29 June 2014

RuneQuest 6 In Italian! (cont'd)

The crowdfunding campaign for the Italian version of RuneQuest 6 has started! The game —if successfully funded— will be sold in three books (Player's Book, Gamemaster's Book, Magic Book). I don't know whether this is because Italian players are supposed to be poorer, and hence there is the appeal, for instance, of only buying the Player's Book if you're a player, or because Alephtar Games want to emulate the way a certain famous fantasy role-playing game has been sold for a long time...

Anyway, here is the page for the crowdfunding campaign. I am particularly intrigued by the 4000€ stretch goal: a campaign pack based on the Ladin Iron Age legends of the Kingdom de Fanes. Other stretch goals offer the usual perks of better presented books, etc.; others yet offer the possibility to 'unlock' the Italian translation of other RQ6 books, like Mythic Britain or the Book of Quests. These would still have to be bought separately, though; they are not part of the current bundle.

Funding is currently at 32%, with 33 days to go.

23 June 2014

My First Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls Solo Game

So poor Evil Ed was quietly sipping an ale and trying to make an impression on the tavern waitress when the burgomaster came in and talked him into getting into the dungeon to find some cure for an ailing child.

So Evil Ed entered the dT&T version of Buffalo Castle (also received as a free PDF as part of the KS project) through the left door. I had decided he'd have three doses of blade venom thanks to his Poisoner talent, his high IQ, and his re-rollable SR.

With his catastrophic CHR, Evil Ed din't manage to talk the troll into letting him through and had to fight it. Ed din't hesitate a moment, and used the blade venom. Good move as the monster had a MR of 50! Ed dispatched the troll in four rounds, and suffered 2 hp of spite damage during the course of the fight. He grabbed the 300gp jewel and quickly headed back to the exit. Tough luck, this meant he had to fight his way through TWO wandering monsters; first a swarm of killer bees, losing a mere 1 hp (and being now immune to bee poison), and then a giant!!!! A MR of 80!! Ed obviously tried to dodge it rather than fight it but missed two DEX SRs in a row. The giant smashed Ed flat. Bye bye Ed; we hardly knew ye.

My First Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls Character

The beta version of the Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls rules comes with an u·g·l·y blank character sheet, which by the way is called a “character card” in dT&T; I guess because it's small enough to fit on an index card. It's also not consistently shown throughout the rules.

Anyway, I couldn't resist, and I created my very first dT&T character! Let me introduce you to Evil Ed:

Given the dismal combat stats, I have dropped the Roguery talent and replaced it with the Poisoner talent. Ed is going to prepare some blade poison before entering that first solo dungeon...

19 June 2014

KickStarter News

OK, there have been quite some exciting news from the Kickstarter projects that I'm backing in the last few days, so here's a heads-up for whomever wasn't a backer.

The Guide to Glorantha

The printer has finished printing the pages and the covers for the Guide to Glorantha, and has sent Rick several samples to gauge the  colours, the quality and the weight of the paper, etc. — this is a printer who specialises in colour hardbacks, not your run-of-the-mill printer of role-playing books. As soon as the printer gets the green light —which it should— the pages and covers will be bound into hardcovers, and that task is expected to be completed early next week.

The picture on the left is a picture of a sample of the cover for Volume One of the Guide, with coins and notes for scale...

Also, Pegasus Spiele have been confimed as the distributors for European customers, so as soon as the books arrive in Germany, we should get them really quick!

Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls

I have just received the latest Kickstarter update, complete with a link to download a PDF of the beta version of Deluxe Tunnels & Trolls, all 105 pages of it. Yay!  This is the very first time we get to have a glimpse of something more concrete than a table of contents or a three- or four-page Word document. I am über excited.

I was expecting a PDF which would've looked like pages and pages of unformatted text, yet this beta version of dT&T looks pretty much like an almost-finished product, with a two-column text throughout, clean illustrations with the text around them, clean tables, boxed text with a different background and font to the main text, top and bottom friezes... The layout is clean and easily readable, with a slightly old-school presentation, which somehow reminds me of RuneQuest 2. Some of the illos are brand new, some others are old favourites from past editions of T&T or from the pages of SA, and old fans will easily recognise them.

It is too early to comment on the rules themselves (I may run a game at THE KRAKEN if I find interested players), but there appear to be a few novelties, especially in the Combat section of the rules, e.g., martial artists, Berserkers, stunning your opponent...

There is a section that lists all the stuff that it still missing for the beta PDF, and it is mouth-watering, since it mentions Citizens, Paragons, Illkin, Extended Talents, amongst other things. Can't wait!

16 June 2014

Glorantha in Space

I've been asked to elaborate on the Glorantha in Space game I've run at the Eternal Con. Well, basically it's space fantasy with a Gloranthan twist: you take the following...

...you add the following:

...and the result is called Glorantha in Space!

11 June 2014

Back from The Eternal Con

The Eternal Con takes place every year around Whitsun in Burg Stahleck, a (slightly re-built) castle overlooking the Rhine, which is rumoured to have been home to a robber Baron in the middle ages.

Sunny Bacharach

This year's con was a particular milestone because it was the 25th anniversary of having a Gloranthan/Chaosium games-devoted convention take place in Burg Stahleck [edit: actually, it's only been 19 years in a row at Burg Stahleck; the first RuneQuest-Gesellschaft con in 1990, for instance, was held in Cologne], and it was the 5th anniversary of the Eternal Con, the current incarnation of the con [edit: even though the organisers of the previous incarnation, Tentacles, do not view the Eternal Con as its successor]. As a result, it experienced full attendance with very early bookings (I believe it was almost fully booked in January already). Plus we had fantastic weather and cheap German beer.

The programme of the con was quite dense and, as usual, I didn't manage to attend all the events I'd originally planned to. Most notably, I missed Pete's RuneQuest 6 game on Saturday morning. Anyway, here is my report from the con:

FRIDAY 6 JUNE, evening, Moon Design panel

The Guide to Glorantha

News for backers: The Guide is currently in its final proofing. Since it is a coffee table book, it is being printed by a publisher who is not specialised in gaming books. As soon as it's printed, it will be shipped to Europe and then it should be available to backers pretty quickly.

News for non-backers: In a few weeks, you will be able to buy the PDFs; you will also be able to order the books — still no hard date, however, as to when you will actually get them. Backers obviously have to be served first.

The Moon Design team entertained us to a preview of the finished Argan Argar Atlas, "a moment of brilliant madness" as Jeff described it; e.g., each tree has been individually placed by Colin!
The whole of Glorantha is now described on 117 pages at the same scale (1 hex = 8km), and there is an appendix with a historical atlas of Genertela at the end of the Argan Argar Atlas.
There do exist some historical maps of Fonrit, but unfortunately they were left out of the historical atlas.

Draft cover for HeroQuest Glorantha

HeroQuest Glorantha

I've seen the draft of HeroQuest Glorantha, 250 pages!! It should be ready for Gen Con this year, with a cover by Jon Hodgson that represents a scene from the introductory scenario [see ‘Saturday’ below].
The book will emphasise heroic gaming, i.e., you won't be a peasant fighting his way up to ‘herodom’ — you already start as a hero; there are several sample heroquests in the book.

Other Books

The next book in the pipe (end of 2014?) is The Coming Storm by Ian Cooper. Text is ready. Art is missing, and it takes a lot of time because of the painstakingly detailed art direction and the unavailability of artists.

King of Sartar will be re-released, greatly expanded from Greg's archives. Also, he wrote a new chapter! Much of the new material focuses on the House of Sartar. There also are improved time-lines, and new maps.

Next (2015): a new Trollpak. It will build upon the original RQ2 version by Sandy, plus it will feature a fully-fledged Uz-only campaign.

The next issue of Wyrms Footnotes will be a Lunar special issue.

Also in the works: a Gloranthan boardgame by Sandy, similar to Cthulhu Wars.
We were shown an early but working draft of the board — which obviously represents Glorantha with huge geographical zones (4 to 5 zones per continent).

Other projects:
- Gods of Glorantha, an encyclopaedia à la Guide to Glorantha, possibly via a KS project;
- a weekly Gloranthan web comic, by Jeff & Kalin Kadiev, of which at least 20 pages have already been created — it looks fantastic!
Plus, obviously, the various RuneQuest 6 projects by the Design Mechanism:
- Adventures in Glorantha
- Return to Sun County by Michael O'Brien

This was followed by a few Q&A with the audience:

Q: What if someone wants to publish Gloranthan stuff?
A: At the moment, Moon Design are particularly keen on foreign language translations. They assured the licence would be really cheap.

Q: What if it is a free supplement?
A: Just talk to us.

Q: What if it is a commercial supplement?
A: Wait for the Guide if you want to publish a HQ supplement, or wait for Adventures in Glorantha if you want to publish a RQ6 supplement, then get in touch with Moon Design.

SATURDAY 7 JUNE, afternoon

I had prepared a single scenario to run at the con this year. It was called Glorantha in Space. Just as implied by the name, it was a science fiction scenario set in a futuristic yet low-tech Gloranthan universe. I used the Machinations of the Space Princess rules to run the scenario and we all had a blast.

SATURDAY 7 JUNE, evening

I had dinner with, amongst other fine companions, Pete Nash, who said a lot of nice things about The Celestial Empire. I can die a happy man now.

SATURDAY 7 JUNE, late evening

Jeff ran the introductory scenario of HeroQuest Glorantha, emphasising the group creation rules. Apparently there will be quite a number of options; we chose to be a group of lower-class citizens of Nochet, all from the same neighbourhood. I ended up creating a "nice pimp", with a sidekick called David Lee Roth. My daughter played a lazy farmer who owed a lot of money to the local temple. The scenario has quite a number of interesting twists, and can be modulated to be run over a single session, like Jeff did, or over two to four sessions. Obviously, it all ended up with a heroquest, during which Ian's character died (who said no-one ever dies in HQ?). A very diverse scenario, in which everybody gets to play a part.

SUNDAY 8 JUNE, morning

The now-traditional game of Trollball took place in the main courtyard under a glorious sun. I guess you can find a number of pictures on Facebook. It was very entertaining; kudos to the participants who got wetted by water balloons, hit by foam weapons, covered in flour, and trodden upon by Pete...

SUNDAY 8 JUNE, early afternoon

The cool thing at the Eternal Con is that even when you haven't signed up for a game, you can still play because there always are conventiongoers who bring games. My daughter and I discovered a fantastic little abstract boardgame called Kendo. We've played quite a number of games as it soon gets addictive.

Yes, I'm the worst photographer ever.

SUNDAY 8 JUNE, late afternoon

We got to play the latest version of Éric Nieudan's White Books, which I had only received on Thursday afternoon, and clumsily assembled in Bacharach. There were four of us playing, all with GM'ing experience, and the game went like a breeze.

My previous White Books at Chimériades session had ended up in crazy gonzo-ness; this one, on the contrary, managed to stay in the gritty fantasy genre we had decided upon at the start of the game.

SUNDAY 8 JUNE, evening, the Design Mechanism panel

The panel was hosted by Pete Nash, with Loz Whitaker sort of attending over a catastrophic Google+ hangout connection.

Books by Pete/Loz

We had a heads-up on the production schedule:
 - Shores of Korantia had just been released
 - Ships & Shield Walls; basically these are ship and mass combat rules mostly out of Shores of Korantia, but expanded & improved by Pete. A sure bet for naval/military campaigns.
 - RQ Essentials, released that very day (!) is a pay-what-you-want supplement to compete with the 1$ Legend PDF. It is basically a stripped-down version of RuneQuest 6 but, at 200+ pages, it is a real role-playing game, not a set of quick-start rules. Loz and Pete hope it will raise awareness for RuneQuest 6. I certainly hope it will; go download your copy NOW.
 - Mythic Britain should come out next, hopefully in the autumn of 2014.
 - Adventures in Glorantha. Pete has been working on this manuscript for a long time, but the book has been delayed by the publication of HeroQuest Glorantha because the idea is to have the same "look and feel" for magic even though the systems are fairly different. The manuscript should be finished in August and then the Design Mechanism will launch a KS to have money for the artwork because there's expectation from the fans now to have as good art as in the Moon Design books. So here's hoping for an early 2015 release.

Also in early 2015 there will be RQ6 Classic Fantasy coming out, based on the BRP monograph by the same author. And it will be a stand-alone book, with the RQ6 rules tweaked for "old school" play.

Further down the time-line: Luther Arkwright, from a proto-steampunk British comic from the early 80s, which apparently is still fairly popular in the UK. This book will introduce technology rules.
Pete and Loz are aiming at spring 2015.

Books by other authors

Age of Treason should see a RQ6 re-writing by the same author who wrote the original Mongoose supplement.

MOB's Mythic Constantinople should be published at the end of 2014. It is a mix of a big scenario and a campaign setting, set at the time of the Fall of Constantinople.

Next MOB will produce a Return to Sun County book, expanding upon the original 1992 book by Ken Rolston. Aiming at half again or twice as long.

Third party products

Sarah Newton is re-writing and expanding her science fantasy Chronicles of Future Earth source book; it will be powered by RQ6 but published by Mindjammer Press.

Paolo Guccione has re-written and re-published Stupor Mundi for RQ 6.

If anybody else is interested in writing or publishing a RQ6-powered supplement, all they need is get a RQ6 Gateway licence; just drop Loz a line.

Foreign language products

- a Spanish version of RQ6 has just been successfully crowdfunded, with $33k raised.
- Paolo is also going to crowdfund the Italian translation of RQ6; he may publish it in several books, à la D&D.
- Lutz has finished the German translation, and is now looking for a publisher.
- Pete and Loz mentioned that there also were people trying to do French and Swedish translations, without further details.

Question about "culture packs"from the audience:
- Pete expressed interest in doing a RQ6 version of Rome, maybe if Paolo gave the rights
- Pete explained that he would definitely love to write RQ6 Mahabharata, but is afraid that there wouldn't be any market for such a game. Bluntly said, culture role-playing games don't sell.
- Pete also said that he'd love me to re-write The Celestial Empire for RQ6 (blush). I can now die a very happy man.
- A book about Bronze Age Greece or Sumer could very well end up being written one day, because Pete is interested in both these ancient cultures.

By the way, Pete and Loz mentioned that, if anybody wanted to write such a book, he or she please send a few sample chapters to the Design Mechanism, and they may very well end up being published!

Then we had a fun demonstration by Pete of why he had designed RQ6 combat the way he had, with mock fights with helpless members of the audience :)
A fantastic moment!

Personal note from the time I write this blog entry: If you re-read my notes from the Design Mechanism's 2013 panel at Baharach, you'll realise that, except for the hardback edition KS and the Shores of Korantia setting book, everything else seems to have been delayed by a full year.

SUNDAY 8 JUNE, late evening, auction

The auction at Bacharach is a traditional moment of madness and of euros being spent on over-priced mouldy items, which will soon be superseded by the Guide to Glorantha anyway :)

The auction is about to start

Yet it is a moment we all enjoy and, much like last year, I ended up spending way more than I had initially planned. However, some of the items I bought this year were items I had really, really been trying to get hold of for several years, so I ended up quite satisfied. Plus I bought a really cute knitwear Cthulhoid snowman for my daughter.

The loot

SUNDAY 8 JUNE, late late late, closing ceremony + socialising

This year, because of the incredible heat, the closing ceremony was held in the courtyard. It was a magic moment, with the beautifully lit tower of Burg Stahleck over the assembled crowd, and the Rhine in the distance.

After the closing ceremony, we chatted, socialised, and drank astonishing amounts of German beer. I took advantage of the general tipsiness to get insider information about the Field Guide to Gloranthan Creatures that Pete Nash was working on (see my earlier post on the subject). It turns out that Pete has finished the text for a long time. He has written it in the style of the Biturian Varosh travelogues of yore, and apparently put all his wry humour into it, judging by the very funny anecdotes he told us. The way the book is supposed to be published by Moon Design is that the God Learner's unfortunate travelogue written by Pete is to be completed by (a) Third Age comments by a sceptical sage written by Sandy Petersen and presented in side text boxes, and (b) black and white illustrations. Alas, at the time both are missing and, given that Sandy is currently busy making dough selling boardgames working on other projects, there is no publication date foreseen for this product yet.

27 May 2014

HeroQuest Glorantha

As mentioned in my previous blog entry, there's a new edition of HeroQuest coming up, specifically targeted at playing in Glorantha (the HeroQuest 2 rule book presents itself as a generic role-playing game).

very early draft cover :)

Game mechanics-wise, this is not really going to be a new edition; at least not in the sense that HeroQuest 2 was a new edition compared with HeroQuest, or HeroQuest compared with Hero Wars.

According to what Jeff has posted on the Glorantha G+ community wall, the main rules-related changes are going to be:
- explicitly "roll high"
- as-you-go is the default method
- lots of confusing optional rules dropped
- Very High difficulty level increased in value
- rules against hoarding Hero Points

But the real added value will be, as the title of the book implies, in terms of Gloranthan play. Today, the only cultural region with fully-fledged rules is Sartar, thanks to the Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes supplement.

Now, Jeff promises us that the new book will enable us to create Tarshite, Praxian, and Esrolian characters on top of Sartarite ones. There will be seven cult write-ups, including Waha and the Seven Mothers [Wot... No Kyger Litor cult write-up??]. There will be rules to make a clearer distinction between Rune magic, spirit magic, sorcery, and Lunar magic. And the book will include a sample heroquest.

12 May 2014

Back from Chimériades

Back from the first con of the 'con season'!  It took place in a wonderful château in the middle of Provence.

Here is my feedback from the glorious Chimériades convention, based on my faint and inexact memories [not because of the booze but because of sleep deprivation]:

THURSDAY 8 MAY, late at night

Played La Piscine by Grégory Privat, possibly the most traumatic rpg scenario I've ever played, masterfully GM'ed by its wonderfully evil author, in a freezing oubliette [true story] of the château. A fantastic experience.

mood is everything

FRIDAY 9 MAY, noon, first panel

As usual, and despite my having lived in France for 36 years, I didn't know any of the French games or of the French authors present at the Chimériades [that is, besides the obnoxious Monsieur Privat]. Despite this pesonal shortcoming, I attended a panel by Les Éditions Sans-Détour about their adaptation of Pierre Pevel's novel into a role-playing game with much interest, because obviously the topics tackled are of concern to any author working on a similar endeavour. The two points that most struck me were:
 - try to set the game in a slightly different epoch to the novel (e.g, the The Cardinal's Blades rpg is set ten years after the novel)
 - when reading the novel as a preparation to developing the rules, write down all the cool things that appear in the novel and make sure the players will be able to emulate them

author and captivated audience

FRIDAY 9 MAY, noon, second panel

The second panel was much more to my taste since it was about "Glorantha… Myth & Magic", with Jeff Richard and Robin Laws as speakers.

yes, I'm the worst photographer ever

Here are my short notes:

Guide to Glorantha - short intro by Jeff Richard (Moon Design)
The Guide to Glorantha aims at resolving once and for all the old "oh I can't play in Glorantha until I own all those out-of-print volumes" issue. The Guide will contain everything that is UNCHANGEABLE CANON in Glorantha; Jeff has said: "the Guide can't be Gregged".
He has also stressed that the Guide is based on thousands of notes and maps from Greg's basement rather than on old out-of-print material, which was not even necessarily written by Greg [Jeff has revealed that much of what was indicated as "by Greg Stafford" in old material wasn't actually always by Greg]. Now, any buyer of the Guide will be able to say "I have the same level of detail on Glorantha as any author who writes for Moon Design, including Jeff".

Questions from the attendance (or from Robin), Answers by Jeff:

Q: There is a Sun Dome Temple in Karia, why?
A: Again this is from Greg's "basement maps".
Q: OK, but what is its history?
A: It was founded by EWF mercenaries.

Q: So no more surprises after the Guide?
A: There will be surprises, but they'll build upon the contents of the Guide.

Q: We've noticed quite a difference in the illustrations compared with older ones. Can you expand on this?
A: Yes, the visual impression we've wanted to convey is another big change with the past, when you could spot, for instance, Celtic influences on the Sartarites. Although it is true that Glorantha is based upon several Real World ancient cultures on top of a base layer of 60s/70s post-hippie Californiana, we have striven to make that basic mix evolve into its own. All the various Lunar sub-cultures, for instance, are really Gloranthan.

Q: What was the most difficult part of the project?
A: Dealing with artists! Not really because of guidelines, but because of conflicting deadlines: all these artists also work on other projects for other companies.

Q: How did you resolve textual contradictions?
A: We established a simple hierarchy:
1- what Greg wrote
2- what Sandy wrote
3- what other authors wrote
Whenever we found any inconsistencies, "1" would take precedence over "2" and "3"; "2" would take precedence over "3".

Q: Any areas where Greg's thoughts are still evolving?
A: Greg's pretty much retired with regards to Glorantha, but the last area he's really worked on was Second Age Glorantha – and unfortunately that ended up being way different from what you may find in the Mongoose products. Unfortunately it wasn't ready yet at the time MRQ was published.
And as you know, getting rid of the mediaeval look of the West is another area where Greg thoughts have changed. Or rather reverted to their origins.

Q: Can you talk about HeroQuest Glorantha? Is that going to be the third edition of HeroQuest?
A: No, it's not a third edtion, it's a standalone HQ genre pack to emulate play in Glorantha, based upon feedback we've received in the last 5 years.
It will focus on:
- Character generation (e.g., all starting characters get a rune at 1Ш),
- Magic in Glorantha, with lots of examples,
- Roll high will now be official (i.e., if two contestants both roll under their score and succeed, the highest roll wins).

The panel went on but I had to leave to attend my afternoon gaming session, see below.

FRIDAY 9 MAY, afternoon

I've played in Éric Nieudan's White Books, a game of shared GM impro (for want of a better definition) for 3-5 players. Each player receives a small booklet loosely corresponding to one of the Old School frp "classes" (fighter, thief, magic-user…).
First, through a fun session of Q&A, the players decide upon a setting and a flavour/mood. This is pretty similar to the HeroQuest Sartarite clan generation questionnaire, for those who know it. Despite the vanilla fantasy setting implied by the booklets, we ended up playing a party of Aztec characters; the adventure was supposed to be gonzo/epic.
The second part of the game was the adventure proper. There is no GM in White Books or, more appropriately, each player take turns at being the GM, starting with the fighter and then, based on some events clearly listed in the booklets, moving on to another player. My daughter had the "magic-user" booklet, and she GM'ed about 40% of the time. That is possibly the only imperfection of the game; there were 4 of us and, ideally, each of us should've GM'ed about 25% of the time. However, the game is still in its beta phase, and I'm sure Éric will improve it. Anyway, the game ended up as Aztecs v Aliens and we had much, much fun. Second fantastic experience.

FRIDAY 9 MAY, evening, third panel

This one was "GM Troubleshooting with Robin D. Laws", and basically we had a lot of frustrated GMs (including yours truly) asking Robin stupid questions, to which he managed to give useful and insightful answers :)

Robin speaketh

FRIDAY 9 MAY, night

The cool thing at cons is that you get to play with authors, and I secured a place at Gilles Théophile's Enba, le mythe des Régulateurs. The game is set in a fantasy reinterpretation of Heian Japan. Gilles was incredibly knowledgeable about Heian Japan and Yōkai, and his adventure was low on violence and heavy on negotiation. The GM and the other players were like half my age so it was a refreshing experience. The only problem I had with the game (and I told the author) was that I'd rather play in the real Heian Japan than in a faux one!

SATURDAY 10 MAY, freeform

We played the Rise of Ralios freeform by my friend Hervé. I played poorly (as always in freeforms) so I won't complain about my entering the Tower of Xud to become Arkat the Saviour and ending up transformed into an ice lolly, or about my best-cavalry-in-the-whole-of-Ralios performing appallingly against infantry because the other guys had better cards. I will be a referee at THE KRAKEN in August, so hopefully I will have fun there.

stupid me I thought it was a wargame

SATURDAY 10 MAY, late at night

Jeff and Robin concurrently GM'ed an introductory game of HeroQuest for a bunch of French players who didn't know the game, and I managed to sneak in. We were playing Sir Ethilrist's black horses. Our riders had all died in the previous battles, so we first had to get ourselves new riders, and then we had to fight Lunar arachnoid female demons on behalf of Sir Ethilrist. Since everybody was drunk and/or sleep deprived we had excellent fun. Third fantastic experience.

More photographs: