Tag Archives: Scifi

Warhammer Quest, Blackstone Fortress – Hero Quest in Space or More?

Blackstone Fortress is the latest adventure board game to come from Games Workshop set in the grim darkness of the 41st millennium, Warhammer 40K to most nerds. It is labelled as Warhammer Quest. For those you in your thirties this will take you back to the glory days of heroic ineptitude – the golden age of adventure. For everyone else, it’s the latest in the Warhammer Quest Series. Alongside Blackstone Fortress in the Warhammer Quest series are Silver Tower (currently discontinued) and Shadows of Hammerhal both of which are set in GW’s fantasy setting, Age of Sigmar. All of these games follow similar game styles and mechanics, so if you’ve played one you should be able to pick up the others with relative ease.

Blackstone Fortress promises exploration and adventure in the grim darkness of the 41st Millenium, a vast void of horror and terror.

It delivers.

With character choices ranging from outlawed Artificial Intelligence robot, rogue trader and Imperial Navigator to fanatic, Ratling snipers (who are twins) and alien hunters, there should be something for anyone who has an interest in grim and gritty science fiction.

A few of you older players out there who have not ventured in table top adventure games in some time may be thinking ‘is this just Hero Quest in the modern era of gaming?’ I think it’s a fair and realistic question. So is it just Hero Quest in space? Well yes, at least in concept.

The Goal

The whole point of Blackstone Fortress is to find your way into the Hidden Vault, deep inside the drifting hulk of the mysterious Blackstone Fortress. To do this, players need to discover clues during their expeditions. These clues will lead to special scenarios called Strongholds, which will eventually lead to the hidden vault. Even when a stronghold attack can be mounted, the players still need to get to them, with a 4 card expedition, purely of combat – more of this later. Getting to the hidden vault will take a lot of gaming hours, but I am certain that it will be a challenge and a worthy one at that!

In the game fluff, the Blackstone Fortress learns and adapts after each incursion of adventurers. Legacy cards add to the danger in this aspect, increasing the threat level for some monsters, such as the Spindle Drone. They up the ante during the expeditions. Once in play they stay and generally add flair and layers of danger to the expeditions. Once there are no more legacy cards in left in play, you’ve run out of time, and lose the game, no matter where you’re up to!

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The Precipice section of the board game, from Games Workshop’s Blackstone Fortress, with the character ships, two varieties of the Grav-lifts and the Leader token.

Let’s take a look at the goods first though…

Manufacturing Quality

The important bit to most gamers and war-gamers: are the miniatures any good? Yes. The miniatures are amazing and better still, they clip together – no glue required. You just need something to cut them from the plastic sprue. This took me a couple of hours whilst watching a series on Netflix so anyone with more experience may get it done in half that time.

The miniatures are constructed in such a way that they appear seamless, which took a bit of jigsaw magic to see how they fitted together – but as previously mentioned, no glue is required, so you can take your time. The same great GW quality of miniature manufacture is found throughout. I think my Kill Team just got bigger too – the models are in hot demand, check out ebay if you don’t believe me.

The game tiles are a really thick and good quality card. They pop out easily, which reduces tearing of the precious printed sides. They’re double sided but unlike Imperial Assault by Fantasy Flight, there’s not a million small pieces to get lost or confused with. The game counters are all pretty unique, with the majority of them being wound tokens (which are double sided for critical wounds). The rest are for game effects and inspiration points, which I’ll mention later on.

There are three rule-books.

Don’t despair.

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Five books from Games Workshop’s Blackstone Fortress. One is fluff, one of rules for Warhammer 40K and the other three are for game play.

Each one is written chronologically for each section of the game as you progress. They are written to the usual standard for GW, guiding you through in simple steps. The terminology may be a little different if you haven’t tried GW games before, so take your time. If you are familiar with any of the GW games, such as Warhammer 40K or Age of Sigmar, you’ll find the turn sequence and rounds familiar.

Once you have the turn sequence in your mind, it’s pretty straight forward from there. There is a bit of juggling with the game on the first play through, as you consult different books to figure out when you can heal or how to carry out certain actions. This is a minor point, however it does highlight the importance of reading through the rules before the gaming session!

Blackstone Fortress is split into two game sections by exploration cards; challenges and combats, which are drawn randomly from the Exploration card deck. The exploration deck is large, 36 cards, so it should always be a different combination. You randomly pick 4 challenge cards and 4 combat cards which make up the Exploration deck for the Expedition. When combined, these are like a campaign story arc. These are shuffled and placed on the Precipice board, which is like the character staging area.

There are 18 cards each for both challenges and combats (36 cards in total). By drawing 4 of each randomly, you’re looking at 1 in 18 chance of drawing the same cards each time you create the exploration deck. The chances of drawing the same 8 cards are something like a 1 in 105,000 chance, by my shoddy calculations. That’s a lot of gaming before statistically you get the same play-through.

Challenges

The challenges are narrative encounters which do not make use of models and board pieces. They are usually a way of grabbing gear and tech (treasure, clues to future explorations), usually by causing damage to assailants. They include short narrative pieces such as ‘Get them all!’ where the players are required to inflict as much damage as they can to a fleeing group of hostiles – anyone who can deal 4 or more wound gets to draw a card from the discovery deck. Simples.

On a balancing note, these may be to help characters build up with less risk than combats or offer special cards for future explorations.

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The Precipice section of the board game, from Games Workshop’s Blackstone Fortress, with two of the character ships, the Destiny dice, Exploration cards and Discovery cards.

Combat Setup

Combats involve board pieces and miniatures and are the biggest portion of the game. Each combat exploration card shows how the map tiles are set up so anyone can setup the board while others are chasing through the rules books or determine where the bad guys and monsters are placed. They also mark where certain mission specific specials may be placed.

Keeping track of the game during combat is achieved with the Initiative tracker. The players get the option to attempt to help each other by swapping places with allies or attempting to swap their place with the enemy to get the drop on them. This all happens in the Initiative phase, followed by the Gambit phase. The Gambit phase can be costly as an action dice has to be spent, followed by an ability roll to determine success. These mechanics help to really bring the tension to the game, forcing the players to plan ahead. The players feel the pressure when the cards are redrawn each round, as their plans will likely need to change.

Hostiles and bad guys are drawn from the Encounter cards deck and placed in the starting positions according to the combat exploration card, which are given a specific place on the board and the tracker. The number of hostiles on a card are determined by where on the tracker they are, for example, you may get 2 drones on position 1, or 4 on position 2. Hostiles gain reinforcements each turn and are spawned on their turn in the Initiative track with a roll of a 20 sided dice, called the Blackstone Dice (which is black and looks like a stone if you’re not familiar with 20 sided dice). This adds threat, because even if all the bad guys are dead, they can keep re-spawning as happened with our test games!

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The Traitor Guardsmen for Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress by Games Workshop

Hostiles in the game are given over to an AI system, where they react depending on a dice roll. It is not completely random, as each action they are given depends on a set few variables which allows them to act organically. Each set of rules for the monsters appears on very handy cards, giving you everything you need to know in a single place. So much easier than consulting multiple books!

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The Traitor Guardsmen for Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress by Games Workshop. The reverse side shows how the AI results on a dice roll.

Hostiles are terrifying in their own specific ways; if they’re not ripping you to ribbons with frenzied claw attacks they’re punching through your armour and ignoring your save rolls with shocking power! Case in point, UR-025 (or Mr Robot man to you and I) is a heavy duty fighter, with a better chance of rolling saves against wounds, with an added re-roll too – then he gets hit by a Negavolt Cultist and suddenly he has no armour saves. Surprises await those unprepared!

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Game tiles for Games Workshops Blackstone Fortress. Double sided and durable for all your grim and gritty science fiction adventures in the hopeless voids of Warhammer 40K!

Characters in the Game

At the start of each combat round Characters are allocated action dice, regular six sided dice. The dice are stored on their character card with whatever score they rolled. These dice are used / spent on actions which require a set number on one or more of those dice. Moving require a dice with a score of 1 or more, other actions may require 4 or more on a dice etc. There are standard actions and character specific actions, which are found on the character cards, usually weapon actions.

Explore with caution. When you are wounded the dice you roll at the start of each round are blocked, covered by wound markers, meaning the potential number of actions you can make are severely impaired! Fear not however, each round an extra pool of destiny dice are rolled which any one can use – but the power of the warp means that any duplicate scores on these dice are removed, so you better roll fresh to get the most out of destiny! A lot of dice multiples came up during our game, causing tension and nail biting in equal measure.

A second type of dice rolls are attribute dice which are used to evade damage, carry out special tasks and try to recover wounds. There are wounds and then there are critical wounds – wounds can be recovered during the combat part of the game, whereas critical wounds require a trip back to your ship to try and heal. As with Warhammer Quest back in the golden age, however, there’s always a chance something may not heal fully…

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The Kroot Tracker for Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress by Games Workshop

The dice rolls are easy to interpret: you either fail, succeed or critically succeed. Each of the ability dice (6, 8 and 12 sided dice) are colour coded to match the information on the character sheets. These dice rolls are not always friendly, you can feel like the end of times can result from a failed roll. On the plus side, there’s very few calculations as in some GW games – just check to see how many symbols you rolled and away you go. GW have followed Fantasy Flight in this – so don’t lose those dice! Otherwise you could end up paying for more specialist dice in the future…

Toward the end of the combat sections, characters need to escape by summoning the escape lift, usually under duress. There’s no way out otherwise! When the remaining characters get to the escape lift, they have to decide to carry on fighting the growing horde, or to head back to their ships to lick their wounds. Heading back restarts the exploration so if you really need to finish you’re gonna find it hard to do!

When a character kills a number of monsters on their turn, they can roll the Blackstone Dice to see if they gain Inspiration points, where they are required to roll under the wounds they caused on a 20-sided dice. Inspiration points are used to re-roll some dice throughout the game, usually the activation dice at the start of the round, or give flip your character card over to increase their effectiveness. A bit like leveling up!

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The ‘Inspired’ Kroot Tracker for Warhammer Quest: Blackstone Fortress by Games Workshop

At the end of each round of the game, in combat or otherwise, a leadership token passes around the table, allowing each player to call the shots in equal measure (with a discussion, of course).

First Impressions & Thoughts

In a single evening gaming session, including learning how to play the game, we managed to get through 1 challenge and 2 combats. Assuming we don’t have to relearn the game, we could probably manage drawing 4 of the Exploration cards, which equates to half an Expedition. At this rate, in theory, we could spend hundreds of hours playing this game. So unlike Hero Quest, there is a seemingly limitless combination of events from challenges, combats and encounter (monster) cards. There’s probably scope for fan made or self made encounters too, let’s watch the internet pensively for these.

The game has a very nostalgic feel to it, similar to previous board games from GW decades ago. The hostile creatures are just as deadly as you’d expect, in their own ways. Players without prior knowledge will make mistakes which make the game intense and ups the challenge rating greatly. In this way, very much like Hero Quest!

The open form and random generation of each Expedition is a similar mechanic used by other games and it works just as well in Blackstone Fortress. It will take some serious play testing to get through all of the different combinations. In our initial play-through we had four players and one person acting as the games master. We felt this worked best for our first game so we could focus on the different parts of the game – just like in Hero Quest! You can play this game solo or without a games master, as the monsters follow an AI system, meaning all you need to do is move the pieces around and roll the dice.

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Dice, lots of six-sided dice, with the special ability dice, from 6, 8 & 12-sided dice. The 20-sided dice is the Blackstone dice…

What we did wrong…

We went wrong in some parts, missing the exploration round which would have made the combat a little easier if we had rolled on the event table. Although, the table isn’t all good – sometimes it can go horribly wrong… So it’s not all bad!

Why did we miss this section? It’s right at the end of the combat book, and there’s a lot in some sections. As we frenziedly played through the rounds we completely missed it! No one said nerds were thorough. So be sure to have all books to hand and refer to them often.

Value Ratio

It is a thorough and playable game. It has the same high quality of most Games Workshop products, but you will pay through the nose for it if you don’t shop around. I was lucky, I found an ebay seller with about 20% off the RRP, I then applied a free 10% discount from ebay to get it even cheaper.

If bought from a third party retailer the price becomes a little more affordable for a game of this type. The miniatures are worth a heavy bit of gold. The card tiles are sturdy. Even the box is sturdy (I mean, it has to be, it’s a heavy one). You get all the dice you need.

Edit: This may look like a silly thing to say, but £95 is a hefty price tag for any board game. Shop around, GW will get their money, so it helps smaller businesses if you go through them!

Since this is a complete game (£95.00), there’s no expansions as far as we know, and given the replay ability of expeditions is very high, it is feasible to play over a hundred games. Maybe even twice that. So you’re looking at about £0.5 – £1 per game. Let’s be conservative and say each full expedition takes 4 hours. You’re looking at £0.25 to £0.50 per hour of play. That’s really good money for a game that should be different each time. You’re snacks will cost you more to eat!

In Conclusion

The Feels – a dark, desperate setting with mechanics that fit those feelings. Thrilling, because when you do score a critical roll it feels like the cosmos is backing you up – any other time it’s trying to eat you!

No silly measuring distances, just count the hexes. Can you draw a straight line from the centre of a hex to the hex your target is standing in? Then you have line of sight, roll your dice. It’s that easy.

Edit: Downsides include what some players have described as ‘chaff’ play. This means that a few players think the amount of combats that are required to complete the game can get a bit samey. GW, do we need to go through quite so much to complete the game? On a personal level, I think it’s important to understand that the fighting during the combat sections are not about clearing the board – it is about surviving the battle and gathering the clues before time runs out. Perhaps GW could do with giving us more information on the bigger picture of the game earlier on.

So is it like Hero Quest? Yeah I think it is, it certainly has that heroic quality to it, and I’m sure it will one day be one of those nostalgic games we all reminisce about.

If you’ve got any questions or thoughts, we’d love to hear them! you can find us on our discord server.

You can get a few more articles by us on other Games Workshop products here or here.

Enjoy!

 

*Edited 24/12/18 to reflect some feedback from our gaming group and affiliates.

 

3 Asymmetric Board Games That Will Make You Hate Your Friends.

War Of The Ring.

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The board of this game is so big that audible gasps come from anyone who sees it emerge from the box. Expect more gasps as you shovel out the hundreds of cards and components. The amazement quickly tails off into some form of shock as you and your compadre realise that you have no idea how to play this game and won’t understand how to play this game for the next few hours.

I’m the kind of person that loves complex games. I see them as a challenge, a mountain to be climbed. I find that the more complex the game is, the more time I’m willing to spend getting to grips with it. It’s a value proposition as well as a preference.

Well, War Of The Ring provides complexity in spades. Of the five or so (3+ hour long) games I’ve played of this, the first two were basically write-offs as one player made some serious mistake that crippled their chances for the rest of the game, it’s not really the game’s fault, just the nature of playing something with so many (metaphorical) moving parts.

The story is as old as time at this point. One player takes on the role of Sauron and his limitless hordes while the other picks up the tattered banners of the free peoples, attempting to give Frodo and the boys time to trek half way across the world to chuck the infernal jewellery into the volcano and save the world.

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What this translates to is the Sauron player grinning with glee as his orcs pop up every turn and constantly flow over the board towards the scant strongholds of elves and men. As the good player, you find yourself glaring out from just above your excessive hand of action cards as you frantically try to juggle all the different mechanics (diplomacy, moving the fellowship, separating your heroes, recruiting troops and many, many more) to try and get any edge you can against the forces of evil.

As the good player, you’ll lose a lot until you get the hang of managing everything, and at the end of every game, the Sauron player will look at you with some small pity in their eyes and ask “Do you want to play evil next game?” and you will sit up straight, puff your chest out and defiantly say “Hell no. Set up the board again, damn it.”

I think that is all that needs to be said.

Escape From Colditz.

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In every gaming group, you will find one person who just loves being the authoritarian. Whether they always DM your games of D&D, play The Emperor in Dune every time or cackle with glee and search your pack without fail in Sheriff Of Nottingham.

This game is tailor made for these people, as one player actually plays as a group of dastardly Nazis hell bent on keeping the noble allied soldiers locked up tight inside Colditz Castle. The others play different nationalities of POW, all trying to evade the guards and escape from their prison.

This is sort of a worker placement game with movement, item collection and capturing mechanics. The German player gets a ton of pawns to patrol the gorgeously designed map of the castle grounds. There are rules that determine in which places the POWs pawns can be seen to be escaping, captured and sent to the “cooler”, to have the items they have collected taken off them and spat out into the central courtyard, to try and try again.

The items are used in specific places to cut through wire fences, descend towers through windows and aid you on the way to Switzerland when you make good your escape. This portion of the game is quite amazing, and you really do see your plan unfold as you evade and befuddle the German player and the game inevitably always ends in a madcap chase, as the German sends all his guards after you as you make your mad dash to one of the few escape points at the edge of the map.

One strange downside is that if you’re playing with more than two people, the POWs can’t work together (explained in the game as that they all speak different languages. A bit lame if you ask me.) So you sort of become a bit competitive about who’s going to try their plan next, but instead of ruining the feel, it just makes things funnier, as one player’s escape plan failing could provide you just the opportunity you need to see yours succeed.

This game always ends with one player swearing angrily at another.

Space Hulk.

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We’re ending on a light note here as Space Hulk. While doling out heaps of punishment upon the loser, it is at least set against a backdrop of Grim Darkness. Nobody is the hero in the Warhammer 40k universe, so you can both laugh heartily as the horrible alien devourers rip your authoritarian Imperial oppressors to pieces.

So yes, one side will play the noble Terminators, who are attempting to secure sites of strategic importance aboard the moon-sized accumulations of ancient spaceships that float eerily throughout space. Apparently, these Space Hulks are always infested with ravenous horrors from another galaxy as the other player plays the hordes of Genestealers, whose objectives, while ephemeral, seem to revolve around trying to hug the Terminators to death.

This is another boardgame where you really get what you pay for. The massive box opens up and the thick cardboard tiles of the modular board almost jump out at you the box is so full. You get proper 40k models as well, including exclusive sculpts of the Blood Angel Terminators, Genestealers and the massive Broodlord.

When laboriously setting up one of the many scenarios in the thick book, you will be surprised at how long it takes and how big the boards get as you place tile after tile in an expanding maze of tunnels and corridors.

You will silently hope that you have all the right pieces for the map. But after the anxiety and half the night pass by, you can finally get to playing. You take your gun-toting superhumans and set them plodding along the ship’s decks, while the genestealer player places “blips”, counters representing an unknown number of aliens, at the edges of the board, usually inbetween the imperial player and their objective.

I do have some misgivings about this game, while the value proposition is good; I mean this box is packed full of gorgeousness, every game can sort of end up the same, with your terminators trapped in a room, hoping the other player runs out of genestealers before you succumb to their rending claws.

At the end you will both be exhausted and the winning player will shrug, smile and ask for another game. The other will then wipe the stress-sweat from their brow and politely decline.

Competitive Actions & combat, how we see it rolling out for CC’s Pulp RPG

So, you’re rolling dice pools to hack your way through door locking systems or swinging through trees on ropes to escape cannibalistic war-bands. You come to a stop, realising that you’re surrounded on four sides and it’s time for you and your friends to face the enemy in an extreme gun fight…

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How does it work?

Pulp RPG is about normal people in extraordinary situations, fighting to survive or rid the world of evil! But there’s danger in the hills and the forests are alive with terrors. You’ll hope you want to go first!

Today we’re going to look at combat, focusing on competitive rolling and the initiative sequence.

Initiative works differently from what most players may be used to; the players party and the games master each select a character from their sides of the combat. That character / non-player will then choose which attribute they want to base their initiative roll on. This is important because the character that wins the initiative roll will only be able to commit to a skill of that attribute.

We think it works because seizing the initiative is not always about how fast a person can move, like in some dexterity / celerity initiative systems. It could be as simple as pulling a trigger, outwitting an opponent or just being damn lucky. Since all starting characters will have a single attribute at 4 dice, it means that no one will be selected repeatedly for their high dice pool – it will come down to what action they wish to take.

When the winner of initiative is determined, the winning player goes first. After this point, the initiative is handed back and forth between each side of the combat until the last character or non-player has taken their turn.

It’s a little less natural but it allows for a little bit of planning without spending precious minutes deciding what combo of abilities the party wants to use, and since the roll is performed each round, it essentially stops initiative being one sided.

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How do we roll competitively?

It’s as simple of rolling your dice pool and counting the successes compared to that of your opponent. Using your physical attribute with your close combat skills? Simply declare your action, roll your dice pool and compare the results to that of the opponent’s dice pool. If the result is an equal number of successes then the combat is a stalemate, if you beat their number of successes you score the hit, maybe with added bonuses.

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OK, lets bloody some noses!

Damage will vary depending on what your weapon of choice is. Currently every weapon in the game will come as a standard unit with applied tags. Tags can add to the damage of the weapon depending on the target, add bonuses to abilities and provide role-play opportunities. A great example is the whip, in the hands of our protagonist, Tom Raider Jones:

Whip – Hand Weapon (tags: prehensile, slashing).

Not great against a single Nazi zombie:

Creature – Humanoid (tags: zombie, military training, well equipped, Will of the Fuhrer, Inexorable.)

That about sums up our little sojourn into the combat of Pulp RPG, tomorrow we’ll be looking at a couple of things from the games master point of view, looking at the categories and tags of players and monsters, with a little more depth to the weapon tags and damage in Pulp RPG.

J.D Ferris

CC’s Free Pulp RPG core pulls together

Like the Blob our plans are coming together and no amount of pump-action shells or nitrogen based coolants are slowing it down, so don’t even try!

This week we have been working hard to bring you the core mechanics of the Pulp RPG. As we draw nearer to the completion of the core rules we’re happy to report that our minds are already racing towards the modules, which will bring the game to life.

Our promised “Chasing Zombie Hitler Through Panama In 1948” module will be the focus of our designing endeavors over the next few weeks, but first we’re going to give you a sneak peak into the core mechanics of the game.

The core mechanics will act as the skeleton crew, with adventure modules fleshing out the rest of the mechanics to round off the game. This helps us design a game which is different for the various eras of adventures we’re bringing to you, yet making a switch from one game to another effortless for the players and GM alike.

Our eras will cover all sorts of pulp titles, ranging from a million years BC, the sword & sorcery age, through to modern times and beyond, into the land of martians, creature-features and all the best that the silver screen ever brought to us.

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So, our alpha stage system, what’s it like?

We’re using the iconic six sided dice.

Why?

Because just about anyone who has looked at a board game in their life knows what we’re talking about. Chances are they have spare ones and we like that you don’t need to go out and spend some cash on getting fancy dice (well, unless you want to).

No need to add up those dice or handle too much mathematics!

Players will create pools of six-sided dice (D6) based on one of four attributes; physical, intellect, charm and luck. Characters will also add dice for having relevant skills, or no skill dice at all!

The GM sets the difficulty of the task the character is trying to perform as a number to get on one or more dice. Success is measured on how many of those dice score equal to or more than the difficulty. Here’s an example:

Tom raider Jones is leaping to roll under a falling stone door. He is quite athletic with 4 dice in his physical attribute. The games master (GM) say’s the rock door is falling fast but the gap is quite wide still, Jones will need to roll 4 or better on any of his dice.

Jones jumps – the player rolls his 4D6 and scores: 2, 3, 4 & 4. Jones makes the jump, rolling two successes on his dice (the 4s). With each success dice, the positive effect is amplified, the opposite is done for rolling 1s!

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That’s about all we’re willing to share for today, but over the next few days we’ll be posting about character creation, competitive rolling, initiative and combat, along with some snippets from our first adventure module.

We’ll keep you posted, but check back for more exciting action from CC’s Pulp RPG!

Our brand new free RPG is born! CC’s Pulp

Have you ever wanted to be a mobster in the prohibition era, or fight martians attacking earth in the silver screen years of the 50s?

Well CC’s Pulp RPG aims to bring that to the table.

All you need are pencils & paper, the free copy of our rules and several six sided dice to start failing rolls and cursing the fickle gods of fate right away; whether you’re cracking the whip as Tom Raider Jones, chasing Zombie Hitler through panama in 1948, or drawing your peacemaker at high noon, then we’ve got you covered.

With the expansion and module model that we’ve developed, you can play through the exciting story of Tom Raider Jones in our curated adventure pack, or use his 1930s pre-war setting to raid your own tombs and shoot your own Nazis!

Whether you’re new to role-playing games or are veteran players, our years of world building experience, combined with our love of rolling dice will ensure you have some amazing sessions with CC’s Pulp RPG.

Keep your eyes peeled for the first version of the rules which will be available soon, for free, along with our first adventure pack “Chasing Zombie Hitler Through Panama In 1948.”

J.D. Ferris & J.A.Steadman,

Co-founders

CC’s Free Pulp RPG core pulls together

NaNoWriMo Prep: Worldbuilding For Fun And Profit!

You sit there, with your word document open, staring at you, judging you, as the ideas coil and constrict your creativity like a vice. If only you could just begin. If only you could just form those first few sentences then the rest would flow and your one hundred and twenty thousand word magnum opus would be finished in months and the publishers would be beating your door down.

Or maybe you’ve started a thousand stories but they’ve all fizzled out after a thousand words and your frustration, nay exhaustion, knows no bounds.

Well I’m here to make the case for worldbuilding as a way to not just propel your writing to greater things, but to add a sense of achievement to what you do. Remember, as long as you are putting pen to paper, or bit to chip, you’re writing.

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There are many people who say you shouldn’t get stuck into the cycle of worldbuilding. Just as writers will tell you that you shouldn’t take so many notes or continuously do research as a form of procrastination, and it’s true that you will get nowhere if you don’t put real work into the craft of writing. It is also true, however, that the only way to become a success in writing (whatever that means) is to be true to your own uniqueness and allow others to see it; to buy into what sets you apart. I believe that worldbuilding is a cathartic and interesting way to find this in yourself.

After that long and rambling justification, we finally get to the salient point: what exactly is worldbuilding? I for one see it as the process of contextualising the infinite, grounding the ineffable and all in all building scaffolding around the characters, places and worlds that you will write about.

Where to start? Well, like everything else, it depends. You need to know your story first, even if it’s only in the planning stages. Know all the little quirks and concepts you want before launching in. As an example, let’s use the world I’ve been working on recently – Furlands (working title). The concept is that this is an entirely mundane middle-ages setting with an European flavour, with all that it entails: castles, swords, chivalry and a sense of gritty adventure.

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What sets it apart is that all the characters are rodents, or creatures of that ilk, think Redwall meets game of thrones. It sounds reductive but the whole world stemmed From this idea  and honestly half the work is done for you; the rest is maps, names and intertwining little events that give that context and flavour to the background of your stories, be they a swashbuckling adventure on airships or a tale of tomb-robbing alien god-kin.

I’ll no doubt get more into worldbuilding in a future article, but I believe it’s a good place to start as we begin the run up to NaNoWriMo.

Take care and keep writing!

J.A.Steadman.