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!

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

About On Mighty Thews

 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!

OMT is available on drivethru!

Monday, September 7, 2020

KS Watch! The Majestic Fantasy RPG

 The Majestic Fantasy RPG crowdfunding project is in this final hours!

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".

It is also a crowdfunding with a true indie spirit, with no flashy art, but true gaming value. Check it before it ends!

10 QUESTIONS TO: Richard Woolcock

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:
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.

5 Tell us about the SWAGtember II Bundle. Which are your favorite contents in there?

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.

8 You are credited in several games, including the Savage Worlds World Builder and Game Master's Guide, Codex Infernus, and Guild of Shadows. How do you like writing for other publishers? Which of these projects engaged you the most?

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!

Saturday, September 5, 2020

About Four Against Darkness

Four Against Darkness is a great game by veteran designer Andrea Sfiligoi, author and publisher of an enormous amount of RPGs and miniatures games such as the hugely popular Song of Blades and Heroes, or my personal favorite Battlesworn.

4AD is a pen and paper solo dungeon crawler, which can also optionally be played as a gmless group game. It is a WILDLY successful game (see that MITHRAL badge on drivethru? Now check those 242 ratings on Amazon...), and has received a rich line of supplements, and a few spin-offs into other genres and play styles.

What I like about it is that rules are simple and straightforward, with the level of crunch and detail that I find enjoyable for a solo game! 

The core book contains all the basic rules which are needed in order to play, and a  dungeon which, probably, is the weakest part of it, as it feels too generic to really be engaging. This very problem is fixed with the expansions, each of which offers a focused story or dungeon, with full flavor, and story events triggered while you play.

The spin-off games derive from 4AD, but include all the rules needed to play, and usually expand them to fit different themes, settings and narrative structures, and as such are stand-alone products. They include titles such as the atomic age sci-fi Four Against Mars, or the survival horror Alone Against Fear.

The latest spin-off, one that looks VERY interesting (and I'm definitely going to grab soon) is the stand-alone game Four Against the Great Old Ones. Designed by Marco Arnaudo, it is an adaptation of the 4AD "engine", turned into a Cthulhu themed game where investigators must find clues and foil the plans of insane cultists in the 1930s US before doom happens.

As I said, Four Against Darkness is an ever-growing line. I hit Andrea for some sneaky preview of the an upcoming supplement, and he passed me a succulent preview!

The next 4AD product is Labyrinth of the Lurking Lepidopterae, an adventure written by Erick Bouchard who's already authored Warlike Woes and Greedy Gitfts of the Guildmasters, with illustrations by Andrea Sfiligoi.

Here's the description Andrea gave me:

Labyrinth of the Lurking Lepidopterae
This adventure occurs on the western continent of An-Mòr, north of the fungi-infested land known as the Sun-Kissed Vale, and to the west of King Ven’s dwarf kingdom of Kestar Kell. A merchant family from the southern isle of Enotria, the Van Pontoretto, is trying to cut the grass under their Dorintian rivals by finding new trade routes between the realms of Man and the dreaded Sun-Kissed Vale, rich in fabulous alchemical ingredients and delicious edibles. The safest path goes through Kassar Du, the mythical Green Door to the underground kingdom of Kestar Kell, but unfortunately it is forbidden to you. Maestro Van Pontoretto (that’s his actual name) has run afoul of Lyonette of Midlands, king Ven’s Guildmistress of the Armorers Guild. Rumors speak of crookery and romantic entanglements. Whatever the cause, the miner dwarves will not let the Enotrians nor your agents enter their lands, nor will they tolerate armed soldiers at their frontier.

The Labile Labyrinth
Fortunately, there still lies a path the Dorintians dare not thread – the Labile Labyrinth, a shimmering canyon between harsh mountain fangs inhabited by the sinister moth people and their insane queen. Ever since the gods cursed the moth folk to lose their flight, they have become vicious, forcing captives to obsessively collect insect wings when they are not killing trespassers outright. If a safe path could be established for caravans, the lucrative trade with the fungi folk – for they are not all dangerous psychopaths – would drive a hard blow to the Dorintian traders, and especially the Orfeld Company which has been denying the Von Pontoretto for far too long. All that’s needed is to establish a beachhead by having a first convoy arriving safely at the Outpost, the only known passage from human lands to the Sun-Kissed Vale. In the name of profit, free trade and maybe Enotrian patriotism, your party has been tasked with escorting a caravan of four chariots, half a dozen workers and as many llamas across this wicked and treacherous land.
Will You Survive the Labile Labyrinth? Four hundred gold pieces for escorting a caravan across a valley populated by butterfly people. Who could refuse that? Of course, it won’t be that simple. The moth folk fiercely defend their valley with treacherous traps and bruising brigades. Not to mention the menacing mushroom men, weird temples, shape-changers and the ominous Tower of the Screaming Virgins. Things wouldn’t be so bad were it not for the quarrelsome, alcoholic, lustful and dishonest crew members who you will have to keep an eye on. Add the bad roads, broken wheels, stolen cargo, tactical ambushes… and the llamas. Oh dear. Requires only the core Four Against Darkness book. This book contains adult humor, flamingos and lecherous llamas.

And here's also a preview of the cover, with art still not finalized, but nice to see!

Nessuna descrizione disponibile. 

KS Watch! For Coin and Blood Second Edition

 For Coin and Blood Second Edition is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter.

The project has already been funded, and the campaign goal achieved, with almost 600 backers and still four days before the campaign ends.

Immagine del progetto per For Coin & Blood: Second Edition

So what is it? For Coin and Blood is a grim old school fantasy game designed by Alan Bahr (with several contributions by other authors) where tropes are turned upside down as players take on the roles of the bad guys. The really BAD guys. Cutthroats, cult leaders, assassins, necromancers, and so on. You get to play the villains, in short!

Seriously, these are the classes available: Assassin, Blackguard, Cutpurse, Diabolist, Executioner, Knight, Machiavellian, Magus, Priest, Sellsword, and Witch Hunter.

The game features a solid old school ruleset, with a few modern mechanics. Most rules are the type you may expect in any BX/OE retro-clone: no skill list, just six core attributes, for example. But there's also room for an Advantage/Disadvantage mechanic, and things like class-based melee damage. And since the game is about villains, characters have an Infamy score, and there are rules for gangs and organizations.

This is a second edition as the game has been expanded and streamlined, with extra options and better editing, and more art, and the crowdfunding campaign's only goal is to make an offset print run, so this you won't find the usual, endless lists of backer options, stretch goals, and add-ons. 

I've had the opportunity of reading the pdf before release (because yes, the game is ready and the funds are only needed for the print run) and I must admit I find the rules intriguing and, strangely enough, fresh.

The book is a complete game so it also includes spells, monsters, and magic items. These I found particularly delightful, with wonders such as the Belt of Oppression, the Blade of Hero's Bane and the Rod of Rebellion.

The final section is The Port of Perchoir du Corbeau, a 15 pages city setting written by the well known freelance writer Darren W. Pearce!

Friday, September 4, 2020

KS Watch! New Bristol: A Campaign Setting for your Supers

New Bristol is a superhero setting currently campaigning on kickstarter.
It will be available in two versions: one for Savage Worlds Adventure Edition version and another using the Endless Realms rules engine.

The project is lead by Andrew J Lucas, freelance author and game designer with several contributions under his belt, and involves a solid group of writers and artists.

So what is it about? New Bristol is a city setting and a campaign. Here's a bit from the KS page that really intrigued me:

And here's a nice piece of art from the KS page, captioned "The Valiant Captain Daring":

So... I'm a curious person. I contacted Andrew and asked for something cool to show here, which hadn't been revealed elsewhere. and this is what I got!

Nessuna descrizione disponibile.

A cool piece of art by Akira Luca, portraying "The Metranome", an alien probe which serves the setting's main villain Baron Faustus.

And I was also allowed to share the current (because the stretch goals might boost it quite a bit) Table of Content! If you're curious what a Triceratops Rex looks like, check it on the KS page!

Designing Curse of Aufgartz

My current project is Curse of Aufgartz - A Savage Worlds Solo/GMless Game.

It is a dark fantasy story with a heavy Diablo 1 feel, offering several quests that you can tackle, and that will keep you busy for about one to four hours, depending on which optional rules you use.

Here's an early sketch for The Chainer, one of the agents of the Curse that you'll have to face in the game. Looks familiar?

Curse of Aufgartz builds on the experience I developed from the Gold & Glory solo rules, as well as from reading and playing the recently released Deadlands - Crater Lake Chronicles.

The design goal is to make a game that you can play with no GM, alone or with a group.

It works a bit like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, because you make story choices and go back and forth through the book, and also a bit like a board game.

You choose which quests you want to tackle, in a structure that resembles a typical Savage Worlds Plot Point Campaign, with Plot Points and secondary quests.

Each quest is a two-page spread, and it does not ask you to flip the book back and forth. All the options, events and game contents are there in that two-page spread. You finish the quest, you return to Aufgartz (the "home base" chapter), and select a new one.

I'm so excited about this project because it involves more than writing a standard adventure. It needs a structure and and a set of procedures that will allow the book to function as a GM, using some tokens and trackers.

The current iteration of the game includes a single-sheet printout called Adventuring Journal, which features: 

  • A Time Tracker, where you mark the passing of time. You mark boxes when you solve a Quest or as a consequence of some events. As time passes, more quests unlock, but the Curse also grows stronger.
  • A Quest Log, where you mark which quests are available and which you've already solved.
  • An Advancement Tracker, where you mark boxes as you complete certain quests or events. After a certain number of marks, you gain an Advance.
  • A Clue Tracker, keeping track of your success at unveiling the secrets of the Curse.
  • A table to roll random Curse Effects, which are triggered as you advance in the game and Evil spreads in the land.
All these bits work together fine... so far! But I'll sure need a group of playtesters to check how it works for good!

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

10 QUESTIONS TO: Eric Lamoureux

Eric Lamoureux is one of the voices of the Wild Die Podcast, and one of the brains behind Just Insert Imagination. As such, he’s designed a lot of stuff. His most recent hit is Wiseguys: The Savage Guide to Organized Crime, a Savage Worlds setting book that got launched with a successful kickstarter last year. To celebrate its one year anniversary, Wiseguys will be on sale for the whole month of September, so you should definitely take a look!

But who is Eric? Eric is a French Canadian living in the USA, a family man, and a person that strikes me as some kind of “well-adapted introvert”, which I have no idea what it is supposed to mean, but he sure is fun to talk to… or listen to, on his podcast. Plus, he's portrayed like this, Wiseguys style:

1 Hello Eric. Tell us about Wiseguys as if you were trying to sell it to your aunt!

It’s full of Italian recipes! hehe
Wiseguys is Tarantino meets Ocean’s Eleven and Goodfellas. You play mob associates and soldiers trying to strike it big in Las Vegas in the nineties after the Giuliani led Mafia Commission Trials put all the godfathers back in New York behind bars and left Las Vegas ripe for the taking!
It’s also a modern bestiary with over 100 NPC stat blocks, primers on 6 other crime syndicates, and setting rules to run heist and manage contacts that you can use in pretty much any other setting or genre.

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?

Wiseguys began with the adventure scenario published 4 years ago that followed the misadventures of five mobsters on a road trip in the Nevada desert with a body in the trunk of their Cadillac. People wanted more so Wiseguys was born.

I worked on Wiseguys for over two years part-time. I started by doing a lot of research. I wanted it to be about more than just Italian American men. I read countless articles and books and watched documentaries, tv-series, and movies. That’s where Tarantino influences came in with its strong female leads. That’s where I also learned that the Italian American Mob employed people of all ethnic backgrounds. This opened up the scope of the game and the characters that people could play quite a lot. If you look at the pregens included in the Jumpstart, you’ve got a Latina roller derby player, a black Elvis impersonator, and a former med student showgirl with a pet venomous snake. You can’t get this roleplay experience anywhere else!
I then wrote the Demo Kit which was also a playtest document. I ran a playtest group, ran it at conventions, and also used feedback from a few playtest groups. After that came the Jumpstart which was more polished and used all that feedback and experience from the first year. This was pretty close to the final product. The last six months was a lot of grinding, rewrites, edits, and incorporating material from other writers.

3 Let’s get deeper into the design. Which was the hardest part of designing Wiseguys? And which was the easiest?

The hardest part of designing Wiseguys was to decide what made the cut. I ended up with way more than the 180 pages included in the final version. Managing the whole project from writing to managing the Kickstarter campaign to art direction was also quite the challenge. There were about 20 people working on this project from writers, editors, proofreaders, layout, graphic designers, and artists. The easiest part for me was probably running the playtest. It was a lot of fun.

4 Let’s talk about the Kickstarter that launched Wiseguys. How do you rate this experience? What have you learned?

The Kickstarter campaign was an amazing experience. It was my first project and it was quite stressful; I didn’t want to disappoint anyone. I’ve learned that we, at Just Insert Imagination, have the support of the Savage Worlds community and we’re so grateful for that!

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

I’m currently working on two freelance projects. However, I’ll let the publishers talk about them when they’re ready.

Morne and I at Just Insert Imagination are currently exploring mini-settings for Savage Worlds. One is an urban fantasy setting that takes place in Cape Town, South Africa where Morne is from. The other one is a stone & sorcery setting where cavemen must save their homeland from cosmic threats. Think Genndy Tartakovsky,s Primal meets the Cthulhu mythos.

6 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.

That’s a tough one!
I think the Chronicles of Riddick series would work great in Savage Worlds with planets trying to kill you and the Necromongers being the secondary antagonists. I’d design a deadly planet generator for sure!
The other one would have to be the Evil Dead franchise. Savage Worlds would be a great fit for Evil Dead’s campy and slapstick style.

7 Let’s see how good you really are as a role player. You are a Hollywood screenwriter, and you must now write a five lines email to convince Mr. Warner Bros to produce a movie based on one of Mr. Lamoureux’s adventures or settings. Go.

I would spike my hair straight up, show up unshaven and rant on about explosions, the underdogs taking on a bully, big guns, exotic location, and six-pack abs!
So...Do we have a deal?!

9 Talking about Savage Worlds, you are quite the authority. Which are your top three settings? Actually, I’m pretty sure one is Beasts and Barbarians, right? So tell us about the other two.

Yeah, Beasts & Barbarians has been a steady top 3 for me since the day it came out and satisfies my cravings for sword and sorcery stories.

The other two are very seasonal. Right now I’m quite enjoying Deadlands: The Weird West. It has a lot of depth and is quite versatile. Some people play it as a straight-up western, others use the horror elements, while some play it as a spaghetti western.
I’m on an Arabian Nights kick right now so I’m quite enjoying reading Hellfrost: Land of Fire


10 One last question before we say goodbye. Please point us to a song you think we should listen to.

Very few songs move me the way Jeff Buckley’s Lover, you should've come over does.

Thank you, Eric!

Thanks for having me, Giuseppe! Keep writing great games and doing this service for the community!

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