Thursday, June 2, 2022

HAWT gets an Exalted Funeral!


I know I have been silent about this project for some time but when we last left out heroes I was preparing a Kickstarter campaign for Have Axe, Will Travel. Due to college and the order of my projects my kickstarter manager had before more the campaign was on a slow burn. It did not bother me to much because of how busy I was and I knew I would not be able to give the attention I needed to the campaign.

Well, about a month ago an opportunity presented itself for my game to get picked up by a publishing company and given support (which includes a print run) without the need for crowdfunding (it was stressing me out to be honest). I cannot state enough how stoked I am to be provided with this opportunity. 

I have been playing this close to my chest to make sure all the details got hammered out and everything had the green light. This week I was given permission to make the announcement so here it is...

Have Axe, Will Travel is getting picked up by Exalted Funeral!

With this, there is going to be:

  • High Quality Print Run 
  • PDF Options
  • Brick and Mortar Stores will be able to order copies through ACD (so don't forget to support your FLGS)
  • Promotions/Sales

The physical product is going to be 8.5in x 11in black and white saddle stitch eldritch tome weighing in at 52 pages including the covers. It is looking like the physical copies are going to $10 and the PDF is going to be $6. Below is the barcode if you want to prepare to be able to order it from your FLGS.

We are planning to release it during the week of July 15th, 2022!

I want to thank everyone for the support and continued support of this project. It could not have been possible without the support and I am hoping to be able to release more resources for Have Axe, Will Travel in the future.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

S&B: Twin Cities Edition has been released!

After a lot of hard work, my Twin Cities hack of Sword and Backpack has been released. I have been looking forward to this for some time. The “dev logs” can be found here. 

It has been released on Itch. The character sheets are included in the downloads. 

Even though this project has been completed, is it not the end of my love affair with Sword and Backpack.  There are multiple plans I have in the works for this game. 
  1. In the near future, there will be an at cost Print on Demand version from Drivethrurpg. 
  2. There will be a zine that will include rules for character growth and some adventures. I have not decided on a name for the zine or any specifics yet but there will be something soon. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Thoughts on ICRPG


So, I am not sure what this post is really going to be but I have a feeling that it is going to a pseudo review and just my thoughts on the game in the general. 

I first discovered ICRPG when its 2nd Edition was released years ago. I was really excited for it after reading through the quick start and  I ended up ordering all of the books for it and reading through the book off and on. I ran some demos of it at a local store and then I got involved in some other campaigns and my focus for ICRPG fell to the way side. The books eventually ended up on my bookshelf and I moved on to other personal projects. During this time I forgot how amazing ICRPG was and how much it really did things right in my book. 

To be honest, I forgot about ICRPG until the Master Edition was released in conjunction with Modiphius.  I got excited about the game all over again and I picked up a Master Edition copy as soon as I able to. I spent a lot of time reading through it and then I got connected with the Patreon which quickly led to getting connected with the Shield Wall and the community at large. I also had the opportunity to interview the owner of Runehammer Games Hankerin Ferinale, which was an great opportunity. This also happened to be the first interview I have ever done on my blog and Hankerin Ferinale or Mr. Hank as I have come to refer to him as has been great to communicate with. I also cannot say enough good things about the Shield Wall (the community of ICRPG fans and other Runehammer Games). Everyone has been really welcoming and helpful. There has also been some great off topic conversations and I have met some good people. 

Though, what really made everything click into place for me about ICRPG was the videos from Kane. His Youtube channel is called Kane's Kiln and I cannot recommend his videos enough. As I was watching them, I was taking some notes and nodding my head. 

Anyway, before I go on I should probably talk about the system and a few other things first so everyone has a reference point. One of the many design principals behind ICRPG is that characters, rooms in a dungeon, etc. should be able to fit on an index card. Yep, that is what the IC stands for in ICRPG - Index Card Role Playing Game. 

Creating a character consists of a couple steps.

  1. Determine a Concept
  2. Choose Your Life Form (Functions as race or heritage)
  3. Choose Your Type (Functions has class, archetype, etc)
  4. Write a One Line Story
  5. Assign 6 points to the core states (STR, DEX, CON, INT, WIS, CHA)
  6. Calculate Defense (10 + CON + Loot Bonuses)
  7. Assign 4 points to Effort (Basic, Weapon, Gun, Energy/Magic, and Ultimate)
  8. Locate Status Information (All heroes start out with 1 heart - 10hp, there is a space for a hero coin, and a mastery track)
  9. Record Abilities (these are things that are intrinsic to your character, can't be lost. Characters start off with one and can gain more through progression)
  10. Record Powers/Augments (If playing in setting where these are used)
  11. Get LOOT! (choose one starting loot from your type and three basic loot from your world)

With everything recorded, you add up the appropriate bonuses and are ready to go on an adventure.

The basic resolution mechanic is 1d20 + modifier vs. a target number. This resolution covers everything. With this core mechanic, it creates three types of actions. Though as usual. GMs can resort to free form percentile chances if a character wants to attempt something. 

And three types of turns once a situation is triggered where play gets broken down into rounds.

I know what you are are thinking, seen one d20 system seen them all right? WRONG! ICRPG takes what you think you know and forges it into something fresh, intuitive, and smooth. The game does this multiple ways.

Target Numbers: So, instead of having different target numbers for different things in the same room or scene, having adversaries with different armor classes, etc. Each room, scene, situation has a single target number. This single target number encompasses all tasks and how hard the adversaries are to hit. If the fiction/ability/loot decides to make a situation or adversary harder or easier, it is a simple +3/-3 modifier to the target number. There are some great resources like target cards out there for quick reference at the table and to show all of the players what the target number is. 

Effort: This aspect of ICRPG really turned on the light bulb in my head and I think it is a part of the ICRPG that really shines. Effort is way for characters to accomplish their goals, especially in extended situations. 

Each character has multiple types of effort they have access to.:

  • Basic d4: Efforts with bare hands
  • Weapon & Tools d6: Damage with weapons and whatever situations would benefit from tool use
  • Guns d8: Damage from firearms
  • Energy & Magic d10: Damage and effort from energy based technology or magic
  • Ultimate: This is usually reserved for critical effects or very powerful and rare technology or situations. 
This means, that during an attempt (such as an attack, climbing the Cliffs of Insanity, cracking a safe, hacking into a mainframe, arguing a point in court, etc.) if the target number is met you get to roll effort for effect. Adversaries and other situations have hearts. Each heart equals 10hp. Once your total effort meets the heart requirements, you succeed at the task. Whether that be fighting a zombie or trying to break out of jail. Sometimes, like trying to break down a door, once you meet the target number, the GM will not have the character roll again to hit the target number and will just have the player roll effort. 

Hero Coin: The all powerful meta currency. Any player can only have one hero coin at a time. There are a 1,001 ways to earn one and other players can gift you their hero coin if they see fit in your time of need. Spent a hero coin, and reroll. That easy!

Loot: ICRPG is a Loot based system and this idea is something I have never seen before. There is no traditional level based advancement or much of a linear advancement. Everything is loot based. Outside of some type/bio-form abilities, all of the characters abilities and bonuses come from loot. A character can have 10 equipped pieces of loot and 10 stored pieces of loot. Only the equipped loot can provide bonuses and abilities. It is also important to remember that loot can be lost, destroyed, and stolen!

That last statement translates as power and progression is not permanent and the characters power levels can go and up and down depending on what loot they have and what situation they are in. 

This also takes away the need for a currency based experience system and currency focus of a setting or adventure. So, in town situations become reliant on bartering which I find more RP enriching. Though there are optional rules to introduce currency in the game as well Kane's system on using coin in more of the loot based way.   I prefer Kane's system myself but your mileage may vary. 

Some examples of loot are:
  • Gilly Cloak: Armor, +1 Defense, a leafy cape, roll EASY stealth in natural surroundings
  • Torch: Illuminates NEAR for d8 rounds
  • Mithril Vest: Armor, Subtract 2 from all weapon damage against you
  • Soldiers Rations: Food, heal 1d4 HP

Movement: Instead of having feet, meters, movement squares, five foot steps, etc. There is near, close and far. That is it - easy to manage movement zones. It makes immersion so much easier and more consistent. 

Recovery and Healing: This game really handles healing well and has an action that any character can take! It is the recover action - take an entire turn to catch your breath, slap a bandage on your arm, gather your resolve, and meet or beat the current target number with a Con roll to recover Con +1 HP instantly. Healing can also happen with magical aid, medical aid, and from various other sources. Honestly, I think the recovery action is pure genius. It really gets rid of the need for a traditional party make up (Healer, Tank, DPS, etc.) and stops healing abilities from being locked behind a certain type. 

The most interesting aspect of this is that it also creates resource management. In a crucial moment do you sacrifice your turn for a second wind and maybe prevent your imminent demise or do you soldier on and help your fellows win the day?

Dying: I have experienced a lot of different mechanics for character death and have written my own. Though, ICRPG takes all of that and throws it out the window. When a character reaches 0 HP, they falls unconscious, all effects that they were doing stop, and a d4 is rolled. You got that many rounds before the character bites the dust. Though there are a few things that can migrate the imminent demise. 

The first one being is that every round after the d4 is rolled, roll a d20 and if it is a 20, you stabilize with 1 HP. The second option is someone else can come to your aid and try to stabilize you with a INT or WIS roll. If all your dying rounds pass, no natural 20 is rolled, and no one comes to help you then that is it! No backdoor, no last chance, no deal with Death or the Devil, and no passing the GM his favorite snacks.

GM Section: This is the Coup de Grace of the whole book! It is THE best GM advice I have ever seen in an RPG book and even dethrones my love for the AD&D 1E DM Guide. The section starts off with the OATH OF THE GAME MASTER!!!

I will let that sink in for minute. Go ahead, take your time. Reread it, light some candles, meditate on it.

Alright, welcome back. So this section covers all kinds of things like:
  • Getting Started
  • Locations
  • Thinking in Sessions
  • Sessions Ending/Cliffhangers/Etc
  • Easy/Hard Cases
  • Using Hearts
  • Initiative and Turns
  • Giving Rewards
  • Dynamic Dice
  • ICRPG as Plug-In
  • Story Architecture
  • Three T's
  • Three D's
  • Encounter Architecture
  • Using Cards as Dice
  • Target Numbers
  • Timer Damage
  • Defense Rolls
  • Vehicles
  • Horror Mode
  • Adventure Building the Index Card Way
  • Index Cards
  • Wizards Lock

I could write my thesis on this chapter with a healthy dose of game theory but that is for another time. There is a very important section of this chapter that really helps define how a GM runs ICRPG over other games. This is the...

Three T's: These stand for Timer, Threat, and Treat. This basically means that every encounter has a timer (a time table when something will happen), a threat (monster, trap, etc), and a treat (a way for the characters to overcome the threat). 

For the Timer, the GM rolls a d4 and sets it out on the table for everyone to see. At the bottom of every round the timer tics down. When the d4 reaches 0, something happens. This could be a patrolling monster, a trap is activated, high winds pick up, a door locks, etc. The possibilities are endless. Sorry Mr. Hank, but the GM could even use a d6 depending on the situation or the whims of said GM. I think this creates an living environment where nothing is stagnant waiting on the players actions. I do not know about you but I have been in many frustrating situations where the rest of the party spent why to long trying to come up with and arguing about a plan before entering the next room (I am talking about 30 minutes +). I remember one of these instances, I got so fed up that my character jumped up and yelled "Come on you filthy apes, do you want to live forever?" and charged into the next room. But I digress....

The Threat is exactly what you think it is for the encounter. Is it a monster? A trap? A puzzle? A portal opening? Threats do not always have to be obvious and if the characters are in a dungeon/ruins/haunted mansion/warehouse the threats can change from room to room or however you want to section it up. 

Now we are at the Treat. The treat is basically the key to the puzzle, a way to disarm the trap, the missing scale on the dragon, and so on. It could even be items hidden in the room, secret doors, a piece of a map, a way to deactivate the guardian,  or something to eat. These treats could be out in the open or hidden. The treat could be anything and effective treats should get the players to think outside of brute force and be creative about solving problems. Each threat should have a treat, regardless of how minor.

Before I go into my closing thoughts, there is something else I want to mention. In ICRPG you also get multiple worlds that give you plenty of information that makes it feel alive but there is enough room to make it your own. These worlds span space and time and there is a world for every group. I also think these give a design bases for someone to create their own world. This may just be me, but the term worlds over setting brings to mind the adage, “play worlds not rules”. There is five core worlds in ICRPG that make up its own multiverse if you will. These are:

• ALFHEIM: A continent of kingdoms and conflicts millennia old, all held together in some way by the evil of an ageless dragon called Durathrax. The king has gone missing, powers are shifting, and your friends are caught in the middle.
• WARP SHELL: The cosmos hangs in the balance as our heroes get the ride of their lives on a sentient, space-folding starship with an unerring taste for danger, and a talent for saving the universe.
• GHOST MOUNTAIN: Between heaven and hell, the people of Ghost Mountain fight to save their souls, one bullet at a time. Will the devil get his due?
• BLOOD AND SNOW: Long before the age of technology, a frozen planet holds a primal secret. Tribal folk struggle to understand... and survive.
• VIGILANTE CITY: After the mutant crisis, superhumans begin appearing all over this embattled city. It becomes unclear who the good guys really are...that is, until you and your team arrives to clean up the streets.

Alright, I know a went on a rant about my lost love for the d20. This still holds true but ICRPG is an exception. I think this is because of how smooth and seamless it runs. I really don’t feel like it has anything that slows it down. If I am being honest (sorry for the people I am going to be offend with this statement) ICRPG even makes games like Old School Essentials, Swords and Wizardry, Five Torches Deep, OD&D, etc. feel clunky. I think that is the true magic of ICRPG, it just works, works well, and is flexible. As a person who prefers wilderness scapes and city scapes over drawn out dungeon crawls I can attest that ICRPG works with any play style and it can be as combat heavy or RP focused as the group wants. As stated previously, inside the ICRPG Master Edition there are five different worlds that show you how flexible it can be and functions within these worlds without any major adjustments. You so not need an add on to play in any of the worlds or an additional book or supplemental rules.

Another great aspect that I personally find genius is the use of dynamic dice. One is called Battle Fury - place a d6 on your character sheet at 1 and add that number to the next d20 roll. Every miss bump up the d6 by 1 and use the new number. When a d20 roll succeeds then you reset the d6. The logic behind this is it can can be used in moments where the dice are no one’s friends to help stop a whiffing session. The second one is Spellburn - place a d4 on the 1 and for each spell a caster uses increase the die by one. When the die reaches 4, the caster makes a INT or WIS and if he succeeds, it resets to 1 but if the result is a failure, roll the spellburn die and for that many rounds the caster cannot use spells. This is great for world specific “how magic works” to help to keep casters from becoming to transparent and making the same action over and over again. This brings us to the Blunder - it is a critical fail on a 1 on the d20 with any attempt or check. 

One of my biggest surprises with ICRPG was that I did not feel the need to create house rules that affected any of the core mechanics, character creation, etc. I do have some notes that have come as suggestions from the shield wall that I want to include in my game but they are nothing that affect any mechanics. I do not remember the last time I have experienced this. It was surprise but a pleasant one. I think the only things to watch out for is for the GM to abuse the timer and turn it into a way to punish the players instead of using it to keep the world moving and breathing. 

ICRPG sits in a sweet spot of gaming in many aspects. The design choices obviously come from years of gaming experience with first hand knowledge from multiple games and table interactions. All I can say is pick it up and experience it for yourself and join the shield wall! If for nothing else, then for the layout and the GM section. You can find it here:

Thursday, March 31, 2022

S&B Twin Cities Edition

With my big project almost done, I am able to get back to various projects of love. One of my favorite projects is Sword and Backpack.

With this project, I really wanted to pour some love into so I have spent some time acquiring art, layout, and a character sheet for it. 

The artist I have been working with really captures the style and vibe that S&B gives off. You can find him on Instagram @herbertappleseed or Twitter @lukeryanherbert. He is great to work with. 

I also got back in touch with my layout person Jordan Martin after the holidays and the Twin Cities edition of Sword and Backpack is almost done, just a few final edits.

The final bit of good news is that , James V. West designed a character sheet just for my version of Sword and Backpack. I think it came out amazing and completely captures the idea of the game. There is a single horizontal version and a double landscape version. 

I am really looking forward to seeing this out in the wild. It has been a long time coming and there has been countless changes through playtesting and feedback. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

IOR Membership Cards are Back!


Over ten years ago, I purchased Risus: The Anything RPG Companion and solidified my place in the International Order of Risus as member #635. The membership card quickly became one of my most prized gaming possessions and I was very proud of it. This is in addition to the Companion becoming a great tool for games across the board and rivaling and even surpassing the power of the 1st Edition Dungeon Masters Guide. 

Anyway, in my long distance move my membership card disappeared and could not find it anywhere. I flipped through every book, looked in every box, every drawer, etc. It was nowhere to be found. I reached out to SJR and at the time he was out of cards and as time went on eventually decided to stop doing them so I was never able to get a replacement. 

Now that Risus is under new management , I contacted Dave LeCompte about a replacement and he was able to get new cards made and send me a replacement. Not only did he do this, but he has reinstated the membership cards across the board so new members of the order can get their official membership cards. I think this is a very important, noble, and great thing to do. The entire community and I appreciate these efforts. Also, Dave even included stick figure art!!! Woot!

So, after reading this rant, you are probably wondering what in the nine hells is the International Order of Risus? The IOR is an order for fans of the roleplaying game Risus that adhere to the charter as follows:

Article I - Our Purpose & Motto: The purpose of the Order is to promote, encourage and celebrate Risus, those who enjoy Risus, those who contribute to the Risus community, and the philosophy inherent to its design. Our motto is Imprimatur Domi - "Let it be printed at home."

Article II - Membership Standards: Membership in the Order is exclusive. However, the Order does not exclude members on the basis of sex, age, skin color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, wealth, politics, weight, height, eye color, toenail color, mode of dress, species, quirkiness of speech, religion, specific preference between Kei and Yuri and between the Thin Movie Reviewer and the Fat Movie Reviewer, preference for other game systems, or the lack of any of the preceding. In fact, the weirder you are, the better it is for the Order and the more interesting your personal Clich├ęs will be.

Article III - The Membership Card: Members of the Order bear a physical membership document in the form of a card. This card may be used, for example, to provide access to "all-Risus orgies" hosted at science fiction conventions (should anyone choose to host such a thing). This card must legibly identify the member by number, but otherwise may be of any design. A traditional template is customary, but not mandated, so that the card may be a vehicle for personal expression and/or tiny, tiny animals in need of a raft. Membership numbers unadorned with alphabet codes indicate paid-in-full supporters of Risus. Membership codes prefixed by the letter "C" represent complimentary memberships such as those granted to contributing playtesters, co-conspirators, colleagues, and other things beginning with "C". Membership codes prefixed by the letter "X" represent special memberships, which the bearer must explain if asked by a fellow member. Membership codes prefixed by the letter "F" are forgeries.

Article IV - Preservation, Transferability & Edibility of Card: Members must carry their membership card whenever practicable, and keep it relatively dry. Membership cards are non-transferable and probably aren't edible, though the latter is more a matter of theory than policy.

Article V - Use of Motto and Coat of Arms: Members of the Order are exclusively entitled to emblazon their Risus documents, public and private, with the official Coat of Arms, with the Order's motto, and with any related, cheesy web-graphics provided by the Order for such purposes.

Article VI - Psychic Bedrock: Members must think happy thoughts about Risus at least once per month, in order to provide the psychic bedrock of affection and goodwill on which the game stands, towering over the horizon and broadcasting love to the universe.

Article VII - Casual Relationship with Publisher: Any member of the Order is presumed to be a "pal" of Dave LeCompte, and upon meeting him in person, may - without embarrassment, specific rationale or fear of reproach - ask him to remove his pants. Members of the Order recognize that Dave may choose not to comply with this request, but you never know. Members of the Order may remove their own pants as encouragement.

Article VIII - World Domination: Should any member of the Order, by chance or design, become ruler of the world, he will grant all members of the Order favored positions in his regime (including, but not limited to, well-paid but otherwise meaningless positions in his bureaucracy). Should he fail to do so, and also fail to dissolve the Order by whimsical decree, he shall relinquish his membership in the Order. Members of the Order recognize that domination of a larger area or dimensional multiplicity that includes the whole of the planet Earth is, for the purposes of Order policy, equivalent to world domination for this purpose.

Article IX - The Companion: Members of the Order have exclusive and perpetual access to The Risus Companion, but may extend access in the form of hardcopy printouts provided without charge to Risus gamers at their gaming table. Members recognize that floors, decks, beds, swimming pools and trampolines are the equivalent of tables for the purposes of this policy. The Risus Companion also serves - through specific references - as the Order's secret codebook for unlocking members-only archive files, providing passwords for secret gatherings, et cetera.

Article X - Community & Mutual Affection: Members of the Order will maintain a sense of community by gathering at conventions, game retailers and game clubs whenever possible, and by hugging. Individual gatherings may exclude some members of the Order on the basis of age, depending on applicable statute and how much rampant sex and alcohol is meant to be present, or on the basis of the possible successful invocation of Article VII.

Article XI - Maintenance of Mystique: When discussing the Order with outsiders, Members are free and encouraged to invent secret handshakes, code-phrases, and imply connections to the occult in order to maintain the Order's mystique. All such references should be vaguely (or overtly) titillating when practicable.

Article XII - Gentle Conquest: No member of the Order shall create any publicly presented Risus document (supplement, campaign, et al) that implies that the Companion is necessary to enjoy Risus. Furthermore, no member of the Order will ever suggest that any Risus game, played or described by any Risus gamer (member of the Order or not) is being played incorrectly. It is the solemn belief of the Order that we are capable of much subtler, more creative and friendlier ways of imposing our iron will upon an unsuspecting universe.

The next question is, how does one become part of this amazing order? Well, there is three easy steps.

  1. Purchase the Risus Companion
  2. Be a Champion of the Charter
  3. Contact Dave LaCompte with proof of purchase and he will get you sorted out as soon as he can. 
Also, do not forget to check out Risusverse! A great place where the community hosts their content. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

Interview: Runehammer Games


I have had the great opportunity to correspond with the owner of Runehammer Games on various topics and I was honored to be able to set up this interview. I am excited about this because it is the first interview on this blog and I hope it will not be the last. 

Runehammer Games is the producer of the Index Card RPG, Viking Death Squad, Alfheim novels, podcasts, and all kinds of other gaming goodness. 

Without further ado, we shall begin...


Me: Go ahead and introduce yourself.

Mr. Hank: My name is Brandish Gilhelm / Hankerin Ferinale. I'm the creator of Runehammer. I do artwork, writing, game design and more to manifest all of Runehammer's role playing goodies.

Me: How and when did you get first into gaming?
Mr. Hank: It was 1987 or so. I had Rifts and Turtles in Time by Paladium. We started hacking those together, discovered GURPS, and created  our first true homebrew called LIVING WEAPON. In a few years, we found out about D&D and Fantasy Hero. I had a legendary GM in high school named Dave who showed me the true wonders the hobby could include. Never looked back!

Me: What are some of your favorite early gaming memories?
Mr. Hank: Ha! Too many! I had a character named Jack Van Danicker. He had a goats hoof hilt on his sword that slowly turned him into a goat. In his final phase, almost losing all human thoughts, he was disintegrated trying to defend his allies from our final foe: an evil wizard collecting souls in an enormous gem. It was epic.

Me: What inspired you to start designing the Index Card RPG?
Mr. Hank: As GM year after year after year, I lived and died by index cards. It's just how I did everything, even terrain. With a sharpie and cards I could do anything. I had a group in about 2011 who wanted to try something new, so I homebrewed a system that really celebrated the cards. While at conventions for work I would make all these fun sharpie cards and it just clicked.

Me: Can you explain your initial design process?
Mr. Hank: For me it all starts with being a  fan. I get psyched about something and latch on like a dog with a bone. I 'see' into whatever it may be, thinking 'man, this could go all kinds of places!' then I just struggle to jot down as many ideas as I can. Then I start cleaning it up, writing it properly, and talking with friends about the core ideas. 90% of things I try get tossed. When ideas just flow, though, and my little cabal is feeling the flow... I can finish given time. So, in short: total chaos lol.

Me: What was/is your goal for Index Card RPG?
Mr. Hank: I wanted to make a meaningful contribution to this hobby. Something that faced the challenges of a for-real weekly GM head on. I wanted to stand up, rock solid, for all the GMs out there adrift in the options and the myths and the bad advice. I also just wanted to share my methods with everyone as a fan of the hobby in general. I've been a game design professional for years and years, so I also wanted to break free of employment and be independent!

Me: What is your favorite aspect of Index Card RPG?
Mr. Hank: Probably the friendly voice of it. There is a weird vein in some RPG products that sort of 'talk down' to the reader. I don't like that at all. The voice in ICRPG just feels like hanging out, being honest. I'm proud of that.

Me: The Index Card RPG has recently been released in a new Master Edition, what are the changes between 2nd edition and the new Master Edition?
Mr. Hank: Heheh this one. There are numerous forum threads and long comment chains about this. Basically it aggregates and revises the 3 main books that comprised 2e. Lots of new art, cleaner layouts, a few classes swapped out or revamped. Basically just processing the 'playtest' of over 10,000 readers worldwide.

Me: Speaking of the Master Edition, it is being distributed by Modiphius. How did that partnership come about?
Mr. Hank: Ha! Crazy. This guy Chris just hits me up. Mind you, I get dozens and dozens of messages every day. "Hey ICRPG is super dope, you do commissions?" "YEah sure," "Oh also, if you ever want to get into retail, hit me back." So we get to talking, turns out is teh FOUNDER of Modiphius just directly talking to me, offering a huge publishing and distro partnership. "Let's do it."

Me: You also have another game being distributed by Modiphius called Viking Death Squad. Can you tell me about this game?
Mr. Hank: It's various materials speak well for it, youtube reviews and such are coming up now too. It started as an idea to make a one-shot from a Black Sabbath song back in 2017. Undead vikings take on Lucifer, huge iron coffins fall from space.. normal stuff.

Me: What is the system that powers the Viking Death Squad? How does it play out?
Mr. Hank: It's a D6 dice pool jam, roll-over mechanics and 'hit' type mechanics similar to a hybrid of WEG STAR WARS and SHADOWRUN 2e. It uses 6D6, has no HP, just armor. It plays very very fast and terribly deadly, but with a lot of fun heavy metal tones.

Me: Outside of your own games, what is your favorite RPG? Why?
Mr. Hank: Oh wow... brutal question. Probably D&D2e or Fantasy Hero. Maybe GURPS Conan. Hell, Ars Magica was awesome too. Then there's Torchbearer... what was the question? lol

Me: What are some of your favorite genres to play in?
Mr. Hank: Everything but post apoc or modern. I don't feel like modern settings provide any escape. Fantasy is supreme.

Me: Who do you enjoy working with in the industry? 
Mr. Hank: All the unknowns. I like it underground, and I only play with friends. I'm a big authenticity guy, so keeping it close is key.

Me: Do you have any favorite dice? If so, what are they?
Mr. Hank: Chessex yellows, Hand mades by @monomakes and the Norse Foundry stuff.

Me: What advice can you give about people working on their own games? 
Mr. Hank: Just do it, be yourself, work harder than anyone you know, let your freak flag fly to the max, and work on D&D stuff in public. Best way to meet like minded weirdos. If you're the smartest guy in the room, find a new room.

Me: What advice would you give for new Game Master's picking up Index Card RPG for the first time? New Players? 
Mr. Hank: Let go of linear progression in all ways. Hell, let go of everything... take ICRPG for what it is, not as a derivative of something else.

Me: How has the pandemic affected your gaming style?
Mr. Hank: Too much online play! Online is key for distant homies, but not all the time. Shoo pandemic! SHOO!

Me: Are you working on anything new? If so, what?
Mr. Hank: I am currently building a book called HARD SUIT.. a crazy world for ICRPG. I'm always doing other doo-dads, like a piece called MANIFESTO... it's a fun 'how to think' opus for deep-minded GMs. Ask me next week, I might say something else lol

Me: What is one of your best gaming experiences? 
Mr. Hank: Oh man. College Tiamat battle, my recent OSE campaign, watching the old Scotty videos, drawing people's characters while we play...

Me: If someone would like to work with Runehammer games or use your system in their own creation, what is the processes for both?
Mr. Hank: Email me. Every case is different and I work closely with all kinds of folks.

Me: Is there anything else you would like to share?
Mr. Hank: The best path, imho, to great RPG hobby life is being an honorable, kind, generous, energetic, attentive friend. If you can do that, the rest just happens!

Well that is the end of the interview, though there is so many more topics we could discuss and endless details we can go into. I cannot recommend enough getting your hands on Index Card RPG or Viking Death Squad. Index Card RPG has changed the way I look at roleplaying games, the design of them, and playing them for the better. 
Below are all the important links: 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Review: Tiny Cthulhu


 "We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far." - H.P. Lovecraft

I have been a long time fan of the Mythos and investigative/mystery focused gaming. I have played many different Cthulhu based games but most of them tend to be overly complicated for my tastes. I am really excited to dive into Tiny Cthulhu. It recently had a very successful kickstarter campaign.

Disclaimer: I was given a PDF copy for review purposes. 

Before I dig into it, Tiny Cthulhu has done something that I have not seen in a Mythos game before. At the beginning of the book before you get into the game proper there is a disclaimer that discusses the failings of Lovecraft. These failings include how he was racist and how there is explicit and racist overtones in some of his writing. Alan Bahr goes on to explain that they do not support that ideology and none of those tones will be found in Tiny Cthulhu. A part of me thinks this is unneeded but I also understand it is a shield against those people that would cry foul. 

Presentation: Tiny Cthulhu has a full color hardback cover with 177 pages of single column black and white interior. The interior pages have some clean shading around the edges to give it a stained look. The art matches the theme of the Mythos and is done in black and white. Before you even get into character creation or things like that the book gives you the entire run down of how to play, how combat works, corruption, rest, healing, saves, and so forth. All of the Tiny games do this and I think it makes it easier understand the rest of the book. This is because you already have reference. After this you get the various chapters relating to investigator creation and then the GM section that talks about the Mythos, best practices, rules for more of a Noir or pulpy game, innovations, bestiary, cults, etc. Tiny Cthulhu has an organized table of contents and comes chalk full of micro settings, to be exact there are ten of them. It is really a clean laid out book that is easy to navigate. 

Character Creation: The creation of the investigator follows these steps:

1. Choose your Archetype: The choices are Investigator, Dilletante, Explorer, Mystic, Spiritualist, Inventor, Soldier, Veteran, and Writer. The archetypes determine starting hit points, corruption thresholds, and starting bonus traits. 

2.Select Traits: Choose three traits from a list of 44. These include Acrobat, Alchemist, Armor Master, Barfighter, Beastspeaker, Berserker, Blacksmith, Brawler, Charismatic, Cleave, Dark-Fighter, Defender, Diehard, Drunken Master, Dungeoneer, Educated, Eidetic Memory, Familiar, Fleet of Foot, Healer, Insightful, Inured, Lucky, Marksman, Martial Artist, Nimble Fingers, Opportunist, Perceptive, Quartermaster, Quick Shot, Resolute, Shield Bearer, Shrink, Sneaky, Sound Mind, Tome Reader, Sorcerer, Strong, Survivalist, Tough, Tracker, Trapmaster, Vigilant, and Wealthy.

3.Select a Weapon group to be proficient with: These include Light Melee, Heavy Melee, Light Ranged, and Heavy Melee. 

4.Select a Family Trade: There is not list for family trades but it is the jobs you were exposed to growing up or it can even be used as what you did before you become a Investigator. 

5.Record your Driving Belief: All Investigators have a driving belief that is recorded on their character sheet. This is a very important point about the character. It could be something simple like, "I can always talk my way out anything." 

6. Final Touches: You also get an investigators kit and $50 bucks in your pocket. 

Characters are not defined by classes or anything of the sort. The archetypes provide a worldview and some starting flavor. Then the traits (and the rest of the role play sections) help flesh out your character. 

Resolution: This resolves around making tests the require a 2d6 roll and the test is successful if any of the dice come up a 5 or 6. Some magic, traits, and gaming fiction can give the player advantage to the roll which means 3d6 are rolled. Certain situations can also lead to disadvantage on the roll which means 1d6 is rolled. In a situation where advantage and disadvantage happens at the same the disadvantage mechanics prevail unless magic or some type of powerful alchemy is involved (then the advantage mechanics win because MAGIC!). Tests can be considered normal tests, an obstacle test, or a save test. The resolution is the same but the story that triggers the test is different.

Resolution: Like most Tiny Games, the rules are light but it is still important to mention some of the mechanics. These also include corruption which is Tiny Cthulhu's from of Sanity or Insanity?

  • Corruption: Corruption Saves are a special situational save that results from the degrading of the psyche in dealing with the Mythos, other unknowns, and even magic. Each archetype has a Corruption rating and on a failed save, they lose 1d6 days as madness takes over their mind. It is up to the Referee to decide what happens in those six days and how it can effect the rest of the world or party. This madness can be forgone by spending a corruption point. When all corruption points are gone, the character has lost their mind and mist be committed to a mental hospital. There are ways to recover Corruption points from rest to treatment. There are guidelines for imposing corruption tests but are split into mundane and the supernatural. Mundane things like fining a corpse are only tested for once (so subsequent corpses don;t trigger an additional save) but seeing a great old one will always trigger a save. There is a handle table to reference and the only way to gain advantage on a corruption test is with a trait.
  • Traits: These give the character some type of boon such as advantage in certain situations, a new skill set, or even some background ability such as being Wealthy. They are bought on a 1 for 1 system and have no tiers. Traits also have a movie quote attached to he description which gives them a lot of flavor and for those familiar with other Tiny d6 games, a lot of these traits can be found in the other games.
  • Combat: Combat is broken down to the following steps:
  1.  Initiative: Each participant rolls 2d6 and adds them together. The turn order becomes highest to lowest. If there is a tie between an enemy and a super the super always goes first. If there is a tie between supers, the players re-roll until the tie is broken to see who goes first on the original initiative. 
  2. Actions: Each character has two two actions during their initiative turn. These are usually made up of being able to move and attack. Though a character can move twice or attack twice. There are also two special actions the character can do. The first one is Focus that changes the success rate for the next attack to 4, 5, or 6 (the focus action remains in effect until the character attacks or the combat ends). The second special action is Evade which allows allows the character to passively dodge incoming attacks. Until the beginning of your next turn, you can test 1d6 when successfully hit by an enemy - if the test is successful the attack is dodged. 
  3. Resolving Damage: Each successful attack deals a 1 point of damage unless modified by magic or trait, story circumstances, or if the character is using a heavy weapon (which deals a base of 2 damage but can only be used to attack with once per round).  
  4. Death: When a character reaches zero hit points that are knocked unconscious and are going to perish without help. At the beginning of a combat round you can only test to stabilize yourself. If you pass, you regain consciousness with 1 hp. If you fail, you got one more attempt next round at disadvantage. A failure on the second attempt results in the characters demise. Healing medicine and other ways could also save your character as assistance from another character making a check on their turn could stabilize as well.
  5. Option Rule - Range Bands: There is an optional rule that includes the use of range bands which are (and the actions that can be taken to and for each range band) Close (Light Melee, Heavy Melee, Magic), Near (Heavy Melee, Ranged, Magic), and Far (Ranged, Magic). Close roughly translates as within 5ft, Near roughly translates as 10-15ft, and Far is everything else. During combat the enemies remain stationary and the heroes move around them most of the time. It takes a move action to shift between each range band. 
  • Experience/Advancement: Tiny Cthulhu provides two different options for advancement. The first advancement is the minimalist advancement and characters gain a new trait every 3 sessions but cannot have more then 7 traits. If a trait would be gained after a character has the maximum of 7, the player can switch out a non archetype trait for new one. The second advancement track is where the GM passes out about 1-4 experience points a session and these experience points be spent to permanently increase the characters HP Capacity by 1 (6xp), a new proficient or mastered weapon (8xp), or a new trait (10xp).
  • Everything Else: Well, all other actions that could trigger a test are resolved by role playing and said role playing could cause advantage or disadvantage (or some traits may cause advantage).

Final Thoughts: The tiny d6 system does the Mythos great justice. I have been at many a Cthulhu game table where we got stuck looking up rules or slogging through sanity searing situations, combat, or clue finding. I think these iteration of the Mythos goes a long way in keeping the players immersed in the story. 

There is threw things I really like about the Tiny Cthulhu. The first that characters are not deeply tied to their archetypes like a general class system. You can have a Mystic that is good with a sword or a soldier that has picked up some magic and so forth. The second thing is the corruption mechanics. Instead of it being a mechanical slog or a quick way to lose your character in a single session it enforces the genre in a positive way. Instead of taking away player agency it gives them a choice and there is some built in buffers so you do not have to make roll for each body you find or whatever cult antics you come across. I also like how finding treatment and some of the other methods of regaining the Corruption threshold can become a side quest and a good opportunity for roleplay that does not directly involve the Mythos. Another great aspect regarding Corruption is magic as just knowing magic permanently breaks some of your sanity and your total corruption threshold is reduced on an permanent manner. Knowledge can be a dangerous thing. Speaking of magic, the Healing trait is stated that it is due to medical knowledge and not necessary magic. The last thing I really like are micro settings. That provide some many different ideas then the standard issue 1920s vibe. My two favorite ones are Under a Blood Red Sky (where basically a 1800s western town gets mysterious transported into an alternate world with Mythos horrors and the characters are part of that town. The other setting is Arkham High - a little Goonies vibe with Mythos. Each micro setting has setting information, hooks, and a whats really going on explanation. 

Now, with that being said, I do wish there would have been more setting specific traits, GM advice for running the Mythos, and more information regarding all of the great older ones.  I am hoping some of this information we will see in a supplement down the road. 

You can find Tiny Cthulhu at the following places:

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