East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Sky Pirates of the Mediterranean

Another gift for my birthday (my brother was feeling generous), another pulp roleplaying game campaign for my collection, and one that really clicks all the right buttons. And so, after spending a few hours checking the material, why not do a proper review here on Karavansara?
After all it features pirates, biplanes and airships, an alternate history of post-WW1 Europe, and enough nifty tricks to leave everybody happy.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you, Scott Rhymer’s Sky Pirates of the Mediterranean.

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Four Against Darkness: Heart of the Lizard

And so it’s out, and I can finally post the cover – that I had shown you a while back, I think – and a link to buy my novella Heart of the Lizard, the fist (hopefully) story in a series set in the world of Andrea Sfiligoi’s game Four Against Darkness.
The book is published by Ganesha Games, and includes a novella and a big appendix with all the gaming material you need to use in your games the magic, creatures, monsters and treasures you read about. Andrea wrote the appendix, and also illustrated the book.
The book is currently available as a pdf, with the paperback coming soon.

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Rat-men in the sewers

I dug out my old copy of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game, the other day, while I was trying – not very successfully – to put some order on my shelves.
I have two copies of this one – the Italian translation published by Nexus in 1994 and the Hogshead version of the first edition published in 1995. Before that there were photocopies, and notes, and pages clipped from White Dwarf magazine and what else.
And I thought, why not write something about it.
And by the way, yes, I am old.

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Scaring people for fun and (sometimes) profit

Kids these days!
On a roleplaying forum a discussion starts about horror RPGs and how you create fear. And everybody starts talking about game rules and mechanics.
Which is oh, so wonderfully naive, and misses the mark by a half-mile.

In a roleplaying game, we get players playing the roles of characters.
Scaring the characters is easy.
The Game Master says “Your characters are scared.”
There can be specific rules to simulate fear – the old Ravenloft setting used a Saving Throw vs Death and Paralysis or a Will check. Fail that, your character is scared. Other games used different formulas. Done.

But if one of the the purposes of horror fiction (and horror roleplaying is interactive, shared fiction) is for the end user to experience the frisson of fear, then the fact the characters in the stories are scared witless is not enough. We need to get to the end user – the player.
And here’s something I learned in my long life as a Game Master – nobody’s scared of a roll of dice or a table.

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The RPG Shelf: Basic RolePlaying

In the end I always go back to the first gaming system I really worked to exhaustion – the engine of The Call of Cthulhu, of Stormbringer, of Runequest. My goodness, of the ElfQuest RPG. Thieves’ World!
The game engine they call Basic RolePlaying (aka BRP).
I spent so many hours in my life playing with these rules, I could reasonably sit at a table without the handbook right now, and still be able to run a game with a minimum of fuss. More about this later.

And yes, this is a post mostly aimed at roleplayers, so maybe you might find it boring, or obscure, maybe even cryptic. I am sorry. Feel free to skip this.

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The RPG shelf: Atlantis, the Second Age

I took out of storage a few roleplaying books last night, for a project I’m about to start, and while I was at it I took the opportunity to retrieve a game I like a lot and have not played enough, that I wanted to move to the shelf of my favorites, the games I play more often.

The game in question is called Atlantis, the Second Age, that is a game with a complicated history – there’s at least three different editions that I am aware of: the first by Bard Games (when it was just called Atlantis), the second by Morrigan Press which is the one I own, and recently a new edition was released published by Kephera Publishing (I do not own it, but all reviews are glowing).

What we are talking about: a fantasy, decidedly sword & sorcery-oriented game that runs on a modified version of the old Talislanta engine (we are really talking gaming archaeology here) and that comes with a huge world for players to explore and romp through.

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Bullet to the moon

I first saw First Men in the Moon, the 1964 movie when I was a kid of six or seven, and I enjoyed it enormously. I was after all a kid of the Apollo generation, and stories about journeys to the moon were in the news back then.

In case you missed it, First Men in the Moon is a Nigel Kneale adaptation of an H.G. Wells novel published in 1901, directed by Nathan Juran featuring special effects by Ray Harryhausen, and the original novel (that you can download for free from Project Gutenberg) was an inspiration to both C.S. Lewis and Edgar Rice Burroughs.
It’s the story – you guessed it – of an Victorian mission to the moon, courtesy of the inventions of professor Joseph Cavor.

Now it turns out the actual Apollo moon landing will provide the theme for this years’s Play gaming fair in Modena – and there will be a selection of moon-themed goodies. including not one, but two Hope & Glory… things.

Moon-things, if you will.

And yes, I am currently doing four writing jobs at the same time, one of which is a brief Hope & Glory scenario about the first men in the moon.
That old movie I first saw as a kid will provide some ideas, but there’s a lot more brewing.

Stuff like a secret volcano base and a moon-gun ready to shoot a band of courageous adventurers on a one-way trip to our pale-faced satellite.

My weekend just turned a lot more strange than it was.