Sunday, 6 April 2014

Music To Roleplay To: Audio App Impressions

Today on Music To Roleplay To, we look at a few audio application options for your games and my impressions on them:

Tabletop Audio 

I stumbled across Tabletop Audio the other day, an excellent resource for use in your tabletop games. The site features numerous free 10-minute loop-able audio tracks that are playable directly from a browser, no downloading needed. As of writing this, users can select from about 35 tracks from a wide range of genres (generic fantasy, cyberpunk, sci-fi, world war, pulp, mystery, horror, etc.), though the author agrees the majority of them might be on the weird side since he's been playing a lot of Numenera and Star Wars EtoE. Which I'm totally down with. :)


I like compiling playlists for my games, but the thing I really like about Tabletop Audio is the portability of it: sometimes you don't have the time and/or space to compile a playlist for your RPG. I've ended up playing/running a couple games that I'd have like to have some audio adding to the mood, but I lacked an appropriate playlist. Tabletop Audio appears to work in any web browser regardless of device, and I even tested it both from my (iOS) phone and tablet.

Another nice thing is usually when you play audio off of a device using a browser or app, you used to have to dedicate that device to playing, because when you go to the main screen and/or open another app the music ceases (unless using the dedicated music player, which are what playlists are for). A pleasant surprise I found with Tabletop Audio (and also other sites like Bandcamp) was when played through a web browser (in iOS least, tested both Chrome and Safari) it continues a site's audio when you switch to another screen, which is nice because I don't think it did that before. New iOS update? Anyway, one doesn't necessarily need to dedicate a device strictly to providing tunes.


Sadly, this method doesn't work with YouTube. The other downside to this being it requires connectivity to work, and if you don't have wi-fi access it'll either cost you in wireless or you'll be SOL so to speak. If connectivity is limited, you'd probably be better off with a playlist or an app.

Anyway Tabletop Audio is my current go to website for audio ambience for RPGs and boardgames. If you enjoy it as much as I do, consider donating some money to the designer to pay for bandwidth and as incentive to keep up the good work. :)


DMDJ

About more than a year or so ago, when I was first exploring my gaming audio options with my new tablet, I downloaded an iOS-only app to my tablet called DMDJ. A decent app for cost with a bunch of nifty features like SFX sets, music, ambient playlists, and dice rollers; though after trying it out in more than half a dozen sessions to provide audio to my games, I decided the interface wasn't intuitive enough and was more of a hassle. You can load DMDJ with your own audio playlists, but doing so takes a bit more work than loading a normal playlist.



One major problem I had was when swapping to another screen to check notes or reference something, I'd not only lose the audio, but the internal playlist would get messed up. Also I like orientating my tablet landscape-wise when at the table, and the app only displays in portrait. :\

The last update for DMDJ was in November of 2013, long after I opted not to use it, so some of the issues I was having with this app may have been rectified since then. Is it worth the $3.99 price tag? Debatable. I seem to recall paying more when I initially purchased it, they may have dropped the price since...


Syrinscape

Syrinscape is a cross-platform app that allows the user to have complete control over the audio packs provided by Syrinscape. Downloadable for free to PC, iOS, or Android with a few soundsets featuring an array of music, SFXs, and ambient audio. Additional soundsets or packs can be purchased from their store, saved to your account, downloaded, mixed and personalized across multiple platforms.


Though Syrinscape gives its users a dazzling degree of control over sound in their games, I prefer the fire-and-forget mentality of audio in my games: it should be in the background doing its job and not having to be constantly fiddled with, distracting the GM and disrupting the game. That said, you can personalize your soundsets ahead of time and run them that way, perhaps adding in a SFX or two to add a splash of sound into your games to spice it up if one desires. And aside from syncing, this app doesn't require an active internet connection to run.


The iOS app is currently only available in the US App Store, which means Canadian users like me have to switch stores to download it for our devices; and swapping stores always seems to mess up my account, so I've yet to check the app side of things.

Update: The designer of Syrinscape has contacted me to inform us that "Syrinscape IS normally available in ALL AppStores... we are just currently 'between' versions after a incompatibility between Unity and the current iOS literately silenced our iPad version! An updated fixed version is up for approval right now." Hopefully this means I'll be able to give a more thorough impression of the tablet app of Syrinscape soon. :)

Additionally, at the moment Syrinscape won't run it's audio in the background on tablets, which is an additional downside if you use your tablet has other uses at your gaming table than making noise.

Syrinscape's price is proportional to the amount soundsets purchased and the sheer audio control provided.


Keep On Listening! ;{١

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Scythe Squadron - X-Wing Custom Pilots

Though Mr. Jason Fuller's X-Wing card generator has not been updated for some time with all the new ships and their upgrades that have come out recently, I still was able to scratch my creative itch and come up with a few custom pilots for the X-Wing Miniatures Game. 

I created two named TIE Fighter pilots based off of the Scythe Squadron, lead by Major Mianda and filled with several handpicked pilots including Lieutenant Hebsly


Since the squadron was stationed in the asteroid-filled Anoat system until later reassigned to the second Death Star and upgraded for performance in confined areas, I based their pilot abilities around asteroid combat and maneuvrability.

P.S. I'm not one to plug bands often, but if you're a fan of Star Wars and black/death metal, I highly recommend you check out Hoth. They've got a new album called Oathbreaker releasing next month and both the cover art and the preview track are amazing. Their other album Infinite Darkness is also stellar!

Stay On Target! ;{١

Monday, 17 March 2014

Homebrew Species: Sakiyan

Here's a little something I made a while back for an NPC Nemesis in the Star Wars EtoE game I was running. Inspired by the recent editions of the brilliant fan-created Unofficial Species Menagerie, I developed my own unofficial Sakiyan species homebrew for players and GMs to use in their games. I've provided a brief description of the Sakiyans for those unfamiliar with them; more in-depth information can be found in this article on wookiepedia


Sakiyans


Image via wookiepedia
Physiology: Sakiyans evolved from predatory animals into humanoids similar to humans but with much larger, hairless craniums and sharper facial features including pointed teeth. Their reflective skin ranges in tone from dark shades of jet black, purple, and red to lighter shades of grey, jade, and pink.

The head of a Sakiyan houses a brain nearly double the size of a humans' with highly developed centres devoted to sensory-input that rival those of the large-brained Bith.

Society: Sakiyan family structure is separated into clans, also known as prides. These in turn are organized into convoluted family-political units.

The Sakiyans have a highly developed sense of honour, with the two prominent forms being Monthræl (personal honour) and Yithræl (pride honour).

Along with honour, hunting is very deeply valued in Sakiyan society.

Homeworld: Sakiya (also known as Saki), near the centre of Hutt Space. The species has also established colonies on the planets Sakidopa, Sakiduba, and Sakifwanna. Despite being in the heart of Hutt territory, the Sakiyans are one of two species that have maintained independence against the Hutts, despite numerous attempted invasions.

Language: Sakiyans speak and write their native tongue, and most are also fluent in Huttese or Basic.

Life on the Fringe: Sakiyans believe they are predators in a galaxy of grass-eaters, and with heavily societal focus on honour and hunting most become bounty hunters, assassins, big-game hunters, scouts, or survivalists.


Racial Abilities


Brawn 2 | Agility 2 | Intellect 2 | Cunning 3 | Willpower 2 | Presence 1

  • Wound Threshold: 11 + Brawn
  • Strain Threshold: 10 + Willpower
  • Starting Experience: 95 XP
  • Special Abilities: Sakiyans begin the game with one free rank in either Perception or Vigilance. They still may not train Perception or Vigilance above Rank 2 during character creation. They also start with a free rank in the Hunter talent.
  • Self-assured Predator: Sakiyans always treat Survival as being a career skill.

Obligation seeds: Dutybound and Family.


Feedback Appreciated! ;{١

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

GottaCon 2014

My third GottaCon has come and gone this past weekend, and again the exhaustion I felt when it was over was also a sign of how much fun I had.

It's kinda amazing to think that I was still in the hospital recovering from two operations a month ago. When I was finally released and back home, one of my motivations was to gain back weight and recover strength so I could attend the convention and hopefully not let my health get in the way of my favourite hobby. One of the many reasons I had such fun was because it didn't. :)

Victoria's premier gaming convention was held at the Victoria Convention Centre first time this year, and I believe the majority of attendees enjoyed the new venue compared to the large gymnasium that was Pearkes Arena. Though the majority of my time was spend in the RPG area, I enjoyed the multi-level layout and the use of area for all the events. I think the only complaints were how PA announcements were disruptive to RPG gamers, and how long the auction took to submit items, picking items, and paying sellers. Nothing major though.

Here's the break down of what I did with my time:


Friday

Around 3ish, I went downtown to pick up my weekend pass before the official opening at 5pm. My buddy and his friend were nice enough to pick me and my box of auction items up later around 5:30pm. Despite it being the first place I went once we arrived, I had to wait in line about an hour till I had my turn to submit my lots for auction.

Photo credit: GottaCon 2014
I was also quite fortunate to win second place in a Logitech prize contest, and the event hosts wanted to get a photo of me with the first place winner whom was only available at the convention Friday. (For those curious, I was awarded with a fancy Logitech G602 gaming mouse, a G240 mousepad, and a G430 headset.) That pleasant interlude and waiting in line I ended up being late for my first game:


7pm-11pm
Legend of the Five Rings - "Full Metal Kimono (A 20 Goblin Winter)"

My buddy Nathan ran sandbox adventure of his own creation in L5R. Nathan is a big fan of the setting and probably has the most if not all products, both for the CCG and the RPG. Thus with our pre-gen character info he gave us each a small deck of sleeved cards from the Second City boxed set. These cards provided the details of the five stances you can take in combat, along with the techniques each our PC's had learned in our respective schools.

These cards were quite useful for providing certain rules to us players, along with making our stance selection during each round of combat. I saw similarity to the conflict and resolution cards provided in the Mouse Guard boxed-set.

We all had much fun searching the lands as ronin for 20 goblin and monster heads each to gain fealty into the crab clan.




Saturday

12am-4am
Pathfinder - "Midnight Madness: The Trials of Heroic Sins"

I've played in a Midnight Madness game each previous time I'd been to GottaCon, but I regretting joining in this late night game later that day after a very short sleep. Though I know and like the GM we had and my fellow players were okay, I didn't really enjoy the session that much, possibly because it had an interesting homebrewed game mechanic:

Each table (I think five, each with a different adventure I believe) were using the same pre-gens, and the PCs could possibly gain and lose past memories every 10 min or so of real time. Every 'memory' came with both a narrative blurb and mechanical benefit. Each player was also given 12 points (6 acrylic tokens and a d6) that functioned kind of like sanity points. If a player wanted their PC to keep the memory they had when the time came to lose it and gain another they could pay one of these tokens to prevent so. At the end of the session any physical tokens remaining the players could keep for themselves if they wanted.


One of the problems was this mechanic wasn't very useful; occasionally a 'memory' and/or the associated mechanic applied to the situation in game, but the majority of the time it didn't. This led to most of the players at our table opting to swap them for a new memory given the chance. But since these 'memories' were distributed randomly from other tables, towards the middle/end of the night you might exchange it for something you already had before (one of our players ended up with the same 'memory' 3 times in a row). There was also some suspect by the end of the night that some players were hogging all the "useful" 'memories' and the "useless" ones were in circulation.

I think more variation to the 'memories' would have helped; since these 'memories' revealed some of the backstory of each character and their relation to other characters, it was disappointing to get one that you had seen before.

I also believe our story involved a bit too much puzzle solving for late night players, being helpless and restrained by the enemy, and despite being run in Pathfinder we only had two combat encounters throughout the 4 hour session, which also at the same time felt like they took too long (reminding again me why I'm not really a fan of 3.x or derivative RPGs anymore).

To sum it up, it felt like our PCs were impotent; which isn't really to be expected when you play heroic characters. Plus all that staying up late affected my gaming the next day and has lead me to make the decision to avoid playing in Midnight Madness and/or late night games at cons in the future. :\



Bookmarks!
9am-1pm
Lamentations of the Flame Princess - "Tower of the Stargazer"
Despite walking home after Midnight Madness, getting to bed at almost 5am, and being back tired at for 9am, I wasn't that useless I think. I got my first chance to play LotFP and I must say I really enjoyed all of it: our GM, players, adventure, and the system.

Common rules on the reverse of the bookmarks. Excellent resource.
The basic rules and OSR dungeon crawl theme was exactly what I wanted/needed after being tired and disappointed. Our group only encountered two combats, but unlike the combats in Pathfinder they went much more quicker and were much more interesting. And despite having just two combats, along with a good amount of puzzle solving and great roleplaying, the group was kept engaged and proactive. As I GM, I know how important pacing is and player interaction and freedom. It helps one understand first-hand the appeal of OSR games. Plus our two PC deaths were hella amusing: killed by a chess-playing ghost and eaten by alien moss-creatures.

The small A5 character sheets fit right in my notebook. Brilliant!

I had heard much about the infamous LotFP, read a bit of the free artless core rulebook on PDF, and been blown away by the Better Than Any Man Free RPG Day adventure last year, but again up until this point hadn't had the chance to sit down and play it. I definitely want to pick up a copy of this game in the future. :)


1pm-6pm
Between this period I chose not to sign up for anything and actually tour the event, chat with people, check the auction, and peruse all the vendors that were visiting. After browsing a bit, hunger called and a few of us went to grab a bite downtown. After returning I resumed browsing the vendors, and found one selling the Explorer's Edition of Savage Worlds Deluxe. The hardcover copy I own is decent, but the two Deadland's books I own are A5 height; it was cheap, and I hadn't seen it locally or been able to order it in, so I purchased it.

Just after I had done so and turned to leave, I noticed something upon the bookshelf that wasn't there a minute ago. A copy of the Star Wars: Age of Rebellion Beta had must've just been placed there by an vendor. Way back when they first announced Age of Rebellion I tried to get it ordered in locally, but it never came and my interest waned when more information was released about it.

Still here was a fresh copy complete with a six pre-generated character sheets and adventure in the back of the book, and this was a convention... Aside from the Star Wars fanboy in me, and the desire to add the Beta copy to my collection, I was hot with the concept of running an impromptu session at GottaCon.

In retrospect, the idea was bold, but ill-conceived; further hampered by the fact that I didn't have a single one of my three sets of narrative dice. In fact not a single one of the vendors carried them, and the only set we came across was for sale at the silent auction, which wasn't ending till 6:30pm.

I'm disappointed to say I ran what I consider a less than ideal session: At least I had gathered a bunch of players I mostly knew personally for this impromptu game. I explained a bit of the system after handing out the pre-gens. I intended to read and run the adventure Operation: Shell Game on the fly, but turned out the plot was a little hard to run if you hadn't read it beforehand. I ended up improvising most of it based off of my Star Wars knowledge and cues that my players gave, which wasn't that hard.


Most frustrating for me of all was attempting to teach and play this game when converting standard dice to the narrative task dice. The game really broke down when we had to assemble a dice pool out of standard dice, note which ones are positive and which are negative, roll them and then figure out the result by consulting the table. One of my clever players was able to get the managers to print off a couple copies of an conversion table image I found on my phone, but the conversion process was still frustratingly slow.

I think my players had a decent time nevertheless; though the PCs didn't get that close to their goal, I chose to end the session short on an amusing note for everyone. I hope I didn't end up wasting anyone's time though, and I'm still annoyed I wasn't able to give my group my A-game GMing. :S

GM Protip: Always bring all the kinds of dice you have to a con; you never know what you might need.


7pm-11pm
Conan d20 - "Escape from the Island of the Iron Statues"
I was ragging earlier how I'd grown away from 3.x derivative games, partly because I find they're rules heavy and the tactical combat tends to drag on. But, I also firmly believe that any game can have it's flaws greatly lessened by a skilled GM. And my friend Ash is both a brilliant GM and lover of Conan, and the fact that he GM'd our session in the centurion regalia that he'd been wearing for most of the day is further testament to his dedication.

Our charismatic GM, Ash.
Photo credit: Angela De Hoog Gruber
Ash's oratorian tone and demeanour enraptured his players into the epic tale we were together weaving. Each dice roll was kept interesting and the common issues I had with d20-games faded away when adequately drenched with narrative and story. Our GM knew the setting and theme inside-out, and applied them perfectly. We all had a awesome time playing. I hope in the future we can finished what else was written.

System-wise, though I only had a single session to try it out, I did like how Mongoose Publishing tweaked and changed the d20-system to represent the low-fantasy setting of Conan's Sword & Sorcery world. I'm a fan when the rules support the setting well.



Sunday

9am-1pm
Savage Worlds - "Ace Town and other High-Falootin' Stuff"
After a more wholesome sleep, I made my way back to the convention for my friend Takeda's Savage Worlds game similar to a sci-fi western Firefly-esque Universe with mutated beings. Our goal was to prevent a mad scientist from releasing a engineered virus that had a high chance of further wiping out the remains of humanity (if it can still be referred to as humanity since all us survivors of the first virus had mutated).







This excellent session was further supported visually by a series of printed paper 3D terrains created by fellow a gamer. A feast for the eyes and a fun romp.


2pm-5pm
Fate Accelerated Edition - "Benevolent Zodiac Delivery Force"
I had mentioned before about missing the deadline to submit GM events due to my unforeseen health issues, but chatting with the awesome RPG managers I was assured a table to run something if I wanted. I brought along the material I had made for the minor FAE hack I made called Fortune Cookie Fate. All the game and setting materials were light and took little room in my backpack to I needn't worry about being prepared. (One can read the details of the hack and the wacky setting that developed around it here.)

Photo Credit: Angela De Hoog Gruber

My only concern was finding enough players who'd be interested in playing, which turned out I was worrying needlessly: The GM for one game had to cancel a session so there were several players in the 2pm slot looking for a game, that and I had spread the word to several of my friends at the con and they showed much interest. I soon ended up with a table full of seven players. I had printed off six character sheets but I offered my seventh player Larry (who GM'd games-on-demand throughout GottaCon such excellent indie titles like Dread, Dungeon World, and Fiasco) my pre-gen example character to run.

Once I explained the mechanics of FAE and how they were going to develop their own PCs, my players drew a couple fortune slips initially for character aspects and stunt creation, and I had them draw at the beginning of their mission for a one-time tag-able aspect. I forgot to have them draw another when gave them their second mission, but no worries.

Benevolent Zodiac Delivery Force!
Photo Credit: Susie Dancer
I believe it was a very successful session. My players seemed to really get into the wacky, absurd Tokusatsu theme I was going for and I believed we all had a great time. As a testament to its success we all posed for the photo above afterwards. I'm thinking of running this Fortune Cookie Fate hack at conventions in the future.


Final remarks
Despite taking a while submitting my items and slow initial interest in them by auctioneers, I ended up selling every single one! I made a decent amount of money, and better yet I got rid of my unused geek items to gamers who wanted them. I was also fortunate that a buddy of mine bought the White Wolf and Witchcraft books I was going to auction off of me before the weekend, so I had less to lug to the convention.

My better half's birthday was the 3rd of March, and I wanted to pick her up something from GottaCon to supplement what I was getting her anyway. She's not much of a gamer (though I have been trying to change this these years) so it was kinda difficult to find something that she'd appreciate as much as me, if not more. I ended up getting her a pair of cute blown glass earrings by Bling Squared, and a cute Gelatinous Cube plushie by Weregeek. Suffice to say she loved them.

Many of us agree: if we were a group of dungeoneering adventurers and encountered a Gelatinous Cube with a face like that, we'd seriously lose our sh*t.

Because I was fortunate enough to end up running 1.5 (by my count) RPGs at the GottaCon I was invited to a volunteer GM appreciation dinner at a local pub the following Tuesday. There we had a splendid time with food, beverages and much talk about games and other interesting topics. A nice evening to follow-up the convention. :)


All in all I had an awesome weekend at GottaCon 2014 and I want to give a big thank you to all the organizers, players, GMs, volunteers, and most of all friends who made it so!

Can't wait for next year!

Cheers! ;{١

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Timely Decisions

Recovering from my surgeries and following up on my VHL complications has given me much free time right now and for a foreseeable future. I am anxious to be fully healed and eventually back to work, but for now I've be trying to make the best of the freedom granted. Here's what I've been up to, working, and planning:


As far as my health goes, I've been steadily working to improve it, mostly by working on gaining the weight and muscle I lost in the hospital by eating and exercising. Slowly but surely I'm working toward an acceptable weight, and turning the weight I'm gaining (mostly in the middle gut region) into muscle in my extremities. My hope is to be able to make it through the busy convention at the end of this month.


The other week I purchased my ticket for GottaCon for the last weekend of February/beginning of March. I got myself all registered on their warhorn.net page and signed up for scheduled events. Because of recent events causing me to miss my chance to get a ticket and signup for stuff early, (let alone run my own events) some of the things I would've like to been in have filled up already.

Despite that, it's still a hard decision selecting signing up between the unfilled events that fill each timeslot; there are so many things this year that I want to see/do! In the end I've signed up for events, with secondary selections in my calender in case my whims change. Right now, here's my personal schedule for the con:



Not listed are my secondary choices, along with all the other events too large or spanning multiple slots to schedule.

One of those events is the Silent Gamer Auction, which I plan to submit several items.

Around half a year ago, when my friend Jason (who started our much beloved Dresden Files group) moved up north, I ended up with two boxes of RPG books he intentionally left behind. Since then I've kept some of them for my RPG collection, but now the remainder (having double-checked permission as I still partially consider them Jason's) I intend to put up for auction to clear shelf space and maybe make some money at the same time.

Time to clear some space.

I'm also putting up a few non-RPG games that I no longer play like a few boardgames and my old Magic cards. The hard part is choosing how group the items and how much the minimum bid for each should be; I wish to garner interest for gamers to bid on said item. Last year the two items I put up didn't sell; the minimum bid for each might have been too high and/or no one was interested in them (well interested enough to bid at least).

I could group most/all the books as one item, but that risks alienating bidders with books they don't want, so the price would have to be very low (probably near minimum $1) to garner any bids. I'm leaning towards a bunch of low priced lots grouped around theme/system on best chance they'll be taken; here's my tentative list:



I'm happy to see Numenera has representation (its session is all full) but no Fate Core or Edge of the Empire love (which were two systems I was likely going to run myself this year).


Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Manhattan Project >Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles I

My best bud Mike came over to visit a last weekend; we took it easy watching shows and movies, I introduced him to Netrunner, and we played NES games like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Manhattan Project and River City Ransom (which we beat; one of my favourite NES games: beatin' gang members up and buying food with their money!)

We also swung by a FLGS where I picked up a copy of The Heart of the Wild for The One Ring I had ordered in before I went to the hospital, and the recently released bestiary for Numenera.



Yesterday I also received my print copy of The Day After Ragnarok (Fate Core edition). That combined with two other books gives me plenty of material to digest. Expect a post containing my Impressions of each forthwith.


The other night I finally got back into the local Netrunner scene having missed it for about two months, and I was surprised how many additional players have joined our local meta. Many of them are planning on attending the two Netrunner tournaments Saturday and Sunday at GottaCon. I've considered playing in one or both of the tournaments, but I'm more interested in the RPGs being run around those slots.


Also the game cafe that hosts Netrunner on Tuesday nights is where a championship tournament is going to be held Sunday, March 16th. The winners receive a bye at the Regional Championships, which were just announced to also take place at IBGC, probably sometime in May-July. If I miss out on the tournaments at GottaCon, I'll at least play at this store tournament, if only for the practise and the door prizes, and possible the Regional Championship during the summer.


Finally, I've been spending my spare time working on completing a project before GottaCon so I can showcase it to a couple people at the convention. I'm not ready to post the details online just yet, but here's a teaser photo. Clever readers might know what I'm doing...


Once it's complete, expect a juicy post with all the mad details. :D

Cheers! ;{١

Saturday, 8 February 2014

2013 Retrospective

As per usual, my 2013 Retrospective is late again, with better reason this time I believe. I've spent a bit more time considering the past year as well, and have broadened out my choices. Hopefully it'll be less hodgepodge this year than the previous!

Now, without further ado I present...


Jerreth Esq's Choice Selections of 2013



System of the Year:

The Cypher System (Numenera)

Strikes the perfect balance between more traditional RPGs like d20 or Pathfinder and more indie freeform RPGs, making it easy for either player to grasp the simple concepts and mechanics; design, develop, and customise their characters how they'd like. The system really places the power in the hands of the players by making all the dice rolls player driven, never keeping the game bogged down in adding mods or in the dark with hidden DCs. Intrusions are used by the GM to guide the developing story by rewarding players. The Strange, also looks the utilise the Cypher System, making the two cross-compatible. This post further details my impressions.


System Runner-up:

Fate Core Edition

When it comes to being able to make a easy characters and setting truly customisable, you can't get much better than Fate Core. Just the Core book alone is more than enough for the GM and players to collaboratively develop the setting and characters they want to play, whilst the additional core line books provide additional extras to make characters and settings pop. Also the Fate rules are so balanced and modular, there's no worries about breaking the system via this customability. I have yet to write a proper post of my impressions of the Fate Core line as a whole, other than briefly touching upon it in this post.


System Honourable Mention:

Star Wars RPG (FFG)

I'm willing to admit (again), I'm a huge Star Wars Fanboy, so I was really able to get behind this system/setting pairing early in the year. But now I've cooled a bit seeing how FFG is handling their Star Wars RPG line: some decent adventures, but some of the same old mechanics with the Age of Rebellion Beta and career splat-books makes me wonder if the publisher aren't breaking much from the mould of WotC's Star Wars line. Less rules minutiae and more new general mechanics I think is the order. You can read more about what I had to say in impressions Part 1 & Part 2.



Setting of the Year:

Numenera

I love the setting of Numenera, possibly more than the system itself; it's blend of far future science-fantasy is a setting that has been little explored in RPGs, and I truly instills a sense of wonder in me. It doesn't have to conform to either fantasy or sci-fi tropes to explain-away anything; and that is liberating to players and GM. The are very few RPGs I've heard of let alone seen that have such a unique setting as Numenera. Again, this post further details my impressions.



Setting Runner-up:

The One Ring: Adventures over the Edge of the Wild

I think represents the world and themes of Middle-Earth very well; though character creation and rules tend to be complex and at times confusing, the majority of all mechanics are based in the setting lore and not so generic as if you were trying to run The One Ring in a generic system like d20 or a basic Fate conversion. By far one of the nicest looking products I've come across this year, and have been gobbling up.



Setting Honourable Mention:

The Day After Ragnarok (FATE)

Kenneth Hite's pulpy, post-apocalyptic world is a mash-up that tickled my fancy so much when I was given a PDF with my Fate kickstarter bundle, I went I pre-ordered a print copy of it from Atomic Overmind Press (hopefully it'll arrive soon!). The setting itself is pretty unique, and the fact the team spent a bit of time making sure it can be inserted into a pre-existing Spirit of the Century game is also a huge plus in my book! The one thing worth mentioning aside from the broad but vague setting, is this book has random tables much more than any other Fate book I've seen. Finally, I'm still making slow progress on Strange Tales of the Century, but out of the two DAR seems a much better deal for perspective pulp GMs.




Adventure/Supplement of the Year:

The Devil's Spine (Numenera)

Whilst I may be beginning to sound like a broken record with my Numenera praise, The Devil's Spine is by far the best collection I had the fortune of reading over in 2013. Not only a collection of three adventures, each can be treated as treated as standalone or as part of a nonlinear mini-campaign, along with some additional material and setting that can easily be added to any existing campaign. The writing by Monte Cook is superb in every aspect, and it easily can be rated the top representation of the weird and wonderful world of Numenera.


Adventure/Supplement Runner-up:

Tales from the Wilderland (The One Ring)

If you're a fan on The One Ring RPG, and/or like stories set in Middle-Earth, then Tales from the Wilderland is worth checking out. A collection of seven adventures for ~$30 is an excellent deal I believe, especially if those stories can linked together to form a yearly campaign. Some might baulk at the linearity of some of the presented scenarios, but they all offer new themes and settings throughout the Wilderland that should keep your company interested and invested. If you're familiar with any other part of the line, you know Tales be nicely presented and art-filled.


Adventure/Supplement Honourable Mention:

Beyond the Rim (EotE)


Written by SWRPG legend Sterling Herhsey, I was totally into the hardcover mini-campaign that spans three episodes that touch upon a variety of planets, themes, etc. As to be expected it has a well-written, if a bit linear, overarching story. It would possibly be higher on my list if I hadn't come across something so jarring in the second act: (*Spoiler Alert*) I found the description of the "arboreal octopus" rather inconsistent with the image provided, not to mention this is Star Wars! Call it anything but what it is! Anything but would be better than "arboreal octopus", because I find that name so bad it is burned in my mind forever. It's early D&D monster bad!



Storytelling of the Year:

Fate Accelerated Edition (with Fortune Cookie Fate variant)

Although my variant was detailed in this first post of 2014, I got to actually ran it in late December, so I consider it a worthy contender for my retrospective. FAE showed its extreme flexibility that I was able to quickly and loosely throw together a theme (Benevolent Zodiac Delivery Force), my players were rapidly able to create characters within it, and we were quickly off enjoying ourselves in the fast-paced roleplaying that that group is wont to do, a while testing out my "Fortune Cookie" houserule idea. The fact that FAE was able easily support all of these without getting in the way cements it as a go-to system for those who want to focus on telling a good story above all else.


Storytelling Runner-up: 

Dread

I had the opportunity to play the innovative storytelling game Dread a few more times in 2013 and I absolutely love it. Dread has a amazing visceral resolution mechanic that you won't find in any other RPG, and the focus on character and the story are paramount in play. The one downside that might be seen is that Dread only really works for one-off sessions given its lethality, but this can be an oversight: who cares about growing characters when single sessions can be this intense! I'm willing to go far enough to suggest if you're a fan of the themes and setting of a horror scenario but not so much the system and mechanics, run it Dread and you will not be disappointed.


Storytelling Honourable Mention:

Hillfolk: DramaSystem 

First off, I want it known I placed Hillfolk in my third place Honourable Mention only because I have yet to actually run it. I read it and wrote my thoughts and impressions on this unique game back in November last year, so one can easily read my of it review if they wonder what it's all about, I highly recommend Hillfolk to players and GMs alike who place emphasis in their games on long-term narrative.




PDF of Year:

Vortex (Numenera)

Again with the Numenera praise! If The Devil's Spine is the must-have physical book, then Vortex is the must-have PDF. Around 18 pages Vortex is two-part sandbox adventure that showcases the truly weird and bizarre that the Ninth World has to offer players. The first in Monte Cook Games 'Glimers' PDF line and the GenCon 2013 launch scenario, I've had the chance to run Vortex a few times locally and at a convention, and always had a great time. The price of $5.99 might seem steep at first, but I think its worth every penny.


PDF Runner-up:

Dead Light (Call of Cthulhu)

Having backed the kickstarter for the upcoming revised 7th edition of Call of Cthulhu, I was pleasantly surprised when I recently received a download code for a free PDF copy of this scenario. Dead Light is a short adventure that can be easily inserted into an ongoing campaign puts the investigators in a survival-horror situation for a single night. The art and layout are good, if in the usual monochromatic pallet. Although written specifically for 7th edition, the scenario also contains a few pages dedicated to converting it for older editions, and allows Keepers who are on the fence on picking up the latest edition to see the changes made before they commit any money. This 36-page PDF is available to non-backers at $6.95 at the Chaosium webstore.


PDF Honourable Mention: 

In Strange Aeons - Lovecraftian Numenera

$2.99 at DriveThruRPG nets you 12 pages of Lovecraftian horribleness for Numenera: Monte talks a bit about the nature of cosmic horror and how it relates to the setting and themes of the Ninth World, and further supports this with a slew of new descriptors, NPC "skins", and several mind-bending mythos creatures of the known variety.

One possible oversight on behalf of the author was the yithians physically described are the commonly depicted of the "rugose cone" variety, with no mention of the Coleopterous race to be inhabited by them in the far future after mankind is gone. The far future and posthuman are subjective of course in the billion year history leading to the Ninth World, but it begs questions that further relate to the setting; did humankind die/leave Earth at one point for the Great Race to project themselves through time and space into the bodies of the "beetle folk" inhabiting one of the prior Eight Worlds, only for humankind to return; or is the possibility still yet in even farther into future that the doomed humans are finally extinct? Given the amount of consideration and writing I've given this already, we'll forgive Mr. Cook for keeping the page count lower by not opening that can of brainworms. GMs of course are welcome to take my musings for use in their games. :)

Nevertheless, I believe In Strange Aeons is a large boon for Numenera GMs that want to inject a little lovecraftian horror into their games.


Non-RPG Game of the Year:

Android: Netrunner

After playing Magic: The Gathering for many years, I eventually folded having growing tired of the various criticisms I had with it (like essentially paying to win). I was ready to swear off competitive card games, even after briefly dabbling in FFG's Star Wars LCG, when I was taken by Android: Netrunner. The details of such can be read here. Since then I've been collecting every Data Pack and Deluxe Expansion that has been released, and playing as much possible (which originally had been few a far between, but has been more frequent lately since a local meta meets every Tuesday at the boardgame cafe). I'm by far neither the best or worst player, but I enjoy the playing Netrunner without the frustration I felt in the past, because of the card format I know makes an equal playing field for everyone.


Non-RPG Game Runner-up:

Shadows Over Camelot

I really like this boardgame; I've stated before it has to be one of my top favourites. I've played it a few times now and it's still pretty fresh; last time we actually had a traitor in our midst, but still managed to win the day! I've also mentioned to my buddy who owns Shadows Over Camelot that there's an expansion called Merlin's Company that gives additional 7 knights and the wizard himself that now up to eight players can choose from, along with various additional cards and rules to add more depth to the game. I'm sure we'll be trying it out in in the future.


Non-RPG Game Honourable Mention:

Star Wars: X-Wing Miniatures Game

X-Wing is another one of those games (of the miniatures variety this time) that I currently collect more of than get the chance to play. Like Netrunner, none of my close friends really own it or play, but I do have a friend who really enjoy playing it as much as I do, so we meet and play every few months. I hope play will be more frequent as our FLGS now has a league on Saturdays that I plan on regularly attending next week, because I sorely need practise. Plus all the future expansions FFG is teasing makes the fanboy part of me drool.




Notable Events of 2013

Here's a brief overview of some of the notable events I attended the past year, and how they're looking in 2014. Feel free to skip it.

Wow, its a lot to think that almost a year ago was GottaCon V, where I ran my first convention RPG session. The next GottaCon (Feb 28th to Mar 2nd) is coming up fast and though I plan on attending and need to sort that out soon, because of recent events I probably will not have the opportunity to run any RPG events as much as I'd like to. (I'd like to run my Fortune Cookie FAE at a public forum to really test it out, plus I think it'd be heaps fun. And I still have my idea for an updated Spirit of the Century or Cosmic Patrol game that has some props/swag made using the Pulp-O-Mizer! I'd also like to run Numenera and/or Star Wars: Edge of the Empire with prizes as little Star Wars Lego things.)

The beginning of June 2013 was the fourth Victoria Steam Exposition for us local steampunks, which me and the Missus' had loads of fun volunteering at. We're eager at this time when and where the next VSE will be held; perhaps I'll actually run a game-related event or two this year, steampunk-themed of course.

Later in the month was Free RPG Day, you can read my account of it here if you missed it, and don't forget the Free RPG Day of 2014 is on June 21st! We all await to see what's available for grabs this year!

Mid-July of last year I got the honour of attending the 13th Annual Froth Barrel Tourney held in Nanaimo. I really hope to attend this year, and am curious the theme and system they'll be using.

August was the Day of Gaming at UVic, I ran a session of Escape from Mos Shuuta from the Star Wars: Edge of the Empire Beginner Game for a full group that went well. I missed my chance to try out Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, but I got played a bit of Netrunner instead and met some people. Hope this event gets run again in this year.

October I took some time off and visited old friends on a gaming holiday, after the Missus and I participated in the fun but wet 3rd annual Tweed Ride Victoria. On the holiday I got the chance to really put Numenera through its paces, along with the chance to run the EotE Free RPG Day adventure Shadows of a Black Sun/Under a Black Sun for the first time. It's also worth note that around this time believe I started fully developing symptoms pertaining to my VHL complications that gradually increased over the next few months. I was planning on attending the No Hunger Games event the following weekend, but I not feeling well and work prevented me from doing so.

Mid-November was Concentric at UVic, where I ran Numenera (I still intend on getting together with my players and finishing the second part of the Vortex) and played a few RPGs like Dungeon World and my friend's Call of Cthulhu/Dread hack, and leaving with a couple door prizes. I attended the Day of Boardgamers IV at Interactivity Board Game Cafe the following weekend and much fun was had. Tentatively rumours have begun to circulate of another Day of Boardgamers.



And that's my recap of 2013! Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!


Cheers to 2014! ;{١