Monday, January 18, 2021

Good Knight Sweetheart

Just before Chrimble I was sent a review copy of Gabriel Ciprés' role-playing game Space Knights:

Space Knights is a science fiction roleplaying game about alien invasions, mighty warriors and desperate battles in the dark future. The player characters in Space Knights are no individuals but the companies of an Order of Elite Warriors in a time when humankind has spread through the galaxy and fights for survival. Space Knights uses a PbtA-based system and contains everything you need to play.

Space Knights is a pastiche of Warhammer 40,000, in particular the fascist warrior monks of the Space Marines. The game is short, consisting of 10 pages, which includes a cover and a credits/introduction page. It can be purchased at the very reasonable price of Pay What You Want from Drive Thru RPG.

I haven't had a chance to play it, so these impressions are based on reading the pdf. Don't hate me.

The Good

  • There are a number of rpgs out there that put you in the power armour of a Marine of Space, but in my experience they tend to focus on individuals. Space Knights instead puts players in the roles of entire companies, which is an interesting approach. (Of course, the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game has the same sort of perspective, but that's not an rpg.)
  • The system -- which is derived from Apocalypse World -- is simple and leans towards storytelling rather than crunchy detail. It seems like it would be quick and elegant to play, and again it is an interesting approach to a game that is about blokes with guns shooting each other. Roll 2d6, with partial success at 7 or total success at 10, applying modifiers or rerolls based on a company's unique traits. Bosh! That's it!
  • Despite its length, Space Knights is full of flavour, and the writing captures the theme well. There is not much in the way of fluff or background, but all of the little mechanical bits and pieces capture the feel of doomed heroes -- or perhaps they are religious extremists, or perhaps they are both -- on vast crusades, risking not only their lives but their souls. I suspect that in part the game is relying on evoking my own experiences of the 40K setting, but even if that is the case, there is some skill in that.

The Bad
  • The game gives examples of Space Marine chapters Space Knight orders and some sample missions, and there is a section of random table to generate mission details, but the game is a bit fuzzy about what happens in a session and what the players are supposed to do. In other words, how the game works is described well, but how it plays is not. Is it designed for one-shots? Can it be used to run a campaign? You can work this stuff out by reading between the lines but a bit of guidance would be handy.

The Ugly
  • There is almost no art in the game, but I can't criticise it too much for that. Space Knights is a Pay What You Want indie rpg based on a well-known setting that already has four decades of art behind it, so it's a very minor issue. You don't need Ciprés to draw a Space Marine, because everyone knows what a Space Marine is and if not it's only a Google away. To be honest, I'm only mentioning it so I have something to put in this section.

All in all, I recommend Space Knights as a fun little game that would fill an evening of play, and brings a new perspective to the experience of playing a power-armoured religious warrior. I have some questions over whether there's anything more to it than a couple of hours of play, but those couple of hours should be fun enough. Assuming the Emperor hasn't banned fun, obviously.

If I get a chance to play Space Knights, I'll update this post -- or write a new one -- about how it went.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Gnoming Me, Gnoming You

TLDR; all the little beardy dudes are the same species, but everyone thinks they are not.

Gnomes live in the woods, talk to badgers, carve houses into giant mushrooms, and despite being a little eccentric are otherwise okay. Ish. If you can have a normal conversation with a little man or woman and they are not trying dig a hole or cut your head off, it's probably a gnome.

Dwarves are the incel brodude dickholes. They go off into the mountains, spend all their time drinking beer and bulking up by mining and fighting and working out. They grow enormous beards as a sign of overcompensation masculine power and women are not allowed, which is why everyone else thinks there are no female dwarves. They recruit disgruntled young gnomes by distributing their androcentric philosophies via their "cool" runic language that no one else uses. Magic is for girls, obvs.

Kobolds are gnomes that went to live deep underground where there are no badgers to talk to, and have gone a little mad as a result. Some paint themselves blue, some wear the skins of lizards or dogs. All are mischievous to some extent. They often run around on all fours, and have developed a weird yelping language that sounds like those irritating yapping dogs your great aunt keeps. What no one realises is that this is a dialect of the language of ghouls.

Redcaps are gnomes that have gone beyond "eccentric" into "completely unhinged". The serial killers of gnomish society, these nutters think that if they murder everything they will live forever, or become all-powerful, or some such nonsense. Tiny Ted Bundy in a fancy hat.

Gnomes will, at a push, acknowledge that dwarves and kobolds are their -- misguided -- kin, but prefer not to talk about redcaps and fob off any claims of similarity. They would say it's a case of convergent evolution if they knew the word. Dwarves, for their part, deny any relation to the -- clearly inferior -- others and often try to eliminate kobold communities. Kobolds don't talk sense long enough to answer the question in any useful way, but do seem friendly enough to the others, if encountered. Good luck getting an answer from a redcap.

All of the varieties of gnome-kind -- even kobolds and redcaps! -- get quite, um, bashful at the mention of leprechauns.

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Obvious Plant

I don't think I've shared this one. I drew over 250 new pictures for Adventure Anthology: Blood, which you can still buy if you want. (EU) (US) (PDF)

You won't see this picture in the book, as it got cut during layout, but I quite liked it.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Merry Chrimble

However you celebrate the end of the year, I hope it's a good one.

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

The Best Mince Pies of 2020

For the past few years I have been taste-testing shop-bought mince pies; it started out as an excuse to eat a lot of mince pies, but it's become popular and people seem to value my opnion. Or they value me putting on weight in late December. You can follow along with me on the #mincetagram #MincePieADay or #MincePieFest2020 hastags on Facebook or Instagram if you're a big fan of arbitrary judgements about unimportant things.

Here are 2020's scores:

Put a big asterisk by this result as because I haven't been able to get hold of any minceys from Waitrose or Morrisons this year. I'm not too bothered by the former as their pies are never much good, but Morrisons' were among the best in 2019, so it's a shame I missed them this year.

So with that in mind, the best mince pie of 2020 is... a three way tie between local business Infinity Foods, my friend Liam, and the supermarket Tesco. If I had to pick one winner, and discounting Liam's pies because you can't buy them, my #MincePieFest2020 Grand Prize Winner is...


I will be taking questions later, at Four Seasons Total Landscaping.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

You Can Never Escape the Barbarians of the Ruined Earth, Probably

I've been drawing some more pictures for Barbarians of the Ruined Earth, this time an upcoming adventure called The Slave Mines of Vindicus the Terrible:

I'm not sure when the adventure is out, but I will mention it here when it is.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Mister Lord

Back when I was much smaller and younger, I read my brother's hand-me-down copies of Star Wars Weekly.

As was common for UK comics of the time, Star Wars Weekly was a sort of anthology; alongside the reprints of the US Star Wars comic, there were one or two other comics dragged from the Marvel archive, which were supposed to have a space theme to tie in with the main event, but somehow we ended up with Deathlok fighting Man-Wolf in New York, so I don't know what to tell you.

I remember enjoying Chris Claremont and John Byrne's Star-Lord the most out of all the back-up comics, but because there were gaps in our collection, I never got to see what this was about:

In 2014 Marvel published a collection of the early Star-Lord stories to tie in with the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, and I picked up a copy so I could see how the story ended. I also got to see how the story began and, crikey, his origin is bonkers.

Within a couple of pages, Peter Quill's dad works out that he is not in fact Peter Quill's dad, so takes the infant outside to chop him up with a wood axe. Before he can do so, Quill Senior dies of a heart attack!

A few years later, Peter's mum is killed by aliens, so Peter decides to become a space racist.

So that's a bit different to the film then.

Peter decides to become an astronaut so he can go up into space and kill aliens, and turns out to be quite good at astronautery, but everyone at NASA thinks he's a bit intense and weird so he always gets passed over for the top jobs. A distraught Peter goes home and gets drunk with his pet owl.

After a few more twists and turns, throughout which Peter remains a complete douchecanoe, a space wizard turns up at NASA and tells them that he is going to turn one lucky astronaut into Star-Lord. Of course Peter is overlooked once again so what does he do?

He goes on a shooting spree around NASA HQ.

Of course.

Standard Marvel hero behaviour. If you're the Punisher.

After shooting all his colleagues and friends, Peter is transported to the space wizard's grotto, where he is given the Star-Lord costume and then gets to go and kill the aliens that killed his mum, except it turns out to be an illusion created by the space wizard so that Quill can get the revenge out of his system or something. Then Peter and the space wizard go for a walk in the woods and that's your lot.

As origin stories go it is, to say the least, a bit odd. The alleged hero is a complete sociopath almost from the beginning and you keep expecting it to turn around at some point, like Spider-Man's origin, perhaps, except no. Instead it gets worse and worse until the protagonist becomes a spree killer. Okay then.

Quill's origin has since been multiple-retconned into a big continuity nonsense spaghetti but Marvel was already ignoring it by the character's second appearance, which says a lot. Star-Lord is still portrayed as a little eccentric and weird in later stories, but the specific murders and racism are skipped over. He's played more as an adventurer troubled by mistakes made in his past and less of a psychopath with a ray gun.

I can see why they decided not to use this version of the character for the films, as Peter Quill, Space Racist isn't going to sell many tickets for Disney on Ice. I am a bit baffled that Marvel published it in the first place, but I suppose it was the 70's.

The owl, alas, is not seen again. I feel that's a missed opportunity.


Here's what Marvel-NASA is wearing in 1990:

All the coolest astrophysicists wear capes.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Eclectic Avenue

This is the cover for an upcoming project for Lamentations of the Flame Princess. The contents of the book are, as you can see, quite varied.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

You Are Really Spoiling Us

Here's a preview of some content from a project in the works at Lamentations of the Flame Princess, although you can use this with most old-school D&D variants. Have a go, and let me know how you get on!

Selenite Ambassador

You are an extension of Irdonozur, the Supreme Monarch of the Moon, sent to Earth to experience life on another world. You come in peace, wish to be taken to their leaders, and all that sort of thing. You have been selectively bred for diplomacy and open, friendly communication, but you are also a pale, chitinous thing with an enormous head so you’re going to get some odd looks.

Selenite Ambassadors have a hit bonus of +1 and start with 1d6 hit points at first level. Use the Magic-User experience table to determine experience, hit points, and saving throws for subsequent levels.

Selenite Ambassador characters start with the following special traits:

Alien: you stand out among the people of Earth and cannot pass as human, unless under a heavy disguise.
ESP: you can cast the ESP spell at will.
Hive Mind: you are, for all intents and purposes, Irdonozur, but your distance from the Moon has caused some interference or lag, and you have developed an independent consciousness. You may also have evolved such eccentricities as your own personality or even a unique name, like “Roger”. Should you return to the Moon you will “synch” and “update” – to use terms that the kids will understand – as you rejoin the hive mind and it absorbs your experiences. Whether this is fine and good, or something to be avoided, is up to you.

Each time a Selenite Ambassador gains a level, they should roll on the following table to see what happens. Some abilities are limited and you should roll again if you are ineligible to receive that ability.

Spells are cast at the Ambassador’s current level, which is a bit wonky and sort of breaks the rules but I won’t tell anyone if you don’t.

2d10 Ambassadorial Abilities:

2: You can transfer your consciousness to a willing entity and ride along in their mind, experiencing everything they do. While this happens, your body goes into a trance and does not require food or water; if your body is destroyed while you are hitching a ride, you must save versus Poison or your consciousness dissipates. You can transfer from one mind to another if, again, the new entity is willing. This ability can be gained only once.

3: You grow sharp chitinous claws, like those of your warrior siblings. The claws do 1d8 damage. This ability can be gained only once.

4: All Selenite Ambassadors have a pair of tentacle-like limbs in addition to their arms, but yours have developed into extra, fully functional, arms,. You gain an extra attack each Round and can do things like use a shield and a two-handed weapon at the same time. You can get this result only once, except in one case; if you gain wings (19) they replace the extra arms, and a subsequent roll of arms will then replace the wings, and so on.

5: You gain 1d6 Hit Points this level instead of 1d4.

6: Your chitinous exoskeleton is tougher than normal. Add +1 to your natural Armour, up to a maximum of 16.

7: You can cast Forget once per day. If you get this result again you can cast it twice per day, and so on.

8: You gain +1 Charisma, up to a maximum of 18.

9: You can cast Command once per day. If you get this result again you can cast it twice per day, and so on.

10: Your psychic awareness lets you detect hostile intent, which reduces your chance of being surprised by 1, to a maximum of -4, at which point, yes, you cannot be ambushed.

11: You are one of millions of Selenites, and if you die, Irdonozur will just hatch another one. You are immune to fear.

12: You can cast Remove Fear once per day. If you get this result again you can cast it twice per day, and so on.

13: You extend a psychic aura of calmness and geniality, which gives you +1 to Reaction rolls, up to a maximum of +6.

14: Your psychic powers interfere with hostile spellcasting, giving you a bonus of +1 to saves versus Magic. You can gain this benefit three times for a maximum bonus of +3.

15: You can project a bolt of psychic force into the mind of one being within 60’ once per Round. The target must save versus Magic or suffer 1d4 damage.

16: You can cast Confusion once per day. If you get this result again you can cast it twice per day, and so on.

17: You can cast Chaos once per day. If you get this result again you can cast it twice per day, and so on.

18: You can cast Feeblemind once per day. If you get this result again you can cast it twice per day, and so on.

19: You have grown a set of wings that allows you to fly at your normal speed. If you have already developed extra arms (4) the wings replace them. You can gain this benefit only once unless you have previously had your wings replaced by arms, in which case your arms drop off and your wings grow back. If you spend ten levels growing arms and wings in a never-ending cycle, then you have my sympathies.

20: Your huge psychic brain is smaller – but no less effective! – than those of other Ambassadors, and your body shape is closer to that of humans, all of which makes it easier for you to move amongst the people of Earth. You no longer have the Alien trait.