[generic] What rpgs have you read recently?

I read The Watch, a PbtA game by Anna Kreider and Andrew Medeiros: I was really impressed by how the rules strongly support the fiction. For example, as freedom fighters resisting the encroachment of the darkly sorcerous Shadow, the PCs must not give in to their baser urges... so there is no 'use force against others' move, but there is a move to calm a situation down and stop a fight. If a PC insists on initiating a conflict, the MC has the option to say "Sure, you can do that... but it will give the Shadow an opening to possess you, even for a moment. Do you still do it?"

Also, there's a great mission system, somewhat reminiscent of 3:16's, but everything is reduced to a set of rolls made by the PCs performing different functions on the mission, e.g. drawing up tactics, providing a lookout and so on. The more failed rolls on this, the more fallout the players have to choose from their mission, like losing supplies or having to let important NPCs die, but the mission still succeeds. This allows the whole game to borrow a structure from classic fantasy trilogies, where you know certain things are going to happen on the way to finally overcoming the Shadow, but you don't know what prices the main characters will pay to get there, including their own lives.

There's even a nice 'weariness' system, where PCs can become battle-hardened veterans but at the expense of having seen too much and survived it, so they can retire through burn-out rather than death.
I've just finished reading the Glorantha Sourcebook. It was a fascinating read into Gloranthan myth, seeing just how deep the setting can be. And I now have a good grasp on such beings as Humakt, Orlanth, and Yelm. The thing I absolutely loved though (and this surprised me, bearing in mind how human-centric I generally like my fantasy) was the take on the trolls, dwarves, elves, and of course dragonnewts. The trolls and dwarves in particular were new to me. So, yay!

But I found it more interesting than directly useful for gaming. I can't at the moment see myself running something set in the Dragon Pass in the Gloranthan Third Age. But it will be fun should I play something Gloranthan, and as less direct inspiration, it's great. I need to emphasise again how much I enjoyed the read, and not end on a dour note.
Warhammer FRP 1st ed. I'm planning to run WFRP, but don't want to get into the 4th ed, when 1st ed is good enough already (maybe with a few fixes).
Lords of Olympus - I want to run a diceless Amber-like game, without the Amber trappings/background. I can't really get into the Grand Staircase of Lords of Gossamer & Shadow, so LoO looks like the winner.
Been reading Vampire The Masquerade 5th edition. The new Hunger mechanics look interesting, and they seem to have toned down the most munchkiny powers, and made some 'indie' stuff like relationship maps and touchstones part of the game.

However it isn't written like a newbie's introduction to the World of Darkness - they name drop people and clans and setting history like you are supposed to know who the frak they all are. And despite the background now being 'the Camarilla are in decline and the Anarchs are a major power', they dedicate tons of space to the Camarilla and next to nothing on the Anarchs.

Needless to say, and annoyingly, the Tremere still receive more love than the other clans. Namely, getting 3 more points than anyone else in character gen (a free Ritual) and having their weakness merely upgraded from the old one of "this is totally irrelevant in game play and has no game mechanic effects" to a new one of "this is highly likely to be irrelevant in most game play, and the game mechanics aren't the sort that matter in a conflict scene". Specifically they can't blood bond vampires, and ghouls have to drink their blood more times than the usual 3 to get bonded.

Good points about the new setting is that organisations like Homeland Security and MI5 know about vampires and are hunting them down and killing them all to death. That appeals to me, as I was never convinced of the World of Darkness' insistence that no government agency had ever noticed this huge conspiracy. Especially as vampire Princes only ever ruled their own little feudal patch, so the Prince of London had absolutely no way to stop YouTube videos of vampires being uploaded in Melbourne or Seattle...


I read Raven's Purge, for Fria Ligan's new Forbidden Lands RPG, this week. This is the default adventure campaign, but don't think you are getting something like The Temple of Elemental Evil or one of the other epic TSR sets. Instead, expect a pretty well written group of adventure locations which mesh together in a unique way for every GM as they will have to place artefacts and use rumours and NPCs to draw the PCs into the heart of the plot. This has more in common with GDW's Twilight's Peak for Traveller than the old epic D&D scenarios.

There's a lot to draw on here, nicely presented. That said, I think the GM will have to put some work in getting this ready (or be ready to manipulate it on the fly). There are a lot of core NPCs which can have varying motivations at varying places. I think the key to this would be to bring it in as a slow burn; ultimately, the characters may end up leading an army to attach the evil Sorceror that dominates the Forbidden Lands, but they need to grow into that.

The only concern I have is that the game is very lethal, so the chance of playing through with the same characters may be lower than you'd like. That said, this is good stuff.
Fria Ligan's Forbidden Lands, obviously.

Though with FirstAge in the role of Game Master, I had to skip the final version of the Game Master's Guide and just focus on the players' books.

Very nice retro hex crawl using Fria Ligan's award winning d6 game engine that powers Tales from the Loop but modified for magic, and a slice of tactical combat using combat maneuvers with cards.

And, yes, this is a very deadly game, with critical tables of d66 options and 65 or 66 offer instant death if triggered.

I have rolled up a coterie of characters to fill in the void of inevitable PC death (including from thirst, starvation and disease).
Warhammer FRP 1st ed. I'm planning to run WFRP, but don't want to get into the 4th ed, when 1st ed is good enough already (maybe with a few fixes).
Lords of Olympus - I want to run a diceless Amber-like game, without the Amber trappings/background. I can't really get into the Grand Staircase of Lords of Gossamer & Shadow, so LoO looks like the winner.
Warhammer Fantasy Role Play 4th Edition by Cubicle Seven pays great homage to the first and second editions with a few great upgrades along the way, especially the more fluid combat mechanics.

"WFRP4e uses the d100 percentile dice with degrees of success called Success Levels (SL). Each attack in combat is an opposed roll between the participants. If an attacker rolls on Weapon Skill and gets a success of 2SL and you compare that to the defender who succeeds as well on a 3SL then the defender has won the round and takes no damage. This type of opposed roll comparing SLs also means that even if both parties miss, damage can still be dealt and there can be a winner of each round."

Evil Gaz ran a session for us and it truly feels like an uplift to the original while retaining many tropes that made the original so great. The classic character classes remain tool from the gritty fame of the ratcatcher to the often overlooked peddler.

Many great reviews too, maybe they could change your mind for this well crafted product:



Last night I read The Spire of Quetzel for Fria Ligan's Forbidden Lands RPG. This is a homage to the OSR movement and presents four adventure locations. The title adventure, written by Patrick Stuart, has the characters entering a spire to face a Demon-Queen. The blurb claims that it is very Moorcockian, and I think that's right as I could easily imagine running this with Stormbringer. The second adventure, 'The Bright Vault', sees the characters entering a vault that imprisons demon-spawn that could threaten the world. The sibling spawn all have different needs and motivations which can be played against each other.

The third scenario, Hexenwald, has witches and necromancy, set in an area of forests and lakes not unlike the Black Forest or Russia. The NPCs all have interesting motivations and rivalries that leave plenty of opportunities for adventure. The final scenario, The Graveyard of Thunder, has the characters drawn to an adventure site where one of the last of the Thunder Lizards prepares for its death. They face orc rivals and the threats of a guardian.

I liked this collection, my favourites being 'Hexenwald' and 'The Spire of Quetzel', both of which I'd like to run. This is a short collection of good adventures that will certainly be remembered by the players.
I can answer that one! In combat, rolls are opposed and compare degrees of success (or failure). So there's a 50% chance of hitting someone of the same skill level as you, even if you've both got really poor combat skills.

The standard test difficulty level seems to give a +20% bonus for ordinary tests.

(Edit: I'm talking about Warhammer Fantasy Role Play 4e)
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Continuing my Gloranthan delving, I've just finished Dara Happa Stirs. A campaign for 2nd Age Glorantha, picked up on a whim from Patriot Games because it was heavily reduced in price. And you know what...it's absolutely brilliant. A good read, a colourful and well-explained corner of the setting, a mixture of mythic and political elements in the adventure.

So it's something I rather fancy running. I understand the 2nd Age Glorantha books do not have a great reputation, but this really draws me in. I'd also, for reasons of convenience, be most likely to use OpenQuest as the engine. But yay!

First Age

D&D h@ck3r and Hopepunk
Staff member
I've dived in to Zenobia for my holiday reading. It has inspired me to run some Palmyrene nonsense for Seven Hills. The game is available as a Print and PDF bundle at Lulu. My hardcopy is on its way.

Zenobia is a 304 page PDF from Zozer games, providing a full simple to play RPG with a richly detailed historical setting of late 3rd Century AD Eastern Roman Empire, centring on the emergent Palmyrene empire and their luscious Queen, Zenobia. The system is a quick play 2d6 affair that gets the job done in a no nonsense way. Whether you choose to use the system or not, it has lashings of playable content that will flavour whatever you decide to use.

Where Rome meets the desert -
Rome crumbles, and here in the Desert Kingdoms there are tribes, cults, kings and queens that all want their piece. It is a lawless frontier, a world where the deserts are home to fierce Saracen tribes, lost cities, sphinx and scorpion-men. And where the cities teem with scheming princes, bandit kings and sinister cults. Opportunity and adventure are everywhere!

ZENOBIA is the fantasy roleplaying game of adventure and magic in the ancient world.
This is tub thumping 'Sandals and Sorcery' set in the cradle of civilisation pulled in many directions as Rome starts to fade. There's tons of opportunity for game here, cleaving as close or as far to history as you fancy. Labyrinths and monsties abound, sinister cults and lots of well researched, but highly usable pulp gaminess on every page.

I've found out that the Harry Turtledove 'Warrior of Rome' series starts in 255AD right in this part of the Empire. I've downloaded for some more background and story threads.
I used Turtledove's four books about Greek merchant sailors as background reading for a Mythras game set in the Successor Wars of the Diadochi. AFAICT the historical and social detail if fairly spot on and a great help in picturing the period.


I finished this about a week ago:

FL PH Book.jpg
FL GM Book.jpg

*Forbidden Lands RPG* (Fria Ligan)
The *Forbidden Lands RPG* comprises two hardbound leather-effect books; the *Player’s Handbook* (character generation, the game engine, combat, spells, journeys, strongholds) and the *Gamesmaster’s Guide* (principles of the game, history, gods, kin, a bestiary, artefacts, encounters, creating adventure sites and three sample locations). There’s also a large map of the Raven Lands and stickers to go with it, plus a more detailed handout guide to give characters a deeper background.

The game uses the Year Zero engine, as seen in *Coriolis* and *Tales from the Loop*. Like both those games, it has been tweaked to fit the setting. In this case, it has become significantly more lethal and dangerous. Characters are fragile, like those in early D&D. The dice pool rolls generate negative outcomes which can seriously mess your character up, making them ‘broken’ and vulnerable to critical. The game engine also moves away from just D6s. Although these are the standard dice, you can sometimes roll a D8, D10 or even D12, all of which can bring much more successes than the D6. You’ll need to be clever and alert to avoid injury.

The game engine also generates willpower points, which are a limited currency. They fuel spells and talents and can only be obtained by failing a roll in certain circumstances. If you don’t fail, you don’t refill your points pool.

There is a big focus on the exploration side of the game, and it is definitely influenced by *The One Ring*. Players take different roles, and you need to ensure enough food and - especially - water or treks across the wilderness can go horribly wrong. The map doesn’t assume the location of any of the adventure sites in much detail from those presented in the book or in *Raven’s Purge*. The GM can position them, and use the stickers to mark up the map. If you clear an old ruin or watchtower, you can turn it into a stronghold, creating a mini-game not unlike high level D&D or *Pendragon*. Of course, setting up a stronghold is only the start of the story; holding on to it is the challenge.

The rules have random tables for the creation of adventure sites, using a D66 in many cases, and wearing the OSR movement inspiration on its sleeve. The usage dice concept from *The Black Hack* is also adopted for consumables. The principles section would not seem out of place in a *Powered by the Apocalypse Game*

All in all, the game is a thoroughly modern take on a wilderness D&D style game, with hints of *Stormbringer*. It reminds me very much of many of the early *Fighting Fantasy* games, especially with the gorgeous B&W art (which is in a similar style to that which I grew up on). I would like to run this, and I hope to play in @First Age’s game.
Just before Christmas, I finished Space 1889 (the newer Clockwork Publishing version; I've never read the earlier versions). Anyway, it's an alternate history Victorian era game where there's space travel and recent colonies on the inner planets. Short version is that I've fallen in love with the setting, and the system for me seems serviceable, albeit with some puzzling bits.

So why do I love the setting? It's not steampunk as such (I think the original actually predated steampunk), it's not pulp, and despite the out there component it's actually not in the least gonzo. It's a game of Victorian era adventure stories, and colonialism, and the setting really supports those themes. Space travel has only reached the inner planets. Mars features an ancient civilisation in decay, with the old Martians who built the canals for water from the poles as the planet dried up having a truly ancient culture, and the remnants of ancient technology. The colonial powers have a presence, with the British being dominant, interfering in local politics and exploiting colonies. More savage species of Martians dwell in the highlands, away from the canals.

And it's beautiful. It echoes some planetary romance material, but does something far more interesting for me than something Burroughs-esque, which is what I was expecting and half dreading. It echoes the Great Game in India.

The other key planet (space travel can't reach the outer planets, by the way, and Mercury and the Moon are less explored) is Venus. A hellhole of a jungle, where several British expeditions were lost as the liftwood taken from Mars ceased to work. The Germans found the key with zeppelins rather than liftwood, and they're the dominant power here. Venus has plant resources exploited, both hostile and placid primitive lizard people, and plantations where they labour for their colonial masters. It echoes colonial Africa, and another strand of the colonial story. The Congo, the Heart of Darkness.

But it's writ large, with the fantastic enabling all sorts of invention, and yes, I really do want to run games in that setting. Reading through I was full of ideas. I said it's not Steampunk. Certain Victorian era scientific theories are true in the setting, such as the ether (enabling space travel) and planetary development, with planets nearer the sun being younger and less evolved. So Mars is far older than Earth, Venus younger, and Mercury primordial. Earth's history is close to our own, with a few tweaks (the US civil war ended in a stalemate with two nations, the CSA and USA), and things coloured by space exploration and colonisation. There were a couple of head scratchy bits, and I don't get that the Earth chapter is the longest of the planetary chapters, but it's well done enough. The other planets really give the opportunity for the themes of the setting to really come into play.

So what about the system? It's the Ubiquity system, seen in a couple of other games. Mechanically, it's a dice pool, where even rolls count as successes, and odd dice count as failures. It's fairly common sense trad, basically, though it does the thing of combining hit rolls and damage into a single roll.

I'm slightly bothered by the rules for taking the average though. Okay, so the average is half the number of dice. That's reasonable. What bugs me is the rule that if the average is bigger than the difficulty, you just succeed. So in other words, you only roll when you have less than a 50% chance of success. Nothing I can't handle (the rule is sensible for less important rolls, or finding information, say), but it just bugs me. If I were running it, I'd use it in less important rolls, but for a big deal, just roll the dice. That's pretty much RAW, but not quite. It just bothers me only rolling when you're more likely than not to fail.

Then there's the rule where you can if you want increase the difficulty by 1 and take 2 extra dice. It increases the variance, without changing the average degree of success (or failure), but it doesn't feel well-thought out. Same goes for taking the average of the first ten dice if you end up with a massive pool and rolling the rest. It feels a bit arbitrary.

That said, the system doesn't seem bad, and the odd bits won't interfere with a good GM, but I wish it was a little smoother.

But my goodness the setting makes it all worthwhile for me. I plan to wheel this out for North Star in 2019, and maybe more.


I've only played Space 1889 twice, but it stuck with me. The first time involved us being sent out to Mars to chase down an Irish Nationalist on behalf of Special Branch (as there were concerns that they planned to cause trouble in the colonies), and the second time involved a rescue of a crashed Etherflier crew and a fighting retreat. The former used the original game (which is flawed mechanically) and the latter was the new system, run by Dave Elrick at Continuum and it was great!

First Age

D&D h@ck3r and Hopepunk
Staff member
On a whim, and for old times sake, I dived into Jerry Grayson's Mythic D6 RPG. This takes the D6 Legend route and brings it to life with Jerry's customary verve and skill. I missed out on the Xena RPG and was always n favour of counting successes rather than adding up the numbers on the dice. This multi-genre take of D6 has great powers and gadgets systems that gives this a real toolkit capability across many genres. The packaged conceit is for modern day people with stand out super like powers, but it provides hooks for so much more.

You could happily blend in this game with the classic WEG D6 Star Wars and you are good to go. I like what Jerry has done and could see me bringing this game to the table. In some ways it sits quite closely to Wordplay.