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Unbridled Blade: Session 3.4
Session 3.4: The dark walkers proved openly hostile toward Achindra after he had used magic, but the PCs convinced them to take them to Dazan Drune using a secret tunnel. The PCs discovered that the rats they had seen earlier were sentient and also servants of the mad wizard. The rats seemed less hostile toward their master than the dark walkers, and explained that the sorcerer's melancholy was brought about by the leaving of his daughter, Rosa, who was also the Pale Lady that the PCs had heard haunting the walls of Targrim. As the PCs were led to Dazan, the dark walkers tried to kill Achindra by setting a chimera on him. After the chimera was defeated, the PCs ventured into the tower and confronted Dazan Drune, only to find him a sad, lonely old man. As they convinced Dazan to take them all to Targrim, Leviathan attacked, professing his undying love for Rosa. The PCs defeated Leviathan and his body fell from the top of the tower as mist rolled in from all around.

Shadows of the Demon Lord
Another KS, another $1. :) Seriously, KS continues to provide great RPG by great RPG, even when viewed by a discerning eye. The latest offering that has caught my attention is "Shadow of the Demon Lord" by Rob Schwalb - http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/432417423/shadow-of-the-demon-lord.

Over the last few year, the RPGs that I have been interested in seem to fall in two camps:
1. "Traditional style" RPGs that are great for campaign play; and
2. "Indie style" RPGs that are great for one-off or short term play.

There have been very little "Traditional style" RPGs that are for one-shot or short term play. Which is a shame as many of my best one-shot games at Kapcon and the like have be in a traditional style. Generally, the only way to make it work is to hack the system to bits. In fact, most "traditional style" RPGs that are for one-shot or short term play try and achieve this by making the rules as simple as possible, which I find to be unsatisfactory.

Shadow of the Demon Lord is a traditional style RPG that is great for one-off or short term play. Rob Schwalb is an RPG designer that I highly respect. His work on D&D5e, WFRP2e, Star Wars Saga and Song of Ice of Fire shows a high awareness of works well at the table and not just on the page, and he avoids mechanics that don't work well due to overlap, being unnecessary or undercooked, or being just plain kooky.

Shadow of the Demon Lord clearly launches itself off of the back of D&D5e, which exhibits amazing yet subtle mechanical design with a fun system that retains and even celebrates a traditional style RPG. The other RPG that features strongly is a personal favourite of mine, being WFRP 2e. This RPG features in a number of ways, especially the setting which is dark and horrifying. In particular:
1. the PCs start off as 0-level PCs, potentially with details randomly generated, thrust into a world of horror and adventure;
2. the PCs advance through "paths" which seem like a combination of D&D class and WFRP careers;
3. magic is bound into paths, including a variety of black magic; and
4. the PCs can suffer insanity and corruption.

Though WFRP2e and D&D5e by themselves aren't too bad for use in a one-shot play (and I have run both), Shadow of the Demon Lord takes things much further, with a fast playing and easy to understand set of rules. There are ideas from other RPGs that feature, such as using dice for modifiers from FFG's WFRP3e and Star Wars RPGs. I love this as a GM as it abstracts out the numbers and reduces the amount of information exchange required.

To further help support one-shot or short term play, Rob Schwalb expects to support the RPG with loads of "mini" adventures, each spanning only 3 or 4 pages. The KS alone is looking at producing some 20-30 such from an amazing pool of RPG writers. These can be run in one session or strung together into 11 sessions to complete a level 0 to level 10 campaign. These sound like they will be a lot like Dungeon World's Starters, but without all the player directed questions and new terminology.

Finally, amidst the darkness and excellent mechanics, Rob Schwalb has ensured that there is an excellent humorous tone underlying a lot of it. The kind of humour that RPGers will bring to the table regardless of what the RPG tries to achieve. The setting, madness, corruption and magic system are simply delightful and filled with subtle bits of awesome that make me smile with glee.

Hopefully, the final product proves all the above to be true and I will finally have a traditional RPG that is purpose built to be run at the likes of Kapcon and other cons.

Ryuutama - Actual Play Report
I ran Ryuutama for the first time over the weekend for Sam, Ayla, and Sophie. We created PCs. This was a lengthier process than anything we have done before but I think it really helps set up the tone of the game.

Sophie was keen on having animals, so she created a merchant. She was sad when she found out that she didn't start with more than one animal, but this passed when she was told that she could trade in goods to make a profit to buy more animals. It became a driving force for her in the game as she peddled in sleeping bags until she could afford a dog.

Ayla really blew me away. She is coming on in leaps and bounds. Not only did she embellish her healer character with things like her father's compass being her favourite item, but also during the game when she enthusiastic helped create details of the town that the PCs were travelling to, including its name of Goochi-Googi.

Surprisingly, both girls chose Technical type PCs (using their mind and skills to overcome problems) over Martial type and Magic type, when even Mum couldn't resist the lure of Magic :)

I really enjoyed making my Ryuujin PC as the GM, taking the blue dragon that allowed the PC to be present as a mascot (a big white fluffy dog) and also reward the PCs for selflessly helping others. It felt like I was a part of the party as well as a GM.

We managed to play through half the scenario, establishing the problem and deciding on how to tackle it. The best part of the game though was just the everyday actions of travelling and camping. Getting a good night sleep, good food and being prepared were the focus for much of the game and the PCs were rewarded as a result.

We will play the second half next weekend, but I am already impressed at how different from most fantasy games it feels, whilst also feeling natural. Its a well designed RPG that really knows itself.

Unbridled Blade: Session 3.3
Session 3.3: The PCs did not trust Leviathan nor his quest to slay Dazan Drune. However, they distrusted Dazan Drune more. That night, one of the sailors was attacked by strange dark dwellers and dragged into a cave. Baram found that the sailor had been changed such that he was allergic to light. In the morning, Stelaro dealt with a mutiny by sending the five most mutinous sailors to look for Leviathan's boat, hoping they would die on the island. The PCs then went into the cave and travelled deep under the island. They entered a cave system in which the dark dwellers lived. The dark dwellers proved to be shipwrecked sailors, made allergic to light by Dazan forcing them to be his slaves. They had recently rebelled from Dazan and sought refuge in the caves. The PCs also found a baby dragon's egg, which the dark dwellers had stolen from Dazan Drune.

Ryuutama - The Nekogoblin that Stole New Years
Given I didn't get chance to run it last weekend, I hope to run Ryuutama for the family this weekend. I have high hopes for it with my girls. To be honest, it's wonderful to be thinking on a fantasy game in which violence and victory are not forefront in the mechanics and setting. The "heart-warming" approach is so ingrained in this game that it seems to influence every part of it and the choices available. And it never really does so being cheesy or obvious about it. Also, it doesn't do this and divorce itself from other fantasy RPGs in the process. Instead, the material is intertwined naturally with very familiar D&D like concepts. The end result is delightful.

I will be playing the scenario that was made available with the Holiday Package but it already has me thinking on YA fantasy stories that I can draw on, as well as revisiting classic D&D adventures through the heart-warming lens. I will be interested to see how quickly the girls take to the whole thing. There are several unusual concepts for an RPG that I expect are only unusual due to the weight of my experience with more usual RPGs. For example, the idea that the GM is an actual character in the setting with a goal to help the PCs is oft seen in stories and makes a lot more sense in some ways than the absence arbiter or antagonist of a more traditional GM. I will also be interested to see how seamlessly worrying about best attire for a journey may surpass worrying about the best choice of weapons :)

Urban Shadows Actual Play Report
Last week I managed to do a PC creation session for Urban Shadows over Google Hangouts. The format proved unfamiliar, so it was difficult to gauge the experience. However, on the weekend, I got to do a face to face game with both PC creation and almost a couple of hours of actual playing.

Getting it out of the way first, the main downside is that Urban Shadows seems suited to campaign length play much more than single sessions. So, we only really played through the opening scenes. Another downside was my own inexperience with on the fly GMing, but that is part of the reason for me running Urban Shadows.

The session however was very good. In the space of 60 to 90 minutes, we not only had some PCs but we also had a series of varied and complex relationships between them. These had also formed the basis for fleshing out the world around them. Not just NPCs but even some of the "physics" of the setting, such as how Vampires develop over time.

I was initially concerned about whether the Hunter would play well with the other PCs, especially given one PC a Demon who was the Hunter's prey. But the Debts/Relationships in the playbooks quickly integrated that PC in an interesting way, even the Spectre (Ghost) who I had doubts about.

The opening scene suggested by a player was a good one. It started slow, but it quickly accelerated into something more that saw 3 PCs quickly embroiled into supernatural conflict and intrigue, and the final PC heading for a collision into the plot later down the line. Once momentum started, it was very easy to continue to bring the PCs into conflict with each other, whilst also forcing them together to an extent against growing external threats.

The players quickly started to used Debts and this culminated with one PC walking into trap (intrigue, not physical), wanting to back out but deciding not to because of the considerable ramifications that it would have had on the PC. It really cemented the intrigue that World of Darkness tried to create in a simple and straightforward process.

I am definitely keen to try it out more. It seems like a great way to run 8-10 session WoD style campaigns as they should be run with very little prep.

Unbridled Blade: Session 3.2
Session 3.2: As the smaller ship disappeared into the fog, Baram had a feeling of foreboding. Achindra scryed the departing boat to find that one of its crew had slaughtered the rest and piled them into a cadaver pyramid, like those seen created by Eshrigel. The crew member used sorcery to report to the Caliph Shah that he had found Baram. Achindra then felt the convergence of many powerful spells - the fog shroud around Zaless, the Caliph's elemental curse on Baram and Efraim's curse on himself. A terrible storm whipped up and two enormous sea monsters struck the ship. At the same time, mighty elementals of air and water tried to kill Baram. Despite, the amazing feats of the PCs, the ship was torn asunder and the crew was washed ashore on the island of Zaless. On arriving, several people were discovered missing, including Bahadur and the ship's previous captain, Mythurio. On exploration, the island proved to be inhabited by strange and powerful beasts, including giant centipedes that could fire lightning and a madness that the PCs termed a "Chimera". They also met an Atlantean priest of Obatala called Leviathan, who said he had come to the island to kill the despicable sorcerer Dazan Drune.

Atlantis Monster Deck
On the heels of Theragraphica is this rather magnificent product. A 180 card Monster Deck cover most of the monsters in Theragraphica. I will likely get a lot of use out of this one.

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Theragraphica has arrived
Today, my copy of Theragraphica arrived. Theragraphica is bestiary for Atlantis. The book is pretty important to me. Its the third and final core book of what has become my #1 RPG and I spent more on it than any other RPG book I own.

I am more than pleased with the result as I actually use this book more than the other two in my prep work. Its wonderful to see it done in the same full colour hardcover treatment as the other two Atlantis corebooks, and the contents are pretty amazing. It really rounds off the series in style :)

Finally, I also have much glee in having created the "Dragon" that graces the back cover, which is based on one of my personal favourite bad guys. The "Dragon" is also the central antagonist of my current campaign :)

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Unbridled Blade: Session 3.1
Session 3.1: On returning to Logithia, the PCs found that Stelaro's ship and crew was not at the rendezvous point. Phaedra prayed to Exu and was given the insight to travel to south west. The PCs hijacked an Ophidean ship leaving the now fallen city, freeing its enslaved crew and sneaking past the city's defences. Once on the open sea, Achindra had a vision that Efraim of the Grey Council was casting a curse on him through a sympathetic link of Daniel's (Efraim's son) ghost. Daniel warned Achindra about something he called "Dark Atlantis". Phaedra also conversed with the wraith of her mother, who impressed on her the need to save Tali from the Great Darkness. The next day, the ship travelled into a fog bank and encountered a smaller ship. The ship's captain revealed that they were fleeing Targrim that had declared independence from Tharshesh, who reacted by besieging the city. He mumbled something about a white lady appearing on the city walls every evening to protect it. The captain also revealed to Stelaro that one of the three ruling merchants of Targrim was his old friend, Mihaelo, and that his ship, Fierra, was docked in the city. The PCs were left with two choices: to run Tharshesh's blockade or travel through the fog like the smaller ship had, despite tales that the fog shrouded the dread island of Zaless.

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