East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Hammer-style sword & sorcery

coverThere’s a thing we’ve been talking for a while, with my friend Alex – that is a fine Italian writer of genre fiction – about doing something somehow similar to the legendary Hammer “failed pilot” Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter1.
And indeed Alex did something like that, with his series about the Uhlan, a fine line of horror/adventure books.
As I said, we talk about something of that kind roughly once a year, usually in the whereabouts of Halloween, when we reminisce like old men about old Hammer movies, old games of Ravenloft and even more obscure geekeries like Chill, the old, classic horror game.
We might call it Hammer Style Sword & Sorcery – that is not a thing, as far as I know, but works with us.

Let’s sum up the basic elements of this project that will never be… Continue reading



Nyarlathotep, probably

Masks_of_Nyarlathotep_(3rd_Edition)I mentioned Masks of Nyarlathotep a few days back, talking about the Pulp Cthulhu handbook.
Now, for the uninitiated, Mask of Nyarlathotep is probably the War & Peace of Call of Cthulhu, if not of the whole horror gaming genre.
Granted, Beyond the Mountains of Madness is bigger, and Horror on the Orient Express is probably creepier, but for globe-trotting variety, implied menace, cast of characters and locations, plot intricacies and sheer gaming goodness, Mask of Nyarlathotep remains a classic, sort of the standard against which Call of Cthulhu scenarios are evaluated. Continue reading


Tits & Sand: the roleplaying game

2nro4lsBack when I opened this blog, one of the titles I had on my list was Alam al Mithral, an expression from Arabian philosophy which means The place where ideas are real.
It was quite good, but too long and too easy to spell wrong, I thought.
That, of course, was before I discovered to some this blog was Karavansahara.
But that’s another story.
Anyway, it looks like in 2017 I’ll finally get the opportunity to use that title – for a roleplaying game I will develop together with my brother, based on a new gaming engine.
A nice, swift, cool game of Tits & Sand – or Arabian Nights Adventures if you prefer.
Or Oriental Fantasy.
You get the idea. Continue reading

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Hope & Glory

And so the long wait is finally over.
Or something.
I am proud to announce that Hope & Glory my original steampulp setting for the Savage Worlds roleplaying game is out of development, and a few titles will soon be in production and available for purchase.

semper eadem

Illustration by Alberto Bontempi

In the meantime, you can check here for news, behind the scenes and product announcements. Social media, Facebook pages and all the usual bells and whistles will come in due time.

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Gift unboxed: Numenéra

Numenera-Corebook-Cover-2013-06-1826th of December, this strange mid-week weekend is sapping my energies and I am doing littlemore than eating and reading.
I’ve been spending the last 24 hours (give or take a few moments for a nap once in a while) reading and enjoying very much my brother’s gift to me for Christmas – the huge Bundle of Holding for Numenéra.
And what a marvel it is.

Numenéra is an award-winning science-fantasy game by legendary designer Monte Cook – he of the Planewalker’s Handbook for Planescape.
Numenéra was founded through a Kickstarter that hit an incredible 500.000 dollars (the original target was 25.000) and it is gorgeous to behold, a delight to read and I’m very very much eager to play it. Continue reading


Writing fluff

Air_FluffMore talking aloud with myself, in English, about my current project.
In roleplaying games, “Fluff” is the name usually given to the gaming material that describes the setting – as opposed to the “Crunch“, the rules and mechanics of the thing.

Fluff is what I like in games – and what I normally write in gaming books.
After all, to me, roleplaying games is about living adventures in strange and new worlds – rules are for the weak.

Right now, in the early phases of my new work, I’m trying to decide how to present the fluff in my book. Continue reading


Hunters of Legends

Roleplaying games are great for learning languages.
Without D&D, my brother would have never learned English, and I used the gorgeous French version of Call of Cthulhu, L’Appel de Cthulhu, by Sans Detour, to brush up my French, and give it a thorough workout.
Now, it’s time for some Spanish – courtesy of NOSOLOROL Ediciones and their fine book, Cazadores de Leyendas.

cazadoresSo, ok – I’m a sucker for pulp games.
I saw the cover and I knew I had to take a look at this baby.
My birthday arrived, and my brother sort of had this vibe, and he knew somehow I was interested in it, and therefore he gave it to me as a gift.

Published in February 2013, Cazadores de Leyendas (Legend Hunters) is a 132 pages pulp adventure campaign, distributed as a PDf with color cover and black and white interior illustrations.
It was written by Ismael Diaz Sacaluga, and runs on the D20 system.

The set-up is classic – it’s the second half of the thirties, and the Nazis are looking for mystical artifacts to further their plans of world domination. The British intelligence sets up a team of adventurers to get at the artifacts before the Nazis. The players take the roles of members of this MI6 offshoot group.
Nice and smooth.

The Indiana Jones movies were clearly an inspiration – and basically, this campaign is probably the closest you can get to the Indiana Jones franchise without the Lucas & Spielberg lawyers coming after you with bullwhips and guns.
And it’s fine.

The book provides a general framework for the campaign, ample Keeper’s notes, five pre-generated, well detailed characters, and a campaign in ten episodes spanning the years 1936 and 1937:

  1. The Mask of Fu Kang
  2. The Mouth of Hell
  3. Zimmer’s Evil
  4. Venetian Masque
  5. The Devils Hunters
  6. The Last Will of Seneca
  7. The Return of Ravek
  8. The Ring of Odin
  9. The Heart of the Beast
  10. The Final Plague

Screenshot from 2013-05-29 05:07:12The book also includes a condensed, lightweight but fully functional version of the D20 system.

The campaign grants a fair amount of globe-trotting (Nepal, Egypt, Italy, England etc.) and pitches the heroes against the Thulegesellschaft.

The scenarios making up the campaign are fun, well-detailed and with some nice touches (like suggesting the music for each scene, from pulp adventure movie soundtracks). The cast of NPCs is large and varied. The artifacts are interesting, and the overall plot is well designed.
Some of the artwork is nothing to write home about, but most of it is still more than adequate, and a pair of pieces are very very good (such as the one here on the left).

I personally do not care for theD20 system, but converting this baby to a more suitable system (such as Savage Worlds, for instance) is not a big deal.
Some scenarios might require some tweaking – but the book leaves ample space for customization.

All in all, a fine addition to my collection of pulp-themed games.
And a good opportunity to improve my Spanish.