Reviews #004 – Alpha Omega

June 7, 2009


There has been a lot of buzz around Alpha Omega by Mindstorm Labs, what with people talking about the setting, the book itself and the system. Usually comments of amazing, beautiful and complex respectively. A new game from a new publisher has to do well to break into the rpg fraternities hearts and minds and from the discussions carrying on it looks like Alpha Omega has managed it with top marks.

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Map Library #007

June 6, 2009

Been very busy lately what with playtesting 3 books, designing a boardgame and writing 2 supplements but here is something that has been drafted up this week. After the 4th Edition D&D sessions the group decided to try out the new Starblazer Adventures game from Cubicle7. I have to say that I think this is rapidly becoming my favourite game at the moment, mainly due to the great rule set that is derived from Fate. I’ll do a review in the not to distant future but for now here is a collaborative system map that was designed by the group this week.

Starblazer setting

Starblazer setting

Into the Frey… Part 2

May 28, 2009

So here are a few of the comments from last nights 4th Edition game, see if you can guess the general opinion from the group:

  • “Nice boardgame”
  • “Its like Advanced Heroquest with extra bits added”
  • “Its a fun break from roleplaying”
  • “Its ok, but its not D&D”
  • “If it was called something else it would be ok, but its just not what I expected”

…. yeah, you guessed it, they pretty much saw it as a distraction from “real roleplaying”. Give them their dues though, they are determined to finish off the scenario next week and kill off as many Kobolds as possible. Also the added hint that there might be a dragon lurking in the depths of Kobold Hall gave them a lot of incentive to carry on as well. Im hoping that next week will convince them that it is an ok game, maybe not the best game but just ok.

As for GMing, well I found it ok. Thanks pretty much to the Newbie DM pack that I mentioned in the last post, the game flowed quite well. I only had to look up rules a couple of times and the encounter charts with pre-rolled initiatives was a great timesaver. Also worth a mention are the tokens in the DM starter kit. The guys really liked them and had much fun flipping them over to the bloodied side when they scored big hits on the Kobolds. Little things please small minds I guess :¬)

The long and short of this tale though is that the group seems to thing that 4th Edition is not what D&D once was, and they now see it as a one shot game. They cannot envisage using it at all for a campaign, even though they do want to try to complete the current adventure. My guess is that next week will not sway them too much but I hope that they enjoy it all the same.

Into the Frey.. 4th Edition style

May 27, 2009

So after much consideration I have decided to inflict the players in my Wednesday night game with 4th Edition D&D. The reasons for this are quite many and varied so I thought I might go over a few of them here just to enlighted those who give a damn.

I’m an RPG geek… new systems entice me like nothing else. If a new version of a game that I own comes out, even if I have never played the game, I want a copy. And so it was with 4th Edition D&D. The day it came out I was in a Waterstones store getting all 3 base books (with a pretty good discount it turns out) and taking them to read during my lunch hour. The outcome of this was pretty much negative. I managed to get 3/4 of the Players Handbook read before I gave up, the DMG and Monster Manual left untouched. The reason for this was that I felt that 4E had taken the roleplay out of RPG, I mean skill challenges? come on!! And so those 3 books sat on my shelf for the past year with no chance of me going back.

What changed? Essentially me mellowing and peer pressure. Firstly I figured, even a poor game needs to be tried at least once. I even own copies of some games that I am sure I will never play, but everything deserves to be given its fair shot. Secondly the amount of blogs out there that say that they play 4th Ed and enjoy it is amazing. Im not sure if these are people who have different wants and needs for an RPG, but if anyone enjoys a game then their must be some merit to it. On top of all that, running a one off of 4th Ed will give me a chance to see what its like without any kind of commitment to the group. If we like it, great! If not, well we need never mention it again.

So tonight I will be running the adventure from the back of the DMG, fighting the good fight for the Kobolds while my evil players invade their cosy home. To make it easier i’ve even got maps and tokens (thanks to the DM’s starter kit by Newbie DM  – Now tactical maps are not something that I usually use, so this will be a real eye opener for me. If it comes off well then I might try Savage Worlds next week with a tactical map.

Fingers crossed that all goes well tonight and i’ll let you know how it went.

Suggestions for campaign breaks?

May 21, 2009

Im currently running a Dark Heresy game for a group on Wednesday nights and so far the game has followed about 8 scenarios, both published and homebrew. Its getting time for me to take a break, just to get the creative juices flowing again and I really want a change of pace for the guys, something that we can mess around with for a few weeks, have fun, have a laugh and then head back to DH.

So far i’ve yet to come up with a solution as to what to do. I want to stay away from anything Sci-fi and I would prefer not to do a fantasy Dark Heresy, so that cuts out a lot of games already. Traveller is out, Warhammer Fantasy is out, Star Wars, Shadowrun, Rifts, Babylon 5 and Aliens.. all out. So far i’ve thought about

  • Maid – not sure if we could play this for 3-4 weeks without the guys losing interest.
  • Mouse Guard – again not sure how the guys would react to this for more than a one off.
  • D&D – rock it old school style… its possible.
  • Twlight 2000 – old school modern but it would kind of lead to a campaign style.
  • WOD – Werewolf: The Apocalypse or something? got lots of old stuff from teh campaigns I used to run.

Still not sure what to do. Maybe I could tempt them with Dragonlance 5th Age, Cold City or Savage Worlds….. better make the call soon, game will start in a week and I need to get started on it…. gulp!

Playtesting – Alpha Stage

May 18, 2009

I’ve been writing up a new board game concept that I had recently, so progress on the RPG books has been slow overall. This weekend I finally got to show off the new boardgame to a few friends in a semi-playable state, or as I call it Alpha Playtest version.

Coming from an IT background the ideas around Alpha and Beta testing are quite natural to me, but for those of you who have no idea what these are or what the differences are, here’s a little primer on the stages of testing.

Alpha Playtest is something that occurs when the initial ideas are defined, the concepts are refined and pretty much all of the pieces are in their final stages. I like to think that Alpha is when things are around 70% complete. There are lots of things right and still quite a few rough edges, but the game should be playable at the very least and should show where the goals and initial concepts are employed. However Alpha is something that is still rough, it may require the designer to explain things to the players or to make decisions regarding situations that arise.

Beta Playtest is when things have progressed much further. Beta testing should be able to be run independant of the designer(s). This way several Beta tests can be run in paralell and feedback can be reported back to the designers, rather than them be there for the testing. Beta should only occur when 95% of the game is complete, i.e. the way things work is locked down and only a few bugs remain.

With this in mind, the testing of my boardgame this weekend was an Alpha test. The first time out of the box, so to speak. How did it do? Well I took lots of notes on how the game needs one of the major systems refining and making less complex. Most of the Alpha was spent discussing this system and using a calculator to work out how things should be… not a good start really. I was nicely surprised in that the rules covered most of the situations that arose. I only had to clarify 2 points I think while showing off the game to the group. Other than that I bounced a few ideas off of the players in a post game chat and it seems like they enjoy the core concepts and the ideas but it just needs to be refined and simplified. Not bad for a Alpha game I think.

Alpha Omega

May 15, 2009

I just got hold of a copy of Alpha Omega (finally!) and so far im loving the book, it just looks great and the setting I have read so far is pretty good stuff. Kind of Shadowrun/Cyberpunk mixed with SLA Industries and In Nomine. The point of this post is that while checking up on the setting on the website, it seems as though the development team have a bit of a contest over there for people to submit scenarios and short stories.

Now this is not some small time thing. they are offering cold, hard cash and a chance to get your work published by them at a later date. Just from reading the first 3 chapters I already have about 15 ideas for scenarios, so I definitely going to give this a shot. Check out the site at and the forum entry on the competition at

RPG Blog Carnival

May 14, 2009

This is the first time I have come across the RPGBlog Carnival, being a new RPG blogger. But my old adage is to jump in at the deep end so here goes. To find more info on the carnival, check out This months carnival is host by, a blog that I have been following with interest since it started around 6 moths ago. the idea behind the carnival is to take the current topic and suggest questions and wax lyrical about it. The basis being that you create a worthwhile read and promote discussion amoung the blogs… so here goes.

What games do you see emerging as the big players in the near future?
This is a fairly easy one I think. For me, new and inovative games are always the spear head of creation but these tend not to be big players. Big players always seem to come from the old stalwarts or from the company that gets the next big license. So for the next year or 2 I think we will see little change here. WotC will remain on top as always with the D&D jugganaut. Mongoose and White Wolf will be fighting it out for second fiddle with Taveller/Runequest versus the World of Darkness and Exalted. After that its a big drop off but I think Green Ronin may be in with a shot due to their new license for Dragon Age and the Song of Ice and Fire RPG they just released.

What companies should we be watching out for to release the next big product?
As mentioned above, Green Ronin. the Dragon Age RPG could be a big pull for them. Others to consider include Paizo with their Pathfinder RPG which will be the new D20 standard, or at least thats what they are hoping. Evil Hat games is also worth a look with their Dresden Files RPG, based upon the Fate engine, that will see the light of day later this year (fingers crossed) and while on the subject of Fate, Cubicle 7 has the new Starblazer Adventures RPG. This is something I have had the pleasure of playing at a con pre-release and I also got to talk to Chris the author about it and its going to be a great game in my honest opinion.
Something else I remember seeing and thinking should be big was a new game from Luke Crane, he of Mouse Guard/Burning Wheel fame. I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called or where the website was, all I remember was that it looked pretty cool with a sci-fi vibe and lets face it, anything Luke gets involved with is worth looking at.

How will technology become more integrated into roleplaying games?
This is something that always bugs me as a gamer and as a person who works in IT. Why do people want technology to become more integrated with RPG’s? For me gaming is not something I do online or with a laptop at my gametable. The extent that I go to for tech in gaming is character generators and the like, and mapping software. Im not sure what WotC is trying to do with their latest push to get D&D players gaming online so much. I guess that its an effort to get more books sold to people who play MMORPG’s and to get gamers playing regularly where no groups are available. A nice idea, but I don’t think it will work due to the very nature of RPG gaming. RPG’s are all about the social interactions of the group telling a story and that is something that is very hard, if not impossible, to do online. I know this makes me sound like one of the old D&D fraturnity, “get your tech outta ma game”, but its something that has always puzzled me.

What industry writer do we need to be on the look out for?
A favourite of mine at the moment is Clayton A Oliver. He’s the guy who did a lot for AEG’s Spycraft and has recently done the Twlight 2013 game (a 3rd edition Twlight 2000 if you didn’t know). Why is he a favourite? No idea. I just like the way he writes and what he writes about.
Another name to look out for is Chris Birch, he of Starblazer Adventures from Cubilce 7. Chris and his writing partner Stuart Newman have written a great new game in Starblazer and the Fate engine that they have tailored to it is just brilliant. I know that Chris has mentioned that they are now looking to apply this to a fantasy game and I can’t wait to see it. Imagine the SB Fate ruleset in Fantasy, it will be like a new version of Birthright with all the cities, armies and countries defined like a character with their own aspects and skills.

What blogs do you see exploding into becoming the next big thing?
Err… mine? Hah, I wish! Seriously is my current favourite RPG Blog and I hope that Sam hits his current targets that he set for himself when he started the blog. It has been a big inspiration to me and this blog so I hope he keeps it up. Other than that just check out and pick one that is not reposting the same old stuff and they could be the next big thing.

What do you see for the future of the industry?
Time for some major predictions here.

  1. I think that the top 3 companies will remain the same for the forseeable future, WotC, White Wolf and Mongoose have things pretty much tied up and unless they drop the ball big time, its gonna be the same for some time. 
  2. I think a small company, new or old, will bring out a shining new game that captures the hearts and minds of the groupies. They will spend hours discussing it and it will always be one of the hot topics there. My bet currently is that it will be the Dr Who RPG from Cubile 7, and it will take over from Exalted as the hot topic.
  3. Palladium will finally update their system in a new big release and try to take on the big boys. This is something that people have been crying out for and I think KevinS is starting to listern to his fans. Witness the latest news where Palladium has finally released PDF’s of their games.
  4. WotC will screwup the digital revolution of D&D. Not that this will affect me (see my opinions of tech in gaming above), but after the mess that they had with D&D 3.0/3.5 and the character generator and the DM tools and then the botch-up that they have made of the new 4E online tools, im not convinced that they will ever get the whole tech thing right. Just license another company to do it and let them get on with it, concentrate on the Player Handbook number 37, or whatever is the next release.

Predictions aside, the future of RPG’s will remain largely the same as now I think. We are now in a spot where we have major publishers doing their thing, small companies doing some inovative things and one-man bands putting out some real head turners that slowly filter up to the larger companies. I don’t see it changing anytime soon. Tech will never replace the need to get together with friends, a big bowl of munchies and several litres of Pop/Beer/Coffee (delete as appropriate) and  just game. 

My one wish for the future? Someone finally picks up the Dune license and makes a great game…. that or the Harry Potter license and gets millions of the younger generation into the hobby. Imagine how things would change with that much fresh blood in the industry.

Related links
WotC (D&D)
Mongoose  (Traveller/Runequest)
White Wolf (World of Darkness, Exalted)
Green Ronin (Dragon Age, Song of Ice & Fire)
Paizo (Pathfinder)
Dresden Files RPG
Cubicle 7 (Starblazer Adventures RPG, Dr Who)
Twlight 2013

Supporting the Industry

May 13, 2009

If like me you love having the latest RPG book, all glossy and pristine, when it first comes out, Pre-Orders of a new book that interests you may be something that your interested in. Pre-ordering a product means that you get first shot at the game, it means you help the people writting it and you get to show them a commitment to how much the book means to you as a gamer. The problem is when that all falls flat on its face due to the publishers not being on the ball and generally not making their end of the deal.

In the last year I signed up for 3 pre-orders of games. So far over 6 months later (9 months in one case) I have only recieved 1 of these pre-ordered games. One of them is still in printing hell, one is in my sticky mitts and I love it and the final one is already on the shelves in local stores but no copies for those that pre-ordered. Why is this? Why setup a pre-order system, get people to back you and your ideas and then let them down like that?

These experiances have pretty much put me off pre-orders, along with buying an RPG on the day it comes out due to some companies re-printing the first release with added errata within months of release.

If your a game company, consider your loyal customers please. Make an effort to keep those that help you in the early days of design and purchase happy. If not, then you might just find that some of your fan base moves away to something else.

10 Minute Dungeon – Photoshop Style

May 12, 2009

Using the tools and tricks that I have gleened from cartographers guild I thought I would try to make a quick dungeon in PS. Using the same style as with all of the overland maps I create, namely render clouds, defining shadows via multiplied layers and heavy use of blending options, this is what I came up with in 10 minutes. Not bad in my optinion and with much more time could be something pretty cool.

10 Minute dungeon

10 Minute dungeon