Friday, November 17, 2017

(Kickstarter) Kids on Bikes RPG

A love for Stranger Things and Eighties nostalgia has made the "Kids on Bikes" trope a actual game genre, so it's no surprise to find such a blunt title used in the Kids on Bikes RPG: Strange Adventures in Small Towns Kickstarter, recently launched by Infectious Play.

Kids on Bikes is a 60 page, rules-light, fast-paced storytelling game in the spirit of games like DREAD, Perseverant, MONSTERHEARTS, and other great indy titles. Kids on Bikes is perfect for game nights in which you want to get a game in RIGHT NOW. 

(Kickstarter) Acheson’s Kongo-Afrika

Acheson Creations LLC has teamed-up with Two Hour Wargames to bring their new Fortunes Won and Lost rule book to life on the game table.

Kongo-Afrika is 25-28mm accessories for adventures in Africa, including animals, river boats, and natives. There are a few sets available to save money, but for a $10US base pledge to cover shipping, everything can be done a la carte.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

(Review) My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria Storytelling Game

There are not too many new RPGs that I  seek out, nowadays.  Limited gaming time means little time to experiment with new games.  Lucky for me, I have two daughter, ages 6 and 8, who have actively played all types of games since the age of two, ranging from wargames, boardgames, and RPGs.

I started their role-playing with my own hastily hashed and adepted system, T.I.A.R.A. (Toddler Interactive Adventure Resolution... Adventure!  As I looked to expand their horizons, I realized that D&D was too cumbersome after a few Dungeons and Ponies session, and we've since settle down to a very successful run with Savage Worlds/Showdown.

The thing that originally attracted me to Savage Showdown?  A pleasant surprise that it wildly resembled and improved upon my T.I.A.R.A.

With both of my girls now in grade school, I was excited by the release of the My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria Storytelling Game (MLP).  A well-loved license of something the girls love was worth spending the cash.

I was not disappointed. In some similar ways, MLP is a similar divergence from T.I.A.R.A.

Before I go into a chapter by chapter breakdown of the book, I want to praise the writing style of the book.  With a book that can be loved by children, adults, gamers, non-gamers, and... I'll say it, Bronies, the writing is clear enough for each group to feel welcome, without oversimplifying or talking down to any of the readers.  I enjoyed reading the book as much as my eight-year old daughter, Maja.

Chapter by Chapter
Chapter 1: Introduction
The authors present aa solid explanation of what role-playing is, a full list of  "gaming supplies", including pencils, tokens of friendship ... and dice! Sure there's a page of some non-subtle but toleratble promotion of the GM Screen, other supplments, and even promoting Hasbo's own figurines.  It's a licensed product.  I would be confused if it was missing.

Chapter 2: Creating Your Own Pony Character
Basic character creation creates ponies that have just received their cutie marks.  Yes, there are rules for making the Cutie Mark Crusadeers, as well as samples later in the book providing stats for the Mane Six (the experienced main characters of the television show).

Chapter 2 covers the step-by-step process, and I must commend the editors for ensuring each step has page numbers referencing the later chapters covering each step (and they're accurate).  My daughter can easily pop back and forth, as needed, when she's creating characters

Chapter 3: Pony Kinds
Players can choose from three pony types:  Unicorns, Pegasi, and Earth Ponies.   Unicorns have telekinesis, Pegasi can fly, and Earth Ponies are Strong and with a Stout Heart.  Each  player also chooses one of the six Element of Harmony.  Alicorns are not available as characters.

Chapter 4: Elements of Harmony
Players then choose one of the Elements of Harmony (Honesty, Kindness, Laughter, Generosity, Loyalty, and Magic) for their pony.  The element have no mechanical use, rather they are used to form the background of the pony's personality.

Chapter 5: Traits & Stamina
Each pony has three stats, known in the game as traits:  Body, Mind, Charm.  The stats are established by the players choices in character creation, quite simply, is their pony more physical or mental, and then is adjusted by the pony type.  Everyone starts with the same Charm.  The numbers for Traits equal the appropriate die to roll to make a test or challenge. (a 6 Body rolls d6, 4 Mind rolls d4.  See Chapter 7 below for more).

Stamina is a flat number (based upon traits and pony type) that tracks your exhaustion and injuries taken during your adventures.  There's no death in MLP.  Going down to zero stamina forces the pony to rest, possibly not be able to finish a task, or even getting captured.

Chapter 6:  Friendship
One of the great devices in MLP are the Tokens of Friendship.  My first thought of them are Bennies from Savage Worlds on steroids.  Using one token, you can reroll, using two can reroll using a d20, and three is an automatic success!    Tokens may also be used to change to storyline to make things better (a missing item that could help the group), subject to gamemaster approval.

What makes the Tokens far better than Bennies is two-fold.   First, the sharing of Tokens between the players (three players throwing in Tokens for an automatic success) is actively encourage.  Second, for Tokens, Friendship is literally magic.  At the start of the game, each pony gets Tokens equal to the total number of players at the table (gamemaster included).  Playing in a larger group (up to six) means the ponies can be far more successful than going out in pairs or solo adventures.

Chapter 7:  Tests & Challenges
Actions are resolved by either Tests, where a pony rolls their trait against a target number, or Challenges, where two sides make opposed rolls to see who wins.  The Difficulty chart is pretty simple, and gives the players to see what experienced ponies are capable of doing.

Chapter 8:  Talents & Quirks
The sixteen Talents are special abilities that ponies can use in gameplay, such as Cloud Wrangling, Pony Sense, and Speak with Animals.  Multiple levels of Talents can be earned, raising the die rolled for checks.

The seventeen Quirks (with many more that can be created) are explained as simply the bad version of Talents (Messy, Short Attention Span, Needs Glasses as examples) which could create problems for the pony.

Chapter 9:  Pony Names, Cutie Marks & Portraits
Two quick pages that round out the character creation process.  It gives an example of how a player could develop a pony name, design a cutie mark, and having some fun drawing your pony on an official MLP character sheet.

Chapter 10: Equipment & Money
Despite rolling for starting money ("bits") put the rulebook itself reminds the readers that many ponies have no gear to go on adventures.  It is useful to remind the gentle reader that you need to put those jar of Ponybalm somewhere in order to regain stamina faster, or soothe your asthma quirk while you're travelling in the deep woods.

Chapter 11:  Levels & Leveling Up
Leveling up occurs whenever the group finishes the adventure (so make them worthwhile).   Not only does a pony increase one trait by a die level and all your talents upgrade a die as well, but you can either further upgrade an existing talent or add a new talent altogether.  On top of that, the ponies earn Tokens of friendship equal to the number of player (plus GM) for that adventure, and adds that to whatever Tokens were left at game's end.

The chapter also alludes to epic quests after reaching Level 10, as well as the rules to play Level 0 Ponies (The Cutie Mark Crusaders from the show).

Chapter 12:  Adventuring Tips and Tricks
Chapter 12 is nothing more than some guidance for players, particularly new ones.  Most of the advice is pretty standard fare that even the most experienced player can read as a refresher, especially Be Different... but Not Too Different.

Adventure Module - The Pet Predicament
The starter adventure in the book is a simple task for the new ponies... pet-sit the animals of the Mane Six as they leave Ponyville for greater adventures.  Of course, the animals get away and most of the scenario is the group retrieving them.  A very solid adventure, with many different facets and directions, setting for the high standard of the definition of an adventure for purposes of leveling.  Rescuing Granny Smith's apple cart, or defending the villages from a lone mischievous imps should just be the first steps in the adventure.

Appendix - Other Stuff:  For those without dice, the authors have provided entire pages of printed results for each die type, so players could simply close their eyes and randomly point at a numbers.  Also mentioned are other products in the MLP:ToE line, and, as expected, and a pony sheet ready for photocopies.

Artwork: The artwork is a mixture of stock Hasbro art for My Little Pony and some new original pony art from Luigi Terzi.  Since the game is focused on new ponies, rather than the Mane Six, I would have liked to see more original art giving inspiration to the various styles of pony characters

Physical Construction 152 page hardcover that has thus far survived three people pouring through it.

With every being covered, it's simple to believe that on the Gaming with the Gnomies Five-Gnome scale, I give My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria Storytelling Game five gnomes. It's well laid out, well written on multiple levels, and my kids love playing it.  

My Little Pony: Tails of Equestria Storytelling Game by Alessio Cavtore, Dylan Owen, and Jack Caesar.  Published by Shinobi 7 in the US for River Horse Games.  ($34.99 US)

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

(Kickstarter) Marauder Task Force Role-Playing Game

Marauder GR, maker of 1/18th scale action figures, has launched a Kickstarter for a skirmish and/or role-playing for those figures.

The Marauder Task Force RPG allows for basic skirmish action, or a campaign mode to customize and improve on the soldiers in the unit.

(IOU) "Chet"

Chet is Cthulhu’s half brother. Chet is a stereotype of a slacker hippie. He has his tentacles pulled back and like dreadlocks, is barefoot, large pot belly, smelly, dirty shirt (which is a midriff) and always looking to score some reefer. He is a philosophy major with little ambition. He is often seen on the quad playing ultimate Frisbee with his friends. He has followers from the religious studies who claim he is “the one”, not his brother, but he often just tells them to relax and uses them to do his bidding like getting him “grind-edge” or more pot to smoke.

Gaze of Contentment (4) While Cthulhu brings fear and insanity, Chets gaze and long term presence to a group brings a feeling of extreme relaxation and desire to stop all actions.
You Put Your Weed in There Man (3)You put your weed in there man – Chet is an expert with spatial abilities, hiding things well and packing things extremely well. On a perfect roll of 6’s on 3 D6 he unwillingly opens a dimensional door to an unknown location where anything seems to fit at the moment.
I Know You Man! (2) Chet knows most people on campus and people often feel at ease around him. If he asks them questions they often just divulge the information he wants without hesitation trusting him at the moment.
Bring the Pain (1) Chet tries not to be like his relatives (the elder gods) and wants to be more passive. However, when watch out when someone steals the Bee man. Though he is not in touch with his more aggressive self, sometimes when he gets mad a pillar of fire rains down from the heavens upon his target of anger.

Seriously, there's not a hippie Cthulhu picture on the internet? Then we'll refer back to the last known picture of the Elder Dude, from his fresh-thing year, with a little extra Pauly Shore for good measure:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

(Kickstarter) OGRE Miniatures Set 2

My pledge for the first set is still floating around Pennsylvania by USPS, but Steve Jackson Games has launched their second set of plastic OGRE Miniatures.

While the first campaign took awhile for the stretch goals to turn it into a steal, the second wave jumps out the gate firing on all cylinders.  A $40 pledge for 60 minis and FREE US SHIPPING is a steal, but the real glorious chaos is at the $75 level:

Let's not talk about the higer levels, cause I can't ponder that sort of craziness.

Ballad of the Pigeon God #32: There's No Justice Like Baronial Justice!

With Baronial papers in order, Baron Echelon and his party attempt to return to the Chateau

9 UnDec 1071-  On the road back to Eding - Outside of Omsjik, Kingdom of Crosedes
Echelon:  Peculiar cleric of an eastern god of the sea and expert on raising pigeons.  He has a charmed wolf, Pathfinder, and fell into the estate by the sheer talents of his hirelings. Recently named Baron of Eding
Mellandria:  young wizard fresh from the Magic University in Hydincall.  Named Baronial Scribe to Echelon
Ashe:  highly skilled elven ranger,
Talis Makolin, Bard and self-proclaimed lover extraordinaire
Norm Dingleberry:   Dim-witted dwarf. failed mushroom farmer turned adventurer.  Speaks in an outrageous French accent.
Ariel - a young woman nearly run over by the party while travelling to Poipon's estate.  Pretty and sneaky, so pretty sneaky.

Nearing the King's Road to Omsjik, Ariel dismounted the horse the party had loaned to her and bid herself adieu, turning north towards Hydincall.

13 UnDec 1071-  On the road back to Eding - Lake Apotheosis, Kingdom of Crosedes
One of the few remarkable landmarks on the road between Omsjik and Eding was Lake Apotheosis. The river had encountered a long, deep depression north of Eding and it emptied back out into the river a few miles later.  A sheer cliff face ran along the opposite side of the river from the main road, and was occasionally dotted with ancient carvings of wizards, knights, and dragons.

One spot along the road-side of the lake was known as a campground for travelers, but the party was shocked to see three dozen tents filling the site in the middle of winter.  Some of the tent dwellers hailed them over and offered some soup and a few minutes by the fire, which they accepted.

The friendly camper, George, explained that everyone there, over four dozen, where members of the Cult of Apotheosis.  While they were dutiful followers to the state religion, The Church of Akana, they believed the woven into the theological writings was a prophecy calling on the return on the ancient kings of Feraso (the old Empire).  One of these, a true champion of Akana, would reunite the patchwork of kingdoms, duchies, and baronies, defeat the evil plaguing them, and set the continent, nay the world, through an eternal period of peace.

The stonework in the cliff face at the lake were as old as some of earliest kings, so they were campaing there to investigate them.  The lake was only frozen for a few weeks of Undec and Duodec, so they were walking across to the carvings for now,   Come springtime, they would build boats to continue their investigation.

No one was buying their prophecy, but Norm was already on his third bowl of soup, so these cultists were not trying to poison them.  The party thanked George and his friends and got to the Chateau by nightfall.

16 UnDec 1071 -  Chateau d'Echelon, Barony of Eding, Kingdom of Crosedes
Brutus appeared at the Chateau, frostbriten and a bit hungry, but Dew quickly brought him in, doled out a healthy portion of the stew she was cooking, and called Velandro in to help heal his toes.  Aetex and Cilito, two ex-soldiers/farmhands who left with Brutus in the Fall when things were getting bad, had found service in a very shady mercenary company, and managed to rob Brutus of his meager belongings before the company before leving Hydincall.

Hat in hand (if he owned a hat), he had travelled back to the one place were the people were nice and honest.  Baron Echelon demured the decision to Carthon and Jenny, the true managers of the Chateau, and he was welcomed back as a farmhand with open arms.  Little Timmy and the Dag the kobold's children were delighted to have their dim-witted, but fun ex-gladiator friend back and "Baron" Felix was delighted to have a strong back to help with the winter chores.

17 UnDec 1071-  Village of Lowdale, Barony of Eding, Kingdom of Crosedes
After breakfast, Echelon assembled everyone residing in the Chateau:
Baron Echelon:   Baron of Eding, Adherent to the Eastern God of the Sea, Tshang Hai Shing.
Mellandria:  Baronial Scribe, recent graduate of the Magic Lyceum in Hydincall.
Mohammad:  Echelon's religious mentor.  Lost his legs to a shark years ago.  Lost his mind focusing pure divine power through him while fighting against the Dread Lord in the Fall of 1070.
Talis Makolin:  Bard and Lover Extraordinaire.  Echelon's right-hand man outside the Chateau.
Ashe:  White-haired elven ranger of the pine barrens  Recent
Norm Dingleberry:  Dwarven failed mushroom farmer, turned adventurer.  Finally learned Common
Rolf Wolfsblood:  Bald-headed barbarian from the steppes.  Rolf, Ashe, Norm, and Babette had recently returned to Crosedes after being stranded in a different world called Talislanta for over 18 months (only five in Crosedes').  For once, Rolf was content to grab a pint in town from time and spend the rest of it at the Chateau, training with his Greatsword in the snow, decked out in his fur coat he had freed from a miserly moneylender.   Sometimes he could be caught doodling designs on a sheet of paper, similar to the facial tattoos he had obtained in Talislanta.
Velandro:  Pious cleric of Akana.  Holy Protector of the Bell of Chardastes.  Teacher of the faith to kobolds everywhere.
Dag & Family:  Kobold family (Dag, wife, son, daughter) rescued from the Palace of the Silver Princess.  Loyal to Velandro. Fledgeling colytes of Akana
Babette:  Street thief picked up in Hydincall.  In the late stages of a pregnancy that happened while she was in Talislanta.  Father of the child (Darius {Yuri}) remained in the other world.
Carthon d'Echelon: Originally a henchman of Echelon, now manages the Chateau.
Jenny d'Echelon: Married to Carthon, sergeant in Eding militia.
Timmy d'Echelon:  Ten year old orpahn boy who was adopted by Carthon and Jenny.
Dew Xyclone: Former noblewoman and prisoner of the spider-people, now just a voluptious middle-age housekeeper for the Chateau.
"Baron" Felix:  Former Baron and prisoner of the spider-people, now happily manages the Chateau's farm. .
Heirlyat:  Former ne'er do well and prisoner of the spider-people, now a farmhand at the Chateau.
Brutus: Dimwitted ex-gladiator, currently a farmhand at the Chateau.
Lady Iris: Former peasant hero of Eding, Red Knight of Crosedes, and attaché to King Nevin. Staying in Lord Athelstane's old manor while Echelon gets comfortable becoming Baron.

Echelon announced that with the recent certification of his Baronial paperwork, he was responsible for collecting all current and back taxes for the Barony, which had not been collected since Lord Athelstane's death.  He was to collect any and all taxes from Eding and the three halfling towns within the Barony's borders (Lowdale, Welldale, and Elmshire).

Echelon, Talis, and Norm.  decided to leave that afternoon for Lowdale to present Echelon's credentials to his new subjects.

In proper Echelon style, it took so long to prepare for the ride, that they delayed it till first thing the following morning.

18 UnDec 1071-  Village of Lowdale, Barony of Eding, Kingdom of Crosedes
The trio arrived in the village to be greeted by the friendly face of A. Warren Corkbarrel, who was yet another ex-prisoner of the Spider-People, rescued by the party.  There was a moment of disbelief by Echelon when Corkbarrel told them he had been elected mayor after stopping the villagers from being kidnapped.  Corkbarrel nearly passed out, then couldn't stop laughing when presented with Baron Echelon's credentials.

*Wipes brow* "It is well and good that you are here My Lord, for we have a problem that is perfect for your skillset."

An arsonist, dressed as a scarecrow, had been burning down buildings around the village.  No one had been killed yet, but the other halflings were talking about the spider-people again.

That night the trio staked out the village on the room of the small inn.  The did spy a scarecrow walking in the snow and follwed it to a windmill.   Exploring the windmill, they found no scarecrow, but a receipt of goods bought and traded, as well as a ledger of taxes paid, rather expensive taxes.   The Defense Tax owed to the Crown by eveyone in town was astronomically high compared to what Echelon was required to collect, even including the back taxes. Upon further investigation, they found the halfling keeper of the windmill dead in a crawlspace.

19 UnDec 1071-  Village of Lowdale, Barony of Eding, Kingdom of Crosedes
The following morning, they visit Corkbarrel again.  They asked him about the owner of the windmill and why their taxes were so high, an entire subject all of them failed to bring up when they arrived. Corkbarrel explained that there was a man, named Roland, who lived just outside of town, who delcared that he had been named tax collector after the death of Lord Athelstane.  This man's name was Roland.  They went to Roland's home and immediately noticed that it was very fancy and unguarded.  They knocked on the door and asked to see Roland, but the man who answered said no and slammed the the door shut.  Echelon loudly announced his presence as the Baron, but Talis and Norm were still required to bust the door down.  The interior was just as elegant as the outside, with carpet and tapestries.  They entered the kitchen of the home and saw two startled men who ran out the back.  Talis threw his dagger, but it stuck in the door frame.

All three began to search the home for any evidence of the illegal tax collection, but the duo that escaped wisely came back and tried to surprise them.    Norm attacked them from behind and took them out with one quick hack apiece.

Norm:  "I love being a dwarf"

They worked their way upstairs and found a locked room with someone obviously inside.

Norm : "As the Count of Rowand, I demand entrance!"

Talis:  "When did Norm get so formal... or become a Count?"

Norm began attacking the door with his axe, but the handle snapped in half.

Talis, being the swashbuckler that he is, swung into the room from a curtain in an adjacent room's window.  He crashed through the window, rolled to the locked door, and let Echelon and Norm in, only to turn around and see "Roland" open a secret door and slip out.  They pursued him to the stable behind the house, where they finally captured him.  No coins could be found on the premises.

20 UnDec 1071-  Village of Lowdale, Barony of Eding, Kingdom of Crosedes
Roland and the two injured men were taken back to Lowdale where Echelon administered his first act of justice.   Condemning Roland and his one accomplice to death, and sentencing the second man, who admitted everything,  to five years of hard labor under the supervision of Mayor Corkbarrel.   The trio immediately departed to Hydincall to inform King Nevin of the situation and request more time to recover the missing taxes.

29 UnDec 1071 - Hydincall, Kingdom of Crosedes
The trio arrived in Hydincall and sought an immediate audience with the King.  He agreed with the sentencing, allowed a few more weeks to collect taxes, and advised he establish the proper channels of communication by official courier to avoid trudging through the snow anytime they wished correspondence with the Royal Court.  With all that resolved, the three of them returned to the Chateau. The did stop at the Cult of Apotheosis' camp for soup on the way home.

6 DuoDec 1071  - Village of Eding, Barony of Eding, Kingdom of Crosedes
After weathering a horrible blizzard in Omsjik, Baron Echeclon finally arrived in Eding and announced that he decided  the Barony needed to have new officials: a sheriff, a magistrate, and other titles as need.  He would appoint them... later.

DM Notes:  Some Baronial bookkeeping provides a little mystery and a lot of headaches for our new Baron.  It was six months (in a ten-month year) since Lord Athelstane had died, and even longer since taxes had been properly collected and delivered.    Making His Majesty, King Nevin of Crosedes, happy would take a number of sessions.  

As I've previously done, here's Talis Makolin's impressions on the group as of this point:

Talis is happy that Rolf and the others are alive, and downright thrilled that Echelon has become a Baron.  Granted, he'll need to stick close (to) Echelon when they arrive in Hydincall, and hopefully he won't into that wizard.  Talis figures that Baron Echelon will need someone to teach him the finer points of courtly procedure, Talis is just the man for the job.  Besides, it will give him an official position on the baronial court.

Rolf: There is something different about Rolf.  He just doesn't seem the same since he came back from Talislanthia (sic).
Malorin: Talis was not at all upset to hear about Malorin's death.  It was a shame, not a loss.
Kane: Talis likes him.  He's a strange little man, with a  bizarre culture, but overall, an okay guy.
Baron Echelon: Echelon is now Baron of Eding, and the man to know.  He'll need a lot of assistance in knowing how to dress and the ways of how a feudal system operates.  Talis doesn't have too much experience in running a Barony, but  he knows some of the ancient legends about kings and stuff, and that's almost the same, isn't it?
Velandro: He takes that whole religion thing a little too seriously but overall a good healer and an okay kind of guy.  Talis is a little dubious on the whole "Train the Dag Family to be priests" thing. 
Dag: Talis isn't quite sure why we agreed to bring him and his family along, but at least he and his family have learned hygiene.  The Dag family is definitely a turn off to chicks though, but if Velandro does manage to teach them to heal they could be quite useful.
Norm: Talis has no diea how Norm learn to talk (maybe everyone in Talislanthia (sic) has that accent?)  but he really doesn't care.  He had the money to save the Chateau, and that makes him aces in Talis' book.
The Baronial Scribe (Mellandria): She's got spells that Talis doesn't know, she's cute, and she's willing to spend time with Talis to trade spells, and maybe a little more if Talis turns on the old charms.
Babbet(e):  Talis immediately panicked when he saw Babette return with child, but was instantly relieved when he realized he had not spent any time with her, and when others told him the child wasn't his.

Next #33 - Dag and Brutus Have an Adventure!!!