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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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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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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A Fistful of Roses, Part I: My Name is Roxy

Well, this is a few days later than I’d wanted, thanks to a weekend spent with my parents and some longer than anticipated days at work.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve joined a new cyberpunk game run by my friend Chris. We’re using Interface Zero 2.0,  for Savage Worlds. Great cyberpunk setting, has a few elements that veer more into transhumanism than cyberpunk (the human/animal hybrids and so on), but in the main it’s a very genre faithful setting. Lots of hacking, virtual reality, mechanical augmentations, people wired for augmented reality, and a lot of shiny chrome and bright neon contrasted with the filthy streets and gritty nature of day-to-day survival in the urban sprawl. Being Savage Worlds, it mostly conforms to the core rules, but adds some more complex rules for things like hacking (the Science Fiction companion for Savage Worlds actually recommends using these rules for any other games that need hacking rules), cybernetic augmentation and so on, as well as adding, removing or modifying Edges and Hindrances as appropriate for the genre. One of the bigger changes is the addition of occupations, where each character has to pick an occupation based on their concept. There’s a pretty extensive list, with everything from bartenders and pizza delivery guys right up the chain to the corporate executives and mob bosses. Your occupation provides certain benefits fitting the concept, as well as a regular source of extra income every time you received an Advance (every 5 experience points). The default setting for the game is North America, but there are supplements coming out for other locations, like the Japan: Empire of the Setting Sun sourcebook.

Given how much I enjoyed the character concept I came up with, especially after seeing how she ran in the first session of the game, I figured I may as well keep an in character campaign journal for her and chronicle the events of the game. Then I decided to make things difficult for myself and write it in first person perspective and present tense, because apparently I’m a masochist. So I asked Chris what the campaign was called, and was duly confused and curious when I was informed it has been named “A Fistful of Roses”. No, I don’t know why. But I can’t wait to find out.

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AMP: Year Two Kickstarter is up and running

Hey guys,

Just wanted to talk a little about a Kickstarter project I’m backing at the moment. AMP: Year Two, is the first expansion book for AMP: Year One, a game by Eloy Lasanta of Third Eye Games.

Eloy is a very talented designer who I first encountered through his previous game Part-Time Gods, a brilliant RPG about playing as people who have gained a spark of divinity, and their struggles to balance their humanity against their divine power. So once I heard he was making a supers themed game, well, I was 100% in. Sure enough, when it arrived, it was everything I’d wanted it to be.

So, let’s take a look at it shall we?

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Interview with Phil Day, creator of Sol tabletop RPG

Hey there guys,

Well, it’s a new year, and I’m back to writing. Not gonna make any promises about regularity of content, but we’ll see how we go. Hopefully I can coax Jimbles into coming back and doing some more posts as well.

Anyway, for those of you who aren’t Canberra based, we have a yearly convention here called CanCon that covers card games, board games and war games. I’m actually not sure if it has much of an RPG component, I’ve never really seen groups there for it, but it could just be that I’m not looking in the right areas. Happens on the Australia Day long weekend every January, so it was on not the weekend before last. I don’t normally play in any games at the convention (I gave up competitive play for card games a few years ago, and carting around my army for Hordes is too much effort on the bike), but I make a point of going and checking out the vendors. There’s usually some good deals on games, and I often find a lot of more obscure RPG books (or even just some older stuff that isn’t as easily found these days). Anyway, while making my rounds of the various stores, I found a table advertising a Kickstarter campaign for an RPG called Sol. Of course, being me, I had to stop and see what it was all about. So I got to chatting with Phil Day, the creator, and Kirk Hone, the chief play tester about what the game had to offer. While I didn’t have a huge amount of time to talk with them, I got a bit of a feel for the game, and started to understand just how passionate about it they are.

Based on the quick chat I had with them, I was intrigued. It sounded like a fairly simple system, with a focus on letting the GM (or in this case, Adjudicator) tell stories without having to worry about a vast library of rules and the ways everything interacts with each other. . Don’t get me wrong, I love my Pathfinder and Shadowrun games, but they do tend to get pretty complicated at times. I’d say it’s not uncommon to have to pause Pathfinder sessions I run at least two or three times a session for around ten minutes at a time, just to look up and find out how certain rules actually work. It’s no one’s fault, it’s just what happens when games have so much content. So sometimes it’s nice to see a single book system that’s designed to have simple core rules, and runs on the old school ethos of “if the rules don’t cover it, the GM makes the call”. Yes Rule 0 still exists, but these days it’s often used as a way of saying “for the sake of time, the GM will make a call now and research how it should have worked later”, rather than “the GM thinks rule of cool says it should work this way, and he’s not being unfair about it, so why the hell not!”. I guess what I’m saying is that as more rules are available for games like Pathfinder, players inevitably want to use them, and often aren’t happy to be told that certain things don’t work in the game they’re playing in. I get that, after all, if I spend money on something, I want to use it, but it can definitely bog things down. So the more I thought about this game, the more interested I was. When I got home (with a pile of books and games strapped to the pillion seat of my bike), I jumped online and checked out the Kickstarter (take a look for yourself HERE). I was interested enough to pledge straight away, and also sent Phil a quick message mentioning that I’d be interested in doing an interview about the game. When I popped back out to the con the next day to spend yet more money and give my cousin his first exposure to a gaming convention, I stopped by the table again to hash out some details with Phil.

So, a couple of weeks later, here we are. I present to you, the Grassy Gnoll’s interview with Phil Day, creator of the Sol tabletop RPG.

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Professor Jimbles Presents! How to make a backstory.

I said it was coming, and here it is. The three steps I follow to make a workable and vaguely interesting backstory that will work for any game that doesn’t require extensive and detailed character histories. I’d pop in a little more detail if you were going to play in a social LARP or Sandbox (GM creates a world and unleashes the players upon it. Plot hooks, no railroad.) game.

Generally you make a character while considering the others in your party, and choose a class first (in the tactical games, at least.) so I suggest grab the rough outlines of your mechanics, and build the backstory around that.

I’m going to be using one of my new favourite characters. His personality and powers are best shown in a rules-light, “make up your own damned abilities” game, but he’s a great example of how my three steps turned a basic idea into someone that can entertainingly work with the others in the party. If more questions arise while writing, run with them.

Enter Karas, the Herald of Death.

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