RPG Playtest – Afterlife: Wandering Souls

Things got a bit busy for me, so this is a few days later than expected, but hey, at least it actually got written! Progress! That said, I do owe Liz an apology for how long it took to get this done, I really did want to get it posted earlier in the campaign so it could potentially help more with funding. Anyway…

So a few years back, my friends Terry, Evan and I ran a playtest session for a game called Afterlife: Wandering Souls, by Angry Hamster Publishing, the same company that created Witch: Fated Souls, a game I reviewed back in 2016 (for those who can’t be bothered reading the review, I really liked it, and it’s only grown on me more over the years). Afterlife was supposed to hit Kickstarter in 2017, but was delayed for an overhaul after the playtests were run. Well, it’s finally up on Kickstarter, and honestly, it was worth the wait. Before we get into the system though, what is Afterlife: Wandering Souls? Well, the Kickstarter campaign sums it up pretty well:

Afterlife: Wandering Souls is a macabre fantasy game set in surreal plane known as the Tenebris. You take on the role of a Wanderer—someone who died, but didn’t end up in Heaven, Hell, or any other traditional afterlife.  Devoid of any memories of your life on earth, you find yourself in an endless desert filled with gateways. Search different planes of existence for clues of your former life – or a semblance of one. Along the way you’ll encounter strange inhabitants, alien cultures, and other humans who’ve lost all hope and are bent on destroying you. 

Most of the action in Afterlife takes place in Mirages (cities located within the Tenebris itself, inhabited by natives who were never humans) and Limbos (extremely varied and sometimes very strange planes of existence accessed from gates within the Tenebris, where the inhabitants may not even know there’s a world outside of their own). The travel between Mirages and Limbos is usually handled in a fairly streamlined manner, referred to in the rules as Encountering the Dark, where the GM presents a scenario and each player takes a turn determining how they want to try and overcome it, building on the results of earlier actions by other players.

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Battle Report: Warzone Resurrection CSS League, Season 1, Round 2 – Brotherhood vs Dark Legion

Another day, another battle report… Not for one of my games this time though. Initially it seemed like I wasn’t going to get a Round 2 match for the Conquest of the Solar System League, since we’ve had odd player numbers here in Canberra. Thankfully we found a 4th player at the last-minute, so I managed to get a game in after all. So the battle report for that will be incoming, but first, a report I wrote for the game played between two of our other players, Raxxis (Brotherhood) and Evs (Dark Legion).

I’ve added a bit more detail around the match this time around, including army lists and explanations of the scenario, to make up for the fact that I couldn’t figure out how to do a full narrative for this one. I’m also messing around with the format for the report itself, placing the photos for each turn in a slide show at the end of the activation breakdown, so that the post doesn’t end up stupidly long. Enjoy!

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Battle Report: Warzone Resurrection CSS League, Season 1, Round 1 – Bauhaus vs Dark Legion

So it’s been a stupidly long time since I’ve posted anything on here. Well over twelve months. There’s been a lot of ups and downs in that time, but one of the consistent things has been that I’ve struggled to write absolutely anything, even for my RPG groups… well, group, because by the middle of last year I only had one left, and even that had to be put on hold. The one thing that helped keep me sane during this time is miniature wargaming. I threw myself pretty hard into play-testing the second edition of Relic Knights, an anime themed skirmish game, where I play the Cerci Speed Circuit, a faction of gangsters, racers, mechanics and security forces from a planet devoted entirely to racing.

More recently, I picked up Warzone Resurrection, a new edition of the old Warzone game that was a spin-off of the Mutant Chronicles RPG. Thanks to my friend Evan knowing some people clearing out their collections, I managed to pick up a pretty good selection of second hand minis for the Bauhaus faction, one of the five Megacorporations that, in this setting, are more like sovereign states. Bauhaus are heavily based on Europe, particularly Prussia, with their basic troops, the Hussars, going so far as to wear Pickelhauben. This is a pretty common theme in Warzone, with three of the other Megacorps being similarly based on Earth cultures. Mishima are a mix of Asian cultures, though primarily Japan, with a lot of anime style mecha tropes worked in; Capitol are the USA via Doom and Fallout; and Imperial is split into two factions, with the Ministry of War representing the WWI and later British military forces, and the Wolfbane Clans having a theme that mixes Celtic warriors and mysticism with techno-punk. The other corporation is Cybertronic, the cyberpunk faction. To round out the game, there’s also the Brotherhood, a militant church group that act as the uniting force of humanity against the final faction, the Dark Legion, a group of inter-dimensional demons and monsters led by a group of five demigods known as the Dark Apostles.

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Book Review – Pathfinder Tales: Starspawn by Wendy N. Wagner

Wow. A month between updates… admittedly not the longest break I’ve taken, but not ideal. Especially when I’ve got so much I want to be talking about. Anyway, I’ll hopefully be making another post soon talking about my plans for the blog, so I won’t go into that now. But before I wade into today’s review, there’s something I wanted to mention quickly.

A while ago I got an email from MacMillan Audio asking if I’d like to feature some sample soundclips for the Pathfinder Tales audiobooks on the site. I’m a big fan of the novels, and of audiobooks in general, so of course I said yes… then promptly forgot to actually post them. They’re finally up now, so if you’re interested you can check out samples for (at time of posting) six of the books over on the sidebar. As more become available, I’ll update the playlist. I’m still trying to figure out if there’s a better way to display the player on the site, I want to keep it prominent, but it feels a bit squashed over there in the sidebar. I’ll keep working on it.

And with that done, we can get started on the review of the newest novel in the Pathfinder Tales series (and Wendy, I owe you a huge apology for taking so long with this one). I’m going to try to keep this one a bit shorter than my usual reviews, I think half the reason I take so long between posts is that my usual in-depth reviews take hours upon hours to write.

Full Disclosure: I was provided with an advance copy of this novel by the author for review purposes. This has in no way influenced my opinion of the work, and this review is a full, fair and honest accounting of my thoughts on it. The copy I received is an uncorrected proof, but I doubt there have been any significant changes between what I read and the final publication.

Pathfinder Tales: Starspawn

Wendy N. Wagner

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars (are right… I know, I know, it’s a terrible joke, but I couldn’t resist…)

Jendara prepares to slam an axe straight into the face of madness...

Jendara prepares to slam an axe straight into the face of madness…

From the Paizo.com blurb:

The Stars Are Wrong

Once a notorious pirate, Jendara has at last returned to the cold northern isles of her birth, ready to settle down and raise her young son. Yet when a mysterious tsunami wracks her island’s shore, she and her fearless crew must sail out to explore the strange island that’s risen from the sea floor. No sooner have they delved into the lost island’s alien structures than they find themselves competing with a monstrous cult eager to complete a dark ritual in those dripping halls. For something beyond all mortal comprehension has been dreaming on the sea floor. And it’s begun to wake up…

From Hugo Award winner Wendy N. Wagner comes a sword-swinging adventure in the tradition of H. P. Lovecraft, set in the award-winning world of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.

I’m pretty excited to be reviewing this one. Not only is it bringing one of my favourite settings (Pathfinder’s Golarion) together with Lovecraftian horror, but it’s also the sequel to the first book I ever reviewed on this site, Skinwalkers. Skinwalkers was a favourite of mine, and I’m pleased to say that Starspawn is more than living up to the expectations I had for it. Ms. Wagner has once again managed to craft an exciting and, at least as far as the Pathfinder Tales series goes, unusually dark fantasy thriller. It’s worth noting now that those coming in expecting a true Lovecraft-style horror story are going to be disappointed, in keeping with the heroic fantasy nature of the setting, this is very much a pulp action horror story, closer to a Robert E. Howard mythos tale than a traditional cosmic horror story. This is in no way a bad thing, I’ve got room in my life for all manner of Cthulhu Mythos stories (though I will admit to a somewhat irrational hatred of Brian Lumley’s Titus Crow series), it’s just worth mentioning for the die-hard Lovecraft purists who dislike any suggestion that humanity can do anything but cower before the inevitable doom brought by eldritch horrors.

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RPG Review – WITCH: Fated Souls

So I realised a while ago that despite this being a primarily gaming focused blog, I’ve never actually reviewed a game on here. It seems like an odd oversight, and I figured it was about time I fixed it. I’ve got a stupid amount of RPGs I could review (seriously, I’m running out of space for them), but decided I’d start with one of the newer ones I’d picked up from a Kickstarter project.

Since it’s the first time I’ve reviewed a game, I’m still figuring out the format I want to use. I might change it up a bit over the new few reviews I’ve got planned. Anyway, with that out-of-the-way, let’s get this show on the road with my review of Angry Hamster Publishing’s first game…

WITCH: Fated Souls

Creator: Elizabeth Chaipraditkul

Publisher: Angry Hamster Publishing

Score: 4 out of 5 Stars

Witch Cover

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Book Review – The Cleaners Book 2: The Maids of Wrath

Been a busy couple of weeks, but I’ve got some time to sit down and smash this out now, so it’s review time! Today I’ll be talking about the second book in Josh Vogt’s The Cleaners series, The Maids of Wrath. As always, there may be some minor spoilers in the review, but I’ll avoid any major plot points or gigantic twists. On the topic of spoilers though, some fair warning. This is a review of the second book in the series, so in order to discuss it properly, there’s going to have to be some spoilers for the first book. These are not minor spoilers, since the end of that book sets the stage for this story. So with that said, if you haven’t read Enter the Janitor, and are interested in seeing if this series is something you’d enjoy, you can find my review for that here.

Full Disclosure: I was provided with a pre-release e-book of this novel by the author for review purposes. This has in no way influenced my opinion of the work, and this review is a full, fair and honest accounting of my thoughts on it. 

The Maids of Wrath

Josh Vogt

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

These aren't your anime-style magical maids...

These aren’t your anime-style magical maids…

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Professor Jimbles Presents!: D&D 5E Review

So while our esteemed host has been trying more esoteric systems like “East Texas University”, I was introduced (read: Dragged screaming away from WoD and Pathfinder) to 5th Edition D&D/”D&D Next”.

Note from the Editor: I wouldn’t exactly call Savage Worlds (the system that East Texas University uses) “esoteric”. It’s just a very solid generic RPG system that can be adapted to a variety of settings with a minimum of effort. I’ll write about it more later.

In short: It’s good. It’s really good. It pokes all my favourite happy buttons.

In long: It was the best of times, it was the worst of tim-   

Anyway – 5th Edition.

I read through the Player’s Handbook and I’m floored. I read it in a single day and was so pleased. The endless lists of modifiers? Gone. Alignment restrictions? Gone. Obvious bias to casters? Poof.

So, yeah. I’m excited. I’m also pretty sure this huge shift away from what is traditionally associated with D&D (Huge crunch, expansive rules and character options, little focus on roleplaying.) is:

  1. Good for D&D.
  2. Good for Pathfinder.
  3. Very controversial.

Pathfinder and D&D 3.5/4 have been holding the same niche in roleplaying for a little while now.  Mechanics heavy fantasy roleplaying with years of experience and a wide community to build tools. (Hero Lab; for example.)

This divergence into a simpler, more open ruleset REALLY helps D&D as the “Beginner’s game” reputation it owns as being the longest running and most visible in the media. The option to make it more complicated is available… By trying Pathfinder.

Pathfinder currently has 89 (At my super-rough count.) books available, not including campaign setting and adventure paths. 89 books worth of customization and additional rules are available for you if you love your mechanics. (Another Editor’s Note: It’s worth pointing out that many of these books are very short, highly focused Player Companions, not full sized splats)

But of course, this means 5E doesn’t look much like D&D anymore. It’s not like the punishing 2nd Ed Tomb of Horrors; the expansive 3.5 filled with ridiculous feats from a third party or even the tactical MMORPG style gameplay of 4th Ed.

And while it’s not Open Gaming Licence, additional crunch is added with each new book. Princes of the Apocolypse has added Elemental races like Genasi. At what point does the scale tip? When does 5E start looking like 3.5?