It’s been a long time since I did one of these columns, mostly because most of my gaming wishes came true for Christmas and I went hogwild during Bastion Press’s big January sale, buying five new source books. I’ve finally worked my way through all those books and the itch to expand my collection is now returning.
Wild Wild West
First up is Aces & Eights: Shattered Frontiers by KenzerCo. Ever since hearing of- but never playing-Boot Hill-I’ve had a hankering to play a western-themed game. That was intensified by reading Kenzer’s Knights of the Dinner Table tales of western adventuring (which happened whenver the Knights needed a break from HackMaster). There’s an ad for a game on the back of the latest Knights magazine, with the text “Saddle up for adventure! Coming soon … the Wild West RPG that breaks all the rules.”
Consider me intrigued. Unfortunately, you can’t consider me informed because Kenzer hasn’t posted anything about this new game on their Web site. Ok, I understand that they’re trying to build anticipation for the game, but I just don’t get why they wouldn’t post at least a placeholder Web page for this product. It doesn’t have to be much – maybe a teaser page with an form to let me sign up e-mail announcements-but give me something Another western-themed game (actually, a post-apocalyptic western) I’m interested in-Cold Steel Reign-has the same problem, though the publisher of that game says they’ll have a site up soon.
A Different Evolution
Monte Cook has released an updated version of his alternate players’ handbook Arcana Unearthed that adds a new race, expands certain classes, folds in content from the Diamond Throne and kicks up the production values several notches. The end result is called Arcana Evolved and after seeing my friend’s copy I can safely say that this book is immensely drool-worthy. The book is hefty-I think it’s even larger than my Stargate SG-1 source book-with a price tag to match: $50. It looks to be worth every penny though-there’s color throughout the 420-page book, and the layout is the best I’ve seen in an RPG book in a very long time.
Bringing Down the Hammer
In college, I heard a lot about Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, but it was out-of-print by the early 1990s (or low-print — either way, I couldn’t find it), and I never had a chance to play it. It’s too bad; the decidedly non-D&D rules, combined with the dark and gritty feel of a fantasy world teetering on the edge of madness, sounded intriguing. Fortunately Black Industries is giving me the chance experience this game by releasing an updated second edition.
The new edition uses a revised version of the original rules (rather than say, yet another d20 product) which is nice, but it’s hard to say exactly what’s been revised, since the Web site doesn’t appear to go into that sort of detail (noticing a trend here?). Black Industries is a special imprint set up by Games Workshop, and its working closely with Green Ronin (of Freeport and Mutants and Masterminds fame).
Heroics, Bullets and Madness
Venturing back to more familiar stomping grounds, Wizards of the Coast has two Dungeons & Dragons books out that I’m interested in. The first is Sharn: City of Towers, which is a sourcebook for their Eberron campaign setting. Eberron surprised me; I was expecting something annoyingly over-magicked and high-powered like the Forgotten Realms, and instead I found a pulpish, heroic setting similar enough to standard D&D to satisfy those who will only play fantasy, but different enough to please those looking for something more than just another hack’n’slash quest. The Sharn source book details the setting’s biggest city, one filled with gigantic, skyscraper-like towers held together by magic and steel, and while having the source book is cool, what’s really drawing my ear is the Eberron soundtrack CD that’s sold with it. I’m always looking for more music to use in my gaming sessions, and I’d like to hear what sort of music WotC thinks complements Eberron.
Lords of Madness is a new D&D source book focusing on aberrations. It’s the latest in a line of specialty books that includes Draconomicon (a source book for dragons) and Liber Mortis (one for undead). I’ve really enjoyed the books in this line because they do more than spawn another hundred or so monsters. They talk about the life-cycle of the monsters, discuss tactics of used by both monsters and their foes, and introduce all manner of new feats and skills. This book looks to nicely meld the weird legacy of H.P Lovecraft with the mainstreamed fantasy of D&D, yielding all manner of horrors that I can torture my players with.
Since Chaosium never made good on their plans for Pulp Cthulhu (at least a version that supported d20) , it strikes me that d20 Past might be a good alternative. The new source book for d20 Modern introduces rules for playing in various historical periods from the 1800s through to World War II. The big question though, is “is it worth it?” It’s only 96 pages, which seems thin for a book like this, and I’m concerned that it will share d20 Future’s lack of depth. I may just wait for the content to make its way into the Modern SRD.