Friday, 31 July 2009

1KM1KT, Free RPG Blog 24 Hour Competition Winner!

Three months, three judges, thirty games, twenty four hours. Thirty days of judging, reading, reviewing, chatting and much wringing of hands and weeping like widows. The quality was high, the ideas broad and novel and everyone at 1KM1KT is thrilled that the entrants threw themselves into it. At the end, Keeton was presented with a shortlist of three that the judges (Chainsaw Aardvark, Kumakami and I) all agreed were tip top. So good, in fact, that I am forced to review as many of the entrants as I dare over the next few weeks. I wish there was a way we could have many winners because so many deserved to do so.

And the winner is...

Keeton Must Die! Teddy Bear Bloodsports
by M. S. Jackson

Complete, neat and met all of the rules to a tee. Weird? You bet, gladiatorial teddies possessed by evil spirits that rebel against Dr. Keeton. They must have revenge. A full review is on the way.

Seeing as Keeton, the GLORIOUS BENEFACTOR of 1KM1KT had the final say, it's rather odd that he chose the one with "Keeton Must Die" in the title. Odd? You betcha.

Congratulations M. S., the Amazon voucher for £30 will be on its way in the email. :)

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Vote for Truly Free at the Ennies

The ballots are now open and it is your chance to support those people who spend their hard earned spare time crafting and shaping freeness for your gaming delight! The Quick Start rules are little more than advertising material, so let's give those who create for free a chance. Ballots close on the 1st of August!

Say thanks to the Philanthropists:
Vote for Trial and Terror or Swords and Wizardry!

Next year, I am going to do whatever is necessary to ensure that this category is filled with truly free delights.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Why should your eyes have all the fun? Free stuff to delight your ears!

In this post I perform dainty reviewettes on three of my favourite roleplaying game podcasts. These regular on-demand radio programmes are ideal if you work in a morgue-like office, find yourself on long commutes or just lazing out in the sun. Podcasts are a slow method of data retrieval. It's not the bite sized shotgun frenzy of Twitter, the flame grilled fervour of a forum or the deep cerebral discourse of blog but they are entertaining and can be consumed without drawing your full attention.

All Games Considered

Mark Kinney's multi-game podcast is so long standing that it very well might be drawn into common law. The current line up is Mark, Mags and Carol and between them review a range of games from board games through to (and leaning toward) roleplaying games. Mark is definitely the host here, driving forward a mix of news and reviews. There are few lulls and the ladies keep things lively. As most RPG podcasters are gentlemen, having ladies in the mix is a welcome break. AGC has its own Forum Community (called Nachtmedia but it's the same jolly bunch) and respond well to comment and critique. Chris Heim is an irregular guest (although for archive hunters, he was a regular) has a section 'Gaming for Cheap Bastards', which focussed on an area dear to my heart.

Furthermore, if you're keen on the ENnies, they've been nominated for best podcast. They will certainly get my vote!

Here Be Gamers

Hailing from hotter half of the Commonwealth comes the Australian gaming podcast Here Be Gamers. The hosts, Marty and Nathan, cover a range of board, war and roleplaying games. Now up to nine episodes, they are one of the few podcasts that can make laugh out loud while I listen at work. The mix is evenly split but the roleplaying sections are good indeed. Nathan has a section where he reviews a free RPG, leaving me frothing with glee. The podcast feels like you could be in the pub with them - be careful not to join in on the banter else you'll have turned into that man on the bus that holds a conversation with himself. You know the one I mean? No? Then it's you.

As if that isn't enough, HBG have put together an Extra ezine for $1 with loads of cool stuff in it. I plugged that last week, so that's enough from me.

RPG Circus

New to the ring are RPG Circus, a clutch of seasoned bloggers engaging in daring audio gymnastics for our entertainment. The hosts are Mark 'Dice Monkey' Meredith, Zachary Houghton (of RPG Blog 2 fame) and Jeff 'Bonemaster' Uurtamo. The show is a mix of news, acrobatics, comment on the hobby, fire breathing, reviews, elephant juggling and interviews. The last interviewee was The Chatty DM no less. The Circus is still bedding in as they get used to it but Jeff, Zach and Mark have mountains of potential. You don't have to be obsessed with the RPG blogosphere to find RPGCircus interesting as the majority of the podcast is about games and gaming itself. However, I think their joint blogging clout will mean that they find it easier to get guests onboard.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Help Free RPG Authors by voting "Truly Free" at the Ennies

Three out of the five games in the Free RPG Category of the Ennies are Quick Start versions of commercial games. Although technically free, quick start games should not win this category because they:
  • Are not complete roleplaying games
  • Have the backing of major corporations [recinded, thanks to the commenters, this was a hasty assumption]
  • Are at best advertising materials
Let's show our solidarity by voting for the two games that really are free, complete games and not marketing tools for a commercial ones. Please vote for either Swords & Wizardry or Trial & Terror in the Ennies Best Free RPG category. Every vote really does count, so mobilise your friends and family to assist!

Got a website? You can help!

Let's spread the word together and get people voting for truly free RPGs. I did make some logos but Ennies felt they were infringement of copyright. Surrounded as I am by lawyers quoting fair use chapter and verse, I don't want this crusade to be about the Ennies logo or law.

Thanks for the support!

Ennies, Commercial games for free and free stuff for cash

In perhaps the most confused title I've ventured yet, I give a quick glance at free, Lite versions of some Commercial games, rant give comment on the Ennies and look at a free podcast's super-cheapo ezine. Cheaper than buying a can of Coke in London. Cheaper than a Mercedes Benz. More cheap than a flock of fledgelings.

Quick Start Commercial Games

I have been avoiding reviewing any free versions commercial games since the start because companies proferring quick start rules can point their planet devasting marketing budgets at them. The quick start rules bob along on the full-price-product marketing tsunami. I prefer to stand up for the philanthropist (or clusters of them) who produces games for the love of it. Free Quick Starts tend to be beautiful but all lack a certain depth that you can get from other free RPGs.

Call of Cthulhu Quick Start is a horror RPG that is set in the 30s pulp world of H.P. Lovecraft. Chances are, if you're reading this blog, you've heard of Cthulhu. The mechanics are mostly there and there is just enough flavour in the setting to run it. The adventure is not bad.

Castles and Crusades Quick Start is an old school fantasy game that appears (from the difficult to fathom quick start) to be stock fantasy - so stock you should add it to your fantasy RPG soups. It's pretty but not very well set up for quick start.

Eldritch Quick Start is a remarkably complete Fantasy RPG with a slightly historical tinge. Although it claims to not be just another Fantasy RPG, there's not enough in the Quick Start to really divine that. There is just enough system to play but the setting information is light.

Fuzion rules is a full roleplaying game system from R. Talisorian games. It's a good core system (point buy, attributes and skills), not surprises and although there is no setting included, there are lots to choose from online. Testimony to how long its been around. Fuzion was used by lots of game settings and as such many of the settings are for purchase.

GURPS Lite is a quick hit of the full GURPS generic ruleset. It has all the main elements of the commercial game stuffed coherently into the 32 page book and is well laid out with the usual attractive line art. There is plenty here to get stuck into.

Hunter the Vigil Quick Start is a White Wolf roleplaying game that reads a little like Buffy The Vampire Slayer. You play monster hunters that appear to wander around killing archetypes from the other White Wolf games. I like the idea of killing all the characters from the last campaign! It's 40 odd pages, most of which is the free adventure - only 6 pages of rules.

Savage Worlds Test Drive is a core rule book for pulp style games. At 16 pages, there's not a lot here but as the topic is pulp, there is enough system to screw onto your own setting.

Shadowrun Quick Start is a game set in the near future where cyberpunk ideas hit magic head on. It has pregenerated character and a full adventure to go on but a lot of the flavour that made Shadowrun popular is missing.

Songs of Ice and Fire Quick Start is a roleplaying game set in George R.R. Martin's best-selling A Song of Ice and Fire. The Quick Start is 32 pages and contains a stock fantasy setting, a little bit about the rules, sample characters and an adventure. The print out maps are detailed but I do wonder if they print well in black and white on a standard home printer.

See also

Here be Gamers Extra

Here be Gamers is my favourite gaming podcast. Nathan and Marty have a jolly Australian flair to them and in each Episode Nathan reviews Free RPGs! Not only that but Nathan has also taken part in the 24 Hour RPG challenge. Sounds like I'm about to propose marriage? You bet! Although this might sound like a hand/feet/arse kissing exercise, Nathan and Marty have put together a splendid magazine called Here Be Gamers Extra. Its as lively and well produced as the podcast and only costs $1 (USD). Crikey! Me helping flogging something? In this rare case, yes. The cash is to go toward podcast hosting, which I am all for. If that wasn't reason enough to expend a digital greenback, I've donated a cut down review of Zenobia and will be doing this for as long as they'll let me.

The Ennies Nominations for Free RPGs

The Ennies nominations are up and I am rather disappointed with the Free RPG section. It appears that 3 out of the 5 Free RPGs on offer are Quick Start rules. The nominations are:It's rather sad that the Ennies saw fit to make this category about stripped down versions of commercial games rather than free-as-a-bird games of equally high quality. Michael Wolf rightly points out that it's really about 'Best Ad'. I agree also with Jon Hicks that they are a taster for a commercial game and not designed for distribution. As Michael "chgowiz" points out that the best way to show solidarity is to vote for the much deserved Swords and Wizardry.

However, I think it's a shame that S&W and Trial and Terror aren't listed amonst peers. They deserve to be voted on amongst similar free games, rather than chopped down commercial games. I imagine that people will vote for more because of their paid counterparts than for their content. I have known White Wolf fans in the past and they tend to be zealots, hell bent on WW wining everything. Quick Starts are designed to leave you wanting more. If I was to try and review a game like that, I'd stop and send comments to the author to 'finish the bloody thing' before resbumitting to me. This is a missed opportunity for the Ennies and I will be thinking up some sort of campaign to stop a commercial quick start from winning. All ideas and comments welcome!

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Go natural in Tales From The Wood Simon Washburn and Mark George

Tales From the Wood is a roleplaying game where you play animals from the British woodland: Mice, Rabbits, Vole, Squirrels and Hedgehogs. If you think that's a rather low calorie, limp topic for a hobby that is normally bemuscled men wielding swords, think again. Nature is cruel and this setting has the capability to be darker than the inside of Marylin Manson's underpants. Woodland animals too girly for you? As yourself what's more fae: A badger tearing the throat out of a weasel or an oily body builder prancing about in his underpants wielding his 'sword'?

I do like to refer to the author of the games I review by their first name, it helps remind me that humans are involved. As there are two: Mark and Simon, I will refer to them as M&S, which fills me glee.

Character Creation

You begin by picking your animal (race). Each creature has its own special features and these tend to be more varied than in stock fantasy. A character is described by Attributes, Lores and Abilities. The Attributes are Toughness, Sturdiness, Nimbleness, Craftiness, Viciousness, Alertness and Luckiness. Oddly, I resolved to never list attributes again while I was writing my last review but I decided to throw caution to the wind and tweak the nose of fate and do it anyway. After all, these are excellent examples of Attributes named well. Each race has a starting level and a maximum, so you don't get into the state of having super-strength shrews. You get 5 points to add onto your starting value and cost is the same as the level you're trying to get to.

Abilities are innate physical modus operandi of each animal. Except fly and wisdom, any animal can do any of them. For example, Climb, Leap, Flee, Tooth and Claw (fighting) are common to all. Nominally, you get a d6 and if its listed against your race, you get a d10. Natural knowledge are dealt with by 'Lores', which are domain knowledge.


Your characters live in The Wood, a charming British glade with ancient towering oaks, broad ferns, shining silver birches, fingers of sunlight poking through a canopy to a leaf strewn floor and all that stuff. You know, nature. I'm a software developer, so don't really have a concept of nature beyond it being outside and it encites people to get naked. Or is that naturism? The Wood is also a silent, living entity that exists in symbiotic harmony with the animals that live in it. TFTW describes it perfectly as "We need The Wood, The Wood needs us.". There is plenty of danger in the wood in the form of natural predators such as owls and foxes as well as the dark evil that is The Bane. The Bane is a sinister force that seeks to control and use the Wood for its own evil means. Boo! Hiss! The bane drives the the evil NPCs: Rats, Weasels, Crows and Adders. It's Animals of Fathing Wood or Watership Down but in game form.


The system uses d6 and d10. If you have an ability (skill) in something, you use the d10. If you don't, you use the d6. Roll, add the appropriate Attribute and compare against a target. Simple, elegant. Fluffless, ironically. Opposed rolls are highest wins. Tooth an Claw is the skill the controls all forms of combat. It uses the same opposed rolls with damage being dealt as a simple equation using the Sturdiness of the character. Wounds are either Buffet, Scratch, Maim or Kill. Pretty brutal stuff.


The GM is called the Gamekeeper (very appropriate) and has their own section that is equally useful for hard-nosed GMs with a thousand years experience and the new GM. Times of day, distances, language and their game affects are covered. The GM can make inter-character language as simple or as complex as desired (feel like a challenge? None of the characters can talk to each other). Guns, cars, poisons and the horror of woodland fires are all described and make for excellent adventure fodder. Everything described from the point of view of the animals, which makes it easier to fit into the game. The bestiary is small but there is more than enough to keep the players on their toes/claws/paws. There are also three example adventures (or tales). Each one is a good example of a how a linear adventure might be played out. If you're keen on buying an updated print version, there's one on Lulu.

Fire in the Wood?

There are some niggles here. The layout is single column, which makes line length long. The pictures are lovely but too few. I worry that the paid version will be updated and improved but the free one will be left untended, which is a shame. There are some large empty spaces too. The biggest problem with Tales from the Wood is that it is a hard sell. If you have players like mine, and I pity you if they are, the very idea of playing woodland characters is the source of considerable derision. I mentioned Tales from the Wood some time ago and since then, they've be slavering, slobbering psychopaths - hell bent on the notion of putting a torch to the wood or causing a disasterous road traffic accident involving a chemical artic, a petroleum artic and a firewords lorry. They're plain evil. A substrate of filth growing on a postule on the rump of beelzebub. The Evil do not play woodland animals.


Tales of the Wood is so charming, Stephen Fry could be caught speechless. The system is neat, the writing of a high standard and the pictures simply superb. Excellent research ensures the suspension of disbelief. Where Tales of the Wood excels is that it can be cute for the kiddies and sinister for adults. If your players can be convinced to throw themselves wholeheartedly into Tales of the Wood, I believe the experience will be both novel and delightful. This is no ordinary wood, this is M&S's Wood. Many thanks M&S.