Dark Fantasy is more than just dying messily. While the genre does stand in contrast to “High Fantasy” in that way, there is more going on than just added mud and blood. High Fantasy and Swords and Sorcery are typified by great power, heroic character arcs, and the grand struggle between good and evil. Dark fantasy does highlight the violent aspects of pre-industrial society, but also contrasts itself from other fantasy genres by making sure that morality is represented by shades of grey, and that any quest for power comes with a price attached. The Sword, The Crown, and The Unspeakable Power brings forth a dark fantasy world of the players’ creation. What makes it pop for me is not just the violence and the superstition, but the intrigue and mechanics behind it. The game sets character against character with ease but also puts these characters into positions of power over one another, encouraging jockeying and scheming right out of the gate. This Powered by the Apocalypse game turns Apocalypse World into Apocalypse Westeros, where otherworldly threats sit right alongside petty vendettas and power-grabs.
Whew, a lot of dust in here! Both in the column’s space and in the physical board and card game collection. How to clear it all out? Well, a few explosions will do to get most of it, and maybe a follow-up implosion to make sure it’s all gone. With new games coming out every day, A Glimpse Into the Vault takes a look at older card and board-based offerings so they don’t get lost in the rush. For once there’s no drinking involved, and there’s only a little gloom, because I’m hauling out Exploding (and Imploding) Kittens from The Oatmeal!
Greetings, wastelanders! I’m the Level One Wonk, and today it’s the end of the world as we know it. The end of the world has captivated authors for centuries, and also left a strong mark on film. Whether it’s anxieties about where society is going or fantasizing about being a sole survivor, post-apocalyptic novels, movies, and games have been popular for quite some time. The post-apocalyptic genre works very well for tabletop RPGs, too: an unexplored world full of dangers, potential treasures and traps existing from the old world, and driving motivations that are simple and strong make for a huge palette of potential games. A post-apocalyptic setting conceit can be layered on top of many other genres, and the resulting games can range from a brutal struggle for survival to a gonzo trip down Fury Road. What’s important is not the particulars of any given game, but rather how to choose and write those particulars to best serve your desired play experience.
A few years ago, I played in my first (and currently only) GURPS game. It was set in the early Age of Sail, using GURPS rules for tech levels where we had to find a new heir to the crown in Tudor-era England after an explosion kills Henry VIII. The game was, in predictable fashion for my group and the system, a little wacky: the leader of the sailing expedition had neglected to put points in either sailing, swimming or leadership. The doctor was a manic depressive pyromaniac (aboard a wooden ship). Our priest was actively planning to betray the party, and the rest of us learned it, leading to each trying to out-scheme each other. The game never finished, but for all the craziness, I still have fond memories of it.
So you’re walking, and you’re walking, and you’re walking, and a big scary dragon shows up! Traveling and wilderness exploration in Dungeons and Dragons can be fraught with peril, of course, but they can also be a little more nuanced than that. There are of course rules, in both 5th Edition’s Player’s Handbook and its Dungeon Master’s Guide, for traveling in the spaces between civilizations, but February’s Unearthed Arcana gets a little more specific still. I cracked open both books and compared them to the UA material, so let’s see what it means to head Into the Wild!
Two weeks ago, a group of ragtag wanderers and students of the road met in the basement of the Widow’s Walk Inn in Port O’Rock. Run by a group of fearful elders, Port O’Rock did not open its gates to travelers very often, and warned against leaving the few times that it did. When two smugglers, Alstern and Renard, offered passage out of the city, there were seven who paid their fee.
When the Genesys RPG from Fantasy Flight Games was released I wondered exactly what I could do with it. I’m familiar with the Narrative Dice System after a number of Star Wars campaigns and one-shots, but that’s the trick with universal systems: when you can do anything with it, the single biggest question becomes what to do in the first place. Almost since the beginning, though, an idea needled at me, and I’ve finally decided to do something about it: a Mecha Anime hack for the system. Before we set up and get in our giant robots, however, I needed to figure out exactly what I was going to be doing to make this happen.
Welcome back to Kickstarter Wonk! February is the month of romance, and I think you’ll find plenty to love with a deeper field of new RPGs than we had in January. In addition to nine completely new games people are trying to bring to life, we have two honorable mentions: First, a new edition of an old game that deserves some recognition, and second, a board game which is trying to make RPG elements a primary part of its design.
A woman born into squalor whose determination and aptitude for violence moved her from the most obvious career paths as she forges a crew of her own. A grifter with a knack for playing roles above his station perhaps a bit to well, and who might just be living a con of his own. A street child with a knack for getting where she is not supposed to, who is finding that she must choose between the old ways of her people and the new life they are building for themselves in Duskwall. A mad arsonist, who’s inventions, as terrifying as they are, can prove to be incredibly useful…if you don’t find yourself experimented on first. Meet the Party strives to create ready-to-play characters for a variety of systems and settings, both for your use and to inspire you in making characters of your own. This week, we will be taking a look at the award winning indie tabletop game Blades in the Dark from our friends over at Evil Hat Productions.
The party has made it to the throne room of the dark lord, stumbling from wounds and shepherding the last of their spells and strength. As they enter the lord stands up and boasts of how outmatched they are, and it’s hard to argue with him as minions lurk in the shadows. Still, the cleric steps forth to rebuke the dark one – only to gurgle as the tip of a short sword emerges from his chest. As the body falls and party members turn to face the culprit the party rogue holds up his bloody blade and swears fealty to the dark lord. Around the table players turn themselves to face the rogue’s player, voices starting to rise, as he shrugs and says “It’s what my character would do!”