Petri Wessman's weblog

Minireview: The Second Year of Our Reign (Reign)

“The Second Year of Our Reign” (available as a free PDF here) collects the second batch of ransom-funded supplements for Greg Stolze’s “Reign”. Reign itself is a cool but unusual fantasy game, which takes cues from decidedly non-Western tropes (a lot of African influences there, among others) and has a world which is actually the entwined bodies of two (dead?) gods. This book is a grab-bag of small supplements about the world, the rules system (ORE), and various other bits and pieces.

Among the non-crunch bits, we get details on the Maemeck Matriarcy, the various Ussient tribes, and lots of tidbits about various other regions (including some notes about coinage, with pictures). In the rules section, we get rules for pursuit & evasion, for squad-level combat, new esoteric techniques (including notes on how to design your own), a new alternative combat system, rules for seafaring & for handling storms, new enchantments. The book ends with some new “one-roll” generators, and some suggested campaign seeds.

It’s good stuff, and a fun read. I love how Reign is so non-standard in its approach to fantasy, there’s a lot of “weird” here. Of course, that can make the game a bit hard to grasp at times, since it isn’t your bog-standard fantasy cliche.

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Big Bad Ransom

Arc Dream is really getting into the ransom model nowadays. The latest one is from the esteemed Benjamin Baugh, for Bigger Bads: an expansion book for Monsters and Other Childish Things.

If they reach the required sum by January 15th, they’ll do a print run and the contributors will get physical copies and/or PDFs (and their names in the credits). Greg Stolze recently did this sort of thing for Reign Enchiridion, a paperback “just the rules” edition of Reign, with a few extra goodies thrown in. It actually reached 120%, so here’s hoping this one does well too.

Minireview: The First Year of Our Reign

The First Year of Our Reign collects the first six “ransomed” supplements for Greg Stolze’s Reign into print form, with nice formatting and also lots of content from the Reign wiki added in. This is a very interesting book from a publishing viewpoint: all of the content here is available for free… in fact, the book itself is available for free in PDF form (!). The print version is, obviously, priced as a real book because printing costs money (duh). I actually have the (pretty!) full-color limited version, which Greg showed to me at Ropecon and which awakened my “it… must… be… mine!” reflexes, much to the detriment of my wallet. But anyway: this is a book that collects now-free Reign PDF content into print form.

Now, you might imagine that the market for such would be small, and you’d be both right and wrong. Right in that the market is small; all indie rpgs operate in tiny markets. Wrong since within that market, quite a few people (me included) are interested in a print copy of stuff they already have as PDF (or could get as PDF if they wanted). Why? Well, for one, reading a book is just so much nicer that reading a pile of printouts or text from a computer screen. Also, the damn thing just looks so pretty (Daniel Solis’ cover art is, again, brilliant). Greg did not want to double-charge people for PDF stuff that (some) had already paid for, so he opted for this solution: free PDF, and the hardcopy costs enough to cover print and distribution cost. I think that’s cool.

In fact, I’ve actually now paid for this material twice, since I’ve also participated in ransoming all the supplements included here. Am I crazy? Dunno. I like to think of it as supporting artists that I like.

Enough about the business aspects of the thing… what’s it about? Well, as noted it collects the first six supplements, and that means a mismash of extra stuff for Reign. Most of it is specific to the game world (cultures, regional info, etc), but lots of that could easily be transported over to other game worlds too. Some of the ideas here are really cool – sorcerers who need to eat eyeballs in order to keep up their powers, and a society built around that, just to mention one detail. There is some pure “crunch” here, too, but world info dominates. Pretty much all of it is interesting and very varied & colorful.

This was actually the first time I read all of this material from beginning to end, before this I have just read bits and pieces here and there from the PDFs. Read as a whole, it’s a lot more coherent and works better.

So… if you’re running or thinking of running Reign, there’s a lot of cool stuff here to include in your game, even if you’re not using Greg’s game world – as noted, most of the cultures etc can be transported elsewhere with relatively little effort, I’d imagine. If you’re unsure, just grab the free PDF version of the book and check it out.

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Greg Stolze at Ropecon

Woot, I just got the news that Greg Stolze has confirmed he’s coming to Ropecon as GoH this year. Seriously cool news, Greg is the mastermind behind the new “rpg.net darling” game Reign, as well as co-author to the best modern occult game I know of, Unknown Armies. In addition to that, he has contributed to lots of gaming books during his career, written a pile of novels, and in general been a creative powerhouse. Will be nice to meet him in person.

The thing with Greg is that he’s a very good and engaging writer, in addition to being good at rpg design. His books are good reads, in addition to playing well. After chugging through some game books that are great as games but read like school textbooks, that’s something I really appreciate.

With the other “major” GoH being Chris Pramas from Green Ronin, this looks to be an interesting Ropecon (at least from my point of view). I love what Green Ronin are doing with the new systemless Freeport books, I hope that becomes a trend.

Oh, and the latest Reign supplement (#6, “The Popular and Unique”) came out of ransom today. A download link will probably appear on the supplements page soon, in the meantime here’s a direct link to the zip file. Greg has also said that he’s working on publishing the supplements in some kind of collected and printed form for those of us who would also like a printed version. Nice.

We’re playing a small test game of Reign at the moment and it’s working well. In addition to exploring how the Company rules work, we’re trying to deal with a table that apparently is actually a demon egg, rival guilds, old enemies, and the general hassle of trying to run a black-market “mercantile” operation while studying magic on the side. Good stuff.

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Friday, yay!

Been feeling a bit under the weather, maybe some shade of a flu coming on. Nothing serious. just feeling more tired than normal.

I think I’ll try to get at least some part of the BM pictures done this weekend, and there’s also some prep for the next Exalted game to be done. Still not sure when we’ll manage to play, people have been having some calendar problems (what else is new :), but anyway. Should also take a look at the new car and see if I could fix the glove compartment latch thing and a couple of other things. Depends a bit on the weather, too, if it’s dark and/or rainy, I’m not twiddling with the car or anything else outside, if I can help it.

Found someone (actually, a couple of someones) who are interested in the old car, which is nice. That should sort itself out within the week.

I suspect the hood mechanism repair on the new Cabriolet will require a shop that knows Peugeot tech, so that means either the main importer (Automaa) or a Peugeot-specialist shop. Found one of those, Autochic Oy in Lauttasaari, but it gave the impression of being very expensive and a quite Google resulted in some forum comments about it being in the same price range as official repair shops, so…

If anyone knows of a good shop that does Peugeot repairs in the Helsinki/Espoo area, please let me know. Some of the stuff I can do “wherever”, of course, but it’s good to have options.

I’ll probably wait till next month to schedule shop time, my salary just came and went via my account, the last big part of our USA/BM trip (car rentals, etc) took care of emptying my cash register. Will have to be semi-poor for a while here.

I’ve lately been thinking of running some other game(s) “on the side”, besides the Exalted game. Maybe with a (partly) different set of players, to help with the calendar problems. Dunno what, though, the problem is too many great games. The are a couple of game systems I’m interested in trying out in practice – Burning Wheel and Reign – so maybe something fantasy-oriented using those (since both are fantasy rulesets). One option I’ve been toying with is a short game set in Freeport, using Burning Wheel rules. Pirates, evil cults, swords, mayhem… all that good stuff. Might be fun.

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Good weekend, if a bit strange; I didn’t have anything scheduled, but it still feels like I did a ton of stuff. Most of that was very “mainstream Espoo home owner” stuff… mowing the lawn, doing some garden work, painting some parts of the patio with wood-protection oil stuff, etc. We raided a hardware store and now have 10m of steel netting (meant for mink cages) rolled up and waiting for us to start the cat-proofing of the yard. Halfway intended to start that yesterday, but with one thing and another never got around to it; too many other things to do first. In addition, some people came over last evening and we just sat around on the patio, eating grilled stuff and drinking wine. Life could be worse.

The yard cat-proofing may be a quixotic endeavour, but what the hell… it might just work. We intend to follow a basic algorithm:

1) plug the obvious holes
2) release cats into yard
3) follow cats and find point where yard leaks cats
4) go to step 1

After a while, we hope to have a relatively cat-escape-proof yard. It may resemble Alcatraz at that point and the neighbors might start to complain about the razor wire, guard towers and floodlights. We’ll see.

Other tidbits:

  • Watched the end of season 6 of “24”. Not bad, a fairly solid “part 2” to season 5. Leaves things open for another series, but not as blatantly as season 5. Good entertainment, though the series is starting to repeat itself a bit – only natural, I guess.

  • My copy of Reign has now shipped from Lulu.com. Should be here by the end of this week. Greg Stolze now has a Reign supplement up for ransom here. I’m not sure if I’ve commented on how cool Fundable is… but if not: it’s cool. It allows anyone to set up a ransom model publication (or whatever), allowing people to pledge money to various projects in a safe fashion.

  • Like what happened with Promethean, the more I hear about the new Changeling (from White Wolf) the more excited I am about it. Also like Promethean, initially the whole thing didn’t spark my interest much at all. There are now some teasers about the new game premise on WW’s site; it sounds like the WW guys have now written a game about the darker side of the old fae myths, instead of the “bouncy fluffy fantasy creatures” all too evident in the old Changeling. I’m all for that. Also, I’m told by one of the game designers that this clip captures the ideal intended feel of the new game quite well (while having nothing directly to do with White Wolf or their games): Never Woke Up. (by Katy Towell). Much coolness.

Deluge of books, and good riddance to trash

Lock and load agents, Delta Green: Eyes Only became available last night. As noted before, this is a limited run of 1,000 copies. I ordered about an hour after the announcement was posted and my order number was 101. Dennis said that it’s “selling like hotcakes”, despite the hefty shipping & handling costs – $30 s&h to Finland, which results in a total price of $70 for the book. Ouch. Becomes a bit less “ouch” once you realize that because of the strong Euro vs. weak, puny and generally inferior US$ that “only” amounts to about 52 euros. Expensive, but doable. Getting hold of this book once the 1,000 copies sell out will involve eBay, luck and lots of cash; I’ll happily pay 52e now.

In what is obviously a global conspiracy to hike up my credit card bill, Greg Stolze’s Reign also became available this week through Lulu print-on-demand, with two different options for cover art (I like the red Solis design best, myself). Also available as hardcover, and to top it off I understand that Lulu offers semi-reasonable shipping costs for us EU folks nowadays. Heroically, I resisted the temptation, I don’t want to cram anything more on my Visa this month.

For those of you going “what the hell is ‘Reign’?”, it’s Stolze’s new rpg using the ORE/Nemesis engine and focusing on politics and social dynamics in a fantasy setting – in other words, it has crunch that will let the players (try to) take over and run kingdoms. Could be very cool.

For those of you going “who the hell is Greg Stolze?”… you’re reading the wrong blog entry, sorry. Move on now, don’t block the view.

In probably-not-related news, Jerry Falwell is (finally) dead. The world just became a slightly better place, and the warm and sunny weather today just might be a side result. You never know.

Added later: Lulu.com has a promotion with really cheap EU shipping, but in order to get that you have to pay in euros, if you pay in dollars you get charged the normal price. For Reign, “cheap” here means 1,99e and “normal” $13.62. Don’t ask how I found that out. Just… don’t.

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Fear and loathing in Russia, with demons

Well, despite a semi-hectic real life schedule leading me to not get as much prep work done as I would have liked, I’ve managed to run a few non-horrible rpg sessions. After a long while of not running anything, it’s slowly coming back. I guess GM:ing is sort of riding a bike – you can get better at it over time, but once learned you never really forget the skill. Also like the bike, now and then you crash and fall in a spectacular fashion no matter how good you are…

Anyway, last Tuesday we had the first proper session of an Exalted game. The story starts in Nexus, and I had a bunch of plot threads semi-ready and went with what the players decided to do. Mostly things went in expected directions, but there were quite a few surprises to keep me on my toes. Apparently things seemed to progress in a logical fashion, which is nice, considering that behind the scenes I was desperately trying to integrate multiple fast-mutating plot threads together. We’ll see how this goes; at the moment the characters have recovered a few (apparently minor) artifacts and are trying to figure out the meaning of a symbol which gives some of them foreboding flashbacks from the past. Things are made interesting by the fact that the party isn’t exactly in agreement about how best to proceed… White Noise’s stealthy and paranoid approach to things is not quite in synch with Khamyn’s “go forth my followers and fetch me information!” deal. Oh, and they have a First Circle demon in their basement, happily building a nest from various spiky bits. Will the Dragon-Bloods come gunning after the party looking for stolen loot? Will the Wanderer decide to go “fuck this” and revert back to the Immaculate faith? Will Damien the Black Sword decide to pay the brothel another visit (“to gather some more info!”)? Stay tuned.

On Sunday I ran the one-shot scenario Machine Tractor Station Kharkov-37 to a bunch of people, with good results. As expected, the scenario worked very well and the pregen characters had just the right amount of built-in friction and mutual paranoia to keep things from being too easy. Most of the game went in a straightforward fashion, with creepy stuff getting discovered bit by bit and the characters going into “oh shit, let’s leave now mode (smart of them). Things took a sudden and Paranoia-style turn at the end, when the TASS leader decided that the Commissar knew too much and tried to discreetly execute him. The keen-sensed Commissar threw a spanner into the works, however, by partially dodging the bullet (literally) and running for the trucks, trailing blood and shouting “help, he’s gone mad!”. At the same time, the TASS leader was shouting something to the tune of “stop, traitor!” and confusion reigned supreme. Things wound up with the Red Army medic blowing the TASS thug’s head off with a rifle and with the Red Army group doing a “tactical retreat” from the spot. All in all, a grim but fun DeltaGreen-meets-Paranoia game session. I also used the game as an excuse to test Stolze and Detwiller’s Nemesis game system instead of using BRP, and it worked pretty well. Needs some tweaking, the stock skill list isn’t that hot and this one is probably much better – but overall is seems like a solid engine for low-power horror games. Seeing as the same engine is used in the superhero game Wild Talents, it apparently also works for high-power stuff. Oh, and Stolze is working on Reign, which uses the same “ORE” system to drive some sort of political fantasy game. It’s pretty versatile, though of course needs tweaks depending on what sort of game you want to run.

In any case, I think this became my system of choice for Cthulhu-type games, it works and is lightweight enough. The next time I use it I’ll probably give the alternate combat rules a try, they sound like they might work (even) better than the default ones – which aren’t bad by any means.

On Thursday we’ll be doing Exalted again. I’ll have to find some time today to prepare a bit, since tomorrow night I’ll probably be playing VTES at Valter Cafe – Andrea of EC2006 organizing fame is coming to Finland (from Italy) and we’ve promised him gaming company.

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