DC’s Dr Fate #8 is next on our radar for some raw reviewing. And oh, what a ride. A lot like the taxi ride between airports, in a foreign country. Confusing, frustrating, and enticing.
Here’s the gist of these reviews: I grab a random comic, give it a read, then tell you about it. So let’s do it. Grab onto something!
Esoteric adventures, body possession, undead beings, the cosmic balance in the… erm… balance, and a hero trying to learn to control her powers. These are some of the reasons why I love comics, and they’re all here.
Comic creators have learned that their readers have very short attention spans, and often a reader is jumping into a comic series after the beginning. None of those usual ploys they use to keep readers in the loop are evident here, so I was confused. There’s so much going on here that you feel like it’s all-important, as if you’re a five-year-old listening to an astronaut explain the physics of rockets.
And Now, an Ad Break
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The art and colour work isn’t noteworthy, but that cover, wow. Dr. Fate delivers heaps of emotion in this cover, and it got me interested in the cover’s series as a whole. Some very unique pieces, for sure, but that’s not enough to get me to buy into this series.
In the end, I know there’s something cool going on here, but I’m not going to put effort into finding it, because there’s just so much more to read. If you are a Dr Fate fan, though, please sound off in the comments. I’d love to hear your thought’s on the series.
Trumpets. Red carpets. Fireworks. It’s an auspicious occasion! Not only is it Rising Phoenix Games’ birthday (yay!), but it’s also time for the December RPG Blog Carnival roundup, just as we ring in the new year! Here’s a look back at December 2021, where our topic was “Fun for One”.
Gaming is Good for your Brain
Kim Frandsen of Beyond the Horizon Games, who should be no stranger to regular readers, provided insights into how game designers gain inspiration from their experiences, including their experiences of other people. This includes gaming, which he says is good for you — and that’s something we certainly agree with.
Antony Brotherton of Dragons Keep Roleplay Club talked about that one player we can’t do without, the GM. Antony offers five great tips for new GMs, but experienced GMs will surely be taking notes and nodding their heads too.
Tabletop roleplaying games are a unique beast, and Game Masters, players, and RPG designers are faced with many unique challenges in their quest to deliver the most entertaining and meaningful gaming experience possible. The key though is that everyone adds their bit to the mix, so the whole is always better than its parts. And, when everything comes together, it’s an amazing experience that is unique to tabletop roleplaying.
So here’s to 2022 and all the adventures we’ll have, the hardships we’ll overcome, and the tales we’ll have to tell.
There are loads of reasons to play RPGs alone, from avoiding the plague to testing out homebrew rules, or just for the fun of focusing on a single hero’s story. These days, there’s a huge number of tools and adventures for the solo player. We’re going to look at some of the intricacies of roleplaying solo with Pathfinder 2e.
December is Fun for One!
No, I’m not being a Grinch. I mean that the RPG Blog Carnival is parked here this month, and we’re talking Fun for One. That can mean all sorts of things, not just about solo gaming specifically. Go check out the host page, and be sure to check the comments for more posts on the topic. You can even add your own, so why not join us?
Now, back to going solo with Pathfinder 2e.
The Core Appeal of Solo Play
Playing a game alone is usually fun for very different reasons that make a group game fun.
Solo games can present a puzzle for you, and you alone, to solve. In this sense, every combat encounter becomes a puzzle: how do I defeat the enemy without losing too many resources (Hit Points are one resource, after all).
Solo TTRPGs are very introspective, and you can enjoy the time alone with the character and their story in a uniquely intimate way. I love writing stories for exactly the same reason, and it’s probably why solo adventures intrigue me.
You might enjoy your solo experiences in other ways too, and here’s the point: understand that solo play is fun for a different reason and play your game to maximize that experience.
Solo Pathfinder 2e Encounters
Let’s take encounters and think about them as puzzles some more. How do we get more of a tactical challenge from encounters, if we’re a solo player?
XP Budget for Solo Play Trivial – 10 XP or less Low – 15 XP Moderate – 20 XP Severe – 30 XP Extreme – 40 XP
This XP Budget limits what you can throw at your hero, especially if your hero is 1st or 2nd level. You might consider playing a 3rd level character right out the gate to make up for this. Otherwise, you’ll be serving up Moderate to Extreme encounters until you gain a level.
Random Monsters and Generated Dungeons
Completely random tables aren’t going to provide good synergies for building meaningful encounters. Instead, take a look at the maps, map tiles, and monster miniatures you have. What interesting combinations can you build from those?
If you still want to randomize parts of the encounter, then create short, D4 or D6-based lists that let you swap out a few elements of terrain or change up some of the monsters in the encounter. You might have a table for environmental factors, like the level of lightning and if the ground is slippery or not.
Help and Healing
Before you jump into playing the game, decide how deadly you want your game to be. Do you need to keep an NPC handy to cast stabilize, or will you have a magical item that casts raise dead on you whenever you die, up to three times? Will monsters kill your hero if you’re defeated, or will they attempt to heal your hero and keep you as their captive?
It’s December, and that means Rising Phoenix Games is hosting the RPG Blog Carnival. This month, it’s “Fun for One”. Read on and find out how you can join in on the RPG-flavored action.
‘Tis the Season to be Mental
Aargh! It’s December again! Is the Christmas spirit supposed to be this silly? Is the mad rush of buying gifts worth the heart attack? Any way you paint it, December is always a “special month”, much like mommy’s “special boy” who’s mostly unruly but can have his moments of genuine humanity.
At Rising Phoenix Games, December means gift-giving, hiding toy soldiers in Christmas trees, eating too much chocolate, and hosting RPG Blog Carnival.
RPG Blog Carnival and Fun for One
RPG Blog Carnival is hosted by a different blogger every month, throughout the year, with each blogger suggesting a topic for the month. Any RPG blogger can take part by writing about the topic and posting a link in the comments section. You can write as many articles as you like, too, and we’ll compile them all into a roundup that’ll come out around the 1st of 2022. So, if you love reading RPG blogs, this is the place to be, all month long.
Our topic this month is “Fun for One”, and you can swing that any way you like. Here are a few ideas:
Write about a session nobody but the GM enjoyed. It happens! Give us some ideas to help us avoid the same train smash.
Tell us about a game you ran for a friend.
Create a big bad boss for your favorite system. Make sure your creation is tough as nails and hard to take down.
Make some magical items that give a hero plenty of perks, at the expense of a curse on the party.
Make a short RPG for one player, or for one player and a GM. Or write an RPG where every player controls the same character, much like in Everyone is John.
Give us some ideas for turning character creation, which usually is only fun for one, into something the whole group can enjoy together.
Talk about how you handle splitting the party.
Build some diabolical traps that are designed to target one hero only.
Make critical fumbles the most fun thing to roll with new rules that’ll amaze and entertain.
We look forward to seeing those posts rolling in.
Unleash the Power of the Magus
Our friends at d20pfsrd.com Publishing just released Art of Magic: Melee and Magic, which hit Copper Seller in 24 hours. It includes new magus archetypes, feats, magus arcana, and spells. Melee and Magic offers a wide variety of builds for every magus player.
The book is compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (first edition) and is $2.99 for 24 pages.
It’s Mini Monday, where I share customizing, scratch building, kitbashing, and miniature painting projects for your roleplaying and tabletop gaming. This week we’re scratch building a Battle Cat wargaming miniature.
Psst, we have a secret coupon code for a new magus book for Pathfinder 1e, hidden in the text. You’ll need to read everything to find it.
Battle Cat is He-Man’s fearless feline friend, who transforms from the cowardly cat Cringer (erm, tiger) into a red-armored fighting fiend. Besides inspiring alliteration, Battle Cat is He-Man’s inseparable companion, with whom he shares the secret of the Sword of Power and also benefits from its transformative powers.
I’m busy working on my own little D&D Masters of the Universe set, so Battle Cat’s an important miniature to have. It’s possible to find him online, but it’s also very easy to kitbash or scratch build your own, which is why you should give it a go. This project is the perfect beginner project for learning how to use green stuff or modeling epoxy, and you can use the same method for all kinds of original mounts too.
Step 1: Obtain Miniature Animal of the Plastic Variety
Find a suitably sized plastic animal, preferably one with a high enough level of detail that it’ll look like an animal when your primer has made it monochrome. I found a great lioness that was the perfect size and easy to convert into a tiger.
Step 2: Snip and Clip, then Putty and Paste
To make the armored saddle and helmet I used Tamiya Epoxy Putty, which is a two-part clay (white and beige) that you mix together before working. I’ve never used green stuff, which most people swear by, but this stuff certainly does the job.
Saddles are the easiest thing to make, but barding (plate for a mount), isn’t much harder. Find a good reference to work from and break down the full shape into its component shapes and you’ll do fine. The rest of the armor, including the helmet, is just an extension of the same process.
To bulk up the shape of Battle Cat’s beard and chest hair I used hairpieces from some third edition Dark Eldar.
Step 3: Paint and Play
I primed the mini white, then painted his fur orange and the saddle armor red. I then painted green over the fur, to leave exposed stripes. The stripes were a bit tricky, so decide on which direction you want them to run in before painting and you should be fine.
Finally, I dry brushed his beard white, painted his nose and eyes black, and his claws were brown, black, then white. Finally, I gave the fur a black wash and painted the base black. I didn’t texture the base so that other figures can stand on the base, to show they are riding him.
Unleash the Power of the Magus
One of the companies I work for is d20pfsrd.com Publishing, and we just released Art of Magic: Melee and Magic. The book has been doing amazingly well, reaching Copper Seller in under 24 hours. I guess it just proves how popular the magus is.
So, what’s in the book?
New magus archetypes, feats, magus arcana, and spells. Mark Thomas, the writer, did an excellent job of offering a wide variety of builds that should offer something for every magus player.
The book is compatible with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game (first edition) and is $2.99 for 24 pages.
Christmas is coming up, and as print shortages loom, it’s time to get those print-on-demand (POD) orders in early. Here are 5 indie TTRPG hidden gems you should check out this Christmas, all from South African designers.
Eventide features a fully-formed post-apocalyptic setting and fast, streamlined mechanics, all packaged in Frenzy Kitty’s characteristically professional style. The game also includes solo rules, which is one more reason why I love it.
Not many indie publishers bring the level of polish to their games that Frenzy Kitty Games does, which has always inspired me to make better-looking products. Gareth is also a huge fan of the genre, and it shows in the many adventure hooks the setting presents.
Buy Eventide if you love post-apocalyptic games like Fallout and want a deep level of abstraction that lets you tell interesting stories about survival in a post-apocalyptic world.
Nightscape: Red Terrors
This is one of mine, so I’ll just tell you what’s in the game, then you can decide if it’s for you.
Nightscape: Red Terrors is part of the Nightscape franchise, which explores supernatural and cosmic horrors. Red Terrors is set in Russia, after the fall of communism. You and your team from Integrand General are tasked with recovering occult artifacts from a recently-discovered facility, in a race against time and cultists seeking to use those same artifacts for their own purposes.
The game uses D20s, map tiles, and an abstracted rules set that focuses on cinematic roleplaying.
Buy Nightscape: Red Terrors if you and your players want to take on a multi-faceted puzzle involving eldritch horrors, using the tools at the disposal of a team of elite paranormal investigators.
How to Plan a Murder
Although I had a hand in producing it, this one was written by Chris Visser, who has run the system as part of his very successful dinner murder mystery events.
How to Plan a Murder is a LARP, or more specifically, guidelines for running a social event that revolves around a murder mystery, which is run by a coordinator. Each character is defined by several truths and what they know about certain characters, which effectively ties every character, and every guest, into the story that’s about to unfold during the evening.
Personally, I think it’s a fun way to get all your RPG friends together, with some of your RPG-curious buds, and all their significant others, and share an evening of fun telling a memorable story that you get to be deeply involved in (without actually killing anyone). Covid has made this sort of event rare, but one day we’ll be able to enjoy some murder with friends again.
Buy How to Plan a Murder if you want to run a dinner murder mystery for your friends, and your friends are up for an evening of dressing up and playing interesting characters with dark secrets.
Hello, My Name is Death
Full disclosure here, this one, like Nightscape, is also mine.
In Hello, My Name is Death you play the Grim Reaper’s apprentices, trying to knock another soul off this mortal coil and get promoted to COO of Acquisitions, the rider in black himself.
Hello, My Name is Death uses a poker mechanic and comes in zine format. It requires a deck of normal playing cards and is a theater of the mind game. Basically, by winning hands, you get to make things true about the world, or add a truth to what another player has made true.
We think you’ll love Hello, My Name is Death as an alternative to Gloom, or as a great way to improve your group’s collaborative storytelling.
Welcome to a guest post, here on Rising Phoenix Games. Kim Frandsen is here to talk about the difficult road TTRPG designers have to walk to becoming masters of the craft. Enjoy.
Hi everyone! Rodney asked me to share some thoughts that I’d been having recently about the TTRPG industry.
In most creative industries, such as tabletop roleplaying game publishing, there are — at least to me — seemingly three levels of “achievement” a creator can reach:
The Road to Mastering RPG Design
To give an example of what I mean, let’s compare the TTRPG industry to the film industry. Hollywood’s movie business is well known and has similar requirements to our own, in that it requires a lot of creative input and technical knowledge to achieve a coherent and appealing final product.
So an apprentice within the TTRPG world is someone who is just starting out. They may be self-publishing or they may have a few years of experience working as a freelancer for smaller publishers. In the film world, these are the folks putting out their first films, or who are just out of film school. They may have acquired some technical knowledge along the way, and they may have great creative ideas, but they still need a lot of help executing their ideas to a level where an audience can understand their work.
Masters are of course at the other end of the craft. They’re the ones who do the work that you always hear about. Within the gaming world, they’ll be people like Chris Perkins, Owens KC Stephens, Jason Buhlmann, and Skip Williams. They’re exceptionally capable and experienced designers who have had their hands in hundreds of projects. They not only have creative vision but also the technical know-how to realize that vision.
In the film world, these are people like Alfred Hitchcock, Stephen Spielberg, and Francis Ford Coppola for direction. They may be the Chris Evanses, Ryan Reynolds, and Scarlett Johansson for actors. They could also be the “invisible” people like John Williams, known for the soundscapes that complete the film experience. These are the creators that everyone has heard of, and who have staying power.
In between these two, you find the journeyman level. For films, these are the people who can live off their work but haven’t become famous. They might be the supporting actors on big-budget films, they may be the camera or sound crews, or they may be the director that does documentaries for the BBC — people that those in the business have potentially heard of, but who aren’t well known to the public.
And here comes the question: where is the journeyman level in the TTRPG Industry?
Making a living off your work in this business, even if you have multiple years of experience and projects behind you, is tough. In my case, I started in 2016 and at this point, I have more than 100 projects behind me as both author and editor, and I’ve started dabbling in layout, but I cannot make a living off what I do — even though I’d love to. (Editors Note: Kim has multiple credits for Paizo, including Pathfinder and Starfinder work. He was also an alternate in the top 32 for RPG Superstar, Season 9. Kim also wrote Heaven & Hell for Pathfinder Second Edition.)
The figure that you need to take home to live (please note I said “live”, not “survive” — there is a difference) varies by where you live of course. Generally, if you live in the West, things cost more. That’s just how it is.
But how big does the RPG industry have to be to support the Journeyman level folks? Nobody knows how much money is in the business, and the few who have an insight into that are really not interested in sharing that information. The fact is though that there are only a few companies out there that are big enough to supply more than a handful (5) employees full-time. This includes the juggernaut Wizards of the Coast and all the way down to smaller companies with permanent staff. Even just finding out who belongs in that category is difficult. (Truth be told, the industry really isn’t doing itself any favors on this, by being so opaque, but I digress).
Unfortunately, until we know what the business is worth in total, and where it has been in the past, it’ll be difficult to say where the “break” point in size is for the RPG industry, but there is one factor that we can comment on.
We’d like to see more people make a living by making TTRPGs, wouldn’t we? After all, it allows us to see more people progress to the master level, so we’ll eventually enjoy the stuff they put out. And it’d allow others who have the skill and knowledge to live off their earnings from roleplaying games too.
Do I have a personal stake in this? Yes. Of course, I do, and I’m obviously one who’d like to reach the Journeyman level. But more than that: I’d like to see my friends remain in the business. I started at a time where I was connected with something like 20 or 30 other people. Today, only 2 of them are left, with a 3rd on hiatus and a 4th mostly being too busy with his day job to work away at game design. So many people have fallen by the wayside that I know had the ability to make it, if there had been a future for them. For all of us, it wears us down. And while those who survive the first 3-4 years tend to stick around, I’d really like to see more of the talented newcomers staying with us.
Thanks for listening to my rant.
Catch you on the flip side.
You can’t eat Steam foil cards. They’re not even actually foil. Are they really just a crash grab on Valve’s part?
PC games have borrowed a lot from tabletop gaming. Take most PC RPGs, which borrow heavily from conventions established by Dungeons & Dragons. Foil cards were made popular with games like Magic: the Gathering and Pokémon.
Sometimes the borrowing makes sense, sometimes it just doesn’t work. In Steam’s case, the “foil” cards are just rarer and have a boring grey border. Considering how easy it would be to add an animation to the art assets, this feels lazy. It also doesn’t add any real benefit to the collector.
I have a bunch of great foil cards for Magic, which usually go straight into my favourite decks. They’re a status symbol, but also a nice way that WotC has rewarded me for all that money I’ve thrown their way. I feel no need to collect them, but I enjoy the ones I have for what they are. I have no such feelings for Steam’s foil cards.
MTG Arena has animated “foil” cards, by the way, some of which are very appealing.
It’s not all that hard to add an animation to a card. You could make an animated shine layer that goes over the image, or add an animated sheen to the border. There are tons of great animation examples on the web that are only as complicated as a gif. Here are a few cheesy ones:
They’re pretty bad, but they’re not tough to make or run in Steam’s client, and would be a huge improvement on the static image their foil cards have now.
Calling them “foil” cards is really just based on a tabletop convention, so why doesn’t Valve create their own convention? As far as I can tell, Steam cards don’t have any level of rarity, so call them “gold” cards or rares. Call them “Steam-Os” for all we care.
Do you like ham and cheese? I hope you do. I love ham and cheese. The hammier and cheezier, the better. The Umbrella Academy has both, in equal measure, and it’s a tasty feast… if that’s your sort of thing. Let’s check out the first collection, We dive into The Apocalypse Suite.
Let me explain, because I might be losing you already. The comic has a murderous Eiffel Tower, a character with a monocle called (you guessed it) The Monocle, and a Murder Bot set to “Careless Brutality”. And that’s why this comic is brilliant.
The Umbrella Academy manages to poke fun at superhero comics, while being a part of the family. It never feels like a rip-off of X-Men, even though it’s a hilarious fun-house mirror-image of super-mutant hero teams. That humour is the hammy, cheesy goodness. You’re either going to love it or hate it.
The story’s pace and the depth of the characters were other high points for me. Because most of the story happens after the main characters have passed their prime, the story just wouldn’t have worked if they’d not been well developed. Essentially, you’re getting a story that feels like it exists in a much bigger one, and that the characters have plenty of history left to explore.
More Great Stuff
Gabriel Ba’s art is perfect for The Umbrella Academy because it works with the hammy cheesiness at the soul of this comic. Ba’s art is also grim when it needs to be, sombre when needed, and never confusing. Ba tells a better visual story than many artists who’ve worked for Marvel or DC.
The Not so Great
It’s a bit of a weird thing about the comic, but you don’t learn each hero’s power until the mini-comics at the end of this six-comic anthology. Their powers are in the main comic, but Gerard’s subtlety might mean you miss it. Is that a good thing? Does it really matter? Probably not. Maybe that’s there to tell you what kind of story this really is? You decide.
Overall, a great read if you like clever shlock or you’re a fan of the comic book medium. Four out of five Cheeky Cthulhus!