08 September 2016

Celebrity Break Up: Fantasy Flight and Games Workshop?

This is big news. It looks like Fantasy Flight Games' license to make games based on Games Workshop's properties (Warhammer and Warhammer 40k mainly, plus others like the Blood Bowl card game) has ended... suddenly. Mum's the word, however, GW was shopping almost all their properties at a licensing fair a couple of months ago, and FFG has pulled all their PDFs from an online seller (though I have not confirmed this).

This is big news for role players. FFG has a large line of products to play in, including Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, and all the titles based on 40k. As far as I know it has sold well, but this is GW and they probably think they should be selling more because, well, they are Games Workshop! Certainly, their minis games cost a premium penny. It is not like the RPG's don't cost a pretty penny.

If true, this is, IMO, another bad decision GW has made recently. From going to plastic minis and jacking the price up, to Age of Sigmar, a major revamp of the Warhammer Fantasy Battles rules, not grabbing the imagination as they hoped. Now they expect their RPG players to buy a whole new set of books? They probably have no problem with this as they are a company that sells revised rules for their miniatures games every year, with minor upgrades, for $50+ each time.

02 September 2016

3D Printing for Gaming Fit the First: What to Buy

Really, you should get a 3D printer. The future is now... and cheap. The flood of models for gaming is beginning and beginning to speed up, and a lot are free.

You can go onto a website like Thingiverse or YouImagine and find a bunch of "things" to print: miniature figures, scenery, dice towers, and a whole lot more (right now I am printing a scale model of Vash the Stampede's pistol from Trigun). DriveThruRPG has a section for .STL (stereolithography) files of professionally produced content (although the amateur stuff can be extremely pro looking as well).

This is the future, and I am going to bring you kicking and screaming into the revolution with me.


The DaVinci Jr. Av
There are a lot of choices for 3D printers today. They start at a few hundred bucks and go up from there. I have the XYZPrinting DaVinci Jr. It was only $279. This is a great beginner unit that is real easy to set up and use, and I like it because it has taught me a whole lot about the process. There are other models as well, and the more you spend the more features, but you would be happy with this unit as I am.

I would recommend these minimums:

  • 0.01mm layer height. This is the resolution. A lot of the low end are 0.02 or higher which means less detail. More expensive units can do 0.05mm, twice as good, but this really bumps the price up. Another year and that won't be the case.
  • Prints PLA. PLA is a type of plastic. They come in spools of a long thread of it It is melted and formed into the object. This is one of the two major types of plastic, the other is ABS. PLA is biodegradable, so you can throw it out without destroying the planet, and is non-toxic (it smalls a but like sugar when printing). ABS fumes are poisonous so you will have to put it somewhere to print you wont inhale it, which means not in your office. Most printers can do both, but not all (like mine).
  • AutoDesk Meshmixer and NetFabb Basic. These free pieces of software let you resize, repair, and optimize your prints and are must haves. As an example with Meshmixer I hollow out models so they use less plastic which can be a great savings. Free is right in anyone's budget. You can also build your own things using Blender3D or Google Sketchup, both free.
Other features you might like to have (which means more money):
  • Dual extruder: the extruder is the thing that melts and expels the plastic, like an icing extruder does when decorating a cake. Most machines have one, but some have two which lets you use two different spools of plastic. This means you can use two different colors, or use a regular plastic and PVA, a plastic that dissolves in warm water which lets you melt away supports instead of cutting them off. Supports are needed to hold up some parts of prints so they do not sag as they cool. 
  • Heated bed: The bed is the shelf the print is built on. Non-heated beds can case some warpage of the flat bottoms of the bases of larger items, but a heated bed keep the plastic warm and stops this. You can get flat prints with a non-heated bed, but it is easier with one. I'll tell you the secret of making them flat in another article as no one seems to tell the secret in other blogs.
You too can scan gnomes!
Other things you might want:
  • 3D scanner: This is a device to scan objects and make them into print files. You need to go a bit expensive here for quality (maybe around $1000 or more). Then you can copy just about any mini you can think of.



I love those dungeon tiles. Recently a company came out with a series of printer files for them, called TrueTiles. I have printed a load of them for a total of about $60. A similar product available to buy in sets would be about $600. A 10:1 savings is pretty good.

The freebies make it worth it as well. One fellow made all the monsters from the D&D monster manual at 28mm size (the Flumph is my favorite). There is also some odd things like The Dread Gazebo. A 28mm mini figure costs about $0.25 to $0.50 each to print.


Get one. Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/Atheismus is coming up... hint to a loved one. 

Coming up I will show you some of the cool things you can make, and give hints on how to do it right!

21 July 2016

Star Trek Returns

Ooooh. Me like!

Star Trek is coming back. From the makers of Mutant Chronicles, Modiphius Entertainment, a new Trek RPG is coming next year... with miniatures (figures, not ships). I am excited! Fer sure! This is a good time to get the license. When the last version went away it was at a low point for Star Trek. However, the new movie is getting really good word, and the new series is helping re-build the brand. I cannot wait to go where no one has gone before!

13 July 2016

Review: Wild Card Creator (UPDATED)

Become a wild child!
I am gearing up for my new campaign set in the world of Midgard, the excellent creation of Wolfgang Baur and others at Kobold Press. It is written for Pathfinder or Fantasy AGE but I am using my "go to" system, Savage Worlds to run it under. “Oh no, you got your fluff into my crunch,” “No, you got your crunch in my fluff.” “Two great tastes that taste great together."

I love character generators and have used them for years. I would have probably not had GURPS as my go to system in 1990s without them for building GURPS characters as the method can be complex (especially in third edition with buying skills taking into account skill defaults). When I found Bill Seurer's MAKECHAR utility for MS-DOS it was heaven.

I have a license for Hero Lab and like it. I use it with Pathfinder and find it to be the best generator for that game as it gets updated with new information for Pathfinder releases pretty much as the books are released, and it fully supports the rules changes for Pathfinder Society characters. However, in the Savage World side it is not quite as well supported. It takes a very long time for updates to support new material. Also I find adding custom items and rules to be unintuitive and takes too many steps for each item, and I dislike the way you make your Novice character and then lock it to add Advances which makes it more difficult to experiment as you make a character more experienced than Novice, you need to unlock it to change.

So I recently bought a license for Wild Card Creator from Journeyman Games. It is just for Savage Worlds and was developed with the monetary help of Kickstarter supporters. Version 1.0 was released on my birthday in 2013 (September 15th). I got my license in 2016 when it was at version 1.5, and an update to 1.6 was recently released to the “wild.” I have the Windows version. It is also available for Mac OS X and Linux, with Android and iOS support promised in the future.

What I like

The program is simple which is something I like. I prefer an app that has the features I need over looks. Hero Lab has that polished look, while this one uses just basic windows and widgets. This makes the program lean and fast. The layout of the generator is well done, with tabs along the top to get to different parts of the character (races, traits, hindrances, etc.). Each tab has it easy to find the options you want and add them quickly. It also shows the stat block in standard Savage Worlds format at the top so you can see the choices applied as you click.

When books are released they become available pretty fast. Not every setting is covered but it is easy enough to custom add what you need in the campaign editor. It requires you to show it the PDF on your computer and then it adds it. It must be a supported PDF so it will not magically add the information from a PDF. I think this is a check to see if you own the PDF and it is not getting any other information from the PDF, instead the program downloads the data.

Making a character above Novice is easy. Choose the “advancement” tab and enter the XP total for the character. The program then tracks what you choose and warns you if it is in taken in error. It shows a nice list of all the advancements taken and what is available so it is easy to see, as an example, how many Attribute increases the character has left. You can order the program to break the rules and force it to add the trait anyway.

NPC mode takes all the reigns off so you can choose anything regardless of the rules for PCs. This goes along with the rules in the core rules that tell the GM to choose whatever is appropriate to the NPC.

The campaign editor is easy to use as well and it is fast to enter a new trait. You may add “mechanical effects” to it, like adjusting traits, allowing more user choice (like a free Edge or extra skill points), even calling other traits like making a Profession called “Sniper” that automatically adds the Marksman Edge. You can have many these mechanical effects. The custom setting can also hide options from the core rules that are not appropriate to your setting, such as not having any powers for your game about normals in the real world.

Printing is nothing to write home about. The built in templates are useable but no frills so you might choose to copy it to another character sheet. However, it does allow you to make your own layouts and to have the program put the information into fields on a form fill-able PDF, of which a few are predefined out of the box. The fact these customizing tools are hidden away in the preferences dialog under “experimental” is not encouraging and I have not tried it yet, but I am making a custom PDF form for my game and will give it a shot coming up. Look for me to make an update about this in the future.

What I Don't Like

If you only purchase dead tree editions and not PDFs (as many still do) and do not want to take the time  enter all the information yourself in the editor (which is time consuming), this is not the program for you. Hero Lab, though a setting book's information costs extra instead of free like here, let's a non-PDF owner access to the data. Update: Maybe this PDF only thing is a wash... you need to pay extra on Hero Lab, you need to pay for the PDF, so it is not that different.

Wild Card Creator is not a finished product and many features I think are necessary are missing. Granted, this is a small company and I love supporting the little guy, but it is still a problem. Some features are promised “in the future” though they have been promised since it's release almost three years ago.  Here are some specific shortcomings:

You cannot load more than one setting at a time. This means you cannot have a setting file you created, like one for your custom martial arts edges or custom powers. loaded with the Fantasy Companion. This is also a problem because you cannot edit the supplied setting information. I cannot import the Fantasy Companion data into the editor and add other races, powers, etc. which would allow me to combine setting together. You also cannot export any items individually to another custom setting; you cannot export your custom race from your fantasy setting to your sci-fi setting: you need to re-enter it from scratch. This is a problem for me with my custom Midgard setting: I cannot load the Fantasy Companion data with my custom data so it will not have the additional Powers or any of the magic items and character options unless I enter it by hand.

UPDATE: I have discovered you can combine settings but it does not do so by default. This is an experimental feature being tested. It may not always work right so if you use it you might run into problems. You turn it on in Preferences==>Experimental on the menu.

You cannot duplicate an entry within your custom setting. Example: Midgard has four versions of the Dragonkin race each with mostly the same build with a couple of minor changes for each. I cannot duplicate the first one I make, make the changes quick, and rename it, which would save time and energy (and sanity).

Size matters. Click to biggify!
The layout has a problem in the editor. You cannot re-size frames in the window (I assume this is the same in non-Windows versions but it may not be as the toolkit for windows are different on each platform). So, when creating the entry you have a large area for writing the description but a tiny area to add the mechanical effects. This makes it a bit harder to make an entry with more than a few mechanical effects as need to scroll a lot and cannot see all of them together at a glance to make sure you did not miss anything. It also does not automatically scroll when you add a new effect. You hit the “+” to add it and then need to manually scroll down to make the next entry when you have several effects.. Minor complaint but the annoyance builds up when making lots of entries.


Even with the missing features this is still my choice as it is fast to use, displays the information in the character maker in a way that is easy to see the “big picture” of the character, the export to PDF forms is nifty, and it is not complicated to add your own custom settings. However, it is frustrating not being able to combine data from existing settings in your custom setting. Very frustrating.

Also, as mentioned, dead tree buyers are SOL.

So I recommend it with a bit of hesitation. Just be aware of the limitations it has right now.

10 July 2016

Review: The GameMaster's Apprentice Base Deck

My reviews have not been too kind lately... and amazing and this product is....


Really, that is all I need to say. Go buy them. Now. Or a pox on all your houses.

Well, I probably should say more. Made by Larcenous Designs and brought to market by their crowd source campaign (plus it looks like some intense playtesting), the GameMaster's Apprentice is a deck of cards for a GM to use as a tool to improvise, describe, and overall use randomness to create the story and inspire events. This is the base deck which it generic; you can use it in any games. There are more decks aimed at specific genres (Sci-Fi, Steampunk, and horror which is my favorite in look, you got to see it). In addition there is a deck devoted to Dead Gentleman's Demon Hunters game, though it can easily work for others games of that genre. $19.99 per deck.

The deck has 60 cards, but since there is no need for a card back to hide the information it is two sided... that's 120 cards of goodness.

These are the first cards I have bought from DriveThruCards. I was doubtful about it. How good can print on demand (POD) cards be. The answer: darn good. If you are holding off buying cards from them because you are unsure about the results, these are as a good as a typical deck. Printing is very good, cutting dead on. I will, for sure, be buying more cards from that website.

But What Are They?
These are a deck of cards with "stuff" on them. This includes dice throws, outcomes, names, items, random locations, descriptions, runes and element symbols to interpret in any way you want, and so on, fourteen generators on each card (a really efficient useof space). As you GM and something comes up unplanned (you know how those pesky players are always asking something unexpected, or going somewhere unplanned or meeting an NPC you need to throw in, and so on), draw a card, read the generator you need, and improvise. Its it especially good when you are not on your game from being out all the previous night in a barely remembered haze of drunken debauchery and gang warfare, or even if you are planning out the next adventure in your campaign and needs something to get your imagination in gear.

I will only give a couple of examples, but you can see how it works in the PDF of the manual. Also, you can find your own uses as well.

Rolling dice is easy, draw and look at the circle up top of the card. It has rolls for the standard polyhedral dice. Great to hide the result of a roll in plain sight.

I really like the "likely odds" tool as I am enjoying the story of a game and like to be surprised as well. When you need to decide an outcome on the fly, such as is it likely there is a scorpion in that birthday present the hero got in the mail. Choose how likely it is (good, even, bad) and look to see if it yes or no for that likely hood. As in my world it is likely the result is bad and the scorpions are in there I look next to the "bad" entry. Darn. No. Well next time...

"Shopkeep, what is your name?" Draw a card, look at the names and pick one of the three. Virtue and vice could give the NPC a basic disposition as well.

Need to describe an area, that's here, with categories for sound, sight, etc. My guess it that the horror deck will be so useful just for this, as horror is so improved with original sensory information.

As I said you can write adventures with these cards. They give you ideas for why the adventure is happening, and places it might be at. It is not exact at all, it is vague to let ideas pop into your head. Best, it can inspire you to come up with plots you might never think of. It is like having a writing partner to bounce ideas off of when no one is available. You can even improvise a whole adventure on the fly such as when the planned adventure ends early, or to fill in when someone has to cancel at the last minute.

If you are a GM who just buys adventures and runs them verbatim, do not waste you money on these. If you make your own adventures, like to come up with ideas on the fly, or want to do so but want to get better at it, these are the cards you need.

Location, Location, Location????

I love prewritten adventures because it makes my life as a gamemaster easier. I usually never use them as is, making them my own, but totally appreciate the work. Right now I am reading Psychedelic Fantasies Module 1: Beneath the Ruins because it promises originality and new ideas (hope it succeeds, I am not far in though it to judge but the author promises a lot).

However, right off the bat, and nothing to comment on this work's quality, it is another location-based adventure. By that I mean is is a collection of places with rooms described in detail, designed to go from place to place. As this is a dungeon crawl that is fine. However, so many published adventures use this form and rarely use my prefered adventure design that emphasizes plot over locations.

We have worm sign!
D&D invented the published adventure, but other games eschewed the location based formula for design and D&D, especially old school, has never given it up. Sure there are good plots, like Pathfinder adventure paths, but essentially they get bogged down in the minutia of what a room looks like, what is hidden there, etc. There are exceptions. The Speaker In Dreams, an excellent early third edition adventure from Wizards of the Coast, about moving between scenes, and not necessarily in a linear fashion, which they described as "event based."

White Wolf Publishing (may Wee Jas rest its soul) was not the first to go plot based in their adventures, but was certainly the most prominent at introducing it to the masses with the success of the (old) World of Darkness. The adventures were broken into scenes that was all about the drama and conflict. Sure it might have an important location but it was always designed to forward the plot like a movie or book would do. Marc Miller's Traveller had the EPIC system of adventure design which was all about creating a forward moving plot through scenes. Yes, you might have to trudge through a space station room to room searching for clues, but this was not majority of the adventure (although there were tons of Traveller "dungeon crawls" published that did not follow these goals). Call of Cthulhu adventures also were much more scene based as they emulated the storytelling of Lovecraft fiction.

It is not that I don't like a good, well written and original location based adventure, but I like variety and I think that it is a form that can serve old school well.

09 July 2016

Review: The Cepheus Engine SRD

Chewie! Nooooooooooo!
Just released for free on DriveThruRPG, the Cepheus Engine (Cepheus is the name of a constellation, thank you Google) is a system reference document for space opera role playing. Spoilers: it is Traveller. Not one particular version of Traveller, but a bit of the original and a bit of the new, but if you have played any Traveller apart from The New Era, Traveller20 or GURPS Traveller you will know what is going on.


To be fair looks are not important here. This is a bare bones rules presentation, which is fine as it is not a retail game but a guide to make games based on. It has real basic layout, black and white text, some tables no pictures except the cover, and dry writing that concentrates on making the rules understood which I appreciate. If you are making a game using this you will want to rewrite it. There are a few places where some formatting like bullets or indents would help keep the eye on track, but no big deal.

The cover pic is good, one celestial body smashing into another. My first thought was if that moon was landing on Chewbacca? Then again I am weird.

Because there is no background art, no pics, just text it's 208 pages are real easy to flip through on my tablet. Some of these books with all their great art and so on really bog down on a low end tablet. There are some books I wish had a low quality, barely any art version for tablet use. I am reading the Midgard Campaign book right now (it is amazingly good), but my tablet groans under the weight of all the artwork.

The Rules

I am not going to explain much of the rules because, as I said, it does not depart from the classic/Mongoose Traveller you know and love. The default character creation rules has the character dying if they fail a survival roll as in the olden days, but also has all the new ways to avoid that from the Mongoose SRD. It also has a really good list of careers, which is a plus over the Mongoose SRD which just has a sample.

The combat is basically the same as the Mongoose version, which is more complete than the old days where there was a lot of “winging it.” It also has that system where initiative bounces around, which people seem to like but I am not a fan of and I used my own system instead when I GMed it.
The rest of the book is pretty complete, with ship building rules (absent from the new Mongoose core book. Boo, hiss. I think Mongoose hid it away with the index that is also not in the book). It has the classic trading mini-game, and design rules for making creatures and the universe, all bread and butter of Traveller. It has a decent write up of how to run the game, and an overview of the excellent EPIC template of adventure design. It is complete, and it should be at 208 pages!

The Future Is Past

The vision of the future here is the same that hamstrings Traveller today, it is hard science fiction as it was in 1980. Our picture of things that may come has changed radically. Sure, you can add it when you make your product but the SRD does not inspire this with examples. If you are writing an alternative to something already available you need to go that extra parsec.


The game is released under the Open Game License (as was the Mongoose SRD), as well as the Cepheus Engine Compatibility-Statement License (CSL) which clarifies how you can use it, but there are very few restrictions. This is meant for others to publish games using it, why put roadblocks up. I love original rule sets and would love to see support for them, but too many restrict the use. It is hard enough to get someone to write for a system that is not one of the big few (5e SRD, Pathfinder, Mongoose Traveller, and some others), but this is a further roadblock. I was just looking at the DicePunk SRD, intended for other to publish their content under, but it is released under a Creative Commons license that prohibits commercial use. That will put the kibosh on using it for most creators.

Is It Needed?

I have a love/hate relationship with retro-clones. I like them, but there are too many versions of the same old games, with only slight differences for the most part. It is nice to see someone encouraging a rule set not based on D&D!

The question is do we need this SRD? Why not just publish using the Mongoose SRD? The name Traveller on a cover, with decades of success (and failure… Traveller Fifth Edtion, may it please rest in peace) goes a lot further to sell a game than the Cepheus Engine. There seems to be little advantage to using this SRD over the Mongoose one. It does flesh out some rules that are truncated in the Mongoose SRD, like the careers, which is a plus, but the pluses do not add up to compelling.

How About Generic?

While this SRD does its job, I would personally love the Traveller engine to become more generic, for use in fantasy, modern, ad so on. It already does cover this somewhat as visiting worlds can be like time travel, with worlds of ultra-tech cities along side worlds of people in caves. Extending the rules to cover this would be awesomesauce.