Tuesday, 9 April 2013

RPG Gaming and Technology

So for this post I am going to write about the technology I use for gaming. I use a fair bit and it is increasing with each passing year as the power of phones, tablets and the apps available become better and better.

Lets begin with laptops and traditional computing. I have a laptop with a HDMI output. This is useful as I make use of gaming soundtracks that I have put together, and I also will use slide shows of inspirational images. The HDMI means I can pump all this through my TV. The music is put together on Spotify, so just in case I can run the music on any of my other devices.

The laptop, running Windows, of course also has is my main writing device. So I will use Word to put together big documents, and Adobe apps for putting together things like the covers for the Darker Days ezine, and other image manipulation. Being quite a powerful laptop (used also for programming and running stuff in parallel), it handles all that very well.

Of course I also make use of web apps. Google Docs is my main tool of choice for prepping my game notes, and collaborating with other writers, be it for the podcast, or for a freelance piece. It also means I can easily synch with my Linux machine at work.

The other major web app I use is Dropbox. I can then seamlessly synchronize documents and game pdfs from the laptop to my other devices.

Other devices? Well of course I have a smartphone. It's an android Sony Xperia S. I've gotten practised at installing custom ROMs on the devices, and so I can upgrade it faster than the official ROMs release. Of course I mainly use that device for quick searches, and reading material for games on the bus or on relatively short journeys.

My power house device though is my Asus TF101 eeePad. It is a 10 inch tablet, which is over 18 months old, and first shipped with Android 3.0, and has been upgrade through official ROMs and custom ROMs to 4.2.2. It is pretty awesome with each new ROM. Getting faster and better. The tablet has the right size and weight, with a textured back to help with grip. The tablet was of course a first, as it had a purpose built dock, similar to the keyboards of the net books made by Asus. This machines is great, for typing, reading, annotating, and even as a SSH client so I can work away from my Linux machine. It has room for expandable storage, and more via the dock. It is the perfect device, and I know I will be saving to replace it eventually with a more up to date version.

Social networking wise I of course use Skype for podcasting, and will be using Google Plus and the Hangout feature for online gaming. Google Plus of course come leaps and bounds with more gaming specific features. I can't wait to try them out.

Of course we have some time to go yet until  we have the perfect setup of devices. Searching books on pdf is still a little clunky. We also eagerly await for interactive books and apps for games - but those are in the works.

Monday, 8 April 2013

No Quarter - Review

So we have had 4 issues of No Quarter, Privateer Press' gaming magazine, since the release of the Iron Kingdoms RPG. So I thought I should review what we have had in those issues that is specifically for the RPG.

Those new to the Iron Kingdoms may not know of the magazine. It comes out every two months, prices $7.50. It is a full colour magazine, and is part advertisment, part gaming supplement, and part community magazine. Inside you will find articles that show off the latest rules and minis for the table top wargames, Warmachine and Hordes, painting and modelling articles, information on tournaments and conventions, short stories and more information on the world of the Iron Kingdoms, plus gaming articles for Iron Kingdoms. You could compare it in some respect to White Dwarf magazine. But I would say for the price you are getting great content, and a lot of free stuff per issue, compared to the content in White Dwarf.

No onto that free stuff. In particular the Iron Kingdoms content.

In issue 44 we get a modelling guide for making character models for Iron Kingdoms (Iron Kingdoms being and rpg that makes use of minis - not surprising considering what is on offer from Privateer press). We also get, following on from the expanded bestiary section that is a free download on the PP website, a Monsternomicon article, featuring more big beasties for your players to confront.The Gatormen rules are useful as it allows for the conversion of the Witchfire trilogy from D20 to the IKRPG d6 system. We also get a premade adventure, featuring a mission to retrieve a magical text pertaining to lost Orgoth magics, and tackling a possessed Steamjack.

Issue 45 keeps up the quality and quantity. We get a whole new career for the Trollkin, Long Riders. So now our Trollkin have mounts, Buffalo. Plus of course new rules for these mounts and skill related to using these mounts. This of course coincided with the release of the equivalent minis for Hordes. So there is some great setting material about the warriors that rides these beasts. We also get an article that looks at the logistics of Steamjacks. How to move them about when they are not in operation, the cost of fuel for these machine (something that in the main rulebook was broken!), and another Monsternomicon article. This time ghosts! We get shades and spectres (again massively useful for converting the Witchfire Trilogy and of course work a charm with Thamarite rules in Urban Adventures), and Riven - ghosts of Elves dating to the Rivening. Scary bastards. But the best thing is that we now have the perfect set of additions to Iron Kingdoms to run a horror based game in a fantasy setting. Next we get some new equipment, in Foundry, Forge and Crucible. All this equipment is stuff that is useful, primarily for particular tasks, like grapple guns, harpoon guns, acid sprays. But in a pinch any of these make for useful improvised weapons! And to add a cherry on top we have even more about converting minis for the rpg.

Issue 46 doesn't let up. A new career is added - Doom Reaver. F***ing hell! These guys are badass in the wargame, but as a playable character? Well you have a sort of homage to Elric and his black blade. Just that the blades of whispering evil Orgoth blades. We of course get new skills, new rules for the blade, and a painting guide. I can see these being great antagonists, and quite a horrific character to roleplay. They would make for a great bodyguard for a fellow Khador player in the troupe. Monsternomicon comes back with more creatures. Razor Bats, Devil Rats (perfect for the sewers of Corvis - yay more for Witchfire Trilogy revised!), and a massive buffalo. Furthermore we get the first Gazetteer, introducing the mining town of Wexmere. We get a map, some info on the politics of the area, and the lands around it. A great place to visit or run and entire campaign about.

Issue 47, the latest is filled with some great stuff. Yeah, because the last issues weren't good enough already?  We get a modelling guide for converting characters for Gobbers for the rpg. The Monsternomicon (yeah these sections are really useful) gives us more beasties. The Gorax, a sort of big Yeti like ape thing. We get rules for the Argus and White Argus, the two headed wolves of the Circle Orboros. We also have rules for a few types of trolls. This is quite great, because Trollkin can feasibly befriend these creatures. They also mean you can have players face the forces of Trollkin led party of Trolls. The really insightful part of this is that it makes clear that the rules for the wargame and the rpg are almost directly compatible. You may have a few stats to work out, and a few powers to convert. But it does make it clear that if you wanted, that giant dragon beast in the last issue could be used in your games. Just a thought, since they give you its stats in the issue. Foundry, Forge and Crucible returns, this time with arcane, cursed firearms. Again some great weapons with cool story hooks. The Imprecator pistol is a really great concept.

If that wasn't enough we have a new race and career and rules via some free downloads. Satyxis Raiders! Oh boy. Again a great new playable race, plus along with the Thamarite, Thralls and ghosts, we have a great way of representing the forces of Cryx in the game. Of course the Satyxis would not be complete without rules for ships, and even an example encounter with a Satyxis raiding ship.

So the first 6 months of Iron Kingdoms has been pretty awesome, and bodes well for the upcoming releases. This includes the book, 'Kings, Nations and Gods', and the forthcoming release of the Games Master kit, complete with screen, character sheet pad, and encounter sheets and health sheets (apparently dry wipe pen compatible!).

No Quarter Presents - Iron Kingdoms: Urban Adventure

No Quarter Presents - Iron Kingdoms: Urban Adventure - Review

So the Iron Kingdoms RPG (IKRPG), by Privateer Press, has been out for a couple of months now, and has been met with good reviews and excitement. I personally still have yet to run a session, but I am eagerly writing up a chronicle for my own games. This means I have been digging into the old D20 books while we await this information to be updated and reproduced in new books with the new rules. But Privateer Press has not just sat there doing nothing. Oh no. They provide support from day one. Online the had a free pdf for the expanded bestiary, and there have been some great support in recent issues of their No Quarter magazine. First we got an adventure (a ghost possessing a steamjack) and some more equipment, and in the more recent issue PP addressed the fuel price issues (something which in the core rulebook was handled badly) and also they gave us rules for ghosts, spectres, and the ghosts of the Elves who died during the Rivening. We also have a new Trollkin career - Bison Riders. Urban Adventure (UA) follows this up in some style. It's a mixed bag of fun, all wrapped up disco fudge (kudos if you get the reference).

UA starts off with some nice new careers that focus on life within the cities,  and in particular these careers are aimed squarely at how non-humans live in human cities. We get Ogrun labor workers, Trollkin pugilists, and Nyss explorers. Extra diversity is never a bad thing. Following this up we get a whole grab bag of new skills. Again all focused on life in the cities. Some new unarmed brawling skills, larceny skills, and social skills. New equipment is introduced, such concealed weaponry, fear gas, and spying gear. We also get a whole load of new combat maneuvers, some grab ones covering dirty, unarmed fighting (fish hooking!) and also a load of stats for improvised weapons! Steamjacks are not forgotten in this book. And again we get a grab bag of new chassis and equipment that over the labor jacks that would be found in the cities of the Iron Kingdoms. They may not all be things design for military use but they sure are nasty (harpoon gun and wrecking ball!).

All of this then sets us up nicely for the main spectacle - the City of Five Fingers. Now if you are the types of gamers that I expect you are, you are more than likely familiar with Pirates of the Caribbean. Of course two great locations in that series of films are the pirate ports of Tortuga and Shipwreck cove. Well take all of that, add in the island geography akin to Venice, and you have the IK city of Five Fingers. It's an Ordic city - barely. The city has been home to pirates and mercenaries ever since the Orgoth left the shores of Immoren, and over time the islands that make up Five Fingers (named for the five water ways that the Dragon's Tongue River splits into) have become a crowd collection of creaking buildings, gambling dens, fighting rings, docks, breweries, mercenary outposts, and crisscrossing walkways. If Corvis is the ghostly city based on Venice, that Five Fingers takes the more mercantile and privateer elements and magnifies it by 100. We get awesome maps of all the islands, and detailed breakdowns of their business and attractions and dangers. We learn about the main gangs and forces that live in these chaotic islands, the 5 pirate lords that watch over it all, and the cults that lurk in the caves and tunnels of the islands. A lot of this information is repeated from the old D20 books, but the presentation plus new rules still make this book worth the money.

Next up in the book is something I really hope to see more of, both in future books, issues of No Quarter, and online - Encounters. What we get are a series of Encounters, things that could occur in the cities of the Iron Kingdoms. You could use them as more random filler to your games, or even use them as the basis for entire plots to episodes or even chronicles. Each encounter gets a brief description, and explanation for how it can be used, and also variations depending upon the experience of the player characters. Rules for characters, thugs, and monsters are provided - the skiggs being a hilarious addition to the game. I really can't wait to see more of these.

Now the next chapter is perhaps my favourite. Thamarites. We get a great discussion of their beliefs and methods, plus a new career - Thamarite Advocate. Now we can either have player characters as Thamarites - even being their own cult - and of course rules for Thamarite NPCs. We of course get new powers, covering necromancy, and also detailed rules on the creation of Thrallls. So with all this we can recreate Alexia from the Witchfire series! This chapter, plus the ghost rules in No Quarter really makes it possible to run horror games in the Iron Kingdoms.

Finally we get some discussion on the laws of the Iron Kingdoms, the punishments that can be expected for crimes, and lastly a new scenario to play out. The adventure is designed the quickly get the players embedded into the complex gang rivalries of the islands, and escalates to a final encounter with a Thamarite sorcerer - something I am eager to use in my own games - and could easily be modified to work for any city setting.

Overall Urban Adventure is a great addition and if anything a must have for IKRPG as it really gives you those extras you need to have a full range of antagonists for your players to fight.