All posts by Stargazer

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team.

In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games.

Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

Thoughts on the Index Card RPG

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I don’t actually remember how I stumbled upon the Index Card RPG CORE by Runehammer Games. It could be someone mentioned it in a chat, or I just saw it on sale at RPGNow. Eventually I picked it up, since it looked as if I could like it. And in fact, I do love it. It’s one of those games I wished I came up with.

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At its core the Index Card RPG CORE (no pun intended) is an ultra-light variant of D&D. It uses the same attributes, but in form of their bonuses instead of the regular 3 to 18 attribute scores. There are no levels, advancement is fully equipment based. Characters’ and monsters’ hitpoints are rated in “hearts” with each heart being 10hp. Difficulties for rolls are not set on a per case basis, but there’s a common threat level for each scene, which the GM can adjust as they see fit.

One of the coolest changes to regular D&D is Effort. In cases a simple check on whether you succeed or not is not enough, you roll first if you succeed on your task (d20 + attribute vs. threat), and then – if successful – you roll effort. It’s a d4 if you use your raw wits or bare hands, d6 for weapons, d8 for magic, and d12 is your Ultimate which comes in play when your action check was a natural 20. Some items may also allow you to use your Ultimate effort. In this system things you have to overcome (a cliff to climb, a trap to disarm, a chest to open) also have hearts. Cracking that lock open is mechanically more like attacking it with a lockpick. you could even use this for social conflicts.

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In a way the Index Card RPG CORE reminds me of Into The Odd, another ultra-light D&D clone. It strips away a lot of what people usually consider sacred cows but retains what makes the game exciting to people. By the way, I forgot to mention why it’s called Index Card RPG. The game doesn’t rely on the use of index cards at all. But the creator of the game is a fan of the “Index Card Method”. I’ve included a video about said method below.

So the game more or less was created with said method in mind, but you actually don’t need to employ it. Overall the Index Card RPG is full of great ideas for the busy game master with a full-time job and a family. Everything is kept as simple as possible while feeling awesome at the same time. The book is full of creative ideas and just makes me want to run it ASAP.

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The Index Card RPG comes with a bestiary, a lot of examples for obstacles to overcome, two settings (a fantasy and a space opera one), and paper miniatures for monsters and characters. It even includes materials to use with online services like Roll20.

Even if you don’t want to make use of the rules included the Index Card RPG is well worth it. Its advice on how to run exciting games and the print-out-and-play material alone is worth its price of $16.50. POD options are also available. And did I mention that I adore the artwork in this book? It’s awesome! I could go on and on about how much I adore this little game, but I think it’s way better if you check it out!

Preview: FrontierSpace Referee’s Handbook

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imageAs I stated in my recent review of the FrontierSpace PHB, FrontierSpace is one of the most exciting releases this year. Even though I have played and even written fantasy roleplaying games before, I am first and foremost a science fiction fan. Unfortunately a lot of SF RPGs out there have been written by designers who love rules. It feels as if crunch and science fiction often come in pairs. Luckily FrontierSpace is an exception. The rules are between rules-light and rules-medium, but there’s definitely enough depth for long campaigns. The referee handbook adds optional rules and various generators to expand your FrontierSpace game and help the GM (or Referee as it’s called in the game) to do their job.

This review is based on a unfinished copy of the RHB provided by DwD Studios. Thanks again, Bill. The 198-paged preview copy lacks a couple of pieces of art but aside from that it should be identical to the finished version. The RHB shares its look and layout with the PHB. The release is probably only a week or two away and like the PHB the RHB should be available both as POD version (soft- or hardcover) and PDF via RPGNow/DriveThruRPG. I guess it will probably set you back $10 just like the PHB, which is a very good price, if you ask me.

So what does the RHB add to the table? The first chapter of the book called Game Guidelines mostly expands on the rules on the PHB. In the first section of said chapter there’s a closer look at Character Rules including the morality system, how it applies to robots, and how the Referee can react when players let their character’s act against their defined moral code. Personally I don’t think codifying one’s morality is really necessary (especially in a SF game), but that’s just me.

More interesting are the information on earning DP (development points, FrontierSpace’s XP equivalent). In this section the author gives detailed tips on how to grant DP after each session. There’s a bullet list with ten item which if applicable grant you 1 DP each. This makes granting DP a much easier task, since you just have to check which criteria apply. Veteran Referees may just wing it, but if you’re new to the game it definitely comes in handy.

Another form of reward is also detailed: Loyalty benefits. These are special benefits granted to characters who have been loyal to a certain patron may it be a powerful corporation or a local government. Loyalty benefits are usually designed by the Referee but a list of examples is given which contains benefits like special skill training, the use of certain vehicles provided by the patron, or even company stocks.

Fria Ligan Interview with Tomas Härenstam

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Fria Ligan (or Free League Publishing) has quickly become one of my favorite game publishers/design teams. But even though I totally love what they are doing I actually don’t know that much about them, their current and future projects. So I thought it would be cool to do an interview with them. Luckily Tomas Härenstam agreed and without further ado, let’s delve right in.

Stargazer: Thanks again for taking your time to answer some questions. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers. Who are you and what is your position within Fria Ligan (aka Free League)? Can you tell us about how you got introduced to roleplaying games in general and how you came to be working in the RPG industry yourself?

Tomas: Hi and thank you for having me! I’m one of the four founders of Free League Publishing, and these days I tend to manage most of our projects. I’ve been a roleplayer since the mid-80’s, and been writing my own RPGs for almost as long. In the mid-2000s, I self-published an alternate ruleset for the then existing edition of Mutant, and that led to the publisher Järnringen asking me to write the rules for their upcoming title. Later during that project, Järnringen went out of business and they asked me if me if I would like to take it over. That led to me and another couple of hobby writers founding Free League Publishing as a company. The rest is, as they say, history. 🙂 Continue reading Fria Ligan Interview with Tomas Härenstam