Friday, October 20, 2017

The Great Pendragon Campaign: Episode 01 - Pendragon

9/9/2017
The Great Pendragon Campaign

Episode One
"The First Year"

Pendragon

After years of wanting to someday have the guts to run a Pendragon campaign, I've decided to take the plunge.  Joining me in this journey are Rocky, Adrian, Flip and Urim.  I have to thank Alan Bahr for always encouraging me to do this.

Flip plays Riordan, a Trusting knight from Pitton. His father, Jordan, died of mysterious circumstances back in 466 while serving under Aurelius Ambrosious who held up the Pendragon banner. His grandfather, John, was killed by Pictish raiders in 440.

Adrian plays Perriton, a Prudent knight from Steeple Langford. His father, Perin, died while in the service of Uther in 480. His grandfather, Peregrin, still lives a ripe age of 75 with his last battle being the Battle of Kent in 457 under King Vortigern.

Rocky plays Gilmere, an Honest knight from Shrewton. His father, Gilbert, passed away from natural causes in 472. His grandfather, Gerin, died in a raid in 442.

Urim plays Bliant, a Chaste knight from Berwick St. James. His father, Berel, died in the Battle of Windsor in 473. His grandfather, Belias, was killed in a raid in 443.

Episode 01 explores the four soon-to-be-knights as they first undergo a training session under Sir Elad, who has them undergo Quintain Training, with all save Glimere falling from dodging the rocks that were to strike them in the chest.  Afterwards, they were invited to Race and in the race, Gilmere ranked first, followed by Riordan, then Bliant, and finally Perriton. As a final part of their training, the four were then invited to take part in a Jousting challenge, and in three rounds, Roirdan and Gilmere ended the challenge in a draw.

Sir Elad then asks of them to take part in a task for the good of the country. The four travel to Imber to deal with what may well be a man-eating bear or wolf. They are tasked to find Old Garr, a healer, who will help them fulfil the quest.  The group's journey to the village at the bottom of a valley allows them a brief glimpse of Stonehenge in the distance.

At Imber, they meet Garr and his mistress, whom he is living with in sin. The  soon-to-be-knights are a bit perturbed by this, but focus on their duties. They begin the hunt for the bear as soon as morning comes and the hunt stretches for a few hours. It is by noon that their hunt begins to show signs of the trail. They find the bear, and while Perriton is trying to motion directions, Roirdan does not hesitate and breaks into a charge! The dogs with them rush forward, to distract the bear. Perriton yells at them to go for the mouth, as he prepares to go for the leg. The massive bear fights back viciously! Gilmere, in turn,  hears strange sounds that draw his curiosity. He sees a creature, unlike anything he has seen before: head and neck of a snake, body of a leopard, haunches of a lion, and the feet of a hart. And before he could say more, the beast bounds away and almost immediately, a mounted and armored man crashes through the bush, searching for the beast. Gilmere only recognizes the crest of the man to show he is a knight of the de Galis clan. He asks Gilmere if he's seen, "the Glatisant" but leaves without offering more information.

With the success of the kill, the bear is skinned and its meat is shared by the village. On the group's journey back, however, they encounter a group of bandits that have assailed a farmer and his daughter. They dispatch of the bandits quickly. Perriton promises to return and pay them for the cow, but he remembers they have a mission and his focus has to remain on it.

They return to Vagon and there Elad suggests they visit the earl to share their adventures.  They arrive at Sarum and there, they meet the Earl Roderick and his wife, the Countess Ellen. After a brief series of faux pas, the Earl introduces them to the gathering and they find themselves making a few new acquaintainces. The death of the bandits is deemed just and the coat of the bear is received well. They are fascinated with the story of the Questing beast as well. Perriton shares the story of the fight against the Bear and even crafts a chant/rhyme on their battle against the bear. Perriton is asked if the bear became a man, and learns that some bears supposedly turn into men upon death. He is told to speak with Sir Ameg of Tilstead, an older knight who has had numerous experiences in his life. A veteran of many battles. Perriton bonds with Lady Jenna, the Earl's daughter, whom he promises to take note of tales to share with her in the future.  His stories gain the eye of Lady Elaine, a woman whom other ladies do not hold in high regard.

Father Tewi, on the other hand, notices Bliant, who commends him for being a man of honor and faith. He asks Bliant why he has not been married yet and recommends he consider Lady Gwiona, a woman with a blank handkerchief in her hands. Her husband recently died after proposing to her.   He also recommends Lady Indeg, if Blaint is not seeking beauty but roots. She is the richest heiress, widowed twice, and is lonely. "Would you choose beauty or comforts?" Bliant admits he would rather choose Gwiona to comfort her for her losses.

Gilmere speaks with the Bishop Roger, the Bishop of Salibury, and learn he is well educated and curious of the stories of the Fair Folk. He believes the world can benefit from greater learning and fears to dispel. He asks Gilmere to share an account of the creatures he encounters to document them in an illuminated tome. Gilmere admits he isn't certain he's comfortable with that. Sir Jarren wraps his arms around Gilmere from behind and tells the Bishop that was the Pagan way of saying one is not interested. Gilmere knows Jarred to be a skilled and ambitious young knight and the best swordsman at court. He points out how Lady Adwen, who has been glancing at them, now believes in the Fair Folk since the "honest" man has spoken of them. Gilmere is asked to give her a small wave. She looks away, shy having been bested in a wager and now owes Jarred a kiss. Gilmere honestly admits he would not wish to participate further. Jarred admits he seeks never to be wed, "I am legend and legend shall end with me."

Riordan is gambling with some other people, among them a banneret knight, Sir Hywel, playing backgammon as they talk about the ferocious bear. "Not as horrible as the manticore, however." Sir Hywel's wife used to tell him about those stories. His wife, however, died, giving birth to his daughter.  He asks Riordan to consider his daughter, who is still 9, but worth considering being the fir wife to Riordan the Bear-Killer.

The four are then knighted, and they are asked to join the Earl for the Vigil.  Everyone is dismissed and are to return by the morrow. The four accompany him to the Church and there they try to remain awake long enough for the vigil. Perriton nods off in the Vigil.The Earl wakes him.  The Vigil continues.

With the come of dawn, the ceremony reaches its zenith. They speak their oaths, they are given their arms, their sword, and their spurs, and to close, the tradition of the Leap is celebrated!  The groups are told to rush forth, and leap at a single bound upon their horses.

Riordan is maddened by his passions and he breaks into a run for the backrooms. Gilmere leaps successfully and lands on the horse's saddle. Bliant leaps and successfully lands as well.  Perriton hesistates, but then feeling disheartened by his emotions, he charges forward but somehow he still lands upon the horse, despite the cheers of the people. The three turn and stare at the lone horse, wondering what happened to their companion, Riordan.  Ellen leaves the Earl's side and searches for the missing knight.

As the night stretches on, the three are the center of attention in the gathering and are unable to separate to look for the others. Riordan is lost in the many hallways and corridors of the castle, shameful of his failure to do the Leap. He turns to the sound of footfalls and he slips into the first door he can find to hide behind. Closing the door behind him, Riordan hurries down the steps and it takes a bit of a while before he realizes there is a fog in the chamber. The steps he walks upon glow from within. There are rocks, like gigantic crystals of salt, all around. Inside are silhouettes of winged horses, serpents, and other figures. A figure comes into view, who turns upon realizing his presence, addresses Riordan with his hands raised in the air as he holds his staff high. "You! It is too soon for you to be here."

In an eyeblink, Riordan is back at the hallway. He can still remember the man's burning eyes.  Countess Ellen finds him and helps him to his feet. She tells him the others are worried and that he has been missing for almost a week. Riordan is puzzled. It still feels like the same day for him.  Months pass.

With the absence of Merlin, supposedly from helping King Uther win a victory in the Battle of Damen, the knights are soon called to join the Battle of Mearcred Creek in Sussex. The Knights gather as a unit lead by Sir Amig, but then are assigned to lead their own company of men for the fight.  The battle against the Saxon footmen is violent, with Bliant a few times separated from his companions. The battle rages on despite Uther's superior troops, and in the end, the knights not only successfully route the Saxons, but have successfully captured as well a number of Saxon's key soldiers. The mood of the Christmas court is gloomy. Despite the standoff in Sussex, the Saxons gained a victory in Caercolun. Earl Roderick, pensive given the events, urges his new knights to practice hard at the arts of war. "This is no time for poetry," he says.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Widow's Nest - Episode 0 - 7th Sea

8/20/2017
The Widow's Nest

Episode One
"Hello Greg"

7th Sea

The bartender slams down four drinks on the table as rain is pouring outside. The group is at the Widow's Nest, a small island with a town on it southwest of Montaigne, primarily for piracy. Having just landed, the four sit at the bar and share their stories of the recent events that transpired. There is no one else in the bar, save for the bartender, Greg.  The group is exhausted from an encounter with Delacruz, a ship captain.

The group has a brigantine ship named Sophie, one owned by Teofel Lucja, the Sarmatian Zynys who is skilled with dueling. Gabriella, the Strega, downs the drink in one gulp. Alberto McEntyre gasps, musing he just has fallen in love with Gabriella.  Teofel asks for more drinks as Greg asks them what happened.  Agosto Baltasar Carlos Domingo y Esteban remains silent at first.

Teofel shares they barely just escaped from an attack. Alberto counters at the idea that they barely escaped. Greg notices Teofel is the only one with a hat and assumes he is the captain given his "pirate-y" hat. Agosto finally speaks up, saying the "woman" speaks the truth since the rest of them were not having trouble. He shares they had a long day waiting for the ship they hoped to target. But "someone" had failed to make sure the ship was not fully armed. They argue about the fully armed ship and lost most of their other men. Only the four of them and a few other able seamen are left. They ask why the bartender is so interested in them, and the bartender shows there's no one else in the place. Agosto rattles question after question at the bartender, and finds joy in how the man finds the questions confusing. Agosto explains he calls Alberto a "woman" and Gabriella a "man" because Alberto complains a lot and Gabriella can take care of herself. Both Alberto and Gabriella glare at the man for his blatant sexism, unawares of his former history as a priest... and an Inquisitor.

When Greg hears the ship they attacked happened to be an Atabean Trading Company ship. He asks what sort of cargo it carried and this draws Gabriella and Teofel's curiosity on why the bartender would be so interested. The group is still getting used to working as a unit especially since Alberto joined the crew in hopes of inspiring the others to start acting more like honest men than pirates. As the group talks, Agosto stands up and heads for the kitchen. Greg hurries after him!

In the kitchen, Agosto uses his alchemical skills to "fix" the beer Greg has been serving to become something far more palatable. Greg begs to be given the secret formulae and Agosto asks Teofel to make a deal with the man. "The place as a freeport for their operations, and in exchange the beers will stay as lovely as that." Greg insists the bar is a good place and the only reason there are no customers is due to the rain.  Teofel quietly calls for the rain stops, "What rain?" Greg imagines the room being more active and agrees to the deal.

Time stops. The dievas talks to Teofel, unhappy that he's making deals without consulting it first. It admits it needs Teofel alive, but it would prefer he considers its choice on the matter first. "I have such good plans for you," it grins and time starts once more.

When Greg asks about the cargo again, Gabriella reminds him she doesn't like his interest in the cargo. She warns him she can "read" him and Agosto even warns she is, unlike most Voddacce women, actually able to read. Gabriella ignores the backhanded compliment. The bar is the Salty Pig. They were about to get the cargo but Alberto forced Gabriella and Agosto to the side, dropping the cargo into the sea. Alberto, however, insists they shouldn't have attacked the ship. Gabriella questions why they chose to let him join them. Agosto shares how his former faith used to speak of how people are given a role in life and should just choose to accept it. But now he believes in the need for people to choose what they want. He wonders if Alberto sees them as a mission. Alberto insists he will be helping in his own way, but he cannot go against his tenets as a Glamour Knight.  Greg serves them more drinks, with Gabriella asks for three drinks all for herself.

Outside, a heavy knock announces the arrival of the Atabean Trading Company as a Captain Delacruz arrives to drink at the bar.  The same man they had just pirated.  On the same island. Agosto tells Greg to let them in and has them leave the weapons at the table close to the door. When the Captain's men insist the Captain never leaves his weapons, Agosto steps out to talk to them, shows his Vaticine Church symbol and claims as a priest he must insist they leave their weapons.  The Captain wonders why Agosto looks familiar, he laughs that all Castillian's look like and quickly turns away.

A lean man enters with a tri-corn hat, with one hand on his waist. Delacruz. The same man indeed. While Augusto tries to distract the man and show them to a room to drink, the others attempt to dispatch Delacruz' men and deprive them of their weapons. It takes Gabriella's beauty and Sorte to disable Delacruz and when the fight reaches the outside of the ship, the group opts to storm Delacruz' vessel for the "treasure" they have on board.

The treasure, they discover, is a young figure chained in the brig. With the figure, as it turns out, is a dog.

















Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Review: Tadhana



Tadhana is a Filipino Tabletop role-playing game that uses tokens, cards, and character sheets to tell epic tales of heroism and adventure. Inspired by Filipino folklore, urban legends, and mythology, Tadhana (which means, "Fate") is a tremendously promising work of passion and for its current pre-order price (which was less than $20), the set is quite hefty.  The package first arrives in a quaint burlap sack, which has the pretty spiffy logo on the front. I really loved the minimalist approach to design. 

Inside, the colors then explode outwards.



The bag contained two books; one rulebook at 242 pages, and a Starter Campaign book called Bulong (which means, "Whisper") at 98 pages. Both have full softcolor softcovers with black and white interiors. Also inside are a pack of 40 cards known as the Cards of Destiny, 5 black and white character sheets, a pretty bookmark, a bag of "tokens" and a photo-print piece of art with a personal thank you message.

So the game uses the traditional approach to role-playing games, with one being the Overseer (which is your usual Dungeon Master, Game Master, Narrator role) and the others are the players. The players then portray adventurers who have four Attributes: Lakas (Might), Husay (Skill), Talisik (Wit) and Diwa (Spirit).  They then have their Lahi (Race) which is one of the six playable races: Aswang, Diwata, Engkanto, Garuda, Tao and Tikbalang.   Each Lahi has Traits which are unlocked at Level 1, 6, and 11. Each Lahi also offers places of Origin, which provide rich setting and inspirational material you can use to flesh out your concepts more.

The game then offers multiple Professions such as the Mandirigma, Albularyo, Salamangkero, Pana, and Sarong. Each offers their own list of Profession Traits. The Mandirigma, for example, have Fighting Styles and Stances used in battle. Albularyo has Soul magic and spirit companions. These allow each adventurer to have some unique touches. The professions have nice callbacks to their inspirations yet have enough meat to stand out as new unique takes on the concepts.



Then, there are Generic Traits which are similar to various advantages and merits from other games, and Magic which the game stresses is accessible for all professions in the game. For that reason, the game refers to them as Powers instead of spells, and are limited by your Talisik rating.  The magic system is nicely crunchy with lots of entries (around 40 pages!) to look through to create your own Powers. This is then followed by around 20 pages of gear, equipment, and trinkets.

Character development is through what is called milestones, and by accomplishing enough milestones, one increases the level of their adventurer. Multi-classing is allowed as the game permits one to have multiple professions, but mentors are required for the second and third professions that are embraced.



Starting page 198, the rules of the game are then introduced. Combat is resolved with Lakas being used against Husay in combat. Husay is subtracted from the attackers Lakas, and the player draws at least one Card of Destiny to resolve the attack. If the drawn cards have no duplicate symbols, the attack misses. If a pair is drawn, then the attack hits. 3 of a kind then deals a critical hit.  It's a simple system that seems elegant in design, but sadly this is marred by the card design they've used.  The cards have one side which seems to have been rushed in the design process due to its simplistic black and white art. The other side looks gorgeous but suffers a fatal flaw in its design.


These are sample cards from the Cards of Destiny. Sadly, the white symbols on the center of each card are the symbols one must use to compare and match to see if you succeed in your challenges. Sadly, white on off-white does not read well at all.  And this painfully mars an otherwise ambitiously innovative game. Had the symbols simply been black, they would have stood out against the card art.  Likewise, this was a place I wish they had more art present. The covers for Tadhana and Bulong itself could have been used instead as additional card designs here.  I personally feel a minimalist cover would have worked given the bag's introduction of a clean design.

Trails of Fate are challenges to the adventurer that may appear during a scene. Trails of Might, Skill, Wit and Spirit may occur and a similar system to combat is used to resolve them. The appropriate Attribute is used in the said Trial, with the difficulty being used to reduce it. The final value is the number of cards that is drawn as above.

The tokens are then used to track the rise and fall of one's Attributes in combat. Lakas is spent when adventurers take damage. Husay is spent from taking certain actions. Talisik is rarely spent as it tends to act as a value used to determine things Power-related. Diwa is spent to use Powers. I do like how Rounds of Combat are split into two phases: Talk Phase and Action Phase, with Talisik determining Initiative.  I definitely can imagine some finding this system a bit quirky, with the tokens being moved around, then the cards being drawn to make sets... then going back to the tokens to mark lost Lakas or spend Diwa. But I always believed any system is daunting until you learn it and most systems become more fun once you master it.

The rest of the main book explores other systems, such as Time, Weather, Training Animals and the like.

Bulong, on the other hand, contains a lot of the meat of the game and I suspect will be the area many will focus on.  They introduce a setting called Sekunda, with Zho as one if its five major continents. The sun is a dark void ringed with silver and two moons accompany the presence of daylight. The book dives in with mentions of 25 hour days, Church of Two Gods, and various scenarios. 



The book is a fun way to get used to the system, acting like both a module and a guided how to play in one.  It also introduces the many monsters and threats in the game, such as the Tiyanaks, the Sigbin and more. A third chapter shares the story of the game's creation story and ends with a list of legendary and rare items.


All in all, the game is clearly the product of love and passion and creativity, and barring some design decisions I feel that could have been better made, I'm pretty impressed with this game overall. Heck, I'd even say it looks damn far better than my simple game, A Single Moment.  While I do feel some art pieces feel rushed (some look like cutouts which didn't seem to look good even if they were an intentional design), or were not given careful editing consideration (forcing colored art to automatically become black and white caused many pieces to suffer), and some of the tables feel very haphazardly pasted into the layout rather than carefully designed to work with the look of the book, the final product is still quite well worth the price.   I do wish the tokens were... thicker stock. Or maybe were a sticker sheet to use with something readily available. But then again, I know tokens are hard to source out for cheap.

The game system is intriguing, with the use of tokens and the drawing of cards as the main system instead of dice. While I'm no stranger to such systems (given I do play at least 12 new games per year), I worry this may become a barrier for others who are more used to simply playing the traditional games and quickly shy away from opportunities to learn new systems.

I highly recommend that people support this game and give it some space on their gaming table. It takes true grit and courage to try to come up with something new and unique and bring it out into the world for others to enjoy. Congratulations to you all, Project Tadhana. You have succeeded in leaving a worthy contribution to the tabletop role-playing game industry.  I hope you find your audience soon enough.  But I really really feel you need to somehow fix those cards. I fear many will give you low reviews because of it.



Visit their facebook group here:
https://www.facebook.com/ProjectTadhana/

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Surreal ‘Itras By’ RPG expands with Philippine-inspired realm



Thank you again for the feature, GMA!   It was truly a wonderful experience writing for Itras By and being given the opportunity to add a dash of Filipino mythology to its surreal landscape. I do hope people find the story seeds I've inserted in there to their liking.

An excerpt:
“I will admit to having a soft spot for the Manananggal Titas,” he said. “The idea of them as social butterflies just strikes me as something so close to home and yet so visually unique. But my favorite would have to be Inang Bai, who was inspired by Carlo Vergara and his fantastic creation, Zsazsa Zaturnnah. Inang Bai was a lonely woman in Imperia Manila who could not find love until a star fell from the sky and embedded into her forehead. I do hope he liked that homage.”
The incorporation of Imperia Manila into “Itras By” is likely to give rise to plenty of interesting scenarios.
“I'm hoping to hear from people who have tried exploring Imperia Manila,” said Tobie. “I’ve already read one review which celebrated the setting as the most interesting since he noticed they were drawn also from old pre-Spanish myths. I’m excited to hear from others who might try the setting and find other ways the stories within relate or connect with them.”
Grab the book here:
www.drivethrurpg.com/product/214386/Itras-By-The-Menagerie-English

Read the full article here:
http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/scitech/technology/629011/surreal-itras-by-rpg-expands-with-philippine-inspired-realm/story/

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Children Cry now available!

The Children Cry, a new 7th Sea adventure set in La Bucca, has launched today.  Do excuse my fanboy moment as I celebrate the fact I've released another piece for 7th Sea. I've been quite a fan of John Wick's work, and to see him now posting about my work is just a treat for me.


Even better, I got to revisit La Bucca, which I loved working on for 7th Sea: Pirate Nations. I really hope people enjoy this little scary adventure I wrote and have fun running it for their players.



Grab the adventure today:
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/222720/The-Children-Cry
Also, feel free to check out my other 7th Sea Explorer's Society stuff:
My collection of horror beasties for Eisen in The Dark Journal.
The Dark Journal 
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/206933/The-Dark-Journal
The Dark Journal - Part 2
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/208996/The-Dark-Journal--Part-2
The Dark Journal - Part 3
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/217984/The-Dark-Journal--Part-3
My Montaigne-set adventure against a terror from the places between the worlds.
The Twisted Mirror
http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/221350/A-Twisted-Mirror



Monday, September 25, 2017

Grab it: Tadhana

A Filipino table-top role-playing game is on the horizon. I highly recommend you all check out Tadhana: A Filipino Tabletop RPG which is now open to receive the first fifty orders.



The game has very intriguing concepts and actually is played without the use of polyhedral dice.  Instead, there are a bunch of counters to use as well as a Destiny deck.  From those alone, I'm imagining similar touches to Chuubo's Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine or maybe even Lords of Gossamer and Shadow, but mind you this is all speculation at this point. I've yet to receive my copy of the game and I am tremendously anxious to see it.

Who knows, maybe they'll even be lucky enough to get more support from the local blogs and groups to help spread the world of their fantastic work?

If you're interested in learning more, you can reach them on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/ProjectTadhana/

And for those in Manila, they're planning to hold some demo games at the upcoming October Komiket 3rd Filipino Komiks Market.  Information on that can be found here:
https://www.facebook.com/komiketinc

I wish them success and may they find an audience that celebrates their work!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

TAGSESSIONS ANNOUNCES DEAL WITH GALLANT KNIGHT GAMES

Proud to announce that TAGSessions will be partnering with Gallant Knight Games!
To quote Alan Bahr, "Tobie is a repeated collaborator and one of my favorite and go-to creators when I have a challenging project I need eyes on." Alan Bahr, Producer and Lead Designer of Gallant Knight Games. "Working with Tobie sets the bar for our products at a higher level, because Tobie is a rising tide!"

Gallant Knight Games will be my partner and all of the co-produced games with be co-branded with Gallant Knight Games and TAGSessions.

A release schedule for TAGSessions and GKG products will be announced in the near future, but one of the first plans is a deluxe re-release of A Single Moment.
----

So yeah, this is going to be an incredible moment. I can't wait to see the wonderful things I will be able to create with Gallant Knight Games alongside me.   As I have put it:

"It isn't often that a new voice in an industry finds another who shares the passion just as, if not even more intensely, as one's own." Tobie said. "Being invited to partner up with GKG is both an affirmation that I must be doing something right, and an opportunity to share creative juices and resources to make more awesome games. And reach as well a larger audience. I feel tremendously humbled and honored to be part of the growing Gallant Knight family and I can't wait to see what games his partnership will produce in the years to come."

Here's to more games!

Read all about it here:
https://www.gallantknightgames.com/tagsessions-announces-deal-with-gallant-knight/
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