Thursday, October 26, 2017

Deadly Trappings by Kenzer & Company: RPG Reveiw

Deadly Trappings
This review starts with a gamer admission as well as a disclosure. And the Gawds of the Many Faced Dice, demand my confession. First, I have a long standing and serious love/hate relationship in regards to dungeon trap manuals and RPG trap rules/guidelines. This is the first section of any new dungeon fantasy RPG I go to. “A rock falls everyone dies,” is my DM mantra.

Disclosure: This review includes affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something on the landing page. Thank you for your support.

Also, I write RPG reviews on a monthly schedule and contribute the occasional article, for Kenzer & Co.’s, Knights of the Dinner Table (KoDT) magazine. The Deadly Trappings in this volume published before I’d written anything with KoDT. I don’t’ think it will cause bias in the review, but I’m mentioning it.

Deadly Trappings is a collection of seventy-seven system neutral traps. Most are designed for use in a dungeon, but there are a couple of oddities (a spaceship trap & and a guy in a cowboy hat, triggering a western genre, bear trap). Each trap receives two or three panels of illustration and at minimum one half, to three quarters of a page description. Text size varies for each, but most trap descriptions are between 300-500 words. The traps are same format of those published monthly in KoDT. Presumably, this book is a collection of the best of those traps, which (originally published 2009) were written before 2010.

The reader immediately gets acquainted with Joe Cocksure, Deadly Trapping’s proverbial, faces of death test monkey. Joe is the featured character of the graphic illustrations of the traps. Joe dies a lot.

The writing of each trap is remarkably consistent given they are authored by about thirty individual contributors. While all of these traps are indeed system neutral, most include a short blurb about the history of the device as well as its mechanics (system less crunch); and/or information about the NPC designer of the trap, and/or the motivation behind the design. The fluff elements create an interesting back story for each trap, something pretty uncommon with supplements such as this, when mechanics are usually the sole focus.

Roleplay Resource: Deadly Trappings is currently on Amazon 


(Note: This RPG Review of Deadly Trappings originally published with Stuffer Shack. [site])

I understand that for some, the most important thing about a trap manual is directly related to how many of these traps the DM/GM might actually use. While others like to use manuals such as this to craft their own ideas. Deadly Trappings should have either camp covered, but the bottom line is, I don’t know your game. And dungeon crawl to dungeon crawl, I’ve seen very different ideas on the “proper way” to utilize traps.

The most useful solution I can think of is giving a baseline description as to the sort of traps featured with Deadly Trappings. I’ve collated a ten point bullet list for consideration. Needless to say, but some of these concepts overlap each other:

· Magic Traps: 21

· Step on it, Trigger: 25

· Total Party Kill (TPK); Or Traps which Feature this Potential: 14

· Traps which De-limb or Maim: 8

· Death by Rock or Stone: 9

· Death by Falling: 16

· Death by Fire: 6

· Death by Asphyxiation: 5

· Death by Poison/Toxin or Acid: 9

· Traps you’d be unlikely to use with Your Favorite Edition of D&D: 3 

In conclusion, Deadly Trappings has a respectable mix of traps. I have the perfect bound print edition which weighs in at 80 pages as well as (though I can’t find my old hard drive) the PDF. Whether you’re a fellow trapmatician or just a DM in need of some good trap material I don’t think you can go wrong here. But then again, that’s likely the last thought through my player characters minds before… “A rock falls, every one dies.”

Happy trapping!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Misfit Marketing Methods Indie Publishers

Steve Trustrum of Misfit Studios delves into marketing methods for indie and small press publishers. Specifically discussing search engine optimization (SEO) for bloggers, how marketing works, and later covering the methods you can improve product sales if you are selling with One Book Shelf (drivethrurpg & rpgnow).

Whether you consider yourself an experienced indie press publisher, or you're just about to get going, this first vid covers the importance of product conception and the three pillars to marketing; identifying your product's features, benefits and messaging.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Map! Products are Pay What You Want

The Gawds of the Many Faced Dice (& Dyson Logos on "The Facebook") have spoken... All Map! products are Pay What You Will. Errr... I mean, Pay What You Want. When/if I make another, it too will be Pay What You Want. I do have another I'm working on between RPG reviews. To make a long story short, I've decided to stuff  my infinite ego of diminished returns in my pocket. Fear not, I certainly accept tips!

Disclosure: Product images on this page and the banner include affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something on the landing page. Thank you for your support.




Map! Fief Bend


Map! Coastal Village

Map! Creek Camp


Map! Forest Keep


Map! Swamp Dock


Map! Tower Ruin

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Review Burp: Reviews on EN World, KoDT & Stuffer Shack

KoDT #248
Disclosure: Product images on this page and the banner include affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something on the landing page. Thank you for your support.

Kenzer and Company is just two issues away from #250 (knock on wood). KoDT #248 released last week. In issue #248 I review two non-RPG products: Bad Medicine & Murder Most Foul. With EN World, hurricane season put a temporary damper on the (two per month) schedule, so I was only able to get a review of The Indie Hack published. Stuffer Shack published my critical review of Fragged Empire.


Bad Medicine
Bad Medicine is party card game, where players take the role of big pharma companies, pitch drugs to each other, and win points for creating the best pitches. This game makes a great game night, starter before you bring out the big guns. You can get a PDF print & play copy of the game at drivethrucards.com (click on the image). Formal Ferret Games is planning on launching a Kickstarter for a physical product, in February 2018.

The Indie Hack
Murder Most Foul
Murder Most Foul offers a unique take on Murder Mystery. If you've ever had the pleasure, you'd know that many mysteries are bogged down with scripted elements, which somewhat limits replay-ability. In Murder Most Foul, any guest can commit a murder (even among their fellow guests) and if they can find a murder weapon and murder the Host without getting caught they win. Sixpence Games (company site)

What to say about The Indie Hack that hasn't been said? Needless to say, but I gave it a positive review. I haven't had the opportunity to read any of the other hack variants or many micro-RPGs in general, but if this game is an indicator, I certainly need to. The review on EN World is here.

With Fragged Empire I was pretty critical. As I wrote in the review on Stuffer Shack:


Fragged Empire
"Overall, Fragged Empire receives a mixed review and it seems at almost every turn of the page something I like is weighed down with something I didn’t care for. This is a top-notch product and on par with the big boys, but the layout and overall arrangement of the material suffers in organization. The detail of equipment, weapons, and guidelines for creating starships, is done well, but acquisition is ruled by a sub-system, which I’d have no use of. The writing is respectable, the setting and cultural history elements are far above the mark of most settings, but at 385 pages the game suffers some bloat (though this is also tied to organization). Characters are well-balanced (and not too unwieldy) and a campaign will likely be best served with a mix of each race, while at the same time cultural tension is a core theme throughout."

I've never quoted myself... But, there you go. The full review, which I have good deal of nice things to say is at Stuffer Shack here.

Note to Self: This is the point when I'm starting to seriously consider going to Wordpress. Putting these product images and formatting, only took me an extra 1 1/2 hours. Your losing me blogger.(OMG!)

Note: Map! Products are on sale through Halloween with my recent release of Map! Creek Camp. 100% digitized in the U. S. A. and cost a dollar or less. If you look closely you'll see that Map! Tower Ruin is Pay What You Want, which means you can get it for free: you're welcome, cheapskate... Hehe... I kid yet, I mean it. And thank you to whoever, that bought both Borders of Yore collections (that made my day a little better)

Borders of Yore & Map! Products; the Boss approves!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Digital Release Map! Creek Camp

Map! Creek Camp
Map! Creek Camp

Map! Products are in full color, providing a visual location for the Referee (DM/GM) to populate, and for the player characters to discover. This product contains a master PDF (preview). Each map depicted in the PDF is included in Zipped PNG format. Each map format has a print friendly (300 DPI) version, as well as a virtual tabletop (100 DPI) version. For an exact account, click on the image and check it out over at RPGNow.com
This Download Contains:
• Map! Creek Camp PDF (preview)
• Print Friendly, Zip File PNG (300 DPI); Ten Files total 
• Digital Friendly, Zip File PNG (100 DPI); Ten Files Total
• My appreciation: Thank you. Please take the time rate, review and comment. Also, what sort of Map! products would you like to see in the future? I welcome your ideas.
Notes: Hexagon measurements are at 5ft per side; graph is at 5ft sq. (standard). This product is not for use in commercial products.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

RPG Review: Dead Reign

Dead Reign
Welcome to a review of the portable document format (PDF) of Palladium Books (site), Dead Reign, which is available at DriveThruRPG.com & RPGNow.com. If you’d prefer an undead tree version, you can mash some buttons and order one at the Palladium Books website. Though Dead Reign was published late 2008 the PDF version wasn’t put up as a digital product until 2015.

Disclosure: Product links include my drivethrurpg.com affiliate identification. I receive a token % if you purchase something on the landing page. Thank you for your support.

In the interest of transparency it’s important to disclose that I published three game articles with Palladium Books quarterly publication the Rifter from 2013-2014. I do not know anyone at Palladium Books personally and if I thought for a moment I couldn’t write a fair review you wouldn’t be reading it. Let’s get to it…

Zombie games, will they ever go away? The darn things just won’t die. What was once considered a fad has morphed into a full blown-movement people! If I had a nickel for every zombie I’ve slain at the gaming table, as the saying goes I’d be a rich man. Instead, I write the occasional game review to supplement my RPG habit...

RPGs are representative of a small but respectable share of the zombie movement. The first table top RPG which comes to my mind was Eden Studios, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, which was published in 1999. Credit to them for being zombie, before zombie was this cool… Fast forward almost ten years (and another 7 for the PDF) with a lot of games in-between and we arrive at Dead Reign.

As a publisher and of the many games under their flag, Palladium Books is known for the strength of its settings. In this regard, Dead Reign doesn’t disappoint. What’s important for any respectable zombie RPG; is that it must remain true to the media that came before it, yet not just settle on the creative common of that which has come before.

Dead Reign encapsulates two popular media tropes; part survival horror, something akin to George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead and part modernization such as with Max Brook’s World War Z. Though the elements from these media are familiar Dead Reign doesn’t just sit idly upon them. The game defiantly has its own take on the zombie apocalypse and most importantly successfully translates it for the purposes of an RPG.

Palladium Books is also known for their old school approach to game mechanics and rules coined the Megaversal System. Coming up on nearly forty years in the business of publishing games, Palladium Books has never produced what one would consider a major system over haul or second edition. If you’re privy-no, in this reviewer’s opinion -though it did present some updates, Rifts Ultimate Edition doesn’t count. The rules are also slightly tweaked per each setting in which Palladium Books has produced. The Megaversal System is indeed looser (and inconsistent) than most modern gamers are accustomed and not to mention old school.

While Dead Reign continues both traditions (excellent setting/Megaversal System) it also has some useful approaches to help expedite character creation (the length of which to roll a character is usually a criticism) and a lot of interesting tweaks to the zombies you’ll try and head shot.

Creating a character in Dead Reign presents two options, traditional character creation and quick character creation. The quick method is not only as advertised it’s a bit more advantageous for the player character’s attribute scores-that is, if we consider the RPG Dice Gawd’s law of averages.

The traditional method will likely have its appeal to the purest while the quick method will likely have its appeal to those new and most importantly, those wanting to slay some zombies! Characters in Dead Reign have eight attributes three mental, five physical. Rolling attributes involves rolling 3D6, tallying and placing the result in order. The crux of this old school method is that you may get a low score someplace you’d prefer it not to be, while if you happen to roll a total of 16 or higher the player can roll an additional D6 to add to that specific attribute.

The quick method has eight options. The choice of which will leave few rolls but sum up the physical and mental attributives of the character. As with any system that utilizes standard attributes, Dead Reign provides ability and situational benefits (+/-) based on attributes. Utilizing the quick method you can really create the character you want. Want a character who’s physically tough, or one who can think themselves out of the situation? Dead Reign has this covered. Also of note is that the average attribute score using the quick method pushes attribute scores higher than they would be (on average) than using the traditional method. While making character creation a little less random I thought it was an excellent option for an old school system.

Dead Reign supplies two categories of characters to play, Occupational Character Classes (OCCs) and Survivor Occupants. OCCs are well detailed character classes with a range of special abilities and skills catered for the setting. There is even an interesting variant of playing a half-zombie like character. Survivor Occupants are ordinary folks-the cooks, cleaning ladies and TV repairmen; average Joes and Janes trying to survive in a world gone to heck.

Though there isn’t a huge dissimilarity in ability or power between the two sorts of characters you can roll up, there certainly is a difference. Point of fact it’s enough of a difference that it should make for some interesting choices in the sort of characters being played. For instance having a player group comprised of Survivor Occupants is going to necessitate a toughie based game, while choosing to use the Survivor OCCs will facilitate a more heroic or action themed game. Also while the two sorts of character categories are different they aren’t so out of whack that a Game Master (GM) if they so choose, can’t integrate a mix of both with the player group.

The setting of Dead Reign is modern day. The player characters are thrust into the role of survivors who have survived the initial zombie onslaught or wave. Instead of presenting a single theory or as some games often do or no theory in regards to the origin of the zombie apocalypse; Dead Reign presents five open ended scenarios. I liked the presentation in leaving the cause of the zombie apocalypse up to the Game Master (GM). Also, though it’s been left unsaid, offering the setting in this way allows the GM to have a bit of wiggle room. Seeing how the players react to the setting elements of the game may very well shape the overarching campaign in the hands of a forward thinking GM.

What about Zombies? You ask. Dead Reign features seven types. Though for the most part zombies are zombies, Dead Reign has some interesting variants, which in turn will offer some unique challenges. I’m leaving a bevy of excellent setting info out, but the short of it is I could probably write a review twice as long concerning this game.

(Disclosure: This review was originally published in Knights of the Dinner Table and is property of Kenzer & Company. It has been republished here with permission.)

There is a decent section of 101 Hook Line and Sinkers (AKA: Bait and Tackle in KoDT Parlance) which do a great job of bringing all of the setting elements of the book together. What’s also really good about this game is the work the writers put in to not only define the zombies, but the human presence within the zombie apocalyptic setting.

Ok-so what don’t I like…

My criticisms concerning Dead Reign are twofold. Having played Dead Reign as well as being familiar with the Megaversal System for many years, the tweaks for the game are less dice roll friendly than what has been published before. One example of this is the dice mechanics involved in killing zombies. In short, it is pretty difficult to land a head shot at relatively close range or least much more difficult than it should be. I think the tweaks are an attempt to simulate realism (fear anxiety) but as far as a game dynamic I would have liked to see something different in place.

My second criticism is that some of the content and choices include elements of the Megaversal system, though don’t actually apply to the game itself. I see this creating some confusion to any gamers new to the system. One example of this has to do with two attributes Physical Endurance and Mental Endurance. Both include listed bonuses for saving throws that aren’t particular to Dead Reign a save for magic and a save for psionics. Admittedly I’m not sure how big a deal this is but the layout could have been a little better defined-or magic and psionics included with the setting?-hey yeah!

Speaking of content, the illustrators of Dead Reign did an excellent job of setting the mood. The interior art is black and white and like any Palladium Books product there is plenty of it. While usually I like art being more consistent in my RPGs, the contrast in styles (perhaps because of the genre) works really well to my taste. The cover sets the tone and is both horrible and wonderful, illustrated by E.M Gist. If you’re looking for a zombie game, a PDF of Dead Reign is certainly worth the asking price.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

New Map!: Creek Camp & Map! Product Sale; Through Halloween

Click for Bigger Image
Disclosure: Product images on this page and the banner below may include affiliate links. I receive a token % if you purchase something on the landing page. Thank you for your support.

I'm close to completing my fifth Map! product. Creek Camp will feature a few different layout options; a forest & terrain only option, a medium sized (enemy) camp and a small (player character) camp. As always each map will include a clean, hex and graph version (as well as include versions for the digital [100 dpi] tabletop & print [300 dpi]). This way, the end result will have a bit more value then my previous Map! products. Map! Creek Camp will be available this weekend. Depicted are the working samples; not final.

Click for Bigger Image
Originally it was titled Orc Camp... Why orcs? Well... That's a long story. The short of it is that my D&D Basic group had a number of small skirmishes with a ravaging tribe of orcs. After besting a small group (orcs of the very same tribe) out of a dungeon, journeying about the country side is more perilous than usual.

The groups answer was to appeal aid of the local lord, (on behalf of the peasant farmers, of coarse) but he has few swords to spare (how many...?; roll 1d4+1). The lord has promised a small plot of land to the PCs if they can rid the land of the orc presence...

Since I'm close to completion, I've went ahead and offered a Map! sale. I don't always offer a price reduction on previous Map! products. The price reduction will run through Halloween. Please, if you do make a purchase, consider leaving a comment and rating the product. Thank you.

Edit: Creek Camp is available now HERE!

Map! Sale!