Davey Beauchamp, Writer, Amazing Pulp Adventures

Hello Davey, thanks for taking the time out to chat with us.

Thank you for the opportunity to talk with you.

Tell us a little about yourself and your experience in writing and gaming.

I think that is one of the hardest things to do, talking about oneself, but I will give it a try here. I feel like I am introducing myself at a panel. My name is Davey Beauchamp. I have been writing fiction for the past nine years going on ten. My first book was Agency 32: The Chelten Affair. I then started a series of charity anthologies called Writers for Relief.  I wrote the novel Amazing Pulp Adventures starring Mister Adventure vs the Mysterious Shadow X, which has yet to be published but that one novel gave birth to the multi Parsec nominated podcast The Amazing Pulp Adventures Radio Show, Davey Beauchamp’s Amazing Pulp Adventures RPG presented by Scaldcrow Games and Paradigm: Sapphire City a hybrid card/board game from Foxhammer Press. When I have a little bit of free time I write a blog for YATopia and do a Doctor Who vidcast Gallifrey Pirate Radio. I did take a small three year break from writing to get my Masters in Library and Information Science/Service. So I am still getting back into the swing of things.

Tell us a little about your charity anthologies?

Writers for Relief are the anthologies I have put together to help raise money for the survivors of disasters. The first anthology came about because of Katrina and a bunch of people, authors and writers wanted to do something to help out and for some reason they turned to me. So I took up the charge to help and Writers for Relief was born.

The first anthology raised money for the Red Cross Hurricane Aid. The second one helped raise money for the Bay Area Food Bank. They were still helping feed the survivors of Katrina long after people sort of forgotten about the disaster. I am currently working on a third volume with a co-editor Stuart Jaffe to help out the survivors of the Oklahoma Tornados.

The anthologies have allowed me to work with some of the most amazing authors one could imagine –   Eugie Foster, Gardner Dozois, Brian W. Aldiss, Stephen Euin Cobb, Larry Niven, Debbora Wiles, Nancy Kress, Joe Haldeman, Todd McCaffrey, A.C. Crispin, Christie Golden, David Drake, and more.

And the names for the new anthology are just as incredible as past contributors.

What is Worlds of Pulp and the Amazing Pulp Adventures?  How did it get started?

The Worlds of Pulp is a product line of pulp theme RPG settings by Scaldcrow Games using the Bare Bones system.  Right now the two settings, which are the corner stones to this product line, are Davey Beauchamp’s Amazing Pulp Adventures and Rotwang City.

Davey Beauchamp’s Amazing Pulp Adventures (APA) is set in the city of tomorrow, to-day! Sapphire City! It is a city full of pulp heroes and villains and sits on the cusp of the world of the golden age of comic heroes and villains. We have Nazis, dinosaurs, the Museum of the Unknown, Miracle Machines, mechanized marvels, and so much more. This is a place where anything can be a mask, which refers to the first time the city’s champion, Alexander David Venture, first became Mister Adventure by turning his cummerbund into a mask.

APA becoming a role-playing game started with Glenn, the publisher of Scaldcrow Games, and I just talking about ideas and projects we could work on together and we both discovered our mutual love of pulp. We both come at pulp from different angles. I am the light side and optimistic side of pulp and Glenn has a love for the dark and gritty side of pulp. We really cover the spectrum created by pulp.

What makes the pulp genre most appealing to you?

Pulp is magical because it encompasses all genre from sci-fi to fantasy to hard boiled crimes to worlds of tomorrow to mystery to horror to the supernatural and everything in between. You can do it all in pulp along with mixing and mashing them all together.

What drove you from writing novels or stories in this setting to making it a game for people to play in the universe?

Honestly, I will write anything for a paycheck because I love writing, and this was something new and different for me to do and try. I am always looking for new challenges to challenge myself with. And in truth I have always loved role-playing games, both pen and paper and video. So this was my chance to sort of play in this world of creating a role playing game setting for people to play in to have fun in.

For me the biggest element to pen and paper RPGs is the social element of hanging out and gaming with friends. So I hope Davey Beauchamp’s Amazing Pulp Adventures will help in that tradition of gathering around the table with friends, tossing the dice, and making epic memories in social story telling.

Do you ever feel like it is other people playing in your backyard?

Davey Beauchamp’s Amazing Pulp Adventures is set in Sapphire City, the city of tomorrow, to-day, and at first I was really apprehensive about people playing in my sandbox because this was a very new experience for me. I quickly grew to like the collaborative process of growing and flushing out the world of Sapphire City with the other people involved in turning my world into a role playing game. Now I can’t wait to see what people, players, and GMs do with Sapphire City in their games. I can’t wait to talk to them and hear about their adventures in my city.

And I hope people have fun playing in this world of mine and playing in my backyard. I can’t wait to hear their stories.

Do you see the allure a lot of gamers see about playing in all the universes they read about or see on the big screen?

I do because they exist beyond just the rule and source books of a role playing game. They have been brought to life via moving pictures or countless words in prose. These are huge worlds the players can experience outside the game and familiarize themselves with the worlds on whole other levels.

How was it transitioning from a traditional writer to a writer for a role playing game?

Like I said earlier, writing is writing. There are certain elements that are always there. The most interesting thing was that since I was writing for the Bare Bones 2d6 system, I didn’t have to worry about mechanics just the setting. Glenn handled all of the mechanics and making them work in the setting I was creating.

Now the most interesting thing about writing the setting was I got to know my world better than I ever did before. A lot of the elements for Sapphire City and Amazing Pulp Adventures existed in a novel, short stories, and audio adventures – so I hadn’t fully flushed out my world, at least not to the level needed for a role-playing game sandbox world. I now know Sapphire City and the world of Mister Adventure so much better. Honestly, in a lot of ways, Davey Beauchamp’s Amazing Pulp Adventures has become the world bible for this setting and I will go back to reference it when I write more in this world.

Would you ever game master a session of Amazing Pulp Adventures?

I would. I am a little rusty at GMing, but I would do it. Though now that I think about it, I think what might even be cooler would be having Glenn run the game and have me play as Mister Adventure or one of the other main characters from Amazing Pulp Adventures and Sapphire city.

Who is your favorite character in the setting so far?  Why?

Now that is a really hard question to answer because I found myself loving each character as I explored their past and origins in ways I had never done before.  I was discovering new and cool facts about my world and characters as I wrote the RPG setting. Characters I thought were nothing more than throw-away characters, especially in the audio adventures, became really cool and surprising.  As you can tell I am really excited here talking about the characters.

I honestly can’t wait for people to get the game and see who becomes their favorite character.

However, some of my favorites are Mister Adventure, Crimson Moth, the Mobster, Dr. Zhou… there are just so many great characters here.

What is in store for the Worlds of Pulp in the near future?

That is really a Glenn question, but I can tell you what I hope will come next. I hope Davey Beauchamp’s Amazing Pulp Adventures will sell well enough to allow me to expand the world I have written because Sapphire City is really only the tip of the iceberg. Book two would focus on the pulp space/sci-fi adventures of John Hawk, which are in the vein of Flash Gordon. And I do in have in the back of my head a book three, four, and five in mind. I really want to allow people to have all sorts of different types of pulp adventures in the city of tomorrow, to-day, Sapphire City.

Thank you so much, Davey, for sharing with us a little about your Amazing Pulp Adventures!  For more information on Davey Beauchamp and his work go to http://www.daveybeauchamp.com/.

Free RPG Day Reviews

There is a local gaming store that actively supports my efforts in area cons and the Charlotte area gaming community.  I met Ryan when he wanted to run Warmachine demos for one of my MACE events.  He now runs Above Board Games (ABG) in Fort Mill, SC, one of the best gaming stores in the area.  Every year, Ryan buys at least one packet for the Free RPG Day and even though something always seems to prevent me from participating, he still gives me the leftovers from what he bought – which is usually a lot, unfortunately.  I use it to give these leftovers out as door prizes and SWAG to my GMs at MACE and other events (depending on how long it lasts), which they do appreciate.  I really try to give a little extra to my GMs but with my limited budget and limited donations it’s not always a lot.

My goal is to one day run Free RPG Day as a game day. However,  for the past several years I have had something that kept me from doing that.  I really respect the efforts behind Free RPG Day and truly want to get behind it.  Real life has just prevented me from doing that.  I love that the industry has embraced it.  It is now in its 6th year, and while I have seen varied results it has mostly had a positive outcome.  If I can get a year where nothing is going on mid-June, I will put all my efforts into making it a great event in my area.

Ryan of ABG has been kind enough year by year to pass on his leftovers to me, and this year it was an incredible amount of stuff.  In my effort to get more involved in Free RPG Day, I am going to review everything that came in that box, so be prepared for several rapid fire reviews of the one-shot adventures, SWAG and other cool stuff in 2013’s Free RPG basic packet.  I also plan to include advice on how to better run these games at Free RPG Day for GMs.  Because the store gets them a week or two before, there is usually very little time for a GM to prepare, which is probably the greatest reason why some Free RPG Day events are less than the could be.   Therefore, my goal is to make these reviews a little more than simple reviews of the product.  I want to help other Free RPG Day event organizers, GMs and players better their experience.

 

Marx Stead, Head Administrator, Rogue Cthulhu

Marx Stead, lead organizer and owner of the Rogue Cthulhu group at Origins, was kind enough to take the time for an interview with The Gamer’s Codex.


Hello, Mr. Stead. I appreciate you taking the time out to interview with us at The Gamer’s Codex.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, Rogue Cthulhu and how it came about?

I am the head administrator for Rogue Cthulhu and one of its founding members. I also Game Master and write adventures, amongst the myriad of other things I do for the club. I was a philosophy major at the University of Akron. I own an occult book store in Canton Ohio, and I have an 18-year-old daughter.

Rogue Cthulhu is a gaming club dedicated to presenting high quality role-playing (and other) games in the Cthulhu Mythos genre at Origins and other gaming conventions. We are a group of passionate gamers who want to make gaming better for everyone. Rogue started out as a very disgruntled and disenfranchised group of gamers who were fed up with the poor quality of games, poor organization and poor player treatment that was found at Origins the first few years we attended as players (1996-1998). Finally we decided that something needed to be done. An example needed to be set to show all these blanketty-blanks how things should be done, and we were just the kind of upstart rapscallions to do it!

Over the past fifteen years, we’ve built our reputation on quality, dedication, and passion for building an immersive gaming experience. All our members are enthusiastic about putting on a great show and dedicated to the club and its mission. We do everything in our power to see that every game goes off as scheduled so that no players are left disappointed. We try to have Game Masters run their own material whenever possible, so that they are well acquainted with and passionate about the games they are running. We listen to feedback about games and Game Masters. Occasionally, a bad game happens, and when it does, we look long and hard at what went wrong. We’ll re-work a scenario to make it better, or even retire it if need be. We’ll coach our Game Masters to improve their delivery, and if necessary, we’ll bench them if they can’t meet the standards we expect. That can be hard sometimes. No one likes to hear criticism about themselves or their work, but maintaining quality is paramount to our goal. Providing a great game and a fantastic gaming experience for the players is our primary objective and our highest priority.

What is your roll at Origins 2013?

My roll at Origins 2013 is as the head administrator for Rogue Cthulhu. As such, I do lots and lots (and lots) of stuff. For Origins 2013, I am Game Mastering in 24 hours of events. I am the liaison to the events team at GAMA, both at the show and pre-show. I assembled the event information from our GM’s, arranged the schedule, and posted the event submissions. I made what meager updates I could manage to our web page (which is still under construction from its content migration to a new CMS). I took care of registration for most of our GMs and arranged for their GM compensation. This year I purchased or fabricated several additions and improvements to our room decorations. I designed and built a new improved lighting rig; built a coffin and several other props for our LARP; and designed and fabricated an entire giant sized Settlers of Catan board game with 3D sculpted terrain in a Cthulhu theme. At the show, if a GM has a problem, like gets sick or can’t be found, I help rectify the situation any way I can. I’ll find another GM, make sure the players know what is going on and make explanations and apologies as needed. I’ll try to help seat players looking to bump into a game with generic tickets. I’ll try to round up more players if a game has open seats (they seldom do). I make sure the proper event paperwork is turned in to GAMA for all seventy-two of our events. I pack and load the majority of our physical props and gear (with help), unload on site, and supervise and help with the setup of the room, then pack it all back up at the end (many of us pitch in on the set-up and tear down of the room). I have a vision for Rogue Cthulhu, and as such, I find myself taking on the lion’s share of duties in order to fulfill that vision as I see it. Some say I have control issues (which is probably true), so I tend to do a lot myself. But I’m working on learning to delegate. This year was actually a lite year for me GMing-wise, and I let some of our other members take over a lot of the in-room administration duties so that I could spend some more time enjoying the con with my daughter.

How long have you been going to Origins?

I started attending Origins in 1996, its first year in Columbus, Ohio. Since then, I have only missed two years. I started running games there as a part of Rogue Cthulhu in 1999.

How long has Rogue Cthulhu been involved with Origins?  How did that start?

A former friend and I started putting together what would become Rogue Cthulhu, just after Origins concluded in 1998. We built a website to vent our frustrations with the establishment. We wrote some adventures for the following year. We networked through email and began making contacts. At first we only intended to high-jack a gaming table from the RPGA whenever their GM didn’t show up (which was a near certainty), and run a game of our own. That was what we called “Plan A.” However, before Origins came around the next year, we had grown. Others heard our frustrated rants on the internet and joined our cause. Our numbers swelled, as did our ambitions. When it became clear that we could do so much more than high-jack a table or two, we approached Chaosium to see if they would back us. We made it clear that we were going to do our thing with or without them, but with their support, we thought we could do more. Chaosium agreed to submit our events as theirs, as well as provide some prize support for our players. Rogue Cthulhu made its debut at Origins in 1999, with seven Game Masters and something like thirty RPG events; in contrast to the RPGA’s much vaunted “Cthulhuthon” the year before, which had a whopping thirteen events. We called our new group Rogue Cthulhu because we saw ourselves as outlaws, pirates of role playing not bound by rules or beholden to corporate policies. We never intended to ask permission or seek approval from anyone. We were going to do a better job at running games than the established organizers, whether they liked it or not. We figured that if we did a great job, it would force everyone to up their game or look worse by comparison. We were a very vocal group of guerrilla gamers back then. We called a lot of people out, by name, for their ineptitude. We weren’t interested in making friends in the industry, just setting an example. We made a lot of people in the establishment angry with our web site because we called it like we saw it and didn’t pull punches, which continued even after we started running our own games. We even got banned by WotC from Origins and GenCon for a year (2001) for our “abusive attitude.” WotC even tried to blacklist us to keep us from returning the next year, but we convinced GAMA to give us a chance to show them what we could do. That’s when we came out with “The Big Show.”

That was a long time ago. We’re much less angry now. In no small part because of the changes that we feel we had a hand in bringing about. Plus, we’ve matured, as people and as an organization. These days, we are more about putting on a great gaming experience and leading by example than about calling others out for their failings. The players can see the difference between a good game and a bad one. They don’t need us to point it out anymore.

Is this a for-profit effort or do you do it for the love of the game? Or both?

Rogue Cthulhu is a not-for-profit venture. It is definitely done for the love of gaming. We do occasionally up-charge for certain events and sell the odd gaming prop on eBay just to offset costs (which are more substantial than you would think), but we dump far more resources into running our show than we could ever get out of it.

What are you most proud of in your work with Rogue Cthulhu and Origins?

There’s a lot to be proud of. We’ve made a lot of players happy. We’ve increased the following for Cthulhu games substantially. We’ve had a hand in making the convention more responsive to the players and especially to clubs and organizations that provide content. We’ve raised the bar for Game Masters and event organizers to provide higher quality games. We’ve increased the level of presentation and pageantry to be found at Origins. I think we’ve had a great impact on Origins, and a very positive one. And I know that the current administration sees that as well. This year, John Ward (Executive Director of GAMA) called us the epitome of what a gaming group at Origins should be (I’m paraphrasing, because I wasn’t there when he said it).

There have been a lot of things that have happened over the years to be proud of, too. But my proudest moment was in 2004. Sandy Peterson was a guest of honor at Origins. This was the first year (I believe) that Origins ran its “Play with a Creator” track. Things were going well for us that year. The room was packed. About mid way through the con, Sandy Peterson showed up in our room – not to play with us or even to talk to us but to try to poach players for his “play with the creator” game! He showed up about ten to fifteen minutes after the hour. Players were already seated and characters were being read. The games were about to get underway. He must have had a poor turn out for his event (though I don’t know that for sure) because he showed up and announced to the room that he was looking for players for his game. Everyone stopped what they were doing and looked at him. All was silent and still. After a few pregnant seconds, he added expectantly, ” I’m Sandy Peterson… I created the game.” Everyone looked at him. No one moved. Mr. Peterson left the room, alone. Not a single person was willing to walk away from one of our tables to go play with the creator of the Call of Cthulhu RPG. That’s when I knew- WE ARE THE SHOW!

DO you get to play any games at Origins?  Or at least run games?

I rarely get a chance to play in anything at Origins, mostly because I spend all my time either running games or overseeing the smooth operation of the Rogue Cthulhu room: helping people find their game events, making sure the GMs are ready for their events and have everything they need, taking care of event paperwork, and acting as liaison with the convention organizers. Each year, I run anywhere from six to nine event slots, myself. Sometimes more, rarely less. This year I actually got to play in two games, which is nearly unheard of.

Tell us a little bit about the Rogue Cthulhu room at Origins 2013.  That was quite a set up!

From the beginning, we always tried to add a little decoration to the room where we ran our games. But those early efforts were paltry compared to “The Big Show.” That’s what we call our room set up now. Back in 2001, Rogue Cthulhu and all its members got banned from running events at Origins (and GenCon) by Wizards of the Coast (who ran both conventions at the time). This was back in our very angry days, and was the result of an angry email from us (me) that was sent to the events staff (about something that was totally their fault). Anyway, our year long ban only made us angrier, hungrier and more ambitious. It also gave us time to re-group, plan and build! We spent that time off plotting and planning for our triumphant return, which we vowed would be bigger and better than anything anyone had ever see at Origins. I have a motto when it comes to Origins, “Go big or go home.” During our hiatus, we designed special eerie mood lighting for our game room- colored flood lights and black lights. Designed and built a custom lighting rig to suspend it over head. We gathered dark ambient sound-scapes for background music. We built a hand made eight foot tall inflatable effigy of Cthulhu as a room centerpiece. We gathered or built numerous other decorative elements to create atmosphere in our game room. We wanted to make it look like a Cthulhu cultists’ den! We made a huge eight foot square hand sewn cloth banner with our group logo to post outside our room. We put together our own prizes for all our games (Chaosium dropped us like a hot brick when we got banned). We invented a point system for distributing prizes to all the deserving players, not just to one player that everyone voted for at the end of the game. We bought our own black tablecloths to cover the gaming tables, which we then painted with eerie occult symbols. We put together a large scale LARP dance party event with a DJ and light show (all home brewed). We hand made black cultists’ robes costumes for all our GMs! And of course, we recruited more GMs and wrote more adventures. All this we put together in one year preparing for our triumphant return. There was just one thing; some of our ambitious plans would require cooperation from the convention organizers to pull off. We needed a private room for all our games, control of the room lighting, access to electricity, etc. So I called the Event Coordinator at GAMA (who had taken over the running of the con after WotC defaulted on their contract) to get approval for these things. That’s when I found out that WotC had tried to blacklist us. What should have been a ten minute phone call about “can we control the lights in the room,” turned into an hour and a half spin session with me selling GAMA on “The Big Show.” Fortunately, they loved our ideas and decided to give us a chance.

That was back in 2002. Since then, “The Big Show” has continued to grow. We have made numerous additions and improvements to our kit. The Cthulhu effigy has been replaced with a better one. Two more large inflatable decorations have been added. The prize table has grown substantially, with over a dozen companies and individuals contributing. The light rig has been improved and refined. The background score has been improved and expanded. We have amassed a collection of props and costume pieces for LARPs. We bring our own computer and printer set up to help GMs prepare for their games. Some years we have Cthulhu artwork projected twelve feet tall on the game room wall. Some years we host screenings of Mythos-themed movies in between game sessions.

All this takes a lot of investment, a lot of preparation and a lot of time and effort to load, transport, set up and tear down. But the atmosphere it creates makes the games that much more immersive. Our room set up has become our hallmark. People walk into the Rogue Cthulhu room and are awed. They know they are in for an experience.

How has the reaction to your style of table top Call of Cthulhu con games been?

Every now and then you get someone, either a player or a Game Master, who doesn’t like the low lighting or the background music. It can be a little distracting at first, but I’d say the response to the room effects is overwhelmingly positive. The same applies to the games themselves. Tastes in style differ from person to person, and sometimes a player will be in a “creature feature” game when they would prefer an investigatory one, but we try to give descriptive information about our events to help people find what they like. We were the first group (that I know of) to include a web address in their event descriptions at Origins, so that players could find more information about an event. We are very fortunate to have talented and enthusiastic authors and Game Masters in our group. Their passion comes through in our games and makes for a better experience for everyone. The vast majority of players we talk to have a great time, and some are completely blown away by the experience. We have had many players spend their entire weekend in our room. One player this year made a point to tell me that he came 3000 miles to Origins just to play in Rogue Cthulhu games. He pre-registered for thirteen of our events!

What other events is Rogue Cthulhu involved in?

It took us fifteen years to break out from Origins to another convention, but in 2012, we finally did it. Rogue Cthulhu ran just under twenty events at Con on the Cob 2012, which went very well for our first “away game.” We also scheduled nineteen events at AnCon (also in Hudson, Ohio), but player turn out for that one was poor. It’s very hard to pull together personnel and resources to run events at smaller cons. A lot of us can only afford to take time off from our jobs to attend one convention a year. Origins, in Columbus Ohio,  is our “home field” and I expect it always will be.

Between all you do, do you get much of a chance to play any?  If so, what are you playing now.

Oddly, I never play Call of Cthulhu at home. I only play it at the con. I have a weekly D&D game, and some of our other members that are local to me have a weekly Pathfinder game. When Origins time rolls around, I have to take a two month hiatus from my regular game so that I can focus on getting ready for the show. Our production requires an immense amount of prep work in order to run smoothly.

Thanks for sharing with us all about Rogue Cthulhu and “The Big Show” at Origins!  For more information visit Rogue Cthulhu online at http://www.roguecthulhu.com/.

MACE West has a new home! Going further west!

A deal has been struck! A date has been set! We are ready to go.  Or at least begin to go since MACE West is not until next year.   But we have new dates and a new location.

MACE West will be at the DoubleTree Hotel in Asheville  March 21- 23, 2014.   We got a better deal on the room by moving it to March.   The room rate is $99 plus tax per night.   Pre-registration is $25 with the at the rate of $40.

I look forward to the new hotel.  It is very nice.   We will have info about the hotel with some photos on the website.   So please visit us the for more pertinent information.

Thanks,

Jeff Smith
Justus Productions 

Star Wars LCG: The Force Is Strong with this One.

 

Star Wars: The Card Game
From:Fantasy Flight Games
Reviewed by: CJ Taylor

After watching the online tutorial, I found myself compelled to visit the local game and buy a copy of the Core Set. I have fond memories of hanging out on Saturdays with a buddy, popping A New Hope into the VCR, continuing to play the Star Wars CCG (Decipher) with the periodic switching of tapes until the credits rolled on Return of the Jedi. Could the Star Wars LCG possibly rival those old glorious days of game play? Plus I’ve been curious about this new LCG format. With more bills to pay in my current life, I found it appealing I could buy a card game that doesn’t require a second mortgage to “keep up.”

There’s little reason for me to get into the basics of how to play. FFG has already provided a good beginner’s tutorial.

The overall strategy decently reflects the action found in the Star Wars Universe. The Dark Side (DS) plays very aggressive, drawing more cards, burning resources and damaging everything in sight as frequently as possible. Meanwhile the Light Side (LS) plays defensively while patiently waiting for pinpoint opportunities to strike against the Dark Side typically only a few times in a single game. But if played well with timing, such strikes are powerful and devastating – to one side or the other.

Sitting down with a buddy, it took about 2 hours to thoroughly rake over the rules and go through a phase or two to learn the game. Once you know the phases, it takes anywhere from 5-10 minutes for a full rotation between two players; with two seasoned players it’s closer to 5 minutes. The bulk of complexity is found in the battle phase. There’s nothing really abnormal about it other than it being broken up into two segments: Edge Battles and Striking. The bulk of absorbed time initially poured into getting some specific rules clarity on card abilities and special conditions, less the actual mechanics of the game. I did find myself referencing FAQ/addendums/forums on two occassions so far and not just on rules clarifications. For instance, can the Rancor “eat” himself? (Answer: surprisingly, yes!)

Deck building is interesting. First, you build your deck not by selecting individual cards, but what’s called “objective sets.” Each set consists of one objective card along with 5 other cards that come with that set. They can be units, events, etc.. Objective sets are numbered at the bottom along with “x of 6” (the actual objective card is always #1). The other interesting aspect is the Affiliation card. When you choose LS or DS, you also choose a primary affiliation. For DS there is Imperial Navy, Sith, or Scum and Villainy. For Light Side you have Rebel Alliance, Jedi, or Smugglers and Spies. There are also neutral sets for each side. Choosing a certain affiliation doesn’t restrict you to affiliation sets only. However, most affiliation cards do require at least one resource token of it’s “type” to be used to play (called a resource match). So if you split across three different affiliations, you may find some challenge getting some of your cards into play. This isn’t totally a downside. I’ll explain why in a later article when covering strategy. Lastly, an official deck must consist of at least ten objective sets.

Pros

  • The strategy is fantastic. I discovered the Edge Battle to be a lot of fun. It’s rather intense and not to be underestimated. The same goes for Balance of the Force. Either of these can quickly lead you to victory or defeat.
  • LCG means this doesn’t make you a cardboard crack addict constantly needing another “hit.” The way it works is you buy expansions, but it’s not random collectables like you find with booster packs. However, you still get the benefit of customizing your decks. If you have a buddy to play with, you only need one purchase to get started, not one core set each. However, there is a caveat (see my “cons”).
  • The game gives a great portrayal of the struggle in the force. Both sides play like you would imagine they would and they typically win or lose also accordingly. Being a Star Wars fan, I greatly appreciated this. Star Wars fans will definitely “get it” on this point.
  • Original Artwork. They trumped the Decipher SWCCG here. Not just photos from the movies. Though some of the artwork may be based on a still frame, you don’t feel it was just “copy and paste” to make a card. You’ll get the fantastic artwork FFG has developed in reputation.
  • Unique. Good strategy but not a rehash of its predecessors. If I were to try to relate this I would tag it closer to the original by Decipher. But honestly, it’s not the same game. I personally found the fresh approach a plus.

Cons

  • Prepare to buy two sets of everything. An official deck consists of 10+ objective sets. You can have up to 2 of any single objective set in your deck, some (specified on objective card) are restricted to one. With the exception of doubles on a neutral set, one for LS and DS, the Core Box has a single set of each. So the price to “get serious” is more than one box. Prepare to spend $80 in retail to get two Cores! When I discovered this I felt a bit duped in the sense I didn’t feel I owned a complete game. But then I have also considered past investments in any other CCG I’ve ever played which far overshadows this. Still, the initial price is indeed deceptive.
  • As I said before, I’ve had to visit the site for two separate clarifications, not on rules but cards. So it’s not a terrible “con,” but anytime I find I have to search a forum for an answer, it’s an inconvenience. And to be fair, both times the search resulted in basically what the card says it does. Yet the Rancor having the ability to pull off a forced suicide still seems questionable.
  • The Light Side has a higher learning curve. So initially the decks don’t appear equal. After getting beaten without mercy three times in a row, I was about to declare that the DS deck was just massively overpowering the LS. But then I won one, then a few more with the LS to finally discover what I was doing wrong. In the famous words of Yoda: “Control. Control. You must learn control!” That’s what it’s all about. But it’s definitely easier for a noob to pick up a Dark Side deck and beat someone with less strategy. Keep this in mind when teaching friends so you don’t beat the crap out of them in their “introduction.” Keep more friends by letting them play Dark Side their first time. If “they” are not your friend(s) or some troll then by all means this is an effective way to humiliate and destroy them.
  • Smugglars and Spies and Scum and Villainy are sales points in the Core Set. Yes, you can theoretically place these in your deck strictly from the Core Set and there is a particular neutral set on DS and LS each to make integration of them “less painful” to achieve resource matching. But for the most part they’re just there to wet your wistle to buy expansions. And yes, as always Han Solo is awesome.

I personally give two lightsabres up. My personal gripes are in the game’s favor: a) not enough people are playing it (yet) and b) because of work, I can’t make it out to the tournaments at my local game store.

Here’s the official page: Star Wars: The Card Game

Rating: 16 – Great

Summary: In Star Wars: The Card Game, light side and dark side players duel for the fate of the galaxy. While the light side player races to make tactical strikes against dark side objectives, the dark side player works to reinforce his position of command.

Star Wars: The Card Game
From:Fantasy Flight Games
Type of Game: LCG
Developed by: Eric M. Lang
Game Components Included (Core Set): Rulebook, 1 Death Star Dial, Plastic Dial Connectors, 48 Card Rebel Alliance Deck, 48 Card Jedi Deck, 48 Card Sith Deck, 48 Card Imperial Navy Deck, 6 Force Cards, 6 Affiliation Cards, 36 Additional Cards, 1 Balance of the Force Token, 44 Focus Tokens, 42 Damage Tokens, 10 Shield Tokens
Retail Price: $39.95 (US)
Number of Players: 2 (later expansions allow up to 4 players)
Player Ages: 10+
Play Time: 30-60 minutes
Item Number: SWC01
IBSN: 978-1-61661-381-5
Website: fantasyflightgames.com

Reviewed by: CJ Taylor

May the Force be with You

Spartacus: A Game of Blood and Treachery

From: Gale Force Nine
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery is a new Board Game from Gale Force Nine.

Most people that know me will tell you that I am a huge fan of this show.  I was heartbroken when it ended, although I knew it was coming and the ending was not going to be a happy one.  When I had heard there was going to be a board game, I was skeptical.  Many board games that tie in to shows like this are just terrible – not a lot of thought is put into the design, and they are simply trying to capitalize on a new fad.  Once the show is over, the game will just collect dust and you have no desire to play it again.

The guys of Card Board Stash demo’ed this game for me, despite my reservations.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and can tell you now that this game’s entertainment value can outlast the show considerably.  It is a fantastic game and in this review, I hope to tell you why.

From the Varro card:
“Wake me when it’s time to die again.”

Spartacus is not a complex game at all and it is real easy to pick up.  However, it is one of those games that can change on a dime, and if you have not taken precautions to handle these changes it will be hard to win the game.  Be prepared to be backstabbed multiple times.  It is a game of intrigue and combat.  It is also a game of careful economic management.

It takes place during the first two seasons of the show (where the second season was a prequel season to the first), in which Spartacus is a gladiator for one of the noble houses.  Each player is a Dominus or head of a house of Capua, a great city in Ancient Rome.  Each house is competing for Influence, which is gained through cards, hosting the games, winning the games, and various other underhanded ways.  Each house has their strengths and weaknesses, and it is how you play those strengths while hiding your weaknesses that will decide who wins the game.

The House Cards are the center of play for a player.  They define special abilities, starting resources and other game play items.  Resources or Assets include gold, slaves, gladiators, guards, and most importantly influence.  They are placed in front of the player and act as their home base and reference for the game.

There are two sets of cards in the game – Market and Intrigue.  They are used on their own phases explained below. However, in short, the Market cards represent items, slaves or gladiators that can be bought in the market.  The Intrigue cards are various actions, reactions and countermeasures one can take in the Intrigue phase.

From the Oenomaus card:
“A gladiator does not fear death.  He embraces it.”

The game is played in 4 simple phases: Upkeep, Intrigue, Market, and Arena.    In Upkeep, one does the various things to refresh, heal and balance important aspects of the game.  One important part of this phase is Balance the Ledger.  Every slave a Dominus has gains him one gold while every gladiator he has costs him one gold.  A Dominus must always keep his books balanced.

Following Upkeep, Intrigue cards can be played.  Intrigue cards are made up of Schemes, Reactions and Guards.  This phase is where you learn who are your friends and who are not.  These cards present a player with multiple ways to gain, lose and steal, influence, gold or other assets, usually at the cost of another player’s assets.  Each Scheme and Reaction card has a minimum influence required, and in some cases there is no way a single player could pull off the particular card.  In this case, the Dominus may ask for support from other Dominus and any amount of wheeling and dealing can happen during these negotiations.

This phase can be a lot of fun but people have to not take it personally.  This is where you really have to say to yourself – it’s all part of the game.  It really separates the men from the boys, to be honest.  If you can’t take a little strategic play that might set you back a turn or more, then perhaps this is not the game for you.  The game gives you a lot of options to counter these Intrigue measures including the Reaction cards as well as the Guards, but you have to be smart about what cards you keep and what cars you discard.

That brings up another important aspect of this phase – the Cash in Cards phase. This is perhaps the one area I failed at miserably the first time I played and it’s not something easily learned without playing the game multiple times.  At the end of the Intrigue phase, you can discard cards for their gold value to increase your treasury.  You have a hand limit based on your influence but you can discard more if you need to.  If your lack of gold outweighs your desire to bring down your opponent with a treacherous scheme or if a particular scheme seems somewhat more difficult to obtain, then discarding for gold may be the best option.  The challenge is knowing when to discard and when to keep.  Each card has a different value of gold, making the decision even more difficult.

The Market phase is the auction side of the game where players use gold to bid on various items.  First, Open Market allows players to buy, sell or trade various Asset Cards. Again, any kind of wheeling and dealing can happen here.  You can also sell items to the bank for their gold value.  Second, is the Auction where a number of Market cards are randomly laid out based on the number of players.  These cards may be gladiators, slaves or equipment and all players blindly bid on each one.  Highest bid wins each item.  This is where your ability to read people comes into play.  Do they want this particular item or do they want to make you think they want it, forcing you to bid more gold than you really need to.

The final item that is up for bid is hosting the games.  All players may bid to be the host of the gladiatorial games.  The host not only gains influence but also decides who does the fighting in the arena.  This is incredible power that can change the game.

In the Arena Phase, the host gains an influence immediately.  Then he may choose to “invite” gladiators to the arena.  If the house does not have gladiators, it must use slaves.  It is a bad thing to decline the invitation.  Any kind of dealing can take place to either secure an invitation or avoid one.

Once all is said and done and two gladiators have been chosen, the game shifts to a light miniature combat game, using the nice little minis that came with the game.  The combat rules are very simple but crunchy enough to make combat engaging at least at first.  There is a point, however, when you know your warrior has lost the fight and it usually happens fairly quickly.  When I played, there were those moments where the dice gods favored the underdog but those were rare.

Before combat begins, all players can lay wagers of one to three gold betting on various things to happen in fight – victory, injury, or decapitation.  Based on what happens, the winners can rake in a good amount of gold.  Once all is paid off, the host must decide if the loser lives or dies (if in fact the gladiator is alive at the end of the fight) with the traditional thumbs up and down gesture.  Once again, incredible power is placed in the hands of the host.  Any kind of brokering, bribing or favors may be exchanged to influence this decision as well.

Gladiators can gain Favors after winning a fight and can also become a champion.  These are ways to gain more gold in the game when invited to fight in the arena.

In conclusion, Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery is a brilliant game that transcends it tie-in to a entertainment property.  It is a brilliant mix of a card game, auction game, and miniature game.  It also plays very fast and easy, even when playing the first time.  Although the rulebook is nearly 20 pages long, there are not a lot of clunky rules that you either stumble over, forget about or argue about.  It is a game of treachery and intrigue, so be prepared for that.   It is also not a game for kids, as some of the cards use non-family friendly terms – taken directly from the Starz television show (which was nowhere near family friendly).  The replayability of Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery is endless as well.  I highly recommend this game!

For more details on Gale Force Nine and their new Board Game “Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery,” check them out at their website http://www.gf9.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 20

Product Summary

Spartacus: A Game of Blood & Treachery
From: Gale Force Nine
Type of Game: Board Game
Original Concept by: John Kovaleski
Game Design by: Sean Sweigart, Aaron Dill
Producers: Peter Simunovich, John-Paul Brisigotti
Additional Art by: Charles Woods (3D Modeling), Gale Force Nine Studios
Number of Pages: 19 page rulebook
Game Components Included: Rulebook, 62 card Market Deck, 80 card Intrigue Deck, 4 House Cards, 148 Tokens, 26 Dice, 4 Gladiator figures, Game board.
Retail Price: $ 39.99 (US)
Number of Players: 3 – 4
Player Ages: 17+ (some material may be inappropriate for younger)
Play Time: 2 to 3 hours
Website: www.gf9.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

 

Origins 2013: Mechjocks & Battletech Pods

One of the more interesting and cool items at Origins 2013 that deserves special mention are from the guys at Mechjock.com and Virtual World. Set up in the main hallway in the convention center were 6 (or 7, I can’t recall) pods that just looked awesome. All around it were logos, posters and video screens displaying Battletech ‘mechs and Battletech combat. I thought it was some new Battletech simulator game being released at Origins.  However, it turns out that it’s not something new but it is still very cool.

img_20130615_153559_099Virtual World Entertainment is the company behind these pods.  The Mechjocks is the company that travels to various cons with these pods and sets them up for you to play Battletech: Firestorm.  Based on the Mechwarrior 4 engine, these pods put you in the cockpit of a Battlemech of your choice.  Built a few years back, they appeared in Battletech Centers and other arcades like Dave & Busters.  These machines are a little dated, running mostly on Windows XP boxes.  The pods are called the Tesla II cockpits and have a full mechwarrior cockpit inside with the main viewer screen and several other minor screens throughout, updating the status of your ‘mech during battle.  It is a very slick-looking pod that gives you all the realism you would want for a Battlemech pilot.

This group is out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, but there is a southern group in Texas.  They also currently have 4 pods for sale if you so happen to have $25,000 laying around.  I asked them what the minimum size of a con they would do because I would imagine they would not just attend any con.  Minimum size to make it worth it  is about 1000 to 2000 people, so you have to have a decent con before they will consider you.  I don’t blame them.  I would imagine hauling these beasts around the country can get expensive.

The pods are completely networked together so you are in a battle with all the other pods.  They run simple 7-minute free-for-alls for $6 or full fledged tournaments for a little more.  Signing up is fairly simple.  I had a few generic chips left for the weekend, so I paid for myself and my friend Jim Harris to play in a free-for-all.  All I had to do is walk up, give them my call sign (which appears above the pad in LED lights) and pay.

img_20130615_153611_695Sitting in the cockpit after a 15-minute wait, I was somewhat overwhelmed by sensory input.  There was the main screen, of course, but there were 5 other green screens feeding you input as well.  Also a secondary radar screen helps you target your opponents.  Remembering back in my days with Mechwarrior and Mechwarrior 2, I remember how important the secondary screens were.  They helped alert you of opponents all around you, as well as assess your damage, heat, ammo and energy situation.  In this cockpit, all that information is in front of you but you have no idea which screen is which when you first start out.  To just play the game in a free-for-all that information is not overly important, but in a tournament or long term mission it’s essential.  I know it would take me 3 or 4 times to grow accustomed to the cockpit displays.

There are two hand controls – one for torso pivot and the other is the throttle.  The throttle, foot pedals and military-style joystick help you pilot the ‘mech and at your fingertips are the weapons controls for the various weapons your ‘mech has.  Results may vary based on the ‘mech your choose – and there are quite a few to choose from, all the familiar ones as well as some I did not recognize.  There are over thirty different ‘mechs to choose from.  Of course each ‘mech has variations on size, speed, weapons and controls.  There are also choices of more than twenty different battlefields, including cities, swamplands, canyons, and more.  I played in a grassland with some kind of landing zone or something.  I piloted a Rifleman, which is a ‘mech that is best at long range.  That ‘mech just popped into my head when they asked me what ‘mech I wanted to pilot.  I just remember taking out even Atlas at long range with a Rifleman. Shot to the head! Long Range Heavy Laser!  Unfortunately, not the best ‘mech for short range free-for-alls.

Once you get dropped into combat and orient yourself, the controls come fairly naturally.  I think it would serve them well if they gave the pilots a 2 or 3 minute practice round before going into combat in order to get accustomed to the screens as well as the weapons.  Since I only had two primary weapons, I found myself toying around with buttons I did not need to, wasting valuable time in combat.  As it turned out, 7 minutes is a lot longer than I expected.  If you die, seconds later, you are dropped into the combat again.  You get a full 7 minutes no matter how many times you die.

I did pretty well against the smaller ‘mechs.  The heavy lasers on my arms did enough damage that I did not have to worry about them.  It was the big Atlas and the medium ‘mechs that were a pest.  I think I died 4 or 5 times.  I don’t remember my score but I do not think it was all that good.

I really enjoyed the 7 minutes I played and definitely wanted to play more.  However, I am not sure I enjoyed it enough to pay another $6 – almost $1 a minute.  Like I said, it would take me 3 or 4 times to get good enough to make it worth it – which is what they are hoping for.  The staff was very friendly and answered all my incessant questions.  They are a good group of people who love what they are doing, obviously.  I highly recommend at least trying it once and if you think it’s worth your $6 or even more, then go for it!

If you are interested in having them at your con or event and think you will have enough people to interest them, check them out at MechJock.com.

 

 

Earthdawn 3rd Edition Player’s Guide

Earthdawn 3rd Edition Player’s Guide
From: Redbrick Limited/FASA Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Earthdawn 3rd Edition Player’s Guide is a new RPG Core Player’s Guide from Redbrick Limited/FASA Games.

I have had a few PDFs in my archives that were given to me to review but due to unforeseen life complications, I was not able to.  I felt I owed those products a review and since I have started Gamer’s Codex, I have gone back in my archives and found a number of those products.  Earthdawn 3rd Edition Player’s Guide is one of them.  Since I received this, the original publisher Redbrick Limited has folded and what remained has been rolled up into a new reborn FASA Games, Inc.  Ironically, this is the only original FASA property they retain.  The other properties supported by Redbrick are now with FASA, including Blue Planet and Fading Suns, but slow progress is being made on those.

Earthdawn has always seemed to have an underground following.  In a market that is now all but devoid of a major secondary fantasy setting to Pathfinder, there is a lot of opportunity out there when fatigue sets in for the current king of the genre.  Originally written as a pre-history to the Shadowrun line, over time the two products diverted away from each other and Earthdawn had to survive on its own.

Third Edition is the most recent update to the rules and setting since the game’s release in 1993.  Starting in the hands of Redbrick, through Mongoose Publishing, and finally landing in the hands of the new resurrected FASA, the game has travelled a lot.  In the 3rd edition incarnation, it has seen a good amount of support for a while and now has been put out in Pathfinder and Savage World versions.

There are two core rulebooks for Earthdawn 3rd editionThe Player’s Guide and the Gamemaster’s Guide.  If you are simply going to play a character in this game, all you need is the Player’s Guide.  In the Gamemaster’s Guide, there is more material for a GM to use to create a campaign.  The Gamermaster’s Guide will be reviewed as well at a later time.

THE SETTING

The setting of Earthdawn is similar to most other fantasy settings with a few simple differences.  Earthdawn centers on a sub-continental region known as Barsaive.  The entire world has only recently recovered from a great cataclysm known as the Scourge, where great Horrors overwhelmed the civilizations of the land and laid waste to everything living.  However, there are those that foresaw the coming of the Horrors.  To survive the Scourge, these people went underground, building great underground cities and living there for centuries, waiting for the day when the Horrors would leave their land.  400 years later, people began to return to the surface to find things changed.  Most of the Horrors had left while others still haunt the land.  Adventurers are usually a part of the effort to retake the land from the remaining Horrors and return peace to their world.

The predominant power is the dwarven kingdom of Throal.  Seeking to unite Barsaive’s scattered cities and towns under one crown, they are challenged by the Empire of Therans, which has risen to once again enslave the peoples of Barsaive.  The Therans once ruled the land with an iron fist and no free thinking people wants to see that return again.  The ironic thing is that it was the Theran magicians that predicted the Scourge and the coming of the Horrors.

The role of magic in this setting is considerable. Magic is a natural force in Earthdawn, like the phases of the moon or the rising and setting of the sun.  It is cyclical, rising up to create positive and negative phases.  During the positive phase, magic is flowing freely and all benefit from its power.  During the negative phase, horrible creatures rule the land, like in the Scourge.  Magic is at the heart of Earthdawn as a defining factor to all things.  It is just a question of how it is used that makes each character different.

Magic is handled quite uniquely in the setting.  There is quite a bit of explanation to describe magic in a way that is different than all the other fantasy settings.  Without going into a lot of detail, the game really goes out of its way to make the magic seem different in this setting. It uses quite a few metaphysical terms to describe the role of magic in the setting and defines four major types of magic – Thread Magic (magic that can produce magic items), Blood Magic (magic through bloodletting and sacrifice), Spell magic (casting spells) and Summoning (summoning spirits to do you bidding).

The races of the settings include Dwarfs, Elves, Humans, Orks, and Trolls – all familiar races from standard fantasy.  It also includes Obsidimen (stone-skinned humanoids), T’skrang (reptilian humanoids), and Windlings (fairy like creatures).  Giving the players a few familiar races with a few new ones is always a good thing to have in order to separate oneself from the pack.  A fairly thorough rundown of the setting’s primary location – the subcontinent of Barsaive – is provided at the end with a detailed and colorful map.  All you would want in a fantasy world is here.

From page # 4: “Our minds are our own, our thoughts incomprehensible to others. Should you wish to understand the  wisdom of others, that will cost you extra.

THE SYSTEM

The core system is like a merging of d20 with Savage Worlds, with a little of an old pre-d20 WotC system called Alternity thrown in (if anyone remembers that system).  It uses a variety of dice – from d6 to d12 – on a table of steps scaling from 4 to 40 called the Action Dice Table (which is reminiscent of the step table in Alternity).  Each Step on the Action Dice table defines one or more dice to be rolled. These dice range from d6 at the lowest level to 4d12+2d10 at the highest.  Basically, after determining your level on the Action Dice Table, you take those dice, roll them, add them together and compare to a difficulty.

However, that’s not all.  Like in the Savage World system, if the die rolls the highest possible result, you roll again and add that to the total as well.  This continues for all dice until something other than the highest possible is rolled.  There is also a table that for each difficulty number displays the Result Level, which can be used to measure how successful a roll is.

I am not overly thrilled by this system but I can see the fun in it.  It is already similar to too many systems out there and I would rather play them. My least favorite part of this system is the extensive table that displays the Result Level, which is the measure of just how well you do against a particular difficulty number – which is the difference between the roll and the difficulty.  However, the scale changes based on the difficulty number, making for a rather hefty table.  I can deal with some tables, but large tables like that annoy me.  That aside, however, it is a fairly solid system that is easy to learn and easy to play.

Characters are made up of their race and the discipline.  Picking a discipline is like picking a class in D&D.   However, it is a little more involved than a simple profession.  The book claims that the Discipline is “a way of life.”  Instead of levels, this game has Circles.  A character’s race provides the base attributes and a few racial abilities.  The characters spends a number of additional points to increase the six base attributes, which are three physical and three mental, much like other familiar games most are familiar with.  Various other values are derived from the attributes including defensive values and wound values.

A character’s discipline provides character talents (much like class abilities or feats in d20) and a general idea of how the character interacts with the world around him.  The various levels or Circles have bonuses to various characteristics as well as Talents.  As the character grows in experience, he gains more and more Talents and other bonuses from his Discipline.  There is enough variety in the Talents that two characters in the same discipline can be pretty different.  One can also have multiple Disciplines and would gain benefit from one or the other based on which one leveled. In the Player’s Guide, there are 15 core disciplines but it indicates there are more to come in other supplements.

From page # 14: “The magic of the world follows rules. Understand them and use them, as others will surely use them against you.

The Magic system is somewhat complex.  It introduces many strange and obscure concepts that are not always intuitive.  Central to magic is the astral space – a parallel plane of existence that is intertwined with the physical world and is the gateway to other planes  It is believed to be the source of magic in the physical world.  Patterns, True Patterns, Names and Naming also play a big part of magic, magic items and forms of magic.

To me, this is an overly complicated way to make their magic different from other fantasy worlds.  It goes to extreme lengths to make itself unique, to the point that it is simply too confusing and overly metaphysical.  I think most people want to know which spell they can cast and what they can do – not why and how the magic works in the world.  I am not a fan of overly complicated magic systems and, going in, this seemed just that.

Combat is fairly similar to other games like d20 with some subtle differences.  Some games have the players declare the action on their turn while others require it all declared at once.  This game requires all actions to be declared even before initiative is rolled.  However, there is nothing in the combat procedure that really forces you to do that so I can easily see players falling back to whatever is comfortable for them.

Central to the concept of Earthdawn is the notion of building a Legend.  What this boils down to is the experience system – called Legend Points.   Along with what one would expect to come with an experience system – buying talents and skill levels, class levels, or new class abilities – it also integrates a Renown and Reputation system.  It’s a fairly interesting system although not overly original.  I have seen it in other systems and they really never had a major affect on the game play.  Earthdawn makes it more of integrated part of the game and, over time, I am sure a good GM could make it work but I have never really seen things like that work well.

What I admire about the system the most is its consistency.  Everything – Skills, Talents, combat and magic – is resolved using the same system.  The player adds up a number using attributes and ranks to get a step from the table.  There is no other mechanic that you really have to worry about where resolution is concerned.  However, my biggest complaint is that the step table is not somewhere on the character sheet.  The table is compact enough that it could be integrated on to the character sheet, but it’s not.  I really think they could have done that.

THE BOOK/CONTENT

The biggest concern I would imagine a buyer would have is what the Player’s Guide contains.  Is it truly all you need to play?

After a short story for flavor called Inheritance as well as an Introduction, the Player’s Guide takes some time to explain key aspects of the game and game setting.  There are certain aspects of the game that make it fairly unique.  In the Game Concepts section, the dice system in introduced.  Also key concepts of Adepts, Discipline, Passions and Questors are given short descriptions.  Their  approach to magic is also introduced here.

All that you need to create a character is included.  The primary races are presented in the Namegiver Races section – Dwarfs, Elves, Humans, Obsidimen, Orks, Trolls, T’skrang, and Windlings.  Following this is Creating Characters, the chapters on Disciplines and Skills, and various chapters on the major forms of magic.

The Combat chapter is the meat of most game systems and this is no different.  Followed that are the rules behind Building Your Legend.  The book is rounded out with Goods And Services and a nice section describing the setting’s primary location, Barsaive Province.  There is a also an Appendix that contains Archetype characters and optional rules.

Overall, from a content point of view, this books is perfectly complete for a player to play the game of Earthdawn.  All they need is included in this one book.

In conclusion, Earthdawn definitely sets itself apart from other fantasy role playing games – both in good ways and not so good ways.  It has enough familiarity to allow a gamer to settle into the setting and enough differences to keep a player’s interest.  My only concern is the system.  It is similar enough to other systems that I would rather play those.  I think the publisher saw that, which is why they put out Pathfinder and Savage World systems.  The setting is great and can easily be sustained in these popular systems, to be honest.

For more details on Redbrick Limited/FASA Games and their new RPG Core Player’s GuideEarthdawn 3rd Edition Player’s Guide” check them out at their website http://www.fasagames.com/, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: Setting 16, System 12

Product Summary

61ogxab0d-l-_sy300_Earthdawn 3rd Edition Player’s Guide
From: Redbrick Limited/FASA Games
Type of Game: RPG Core Player’s Guide
Managing Director: James D. Flowers
Line Developer: Carsten Damm
Development Team: Eike-Christian Bertram, Steven J. Black, Carsten Damm, James D. Flowers, Lars Heitmann, Jacques Marcotte, Jason U. Wallace, Donovan Winch, Hank Woon
Senior Editors: Carsten Damm, James D. Flowers
Associate Editors: Eike-Christian Bertram, Steven J. Black, Lars Heitmann, Jacques Marcotte, Jason U. Wallace, Donovan Winch, Hank Woon
Art Direction & Visual Concept: Kathy Schad
Layout: Carsten Damm, Kathy Schad
Cover Artwork: Kathy Schad
Interior Artwork: Anita Nelson, David Martin, Earl Geier, Janet Aulisio, Jeff Laubenstein, Jim Nelson, Joel Biske, Kathy Schad, Karl Waller, Larry MacDougall, Mark Nelson, Mike Nielsen, Rick Berry, Rick Harris, Rita Márföldi, Robert Nelson, Steve Bryant, Tom Baxa, Tony Szczudlo
Number of Pages: 307 PDF
Game Components Included: one core player’s guide PDF
Game Components Not Included: one core game master’s guide
Retail Price: $23.99 pdf, $39.95 (hard cover) (US)
Website: www.fasagames.com/

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

 

Interview with Andy Hopp

Andy Hopp is the writer and artist of  Low Life: The Rise of the Lowly setting book for Savage Worlds RPG.  I had a chance to meet him at Origins this year and he agreed to be our first Kickstarter of the week.

[divider]

Hello, Andy.  Thanks for taking the time to interview with us and spotlighting your Kickstarter, 

Thanks! I appreciate the opportunity.

First off, tell us a little about yourself, from your general gaming experience to your experience as being a game writer/publisher.

I’ve been drawing and playing games since I was knee-high to a smurf (I’m about waste-high to a smurf nowadays). I played D&D in college way more often than I probably should have, although I seldom have time for such things anymore. I really dig games that engage the player with an interesting narrative and well-developed characters. Consequently, I’m not really into hack and slash or getting bogged down in rules and mechanics (although those things certainly have their place).

Anyway, I’ve always been drawing monsters. It’s kind of my thing. I got my big break professionally in 2001 when Margaret Weiss and Larry Elmore hired me to illustrate The Bestiary of Loerem for Sovereign Stone. I’ve done work for a buns load of great game manufacturers, such as Chaosium, Goodman Games, Troll Lord, Pinnacle, and many others, but I’ve only recently been able to dedicate myself full time to my own projects, which has been awesome.

How did the Kickstarter for Low Life: The Rise of the Lowly come about?

I’ve done a few other Kickstarters, including one for Low Life Miniatures and one for The Whole Hole. Because of those I’ve been able to really focus on putting out the highest quality games possible. These books are extremely detailed and are literally overflowing with full color illustrations. I do all the writing and art myself, so without Kickstarter there’s no way I’d be able to afford the startup capital to make them happen.

How would you describe Low Life to a person that has never heard of it?

The forsaken cities and wondrous achievements of the antediluvian Hoomanrace lay crumbled and buried. The remnants of that ilk have either croaked, fled, or been warped and mutated beyond recognition, victims of continuing exposure to cosmic, nukular, and pestilent influences left in the wake of the Flush. The dominant beings of the planet, the noble cockroach, the tenacious worm, and the imperishable snack cake have evolved into grand new forms.

What inspired you to create the world of Low Life?

I’m weird.

Actually, I really wanted a setting with absolutely no humans. I wanted something original and different from everything else out there, but still very accessible and very playable. Low Life works not because it’s utterly absurd (it is), but because the characters, although they are ridiculous don’t realize they’re ridiculous. It’s completely out there, but it still takes itself seriously.

Low Life is currently set for Savage Worlds system.  Are there any plans for other systems?

Depending on how well the Kickstarter does I’m planning to do Pathfinder and Fate Core versions as well. There’s still time…

What is “Dementalism”?  Is it set in the Low Life setting?

Dementalism is a Low Life card game in which the players take on the role of sous chefs at the Primordial Soup Kitchen rounding up various escaped clones. It’s great fun and went over very well at Origins this past weekend.

What are you most proud if with respect to Low Life?

Probably the fact that it’s a setting nobody has ever done before. It isn’t a rehashed Tolkeinesque world that claims its originality because its dwarves have green hair or its elves are taller than average or some superficial change to a familiar trope. Really, the thing about it I’m most proud of is that it’s me. I wrote it, illustrated it, and designed it. I’ve put a ton of work into Low Life to bring people something they’ve never seen before. Hopefully they find it as entertaining as I do, but even if they don’t at least I’ve made myself happy.

How do you feel when people react so positively about this most unique and imaginative setting?

It really justifies all the work I’ve put into it. I love making new friends and meeting interesting people.

What is in the future for Low Life once this Kickstarter gets funded?

I’m planning to release two hardbound books and two Dementalism expansions every year for the foreseeable future, in addition to new miniatures, Low Brawl ( a miniatures and card based game), and several other projects. A Low Life board game could be in the works as well. We’re also doing a whole bunch of supplemental products (a fiction anthology, dice, bennies, playing cards, etc…).

We can’t have an interview with you without asking about Con on the Cob.  Tell us about your con?

Con on the Cob is the most fun thing in the history of fun. This year it’s October 17-20 in Hudson, Ohio. www.cononthecob.com

Between your con, your writing and game designing, and your art, do you find time to play any?  If so, what are you playing these days?

Not nearly as much as I would like to. I play a lot of board games and card games with my wife and friends. I really enjoy RPGs, but I seldom have time to play them.

Thanks again for taking the time to talk with us.  Good luck with your Kickstarter!

Afterthoughts of Origins: Con Energy

Now that a little time has passed since my trip to Origins, some more thoughts have been forming in my head that I thought I should write down based on some of my daily posts and my experience at Origins.  In some ways this is an analysis of what I experienced at Origins and in others it is an overall discussion of con energy and signs there are problems.  It is not a condemnation of Origins and all their hard work.  They did a great job!  Origins was well organized, even when things like a fire threw the proverbial monkey wrench in the works.  They really di well in general and I do not mean to take away from that.

I have had time to rest, recover some and think about my comments, especially those on the Day 4 entry with regards to Origins’ energy levels.  It was hard to comment on that since I was a first timer.  Who the heck am I but a newbie from the South who doesn’t really know any better?  But technically I know a few things about gaming cons and the gaming crowd in general.  Nearly 15 years of running 2 to 3 smaller cons a year might give me a little insight.  I give you the fact that the sheer size of the con might make a difference but I am not sure how significant a difference it would make.  The largest event I have been involved with grew to 1500 attendees, so I am still far shy of the 11,000 to 12,000 that Origins averages.

A convention’s energy comes from various things but is felt by most, if not all, attendees as a sense of “I am glad to be here.”  The energy of a con is infectious and should be felt from the weeks and months before the con in their PR (through social media, etc) to the day you arrive all the way through to the end of the con.  It is not up to one person to maintain that energy, however.  It should come naturally and be felt throughout the con.  In the case of a gaming con, the most important nodes of this energy are the people the attendees come in contact with.  The volunteers are a good beginning, but ideally an attendee will only have a brief encounter with general volunteers like registration staff and customer services.  The people the attendees spend the most time with are the game masters and tournament directors, referees and event coordinators.  These people are the best nodes of con energy.

At Origins, throughout the weekend, I could not help but feel a palatable something as I walked through the con.  The general vibe I was getting from the dealers coupled with mixed feelings from various RPG events kind of gave him an overall feeling of something.  I thought perhaps it was just me. Maybe it was because I was not getting involved with the big events – the Shadowrun 5 Edition release or the Pathfinder Society games.  Perhaps that’s where the energy was, at least from an RPG perspective.  However, when other attendees out of the blue voiced the same sense, I have to wonder a little.

Many companies made the perhaps difficult choices of the year to no longer attend Origins, at least at the level they used to.  Paizo was one of them.  Pinnacle Entertainment was another.  Wizards of the Coast has long since put more focus on GenCon.  Again, from an RPG perspective, this perhaps may be one explanation for the lower energy level.  From a board game and card game perspective, Rio Grade Games, Mayfair, Wizkids, and Upper Deck all had a reasonably large presence, as did the new kid on the block, Mage Wars maker, Arcane WondersCatalyst Labs was there enforce with both support for Shadowrun 5th Edition and several of their board games.  Asmodee Games and Cool Mini Or Not also had a presence, if not somewhat small.  Missing – Fantasy Flight Games.  So there is definitely a feel that not all those in the industry leaders see Origins as a good investment.

I can only guess why I and others felt this something – or lack of something –  at the con. In many cases, the lack of excitement for a con comes from the lack of enough newness.  To increase the energy level or at least maintain it, some cons work hard on bringing something new and different to their attendees.  From what I gathered, that “something new” at Origins was Kevin Sorbo and Ioan Gruffudd as well as the whole Super Hero theme.  I have never been a big fan of themes at cons because they are hard to maintain and require so much energy for so little return. I did not feel like the theme added a lot to Origins.  I only saw a handful of costumes.  Gamers don’t dress up unless they are involved in a LARP.  They just want to sit down and game.

Sometimes at a con the energy drain comes from your volunteers and volunteer burn-out.  I do not mean to slam the Origins volunteers as they obviously worked their butts off.  Many that I encountered were very professional and accommodating.  However, sometimes the cost of attending the con (both financial and mental) outweighs the benefits.  In most cases, the most a volunteer gets is a free badge.  Some might get a free room or at least part of a room paid for, but that’s rare for non-profit conventions.  Now, when I say volunteers, I mean not only the workers behind the booths and desks, but also the game masters, event coordinators, and organizers.  As I stated earlier, these are the people that the attendees of a gaming con are more in contact with.  The game masters, event coordinators and tournament directors are the flash point of the fire that should excite the attendees.  If they are not happy, then things kind of spread from there.

For Origins, they have a unique plan based on the number of hours you work.  Also, volunteers are ranked by the number of years they have worked for the con.  Minimum is 16 hours of work but that gains you no ranking in seniority.  The next level is 32 hours and that gains you a ranking.  The ranking categories are 1-5 years, 6-8 years (senior), and 9+ years (veterans).  Ranked volunteers get either a portion of their rooms paid for or free lodging, but they are sharing the room with up to 3 other volunteers.  Overall, it is not a bad deal.  I would imagine it is a nightmare to manage but all the same, not a bad deal.  However, because of the nature of a 5-day con (Wednesday through Sunday), this still can wear a volunteer down.  Also it is not clear if game masters count as volunteers.

On the other side of that, especially in the case of non-profits, it is very difficult to give so many volunteers some form of benefits.  SWAG can only go so far.  In some cases, these GMs, coordinators and directors are paying their hard earned cash for a hotel room, maybe even sharing with a number of other GMs.  They are working hard to herd the cats to make sure all events are running on time and all players are happy.  But all that effort can wear down on a person, especially over a 5-day event.

There are a few other signs that some friends have noticed about Origins that frustrate them and in the end, effect their energy level when they arrive.  The list of events and the vendor room map seem to be released later and later each year.  Also, I know quite a few people that have complained about their online gaming registration system – especially the fact that you can not access it after pre-regsitration closes.  There may be a ton of reasons I am not aware of that some of these things happen but these are the things that attendees see and effect their overall mood of the con, before they even arrive.

I could be way off base and I could be totally misinterpreting my sense of Origins.  It was just a  feeling one guy out of 11,000+ got.  Others may feel differently.  In the end, I had a great time at Origins and probably will return one day with my family.  One of the best things about it was that I would feel fine bringing my wife and kids.  I have seen cons with similar issues and with a few minor adjustments, changes in staff, changes in format, the con can recover.  Even if there is an energy problem, I never felt like the con was dying and hopeless.  There are a lot of people involved with lots of heart and they obviously want the con to do well.  I just think that there is some fatigue that is effecting the overall con and it was noticeable to a newbie like me.

Watching the Facebook page, however, there are more than a few complimentary posts.  One or two are even saying it is the best Origins in a while.  So maybe the con is on an upswing.  That’s good news.  As I was writing this, Mr. John Ward of GAMA released the numbers of the con.  It is in fact on an upswing.

2009: 10,030
2010:  10,669
2011:  11,502
2012: 11,332
2013: 11,573

By his number break down, more people got weekend badges than day passes this year than last.  So that’s even a better sign.  Even if my feelings were right, it’s changing.  The energy is building.  I would just be careful of burnout. A slow climb like that in attendance can wear people down.  200+ increase in attendance overall may not be a huge jump for all the work one puts in each year.   Like I said before, the cost of the con, mental or financial, may outweigh the return eventually.  And maybe that is what I was sensing.