Xbox Game Pass: Access Your New Game Library

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018 | Posted by Matt Drought


You’ve bought a shiny new game console, set it up, and you’re ready to play. All you need now are games. Depending on what mood you’re in, you might want to play games from different genres. These genres can vary, from first person shooters, racing games, Role Playing Games, MMO’s and others. At an average cost of $59.99 per game (for new releases), it may take some time to build up a library of games to appease your gaming appetite.

There are low cost alternatives to help build your library: buying used games, borrowing games from your friends, or waiting for games to go on sale. Microsoft has recently created another low cost alternative, the Xbox Game Pass. The Xbox Game Pass is a subscription service that grants you access to (at this point) over 100 games. For $9.99 per month, you gain access to Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox games.

These games are downloadable to your hard drive, and can be played for as long as you’re a subscriber. The Xbox Game Pass includes games from a variety of publishers, such as Microsoft, Capcom, Electronic Arts, Sega, and Ubisoft.

If you haven’t played through the entire series of the Gears of War games, you can with the Xbox Game Pass. If you haven’t played the excellent Rise Of The Tomb Raider, you can with the Game Pass. Resident Evil, Devil May Cry 4, Metro Last Light, Super Street Fighter IV, and Halo 5 Guardians, are all examples of games included with the Xbox Game Pass.

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The Amazing Magic Robot

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2018 | Posted by Steve Carper

Merit Magical Amazing Robot closeup

You and your friends sit around a table. You carefully take the Amazing Magic Robot from its niche in the box and set it in the middle of a circle of questions, making sure the tab fits into the slot. Spin the pointer to a question you want answered. Challenge your friends. Do they know? Let’s see if they’re right.

You pick up the robot and move it to the other circle, the one of answers. When you let go, the robot — magically! — moves all by itself and points to the correct answer. Every single time. You can’t fool it. The Amazing Magic Robot knows all. And speaks a dozen languages.

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The Storm Breaks: Torg Eternity (Part Two)

Tuesday, May 1st, 2018 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Day OneLast Sunday I ran my first session of Torg Eternity, meaning I can now finish my review of the game by discussing how the rules worked in practice (the first part is here, with a description of the basic idea of the mechanics and of the game setting — an Earth invaded by seven different dimensions). Worth noting to start with that I’d been spending time on the message boards for the game, discussing the different realms and how I wanted to play them. Some minor questions I’d had about rule interpretation had been cleared up; more than fair to say I found the boards a useful resource for gamemasters, especially since one of the designers, Deanna Gilbert, is very active in responding to questions and comments.

Along with the Torg Eternity rulebook, I had two anthologies of short adventures, the Day One collection and the Delphi Missions: Rising Storm collection. The Day One adventures followed pregenerated characters through adventures set on the first day of the invasions. That was useful in giving me a sense of what the opening of the invasions was like, but I didn’t immediately see anything I wanted to adapt to a regular group — each of the Day One stories followed a group of Core Earthers caught up in the invasion of one specific cosm, whereas my players had characters from across the realms. The Delphi Missions adventures ranged from relatively brief scenarios to stories that’d clearly occupy a full session or more of play. Again, though, all the adventures focussed on one cosm. I could see the benefit for an introductory collection of adventures; each showed something of the feel of a given realm. But what always made Torg fascinating to me was the crossing-over of realities.

Both books had some very well-designed scenarios in them. I particularly liked “The Dumas Gambit” in Delphi Missions, which describes a setting in the Cyberpapacy occupied by various factions of street gangs and then introduces the players with an objective that sets the factions against each other. Meanwhile, there’s a moment in the Day One adventures that really gave me a feel for the splatterpunk reality of Tharkold just by describing a certain corpse the characters find. That sort of thing makes both books worth looking at for Torg Eternity gamemasters, I think, moments and descriptions that help establish the feel of the different realities, the kind of stories that get told in them.

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How Much Adventure Can Fit on One Planet? Find Out in Tarsus: World Beyond the Frontier

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Tarsus Game Designers Workshop-small Tarsus Game Designers Workshop-back-small

I started playing Traveller in 1980, using Marc Miller and Frank Chadwick’s original 1977 boxed set from Game Designers’ Workshop. I really enjoyed it although — as I noted in my 2014 article on GDW’s Dark Nebula and Imperium board games — it was a little light on setting.

The original boxed edition of Traveller didn’t really have a setting — it was sort of a generic system for role playing in space, and it drew on the popular vision of a galaxy-spanning human civilization found in the science fiction of the time by Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Keith Laumer, H. Beam Piper, and others. (James Maliszewski did a splendid job of re-constructing the formative SF behind Traveller in “Appendix T.”) It was a game desperately in need of a rich setting, and it found one in Imperium.

Looking back, that critique was perhaps a little harsh. Yeah, the 1977 boxed set forgot to include a setting, and the publisher had to steal one from Imperium. But it wasn’t long before GDW began to improve the situation by producing high quality supplemental materials for Traveller. One of their better efforts was the boxed set Tarsus: World Beyond the Frontier, designed by Marc W. Miller and Loren K. Wiseman and released by GDW in 1983. I recently tracked down a copy, and I really wish I’d had it for those early gaming sessions in the trailer in my back yard in 1980.

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The Top 50 Black Gate Posts in March

Sunday, April 22nd, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Pathfinder by the Pound at the Frog God booth at Gary Con 2018-small

The most popular topic at Black Gate last month was the Gary Con gaming convention in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, Gary Gygax’s home town. Part 1 of my convention report, in which I detailed the angry fallout among Pathfinder licensees to Paizo’s announcement of an impending Second Edition — including the “Pathfinder by the POUND!!” liquidation at the Frog God booth — was our most popular post for the month, by a pretty wide margin. Part 2 of my report, a 17-photo pictorial walkaround of the gorgeously well-stocked Goodman Games/Black Blade booth, came in at #3.

Gary Con wasn’t the only topic of interest in March, however. The second most-trafficked article for the month was Rich Horton’s commentary on the Hugo nominations, and our look at Unbound Worlds’ suggestions on where to start with Gothic Space Opera came in at #4. Rounding out the Top Five was Bob Byrne’s recap of his epic adventures with Gabe Dybing, Martin Page and his son Xander, and the new Conan RPG from Modiphius Entertainment.

Thomas Parker got into the spirit of our recent Ace Double reviews with “Doubling Down, or Just How Bad Are Ace Doubles, Anyway?” and that was good enough to win him the #6 slot for March. Joe Bonadonna claimed #7 with his review of Tempus With His Right-Side Companion Niko, by Janet Morris. Sean McLachlan picked up on the vintage paperback theme nicely with “STRANGE! WEIRD! EERIE! The Odd, Unusual, and Uncanny Biography of Lionel Fanthorpe,” placing at #8.

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Roleplaying the Possibility Wars: Torg Eternity (Part One)

Monday, April 16th, 2018 | Posted by Matthew David Surridge

Torg EternityLater today, early tomorrow, sometime next week, the world began to end.

Imagine the Earth wreathed in storms spitting red and blue lightning. Imagine invaders from beyond reality turning the world piece by piece into something other than what we know. Imagine a cyberpunk theocracy in France, dinosaurs overruning the great cities of the United States, colonial gothic horrors in India, a post-apocalyptic wasteland in Russia haunted by decadent technodemons, zombies in East Asia, a mad pulp super-villain and would-be Pharaoh building a fascist empire among the pyramids of Egypt, and elves and wizards and dungeons and dragons in the British Isles and Scandinavia.

The storm has a name …

Torg is a tabletop role-playing game first published in 1990 by West End Games. I started running a campaign in 1991 that lasted for over a decade, off and on. Last year game publisher Ulisses Spiele launched a successful kickstarter to fund an updated edition of the game, Torg Eternity; they’re currently running another kickstarter for the rebooted game’s first sourcebook, The Living Land. The original Torg was the most explosively imaginative game I’ve ever played. The new is an intelligent update, refining the first version’s rules and concepts while respecting what made it work. Preparing to run the first session of a Torg Eternity campaign, I was shocked to realise how much power the original game had for me; and how well the new game not only maintained that imaginative power but added to it.

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Danger in Every Dark Alley: 40 Years of Adventuring in Lankhmar, Fritz Leiber’s Great Fantasy Metropolis

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Lankhmar Savage Worlds-small

Back in October I splurged on the Lankhmar Collector’s Box Set, a massive collection of setting material for the Savage Worlds core ruleset from Pinnacle Entertainment Group. It was a $70 indulgence, but I ended up being very happy with it. Partly because it’s the size of a giant brick and looks stately and awesome there on my end table. I mean, just look at that thing.

I had to educate myself a little bit to understand what the heck I’d just purchased, though. I thought Savage Worlds was, you know, a role playing game, like Dungeons and Dragons and Dallas. Turns out it’s a lot more than that. According to the two hours of research I just did, Savage Worlds is the umbrella ruleset for all of Pinnacle’s roleplaying titles, like their supernatural pirate game 50 Fathoms and their SF setting The Last Parsec, as well as their classic game conversions, including Rifts, Deadlands, and Space 1889.

I’m not precisely sure how many settings and adaptations are out there are but, man, there’s a bunch. Here’s a partial list. Bring a snack, ’cause it’s going to take a while to get through it.

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Modular: Walk the Streets of Ancient Rome in Mythic Rome by Pete Nash

Thursday, April 5th, 2018 | Posted by John ONeill

Mythic Rome-small Mythic Rome-back-small

Almost exactly a year ago Chaosium announced a brand new edition of RuneQuest, one of the oldest and most acclaimed RPGs on the planet. While that was great news for many gamers, it did leave the folks at The Design Mechanism in the lurch — their lovingly crafted RuneQuest sixth edition, written by Pete Nash and Lawrence Whitaker, was the best version of the game in decades, and now they’d lost the license.

The Design Mechanism folks had also supported their version with some of the most exciting releases we’d seen in years, including the Book of Quests, Shores of Korantia, and  especially the brilliant Monster Island. While I was curious to see what Chaosium would do with the property, I was chiefly concerned with how the announcement would impact them.

Of course, I needn’t have worried. You can’t keep an outfit as creative as The Design Mechanism down for long. Without missing a beat they released their own full-fledged RPG system, Mythras, which picked up and elaborated on the work they’d done with sixth edition RuneQuest, while simultaneously expanding the rules to accommodate more diverse game settings, from Sword & Sorcery to Science Fiction and Urban Fantasy Horror. They also revamped all of their existing back catalog — including the irreplaceable Monster Island — to bring it up to date with the new system. And best of all, they’ve continued to release top notch new products, like Pete Nash’s fabulous Mythic Rome.

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Video Game Review: Tunnels & Trolls Adventures

Wednesday, April 4th, 2018 | Posted by Sean McLachlan


I’ve been hankering for some old school pen and paper adventuring lately, but not having a gaming group here in Madrid (or indeed any gaming group for a few decades now), I did what old school gamers always used to do when they found themselves all on their lonesome — I played some solo Tunnels & Trolls adventures.

But I did it with a modern twist. I played Tunnels & Trolls Adventures, a free app by MetaArcade. The app takes you through various classic adventures such as Sewers of Oblivion and Buffalo Castle and runs very smoothly. It’s been decades since I’ve played T&T, so I read all the intro material, which explained the game quickly and concisely and had me playing within minutes.

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Modular: Explore Starfinder’s Pact Worlds

Sunday, April 1st, 2018 | Posted by Andrew Zimmerman Jones

PactWorldsThe Starfinder RPG allows for literally a universe full of original settings, giving Gamemasters the opportunity to create their own worlds and societies as the basis for their games. For those who like working with a framework of existing source material, though, the Starfinder development team has done a great job of presenting exactly the sort of rich, diverse system of planets, races, and societies that one could hope to find: the Pact Worlds.

Starfinder is set in the distant future of their Pathfinder RPG fantasy setting, after the dominance of magic and superstition has given way to science and technology (and, of course, technomagic). The planet of Golarion, the center of the Pathfinder fantasy setting, has vanished. In its place rests the massive Absalom Station, surrounded by the remaining planets of its solar system. No one knows what happened to Golarion or who built Absalom Station, due to a break in history known as the Gap.

The planets of the system have joined together with Absalom Station to form the Pact Worlds, a loose defensive alliance formed against external threats. These fourteen locations (not all are planets, as they include the Sun and an asteroid belt) get a couple of half-pages apiece in the Starfinder Core Rulebook, but the newly-released Starfinder Pact Worlds sourcebook (Amazon, Paizo) fleshes them out and provides a variety of related starship and player options for Starfinder characters. Both players and Gamemasters will find much to love about this newest installment in unfolding universe of Starfinder.

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