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Blast from the Past: Marvel Super Heroes RPG

Blast from the Past: Marvel Super Heroes RPG

It’s funny how different tabletop roleplaying games have aged over the years. For instance, the granddaddy of them all, Dungeons & Dragons, has waxed and waned in popularity since its inception in the 1970s, but at least to the general public it has always remained synonymous with the very notion of tabletop RPGs. Other games that were popular decades ago have now been all but forgotten, sometimes even by collectors and the most hardcore of fans. Some newer games have found purchase and are readily available, while untold numbers of RPGs have been created over the decades without drawing so much as a yawn from the market.

Perhaps surprisingly, some older games that were once popular seemed to have been pretty much forgotten by any potential audience but then decades later have suddenly sprang into popularity once again. My guess would be the age of the Internet and then the rise of social media have had a lot to do with this, with older gamers gathering online to talk about or even play their favorite games while drawing in a new generation.

One such game has been the Marvel Super Heroes roleplaying game from TSR Inc. Originally published in 1984 in the famous yellow box, with an advanced box set released in 1986, this RPG designed by Jeff Grub has had quite the uptick in popularity during the last handful of years. Not only are there multiple websites devoted to the game, but there are even Facebook pages and podcasts, plus YouTube videos devoted to discussing and playing the original Marvel RPG. There is even a modern version of the game (without the Marvel connection, of course) simply called FASERIP and free from Gurbintroll Games.

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Lords of Creation: A Tabletop RPG before its Time

Lords of Creation: A Tabletop RPG before its Time

Throughout the decades, game company Avalon Hill has been associated with tabletop war gaming, and this was especially true in the 1970s and 1980s. However, the company has been known to dip into other types of games, mainly board games of one stripe or another and sometimes even tabletop role-playing games.

One of Avalon Hill’s earliest tabletop RPGs was Lords of Creation, published in 1983 and written by Tom Moldvay, known for his earlier work on Dungeons & Dragons.

Lords of Creation is very much a game of its time, but in many way it’s also a game ahead of its time. The D&D influence is obvious in the mechanics, especially concerning character and monster stats, but this game was one of the earliest to stretch beyond the boundaries of any single genre. Lords of Creation wasn’t just a fantasy tabletop RPG, but was meant to be a game for all genres, including science fiction, mythology, noir, and more. In fact, the back of the game box reads, “The ultimate role-playing game… a game of science, fantasy, science fiction and high adventure that explores the farthest reaches of your imagination! Splendid adventures take place throughout time, space and other dimensions.”

I didn’t get many chances back in the day to play Lords of Creation, probably because it wasn’t the most popular game around even if it has something of a collector’s following nowadays. Still, the few times I played the game, it was a blast, in no small part because of Moldvay’s ingenuity in making Lords of Creation something unique, at least for the time period of its original publication.

The box itself for the game is somewhat large for a tabletop RPG, though was typical for the Avalon Hill war games of the time. Upon opening the box, one finds a 64-page rule book, a 64-page The Book of Foes (you D&D players will recognize this as similar to a Monster Manual), a Game Catalog of everything Avalon Hill had to offer at the time, and three dice, a D20, a D10, and a D6, everything you need to play the game.

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Modular: RIP Lenard Lakofka – Lord of the Lendore Isles

Modular: RIP Lenard Lakofka – Lord of the Lendore Isles

Lakofka_L5CampaignEDITEDLenard Lakofka has passed away. Lakofka was one of the early figures in the history of Dungeons and Dragons. He was President of the International Federation of Wargamers when it worked with Gary Gygax to host the very first GenCon.

He began play testing the developing Dungeons and Dragons, providing input to Gygax. He created his home campaign, set in the Lendore Isles. His character, Leomund, is a well-known name in D&D history.

He wrote articles on D&D for his own magazine; many of which were reprinted in the new Dragon magazine. He edited, and contributed to, the core Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (AD&D) books. Then things really began to pick up. In 1979, at the first official AD&D tournament, he finished second and TSR paid him $10,000 to write three modules. He was also given a regular column in Dragon – Leomund’s Tiny Hut.

Those modules had an interesting history. L1 – The Secret of Bone Hill, was the first official module written by a non-TSR employee. And it was based on his own Lendore setting. It was included in the World of Greyhawk, but it was the first setting not developed by Gygax. At the time, Lendore Isle, and the village of Restenford, was the only official campaign setting other than Gygax’ famous village of Hommlet.

Bone Hill is second-level, which meant the Dungeon Master had to come up with something for a first-level party, consistent with this new non-Greyhawk environ. It has some relatively tough monsters, with more maps than was standard in the day. Bone Hill leaves a lot of room for the DM to create motivations and adventure lines. I was 14 back when it came out, and I would have been overwhelmed as a novice DM.

TSR employee Kevin Hendryx was editing Bone Hill, and he created a lizard-man encounter. Lakofka asked that it be removed, and Hendryx began developing it into a full-blown adventure. There was even a cover developed. But Hendryx was sacked during the famous 1981 TSR purge. Douglas Niles took the existing material and turned into N1 – Against the Cult of the Reptile God, which is one of the most popular modules of all time.

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Video Game Review: Tunnels & Trolls Adventures

Video Game Review: Tunnels & Trolls Adventures

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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: The Capharnaum RPG: A Kickstarter Combining the Campbellian Hero Path, Arabian Nights Multiculturalism, and Compelling Worldbuilding

Modular: The Capharnaum RPG: A Kickstarter Combining the Campbellian Hero Path, Arabian Nights Multiculturalism, and Compelling Worldbuilding

Capharnaum RPG

Two years after running our very successful Kickstarter for the transhumanist SF RPG Mindjammer, Mindjammer Press is back with a new project — the English-language version of a fascinating French-language RPG “Capharnaum – The Tales of the Dragon-Marked.” As a soundbite it’s billed as “a fantastic Arabian Nights RPG of deserts, dragons, and crusaders” — but it’s so much more than that. I first came across Capharnaum and its gorgeous artwork in the Paris Games Fair in 2009, and even then I couldn’t believe it hadn’t been brought to the English-speaking gamer. Now, with Capharnaum‘s second edition, the case is even more compelling.

The brains behind Capharnaum — The Tales of the Dragon-Marked are two experienced French game designers, Raphaël Bardas and François Cedelle. They’re joined by a large and extremely active gaming community based in Montpellier, the ancient town on the Mediterranean coast, but active throughout France, bringing together enthusiasts of ancient world Mediterranean and Arabian Nights-style gaming. In the aftermath of 9/11, Raphaël and François wanted to create a setting which refracted the cultural conflicts of our time in a historical-fantasy context, but which equally provided a gameplay which transcended those conflicts and offered a route to coexistence and appreciation of our diversity.

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Modular: Dungeon Delving Tips – Part II

Modular: Dungeon Delving Tips – Part II

Delve_ESEarlier this year, Modular looked at the first dozen tips for dungeon delving from Creighton Broadhurst of Raging Swan Press. Today, we follow up and tackle thirteen more to get to 25. Good dungeon delving used to be a lot more important than it is today.

While characters seemed to die at a great pace in Gary Gygax’s original campaigns, for most of us who grew up on pen and paper, our characters were not disposable. We tried hard to keep them alive. Necromancer Games (who you surely read about here!) even put out a 3rd Edition D&D supplement, Raise the Dead, containing party quests to bring back that lost character.

In today’s MMO/video game world, death is simply something you undo by reloading the most recent saved game. A character can die dozens of times and we still get to play them over and over again.

But when death is a real threat, that party delving into the dungeons deep needs to employ strategies and tactics to accomplish the goal and get back out alive. Every character mattered (Kinda like, ‘No one left behind’ as a party slogan). So, here are thirteen more tactics to add to the first dozen to help keep your party alive.

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Legend of Legacy: Laborious

Legend of Legacy: Laborious

Atlus has been one of the major players in getting unique and interesting RPGS onto the various Nintendo handhelds over the years: From the recent side stories of Shin Megami Tensei, to my personal favorite, the Etrian Odyssey series. However, not all of them can hook me, and today’s game Legend of Legacy is a case where thinking outside the box proved to be its undoing.

Legendof LegacyLegend of Legacy starts out as most JRPGs (Japanese role playing games) do: Mysterious setting, hidden treasures and a group of heroes on a quest, but the game quickly changes things up.

You can choose one person to be the main character at the start of the game, quickly meeting and teaming up with two other characters with the option to swap party members at anytime from the starting town.

The story is just a loose reason to go exploring, and the game allows you to skip cutscenes if you so choose. Similar to Etrian Odyssey, the main point of Legend of Legacy is to explore and build an effective party.

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

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

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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Modular: Kickstarting The Northlands Saga Complete (Frog God Games)

Modular: Kickstarting The Northlands Saga Complete (Frog God Games)

Northlands CompleteThe Vikings are coming!

I’m a fan of Frog God Games. Rising from the ashes of Third Edition D&D’s Necromancer Games, they make RPG products for Pathfinder, 5th Edition and Swords & Wizardry. Way back in 2014, I wrote here about The Lost Lands, the campaign world that would synthesize almost all of the Necromancer and FGG products — from classics like Rappan Athuk and Gary Gygax’s Necropolis to newer deadly adventures like The Slumbering Tsar saga.

I’ve happily backed several Lost Lands Kickstarters the past few years (including Sword of Air, Cults of the Sundered Kingdoms) and there’s been a ton of Pathfinder goodness for me (Don’t let the list price put you off — the PDFs are more affordable). The latest Lost Lands Kickstarter, which wraps up October 2 (and is 75% funded as I type this) is one I have anxiously been awaiting.

In 2010 and 2011, Frog God released the first four modules in Kenneth Spencer’s series set in the Northlands. The first two had a bit of an American Eskimo feel, then moved into pure Viking territory in the third and fourth. You can read my thoughts on the series here.

Then, the modules stopped coming. Greg Vaughan, Pathfinder Creative Director (and author of the previously mentioned Slumbering Tsar epic), told me that The Northlands was on hold and that it would become a separate campaign book for The Lost Lands. So, I waited… and waited…. and waited. Wait no more!

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Mindjammer RPG: Transhuman Sci-Fi Adventure in the Second Age of Space

Mindjammer RPG: Transhuman Sci-Fi Adventure in the Second Age of Space

Several years ago, I published my first ever roleplaying game supplement, a 200-page softback for the Starblazer Adventures RPG, using the Fate 3rd edition rules. Black Gate‘s very own Howard Andrew Jones reviewed it here, and a few short months later we were delighted when it won a Judges Spotlight Award at the ENnies in GenCon. We decided to produce a second edition…

… And here it is! A lot has happened in the meantime, not least the release of a brand new edition of Fate, the Fate Core System, from Evil Hat Productions, which won Best RPG in the Golden Geek Awards only last week. The publication of an elegant and sophisticated new edition of Fate meant that I had a golden opportunity to update Mindjammer and publish it as a full roleplaying game, taking full advantages of the Fate Core System‘s cutting edge innovations. Last month, we launched Mindjammer – The Roleplaying Game for pre-orders, providing customers with an immediate download of a “Thoughtcast Edition” pre-release PDF of the game, and this week we’re going to print and updating the PDF to the final production version.

So what’s Mindjammer? Put simply, it’s a game and a setting. As a game, it’s been called the “lovechild of Traveller and Eclipse Phase” – a full-featured science-fiction roleplaying game for the 21st century, featuring all the elements of “modern” science-fiction: transhumanism, hyperadvanced technologies, culture conflicts, rules for organisations, worlds, star systems, ecosystems, and alien life forms all drawing on the latest discoveries in xenoscience and astrophysics, wrapped up in an expansive and action-packed game which lets you play in any modern science-fiction genre.

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