Category Archives: Articles

Æon gets an ‘A’ for Effort

Æon. Poor, sweet Æon. Or is it Trinity? Depends on who you’re asking and if Viacom is listening. This RPG was meant to be White Wolf’s epic space opera, but fell short financially and was cancelled much to the dismay of it’s small, but loyal fanbase. However, the death of Æon had larger reprocussions. As the first chapter in what became a planned trilogy, its inability to generate sales spelled doom for the other two games in the Æon Continuum. I had written a piece awhile back about Aberrant, the second game in the series, which was White Wolf’s swing at the superhero genre. They introduced us to an engrossing, but nihilistic story of superhumans doomed to be their own destroyers. In the time since writing that article, Amazon released The Boys, which is basically Aberrant the TV show. I had a friend text me, quite serious, asking if White Wolf was planning to go to court over it. They didn’t. He didn’t know it was a comic and White Wolf didn’t invent the grim superhero shtick. They didn’t invent the epic space opera either, but with Æon they gave it an earnest shot.

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Unearthing Sorcerers, Warlocks, Bards, Paladins, Clerics, Druids, and Wizards (Oh My)

We’ve gotten so much Unearthed Arcana content for Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition lately that, I’ll admit, I had a hard time keeping up! I’ve got a lock on it now, though. First we got a sorcerer with an aberrant mind and a warlock who lurks in the deep. Then we got an Eloquent bard and a Heroic paladin (capitalization deliberate and important). Finally we got a twilight cleric, a wildfire druid, and a name-calling wizard. I think my speculation from the barbarian and the monk is proving true: we only see a swath of content like this when another book is on the horizon. So lets Unearth some Arcana and see what our new varieties of adventurer can do!

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What Are Rules?

Role-playing games are perceived as complex due to their volume of rules. What really makes RPGs complicated, though, is the relative dynamism of these rules and the degree to which they sit in the text. In other words, the rules of a game you must know in order to play an RPG are not limited to those which are printed in the rulebook.

While this of course varies from game to game, it can be generally stated that a board game will contain all the rules necessary to play inside the box. This is not always true with an RPG. Given the significant breadth of concepts that a game could potentially cover, RPGs have usually needed a GM to establish a more concrete set of boundaries which make up a campaign. The key here is that what the GM is doing, from writing the world to tweaking the mechanics to actually running the game, involves making and enforcing rules which are supplemental to those actually written in a book.

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Meet the Party: Legend of the Five Rings: Shadowlands

A Falcon hunting phantoms through the trees of Shinomen Forest. A Lion trying to heal the wounded and avenge an ancestor’s death. A Unicorn riding out to free the spirits of corrupted kin from the shadows that have swallowed them. A Phoenix desperate to redeem his bloodline and himself before it’s too late. The land of Rokugan thrives in the light of the sun, but shadows creep in, and someone must stand against them. We’re telling another tale in the Legend of the Five Rings from Fantasy Flight Games with this haunted but ready-to-play party of samurai seeking honor and glory in the Shadowlands!

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Kickstarter Wonk: October, 2019

Last month was famine. Instead of putting together a Kickstarter Wonk article at all, I wrote briefly on why Tabletop RPG Kickstarters fail. This month is feast. There are ten games below, and I can say genuinely that there are 2-3 more that easily would have made the cut as well. A great number of campaigns, and I’m probably spending a bit more money than usual this month. Speaking of money. There’s been some turmoil over at the Kickstarter corporate office, mostly involving a distasteful activity called ‘union-busting’. Kickstarter employees are trying to unionize, and someone upstairs fired two of the organizers. Not good, guys. Not good at all. 

Nonetheless, Kickstarter campaigns are primarily about the creators. Beyond that, the process to get a union formally recognized is fraught, so even if the company is making distasteful (read: bad) decisions regarding the rights of their workers, the creators on the platform and the broader business as a whole shouldn’t necessarily suffer. For one thing, it makes that whole organizing thing that much harder if there’s evidence that organizing a union is impeding business. The intent of organized labor is to make productive compromises between a company and its employees, and a preemptive boycott fails at that. Therefore I am still here, still promoting Kickstarter campaigns, and still spending some money to support the excellent creators on the platform. If you’re interested in supporting Kickstarter United and are a project creator, you can sign a petition here. After you’ve done that, read on, because there are some really great games out this month.

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Tachyon Squadron: Starfighter Academy Review

Not everyone is so lucky as to be an ace pilot the moment that they fall into the cockpit. Some have gotten as far as they have due to a lifetime of training and experience. Yet for all of their grizzled charm and “oh you sweet summer child” attitude, they had to start somewhere. Something had to hone those instincts and prepare them for the battle at hand, and this week, we get to find out what. Strap back in for this supplement of Evil Hat’s starfighter RPG Tachyon Squadron in Tachyon Squadron: Starfighter Academy.

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Shadowrun Sixth World Review

Old games never die, they just get new editions. Some games take big design steps and then walk them back (D&D, WFRP), while others start forking out into multiple, concurrent editions (Traveller and RuneQuest). Others still just revise every concurrent edition, walking a tight balance between satisfying the fanboys and making the game accessible to those who couldn’t or wouldn’t buy it the last time around. No game is better suited to tell this perilous story than Shadowrun. Shadowrun was born in the late 80s around the same time as Cyberpunk, but took to that genre with its own twist, adding in magic and Tolkienesque “metahuman” races. Originally developed by FASA, the same design studio behind Battletech, Shadowrun has always had wargaming roots show through by virtue of its complexity and level of detail. This both gained it many fans as well as an intimidating reputation, especially when we’re talking about the first three editions of the game.

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Indie Frontiers #1: Developer Spotlight

Welcome to Indie Frontiers, the new article series spotlighting up-and-coming Indie RPG designers and their games. This is the place where we will explore the cutting-edge of game design; the place where we fearlessly read the most experimental RPG’s you can find! Join me on my Sisyphean quest to read all the games emerging on itch.io, and become a part of the Indie RPG revolution.

Today we will be looking at four designers: Jared Sinclair, Jay Dragon, Riley Hopkins, and Kienna Shaw. Let’s get started.

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Band of Blades Review

The Battle of Ettenmark was supposed to be the end of it. A great host of armies from the Eastern Kingdoms marching west, led by the divinely-blessed Chosen, to strike down the Cinder King and his undead host once and for all. Instead, it was a slaughter. Some of the Chosen were Broken in the previous conflcits, and no one was prepared for the horrors they’ve created for their new liege. Now the Legion is a mercenary band all on its own – except for a single Chosen who helped to pull it out of the fire. Command has decided that the company’s only hope is to march back east, making for Skydagger Keep. If it can be reached, the Legion might just be able to hold the undead back long enough for the Eastern Kingdoms to find some way to save humanity. But the Broken are in pursuit, and winter is closing in . . . it’s going to be a hard campaign for this Band of Blades from Off Guard Games and Evil Hat Productions!

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RPG Market Data is a Mess

There’s a lot of reasons people say that the RPG hobby is in a golden age right now. Increased legitimacy of the hobby in general, new audiences reaching games through streaming and podcasts, and an exploding variety of types and titles of games make for a more diverse and dynamic hobby than we’ve ever had before. But what do we actually know about the hobby and how it’s growing? What do we know about the competitive dynamics of the industry, from Wizards of the Coast down to the one-man shops? The simple answer to “what do we know” is “not much”. Finding real data about this hobby of ours is a struggle—and that’s when it isn’t downright impossible.

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