A Look Behind and a Look Ahead

Here we are at the end of 2014. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who reads my little corner of the internet.

This has been a full and crazy year. This blog turned 1. I broke 100 posts. I co-started a gaming podcast. And I have been drawn into some freelance writing projects. A lot of it is thanks to this blog.

Looking at the website stats 2014, Origins had 9,418 views from over 5000 visitors. That is mind boggling to me. I made 80 posts this year (not counting this one), and it seems most of you are here for my reviews. Which, while not why I started the blog, is ok with me.

Looking forward, what does 2015 hold for Origins of a Dark God? Honestly, who knows? Between Iconic, Masters, and the new writing jobs I have, I have a lot of extracurricular activities. However, I have some 13th Age articles that I am pre-writing for the start of 2015. In-depth Icon write-ups, creature ecologies and stats, and some new mechanics that I want to share. Also, I have plans for a world building exercise using the Adventure, Conqueror, King system.  Intermixed will be reviews as often as I can put them together, and general advice from my table.

I look forward to seeing what 2015 holds! See you all next year.

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Something Exciting

Back in September, I reviewed Book 0 of Shadows of Esteren. I have devoured the rest of the books and hope to get a group of the game started next year.  That being said, the Esteren Team has launched a new Kickstarter, here.

The Kickstarter has three components.  First is the Occultism book. Occultism is a thema, much like their book The Monastery of Tuath. Monastery covered the religious themes of Esteren and included an adventure, and it sounds like this book will do the same for mysticism. This Kickstarter also includes the third album for Esteren, Rise. I have Of Men and Obscurities (their first album), and it is a great instrumental album that I listen to while working, in addition to using at the table. Finally, they have the Ghost Stories add-on, which includes two books The Black Moon Handbook (a kind of manual about ghosts) and Howlings (a collection of short stories).

They have made it super easy for fans of Esteren to jump in with this Kickstarter.  If you already have Esteren books, look for pledges with the title ‘Farl’ and you will be getting just the new material from this Kickstarter. New to Esteren and want to get it all? Pledges with the title ‘Varigal’ are geared towards you.

The Occultism Kickstarter runs through January 21st, 2015. Check it out here if you are interested!

I will be doing one more post this year, as Christmas and New Years fall on Thursdays.  Next Monday, I will look at this year in review and hopefully will be able to give some insight on where I will be going in 2015.

Jadepunk Review

Disclaimer: This pdf was graciously given to me by Ryan Danks of ReRoll Productions. All opinions within the review are my own.

I mentioned before I have decided to take a second look at the Fate system. There have been some recent additions to the Fate Universe that have really impressed me. The Dresden Files RPG captured the feel of the novels superbly. Atomic Robo RPG had me laughing while reading the core rule book. And Mindjammer has jumped to the top of a very short list of Science Fiction games I have to run. But nestled in all the Fate discussions I have had with friends recently, Jadepunk has kept popping up. In talking with Ryan Danks, the publisher and lead developer on the line, he offered to send me a copy. Well, I read it, and here we are.

Jadepunk – Review

Jadepunk

Jadepunk – Tales from Kausao City, is a 139 page PDF available from ReRoll Productions or Drivethrurpg. For $9.99 you are getting a complete game. The system is powered by Fate. From my understanding of the Fate world, Jadepunk is more Fate Accelerated than Fate Core. That being said, Jadepunk serves as a great example of the Fate engine and good place to dive into that system. The game is extremely friendly to new players: new to Jadepunk, new to Fate, new to RPGs. The book is littered with little callouts which boil the system and setting down into brief overviews. It would super simple to grab those and make a GM screen or player handout with all the pertinent information.

So, what is Jadepunk? It is genre mash setting, westerns meet wuxia, with a generous helping of jade powered tech thrown in. The game takes place in Kausao City. This city is a jadetech marvel. White jade airships travel between tower skyscrapers of Green jade. Blue jade provides stable forms of energy and Red jade provides violate ones. The great nations of the world all are represented in Kausao City, seeking to control the flow of the Jade, which exists in abundance under and around the city. The rich look down on Kausao City, corrupt and greedy, seeking to oppress those beneath them. The writers sure know the punk genre. In my mind, you can’t call it punk without having oppression to fight against.

Characters play as a developing society of vigilante martial artists called the Jianghu. They are trying to bring justice to Kausao City. Martial Artists, rebels, jadetech engineers are viable character archetypes in this game. With fist, blade, and red jade six-shooters, you and your group fight for the soul of Kausao City, and tell stories worthy of Hero or Tombstone.

The setting is rich in flavor and focuses mainly on Kausao City. The major players in the city (nations, religions, ect.) get enough detail to give players and GMs a springboard to make this game their own. In fact that is especially true of Kausao City. While you are given rich information on the city, the writers want your Kausao to be uniquely yours. For example, when talking about using the map of the city, the writers don’t give you a huge key of places. Districts are sketched out, and important places are given write-ups.  But, then they suggest you mark the map up as you play, putting your game’s locations into the city.

Conclusion

I know I did not talk about the system side of Jadepunk. That was on purpose. Partially because I want to do a standalone Fate review, and partially because I feel that the settings are what make Fate games unique and interesting.

This is especially true of Jadepunk. The book gives you a great setting, mashing two genres in a fun way. If you like the idea of martial artists armed with six-shooters, fantasy westerns, or a fresh take on punk tropes, pick this game up. The layout and design of Kausao City is how I always envisioned releasing Shadow’s Reach from Ta’nar; invocative without being restrictive. You can also, drop the city into any campaign, and hit the ground running with western-wuxia goodness.

ReRoll already has a number of expansions for the game that you can purchase from their store. Also, as a side note, if you purchase from the ReRoll Store, 30% of your purchase is donated to charity. Treat yourself to a fun game and feel good about it while you do.

The Secret of Secrets

Imagine if you will that Star Wars was a role-playing game – the movies, not the actual roleplaying game. There you are sitting around the table, having split the party (never a good idea). While you are running through Cloud City trying to escape, your buddy, let’s call him Chris, is battling Darth Vader in the bowels of the city.

Natural 1.  Chris fumbles his defense roll and Fweem!! There goes Chris’ character’s hand. He makes his save and is holding onto the railing about to fall down a giant shaft. You are completely engaged with the dialogue flying back and forth between Chris and the GM, then this happens:

GM: If only you knew the power of the Dark Side. Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.

Chris: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!

GM: No… [whispers something into Chris’ ear].

Chris: [shocked] No. No! That’s not true! That’s impossible!

You sit and wait for the reveal, but it never comes. Weeks go by. After the campaign ends, the second Death Star destroyed, complete with many inside jokes between the GM and Chris, you finally ask, what was said back there?  Oh, that? The GM told me that Vader was my father.

How anticlimactic would that be?

Secrets (campaign or character) Are Only Awesome When Revealed!

Personally, I think that secrets are only cool when they are revealed. I have had players who come to the table with a cool character secret and expect to ride across the campaign with their secret intact. What is the point in that? RPGs are a social, co-operative game. Secrets, either the GM’s or the PC’s that are never revealed run counter to that. If your character is a dragon, hiding in a world where dragons are feared and hunted down, that is some great story material!! But don’t expect to not be put in situations where that will be revealed. I am not saying that secrets should be revealed in session one, but eventually they should come out.  Because when they do, they tend to be explosive.

A recent, nearly deadly, example:

In one of my 13th Age games, the party had been hired by a being of power, who had been bound to a graveyard and stripped of her name for an unknown crime against the gods. The players had been able to discover that although this entity had done the crime, the punishment was, after many eons, exceeding the crime. This entity was slowly being pushed beyond repentance into madness. The twist was that someone had assassinated all of the gods of knowledge to prevent anyone else from discovering this creature’s name, for true names hold power. The group was searching for the last of these slain gods, Azometh. They had discovered that he was not truly dead, but being held and tortured somewhere in the Land of the Dead.

In a recent session, two new players joined the group right before everyone descended into the underworld to free Azometh. The old group decided they did not entirely trust the new characters and kept the scope of their mission hidden from the new players. When they finally found Azometh, being tortured and repeatedly questioned by a Big Bad Evil Guy from my world for ‘THE NAME’, the truth came out. What happened next was an epic night of gaming. The new characters felt betrayed and could not understand why anyone would risk saving such a bound entity. One of the new players decided that no one should have the name (which would control the entity) and slew Azometh. One of the original players managed to contain some of the god’s essence within himself, while another (a forgeborn who sought to raise Azometh to worship him) went berserk and attacked her god’s slayer.

Suddenly, I had PVP in my game. The Fighter going after the cleric, the cleric trying not to die. The Sorcerer trying in vain to maintain his own identity while absorbing the power of a god. The players had a great time working through their character’s choices and the fallout of the revealed secrets.

Conclusion

I am not saying don’t have secrets in your game. I am not saying don’t come to the table with character secrets. But if you horde them and only reveal them after play is over, you are the only one who cares. If you take the risk of letting your secret come to light, not only do you get that enjoyment of a pertinent reveal, but the rest of the group gets to share in that. And your secret has the potential to change the scope of the game for weeks to come.  Which is more satisfying?

As a GM, present opportunities for secrets to come out, but if they are not yours, let the character decide whether or not to reveal them. They should have the final say, but giving them the opportunity or creating consequences for keeping the secret is fair game!

PS

Jadepunk review is still in the works.  Between work and sickness, it has been a rough couple of days.

Good GMing & Finding Fate

Happy December. I hope your holidays were great! It has been a crazy couple of weeks for me, between work projects and grad school. But, this week promises to be the last busy one for a while! Which is great, as I have new reviews to write, podcasts to record, and game design to do! Ok, maybe not less crazy, but definitely more fun!

I have been digging into a lot of great books on GMing over the last couple of weeks. I have reread Play Dirty and Robin’s Laws of Good Gamemastering. I tore through Never Unprepared, and Unframed by Engine Publishing (reviews forth coming), and have Kobold’s Guide to Combat sitting on my desk next to me. It has been enlightening to review and absorb other people’s view on gamemastering and the hobby. I firmly believe that GMing is a skill. Like any skill, practice and study are key to improvement. I plan to be sharing what I am taking away from these books, as well as reviewing them, in the coming months.

Another set of books that are on my radar to read and review are a number of Fate products. For a variety of reasons, I have started looking into Fate Core and Fate Accelerated. I picked up Mindjammer, Atomic Robo, Jadepunk, and the Fate Core books. I have played Fate before, in its Dresden and Spirit of the Century incarnations. I am looking forward to digging into the nuts and bolts of this game, and seeing how I can apply it to Ta’nar.

Come back Thursday, when I will be looking at Jadepunk, a game powered by Fate.