Thursday, September 17, 2020

10 QUESTIONS TO: Jodi Black


Jodi Black is COO and Managing Editor of Pinnacle Entertainment Group, and she’s also president of Carolina Game Tables.

But who is Jodi? Jodi is a mother of two, a spiritual person, and dog enthusiast. She also sings in two choirs!




1 Hello Jodi. Tell us about Savage Worlds as if you were trying to sell it to my aunt!

I tell people our games are the best kind of game—the kind where you get to take a break from being yourself! You come to the game with your worries (the bills, health problems, real world drama) and leave them behind while you pretend to be someone else for a little while. After you’ve saved the day in game, your own problems seem more approachable. Our game, Savage Worlds, lets you “play pretend” in any way you want. Fly through space in a rocket ship? Sail the seven seas? Flounce in a gorgeous Renaissance dress as an assassin for the Queen? Ride off into the sunset on your trusty hoss? However real—or not—you want your scenario, our game can give you the framework for your imagination to build on. And if you’re not feeling particularly imaginative, we’ve got wonders of worlds for you to explore. 




2 Tell us about your job! What do you do at Pinnacle?

As Chief Operations Officer I work with Simon and Shane on a daily basis, helping to keep track of production. I work with Christine (customer service and website), Scott (news), Ron (community), Danny (licensing), and the Con Crew for our Official Events program. I manage our official social media accounts and try to keep tabs on things on Discord and Reddit, too. I write a lot of the marketing copy for PEG, but not all.

My main thing is big detail-oriented projects like Kickstarters. From getting the best prices for shipping internationally to marketing to setting up the post-Kickstarter “survey” and making sure backers receive their rewards. It’s a lot to keep track of, so I’m the point person for projects of this scale. I also try to do a final pass on everything we send to the printer. Our backers are amazing about catching most glaring errors, but I got where I am for my keen editorial eye (read: grammar nazi).




3 We are talking about tabletop games, and you happen to also make tables…

Why yes, we do! Thank you for asking. :) Clint and I started the furniture company Carolina Game Tables in 2015.

We’ve developed seven table designs and delivered “Game Tables for Real Life” to hundreds of families across the United States. Our game table design philosophy is a LOT like the re-useability of Savage Worlds. Each of our tables is designed for everyday use, with a dining top included in the price ($999-$2799). The tables are sturdy, solid wood, very DIY friendly, easy to keep clean, and a classic design for formal dining rooms. Plus ready for gaming, anytime you want! We work with a manufacturing facility so our tables are built in six months. We’ve built up a stock of our most popular designs, so Express Program tables can be ready as fast as two weeks. TWO WEEKS.




4 Kickstarters have become more and more important for Pinnacle Entertainment, and for many other RPG publishers. Do you see that changing anytime soon? How would YOU like things to change?

I love Kickstarter, and I don’t see PEG leaving it entirely anytime soon. We’ll probably keep using the platform for our major releases simply because of the marketing boost it provides (we have tried releases without it, and they just don’t do nearly as well). We keep an eye on the market for trends and there are other platforms growing out there. One of the great things about being a small company is we can pivot quickly to take advantage of these (I hope).

What I would love to see change is for more people to sign up for our Pinnacle newsletter! If we announce anything—for example to switch from Kickstarter to another platform—it’s the easiest way to get the word out. We only send an email once a week, and that digest format seems to work best for most people.

5 Are you currently working on something? Can you tell us about it?

Yep. Not really. ;) Most of what I do is keep tabs on the truly creative people around here. Creative people need an organized person and the processes in place to make their creativity shine. I try to do that for PEG.

6 If you could buy any franchise/IP and make it a Savage Setting, what would it be? Tell us about the franchise and the game you’d make.

Funny you should ask! One of the trends in RPGs is a “duet” game for couples: one GM, one player. This is easy in Savage Worlds, and Clint and I have been gaming this way for the past couple years. We even game while driving to conventions!

Our latest duet game takes “Nick and Nora” from Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man book and movie series (1934), where we’ve translated them into characters in Deadlands: the Weird West. I don’t think we need a Thin Man licensed setting, but it would be cool to see special Setting Rules released for duet gaming. Maybe someday Clint will get around to writing some of these ideas down. But basically our game works because my character has Curious and Heroic, and is able to get Nick and Nora into trouble even the GM doesn’t see coming!




7 Let’s see how good you really are as a role player. Now you are a Hollywood screenwriter, and you must write a short email to convince Mr. Warner Bros to produce a movie based on a Pinnacle adventure or setting. Which would it be? Go. [Please also consider doing this for real as soon as possible]

LOL. Isn’t this Q&A long enough? Seriously, though, we have contacts in the industry. Shane handles that. I only get involved when it’s a done deal. :)

8 Family games. Any experience or tips you want to share?

I love promoting games for the whole family! I’ve seen how games can bring together families for over 20 years now, inside my own experience as a mother and professionally. I’ve written a chapter on starting a game club in the Savage Worlds World Builder and Game Master’s Guide, which was actually cut in half of all the tips I had accumulated. Instead of filling up this space, I’d rather talk in person or on a panel about the topic. Here are few tips off the top of my head--things that seem relevant to the quarantine status many of us find ourselves in:

Let kids talk. Treat them with respect (Adults speak for kids TOO MUCH).

Play their games. Don’t always insist they play *your* games. If their games bend the rules, let them.

Games are but one point of interaction with other people; the benefit of a game is there are rules. If you’re trying to reach out to a stubborn teen or rebellious toddler, offer them a choice of two games. They may open up in other areas too. 




9 Talking about Savage Worlds, you are quite the authority. Which are your top three Pinnacle settings? What about licensee settings?

Oh goodness, how can I choose between my children? I always love the one occupying my time the most at the time. Right now that’s Deadlands: the Weird West, Rifts® for Savage Worlds, and always Necessary Evil (necessarily). For our licensed programs (including the Fan license, Media Content Network, Aces, and Savage Worlds Adventurer’s Guild) right now I’m in love with Battle for Oz: Pirates, streamers like SavingThrow and CFTRPG (using Rippers to play Ravenloft!), and daily there’s something cool to check out at the SWAG portal on DriveThru. And there are releases I get to hear about from our translator licensees, which aren’t released in English but sound so cool! There’s so much to keep track of. And I really love it all.

 



10 You are a woman in the tabletop game industry. That used to be very unusual until some time ago, but it’s becoming more and more common (thank God!). RPGs still seem to be a male hobby, for the most (hurry up, God, and change that too!). What’s your take on this? Have you got any suggestions for women who would like to get into the tabletop games industry?

Great question! I would love to see more representation by minorities in the professional game industry, but it’s not enough just to hire people for their skin or gender—they need to be good at what we’re hiring them for, too. Title VII already makes it illegal to discriminate in any facet of employment. Neither are we looking for “perfect people” who don’t exist. Everyone has room to grow + skills to offer. All employers are looking for are more of the skills and less of the need for coaching.

So my main recommendation to ANYONE, regardless of background, is to BE GOOD at what you do, and don’t be afraid to specialize.

If you’re looking for a job in marketing that means a presence on pretty much all the socials we’re on, and a clean profile which shows you’re in touch with gamer interests. Want to be a writer? Write well and not just often—letting your words pour forth like a fountain—but concisely! Edit yourself before publishing anything, be it a tweet, blog, or a One Sheet. If you’re trying your hand at game design for our system, the SWAG program will let you test your skills and get feedback from the amazing Savage Worlds community. In Savage Worlds, if the rule is not simultaneously Fast, Furious (Exciting), and Fun, then it’s probably not right yet.

Finally, go where the people are. If you want to be known to the PEG team, for example, participate in the Savage Worlds Facebook Group because that’s where most of our staff like to hang out. When conventions happen again, introduce yourself and play with us.

Old fashioned networking isn’t about “who you know” it’s who knows you and that they know what you can do for them. That’s not the good old boys network. I learned that in college from my sorority (technically we’re a fraternity of women and they introduced me to DnD). :)

11 I know, they were supposed to be 10, but I have one more question before we say goodbye. Please point us to a song you think we should listen to.

Just one?! I want to let people know about choral composers like Dan Forrest and Ola Gjeilo!

Not all choral music is “sacred,” but that is what I love about it. I experience a connection to the divine when I sing or hear it performed especially well, and that’s something I hope everyone finds for themselves, at some point in their life. I welcome conversations about faith, and my faith does not judge. :)

Here is a secular choral piece I’m working on with the Hickory Choral Society currently. Our concert is October 25, 2020, and I hope people will join my watch party.




This is Undivided by Karen Marrolli. Even if choral music isn’t your thing, check out these amazing-touching-timely lyrics:

When darkness drops an anchor

In the fearful oceans of our minds,

And when the world is preaching rancor,

I can choose to be kind.

And maybe more will find the quiet rivers, Where we'll lift a peaceful melody,

And undivided we will stand,

Stand together, hand in hand.


And when hatred shatters silence,

And each one clings to each one's will,

And when the world bows down to violence, I can refuse to kill.

And maybe more will join in sweet resistance, Singing chords in gentle harmony,

And undivided we will stand,

Stand together, hand in hand.


And when anger breeds division,

We can choose to stand side by side,

And when the world exalts derision,

We can choose to lift each other high.

And maybe then we'll join in one big chorus; Singing songs of peace and unity,

And undivided we will stand,

Stand together, hand in hand.

This is a brand new piece, so for now, here’s the virtual choir soundtrack with score:

Thank you Jodi! Bye!!


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

About Solo Games with Savage Worlds

 Solo RPGs are almost as old as the hobby itself. Tunnels & Trolls, one of the oldest games out there, has a LARGE series of solo scenarios that's still going on with the latest adventure released a few weeks ago.

With the constant growing of the hobby, solo games are also growing more and more popular, with dedicated communities on most social platforms.

Not all RPGs have dedicated solo rules or expansions, though.

Savage Worlds has been my first go-to RPG for at least five years now. In my opinion it is a ruleset with great potential for solo games, because of all its meta components and rules: Bennies, Quick Encounters, Support and Tests seem perfect to make engaging and entertaining solo games.

There are a few interesting options already out there, each of them rather unique in approach, let's see what they are.

Deadlands - Crater Lake Chronicles is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure style book, set in the world of Deadlands - The Weird West, Pinnacle's flagship setting for Savage Worlds. You navigate through numbered paragraphs and make your choice at the end of each. It is a nice, three part story, well written and structured with, perhaps, little replay value. The Choose-Your-Own-Adventure approach makes for an out-of-the-box, immersive, well structured experience, but you will probably only play through it a few times and then that's it.

Solo Game Guide for Savage Worlds is a SWAG product that offers a completely different approach. It is a 15 page guide with tools to run your own stories and games. In other words, it helps you "be your own GM", and there's no ready adventure here. So, there's endless replay value... assuming YOU come up with adventure ideas. That's primarily achieved with a series of "oracular" mechanics, which answer questions you make while playing, and provide generic, inspirational input you'll have to flesh out to keep the adventure going. It may be thought of as a sort of on-the-fly, generic adventure generator. It is part of a large series of solo guides for many different RPGs, but seems to be well integrated with the specifics of Savage Worlds, with specific setting rules to enhance the single player experience.

Along the same line of oracular play, The Scheme Pyramid might be worth considering. Even though it is NOT designed for solo play, it proposes an "adventuring framework" that might be pretty good for solo games if what you you want is a guidance tool.

     

Gold & Glory is my fantasy toolkit for Old School dungeon adventures, and the G&G line includes a Solo/GMless guide with rules and suggestions for solo playing G&G adventures: with the rules and suggestions in the guide you can play (and replay) any of the seven dungeons found in the Gold & Glory - Seven Deadly Dungeons book, as well as all the other dungeon adventures that are available for G&G. Replay value is fairly high because G&G dungeons are always new at every game.



The Crypt of Doom is a free online adventure that is ready for solo/gmless play with just the Savage Worlds rules, or expanded with the full G&G toolkit. It is based on the G&G dungeon generation system, but somewhat simplified because well, I'm a total noob at html!

....

And then there's Curse of Aufgarts, which I've been working on for weeks now, which should release in a few months! 


Saturday, September 12, 2020

About Brancalonia, The Spaghetti Fantasy RPG

 Brancalonia is a soon-to-be-released setting for Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition. It launched with a nicely successful kickstarter which ran through April 2020.

The game was funded by 3297 backers, with more than $200.000 and a heap of unlocked stretch goals.

An all-italian medieval, roguish and picaresque setting for the 5th Edition of the most famous role-playing game of all time.

While the crowdfunding is closed, the game is available for preorder on the publisher site, Acheron Books. Oh and there's a neat quickstart folder that's free for grabs


Even though I don't play much D&D these days, this setting is pretty close to my interests as it boasts an all-Italian team, which includes my long time friend Mauro Longo, blogger, novelist, rpg author, and gaming scholar (and we created Ultima Forsan and Tropicana together).

And I really enjoy two sides of the project: all that went into the setting, AND how focused the game is going to be.

Here's the amazing map of Brancalonia, by Fabio Porfidia.


If you think this is going all epic and world-shaking like, I don't know, Eberron, think again.
The world of Brancalonia is a “back-to-front” version of Medieval Italy, an unheroic, picaresque and roguish world mixing references from over a hundred works of Italian fantasy tradition, pop culture, and collective imagery. That means it ranges from Pinocchio to Bud Spencer and Terence Hill, from the Sergio Leone movies to Italo Calvino and Dante Alighieri, picking up actual Italian folklore along the way. High brow literature meets pop culture meets tradition, in short, creating a fantasy that breaks free from the the same old dwarves and elves. It definitely is a lower-key fantasy than the usual D&D, with subtle and surreal wonders, depth as well as lots of tongue-in-cheek humor. All that, and stuff like being able to play a Pinocchio-like animated puppet!

Here's how it's described in the KS:




Now to the game itself, I love how they are designing a focused game experience: player characters are going to be a band of knaves working dirty jobs, cutpurses and cutthroats, mercenaries and treasure-hunters seeking the right job, roaming the kingdoms of a fantasy Italy, probably while fugitives from the law and their debts. All of this, while built on the D&D5E engine, is going to be supported with specific rules and useful tools.
Besides the usual and expected new races, classes, feats, spells etc., the book will feature special rules for Companies, Cronies, and Den management, and Bounties, Revels, and Prophecies. Those sound intriguing to me!


This big guy looks familiar... That's cool, right?
Now, as I said, Mauro Longo is a long time friend of mine, so I just had to ask him for some sweet, sneaky, inside-job preview, and he's passed me this: the Fairy Godfather! (art by Lorenzo Nuti)



Friday, September 11, 2020

About Ultima Forsan - Legends

 Yesterday SpaceOrange42 released Da Vinci's Engine, a new adventure for Ultima Forsan written by Mauro Longo and me, with art by Francesco Saverio Ferrara (the same artist of the Gold & Glory book).


Here's the blurb:


Da Vinci’s Engine is an Ultima Forsan adventure for three to six Novice heroes and it is the first scenario of the Ultima Forsan Legends series!

In this adventure, the heroes must venture into the battlefield of Marignano, near Milan, to find the most ingenious inventor of all history, Leonardo Da Vinci, and win him to the cause.

Da Vinci, featured as NPC in this adventure, is the first of the Seven Legends that will be available as Player Characters for the grand finale of Ultima Forsan Legends - Escape from Old York!

The adventure includes an Appendix with rules to buy, modify or create Armillary Armors: 20 feet tall anthropomorphic contraptions designed for the destruction of the living and the Dead!

This adventure is for Savage Worlds Deluxe but includes the Ultima Forsan Conversion Document for Savage Worlds Adventure Edition.

Ultima Forsan Legends
Gather the Magnificent Seven of the Macabre Renaissance and enlist them into the craziest adventure of all history, a desperate fight against thousands of enemies to free the Pope King, held prisoner by Richard III in Ghastly England! COMING SOON!  

 

So here's a bit of backstory of how this got published.

Ultima Forsan - Legends was released in Italian as a single book featuring two parts: part one features the seven scenarios mentioned above, one for each of the "Magnificent Seven". In each adventure, the heroes must, locate, negotiate, help, and in some cases rescue, one of the Macabre Renaissance Legends: actually Legendary characters that are introduced as NPCs. Who are they?



Leonardo Di Vinci, the most ingenious inventor of all history

The cunning statesman Niccolò Machiavelli

The Spanish soldier, poet and swashbuckler Garcilaso de la Vega

Joan of Arc, heroine of the French Reconquest against the Dead, brought back to life by a mysterious group of heretics

Philippus Teophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, known as Paracelsus, the Swiss alchemist and Plague Doctor

Glyceria of Novgorod, the Saint Huntress, slayer of the Dead in the Ruthenian lands

Wilhelmina Murray-Shakespeare, actress, charlatan, witch, and grandmother of a famous playwright...

Each of them is a mix of historical and fictional, in different proportions.

The series also spans through most of Europe, with the group visiting places in Italy, Spain, France, Switzerland, Ruthenia, and finally Britain, where the second part of the book begins. And how are the heroes traveling through Europe? They'll fly aboard the Pinta, a flying ship steered by legendary sky captain Christopher Columbus!

The second part of the book is the Escape from Old York campaign, where players have the option of using those Legendary Rank NPCs as Player Characters. After all, the task at hand is a Legendary one..!

Now we're finally able to release the seven adventures in English, and Da Vinci's Engine is the first in the list. The other six scenarios are ready and will be published in the next weeks, one per month!

Each includes:

  • The adventure itself
  • The Character Sheet for the featured Legendary NPC
  • A custom Legendary Edge that embodies the Legendary NPC's true speciality
  • A unique appendix with some new options or game tools
  • The Ultima Forsan Conversion Document to SWADE.
We decided to add The Ultima Forsan Conversion Document to SWADE because we are releasing these adventures as they were when we first released in Italian, also considering that Ultima Forsan is a setting native to the Savage Worlds Deluxe edition, but the option to play with SWADE is there for those who prefer the latest edition rules.
Mauro and I are very happy with this release. Even though Ultima Forsan hasn't proved as popular, in English, as it is in Italy, Spain and Russia, it's a setting we love, and the general praise it has received and still receives makes us feel proud and also lucky to have been able to make it and share with the world gaming community in four different languages.

And to celebrate the return of Ultima Forsan, SpaceOrange42 has set the Ultima Forsan Setting Book at a discount price, so this is definitely the time to take a look, check the reviews it got so far (spoiler: 31 ratings averaging 4.5/5 stars!), and pick it up, if you want!



Wednesday, September 9, 2020

10 QUESTIONS TO: Marco Arnaudo


Marco Arnaudo has recently released Four Against the Great Old Ones, a pen-and-paper solo game that pits intrepid investigators against Lovecraftian cults and entities in the 1930s.

But who is Marco Arnaudo? Marco is a scholar of history and culture, a family man, a martial artist, a carnivorous plants enthusiast, and a big time solo-player!

Now, let’s see how good professor Arnaudo is at answering questions.

Nessuna descrizione disponibile.


1 Hello Marco. Tell us about Four Against the Great Old Ones as if you were trying to sell it to your aunt!

My aunts are all dead or insane, so it’s perfect; it’s like they played the game already. FatGOO (also known as “Fat Goo”) is a solo and cooperative narrative game set in the world of H. P. Lovecraft. It is based on the core engine of Four against Darkness, but it is a standalone game, and contains significant deviations adopted to fit the theme. The players start controlling a party of four investigators, and may recruit many helpers along the way. A great ritual is rumored to take place in 40 days to summon one of six possible cosmic horrors. The players must discover the clues to identify the location of the ritual, and must rush there to prevent the completion of the ritual. Happy now, aunt Pina?


2 Let’s talk about design. How long did you work on it? Was it a night job? How would you describe your creative process?


I’ve been playing FaD for a long time, and I had been toying with the idea of a Lovecraftian version for almost as long. Originally I thought of a dungeon crawler in which you’d explore a modular temple, but it felt too derivative, and did not really capture the spirit of Lovecraft’s cosmic dread. In the last year I reread basically all of Lovecraft’s works (including the collaborations), and made notes about the elements I wanted to include. Once I did that, and I was inspired by Four against the Titans to use an outdoors map, I started filling up encounter tables for different locations using my notes. I probably started doing this last January. At that point, I playtested it furiously to tighten and smoothen all parts, create connections between locations, ensure that it was balanced (by which I mean: lethal), and most importantly check that it was fun. By May I had a solid draft, which I sent out to external playtesters. They gave me further recommendations but overall said they really enjoyed the game. And here we are!!


3 Let’s get deeper into design. Four Against Darkness is a dungeon crawl game, and you adapted it to become a more story-driven game. Which was the hardest part of designing FAtGOO? And which was the easiest?

A big change I implemented from FaD to increase the narrative sense is that most events can be resolved only once per game. In FaD you can encounter hordes of goblins over and over again, and that’s ok, but how does it make sense to keep meeting Herbert West or Keziah Mason multiple times, always as if for the first time? I think by making most encounters unique I vastly increased the narrative element of the experience.

The hardest part was to fit all the most fascinating locations from Lovecraft’s world in a single map. I could set the story in the U.S. only, but then how would I include the settings of At the Mountains of Madness, Under the Pyramids, or The Temple? or I could use a world map, but then I would miss the original focus, which still is the U.S. The solution I found manages to hold together these two perspectives (I think!).

The easiest part was where to place most of the content. I wanted to be as faithful to Lovecraft as possible, so things generally speaking are in my game where Lovecraft placed them in his works. In some cases the location is undefined or underdefined in the original works, so I adopted my personal interpretation, and that was fun to decide.


4 Let’s talk about the publishing side of it. How did you get to publish FAtGOO with Ganesha Games?

Since my game was based on FaD, it was a natural choice to approach Andrea Sfiligoi and ask him if he’d be interested in publishing it. Which he did, hooray!


5 Are you satisfied with the reception it got so far?

It has only been 2 weeks or so, but all the reception has been very positive. Early players have spotted some mistakes that had escaped proofreading, and that we were able to correct before we produced the first printed copies. People seem to be having a good time with it, which is the point of course!!


6 Are you thinking of making more games? Are you already working on something game-related?

I am working on the first expansion for Fat Goo, Carcosa Rising, based on elements of the mythos coming from Bierce and Chambers. I also recently had a skirmish miniature game accepted by a major publisher. It is called Pulp!! and it is set in the fabulous world of the pulp fiction of the 1930s. It should come out in 2021, or 2022.


7 You are quite fond of solo and of historical games. Can you suggest a beginners-friendly game, and one for expert players?

For beginners, any game in the States of Siege system. For advanced players, D-Day at Omaha Beach.


8 You frequently play with your kids. How old are they, and what games have engaged them the most? Any tips for playing with kids?

They are 8 and 10. They both like fantasy games and eurogames, and the 8yo also likes historical wargames. The trick to playing with kids is: let them win the first game, to get them hooked, and then play honestly. Also, get them started ASAP, and ignore the age indications on the box. They have zero value.


9 Now let’s get back to your aunt. Please explain to her your book, Storytelling in the Modern Board Game: Narrative Trends from the Late 1960s to Today!

Ok aunt Pina, you haven’t read a single book in your life, and you only speak Piedmontese, but you are really going to enjoy this book in English. Also you hate games, so this is really an opportunity for you to branch out and discover how games learned to tell stories between the late 1960s and now. First wargames influenced the invention of role-playing games, and RPGs in return lent their narrative perspective to board games. The book tells the development of narrative trends in tabletop gaming in the constant interaction between board games and RPGs.



10 RPGs. What are your favorites?

Dungeons & Dragons and Pathfinder. It may make me sound basic, but it is what it is.


11 I know, they were supposed to be 10, but I have one more question before we say goodbye. Please point us to a song you think we should listen to.

Too Many Friends by Placebo!





Great song. Thank you Marco! Bye!

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