Monday, September 30, 2013

Kickstarter: October 2013 edition

Okay, I know I'm cheating a little as there's one more day in the month and anything could show up tomorrow.

As usual, the chart only includes things that are late.

Tectonic Craft Studios is one I'm probably going to have to get the stuff from the guy at a convention like another backer did.

Dwimmermount continues to drag its ass and sadly seems to have inflicted mental trauma to the guy who had things going for a while. It seemed things might be ready for Gen Con but lately he's been yelping about it taking till next April or possibly sooner.

Steampunk Musha has had several set backs. Main problem continues to be the poor manner in which things are communicated. I backed at a level that was supposed to have several stretch goal goods and well, let's be real about that eh? What's worse is I know there are people who backed at a much higher level.

28mm Demons & Devils I've seen at Gen Con and I'm supposed to be on the next mailing list so I don't feel too worried about that one.

Imbrian Arts Miniatures have been seen in the wild but I'm down for the year of metal or whatever we're getting instead of Troll Cast.

Assimilation Alien Host. When I talk about Dwimmermount, Steampkunk Musha, and Assimilation Alien Host, there are ones where I think a spreadsheet discussing the various real world heal issues that can derail your campaign, especially if you're a one man operation, can come into play. Imbrian above saw the writing on the wall here and bailed and went with metal. And hey... late here means something else later.

Relic Knights is going to come out in November or I'm going to have an nice refund in November. The style has changed quite a bit into more T&A but thankfully a lot of the figures I wanted didn't need that route anyway so I'm fairly insulated from it.

Cthulh Mythos Foundry Style.... hey, remember when I talked about Assimliation, the kickstarter by Ed being late? Yeah, Ed's part of why this one is late. Only part mind you. It's not like the guy has shipped out the resin models yet. If he starts doing so, I may bite the bullet and just upgrade my pledge.

Drake the Dragon Game. Me'h? Not that late but despite how interesting some of it looks I just don't care anymore. It has nothing to do with the game. It gets back to what I've mentioned a few times. You may not be the same person in mind frame or thought process by the time the item you've backed gets to you.

Red Box Games 2. Wow. I can't believe this is late. No, seriously. He spoke up that he had three casters for the already existing models and we should get them rapidly. Basically he's dropped two of the casters and the one reliable one is very busy but just ask him and he'll tell you that despite the fact it doesn't look like he knows what he's doing, he knows what he's doing and this one will not be as late as the previous one. Seriously! for reals man!

Torchbearer, an old school style game came in the mail today. I also received my gnomes from Stonehaven miniatures. I'd back both of those creators again. Pretty much everyone else? No. Sedition Wars second wave came in and m'eh. Took my whole lot and threw it in storage. Did the same with my Mantic stuff. It wasn't necessarily terrible but it was far from what it should have been.

On the other hand, I am looking forward to Bones 2. While Reaper didn't do things perfectly and I honestly don't see them doing more metal in any meaningful way, the price point on the bones is fantastic and they are good for a lot of different niches that need filling. I passed up several kick starters waiting for this one.

How's everyone else's list of things going?

Project Name Due Date Date Late Days Late Months
Tectonic Craft Studios 6/1/2012 10/1/2013 -487 -16
Dwimmermount 8/1/2012 10/1/2013 -426 -14
Steampunk Musha 10/1/2012 10/1/2013 -365 -12
28mm Demons & Devils 3/1/2013 10/1/2013 -214 -7
Imbrian Arts Miniatures 3/1/2013 10/1/2013 -214 -7
Assimilation Alien Host 5/1/2013 10/1/2013 -153 -5
Relic Knights 5/1/2013 10/1/2013 -153 -5
Cthulhu Mythos Foundy Style 7/1/2013 10/1/2013 -92 -3
Drake The Dragon Wargame 7/1/2013 10/1/2013 -92 -3
Red box Games 2 8/1/2013 10/1/2013 -61 -2

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Death of Kings by Bernard Cornwell

I picked this puppy up in hardcover from Barnes & Nobles a while ago and promptly forgot about it. Then I noticed that Bernard Cornwell has the Pagan Lord coming out, another volume in the series and promptly sat down and finished this book in a manner of hours.

Told in first person, this tale of the Danes and Saxons is an enjoyable read that is like visiting old friends that have new tales to share with the reader. I'm always amused when I enjoy a Cornwell book because my first experience with Bernard's writing was Stonehenge and I hated that book. I thought it too long, didn't like the main characters, and didn't think the book went anywhere. Almost everything else I've really enjoyed. The Saxon Stories really appeal to me and I think part of that is the whole first person view point we get from Uhtred. One of the interesting things to me, is that Uhtred is growing old. Rare is the 'action' hero who can claim to be 45 and still standing in a shield wall.

By allowing Uhtred to grow older, it allows time to pass. Which in historical terms is a good thing as it allows change to happen as well, kings die of old age eh? Hence the title of the book and all that. But it also fits in with the theme of much of 'older' times in that campaigning during off seasons was challenging and dangerous. One of the reasons the Mongols were so dangerous after all is that they didn't seem to have a problem with it.

If you're looking for a good read, Death of Kings is up there on the list. I'd recommend the other books in the Saxon Stories prior to this as they build up a lot of background and detail and show how friends emerge from enemies and how allies fall to the wayside.

Now let me muse about things I might steal for a role playing game eh?

Subterfuge: Uhtred is a bit smarter than most of those around him in a number of ways. One of those is that he has longer planning abilities than those about him and sees things in a bigger picture. There are two instances of Uhtred being clever here. The first is when he stages a fight with one of his followers. This leads to his follower eventually coming back with a ton of information on what the people he's been spying on have been doing. This is a fairly standard operation in faking a fight with a friend and having that friend do some undercover work.

The second one though is a nice little bit. Earlier in the book, Uhtred seeks out an Oracle who tells the future. This oracle is why the Saxons are so fearless in their assaults. Their victory has been preordained. Uhtred then sets up a Christian miracle with a cave and angels and a seer predicting the victory of the Danes. It works well and in a low tech, superstitious setting, works wonders.

The third is that despite how smart Uhtred is, he's not infailable and when one of his resources, a spy master who essentially works for everyone comes and spreads some lies to him, because of the very convincing nature in which he does it, Uhtred believes it and is almost killed because of it.  It's good to see that despite his gifts, Uhtred isn't above failure and what's good for the goose is good for the gander.

The Death of Kings. There are a few things I enjoyed about the way Bernard Cornwell described the whole scene here. The first is that things have to keep going on. Dishes still have to be washes, clothes still have to be cleaned, and the sun still rises in the east. The momentous occasion in and of itself does nothing for the rest of the world. The other part was the planning and burial and resources needed to bury the king. This included having the king put into three separate coffins like nesting cups as well as developing a new church for it and waiting till all the people important to the process could be assembled. Without modern transportation, some of the people took days or longer to get to the funeral.  

Too many leaders. One of the problems I often have with super hero comics, and indeed, most role playing settings, is that there are so many villains of such overwhelming power that one has to wonder, "Seriously, why haven't they gotten their shit together and just curb stomped the heroes." Well, history has proven again and again, that just because you have the force to do something doesn't mean you have the will to do it or the ability to do it behind one central figure.

Bernard notes several times that there was real opportunity after the death of Alfred to smash the Danes. The problem is that they have too many people who would be leader. Too many potential back stabbers. Too many potential enemies in waiting. When one moves forward, the rest would follow or take that one's lands and wealth for their own?

There are numerous other bits I like and would try to add into my own material. For example, there are few clear cut 'heroes' and 'villains' so to speak. There are loyalties to tribes, there are loyalties to each other, there are those seeking to expand their own circle of power even if it pits them against family members and those seeking to reclaim ancestral lands but it's all more subtle that Dungeons and Dragons alignment system normally allows. It makes things more interesting in that you don't have a wall of paladins who due to their nature are never going to betray someone unless 'magic' or some massive misunderstanding is involved. It allows things to progress as a more organic fashion.

In the end, I'm looking forward to the Pagan Lord, the next volume in the Saxon Tales and that's a testament to the strength of Bernard Conrwell's writing.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Riddick (Movie 2013)

Took the mother out to see Van Diesel in his latest movie, Riddick. It's a sequel to a character that's had a few video games, movies, and even a carton movie made about him. there was even a motion comic to help fill in between the previous movie, the Chronicles of Riddick, and this one.

As far as movies go, I didn't have a lot of expectations. I knew that it wasn't going to have the budget, the world hopping, the massive special effects or scale of the previous movie, but rather, would harken back to Pitch Black with some variances thrown into the survival horror bit. And I was pretty dead on in that assessment.

In terms of special effects and overall structure, it's not a terrible movie. The monsters look pretty slick, Riddick is at a very high competency level here, the story is simple but told in a way that I wasn't shaking my fist at the screen every fifteen minutes like I was with Elysium so thumbs up.

I'll be doing some spoilers below so if you want no spoilers for Riddick, read no more.

In terms of inspiration, it really is an old school type of adventure not necessarily in role playing purposes but in the genre it fits into. Riddick goes from being a king who doesn't want to rule to being an outcast refuge again. This is a bit harder to capture in a role playing game because character power level tends to only move in one direction and that's up.

However Riddick's personal fighting ability hasn't been diminished. Rather he manages to stay atop his game even when using improved weapons. This movie would make a good Dark Sun episode in those terms.

But in terms of using it for RPG purposes, well, it's so simple that it would essentially take up a part of a session. Step one would be stranding the players in a hostile territory. Step two establish some of the hostiles. Step three, provide a method and reason that the character needs to get out of the hostile territory right away. Everything else is character interaction.

By making the territory hostile, it changes from say, Cast Away, to well, Riddick. Without motivation to survive with action and deeds, the characters pretty much don't have a lot of potential motivation unless something big and important is happening where they left off.

Some games are able to do this with an island setting. others do it with demi-planes. Others do it with large ships like say, a Space Hulk.

In terms of establishing the hostiles, many games have specific creatures that are only native to one part of the setting, to one particular plane, or are just not used that often. The old adventure Island of the Serpent was one prototype of third party settings back in the Role Aids days although it wasn't Role Aids, and they crafted a ton of weird monsters for that local. It helps bring in flavor and design and shows how this area is different.

In terms of method and reason the characters need to go, if they have no way out or can't find one, again, the possible motivation to leave diminishes if not outright fades. In terms of needing to go? Aliens used a reactor getting ready to explode. Riddick uses a host of monsters riding from the ground when awakened by a rain storm. The need to escape is high in both instances because well, you gonna die if you stick around.

Riddick provides some great monsters and action moments for those looking for quick entertainment.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Mongols by Stephen Turnbull Illustrated by Angus McBride

From my brief observations of the various Osprey titles, Stephen Turnbull is the main scholar of the east. From my years of enjoying Iron Crown Enterprise Rolemaster and Middle Earth role playing games, Angus McBride is an artist whose skill set is still sorely missed in all artistic fields.

I picked this puppy up at the Skokie Half Priced Books.  I've learned over there that if there is a book you see and you want it, waiting for a sale may sale you a few dollars but may save you more than a few because the item you want has long since been bought by someone else.

After reading the Kalka River 1223 Campaign book, and owning the Warrior Mongol Warrior 1200-1350, also by Stephen Turnbull, but that one illustrated by a modern artist who also does role playing products, Wayne Reynolds, I was eager to read the Mongols and see what else I could glean of them.

Hard to say. I couldn't honestly tell you how much of the generalized knowledge here I knew in some form or another before hand but I can tell you that it's well put together in terms of a quick summary of how dangerous the Mongols were to their enemies and the vast changes their brought to the world.

If you can find it, it's worth a read. I believe that the more 'modern' book by Osprey on the subject is the Mongol Warrior 1200-1350 in their Warrior series.

In terms of how dangerous the Mongol army was? I'm always amused that fantasy settings have to go to the final full tilt doomsday device when rebooting their settings like the Forgotten Realms and the Sundering. Historically, empires rose and fell with great frequency. The problem many people have isn't necessarily with their favorite group of NPCs being killed, it's how it's done. Forwarding the setting, further invaliding past purchases, isn't the way in my opinion.  Having a competent group of adversaries that the players can actually fight against, if the campaign is the thing as opposed to the dungeon crawl, requires there be, you know, actual competent foes.

You don't have to throw gods, demons, devils, and the kitchen sink into the setting to showcase how devastating the real world historically was.


The illustrations by Angus McBride for the series include eight separate paintings including the one on the cover. In that instance, I believe that's some poor Russian bastard whose been taken down by the archery skill of the Mongolian warrior retrieving his arrow.

Another shows Mongols in winter coats with pack camels. Another shows Mongolian heavy cavalryman battling against what could be Crusaders.  another the Mongolian commander and his 'naccara' drummer. Another the Mongol camp with children and small animals. Another of the Mongol camp shows a horseman with his hunting bird and a host of unfortunate animals strapped to his horse while in the background some dogs look on hungrily and behind them women tend to a fire.  Another shows a Mongol heavy cavalry officer in a siege of a city in China.  The last is a Japanese samurai fighting against Korean auxiliaries. 

The illustrations may be a little dated in today's brighter, louder, more action world, but for illustrating the Mongols? For showing some slices of life? They're perfect and can easily serve as templates to springboard visual inspired tales.

The book includes numerous real world paintings taken from around the globe. One of the interesting bits here, as I've mentioned in the past, is that the artist generally tend to make the subjects wear the clothing and armor of the time, as opposed to when the painting was supposed to take place. This could be a nice 'red herring' for a game where the characters are puzzle solvers if they failed to take that tendency into account.

One of the things that book notes in terms of difficulty, is how quickly things erode and rot. Whenever I see those shows and movies that are supposed to take place in the distant future and they have twentieth century buildings and vehicles still around is man, that would not last a year or two after man fell from grace. Right now people are being killed by failing infrastructure. Imagine it for a year or two without a full fledge fire department to handle vast blazes. Imagine it if an earthquake hits. Imagine it if a tidal wave hits. We're very industrious in how much we rebuild and as anyone whose paying attention to the news in America at least these days, knows that natural disasters require immense support to overcome. Without that ability to draw on massive funds and manpower? Yeah, it's all going away in a very short time.

In terms of the Mongols themselves, they are amazing for numerous reasons. Their reach encompassed a lot of what gamers traditionally associated with Oriental Adventures, including unifying all of China. They also devastated Russia so bad that the book on the Kalka River says it put Russia back a century or two in terms of development. They also used allies and defeated foes to attack other foes like when they tried to take over Japan on two separate occasions.

The book provides a lot of details on what the typical Mongol drank on the march, as well as what he ate. These details, as well as clothing and various other bits, can provide depth to a GM looking to add those elements to his own campaign.

They were also a multi-ethnical army with both Muslim and Chinese siege engineers among them. This facet of the Mongol war machine would work well in a fantasy campaign where the players wanted to play something exotic. They could be part of an invading or formerly invading army that was defeated and now have nowhere left to turn except well, either bandit or adventurer. Their use of Chinese and Muslim engineers also allowed the introduction of siege weapons that were unlike those already in use by their foes in the West.

When looking at the strengths of the Mongols, there are numerous advantages in their corner. Not only did they have great mobility, but they were able to bring with them their entire way of life with mobile yurts for example. They also made sure to scout out the areas they were heading into. They would seek out information on the various internal conflicts and try to use those to separate their enemies into smaller groups to more easily destroy them. The Mongols also did things few others would dare, like attack Russia in winter.

If you're looking for inspiration for your L5R game, Oriental Adventurers, or just want to see how devastating the Mongol war hosts were, this book should provide you a quick door into the death and destruction that a army with a few unique hooks in it's arsenal could unleash.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Kalka River 1223 Genghiz Khan's Mongols Invade Russia

I like the Osprey series. They have a wide variety of material that speaks to my arm chair historian as well as my role playing sensibilities. Their break up of book types provides bite sized chunks of history that have a ton of references to further materials for those so inclined.

Kalka River 1223 by D Nicolle & V Shpakovsky is illustrated by V Korolkov. And the art? That's another one of the reasons I love these books. In addition to showcasing a variety of real and recreated bits ranging from armor, clothing, and weapons, the artists that Osprey picks generally knock the ball out of the park and Victor Korolkov is no exception to that rule.

Another thing I like about these books is it showcases how little I know about the subject matter. This isn't something I have a problem with as if I knew it all, or heck, even remembered it all from other sources I've read, what fun would that be eh?

And the names! It's great to see some of the names for things in the book. Take some of the following for example:

Oldest or Best Guard: The most important constituent of Russian prince's armies. Heavy cavalary.

Youngest: Consisted of lightly armed archers. The guard is split between professionals and auxiliaries.

The Black People: The urban military called up by the Russian princes from towns under his control.

Simple naming conventions but quick ways to indicate difference in rank and importance. There's this type of fun stuff all over the Kalka River.

There are also lots of little reminders of things that make interesting bits to add to a campaign or to reinforce in existing campaigns if such situations are already there.

"Wars seemed to flare all across Europe and Asia between states large and small, between kings, princes, emperors and even between local barons." That set up right there provides a lot of back ground as to why an opposing force that was able to act in one unified position is able to attack a country that in theory, is much larger. The lack of combined military forces, of combined purposes, and combined method, allowed Genghiz Khan's Mongols to get farther than they should.

Indeed, in most fiction, this seems to be one of most settings problems. The good guys are just so organized and built into so much static state of being, that is strains the setting when wondering how they could fall or even why anyone would attack them. History is not like that for the most part.

There's a lot of great stuff in Kalka for those looking for some historical inspiration and a lot of great illustrations. Some of the bits showing the Russian metallic full face masks for example? I hope we see something like that for Khador in War Machine real soon. Great stuff.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Kickstarter: The September Chart Edition

So before Gen Con 2013, the guy behind Tectonic Craft Studios was pretty optimistic about it being done. Yeah... He's a good guy but I can't see most people who backed the first Kickstarter ever doing anything with the guy again unless it's already done and it's a super deal.

Dwimmermount actually has some physical evidence that it lives in the vinyl map and illustration booklet that I picked up at Gen Con.

Steampunk Musha I have little hope for. The creator speaks little about that project while doing other bits like magazines and dealing with serious real life issues. I can't fault him for having to deal with the latter but the former? While not updating the Kickstarter for over a month? Yeah, that I'll fault him for.

28mm Demons and Devils I've seen enough of in the flesh at Gen Con that I'm so not worried about it I bought the demon frog too.

Imbrian I know is out in the wild but I'm a 'year long' supporter and didn't go for multiple shipments. His initial quest to do it on the less expensive side failed and he wound up doing another route and I didn't want to add to his expenses at that time. In the future I may just paypal him a few bucks and tell him to ship it.

Assimiliation Alien Host has got so many problems going on I don't even want to get into it. A lot of these are things that are bad for the guy doing the project, not just his process on the project. The dreaded 'real life issues'. I swear one day I'm going to do a spread sheet with the things that happen to people doing Kickstarters. The real problem isn't that it's that unusual mind you, it's that if you're a one man business and you suffer them, there's not a lot of people to pick up the slack.

Relic Knights. This one is supposed to be due in November now thanks to the 'cheap' creation from China. I hope that one day real soon it's competitive to shop around and even if it costs more, if it's delivered in a more timely fashion that becomes an option. Something like, Level XXX for 10 bucks from China or Level YYY for 30 bucks delivered from USA. If it goes past November due to whatever issues ranging from lost boat or just not done, I'm getting a refund. Coolminornot, unlike some creators, is generally very good about taking care of people when they want their money back.

A Gallery of Rogues exists but I knew Jim wouldn't let us down after the many hiccups from the previous Kickstarter.

Cthulhu Mythos Foundry style needs to start updating more frequently with what's going on. I need to get my air brush skills ready!

Drake... m'eh? Another game I backed that I was excited for and there are some awesome figures I should have added to my pledge but at this point all I'm thinking is why did I back this game? Not that it looks bad or anything but that my interest level has waned tremendously since I first saw it.

Red Box Games 2. This one is really a head slapper for me. The first one is still having issues. This one was supposed to be a hit out of the park by Tre because it was doing things the old fashioned way that were already sculpted and yet it falls onto the list of late kickstarters. Hopefully it falls off next month.

Anyone else keeping track of their Kickstarters in Excel or Google Docs? Any other horror stories out there? I'm holding off backing any more RPG ones unless it's a really fantastic thing with a really awesome guy that I'm not worried about flaking out. For miniature or card games I'm still pretty ambivalent about it but I still have more faith in them for some reason.

Project Name Due Date Late Days Late Months
Tectonic Craft Studios 6/1/2012 -458 -15
Dwimmermount 8/1/2012 -397 -13
Steampunk Musha 10/1/2012 -336 -11
28mm Demons & Devils 3/1/2013 -185 -6
Imbrian Arts Miniatures 3/1/2013 -185 -6
Assimilation Alien Host 5/1/2013 -124 -4
Relic Knights 5/1/2013 -124 -4
A Gallery of Rogues 6/1/2013 -93 -3
Cthulhu Mythos Foundy Style 7/1/2013 -63 -2
Drake The Dragon Wargame 7/1/2013 -63 -2
Red box Games 2 8/1/2013 -32 -1