bannerI’ve been hammered this semester with a fair amount of work. The college I work at doubled up my classes (yay, money!), and my teaching certificate program (wait, haven’t you taught for years…yes, but not high school so that’s entirely different! But it’s not…), and the usual collection of life stuff, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been busting out words on Gateway to the East, our upcoming guide for pulp-era Istanbul. As with the other Black Campbell books, it’ll be for use with Ubiquity and Fate. I’m estimating a final page count of about 80 pages — on par with our Shanghai book, Queen of the Orient. There will be two adventures included in the sourcebook.

Depending on work schedules next semester, I’m hoping to have this out by the beginning of the coming summer, as end of summer seems to be a popular time for the Kickstarter campaigns of other games to fire up and we got lost in the onslaught this year.

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The latest pulp adventure from Black Campbell Entertainment is out and marks our first in the second wave of adventures for 1930s pulp games.

Mexico, 1938: The discovery of a mythical tecuanes, a were-jaguar, on the grounds of a henequen plantation in the Yucatan leads a group of adventerers and scientists into the hazardous cave complexes under the jungle in search of its origins.

Secret of the Jaguar Temple is out for the Ubiquity Role Playing System (the system powering Hollow Earth Expedition) and Fate is now available on DriveThruRPG with cover art, once more, by the excellent Bill Forster.

Jaguar blurb

So this week, the crew is getting together to fire up the next chapter/season/volume of our late antiquity fantasy game. The first run was set in AUC1125 (375AD) and revolved around a group of people that came together during a raid on their caravan, got tapped by Emperor Gratian to sound the tribes in Germania, and found out they were all destined to come together to help fight the forces of evil. You know, that ol’ chesnut. It wound up with a finale that included angels and demon hordes leading people into battle to stop Satan from “opening the veil” so he could attack Heaven. What they wound up doing was releasing the ancient gods back into the world, which put paid to Satan’s plans (and Yahweh’s) pretty smartly.

We’ll be picking up the action eight years later in Britannia, on the eve of Magnus Maximus pulling every Roman and foederati troop he can lay his hands on out of the isle for a coup attempt on Emperor Gratian, who gave the Eastern Empire to the leader of our party in the last game, and who — supported by Olympians — has restored paganism to the Eastern empire. Magnus, and his uncle Theodosius (the real eastern emperor at this time) are supporters of Nicean Christianity and want to crush Gratian and Marcellus (now Emperor Marcellianus) and get the thrones they feel are rightfully theirs.

The characters include: Aiden mac Quint, Marcellus’ son by a Celtic (elven) woman while he was stationed in Britannia; Sigmon Hallig, a disgraced Saxon pirate captain who now hunts bounties and acts as protection muscle; Arden mac Wynn, the Briton prefect for the Romans in the area near the Cotswolds; Faolan mac Anyn, a druid who has been cursed to lycanthropy on the full moon, but who can control his shapeshifting the rest of the time; his sister, Fianna, a huntress; and lastly Myrddin Wyllt…a young Merlin who is interested in the future of Aiden. The campaign, like the last one, will start small scale — local missions and mysteries (we’re starting with a murder mystery), and building out to include the imperial politics of Magnus turning on Gratian, which will eventually take us to Gaul and Germania, and perhaps to a meeting with Aiden’s father in Constantinople.

The first campaign was run in Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition, but after the nostalgia of playing D&D again (and in a set of rules so close to the old AD&D, but improved) wore off, I started to remember the things I didn’t like. Magic is weird, really. I never liked the Vancian style of spellbooks. Sure the warlock class got much closer to my idea of how magic should work, but it was, to put it mildly, fiddly. All of D&D is crammed with rules for almost every occasion, and I threw a lot of it out to keep it simple. The other thing — the healing of D&D drives me f@#$ing nuts. Hey, I almost got my arm chopped off, but a 15 minute nap and I’m good as gold. A lot of this is an artifact of the X number of encounters/day model of dungeon crawling. It simply didn’t fit the more gritty atmosphere I wanted.

What to use? Runequest 6/ Mythras? It’s got some good stuff, and their Mythic Britain sourcebook is absofreakin’-lutely outstanding. It’s easily one of the best sourcebooks for a game I’ve read, and I pulled a lot from it, even though its setting is about a century later than where we are. I don’t know the system that well, and don’t want to read a big-a@$$ book right now. The One Ring from Cubicle 7. Also good, but I would have to relearn it, and it’s a bit too high fantasy for me. Don’t mention Palladium; it was a hot mess 30 years ago and hasn’t much improved. Fate? A possibility that I entertained for a while. I even picked up the Fate System Toolkit and a few fantasy oriented settings on DriveThruRPG, but none of them quite did it for me…but they were close. Savage Worlds is another that was considered for a moment, but I find the system too quirky and I hate the exploding die mechanic.

Eventually, I started looking at the game system that I’ve been slowly putting together for our publishing house, Black Campbell Entertainment. It’s got a lot of inspiration from various sources, but the core mechanic is very simple and with a bit of tweaking, would work for fantasy. Hell, we need to playtest it…so, tomorrow, I start running a game with the first game rules I’ve had to write in six years. The last time I did this big a rules project was in the ’90s. It should be interesting to see how it goes and if the players respond well. If not, well, Fate or D&D would both work well.

MopnsterKillers6.pngMonster Killer!  is a pick-up board game for kids, designed by a six-year kid. A light set of rules allows kids bored with all those toys and devices you gave them, or stuck in a car on a long ride, or in a hotel without their stuff, to print out a couple of battle maps, folding hero and monster figures (there’s even a folding six-sided die), and take the roles of leader, fighter, medic, and scientist in an attempt to save your town from the monsters that have taken over. The maps are scaled so they can be used with your favorite interlocking block system (**cough cough**.) It’s only $1.99, available on DriveThruRPG.

We’re working on the Sky Pirates of the Mediterranean, featuring the Foreign Volunteer Force we highlighted in the Queen of the Orient sourcebook. There might be a few small setting books coming for their activities during the War against the Soviets, as well as their actions in South America.

Some of the folks in our gaming group have been playing characters in the Sky Rats, and this has led to the creation of tee-shirts…

sky rat shirt.jpegOnce I’ve had a look at the test shirt — if it meets standards, we’ll have an online shop for them. I’m thinking of doing a few different ones for the FVF Shanghai, FVF HQ Gibraltar, and FVF Fiume. I’m thinking of playing cards, as well — that’s stated to be one of the merchandise the Sky Rats sell in Queen of the Orient.

It’s looking like Black Campbell’s going to need a real storefront online soon…

Our friend Runeslinger has done a review of the Ubiquity version of our sourcebook to 1930s Shanghai The Queen of the South. Check it out!

The proofs for Thrilling Action Stories! are on their way to me. If they look good, a print version of the first adventure bundle from Black Campbell should be available in a few weeks. There looks to be some f#$@ery about whether I can have this set up as part of the bundle, so there may be a delay if I have to talk to the folks at DriveThruRPG about making this a completely separate product.

Publish and learn!

thrilling action stories