This review doesn’t matter because there are four types of people who will click on this review when they see it, and none of them are looking for more information in order to form an opinion. You will have critters who’ve already decided they love Candela Obscura and want to see if I do too, and then critters who’ve already decided they hate Candela Obscura, think switching rulesets was pointless…and want to see if I do too. On the indie/OSR side, you have those who can’t stand Critical Role, and want to see if I’m going to bag on it, ranting as long as I did when I reviewed Root. You also have those who are just thankful that the largest Actual Play in the game is using something other than D&D, and have already decided it’s better. Ultimately, I don’t think my conclusion is going to satisfy any of these camps.
Now, given my own biases from both years of experience in RPGs as well as other media (not to mention writing to a specific audience for a living), I find it hard to believe that anyone was expecting a conclusion other than ‘it’s fine’ for the first ground-up new game from Darrington Press. Just like nobody should have expected Tal’Dorei to be a Planescape or Spelljammer or other setting that really pushes on the conventions of the D&D genre, nobody should really have expected that a new game from Critical Role Productions would do anything other than nestle neatly into the range of genres already popularized in roleplaying, specifically nestling in next to another bestseller, Call of Cthulhu.
I’m starting the review in this way because, ultimately, the specifics of Candela Obscura aren’t nearly as interesting as the reactions they’ve elicited. On Twitter, the first reactions I saw were mostly from indie designers who seemed primed to hate it. Apparently everyone became an IP lawyer since the OGL kerfluffle, because there were people outright claiming that the game had plagiarized Blades in the Dark and was violating the terms of the Creative Commons license (in case it isn’t clear, this is untrue). On Reddit, I read a lot of confusion about the system, though it’s hard to tell from comments if this is just from newness and lack of context, or if it is actually confusing in play. And, of course, the first big review expressed disappointment at how much of a retread the whole thing is.
The Cannibal Halflings wrap up their tour of duty with the Band of Blades! Blood soaks the ground in the forest outside Plainswood – but the Heavy, Sniper, Medic, and what’s left of the Silver Stags squad of the mercenary Legion press on in their assault against the undead (and turned) forces of the Cinder King. When they earn the personal attention of an enemy leader, however, they’ll have to depend on their luck to survive – and they’re not the only members of the Legion at risk.
The Cannibal Halflings join the Legion as it flees east towards Skydagger Keep, the undead forces of the Cinder King and his Broken generals hot on their heels. Having reached the village of Plainswood, the command staff have issued orders and squads are on the march to strike back and clear the path. Faced with twisted undead and even more twisted people, however, it’s going to be desperate going for this bloody Band of Blades!
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!
Forged in the Dark is out of the starting gates. Where Apocalypse World spawned ‘Powered by the Apocalypse’ (PbtA), Blades in the Dark spawned Forged in the Dark, a similar moniker to describe new games which hack and adapt the original game’s ruleset. Now, three years after Blades was first available digitally, there are three Forged in the Dark games at various stages of completion: Scum and Villainy, Band of Blades, and Hack the Planet. Of these, Hack the Planet is the second one released and the one I’ve personally been waiting for. Designed by Fraser Simons, best known for his work on PbtA cyberpunk game The Veil, Hack the Planet means its title literally, and takes place in a dark future where climate change has wrought havoc on the planet. Characters are Glitches, those who eschew the protection (and surveillance) of the corporations from the refugee city Shelter 1 and instead try to make their own way, adapting technology, modifying their bodies, and even fighting the weather to do so. Storm-chasing cyberpunk sound interesting? Read on.
It was time to take the training wheels off. My previous attempts at GMing have, up to this point, been drawn from modules and published campaigns, or had been drawn up using notes provided to me when I stepped in to guest GM. Now, there is nothing wrong with running from a module, and it is required for something like D&D’s Adventurers League. However, with an upcoming gaming marathon on the horizon (As Aaron, Seamus and were running the planned scenarios, it was dubbed CHGCon) I found myself preparing to run a session of Blades in the Dark, something I had been looking to do for a while. The problem, however, was that the first time everyone would be able to sit at the same table would be gametime. There wouldn’t be time to weave together the backstories of characters without making them myself. I would have zero idea of team dynamic, or what kind of gang they would be, and that would prevent them from having access to team benefits. While I could have made characters in advance, I didn’t want to take away from the character creation process for them, especially with a system with fairly streamlined and boilerplate mechanics for character creation. Continue reading The Noob GM: My First Original Scenario→
A washed out veteran with a knack for pushing his luck at the right moment on high-stakes jobs. An illegitimate noblewoman, using her inherited charm and connections to build a shadow kingdom of her own. A grieving father, who can hold a ship together with duct tape and prayers, but can’t do the same for himself. An ace pilot, disillusioned about the costs of war and desperate to find work after fighting on the losing side.M eet the Party brings you ready-to-play characters, complete with backgrounds and relationships, for use both in your own games and as inspiration for creating characters of your own. Strap on your holster and fire up the engines, it’s time to be space cowboy bad guys!
Last week we went over the recent Forged in the Dark product from Off Guard Games and Evil Hat Productions, Scum and Villainy. There was a small bit of table fiction in the beginning of the review, and it struck a chord. What follows is the groundwork for a group of smugglers, blockade runners, and overall Ne’er-do-wells for profit, the crew of the Freefall.
“Easy does it friend.” Ari raises his hands as Marx levels his gun. He raises his voice again across the hanger. “You wouldn’t want to do anything hasty now. I’m sure there’s room to negotiate here. All we want is to get paid, and the artifact is yours.” Already the situation was looking bad. Marx, the supposed buyer they were set up to deal with, chose to bring his own group of thugs, and it seemed like their idea of negotiation involves bullets.