The ability to release new RPG material through PDFs has changed the way our niche market consumes products. Small companies, sometimes consisting of only one person, can now release tabletop RPG material and reach an audience once only the large companies could. Today we see a large number of items ranging from supplements to full gaming systems being released as PDFs. It is truly a great time to be an RPG consumer.
However, there is a large amount of PDFs being released everyday, by estimates over 200 a week. That is a lot and honestly, most people don’t have time to wade through all the offerings. These PDFs can range from single page drawings to system compliant adventures to game systems to mini splat books. As expected some are lousy and some are awesome. The goal of this weekly column is to take a look at what is being offered over a week’s time and making suggestions as to what might be of interest.
These insights will not be reviews, just more of a “hey-look-this-sounds-cool” sort of thing. There might be something you’ve been interested in out there for you. However, if you have actually downloaded a copy of one of the PDFs we’ve mentioned, feel free to give us your opinions on them in the comments.
Today we’ll look at a few of last week’s PDFs. We’ll also include a weekly Most Interesting PDF of the Week, the PDF that caught our eye the most.
Midgard Campaign Setting
Today we start with a big one. This campaign setting has been around for years and Open Design (Kobold Quarterly) has been teasing around the edges providing smaller packets of information about the world, but now they have produced the whole thing in one big package. It weighs in at nearly 300 pages and utilizes both the Pathfinder and AGE system. In fact, other than Dragon Age itself, this may be the largest campaign setting to use the AGE system to date. It also has a good pedigree, since Wolfgang Baur himself wrote most of the setting material, with some help from Jeff Grubb and Brandon Hodge. Also with the vetting process of Open Design, it is sure to be a high quality product.
Not only is it a campaign setting with all the requisite kingdoms, maps and setting info, but it also includes a variety of new crunchy bits such magic items, spells, magic schools, divine domains, races and backgrounds. Even if you don’t use the setting, it still looks like there will be something of use if Pathfinder or AGE is your system of choice.
Doctor Who–Defending the Earth: The UNIT Sourcebook
Another of the “big-name” publishers, Cubicle 7 has released the latest Doctor Who expansion book, this one detailing UNIT. Doctor Who has long been my favorite sci-fi show and I love playing in that world. UNIT was also one of my favorite parts of Doctor Who. The PDF will cover the organization of UNIT as well as the characters we’ve watched over the years in the TV show. Also included are rules for creating your own UNIT characters and two new adventures featuring UNIT. This is a must-have if you are a Doctor Who fan.
One thing we try to do is follow trends as well as single offerings. Of late, Art of War Games has been releasing a large number of Dollar Dungeons for Pathfinder. These run about 20 pages each and purport to offer a quick dungeon adventure for one night of fun, all for only $1 each. They are up to 15 for Pathfinder. This week they have begun offering the same dungeons for 4E. It looks like they will be converting all of their previous Pathfinder dungeons over to 4E. So, if you are looking for some extra adventures for that night your players zigged when you expected them to zag, these look like some excellent ways to be prepared…or when you don’t have time to prep as much as you’d like.
I like to include something from the OSR movement and this is the one for this week. It is a high level adventure, levels 8-12, which is nice to see since we don’t often get a lot of high level material. It is designed for 1E/AD&D so is compatible with those rule sets as well as the retro-clones that have been so popular of late. Clocking in at 36 pages it looks like this is could easily provide several nights of fun.
Way of the Wicked Book Five: The Devil My Only Master
One of the more interesting campaigns for Pathfinder is the Way of the Wicked, a campaign designed specifically for evil characters. You usually don’t find adventures for this type of game play, let alone a complete campaign that works the same as Paizo’s Adventure Paths. This is the 5th adventure in the series and features level 16th play. If this follows the typical Adventure Path this should be the second to last adventure in the series. This runs 100 pages and includes rules for playing vampire and lich characters. If you are looking for a campaign with something different, this might be it.
Also, if you are curious about the Adventure Path but want to know more about it first, they have released a free 32 page preview adventure entitled Way of the Wicked: Prison Break. Since this is free, you can download it and get a painless feel for how they write adventures to make sure they gel with your own personal style.
Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games Start to Finish
Not every PDF related to RPGs can be used on game night. This interesting PDF discusses the design of RPGs. If you are an aspiring rpg writer this PDF may have some insights that would be of use. There is likely to be something of value, even if its just making sure you ask the right questions in your design. If you’ve had an idea that needs to be brought out to the gaming masses this PDF may be the catalyst that pushes you to take that first step to making it a reality. Of particular interest to me is the fact they include practice challenges; such challenges can inspire design.
Taking a look at some of the other offerings by this company, they have taken a lot of time to examine the history and logistics of tabletop gaming for some time now. This PDF is likely to be well researched and instructional.
Villains and Vigilantes: Menagerie
One of the best things about PDFs is that they can bring relatively small games to the forefront or can bring back older material and bring it to us in the modern day. This product is one such item. Published over 20 years ago we once again get to see it now in PDF form. Originally written by Stewart and Steve Wieck, of White Wolf fame, it is sure to be an exciting super-hero adventure book. The PDF is a series of short adventures linked together into an episode form. If you like super-hero adventures this “retro” look back might be for you.
Not to be left out, we have a complete Savage Worlds setting book this week. It is set in a modern day city but with the twist that magic and monsters are real. It seems to convey a strong sense of style of the supernatural meeting the modern day, with witches and dark magic keeping the city safe from evil. It looks to include a large number of rules for playing a wide variety of new character types. Also included is a full description of the city and its environs. While it looks like it does not have a full Plot Point series of adventures, there are five adventures included. If you are looking for such rules for your own Savage Worlds campaign this PDF could provide you with a lot of useful information.
Another complete Savage Worlds setting book out this week is Apocalypse Prevention Inc. This looks like it details an organization set up to keep the modern world safe from demons and other monsters of the night.
Spotlight: Most Interesting PDF of the Week
For our final PDF today, we have an interesting one that attempts to use a tabletop RPG as a method to address depression and similar illnesses. Set in a post-apocalyptic Britain where reality has fallen apart, this game purports to help people take a look at and empower them to handle mental illness.
The game uses its own system (The Description System) and runs the cost of FREE. The game is being released by Postmortem Studios and they have put out over 500 PDFs to date so they have some experience in writing for RPGs. With it being free, it certainly wouldn't hurt to take a look at it...and it may even be of use for someone you know.
A personal game about depression and its effects intended to help people with invisible illnesses broach the subject and explore it in a way they can have power over it.
ImagiNation is set after the fall of mainland Britain to a strange reality breakdown. The barriers between imagination and reality, dreams and nightmares have shattered and strange things dreamed up by people caught in the event teem across the land.
Only those who are already 'broken' can hope to cope with exploring, understanding and combatting this strangeness for the sake of the huddled refugees that sit and wait and watch from the smaller islands around the coast.
A game of mental illness and art using The Description System (Neverwhere).
This game is available FREE so please promote, download, host and spread as far and wide as you can.