My Mystara Wishlist

The news that Classic D&D material was going to be reissued as PoD were one of my high points of the last year or two in the hobby. But the release schedule seems to be slow-ish. So I thought it might be worth for me to keep track of where we are at any given point.

Other people are monitoring the whole list (either Mystara titles or all titles), so I will limit myself to those titles I was planning to buy. The first section is all about the GAZ series, which is by far the highest priority for me. The second section are adventure modules that I am pretty sure to buy, and the third section is adventure modules that I am interested in and might buy just because they are classic and cool. In square brackets, I will add comments on why I want this stuff.

I will list them all, and then hyperlink them as soon as they become available. (Check this out for a general BECMI catalogue)

The GAZetteers Series

GAZ1 The Grand Duchy of Karameikos 1987 9193
GAZ2 The Emirates of Ylaruam 1987 9194
GAZ3 The Principalities of Glantri 1987 9208
GAZ4 The Kingdom of Ierendi 1987 9215
GAZ5 The Elves of Alfheim 1988 9223
GAZ6 The Dwarves of Rockhome 1988 9227
GAZ7 The Northern Reaches 1988 9230
GAZ8 The Five Shires 1988 9232
GAZ9 The Minrothad Guilds 1989 9236
GAZ10 The Orcs of Thar 1989 9241
GAZ11 The Republic of Darokin 1989 9250
GAZ12 The Golden Khan of Ethengar 1989 9246
GAZ13 The Shadow Elves 1990 9287
GAZ14 The Atruaghin Clans 1991 9306

Sure Buys

B2 The Keep on the Borderlands 1980 9034 [‘Nuff said!]

B10 Night’s Dark Terror 1986 9149 [The coolest take on Karameikos]

Dawn of the Emperors: Thyatis and Alphatia 1989 1037 [Complements GAZ titles]

Cool Stuff

RC Rules Cyclopedia 1991 1071 [I have one old battered copy already]

O2 (solo) Blade of Vengeance 1984 9108 [Love Jim Bambra]

X2 Castle Amber (Château d’ Amberville) 1981 9051 [First module I ran, love Glantri]

X3 Curse of Xanathon 1982 9056 [I know… but I like it]

X4 Master of the Desert Nomads 1983 9068

X5 Temple of Death 1983 9069 [Classic pulpy two-part campaign]

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Sometimes They Come Back

As I have told you at the time, I once missed the opportunity to snatch a complete collection of the BECMI GAZ series for basically peanuts. As a consequence, I am pretty excited at these news: the Wizards are selling Print on Demand reissues of old titles via DriveThru RPG/RPG Now.

Obviously, the campaign was launched only a couple of weeks ago, and there is no guarantee that they ever get to reissue any titles belonging to the GAZ. I can also envision some practical difficulties in doing such a thing: those booklets came with poster sized maps, and some of them included stuff like wargame pawns, paper models of buildings etc. Frankly, I strongly hope that they get around these problems in the most radical way: just cut the maps in pieces, and ditch the extra gimmicks. If they do it well (i.e., do not butcher the maps) the end result would be marginally less pretty, but considerably cheaper and more practical than the originals themselves.

Presently, the prices seem very interesting and the quality (at the very least) acceptable, so any GAZ title that comes up is pretty much a no brainer for me. Dammit, this I really owe to my youth and the history of the hobby!

Three Fantasy Games

First of all, I guess a owe my readers an apology. This blog has gone through a long hiatus, and perhaps it does not make a whole lot of sense to revive it now. You know how these things go: life is a b*tch and all that jazz. Somehow, I lacked the energies for regular updates, months went by etc. But the truth is that I am still into RPGs, so it would not be right to just starve this blog to death. I will not promise regular updates but, say, less infrequent updates.

Last Summer and Fall, three new releases caught pretty much all of my attention. Today and in the next few posts, I will offer some personal impressions of these games. Since my finances are limited (ah! euphemism!), I only did manage to put my money on two of them.

First, this Summer saw a triumphant Kickstarter for Zweihander, better known as “That Warhammer Fantasy Role Play retroclone that should have been out by now”. I have been following the beta releases for the game for no less than two years, and I must say that this project deserved my money, if nothing else, for the exceptional love and care that so many people put in it. This game has been conceived, playtested, revised, perfected for years by many, many WFRP fans that wanted so hard a new edition of their favourite game to see the light. I gladly shelled out my 50 euro-bucks for a physical book that, I am sure, will be gorgeous. The fact that the sellers did not charge additional shipping costs was also instrumental in making me opt for the paper as opposed to the mere PDF (shipping costs for large books can be horrifying, at times). At the moment, I have only read selections from the mammoth-sized provisional PDF, but I will give you some impressions in the next days.

The second game is Mythras. As you might remember, I have been aware of RuneQuest 6e for a long time. The fact is that I never managed to get my hands on a copy because the book was just too expensive (even for these days of expensive hardcovers). The news that the game was about to be revised and reissued made me wait a bit longer. At the end of last Summer, the game was finally out and I was (I think) among the very first to buy it in Europe. (This also resulted in a few little inconveniences, which I will discuss in a future post.) The price was just great, not least because of the partnership of the publisher with the UK based company Aeon Games. Anyway, I was super happy to finally have the book in my hands and these days I count it among my selected few favourite systems around.

The third game is, in a way, not new. It is the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy boxset that was launched on a surpise Kickstarter in September. I did not expect it and, I must confess, I just could not afford to support it: after paying for the other two books, a further expense of circa 80 euros was just too much. It is a pity, because the attempt of bringing dead-tree GURPS back (well) from the dead struck me as a great idea, really. I was never the greatest fan of the DF line per se, but that was only because I found that the attention it was getting was disproportionate with respect to the system’s potential. But you know what? They win: people want more dungeon crawling in GURPS? Hell, I am all for that. I will try to get the PDF when it is out for the general public.

 

On Star Wars: stories and games

On the very last day of 2015, I managed to watch The Force Awakens. Yes, one of the few advantages of a  super mega global franchise is that you get to watch it round the corner…no matter where you live. What can i say? I definitely liked it, and yet, I liked it because my expectations were so low. I mean, my last experience of a Star Wars movie (in the far 2005) was, well, horrendous.  TFA is better than the prequels for the very simple reason that it is a homage to A New Hope, and it is a less than satisfactory film for the very same reason.

Unexpectedly, after watching it I happened to think a lot about RPGs, especially RPG adventures vs. storytelling.

I thought: look at how the authors exploited all sorts of silly coincidences in order to cram as many references to the original trilogy as you could hope for. On film, it looked somewhat gratuitous, but I guess that if I ever had to GM a campaign set after the original trilogy, I probably would have done the same, in order to keep my players entertained. In fact, I guess that whenever you play in a setting borrowed from books or movies, you are to some extent tempted to do the same.

On a different level, I also reflected on the bit of insight that originated the webcomic Darths & Droids. The idea was that, storywise,  the prequels were so bad, that one could not make sense of the fact that somebody had written them that way. What if, in fact, they were nothing but the write-up of an RPG campaign? They suddenly made a lot more sense. Again, I came to think that TFA was in fact a very clever beginning for an RPG campaign. The references to the original trilogy were there (see above). The PCs had obviously been created and played by very different players. Rei is such a Mary Sue because her player is a min-maxer, who managed to get superior fighting and piloting skills while also being strong in the Force. Poe’s player is obviously somebody who is very busy and just cannot manage to be there every week: s/he was content to create a PC with one single, super high skill (starfighter piloting), and not much else to speak of. Finn’s player is obviously the least experienced one: he comes out as a character who is not especially good at anything, except perhaps putting himself in danger. His player, if anything, must have had a good time. BB-8 is obviously the GM’s favourite friendly NPC, or perhaps a character played by one of those friends of the GM who is often dropping by and must be kept entertained: this would explain why so many scenes revolve around that damned little thing…

[More seriously, I was also drawn in the unhealthy trip to revisit the now defunct Expanded Universe, which I knew little about. For the first time, I have “properly” read the five Thrawn novels by Timothy Zahn. Hopefully, I will share some thoughts about them on this blog very soon.]

(My) 2015 (Space) Odyssey

I wanted to thank my readers for staying with me in this first year of blogging. It has a been a bit of a tough year, both personally (job hunting and sh*t) and gaming-wise. I have not managed to put a gaming group together. Next year I might try harder, perhaps via Hangout or something. This evening I am probably going to be able to watch The Force Awakens at last, so expect some post on Star Wars stuff in the next couple of weeks. Or maybe not: it depends on how strongly I (dis)like it, on how many RPG hooks I find etc. Anyway: thank you and have a happy new year.

My Problems with Superheroes

In the next future I plan to write about superhero games, so it is perhaps time to spell out my fundamental lack of interest in role-playing superheros. In my life I have read my good share of superhero comics (mostly Marvel, mostly mutants). And yet, as I mentioned before, I have never felt terribly attracted to superhero RPGs, even though two decades ago I gave it a shot with the then-only superhero game in town in my native country.

My problem, to avoid misunderstandings, is with super-heroes, not with super-powers. The idea of playing a scenario or a campaign with superpowered characters sounds pretty appealing, in fact. Only, I would not make them comic-book superheroes. Demigods in a fantasy setting? Yes. Cosmic entities with a psychedelic space opera feel? Sure. Super mercenaries in action movie adventures? Perhaps. But not superheroes, not crime-fighters with stylized names and costumes, who honestly think that knocking out (but not maiming or killing, God forbid!) a bunch of small fry criminals every week makes any difference in the grand scheme of things.

In all fairness I think that everything Alan Moore put in Watchmen (and Snyder heavily underplayed in the movie) applies to the very concept of a superhero in general. What kinds of people would plausibly choose to be comic-book style vigilantes? Childish types, violent brutes and people with sexual kinks.

In a way, I suffer from a moral dissonance which is the opposite of the one often lamented about D&D: there, the stereotypical adventuring style (“murder-hobos”)  clashes with the assumption that at least some PCs are “good” and law-abiding, many of them are devout to peaceful religious cults etc. With superheroes, I cannot help finding the righteous and impractical attitude required by the run-of-the-mill superhero scenarios ridiculous or otherwise unconvincing, and I would be tempted the make the characters less “heroic” but more interesting. So yeah, if I really had to, I would rather play a campaign of super-villains. At least, their motives make marginally sense.