Tag Archives: Kickstarter

Stars Without Number Revised Edition Mini Review

Stars Without Number: Revised Edition [Affiliate Link] is the result of a Kickstarter to fund a second/revised edition of the rules that are backwards compatible with the original. Kevin Crawford is the man behind Stars Without Number, and in my opinion, is the best at running RPG Kickstarters. I backed this Kickstarter personally, and am extremely pleased with how well he ran it.

The Right Way To Run An RPG Kickstarter.

On the Kickstarter front, Kevin had a plan and worked his plan to his advantage. He had the artists lined up and had a spreadsheet to track each step of each artist’s work on each picture they were contracted. He tracked drafts, revisions, due dates, payments, etc. The end result for the art, thanks to a stretch goal, is that the complete art is available for free for both personal and commercial use, in the Art Pack [Affiliate Link]. He set a goal to raise enough money to buy the complete rights to the art, and he has given it away! He also did that with the original.

When I say Kevin had a plan, I mean it. It is also something he shares with others. He wrote about it in his zine The Sandbox #1 [Affiliate Link]. He directly mentions that he has a process for running a Kickstarter. He also has a total catastrophe plan, and if he does not deliver 100% by the day he said he would, he will refund all the money. This will only happens if he dies. Well we needn’t worry, it completed today, a month and a half before the delivery deadline.

I think everyone who wants to run a Kickstarter should get the first edition of his zine, and use that to build a plan. The big secret is having the writing done, and lining up the artwork, printing, and fulfillment process up front.

What’s In The Kickstarter?

Obviously the revised rules. There is a whole section on the Kickstarter page about what is changing and what is being added. The rules came as a PDF to all backers, and he added ebook formats of mobi and epub. The PDF is in a lightweight format with smaller resolution art, and the full quality art. There is a form fillable PDF character sheet in the rule, and Kevin separated it into its own PDF. Plus there is the GM screen with all the tables pertinent to running a session.

The artwork is gorgeous! Don’t take my word for it, the art is available for free! [Affiliate Link] The first image in the GM screen PDF hit the right spot for me. See the image below. This is the portion of the image I was greeted with when I first opened the PDF for the GM screen. WOW! My monitor is set so I have to look up just a bit, adding to the feeling of awe.

There is a PDF with a picture of all the art with the name of the artist under it. All 28 illustrations come in tif format, meaning full color and ready to print! The only requirement for using this royalty free art is to credit the original artist. Free pictures of star fields, nebula, and other astronomical objects from NASA help add to the awesomeness of this project.

First Page SWN GM Screen by Aaron Lee
First Page SWN GM Screen by Aaron Lee

The book is a hefty 321 pages with a gorgeous cover, good quality paper that is easy to read – the background art sticks to the edges away from the text.

Finally, Kevin offered a code for all backers to get a monster tome with all of his previously published material for SWN. This tome was only available to backers. I wasn’t going to spend the $100 to get this 1009 page beast of a book, but I relented and added it to my collection. This is even bigger than the 609 page 2nd edition Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea [Affiliate Link] that is bigger than the DCC [Affiliate Link] rule book.

If you want to see an actual play, Adam Koebel ran a game that is on YouTube. He also had episodes just for the GM. I have only watched the session 0/character creation video, and the first GM video on the faction turn. Having the PDF of the rules available for free is a low bar for jumping into the game. The only difference between the free and full rules is the art.

The Mini Review.

Gorgeous art, with a science fiction setting built in, tables for system and session generation. Lots of cool ideas that can be used in any game. The original edition had rules for a faction turn, which remain. I really like the idea of multi-system spanning corporations and other organizations seeking to control things. It has been described as the GM’s turn between sessions. While the ideas are not totally portable to all genres, it has a framework that gives you something to think about.

The system is based on the standard six abilities from D&D. While much is familiar, there are minor differences. Initiative is with a d8, for example. I was really impressed with the original edition, and I bought the PDF a while back. I decided to back the Kickstarter, when I learned of it.

I’ll be running a session of SWN at Gary Con X in March, and I will be digging in to all of the materials I now have in my hands as I polish and tighten the scenario. If you are interested, you can sign up for event #222 Raid on The Space Vikings. I got inspired last year when I read H. Beam Piper’s Space Vikings [Affiliate Link].

After a more in depth reading of what I have, I can post a more in-depth review. There is a lot here, and if you are a fan of science fiction, or like the ideas in random tables to add to your GM toolkit, you can’t go wrong with the free rules. Although I recommend you buy the full rules to support the creator.

Kevin has done many other games, and game supplements. Check them out at his website, Sine Nomine Publishing, or click the link for his products at OBS and see what else he has done.

The ABCs of RPGs – Review

I backed this Kickstarter and ordered two of the books, one for me, and one for my granddaughter. She loves this book! It even won an Ennie in 2017!

The art is cool and the story gets the concepts of RPGs across to little ones.

My granddaughter really likes Chris, the owlbear. It is really cute the way she says owlbear.

I really like this book. It is a board book, so it is really good for reading to your little ones before they are ready to read. It teaches the alphabet while espousing how cool RPGs are. There is one page where the lettering blends in a bit with the art behind it, so I always have trouble with the page in low light.

I also got the coloring book and stickers. I got the coloring book for me. My old eyes just can’t handle the lines. Even with glasses, I have to get really close to make sure I go on the side of the line I want. That isn’t as much fun as I thought it’d be because older eyes. Now I get why my parents and grandparents couldn’t see certain things.

I doubt my granddaughter will have siblings, but my youngest son shared some news a few weeks ago that grandchild number two is on its way!

Time to head over to Hunter’s Books to get another copy!

You can get the PDF of the book on DriveThruRPG [Affiliate Link].

You can get the PDF of the activity book on DriveThruRPG [Affiliate Link].

Oath of the Frozen King – Review

Adventure Kit: Oath of the Frozen King by Absolute Tabletop, is a D&D 5e compatible adventure funded by Kickstarter. It is billed as being the middle ground between a full featured published adventure and your own table top notes, that they call Adventure Kits.

What’s An Adventure Kit?

The concept of Adventure Kits is a framework with the general idea and some main points for GMs that like to improv. Tables are provided to help fill in some of these pieces. It allows the GM to randomly generate, or use the ideas in the provided tables to take the general idea for the adventure and craft it to their own style and that of their players.

They use a die-drop table with the six standard dice to generate the relative position of each encounter location. The result of each die influences the specifics of the encounter in that location. For example, the d4 is the Hall of Bone and Ice and there are 4 different things that can be encountered there. The result is a six room dungeon, as is seen later with the battle maps.

If you don’t want the adventure set in the frozen tundra, they have a d8 table with how to re-skin it for any environment.

They introduce a new notation, such as d12³, which means roll a d12 three times. This is first seen on a table with twelve rows and three columns. The intent is to roll a d12 for each column. To yield more than the initial 12 options, there are 12x12x12 or 1,728 combinations of possible quests mixed in this adventure.

Next is a table of six potential twists to tweak things so it isn’t so cut and dried.

Then a d20 table of twenty possible motivations for the PCs to be here.

The Locations are defined by two sentences, then 3 bullet points for each of the sights, sounds, and sensations in that location.

The encounters are classed as: roleplay, combat, skill challenge, puzzle/trap, and environmental hazard. Each encounter has 3 or 4 bold type phrases to describe an aspect of the encounter. Until the encounters, there is no ruleset specific terminology. This makes it very easy to run this with any ruleset.

The NPCs presented are just descriptions and traits, no stats, again making this easy to use across various rules.

Monsters that are presented have some very basic stats related to HP & AC and damage.

Next are some things to think about for resolutions and rewards, with ideas to wrap up the adventure, extend the adventure into an ongoing campaign, and repercussions in the future. There are tables for repercussions and relations, treasure, social rewards, and ties that bind. These are all good ideas for things to keep in mind when adventurers do something, there are always unexpected and unintended consequences.

There are 18 pages of tables in what is called the Toolbox, which can be used to further modify the adventure. Various details, phrases, set details, loot, hazards, trinkets, locations, sights, sounds, sensations, encounters, monster generation, skill challenges, trap generator, and NPC generator, all of which can be used for modding other adventures.

The conclusion is a short story to set the tone and mood.

What I Liked:

  • A loosely defined default setting, with encouragement to use your own, or another.
  • The use of the die-drop table to configure the locations used in the adventure.
    • The page devoted to explaining how this die-drop table works.
      • It is graphical, so makes it very clear how to use it.
  • The various tables to tweak the different aspects of the adventure.
    • One can read all the options in a given table and pick the one that is the most interesting.
  • The tables in the Toolbox.
    • All of the tables they use give a lot of ideas for crafting your own tables, or using them to make your own adventures.

What I’d Like to See:

  • Hyperlinks in the Table of Contents.
  • More options for the die-drop tables.
    • There are only four options on each table, why not just use a bunch of d4s? I’d prefer to see one option for each possible number on a given die.
    • This is very minor. I know well the challenges of coming up with good options for tables.

Conclusion:

I find this to be a helpful way to build an adventure for sale to the masses. It has enough detail that you can run it without much effort, and you can tweak it to suit your style of play. Almost all of the tables can be used on their own.  This is a great example of how little information one needs to run an adventure. For those GMs that need all the details ready to run, this may not be for them.

The PDF is available on DriveThruRPG [Affiliate Link] for $9.95.

Archive – Historical People, Places, and Events for RPGs – a Review

Archive – Historical People, Places, and Events for RPGs is a Kickstarter funded book. by Molten Sulfer Press. It is a high quality paperback with full color photographs and art. 80 people, places, and events from ancient to modern times are presented with the known historical facts, and each topic ends with a section on how it could be used in a roleplaying game.

I backed this because I love history, I have a B.A. in History, and knew of some of the items included, but having the bare facts at my fingertips without having to get lost in Wikipedia appealed to me.

What I Liked:

  • It is well presented with a cover to set the tone.
  • The physical construction of the book is quite solid for a 266 page paperback. The quality of the paper contributes to its heft.
  • The table of contents breaks down to these categories to help you find the type of information you want.
    • Landscapes
    • Cities, Towns, and Buildings
    • Events
    • People
  • The photographs and art convey much more than each short entry.
  • The concept.
    • The idea of collecting this type of information illustrates what I, and others in the OSR and beyond say about where we get our inspiration. We get it from everything we have ever seen, done, or read.
  • There is a PDF, making for searchable text, or you can print out what you need for the table.
    • Both the Table of Contents, and the Index have hyperlinks.

What I’d Like to See:

  • More
    • More articles, however what is contained in this book have enough ideas for more than 80 pieces of a campaign. It would take years to exhaust the suggestions here.

The PDF is available on DriveThruRPG [Affiliate Link] for $15.00.

Blueholme Journeymanne Rules – A Review

Blueholme Journeymanne Rules was a Kickstarter by Michael Thomas. It extends his retro clone of the Holmes Blue Box Basic from 1977, Blueholme Prentice Rules for levels 1-3. The Journeymanne rules extend things to level 20. It is fitting that this was in 2017, the 40th anniversary of the Holmes Blue Box.

I got my start with the Holmes Blue Box way back in 1977, so this is my 40th year of D&D! Like many who backed this Kickstarter, it was for the nostalgia, and to finally get past level 3. Back in the day, we didn’t make the connection to the OD&D books, or we would have gotten them. The Holmes basic text told us we needed AD&D, so anything else was “basic,” and for little kids. How wrong we were. Had we ignored that, we would have gotten the original books and perhaps gone beyond 3rd level before the Player’s Handbook finally came out in 1978.

I backed at the level of the PDF and hardback. The PDF was completed a few months ago, with several weeks allowed for backers to read. I wish I had time before the cutoff to read this, I had too many Kickstarters deliver from November to December, and I ran games at two conventions the first two weeks of November. I found a couple of issues I will report elsewhere. I’m kicking myself for not digging in and reading the PDF.

The printing and shipping was via Lulu, and the quality is what I expect from Lulu. It is a serviceable book, and the cover and text look good.

All the basics are covered, species instead of races, classes, abilities, equipment, spells, monsters, treasure, adventures, encounters, and campaigns. This is 117 pages with table of contents, index, backer list, and OGL taking up 5 pages, and one more for a sample character sheet. With the PDF, it is easy to print out character sheets, or use one of the many basic/OSR character sheets, or do it old school and write it out on notebook paper or index cards.

What I Liked:

  • Art – A gorgeous cover and many interior illustrations.
  • Classes have all the information for a class in one place:
    • Description
    • XP table
    • Spell table
    • Other class specific tables, like turning undead, and a paragraph or two on strongholds.
  • The Introduction ends by pointing out that there are no “rules,” but rather guidelines.
  • Old School
    • Initiative is based on DEX. Roll off on a d6 to break ties. (This is how Metamorphosis Alpha does it.) This was also in Holmes.
    • Both magic users and clerics have spell books, and the books are so big, they can’t take them adventuring.
    • Looser rules on what levels magic items like potions and scrolls can be created, like in Holmes.
    • Less fiddly bits on spells.
    • Streamlined combat.
    • The monster section mentions that the listings are the average or typical of the type.  Players can find some much tougher or weaker than what is listed.
    • The Class section mentions “non-standard” races, and in fact any “monster” can also be a classed character, although weaker and having to advance in levels.
    • Weapons all do d6, but there is a variant rule.
  • Many new monsters, or variations on the standard ones.
  • A section on Unusual Treasures, whether magical or mundane.
  • The section on campaigns is far from comprehensive, but hits key points to keep in mind for designing your own campaign setting.

What I’d Like to See:

  • More

I really struggled trying to decide what is truly “missing” or poorly executed here. This is a well executed retro clone of what a “complete” ruleset might look like from Dr. Holmes. This is meant to be a light set of rules for quick play. Characters are easy to generate in a few minutes, and play can commence right away.

Adding to this would have to be done carefully to avoid bloat. It is OSR, so monsters, spells, and magic items are easily available from multiple sources, many of them free.

Conclusion

Whether your interest is the nostalgia for the early days of the hobby, or a simple rule set for quick play, or for the kids to run their own games, this fits the bill.

 

Review – Lost Hall of Tyr

I received a pre-release copy of The Lost Hall of Tyr, by Doug Cole of Gaming Ballistic, currently in the middle of a Kickstarter with 16 days to go. It reached the base funding goal yesterday. I am late with my review dues to my computer dying. Now that I have the replacement up and functional, I was able to read this 52 page PDF.

This is a Norse/Viking based setting. Doug has written many articles on his blog, in recent months, about his work with a Viking/Norse re-enactment group. They study history and martial arts based on Viking weapons and armor.

Doug developed this from a scenario he ran at GenCon 50, back in August. It allows the players to engage in grappling with encounters, should they desire it. The grappling mechanics are based on his 2016 Kickstater, Dungeon Grappling. It is a D&D 5e adventure for four to six characters between 3rd and 6th level. NOTE: I am a big fan of his model for grappling as seen in my review of Dungeon Grappling. I have follow up reviews of the final PDF, book, and eBook here.

The introduction makes clear that this is a scenario designed to showcase Dungeon Grappling. It is also set in the world of Etera, which is the setting for the forthcoming Dragon Heresy RPG.  Three ideas in bullet points makes suggestions for incorporating this adventure into an existing campaign.

The first 30 pages are the adventure. There are three pages about wilderness travel and weather. Fourteen creatures are presented in the bestiary section, with one per page. The final two pages before the OGL are quick-start rules for grappling.

The various stages of the journey to retrieve the mcguffin weavean interesting adventure in a Norse inspired world. It is not all combat, or more specifically of the hack and slash variety. There are some twists on creatures from how they are often presented in RPGs, making them new creatures. There are a lot of ideas in here that one could pull out and use in their own games. Several of these ideas can be used with any genre and ruleset.

What I liked:

  • The layout, background image/color, and font are easy to read on screen.
  • There is a hazard table for random occurrences for the overland journey.
  • He has an interesting mechanic for how to deal with a rickety rope bridge.
    • In addition to the bridge itself, several methods of crossing the bridge or crossing in other ways are suggested.  Skilled players will be able to come up with other ways to cross.
  • Another interesting mechanic is included for dealing with river rapids. After a certain number of failed checks to avoid drowning, an individual enters “combat” rounds with the river and takes damage for each round they fail to keep their head above water.
  • Several of the encounters are for creatures that will attempt to grapple, giving the opportunity to use the grappling rules.
    • There is a quick start of the grappling rules.
    • Each creature in the bestiary includes their grappling stats. Player characters will need to calculate their grappling stats. I would recommend doing so as part of character creation or for pre-gens the GM supplies.
  • The pages on wilderness travel bring in realistic amounts of food and water requirements.
  • Since mountains are involved there are mechanics for dealing with climbing. An example is also provided.
    • It includes methods for avoiding falls, and how to save yourself or others from a fall.

What I’d like to See:

  • Since this is a pre-release and not the final PDF, it has several issues with missing words, or words out of order. I know these will be addressed in the final copy.
  • There is no table of contents, but like in Dungeon Grappling, I know it will be hyperlinked to the different sections.
  • There are placeholders for many pieces of art and all the maps, so the layout is basically complete.
  • I did not see anywhere in the PDF what number and level of characters this adventure is for. This is a helpful piece of information to know when selecting it for ones players or creating pre-gens for one-shots or convention play.

Conclusion:

I backed the Dungeon Grappling Kickstarter because I liked the initial grappling rules from The Manor #8, as mentioned in the review I linked above. Doug does good work, and gives regular updates after the close of the funding campaign, and delivered three months ahead of the delivery deadline. Based on that experience, I would expect similar efforts to deliver this Kickstarter.

This is a neat adventure that gives one lots of ideas for running a hexcrawl style scenario in 5e. If you are a fan of the OSR and are curious about 5e, this will fill that need. For those wanting to see an adventure with dungeon grappling baked in, this is your chance. For 5e fans that wander about old school style of play, this guides them through the process.

I find this an imaginative way to blend the Norse mythology and the fey of that mythos with 5e and the dungeon grappling mechanics. I am curious about the art and maps missing from the pre-release PDF. For $7 you can get the PDF, and $20 gets the PDF and softcover. There are tiers for multiple copies. All backers get their name in the credits.

 

 

Old School Gamer Radio: A D&D Resource

Old School Gamer Radio: A D&D Resource has a Kickstarter to help fund a new website described as an index for the OSR. It won’t host the content of others, but point to cool OSR goodness in all the corners of the web, whether blogs, G+, FB, and so forth. There will also be new content on the site.

+Matt Finch of OSRIC and Swords & Wizardry fame, along with Zach Glazer are behind this. Matt has started a new You Tube channel, Uncle Matt’s D&D Studio. He asks that subscribers to his old channel subscribe to the new one.

This sub-heading from the Kickstarter page lays it out: “A unified website for old school D&D, with searchable links to the old school community’s locations, plus content from Matt and others.”

While the Kickstarter hit its initial goal quickly, they would like to reach the $7,500 stretch goal to ramp up the website and You Tube efforts to their maximum potential. This is a shorter run Kickstarter with just 9 days left to go. If you like the OSR and like the idea of having a central place to find the stuff you don’t yet know about, consider backing this. This update video explains it a bit more.

I went crazy and backed at the highest tier to sponsor a video. I can’t stretch beyond that with cash, so I’ll back it with my online efforts.

We had a website a bit like that with the former OSR Today, but its creator had health issues limit his ability to continue that project.

D&D 5e is seen as OSR like by many, so this isn’t a Kickstarter just for grognards from back in the day, or those who like OSR style play.

While Matt and Zach are both connected to Frog God Games, this is an independent effort, although personally supported by +Bill Webb.

Dungeon Grappling Final PDF Reviewed.

I was honored to get an advance copy of the PDF based on my review of Grappling Old School, in +Tim Short’s The Manor #8. Check out Tim’s blog, Gothridge Manor. Based on comments in my review of the advanced copy, Doug made changes. He did this based on feedback from all the reviewers. He went above and beyond and even though the Kickstarter was just shy of the final stretch goal for a custom cover, he did it anyway.

The PDF comes in at 53 pages, it has awesome art, and the table of contents is hyperlinked. The index also contains hyperlinks to the page numbers. Color coding of the section headers is continued in the table of contents and the index. There is a background image, but unlike most of them I have seen, here it is faded out so I can actually read the text. Attention to the details of both usability and legibility in the text is awesome!

There is an in-depth overview of the core concepts for a cleaner, simpler, and easier to run grappling system. It covers generic concepts that will accommodate any older rule set, as well as many clones. There is also special focus for both D&D 5e and Pathfinder. Monstrous grappling is also discussed. Finally, there is a reference section with three reference sheets, one of my suggestions, to reduce the need to refer back to the rules.

One can take all of this system, or just the parts they need. I play AD&D, and its grappling system is so cumbersome that few dare try it. I plan to implement this in the games I run and an upcoming special project game on Roll20.

Along with the release of the PDF, there is an eBook format in both mobi and ePub formats. I’ll also fire up my Kindle and review the eBook as soon as I can.

This was Doug’s first Kickstarter and he is delivering way ahead of schedule. The PDF was slated for February, and delivered in January. The printed book was planned for April delivery, but has shipped in January. His constant updates were to the point of wishing it would ease up a bit. But unlike some notoriously failed Kickstarters, that is the kind of problem a back wants. the books have shipped and I’ll be getting mine any day now. Look for a review of the physical book soon!

Doug took one reviewer to heart about the art and has published a book of just the art. The cut is for the artists to get a bonus, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and towards a bit of the overhead. You can buy Dungeon Grappling On DriveThruRPG and on Doug’s website, Gaming Ballistic.