Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #144 - Review: Kamandi Challenge #11

Kamandi Challenge #12 is out today! So let's discuss #11. Spoilers henceforth.

Prior issue reviews:


Published By: DC Comics • 31 pages • $3.99 • full color • Art: Walter Simonson • Words: Rob Williams

What's In It?

Spoilers ahead folks last warning!

OK, where were we? Oh, right, Kamandi, having just learned that his mother was behind the attempted genocide of the mutants watches as an explosion consumes her. As the rebel mutants storm the keep Kamandi's mother is revealed to be a sophisticated android who then launches the tower skyward.

A running firefight begins while Kamandi attempts to reach the bridge and hopefully stop the tower from flying into space.  By the time Kamandi arrives at the bridge however they have already reached orbit and are approaching a strange space station ruled by the Misfit, a strange creature that claims to have Kamandi's parents.

As the gulf to the station closes Kamandi desperately attempts to stop it. In doing so he opens the ship to attack by the Gorilla UFO Squadron. The gorillas board the tower and Kamandi pleads with them that he is not their enemy. The Misfit opens fire on the tower rather than risk the gorillas reach his Tek-Moon base, and Kamandi is blow into space when the ship is breached...

There's a lot to unpack in this issue. High tech androids that can pass as humans effortlessly, URO flying gorillas and an orbital space station ruled by the Misfit, who's origin is still unknown. Kamandi's mother appears to be dead, but the Misfit says his father is still living, but as we know that the shift in writers can lead to unreliable narrative (in a matter of speaking) it's unclear how much of that is true. From a world building standpoint we also get an in-fiction map of the world matching that of the original run of the comics.

Story-wise this issue raised as many questions as it attempted to answer, including who or what is the Misfit, what's going on with Kamandi's parents, and where this will all end. Of course it seems destined to end on the Tek-Moon and we may yet find one or both of Kamandi's actual parents alive. The ultimate fate of the world seems to be in the balance as well, with the Misfit's goal seeming to be the destruction of the mutant animals. Art-wise this issues was good to excellent with clear action and interesting design for the Misfit.

Overall I think this was a fine set-up to the finale. It raised a number of questions but I think (I hope) that this can be wrapped up in a final issue that will satisfactorily close out the series.

Rating: 85% - As a penultimate issue it sends the narrative to a potentially interesting final destination.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Holiday Interlude 2017 #2 - Father Time

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Holiday Interludes
The godly personification of time itself. Father Time is typically encountered in the form of an old and wizened man carrying a scythe. On occasion he displays an hourglass, watch, sundial, or similar timekeeping device, often when manipulating time itself. In all practical ways immortal, when "slain" Father Time becomes an infant who's very cry can tear down the old and usher in the new. 

Name: Father Time

Level: 15 (TN 45)

Health: 200 • Armor: 0

Damage: Special.

Movement: Immediate

Modifications: Father Time is Eternal, if he should ever be reduced to Zero Heath a new age begins and Father Time is reborn as an infant. In his infant form Father Time's wails bring down what was old and usher in what is yet to come.

Combat: Father Time attack with his scythe, reaping what has been sown and moving his target one step down the damage track.

Interaction: Father Time is usually encountered in the form of an elderly man with a scythe. He is pleasant to talk to and willing to hear all petitioners out, he does have all eternity afterall.

Use: Father Time is immeasurably powerful but he is also old and bored. He can often be convinced to send a person or persons back to an earlier to change the flow of events for the sheer novelty of the unfolding new timeline.

Loot: Father Time's Scythe is a level 10 artifact weapon dealing 10 damage that bypasses armor to a random pool with each attack when wielded by any being who is not Father Time. The depletion of the Scythe is often agreed upon between the borrower and Father Time and is usually limited to a specific number of uses after which the Scythe crumbles to dust and returns to Father Time.

GM Intrusion: Father Time sends the target forward or backward in time allowing them a chance to change history, or the ability to bypass events. 

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #143 - Hacking the Cypher System - Still More on Shifts

Unmasked was released recently. I wrote about it last week (here), and mentioned that regarding the Cypher System's Power Shift mechanic there was "more that enough for a whole different article about that specifically." Well, welcome to this week and another article about power shifts! I have written about the topic a few times previously.

Unmasked's chapter on Shifts actually resonates with that second article, and I think there's a lot to unpack and a lot to learn, not just for Unmasked, not just for using Cypher System for Supers, but for any use of Shifts in a Cypher game, including those in Gods of the Fall.

Chapter 8 isn't a long one, which makes it all the more powerful. It's the mechanical and narrative equivalent of Bruce Banner. It looks unassuming but it contains a powerful force. Heck I guess that fits with the whole theme of Unmasked. By page count the chapter looks like a Teen, but the content reveals that it's more of a Prodigy, and mask-form capable of wielding tremendous power that seems to defy logic. Perhaps I'm hyperbolizing a bit, but you'll have to be the judge of that for you. Me, I think there's some amazing stuff in these three, yes 3, pages!

Firstly, Unmasked basically rips the training wheels off. Instead of just pointing back to the Shift categories in the CSR (page 270) it offers the following.
Players should feel free to be creative with the three power shifts they can place on abilities in their new mask-form. There is no definitive list, because power shifts can be used on nearly anything. GMs should work with their players to establish what does and does not make sense for a power shift. (Unmasked, page 62)
That's HUGE. Instead of limiting players and GMs to the list in the book (insomuch as they are actually limited, MCG isn't going to HALO drop into your dining room to force you to follow the rules strictly) they are explicitly opening Shifts up to 11. This game goes full throttle in a way even Gods of the Fall didn't. However, you can't just tell players and GMs to make stuff up without giving some guidelines (at least not without people then asking you for guidelines). And guide it does. With three simple suggestions it gives people all the tools they need, it's now in the hands of the players and GMs to use them.

Power Shifts are suggested to be "Clear," "Restricted in scope," and "Indicative of the PC they are attached to." And with those three simple suggestions, and some prose to explain the intent, Power Shifts go from a pick and play assortment of prefabricated cookie cutter boosts to something that can be incredibly versatile and, best of all, flavorful and thematic. A whipping sixteen examples, a mix of the CSR shifts and entirely new ones, are then presented and further drive home just how much you can do when given the right tools.

I think this will be incredibly useful for Gods of the Fall where sometimes shifts were really difficult to fit for Gods with more esoteric Dominions. A God of Shadows for instance could have a shift called "At Home in Shadows" that would give a boost to any action where the God was hiding in shadows, attacking from shadows, or the like. A God of Chance could take a shift in "The Odds are With Me" and gain a shift on games of chance/gambling, and all re-rolls from spending XP as another example.

Lastly in a sidebar this chapter tosses out an interesting new optional rule: Pushing It. This reminds me of similar mechanics from other supers games like Power Stunts and Extra Effort from Mutant & Masterminds, or the effects of Hero Point or the like in any number of other games such as Savage Worlds.

The idea is that during a dire situation the player can spend some XP to have the hero temporarily move shifts from one area to another to affect the outcome of a roll. A mastermine character with shifts in "Smart as Sin," which usually affects their Intelligence and knowledge skills, to a one round bonus to Speed defense to avoid being hit by a bus thrown at them by a villain. It's a nice way to help balance the huge disparity in power that can come from shifts and I think it also fits the superheroic genre quite well. It'll also fit nicely into Gods of the Fall, because it's hard to think that a God can't occasionally do a little extra something something when needed.

All in all I think that despite being rather a short chapter the value of the advice here is going to come back tenfold or more. The Cypher System has always been open and welcoming to player and GM innovation but never has that mindset been so fiercely and advocated for and embraced. Taking these steps to a more toolkit oriented ruleset is something I encourage every GM to try. I think it'll help you and your players to engage more with both the settings and characters.

Friday, December 8, 2017

MCC Recap - A Branch to the Head for All

Recently I ran the first 1/3-1/2 of A Fallen Star for All with a ragtag band of seekers trying to breach the uncovered ancient stronghold.

Spoilers for the first bit of A Fallen Star for All ahead...

Because I'm trying to establish a non-murder hobo game I'm encouraging the players to invest in their community, and I think it's working! After the clan's elders tasked them with investigating the uncovered ancient complex that was recently revealed by a fallen star the briefly spoke with the clan's head seeker, Trev-gar about the dangers he saw before retreating (as wise choice). Deciding that the needed more protection they went to a barter session with Peek, the local tanner, to get some armor. Cypher traded a trio of glowing fingers for some hide armor, and Agutter commissioned a vest of pleather and purchased a cloak with some knick knacks from his prior outing.

Using their "sky-carriage" gained from the prior exploration ofthe Sky-High tower they quickly covered the day's travel and arrived at the crater of the fallen star. Warned that other tribes had sent seekers to this spot the group lands nearby in the jungle and hides their vehicle lest it be stolen or stripped for parts. Arriving at the edge of the crater on foot they decided to take the long way around to avoid the red fog that had "jacked up" Trev-gar and his team. This seemed wise (it was) but turned unlucky for them as they bumped into a seeker group from the Blessed Brotherhood. The mutants laid claim to Agutter's medipack but an enraged Cypher quickly murdered them with some clever RP and good dice and the support of a spine throwing Franswa. Well, all but one, who escaped (I'm sure they'll never see him again).

After circumnavigating the red fog they approached a pair of structures that looked much like stone mushrooms. An empathic/telepathic cat (now called Dr. Claw) warned them about some kind of murderous mutant. It didn't take long for Cypher to slay the mutant (seriously, this Shaman is a beast) but in the process Franswa the Frog-manimal was driven insane by a nat 1 on his mutation check to hurl some spines. Drawn by the sounds of battle the mutant's companion, a blue skinned man, emerged from the huts and was likewise quickly dispatched but not before downing the insane Franswa.

Looting the bodies and they structure yielded several artifacts, only one of which exploded and killed Feeleep (one of Franswa's 9 additional personalities, all dead now;  as an aside do I get to count that as 10 PC deaths? ;) ). Experimenting with a strange device within the structure they recovered a cube of some kind with a sunburst (or maybe an eye?) symbol on one side that Cypher deduced was a key (he would know, doors are his favored enemy).

The group also found a mutant who joined them, replacing the now perished Franswa as the group's "diversity hire" (3 PSH and a mutant currently, with +Craig McCullough playing a 4th PSH). So far our group's track record with manimals, mutants, and plantients has been poor, but we'll see if Andy's new PC bucks the trend. We wrapped up after about 2 hours of play with a break to generate Andy's new character. I think that if all goes well the remainder will make for the bulk of the January and February sessions, at which point I will either choose a new module to run, or poll the players for what they wish to do next...

Most shocking thing we learned about MCC:
  • Rolling a 1 on a mutation check means you gain and defect and permanently lose the mutation! I suspect this is one we'll be talking about for a while as a group. I'm planing to play as written but if this seems to excessively to punish mutants, manimals, and plantients I may need to houserule. 
Most amusing behavioral change:
  • After getting a net result of 1 on an artifact check and causing a 6 damage explosion that killed a PC the group is now quick to tell me that they are putting distance between themselves and anybody making an artifact check.
Interesting (to me) Rules Adjudications:
  • After getting healed Cypher made an attack on the adjacent enemy. I ruled it as a sneak attack and gave a die upgrade. He basically just sat up and axed the guy in the groin with no warning. Ouch!
  • After Franswa went insane and gained 9 new additional personalities I had Andy use the purple sorcerer to roll up 9 new sets of stats and ruled that each personality had its own Personality and Intelligence (which seemed entirely logical) AND Luck score. I also encouraged Andy to not have each personality just be a slightly different version of the base character, sadly we didn't have enough time to see how that would play out. 
  • After dropping to zero I ruled that the personality in control of Franswa's body would be permanently dead if the character dropped to zero but was healed, or succeeded on a body roll. I thought this was an interesting adjudication as it wiped out that combo of Per, Int, and Luck stats as well, making for some genuine stakes for the many personalities. I really hope to see another mutant with this come into the game to see how this plays in the long term. 
In Memoriam: 
  • Franswa (and Feeleep, and 8 other personalities)

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #142 - First Impressions: Unmasked

It's here at last. The final release from the Worlds of the Cypher System Kickstarter. Hot(ish) on the heels of Predation this past summer Unmasked brings us a game that feels weirdly prescient and also very current. It was announced before we knew what Stranger Things was but feels like it is taking its advantage of the chance to fall into that particular groove of nostalgia within the current pop culture.

Either way we have a game that I think will find instant appeal in a certain sub-set of the Cypher System fandom, and potentially fly over the heads of others. Its setting is the 80s, and much of the way the game functions both from a perspective of characters as well as rules is anchored to a time when our world was substantially less instant, and substantially less digital. It's not nostalgia for the sake of mining a current fad, because while this game could work in a different era it just wouldn't work as well. The 80s were a turning point and the story of these teens with phenomenal powers is something that dovetails into that era in a way that just feels right.

The setting for the game is very much 1986. It's also, at least ideally I think, small town America. It's game of big things happening to some of the kids in this mid '80s small town. Sound like Stranger Things? It should, but again, this was announced prior so I don't know that this a a copy-cat so much as parallel development. The setting may well be one of the most familiar and easy to run for you, or it'll be something that requires research because you didn't grow up in that time or place. Either way there are easy touchstones for inspiration out there. There are a multitude of "classic" 80's films to draw ideas from, Stranger Things may well be a direct inspiration, and for gamers who were of the right age in the 80s they can also draw directly from memory. All this doesn't mean that there isn't setting resources within the book. There are tons including both a minorly fleshed out town used as examples of how to build one's own setting, and a fully fleshed out setting for Boundary Bay, New York (*cough* Montauk *cough*).

Similarly the game is about teens with superpowers. Kinda. Teens who can become people with superpowers is probably a more accurate description The titular masks allow the empowered teens to become another person, another personality with a different damage track, and fantastical abilities. This is not X-men because the teens do not have these powers directly.

Which isn't a bad thing, it allows for a different look at the concept of teens with power, and further allows for the powered version to have wildly different personality from the teen beneath. A player could have a nerdy introvert who becomes a loudmouthed extrovert with their mask. This also means that a character who gets bullied may be tempted to recruit their braver mask to fight back for them. It's a different enough take on super-teens that it feels new and fresh. It also means that the teen and the mask can be at odds, opening further room for roleplay.

Mechanically speaking Unmasked shakes things up for the Cypher System. Much in the same way that Predation and Gods of the Fall were willing to pull bits of the base code apart and re-write them Unmasked changes fundamental aspects of your character.

Firstly is the way that the Teen persona works. Teen would feel weird if they had a ton of skills or crazy abilities, and they don't in Unmasked. Instead a teen gets a stripped down set of pools, befitting an adolescent who is not yet fully matured, and a descriptor. The descriptors are an open option from just about any of those you have access to, so long as they are not overtly supernatural or powered. E.g. the Mystical descriptor wouldn't fit for a Teen. That's it. Your teen is a barely formed and unmatured person, and the rules support this. It's simple and I love it (and not just because I used this idea previously!)

There's more though. The Mask persona gets a full character sentence; they are a blank blank who blanks. They are in every way a fully realized Cypher Character. They also have to share their recovery rolls with the teen who wears the mask. Let me repeat that as is it hugely important for Unmasked GMs: the teens and their masks share the same recovery rolls. This means that a teen who takes a 1 turn recovery after a run in with the school bully is depriving their mask of that 1 turn recovery later that day when something happens. Or maybe it's the other way around and the teen can't compete during the big football game because his mask used up his 1 turn and 10 minute recovery rolls.

There's also some interesting ideas around power shifts (more that enough for a whole different article about that specifically), and how the teens and their masks interact with others and with cyphers. Specifically how teens and their masks are the only ones who can normally identify a cypher, called mementos in Unmasked, and make use of their power. This presents a different approach than the prior settings where cyphers were things of value to any person in the setting.

There's also the fact that mementos double down on the weirdness of cyphers by providing not only a useful ability but also a strong emotion, often with very specific context. Given that the protagonists and likely some of the antagonists are teenagers I could spin a talek specifically about a character who abuses mementos not for their abilities but to capture those feels that they feel unable to attain "in real life" as it were. Instead of the "I cut myself so I can feel" trop the character is constantly looking for cyphers because mementos are the only way they can feel. Pair that with a setting tweak where using mementos has some direct or indirect cost and things could get interesting very quickly.

I've not yet played Unmasked, but I can already see where the rules choices and setting structures can be pulled apart and put back together to not only tell the story I want within the context of this setting, but also for other settings. As the third (but hopefully not final) World of the Cypher System I feel like this game dives into the deep end of the possibility of the Cypher System in general. As a follow up to Gods of the Fall and Predation (and Numenera and The Strange before them), Unmasked is more than worthy, and a triumphant piece of nostalgia gaming that still feels innovative and very much like it's own thing.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Holiday Interlude 2017 #1 - Turkeysaurus Rex

Image Source:
Long time readers will be familiar with my crazier than usual (at least for me) holiday interludes. Usually they are posted during the week between Christmas and New Years but given the current cadence of posting and the fact that the last issue of Kamandi releases the Wednesday after Christmas I'm going to be tossing the Interludes out earlier. Also this affords me the chance to expand a bit outside of Christmas stuff...

Holiday Interludes

Name: Turkeysaurus Rex

Level: 8 (TN 24)

Health: 30 • Armor: 1

Damage: 10 with its foot claws, 6 with its serrated beak

Movement: Short

Modifications: Defense as level 6 due to massive size.

Combat: Turkeysaurus Rex attacks with both its serrated beak and its wicked foot claws each round, usually splitting the attack on different targets when outnumbered.

Interaction: Run. The Turkeysaurus Rex is an irritable apex predator that just happens to taste delicious when roasted and served with various veggies and gravy. Engage them at your own risk, or the risk of your dinner making you their dinner.

Use: Recently the outward expansion of the various Christmas holiday forces have begun to impinge upon the lands of Thanksgivingsville. The natural habitat of the Turkeysaurus Rex is now being threatened and as an apex predator the Turkeysaurus Rex has begun to expand its hunting grounds. As it turns out the Turkeysaurus Rex finds Gingerbread Ninjas especially delicious...

Loot: Eating a meal of the freshly roasted flesh of a Turkeysaurus Rex will force the eater into a 10 hour rest that will recover all pool points. Leftovers of the flesh are always a recovery cypher for a random pool of level 1d6+1 that restores its level in points.

GM Intrusion: The Turkeysaurus Rex caws loudly and summons 1 or more additional Turkeysaurus Rexes. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #141 - Review: Kamandi Challenge #10

Kamandi Challenge #11 is out today! So let's discuss #10. Spoilers henceforth.

Prior issue reviews:


Published By: DC Comics • 31 pages • $3.99 • full color • Art: Shane Davis • Words: Greg Pak

What's In It?

Spoilers ahead folks last warning!

OK, where were we? Oh, right, the room and Kamandi, now alone, when the robot comes for him. It turns out that these robots are cataloging and stuffing the mutant animals of the world. Kamandi grabs a weapon and escapes, stealing a jet ski from another robot and fleeing over the open ocean. Of course this is our opportune moment to get SHARKS. WITH. UZIS! Yes, that's right a gang of punk/biker inspired sharks with uzi's and assault weapons saves Kamandi from the robots giving chase.

Kamandi then washes up on shore of an island with a massive technological tower deep in the jungle. The sharks, unable to go on land, request that Kamandi go there and kill the person who controls the robots trying to wipe out all the animals. With the help of some cat allies Kamandi makes his way to the tower, determined to stop the killing. There he is cornered by still more robots (who are surprisingly weak against gunfire) before he is saved by his battle-armor wearing mother. They quickly catch up and we learn that Kamandi was left in the Command D bunker while his mother and father fought in the "Android Wars."

When Kamandi suggests they hurry before the base's commander finds them we get the reveal and turn that will (I hope) drive the last two issues of the series. Kamadi's mother is the commander, and she fully intended to wipe out the mutant animals from the Earth.

I liked this issue. I didn't love it. It wasn't perfect, but it was good, and I enjoyed the reveal, even though it was hardly a shock considering the battle armor Kamandi's mother was wearing, all jacked up elbow and shoulder plates adorned with spikes. As advancement to the story of the series this is the turning point episode (oh god I hope) where we transition from an episodic romp around the globe in search of Kamandi's parents and the series will (I assume) finish with a pair of more serial stories wherein the very fate of the Earth is at stake.

The art in this issue is good. The action is clear and easy to follow, and the designs are interesting. It's not especially amazing, but it's quite good. The story is a bit drawn out, there's a couple of combats with robots that while they convey how well guarded this facility is. Unfortunately they also draw out the actual story advancement, almost padding out the issue in a not so great way. Overall this is certainly not the high water mark of the last issue, or even some of the first few issues earlier this year, but is is good, and it does introduce the beginning of the end and set the stakes for the last two issues.

Rating: 80% - The end is nigh, and at last we are seeing just what the denouement of this series will look like..

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #140 - Hacking the Cypher System - Re-rolls Royce

So it's time to talk about re-rolls. The most common (I am guessing) use of Experience Points in Cypher System games. I have a secret, a dark one: Sometimes I really hate re-rolls.

Failure is interesting, or it can be. It's not always interesting, which is why re-rolls are a good thing, but sometimes failure is interesting, and when a re-roll does away with that it's a little sad. Likewise re-rolls can rob a GM of intrusions. Players like this because they don't always see GM Intrusions as good things. GMs don't always mind, but sometimes a great idea slips away due to a re-roll (or gets implemented as a paid Intrusion).

So I've started toying with the idea of changing not the re-rolls (they do more good than evil in my opinion), but the underlying XP. At GenCon I got to try it out for the first time. I used beads instead of XP Cards. There were black beads, white beads, and glow in the dark beads. They were skull shaped, and I used them in my After the Bomb homage game. I had a small black bag that I carried the XP Skulls in and had players blind draw from. Unlike regular XP the different beads had slightly different effects.
  • The skull white beads worked just like normal XP, they were there to provide a baseline.
  • The black skulls were "burnt" XP, you could use them normally, but regardless of the final roll the GM (me) got to invoke GM Intrusion, these were a kind of risk/reward item. 
  • The glow in the dark skulls were "radioactive" XP, and they were awesome. These XP re-rolled the dice just like normal, but regardless of the total the player got a Major Effect as though they had rolled a Natural 20. These helped balance the black skulls.
Mechanically the players had just as many XP for re-rolls as they would in a normal game, but when spending for re-rolls there were options based one what kind of XP the players had in hand. We only got to play for a short while, and I haven't yet tried it again (gaming has been spotty since the summer), but I really liked how it worked, and the players seemed to as well. It's the same, but just a little different and offers both risk and reward to players. 

As GM you can even play around with how many beads of each you include. Maybe you do 6 white, 2 black, and 2 glow. Or maybe you do 3/3/3 in equal ratio. You could even do something like 6 white, 1 black, 3 glow or whatever distribution you wanted. Go heavy on Major Effects, or heavy on GM Intrusions. You can even change the distribution between game sessions to help inform the play of the next session. The sky's the limit, and the options are yours to use or not.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Sourge of the Soulless

I didn't have a Nuts & Bolts ready for this week. My writing continues to come in fits and starts and often with great difficulty. But I do have this. It's the elevator pitch for a setting. A different take on something like the World of Darkness. I dunno if I'll ever have the chance to expand on it (or if I even want to, sometimes ideas like this are best when kept simple and unembellished). Either way, I present it today in lieu of a N&B so that there's at least something this week....

Image Source:


It's all about souls.

When mankind was birthed into the world there were a finite supply of souls allocated to humankind. When a man, woman, or child died its soul was freed to return to heaven, elysium, or wherever you would believe souls to reside between lives. When a child was born a soul descended from that realm to live in the world of flesh once more.

But humankind's population exploded.

The number of souls dwelling in the beyond dwindled and the time a soul had to rejuvenate itself shortened. These tired souls were more belligerent, more callous, and less in touch with nature.

In time mankind's numbers exceeded the souls available.
That's when everything changed.

Children were born with the souls of animals.
The changing ones.

Children were born with souls from the spirit realms.
The magi.

Children were born with souls stolen from the realms of faerie.
The fey-touched.

And others ... others were brought back from death's door. Brought back to life after their soul had departed.
The soulless ones.

A scourge to the living. Enemies to all.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #139 - Hacking the Cypher System - Damage Tracks (Again)

The damage spiral from the Hordes miniatures game.

Two weeks ago I posted about an alternate damage track for games where insanity and mental degeneration was needed. It also works well for games of social intrigue where you are trying to unnerve your opponents and force them into actions that are advantageous to you. Since then I've been thinking that with just one more alternate damage track for Speed you could transform Cypher's heath system pretty radically. Yes, it would mean more bookkeeping, and yes it's a bit more complicated, but consider the advantage of characters having more than just a single way to be taken out of action, and having more thematic effects from various types of stress and harm.

The Core rules for Impaired, Debilitated, and Dead work very well for Might, with the character becoming Impaired after half their Might is gone, Debilitated when they hit zero points, and Dead if they suffer any additional damage. As always a GM can have creatures who have special attacks (poison, necromancy, etc.) that can bypass the pool points and deal damage direct to their Might damage track. Coupled with the Mental Damage Track from two weeks back (click here) we're 2/3 of the way done!

Speed pool is all that remains and a speed damage track is actually pretty easy. The following kick in when a character's speed pool reaches 1/2 its normal value and then when they reach zero. Alternately special attacks like stun weapons, sleeping gas, painkillers, and the like may move the character directly down the damage track.

  • Fatigued - The character is starting to tire. The character finds that actions take a little more of their reserves to execute.
    • Gathering one's energy is difficult. A fatigued character must spend 1 additional point when using any special ability take has a cost. 
  • Exhausted - The character's reserves are spent, they may be in otherwise good physical health (e.g. no Might damage) but their exhaustion shows in shaking muscles and general exhaustion.
    • Exhaustion robs the character of much needed mobility. They are treated as having an Inability in all tasks related to movement including Speed Defense, running, swimming, jumping, etc. In addition all movement rates are halved. 
  • Unconscious - Insensate. Asleep. Knocked-out. 
    • The character is out and unable to perceive their surroundings, defend themselves, and the like. They'll wake after a duration equal to their next available recovery roll, and may well not know where they are. 
Taken in conjunction with the previously proposed mental damage tracks players will be encouraged to build more well rounded characters. It also allows the GM a wider variety of options for disabling characters without killing them or ruling directly from GM Intrusion to render them unconscious or otherwise at the mercy of enemies or situations. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #138 - Review: Kamandi Challenge #9

Kamandi Challenge #10 is out today! So let's discuss #9. Spoilers henceforth.

Prior issue reviews:


Published By: DC Comics • 31 pages • $3.99 • full color • Art: Kevin Eastman & Freddie Williams II • Words: Tom King

What's In It?

Spoilers ahead folks last warning!

OK, where were we? Oh, right, treading water (literally and figuratively) and at the mercy of a sea serpent... And then everything went black and white. Before I even get into the story I need to talk about the art. I've spoken my mind about the art because I'm trying to review this series from all angles and objectively. The art has been everything from great to middling in quality. Perhaps if I were an artist I'd be more prone to upgrade or downgrade the art in certain issues, but even at its subjective worst it's been better than anything I could muster.

It's also been consistently in full color. Generally rather richly so. Not so this issue, which when I first flipped it open in the store struck me as odd, and then I realized I knew this art. I don't know crap about 99% of comic art, but I instantly recognized Kevin Eastman's handiwork. Hyper detailed black and white with a lot of shading. A rounded look to everything that makes thing look softer and stranger. And technology that looks like it borders on organic. After last issue the art for this made my dread melt away, I was ready to read!

Which is good because this story turned out pretty awesome. It's not perfect, but it's the kind of story that makes you want to read more. That makes you anxious for the next issue, and makes you curse the month wait to get it. Kamandi wakes from darkness, presumably swallowed whole by the serpent from the last issue, although this is now explicitly shown. He is in a rough-hewn chamber with several mutant animals. There's a door, and shortly after he wakes it opens and allows a robot (or maybe an alien wearing strange armor?) into the room. Without a word the robot takes of the mutants and leaves, the door closing behind. Kamandi's attempt to stop it is thwarted with little more effort than a backhand from the robot that sends the boy hurling across the chamber.

They, the prisoners, soon settle into routine. Kamandi trains and every time the robot arrives to take another of the prisoners he attempts to stop it, and every time he is defeated with almost casual ease. As the days tick by Kamandi trains his body as his cellmates dwindle in numbers, always he tries to save them and always he is defeated.

Until he is alone.

And finally the robot comes for him.

We never get so much as a hint of where the prisoners are taken or what lies beyond the strange door. The robot never utters a sound. Kamandi never gives up trying to fight, but in the end he too is taken into that white light beyond the portal.

The story is simple enough, but it is the struggle and the conversations that each of the prisoners has that makes this issue so interesting to me. They pose ideas of what lies beyond; a perfect world, or a never ending hell of similar rooms. The imagination of  the reader is left to fill in the story until the next issue resolves it, and while in the grade whole this may not end up the greatest issue of the series, that open ended nature makes it the greatest until #10 releases.

Rating: 90% - An great story that captures your attention and imagination.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #137 - Hacking the Cypher System - Mental Damage Track

So you're playing a horror game and want to have a better way to show character mental trauma. Or maybe you are playing a game with a lot of social "combat," people arguing, vying for control, political deception, and such and you want a way to track a person's demeanor. As designed the Cypher System isn't terribly granular in this regard, but that's not something that cannot be fixed. The damage track does a great job of tracking physical damage and stress, and in games of exploration and combat the loss of a damage level from mental assault and/or fatigue works well but when focusing heavily on those more social times it starts to work a bit less well.

Social and mental damage is certainly easy to integrate as damage to Intellect pool. Instead of going to Impaired however these kinds of "attacks" could go to a new type of damage level: Provoked, Disturbed, and Unhinged.
  • Provoked - The character is saddened, angered, or off put. They are still in control but on edge and starting to lose control. While a character is Provoked they count as having one less armor for the purposes of mental and social attacks (this may mean having a -1 armor and therefore taking 1 extra damage from such attacks). 
  • Disturbed - The character is now on the verge of breakdown. They are furious, grief stricken, or offended. Their control is beginning to slip and they are prone to making poor choices and taking reactionary actions without considering the consequences. While a character is Disturbed they gain an Inability in Intellect defense tasks, and must also make a level 4 Intellect task to act counter to their emotional state (e.g. a roll to not act in anger but instead stay one's hand). 
  • Unhinged - The character has now fallen into a an uncontrolled state of wrath, anguish, outrage, or the like. At this stage the character's actions are dictated by their mental state as advised by the GM with player input. Should the character try not act as dictated by their mental state they must succeed on a level 5 Intellect task. 
Unlike the traditional physical damage track these damage conditions are tied to the character's Intellect pool only. They act as a way to track a character's mental state. When a character takes Intellect damage from a social or mental attack that puts their pool below half they also take the next available level of Mental/Social damage. When their Intellect pool falls to zero, they then take then next level of Mental damage. Should they suffer further social or mental attacks while their pool is at zero they suffer an additional level of mental damage. A GM can of course use a GM Intrusion to directly inflict a level of mental damage in appropriate situations.

Recovery on the mental damage track can be done by taking a recovery roll and succeeding on a level 3 Intellect Defense task. Success means they recover a level, failure means they do not. Taking a 10 hour rest always recovers 1 level of Mental Damage. 

As usual, these rules are not tested, so if you use them for a horror game or a Game of Thrones style political game I'd love to hear about it. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #135 - Review: Blade Runner 2049

Thirty-five years is a long time to wait for a sequel. Some would say that Blade Runner didn't need a sequel at all. That it was a perfectly fine film that didn't need a Hollywood ending that tied every loose end into a bow. I was one of that group. I like the original, I have no problem with the questions left unanswered. I'd have been far more indignant if not for another beloved cyberpunk film that got a sequel that added to the original: Ghost in the Shell. Ghost in the Shell: Innocence was somehow equal to the original. It answered some questions and raised others. It worked.

Granted, GitS:I wasn't a thirty five year wait, and it came out of Japan, out from the thumb of the Hollywood machine that churns out bad sequels to bad movies in the name of making a buck. The Hollywood system is why I (we?) groan when people mention Pirates of the Caribbean instead of remembering fondly how fun the first one was. It's why I (we?) cringe when yet another Transformers movie comes out. Somehow Blade Runner 2049 avoided the fate of some many sequels and reboots. It honors the original without diminishing it in our memories, and it adds to the legacy and world in positive ways.

It's not perfect. A friend rated it an 8.5/10 and I'd agree. I'm a little tired of the "bwaa" soundtrack, and this movie leaned on that dissonance as auditory clue in certain ways that had me wondering at times why it was a thing in the first place. The pacing is a bit  uneven, with a few moments around half way through that made me contemplate a trip to the restroom. That said, for a movie with a ~2:45 running time it goes by amazingly well for much of that time. The cold open is pretty great, and dovetails into a blooming flower of plot that proves really well constructed. There's stuff early on that you don't realize facilitates plot points until well later in the film.

It's also really pretty. Even the dingy parts are really well shot and blocked. It's dark in places, but well lit in others, and where the original delved deep into the darkness of the setting this film seems set on showing that there is brightness in the world still.

I agree with the 8.5/10 or maybe a 4.5/5. It's good. It's damn good. It's not perfect, but then again, what movie is?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #134 - Abstraction

I've been reading Blades in the Dark lately. A little here and a little there. I don't see myself ever running it as GM, and I doubt I'll ever get to play it, not that I'd want to; I'm just not that into "evil campaigns." That said, I think there's some great ideas in the book. Some really nice ways to run aspects of games that just aren't fun to grind out the hard way. Blades in the Dark does this by abstraction.

It abstracts threats, and renders them into bite sized pieces that the GM and the group can narrate as they see fit. It likewise does this with building resources and allies. It even does do with equipment in a way, with the characters having a carrying capacity that is only occupied as they use equipment, thus making the planning of the PC's criminal exploits into an abstract system that allows them the freedom to be capable.

There's something to value in these ideas. That some things in games don't need to be rigidly defined at all, or do not need to be rigidly defined initially, and that freedom to define things when they are needed, or not at all, can help tell a better story without backing oneself into a corner.

Let's go back to that idea of equipment. Specifically it's the character's loadout that is abstracted. Initially they have a certain load they decide on based on how much they want to be able to carry in total. This is left undefined, instead just indicating that the current job has the character carrying light (and being easier to remain undetected) or laden down for the operation (and being slower and easier to discern). As the players go through the mission they need a set of tools. Tools take up 2 slots and, of course they remembered to bring such an important item; they mark off two slots of gear in their inventory, noting that they are a bag of tools, and they proceed in the story.

Initially the was no entry for "bag of tools" on the character sheet, instead their inventory was abstract, they had a heavy load of gear they needed to break into this vault. By allowing the gear to be conceptualized as an abstract the group didn't have to spend time debating what to bring, the players just decide how much, while the characters, the experts that the players often cannot be, as assumed to be bringing the gear they need.


It just will not. Hell, it won't even satisfy some gamers all of the time. Depending on the game I'm playing this could be a great thing or a terrible thing. There are times when I don't want to micromanage things. Games like Cypher System tend to be very good at operating with more loosely defined terms than games intended for a more "old school" feel. Shadowrun run with Blades in the Dark's rules could either be really great, or really terrible, in part because it may be great fun, but it probably wouldn't really feel like Shadowrun if you always have the right piece of decking gear or magical focus just a check box away.

Threats are another great opportunity for abstraction. Instead of going through the minutiae of sneaking past the six guards on duty at the weapons lab the GM can decide that getting past the guards is a task needing a certain difficulty (in Cypher parlance), or a certain number of successes, or perhaps a certain DC task with four passed checks. With each roll of the dice the character overcome some fraction of the task. One quarter, or maybe more or perhaps less. They progress in increments that the GM can narrate with the help of the players telling them how they succeed. Maybe a DC of 15 was needed but a 20 was rolled, the GM says that gets them an extra increment. Instead of 1/4 complete they are now 1/2 completed. The players then narrate how they managed such a feat so easily.


Find what works for you, as both GM and player. Maybe you play a military heavy game of giant mecha versus alien invaders and tracking each missile and rail gun round appeals for such a game. Maybe you have a game of superheroes and mostly avoid rolling dice because these characters are meant to be able to be awesome first, and challenged second. Maybe, like me, you like to play in both worlds, and enjoy both sides of the coin, the abstract and the simulationist. There's nothing wrong with that. Fun is fun. 

The big take away, at least for my money, is that abstraction often facilitates characters to be more capable. If you want success to be something hard fought and the struggle to get ahead is part of your game you probably want to avoid using abstract rules in favor of strict simulation of the real world. If, on the other hand, you want characters who probably know how to be awesome in a way that their player's do not, abstraction is a great way to allow them to be more capable without loading them down with more and more abilities.

As always, your mileage may vary. 

Friday, September 29, 2017

Fiction - Numenera: Awakening to Need

Image owned by Monte Cook Games

Garthax awoke from the midnight black of hypersleep. He felt odd. There was a no feeling of mental refreshment as he would gain from normal sleep, but his body felt rejuvenated and ready. The medical systems in the hypersleep chamber had clearly worked as intended, repairing the wounds to his body, and saving his life. Still he wished for real sleep.

The panel before him slowly began to turn translucent allowing the physical darkness of the hypersleep couch to slowly illuminate with soft blue light, and banishing sleep from his mind. As translucency became transparency Garthax became aware that he was being watched. A pair of the primitives were peering at him through the transparent barrier while a third stood at the control panel of his hypersleep chamber. They looked different from the last time he had seen their kind, and that one of them could operate his ship's controls, even those as basic as the hypersleep couch, spoke volumes of their progress during the time he had slept. Garthax wondered just how far this hypersleep had carried him into the future.

As the medi-computer analyzed the ambient atmosphere and adjusted Garthax's lung structure to compensate for compositional drift Garthax tapped the audio sensors and ran the primitive's language through his linguistic cerebral symbiote. To his surprise Garthx found that they spoke a language that had deep roots in Kellax-trall. The symbiote assured Garthax of a 93% comprehensional match.

At last the chamber opened, and the primitives excitedly backed away. Two, wearing metallic armor and wielding crude weaponry took position in front of the third, a thin elderly female. "Careful, Jessita, we don't know what it'll do," the largest of the three, and clearly an alpha male, said.

"No harm will be offered in exception of return in kind," Garthax spoke firmly, unsure if the symbiote had fully mastered the syntax of this strange variant language. "How came your entry to this place?"

The elderly female brusquely pushed her way forward, "We seek aid in defense of our home." She looked Garthax up and down and nodded her head, "We beseech you, oh ancient traveller, to aid us in the defense of the people of Ellomyr."

Find the Numenera 2 Kickstarter campaign here.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #133 - Review: Kamandi Challenge #8

Kamandi Challenge #9 is out today! So let's discuss #8. Spoilers henceforth.

Prior issue reviews:


Published By: DC Comics • 31 pages • $3.99 • full color • Art: Rude • Words: Giffen

What's In It?

Spoilers ahead folks last warning!

OK, where were we? Oh, right, on a hang glider being attacked by a parasite. Ho hum, Kamandi foils this one by landing in the water, swimming to shore, and tearing the parasite off him before smashing it to bits. Basically something that last issue took over some of Kamandi's allies in seconds posed ... zero threat. Sadly it actually manages to get worse from here...

The remainder of the issue has Kamandi caught between two warring tribes, one of wolves, the other of goats and sheep. Each sees Kamandi as a prophesied hero of their people: Ulysses or Odysseus. Seriously. Kamandi manages to leverage his position to get a boat and try to make his escape as the tribes go to the dumbest war ever. Which is par for what is the dumbest issue of the run so far by a long margin.

The art was OK, but the writing was poor. Both the story and the dialog were unclear and uninteresting and at times actively confusing. A number of the scenes throughout can be summed by two aesthetically similar tribes yelling "Ulysses" or "Odysseus" while smashing into each other. By the end of the issue I was glad it was done, and happy to know that the next issue wouldn't feature anything by this issue's team. Maybe I'm being harsh but I can't abide by a boring and poorly written narrative that weighs down a limited series with pointless silliness.

As I said the art was ... OK, it wasn't great by any means and a lot of the pages were just confusing in layout and visual narration with two two factions having a very similar look. There were a few decent splash pages but mostly they came at the end and couldn't redeem what had come before.

World building is likewise a fail, mostly because neither tribe was interesting. The setting was likewise boring, being a little explored island with some woods and vaguely Greek inspired architecture. Even the colossus like status of Ulysses/Odysseus just elicited a groan from me when fully revealed at the end of the issue. Previously, tropes like communist bears were at least refreshed by the addition of a hive mind and a robot god-city. There was no such refreshing brought to this issues cultures.

As if all that wasn't obnoxious enough the credits are all paired off as Ulysses and Odysseus pen names. It makes me think that Giffen and Rude realized this was garbage and wanted to cover their tracks.

Make like Kamandi and run from this trite and boring story.

Rating: 20% - An entirely wasted effort that I will probably never bother to re-read. A waste of $4. The 20% only comes from the few decent panels of art and the fact that next issue has new creatives.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #132 - MCC - Random Weather Tables

Image Source:

On the most recent Glowburn Judges Forrest and James mentioned that a weather phenomenon table would be a great resource for MCC GMs. I agree, and since I'm getting prepped to start GMing MCC I figured this would be a good exercise for me to undertake. Roll a d5 and a d4, or pick, you're allowed. Oh, and, yes, I know some will percieve this table as extremely harsh, but if you're going to roll on a table you may as well have something interesting come up most of the time. Don't roll on this unless you are prepared for something to happen, if you didn't want the weather to make an impact why'd you even bother rolling?
  1. Glow Storm!
    1. Minor storm: Strange lights in the sky but no ill effects
    2. Major storm: Strange lights, terrible winds and radiation blast the area, take 1d4 radiation damage (DC 12 Fort save for half).
    3. Powerful storm: As above but take 1d6 radiation damage (DC 14 Fort save for half).
    4. Glownado!: A glownado carves a path of destruction. Arrives in 1d3 rounds. Each round a character is caught within its 300 foot wide diameter they must make a DC 13 reflex save or take 1d14 physical damage, they also suffer 1d7 radiation damage (DC 15 Fortitude save to halve).
  2. Weird Event!
    1. Solar flare: The sun bloats and turns angry hues of red. Take 1d5 radiation damage for each hour in the sun (DC 13 save for half)
    2. Meteor Storm: Great rocks from the Sky Arc rain down! 1d3 meteors rain down. Roll d16 per meteor to determine the DC of the Reflex save to avoid. Impact and heat damage is 1d14.
    3. Artifact fall: A machine of the ancients falls back to earth. Roll a d20, any character with AC lower than the roll takes 1d10 damage from the impact. The object within may be of value (75%). 
    4. EMP: A wave of strange energy washes over the landscape. All non-battery artifacts of the ancients roll to save with a penalty equal to their Complexity Level (DC 10). Failure drains all remaining charges from the device. 
  3. Foul weather!
    1. Extreme heat: DC 12 Fortitude save or suffer 1d3 points of temporary stamina drain from fatigue. +2 circumstance bonus for reptilian manimals and plantients.
    2. A tornado cuts across the landscape: It arrives in 1d3 rounds! Each round a character is caught within its 1d3x100 foot diameter must make a DC 13 reflex save or take 1d14 physical damage.
    3. Thunderstorm: Heavy rain and lightning lash the region for the next 1d5 hours. Once per hour a random PC must test Luck or be struck by Lightning for 1d16 damage (DC 14 Reflex save for half).
    4. Extreme cold: Water freeze solid and a DC 12 Fortitude save is required each hour to prevent 1d5 cold damage if not protected. 
  4. Precipitation
    1. Rain: Everything gets wet. Lowest luck character rolls on Luck or a random artifact they carry stops working.
    2. Snow: Slow going and cold. Reduce travel speed by half. Make a DC 10 fortitude save each hour or take 1d3 cold damage.
    3. Blizzard: Visibility is reduced to no more than 20 feet. Reduce travel speed by half. Make a DC 12 fortitude save each hour or take 1d4 cold damage.
    4. Driving rain/monsoon: Water and mud everywhere. Every character is soaked through. Visibility and travel speed are reduce by half. Lowest d3 luck characters roll on Luck or a random artifact they carry stops working (if not artifact they slip and fall taking 1d3 damage instead).
  5. Fair or foul!
    • If the die is Even the weather is fair for the remainder of the day.
    • If the die is odd drop two dice and combine! If conflicting results are rolled the weather swings wildly between the two (e.g. driving rain at one moment, sunny and hot the next)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #131 - Review: Hex Kit

This map took me less than 30 minutes...

This is, I think, a first for my blog: a review of software. I'm not the most computer literate guy around. For the past decade or so I've been getting by using Chromebooks at home and whatever they gave me to use at work. I always knew it was a stop gap measure, but for a good while the Chromebooks worked for my needs. The one biggest downside was their lack of software support.

When I back Torment: Tides of Numenera, I knew I would eventually have to buy a "real" PC to be able to play, and when I later backed Cecil Howe's Hex Kit mapping tool I figured "Well, I already have to buy a PC..."

Both Torment and Hex Kit have been available for month now, but it was only this past weekend that I finally bought into a new PC. It's hardly a supercomputer, but considering I've been getting by on Chromebooks it feels a bit like on to me!

All of that preamble is to explain why I'm reviewing something that has been available since April. That said I'm so impressed with the artistic quality of Mr. Howe's Hex Kit map hexes, and the ease of use for the Hex Kit tool that I felt "better late than never" would apply.

Hex Kit is an inexpensive ($15) mapping tool for PC (Windows, Mac, Linux) published by Cone Of Negative Energy (Mr. Howe's publishing self) via It's a tool that allows one to use pre-render tiles to build hex maps. The above image was constructed mostly from the "Fantasyland" set (an add-on that I also purchased) which consists of literally hundreds of hexes in numerous styles with a few dozen of each style being available. You can click on farmland for instance and just quickly fill in a 6 by 6 hex sheet with the following at random:

Alternately I can choose a specific tile and populate the same, I can even rotate the tiles to form a neat and tidy look if I choose:

It's quick and easy and even a caveman can do it. These tiles are gorgeous because ... they're hand painted. Mr. Howe hand paints these on paper and then scans them. This project is a huge labor of love as much as it is a useful tool for players and GMs. The lead in image was created for the DCC game I am playing in where the characters just arrived on the Purple Planet. Since the GM (+James Walls) said it would be a hex crawl I jumped at the chance to not only fully embrace the classic hex crawl but also to use this awesome new tool I'd finally started to play with.

I back the kickstarter, and got in for short money, but I can't stress how impressed I am with this from a tool standpoint. It supports multiple layers (so you could even create a fog of war layer to hide stuff from your players) and features numerous unique places of interest, roads, rivers, coasts, forests, mountains, hills, etc. There's even a space themed add-on set that you could use to create maps for sci-fiction games like Stars Without Number, Star Trek, or Star Wars. And every tile is something that was hand painted, and scanned. Every. One.

Oh and on the off chance you aren't already sold there's a dungeon kit in works. Also you can output random maps with barely any clicks at all. Check this out!

I don't wholeheartedly recommend stuff with this kind of wild abandon very often, but I think for the price this is this kind of tool that any GM or player with a hankering for maps will probably be happy with. I do recommend you grab the Fantasyland expansion however. While the base set of black and white tiles is still not only very functional, but also attractive, these tiles really pop if you get into the full color sets.

As a before after I converted my MS Paint map of Blackstone Ford from my Shadow of the Demon Lord game to Hex Kit in about an hour. Here's the before/after.

Friday, September 8, 2017

State of the Blog(ger) - Connui

Since Gen Con I've been feeling a weird gaming funk. My weekly game hasn't started back up, my monthly Gods of the Fall game came to an end because some players had to drop out (which I totally respect, you gotta take care of you) and I felt that trying to continue would be more effort than worth, my monthly game of DCC as player hasn't yet resumed (tomorrow!) and, as a result, I've been feeling a bit less inspired of late. I've been reading Blades in the Dark recently, in on-off spurts, a few pages at a time, but beyond that I haven't really read anything or played anything RPG related of late.

Basically I am feeling a post convention ennui ... or connui as a friend dubbed it.
Connui: That low feeling after riding the high of being surrounded by the hobby you love for 2+ days

I think the fact that the blog is 3 years old now is also a factor because after 720 posts in that time (that's 1 post per 1.5 days! over 3 years) I'm at a point now where the blog has the least structure of it's history with only Nuts & Bolts holding true since the very beginning.

Whilst I'd like to be able to jump right back into most old posting routine it's clear to me that will not happen immediately. I need to realign myself and find that creative groove again. I'll do what I can to continue with at least occasional posts, but my schedule may not return to "normal" for some time.

We'll find out together I suppose.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #130 - Review: Kamandi Challenge #7

Kamandi Challenge #8 came out last week, but because of GenCon and general work business as well as #RPGaDay2017 I didn't have time to even read the issue until this past weekend. However, now I have and here's my thoughts. Spoilers henceforth.

Prior issue reviews:


Published By: DC Comics • 31 pages • $3.99 • full color • Art: Dan Jurgens • Words: Marguerite Bennett

What's In It?

Spoilers ahead folks last warning!

Everybody kosher? OK! When we last left Kamandi he was plummeting to his probable death in the fires of an atomic reactor within the city sized robot bear Mishkingrad. As he falls he realizes that he still holds the Cortex Crown of the city. Donning the crown he uses the power of the city to build a protective cage around himself and exit the reactor to save his friend Renzi.

Instead he gets grabbed up but some dog mutants calling themselves the Bulldog Britanneks who save both he and Renzi and escape the great bear before its apparent destruction. We learn that Renzi is an android (damn, would have been cooler if his atomic heart was cybernetic), and that the Britanneks have been raiding the Comuni-bears for some time. We also learn that the giant dirigible that they are traveling on was designed by Kamandi's mother. Before we can learn more something strikes the dirigible and downs it.

Stranded in the wastelands and under attack by an Ice Wizard and some Polar Parasites Kamandi and his companions make a desperate bid for survival. The parasites however breach their lines and break their defensive position. Fleeing from the tide of parasites and some of their own, now under parasitic control, Kamandi and the others return to the wreck of their ship. Kamandi realizes that the Control Crown will work with all the "salvage" from the wreck since was all once part of Mishkingrad.

Using the crown Kamandi is able to turn the tide and crush the the parasites and free the controlled dogs. Using the crap to build a new balloon the dogs depart Kamandi, leaving him with provisions and information. Kamandi, now on his own once more sets off south in a glider to try and find his mother, but one parasite had stowed away ...

This issue finally gave us a solid hint at where Kamandi may find his parents; fitting for the first issue in the back half of the year. Like every issue thus far it offered a fairly stand along adventure. Unfortunately the characters were fairly flat. There was little in the way of development for any one character and in the end it makes for a somewhat flat story. The pulpy action stories of the first half of the year were fine, but as the series gets older it's becoming a little less entertaining to see these isolated adventures. Here's hoping things begin to truly build toward a climax in December and not just stumble along until an end conveniently happens.

Setting-wise this issue did offer some more interesting developments. From the apparently magical Ice Wizards to the sci-fi hive mind parasites that can hijack a creature there was a decent amount of new additions to the world. Unfortunately I'd have liked a little more exposition about the Ice Wizards and their exile and even about the Britanneks and their home (since these stories are far too short to show much and must often give detail via exposition).

Overall it was decent, but one of my least favorite of the series thus far. If I weren't looking at the world building as well as story this would have been far far my least favorite from a story standpoint, feeling a bit rushed and overstuffed.

Rating: 70% - An OK story that did manage to forward the larger story in small steps.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 31

As found on:

August 31st) What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?
There's so much 2017 left it's hard to look ahead to next year. Probably I would have to say I'm looking forward to Gary Con next year. I had a lot of fun with it this year and as a smaller convention it feels so much less stressful than Gen Con, and at the time of this writing pre-Gen Con stress is something that I'm dealing with daily.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 30

As found on:

August 30th) What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?

There's a lot of mashups out there so I feel the need to come up with something new, unique, and probably a little wacky. How about a traditional High Fantasy game combined with Superheroes. In this case a setting where Super Powers and Magic are all hereditary. The characters could either be normal folk trying to survive the wars of power between the High Houses, or the scions of those houses gifted with power, but perhaps not with the morals to use them well. Imagine Game of Thrones but with the X-men playing the major roles. What happens when a whore's son develops Powers which can only come from the blood of the High Houses?

A second idea, one that I've had for a while but never figured out how to make it work is Giant Mecha + High Fantasy + King Arthur. I called it "Grand Steel Knights". The idea being that Arthur's knights each have a magical giant mecha that they use to defend the realm. Kinda like Pacific Rim but in a fantasy setting.

I dunno, maybe I'm nuts. 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 29

As found on:

August 29th) What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?

Hands down it has to be Robert Schwalb's Shadow of the Demon Lord. While I didn't end up taking to the game as I had hoped (though I would like to try playing it with a good GM to see if I was just a bad GM for it) I have to hand it to Mr. Schwalb for the amazing execution. For the better part of a year after the initial release of the core rules there was an adventure module, setting expansion, rules addendum, or similar product released on Mondays. Not only was there something new EVERY WEEK but they were high quality, generally highly polished products. There was no instance of a shoddy offering, or a rushed production. The game may not have been my cup of tea, but it certainly demonstrated how a good Kickstarter could be run. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

#RPGaDay 2017 - Day 28

As found on:

August 28th) What film or series is the most-frequent source of quotes in your group?

Ghostbusters. The Princess Bride. Basically anything by Mel Brooks. Star Wars. Star Trek. Monty Python. 

Basically all the normal places you'd expect a bunch of nerds/geeks to quote from.

Now go away, or I shall taunt you a second time, you silly, English knight!