A few years back, when my daughter was old enough that board games became a thing in the household, we started picking up a number of different things. One of them was the old version of Rallyman, an excellent racing game out of France. We played it quite a bit, but it’s sat unused for a year or so. then I saw there was a new version by Holy Grail Games for Kickstarter last year and backed it. This was for Ralleyman Dirt…I hadn’t realized they’d also done a road/track racing version, GT.

I stumbled across this new game at the excellent Ettin Games and Hobbies here in Albuquerque, and on a whim decided to buy it. The daughter and I kicked the tires on it this weekend and early this evening, and here’s the basics:

The essential design and mechanic remains: You have a rally car mini and a “dashboard” that give you information on what kind of awfulness happens if you biff it while taking your turn, depending on conditions and tire types. You still roll dice that represent the gear you are in — 1st through 6th, with two “coast dice” to hold your speed, but added are red “brake” dice to change your speed. One of the issues with the original design was that you could only drop or go up with dice you still had available. This allows you to accelerate hard and still be able to brake without having the dice to downshift. It’s a good fix.

There’s also the boards for the the track. In the original — you have a couple of board you could piece together to make different tracks, but there wasn’t a ton of modularity. The new game uses interlocking hex tiles that allow a lot more tracks to be set up. The sections of track are rated for difficulty from yellow, orange, through to red. If while rolling your dice you get a warning or ! face, this shows an increasing lack of control. If you get three, you lose control and spin out or crash and do damage. Damage takes away gear dice (starting with 6 and working down), or get you in the coast or brake dice.

When racing, the car in the higher gear goes first, and ties go to the car in front, or on the inside of the track. the turns have special restrictions for speed, and some cause automatic ! results, even if you get through. there are rules for weather, for pit stops, and there is a mechanic for saving from the dreaded ! — if you take a chnce and go “all out” you roll all the dice together. You gain a “focus point” that can be used when you roll the dice on your subsequent turns one after the other to negate a ! result.

The rules are simple, easy, and we found that the addition of the brake dice really made the game work well. The art on the tiles and in the rule book is quite good, and the car minis are simple but serviceable. The price was $50 at the FLGS.

So was it worth the price? Absolutely. If you enjoy racing board games, it’s a great buy.


We’ve barely gotten The Marvellous City out the door before we turned our attention to a sourcebook for 1930s Cairo for use with Ubiquity and Fate. The turn around time was brutal, especially with a rough semester for the high school and community college I work at, plus an ongoing illness…but it’s on it’s way.

This one will be the first Black Campbell product not written by (or mostly written by) Scott Rhymer (yours truly). The author on this one is Adam Scott Glancy, who approached us through the Ubiquity RPG group on Facebook and asked if we would be interested in publishing him. After having a look at his initial notes and work, I was thrilled to welcome him aboard. I will be penning the adventure or two that will go with the city guide, but most of this is his baby. I am handling layout, editing, and the like, so right now the PDF is probably about a month away, and another for print — depending on if i can get DriveThruRPG to work with us.

That said, The Marvelous City and most of our back catalogue is hitting Amazon.com, as well as DriveThru. This book will most likely follow that route.

For those of you waiting for the FATE version of The Marvelous City, it’s on the way, and will get some love after this one drops for Ubiquity.

The Marvelous City, our pulp guide to 1930s Rio de Janeiro for the Ubiquity system that powers Hollow Earth Expedition and Space:1889 (among others) is now live on DriveThruRPG.com.

The PDF version and now the print version is available at Amazon.

The Marvelous City is a 90-page book covering the neighborhoods and major sights of Rio, the culture of the city including music and dance, capoeira, and the more mystical aspects of macumba (or mandinga, if you’re not throwing aspersions), with an adventure written by Anthony “Runeslinger” Boyd. Cost is $9.99.

I’ve received the last material from Black Campbell’s friendly neighborhood Runeslinger and final editing for our 1930s pulp Rio sourcebook is underway. The Ubiquity version will hit a few days before the Fate version, as we have to still do the system specific changes.

Stay tuned! Possible news on another book in a few days.

After a few trying day of attempting to teach well online while our district and governor keeping moving the kung flu goalposts, I’ve finally gotten a moment to sit down and bang out a post. Today’s prompt Investigate is a good one.

Everyone’s got that first RPG that really grabbed you. I started, like most, with Dungeons & Dragons (the original boxed set), but the first game to really grab me was James Bond: 007 by Victory Games. The movies were a staple of my teen years, along with other action fare, and this game helped me hone the storytelling art: how to rig together the classic three act adventure, having a good set pieces for action that were tied by character building/exposition scenes to move the action along. Central to the espionage genre, and really for a good dungeon crawl, is the idea of investigation — whether it is uncovering what’s in the next room, tracking down a conspiracy that leads to the big bad or some kind of eldritch horror, finding out who double crossed you on that deal gone bad, to wandering the setting looking for trouble to get into — discovery is ultimately at the heart of most role playing games.

There should always be something kept just outside of the characters circle during a campaign — that big bad you’ve been building up for the final confrontation (don’t bring him in early ’cause they’re going to get insanely lucky on rolls that night and slag him like a bar of lead), some aspect of the bad guy organization (For the first few Bond films, we never saw the head of SPECTRE…he was only “Number 1”.), don’t explain everything, leave some mystery there. Even when the campaign ends, there’s a certain joy in not quite knowing everthing that was going on. Think how much people enjoy throwing ideas around about what that scene meant or what was really going on behind the scenes. The internet is full of movie and TV conspiracy theories. Never reveal all your secrets.

Well, day 14 fell on a day that was supposed to be an easy day that turned into a heavy workload. That was fine by me, since the prompt for that day wasn’t inspiring anything in me.

Today’s prompt, however, is a good one. One of the parts of learning how to GM well is the same as any media of storytelling — framing a scene. Even for sandboxers that simply let players wander about their world looking for something to happen, framing is important. Scene framing involves spotlighting important events in a narrative, or character moments that aid the player in moving toward character growth.

For instance, players might be walking interminably to a mountain where their nemesis rules to destroy a magical McGuffin. The walking, let’s face it, is boring. The day to day mundanity of taking breaks, eating, foraging to find food, can be important for the story — say the characters are traveling through the Valley of Bones on their way to the mountain and after an attack by the adversaries they need to find food and water; that’s now an important, unusual event in their journey. They do it and survive; they don’t and fail. One of the way that RPGs have traditionally gotten around the boring travel bits is with random encounters. That’s certainly a way to go if you’ve had nothing planned for the session, but a better idea might be to do the equivalent of a fade or wipe to the next scene that had impact on the characters. This doesn’t have to be combat. It can be meeting an old friend or adventuring companion of a character that allows the player to build on their alter ego. t can be a short side quest — a traveling party was raided and their children/women/money to stake their new life was stolen forcing the characters to make the choice of staying on mission, or breaking to “do the right thing.” It can be some form of moral quandry — do they help the [your enemy here] who has been injured, is trapped in quicksand (or the equivalent trap), or something that ties tightly to a character’s flaws/goals/or moral structure.

All of the players should ideally get their own “beat”; their moment in the spotlight, but sometimes, you’ll find an event is so interesting or emotionally engaging that the players not involved are interested in the story, even if they aren’t the focus. That makes for a great session. A good example of this might be many of the ensemble Marvel movies — every character gets their moment to do their schtick or experience some milestone in their journey, even if it’s a short moment. In a game, this allows the players to be the star for a while.

Framing a scene involves creating the atmosphere you want. Perhaps you’ve beamed down to a distant outpost on a mostly barren world to find the facility empty. There’s no sign of a fight, there’s food half-eaten on the tables in the canteen — as if people had been mid meal when whatever happened happened. Eery quiet save for the ever-present sound of the air circulation system is all you here. However, there’s more than that.

Important scene will have a few factors to them. There will be an action of somesort that has to be reacted to. This can be physical, like an attack; it can be mental, the setting inspires an emotional reaction; it can be philosophical — you present them with a hard choice; it can be social — they have to convince an enemy to turn to their side. The action should have something to do with achieving their goal, whether for the party or a character. It should present them with a dilemma (it doesn’t have to be earth-shaking) that requires a response that could advance their cause, or creat a set-back but require them to “do the right thing”, or which requires some kind of change in the character.

When creating a story for your players, you can best do this by setting up what the outcome that is desired — the characters find the bad guy’s hideout and can rescue the hostages. You have several scenes that push the plot — 1) a discovery of a certain piece of evidence that 2) leads to an initial confrontation with the henchmen of the big bad, and 3) if they succeed pushes them toward the goal or should they fail requires them to regroup, perhaps do another scene requiring them to find evidence or clues, and eventually leads to the denouement. You can let the players wander and investigate the world all you want, but at some point, you drop one of these moments into the narrative, allowing them to move closer to the goal. This dispels the notion they are being railroaded, while still pushing them in the right direction.

So, simoply put, to frame a scene you 1) create the right atmosphere, 2) present a problem that requires 3) the characters to make a decision, and their reaction 4) leads to an outcome or corresponding reaction that moves the story along, or helps the character grow in some fashion.

While I despise the rest rules in Dungeons & Dragons that allow characters to power through a major, life-threatening fight and slough off the damage with a wee nap, the concept of giving the players a break in the action is a well-advised one. Much like in a movie, keeping the tension and action ramped up often doesn’t have the effect you might think. When the action doesn’t break for a moment of levity, character development, or to give the audience a rest from the sturm und drang of noise and fancy visual effects people aren’t pumped up…they tend to get tired or bored. A classic example is Quantum of Solace, in which the action scenes were not punctuated with moments of quiet and character development…the movie wound up being dreadfully dull despite a fusillade of action.

Similarly, when running a game, there’s something to be said for amping up the danger and action; sending them from one threat to the next. However, that can leave the characters unable to regroup, heal, or get their bearings. A good example was a recent Alien game a ran where the characters had reached the denouement, finding a secret lab working on the Engineers’ black goo. Things went predictably wrong as the big bad released some of the results of their work to prevent word of the lab from getting out. In the ensuing fight anf flight that took two sessions, the characters didn’t get a chance to stop or heal — bad guys and critters were everywhere, and there was the threat of the lab’s experiements reaching a nearby mining settlement. Their ship was lining up one of the company transports with an eye to blowing it’s reactor and destroying everything in nuclear fire.

Great set-up. But the characters were failing stress tests left and right and were no longer in control of their characters — they lost agency because I didn’t give them that necessary breather in the action. They couldn’t heal up, they couldn’t relieve stress, and what should have been exciting became a bit of a slog.

Rest — even a break from the action to “talk about their feelings” or get their wits about them is important.

The prompt message left me scratching my head. I don’t want to talk about having a message to your game; we get enough of that through every other media, right now. Play by Message or Email? Never done it, so I don’t really have anything to say there. Using message apps to contact the players in secret…?

I like that idea. In some games, you may want to keep player specific information compartmentalized. Maybe your players have a hard time with out-of-character knowledge and would use it whether their characters would know it or not. Maybe you have a character with a secret agenda or identity that even the players shouldn’t know; for example, a player character who is a Cylon in a Battlestar Galactica campaign, or a mole in the group in an espionage game, or a undercover synthetic trying to manipulate the crew in Alien — the surprise revelation that a trusted PC is actually a bad guy can be a lot of fun. Passing messages on scraps of paper was a time-honored tradition, but when everyone has a smartphone (minus one of my players…damned Luddite!), you can up the game and send not just messages, but pictures (this is what you saw…) or maps snippets (you explored this area alone, look at all the treasure!)

I’m a fan.

Well, that’s another day I missed trying to push out RPGaDay posts. Which brings me to the prompt: Stack.

One thing you can count on is life not stopping. Sometimes, it doesn’t even slow down. Occasionally, it accelerates. August is usually a bad month for me. School and college start up and I’m prepping classes and teaching. Often, Black Campbell Entertainment is in the final stretch of prepping a book for publication (in this case, The Marvelous City — our guide to 1930s Rio de Janeiro), and there’s the attendant kid raising issues. Fun, or even some side project like knocking out a few hundred words on the blog, can get lost.

Thrown in the stack, as it were.

None of us like to comb through the stack — being it the overflowing Inbox of email (or actual mail), the to do list at the house, shopping, errands, kicking out a plan for the week’s adventure(s) with your game group. Currently, I have two groups: the “nerd night” crew of 6 overgrown adolescents; and the mom & daughter group. That’s two D&D games to plan for, not to mention the not as regularly played Star Wars game for the girls and a guy from the nerd night crew.

But fun is necessary. It’s not just gaming — it’s relaxing, it’s fun, it’s social, and especially with the the plethora of kung flu madness circling the globe in news-fueled fear and idiocy, it’s a needed distraction from the adult world.

Make time for it.

Cult Leader Gleh’n, “What does Jeff Goldblum want?”

Jeff Goldblum, “I want…my money back. Oh, oh! And I want angels to give it to me. And pixies to count it out, and a gnome or a hobbit or an elf to sleep at the foot of my bed, and have – I just want them all over my backyard. But no matter what happens with any of that, I DO want my money back.”

“Run, Ronnie, Run”, 2002

Why that quote..? It’s just a funny toss-off line from one of those guilty pleasures movies. If you haven’t seen it; do. It’s got one of the funniest middles of a movie. The rest? Meh. But it was the first thing that came to mind.

What do we want out of gaming? Is it to have fun? Escape the mundanities of everyday life? Be creative? Make some kind of political statement no one else at the table cares about? Get together with friends? All of the above? I suspect it’s the latter for many, but with differing weights to the various elements.

For me the main thing is socializing, I realized recently. i’d always thought the main point of interest in gaming was the creative aspect and having fun, but the recent Zoom-powered gaming made me realize that it’s the act of getting together with people to have that fun. I could game with anyone around the world with Google Meets, Skype, or Zoom…but I want to be with folks, breaking bread, drinking cocktails or beer or wine, and forgetting all of the adult shit we have to do everyday. For a few of the players, it’s their only release from family and jobs. We could just as easily just hang or watch movies, but gaming allows us to really escape reality for a while.

It’s one of the reasons I’ve said that the gaming groups that best hold together are the ones that do other things with each other; who are friends, not just gaming buddies.

I guess that’s what I want. But no matter what happens with any of that, I DO want my money back.