Sean's Picks of the Week (
  • Sean's Picks of the Week (0803-0807) - ENnie Winners, Savage Mafia, Titansgrave!


    So there was this show - you might have heard of it - a convention called Gen Con. I was there last week, from Wednesday to last Sunday. I spent Monday in a kind of lethargic coma, and really only started to be remotely human Tuesday. During this time, the Pick of the Day went largely untended, and I totally missed doing this weekly roundup of mine whilst in the midst of the madness in Indianapolis. You all have my sincerest apologies on that mark, and I hope to make it up to you with this cornucopia of selections. Included is a large number of ENnie Award winners, so read on and discover gaming grandeur!


    Best Adventure - The Silver went to A Red & Pleasant Land (LotFP/d20)

    A terrible Red King wars with an awful Queen, and together they battle into being a rigid, wrong world… and this book has everything you need to run it. (And any other place in your first, second, third, fourth or fifth edition game that might require intrigue, hidden gardens, inside-out-rooms, scheming monarchs, puzzles or beasts, liquid floors, labyrinths, growing, shrinking, duelling, broken time, Mome Raths, blasphemy, croquet, explanations for where players who missed sessions were, or the rotting arcades and parlors of a palace that was once the size of a nation.)

    “It should be next to impossible to do anything original with Dracula or Alice, but Zak S demonstrates instead that it’s next to impossible for him to put out a bad game book. He trails his barbed artistic and gaming sensibilities through these two modern myths and emerges with something more than a mashup or a collage: it’s a necromantic restoration of a nightmare that never was.” — Kenneth Hite, designer of Qelong and Night’s Black Agents.



    The Gold went to Horror on the Orient Express (Call of Cthuhlu)

    A puzzling headline begins a front-page article found in the Times of London. Three men, all identical in identification, were found dead in the same room of the Chelsea Arms Hotel. All were dispatched in a similar manner stabbed through the heart.

    Then the home of a valued friend burns to the ground, severely injuring him in the process. An odd summons, a surreptitious meeting, and a thousand-mile journey begins on the legendary rail service carrying the investigators to Constantinople, the Gateway of the Orient.

    HORROR ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS contains a massive and legendary campaign, of up to nineteen adventures and more than 1100 pages, for the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game. Beginning in 1920s London, the investigators journey to Paris and thence to the ancient city of Constantinople. With luck, they also return home.

    There are seven books and more: the Campaign Book, Through the Alps, Italy & Beyond, Constantinople & Consequences, Strangers on the Train, and The Traveler’s Companion. In addition, there is a book of handouts for the investigators, a European Route Map, three era-inspired luggage stickers, two era-inspired postcards, a matchbox, the Scroll of the Head, four U.S. passports, a bumper sticker, six pages of train plans that can be laid end-to-end, the Mims Sahis ceremonial knife, and fragments of the Sedefkar Simulacrum collected along the journey.



    Best Electronic Book - The Silver went to Ken Writes About Stuff, Volume 2.

    KWAS v2 is a collection of supplements written by master Lovecraftian writer and GUMSHOE guru Kenneth Hite. Discover hideous creatures, survive a Weird West horror campaign frame, or learn to command the powerful loa of voodoo in this collection of fear and fun!

    It features:

    • Tomb-Hounds of Egypt. “God! … If only I had not read so much Egyptology before coming to this land which is the fountain of all darkness and terror!” All you need to know to forge a Pulp archaeology campaign set in 1930s Egypt – for Trail of Cthulhu or just GUMSHOE Bullwhips & Baboon-Mummies!
    • GUMSHOE Zoom: Goëtia. Bifrons. Glasya-Labolas. Marchosias. Names to conjure with – literally! This GUMSHOE Zoom takes you inside the pentacle and introduces you to the hierarchy of Hell. Historical European demon-summoning magic just got easier and more realistic. Um … yay?
    • Hideous Creatures: Rat-Things. “Witnesses said it had long hair and the shape of a rat, but that its sharp-toothed, bearded face was evilly human while its paws were like tiny human hands.” Witch become rat, or thing become hyper-physicist? Familiar-ize yourself with Lovecraft’s creepiest creation.
    • Vendetta Run. You’ve done worse things, but you’ve never done anything as dangerous as angering the Earps. Because now they’re coming to kill you. And they can’t be killed. Not permanent, anyhow. A survival-horror frame for Fear Itself set in the worst and weirdest West.
    • Hideous Creatures: Byakhee. “Apart from the curiously repellent feeling of human flesh under my hands, and furred wings, I was not able to ascertain what these creatures were like.” Servants of Hastur or misperceived shantaks? Astral psychopomps or sidereal scavengers? Climb aboard the byakhee and find out!
    • And a lot more!



    Best Family Game - The Silver went to Atomic Robo: The Roleplaying Game

    Action! Science! Robots! Punching! More Science!

    Are you ready for some two-fisted science adventure? Then it’s time for the Atomic Robo RPG! Have you ever wanted to face down global conspiracy as an immortal atomic robot or Carl Sagan? The Atomic Robo RPG makes it possible.

    The Atomic Robo RPG brings you the most explosive Fate Core System experience yet. This is action science like you’ve never seen it before, coming straight at you from the pages of the popular Atomic Robo comics by Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener. Play as an Action Scientist or immortal robot, super-spy or pulp adventurer—or something stranger still from the hidden corners of super-science!

    This is multi-era, pick-up-and-play gaming at its best: get playing in ten minutes, or take your time and make the most of behind-the-scenes rules for added depth. Hop into your Tesladyne jet and travel the globe in one time period, or battle across the decades as a cast of scientifically talented adventurers. Face down demented dinosaurs, rogue government agents, and stolen Tesla-powered technologies!

    Are you Action Scientist material? Grab your gear and get ready for full-contact, high-octane, explosive hypothesis testing!

    Remain Calm. Trust in Science. The Atomic Robo RPG is here!



    Best Game - The Strange took the Silver ENnie.

    Monte Cook and Bruce R. Cordell, in their first major collaboration, bring you The Strange. It’s an RPG set on Earth, in the modern day. But a few people—a very few people—have discovered how to travel to other places. They call them recursions, and they’re like limited pocket dimensions with their own laws of reality, connected to Earth via a dark energy network beneath the normal matter of the universe. A dangerous, chaotic network they call the Strange.

    Recursions spawn from the myths, legends, and fiction of humanity, so the setting of virtually any story, film, or novel could form a recursion, as could any mythical realm or place of legend. They aren’t entire parallel universes—they’re limited in scope, rarely larger than a continent and sometimes not much bigger than a city block. Often the denizens aren’t even self-aware, but are little more than automatons going through the motions of their fictional world.

    But sometimes, in the larger or more mature recursions, they have the spark: Self awareness. Sentience. The ability to form their own motivations and agendas.

    And some of those beings understand that they aren’t alone in the Strange. Some of them know about Earth, and the limitless universe beyond it. And some of them are very, very dangerous.

    In our own world, there are individuals who secretly travel to these recursions—perhaps for adventure, perhaps for profit. But there are others with more nefarious motives, and conspiratorial organizations operating in the shadows, looking to exploit the Strange and its recursions for their own ends. And some of them are also very, very dangerous.

    Your character is quickened; you’re one of the ones who can travel into Earth’s shoals to discover and explore the seemingly limitless recursions around our world. Oz. Barsoom. Asgard. The Dreamlands. The Victorian London of Sherlock Holmes. The setting of your favorite novel or movie. Worlds even more exotic or bizarre, driven by laws of magic, psionics, or weird science. When you visit these worlds, you adapt to them, taking on some of the physical aspects and knowledge of the natives. You become, in part at least, a different version of yourself.

    What will you find when you venture into Earth’s shoals?



    Best Monster/Adversary - The Silver went to Achtung! Cthulhu: Terrors of the Secret War.

    Achtung! Cthulhu is a terrifying World War Two setting, fully compatible with the Call of Cthulhu, Sixth Edition and Savage Worlds roleplaying games.

    Discover the mightiest terrors of the Mythos: the Great Old Ones, the Outer Gods, and their foul servitors and cultists; the spells and artefacts that can be brought to bear against them in mankind’s struggle for survival; and the strange and unusual weapons that might just be the saviours of us all – or prove to be our downfall.

    Terrors of the Secret War extends the horror on to the battlefield, and includes:

    • A new and simplified mass combat system for taking on the Mythos’ biggest threats
    • Descriptions of more than 25 gods and their lackeys, their tactics, and their weaknesses – including Great Cthulhu himself
    • Hints and tips on how to include Terrors in your own campaign, and how to square up to them
    • New artefacts, spells, and weapons – such as the Allies’ so-called “lightning guns” – to help take the fight to the enemy
    • In fact, a whole dossier’s worth of useful information to help you expand your campaign out into the wider world (and murkiest depths) of the Secret War.



    Best RPG Related Product - Designers & Dragons got the gold for their awesomeness.

    PART ONE OF A FOUR-VOLUME SET!

    EVERYTHING YOU’VE WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT THE ORIGINS OF ROLEPLAYING GAMES…

    Designers & Dragons: The ’70s is a comprehensive picture of the beginnings of the RPG industry. This second edition expands the original single book into a series of four, and we’ve added over 50,000 new words to this volume alone. Learn about the colorful history of TSR and the wave of D&D inspired games (and gaming companies) to follow, and dip your toes into wargaming trivia. Regardless of your gaming background, Shannon Appelcline’s meticulously researched history won’t disappoint.

    In this volume, you’ll find:

    • A foreword by Greg Stafford, creator of Glorantha and author of King Arthur Pendragon
    • Profiles for thirteen 1970s gaming companies including TSR, GDW, and Chaosium
    • The inside scoop behind games like D&D, Traveller, and The Fantasy Trip
    • Ten things you might not know about roleplaying in the ’70s
    • An extensive bibliography and index



    Best Rules - Mutant: Year Zero took the Silver here.

    Mutant: Year Zero takes you to the world after the great Apocalypse. Humanity’s proud civilization has fallen. The cities are dead wastelands, winds sweeping along empty streets turned into graveyards. But life remains. Among the ruins, the People live. You are the heirs of humanity – but not quite human anymore. Your bodies and minds are capable of superhuman feats. You are mutants.

    The Mutant RPG franchise has three decades of rich history in Sweden, with the first edition released in 1984. This is the game that later developed into Mutant Chronicles to widespread acclaim. Now, for the first time, a version of the original, post-apocalyptic shade of Mutant is released to an international audience. This brand new version of the classic game contains material for hundreds of hours of game time:

    • 269 page full colour core RPG rulebook – everything you need!
    • Create a unique mutant player character – including skills, talents, mutations, gear and relationships – in mere minutes.
    • Push your character’s skills to their limits, releasing amazing mutant powers in the process.
    • Fight fast and furious battles, making every bullet count and using a detailed list of gruesome critical injuries.
    • Set your game in one of the Zones provided – The Big Smoke and The Dead Apple – or create your own Zone, based on your home town.
    • Develop the Ark – your settlement in the Zone – by undertaking Projects, building a new society.
    • Explore the Zone using the grid map and the unique sector generation system that populates the Zone with mutants, monsters and phenomena.
    • Experience the five Special Zone Sectors – scenario locations that can be placed in any sector of the Zone.
    • Search for the mysterious Eden bunker in the Path to Eden campaign frame provided, which includes an epic finale.


    And then there were a couple of "regular Picks" this week - though nothing ordinary about either of them!


    A Family Affair

    Let’s get back to some new stuff for gamers and GMs. Today, a nice, inexpensive “night of gaming,” complete with a gorgeous map set to go along with a fantastic modern day crime drama (as always, with a twist). From the first page – “The heroes could be a SWAT team, members of a rival crime family, or arcane-powered troubleshooters.” Get into A Family Affair.

    For 20 years the Scalducci Family has dominated the city’s racketeering and black market activities, efficiently exiling their rivals from town … or treating those who wouldn’t scram to a new pair of cement shoes down at the docks. Even more storied than the Scalduccis is their secret weapon: a man known only as “Mr. Lewis.” Lewis is a certified public accountant who has cooked the Scalducci books for close to a decade, keeping the capos out of prison and the don squeaky clean.

    But in the nine years since he took the job, Lewis has never left his private apartment at the Scalducci estate. He’s been under armed guard around the clock. No one knows the man, and no one in the city has ever seen his face. However that is all about to change tonight.

    This great new module from Matthew Cutter (Deadlands Reloaded, Deadlands Noir, Space 1889-Savage Worls) is sure to be a hit whether you run this at a gaming convention or as a one-shot at your local gaming store. This module stands alone or could simply be one of the many adventures your players undertake as part of a larger campaign.

    This module uses the “Concentrix: An Average Nightclub” floorplan from Fabled Environments (included in the linked bundle).



    Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana

    This is it – the actual setting book for the game Wil Wheaton‘s been running on Geek & Sundry!

    You watched the show; now play the game! Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana is Wil Wheaton’s new tabletop RPG show on Geek & Sundry. It introduces an original science fantasy setting that mixes high magic and hi-tech. Written by a stellar team of award-winning designers, this companion book for the Fantasy AGE RPG gives you background info on Titansgrave, and all the adventures you saw on the show. The adventures include new encounters and options that will let you make the story your own. So grab your blaster and ready your spells. Titansgrave needs heroes!

    Not sure what Titansgrave is, don’t know about roleplaying, or want to know more about how the Fantasy AGE rules work in play? See it in action with Wil Wheaton and friends, in Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana, on Geek & Sundry.


    ~~~

    OK, a lot to digest, I know, but I was making up for lost time!

    Next week, I am off to AndoCon in Atlanta, so there will be another delay. However, I actually plan to do a "late edition" Picks Roundup that following Monday. Plans, as always, are best-laid and subject to contact with the enemy...

    Happy Gaming to all, and as always -

    The Adventure Continues!

    ~SPF
    Comments Leave Comment