'Barbarism is the natural state of mankind,' the borderer said, still staring somberly at the Cimmerian. 'Civilization is unnatural. It is a whim of circumstance. And barbarism must always ultimately triumph.'

-Robert E. Howard
Beyond The Black River

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Spiked Pauldrons

Welcome back to another installment of Tool Trunk Thursday!  I hope everyone is doing well during the pandemic.  Remember to consider that everyone out there is experiencing and expressing their frustrations and change in life their own way.  Let us try and give everyone a little leeway.

Nothing says fantasy armor like spiky bits.  When I came across this icon I immediately wanted to include it in the Tool Trunk, but I wasn't sure how.  It certainly doesn't make armor more effective, and an argument could be made for it to be less effective.  I gave it some thought and asked myself, "why do people wear this, or like to pretend to wear this?".  My answer was it looks cool.  It looks mean, and so I had my answer.


These spikes are either riveted to the armor after it is built, or in some cases they are built right into the armor at the time of it's construction.  Their materials vary from steel, to wood to bone and everything in between.  No matter what they are made of they all serve the same purpose, to make the wearer look bigger and meaner and give someone pause before attacking.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2020

A First Impression of the Vaesen RPG by Free League



VAESEN: väsen n. supernatural being or creature.


Intro
Recently the Vaesen BETA rules were released to the backers of the Kickstarter project, and I wanted to write down some first thoughts on the book and game.  Like Tales from the Loop, the game itself comes from extremely evocative art.  Tales from the Loop takes it's setting from the Swedish artist Simon Stålenhag, while the Vaesen RPG take's it's setting from the book of the Swedish artist Johan Egerkrans, Vaesen

Some people probably question basing games on the work of an artist, but some art is so distinctive and evocative that it immediately transports you to another world, and if that doesn't scream RPG, I do not know what does. In the case of Johan we are shown the creatures of Scandinavian Folklore: fairies, trolls, lindworms and everything in between. Which doesn't mean Johan hasn't drawn other fantastic works of art, he is just more well known for his creatures of myth and legend.

The Book

The current Beta rules have 232 pages including the character sheet and index. Roughly the first 100 pages are dedicated to the basic rules and character creation.  The basic rules will be familiar to anyone that has played a Year Zero Engine game. The remaining 100 pages are dedicated to setting, lore, how to set up an adventure, a sample adventure and of course the Vaesen themselves. All of this is interspersed with art from small sketches to full page color renditions of Johan's art.

I backed this game largely based on it being a Free League game, it having beautiful art, and the potential behind it.  I knew very little about what the game would be like beyond the kickstarter descriptions.  That is to say I knew it was going to be centered around fantastic creatures that were beyond the general persons's ability to perceive.  Judging from the art I could guess it would probably be late 1800s to the Early 1900s, generally the Victorian era.  From the book itself, "The idea is that you
and your friends will use it to tell – or play – mystery stories together in mythic Scandinavia of the nineteenth century."  Beyond that I didn't know what was in store for me.  

The Game

In Scandinavia of old there are creatures, faeries and trolls and such, that existed outside the perception of humanity, but were very real.  The people were aware of them through folk knowledge and knew how to make them happy, leaving offerings for them.  In return the beings were largely benevolent and lived in relative harmony with humanity.  

As humans advanced and industrialized much of this knowledge was lost.  People moved into towns and cities, and the rituals and offerings to the Vaesen were forgotten.  The Vaesen still exist and some have become less benevolent for various reasons, which the game lays out as adventure idea hooks with each of the Vaesen descriptions.  for example a wood based Vaesen might be wreaking havoc because of deforestation and logging.

You and your compatriots all have the ability to see the Vaesen and so stumble across an ancient society dedicated to fighting the Vaesen, and protecting humanity.  If you are playing in a campaign the Society and it's headquarters are more than just a part of the background and lore of the game, it is itself a character in the game. As the players grow in power and resources, they are able to add abilities to the Society that will grant them more ability to glean information about the Vaesen they are dealing with.

A secret society set in Victorian times isn't a new idea.  A secret society dedicated to fighting the supernatural isn't new either.  Still I think the idea the players can grow the Society back to it's former glory, which is in turn a usable resource for the players is a pretty cool idea to add to the campaign play.

Conclusion

Overall this book will be a beautiful addition to any RPG library and should delight fans of Free League and the Year Zero Engine.  It is full of amazing art and cool lore ready to open up a new world of Nordic horror for you and your players.  If you are a fan of monsters of the week, mysteries and the unknown, then I think this will make an excellent addition to your game library.  

If you are not part of the kickstarter look for this when it hits the shelves!

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Thursday, May 14, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Stygian Beans

Another Thursday and more equipment is shoved into the tool trunk! Today's piece of equipment comes from the dark anbd mysterious lands of Stygian. This works perfectly with the launch of Conan the Adventurer, the sourcebook detailing Stygia and the Black Kingdoms.

Stygian Beans


These beans have been cultivated in Stygia since time immemorial. The shrubs they come from are picked of their bright red berries, and then the seeds are dried and roasted in great clay ovens. Finally the now dark beans are ground and hot water is poured over them. At this point the Stygian beverage is ready to be consumed.

It is said that those that wield magic prize this concoction for it's mind altering and restorative effects. If you liked this article then don't forget to subscribe to get the next exciting installment on pulp gaming both Sci-Fi and Fantasy!

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Monday, May 4, 2020

Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells: The Flourish!

Welcome back! Today we are going to look at my first look at a house rule for Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells. If you have followed the blog for awhile you will know I am more of a fan of narrative results or success by measure vs simple pass/fail mechanics. I am also a fan of keeping math as simple as possible, in a basic D20 system, the simplest way is to have a concept something like what we see in Savage World with raises. In my opinion it works less well in a d20 system since that TN or DC is moving all the time.

Fortunately that is not how Sharp Swords works. As a role under system based on stats we can simply take our attribute and subtract 3 or 4 from them and assign a second threshold. So if your Physique score is 12, we can set a second value at 8. Rolling under 12 gives you a success, rolling under 8 gives you your success, plus some other benefits. If you are familiar with Conan 2d20, Year Zero Engine, Genesys, AGE or others you will know the basic idea I am going for. Below you can see what my character sheet looks like with the addition of the Flourish number.



From experience I know having too many choices can slow a game down, having 5 stunt points in an AGE system has the ability to slow things down as the players try and choose how to spend that currency. It was something I was wanting to avoid here since this is a rules light game. Solution? Rolling under the flourish allows a player to choose a single item from a Flourish list, this choice will still add a little time to a turn but I think the reward of having the player narrate how that flourish works will be worth it.

As the game progresses in level, hitting enemies will probably become easier, they will also probably become better armored and have more hit points. By the RAW your damage output doesn't really increase, the only exception to this might be magic. Either way if you encounter a creature with 6HD, and it ends up having 40+ hitpoints, doing 1d8 damage in a round or less depending is going to make the combat pretty boring IMHO. It will be a lot of players rolling to hit, and the monster rolling to miss. The creatures ability to do massive damage will be scary initially (2d6 in this example), but as the combat drags on I think it will grow dull. Flourish maneuvers like these will also hopefully make these combats quicker and more decisive. Now all of this is just a feeling, I haven't actually played this game at a high level.

Below is my initial list of Flourish options I have worked up for my Sharp Swords game.



My main goal in naming these to have the names be more than just mechanical. I wanted them to spark the imagination about what each one was doing. I didn't want it to be called "extra damage" and have players say ok. I roll an extra d4 damage. At the very least they are choosing "Mighty blow" and rolling that extra damage, which in and of itself is way more narrative.

Well the game is done and after utilizing this system I felt the general idea of it was pretty good, but using a simple subtract 4 from the ability score and making it a strict roll under made the flourish occur too often, which reduced it to a more mechanical effect than the larger narrative effect I had hoped for.

During the game a rule was highlighted that showed that this game isn't really a roll under your attribute mechanic, it is a roll under your attribute but close to it. So if your attribute is 13, 12 is a better roll than 2. The flourish system outlined above works against this.

Going forward, and staying in line with the idea of being close to your attribute, I might take the Flourish number and make it a range band. If your attribute is 14, and the Flourish is 10, activate a flourish on rolls of 10-14. This would reduce the number of times there was a flourish, which would hopefully make them a little more exciting for the players, and hopefully more narrative.

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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Leg Trap

Dog brothers, Sword sisters the minor cataclysm continues its relentless attack against humanity. Even if our physical world is not changed, that which we hold in our hearts and minds, surely will be. I hope everyone is doing well and being as creative as they can be in this time of strife. Stay strong. Stay Healthy. Keep it Weird.

Leg Trap



The ability to hunt animals in a passive way when foraging for food, allowing the hunter to attend to other things can mean the difference between life and death in the harsh wilderness of the Hyborian Age. These traps can be used to set up a trap line and gather food while a shelter is being built, or fire made.

These are simple devices that can be found across the world in various forms. The consist of a pressure plate and two spring loaded jaws that close violently around the leg of anything unlucky enough to step into their deadly grip.

An alternate use for these devices is to provide a level of security around a camp at night acting as a way to slow unwanted guests and alert the camp. Generally these devices require a D2 observation test to see, but this might be more difficult if the players take the time to disguise it. If someone is unlucky enough to step into one of these they suffer 3cd, Vicious 1, Grapple 3 damage. If you liked this article then don't forget to subscribe to get the next exciting installment on pulp gaming both Sci-Fi and Fantasy!

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Monday, April 27, 2020

Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells: Let's Make a Character

One of the things that attracted me to "Sharp Swords and Sinister Spells" was its simplicity. Simple is good, especially when attracting new people to a game and genre. It allows us to jump in easily and not need to be constantly explaining rules and such to the players.

I am looking to use pre-gens for my one-shot I thought it would be good to go over the basics parts of the game. Character creation is a simple 5 step process, although I might add a step 0 or 1.5. I will explain as we go.

Step 1: Roll your 4 attributes.
We roll 3d6 in the order the attributes appear. No rolling 4 and keeping 3. No picking your order. Just a straight up 3d6 roll in attribute order.
  • Physique: 9
  • Agility: 11
  • Intellect: 12
  • Willpower: 10

Step 1.5: The character idea.
Most games I have played list this as a step, get an idea of a character you want to play in your mind. I would sometimes place this as step 0, but since our rolls are in order, it might be better to see what we get before coming up with the idea. It will do no good to want to play a Conan the Barbarian type character if you roll 5 on Physique and 8 on Agility. It is of course 100% fine to come up with this ideas as you go, with that character gaining life and depth with each decision you make.

For us we have two pretty decent stats in Agility and Intellect, or at least this is where our best stats are, lets see how this plays out for us.

Step 2: Choose an Archetype.
Based on our stats the best Archetype for us is going to be a Specialist. The thief, the rogue, the trickster.

Each archetype will give us our base type of HD and Luck dice as well as our special abilities.

Step 3: Choose a Vocation
This is the most open ended part of character creation. There isn't a list, you must simply decide what your character is based on the Archetype. Anytime you do an action related to your vocation you gain a positive die. If you are a Knight and need to test to ride a horse, you could gain a positive die here. If you are a thief and need to open a lock or find a trap, again you could gain a positive die.

This is perhaps the step that Step 1.5 relates to the most. For us we know we have a Specialist who is smarter than they are agile. Something like a rogue or thief would probably be ideal for this character.

Step 4: Determining a complication
This section presents some interesting ideas as well as some potential challenges, it deals with things the GM might use to make someones life difficult during the course of the game and includes addiction. Clearly if you do not know your players it might be best to stay away from that particular category when making this roll. It might be worthwhile having your players look through these and give them the option of "X"ing any particular category out that they personally feel uncomfortable with. This is a game and we are all at the table to have fun.

That being said my 2d6 roll for our character is 1.4, or Debt to a Crime Lord. This ties in nicely to our concept of a thief character.

Step 5: Buy Equipment Everyone starts with a basic set of clothes and a weapon appropriate to their vocation. For us that most likely means a short sword, which is a small weapon that does 1d4 damage. Beyond this everyone starts with 3d6x10 silver coins. Our roll gives us 90sc. Like many games we get a coinage multiplier, 90sc = 9gp or 900cc.

The first thing we will buy is some decent armor. Medium armor costs 50sc, leaving us with 40 for everything else....
  1. Medium Armor - 50sc
  2. Backpack - 2sc
  3. Torches(5) - 1cc
  4. Waterskin - 5cc
  5. Rations(7) - 7cc
  6. rope, 50' - 5cc
  7. Grappling hook - 1sc
  8. Flint & Steel - 2cc
  9. Thieves Tools - 30sc
Total 50+2+(1+5+7+5+2)+1sc+30sc=85sc

Not too bad. Pretty good load out for a fairly average roll.
But wait? What about encumbrance? It is super simple. You can carry a number of items equal to your Physique score without penalty. Beyond that we start getting penalized and we can carry a maximum of the Physique score x2. So we can carry 9 items. Bags and packs do not count towards this limit.

Finalize Your Character
So now we simply need to come up with a name, description and roll some Hit Points.

We got a 7 on our d8 hit die roll, which is pretty good! I can see a potential issue to this as an unmodified roll, a PC rolling 1 hit point isn't going to be much fun for most people. Although I don't think this is something unique to Sharp Swords.

For a name I popped over here and used the random name generator here: https://www.fantasynamegenerators.com/hyborian-names.php, and came up with 'Talma'.

Finally we need to write this all onto a character sheet, and below we see the completed character sheet.


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Thursday, April 23, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Mystic Pendant

Finally the warmth of spring have opened and forced the gods of the north from my lands once again. New life is everywhere, it is a glorious time! I hope today's delve into the tool trunk finds everyone well.

Mystic Pendant



People hold on to their beliefs to keep the darkness at bay. It often doesn’t matter if their beliefs are real or not, only that they give hope. That simple belief or trust that a pendant represents for the character is, at times, enough to bolster their courage as they face off against the horrors that lurk in the darkness of the Hyborian Age. If you liked this article then don't forget to subscribe to get the next exciting installment on pulp gaming both Sci-Fi and Fantasy!

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Monday, April 20, 2020

Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells: Intro & Quick Reference

Recently a member of the Conan Gaming Group, over on facebook, posted some materials to play a custom game of Monolith's Conan board game based around the 90s Cartoon, "Conan The Adventurer". I immediately chuckled and started to think of running an RPG scenario based on the cartoon.

If you have followed along here at all you may be aware I GM at a local convention here in Calgary Alberta, the RPG Alliance, and throughout the year various GMs run monthly sessions. With the current pandemic I thought this might be a perfect time to run this game and advertise it to the convention community. In keeping with the concept of what I wanted, a light fun sword & sorcery romp, I decided to stay away from the 2d20 system, as much as I enjoy it I didn't feel it fit the Saturday morning vibe.

As I continued to look through systems I found various ideas that I thought would work out well, many took ideas from FATE or similar systems, and while I think they have some great ideas, they had a little steeper learning curve. Not because they are complex, but because they are fairly different. My desire for a fun Saturday morning vibe shifted and my rules search shifted to a rules light Sword & Sorcery setting.

Enter "Sharp Swords & Sinister Spells" from Gallant Knight Games & Old Skull Publishing from Diogo Nogueira. It is billed as a rules light rpg with old school spirit and it came recommended from one of the Conan Gaming Group members so I thought I should give it a look. At the time of writing this it was even on sale for $5cad for the PDF, hard to go wrong with that price.

After having a quick look through the shortish rules I decided this system was simple and easy to learn, everything from combat to spell casting was incredibly easy to do. For new players this would be a breeze. I will give a more full review of the system after we play our game using it as our rules, but between now and then I thought I write a few articles about the mechanics and various things I have come up with for the game. So without further pre-amble, I give you the single page quick reference sheet.


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Thursday, April 16, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Portable Toolbox

The frigid snows of the north continue to assault the stronghold, but I believe the worst is done now. Surely the winter storms are over and the mental benefits of more sun and warmer weather are felt soon. But I know you are not here to listen to me ramble about the weather. So without further introduction.

Portable Toolbox



All manners of craftsmen in the Hyborian Age are called upon to make repairs away from their shops. These kits are employed by such artisans and consist of basic tools such as hammers, punches, saws, files, etc. Anyone with a modicum of skill can benefit from having a selection of tools at their disposal. Adventurers who are planning to be away from civilization for an extended period of time would do well to take a selection of tools to help with the maintenance of their equipment. If you liked this article then don't forget to subscribe to get the next exciting installment on pulp gaming both Sci-Fi and Fantasy!

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Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through proven methodology for fighting new a new virus. Stay Strong.

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Thursday, April 9, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Quill & Parchment

The mysterious Stygian plague continues to haunt the countryside, but I remain safely locked away in my stronghold. I trust my fellow warriors are likewise safe behind locked doors. Brothers and Sisters, we will defeat this scourge sent upon us. Stay strong. Stay Healthy! It is, of course, Thursday and so today we open that mysterious chest once more to see what interesting piece of equipment we might find today.

Quill & Parchment



In the beginning of humanity we told stories around campfires, eventually we sought to record these stories on the walls of our caves with paintings. As we became more sophisticated we began to look to other ways to record our ideas and stories. Writing became available and so scholars and sorcerers began to record ideas and knowledge. Certainly some of these writings can drive someone to madness, but others are more banal holding only basic information about places and things.

These nundane parchments, and the quills to make notes, are far more commonplace and can often be found for little gold to provide information about a region. It is unlikely you will find scrolls with information about Vanaheim in Argos, but scrolls about the Forest of Ghouls between Argos and Zingara will almost assuredly be available.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Setting up 2d20 on Roll20: The Combat Dice.

I have been playing around with the free Roll20 for awhile, learning how it works and what we could do with it for Conan 2d20.

Conan 2d20 and other 2d20 systems use combat dice to determine damage and weapon effects. We can, of course, simple roll a d6 and note the results but we have a way to make it a little more automated if we desire. This is accomplished via the Roll20 roll table.

The process is pretty simple, and although it is not a perfect solution, it is easy to do and can be done completely with the free version of Roll20.

Step 1: Making the Table

On the top right of Roll20 you will find the Collection Icon. Clicking on it will bring up the tab that gives us control over a lot of the automated processes; macros, decks and rollable tables. Near the bottom you will find Rollable tables. The first thing we need to do is to create a new Rollable table.



Step 2: Naming the table and adding the items

Once we have the table created, clicking on the table name that appeared when we added the new table. This will open up the new table dialog. From here rename the table to "CD" and begin adding each of the following Items: "1","2","0","0","1 + Effect","1 + Effect".



Once you have completed adding your items into the table, it should look like this. When you are happy with it. Hit "Save Changes"



Step 3: Testing the roll

Switch back to the chat dialog box and type the following roll command into chat "/roll 3t[CD]", you should get a result similar to this image. This will show you the total damage that was rolled, but you will have to manually add in any extra damage you get from effects like Vicious(Conan),Sharp(JCoM), etc.



And that is all there is to setting up a roll20 rollable table to handle your Combat Dice in roll20.

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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Rune Sword

Dog Brothers and Sword Sisters, welcome to another installment of Tool Trunk Thursday! We are 3 weeks into our self imposed isolation to slow the stem of the COVID-19 virus. One of the great things about the Hyborian Age is that we can see the monsters that need slaying, although sometimes maybe our heroes might need a keen edge to do it....

Rune Sword



Before the Hyborian Kingdoms spreads across the world in the west, before the mighty kingdoms of the east, before even Stygia there were people that dwelled in these lands. Their mark upon the world is largely erased by war and cataclysm. Still, some places hold glimmers of those long forgotten kingdoms and times, ancient ruins or tombs untouched by the shifting lands. Some of these even hold rare artifacts like this, an ancient sword forged by some unearthly metal. It's edge remains sharp even after the centuries; it's balance is unlike that of the swords of the Hyborian age.

Warriors using such a weapon gain an advantage in combat over their foes, how could they not?

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Thursday, March 26, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Ground Crystal

Welcome to another Tool Trunk Thursday! As I write this I am half way through week 2 of working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I have also been crazy busy transferring my in house John Carter game onto Roll 20 so we can continue our adventures on Barsoom. Thinking today was Wednesday I didn't realize I needed to post today's piece of equipment until now, at least it is not Friday like last week!? I hope everyone is doing well and is safe. Stay Strong. Raise your sword against the storm.

Ground Crystal



Similar to the blinding sand implemented by the alchemists of the Hyborian Age, this represents a cruder, less "magical" option. Cheaper and more plentiful than hiring an alchemist to craft a blinding powder this ground dust renders an opponent temporarily unable to defend themselves.

This is certainly not going to make you look like a wizard, but hopefully your opponent dies quickly after this, so who cares?

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Friday, March 20, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Healing Injections

TOOL TRUNK.....Friday? The world is a little crazy at the moment, and while things here are fine, it has apparently screwed with my schedule more than normal. I have more time, but the days have begun to run together with no actual commute to work. Either way I present to you the new piece of kit for your Conan 2d20 game!

Healing Injections


Those brave enough to drink the concoction of an alchemist know that they can be an effective treatment to many ailments. Some of the crazier alchemists have devised ways to get their mixtures into people in a quicker, less voluntary way. Those who seek to help have developed serums that allow the injured and the weak to be rejuvenated through the injection of some mysterious substance found in the Black Kingdoms.

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Remember this isn't the end times, this is humanity working together to save as many lives as we can through proven methodology for fighting new a new virus. Stay Strong.

Till next time, don't forget to Keep it Weird!

Monday, March 16, 2020

Buying New Paintbrushes (from Canada)

Like many of you, I watch Youtube videos. I am sure at least a few of you watch some of the various miniature painting channels out there. From time to time I feel the need to check out some of the brushes these channels recommend and so I go in search of brands like Windsor & Newton, Rosemary & Co, Raphael, Broken Toad, Army Painter, GW etc.

If you are from Canada and don't have an art store close to you, or conveniently located, you are probably going to hit Amazon and try and buy some. Whenever I have tried this I end up finding ok priced brushes with huge shipping costs or hugely expensive brushes with free shipping. Generally, these brushes aren't even a Prime item, so you are waiting for several weeks. What advantage do we get buying from Amazon?

I will admit if you are buying something like Army Painter, you can grab these on Amazon as a Prime item. Still, we are looking at about $35 for a set of 3, and we are limited in what we are buying. I have certainly gone down this route, but I haven't used them. I don't paint a lot and when one of these died I didn't want to have to spend another $35 for the pack.

Looking for brushes this time I felt frustrated and felt like I had no real options. This isn't the first time I have looked, but something clicked in my brain this time and I realized I had become 100% reliant on Amazon. As convenient as it can be they don't always have the best price or the product I want. Still, I was warry about shipping prices, but decided to have a look around to see what else was out there.

I had a couple of places recommended, and to be fair they were probably better than Amazon, but the shipping was still pretty high. While I was looking I did come across a website, https://www.jacksonsart.com/, upon opening it I was greeted with a pop-up asking if I wanted to shop in CAD dollars and that if I ordered over $85 I got free shipping. Why yes, I DO want to shop in CAD! Off I went expecting to find ultra-expensive brushes. What I found were reasonably priced brushes. Not cheap, but not the horrible prices I was expecting. We are talking sub $20CAD here for a Size 1. For an "apples to apples" comparison they have a W&N Series 7 size 1 for ~$16CAD, certainly cheaper than the $25 at Amazon.

If you have done any shopping online, you know shipping can make or break your decision. Finding a $15 item with $20 shipping isn't going to rush to make you click that checkout button. Happy with the prices but a little nervous about the shipping, especially given that the company was situated in the UK, I added a couple of Raphael 8404s to the cart and a new pen. I clicked checkout to see how bad the shipping was. I have polled a number of friends to guess how much the shipping would be. Guesses ranged from about $10 to about $30. Frankly, I felt these were decent guesses. But what did I actually pay to get my two brushes and a pen to Canada?



Yes. That is correct. $1.82CAD. Not only did I click yes, but I wrote an article about this experience so more of you can have the same one. This isn't overnight "PRIME" shipping, but it was listed as 2 weeks, which is pretty close to the time the W&N Series 7 from Amazon was listed to get to me. How did they do time-wise? I order the brushes on Feb 14th, 2020 and I received them on March 4th 2020. 19 total days from Order to arrival. Pretty decent and close to the time estimation, and for $1.82CAD from the UK? I will certainly order again.



The only thing I haven't had to check out is their customer service, ie how well they handle a complaint if a brush arrives broken etc. Until I have an experience with them that is bad I will give them the benefit of the doubt in this regard and give them..........


FIVE SKULLS OF MY ENEMIES!


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Thursday, March 12, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Arcane Tome

Thursday has come again, as it always does. And much like the inevitability of the changing days, the Tool Trunk grows ever fuller. Sword sisters and dog brothers! Open the chest and take what you may need!

Arcane Tome

Since man could write, or perhaps since man was plagued by the curiosity of the Outer Dark, there have been tomes of arcane knowledge. These books hold the secrets of men and demons. The words, images and rituals held with these pages are ones of great power. The horrors, both physical and mental, shown on these pages are enough to drive the most stalwart wizard insane.

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Monday, March 9, 2020

ALIEN: Hope's Last Day. Prep and Running It.

Introduction

The local convention that got me started GMing publicly decided to do a "mini-con" at the start of 2020. Normally I have GMed Conan 2d20, but with the release of Alien RPG by Free League I jumped on board to GM the introductory adventure in the core rule book, "Hope's Last Day". I thought it would be a great intro for new players as well as myself, and require less prep for myself, at least in terms of adventure design. It being a short adventure should lend itself to running in the shorter 4-hour game slot of the convention as well.

Having a look through the rules, I liked the maps in general but didn't think they would lend themselves to miniatures. I could do a strict theater of the mind game, it's not really how I work. I needed a way to combine the in book maps with miniatures.

Since Alien basically works between two basic modes; stealth, and combat, I thought I could use this to get a cool game presentation. Using the maps of Hadley's Hope for interaction in Stealth Mode, and then zoom in to a more miniature heavy version of the colony when we were in combat mode or exploring a room more thoroughly.

Prep & Play

Stealth Mode

My first task was to get the maps from the book into a fairly playable format. Step one was to grab the PDF and bring them into GIMP. Once there I broke down each floor into a separate map and then cleaned up the background. This would allow me to display one large format map at a time to the players. As I type that, let's hope the PCs don't split the party onto multiple floors.

One of the reasons I wanted to be able to place one map out at a time was due to space constraints, I always struggle with the size of the tables we play on, not that they are too small, just that I use a lot of stuff.

My plan was to blow up each floor's map to decent enough size to allow miniatures to represent where each player was even if it wasn't a 1:1 scale. To do this and to keep costs down I decided on 2'x2' for each map. This left them at a pretty decent size, but also allowed me to have them printed at VistaPrint during a 50% off sale and get all 4 maps for about $25cad printed as a 4'x4' poster.

In the end, this provided a good interface to allow the players to see where they were in the colony, but after running the game I would provide each player with a copy of the map as well, so they were more able to see the entire layout of Hadley's Hope, including the levels they were not on.

Visually I would grab some kind of markers or blips to represent their location on the map. I would probably use blue or green for the PCs, one for each player and a group icon allowing the PCs to split the party if they desired. For the Aliens, a nice red marker. In the end, I used a small blue d6 for the PCs and a red die for the Alien. Using the actual miniatures on the map and moving them back and forth from the map to the 1:1 scale representation would have been a little clumsy.

Combat Mode

I still wanted to use a more true scale representation for combat and in-depth exploration of areas. For this, it was pretty clear that I wanted to use a sci-fi version of the "Ultimate Dungeon Terrain" or UDT. I would just need a way to represent walls and such.

Having used UDT for Conan I knew I needed some basic scatter terrain as well as some walls. Foam dungeon walls are pretty easy to put together, but when it comes to sci-fi things can be a little more difficult. I spent some time scouring Thingiverse for something that would work, but in the end, I didn't find a solution that I wanted to use.

A little while ago I had an idea where I would model some wall ends for 3d-printing and then use straws to connect them giving us some nice pipe walls. I decided to adopt this idea, but with foam-core instead of straws. I modeled some wall ends that allowed the insertion of foam core, giving me modular 45-degree walls. I was pretty pleased with the overall design.

Then I watched Aliens and re-designed the wall ends to be more in line with the colony. These new ends allowed a vertical piece of foam core to be used. Despite this redesign I ended up only using them to frame a door.

These worked well in play as a concept, but I could have used a few more lengths of them, all of the ones I built were around 5" long, to really fill things out and allow wall runs that didn't extend past the UDT edges.

Other models and props I found on Thingiverse: desks, computers, eggs and facehuggers. The only thing I couldn't find on Thingiverse was an actual Xenomorph. There was a few of them, but nothing that stood out as a cool gaming mini.

I looked around and found a piece of software called Xara Posing Studio AND a model for it for the Xenomorph. Being pretty confident in the new Elegoo Mars, I set out to give it a pose and added a based and some misc parts, rocks, and a pipe, to make the pose make sense. I added these to the model in "3D Builder" and exported the whole model as an STL. After a couple of tries, I got the pose and model to work on the printer, and I had a pretty cool Xeno miniature. I added this to Thingiverse, so now all the models I used (minus the PCs) are on Thingiverse.

To make a set of PCs for the adventure I ran over to Desktop Hero 3d and put together a few characters. I did this mostly with their free assets but ended up paying a little extra for a few of them. I grabbed a few props from Thingiverse and added them to the models in "3d Builder" again, giving me a fully custom set of figures designed for the adventure. At this time I can't make the .STLs for the characters available, but they should be pretty reproducible if you want.

Model Links


Notes

Like all adventures, the GM has a notebook or similar with, at least, key elements for the adventure. This is normally pretty simple to accomplish as you write the adventure. Since I don't normally run pre-written adventures I wasn't sure where I wanted to go, especially since this adventure is pretty directionless for the players, giving them the entirety of the colony to explore and die in.

In the end, I built a Google Slides presentation with interactive maps to allow me to move around and have some key tables at my disposal. So much for running a pre-built adventure because it would be easier!

This presentation worked excellently, but as it was my first time running something like this on a new platform, I think I would try and do things a little differently: Keywords and descriptors for each location as well as a basic mapped layout for the area using UDT. This would allow me to do better with area descriptions and not need to think about how I want to layout each area on the fly unless I choose to.

Conclusion

The game went well, and even if everyone died, fun was had by all. There were a couple places I was a little weak in the rules, but for my first time ever running the game, it was a pretty easy system to get your head around. Running it again I would have more preparation done on describing the offices and other areas of the colony that aren't really fleshed out in the adventure because they aren't key locations.

Overall I was pretty happy with the collection of Sci-Fi bits I came up with to work with the combat mode. I was doubly pleased I got them all painted up, but if I had had the time I would have used a slightly lighter color scheme on some of the parts, just to break up the overall terrain, which was pretty monochrome.

Since the game ran I have modeled a few more bits, including a sloped wall panel joint with a built-in computer terminal. I am also working on a set of wall ends that can be linked and some new doors. Expect to see some videos in the future on sci-fi terrain.

In the end, the experience with RPG Alliance has remained a positive one. Everyone around the various tables has fun, I am glad to be part of this convention in my small way. If you are in Calgary or planning on coming by drop by the Rpg Alliance on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook OR the webpage!

Special Thanks

I would remiss if I didn't say a HUGE thank you to Free League, publishers of ALIEN, who sent the convention special edition copies of the RPG to give away as door prizes (which I sadly didn't win.) Generosity from these companies is incredible. Thank you again to a great company making some great games (Alien, Tales from the Loop, Forbidden Lands, Coriolis, the upcoming Vaesen and numerous others I've not even looked at!)

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