Thursday, January 18, 2018

Still Life and Death: A Review

Thanks to my friend Eric Lamoureux from the Nerds-International G+ community, this adventure was brought to my attention. It is an interesting horror adventure for use with Savage Worlds. Still Life and Death by Ben Baker from Melting Point Publishing is a 43-page pdf available on DriveThruRPG. It was released on June 14, 2017 and is their first product. Also available for pay what you want is a Character Pack which contains 8 pregenerated characters for both Seasoned and Veteran ranks.

Even though this one starts off with a typical "please help me find my missing loved one", it is a great adventure with a good twist. Inside you'll find an adventure full of cultists, zombies, and a pig-ogre. It's difficult to write a review on an adventure without spoilers but I'm gonna try.

This adventure is an investigative horror scenario with a Lovecraftian feel. It uses your normal playwright formula of three acts and three scenes with a bonus/alternate scene thrown in in act three. Included in the adventure are 5 extras and 4 wildcard NPCs. One of the things that sets these NPCs apart from other publisher's products is that Ben included what he calls Roleplay Hint's, Appearance, and History info on each one. This helps the GM get a feel for the characters so they can relate it to the players much better. It's clear he spent some time thinking about the characters and how they fit into the story.

Throughout the adventure Ben has included fictional snippets at the beginning of each scene. This kind of threw me off a bit and made me wonder why he included it, so I asked him and his response was "Regarding the Fiction sections, I think sometimes it can be difficult for a writer to really convey the mood and atmosphere they are trying to build in a game. Realistically, I’d say that however a GM wants to run any game then as long as the players enjoy it then it’s right for that particular group. But I wanted a way to help give the GM more ideas for the tone and setting, and also touch on some aspects of the larger setting that it’s not practical to do using only box text and the like. I think the Fiction parts help break up the flow of the book. Also, sometimes a group will find a way to really derail an adventure, and having some fiction to plunder for inspiration can really help a struggling GM to get the story back on track without railroading the party too heavily."

It's a bit long to be used as a convention game but I suppose you could shorten it up enough to fit into a four-hour time slot. I believe this is more suited for multiple game sessions. One thing I'm fairly certain of is that this has huge potential to be a Total Party Killer. There's potential for some combat in the first act but the next one is where the meat grinder starts with three combat encounters back to back. If the players make it to act three, they have their work cut out with another very deadly encounter that could turn into yet another encounter. You may want to run away if you get the chance!

Sometime this month or February, Ben is planning to launch a Kickstarter campaign to fund a number of other standalone adventures and supplements. One of which will be The Krell Effect, a modern adventure that draws the party into a race against time to stop a crazed scientist from unleashing chronal energy and tapping into them a seriously misguided attempt to become ‘the immortal master of time’. He also has plans to publish a mini encounter called Carjacked. This can be used with The Krell Effect or any other modern adventure.

The last project he told me about sounds like a huge job. Ben wants to publish a character pack for 22 Savage Worlds fantasy player characters. Included within this pack will be separate sheets for each character to span the ranks of Novice through Legendary. That’s a total of 132 character sheets! So keep an eye out for his Kickstarter campaign.

One last treat for my wonderful readers. The first 100 readers to use this link will get a 20% discount on Still Life and Death.

This barbarian would pay 4 out of 5 Jalarizan Moons for Still Life and Death.

I'd also like to welcome the newest member of the Nerds-International family. Gaming Ronin has multiple blogs where he does reviews and talks about his experience with RPG's and other shit. Check it out at

Dont forget to check out the Nerds-Internationl Virtual Convention (NIV-Con) on March 10th and 11th. It's a great way to meet new people and have a fun time gaming online.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Patreon and why you should care

On December 7th, a date which will live in infamy, Patreon sent a message to patrons announcing a change to the way pledges would be managed. I've attached a pdf copy of the email I received and I highlighted the most important part of the email. You can view that email here. At first I thought no big deal, it's only 2.9% +$0.35. That's about $0.37 for $1 pledges. Then I started doing the math of how much extra I'd have to pay. If I had 25 pledges of $1 each normally I'd pay $25 dollars a month but with this new service fee it will be more like $34.25 a month. That's $9.25 extra because of $0.37 per pledge. Now, I'm just small potatoes and I don't actually pledge $25 a month but that's not the point. Its abundantly clear that Patreon is targeting those who pledge smaller amounts of $1, $2, or $3. I don't know if they did any market research on this or if it was just a bold gamble on their part. It looks like they're getting greedy and patrons are starting to take notice.

Unfortunately, the only people getting hurt by all of this are the creators. With patrons dropping like flies, the already struggling creators are losing money. I am one of those people who have discontinued all of my pledges and I just wanted to say I'm sorry to the creators I used to support. It has nothing to do with you and has everything to do with Patreon's shady business tactics. I truly hope that Patreon takes a step back and re-evaluates how much damage they've done to their brand. To me, Patreon is dead. I won't support anything via Patreon from now on. I'm willing to bet that there's someone just around the corner ready to step in and provide a fair subscription service for content creators. I wouldn't be surprised if Paypal was already working on it. After all, most of peoples pledges already get routed through Paypal anyway.

I sincerely wish the creators the best of luck.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Con on the Cob!

Today is November 24 which in the good ol' US of A means Thanksgiving. Gobble, gobble, gobble. Corny, I know, but happy holidays to everyone.

This is a long overdue post report of Con on the Cob and some thoughts on a game I'm a player in. Con on the Cob is a convention put on by Andy Hopp near Cleveland Ohio. For those of you who don't know, Andy is the author and illustrator of the Savage Worlds game Low Life. This convention was a blast to be a part of. This is the most family friendly con I've ever seen. For me the best part of the con were than the group of friends that attended with me.

Nerds-International was proudly represented at Con on the Cob by Gary McCallum, Jamie Pierson, Blaine Wagner, Eric Lamoureux, Matthew Jones, Chris Holmes, Stephen Dragonspawn, and Tony Fanning. This was the best convention I've ever been to and it was because of these people. Most of us arrived on Wednesday night before the con started. We played a couple of games but mostly just hung out in the atrium. Later that night we saw Andy and he stopped by to say hi. I had so much fun that most of the days start to blur together for me. I remember all the games just not when they were played. All of the games I played were run by the N-I folks so I can't really speak about the other games going on at the con.

Thursday morning I ran Tales from the Loop: Roleplaying in the 80's that never was. This was my first time running Tales from the Loop so I was a bit apprehensive but got into the groove pretty quickly. This game was the most fun I've ever had as a GM and it was all because of the players. We started out by making some characters from the archetypes in the book plus one I made up. This took us somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes. Then we introduced each character and got right into the first mystery in the book; Summer Break and Killer Birds. I think this game went so well because the players fell right into the roles. I think its because all of us at the table grew up in the 80's and they're a group of great role players. I really liked that I didn't have to make any dice rolls as the GM and I could focus more on what the players wanted to do. My job was to give them clues and see how they reacted. Fortunately they had some great ideas and I was able to roll with them. I only used two scenes from the mystery and everything else was based upon what the players wanted to do. I really like Tales from the Loop and if you don't have this yet then you really should pick it up.

Later that day we had a full table of players for Blaine's game of Formula D. This was the second game I've played of Formula D. It was still a little confusing on some of the rules but nonetheless we all had lots of fun. It took us 4 hours to do 2 laps around the board.

On Friday morning I was scheduled to run Savage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Overall I would say the game was a success but there were definitely some problems. I was using Palladium's Truckin' Turtles book for the adventure and the story was inconsistent at best. There were some great scenes and the players were great but the story just seemed to fall apart. I brought along some props for the players but I didn't get it to the level I had hoped to. This game will be a work in progress for sure. I also got some great feedback from the players as well. Later on in the day I met the guy who inspired me to make this game. Norm Hensley's blog, savageboldfistblog is where I got the characters from and I just needed to modify slightly because he made them using the older Savage Worlds rules.

In the afternoon Tony ran a game of Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars RPG. I really wanted to play this game for two reasons. Number one its Star Wars. Come on, who doesn't want to play Star Wars. Number two was because I was always skeptical of the narrative dice system used by FFG. Tony ran a great game and it left me wanting to try the narrative dice again. We went through an entire adventure of Star Wars without once firing a weapon. Well almost. Tony really wanted to show us noobs how combat worked in FFG so he made us fight one minion group of troopers. Unfortunately I think it backfired on him just a little bit. We managed to take out the troopers before they even had a chance to do anything. By the end of this game I was just starting to grasp the concept of FFG's narrative dice. I was still a little confused on the symbols and how to utilize the effects of the dice. With Tony's help and with the help of other experienced players at the table the mechanics of the dice narration made the game run smoothly. I'm still not sold on it though.

As Saturday rolled around, Chris ran a game of Edge of Primeval Thule. This is his home-brew game of FFG's Edge of the Empire mixed with Primeval Thule. Think FFG's narrative dice used with a gritty fantasy setting where Cthulhu is alive and well. I wanted to play this game because I really enjoyed reading Primeval Thule and it would give me another chance at using the narrative dice. The adventure was great and only two characters died at the very end. Chris did a great job of challenging the players and the dice system was starting to grow on me. It's still slow going when trying to interpret the dice symbols but that would come more naturally over time. My biggest confusion with this system is how to use advantage, threat, triumph, and despair. Chris was able to provide suggestions on how to use them best and it worked out well for everyone.

I think Chris and Tony both did an excellent job of explaining FFG's narrative dice and I thoroughly enjoyed both games. Both of you guys are excellent GM's. After the con I find myself wanting to play FFG Star Wars and now FFG Genesys' release is just around the corner. I think my biggest complaint about the narrative dice system is the symbols on the dice. It's not intuitive as to which symbol cancels the corresponding inverse symbol. An explosion (success) cancels a triangle (failure). With the new Genesys dice coming out I think that problem will be solved.

An hour later Eric ran a playtest for a new game he's writing which is tentatively called Wiseguys. This is a full blown Savage Worlds setting in a similar vein as Just Insert Imagination's smash hits Fuhgeddaboudit! and Badabing Badaboom! Eric has some great ideas for this game and the pregenerated characters were awesome. I played an Elvis impersonator who can disguise himself and impersonate others after studying the mark for a short time. He was also a cooler. This was hilarious. As a known cooler in Las Vegas, I was banned from all casino's. Of course I had to convince a casino employee to give me his uniform so I could sneak into the hotel. Then as I walked through the casino floor to the hotel everybody started losing and the machines were acting funky. Eric did a great job with his description of what happened. More wacky antics ensued and in the end we got the guy who sold us out. Keep your eye out for Wiseguys.

Throughout the con we pretty much stopped the RPG's around 7pm every night. That was reserved for events and live streams. We had our own table at the con thanks to Andy and we hung out together and played card games. Gary was the evening entertainment most nights. That guy if fucking hilarious. Gary, you're the man! He convinced a police officer to allow an artist to draw a penis on his forearm. Of course when I said this con is family friendly, the evening is for adults only. All of the child friendly events were held during the day up to 7 pm. There was a costume contest, miniature golf, basketball, video arcade, swimming pool, miniature painting, and more. They even had staff to entertain and babysit the kids so the parents could partake in the convention games.

I also wanted to take this time to write about a bi-weekly game I'm currently in on Wednesday nights. Mutant Year Zero from Modiphius Entertainment. We have played a few sessions of this game and I find myself getting a little bored with it. The setting, the GM, and the other players are good. It just feels like there's way too much book keeping for my tastes. We literally have to keep track of everything. Currency, food, water, status of our ark projects, and condition of our ark are most of it. We just hit a cliffhanger last night so I'm interested to see where it goes but I'm losing focus of my character how to play him. It's really hard to explain why it feels the way it does. There's social conflict in our Ark and now we just got attacked by outsiders. One of the difficult things for me is the meta knowledge. Imagine yourself as someone who has never seen a pair of scissors before. In the game your character doesn't know what they are but you know what it is and how to use them. Separating everyday common knowledge from the game and roleplaying it is difficult for me. I'm also curious to see what the others think about this game. I believe Eric said he's losing interest in the game as well but I don't want to put word in his mouth.

There were many, many, many more games hosted by Nerds from the network that I didn't mention only because the blog post is getting lengthy. I didn't forget and they aren't any less memorable than the ones I mentioned here. You guys Rock! Con on the Caaaaab!

P.S. Thank you to all the people I mentioned earlier for making the first annual Nerds-International gathering at Con on the Cob one I will never forget. Thank you Andy Hopp for your hard work putting on the con and letting us take over part of the atrium. I'm still waiting for you to run Low Life for us Andy, maybe next year.