Wednesday, 26 June 2013

School's In!



Ars Academia went live this morning on RPGNow.com! This is our 4th product in the Hands of Fate series, this one focusing on the roles and abilities of Sorcerers. It offers an in depth look at life in the Academia Alchemica, the Empire’s elite school for Sorcery and Alchemy, from Apprentice level all the way to Arch-Mage; the masters of Sorcery.

We’ve got more complex methods for casting spells, such as Rituals, which are spells that are cast through successive rounds and take a toll on the caster. Once committed to a Ritual the Sorcerer faces a very real risk of literally blowing themselves up or tearing themselves to pieces with their magic as they channel excessive amounts of Aether, the substance of magic. The same process can be applied to Benediction spells, and will be extrapolated in an up and coming supplement focusing on Benedictions.

Ars Academia offers insight into the various power plays and political manoeuvring going on within the tome lined walls and dusty bookshelves. It details a few of the factions within a faction that are the cause of much turmoil and strife for Sorcerer characters. There are adventure hooks suitable for Sorcerous adventurers and their minions…I mean party companions…and a whole slew of magical themed monsters to throw at them.

For the budding crafter there are new magical properties to apply to weapons, armour and trinkets. New potion and scroll effects, and ways to give the Alchemist and Scribe an advantage in his or her field.

Lastly, as the greatest challenge in playing a Sorcerer is thinking up ways that their free-style magic can affect the world, the supplement offers over 30 example spells; from 1 or 2 Modification spells all the way up to 10 Modifications!

So…What’s next, you ask?

·         Due to much anticipation and demand for an extrapolation of the Enchanter and their abilities I’ll be working on the Enchantments Supplement, Title TBA, so stay tuned for info on that little gem.
·         Animism deserves as much treatment as the other magic styles and I can’t wait to see what we can come up with, providing new tools and Spirits for our warriors of the great spirits!
·         A book devoted to new religions, providing a framework for Benediction characters or GMs to either build their own religions, or adopt one of the ones in the book.  It should also have a ton of flavoured information for the game world, for those who wish to focus their games around religious turmoil.
·         The Book of Artefacts is in production; this supplement will provide GMs with everything from small powered, everyday magical items that people take for granted - such as ever burning candles - to truly world shattering artefacts of terrible power – such as Lokan’s personal Spear. Devices that can be used as flavour in campaigns, or as pivotal plot devices that drive the characters to do what they do.

Monday, 24 June 2013

HoF Print on Demand version in the works!

So the repertoire of Audio Samurai Games is growing, and the more I write, the more I come up with great ideas. I think they're great, anyway, and so do my gaming buddies. But offering just electronic versions of the games we make isn't enough. Not for me. I dream of one day lining one of my sagging, overburdened bookshelves (I really should look at getting another one) with hard copy versions of my own games.

PDFs are convenient at the gaming table, with bookmarks and hyperlinked references, but nothing quite captures the genuine feel of a true RPG experience like a hardcover edition of the game your playing, sitting within reach of all the players. Or better yet, one for everyone.

The artwork in the hard copy books is appreciated more, I believe, as PDFs are usually just used as references. It is much easier to look up something when the chapter is bookmarked, or there's a link to the table in the contents. I think having a hard copy version of HoF is just a pride thing, but it's something I'm working towards.

I've been using the opportunity to take a good hard look at the state of the game, also, not just reformatting and adding new artwork, but going through each and every rule and notation to see if it can be tweaked just that little bit more. I've made some changes, and found some stuff that SHOULD have been changed but wasn't (I'm looking at you, reference to Second Wind in Creature Features section!) and on the advice of some of my regular players added tutorials to some chapters with pictures to better explain the use of Effects, activations of Talents and how to Trump during combat.

So it's taking a little longer than expected to get the printed version ready, but as I'm now about 30% done I've come to realise that I should not rush through this regardless of how excited I may get about holding the dead tree copy in my hands.

For anyone who's interested, here's a link to what's been done so far, just so you can compare with the PDF version and see what I'm talking about :)

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Monsters of Karth


Another Add-on for Hands of Fate goes live!

Finally finished the Monsters of Karth booklet for the Hands of Fate RPG, and there's some amazing artwork from Joe Calkins, Cerberus Art, and a few others from the Golden Age of RPGs. As you can see, the cover work looks fantastic!

I had purchased an art pack from Cerberus Art and guessed there would be 2 or 3 pictures in there that I could use, as is usual with an artpack that I pick up, but was very impressed with a lot of the work therein. The pictures were from the artpacks Cerberus Stock Art: A Decade of Fantasy and Cerberus Royalty Free Clip Art Pack, and are of excellent value. I drew a ton of inspiration from these pictures, and was pleased to find that almost all of my monster entries in the book were able to have pictures matched from the art packs.

More on the book itself;

  • Several Dragons!
  • More Orc and Alfari enemies
  • Ogres and their war against the Bolfi
  • Tons of Undead, both corporeal and incorporeal.
  • Wild Men
  • Many creatures from Karthi myths and legends
  • New Armour and Weapons, plus a new Animism Spirit of the Wilds!
So, what are you waiting for? GO GET IT!!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Why a Dungeon?


So, I was thinking the other day while writing up stuff for the Monsters of Karth add-on for Hands of Fate and I came across a question that I asked myself and I don’t think I’ve been able to satisfactorily answer. So I’ll write down my thoughts and see where they take us.

Thinking of ideas for dungeon themed monsters, while trying to steer clear of clich├ęd D&D critters, I thought about what a dungeon means in my games, and are they really something that makes for fun gaming still? My games tend to be more story related, with encounters based around what the party discovers while acting out their characters, and I realised that I haven’t run a good dungeon crawl for a long time. I feel that simply laying out a labyrinthine structure and populating it with monsters sounds like an unimaginative way to spend my precious game time, that the story elements that would be strongest in this gaming environment would be reduced to questions like “What’s through the next door?” or “What does this lever do?”.

This may be enticing enough of a plot for many players out there but the storyteller in me begs for more of an element of mystery and excitement than mapping rooms and killing the bad guys in them. One or two rooms after the first and the party falls into a careful, methodical approach to opening doors (listen checks, trap checks, magical trap checks and then carefully opening the door). Yes, I realise I may be over-simplifying the process and that there are plenty of exciting dungeon crawls out there, especially for the Old School Gamer , but it’s a thought that keeps nagging my creativeness, that doesn’t see the fun in just running room encounter after room encounter. There isn’t enough character interaction, enough character building, or enough ROLEPLAYING for me.

So I struggled to come up with critters for my dungeons, simply because I find encounters out of dungeons to be far more complex and story driven than simply ‘because the monster lives in this room’. There must be a story related reason why the encounter occurs.

This is important in a game like Hands of Fate, and a few others, because it doesn’t reward players with a bounty of xp for each monster slain. It rewards the players on good roleplaying, on furthering the storyline, and for collaborating with the GM to create fantastic stories. A horde of mad Orcs killed to the last gives you just as much xp as a duel with a single, dangerous foe. The game doesn’t need multiple combat encounters, it needs a story. Combat, while fun, can bog down game play significantly; especially if you run with groups of 4+ players. This is one of the reasons why I wanted Hands of Fate to be fast paced, and the result is a very deadly combat system where the players are rather nervous when facing off against a GM controlled character or monster, one well timed dagger thrust to the goolies and it’s goodnight, Sunshine. Combat means a deadly encounter, for one side or the other, and there are consequences for letting a sword thrust go unchecked, even if the party has a healer.

So far, we’ve had great success in wilderness encounters and city borne combat, with a small dungeon crawl that was mostly puzzle solving Indianna Jones style more than room clearing. We’ve done a cave crawl to clear out an Orc lair, but once again, it was mostly just a few rooms with story elements in between. I think the ‘Passing the Narrative’ mechanic makes room mapping and maze running obsolete, as a player who thinks up a good way to use their character’s skills can gain the Narrative off the GM and hand wave the maze away, saying that the party navigates the passageways for a while until they hear an approaching patrol. For raiding fortifications, the party can come up with battle plans ahead of the fight, and they end up choosing where the encounters occur.

I dunno, maybe I just don’t get dungeons.