'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

Corrupt Cliffs

Corrupt Cliffs
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Places of Interest

Friday, May 29, 2020

Tool Trunk Thursday: Digging Tools

As another week comes back around, so do we open the Tool Trunk on  Thursday Friday and look inside!  As seems common these days, I missed Thursday again!

One of the most iconic scenes from the '82 Conan the Barbarian involves our heroes preparing the mounds of the dead for the assault by Thulsa Doom.  How much easier would it have been if they had digging tools to mound up the earth and set traps?  We even see Conan digging with a shield in one scene. 



This represents a selection of digging tools such as picks and various types of shovels.  These are not things your players will generally carry around with them, but who knows when it might come in handy?

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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!


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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Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

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!

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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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!




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!

If you have questions or comments don't forget to hit me up on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube or Instagram!
Make sure you don't miss a single post and subscribe by e-mail today!

If you need to check out any of these great games stop on by DriveThruRPG and pick something up through my affiliate link to help support the blog!

Equipment icons are found on https://game-icons.net/ and are provided under CC BY 3.0.

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, 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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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!