Thursday, 28 July 2011

review: kobold quarterly 18

Metric: Kobolds.  It's tradition now.  Plus you don't *want* to be a dragon in this issue.  Too many dragonslayers for it and with editorial support no less.
DISCLAIMER: Review based on a PDF copy provided by Open Design.
Overall: 5 kobolds.  Jam-packed with content, looks excellent.
So. Much. Stuff.  This is a special summer special, relentlessly focussed on content.  Support for AGE, 4th edition D&D and Pathfinder is equally represented.  System neutral stuff is high quality and there is even room for a gritty, urban choose-your-own adventure.  This one will be tough to follow.

Contents: 5 kobolds (a veritable cornucopia)

Gifts of the Gods (5 kobolds, AGE system, Steve Kenson)
Bringing god-given gifts to AGE, this article illustrates how to do priests and domains in AGE using the Midgard setting as example.  An option written by the AGE system designer that allows you traditional fantasy buffs access to the AGE system?  I can see how that might be relevant to our interests...
The Savant (4 kobolds, Pathfinder, Ryan Costello Jr.)
A workable scholarly jack-of-all-trades.  I like this class, the concept is for the Renaissance Man (or woman) who isn't a bard, more a medieval Macguyver or Joe90.  While I have plenty of core classes to pick from in Pathfinder already, this one suits a particular flavour of game.
Silus and the Red Dogs (5 kobolds, adventure Matthew J. Hanson)
A gritty urban choose-your-own-adventure.  Excellently put together, sharp and smart.  This is great if travelling and just the right length for short journeys.  Wonder if there's mileage in a collection of these?
Ecology of the Minotaur (5 kobolds, 4th edition, Tracy Hurley)
The minotaurs of Midgard get some wonderful background information as well as a handful of boons for the roles in Triolo society.  What I like about Tracy's article is how well-rounded minotaur society is presented here and that there is a place for the kill-crazed Baphomet worshippers among them.
The Exorcists (5 kobolds, Pathfinder, Tim & Eileen Connors)
You wake up resurrected minor clerics facing a possessed dragon.  Rolling for initiative is going to get you killed.  So what do you do?  A neat twist on the treasure first, now think your way out.
The Dragon Hunter (5 kobolds, Pathfinder, Mike Welham and Adam Daigle)
The dragon hunter is a prestige class which provides PCs with the tools to go toe-to-toe with the big time.  A great fit for a big dragon campaign or where dragons are a threat and useful in other games as well.
Tools of War (5 kobolds, 4E, Matt James)
A companion piece to the excellent 4E sourcebook Soldiers of Fortune.  Siege engines give terrific set-piece encounters and this article has trebuchets.   That alone is worth the price of admission.
Elementary, my Dear Wizard (5 kobolds, 4E, Paul Baalham)
Murder mystery is something many scenario writers aspire to and Paul breaks it down excellently.  Considerations of method, motive and opportunity, structure and an example skill challenge.  More please!
Soul Broker (4 kobolds, 4E, Anthony W. Eichenlaub)
An interesting take on the Faustian deal using glib sales patter and infernal magic.  Probably best as a DM's hook; this trade is something that will burn a party.
Synergistic Magic (4 kobolds, Pathfinder, Phillip Larwood)
Some crunch to give wizards some extra kick.  Useful in justifying why low-level wizards hang around mid-level adventures, though examples are a bit limited.
Explaining the Inexplicable (5 kobolds, any, Monte Cook)
Monte breaks down the dichotomy between what's believable and what's not.  Invaluable in developing a GM's craft and worth reading if your players are inclined to quibble.
Battle Wizards and Sword Maidens (4 kobolds, any, Dave Gross)
A tour of Asian fantasy cinema.  I haven't seen many of these but those I have, I liked. Potted summaries offer possible gaming hooks.  As suggested brain fuel for Oriental games, this is nice.
10 Reasons Why Your Characters Should Be in Jail (5 kobolds, 4e/Pathfinder/AGE, Russell Jones)
This is an absolute gem.  The rule of law is something often flouted in games by gung-ho players and these hooks remind the GM of the order of things.  Just so those adventuring types have something to play off.
Into the Dragon's Den (3 kobolds, 4E/Pathfinder, David Schwartz)
Magical lair dressing for dragon encounters.  Some nice touches (heat mirages for red dragons), yet assigning feats to these seem a needless buff.  I like yet the execution seems feats for feats' sake.
The Heroic Flaw (5 kobolds, any, Phillipe-Antoine Menard)
The Chatty DM takes a look at giving heroes something more interesting than generic obligation.  Accessible indie game design concepts for those who haven't tried them.  This encourages people to stretch their gaming wings, often a good thing.  
Who Watches the Watch Fires (5 kobolds, 4E, Jonathan Roberts)
When mercenaries go bad, the party must raise the alarm.  Not as simple as it sounds, a good mix of skill challenge and combat in a confined location.  A good scenario for raising the stakes in a heroic tier game.
Beast Masters (5 kobolds, Pathfinder, Marc Radle)
A nice change to the Leadership feat which gives more options for your cohorts.  Perfect for druids, rangers and the other nature-lovers out there.  Or those who love their animals more than people. 
Ask The Kobold (4 kobolds, Pathfinder, Skip Williams)
Waxing sage on illusions and experience point costs for various things.
Cavaliers of Flame & Fury (4 kobolds, Pathfinder, Adam W. Roy)
There is definitely a niche for cavalier orders in Pathfinder and this article provides two for Midgard.  One fierce, one fiery and both make excellent opponents.  Great examples of how to create your own orders.
Book Reviews (4 kobolds, William Banks, Wolfgang Baur, Piece Watters)
Books for gamers, including the latest Pathfinder and Forgotten Realms novels and Ari Marmell's Goblin Corps.  Reviews and solid analysis.  Once again, I find myself tempted.
Wing, Scale, and Claws (4 kobolds, Wolfgang Baur)
The exploits of a dragon haunting the Rothenian Steppes and how a degenerate among a society of dragons can conduct a campaign of terror.

The editorial shows a rebellious streak by the kobold-in-chief against dragons.  The loss of a letters page this issue.  While I enjoy the Letters page (precisely because it's so old-school Dragon) this issue is not diminished by it's absence.  The addition of Legend of Bill to the roster of Bolt & Quiver, 10x10 Toon and d20 Monkey who all bring the funny.

Artwork/Layout: 5 kobolds (pretty and shiny)
The cover of two clashing dragons courtesy of Kieron Yanner makes a statement.  Interior use of colour and black & white art is good, with fewer pieces of classical art.  The statblocks are well managed and the advertising is within the usual limits. The map of the Watchfire gives the DM of Who Watches the Watch Fires an instant quality map.

In conclusion, Kobold Quarterly has come of age.  With more content than any two issues of it's draconic ancestor, it's not just about emulating it's forebears, it's now beating them.  Synergies between articles exist which is awesome.  Pathfinder GMs can use the Savant and Dragon Hunter prestige class with the Order of the Firedrake and In the Lair of for a dragon-chasing campaign.  4E DMs have the seed of a war campaign being sponsored by a soul broker against the minotaurs of Triolo.  AGE players may find themselves inspired by the gods under the rule of a tyrant.  This isn't even considering the actual scenarios themselves.  This one will be a tough act to follow.

Monday, 25 July 2011


No. Enc.: 1d2 (1d4)
Alignment: Neutral
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 4d8 + 2
Attacks: 1 (bite)
Damage: 1d8
Save: F3
Morale: 7
Hoard Class: VI

This 6' long giant lizard has a knobbly hide that changes colour like a chameleon.  It's outline resembles a rocky outcropping or pile of debris and it's ability to keep still surprises unwary victims on 1 - 4 on a d6 when it attacks with a mouth  of needle-like teeth.  The coleonte can also climb walls (with 80% ability) like a gecko and often spend it's time watching from a higher vantage point before moving into position.  The coleonte will employ hit-and-run tactics against weak enemies, picking off stragglers and the wounded in preference to other prey.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

review: advanced feats - might of the magus

Metric: Black blades.  Yes I know that's an ill omen with previous careful owners.  Fortunately I listen to Blue Oyster Cult - forearmed is forewarned?
DISCLAIMER: This review is based on a preview copy from Open Design
Overall: 4 black blades (good work despite mild case of multiclassing).
A decent analysis of the magus and provision of additional options for it.  The feats are good (some show in other Advanced Feats books) and emphasise magus strengths.  The builds depend on multiclassing in two cases out of three.  More use of the archetypes in Ultimate Magic would have showcased the magus without the need to relentlessly optimise.

Contents: 4 black blades (good analysis, great feats, entertaining builds)
The analysis of the magus is solid, considering the main benefits and limits that the class has to offer, though the mention of archetypes doesn't happen until you get into the feats and builds.  Potential party roles like second-line fighter or skirmisher aren't suggested - surprising given previous tactical analysis elsewhere in Advanced Feats but the mentions of spiked armour and mithril bucklers are helpful tips for a magus to consider.

Thirty feats for the magus widens the options for a magus and there is an additional section including magus-friendly feats from Complete Advanced Feats.  There's still things for ordinary folks (Clever Maneouvering, Dancing Strike and Unbalancing Parry) as well.  This is where Might of the Magus truly shines - it provides options for everyone but focusses on giving the magus more bang for their buck.  Waiting until now to reference a certain albino sword-wielder was masterful restraint.

The fey blade is a good choice of build.  However the remaining two builds rely on multiclassing in addition to exercising archetypes in Ultimate Magic. Weapon choices and feat selection (e.g. give a Runefist Improved Unarmed Combat and Weapon Finesse: Spiked Gauntlet) to reproduce some benefits without sacrificing a level.  Given the presence of the Ranged Spellstrike feat, a hexcrafter archer seems a logical showcase for it.  Other builds suggest themselves on casual perusal.

Artwork/Layout: 4 black blades (nice cover, minor slips in presentation)
The cover from Christophe Swal shows a whipcracking magus in action with interior art reproducing the magus and adding sigil-style artwork involving swords, symbols and glyphs.  Might of the Magus is timed as a companion to Ultimate Magic so this feels a bit hurried in comparison with some Advanced Feats books like Cavalier's Creed. In comparison with other RPG PDFs, this is still quality stuff.

In conclusion, Might of the Magus unpacks the magus class for Ultimate Magic in the same way the other Advanced Feat books do the Advanced Players' Guide base classes.  While it relies on multiclassing to optimise builds, there isn't so much for the straight magus beyond the bladebound archetype which seems like a missed opportunity.  It's still a good book and if you've got a player who wants to grasp the nettle of playing a combatant in light armour, this is a good choice for them.

Friday, 22 July 2011

bad ass attributes

This month's RPG Blog Carnival (hosted by Nevermet Press) is about badass RPGs (which includes the Bad Ass RPG).  Bad ass is one of those "you'll know it when you see it" neologisms like va-va-voom defying simple classification.  So what makes something (even an RPG) bad ass?  Bad ass transcends a single value, it is a confluence of traits...
  • Uncommon.  The bad ass is a breed apart.  They need not be the Last (insert here) but they aren't your average John/Jane.  Whether by origin or experience, it shows.  The bad ass is exceptional whether superhuman, savant or someone who defeats twelve ninja at once.  Most RPGs are based on this premise (e.g. Exalted), even where characters are supposed to be 'ordinary' people (e.g. Dungeon Crawl Classics, Hell for Leather) but isolated by circumstance though superheroic RPGs (e.g. Mutants & Masterminds, Icons) are the poster-boy for this style of play.
  • Uncomplicated.  The bad ass has clarity of thought.  To a bad ass things are right or wrong (and wrong gets fixed).  Quite a few bad asses have a simple, direct approach to fixing what's wrong - it's a rare bad ass who gets cerebral (in itself bad ass).  To them there is no try, self-doubt rarely shows. RPGs that give characters clear objectives (e.g. Deathwatch) and agendas (e.g. Heroquest) enable bad ass play.  While shades of grey make for interesting stories, the bad ass often deconstructs these issues - to them, grey is made up of black and white.
  • Uncompromising.  The bad ass has clarity because of principles.  In addition, these principles are not swayed by others.  Arguably, you cannot have bad ass without the ass.  Overwhelming this with raw charisma, sympathetic traits or raw power eases this - for a time.  Eventually though something has to give... many bad asses have to reconcile this or face defeat.  Examples of RPGs dealing with uncompromising principles include Pendragon, Don't Rest Your Head and Mouse Guard.
Bringing the bad ass to your game means being a little bit different, knowing what you need with laser sharp focus and always moving towards the end goal.  Some players take the drive to be exceptional as a mandate to munchkin.  The element of chance also plays a part, particularly in systems where ability is dependent on successful dice rolls.  Point-based or bennie mechanics can shift the odds in the player's favour. Mechanics that assume levels of competence and game masters who awesome up their players or judiciously give chances to shine can mitigate this need.

    Monday, 18 July 2011

    tomb toad

    No. Enc.: 1d4 (1d4)
    Alignment: Neutral
    Movement: 90' (30')
    Armor Class: 6
    Hit Dice: 2d8+2
    Attacks: 1 (bite)
    Damage: 1d4+2
    Save: F1
    Morale: 6
    Hoard Class: None

    These gross toads with thick, cracked grey skin grow to the size of mastiffs and weigh up to 300lbs.  Their smell is foul enough corporeal undead ignore them, thinking them already undead. This smell forces those within 10' to save vs. Poison or be at -1 to hit and AC due to nausea until they leave the area.  A tomb toad can extend it's tongue up to 15' and with a successful attack roll yank dwarves, halflings or similar-sized targets to it's mouth for an automatic bite.  They will not swallow prey whole, preferring to chew their prey until it stops moving.

    Wednesday, 13 July 2011

    review: book of drakes by open design

    Metric: Teeth.  This book has them in profusion and while the drakes are kin to dragons, scales didn't make a big enough impression to match what this book offers a Pathfinder GM.
    DISCLAIMER: Review based on PDF review copy provided by Open Design
    Overall: 5 teeth (an excellent example of niche adaptation)
    This book finds a niche (low-level draconic creatures) and fills it comprehensively.  Character options and twenty-one drakes as well as magic and a drake builder.  The colourful art and flavour complements a wealth of content.  If you want draconic motifs in your Pathfinder game, get this, you will be very pleased with the outcome.  If you're mining for ideas, you've not got far to dig.

    Contents: 5 teeth (a soft start to a lot of crunch)
    Chapter 1 introduces the drake, it's ecology and links to their draconic kin, the different types and their place in Midgard and ten famous/notorious drakes.  While there's plenty of fluff here, it's useful as it helps evoke a drake's roles as companion, foil and nemesis.
    Chapter 2 offers character options including reasonable bases for pseudodragon and candle drake characters, feats, alternate class abilities the drake tamer class (a bit different) and master of drake forms prestige class as well as magic for both core and APG classes and items magical and mundane.
    Chapter 3 offers twenty types of drake, from the alehouse drake (a favourite here obviously) to the tor drake with a variety of roles and capabilities.  A drake creation system follows for building your own drake, including an example vine drake (so that's twenty-one) gives you some twists in the tail to catch out know-it-all players.

    Artwork/Layout: 5 teeth (polished, colourful and neat)
    This is a gorgeous book.  From the lush cover by Kieran Yanner to the colourful interior panels by Hugo Solis and the clean layout, there are patterns behind the text but these are unobtrusive and there's no formatting slips I could see.  Tables and statblocks are cohesive and clear.  This book shows how layout can elevate a good product to a great one and Christopher Bodan and Carrie Winters deserve recognition for giving the content a polished presentation.

    In conclusion, this one gets it very right.  Adam Daigle and Mike Welham have given Pathfinder GMs and players a toolbox of stuff for Pathfinder games with a draconic twist.  The iconic nature of dragons makes them difficult to introduce at low-levels without judicious management.  The Book of Drakes provides varied challenges and flavour to spare.  It's eclectic nature also means there's something for everyone and GMs are encouraged to dip in and out as required.

    Monday, 11 July 2011


    No. Enc.: 1d2 (1d4)
    Alignment: Chaotic
    Movement: 30'(10')
    Fly: 120'(40')
    Swim: 180' (60')
    Armor Class: 5
    Hit Dice: 7d8
    Attacks: 2 (bite, sting)
    Damage: 2d4/2d8, poison
    Save: F4
    Morale: 9
    Hoard Class: XX

    Anguivern are pallid, 15' long eel-like descendents of wyverns adapted to life in watery caverns.  Their wings have become vestigial and gills flare out behind their weak jaws.  They are eyeless but have extraordinary senses of hearing and smell (including a rudimentary sonar) which can detect invisible within 60'.  Their tail is as flexible and strong as a normal wyvern and the venom in it's stinger is just as deadly (save vs. Poison or die instantly).

    Saturday, 9 July 2011

    inns & taverns: the pig in mint

    The Pig In Mint is known to drinkers as the last resort of a river port.  Tucked just off the corner of a promenade, this three-storey maroon-stained wooden tenement with the words Pig And Mint written in white block lettering over the door.  The blackened oak sign shows a pink pig sleeping amid green mint
    leaves.  Known to local painters, their patrons and riverside drunks who prefer to keep a low profile, this is an inn that keeps secrets.

    Windows in the first and second storey have a windowbox festooned with overgrown mint plants.  These hardy plants appear to survive everything and anything (even fire) and the scent of mint on balmy summer evenings makes it most agreeable.  The main entrance is a covered courtyard where patrons may drink.  To the right, a mural of a rainbow while to the left is a spiral stairwell leading up into the bar.  Inside the decor is eclectic - each wall is a different colour to the last and the floorboards are candy-striped in stained red and white.  Tables and chairs are stained in greens  of varied hue.  In the day, the mixture is psychedelic, at night the blue-glass lamps cast a muddy light over the place giving a washed out cast to the riotous colour.

    The drink of choice is a piment, a rough red wine sweetened with stewed apple and flavoured with lime and mint.  This is drunk in abundance by the regulars.  Hardened drinkers will enjoy the aquardente, a clear spirit brewed from wine mash.  There is a pale ale, kept indifferently in clay jugs.  The staff will recommend the piment over the ale.  If asked for food, pickled eggs and walnuts are available.

    The landlord, Hamion is a strange one.  Hair bound into a dozen beaded rat tails dangle over a piebald complection.  His parti-coloured court clothes bound by a crystal-studded belt from which hang a slender blade, an artist's brush and wooden goggles.  His eyes are odd, the left violet, the right green.  His staff are equally strange, three portly, balding blind men with white whiskered chins clad in black.  They navigate the Pig In Mint with unusual skill and their memory for drink orders.

    There's no accommodation.  Those passing out in the Pig In Mint might wake up there.  Or in a nearby alley relieved of burdens like money.  It could go either way.  Hamion is oblivious to the fate of sleeping drunks and the staff have cultivated an air of total indifference.  In spite of this, Hamion and the staff are not seen going home.  There are rooms upstairs, though the odd chemical smells and omnipresent pots of mint may suggest that something unusual is happening there.

    Hamion is a known apothecary and alchemist though he claims to have retired to run the Pig In Mint and to mix paints for the wealthy artists who visit.  Though many of them prefer to send apprentices a few will visit in person.  These artists seeking pigment and alcoholic inspiration often find themselves getting
    quite drunk on the cheap, yet potent booze made available in some cases, using alchemical means.

    Thursday, 7 July 2011

    review: alleys of zobeck by open design

    DISCLAIMER: Review based on PDF copy provided by Open Design.
    Metric: Rats on a stick.  Lah-verly rats onna stick!! Proven seller down Cartways.  A little bird tells me that @KoboldQuarterly called them 'a *great* metric for excellence'.  S'future mate, progress innit...
    Overall: Five (count 'em!) rats on a stick (seconds!)
    If you're looking for urban crunch, you've hit paydirt and for this price, you'd be silly not to.  Even if you don't have Streets of Zobeck, there's good content here including feats, locations, monsters, magic, random pickpocket loot and engaging NPCs.  And if you do, Alleys is an essential companion with hooks and links between adventures and additional stuff.  Maybe the only time urban overspill is a good thing.

    Contents: Five (count 'em!) rats on a stick.
    Nothing To Declare gives you a bridge between adventures in Streets of Zobeck and gives you an example of how city folk will take advantage of new arrivals.  Next is relevant additions for adventure in Streets of Zobeck, from clockwork abominations spawned from The First Lab to a pair of barghests lurking in Scaler's Alley.  NPCs follow, ranging from Goldscale (a small but fierce kobold paladin) to Sam Nesclem, ship's captain with a clockwork hand and formidable reputation. Now, the crunch - and how!  Feats and traits offer some more versatility, dirty fighting feats will make low-fantasy fans smile while the traits can easily be added to any Midgard game (including an Old Margreve crossover) or adapted elsewhere. Items, magical and mundane await the reader.  The appearance of a clockwork hand magic item is a great bonus.  Minor treasure charts for opportunist looting follows.  Then locations, the Rampant Roach and Ulmar's Rare Books offers two new places for characters to intrigue in.  Finally Blackeye's Carriage offers a unique taxi service for the streets of Zobeck.

    Layout: Four and a half (no refunds!) rats on a stick.
    I said in my review of Streets that colour would make the difference.  Alleys shows how with illustrations of Jaroslav (Nothing to Declare) and Goldscale.  Very minor layout slips and no cover (not critical for a PDF) shows focus on content, content and more content.  Dyson Logos on cartography providing some classic old school styling which is easy to read and use in-game. 

    Web supplements are usually simple affairs, a few extra NPCs and a couple of bits of crunch and fluff to round them out.  Some material has been showcased on the Kobold Quarterly blog.  In amount and quality the content is beyond the typical web supplement and overflow product.  At the price this is a steal and it's redolent of Zobeck's steampunk stylings.  Get this before they change their minds about the price!

    Monday, 4 July 2011

    ogre, fangtooth

    No. Enc.: 1d4 (2d6)
    Alignment: Chaotic
    Movement: 90' (30')
    Armor Class: 6
    Hit Dice: 5d8 + 2
    Attacks: 2 (club and bite)
    Damage: 1d10/1d8+1
    Save: F5
    Morale: 9
    Hoard Class: XX

    These lumbering brutes are named for their fishlike faces filled with dozens of inch-long razor fangs capable of biting through a man.  Like normal ogres they are about 9' to 10' tall and have humanoid bodies.  Their skins are a translucent yellow and they wear a minimum of primitive clothing.  They dwell in lightless canyons and hate strong light, seeking to extinguish it where possible.  In daylight they are -1 to hit, AC and damage.  They have infravision up to 120' and prefer to hunt in dark places or at night-time.  They have a primitive form of religion, worshipping sinister eidolons that resemble a cross between a toad and a bat.

    Sunday, 3 July 2011

    for a fistful of d6

    On July 4th, the 6d6 RPG hits general circulation.  After 18 months of development, rigorous playtesting and experiments in publishing and production, it's finally here!  I got chance to have a couple of beers with Chris Tregenza and discuss the concepts that led to 6d6 RPG.  The ideas behind this are innovative in combination:
    1. Creative Commons: 6d6 RPG is CC-BY-SAYou can publish (and sell) your own version of 6d6 as long as you acknowledge the original and don't use 6d6 logos.  No standard reference documents or terms of fan use to restrict third-party publishers.  Remixing content, hacks and mashups are welcomed.
    2. Fan-driven rules mechanics: Development of mechanics has expanded during playtest and is now hosted on a wiki (DocuWiki for the technically curious).  It's telling playtesters are becoming 6d6 RPG mechanics and setting writers.  Both Breakout! and 6d6 Bots are playtester-developed.
    3. Living Document Buy a 6d6 PDF and you'll always have the latest edition.  New versions can be provided from the site. Compiling errata and annotating against static hardbacks isn't an issue since you can just re-download the PDF. As long as there's a 6d6 RPG, you'll have the latest version.
    4. The Writer's Share.  Writers of 6d6 RPG branded-products get a share of the profits (33%) rather than being paid a flat-rate per word.  If you have a vision for a game setting, the 6d6 RPG mechanics provide a distinctive mechanical framework.
    5. Subscription-based online tools.  The 6d6 Tools offers full, ongoing access to all 6d6 products and the wiki.  Initially being launched with lifetime memberships, the plan is to offer regular updates to products (see the Living Document item above) and other materials.

    Print copies of 6d6 RPG are ring-bound.  This gives them a distinctive look and certain benefits (no spine to break, handouts can be removed without harming a book) compared to other RPG products. Products make a splash when they break the mold (e.g. LOTFP's Vornheim).  The hard covers are durable plastic-bound art board.  The manufacturing process is outlined here with associated costs. Chris is candid why this approach was taken.
    I wanted to learn how to make and sell an RPG, which included physically making one.  People have written about the risks, about how role-playing games are a tough market - any market is tough, look at how many businesses fail!  Game store owners have told me 6d6 RPG will stand out on shelves.  This is about doing things a little differently, with unexpected benefits - like not damaging the book to provide player handouts.
    Chris discloses his costs, following the example of Fred Hicks.  Costs, especially printing and distribution for the print copies were higher than expected.  In addition, the perception of professionalism matters, especially when it comes to art.  This intrigued me as many publishers use print on demand (POD) to cover those costs.  Why not use print-on-demand services like Lulu?
     Many Lulu-based products look and feel like traditional RPG product which means they're bound within the same constraints.  Also Lulu doesn't do cards, a core part of 6d6 RPG.     
    When it comes to PDF products, buyers are spoilt for choice and product quality varies. With Online Tools and Living Document, writers and fans can refine work without bogging down in the concept of errata.  Chris admits he will provide some quality control, particularly over the Core Rules.  Good open source is hard and ultimately the intent is for self-moderating peer review to drive development. 

    6d6 RPG products (Ultra-Lite and Mince Pies and Murder) have had good reviews, the Core Rules and Outbreak! are released on the 4th of July after extensive playtesting at UK conventions alongside a western (Shootouts) and fantasy-based system (Magic) as well as adventures.  Chris speaks highly of this process and of conventions in general - his only wish is that more people visited them!  We got to talking about the casual gamer and what role Facebook and social media could have in bringing more people into RPGs.  I asked if there are plans to develop 6d6 RPG apps: 
    Not in the short term but if you've got technical skills and are interested, I'd love to hear from you - you may have to be paid in 6d6 products at first!  Some core 6d6 RPG concepts like cards, static and dynamic pools would work well in a web or app-based model.
    It was a pleasure talking to Chris and I hope 6d6 RPG goes well.  A lot of ideas he's expressed are things I think will benefit tabletop RPG development and the market.  The cards make resource-pool mechanics tangible and easy to grasp.  Combined with guaranteed minimum competence and situational modifiers it combines utility with the ability to model multiple settings.  A versatile set of easy-to-grasp mechanics with good product support and wide-open development environment. What more could you want?

    Saturday, 2 July 2011

    inns & taverns: the field of stones

    The Field of Stones is a pastoral roadside tavern.  Next to it, a bit of local colour, a field filled with granite standing stones the size of an average dwarf.  While that field enjoys druidic protection, the tavern is frequented by less enigmatic people.  Local travellers extol the Field of Stones for it's generous measures and cheery warmth, even during midwinter.  Visiting merchants mock this generosity yet the Field of Stones is always busy and never desperate.

    The sign is a simple slateboard with the words The Field of Stones picked out in gold and white paint.  The exterior is a two-storey barn structure of whitewashed cement.  A shuttered porch leads to a spacious lounge bar with numerous elevated nooks fitted with table and chairs.  These afford concealment privacy while creating an eavesdropper's paradise.  It is almost impossible to find a single table that allows full visibility of the tavern.  Stairs leading upwards are visible from the porch while a single corner bar and roasting spit serve the lounge.  Serving maidens flit from table to bar with brisk courtesy.  The walls are hung with preserved corn dollies and small wreaths of meadow flowers.

    A golden sweet ale (Lord's Fair), eminently quaffable is sold in quantity here.  An oak-coloured heavy ale (Dark Lady) is sold to both the stout of heart and stout of waist.  Jugs of rough red and white wine are sold alongside brown clay jugs of harsh barleybree.  This last is diluted with a jug of water by bar staff to taste.  Drinking barleybree neat is a desperate move for professional drunks and most locals who take a measure do so with the water.  The spit is oft-occupied by pig or boar roasted with herbs and accompanied by roasted potato or turnip.

    The landlady, Karela is a petite blonde of indeterminate age in smart working clothes.  Her grey eyes could stare down a zombie and her no-nonsense manner cuts to the chase on discussions.  Her talent at managing The Field of Stones has made her locally famous.  She has no husband and claims no need for one.  The staff at the Field are polite and youthful, all immaculately turned out.  They follow Karela's lead confident in her experience.  It's whispered Karela was an adventurer once, certainly she seems willing enough to cut deals with strangers if it benefits The Field first and herself second.

    The stairs upstairs lead into a corridor and doors leading left, right and ahead.  Left takes you to a common room suitable for nine, which can hold twelve at a pinch.  Right creates a corridor leading to six private room suited to single occupancy.  There is a faint smell of brackish water at the windows but this fades when the shutters are opened and air circulates within the room.  Karela will insist that shutters are kept closed at night.  This prevents local creatures taking advantage, she claims.  It's usually explained away as midges but at least one traveller has seen a figure prowling amid the stones at night.

    The stones near The Field are anointed with hot blood at seasonal festivals by itinerant druids.  These rites are attended by many locals including Karela.  It's held the prowler among the stones is one of the druids yet Karela will disagree.  When pressed she changes the subject.  Yet the stones occasionally move, seemingly by themselves.  On those nights, the prowler reappears.  Nobody has yet confronted the figure though Karela may hire some advenuturers if the figure begins to become a nuisance.
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