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Monday, December 23, 2013

What I've been up to...

So its late in the year and my ADD has kicked in again (I don't really have it, but it happens from time to time none the less). As you've probably noticed I blog in spurts, which tends to mirror real life. This fall was an exceptionally busy one so I didn't get on here as much as I would have liked.

With that said I'm still noodling along with my game, dusting off my modules and writing them as it strikes my fancy. In the midst of all of that I'm also working on assembling a Nippon Army for the world of warhammer and painting on ocasion. In a way Im liking what im doing right now as I'm not tied to any one project so some updates:

Hurled into Eternity- As often happens Im in a bit of a lull on it right now, a lot of the core concepts of the game are solid and its in the editing phase. I havent been pushing my editor as it still needs playtesting. I like the rule set and hope to get back to it this spring.

2e modules- These are a bit of a conundrum. Right now they first three, W1- Tomb of the Lost Lich Lord, W2- Assault on the Hill Giant Raiders and W3- Aerie of the Ogre Magi Lord are in various states of completion with W2 being the most ready of the three. All will take considerable effort (even W2) to get to their final form.

Nippon Army- this has been fun, Ninja and samurai which was a popular trope of my 1980's youth! Its been a blast collecting minis to assemble my own Nippon army.The mini to the left is one Ive wanted for years but since I finally started working on the army I've slowly been assembling my force. I've also been working on a oriental castle too (check the blog on CDO).

Whats most likely to happen? Not sure yet, I think some discipline is needed on my part, but I do seem to have fun bouncing from project to project. Thats the beauty thus far of it. As much as I'd like to be a small independent game designer I just dont have the time to do so at the momement so probably better to keep it small.

Also since I've been asked a few times the answer is still no for returning to doing the Word of Hashut, while fun and it taught me a lot it was an enormous and time consuming undertaking.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

FASERIP, aka Marvel Superheros and its damn awesome

Some like Champions with its crunch, some like Villains and Vigilantes, for me its neither. If I'm going for a Super hero system it has to be Marvel Superheroes. In my mind nothing else even comes close. The Marvel system does a great job recreating the comic books. Henceforth I'll be referring to it as MSH.

One huge advantage that the system current enjoys is there is a wealth of information for the game out there, no more so then: To put it bluntly there is no shortage of material for the judge to pick from. TSR then Wizard of the Coast apparently let the copyright expire and it went to Public Domain, Woot!

The Marvel system is a breeze with many fans knowing it as Marvel FASERIP. FASERIP stands for attributes in the game Fighting, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Reason, Institution, and Psyche. The first four are combined to create the characters Health score and the the later three are likewise combined to determine the characters Karma. Health is analogous to Hit Points while Karma is akin to Luck Points in other systems. Characteristics range from Feeble (2) to Beyond (unlimited) with most being somewhere between Typical (6) and Monstrous (75). Once you start getting above Unearthly (100) it starts to get a bit dodgy but I think a skilled Judge can pull it off. In Marvel there is always someone tougher then yourself or you group.

Talents are likewise well thought out and easy to use. Equipment is likewise straight forward and does not bog the game down. In way the entire rule-set is an early version of the Savage Rules when one things about it, keep it "Fast, Furious and Fun"? MSH does just that.

While there are powers listed in the rule book the best route to go is to use the Ultimate Powers Handbook (don't forget the errata from Dragons #134 and #151 respectively). Powers is always something of a weak spot in MSH. The main problem is you pick a grouping, say Defensive and then roll to see what you get. I think it works because everyone would be picking the same powers (can you say every character with Danger Sense, Cosmic Awareness, True Flight, Regeneration and Invulnerability? That said in my groups we just picked powers and after rolling for the number of them and it always seemed to work out.

The box set is a great entry into the game ans has everything that fledgling players and the Judge needs to get rolling. I recommend actually getting the base game, and go for advanced rather then the basic rules (the picture above is from the Advanced game box set).

Most of my experience with the game was in High School where we played it irregularly which is a shame as it is a fine system. Most of my characters were mutants as I liked characters who actually had powers. This is probably because I also disliked DC comics whose heroes were typically non-powered as typified by Batman. One of my gaming crew from back in the day was a big fan of the rule set, but paradoxically a big fan of DC and created his own version of Batman he tried to foist on me. I had none of that and preferred to play my own characters.
"Don't leave super hero headquarters without me."

Task resolution is handled via well thought out system of green, yellow and red intensities. The task becomes harder as it goes from green to red and requires a higher % dice roll. Speaking of which being based on a d100 makes it easy to use and visualize for players where their scores lie. It also works perfectly with the rankings system of Feeble (2) up to Unearthly (100) in the attributes, one would guess they did this on purpose...

As noted above the Judge is spoiled for choice. He has a vast amount of material to draw on in the Marvel Universe before even writing his own stuff. The Basic line and the Advanced line covers all of the main material from the main run of the Bronze Age of comics in the 80's to the early 90s. 

If I were to play today I think a hi tech wonder character ala Ironman would hold the most interest for me. There is just something about being able to tinker with ones battle suit adding more gizmos then R2-D2 that is appealing.

No matter what you inkling you really cant go wrong with MSH as its a great system.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hurled into Eternity domain reserved...

As you  an see its not much at the moment, but I have taken the steps to make sure that I have my preferred URL reserved. In the future the plan is to house my online endeavors there with links to my Facebook Page as well as back to this blog.

As it stands right now Hurled into Eternity is being edited as we speak. My next goal is to get it to play testing then onto production for print. Right now a fiend of mine and I are contenplating some custom playing cards to go with the game. That is at the planning stages.

While Im waiting for the editing to be complete I'm hard at work on the first two supplements for the game as well as Restless Rust Monster Publications second game: a World War I aerial combat game. I have a name for it but will wait until its fit for release. Right now its a lot of ideas, but not in a cohesive form.

Stay tuned for more.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Man Cave/Game Area

Everyone has one, I'm lucky enough that I have the whole basement to myself! We built a house in 2011 so the basement is unfinished. I've been thinking of ideas for a gaming area, but haven't come up with a theme I want just yet. But, there is part of me that likes the ad hoc manner in which I'm doing it, putting up posters, picking up bookcases on the side of the road* etc. It harkens back to the days when we played in my friends basement Saturday nights in High School, at least until we could drive ;)

So without further delay, here is the state of Willmark's man cave, circa 2013:

* As much as I like technology I still like books and I am getting scads of them on the cheap. Same goes for bookshelves. Seems everyday people are throwing out perfectly good ones, wooden not fiberboard no less.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Weird War II- Weird Wars for Savage Worlds

Weird type events for World War II? Yes please. Unlike Deadlands I think this pulls it off. That is not an indictment of Deadlands either. I like the concept surrounding Deadlands and some have even said "finally one can role-play in the Old West" I disagree, but that's another topic entirely. The topic at hand is the Weird War II source book from Pinnacle Games for their Savage Worlds rules.

Weird War II is a sourcebook for using the Savage World rules system from Pinnacle games for a twist on Word War II. Like Deadlands there is dark elements afoot and Europe is in deeper trouble then just Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan. Weird War as a genre has been around for quite some time but I think that this book really captures in well for the first time in an RPG.

I'm not delving into the Savage World rules here per say as if you are reading this you probably already know how the system works. Instead I'm going to focus on the book itself as source material.

Released in 2009, overall Pinnacle did a good job of capturing the feel of the genre and the character creation really shines from the perspective of each of the main nationality identities. Each of the main nationalities has an advantage that is typical to soldiers from the corresponding countries. While one could play the Axis side I think the best way to handle a team is the Allies, not only are the rules set up this way but the mixed nature of the Allies means there is a great deal of latitude to use military and civilians packages. I think female players can draw great inspiration from the illustration on page 12It's a great way to get the ladies into action. Who wants to play a WAC when you could be a French Mademoiselle with a penchant for explosives blowing stuff up! In any event the game concept of the Office of Special Investigations really does away with the worry of women in combat anyways. basically if one can handle the horrors of Weird War you're in regardless of gender. In a way it also harkens to the Twilight 2000 rule set where units can be very ad-hoc in nature.

As a quick aside the equipment levels feels just about right for the game.

Additionally the rules add the right amount of new skills and edges to round out the game. I also really like the mission generator as it will really get the game moving. If the Warmaster is having a hard time coming up with something all he has to do is flip through there, role some dice and he has the party moving forward with something in play. Another factor that can help is the Warmaster can always "pull rank" on the players by having a superior officer issue them orders. In way this is awesome for the GM as he is usually at the whim of the players wandering around complaining about "railroads" after said GM has prepared options A, B and C. Invariably the players ignore everything and try for option Z only to then complain "there is nothing to do."

The material here is quite scalable to, going from personal arms all the way up to fighters and bombers and ships from the various navies! Rules for fortifications, battlefield rules, artillery, dsease, parachuting, you name it. In short you can easily play out almost every aspect (and then some) with the rules and the Savage Rules Explorer edition.

Large sections of the book also hone in on the Weird War aspects of the game (this really gets rolling in Chapter Five). The rules also add monsters as well as spell casting (particularly Nazi blood magic) and Soviet Psychic rules. While the natural tendency might be to focus on the ETO (European Theater of Operations) the campaign in the Pacific could be equally as exciting. With the vastness of the Pacific Ocean there could be a multitude of chances to encounter many weird aspects to the game all in sweltering heat.

The last chapter deals with the Axis powers and the Warmaster will be using it often as well as the monsters that are introduced into the game. Some notables are the Axis Stitch (soldiers sewn together from multiple bodies), zombies (the mustard gas ones are particularly nasty) and wehr wolves.

In terms of graphic design and art presentation I give it high marks. Even with some of the art being recycled from the previous incarnation of the rules its still good and uniformly excellent through capturing the feel quite well. Both the front and back covers deserve praise as does my personal favorite of the book, the picture of the Axis Stitch on page 163.

One negative I have for it being a hardbound book the gluing is flimsy. My copy is already separating from the spine and I haven't opened it a ton. Perhaps I'm a bit it old school there and feel the bindings should be better.

If I were to run this with my group I'd probably rely a lot on the imagery from Return to Castle Wolfenstein as well. I think there is natural overlap (and for all I know perhaps the chaps at Pinnacle were inspired by the game). I think if handled right by the referee that weird happenings in WWII could be a fun an exciting jaunt away from the traditional sword and sorcery realm of AD&D.

Another point is that the previous edition was d20 based. But if you are anything like me you can make almost anything work so you'll have resources to pull from. As I get older I still am not a huge fan of the d20 style of gaming, but it does offer up a lot of material to adapt to ones game.  The thing to keep in mind however is there is not much in the way of modules for Weird War so you'll be doing a fair bit of writing. I don't see this as a major problem when one considers Word War II was very well documented.

Another tactic to take soul be to use the Savage world rules along with the Weird War supplement and meld it into an alternative Earth. Or take it and combine it with the ideas presented in the RPG magazine the Familiar. In particular was the article in Issue #9 from 1996. The article entitles "Marxists and Magic" details the world of Zoor and the impact of Nazi science opening portals to the world of Zoor which is akin to more traditional RPG fare. The US and the allies follow and the Cold War comes to another dimension and or world. In any event the rules for Weird War II can be used in a multitude of ways.

In closing I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Talisman, as I know it

One great game that one of my gaming buddies Simrion has is Talisman 3rd edition. It's a very fun game with many twists and turns to it. I've tried to purchase it for myself many times in the past, but now days even the primary game (sans regions) is costly. And that is trying to procure it in a second-hand manner like eBay, to say nothing of the realm expansions (usual auctions end up around $150). Along with The Lost and the Damned its one of those items that keeps eluding me on eBay.

Talisman is one of our go to games when someone doesn't show up on games night. When one looks at it, Talisman is one of GWs better games. Rules are not overly complex, game length is just about right and its engaging with several strategies of play. It's also a classic with some readers remembering the older versions of the game. It gives good value for its cost (non-inflationary that is). The goal of the game is to amass enough power, garner a talisman and ascend the tower to slay the Dragon King. In theory a player can do this a number of ways, but one must remember that at the same time other players are attempting the same thing.

To start, each player randomly draws cards that list characters and the corresponding mini they will use on the game board, and many GW favorites are there: chaos warrior, goblin fanatic, chaos dwarf, and witch elf by way of example. Each character card has the figures special abilities on it. Some are better then others but all start within the same basic range. (There is quite an active community online still and fans regularly make their own characters for the game.)

The outer realms are boards (which are also known as regions) tie into the main game board adding the forest, maintains, city and dungeon respectively. This are stand alone expansions which further add to the cost of the game (GW never does anything cheaply). When in these outer realms teh playr rolls a d3 rather then d6 which causes you to move slower through the area.

Game play is fairly quick with lots of GW rules sprinkled in "if a conflict in the rules arise roll a d6, 1-3 you are right, 4-6 the other interpretation is" (paraphrasing here). Roll a d6 move to a space and draw the requisite cards indicated by the space. Initially in the hand many encounters will be deadly depending on ones character. Fights are either strength or craft. Warrior types do better at strength fights initially while spell casters usually go better in craft fights. One of the other players at the table rolls the dice for the opponents of the current player's turn (if any) so all of the players stay fairly involved even when its not their turn. I wont delve to much further into the rules but they can be found here.

I'm of the mind set that playing warriors are better if you want to win. Even the good characters like the Ranger, Templar and neutral ones like the barbarian are well worth it. Certain specialty ones like the Assassin are a toss up at times. Spell casters seem to be weaker as you are paying for the ability to cast with much lower strength scores to start and limited capacity for special rules involving combat.

Magic is a random mechanic and probably handled as well as can be. A character has to be able to cast spells (some can't) and have enough craft to do so. Spells are draw from a continuously recycling deck (all decks pretty much are in Talisman, but magic tends to go the quickest). Some spells are far better then others and some magic items boost a character's spell casting. On top of all of this, some characters have special abilities when it comes to spells that make them better still.

With all this said, there are certain strategies one might undertake and certain items and cards that are better then others. For one when your character is power enough challenge for the title of High Wizard and/or Sheriff boosting craft and strength. It gives enough of a critical boost to help you amass enough power to take out the Dragon King.

Another strategy is to attack other players which you are allowed to do if you land on the same space.  Personally I only do this on occasion as its usually not worth it. Typically the only time you really attack another character is if they have a talisman and you need one.

Other strategies include if you are evil looking for the Doom Sword which restored lost life on hits), looking for the Sword of Power in the Forest and the Hammer in the Mountains. Usually when I play I head for the Mountains or Forest when strong enough depending on which character I'm playing. In all the years Ive played Ive tended to shy away from the dungeon and should probably try that out as a strategy the next time through. The Mountains probably the best bet as its seems to have the greatest rate of return for the time spent there.

In any event I've enjoyed many a rousing game of Talisman with my gaming friends and over time I usually win (much to Simrion's wife's dismay). In fact the last two times I've played I've won!

If you can get the third edition its well worth it. For a product I give it 5 out of 5 stars, its that good.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Weird West Basic Roleplaying Game by Stuart Roberstson

At 8 pages and $1.00 for the PDF, Stuart Roberston's Weird West Roplepalying Game Basic Rulebook doesn't get more spartan, or cheap. But for some reason the price and style seems right.

Starting off the cover is cool, but is does mirror the art for A Fistful of Dollars which at the same time I appreciate being a fan of the trilogy. The whole PDF is in black and white and for some reason this works fine I think to give it a stark feel. The font used for the title Weird West is just right and of course the tentacle in the title of the game is cool however. It does have a watermark on it for your purchase. I would hope however that people don't feel the need to pirate a $1.00 PDF...

If you are looking for a ultra-light rule-set for your weird west games this is it.  I can't say that enough, it takes rules light to a whole new meaning.... A PDF with 8 pages, one of them being the cover and one the opposed fighting chart in the back so game in 6 pages, that has to be some sort of record. With all this said, for an experienced role-player the rule set is probably right up their alley. Certainly with years of judging a game a GM can easily wing those areas needed. A beginner woudl be lost in this as its not developed enough for beginners.

Characters four attributes and a path to guide one's character; it can probably fit on a 3x5 index card. The game is d20 based and utilizes the d4, d6 and d12. Levels and hit points make an appearance in the form of Stamina Points.

For one's character magic and weird west abilities are all lumped together, which in the interest of spartan rules and space probably makes the most sense.  There are spells like Electromancy and then skills which are treated as magic like Fastest Gun in the West. Later still is Shaolin Monk (which to me should be a skill, but its not my game). The playerr has 4 points to split amongst the attributes (Fighting, Grit, Magic and Skill), but must place at least one into Grit. Leveling is fairly simple the group deciding when to do so (usually between game sessions).

Initiative is handled with a simple mechanic: higher level characters go first. Combat is fairly straight forward using the familiar mechanic of rounds and an opposed role vs the defense. Modifiers are simple to understand with firearms ignoring armor, which is bit puzzling that armor is needed in a western... The Man with No Name in A Fistful of Dollars notwithstanding. Weapons are broken down by dice and with rifles doing the most damage at d10, the ever truty pistol  d8; lowest is unarmed attacks at d2. Further a character's path (aka class) determines what type of dice they have for unarmed combat: magicians utilizing the lowest and fighters the highest. Once reduced to zero stamina points in combat death is a possibility on a roll of a d6.

Skill checks are easy to resolve with examples of typical  tests appearing on page 6. Also on the final page of text are some pieces of advice for the GM and ideas on how to play.

The main criticism I have is it is not clear whether or not there is a traditional GM in the game. Only on page 6 does the word referee appear. The text seems to assume there is one previously, but its not until later that it becomes clear.

If I go too much further it will  reveal the whole game as its as mentioned it's so short. Suffice to say I like the system. All in all, it looks like an interesting game. I have no major plans to run it as I'm well into the creation of my own western game, but as a source of inspiration it was worth the price. It does have the honor of being one of only three western style RPGs I read while creating my own (the other two being Boot Hill and Western City).

Lastly for my game Hurled into Eternity will probably be a supplement down the road. (NOTE: as a update: my game is under a number of revisions right now and the version that is up right now has some new changes coming making the game even better, stay tuned.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

WFRP- 1st Edition- Small, but vicious dog

A few years back Fantasy Flight Games released the 3rd edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. At first, I thought about purchasing the latest edition. The problem was, that much like when WotC went to 3rd edition with Dungeons and Dragons the move to 3rd edition WFRP resulted in  a vastly different game, and hence no sale for me. 1st and 2nd edition Dungeons and Dragons are pretty much the same game and interchangeable, same for 1st and 2nd edition WFRP. 3rd edition in either case? Not so much.
Trollslayers are always cool.
In thinking about that new version, my mind harkened back to one of my best friends and the rousing games of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay that we played in his basement. We adventured through the Power behind the Throne series almost to the very end and had a blast in doing so (I played a rat catcher with a whose name I forget, but I do quite clearly remember his small, but vicious dog(s): Rat hammer and Rat hammer II, after the first one bit the dust fighting some Skaven. My rat catcher had uncovered the Skaven tunneling under Bogenhaufen quite by accident while cleaning the cellar of a noble family all on his own. My rat catcher and the dog killed two Skaven and I scored a magical dagger  that had a flame attack in the bargain, also made for some interesting trophies to his ratting pole.  No, don't ask me how I remember this stuff 20+ years later...

The Enemy Within campaign series for those not in the know, is basically the Games Workshop equivalent for the classic G1-3, D1-3, Q1 series for 1st Edition AD&D in terms of the "defining adventure of the system".  It is widely hailed as one the greatest module series of all time in the pen and paper RPG areana and I agree up until Power Behind the Throne. With the next module something Rotten in Kislev it started to come off the rails and especially Empire in Flames were let downs. Empire in Flames was pretty much non-canonical and even for the inconsistent GW its fluff and background really didn't mesh. Anyways instead of Empire in Flames, which is pricy despite its meh content there is the fan made Empire at War which replaces Empire in Flames

Come to think of it I should probably write a review of all of the modules.

As a system I think WFRP was a very good. Character creation was fast and didn't require a major amount of time which was a good thing considering the short shelf-life of characters in the game. The character races were certainly not balanced with elves and dwarfs being particularly unbalanced. The crux of WFRP is that a character engages in a career, and then improves his character with experience points that he gains through (and surviving adventures). From there each basic career has a career exit.

WFRP starts with all characters in the basic career paths ranging from Agitator to Woodsman with a focus on variety. There are even regular classes like Laborer and apprentices that real reinforce the idea of regular people who set out on adventuring, can't get much grittier then that. Funny because in many corners of the web gritty play is dejour; Warhammer is far more gritty and less high adventures then any of its contemporaries, yes, including 1st AD&D.

Basic careers run the gamut from some very weak, to some very powerful. The fighting classes are probably the way to go with a few other specialized careers with an eye towards spell casting in the advanced career section. Particularly the pit fighter, protagonist, squire, soldier and mercenary amongst others that are well suited for survival. In fact we remarked that we should have just run a game with all warriors and see what the results would be, but we never did. Of course we came to this observation after a number of our characters met untimely demises and the school copier was *ahem* "getting a workout".

One of my favorite parts of WFRP was combat! Unlike AD&D (its main competitor at the time) the combat system made logical sense: armor doesn't make a character harder to hit, it absorbs damage. That is not a knock on AD&D as it was the grand daddy of them all, it just didn't make sense. In combat and major wounds could happen with messy and amusingly graphic deaths via the critical hit charts. Characters even after several advanced careers where not unstoppable killing machines except for the "naked dwarf syndrome". Armor comes in three flavors: leather, chain and plate and reduces corresponding damage the better the armor. Not all weapons are created equal and require skills to wield them effectively.

Magic was the wild card in the whole thing and the fabled Realms of Sorcery that was supposed take the place of the "stop gap magic system" in the Core Rulebook. Players and GMs had to make do with what was presented for somewhere around 17 years, Realms of Sorcery comes out, and then the game moves to 2nd edition! In terms of magic items the game was fairly low powered certainly comapred to its main rival D&D. The supplement Apochrapha Now expanded the list. Players of D&D might be disappointed in the magic system which is not as high level as D&D nor as expansive of a list for magical items.But for a gritter or low adventure system you cant get one much better.

Monsters are well thought out and most of the major ones that one would imagine to be there are  in the setting. One thing I always wondered was did GW downplay dragons in the Warhammer pantheon of monsters on purpose given the prominent nature of them in D&D, at least in spirit if not in the actual game?

Perhaps the thing that kept bringing players back was the story of the Old Word, the setting. The Old World is a near approximation of Europe with the twist of the Old Slann changing the world to suit their creations. One of GWs greatest strengths has been their IP, and fluff, but as mentioned previously not something they always keep straight.

One of the great side benefits of 1st edition WFRP was the fact that one could use 3rd edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle, The Lost and the Damned and Slaves to Darkness all together. The Losta nd the Damned and Slaves to Darkness were great resoucres and certainly great values for the price (they are outragouelsy priced on Flea Bay now). While 3rd edition Warhammer Fantasy Battle was unwieldy it still is my favorite edition of the game. GW (in an instance of doing something right) actually gave the purchaser something for his value.

"Welcome to Nuln!"
Lastly to wrap it up the art across the line was consistently great: grim, dark and moody and violent. The art really captured the time in the industry and for the edition quite well. There is a mix of color and black and white throughout and while some of them are reprints that appeared in their line previous they are still cool to look at. Plus anytime John Blanche does art for a game system its going to be cool.

For my next post I might have to review Death on the Reik first as it is probably my all time favorite Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay module, (rather then start at the beginning of  Power Behind the Throne series: Shadows of Bogenhaufen) and ranks in my Top 3 of any modules, regardless of system.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Book Review- High Country by Peter Dawson

After my ultra heavy read of my last book, Atlas Shrugged- by Ayn Rand, I  needed something lite. I found it a my friendly local bookstore. It was in the form of Peter Dawson's High Country. I paid 50 cents for it so I can't complain and read it during my lunches at work. I was in the mood for a dime store novel western and found this one.I wasn't disappointed with my first foray into the genre.

I should start out with the writing was solid. And at 137 pages it was a breeze to go through (especially in light of the a fore mentioned monster Atlas). At points it's easy to see where the plot was going, but I was able to imagine the scenes quite vividly and the book was a surprisingly entertaining read. Dawson does a good job of making the images come to life in such a short space.

The book follows the exploits of Jim Sherrill, a drifter/rancher of sorts and right from the get go he has a problem: someone has stolen his horses and its up to him to get them back. The pacing is good, but its a bit light on the action as a good chunk of the book deals with the cast of characters that surround Jim, some good some bad, some stereotypical.  Thats not bad as each character gives you an instant feel for the Old West: A greedy wealthy southern land owner (the commodore) and his requisite southern bell daughter, plus a gang of outlaws. The main bad guy isn't blatantly evil which is a nice touch. In a way it's a bit more natural of a read as the villain(s) are believable and all in line with the 1940s view of westerns.

Jim has to take back what is his and gets some help along the way from his mountain man friend Jake who I especially liked and a few others. There is also an interesting love triangle with Jim in the middle and his affections for the vapid Ruth and the sturdy, but beautiful high spirited Jean. It doesn't take much to see where this one is going... I will warn you it is even complete with the requisite western ending meme...

In terms of the setting, the mental image I had of the town of Whitewater is a good one as is the distances of the involved. I pictured it as a river bank town in the vein of Big Whiskey from Unforgiven. I actually felt as if I was in the Old West along with the action, so the author did right by me there.

I won't go more into the story (as is usually the case) because if you are going to read it, I won't spoil it for you. And ass I'm fully back to my interest in westerns this short read fit right into my busy life. Also it was a good read to inspire me to jot some notes down for the first module that I have underway for my game Hurled into Eternity from Restless Rust Monster Publications (Icebiter Games Publications was too much of an in-joke.) And if you like where Im going with Hurled into Eternity please give me a like on Facebook to help spread the word about my game.

Lastly this book does reflect the times it was written in, namely 1947; so be forewarned: there are some racial stereotypes in the book as well as some words spoken by the characters from the south that are verboten today. 

(As I've been mentioning I'm trying to blog more and not just about my game I'm writing so keep looking out for an increase in my blogging activities. More short blog then massive sprawling ones).

Friday, July 19, 2013

Free! Lone Ranger Western Town!

That's what the ad said and I always wanted one, but I'm not sure why I never mailed away for it! If you were a comics fan like me there was lots of merchandizing out in 1981 for the release of The Legend of the Lone Ranger movie (which I didn't learn till later was an utter bomb).  It was on the back of nearly every comic book I had back then. But the problem was I was much more concerned with other toys. The problem was they occupied a time where I was getting into D&D, and was a huge Star Wars fan (and the toys) with the new smaller GI Joes just on the horizon. I wonder if this is an early precursor to the Toy Story movies? Lone Ranger supplanted by Star Wars in out national consciousness?

In any event, it was for the smaller line of Lone Ranger toys from Gabriel. I was not of the right age where toys were 13"  action figures. I'm fine with that however as the older toys always seemed "too big" to me. There was The Lone Ranger and Silver, Butch Cavendish and Smoke, Tonto and Scout, General George Custer (he was a Lieutenant Colonel at the Battle of the Little Big Horn folks) and Buffalo Bill Cody. Now, never having seen the movie I wonder how (and if) they crammed that all in?

In any event, I wanted the town and the action figures, but seeing the Lone Ranger the other week made me think of childhood memories of the last time the Lone Ranger was on the big screen with disastrous results.

But enough of that this was about a stroll down memory lane, all at a time where I was getting into RPGs too. I mean if you were around 8 as I was at the time, how cool was this? The answer is/was very.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013



Now that I have your attention, just who doesn't like the Zombie genre? Not many people considering the obsession with the zombies on TV and at the box office (although I'm protesting World War Z).

Now if you don't like them get the hell outta here, Zombies are cool! In RPG land there are a few good choices for zombie horror survival, but for me I'd probably settle on using All Flesh Must be Eaten (fans shorten it to AFMBE) a second choice would be to use Savage Worlds and use the Weird War campaign setting an modify it from there. Savage World rule system would be perfect for zombie adventures using Weird War II rules as I like the feeling of the supplement and they sanded off the rough edges compared to the previous installment.  Lastly, there is also the Battlefield Evolution with the Apocalypse Z supplement, but bear in mind that is a tabletop battle miniatures game first and foremost.

Released in 1999 AFMBE is still the standard for Zombie RPGs out there. With a number of supplements the line is well supported. While there are other systems, I think All Flesh Must be Eaten does the best job of capturing the feel of the genre. The rules are not cumbersome (or "crunchy") which might be off putting to some gamers but I like the ability to use in many types of settings from traditional end of the world trope "Rise of the Walking Dead", to voodoo zombie lords "Dawn of the Zombie Lords" to space aliens zombies "They came from beyond", to name but a few. Seriously, if you are a GM and you can't come up with SOMETHING in this genre, it's time to hang up your your GM Screen.

Back to characters three basic types (Norms, Survivors and Inspired) each with their own built in advantages (for the most part). 6 stats on a point system and away you go. Grab some qualities and drawbacks (here is where I think Savage Worlds is better) and you are off. Also in the character creation chapter I especially like the Archetypes section as it gives a good feel of the tone of the design of the system.

Equipment and vehicles are well handled and I also like the sections for different types of zombies (Apocalypse Z does this as well).  For a game with only one and really defining monster some variation is needed and with the system presented its simple to do so: take the base profile and add to it for variation. Boom, done.

One thing I did not like (I have the revised edition so I cant speak to the original) is the graphic design. I like the look at feel but a lot of it looks like it was low-res quality scans, making it look bit muddy. Even if they are not, that's how it looked.  Shame in an otherwise fine presentation.

In closing I recommend the game. I can't imagine playing All Flesh Must be Eaten for really long periods of time but I can certainly see it for a beer and pretzels type of gaming. Anyone else out there with thoughts on this RPG?

(as a blogger's aside: I want to make sure I keep blogging so be on the lookout for more posts about games that I've been collecting over the last few years as I get back/up to speed with the modern RPG scene. Some Warhammer blogging might be in order as well, stay tuned).

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Lone Ranger- Movie Review

Despite getting scathing reviews I have to get one thing out of the way first: I enjoyed the Lone Ranger. There I said it. This post will not be about the story; Ill leave that to you the reader when you see the movie.

Being that I’m not a child of the 1950s who grew up with the iconic Hi Ho Silver, away! I come from a vastly different viewpoint. I didnt watch many of the reruns because by the time I was old enough to watch them the show had been of the air for at least 20 years. I was weaned on the gritty revisionists westerns like Unforgiven, High Plains Drifter, and Pale Rider.

So with all that said what is my reaction to a traditional “White Hat” western? It was a fun movie. Each in his own way turned in very good performances: Johnny Depps Tonto and Armie Hammers Lone Ranger.

The Good:

  • The pacing was just about right and at no time did it feel like the movie was plodding.
  • Special effects were for the most part good and only one instance were they noticeable.
  • The soundtrack was excellent. Of course no Lone Ranger movie would be complete without the William Tell Overture which they used skillfully early one and then during the finale.
  • Clever reason for the naming of Silver.
  • Shoot outs were gripping
  • Finale was awesome.

The Bad:

  • At one point I was going to bring my kids to see it but the problem arose with the Captain Dan Reid scene involving Butch Cavendish. I read about it before hand and decided to keep my young kids away. This in part explains the issues with demographics I outline below.
  • The Lone Ranger as played by Hammer seems wimpy. Contrast this with the performance of Depp as Tonto and he is certainly overshadowed. I found Hammers awkwardness as the Lone Ranger well done and well acted. Some people have said he was wooden and had no charisma; again that is personal preference.  

I can see where Lone Ranger falls into issues with finding the right demographic for this movie but Im not entirely convinced that its the movie thats at fault rather then Hollywood as a whole. Right now it seems that Hollywood is fixated producing mega hits to maximize the return on every movie. I get that one should always strive for this in any business but at the same time it’s myopic. Not every movie is going to be Avatar. So rather then go for small returns the studios are attempting to hit a grand slam everytime the are at bat. The question that Hollywood will have to ask themselves is it better to say clear 50 million on movie or be 150 million in the hole? This is to say nothing of the every spiraling cost of movies themselves that will only acerbate the situation. Its getting to the point where they only see returns of 1 billion as the only outcome worth pursueing.

Another interesting point is that last two times the Lone Ranger has been out on the screen (the Legend of the Lone Ranger- 1981) and this time out the critics savaged it. I get that the 1981 version was bad, but this time the critics seemed to decided they didnt like it before it even came out. I fully anticipate that "box office bomb will or already has been ahem saddled to it. In a way it might end up much like the movie Heavens Gate, another western that did poorly against (for then) very high production costs but in later years the directors cut has been seen as actually a quite good movie. Of course its hard to mess up on the true story source material: The Johnson County War

I dont think westerns as a genre is dead per say, but rather they have an imagine problem. In a world worn out and now wary about anything American, uniquely America focused movies will have a much tougher sell outside of the US. This has always been a problem but has become more of an issue the last few decades.  Now Hollywood makes movies with a global audience in mind as it offers a bigger return when it appeals to the entire globe. Problem is trying to be everything to everyone is not going to fly in most cases, or only very rarely.

In closing I can think of many, many more movies that I wanted my money back after watching them at the theater, this wasnt one of them.  Id give it 3.5 out of 5 stars, its not perfect by any means but its not Mars needs Moms or 13th Warrior bad.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Hurled into Eternity Revamp

Ok, been away for a bit, but I have been diligently working on my game, Hurled into Eternity. Over the last few weeks I ran into several snags with it and "went back to formula" with it. I didn't revamp the game totally by I excised the d100 mechanic and brought it to be fully based on a deck of cards. The Judge (GM section) still uses RPG dice for random events, but is not critical to the game.

Now the game and its core mechanics use what I call the "Wild Card System" where character values range from 0-10, with Jacks, Queens, and Kings initiating redraws; Aces are always successes. The funny part I thought it up quite by accident when looking at a suit spread out before me from the deck. Instead of thinking in terms of a score going from 1-13 (13 cards in each suit) I thought about groupings and thus the Wild Card System was born.

The next step (aside from editing) is some serious play testing before it even gets to the stage of a campaign. I'd like to see how all of the mechanics fit, everything from character creation to combat.

Once that is completed I anticipate making the text more friendly (I'm not the worlds best writer, but I try), and from there getting it ready for graphic design. The ultimate goal  is to get it to a point where it can be printed via Lulu or other print on demand formats., then after a period of time, PDF. I don't anticipate getting rich from this, but I think a selling it for a nominal price will be well worth it. All without a Kickstarter? Outrageous.

In any event here is the latest, 2.0 Alpha. Alpha is a bit of a misnomer as its well developed. My guess is that I've probably missed some spots where it calls for a roll of the dice rather then draw a card.

Latest version to download here:

EDIT: Ive also done away with Icebiter Games, from now on produced by Restless Rust Monster Publications.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


Hey been away for a while (had a fair number of personal issues the last few months) so I though I'd *ahem* "get back in the saddle" regarding blogging. A quick aside I'm starting to work on some more fantasy generated blog posts (maybe even a Warhammer one, but we'll see).

Anyways as this post relates to westerns: The movie Silverado. As noted it made the list of my top ten favorite westerns  (that was favorite, not necessarily best) Silverado is a wicked fun movie, and a throw back to the westerns of old. I even mentioned it as a guilty pleasure but its not. I rewatched it recenlty and I have to say in terms of pacing its hard to beat as movie.

The opening scene of Emmet fighting of some desperado who were looking to bushwhack him while he was sleeping is all kinds of awesome and then spreads out to the majestic scenery of the American West.

Did I mention this happens in the first 5 minutes of the movie?

From there we quickly meet the second protagonist Paden left for dead in the desert. Form there ist a quick job to picking up his brother Jake played by Kevin Costner and at nearly the same time where they meet Mal played by Danny Glover. So within the first 20 minutes or so we have the four main characters all together.

One of the great things this movie does is give a sense of background very quickly in terms of each of the protagonists. Its a bit cliched sure, but in each case its all for the betterment of the movie. Remember, Silverado is about quick action and keeping it movie throughout.

Before they even make it to Silverado, Paden and Emmett encounter Paden's former trail friend Cobb and his unsavory henchmen Tyree and we are introduced to the running joke of "Where's the dog?" This is of course proceeded by a great gunfight by Paden while in his underclothes.

Lawerence Kasdan also does a good job with the racism of the Old West with Mal's character in the bar fight in Turley. Its difficult to do in today's political climate but handled well, even with the subtle implications from Sheriff Langston in running Mal out of town.

A side track to recover a stolen money box from some wagon trainers eventually results in the four getting to Silverado. There Paden finds Stella at the Midnight Star saloon meeting Cobb who reveals himself as the town Sheriff shortly thereafter.

The events in the mid section start the buildup to the finale, but are not without tension or death(s) as Mal's father is killed and Emmet nephew kidnapped with Emmett being nearly killed by the vicious Tyree. At no time does it feel forced as it jumps from scene to scene with Jake getting into it with who else Tyree and Mal and Slick arguing over Mal's sister.

Events come to a head with the kidnapping of Jake and Emmett's nephew and McKendrick burning down the house of their sister.

I can't say it enough, the movie is a whirlwind, with each scene having something to it. One area that lacks somewhat is the usual western romance. Apparently it was part of the movie and we see snippets of it from the interactions of Paden, Emmet and Hannah. The problem was during editing they had to cut something from the various subplots. Because of that the only thing that seems disjointed is those scenes as the whole story is not there.

In the end the final showdown is great as each of the protagonists guns down his own personal foe: Emmet killing McKendrick, Mal taking out Slick, Jake take out two bad guys simultaneously (one being Tyree, and finally a high noon showdown with Paden getting the drop on Cobb.

The film ends with a toast in the Midnight Star which Stella now runs on her own for the brothers as they head to California. As Emmett and Paden exchange goodbyes, Emmet remarks that Paden will make a farmer yet, to which Paden grins saying "I've got a job" as he slowly pulls back his coat revealing the Sheriff's star of the town of Silverado.

I would also be remiss if I did not point out the ensemble cast, its loaded with stars: Kevin Cline as Paden, Scott Glenn as Emmett; Kevin Costner as Jake, Danny Glover as Mal, John Cleese,
Rosanna Arquette, Brian Dennehy, Linda Hunt, Jeff Fahey, Joe Seneca and Jeff Goldblum to name but a few of the actors in the movie. There are a number of other actors you'll probably recognize.

The scenery is great and the town very realistsic. The filmakers did an ingenous thing of simply filming it from different angles during the shooting of the movie to represent different town as needed.  Shot in New Mexico it is obviously the right climate and locale of the film.

Since critics give out stars this gets 4.5 out of 5 from me. For a western there are very few that are better in terms of action. Sure some are legendary say like the Searchers or Once upon a Time in the West, but Silverado is a fun movie any way you slice it.  Its PG-13 as the level of violence is up there but no worse then say the revisionists westerns of the 1970s.

So how does this apply to RPGs? If you are playimng your favorite western system: Deadlands, Boot Hill, Western City, what have you, if you model even a portion of your campaign on Silverado you'll have a great game. Right from the beginning there is a rise in tension, setups galore for later and reasons to care about the heroes (and wrongs for them to right). If one were using the default city and area of Boot Hill, Promise City and its environs it would work well.

Think about it, recovering loot, vengeance, stampedes, gunfights, shootouts, swearing, tension, whiskey, bar fights, hangings (almost), gambling, backstabbing, the cavalry making an appearance (not in the usual western cliched way)you name it. The only thing missing is some stagecoach or locomotive fights scenes. In fact my... own game Hurled into Eternity would be  a great way to recreate the old West! (plug, plug). Speaking of which I'm gearing up to add some changes to the way combat works to make it a bit more survivable and it should be up soon.

I leave you with the trailer to wet your whistle for a great movie, saddle up!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Top ten modules of all time

My Top 10 Favorite Dungeons and Dragons modules of all time

Seems that people like it around these parts when I write up Top 10 lists (or at least they generate lots of commentary cyber-fights) ;) So with that in mind I'm going to list my Top 10 favorite D&D/AD&D modules of all time. As that suggests that means I'm leaving out any editions later then 2nd.
And unlike what some have presented on Dragonsfoot, no I don't consider a module as only those that were "stand alone products, not anything that appeared in a magazine!" To me, that is entirely arbitrary and a module/adventure in terms of nomenclature is interchangeable.

Willmark's Top Ten
1) The Tomb of Horrors
2) UK4- When a Star Falls
3) Return to the Tomb of Horrors
4 Threshold of Evil- Dungeon #10
5) Iron Orb of the Druegar- Dungeon #43
6) G1-3 Against the Giants- a bit of a cheat choice here because I get to pick three modules all in one.
7) UK2- The Sentinel
8) UK3- The Gauntlet
9) T1- The Village of Hommlet
10) I2- Tomb of the Lizard King

Discuss away as to why I'm wrong (even though I know I'm not).