Friday, November 29, 2013

Long Beach Comic & Horror Con 2013 Highlights & Game Ideas

Long Beach Comic & Horror Con 2013 Highlights & Game Ideas
by Derek Brown

When: Nov. 23rd & 24th

Cost: $25 Sat, $20 Sun or $40 for 2 day adv.

The Long Beach Comic & Horror Con (or LBCC for short) is fairly new to the So. Cal scene but a welcome addition to the schedule of all the Comic themed cons.  With a decade under my belt of San Diego Comic Con or Comic-Con International: San Diego as they prefer it to be called now, I have come to enjoy the smaller cons for a variety of reasons.

LBCC is now my November Con for the following reasons:

  • Excellent Artists Alley - I drove the just under 90 miles as I could walk the relatively large Artists Alley section and enjoy all the art, much of it local.  I was on a mission to get some sketches of some of my buddy Keith's (the Savage Troll)  characters from his new eBook: World of Grey to use in an app class I'm taking. I knew Tone Rodriguez was going to be there so plans were made (more below).
  • 90 miles. Only 90 miles. Sounds like alot but growing up in Texas gets you used to long drives. Driving here in beautiful Southern California means much of it was along the coast ending in Long Beach right by the water. Also, I had several hours of podcasts to catch up on and the drive went by quickly. 
  • Dr. Who's 50th Anniversary panel with a live broadcast of the "Day of the Doctor" meant I could geek out with a large group of fellow Whovians.
  • Star Trek TOS These are the Voyages Book & Panel. Originally funded in a Kickstarter, the "These Are The Voyages" books for Year One, Year Two, & Year Three are written but only Year One is published. I got my hands on it and it was signed by all involved. The panel on Sunday featured John D.F. Black and Mary Black and they represent the last living producers from TOS. Interviews by Access Hollywood with Marc Cushman & John D.F. Black are here for your enjoyment. If you wonder if you need this book, watch these and decide! There are 5 interview segments. Enjoy!
  • Vehicles from the Movies. Batman, Jurassic Park, Ghost Busters, Back to the Future, Knight Rider, etc. The big boy toys all lined up.
  • Room to move and space to breathe. This is probably the newest thing in my list but it was nice to see a relatively large crowd with space to move and enjoy all the sights!  

While there was quite a bit more, you get the idea. Over the years I've been more and more interested in the creative folks that bring the comic arts alive. Since Hollywood has discovered the world of comic books, things have never been the same. 

One part of all Comic Con type conventions that takes the top grade in my book is the availability of professional artists in Artist Alley. In this, LBCC really excels. Given the size of the convention space, the Artists Alley took up easily half of the floor space.

On the map to the right, you can see the middle section that looks like rows of tables, outlined in red, that is Artists Alley at LBCC.

Any genre, style, or type can be found there. Also, most will do sketches for a fee. Several years ago I had one do a remarkable sketch of our gaming group's characters that we had played in the early 1980s. Unfortunately, that artist had some issues and disappeared with my money. So now, I only deal with artists that I see often and I never pay in advance.

This lead me to discover the artist that did the pencils for Snake Plissken Chronicles, Tone Rodriguez.  Over the years I've stopped by, chatted, and watched him do sketches for folks. I asked how he got involved in the SPC and he shared while he drew. What a great guy! I had him do a sketch of the Savage Troll mascot for fun and it turned out great. This time, I gave him a brief couple of lines of description of five characters from Keith's book to see what he would do. I wanted to use them as thumbnail sketches in a story telling app I'm writing as my final project for an app programming class. And off he went.

You can see the drawing of "Bender" from Futurama behind Tone. He's done quite a bit of work for Bongo Comics on the Simpsons & Futurama lines.  He had several people come up and ask him to "Simpsonize" them. He had to share that he couldn't. The Simpons and Futurama likenesses were owned by Bongo, his employers, and he legally can't.

No permission to use these sketches is given!
Sarge comes alive
Tone asked if I wanted to sit behind the table while he drew my sketches.  I hopped over and watched him work. He first penciled the characters, then inked them in. Sarge, Doc, Angel, Sparx, & Hotshot came to life before my eyes. This is why I love comic cons. Watching creative folks do what they do, bringing life to characters, and imagining all the adventures.  The artists do these sketches for personal use. If you want to publish using the art, you need to approach the art differently and pay for publishing rights to the art. For my class programming project is going to look excellent.  Simply a blast. Thanks Tone!

So, Well done LBCC! I look forward to the next one.

And now to gaming...

With Keith's World of Grey eBook and some sketches to fill my mind, it's time to make some game scenarios that we can play out.  If you want some very quick gaming satisfaction, you can pick up Matt Jackson's Edge of Space on Drive Thru RPG for $1.

NOTE: World of Grey was Keith's story-telling response to Matt's universe in Edge of Space. Also, my programming class project is a story telling app using a prequel to Keith's WoG!  More to follow on that endeavor.

Next Con: Space City Con in Galveston Texas Jan. 3-5!  I'll be in Texas visiting family and end the visit with all the family, including the Savage Troll's brood.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

New Free Novella - World of Grey

Writing is a passion I discovered later in life. To pursue it, I had mountains to climb. I grew up in East Texas where proper spelling and grammar are considered uppity. Gaming was another. This may seem odd but the built-in need to create was mostly satisfied by regular gaming sessions. I didn't 'need' to write.

That changed as my gaming time faded. I needed to create something, anything, that people could enjoy. I've always considered myself a good storyteller. Why wouldn't that work for writing?

Well, there's a world of difference between expressing something orally where your companions and die rolls help shape the story and sitting down to create something new. The problem isn't turning an amusing phrase or developing interesting characters. The problem is in holding the reader's attention for a novel-length production.

So what started as a hobby with some short stories and essays has turned into a time-consuming hobby as I study storycraft in hopes of attracting a reader base. I have another blog devoted to the subject over at and I've release two novellas - The New Moon Murders and World of Grey.

My stories are still very Gamey, meaning you can usually pick the Savage Worlds edges and hindrances within each character. But I think the stories are fun and members of my gaming groups seem to enjoy them. I would ask that you give them a try.

Until December 1st, readers of this blog can download World of Grey from by navigating to and entering the following coupon code at checkout: RS28M

If you enjoy the novella, please take the time to go to Smashwords, Goodreads, Amazon, or other review sites and share you thoughts. Breaking in as an indie author is difficult. Any help would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance,
R K Athey aka The Savage Troll

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The Future of Storytelling Free Online Course

This came across the social streams the other day. It's an online course on the future of storytelling. I've decided to enroll to improve my RPG scenarios and writing.

Together with a whole network of media researchers, creators and students we will:
- learn storytelling basics such as antagonist/protagonist relationships, narrative/narrated time, ...
- have a look at exciting current media projects
- analyze how they are designed and executed based on aforementioned basics
- and discuss how (and if) new online tools and formats change the way stories are told and perceived.

The 8-chapter course starts on October 25th, 2013 and ends on December 20th, 2013.

It will offer weekly video material, lessons, interviews and tasks on the following topics (not necessarily in this order):
- storytelling basics
- serial formats (on the TV, web and beyond)
- storytelling in role-playing games
- interactive storytelling in video games
- transmedia storytelling
- alternate-reality gaming
- augmented reality and location-based storytelling
- the role of tools, interfaces and information architectures in current storytelling.

For more information, check out the enrollment link.

I'll see you there.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Five Savage Worlds Titles for $5 announced a sale on five Savage Worlds titles for $5 in the Savage in September Sale. There's something here for everyone.

"In the horror of war, dark things rise, and World War II is history's greatest conflict. The Japanese stalk the jungles of Southeast Asia. Carriers battle in the South Pacific. Tanks trundle across North Africa. Planes duel over England. The Nazi blitzkrieg conquers most of Europe with a genocidal madman at the controls. Prepare to battle the evil of the Axis powers and the hideous things that rise in their wake. This isn't just war-this is Weird War!

Weird War II contains everything you need to run horrific World War II adventures with the Savage Worlds game system: new powers, Edges, Hindrances, weapons, vehicles for all the major powers, an Adventure Generator, dozens of Savage Tales, new monsters, and an operational-scale Plot Point Campaign that ties it all together."

"Sean Patrick Fannon’s vision of Epic High Fantasy comes to life for Savage Worlds in this all new iteration brought to you by Evil Beagle Games.

"The heart of any lasting and memorable roleplaying campaign is the setting. Is it vivid? Alluring? Full of mysteries, as well as straight-ahead challenges?

If the answer is “Yes” to all of these, you are in good hands.
SHAINTAR is deep in “good hands” territory.

Just paging through the Players Guide makes you want to play, and it’s genuinely hard to create a boring character using this book; everything works together to make your Hero interesting. And that’s even before you get to the four detailed Major Enemies lurking in Shaintar. Or the rules for alchemy, or the tantalizing glimpses we get of the Black Lantern and Grayson’s Grey Rangers . . .

A winner. Get this book." -- Ed Greenwood, creator of The Forgotten Realms®
Savage Worlds fans will find a lot to love about Shaintar: Legends Arise:
  • Eleven distinctive Races with many specialized Racial Edges for each.
  • Over 60 new Edges, including Professional, Combat, and Power Edges.
  • Expanded options for magic, including Applications for Sorcery, Extended Casting, and more.
  • New and expanded rules for Alchemists and Artificers, as well as personalized magic items.
  • Setting rules like All Out Move, the Deep Magic, and Lead from the Front.
  • Information about the many nations and factions that drive the stories of Shaintar.
  • A complete Timeline featuring thousands of years of Shaintar's history.
  • Denizens section with many dozens of characters and monsters, as well as five new Monstrous Templatesand templates for changing almost any Denizen to any of the eleven Races.
  • An expanded Weapons, Armor, and Gear list for epic fantasy gaming, as well as a Resource system to replace "counting coins" for wealth management.
  • Extensive advice about Game Mastering an Epic High Fantasy setting.
  • Three Legendary Tales, "Countering the Terror," "Red Store Rising," and "Return to Honor, Return to Glory."

Anyone seeking Epic High Fantasy adventure will enjoy this book, as will anyone wishing to add lots of great new material to their Savage games!

This book covers Novice through Veteran Rank gaming. The upcoming Shaintar: Legends Unleashed will cover Heroic and Legendary play."

"Welcome to the Future!
Didja Bring Your Gun?

Are ya Wired?

Wanna crash a corp Domain?

Interface-Zero, is the first book in the Interface-Zero Cyberpunk Setting by Gun Metal games. IZ brings your Savage Worlds game up to speed with the dark, frenetic world of 2088.

Within the pages of Interface-Zero, you can match wits with ancient triad lodge masters, anarchist hackers and digitalized corporate moguls. Thwart the machinations of the New Chinese Mandarinate, or the Theocratic North American Coalition. Stare down the end of your gauss rifle at or match nano-woven steel with ganglanders, gene-spliced hybrids and borg shock troopers.

Life is fast in 2088. If ya wanna survive, you need to be faster. Don't worry Ami, we got ya covered. Fast Furious and Fun cybernetic rules enable you to create any type of cybernetic implant or bioware modification you can imagine!

Interface Zero hooks you up with everything you need to hack a computer network or derezz an enemy hacker in 2088. But watch out, omae; ghost into the wrong system and you'll get fried faster than your food vat can spit out NUTRIpaste!

Interface Zero is a game without barriers; a setting where you can be artificially intelligent robots, vat-grown simulacrum, transgenic hybrids or just plain old flesh and blood humans. You can jack into the world around you and program it to suit your needs. You can implant cyberware in your body, interface with machines, fly hover craft, golemmechs, jump bikes and even hover tanks and Low Altitude Vehicles complete with the latest weapons and cutting edge VTOL or anti-gravity propulsion systems.

You can assume the roles of shadow operatives who rage against the corporate machine, private detectives cut from a noir-inspired cloth, fearless, larger than life heroes piloting mecha in a futuristic, transhumanist Japan- even survivors gutting it out in a post-apocalyptic wasteland filled with mutant horrors or AI-spawned mechanical nightmares are viable concepts in Interface Zero. Interface Zero is more than just a game setting, it is a toolbox you can use, adding or dropping whichever elements you wish to create the sci-fi game world that you and your friends want to play in."

"Suzerain is an Origins Award Nominee from the Savage Mojo design house (who brought you Shaintar and Gamescapes, and are Origins Award winners for Deadlands Reloaded). This edition of Suzerain is written for the Savage Worlds rule system (SW:EX rulebook required), expanding the core rules in a number of key ways - a new approach to races is just the beginning.

Suzerain takes characters from one world to another or even to another time. History and fantasy, past present and future - they are all your playground now. Gaming groups just became...

...a pantheon in the making.

Inside the covers you'll find:

  • All the universe background you'll need to run games in any time, any place.
  • Over 50 new edges, hindrances and powers.
  • Stats for over 100 new NPCs and monsters to use as allies and adversaries.
  • A vastly expanded system for characters once they hit Heroic rank, with plenty of emphasis on the Legendary experience, and introducing a whole new rank - Demigod.
  • 30 scenarios including a campaign spanning the three main eras of a character's development - Novice, Heroic and Demigod.
Where most Savage Worlds settings finish their campaigns, Suzerain is just getting started. With Suzerain a Novice character can expect to battle his way up to being a true Hero of the universe, to meet deities, and finally to become a god himself!

Product Contains: A 196 page full color, hi-resolution PDF. It is a large download file and art intensive. Also included for the same price is a print friendly version."

(our review)

"Grab your fedora and your ivory-handled .45s and get ready for the adventure of a lifetime as Thrilling Tales unleashes the pulse-pounding excitement of the pulp magazines and cliffhanger serials of the 1930s and 40s into the Savage Worlds rules system!

This exhaustive guide to the genre features a timeline of the 1930s, information on pulp-era weapons & vehicles, a guide to pulp villains including Nazis, the Thugee and Perils of the Orient, a Random Adventure Generator, and a complete fifteen-chapter Plot Point serial campaign, The Crimson Emperor!

Be sure to also check out The Thrilling Tales Adventure Bundle -- six pulp adventures for Savage Worlds, at 50% OFF the regular price!"

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Net Find - Planetary Map Generator

The Savage Duck found this the other day. He's aware of my star sector generator project and thought this might be of use. Indeed it might be!

It may also be of use to your gamers, especially with the upcoming Savage Worlds SciFi companion coming soon.

The web site is run by Torben Ægidius Mogensen, an associate professor in Copenhagen. For twenty years he's worked off and on with map projections. I did the same in a previous life though not as thoroughly as  Professor Mogensen.

To use the web based generator, simply open the generation console and change the values to your heart's content.

Once satisfied, generate your map. If you ever need to get back to it, simply remember your seed number and other values. It will generate the same map every time. You can see various areas of the map in more detail by adjusting the zoom, center latitude, and center longitude. You can also adjust the grid.

The generator produces BMP format images. You can easily convert them using a product like GIMP, for use in your favorite VTT, like MapTool.

You can also download the code and run it from the command line. See the project page for mote detail.  

Monday, August 12, 2013

Space City Con Matt Mercury

Saturday and Space City Con started with the Matt Mercury panel and movie preview at 10 a.m. Bill Hughes and his wife Heidi are local Houston film makers who decided to make a family movie that hearkens back to and old style science fiction films of the 60s and 70s. Their catch phrase - The Future the Way It Used to Be - drives everything about their effort.

Matt Lavine is the executive producer and also plays Matt Mercury. His filmography includes playing a body on Star Trek Enterprise. He and Bill share the common vision of films that the entire family can enjoy.

The film is in post production now. Post production takes a year and involves all the after filming special effects and CGI.

Pre-production took a year and involves everything that the actors use, such as physical props, sets, and costumes. Bill and Heidi do a lot of that work themselves. You can see a lot of that work below in the movie poster. Since Bill Hughes, in the giant head below, makes most of these in his garage and driveway, they lead to interesting conversations with the neighbors.

The actual filming of Matt Mercury took five days in the studio at the Art Institute of Houston and two days on location. So that's seven days of acting sandwiched between two years of pre- and post production work.

Below is a 'Making Of' video featuring Bill Hughes.

Remember, support your local Rocket Rangers and your indie film makers.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Space City Con - Jim Butcher's Writing Class

Jim Butcher is probably best known for his long-running series The Dresden Files, which has been adapted into both a TV series and a RPG. He's an author that has a story similar to my own except for the part where he found a Big Boy Publisher to buy his books. His About Page at is well worth the read as his is live journal page where he dispenses writing advice.

At Space City Con, Jim was kind enough to give two separate two-hour classes for aspiring authors and fans. In the first class, titled "Blowing Things Up...", Jim described how to create a scene. The second class, "...And Making People Care About It," discuss sequels.

I do a thorough writeup on the sessions over on my writing blog, Hard Lessons. Here I'll hit the highlights. Note that the instructions here also pertain to gaming, particularly scene construction.


Storytelling is the act of manipulating people's emotions. The deeper the emotion, the more powerful the story. If you disagree, think of the movies you've enjoyed or the books you've loved. If you're honest, you'll realize the stories that affected you most were the ones you enjoyed the most.

Your characters, or players in the case of gaming, exist to be abused and denied until the climax of the story. Do not go easy on them. Their conflict is what drives the story forward. 

Language is the plumbing used to to get your reader or player from one conflict to the next. Use it well and the words will disappear as the reader or player will enter the story. Use it poorly and it becomes a stumbling block. Short words and clipped dialog work best.


Scenes are about conflict. They work on stimulus-response. Don't get these out of order. 

There are four outcomes to scenes and it is the answer to the character's goal.
  1. Yes - the character gets what they want. BORING
  2. Yes but - the character gets what they want but there are consequences.
  3. No - the character is denied and must set a new goal
  4. No and Furthermore - not only is the character denied but more misery is piled on.


A good villain thinks they are the hero. Darth Vader believed he was bringing order to the Galaxy. They get more Yeses out of scenes until the climax. A good writer or GM tortures the villains as much as the hero. 

Where to Start

Start the story or the game where the first meaningful action occurs that starts the story. As an example, the first Dresden Files book starts with Harry getting a call from Murphy and deciding to take the case. Adventures work much the same way. Start the adventures where the status quo is upset and the characters decided/need to do something. 

More Reading

The second class dealt with Sequels, the part of your story that follows a Scene. In gaming, the Sequel is up to your gamers. In a story, you get to sort it all out. You can find a more detailed version of this post as well as my notes from the second class over on Hard Lessons - The Writing Blog of R K Athey.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Space City Con - The Good, The Bad, and The Awesome

The Good

The second annual Space City Con was a tremendous success by anyone's standards. They even blew past all expectations of turnout. The lines for registration stretched the length of the central foyer and down the hall to the exhibit area. I was amazed after last years more lightly attended event.

The guests were bigger, the dealer room larger, and the cosplay was truly amazing. Of special note were the 501st Legion - Vader's Fist. They were there enmass and really livened up the con and posed regularly for pics. I had one guy to this for me.

The Klingons were in rare form. Two of the better dressed were funny, making fun of a Jedi with a hair placement fixation. The roamed around in good spirits freely posing and cracking wise with anyone.

The fan clubs were out in full force including Dr. Who, Firefly, Ghostbusters, Legend of the Seekers, and various forms of Star Trek and Star Wars. Some of there props were amazing including a TARDIS and Dalek.

Several local film companies were also present to advertise movies like Matt Mercury - Rocket Ranger and More Than Human. Both production companies turned out in full force with previews of their work. Look for a soon-to-be-published extended post on Matt Mercury.

Three different companies of Live Action Role Players (LARP) were in house to show off their wares. One group held a continual battle at the Hilton across the street while Sovereign Scrolls held night time adventures inside the Marriott host hotel. LARPs are of particular interest to my 10 year old son. For the record, LARP really isn't my thing but my son loves it.

Sovereign Scrolls made him a Paladin but he's not really the Paladin type. He spent his games hanging back waiting for one of the adults players to turn their back, at which time he would run up and slice them from the neck down to their legs. We were there until after midnight.

The other eternity was time spent in the dealers room. It was huge with an astounding variety of vendors.

The Bad

The size brought some headaches and there was a bit of chaos on Friday as the Con's crew struggled to get the things going. They either ran out of programs or the printer delivered them late. I missed one of my must-see  events, the Hickman's Brown Bag Lunch.

Granted, most of this was my fault with an assist from Google Maps. Google Maps beta gave us the wrong directions on our printed copy. We punted to Onstar but got there late. Things smoothed out after the first few hours as staff become more familiar with the flow and contents of the con.

The Awesome

Jim Butcher is a prolific writer, RPGer, and video gamer. His first novel, The Dresden Files, was written to prove his professor wrong. He was kind enough to run two writing classes during Space City Con. The first class titled "Blowing Things Up..." complimented the second titled "...And Making People Care About It."

Mr. Butcher is highly entertaining, honest about his personality and abilities, and willing to help others down their path toward authordom.  His class was very informative and entertaining. I'll have a series of posts with the class content and how it applies to both writing and gaming coming over the next few weeks. I took sixteen pages of notes. You can find Jim online at and

I'll have a few posts about Mr. Butcher's class in upcoming posts here and elsewhere.

In Summary

Space City Con did an outstanding job despite a much larger crowd than expected. It is a family event that even my non-geek family enjoyed. I would say this will be an annual event for us but it looks like Space City Con is gearing up for a winter festival as well!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Weird Wars Rome - Savage Worlds Kickstarter

Weird Wars Rome - A new Savage Worlds Kickstarter Launched!
They're at it again!  This time it's ancient Rome. Given how much I got out of the Deadland Noir Kickstarter, its a no-brainer and I'm glad to jump in. Pinnacle is, however, taking a different approach this time.  They've already done the heavy lifting (writing, art, layout) so the KS is about getting the book printed as well as all the goodies that are unlocked in the stretch goals.  They blew past their $6,000 pledge goal the first day.

The main blurb:
Weird Wars Rome is a setting and campaign book for adventures of violence and horror in the ancient world. It includes new rules for Spoils of War, Campaign Interludes, and Legacies that allow characters to pass down their deeds and treasures to future generations of their bloodline.
War Masters will also find our comprehensive Adventure Generator and TWO mini-Plot Point Campaigns.
NOTE: Further down you find out this is the only way you can get the limited edition Hardback.
So far, the total set of offerings, before stretch goals are:  PDF Book, Hardbound, Softbound, GM screen, Noctis Germanicus Adventure, double-sided full color map laminated so you can mark on it, and Custom Red Chessex Dice.   The digital extras will probably be music, figure flats, one sheets, new monsters, etc.  I personally jumped in at the $40 Decanus level. I get the PDF the day the KS ends and the Hardbound by December. I also look forward to all the digital goodies. I almost cheaped-out and went with the $30 level for the PDF & softbound but the Hardbound will only be thru the KS. 
Other news:
I still can't wait for the forthcoming SciFi Setting, Solo-Adventures, and all the other Pinnacle Stuff coming this year. They are a busy crew.

Monday, July 22, 2013

ENnie Voting

Be sure to drop by and vote for your favorite gaming products for the 2013 ENnie Awards.

Pinnacle Entertainment Group, publisher of Savage Worlds, has four nominations. Arc Dream Publishing, of Kerberos Club and Unspeakable Oath fame, has three. Don't forget Savage Mojo, Studio 2, and Cubicle 7 as well.

You can vote at Voting closes on July 31st.

Best of luck to all the nominees. Remember, support your Savages!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Conventions, Conventions, Conventions

The Savage Troll and Duck are convention bound. As I type, Duck is in San Diego attending Comic Con. Expect a blog post later in the week containing all his wondrous discoveries and adventures.

One bit of news I've just seen announced is the next Superman movie will feature Batman. I can't wait.

On August 2nd I, your humble Troll, will travel to Houston to attend the 2nd annual Space City Con. I had a great time last year and hope to discover more about the upcoming Matt Mercury Movie - The Future, The Way It Used To Be. As a tribute to MMM, I plan to run a Savage Worlds Space Pulp game. Maybe I can get Bill Hughes to make an appearance as Professor Brainwave!

In January, Chupacabra Con is coming to Austin for its debut convention. I hope to be there to run a Savage Worlds  Edge of Space game featuring everyone's favorite sociopath, Sarge Montpellier.  We'll use the soon-to-be-released Science Fiction Companion.

One of our favorite Cthulhuist will be there, Shane Ivey of Arc Dream Publishing. Shane develops games such as the Victorian Supers game The Kerberos Club. He also publishes a Mythos based quarterly titled The Unspeakable Oath. In honor of Shane, I'll run a 30s based horror scenario set in the Thomas Gunn universe aka Gunniverse.

On a sad note, I can't find anything this year for Austin's Armadillo Con. I looked forward to attending Austin's longest running SciFi convention but find no mention on their website, Facebook, or Twitter feeds. Please post a comment if anyone has any news.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Dungeonlands: Tomb of the Lich Queen for Savage Worlds. Freebie's and more!

Dungeonlands: Tomb of the Lich Queen for Savage Worlds by Savage Mojo - freebies and more!

I missed Dungeonlands: Tomb of the Lich Queen when it began as a kickstarter for Pathfinder and Savage Worlds.  I'm sure I saw Pathfinder and left it alone since I don't play that system.  When it hit DriveThruRPG I noticed it was also for Savage Worlds. Taking a second look I saw that also included a few freebies one of which was a free module Dungeonlands: Into The Black bonus encounter for Savage Worlds by Shane Hensley. Anything with Shane's name on it gets my attention.

The work is essentially a 7 page full color teaser: the Cover, 2 pages of the encounter, and 4 pages of Suzerain adverts. Fair enough! The encounter is a great nasty Toparkil; a darkly enchanted undeadish aquatic lurker.  It reminds me of the Watcher in the Water by the magic back door to Moria in Lord of the Rings with some very nasty differences.  Put this critter in a deep dark pool in your dungeon and let the fearful fun ensue.  And did I mention, it's free?  Smartly done. I was now curious.

What is Dungeonlands: Tomb of the Lich Queen?

Dungeonlands is a line of old school killer dungeons for the award-winning Pathfinder and Savage Worlds roleplaying games. And if you're not into tabletop RPGs, we've got some cool things for you too.... 
  • Pathfinder version starts at level 15.
  • Savage Worlds version starts at Heroic rank.
  • Over 20 rooms and monsters detailed in each 96 page book with tables and map tiles to randomize the dungeon layout and encounters.
To investigate further, I went to the Kickstarter site and watched the pitch video and listened to the 4 songs on their page. The cinematic score and animated art told the story of the evil Lich Queen, the captive angel Anat, and the death of all who tried to rescue the angel. It seems to be a new and different Tomb of Horrors for a new generation? It even has a Lich!

Dungeonlands: Tomb of the Lich Queen, part 1 of 3

129 pages for $19.99 in pdf.

"Savage Mojo's realm of fantasy maiming, centered n the Lich Queen's abode. This old school killer dungeon is split into three parts, and LQ1 Tomb of the Lich Queen is the first part of that trilogy."

Set within Mojo's Savage Suzerain, it appears to be a setting within a setting and feels like the most dangerous and dark challenges in the old school vein. All the old school feel updated with fantastic art, full set of dungeon tiles, and it's own epic soundtrack.

I love the invitation: "Enter...and die!"

Strangely, there is a full length sample preview in case you have any doubts to what you are getting. Nothing is withheld. Some of the character illustrations looked to have jumped off Pathfinder's own covers, left hand dominant weapons and all! The setting feels very comfortable and tickled my old school memories with plenty of rooms randomly created on the fly. This is helped along by some free sets of bonus encounter tables, encounter cards, and tomb cards (see a few sections below).

Dungeonlands: Dungeon Tiles:  63 pages $14.99
Amazingly, a 63 page full preview of all the dungeon tiles is available to view. At 24 cents per page, it's a remarkable deal.
Cartography: Alida Saxon
Illustrations: James Denton, Jason Engle, Alida Saxon,
Design: Aaron Acevedo,
Layout Aaron Acevedo, Mike Chaney.  $14.99

Using the tiles (from pg 2): Encounter tiles 1-31, Final Encounters A-D, and The Long Stair conincide with the encounters found in Dungeonlands: Tomb of the Lich Queen. Encounter 25 was skipped intentionally, it's not keyed to a specific location.  Classic tiles 1-26 are for creating your own dungeon or any time a random result is desired. A great set of tiles and easily usable for your own set of random dungeon building.

Dungeonlands Original Cinematic Score to set the mood was a nice addition.
40 minutes for $9.99 on DTRPG
Individual tracks in order can be seen here on Alex Cottrell's site with short samples. Alex's music reminded me of the best of the soundtracks for many fantasy TV shows and some movies. I much prefer the classic orchestrations with driving drums, horns, strings, and choral elements. For me, music plays an immense role in my enjoyment of the movies I watch.

The blurb from DTRPG:  Channelling old school movie soundtrack like the original Conan the Barbarian, Alex has created a soundscape that's special for roleplay groups in Dungeonlands, but also epic in scope... making it perfect for most roleplay settings, whether high fantasy or otherwise. If you ever wanted to get into the mood for a game session, play the Dungeonlands soundtrack and let Alex dial up your heroism meter to 11!

There are several free modules to help draw you into Dungeonlands.

First up:  Tomb of the Lich Queen bonus Material (Savage Worlds) Free!, 3 pdfs, 48 pgs of goodies. Contains:

  • TotLQ: Tables - 11 pages of Monsters (and their stats), Treasure, Traps. Many items are unique to DL so its fun reading.
  • TotLQ: Tomb Cards: 23 pages of cards and their covers. 30 encounter cards, 4 final encounter cards (A-D), and 19 generic cards with full color tiles (like geomorphs). 
  • TotLQ: Monster Cards - 14 pages: 24 cards of monsters with original art. Several are main encounter characters for TotLQ but I can see using them for generating some random fun. 

These were obviously projects from the Kickstarter but make great give-aways to gain interest. Excellent art and layout.


More products to flesh out the Dungeonlands campaign

Dungeonlands: Heroes And Servitors.  58 pages,  $9.99 on DTRPG
This is not your standard book of Pre-gens. It has the pre-gens but also has evil, twisted versions of the characters as well. Interestingly, the characters have been drawn from all over the Suzerain universe. That means their Edges and Hindrances will often be specific from the other realm from whence they came. There is a section in the back that has all the various Edges & Hindrances unique to these characters, often from settings yet to be published.  It also includes a pre-made dungeon encounter for each so quite a bit of content which justifies the $9.99 price.  I could have seen this as a freebie as well but my guess is the page count pushed them to keep this a separate product. This is definitely a good product for the Suzerain line but would take some work to see it make sense in any other use.

Dungeonlands: Isle of Paxectel. 144 pages, $29.99 - companion maps to Tomb of the Lich-Queen.  Blurb from DTRPG: Picture an island in the ocean, with ruins, a mysterious cave, and a portal from…who knows where. Maybe there are harpies on the highlands, bugbears on the beach or arachnids in the ancient temple. What people find is up to you, but we can guarantee you plenty of inspiration where every square inch of the island is beautifully crafted by master cartographer Alida Saxon. And we’re talking about nearly 7,000 square inches of island in nine parts, each the size of most map sets!

Interestingly, the DTRPG title leaves out the "c" in Paxectel but the module is a whopper of a set of maps with a price to match. The "7,000 square inches" of maps means you get all the locations on the island for the Lich-Queen adventure.  This is the 9 volume set of maps condensed into one volume from the Kickstarter.  For those intenting to play thru the campaign, I see these as huge time savers and for visual folks like me, a necessity. The price is high to me. I appreciate all the work that went into it and how clearly it helps give a tangible layout in the adventures, but I'd have said $19.99 at most. Also, the Savage Mojo style of map art is very usable but not high art or detailed in any sense. My assumption is they are digitally made but they appear to have been painted with broad strokes. Stylistically it works, it's just not detailed and it's broad stroke style also move me to say that it shouldn't be
$29.99.  I'm a map person so I see maps as necessary to convey the space as well as aid in any potential combat distances/areas.  For those who don't use maps, this is one to skip.

Dungeonlands: Fear of Life.  17 pages, $1.99 - Illustrated Story by Matt Forbeck
The final product in this review is the illustrated story written by Matt Forbeck who, you may remember from Brave New World and the formation of Pinnacle Entertainment Group with Shane Hensley to publish Deadlands. Yup, that Matt Forbeck.

The story shares how two adventurers, Lexa & Skargar, team up and descend into an ancient tomb... and discover the horror that is the Tomb of the Lich-Queen.  It's a short story and doesn't spill all the beans but gives a nice introduction.  The illustrations are well done. It seems to be quite a bit of art for such a short story. There are other works of fiction in the DL setting mentioned in the Kickstarter. I didn't dig for those and some will come as deliverables in time. I believe these works of fiction help further the life of the setting. They also share one of many visions of how the setting breathes giving inspiration to GMs on how to run their adventures.

Last Words

The Dungeonlands project represents a huge amount of work. The primary work that tells the story and lays the ground work for the "dungeon" is very well done. Excellent art and maps clearly convey the setting Savage Mojo created to extend their Savage Suzerain property.  I had that same "we'll never get out of this" feeling that my very first Tomb of Horrors conveyed all those decades ago. I keep referencing the old Tomb of Horrors but there is no direct connection other than the name "Tomb", a Lich, and a really difficult dungeon to conquer. It successfully captures that same feeling and sense of challenge that indelibly marked itself in my brain.  The additional cards, tables, monsters, treasures, setting material, music, and maps all contribute to a richly designed offering.

REMEMBER, the Dungeonlands: Tomb of the Lich-Queen is only part 1 of 3. Semi-spoiler: The dungeon seems to randomly re-arrange itself. If you take out the Lich-Queen, there's more to do!

If you are a Pathfinder person, not sure how you got here but there are Pathfinder links for all the products as well.

Keep it Savage!