This is Audio EXP for the 14th of September 2019, and the title of this episode is Free Games and Fantasy Vikings.
[The following is a transcript of Audio EXP: #9]
In this short podcast, we’ll spend about 10 minutes on interesting or quirky geek news. Where are we getting this news from? From the Geek Native blog.
Let’s kick off by returning to a story we last talked about in August. I asked, back when, what was going on with the cover for Eberron: Rising From The Last War. Some people didn’t like the cover image, and they were not shy about telling Wizards of the Coast precisely what they thought.
In reply, Wizards seemed to flip-flop. Sometimes suggesting it was a temporary cover and at other times suggesting they liked it.
Now the book is getting a new cover. It shows a warforged wizard and a halfling companion on the front. It’s a mix of magic and technology. On the back of the book is the halfling’s companion dinosaur.
Yeah, dinosaur. And yeah, the companion has a companion. Welcome to Eberron.
If you want to see those illustrations and a chart that compares the contents of Rising from the Last War to the Wayfinder’s Guide to Eberron, then check out the blog. The links are in the show notes below.
Now, Wizards of the Coast aren’t the only publisher creating worlds for Dungeons & Dragons. Dream Realm Storytellers are another. This young company, based in Turkey, isn’t one many people had heard of until the launch of their Kickstarter and their 5e world of Svilland.
They did very well. They had previews ready for the launch of the Kickstarter campaign, and press releases and they had reached out to blogs in advance. They had a good pitch video and kept up with communications.
I became a backer and took an eager look at the Svilland campaign setting when the PDF became available this month.
There’s a more extensive review on Geek Native but, in summary, I like it.
Svilland starts by talking about the Norse gods and their followers. It then moves onto the history and geography of the land.
We quickly discover that the gods are harsh, the history of the land is harsh and the geography of the land is harsh. You’re not playing in Waterdeep where you can find a shopkeeper to sell you a padded pillow and some perfume.
I think DRS have been quite brave with Svilland because they’ve clearly stated that some core character classes are not suitable for the game. There’s no druids. There’s no monks, for example.
They’ve done the same with races. You can’t be a Viking warforged.
There are, however, different human races. I think, though, they really mean different human cultures. I know it’s common terminology to use races, but Pathfinder 2 made the swap, and I think other publishers can easily follow.
At the same time, they’ve avoided creating too many new classes. They’ve created two; the Runewalker which is more of a physical wizard than the traditional spellcaster and the Seidr which gets access to druid magic as well as the dream and spirit realms.
Wisely, they’ve simply reskinned the other classes to make them fit better with the setting.
For example, a bard could now follow the tradition of Bragi, clerics are now known as Gothi, barbarians could be on the path of the Berserker and Paladins are known as Alle.
Imagine that; playing as a Paladin of Thor.
That has more impact than playing as a Paladin of a god that’s only mentioned once in some set of core rules and with a sentence or two about what they stand for.
In all, Svilland is bloody and brutal. Success comes from embracing D&D’s high fantasy origins rather than ignoring them or fighting them. The result is something that doesn’t feel high fantasy. It feels fantasy Viking, and I like it.
Right, that’s the fantasy Vikings that the title of this episode talked about. Let’s quickly get onto the free games.
Monte Cook Games landed a deal to make a Carnival Row RPG. It’s free.
It’s not really a full RPG, though. It’s three dozen pages of setting and character stat blocks from the Amazon show. If you’ve not seen it yet – and I’m only two episodes in – then it’s most easily described as a gritty police story with a lot of fairies and in a steampunk world.
As I said, I’m two episodes in, but the story feels relevant to today’s politics. There’s a focus on how we treat immigrants and people who are not precisely like us. It features dodgy politicians.
You will need Monte Cook’s Cypher setting to play the game, though. That’s not free. However, there is a Cypher System preview which is free.
I’ve not tested this myself but I’m told you can successfully combine the free Carnival Row RPG with the free Cypher System preview to create a functioning RPG.
Carnival Row wasn’t the only freebie from Monte Cook this week. The company also released a free accessory called Consent in Gaming. Authors Sean K Reynolds and Shanna Germain put this together.
Yes, I suppose it is a shame that we need a product like this. However, I’ve discovered that common sense and common curtsey are actually not common at all.
Despite Monte Cook Games’ guide being both entirely optional and entirely free, I’ve seen people protest against its existence as if it was an affront to the hobby.
And nor is a sign that your hobby is being taken away from you. You can still play evil characters if you want. Horrible things can still happen in-game.
This guide helps ensure that friendships are wrecked. What’s wrong with that?
So, if you’re interested in exploring the full and sometimes adult scope of RPGs and doing so in a way that doesn’t upset your friends in your gaming group, then this free guide is one to consider.
There’s a set of freebies coming from Chaosium too.
To honour the first anniversary of founder Greg Stafford’s death, from the 10th of October to the 31st of October, Chaosium will run #WeAreAllUs. Gamers are encouraged to upload images of them playing games with that hashtag and Chaosium will give away scenarios for their main product lines.
That’s a lot of free scenarios because Chaosium has a great collection of core products. They are;
- Rune Quest
- Call of Cthulhu
- King Arthur Pendragon
- 7th Sea
Have you ever wondered how the industry manages to maintain such a diverse number of games? Kickstarter has been a big part of this.
But, sadly, some rumblings are coming out of Kickstarter, and they have grown loud enough for Evil Hat Productions to press pause on their Kickstarter efforts.
Reports that Kickstarter have been firing staff who had been trying to organise a Union seem to have been the last straw for Evil Hat. The RPG publisher will not launch their campaign for the second edition of the roleplaying game Agon next week. Instead, they’ll be considering whether they stick with Kickstarter at all.
This is significant. Without Kickstarter, there wouldn’t have been a Fate Core set of rules. This set of rules is used in a great many games.
You could even make an argument to say that without Kickstarter there wouldn’t even be an Evil Hat Productions.
Kickstarter isn’t a ‘normal’ company. It’s a Public Benefit Corporation which means it is legally obliged to consider the public good as well as make money.
The crowdfunding platform has had rocky periods in the past but things were settling down until last year when neo-Nazis caused trouble by suggesting that a satirical comic called “Always Punch Nazis” broke the platform’s guidelines by encouraging violence.
Senior management stepped in and rather than agreeing that it is always right to punch Nazis, as it is, they overruled the community to take the comic’s campaign down.
Employees were fired over the drama. Some of the survivors started to try and make a union. Their goal was to get a group strong enough to be a counterweight to senior management.
Kickstarter has said they will respect the voice of their employee community, but don’t see the need for a union.
The news that some of these pro-union employees had been fired and apparently without the usual processes was the last straw for Evil Hat.
This is developing news, so we’ll have to see how events unfold. Kickstarter may recover again, or public concern may mushroom, and alternative platforms like Game on Tabletop take more market share.
Kickstarter’s employee troubles caught me off-guard as did the news that Steve Jackson Games had partnered with Asmodee Digital on Munchkin.
Asmodee is a huge board game company that seems to be buying up every indie it can find. As the name suggests, the digital arm turns board and card games into computer games.
We now have a trailer for the Munchkin: Quacked Quest game.
I think Quacked Quest is best described as a Dungeon Siege / Munchkin mashup. Fight through hordes and bosses to find loot and ducks.
The surprising news continues. It turns out that the BBC has been working on a police procedural drama set in Discworld. It has been adapting Terry Pratchett’s The City Watch books into a show called The Watch.
They announced that Richard Dormer has landed the lead role as Sam Vines. If you’ve watched Game of Thrones, you’ll know Richard Dormer well. He played Beric Dondarrion, the man who lit up his sword. If you’re still to get into Game of Thrones then I can’t tell you much more about the character as pretty much everything about him is a spoiler.
Lastly, while we’re talking about TV shows, let me mention that Geek Native published another Genre Police this week. This time Ben and the Police took a look at the Thriller genre.
If you’re looking to add some thriller elements to your RPG or even run a better thriller RPG, then this is the article for you. Tips include making encounters snap with tight vignettes and keeping the action and plot personal. Recommended games include Conspiracy X, Operators and even Eclipse Phase.
As usual, thank you for listening, and a level two thank you a bonus for Geek Native’s Patreon backers.
Geek Native has a comment section. You can find it just below here.