Arcane Game Lore

Notes for tonight's game: TPK!!!

10 Signs You May Be A Geek

So it has been a while since I posted and wanted to try and start back with something simple. So I came up with a list of  10 signs you may be a geek. This is from my own personal experiences so let’s see if anyone can relate.

1. If you’ve ever lied about your test score so no one accuses you of breaking the curve.
2. If you’ve ever judged a game by the number or type of dice it has.
3. If one of your siblings discovered that the best thing to slide across the floor is polyethylene on top of more polyethylene.
4. If you thought THACO was an easy concept.
5. If somebody has ever told you, “you guys talk about this stuff like you’ve actually done it.”
6. If you’ve ever calculate the ‘volume’ of a fireball in an enclosed space… Or in my case, 32 fireballs detonated at once.
7. If you’ve spent over 30 minutes at a store deciding which mini best represents your character.
8. If you’ve painted minis for other player’s character to enhance combat.
9. If you’ve quietly had wars between your dice while waiting for your turn.
10. If you have two copies of any gaming book, one for use, and one for display.

Variation on a trap

I was playing Star Frontiers with my kids last night and they dreamed up a trap far worse than what was actually there.  They are in the last section of the SF-1: Volturnus, Planet of Mystery module (PDF).

Warning: spoilers for the adventure.  If you’re a player in this module stop reading now!

Trap corridors from the moduleIn this part of the module, the characters have to assault a Sathar artifact.  The module is designed such that the characters can easily find a false entrance that opens up into a small closed set of interconnected tunnels that were circular in cross section (see area labeled 4 in the image at right).  The trap here being that once the characters pass a certain distance in either direction (the dashed lines in the image to the right) the entire tunnel complex flips 180 degrees tossing them about for some damage.  That’s all this area does, continuously.  There is absolutely nothing else here, just empty halls that flip over every time you cross one of those lines.

My kids were smart and were looking for traps but the technician looking barely made his skill roll, so I declared that he saw something at the positions of the dashed lines that looked like a triggering mechanism but didn’t know what it was.  He carefully moved over and made another skill roll to try to figure it out, again barely making it.  He was informed that it seemed that the tunnel system could pivot around a central axis but couldn’t figure out anything else.

At this point they all began speculating wildly about what could happen.  Not being able to see the entire structure (it was dark, they only had flashlights, and couldn’t see around the corners), they came to the conclusion that the corridors were balanced and that if they went too far in any one direction, it would tip over, dropping them to the bottom.  And if that wasn’t bad enough, they were also convinced that there were large 2 meter balls in the hidden portions of the tunnels that would roll down and squish them.

They immediately started looking at the weights of the different races (2 Dralasites, a Yazirian, a Vrusk, and 2 combat robots) and trying to send equally weighted characters in opposite directions.  This obviously didn’t work and they got flipped over and there were (luckily) no balls to go rolling through the halls.  After a couple of flips they decided this wasn’t working and found the correct (secret) entrance.

I’ll have to admit though, that the trap they dreamed up was much more interesting (and deadly) than the actual one.  I may just have to use it in a future adventure.

Modern Warehouse Review

Modern Warehouse

Modern Warehouse

I find gaming very tedious these days. My brain does not like to accept rules that do not make sense to me, I have very little time to prepare for games, and even though I type faster than I did 20 years ago, I never seem to have enough time to type things up. It seems the older I get, the more things unrelated to gaming become a higher priority in life. As a result, I do not like to game master anymore. The amount of effort that goes into preparing for a gaming session, never seems to satify the outcome of said session. Instead I decided to help my gamemaster prepare scenarios for our game. In this particular scenario, my character managed to obtain ownership of an old abandoned warehouse on the bad side of town. The warehouse made a perfect staging point for the illicit work he was in. Unfortunately, the warehouse was being squated by a rather large bunch of gangers. After accidently stumbling onto their turf, an all-out gun fight ensued. And while the gangers were driven off, the group lost a couple members and had to quickly vacate the premesis as the police investigated the gunfire (and loud explosions).

Preparing to Enter

Preparing to Enter

The Modern warehouse is a stunning map suitable for use with minitures to create a vivid battle scene. The entire map covers 48″ x 30″ and was more than enough realestate to encompass a battle with 30+ participants. There is plenty of detail on the map that players can use for strategic fighting and plenty of wide open spaces to get caught out in the open. I purchased the physical cards along with the PDF and received the product in about a week.

The map is printed on 8″ x 10″ semi-glossy sheets of cardstock quality. The map showed no wear for the night of gaming that we put it through, and the tape we used on it came off without damaging the map. The durability seems good enough for extended use, as long as you properly stored the map after use. Storing should be easy as the sheets will fit in anything you can store standard letter sized sheets in. The original shipping container can be used to store it if nothing else.

Usability & Re-usability
If you have need of a warehouse for a pipe construction business, this is perfect for you. Of course if you have specific needs, this might not ‘seem‘ to fit in your game. It definitely did not seem  right for ours; it was suppose to be an abandoned warehouse. But, all the detail inspired a backstory as to why the items were still there. We concocted a story of a business that caught fire during a gang turf war, and the building came in dispute after the owners death, to disuse, to eventual abandonment. All the item had reasonable explanations. In game, the detail of the maps proved useful as things like the dumpster would probably have been forgotten on our home drawn maps.

Re-using a map is often difficult in a contemporary game as you are always looking for new places to have interesting encounters. We managed to work this map into focal point of the game so there are many oppurtunities for reuse. It could be revenge of the original inhabitants, in our case gangers, to raids by government agencies. There can also be a follow-up mission where the group may have to break in again. A well planned campaign can make this a reoccurring location.

The Mage and Decker rush in?

The Mage and Decker rush in?

Set-up and Breakdown
The product gives you two ideas on how to set up the map. Consisting of 12 pieces, they have tendency to shift when in use. The two methods are gluing it to a backing board and taping the pieces together. I opted to tape the pieces as I wanted to be able to easily store it afterwards. Taping the pieces together took maybe 10 minutes total. I used a small section of tape on each connecting side and a piece on the corners to prevent them from catching on the miniatures being slid across the map.

Break down took a bit longer 15-20 minutes. This was due to slowly removing the tape to reduce the risk of accidentally tearing the map. Not a single piece of tape resulting in the tearing of the map.

I think the price is acceptable for what it is. It seems a tad bit high for a one time use and would like to see it under $10.00. But we plan on using the map at least 3 times and would roughly estimate $4.33 per use. You can buy the pdf and print it the map out if you have the time to trim the edges. The value of the produce would depend on your personal needs, finances, and time constraints.

Who moved those pipes?

Who moved those pipes?

The only real issues we had with the map is that we had a hard time determining doors and windows. The building wall looks like a solid piece all the way around. It took us a minute or two to determine where the doors were as well as the windows. Also the office room looks like it is suppose to be on the second floor according the picture, but the map doesn’t show a staircase going up to. This did not cause a problem in our game, as the fight did not use the office, but I could see the office as a key defensible position in a real warehouse that can overlook the warehouse floor.

If asked whether I would recommend this for purchase, I would definitely say by the pre-printed cards if you can work in multiple uses. If you are only going to use this as a one-shot fight, printing the map from the PDF may be more cost effective for you.

Product Link: Modern Warehouse

Art imitating Art

This isn’t really a gaming post but I don’t care.

I just picked up a used book on Winslow Homer’s art and saw his “Prisoners to the Front” for the first time and wow the scene is recreated in the movie Gettysburgh (1993).

Nice touch by Maxwell putting this in his movie. Homer’s work is so timeless.

Frontier Explorer Issue 7 Available

Frontier Explorer issue 7 cover imageIssue 7 is now available for download.  You can get it at the Frontier Explorer website or on DriveThruRPG/RPGNow.  This issue brings us a couple of new authors, Daniel R. Collins and Jason Combs, both with great articles on new fighters – one about new fighters to use in the game and one about new fighter miniatures. We also have a new location on Volturnus, some new equipment for space vehicles and a new sathar vessel.  The issue definitely ended up with a slant toward starships although we didn’t intend it that way.

This issues contents are:

  • New Player’s Primer: Yazirians
  • Forging Fighters
  • Rise of the Plague Wind
  • The Devil’s Lair
  • The Sac-laang, Ash-Laa, and Osakar Legend
  • Nascom Automated Systems for Aerospace
  • Drone Wars
  • Hidden Dangers
  • The Funeral
  • Grimz Guide Comic #7

Grab your copy today and check out all the new material.  And as always, keep exploring!

Note: Work, holidays, and vacations caused a bit of hassle with this issue so we’re a bit behind in getting it out and getting the HTML version on-line.  Bear with us as we finish it up.  The PDF version, which is how most of you get the content is ready for download however.

Random D30 Table: What have I got in my belt pouch?

So one of the things I have realized is that I like are random tables. I find most tables interesting read and I think they help spur thought on how that particular fact fits into the game. I have decided to make some random tables and post them on-line. I also own multiple D30s that I have no use for, so I decided to add some random D30 tables. If you don’t have a D30, feel free to roll a D10+D20, I will try to keep the first one of each list unimportant.

  1. Lint
  2. A small figure made from grass
  3. Marbles
  4. Chalk for dungeon marking
  5. Dried Jerky from an unknown creature
  6. A strange tetrahedron shaped stone
  7. A dried monkey paw with pointer finger extended
  8. Flint & Steel
  9. 1d10 hexagonal pieces of electrum from some unknown civilization.
  10. A large tooth of a carnivore on a piece of twine
  11. Toe nail clippings
  12. A pixie dagger on a charm bracelet
  13. A folded up map with strange writing
  14. Several odd polyhedrons with numbers on them
  15. A bone key, in several pieces
  16. A tube of interwoven bamboo strips
  17. Animal fat
  18. Several chunks of pyrite (Fools gold)
  19. 3 candles
  20. A note with goblin to common translations (‘Bree-yark’ does not mean ‘I surrender’)
  21. Semi-solid ball of snot
  22. Cockatrice Whistle (google search for turkey bone whistle)
  23. Pungent smelling herbs and a pipe
  24. A desiccated finger with an engagement ring on it
  25. The precise ingredients for Corinthian bronze, but not the process to make it
  26. A glass ball with a live frog inside
  27. An unassuming ring
  28. Chocolate coated carrion crawler eggs
  29. A small orb with a note stating ‘The Eye of Venca”.
  30. Roll twice

If you have any request for a random table, please let me know.

Happy New Year!!!

It’s that time again, when many of us resolve to make ourselves better in some way. I like to take this time to review last year’s gaming goals and see how I’ve done.

  1. Blog more often. – I can’t say I was very successful at this one.
  2. Buy something from a local game store – Yes, yes I did.
  3. Finish the rough draft of Overburn – my Post Apocalyptic game fell to the wayside and gained no traction in the last year.
  4. Read a book – Nope.
  5. Try a new game – Aside from trying the D&D Next, I have not tried a new game.
  6. Shadowrun Minis – This has yet to come out.
  7. Compile some gaming music – :(
  8. Organize my miniatures – I forgot I wrote this.
  9. Go play at a convention – I still have yet to make it to a convention.
  10. Teach my sons a game – I am in the process of teaching my older son D&D.

Well, I must say that 2 (3 if you are kind) out of 10 is a terrible track record. Where does my time go? So I must resolve to complete these. I am going to attempt to focus these for the new year. Hopefully I will do better.

Game Review – Arkham Horror, Fantasy Flight Games edition

ArkhamHorror-new(Warning, this is a little long.  TL;DR version – Great game go play it, even if you’re a fan of the first edition as I am.)

Okay, so I’m a couple years behind the curve on this one but I’m going to do it anyway. I’ve actually owned the game for a couple of years; my wife got it for me for Christmas in 2011. But until Christmas Eve 2013, it was still in it’s original shrink wrap. You see, the very existence of this game represents a bit of a personal disappointment/frustration in my life (If you want that story, it’s at the end of this post). Plus, I’m a big fan of the original Arkham Horror game Chaosium published decades ago.  I’ve been playing it with my kids for years. So the new game didn’t hold a lot of draw for me. This review will definitely be tempered by my decades of playing the original game.

Physical Components

Let me start by saying that the physical components of the game are absolutely wonderful. The pieces are thick and sturdy and the artwork is beautiful. I was a little put off at first at the sheer number of components but once we started playing it wasn’t bad at all.

As I was punching out the components, I thought it odd that there were little chits for the money instead of paper money but in the end, I think this was a good idea as well and they worked well.

Compared to the old game, this one is much larger physically. Everything is bigger. The player cards are larger, the monster markers are bigger, the board is much larger. In a pinch you could play the old game on a folding card table if you only had 4 players. I’m not sure the game components of this game would even fit on a table that small. This one took about three quarters of our large 8 person kitchen table to play with the four of us playing.

The components were well designed and worked well with the game. My only real complaint was the sheer number and variety. It takes a bit of work to get everything sorted to get the game started.

Rules and Game Play

One of the things we loved about the original game was that it was a collaborative game with the players trying to defeat the game and not each other. I was glad to see that this hadn’t changed in the new version.

The basic premise of the game hasn’t really changed. You still move around Arkham, fighting monsters, closing gates, and having encounters in the various city locations. The details of all those things, however, are completely different. In fact, there really aren’t many mechanics that are the same. The game has received a complete overhaul. I’m not going to go into all of them, just the ones that stood out in our initial game.


Comparison of the Arkham Horror game maps from the two versions

The two maps, to scale

This was very different from the original game. In the old game, there was one big map that the locations were set off of and the monsters would wander around the streets, moving on every turn. In the new version, the monsters are still on the streets but there are only 7 street squares instead of about 6 dozen. So while the board is physically larger, it is logically smaller, the largest distance between any two points being only about 7-8 spaces. Of course you don’t move 2d6 spaces a turn anymore but rather a relatively low “fixed” (see Character Skills below) number of spaces each turn.

Plus the mechanic for moving the monsters has changed and not every monster moves on every turn. This proved to be a frustration for us in our game as several monsters just sat still for several turns blocking the road before we were able to gear up enough to go kill them. It took a little getting used to as we were used to having monsters move on after every round. In the old game, they might be blocking you now but wait a turn and your path will probably clear up. That’s not the case any more.

Character Skills

Skill groups in the new gameThe original game gave each character 4 skills that were relatively fixed (in both versions you can get skill cards that increase these). The new game removes the Fast Talk skill, makes movement a skill and adds in Luck and Will. These skills are grouped into three pairs and you are allowed to shift them somewhat at the beginning of each turn. Changing them allows you to sacrifice ability in one area to get a gain in another. For example, Speed and Sneak are paired up. You have the choice of moving quickly but not being able to sneak past monsters or dangers that appear or increasing your ability to move unseen but not being able to move very quickly. I found that I really liked this new twist on the skills and being able to adapt your abilities based on the situation definitely came in handy at times.

Encounter Resolution

The original game had the “Arkham Gazette”, a 4 page booklet of tables that you would roll on to determine what would happen. In the new game, the various locations are divided into neighborhoods and there is a small 7 card deck for each neighborhood, each card having a unique event for each location in the neighborhood. I’ll admit this was a refreshing variation. We used to play the old game so much that we knew about half of the encounters without even consulting the “Gazette” just based on the die roll (e.g. a 6 is always a Gate and Monster in locations that can have gates :-) ) The random shuffling of the mini deck always make for an unknown encounter.

I also liked the expanded deck of cards for the Other World location encounters. This deck of 49 cards had events for one or more of the 8 Other World locations plus and generic “Other” category to use if the specific world you were in wasn’t listed. This greatly expanded the possibilities and variety of encounters you can have over the single d6 table in the original game.

Gate Appearance Location and Monster Surges

Again, in the new game, this is determined by a drawn card instead of a dice roll. Since there are 67 such cards, the statistical probability of the various locations is bound to be different than in the original game that relied on a 2d6 roll and table to pick the location.

In the old game, you knew exactly where to put your 4 possible elder signs. You put them on the 4 gate locations that were in the middle of the table and had the highest probability of being rolled (Founder’s Rock, the Graveyard, the Silver Twilight Lodge, and either the Woods or Devil’s Beach). In the new game, where you can have more than just the elder signs from the item cards, you put them wherever you can.

In the original game, you only got a monster surge (one new monster on every open gate) if you rolled a 7 for the gate location (Founder’s Rock). Statistically, this happened about 1 in every 6 rolls. In the new game, you get a monster surge whenever you pull that a gate should open in a location you already have an open gate. Plus in the new game, you get more monsters, one for every player or one for every open gate, whichever is higher. This was a problem for us in our first game as we kept pulling the same gate location very often (although this was probably due to poor shuffling on my part of the card deck :-) ).

Skill Resolution System

This aspect of the new game was completely different and took a little getting used to the first few rounds (and we definitely made several mistakes until we got the hang of it). In the old version of the game, you rolled d6, possibly adding your skill and any bonus for items and compared it to a target number. If you exceeded the target you succeeded. If not you failed. In the new game, your skills and item bonuses determine the number of d6 you roll with each 5 or 6 rolled being a “success”. Each challenge had a number of “successes” (typically 1 or 2) that you needed to roll to complete the task. The jury’s still out on whether I like the new system better but it is interesting and definitely different.

Other Thoughts

I like the variety of “enemies” that you get to fight in the new game in the form of the various “Ancient Ones” that you have to fight. It provides some variety to the game play (each one has different special rules). I also liked the larger number of potential characters you could play (24 instead of 8) that come with the new game. Again, adding variety to the game experience.

Overall, there wasn’t anything that stood out as a strong negative to the game. There was lots of new things that we’re still getting used to but there were a lot of things I liked about the new game. A lot of those having to do with adding greater variety to the game play. Overall, I’d recommend this game to anyone. We’ll still play the old version occasionally, but I think the new Arkham Horror will become the go to game when we need some Lovecraft gaming (unless of course we’re playing Munchkin Cthulhu).

Game Report

Now that I’ve talked about my impressions of the game, how did our first game go? Well, let’s just say that the monsters didn’t have a chance. Although there were some points where we were a little worried, and I personally had a dismal game (I didn’t kill a single monster or close a single gate :-( and kept going insane!). Of course it didn’t hurt us any that we were an experienced group of monster hunters that have been playing the old game for over 20 years in my case and as long as they’ve been able to read in the case of my kids. The strategies that work in the old version still work in the new one, just some of the tactics have changed a little. The players were myself, my 17 year old daughter and my two 14 year old twin sons.

This was our first game so we make a few mistakes (usually in the monster’s favor) the first few rounds but quickly sorted out those issues. All started well. I had a retainer and headed to the Curiosity Shoppe to start collecting magical items for the team while the others set about exploring Arkham. One of my boys pick up a second gun quickly and jumped right into the first gate.

The one worry we had was that we kept pulling the same gate locations over and over (probably due to poor shuffling of the deck) and were constantly getting monster surges. So the doom level wasn’t going up but the monster count was. We weren’t killing any monsters to start off so this kept pushing up the terror level (a new mechanic I didn’t talk about above) and actually closed off the general store early in the game and the Curiosity Shoppe somewhat later. And then of course, just as we started to get the monster situation under control, we started pulling new gate locations and the doom level started to rise.

My daughter had a rough time. She started out with no weapons and couldn’t for the life of her get one anywhere. She did manage to amass quite the army, however. By the end of the game she had 6 allies that boosted her skills all over the place. She finally managed to team up with one of her brothers for a round and he gave her some of his extra weapons and then she was off to the races closing gates. Her brother that gave her the weapons managed to close one more than she did but he had a big head start.

My other son had a decent game as well. He had a run of bad luck on one of his gates, however. He got a good encounter in the other world that sent him back early so he got out quickly, but then couldn’t for the life of him close the gate on the other side. It took him 4 or 5 round to finally close it.

My game on the other hand was terrible. I started well with my retainer and starting monies allowing me to purchase several magical weapons at the Curiosity Shoppe. It all went downhill from there, however. When I left the Curiosity Shoppe to try to deliver some of the items to the other players, I ran afoul of a nasty group of monsters going insane (and losing half of my items in the process). Then we made a rules mistake and allowed two Hounds of Tindelos to enter the Arkham Asylum (monsters aren’t allowed to go there or to the hospital) while I was still there and I went insane again losing more items, leaving me only with an Elder Sign. One of my boys went insane at the same time and so I passed the Elder Sign off to him while we were in the asylum together. Later tried going through a gate and ended up getting lost in the gate and randomly coming back to Arkham and not being able to close it. I was pretty useless.

Hastur - The King in Yellow game cardOverall, we did quite well, the doom track only ever got as high as 7 and was only on 6 when we won the game. Part of this was due I’m sure to poor shuffling on my part of the game cards as we got a lot of repeat gate locations and managed to get 3 Elder Sign items early in the game. However, a good part of it, I believe, was do to the fact that we were experience players. By mid game we had reached our stride and were closing gates as fast as they were appearing. I think better shuffling would have resulted in a higher doom track value but I don’t think we would have reached the 12 necessary to summon Hastur, the King in Yellow, our opponent for the game.

As is typically the case, the last round was spent waiting for one of the boys to come of the last open gate (my daughter had closed the other open gate the round previous) and close it while desperately hoping that the next gate opening location was either where the last gate was or where one of our 4 elder signs were located. Luckily we pulled a location with an elder sign and the universe was saved. Fun was had all around and we’ll definitely be playing again.

The Tragic Backstory

If you’ve been wondering why the existence of this version of the game is a bit of a disappointment or frustration to me and why it took two years to actually open and play the game, read on. Otherwise, you can stop here. Also, I’ll be dropping names that may or may not mean anything to you depending on your connections to early gaming history.

Orgiginal Arkham Horror game box cover image

Original Arkham Horror game box

Dial the clock back to the late 80′s, early 90′s. I was in high school and played in a gaming group GM’d by John Scott Clegg, who went by Scott and is about 20 years older than me. Scott grew up and went to high school with Tracy Hickman (yes, that Tracy Hickman of Dragonlance fame) and Sandy Peterson (yes, the Sandy Peterson that wrote the original Call of Cthulhu RPG). In fact, Scott is the one that introduced Sandy and Tracy to role-playing in the first place, even before D&D came out. We played a heavily customized version of RuneQuest set in a world Scott had been developing since they were in junior high. Occasionally, if we didn’t have enough players, we’d play Arkham Horror (the original version of course) instead of RuneQuest.

Scott actually helped Sandy write the original version of the Call of Cthulhu RPG (his name appeared in the credits at least up through the 4th edition, the last one I saw) and wrote freelance for Chaosium creating adventures for CoC. He also wrote, with his wife, the Earth Dreamlands supplement that won the Origins Best Role-playing Supplement of the Year award in 1985. So he had some background with the game industry and Chaosium’s Cthulhu games specifically.  According to Scott, the scene on the original game cover (above) is a depiction of a scene from one of the RPG sessions that Sandy ran.  In the session, the mythos monsters destroyed an entire wing of the hospital trying to kill Scott’s character (in the blue coat in the foreground).  He managed to escape with the other character who was visiting him in the hospital at the time.

In the late 80′s we decided that we’d take a stab at writing a sequel to Arkham Horror. Scott knew that Chaosium had intended to do expansions for Arkham Horror but had never gotten to it and figured that if we could present them with a ready made game, they might snatch it up. So we set to work. The game was called Chaos in Kingsport. It had a new map, new locations, new encounters, a new monster mix, and some slight rule variations that made it a bit more difficult than the original Arkham Horror. It was designed to be played stand alone or in conjunction with the original game and had rule for allowing the characters to travel between the two cities.

Once all the design was done, we built a prototype and sent it off to Chaosium for review. We had the beginnings of two more expansion games plus expansion packs for each of the four games in the works (we actually finished the expansion packs for Arkham Horror and Chaos in Kingsport). We figured if they liked this one, we could do quite a bit more to expand their line. Then after we sent off the game, the bombshell it. Chaoium pulled Arkham Horror and declared it ‘Out of Print’. At the same time Dragon Magazine ran a very positive review of the game that ended with this gem: “The game is now out of print. So if you can find a copy, buy it. Period.”

Needless to say this didn’t bode well for our endeavor. Although we had a little hope that if they had some viable supplements, Chaosium might bring the game back. In the meantime we took the advice of the Dragon Magazine article and paid a visit to our local game shop (which I’m glad to say is still in business 25 years later and has grown from 1 to 3 locations). Scott talked with the owner/manager and told him to get as many copies of Arkham Horror as he could and we’d buy them. He managed to get three copies and that’s how I got mine, probably one of the last ones sold at MSRP.

Well, in the end we got our prototype back with a rejection letter. With Arkham Horror out of print, they weren’t interested. They had loved the game, however, and played it to death. The pieces were in shambles, the map had mug stains all over it (why they had been putting mugs on the map, I’m not sure) and the review they sent back was glowing. Our timing had just been bad. If this had happened today, we probably could have gotten permission to do a Kickstarter and produced the game ourselves but at the time, we had no money (that was one of the reasons we did the game in the first place) and no real way to raise any (except for Scott, most of us were still in high school).

In the end, we consoled ourselves with producing a copy of the game and the two expansion packs for each of us. I think my copy is number 14 of 20, I’d have to go find the map and pull it out to be sure. Had things been different, I may have broken into the field of game design much sooner in my life and been doing it at least semi-professionally for years now. So that’s why it took two years for me to even open the game. I’ve always had a soft spot for the original game and didn’t really want to see what had replaced it.

Vault of the Ni’er Queyon, Space Opera campaign module

This campaign module is not intended to be run in a few sessions but rather a storyline developing over the course of several adventures and campaigns. The author recommends employing every cliche to drop tid bitz and secrets for the player characters, even encouraging the use of such cliche ploys as the “mad ravings of a space happy bum in an alley” which is not too surprising since he also opened the background information with, “A long, long, long time ago in this part of the galaxy,” which at the time of the module’s publication (1982) was already cliche from Star Wars.

The adventure opens with an old man running from thugs. The old man was hired by a gangster to translate the book but decided to go to the authorities with it when he saw what it was. The thugs were sent to get the old man, the notes and the book back. PCs are allowed to respond to this situation as they see fit. Referees will need to enforce the natural consequences. For example the information states that the PCs will need the old man’s help if none of them are a linguist and that they can obtain it through force, payment or friendship. The book gets translated in random (dice controlled) sections of game time (usually 1d6 days) With the first section taking 20 days if the PCs are doing it without the help of the old man. The gangster will continue to try to recover the book.

During the translation it turns out that the book is merely volume one of two. There are 11 sections (short paragraphs) that are notes by the archaeologist that first wrote the book. When they are are translated they should lead the PCs to find the planet of Patzis and look for volume two which is suppose to be about the alien visitors that came to Patzis when its native species were still primitives.

The module includes ship stats on two starships (one with the colorful label of “spice runner”) and a system brief with an extended bestiary. These inclusions are very thorough like in other Space Opera products.

The adventure continues with a search for a kidnapped merchant’s daughter and exploration of the planet but the unique feature in all of this is the mechanic of a book needing translation over game time that reveals clues for the PCs to investigate. The PCs no longer need to be scientist and unravel complicated clues but rather use a linguist to gain them slowly overtime. It works and gives an air of scientific investigation.

My only criticism is that time periods involved of 150,000 years are not going to leave much evidence behind for archaeologist to discover as I have faith in the law of entropy than the miracle of advanced alien technology in building materials. As far as criticism go that isn’t much of one since a number is easily changed to suit the participant’s tastes.

For the unique feature as well as thoroughness typical of the other Space Opera products I’ve reviewed I give it a Jedi ON rating.



Old School Review: Probe NCG8436 source book from Space Opera

This is the second Space Opera product I’ve reviewed and I’ve noticed that both were reasonably thorough in that there did not seem to be obvious holes in the material presented. Its frustrating to buy an RPG product that is incomplete and lacking things like maps, tables or instructions that the author should have supplied. That seems to not be the case with Space Opera products in general. I also have begun to realize that the Space Opera game is not shy about adding a greater degree of complication in favor of realism over playability. I certainly appreciate the thoroughness and the desire for realism but I lean more toward sacrificing some realism for playability. That said this is a great exploration and first contact source book adaptable to almost any science fiction RPG. It is not a module and aside from the random encounter tables you will need to develop the actual encounters. However there is plenty of details provided and this should prove to be a good resource particularly for sand box style of play.

The system brief covers multiple planets and there are in-depth planetary briefs for those worth landing on. There are two well designed planetary biospheres with both animals and plants described as well as one sapient species. The sapient species is saurian and its society is covered with reactions and agendas for each of its 5 castes. Biological and environmental hazards are covered in detail. The exploration ship is well documented but quite huge for an exploration ship: 20,000 tons, 6 horizontal decks, and a huge supply of vehicles and supplies. Standard Exploration Procedures are briefly covered but not in great detail which leaves room for interpretation by each group playing this adventure. A psionic artifact is part of this adventure but it does not overtly impact the adventure – its a passive mystery left by ancient forerunner aliens to guide the development of the primitives.

Overall rating is Jedi-ON.