Apr 152013
 

If you have been following my other projects of late, you might think it a bit odd that I’m writing a blog post about not using published adventures less than a fortnight after I uploaded my very own adventure onto DriveThruStuff. Bear with me though, as it will all make sense.

A while back I wrote a little article about a way of cutting down on prep time for running games without sacrificing quality. I think this is very important to a lot of GMs who sometimes don’t get the chance to put the love care and attention into their stories as they would ideally like. We all have lives away from the table, and even when I was young and just starting out in this wonderful little hobby, and had little in the way of responsibility, there were still occasions when a game needed to be run, and there was little prepared in the way of plot-lines and rounded out antagonists. When this happens, it can be sorely tempting indeed to pick up an adventure that someone else has written and put in all the leg work on. It might seem like you’re saving yourself a lot of hassle and time, but sadly, this is very rarely the case.

It’s easy to think that because it’s all laid out there in front of you that you won’t have to do so much to run said game, but I have never found that to be the case. The last time I ran a  pre-written adventure was to try out the system for Only War, a Fantasy Flight Games RPG set in the popular Warhammer 40k universe, all about the Imperial Guard. I went in very prepared for this, and had read the entire Dark Heresy rulebook before hand, as the adventure only had quick start rules, and I didn’t want to be caught with my pants down. Metaphorically speaking…

Even that wasn’t enough though, as I was constantly worried that I was forgetting things that the adventure had included that could be important later on. I am in fact fairly sure I missed out one entire NPC, and got two others mixed up, but I hope that my players never realised. And this is my biggest problem with written adventures; since I never came up with the idea, I feel bad about changing any detail, as it could change the ending, or at least the conclusion. If I’m running an adventure I have created myself, I know the exact thought process behind every decision made when writing it, and where any thread could lead, because I was the one doing said writing.

If I’m working with someone else’s intellectual creation, I don’t know why they made the decisions they did, and sometimes these questions can only be answered by actually playing the game. At which point – if it goes wrong – it’s a bit late to back-track and reevaluate as your players will already have seen the fumble.

Now, there are exceptions to this, as there to everything – except the second law of thermodynamics – and these are adventures written with multiple paths within them. The best example I have seen of this recently was in an adventure I was lucky enough to be able to review as part of Modiphius‘ campaign to back their Achtung! Cthulhu! Kickstarter campaign. From the get go, this laid out a few paths that could be taken, dependent on the wishes of the players, and the abilities of the characters.

This is a much better way of writing an adventure, but can still take more time to prep than if you are running your own adventures, because you still have a written conclusion that really should be the final aim. Going into an adventure expecting it to end in a certain way means being prepared for all the eventualities that a group a of players will throw at you, and when doing so within the confines of another person’s ideas, it can be tricky to do so without it coming across as the most rail road-y of rail roads.

Is there still a time to run published adventures? Well, of course there are! The adventure I keep subtly linking you to was written for a gaming tournament. It was supposed to be played over two session split by a lunch break, and in such a way as to be as close to the same as possible for two different groups, so that they could be judged fairly against each other. This is an extreme example, but I’m sure that a lot of GMs out there write adventures ahead of time if they’re going to be running a game at a convention. This is the kind of time we really like having the leg work done for us.

The important thing to remember though, is that just because some has started the job for you, that doesn’t mean you get to put in any less effort. If you want the payers to have a good time, then you need to know the adventure just as well as if you had written yourself…

Mar 202013
 

cards-against-humanityI wasn’t too sure that this should be reviewed here, as there’s little to recommend it as a role playing game, or even a game with role playing elements. What made me take a shot though, is just how much I’ve had playing it recently. I first came across the game when a Twitter debate broke out bout whether or not it should be considered a good gateway to more mature and in depth gaming. My own personal thoughts on it, based on a few previews of the cards, and how the game is played, was that it didn’t need to do that job, but it could do if pressed.

So, what is Cards Against Humanity? It’s a party game in a similar vein to Apples to Apples, but very much aimed at a mature audience, provided that audience has a puerile sense of humour, and is not easily offended. It works very simply – although there are optional rules to add a bit of extra fun for people who have played it a lot – by the placing down of a Black card with a Phrase or question, to which the other players have to select a White card from their hands that they think best fits. This all sounds very simple, and it is. You can explain the rules in the time it takes to deal everyone a hand of cards.

For this reason alone, it is a great game to drop in front of people who might not be savvy with the more complicated Euro-games or Ameri-trash kind of board games that I usually play with my gaming friends. It’s the kind of thing that can be dropped on people who are already out for a drink, or just chilling at a mates house, and fun should quickly ensue. Add to this the accessibility of getting hold of the game itself – available as a free download to print out at home – and it’s a sure fire hit. Of course, it’s not quite that easy…

With a name like ‘Cards Against Humanity’ you get the feeling this isn’t a family friendly kind of game, and you’d be spot on. The humour is very close the bone, and if anyone in the group is easily offended, then I would advise against playing it at all. Almost every combination of cards could be considered offensive to someone. the last time I played this game – after taking the time to print it on a good card stock and cutting it out one rainy afternoon – I was in a pub with a small group of friends, and we had to be more than a little careful about how loud we were when announcing the winner of each hand. It should give you a pretty good idea of the level of humour, by telling you that one answer that works with damned near everywhere question is ‘Black People’.

This sounds very racist, and by itself could be enough to put people off the game, but bear in mind that it is derogatory about everyone. It is so universal in its attitude towards mocking things, that once you get over it, you don’t really notice it. As the game progressed, I noticed we were less and less concerned with keeping our voices down, and were just laughing out loud like children.

In conclusion, as long as you can get passed the dark themes and humour, this is a great game. easily accessible, both in laying your hands on the game, as well as playing it. it comes with a very high recommendation from me, and if you’ve played it before, feel free to share you’re favourite combinations of cards in the comments section. To start you off…

“_______, High five Bro!”

Incest.

Mar 192013
 

As promised, I’m back at looking at Necropunk, a new Pathfinder setting currently raining money on Kickstarter. As mentioned in my first brief glimpse at the preview material, I’m not actually that bothered about the pathfinder rules set. I’ve had some fun playing D&D 3 and 3.5, so I understand the basics, but I’ve played them with people for whom any deviance from a D20 based traditional fantasy setting is just something that would not even be considered. They were tactical players mostly, and whenever combat broke out, the game slowed to a crawl, with those of us there for the role playing, pretty much being told what we should do in the fight to garner the greatest positive modifier for the whole group.

I’m sure that there’s a lot of people out there who have fun with that play style, but I am not one of them. So there were a few things that I needed to know before I fully jumped on the Necropunk bandwagon, first being how important combat was going to be. Luckily, they have no problem playing things the way I like them. Although they refer to this mainly in terms of full interplanetary war, it’s an attitude that I bring to almost all of my games when the fighting starts; the fear of mutually assured destruction.

Unless you are a god like being of immense power, the last thing you should want – unless mentally unhinged – is to get into a fight. There is no real way to be certain you’ll walk away from it, and odds are that even if you do, you’ll have the scars and lasting injuries as reminders to be more careful in the future. There’s not a game I’ve run (that wasn’t Feng Shui) that hasn’t had this attitude. And after the first fight, I enjoy watching my players come up with great reasons to avoid getting into scrapes. And if they cannot be avoided, they plan so well for any advantage they can get, that they will have a much higher chance of walking away from it intact.

If/when I get the chance the run a game of Necropunk  that’s what I’ll be looking for. All my players will have to know that it isn’t a normal game of Pathfinder, and that instead of rushing into fights to solve problems, they should be seeking a more indirect form of conflict resolution. So far so good then, and then we get to another thing that I’m looking forward to; equipment lists.

Not everyone’s cup of tea, to be sure, but for me, I like the feeling that you should be able to equip your character in a way that fits in with the world, rather than just generic items and weapons. Plus, the more choice available, the less likely you’re going to find players all going for the same load out of weapons and gear, and adding to the personalisation factor of the character creation process.Add this to the aesthetic that they are going for, and I think I’m in for a treat.

Anything with ‘punk’ on the end is my kind of game. I like the low-fi feel the word brings, even if the technology is of such an advanced level as to be almost indistinguishable from magic. So we have huge interstellar space craft, that are actually alive, and will look as such. the weapons and cyberware are all living tissue, and the thought of blades glistening with ichor as they flash through the air sounds great! The images that are available for the way the game will look are still thin on the ground, but the writers do a damned fine job indeed of painting a picture with words. Still, I can’t wait to take a look at what they have to offer.

I’ll be back later with a more in depth look at characters with the next part of the review, but of what you’ve read so far has piqued your interest, you should head over to their Kickstarter page and pony up a bit of dough to help them out.

Mar 122013
 

Once more I am beginning a series of reviews with some thoughts on general feel and concept, as I think this goes a long way towards grabbing attention of people who might not want to delve too deeply into a new system or setting that they don’t know enough about. It’s also a good idea in this case, as the preview pack I’ve been sent for Necropunk is just that; a preview of basic ideas and concepts over about 40 pages.

These 40 pages did impress me though. Right off the bat I was liking what I saw, with attention placed on the kinds of areas that I look for in a game, and taken away from the kind of gaming that has, in the past, stopped me from caring too much about Pathfinder. They waste no time in making sure that the game that will be played is one of intrigue and honour, rather initiative and hack & slash. True, there is still combat involved, and they do spend some time talking about it, but even without their assurances I would look at this setting as one that involved more social challenges than physical.

There are other things I like too. The aesthetic they are going for sounds like it will be right up my alley. I really wish I had some images for you, and as soon as I have anything to share I will. There are a couple of pictures, but I don’t think they yet do justice to the bone-laced science fiction art work that I’m looking forward to feasting my eyes on. The simple fact that this is called anything-punk was enough to get me interested in the visuals. See my Kuro reviews, and general love of all things Steampunk to get proof of that.

The idea of magic and technology being combined/intertwined is far from a new one, but it is still fairly unusual, and I think will add a lot to this setting. the idea of cyberware like technology created by necromancers is just too delightfully twisted for me not to love it. Just the simple phrase ‘Bone Suit’ gives me a total geek-gasm. It is also nice to know, that although the technology and general feel, both lend themselves well to a horror game, that the designers are focused more on the subtle than the shocking.

I’m not too sure how massive interplanetary living space ships built by necromancers could be subtle, but if that doesn’t have your mind just swimming with possibilities, then you may need to seek help.

So far, this has definitely piqued my interest, and I’m looking forward to getting more under the skin of this one. I’ll have a more in depth look at it by the end of the week, and will hopefully be updating you as more refined versions of the rules become available to reviewers. For now though, I will once again direct you to the Kickstarter page, and ask you very nicely to give up a small amount of your hard earned cash to ensure this book makes it onto the shelves.

Feb 272013
 

1845710As a lot of my audience will know, this blog is set to start actually making me some money soon. Well, to be clear, not the blog per se, just the fact that I have built up an audience that includes a few people willing to pay a little bit for some of my writing. That being said, I still lack the kind of money that will allow me to go in on kickstarters that look amazing. What I do have though, is the aforementioned audience, and a willingness to tell every last one of you how much I like a product when I come across something that’s this rad (yes, I’m taking that word back from the late eighties).

Today then it’s time to turn our attention to Modiphius. A company that dropped onto my radar with two very intriguing words; Achtung! Cthulhu. Although I’m not a big Second World War aficionado, my interest running to military conflicts considerably earlier than that, I am a huge fan of horror gaming. That means that not being a fan of everything Lovecraftian would be a bit if a sin. So I had to take a closer look at this Kickstarter, and the whole line up of products. Before we get into the review, I want you all to head on over and check out the kickstarter. It’s already funded, so you know you’re going to get something out of it, and the rate they’re nailing stretch goals means that for putting up a bit more cash, you’re going to get some pretty sweet loot out of it. Are you back? How cool is all that swag? And now, on to the review.

Three Kings is the first of the Zero Point adventures, and apart from needing a core rule book, you have everything required to play the adventure within its pages. I personally have the the Call of Cthulhu version, although it is available for other systems, notably Savage Worlds and Trail of Cthulhu. All of this is a very good idea, as it quickly became clear that for most people, the game will be a lot more action oriented than the slow, more cerebral investigations CoC players may be used to. The fact that it’s set during one of the largest – and most defining – conflicts of the twentieth century should give you an idea that more than a slight tussle in a library might break out. Having read the adventure cover to cover though, this never takes away from the unknowable dread that marks out Lovecraftian horror games from the rest of the crowd.

The layout and art style used for this adventure are beyond beautiful; with cryptic messages scrawled into the margins and beneath some truly splendid maps, the care attention to detail shines through with even the most cursory of reads. As you get under the skin of the adventure, this obvious love of the source material – both Mythos based and inspired by actual stories of WWII – shines through. Time is taken to talk about the real life heroes of the war, and the deprivations of its worst villains. All this while keeping the story firmly grounded in the horror I’d expect from a product with the word Cthulhu on the cover.

The adventure itself is a well written narrative chain of events, without ever making the players feel railroaded into following a plot thread that wouldn’t make sense to them. From the beginning, the writer – Sarah Newton – takes the time to set up three ways for the adventure to begin, meaning that the players control just how combat/investigation heavy the plot will start out as. Sure, it’s likely to involve a bit more combat than I’d expect in CoC game, but even the more cerebral parties should have no problem circumventing a lot of conflict if they choose to do so. At several points throughout, it is made clear that the players should be allowed to dictate pace and mood to a certain degree, with the Keeper being told to go along with any reasonably well thought out solution that the Investigators come up. This should be a lot more common in published adventures, as it does a great job of empowering the players.

Although the investigators are free to generate their own characters, there is a selection in the back of the book that are better suited to a more military themed game, and I would advise Keepers to utilize them, at lest if they are relatively inexperienced with running CoC games. The other handouts are superb too. The maps and dossier that are available are of very high quality, and would help bring this game of espionage to life.

6844859In conclusion, this is a cracking adventure, and really makes me itch to get a group together to play it. The following adventures in this series have already made their way to my wish list, and the addition of the keeper and Investigator guides would be ideal, as they then open up this wonderful world for groups to explore at their own pace, with stories created just for them. All in all, this is very highly recommended, and if you have the means, you should get on the Kickstarter while you have the chance.

Feb 262013
 

1845710This is a very basic review of a product brought to you by Modiphius. They’re kicking ass at Kickstarter right now, and with all the buzz, I thought I had better check them out and see what all the hoopla is about. All I have to go on so far are my first impressions of the Three Kings adventure supplement. I have the Call of Cthulhu version, although other versions are available. I promise I will furnish you all with a full and comprehensive review once I finish it, but due to a busy weekend and illness yesterday, I’m a day behind and don’t want to leave you all with nothing.

So here it is, based on a cursory flick through: man this book looks amazing! Everything about it makes me want to play this game, from the random scrawled notes popping up in unusual places, through the wonderful art, and onto some absolutely stunning maps. it seems like Modiphius will struggle to impress me any more than they already have done, and I’ll let you tomorrow if they manage it.

Until then, you really should go and check out the Kickstarter. Seriously, the buy in required for the basics is pretty damned low indeed, and with all the stretch goals getting nailed, putting a bit more up will get you some primo loot.

Feb 232013
 

So there we have it, the long overdue story of how this blog came to exist. There are actually a few other projects I’m involved in that I didn’t have time to share through the week, so listed below – with links for those interested – is everything I’m doing, and everywhere else you can find me online, and maybe even in the real world. I’ll start with the ones already mentioned, just to get them all in the same place.

Reviewing music for an extreme metal webzine: The Legions of Steel. As an aside, if you’re in a new and upcoming metal band, drop me a line and we’ll happily sort out an interview (Skype) or if you have a promo, we’ll rock a review for you.

I’ve released my first DriveThruStuff product, and I will be aiming to drop one new Adventure a month. The publisher page can be found here.

I also manage a stand-up comedian, and I’ll be pimping gigs and other appearances through his Facebook page.

I’m onto stage two of my first fully functioning card game, and everything you need to help me play test it can be grabbed through Dropbox.

And now for some stuff you might not know about.

I have taken up a weekly column over at Stuffer Shack. The dude who runs the site went the extra mile in offering support and encouragement when I first started out, so I’m very pleased indeed to be able to work with him. The first post went up yesterday, and you should check back each work for more.

Me and my best mate – whom I mentioned yesterday – have recorded our first podcast. Since he is a very busy man, lecturing at various universities and speaking at conferences, he hasn’t managed to get it edited and uploaded yet, but when he does, it can be found here.

The fiction that I mentioned writing also has its own home, but if you’ve been following this blog since its inception, the address should look familiar, as all I’ve done is go back to the old WordPress page to publish it. I’ll be trying to keep up with one new piece a month on here, so check back regularly.

These last two don’t have links yet, as there are more details to work out, but they are moving on at pace.

I mentioned the hobby of airsofting on a Monday, and as soon as some contract details are worked out, a mate of mine will be opening his own venue. I will not only be helping to build the arena, but also coming up with some MilSim style adventures and plots that will be run there. I will post details when I have it, as I will almost certainly be helping out with marshaling too, so you might be able to pop down and say hi, if you live relatively close.

And finally, me and another mate – guitarist in kick ass post-rock band Civil Protection – are about to embark on creating a documentary film on fringe religions. This is his baby, and I’ll just be along for the ride, coordinating as need be, but it should be fun, and once we have more details, I’ll let you fine people know.

And now for something even more ethereal. I received a message in the comments section of this very blog from another blogger, one whom I’m a big fan of as we share similar tastes in extreme metal, and have both been lucky enough to get in on the MYFORAG play test. He wants to run something by me. I’m more than a little intrigued…

So that’s that. On Monday we will return to a more sensible blogging schedule, and I’ll just pop links to my other projects on Twitter, Google+, or – and this is where most things end up – the Facebook page for the blog. Thanks for sticking with me through this strange little week, but thank you more for reading the blog at all.

Feb 112013
 

RPGBlogCarnivalLogocopy1-227x300Another month, another RPG bog carnival. This time brought to us by the rather spiffy people over at Arcane Shield. It appears that February has brought out the old romantic in them, but like myself, they don’t want to spend the time doting on someone who presumably already knows that they are the love of their lives, and don’t require an extra dose of yearly proof around mid February. Instead they want us all to take the time to think about things that don’t get enough love. Those games that you just can’t stop thinking about, but seem to have passed by the majority of gamers. For me there really could be only one choice.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a gem of a game. In its first incarnation I remember it being barely more than a handful of pages, and was easily read and digested in a matter of minutes. But that isn’t why I love it so. My own version of the game is in fact a beautiful leather bound edition weighing in at a little over a hundred pages, and I still adore it. What makes the game stand out for me is two fold, and the first is its elegant simplicity, mixed with a rather wonderful layer of complexity just beneath the surface. Allow me to explain.

04-22-11-BaronMunchausen02

Click for the actual adventures of Baron Munchause.

This is primarily a story telling game with each player taking on the roll of an aristocratic explorer and adventurer. The game takes place in some mythical tavern or tent, where you have all come together to grab a moment of peace, and discuss your exploits with like minded fellows. The first player is decided by which adventurer has the highest social rank – I often choose a marquis so rarely get this honour - and then a gripping yarn is decided on. “Tell us Lord Du Ponte of the time you heroically banished Neptune from his throne beneath the waves to a small fishing lake just outside of Almondbury“. The aforementioned Du Ponte would then regale the table with this highly unbelievable tale, suffering constant interruptions from the audience as they inform him that what he is saying simply cannot have happened for a variety of unlikely reasons: “But good sir, the Duchess of Hertfordshire was at the time engaged to yours truly, and as such would be in no position to lure a horse to the Stone of Scone”, and wager money to the fact. At which point, the choice falls to Du Ponte to either accept the coin and the story continues with the embellishment now a part of it, or enter a bidding war claiming that what the other person said was untrue, and tossing a coin into the ring of your own.

The story continues until it reaches its conclusion, or until the rest of the room becomes bored and starts to throw bread rolls at the speaker. It is advised that bread rolls be procured before the game begins, as waiters can never be trusted to bring them in a hurry. Each person tells their own tall tale, and then a winner must be decided. All very simple you see, and a great way of bringing together people with the aim of not only role playing, but putting the emphasis on story telling in it’s entirety. You will notice that no dice were cast during the entire game, only money – or tokens – changing hands. For me this is a wonderful thing; as much as I like random mechanics, I don’t like it when they interfere with a good tale, and this game is all about the tale.. The complex bit comes next…

The winner of this little contest is judged by all present, and they do so by bidding what coins they have left on who wove the finest yarn. So, if you have successfully averted all claims to untruth in your story you will have received no extra coins. And if you have made certain that everyone knows how much exaggeration went into the other wild stories, you will also have no coins of your own left. This means that they will be in the hands of others, who will have to place them before someone other than themselves, thus giving you a greater chance of emerging victorious. A fine mechanic, and one that inspires more florid story telling. Telling a good story with passion and inventiveness in equal measure, also important in gaining points from your compatriots.

So, as you can see, a great game to inspire your more creative side. As to the second reason why I love his game; well that is going to be the subject of a separate article, but the short story is that it’s a great game to play with people who would never willingly join in a role playing game, for whatever reason that may be…

Feb 082013
 
Click for Kuro page

Click for Kuro page

Welcome back everyone to this, the final part of my review of Kuro, published by Cubicle 7. If you’re feeling a little left behind, all of the previous reviews can be found by clicking the following links. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. This will be a slightly shorter review than the others, mainly because a lot of the things that excited me about the last part of the book are chock full of spoilerific goodness, and I don’t want to ruin the surprise for anyone who clicks the word Kuro above and buys their very own copy of this awesome game. So, broad strokes for this one then…

First off we get some great pieces of inspiration in the form of several secret societies and clans that one could encounter while playing Kuro. The descriptions given are short and to the point, leaving a lot up the GM about how to write them into a campaign and even how to present them. What’s never missing though is a seed of inspiration. Without fail I could think of a use for every group in this section, and there were a couple that I think could be seeds for an entire campaign without too much effort. This is exactly the kind of thing I want, and one of the reasons why I don’t tend to buy full expansions for games these days; give me some basics, then I want the game’s designers to trust me to do something with their product, and not prescribe to me exactly what I should be doing with it..

Following on from this we get some choice nasties to play around with. These run the gamut of ghostly apparitions, creatures from Japanese mythology, and even a Lovecraftian feeling horror or two. All very well done, with stats beneath the descriptions; and these cover motivations, personalities and the physical look of the creatures too. Again, we have plenty to work with here, but I found myself thinking of them more as bad guys to be inserted, rather than plot hooks. Might just be me though…

We also get some Kuro themed GMing tips. This seems like quite standard fayre, but with some nice touches. Kuro probably won’t play like most other games, due to the characters you will be playing and their individual motivations. Time is well spent here going over this section in detail to give yourself an idea of everything that is possible, and how to avoid falling into some clichés of the genre. We also have a whole bunch of examples of the genre, and again, this is worth paying attention to, as everything could be used for more plot hooks and ideas.

We end with a introductory adventure, and I don’t want to spoil anything other than to say that it looks like a very strong way indeed to get a disparate bunch of people into the thick of the action without too much exposition as to the whys and wherefores. Based on my own experience of character creation – done before reading the adventure – there would be little to no challenge getting him involved in this plot, and I think the same could be said for any character that could be created.

All in all then, a rather nifty end to the book. Setting the GM up very well indeed for whatever concepts get thrown at him, and making sure that they should have no problem maintaining the right amount of fear and suspense.

Feb 042013
 
kuro-cover-500-233x300

Click for Kuro website

For those just joining us, you might want to jump back a few pages, and take a look at the previous parts of this review, looking at the setting information, and character creation. Now, if you’re all caught up, we’ll take a look at how the system works.

Carrying on from character creation, you will remember that each character has a list of eight traits, spit into mental and physical, and a whole bunch of skills and specialisations. All these numbers are used to work out the likelihood of passing or failing to perform anything other than simple actions. To give you an example, I’m going back to my still unnamed spoilt brat gambler kid I made earlier. Although his primary focus is his gambling hobby, I picked out a couple of extra skills that would be useful for him. Within the ‘Deception’ skill group, gambling was an easy choice to turn into a specialty, but right there next to it was sleight of hand. Had to be done really didn’t it? In a situation where the character needed to palm a card and replace it to give himself even a chance of staying at the table, he would need to make a skill roll. Difficulty would be set by the GM and then the dice wold be rolled.

As this is a test of manual dexterity, the base statistic is easy to determine, but the game encourages creativity in this regard, with no solid tie-in between skill and trait, instead allowing the players and GM the chance to play to their strengths, wherever able. In this case it’s fairly straightforward, but there could be an argument made to use Charisma instead to distract the other gamblers, but that might be a stretch. So, we take the trait number, and grab that many six sided dice; in my case a paltry two. We then take a look at the score I have in the skill. Deception comes in at three points, which would be correct for any specialisation that falls under it, unless you’ve whacked a few specialisation points in it as well. I did that very thing and raised my sleight of hand to lofty height of four. This means I have no ‘Gimikku’ (gained if a specialisation hits five points) to give me any extra bonuses to this roll, so lets just take a shot at it. I roll both d6, and add the skill rank to the total.

Here’s where it gets interesting though, and reminds why I love games where the system becomes more than just a means of randomising success, and instead adds to the feel of the setting. Not only does it throw in my favourite mechanic - that of the ‘exploding dice’ – but it adds its own touch. In Japanese, the number four is ‘Shi’, which also means, quite literally, death. This means that any roll of a four on a d6 is not included in the final score. Might seem harsh, but what with exploding dice, I think it should balance out with no real problems. It also gave me an idea for a particularly sinister house rule.

Imagine a skill check that is almost too important to fail, but fail it does. All because of the player staring down at the dreaded number four on his freshly rolled dice. If the four was included, they would have just scraped by. If only there was something to be done. As the GM, you offer to put that malevolent die back into contention, on the understanding that Death will notice, and seek recompense. Maybe not straight away, and maybe not to anyone immediately connected to the PC, but Shi will take its due…

You must also take into account the degree of any success or failure based on how far away the result was from the target number, but this is simple maths and should not impede game play at any time. All this sounds great so far, but as mentioned in the last review, there are five different ‘Gimikku’ and I think that until the players get a few games under their collective belts, this could slow things down without a cheat sheet for each player. A minor quibble at most though, as I think the system stands up very well, both in how it allows players a certain freedom to play to their strengths, and how well it helps with immersing the players into a highly superstitious game world.

Combat works much the same as regular skill checks, although a lot more of them will be opposed checks, which work exactly as you would imagine them to. One addition I do like though is the simplicity of the combat maneuvers that are available. In either close combat or at range, you can choose to sacrifice accuracy for damage or vice versa. Both are simple to work out, and mean that players can once again adapt to suit the strengths and weaknesses of their characters. Add to this a bunch of situational modifiers that should be fairly standard to most people who’ve played an RPG with a tactical combat system, and you’re done.

So far, I have to say that I’m loving what I’ve been reading. the system seems to flow quickly while being easily adaptable to the fluid situations one would expect to encounter, and even a few one might not. Number of dice plus modifier might seem a less than simple way to calculate a chance of success, but having played original Deadlands for several years, I can attest to how quickly it becomes second nature. There’s just one bit left of this review, and if I get the chance I will treat you all to the GM’s section by the end of the week.