The Secret Files of Section D - Taster Edition has just debuted!
It is the free, introductory pdf to the upcoming Secret Files of Section D setting for Savage Worlds, soon to launch for crowdfunding.
I'm very happy to say Allan Wroe passed me the file a couple weeks ago, so here's a short review and my overall impressions.
First of all, we're talking about a nice 90+ pages pdf, with a nice, retro-style layout and lots of art.
Here's a bit from the Introduction, explaining what Section D is and what the game is about:
So what have we've got here? A pulp-era, historically accurate, unconventional espionage setting where heroes punch Nazis, face supernatural mysteries and investigate dark conspiracies, and all of that in a very British, adventurous but also humorous flavor.
Here's another snip from the pdf, showing you a nice piece of art, a new action-oriented Setting Rule, and a cool quote.
Beside describing the setting, the Taster Edition PDF offers a few examples of setting rules, new Edges and Hindrances, and new gear, focusing on spy gadgets as they were in the 1930s.
And then there's "Trouble in Tripoli", which is a HUGE three-act adventure, complete with pre-made characters and an incredible amount of maps. Of course I'm not going to spoil it here. The adventure begins as an investigation into an unusual robbery at the British Museum, but evolves into an action-packed scenario that will see the agents visit several exotic locations and face some incredible villains.
The setting and adventure look really fun to me. Download the Taster Edition see for yourself!
One topic that now and then surfaces on forums and social media about Savage Worlds is how players end up picking the same Edges (Combat Edges, usually) and developing the same skills... aka "all characters look the same".
In time I've come to think of this as another problem: it's just that "all your adventures are the same"!
Players develop their character to adapt to the situations that emerge in play, session after session. If they only have ONE meaningful, relevant Social Conflict every six sessions, no player is going to go beyond Persuasion d8. If you always set up four combats per session, everyone will end up picking Quick, Block, Dodge, etc... and so you would, too!
This is not thoroughly bad, mind you. It simply makes sense that most the heroes of a Veteran posse in Deadlands pick the Brave Edge: they've been facing (and hopefully defeating) all kinds of horrors! Same in a Weird Wars campaign, with the Quick Edge: be quick or be dead, you know.
If you as a GM want to see variety in player characters "builds", you must offer variety in adventure situations! Investing in a "face" type of hero requires a return for the advances spent there. Let those count, make sure your adventures include meaningful social interactions.
Meaningful means those situations and rolls truly affect the story in a major way. A Social Conflict to win Allies can turn an impossible fight into an easy victory, for example.
The same is true for all non-combat skills and linked Edges. Leadership Edges are only good if characters get Allies. Survival, Repair, Occult, Academics, Piloting, and related Edges, are only good and will be picked after character creation only if they play a reasonably important and frequent part in your games!
Because it really boils down to effectiveness. As a player, I know that Combat Edges and skills may make a difference between life and death. If, after a few sessions, I feel that Charismatic, Scholar, Woodsman won't make a dramatic impact on my adventures, changing the course of events for the better, I'll keep stacking Combat Edge upon Combat Edge.
Some campaigns are heavily focused on combat, and that's ok. Maybe player characters are soldiers, or monster hunters, etc. If you want to preserve character variety, several approaches might be tried.
You may put limits. A maximum of one Combat Edge during character creation, and/or a maximum of two Combat Edges per Rank.
Or you may put incentives into developing different features. During Advances, players might be allowed to gain twice the benefits of each advance if they don't pick Combat Edges and/or attacking skills: gaining two Edges, or four skill points, or one Edge and two skill points.
Both courses of action are not great, frankly. Adding limits to players' choices is always bad. And having characters gaining the equivalent of two Advances at once might create some really bizarre situations.
In short, even in a military or combat-heavy campaign I would still suggest to put as many non combat situations as reasonably possible!
Many Savage Worlds setting books include adventure generators. Some outline the goal, villains, and complications of a scenario; others, like the one in Saga of the Goblin Horde, explicitly refer to game systems (Chases, Dramatic Tasks, Social Conflicts, etc) to be used for each scene or situation.
Pâris also is a big RPG and miniature games enthusiast, and one of the nicest persons I have met on the internet. He also appears to own a lot of baseball caps and Geek Jerseys.
1 Hello Pâris. Tell us more about the genU GAMER program. What is the goal? What is the strategy? Tell us all about it!
The GAMER department of genU in Victoria Australia is all about having a ton of fun, but its mission is profoundly serious. Using a variety of table-top and electronic gaming hobbies, the team at GAMER assists young people to develop a variety of interpersonal and coping skills. GAMER’s goal is threefold.
First is to provide a safe, inclusive, and fun environment for young people that is conducive to their self-development of coping and interpersonal skills. These core skills are essential to communication, empathy, and processing information effectively and are the foundation everyone uses to achieve needs and goals.
Second is to assist young people find their place in the world. Not by conforming to a norm, but by celebrating the strengths they possess and communicating those strengths in beneficial ways so that others appreciate those strengths as well.
And third is to remove the stigma around mental health and increase the general understanding of the effect brains have on everything people do.
GAMER assists a wide range of youth and we typically support young people living with the challenges of psychosocial disability and/or a non-neurotypical brain. Sounds like we work with exceedingly rare people when it is said like that, huh? Well the truth is, I would bet my bottom dollar that you and your readers not only know people that fit this classification but may identify with one or both.
Psychosocial disability is when someone’s mental health becomes poor and affects affects their ability to cope with social interactions or interact with their community in a way that is beneficial. You may have heard of terms like anxiety, depression, phobia, or post-traumatic stress. These, and a whole bunch of other things, come under psychosocial disability.
A non-neurotypical diagnosis does not mean that the individual has a faulty or broken brain, far from it in fact.
Non-neurotypical brains do operate differently to what is considered a typical brain, but different does not mean incorrect. The differences mostly centre around the way the individual processes and comprehends social cues and sensory input. You have likely heard of terms like Autism (ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder), Asperger’s (Part of the spectrum of Autism) and ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). These all come under non-neurotypical, but do not let the term “disorder” lead you down the wrong path. Many incredible and talented people have non-neurotypical brains and their ranks are made up of accomplished academics, artists, engineers, tradespeople, teachers, and leaders from all walks of life.
Our strategy is amazingly simple. We leverage the power of play and positive peer guidance to provide organic and meaningful experiences of learning and exploration.
Everyone that attends GAMER programs have personal goals. These goals might be things relating to:
the way they communicate, which is as much about listening, and reading body language and emotions as it is about presenting effectively.
the way they process information which may include better or creative problem solving, understanding consequence of action, comprehending the motivation of others, and dealing with setbacks.
understanding themselves. The individual may be struggling with self-identity and how they see their actual value. It may be about understanding themselves in relation to their community, trusting others, and teamwork. It could be about setting meaningful goals and discovering not only the direction their life should head but understanding the necessary milestones along the way. It could also be about developing coping skills and strategies to overcome mental illness and maintaining good mental health.
GAMER facilitators use these personal goals as the blueprint for how to deliver the programs. The participant is added to groups that we believe will provide the most relevant peer connections and best opportunities for development. This is typically based on appropriate maturity levels, similar goals, and compatible gaming and pop culture interests of all members of the group.
Games and activities are facilitated to provide organic and meaningful exploration and practice of the skills being focused on, as well as a high potential of positive guidance and reflection by peers.
2 Tell us about YOUR job within the program! What do you do, actually?
Believe it or not, my official job title is Head Dragon Wrangler. One of the advantages of building a department from scratch is you get to give yourself a title as well. 😉
I am the manager of all the GAMER sites in my region and responsible for supporting and training my staff, evolving current programs, and developing new ones. Just for the record, my staff’s job titles are either:
Dragon Wrangler – Which means they are Role Playing Game facilitators, War Game Facilitators, Board and Card Game Facilitators, and/or Miniatures painting facilitators.
Digital Vanguard – Which means they are Video Game Facilitators or Multimedia Facilitators (which includes The GAMER Podcast and GAMER TV programs).
3 How do you pick games for the program? Do you use them as they are, or adapt them somehow?
The games we pick are very much dependant on the interests of the participants and how they naturally provide the development opportunities we are looking for.
We do not modify games or use specially designed games for our programs. There are two main reasons for this.
One, GAMER is about celebrating and exploring what people already are invested in because that is part of who they are.
Two, we want people to join gaming groups outside of GAMER and it is much easier to do so if you have already played the games being used.
D&D 5e is extremely popular in our community and at our local gaming store, so we play 5e at GAMER. Board games and card games that are popular have a home at GAMER, but we also welcome people introducing new games into our space. It must be noted that Savage Worlds is gaining popularity in our region and, apart from me, there are two other Savage Worlds GMs at GAMER. 😊
While we do not modify games, we do lean towards games that easily and organically lend themselves to skill building. Where possible we will use co-op board games, or team-based games, over ones where the players are against each other. This does not mean we do not use player vs player games. They can be good for teaching regulation of emotions, empathy, etc. It really depends on the group.
An example of how we might use an off the shelf game to assist someone:
Imagine a person who likes card games but currently has few skills with team work and may communicate in a way that upsets others. In this instance they may gloat when they win and get upset when they lose. It is not that this person is a bad person, they just do not currently have the skills and understanding of their impact on others. I might suggest playing DC Deck Building Game by Cryptozoic Entertainment. The core game is competitive, easy to learn, and is full of the characters from the DC Comics universe.
We would play the base game first, promoting positive interaction skills using our program system. After the individual has demonstrated adaption to the way they present their wins and losses, we would introduce the Confrontations expansion. This adds a couple of rules so that players play as part of one team vs another. We keep the competitive element that the individual is attracted too, but we can now demonstrate the benefits and understanding of teamwork.
Once the individual becomes comfortable with the team game, we might introduce a Crisis-expansion. This expansion makes the base game a completely cooperative game as all the players must work together, even giving up some of the best cards to others because it is better for the team, so they can overcome all the crisis events and defeat the super villains.
Everything we do is based on gently pressing against individuals comfort zones; that sweet spot where beneficial adaption grows. For some adaption is faster than others, so the above example could take a couple of sessions, a couple of months or even a year before the goal is attained.
4 Tell us about the Rainbow Dungeons & Dragons group and, what is your view on inclusion in the hobby at large?
GAMER is all about inclusion, so It was important that we can provide a group where individuals that identify with the LGBTQIA+ community can not only feel safe, but feel safe to be themselves; even if they have not come out to friends and family.
I can only speak about the hobby in Australia, but I suspect it is not much different around the world. Before it was cool to play tabletop games, our hobby was inclusive. It did not matter who a person was, it only mattered that they loved the same games. I have been to gaming conventions right across this country and every game table I have seen is always a mix of cultures and identities sharing games, learning from each other, and creating good memories.
The focus on inclusion in our hobby is not new, but now that our games are more widely understood and accepted, we are making an impact through leading by example and not being scared to address the issues.
I realise that there are vocal voices in the community that claim pandering to minority groups is destroying the hobby. They are loud because of social media, but they are an exceedingly small part of the hobby and, most importantly, are incorrect.
Diversity has always been the strength of tabletop gaming. Everyone has always had a home in our hobby and because of this our community continues to grow stronger and our games are continually getting better.
5 Representation of minorities in RPGs has become a hot topic, recently. Has it ever come as an issue in your work?
It has never been an issue, but we talk about it all the time.
We have discussions about perpetuating stereotypes in pop culture, the misuse of words that cause harm to various communities when attached to a negative experience, and about misconceptions regarding various peoples and communities.
We want to promote discussion and reflection over almost any topic so that participants can learn, develop empathy, and consider/process points of view counter to their own. Our participants must feel safe to talk in our space, or we cannot assist or guide them effectively.
However, we must always ensure that GAMER is a safe space, so we do redirect discussions just before they can become inappropriate.
6 What are the most popular RPGs within the GAMER program?
Dungeons & Dragons 5e, Savage Worlds Adventure Edition and Fantasy Age.
7 And what are your Top Three RPGs?
Hmmm ... depends on what you mean by my top three? My current top 3 or the ones that have influenced me the most?
My current top 3:
Savage Worlds Adventure Edition
The Year Zero Engine
The AGE system
The games that influenced me the most, top 3:
Basic & Expert Dungeons and Dragons (Red & Blue Box)
Star Wars D6
Savage Worlds Deluxe
8 Has your job changed the way you play/run games? What lessons have you learned, as a GM or player, and want to share?
Definitely. There are many, but the most important I think is ... just roll with it.
When you have played for as long as I have, you can get preconceived ideas about how games should run. Fighters should fight, Clerics should be vessels of the gods, NPCs are just there for plot hooks, Dragons should horde treasure, Orcs and Dwarves are always enemies, etc., etc.
My participants never stop throwing me curve balls and I love them for it. Unburdened by preconceptions of how fantasy or sci-fi worlds should be interacted with, the actions they take, the people they seek out to talk to, and the solutions they come up with can come from left field. This has even left me speechless as my brain tried to factor on possibilities I never saw coming, and because I am smiling so hard. This does not mean that our games are just silly encounters, far from it. They are just not typical. Amazing, inspiring, and engaging stories have been shared because my players see value in things that many experienced RPG players can overlook.
I needed this.
Once I let go of my preconceptions and just played what was in front of me, the gaming moments became magical and it breathed new life into my love of the hobby.
9 Nerdy parents are introducing their children to RPGs everywhere, and kids-oriented RPGs are being released every year. Do you think games should be adapted for younger players?
Kids have been role playing since humankind first walked the earth. As a species we are pre-programed to watch those around us and learn by coupling mimicry with imagination. Kids do not require a written game for this, but RPGs can be helpful for parents looking for ways to join in and bolster their kids fun and learning.
Young kids do not always have the patience or attention span for rule governed games, even rule lite ones. You may be better off handing them cardboard boxes to fashion into forts, cars, dinosaurs, or spaceships. Paper tubes become everything from wands to telescopes to laser cutters. Just be there with them, play alongside them and listen to the stories they come up with. I guarantee you it will be better than any packaged product.
Introduce your kids to RPGs, but do not be disheartened if they do not get it or want to play in ways the rules don’t say. There is plenty of time to introduce them to the hobby you love, and they will get it when they are ready.
10 One last question before we say goodbye. Please point us to a song you think we should listen to.
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.
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:
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!
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.
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)
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?
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!
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
On Mighty Thews is a pulp sword & sorcery RPG by Simon Carryer, and one of my favorite "modern" (or "narrative") RPGs.
OMT is designed for prepless oneshot games or short campaigns. At the beginning of the game, the players and the GM follow a few simple, engaging, fun steps that create a "setting" for your session (it can be a city, an empire, a continent, or a whole world). This is mostly done by taking turns at drawing a map, one element at a time. The map will be used by the GM as a setting for the adventure, so the players have a chance to put whatever they think will be fun to see in the game. Infested jungle? City of merchants? Ruins in the desert? Draw it to on the map...
It is a "modern" game, meaning that the rules don't aim at recreating physics but at producing a fun, coherent story, and it codifies specific situations where players partake of the GM's narrative authority.
With proactive, creative players, this game is wonderful. I know, I've played it a lot! It is not particularly suited for campaign play (no conventional character development), but it's amazing for one shot, prepless games.
A fun trivia about OMT: Savage Worlds was one of the inspirations for the game, and so some of the OMT dice, wounds, and raise mechanics are immediately familiar to SW players!
TMFRPG is an old school ruleset, largely compatible with the early editions of Dungeons and Dragons.
What's cool about it? I won't tell you about the many little differences and adjustments this particular system offers because you can read about it on Robert Conley's blog.
I will tell you my completely personal take on it. Rob has been into the hobby for 40 years, and has been running an OSR blog for ages. He's authored a lot of gaming supplements, with a true indie spirit.
A blog I love, one of the blogs that got me back into RPGs after a long hiatus, and that made me fall in love with the OSR. The ethic of the die and random table, the real sandbox play, these are values I've learned from his blog.
His ruleset currently on Kickstarter is the system he's been using for years, and I think it is the kind of experience any OSR enthusiast should be delighted to delve into, and a lesson into the "there is no holy text of rules, the game is there for you to enjoy it and make it your own".
Richard Woolcock is quite the star in the Savage Worlds community. He’s a true master of the rules (I sometimes think he knows them better than the authors!). He’s got one awesome blog full of useful tools for Savage Worlds, and he’s authored or co-authored a tremendous amount of stuff, simply too much to make a list here. I’ll just mention three:
his best selling title (I suppose), Fantasy Archetypes for Savage Worlds, winner of the 2019 SWAG Award
and the wildly acclaimed Saga of the Goblin Horde Savage Setting, which is not a best seller simply because it’s free. Seriously, go grab it now!
He’s even authored two special Gold & Glory dungeon adventures, Hightree Warren and Ebenezer’s Gold. And it doesn’t stop. Richard is also one of the most active members of the Savage Worlds Adventurers Guild community (SWAG, for short), and of the Unofficial Savage Worlds Discord group. But who is Richard? Richard is an Englishman living in Germany, a family man, and a person that struck me as extremely gentle and thoughtful, with a sense of humor that I find irresistible.
Here's Richard making funny goblin faces while GMing Saga of the Goblin Horde at the Modena Play con back in 2018 (I'm the one on the left):
1 Hello Richard. You’ve published so much stuff that it’s hard to decide what we should be talking about. There, that’s your first question. If you were to tell us about just one of the things you designed, which would it be? Tell us about it!
Hi there Giuseppe, nice to talk to you again! If I had to pick one thing, it would probably be The Gobfather, because it ties together a lot of other stuff I've worked on. It was originally designed as a crossover for Saga of the Goblin Horde and Wiseguys, but it can also be played as a standalone mini-setting -- and it comes with a conversion guide for my Tricube Tales system, so you can even play it without a copy of Savage Worlds! It's also the sequel to my recent Goblin Gangsters one-page RPG. I'd wanted to create a mini-setting for a few years, and I'd also wanted to write a larger (and less railroady) adventure than my usual One Sheets, so I decided to combine both ideas. The mini-setting part of The Gobfather is only 6 pages, but it follows the same structure I'd use in a full-size setting. The 11-page adventure is called "Baking Bad" (about a baker who turns to a life of crime because he needs the dough), and it has the same sort of humor as Saga of the Goblin Horde.
2 Let’s talk about design. How would you describe your creative process? What are the things you enjoy the most? Anything you dislike?
If I had to describe my creative process in one word, I'd say "haphazard". I always come up with ideas much faster than I can turn them into products, so I end up keeping notes on all sorts of different things, and will usually work on multiple projects simultaneously. However, once a project crosses a certain developmental threshold I double down on it, working on it exclusively until it's finished.
In terms of likes and dislikes, my two favorite things are probably the creative process (particularly designing game mechanics), and seeing other people enjoy my work. I dislike doing layout, but I prefer to do my own because I want full control over the appearance of the final product. I also dislike marketing, I feel uncomfortable promoting my work and trying to convince people to buy it.
3 Are you currently working on something? Can you tell us about it?
I'm currently finishing up Fantasy Archetypes 2, which is similar to the original, and includes artificer, assassin, barbarian, bard, gunslinger, monk, psionicist, and swashbuckler. After that, I plan to expand Saga of the Goblin Horde and update it to SWADE (I'm also updating the One Sheets and adding them to the main book as Savage Tales).
4 You are one of the most active members of the SWAG community. Can you pass some quick suggestions to aspiring or beginning SWAGgers?
I've shared a lot of my thoughts about the creation process in "Turning Ideas into SWAG" (my article in the World Builder and Game Master's Guide), as well as on my blog. But I'd also strongly recommend joining the Unofficial Savage Worlds Discord server -- a lot of SWAG designers hang out there, and are always happy to give advice and suggestions. There are also community efforts organized through the Discord server, like the SWAGtember bundle, which can really help give new designers and their products a promotional boost. Nobody can work in a vacuum, so it’s important to network and communicate with other creators, particularly if you’re new.
There's a lot of great products in there, and I wouldn't want to play favorites by naming any names, even if I had a favorite! However, I think the main strength of the bundle is the diverse range of products it contains -- there's something for everyone. It really demonstrates the creativity of the SWAG community, and will hopefully encourage more people to join us on the Discord server :)
6 Let’s talk to the family man. Already started playing RPGs with the young one? What are your thoughts about RPGs with younger players?
I think it's a great idea, and I've played quite a bit with my son. It's good for his creativity and language skills, it's something that we can enjoy together, and my wife is happy to see him show an interest in something that doesn't involve a digital screen. He's always enjoyed having stories read to him, so I think RPGs were a fairly natural progression.
Tricube Tales actually grew out of a set of guidelines I put together for running games for my son. He generally prefers adventures based on his favorite TV shows, so I needed a generic system that could easily handle a wide range of genres, while also being fast to run and easy to understand.
7 If you could buy any franchise and make an RPG of it, what would it be? Tell us about the franchise and the game you’d make out of it.
It's tempting to imagine writing an RPG based on a big name blockbuster, but (even if money and control weren't an issue) I suspect the reality would prove quite stifling from a creativity perspective -- if you're designing a game based on a highly popular novel, movie or TV show, most hardcore fans will expect you to adhere loyally to the original vision, and even a small divergence from their expectations could be met with hostility. That doesn't really leave you much creative freedom, in comparison to creating your own settings.
So if I could choose anything, I'd probably pick one of my favorite book series, something weird and dark, but also fairly low-key, and I’d create a small rules-lite RPG for it (with a brief overview of the setting, and an assumption that the reader would read the novels for further details). Perhaps the "Twenty Palaces" novels by Harry Connolly, or the "Southern Watch" series by Robert J. Crane, or the "Deathless" books by Chris Fox.
I did quite a lot of freelancing in 2015 and 2016, as I wanted to build up some commercial experience and professional references before trying to publish my own Savage Worlds setting. It was an enjoyable experience and a great opportunity to network with other publishers and game designers, but it didn't leave me much time to work on my own projects, and these days I don't have a lot of free time anyway. I liked working on all of the projects, each brought its own challenges, and these helped me hone my skills. But while I still like to help out other people, I don't generally do freelance work anymore.
I think SWAG has also changed the scene. Back when I first started looking into self-publishing, a lot of people would begin with the fan license, then move on to freelancing for an Ace/Licensee (writing for Savage Insider, in particular, was a popular way of getting your foot in the door). But today, anyone can publish directly on SWAG if they want to, so freelancing is no longer perceived as an important stepping stone to self-publishing. I do still think that freelancing is worthwhile (the contacts I made have helped me a lot, and I gained some very useful insight into the way other publishers work), but SWAG offers many of the same benefits, with the added advantage of having more control over what you create (plus you keep 60% of the sales, and retain full rights to your work).
9 Talking about Savage Worlds, you are quite the authority. Which are your top three settings?
A major selling point of Savage Worlds is the sheer size and diversity of the settings it has available, and I'd find it difficult to choose favorites. But if someone was new to Savage Worlds, and wanted three examples of the sort of settings it offers, I would probably recommend Deadlands (because it's the flagship setting for Savage Worlds), 50 Fathoms (it's still the gold standard for Plot Point Campaigns, one of the signature features of Savage Worlds settings) and Saga of the Goblin Horde (what self-respecting game designer wouldn't recommend their own setting? Besides which, I specifically designed it to showcase the Savage Worlds system).
10 One last question before we say goodbye. Please point us to a song you think we should listen to.
I like humorous songs with a serious message, and this one relates to creating your own Savage Worlds products: They don't have to be perfect, as long as you enjoy them.
Thank you Richard!
Thank you too, I hope one day we’ll meet again at another con!