Last weekend, I went to my first science fiction convention ever. I know, I know, hard to believe coming from someone writing on a gaming blog. Nevertheless, Arisia 2019 was my first sci-fi con, and it certainly won’t be my last.
Every game of Lady Blackbird starts in the same place: The cold iron brig of the Hand of Sorrow. Five rebellious heroes are trapped in the uncaring grip of the Empire, with aspirations of freedom alongside the far-off pirate king Uriah Flint. The premise is exciting, but the genius of this 2009 indie darling really begins to show when your players take control of the crew of The Owl. Will they talk their way out of imprisonment? Can they break out with force? Perhaps the predicament requires a more uncanny solution—teleportation, shapeshifting, or summoned lightning. No matter what the party does, their choices will send your story spinning off into The Wild Blue.
It was like staring into a row of funhouse mirrors out of a nightmare. Every tank Sally ‘Spitfire’ O’Brien looked in held a body with her face. According to the readouts at the base of the tanks several were deceased, each corpse looking . . . warped, somehow, by the experiments they’d been subjected to, but an equal number had life signs in the green. CryptoHertz, Sabot, Calamitas, and White Coat (Showtime had vanished by now) all kept one eye on Spitfire while they spread out and looked at the tanks themselves, trying to understand. Plague Hack’s words – no, lies – and the video he had shown her – had to have been a fake – burned in Sally’s mind as she found herself standing in front one of the dead tanks. With a blood curdling scream she raised her fist and smashed it into the tank.
When we typically think of supernatural horror and someone mentions a Mythos, they are almost always referring to HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, and all the assorted otherworldly monsters and non-Euclidean geometry that goes along with that. Fortunately, Lovecraft wasn’t the only author trying his hand at the weird and horrifying. Robert Chambers wrote a sequence of four stories, collected in a book entitled The King in Yellow. Taking place in two settings, contemporary (1895) Paris and an imagined future America, the stories of The King in Yellow center around a strange symbol, the Yellow Sign, a mysterious figure, the King in Yellow, and a written play with strange effects, also named The King in Yellow. Chambers’ stories are considered hallmarks of occult fiction, and even Lovecraft himself borrowed from Chambers’ work. As such, it only made sense that someone would give them an RPG treatment, much like the one bestowed upon Call of Cthulhu. Robin D. Laws wrote The Yellow King for Pelgrane Press using the GUMSHOE system, but gave special attention to Chambers’ style of mind-bending horror, and extended his worldbuilding a little bit. The Yellow King has not two but four unique settings included with the game, and each one has a slightly unique version of the game, tailored to the conflicts and conceits of the setting. What’s more, the game is set up to play a sprawling arc of weird fiction across all four.
Today, we have a special PAX Unplugged Edition of A Glimpse Into the Vault, with a special roundup of board games of interest I came across at the con! Now, this is a little unfair, as this is a grossly cursory look at only some of the many games and vendors that were on display, but with the extensive number of products available I only had so much time and attention to really dig in. Luckily, I managed to get on the media list for PAX Unplugged, so I was fortunate enough to be solicited by a number of people interested in getting attention for their game, and from that I managed to schedule a slew of interviews about different games. We previously chatted with Brendan Conway about Unbound, the latest supplement for Masks: A New Generation, but today we’ll be tackling the board games I got to see in greater detail, and the creators who I had the chance to interview.
A technology-obsessed pilot, hacker, and engineer. A social butterfly who just so happens to be the ship’s medic. The crew’s fatalistic scout and security officer. An anarchist spy using a mechanic’s toolkit as a cover. None of them truly know what horrors await them out in the solar system . . . but they’re going to find out, because they’re a ready-to-play crew of characters for Shadows Over Sol from Tab Creations! Continue reading Meet the Party: Shadows Over Sol
The Fifth Edition of Dungeons and Dragons represented a return to form in many ways over the Fourth, and the merits of that from a rules perspective can be debated. What is not debatable, though, is that the closed-off approach to third-party material which Wizards of the Coast used in response to the d20 debacle of the 2000s went too far, and the return of the Open Gaming License for Fifth Edition is a good thing. Coming out of 2018, the largest tabletop RPG Kickstarter in terms of money raised was one of these third-party products, a supplement called Strongholds and Followers. Strongholds and Followers is the brainchild of Matt Colville, a designer with over two decades of experience in both the tabletop and digital realms. Strongholds and Followers is exactly what it says on the tin: rules for creating Strongholds and having Followers in your Fifth Edition D&D game. Colville’s rules are detailed and comprehensive, but the book harbors no illusions that, when implemented, the expansions from Strongholds and Followers will completely alter the power level of your game. There’s also more coming from Colville, a fact which can’t help but make its way into the book’s presentation and design.
The year is 2214. Humanity has spread across the solar system, but what should have been an age of progress and bright days ahead has been swallowed by conspiracies and horror. Things older than mankind have been uncovered, and they are not at all friendly. Society has fragmented, megacorporations wage wars and shadowy groups plot, and every shattered space station has some bioengineered monster hiding in the vents. Still, if you’ve got a ship and a crew and are willing to risk it all, there’s plenty of profit to be made. Such is the world of hard sci-fi horror RPG Shadows Over Sol from Tab Creations!
Happy New Year! Kickstarter is as quiet as it can be in January, not only because of designers taking much-needed holiday time but also because many try to get their Kickstarters ready before Christmas to capitalize on the season. As such, there weren’t many campaigns live in any tabletop games category, let alone the somewhat restrictive box of original RPG. As such, I have an abbreviated list of eight this month, and several of these games don’t fit into the traditional criteria for Kickstarter Wonk. We do have one reprint and one play aid, but all eight of these campaigns are really neat and worth looking into.
‘Twas a few nights after Christmas, and all through the house, a few creatures were stirring, clicking on a mouse . . . to find their way to a band of ready-to-play adventurers prepared to save Christmas! Yes, the holiday has passed, but there’s still time for that holiday-themed one-shot you’ve been thinking of running. This one can be filed under the ‘just for fun’ column, and draws some inspiration from way, way back in the CHG archives. So hitch up the reindeer, pack up all the presents, and check your list twice, because we’re going to adventure for the holidays with Santa Claus and his elves in this Meet the Party for 13th Age!