Category Archives: RPG


Well, my weekend plans went slightly sideways, but in a good way, when I was offered the advance review copy of ANCIENT WORLDS: ATISI. There are details of the crowd funding campaign for this setting at the end of this post if this whets your appetite.

Forget the impervious castles and the knights in shining armor of a medieval setting. Picture an older world, inspired by writers like Robert Ervin Howard (Conan, especially the Stygian stories), Fritz Leiber (Lankhmar books), Michael Moorcock (Corum series), Poul Anderson (The King of Ys series), Marion Zimmer Bradley (Atlantean series), and Jessica Amanda Salmonson (many short stories, and the fantastic Encyclopedia of Amazons). Think in a grandiose scope, of great cities and monuments overshadowing mortals, reminding them of humanity’s achievements in times past (like the Colossus and the Hanging Gardens), and use such imagery in your games.

Dungeon World is one of the systems I have previously looked at and discarded. I am not a fan of hit points, alignments and levels for characters. I do not like excessive player input in world building and I don’t like fake freedoms. Fake Freedoms are where the game says on one page you can create any fantasy world you like but then on the next page if you want to play a thief you MUST be human or halfling, as if an elf never stole anything(!). Either anything is possible or it isn’t you cannot have both simultaneously.

Ancient Worlds: Atisi by Marcelo Paschoalin is a derived game based upon Dungeon World and is an excellent interpretation.

Ancient Worlds: Atisi is an ancient Egyptian style fantasy world and its reimagining by Marcelo appears rock solid. For a start everyone (PC) is human. That instantly removes one of my gripes about DW. It also gives the game a defined point of view. We now know that the world looks like, we can imagine the people, the modes of dress and even the architecture.

The player races have been replaced by a rich selection of cultural backgrounds. These give varied options for appearance, style of dress, language and options to player moves.

Bonds are a feature in DW that I quite like for bringing characters together. Bonds in Atisi are better. The reason they are better is because they are more interactive or should that be collaborative. In the original you simply insert the name of the character you want to have a bond with. In Atisi bonds you choose your bond and ask which of the characters want to be the bond character. I find this simple change means that your bonds help me define the sort of character I want to play. In vanilla DW your bonds impose things on my character.

Another big gain with defining the setting first and then wrapping DW around it comes with the classes. Not only does Ancient Worlds: Atisi limit the available classes but the moves and advanced moves are tailored to the setting.

Ancient Worlds: Atisi Magic

A key element of any fantasy setting is the way that magic is handled. In Ancient Worlds: Atisi Marcelo has defined distinct limits on magic, it cannot reveal the future, it cannot create energy or matter that does not exist and it cannot make you fly. Within those confines anything is possible but as the text says “Power corrupts. Magical power corrupts magically.” All magic carries a risk of corruption.

Roughly two thirds of the 280 page book is setting information but with the DW culture of asking  questions of the players at the end of every section to push you and your group to make the world your own. Included in this setting information are plenty of adventure hooks, creatures in the bestiary, locations to explore and treasures to be found.

All in all I think this is a very good game setting. What I have seen is an Advance Review Copy and not the finished work but it looks extremely good. The only think I would have like to have seen is incorporation of the DW rules themselves. The book sends you to the online SRD site for the game rules. This is fine as Ancient Worlds: Atisi sells itself as an adventure setting for DW but had the rules been rolled into the text then this would have been a fine standalone game. That is not a fault but I think it is a missed opportunity.

Right now you can support Ancient Worlds: Atisi on it is well worth taking a look.

This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

If you are active on Twitter you might have noticed that people have recently begun using the hashtag #DnDGate while posting about literally “gates in D&D” or how what their gateway into D&D was. But if you dig a little deeper you might notice that the origins of the hashtag are a bit more sinister.

The whole thing was started by a guy posting under the Twitter handle @KasimirUrbanski. He’s also known as RPGPundit, but his real name is John Tarnowski. He runs the TheRPGSite forums and has released a couple of OSR roleplaying games. He’s known for the term Swine he uses to call everyone who plays modern indie games. If you have played Fate, Apocalypse World, or even a World of Darkness game, you might be Swine in Tarnowski’s eyes.

He was in the middle of a minor internet scandal a couple of years back, when Wizards of the Coast hired him and Zak S. aka Zak Smith aka Zak Sabbath as consultants for D&D 5th Edition. Both were notorious for being internet bullies, but at least Zak is respected – even by his critics – for his works. Personally I have no idea what an impact they had on the final product, but some people claim that its was basically a marketing ploy by WotC. Nevertheless people were outraged that WotC hired these two, and a lot of accusations were thrown around.

Recently Tarnowski formed an idea on Twitter about a GamerGate-like movement in the tabletop RPG hobby called #DnDGate. So what was the perceived scandal he wanted to fight against? That’s actually not that clear. One of his claims is that WotC and/or their employees are acting as gatekeepers. He is outraged because Mike Mearls “fired” people from the community on Twitter, after people were objecting to the hiring of a women. He rants about Social Justice Warriors, who are –  in his mind – trying to force white males out of the hobby and replacing them by minorities.

Let’s make one thing clear: WotC is doing nothing wrong. D&D is their brand. They want it to appeal to everyone. D&D is more popular than ever, and slowly even the mainstream seems to have a more positive view on it. As a D&D player you don’t have to hide in the closet anymore. But instead of celebrating this, people like the RPGPundit want to keep the hobby closed. They feel threatened by the idea that D&D could be not only for white males, but everyone (perhaps it’s because they fear that people might call them out on their behavior). They act as if any piece of sexist artwork removed from a D&D book causes them physical pain. They feel threatened by every depiction of queer, trans, or genderfluid person in their fantasy games. The world is changing, and so are the games we play.

So why do we even talk about all this? Because GamerGate-like movements cause real harm. Even if you accept that it was all about “ethics in game journalism”, you can’t deny that many people used it as an excuse to harass, threaten, and attack people. This is no laughing matter. Online harassment can be extremely harmful to the victims. It’s not uncommon that people harassed online suffer from anxiety, depression, or PTSD. Even if GamerGate started with good intentions, it still caused massive harm. Do we really want this in our hobby? I don’t think so.

The other aspect is that the more you look into it, the more obvious it is, that Tarnowski is not entirely honest when it comes to his motives. His rants against SJWs and WotC are always linked to the promotion of his own games. In his videos he never shows his face, but always the cover of his product. He knows that all publicity is good publicity and all this attention whether its positive or negative might actually result in sales. In a way, this post might actually help him reach this goal, but I still think it’s important to inform my readers about this whole kerfuffle.

I also think that he’s mad at WotC because he felt his input on 5th edition was ignored or because he was hoping on getting hired full-time which of course didn’t happen. While he lashes out at companies like Evil Hat regularly, too, his main beef seems to be which WotC. That’s why he tried to establish #DnDGate and not #RPGGate for example. Overall I think he tries to become the head honcho of the whole OSR, or at least he wants to be perceived as such. I have my doubts that this will happen any time soon, and I am glad that the majority of the RPG community is not willing to put up with his shenanigans.

The RPG community has over the last decades become more welcoming, more open, more diverse. Sure, there’s still a long way to go, but we’re at least starting to go into the right direction. I really don’t want bad actors like Mr. Tarnowski to turn back the clock.

Where is the FUDGE Fantasy?

I am rather taken with the FUDGE system. It is a long way removed from my usual mainstay of Rolemaster but reading the Ghost Ops quickstart and Early Access booklets was a real eye opener.

So I set out to try and find a ‘pre configured’ FUDGE fantasy game. I liked the sense of realism that GO provided but so far I am not finding what I am looking for.

A search of RPGNow produced only slim pickings, the closest thing to a fantasy game is Gatecrasher Science Fantasy Adventure which is not what I am looking for.  I want something more like Game of Thrones and don’t really need the SciFi elements.

So am I looking in the wrong places?

Am I really meant to build it myself from the FUDGE rulebook?

Of all the FUDGE systems on offer, that I have seen so far, they all seem to lack that compelling setting and slick implementation that I found in Ghost Ops.

I have found in the past that there are so many RPGs available that if you cannot find what you are looking for it is quite likely to be because you don’t actually know what you are looking for. A year ago I was in exactly that place. I knew I would recognise it when I saw it but I didn’t really know what I was looking for.

I want a system where combat is truly dangerous, where characters are defined through their skills and are capable right from the start.  I want a setting where magic is rare and more ritualistic than fireballs and lightning bolts. I want monsters to be rare but horrifying. Think along the lines of a FUDGE implementation of Call of Cthulhu in Hârn.

So any suggestions because I am not finding anything? Is this something I am going have to build myself? Is this something that others would want to play?