Tag Archives: Role-playing Games

RPG LAB Report – Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay

Much like the Old World setting itself, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (especially this current edition) has seen a lot of turmoil and chaos, in and out of print, it still stands as one of the coolest systems and settings on the market today. Effectively forming the mechanical foundation for the extremely successful line of FFG’s Star Wars RPGs, this is the first RPG iteration of those funky dice mechanics many have come to know and love.

NOTE: The bits in italic quotations at the end of each section are player comments and not the expressed views of the RPG Lab coordinator.

SETTING

Despite its annihilation with the coming of the Age of Sigmar, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay preserves our fond memories of the Old World setting in all its whimsical and nightmarish glory. The Empire stands and its allies stand as the final barrier to the incursions of chaos and the impending terrors of the necromancer-god Nagash. Beastmen, Greenskins, and Skaven (there are no Skaven!) feed at the crumbling edges and fairly ordinary folk must find their courage and combat them if humanity is to stand a chance. The Empire boasts powerful wizards, warrior-knights, and champions of the Emperor Karl-Franz but such lofty achievements are far from where the game starts. Rat catchers, boatmen, and halfling cooks are more the order of the day and even the small things can be deadly and infectious.

“The setting is grim, but not necessarily depressing. Things can look bad at one moment, and still offer hope for improvement later. Also, while technically a fantasy setting, it offers numerous opportunities for horror of various sorts—virtually implacable foes, conditions terrible in multiple senses of the word.”

SUPPLEMENTS AND MATERIALS USED

For this game we mostly relied on basic careers from the core set. Insofar as races, we used the human variants from Hero’s Call as well as the halfling. Beyond that, the adventure was a custom scenario that takes place in the wealthy port of Marienberg.

CHARACTER GENERATION

So rather than using the recommended random rolling for character race, we decided to randomly select career cards. Once a career was selected, we agreed that characters would be human unless the career was exclusively for a specific race. The characters we ended up with were:

  • A Human Boatman
  • A Human Hunter
  • A Dwarf Troll-Slayer
  • A Halfling Chef

Once this was done we progressed through the point allocation that determined stats (along with racial adjustments), equipment and all of the other options specific to each character.

We also determined the party’s character. Yes. Warhammer has a party card that allows the Game Master to motivate the party with stress but also provides a special ability useable by the party. This party was a gang of “Brash Young Fools”. As the adventure unfolded, it quickly became obvious that this was the perfect choice.

“The greatest potential pitfall in character creation is selecting character class; you have to work with your other players to make sure that the group you ultimately form is diverse enough to handle much of the little stuff, but still competent enough in key areas like combat to continue moving forward.”

RULES

Despite the baroque appearance of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay dice, the mechanics are pretty elegant. Much like the Star Wars games, you have dice that are flat successes and failures. Beyond that, you also have results that determine a sort of atmospheric benefit or detriment. That way a character can fail, but still manipulate the situation so that they offer some benefit that the party can take advantage of. In addition to these basic results, you also have the Star of Chaos and the Twin-Tailed Comet of Sigmar which translate into extraordinary triumph and dismal, hell-stained failure.

Because the plot of the adventure was hinged on the remedying of a terrible chaos-tweaked disease, we also used the disease cards to model the onset of this awful pox (which was, luckily, only contracted by a single PC).

“As I mentioned above , this is not a stripped down system……But it is a cool one! The options that are available for social or combat encounters are broad and thought-provoking. The dice system is a dice- pool style with specialized dice. These dice allow for success within every situation….You could hit a Chaos-demon with a farmer’s shovel….but will it hurt it…?…Possibly. The dice pool system is a favorite of mine because it allows for many situations to be more exciting than a rolling of 1 d20 in other system’s.

Not only can you get injured but you can also become fatigued, or stressed out or corrupted…..All of which are story and mechanic driven so that your fight’s will be tougher and your social interactions will be more troublesome. The system helps pull you into the role-playing I think.”

CONCLUSION

It has to be said that the Warhammer Fantasy setting of the Old World has been largely eradicated through the lens of the miniatures game, it is still alive and well as far as the RPG is concerned. Having not run the thing for ages, I experienced a recurring joy brought about for both mechanical and narrative reasons. For those who long for the days of the Empire, the Vampire Counts and a never-ending deluge of chaos-tainted halfling baked goods, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay is just the place to enjoy and re-enjoy them.

“You can’t say George was unenthusiastic about the game. He knew the material (both rules and components), had it organized for play (and so did at least one of the players), and wasn’t afraid to use them both. The situation was fairly straightforward, but not without its perils, as it should be for either a multi-session adventure or a very short-run campaign.”

George is the full-time assistant manager of Games & Stuff and the de facto GM of RPG.Lab. He is a big fan of way too many RPGs

Pre-Orders for The One Ring! RPG Vanguard Update!

Hey One Ring fans!
We currently have not one, but two open pre-order programs for forthcoming titles.

OneRingJourneysAndMapsPackShot600

First up is Journeys And Maps, a beautiful set of double-sided maps to use in your games. Including both player maps and Loremaster versions, the Journeys and Maps set includes maps for territories that The One Ring has yet to explore, including not only Wilderland, Eriador and Rohan, but Gondor and Mordor too! Also included is a 32 page supplement detailing sea travel, the ruins of Middle-Earth, and expanded examples for travel hazards. As is the custom with all Cubicle 7 pre-orders, we can provide you with a PDF copy of the supplement upon payment of your pre-order, some weeks before hardcopy release!

HorseLordsOfRohanWe are also still accepting pre-orders for Horse-Lords of Rohan, for The One Ring. Rules for combat on horseback, plus details about Isengard and Fangorn! Your $39.99 in-store pre-order will entitle you to an immediate email containing the complete PDF of the book as you await your hardcopy!

 

 

We’ve also got open pre-orders for these exciting titles:

TravellerWe’re also beginning to hear a bit of buzz about the new edition of the classic TRAVELLER game. The game is expected to release around April. $49.99

 

 

 

 

CallOfCthulhu7COVERFinally, we’re all still patiently awaiting the release of CALL OF CTHULHU 7th edition. Upon release, one lucky customer’s pre-order will be upgraded : they may select a copy of either Racepoint Publishing’s The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft or The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft by Leslie Klinger to take home with their new rulebook.

 

WINTER NIGHTS are coming…

VikingHelmetThis January and February a cold wind will blow.

The Northmen are invading Games and Stuff. That’s right, no Winter Luau in these cold days, for the Vikings have sacked and raided these once glad shores and left little joy for a beachside party.

So what does this foretell? Much wonder is in store for these frozen months.

  • BACKSTOCK RAGNAROK! Old things must be swept aside to prepare for new and shining plunder. The Backstock Ragnarok sale now comes. In a few days, be on the look out for deals not easy to imagine.
  • It does not require Heimdall’s keen sight to notice the missing tables that once graced our fair hall. Where three once sat, tables four now stand, soon to be gleaming with new games to be demo’d. In 2016 G&S boasts to teach and show off our favorite games, and this winter we will turn our efforts to those games that  celebrate the fury in our axes and the steel of our hearts. (Horned helmet not included.)
  • This month RPG Lab is spinning a saga of four brave souls. For eight whole weeks, pre-selected customers have formed a band of terrible might and are even now pitted against a coming darkness in an original Yggdrasil mini-campaign. George will be updating the website with stories forged with this amazing Viking themed role-playing game from Cubicle 7.
  • SAGA Miniatures Game – Even more blades G&S has cast into the bright blacksmith’s fire. New and  needful things are in the works to hurl our favorite Viking-themed skirmish miniature game into a new age of strife and legend.

VikingSword

  • Heimdall’s Gjallarhorn now brings the end. Are you listening? The Customer Appreciation Program as it was once know is coming to an end most final. While you can continue to earn and redeem coupons for a short time to come, the last day to redeem coupons falls on March 31st. But a new dawn will come, and from Ragnarok’s blood and ashes a whole new system of renown will rise. More lore to come later, but in the meantime know that every purchase you make will continue to earn you “credit” in the new system.

Today’s Cool Thing – Shadow of the Demon Lord

So, I needed another dark fantasy RPG like I needed a second nose. Between Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Shadows of Esteren, Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, Witch Hunter, various iterations of Ravenloft, and endless stream of well produced contenders in this ring, I could die without seeing another one.
 Or so I thought.
Shadow of the Demon Lord is a vat grown monstrosity to be reckoned with. It isn’t so much what is new, but that it is a much needed synthesis of stuff I just wanted all in one game.
It has a branching career based character progression akin to that found in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. However, SotDL does it with a bit more heroic focus and makes it more accessible to folks who can’t get into the idea of their character being a dock worker or a rat catcher for a significant portion of the game.
It has cool races that seem familiar but different. Orcs, Changelings, Clockworks, Goblins, and Dwarves are all presented with a twist and, although I normally am really unforgiving about the continued iterations of some of these creatures, Mr. Schwalb did a wonderful job of twisting them just enough to be exciting again. The races also feel very much integrated and not as flamboyant in their presentation as something like Eberron.
It has a fantastic dark and weird setting premise with GM and player options that substantiate rather than just imply. It is also accessible to a wider audience than the EXTREME tone of something like Lamentations of the Flame Princess (which I ADORE, it’s just not for everyone). I mean, when I run it for my players, it will very much be an adults only experience, but Shadow of the Demon Lord can certainly be about the good fight and holding the line at the end of the world as much as it could be a nihilistic, heavy metal romp through all things bloody and corrupt.
The rules are simple but novel and so very, very clean. Although characters advance, you don’t get this feeling that they’re knocking down bowling pins with dragon masks. The feeling of challenge and stakes is intense without being oppressive.
In fact, Shadow of the Demon Lord can actually PROTECT you from insurmountable darkness. Like when I hid between its covers on Christmas Day, hiding from my in-laws…
George Holland is an assistant manager at Games & Stuff and really enjoys a wide variety of RPGs even though it seems he only get excited enough to write these things when their is sufficient blood and awfulness involved.

RPG Evolution – 2015 Q3

Hello, and welcome to the last installment of RPG Evolution, at least as you know it.  Things have been a bit crazy here at Games & Stuff over the last few weeks (opening a temporary holiday pop up store will do that) but today I’m here with the Q3 RPG report, albeit a few weeks later than intended. Why do I call it the “last one?” Well, early next year I’ll be launching RPGEvolution.com

You can go visit now although it’s just a placeholder. While I’ll still be doing these quarterly sales breakdowns, I also wanted a platform to discuss the business of roleplaying games in a way that allows me to a bit more freedom. So you’ll be seeing more frequent articles, and covering a wide variety of topics related to the business of RPG retail. Got ideas for me? Shoot me an email at Paul@gamesandstuffonline.com

And with that, let’s get to the numbers:

  1. Dungeons & Dragons (Q2 Rank #1)
  2. Pathfinder (Q2 Rank #1)
  3. Star Wars (Q2 Rank #1)
  4. Shadowrun (Q2 Rank #5)
  5. Dragon Age 
  6. End of the World (Q2 Rank #16)
  7. Feng Shui 
  8. Warhammer 40,000 (Q2 Rank #4)
  9. The One Ring (Q2 Rank #7)
  10. Dresden Files (Q2 Rank #12)
  11. Fantasy Age 
  12. Cyper System 
  13. Iron Kingdoms (Q2 Rank #13)
  14. Legend of the Five Rings (Q2 Rank #17)
  15. Dungeon Crawl Classics (Q2 Rank #6)
  16. Numenera (Q2 Rank #14)
  17. 13th Age (Q2 Rank #9)
  18. Dread (Q2 Rank #18)
  19. Fate (Q2 Rank #10)
  20. The Strange

DragonAgeRulebookBig news this time around is NEW HOTNESS. No less than four entries in the Top 20 that are brand new releases.  Dragon Age, Feng Shui, Fantasy Age and the Cypher System all ranked this time around.
I honestly don’t expect the Cyper System to have much sales longevity, the market is simply too crowded with “generic” systems at the moment. FATE seems to have developed into the go-to, plus Cypher doesn’t have the weight of a Wil Wheaton webseries behind it like Fantasy Age does.

fengshui2_coveAdditionally, most of the sales of the Cypher rulebook seem to have come from Monte Cook Games aficionados, and even Numenera and The Strange seem to be slowing quite a bit. Numenera was an eight units per release line for me, now it’s three. The Strange is even less, thought there’s a steady trickle of catalog sales from both of them. We’ll see.

 

 

ShadowrunDataTrailsShadowrun continues to be really strong for me. It’s been very close to eclipsing Star Wars numbers a few times, which is saying something considering there’s a Star Wars movie coming out that you may have heard about. In my store Shadowrun is really benefiting from in store organized play. If you carry Shadowrun, and you don’t currently have somebody running the Shadowrun Missions program in your store, make it happen.

One Ring and 13th Age are both suffering from a lack of releases.  They continue to have strong ongoing catalog sales, but without shiny new books to sell, they’re not gonna crack the Top 10. We’ve got a Gamemaster’s Screen & Resource Book coming for 13th Age, and Horse-lords of Rohan coming for The One Ring, so both lines should see spikes, that last one especially.

That’s it for now, short and sweet. Go make your stores successful this holiday, and I’ll see you in the new year with an all new all different RPGEvolution.com!

-Paul Alexander Butler is the Director of Retail Operations at Games and Stuff. 

Cyberpunk 101 by John Appel

During one of our recent Shadowrun Missions nights, I was surprised to find that a lot of the players weren’t familiar with a lot of the classic works of the genre. Now, tropes and conventions are things that should be played with and can evolve over time. But the echoing waves of the first pebbles cast into the cyberpunk pond more than 40 years ago still influence the work going on today.

Defining the Genre

Cyberpunk is a sub-genre of science fiction and is usually a “near-future” form of SF. Cyberpunk worlds are generally dystopias featuring high-tech low-lives, cybernetic human enhancement, and the ascendency of corporate power. The protagonists ofcyberpunk stories are usually the underdogs, and usually work in opposition to the established power structure – that’s where the punk comes in. Cyberpunk stories often have a lot of elements from noir fiction. Many of the characters have dubious or hidden motives, and they often have secrets which are revealed over the course of the story.
One could argue that certain aspects of cyberpunk have done a much better job of predicting the times we live in now (30-40 years after first publication) than SF of the 50s and 60s did. I think there’s a lot of merit to that argument.

From the Days Before “-punk”

If you ask most science fiction fans for the name of the first book in the cyberpunk genre, they’ll probably point to William Gibson’s “Neuromancer”. Pfui. The core features of what became cyberpunk were around long before Gibson came on the scene. (He’s arguably one of the people who made it cool, though.) For example, Phillip K. Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” (1968) – better known by it’s cinematic adaptation, “Blade Runner” (1982) – packs many of the classic features of cyberpunk almost two decades before Gibson. (And so does the Alan E. Nourse novel “The Bladerunner” (1974), about a man who deals in black market medical supplies.)
While it lacks some of the darkness, noir atmosphere and stylistic features of classic cyberpunk, John Brunner’s “The Shockwave Rider” (1975) gets a lot of things right in a truly scary fashion. Brunner coined the term “worm” for self-replicating computer viruses, for one thing. “The Shockwave Rider” includes e-mail (and spam), ubiquitous surveillance society, and a ton of other things not seen in SF at that time. It’s a relatively short book (by today’s standards) that makes wonder if a time traveller from 2014 popped into Brunner’s place for tea one day, and this book is the result of their conversation.

The Classic Core

I mentioned it before, but “Neuromancer” (1984) is one of the defining works of the genre, despite not being first. What many people don’t realize is that while he was creating a vision of a high tech-low life hacker future, William Gibson knew nothing about computers. Diddly. He didn’t even own a personal computer of any kind at the time (not all that unusual for the early 80s). But here we get in one package a lot of the things we recognize today as cyberpunk. Throw in the anthologies “Burning Chrome” (Gibson, 1986) and “Mirrorshades” (edited by Bruce Sterling, 1986) for maximum immersion into these particular thematic currents.
Less well known but still one of the core works of the genre is Walter Jon Williams’ “Hardwired” (1986), and you can have my battered early-printing paperback when you pry it from my cold, dead hands. Williams wasn’t the first to introduce the concept of hardwiring human brains to control vehicles, but in Cowboy he really explores this idea in a way rarely seen before or since. We also get to see a sundered United States, enhancements that would become skill wires in Shadowrun, and everybody’s favorite mode of transport, the ground effect armored vehicle known as a “panzer”.
Bruce Sterling, along with Gibson, is one of the founding members of the cyberpunk movement in science ficiton. Sterling produced some great though under-rated work. The one I’ll usually point folks to is “Islands in the Net” (1988) which features corporate citizenship, data havens, drones, and asymmetric warfare during a globe-trotting ride through a near-future world.
The last of the big core works is Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash” (1992), the book that made him a star of the writing world. Stephenson takes the sundering of the United States (and other countries) a lot further than Williams does. He also creates something called “The Metaverse” which heavily influenced the development of MMOs, and does it all with almost adolescent irreverence.

Contemporaneous Stuff

Lots of people wrote works in the cyberpunk school during the big wave of the 1980s and early 1990s. And while Sturgeon’s Law (“90% of everything is crap”) might apply, there’s some really cool and influential stuff from that period that isn’t as well-known. One I mention to my Shadowrun players all the time is Joe Clifford Faust’s “The Company Man” (1988). This book was – no nice way to say it – plundered at length by some of the Shadowrun authors (as was “Hardwired”) due to the wonderful ideas within. Chief among those is the eponymous archetype, The Company Man, a corporate employee who tackles illegal or questionable jobs for his employer. The term “dogbrain” comes from this book too. So does the “pizza run”, a type of mission designed to cause a moderate level of mayhem with an absolute minimum of violence. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to work.
Somewhat more literary, and with definitely a different spin on things, George Alec Effinger’s “Marid Audran” novels are set in a fictionalized Middle East. Effinger’s “Budayeen” neighborhood is actually a pretty thinly-veiled version of the old New Orleans French Quarter, but several Muslim writers affirm Effinger got their culture right better than most Western literature. Start with the first book, “When Gravity Fails” (1987), which introduces Audran and his friends.
My favorite lesser known-works from this period though are Daniel Keys Moran’s stories of Trent Castanaveras, aka “Trent the Uncatchable”. You could start with “Emerald Eyes” (1988) with Trent as a boy and introduce a lot of characters seen later. But for my money the best of the lot is “The Long Run” (1989), in which Trent earns his nickname. “The Long Run” can be  If you want a better idea about what life as a cybernetically enhanced combat soldier/policeman might be like, look at Moran’s PKF Elite troopers. Also, flying cars! The climactic heist at the end (on the moon, no less) is a thrilling, page-turning sequence that keeps you guessing up until the last moment.

Branching Out & Newer Works

While it straddles the line of transhumanism, Richard K. Morgan’s “Altered Carbon” is in many ways a cyberpunk book, updated smartly for the early 21st century. Morgan’s books are Very, very violent. (Trigger warnings for torture, sexual assault and violence against women.)
Elizabeth Bear’s “Worldwired” books (start with “Hammered”, 2005) open with a broken-down former Canadian warrant officer who’s living through the breakdown of her cybernetics in a broken down 21st-century Connecticut.
On it’s way to becoming a movie, Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One” is both a cyberpunk book and a loving paen to 1980s pop culture all in one.

Wrapping it Up

This is, as the title says, just a level 101 introduction to cyberpunk. Hopefully it gives you some starting points to begin your own exploration of this branch of SF, and adds to the enjoyment of your games.
John Appel is a veteran RPG gamer and captain of the Shadowrun Missions here at the store. He has been GMing Shadowrun and similar games for many years and knows the genre inside and out!

RPG Lab Report: Through The Breach

RPG LAB REPORT: THROUGH THE BREACH

Through the Breach - Logo

I’ve been a big fan of the Malifaux setting since the earlier days of the miniature game. Malifaux somehow takes a number of the most over-used genres and tropes and, with Frankenstein ingenuity, stitches them into a fresh and vigorous monstrosity. Victorian-steampunk-pulp-cowboy-gothic-horror-with-zombies-and-katanas-for-days would normally not make it to my plate, but exploring the world of Malifaux through the lens of the interesting and original role-playing game that is Through the Breech is absolutely worth a dabble from any serious lover of RPGs.

THE SETTING

The world of Nythera (often called Malifaux after the setting’s primary city) is a truly evocative and complete experience. From the time the characters are warped through the Breach (the magical gate between worlds) into the iron gothic beast city of Malifaux to the inevitable showdown with a half-demon nightmare-made-flesh in some tumbleweed town, the setting drips theme and a passionately honed aesthetic.

To say the story of Through the Breech is rich is an understatement. Standing on the shoulders of Wyrd’s miniature games’ setting, we get to explore that same material in ultra-granular detail. We get to walk around the oppressive courtrooms and gallows that are the mark of the tyrannical Guild. Characters explore the gremlin-infested Bayou’s haunted by primordial Neverborn boogeymen. Rifling through the viscera of undead constructs we can take on the role of necromancer-scholars resident at the University of Transmortis.

The massive mishmash of genres is actually a strength of the setting. It gives the game an infusion of possibility that plays to the strengths of whichever Fatemaster (TtB’s word for the GM) it needs. My strength is horror and non-steampunk Victoriana so I tried to cleave to those components when preparing my short arc for RPG LAB.

I thought the Malifaux setting was very well depicted in the game. I feel it added an extra layer of excitement and appreciation to an encounter, when through the Fatemaster’s descriptions, you recognize something within the game that you know and love. That’s not just a 9 ft tall bare-chested motionless man with grotesque mechanical enhancements, that’s a Guild Executioner! I felt that it rewarded those familiar with the Malifaux lore and miniatures game, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I’d be interested to know how the two players who weren’t as familiar with the setting felt when three miniatures game players started geeking out once it donned on us what we were up against.”

“I feel like the background presented in Through the Breach makes for an excellent history text for the world of Malifaux and a wonderful supplement to the stories and fluff presented in the Malifaux tabletop miniatures game books and the Wyrd Chronicles. If this was the only material I had ever read about Malifaux as a setting, I’m not sure how excited I would be by it. It reminds me a bit of The Sixth World Almanac for Shadowrun 4. Kinda clinical, dry, encyclopedic reading but full of neat information if you’re already invested or want to know exactly when Goblinization started (or the Powder Wars began) or what the state of the Italian Confederation is in 2073 (or which of the many slums contains Little Kingdom or Red Chapel).”

“The setting is certainly rich in detail. It is very dark and oppressive, though, which can be a turn-off for some folks. Your characters begin the game at a point lower than most starting characters in other games, with barely enough cash to get anything beyond what their pursuit gives them.”

CHARACTER GENERATION

Character creation is one of the two systems in Through the Breech that are of award-winning quality. The player characters of TtB are called Fated and are defined by a cryptic occult prophecy that is defined at character generation and revealed through each session of play. Character generation is inspired by a pack of playing cards (the task resolution device used in TtB instead of dice – identical to the deck used in the miniatures game) and plays out in the fashion of a Tarot-told story. Each step creates an aspect of the character including the eldritch lines of his Fate. This system is not overly static and allows narrative driven tweaks to escape the binding conventions of classes yet still provides enough customization that niche protection can be maintained.

The other use of the character’s fate poem/song/scripture is that it is the device around which the Fatemaster builds his campaign. Each session of play, one of each player’s five lines of prophecy is resolved through the story. This allows a strangely organic game skeleton which by its very nature is forced to reinforce core player character themes and story background.

“The way cards are used in a Tarot-like form for character generation makes it an interesting process. While it adds a random element, it still allows for enough customization that I didn’t t feel like I was playing a cookie-cutter character. The organization was a bit tricky, as I felt like I had to shift back and forth between the pages containing the steps and the section detailing each step’s options. Some things, like Magic, require you to read through the last chapter very closely to understand what each choice entails.”

“It’s very different from other RPG systems I have run/played in. I’m still unconvinced that the Destiny system built into it works all that well, at least as more than a kind of “milestone” system that could just as easily be arbitrary to the GM. The tarot layout, how it generated abilities/skills and the large table of stations (backgrounds) to give you a kind of “kickoff” to thinking about your character are all enjoyable and well done I think.

“I went into the process with the intention of allowing the character creation process to tell me what my character will be, as that seemed to be the intent. I was pleased that it didn’t actually limit my options terribly much. The end result wasn’t anything I’d have ever predicted, but was also a character I enjoyed playing immensely.

The only real gripe I have with it is some of the compatibility issues with the pursuits, which we experienced when the tinkerer needed to have a pneumatic limb that it was impossible to afford on starting currency alone. It’s something that’s easily solved by the GM, though I think this character generation system could drive rules lawyer types crazy (net positive maybe? 😉 I don’t really feel much needs changing in the process, and I would probably only do so if I wanted to alter the tone of the game from the start. Things that spring to mind are starting with Fated who are already a bit more established in Malifaux with additional funds or equipment access, possibly an additional general talent as I felt that was fairly limited (though partly due to time constraint), or making manifested powers and additional grimoires readily available to start of sprinting on something epic. That’s all normal RPG game running type stuff when you decide the kind of game you want to run though so hardly specific to this setting and ruleset.”

THE SYSTEM

Through the Breech is powered by a deck of cards. It uses an attribute + skill pairing that is modified by the drawing of a standard playing card. Suits have different effects for different characters and situations and jokers, depending on color, can cause both beneficial and detrimental mayhem. Special powers also have suit specific powers that can be triggered to spectacular effect.

In all cases, the task resolution deck (called a Fate Deck) is used by the players at the Fatemaster’s behest. When a card is needed, a player is directed to draw a card. The player has a hand of cards for any given session that they can use to cheat certain outcomes if needed. This hand refreshes at various points during play but is generally limited to a given session or short story arc.

As a game master, I have a preference for hidden information when it comes to the game’s probability. It allows me to fudge and ignore die outcomes when they’d make the story less interesting. That being said, Through the Breech’s method seemed a bit easier to steer than other games that use this transparency and level of player narrative control.

“I found the TtB system mechanics to be a straight derivative of the miniatures game. You get two Action Points (AP), you get a Free action (or 0 action), these are fundamentals of the miniatures game. The types of actions are also directly related to the miniatures game, use an AP to Focus your strike, get a positive twist to attack and damage. It would not feel unfamiliar to transition from one game to the other. “

“The mechanics are immediately familiar to anyone who has played the miniatures game. That’s both a positive and a negative though. On the one hand, the similarity is nice and an experienced Malifaux player will already know the value of AP, the general actions like focus and defensive and will have a good idea during character creation the kinds of things that will be important later on. On the other hand, it’s just different enough that an experienced Malifaux player may glance and skim past vital differences like how the communal fate deck works (the GM never flips, so opposed duels are actually fairly different in a way), how initiative works, the value in the additional actions presented by trick and impose or what skills will really be useful.

In general, I think that Through the Breach does an excellent job of capturing the Malifaux experience in an RPG format that is immediately recognizable to anyone with any tabletop RPG experience and Malifaux players in particular will already feel quite comfortable with the card mechanics involved. A comparison of the two wouldn’t be complete without mentioning just how different Malifaux the miniatures game and Through the Breach the RPG are. In Malifaux, your crew consists of *extremely* powerful and unique individuals and there is often quite a strong relationship between the gamer and a specific master (and often faction). Crazy abilities and varied personalities are the norm and there’s a definite sense of empowerment from executing the complex inner-workings of each crew successfully.

Through the Breach doesn’t have this, but also has more. The player can still generate a very strong relationship to their character, but with an RPG it becomes more about growth. I believe the system provides the tools, for a Fated to become *quite* powerful eventually but they also get to enjoy a more day-to-day existence Breachside… something that the miniatures game will never really do (and shouldn’t).”

IN CONCLUSION

At first, I found the rules of Through the Breech quite daunting. Luckily, the enthusiasm of RPG LAB participants and my love of the setting pushed me through the initial bumps and resulted in a great payoff. The game has an atmosphere like few others and core mechanics that only reinforce this.

I would recommend this game to anyone who likes any of the contributing genre elements as well as those folks who like truly stylish RPGs with astounding art direction.

GEORGE HOLLAND is the assistant manager here at Games & Stuff. He takes enormous pleasure in the grotesque and wondrous.

PRE-ORDERS NOW OPEN FOR CALL OF CTHULHU 7TH EDITION

Happy 125th Birthday H.P. Lovecraft!

CallOfCthulhu7titlespread

The 7th Edition of the seminal CALL OF CTHULHU Roleplaying Game is coming soon!  Games and Stuff is taking pre-orders now!  With the recent restructuring of publisher Chaosium, the new Call of Cthulhu promises to be a veritable Golden Age of classic-style Mythos roleplaying.

CallOfCthulhu7COVERSo right now, as part of our RPG Vanguard program, we’re taking pre-orders for the new core rulebook for $54.99

Not only that, but as an added incentive, for a few randomly selected customers, we’ll be throwing in a copy of either The Complete Fiction of H.P. Lovecraft from Knickerbocker Classics, or The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft by Leslie S. Klinger (Introduction by Alan Moore).  Either of these volumes will make great additions to even the most discriminating collector’s of Lovecraft’s works.

Pre-Orders are open now!  Help Games and Stuff thrice dream of that marvelous city, before it is snatched away…

Today’s Cool Thing – Cthulhutech is back at G&S!

 

Cthulhu Tech logo

After a many years spent dreaming behind the light of dying stars, Games and Stuff is pleased to announce that the CTHULHUTECH Roleplaying Game is once again available for sale at the shop.  Special thanks to Derek at Publisher Services for helping us to get this back on our shelves, something that we’ve spent many years trying to do.  Without further ado, here’s George to talk about why the game ranks among his very favorite RPGs of all time.

CthulhuTechAmphibiousTagerSo, I have collected a bit of Lovecraftiana in my day. I specialize in RPGs and occult material but have also collected my good share of board games and other stuff. That being said, I have pretty strong opinions about what is appropriate treatment of the shared world of the Mythos as well as what is a correct re-imagining of the genre’s soul. I would say that my tastes in Cthulhu stuff run toward the conservative insofar as tone and theme. So it is not hard to imagine what my initial reaction to CthulhuTech would resemble. I do not think that I can count the number of times I rolled my eyes and cursed all collective geekdom for what they had wrought with their juvenile penchant for mash-up and that wretched dog-urine stain called anime.

May my tongue be forever bound by the void-sigils of Azathoth’s idiocy for this transgression of sublime presupposition.

CthulhuTechMecha

CthulhuTech now reigns supreme as my favorite Mythos universe game. It’s because beneath its Robotech-like metaplot is a rich loam of occult horror and paranoid knots of Cronenbergian body horror pinned to the floor of our ceremonial chamber by a level of immediate violence and catastrophe that insures that nothing boring can happen. It’s because behind all of that Japanimation-style art looms a blisteringly boundless game setting that has more gore-oozing entry points than the bloated mass of Shub-Niggurath herself. It’s that even though we have FTL and armories of gauss-canons braced to the arms of armies of sixty foot-tall warbots, if Ye Olde Ones actually do wake-up in the CthulhuTech setting, we are no better protected than we were in the good ole 1920s.

CthulhuTechAncientEnemiesIn most cases, the players take on the roles of members of the New Earth Government – or play a member of one of the human-interested secret societies that lurk within it. They are either Human or members of a near-human race called the Nazzadi. If that’s not weird enough, discuss it with your group and consider a human-opposed game for which there are several options both classic and new. Careers for your characters can be anything from the archetypal squadron of Mecha pilots or a cell of the Eldritch Society (an arcane shadow agency that ritually creates Guyver-like super-soldiers by grafting soul-eating symbionts to only the most tested and worthy of candidates.)

All this being said, CthulhuTech is absolutely loaded with the disturbing things one would expect in virtually every variety of horror. With that in mind, it excels at both cosmic horror (the dread that is the perimeter of the known) and body horror (the dread that is the monstrous enemy and our physical form are inseperable). I would like to say that the game accomplishes its ends with graceful subtlety but that would be a grievous lie. Many games say they are for mature audiences, CthulhuTech demands it. If you are squeamish or otherwise prone to extreme anxiety when presented with really invasive and controversial ideas of horror, sex, or violence, CthulhuTech is not for you.

The number one reason I find CthulhuTech compelling? It’s something entirely new made from the familiar. The reveals are not predictable and the weird seductive quality of the setting lets us take the investigation a bit further. It takes the cosmic terror and body horror to a different place and makes the experience immediately accessible and therefore playable. I won’t go so far as to call it the very best Lovecraft-inspired game, but it is absolutely my favorite.

-George Holland is our Assistant Manager and spends a lot of time eyeing the world suspiciously over the covers of strange and dubious books. He also runs the RPG.LAB program on Tuesday nights at 6pm (limited spots – appointment necessary).

-Today’s Cool Thing is a series of short articles featuring whatever cool thing the Games and Stuff staff is currently buzzing about.

RPG EVOLUTION – 2015 Q2

RPG Evolution is a semi-regular column in which I discuss the retail business side of selling role-playing games.  In addition to periodic special installments, once every three months I break down the twenty top selling RPGs by sales volume at Games and Stuff.

Happy July everyone, and welcome to the halfway point of the year.
Today we don’t have any especially big surprises about our best selling RPGs, but we do have the reappearance of a few old friends, and we get to see if my predictions from spring have proven true. So here’s the Top 20 for the period of April 1, 2015 to June 30, 2015:

  1. Dungeons & Dragons (Q1 Rank #1)
  2. Pathfinder (Q1 Rank #2)
  3. Star Wars (Q1 Rank #3)
  4. Warhammer 40,000 (Q1 Rank #5)
  5. Shadowrun (Q1 Rank #4)
  6. Dungeon Crawl Classics
  7. The One Ring (Q1 Rank #6)
  8. Mutant Year Zero (Q1 Rank #15)
  9. 13th Age (Q1 Rank #8)
  10. Fate (Q1 Rank #7)
  11. Lamentations of the Flame Princess
  12. The Dresden Files
  13. Iron Kingdoms (Q1 Rank #17)
  14. Numenera (Q1 Rank #10)
  15. Through the Breach
  16. The End of the World (Q1 Rank #12)
  17. Legend of the Five Rings
  18. Dread
  19. Trail of Cthulhu (Q1 Rank #14)
  20. White Wolf/World of Darkness

ShadowrunRunFasterNo big shocks in the Top Five, as Shadowrun and Warhammer 40,000 continue their tussle for the number four spot.  The 40K sales are absolutely driven by the second edition of Dark Heresy and the new releases for that line, although the back catalog sales of Deathwatch and Rogue Trader are quite strong.  As I’ve stated before, six months ago I would have never thought that the 40K games would still be in the top five, but the enduring appeal of the grimdark future of the 41st Millennium has proven me wrong.
Shadowrun for its part, didn’t have a core hardback release this quarter, so the flip-flop is expected, but with both Data Trails and Chrome Flesh releasing in Q3, Shadowrun should return the punches next time around.

It’s also worth noting that in April, for the first time since its release, the sales of Dungeons & Dragons were eclipsed by those of Pathfinder, but it didn’t last, and as you can see, it wasn’t enough to keep D&D from the top spot over the course of the quarter. In case you missed it, back in May I wrote a big article about my thoughts on the future of D&D and Pathfinder, which you can check out here.

DCCGhostRingMy personal favorites The One Ring and 13th Age seem to have mostly firmed up their positions in the Top 10, although the appearance of Dungeon Crawl Classics in the #6 spot shook things up a bit. DCC has been in our list before, but my full time Assistant Manager George recently took a shine to the line after hosting the game for a Free RPG Day session, and his excitement for the game (and his own not insignificant purchasing) helped push it back into the Top 10.  As always, never underestimate what your own passions will do for the sales of an RPG line in your store.

MutantYearZeroProductsThe big story this time around is Mutant Year Zero.  Yes, I did in fact predict this back in May.  This is the the post-apocalyptic game you’ve been looking for.  Not as silly as Gamma World, and not zombie-centric, once we got a decent restock (thanks Aldo!) the thing has taken off and never looked back.  It’s got some really cool “Ark” rules that detail the survivors’ enclave and how it grows and changes throughout the course of the campaign.

A lot of fresh and returning titles this month: Legend of the Five Rings makes its return to the list, thanks to a massive and long overdue line-wide reprint.  Lamentations of the Flame Princess had four simultaneous releases in April, including the $42.99 hardback A Red & Pleasant Land.  Dresden Files generated a pile of cash from the release of the game’s third hardback, The Paranet Papers, while the appearance of Dread on Wil Wheaton’s Tabletop drove sales of that game.  For those of you that don’t know, instead of cards or dice Dread uses a Jenga set, and sales of that classic game have picked up as a result.

PrimevalThuleOf special note is Primeval Thule.  This setting book from Sasquatch Game Studio (the creative team behind D&D’s Princes of the Apocalypse) is available in both Pathfinder and 13th Age versions.  So while the sales of those books are included in their respective lines above, it’s worth noting that if the Primeval Thule setting was listed as its own game line, it would have ranked at #19.  Similarly the Dragon Kings book, a completely system-free setting book which is a spiritual descendant of Dark Sun (from one of the original designers of that setting) just barely missed the chart at #22.

Looking ahead, I expect the Star Wars Force and Destiny rulebook release might potentially threaten Pathfinder’s hold on the #2 spot.  I doubt it will actually break through, but it might be close.  The second End of the World  book, Wrath of the Gods will give that game a boost, although it’s unlikely it will reach the heights that Zombie Apocalypse reached, although with Cthulhu on the cover, even that’s not certain.  (Not to mention, is there room for two Cthulhu Apocalypse RPGs?  Pelgrane’s Cthlulhu Apocalyse for Trail of Cthulhu is will probably be out before the end of September as well.)  Finally, if Cubicle 7 manages to release Horse-Lords of Rohan in Q3, The One Ring might see a massive influx of new players as the fan favorite Rohirrim enter the game as a playable culture.

Until next time,

-Paul Alexander Butler is the Director of Retail Operations at Games and Stuff.  For those keeping score at home, RPG Sales at Games and Stuff are up 29.3% over this time last year. But August of 2014 was the release of the D&D Player’s Handbook, so NEXT quarter is when those year-on-year numbers will be interesting.