Bring it on, 2020!

Wow, it's the new year already, and I haven't posted for months. Figured it's high time I dial in with an update and a roundup of 2019 to bring in 2020.

2019 was a busy and eventful year, to say the least:

In the spring, I helped my good friend Aurelién Lainé launch a Kickstarter for his RPG book Koryo Hall of Adventures. It's a D&D 5e campaign setting with a great fantasy Korea theme. He pulled in over $50 thousand, and it's looking like he'll have some really beautiful art for his book. Excited to get my cloth-bound special edition once it finally prints early this year.

I also helped Aurelién with some game design this summer. I edited a good part of the primary mechanics for Koryo Hall of Adventures, and I wrote mechanics for some key parts of the game system. Specifically, I designed a detailed shaman class called the Mudang that involved creating an entirely new magical system for calling on spirits. It's a huge chapter, and I'm quite proud o…

Cthulhu Guard: The Inspiration

One roleplaying game I am particularly fond of is Trail of Cthulhu by Robin Laws and Kenneth Hite. It’s the perfect blend of old-school Lovecraftian horror with new-school rules, and its Gumshoe engine-based mystery clue mechanics are brilliant. However, there are two things I am not particularly fond of with this game: I don’t care for how pacing works in Trail of Cthulhu. It uses a skill point pool mechanic that works excellently for extended game sessions, creating a feeling of building suspense and impending doom. But if you ever try breaking a mystery up into a few shorter sessions, you’ll quickly see the suspense factor only really comes into play when you get closer to the climax — which is a problem when a single mystery spans the course of a month. This also makes the game rather inappropriate for narrative Play by Post or Play by Email mysteries, which can take even longer than that.The game’s mechanics also don’t lend themselves well to improvisation, which is a GM style I …

Starcatchers Part 1: Introduction

High steampunk. Massive dirigibles and flying trains. Biplanes! Pirates, privateers, ninjas, and mobsters. Victorian gentlemen, nobles, political intrigue. Gaslamp gutter rats, degenerates, criminal underground. Gadgets! Airborne swashbuckling action. Welcome to Thame's End. In today’s post, I’ll introduce a steampunk campaign setting I created some years ago called “Starcatchers”. It’s about bi-plane flying mercenaries who chase and snag falling meteorites mid-air (among other things). It’s bloody epic. The Dragonforce song ‘Heroes of Our Time’ always reminds me of my good old Starcatchers campaigns. So, go ahead and blast this while I dig up my notes:
Welcome to Thame's End Far, far away through space, on the other side of the Milky Way, a small blue planet revolves around a bright orange star. It is a warmish planet, with vast oceans and tropical islands, deserts and rainforests, and not much in the way of ice or snow. There are people on this planet – an advanced culture, i…

[Mouseling Guard] I'm running a Mouse Guard campaign for my 3-year-old

It started last year when she was two and a half. I busted out my 2nd edition Mouse Guard boxed set and showed my daughter Zoe the artwork. When she saw the fun picture dice, the map and the mice, she was instantly into it. I didn’t actually think she would (or could) play, but on a whim, I told her it’s a game and asked if she wanted to try. Of course! So I showed her the New Missions book and had her pick one of the pre-generated characters. She chose Kenzi. I copied a few basic stats onto a fresh character sheet and let her color her sheet’s cute mouse picture as I prepared some ideas for her first adventure. For those who don’t know Mouse Guard, it’s a role playing game based on the comic book series of the same name by David Petersen. The RPG is designed by Luke Crane, largely based on his cult classic indie game Burning Wheel with some variations that served as inspiration for Torchbearer. It’s a beautiful masterpiece, incredibly fun to play, and is especially suited to telling…

Ultraviolet Grasslands: Go psychedelic, OSR-style

Guest post by Joseph Brady This Kickstarter is harkening back to the hallucinogenic tie-dye, post-apocalyptic, mind-warping era of Heavy MetalFantastic Planet, and, well, substance abuse. Labeling itself as one part Oregon Trail and one part Dying Earth, players know from the outset that that’s exactly what they’re getting into. What is It All About? This is set up as a sandbox campaign with ample interesting locales, which has really lived up to, even embraced, its theme. This is a world where powerful cats rule a nation, elves are diseased humans being gradually mentally unraveled and called into the mists of the forest never to return, insects may rewrite an organism’s basic purpose or perhaps even their soul, and those who are many are yet one collective. Also: werepug. You want an absolutely over-the-top campaign setting? UVG has you covered in spades. And remember: Oregon Trail. Throughout this entire bizarro landscape, the PCs really do have to ramble along in their Old West-s…

The Koryo Hall of Adventures: Reputable one-shots

Guest post by Joseph Brady A couple of weeks ago, I was casually going over Forgotten Realms lore, as one does, and discovered that there was a Koryo (the old name for Korea) on Faerûn. I have been living in Korea for over ten years now, so I got rather overly excited and began dreaming up a big project to fill in the lore for a campaign setting based in Koryo. Then, just last week, I discovered that another expat in Korea by the name of Aurelién Lainé had already done everything I had dreamt up and, as it appears, much, much more. With a finished manuscript for his Koryo-inspired campaign setting and a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign just around the corner, Lainé is sadly the clear winner: I have to hang up my gloves on this one. So, with my dreams dismally dismissed, even feeling a bit put out, I decided to do the next best thing: check out Aurelién’s setting and review it. :) Which Koryo? I started this on a bit of a confusing point; Lainé’s campaign setting is not the Koryo of Fa…

Peasants & Pitchforks: Part 2 — Gameplay

Note: This is part two of a series about my homebrew game system, Peasants & Pitchforks. In this post, we take a look at the gameplay mechanics. Please see post number 1 to learn how to generate a P&P character. To recap from last post, every P&P PC will have the following written on their character sheet: Three stats (Handy, Tricky, Lucky) with values ranging from 1 to 6 (with a possible +2 in Lucky)Three descriptors: a physical characteristic, a character trait and an occupationOne piece of gearWith that in mind, let's move onward to the game mechanics: ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ Doing StuffThrowin’ Dice: During play, just tell theElder what you want your character to do. If it’s risky, you’ll have to roll for it: Roll Handy to perform most actions:
Throw 1d8. You want to score equal to or lower than your Handy stat. Success only applies to your single action, and creates little extra benefit beyond that action. Fail and you just fail.Roll Tricky to carry out any so…

Peasants & Pitchforks: Part 1 — Character Creation

NOTE: This is part one of an ongoing series, and only describes character generation mechanics. For gameplay mechanics, please see part two of the series. ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ ~*~ Peasants & Pitchforks is a fun little gaming project I’ve been working on. The basic concept is very much inspired by Dungeon Crawl Classics’ zero-level funnels, except redesigned purely with one-shot or convention play in mind. If you don’t know about DCC’s funnels, basically instead of playing one character, everybody plays a crowd of super-weak 0-level characters who take on a super-lethal meat-grinder dungeon module. There are tons of hilarious deaths, and only a handful of characters come out alive. My problem with DCC’s funnel modules is that they’re meant to be used as campaign openers and are not really optimized for one-shots. You end up playing these weak characters with a whole ton of rules you have no use for running in the background. For con games, I prefer rules systems that are writ…