveils Self-Publishing Site for D&D Adventures

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016 | Posted by Jackson Kuhl

d20

CC BY Janet Galore

Finally! A market for my Drizzt/Wulfgar slash adventure where the heroes discover the greatest treasure of all: love.

Wizards of the Coast has just announced the “Dungeon Masters Guild,” an e-publishing site for self-publishing D&D adventures and other content set in the Forgotten Realms. … The Dungeon Masters Guild seems similar to Amazon’s Kindle Worlds — a way that creators can be permitted to use licensed intellectual property and at the same time make a little money on it. In this case, the intellectual property is D&D‘s venerable Forgotten Realms setting. There are just a few restrictions on these adventures. The main restriction is that they must use the 5th Edition D&D rule set. Apart from that, they’re about what you’d expect — no offensive or pornographic material, no copyright or trademark violations, and nothing libelous.

Writers receive a 50-percent royalty, less than Amazon’s 70 percent yet recalling an earlier age when publishers regarded writers as partners and not grovelling slaves (halfsies was the same cut Melville received for Moby-Dick). The rest of the money is split between WotC and OneBookshelf, which runs the Dungeon Masters Guild site. Full story here.

Dungeons & Dragons has to be the most mismanaged IP in existence; its history is one long sitcom of bungling and idiocy. As the article points out, TSR spent much of the mid-90s sticking its fingers in the holes of the Internet spaghetti drainer, even going so far as to claim copyright over out-of-the-barn horses like “armor class” and “hit points.” It’s good to see WotC, in anno Domini 2016, finally join ’em instead of trying to beat ’em, even if they, like most publishers, continue to be the last across the innovation finish line.


Become a Trader Among the Stars with Merchant of Venus

Friday, January 8th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Merchant of Venus-small

In 1988, during the golden age of Avalon Hill, the company published an unusual game called Merchant of Venus. The title, of course, was a play on Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice… the game was set in a cluster of stars far from Earth, and Venus didn’t feature at all (It also had nothing to do with Frederik Pohl’s classic novella “The Merchant of Venus,” first published in the August 1972 Worlds of If, which featured the first appearance of the Heechee).

Unlike Avalon Hill’s other science fiction games — like Stellar Conquest and Alpha Omega — the focus of Merchant of Venus wasn’t crushing your opponents with massive fleets of warships. Players were explorers and traders in an unexplored part of the galaxy during a reawakening of galactic civilization, discovering long-lost pockets of civilization, and opening fabulously profitable trade routes. Playable with up to six players, the game also had an intriguing solitaire version, which featured action-heavy combat with a strange militaristic race. The Avalon Hill version was designed by Richard Hamblen, and has been out of print for nearly 30 years. Like most Avalon Hill games, it’s highly collectible now, with copies selling for $35-100 on eBay.

In 2012 Fantasy Flight Games, in partnership with Stronghold Games, released a deluxe edition of Merchant of Venus, with upgraded components and a two-sided game board. One side features the classic game by Richard Hamblen; flip it over, and you can play a more contemporary version of the game, with new rules by Robert A. Kouba.

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PC Gaming Review: Endless Legend

Friday, January 1st, 2016 | Posted by eeknight

Endless_LegendMy first experience with 4x gaming (“eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate”) was a 1989 fantasy game called Warlords. I have many fond memories of the Orcs of Kor and super-mobile wizards and played the bits out of it for about a year, in fact the game probably holds some kind of personal record for cost per hour in gaming in fractions of pennies. I’ve played them off and on ever since, and settled into being a solid Sid Meier fan sometime around Civ III. I’ve played just about everything he’s put out since. Frankly, he’s the king of 4x.

Sid’s throne is resting on an unsteady dais these days, as Amplitude, an upstart indie publisher, captured my imagination and my heart with Endless Legend. Legend is a fantasy 4x that expertly weaves ideas, art, and gaming interface into a synergistic RPG RTS whole that tests brain, bladder, and sometimes marriage (Me: “Just one more turn, hon.” Wife: “So, three hours, then?”). Auriga, the world of Endless Legend, is a place I have a great deal of trouble leaving.

It’s a fascinating tableau, once part of a high interplanetary civilization known as the Endless. They’re gone now – Auriga suffered some planetary catastrophe and the races are just now getting themselves back on their feet. While they have mostly forgotten their higher days, there are ruins filled with secrets that may give you an advantage as you rebuild.

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Packed Full of Fantasy Goodness: The Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls RPG

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015 | Posted by Sarah Newton

Deluxe Tunnels and Trolls-smallBack in 1980, on my last day of my first year at secondary school in the UK, an 11-year old me saw a kid with a copy of the paperback Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Players Handbook. I’d discovered Tolkien a year or two earlier, and, leafing through the book, the pictures of dragons and swords and — most particularly — the dungeon map and diagram of the Planes of Existence at the back both enchanted and fascinated me. But as an 11-year-old I hadn’t much pocket money, and on the first day of my summer holidays and clutching a single sheet pricelist catalog from Games of Liverpool, I spent £1.75 on the only thing I could afford which looked even remotely similar — a slim booklet called Buffalo Castle.

I had no idea what I was doing. When the booklet turned up at my house a few days later I realized it wasn’t even a complete game, but part of another game called Tunnels & Trolls — something called a “solo adventure.” Undaunted, I made up my own rules, played the hell out of Buffalo Castle, and made up several solo adventures of my own — and saved my pocket money for the rule book for Tunnels & Trolls.

Completely accidentally, I’d stumbled onto a path which would shape my whole life.

Fast forward 35 years (and try to say “35” quickly so you don’t feel it…). A couple of months ago I bought the newest and greatest ever edition of the Tunnels & Trolls roleplaying game, funded by Kickstarter over the past couple of years and only now hitting games stores and general release. Designed and written by Ken St. Andre, Liz Danforth, and James “Bear” Peters, and dubbed Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls, it’s effectively the 8th edition of the rules — but unlike many other RPGs, even this 8th edition isn’t too far removed from earlier editions, and if (like me) you grew up on the 5th edition rules, you won’t find yourself in too foreign territory. It’s very much the same game — just better.

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A Biography Worthy of the Creator of D&D: Michael Witwer’s Empire of Imagination

Saturday, December 19th, 2015 | Posted by James McGlothlin

Empire of the Imagination-small Empire of the Imagination back-small

Anyone who has grown up in a small town knows how much of an unrelenting pest, nay enemy, boredom can be. And if you grew up in the days before the internet, or before fairly inexpensive computers or game systems, and when cable television was just getting going, boredom was even more of a specter. However, my young friends and I had one constant respite from boredom: role-playing games (RPGs)! And like most from my generation, Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) was our starting point.

It’s hard to communicate just how new and different D&D was from other games that had previously been around. Before RPGs, most games were known for having a point or area of physical attention, e.g. a game-board with pieces, or playing cards. And most of these games had a “winner.” D&D had none of this. You had your player character (PC) sheet, pencil, dice, and graph paper to make a map. And though one’s PC could survive with treasure in a D&D adventure, there weren’t really any “winners,” meaning the game could go on and on and on… sometimes for days or weeks.

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Ares Magazine #2 Now Available

Friday, December 11th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Ares Magazine 2-smallThe legendary magazine Ares, published by SPI between 1980 and 1984, included a complete SF or fantasy game in every issue. It lasted only 19 issues, but in that time it produced several much-loved games, including Greg Costikyan’s popular Barbarian Kings, an adaptation of Poul Anderson’s 1960 novel The High Crusade, the proto-RPG Citadel of Blood, the under appreciated classic Star Trader, and many others.

Last year Matthew Wuertz reported on the successful attempt to resurrect Ares Magazine by One Small Step Games through a Kickstarter. The first issue of the new version came out last year, with the complete two-player game War of the Worlds, and a nice mix of intriguing articles and fiction. I checked the website recently and discovered the second issue is now available as well, packed with original fiction, articles, and of course a brand new game, Invasive Species. Here’s a peek at the complete contents:

Features

The science behind the construction and utility of space elevators, and why they are so much better than space escalators.
Interview with Dino Andrade, professional voice actor and driving force behind SoulGeek.com
Invasive Species, a two-player boardgame

Invasive Species pits the human crew of a small scout space ship, the CFS Quicksilver, against an alien apex predator trapped on board.

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Taming the Massive Beast of Pathfinder: An Interview with F. Wesley Schneider

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Pathfinder Tales Bloodbound-smallF. Wesley Schneider has had a fascinating career. He was the former assistant editor of Dragon magazine, and co-authored Complete Scoundrel for Dungeons & Dragons. He is the co-creator of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, and over the last seven years has produced dozens of Pathfinder adventures and accessories, including Hell Unleashed, Artifacts and Legends, Varisia, and Rule of Fear.

He’s currently the editor-in-chief at Paizo, and in that capacity has overseen the entire line of Pathfinder Tales, including novels by Howard Andrew Jones, Tim Pratt, Dave Gross, and many others. His first novel, Bloodbound, was released this week, and we had the chance to chat with him about this exciting change in his career.

You’ve been writing and designing game supplements and adventures for over a decade. What’s it like to get behind the wheel of a novel instead? How are the challenges similar, and how are they different?


Honestly, after spending so much time working on roleplaying games, writing a novel felt sort of self-indulgent. Working on Bloodbound was far more like the act of playing a roleplaying game than writing an RPG adventure actually is.

For anyone not familiar with roleplaying game adventures, they’re essentially giant outlines that allow a Game Master to tell a particular story without having to do much preparation. An RPG adventure provides the script for a story, descriptions of the settings, and game rules for all the various threats.

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