Tuesday, June 28, 2016

My Book of the Year: The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps



I've gasped out loud while reading one book.
This book.
Twice.

I don't want to say too much about the story. Surprises exist. I'd rather not hint.

It's a blend of the brutal and the mythic and the humane, glowing in unforgettable language that's often worth reading aloud.

On e-readers the novella is cheap. $3 cheap. I'm buying a paper copy for my shelf of favorite books and to pass around to friends.

Thank you, Kai Ashante Wilson.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Pristine City


The Pristine City is a fun 57 page 13th Age-compatible adventure for 4th or 5th level characters from Stacey Janssen and David Noonan of Dastow Games.

While reading the adventure and framing my response, I realized that my gaming experience is probably different from most GMs. So far as I remember, and I'm thinking all the way back to Top Secret and Chivalry & Sorcery and Monsters! Monsters! and AD&D  and then Champions and RuneQuest and the days when I bought a LOT of rpg adventures . . . going all the way back and working forward, I have never run a published adventure that was written by someone else. Unless you count:
a) the pieces of published adventures I played as solitaire system-tests when I was a kid; or
b) the co-op/solo micro-dungeons published for The Fantasy Trip, when I was playing as well as flipping the pages; or
c) the adventures in 13th Age in Glorantha that were written by Jonathan.

I think Item C counts. That's a recent development!

So while I've read big chunks of The Pristine City, and skimmed the rest, I haven't run it. The fact that the book got me thinking about how I would run it turns out to be extremely unusual.

Without giving too many spoilers, here are some things I like about this adventure.
  • A clever overarching structure that will shape the game alongside the player characters' actions (I must not say more, but this deserves an exclamation point)!
  • Amusing reinterpretations of the icons that both dodge the copyright issues, add their own twisty values, and are still clear enough to anyone running a core Dragon Empire game. 
  • Interesting reasons why this singular place blends oddities you might find in a living dungeon within themes created by the dwarves. 
  • Well-themed magic items that enhance the storyline. 
  • Amusing touches in the price lists and great material for dwarf-oriented player characters in the list of Real Books in the Pristine City
  • Vignettes that could be dropped into other dwarven areas if you're not going to run the whole thing. 
  • Far more playable material than you'd expect to find in a 57 page book, because they didn't reprint monster stats from the core 13th Age rulebook or the 13th Age Bestiary. Page references suffice and the focus of the text stays on exploring the city instead of reprinted monster stat blocks. 
  • A couple new monsters I'll be using the next time I need [REDACTED].

Monday, June 6, 2016

Trump is running for impeachment

I don't think Trump is going to become president. But if he does, he’ll be in the running for an uglier prize.

Two-thirds of the Senate can vote to impeach a President for "treason, bribery, or high crimes and misdemeanors."

Trump’s campaign promises high misdemeanors. Given his current and intended disregard for the law, he may get around to some crimes. I don’t expect his conduct to change if he’s elected. Even if you believe his behavior could shift, Trump seems likely to provide enough for a Senate composed of Democrats and worried Republicans to work with. 

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Three Dragon Ante mix, with coins

We played Three Dragon Ante a few weeks ago, just a couple days before the coins from the last Campaign Coins Kickstarter showed up in the mail. So for next game, I'm ready with metal coins. It's a benevolent circle, given that 3DA helped inspire Campaign Coins to start making gaming coins!


Later this year we'll be able to play with dwarven towers from the 13th Age Coins and Icon Tiles kickstarter, which sure looks like it's going to fund in style and will probably be making the twelve-sided icon die from our 13 True Ways kickstarter available again. (You can find a few of the square dwarven tower prototypes anchoring the coin pile above.)

For those of you who have both the original Three Dragon Ante and the Emperor's Gambit sequel, here's the card list I'm playing Three Dragon Ante with these days, a mix of dragons and mortals and dragon gods from both the sets. This set-up has a good mix of card drawing, outright theft, and manipulation of the ante cards. If people have other mixes they play to get different effects, I'm curious to hear it.

Evil: 
Earthquake
Gray
Green
Purple
Red

Good: 
Adamantine
Bronze
Iron
Silver
Steel

Mortals & Li'l Dragons: 
Hatchling
The Dragonslayer
The Druid
The Emperor
The Queen
The Sorcerer
The Spy
The Thief
The Wyrmpriest

Dragon Gods: 
Bahamut
Io
Tiamat

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Big Trouble in Little China!


GenCon is going to be fun this year!

In addition to however many volumes of 13th Age we have out by and for the show, I'll be enjoying the release of a new game from Upper Deck based on my favorite deckbuilding card game.

I've been a Legendary fanboy since Devin Low invited me to early playtests. You'll find my wife Lisa and me in the playtesters list for most of the Marvel Legendary sets. So it was wonderful to design a Big Trouble in Little China set intended to be playable with the Marvel sets.

The Villains and Masterminds and Schemes can all add something new for people who want to draft big trouble into their Marvel games, and Iron Fist could pay a visit to Little China. But BTiLC is very much its own experience, with interlocking characters and mechanics that want to be played together, as well as new Schemes that pivot around Chinatown. I'm particularly happy with the story-oriented solution for handling the starting heroes, but it's a little too soon to spill those beans. I'll say more about the game's design goals and solutions in future posts.

This was so much fun to make! The result is sort of a love letter: Legendary is Lisa's favorite game, and Big Trouble in Little China is designed to be Legendary the way Lisa likes to play it. Except for the worst of the Masterminds . . . Lisa saw that Mastermind and said "Oh. You just designed this to screw me, didn't you?"

Me: Not you. Your play style.
Lisa: The world.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Monday, March 28, 2016

Three Powerful Months

I'm excited about this year's 13th Age Monthly lineup. The first three months show off the mix of GM material and player goodies we're aiming for. The artists are doing splendid work, and in fact for much of the year, 13AM is likely to be the place to see color 13th Age art.

As you can see from the design credits so far this year, I'm staying fully involved with the Monthly. 13AM isn't quite a Ken Writes About Stuff situation, like Pelgrane's other monthly game subscription, because there will always be other designers writing for the Monthly. But I've gotten a lot more involved than we expected when we started this project, developing and art-directing all the issues. I've never handled a monthly publication process before. It started as a learning experience and has become fun.

We promise 4000 words a month and we nearly always publish more than that, because . . .fun!  If you're subscribing, you've already got the first two issues shown below, with covers and interiors by Lee Moyer and Patricia Smith. Sorcerer Summoning, with cover and interior art by Rich Longmore, is getting shown off for the first time below. It will be out at the end of this week. If you subscribe now you'll get all the issues from 2016 as well as the OP adventures when they release. . . . and that should also be happening at the end of the week, since ASH LAW's Into the Underworld Part IV is ready to be unleashed.

See you in the Monthly.