Friday, 21 June 2019

Frostgrave: Second Edition


Well, the news has leaked, so I might as well go ahead and make an official announcement.

There will be a new edition of Frostgrave: Fantasy Wargames in the Frozen City coming from Osprey Games in June of 2020!

Why?

When I wrote Frostgrave nearly five years ago, it was my first real attempt at writing a wargame. Since that time, I have learned huge amounts about both game design in general and about Frostgrave in particular. I now feel that I can make the game significantly better. So, with the blessings of Osprey, I set out to do just that.

I had two main design goals:

1.     Make the game more fun, not less.
2.     Make the rules clearer, more balanced, and more streamlined, but not at the cost of #1.

For #1, I wanted to do two things. I wanted to make every spell in the game desirable and useful, and I wanted to increase the direct player interaction. The truth is, of the 80 spells in the game, there are about 20 that are never used, or at least never taken, because they are too weak or too specialized. I have gone through each spell one-by-one, tightening the wording, tweaking where necessary, changing the mechanics in others, and, in just a few cases, replacing spells with new ones. As I did this work, I concentrated on how these spells could, and would, be used by players to interrupt and interfere with the plans of their opponents. I wanted to increase the back-and-forth nature of the game, making each scrap for treasure an opportunity for a real magical duel.

For #2, I wanted to improve the whole experience of players, from reading the book and learning to play the game to running a campaign. I wanted to eliminate a few things that never quite worked right, or led to strange, unwanted results, and I wanted to increase the balance, both during a game and over the course of a campaign. A lot of these rule changes will be immediately recognizable to people who have read Ghost Archipelago and The Maze of Malcor, but there are a few new ones as well.

I am still making a few tweaks here and there, but most of my work is actually done. While I don’t want to reveal too much at this very early date, I can say that there are no fundamental changes. The game is still its wacky, D20 self. The ten wizard schools remain in the same alignments. Most of the spells haven't changed. The goal is still to grab treasure, gain experience, and try not to get killed by other wizards or wandering monsters. Frostgrave never cared which figures you used before, as long as they made you happy, and it is not going to care in Second Edition either.

Is this going to make all of your existing Frostgrave books obsolete? No. I mean, the original rulebook probably won’t have much use anymore, but all of the supplements, with all of their optional rules, scenarios, new soldiers, new treasure, etc., will still be usable for Second Edition. There are few things that will need clarification, but not many, and I’ll post a PDF covering those when the time comes.

I will be revealing more as we get closer to the release date, but it is still a long way off, and I hope everyone will still play many games of Frostgrave before then without worrying about any changes. I mean, Perilous Dark is still to come out first, so that players can have lots of solo and co-operative fun, and I’ve got a Frostgrave Immersion Tour to attend!

So, more news coming later, but that’s all I’ve got for now.

P.S. You won’t be able to Leap off the table with treasure anymore…

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Ten Non-Magical Books for Fantasy RPGs


Sometimes I just get the urge to write something purely for the heck of it. So, here are ten non-magical books that can be included in any fantasy role-playing campaign. The next time one of your players wants to know the the title of every book on the bookshelf, you can just hand them this.

1. Glassblowing by Vim Messis

Bound with bright blue cloth covers, this folio contains detailed instructions on the art of glassblowing, including techniques for making a wide variety of bottles and ornaments. The printed text is accompanied by numerous wood-cut diagrams. In many places the book has been annotated in green ink by one of the previous owners in neat script. The last page of the book has been torn out, but it does not appear that anything was printed on this page.
            Price 10gp.

2. Giant Arachnids by Anonymous

This thin sextodecimo claims to be a detailed and authoritative study of giant spiders, but in fact, is really a collection of sensationalist tales mixed in with a few facts. The text, which features both black and red ink, has been poorly applied to the paper so that in some places it fades almost to illegibility. The book is bound in stained, brown leather.
Price 5gp.

3. Villains of the Sea by Tekroth Larn

This thick, octavo book is bound in red cloth and features a black ribbon sewn into the binding. The title has been pressed into the cover with gold foil. It was printed on a traditional press in black ink and includes a number of wood-cut portraits. The book is a collection of short biographies of 23 notorious pirates who sailed a hundred years ago or more. Each entry includes details of both the pirate and their most famous vessels.
Price 20gp.

4. The Cranium by Victurn Lessten

This striking octavo is bound between two ivory plates with a heavy leather spine. The names of the book and the author have been carefully carved into the cover and then stained with ink. The text, which is accompanied by a large number of sketches, is a lengthy examination of the different skulls of sentient races. While all of the factual details are incredibly accurate, it is mixed in with incredibly racist statements about the maximum potential intelligence of the various races.
            Price 50gp.

5. The Second Dragon War by Captain Sederick

This lovely duodecimo is bound in black leather with a highly-detailed impressed dragon on the cover. The texted is printed in black ink in a small copperplate, and gives a detailed history of an otherwise unknown war. None of the place names in the book have been identified and the dates are given in an unknown calendar. It is thus unclear if this is a work of history or fiction.
            Price 15gp.

6. Keys by Anonymous

This tiny book is of a non-standard size, but can comfortably rest in the palm of most people’s hand. It is bound in a reddish-brown leather. The book has no text other than the title on the first page. Instead, every page contains a detailed, ink drawing of a key. There are 296 keys in total, representing numerous different styles and designs. The last three pages and the back cover have slight water damage in one corner.
            Price 5gp.

7. The Animated Dead by Kenth Zandimere

A heavy, octavo containing nearly 900 pages, this book is bound in red velvet cloth over heavy wooden boards. The entirety of the dense, small text is devoted to the advantages and disadvantages of reanimating the skeletons of different creatures. There is no discussion of necromancy or the magic necessary to actually preform the reanimation, just an exhaustive discussion of the practicalities when it comes to such things as number of legs, opposable thumbs, total size, etc. A couple of the species discussed in the book are otherwise unknown.
            Price 5gp.

8. Paints and Pigments by Helbreth Givorn.

This octavio is bound between wooden covers that are painted with swirling colours. Each of the pages contains detailed instructions on how to create specific colours of paint, including what ingredients are necessary, the best ways to mix them, and, in a few cases, cooking instructions. Each page also contains a small circular sample of the colour being discussed. At some point the book had a small hole drilled through it near the bottom of the spine. This was likely done so that the book could be chained to a shelf.
            Price 40gc.

9. The Magic of Sea Glass by Dafrinth T.

The covers of this octavo are made out of thin sheets of metal. Tiny bits of sea glass have been inset onto the front cover to form a colourful mosaic square. The printed text, which seems overly large, and occasionally switches between black, green, blue, red and purple with no identifiable pattern, purports to tell the numerous ways that sea glass can be used in spellcasting, including as a spell component, as a focusing device, and as a target of specific spells. Unfortunately, none of the results purported in the book can be replicated.
            Price 25gp.

10. Edible Underground Fungus by Humster Flinn

A thin, duodecimo bound in green cloth, this hand-written book details over thirty varieties of edible fungus that can be found growing underground. While the hand-writing is clear and extremely precise, the same cannot be said of the accompanying illustrations which look somewhat childish, and are of little help in identification. Many of the fungi mentioned can be dried out and preserved for significant amounts of time.
            Price 10gc.

* Artwork by Barrett Stanley, created for the game Rangers of Shadow Deep.

Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Catapult!


Here is my recently finished Catapult mech. It’s another of the plastic mechs from the new Battletech box set. The Catapult has never been my favourite mech design, but I must admit that this is my favourite version in miniature. I painted it with my – take my time, try to get it as nice as possible – paint style, and am happy with the results. 

Thankfully, these new mechs with all of their separate armour plates really works well with my black-lining.

Not only is this mech painted in the colours of my Firehawks Legion, it is the first mech to sport the new legion logo. I got several sheets of these decals from Fighting Pirannha Graphics. Technically, the logo belongs to a mercenary group called the ‘Black Outlaws’, but it definitely looks like a Firehawk to me. I have also gone back and applied a couple to the Awesome mech I painted awhile back, but the photos I took had too much glare to make out the decal!

In fact, I went a little decal crazy on this figure, and even applied a few different ones to the tops of the missile launchers, which provides some nice visual interest when seem from above – which is actually pretty common on a tabletop.

I am now patiently awaiting the release of the new edition of Battletech: Alpha Strike which is supposedly coming sometime this year!



Monday, 17 June 2019

The Cover Ranger!


After my brief (unsuccessful) foray into competitive miniatures painting, I am back to painting purely for fun! I’m a still working my way through the immense (5 figure) miniature range for Rangers of Shadow Deep. Here we have ‘The Cover Ranger’, that is to say, the figure that was based on the ranger on the cover of the book. Of course, that ranger has his back to the viewer, so Bobby Jackson had to use a bit of imagination when sculpting him!

I really love this figure. It’s just so classic ranger, all belts, tunic, cloak and sword, and so I went with the classic ranger colour scheme of browns and greens. That said, I did something I rarely do, which is paint the belts black. Black is a tricky colour to work with, but I think it came out great here.

I know some people will be put off by the severed head he’s holding, which is fair enough. This would probably be relatively easy to remove. I painted it up as a ghoul head. That way, it is a nice, clean severed head. Undead means no blood, you see.

I can’t help but feel that if this had been the miniature in my painting contest, I would have gotten more votes! The photo makes the figure look a bit shiny, but I think that’s just the flash from the camera.

Anyway, just one ranger to go and then some giant flies!

Friday, 14 June 2019

The Agony of Defeat


It’s over! The painting contest between me and Teras has come to an end, and I have been crushingly defeated! The final vote tally was 85 – 45 in favour of Teras' tree-hugger of a bishop (#2)!

Now, I’ll admit it, I knew I was in trouble the moment I saw those great freehand-painted trees. I’m actually pleasantly surprised that I got as many votes as I did.

What is really interesting is that the votes cast on the Facebook page, 58 – 40, make it look like a close contest, yet the votes cast right here on my own blog went hugely against me 27 – 5, and one of those 5 votes was cast by my Mom! Has my painting style started to bore you all?

In truth, I suspect many people knew which figure was mine. I was struggling to come up with on a colour scheme and decided to base it on the can of golden syrup that I had risked in the contest – hence the dark green, gold and white. I realized this actually made him fit in with all of the Alladorean figures that I have been painting, so I also gave him the Star of Alladore on his hat. Kind of a giveaway to those in the know, but I did want to have a figure I could use, when it is all said and done.

Anyway, congratulations to Teras of Geek Nation Tours, who won fair-and-square (even if he should have lost points for his rubbish trash-talking throughout the contest). I’ll be bringing a can of the good stuff with me to Tallinn next year.

In many ways, for me, this little contest was the first step on the road to the Geek Nations Frostgrave Immersion Tour in Tallinn next year. Now that I’ve painted up my tour figure, I can turn my attention to the new warband I’ll be bringing with me. I believe we are going to set-up a little Facebook group for tour participants so we can discuss scenarios, what rules we want to use, and start the trash-talking early there. I will, of course, be showing off my figures here as well.

Can’t believe I missed out on the maple syrup…

Thursday, 13 June 2019

I’m in a Dungeons and Dragons book!


I don’t suppose that anyone outside of the world of publishing looks at imprint pages – those pages at the front of a book filled with tiny text, seemingly random numbers, and copyright notices. However, a careful examination of the imprint page in the newly released Ghosts of Saltmarsh book for Dungeons and Dragons will reveal my name, listed as a ‘Designer’.

Check off a big item on the Renaissance Troll Bucket List!

Now, in truth, my contribution to this book was pretty minimal. In fact, none of the actual words in the book are mine. My contribution comes from another project, which apparently had a significant influence on this one. Personally, I’m not sure it is enough to warrant a design credit, but who am I to argue with the experts?

This isn’t the first credit I’ve received in a role-playing game. My first came when I was just fourteen (with a huge assist from my mother) in the The Grey Mountains book for Middle-earth Role-playing. Over a decade later, I got my second credit, writing most of Rise Alabama! for Savage Worlds. In retrospect, I think both of these were an extremely important steps on my road to being both a writer and game designer. However, both of those are long time ago… so long ago they almost seem to have been written by a different person.

While most of my time these days is taken up working on my own games, in my own worlds, it is wonderful to have left a little mark on the huge legacy that is Dungeons and Dragons.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Let the Voting Commence!

Last week, Teras, of Geek Nation Tours, challenged me to a one-on-one painting contest. We would both have one week to paint up St. Albertus Magnus, the figure that is being given away as part of the Frostgrave Immersion Tour.  Well, we have both finished, and the results can be seen here --->.

It’s now up to you to decide the winner. To vote, simply leave a comment saying ‘1’ or ‘2’, so we know which is your favourite. Voting will also be taking place on the Frostgrave Facebook page. You have until Friday, 12PM, GMT to vote, at which point I will compile the votes and declare the winner!

And remember, people, there is syrup at stake.

(In retrospect, if I had known how much Teras likes syrup, I might never have entered this challenge…).

Side note – If I lose, I will likely be grumpy and release an official errata that changes the Frostgrave survival table so that wizards and apprentices die on a roll of 1-10…just saying.

Thankfully, I have just finished reading the book - Rejection Proof, so I should be able to handle the results...