Friday, July 27, 2007

Legends of Excalibur (True 20 edition) reviewed

I have to say, it doesn't get much better than a review like this.

It's clearly as close to a "real time" snapshot of someone's opinion of the game as you're ever going to find. And the deeper into the book he gets, the more he likes it. By the end of the review, he's ready to grab some dice and start playing.

Just really the sort of review that makes it easy to get up and go to work the next day, as opposed to following a more lucrative career path (like running a register at a convenience store).

I have finally gotten around to writing a review for "Legends of Excalibur" True20 PDF. I have put in a request on the meta forum to have this product added to the review data base. So it will hopefully be put up soon. In th emean time here is a copy and paste of my review, and let me know any other review data base (such as you would like me to add it to.

Legends of Excaliber is an 84 page Arthurian Legends adventure for the True20 system and done by RPG Objects. This is a review of the PDF product.

This adventure starts out with an interesting treatise on the various traditions of Arthurian Legend. Not sure why this is needed in an adventure, other than it established the "approach" of the modules author to his interpretation of the Arthurian traditions. This takes up two or three pages.
Nice selections of art are used.

Chapter 1 starts with Character creation. Knights receive 10 bonus points to creation to reflect the superiority required of the Knights of the Round Table.

Barbarians receive some interesting back ground and lineage traits are also given. Criminal and Serf lineages are given as base lineages, with traits given based on the background descriptions given by the author. I am definitely feeling a strong "flavor" being laid out for the setting with these descriptions.

Middle Class is then covered. So are "Lesser Nobility/Peerage". Both are given traits thhat are not only beneficial, but definitely help build the flavor of an Arthurian setting. The same with the Noblity lineage and traits.

Now the author covers archetypes, starting with Adepts. Specifically the Druid. The feats and powers are all geared towards making the Druid a "master" of the natural environment. The Enchantress is then given the same kind of treatment. Her feats and powers are geared towards dominating the hearts and minds of men and people.

Hedge Mages cover the roles of Merlin and Morgan Le Fey. The selection of feats and powers does a excellent job of allowing these characters to be closely emulated by this Adept.

The Hermit is the Healer and their selection of feats and powers helps make them very effective at saving people from their injuries. The Priest is also geared to be the same, but also reflects their divine devotions and martial abilities.

We then get into Expert Archetypes starting with the "Fool", who as the author puts it is "part minstrel, part Bard, part actor, part juggler, part tumbler" with everything about him focused on getting those around him to laugh. His large feat selection and skills will definitely aid the Fool in achieving this goal. A fun looking Archetype to play. If you like being a comedian this should do an excellent job in helping you have the NPC's, and your fellow players, laugh themselves sick. Plus the combat feats should do good double duty in helping keep you alive in those "tight spots". Definitely a fun and versatile character to play.

Next we have the Minstrel. They are described as Bards who are trained by the Druids. I find the selection of feats offered for the Minstrel to be very intriguing. Track, Trackless, Mass Suggestion, Suggestion, Connected, Contacts, and well informed being the ones that intrigue me most. Yes, another fun looking Archetype to play.

Then we have the noble, who is wealthy and has a very intriguing combination of feats and skills for combat,riding, being a leader, and diplomat. With other possible applications for the less than honorable nobility. A very intriguing selection for sure.

We are then given the Robber Baron, for the blatantly dishonorable, devious, and greedy personages so popular in Arthurian Legends. Crippling Strike, Sneak Attack, Stunning Attack, and Taunt should clue you in as to how despicable this Archetype can be. Especially when combined with the skills of Stealth,Disguise, Intimidate, and Sleight of Hand. Definitely all the elements needed to play a thoroughly despicable character.

The Skald is my kind of Bard like character. Ready for battle, to cheer up the troops, to inspire them, to convince them they can win despite the odds. Plus the ability to get those important secrets that can swing the tides of battle. Yet another intriguing character type to play.

Next up are the Warrior Archetypes. Starting with Crusaders. Those who go adventuring to recover some lost and needed relic and other similiarly important missions.They are almost as deadly as a dedicated Knight, which is covered next, but with some focus for surviving on your own in less than ideal environments.

Knights are, well, Knights. Death dealing machines riding on horseback. However, a Robber Baron will definitely give them a run for their money. So will a Crusader, if they ever have reason to fight. The only thing lacking is at least a little focus towards leadership. In my opinion anyways. Easy enough to fix, at least.

We then have the Marauder. Another vicious fighter who evokes the frenzied mad man laying waste on the battle field and to the lands around them. With All out Attack, Great Attack Focus, Great Attack Specialization, Frenzy, Sieze Intitiative, and the other feats offered, the Marauder will definitely be a terror on the battle field, in a raid, wherever they unleash their martial prowess and fury.

Things are wrapped up with the Yeoman. He is the archer, hunter, and all around woodsman, with a nice selection of feats and skills to help insure he is good at what he does.

Wow! Reading through this definitely has me strongly desiring to play in the world of King Arthur!

Now we go on to background info for the setting, including feats and other powers to help evoke an even stronger feel of the Arthurian Legends. These many pages (about 30) cover many aspects, such as geography, locations, write ups of key figures (King Arthur, Accolon, Mordred, and at least 21 others), the kingdoms of Europe in the times of Arthur (15th century time frame, I believe, is the timeframe the author chose), special druidic Henge's, major and lesser. All the background knowledge you'll need to have to run a rich Arthurian Campaign.

Then on page 47 we finally get to the "adventure" part with info about specific adventure locations. It starts with a general over view of towns and then gets into the particulars of a town called "Caerleon", with a nice map to accompany it. With 12 key locations given for the key location elements of the adventure.

With all the awe, majesty, and wonder of the Arthurian legends brought back by reading all the previous material I am ready to get into the adventure!

I do like how the author takes the time and effort to describe the day to day basics of life and commerce in the town, and in general. It will definitely help further PC immersion into the world of Arthur.

We are also given a nice sample city. Its an obscure city called "York". Again the author goes into the bare bones of points of interests and the back ground day to day stuff that will help me fill in all the blanks with my own imaginings.

The author also gives us a sample Henge, to help add even more dimensional elements to the setting, and to help us have consistancy with Henges. This is on page 53 to 54.

We are then given a sample ruined castle called "Tintagel". The castle only Uther and Merlin were able to "defeat". When you see the map it should be obvious to anyone what a challenge this castle is and why.

After this the author goes into using Quests as the main adventure seed, Breaking it down into the 3 main components. Set-up, Complication, and resolution, giving very solid advice as to how to flesh out these elements to become the adventures for your players.

We are then given two sample Quests, The "Invisible Knight" and the "Mechinations of Morgan:.

The first is meant to be a short-medium length "Quest", while the second is meant to be a Medium-Long "Quest".

On page 59 the author goes from "Quest" to "Campaign". Basically its tips and advice on how to do a long term game. Solid stuff for people who need, or are looking for, that kind of inspiration. Very solid guide lines for setting up and running a campaign. The author even goes into the importance of "Interludes", "Supporting Cast", "Recurring themes", and "Resolution". He also goes into ideas for keeping characters important to the story alive, especially to the Arthurian Legends themselves. We don't want Lancelot dying too early, etc... these are ideas other than DM fiat. So read them. They are good suggestions.

Next are "Campaign Adventures", set up based on the legends of Arthur, starting with Sir Ektor, with a nice map of his lands, then the "War of Ascension" with Arthur's drawing the "Sword From the Stone". Which is actually far more interesting of a scenario than I would have come up with. The "Wolf Lord" adventure is next. With Cameliard as the setting. A guess thats the "old English" word for "Camelot". Either way, nice maps, solid set up advice. Very good stuff. Good "supporting cast" write ups all throughout.

The author wraps up the adventure section with more solid advice on converting published adventures to the Arthurian setting.

The next 10 or so pages go into more of what I like to refer to as "flavor items". Its starts with rules for Jousting and conditions of victory. It wouldn't be "Arthurian" without some good jousting contests or battles.

This is followed up with "Supernatural Items". You guessed it. Thsi is where the author gives us his interpretations of the magic items of Arthurian Legend, such as Excalibur, The Dragon Helm, Gawain's sword, Calatine, the "Holy Grail", the Scabbard of Excalibur, and about 5 other items.

The remaining 5 or so pages are the Bestiary. Write ups for Centaurs, Cath Paluc, White Hart, Ogres, Pegasus, etc... Most of these are not full stat block write ups, but a paragraph or two on how these creatures fit into and can be used in this setting. With some recommended mechanical adjustments here and there. The 84 page PDF then concludes with the obligatory OGL statements.

My over all impressions.

As you can probably tell by the tone of my review and how it changes, the more I read the more I warmed up to this. IT does a great job of using True 20 mechanics and solid advice to help anyone bring the Arthurian Legends to life at their gaming table. All the art selected is very good, and relates to the content of this PDF. The maps are very nicely done, clear, concise, gives me the info I need to know, and none of them are "battle maps".

I failed to notice any spelling or grammatical errors. I'm not saying there aren't any, just that I failed to catch any that may exist.

I found the writing immersive and very compelling to run a campaign based on this material.

So since this does everything I want such a product to do, has solid layout, very nice maps, excellent art that supports the content, I'll give this product a 5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Covert Forces Redux: Review Snapshot

It's not often that you'll find me plugging the competition. This time, however, you got me.

I first met Fraser Ronald when he pitched a sourcebook on British Special Ops for the original Blood and Guts line, a book that became In Her Majesty's Service. It was a very well done book for its system, which I'm no longer a huge fan of but hey, live and learn. When I updated the system, Fraser updated IHMS to the Blood and Guts 2 rules.

Since then, Fraser has formed his own company, Sword's Edge Publishing, who release their products at Your Games Now. In addition to being a regular contributor to our Modern Dispatch e-zine, Sword's Edge does some really interesting fantasy and special ops books and I always make a point of keeping tabs on what they're up to.

Which brings us to Covert Forces Redux. Covert Forces began as small products each detailing a new type of special operator. The Redux takes the whole smash and updates it into one big product.

I like this book. I like it's approach. There are 7 classes: Close Quarters Training, Combat Diver Training, Containment Training, Counter-Terrorism Training, Freefall Training, Protection Training and Sniper Training.

If the names of these classes sound familiar, that's because they're a lot like those found in Blood and Guts 2, at least in spirit. In B&G 2 classes represent training, so I had Assault Training, Recon Training, etc.

For the B&G 2 Special Operations sourcebook, I added a single class, the Special Operations Training PrC. Covert Forces sort of takes my concept for advanced training, but instead of one generic class for special operators, they have 7 more specific ones.

I like it, and I especially like that it's just about 100% compatible with my Blood and Guts 2 stuff, which means folks can use both together instead of having to pick one and borrow bits and pieces from the rest.

I recommend anyone running a special ops game in the modern or near future eras to pick up Covert Forces Redux from the Distinguished Competition at Sword's Edge and Your Games Now.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Cold War: correcting an oversight

I just realized that, in the midst of a pretty hectic time for me personally, that Cold War by Mike Daumen didn't get the time in the warm, sensual blog-sun that all new products should get.

Oversightus correctus!

Stupid Harry Potter movie.

Wizards and Wiseguys

So recently, I did an open call for writers to submit material. I got submitted a lot of gems and got to meet a lot of interesting new writers. It was interesting how many of the books I got, and liked, had actually been turned down by other companies.

It turned out far better than I ever expected.

Actually, the day I got my first publishable submission, it was better than I expected.

Yeah, I'm cynical. Or is that realistic? I always get them confused.

Anyway, one of the first submissions I got was one of the best, Wizards and Wiseguys by Mike Lafferty. It's part Untouchables, part Dr. Strange. I can hear the Ennio Morricone soundtrack now.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

GenCon Adventure is a wrap

So, I just finished my draft of our 2nd annual Blood and Relics Gen Con adventure today. We're also going to be running a Darwin's World adventure again. We'd love for you to stop by and join us or just say hey.

RPG00872 Darwin's World 2007 Gen Con Adventure 8/18/07 10:00 AM

RPG00873 Darwin's World 2007 Gen Con Adventure 8/18/07 2:00 PM

RPGObject's 3rd annual Darwin's World Gen Con adventure. Explore the d20 systems most popular post-apocalyptic setting in this radioactive scenario.

RPG00867 The Blutfahne 6 8/17/07 10:00 AM

RPG00868 The Blutfahne 6 8/17/07 2:00 PM

It is the Blutfahne, a Nazi flag stained with Aryan blood and one of the party's most revered relics. What is not widely known is that some of that blood belongs to Hitler himself. The mystic order of the Teutonic Knights has conducted blood sacrifices to strengthen the bond between Hitler and the flag. In the years since, Hitler has survived one assassination attempt after another. As long as the Blutfahne exists, he cannot die.

Friday, July 13, 2007

I write letters...

So, as part of being a shut-in, errr freelance writer, I'm always at keyboard working (ok, almost always).

One of the things I like to do while working is listen to podcasts, as I've noted several times before. And since podcasts try to be all internet-y and interactive-y, they almost always have mail addresses asking for feedback.

I'm big on this. In fact, it's become a hobby of mine to let folks know what I'm thinking.

Well this has been a big couple of weeks for me and my letters, so if you ever find yourself curious about the sorts of things I blather, err, provide feedback about, you have a couple of opportunities.

First, there's the 6-26-2007 episode of the Hotspot, where I provide a dissenting opinion about the banning of Manhunt 2. I'm easy to spot here, because they identify me as "Charles Rice" when reading the email, which was a bit surprising.

Then, on this week's D&D podcast (7-13-2007) they have their "Mailbag" episode, specifically to respond to reader feedback, and mine is the first they read, they identify me as "Chuck from Holyoke" which again should be easy to puzzle out. Here my comment is about the hate directed at Wizards and their staffers over the cancellation of Dragon and Dungeon.

So if you want to hear what I think about two of my favorite podcasts, enjoy.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

So, I did a book for an X-Box 360 game

I've hinted about this here on the blog a bit but now the story can be told:

Press - RPGObjects Pens Tabletop Two Worlds RPG

RPGObjects Pens Tabletop Two Worlds RPG

72-Page Rulebook To Be Included With Two Worlds Collectors Edition For PC and Xbox 360

Minneapolis, MN - July 10, 2007 - RPGObjects is pleased to announce it has completed a tabletop version of the upcoming role-playing game, Two Worlds for Windows and Xbox 360TM video game and entertainment system from Microsoft. This OGL based tabletop RPG will be included in the Collectors Edition of Two Worlds.

Chris Davis, RPGObjects owner said, "Doing a pen and paper adaptation of a computer game was something I've always wanted to try. I hope when people aren't playing Two Worlds either by themselves or online, they can enjoy a tabletop game with their friends."

The Two Worlds tabletop RPG was adapted by veteran OGL designer Charles Rice.

"The chance to introduce players who love Two Worlds on Xbox 360 or Windows to the joys of using their imagination as their game engine was a challenge and a distinct pleasure." Said Rice. "For those new to tabletop gaming, I hope this adaptation will convince them to give it a try. For the veteran role-players out there who pick this up, I hope they find the book a worthy addition to the games they already play."

Two Worlds is being developed by Reality Pump Studios and Topware Interactive, and will be published by SouthPeak Games.

A Two Worlds homepage where you can find out more information on the tabletop version of Two Worlds can be found at

About RPGObjects
RPGObjects has been designing and publishing tabletop role playing games and software since 2001, including such acclaimed games as Darwin's World, Blood and Fists, and Legends of Excalibur.

About SouthPeak Interactive
SouthPeak Interactive, LLC has been publishing and distributing entertainment software since 1996. Recognizing the market need for an independent publisher, SouthPeak is focusing on marketing games from top-notch developers for all popular game platforms. Leveraging its outstanding distribution experience and retail strength, SouthPeak is currently launching new game titles in Europe and North America.
The game I did is a d20/OGL adaptation of the Two Worlds X-Box 360 game. It's pretty neat if I say so myself. It's a complete OGL fantasy game in 72 small pages (I was told the book would be the size of an X-Box 360 case).

Basically I took the d20 system flipped it, slapped it and rubbed it down, while giving it all the feel of the Two Worlds game (which looks awesome) that I could.

Player's Introduction to upcoming GenCon Adventure

Work has begun on RPGobjects' yearly adventure for GenCon. It's a Blood and Relics adventure set during WWII. I thought I'd give you guys a taste:

You sit in a briefing room with a group of strangers. Why you have been summoned to this quiet British theater while war rages across Europe you do not know. An American in a military uniform steps to the front of the room, the grim expression on his face reinforcing the apparent seriousness of the occasion, “Good evening and thank you all for arriving so quickly. I know this isn’t where any of us wanted to be so let’s make the best of it. My name is Captain Peterson. Please remember that this meeting is a state secret. Sharing anything you learned here today could result in serious consequences, not just for you but for the entire war effort”.

The lights dim and a projector flickers to life, showing a scene that unfortunately has become all too familiar to you: a Nazi party rally, the crowd being whipped into a frenzy by the increasingly manic rhythm of the speaker, Adolf Hitler. Behind you, Captain Peterson speaks, “This is Berlin, four days ago. Uncle Adolf working the masses into a frenzy, despite the fact that we’re pushing him back from Italy and France, with the Russians closing in East. Urging his workers to greater production, his soldiers to fight to the end to protect the Fatherland.”

Suddenly, an enormous explosion breaks up the maddening pace of the speech. After a moment the smoke clears and the crowd is once again visible, staring in stunned silence at the ruined, smoldering wreck that was the stage. “We’re fairly certain that the bomb was planted by someone within the military or bureaucracy, one of the forces that believe if Hitler is removed from the equation the Nazis can negotiate a separate peace with America and Britain and concentrate all their efforts on the hated Russians. Of course… wait, here it is. Watch closely.”

Suddenly the rubble moves, shifting. Hitler emerges from the heap, one arm missing, the entire left side of his face devoid of flesh, bare bone visible. How anyone could have survived such trauma is a mystery, much less how he could move. Then the man sinks to one knee, the crowd drawing back, perhaps in revulsion, perhaps out of respect as they watch their leader gasp out his final breaths. Time seems to stand still as the bleeding stops from Hitler’s shoulder, surely a sign that the heart has stopped and the madman lives no more. Except he does live. Straightening up to stand, he looks out at the crowd, his face completely healed. The shoulder healed over as well. The crowd explodes, some cheering, some crying, a few retching.

“It continues for about twenty minutes after this. By the end the arm has completely regrown. Hitler goes back and freshens up, then delivers a different speech than the one that was interrupted by the assassins’ bomb. He says bombs have been planted in his bunkers, that his aircraft have been blown out of the sky and that he has been shot by lone assassins attempting to trade their lives for his. He says he has survived all these because he cannot die. That he has been chosen to lead the Reich for a thousand years.

Now I don’t know if this is the greatest propaganda film of all time. We told the newsmen who got hold of it that it was a fake but our boys at the lab say they think it’s legit. Intelligence can also confirm many of the assassination attempts he mentions. We thought he was just lucky to escape again and again. But if this gets out, if it’s true, it would be a crushing blow to our morale. Not to mention, we don’t know how he’s doing it or if anyone else in the regime is unkillable. We have to find out. You folks have been chosen for just that purpose. You’re going to go into Nazi Germany, find out if this is true and if so, you’re going to find a way to kill him.

Make no mistake, there’s very little chance of coming back from this mission. But as long as Hitler lives this war will not be over. We need to find out the source of this… this power, this invincibility and eliminate it. And when I say we, I mean you.”

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Raise a glass for Marcus

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

My younger brother Marcus. Taken too soon.

Night Ride Part 1

Night Ride Part 1 “Look, Pa, it’s my turn. Also, Nana is having one of her spells again and she has no idea who I am when she gets this w...