Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Vikings Have Landed - Codex Nordica Thane Unboxed

In some bizarre twist of history the vikings have once again sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and delivered my Codex Nordica Kickstarter Thane bundle.  There's a lot of stuff to digest but at the moment I am a happy Di Sma Undr Jordi (see page 35).

Map of the Nine Realms, Wooden Rune Tiles & Box, Kings Table Boardgame, Nordica Tankard
Codex Nordica Hardback, Odins Fury and Hel Rising Nordica Adventures,
My bonus Items (Players Handbook, Curse of the Khan, Malady of Kings and Heart of Glass Adventures)
There's also an unboxing vid on You Tube.

Monday, 20 October 2014

Rick and Morty - Packed full of Sci-Fi Tropes

I guess sometimes I can be accused of sleeping under a rock when it comes to the latest US TV shows, but I bet I'm not the only one.  Which is why I just have to share the love for Adult Swim's Rick and Morty.

An example of what happens in just about every episode.

Created by voice actor and director Justin Roiland, who some might recognise as the voice of Adventure Time's "Lemongrab",  and Dan Harmon, creator of the hit sit com "Community".  Rick and Morty is an adult sci-fi cartoon series following the mind bending, dimension hopping adventures of sociopathic alcoholic scientist Rick and his 14 year old grandson Morty.   

A show of two halves, each episode finds Rick and Morty on some wild adventure whilst his family (unemployed ad exec dad Jerry, horse surgeon mom Beth and unpopular sister Summer) are often left to deal with the unintended consequences of one of Rick's devices.

Bizarre ideas are the meat and potatoes of this show and no trope is safe.  Season 1 has seen cyborg dog revolution, a contagious love virus / preying mantis / Cronenberg monster apocalypse, inception dream walking, alien abduction, a Rick and Morty multiverse, sex robots and alien child rearing to name just a few.

Meanwhile Jerry and Beth struggle to keep their marriage alive, as Dan Harmon puts it, "the nature of their relationship is that it's always 1 minute from ending" and Summer stives to improve her social position from "not super hot/super popular" high school girl whilst being the result of the "unwanted pregnancy" that keeps her parents together.

The language and visuals are as adult and bizarre as they can be and dialogue is often delivered at a breakneck pace in order to cram as much action in as humanly possible.  The casting is spot on from regular voice performers Justin Roiland (Rick/Morty), Chris Parnell (Jerry), Spencer Grammer (Summer), Sarah Chalke (Beth) to the great vocal cameos delivered by Alfred Molina, Dana Carvey, David Cross, Rich Fulcher, Claudia Black, Virginia Hey, John Oliver and Cree Summer.

Rick & Morty 3D Billboard courtesy of Dailybillboard
 The show is a definite must see and has been picked up for a second series scheduled to air in early 2015 along with a spin-off comic book.  The "point and click" style game "Rick and Morty's Rushed Licensed Adventure" is also available to play on the adultswim website.

With all this richness it should only be a matter of time before someone writes a Fiasco playset based on this universe and it's one setting that most definitely has to go "gonzo"... every single time.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Delving the Dark with Dungeon Master G

Following on from yesterdays Geomorph related post, I've been following the exploits of the Dungeon Crafting crowd (The DM's Craft, TheDMGInfo and AJ Pickett) on YouTube for a while now and have been especially entertained by The DMG Info's latest series "Delving The Dark".

It's essentially, a video "walk-through" of a dungeon that Gareth has created using his take on DM Scotty's 2.5D tile system.  Each episode describes a single room and its contents.  The descriptions are system neutral and concise and the plot detail offered adds enough spice to keep the viewer and potential DM interested.

Whilst watching Level 1 Area 16/20, Gareth casually dropped that there were at least 5 levels to this dungeon...  Woah, that's gonna be a pretty sweet little series of vids. 

To avoid spoilers, this is definitely one for DMs only and it's a great showcase for how the 2.5D dungeon tiles can be used in your game.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

DIY Tournament Dungeon Boardgame

24 Cheap and easy 2.5D Dungeon Tiles
My RPG club, The Hobbit's Hole, runs an annual memorial tournament in honour of one of its founding members called the Manic Trophy.

This year it's my turn to host the game and I'll be putting on a simple dungeon crawl game.  I'm musing over the rules at the moment but here's my outline: 

My aim is to have a 3 to 5 player competitive dungeon crawl lasting no more than 45 minutes, in the style of the boardgame Dungeon Quest.  Players start on the same tile, like in Drakon, each time they move they reveal a new tile and orient it as they see fit discovering the dungeon as they go.  The final tile holds the great treasure and the Boss Monster.

I'm going to be using a version of the 9 inch cavern geomorph tiles as popularised by YouTubers TheDMGInfo / TheDM'sCraft / DM Kaydons Kastle, where each tile contains an encounter, be it a trap or a monster (or maybe both).  This also gives me a chance to use the cards from the Inkwell Ideas Creature Decks.  

I like the idea of having a finite number of "moves" to a game, everyone has an equal chance the player skill element comes from trying to push your luck or deciding to flee.  I've played  games like Lost Cities which use this sort of "push your luck" mechanic and enjoyed them immensely.

I need quick and dirty "trump" style resolution so I'm going to base everything around a regular deck of playing cards.  Players get to choose their card whereas the DM draws randomly from a deck.

To represent levels of the dungeon the DM deck is divided into 3 stacks; Level 1(cards numbered 2 to 6), Level 2 (cards 7 to J) and Level 3 cards (Q to A).  I have 24 tiles in the game so the first 10 tiles represent Level 1, the next 10 Level 2 and the last 4 are Level 3.


Looking at the card suit symbols we have:
  • HEARTS - Look like a heart so should represent life force or vitality, these cards are used for all tests of strength and stamina.
  • CLUBS - Look like a tree and sort of like a brain so these represent knowledge and intelligence.
  • DIAMONDS - Looks sharp like a sword so these cards are used to represent Melee combat ability.
  • SPADES - Look like an arrowhead so these cards are used for all Missile attacks and Dexterity based skill checks.
  • JOKERS - Each player gets one of these to use during the game to automatically succeed at a challenge or to inflict an instant kill.  However, Jokers cannot be used to defeat the BOSS MONSTER, unused jokers are worth 15 points at the end of the game.
Players get to choose their class and pick up the relevant 2 suits of cards as follows:
  • Warrior - (Strength) and (Melee)
  • Wizard - ♣ (Intelligence) and ♠ (Missile)
  • Thief - ♠ (Dexterity) and ♣ (Intelligence)
  • Ranger - ♠ (Missile) and (Melee)
  • Cleric - ♣ (Intelligence) and (Melee)
Additional Character Classes contributed by Stu Rat
  • Barbarian - (Strength) and ♠ (Dexterity)
  • Bandit - (Strength) and ♣ (Intelligence)
  • Monk - ♣ (Intelligence) and (Strength)
  • Archer -  ♠ (Missile) and (Strength)
  • Warlord - (Melee) and ♣ (Intelligence)
  • Gladiator - (Melee)  and (Strength)
  • Swashbuckler - (Melee) and ♠ (Dexterity)

The first suit is their PRIMARY stat, e.g. Warriors (Strength) and is used to break ties.

Each time players move onto a new tile they will encounter either a monster, a trap or need to search for a treasure.

MONSTER ENCOUNTER: Players may either FIGHT using (Melee) or ♠ (Missile) or EVADE using ♣ (Intelligence) or (Stamina).  If a player succeeds in a fight the monster is killed and a treasure awarded.  If a player succeeds in evading the player can move to the next tile but the monster remains and no treasure is awarded. 

TRAP ENCOUNTERS: Players may either DISABLE using ♣ (Intelligence) or ♠ (Dexterity) or EVADE using (Strength) or (Melee).  If a trap is disabled it is removed from the game and the player gets a reward otherwise the trap remains.

NO ENCOUNTER:  Empty tiles can be searched by any player using any card. So there is merit in just following the first player and scratching around in the room once they've defeated all the monsters.

As detailed above, players resolve encounters by choosing a card and comparing it with the DMs Card, whichever is higher wins.  Players who fail an encounter must discard an extra card at random from whichever suit they used in the encounter.  In the event of ties a player who used their primary stat always wins, if they used their secondary stat they always lose.
I'm going to decide monster or trap based on a coin flip.  Heads it's a Monster, tails its a Trap, but you could design specific traps for each tile design you have.


Treasures are awarded for defeating monsters, disabling traps or succeeding in search rolls.  They are either drawn randomly from a seperate deck or if you want the rewards to increase in level as the challenges increase you can just award the challenge card.


When the last tile is drawn, the players have reached the end of the dungeon.  Any players who can move their character onto this tile in their next turn can attempt to defeat the boss monster either collectively as a group or try it on their own.  Players are reminded that the boss monster is an instant kill event and failure will result in death.  There's no such thing as a dead Hero in this game.

In either case they choose a card as normal, excluding Jokers.  However, the boss monster gets to  shuffle all the remaining challenge decks together and draws 1 card plus 1 card for each party member in the combat and discards the lowest card.

Players are awarded 2 treasures each for defeating the boss monster.


Players can FLEE the dungeon before drawing a new tile and keep any treasure cards they have amassed so far.  If their route out of the dungeon is blocked by a monster they must discard a card at random as they flee.


Players determine their Initiative order by choosing one card from their hand.  Highest goes first, in the event of ties the player who used a primary stat card wins, all others discard and redraw.

1.  FLEE - Players may decide to flee the dungeon or continue exploring.

2. MOVE - Move through an open exit and reveal the next tile.

3. ENCOUNTER - Each player resolves the encounter as outlined above.

4. NEXT TURN - Play moves to the player with the next highest initiative.


Once the boss monster has been defeated (or all players have fled the dungeon) the game is over and scoring occurs.

1.  DEAD players score 1 point for each unused stat card in their hand (+ 15 points for an unused joker).

2.  SURVIVING players score 1 point for each secondary stat card (+ 15 points for an unused joker) + the face value of any primary stat cards remaining + the face value of any treasure rewarded.

3.  The winner is the player with the most points

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

French Space Opera - Time Jam: Valérian and Laureline

I've mentioned several times on this blog that Luc Besson is one of of my favourite directors/producers/writers and I always keep up to date with what projects he is involved with.  Back in 2012 he announced he was working on a Valérian movie, which for those who don't know, Valérian is a French graphic novel first published in Pilote magazine (Nov 1967) and written by Pierre Christin with art by Jean-Claude Mézières.

A few of the many aliens in the Time Jam universe
Just a few of the many aliens from the Time Jam universe (centre: Valerian and Laureline)
Besson has always been a fan of the original comicbook and so he hired Mézières and Jean Giraud Moebius to do the concept art for a little sci-fi project he was putting together which ended up being "The Fifth Element".  Besson's production company, Europacorp, also colaborated on a 40 episode anime series loosely based on the comic book, first aired in 2007.  Besson is not the only fan to be inspired by and some of the original comicbook has bled through to Star Wars.  Jeffrey Willis has a good write up of some of these on his blog The Geek Flag

The series follows the adventures of junior Space Time Agent Valérian, voiced by Nigel Greaves, who travels back to medieval France to undertake cultural observations for the Oxford Intergalactic University.  Needless to say his first mission goes spectacularly wrong and he ends up escaping feudal justice with a headstrong peasant girl called Laureline, voiced by Alison Dowling.  When they time jump back to 2417 they discover that the Earth has disappeared and they spend the rest of the series as the only humans in the galaxy trying to find out what has happened to it.  

The universe features a plethora of alien species, cultures, planets and technology, most notably the insectoid Vlargos who are intent on dominating the Galaxy.  Valérian and Laureline have to constantly thwart their devious plans as they ply their trade as space adventures.  One of their patrons are a trio of weird small winged entrepreneurs with trunks know as Shingouz.  Much like Star Trek's Ferenghi they are always in search of profit and end up sending Valérian and Laureline on quite a few dangerous missions to retrieve various objects. 

Their encounters often occur on weird planets that try to kill them or have been rendered dangerous by some legendary artefact they must recover and they are assisted by ship's computer "Rondha" which fills in some of the blanks for them and the viewer.  There's plenty of variety in setting and plot for each episode as the pair embark on various missions for their different patrons and they end up making just as many friends as enemies.

With the exception of the bizarre "Space Dandy", it's been a while since I've seen anything that I would class as "Space Opera".  By this I mean in the spirit of of E.E. "Doc" Smith's classic Lensman, a light hearted, galaxy hopping tour of the universe with only a laser blaster and a well timed one liner for defence.  It's pitched at an early teens audience, the tone is firmly in the "mild peril" zone, but it's good inspiration fodder for any Space Opera RPG and could be easily "hardened" up for more engaging adult sessions.  I would recommend using it as an alternative setting when you want to drop your players in at the deep end and watch them gradually learn about the universe as they play.