Pretty Darn Fun (A look at new PDFs)

This week we are adding a new section to the column; you can see it near the end of the article.

RPGs and PDFs sometimes run in themes; the first three publications are all inter-related, but different from each other. It’s fairly fascinating how the history in our rpg community can come together at times and these three highlight it. Actually, quite a few of the selections for the week showcase the history of rpgs. Sometimes, the modern PDF is a reflection of our past.

Xandoria Galaxies G-Core Edition
This new rule set for a sci-fi/fantasy claims to also be an excellent rpg for children (ages 7 and up). In fact, this rpg has a lot of different things thrown together and hits a bunch of my rpg buttons. First, it uses a FASERIP system they claim is 99% compatible to the TSR FASERIP system used in their old Marvel Superheroes and Gamma World games. Personally I‘ve always liked this system so I find it intriguing that they decided to go with this rule style. Second, it is designed to be fast and lite for ease of game play. Third, it comes complete as a rule set and setting in 180 pages. Fourth, it’s science fiction and fantasy together. They say the rpg is based on the Phantasy Star online game; I’ve never played that game but fans of that game should like this. Overall, this looks like more than the run-of-the-mill sci-fi game.

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: Civil War X-Men
We just discussed the FASERIP system that was used in the first Marvel rpg. Now we come to the latest version of a Marvel rpg, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying by Margaret Weiss Productions. This came out last year to quite a bit of fanfare and accolades. This is the newest supplement highlighting the ever popular X-Men. Along with stats for the X-Men themselves, there are more rules and character options for the system. While you still need the core rule set to make use of this supplement, if you are a fan of Marvel, the X-Men or superheroes in general, this is a book you will want.

Squadron UK
Continuing on the topic of Marvel Comics and rpgs we have this offering that came out this week as well. In 1984 the superhero rpg, Golden Heroes, was released by Games Workshop. Originally it was designed for Marvel Comics, but they lost the license to TSR and their design became Golden Heroes. It was an innovative game with a new take on random character generation, combat and narrative role-playing, especially for a superhero game. They stopped support on the rpg and the game fell to wayside. Now, one of the original designers has released Squadron UK. It is very similar to Golden Heroes, but since the designer could not gain the rights for Golden Heroes, he now provides us with this incarnation. The PDF includes all the rules needed to play along with a campaign setting for months of adventure.

The Heart of Darkness
Designers of D&D PDFs tend create adventures for original D&D or 3E/Pathfinder and 4E. Very rarely will you see anything for 2E. However, that is exactly what this adventure is written for. Actually I believe it is actually meant to support For Gold & Glory, a 2E “retro-clone” but it is also billed as being compatible for 2E. If you still play 2E, and I know there are fans of the system still out there as one of my own players wants me to run a 2E campaign, this could be an excellent addition to your 2E library. The adventure itself runs 76 pages and is meant for characters levels 4-7.

Artistic Transmissions: The Art of Galaxy Prime
I’ll be honest and say that PDF offerings of artwork usually hold absolutely no interest for me. They are usually overpriced, not of any use at the game table and cost a boatload of color printer ink. However, this art offering does things a bit differently. First it offers 36 pictures for $10, so about 28 cents per picture. Second it is of alien races which can have multiple uses. The obvious one is for populating a sci-fi setting. However, it can also be used for introducing new races or monsters into your fantasy setting. The art is actually black and white, instead of in color. While this will making printing them out slightly easier, I still would have liked to have a color version as well. However, for the price and usefulness, this product might get me to change my mind on PDF artwork.

Hellfrost: Land of Fire
I have been intrigued by the Hellfrost fantasy setting for Savage Worlds for some time now. It looks like a solid and well-done setting and has a ton of support. This offering seeks to expand the setting with an Arabian Nights style; a setting I have always liked. Actually this is a free sampler for the setting book which is now up on Kickstarter looking for financing. This is another way PDFs have altered the landscape of rpg production. By offering this free PDF they are able to showcase their writing (so you can see if this is a product you would like) while integrating it into their Kickstarter.

Starships & Spacemen 2E
This game first came out in 1978 and was put out by Fantasy Games Unlimited (FGU). It was primarily designed to emulate the Star Trek setting. Since then it has languished until the game was purchased by Goblinoid Games who rereleased it. However, this 2E version is a rules update to their Labyrinth Lord rule set, a very popular retroclone of 1E D&D. For people who like a consistent rule set (and one that is lite and fast) this is the way to go. Also, this now makes it compatible with Mutant Future, a Gamma World retroclone, which would allow for expanded sci-fi adventures.

Kobolds Ate My Baby!
Most rpgs take themselves too seriously, but not this one. Billed as a beer and pretzels role-playing game, it is all about playing kobolds in a game of low life expectancy. The game was released years ago (I still have the small pamphlet version) but now this is the fully illustrated Super Deluxx Edition. It includes all you need to play including a sample adventure. If you are looking for a light hearted night, this could be the game for you.

Beldany: The Fey Kingdom
I like small setting books where I can quickly add in a part of my world that I haven’t had time to do myself. This offering does exactly that. It is a 12 book that outlines a fey kingdom complete with NPCs, geography and history. This is a nice small product that can be used to fill in gaps in your own designs or as inspiration.

Myths of the Far Future
EN Publishing, the host for this column, has just released this sci-fi rule set for the 4E rule set. Included is a default campaign setting based on the Santiago books by Mike Resnik (btw - the fiction books are phenomenal.) One thing 4E has lacked has been a push of the rule set into other genres. This publication will help in this regard for those who like the system but want to try other setting types. Personally, I think such a publication is worth some cash, but they are releasing this rule set for free. Their loss is our gain.

One new feature of this column will be a special section for adventures. Many of the weekly PDF offerings are of adventures for various game systems. While I have included some in the past if they looked like they offered more than the run-of-the-mill adventures or allowed me to highlight a smaller game system, I understand that DMs are always looking for an adventure to speed up their game prep. Thus this section will list many of the adventures that were released in the past week, but with a very short description. However, if one is for a game system you are currently using you can easily follow the link to learn more. I will still do more complete write-ups if I see an adventure that really grabs my attention.

The Tomb of Kochun – Pathfinder. Level 6-7.
C4: The Play’s the Thing – Pathfinder. Level 4-5.
The Absent Minded Alchemist – 4E. Level 1.
Thornburg – Dungeon World.
Mists of Betrayal - Earthdawn.
Darkness in the Woods – FUDGE Fantasy.
Bats in Dabelfry – Tunnels and Trolls.

Spotlight: Most Interesting PDF of the Week

Dungeon World
The Kickstarter for Dungeon World was a huge success reaching over $82,000 of their initial $4,000 goal. Obviously, it generated a lot of buzz and interest. I think the draw was their announcement that the system would be a merging of “modern game design” and “old-school RPG action”. That and the goal of the characters would be to kick in the doors of dungeons! This is one of those products that has taken on a life of its own. Is it worth all the hype? There’s only one way to find out for yourself. If you missed the initial Kickstarter, you can still get the game through the PDF markets at the very low price of $10 for all 408 pages of the rpg.

Combining high-action dungeon crawling with cutting-edge rules, Dungeon World is a roleplaying game of fantasy adventure. You and your friends will explore a land of magic and danger in the roles of adventurers searching for fame, gold, and glory.

Dungeon World’s rules are easy to learn and always drive the action forward in unexpected ways. A missed roll is never a dead end—failure introduces new complexities and complications. Life as an adventurer is hard and dangerous but it’s never boring!
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