Saturday, June 4, 2016

Tommy's Take on Faith: A Garden in Hell

So I've had a chance to take a look at the Faith: A Garden in Hell preview kit for the boxed set currently on Kickstarter, and I thought I'd share my thoughts.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Tommy's Take on Buffy the Vampire Slayer Revised Corebook

No, a new Buffy RPG didn't come out. This is the one that came out...holy crap...eleven years ago, from Eden Studios. This is not an old review, though. Yes, this is a brand new review of an eleven year old RPG that I got when it was brand new.


Because it's badass, and you can still get copies for cover price on Amazon even though it's out of print. You can also get the PDF for $20 at RPGNow. (Disclaimer: That last one was an Affiliate link.)

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Tommy's Take on Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game

A couple of years ago, I became a big fan of The Dresden Files, in turn turning my wife into a fan of The Dresden Files. I own the RPG (though I have never ran it), but when Evil Hat announced a cooperative card game, I was intrigued.

I was so intrigued, in fact, that I spent almost as much as I'm pledging on the Kickstarter in order to have the Print and Play core game printed up to try it out.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Tommy's Take on the Savage Rifts Player's Guide

So to my surprise, I had an email waiting for me, with the Savage Rifts Player's Guide (part of the Savage Rifts Kickstarter, coming Tuesday) inside.

Intrigued, I opted to take a look...

Monday, February 15, 2016

Superhero Kickstarters to Check Out

Hey all, just checking in with a couple of Kickstarters to recommend for you...


Greater Than Games is doing one of the ballsiest things you can do...they are killing their cash cow while it's still HOT. They insist they always had a plan, and this is the grand finale of that plan: A final expansion in which the heroic characters of the Sentinels of the Multiverse will join forces with some of their fiercest foes to battle an epic Galactus/Darkseid/Thanos-like entity that wants to eradicate the multiverse.

I am a huge fan of Sentinels of the Multiverse. It is, simply put, the greatest card game I've ever played and I have logged hundreds of games and hundreds of hours. For those who are unfamiliar, you have a number of hero decks (generally 3-5), a villain deck (or a team, more on that later) and an environment deck. Then it's (generally) a slugfest until either the heroes fall or the villain does (some villains and environment decks introduce alternate win or lose conditions). The game has continued to grow, with multiple boxed expansions (gritty street-level, mystic and cosmic themed), new variants (two boxed sets introduced the concept of taking on teams of villains) and numerous single-deck expansion packs, as well as promo cards that provided variant heroes and villains to play with. The game is completely co-op, with the villain decks essentially being "automated". There's even an amazing video game version on Steam, Android and iOS devices.

Details about the gameplay in this expansion are still scarce, but it's known that multiple Environments will be used, as well as a Mission Deck. I freely admit, I have a ton of confidence in these guys to deliver, as I have yet to regret a purchase for this card game.

It is worth noting that the larger Sentinels line will still continue with their miniatures/skirmish game Sentinel Tactics (which I also enjoy, but rarely get to play) and the upcoming Sentinels of the Multiverse RPG (which I intend to get due to my love of the universe).

Heck, you can even get an ultimate collector's box in this Kickstarter that promises to hold every official card they have released (even sleeved!).

Highest recommendation for one of the greatest games I have ever played, from a company with an impeccable track record. I would  love to see that million dollar stretch goal shattered.


My friends over at Fainting Goat Games are hard at work on Against the Axis, an ICONS World War II book that is now also getting Savage Worlds and SUPERS! support. They have even joined forces with Heroic Publishing to tie in with several of their Golden Age style characters.

The ICONS manuscript is complete, and this is a full blown sourcebook that ties in with the Stark City setting released a few years ago, not simply an adventure (of which ICONS has seen several of).

Pinnacle's own Clint Black (who was the man behind one of my favorite campaigns of all time, Necessary Evil) is signed on to write a stretch goal book if it gets that far, but right now the campaign is struggling. Fainting Goat is a good company with great quality and reliability, and the ICONS manuscript is complete, so there is very low risk in backing this one, which still needs just under two grand to hit its funding goal in a week.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Tommy's Top Six of 2015 and Birthday Blog Giveaway

It's that time of year again...a New Year and a time to look back on my past year in gaming. I reviewed a ton in the first half of the year, then spent the second half of the year doing way more writing than reviewing. But I did still hit on six products that filled me with a particular joy, so here we go.

The rules, as arbitrarily decided by me: 1) One game per publisher. 2) My primary exposure to the game must have been in from December 1st of last year to November 30th of this year. 3) I must not have been involved of the production of the product (but you should totally check out Savage Tales of Horror, ya'll).

AMP Year One (by Third Eye Games)

1) Perfect for those wanting a Heroes-style "emergent supers game", rather than a traditional comic book-style setting.

2) The unique setting helps the game stand out in the pack of superhero RPGs in the world right now, as the system and setting are married together quite well.

3) Strong adventure support is a focus for the line, as AMP Year One got multiple adventure packs upon release, and Year Two has added in Faction Books with adventures.

4) The metaplot provides interesting twists and turns in the setting, with a five year plan mapped out for the setting and new elements being introduced as the setting develops.

5) The powers are neat and flavorful, and the new powers have thus far done a great job of providing new options, rather than power creep.

6) I loved this setting enough that I worked on two of the Year Two faction books (TRAC and the upcoming Hounds clarify, I only had a hand in two supplements, not on this book at all).

Camp Grizzly (by Ameritrash Games)

1) I have never had a bad game of this. We've busted it out repeatedly, and had a blast each time, including the time Otis just spent the whole game mauling us.

2) The game is lite enough that you can run multiple characters to ensure you have a full spread of counselors, even if you only have two or three players.

3) The game is just full of slasher movie tropes, clearly crafted by fans of the genre, for fans of the genre.

4) Every character in the game, from Counselor to Otis to the campers and the cameos just screams that they walked out of an 80s Friday the 13th knock-off. From the little girl that keeps you from a little late night action, to the a-hole cops that can interfere with you, the brave lifeguard counselor who runs to stop Otis when he appears nearby to the little psycho girl who is going to grow up and live in a horror movie of her own someday...just a great cast of characters.

5) The Finale System (8 unique finales, depending on where on the board you initiate it at) provides ample uncertainty as to how the game will end and what you have to do to stop Otis. It may turn out that Otis was never there at all, and it was just an imposter, or Otis may aim to take you with him as he goes. We still have not played all of them, but the finales are arguably the the strongest part of an already great game.

6) For a simple roll and move game, the interaction between counselors, Otis, random placement of objectives, the 8 finales and the sizable card decks just overflowing with horror tropes ensures that there is a lot of replayability, and five expansions were unlocked with the Kickstarter and are still coming.

High Strung (Precis Intermedia Games)

1) Do you know a lot of other RPGs about playing a members of a rock band who are trying to make it in a harsh and unforgiving industry (as opposed to members of a rock band who fight crime and/or monsters)?

2) Lots and lots and lots of random tables, which obviously draws my attention.

3) Short and sweet. Whole thing comes in well under 50 pages, but provides a full game with no big, gaping holes.

4) The premise is "rock band", but the drama is on the personal events that surround the group in their pursuit of the big dream, essentially making it about a band who is trying to succeed in spite of themselves, especially as Hope (the game's big in-game currency) is stolen from player to player.

5) Brand new layout from the original version released by Flying Mice Games adds an additional visual flair, while still maintaining the indie charm that a game like this requires.

6) Player versus player with no player elimination, great for a change of pace if your group is one that likes to butt heads every now and then, but are capable of doing so without hurt feelings.

Shadow of the Demon Lord (Schwalb Entertainment)

1) Random tables for every aspect of your character, plus Interesting Things and even how you learn your new Paths. Have I mentioned that I love random tables?

2) Evocative art that constantly reinforces the slightly grimy, slightly "off" feel of everything about the setting, from character Ancestries to monsters.

3) The setting is at once a broad strokes kitchen sink, while also having a very distinctive feel and tone to it. While not a true "horror" game, it is definitely "weird", as everything just feels a touch "off".

4) Definitely a change of pace from high powered heroics of modern fantasy games, harkening back to older games with more "expendable" characters, combined with newer design concepts (such as unified subsystems, the Fortune mechanic and so on).

5) The Paths are fantastic, allowing you to guide your character through the career paths of their choice. You can even willingly become, say, a Warrior at level 1, turn Thief at level 3 and transform into a Magus at level 7, hitting three of the four major "multiclass" points. Obviously, certain combinations of Ancestries and Paths will mesh better together, but none are forbidden.

6) Shadow of the Demon Lord was one of my favorite purchases of the last year. Not least because of all the cool stretch goals I got in the Kickstarter, but the corebook itself as proven to be worth it, both reading and in play.

Star Wars Force & Destiny Beginner Game (Fantasy Flight Games)

1) Great introductory set for what can otherwise be a confusing system to get your heads around. The handy charts breaking down the dice symbols on each character folio made running and playing the game very smooth.

2) As is to be expected with both Star Wars and Fantasy Flight Games, the production values are top notch and intentionally evoke the darker mysticism of the Star Wars universe.

3) The included adventure not only provides multiple encounters, but multiple ways to resolve those encounters as well. One of the PCs in the game I ran was a top flight negotiator, and he managed to talk his way through half the adventure, whereas the other PC would certainly have had to fight.

4) The system, once you get the dice symbols down, is both simple and flexible. Struggling to explain some of the "Yes, but..." and "No, but..." results can be a problem, but in a pinch you can always hand out Boost and Setback dice to keep it moving.

5) The Force system is great in that it can force "Conflict" without automatically turning you to the Dark Side. Essentially, it randomizes your concentration and emotions (based on your Force Rating), providing actual incentive to tap into darker feelings to use The Force.

6) It convinced me to not only buy the Force and Destiny rulebook, but Age of the Rebellion and Edge of the Empire as well.

The Super Villain Handbook (Fainting Goat Games)

1) Available in ICONS, Fate and Supers! versions, each villain archetype has a set of sample stats for the system in question.

2) If you have the Field Guide to Superheroes, it has an appendix that discusses how to tweak those archetypes into villains.

3) The focus is on who the villains are, not what they can do. The ability to shoot bolts of energy from their eyes should define a good villain less than that they are a white supremacist who is using that power to "cleanse the genepool".

4) Multiple examples are provided for each archetype to draw a mental connection between the character types and actual villains you have actually read about.

5) Each entry breaks down not only the abilities that the archetype is likely to have, but the qualities they are likely to have, as well as the stories you can tell with them. This is useful to drive home the fact that there is more than one way to make an Assassin, or a Mastermind or a Cult Leader.

6) This book is at least as useful to me as a writer as it is for me as a GM. Honestly, even if you're running a supers RPG that this book hasn't been released for, it's still a valuable resource. It's that good.

And now, for the part you have all been waiting for...The Birthday Blog Giveaway! The blog turned six years old today, and we have prizes! Send me an email to "tommybrownell(a)gmail(dot)com" with the subject "Birthday Blog Giveaway" and send me your choices for prizes in order of preference. The prizes are:

- Two (2) PDF copies of AMP: Year One.
-  One (1) PDF copy of High Strung.
- One (1) PDF copy of the Victims of the Demon Lord Starter's Guide.
- One (1) PDF Copy of The Super Villain Handbook (ICONS, FATE or SUPERS!, your choice)
- One (1) Print Copy of The Super Villain Handbook (ICONS)
- One (1) Print Copy of The Super Villain Handbook (FATE)
- One (1) Print Copy of The Super Villain Handbook (SUPERS!)
- One (1) set of Laser Cut Wood and 3D Printed Gaming Terrain by Daft Concepts

For the Print Prizes and the gaming terrain, I can only ship them to the continental US, sorry. All entries are required by 11:59 Central time on 1/14, after which I will select winners! I do require a valid email address to provide to publishers for the digital rewards, and valid US mailing addresses for the physical rewards!

Good luck, thank you to the publishers for the prize support, and thank you to everyone who is still reading!

Tommy's Take on Shadow of the Demon Lord

Earlier in the year, I called Shadow of the Demon Lord "the RPG I was most looking forward to". When it was released, I gushed about it. This weekend, I actually got a chance to run it, for my son and one of my longtime players. So this is my actual play review of Shadow of the Demon Lord by Schwalb Entertainment. I ran the Survival of the Fittest and Apple of Her Eye adventures, so some spoilers for those may be included.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

East Texas University: Freshman Year - Meet The Cast!

So we have started East Texas University, and I am probably going to post my ETU stuff up here on the blog, for those interested. With this campaign, I went the route of having the group "cast" their characters with actors and such.

I'll try to keep up with at least rudimentary actual plays as well.

SO...let's meet the cast of ETU: Freshman Year!

Russ "Bad Moon" Rison, Pinebox Texas' Favorite Son!

Russ "Bad Moon" Rison (three time State Champion Quarterback) had his season - and dreams of being a Texas Longhorn - ended when he tore up his knee his Senior year. His cannon arm and football mind, combined with an intense rehab schedule, left him in prime position for a scholarship from the ETU Ravens, especially when his old Wide Receiver "Racin'" Mason Holmes transferred from Texas University after being cut from the Longhorns for disciplinary reasons.

"Bad Moon" and "Racin'" Mason are dead set on leading ETU to its best football years ever...even if players keep mysteriously disappearing.

Major: Agriculture (But really football)
Extracurricular Activity: Athlete
Agility: d4
Smarts: d6
Spirit: d8
Strength: d8
Vigor: d6

Cha: 0     Pace: 6     Parry: 5     Toughness: 5     Academics: 0

Local Favorite

Party Animal
Trouble Magnet
Minor Phobia (Woods)

Knowledge (Agriculture) d6
Fighting d6
Tracking d6
Boating d4
Driving d4
Shooting d4
Throwing d6
Knowledge (Football) d6
Notice d4

Used Pick with slick tires (-1 to Driving)

Becka Nicole Lane, Just a Girl, Trying to Make Her Way in the World

Becka came to ETU mostly because it was affordable. Here for her teaching degree, she gets pulled along into wacky adventures by her roommate Brandi, who is a Pinebox native and Bad Moon's biggest fan. Becka and Brandi are a liiiittle on the scatterbrained side, though Becka takes life and college a little more serious than Brandi does. Becka hasn't talked much about her life before ETU, but her sweet appearance seems to hide a harder edge.

Major: Education
Extracurricular Activity: Tutoring
Agility: d8
Smarts: d6
Spirit: d6
Strength: d4
Vigor: d8

Cha: 0     Pace: 6     Parry: 5     Toughness: 6     Academics: -2

Fast Healer

Major Phobia (Bugs)
Annoying Roommate (Brandi)

Knowledge (Education) d4
Fighting d6
Shooting d6
Driving d6
Healing d4
Notice d6
Lockpicking d6
Streetwise d4
Persuasion d4

Used Midsized Car with an engine that slips (-10 to top speed)

Jonathan T. Wolfwood, aka Europe, The Vampire of Pennsylvania

Jonathan T. Wolfwood, Anthropology Major and son of the East Coast Wolfwoods, has come to ETU to get out from under the thumb of his overprotective parents (yeah, right). While he is genuinely curious about the mysteries of the world, he is quick to rationalize anything out of the ordinary, even when the supernatural is staring him in the face. "Racin'" Mason and "Bad Moon" Rison are convinced he's a homosexual European vampire, but they don't care, as long as he can kick a football (which he can't, and has no interest in doing).

Major: Anthropology
Extracurricular Activity: Part-Time Job (Teacher's Aide)
Agility: d6
Smarts: d8
Spirit: d6
Strength: d4
Vigor: d6

Cha: +2     Pace: 6     Parry: 2     Toughness: 5     Academics: +2

Test Taker

Doubting Thomas
Overprotective Parents

Knowledge (Anthropology) d6
Healing d4
Investigation d6
Notice d6
Repair d4
Driving d4
Shooting d6
Swimming d4
Taunt d6

New Pick-Up Truck

With Special Guest Stars (aka NPCs)...

"Racin'" Mason Holmes

Mason Holmes could have been a huge college star if he had kept his head on straight, but his freshman year at Texas University ended with him kicked off the football team for disciplinary issues, and him transferring to ETU, where his former High School Quarterback "Bad Moon" Rison was about to start school. Mason...isn't the brightest tool in the shed, laser focused on football above all else, and his views towards women are a bit...suspect...but he is loyal to a fault.

Major: Undeclared (But really football)
Agility: d10
Smarts: d4
Spirit: d6
Strength: d6
Vigor: d6

Cha: +4     Pace: 8     Parry: 5     Toughness: 5

Very Attractive

Major Phobia (Fire)

Climbing d6
Driving d6
Fighting d6
Notice d4
Intimidation d6
Persuasion d6

Brandi Jo Miller, Becka's Roommate and Bad Moon's Girlfriend (Maybe)

Brandi is Pinebox born and bred, and has a huge crush on "Bad Moon" Rison. They had Chemistry class together and she once accidentally caused Bad Moon to fail a test, because she let him cheat off of her notes, which were kind of bad. She has decided that her and Becka will be besties, and her and Bad Moon are totally going to be a thing, to the point that she's considering trying out for the Ravens Cheer Squad.

Major: Criminal Justice
Agility: d6
Smarts: d6
Spirit: d6
Strength: d4
Vigor: d6

Cha: +2     Pace: 6     Parry: 2     Toughness: 5


Fraidy Cat

Driving d6
Knowledge (Criminal Justice) d4
Notice d6
Persuasion d6
Taunt d6

And there's the main cast! Stats actually reflect two adventures down (which I'll try to get recapped soon).

Friday, October 23, 2015

Tommy's Take on Star Wars Force and Destiny Beginner Game

Star Wars is kind of a big deal. I tend to be kinda ambivalent, though I love the idea of Star Wars. I own (and have played) Star Wars d6 2nd Edition, d20 and Saga Edition, and have enjoyed the former and the latter. As a belated birthday present, I received the Star Wars Force and Destiny Beginner Game, which I ran for my 11 year old son and one of my longtime gamer buddies.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Three Kickstarters and a Sale

Hey all, just popping in to boost the signal for three Kickstarters and a sale that you need to be aware of (see, it's right there in the title)!


The Darkmoor RPG is a zany, over the top, video game inspired RPG that pulls from all kinds of pop culture elements. You define your race and class, and even have to provide all of your own drawings (actually talent hopefully not needed). You beat the cash out of enemies, level up in glowing bursts of light, and create hyper awesome special moves. Paul "Wiggy" Wade-Williams, of Triple Ace Games, has agreed to write a minisupplement for the game, and you can download an Introductory Guide that gives you a better idea of how the game works. The project is already funded, though not by a comfortable margin, with four days left to go, and you can pick up digital, softcover or hardcover rewards.


With five days left to go, Rippers Resurrected has demolished its funding goal and all but one of their stretch goals - a print compilation of the adventures unlocked as stretch goals, which will be given free to backers of the print levels. Rippers Resurrected as a sequel to the Rippers setting/plot point campaign (which is included as one of the stretch goals) in which Victorian monster hunters find and defeat monsters and "rip" their body parts and special abilities and add them to their bodies to gain an edge against the monsters...all while trying not to lose their grip on humanity. Pinnacle has a stellar track record on Kickstarter fulfillment, and the PDFs are set for delivery before Halloween so you can run Rippers for your group if you like. You can also add Savage Tales of Horror to your pledge, including my Deadlands adventure in vol. 2!


Hot on the heels of the fulfillment of the Apocalypse Prevention Inc. 2nd Edition Kickstarter, Eloy Lasanta is overhauling Wu Xing: The Ninja Crusade into a slightly less "crunchy" and more cinematic RPG. I have made no bones about what a fan of the first edition I am, and I was both nervous and intrigued by this upcoming 2nd edition. Dispensing with the d20-based Dynamic Gaming System, the 2nd edition will use the Chakra System, a d10 die pool system. Another huge improvement is supposed to be a system for making enemies up on the fly, very useful for a game such as The Ninja Crusade that leans heavily on PC-like foes over a bestiary. The Ninja Crusade still needs over $3,000 to hit their funding goal, but they have 19 days left to hit it. Third Eye Games has a sterling track record for Kickstarter fulfillment as well, so you can pledge with confidence.


In the Halloween spirit, Rafael Chandler - one of the sickest, most twisted RPG authors I know, and I mean that as a compliment - has offered seemingly everything in his back catalog (aside from SlaughterGrid, it seems) as Pay What You Want (including nothing) through Halloween. I, personally, recommend Pandemonio, which is his revision of his Dread and Spite RPGs, but you really don't have anything to lose by taste-testing any of his stuff, do you? And if you like what you read, go back and "buy" the PDFs. That's kinda how Pay What You Want works.