Saturday, March 31, 2012

Blades & Black Magic

This morning it struck me that I should make a sword & sorcery version of my TFT inspired game Heroes & Other Worlds.  One of the great things about the system and its progenitors is it fits quite well with the gritty and grim nature of Sword & Sorcery literature.  In fact thinking about it, it takes more effort to make this type of game fit the D&D fantasy realm then it does to play out a gritty blades & black magic sort of game.

The only question I have is should players be able to use magic or not.  In my mind I think no...I can't recall a S&S hero who cast spells...but you are free to persuade me otherwise before the ink is dry.

So what does this mean for the HOW main book...sorry, that will remain on hold as this new muse sings her sweet tune in my ear.

UPDATE: I am pleased and honored to say Artkid (Luigi) has agreed to a commission for a color cover and for additional internal B&W illustrations...and below is the initial logo.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Heroes at Play

My TFT inspired RPG Heroes & Other Worlds is currently being used in an online game.

While the free download manual is still a player focused beta 1.7, work has started on a revised and fleshed out manual for complete 48 to 64pg rules book.

As is, if you are a TFT fan, give it a spin, or join the game in progress it has just begun.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Booty & the Beasts

From 1979...a unique Erol Otus project/ product--fully illustrated by EO!!  Stated for D&D...but filled with all sorts strange alien technology and creatures!  For the weird fantasy fan or science fantasy fan, this is a must have piece of classic D&D stuff.

From the book's introduction
Anybody else ever seen this beauty?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The next D&D Next?

13th Age RPG
System: New
Written by: Jonathan Tweet and Rob Heinsoo
Deadline: Preliminary feedback 30th April. Full feedback 30th May.

Coming from Pelgrane Press Ltd.

What it’s about:

13th Age is a love letter to D&D: a rules-light, story-oriented RPG that honors old school values while advancing the OGL art. Players create unique heroes using flexible interpretations of familiar D20 character classes. New indie-style rules connect each character’s story to the Gamemaster’s customized version of the campaign setting.

Apparently you can also email Beth Lewis to sign up and play test!

What is interesting to me is you have the 3rd & 4th edition designers of D&D working on a rules-light OGL D&D love letter. Happy to hear about it, but I am curious why this love letter wasn't D&D 3.x or 4ed?  Well time will tell...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Legend of Zelda

I always liked this game and recently came upon some original concept images from Katsuya Terada

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Throne remains vacant

Last year I wrote a bit about GAMA 2011 and the vacant throne left by D&D abandoning the market. 2012 and it remains vacant at GAMA, and it has me thinking...

One of the defining marks of any genre of entertainment is the brand used to describe it.  In the 80's any video game was a "Nintendo"  Any hand held video game is still a "Game Boy"  Any MP3 player is an "iPod", and tablets are assumed to be an iPad. Sci-Fi films are compared to Star Wars, and role playing games are still D&D.

Yet in some of these genres we have seen evolutions. Video game consoles for a while in the 90's and early 2k were PlayStations, but now that seems to have broken out of that into specific system based references.  Online RPG's were EverQuest, then WoW, and next??

What's interesting to me is the lack of evolution or change in the branding of the RPG hobby. Does the D&D branding of the RPG hobby hold back the concept of RPG's?  There is stigma, rightly or wrongly, with RPG's in general and when discussing with others (my own designs or something else) its still, " D&D?"  This sort of mental pigeonhole is important for helping us grasp a concept and have a paradigm to work with a new concept, but it too can be a limiting like a cage trapping ideas and stymies progress or new ideas.

As the majority of the OSR posters, chatter, and products continue to wave the D&D banner high (through its use of clone rules/systems) I have to wonder if this isn't further perpetuating and keeping the D&D branding of the hobby (good and ill) alive--thus insuring there can be no growth beyond the D&D label for the RPG hobby?

Clearly Pathfinder has made a lot inroads in changing the D&D mantle for the hobby, and perhaps with its growth into new media it will come to break the D&D stranglehold and create a different perception of the hobby?  That's tough though as Pathfinder is based on D&D 3.X with some different chrome bits under the hood and a more modern paint job...yet in truth, it's still a version of D&D.

I say all this as I spent time on the show floor at GAMA, and beyond PSI representing a hodgepodge of brands at the show, there were NO other RPG's.  GAMA itself has grown significantly in attendance and while it is still not the 2 showroom event from about 5 years ago...its is much stronger and better attended than it was 2 years ago.  The growth in TCG sales, board games sales and even miniature game sales are all in stark contrast to the continuing declines in the RPG gaming category.  Yes I have anecdotal data to confirm that with distributors, but I also have the evidence of the show booths.  No new RPG's shown, no DCC, no Paizo, WotC info booth has nothing.  SO while other hobby game genres are growing or at least flourishing, for RPG's not so much.  I saw tons of new board games, new minis games, new card games but no new RPG's.

Don't get me wrong I don't somehow pine for the early 80's heyday of RPG games, but it is amazing to me how a trade show for 300 gaming store owners has so little RPG gaming to offer them for their shelves.  Perhaps Video has grievously wounded the d20 star? Perhaps the D&D brand stigma surrounding RPG's keeps the genre an after thought? Perhaps like a zombie, its only waiting to rise again.  Good ideas don't die...but they sure can take a bad beating.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Notes from the desert

Okay John Carter fans (movie or otherwise) I'd like you to take the way back machine to 2006--and seek out PLANET HULK!  I have recently purchased the TPB's of the Planet Hulk series-the prequel (don't bother) The Planet Hulk book (buy it now!) and World War Hulk (meh)  I highly recommend Planet Hulk TPG as it also includes the gladiators guide to Planet Hulk...which I will be using as inspiration for a new Rogue Space setting.

I have picked up (but not yet read) the son of Hulk TPB's which I believe keep the action back on Sakarr.  Take Conan + John Carter and add in a healthy dose of Hulk Smash: PLANET HULK!

Rumor is they plan on making a planet Hulk read the real deal before that frak it up!

I am in LV for the GAMA trade show...a small WotC info only booth, no Paizo booth , no Steve Jackson Games booth, No mongoose booth,...lots of distributors and card game and miniature game and board games and dice manufacturer booths though...

Monday, March 12, 2012

John Carter of meh

My wife and I saw the movie last week, and surprisingly my wife liked it better than I did.  My issues? Every shot of Mars had me thinking Arizona or Utah, the Colosseum scene was reminiscent of Galaxy Quest, the Red martians were just tan, the long, sacred boat sequence to get to the magic holy tree tower or whatever...and then just a 5 second return to the shore when chased by green martians? WTF?  They made it look like some holy hidden maze to find the goofy thing...and then bam the enemies are right there taking shots at their boat?  Oh and they run all the way along right back to the boats just in time to catch up with John Carter? WEAK.  C'mon that boat is paddling at maybe 8 miles an hour at best...and there are hundreds of rifle armed aliens--ask the British on the march back from Lexington and Concord how that plays out...WEAK!

I saw a lot of great acting the background--and the lead, just had no charisma, I really didn't care about Mr. Carter and his accent was about as Virginian as mine.  You can't make a story good by adding just feels like they were covering up for a rather poor adaptation of the story...or at least one that could have been 60 minutes shorter.  No worries, I don't think there will be a sequel.

From the news today...
 In what is certain to go down as one of the biggest box office flops of the year, the $250-million-plus "John Carter" debuted with a disappointing $30.6 million this weekend.
Instead, last weekend's No. 1 film, "Dr. Seuss' The Lorax," claimed the top spot yet again. The Universal Pictures film, an animated 3-D environmental tale for families, collected an additional $39.1 million. The movie has now grossed a robust $122 million in just 10 days of release.
Meanwhile, fanboys failed to gravitate toward Walt Disney Studios' "John Carter," a 3-D fantasy epic that has been eclipsed by bad buzz for months. But the movie starring Taylor Kitsch wasn't the only bomb at the box office this weekend. "Silent House," a thriller featuring Elizabeth Olsen, did not have an impressive debut, grossing $7 million -- but at least the movie was made for under $1 million. "A Thousand Words," an Eddie Murphy comedy that has been sitting on the shelf since 2008 and cost far more to make, brought in only a measly $6.4 million.
"John Carter," about a Civil War veteran who is transported to Mars, will likely force Disney to take a write-down, according to media analysts. Heading into the weekend, one Wall Street analyst, Evercore's Alan Gould, said the film could lose as much as $165 million.

Based on a century-old character created by author Edgar Rice Burroughs, "John Carter" was meant to appeal to young males. But a surprisingly older crowd turned up to see the movie this weekend, as 59% of the audience was over age 25. Those who saw the film -- a 64% male contingent -- assigned it an average grade of B+, according to market research firm CinemaScore.
Dave Hollis, Disney's executive vice president of distribution, offered little insight on why the film did not resonate with moviegoers.

“Every studio ultimately has their turn with a film like this -- despite how good it might be,” Hollis said. “I wish there was a simple silver bullet answer of why people didn’t come out in the kind of quantity we would have liked.”

"John Carter" was directed by Pixar Animation Studios veteran Andrew Stanton, best known for his work on films like "Wall-E" and "Finding Nemo." Unlike the movie's director, its leading man is still lesser known to most film-goers. While many television viewers are familiar with the 30-year-old Kitsch due to his role on the long-running television series "Friday Night Lights," "John Carter" marked the actor's first major film role.

Overseas, the movie fared better, grossing $70.6 million from 55 foreign countries, including Mexico, Brazil and South Korea. The picture performed best in Russia, where it was the No. 1 opening of the year and had the biggest opening day in the country's history.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sword & Shield Skirmish

I have posted an updated set of miniature skirmish rules reworked a bit to fit within terms from my forthcoming Sword & Shield RPG.  These are available for free download now in the Sword and Shield image link to your right along with the sample S&S RPG stuff.

They are very simple and easy to play! A battle lasts maybe 45 minutes to an hour.  Much less when you have the rules down pat.  I have played using both 15mm and 25/28 mm minis with no issues at all.  Give it a go and let me know what you think.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Upon further reflection

I can't speak to the act of creation for others, but as for me, time and distance tend to reshape my thoughts, directions and goals.  It is as maddening for me as I am sure it is for others around me. I would like to just "get on with it" and finish what I start as swiftly as possible but I find through reflecting on my work, I get to a stage where I stop and ask, "Is this too much?"  Sure any of us from the 80's can recall MTV adverts with Billy idol informing you, "Too much is never enough" yet even without a Rebel Yell of my own, I am afraid I must disagree.

D&D for me was (and is ) the Moldvay/Cook B/X boxed set series.  Yes I had the three core AD&D books and we used them and played them but If asked to choose between the two system, I would vote for the simple clarity and presentation of B/X.  I always felt the B/X rules were more open to change and frankly in their simplicity, were just more fun to play.


So after spending a few hours this morning working on spells and wizard classes, I sat back and cleared my head by watching some spring training baseball today. (Good Lord above I LOVE this game!) An epiphany hit me in the top of the 5th, I was guilty of doing what I hate in AD&D and most similar game rules: I was trying to codify and box it all in for you, limiting it all with rules. THIS is what a Witch Hunter is...THIS is what a Shaman is...THIS is what a barbarian is...yada yada yada.  What I really need to do is just write down and give YOU the basics.  You are going to make the game better for you than I can.  I need to get out of the way and let you do it.

No that does not mean all the additional classes and such won't come out, it just means it will be an optional booklet should you wish to add them in.  Not sure I'd call them Expert or Advanced options, because that is not their scope, maybe Veteran's Manual is closer to the mark, for folks who want a higher degree of specialist and specialization in their game.  Fully compatible no extra rules to learn really, just a lot of specialists kept out of the core rules booklet to facilitate ease of learning and play.

So what does that mean for you? Well it could lead to the Sword and Shield Core Rules book being done by the end of March.  The Veteran's addendum could be a month later in late April or early May.

Friday, March 9, 2012

From the Sword Forge

Between the launch of Rogue Space, my crazy work schedule and family obligations, I have still managed to knock out the basics for a full Sword & Shield player's book:

1) Equipment, armor and weapons complete
2) All Adventurer class descriptions complete.
3) All Specialties and their descriptions, complete.

So I still need to:
1) Create the Demi-human class descriptions 
2) Create all the Wizard class descriptions
3) Create spell lists for each class

I have thought about releasing the Adventurer class and the basic rules and such as a separate book.  Then having the Wizard classes and demi-humans as their own book. Regardless of those (one or two books) the Traps, Terrors and Treasures referee book will be a separate one.

Any feelings on splitting out the Adventurer classes from the Wizard classes?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Book, Box, and Bloat pt1.

Apropos of nothing, I have had swirling thoughts in my mind recently regarding campaign settings and cities, and a sort of history of their release as books and then boxed sets to the point of bloat.

Going back to the early days of gaming yore we find Greyhawk and Blackmoor.  Hallowed names and setting, but beyond the names of the books, they are both nearly devoid of setting. Both retained the LBB dimensions and delivery system, but were a mishmash of classes, spells, monsters, treasures and only Blackmoor contains an adventure.  There is no real campaign setting at all despite Gygax's inferences in the introduction to each.  I do not believe you could call either specifically campaign guides as that wasn't specifically what they were designed for despite the names and their mental reference to us today as campaign worlds.

Judges Guild in my mind is the birth place for what we think of us campaign guides and cities.
First published in 1976 the City State set a mighty high bar when it came to a campaign or city accessories. Including 4 maps, hundreds of npc's , and a complete, although spartan, text description of a pre-built city to adventure in.  Remember at this time, all you had were the digest sized LBB's and this was a complete 8 1/2" x 11" package flooding out with goodness that had to make any gamer weep with joy. Yet herein lies the seeds of extravagance and bloat.  Where JG packed a lot into the "do it yourself" City also laid a foundation, expectation, and guide that would  influence what was to come.

Saturday, March 3, 2012


I am pleased to say my first true RPG book is now up for sale...ROGUE SPACE The Dark Frontier is available for purchase on  There is a link to it in the upper right corner of the Rogue Space blog.  Just click on the the RPG book cover!

Beyond the book there are free downloads already available as well on my Rogue Space blog, including a free sample of the rules!

How much is it?? A measley $7.10 for a 64 pg rules book!  That is the production cost...and using the code LASSO gets you 15% off if you order right now! CRAZY CHEAP!

Now here is where I take all the risk.  I figure if you order the game at a very cheap price (less than a lot of PDF'S!) my hope is you will want to see more.  To do that, I'd ask that you to donate to the Rogue Space Program.  Your donations (or lack there of) will determine if there is...or is not...any future products for Rogue Space.  Considering a 64 page book is usually $20...I'd say there is some room in there for you to donate and support the Rogue Space Program, if you want to.

I have already gathered up some great contributions for the first issue of the Rogue Space magazine: Rogue Transmissions.  The first issue should be out in May this year.  

It's taken a lot of time and a lot help from some very talented and giving fellow bloggers to get to this point.  Please check out the Rogue Space site to order the game, to donate to the Rogue Space Program, and to support a lot of great people who are contributing original and unique materials to a the game.