Friday, November 30, 2012

Tablets for PDFs: My Nexus 10 has Arrived

So the title says it all, my Nexus 10 has arrived. I'm quite happy with it but I will put up a full review of it used for roleplaying PDFs in the next few days.

(See the review here)

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Kuro now available in PDF format

So the new Cubicle 7 RPG Kuro is now available in PDF format from DriveThruRPG. I've been intrigued by this for a while, a mix of Cyberpunk and Japanese horror should prove to be an interesting setting. Here is the blurb on the book.

I lost Miko during the Kuro incident. She was driving when the light from the missile exploded over Tokyo. It must have blinded her because her car was found wrapped around a tree, her body covered in petals fallen through the broken window.

When I found a message from her on my phone I thought it was just an old one I hadn't erased. I kept it, playing it back just to hear her voice. It helped, just a bit, to have a few moments when I could pretend that she was still alive. But more messages starting appearing on my phone. Now I just want them to stop.

Because the girl who keeps sending them isn't Miko, and she won't stop screaming.

The year is 2046, and something dark has returned to Japan. With an international blockade set up around the beleaguered country following the Kuro Incident, there is no escape. In addition to the meteorological side-effects of the Incident, some people have noticed a sharp rise in disturbing, mysterious and supernatural occurrences. The authorities refuse to acknowledge such obvious sensationalist delusions. Do you have the strength to face the nightmares?

Kuro is the core rulebook of a new near-future game setting influenced by unremitting Japanese horror. Dare you stare into the darkness?


The Kuro Incident - Miracle or Curse? Only time will tell how history will remember the events of 4th May 2046. The accidental launch of a Panasiatic Federation nuke at Japan would have devastated the country, but we were saved from this fate when the missile vanished seconds before impact. But saved by what? The violent winds and electromagnetic storm which followed offer clues to the event that science has yet to decipher. Some people have reverted to ancient superstition to explain what happened, muttering about spirits and the 'Wind of the Gods'. But such is always the case in times like these, especially as the consequences of the blockade grow more severe. Personally, I'm sure that we'll find a diplomatic solution before the year is out and, at the very least, not being nuked will always seem like the better option!

- Case #2046044444, last blog post of victim, assessed irrelevant to case

MK 2046.09.11

If this interests you then head over to DriveThruRPG and pick up a copy. I'm eagerly awaiting being able to sit down and digest this.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Review: Shadowrun Parabotany

Shadowrun: Parabotany is one of the line of PDF only supplements being released by Catalyst for the Shadowrun 4th Edition line. The PDF was actually released back in April 2012, but despite picking it up shortly after it came out, I just didn't look at it and it has languished in my collection ever since. Recently I decided to pull it up and give it a read.

As you may expect from the name, this supplement covers awakened flora in the sixth world. At this point some of you are probably thinking "Oooo, magic plants, big deal." I must say the thought crossed my mind as well when I first picked it up with the added "what possible use could I have for this, it's probably even less use than the military equipment catalogues in my game." How wrong I was. This may seriously be one of the most useful of the PDF only supplements to date.

So what do you get for your money. Well you get a 51 page PDF with the image of a car driving into an awakened tumbleweed on the cover. This is followed by the now familiar Jackpoint page.

After this is the meat of the product, lots of pages on plants (still boring you say, well it isn't.) This is split into subsections

  • 27 pages of Paranormal Plants - new plants discovered in the sixth world that weren't in the fifth
  • 5 pages of Blighted Plants - awakened plants that have been corrupted by their environment or turned toxic
  • 2 pages of Mutant Plants - mutant members of regular fifth world plants
  • 3 pages of Engineered Plants - plants that have been developed by the corporations for security purposes
  • 4 pages of Botanical Advances - details on new advances in plants (yes really) and information on new forms of plant based alcohols and drinks
  • 7 pages of Game Rules - information on the new abilities and powers of some of the plants, information on creating your own awakened flora, information on various plant based magical compounds, paints and drugs
  • Plant index - an index to all plants in this PDF, plus those plants detailed in other 4th edition supplements
Still doesn't sound like much, well it's hard to get into the details as to why this is so useful. Each of the sections contains interesting plants that can be used to both add colour to the world of Shadowrun, and to surprise your players with. An example from each section
  • Paranormal Plants - Sleeping Willow - A willow tree that has the ability to record what happens around it. If you sleep under the tree then you will dream in great detail of a random day around the tree. Incidentally recently the Corporate Court ruled that recordings made by the tree and played back in someone's dream, is not admissible as evidence
  • Blighted Plants - Gomorrah Apple Tree. An apple tree where the consumption of its fruit starts a rapid petrification process in the eater. Once paralyzed the tree extrudes tendrils that then such the life essence out of the unfortunate victim
  • Mutant Plants - Dropping Pine. What seems like a normal pine tree that defends itself from being attacked or chopped down by weakening branches so they fall off onto the person below
  • Engineered Plants - Thornblades. A grass with stems consisting of small wooden pikes that can be placed among regular grass and are capable of piercing the soles of most regular footwear

This is just a taste, but the supplement is surprisingly useful for almost any game. Even a deep shadows game set in Shadowrun will find some use inside, even if it is only the plant based compounds and the security engineered plants. I highly recommend Parabotany.

Parabotany can be purchased from DriveThruRPG for $7.99.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Tablets for PDFs: iPad vs Nexus 10

Update: I bought one. See the review here.

So for some time I've had an original series iPad which is a very nice tool. From a roleplaying perspective the use I would get most out of is as a PDF reader. For those that know me you know I have about 1,000 RPG books which take up a lot of room. Now I wouldn't get rid of them, but I would love to be able to have them and make use of them electronically.

Like many roleplayers I get my RPG PDFs from DriveThruRPG, and I buy quite a lot of them. I'm not entirely sure why I buy so many these days when I also buy the books, but there you are.

So for me the holy grail for a long time has been to own a tablet that I can use to read my PDF collection comfortably enough that I don't need to buy everything in physical format.

About 6-7 years ago I bought a Toshiba Satellite table (from back in the days where table meant a laptop with a convertible screen and a stylus.) It worked well as a tablet but it was very heavy to hold on your arm, and the resolution of 1024 x 768 on a 14" screen was not sufficient to make reading PDFs comfortable. So it ended up being used just as a laptop before being forgotten about.

The original iPad is nice, light enough to use for a long period of time and has available the greatest piece of PDF software ever written, GoodReader. Responsive, fast and able to store hundreds of my PDFs it's useful, but the downside to it is that the screen is just too low a resolution. Again 1024 x 768 isn't sharp enough to read a full page of text comfortably.

So that leads us to today. What now? Well I've looked at some PDFs on the iPad 3 (to test the new retina display) and they are much sharper at that resolution and fully readable. So does that end my search? Well Apple products are expensive, and at the beginning of the year I switched to an Android phone (Google Nexus) which I'm starting to prefer over the iOS ecosystem for the most part, so that complicates matters.

Google has the Nexus 10 coming out in the next few days at a cheaper price than the current generation iPad. So what has it got going for it? Well it's Android which I'm starting to like, and it has a nice high resolution 10.1" screen at 2560 x 1600 compared to the new iPad's 2048 x 1536. So they are actually comparable. My biggest concern however is that the iPad has a 4:3 ratio screen and the Nexus 10 a 16:9 ratio screen. This means that the Nexus 10 will not be able to display most PDFs fully screen, there will be bars at the top and bottom of the screen when held in portrait mode. And because of the widescreen the width is slightly narrower than that of the iPad meaning the page will be slightly smaller.

So what to do? What to do? I don't know yet. On Android the best PDF software I've come across is EZPDF, which is okay, but not as good as GoodReader on the iOS. However EZPDF does have the ability to double tap on a column and have it size and lock to the columns in the PDF, whereas GoodReader is always free floating. This can allow it to make better use of the screen ratio and very clear text.

It comes down to I don't know what I want to do. I would like the Nexus 10, but unfortunately due to Google's distribution model I can't get a chance to play with one before I buy to see what they look like. Guess I'll just wait until some others get one and review it. Or see if I can look over someone's shoulder on the subway.


(So I bought one. See the review here.)

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Creative Inspiration: Hot Dog, Jumping Frog

Or I should have turned left.

One thing that always inspires me when coming up with adventures, and more specifically locations, is travel. International travel is always more inspiring than local travel, but both work well. It's the visit to a new location. Absorbing a new, or at least slightly different. Seeing new sights and hearing new sounds.

So at the moment I find myself in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the United States (anyone guess that from the hints?) It's early November and during the day it's too hot for me, not to mention dry. Hey, I currently live in Canada where it was pretty much freezing point when I left only to be thrown into what I would describe as mid summer. I'm here attending the AYE Conference as part of my day job, but that's not of much interest to you (though some of the topics could be applied to role playing very nicely.)

So what do I learn while travelling? Well I have a new image in my mind of a couple of hotel styles and layouts that can be of use in any game from the 1920s onward. I now see the expanse of the desert  in this region of New Mexico, at least from a distance. I love travelling to new airports as they are always useful for modern games.

I get to see the local architecture that I can use to build up a local flavour. The feel of the streets, the look of the people, and the names and types of local businesses all serve to increase my repertoire of descriptions for my games that you just can't get from a guidebook. Even if I never set a game in Albuquerque the experiences here can help in the creation of any town or city in the southwest United States, something I would have had greater difficulty with before my trip here.

It's a shame I don't have a car, or the time to really explore. Driving along route 66 would have been a nice trip. Going to Santa Fe would have added a huge amount to my box of GM tools. Getting into the desert rather than just seeing it from an airplane window would have been invaluable to me for almost any game, but especially useful since I've been on a bit of an Old West reading kick lately.

So get out there and travel. If you can't travel internationally then just go to some towns near you that you've never been to. Never been to a forest, then find one and go. Every trip should be used as a means of improving your descriptive arsenal as you never know when it will come in useful.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Relief Bundle

As often happens when disaster strikes somewhere in the world, the RPG community comes together to try and assist those in need with funds that can do good. Over at DriveThruRPG there is the Red Cross Hurricane Sandy Charity Bundle. This is a great bundle for the low price of $20. Every gamer will find something in the bundle that they are interested in, and the money is going to a very good cause. So go and pick one up, enjoy the products and give funds where they're needed.

The bundle can be found here.