You read that right, 13th Age in Minaria— the campaign setting from TSR that never was, and could have been.
For the non old-person, Minaria is the fantasy world created for the Divine Right board game, which many of us had as kids in the 80’s. While the game was a bit labyrinthian for a 9-12 year-old as a hex and counter, the map board was on the wall of my bedroom for at least 15 years. The map and counter art is by Dave Trampier, and is amazing. The Tower of Zards, Invisible School of Thaumaturgy and all the awesome mercenary units (like Hamhara the dragon) were incredibly fertile ground for the imagination as a young and now older mainge.
The mystery is why this was not turned into a Greyhawk style campaign setting by TSR as all the assets were right there– just needed someone to start writing modules for it! There were multiple articles in Dragon Magazine on Minaria and it’s environs. Anyway, time to redress this issue!
13th Age and Minaria are a great combo as the 13th Age world itself is godless and pretty generic fantasy, especially since it has no gods which I’ve always found very strange. While Runequest has a bit too much to do with the gods for me, the 13th Age world just doesn’t seem grounded. The Icons in 13th Age are really just basic concepts and with Minaria, there are oodles of Icons that are far more interesting and engaging than the stock 13th Age ones. Yet on the plus side, you have the amazing 13th Age system, which is probably my most run RPG in the last 5 years or so. While Minaria is not explicitly high fantasy, it has enough of those elements to fit well with the more gonzo fantasy of 13th Age. Minaria and Divine Right are still products of the Gonzo TSR age.
I’m not GMing this one, which is a great break from almost always GMing and I get to play a rogue, so far my favorite class for the game (among many awesome class selections). The fun part about the rogue is that you can bounce around the combat area almost at will, you rarely get stuck, and you can hammer enemies.
I’ve only been in two sessions with the group so far and we are in some rather familiar house by the sea near Port Lork at the moment… and we’ll see where this goes.
I want to do a long post about CK3. This is an amazing game. Here’s the TL:DR.
FIRST: it’s much easier to get into than CK2, which I gave the good colleddged try a few times and failed to figure out what to do and it definitely failed to pique my interest and I just yearned for Stellaris… this one is totally smooth. SMOOTH.
SECOND: this is not a conquest game like Total War, this is a medieval FUCK simulator with war-like…um… consequences. It’s all about relationships, both hierarchical and personal, hereditary and romantic. You don’t have winning goal– you set that for yourself which is extremely different than Total War or Stellaris. As a strategy buff, this seemed odd to me, but it’s great. It’s a sandbox and it’s huge.
THIRD: The things you can do are absolute madness. Eating prisoners, seducing relatives of either gender, creating a naked, satanic religion and then forcing it onto your subjects, running a bene gesserit style breeding program with your children and grand children to create what later amounts to a kwizatch haderach (or transalpine dwarfs….).
So what the hell is this game?
CK3 is a game where you play as a single person, specifically a landowning noble of some kind. When that person dies, if they have kids who can inherit their wealth and status and holdings (not just spawns that can’t inherit anything), you play as one of those children, otherwise it’s game over. You are incentivized to continue your bloodline and make sure you have enough heirs, so that with the high death rates of the early medieval period, you don’t lose the game.
You can start as anyone: a king, a queen, a count or a duke but not Barons or unlanded nobles (ie: no banking families— yet). You can start anywhere in the ‘old’ world (Europe to the western edge of China) as well as amazingly, Africa. You can play as nobles in the Califates, in the late dark age Viking kingdoms or as leaders of the Hausa in Africa. The scope is nuts.
Once you start, you will have a holding, house you belong to, family and a court that you need to manage. This comes with a small or large military, alliances, a current religion with all of the rules and complexity that goes along with these.
And here’s how this fucking madness can play out.
On my first play, I chose Malika of the Hausa, a matrilineal, tribal area in Africa. I got a husband and other mating partners (totally OK in Hausa culture, not at all OK in most others) and started the full auto birthcannon, just firing out kids. The issue was, they started to try to kill each other as there were no laws of primogeniture. Eventually my first character had about 7-8 kids– quite a horde and 2 of them died early. When my first character died, I thought: ‘Ok, I’ve built quite a power-base here and my oldest daughter is going to continue to kick total ass.’ NOPE! The rules of succession split everything among the female heirs equally and my main daughter immediately had to go to war with two of her sisters to reclaim (or claim rather) the lands that were rightfully hers. Meanwhile she racked up the consorts and started firing out kids of her own– but NO girls. So if she got killed, she I would end up playing as one of her sisters that I was now at war with, or at the last minute would have to switch to a patriarchal culture. Fan, fucking, tastic.
Being my first play with no clue as to what I was doing, I quit to start over. After running through the tutorial that starts in Ireland, then I began as Eudes, a little kid count in Western France, beset by enemies all around him with a couple of powerful uncles, one of which is his liege who has bigger problems to worry about.
Other than making sure I was not going to get immediately destroyed by the Vikings nearby, the first thing I had to find was a good woman just like the Hausa lady finding a set of good men to breed children, this is essential, and in Catholic France, you likely get only one shot at this. I have a certain… uh… type of lady that I like so I was like: why not let’s go look at Spain/Portugal and I found a similar age kid that fit the bill and had a positive congenital trait as well– boom! Betrothed which gave me an instant ally across the Pyrenees and some claims on some counties in the Basque region. I married off a sister which gave me another ally nearby. Then…
… I got– distracted. The map is gigantic, just mind-bogglingly large. I started looking at India and environs on a whim and BOOM: there were tits. Granted they were on a lady with dwarfism… Then the deep dive into the mystery of the naked rulers in India began– and then I found one in Eastern Europe. Why? What the hell and how can I get everyone naked?? How? I won’t spoil anything, but this led me to some deep respect around the religious aspect of this game. There are 15 Islamic sects alone and I have no idea how many Christian ones, including the Gnoscists, your leaders can, of course, create their own religions. These each have different mechanics and change the rules of the game, including, you got it: NUDITY.
I played as Eudes until he passed away happily having quite a few children and a few un-legitimized bastards and then the madness and obsession really began. When you start with one of the ‘try this first’ factions you feel a bit like you are on rails (you are not) but when that guy or gal dies, you know everything can and will change drastically, a lot like some of the better Total War games. Eventually, France collapsed under the constant conflict between rival counts and dukes, meanwhile raided from Vikings in the north and pressure from the south from the Islamic empire that had rolled across Spain. Eventually ALL of southern France was part of a massive Islamic empire who had also encroached into Italy. The only thing for it was for the Pope to call a Crusade and madness began again.
While the urge is to get the biggest Kingdom/Dukedom or solid heirs, sometimes, you just need do things out of spite. A few generations down I had an absolute rake seducer as a duke as well as some unruly vassals and they went and rebelled. The rebellion was crushed and I captured a couple of the rulers, most of which I tortured and then let go. But one of them had a comely lass for a spouse and no children yet! I left him to rot in jail, seduced his wife who must have been oh so lonely (she hated him anyway) and as soon as she was impregnated, I turned him loose from jail to cope with the fact that his primary heir was not his own child. This did nothing to advance the cause of my realm, but real good fun.
Another event was that I needed a good spymaster. I found some Teutonic broad in the low countries with a shockingly high intrigue stat, seduced her to my court, then my rakish duke had some kids with her. Over the years, I noticed one of her daughters had some amazing congenital traits and seduced her too (this was her daughter from a previous husband/lover) and when the Duchess died, married the duke to the daughter. Eventually, since her mom was the spymaster, she exposed the secret to her daughter that the duke had also humped her mom and there was an incident… luckily my duke had a high likability, otherwise you start to see murder after murder of your dynasty members from inside your own court.
Eventually my dynasty was stripped of all other Duke level titles and was stuck with just a Duchy of Provence (between Italy and France) and even though I had kidnapped my liege multiple times to get concessions, due to disease, murder and accidents at war, I was down to a barren duchess with zero male heirs in her line of succession and it was game over.
Again, this game has no ‘winning’ goal: you make your own goals and it’s just brilliant. You can play as a warlike Richard the Lionhearted, a foppish lout who whores and drinks, or a Bathory style torturer and murderer and anywhere in between. Then, next generation, you get to decide how to play again.
Lastly, I love how small, seemingly insignificant decisions later become massive problems or boons. Marrying off an ugly, scaly daughter to some bastard child of one of your vassals ends up accidentally with you controlling the province as the father murdered his bastard and a month later his son and heir, one of your knights, is killed fighting in a crusade.
They really knocked one out of the park and this will be played all Winter…I can’t wait for expansions: especially if there are BANKING expansions where you can play as the FUGGERS, etc. and not worry about all the owning land stuff.
Gencon just announced it’s cancellation, while at the same time scout camps are firing up and kids will be at camp in a couple weeks across the country- outdoor events in contrast to a major indoor one mostly in closed rooms with recycled air. What Gencon likely doesn’t want is to have a super-spreader event, however unlikely that is during the middle of summer, and have everyone go home and spread it around– a lot like what happens with Con Crud. Again, very unlikely, but I can see why they cancelled it. Indoors, people pressed together, people talking and yelling and getting real close. Sucks, but here we are. Gives me an excuse to finally not go after going since 1994 every…. single… time and instead stay home and game with almost the same friends that I game with at Gencon anyway. I will REALLY miss the auction though… fuck.
That said, a lot has changed in the last couple months and a lot will change in June and July. You have extremes of people who say they will never go to a bar again in 2020 and stay at home until 2021, i.e.:, the bed wetters, and others that are already out at the bars partying and going to underground speakeasy’s and secret restaurants, i.e.: the ‘get it in my body herd immunity folks’. We’ll have to see which extreme ages the best. Most will choose the middle ground, stick to small gatherings, look at the local situation and wait a bit.
My question is, will the cancellation of Gencon open the way for local cons at the same time to step up and fill the gape? They would have to be set up very quickly and frankly for the group of people most effected by the panic even more than your typical facebook Karen– nerds that are on the computers all day long with the horror of bringing every named death, every celebrity infection, every horrifying hospital and morgue story, every panic porn story about kids dying at age 9 (which was debunked, the woman was actually 94) right at their finger tips at any moment.
I’m hesitant to say yes. I think there will be small cons, maybe a beer stand, some tables at a game store an some stuff in the parking lot. There likely won’t be anything on campuses as they will sadly be closed most of the summer (and many won’t ever reopen anyway as they’ll be out of business), but it’s possible that in some places people set up conventions, especially down south where they are drinking a whole bottle of ‘I don’t give a fuck.’ If they do happen, and people divert this year to these cons, they may just continue to do so?
Would it be the year to bring Gencon back to Lake Geneva? Maybe as an all outdoor event in the summer heat? Maybe have age and health screenings in order to be able to go to any group events? You have to be under 40 and fit– and this isn’t really the demographic unfortunately– but FAR more so than when I went to gencon in the late 80’s/ early 90’s. You can’t age or health stratify any event, from sports to cons or even going to the grocery store. For liability: if you have the event and keep certain people out:litigation!, or if you have the event and someone gets sick: litigation!, all events will likely be cancelled regardless of the progress of the virus itself.
This con went FAST, which usually means we were having fun or we were drunk or a mix of both.
We got in our Shadowfist draft after many years, which I will detail in another post on it’s own, Matt and I played in the Keyforge sealed tournament, we played a lot of ROOT, some Runequest and Mutant Crawl Classics.
This was damn fun and the people were great. It’s hard to be a complete pysse-ant when your decks are randomized and no one knows what they are going to get. My deck was absolute shit, and since I’m a n00b player, I didn’t do well. Really, I can blame the deck on this one for sure which is how the cookie crumbles. Fun game, cool expansion and really cheap buy in with the core set and two random decks. And they had a fuckn vending machine for decks.
One thing to remember is that you can MULLIGAN if you don’t like your first draw.
Mutant Crawl Classics
MCC/DCC: you can be nearly certain that you’re going to get a good GM, a good CON adventure and a romping good time when you sign up for one of these games, and we did. The scenario took place on the Metamorphosis Alpha mothership and involved our (funnel) characters being ejected from our home area to the “death zone.” A bunch of us got robot parts (my pure strain human got a robot head!), we defeated some mutant cyborg hippo and then had all but two of the 18 characters wiped out by someone failing to learn to use a grenade properly while we stood on a ledge with no railing (I had gone off to piss when this happened, so I can’t be blamed!!). Only my manimal Squirrel with her bubble helmet survived. Looking forward to more of this one once Matt fires it the fuck up!
This is the Chaosium RQ and not RQ6, so heavy Glorantha throughout. It was the second time I’ve played and it was OK, the combat system is not on the same level for easy of play and intensity as Mythras (RQ6) at all, but Glorantha can be interesting. I’ve had RQ GM’s that have shown up with just a piece of scratch paper, some pregens and dice and it was fantastic, but this wasn’t one of those, it was just OK and for four hours of your con, that’s tough.
We played two games, one 4 player and one massive 7-player game at the Hyatt. Both Patrick Leder and his ops manager came by to say hi during the (5 hour?) game which was awesome. The 7-player game is absolutely insane and some factions just don’t stand much of a chance (i.e.: the area control ones). While the vagabond didn’t win, it was the Lizards at 29, Vagabond (Ranger) at 26 and the Otters at 30 in the end FTW, which should tell you a bit about how the game went. The Cats and the Birds had to simultaneously chase the vagabonds around, destroy sympathy as well as trading posts while at the same time trying to score a few points here at there. While certainly a bit unbalanced for the area control factions, 10/10, would play 7 player yet again.
Other stuff I saw
Other than gaming, I did a share of wandering around the dealer hall and the various areas.
DUNE is really coming out, and soon! GF9 really got on the horse and produced the game quickly–I figured based on the past that they would take long into 2020 to get the game out but, nope, it’s out next month. The new set looks good and I am very interested in the rules changes. I do think the leader pieces are too small, but the art is good and the map and box both look beautiful. We will be able to play this again rather than our 1980 copies sitting in the safest shelf possible in our houses only to be brought out every few years!
Having the board game ‘check out’ be a ticketed event SUCKS, it’s much better at Gary and Gamehole con where you just walk up, give your drivers license and play whatever.
Pathfinder 2nd edition was a big release during the con and again, like 2008 or so, they had MASSIVE stacks of books. It’s got to be tough when you build a direct clone of an older game and then do a second edition of that clone.
Harassment signs. I’ve been going to GENCON every year since 1993 or so and I think it is the most accepting convention for ALL types of people, freaks, deviants, nerds, etc. one can imagine. It just goes without saying that it’s completely unacceptable for people to be mean to the weird or normal alike, so I’m not sure why these signs are necessary to put up on every single door in the entire convention center. Do they really mean ONLINE harassment?
The Gencon App was really helpful– and saved a lot of paper with those big con books with their (outdated) event lists. Get it for sure if you go.
BIRDS and LIMES. This was a fantastic addition to the Con. We had one incident where Matt parked the car and JP forgot his badge, and instead of having to walk 45 minutes to the car and back, we tossed a few bucks at the BIRDS and it was really and excuse to ride a motor scooter for 15 minutes total! In Milwaukee, everyone had to have helmets and ride on the road and stuff, which is fine. However, in Indy you can ride all over the place, no helmets no nothing. I would only say people SHOULD have to ride with a helmet, but then be able to go all over, on sidewalks, whatever. Sure there will be drunken accidents and all that, but no different than people riding a bike around.
Gencon Auction! I hadn’t been in this thing for years and it was great. I may spend most of a day in there one of these cons. So much shit for cheap and the consignment store had some ridiculous deals.
Triumphant Entrance Man. We saw him again at an MTG booth looking and triumphant as ever (and lost some weight as well) and took some pics.
Well four years after starting, I finally finished Dark Souls 2, my second victory over the requirement of getting gud to beat one of the Souls game. I got invaded, I sunbro’d, I used a hint guide I got when I got the game on launch day (which was totally inaccurate most of the time!) I used help whenever I could just to get through it as quickly as possible.
Given that this is a Souls game, and considered the worst of the three, this game still blows nearly all other video games out of the water. It’s so brilliant about showing you early what you are going to go up against, teasing you into thinking your are getting the hang of it, and then throwing you into something totally different from what you faced before in order to test your character build, skills and intuition. The game trolls the player constantly and despite what appears to be an entirely bleak and unforgiving game– there are threads of humor throughout the game of the blackest sort.
The story in this one felt a bit more disjointed than the first. Not that this will be spoilers but again you have several cities and areas that have fallen to the curse of undeath, and to reverse the curse (on yourself) you have to kill a ton of stuff. This one has giants, dragons, undeads and a lot of these Ogre things that you can’t help but shoot in the ass with fire arrows.
My favorite areas in the game were probably the Iron Keep (think of a citadel sinking into lava) and No-Man’s Wharf which was both Spanish and Viking… pirates? There was a part like Blightown from the first game, which was not quite as annoying: again, the developers are trolling you so they have to put in some vertical madness or it just wouldn’t be a Souls game.
Boss wise, I really liked the Undead Chariot, despite it being fucking super annoying. The Mirror Knight was really cool (but and easy fight for the most part). The most intriguing boss was the Demon of Song, that got all these undead chicks to sing constantly to draw victims to it, sort of like sirens but they were all tricked into doing it.
It’s also amazing to me how the Souls game still retain tropes that are super common in fantasy games, but it just isn’t fucking cheesy. You DO fight a shit load of dragons and you DO rescue a princess from a tower. How plebian can you get? But this is SOULS, so the pain and anguish you had to endure to get there makes none of it cheeese at all. In fact I would say the only thing cheese in the game was my fucking build!
I did a classic tank and spank, with the Gyrm Great Shield (good against fire and physical damage also giving mega poise too) and the black knight greatsword (added damage with strength and faith). I used magic for the first time in a Souls game with heal and greater heal.
So there are some of you that don’t try these games because they are hard. YES. To solo a Dark Souls game you need to really ante up. However, the multiplayer in this game really really makes the game more playable if you don’t want to be super hardcore. Most of the bosses are very difficult vs just you– but if you bring a friend or rando in there you can waltz through all but the most difficult bosses (Smelter Demon). What I’m saying is that you can do it and don’t be shy about becoming human and summoning if you need to. Also, if you are sitting on a shitload of souls and don’t want to die at a boss– lay down your summoning sign and give help to others to practice fighting the boss before you go in there in your own game. It really helps.
Well, there’s a lot people have said and written about these games, and while I liked DS1 better (most of it anyway), DS2 is still an absolute classic that you should push through at least once. It totally stands the test of time graphically and gameplay wise, much like the first one. There will always be a place where you just feel so frustrated you have to stop for awhile, and the game absolutely demands that you learn a ton about how the weapons work, how to upgrade your shit properly, as well as how to execute on the gamepad, so it’s not for the casul Devil May Cry/ Bayonetta types (both great games). My next challenge is the (tons more difficult) Bloodborne and then it’s on to Dark Souls 3 (in 2-3 years….).
This is going to be a hellaciously long post because I have many thoughts on this game from both a mechanical perspective and a historical one.
Kingdom Come: Deliverance is a Skyrim-style first person RPG set in the early 1400’s in Czechoslovakia. The game is heavily political, unapologetic about it’s historical depiction, has a ‘git gud’ combat system/mechanics… and no magic. I asked myself many times while playing: how the hell did this get made?
Games have to appeal to the mass of gamers, especially open world type games that take millions upon millions of dollars to make, so how did a game set in a country that most Americans can’t even find on a map, about a local political situation that most American’s have never even heard of, with a steep learning curve and extremely historically accurate setting get this popular?
Well, it’s real good. Since most of you have played the new Zelda or Skyrim or one of the other open world RPG’s, I’m not going to go into what that type of game is much except to say that Kingdom Come, despite is core story line and despite it’s long story/tutorial/rails in the beginning, is an open world RPG, and one that should be reckoned with!
You play a specific character named Henry. You can’t alter his sex or appearance or voice or skin color at all. He is the son of a blacksmith in a small village next to a lord’s keep. None of this can be altered at all and this was a bit shocking to me until I got a bit into the story and realized these constraints were fantastic for the immersion and the quality of the narrative throughout the game. You have a ton of leeway how you play Henry, but you are him in this game and that’s that. In addition to looks, what you fight, what you want to swive, your lineage and how Henry is warped and weaved into the story is set, but how you go about doing everything else is up to you.
No spoilers, but things go very wrong for Henry, and like most good stories, Henry’s story is a story of revenge and the hero’s journey from country bumkin who can do jack and shit, to someone who hits like a sledgehammer, can sneak up on people and slit their throat in broad daylight and who has swived more whores than most holy roman emperors of the time.
Overall, the arc of the story is long, broken up into very interesting sections with lots of time in between most to jag around. You will learn a LOT about Czech, German and Holy Roman history and politics in this game and while this may seem tiresome, I was extremely impressed with the game’s lack of shyness around discussion of politics in cut scenes. What’s more they do not hold back on medieval brutality, rape, and slaughter of unarmed peasants. Yet the scenes of carnage and rape are made much more poignant because they seem wholly an anomaly in the verdant and peaceful villages and castles that make up most of the game. In addition to the revenge story which is an obvious driver, you also gain an affinity to the working way of life (even of the bandits and thieves) which is horrifically disrupted by events in the game.
The map to the game seems small at first, but there is a lot of detail. I felt completely lost many times in the woods, always looking back at the overhead map to see where to go. Even though the game feels populated, out in the wilds the forests go on and on without seeing anything of interest– so travel feels like it’s travel rather than the get to the fast travel spot and then fast travel back to where you came. There’s a lot to see and destroy and have sex with in the game.
Women in this game, it being the 1400’s, have traditional roles. You won’t see a transexual cyborg spouting a bunch of made up pronouns or taking on a male role in society. Nor did they sneak in some female-combat savant for the sake of inclusion (certainly, this existed with women pretending to be men in order to fight).
Lastly, the NPC’s are very well done even if it gets a little cheesy at the end with sort of a Kelley’s Heroes type of vibe.
I’m going to go through Combat, Stealth, Alchemy and the fast travel system. I’m not going to go into the haggle and social parts of the game just for the sake of brevity.
Combat is a bitch in this game and you will be glad if you put your lead shoes on in Dark Souls or Bloodborne before playing Kingdom Come. Those games teach you one thing that will help the most and that’s patience. Every fight has the potential to damage you if you are not careful and patient. Getting in fights with multiple opponents, unless you are heavily armored and experienced, will get Henry dead like very quickly. Combat is split into Sword work, Mace work, Axe work, and unarmed. Each of them follow the base combat system which is attack, parry and instant parry/counter attack and grapple. Your attacks can be combo-ed if you follow a rhythm of attacking and generate another attack the moment the first attack actually connects. This can be challenging for players who haven’t experienced say, Witcher 1, which has a similar rhythm combo system. You also have to control where your weapon is: either up, down or in the middle of the body. You can start an attack high and then switch to low or mid level during the attack which is quite fun. Henry has health and stamina and can also be damaged in various parts of his body, which causes problems regardless of your level of health/stamina.
Like Dark Souls, you use stamina to run and make attacks and block. If you get hit blocking with no stamina, you take damage and can get staggered, which is no fun at all. Fights without armor but with sharp weapons go rather quickly.
Unarmed combat, while it doesn’t happen often, is my favorite of the combat systems. You start fist fights early in the game during the tutorial when Henry is a fucking creamed puff extraordinaire, but later you get into many fist fights, sometimes protecting the women, sometimes fighting with friends, sometimes just to prove yourself and it’s awesome. Range, movement and timing are all critical components to good fisticuffs which really raised my cockles. I knew I had arrived wen I punched an armored knight out in a fight in a barn (his weapons were too slow and I was able to constantly hit-stun him until crushing his skull underfoot).
Sword work is typically used against the unarmored peasantry who are easy to slice open with a blade compared to the armored folks. Swords have the most attack combos and I can see them being very attractive for people that want to combo up. You also look cool with a big bastard sword, but for me, instead of a sword, I went for a mace.
Maces have very few attack combos, but do tons of damaged to armored foes, and still do enough damage to unarmored to warrant using them all the time. Henry can also get a perk where he can possibly knock anyone out with a headshot after which they can be killed via a coup de grace.
Axes I did not use much in my playthrough, so cannot comment, but they seem to fall between the sword and the mace.
Archery is VERY difficult in this game as you have to aim as you would in real life: down the bow and arrow without a reticle to help know exactly where you are aiming. Drawing back and shooting an arrow is also very slow, so in a fight or in just practice shooting, I had a lot of problems with archery in general throughout the game. However, it does help in mass-combat fights and to get at other archers. You can run away and shoot, hoping to take out a few of the peasant bandits or vs slower armored opponents, whittle them down. Overall though, except at close range, Archery is not something you can rely upon. You will need to learn it to some extent for the main plot.
While there is a lot of fighting, stealth (and lockpicking) are critical skills for Henry in the game. Your ability to sneak around effectively will make things a lot easier throughout. Early on, Henry is so clumsy that you have no hope at all of sneaking up on anyone, which can be very frustrating to new players who expect it to at least work some of the time based on other stealth games. Remember that Henry, from the outset, explicitly sucks ass at everything. You do get Henry better with practice, and eventually you are sneaking around in broad daylight. Getting caught in normal circumstances gets you laughed at or asked if you are taking a shit by bath maids. Getting caught in a place you’re not supposed to be can lead to a lot of problems.
Locking picking is essential and I can only say for new players: get your lockpicking skill as high as possible as soon as you can. There is a long part of the game where it’s essential. If you have played Skyrim, the lockpicking is familiar enough.
Alchemy is excellent, but fucking tedious. You need to actually craft the items on an alchemist bench and I don’t mean how skyrim does it where you pick your stuff and it makes a roll to see if it worked– nope: you have to physically guide Henry through the steps in the recipes you find in the game. For example, you will need to grab ingredients, put them in a pot of boiling water or spirits, and then cook them up for a specific amount of time tracked with an hourglass that you must manually turn. I ignored it for much of the game, but there’s a part where you must do it so just learn it.
Fast travel in the game is excellent. Instead of just appearing where you want to end up, your little avatar moves across the map and can encounter various things on the way which can drop you back into real time. Most of these are bandit ambushes. So it’s never guaranteed that you are just going to show up where you want to without being harassed, but it still functions as quite a time saver, especially later in the game when you’ve seen everything along a particular route many times.
Despite our differences on everything else, every race, gender and sexual orientation can agree on one thing: TITS. If you are going to play some of the romantic bits in Kingdom Come, note that there are tits and Henry gets down to fucking in the game. It’s not gratuitous, but enough to bring out the horny gamers for sure. Just make sure kids aren’t around when you are wooing or going to the bathhouse. There’s only one part of the main plot where you get greased up and fuck– the other nudie parts are optional and you will know when you are getting close to seeing tits in those. One of the side missions tits will sneak up on you during, so watch it if you are playing in front of your grand ma on the big TV in the living room.
Kingdom Come is an unbelievably immersive gaming experience, unrelenting in it’s depiction of life as a Czech during this time period. Some of it stands in stark contrast to modern existence and some of it is eerily similar. While the combat has a steep learning curve, coupled with Henry’s trash skills make it even more frustrating, pushing through so you can take out multiple enemies at once is very satisfying after taking such a beating for so long.
The writing is superb and the arc of the story, while nothing new, is well worth giving this bad boy a play through.
We started Lamentations of the Flame Princess up about 8 months ago as a break from 13th Age (which had been going on for a couple years there). I didn’t mean it to go that long, but Remy Pardue wasn’t as quick to be manhandled and burned and what happened after led to a bunch of…complications. This in addition to the normal adult scheduling problems that don’t allow any room for RPG’s at all without a ton of effort and planning made for something that should have taken a month or so take many months.
That said, I had a good time running LotFP, and we are going to continue the campaign with the same characters (the ones that survived that is) but with Mythras rather than LotFP.
The players (including myself) wanted something still low fantasy, with more meat to the characters and a better system for skills/ combat, experience etc. So why not go with the absolute best solution to all of those things: Mythras.
As I convert characters, I noticed that there is now a Roll20 characters sheet for Mythras games! This makes it a lot easier to play and even has a ton of fancy rolling mechanisms that will make my (easy) job of running the game easier.
One of the things I love about Mythras is that despite it’s apparent complexity, except for the magic systems and a few edge cases, I can run the game without the book at all. My only complaint about the complexity is that it’s difficult to change the GRADE of tasks because of the maths, and by difficult it’s really about combating an important tool for all GM’s to have: laziness. Post running Exalted 2E, I’ve pushed myself hard to re-acquire the trait that I had as a childe and teenage GM: laazzzzzziness. Don’t stress over the fucking super details, it’s just not worth it as long as you can cobble it all together in the session and then take good notes afterwards.
So Mythras here we come. In addition to Loz and Pete (the RQ6 /Mythras guys), I want to give a shout out to this guy: hkokko, who is responsible for a ton of content and templates on the Mythras encounter generator, which has and will make my life so much easier.
Anyway these are not necessarily from 2018, but just books that I took a fancy to throughout the year.
Shinobigami Modern Ninja Battle Game
I finally got the final PDF of the rules and printed them up and have read them cover to cover. If you like Hillfolk or Fiasco, you can see where they got all their inspiration for those games from (this and Tenra Bansho Zero). Looking forward to running this. I have not played this yet, so I can’t truly review the game itself.
Down Darker Trails
While this uses an inferior D100 system to Mythras, Down Darker Trails is an incredible supplement to CoC for the old West. It’s extremely thorough in it’s descriptions of the era and nature of roleplaying in the old west with monsters without getting totally overboard like Deadlands (which is cool too). The adventures in the back of the book aren’t too great, but it would be easy to wing something with this source material. With the rate at which I’m able to run games, this may never get played, but it’s a great read.
Runequest Glorantha/Guide to Glorantha
These are excellent RQ books, especially the Guide to Glorantha which finally laid out to me what the heck is going on. While RQ requires a lot of player knowledge of the setting, it’s much easier to have it all consolidated in a couple of books than all over the place. No matter what system you may choose to run RQ with, the Guide to Glorantha is a must read.
For play in 2018 year, we continued the Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign, but some of the players got sick of the non-levelling up and general low power level of the game (with silver=experience, it can be rough to level up), so we are going to switch to Mythras after the current campaign arc is done.
My favorite game from 2018 is probably DCC, we’ve had a lot of fun with friends and the kids with the game and adventures. My favorite RPG event of last year was the 2 day 13th Age level 1-6 switching GM’s every 3 hours.
I want to do a serious post about my thoughts on 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, the system and where I think it’s great and where I think it’s sort of lacking.
We had our monthly Straahd session a week or so back and it was a good one, we ended up in our first (that I was there for) combat with the vampire himself and one of the characters was completely destroyed in a single round, which always keeps you honest.
While I think 5E is excellent, there are times when, compared to my other d20 faves (13th Age and DCC) it can fall flat like when BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT
I first saw this Anime on netflix years ago, watching only the first episode. We just had a kid and I couldn’t give it the attention it deserved at the time. You can tell from the first episode, it’s going to be a series that rewards close attention. My first draw was that Shigurui looked like the art style of Ninja Scroll with some of the same animators and, of course, it is, which should tell you something about it’s quality. For those of us that grew up with Ninja Scroll as the GOLD STANDARD (along with Akira) for Anime, Shigurui is like Ninja Scroll all fucking grown up.
From the outset, I want to highly recommend this anime with almost zero caveats… maybe just two. First, it’s very dark and violent along the lines of 13 Assassins but a bit worse. Second it is UNFINISHED. There is no resolution to the entire story, as that would have taken most of a second season which was never made. You never get to see what happens in the end, which a tough pill as things are set up in the first episode for a climactic battle, yet most of the series is a flashback that never flashes forward again! How can you get the full story? You have to read the manga. That said, while incomplete, this is a masterpiece of anime.
What’s is Shigurui about? Like the film 13 Assassins, the series takes place during a peaceful era after the ‘warring states’ period in Japan. And again, like 13 Assassins, a relative of the shogun is a Daimyo of a province and a full bore psychopath, one who dreams of a more violent era, regardless of the fact that he lives in lazy splendor and can kill servants on a whim. At the beginning of the first show we see him getting his head lopped off in a seppuku ceremony– one in which he ONLY touches the fan–he isn’t even given the time to touch the fan to his abdomen as is traditional– the executioner just lopped his head right off! So he must have done something more than raping and killing peasantry right? Right.
We then have a first flashback to a one armed man and a blind man about to duel to the death in front of said Daimyo. They prepare to fight and then another flashback occurs when one of the men (the blind one, but no longer blind) steps into a dojo. The other combatant is there and neither have any injuries (yet). The show moves on to show the rivalry of these two men at the dojo, but then turns into something very different towards the end.
Add to this the fact that the master of the Kogan-Ryuu dojo is insane, and lies in a state of dementia for most of the show, however, he has massive parts in the series when he is in his right mind and is probably the most dangerous character in terms of ability to apply violence.
The show and manga has everything samurai you can imagine–various fighting styles, ‘magical’ or unlucky swords, western sword styles, rival schools. You know how Game of Thrones very much includes nearly every fantasy trope and most of the ‘fantasy’ races without being like a bad Forgotten Realms based Dungeons and Dragons movie? Shigurui HAS all the samurai tropes, it just presents them in such a way–again, much like ninja scroll– that helps you forget that you are seeing/reading about the same old tired stuff that showed up during the ninja and samurai craze in the 80’s.
The meat of the show outside of the character development are the various fighting styles. The fighting styles are extremely well detailed, and will have you thinking quite a bit about it as the learning of the two protagonists increases and they not only learn the secrets from the master, but come up with their own modifications and evolution to the styles. Having read the manga, I can say that this continues well into the second half of the series and ends spectacularly.
One other thing I really like is that if you look up the series in google and do an image search, you cannot find out what happens in the final duel. The manga author has many dream sequences and day dreams where BOTH of the main antagonists are show to be killed or terribly wounded during the final fight, so it’s impossible without reading the manga to get spoiled by the internet. The picture you are looking at with the guy with one arm’s face cut off could be during the final duel, or could be a dream sequence.
The only mechanical system that would be able to handle Shigurui’s level of combat depth and manner of wounds, is, of course, Mythras. Most of the sword fights are over in a SINGLE stroke, which is simply not possible with D20 systems that use hit points, nor WFRP, nor 13th Age. Story games would not effectively simulate the fights without far to heavy narrative control: you may as well just play with action figures at that point rather than roll dice.
In Mythras, both of the protagonists would have over 100% in their relevant sword skills (in the Kogan style), and you would probably need to break out different weapons having different skills (such as the shorter sword, the longer katana’s, and the big honking club thing one of the characters uses, and two swords at once).
One other thing that may be difficult in any RPG, even Mythras, is that the Kogan-Ryuu sword school students NEVER parry. This means that the swordsman that strikes at the higher strike rank and hits is going to need to score a heavy wound most of the time to not himself be killed, but vs another Kogan swordsman, he will get a special effect straight away since there is no parry.
In order to simulate the sword styles, I would give special traits when characters got to 90 %, 100% and finally 120% skill levels, so every style would have three traits. These are usually only given once to an entire style in the core game, but it should not break anything to give more, especially at such high skill levels.
I would also recommend using the advanced range and distance rules. There are a couple of the fights in Shigurui where the range is critical. In fact the first Kogan style trait I would add at 90% mastery would be that the sword used counts as one level up in terms of weapon length.
Passions can also be very useful in this type of game, as they could boost combat skills in certain situations to god-like levels. Getting close to 10% chance of a critical is scary– 14-17% is insane. Anyway, a game with Mythras where on one wears armor and no one parries could be very interesting…