Thursday, August 28, 2014

PDF ANNOUNCEMENT

Starting next month Bedrock Games will begin selling its own PDFs. This means all of our PDFs available through our PDF seller will be taken down September 1st and they will be re-released under the Bedrock banner. These will be the same books as before. 

As a result, all existing reviews will be eliminated, which we regret because we have so many great reviews at places like DriveThruRPG. But ultimately we think this will be worth it for future releases. It also means the current sales status of our books will reset (so while Arrows of Indra is now a Popular Silver Pick at RPGnow, it will no longer be when we release it again next month). 

Definitely feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns related to this change: Contact. 


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

THE HEART OF ATROXIS: DEVELOPING THE IDEA

I've been busy working on the upcoming module The Heart of Atroxis and I've also been putting the finishing touches on the first Book of the Archon, so there hasn't been as much time for blog entries as I would like (but don't worry I have a dual review of The 14 Amazons coming up). Today I am going to briefly talk about how we begin developing a module. 

Usually the idea starts at the table, with something Bill or I run. In the case of The Heart of Atroxis, it began as a campaign Bill has been running set in the far reaches of the north, where remote orc tribes are starting to rise. The Orcs in our setting are predominantly civilized, so these orcs are something of an exception. They exist on the periphery of a powerful Orc empire and until recently were of little note. About fifty years ago a local chieftain named Malka united the tribes with the support of a powerful lich god named Ozias. This religion swept over the northern Orc tribes and Malka became their king. 

I think Bill was just intrigued by a society that worships a lich and is at ease with undeath so he set the campaign there. Whatever his reason, he started the campaign off with a great adventure where the party was sent by Malka to a newly discovered island with rumors of two powerful crowns buried beneath the ice. Malka had already sent men to the island in advance of us and we were to go with his daughter there to retrieve them. When we arrived we found a land inhabited by giant tribes, trolls and other nasty things. In addition to finding the crowns, we allied with some of the local giant tribes and formed an agreement with some that our king would give them land if they came and fought against the Caelum Empire. We were not authorized to make such a promise but it seemed like something Malka would approve of. 

So this was the start of the module. When Bill ran it he had to decide which island on the map to use. You can see in the image above that there are quite a few options, but it was narrowed down to two. 

After we had our island and after Bill ran us through the adventure, I was able to step in and contribute. Bill's original island was meant for something less extensive than what we ended up aiming for. There were kernels of everything in that first adventure but parts of it never got explored and Bill would have only developed it if we had stayed and done so. 

First we took the history of the island that Bill had developed and reworked it to make sure it was as seamless with the rest of the setting as possible. We also populated the island based on the history we developed and how things had appeared in Bill's adventure. 

The map above uses 100 mile hexes. We needed to get something more granular so we printed out the map with 30 mile hexes and started placing things. To the right you see an early attempt. Once we had this fleshed out, we had someone make a proper hex map for us, this time switching to 5 mile hexes (which fit our goals more). 

While I can't yet show the new map, I can say it is starting to look quite nice. It is done in a traditional style and works for the exploratory nature of The Heart of Atroxis. 

I don't want to give anything away, because much of the content is GM-only kind of stuff, but we are really excited about this adventure. It explores the ancient history of the setting from a completely new point of view and is shaping up to be a marvelous venue. While Bill already ran it as an adventure in our campaign, it has evolved considerably from the original idea. It also is going to require a bit of play testing. 

I will share more details in the coming weeks. 


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

THE HEART OF ATROXIS

We are planning another free module for Sertorius called The Heart of Atroxis. This will be based on material in our Orcs of the North Campaign and will be an adventure set on a lost island filled with giants, trolls, kobolds and more. It begins with a simple quest to retrieve two ancient crowns from a ancient ruin buried in frozen wastes but turns into a potentially endless exploration of the island itself as players learn more about the local tribes, ruins and history. It is also a chance to explore the Orc cultures of the North. Whether the players are orcs or not, they can still participate in the adventure, since Malka the King of Atroxis is happy to work with any willing Sertori. 

We are still hammering out all the details so things could change after this announcement. Presently we are expanding the details of one of the Northern Islands and creating a full hex map suitable for exploration. We are tying the history of the island in with the rest of the setting but giving it its own unique place with some surprising details buried in its past. In addition to the exploration aspect there will be political elements to the module as the characters choices potentially have consequences for Atroxis itself. We don't yet know the length of the module (with PDFs we are not as committed to a specific size from the outset of a project). Most likely it will be in the 70-100 pages range with about five chapters and two appendices. 

We will reveal more as the module develops. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

WHO IS MISSY?

We finally have new Doctor Who episodes after nearly a year (and really it's been over a year since we had a regular season). I am sure everyone has their own opinions of the new Doctor and Deep Breath. I was thrilled to be watching Doctor Who again, and while I don't think we quite have a sense of what Capaldi's Doctor will be like, I found Deep Breath entertaining and a good start to the new series. It was a bit sluggish at the start, but I think that may be a good thing because overall this episode had a lot more breathing room than more recent ones (it feels like a move away from the whole condensed storytelling thing
while I've enjoyed all the Smith episodes, I do feel the pacing has been a bit too fast lately). I am curious what others think so feel free to share your love, hatred, or indifference in the comments section. 

What I really want to know is the identity of Missy. This is the woman who seemed to revive the half-face clockwork man at the end of the episode and informed him he had reached "the promised land". I am in the dark as much as anyone (in fact probably more in the dark than some of the real obsessive fans) but I have a few guesses.

The first possibility I thought was she is a future version or an alternate version of Clara. Missy did call the Doctor her boyfriend, and this is the episode where the Doctor emphatically stated "I am not your boyfriend" so there seems to be a possible connection there. Given the fact that Clara exists across the Timelord's timeline, this could be any of those versions of her. It seems likely she is the woman who gave Clara the Doctor's number, so there is that as well. She could also simply be Clara in the future, or in the future in another body or state (with Doctor Who you never know). Maybe things get very bad between Clara and the Doctor and in this is the future outcome.

The next possibility I thought of was this is Madame de Pompadour. There is clearly a connection between the clockwork men in The Girl in the Fireplace and the clockwork men in Deep Breath. But when the Doctor last saw Madame de Pompadour he had promised to show her a star and then returned after she died. Just before that she had seen into the Doctor's mind and knew what he knew. So with all that knowledge, it is entirely possible she came up with some clever way to meet him again after her death. She had quite a few years to work on a solution after the Doctor left. And it is also more than a little possible she has been changed for the worse by this process. Plus she does have valid reason for carrying some resentment towards him (though her letter in the end of The Girl in the Fireplace doesn't suggest resentment to me). 

Obviously River Song is another possibility but if it were her, I'd expect she'd call the Doctor her husband, not her boyfriend. She could also be Tasha Lem, but I think she is actually River Song, so again, I would expect her to call him her husband. Though I could always be wrong about Lem's identity. 

I've heard some folks say maybe it is the Master or even the TARDIS. I have to admit, neither of these occurred to me while watching, but some have pointed out that Missy, could be a shortened version of Mistress, which is a female Master. That seems pretty tight in terms of the name. I could also see the Master calling the Doctor his (I suppose in this case her) boyfriend for any number of reasons (most likely because he finds the idea amusing now that he is a woman---if Missy is in fact the Master). Something tells me though it isn't the Master. I suppose it could be the TARDIS. That feels a little strange. When the TARDIS did take human form she was certainly a bit off, but Missy seems a lot more sinister. 

It is also possible Missy is an older character from the original series. 

What are your theories on the identity of Missy?  

Saturday, August 23, 2014

WHAT IS A ROLE-PLAYING GAME

Illustration by Jackie Musto
for The Guide to Aegyptus
We haven't included a 'What is a Role-playing Game' section in any of of our products since Terror Network and Crime Network. There are several reasons for this. Mainly it is because we assume folks buying our products are already seasoned gamers who have little to no interest in our definition of roleplaying. The other reason is I am not overly fond of defining roleplaying for other people. I don't mind describing it to those who have never gamed before, but I am not interested in establishing a definition that tells others how they should play. So we have simply avoided the issue by not including a definition in our rulebooks. I think this has been a mistake and in future we will resume with a standard 'What is a Role-playing Game' entry. 

It occurred to me while I was discussing one of our games with someone who hasn't played an RPG that every rulebook needs explain what roleplaying means. Now, role-playing and its definition is actually something of a hot topic and there are plenty of arguments and flamewars over how it ought to be defined. I really have no interest in that. Personally I don't want to limit my gaming experience or the experience of others because of partisans on either side. Those are discussions people can have down the road as they learn more about the hobby. I am just interested in giving people a small launching point to start play, some indication of what it actually means to play an RPG so those who haven't know how to proceed. 

In that spirit, I went back and reviewed our 'What is a Role-playing Game' entry from Terror Network. Here is what is said: 
Terror Network is a pen and paper role-playing game—a form of interactive story telling equipped with a rules system to resolve conflict. A role playing game is played by a group of players and a Game Master (GM). If you are a player, you create and control a character called a player character (PCs). If you are a Game Master, you create and control the plot and setting. The plot is the scenario that the GM presents to the players. Think of the plot as a story from a book, movie, or television program, except as a player, you control one of the main characters (your PC). The setting is the world your PCs inhabit. Like the real world, the setting is governed by laws (game mechanics) and filled with other people called non-player characters (NPCs). The GM controls all the NPCs in the setting. The Game Master also functions like a referee, deciding which rules apply to a given situation. When players decide what actions their PCs take, the GM tells them what kind of rolls to make to determine their success.
We wrote this before we were even aware that online "story" and "plot" were regarded asloaded terms and part of an ongoing debate over the purpose of roleplaying. I still have no interest in that debate, I do understand why some may see those words as misleading if readers take them too literally, but I also think they help make the concept immediately understandable. We would certainly alter how we define RPGs in any upcoming book, because I think we are at a different place now. Still I don't think we will be offering a definition meant for those who are invested in internet debates about RPGs. Instead it will be meant for those who may not know what an RPG is yet and just need something to grab onto in order to understand it. Saying an RPG is like being a character in a movie, is a fairly easy way to convey the idea (though there is always the danger folks get too hung up on the analogy). 

To me a Roleplaying game gives you a chance to be someone else and exist in virtually anyplace. You can inhabit the figures of history and fend off plots of intrigue against great emperors, you can chase drug lords through the streets of New York as a modern day cop, you can ride a dragon into war and fend off the hordes who follow the Ice Lich in a world that only exists in your collective imagination. There is drama there, there is story and there is a world you go to that feels real. Now folks can debate what that all means and how you achieve it, but that really isn't what interests me. I'm not worried about the role of the GM, or what mechanics should be employed or ignored and to what end. I'm interested in playing a character and feeling like I am someplace else really exciting and new. 

That is what roleplaying means to me. I still don't know what our next "What is a role-playing game" section will look like. Will be contemplating it further. 

What does role-playing mean to you? 





Friday, August 22, 2014

CHENG PEI-PEI REVIEWS

We have some big things going on at Bedrock and hopefully some exciting news soon, so sadly haven't had time for a proper blog entry in the past couple of days. Hopefully we will get back on track over the weekend. In the meantime I thought it would be nice to consolidate all my Cheng Pei-pei reviews into a single post. 
Cheng Pei-pei in Legendary Amazons


For those who haven't been following the Wuxia Inspiration articles, I started doing reviews of movies starring Cheng Pei-pei. She is a phenomenal actress and is a notable wuxia star from the 60s and 70s known as the "Queen of Swords". She has also starred in a number of more recent wuxia movies, including Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (as Jade Fox) and Legendary Amazons (as She Saihua). But she isn't just a wuxia actress, Cheng Pei-pei appeared in comedies like Flirting Scholar and in the modern drama, Lilting. I've been strictly reviewing her wuxia movies, but her other roles are also definitely worth checking out. 

Here are the Cheng Pei-pei films I've reviewed so far. I still hope to add this list as time goes on but further reviews may require finding harder to obtain films like Jade Raksha. 

Come Drink With Me
Golden Swallow
Brothers Five
The Lady Hermit
The Shadow Whip
The Golden Sword
The Thundering Sword 
Dragon Swamp
Raw Courage

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

THE TRAVESTY OF EVIL CAMPAIGNS

trav·es·ty \ˈtra-və-stē\
n. pl. trav·es·ties    
1. An exaggerated or grotesque imitation, such as a parody of a literary work.   
2. A debased or grotesque likeness: a travesty of justice.  
3. A literary or artistic burlesque of a serious subject.

A couple of years ago we released an interesting alternate history game called Servants of Gaius, which was set in 38 AD and put a bit of a twist on the history of Caligula's reign. In our version Caligula is not mad, not evil, but is actually becoming a god. This was meant to be a playful take on a dark chapter in real world history, something distant enough I didn't think others would fail to see the humor. What I discovered after its release is people fell into two camps, those who thought it was clever and fun, and those who were repulsed by the idea of a historical madman being lionized (even if it was done for humor's sake). I can certainly respect people taking issue with that kind of evil being inverted into something good. Personally it never bothered me, but I would never challenge someone who doesn't want to play Servants of Gaius for that reason. 

A few years before we released Gaius, we put out a mafia RPG called Crime Network. Now in Servants of Gaius, while we redrew a villain into a hero, the characters were still assumed to be good guys. But in Crime Network, the characters are mobsters, thugs and street criminals; basically the bad guys. Again some people loved it, but some people wanted nothing to do with a game where characters participate in street crime and murder. This I also understood and respected. After all, when someone asked me if they could play terrorists in our counter-terrorism RPG Terror Network, I was troubled by the idea. So I have lines I just don't want to cross in games too. Still I would like to explain why I love evil campaigns. Why I have more fun being a bad guy, more fun when my players are the bad guys, than I do playing the hero. 

The reason is to me is simple: these campaigns are not truly evil, not in the sense most people think. Such campaigns are travesties of evil, they are darkly humorous parodies of villains and bad guys seen on screen. It isn't played straight. Now this kind of comedy isn't for everyone but I find with some gamers, it resonates. 

I grew up in a largely Italian American household. My grandfather could speak Italian, my aunts fought over the best way to make tomato sauce, and they all watched mafia movies, treating each outrageous mob hit as a punchline. If you watch mafia movies in general, there is a sense of humor running through them, where death and murder are all made a little easier to accept by lacing them with wit. There is a reason Joe Pesci's character is the one everybody remembers from Goodfellas, he embodied the brutality and humor of the genre. You see this in The Sopranos as well. They don't treat every act of murder this way but it is a recurring theme in mafia media. I think the reason for it is simple: the mobsters are the stars, they are the main characters and it would be incredibly hard to watch if you didn't add the layer of comedy to distance the audience from the wickedness of their behavior. 

This isn't unique to Italian Americans or to Mafia movies, that is just where it comes from with me. But the point is, I grew up with an appreciation for dark humor. I always liked villains the best. And again, if you watch a lot of horror movies, villains often seduce the audience with their sense of humor. Hannibal Lector is horrifically evil, yet some of his best lines are dry one-liners played for laughs. 


I approach evil campaigns in much the same way and so do my players. When they play ruthless mobsters, they're hamming it up and giving their best impressions of Robert De Niro or Fredo Corleone. And even thought they are doing horrible things, it is all done with schtick and wisecracks. 

I love evil campaigns because they let you play someone truly over the top. There is certainly something to be said for the paladin who saves humanity at great personal sacrifice, but frankly I would rather play a guy like Gary Oldman's corrupt agent in The Professional. These are just incredible characters to explore. They aren't better than the paladin, they are not a bigger challenge, they are just more fun for me. 

Another reason for my love of this stuff is I can draw a clear line between playing a character in a game and real life. I see a lot of people bristle at evil games, or even in debates about alignment, because I think they find this line is more blurred. Respectfully I have to disagree here. I think one of the things that really hurt the hobby in its infancy was the notion that the line between fantasy and reality was muddled, that playing a sorcerer meant you would be drawn into real world sorcery, that playing a character who worships the god of snow meant you'd start sacrificing animals at solstice. These notions were incorrect then, when they were used to cast D&D as an evil game, and they are incorrect now when people use them to attack evil campaigns or even alignment systems. For me, I can play an evil character who worships an evil god and does evil things, without it altering my own beliefs. My character's thoughts and actions are not expressions of my real moral principles, nor do they have an affect upon them. 

Again, this isn't for everyone. I completely understand that. If folks dislike evil campaigns, that is fine. For me it is a great way to spend an afternoon with some friends and it provides lots of opportunity dark humor. Personally I don't see anything wrong with an evil campaign.