Old School Hack – Hack’em! With style!

It’s no mystery that Bucyrus loves Old School Hack.

It’s short, simple and easy to learn. It’s very open to tweaking. Unlike many others “oh it’s TOTALLY NOT D&D scrapped of some elements I didn’t like” it doesn’t try to distance itself from its roots. Far from it. It embraces the ideas of D&D and adds some new and unique solutions.

It has so many purposes.

While still being a D&D VERY LITE, it manages to deliver this specific feeling of its great-great-great ancestor. It’s an awesome way to introduce people to the rpg. It’s great when you want to quickly set up and run a session.

The only problem? It features no setting, no world whatsoever, which makes it a problematic choice for total newcomers. Aside of that? If you’re asking Bucyrus, it’s the king of small OSR-like games.

rpg-oshack

BTW, Old School Hack isn’t just one of those games only some weirdos in thick glasses talk about. It’s quite popular – it even managed to spawn a few hacks of its own, like SHADOW HACK, which is Old School Hack meets Shadowrun (Fantasy + Cyberpunk mashup). Very nice game too.

Old School Hack – Hack’em! With style!

Abandon all hope…. But play anyway.

Let’s say that you’re one of those cruel, vicious Game Masters who thought that it would be great to combine this…

Event Horizon
Event Horizon

…with this…

Riddick: Escape from Butcher's Bay
Riddick: Escape from Butcher’s Bay

WARNING! If for some reason you know neither of above things…

Naaah, it’s impossible. How silly of Bucyrus to even think about that, ahahahaa. Sorry.

Anyway. If you thought it’d be cool to combine those two realities, then look no further, there’s already a good game for that. It’s well written, featuring acceptable and simple ruleset and it’s called…

Abandon All Hope
Abandon All Hope

Quick intro: in Abandon All Hope you’re playing as criminals kicked out of future-Utopian reality of Earth. You and thousands of other prisoners were all locked in an enormous space ship called “Gehenna”. It’s trying to reach some distant world, that might harbor you and allow you to start a new colony, or something.

The mission isn’t important anymore, since “Gehenna” traversed not only space, but also boundaries of reality and it resulted in her being boarded by legions of demons coming straight from Hell.

While being limited in territory and possibilities, AAH gives you many interesting plot hooks, and story seeds. There are gangs, small societies, secret treasuries, urban legends. Soon you’ll learn that numerous levels of “Gehenna” are one giant mega-dungeon filled with plenty of shiny things to toy with.

Try to survive. Good luck!

Very strong recommendation!

Abandon all hope…. But play anyway.

The Last days of Anglekite

On its own, Dungeon World is an awesome game and despite being kind of a newcomer to the hobby – one of most important elements that shaped the face of RPG as we know it today. When you look at it from some distance, it also tends to attract very unwelcome bunch of fanatics who run around trying to convert everyone to their way of playing while stigmatizing every other method as wrong.

Bucyrus acknowledges this and therefore always approaches DW-based games and books with a little bit of reserve. The Last days of Anglekite is a setting for DW. It’s also a gift from long time friend, who happens to be one of most active DW devotees Bucyrus know.

And despite that, there’s no denying: damn, the book is awesome!

rpg-anglekite

Since it’s built on DW’s mechanics and philosophy, there’s not much more to say what already have been told about DW.

What needs to be recognized and praised is the fluff-part. Bucyrus didn’t manage to read all the book by now, but judging by the road so far, Anglekite features simple “let’s not waste time on some elaborate names and forced originality” fantasy world filled to the sky with interesting solutions (there’s an enormous giant that walks the land and purges all life!) and events.

Bucyrus likes very much that the book recognizes and properly addresses biggest strength and weakness (depends on who is asked) of DW – lack of in-depth details. The solution is simple: you’re given a framework upon which you can build your own games. And yet, it’s so far from “just write it on your own”. The amount of details given is enough to perceive them as a coherent, plausible world.

This is similar to the way Mike Resnick (one of Bucyrus’ favorite authors) paints his characters. One – two sentences and you already see the person. That’s how magic of pen and paper works.

Anglekite is exactly what could work as DW’s default world. Bucyrus is sure of that and recommends it strongly, if not for playing then at least for reading. It’s a great way to learn what Dungeon World might become in hands of skilled storyteller.

Good gaming!

The Last days of Anglekite

Over the Edge, ye maggots, consequences be damned!

If you want to know Bucyrus’ opinion – this game is perfect.

Period.

rpg-ote

Ok, ok, this thing deserves a few words more.

Over the Edge is a game taking place in a setting that can be described as beautiful Frankensteinian masterwork stitched together from scraps and pieces taken from fears, conspiracies, mental delusions, junkies’ nightmares and thoughts you get upon reaching that specific state of mind when you’re one sip away from declaring yourself the next incarnation of Christ.

The book resembles one vast battlefield with you – the reader – being carpet bombed with ideas and possibilities that leave you unable to not say “damn, I wonder what would happen if…

In short: it’s one clusterfuck of things that shouldn’t work together, that CAN’T work together, but they do nevertheless and man, ain’t that a beautiful thing to behold.

It tells the story of Al-Amarja, an island governed by a modern dictatorship that tries to pose as democratic and just. Funnily enough it’s also a magnet and a haven for criminals, conspiracy theorists, sorcerers, aliens, clueless tourists, fringe scientists, cyborgs, nightmarecatchers, ancient evil, things from beyond and behind (also underneath and overhead), and pretty much everything you can imagine what falls into category of “weird”.

Whatever you may think about, it’s perfectly ok to introduce it to Al-Amarja, and it will fit just great. No, really, there’s nothing wrong in playing as Adolf Hitler’s clone who somehow became vampire cyborg sociologist with split personality syndrome and an affinity for drinks made of alien brains (literally “alien brains”). Yes, it will work just great.

Seriously, the game is among one of most favorite of yours truly and there’s simply no way to explain how awesome thing it is without descending into the pit of fanatical blabbering.

So, instead of long and without a doubt biased review, let’ just settle on this:

While it certainly demands an open mind, being able to see past 80’s like design and the ability to say “screw this, I’m in the mood of experimenting” to be fully appreciated, Bucyrus thinks that pretty much every role player out there should visit the place at least once in his or her lifetime to understand how flexible and this whole “RPG” thing might be.

Strong, over the top recommendation.

Over the Edge, ye maggots, consequences be damned!

Lords of Gossamer and Shadow – where’s your crown, king Nothing?

It’s so frequent, that it can’t be written off as mere coincidence. Jung called it Synchronicity and it’s partially an observation, partially an attempt to explain how it is possible that similar things are made by different people who have no contact with each other whatsoever.

You’ve seen it in action many times – two similar movies hitting the cinemas (damn you, Matrix, for what you did to Dark City), two similar books, two similar inventions…

Lords of Gossamer & Shadow (LoGS) share similar story with another game, The Strange written by Monte Cook, one of RPG giants responsible for many awesome and some questionable inventions. Both games tell the story of heroes who visit many different worlds, both are supported by interesting mechanics, both bring something new to the RPG hobby.

rpg-logs

Unfortunately, where The Strange succeeds, LoGS don’t.

See, LoGS is an attempt to bring back the charm of diceless role playing presented in AMBER RPG – the game that in turn was an attempt to play in worlds of Amber created by the mind of Roger Zelazny. If you’re not aware about either of those works of fiction, think Game of Thrones, only on a cosmic scale, with almost immortal heroes who can travel between worlds and realities, commit acts that make them equal of gods.

Amber RPG managed to attract small but very dedicated number of fans who played it for decades. Unfortunately, it was painfully obvious that for all its creativity the game won’t ever become very successful. Like usual, Bucyrus blames lack of good support in form of interesting, official scenarios and campaigns.

As it was already told, Lords of Gossamer & Shadow are an attempt to change this situation. The game was upgraded to modern standards in many ways. It also renounces the original tale – it has nothing in common with Zelazny’s Amber although it’s clear that the vision it presents is deeply rooted in its predecessor’s story.

And one hell of the story it is. Merely reading the book, thinking about its reality makes it worthwhile to buy it and sacrifice some time for studying it.

And yet, Bucyrus doesn’t believe in LoGS. Perhaps it’s the mechanics – no better than it was present in the original game, hard to understand, very vulnerable to exploitation. Perhaps it’s because it’s about stories addressed to very specific, very creative minds. Perhaps it’s because its great asset (many worlds) is also its great weakness (fuck it, let’s escape to other world and never come back). Perhaps…

Lords of Gossamer & Shadow is an awesome, interesting and unique game, hands down.

But who will play it?

It’s a king without a court. But man, just look at this crown and other royally insignias…

P.S.
And just to make things clearer – it’s not about saying “forget LoGS, play the Strange instead”. No. Both games are very good each offering a bit different experience. It’s just that LoGS demands more from its players to unleash its full potential than the Strange which is, for all its worth way more simpler, more straightforward game.

Lords of Gossamer and Shadow – where’s your crown, king Nothing?

Ryuutama: of road, tranquility and dragons

Bucyrus firmly believes that there’s no (and shouldn’t ever be) a single RPG for all, but for everyone out there, there’s a RPG.

Ryuutama certainly isn’t for everyone. It’s a freeform game stylized after various Japanese video games like some chapters of Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger. It’s about people, normal citizens of their world, who are obliged by tradition to undergo a long voyage at least once in their lifetime. So, they band together with other people, be it strangers or friends and embark on a journey.

Simple concept, huh?rpg-ryuutama

Well, yes, it is. There’s not much else – there’s no story arc, no giant threat to the world, no such things. Actually, there’s not even the world. Ryuutama features no defined universe and pretty much everyone is free to come up with their own vision.

And yet, the game is strangely intriguing, full of small, witty concepts that make it certainly very unique. For example, the GM doesn’t just sit there. He has his special character actually participating in the game, acting as the observer, perhaps a teacher and sometimes a guide for the group. Most importantly, he is a scibre, he writes down the story of group’s adventures and then he sends it to higher powers – one of dragons, who in turn grant powerful boons and “blessings”.

And yeah, while it’s quite common for the GM to lead his own character(s), Ryuutama is one of rare games that embrace the concept and take it a step forward by making it a part of its experiences rather than purely optional solution.

So, who should play the game? Well, pretty much everyone who finds a joy in traveling, who wants to take a break from typical violent adventures where corpses pile up to the heavens and rivers of blood flow. It’s also an awesome introductory game for younger people, or those who are familiar with Japanese video games mentioned earlier.

Bucyrus realizes that it would be hard for people who play d20-based hack and slashers to enter and enjoy the simple and straightforward, a little childish world of Ryuutama’s fairy tales, but it’s an undeniable fact, that sometimes people want something else. And who knows, perhaps then such a game might come in handy. It’s definitely worth at least reading.

Strong recommendation.

Oh, by the way. The game is currently in a process of being translated to English. It’s 99% done and all that’s missing are character sheets and such – nothing that can’t be substituted by 3 minutes of work, nothing that makes the game unplayable.

Enjoy.

Ryuutama: of road, tranquility and dragons

Funny things that happened Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures

Let’s suppose that you’re a fan of those old-school fantasy role playing games where blood is spilled every other minute and hordes of enemies constantly threaten everything good and just, or at least dear to your heart. Now, let’s assume that you and your pals have little time and energy to set up a typical hours-long session and play it until you’ll start to see everything x3, or find yourself with no more alcohol to fuel your creativity.

It’s obvious that games like D&D, Pathfinder and similar are out of question because of their massiveness. One could try some lighter alternatives like 13th Age, or Fantasy Craft but let’s be honest here for the moment – while not as complex, in the end they require similar amount of time and attention to set up and run.

You could try Dungeon World or FATE, but bear in mind, that such games feature little strategy and tactics (at least in comparison to traditional fantasy games) and because of that, they are not for everyone.

And here’s where those small games, like Old School Hack come to mind. They are often very short to read, feature one or two witty and original concepts, miss a lot of content, leaving it for the players to figure out on the fly. In exchange they offer fast and funny gameplay in kind of black & white world where good is good and evil is evil, no-need-for-existential-conundrums-thank-you-very-much.

During his exile Bucyrus studied a very interesting addition to this pool, titled Beyond the Wall and other adventures. Like many similar ones it’s an old-school rpg, with rudimentary mechanics, simple but interesting concepts and vague, very typical fantasy world. And yet, when you’re halfway through a book, which happens to be no more than half an hour of your time (depending on your reading speed of course), you can’t help but think “Damn, this is what I want to try next with my brave band of social outcasts“.

There are nice reviews of the game already written, so no need to talk about details, but let’s just say that BtW is rather “local heroes” game than “big adventurers rescuing the world”. You play as a sorcerer’s apprentice, young soon-to-be knight, or still “green” huntsman (heh).

…and you have plenty of fun while doing it, even if the fate of whole world doesn’t rely on you and you alone. Enjoy!

rpg-beyond-the-wall

Funny things that happened Beyond the Wall and Other Adventures