YOU: Unknown Armies Fiction

YOU is a new book by author and game designer, Greg Stolze, that is now up for funding on Kickstarter. You can find the link here. The book takes place in the Unknown Armies setting.

From the Kickstarter page:

YOU is a second person novel, so it’s told as if it’s happening to the reader. These aren’t common. The most popular second person literature is probably the Choose Your Own Adventure genre, only in YOU there are no choices. It could be described as an “endure your own adventure” story.

In the book, you are Leo Evans. Leo is disgruntled, middle-aged, unhappily divorced, and a cultist who has developed genuine extra senses and paranormal abilities by adhering to a set of beliefs he freely admits seem preposterous.

In the course of the book, you get punched, kicked, and you accidentally injure yourself while pulling a concealed brush axe from beneath your jacket. You are enjoined to feel hatred for the person you love the most in the world. You punch a guy in a strip club and get manhandled by bouncers. Your apartment is broken into with distressing regularity. You are subject to multiple enchantments, one of which causes you to feel overwhelming affection for a woman you’ve never met. People scheme to murder you, to duplicate you, to deceive you, and to make you live forever.

Unknown Armies is one of my all time favorite roleplaying games. It also clearly falls into the category of “Favorite Game I’ve Never Played”. When I had heard about the new edition that was being produced by Greg Stolze and the folks at Atlas Games, I was really excited. When the Kickstarter dropped, I backed it right away. In the last few months, I’ve been getting the backer PDFs of the new edition and I’ve continued to be excited about the game and have several ideas about for a campaign (the newest idea, thanks to a segment on Ken & Robin Talk About Stuff, takes place in Disney World).

It is a modern occult setting with the tagline of “broken people trying to save the world”. Magickal adepts cast spells based on movie tropes or the impact of guns or the freedom of the open road. People seek to embody the principles of the True King or the Captain or the Mother. It’s a world which resets when all 333 archetypes ascend and combine into one demiurge and remakes the world into it’s image. It’s about damaged people seeking to change something that they don’t like about the world.

Greg Stolze has visited this world in his fiction before. Godwalker was his first novel set in the Unknown Armies universe. SwitchFlipped, while reported to not actually be set in the Unknown Armies universe, has many ideas that are very UA.

Even if you aren’t interested in Unknown Armies, Greg Stolze is a good writer. Beyond the two books I mentioned above, Mask of the Other is one of the best Cthulhu Mythos books I’ve read. His characters are always colorful and the dialogue is entertaining. I’ve loved every book of his that I’ve read and I have a virtual stake of his work that I still have to read.

As of this writing, the Kickstarter for YOU just broke through the halfway point. If you like Unknown Armies or just like modern occult stories with quirky characters and situations, you should check it out.

While you’re at it, you should check out his other fiction as well.

And if you want to play the game that goes along with the fiction, you can pre-order it through BackerKit.



Favorite Games I’ve Never Played: Savage Rifts

This is kind of a twofer: I’ve never played a Savage Worlds game and I’ve never played Rifts. I own a lot of Savage Worlds settings from both Pinnacle Entertainment and 3rd Party Publishers, but as I’ve stated before, I own far more games than I’ve played. On the other hand, I’ve played a handful of games from Palladium, the maker of Rifts, such as Beyond the Supernatural, Robotech, and Palladium Fantasy and had a great deal of fun. I even owned several Palladium books, including Rifts but never got around to playing it. There were a lot of concepts that I loved in Rifts, such as the Juicer, a combat drug powered super soldier with a short life span.

With that being said, I was very excited to hear that Pinnacle had come to an agreement with Palladium to produce Savage Rifts. For me, that meant the setting was getting a more streamlined, modern system and one that I thought could do the setting justice.

After getting a hold of my PDFs, I was even more excited.

Pinnacle has produced three books to start a gamer’s experience with Savage Rifts: The Tomorrow Legion Player’s Guide, the Game Master’s Handbook, and Savage Foes of North America. Along with these three books, you will still need the Savage Worlds Deluxe core book, which is a great purchase anyway.

The authors of Savage Rifts have done an excellent job of adapting the primary character careers. Each one has the feel of the original Palladium version while also adding in some new bits. I refer to the Juicer, again, as an example.

The Juicer is a soldier on a drug regimen that increases strength, speed, and endurance. The problem is that these drugs take their toll on the body. In the original system, this meant that Juicers had a short lifespan but really didn’t mean anything mechanically. Pinnacle has changed this by adding Burn. Each Juicer starts with a Burn ratingof 8. At the start of each adventure, you roll a d10 and if you roll over your Burn, you lose a point of Burn. Of you lose your last point of Burn, your Juicer will die at some point during that mission. The player decides when and they can go out in a Blaze of Glory (another setting rule) which boosts their abilities for a final act. Burn can also be used for other Juicer specific advantages.

So what do I like about Savage Rifts? It brings a pretty gonzo setting to a more balanced and streamlined system. It maintains the feel of old Rifts while adding some cool mechanical bits to the game. And it even brings some of the less appreciated core classes onto an even playing field. The art is also great and very evocative of the setting. Finally, the Kickstarter brought out a massive number one sheets and adventures. Not as many as Shadow of the Demon Lord but enough to get quite a few game sessions.

I have another article in the works on what my Rifts is like but I’ll leave that for another day.

Kickstarter: I Spoke Too Soon

Well it appears that now that the holidays have passed, game designers are gearing up their Kickstarters. A few things I’m interested in are hitting soon. One is even starting tomorrow.

John Adamus is going to be crowdfunding Noir World within the next month. It is a PbtA game of the hard-boiled detective genre. It’s been making the rounds at Metatopia for the past few years and I’ve only heard good things about it. You can follow him on Twitter @awesome_john and specifically for Noir World @noirworldrpg. You should follow him anyway if you want writing and editing advice. And while I’m at it, check out his Patreon.

Jason Pitre’s second Sig Kickstarter looks like it will be dropping soon. Look for word on his Twitter feed @Genesisoflegend.

Finally, Dusk City Outlaws from Scratchpad Publishing drops tomorrow, January 24th. You can read a number of blog posts about it at here

Gaming Goals for 2017

I have several things that I hope to accomplish this year for gaming. I feel like I might be jinxing myself by writing about them. I hope it will act as a reminder or a touchstone for me. Perhaps I’ll even do a follow up to it through out the year.

So in no particular order:

  • I want to double the number of blog posts from last year for this site. Okay, so this post is, overall, very self serving as it puts me one step closer to accomplishing this goal. In addition, I want to be a bit more organized when it comes to my posts. Along with “Favorite Games I’ve Never Played”, I want to do other types of posts that involve a little more thought on my part.
  • Read more game books. I’m currently reading the PDFs of Unknown Armies 3rd Edition. I finished Book 1 and I’m working my way through Book 2. Coriolis is another one that I’m really looking forward to getting into. And I definitely have to finish reading TimeWatch and the Dracula Dossier. Yes, definitely those. The list is extensive and I really should organize it.
  • Finish my WWII era Delta Green scenario. And run it. I have the skeleton of a scenario and just need to finish it. I finished my research for it by reading Operation Paperclip and The Monuments Men. Historical gaming is hard.
  • Play more games. Both with my group and maybe at some of the local cons, particularly Metatopia and Dexcon.
  • And be a better member of the gaming community. Try to promote gaming as a hobby and support the hobby and the people in the community. Reading that seems vague. More specifically, do what I can to promote the games I like without trashing the games that I don’t.

Oh Kickstarter, What Are You Going To Do To Me This Year?

Last February, I wrote about the Kickstarter monkey that is constantly on my back. I wrote about all the upcoming crowdfunding projects that were going to tempt me into spending money.

I wonder what projects will be there to tempt me this year. So far, I have heard of very few upcoming Kickstarters. There are only two that I know of.

First and highest on my list is for TORG Eternity from Ulisses Spiele. This is a new edition of the classic reality crossing RPG. Honestly, when I heard of The Strange from Monte Cook Games, I was hoping it was going to be more like TORG as I loved the story of different realities invading Earth. I’m really excited to see this game come back updated for the modern era. Ulisses Spiele has been releasing a series of blog posts to rev up the PR engine for the game and generate interest in the Kickstarter. You can read find them here.

When I asked about upcoming RPG Kickstarters on Twitter, the one response that I got was from Jason Pitre of Genesis of Legend Publishing. He has had several successful Kickstarters including The Spark RPG and Sig: The City Between. The latter is getting a follow up in January called Sig: Manual of the Prime. I don’t know much more about it other than the name but it is worth mentioning considering how popular the first Sig Kickstarter was, as well as Jason Pitre being the creator of Spark.

That is all I have heard of so far but I don’t know if that is an indicator that it will be light year. I wouldn’t be surprised if Atlas Games puts up another Kickstarter after completing the Unknown Armies 3E products (I can’t wait to get my books in the awesome slipcase/GM screen). There are already rumors of an Over The Edge update. Cam Banks has also been working on Pillar of Fire, a new science fiction RPG for Atlas, which would be the first new RPG property for the company in many years.

I also know that Eloy Lasanta of Third Eye Games is planning several Kickstarters for the coming year. I’m sure a number of them are for his existing game lines Ninja Crusade, Apocalypse Prevention Inc., and AMP. I’ll definitely be looking for these.

Kevin Crawford of Sine Nomine Publishing is working on a new edition of his flagship game, Stars Without Number, which will take advantage of a lot of the design innovations that he has developed for his more recent games, such as Godbound and Silent Legions (which were awesome) but remain backwards compatible for the old SWN material.

Aside from that, I’m just waiting for a slew of companies to continue to deliver on Kickstarters that funded both last year and the year before. Aside from UA3, I’m looking forward to the Delta Green RPG corebook, Monster for Chill, Red Markets, Katanas & Trenchcoats, Into the Outside for Numenera, Predation for the Cypher System, and the continued bounty of the 7th Sea Second Edition RPG.

Metatopia 2016

Once again, it is time for Metatopia. This is a pretty special gaming convention as it offers game designers a venue for trying new games by providing them with a pool of playtesters. For players, it provides a glimpse at possible up and coming games that are in various states of development. In addition to the actual gaming, there is a lot of industry networking and a variety of panels discussing game design, editing, project development, and in this age, crowdfunding.

As someone who isn’t able to attend Origins or Gen Con, it is the next best thing as I’ve been able to meet some of the people whose names are on my favorite games, like Kenneth Hite, Cam Banks, and Fred Hicks.

(Sidebar: Because the industry is actually very small in comparison to other media, it is much easier to meet many of the big names and meeting them in such a small venue brings about a certain level of familiarity. I find this somewhat awkward to navigate at times as when I say hello to Cam Banks, he asks that I call him Cam. While I know Cam from sitting in on some of his playtests and have interacted with him enough on Twitter that he has also followed me, I don’t want to presume a friendship where one might not exist. The same goes with some of the industry people that live in New Jersey. Just because I’ve interacted with John Adamus, I wouldn’t want to presume a relationship where one doesn’t exist. At the most, I would put myself on the level of acquaintance. Sidebar over)

My plans for attending Metatopia this year were impacted by a few things like life. So as I write this, I may not be getting back to the con for the rest of the weekend but I’m happy that I got to attend on Friday. I only attended two events but they definitely scratched an itch.

I got to sit in on a very special TimeWatch scenario playtest run by the author himself, Kevin Kulp. TimeWatch is the game of pulp, time travelling adventure from Pelgrane Press. I met Kevin Kulp at Metatopia 2013 where we played in someone else’s psychic spy RPG and didn’t realize he was also one of the authors of Owl Hoot Trail. I had a great time playing with him and then I heard that he was an awesome GM. So I was overjoyed to have the opportunity to play in a game run by him. Mr. Kulp is a great GM and the scenario was an incredible amount of fun. I’m looking forward to seeing the published version of this scenario.

The other game was an alpha playtest of a Powered by the Apocalypse spy game called Deep Cover. As an alpha, it was very barebones and was more a test of the basic moves than anything else. I told the author that I had been looking for a PbtA game that emulated the espionage genre. While some of the recent cyberpunk-like hacks have elements of the genre, I really wanted to see one dedicated to it. The author was aiming to emulate games like Metal Gear Solid. It is very hard for me to judge this as it was a very early iteration. I hope to see more of it as it is developed.

And that was it for me. I hope I get to go again this year but I’ll definitely plan better for next year. If you have the chance to go, it is really a great experience.