Listen to the Return of Castle Falkenstein!

I’ve been a fan of Castle Falkenstein since 1994 when I grabbed a copy of the newly released role-playing game. I have run it straight at the table and online, I’ve adapted it for alternate systems such as Theatrix, PDQ, and Fate Core (though I’m still unenthusiastic about the spellcasting rules in the latter, need to think more about them). For many old gamers like me, R. Talsorian Games‘ Castle Falkenstein represented a sea change at the time, no longer concentrating on dice rolling and stat values as much as the fiction created around the player characters.

Although the original Castle Falkenstein books are long out of print, they were eventually scanned and released as PDF versions on DriveThruRPG. But until recently, the latest supplement released by RTG had been, if memory serves, The Memoirs of Auberon of Faerie in 1998; and a GURPS Castle Falkenstein supplement, The Ottoman Empire, had been released by Steve Jackson Games under license circa 2000.

This changed last year, when RTG allowed up-and-coming Fat Goblin Games to create and publish additional materials. Since last October, writer J Gray — long-time Falkenstein fan — has authored four supplements: Curious Creatures, a bestiary; The Tarot Variation, an alternate rule system for sorcery that uses a tarot deck instead of a regular playing cards; The Second Tarot Variation, which extends the use of tarot cards to all action; and Firearms and Margarine, an adventure.

J Gray is also a great person — and a great GM. Along with my husband, I’ve had the chance to play in J’s current online game. We’re alpha-playtesting a series of new alternate mechanic options that will allow customization of the Castle Falkenstein system for GMs who like to tinker. J has been recording the the episodes so far and releasing them as a podcast. You can see the campaign site on Obsidian Portal, and listen to the episodes on Fat Goblin GamesPresents. That will give you a preview of some of the rules we’re testing so you can try them too!

Ups and Downs and Ups

Thrilling news for me: A couple of weeks ago I received the green light from Evil Hat Productions to be creative director and primary author for a new Fate Toolkit focusing on espionage, heists, and confidence jobs. For now we’re referring to it as the Fate Infiltration Toolkit, but the name may well change along the way.

Not so thrilling: A week ago I got a terse note from my employer informing me of termination. Later that week I learned that other people had been let go as well, I’m not sure whether the entire office is closing. It was a miserable job for a short-sighted company, but it was a safety net — if a flimsy one. I had already been sending resumes around but I have to step up the job search.

Thrilling again: In the same batch of emails, I received one from Vigilance Press offering me a chance to write the next Tianxia book! It’s going to be a rules compendium that will present the Fate Core rules (based on the SRD) for people who are new to both Fate and Tianxia, along with game-master advice, optional rules, and so forth. We don’t have an official title yet for that one either, so I’ve been referring to it as the Tianxia Rules Companion.

Two books! Wow! I’m so excited about this.

 

RPG a Day: And from the forehead of Zeus…

31. Favourite non-RPG thing to come out of RPGing

These are only some of the friendships resulting of this hobby for me.  And the background picture is from the beach barbecue party kicking off the weekend of our wedding (also resulting of RPG connections) 19 years ago to the day.

Friends I made through gaming.

To anyone not included: I had to skip online-only friends, and I had to find photos; if I had more time and images ready, this thing would be a huge mosaic. But I’m considering doing just that when I can find the time, so if there is a photo you’d like me to use, please send it!

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RPG a Day: Yes, they’re famous, but do they game?

30. Favourite RPG-playing celebrity

No contest: Dame Judi Dench playing D&D with Vin Diesel. That sentence contains so much awesome, it opens a portal to parallel universes every time it’s repeated aloud.

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still-of-judi-dench-and-vin-diesel-in-the-chronicles-of-riddick-(2004)-large-picture

Dipping my toes in the digital pool

TengamiMy friends know I love, love, love tabletop games, but rarely play digital games.  For one thing, I have poor reflexes, speed, coordination, and dexterity, which cuts down entirely swaths of games; and I don’t get very excited with resource-management games.

I do, however, enjoy well-made mysteries and puzzle games, and sometimes even excel at them. I particularly enjoy the ones that have a narrative and some good graphics. Recently, I worked my way through the following, with great enjoyment:

Alchemy Mysteries: Prague Legends (Jet Dogs Studio): Not too hard on normal settings, perfect to while away a few hours and strike a good mix of challenge and brainlessness.  Some pixel-hunting and occasional glitches, but nothing terminal.  You can also play on advanced mode for more limited access to clues.

Tengami (Nyamyam): Beautiful and oddly relaxing, based on Japanese paper art.  Pretty quick to move through, but so pretty.

The Room and The Room 2 (Fireproof Games): Boxes within boxes which you have to open. Best balance of challenging versus feasible in the bunch.  Completely addictive, beautiful, logical. I can’t wait for No. 3.

Monument Valley (ustwo): The adventures of a princess on a quest in an Escher-inspired landscape. Sweet and clever, stylized art, a bit like Tengami.

I’m still working on the last three:

Last Voyage (Semidome): Visuals reminiscent of 2001: A Space Odyssey.  Very attractive but some puzzles require more reflexes than I have. Yes, they are minimal, but I’m just that clumsy.

The Guides (Kevin Bradford): A cryptography game? I have not figured out that one yet. It may be too smart for me.

DEVICE 6 (Simogo): Combination of puzzle and choose-your-own-adventure ebook. I loaded it but have not gotten very far because it’s hard on my eyes (it’s on my phone).

RPG a Day: Lo, these aeons ago…

BluePlanet28. Favourite RPG you no longer play

Blue Planet (Biohazard Games/Fantasy Flight Games/Capricious Games), I think.  I love the setting, and the version 2 system (2003) is nicely playable (the original 1997 version had a very different system that I can’t recommend.)  We tried launching campaigns several times but it’s difficult to find a group interested in aquatic adventures. Over a decade ago we played in a campaign that lasted only a few months, and both my husband and I greatly enjoyed it. I’d love to try again.

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eaglerays

RPG a Day: Two great tastes that go together

27. Favourite idea for merging two games in one

I have to go back to my on-the-fly conversion of octaNe (Memento Mori Theatricks) to Fate Accelerated (Evil Hat Productions) at Big Bad Con 2013. It’s not a genre mashup but a system mashup, and it worked like a charm.

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Character sheet: octaNe-to-FAE

RPG a Day: Inspiration is out there

CreativeProcessPieChart26. Favourite inspiration for your game

You could say my source is immersion. Whether creating a new character or planning to run a gain, I like to surround myself with sources of inspiration: music, books, movies, images, online sources, etc.. I browse the ‘Net for related materials, I scour my creaking bookshelves, I cook recipes from particular cultures, and so forth.

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Credits: Image obtained from MurrayTheNut.com, used without permission, no copyright challenge intended.

RPG a Day: We can do that?

25. Favourite revolutionary game mechanic

OTE-1st-coverThree things.

  1. Free-form skills, as introduced by Over the Edge (Atlas Games). They changed the face of gaming for me, turning characters back into concepts, not the piles of numbers they had been reduced to by earlier RPGs.
  2. Character troubles and backgrounds as stories a player wants to pursue, not a source of of disadvantage points to min-max with. First encountered in 7th Sea (Alderac Entertainment Games).
  3. A range of success that includes No but…, Yes but…, and Yes and…, as first encountered in octaNe (Memento Mori Theatricks). In the long run, it  made a huge difference in my game-mastering.

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RPG a Day: House ruling

24. Favourite house rule

benniesThe most beneficial house rule we’ve had, with the first edition of Savage Worlds (Pinnacle Entertainment Games), was that bennies couldn’t be traded in for experience points. Since then, two newer editions of the game (Explorer’s Edition and Deluxe Explorer’s Edition) have also gotten rid of the bennies-for-experience rule, which encouraged players to sit on stacks of chips instead of using them to propel the adventure forward, and it has been a good change. As a result, we tend to use similar house rules for other games that offer a chance to trade action points of some sort for character advancement.

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