Friday, September 28, 2012

Creative Inspiration: The 36 Dramatic Situations

Way back in 1895, French writer Georges Polti postulated that in drama there was only 36 possible situations, and every storyline stems from one of these situations. The accuracy of this statement has been debated back and forth by better men than you or I (well at least than I) over the years but it still remains an interesting piece of work. These 36 situations have been utilised over the years by students and critics categorising works (film, books, plays etc) and by writers looking for some inspiration. It is firmly in the second category that role-players and more specifically GMs come into the picture.

We've all been there at one time or another during our GMing careers (not that we make money from it, but it may as well be a second job at times, albeit a volunteer one.) You have a game coming up in a couple of days but you're fresh out of ideas. One tool in your arsenal is indeed these 36 dramatic situations. 36 is a nice number for gamers, and I'm sure many of you have already considered "hey I could just roll 2D6 to pick a situation and get my inspiration," and that is exactly the suggestion. Roll 2D6, the first one picking the table, and the second one the specific situation.

So without further ado, the 36 dramatic situations. (note that the text shown below has come from Wikipedia.) They are in the format of the title, the required persons or elements, and then a description of the situation. Just pick your game, roll and think how that could apply in your current campaign.

1-1 Supplication
a Persecutor; a Suppliant; a Power in authority, whose decision is doubtful.
The Persecutor accuses the Suppliant of wrongdoing, and the Power makes a judgment against the Suppliant.

1-2 Deliverance
an Unfortunate; a Threatener; a Rescuer
The Unfortunate has caused a conflict, and the Threatener is to carry out justice, but the Rescuer saves the Unfortunate.

1-3 Crime pursued by vengeance
a Criminal; an Avenger
The Criminal commits a crime that will not see justice, so the Avenger seeks justice by punishing the Criminal.

1-4 Vengeance taken for kin upon kin
Guilty Kinsman; an Avenging Kinsman; remembrance of the Victim, a relative of both
Two entities, the Guilty and the Avenging Kinsmen, are put into conflict over wrongdoing to the Victim, who is allied to both.

1-5 Pursuit
Punishment; a Fugitive
The Fugitive flees Punishment for a misunderstood conflict.

1-6 Disaster
a Vanquished Power; a Victorious Enemy or a Messenger
The Power falls from their place after being defeated by the Victorious Enemy or being informed of such a defeat by the Messenger.

2-1 Falling prey to cruelty/misfortune
an Unfortunate; a Master or a Misfortune
The Unfortunate suffers from Misfortune and/or at the hands of the Master.

2-2 Revolt
a Tyrant; a Conspirator
The Tyrant, a cruel power, is plotted against by the Conspirator.

2-3 Daring enterprise
a Bold Leader; an Object; an Adversary
The Bold Leader takes the Object from the Adversary by overpowering the Adversary.

2-4 Abduction
an Abductor; the Abducted; a Guardian
The Abductor takes the Abducted from the Guardian.

2-5 The enigma
a Problem; an Interrogator; a Seeker
The Interrogator poses a Problem to the Seeker and gives a Seeker better ability to reach the Seeker's goals.

2-6 Obtaining
(a Solicitor & an Adversary who is refusing) or (an Arbitrator & Opposing Parties)
The Solicitor is at odds with the Adversary who refuses to give the Solicitor what they Object in the possession of the Adversary, or an Arbitrator decides who gets the Object desired by Opposing Parties (the Solicitor and the Adversary).

3-1 Enmity of kin
a Malevolent Kinsman; a Hated or a reciprocally-hating Kinsman
The Malevolent Kinsman and the Hated or a second Malevolent Kinsman conspire together.

3-2 Rivalry of kin
the Preferred Kinsman; the Rejected Kinsman; the Object of Rivalry
The Object of Rivalry chooses the Preferred Kinsman over the Rejected Kinsman.

3-3 Murderous adultery
two Adulterers; a Betrayed Spouse
Two Adulterers conspire to kill the Betrayed Spouse.

3-4 Madness
a Madman; a Victim
The Madman goes insane and wrongs the Victim.

3-5 Fatal imprudence
the Imprudent; a Victim or an Object Lost
The Imprudent, by neglect or ignorance, loses the Object Lost or wrongs the Victim.

3-6 Involuntary crimes of love
a Lover; a Beloved; a Revealer
The Revealer betrays the trust of either the Lover or the Beloved.

4-1 Slaying of kin unrecognized
the Slayer; an Unrecognized Victim
The Slayer kills the Unrecognized Victim.

4-2 Self-sacrifice for an ideal
a Hero; an Ideal; a Creditor or a Person/Thing sacrificed
The Hero sacrifices the Person or Thing for their Ideal, which is then taken by the Creditor.

4-3 Self-sacrifice for kin
a Hero; a Kinsman; a Creditor or a Person/Thing sacrificed
The Hero sacrifices a Person or Thing for their Kinsman, which is then taken by the Creditor.

4-4 All sacrificed for passion
a Lover; an Object of fatal Passion; the Person/Thing sacrificed
A Lover sacrifices a Person or Thing for the Object of their Passion, which is then lost forever.

4-5 Necessity of sacrificing loved ones
a Hero; a Beloved Victim; the Necessity for the Sacrifice
The Hero wrongs the Beloved Victim because of the Necessity for their Sacrifice.

4-6 Rivalry of superior vs. inferior
a Superior Rival; an Inferior Rival; the Object of Rivalry
A Superior Rival bests an Inferior Rival and wins the Object of Rivalry.

5-1 Adultery
two Adulterers; a Deceived Spouse
Two Adulterers conspire against the Deceived Spouse.

5-2 Crimes of love
a Lover; the Beloved
A Lover and the Beloved enter a conflict.

5-3 Discovery of the dishonour of a loved one
a Discoverer; the Guilty One
The Discoverer discovers the wrongdoing committed by the Guilty One.

5-4 Obstacles to love
two Lovers; an Obstacle
Two Lovers face an Obstacle together.

5-5 An enemy loved
a Lover; the Beloved Enemy; the Hater
The allied Lover and Hater have diametrically opposed attitudes towards the Beloved Enemy.

5-6 Ambition
an Ambitious Person; a Thing Coveted; an Adversary
The Ambitious Person seeks the Thing Coveted and is opposed by the Adversary.

6-1 Conflict with a god
a Mortal; an Immortal
The Mortal and the Immortal enter a conflict.

6-2 Mistaken jealousy
a Jealous One; an Object of whose Possession He is Jealous; a Supposed Accomplice; a Cause or an Author of the Mistake
The Jealous One falls victim to the Cause or the Author of the Mistake and becomes jealous of the Object and becomes conflicted with the Supposed Accomplice.

6-3 Erroneous judgement
a Mistaken One; a Victim of the Mistake; a Cause or Author of the Mistake; the Guilty One
The Mistaken One falls victim to the Cause of the Author of the Mistake and passes judgment against the Victim of the Mistake when it should be passed against the Guilty One instead.

6-4 Remorse
a Culprit; a Victim or the Sin; an Interrogator
The Culprit wrongs the Victim or commits the Sin, and is at odds with the Interrogator who seeks to understand the situation.

6-5 Recovery of a lost one
a Seeker; the One Found
The Seeker finds the One Found.

6-6 Loss of loved ones
a Kinsman Slain; a Kinsman Spectator; an Executioner
The killing of the Kinsman Slain by the Executioner is witnessed by the Kinsman Spectator.

I will revisit these in future posts on how they can be used in specific games, and I welcome comments from people telling us how they made use of the 36 dramatic situations to overcome that creative block in your own games.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Star Wars RPG: A New Beginning

So as most of you are aware Fantasy Flight Games have announced the newest Star Wars RPG. A hardcopy beta is circulating in many FLGS at a pricey $35. There has been a few pieces of information released about the game now so here's a quick summary.

The new Star Wars RPG will be set in and around the Rebellion era (hurrah!!!!) and will actually consist of three game lines (not unlike the 40K series.)

  • Star Wars: Edge of Empire - revolving around smugglers and others who ply their trade on the edge of known space, criminals, explorers and the like
  • Star Wars: Age of Rebellion - takes you into the war against the Empire as part of the Rebellion
  • Star Wars: Force and Destiny - becoming one of the last of the force users in the galaxy
 FFG have said these are independent game lines that will share a unified system, which must be good news to those of us who bought into the 40K lines with the slightly different rule systems.

 To date only the beta book is available, and only in hardcopy from your FLGS. FFG did give it out and sell it at GenCon this year but they are now out of stock.

 The Beginner Game for Edge of Empire has been announced as coming in Q4 this year. Exact release date to be determined. This is like the old classic beginner box sets we used to love (or perhaps hate) and will contain:

  • 32 page adventure
  • 48 page rulebook
  • introduction sheet
  • 4 full colour character sheets (they refer to them as folios)
  • a colour double sided map (looking at the images they've provided at least one of the sides is of a YT1300 Stock Light Freighter in a landing bay)
  • 14 custom dice (more on these later)
  • 8 destiny tokens
  • 35 character tokens
  • 5 vehicle tokens
 Custom dice. Oh how many of us hate custom dice. Yes the new Star Wars line will be using custom dice meaning ans you either have to buy more dice for the game in some manner, or obtain stickers for your existing dice (or assign a number to each custom effect, but who wants to do that?) FFG have already released an app to be used as a dice roller for both Android and iOS ($4.99 each) so the dice aren't really necessary.
Custom dice. Image from Fantasy Flight Games site, all copyright remains that of FFG
 It seems that the tokens are just placeholder tokens to represent characters and vehicles on maps.

 Beginner Game is to retail for $29.95.

 The core rulebook has also been announced but no word on a street date, size or price. 

Monday, September 24, 2012

Gameline Overview: Deathwatch

There are many RPG gamelines out there, all vying for your hard earned money and more importantly your time. Some gamelines are huge beasts with hundreds of books spread across editions (Dungeons and Dragons, and Traveller spring instantly to mind.) Some are smaller and complete while yet more put up with a steady release schedule and haven't yet made it to the realms of hundreds of books. Maybe dozens of books.

So I'm going to start a new type of posting to give an overview of some of these gamelines so people can see what all is available for them, what kind of material is published and a general overview of what it is about plus any other related information I think may be useful.

So first post, Deathwatch, published by Fantasy Flight Games.

Deathwatch is a game set in the Warhammer 40K universe (Wikipedia is as good a place as any for a primer on the setting,) in which the players take on the role of a member of the Deathwatch a powerful and secretive organization dedicated to combating the fouls xenos that plague mankind. Each member of the Deathwatch is a Space Marine (Adeptus Astartes,) a veteran of their particular chapter who has been sent to represent them in the Deathwatch. As such the players are already powerful at the beginning of the game.

So what do the players do? Mostly they run around and kill stuff, mainly aliens but also with a healthy dose of heretic and Chaos thrown in for good measure. Sounds like it could be boring, and that was my initial reaction to the line until I started reading it. The line is well written, and the published adventures and materials do a good job of making them characters into more than just mindless killing machines.

The default setting for the game is the Jericho Reach, a new front in mankind's continual war to claim all of the galaxy. Using a gate of alien technology the Imperium has launched a crusade into the Jericho Reach, an area that used to belong to humanity millenia ago, in an attempt to bring them back into the fold and the light of the Emperor. The Deathwatch have always been in the Jericho reach watching for threats and trying to put them down when they arise and this new crusade has stirred things up a bit. While the Deathwatch will assist the crusade at times, it is not their objective and at times will cause them to clash with it.

So far a fair amount of material has been released for the line. All items in the line are in a hardback full colour format, and the majority has been released in PDF format on DriveThruRPG.
  • Deathwatch rulebook: 400 pages including all the rules needed for play and a starting adventure
  • Deathwatch Game Master's Kit: A four panel hardboard GM screen that you could beat a player to death with and a 32 page booklet consisting of an adventure and an enhanced system for generating missions for the players
  • Rites of Battle: 256 pages containing enhanced character creation, background and abilities, new equipment, honour and reknown system and an overview of Watch Fortress Erioch the Deathwatch's main base in the Jericho Reach
  • The Emperor Protects: 144 pages containing 3 large adventures
  • Mark of the Xenos: 144 pages of aliens, heretics and chaos opponents for your games, plus more rules on hordes and mass battles
  • First Founding: 144 pages. Details on four more Space Marine chapters for players to come from, details on the traitor Space Marine legions, some specific chapter related equipment and a 20 page adventure
  • The Achilus Assault: 144 pages. Information on the Imperial Crusade into the Jericho Reach, the most important worlds embroiled in their assault and finally important NPCs in the crusade
  • The Jericho Reach: 238 pages on the enemies facing the crusade, Chaos, Tau and Tyrannids. More details on the three main arms of the crusade and adventuring and fighting inside those warzones
  • Rising Tempest: 144 pages. A three part mini-campaign
  • Honour the Chapter: 144 pages. Details on creating characters from younger Space Marine chapters, adventure seeds

Friday, September 21, 2012

Review - Shadowrun: Mil Spec Tech 2

One of the more recent releases from Catalyst was the primarily PDF Shadowrun: Mil Spec Tech 2 (available on DriveThruRPG and RPGNow.) I say primarily PDF as it will not be released on standalone sale in hardcopy, but will be included in the soon to be released Runners Black Book 2074.

For your $7.95 you get a 31 page full colour PDF featuring the newest releases by Ares into the military market for 2074. This works out to 34 new pieces of hardware to throw at your runners, most of them illustrated and all coming with statistics for the 20th Anniversary ruleset.

The writing is the usual style for this kind of product, corporate sales speak followed by Jackpointers adding their 2c (or more.) There is even some of the humour you've come to expect, apparently Ares warranties do not cover damage related to user enthusiasm (unless you buy an extra support contract.)

The art is a mixed bag, most of it decent, and it gives a good idea of the piece of equipment in question.

What equipment is included I hear you ask? No, that's just the wind. Well I'll tell you anyway. Inside this instalment we have;

  • 4 new drones, including the Tan Dem humanoid security drone
  • 2 new APCs, one a vectored thrust vehicle
  • 1 new infantry fighting vehicle, also vectored thrust
  • A dedicated anti-drone anti-air vehicle with laser and missile
  • A mobile artillery capable of using rockets or cruise missiles
  • Several aircraft 
    • VTOL transport plane
    • stealth bomber
    • 2 fighters
  • Marine assets: Frigate, submarine and destroyer
  • Personal weapons: Assaults rifle, light machine gun and portable laser
  • Point defense laser
  • 14 missiles, missile launchers, torpedo and rockets
So the question is, is it worth buying? If you're planning on sending your runners into one of the many war zones brewing in the Shadowrun world right now then you will definitely find a use for it. On the other hand if you run a straight street level campaign in Seattle, then you're not likely to get use out of most of the contents.  The clue is in the name, if you need military spec cutting edge, then you could do worse than picking this one up.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Kickstarter: A New RPG Record

So a new RPG record was set on Kickstarter. Numenera, a Kickstarter for the new game by one of the icons of the industry, Monte Cook. Numenera is a post-apocalyptic far future science fiction RPG. I must say I didn't know a huge amount about it and a quick glance through didn't particularly intrigue me.

However sometimes temptation just jumps in there, and I suddenly found myself in for the core rulebook and the PDFs of everything. The art looks pretty, there is a lot of stuff coming with the stretch rewards and I just can't resist value for money at times.

Over 4,600 RPG fans were definitely interested with 3 interested retail stores putting in a whopping $1,500 each (to be fair that reward level also got Monte Cook coming to the store to do a signing session anywhere in North America which has got to be good for business.) Someone even managed to put their hands into his (or her) pockets and come up with $2,000 to have a one on one with Monte on game design.

At $517,256 (plus PayPal pledges) it beat the previous record holder Traveller 5 by over $220k (not quite doubling it, but giving it a damned good try.)

Kickstarter is definitely becoming the go to place for exclusive RPG goodies and pre-orders, and this proves that Monte Cook is still bankable even after the failure of his Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventure to make funding. It seems Indiegogo isn't as popular with RPG fans as Kickstarter.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Unboxing: Second City for Legend of the Five Rings

Since I couldn't go to GenCon this year, like everyone else I had to wait for all the goodies to hit the streets through the regular channels. One of the items I was strangely waiting to get my hands on was Legend of the Five Rings: Second City Boxed Set. Now when originally announced I wasn't entirely sure I would get it due to the main setting now being in Rokugan but outside the Empire. However being the collector that I am, I felt I had to get it anyway no matter what my logical mind may have told me.

Upfront information, this is not a review but merely an unboxing and overview of the product. I believe the street price for this is $79.99 US, but I managed to get it from 401 Games in Toronto for $68.

So what do you get for what is still an expensive piece of RPG material. Well first off lets start with the box as a package. All 3+ kgs of it (yes, 6.6 lbs of box set). For reference that's over 200g more than the Ptolus book for those that have it. This is certainly the heaviest RPG box set I've ever purchased, and is heavier than many of the modern style board games. It measures 23.5 x 8 x 30 cm and can be seen below.

So, onto the contents. The box contains, in order top to bottom of how it arrived. Unless otherwise noted, the items are regular full paper sized.

  • A cloth drawstring dice bag with the new L5R logo on it

  • The City: A 98 page plus covers book guide to the city
  • The Campaign: 106 page plus covers campaign set in and around the city and the colonies
  • The People: 106 page plus covers guide to NPCs and organizations.

  • The Journal of Yogo Tanaka: a 16 page digest sized journal, I'm assuming it's a handout for the campaign
  • An unlabeled 20 page digest sized pillow book. Not sure if this is just flavour or a handout again.

  • A GM screen: A hardboard 2 full panel and 2 3/4 panel GM screen. It is the same GM screen that was released previously from a content and art perspective, but this one is sturdy and stiff unlike the previously released light card one. Very welcome

  • A large 8 page sized unfolded poster map of the city

  • 6 Premium Character Logs: 8 page plus covers full size high quality character sheets similar in concept to the Travelogs they released for the second edition. I hope these are released for general sale in packs as well as I'd hate for these to be the only copies there are.

  • A pad of character sheets: Full colour 2 sided character sheets. 50 by my count. An odd addition in these days of household printers, PDF downloads and easy photocopying, but welcome nonetheless

  • Dice: 10 jade coloured D10 with the Imperial chrysanthemum logo replacing the 10 (see above for photo with dice bag)
  • Stance Cards: 30 stance cards for the various combat stances, 6 of each representing each of the 5 elements (Full attack, attack, defense, full defense and center)
  • School Technique Cards: 140 cards representing the techniques from the various schools in the game, one for each rank technique. I don't know if this represents all of them, but it is at least the core rulebooks including the minor clans and Spider Clan.

All the books are full colour and match the style we've seen in the other 4th edition products to date, there's been no skimping on quality here to bring costs down on the box.

So all in all you get a lot for your money. Once taxes are include this cost me just slightly more than the main rulebook so it was cheap for the content. From a first glance, this is a fabulous box and seems well worth having. Now to get around to reading it.

(Note: next time I think I'll use a white tablecloth rather than those patterned place mats, they're so distracting.)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Review - Shadowrun: The Land of Promise

So recently Shadowrun: The Land of Promise was released by Catalyst in PDF format. I picked up a copy from DriveThruRPG and had a read.

For those who don't know, The Land of Promise is the translation of Tir Tairngire the predominately Elvish country that was established to the south of Shadowrun's default Seattle setting. It's a country that has seen its fair share of turmoil over the last 50 years of the setting (currently in 2074 as of this supplement.)

So what do you get. Well for $5.95 you get a 24 page PDF. The production quality is of the current usual Catalyst standard, that is pretty good and as you'd expect from a RPG product these days. It's colourful, with a good density of text and a reasonable text to graphics/whitespace ratio. 

The 24 pages break down as:
  • 1 page for the cover painting, which while nice enough kind of evokes a sensation of Rivendell if it where on Minbar
  • 1 page is the obligatory Jackpoint login screen informing you of what is coming next, and some news
  • 4 pages are taken up with a vaguely interesting piece of short fiction that sets the scene for some of the action going on in the Tir these days
  • 13 pages of information on the Tir (well most of it is your favourite Jackpointers talking about the Tir)
  • 1 page of adventure hooks
  • 3 pages of NPCs for people the average shadowrunner may encounter during their stay
  • 1 page (well half a page really) detailing briefly a magical society, The Moonlight Thorns
What it isn't. This isn't a guide to the Tir, for information on the history of Tir Tairngire, culture etc you'll need to look at The Sixth World Almanac, or the older first edition Tir Tairngire sourcebooks. 

What it is. It is presented as an edited down copy of a delightfully cheesy Tir Tairngire travel brochure for prospective tourists (complete with Grimmy the Grimoire icon telling you all about the Tir. Think that annoying paperclip from older versions of Microsoft Office and you'll have the exact right idea.) When I say heavily edited it means the majority of the would be text in that brochure has been deleted and replaced by commentary by the usual suspect posters on Jackpoint commenting on the realities of what goes on. While this may sound annoying, long time Shadowrun readers know that the real meat and details are often in these posters comments giving the realities (and sometimes completely incorrect information) on the topic at hand, and The Land of Promise is no exception to this rule. In fact the Jackpoint comments make up perhaps 80% of the text of the book outside the opening fiction and NPC section. It should be noted that the single largest topic of conversation here is the princes of the Tir, what they stand for and what they're currently up to in the run up to the next election.

What little art is in the book (other than Grimmy the Grimoire) consist of some character drawings that seem to be representative of princes of the Tir, but its not obvious. The art is adequate, but doesn't seem to be trying to fill a particular purpose as the style doesn't always seem to fit with the descriptions of the princes it's presumably trying to illustrate. It's almost as if they just had a load of spare character art lying around and decided to use it in this book.

One thing I don't particularly like about the book, and Catalyst please take note, is the attempt at illustrating the different sections of the travel guide and which section is currently being read. Imagine images like below
  + Subject 1
  + Subject 2
  + Subject 3
   - Subject 4
 where the Subject 4 item is the section of the guide currently being read. I can see what they're trying to get at and it does give some framework to hanging the sections of conversation off of, but it just serves to illustrate what could have been in the book but isn't, and this could be confusing to someone who doesn't get what they're trying to do. 

So value for money. Well I recently purchased the hardcopy of The Clutch of Dragons (review coming later), a 152 page softcover for $29.99 (that's just under 20 cents a page.) Compare that to $5.95 for a 24 page PDF leaves you at just under 25 cents per page, and that's only a PDF not a hardcopy, and it seems a bit pricey. I'd really expect to pay perhaps $3.95 for this rather than the six bucks, especially given the higher margins (but perhaps lower sales.)

The product does really rely on you being up to date on the Shadowrun background for the Tir and the civil unrest and political upheaval of the last decade to get the most out of it, so if you're not familiar with that and just want a book to give you some information then you should look elsewhere. If you want an update on the political situation and some more tidbits of information plus filling in more holes in the continuing Shadowrun metaplot, then by all means have a look.

If you're planning on having the players run in the Tir during the upcoming election, then there is plenty of information in here to use as plot hooks for what will bean interesting time.

Overall I'm not convinced this is a must buy at the price and for the content. I'm a Shadowrun completist so I'll buy anything they produce for it but your mileage may vary.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Creative Inspiration - Seven Samurai

During a recent thread on (thread can be found here) on borrowing plots from other sources, it quickly came up that many GMs had used Seven Samurai as their plot on many occasions. So often used the comment was even made "I challenge you all to say "I never did Seven Samurai" with a straight face." 

So what is it about Seven Samurai that makes it such a source of inspiration to GMs? Well it's not just limited to role-playing games. If we step back to look at cinema and television we can see that Seven Samurai has been heavily borrowed/homaged/stolen over the course of the last 50 years.

  • The Magnificent Seven (deliberately a remake)
  • Battle Beyond the Stars
  • Three Amigos (it's there, honest)
  • A Bugs Life (yes, go watch it again, A Bugs Life is Seven Samurai)
There are many more (in fact let me know more, it would be interesting to compile a list.)

Even television shows are not immune to the Seven Samurai plot, and in fact given the episodic nature it's perhaps more likely to be used at least once
  • Clone Wars episode The Bounty Hunters (they didn't even try to hide it)
  • Stargate SG-1
  • Firefly (Heart of Gold)

At its core there is a facet that is so appealing to role-playing. A motley group of adventurers is gathered together with the objective of performing a simple task, that of protecting a village from the predations of a group of bandits. It's a classic tale of the heroic standing up against evil to protect the innocent. It's such a simple concept that is so easily adaptable to almost any role-playing game that the concept of it is ingrained unconsciously into the mind of almost anyone writing adventure stories. 

Personally I'm not sure how many times I've used it
  • Traveller
  • Star Wars
  • Call of Cthulhu
  • Shadowrun
  • Earthdawn
  • Legend of the Five Rings (seems fitting)
  • And probably more
So tell me, how many games have you run Seven Samurai in?

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Review - Night Parade

So last year when I was initially getting into finding things on Kickstarter I came across a project entitled The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, a project for an artist living in Japan to product a book about yokai. Yokai are otherworldly creatures of Japanese folklore and not many books have been translated into English about them leading to them not being hugely well known outside of Japan. People have come across some examples such as the kappaoni and kitsune, but a large number are unknown to westerners.

The idea behind the book was to paint the images of 100 of these yokai and pair them up with descriptive text regarding the folklore around them in English. A project that was well executed and I am the proud owner of a copy of the book (it has subsequently been made available for general purchase on Amazon.

The book is generally presented as a two page spread, one page covering the text of the yokai, and the other a full page painting done by the books author. All the paintings are in the same style, and it is a style that suits the sometimes whimsical nature of the subject matter.

What does this have to do with a role-playing blog? Well one of the reasons I got it, apart from an interest in Japanese history and folklore, was to use it to breathe colour in my Legend of the Five Rings games. While not all of the creatures in the book of of use to a game such as L5R (some are just silly, as is normal for much of folklore,) some will definitely find their way to my gaming table.

There are several that disguise themselves as women, some are good natured and some just want to eat young men (great for populating a mysterious geisha house in the middle of nowhere.) There are various ghosts and spirits, many demons and servants of hell, and a lot of just playful supernatural wildlife.

Some of my favourite include;

  • Tsurube-otoshi. Giant disembodied heads that lurk in treetops and leap on top of prey with sadistic glee to squash them and then eat them
  • Jubokko - human eating trees that have developed from the sites of great battles and bloodshed. Snatching their prey in their long branches they suck every nutrient from the victim leaving only dried out bones to gather around their base. Very suited to L5R I think, especially in the Shadowlands.
  • Wa-nyudo. Rolling flaming wheels with a fearsome shaved mans head for a hub that roll along looking to devour the souls of the wicked and take them back to hell
  • And of course everyone loves kappa. Mischievous child like reptilians with a depression on their head that must remain filled with water and a love of cucumber
It's a great book, obviously put together from a love of the subject by the author. Great for those who are interested in the subject matter, though it isn't cheap. If you want it as inspiration for a supernatural Japanese game such as an L5R game or the like, then it definitely has its uses but may be stretching the worth slightly if you don't have a broader interest as I don't believe everything would be usable.

If you'd like to see more images, or find out more about the book or author, then you can visit their website at

Friday, September 7, 2012

Now with added twit

I've now added a Twitter account to the blog for those interested. I've never twitted, twat, tweeted?? before so bear with me on this one. I'll mainly be using Twitter to send round news on new products that are released, quick bursts of RPG news that interest me and may interest others, and a few other items that don't require a full blog posting about.

For those interested the account is @secondleftrpg

Twitter Button from

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Call of Cthulhu - 7th Edition Playtest

The fine folks over at have announced a playtest for anyone interested in beta testing the Cthulhu 7th edition ruleset. If you have a group willing to sign an NDA, and want to get involved, head over to the site and sign up before September 17th. First come, first served.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Kickstarter and RPGs

So I'm assuming that most readers are by now familiar with Kickstarter, the site that allows people trying to get projects off the drawing board and into reality by relying on the contributions and supports of the anonymous internet masses. Early after its inception there were a couple of role-playing projects put on it to varying degrees of success, but not a lot of money in it at the time. Over the last six months the amount of money going through Kickstarter seems to have exploded and suddenly every RPG company, person trying to get their homebrew setting published, accessory manufacturer etc has jumped on the bandwagon to the extent that Kickstarter seems to have become more of a pre-order and fund my print run than a true investment contribution site.

A lot of names in the RPG industry have been putting projects on the site and records are continually broken by RPGs in the Gaming category. To give you some sort of idea as to the money we're talking about here is a brief history of significant players in the RPG Kickstarters over the last year.

Far West: The Wuxia/Western RPG from Adamant Entertainment asked for $5,000 to help get it to market. They received $49,325 in the end setting the record at the time.

Vampire 20th Anniversary Companion (or V20 Companion) from White Wolf then came along asking for the huge sum of $50,000 to get it to print. They ended up getting $96,327 firmly beating the record set by Far West.

The next big battle was a real clash of the titans. A reprint of the classic dungeon Rappan Athuk by Frog God Games asked for $25,000 while starting four weeks later but ending at the same time Traveller 5 by Far Future asked for $24,000. Rappan Athuk took off fast and just kept growing but once Traveller 5 was on the site it quickly became clear that a new record was going to be set, but by who? They finished within a day of each other with Rappan Athuk bringing in an incredible $246,541. Traveller 5 however managed to take the crown, even with slightly confusing options, at an incredible $294,628.

It goes to show, word is out there that Kickstarter is where it's coming from, and is a great way to test the waters on new products.

I would be completely remiss not to mention two projects related to the hobby that also made splashes.

Shadowrun Returns by  was proposing a modern remake/sequel to the classic Nintendo Shadowrun game. They came out asking for an ambitious $400K, but that was okay as they came away with $1,836,447.

And the biggest surprise of all finished just a matter of days ago. Reaper Miniatures was looking for some cash flow to be able to produce molds to add new miniatures to their popular Bones line. To this end they were asking for a reasonable $30K to be able to get these molds done up and in return the backers could get some of the new miniatures. In the end they blew past their $30K target, zoomed past the hundreds of thousands, clobbered the $1M dollar mark and ended up with an absolutely astonishing $3,429,236. Yes you read that correctly, almost 3.5 million dollars, making it the number 3 Kickstarter of all time (after a watch that can connect to your iPhone and an Android based games console.) 

And who says the hobby industry is dead?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

DriveThruRPG Print on Demand

So recently I've been trying to get up to speed on the fourth edition of Legend of the Five Rings (see the review here) and as a result I've been going through all the books for the game line. Now all apart from one book is available in regular stores in hard copy, and that one book missing is the PDF only Strongholds of the Empire. The product, to my knowledge, is only available on DriveThruRPG so over I head to pick it up. I was aware vaguely before that DriveThru do Print on Demand these days on a number of products and I upon looking noticed that Strongholds was one of those products. Hmm, $19.99 for the PDF only or for $49.99 I can get the PDF and a hardcover full cover POD copy as well. Sometimes my willpower is only so strong.

Still I decided one product wasn't enough so I began combing through their POD enabled titles to see what else I could grab in order to make the shipping costs more acceptable (amazing how the human brain can convince itself into an illogical argument, if I buy more then the shipping per item won't be so bad so I'm saving money.) Looking through the lists there was a huge selection of White Wolf products from their old World of Darkness, but they're not something I'm after.

Eventually I came across Gamemastering by Dominic Wasch, a book I'd been looking for for a while but unable to find in the normal distribution, $19.95 for the PDF plus a POD soft copy. One down. Next up was Corporate Punishment for Shadowrun. I'm a Shadowrun collector and this is one of the books missing from my collection, but $9.99 for the PDF and a soft copy, sold.

I decided to stop at three.

So anyway order placed and I wait.

My delivery comes in two separate packages, Gamemastering and Corporate Punishment in one and about a week later Strongholds turns up. All books were printed by Lightning Source in the UK, which I thought odd since I'm in Canada and assumed they'd come from the US. But onto the books.

Gamemastering. The book looks great, just like you'd buy a regular commercial printed book. The paper is a good stock, not too heavy but not thin either. The book is trimmed to the correct size (or they used smaller paper as at 8 1/16th by 10 inches it's slightly smaller than most RPG books) with no excess white space round the edges. Other than it's missing pricing information on the back and the very last page has a Printed by Lightning Source on it, you can't tell the difference between it and a commercial print run. The setup and files for this book were obviously designed for Print on Demand

Corporate Punishment. This one isn't so clean. Printed on what seems like decent stock printer paper the book hasn't been trimmed. There is white space around the interior pages above the page headers and the cover has a red band around the outside of the cover image. It seems a bit odd as the paper size is the same as the regular Shadowrun books from the time period of the original book, but looks like they've printed it on a regular laser printed with margins on the paper. The printing quality isn't as good as the Gamemastering book either, with the text being slightly blurry in some places upon close examination. Additionally images with a lot of dark in them have a tendency to bleed through slightly to the other side of the page. Not enough to cause any problems with readability but it's noticeable. In this case it's unfortunately fairly obvious it's a PDF made for regular screen use and sale that's just been printed doing the same job as if you'd printed it at home, which is slightly disappointing. It's still good to have it in my collection now, but after the Gamemastering book it's a let down.

Strongholds of the Empire. The first word I'll mention on this is wow. The second is wow. Seriously this book is impressive. If I hadn't ordered it myself I wouldn't have known it's POD. Hard cover, full colour with image bleeds right to the edge of the page. The paper is heavier stock than the rest of the L5R line, but that's not a bad thing. The cover, well finished and glossy (which is an unfortunate contrast to the matt finish to the rest of the line) and a joy to behold. The interior text is sharp and precise with the images being as well reproduced as you'd expect from any regular print run. Unlike the Corporate Punishment book there is zero bleed through to the other side of the page no matter how dark the image on the reverse. I will definitely be willing to buy more PDFs from Alderac if they're set up to POD like this. At some point I'll get around to reading the book and post a review, but I'm looking forward to it.