Thursday, September 14, 2023

New Arrivals: Green and Pleasant Lands

A large collection this time, as Kickstarters resolve and I take another quarterly trip to Gabi's Olympic Cards and Comics down in Lacey with Stan! And in the time I've taken to write this up, two more Kickstarters have shown up, so I need to write these up before I am buried by them.

One of the ongoing challenges to Kickstarters is shipping. I grumbled previously how there are now added costs in Kickstarter as everyone tacks shipping on later in the process. And that sadly is part of the modern world. But another component of this is that everyone seems to have a different method of finalizing fulfillment. I've already dropped the ball on a couple Kickstarters where I got the process gumbled up, and am dropping one which requires me to use Paypal (sorry - very untrustworthy platform, would not link it to my bank account). That's more than a pity.

Looking over this season's crop of games, I am struck by how many of them are in England. I have King Arthur's Britain, Queen Victoria's Britain, Mythos Britain and Roman Britain (with a good chunk of Mythos on the side). There are also five projects in the Mythos/Horror vein as well. So I may have a "type" in my gaming purchases. 

Anyway, here's a bunch of games.

Old Gods of Appalachia Roleplaying Game, by Shanna Germain and others, 416-page hardbound, Deep Nerd Media/Monte Cook Games, 2023. Kickstarter. The game is based on the impressive and award-winging horror podcast of the same name from Cam Collins and Steve Shell. It is set in an alternate Appalachia (the mostly-rural mountains which run between Tennessee and New York State), where dark things dwell in the runs, creeks, and glens. Several colleagues worked on it, including some that have a heritage from that part of the world. The book looks fantastic and the rules are MSG's Cypher system, but backgrounded in favor of the flavor and color. This is one I've been looking forward to, since I am a native of Pittsburgh (A metropolitan anomaly in those mountains), I've hiked some of these regions as a boy scout and as a surveyor, and I still have all my Foxfire books in the basement. Looking forward to digging in.

The Book of The New Jerusalem, An Occult Miscellany of England by Paula Dempsey, 264-page softbound digest, Pelgrane Press, 2022. Olympia Cards and Comics. Call of Cthulhu has always have been heavy on the handouts, which is one of the pluses for the setting. Pelgrane Press's Trail of Cthulhu (similar universe, different mechanics) issues entire BOOKS as support material. This heavy little tome supports their Fearful Symmetries campaign, and in addition is a sequel/prequel to another volume, Book of the Smokes, which involves ANOTHER campaign. I have none of these other works, but find Book of the New Jerusalem to be an excellent tour of rural England in the 1920s, which is filled to the brim with supernatural encounters and adventure hooks for potential GMs (and it was the second encounter of "headless bears" in a single week). How much is pulled from existing folklore and how much is made up for moment, I really don't care - it is pretty darn impressive. 

Cults of Runequest Vol 1:The Prosopaedia by Greg Stafford, Jeff Richard, Dandy Peterson & Katrin Dirim, 152-page hardback, Chaosium Inc, 2023. Olympia Cards and Comics.  Runequest is my favorite RPG that I've never played, and I have been following its projects off and on ever since White Bear/Red Moon. Its cosmology is so peopled and varied that it often leaves me mildly confused (yeah, and I'm the guy behind Manual of the Planes). So this is a welcome start to sorting everything out. It is a simply a listing of all the gods/divines/powers of Glorantha, and is an good overview of the grounds, before they drill down into the various pantheons and portfolios.

Dragonbane: Mirth and Mayhem Roleplaying by Tomas Harenstam and others, Boxed set, Free League. Kickstarter.  Free League Produces some of the best-looking products in the business, and Dragonbane is no exception. This is a good-sized box with 112-page rules, 116-page adventure book, stand-ups, maps, a solitaire adventure, and special dice. The game is a German descendent of an adaption of Chaosium's Magic World (itself an early BRPG product), and I am very interested in knowing more about the intermediate evolutionary steps, as there is a lot here that echoes development in both CoC and D&D over the past 30 years. It bills itself as a "Game of Mirth and Mayhem", though I'm not sure if that is quite on target (It does have sentient ducks, which are likely a heir to early Runequest). But its approach is hardly that of "grimdark" fantasy, and it echoes the early D&D boxed sets with a positive, heroic, and active approach to adventuring. Perhaps I need a new word for this type of play - Brightheart? Shimmerlight?

Pendragon Starter Set, by Greg Stafford, Boxed Set, Chaosium Inc. 2023.  Boxed set.  Olympia Cards and Comics. An excellent introduction to the upcoming Pendragon revision, which I have played, and have enjoyed the support material as well. The thin box is packed with a46-page solo adventure, 66-page rules/setting book, a 50-page adventure, appendices, pre-gen characters, battle cards, and dice, and is an affordable (Thirty dollars, compared to 60-buck hardbacks) entry into the world. It looks like they have tidied up the mechanics of the elder versions, while keeping concepts unique to the game like seasonal play (creating multi-year campaigns) and paired traits. Probably will spring this on my regular group.

Cthulhu Hack by Paul Baldowski,156-page softbound digest, Just Crunch Games, 2023, Kickstarter. The Cthulhu Mythos gets a lot of gaming variants. There is the original CoC, a d20 version, Trail of Cthulhu, and this one, which is a Hack. Hacks are a subgenre in themselves, and tend to shorter, self-contained game, with limited scope, and easier mechanics. This one has built on those base principles, in that it uses the standard abilities as saving throws, adds depletable investigative resources like "Smokes" and "Flashlights", and various die sizes for resolution, similar to Margaret Weis's Cortext system. But to be honest his one leaves me a little off-put, though, in that it arrived with AI art in the credits. Now, the lead (sole) artist is also the art director, they made a donation in kind to an artists fund, and if you're going to make lumpy, unspeakable, uneven-looking creatures, Midjourney fits the bill nicely. Still, it makes me feel uncomfortable, and not in a rugose and squamous way. And yeah, it wasn't mentioned in the original Kickstarter, and (checking) they did address it in the comment section, but it opens up a can of worms for me about artistic responsibility in these purchases, and will affect future purchases from this group. 

Britannia & Beyond: A Setting Guide to the Province of Britannia and the Barbarian Lands of Caledonia and Hibernia for Cthulhu Invictus by Stuart Bloom and others, 142-page softbound, Golden Goblin Press, 2023, Kickstarter. This one has been a little late, for a number of reasons including illness from the guy running the Golden Goblin Press, which is a challenge to all operations large and small (Hope you make a smooth recovery). Britain itself is a effectively a Subgenre of Cthulhu subgenre, and Roman-era Cthulhu is a sub-sub-genre (see projects like Lex Arcana, for example). Golden Goblin picked up the Cthulhu Invictus torch and has been producing excellent material, and in this case takes its OWN tour of supernatural Britain. This can work well with New Jerusalem, I think. It is texturally dense, as most Invictus books are, though the font is a little thin and they've gone from a glossy stock of the original book to a non-gloss stock. Still, well worth the wait. 

Marvel Multiverse Role-Playing Game Core Rulebook by Matt Forbeck, 320-page hardback, Marvel Worldwide, 2023, Midgard Comics. Midgard is my local comics shop, and carries games as well. Like a lot of stores, it manages a large playing space for gaming and runs Magic and D&D games. It's a good place, and the have a new puppy (Miles) but that's not relevant to the current discussion. I talked about the Alpha version of this a few months back, and this is the finished draft. And there is a lot here, and a lot more that can be here. We're talking about 130 characters from the Marvel Universe, and, the way they have defined super-powers (specific applications within broad categories) means there are a dozen different super-powers all gathered within the heading "spider-powers", (including using your webbing to make a glider). And that doesn't cover everything - there will more to come with expansions and adventures. One disappointment is that the hardback lacks an initial adventure, but that should show up soon as well. [Update 9/19 - Ask and ye shall receive, true believer. Here's a free adventure, which is an update of the Playtest adventure. Also Errata and a FAQ.]

StokerVerse Roleplaying Game by Chris McAuley and others, 208 page hardback, Nightfall Games, 2023, Kickstarter. I am spending way too much time in England, apparently. Here we are in London of the 1890s. Gaslight territory. Set in an world evolved out of the classic Bram Stoker novel by the author's great-grandnephew, Dacre, the game features the Famous Monsters of Public Domain - Drac, Frankenstein's Monster, Mr. Hyde, the Invisible Man, all given a unified backstory.  The game uses the "S5S" system using d10s for task resolution. The presentation is solid with a full-color interior that is mostly red. A lot of red.

Venture Maidens by Celeste Conowitch, 224 page hardback, 2C Gaming, 2022, Kickstarter. Good campaign settings come out of long-standing campaigns. Forgotten Realms and Greyhawk are good examples. With the explosion of live-play and podcasts, we have a lot more personal game campaigns that turn into published campaign settings. Tal'Dorei comes to mind, and now Venture Maidens, which blossoms from a "femme-forged podcast." The world has a couple interesting angles, in that it has a more morphic, dynamic cosmology, where the the mortal world is slowly being consumed by the fae lands. In addition, there is a "heroic destiny" mechanic which creates some interesting long-term play effects, which makes sense for social, multi-season adventures. Even without these, the book is crammed with backgrounds, treasures, and beasties, and the production values are at WotC-levels. I picked it up on a whim, and am glad I did.

And that's it for now. Wait, SOMETHING ELSE just showed up on my doorstep? OK, we'll save that for next time.

More later,