Archive for December, 2013


Looking Back over December and MMXIII as we move into MMXIV

31 December, 2013

The New Year and January is just around the corner.   Good fortune to all for MMXIV!

January is named after Janus (Ianuarius) the god of doorways, pictured as looking both forward and back.   We will revisit the themes of doorways, transport and travel for January what with moving into the New Year and all.  As usual, if there is something on this theme you would like to see, let me know.

My main goal for 2014 will be to get the Sea of Stars campaign setting kickstarter going, completed and then the product written and finished.

Looking back over December, we see another month of light but hopefully interesting posting:

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Tuesday Magic Item – Hangmanay Black Bun

31 December, 2013

Black BunAs so, as the New Year began, people sang and danced, visiting their friends home, hoping to bring them luck as the first-foot across the threshold.  Gifts were exchanged to symbolize such hopes, including salt, short bread and black bun to bring good fortune to all in the New Year.

Food was eaten, drinks drunk and songs sung as friends and neighbors welcomed the New Year with hope and festivities.

Hangmanay Black Bun

Like all black buns, this is a fruit cake wrapped in pastry.  The cake itself is a traditional fruit cake, including ingredients such as raisins and currants along with spices such as cinnamon, black pepper and allspice.  There is always some secret ingredient by each baker and prayers and blessings are usually spoken over the black bun as it is baking.

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Critique: Elysium (movie)

27 December, 2013

Finally managed to watch Elysium on DVD.  I had kept my expectations low and it mostly managed to meet them.  In some ways it came across as a by the numbers cyberpunk pastiche:

  • World ruled by megacorps/1%, check.
  • Disposable people ground underfoot by said megacorps for no good reason, check.
  • Head of local crime syndicate turns out to be a social revolutionary willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good, check.
  • Headware memory, exoskeltons, powered armor and robotic soldier/cops, check.
  • Absurdly powerful firearms available yet the big bad killer uses a katana, check.

That being said, the special effects were good, the space wheel was superb and the scene of Max (Damian’s character) getting the exoskeleton installed was suitable horrific -and should give any cyberpunk GM good ideas for a visit to a street doc-.  But the movie did not make much sense, the society has amazing access to power (LA is shown full of street lights for example), the crime syndicate has access to shuttles that can fly to Elysium (and they are apparently cheap enough that they can afford to send three and not expect to get any of them back) and the 1% can commute back and forth to Elysium, yet the Earth is a hellhole to live in because . . .  The medical technology the rich use on Elysium is as easy to use as pie and consumes -to all appearances- negligible resources and it is not used on Earth because . . .  The crime syndicate has access to computers that can crack megacorp encrypted files and forge Elysium identification yet they do not use them to make things better because . . .

I know, it is suppose to be social commentary but you still need to have the story structure make sense to be able to make those observations and criticisms.  Still, if you can ignore the heavy handed attempts at social commentary, it does have some good action sequences and Elysium itself just looks beautiful.

Such are my thoughts on the movie, what did you think of it?



Review – Shadowrun: Sim Dreams & Nightmares

27 December, 2013

Shadowrun: Sim Dreams & Nightmares is a brief guide to the use and abuse of sim sense technology in the Shadowrun setting.  Sim Sense and BTL (Better Than Life) chips, and the addiction caused by them, are a major part of the Shadowrun setting so, good to see them get some more detail.  However, this product does not provide nearly enough mechanical information, rather just enough for an overview, which may be enough for most games but it creates more questions than it answers.

Shadowrun: Sim Dreams & Nightmares, is a short piece on sim sense and related technologies (Better Than Life -BTL- chips, moodchips, personasofts) and their place in the Sixth World of Shadowrun.  While made for the 4th edition, the background information remains applicable to the setting and the limited additional rules should be easily convertible to 5th.

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Tuesday Magic Item – Gifting Plate and Cup

24 December, 2013

Milk and CookiesLittle Hettie placed the slice of plum tart and poured some goat’s milk into the cup.  “Will the Green Folk like this mommy?”

“They with be charmed by it,” said her mother, placing her hand on Hettie’s shoulder, “and they will be kind to us in return for our kindness.”

Hettie smiled up at her mother and blow a kiss to the plate and cup.  “Keep this safe for the Green Folk.”

“Accept this gift in the spirit of kindness,” added her mother, taking Hettie’s hand.  “Now it is time for you to go to bed.”

Gifting Plate and Cup

These are often made of basic materials by less than expert hands and marked with a symbol showing who it belongs to, these are often highly idiosyncratic.  They are used for offerings to minor spirits and household gods.

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Review – Shadowrun: Coyotes

22 December, 2013

Shadowrun: Coyotes provides information about people smugglers in the Shadowrun setting.  I admit, this is the first time I have seen the term ‘coyote’ used for people smugglers in a non-derogatory matter, the ‘coyotes’ I read about in the modern world are pretty universally unpleasant people, while here it is just used as a generic term and I think they would have been well served to have found another term to use.  That aside, it is a useful resource if there is a lot of traveling in your campaign, not all borders are easy to move across after all.

Shadowrun: Coyotes, is a resource on people smugglers in the Sixth World, how and why they operate, advice on when to use them, pre-generated coyotes, examples checkpoints and a scenario make up this product.

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Short Pathfinder Reviews – Dwarves, Dwarves and more Dwarves

21 December, 2013

After looking at Halflings (and hearts), today we look at the stoic dwarf as presented in a variety of products:

Player’s Options: Dwarves from 4 Winds Publishing.  It starts with two variant dwarf-kin: Half-dwarf (and half human), children of that rare crossbreeding with talents from both side, and Stone Dwarfs, who are even more closely tied to the element of earth than most dwarves, both useful for various sorts of stories.  Fourteen new dwarven feats, including Dwarven Baritone (for the singing dwarves) and Exile, who fights with fury against those that drove them  from their mountain home, this provide more options for customizing dwarves as do six flaws (as well as the rules for flaws).  The product wraps up with new dwarven equipment including two new weapons and one type of armor, along with the dwarven made qualities for both armor and weapons,  some dwarven food and drink, a musical instrument  and a false beard (unfortunately called a merkin).  This provides some useful additional choices for dwarven characters and some amusing items to use as treasures in abandoned dwarven ruins.

#1 With a Bullet Point: 13 Dwarven Questing Feats from Rogue Genius Games is built around expanding the core ideas of dwarven identity, such as they organize and contract quests, implemented through the Questing Proconsul feat which provides minor bonuses for those organized into a proper questing company.  Many of the other feats build off of dwarven racial abilities such as Battle Name, which recalls a great achievement of the character against enemies of the dwarven people, and Tomb Smasher, which lets you break into stone area more easily.  A lovely pool of additional feats for dwarves.

Transcendent 10 – Feats of Synergy – Company of Dwarves from Lost Spheres Publishing provides ten new feats for dwarves, each with a short discussion about how it can be used which is interesting to see the designer’s thoughts on such matters.  It includes some supporting for crafting, including one feat that allows skilled dwarven craftsmen to make magic armor and weapons, and some solid group oriented feats and even a feat for dwarven bards!    There is much to like here if you are using dwarves and good ideas to emphasize classical dwarven ideals.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.


Moving Forward on the Sea of Stars Kickstarter – Gathering Artists (Update 2)

21 December, 2013

Moving forward, slowly, on getting thing together for the Sea of Stars Kickstarter, while I will still need more artists and a mapmaker, I have polite commitments for at least one piece of art from each of the following artists (in alphabetical order):

Drew Baker, whom jim pinto called “the nicest guy in the industry” and a brilliant artist.  He painted the lovely dragon slayer piece I picked up at GenCon.

Talon Dunning, gamer and artist with his own game company, I am working on him with another project too.

M C A Hogarth, artist, author and all around talented lady.

Beth Trott, another skilled artist I know through jim pinto, whose lovely art should be perfect for the Visse.

Update 1:

Anir, a Romanian artist is doing a piece that I am intending to use for the free adventure.

Update 2:

Austin Gandy, master of the Elemental Temple of Pixels and part of my Wednesday night crew, has signed on.


I will update as I confirm new artists.  And any artists and mapmakers out there, feel free to contact me.


Tuesday Magic Item – Limbo Closet

17 December, 2013

Opening the door . . .“Summoned before the King?  Give me just a moment to get ready,” Iferis had been on the road for days and he knew his enemies in court sought to embarrass him, luckily he had an angle.

He took a doorknob from his pocket, held it at waist height and opened a door into his own private closet . . . A few minutes later, he was ready to met the King, he was still wearing his travel stained clothes but he, and his clothes, no longer stank and his mussed hair was  now more artistic than ragged.

“I am ready, there is news the King must hear from the frontier.”

Limbo Closet

These devices are paradoxical both in their existence and in use.  They appear as a beautifully decorated doorknob, usually made of brass and crystal, but there are no pins or other ways to actually affix it to a door.

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Short Shadowrun Reviews – Guns and Montreal

16 December, 2013

A short look at two Shadowrun products, one a crossover product with stats for both 4th and 5th edition, the other an area sourcebook that is easily adaptable to 5th edition though written for 4th:

Gun H(e)aven 3 provides (surprise surprise) more guns for Shadowrun, statted out for both 4th and 5th editions which is useful and also -at times- perplexing.  The weapons are primarily small arms, with one each assault cannon, light machine gun and flame-thrower, many of which are the sorts of weapon that would be found in households, not usually the sort of heat runners would pack but that they might be shot by or be forced to use in bad circumstances.  All of this is useful in the right circumstances.  But what perplexes me about the product is that while it is the same weapon from edition to edition, the availability, cost and legality (!) of many of the guns changes from edition to edition which are part of the same continuity, some explanation would be welcome.

Montreal 2074 as the Republic of Quebec opens for business, Montreal sees a renaissance as corporate money pours in revitalizing the city and providing Shadowrunners with opportunities.  This resource gives some background as to what has happened in Quebec as a whole since the matrix crash 2.0 and what specifically has been going down in Montreal.  It gives a good overview of the city, sketches of the major players in the shadowy underworld and ends with nine contacts appropriate to Montreal (while written for the previous edition, the mechanic of the contacts are the only things that would need to be converted for a 5th edition game).  While there are a variety of implied adventures in the text, some adventure seeds would have been a nice addition.  Overall, a needed resource if you want to run the shadows up Quebec-way even though it could have provided some deeper information beyond the overview for plot hooks and really getting a feel for the shadows of Montreal.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

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