Posted in: Anime, Reviews, Role Playing Games, Science Fiction

A look at the Cowboy Bebop Roleplaying Game

So on day 27 of the 2024 Character Creation Challenge I attempted to generate a character for the Cowboy Bebop Roleplaying Game. I had just received the hardback book from a Kickstarter campaign. I had backed it because I loved the anime and the live-action TV series and I always thought that it would be a great universe to run an RPG campaign.

The hardbound book is 270 pages long and is in full color. The ISBN is 979-12-80109-58-3 and was published by Don’t Panic Games. I love how the game company probably got this name from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but I had never heard of anything that they had released previously. The game director (writer?) is Michele Paroli. The bulk of the images are pulled directly from the anime.

There is an introduction, six chapters and a glossary. The chapters are 1-Rules (how to play the game), 2- Session (three of them make an episode or single sit-down to play), 3- Characters (how to make one), 4-Hunters in the Solar System (all about the Cowboy Bebop universe), 5- On Stage (kind of a GM section that describes the bounties your players may go after, factions encountered, etc.), 6- Playing the Bebop (the characters seen in the show and episodes put into RPG form).

Here are some photos I took when I first opened up my Kickstarter package. There is a lot of good graphics in this book.

The RPG rules is pretty straight forward for a narrative game (more on that below), even if the description of the rules are not. These pages attempted to tell me the rules of the game. And I did not get them at all. I remember getting major headaches trying to put this together in my head. There is no simple “This is the basics” of the game. I’m of the opinion that I need to understand the basic concept quickly so I can try to talk my friends into playing a game. If I can’t understand the game, I can’t recruit players. I mentioned this in my “Biggest turn-off when checking out a new RPG” blog post. If the RPG is not based off of a common system (D20, GURPS, 2D6, etc.) then give me a simple explanation of the game mechanics. In Cowboy Bebop, your character has traits (a description of a character look or item) and you can try to use them in a session (named after a music style) and you get a d6 dice pool and you have to get a roll higher than 5, 10 or 15 (depending if it’s the 1st, 2nd or 3rd session in the game) and… I tossed the book aside in disgust. I even asked on the RPG.net forums if anyone else had looked in on this game, and only got one response two months later. I didn’t think this was a good sign for the game when thousands of posts are made in a day on this forum.

When I attempted to make a Cowboy Bebop RPG character in January, my goal was to do this Kickstarter review in February. After getting both frustrated and angry (I thought I had wasted my money on the book) I put the book in the “To do” pile and left it there for months. I would see the book and it would remind me that I needed to write my review, but I was still sore about how betrayed the book made me feel. A blog post that says, “Pretty graphics, lots of in-universe details, system sucks to high heaven” is a very boring review. I finally grabbed myself by the collar and said “finish this review because it’s blocking other blog posts that you want to publish”. So I sat down and gathered my photos and looked again at the book. Still feeling frustrated after another attempt to understand the system, I started searching online and came across this video review from The Final Frontiersmen. While he compared some of the game to Star Trek Adventures, he did say one thing that made a light bulb go off in my head. “The key points about this roleplaying game is it’s extremely narrative.” Too much narrative is not my cup of tea. I now understood that I had received my delivered pizza and when I opened up the box, instead of seeing piping hot cheese covering sausage and pepperoni on a layer of marinara sauce, I saw anchovies, artichoke hearts and feta cheese. If you like that type of pizza, or games that is 95%-99% narrative (practically done all by the players) then you may enjoy this game very much. I know there are players who do like these types of games. In the 90’s some of my friends were just digging the Amber diceless RPG that had come out at the time. But when I watched them play, it just seemed like group storytelling where they decided the outcome. Something that was popular in online sim groups, but had zero randomness (and in my mind, zero RPG soul). With how the Cowboy Bebop RPG was stuffed into this box, it was just barely a step above a sim.

For me, I’d prefer an RPG that has a simple system that is easy to pick up that gives the randomness of the dice. A good GM and good players can easily balance the dice of roll playing with the narrative of role playing. Star Trek Adventures and the latest Star Wars system that I experienced at the last SaltCON gave that good balance that encouraged player interaction that included a narrative with the luck of the dice. I remember my favorite Dungeons and Dragons DM describing how a dragon was defeated using combined results from the rolls we made. Other GMs have given the option of having the player describe the way the bad guy was defeated when they made the killing blow.

So now I can put this good looking book in my RPG shelf. And when I want to roleplay in the Cowboy Bebop universe, I’ll use this book for background information, but use a system like Frontier Space or Stars Without Number or a host of other science fiction based RPGs as the system.

One last thought before I close up this review. I’ve taken this as a “Lessons learned” moment when dealing with Kickstarters. The description for this game was a “d6 based system” and I assumed it was more like the Star Wars D6 game I had enjoyed in the past. I will not be making such an assumption again and I blame myself for not digging deeper. After January when I would read a gaming Kickstarter, if the system was not quickly explained to me in a sentence or two, I’ve asked the organizer for more information on the game. The last thing I want to do is open up the pizza box and see a pizza I have no desire to eat.

Have you had a chance to try the Cowboy Beebop RPG? What Kickstarter campaigns are you backing now? This article is open for discussion on the TardisCaptain dot Com Discord server. You can also email me at Carl (at) TardisCaptain.com or click on my social media links with any comments.

Posted in: Collecting, Dungeons and Dragons, Reviews, Role Playing Games

Dicing With Dragons: A Review

Earlier this year I was walking through a mall in my city that has a used book store. Like a siren calling me to the depths, I went in not knowing what I was going to find. This used book store has had several roleplaying game books in the past, but it actually had an entire display towards the front of the store. It was probably trying to capitalize on the Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves movie that was playing in the theater across the mall. Most of the books were ones I already owned or made my savings throw vs buy. But one book caught my eye. A little hardback book with a worn book jacket titled Dicing with Dragons: An Introduction to Role-Playing Games by Ian Livingstone.

I don’t know why this book jumped up and said “buy me”. Perhaps it was a chance to look into the early parts of the role-playing hobby since this book was published in 1982. According to the text on the inside of the jacket, the author co-founded Games Workshop and was (at the time) editor of White Dwarf magazine. Since the price was reasonable, I made the purchase with the intent to read and review the book for the blog.

This version that I had picked up was the book club edition. From what I saw on the internet, this book also appears to be available in paperback as well. This book was printed in the United States by The New American Library. I believe this company is one of the branches of Signet and/or Plume. All three company names were listed in the credits.

My book has 210 pages with several black and white illustrations (created by Russ Nicholson) and several sample pages from various games. The cover on the jacket was painted by Victoria Poyser. The book is broken down by acknowledgements, introduction, nine chapters and three appendixes.

The introduction takes a narration from the characters point of view through a combat scenario in a dungeon setting. This is one that you would normally read at the start of a ‘what is role-playing’ section of a core rule-book. In typical old-school fashion, one of the characters dies in this narration. This leads us directly into chapter one “Mind Games.” The author gives a description on how role-playing games work. What are player characters, working together in a group, using the power of imagination, etc. There is a discussion of the differences between RPGs and board games, the different styles of dice and what the different players do (including the dungeon/game master).

Chapter 2 “A Solo Adventure” talks about the rise of solo roleplaying (which is making a comeback from what I understand). There is a mention of Tunnels and Trolls (a popular solo RPG at the time) but primarily focused on a game written by Mr. Livingstone for this book called Fantasy Quest. It has a character sheet, creation rules and a combat system. Don’t be surprised if I end up creating a character for the next Character Creation Challenge coming up in January, 2024. I didn’t read too much of this chapter beyond the rules section primarily because I wanted to actually play the game after I’ve created my character. But the adventure is in the typical (if you want to go left, read section 17, if you want to go right read section 18, etc.)

“Games You Can Buy” is our next chapter. The author talks about some of the beginnings of the industry in the 1970s and how someone can learn the different games and rule sets. Then he discusses the popular games at the time with a little bit of detail. Not exactly a rule-book, just enough to give you an idea of what is needed to grasp the game. These included Dungeons and Dragons, Runequest, Traveller, and the above mentioned Tunnels and Trolls. The end of this chapter mentioned a few other games that were available on the market at the time, but didn’t go into detail on these systems.

Chapter 4 “Accessories” talks about the various published or authorized books and products that were available at the time of publishing. It broke these down by rules expansions, playing aids, background supplements and scenarios. It also listed their publisher and status (official, approved, etc.). Most of these I had heard about or seen in person or in catalogs. Some I wondered if they actually existed, but at the time of reading I didn’t want to get distracted by internet searches. There was also a description of magazines (yes White Dwarf was listed first) and a very brief listing of fanzines.

“Miniature Figures” was the subject of chapter 5. I really skipped a lot of pages in this chapter so I really couldn’t tell you if the techniques would still be useful for today. The primary reason for this is my lack of patience to put together models or paint miniatures. I love seeing them in play and I admire the person who does have that patience, but I know that person isn’t me. There are color charts and diagrams about how to paint. So, it may be useful to someone with that interest.

Chapter 6 is titled “Playing God” and the author discusses a lot of tips and tricks for new game masters to use. A lot of it made sense and were items that I had thought about (or read about in other GMs guides). But it was interesting seeing the early 80’s viewpoint.

Chapter 7 was for something very new at the time, “Computer Games“. The author talks about the wide possibilities that computers could help in gaming (if he only knew). I did skip a few pages in this chapter as well, but not for the same reason as chapter 5 above. The author was trying to describe in 80’s terminology the parts of a computer. “A kilobyte is…”, etc. It is a little dated (remember that a computer year is like a dog year). Having worked with computers since the late 80’s, a lot of it was very dry to me. If you are interested in the early days of computing, this chapter may be of interest to you.

The next chapter, titled “One Step Beyond” was very short. It covered live action role-playing. From the assassin game Killer to the SCA to something in the United Kingdom called Treasure Trap that was held in a real medieval castle. It sounded interesting, but I don’t think it may have gotten very far.

Chapter 9 titled “How Do I Start?” covered the different methods that you could use to get involved with other gaming enthusiasts and groups. It also talks about game shops and conventions. These techniques were good for the time and gives a look on what challenges the players had in getting together. It was a good chapter to end the book on.

Appendix 1 gave the postal addresses for the various game publishers. Magazine publishers were found in Appendix 2. Addresses for companies involved in miniatures and figures could be found in Appendix 3.

As I was reading this, I started gaining an appreciation for those who came before me. I started getting interested in role-playing games not too long after this book came out, but I was stuck in the bubble that most junior-high kids found themselves in at the time. What information we gathered came from local shops or what was published in the magazines of the time. While some of the items in this book are a little dated now, it still gives an interesting look into the introduction that many of our fellow players may have used. I’m glad that I have found this book and added it to my collection.

Have you read Dicing With Dragons? What books would you recommend about the early days of the role-playing game industry/hobby? This article is open for discussion on the TardisCaptain dot Com Discord server. You can also email me at Carl (at) TardisCaptain.com with any comments.

Posted in: Collecting, Reviews, Role Playing Games

Review of Dice Legends products

Two sets and dragon dice bag from Dice Legends

Last year I saw an add for the North-to-South Designs Gaming giving away free dice if you paid for the shipping. Well another advertisement came up earlier this year for Dice Legend that was giving away dice if you payed for the shipping. After the interesting response from NTDS, I thought I’d check it out.

After checking out the link from the advertisement, the prices were all listed as $0.00. The shipping prices were not listed but would be revealed just before completing the order. There was 21 pages of free items that also included pins, dice trays, metal dice, acrylic dice, jewelry, dice containers and patches.

I had selected three sets, and then knocked it back down to two after I saw the shipping prices. With the two sets it cost me $18 (so about the same if I had purchased two sets in a local gaming store). I received a confirmation email and a tracking number. Which turned out to be from China Post. It took a few days before I could get signed up to receive email updates and I waited. One email arrived a few days later stating that the package had moved from one location in China to another location. Google maps showed it wasn’t very far. Oh well, I figured it would take a while.

To my surprise, the package showed up a week later. I think the reason it was a surprise is that I didn’t get any further email updates letting me know the status. I never received another email until a week after the package had arrived stating that the package had been delivered. Um… OK.

As for the dice themselves, I picked up two sets. The first was the Dark Purple set (for my geek wife, which she loved). The second was the Vampire Set with red numbers on a white translucent color. Both sets had the same gothic looking font. I’m certain that there is an official name for this font, but I don’t know what it is.

The two D20s compared with the NTDS D20 on the right.

While comparing the weight and feel, they seemed to be about the same as the NTDS set and the set I picked up from the Dollar Tree in 2021. Which also meant that it was lighter than the Chessex dice. I did several test rolls and it did the job. Random numbers across the board.

A surprise in the package was a free dragon dice bag with an eye embedded in it. The note of appreciation stated it was a $12 value. It was large enough to hold a set or two, but not my entire collection. I’ve got a dice bag that I have no idea where I picked it up from.

Since she hasn’t had a chance to uses the set, my wife didn’t have an opinion on her dice. So while I thought the gothic looking font was kewl, I’m not really certain I’d pick up another set for full price. The weird lack of communication from China made me raise an eyebrow. I think I’d prefer to order from a domestic manufacturer.

What is your favorite dice set? Tell me about it. This article is open for discussion on the TardisCaptain dot Com Discord server. You can also email me at Carl (at) TardisCaptain.com with any comments.

Posted in: Reviews, Role Playing Games, Star Trek

Modiphius celebrates Star Trek: The Animated Series 50th Anniversary with a supplement

Back in 2021 I remember getting a surprise from Modiphius when they released the IDW Year Five Tie-In for Star Trek Adventures. I was so inspired that I wrote a review of that product here on my blog. Well on Star Trek Day (September 8th) for the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek: The Animated Series, Modiphius dropped another surprise on me by releasing the Star Trek: The Animated Series Supplemental Guide.

Can you say “Instabuy”? Yea, spoiler. But I’ll still give you a full review. This book had a lot of good effort put into it.

As I was looking through the PDF, I knew that I had to write a blog post about this. But the real world gets in the way and I had to wait for the workday to completed. Stupid real life.

The Star Trek: The Animated Series Supplemental Guide is a PDF only release from Modiphius. The document comes in 69 pages (compared to 26 for the Year Five Tie-In) with ten chapters in total. This PDF is bookmarked for easy navigation. The writing was done by Aaron Harvey, Jim Johnson, Fred Love and Aaron M. Pollyea. There wasn’t an ISBN number listed, but it did have a product number of MUH0142322-PDF. The copyright is 2023. The foreword is written by Aaron Harvey who is the co-author and designer of the Star Trek: The Official Guide to the Animated Series that was released in 2019.

There was an interesting tidbit in the foreword regarding the writers strike that was happening in the 70’s when the Animated Series was in production. I thought this was interesting considering the current state of affairs between the studios and the unions currently going on now. Considering the production schedules that corporations follow I’m fairly certain that this was written before or just about when the current strike started.

So the first chapter gives us the stats for the characters that we see in the Animated Series. I had to chuckle when I saw that the Department of Temporal Investigations had redacted a piece of information in a couple of the bios (and where they missed one). Not seen in other publications are the stats for Lt. Arex, Lt. M’Ress. The second chapter covered some additional crewmemers from both the Enterprise and other Starfleet services.

New Life and New Civilizations is the title of the third chapter. Here we find information on various planets that were visited in the Animated Series. And since they were colorful, there is a lot of color in this section.

For those of you wanting new races for the game, Chapter Four gives several new lifepath options. We get stats for the Aquans, Aurelians, Caitians (yes we had them before, but this was to be complete), Edosians, Kzinti (Yay, I’ve been waiting for this one), Pandronians, the plant like Phylosians and the Skorr. I did notice something when I first saw the Kzinti, the stats were different than they were in the Star Trek: Lower Decks Campaign Guide. When I inquired on the Modiphius discord server, Jim Johnson (Project Manager) replied that the Lower Decks guide was a misprint and that I should use the stats in this book. I did like that the Kzinti entry gave information on why some Kzin are members of Starfleet.

Chapter Five gives us the Equipment and Gear. This includes the Life Support Belt, the Automated Bridge Defense System, the Phaser Bore and the Telefocals.

Gamemasters may find the items in Chapter Six interesting. This is Science and Spatial Phenomena. I’ve seen Pocket Universes used in several different stories.

Being a Treknologist, I was glad to see the starships in Chapter Seven. Besides the Enterprise, we get to see the Inflatable Decoy, the Aquashuttle (loved the Monty Python joke embedded here), the Stormbird-Class Romulan Battlecruiser (chef’s kiss for the FASA reference), the IKS Devisor, the Traitor’s Claw (a Kzinti police vessel), the Orion Orchid-Class and more.

Chapter Eight provides the different Allies and Adversaries that were seen in the Animated Series. We get information on Harcort Fenton Mudd, Ari Bn Bem, The Aprils, Thelin, Cyrano Jones, Spock 2 (no Electric Boogaloo jokes please) and more.

We get some additional creatures in Chapter Nine. Do you want genetically modified Tribbles? Because this is how you get genetically modified Tribbles. Plus Glommers, Le-Matyas, Shelats and a host of others.

The last chapter is the Index. Something that may come in very handy while trying to look something up.

For the art and layout, it’s very easily to read. There is some original screen captures from the shows and some very well done new art. It captures the feel of the Animated Series with a modern twist. The usage of pink is a tip of the hat to the usage in the series (partially because the producer had some colorblindness).

Does it give us all of the items from the Animated Series, no. I’m not certain what the limits are on a PDF production. If there is a time limit or just a need to keep the document to a certain number of pages, but there are a few items that didn’t make it into the book. The Copernicus shuttle, the Bonaventure, the Lactrans, the USS Huron, the Dramians, Sord, Vedalans and other entries are now fair game for homebrewers. I feel that about a good chunk of what was seen in the series is listed in this book. So, overall it is an excellent source for any Star Trek Adventures campaign. Ever since Deep Space Nine, elements of the Animated Series were inserted back into “canon” after being pushed out in the late 80’s. Lower Decks has practically dragged the Animated Series back into the light so I would highly recommend picking up this book.

What do you remember from the Animated Series? What would you like to use from it in your Star Trek Adventures game? Tell me about it. This article is open for discussion on the TardisCaptain dot Com Discord server. You can also email me at Carl (at) TardisCaptain.com with any comments.

Posted in: Reviews, Role Playing Games, Star Trek

Lower Decks Campaign Guide First Look

Star Trek Adventures Core Rulebook (left) and the Star Trek: Lower Decks Campaign Guide (right)

My Father’s Day gift finally arrived. Around the time of the holiday my wife ordered the Star Trek: Lower Decks Campaign Guide for use with the Star Trek: Adventures system by Modiphius. This was a pre-order so it took a few months to arrive in my eagerly awaiting hands. I’ve talked about some of the other Star Trek: Lower Decks products for STA previously. In that blog post I had noted that one of the strengths of Lower Decks, the Star Trek Easter Eggs, had been played upon. I’m happy to report that I’ve seen several strands of the Star Trek minutia listed in the campaign guide. A good example of this is the chart of random items that a member of the Collector’s Guild could be looking for on page 26. For myself, half the fun of watching Lower Decks episodes was the various Easter Eggs that were hidden (or not so hidden) in the episode.

This hardbound book was put together by Project Manager Jim Johnson and a host of writers, editors, artists and more. The ISBN number for the book is 978-1-80281-042-4 and it contains nine chapters on 237 pages. In the image above I placed the Lower Decks campaign guide next to the core rulebook. According to a video interview with Jim Johnson, the similarities between the two were on purpose. I had wondered about this before I had seen the video (and seen an image of the cover). There is an introduction by Lower Decks creator Mike McMahan where he talks about his RPG experiences.

The book was very well protected for shipping.

The first chapter covers the “State of the Galaxy” in 2380 giving updates on the Federation, Klingon Empire, Romulan Empire, Pakleds (of course) and other Polities (such as the Collector’s Guild and the Drookmani). There is also a listing of notable worlds. I particularly enjoyed reading the log entries from the various USS Cerritos crew members which tell a story.

Chapter two covers Starfleet Support Operations. This covers what would happen in the duties that the Lower Deckers would find themselves in. It also covers what type of second contact missions that a smaller starship would be assigned to by the Admiralty. It also covers some topics such as dead crew members returning to life or dealing with family members.

The title of chapter three is “The Lower Decks”. This covers careers in Starfleet, Lower Deck style adventures for other fleets (from Klingon to Vulcan to Borg), various jobs that junior officers may be assigned and the mysterious “buffer time”.

Science and Technology is the topic for chapter four. Here you can find information on various phenomena and creating new life forms.

Chapter five gives us several new character lifepath options (including Cetacean, Exocomps, Gorn, Pakled and Tamarians). We also get new tools and weapons (anyone want a Starfleet Excursion Helmet?).

The gamemaster gets an entire section in chapter six. There are sections about engaging the characters, story components and knowing the tropes. There are also several Lower Deck style mission briefs present to help inspire gamemasters.

Woot, one of my favorite sections of the book is in chapter seven. Starships, starsbases and vehicles. We get the California, Luna, Osler, Obena, Parliament classes for Starfleet. We also see the Vulan T’Kalat and the Andorian/Teleraite Ganashia classes. There is a good section on the Pakled vessels including Clumpship construction. There are also several other notable starships listed as well. A section is also listed for ground vehicles (including construction notes).

The Allies and Adversaries are found in chapter eight. This contains the stats for various characters seen on the show that haven’t already been covered by the Season One and Season Two crew packs. There is a minor section on Kzinti characters that I wish had been written up as a full lifepath, but I’m glad to have some information on one of my favorite races. And for those of you wanting to bring the Renaissance Fair feeling to your Lower Decks games, there are some notes about the Hysperians.

Chapter nine is a Star Trek: Lower Decks inspired Mini-Campaign with four adventures. Let me just say this. There are stats for holographic Orcs. It looks like meat is back on the menu boys. After this chapter is an index which could be very helpful when quickly trying to look up a stat or rule.

As with other Star Trek Adventures books, there are various quotes from Star Trek episodes and movies used to help bring in some flavor. I’ve found that this helps when referencing for those fully immersed (or not so immersed) in the fandom. Badgey has several tidbits of information here and there (because he’s always monitoring comms). There is enough side-bar information present to make things interesting without too many of them (creating a pop-up problem). The book flowed pretty smoothly when I was looking for various things. The built in book-ribbon impressed my daughter when she looked through the book the first time. I was glad to see this addition that started with the STA Klingon core book continuing on here. You can tell that the production has come along way since the STA core rulebook.

I’m really glad that my wife pre-ordered this book when it came out. Hopefully when Star Trek: Lower Decks gets several more future seasons, a second Lower Decks Campaign Guide will be generated by Modiphius. I enjoyed playing a Lower Decks inspired Star Trek Adventures game at SaltCON and I’m looking forward to more.

This article is open for discussion on the TardisCaptain dot Com Discord server. You can also email me at Carl (at) TardisCaptain.com with any comments.

Posted in: Collecting, Dungeons and Dragons, Reviews, Role Playing Games

A look at Basic Fantasy RPG 4th Edition

The covers to the 3rd and 4th edition of the Basic Fantasy RPG.

So on July 3rd my hardcover copy of Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game 4th Edition arrived at my house. This is the latest version of the OSR inspired game that I had ran for my college aged daughter and her friends. I’ve also used this game as one of the entries in the #CharacterCreationChallenge.

So if PDFs of this game is free on the Basic Fantasy website, why did I purchase a physical book? Well, I wanted to support the community efforts into creating the 4th edition. After the OGL fiasco that Wizards of the Coast had created earlier this year the Basic Fantasy community elected to remove all System Reference Document (SRD) references in the game and place the system under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. At the time they were doing this, I was unable to jump in and help lightened the load. It took a lot of volunteers to help out in getting Basic Fantasy moved over. The primary concern was to remove all terminology that could be construed as SRD. These “limits” only fueled the creativity of the Basic Fantasy community that is now seen in the new 4th edition book. Some of these I’ll mention below.

As you can see from the photos above, the covers of the 3rd edition and 4th edition look very similar. The biggest change is the “castle border” now wraps around to the back of the book. Chris Gonnerman mentioned in one of his videos that this was a creative decision in order to give an “at a glance” look that differentiated the 3rd edition books from the 4th edition books. Plus he really likes the dragon art that was used on the cover that he had commissioned. (Side note: pay the artists for their work. Chris did for this cover and I thank him for that.) The 3rd edition book has 166 pages where as the 4th edition has 202 pages. The ISBN is 9798398957679 for the hardbound (I’m not certain if the softbound has a different ISBN number) and it ran me a little over $18 after taxes. Because I have an Amazon Prime membership, shipping was free. Not a bad price for a hardbound book considering some of the other prices I’ve seen lately.

The system itself is basically the same. With the SRD text, mostly, removed. As I was thumbing through the books side by side, I noticed that the 4th edition had page numbers when they referenced another section (i,e “See How to Attack on page 53…”). I could see this being very helpful when you are quickly flipping through the book trying to find a rule. It was also visible that some descriptions of various items (spells, races, classes, etc.) had been slightly altered.

The monster section has been greatly expanded from 183 entries in 3rd edition to 213 entries in the 4th edition book. Some of the new art can be found here. I think the art for the Rot Grub is going to give me nightmares. When the volunteers working on the update thought that they couldn’t use Kobolds any more (until WotC backed off of the OGL mess), they came up with their own variation that was still used in the book, The Barklings.

Did you just tell us to go fetch?

I think this shows some of the creativity that went into this update. Another change was with the Dragons. Instead of being just a red dragon or a white dragon, now they are based off of their environment. The red dragon is now a mountain dragon, white represents the ice dragon, etc. They list the old terminology next to each type so it is easily connected. However the cloud dragon is not listed with a color in my copy of the book. I also like that they listed the similar monsters together, such as all of the puddings are listed under pudding.

The back part of the book deals with magic items, various rules and optional rules that the gamemaster can use, stocking dungeons, setting up strongholds, etc. As with the other sections, there has been some polishing here and there, but it basically looked like it covered the same subjects as before. I will say it was a little different not seeing the OGL statements at the back of the book that I’ve been seeing for over twenty years. But I think that’s a good thing.

So my complements to the army of volunteers at the Basic Fantasy forums for coming together and getting this project done. I could easily have seen a lot of project creep work it’s way in which they were able to avoid. Players of the Basic Fantasy RPG will easily recognize the high quality that this line has been known for. If you are looking for an old school feel with some modern tweaks, I’d recommend picking up this book. At the least, it just costs you some download time to get the books and supplements. But if you are like me, a person who loves to feel the weight of a book in his hands, then I would strongly urge you to pick up a physical copy.

Have you played Basic Fantasy RPG? Do you enjoy the games that have that OSR feel? This article is open for discussion on the TardisCaptain dot Com Discord server. You can also email me at Carl (at) TardisCaptain.com with any comments.

Posted in: Conventions, Dune, Music, Reviews, Role Playing Games, Science Fiction, Westerns

Of Conventions and Concerts

Loot from SaltCON-Summer 2023

So this past weekend was a very busy one. I had not one, not two, but three events. SaltCON-Summer, a smaller event from the same people who put on the March SaltCON. Then there was the Duran Duran concert on Saturday and a concert put on by The Cure on Sunday.

For my SaltCON after action report, I have to say that I had a lot of fun at the event. I had a chance to catch up with several people that I had met at the previous convention. I also made some new contacts as well. This is one of the things that I enjoy about the role-playing community, meeting new people and discovering what interests that you may have in common.

This convention only used half of the convention center. So the primary gaming room was where the dealers room was in March. The bulk of it being the board games. The various RPGs were located in a section of the main gaming room or in a side room dedicated to role-playing. Sometimes a table would be moved to another room without a notification so on one occasion I had to go hunting. But I was able to find where I needed to be. The dealers were placed in the large hallways. This made it convenient to quickly see what was available. Because of the limited space there were fewer dealers. But a dealer that I had been seeing only at cons was there and I picked up a physical copy of the Shackleton Expanse Campaign Guide for Star Trek Adventures. I was really hoping that he would have had a physical copy of The Discovery Campaign Guide, but the physical book may not have reached vendors yet. There was a game swap room where I was able to find a copy of The Dark Eye. This is a fantasy RPG that has been very popular in Europe. For some reason, it’s been popping up on my radar a lot recently. So since I could get a physical copy at a reasonable price, I picked it up. While I may never have a chance to actually play the game, I will be using it in the 2024 Character Creation Challenge. Since I could also see myself attending future SaltCONs (as long as it remains at the location it is held at now) I picked up a SaltCON badge holder.

So the first game that I signed up to play as Dune: Adventures in the Imperium. I have to say that the GM was very well prepared. He had several fan made reference sheets prepared to help new players (see photo above). The one that helped the most was the Skills and Drives (the main attributes that most characters have). I need to see if there is a Star Trek Adventures version of these reference sheets. Like STA, Dune is using the 2D20 system with slight alterations. From what I’ve discussed in my John Carter of Mars Character Creation entry, Modiphius has done with with all of their 2D20 entries. While we played Dune, I could see some similarities to STA, but I could also see where somethings were different. Both games are cinematic roleplaying instead of tactical. But this helped because the players were planning and working together. I played the spymaster and I had a chance to put some of my skills to use. If I could get into a group for Dune, I could see myself playing in a campaign setting.

As for Weird Frontiers, I had a lot of fun as well. I think that the players at the table got into the spirit of the game. I played a gambler (think of a thief in D&D terms) who had a magical deck of cards (as well as a long range rifle so I was doing a lot of sniping). It was a little weird having to draw a card from a standard deck of playing cards after each shot (the value of the card could benefit or hinder the attack). Sometimes the Aces or Eights (a bad hand to have in western tropes) would come up at the wrong time. I’d really like to read more of the world the writers have put together for this game. Apparently there was a demonic incursion into the 1800’s which was partially driven back by some heroes. Leaving a world scared by demonic creatures that the players had to go hunt. I also enjoyed that I was able to use my special Dungeon Crawl Classics dice that was prepared for the CC-style systems.

Battlestations is a combination board game and role-playing game that the GM had used in a Star Trek setting instead of the in-game universe. The first half of the game was set in the board game scenario, and I kinda just held on for the ride. The board game pieces that were assembled to create the two starships were interesting, but having the odd movement and equipment overheating (limiting what I could do) was a little frustrating. Once we had moved past the board game portion and actually got into the roleplaying, then I really started enjoying myself. I quizzed the GM after the game and he showed me in the book where you could create your own character, so yes there was an RPG element in the game. While I was glad that I had a chance to try a new game, I don’t see myself making a return to this system.

The only game I played on Saturday was Twilight 2000. While it was neat to return to World War III ravaged Poland, I really wish I could remember how the original version of this game played. We primarily went through a hex crawl avoiding ambushes, attacking enemy troops and dealing with villages just trying to survive. This latest edition had to use special dice which was a little clunky. I found the system a little crunchy at times. I looked at the GMs copy of the players manual and enjoyed reading some of the background stuff, but wondered if I could use another system for this setting.

Sunday morning I arrived for my Old School Essentials game and started up a good conversation with a RPGer that lives in the same area that I do. As we were talking, the RPG coordinator came and informed us that the GM had come down with con-crud and wouldn’t be able to make it. While I was glad that the GM was responsible enough not to spread anything around (I’m still a little cautious after the past few years) I was disappointment not to get a chance to try OSE. The RPG coordinator then offered to run a quick pick up game for us. Originally we were going to play Scum and Villainy, but it turns out he didn’t have it in his car, so he brought in Monster of the Week. The coordinator ran us in a western scenario (lots of cowboys this weekend) and I quickly created a character loosely based off of Indiana Jones. The system was very light and practically prefect for a quick scenario. We had fun playing this game.

The last game for the con was the Star Trek homebrew that I had been looking forward to. The creator had a basic combat system for the times when physical combat took place. But there was also a social combat system where you could react in different ways and use different types of voices (are you being truthful? bluffing? forceful? bluffing? etc.) and depending upon various rolls, you could weaken your opponents social standing. The creator was observing us playing the game being ran by a friend of his from out-of-state, so there were a couple of times that we turned to get a rule clarification. But the creator is looking at creating an IP-free version of the game in the near future. I may have a chance to look over the rules and provide feedback. I had fun playing this game as well.

Character sheets I got to take home.

Yes I will be going to SaltCON-End of Summer. My wife purchased a ticket for me as an early Father’s Day gift. So I will let you all know about my schedule when it becomes available. According to the website, it’s larger than the summer event, but not as large as the spring event. It will be interesting to see how it compares to the other two.

Duran Duran on stage.

As for the two concerts, the first was Duran Duran. The opening acts were Bastille and Neil Rogers and CHIC. It was an interesting combination of 70’s, 80’s, 90’s and current. I’ve been wanting to see Duran Duran for a LOOONGG time. When they were having their residency in Las Vegas a few years ago, I explored the option to go and discovered that the tickets were well beyond the price range that I wanted to pay. So I am very grateful that they have returned for a standard tour. I was really hoping that they would have played something from the Big Thing album (one of the first that I purchased from them), but with how many songs they had to choose from, it didn’t make the playlist. Seeing the entire arena sing Rio along with the band was a blast.

The Cure on stage

I had much better seats for The Cure on Sunday. If you get a chance to see this show, go do it. No only was the admission prices much more reasonable, but the merch prices were reasonable as well. I picked up a t-shirt to wear later. The band itself played for over three-hours. It was very late by the time I got home, but it was very much worth it.

Have you seen these two bands in concert? If so, what were your thoughts? Have you been to any gaming conventions lately? This article is open for discussion on the TardisCaptain dot Com Discord server. You can also email me at Carl (at) TardisCaptain.com with any comments.

Posted in: Humor, Reviews, Role Playing Games, Star Trek

First look at Star Trek Lower Decks STA products

So the gang at Modphius just announced a Star Trek: Lower Decks campaign guide for Star Trek Adventures. You don’t know how excited this announcement has made me. There is an old running joke that Dungeons and Dragon campaigns start as Lord of the Rings, but turn into Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Why, because we have fun around a table for our roleplaying games. I can see this also happening with Star Trek Adventures. Even at the recent SaltCON there were several STA sessions inspired by Star Trek: Lower Decks. According to the email, this book should come out in Quarter 3 of 2023. Sigh, I hate waiting so long.

To tide us over, Modiphius has released two Lower Decks products on PDF. The Lower Decks Season 1 Player Characters (aka the crew pack) and the Lower Decks inspired adventure Lurkers. Now in past blog entries I’ve reviewed the Star Trek: Discovery crew packs. So I thought I’d do a quick review of these publications.

Like the other character guides, they are written as reports given by the superiors to the USS Cerritos officers. The book comes in at 17 pages, which is smaller than the Discovery character guides. We get eight main characters, several supporting characters and a write up for the USS Cerritos itself. No new races for the game (sad) but most of the races used were already covered. They could have given us stats for Excocomps, however that wasn’t the case. Hopefully that will be in the campaign guide.

I loved Mariner’s “Contraband Stash” but wondered about the claim that Tendi was the first Orion in Starfleet. I wonder how the focus of “catnip” will come into a session? (guess where that was listed at). I think this was a good purchase for me and I can’t wait to see the season two character guides to see what has been added.

I really wondered if I wanted to read through the adventure “Lurkers” as I wanted to play it. But I also wanted to see how a “Lower Decks” adventure was written up. When we had our Lower Decks inspired game at SaltCON, the gamemaster gave a lot of prep and setup for the game. We had players who had never seen the show, but still had fun. So I would recommend that the GM set the tone at the table explaining that this is a comedic episode and letting the players go a little wild. At SaltCON, we had a player end up with two Orion slave women that I don’t think was originally part of the scenario. But the way the NPCs came to be a part of the group (we hid them from the drunk commanding officer by stating they were new crew) added to the humor.

Without giving the plot to Lurkers away, I can see where the setup works. Bad bureaucracy leads to the scenario and the players have several choices to make along the way. There is an option for combat, but most of the adventure is thinking on your feet and not getting caught or left behind by the senior officers. One of the things that I like about Lower Decks is the various Star Trek Easter eggs that are scattered through-out an episode. Lurkers gives the GM an opportunity to through several of these in the adventure. So I would recommend that the GM be very brushed up on their Star Trek minutia trivia. Especially with debates among various Star Trek fandoms. There is even an opportunity to slip Lurkers into a regular Star Trek Adventures campaign, but the main characters use by the players should be of the Lower Deck variety. In a way, I’d really love to see a veteran group of STA players take the actual Lower Deck characters and play this scenario (and record it on YouTube for others to see).

One final note about Lurkers, it actually has a follow up mission briefing listed for GMs to use as part of a follow up. So you are getting more than just a single mission. I’d recommend picking this up.

Until then, I can’t wait to get the Lower Decks campaign guide. Ugh, 3rd Quarter 2023 is such a long ways away.

Are you looking forward to the upcoming Lower Decks STA products? Have you picked up the character guide or Lurkers? This article is open for discussion on the TardisCaptain dot Com Discord server. You can also email me at Carl (at) TardisCaptain.com with any comments.

Posted in: Dungeons and Dragons, Movies, Reviews

Roll vs Review: Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Among Thieves

Bottom line up front: I really enjoyed the movie. Not only am I planning to buy the Blu-Ray set when it comes out, but I want to go see it a second time in the theaters with more geeky friends.

I don’t know what happened. I remember going to see Dune, Ghostbusters and James Bond in the theaters, and then for some reason I haven’t been back since. I was talking with my geeky wife last week and I asked if she wanted to go see Dungeons and Dragons: Honor Amongst Thieves and it hit me how long it had been. So yea, it was time to go see a movie in the theaters. In the past we’ve gone to movies on the Sunday of the opening weekend. Usually the movie was not as crowded. However for Dungeons and Dragons, it was still very full for a Sunday matinee.

A few months ago, I wondered if I really wanted to go see this movie after the crap that Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro had tried to pull off. After thinking about it, I didn’t want to punish the actors and crew who had already worked hard on this movie and had nothing to do with Hasbro’s corporate level blunder. I will say that when I saw Hasbro’s name come up on the screen, it reminded me that I’m still not happy with them. As a corporation, they haven’t earned my trust or buying impulses back yet for the D&D books.

I can’t really guarantee that I’ll be posting anything spoiler free. A few items were already leaked out onto the internet before the release date. So continue reading at your own risk if you haven’t seen it yet.

First, Chris Pine nailed his character as a bard. He was able to deliver on several ranges that allowed me to connect to him and the character at the end of the movie. I mistook Michelle Rodriguez for the actress who played Cara Dune on The Mandalorian. Michelle played her barbarian roll so well that Disney+ would be smart to pick her up if they wanted to recast the Cara Dune roll. These two are your primary characters in the movie but we had a full range of good characters that played their parts well. If any of you are reading this, sorry, I’m not a professional film critic. Just a fan that liked your works.

There are a few flashbacks in this movie and, in my opinion, they worked well. The humor wasn’t forced and seems like it would come up during a game. I especially enjoyed how the party found the location of a magical helmet. In the movie items from the game, such as spells and creatures, were used without having to go overboard on what they were. Instead of saying “I cast chain lightning”, the spell caster just used the spell. I knew what a displacer beast, rust monster and gelatinous cube was without having to have someone spell it out. When they did have to “explain” something, they were able to present it without breaking the pace. Oh and I loved the dragon. I won’t say anything more on him for those who haven’t seen the movie yet. The setting being used is Forgotten Realms. Several locations and names are dropped that may go over the heads of those not familiar with this particular world.

The spell caster had a weird components pouch that I didn’t recognize from the game. So this may have been something new. One of the things I look forward to when picking up the movie on disc is turning the sub-titles on. Sometimes that can explain a lot more than just hearing it during a noisy scene.

There was one special effect that I thought fell flat. They presented a large number of character races in the film. The dwarf was well done, the tabaxi, aarakocra and dragonborn worked. But when they showed the halfling, he came up short (yea pun intended). I get that they probably didn’t want them looking like the hobbits from Lord of the Rings, but just shrinking the image of a normal human being just looked wrong. Even in the various Dungeons and Dragons books, they looked like the Tolkien hobbits. They could have easily kept the halfling pudgy.

Also there was a very dangerous item at the end of the movie that I don’t know what happened to. I hope it’s not just lying around in the city. Again, another reason I need to watch the movie a second time. I hope to catch more that I missed on the first viewing.

One cameo image that has already made the rounds is the gang from the animated Dungeons and Dragons TV series. While they don’t speak, they do make a couple of appearances that work. Now I need to watch that series again. I did laugh when they came on the screen, but I noticed that I was the only person laughing.

My daughter who is going to college for an art degree wants to see any behind the scenes book for this film. It would be interesting to see it as well. I’d be interested in seeing the character stats, but I’m not interested in signing up for the online D&D game to see them.

One final note about today’s movie going event. It had been a very long time since I had been to an AMC theater. And now I remember why I hardly go there. Non-caring staff, non-working drinking machines, un-stocked restrooms and a very unpleasant experience (not the movie, the theater). I’m sure that I’ll forget why I haven’t been to AMC in about 8-10 years before I get reminded again.

Have you seen the movie? Come to my discord and tell me what was your favorite parts (and yes you can post spoilers there). This article is open for discussion on the TardisCaptain dot Com Discord server. You can also email me at Carl (at) TardisCaptain.com with any comments.

Posted in: Collecting, Dungeons and Dragons, Reviews, Role Playing Games

BX Advanced Bestiary Vol. 1 a KickStarter reward

Cover to the BX Advanced Bestiary Vol 1

So another item that came up in January, but the review had to be pushed back to this month because of the Character Creation Challenge, was the arrival of a KickStarter reward. I’ve backed KickStarters before for RPG material (and I have a few that are scheduled to be delivered in 2023). In 2022 I backed an independent publisher who wanted to put out a series of bestiaries for OSR games. Specifically in the B/X flavor (which is a given since it’s in the title of the book). This was The BX Advanced Bestiary Vol. 1 by Third Kingdom Games.

From my KickStarter submission I received the hardbound book which is 133 pages long. The ISBN number is 2370011833927. The cover states that the contents are designed for use with the Old-School Essentials RPG but could be used with any OSR style system. The cover art and interior art are all black and white. The author, Todd Leback, was able to obtain artwork from eight different artists for all of the entries. There are also several house-rules that are made available for GMs to consider and an appendix with several items, optional player races (which are classes in this OSR).

This tome covers monsters from A-D (Ape, White to Dryad). The interesting thing is that each entry also contains variants of the different monsters. So the GM can keep the players on their toes. “What do you mean this boar has an iron hide?” The entry for the dragon is 18 pages long which covers information on ages, lairs, allies and types of attacks.

A sample of one of the dragon pages in the book

There are about 100 monsters contained within the pages of the BX Advanced Bestiary Vol. 1. I’ve been in contact with the author and he responded very quickly to any issues (one of the images was accidentally submitted as blurry due to low resolution, which he offered a replacement book with the imaged replaced). I am impressed with both the organization and the book itself. I’ve been told that there will be KickStarters for future volumes. I plan to back them as they are released since the support levels were very reasonable. This is the type of effort we should be supporting. Fans of the game producing materials for other fans to use.

What roleplaying game KickStarters have you backed? Tell me about them or ask any questions about this book on the TardisCaptain dot Com Discord page.

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