Wednesday 18 July 2012

ENnies and philanthropy and you

Congratulations to the 2012 ENnies nominees.

Thank you to the judges for their exhausting and oft thankless task!

I have a problem

None of the the nominations in the Free RPG category are by philanthropists. They are all cut down marketing versions of commercial games. The ENnies are about showcasing the best of the hobby and I feel that philanthropy, which has been a part of the hobby since it began, is not being represented here.

Logically speaking

All the games are free in that category. They all belong there. The judges believe en masse that quick starts and previews are more worthy than the free games submitted.

We don't have review criteria for the free RPGs category as the judges are left to decide on their own. Judging is hard work as it is without having to solicit feedback about whether X was chosen over Y. There are no guidelines for judging a free RPG so all the judges have is the category title.

Where it grates

Justin submitted Heroes Against Darkness this year and suffering sour grapes for not getting a nomination. I can understand his frustration.

Avoid fragmentation

We don't need another set of awards to showcase the work of philanthropists, the ENnies is the correct place for that. There will, no doubt be the Golden Banana, which will be funded by 1km1kt T-Shirt sales (coming soon). If anything the Golden Banana should be part of the Ennies, or at least complement it.

Become a judge?

I would be ill-suited for judging commercial products because I don't play them. I only play free ones. I only review free ones. I only read free ones. I doubt being a judge for a single category is very useful at all.

What the ENnies is not

An opaque box. Tony Law has demonstrated that he's open to ideas, thoughts, feedback and wants to pro-actively find a solution.


Either the category needs caveats attached to it, i.e. that commercial marketing quick starts should be given less credence than a full game; or there needs to be a new category that represents the vast amount of philanthropic output each year.

As Tony (and others) rightly point out on Google Plus you need to keep it broad to allow the crazy free stuff equal share with the full game systems. Naming the category appears to be key in getting the philanthropic goods in there.

Once we have the category sorted out, we then need to galvanise the philanthropists for next year. Without submissions, this process is a bit moot and we might as well leave it to the industry.

We're not indie, we're philanthropists

Philanthropy is a separate beast to Indie. A niche of it but Indie also encompasses those that see PDFs for free and would include Quickstarts of Paid-For Indie products. Philanthropy is about putting your heart into something and then giving it to the world for the love of it. It is not a marketing tool.

Now we need your ideas

How do we make this work? How do we help the ENnies showcase the best of free next year? Surely, with our collective grey matter and Tony Law's help, we can solve this!

If you're a philanthropist and you're feeling disenfranchised then that's OK, it's understandable. But we can change it for next year. We can get representation for the work we do. We can applaud the best philanthropy in our hobby. It is worth it. It can be done.

Further comment and reading

Know of any more articles or comment? Post in the comments and I'll add you up.

Friday 13 July 2012

Little Spaces entries - 16 micro bundles of delight!

During May and June 1KM1KT ran the Little Spaces 24 hour RPG competition. In just 24 hours, the brave philanthropists creatively splurged into PDFs with no regard for their own well being. The 1KM1KT mods are currently in the midsts of reading and judging the entries so we can award the "retire-now" £30 Amazon voucher. While we do that, you can check out the entries!

Hover over the picture for the game's name and author, click to go to it.

Claustrophobia by Rodney Sloan Dr. Keeton's Machine by Bender42 Fate Game - Eduardo Lozano Munera GOBLIN CAVE - Stuart Burns How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb shelter - Luke Hawksbee I Will Be Hamlet!- Martin Van Houtte Ringworld Zombie - Jaap De Goede SMAF 17 - Edwin Moriarty SSN 589 USS Scorpion Down - Jaap De Goede Star Travels - Emmet O'Brian Tale of Narvi- Kyle Willey The Silent Void- J K Mosher Torus One - Maledictus Viento Libre - Francisco Solier Wings Keeton and the Airship of Doom - Gregory McKenzie Yes, but - Andrey Stoliarov

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Heroes Against Darkness by Justin Halliday

Heroes Against Darkness - Download for free nowI've never really* played D&D. I've never owned any of the books. The nearest I've got has been reading Order of the Stick. Then Heroes Against Darkness fluttered into my inbox, a game that unashamedly exclaims that it is D&D seen through the Justin's goggles. Tweaked. Fixed. Improved.

I bet you have house-ruled D&D into sentience. So did Justin. He then published it for free. I was priviledged enough to see Heroes Against Darkness before its major release; and it was so good that I borrowed and read D&D 2e Players Handbook and 3.5 Core Rules. That doesn't make me an expert but it makes me a few shades less ignorant. That's why it has taken me so long. I still prefer Heroes Against Darkness, so I won't refer to D&D again.

I wanna be a Half-Elf Berserker

Your character is formed by Class (your job), Race (species) and Ability scores (attributes). Class and race are not bound together but certain races are better at certain jobs. Your attributes include Strength, Dexterity, Wisdom, Constitution, Intelligence and Charisma. They are generated by rolling or assigning or a mix of the two. Then add Race and Class modifiers. That choice is left to the group.

Typical of Heroes Against Darkness throughout, Justin has given easy to use examples of use. For example, if your campaign is going to have epic characters from the off, it tells you how to do that. Without it, playing the game is the only way to tell if the scores you've chosen are appropriate.

Derived attributes are there to speed up the mechanics and Anima Points track how much magical skullduggery those reality-bending types can get up to. Advancement is with experience points and levels. Character background generation is wonderful and applicable to any fantasy RPG.

Higher is better

The mechanic is D20, add Modifiers and beat a target number set by the GM. For everything. If you're here for spiked dice juggling or non-linear mathematical acrobatics, you're not really paying attention. The magic system is simple and just restrictive enough, your class gives you a selection of spells and you burn Anima points to cast them. There are limits on how much Anima you can pour into your spell. Limits you can break. But you might die. Which is nice. I can imagine my black hearted player group devising a way of forcing magic users to do enough magic that they explode.

Combat is opposed rolls with modifiers for equipment, the situation and attribute bonus. There are different sorts of defence depending on what's coming at you. A stabby-stabby (technical term) is defended by Armour Defense and magical artillery from the cowardly Anima junkies are against Evasion Defense. It's just enough crunch to be interesting. The power (and the crunch) is contained in the modifiers, which might get a little out of hand given combinations of whether you are prone, standing, hopping, in a volcano, distracted by a passing minstrel playing a song that reminds you of the scent of your mother's hair, extra magical sword stabbyness, etc etc.

You can use a grid and minis but you don't have to.

Two Hundred and Thirty One Pages

The first 37 pages cover everything you need to play. The other 194? Oh, nothing much really. Just armour. And equipment. Potions, prices for things, rowboats - and lodgings. Smithing, magical gizmo smithing, movement, transportation, encumbrance and terrain modifiers. Oh, then there's how to roleplay encounters with combat or surprise, nasty conditions your character can befall, recovery rules, class powers, more class powers and class powers again. And spells. Spells for Warlocks, Healers and Necromancers and golly!


A GM guide at page 103, designing encounters with balance, with examples, tips, tricks and thoughts on TPK. Help with modifiers. Help with skills. Help with XP and progression. Helpful magic how-tos and rule insights.

Still hungry?

Then there's a World Building Toolkit. Governments! Medieval detail! Guilds, Cults and Orders! Seasons, taxes, laws and settlements. Inpsiration tables with pre-gen names. An illustrated bestiary with monster builder and ready-to-go template cards. Reference tables!

It is breathtaking.

Guess what's missing

There's no example setting. This won't be a surprise to Justin (or any regulars here or on 1KM1KT). The setting here is implied through the classes, races and rules but there is still a lot of work for a GM to do before Heroes Against Darkness can be run. For the time-strapped GM, I'd like to see an example setting that demonstrates its strengths and depth. You could rightly argue the world builder is good enough but there's still a lot for the GM to do. I want to be able to print it, chuck it at a GM and say GO.


Heroes Against Darkness is beautiful. Art (used with permission) peppers excellent layout and typography. It is beautifully written, the language throughout is thoughtful and evocative. The system isn't groundbreaking but it is solid, familiar, like a moth-eaten sweater you should have torched years ago. The magic sells it for me over... errr... the-other-game-I-wasn't-going-to-mention. It's an unmissable Post-Old-School fantasy RPG. Most remarkable of all for a free RPG:

It's finished.

Congratulations Justin and thank you for sharing.

* Except now-and-again at conventions but that doesn't count.