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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A deer, a pirate and a mutant join a kult – Kickstarter Round-up

Woo! First post of 2016, and the first post in far too long. I’ve really got no excuse, I just let things get away from me, and before I knew it, it’d been six bloody months since I’d posted. So, yeah, sorry about that.

Anyway, to ease me back into posting, I figured I’d start with something easy that I haven’t done in quite some time. A Kickstarter project round-up! The timing works well too, because goddamn am I ever backing a lot of projects right now. For this round-up and any future ones, I’ve decided to only talk about projects that I’m 100% guaranteed to be backing, and that I’m extremely confident in the ability of the project leads to actually not only deliver their product, but to do it at a high quality, since I’ve felt a bit guilty over some previous projects that I pushed hard that ended up being very disappointing to me (not going to name names, but there’s been a few seriously shocking results). As is usual for me, most of these projects are RPGs (I tend to back RPGs or boardgames for the most part), but there’s one comic in there.

Now, in the interests of not making myself start silently screaming in horror over how much money I’ve sunk into Kickstarter recently, I’m not going to include the three projects that finished in the last day, I’ll just be covering the four projects that are still in the funding stage… So let’s start this party off with the project I’m currently most excited about…

KULT: Divinity Lost

Project Ends: 8:00 AM AEDT, 01/04/2016
Current Status: Fully funded, and smashing through the stretch goals!
Expected Delivery: December 2016

I’m not even sure where to begin with this one, I’m so excited! I guess a little history is in order. Kult is a Swedish RPG that was first released in 1991, though its first English edition wasn’t released until 1993. If anyone reading this remembers the Satanic Panic that certain areas of the USA had over D&D, they’ve got an idea of some of the ridiculous and unwarranted controversy that Kult had to deal with in the years following it’s release (in brief, media outlets in Sweden linked it to a number of disappearances, suicides and so on that involved people who played the game… it even got mentioned in the Swedish parliament in relation to a motion to stop tax-payer funding for youth groups that play RPGs). Controversy aside, the game was praised for its depth and handling of religious and philosophical content and ideas in a mature, if somewhat disturbing (it’s a horror game, what do you expect, puppies and rainbows), manner. The setting is our modern society, but what we perceive as our world is in fact an illusion, created by powerful being known as the Demiurge to hold humanity prisoner and stop us from regaining our divinity, while the players take on the roles of various characters from all walks of life who have started to see through the illusion and discover the stranger nature of reality. I won’t go deeper into the setting here, there’s a lot to cover and I don’t have all night, but for a decent overview of it, check out the Wikipedia page. The system had some really innovative ways of dealing with mental balance and featured magic systems based on real life mystical traditions, so it’s a pretty fascinating read. Honestly, it’s one of my favourite RPGs of all time, though I’ve rarely been able to get groups together for it.

The cover of the original English edition of Kult, featuring some of my favourite game artwork

The cover of the original English edition of Kult, featuring some of my favourite game artwork

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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?

Book Review – The Cleaners Book 1: Enter the Janitor

Note: Sorry guys, this is way later than I expected it to be. The last couple of months have been a bit of a struggle for me, and I’d found it hard to bring myself to write anything. Pushing myself to get back on track again, and hopefully the fact that I’ve got myself into a bit of a steadier routine should help with that. 

Okay, time for another review! This time around we’re looking at the first book in The Cleaners series, Enter the Janitor, by Josh Vogt. You might recognise the name from my review of Forge of Ashes. Forge of Ashes was Josh’s debut novel, with Enter the Janitor hot on its heels. It’s a bit of a genre shift as well, jumping from the fairly traditional fantasy (with some decidedly non-traditional elements) of the Pathfinder Tales line to urban fantasy with a comedic bent.

Anyway, enough preamble. Let’s get into the meat of this.

Full Disclosure: I was provided with an 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. 

Enter the Janitor

Josh Vogt

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars

Ben and Dani, ready to fight the literal scum of the universe...

Ben and Dani, ready to take on the literal scum of the universe…

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Professor Jimbles Presents: “I play to win, baby.” 

Okay, so this is over a year overdue. I’m terrible, I know.

But let’s see this as an example of time teaching you, and making a fool of your past self.

In this time, I attended another Phenomenon in Canberra (And took away their drama Triptytch award with a group of people I had never met before.) and even ran my first game for the greater Canberra roleplaying community. All in all, another fantastic year.

Why competitive roleplaying? This genre is built around making a story as a team! Guiding these semi-real entities through trials both emotional and physical! Wouldn’t adding a competitive edge ruin it? Wouldn’t the ever present thought of “Am I doing this well enough to get an award?” ruin your immersion?

Well, no. First of all, your GM is likely to be running multiple sessions of their game (Even I did, and it was my first year.) and with premade characters, there is bound to be a player or a group who has an interpretation that matches their inital designs. Us GMs do enjoy a bit of ego stroking; if a player can find interest in characters we created enough to perfectly encapsulate them in their performance then it is only natural to have a preference.

On the other hand, if someone takes a character in a completely new direction that surprises and excites the GM, this could also endear the player to them. Surprising someone who has run a particular scenario up to 11 times already is a feat worthy of recognition. Especially if this interpretation is better than what they initially envisioned.

Let’s get something clear, you are never competing against the people you’re weaving a story with. These competitive games at Phenomenon are collaborative, so you are building a story with the GM and the other players, usually-but-not-always using a rules light or no rules system. Unlike a more rigid game like Pathfinder, the ever present urge for optimization and survivability is absent. If you can’t fail because someone isn’t pulling their weight, then you’re without THAT form of competition against your fellow players.

Lastly; and most importantly comes the phrase I hear most often when describing the Perpetual games.

“But that’s rediculous, how do you score a “Winner” of rules-light or systemless games?”

Easy! These are drama or comedy games. You can use a very simple “Who made me feel/laugh the most?” metric. You could add points for anyone who has a highly quotable line, and remove them for anyone who keeps breaking character. As well as the interpretation idea I explored above.

This does mean that it comes down to more Romanticism than Enlightenment, but I’m okay with that. The kind of games that flourish under plot and characterization heavy settings don’t often come with a clear mathematical “Winner” anyway. You’re gonna have an emotional favourite anyway.

Picture of the winning team: Shiny Things and me, from Cardgames on Motorcycles. 


Photo made publically available. Please ask before reproduction. Names withheld on request.

A Fistful of Roses, Part II: Fire and Blood (WIP)

Hey guys, welcome back to my campaign journal for A Fistful of Roses, the Savage Worlds cyberpunk campaign I’m playing in using the Interface Zero 2.0 setting. For anyone who hasn’t seen part one, you can check it out here: A Fistful of Roses, Part I: My Name Is Roxy

Alright. Posting part two of this, but as you might have noticed from the title, this is very much still a work in progress. Honestly it’s been a struggle to write this part, I haven’t been able to get it to a point I’m happy with. But it’s been a few weeks longer than I’d planned between posts, and I need to move on to other stuff. I’ll be coming back when I’ve had a chance to get some feedback so I can try to fix it up, but if I let myself dwell on it now I’ll never let it go.

A quick note. As is almost always the case, we’ve changed a few things about the setting, and made our own assumptions when something may not be perfectly clear in the book (or we’ve just missed it somehow). So we’ve assumed that the Tendril Access Processors (TAPs) that people have implanted in their heads act as general comms devices as well as providing augmented reality feeds and data access. We also changed the JUMP bikes a bit, neither the GM or I were a huge fan of the Formula One looking cars shown in the sourcebook for them, both of us had been picturing motorcycles that hover instead of having wheels, kind of halfway between a high end sports bike and an ATV. Actually I’m not even sure if they’re meant to hover or not, or are just able to leap into the air when needed. Either way, that’s how they look in our game.

All of that said, hope you enjoy it, and as always, feedback is very much appreciated.

NOTE: Profanity is a little more prevalent in this one than the first entry. I’m still working out Roxy’s character, and I’m leaning towards making her relatively foul mouthed and prone to bursts of anger.

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A Fistful of Roses, Part II: Fire and Blood

0015 Hours – The Strange Island, Korea Town

Shit. It’s after midnight, and I’m still sitting here, nursing another beer, waiting for Felix’s damn bartender to show up so we can get down to business. At least the night hasn’t been a total write-off. Turns out that hybrid couple those Bloody Hand gangers were hassling run the local hardware store. Said they’d have something for me in a few days, a thank you for running off the goons. I’ll have to try to keep ’em sweet, it’s always handy to be on friendly terms with gunrunners. Still, it doesn’t look like things are going to calm down here any time soon, and I’ve got other places to be. Felix and I’ll just have to have our chat another time.

I savour the last of my beer. It’s heavy and rich, bitter-sweet with undertones of chocolate and coffee. I push the glass away, the taste of  toasted hops and malted barley lingering on my tongue. Hell, forget about finding a fixer, I’d come back just for another glass. I stand, stretching, the leather of my impact suit hugging my body, a familiar, comfortable feeling. No point trying to say goodbye to Felix, he’s busy serving the crowd. A hand darts out from behind the bar, grabs my wrist as I turn to leave. Clawed and lightly furred … I follow the arm back to see Felix looking over my shoulder. He’s worried, I can see it. Slitted pupils wide, tufted ears laid flat against his skull. Something’s got him spooked good and proper.

“Trouble coming,” he hisses, leaning in close. “Your friends are back, and they’ve brought company. I figure this ain’t good for either of us, so what’s say we back each other up here. I turn to follow his gaze out to the street. The gangers from before are on approach to the bar, along with a group of their friends. Four of the others look like carbon copies of Tweedledum and Tweedledee, same shitty tatts and grubby gang colours. The last one though … looks like they went crying to their boss-man. Same sort of thug, just trussed up in a badly fitted suit instead of the leathers and muscle tops the street crew favour.

“Deal. But the drinks are on you after this,” I shoot back at him, a grin on my face. “And I’ll be expecting some extra consideration when we’re negotiating my cut for any jobs we might work together in the future.” I’m whistling in the dark, trying to hide the rising panic. Three, even four of these guys between us, easy. Seven … Well, I hope Felix has some heavy ordinance back there with him, ’cause all I’ve got is my revolver and a pair of stun-gloves. They’re just street trash, but a near four to one advantage is going to count for a lot. I pull the gloves out of my pocket and slip them on. There’s a faint buzzing in my palms as they hum to life, and I slide a hand behind my back, drawing my revolver and flicking off the safety, concealing it between my leg and the bar

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Painting Guide: Cybertronic Chasseurs (Warzone Resurrection)

Hey all, and welcome to what I hope is the first of many posts for the Grassy Gnoll. I’m Evan, and this month I’ll be running through the process of painting Cybertronic Chasseurs from Warzone Resurrection in a Martian/Frontier colour scheme. For anyone unfamiliar with it, Warzone Resurrection is a miniatures wargame based on the Mutant Chronicles RPG setting.

Some of you may be wondering “Evan, why are you using this colour scheme if your basing theme is Martian landscape?” Well, dear reader, I’m painting it like this because I like schemes with a stark contrast to them. For example the blue-steel of the armour plating and gun casing works well to contrast and tie together both the pallid and sickly looking pale flesh of the Chasseur and the earthy rich red-brown of the Martian hinterlands my various armies will be fighting over (You’ll see a terrain guide for building a similar set up in a future update).

Should I have gone for a red-metal look for my armour? Yeah, probably. But I think this scheme also works well to reflect the cold and calculating approach to warfare that the Cybertronic Megacorporation exemplifies so well.

031

To sound less wanky. I think it looks dope and fits the faction’s image and theme nicely. As long as your own schemes fit that criteria (looks good, and suits the faction) I say go nuts.

I primarily use the Citadel Colours range of paints and washes and brushes from Games Workshop. If you use other brands it shouldn’t be too hard to figure out and match what colours I’m using, but I’ve included a list of colours used and their equivalents between the ranges at the end.

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