Tuesday 24 November 2009

Epic detail in Legendary Tales by Peter Samuelsson

Legendary Tales is a free fantasy game system. Far from being Lite, Peter has stitched together a horde of detail, ideas and information providing one of the most awe inspiring character creation mechanism I've seen. However, is it just another free fantasy RPG?

Character Creation

Moulding your game world avatar is an awe inspiring process that cannot fail to produce a blooming, colourful character. Most of the character is randomly rolled or based on those rolls. This loss of control is not everyone's cup of brown but it does make the creation system slick, avoiding hours of pouring over point assignments. Random roll systems also lend themselves to batch creation of NPCs, which is a gift to the GM. On the whole, it is a majestic process I recommend you look at, as I will fail to do it justice in a simple blog post.

You begin by selecting a race from the typically benchmark set of Human, Half-Elf, Elf, Dwarf (why are there no half-dwarfs?), Halfling, Gnome, Half-Orc, Orc, Troll, Ogre, Goblin and Dark-Elf. Each are well described, including social and religious traits. Each race has its own abilities and drawbacks, too.

A character has 10 attributes: strength, constitution, dexterity, quickness, intelligence, self-discipline, aura, perception, intuition and presence, each rolled on a number of D6 depending on race. Aura is magical ability, intuition is a sixth sense which suggests that the player can plunder the GM for information (a Spidey-sense). The descriptions are all well formed, pointing out which attribute to use in various conflicting scenarios.

The attributes are then converted into a % rank. I am not sure why the attributes can't just be % in the first place. Secondary attributes are next and cover resistences, movement, etc and are based on the core attributes.

Next up are core skills, such as Native Language and Region Lore. Background is rolled randomly on a race-specific tables and Magic traits indicate how much magical power you have to wield. The list of possible backgrounds for the different races is mind boggling.

Virtues and Drawbacks are a balanced system that add special abilities to your character. They are rolled randomly, which means you might end up with a right dog of a character - or some kind of hero. I can see some combinations might cancel out but that is the purview of the GM to sort out.

An occupation provides a ready-to-go pack of skills or you can create your own profession by picking from the copious (but not over-bearing) skill list. Each skill is based on an Attribute, which supplies a bonus.

Morality defines an alignment for your character and you finish by furnishing your character with equipment, based on your race and background. This includes a preset list of items and a roll on a table for a bonus free bit of kit (occupation dependent too). I liked the idea of handing out shiny pieces of kit from the start.


The mechanics are squirrelled away in amongst the description of Attributes. Each round, you act a number of times (depending on quickness) and then roll skills to hit and other dice do damage. Nowehere is this explicit. Although there is crunch in the form of exceptions and options, the act of resolving issues appears to be constant: d100 for checks and multiple d6s and modifiers for damage.

The Devil's in the detail

Where Legendary Tales is very strong is in its detail. Although no setting is supplied, one is implied by strong, detailed descriptions of just about everything. A skim reader might consign Legendary Tales into the overflowing landfill marked 'Not Another Free Fantasy Game' but if you read a little deeper, you will find that an enormous amount of thought has gone into every race, profession and skill.

The Bestiary, like character creation, is a good example of the towering wall of mountain there is to explore. Most free fantasy RPGs I skim read include the scantest amount of detail but Legendary Tales goes that much further, offering social and racial aspects.

Absolute Gamesmaster power

For babbling megalomaniacs, Peter recommends that all the rolls in the game are performed by the Gamesmaster in secret. To go further, he recommends that the level of wounds amongst the characters is not revealed. This replaces the cold statistics of most RPGs with more verbal descriptions of events. If I approached my player group with such antics, they would riot - clambering over furniture and jumping up and down on tabletops, whooping and banging bones together.

What I would do with it

Legendary Tales needs some streamlining and a brutal application of my guide to organising RPGs. It breaks pretty much all of the guidelines I recommend! Although not intentionally. I doubt anyone would write an RPG just to spite me. Legendary Tales requires a thorough proof read to correct places where English is not predictable (I imagine English is Peter's second language). I would also remove the 'Coming soon' element on the last page. The game is labelled Beta but I see that as a technicality.

Finally, and most importantly, I would take great pains to indicate to the reader why Legendary Tales is different to all the other fantasy games out there. I would mention the detail, character creation system and the extra rule crunch. Hopefully, this review, your comments and a well placed email might coax Peter to create another revision!


Legendary Tales is a cohesive, comprehensive and brimming with ideas in the form of detail. Random character generation mechanisms often suffer from limited choices but not so for Legendary Tales. Mechanic crunch is layered upon a simple, solid mechanic and although it appears to be unfinished, there is plenty here for a GM who wants a little more from their free RPG.

Sunday 22 November 2009

New 'In Philanthropists We Trust' images

Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment on my blog redesign. Chris Sakkas suggested that the Adobe logo on the book wasn't really appropriate and with hindsight, I can only agree! I have made a new batch of images with a gift box instead of the Adobe logo.

Sadly Picasaweb, my image host, will not allow me to replace the images - only upload new ones! Thank you to everyone who put the image on their blog, if I could please ask you to change over to the new one, I would be very grateful indeed. Sorry for the inconvenience and thank you for you continued support!

Here are the new ones (with the new background) for your linking pleasure.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

The Free RPG Blog gets a hollywood style makeover. With less silicone.

There are going to be a few improvements here on the blog over the next week, the first was finished today - the theme! If you read the blog in an RSS Reader, then take this opportunity to pop along to the blog to have a gander and let me know if you like it. I hope you do. Some of the sidebars need to be put back but the content is still there, surrounded by a more pleasant (bling) skin. What else is happening? Keep reading to find out.

Have your own site? Love free stuff? Let people know!

Thank you to those of you who added the 'Vote Truly Free' support badge for the Ennies this year. However, I can't let you keep that hurriedly composed piece on beautiful blogs. Instead, feel free to use one of these lovelies, linking either to here or to 1KM1KT (whichever takes your fancy). No need to host yourself, just use the Picasaweb link. Please do resize if you need to fit it onto your blog.

Coming very soon

Update! Quicker than I thought! I can now be found at www.thefreerpgblog.com and the RSS feed has been moved over to feedburner. The joy is that you probably don't need to update your RSS feeds! If you keep getting the posts in every Tuesday, it's all gone through automatically.
I have purchased www.thefreerpgblog.com (which only redirects at the moment) and I will be moving the RSS feed over to feedburner. These will take a few days to get sorted and there might be a slight downtime while the internet gets used to the new address. Once it is all stable, I'll let you know so you can move your bookmarks and RSS feeds. Thank you in advance for your continued support and patience while I invariably balls it up.

Still reading? One last free thing as a thank you

I crafted this lovely wallpaper for your lovely computer. Assuming you are using a computer to read this and you're not using an immensely complex ticker tape device. Clicky for a biggy (more sizes available on request - just leave a comment).

Friday 13 November 2009

Dyson Logos' Marvellous Random Dungeon Maker

Dyson Logos: philanthropist, author of the superb Geodesic Gnomes, blogger and all round excellent fellow embarked on a mission to create a random map generation system using map tiles of discernible rooms. The idea would be for you roll on a table and produce the tile from a set of pre-cut tiles. A charming, bonkers idea that it simply has to work. I like big, bold ideas so much that I tend to throw a bit of myself at them. This time, I'm throwing a bit of myself at Dyson and, chances are I won't get arrested this time.

Forsooth! He's made software out of it

Yes! I've gone and taken all 12 tiles (so far) and performed some digital magic to turn them into a web page that will generate a dungeon for you. You can then print or take a screenshot. Or generate another. The possibilities are endless! Do be careful: changing the values in the boxes will create a new map!

I'm hosting it on a spare web host, so you might find that the location moves in the future (perhaps to Dyson's own blog) but I promise I will leave a forwarding device, so please do bookmark. I hope Dyson keeps going so I can keep adding more tiles to the page, it will look better and better each time. The overlap you see is to make the tiles line up a bit. As they are a little rough in size, you'll find that there can be a bit of overlap. I think it adds character to the result. If you can think of a feature you would like, please do comment.

With some mirth, I'm excited to announce that I haven't told Dyson I'm doing this. So, we all get to see the golden man's aghast internet persona when he discovers this. I see it as piling philanthropy onto philanthropy until we end up in an enormous philanthropic heap. It's a way of saying thank you.


Top chap Jakob Bindslet has made his own version, which rotates the dungeon tiles too. A snacky feature that leads to less repetition and predictability. Nice one, Jakob!

Tuesday 10 November 2009

Let's hope they have another go - The French Invade Texas by Jaap de Goede

The French Invade Texas is an alternative-history (sort of) roleplaying game by Jaap de Goede. Play the role of La Salle, a French explorer and use the King of France's extensive resources to colonise and fight the Spanish. I became a fan of Jaap with Dark Dungeon and I'm proud to say I still am.

If the title itself isn't enough to spur you to read on then perhaps you might enjoy witnessing the gradual slide of blog quality as sleep deprevation causes that thin line between awake and asleep to fade.

The New World and New France

It is clear that Jaap had a Wikigasm when writing this. It is based in the late 17th Century when northern America was colonies (what we call in Europe the Good Old Days). You play out the voyages of Louis XIV's favourite La Salle who popped across the pond for some territory theft. However, the Spanish had got there before, so you'll be stealing some of theirs. They won't miss it. It's buckling of swash with all the interesting elements from that era: native Americans, mystical cities of gold, Conquistadors, pirates and so on.

Character Creation

Crafting your avatar is a point based affair. Characteristics are your attributes - Strength, Constitution, Agility, Perception, Willpower and Charm. They do what they say on the tin. Zero is an average, with positive and negative values placing you either side of it. The skill list is brief but exceptionally useful. One of the characters really should be the French explorer La Salle, who the game is about. Think of it as the team leader, which in our gaming group is code for "The first person in trouble". Jaap suggests that the most capable player plays La Salle. In our group, this would mean the player would was out of the room when the choice is made. You can play one of his compatriots (example PCs straight from the history books) or use them as a starting point.


A stock 2D6 + skill (or attribute) to reach a target number is used. The difficulty level examples are a delight: "15- convince the Spanish Inquisition you are innocent". Critical failures on double 1 and on double 6 you critically succeed and keep rolling, adding the numbers up. Combat is performed in an old fashioned (as in lemonade - you know bitter, bits, no sugar and a hit that makes the edges of your mouth yearn to be near your ears) manner. You take it in turns to lunge and repost. You might find yourself bellowing "Have AT YOU!". You take it in turns to slot each other up a treat until one of you can't any more. If you're not the one on the floor bleeding then you're the winner. Well done you.

History is fun

Ignore the corduroy clad bearded buffoon with the chalk and the dates. History is fun. The bad chaps are really very bad indeed. Genocidally bad. The good guys are mostly bad too. That would appeal to my players, who don't do good and evil. They varying shades of evil. Jaap has included some superb hooks and adventure plots - which are absolutely ideal as there is a lot of background to get your head around.

To do next

Jaap didn't quite manage to complete The French Invade Texas in 24 hours (it took 30), so it is ripe for my usual improvements. As the game is inspired and built upon history, there is a lot of it and it still feels very Wiki in the way it reads. I think it needs a bit of trimming and representing for the modern roleplayer. There are some spelling mistakes and I think the organisation could be improved. On a minor point, the game is written as a game for brand new gamers and I think that's probably not the target market. I'd rather see it written with experienced gamers in mind.


The French Invade Texas is a superb idea that will be bread and butter to history buffs and intriguingly novel to the rest of us. A dark section of European history that is rife for the plundering and yet rarely is so. Written with Jaap's usual flair for English, even the historically illiterate will find La Salle an interesting personality. It is rough in places and can be heavy but like a good rocky road brownie, it's delicious because of it.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Illuminate your tired grey matter with the brilliant Nevermet Press

Nevermet Press is a website resource bursting at its seams with superb content you can drop into your existing campaign or inspire your next. It's not just the written word either. For those (like me) who can't stand to read a page of text without some eye candy - there is original art. None of the content is system specific and you would need a mind like granite for it not to blister with ideas. Having ideas is what you do, after all, you're a roleplayer.

Gadzooks, he's reviewing a website

Scoff ye not, PDF snobs! Great content is just that, regardless how its served. Nevermet Press's format is ideal for those browsing for inspiration or short on time. Beyond content, the site has a Forum (which is quiet but does give you a visible opportunity for feedback), RSS feed, Twitter updates, search and a taxonomy system. All you might hope for. I've been sitting on this for a while, waiting for the right time when there was enough content to review. There is now.

Tell me about Content

The content is categorised as:
  • NPCs

  • Player Guide - example characters that players can draw inspiration from

  • Distributed Workshops - where the generic content is given popular system specific statistics to make it even easier to use in your favourite system.

  • Genre Adaptation - difficult to say what this category is but it suggests that one genre has been squished into another

  • Adventure Hooks - idea for GMs with adventure block

  • Short Fiction - slightly out of place here but still worth a read

  • Location - places to go

  • Objects - stuff to find

  • Portraits of a Villain - these are special NPC outlines with more detail than the normal NPCs. Ideal for an arch nemesis

  • Organization - guilds, secret societies and so on

  • Encounter - no wandering monsters here

Quality often suffers with quantity but not so here. Nevermet Press has a band of merry contributors, who all each give a little every so often. This keeps the quality brimming too. Especially with the artwork, which is ceaselessly beautiful.

All the content is system independent but not in a mind bendingly annoying way but in a delightful, tip-toe-through-tulips way. Many of the villains only need a sprinkling of statistics and skills to drop into your favourite game system. In my next campaign, I'm going to use one as a template but I can't say any more as the congealed evil filth that disguise themselves as players have rumbled me an keep an eye on this otherwise untainted blog.


Being a chalky skinned Englishman places me ideally for using the word 'Props'. Not the spinning-death-blades on the front of a piston aeroplane but proper respect. I'm so street, I'm paved. I normally name authors, place them on a plinth and built an altar in the shed but in this community project, it isn't possible. There are just too many. Instead, let my creepy praise be aimed at the Founders: Michael Brewer and Jonathan Jacobs. Michael you may know from the 2009 Ennie Nominated Mad Brew Labs. A superb blog. Jonathan wrote The Core Mechanic, which started around the same time as this blog and was always a rocking read. It is some consolation that Nevermet Press was born from its ashes. He also was a fevered brain behind the Open Game Table an Anthology of the best RPG blogs. Respect to both of you.

How I would improve it

For this section, I am going to remove my flamboyant crimson felt RPG blogger hat and affix my rather severe web designer top hat. All of my comments are based on using the website as a tool for finding something in a full tilt rush.

On the front page I would like the categories front and centre. The tag cloud is good for tags but if I need to find an NPC in a hurry, I want to be able to click to go to a list. I would prefer lists of entries to have just a snippet, with a "read more" link. At the top of each entry, I would like a precis in two lines regarding what the entry is about. I would also like to see a PDF compendium in the future.


In theory, Nevermet Press feels like a RPG project built on Bondai Beach. Michael and Jonathan have bested all RPG community statistics and created a superb content driven site with entries that can actually be used. Nevermet Press is a triumph.

Picture Credits: Masks of Truth by James Keegan, Hidden Kingdom house by Matt Meyer.