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.
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!
A tale of horror, with a grave choice at the end. Rooms upon rooms, each one more terrifying than the last. Just last week I got to chat with Marissa Kelly of Magpie Games and bring you into the uncomfortable world of their investigatory horror tabletop roleplaying game, Bluebeard’s Bride. There are a lot of doors to open in that mansion, however, and the tale is not quite over. Bluebeard’s Bride has grown beyond the core book in the year and change since it came out, with multiple supplements intended to enhance and expand upon the game. You’re in luck (or are you), because we’ve got a two-in-one review of both of the supplements currently on the market: the Book of Lore and the Book of Rooms!
A young Bride. A powerful and rich man with a beard that is shockingly blue. A massive house full of rooms, each room full of horrors. A ring of keys to open the doors, but one room is forbidden to the Bride by her new husband. A message that calls the husband away, leaving the Bride alone to explore her new home. An inexorable curiosity that drives her to open the door anyway, only to discover the bodies of previous, slaughtered brides. The husband returns, and discovers what the Bride has done, and the forbidden room gains another occupant. This might summarize the French folktale known as Bluebeard, a story whose most famous surviving version was published all the way back in 1697. But in this case it also summarizes Bluebeard’s Bride, an investigatory horror tabletop roleplaying game from Magpie Games in which you, my friends, are the Bride. Continue reading The Independents: Bluebeard’s Bride
When Fantasy Flight Games lost the Games Workshop RPG licenses, two properties were left in the lurch. Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP) was picked up by Cubicle 7, while Warhammer 40k’s RPG properties were grabbed by Ulisses Spiele, best known in the US for their reboot of TORG. Around the same time that the Fourth Edition of WFRP came out, a new game in the 40k universe was also released. Unlike WFRP 4e, Wrath and Glory steps away from the tried and true d100 system to create a game with 2010s sensibilities that still feels planted in the grim darkness of the future.
An alien invasion that’s taken all the adult superheroes out of the picture, leaving the new generation to fend for themselves. A re-written world where heroes are only now beginning to discover their powers, where crime rules the streets with an iron fist. An academy of learning, where prospective heroes learn history, math, and how to punch a supervillain across the gym while trying to navigate a high school social life. A cosmic roadtrip that takes the heroes across worlds, time, and dimensions in pursuit of the notes of a universe-ending song. A warning from the future, a cosmic wanderer, and a child of evil. Such are the new worlds and new heroes to be found in Unbound, the third and latest supplement for teenage superhero roleplaying game Masks: A New Generation from Magpie Games!
RPG design innovation is a slow, deliberate affair. For all the games which push the envelope, there are an equal number that go back over existing designs to tweak and adjust them. Even Fate, which represented a significant push on traditional mechanics when it first appeared 15 years ago, isn’t immune from this phenomena. Strands of Fate appeared on the market between when Spirit of the Century came out in 2006 and when Fate’s role as Evil Hat’s flagship was cemented with Fate Core in 2013. At the time, there wasn’t a generic version of Fate, and Strands of Fate sought to do that by expanding the mechanics and options available in existing Fate games like Spirit of the Century and Starblazer Adventures. When Fate Core did appear, not only were there now two generic versions of Fate, there were two vastly different versions of Fate.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise- grim and gritty is fun. Since 1986, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay has built off of the setting of the Warhammer Fantasy Battle miniatures game to offer adventures and untimely deaths in the Old World, a “Europe with the serial numbers filed off” beset by both feudal politicking and chaos beasts from beyond. Now, in 2018, the Fourth Edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (WFRP) has recently hit stores, ready to introduce a new generation of gamers to “A Grim World of Perilous Adventure”. But like so many grim and perilous things, WFRP has had a difficult quest to get to this point. Before we dive into the game, let’s talk about WFRP’s 32 year history and why Fourth Edition is so pivotal.
We’re trying something a little bit different this week. Previous installments for The Independents have covered a couple of free to play or “pay what you will” games, such as The Agency and the Ennie nominees for Best Free Game, and I’ve found these to be really insightful. A lot of time and effort goes into making these games, and it is really a wonder that it’s possible that they can be distributed free of charge. It was to my surprise to find that there really is so much out there available to prospective gamers. They are sometimes expansions, or skins of a preexisting system, but with a preponderance of SRDs available on the internet it’s quite possible to get a game going, and free games have a way of just kicking off an idea that helps get people around the table. It is in this vein that I would like to check out free (or very cheap) games that can be easily acquired for a quick game night! And it just so happens that our good friends at Evil Hat have some really nice Pay What You Will and Free games!