New Review of an Old Book.

One thing I’ve always found fascinating about this game is the Basic Rules waste no time jumping right into the action. Here’s the basic races. You’re an adventurer in space. Here’s attributes and how they work. Here’s how to shoot stuff and drive land vehicles. Have at it. It’s a beautifully short, uncomplicated, and gets right into why many of us buy RPGs- fun!

Welcome back to the Frontier!

I recently acquired the reprint copies of Star Frontiers Alpha Dawn, Star Frontiers Knight Hawks Expansion, and Zebulon’s Guide to Frontier Space. They even still have the old T$R logo on the binding. How cool is that?

Yeah, I get pretty geeked about these things.

I’ve been listening a lot more to Tom Verrault’s Star Frontiers Gamer on YouTube. He’s gotten me interested in this old, classic RPG of yesteryear. This game brings back a lot of good memories for me playing with a couple of friends in high school. I think Star Frontiers still has a lot of life in it for being a classic as well as an OSR (Old School Revival) game. I’m tentatively planning on introducing my kids to this game some day, but it may end up being a solo endeavor. Unless I can figure out a time and start a group, which… yeah.

Starting with Star Frontiers Alpha Dawn.

This game was originally a boxed set, back when T$R was putting all of their good stuff out as boxed games. (I.E: Marvel Superheroes, Top Secret S.I, B/X D&D, and Star Frontiers.) I still have my old boxed set minus the dice. The reprint comes as a softcover book and/or PDF from DriveThruRPG. You have to find your own d10/d00 dice. (But how easy is that? I mean they are special math rocks and all.)

One thing I’ve always found fascinating about this game is the Basic Rules waste no time jumping right into the action. Here’s the basic races. You’re an adventurer in space. Here’s attributes and how they work. Here’s how to shoot stuff and drive land vehicles. Have at it. It’s a beautifully short, uncomplicated, and gets right into why many of us buy RPGs- fun!

Beyond some basic equipment, a couple of short scenarios, the basic rules also explain how to design your own creatures and adventures. I always found this kind of odd when the Referee isn’t introduced until the Advanced Rules. It’s kind of an all-in gonzo affair in the Basic game. They give you a character sheet for this game, but even the advanced examples they give later on could fit on a hand written index card.

Alpha Dawn Expanded Rules.

The Expanded Rules are where we get to see more of what we think about when we see a modern RPG. This is where the real meat and bones of the setting lay. Here we get a lot more about “What is a Role Playing Game?” and info about what the various character races look like, etc. There’s a lot more about movement, weapons, equipment and a tiny bit about space travel.

One of the more critical components of the game is introduced in the Expanded rules. Skills are a good thing in any game for helping develop a character. Alpha Dawn said very little about Starship Skills, however. We get Military, Technological, and Biosocial skills. Pick one primary and one secondary skill. Don’t expect miracles in the early levels unless your dice roll especially low.

One thing I really love about this game is the simplicity of the dice. It doesn’t get much more basic that percentage numbers and a roll-under system. You usually either succeed or fail depending on the roll. There’s little ambiguity with the dice system for this game, leaving a lot of breadth to describe a character’s actions. Leveling skills is a bit tedious with this system, but liveable.

The Expanded Rules give us a bit about the setting for Star Frontiers. It’s vague enough for the Referee and/or enterprising third party writers to fill in many of the blanks and customize the game. It’s specific enough to get the Referee and group rolling with some rough-and-tumble space adventures.

One interesting note about the setting- there’s no Earth. Humans are evolved and highly skilled, but their homeworld isn’t Earth. There’s a Planetary Federation, but this ain’t Star Trek. Earth is speculated to have been the home of Gamma World in this setting, but I don’t think it was ever officially confirmed.

The “alien” beings in the setting aren’t warm and fuzzy by any means. The Dralasites, Vrusk, and Sathar are far from humanoid in the traditional sense. There’s also a D&D style collection of creatures, so we can travel to new planets and potentially be eaten by them. Woot!

The Expanded Rules include a really nice Referee section. It covers/expands on creature creation, world building, and adventure creation. There’s a short bit of basic advice on running a game here which is still solid even today. The adventure creation section, although brief, is also packed with a lot of good basic advice.

They give you everything from the boxed set except the dice.

There’s a really nice adventure with this book called, “SF-0 Crash on Volturnus.” The introductory adventure would go onto become the first in a series of modules for the game. It’s a good starting adventure. Authors included T$R luminaries, Tom Moldvay and Doug Niles. It’s a good starting adventure for starting Referees to really get their feet wet in the game system.

There’s a really nice reading list included in the game. Much like the one you see for D&D elsewhere, it’s got a lot of books to really get the reader into a sci-fi gaming mood. I also had to laugh because there are old ads for the RPGA, Dragon magazine, and Amazing Stories listed. Ah, nostalgia.

Overall, I give it 5 stars out of 5. I think a lot of modern games could take a page or two from Star Frontiers. It’s a good old school game that encourages a LOT of imagination on the part of all players and the Referee.

If anyone ever brings this game back officially, I hope they keep the flavor similar to this old game. It’s so open and easy to work with. If you didn’t have a specific creature or game mechanic? You just make it up. Good times.

Reviews of Knight Hawks and Zebulon’s Guide are in the works. I’m also working on a review of Paizo’s Book of the Dead for Pathfinder 2E so people don’t think I’m a stuffy old codger who only does OSR retro gaming. (LOL!)

Thank you for stopping by. Hope your week is going well. I appreciate you!

G.I. JOE the RPG Review.

In honor of our hard workin, hard fightin real life American heroes, I thought I’d do my long overdue review of GI JOE the RPG from Renegade Studios. I have literally waited 40 years for this game to be made officially.

HAPPY FOURTH of JULY!

In honor of our hard workin, hard fightin real life American heroes, I thought I’d do my long overdue review of GI JOE the RPG from Renegade Studios. I have literally waited 40 years for this game to be made officially. It’s at the top of my list next to Power Rangers and Transformers. I was so stoked when I saw these three games on Kickstarter a couple of years ago.

The dream has been realized minus Transformers. I see it’s been moved to Q04 of 2022. (What the heck, guys?) I mean, how many of us want to someday realize the GI JOE/Transformers crossover we’ve been dreaming about for decades? I know I’m not alone.

I think nostalgia is the primary appeal of GI Joe. All of us who ever ran games from other systems who always wanted an official Joe RPG for the last 40 years or so finally got our wish. I was pleasantly surprised to see a lot of my old favorite characters, vehicles, and weapons from the action figures and the cartoon in print.

This has been four decades in the making. YAY!!!

Essence20 keeps getting better.

Renegade is becoming a very solid company when it comes to game design. I still think Power Rangers RPG is a little shaky under the same system, but the writers have gotten better with GI Joe. Everything flows together with the system so far and I’ve had no hiccups creating characters thusfar.

Renegade also provides downloadable character sheets and prefilled sheets for some noteworthy characters such as Duke and Scarlet. My hat’s off to the writers for being more ready up front with this game. It’s very well put together.

Combat can be as cartoony or as meaty as you’d like.

I was glad to see the discussion of weapon damage being a group consensus. The group can decide to treat it like the 1980’s cartoon with the pew-pew lasers set on stun and parachutes that always deployed. Or they can make it gritty and realistic like a more modern military style game where getting shot is serious business and vehicles can explode with all occupants aboard.

Combat is a key element in this game and I’m glad to see a fairly thorough treatment throughout the book. Weapons are customizable. The vehicles are as cool as any toy playset ever made. Personally, I’m excited to see characters in jet packs and Trouble Bubbles.

The diversity of character options is stunning.

If you ever saw a character in the cartoon that you wanted to emulate or have a particular fan fiction character you want to play, this system has it covered. The same goes for Cobra, though. Anything the GM ever wanted to see Cobra get correct, they can do now. No more incompetent Cobra Commander or bumbling minions unless that’s how you want to play it.

The other neat thing is the sheer amount of character volume included in the core rules. You get to fight alongside Joe luminaries such as Duke, Snake Eyes, Sgt Slaughter, Jinx, Quick Kick and so many, many more. They even went so far as to give a full page treatment to the ones they didn’t have room for in the Core Book.

Oh no! They missed my favorite character! No worries.

One really nice touch they did throughout the game was the “Knowing is Half the Battle” segments that further define a rule or clarify a lot of potential questions. Another great moment came when I found the Perk: Kung Fu Grip. They even mention the historic origins of the name and Yo Joe! is a legitimate battle cry with in game effects. (Kind of like saying It’s Morphin Time or Autobots, Transform and Roll Out.)

I know I've mentioned before that art sells RPG books. The GI JOE RPG has some of the most gorgeous artwork of any RPG ever produced. Admittedly, they might have had a slightly easier time given the volume of art for the animated series and comics that accumulated over the years, but still. This game looks great! Good job team! 

If I was ever waffling on whether or not to by this book, the layout and presentation along with the gorgeous artwork sells it. 

The only thing I hope and pray for Renegade to do-

Renegade folx, if you see this, please hear my pathetic begging. There needs to be a sourcebook with more of the original Joes statted up. Of course there needs to be an extensive book of all the Joe vehicles. Please, please, please give us a solid Cobra sourcebook complete with characters, vehicles, weapons and cool science projects. If you really wanted to make this fanboy happy, please make a Sigma 6 sourcebook.

I give it 5 stars. Keep up the awesome work! Can’t wait to see Transformers.

Thank you all for stopping by. I appreciate it. Have a happy and safe holiday!

Some Sci-Fi Games Off the Beaten Space Lane.

I wanted to go with some that are maybe not as well known as Starfinder. With Spelljammer coming for D&D in August, I wanted to throw some alternatives out ahead of time.

In the mood for a Sci-Fi RPG? Please take a look at these games.

May Fourth’s article got me in the mood for a space game again. There are heaps I could mention. I wanted to go with some that are maybe not as well known as Starfinder. With Spelljammer coming for D&D in August, I wanted to throw some alternatives out ahead of time.

I wish DwD would keep going with this!

Frontierspace by DwD Games. With a new (*highly controversial) version of Star Frontiers on the horizon, Frontierspace is a beautiful tribute to the original Star Frontiers. There’s also a Star Frontiers magazine called Frontier Explorer that was producing exciting new content for Star Frontiers/Frontierspace until it came to a screeching halt recently with Issue 36 Spring 2022 being the last one.

Frontierspace is a solidly written game by fans of Star Frontiers. It’s a bit more of a hard sci-fi game as opposed to space opera in my opinion. Although it is far from the hard sci-fi game that Traveler is. Frontierspace has just enough science crunch without being a lesson in astrophysics and aerospace engineering.

The only kind of downer about this game is that DwD has been quiet for a couple of years now. With Frontier Explorer ending, there’s really not much going on in terms of new material. Many players really enjoyed Star Frontiers and this game really brings back that nostalgia.

Galaxy Prime. A unique specimen.

Galaxy Prime by Epic Age Media. This game actually reminds me a little bit of the original Star Wars RPG. I love the huge selection of playable races in this game. The thing that drew me to this game is the simplicity of the game. There are a lot of neat supplements and scenarios, too.

This game is also beautiful because exploration could be a big part of the game. Space is infinite. One doesn’t necessarily need to stick to the known galaxy. Player Characters can go explore as much as they wish in any game.

The game has kind of that harder Aliens edge in some ways. The politics and racial interactions are a cross between Babylon 5 and early Star Trek. The core book is open enough that the GM could literally determine everything and just play the game as desired. I miss Babylon 5, personally.

I know. ICRPG makes me drool with delight.

ICRPG by Runehammer Games. Specifically Warp Shell. The system is phenomenal. The campaign is very well designed. It’s got kind of a Farscape vibe to it. Warp Shell goes epic if you like. I know I talk about ICRPG a lot on this blog, but it’s because the quality of this game is so good!

System beauty aside, your ship, aka the Warp Shell, has a mind of its own. I once played in a Shatterzone game like this and it was awesome! So, you may never know where you’re going to end up each week. Plus there’s a cool element resembling the Classic Star Trek episode, “The Doomsday Machine.”

Runehammer also has a game called Viking Death Squad which reminds me a bit of Mutant Chronicles and Warhammer 40K.

Hunt the Wicked. Love bounty hunters!

Hunt the Wicked by Sigil Stone Publishing. If you like Mandalorian and/or Cowboy Bebop and want to chase criminals all over known space, then this game is for you! The system is okay. I just like the basic premise of the game.

What’s not to love when you’re running your own company of bounty hunters/mercenaries? Keep bringing in the big bounty heads and keep your crew and yourself afloat. Please, this time- No Disintegrations!

Added bonus: The Quick Start Rules are FREE on DriveThruRPG.

Shatterzone Reprinted by Precis Intermedia. This game was originally produced by West End Games as part of their Masterbook line. One of the main premises of this game is the nigh impenetrable barrier separating the Core worlds from the rest of the galaxy. However, ships have recently figured out how to get through the ‘Zone.

Sign up for a corporation or the mighty Fleet and explore the galaxy. Powered armor, cool starships, interesting species, and fun gear are all part of the adventures. It’s a little bit like Star Wars, and a bit of Cyberpunk. Well worth checking out. Ownership of the MasterBook Rules is helpful, but not entirely necessary with the reprints.

I mentioned Shatterzone because it’s an old favorite that was given new life by Precis Intermedia. These folks have been doing a great job of breathing new life into old games, much like our friends at Epic Age Media above.

Masterfully reprinted- ShatterZone.

I may have to do another article on this particular subject as the five I’ve listed barely scratch the surface of the planet when it comes to sci-fi space gaming. I like talking about some of the smaller games because they’re easier on the wallet, especially in pdf. Off the top of my head, I can think of a dozen more games. I didn’t mention some of the big ones or some of the indie games that cover this subject so very well.

Hope you’re having a great weekend. There’s a whole summer of gaming ahead for many of us. Thanks for being here. Have fun!

Does the Number of Books Matter?

I strongly considered Basic D&D, literally just Basic as opposed to OSR or all of the variations on OSR. I considered Pathfinder 2E, but the rulebook is pretty hefty and there are so many character options. And last, there was good old 5E. So many options, but what would work best for me?

I submit to you 4 systems, one dungeon.

I’ve wrestled around with what system I want to write in as my primary game system for fantasy dungeon crawls. I mean, technically I could pull out more than four. Open Legends, Mythras, ICRPG, Bare Bones, FATE, and more all got pulled up as possibilities. But I was determined to go with what I know best.

My latest dungeon effort, one room at a time on my blog here, The Catacomb of the Wolf Lord, is done with Dungeon Crawl Classics. I strongly considered Basic D&D, literally just Basic as opposed to OSR or all of the variations on OSR. I considered Pathfinder 2E, but the rulebook is pretty hefty and there are so many character options. And last, there was good old 5E. So many options, but what would work best for me?

So much source material to choose from.

My meager Pathfinder Second Edition collection. But is it good for dungeon crawls?

One thing I love about D&D 5E is that it is probably the single most expanded upon RPG in the history of games. I thought I had a lot of 3E monster books from various publishers. Some folks in the community call it “bloat.” Regardless of what it’s called, there are hundreds of variations on classes, monsters, spells, etc. Given the amount of options, I decided to go for something a little simpler.

Let’s be clear, though. The amount of options isn’t as negative as the Old Grognards Society might have you believe. The massive amount of options is less daunting as long as the DM and the group agree on what can be used or not used. At some point, there just comes a point when the group agrees this far and no farther. The same applies to homebrew.

Too much material sort of my issue with PF2E, but not the only one. Paizo has printed some seriously impressive books, especially monsters, for Pathfinder 1E. PF2E has three bestiaries to date. Their conversion of 1E source material has been fantastic so far.

Recently Paizo announced a new title that would be 5E compatible. PF2E sales are not as stellar as maybe they could be according to some. If I were going to try to make some cash on DriveThruRPG from this dungeon, maybe PF2E isn’t the way to go? I’ve also never been a fan of the Pathfinder’s campaign world. It’s okay, just not my jam, maybe.

DCC has a whopping two books of official content, not counting modules, zines, and Lankhmar. Basic D&D has surprisingly few monster books as well. T$R was pretty good about not flooding the market back then. Of course, back then it was presumed DMs were creating their own homebrew monsters. Third party companies weren’t going bonkers with anything but modules as far as I remember. DCC is pretty much built for modules.

It’s not so much quality over quantity.

DCC Annual Vol 1.
So far the only major DCC sourcebook of note.

There are other factors at play. Sure DCC is extremely homebrew friendly and pretty easy to publish modules for it. Sure it’s familiar from the 3E D&D days. (Yes, I’m enamored with it as of late.) It’s got a lot going for it!

What D&D and Pathfinder both need (IN MY OPINION) is a narrowing. At its very core of any game is a basic set of stats, abilities, weapons, spells. The wheel can only be reinvented so many times over, right?

DCC offers that exact notion that rules can be narrowed. I’m not spending endless hours as the GM trying to dig through classes, subclasses, feats, skills, and so on. DCC is pretty basic Fighter, Thief, Cleric, and Wizard. The races are classes unto themselves. Nothing complicated.

I can go nuts (re)creating monsters, spells, items and even demigods all I want. Goodman seems cool about everything. But DCC isn’t bloated, either. The field is wide open like back in the Basic D&D days. Which is not to say the Internet isn’t absolutely thick with expansion material. But the DCC Core and Annual are all I’m using, plus whatever I can borrow, steal or create on my own.

D&D Basic is inspirational for DCC because of its classes, spells and weapons. Races were still considered classes in DCC and the monsters translate from Basic to DCC freakiness pretty well.

The best part is I can look at all the other books for PF2E and D&D 5E for inspiration. Outright plagiarism is not cool. NEVER EVER directly copy something and claim it as your own. It’s not fair to other creators.

The only two Basic D&D books I will ever use. These are reprints because my original Rules Cyclopedia fell apart after years of service. You can still get these titles from DMsGuild.

Borrowing concepts and abilities from other games is legit. Out-and-out plagiarism is not.

However- you can re-skin, change abilities, reorganize and rename creatures any time the situation dictates as long as you’re doing most of the above at the same time. An Orc by any other name is a Klurg, hailing from the far desert, with orange skin and wielding a khopesh made of solid obsidian. (Steal at will, I don’t mind.) Orcs in my campaigns typically behave like Star Trek Klingons, anyway. You can be original without doing all of the legwork over and over. (Remember that whole thing about reinventing the wheel?)

I see DCC has a Werewolf Lord, so why not a Wolf Lord? They compete with one another. One represents nature in three different aspects. The other represents the horrible abomination of man and nature. This will be fun! Clerics and Wizards will both benefit.

Thanks for stopping by!

The homebrew potential in DCC is immense. Plus it can always convert to other games quite easily. ICRPG is an easy conversion. D&D 5E and PF2E are also possible with a little time. I think the in-depth systems are awesome for more serious role-playing where DCC is great for beer-n-pretzels dungeon crawls.

Game on, family! See you soon. Hope you’re having a fabulous week.

Anime RPG is Mindset as Much as Ruleset.

My point is, you can slip a little of that anime flair into just about anything. Ask my college writing professors. It can be done. (*Pretty sure one of them retired early. I’m not saying it was my fault, but…)

With Dyskami dropping Anime 5E on us around June 1, it’s time to briefly discuss Anime as attitude and game system.

Dyskami Anime 5E

Btw, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, I’m a bit biased toward this particular genre and anything Big Eyes, Small Mouth in general and have been for many years. I actually had the privilege of going to a Gen Con seminar with Mark MacKinnon all those years ago. I learned a lot about RPGs in general and anime/manga games in particular. I also think Lemmings in Space would be a hilarious but short-lived RPG. Mark and the team at Dyskami have delivered a wonderful new spin on this genre, attitude and rules.

*Note, if fantasy is less your jam and you want more cyberpunk/mecha/space anime action, I highly recommend BESM Fourth Edition from Dyskami. Anime 5E is very much fantasy genre oriented, being based on the 5E D&D rules. All of the races, classes, monsters, magic and other tropes are based around fantasy stuff.

But enough shameless promotion, on with the show!

Just as a writer can pick up different tones and perspectives while writing, RPGs can come with differing attitudes for GMs and players. If a writer is working on a horror novel, for example, the tone might be dark, gritty, and have almost a feeling of hopelessness hanging in the air. Where as a horror RPG might have rules for insanity; penalties for PCs casting dark, creepy ritual spells; and foreboding, unfathomable, undefeatable old gods and monsters.

What does one think of when we hear the term “anime” or “manga?” It’s a pretty broad genre. Japanese animation and comics cover a pretty large spectrum of subgenres such as horror, science fiction, fantasy and cyberpunk to name a few. Personally I think of giant robots and cyborgs followed by high flying fantasy martial arts and determined samurai. It’s a different flavor of roleplaying gaming all together.

If it’s an attitude, won’t any old RPG system work?

The short answer to this is: I guess. Mileage may vary.
The long, complicated answer is: Nope. Don’t do it. You’re trying to force a square peg into a triangular hole. There’s an easier way.

I love a lot of basic European style medieval fantasy RPGs. Pathfinder 2E, D&D, ICRPG, DCC, and dozens more. Orcs, elves, dragons and labyrinthine death dungeons are the order of the day for me. Good stuff. I can certainly approach those with the anime/manga mindframe. But, then the rules fall a lot short of the mark.

How do you pull off a 50′ anime character leap while wielding a Bisento as an unarmored samurai? How do we set the scene for a brief chibi moment during a long rest? What do you mean I can’t play a cat girl ninja? It’s just not in the rules. (In fairness, I did stat out cat folk and ninjas for ICRPG, but…) If you want anime rules for a “classic” game, it’s going to end up being heavily homebrewed.

If I’ve learned anything from being a GM/writer over the years, it’s don’t try to reinvent the wheel. If someone else has done the legwork for you in terms of an RPG system, by all means- beg, borrow, or steal as much as you can for your game. If another system does something better than the one you’re currently using it’s not like you’re married. Switch to what works or adapt bits as needed. If that means switching to a new ruleset, then by all means.

The question is always how far to go.

If your D&D game is running just fine with a few anime moments, then maybe stick to D&D proper. If you’re just borrowing a few tropes here and there with the Monk, Fighter (Samurai) and Rogue (Ninja) characters and the players are cool, stick with it. Maybe the characters yell a lot. There are some chibi character moments that don’t detract. Dragons are worshipped as gods in the campaign setting. Certain weapons and armor are re-skinned. Maybe add some homebrew rules for unarmored defense?

OR- things are crazy overly stiff an rule dependent and you’re dying to be able to do more cool stuff. Try an actual anime RPG and setting! As a GM, boot whatever seems too outrageous or unreasonable. It’s still your game!

The main thing is do what you, as a GM, and the players will have the most fun with. Typical fantasy settings don’t do mecha and/or firearms at all. Anime games have to such restrictions depending on the GM. Giant leaps are very possible in anime. Ninjas are more Naruto and Ninja Scroll than historical black pajama party. Stuff blows up more in anime games. Trust me.

Complicated Relationship Table.

Another advantage to anime games is the amount of character drama. I once drew a very complicated flow chart for myself to map out all of the very complicated relationships in an anime supers game I was working on. This person has a crush on this person, but is secretly liked by this other person who they want nothing to do with and so on. It ate a couple of entire pages of my notebook and looked like one of those crazy conspiracy theory board memes by the time I was done. It ended up being useful for dealing with specific character interactions, though. It made for a fun game, despite over 20 pages of NPC backstories. I might have overdone it a little.

Anime fits in with so many other tropes and themes.

SCS mecha by Zsolt Varga is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0

Anime does very well with several subgenres either as a separate game or as part of a preexisting one. Many anime videos exemplify this.

Horror- easy. I’m sorry, have you seen some of the scarier anime? Eesh. I don’t want to give video examples. Just… it’s the internet. Feel free to explore, okay?

Supers- Sentai, giant robots, psychic cops even four color heroes. Again, it’s an easy catch. Power Rangers, Patlabor, Witch Hunter Robin and Tiger & Bunny are great examples of video anime supers. In fairness, I have to mention Sailor Moon, which is the premiere magical girl supers anime. It’s also one of the older anime RPGs.

Fantasy- Such a broad category by itself. Fantasy anime covers things such as Record of the Lodoss Wars. (Fantasy anime emulating a fantasy rpg emulating Tolkien. Mind bending.) Ninja Scroll is serious fantasy anime, and brutal. Rurouni Kenshin is great fantasy samurai anime. One of my personal favorites, which is also sorta shoujo, Inu Yasha makes for amazing rpg fodder. I also highly recommend Princess Mononoke. I should also mention Full Metal Alchemist, too. Again, they’re all fantasy anime, each with its own unique angle.

Mecha and cyberpunk are more or less ready made for anime games. These two subgenres pretty much started out as anime. Masamune Shirow was a pioneer in both genres with Appleseed, Dominion Tank Police, Black Magic M-66, and Ghost in the Shell. Mecha anime would not be complete without a mention of Macross/Robotech just to start. I should also mention Gundam in all of the many series on video. There are a lot of other cyberpunk anime on video, many are ultra violent in nature. Likewise, I’ve barely scratched the surface of mecha anime on video. The RPG potential is almost unfathomably deep for both subgenres.

Action- Last is all of the action anime. This would work with any modern type RPG. It could be martial arts, detectives, pirates, demon hunters, or any other number of action tropes. There are more anime video examples than I could list. I would recommend Gunsmith Cats if you get a chance.

I realized I barely dove into inspirational videos.

Anime 5E Magical Cat Girl

I’m probably going to write more articles in the coming weeks/months about anime RPGs. I didn’t even mention many of the anime I’ve taken inspiration from over the years.

I’m a huge fan of Neon Genesis Evangelion, but I’m not sure how it would float as an RPG? I’d also recommend Big O and Giant Robo as both mecha and superhero anime. There’s also A.D. Police Files, Bubblegum Crisis and Bubblegum Crash. These series were all a mix of police, mecha, supers, and cyberpunk anime with a tiny bit of psychic stuff thrown in. Last, Starfinder fans especially would benefit from watching Iria: Zeiram the Animation.

Like many otaku, I could go on for hours mentioning tasty videos to watch. Bringing character concepts and tropes over to RPGs is a subject to approach with your GM. Likewise, GMs probably shouldn’t expect players to just jump blindly into an anime series if it’s not what they’re expecting.

More, much more to come. Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. Thanks.

Big Day Yesterday

I love that some of the older playable races are once again featured and revised. We see the presence of the Aasimar, Eladrin, Genasi, Goliaths, and Shifters. Yay!
We also get to play around with several anthropomorphic races such as the Tabaxi (Cat people,) Harengon, (Bunny folk,) and Tortles (Turtle folk.)

Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse dropped finally.

Unless you picked it up as part of the holiday gift set or acquired it digitally from D&D Beyond, the book finally made an appearance on the 17th. I’m excited to do more of a detailed review later. Right now I’m excited by what I’ve seen at first glance.

Big changes to the way we create characters on the horizon from what I can see here.

Gone are the days of ability score bonuses or penalties for different races. You may either increase a single attribute by +2 and another by +1 OR do +1, +1, +1 across three different attributes. There are still no penalties. Long gone are the days of the frail elf or puny halfling. Why shouldn’t a fairy have an 18 STR? Seems really logical.

I really like the included racial traits. It’s a grab and go as opposed to an ala carte situation as was originally rumored. (*People who’ve had the book since January are mocking me right now.) I’m happy for that because it takes some of the confusion out of character creation.

Bunnies and turtles and Gith, oh my!

I know most of the races presented are from other books, but I wanted to call attention to a couple of things. I am absolutely thrilled to see certain races which I’ll get into in just a moment. Not to sound racist irl, but I think there are also some very questionable choices in their selection of in-game PC races.

I love that some of the older playable races are once again featured and revised. We see the presence of the Aasimar, Eladrin, Genasi, Goliaths, and Shifters. Yay!

We also get to play around with several anthropomorphic races such as the Tabaxi (Cat people,) Harengon, (Bunny folk,) and Tortles (Turtle folk.) Of course everyone’s favorite bird races are represented as well with the Aaracokra and the Kenku. That’s all well and good. I love cat girls and bunnies. (I’ll be the first to admit I’m a bit of a furry sometimes. Lol!)

That’s where my love affair with the various races pretty much ends. Minotaurs are in Dragonlance and are kind of a tip of the hat to WoW’s Tauren. Okay. We get Orcs and Goblins in other games, sure. Why not?

But then we get into territory that I think is going to be omitted or at least discussed heavily in my campaign. Bugbears? Hobgoblins? Lizard Folk are known in my campaign for being involved in a lot of very bad stuff. Yuan-Ti are likewise considered bad news if encountered.

And the Gith?!? Even if they weren’t overpowered, are considered “monsters” in the classic sense of the word in my world. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe every monster race in the books should be welcome in every civilized fantasy society. Not every inn in the game has to look like the famous Mos Eisley cantina from Star Wars.

I don’t know about other DMs and what they allow necessarily. I’ve been in games where certain races are pretty much TOS (Terminate On Sight. Thanks G-Unit.) Duergar, Kobolds, Bugbears, Hobgoblins and anything reptilian would be shot on sight or chased away from human, elf, or halfling settlements. No, it doesn’t have to be that way in every campaign and there certainly could be a rare outcast from Gith or Bugbear society, but in most games I’ve been in, it would be hella rare.

*DISCLAIMER* Please note! It is NOT okay to treat people like crap in the real world for any reason. Please be kind and understanding when it comes to race, gender, sexual preference, age, and any other form of diversity in the real world! It’s okay to explore some concepts in fantasy, but keep it on the table. The real world is tough enough without us making life harder on ourselves.

Please do whatever you want in your campaign. My opinion is just that- an opinion. What I do in my games may vary dramatically from what others allow/disallow. Whatever is most fun for you and your group? Do THAT!

The rest of the book, the monsters- are phenomenal!

What makes Mordenkainen’s Monsters of the Multiverse stand out are the particularly nasty creatures contained therein. I’m not going to list off all the monsters here. I’m sure there’s a Table of Contents posted online somewhere.

What I will say is that I’m stoked to see some of the things from older supplements find their way into 5E. We get a huge spread of demons, devils and fiends to torment the PCs with. A lot of the undead types are throwbacks to other editions. Elementals play a huge role in the Multiverse.

I’m most impressed with the interplanar monsters from the Fiend Folio making a comeback. I used to use some of these creatures back when and I’m excited they’re officially back. Bodak, Draegloth, Froghemoth, Howlers, Leucrotta, Quicklings, and Rutterkin are statted out and ready to go again. I couldn’t be happier about it.

It’s also nice having some of the quick reference blocks like Bard and Warlord as examples. Being able to insert an Archdruid or any other premade NPC stat block at a glance is a nice touch. We can always go back and alter specifics later. I like having things like this handy when players put me on the spot.

I’m hoping Planescape or something similar is on the horizon.

I would really like to see WotC do more with the various planes and planar travel now that this book is in hand. I’m happy to see many of my old favorites such as the Astral Dreadnought and the Giff back again. IIRC the Giff were actually first featured in Spelljammer, but I might be wrong? I don’t normally do a lot of plane-hopping in my games, but this really does bring back that Manual of the Planes feel.

This also makes me question whether Spelljammer may actually be worth a look now. Originally I said, “No” when I saw Spelljammer. If the delivery on the Spelljammer books are this excellent in quality, I might reconsider at least enough to pick up the monster book.

So much going on here and elsewhere. So much goodness!

Thank you for stopping by. I had more I wanted to discuss, but the new Mordenkainen book really stood out today. Heck, I’m probably not getting back to 5E until summer, but now I’m excited to DM again. Have a great week!

I appreciate you!

Looking Out for the Players a Bit.

All of the above are just recommendations. I’m sure there are plenty of games/systems I’ve missed. There’s just something about having your own book.

As GMs/DMs, we’re regularly faced with the challenge of picking the game system we want to run.

I love Basic D&D. Ya know, the one from back in the day? The original? The Rules Cyclopedia? Many good times were had with that game.

Would I run a campaign out of it tomorrow? Probably not. The books aren’t what you’d call, “regularly available” to most players. That’s the first thing I look at.

If I have the only copy at the table, there’s a problem.

D&D editions 3-5 have a common problem. There are tons upon tons of books out for these games. Third and Fourth editions have been out of print for ages. DMSGuild and Half Price books still have most of the stuff still available if players are willing to shell out for whatever character options they want to invest in.

Fifth Edition is what some of us call, “bloated.” Third suffered from this problem as well. There are so many options for players to choose from. Where do you even begin? And what is the DM going to do?

Sure, the PHB is cool. You’re going to want one for the basic rules, anyway. But then what’s next? Tasha’s? Xanathar’s? DMSGuild guide to X class/race variant? The amount of source material out there is staggering.

Some DMs ban homebrew or third party material outright. Others say PHB only. Still others stick to PHB and anything officially printed by WotC. But some players always want that extra edge, the unique advantage or something completely different than what we’d consider canon.

I want the players to have access to everything the game has to offer without having to take out a second mortgage.

I have gone so far as to buy table copies of rulebooks for some games. I have extra copies of a lot of 4th Ed D&D books for my players. Unfortunately, I haven’t run 4E for a long time, but it was there when I needed it. Werewolf the Apocalypse was another game where I kept a spare core book for the table. It was just easier and cheaper back then for my group.

Nowadays, I really appreciate my players having their own physical copy of the rules handy because my copy is bookmarked to hell and gone. Many times I have both the physical book and at least one digital copy open at any given time for monster stats on one and rules lookup on the other.

If my copies are tied up and I’m going to ask the players to acquire their own, I don’t want a system that will break the bank. In most cases, I don’t think a pdf copy or even a single, physical copy per player is too much to ask for an ongoing campaign. I know there are plenty of games that are expanded to the nines and practically require a winning lottery ticket to keep up with.

One thing to avoid.

Okay, let’s be honest. How many of us frequented a certain website that offered free download pdf copies of all of our favorite games? Most of these sites eventually get shut down and for good reason. Those sites aren’t just socking it to the corporations, but hurting smaller creators as well.

Tempting though it might be, printing or copying pdfs for players is really something to steer clear-of except in the most dire of circumstances because it tends to rob creators of their money. I might print off just enough for someone to play their character or get by for a few weeks until they can acquire their own copy. I’ve found on many occasions a little taste of the book is enough to sell a full copy to a lot of players.

I am loathe to admit there are still free pdf copies of some things out there. I won’t ever link any of them. IF you acquire a book this way, I strongly urge you to track down and pay for an official copy. Be kind to designers. They have to eat, too.

Here are five alternatives to D&D and Pathfinder that are easy on the wallet.

I love Dungeon Crawl Classics from Goodman Games for this exact reason. My core rulebook cost me $25.00 at my FLGS and the pdf was free. I’ve rarely seen a better deal.

Another example is Runehammer’s Index Card Roleplaying Game Master Edition which just recently went on DriveThruRPG in Print on Demand with pdf for almost half what the hardcover cost. Heck yeah! Thanks Hankerin!

ICRPG is easy to learn, affordable, and fun! A lot of time and effort went into this game. It’s easy to GM and rules lite for the players. Plus it has tons of homebrew potential. More on that some other time.

FUDGE is good, as I have said before. The FATE dice are easily substituted or faked using regular d6s. FATE is another good recommendation for a single book as the Condensed version retails for around $8.00. I tend to lump these two rulesets together as they are similar.

I’ll also give another shout out to Open Legends RPG for being rules lite and all in one book for the most part. If I had to steer a first time gamer to something other than D&D, this would be close to the top of the list. Free is good last I checked and the whole group can have access to the book on their various mobile devices or GM printouts if they wish.

Another thing I look at is Open Licensing.

OGL games have become a mainstay in my book collection. My overall goal in life is to get something published on DriveThruRPG. I find that OGL games with only a few core books are far easier to work with because there isn’t as much competition and it’s easier for players to get behind. If I can put out one $4.99 sourcebook with quality material to go with a mostly free or inexpensive core book, is it worth the investment?

I’m starting to think it’s the best way to go in terms of publishing. True, it’s harder to find an audience for than D&D 5E. Many of the games I really get behind are fairly obscure in comparison. But sometimes a dedicated niche audience is more willing to invest a little to help the game grow.

All of the above are just recommendations. I’m sure there are plenty of games/systems I’ve missed. There’s just something about having your own book.

Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate you. Stay hydrated. Stay safe. Have fun!

Anime 5E Review.

Anime 5E is here! Due to hit the shelves of your FLGS sometime around June 1. I backed it on Kickstarter and it’s brilliant!

As JJ Walker would say, this book is, “Dyn-O-Mite!”

Anime 5E is here!

Back before my employment status changed, I invested in several Kickstarters. This one in particular was very worth the money. Tired of regular 5E D&D? Dyskami fixes that and then some with Anime 5E.
Here’s the link for DriveThruRPG

Here’s the link for Dyskami’s website

Just a brief rundown of some of the things you’ll find:

My oldest is going to freak when he finds out he can play a cat person in my game.
  • New character race options: Neko, Kodama, and even Greys!
  • New character class options: Ninja, Samurai, Magical Girl, Pet Monster Trainer and more!
  • New character size options. Play it small or huge. Either way, it’s covered.
  • So many new character options in and out of combat, I can’t list them all.
  • New magical and non-magical gear. What book would be complete without it?
  • New monsters. That’s what sold me along with some other concepts.
  • High-Flying, kick-butt anime/manga action from the minds that brought us the original Big Eyes, Small Mouth.
  • A solid mix of classic Tolkien-esque fantasy action combined with crazy anime fantasy action. Run a game in the style of Record of the Lodoss Wars, Naruto, Ninja Scroll, Afro Samurai, Samurai Champloo, Inu Yasha, Sailor Moon, Ranma, Pokemon and so many more.

I was a fan of this project way before it came about.

I’m a long, long time BESM fan. I’ve followed it since First Edition, no less. Third Ed was hard to get a hold of, but I finally did. I’ll write a broader BESM review in the future. I have a lot of wonderful memories and fond moments with BESM and it’s one of my favorite games to work with.

The same can be said of good old D20 BESM. Anime 5E took the raw Rules As Written and turned them into something phenomenal as only the creators of BESM could. I understand anime is as much styles as rules sets, but they added to D&D 5E in new and intriguing ways.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this from early in the book.
This is pretty cool.

I love the attitude. The look of the product throughout is phenomenal. Really, I don’t know much else they could have added.

Old fans of my previous blog know I don’t use the term “alien” because it is offensive to many beings. I’m a friend to any being from another world who wishes to visit Earth. Now, if you’re wondering why I mention it in the gaming review of Anime 5E, it’s because one of the player races included is the Greys.

If I make one character to play this game, it’s going to be one of these guys. I think they’re pretty cool. I mean, not Magical Cat Girl cool, maybe, but still pretty friggin sweet!

I may not put out any material for this game any time soon, being entangled in three solid projects and possibly adding a fourth. This book really takes the frustration out of 5E and makes it fast, loose, and playable again. Hiyah!

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. I hope you’ll give Anime 5E a chance.

It Has Arrived!

So, briefly- ICRPG is simple, adaptable to any setting, brilliantly designed, and has revolutionized games outside of itself.

My copy of Index Card RPG Masters Edition finally arrived today!

Snoopy vulture.
c/o United Features Syndicate.

Probably not the most monumental thing to ever happen in the world. But it’s exciting for me! A short while back, Hankerin Ferinale announced that ICRPG Masters Edition was going to be available as Print On Demand from DriveThruRPG. This was awesome! Monumental!

No offense to the nice folks at Modiphius, but I really didn’t have the scratch to buy the $50 hardcover plus shipping. I’ve noticed our FLGS don’t readily carry it. (I checked stores in two states, sadly.) $50 is a lot of money for me these days.

So I ordered it online and the wait began. I perched on our mailbox day and night waiting for it to arrive. This happened with Mecha Hack as well because I love the Brandish Gilhelm (aka Hankerin) artwork. The artwork is only matched by the brilliant game design. ICRPG never disappoints.

I loved the last edition of ICRPG so much. I was overjoyed Runehammer (aka Hankerin, aka Brandish) had made this book available for almost a third of the hardcover price. Of course, I poured over the pdf like crazy, but I love a physical copy of any game, especially this one.

Full confession: I’m biased toward ICRPG and have been since I discovered the game years ago.

So, briefly- ICRPG is simple, adaptable to any setting, brilliantly designed, and has revolutionized games outside of itself. Masters comes with ICRPG Worlds built into it. This game gave us Old Grognards a new way to look at adventure, room, and combat design. Hankerin is clearly a veteran of many RPG campaigns in several genres and it shows in the way ICRPG is written.

The Index Card portion of the name is legit on several levels. It’s a good way to organize as a GM. The game literally encourages this. It’s a brilliant way to keep track of rooms, traps, monsters, spacecraft… You get the idea. Professor Dungeon Master of YouTube fame has latched onto this game and for good reason.

I’m so happy! It finally arrived!!! Worth the wait.

My own campaign settings will be getting dusted off soon.

The nice thing about Masters is that the actual mechanics haven’t changed too much. I’m looking to pull out my ICRPG samurai campaign and maybe putting it out soon. I’ve contemplated a few other games using these rules as well. My meager artistic skills are not as impressive as Brandish’s, though.

ICRPG is a dream to run and create more content for GMs. I really can’t say too many good things about it. Players can pick up these rules in less time than D&D 5E or faster if they’re familiar with any D20 game.

I rely on Bitmoji and stock art for a reason. LOL!

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you! Please try ICRPG if the opportunity presents. It really is worth a try.

Also, thank you Runehammer for putting out such an awesome game. I can’t tell you how much fun I have designing game worlds for this system. Your hard work makes a lot of joy possible. You rock!

Birth of a Dungeon Crawl?

DCC/MCC project is intended to be a work in progress. I’ll be posting one or two dungeon rooms at a time here on my blog, useable in OSR games. I’m also looking at popping out some items, spells, classes and races for both DCC and MCC.

I’m contemplating a new series of articles.

I recently got turned onto Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC) and Mutant Crawl Classics (MCC) by Goodman Games. DCC has been around in its current form since 2012, but its roots extend back to the good old 3rd Ed D&D days. (*Editor’s Note: I still have many of the old modules and treasure them dearly.) DCC in its current printing is very much in the vein of Old School Revival (OSR) as it looks a LOT like old B/X D&D. (*Editor’s Note: I’ve written more about it here.)

MCC is a little newer (2017?) and is a throwback to Metamorphosis Alpha/Gamma World in so many ways. It also reminds me a little bit of Palladium’s Rifts with its mix of magic and technology. DCC and MCC are fully compatible with one another, which is awesomesauce when designing creatures. While I’m not huge on post apocalyptic genre games in general, I like MCC because of its old school charm and simplicity. It also uses the same character funnel 0 Level play as DCC only AD Terra style.

One thing that really jumps out at me about both DCC and MCC is the incredible amount of third party support that exists for both games. Goodman even goes so far as to list many of them in their books. I have not begun to dig through the various websites to look for what am looking at creating. I have ideas for several character classes/races. Much like other OGL endeavors, I’m certain anything I come up with is going to resemble material that already exists somewhere.

It will be a work in progress.

Similar to my Power Rangers RPG campaign, my DCC/MCC project is intended to be a work in progress. I’ll be posting one or two dungeon rooms at a time here on my blog, useable in OSR games. I’m also looking at popping out some items, spells, classes and races for both DCC and MCC. Anything I put on the blog is always free to use anywhere. I might eventually cobble together an entire book for pdf publication on DriveThruRPG or my Ko-Fi Page.

My plans from there in regards to OGL endeavours is to either do more on DriveThruRPG or possibly consider starting up something on Patreon. There are a staggering number of RPG startups out there. Honestly, I’m not sure what’s going to set my work apart just yet, but I’m going to do it anyway. Because DCC/MCC are an OGL venture, I may eventually veer off into other systems such as D&D or ICRPG.

What can I say? I love RPGs. I love monkeying with different systems.

Thank you for being here. I appreciate you. More to come. Take care. Have a great week. Game on!

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