Category Archives: News & Reviews

A look at Low Fantasy Gaming

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imageIn one of my previous posts I have confessed my new-found love in all things OSR. All those D&D simulacra available are full of cool ideas, an old-school charm, and a wonderful sense of nostalgia. But what I like the most is that – even though the rules all these works are based on are quite old – they just work great.

Nowadays you can also easily find a D&D-style game tailored to your liking. One of these games is SJ Grodzicki’s Low Fantasy Gaming (or LFG for short). What it sets apart from other OD&D-like games is it’s low-fantasy approach (hence the name) and a couple of interesting new mechanics.

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Hidden Gem: The Unexplained

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fudge_unexplainedYesterday I bought a copy of Carnivore Games’ The Unexplained, a Fudge-based game in which you play members of a group investigating paranormal phenomenon. And from what I’ve seen so far it is definitely one of the best Fudge-based games around, with a lot of well-researched information on the paranormal.

If you ask people about Fudge you usually get recommendations to check out Carnivore Games’ other title, Now Playing. Now Playing is a roleplaying game meant to turn your favorite TV show into a roleplaying game setting. I have picked it up a while ago, but it never really grabbed me. When I learned about The Unexplained I was immediately intrigued. Even though I personally don’t believe in the supernatural, UFOs, paranormal phenomenon, I love to play in game featuring those things. Often I watch UFO “documentaries” and ghost hunting shows just to entertain myself.

Before going on, let me write a few lines about why I love Fudge so much. For me, the core mechanic which you might know from the more popular Fate is just genius. You roll four Fudge dice (six-sided dice with two sides with a plus sign, two sides with a minus sign, and two blank sides). A roll of 4dF generates numbers from –4 to +4 in a nice bell curve centered on zero. Skills, attributes, etc. and the difficulties assigned by the GM are on the same ladder and each step on that ladder has a descriptive word assigned to it like Good, Great, et cetera. So you are a Good sword fighter or a Mediocre craftsman. If you check a skill you roll 4dF and shift the skill’s rank by the roll result. That’s easy explained and makes it terribly easy to assign difficulties by the GM.

If you have followed my blog for the last couple years you might have noticed that Fudge cropped up from time to time, but I never really got into it. While I like many of Fudge’s core concepts, I always found the rulebooks too confusing, badly organized and too much of a toolbox. For the last few years I have been looking for an implementation of Fudge which you could just play out of the box, without having to pick and choose between countless options.

Carnivore Games’ The Unexplained seems to be what I have been looking for all this time. It presents a version of Fudge you can pick up and play without any hassle and it’s generic enough so that you can use it for any modern game. From what I’ve heard Now Playing uses basically the same set of Fudge rules, so I should give it a second look. It might also be more versatile, so that it can be used in any genre. If you have been happy with Grey Ghost Press’ Fudge corebook in the past, you probably won’t pick up The Unexplained just for the rules. But if you have always struggled with it, The Unexplained may help to give you a proper start.

The second reason I enjoy reading The Unexplained so much, is the fact that it contains a lot of well-researched information on the various fields of paranormal investigation. The book contains a lot of background on UFOs, ghost hunting, cryptozoology, and the methods people use to investigate these phenomenon. If you believe in such things, you might even use it as a handbook to get your ghost hunting career a kickstart. Zwinkerndes Smiley

Even though the PDF is completely black & white, it’s pretty easy on the eyes. The layout and organization are solid, and it was a joy leafing through it on my 7” tablet.

Yes, there are probably games with higher production values available. Conspiracy X, or the Dark Matter setting for Alternaty and d20 Modern come to mind. But those games usually deal with professional investigators and government conspirators and not with the countless amateur groups investigating the paranormal all over the world.

stargazers_world_sealFor me, The Unexplained is one of those hidden gems, most roleplayers not even heard about. It’s a solid product using a rules system which has fallen out of favor far too early. If you have a soft spot for the underdog, and for amateur paranormal investigations, check out The Unexplained. I am sure, you will not be disappointed.

The Unexplained is available in PDF form from DriveThruRPG for $19.99.

First Look: CONTACT – Tactical Alien Defense RPG

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Contact is one of the few roleplaying games created in Germany who eventually were released in English language. I have to admit I totally missed the release of the English PDF on DriveThruRPG probably because I had owned a hardcopy of the German version for quite a while now. The PDF on which this first look post is based on, was provided by the publisher. Thanks again, Patric!

So, what is Contact about?
Contact is a roleplaying game set into a near future, where aliens have started invading Earth. The players are part of OMEGA – an organization tasked with fighting the alien threat. Yes, this sounds a lot like the premise of the XCOM computer game series, and no, it’s not a coincidence. The author of Contact, Robert Hamberger, is a huge fan of the XCOM games and an avid role-playing gamer, who worked for many years to bring his vision to life: an XCOM-inspired pen & paper RPG.

A beautiful book!
The result is a 290-paged PDF (or book – the Kickstarter to fund the printing of hardbound books is still running) with gorgeous artwork and a percentile dice-based rules system which feels a lot like the mechanics ripped straight from a computer game. These mechanics may very well be what makes or breaks the game depending on what you prefer. I have to admit that especially combat in CONTACT has way too many fiddly bits for my tastes, but I might not be among the game’s target audience. If you love complex tactical combat in your RPGs you might love Contact.

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The first 33 pages of the book contain background information about the world in the 2040s, OMEGA, and what kind of characters you can play in the game. The next 70 pages or so are the rules needed to play the game (including normal and Advanced Combat rules, Vehicle Combat, Character Creation, etc.). The remaining pages contain the Gamemaster section, an extensive equipment list, a bestiary, and a Base Management Simulation. Yes, CONTACT even let’s you customize your OMEGA bases.

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