May 26 2017
In the latest episode of their pure gold podcast, Ken and Robin talk Ken’s Vampire gig, the Story Beats app, loose lips at the White House, and alchemy at the Kulturforum.
May 23 2017
by Rob Heinsoo
Apologies from the garage-sanctum, but I’m pushing on three 13th Age deadlines for the end of the month so today’s column is another scoop from the archives.
Before 13th Age was published, Jonathan ran a campaign in which the PCs gained a level between every session. Actually it was a campaign I started as a regular campaign, and after a couple sessions Jonathan took over, renamed it, and pushed the pace.
Jonathan called it the Lethal Damage campaign. As a file of old notes and quotes indicates, we players were fond of starting sessions by asking “When does this Lethal Damage campaign begin?” Goading the GM is the way we roll. This was the campaign that created many of the examples and illustrations in the core book. So today I’m mining for one-liners I’d forgotten, notes that were interesting enough to bring back for a second look.
“Beware, there ees no such think as ‘elf.’ So no is ‘Elf Queen,’ best to call her Light-Elf-Gray-Elf-Silver-Folk-All-Hatink-Each-Other-Queen. The only think that two elf race agree on ees how to keel third race. Thees I remember.”
—opening quote from Paul Hughes’ PC, a fallen hero of an earlier age named Ferrek
Don’t bring a knife to a gargoyle fight.
–other PCs, to Honeybottom the rogue
“When a troll and a derro like each other very much . . .”
“It’s a droll.”
The Archmage salute is a glowing silver flame flaring above a raised index finger!
I really like this throwaway line from a campaign in which the Archmage’s lieutenants turned out to be the major villains. I’m using it in my next game, especially with the idea that the equivalent of a macho-handshake is making your flame flare eye-numbingly bright.
May 19 2017
In the latest episode of their spicy podcast, Ken and Robin talk F20 villagers, generic supplements, food as treasure, and Lulu Hurst.
May 18 2017
by Chris Sanderson
As I write this, our store has been open for exactly eight years. We opened with little to no fanfare, with no real plan and with a marketing budget of “my mates.” My goal: a place to hang out and play RPGs together. Sure, we’d been hanging out and playing RPGs together for years so what made me suddenly decide to open a games store? Well, the Japanese book store chain Kinokuniya started to add board games to their bookshelves… great except for one small hiccup, not a single member of their staff knew anything about board games! Not a thing! I was horrified, so decided to open a game store where people actually knew how to play games…and Battlefield Bangkok was born.
Looking back, we didn’t do our research, and probably if we had, we’d never have opened. A country where people don’t really like reading, where English is a second or third language and where there is little to no history of board gaming. Okay, that’s not true, Thai people love playing games and there are any number of board games around that you can see people playing on any street corner, or could until mobile gaming killed them.
When we opened the store we picked games based on their Board Game Geek rating, many I knew, many I had never heard of. I hired a store manager who had been educated in the USA and had played games at University. And one hot sunny May morning we opened the doors….and it was quiet…very quiet.
We’d opted not to be in a shopping mall; we wanted full control of our open hours. So the foot traffic was minimal, but we had great parking and a mass transit station only 300 metres away as well as being right next to one of Bangkok’s main through roads (Sukhumvit for those that know Bangkok), however we were not central… we pretty much worked on the basis of “if you open it…they will come….eventually”.
We sacked our store manager on day three when we found him on his phone playing a casino game.
Which is when things turned around. We offered the job to one of our first Thai customers… and that was the catalyst that turned the store from being an expat hang out to a place where Thai gamers were born. Our store manager (Khun Nat) was soon telling all his fringe board game players about the store and very swiftly we went from “It’s 7pm, we’re empty, we might as well close” to “it’s 3am we might need to close soon.”
The ability to control our own open hours and having a local gaming fanatic as our store manager turned us into the place to go for gaming. Granted, it was still a pretty small player base we were targeting but the seeds were planted and they grew. We expanded into miniatures and attracted existing Warhammer players, and shortly after that, we saw the first competition start to open!
With such a small market, my initial thoughts were along the lines of “DOOM! DOOM! DOOM!” for probably two years I worried every time we saw someone selling games from their bedroom, on Facebook, via email, or from newly opening stores. It took a while for it to sink in that each of these new outlets meant that gaming was catching on…and that each of these outlets was promoting games … free marketing for us!
As more stores opened, our sales increased, it was quite incredible to watch. We were seeing a whole new hobby being born in Thailand, from the small seed that we had planted.
Roleplaying took a little longer to catch on. With all the games in English, and the general dislike of reading here, it was going to take something special for us to hook local players. The answer should have been obvious… but it was one of our local customers who pointed out the obvious to us…Thai people love ghosts and horror… and so we ran our first Horror RPG, in English for just Thai players. It was a disaster…they totally failed to follow the plot, got carried away doing their own thing, fell for the “damsel in distress” and ended up the session on the run… did I say disaster? I meant it was a thing of beauty. They owned it! They left that demo and went out to preach the glory of RPGs! Our first RPG evangelists were born, shortly after this we ran Free RPG Day… we ran twelve sessions, eight in Thai, it was wonderful to watch.
These first RPG evangelists are still playing RPGs today and have branched out into all kinds of wonderful games.
This success with RPGs very much brought home the fact that we needed evangelists for complicated or expandable games, but it an RPG, card games, miniatures, HeroClix…whatever, if we wanted a game to catch on, grow and have an ongoing community we needed to be sure we had a local evangelists who not only was happy to be the cheer leader of that game, but also really did enjoy playing it.
Our evangelists soon had their own blogs, Facebook groups, Line Groups and all other kinds of social media that made it possible for them to share their excitement about games to all their friends and from there that it be shared broadly across multiple play groups. So not only did our store benefit, but every store that was touched by the social media groups that the players created.
Today there are over 80 board game stores and gaming cafes nationwide and every month we see more opening. We’ve gone from being a quiet shop that celebrated seeing a couple of customers on a Friday night, to being a major supplier of games to the local game stores.
There has been one key element that I should touch on in closing. We do have a huge advantage over many other countries, and that is “we control who sells”. And through that we ensure there are no web-only stores. Our focus has always been on community and social gaming. By ensuring that every store has the same pricing and same access to all games we ensure that players support their local stores.
This philosophy has spread to the other suppliers in Thailand now too. Every seller is a store, every store has a community and therefore gaming is growing.
So, now I just need to open a small shop on a little island down south and I’ll be in semiretirement, with a board game in front of me and waves lapping at my feet!
May 15 2017
In The Yellow King Roleplaying Game, Kickstarting soon at a Kickstarter near you, players portray characters linked across various eras and timelines corrupted by alien supernatural influence.
In the third of these linked settings, Aftermath, the investigators are all ex-partisans who fought in a successful rebellion against a tyrannical regime backed by Carcosa. Now they want to rebuild their nation and put their violent past, and memories of weird incidents connected to that, behind them. But He Whose Mask Is Not A Mask isn’t finished with America yet, and they find themselves drawn into a succession of weird mysteries requiring them to draw on the skills they’d sooner put behind them.
To emulate this I’m introducing* a new general ability, which goes like this:
Before attacking targets in a location you have the opportunity to case in advance, you can devise the most efficient plan of attack, dealing maximum harm at minimum risk.
Make an Insurgency test with a Difficulty keyed to the location: 4 for most civilian targets, 5 for a secure military target, 6 for an ultra-secure installation.
On success with a margin of 2 or less, all combatants on your side get a +1 Fighting bonus. A higher margin nets a +2 bonus for all.
This also allows you to defend against attackers using guerrilla tactics against a position you have had time to hunker down in. Here the Difficulties flip: 6 for a civilian location, 5 for military, 4 for ultra-secure. When defending you can make a Counterinsurgency Push for a +4 bonus on your roll.
Insurgency tests take the place of extended planning sessions in which players manage the tactical details of an assault, just as Preparedness skips the part where you laboriously write out every item on your equipment lists.
After a successful Insurgency test, ask the player, abetted by anyone else in the group who likes to describe skirmishes in loving Tom Clancyesque detail, to describe the clever plans they’ve laid for their soon-to-be-attacked targets. In the ensuing Fighting test, they can describe them working to superb effect (if the group wins), or the GM can describe them being countered by a victorious foe.
* * *
This ability only suits games where you find it desirable to collapse the tactical planning process into a single ability test. The previous setting in the cycle, The Wars, does not do this. It has the player characters fighting in a great European conflict in an alternate timeline. Planning how to grub up crucial bonuses for an upcoming scrap should take center stage there, with players weighing options, discarding some and choosing others, perhaps with the aid of intelligence they’ve gathered with investigative abilities.
In Aftermath those scenes fade back to a tertiary status, to make room for subplots about rebuilding the nation.
You could add this ability to other GUMSHOE games, probably renaming it Tactics or some other more generally apt term, in cases where quick and dirty combat planning suits the genre. It would fit a standard Esoterrorists game, for example, while feeling out of place in a Special Suppression Forces campaign frame. It would also work in Mutant City Blues or Ashen Stars, but likely not in the more combat-forward environment of Night’s Black Agents.
You might also consider your group’s tastes when deciding whether to use it. Your players might dig its abstraction even in NBA, or prefer to do the tactics in detail even when the setting takes little interest in that side of things.
*In the current draft, anyhow. A designer can never count on any new element surviving the playtest process.
May 15 2017
By ASH LAW
In this series by ASH LAW, we feature two different builds for every 13th Age character class, at all levels. ASH suggests how the builds might be used, and offers tips on playing each character. Stats are based on the point-buy method, and the characters have no non-standard elements.
This time, we look at two different takes on the Bard.
Download the Incanter Bard character sheets here.
This bard plays to their ability to learn a little bit of everything magical—it’s ideal for smaller 2-3 person parties who need to cover their bases.
As befits a wandering ‘incanter’ your bardic magic includes bits you’ve learned here and there: you’ll start with a wizard’s utility spell, at champion tier you get access to a cleric’s mighty healing, and at epic tier you pick up a sorcerer’s stolen faces spell. Rather than use melee attacks to trigger your battle cries, you use your battle chant spell instead.
At lower levels you benefit from having access to cantrips and utility spells, but rely on your battle cries for healing party members. Once you hit champion tier you get a some powerful daily cleric healing to aid the party.
Your bard is more flexible than a wizard or cleric, but is not as an effective artillery piece as the wizard nor quite as good at healing as a dedicated healer cleric. What you are good at is pivoting from one role to another.
You aren’t a front-line fighter, stand at the back and befuddle and battle chant your enemies from a distance.
Jack of Spells
Pick up spells from other classes, and use Intelligence to cast those spells.
Use Intelligence for elements of the bardic class rather than Charisma, and have an extra two points to put in backgrounds related to magic.
Tell a story to reroll icon dice.
Humans get an extra feat, which we’ll use to enhance the healing from our pull it together battle cry. The war-like humans also get quick to fight, letting us roll twice for initiative.
For this scholarly bard being smart is very important—other attributes make way for Intelligence: Str 8 (-1) Con 14 (+2) Dex 12 (+1) Int 20 (+5) Wis 8 (-1) Cha 12 (+1).
Attributes: Str 8 (-1) Con 14 (+2) Dex 12 (+1) Int 20 (+5) Wis 8 (-1) Cha 12 (+1)
Racial Power: quick to fight
Talents: jack of spells, loremaster, storyteller
Feats: jack of spells, pull it together
Spells & Songs: battle chant, song of heroes, utility spell (disguise self, featherfall, hold portal), cantrips (arcane mark ghost sound, mage hand)
Battle cries: move it! pull it together!
New spell (befuddle), new feat (battle chant).
New spell (charm person), new utility spells (levitate, message, speak with item), new battle cry (we need you!), level-up spells (battle chant, befuddle, utility spell), new feat (befuddle).
+1 to three attributes (Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence), new spell (soundburst), all spells now 3rd level, new feat (soundburst).
New spells (discombobulate, mighty healing), new utility spell (water breathing), level-up spells (utility spell, battle chant), new feat (jack of spells).
New battle cry (victory is ours!), all spells now 5th level, new feat (victory is ours!).
+1 to three attributes (Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence), new spell (overworld two-step), new utility spell (scrying), level-up spells (utility spell, mighty healing, battle chant, befuddle), new feat (battlechant).
New spell (stolen faces, dancing lights cantrip), new battle cry (they fall before us!), all spells now 7th level, new feat (jack of spells).
New spell (inspire legends), level-up spells (utility spell, mighty healing, stolen faces, battle chant, befuddle), new feat (battlechant).
+1 to three attributes (Strength, Wisdom, Charisma), new battle cry (the time is now!), all spells now 9th level, new feat (the time is now!).
May 12 2017
In the latest episode of their high-profile podcast, Ken and Robin talk premise rejection, war movie evolution, Keisha Howard and the Old Man of the Mountain.
May 9 2017
Those of you receiving your Cthulhu Confidential books will notice an unsettling difference between the print version and the PDF: an empty, white void at the top of page eight.
The missing text is a bit of GM advice that’s repeated in all our other books, and it’s in the PDF version of Cthulhu Confidential. Its absence is my fault: when I was checking the physical proof I thought that blank space was part of the design, and so I approved it. The error was spotted only after the files had been printed, and were in the process of being drop-shipped from the printers. We strive for a high level of quality in every game we make, and we’re very sorry for this error.
In a comment thread, a Pelgranista referred to a “second print run”, which might have given the impression that we’re reprinting the book in response to the error. To clarify, that print run — if it happens — is years away. Given the cost of printing and shipping, a do-over just isn’t an option.
How we’ll make it up to you
When we make a mistake, we like to make it up to our customers somehow. Many of you have asked us to put the game’s Problems and Edges into a printable PDF card deck—so that’s what we’re going to do, and we’ll upload it to your Bookshelf for free. We’ll send out an email notification once we’ve uploaded it.
I’ve gone ahead and closed the comments on this and the Cthulhu Confidential product page, but we’re always happy to answer any questions about this, or any customer service queries, if you drop us an email at email@example.com.
Thanks for your patience. We hope you enjoy Cthulhu Confidential!
— Cat “They Don’t Call Her Eagle Eyes For A Reason” Tobin
May 9 2017
Fire & Faith: Battle Scenes for Four Icons is the final volume in the Battle Scenes Series.
The Battle Scenes books are independent collections of icon-themed encounters for the 13th Age Roleplaying Game at all levels of play, packed with dangerous hand-picked foes on terrifying terrain.
Less Prep, More Play!
Chase the Diabolist’s Circus of Hell cross the Dragon Empire! Fight your way through the nightmare dreamscape of a sleeping gold dragon! Ride with the Crusader to assault a hellhole! Ascend the Cathedral to battle cosmic foes amidst its mind-bending geometry!
Fire & Faith: Battle Scenes for Four Icons has 36 challenging and memorable icon-themed battles against enemies connected to the Crusader, Priestess, Great Gold Wyrm, and Diabolist. Drop these fights into your game at every tier of play, from adventurer to epic, and bring them to life with gorgeous maps by our expert cartographers.
Fire & Faith gives you:
- New NPCs and monsters whose icon connections make them meaningful opponents for your PCs
- Traps and terrain to provide deadly hazards and opportunities for clever tactics
- Adventure hooks that offer a variety of entry points for each set of battles
- Storylines that link each battle to the ones that come after, taking the PCs from one full heal-up to the next – with room to expand on these stories to fill multiple sessions of gameplay.
With Fire & Faith, your players will find themselves on an unforgettable journey to adventure.
The enemy awaits. Are your heroes ready?
|Stock #: TBC||Author: Cal Moore|
|Artwork: Rich Longmore, Alicia Vogel||Developer: Rob Heinsoo|
|Cartographers: Gill Pearce. Ralf Schemmann, Christina Trani||Type: Monochrome perfect bound book|
Forthcoming Estimated August 2017