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ZDL

Full disclosure: I was given this game for free by its publisher.  This was not done for purposes of review (more out of pity!), but it would not be honest to fail to mention this potential bias.


I have a somewhat complicated relationship with Bloodshadows.  I originally encountered it when it was a West End Games setting for their Masterbook game (itself part of the '90s trend of turning every house game system—in this case the game system behind Torg and Shatterzone—into a generic game).  The thing is that while I admired several features of Masterbook, at it core I found it a pretty fundamentally flawed game that I didn't want to play very much.  Which was a pity because the Bloodshadows setting I adored straight out of the box.


So here we are, over two decades later, and I find myself with a Bloodshadows game in my hand from the home where all the great, undervalued games go for continued unlife: Precis Intermedia (rapidly becoming my favourite currently-active publisher of RPGs).


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ZDL
This one is a weird one folks, so strap in and get ready.

Today's game is The Terran Trade Authority Roleplaying Game (henceforth TTARPG – and yes there's a reason why I'm using such a clunky initialization) released by Canada's Morrigan Press in 2006.  It's a science fiction RPG that …

Let's roll back the history a bit, because this is really unusual.

History


In 1978, Hamlyn Publishing released a book called Spacecraft 2000-2100 AD by Stewart Cowley.  It was a large, hardback art book filled to the brim with science fiction artwork of spaceships, planetscapes, and future cities/bases that were rendered by some of the greatest SF artists of the time: Angus McKie, Gerard Thomas, Chris Foss, Peter Elson, and others represented by J.S. Artists.

More than an art book, however, it was also a detailed future history with little vignettes of space battles, a future history, etc. all paired with pictures showing the subject.  It was a brilliant concept that was well executed, leading to more books in the series authored by Cowley—Great Space Battles (1979, with Charles Herridge), SpaceWreck: Ghostships and Derelicts of Space (1979), Starliners: Commercial Travel in 2200 AD (1980).

All of these books were tied together in a future history involving the name of the Terran Trade Authority (TTA) hence the name of the RPG.

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ZDL Oct 5 '20 · Comments: 6 · Tags: terran trade authority, science fiction, review, fringe
ZDL

Today's review is going to come from the weird side of game publishing.  The game is Story Engine and it has a fairly convoluted history that led to its demise and current fate.


History


Our story begins in 1996 with a small indie press outfit called Hubris Games.  Hubris published a little game called Maelstrom Storytelling, that had some decent indie success spawning four follow-in products in the process.  They also published a free game called Story Bones with the essence of the ideas behind Maelstrom's game system but the setting excised.  Then in 1999 they published this game, Story Engine (sub-titled "Universal Rules") and followed that up with a revised edition in 2001.


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ZDL Sep 18 '20 · Comments: 2 · Tags: review, fringe, story engine, drama-focused, anti-wargame
ZDL

We're reaching deep into the wayback machine for this review.  Today's fringe gem is another game from the (in)famous game publisher Fantasy Games Unlimited (FGU).  As I said in an earlier review of Psi World, FGU was a game company willing to champion and publish any game concept imaginable (with predictable mixed results in quality and sanity).  One of the games I mentioned in my capsule history of them is a very rare beast called Starships & Spacemen (S&S).


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ZDL Sep 14 '20 · Comments: 2 · Tags: fgu, fringe, old school, review, starships & spacemen
ZDL
Mythic is, to quote the game's introduction, "a universal, improvisational role-playing game".  Designed by Tana Pigeon, a name you've likely never heard of (though you should have, because she makes some nifty stuff!), it is far more than what that unassuming little description says.  This review is all about teasing out exactly what Mythic actually is.

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ZDL Jun 24 '20 · Comments: 3 · Tags: fringe, narrative, review, solo, mythic, universal, freeform, cap system, word mill, gm-free
ZDL

Today's review is gong to be from the person I consider the James Brown of game design.  Which is to say the hardest-working man in game design.  His name is Greg Porter and he is the owner (and sole member) of the game producer BTRC (Blacksburg Tactical Research Center).  Neither he, nor his company, are likely names you know … but you should.  In his own, quiet way, Greg Porter has created some of the most interesting, most innovative, and most playable RPGs out there.

(Of course he's also created some of the most unplayable games as well…)


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ZDL Mar 23 '20 · Comments: 4 · Tags: fringe, review, btrc, corps
ZDL
Rolemaster

No history of RPGs would ever be complete without discussion of Iron Crown Enterprises' Rolemaster line of game products.  Despite its many epithets (most notably Chartmaster)—whether justly or unjustly applied (and I feel largely unjustly!)—it is hard to deny the influence this game had on role-playing games in general and D&D in specific.  First published in 1980 with the first component, Arms Law (a naming convention that set the table for all of the line), it began its existence as a replacement weapon/melee combat system for AD&D.  (They couldn't state it that flatly, of course, for reasons of copyright, so it was "for RPGs".)  It was rapidly followed with Claw Law (later packaged together) which added creature and unarmed combat to the mix.  This was followed by Spell Law for magic and finally, in 1982, Character Law, turning Rolemaster from a set of supplements into its own independent role-playing game.  1984's Campaign Law was the final component (and one of the earliest guidebooks for world-building for GMs).


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ZDL
Unlike my previous, starkly negative review I'm switching back to the generally positive again.  Today's fringe game is actually a game line, one that is proudly hailed as being for "beer & pretzels".  This is by no means the earliest beer & pretzels game in role-playing.  The first of the line's products—a game called Shriek—was published in 2001.  Games like Ninja Burger, Kobolds Ate My Baby, and other such games were released before that in the late '90s.  Indeed I'm pretty sure I'd played loads of small, simple, comedy games before this game line was published.  Hell, Macho Women with Guns, which exists right on the very edge of that beer & pretzels divide, was published in 1988.

But this one is different.


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ZDL Dec 19 '19 · Comments: 5 · Tags: hero force, 1pg, heyoka, deep7, beer & pretzels, fringe, review
ZDL
In my last, third, review I waxed reminiscently about the "halcyon years" of RPGs in the '80s, using Psi World, one of my favourite games ever, as an example of the feel of the '80s.

Unfortunately the '80s had its darker side as well.  A lot of very stupid things were done in that era and it would be remiss of me not to document some of them.  Further, to show I'm capable of more than twee paeans to my favourite games, I thought it time to show, too, what a negative review would look like.

And make no mistake, this review will be unrelentingly negative!

Avalon Hill

The Avalon Hill Game Company (AH) was a powerhouse in board gaming, especially wargaming, with a history stretching back to the early 1950s.  If you play board wargames in particular, even those not made by AH, you owe a debt to this one-time juggernaut.  Many of the standard things that identify wargames--hex grids, stochastic combat results, etc.--were a result of their innovation over the years and it is rare that a wargame can be found which doesn't trace its ancestry to something invented at AH.

In the 1970s, role-playing games started to get introduced and in the late 1970s they took off in ways that surprised hardcore wargamers.  In the 1980s, when it became clear that RPGs were not going to be going away, wargames publishers started looking around for games to publish in this new genre with varying degrees of success.  Simulations Publications, Inc (SPI) published, for example, Dragonquest and Universe, fantasy and science fiction games respectively to mixed success.  (I personally liked both games, but Universe in particular was rather gratuitously complicated in ways that weren't needed.  I could never have run either, but as a player I enjoyed both.)

AH was no exception to this.  They wanted to publish RPGs and in the end they wound up publishing three.  They published the third edition of Runequest (and I am one of, perhaps, five people in the entire world who liked their version of Runequest better than the previous two editions by far) to mixed reviews.  They published an intriguing-in-principle but deeply-flawed-in-execution game called Lords of Creation, and they published today's little gem: Powers & Perils.  (Technically the James Bond 007 RPG was also an AH property, but it was published by a wholly-owned subsidiary and I don't consider it part of AH canon proper.)


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ZDL
The 1980s were halcyon years for RPGs in many ways.  There was insane diversity of subject matter as every conceivable niche and sub-niche was explored, and madness infected a lot of game designs.  This was also, after all, very much the decade of the "crunchy" game: games with ever-more complicated and "realistic" rules.


FGU


The absolute monarchs of the '80s vibe were Fantasy Games Unlimited (FGU)  There was not a crazy concept they weren't willing to champion and publish.  The first "realistic" medieval game (Chivalry & Sorcery) was theirs.  The first game to feature non-humanoids as the central characters (Bunnies & Burrows) was theirs.  The first popular superhero RPG (Villains & Vigilantes) was theirs.  The first medieval Japanese RPG (Land of the Rising Sun) was theirs as was the most popular one (Bushido) for ages.  And while not the first SF games ever, two of the earliest SF games (Starships & Spacemen, Space Opera) were theirs too, the latter of which still causes warm fuzzy feelings when I think back to its convoluted insanity but immense fun.


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ZDL Nov 30 '19 · Comments: 4 · Tags: psi world, review, old school, fringe, fgu
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  • Nov 25
  • ncat:

    This heres a small attempt at trying to bring a more 3.5e esque casting system to 5e. Its mostly experimental here, but I think it turned out to be a fun subclass.

    But yeah, its sorta a 1|1/3rd caster, gaining the regular spells of a wizard plus a few extra lower level spells per day, with the downside being those spells use vancian casting.

    I might re-use this system for something else in the future at some point, probably for a full class or variant spellcasting system, like the Spell Points in the DMG.

    Nov 25


  • mythmaker5e:

    Spice up combat with this food themed spell 🌶

    Nov 25


  • caeora:

    Hello all!

    This is the free pack for the Rustic Furniture assets 2! Containing 26 assets all ready to go and use to make an awesome looking house or building in your TTRPG games!

    In the complete pack of the assets, you will find over 130+ assets, many are combinations of the assets I made last week but there are also a bunch of new assets that people requested, including tankards, glasses, wine bottles, rubbish, bowls etc!

    With the combined assets, like the setup tables you should be able to make an interesting room super quickly without having to place down each asset! If I do more packs in the future I think having these options is invaluable for creating maps and encounters quickly so I will definitely do more :) 

    This pack is available for free over on patreon!

    We had caeora as a guest on Inspired Unreality.

    Nov 25


  • angela-maps:

    Compete to be the best at the Holiday tournament. Jousting, archery, sword fighting! Or grab a cup of warm mulled wine and enjoy watching the competition.

    I LOVE the Riyria book series, so when I started making a tournament map, my mind kept coming back to the Wintertide tournament in book 5. And I decided I needed to do a snowy version for a holiday tournament 🙂 You can get this free on http://AngelaMaps.com with a small logo.

    There is also a summer version and night versions available, as well as the Foundry VTT and Fantasy Grounds versions on my Patreon.

    FREE MAPS: http://AngelaMaps.com

    PATREON: http://Patreon.com/angelamaps

    #riyria #battlemap #encountermap #fantasymap #worldbuilding #dnd #dndmaps #pathfinder #fantasyrpg #roll20 #fantasygrounds #angelamaps #inkarnate #foundryvtt #dndhomebrew #criticalrole #dungeonsanddragons #dungeonmaster #patreon #dungeonsanddragonsart #dmsguild #critters #cr #dndillustration #critrole #tabletoprpg #dndstories #ttrpg
    https://www.instagram.com/p/CWVExd1sW__/?utm_medium=tumblr

    Nov 25
  • thunderpowered:

    A couple cards from this year’s swordtember! Doing this deck is part of the reason I did multiple weapon types this year.

    Nov 25

 

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