Monday, May 22, 2017

I Stared Into the Abyss, and the Pikachu Stared Back

Not a terribly productive weekend.  I got my car back two days early, which allowed me to transport the kids (and friend) from birthday party to birthday party, only to have allergies knock everyone out early each night.

I emerged from cleaning the litter box in the basement to my daughter setting up a giant mat and a pile of cards on the kitchen table.

"Daddy, can you teach me to play Pokemon?"

I completely forgot that my wife got her a 2-player starter set for her birthday.  I've spent nearly 20 years avoiding this game, and after a fairly productive game using the pre-sorted decks, I stand by my aversion to it.  It's watered down Magic where they added a zero to hit points and damage.   Seriously, whoever beats up three Pokemon first wins?
It could be worse.  It could be Yu-Gi-Oh!

Saturday, May 20, 2017

(Review) De Horrore Cosmico by Golden Goblin Press

It was a little under two and a half years ago when 420 people backed Oscar Rios and Golden Goblin Press' Kickstarter for De Horrore Cosmico: Six Scenarios for Cthulhu Invictus.  I was one of those 420, and I've finally gotten around to giving the book a solid once over

Cthulhu Invictus, Lovecraftian role-playing during the Roman Empire, is a unique setting that, outside of the work from Mr Rios, has largely gone unloved.  Mind you, the 1890's Cthulhu by Gaslight is a mere afterthought through most of the CoC's existence, and that at least is part of the main rule book!

In De Horroe Cosmico, the writers attempt to make the historical setting more accessible to fans of CoC/Lovecraft and the traditional 1920's/modern focus.  Each scenario in the book is based off of one of Lovecraft's stories, converted to fit under the shadow of Rome's rule.

In a similar style to my review of Tales of the Crescent City, I'll do a quick overview of each scenario and a StatCheck breakdown, listing what skill checks are written in the scenario, maxium SAN losses/gains if all situations are encountered/obtain, as well as any special bonuses, Cthulhu Mythos knowledge that can be gained in the scenario.

The Vetting of Marius Asina  by Jeffrey Moeller
Based off of Facts Concerning the Late Arthur Jermyn and His Family.  Characterss are put to task to investigate the family of a local senator aspiring to higher office.

Cthulhu Mythos x3
Fast Talk x3
Natural History x3
Occult x3
Persuade x8
Spot Hidden x2
Status x1

Max San Loss:  5-36
Max San Gain:  4-26
Bonus:   +8% Cthulhu Mythos
Possible extra skill checks in Occult, Navigation, Other Language (Opar) and Other Kingdom (Opar).

Doom  by Chad Bowser
Based off The Doom That Came to Sarnath.  A retired Roman Legionaire suffering strange dreams fall victim to an unusal buglary of his household.

Civics x1
Cthulhu Mythos x1
Dodge x1
Fast Talk x4
First Aid x1
Insight x2
Library Use x1
Medicine x1
Natural World x1
Occult x1
Other Lang: Greek x2
Other Lang:  Hieratic x2
Persuade x5
Stealth x1

Max San Loss: 6-59
Max San Gain: 1-8
Bonuses:  Cthulhu Mythos +13%, Natural World +5%, Occult +5%

Murmillo  by Oscar Rios
Inspired by Shadows over Innsmouth.  Investigators must find a young patrician attempting to become a gladiator after he has run off to join an obscure gladiator school.

Climb x1
Fast Talk x3
Hide x1
Listern x1
Occult x1
Other Lang: Germanic x1
Persuade x4
Repair/Devise x1
Sneak x5
Spot Hidden x6

Max San Loss:  5-47
Max San Gain:  7-43

Kith and Kine by Phredd Groves
Inspired by Rats in the Walls and Whisperers in Darkness. Unrest in Brittania as a rival clan has taken over land of a clan allied to Rome

Art x1
Listen x1
Natural World x5
Other Lang:  Brythonic
Other Lang:  Punic
Repair/Devise x2
Spot Hidden x4

Max San Loss: 4-45
Max San Gain:  2-8

The Devil's Mouth by Stuart Boon
Based off In the Mountains of Madness.  The characters are sent to investigate a disappearance of a Roman diplomat deep within the wilds of Caledonia.

Astronomy x1
Craft: Cooking x1
First Aid x1
Insight x1
Medicine x2
Natural World x1
Other King: Caledonia x1
Other Lang: Pictish x4
Persuade x2
Ride x1
Science: Metallurgy x1
Spot Hidden x5
Status x1
Track x3

Max San Loss:  7-48
Max San Gain:  3-14
Bonus:  Cthulhu Mythos +5%

The Case of Tertius Orestious Sedonicus by Penelope Love and Mark Morrison
A family is looking for scholars in medicine and/or those who can work discretely.

Civics x9
Climb x1
Empire x3
Fast Talk x1
First Aid x1
Insight x3
Listen x3
Library Use x1
Medicine x5
Persuade x3
Potions x2
Repair/Devise x1
Sneak x2
Spot Hidden x7
Status x2

Max San Loss:  6-35
Max San Gain:  3-22
Bonus:  Cthulhu Mythos +8%

Patron Mi Patrone
Six Patrons for establishing storyline in Cthulhu Invictus.  A very useful addition.

All in all, Golden Gobln does a fantasic job putting the work together.  The scenarios are put together well and are plot directional, without being railroady. The artwork, maps, and handouts are solid and properly convey the Cthulhu Mythos in Rome to unfamiliar Keepers.   My only complaint is that others may find the retellings of classic stories in Invictus times to be trite and unoriginal at worst, or predictable during play, at best.  I believe that they would be wholey wrong in that opinion, but knowing that the scenarios might not be the best for everyone, i must give De Horrore Cosmisco Four and a Half Gnomes on the Five Gnomes Gaming with the Gnomies scale.

De Horrore Cosmico is available through Golden Goblin Press.  Minor conversion notes to Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition were part of the stretch goals for the Cthulhu Invictus 7th Edition Kickstarter and that's status is unknown to the writer at this time.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Emerging from the Darkness of Life as We Know It

Good God, I need a vacation from my vacation.

Despite some time over the last two weeks, there's been little activity beyond my Post-Cruise Recap.

I did get reminded of the horrors of Fredericksburg as the whole family +2 made a late Friday night drive on I-95 to get to the USGA Trampoline and Tumbling Regional Championships in Williamsburg for the girls.  Nothing exciting to report from the championships, but 14 hours in the car and bad food service makes me grumpy Viscount.  Thank God my wife was happy with a pile of electronics pre-cruise (phone went out on the way to Baltimore) and some Olive Garden to-go for Mother's Day, because no one had any energy left.

My car has also revolted being held together with chicken wire and spit, and I've been forced to arrange rides into work while I waited for my axle to arrive.  It's not a bad situation, as my commute has been far more relaxing, but I have lost the extra 30-45 minutes I can spend after work and write-up posts.

After my logistical nightmare of multiple birthday parties on Saturday, I think I can get back to gaming and some long abandoned painting.

Games:  Episode #6 of the Lost World needs to get posted, and the girls can strictly do role-playing for Episode #7 this weekend.  Look for a big game for Episode #8 over Memorial Day Weekend.   Maja did get the My Little Pony RPG for her birthday, so I hope we can make up some characters and fool around with the system.  She also got... Pokemon cards for her birthday, so we'll need to address that sooner than later.

Writing: The review of De Horrore Cosmico is scheduled to post tomorrow.  Tales of the Caribbean is in outline form and might see the light of day next week.   The first six of the Pigeon God actual plays have been a resounding success, which is great, because I've got the next tens weeks finished up and scheduled for Tuesday mornings.  Only 36 more to go....

Painting:  This, a case of beer, and big-ass box fan in the basement should calm my nerves .  With the past due reviews finally wrapping up, this is my next bugbear. Pulp cultists, those infernal Blue Martians, and German Gnomes top the list, but I also need to start base coating my Pulp German Colonial Rifles and a terrain piece for the last sessions of the Lost World game.  I also have a ceramic gnome to finish up as well...
Kickstarters:  Thanks for tolerating the deluge of cool Kickstarters that launch over vacation and into last week.  I've only tentatively allotted a full pledge to the Cat-Folk Kickstarter, with a few $1 pledges to others so I can be entertained by watching them burn out or succeed mightily.

Speaking of which, I just received the discount code for my copy of the Lost Pyramid Kickstarter that was supposed to arrive two years ago.  To add insult to injury, I apparently only pledged for the print copy, not the print+pdf, so to be to print-on-demand, it's another four dollars and change.  Even if this is one of the greatest gaming books ever, the long, drawn-out process has soured it for me.

Still waiting on two more campaigns that should arrive "any day," hence my desire to clear the painting queue first.

Conventions:  Must make reservations for The Weekend in June and figure out games for Fall-In! and Mepacon.  And maybe, just maybe, I can get the crew together to play something.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

The CGA's Introduction to Hackmaster 4E -- Another side of OSR

The Complex Game's Apologist on Youtube has recently released an in-depth look at Hackmaster 4th Edition and its proper place within the umbrella of OSR games.

There's a few minor critique's of his analysis of the rules, but as a man who removed fatigue from combat and completely overhauled training, they're not worth mentioning.

As someone who ran the Hackmaster version of module G1 - Steading of the Hill Giant completely in a six hour session (with a FUBAR combat that would make most 3rd+ edition players soil themselves), I laugh at some of the comments to the video that worry about the speed of combat.   It's all a matter of knowledge and application.  

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

2017 Origins Awards Nominees Announced

At the end of last week, the Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts and Design announced the nominees for the 2017 Origins Awards.  Here's the list, with some inane commentary by me.  
1. Family Games (6 Nominees)
  • Cartoon Network Crossover Crisis Deck-building Game by Cryptozoic Entertainment 
  • Garbage Day by Mayday Games 
  • Happy Salmon by North Star Games 
  • Junk Art by Pretzel Games 
  • Karuba by HABA 
  • Speechless by Arcane Wonders
Fun fact:  I listed none of these items in my monthly The Apathy of New Releases post covering... well... new releases.   Either they MSRP was too high, there was zero pomotion within the Game Trade Monthly, or I just have poor decision making skills.  As I see dozens of poor board/family/card games cluttering the shelves at stores and cons that I would not have order with serious fanfare, I'll chalk it up to the first two issues.
ViscountEric's Pick:  NONE

2. Role-Playing Game (10 Nominees)
  • 7th Sea: Second Edition by John Wick Presents 
  • Curse of Strahd by Wizards of the Coast-D&D
  • No Thank You, Evil! by Monte Cook Games 
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Fantasy Flight
  • Shadowrun-Seattle Sprawl by Catalyst Game Labs 
  • Symbaroum by Järnringen and co-published by Modiphius Entertainment 
  • Storm King’s Thunder by Wizards of the Coast-D&D 
  • Star Wars: Edge of the Empire-Special Modifications by Fantasy Flight 
  • The One Ring: Horse: Lords of Rohan by Cubicle 7 
  • Volo’s Guide to Monsters by Wizards of the Coast-D&D 
Two FFG Star Wars products and three WotC D&D give the other five a fair shake in the voting.
ViscountEric's Pick: No Thank You, Evil!

3. Traditional Card Games (8 Nominees)
  • Dream Home by Asmodee 
  • Fabled Fruit by Stronghold Games 
  • Kanagawa by IELLO 
  • Kodama: The Tree Spirits by Action Phase Games
  • Lotus by Renegade Games 
  • Mystic Vale by AEG
  • Oh My Goods by Mayfair Games
  • The Big Book of Madness by IELLO 
Oddly enough, the only item on this list that caught my eye was Oh My Goods, which warranted enough interest for me to post the game blurb with it, something I rarely do. 
Viscounteric's Pick: Oh My Goods

4. Game Accessories (4 Nominees)
  • Blood Rage Organizer by The Broken Token
  • Dungeon Morph Dice Adventurer Set by Inkwell Ideas / Q-Workshop
  • Flip ‘N Tray Mat Case by Ultimate Guard 
  • Improved D Total by Gamescience 
Very disappointing nominees for the category.  The new Gamescience still piques my old-school fascinations.
Viscounteric's Pick:  Improved D Total

5. Board Games (10 Nominees) 
  • Blood Rage 
  • Clank! by Renegade Games
  • Cry Havoc by Portal Games 
  • Feast for Odin by Z Man Games/AsmodeeIslebound by Red Raven Games 
  • Mansions of Madness by Fantasy Flight/Asmodee 
  • Scythe by Stonemaier Games 
  • Star Wars Rebellion by Fantasy Flight 
  • Terraforming Mars 
  • World’s Fair 1893 by Renegade Game Studios and Foxtrot Games 
Finally, a category I have familiarity with!  Most of these are solid games, but I did enjoy Terraforming Mars far more than the sales pitches I've gotten from fans of the others.  And unlike Scythe, the set-up/clean-up of Terraforming is far less arduous for more playing time.
Viscounteric's Pick:  Terraforming Mars.

6. Collectible Games (5 Nominees)
  • Yu-Gi-Oh Breaker of Shadow Booster by Konami 
  • Pokémon XY11 Steam Siege Booster by Pokémon USA
  • Magic the Gathering: Kaladesh Booster Pack by Wizards of the Coast
  • Marvel HeroClix: Uncanny X-Men Booster Brick by WizKids
  • Cardfight Vanguard Fighters Collection by Bushiroad
I didn't hear any raving reviews of any of the collectible games that aren't for Magic.
Viscounteric's Pick:  Kaladesh

7. Miniatures (5 Nominees)
  • Warhammer 40,000 Kill Team by Games Workshop
  • Konflikt ’47 by Warlord Games 
  • Dragon Rampant by Battlefront/Gale Force Nine
  • TANKS by Battlefront/Gale Force Nine 
  • Dropfleet Commander by Hawk Wargames 
Wow, the one category I'm truly interested in and 40K Kill Team is on it?  Yuck.   I'm assuming Dragon Rampant is the one released through Osprey Publishing... correct me if I'm wrong.
Viscounteric's Pick:  Dragon Rampant

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Ballad of the Pigeon God #6 - Palace of the Silver Princess, Part One

Date: ???  Place ????

"Apparently we are not quite dead yet."  - Echelon

Echelon was the first to wake.  Correction, Pathfinder the wolf was the first to wake up, immediately seeking out his human companion.  A few licks to the face and the cleric of Tshang Hai Shing awoke to a weird hazy realm of white fog with an red light illuminating everything in the distance.  The others were tossed about in this area.  If it was the afterlife, the gods and mythologies were apparently all the same.  Most survived.

Rolf Wolfsblood:  Bald-headed barbarian from the Plains of Galmar
Kane: Student of Eastern mysticism, controller of water.
Ashe - highly skilled elven ranger
Maloran Alberhold - human fighter, ladies man sans charisma. 
Talis Makolin - a rakish bard avec charisma
Echelon - a pigeon loving priest of an eastern god of the sea, escorted by his charmed wolf, Pathfinder.  Perhaps it was wise that his henchman, Carthon, and lovable village orphan, Timmy, were back at the Village of Eding.
Velandro - a pious priest of Akana

The newest members to the party, Odrune and Meudsopu, were gone.  All the grievous wounds received at the hands of the statue, the dark warrior, and the black dragon, were visibly gone, but they were all in a tremendous amount of pain and soreness.

But they were alive...

An ethereal being descended through the mist towards them.  Everyone had weapons in hand, but no one readied to fight. 

"I am the goddess Thendara, protector of the Valley of Haven.  But alas, the peace and prosperity of my domain has been overrun by evil and I must beg for assistance."

"The ruler of Haven was a fair Princess Argenta.  She lived in a palace of white, shining marble, which when the sun set, glowed liked silver.  Princess Argenta was beloved by all her people.  She was just, kind, and friendly to all."

"One day, the dwarves from Skyforge found a ruby the size of an apple.  As a token of their allegiance to Haven, they gave the ruby to Princess Argenta.  The dwarves named the ruby, "My Lady's Heart." The princess was so pleased by the gift that she invited all to attend a celebration to see the wondrous gem.  The dwarves were to be guests of honor and there was to be a grand day of feasting and fun."

"The day before the celebration, a strange visitor arrived.  He flew into the valley riding a white dragon. The rider was dressed all black.  He had pale skin, long blond hair, and a short beard.  Since Haven was noted for its hospitality, the princess invited the stranger to stay at the palace.  She also granted his request to escort her to the celebration."

"At midnight, disaster struck.  Dark clouds hid the moon, and a freezing wind blew through the valley.  The crops withered in the fields.  Cattle grew sick.  The valley began to die.  I could do nothing."

"From the palace came an explosion and parts of the walls came tumbling down.  When the dust cleared a ruby glow surrounded the entire palace."

"Haven now lies in chaos.  Raiding bands of orcs, goblins, and hobgoblins terrorize the countryside. The disaster happened so quickly that the people are confused and helpless.  Without their leaders, who are trapped in the palace, they have no courage to fight back.  The situation has become desperate."

"Haven is in dire trouble.  I do not know what caused the disaster , but I do know that the reason can be found somewhere in the palace.  Allies of the villains that has attacked Haven have challenged me and I am under siege.  I cannot help Haven, but you can.  You are Haven's only hope.   Find out the source of the evil that has overtaken the valley and destroy it.  I have enough power to get you through the ruby glow to the palace gates."

"Please decide quickly.  Already evil forces have detected my sending.  Will you come now?"

Echelon: "Between a choice to either go on some mission for the goddess or return to the place of their ultimate doom.   We take a vote and decide that life is better than death."  

One by one the party members gave an affirmative, until it got to Pathfinder.

"Yeah, Boss.  We should help the nice lady."

Echelon took a second glance, "Wait, Pathfinder, you can talk???"

The other party members stared at Echelon in utter confusion.

"Yeah, Boss.  Guess you finally figured out how to talk to me, most humans ain't that smart."

Echelon took two steps back and raised his hands.  "Sure, the wolf can only talk to me... that's new."

Unshaken by his new discovery, Echelon and Pathfinder led the group down the magical path piercing the ruby glow until they reached the portcullis of the lower levels of the palace.

"The glow also seems to kill everything it touches.    Fortunately the goddess cleared a path for us. Otherwise it would be a really short mission." - Echelon

The party lifted the portcullis and entered the palace.  As the portcullis fell behind them with a loud clamor, the ruby haze filled into the magic path.

They swept through the first few rooms, killing what seemed like random monsters:  a skeleton, a goblin, a rat, and a very angry man in red robes.

They moved into the library and could hear scurrying underneath the overturned bookcases, followed by ineffective.. shushing?  Ashe and Velandro moved forward to flush out the creatures, and they were met by four pairs of terrified eyes of a kobold family peering over a desk.  Ashe stepped forward, but Velandro stopped him, ordering him back, and telling the others to secure the double oak doors.

Over the better part of an hour Velandro, lured the little kobolds out of their hiding spots with rations and a few sweets he had in his packed.  Realizing the man wasn't trying to hurt them, the largest kobold wandered out, took the food, ran back some to the desk, and came back out armed with a tiny sword and broken barrel lid as a shield.
Dag the Kobold
No one spoke kobold, but through charades and jerky, it was determined that the bigger kobold was named Dag and the party had entered the makeshift lair of his family (Mrs Dag and two young).
At some point in their odd conversation, it was decided that Dag and Family would accompany the party on their mission.  A simple act of kindness may have earned Velandro faithful followers.

He wondered what it would take to have them convert to Akana....

GM Notes: I'm not that mean a DM, an overpowered final villain and no means to escape.  It was planned all along.  Thendara and Princess Argenta were quite familiar with Elwyn's black dragon ally, who had spent years trying to terrorize the Valley.  After being banished, the monster took up with Elwyn and plotted revenge.  When the goddess began to scrying the world for help, the dragon's connection with the valley drew her in, and the fight with the party made her save them.  The ruby curse of the valley shouldn't be as powerful as the dragon, or so she thought.  Isn't that comforting?

The current story path was suggested in B1-9 In Search of Adventure. The entire party (save Odrune and Meudsopu's  players) came back to the table a week after a TPK, expecting to roll up new PCs and then I threw the goddess at them.  Guess there's still a little bit more story out of these characters.

Pathfinder talking to Echelon?  Chalk that up to 50% Divine Intervention, 50% Black Dragon Lightning, but they now have a psychic connection.  Pathfinder can speak to Echelon psychically, but Echelon needs to speak out loud for Pathfinder to understand him.  Hilarity will ensue.

And now, the party has to solve the ruby curse, all the while escorting a family of kobold refugees.  

Next #7 - The Conclusion of Palace of the Silver Princess