Category Archives: Articles

The Independents: Afterlife: Wandering Souls

“Welcome to the Tenebris. You died and something went wrong. You were meant to ascend to heaven, walk the path of reincarnation, be food for worms—that did not happen. Instead, you took a solemn boat ride across darkened water with other lost souls. Desperately trying to retain memories from your former life, you realised you died and cannot go back. The light at the end of the watery tunnel revealed an endless desert, known by its inhabitants as the Tenebris—the dark.” You’ll have to fight against the death of hope, find your own memories and learn about your own past, and find your way to the true Beyond in Afterlife: Wandering Souls from Angry Hamster Publishing!

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Carbon 2185 Review

There’s a wide world of RPGs out there. In that world, Dungeons and Dragons represents a small sliver of the gameplay experiences and stories that are possible, but a disproportionately large slice of the games that are actually played. It’s from this juxtaposition that comes the frequent and often irksome question “how do I hack D&D to play [insert genre]?” However, when you mix D&D mechanics with a designer who has actually played other games and given thought to how the mechanics must change, you can get something rather good. Carbon 2185 has taken 5th Edition D&D mechanics, given them a solid restoration to work better in the Cyberpunk genre, and then added some bolt-on systems which take inspiration from the best of sci-fi roleplaying.

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Complicated Board Game the Card Game: Time 2 Play – Kickstarter Review

Let’s be honest, there are a lot of board games out there that might as well double their ‘estimated time of play’ because of how long they take to actually start playing. The rules are byzantine, the pieces are better counted by the score than by the dozen, arranging everything on the table is akin to cartography, and shuffling the cards can count as a cardio workout. It’s almost as if the set up portion is its own game . . . hey, wait a minute, there’s an idea. And what if it was actually a really simple card game that’s easy to learn and full of tongue-in-cheek humor about all the board games we love to play and hate to set up? That’s how we wind up with Complicated Board Game the Card Game: Time 2 Play!

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Meet the Party: Legend of the Five Rings: Courts of Stone

A Matchmaker of the Deer, manipulating others to maintain Rokugan’s balance. A Spymaster of the Crane, ferreting out secrets and striking at exposed weaknesses. A Deathdealer of the Scorpion, striking down enemies by any means necessary. A Chronicler of the Dragon, maintaining the truth despite a storm of lies. The social scene in the Emerald Empire is just as much of a battlefield as any blood-stained patch of earth outside Toshi Ranbo, and it’s a battlefield that requires warriors that wield words and blades alike with the greatest of skill. Fortunately we have what we need to build an entire party of such warriors for the Legend of the Five Rings roleplaying game from Fantasy Flight Games, using the Courts of Stone!

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Kickstarter Wonk: November, 2019

Welcome to Kickstarter Wonk for November! What am I thankful for? Well, I’m thankful that not only was November a bumper crop of games on Kickstarter, but it was also one where there were a large number of really solid offerings. Whether you try and take over the moon or try and explore your Jewish identity, this month’s Kickstarters were for a huge number of really diverse games. Check out the descriptions below, and consider what sort of game either tickles your fancy or stretches your mind.

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Blood on the Clocktower – Actual Play Review

“In the quiet village of Ravenswood Bluff, ‌a demon walks amongst you… During a hellish thunderstorm, on the stroke of midnight, there echoes a bone-chilling scream. The townsfolk rush to investigate and find the town storyteller murdered, their body impaled on the hands of the clocktower, blood dripping onto the cobblestones below. A Demon is on the loose, murdering by night and disguised in human form by day. Some have scraps of information. Others have abilities that fight the evil or protect the innocent. But the Demon and its evil minions are spreading lies to confuse and breed suspicion. Will the good townsfolk put the puzzle together in time to execute the true demon and save themselves? Or will evil overrun this once peaceful village?” In order to answer those questions, you’ll have to give the bluffing and deduction game known as Blood on the Clocktower a try!

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Vampire: The Masquerade 5E

It’s Devil’s night, and a warm wind is blowing. Carousers and arsonists swarm through the streets, thinking themselves at the top of the food chain. How wrong they are. Still, caution is deserved…all it takes is one of them getting a bit too happy with one of those smartphones, and suddenly new foes are on your doorstep. It used to be that a Kindred only had to worry about others of their kind, or some of the other supernatural creatures that bumped in the night. Mortals were catspaws, beneath notice, the few hunters more of a distraction for all but the most careless of the Kinde. That was before Vienna and London. Now, no Kindred with half a brain underestimates them…which seemingly excludes a shocking number of your Elders. Still, their (un?)timely Final Death serves a purpose: finally, finally, finally there are holes at the top, room to advance, to actually make some real change. But until then…well, needs must be met: A Beast you are, lest a Beast you become. You spy an increasingly drunk punk rocker type, working through his second bottle of liquor as he stumbles down a side street. Yes, he’ll do nicely…

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Indie Frontiers #2: Big Bad Blitz Part 1

As I’ve wandered into the Indie Frontiers this past year, I’ve heard tales of a fabled place where indie RPG designers gather from across the land: Big Bad Con. This yearly tabletop and LARP convention is hosted in Walnut Creek, CA, a short seven hour drive from my home in Los Angeles. I had never been to an RPG convention before, but this was too good an opportunity to miss. I left LA with a backpack full of dice and a mission—a mission to interview as many up-and-coming indie RPG designers as I could find.

Today’s interviewees: JR Goldberg, Viditya Voleti, Riley Rethal, Dee Pennyway, and Kurt Potts.

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How Long Do You Play?

The RPG space is filled with unchecked assumptions regarding what gaming groups actually do. We already know that market information is hard to find, but it’s even harder to find information on how people consume whichever RPGs they choose to consume. Are they playing mostly in organized games hosted at game stores? With a group of friends at someone’s home? At cons? How often do they play? How many different systems do they try? We have, as one of my players once said, no hard data but a lot of assumptions and circumstantial evidence. The one element which is most significantly reflected in how games are actually designed is how long a discrete ‘game’ or ‘campaign’ is intended to be played.

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System Hack: Putting the Cyber into Cyberpunk Chimera

Cyberpunk as a literary genre has many touchstones, like the role of corporations in society and humanity’s relationship with technology. These have trickled down to tabletop games in different ways, but certain tropes keep coming up. Cybernetic enhancement is *the* subsystem for cyberpunk games, and has generally succeeded in early cyberpunk games where hacking, a complementary subsystem, often failed. Cyberware stands in for magic in most cyberpunk games, giving the characters access to superhuman power, though at a cost. In addition to cyberware, there is usually a digital world aspect of cyberpunk games, adjacent to but not always overlapping with the hacking rules. In early works this was a completely separate virtual world, while in modern games, there is much more focus on augmented reality, and the digital commingling with the real.

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