review

Designer’s Notes: The Psyber Devangelist and Other Psi-Sci-Fi

Yes, I made another thing! By thing, I mean I made something cool for MÖRK BORG. By something cool, I mean I spent a lot of time—possibly too much time—on a new class along with some new equipment, weapons, powers, things to kill you, and some additional mechanics. It’s all inspired by science-fiction, cyberpunk, psychic powers, psionics, etc.

The class is comparable to a cheeseburger—it’s an artificial post-biological horror.

I also greatly appreciate the outright support because this is the closest thing I have to income right now, and I am at least trying to make fun things, build a portfolio, and earn enough off of my work that my hobby is self-sustaining. And the work. Because I had to buy better software instead of using something that’s meant for making slideshows.

First and foremost, I need to say that Evlyn Moreau and her Orbital Megastructures have been my biggest inspiration. I’ve always loved science fiction, but it always felt out of reach in terms of tabletop RPG playability—for me, that is. Running science fiction as a GM feels tough to me. There’s so much to remember, so much to consider, so much to… Well, it’s not medieval fantasy, and that’s just everywhere. I can remember swords. I can remember spells. But I (at least thought I couldn’t) remember security systems and commlinks and all that stuff. Well, Evlyn makes it look and feel so easy, and I think doubly so because I think she is a great GM and I think she has created (or is creating) a great game. (It is also semi-post-apocalyptic, which is also an easier way to manage futuristic themes.) The very process of playing a game like that got me so excited to create something sci-fi-ish of my own.

Also, I used a ton of her lovely art.

And then there’s the great cover art by Matthew Neff. What a lovely Discord notification to get. Oh, some person on the Discord made art inspired by my class, and they let me know that it’s totally cool if I want to use it. Did I cry? Yes. Yes, I did.

But, yes, I love sci-fi. I love Neon Genesis Evangelion, I love Bionicle, I love Cyberpunk, I love Shadowrun, I like Star Wars, and I even like making references to things I don’t know much about like Warhammer 40k. There are a few loving references to Orbital Megastructures, there’s another reference to Ultraviolet Grasslands, and there’s a secret reference to my first GURPS campaign*.

*The first background for the Psyber Devangelist mentions being unable to return to a vision that a seer saw of their own death. That goes back to the Eire Era (the unofficial name that my best friend and I gave our campaign ran by his dad). One of our several characters—we each had a couple—used the Death Vision spell in a wild mana zone. Probably not the best idea. We saw a vision of Jack (my best friend’s first character) as a cyborg, but he stepped through the Death Vision as if it were a portal, and he tried to kill us. He almost succeeded too. CyberJack went nuclear, but one of my characters was able to call in a wave and then freeze it over him.

Anyway, it’s all in there. As well as a mechanic inspired by Darkest Dungeon, which I recently beat by cheating my way through it.

Returning to GURPS for just a second, let’s just say I’m very inspired by the system as a whole. I often use it as a reference point, like oh, this rifle does twice as much damage as this pistol—I’ll remember that. The less I play GURPS, the more I appreciate it as if it is a game design toolkit.

Oh, and I threw in Advantage and Disadvantage because I was quite surprised that MÖRK BORG didn’t have them out of the box. Double oh, and I threw in Energy Dice based off of Risk Dice based off of Usage Dice. That’s the power of evolution.

This whole project evolved, and I hope it shows. As you leave the class and get into page 3, there start to be neon green symbols. Then, on page four, the symbols and the text boxes are starting to glow. I have a lot of fun with design—pretending like I know what I’m doing. That’s actually not even true. I don’t pretend. I just try to make things that I would like.

But what about the other stuff?

The cover title was added last, so I played with a couple of extra fonts to tie together a cyber-horror feel to intro into the funkier bits in the actual content. The title on page 1 just uses some funky fonts to evoke that sci-fi feeling. My main font is my go-to font, but it turned out to be a dumb font that doesn’t even have an italic style, but at least I learned how to shear! There might be maybe two text boxes in the whole thing that don’t have some kind of rotation to them. I love the way rotation makes the text look. I used text highlighting, and I cheated a lot, adding in non-breaking spaces to help pad out some areas that needed adjusting. For colors, I kept to the black, white, pink, and yellow for the most part. A compatible cyan-blue-ish color gets tossed in to grab your eyes toward important notes. Of course, I made generous use of bolding as well as small caps to draw attention to certain things. Finally, on pages 3 and 4, for the creature titles, I used a more blackletter-y font to tie the idea of these strange horrors back to the MÖRK BORG feel.

And how about a review of a review?

by Līber Lūdōrum from here

That’s a good review.

I’m pretty proud of what I’ve made, and I appreciate that others enjoy it as well.

Quick Review(s) of The Dragons of Rosgarth, Forest’s End, Norðlondr Fólk, and Hand of Asgard from Gaming Ballistic for the DFRPG

The Dragons of Rosgarth, Forest’s End, Norðlondr Fólk, and Hand of Asgard are all part of the Norðlond Sagas (Kickstarter) for the DFRPG, which is coming out right about now. Also, I should specify that Hand of Asgard is an extra, but, of course, I had to pick it up. I’m reviewing these books at the same time because they were all part of the same Kickstarter, so it seems fitting to me. First of all, let me just go ahead and say that Douglas Cole has done it again. These are all fantastic products, the art and the maps are as great as ever, and I am super happy to have backed them, and I anticipate that I’d back anything he created for the DFRPG, which is good because he’s working on a bestiary next.

The Dragons of Rosgarth is another great micro-setting and adventure that’s part of the larger Norðlond setting that I love so much. More worldbuilding, more festivals, more information about climate and weather—that’s the stuff I live for. Then, there are detailed factions, which are unique and well-written. But I’m still happiest about all of the dinosaurs in the bestiary. A great book, a neat adventure in a wonderful setting, and I can’t wait to run it.

Forest’s End is another-another great micro-setting and adventure. Of course, I love all of the history, the information about population, a very detailed underworld, and even some stuff about taxes. Yes, Douglas Cole makes taxes fun and interesting. You can quote me on that. There’s a wealth of information on resources, points of interest, services (like magical healing), and festivals and holidays. And it doesn’t stop there. It fleshes out more of how the setting approaches dragons and druids and faerie, all of which are ever so prevalent in Norðlond. A big chunk of the bestiary goes to dragonkin, which is also fun.

Of course, it tickles me that The Dragons of Rosgarth has a lot of dinosaurs while Forest’s End has a lot of dragonkin. No problem with that—it’s just funny.

Norðlondr Fólk is my kind of book. It’s a short supplement that details the races of the Norðlond setting, and a lot of the pages are spent on fitting in the base races in the DFRPG while also providing some welcome norse-themed versions of those races. Sick of how all fantasy dwarves have big bushy beards? Then take a look at the dvergr for hairless dwarves that resemble stone. Of course, I also have a special place for the hrafnar (raven-folk) because they remind me of the kenku in D&D, which is the race that my youngest sister chose when I forced my younger sisters to play D&D with me way back when.

Hand of Asgard is even more my kind of book because it’s a short supplement that deals with the faith, religion, and surrounding culture of the Norðlond setting while providing some really cool abilities for clerics and holy warriors. My review is short, but this book is absolutely packed with great stuff. Plus, you get stats for valkyries at the end.

Many thanks to Douglas Cole (The Dragons of Rosgarth), Kevin Smyth (Norðlondr Fólk and Hand of Asgard), Merlin Avery (Forest’s End), and Kyle Norton (The Dragons of Rosgarth) for bringing these truly incredible books to life.

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Quick Review of Dungeon Fantasy Companion 2 from Steve Jackson Games for the DFRPG

The Dungeon Fantasy Companion 2 (Kickstarter) for the DFRPG was released not too long ago this year, so I’m finally catching up. It was a ‘Quickstarter’ with no stretch goals, so the turnaround was really quick for this book. I like stretch goals, but it made sense for them to be absent from this book because this book was made up of stretch goals past that were never met. That’s neat in itself. I’d love to see this trend continue; i.e., book with stretch goals, book with stretch goals, book with no stretch goals that includes stuff from previous stretch goals that were missed. I don’t know if it’s because of that or if it’s just coincidence, but this book is my favorite DFRPG supplement that isn’t written by Douglas Cole. It has some magical items (with ways to introduce them), a handful of new monsters (with adventure seeds), and some enemy PCs. That’s great on its own, but it also includes so many new rule tidbits. In the magical items section, there’s stuff like wood as a new armor material (under the Oudou). In the monsters section, there’s stuff like a playable centaur race for PCs (under the Centaur, obviously). But the villains section? That’s where this shines. Each villain is awesome in their own right and comes with an adventure seed, but every single villain comes with a rules tidbit from new racial templates to new abilities for professions to new spells to use. If that isn’t great design, I don’t know what is. Plus, what better way to introduce new abilities and new spells than to have a villain use them first? So, yes, get this book. And, if you haven’t already gotten into the DFRPG, do yourself a favor and get on that right now.

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Quick Review of Dungeon Fantasy Magic Items 2 from Steve Jackson Games for the DFRPG

Dungeon Fantasy Magic Items 2 (Kickstarter) for the DFRPG came out at the end of 2019, so I’m not too far behind on this review. This review will likely be the shortest because I don’t usually deal my players a lot of magic items like these, but these are really cool and I love anything DFRPG, which is exactly why I backed the Kickstarter campaign. Really, though, the items in the book are really cool and quite memorable, and each item has a paragraph or so about how to introduce the item to the game—e.g., for the Darkrazor, which is a magical straight razor, the book explains that it’s likely to be wielded by an enemy in town than actually found as loot. Neat! Of course, it says much more than that, but that’s just a short example of the greatness within this book. Plus, as always, you can come for the items and stay for the extra little bits of rules. For example, for the Skull of the Cyclops, there’s a box that introduces a rule for a new armor material: bone. I love this kind of stuff, and this is an area where GURPS (and, thus, the DFRPG) really excels. If you want something really fun (and that’s saying something since I’m not a big fan of the standard magic system), check out the new (to DFRPG) spell named Evisceration that gets a box under the Wand of Tentacular Intrustion. Need I say more? It’s a great supplement to a great game!

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Quick Review of Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2 from Steve Jackson Games for the DFRPG

Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 2 (Kickstarter) for the DFRPG came out in 2019, which makes me a little late to the party, but the… party better not be late… if they want to defeat this monsters? That wasn’t really that good. But this book is! Take the original Dungeon Fantasy Monsters book, add more classics and more original monsters, include more and better art, and then give adventure seeds to every monster. What do you get? A huge success. That’s what this book is. Yes, the deep beyonder is basically an aboleth and the forgeling is basically an azer, and I absolutely love that. I love the twists and interpretations of classic monsters (be it actually like like a chimera or ‘D&D classic’ like the aboleth), and I love the manaplasm and the fly-dragon. What’s not to love? Every monster in here is usable, and, again, the book just hands you adventure seeds (and I believe there are always multiple per monster) to help you fit them in. Okay, I’m in love with the adventure seeds. As I am the forever GM of my group, the adventure seeds are where it’s at, especially because I like to do a monster-of-the-week kind of deal, so the adventure seeds are crucial in saving me prep time. Or, if we just want to keep going, it’s easy to plop down any one of these monsters.

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Quick Review of The Citadel at Norðvorn from Gaming Ballistic for the DFRPG

The Citadel at Norðvorn (Kickstarter) for the DFRPG came out last year in 2019, so I’m a little late to reviewing that as well. It is a lot like Hall of Judgement with more experience and content behind it, and I really couldn’t have asked for more. My favorite parts were (as they always are) the worldbuilding and the information about said world. Furthermore, it gives examples of villages and gives the GM the tools they need to create more villages. I love a good bestiary. Learning more about history and geography and holidays is a GURPS specialty, and I’m glad to see it represented here. And that’s not to say that Hall of Judgement was barebones—it certainly wasn’t! But The Citadel at Norðvorn does it all and then some. With more polish too! I’m talking in circles a bit, though, but it really deserves the praise. Oh, and the bestiary—that’s another favorite. As it always is. It’s great-sized book of great work (and great art!) that fleshes out what is now one of my favorite RPG settings of all time, so, yeah, it comes heavily recommended.

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Quick Review of Hall of Judgement from Gaming Ballistic for the DFRPG

The Hall of Judgement (Kickstarter) for the DFRPG came out back in 2018, but that isn’t going to stop me from reviewing it now. 120 pages of a norse-themed setting and adventure for the dungeon fantasy sibling of my favorite table-top RPG ever? Yeah, I’m interested (and I was very happy to learn that it was only the tip of the norse-themed iceberg). The Warehouse 23 page describes the book in more detail than I would be willing to do in a ‘quick review’, so read it:

Hall of Judgment is set in the barbarian lands of the north (predictably called Norðlönd). It is designed to evoke the feeling of a nordic/viking culture without specifically invoking Norse myth and legend.

  • This product is a micro-setting and scenario for the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game (Powered by GURPS)
  • It features non-linear adventuring for 4-6 250-point characters
  • Explore a Viking-flavored world trekking through cold, harsh mountains, facing dangerous faerie, and searching for a lost holy place, and the priceless relics within
  • Easily portable and usable with any GURPS Fantasy campaign

What’s in the book?

The book contains:

Preface. Contains a brief discussion of the original volume and how it came to be converted to the Dungeon Fantasy RPG.

Isfjall. The town is described in enough detail to serve as a base for further adventures.

The Journey. This section is broken out and expanded from the original volume. Random encounter tables, weather hazards, and other difficulties that arise when nature itself rises against you.

Lögheimili Ruins. A dangerous place. Full of evil it is. In you must go. A micro-dungeon! You don’t have to go in. Or come out.

Domstollinn. The core scenario. It is presented as a set of encounters that can be tackled (or not) in any order. An encounter includes a set of Challenges, telling the GM what must be overcome, Concealed information the players don’t know initially, Alternative ways to short-circuit, bypass, or otherwise not just Leroy Jenkins one’s way through a challenge, and Rewards, where appropriate.

Bestiary. Each monster that may be encountered in the scenario is given a description, statistics (including brief stats used with the Fantastic Grappling Quick-Start), and combat tactics to make each one unique. Over 30 creatures, nearly all of them new.

Fantastic Grappling Quick-Start. Even if you don’t have the book, you can still use the rules. Two pages of grappling the way it should be: fast, fun, and well-integrated with the Dungeon Fantasy RPG mechanics, using the control damage type first introduced in GURPS Martial Arts: Technical Grappling, but refined and simplified after years of play in multiple systems.

Pre-Gen Characters. Sixteen 250-point characters will be provided to allow the scenario to be played with minimal preparation; this adds to the excellent pre-gens already provided in the Dungeon Fantasy RPG boxed set.

All together, this is a complete adventure that can be run on its own or dropped into an existing campaign.

And that says nothing of the production quality of the book itself and the art within (especially the maps), which is great because I was a bit let down by some of the art in the DFRPG itself. It’s a great book, and it really whet my appetite for the books that would come next. Really, though—at this point, supporting Douglas Cole is like supporting the DFRPG and GURPS themselves. Even if his content wasn’t absolutely amazing (which it is!), I’d probably still be supporting him and his work. At least, this way, I am doubly happy about it!

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Quick Review of the Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game (Powered by GURPS), the GM Screen, and the Dungeon Fantasy Companion from Steve Jackson Games

This has been a long time coming. The Dungeon Fantasy Roleplaying Game (Kickstarter) came out way back in 2017, which is already crazy for me to think about. I think I would best describe is as the younger sibling of GURPS that is really into fantasy, which meant it was perfect for me.

5 books, 2 large double-sided maps, cardboard figures, and 6-sided dice.
Suggested Retail Price $79.95 ▲ Stock number 01-1005
UPC 091037863317
Available Now – click here to order!

430 pages. PDF. ▲ Price $40.00 ▲ Stock number 31-1005
Always Available – Click here to buy!

Just look at that. 5 books, 2 large double-sided maps, cardboard figures, and 6-sided dice. That’s 430 pages of an offshoot of my favorite tabletop RPG. I really don’t need much more in my life. It helps that the books, the maps, the figures, the dice, and even the box that it all came in are of really nice quality. I enjoy displaying them on my shelf. In fact, the DFRPG has its own section. That says very little of the content, though. I want to keep this review quick, but I will go through each piece of the box set. And then some…

Adventurers is about 123 pages, and it’s all about the characters. Chapter one (Basics) covers the basics of the point-buy system (so you’re buying traits with points instead of picking from a few cool options), the attributes (Strength/ST, Dexterity/DX, Intelligence/IQ, and Health/HT), the secondary characteristics (HP, Size Modifier, etc.). Chapter two (Professions) covers the professions, which are like classes in D&D, and many of those professions have their counterparts in that other game. Unlike D&D, because this is a point-buy system, there is a lot more flexibility, and you can spend your 250 points however you’d like on the traits available for your profession. Chapter three (Races) covers the races, which are fairly standard as far as fantasy races go. Chapter four (Advantages) covers traits that cost points, which is anything from Ambidexterity for 5 points to High Pain Threshold for 10 points to Unfazeable for 15 points. Chapter five (Disadvantages) covers the traits that give back points, which is anything from Callous for -5 points to Oblivious for -10 points to Very Unfit for -15 points. Chapter six (Skills) covers the skills that characters can use, and almost all characters can use almost all skills since they have default levels. There are dozens of skills, but the DFRPG makes choosing easy by offering packages of skills in the profession templates. Chapter seven (Cash and Gear) covers, well, cash and gear. I’ve been a bit redundant. Anyway, this is my favorite part, especially because there is so much great equipment to choose from, and the weapon and armor tables have been updated quite a bit from the original tables in the GURPS Basic Set (thanks to GURPS Low-Tech).

Exploits is about 107 pages, and it’s all about playing the game. It covers skill rolls, combat, poison, fire, treasure, character advancement, you name it! Being powered by GURPS, the rules lean toward being fairly simulationist, which means there can be a lot of them. But my emphasis in on canGURPS has received much flak for being so rules-heavy, but you are free to take what you like and leave the rest, and the DFRPG even supports that right away! Take a look at page 6:

“. . . With Spikes”

A quick-and-fun way to assess penalties is to apply a cumulative TDM of -1 per nasty qualifier that describes a task. For instance, whatever the normal modifier is for climbing or balancing on something, making the surface slimy, twisting, and smoke-obscured adds another -3. Intensifiers count! If the surface is horribly slimy, wildly twisting, and smoke-obscured, that’s -5 instead.

Furthermore, if hit locations and distance penalties are too much to remember, you can start without them. If the slam rules are too much to remember, get over it because they have been streamlined from the original rules in GURPS. If using a hex map is too much, use theater of the mind—most of my GURPS/DFRPG experience has been with theater of the mind.

Spells is about 79 pages, and it’s all about using magic. It uses the standard GURPS Magic system, which I’m not the biggest fan of, but it gets the job done, and I still much prefer it to how D&D handles magic. There are spells for almost everything—dozens and dozens and dozen of them.

Monsters is about 63 pages, and it’s all about that sweet bestiary. There are plenty of classics (or takes on classics), but there are plenty of new monsters that make it a fun read for that alone. There aren’t as many illustration as I would like, and even the illustrations leave a bit to be desired, but, on the flip side, those 63 pages are packed with monsters.

I Smell a Rat is about 24 pages, and it’s all about those first dungeon feelings. I don’t want to spoil the adventure, but it is quite fun. It’s short and sweet, and it’s easy to drop into just about any fantasy setting. With the quality map and cardboard figures, it’s really fun to set up and play.

Oh, and the Eye in Pyramid Dice are also great. I have a bunch of sets at this point.

Also, something that I love about the first couple of pages from Adventurers, Exploits, Spells, and Monsters is that they make up a little GM Screen. Of course, I went in for the physical GM screen on Kickstarter, which is not part of the boxed set, but it is unquestionably helpful.

Last but not least, there’s the Dungeon Fantasy Companion, which is Traps, Magic Items, and Against the Rat-MenTraps is about 24 pages, and it’s all about traps and puzzles with plenty of fantastic examples. Magic Items is about 24 pages, and it’s all about magical items, potions, and unique rare and very magical artifacts. Against the Rat-Men is also about 24 pages, and it’s another fun dungeon about—just kidding, no spoilers.

I backed at the $250 tier because I wanted it all (which is much more than is just listed here), and I must say that it’s probably the best $250 I’ve ever spent. To be very honest, my boxed set has not gotten a lot of use, but that is only because I run a lot of GURPS homebrew stuff. If I weren’t, however, I would probably stick to the DFRPG (with some homebrew rules that I can’t live without), and I would certainly choose the DFRPG over D&D any day of the week (not to say that D&D isn’t a fun game, but I can’t go back at this point). Still, even then, even though I don’t get much use out of it, I don’t care. I really don’t. Let me be blunt and real. For the hours and hours and hours and hours I’ve gotten out of GURPS, I would’ve gladly paid $250 to let all of those great books collect dust, knowing that I had spent good money in a good place. Because I love GURPS and I love the DFRPG so very much. They are great products made by some really great people. And I plan to play some more DFRPG, especially because there is a great setting for it that I am dying to play to its fullest: Norðlond. And I plan to get into that a whole lot after my GURPS hiatus.

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