Category Archives: News & Reviews

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Recommended Reading: The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross

This morning I finished reading “The Atrocity Archive”, a short novel by author Charles Stross, which has been released in the book called “The Atrocity Archives” which also contains the short story “The Concrete Jungle” also written by Stross. Although I had to struggle with Stross’ writing style a couple of times I had a blast reading the book. So what’s the Atrocity Archive about?

It’s the story of Bob Howard, an IT guy working for The Laundry, a UK secret government agency which protects the UK from all kinds of Lovecraftian horrors. It’s not set in Lovecraft’s world per se, but Stross was definitely inspired by it and he even mentions Cthulhu and Nyarlathothep among other things. Over the course of the story the protagonist transfers to active duty in the agency, has to deal with the insane bureaucracy of The Laundry, fight extrauniversal horrors, and deal with a threat that could very well be the end of our known universe. Whoah! I won’t get into more detail on the story here, because the story holds a couple of interesting surprises that I don’t want to spoil here. All this is accompanied by a healthy dose of a pretty dark British humor.

Stross’ writing style is fast, sometimes a bit overwhelming, but always fun to read and very cinematic. I am pretty sure the book could easily be turned into an exciting movie. Ah, I forgot to mention one important aspect of the fictional universe the story is set in: mathematics can be magic. There are certain calculations that open leaks to other, distant universes. Luckily the maths involved are very complicated and before the advent of computers it was very had to pull off certain spells. But nowadays you can run magic software on your Palm Pilot (or Necronomiphone). This is unknown to the world and everyone who stumbles upon this secret – cultists, mathematicians, the IT guy in your company’s basement – are either killed or recruited to The Laundry or similar agencies.

The LaundryIf you now think this would make a great setting for a roleplaying game then you’re right. There even is an official The Laundry RPG by Cubicle 7 using Chaosium’s Basic Roleplaying system. But if you prefer a system more suited to the pulpy style of Stross’ stories, you could probably run a game using Savage Worlds, Realms of Cthulhu, and Agents of Oblivion. Whatever you use The Laundry Files series for, inspiration for your Call of Cthulhu game or just for your entertainment, it’s definitely highly recommended to anyone who likes Lovecraftian horror, British humor, and has at least some familiarity with higher mathematics or working in IT.

M42 Orion Nebula, M43, and NGC 1977 complex

Hero System Bundle

17MontageYesterday I picked up the latest Bundle of Holding containing 6 Hero System products, namely Champions Complete, The Hero System Equipment Guide, the Hero System Resource Kit, Fantasy Hero, Pulp Hero, and Star Hero. I have to admit I haven’t played any Hero System game before, but I own the Hero Basic Rulebook for 6th Edition which I leafed through a couple of times. While Hero System looks a bit crunchier than my regular fare (especially when it comes to character creation) I am interested to give it a try in the future.

But since I am no Hero System veteran some questions cropped up. Is the Basic Rulebook sufficient to make use of the books in the Bundle of Holding? How compatible is the 6th Edition to the 5th? Luckily the three bonus books in the bundle are not just Hero System sourcebooks but more like treatises of their respective genres. I’m sure I’ll get my money’s worth out of Fantasy Hero and Star Hero even without actually running a Hero System game.

Are there any Hero System experts among my readers? If so, could you please share your experiences with Hero System with me? What should I pick up in the future to being able to properly run a game using the system or should the Basic Rulebook have me covered? As always every comment is highly appreciated.

And if you haven’t done so, check out the Hero System Bundle. It’s an awesome value for the minimum price of just $6.95. If you’re beating the average price, you’ll get all the stuff listed above including the awesome Fantasy Hero and Star Hero.

Preview: Covert Ops by DwD Studios

Covert Ops coverIt’s no secret that I love rules-light roleplaying games. I also have a soft spot for d% mechanics, so it’s no surprise I fell in love with DwD Studios’ Barebones Fantasy. Just 84 pages long, BBF was definitely among my favorite games of 2012.

A couple of days ago I was provided with a playtest copy of DwD Studios’ new game: Covert Ops. From what I was told this copy is pretty close to what the final version will look like, but expect a couple of minor changes. For example the back cover and the index were still missing in my copy, but the placeholders indicate that both will be added in the final release.

But even in this version Covert Ops looks great. The cover and interior artwork fits the genre perfectly and the layout is very clear and good to read. It’s a joy leafing through Covert Ops’ 104 pages. I can’t wait for the print version to be released!

Like BBF Covert Ops uses the excellent d00-Lite System and if you’re familiar with BBF you can basically start playing Covert Ops right away. Of course some changes have been made to make the system fit the genre better. Like BBF Covert Ops uses iconic genre archetypes as skills. So instead of having a Soldier class, you get a Soldier skill that allows you to perform anything a soldier does. The other skills are Academic, Detective, Leader, Martial Artist, Medic, Pilot, Scout, Technician, and Thief.

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