Monday, November 30, 2015

Artist Spotlight - Danny Prescott

Note:  This is something I rarely get to do but think I should do more often.  I also encourage the other OSR/Gaming bloggers out there to look into do this as well.

Basq by Danny Prescott Copyright 2014-2015 Genius Loci Games
There are a number of artists that I have worked with in the last few years.  Most notably is +Frank Turfler who, as I said in my Three Toadstools interview, is my go to artist.  However, today I wanted to spotlight another gaming artist who does some really amazing work, and who I would love to see more of.  That artist is +Danny Prescott, or Herbanicus over at deviantart.

There isn't much to say, so instead here are a few of my favorite works by Danny and why:

This is Danny's newest piece.  A collection of different examples of fantasy women of different callings, sized, and personalities.  I enjoy the mix of styles in these six images, ranging from a very Weird Tales Swords & Sorcery still to pre-renaissance wood cuts.  I am also a huge fan of the different clothing types and the lack of the typical fantasy midriff.

 This market and temple piece is what convinced me to ask Danny to do the picture at the top of the page for the City of Basq.  There is a quality to this picture that just screams "ALIVE!".   There is a bustle to the street and so many different little scenes going on that a story (or adventure scene) can be written just by looking at it!

Truth be told, from the beginning of Pyramid of the Lost King's production I have been tempted to beg Danny to let me license this piece from him.  The only thing keeping me from it is the mountain in the background, and that only because there are no noticeable mountains near Basq except the flat topped "Narrows".


Finally is the image of the Krampus.  I've used this image for the last two years to frighten my children, it is just that invoking of horror!  Again we see a wonderful mix of the modern and the pre-renaissance wood cuts between the Krampus and the children he carries.













Saturday, November 28, 2015

Mini-Review: Mutants & Marvels

I've had Mutants & Marvels(aff) in my collection for a long time now.  I remember picking up the 1.0 version when it was a "New Product" over at drive-thru rpg ... hell, I even had the thing printed at the local Staples and bound for later use.

Then I promptly forgot about it.

This week I picked it up again when a friend stated he wanted to run a one-shot of a Fasrip he found.  Low and behold it was the second edition of Mutants & Marvels!  All I can say is that I wish I had looked this over more when I first picked it up way back when as it would have saved me a lot of trouble with finding a simple and easy to play supers rpg.

Simple and easy is the main draw of Mutants & Marvels(aff).  Since I first started to play rpgs back in the early 2000s, I have searched for a supers game that I could get into.  I have tried Mutants and Masterminds, Icon, Paragons and Prowlers, Champions, Mighty 6, and a host of others.  Hell, I even tried to build my own system when the blog was young(see here) ... that didn't work out well.  In the end, I found that these games had a core problem:  They were too damn complex for my simple mind.  The main reason for this is the need to feel super (as you are super heroes) while at the same time offering some sort of balance.  

Mutants & Marvels basically says screw that (form the 1.0 version pg 2)

What the game is and isn't ...
This game is not meant to be a realistic simulation of super hero combat.  Nor is it meant to be a comprehensive set of rules designed to cover every contingency, and funnel character development and player innovation into a neat and balanced package.

Right away, this singular paragraph had me.  Too often in modern game design we are looking to balance out all the characters, make each of them the equal to the other, so everyone can be cool.  However, like Syndrome said:


By saying screw that, Tom Doolan (the writer and designer of Mutants & Marvels) right away gets to the core of super heroes and super hero worlds: not everyone is super,not everyone is playing on the same field of power.  This is why on the Avengers you can have a god working alongside a soldier who is a perfect example of humanity, but still just a human!

So how does it work?  Pretty simply the Game Master picks a power level for the game: Heroic, Superheroic, and Epic.  Each of the power levels comes with a different amount of Ranks that can be divided up between the different sections on the character sheet.  Heroic has 15 Ranks, Superheroic 25, and Epic has 35.  From here points are divided between the seven attributes (Fighting, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Reason, Intuition, and Psyche), Powers, Trained Skills, and possible secondary things like contacts.  The rest of character creation is the job of the GM who will pick an appropriate resource level (which works like the d20 Modern resource system), reputation, and so on based on the character's back ground.

Combat is also super easy as it is a series of resolution rolls vs either a Target Number set by the GM or a roll from an opposing force.  This roll is 2d10 + Modifiers > the Target Number.  That's it, nice and simple.  

A lot of work rests in the players and the GM being able to balance one another out and talking through things.  As the quote above says, M&M is not meant to be a comprehensive list of powers. This means that if a player wants her character to do something not listed she and the GM need to talk and work that out between the two of them.

I have in the last week managed to play this system twice, once over Roll20 with a few friends for 2 hours, and again yesterday afternoon with my daughter and her friend.  The system is quick to pick up, and fast to run. The main book doesn't have much in the way of antagonists, but those are easy to come up with quickly based on the level of need the characters have.  The one suggestion I would make is that normal human villains, like bank robbers or terrorists, should have a Rank system of 5 with no more than one score ranked at Excellent (+2).

Mini-Review: White Box Chivalry by Barrel Rider Games

At this point in the long game of the OSR, +James Spahn and Barrel Rider Games need no introduction.  James has made a name for himself in quality material. His White Star Sci-Fi setting for Swords & Wizardry White Box has not dropped below 5th place on RPGnow's hottest 100 listing since the day after its release nearly a year ago, and many of his over products dot the list on any giving day.  I suspect, his newest product White Box Chivalry (aff) will be on the top 10 before I wake up in the morning; and for good reason.

White Box Chivalry is a 13 page box that adds knightly conduct, appointments, and life to the various fantasy worlds of Swords & Wizardry White Box.  While mostly tables, White Box Chivalry is nicely detailed, and doesn't miss a beat in its explanation on the hows and the whys behind how a player-character could stumble into knighthood.  All-in-all, its a good read and is easily implemented into any pre-existing game.

Unfortunately, it does have some flaws.  The Accolade System, while awesome, is mildly confusing and I needed to read it three times before I got a handle on it.  Also, while billed as being available for any race/class combination, it leans very heavily toward human/fighter (for obvious reasons) and is very hard for any other races or classes to achieve the honor.  Still it is a minor gripe and one that leads to some interesting questions about different demi-human kingdoms (Dwarves instantly come to mind) and how the negative and positive racial modifiers would change based on location, peoples, and cultural values.

Like the majority of James work, White Box Chivalry is very gameable, and is seeded with the DIY mindset of the OSR.  It works best as a framework to be altered, changed, and evolved/devolved to the liking of individual tables and groups.

Currently the small book is on RPGnow for a mild $1.99, and is worth the pennies for it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Patreon Supported Adventures the Bards of Ur

Released to the public earlier today VIA RPGnow, The Bards of Ur is a 5Next adventure for 5 characters in the mid-levels of play.

 The Bards of Ur are the biggest troupe in the land. Their strange black-and-white make, their leather, spiked clothing, and strange heavy music is all the rage in every town they pass through. However, their music is the key to breaking the chains to a Demon Lord who has been imprisoned for a thousand years.  The young of the villages they visit vanish and in their wake calamity strikes, as crops go bad, livestock die, and dark fiends haunt the fog enshrouded forests of the land.

The music, the missing youths, the chaos, it is all part of The Bards of Ur's plan to unleash their Demon Lord who will drag the world into his demonic domain to reclaim his throne.

Can these minstrels of metal mayhem be stopped?


Since I release not everyone has an RPGnow account or would be interested in using it for The Bards of Ur, I am putting up a copy here for everyone to grab.