Secrets of the Sylvera Academy 1 Preview.

I’m excited for The Secrets of Sylvera Academy. It’s got good spell mechanics. Some of the spells harken back to ye olden days of AD&D 1E and others let it rip in 5E. So much goodness in these pagers.

A wonderful new 5E supplement by Single Step Gaming now on Kickstarter.

Here’s the link on Kickstarter. Highly recommend taking a look. The pledges are very reasonably priced and the content is pure golden dynamite so far. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peak at some of the content and I’m blown away.

Caster Dueling.

The first thing one will notice are the rules for caster duels. This makes counterspelling more than just counterspell. Enemy throws fireball? Block with Cone of Cold and so on. It nicely emulates two wizards blasting it out until they’re completely out of spells or one of them goes down to a mighty blast from the other. One could also do a bardic battle of the bands with this system. The possibilities are pretty wild from settling bar bets to taking down BBEGs.

The spell section of this book is intense.

There are a LOT of great spells in this supplement. I’m not going to go level by level on all of them, but I’ll mention some that definitely stand out. There are definitely some I want my (family) group to test out. I would have given $10 to have some of these back in the day. I love utility, illusion, and shadow spells. This book has all that and more.

Clap of Thunder is a cantrip with a tiny amount of damage and 5′ of knockback. Good old knockback. Castable by Sorcerer, Wizard, and Warlock among others. I think it would be fun to use on a Monk/Sorcerer multiclass.

The other outstanding Cantrip to me is Combined Casting. For every 2 acolytes assisting the caster, a spell can be cast one level higher. It makes me think of witches’ covens, warlock cults, even bardic troupes coming together to make a lower level spell something spectacular. Somewhat ceremonial, but definitely a keeper.

I also liked the utility and some of the damage components of Hedgerow, Infernal Weapon, and Stonespike. I like Druid casting, and I think Hedgerow is going to be useful in and out of combat. I think Infernal Weapon is handy for Bards and a possible staple spell for Warlocks.

First, Second and Third Level Spells of note:

Air Shield is a solid Level 1 utility along with Faelyn’s Flaming Armor. Glamur reminds me of the good old Illusionist days. Charged Bolt and Hailstone are great replacements for Magic Missile. Nature’s Speed for Rangers and Druids would be incredible. The spell grants climb or swim speed equal to the target’s movement for 8 hours.

The Level 2 spells really stood out, perhaps more than some of the other levels. Arcane Sling is a magical slingshot with some pretty respectable damage. Gill Growth is a great 8 hour replacement for Water Breathing. Shield of the Dead is very cool. (*I don’t want to give too many spoilers.) Void Sword is another must-have for Warlocks in particular.

I want to talk about Summon Vehicle specifically. This spell totally rocks. My group would have gone bonkers for this back in the day. It’s a 24 hour summonable cart, coach, rowboat, or whatever transportation the caster desires. As a huge fan of the old Mouse Cart magic item, I can’t recommend this spell too much for any party. It gets the job done.

Third Level spells are interesting and useful. Blur Reality is just bizarre as the name suggests. Eamon’s Hear Traps is a very strange, but useful utility. It takes some of the surprise out of the “Click” rule. (*I’ll go over that one elsewhere.)

Haloras’ Knowledge of Other Lives. Hats off to whomever thought of this spell. D&D has needed this for a while now. The caster reaches back into their lineage with a d12 roll and pulls out features from another class. Man, I sure hope some of my character’s ancestors were Paladins.

I also want to really praise the spell, Traveler’s Sanctuary. It creates a 15′ radius sphere safe from the elements for 1 hour. Higher level castings grant more time. This might be a good one to cast with the Combine Spell cantrip.

Spell levels Four, Five, and Six have some noteworthy items.

At Fourth level the spells are really friendly to Warlocks and Necromancers in particular. Rain of Blood, Shared Torment, Shadow’s Touch, and Wall of Shadows are all in that kinda “Dark Arts” category. There’s even a spell called “Defense Against the Void Arts.”

At Fifth level, Beam of Brilliance reminds me a lot of Sun Ray. Ice Prison reminds me of a Diablo spell effect which is to say it’s cool. Armor of the Dead is also kind of in the Diablo vein of things. I like it!

There are only five Sixth Level spells in this supplement. I absolutely have to talk about Scythe of Armageddon. The material component for this thing is the bone of a CR 10 or higher creature. The caster snaps it and unleashes

a Void energy war scythe that does insane amounts of damage + poison. How to make your BBEG cry in one hit.

Seventh, Eighth, and Ninth Level spells are short, powerful lists.

Part of me thinks these spells are underrepresented in a lot of books, but how many campaigns get to caster levels high enough to throw these around nowadays? It’s rare to get to cast the groovy high end stuff. Some of these make good use of it, though.

Folklore (Seventh) plus and kind of scrying tool is likely going to ruin the DM’s well laid master plans. Wall of Force will make archers lose their marbles. Stonewall reminds me of some Old School D&D. I like it a lot.

Unspeakable Nothingness- cool name for a spell. World shattering effects for an 8th Level spell. Kudos for coming up with this one. I pray my characters never get hit with it.

Dalton’s Traveling Taproom and Orb of Transport at Level 9 turn the most intense casting levels into something super useful. These two spells are an especially good choice for a Wizard who knows long rest is on the horizon. The Ending of All Things is aptly named and does what one would expect. Yikes.

Conclusion and overall impression

Overall, this book delivers on mechanical elements. Some things looked tough to adjudicate, but upon thorough reading it has so far turned out not to be broken. So far as I can tell there’s nothing in this supplement I would object-to as a DM. Others might not rule it that way given it’s a third party book.

Maybe it could use a few more graphics with some of the spells? I know how hard it is to score good art, though. Smaller publications like this one struggle. After about Fifth Level Spells, art would have been useful to break up some of the blank spaces. It’s a small thing.

I would have also liked to have seen a little more flavor text with some of the spells and more about the academy itself. There’s a low key Strixhaven or even Hairy Potter vibe going on. I would have liked to have seem more text similar to the snippet on Page 6 (or thereabouts.) I think Sylvera Academy has some good lore possibilities.

Thank you for stopping by. I appreciate it. Please go take a look at Sylvera Academy now on Kickstarter. Special thanks to Single Step Gaming for providing this preview copy.

Mutated Monsters Review

The writers of Mutated Monsters went all out when it comes to creepy in this book. The art is amazing and just adds to the feeling of dread players will have when dealing with some of these creatures. It was like the writers took an average 5E monster and asked, “What kind of creature can we merge this with to make it nightmare fuel?”

5E Compatible Sourcebook from Dice Dungeons.

Wayyy back in 2021 when I still had gainful employment, I backed a book from Dice Dungeons called Mutated Monsters. Link to the Kickstarter here. I have not seen this book available commercially yet outside of Kickstarter and DriveThruRPG.

Link to the book on DriveThruRPG HERE.

It took Dice Dungeons a while to get these books out to the backers. The wait was totally worth it and we did get the pdfs well ahead of the printed material. I suspect a lot of the printing and shipping delays were a mish-mash of Covid, cargo ships stuck sideways, shortages, etc. They did the best they could getting it out to us.

Nightmare fuel to make your 5E players shudder.

The writers of Mutated Monsters went all out when it comes to creepy in this book. The art is amazing and just adds to the feeling of dread players will have when dealing with some of these creatures. It was like the writers took an average 5E monster and asked, “What kind of creature can we merge this with to make it nightmare fuel?”

I was excited about this from some of the social media ads that Digital Dice ran prior to the Kickstarter. The mutated rat shown was enough to convince me to add this to my already large collection of 5E monster books. If a regular rat was made this terrifying, imagine what they could do to a T Rex or a Kraken? <shudder>

A few highlights.

This is a list of the things that stood out to me, but there is much more worth digging into on these pages.

  • Animated Topiary. I was overjoyed to see this monster return to 5E because it was one of my favorites from an old 3E supplement.
  • Annhilator Worm. It’s a Purple Worm, only made more Kaiju and harder to kill. This is one most adventurers are going to be able to just hack down. If low or mid level characters see one, their best bet really is to run away. The artwork alone is intimidating on top of the lore. The stat block almost seems superfluous.
  • Arachin. <shudder> Spider + animal, humanoid or other monster. Yeesh. I mean, awesome for a dungeon I’m working on, but definitely creepy.
  • Behir Mastermind. Let’s take something that was fearsome on it’s own and give it an oversized brain, some innate spells that resemble psionics on top of its usual Behir abilities. Frightening at any level. The art for this monster stands out.
  • Bulette variants. Amazing artwork. Absolutely devastating to run into either one. If properly combined with terrain or other monsters, either of these variations could spell doom for many adventurers. Why the wasp? (Cries for the PCs.)
  • Cockatrice of the Burning Sands. Thinly veiled Dark Sun reference? Maybe? Cool creature nonetheless. Beware ye caravans of the desert sands for ye may not return. Really would work in Athas.
  • Cricket Panther. Terrifying and strange. Definitely not something to underestimate. Fabulous art on this one.
  • Dragon, Mechanical. As the name suggests, a clockwork not to be underestimated.
  • Dragon, Vampiric. A writer after my own heart created this. I ran something similar in a 3.5E dungeon once. Ah, fond memories and now there’s a 5E version that can maybe get the job done.
  • Iron Aboleth. They took one of the most intimidating aquatic monsters (with psionics) and made it a huge construct. Because it wasn’t hard enough to kill before?
  • Naga, Scorpion. I gotta find me a way to work one of these things into a dungeon strictly for the intimidation value. Spells + multiattack + poison (OMG the poison…) + Lair actions = crazy dangerous.
  • Nature Guardian. Serious Princess Mononoke vibes on this one.
  • Owlbear, Fire Breathing. Hats off to whomever came up with this one. It rocks.
  • Remorhaz, Crystal. Another one of my absolutely favorite creatures made more deadly and far harder to kill. Oh, and more dangerous in its home environment than ever before. Great art all throughout the book. The picture for the Crystal Remorhaz is excellent.
  • Star Kraken. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water after seeing the Shipwreck Whale, there’s this Chaotic Evil CR 25 Titan. I can scarcely describe the amounts of damage this thing is capable of doing. Truly frightening.
  • Starved Lich. Because the well-fed kind weren’t undead enough? Interesting concept for many a DM’s favorite monster. It’s a soul vampire on top of all of the undead and spellcasting a lich would normally have.
  • Troll, Translucent. They turn invisible. They play pranks. Plus troll.
  • Turtle Shark. This book excels at giving me reasons to never put one of my own characters on a boat ever again. Megalodon with a shell. Abandoning ship is just like throwing fish food in the water for it.
  • Ventriloquist Snake. This particular danger noodle is capable of ruining an entire day’s travel for a group if encountered on the road.
  • Xorn, Flytrap. At least they’re not super aggressive. They lure unsuspecting adventurers in with the promise of a shiny jewel then slurp them down like a Venus Flytrap with a house fly.

These are just a smattering of the ones that stood out to me as a DM and a monster collector. I really have to say how much I really love the art for this book. It truly makes the creatures in this book come to life.

Another sweet, sweet feature of Mutated Monsters is the “Additional Loot” on many of the monsters. Look. You can make a +1 dagger out of this creature’s horn. You can use this creature’s scales for a Potion of Invisibility, etc. It’s so cool that they took the time out to put these little tidbits in the book. I wish Wizards of the Coast, with their overpaid writing team, would learn to do the same. But, hey, at least they let the indie creators do all the fun stuff.

It’s not just cool creatures.

There are some pretty epic lairs in this book, too. We like to talk about Lair Actions in D&D, but how often do we get cool lairs to go with them. This is enhanced further by each lair having regional effects and additional actions available to the lair’s owner or denizens. My favorite is the Demon’s Castle. It’s pretty much certain doom for adventurers before the proper dungeon is even built.

The Alterkin and new subclasses.

The Alterkin are shapeshifters of sorts and offer the only new Ancestry available to the players. There are also new subclasses for the Barbarian, Bard, Monk, and Ranger. My only criticism here is I wish there had been more options for this section. There is a lot of room for development of Clerics, Fighters, Paladins, and Warlocks. It felt like the creators ran out of time or energy in this section.

New mounts and new deities.

There are several mount possibilities throughout the book and toward the end there is a new taming system and more mounts. What character wouldn’t want to bond with a Sabertooth Rhino? Clockwork Elephant would be a pretty shiny cool mount if a character were to harness one.

The Gods of Mutation section is well crafted. I think it might take some work on the part of the DM to fit them into a preexisting pantheon such as Forgotten Realms. But if the DM is going to use some of the more profoundly frightening creatures in this book, why not have a god or demigod to go with them?

Wrapping up.

I’m happy and grateful to have backed this Kickstarter. The book is a good investment for game systems beyond 5E. I would recommend it for Dungeon Crawl Classics and Mutant Crawl Classics as well as Pathfinder. It’s also easily adapted to any number of other fantasy settings in order to really challenge the characters. It might also be useful for throwing those know-it-all players for a loop once they get the regular Monster Manual memorized.

In conclusion, I have high praise for Mutated Monsters. Please check it out if you get a chance. Thank you for being here. I appreciate it.

Three More Alternatives to Dungeons & Dragons.

I’m writing this series of articles because I want to put some fresh, Non-D20, Non-Wizards of the Coast OGL, fun fantasy RPGs in front of people.

Continuing our series on Fantasy RPGs.

I’m writing this series of articles because I want to put some fresh, Non-D20, Non-Wizards of the Coast OGL, fun fantasy RPGs in front of people. Many of them, not all, have creative commons sharealike licensing. However, I’m not a lawyer. Please check with the company and/or legal counsel before proceeding to create paid content for someone else’s game. Thank you!

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game

Warhammer Fantasy Role Play First Edition. The way I remember it.

Published by: Cubicle 7 Games
Full Confession. I’ve been running Warhammer FRPG since high school. I still have my copies of the first two editions sitting on my shelf. I might be just a little biased on this one. I think it’s a great game on top of being a fun and fast system.

I find it interesting that the Fourth Edition cover is very reminiscent of the First Edition cover of this book. I really like the art associated with Warhammer and the RPGs under their banner. Say what you want about Games Workshop, but they do put out some very nice looking products.

The biggest draws for me in this game are the character generation, a rich world environment, and a sort of break from the traditional Dwarf + Elf + Human in a party and they all manage to get along somehow. It is actually somewhat rare in WHFRP to see a group that includes anything other than humans and maybe one of the other races in any given party especially if you roll random at character creation.

Fourth Ed has all of the chunky, crunchy, meaty awesomeness I remember from back when. Fair warning: combat can end in immediate and horrible critical hits. Magic is likewise not without complications. Psychology is… um, a thing.

The world of Warhammer is filled with monsters, cults, Chaos, Skaven (Rat folk,) and all manner of interesting characters. Some NPCs are good, some bad, and lots of gray area built into lots of situations. Heck, even the Human politics can be sticky. Campaigns can range from campy and comedic to serious horror with Machiavellian intrigue.

Index Card Roleplaying Game

Published by: Runehammer Games

I’ve been playing Index Card RPG for several years now on and off. Anyone who truly knows me is aware of the fact that I won’t shut up about this game. (LOL!) And thank you, Hankerin Ferinale, for making a Print On Demand of the Masters version! I mean yay hardcover, but it’s a bit pricey.

I’ve been rocking ICRPG since Second Edition came out. The characters literally can fit on an index card. It’s that rules lite. Combat works either theatre of the mind or on the banana scale with minis. (You just have to see it.) Magic, exploration, even dungeons for fantasy worlds are streamlined. This game is amazing!

Fantasy is great straight out of the book, but ICRPG covers other genres nicely as well. I’ve drawn up two different worlds for this game if I ever get to run them. (They’re kinda specific.) But right out of the ICRPG book, one can run everything including Science Fantasy, Mecha, Supers, Horror, Wild West and much more. It does it all pretty well.

As a bonus, D&D players will recognize the basis of the system and character creation only ICRPG does it all faster and slightly better. It’s the perfect game for folx who like Old School games or want to just jump in and start playing. It’s an intuitive system to run built by a designer who knows how to run a game. (Seriously, you should see his Actual Play stuff.)


Published by: Runehammer Games

If ICRPG is a Runehammer masterpiece, EZ D6 is the work of art that lives up to the standard. I’ve written a larger review of this game and I still stand by it. This game is such a breeze to run, I’d be tempted to use it as a teaching tool for new Rabble Rousers. (*The term for Game Master in EZ D6.) The physical book is small and very portable.

Anything you’d ever want to do with an RPG, you can probably do with EZ D6. It’s so rules lite, the RR and Pushers-and-Shovers (*Player Characters) will be doing a lot of discussing what happens vs just rolling a skill check. The system itself begs for customization, but it doesn’t actually need anything but imagination. It’s almost too easy.

I also think EZ D6 is a fabulous jumping-off point for more advanced games such as the Cypher System, Savage Worlds, ICRPG, or even Cortex. On the other hand, players would also likely be comfortable with ICONS, FATE, D6, and the dozens of other games that run off of Six-Sided Dice. Old School gamers are also going to be at home in this system because of its simplicity and heavy reliance on describing one’s actions.

Thanks for stopping by. It’s been fun. I appreciate you. Have fun. See ya later.

Fantaji Role Playing Game Review.

Fantaji is laid out very intuitively to answer questions veteran gamers might have as they read through the book and get ready to play. It’s not your grandpa’s BECMI D&D game by any stretch of the imagination. In Fantaji, character personality matters. Dramatic actions matter. Story matters. Dice rolls merely determine the ebb and flow of the actions.

I’m astonished this game hasn’t gotten more press.

Fantaji is a Universal Role Playing Game, much like FATE, Cypher, or GURPS. It is the brainchild of Calvin Johns and his crew at Anthropos games. I purchased my print + digital copies from many years ago. The Anthropos website also has some nice character sheets, cards, and so on for your game. There’s a quick start set available to try out if your group is interested.

Fantaji is a good investment even in PDF form if you want a quick game to play at a convention or a quick pick-up game at the Friendly Local Game Shop. It’s also great for long term campaigns if players are interested enough in the setting and the characters you’re using.

It is written by an expert in culture, specifically ttrpg culture.

Fantaji is laid out very intuitively to answer questions veteran gamers might have as they read through the book and get ready to play. It’s not your grandpa’s BECMI D&D game by any stretch of the imagination. In Fantaji, character personality matters. Dramatic actions matter. Story matters. Dice rolls merely determine the ebb and flow of the actions.

The game uses D10’s only. Players might want to have a few blank index cards, tokens, pens/markers in 4 or so colors. Heck, characters fit on an index card if you really want them to. Anthropos does give players some nice character sheets. Creating a character takes less time than most games, but you’ll definitely want some backstory.

Action and combat are not the same fare as other RPGs.

One thing really stands out about Fantaji is the way actions are handled. Your character’s traits and theme are always “played-to” to gain advantages and/or disadvantages in any given situation. Combat isn’t the same old “I whack you, you whack me. Roll for damage.

Combat, skill tasks or even brutal negotiations are handled by determining the traits effective and rolling a die pool against a difficulty somewhat similar to the way World of Darkness does. Difficulty is always 3, 5, or 8 depending. “Playing-to” the scene’s conditions can also help increase the characters’ Drama pool or decrease the GM characters Drama. Successful rolls allow the player to narrate the damage or outcome of the situation more easily. Few battles need be fights to the death if so desired. The system favors less violent solutions in many situations, making the game very new player and kid friendly.

Board game fans will also have an easier time adapting to Fantaji in some ways. The action resolution and combat are done in a way similar to board game style play. Most players can probably pick the game up within the first hour or two of gameplay. Even though it might look a bit intimidating at first, Fantaji is easy to pick up and enjoy. The designers do an excellent job describing the way play flows and what characters can do on their turns.

The experience system or character advancement is a bit different than what some gamers might be used to. By playing to your character and the scenes traits, the character earns Themes. These themes add up over time and can be spent to improve skills and abilities, etc.

Worldbuilding and being a Fantaji GM is very pleasant.

This RPG is not a minis and big dungeon kind of game. Maybe point-based dungeons would be more in line with the gameplay. As a universal engine, the GM can build any game from Cyberpunk to a Saturday morning kids’ show with it. Many of the examples in the Fantaji book are anime themed, which also works quite well. (This system does so well with anime stereotypes and tropes.)

It is very important to hold a Session Zero before a longer campaign or just a quick primer on the setting used before any Fantaji game. That way the players can know what to expect from their characters’ personalities. Campaign setting makes a big difference in how conditions are overcome, too. Bulldozing through a dungeon; killing the locals and grabbing their loot isn’t always a good way to go.

A quick note about NPCs and monsters. They’re ridiculously easy to come up with on the fly and you can create one in minutes or less if you know what their goals and motivations are within the scene. It makes running games on the fly really pleasant.

There are four campaign worlds presented in the main book. The setting will also determine some of the characters’ abilities or what is available to them, as in most games. The GM has to prepare a little bit ahead if building a new world. The campaigns from the core rulebook are pretty cool, though. (No spoilers here.)

No Fantaji specific OGL on this one as far as I know.

There is no mention of a license or licensing agreement in the book as far as I’m aware. It’s a great game to enjoy with friends, but probably not a good game to sell third party content from. I think that’s okay in this case. Not every RPG need be marketable that way. I might still design a few items or even put together a campaign setting eventually.

Anthropos does have a new game in the works this year according to a source within the company. I’m excited to see what the designers do next. I love the more anthropological and sociological approach to gaming as I have a degree in Sociology and have also spent a lot of time in Anthropology classes. Gaming is what actually spurred me into both writing and the social sciences. Fantaji also flows well with a theatre oriented group.

Thanks for stopping by, Please give Fantaji a look if you want something a little more dramatic and a little less crunchy. It’s a lot of fun. I appreciate you as always.


#hadozee controversy and a heap of bad reviews. One D&D is around the corner in 2024. Why would I want to buy the new Spelljammer? Space Hamsters?

I kinda saw this coming.

Why didn’t they learn from this?

I’ve heard multiple reviewers say, “Save your money.” Or, “Maybe look at buying other products.”

In other words, even some of the hardcore YouTubers and other Wizards of the Coast/D&D rah-rah reviewers aren’t into it. I mean, it looks cool. The art is amazing. But the content? Like the actual meat and bones of the campaign setting? Having a good concept does not make for a good game.

RPG family, I’m so sorry to tell you this, but the thing pretty much sucked the first time around. What made us think it was going to be better for 5E? The old content wasn’t that great. Fam, a turd by any other name is still… You can’t put a dress on mule. (Original) T$R made so many other good campaign settings.

If the first time around was bad, (and let’s be honest, it was BAD,) what made them think a remake would fix it? I’m sure someone will quote sales numbers, but I was big into this hobby when it came out and I seem to recall a lot of people panning it then, too. The new version seems to not have gotten any better.

Industry timing leaves a lot to be desired on this one.

New! In a shiny package.

It didn’t help that they announced that in 2024 One D&D is coming. So, basically here’s a new edition that is supposedly going to be retrocompatible with 5E, or at least that’s what they’re saying. They want us to keep being good consumers and continue buying things such as Spelljammer and Dragonlance. WotC also wants us to “playtest” the new rules and provide them with so-called feedback. (Anybody else’s bullshit detector going off?)

If I know WotC, they are eventually going to try to get us to switch completely over to this new edition like it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread. Right now they (WotC) doesn’t want us to sell off our 5th Ed books because Half Price Books can only handle so much. DMsGuild has to stick around long enough for D&D Beyond to evolve.(*I have a feeling being a third party D&D creator is going to change.)

I feel bad for Dragonlance fans right now. Their book is going to be ill-timed at best. Lord only knows what 2023 is going to look like for D&D releases. I mean, we know physical products are no longer high on WotC’s release priorities as far as we’ve heard. Unless we’re talking about Magic cards, then yay physical stuff. Books? Pfft!

What’s the point of releasing products for 5E when it’s going to be on its way out at the end of the year in 2023? Is the next generation of fans going to want to convert all of the 5E material they own into this new shinier One D&D package? What does that say for Spelljammer, Dragonlance and whatever they do in 2023?

One D&D hasn’t even been released and they’re already contradicting themselves.

I know I’m pretty hard on WotC sometimes. They’re the leading company in the industry. With a few brief exceptions, they’ve always been top dog. D&D is pretty much the mother of all roleplaying games. Some would say the industry looks to WotC for direction.

So can someone at WotC or anywhere explain the whole debacle with the Hadozee? Please look up #hadozee on Twitter for the full details. Fair warning: possible racist content. This isn’t the only mistake that was made with the new Spelljammer, but this one came at a really poor time.

Anyone who has been following the sordid tale of Star Frontiers: New Genesis playtest documents knows this isn’t the time to get a bad rep for racism in game publications. It’s bad enough when certain nuts are our there trying to make the hobby look bad. Now the biggest name in the business has to show an utter lack of sensitivity to the topic? Really?

I thought WotC wanted to be progressive. I thought they wanted to set the industry standard. What happened to doing away with negative racial differences in D&D? #hadozee

Anybody remember this little gem from DriveThruRPG/DMsGuild?

Update: D&D Beyond revised Hadozee.

The Hadozee errata.

Good for Wizards of the Coast! They’ve heard the uproar around the slavery element of the Hadozee and removed it on D&D Beyond. At least they’re not completely oblivious to the rpg community. I’m not sure that goes far enough, but it’s a great start.

The only thing that I noticed right away is that it’s still out there in print. Digital media are easy to change. Push the delete button, rewrite a few lines, and poof. Fixed it. But several thousand print copies of the physical book? Oops.

Basically, they deleted all of the content that referred to slavery, removed some offensive art, and issued an apology. Good for them. Better than nothing. I’m sure a LOT of people would have been happy if the offensive text had never made it into the book in the first place.

The other catch is there are still hundreds of print copies out there. It’s still kind of a Public Relations nightmare. Yes, they apologized. The question remains: have they learned anything? At least they’re launching an internal investigation, though…
The apology statement can be found here.

I’m glad no one at WotC actually reads my blog.

Because I’m incredibly disappointed with that company right now. Say what you want about the Old School Renaissance in gaming. At least we knew mistakes had been made well enough to steer clear of them. Call me an “Old Grognard” all day, but I think the kids that put this latest Spelljammer together were seeing dollar signs and little else.

This mistake with the Hadozee has been in print since 1982 by their own admission! How could they have let it slide by? Yeah, I hope WotC’s internal investigation is fruitful.

What are they going to do? Fire the writer from 40 years back? Fire an editor that let it all go by? Pat themselves on the back for a job poorly done? Probably that last part. “Oh, well. Oops. Silly us. Hee hee. Now go buy Dragonlance.”

Editing failure.

I know I drop my share of typos, grammar and punctuation errors here on my blog. I’m not claiming to be perfect. And as an editor, I’m not… uh… Let’s just say dealing with people isn’t my strong suit.

But Spelljammer? C’mon. Really?!? WotC pays these people how much? These “design teams” are so effective. Someone could have walked in off the street and questioned the Hadozee, and yet…

If the McCorporate cultured world of WotC learns anything from this, it’s that the more crap you try to do in committee, the more likely it will FAIL outright. You can hold all the meetings you want. You and have all the little social gatherings in the office you can muster. You can hold hands around the campfire after work. Do you know what matters at the end of the day?


It’s lucky for WotC that they have no worries about sucking a loss on Spelljammer. Yay for them. Any smaller company would probably be shitting bricks by now. Not our WotC. They can afford to sweep the whole ugly #hadozee incident under the rug, pretend it never happened, and put out the next piece of trash for all their people to hype up.

DID anybody on that staff stop to think, Hmm. Maybe it’s just possible “Some older content may reflect ethnic, racial, and gender prejudice that were commonplace in American society at that time. ” because they like to remind us of it on DriveThruRPG every chance they get? Seriously? That doesn’t warrant some damn editorial review time??? Which “team” screwed that pooch on this?

I can’t do it anymore. I’m all but done with 5E.

I’m more ready than ever to embrace my old school roots. Pretty sure I have enough OG Dragonlance material to last me a long time should I decide I want to run with it. Don’t even come around me with that Spelljammer business. I’m really looking hard at Old School Essentials again. I think WotC can go a few years without my money again. See you next “edition” on that.

Star Frontiers is welcome. Alternity is welcome. Heck, I’d love to run Amazing Engine again sometime. I won’t be touching Spelljammer with a 10′ space pole any time soon. (*It’s like a regular 10′ pole, only in space.)

I want to find a nice, quiet, smaller company to work for where my work might be appreciated. Give me the peace of mind that I never have to sit in a meeting with a bunch of freakin strangers ever again. Oh, and never will I ever reprint something from the 1980’s without at least reviewing it first.

Onward and upward. Back tomorrow with more gaming excitement. Thank you for stopping by.

Star Frontiers Compared to Starfinder.

I’m not saying one is better than the other. It’s a little bit like comparing BECMI D&D to the most recent version of Traveller. They’ve both got a lot going for them. They’ve both got some flaws.

This is a loose comparison. That is ALL.

I’m not saying one is better than the other. It’s a little bit like comparing BECMI D&D to the most recent version of Traveller. They’ve both got a lot going for them. They’ve both got some flaws.

Obviously, I’ve been around Star Frontiers a great deal longer than Starfinder has been in print. Star Frontiers has been around as long as GI JOE. That’s saying something. Paizo is a relatively new company compared to (Original) T$R.

I’ve played/run a lot of space games. I’ve mentioned several here on my blog before. Star Wars, Star Trek, Starship Troopers, Shatterzone, and Star Frontiers round out my Top 5, but there are so many more. Starfinder would definitely be in my Top 10.

Star Frontiers original cover.

Pros and Cons for both.

Star Frontiers Pros (In no particular order.:)

  • Compact. Other than modules and scattered magazine articles, it’s easily contained in three main books.
  • Fully Developed Ship Combat. Knight Hawks pretty much covers it.
  • OSR. It’s an Old School game in all its glory. They just don’t make it that way any more. Longevity speaks volumes. Developed by some of the biggest names in the RPG industry.
  • Fan material. Egads, there are some seriously dedicated Star Frontiers fans out there. 40 years in and still going strong. Fanzines, modules and fan sites abound!
  • Broad. Wide reaching expanse of systems and beyond to be explored and catalogued aside from what’s in the core books.
  • Simple System. Makes for good beer-n-pretzels gaming. Not a lot of complicated skill lists to try to remember. Combat can be swift, bloody, and easily resolved in theatre of the mind.
Star Frontiers Cons.
  • Zebulon’s Guide. Was actually supposed to be the first of three books. It, umm, well… It flopped. Most fans and critics alike have issues with this book. There were better articles in Polyhedron and Dragon magazines. It’s overall okay, but the rework of the dice system was totally unnecessary.
  • Aesthetic. To me, the game will always look very 2001 Space Odyssey meets Lost in Space or Space 1999. Our ideas about technology and ergonomics have advanced. I always used to laugh at original Star Trek when they were still using giant crescent wrenches in engineering, but by the time Next Gen happened, they had all glass touch screens and beam splitters. Star Frontiers just looks very 1970’s-1980’s.
  • Production Quality. Times have changed. Boxed sets are no longer practical financially. The reprints of Knight Hawks don’t really do it justice. While the nostalgia of playing games with hex maps and cardboard chits is great, (seriously!) It doesn’t hold up next to 3D printed minis and roll-out felt hex star maps. (*Okay, I was spoiled on Babylon 5, Battlefleet Gothic, and Silent Death. Sorry.)
  • Lack of Official Expansion. You get Alpha Dawn, Knight Hawks, and Zeb’s Guide. That’s about it apart from those sweet, sweet, modules and a bunch of magazine articles that are no longer available. Tons of fan material scattered all over the Internet.
  • Pre-OGL. This was released way before there was any real Open Game License in RPGs. Unfortunately, when T$R was bought out by Wizards of the Coast, some of the rights issues with various intellectual properties, art, etc became super tricky. Then there’s “NuTSR” who made an even bigger mess.

    Basically, it’s okay to write all the fan material you’d like as long as you distribute it freely. But if you intend to make any money, this is not the game for you. It’s not like the old T$R crew is hiring for new Star Frontiers designers ever again. Then again, even they abandoned it. Sigh.
  • To be continued, never. Unless something dramatic happens, we’re never going to see a new, official edition of Star Frontiers. There are so many things we would have liked to have seen happen with this game.

I think the skill system in Star Frontiers deserves some discussion. If one is just using Alpha Dawn Expanded Rules, skills are okay-ish. Knight Hawks adds starship skills at great expense. Zebulon’s Guide attempted to rewrite the whole thing and made it more complicated than I think most of us would have liked. -1CS for me, I suppose.

Starfinder banner.

Starfinder Pros and Cons:

In this corner, weighing in at one huge rulebook and more sourcebooks than we know what to do with- Starrrrfiiiinderrr! People keep saying “Just play Pathfinder” when it comes to comments about fantasy games. For a long time D20 Star Wars fans got bombarded with much the same about Starfinder. I haven’t heard anyone say I should give up Star Frontiers for Starfinder yet. It could happen, though.

Starfinder Pros:
  • Rich system mechanics and setting. Even the core rulebook is packed with character classes, alien species, magic, weapons, spaceships, and so much more. The setting is all in pretty much one system, so huge jumps through hyperspace won’t be absolutely necessary until later supplements. However, the worlds one can visit are very well defined.
  • Open License. Anyone can contribute to Starfinder Infinite. It’s possible to get paid for writing more awesome fan material for this game! Plus you can go there and find stuff other fans have done.

    Yeah. Not only Starfinder Infinite, but there are some really cool third party sourcebooks for this game. Personally, I love mecha. There are mecha rules galore. With some kitbashing, I can build the deep space mecha game I’ve always wanted.
  • Fantasy compatible. Pathfinder is Starfinder’s big brother of sorts. What does that mean? Elves in spaaaaace! Yup. Gnomes with laser pistols. Magic. The whole nine yards. It’s cool. Kind of like an old game called Dragonstar.
  • Everyone has a seat: The entire adventuring group can man the guns, computers, shields, and pilot’s chair in starship combat. Your characters are the bridge crew!
  • Galaxy Exploration Manual. This book changed my whole outlook on the game. While the in-system campaign is fun and all, I really wanted to explore the rest of the Universe in this game system. It basically turns Starfinder into Star Trek only with all the magic and giant robot combat.
  • Artwork and Layout. Art sells books. The artwork in Starfinder is outstanding! Plus the layout, borders and typesetting are near perfect. If nothing else, it’s a very attractive set of books.

Starfinder Cons.

  • Stuffed! While I love the diverse, rich, involved game Starfinder is, I gotta say in terms of product (expansions, sourcebooks, etc) it’s a bit bloated. Much like 3rd Ed D&D, there are tons of books for Starfinder and another massive collection of books from third parties. Also like D&D, you just have to pick and choose what you wish to allow as a GM.
  • Thick Core Book. Does anyone else think a 500+ page rulebook seems excessive? It’s no Pathfinder 2E, (700+ pages, same company.) but…
  • Magic?!? You just got fantasy all over my sci fi. You just got sci fi all over my fantasy! Mmm nom nom nom… Two great tastes that sorta go together? Kinda? I would have preferred psionics, technomagic, and maybe have the actual “magic” like OGL D&D spells introduced later. They didn’t even try to fake it.
  • Restricted to one star system. The original game was set entirely in one star system. As I mentioned in the Pros, the Galaxy Exploration Manual fixes this. I see why they did it, but I think a lot of players would prefer space games set in an open sandbox.
  • Starship Combat. Seems to borrow a few pages out of a couple of other games. It’s okay, but then again it’s only okay. Designing a starship is fun. Combat isn’t super lethal, but it’s a good idea for characters to know where the emergency spacesuits and escape pods are just in case of a lucky crit.
  • Price Tag. Unfortunately, the more books a game has, the more expensive it becomes for the completist. You can get by with the core rulebook and some dice. Maybe less if the GM prints a few pages of the pdf and lends you some dice. However, if you want all the freaky alien species, sleek cybernetics, cool starships, big mecha, and so forth, it’s gonna cost quite a bit.

Company Spotlight: The Arcane Library.

Designer Kelsey Dionne is one of the most imaginative, outgoing, creative professionals out there in the RPG market today.

Designer Kelsey Dionne is one of the most imaginative, outgoing, creative professionals out there in the RPG market today.

The Arcane Library has been putting out solid, playable, fun 5E adventures for years now. That said, I highly recommend checking out the website. On top of all of that, Kelsey is working on her own take on D&D called Shadowdark. One other thing I’d like to mention is that Kelsey is highly approachable, or at least more than many other RPG designers/writers.

I was actually introduced to the Arcane Library and Kelsey’s work through a 5E book called The Monstrous Lexicon. If you follow along The Arcane Library website, there are also free adventures such as Temple of the Basilisk Cult along with the email newsletter. Did I mention the YouTube Channel? Kelsey walks you through some of her modules as they come out and gives really great advice on RPG topics.

Needless to say, there’s a lot going on.

I get to exchange emails with Kelsey once in a very great while. She’s been a bastion of good advice and is super helpful to new writers and RPG designers. I was lucky enough to chat with her through email during the year which shan’t be named. Now that Shadowdark is taking off, and it really is, The Arcane Library is super busy.

If you follow the YouTube channel or if you know Kelsey a little bit from convention gaming, you know that horror is kinda her thing. A lot of The Arcane Library adventures have a horror theme to them. Some of them are definitely not for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. They remind me a bit of AD&D 2E Ravenloft. (Which is to say, “AWESOME!”)

As a side note, I invested in the mini-DM Screen and the Combat Cards bundle back when I was still working full time. They’re awesome and I’m still using them when I run 5E.

SHADOWDARK holds a lot of promise.

You can download the quick start rules now. I know I’ve talked before about having a reason for an elaborate dungeon crawl, but Shadowdark really gives adventurers cause to prowl around underground in search of glory and loot! It’s also got a lot of that Old School look and feel to it. I would almost go so far as to say OSR, but without all of the Old Grognard stereotypes attached.

The art, which most writers struggle to find, is exceptional. It’s very old school BECMI with some Call of Cthulhu thrown in. I would also add that if you liked the old FASA Earthdawn RPG, then Shadowdark is well worth checking out.

I’ve even run into people online who mention The Arcane Library and Shadowdark specifically pretty much out of the blue. I was actually surprised when someone who I didn’t think had heard of The Arcane Library was talking about it kinda out of the blue one day. I can’t say who it was out of confidentiality, but I was pretty impressed. Kelsey definitely makes an impression.

The Arcane Library is also active on Twitter and Instagram.

Twitter: @arcanelibrary

Instagram: @thearcanelibrary.

Please don’t just take my word for it! Go check out all of the amazing work for yourself. The Arcane Library RPG experience awaits!

Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate you. I appreciate you taking time out to read what I have to say. Have a great day!

New Review of Another Old Book.

As a basic starship combat game, it’s a great place to learn. For beer-n-pretzels space game action, it’s okay. Your crew might die or go broke fast, but as long as you’re not worried about it, you’ll be fine. However, if the character you’ve been playing for years suddenly eats it on a lucky assault rocket hit? That’s grim.

Let’s talk about Star Frontiers Knight Hawks.

Star Frontiers Day is August 19th. The game is 40 years old this year! To celebrate, I’m giving a review of the classic Knight Hawks Expansion to the Original Star Frontiers game. I have a lot of good things to say about this book and this part of the system.

If you missed out on the first printing, it’s okay. Wizards of the Coast has you covered. It’s still around as a reprint book on DriveThruRPG minus the maps, counters and cool box. You can still print the counters and the maps from the PDFs, though. If you want to go all out, I hear the lead miniatures for the ships are still floating around out there in the world, but may be decaying slightly.

It’s a classic head-to-head space battles game on top of being an RPG supplement.

I’ve played a lot of space games over the years. I think my favorite is still Starfire, but I also enjoyed Silent Death, Babylon 5, Battlefleet Gothic, Starfleet Battles, and Starfleet Tactical. Reading the Klingon Tactics in Starfleet Tactical prepared me for space battles later in life. Lol! I would say Knight Hawks ranks right up there with the best.

Overall, it’s a simple combat game. I kinda feel sorry for the RPG crew if their ship gets blown to smithereens during a tactical game. Knight Hawks can definitely be lethal to ships in terms of space battles.

Its rudimentary movement and damage systems are great for beginners.

For those unfamiliar with space battle games, Knight Hawks offers up a great starting point. Movement is straightforward. Ships have a maneuver rating and an ADF number to determine how much it can speed up or slow down on its turn. There are optional rules for planets, gravity wells, etc.

Shooting weapons and raising defenses requires a bit of reading. Not all guns shoot in all directions. Some have different ranges than others. Some work better against certain defenses. It pays to know the capabilities of one’s ship before the start of the battle. This system is simple enough that it can handle large fleet engagements once players get to know the rules a bit.

The advanced rules contain tidbits such as variable damage table, fires aboard ships, repairs, and new ship types. It gives a great basic spread of ships and how to fly them. The rules do not require a PhD in Rocket Science to know how to use them. Basically, make sure you read the ship’s stat block. The rest is fairly intuitive.

Cover of the RPG and galactic content half of Knight Hawks.

What about the roleplaying aspect?

This is what some of us old timers think was missing from Alpha Dawn. Until Knight Hawks, most campaigns were ground based. It was all away team missions and no real flying around, to use Star Trek as an analogy. The Campaign Book Expansion Rules fix a lot of what was previously missing.

With this expansion, ship design and construction become options. The freedom and independence every spacefaring adventurer dreams of are available at a hefty price. Acquiring a ship for the group could potentially involve mortgaging the family farming planet to the hilt. There are other suggested methods aside from buying a ship, but all of them come at some price to the characters eventually.

My biggest beef with the system so far are the skills.

Starship skills don’t require the standard Primary and Secondary classifications that the main Star Frontiers uses. That’s good because the space game came after Alpha Dawn and it would have been more confusing. However, starship skills cost more experience points. Yeesh. It’s almost as if they didn’t want player characters having a ship.

I’ll discuss this further when I talk about Zebulon’s Guide to Frontier Space in another article. I think the writers realized that the skill system didn’t quite work out. Unfortunately Zeb’s Guide didn’t quite fix the whole thing. Knight Hawks just introduces the starship skills. It’s an okay start I suppose.

I think there’s a bit of a divide between the tactical game and the RPG.

For one thing, ships are pricey in game. If the group’s ship gets into a battle with much of anything larger it might well not survive. That means there’s a pretty good chance the crew might get squished in the process. It makes most space combats an escape or chase situation similar to the Millenium Falcon vs Star Destroyer scenario.

The wargame portion is great for what it does. The RPG portion is great for interstellar travel and background information about the setting. I don’t know if it would run scenarios from other games well. For example, I don’t think Battlestar Galactica or Babylon 5 space battles would work well under the Star Frontiers Knight Hawks rules. The scale of battles ramps up very steeply and rapidly becomes more prone to Star Trek style battles with the capital ships/space stations.

I still give it 3.5-4 out of 5 stars. It’s a good start.

As a basic starship combat game, it’s a great place to learn. For beer-n-pretzels space game action, it’s okay. Your crew might die or go broke fast, but as long as you’re not worried about it, you’ll be fine. However, if the character you’ve been playing for years suddenly eats it on a lucky assault rocket hit? That’s grim.

Thanks for stopping by. Keep rolling on the Frontier. I appreciate you!

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.


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!

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