Saturday, 25 February 2012

Empire of the Petal Throne original draft and Marvel Heroic Roleplaying (Margaret Weis Productions)

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game
(Margaret Weis Productions)

$13 on RPGDriveThru
I had a whole mini-thesis written in rough about superhero games, but we'll leave that for now...  One of the biggest pieces of news this week on DriveThru and RPGNow was the launch of Margaret Weis's Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game.

Clobberin' Time!
Sample Hero Card from the Basic Game
In summary, it's beautifully presented, lots of graphic novel art.  System: plot points and dice pooling will appeal to modern players - it looks pretty fast play, if you remember the right fomulas for mixing up the abilities dice - some help is provided by a couple of handy prompt sheets.  There's plenty of the more popular heroes to choose from, but being a basic game, there's not much in the way of adversaries beyond the scenario included - so curious referees will feel obliged to buy more material pretty quickly.  I like the fact that the hero stat cards are also provided in a grey format which may hurt colour printers a little less than the high contrast glossy colours of the manual.

(EDIT: Courtesy of Aramis on Trollbridge: 1980's MSH:
! )

EPT (original ms)
$15 on DriveThru
Empire of the Petal Throne (Original Manuscript)
(M.A.R Barker's World of Tekumel)

If you have a mental entry-point to the world named "Tekumel" or "EPT" then you may get rather excited about this document which was originally released prior to TSR's 1975 release of this D&D based game.  I like to class these types of products as "archival" or (to coin a trademarked cliché) "unearthed arcana".  ;)

I remember very little of this game, except perhaps seeing the box in Nottingham's Games Workshop (before they killed role-playing in the UK - long story).  At the time I must have filed it under "Weird" along with Sky Realms of Jorune.  I'm aware that it's been reborn again in different editions with different systems, but the next time I heard of this was across a handful of blogs and then cited again in the hobbyist retrospect, The Elfish Gene.

For me, PDF texts of the older games are a lot of fun to read (as opposed to games you buy to actually play), especially when you compare these to other games from the same time, especially for gaming hobby assumptions and dice system similarities - much of which to modern players' eyes may seem very alien, or quaint.  The way some of the early editions are written can differ greatly in formality (My copy of Monsters!Monsters! is almost too friendly! - but that's T&T for you, all of the authors were clearly drunk).

Erik T. of Tenkar's Tavern makes some interesting game comparison observations here.

The earlier the edition of many a game in the 1970s, the more like a fanzine they look (like the white/brown booklets of OD&D).  What is delightful about this 1974 manuscript is that it is both a facsimile and an e-text book.  The odd numbered pages reminded me of the pre-photocopy spirit duplicated worksheets we had in primary school - rendered readable by the digital text on the even pages.  This is an artefact from gaming history, so very close to the genesis of the tabletop role-playing game.   Dedicated EPT fans will possibly be very charmed by this, the earliest of the editions and will possibly not think twice about the $15 price tag.  I was lucky enough to have a review copy and I decide to give it a good read.  I'm going in blind.  Slowly but surely I realise why players of this game always sounded like they had joined a cult:
The earliest records now preserved by human scholars date back only some
25,000 years (and dating here is dubious at best) to the half-mythical Empire of
Llyán of Tsámra, now lost completely except for a few fragments of half-remembered
technology and an inscription or two [reference: “Kabár hiLlyán lél Máisurmra
Kolumébabar” (the Story of Llyán and His Empire), by Messilu Badárian,
preserved in manuscript in the Temple of Thúmis at Khéiris.]. Somewhat later
in the area now occupied by the southern regions of Tsolyánu, there is reference to
the Three States of the Triangle, another human enclave which did battle with the
fearsome nonhuman Chyrstállu {Chyrstálli} to the northwest (another Ssú-derived species)
and with the Mihálli (humanoid aliens introduced by mankind as a trading colony) in
the east. To the south the Hlýss ranged out from their island fastness and did battle
with another species brought in by man, the powerful Shén. In timeworn Ssuganár
the Ssú bided their time... 
Brain melts... and not a die has been rolled.

They weren't kidding about the impact of language in the background.  Never trust a creative anthropologist!

Realising that I was way in over my head I decided to pick up the actual TSR rules.  Then further research told me that the original box set (depicted here) included two sets of maps as well.  A graphic of the box art  from my memories is included towards the end of the rules.  So if you want to download the full 1970's EPT-in-box experience you'll need to purchase the following:
  1. Empire of the Petal Throne (TSR1975) $11.00
    Rulebooks and box art
  2. Maps for Empire of the Petal Throne  $4.00
  3. Jakálla, The City Half as Old as the World! $8.00
  4. Polyhedral dice!
 $23 USD in total (£14.61GBP appx) -The prices are currently slightly reduced price.  I feel that this is well worth the price, since I feel I'll probably never be able separate a seller of the original for under $150 - not to mention the threats I'll get and bounty hunters sent by other collectors....

I'm assuming that quite a bit of the material in M.A.R. Barkers World of Tekumel storefront is usable as source material for the different versions of the game since every line in every product is imbued with Tekumel phrases and lore.

In summary, if you're already a player or fan of EPT then you may want to take a long educated look at the Original Manuscript;  if you're researching a genre or looking for the quintessential old-school gaming experience then you're probably better off downloading the TSR1975 rulebook and maps first. :) 

Thanks for reading. :)

Thursday, 23 February 2012

If you don't act now I'll squish 'im!

I can't believe I'm doing this.  I was going to post about that new Marvel Supers game, and obscure rediscovered manuscripts for Empire of the Petal Throne.

But no, wait, I have something much more important than that: I've entered a competition on Deviant Art and I'm now selling my friends for votes (no, wait, that came out wrong).
Look, it's sick really.  It's a "Cute Monster" competition, and well, I sometimes draw cute-ish monsters.  Actually they're all "emotionally distressed", but apparently that can be endearing to chicks and kids...
Hey look it's a red t-shirt - it'll be like voting for the original D&D red box (honest...)
Just go there, click on "I'd wear this" and we'll call it quits okay? and I'll never mention it again.

Vote now or I'll turn the monster who posed for this into orange paste.
(Actually, all of the entries are a real hoot, check them out on Deviant Art)

What is he?  I dunno!
He's got 3 hit dice and no Save vs Self-Esteem or something.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Excellence in postmodernity (Free mini-games by One Seven Design Studio)

I think I get sucked into two worlds, one: the product-pumping stores of DriveThru/RPGNow (OneBookShelf) sites; and the other: the gentle dream-like-slipping-back into a handful of RPGs from around the early 80s - a knowledge which I try to wedge into the praise of retro-clones, and any games with a simpler or adaptable style.  My concept of "genre" defaults to "Fantasy", "Horror" and "Sc-Fi". After that I flail about trying to match films to settings (mainstream films from the 80's, I might add - in which Steampunk seemed to be absent).  Naturally, I'm not fully card-holding old-school, grognard, 1st generation, 70's RPG hard-core, where only Traveller covered all things sci-fi (and maybe 15mm Laserburn?), when fantasy settings were purely the domain of Dungeons & Dragons, Tunnels & Trolls (d6s only) and Runequest (% only, no levels).  I was, however acutely aware at the time of the specialising of the newer games in horror, sci-fi, superheroes and 30s settings, from TSR, GDW, SJG, Pacesetter, Iron Crown, Games Workshop etc. - but that somehow it felt that they were always shadowed by, and challenging the thrones of the Original Four.  ...  Oh dear, I'm babbling again, mainly about my easily dizzied head when it comes to genres, game mechanics and settings.  (I feel must re-read Mr Huss's The Gamers’ Guide to Tabletop Role-playing Genres and put away Ian Livingstone's Dicing with Dragons)

The point I was getting around to make is that I overlook some really very cool independent sites like One.Seven Design Studios who's beautifully presented free* mini-game downloads defy my staid perception of genre and setting (I'm mainly referring here to Lady Blackbird, Ghost/Echo, and the wonderfully camp Danger Patrol).  Also my perception of role-playing systems needing to be "bulky" is being challenged here.  There's a suggestion that these games - a handful of cards, a rules brief and character sheets - can be picked up and played in an evening.  Heresy! The fools! ;)  I need large hardback books, a pile of dice, complicated maps, confused players, and a month of preparation!

(*There is an option to buy the author a drink via Paypal.  I say "Donate Now".  We need more drunk game designers!) 

I'm sure many tabletop gamers are already familiar with One Seven Design Studio, but I rediscovered afresh it today through the rather strange route of trying to read the French translation of Lady Blackbird ... flying steampunky fun, I think ...  Maybe I need to read more comics?

Anyhow, go now to One.Seven Design Studios and dabble in the foolish nonsense of quick-to-run fast-play games in alternative settings. ;)

*Billiam goes off the reassure his precious hardback rules not to feel to threatened by mini-games...*

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

February Geek Love Rules Sale on DriveThru

I really blew it this month by not getting around to making my lady-friend a card for Valentines, and I'm not sure that Dungeon Bastard's Valentine'sD&D E-cards quite express the appropriate sentiments. ;)

There's only a couple of days left at the Geek Love Rules sale, but if you miss that, we've intercepted a reduction code which will stay true until March 14th.

Get 20% off the following titles when you use this code at checkout on RPGDrivethru

Aruneus Bundle Troll in the Corner - Part-Time Gods Third Eye Games
A Peculiar Pentad - Savaged Super Genius Games - Ultimate Dice Tower 2 Fat Dragon Games

(Code expires: March 14th, 2012)

So go on, spread the post apocalyptic zombie dragon love!  

Friday, 10 February 2012

TZ4 better than WD386 ;)

TrollsZine! 4  Tunnels and Trolls uber mag
(Trollbridge / Flying Buffalo)

Two days ago I bought a the "Special Warhammer 40,000 25th Anniversay Issue" of White Dwarf (386/Feb2012) - perhaps mainly because I've developed a soft spot for the cover of the original Rogue Trader* which was the reverse side cover (back, but reversible - blew my mind, that did) of Games Workshop's in-house catalogue magazine.  Although the photos of models old and new are very pretty, and I'm drawn to offers of commemorative poster prints, I think I would have rather have spent the £4.50 on a TrollZine!4 which is free!

*Rogue Trader
WH4OK cover
nicely parodied here
Judging by the discussions on Vinn Ahrr Vin's Trollbridge Forum this collaborative work has been a long time in coming and has been eagerly awaited.  Now born, after much labour,  it is a mighty publication - at 61 content-dense pages, perhaps proving that simpler role-playing systems can inspire many creative ideas for use within many different styles of campaign.  Naturally, you will get the most out of this publication if you are familiar with Tunnels & Trolls (like other products it caters for the popular editions arc of 5, 5.5 and 7 - incidentally I'm pleased to see a set of quick reference tables for use with 7 -useful for old duffers like me who grew up with 5).

If you're new to T&T, or perhaps put off in the past, the more silly humour associated with D&D's only-so-slightly and irreverent younger cousin, I recommend downloading this along with the Flying Buffalo's free rules ( ) - shaved down edition 5+, very useful for playing many of the solo texts kicking around on the internet - also you'll get a feel for how it all works (although I might add that the solo in TZ4 is for the 7.5 rules - but I haven't looked carefully enough to analyse major differences with 5th).

I'm proud to say that a couple of my own doodles made it into this publication (I'm listed under my real world name of "Meddis")  It's a shame that some of my colour efforts didn't make it and now I can see that my more scratchy attempts were clearly more adaptable to the content (interesting lessons being learnt here).  I've been holding off running some stock art packs through Inked Adventures (on blogger), partly because I feel might further disappoint players who use my dungeon floor plans (the product line for which is embarrassingly slow with new releases), but maybe now I'd be forgiven for selling some of my better pieces.

Back to the TZ:  there's some real community celebrities contributing to this work - infamous and famous writers and artists -literally too numerous to mention- check out the "Troll Links" at the back of the PDF for the huge resource of blogs, sites and stores run by these guys.

A well stocked, astounding resource for T&T players (certainly better than this month's White Dwarf)

(Given 5 stars by the Mr K St. Andre himself, heh!)

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Dungeon tiles, chests, blast-doors (Fat Dragon/Forever People/PWork)

I'd hoped to be a bit more balanced in linking to different types of RPG products, but at the last minute usual obsessions tint my shades and  filter out so many titles.

So ... back to printable floor plans and cardboard scenery...

Whilst trying to finish some maps for Raging Swan Press, staying off my new (second hand) iPad and avoiding DriveThru/RPGNow has been a real challenge! -Incidentally on the iPad, I'm leaping from Fighting Fantasy Citadel of Chaos*, Fabled Lands, a bit of CoC Wasted land (see previous post) and the shockingly addictive Dungeon Hunter III.
*Strangely, the FF titles with embedded combat system are not on Kindle yet in the UK, despite some US releases (The Citadel of Chaos Kindle/Amazon)

 Back in random bargain PDF download-world: four products leapt out at me this week:

 EZ Dungeons Expansion Set 8 by good old Fat Dragon Games has become an hottest/platinum-seller, and it's a no-brainer to see why.  It doesn't matter what type of figures or scenery you use, chests, barrels and boxes will embellish any style of dungeon (or inn, forest etc) and you can never have enough of them!

My own Inked Adventures experiments with simple chests and boxes can be found in 3D Furniture for dungeons  (mirrored post on blogger) Proceeds from that set go to DWB/MSF charity.  having clumsy hands I rarely like my 3D models to me much more sophisticated than boxes. (Product page on DriveThru) I'll be honest, mine down have lids which open - but they might be faster to assemble and have that home-grown hand illustrated look. ;) (okay, who am kidding ...?)

Into The Pit 5 - Doors, Gates and Portals  (from Forever People)  I'm extremely intrigued by the art here, because the designers been brave enough to employ 3D-as-seen-from-above doors (I get immensely excited about top-down perspectives - I blame the graphics in Atic Atac! Something, again I try to do in my own Modular Dungeon Basic Pack)

Fantasy Tiles: Dungeon (PWork Paper Wargame)  These look great and I'm guessing that they work in a similar way to the old Dungeon Floor Plans - where the pieces are trimmed to represent as close as possible the dungeon in the DM's notes.  Which I find myself having to explain to players who believe maps for minis should only ever come as square tiles or otherwise drawn on a battle-mat, which is fair enough - but they're missing a trick.  Also, it's really important to remember that these sets are re-printable, so you can assemble, glue, move sections around, and re-use small bits.  With this is mind I'd print on to firm card (-stock) and not foam-card (as is the fashion) - unless you're using exactly the same dimensions for rooms and corridors in every dungeon.  They'd probably look fabulous when lain on a black cloth / flock or sugar paper.  Again, this is advice applies for anyone using my own sets - or maybe I'm projecting here, since I haven't actually used PWork's tiles in play.  If you're new to this chop-n-change style of plans it's time think outside of the square tile and beyond the tessellatory geomorph! ;)

From the same publishers are these nice looking industrial sci-fi Aliens/Space Hulk style plans: Wargame Scenery Starbase Sector
Check out also the seriously cauterised version: Abandoned Sector.
For 28mm figures etc.  Set to "overwatch"!

Whilst we're on the subject of chopping up dungeon tile flavoured cardboard I recommend that the more discerning DMs take a look at Kev's Lounge Dungeon. There's sweety freebies there!

Wow :o 
A whole post and I never mentioned SOPA (which confused the heck out of me... using the net was like walking into a house where some of the lightbulbs had been stolen in protest ...), ... or any recent world events...  Prince William is in the Falklands ...?

No, wait, I wanted to talk about those 1st edition AD&D reprints, which is surely one of the first signs of the apocalypse .... [[ OUT-OF-TIME ]]  *static*

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Just Out: Into the Fray Core Rules (Moss Games), CoC Wasted Land on iPad (Red Wasp)

Very quick post.  I should be finishing some map composites and oh-em-gee it's February already! :o

Into the Fray - Core Rules (Moss Games)  In this set, which currently free (Free? The fools! Free I say!) you receive beautiful stat cards, a primer, rules, tables, template markers and everything you need to play this tabletop fantasy war-game (not bad when compared to Warhammer).  No, wait: "... in order to play Into the Fray you will have to purchase at least one (if not both) of the faction starter packs."  Naturally, if you like Mr Mossman's figure style you can buy the potentially massive army packs - or just go for the price reduced bundle straight away (on DriveThru).

His figures are colourful, original, well shaded, packed with poise!
Keep checking in with this publisher, he'll be one to watch for new figures gaming products.

(Incidentally Inked Adventures showcased some of his Woodwold Boskers figures in the  EL3 Forest Ambush pack)


Quick shoot the Bosh!  By Jove, since when did Jerry have tentacles?  We need need more Tommies!

Out this week on iPad, it's World War I and the Cult of the Awakened are up to their dirty tricks again.  In the trenches there's more than just armed johnny-foreigners ...

This strategy based horror for mobile platforms, has been launched for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch (hopefully out for Android soon).

I'm still only on one of the early levels, but already I have learnt the usefulness of a pigeon, when in need of artillery.  Yes, that's right, a rifle, maybe a bayonet and ... a pigeon - oh yes, I'm so ready to take on those cultists and monsters!  I think arcane magic will be added to my arsenal soon, by the gods, I hope so ...
(Previous Wasted Land news, Tags: Cthulhu)

Screen shots:
He just wants a cuddle
The Faithful Will be Eaten First

Wasted Land by Red Wasp
(iApp Store)