What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:

What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Castles & Crusades Players Handbook - 7th Print Edition

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Domesday - Vol.III, Issue 6

After a couple of delays and a couple of problems, I declare the new Domesday available NOW.

Compared to issue 5, issue 6 is a step in the right direction.  Domesday has started to see a few more submissions although it is by no means being flooded by them.  However, if the pace continues, the next issue (Winter) might get a couple of tweaks regarding the format.  Probably the density of the text will increase in order to maintain a less elevated page count.  But we'll see.

In this issue, we have a continuation of the 4 part series entitled, "Designing a Quasi-Feudal Society", as well as a few critters and some interesting magical items and relics.  The review will be familiar for those who follow and read the blog and is essentially a re-publication of my 'Amazing Adventures' review.  Beyond that, a couple of other little things.  Not much in the grand scheme of things but it *is* a newsletter after all... 20 pages plus the OGL is certainly growth compared to the 12 pages of material issue 5 had.

I would like to say that the newsletter is 'error-free' but, it's been a bit crazy so a couple things *may* have slipped this time around.  Any errors contained within are entirely my fault.

Lastly, it should be noticed that a different foreword was originally intended given that I wrote this months' editorial.  Sadly, my good friend John Adams got caught up in his duties as a pastor helping a family in need today and was unable to get his piece to me for this issue.  I wish both him and the family he was with all the best and my thoughts are with them.

In the meantime, if you like what you see in issue 6 and want to contribute to future issues of the newsletter, submissions can be sent to :

domesday@arcanacreations.com

Here's the link to the file (remember to right-click in order to have the option to save the file otherwise your browser may decide to open it directly):

I hope you enjoy it!

M

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The End of the Month and Domesday

The end of the month approaches and I still a lot of things that haven't been checked off my to-do list yet.  So what am I up to these days once my 9-5 responsibilities are done?

Aside from friends and family related obligations, I try to sneak in a bit of painting here and there -- no where near as much as I would like.  I count myself lucky if I can 'steal away' an hour or two a week.  The starting shots I took of the group of minis a few weeks ago haven't advanced too much beyond those.  The orcs are primed but have had nothing done to them since those pictures were taken.  The goblins have received some base-coat colors and washes and, overall, are about half-way done.  I have also taken to paint a single miniature for a game I play in -- a friend is using a D&D pre-painted mini to represent his character.  He didn't like the colors used for the miniature's robes so I am re-painting it.  This mini got a coat of black primer last night when I took a few minutes to do it before I went to bed.

Of the little time I get to do some work for Arcana Creations material, the most of it these days have been dedicated to the newest issue of Domesday which should be released at the start of next week just before Halloween.  This will likely be a Tuesday release and I look to finish he majority of the work this weekend.  Truthfully, I had hoped to have the layout done a couple of days ago but there never seems to be enough time in the day.  Regardless, it needs to get done and I hope to get most of it wrapped up before the weekend hits anyway.

If you want to get an idea to see what the Domesday is about, you can download the last issue HERE.  This is the summer issue and includes the first part of a four part series on a 'Quasi-Feudal Society for your C&C Game'.  I think the Domesday is starting to get a bit of traction and, as a free offering, the more interest it gets may very well mean the more contributions we will receive.  Since I took on the responsibilities that go into producing the Domesday as of last issue, quality has been one of the most important considerations.  After the release of next week's 'Fall' issue, I have committed Arcana Creations to do two more and at the end of that, a compilation edition will be released and available as a POD product.

As for the two Castles & Crusades modules being worked on -- they are still being worked on.  The second manuscript has been turned back to me from the editor and it is now at the beginning of the layout phase.  The first one is nearing completion of the layout phase.  However, that pretty much was the situation the last time I offered an update on these scenarios.  I still have to commission the art and the reason I haven't done so has more to do with budgetary restrictions.  Time is running out though and I may have to dig a bit deeper if either of these is to see a release before the holiday season.

And that's about it... I am starting the Rappan Athuk campaign next weekend and I look forward to sharing the exploits and defeats of the brave and foolish adventurers for those who read the blog.

M

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Curious Curiosities

A week ago, I received three notifications with 24 hours of each other and they were all telling me that three crowdfunding projects were shipping my way.  I have received my Barrowmaze stuff, my Rappan Athuk stuff, and today I have received my softcover copy of 'A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore':



Flipping through the book, I have to admit that the print version does look very nice -- it kind has a better look on paper since you are less apt to notice the white space issues I suggested in my first review of the product.  Part of my wishes I had a hardcover version but not at the prices I would have had to pay for it.

I'm equally pleased that an error I had pointed out is corrected in the print version of the book but am very perplexed why the latest version of the file on the site still exhibits the error.  Just to be sure, I re-downloaded the file on RPGNow! and, sure enough, it still reads as 'uncorrected'.  I am very happy that the correction made it in the physical copy though.

But it is curious...

I have no idea if others have this issue or not but, for those of you which may have opted for a PDF only, the text on page 69 providing the definition of a 'Septagram' has been changed to read "The seven-pointed star" instead of the "The six-pointed star".

If you left the definition unchanged, it would be properly called a Hexagram which, according to folklore would have been appropriate.  The Hexagram, or Star of David as it is widely known, has been described of being used by Solomon to create a lead seal imprisoning demons (evil djinn)
in a copper vessel.

That does not mean that a septagram is any less symbolic -- the folklore and meanings are just a bit different.  One of the frequent associations of a septagram has to do with the '7 traditional planets' from occult lore / natural philosophy (Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn).

In any event, I am quite satisfied with the book.

One final curiosity: For those of you who are also have the book coming to Canada, I found it interesting that my book was printed / bound and shipped from the UK as opposed to the US.

Now to find room on my shelf next to my worn AD&D 1E books.  :)


M

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Tangible Reality of Rappan Athuk

The demon lords and the insidious messengers (the postal carriers) that serve them have seen fit to grant me a package today!  In this box and covered by (mostly pink) pieces of styrofoam peanuts was my Rappan Athuk material from the Kickstarter earlier this year.


The book, black since I got the Swords & Wizardry version, seems more ominous because of it and looks beautiful.  Sadly, the lower right corner of the cover is a bit damaged -- it looks like the book was dropped or otherwise hit hard but given that the book is meant to be used, I'm not going to fuss much about it.  Give it more charm!  ;)

I love the GM Screen and the panels with art show up really nice.  It's well laminated and is sturdy enough to stand up though I would have wished the cardboard used was a bit more stiff or thicker.  However, with the rumors, area maps, and level connections, it will come in very handy.  I do like landscape screens but between these new screens and the Castle Keeper Screen I used for my C&C games, I've gotten used to these sort of screens.

I'm not sure if I will ever do anything with the actual poster of the cross section though it is neat.  The fold out battle map is a great portable option for a quick erase grid to use for the GM on the go though.  I currently have a plastic artist's 'tube' where I roll up and bring a chessex map so I'm not sure if I'll end up favoring the fold up solution over this one.  The fold up will certainly make things easier to carry.

As for the other booklets, I have one for the Bestiary, the Battlemaps, the Pre-Gens, and the Player's Guide -- nothing fancy here but certainly useful.

As for the rest, an Orcus sticker (I always loved this logo), a button with the same logo with 'Rappan Athuk' and 'I went down the well...' written upon it, and some wicked dice with the same Orcus logo replacing the '1'.  Amongst the debris of the peants was a cute little plastic frog... which will make for a great 'small' giant frog.  ;)

I have all the physical good to launch my Rappan Athuk campaign while also sourcing some great material from the Barrowmaze stuff.  All going well, this will get underway in just a couple weeks from now.

M

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Weekend R&R: Castle Whiterock

In October's third installment of the Weekend R&R series where I pay attention to the 'megadungeon', I find there is much to love with Goodman Games creation of DCC #51 - Castle Whiterock.  As a box set, it is ridiculously huge.  Take two standard boxed sets of you average gaming product and stack them one on top of the other, and you'll get an idea of how deep the box for this set is.  Anyone who has seen pictures of this boxed set before knows that there is over 700 pages of material.  The reason why we know is simple -- it says so right on the box!  It was also on the pricey side when initially released coming it at $100 but, with the demise of 3rd Edition, it wasn't all that hard to get a deal on the set a few months after its release.  Good for the consumer but, given the release, I think this set got overlooked a bit and dismissed due to some other shoddy 3.x era megadungeon releases (World's Largest Dungeon immediately comes to mind here).

The first thing I noticed when I opened up the box set was how the books are done.  With a name like 'Castle Whiterock', it sounded very reminiscent of a certain legendary dungeon.  It could have just been named Caslte Whiteroc to further home the suggestion that the name is a bit of a nod.  If you feel that this connection is somewhat stretched, the color of the books are a clear nod to the classic BECMI sets. In the box, you have four books detailing the various levels of this dungeon.  The colors are Red, Blue, Cyan-Green, and Black and echo the colors of the Basic, Expert, Companion, and Master sets.  The 15 levels which make up the complex are split up among these four, perfect bound books. Additionally the boxed set contains a Gazetteer on the kingdom, a booklet of maps and a booklet of player handouts.  As such, this is a heavy but sturdy box of gaming goodness.

For anyone familiar with any of the Dungeon Crawl Classic material, the is a whole lot more of the same sort of thing one expects to find in such a product.  It's a quality product with tons of evocative, old school art and clearly laid out.  Admittedly, I have yet to run anything from Castle Whiterock but I have run many a DCC adventure adapted for my C&C games.  I have always found their products to be very well organized, with summaries of encounters and challenges given at the start of the module, scaling advice, and detailed information crucial to running the scenario successfully.  Despite the size, Castle Whiterock is no exception here.  If anything, there is more information give to help a GM run a series of adventures using the material successfully.  There is even a detailed index detailing people, places, and things with respective page references to help find what you are looking for in the set.  Lastly, the black book titled, 'The Fiery Gauntlet' contains a huge array of appendices to supplement this massive campaign.

I think that, what makes this set so great is that it is, much like the rest of the series that came before it, a tribute to old school gaming. You open up any module and you read the text in the introduction which states:

"Remember the good old days, when adventures were underground, NPCs were there to be killed, and the finale of every dungeon was the dragon on the 20th level?"
True to this, the finale amount to pretty much an encounter with a dragon on the final level here as well though it happens to be level 15 in this case.  A good DCC adventure will always have a few twists and more than a few traps, and this set has a bunch of them.  However, there is always some plots and, in some cases, subplots to make the experience more interesting and an attentive gaming group can pull much from Castle Whiterock.  Perhaps what makes this megadungeon manageable is that it is also pretty modular.  By this I mean that you can freely take out or use select levels for your own use if you are just not in the mood for a huge megadungeon type campaign. 

Castle Whiterock is a good investment, even if it is expressly designed for the third edition era of D&D.  It is no longer in print but looking at RPG Now, you can get a PDF version for about $60 or, a used copy at Noble Knight Games for $70.  Sadly, the prices are higher now than they were when I picked up a set -- I considered it a steal when I picked it up new for $50 back in 2008.

M

More Tools for Painting

I got a couple of unexpected items tonight when I was visiting my folks. I've recently started in the hobby of painting miniatures and I'm enjoying the work I've been doing. So much so that I've been getting more paints, more brushes, the Citadel Paint Gun, and I've been giving serious consideration towards the possibility of getting a compressor and an airbrush.

Now, both my father and my younger brother are more mechanically inclined and my father does a lot of carpentry and other forms of wood work as well.  Given that I decided to pick up a compressor and having noticed a small two-gallon model at a modest enough price ($100), I asked my father if he could keep his eyes open for possible sales for this sort of thing for the express purpose of airbrushing.

He informs me that he actually has one that has been sitting around collecting dust for several years which he'd be happy to give. Admittedly, it looks dirty and old but when we pulled it out and cleaned it up a bit, we fired it up and it worked like a charm!

It's a diaphragm compressor and it delivers the ideal pressure needed for things such as airbrushing and the like.  My dad also tells me that I should speak to mom about an airbrush.

As it turns out, my mom had an airbrush kit which she got back in 1990 -- it's new and never used.  Just over 20 years now, my mom used to work a lot with ceramic and my grandfather got her this airbrush kit as a gift. For whatever reason, she never got around to using the airbrush and moved on from ceramics to other hobbies and creative interests.  It's a nice kit and since I've started looking for airbrushes, the Paasche brand has come up a couple of times with positive comments.



This kit comes with different nozzles which, I figure goes with how fine your work needs to be, there's a handy little booklet with exercises to try to sharpen ones various techniques.  This is something I will need to play around with before taking it to the miniatures.

In any event, my mom was very happy to give me the airbrush kit knowing full well that it will finally be seeing plenty of use. I think my father was equally happy if not happier to give me the compressor.  I'm usually the 'tech' guy as opposed to the mechanic in the family.  Usually tools tend to go to my younger brother.  :)

M

Friday, October 19, 2012

Got Two Packages Today...

And one of them was my Barrowmaze package!  I was very happy to see this one and opening the box was fun!  Here's a pic of the loot that came in the box -- I pledged at the Barrowmazening level:


Somehow I forgot how big the map would end up being... It's nice to have a full size map like this and part of me is actually tempted to get a frame for it.  Where I'd hang it up is a whole different problem since I am realizing that my hobby and interests is taking up more and more space.  Too bad moving to a bigger place isn't an option for a couple more years at least.  ;)

The books are decently bound hardcovers and I love the two inscriptions Greg wrote in the books -- one being adapted from one of my favorite movies:

"I say we take off and nuke Barrowmaze from orbit. It's the only way to be sure."

The other inscription is oddly prophetic:

"Barrowmaze Rule #3: On a long enough timeline, the survival rate for everyone drops to zero."
I didn't expect to get a 'Barrowmaze II Publication Certificate' with my shipment but I have to say, it's pretty cool to have -- I'm number 22 of 200 for this first print run.  One thing that I was expecting and was very delighted in seeing was the excellent illustration booklets for both Barrowmaze and Barrowmaze II.  The artwork for these booklets as well as what's included in the books themselves (as I have mentioned before) is an absolute delight!  I'm so glad to have the PDFs of all this material since I intend to keep the printed stuff absolutely pristine!

Surprises... I was really surprised at the size of the dice bag.  It isn't small as I originally thought it was.  My initial goal was to keep a set or two in my small chest of dice.  However, it's size dictates that it's to be used differently.  Probably just as well since my chest of dice is getting kind of full and my recent love affair with Game Science dice got me ordering another 4 sets worth...  Maybe it will become my official 'Game Science Dice Bag'.  :)

Speaking of dice... I have three more to add to the chest!  The ones that came with the package are pretty cool actually and I love the colors... One  Red, one Green, and one Blue.  Each die has a different illustration on one of the sides.  One is a skull with helm, one is a skeleton's hand, and one is of a Barrow Wight with the text Barrowmaze written beneath it.  The dice a nice but I do have one issue with them if I wanted to use them in game.  When dice like these are done, there is typically one side which is universally take up by the design replacing the pips or number.  In this case the dice don't use the same side when compared to each other.  The red one (the one with the wight) replaces the 6 and the blue (the hand) does the same.  However, the green dice replaces the 1.  I just find this peculiar and I have no idea if this was done on purpose.  I somehow don't think it is and I think it's just something that happened in the design and manufacturing process.  They'll be a fine addition to the chest!

The other package was not a gaming specific one and, I had ordered it such a long time ago, I wasn't even thinking of it anymore.  It's the Raspberry Pi board/computer:


There was a time where I had chosen and was learning to become a programmer due to my love of computers and technology.  I still love computers and technology but quickly realized back in my college days that I really didn't have a strong desire to be a programmer.  Nonetheless, I don't mind toying around with the stuff and the Raspberry Pi sounded like a great way to get more familiarity with Linux.  The fact that it was tucked away in my mailbox (because it's so small) just made it more fun when the discovery of a second package was made!

M

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Loot Inbound !!!

I've received confirmation in the past 24 hours that three packages are headed my way which originated from Kickstarter / Indigogo.  All three I have already written about on this blog and are my Rappan Athuk package, my Barrowmaze II packaged, and my Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore (ADD) package.  I was lucky to have all the PDFs for those on hand but it will be very nice to see these in a manifested form and not simply digital.

I will post pictures once I get them.

Of the three packages, both the Rappan Athuk and Barrowmaze packages are what I am most eager to receive.  They were also the most costly.  Of course, Rappan Athuk will get extensive use as I start up my campaign in the next couple of weeks.  Barrowmaze will supplement the Rappan Athuk material.  Beyond these two, I will also pull from some material I have used a couple of decades ago to help paint a bit more of a background story.  The first encounter with anything 'Orcus' related goes back to the Mines of Bloodstone -- a fantastic scenario I have used *twice* before.  None of my current players have much of a clue but I'm sure I will be able to weave in some interesting story along with the great material that both of these packages will provide.

The third package, A Curious Volume of Forgotten Lore, will be interesting as well but I am less eager to finally get my physical copy.  While it will be nice to flip through the pages, I suppose part of me is bit disappointed with the decisions made for the production of this book.  The book is being printed via the POD at Drive Thru / RPG Now.  Given the elevated price the backers have paid for physical copies compared to those who can just go there and grab a copy at a discount, I am glad I didn't opt for the hardcover when I pledged (compare $60 vs $30 for a hardcover from RPG Now).  However, I am happy to see it is more accessible for potential buyers than it was for people who chose to back the project initially.  Personally, I really don't think people who supported a project such as this early on should be paying significantly more for a copy than those who decided to wait till it saw a regular release.  I may be in the minority but this sort of this does affect if and how I choose to support other crowd funding endeavors for Adventures Dark & Deep (a series of three books is planned).  It might be more economical to just wait if I want to pick these other books up when the time comes.

In any event -- the book is quite good if this is the sort of book you are after and you can read about my thoughts about it HERE.

With these three packages, it's sure to be an interesting wait to receive these.

M

Weekend R&R: Barrowmaze II

In this second 'mega-dungeon' installment for this month, I wanted to highlight the excellent work that went into the production of Barrowmaze II by Greg Gillespie.  Since I got turned out to Kickstarter as an interesting destination for the production of various small press and indie projects, it's fair to say that I've become a fan of crowdfunding endeavors despite the pitfalls which will make or break a project.  Indigogo is similar to Kickstarter in many ways though there are some ways where they differ.  Now, I had of course heard of Barrowmaze some time ago -- likely from the Grognardia blog but hadn't given it much more thought until I heard about Barrowmaze II.

I took a good look at the project and, after much consideration, I decided to back it not knowing exactly how the project would look save for the few samples of very excellent artwork previewed.  I'll be honest and just say that half the reason I backed the project was because of the illustrations I saw.  Now, for the completely uninitiated, Barrowmaze II is the second part of a two-part mega-dungeon campaign.  Some people may prefer to think of it as a higher level expansion to Barrowmaze.  However, having gone through the material in Barrowmaze II, it would be a relatively easy affair to use either one part or the other based on the needs of one's campaign.

In other words, you don't need part I to enjoy part II or vice versa.

The book itself (I'm using the PDF at the moment) can be roughly broken up in three sections.  The first part details basic history, design notes, and critical information detailing the sorts of things one is to encounter when exploring the campaign.  The second section is really the adventure material itself and various areas are detailed along with challenges, encounters, and maps.  Finally, the third section is like a huge appendix -- new items, magic, and monsters.  You will also find information on two of the important personalities the party may end up dealing with (if they live long enough) as well as the artifact at the heart of the problem.  The book also provides some pre-gens, character sheets. and perhaps most importantly, a series of random tables to enhance the dungeon experience for you and your players.  The latter also includes a Barrow Mound Random Crypt Generator!

The material itself is varied and fun and, Barrowmaze almost became my pick for the mega-campaign I am starting up very soon.  For those who follow, it is Rappan Athuk that won out however, I'm sure I will be pulling some great stuff in these pages to complement the Rappan Athuk campaign.  Frankly, the reason why I chose Rappan Athuk is simply because it seems a bit more 'compartmentalized' which I feel is necessary given the players I have and the campaign I wanted to run.  I do feel that Barrowmaze is more 'concise' and might be a better choice given different tastes and circumstances.

Now, with some of these projects, I tend to worry a bit about layout and presentation.  These sort of things are not problems which are exclusively related to indie projects by any means but smaller scale projects do tend to have more issues with them.  I am very pleased to say that Barrowmaze II is very well put together and outshines some 'professional' products out there.  Excessive 'whitespace' can be a problem with projects but, there is enough art and small maps throughout the book that this is just not an issue here.  Given the clean and clear layout, it is obvious that art was not just added in after the fact but placement was considered to maximize each page.  Grey Gillespie should be congratulated for what is a very sleek presentation.  This book comes to over 140 pages which further complements the first book which was around 80 pages.

Overall, Barrowmaze is a solid offering but, like any campaign -- much of the success will lie in the person who is running it. It's certainly nice and it would be a mistake to dismiss it without taking a good look at it first.  At half the page count of Rappan Athuk, it has just as much substance and, both parts combine provide over 500 rooms and areas to explore.  Combine elements of the Barrowmaze and Rappan Athuk together and you have a fantastic campaign that will go one for years!

M

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Demons & Devils Miniatures


As I sat down to begin writing this weekend's edition of the R&R (focusing on another 'mega-dungeon' for the month of October), I decided to check on the progress of the latest Kickstarter I cave on.  As some of my readers know, I recently took part of that mega Reaper Bones Kickstarter project and spend a bunch of money on an aspect of the hobby that I had previously not really delved in.  The KS that Reaper has done was simply fantastic and everything seems very well in hand.  Always nice to see -- especially if you pledged much in terms of hard earned cash.

It was a fellow gamer that suggested I check out another Kickstarter effort for some miniatures which was a line that focused on demons and devils.  It certainly caught my attention and I did do a bit of research but, truth to tell, I initially resisted it.  I mean, I'm already getting over 500 miniatures in less than six months from now which will require many other months of painting and necessary supplies.

Storage for these is a whole other issue I haven't a clue how to best resolve either.

That said, I really liked the subject matter so I kept tabs on it during their run.  We are approaching the 24 hour mark and, while it's easily met the initial goal, is still about 10k from its final set of bonus goals.  Of course, the amount raised is a fraction of what Reaper has managed to pull in and there are probably a few reasons for that.

  1. Aside from a handful of models, there is still not a lot to go on for as far as what some of these might look like.  Many don't even have concept sketches.
  2. They are still a tiny company who doesn't have the same sort of reputation and following as Reaper does and KS is technically a gamble anyway you slice it.
  3. People who might be interested may still be recovering from the Reaper KS and whatever additional money they spent additionally when the post-KS Pledge Manager went live.
  4. I don't think people realize the size of these miniatures and what they are getting for their money which may seem expensive if you compare it to the Reaper one.
The truth of the matter is that pictures and sketches are important as well as a concrete idea of what to expect when we finally get these.  While there is a neat little video to check out and there are some great examples of what to expect, I think the most interesting of the pictures and one of the things which sold me was this pic showing scale of a 28 mm dwarf next to one of these demon lords.


That's one big miniature and by the sound of things... there will be more big ones in this bunch fully making this KS of interest to at least check out and consider.  Of course, I think the great thing about this particular KS project is a bunch of mini's can be added even if pledging at the most basic level.  Even the $5 pledge gets you a couple of adventurers.  On the other hand, maybe you just want a really big mini... though at this point, maybe model might be a better word since there is nothing 'mini' about this.  A 5 headed dragon 'king' of evil dragons (let that one sink in for a bit) which can be gotten for $75.

After the KS, there will be a pre-order price from the Center Stage Miniatures page which will be $129.95 and from there, the MSRP will go up to $189.95 once the pre-order closes.  Even then, it will be cast to order once KS and pre-orders numbers have been met.

Bottom line: $75 is a hell of a bargain compared to the eventual, final price.  You don't mess with the 'king'.

If you want to check them out, you can go to their KS page over HERE.

M

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Domesday & Halloween

I've been under the weather for the past few days but I suppose I should be happy that I was able to enjoy my Thanksgiving weekend (Columbus Day weekend for those in the US).  Aside from spending time with family and friends this past weekend, and nursing a hell of a cold, I got a bit more painting on my miniatures done earlier in the week and I begin preparations and work for two things for the end of the month.

Halloween approaches ... alternatively called All Hallow's Eve and even Samhain by a few others.  It is one of my favorite holidays and, a there is a lot done to cater to this particular day.  Just looking at the theme of movies playing on the tube and you'll find a few horror-related flicks.  Some bookstores will chose to highlight some interesting novels and books written to frighten, amaze, and fascinate.  Of course there are also plenty of treats to be had this time of year as well.  It's a holiday where anything may not be exactly as it seems and there is plenty of material an enterprising GM can use for inspiration if feeling somewhat lost.

I have two major things planned for this month as far as gaming and Arcana Creations is concerned.

1) Towards the end of the month, I will commence my newest campaign and play Rappan Athuk.  I have a few twists I will be throwing into the game to perhaps give a more detailed introduction to the campaign which I will detail another time.  The prospective players are looking forward to this and I had at least one player ask if we will be using the Ballista material I had been writing in lieu of an established (published ruleset).  I honestly told him that I hadn't thought much about that but I wouldn't rule it out.  It's certainly something for me to consider.  Regardless of that, the game is on and I just need to finalize the date of the first session which I imagine will be either the weekend the prior to or immediately after October 31st.

2) All material is pretty much in hand for the next issue of the Domesday.  This coming weekend will see most of the work being done for it and work will wrap up on it within the two weeks that follow.  It will be released in the final days of the month.

Aside from that the edited MS for the Mystery at Morfurt adventure for C&C should also be turned in this weekend which means it, like the Hide in Plain Sight adventure will be in layout.  Pre-Orders for both of these C&C adventures should happen in a few weeks.

Thanks for reading!

M

Monday, October 8, 2012

Weekend R&R: Rappan Athuk - Pt.2

Rappan Athuk is truly a megadungeon on the grandest scale and comprises much material.  Now in it's third published incarnation, those who backed the project through Kickstarter with receive different things all depending on the level they pledged at.

With Rappan Athuk, one will get close to 500 pages of material in the main book if looking at the Sword & Wizardry version and even more due to the nature of the statblocks when turning to the Pathfinder version.  Included was a Bestiary, some Pregens, and various Battlemaps in the Appendix at the end of the book.  For convenience, these items are also included as separate booklets for backers of the project.

Other items which were created for the new version of Rappan Athuk was a GM Screen, a Player's Guide, something called the 'Libram of Fortunate Happenstance', and other additional adventure material -- the Cyclopean Depths.

The Player's Guide will see different use from campaign to campaign but is ultimately useful in getting people 'up-to-speed' with the sort of information the characters will have at their disposal.  It gives a bit of an overview and provides sketches of various places in the area of the dungeon.  It does so by detailing some of the people and places in the closet inhabited settlement to Rappan Athuk and the stories of these residents.

The GM Screen is fairly simple... 4 different panels on the Player's side providing artwork whereas the 4 panels on the GM's side provides 2 maps, rumors, and a detailed list of connections from different area to others in the dungeon and surrounding areas.

The 'Libram' is actually a set of cards.  There is a set for Pathfinder and a set for Swords & Wizardry and both have cards for Players and GMs alike.  The purpose of these cards is simply to change the possible 'fate' by allowing a re-roll, or automatic successes or failures.  I suppose that with a dungeon such as this, players will need every bit of help they can get.  In all seriousness though, I've played with cards similar to these in other RPGs and they can be a lot of fun so these are a nice 'throw-in' and were on of the many bonuses granted from the Kickstarter.

Of course, those who have not backed the project can of course order a copy of the book itself and, for a limited time, order some of the supplements as well (until supplies run out).  The book itself is truly the only thing you need though if intent on adding this to your collection and have countless adventurers meet their doom by dropping this into your campaign.  It's quite the book detailing over 50 areas to explore!

While I confess that I haven't read this monster from cover to cover, I have selectively checked out different portions of the book and have been delighted by the contents.  As far as the 'look' of the product, it is very reminiscent of many of books produced by Necromancer Games as far as font and organization is concerned.  To make the book easier to use, each level has a sidebar of basic information such as difficulty, entrances and exits, information of wandering monsters, and other special effects to be aware of.  Other areas ... such as the Giant Spider Colony will detail at which rate their numbers will replenish should some be killed off.  This kind of detail is important and, if planning to use Rappan Athuk as a centerpiece to a campaign, will prove to be of invaluable assistance.  The book itself is full of maps across the many pages that make up the book... while huge in itself, no map of any specific area is actually daunting for the GM who really wants to run this as an adventure campaign.

As well organized as this book is, a special note should be made about the artwork used.  I simply love the artwork used.  While the trend continues towards color plates and illustrations, Rappan Athuk reminds us that black and white art with the right shading remains an excellent and very classy way to beautify a book -- especially one of this size.  I do believe that some of the white space left on the last pages of various detailed levels should have been 'filled up' a bit more however this may not be as practical given the two different rule sets that Rappan Athuk is for.  The text flow is surely different (evident by the simple fact that the Pathfinder version is about 170 pages more that the Swords & Wizardry counterpart).

All in all... Rappan Athuk is worth every penny and I look forward to running it.  The MSRP for the book is $99.99 though the PDF version is $40 and a very good price point when comparing this to the physical product.  The PDF version is available immediately and the physical version will be available soon.  Latest news would indicate the books should be shipping to backers any day now (with the delay being on the sets of dice the backers are getting).  You can order direct, HERE.

M

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Weekend R&R: Rappan Athuk - Pt.1

For those who follow my blog and enjoy what started as a weekly tradition, you may have noticed that September has really not seen much in terms of the Weekend R&R posts.  While I don't feel compelled to make any apologies, I want to assure my readers that these are resuming this month and, I've decided to do something a big bigger with them.  Nay... I think 'mega' is a better word here.  October will see reflections and reviews on various 'megadungeons' and this week, I figured I would start with 'Rappan Athuk'.

The first time I heard about the 'Dungeon of Graves' was when I saw was in the form of a beautiful boxed set some years ago at my local game shop while I was residing in Ottawa.  It was awesome... heavy... and pricey!  Needless to say, back then it was put back on the shelf on to be swiped up within a couple of days. If I remember correctly, the store was selling it in the $75 - $85 dollar range but it wasn't just the price which put me off back then.  It was 2006 and this box set, titled Rappan Athuk Reloaded was for the 3.x D&D Ruleset and I was just a few weeks into Castles & Crusades.  At that time, I knew that I could convert and use the material very easily for C&C but the price did make it a bit expensive to contemplate.  When I picked up C&C, I essentially had my fill of the regular d20 products designed for 3rd Edition and, while I would still buy more, I stuck to deals and specials if I did.  There were many deals in the months leading up to and following the release of 4th Edition.  ;)

Since that day, I remained hopeful that I could perhaps pick it up but initially, I had no idea on how limited of a run these actually ended up being.  If I had known -- I might have made an exception and spent some cash.  The fact is that, in all the years I've gamed, I haven't seen nicer quality box sets than those produced by Necromancer Games.  In the years since, I have acquired the Wilderlands and the City of Brass sets they released and consider myself fortunate that I did so at around $35 apiece (MSRP on these was $70 apiece).  I did realize shortly after I first spied upon the box set that Rappan Athuk 'Reloaded' was a remake with added material to a set of three modules for 3rd Edition but I never went out of my way to try and pick these up.  Oddly, these just seemed to pale in comparison with the Reloaded treatment and I didn't want the hassle of tracking them down online for used copies.

So, I put it in the back of my mind and largely forgotten about it.  I figured that, given my present campaigns and preference from my players, the I probably wouldn't use it and left it at that.  In 2007, Necromancer Games released their last product for d20 and this was the City of Brass set.  Fans never forgot the great work that came out of Necromancer Games.

However, Bill Web of Necromancer Games co-founded Frog God Games in 2010 and effectively picked up where they left off.  Frog God Games firs major project was the Slumbering Tsar Saga and as the company picked up steam, it eventually acquired Necromancer Games in 2012.  This past May, Frog God Games decided to re-release Rappan Athuk as a Kickstarter Project and it was officially funded on July 2nd at close to 10x the original project goal.  Rappan Athuk was being released as a Pathfinder version as well as a Swords & Wizardry version.

While I still eagerly await my shipment of physical books from this Kickstarter, I have had the PDFs for near two months now and, it is the campaign I have chosen to run and start later this month.  I have poured through the many files and I have to say I am impressed and excited for what this could bring to my gaming table.

Later this weekend (this is a long weekend in Canada to celebrate our Thanksgiving holiday), I will delve into greater detail about the newest version of Rappan Athuk and what you can possibly expect from it when it hits retail stores (or order it from them) when it becomes available to all and not just the KS backers.

To be continued...

M

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Painting - Phase 1

Well, I was a bit ill this morning so I opted to stay home.  I rested up... napped some... and with the sun shinning around mid-afternoon I decided to get started.

With the Reaper Bones Kickstarter, I'll be receiving a whole bunch of miniatures between now and the end of March, 2013 -- all of which will need painting.  I have never painted miniatures.  However, I found out that a co-worker has, and does, on a regular basis.  He's part of that Games Workshop crowd and loves Warhammer.  He also obviously knew what he was talking about and was able to provide me some material and a lot of advice to get me started.  This invariably led to my first Games Workshop purchases late last week -- some primer, paints, brushes, and a Lord of the Rings starter kit.  Actually most of my first round of paints came from this kit.

This past weekend was too busy for me to even contemplate getting work started on the 'practice miniatures' I have in my possession.  And it was raining all weekend anyway.  With an unexpected window of opportunity (once I was feeling a bit better), I found myself a 'painting stick' and a 'cardboard box' and gathered what I needed to get started.  In short... I prepared / cleaned up and primed my miniatures (the undercoat).


For clarity ...  a painting stick is just a piece of wood where I can affix miniatures onto it for the purposes of being able to easily paint the miniatures from the front and back since I was using a spray can for the primer.  The cardboard box was to 'catch' the remaining spray from the can and avoid making a mess.  The box was important since I was doing this off my balcony (I live in an apartment building but don't have a backyard).

Once the paint was dry, I took them back in and continued and detached the plastic miniatures from the 'sprue'.  I then touched up whatever I missed in the initial paint job with a brush and affixed the miniatures to their bases.  The plastic ones were from the LOTR kit (and are goblins) where as the metal orcs were ones I had on hand for a few years.  All in all, I have 12 goblins and 10 Orcs to paint and I should be able to start the base coat colors soon enough.  The starter kit, came with paint and colors which will easily serve to paint the whole lot of 22 and had its own brush.  I bought a couple other brushes and a spray can of primer as well.  The lot cost me about $80 but will serve me beyond this set of miniatures.  I must say that I'm having a blast with all of this!  More to come.

M

Momentum

We are now in the Fall season which means a variety of things for different people.  Some seek to finish off various projects before the end of the year and others begin to think of new projects or goals for the next year.  The approaching holiday season will be ever present in the back of many people's minds.  All of this is, of course, very much the case for the gaming industry.

Whether you are a larger company or mid-sized one or even a small or hobby publisher/developer -- this is a big one.  I got a couple of queries myself about releases Arcana Creations has in the works for this quarter and I look at various other efforts going on and some of it, quite frankly, gives me pause.

Kickstarter has really shaken up things for our hobby this past year and, by now, some have resulted in finished products and have made their way into the hands of backers and into retail distribution chains.  I'm still unsure of how this effects retail distribution in the grand scheme of things though.  Will the traditional bump in sales which debut around GenCon and the following months leading up to the holiday season become affected as more and more game publishers look towards funding projects through Kickstarter?  Or will late Kickstarters suffer from the impending holidays because of fewer dollars going to back these projects in favor for the various expenditures that this time of year brings?

In the past months, I have continued to observe and try to keep current with various efforts in the gaming industry as I try to keep mindful of my own projects.  There are some companies whose products I prefer as a consumer and gamer that I pay closer attention to.  Troll Lord Games is just one of these companies.

Troll Lord Games was founded in 2000 just at the outset of the d20 boom -- their initial releases was for 'Sword and Sorcery RPG' which they were working on but they quickly retooled their material for d20 and 3rd Edition.  They had some success but an early partnership with Gary Gygax also brought them increased attention from a variety of fans.  In 2004, they introduced Castles & Crusades and it looked like the company was really getting its stride.  More people discovered the game and things looked promising for TLG.  I came across the game in 2006.

Troll Lord Games ran into a series of problems in 2008 though.  A 4th Edition of D&D was released, Gygax passed away, and the license to produce his material was dissolved.  This meant no more Lejendary Adventures... no more Castle Zagyg and Yggsburgh... no more Gygaxian Fantasy World books.  All that the company had left to bank on was Castles & Crusades and the only solution was to try and grow this and other 'Siege Engine Games' and they made a good go at it.  The following couple of years saw some releases -- new printings to the core books and expanding the line with other books.  In 2011, the only significant release was the Castle Keeper's Guide -- a veritable stone around the company's neck.

This year has been different for them though.  They have been able to release multiple key products and more are coming out between now and the end of the year.  For the first time, they have released a full color Player's Handbook for Castles & Crusades (this PHB is the 5th printing).  The projects they have on the horizon are several and, they all seem within reach.  I don't think I have seen the company as productive as it looks to be right now.  This is great news for that company and good news for any fan of TLG.  I know that Kickstarter also helped for a couple of these projects as well, and this as well as other similarly run pre-orders are keeping the gears and machinery nicely greased.

It seems like the company has 'grown up' and, while it might be a weird thing to say, kinda distant.  Worse yet is that I can't even begin to explain 'why' I feel this way.  'They' are constantly posting comments, sales, updates, and quirky blog stuff on a regular basis so it's not a 'lack of communication' though maybe it's a lack of 'meaningful' content in their communication.  Frankly, it feels like a clubhouse that I used to be a member of but now is no longer the case.  They have successfully transformed into a company interested in selling me product as opposed to fellow gamers who are developing some great stuff.

While I am putting out a couple things before the end of the year, I don't feel pressure or a 'need' to keep up with the momentum of how other things are going.  I'm just a gamer who is developing some cool stuff.  At then end of the day, it means that breaking even is pretty cool and if more money comes in, it just means I can be in a position to do more.

Momentum for AC has been steady this year and it promises to be a very interesting 2013.  May we all keep our dice rolling away!

M