Tuesday, April 2, 2024

Collected Works of Richard Tucholka

Here's another fundraiser from Jonathan Tweet, who is cutting down on stuff while supporting Planned Parenthood.

Jonathan says. . . .

Richard Tucholka’s games taught me to write game rules with humor and concision, and now you can have them yourself. Tucholka passed away recently, but I had the good fortune of meeting him once at Gen Con and telling him how much I had learned from him. Bureau 13 is one of the first non-D&D RPGs I ever played.

Bureau 13 is like X Files but published 10 years before X Files. You play a version of yourself, which is a popular trope in Tucholka’s games. The monster descriptions are punchy and often funny. The hit-location system must be seen to be believed.

FTL: 2448 is a sprawling space opera with an ambitiously large array of playable alien species, and most of them are quite alien. Tucholka’s ability to capture the feel of a species with sparse notes was inspiring, and I have put this style to good use in my own game writing.

Fringeworthy sends you along newly discovered, abandoned pathways that connect alternate realities to each other. The civilization that built the pathways was destroyed by a terrible threat that still lurks somewhere among the many worlds. This setting serves as a way to connect to other Tri Tac games, such as Bureau 13.

Incursion has you piloting a captured starship from one random world to another—you don’t have a map to get back to Earth. It’s sort of like the off-beat sci-fi series Lexx, but five years earlier.

You can read more about Richard Tucholka on the Tri Tac website.

Looks like these games would cost over $100 to buy used, with Bureau 13 going for $50 or so. Fans of Tucholka sell PDFs and reprints of these games, but the reprints are from scans and are lower quality than these old originals. I’d be happy for my collection to go to someone who’s not already a fan, so I’ll part with them for $50 to Planned Parenthood plus shipping. If interested, DM me from my Facebook author’s page.

Friday, March 29, 2024

Armello: The Board Game

It’s March 29, 2024, and I’m in the kinda unique position of reporting that a game I had a blast designing has already made a treasure-trove on Kickstarter and still has about a week to roll. It’s Armello: The Board Game, a deckbuilding adventure board game of furry animal heroes with swords questing to take the throne from their corrupt King . . . over each other’s (temporarily) dead bodies!

Armello: The Board Game is being published by friends at King of the Castle, aka the wonderful creators of Campaign Coins. I’ve been writing occasional design notes you can find in the Kickstarter page’s updates and the game has just hit a stretch goal where I’ll loop back into the game to design two fistfuls of magic Amulets. It’s time I stepped away from an all-out push to finish 13th Age Second Edition’s next playtest packet to talk about the game that’s already being crowdfunded!

This board game version of Armello inherited a huge trove of goodness from the earlier digital game from League of Geeks. The digital game originally featured on Kickstarter and was supported with new cards and hero clans and game expansions for many years. Hundreds of beautiful cards, cool custom dice with magical symbols, and cutthroat anthropomorphic animal heroes on a quest to usurp a Corrupt king has translated into a competitive deckbuilding quest-and-combat boardgame . . . though ‘translated’ isn’t the right word. I aimed to create a game in a new medium that captured the spirit and evoked the feel of the original.

Digital games can do a lot of things that aren’t repeatable on tabletop. Then midway through the design, I turned the digital game’s more traditional style of cardplay into a deckbuilding experience. Partly that’s because I love deckbuilding games. And partly it’s because deckbuilding felt like a great metaphor for character growth and experience. Each hero has their own unique starter and experience decks as well as cards they can buy from the market or win as treasure.

There are six days to go for the Kickstarter, plus some time in the post-crowdfunding phase. I’m not sure I’ll be designing for more stretch goals, but I do know that the design note I just wrote talks about a possible expansion.

If you do nothing else, check out the cool Kickstarter video! When you play the digital game, you’ll recognize the narrator as the voice of the King.

Monday, March 25, 2024

Jonathan Sells Tekumel

We're still working on the Beta Playtest Packet for 2E, as well as arranging art and helping set up the 13th Age Second Edition Kickstarter. . . details to arrive soon!

But in the meantime, Jonathan Tweet has a simpler fund-raising effort in progress, and it involves Tekumel. And Planned Parenthood. So I'm giving his effort a space to live in blog world. He's including notes on the Tekumel campaign he ran a few years ago, about 6 years before we began working on 13th Age.

If you are interested in this treasure trove, contact Jonathan through his Facebook author-page: https://www.facebook.com/JonathanMTweet


Jonathan says . . .

Here’s my third game collection that I’m selling off to raise money for Planned Parenthood ($150 raised so far).

TSR’s Empire of the Petal Throne by M A R Barker was the first culture-based, world-centric RPG. In 1977, when my dad took me to the college where he taught so I could see the students playing RPGs, they were playing Empire of the Petal Throne. Over the decades, this setting has reappeared repeatedly with different treatments and rules sets. It’s like nothing else: an ancient, stratified culture with malevolent gods whose worship includes orgies & human sacrifice; an oppressive empire with traditional clans of various status; haunted ruins of the world’s ancient past; and a planet where most of the sentient beings, animals, and monsters are decidedly alien. Humans on Tekumel are descended from space-faring earthlings, but science collapsed long ago after a cosmic catastrophe separated the planet from the rest of the universe. There are no stars in the Tekumel’s sky because its star system is alone. Now humans are stuck here with the alien inhabitants of this world, plus numerous bizarre sentient being that likewise descend from space-faring species. Some ancient tech remains, but it’s treated like magic. Many sorts of beings, including humans, cast spells through psychic power.

As a teen, I played a little Empire of the Petal Throne, then I collected Tekumel works over the years, and finally around 2005 I ran several sessions using my own custom rule set. My rules used the d20 system for combat but an all-new system for character generation and powers. These rules were the first time I had spellcasters casting spells so powerful that they took 2 rounds to cast. The super-simple rules were inspired by the virtually unknown RPG Conrad’s Fantasy, by “Red” Rahm. (Conrad’s Fantasy and Rahm’s other inimitable RPGs are another collection slated for a later charity sale.) My rules, campaign notes, and character sheets are part of this package. You can also see more at https://www.jonathantweet.com/ept_topics.html.

Raymond Feist’s Riftwar books are based on his alt-D&D campaign, which featured an invasion (through interdimensional rifts) from Tekumel. Feist changed the invading planet’s name, but his “Kelewan” is clearly Tekumel with the serial numbers filed off.

This set ranges from a reprint of the original game rules to the most recent game sets that I know of. The Tekumel hardback in this set sells for over $100 these days, and the Mitlanyal volumes go for $200 to $300 each. This collection includes a bunch of great resources that I would have loved to have had back in the day when my teen game group played in this intricate and highly alien setting. The art, for one thing, is far better than it was in the ’70s! Included in this collection are dozens of official Tekumel miniatures, as Tekumel is a setting for minis battles as well as roleplaying. This collection is for someone who loves Tekumel or for someone who loves Planned Parenthood, and I’m asking for a $500 donation plus shipping. If you know any Tekumel fans, please let them know. You might also want to acquire this material on behalf of a good game library.

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

13th Age 2E Beta Playtest Packet is coming in a few weeks

I’m thrilled to say that we are now weeks away from sending out the 13th Age 2E Beta Playtest packet! Highlights of this second draft include:

• A thorough revision of the Monsters chapter to better support monster roles and to make every monster juicy.

• A bard class that’s magical, musical, and surprising.

• Far more attention on the icon connection rules, with many examples so GMs and players can see how we use them in play.

• A magic item update so that all items are worthwhile regardless of the hero’s level, including adventurer-tier items in the hands of epic-tier characters.

• Significant changes to every class based on Alpha feedback.

Our ambitions for this second edition grew in the last couple years. Even so, we’ve kept 2E fully compatible with 13th Age books published for the first edition. You wanna run Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan’s Eyes of the Stone Thief using 2E? With some party-size tweaks to the numbers of monsters you’re facing, that won’t be a problem. (In fact, you may be more likely to survive!)

Playtesters, you won’t have to check your inboxes for a few weeks yet. I’ll speak up here when the Beta playtest packet goes out so that the mass mailing has less of a chance in getting lost in spam folders.

Monday, January 29, 2024

Greg Stafford & the First Copy of D&D

(Young Greg painted for King of Dragon Pass by Stefano Gaudiano)

Before you read my story, read the story in Greg's words from the Chaosium blog, February of last year.

It's a great story and I was extremely amused to read it. But my amusement may not have been the same as your amusement, because I was comparing it to the story as Greg had told it to me, back when I worked at Chaosium!

Greg was a storyteller supreme. The best. I can see why he might have been more circumspect in the codex than he was with me. I'm not certain which version shades more towards truth. That doesn't really matter to the story . . .

When Greg told the tale, we weren't talking about Dungeons & Dragons. We were talking about White Bear & Red Moon, specifically about how Greg had tried to work out a publishing deal with various companies, shopping it around. I think it was after the first printing had sold out, he wondered if there was a way to publish the boardgame with a bigger company.

And he went to see Gary Gygax at TSR. As Greg told the story, Gygax was doing well at that time, he received Greg in a nice office. But it did not go well for Greg and WB&RM. Early in the conversation, Greg told Gygax that he thought he had owned one of the earliest copies of D&D . . . and here we diverge!

The way Greg told it, most of the copies of D&D had been stuck at the printer because the bill hadn't been paid yet. They weren't releasing the games to Gygax. And Greg's brother-in-law worked at the printer, or had business there, and saw the game, and thought it looked like something that Greg would like. One way or another he got a copy and sent it to Greg at a time when Gygax was being prevented from getting copies out to anyone else.

Maybe Gygax was amused later, but according to this telling, he wasn't happy with Greg at that moment. The attempt to publish WB&RM through the resurgent TSR went nowhere, and in this telling, Greg turned the story into a sort of fable about waiting until after the deal is done to tell funny stories that will only be funny to you.

(Greg the storyteller, again painted by Stefano Gaudiano for King of Dragon Pass)