I’m Back!

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…and boy do I have some exciting articles\plans incoming over the next few days, weeks, and months!

I know I’ve been gone a while, but I needed the break. I’m a lone writer out here folks and though I endeavor to keep the posts flowing week to week I needed the downtime to recharge. You probably want to hear more about the teased plans mentioned above though right? Well, I can’t spill all the details just yet but I can offer a taste.

  • in just TWO days the Kickstarter for AcadeCon 2016 will launch. Most of you are aware that I am a proud member of the RPG Academy Network. Due to this I am heavily interested in seeing this convention fund. Though honestly I’m probably less involved in the process than you’d assume due to my membership and I stand to gain less than you likely believe from its funding. When I write my article later this week know that my cheer leading for Michael & Caleb’s little-big convention is coming more from a place of love for the convention and its leadership itself than from anything I actually stand to gain from its funding. I want it to succeed so I have an awesome convention to go to in November, and I want to see you there. As many of you as can make the trip. Let’s sell this thing out folks! I’ll be putting some of my hard earned money toward it even though I don’t have to, I believe in seeing it succeed that much!
  • I have an article to write for Wizards of the Coast. It has taken me a while but I finally finished looking over Curse of Strahd. You may have caught some of my thought’s on Twitter recently but they deserve a full spread.
  • Privateer Press is rolling out a new edition of Warmachine and Hordes. This is huge, the latest edition was released back in 2010 people, it is time for an update. Details are flying around about this new edition and I want to get on top of things and begin to parse down the nitty gritty that you need to know in case you’re interested in how it’ll effect your factions now or, even better, you are just taking notice of this tabletop skirmish game and want to know the best time to get into it (hint: soon).
  • Speaking of WarmaHordes. I’m currently embroiled in an exciting Map Based Campaign titled “The Battle for the Athanc” (basically a high octane version of Risk where actual battles are fought using our WarmaHordes factions). I and my buddy who is running the Campaign have been keeping some battle report type notes and if we actually get our business together I hope to set up a bit of a battlelog for what we’ve done thus far and for how the remaining turns play out. It’s been a blast, even if I’ve had some of the the worst die rolling luck ever throughout.
  • A few fastballs here. I’ll be back at Gencon this year, once more rising with the Gamerstable crew. I’ll be rocking some games at Geekway to the West with Toby from Roll and Groove. I hope to get a bit more serious about writing some helpful essays on how volunteering and\or just gaming with the youth in your community can help foster growth in our hobby. I might even sneak in a post about The Division since that game currently has its talons in me.
  • This last one is going to be vague and for that I’m sorry (well…only a little sorry). I have some plans for the site, I want to become a little more polished. The one thing I can say is I want to drop that pesky little “dot wordpress dot com” from the tail end of my web address. Other than that there are just some things I want to work at for making this site a better place to get gaming information, and more frequent information. Hopefully I can fulfill these self-imposed demands, but one good thing about not running a Patreon or some other form of “actually getting paid for any of this” is I am only really beholden to myself eh?

So there you have it folks. Hope you’re excited to have me back, I’m at least excited to be writing again whether or not you all are happy to have me! 😛

-Melvs

 

 

 

 

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The Dragon Sheath by Dog Might Games

I know I’m on a hiatus here but when a company like Dog Might Games offers up one of their gorgeous products for review, you take a bit of time to accommodate.

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Dog Might Games will tell you they make “Kick-ass gaming gear” and I’d be hard pressed to attempt to repudiate that claim. Their website is a cornucopia of luxurious wood-worked gaming related tools. From items as small as well crafted card stands to full on “Adventure Cases”. All of these items are carved from gorgeous selections of wood, an appear to be of the highest quality. You should really take the time to check out their site.

I’m not here to just talk about the company though, I’m here to talk Kickstarter! Right now Dog Might Games is running a Kickstarter for their Dragon Sheath product line. The Dragon Sheath is “A sculpted customizable carrying case for your gaming gear. Available in a variety of woods, colors, and interiors.”  Here’s the one they sent me.

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I was very impressed with the quality of craftsmanship first and foremost (being something of an amateur wood-worker myself). Excellent durability, sleek design, and really functional.

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Not to mention the magnets that hold the two pieces together are really strong, ensuring it won’t just fall apart loosing your dice all over the place.

I can see Th Dragon Sheath as a first step into an obsession here. Love the concept of mixing handcrafted tools like this into my gaming. Sure its a luxury item, but tabletop gaming has a pretty cost entry point, why not spruce up you tools?

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The current Kickstarter run only has 6 days left. Head on over and pick up one of these fantastic pieces!

THE DEETS!

The Dragon Sheath Kickstarter – FUNDED

Best Pledge Level for the Cash Strapped: $35 Classic – You get a great holder for dice with a simple, non-carved surface. Interior E is just a big area for dice.

My Favorite Pledge Level: $60 Custom – You choose your carved surface on the outside, what interior you’d like, and what stain finish. There are over 50 carvings to choose from and 13 interiors.

-Melvs

 

AcadeCon 2015: Into the Wilds

Acadecon

I had been eagerly awaiting AcadeCon 2015 for longer than it had even existed in its current format. Back about a year ago it was slated to be a convention in only name as it was likely going to be held in a basement in Ohio in either Michael or Caleb’s basement, I can’t recall who’s. To think it has now come and gone, and supported a group of roughly 150 badgeholders, faculty and Network members, and VIPs, is frankly staggering. The RPG Academy crowd is beaming, and have all rights to do so.

Since the day their Kickstarter funded I had a good feeling about the con (if I’m to be honest I had assumed they’d fund from day one). I wasn’t let down in the least, well worth the nearly six hour drive from Missouri to Ohio. When I arrived late Thursday night I was immediately impressed with the venue, the Hueston Woods Lodge and Conference Center provided a gorgeous, rustic vibe that only added to the feeling that I was “getting away from it all” for some solid gaming. I arrived at the cabin I was sharing with the creators of the con and was thrown headlong into a game of Mysterium right away.

Very rustic... plenty of "well fed" vultures atop roofs!

Very rustic… plenty of “well fed” vultures atop roofs!

For those who may have missed my recap of Geekway 2015, Mysterium was easily one of my favorite board games. At Geekway I played the Polish version of the game, it hadn’t been ported to the States yet. The game places one player as the ghost of a murder victim attempting to encourage others to solve their murder. Using cards to represent images sent during the player’s dreams the ghost is essentially sending clues as to the place they were murdered, the person and the weapon. The ghost cannot communicate in any other fashion and has to hope the players interpret the image cards correctly. This copy was the Asmodee version of the game, made for english speaking players, and I have to say I was impressed with the little touches they added to the game. Especially adding a shield for the ghost to use that keeps the various places, people, and weapons organized behind it. We won the game solidly, I made for a much better ghost than I have in the past!

After Mysterium we played a game of King of Tokyo and chatted until about 2 am and the next thing I knew it was Friday morning, time to start the con! I helped set things up a bit and, after the opening ceremonies, I got ready to run what would end up being my only game GM’ing during the con (despite bringing just about every game I own). I simply had to run it though as it was one of the adventure concepts sent in for my contest back in August. I ended up using Garrett Weinstein’s Savage Worlds Deadlands Reloaded adventure The Lady and the Caskett rather than Aaron Tudyk’s The Leeching Jug for 5th Edition D&D because there were already a ton of 5e games being run this year. I plan to craft a One Sheet for the adventure I crafted using Garrett’s concept of a woman collapsing in a small town, handcuffed to a coffin she’d been dragging through the wilds. The concept remains great and I hope I did it justice! Just you wait for the One Sheet.

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I swear they aren’t bored. At this point they thought they’d been beat! They were scrounging for ideas and lamenting their fate. (No worries, they pulled it off)

My game

Running my game, which I think went pretty well, was the only planned activity I had for the rest of the weekend so I was free to pursue games run by others. I ended up running into some friends from Gencon (Dani and John) and was invited into John’s Numenera game for that evening. Highlights include Dani’s animal loving character constantly learning the hard lesson that animals in the world of Numenera don’t love you back, they only hurt you, my Nano evolving into a foodie interested in preparing, and serving, inter-dimensional cuisine, and many other laugh out loud moments. It was the best game of Numenera I’ve ever had occasion to play.

John, you ran a damn fine game sah'!

John, you ran a damn fine game sah’!

To round out Friday night Lucas, one of the creators of City of Brass and fellow member of the RPG Academy Network, and his buddy Aaron, joined me for a game of Arkham Horror. I didn’t have a lot of hope, there were only the three of us, but surprisingly we pulled it off! I believe by the end of the game we had a total of five rumors going and the next turn spelled certain doom. Not sure if I can ever top that game of Arkham Horror to be honest. I called it a night once more at roughly 2 am, knowing I had to be up again in roughly four hours. It was worth it though.

I almost skipped Saturday morning’s game, but I’m so glad I didn’t. I was fortunate enough to get a seat at Rob Schwalb’s table to play in a game run via his newest Tabletop RPG Shadow of the Demon Lord. The game was raunchy fun, and downright difficult to survive. If you get a chance to play a game of this run by Rob, I say go for it. Great times… though my Goblin PC had to change his pants after the game was over.

Shadow of the Demon Lord

Middle of the day antics included me joining a game currently in beta testing called Measure of a Badass. The concept is that you play iterations of action heroes, not specific ones but their aspects. This game was loads of fun. Our GM was was Heather Brooks, one of the Co-Creators of the game. I didn’t know it at the time but this was her first experience running the game solo for a group and I’m not certain she was expecting just how much we were willing to run with the concept of being 80’s action heroes. Many times we took the most outrageous approaches to resolving even the smallest of problems our characters faced, simply to add that 80’s action star gleam to things. The best part hands down was how utterly ridiculous our Wheelman flying our helicopter and our Eagle Eye on board with him handled things. They were all over the place, no helicopter should have been able to do the things they made it do. It was great!

Measure of a Badass

Heather Brooks everybody

So sadly I had to work on Monday, and part of me really wanted to get home and go deer hunting the next day so I made the difficult decision to cancel playing in a game run by a new friend Rob Stith, a horror game using a system he was designing. By all accounts it sounded great, but if I’d left at 10 pm I wouldn’t have gotten home until  4 am. I’m adding that to a pile of regrets actually.

Biggest regrets, beyond canceling on Rob last minute, would include missing Rohit’s game Sunday morning due to having to leave Saturday night (something I’ll avoid next year hopefully),  not taking advantage of the celebrity game designers more, and only gaming with one other RPG Academy Network member (Lucas played in my Deadlands game). Being part of the Network granted me Faculty privileges but other than a few short conversations with the likes of John Wick and Rich Baker, I only really got to meet with Rob Schwalb (no small thing mind you). Even then I didn’t really make huge use of the time for this blog’s purposes. Oh well, I spend Gencon hitting things up for the blog. I was happy to just game at AcadeCon. I was also put out that i once again missed a chance to play a game with the You Too Can Cthulhu gang! I try to get in one of their games every Gencon and fail. Here I had a much better chance and missed it again!

One last regret, I swear. I had really wanted to run a game of ODAM (Of Dream And Magic). Ever since they fulfilled their obligations from their successful Kickstarter I’ve really wanted to either play in a game or run one. I thought about it too late to schedule a game and it just didn’t work out to run a pickup game either. I need to rectify my lack of playing and/or running this system. It looks awesome!

Bottom line I had a blast, I really enjoyed the rustic setting and even the hordes of vultures perched atop the conference center. The lodge was the only source of food nearby, and they made you pay for it, but having a bar on site was pretty slick. The cell service was awful but free WiFi made that manageable. I made a lot of new friends and feel like I deepened my relationships with my network colleagues and friends of cons past. 100% intend to attend again next year. I hope you join me! I feel like AcadeCon can only grow, it’s got a strong team backing it. Trust me when I say they are already planning 2016. Our network channels are humming!

Some epic games of Dread were had

Some epic games of Dread were had

-Melvin Smif

P.S. Thanks especially go to Tressa who not only came through with Ibuprofen to cure an impending migraine but also purchased some metallic markers so I could get the network members to sign the copy of Hoard of the Dragon Queen I still need to send off to Aaron Tudyk! Thanks Tressa!!!

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P.P.S If I played a game with you and neglected to mention you by name drop me a line in the comments!

Awaken: A Dark Fantasy RPG Kickstarter

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Recently I’ve had the chance to take a gander at Awaken, a new Tabletop RPG midway through its run on Kickstarter, and I have to say it’s caught my interest. In this game the player characters “awaken” to a role as one of the Vasall, or in layman’s terms “superhumans”. The PCs, and the ancient evils they face, are all placed in a backdrop steeped with Slavic and Mediterranean folklore. Frankly the whole premise, mixed with a simplistic d6 system and a focus on shared storytelling, is new enough to me to really excite!

Dark Times

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that the artwork caught my eye before anything written about the project. The images invoke the grim landscape and themes of heroics against an encroaching darkness perfectly. From the towering colossi to the character portraits themselves a level of attention was paid that I can truly respect. It really makes one yearn for the print version of this project. Looks like that backer level comes in at a somewhat pricey $45, but as mentioned… that artwork is awfully nice.

big battle

The mechanics of the game appear to rely on a simplistic system of generating successes using a handful of six-sided die, with the successes coming from 5’s and 6’s rolled. Reading further I discovered that the GM is prompted to reward player creativity and role-playing with additional die, presumably to the GM’s discretion. Seeing this, it is apparent that this game finds itself solidly in a category of RPGs that focuses more on cooperative storytelling and creativity than getting bogged down by mechanics.

PCs

They seem to be moving along at a solid clip so there’s a good chance to fund within the 20 days that remain. The fact that this game is being brought to us by such a new company, Games Collective, the level of polish on the system shows a lot of promise with the group. That they teamed with Studio 2 Publishing, Inc. only adds to my comfort that a funded game will be completed and shipped out in a reasonable amount of time.

character sheets

Character sheets look sliiiiick

Give this Kickstarter a gander because it’s going to fund and if you want in on it it looks like you’ve got a great chance!

Kickstarter Details:

-Melvs

RPGaDAY 2015!

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Last year I dutifully posted a single post dedicated to this topic daily, even during my trip to Gen Con 2014. Well, last year’s Kevin apparently had time on his hands because it didn’t even register as a possibility this year. No worries though, I’m feeding you all the info you need today. I know you’ve been waiting for this with baited breath (my answers to this…not who won the contest right?). So let’s get to it!


AUGUST 1ST: FORTHCOMING GAME YOU’RE MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO

Pheonix dawn command

That would be Phoenix Dawn Command by Keith Baker. The premise excites me the most, player characters expected to die heroically and return from the dead to fight once more. It’s been kickstarted and I for one can’t wait for the final product!

AUGUST 2ND: KICKSTARTED GAME YOU’RE MOST PLEASED YOU BACKED

Spirit of '77

I actually missed out on Phoenix Dawn Command so I can’t reiterate that campaign. However, it’d be hard pressed to out-due my love for Spirit of ’77 anyway! I’ve had some immense fun reading through the rule-book ever since it arrived. Easily the most groovy Kickstarted I’ve ever been a part of.

AUGUST 3RD: FAVORITE NEW GAME OF THE LAST 12 MONTHS

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Has to be Unleashed. I wrote about it extensively here on the blog, and you should certainly check it out for yourself. The game uniquely places its players in the boots of some of the most savage “heroes” you could muster up. The concept works on all levels, and I can’t wait to run more of it at my table.

AUGUST 4TH: MOST SURPRISING GAME

gamma world

I’d go with Gamma World, the version made with a hack of the Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition rule-set. What surprises me the most is how well it actually works. I’ve always been a fan of 4th Edition but I think some of the gaming concepts the edition brings to the table actually work best in Gamma World. A really fun, quick to set up, game. Still a go-to for me when I need something last minute.

AUGUST 5TH: MOST RECENT RPG PURCHASE

I don’t purchase a lot of RPG’s from the established companies these days, perk of being a blogger. I do back some of the Kickstarters I believe in the most though as they don’t have the resources to simply gift me a review copy. Some of the Kickstarters I’ve back recently have been Spirit of ’77, BattleBards, Of Dreams and Magic, Feng Shui 2, Karthun, & Fae Nightmares. I realize BattleBards isn’t preceisely an RPG but I like them enough to put them on the list.

AUGUST 6TH: MOST RECENT RPG PLAYED

I took a jaunt over to Illinois recently to hang out with some of my buddies over at the Gamerstable Podcast to… help with something I’m not at liberty to discuss. Anyway, I got to play Pathfinder for the first time. I played a ton of D&D 3.X back in the day so it wasn’t anything I found myself being “introduced to”, it’s the same game really. I did get to play Greyhawk for the first time ever though. It was a huge pleasure playing games with those folks, always a good time.

AUGUST 7TH: FAVORITE FREE RPG

OSH

Nothing has changed from last year, my favorite free RPG continues to be Old School Hack. A fantastic little pick up game with some great support on it’s website. An honorable mention does go out to FATE though. I need to dig into that a bit more.

AUGUST 8TH: FAVORITE APPEARANCE OF RPG’S IN THE MEDIA

I imagine this was meant to be “popular media” and I generally don’t care for how it’s portrayed honestly. I think Role-Play Gaming is just too personal a thing for me and any time I see someone trying to portray it they just get it wrong somehow. It can be the smallest quirk in how they decide to play and I’m out. I don’t get angry though, a poor portrayal isn’t going to ruin the game for me anyway.

AUGUST 9TH: FAVORITE MEDIA YOU WISH WAS AN RPG

Steven Universe

I kindof just let my brain leap to the first thing I’d love to play and I think I’d love an expanded world of Steven Universe to play around in. For those not familiar with the show I’d check it out. Has a great mix of comedy and an utterly intriguing world. Would be awesome to play a character as some form of Gem. I’d also love to play a crazed Rick and Morty RPG.

rick and morty

AUGUST 10TH: FAVORITE RPG PUBLISHER

I’d have to go with Pinnacle Entertainment Group. They make Savage Worlds and a number of the Campaign Settings I love from the rule-set. I’m also a huge fan of Privateer Press these days, I mean Iron Kingdoms and Unleashed are amazing.

AUGUST 11TH: FAVORITE RPG WRITER

This one’s tough but I’ll go with Keith Baker. The guy is just so friendly to fans and he made my favorite D&D setting of all time, Eberron.

AUGUST 12TH: FAVORITE RPG ILLUSTRATION

Currently I’m digging the bar fight from the cover of the Unleashed book.

unleashed bar fight

AUGUST 13TH: FAVORITE RPG PRODUCT

My most go-to RPG Product would be my dice I guess.

My three strongest sets of rollers!

My three strongest sets of rollers!

AUGUST 14TH: FAVORITE RPG ACCESSORY

I’ve always been really excited by the prospect of what the folks at Trapdoor Technologies keeps trying to bring us and they seem to have found their place lately with their app Playbook. It’s a soft launch of the product with more to come but go check it out!

AUGUST 15TH: LONGEST CAMPAIGN PLAYED

Back in high school our main DM Mike “The Meatfist” ran a D&D 3.5 game set in the Forgotten Realms that lasted years and took us from level 1 to level 18. Solidly long game. Wish we’d actually tied it up with a true ending.

AUGUST 16TH: LONGEST GAME SESSION PLAYED

Honestly this could be represented by any number of games I played back in college. There were times we’d start in the afternoon and leave the house with the sun peeking out for sunrise. I can’t name one single time that was the longest though.

AUGUST 17TH: FAVORITE FANTASY RPG

It’s Dungeons and Dragons, it will probably always be.

AUGUST 18TH: FAVORITE SF RPG

I love the concepts in Numenera, and would love to play it more, I just can’t run the game. I have a mind built for fantasy and Numenera is too weird for me there!

AUGUST 19TH: FAVORITE SUPERS RPG

Eh, never been a huge fan. Maybe I just need a GM who can introduce me to a game where I actually enjoy it.

AUGUST 20TH: FAVORITE HORROR RPG

Dread. I love the added thrill of the Jenga tower. I do need more exposure to other horror games though.

AUGUST 21ST: FAVORITE RPG SETTING

EBERRON!

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AUGUST 22ND: PERFECT GAMING ENVIRONMENT

With friends. Cheesy as Hell, but there it is. I do prefer an in person game to one over the net.

AUGUST 23RD: PERFECT GAME FOR YOU

One where everyone is involved with only slight distraction for cutting a few jokes. Plenty of role-play with characters that everyone wants to play, and interesting combat.

AUGUST 24TH: FAVORITE HOUSE RULE

Not worrying about stuff like arrows or food and water.

AUGUST 25TH: FAVORITE REVOLUTIONARY GAME MECHANIC

The 20 sided die.

AUGUST 26TH: FAVORITE INSPIRATION FOR YOUR GAME

Conversations with friends and colleagues. I love tapping into resources like The RPG Academy Network I’m a part of or The Vagabond Gamers G+ group I helped start. We are all gifted creatives and bouncing ideas off one another rocks.

AUGUST 27TH: FAVORITE IDEA FOR MERGING TWO GAMES INTO ONE

Can’t say I have tons of experience with this one but I do enjoy taking a gaming style from on area and making it work in Savage Worlds. For example when Gamerstable took Conan and used Savage Worlds to run it.

AUGUST 28TH: FAVORITE GAME YOU NO LONGER PLAY

My Eberron game from a few years back. Loved the players’ characters, my NPC’s, and where the story was headed. Sadly it fell apart. Non-Revivable.

AUGUST 29TH: FAVORITE RPG WEBSITE/BLOG

You mean other than Melvin Smif’s Geekery? I’m a huge fan of everyone in the RPG Academy Network, you should certainly check them out. Other than that I like The Angry GM‘s stuff, Gamerstable Podcast, Monkey in the Cage, and Dyvers.

AUGUST 30TH: FAVORITE RPG PLAYING CELEBRITY

Probably Steven Colbert. He wears it on his sleeve pretty heavily and I think the more you see that the more likely others are going to want to try the games.

AUGUST 31ST: FAVORITE NON-RPG THING TO COME OUT OF RPG’ING

Video Games. Without RPG’s most of the things people really dig in video games would have been less likely to ever show up. Hit Points, Experience, Levels. You can thank RPGs for that.


There you have it folks! Let me know some of you answers below! As an added note, I’ll have the winners of my contest posted by Friday September 11th! Don’t forget about the AcadeCon Kickstarter either! It’s winding down but there are still badges to pick up. Would love to see you there.

-Melvs.

Introducing AcadeCon

AcadeCon will take place November 13-15th 2015 at the Hueston Lodge in Oxford, Ohio.

RPG Academy Logo

Not long ago I became a proud member of the ever-growing “RPG Academy Network”. We are a collaborative group of gaming-centric creatives spanning many areas including blogging, podcasting, and even online gaming. The flagship for our group is The RPG Academy, podcast and online gamers extraordinaire. Michael and Caleb G. run the site and Podcast with an ever interesting rotation of faculty from the site and guest stars to spice things up on their actual plays and podcasts, not to mention a number of useful blog posts and gaming tools.

I’m not here to talk about all that though, I’m here to let you know about AcadeCon. In the past, Michael and Caleb G. have thrown a small version of the con in their neck of the woods but this year they are growing things a bit. This year’s AcadeCon, taking place November 13-15th at the Hueston Lodge in Oxford, Ohio, will be the first step into the brave new world of planning a larger scale convention.

Lodge

The lodge is a beautiful looking place for a convention. Also, could be just creepy enough at night for a good game of Dread!

They have space set aside for roughly 150 badge carrying players and gamemasters, and the con’s special guests. Not only will many of the RPG Academy Network be there (myself included) but they’ve managed to put together a truly enticing list of notables from around the community. Podcasting guests include James D’Mato & Kat Kuhl, from the One Shot & Campaign Podcasts, and DM’s Mitch and Chris, from the Dungeon Master’s Block Podcast. Following that are makers of games many of you play and love. Big names like Rich Baker, Rob Schwalb, John Wick, and Shawn Carman. For being the first AcadeCon truly thrown to the public, the special guest list is packed!

So, AcadeCon has already funded. This means it’s on, we are having a Con. The thing is there are still badges available for people to attend. You should get on this. I can’t imagine the convention remaining a 150 person soiree in future years so this is your chance to get in on the ground floor and be one of those folks who raises their hand when asked if they’ve been to every year. A better selling point is the mixture of the big names mentioned above and the limited size of the con. Like I said, I can’t see this con being this small ever again so if you want a great chance to mingle with some of the folks who make these games, this year’s your chance!

Before I let you go just know that this promises to be a weekend of great gaming fun. I know I’ll be up late playing and running games (likely running more games than I even promised to run). It’ll be awesome to be involved with this landmark beginning of what I see becoming a big deal. If you have any questions feel free to ask me and if I can’t answer I’ll pass it along to those who can. Hope to see you there, come game with us folks!

Games I plan to run:

  • Savage Worlds: Deadlands
  • Savage Worlds: Homebrew game featuring Bullywug PC’s
  • 5th Edition D&D Eberron

Games I’ll have on hand that I’d love to run:

  • Iron Kingdoms Unleashed
  • Dread
  • Anything Savage Worlds
  • 4th Edition Gamma World

-Melvs

Kickstarter Vid:

Kickstart That GEEK! BattleBards

Cover

There are countless ways to spice up the gaming experience at the table, 3d models of dungeon tiles, miniatures, or maybe a dice tower or two. One way to really set the tone for an evening is to set the mood with music and sound and if you’re like me your efforts to do that have been minimal at best. Many of the other enhancements to the game experience I mentioned have companies dedicated to producing the products mentioned, not so with audio enhancement of gaming.

Enter the folks behind BattleBards, a new application dedicated to bringing these audio enhancements to your fingertips. I had the pleasure to speak with the folks regarding what they have to offer us, and just why we may want to get in on the ground floor through their current revamped Kickstarter campaign!

NOTE: During this Q&A process the BattleBards team made a major descision, they dropped their original campaign that focused on a subscription model of their work and changed to a purchase and own model based on the reactions of their investors. I mention it below but I feel they were well on their way to funding their original run but decided to restart under a different model simply because the community spoke, and they listened. The gamble seems to have paid off as they have already funded the new Kickstarter day one.

The BattleBards Team

Alex Jarzebinski

Kyn Chaturvedi

Mike Adams

Mridul Pandey

Melvin Smif: First, I want to thank you all for speaking with me today. I’m a big fan of music and sound effects at the table. Well, in theory I am, I’ve never actually done a lot beyond ambiance music in the background. I suppose that could be my first question actually. What makes you such a proponent of Music and Sound at the table? How would you sway someone who’s never really considered adding something like this?

BattleBards: No worries, it’s an incredible opportunity for us to discussion our passion with dedicated gamers!

The best example of the power of audio at the gaming table that I love to use requires the following YouTube video.The reason this video has such impact is because it shows the glaring hole made by removing the wonderfully evocative music by John Williams necessary to drive home the impact of the scene. It’s the same with gaming. Narrating, say, the loss of a major NPC can pull some heartstrings but accompanying the narrative with a touching piece like Dumbledore’s Farewell from Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince allows the GM to dial in his/her players’ emotional state through audible context. In truth, many GMs use audio quite a bit at the table but as you pointed out, its use is normally restrained to providing some narrative backdrop or ambiance.

There’s a whole world of audio out there that can help make gaming more immersive beyond its use as a background such as NPC and Player interaction through voiceovers, accenting important moments through timed sound effects, and the use of what’s called “Source Audio” which provides a whole new way of interacting with the actual characters, living and breathing in these worlds composed of collective imagination. All of this just scratches the surface of how audio can plunge players even deeper into the worlds tabletop gaming creates.

MS: Do you feel audio is too frequently left out of tabletop gaming?

BB: Too often, it is left out. We’ve lost count how many times a GM runs players through an otherwise deep, thought provoking, or exciting sequence only to have it fall completely flat since the appropriate moods between player and GM were way out of sync. Given the power of audio, a GM need not score every second of a game, but even a dash of thunder, an NPC greeting, or the sounds of an exotic language being spoken by someone in town can add that immersive element to a game that’s tough to get any other way.

Like using minis, tile sets, illustrations, and props, audio is just another tool in the GM’s arsenal to paint a world that players can lose themselves in. In fact, given the tie between sound and emotion, it’s by far the most powerful tool any GM has at his or her disposal.

MS: Along that same line of thought, I often feel like introducing technology to the Pen and Paper scene can feel threatening to some, just look at what happened to Codename: Morningstar (aka Dungeonscape) for a reference. Have you experienced any backlash at all from people claiming this isn’t something “we” need, or have you been met with largely positive responses?

BB: When our last Kickstarter, Realmsound Project was starting up we did get a few folks who questioned the value of bringing audio into the game, thinking that it will detract from the gaming experience. Since the success of Realmsound, we’ve been working hard to show how audio, like any other tool; can add to the gaming experience, providing a context for the scenes the GM unfolds during the creation of a story. With even a dash of audio used at the right moment can add a very real sense of immersion in the game where ever the GM feels it most appropriate.

MS: The first project I can recall your group funding through Kickstarter was the Realmsound Project, a similar project that helped bring gaming sound effects and music to the table. What are the major differences between that first successful run and Battle Bards?

BB: BattleBards is our attempt to take the little experiment of sourcing a batch of professionally created audio and make it into an engine, providing not just a random, one-time collection of music, sound effects, and voiceovers but a vibrant marketplace where top tier composers, sound designers, and voice talent continuously add to this new universe of tabletop specific audio.

MS: Talk to me about your two key fixtures, the Soundboard and Mixer. How will access to them be structured?  Are they first downloaded as apps and then logged into or will you have to access via the web?

BB: The Soundboard is the lynchpin to the BattleBards service. You can have the great audio ever composed but without the means to seamlessly integrate it into a gaming environment, it’s useless. Using a system of modular customizable playlists, GMs will be able to setup their own “audio command and control” center, bringing at the ready whatever they need for the coming session.

The Mixer is a tool of endless possibilities (sorry for the cliché). Using nothing more than click and drag, users can layer any and all kinds of audio (think iMovie but purely Audio-based for TTRPGs) to create narrative backdrops with synched sound effects to go with the ebb and flow of the script. Provide ambiance to voice overs in order to command the setting. Create complex sound effects able to describe any event in-game from the rise of a towering earth elemental culminating in a sky-shaking roar to a pack of goblins beating down a weakening wooden door. Without needing to be a sound engineer at all, users with a bit of imagination have a new world to explore here.

Everything will be accessible from the web from any device. Every track purchased will be available for download as well as unlocked on the BattleBards service for streaming. Combine this with the ability to upload and store your own audio on our cloud and you can carry around all of your gaming audio with you anywhere you game with an internet connection. With Sync, you can even carry around your library without an internet connection, just sync the audio you want to take with you and BAM, instant customized gaming audio available in the deepest dungeon.. er.. basement.

MS: Can content made using the Mixer be made freely available to other users? To further that question is there a consideration to having an open sharing area for user generated content?

BB: Yes. Some of the best mods in the video game industry are made by the community and we want to bring that same creativity and passion in with a community of our own. Users will be able to assemble mixes using BattleBards audio and share them with their fellows, quickly earning fame for mixes that get a ton of downloads. As far as publicly sharing mixes created using non-BattleBards audio, it’s yet to be hammered out since that often gets into the murky depths of validating and protecting copyrighted material.

MS: If you can upload to the Mixer couldn’t that allow for some wholly original pieces of audio? If someone user the mixer for that kind of project could they then reach out to you and see if they could sell it through BattleBards rather than give it away freely? I suppose on that note, Mixer aside, how would someone approach you with something they think you could sell?

BB: The BattleBards Mixer is a wonderful tool and is very user-friendly. However, it has purposefully been designed for simplicity in mind to aid GMs at the gaming table. It has not been created for the aspiring professional artist. For artists, they would be much better served using a professional audio suite to put together an original composition. Anyone interested to throw their hat into the gaming audio ring should email us directly and we’ll hook them up with the details for the auditioning process.

MS: Ever thought of teaming up with any of the big name publishers out there to produce audio in combination with a release of theirs?

BB: Oh yeah! We would love to work with a number of publishers for sure. Once we have found our footing post-launch we will be reaching out for sure.

MS: Why do think no one has really done much with this type of gaming enhancement in the past? Or have they and I just never noticed it?

BB: There’s a ton of incredible audio out there but we think it hasn’t hit the mainstream for a couple of reasons. First, the tools. Beyond simply using a music track as a backdrop, integrating audio in any kind of an extensive way is a huge pain in the neck. The GM has enough on their plate as it is and needing to queue up 4 different media players and YouTube windows for anything beyond putting up simple loops detracts from the gaming experience. For this reason, we’ve spent a great deal of time researching just what tools would be needed to bring audio close enough to the GM to allow its use at the table to be practical, enter The Soundboard.

Secondly, sourcing movie-quality music, sound effects, voice overs, and the like is EXPENSIVE, and to build a network of great talent is even harder to pull off. See, we don’t have just a single composer or voice talent on staff. We work with dozens of accomplished artists who have serious cred in film, video games, tv shows, animation, etc. That gives us a lot of variety to work with. And, though they are all super talented, no one individual can do justice to every genre of audio. Each artist has a niche where they truly rock and so we play to that strength to get the best we can out of everyone.

MS: Your Kickstarter plug states “BattleBards – Fantasy Audio for Tabletop Gamers Done Right”, is your focus solely on fantasy gaming or have you collected audio for other genres? i.e. Science Fiction, Steampunk, Gothic Horror

BB: For right now, we’re diving deep into fantasy in order to give gamers a solid base from which to provide audible gaming candy to almost any session possible. However, to offer a bit of a tease, we know what genre is coming next and it’s related to a major, MAJOR movie being released this coming Christmas…

MS: Ha! Nice tease. I can see tons of applications beyond the table for this kind of audio. Podcasts, the rising popularity of “radio” dramas, what restrictions will users have on using these sounds for their projects? Can they be used beyond the table?

BB: There’s a ton of ways to use this audio and we want to work with everyone. Let’s get this level of gaming audio to every passionate gamer out there and what better way than to broadcast it on the air/cyber waves? All of the audio that BattleBards purchases from talent (The Audio Vault) we want to make available to podcasters, radio shows, and whoever is willing to share what we offer in a credible way. For all of the other audio that we don’t own, but’s offer on BattleBards, it will be up to our talent, that’s providing the audio, to allow for non-personal use. In short, for those out there who want to use our audio over a public channel or for interesting media projects, shoot us an email!

MS: Very recently you canceled your first Kickstarter for BattleBards before it reached its end to favor a different style of final product. Why did BattleBards decide to switch from a subscription model to a purchase model? How will this affect how the soundboard and mixer will be available to users?

BB: We launched the first BattleBards Kickstarter Campaign with a subscription model hoping to offer gamers a colossal library of audio as a streaming service. However, as the campaign gained steam we collected more and more feedback from gamers. It became clear that they loved the audio, but not the subscription delivery method. They preferred the ability to select the audio they wanted for download specifically.

It came to the point where we had to ask ourselves if we were really offering a service that most gamers wanted. As we reached 74% funded with 18 days remaining, we decided to do something quite unorthodox and cancel mid-campaign in order to start over with a more desirable pay-to-download model.

Like the Realmsound Project that came before, we’re giving concrete products. The Soundboard and Mixer, critical components for integrating audio in a game setting are all browser based now so there’s no need for actual apps and the like, use it anywhere!

MS: Looks like its paid off! Hey, plan on hitting up any Cons during the upcoming Con Season?

BB: Oh yes. Mike Adams is our Cons Colonel who is mapping out what we can hit and where. Since we’re just getting our start, we’ll likely just be wanderers in the sea of Cons like everyone else but it would be a dream come true to actually have a bigger role in them.

MS: What is the future for BattleBards? Where do you see this application going down the line?

BB: Already, future feature additions to the Soundboard and Mixer are being drawn up to give gamers a chance to play around with their creations in an intuitive manner, as well as some innovations in the works to bring audio even closer to the GM than a click. Eventually, we want to be able to offer native mobile applications to further increase the portability aspect of BattleBards. Lastly, as we mentioned already, we’re looking into bringing the same insane level of quality of audio into new genres beyond Fantasy, and we have some plans in the works to make that happen sooner rather than later.

MS: A few final words from me here. First I want to thank you again for speaking with me, and I want to commend you on switching your project from a subscription model to what you’ll be doing now. While I don’t know yet which I personally would have preferred, it seems you are really listening to the majority of your backers. 74% with 18 days remaining is a strong indicator of a project that likely would have funded so kudos for taking this leap of faith based of the desires of the community. I feel it shows a strong commitment to our hobby. Do you have any parting thoughts?

BB: We can’t thank you enough for giving us this time and platform to talk about what we’re working on. With regards to the move from subscription to purchase, thanks for the kudos. It was an agonizing decision that left several of us in the Team with sleepless nights. Ultimately, we’re gamers. Gaming is where we live and we want to introduce top tier audio to the entire community. If that means we need to tear things down in order to rebuild, then so be it.

Finally, for those of you who really like what we’re doing at BattleBards, we are telling you right now, don’t be shy. Reach out to us and tell us what you want. Let’s join forces and create the best sound library the tabletop gaming community has ever seen.


Here you can find the revamped BattleBards Kickstarter

Currently they sit at 124% funded and climbing so I’m excited to see what sort of stretch goals they roll out. I’ll be throwing my hat into the ring and backing these fine folks, can’t wait to try things out!

Other places to see BattleBards info:

-Melvs

P.S. Big thanks to Toby (author for the blog Roll and Groove) for reminding me of these fine folk and their product! We’ll have to got to more concerts together so you can get me more content.

Kickstart That GEEK! Neon Sanctum RPG

Title

I feel like I’ve got my finger on the pulse of these Card Based RPGs man!  This is the second one I’ve done a write-up on in less than two months!  Better yet, I actually got to play this one, but more on that later.  Lets get right into Neon Sanctum shall we?

The World

Setting

Neon Sanctum is set in the far flung future and if I had to compare the feel of the game’s lore I’d go equal parts Numenera, Shadowrun, and Gamma World.  We have a society that has seen a collapse of its golden age of technology into a world run by Megacorporations that all vie for control of what little Golden Age tech is still lying around and use said tech to create more and more marketable items to continue to grow their stature.  Typically the players in the game might end up working for or against one (or more) of these Uber Corporations, or they may even end up just trying to eek out a survival in the wastelands.  Oh, and they’re mutants too, like big troll guys!

The game is very cyberpunk meets apocalyptic.  This can result in some wide variety of interesting adventure schemes, makes it easy for a GM to shake things up. 

THE LOOK

The Look 01

The Grenade Punch Games crew sent me a sample deck of cards so I got to see first hand what the finished product will look like and it’s quality stuff.  Good stock for the cards and the artwork is well drawn.  Early on I labored under the impression that the cards looked a little messy but I soon learned that once you’ve learned the flow of the game they are actually set up in a very logical order.  I found myself breezing through the boxes of text whenever I would use a particular skill. 

The Look 02

Though I’ve only seen the artwork meant for the book and box online it appears to be of the same caliber.  The layout of the Play-Test rules that I had on hand to work with the cards was very detailed and almost a bit much.  Explanations got a bit heady and hopefully the finished product explains the game a bit better, it is plain to see that playing the game is (at least for the time being ) the easiest way to parse it.  It’s honestly an easy game to “get” once you do.

 

PLAYING THE GAME

I was fortunate enough to get to play this game before doing this write-up.  I was even more fortunate in whom I was able to play it with.  I played in a game run by none other than Adam Waite, one half of the creative team for Neon Sanctum, and a few fellows brought in by the RPG Academy team.  Caleb(@TheCalebG) from RPG Academy ran the podcast and we were joined by Matthew Parody(@MattParody) and Jon Serritos (@Renakku) as well.  I was a bit nervous going in, not because I was playing with people I’d never met (that ship sailed long ago), but mostly because I’d had a bit of trouble trying to understand the game up to that point.  If I’m to be honest I’d only taken about an hour to skim the material though.  Thankfully Mr. Waite walked us all through a quick run down of the rules and it just clicked, this game is pretty dang easy I was certainly over thinking it.

The Look

The cards you have are essentially your character sheet, any and all of them are available for use right away.  All the rules for using a card are found on the actual card and there are only a few extra “all-encompassing” rules that help make the whole game function.  Once you know the overall rules of the game you can easily make out what cards to use for certain situations.  One aspect of the game I really enjoy is the flexibility allowed for using cards.  Most every card has a specific role for use within combat but when you are out of combat they become useful in a more generic way based on the type of skill they are.  That way you can use the additional bonuses granted to your roll (this game utilizes two d10’s) by being a little creative in using a card.

Combat itself allows for a lot of versatility as well, in fact there are a lot of things you can do with one turn.  Without getting too technical the four big things you can do are deciding whether to Sustain something, choosing an Attack Style, a Defence Style, and your movement.  Instead of just having a static list of things you can choose to do you actually allocate points (that refresh at the start of every turn) so you can choose where to put the most emphasis but you can still do it all.  It seems like this would lead to lengthy turns, an issue all too often problematic with another Tactical RPG I recall (4th Edition D&D) but we found ourselves flying through turns pretty quick once we got the shake of it.

LET’S TALK OVERALL LIKEABILITY & KICKSTARTER COST

I really had a fun time with this game and earnestly hope you will give it a good look. The Kickstarter’s fund point is crazy low too, only £12,000, so it’s likely to make it.  I’m in full-bore, I’ve backed at the following level (My assessment of the best value):

Core Box

CORE BOX

£34 (Roughly $50.00)

Get the complete Neon Sanctum Game. Over 300 cards, a Rulebook, tokens, battle maps and dice. Enough for four players and a DM to play the game.

Backers also get the Print and Play and may purchase products from the add-on list for the amount listed.

A Solid value for a lot of good product.  If you think about it most RPGs have you spending $50 for just a Rulebook so this is easily a bang for your buck. 

Neon Sanctum has the old world tech of Numenera, the Mega Corporations of Shadowrun, and a touch of the goofy fun of Gamma World. It brings all of that together into a fast paced, fun tactical card based RPG that offers players and GM’s a ton of versatility in play style and world lore. My favorite Card Based RPG to date.  Hopefully you’ll check it out, and there are a few ways to do so.

The Kickstarter
The Website
The Play-test Kit

I’ll be sure to post the link to the Podcast of my play through with Adam Waite and the RPG Academy folks soon!  In the meantime, check the game out. My money’s in the pot, I want this thing to fund!

-Melvs

Kickstarter Review – FAITH: The Sci-fi RPG

The Book

To date the only cards I’ve ever used in a Tabletop RPG have been the poker cards used in Savage Worlds to determine initiative order.  I’ve become somewhat aware of a surge of games lately that have decided to forgo some of the traditional tools of Tabletop games though, Jenga Towers, non-numeric dice, and yes cards.  FAITH: The Sci-Fi RPG, from Burning Games, is a system built on the use of the latter.  The game is also set apart from its contemporaries by it’s choice of setting, fully sci-fi but not a sci-fi that prominently features humanity as one of the dominant species.  On the whole it is a very interesting game to delve into.

THE SETTING

Art

FAITH’s world is one where the common knowledge is that gods are real, they walk among us and war with each other in their own ways.  The concept of faith, this game’s namesake, seems to be derived from the faith one has that their god is the one to back in this world of conflict rather than having faith it even exists, because they are very real.  There are two dominant racial powers, the Corvo and the lz’kal.  Currently the details, provided by the Kickstarter, only reveal that these two forces are immensely powerful and embroiled in a Cold War of sorts after forming a truce upon realizing a full-out war may destroy them both.  Humans were discovered, near extinction, by the Corvo and were then drafted as soldiers in the struggle.  The gods take note of all of this and decide whom to back with their immense power.

THE GAME

Player Deck

Player Deck: Your standard poker deck…albeit with some excellent new artwork!

FAITH’s core gameplay mechanism revolves around the players using a standard 54 card poker deck, although the game itself provides a poker deck with beautiful in genre illustrations.  These card represent playable actions for the players that can be modified by roleplaying, number of cards played, and by pieces of gear a player may have.  Gear cards are not poker cards but contain information that can boost a player’s chances of succeeding at a task.  Typically a player will always be successful unless the GM actively attempts to cause confrontation, thus a battle of cards played begins.  The GM has access to their own deck of cards, called “NPC Cards”, and uses this deck of cards to pull interesting encounters out on the players. I can certainly see some interesting random encounters springing from such a deck, no more rolling on tables here!

NPC Deck

Gear Deck

Players also have a unique reinterpretation of the Character Sheet called a Character Board.  This cardboard cutout contains all of the pertinent skills a character may need to play the game and a collection of upgrade and numeric tokens are used to fill out said stats.  With those tokens the players are also able to pull from 12 character illustrations that cover species and gender so they can see if one of them matches the character’s look they are going for.

Character Board

THE KICKSTARTER

If you’ve found this game to be of interest to you check out the Kickstarter!  Burning Games is a London Based company but that doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten about us over here in the States.  There are conversions into the American Dollar on each pledge level and free shipping within the Continental USA.  The page is set up very well, they appear to have had their ducks in a row before going down the Kickstarter path.  There is a great layout of all the products available that showcases some of the excellent artwork you can expect to see, and a number of downloads that help explain the game and its story.  Namely, there are some solid quick start rules. 

Tokens

Whenever I look into these Kickstarters I’m always drawn to the price point for the actual game.  That is, what bid level would I have to choose to get the full game including everything you’d need to play and excluding excess perks.  For FAITH this comes in at around $65-$70 (accounting for conversion) and is aptly titled “The Game”.  This includes the rulebook, four player decks, a gear deck, an NPC deck, four Character Boards, and all the tokens needed for four players.  To me that seems like a reasonable (even a bit cheap for all it includes) price point, and I’d be remiss if I failed to mention that it includes every stretch goal. 

The Game

Another bid level intrigued me though, one of the lower ones.  For around $20 you can just buy a single deck of cards, any of the decks are available but let’s just say you’re drawn to the artwork and you’d like to get your hands on some of it.  Well, the player deck is a fully useable deck of poker cards outside of FAITH.  It’s be kind of fun having that around the house!

If you aren’t quite sold yet, check out their website and download their free Print and Play to decide if your group would enjoy it for yourself.  In the meantime head on over to the Kickstarter and check them out, the game looks awesome I hope to see it fund!

-Melvs

Norsemen & Giants, Iron Edda: War of Metal & Bone

A cloud of breath issues forth from the haggard, bearded face of the Norseman as he looks upon the dwarven encampment below the snow bank.  He gives the signal.  His brothers and sisters in arms pour over the bank, into the sleeping camp.  Savage smiles erupt on their frost covered faces as they realize they truly did have the element of surprise as their ally in arms tonight.  Hot dwarven blood steams on the cold ground as the dwarves attempt to rally the camp, but they are losing the battle.

Suddenly, the ground trembles as an enormous figure rises above the tree tops. One of the duergar metal giants!  A second, this time frantic, signal is given.  Fleeing is not in their nature but they are no match for such a monster of metal.  They retreat into the night as the Dwarven Destroyer closes in swiftly, one massive footfall accounting for ten of the fleeing group’s.  All seems lost as they cross into another tree line.  A massive hand reaches for one of the sword maidens near the back of the group.  She readies her sword and sets her stance, prepared to set foot in Valhalla if need be!

At that moment a massive bony fist crashes into the face of the Destroyer, sending it reeling backward.  Two more Bonebonded slink from the trees and confront the Destroyer, it is three against one.  The Norseman leads his party away from the clashing of giants behind him, the trap was set and sprung to perfection.  Pride for his clan swells in his chest.

 

 

Cover shot

Iron Edda: War of Metal and Bone is an exciting RPG setting unlike anything you’ve ever seen.  Using the Fate Core and Fate Accelerated Edition systems Tracy Barnett and his team have created a world of Norse mythology on an epic scale.  The inhabitants of Midgard are very similar to the ones you may be familiar with  but with one large, very large, difference.  This is a land where giants of metal, bone, and even wood stride to war aside men and women. This is adventure on a grand level, well fleshed out for wildly different scales of conflict.  The ideas are fresh and the source material is certainly appealing to my tastes.  This has gotten me even more interested in exploring Fate more than I have in the past.

Tracy Barnett seems to have a knack for choosing artists for these projects. Iron Edda enjoys an artistic tone that perfectly matches a good Norse myth, and is laid out in a manner that never distracts.  Currently I only have a .pdf version of the book but I certainly look forward to one day holding one of the softcover copies (obviously kicking myself for missing the Kickstarter).

Bone Bonded

The tone of the book is one of teaching by example.  We see this a bit in other systems but Tracy and team have taken it a step further here as there are large portions of the book dedicated to running the reader through some of the more major rule benchmarks.  An early example of this is an example of the rules behind the Setting Creation system.  I love this concept, there are rules for randomly crafting a Holdfast for the group to play in. Not only does this encourage the game as the pickup variety but it will help those who may be somewhat unfamiliar with Norse mythology familiarize themselves with their surroundings. There are already countless options that the Holdfast Creation table provides but I can see that as an area where expansion material could be added.

Regarding the “Example” laid out in the book for the setting creation we have five pages of dialogue playing out the creation of a Holdfast, this isn’t the exception it is the rule.  As mentioned above nearly all major sections of the book are played out through such examples.  It may not be the best method for all, but I found it to be very helpful in explaining the information to me.  It feels conversational and relaxed.  I learn better through play than I do parsing rule text and this feels like playing to me.

Warrior

After creating the setting we are introduced to character creation and how characters in Iron Edda play compared to other versions of the Fate systems.  Characters derive much of their backstory from the plot threads in the Holdfast Creation and typically have a shared history.  Characters also have a few other differences including a plethora of additional Aspects, some stunt chance ups, three different levels of magic, and the biggest change where everyone must deal with the potential for adventure under three levels of scale.

The three levels of scale include Human Scale, Giant Scale, and Epic Scale.  Human Scale is obviously the default and operates almost exactly like any regular Fate game.  Once you kick things up to Giant Scale with Destroyers, Bone-Bonded, or Alfar treewalkers you can imagine toe to toe they would operate link anything else but having Human Scale interact with them involves treating the Giants as truly terrifying aspects of power players have to treat the creatures as parts of a whole.  Epic scale is regulated to some of the more godlike creatures in Norse Myth.  Imagine running into Nidhogg, the Dragon!  You don’t destroy something like that, you beat it back and hope to never see it again…if you survive that is.

Following the information regarding characters comes a solid write up of the overarching setting of this version Midgard.  Clans are well fleshed and it is written in a great storytelling manner the lands are presented to us by Helga Fenrirsdaughter, and it makes for a nice read, much better than a dry layout.  We are given a lot of major Holdfasts and some matching Aspects in the major lands of humans and are even treated to some information regarding the other denizens of Midgard like the Elves.  We are given enough to play with but thankfully not reams and reams of text explaining every small detail.  A good amount of info for us to work with.

The last section of the book proper, “Running War of Metal and Bone”, helps Gamemasters prepare themselves for running the game.  Largely the game will follow many of the same guidelines you may be familiar with in Fate but there are a lot of nice hints for things like some speedier ways to handle threats and a few reminders for how to handle the varying scales. Added in are some good resources across multiple mediums for brushing up on your Norse Knowledge, I especially like seeing some musical choices added in.  Lastly we are treated to some parting words, a bit of a pep talk to remind you to stay true to yourself when running the game and play to your strengths, you’ll do fine.

Adventure

Beyond the main book we are gifted with three adventures.  A Tale of Blood and Darkness, by Lillian Cohen-Moore, The Throne that would be Bone & Wrath, by Ryan Macklin, and Remains, by Quinn Murphy.  These adventures look to be a great example of crafting your own game beyond being excellent adventures in their own right.  It is excellent to see this great additional material tacked on for readers.

Obviously I enjoyed my time with this product and have few complaints.  I would have liked to see a decent index at the end of the book and maybe a bit more about the Dwarves, maybe even playable versions of the Dwarves and Elves for that matter, but honestly Norse Myth has always been about the men and women of the clans so playing as a Dwarf or Elf would be something very different.  Overall though this is a strong Campaign Setting for Fate rules and the team behind it should be proud.  It’s no wonder the Kickstarter met a number of stretch goals beyond its initial fund point.

Exploding Rogue

It is currently available on Drive Thru RPG as a solo purchase or as part of a bundle that includes the novel, Iron Edda: Sveidsdottir written by Tracy Barnett as well.  I’ve yet to read the novel but I certainly enjoyed the more narrative portions of the RPG sourcebook so I have a suspicion I’ll enjoy the read.  If you’re a fan of Norse Mythology, or fantasy gaming in general, I urge you to grab this unique campaign setting.  Though the game studio Exploding Rogue, the studio Tracy co-founded with Brian Patterson, is still in its infancy, items like this tell me we’ll likely be seeing some great things from them in the coming years.  I’m looking forward to it.

-Melvs