Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Another Lankhmar Update: Don't Forget Savage Worlds LANKHMAR!

Earlier this week, I shared my excitement that Goodman Games had acquired a license to release adventures that take place in Fritz Leiber's classic Lankhmar/Nehwon setting. Toward the end of the post, I mentioned that Pinnacle Entertainment Group's Savage Worlds role playing game was the only other game that I thought had the potential to capture the Sword & Sorcery feel of the setting. When I wrote that, I knew that Pinnacle was planning to release their own Lankhmar related products, but I did not know when that release would occur.

Now I do. The Savage Worlds setting book for Lankhmar: City of Thieves will go on sale April 14th. At that time, purchasers will be able to pick up copies of the PDF and pre-order the print copy of the book.

Pinnacle has also given us a glimpse of what the rules will look like with the "No Honor Among Thieves" rule.

No Honor Among Thieves

Betrayal is a part of life in the City of Thieves. Sometimes a companion double-crosses his mates over a few gold pieces. Other times he might cheat on a friend over the love of a woman. Most of these betrayals are met with a wry smile and a vow to reciprocate at some future date. There is no honor among thieves, after all.

Sometimes the betrayal is more personal. In Lankhmar, whenever a character is betrayed by a close friend or associate (a trusted ally or even another player character—Game Master’s call), he cannot spend a Benny to reroll any opposed defensive action.

If the betrayal is an actual attack (almost assuredly with The Drop) and the victim doesn’t Soak all the wounds and / or remove the Shaken, he must make a Vigor roll versus the damage or go unconsciousness per the Knock Out Blow rules on page 25). He may not spend Bennies on this roll.
This rule is an example of how easily the Savage Worlds rules set, and in particular it's ability to incorporate "Setting Rules," make it a good fit for the Lankhmar setting.

I do have one minor complaint though. The image of Fafhrd in the banner ad above doesn't capture the humor he is often expressed as having in the stories. Fafhrd laughs in the face of danger and is often boisterous in the face of adversity. To be fair, the image looks to take place after a particularly dire moment in the series (no spoiler, but rage would be an appropriate expression), but it is too rare that Fafhrd is show smiling. Thankfully, the Pinnacle website has what must be one of the first illustrations of a happy Fafhrd, made all the more enjoyable because he is too rarely illustrated this way.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Lankhmar the Dungeon Crawl Classics Way

Goodman Games announced at Gary Con that they have been granted a license to produce Lankhmar themed Dungeon Crawl Classics products. The Dungeon Crawl Classics role playing game is the first role playing game since the original D&D rules that has been expressly designed to capture the tone and feel of the fiction Gary Gygax highlighted in his famous Appendix N.

Most early post-D&D role playing games fell into three camps. They were either designed to be easier to play versions of D&D that shared some of the inspirations (Tunnels & Trolls falls into this category), designed to emulate more realistic combat and character creation with a consistent world mythology that varied from D&D (Runequest and The Fantasy Trip fall into this category), or D&D micro-improvement clones (Arduin and Warlock) fall into this category. None of these games quite fit into the category of "Fantasy Heartbreaker" coined by Ron Edwards, for reasons that become clear when one reads the full Edwards piece.

Many of these games, The Fantasy Trip I'm looking at you, were designed to present consistent mechanics that emulated some kind of physics. In moving this direction, these games actually moved away from Appendix N influence and became something else. D&D was a hodgepodge of influences, all narrative. Runequest too had a hodgepodge of influences, but one of them was SCA combat experience. Basing combat on real world experience is a solid design goal, but it isn't a design goal driven by an attempt to emulate the fantasy in Appendix N. It's hard to imagine someone attempting Fafhrd's escape from the Ice Witches by strapping fireworks to his skis using the Runequest or The Fantasy Trip rules. They weren't free form enough.

To be fair, it's hard to imagine that happening in AD&D either. I can see it happening in Moldvay/Cook Basic, but interestingly enough that game actually falls into that first category of post-D&D design. All of this brings us back to Dungeon Crawl Classics. It is very easy to imagine this game inspiring such a scene, and Doug Kovac's strong focus on what Jeff Vandermeer calls "The Weird" only adds to the seeming natural connection between DCC and Lankhmar. There is only one other game that I think can capture the adventures of Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser well, and that's Savage Worlds. A game that I believe also has a license to make Lankhmar based products. The Savage Worlds game will likely, in my completely uninformed opinion, focus more on the street level heroics of Nehwon and so there will be little cannibalism between the two games. In fact, I think there might be some great synergy between publishers.

Goodman Games is running a contest which will allow people to playtest their upcoming adventure at Gen Con.

As an aside, I think that the DCC cover is a nice homage to the old Fantastic cover that featured Ningauble, Fafhrd's weird and enigmatic patron.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Skylanders vs. Disney Infinity SAVAGE WORLDS Style: A Father After my Own Heart

When I first started this blog it was called Cinerati due to my love of film. I started the blog because a friend had shared an article from the conservative website National Review Online that was criticizing an entry in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill saga. I found the article to be reactionary and not very well versed in the genre the author was criticizing. The article seemed to me to be a typical "Culture War" and "High Art" claptrap that raises my ire. I was especially irked by the phrase, "
these films are but vulgar distortions of Japanese film culture."

Someone on the internet was wrong, and I needed to fire my own salvo off into the battlefield. Never mind that the author of the piece was also arguing something that I agree with, that Akira Kurosawa's films are brilliant. The professor had insulted one of my favorite directors and I was going to the mattresses! Even in those days, I was careful to be polite in my criticisms, but I was enjoined in battle.
Interestingly, I didn't end up writing as many film related posts as I wanted and ended up writing far more posts about other geek related things. There was a short period where there were other authors on the site, but that eventually faded and I was left as the sole author on the site. I wrote about whatever I wanted, and in 2008 what I wanted to write about took a pretty significant shift when my twin daughters were born.

Oh, I still wanted to write about everything I had been writing about, but now I couldn't wait to write about my gaming experiences with my daughters. Given my busy schedule between work and school, I haven't written about gaming with History and Mystery as much as I'd like. Heck, I haven't even gamed with them as much as I'd like. I have played a lot of games with them though and hope to share more of those experiences as time presents itself. I am particularly excited to share our first Heroquest experience and discuss how badly my daughter History wants to play the Indiana Jones Role Playing Game. She wants to play it more than almost any other game I own.

All of this is my way of saying, expect to see more writing about gaming with kids in the coming months/years. I'll be mixing it up with content about gaming in general, including some 5th edition and Savage Worlds modifications.

Why the sudden inspiration you ask? Well...I saw a father running a Savage Worlds skirmish between Skylander and Disney Infinity characters with his kids and that is pretty awesome.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The DUNGEON! Boardgame at 40

Dave Megarry has recently posted an interview he did regarding how the Dungeon! board game came to be published (HT Zach H of the ever excellent Zenopus Archives blog). In the interview, Megarry discusses the inspirations behind the game, how he put together the first prototype, and the game's journey into publication.

I can still remember the first time I played the Dungeon! game. I was at my friend Mark's house, this was before the Sweet Pickles Wars of the early 80s, and he had a copy of the purple edition of the game.

I loved the game, but couldn't easily find a copy. I played a couple more times with Mark, we even added some of the alternate characters from Dragon magazine which we read about in the Best of Dragon vol. 1. It was a fun game. It's a bit cutthroat and has player elimination, which can be a nasty combination, but I've been happy to see that the game continues to receive updated releases. I own three or four editions of the game and am looking forward to playing the latest iteration, the one with the cartoony box art.

Returning to the interview though, it's nice to see living history information about role playing and board games. Too often the "history" people know about the industry is more hearsay, gossip, and opinion than history. This can be true of living history as well, but at least the hearsay, gossip, and opinion are first hand.