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Massive AICN Tabletop Article This Week! Abstruse Reviews SHADOWRUN: STORM FRONT! An Interview With Joanna And Rob Of STANDARD ACTION! And Tons More!

A baby shower, four game nights, an interview, a bad cold, three days of day job overtime, a wedding anniversary, and a minor back injury. That’s what Nordling and I have collectively gone through that ended up delaying last week’s Tabletop article to the point we decided it’d just be best to roll them together. Because of its length, I’m calling this the EPIC LEVEL AICN TABLETOP!! How is it epic? To start, we have an interview with the faces behind (and one in front of) the RPG-inspired fantasy webseries STANDARD ACTION. Following, we have my first full review of a product for AICN Tabletop, Shadowrun’s edition-ending sourcebook STORM FRONT. And then we have a double-sized helping of all the tabletop gaming news you’ve come to expect over the past month. We’ve got a lot to get through, so let’s get started with STANDARD ACTION.

You may remember me talking about the Kickstarter for a webseries called STANDARD ACTION. If you missed it, STANDARD ACTION is basically a live-action serial version of pretty much every D&D game I’ve ever played. The characters are engaging, the writing is sharp, and the show just looks fucking amazing for the budget. I highly recommend watching at least the first season on YouTube.

This past weekend, I got to chat with Joanna Gaskell (head writer and actress playing Edda, the elf barbarian) and Rob Hunt (writer and director). This was originally supposed to be an audio interview, but I made the mistake of scheduling it on my game night. And we play in a coffee shop. So between the douchebag on the acoustic guitar, the people shouting while playing Magic: The Gathering, and everyone in the place having three devices sucking up all the bandwidth; we ended up having to go text-only.

Joanna: There we go.

Rob: Hey.

Abstruse: There we go...we have conquered technology! Sort of anyway.

Rob: Science!

Abstruse: Congratulations of reaching your fourth stretch goal in your Kickstarter.

Joanna: Thanks! Onward and upward.

Rob: To Victory!

Abstruse: The show's absolutely brilliant. What were the origins of Standard Action?

Joanna: Thank you! The idea of Standard Action came from D&D, for sure. Specifically 3.5 at the time. I was playing a lot of that. 4th Edition came out, and I noticed that they left four of the more... challenging... characters out of the player's handbook, specifically the Druid, the Bard, the Barbarian and the Sorcerer. So I wrote the characters to be the people who were left out of the party. Left behind, marginalized... like nerds, really. We never really expected to film the scripts, they were too hard to do, with fantasy costumes needed, etc.

Abstruse: Fantasy is a notoriously expensive genre to film.

Joanna: No kidding, right? But then we met Edwin through one of Rob's film projects - The Directors Project - and he was a costume designer! So that pretty much tipped the scales. He also ended up playing Fernando the Bard. We were very lucky to meet a talented actor who could get our costuming rolling on a small budget as well. He did a lot of our first season's costumes, and then we brought Vanessa Driveness on to pick up the rest, and she took over the designs for Season 2.

Abstruse: The costumes are great. All the production values are, actually. Your show looks better than a lot of the fantasy films and broadcast TV shows over the years.

Joanna: Thank you! A lot of that comes from the very careful shooting as well. Rob's great at the very narrow depth of field required to make the actors pop while getting that fantasy backdrop of misty trees, etc.

Rob: I can disassemble my cameras blindfolded in the rain.

Abstruse: For some reason, I'm now picturing Rob going "This is my camera. There are many like it but this one is mine."

Rob: I make our new camera people say it.

Abstruse: How do you find all those locations? I know being in Vancouver has to help.

Rob: I discovered this dog walking park behind my makeup artist friend’s house.  We shot in and about it for most of first season.  We occasionally had to stop shooting to let dog walkers pass by.

Joanna: It's funny, we actually have very few locations. The treed areas in first and second season are very small areas we shoot the crap out of, and a lot of the interiors are the same place, redecorated. For example, the hunter's cabin/stables of first season are Edwin's parents' garage, and the hobgoblin dungeon is a poolshed. We have a very good Art Director - Carla Miller. Being in Vancouver isn't very helpful for locations, really. Everyone thinks of this as a film town, so every interior location out there that looks remotely like something we'd want to use is ridiculously expensive. These places know what the pros pay, and that's what they expect. We just can't afford that.

Abstruse: Everyone does an amazing job. The first thing that impressed me about the show was the look. And the writing. And the acting. And the editing. And the special effects...

Joanna: Thank you very much! One of the rules we've always run with is to recruit good people, and give them creative freedom. When your people feel like they truly have the ownership to take a character or a costume or a prop where they want to take it, you end up with great stuff. A great example of that was Ikosa in Seaosn 2 - that design was purely the brainchild of Ashley (our makeup/hairstylist) and Vanessa (costume design).

Abstruse: How did you two meet? Did you game together?

Rob: I was going to a play that a friend from my D&D group was in. I procrastinated and went on the last night. So she got me invited to the cast party, where I met Joanna, who was in the play. Joanna’s costume was a potato sack

Joanna: True. We've been dating for about seven years. And yes, we game a lot together! My first D&D character was a Dwarf Ranger named Astrid, hence Astrid the Ranger in Season 1.

Rob: I got her in to WoW and D&D.

Abstruse: You can tell from the show, there's a lot of in-jokes that only people who play a lot would get.

Joanna: We try to balance that out. There are certainly in-jokes that only gamers would get, but we try to keep it pretty accessible to non-gamers as well.

Abstruse: So you two game. Do most of the cast and crew?

Joanna: Some of them do – Edwin [Fernando the Bard], Carla [Production Designer], Jennifer our camerawoman, Ishnu our Sound/Lighting guy... but not all of them by any means. We're getting Ashley (makeup) into it. I keep trying to get Tara [Wendy the Sorceress] into gaming, but I haven't managed to sit her down yet. I think a few of them are still intimidated by gaming, which is still a hurdle to get over with a lot of people! I don't know if gamers realize that. We just don't think about it, because we love it so much. And tabletop RPGs have this stigma of being complicated, because of the big books and the numbers.

Rob: especially if they walk in on you describing in great detail how you intend to get information out of this villain.

Abstruse: I had to explain to the cops once what Shadowrun was when people overheard us in a restaurant thinking we were terrorists.

Joanna: Really?! Awesome.

Abstruse: Awesome story, scary as hell when it was happening.

Joanna: I'll bet. When we were filming in the woods with one of our kobold puppets, we were accused of demon worship by a passing elderly Romanian man. We took it as proof that our kobold puppets look fantastic.

Rob: That was one off the bucket list.

Abstruse: Did you get that on film? Might've worked if the group went to Ravenloft in the future.

Joanna: (laughs)

Rob: Dude, I should have, I had the camera in my hand.

Abstruse: Do you guys do a lot of improv on set? Since RPGs are pretty much group improv with dice.

Joanna: Some, but not a huge amount. Everything is scripted, but once we get a couple good takes, often we go a little off the rails. Edwin is good for that. But we are very flexible on set, so if lines need to change, or locations, or props... we're not afraid to do that. I'm not attached to my writing, for the most part.

Abstruse: Always good to be ready to wing it when shooting on a budget.

Joanna: Absolutely.

Abstruse: I got completely sidetracked. I was going to ask what it's like on set with a show so set in the gaming world with people who aren't a part of it.

Joanna: Well, our show is built to be for anyone who's ever been a fan of any nerdy fandom. Everyone on our set has something they love, so they understand that mentality. Plus, indy filmmakers are all a bit nerdy, really, because they have to be incredibly dedicated to something. Tara's a huge Trekkie, Vanessa's [producer/Veronica LeGrange] a Browncoat, Ashley’s [Hair/Make-up] mad about cosplay and anime... And they wouldn't be out there with us if they didn't love fantasy, and telling fantastical stories

Rob: Nerds of all shapes and sizes and genres

Joanna: And ages! We have a big kid audience, too. 

Abstruse: Of course. I mean who doesn't like kobold puppets?

Joanna: Even if sometimes they don't know exactly what they are, they still love them.

Abstruse: Or druids wearing Converse in the middle of the woods.

Joanna: Ha! Love it.

Abstruse: Was that intentional to represent his being out of place in nature despite being a Druid, or was it just an accident I'm reading too much into?

Joanna: It was certainly intentional. Martin was always built to be the emo hipster. And nothing says emo hipster to me like converses. Plus, the fact that we built Standard Action to exist in a game world, not a true fantasy or period-specific world, meant we could do things like that. I love that choice. Edwin and I came up with that way back. It's the same way we can talk about things that aren't period-specific - like jazz, or calling a fighter a "tank", or introducing French mimes. Since we're in a game world, we have a lot of really huge creative freedom.

Abstruse: I forgot about the mime...

Rob: They're sneaky, mimes...

Joanna: Everyone's scared of mimes.

Abstruse: The show really does feel like it's the in-world view of the sort of games my group always plays.

Joanna: That's exactly what it should be.

Abstruse: I named a deity in one game Zod solely so my roommate's Avenger could shout out "KNEEL BEFORE ZOD!!" But all that silliness goes out the window when the plot shows up and even though there's still humor, the story itself is treated seriously.

Joanna: Yes, I wanted to keep that balance in Standard Action. We still care about what happens to the characters, and the stakes are high, even through the silliness.

Abstruse: Why did you decide to go with Kickstarter to fund the third season?

Joanna: Well, we did crowdfund for our second season, we just used IndieGoGo, which is another crowdfunding platform. We did it to give ourselves a bit of a head start on funding for the season, and it worked out pretty well - we probably funded about half of Season 2 with our IndieGoGo campaign. For Season 3, we decided to aim a little higher, and try to earn a bit more with the Kickstarter campaign. We're running out of personal funds, which is how we've funded a lot of Standard Action in the past, so we decided to be a bit more honest when it came to how much everything cost. Kickstarter has a lot more visibility that IndieGoGo, and we teamed up with an American company, which allowed us to use it. Kickstarter is just for Americans. And Brits.

Abstruse: That's no fair. I mean you guys have the Queen on your money, you should be allowed if the UK is.

Rob: We know a lot of people trying to get funding the traditional route and there's more and more of them every year and it seems like there's less money to go around.

Joanna: Yeah, the Canadian government isn't offering much in terms of grants, either. Crowdfunding also allows you to hear directly from the fans, and not have to answer to an investor who demands their money back after the project is over. Since webseries aren't really monetized yet, we wouldn't really be able to deliver on that.

Abstruse: And you can blackmail the fans by **SPOILER ALERT** leaving Season 2 a cliffhanger. Grrrr...

Joanna: Yeah... we figured people would be growly about that one! Season 2 was always built to be the second chapter of a three-part story. When I was writing it I treated it a lot like Empire in the original Star Wars. Nothing ties up at the end. There's more to come.

Abstruse: Evil. Like Joss Whedon level evil. Actually, more Stephen Moffat level. You haven't killed anyone off yet.

Rob: and maybe the winner of the choose your champion contest gets to die! Just kidding.... or am I?

Abstruse: Evil. Evil evil evil.

Joanna: (laughs)

Rob: (devil)

Abstruse: I've probably taken up enough of your time. I've got one more question for you both, though. What games are you currently playing?

Joanna: We've got a Monday night Pathfinder group - currently playing the Kingmaker adventure path. I'm playing some Guildwars 2, and once in a while a bit of League of Legends, and on the X-Box I'm playing Skyrim. :) We also do a board game review show called Starlit Citadel Reviews, so we play a LOT of board games - at the moment my newest favourites are Eclipse and Survive... and I'm always partial to Game of Thrones: the Board Game.

Abstruse: I love that game, but it's a bit hard to keep saying "Winter is coming" when you're in Texas and it's May.

SHADOWRUN: STORM FRONT

Shadowrun is a line that’s been plagued by problems the past several years. First FASA closes, then FanPro runs into major financial problems just after launching 4th Edition (and they were doing fine with 3rd), then CGL takes a couple of years to catch up and gets hit by a major revolt by their freelance writers (not getting paid for over a year will tend to cause them to do that). And while I like the 4th Edition ruleset for Shadowrun, I’ve been playing mostly 3rd Edition because the metaplot for 4th Edition always felt meh to me. There pretty much wasn’t one for the first half of the edition thanks to the various reprint problems pushing non-rules material to the back burner, and the second half I was less than impressed to put it mildly. The past year for Shadowrun source material has been hit or miss. Pretty good hit on LAND OF PROMISE, the mini-sourcebook on Tir Tairngire; but a huge miss on SHADOWRUN 2050. So I walked into STORM FRONT, the final sourcebook of the 4th Edition of Shadowrun, with more than a little trepidation. I’m glad I gave them the benefit of the doubt, because this sourcebook puts Shadowrun right back where it belongs.

STORM FRONT is an event sourcebook detailing all the major events of 2074 and early 2075, cleaning up the loose ends from many of the major 4th Edition plots and planting seeds for ones to be explored in 5th Edition. It does so in typical but expected fashion, by ending plot threads that have been going on too long in such a way that leaves plenty of plot seeds for GMs to take advantage of. What makes this book so good is the style.

The thing I’ve always loved most about Shadowrun are the sourcebooks. They’re written as in-world posts on a message board with comments by characters in the setting. An article goes up about biotechnology, Smiling Bandit is going to pop up and give his two cents. It makes the world feel more alive as it’s being told by unreliable narrators. Who’s to say that someone’s not lying or misinformed? It makes for a great game tool to keep players who’ve read all the books in line while also being an amazing storytelling device. To this day, I’ll still pull down my old sourcebooks and read them like I would a beloved novel.

This sort of writing has been lacking in Shadowrun. With the focus on crunchy rules, many of the sourcebooks are filled with tables of numbers rather than giving you a view on the world. Most of the metaplot has been told through adventures (both normal published adventures and through Missions, the Shadowrun organized play system). Even when books did have shadowtalk in them, it felt flat as the characters were just ways of throwing more exposition onto whatever the topic is rather than being real characters with personalities.

STORM FRONT brings that back in the best way. There’s a bit of a rocky start in the first chapter, which covers the Aztlan/Amazonia war as those events are all commented on in hindsight several months after the events happen. The rest of the chapters, though, are presented as chronological events – snapshots from the Jackpoint node showing an article that was posted and the comments it generated at that time. This gives you a great feeling of actually being there and is something Shadowrun’s been sorely missing. And while the writing’s not up to Nigel Findley or Tom Dowd levels, it’s far better than most of what CGL’s been producing since it’s taken over the line with far more attention paid to the small details that annoy some of the more hardcore fans *cough*.

As for the plots themselves, they’re predictable. The Aztlan/Amazonia War, Dragon Civil War, Seattle Prop 23 elections, and the political career of Gov. Blackhaven ended pretty much exactly how everyone expected them to. Mostly the same happened with Ghostwalker’s rule of Denver, but with a few twists thrown in that mostly don’t make a lot of sense. And that brings us to the only real flaws this book has (aside from some typos that made it through editing). Nothing really groundbreaking or unexpected happened. At least during the “wrap up old plots” sections. If you knew the plot, you knew what would happen. And the few twists that were thrown in seem completely out of place, like what a certain character is doing in Denver for no discernible reason picking a fight he has absolutely no reason to start (unless I missed something major). Another major flaw is the reliance on you knowing the current metaplot. If you’ve played Shadowrun, you can figure out most of what’s going on even if you’ve been away for a while. But in a few cases, like Prop 23, you’ll have no clue what’s going on because they never actually tell you what Prop 23 is for at least half the chapter covering it. I’ll save you some time Googling: It’s a vote on whether to allow the Ork Underground to become a legal and legitimate district of Seattle.

But when the writers are on the ball, boy do they get it right. The Tir Tairngire section of the book does a lot (when combined with the LAND OF PROMISE mini-sourcebook) to fix the abhorrent treatment that storyline has suffered. They managed to make Tir Tairngire interesting again and put it back in the game, though now without the pesky Immortal Elves. On top of that, the last few chapters of the book blew me away with some of the twists the plot takes. I know it feels weird giving a spoiler warning on a sourcebook for a roleplaying game, but Shadowrun’s always been as much about the metaplot as the rules so…

SPOILER ALERT: The new plotline fixes something that’s been seriously bothering me in 4th Edition, the existence of AIs and e-ghosts. AIs make a perfect sense in the setting for the most part, but e-ghosts never really have. They’re impressions of people who were trapped in the Matrix during Crash 2.0, their minds being downloaded onto the Matrix itself. It’s always been very weak to me, not meshing well with the established rules of how the Matrix works. On top of that, there wasn’t much to explore. It was like a rule that was created just for people who min/max hackers *cough* to give them an extra edge. The new plot twist set up for 5th Edition is that some sort of Matrix entities are using nanoware (including the type used to implant normal cyberware/bioware) and nanomanufacturing to interact with the real world. Up to and including TAKING OVER THE BODIES OF PEOPLE WITH CYBERWARE!! Not only is this a fucking amazing plot twist to throw in that has shades of Universal Brotherhood in tone, but it makes the Matrix intelligences useful in the plot. Not only that, but it adds a new cost to cybernetic modifications. Do you really want to take the chance that your street samurai or decker (yes, deckers are coming back) is going to pull a Mr. Hyde on you? And the three major characters they mention as “infected”? Whoo-boy, I’m shocked they went in that direction but also glad they did it the way they did.

END SPOILERS

How this will be reflected in the rules, we’ll have to wait until later this year to find out. This book has two real jobs, to bring the 4th Edition era to a close and to tease us for what to expect from 5th Edition. While it may not have done the best job on the former, I’m definitely chomping at the bit to get my hands on 5th Edition now.

US Senator Tom Coburn (R) decided that the $150,000.00 federal grant issued to The National Museum of Play is “wasteful”. But his condemnation sounds like an advertisement. “Museum officials do not want to just play with taxpayers hard-earned money. They hope the exhibit will tell the story of the evolution of play and how it has affected both children and adults.” And people are surprised that Congress can’t seem to decide on anything…

 

Are you bleary-eyed and drinking your body weight in caffeine to stay awake? I know where you were last night: The midnight release of the final expansion in the Return to Ravinica block, Dragon’s Maze. The set contains 156 cards, many of them keyed to the 10 guilds. Instead of the normal basic land additional card previous sets have contained, boosters will include a Guild Gate, a shockland dual land, or a mythic rare land. The reactions on this set so far have been mixed, but in my experience, the same can be said for every single set released since Antiquities.

David “Zeb” Cook is one of the legends of gaming. He wrote a many of the most iconic modules and sourcebooks for 1st Edition AD&D, as well as leading the design team for 2nd Edition. He opened up his personal archive of items from his years at TSR, putting them for auction on eBay. Aside from one-of-a-kind items like original manuscripts, notes, and signed products; there are also many rare products such as the old AD&D Trading Cards. I doubt any of these items will go cheap, but can you really put a price on owning a piece of gaming history?

Steve Jackson Games announced last Sunday that, in cooperation with Smart Pop Books, they will release an official guidebook to MUNCHKIN this fall. The forward will be written by Ed Greenwood and contain essays about the game from many interesting perspectives, including actor Liam McIntyre from SPARTACUS: WAR OF THE DAMNED and David Ewalt from Forbes. The big question remains unanswered, however…will owning this book keep me from completely sucking at MUNCHKIN? Not even John Kovalic could help me last game…

Los derechos de traducción al español en el Atlas Games RPG ARS MAGICA se han concedido a compañía de juegos Holocubierta. La empresa tiene una buena trayectoria y estoy seguro de que su traducción será muy superior a la que el traductor de Google fue capaz de proporcionar.

{Spanish translation rights to the Atlas Games RPG ARS MAGICA have been granted to game company Holocubierta. The company has a good track record and I’m sure their translation will be far superior to the one that Google Translate was able to provide me.}

Cubicle 7 are developing a new LONE WOLF roleplaying game. This adds to their impressive collection of licensed roleplaying games like DOCTOR WHO and THE LAUNDRY. If you’re too young to remember, LONE WOLF was a series of Choose Your Own Adventure style fantasy adventure books that were a lot of fun for those of us who weren’t able to play D&D due to the panic surrounding the game in the 80s. Whether they’re creating a new roleplaying game in the setting or if they will be picking up where Mongoose Publishing left off in reprinting the original series hasn’t been announced yet.

I’ve got some good news and some bad news for you fans of licensed comic book roleplaying games. First, the good news.  Green Ronin opened their pre-orders for DC ADVENTURES: UNIVERSE, a book detailing over 200 characters from the DC Universe for use in the game as well as new rules for space, time travel, and alternate dimensions. If you purchase the hardcopy version, you can also purchase the PDF immediately for an additional $5. Even if you’re not a player of the game, it might be worth your while to pick this book up as a guidebook to characters in the DC Universe as they include everything from the usual suspects all the way to Batman Beyond and the Amazing Zoo Crew.

The bad news, Margaret Weis Productions announced they are cancelling the MARVEL HEROIC ROLEPLAYING line, citing increasing costs of the license compared to revenues from the title. This is a real shame as there are a few unique yet perfect game mechanics in this series, and the books themselves are gorgeously laid out. The initiative system for this game was one of the most brilliant pieces of game mechanics I’ve seen in years, and it’s a real shame this series is ending. Those who have preordered the supplement ANNIHILATION for the series are receiving a full refund or 150% credit on other MWP products.

 

There is some good news to report for MWP, though, as they also announced they picked up the RPG rights to FIREFLY and have extended their license for the LEVERAGE roleplaying game. And you know a game has to be good if John Rogers is willing to license his show to you (Rogers is also a game designer who worked on both 3.5 and 4th edition products for DUNGEONS & DRAGONS amongst others as well as writing the current ongoing comic series from IDW).

Sometimes, the biggest news is the quietest. Wizards of the Coast posted their normal Legends & Lore article on the new edition of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS, this week talking about skills and feats. What’s far more interesting than the new mechanic (you can take a feat or get +1 to an attribute score at certain levels) is the wording of the article. You see, there appears like there’s going to be two styles of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS that are completely compatible with one another. The first is going to be a streamlined, stripped down core rules while the other will have more complex options for players who want more depth in their games. It’s very fun to watch Mike Mearls dance around the words “BASIC” and “ADVANCED”.

The other piece of news is a non-announcement from Wizards of the Coast. While the Character Builder for the 4th Edition of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS is still functional and online, it will no longer be regularly updated. This makes sense as all the R&D is working on the new edition and all the powers/items/feats currently published are already in the builder. However, there is still a large player base for 4e who are vocally disapproving in the thread as several races, powers, and items from recent DRAGON MAGAZINE articles have not yet been imported into the builder.

Big news came out Wednesday for PATHFINDER players as well.  Paizo announced the release of BESTIARY 4 in October of this year. The book will contain over 250 new monsters, races, and templates drawn from…well, everything they haven’t drawn from already I think. They’ve got to be running out of mythological creatures to stat up by this point. To me, though, this book goes from “Eh, if I run out of crap from the other three Bestiaries to throw at the players” to “I MUST HAVE THIS!” with one little statement hidden in the middle of the product description – Great Old Ones including Cthulhu will be in the book. This marks the first time since Wizards of the Coast’s CALL OF CTHULHU game that any of the mythos beings have been given official stats in the d20 system.

What time is it kiddies? That’s right! It’s Kickstarter time!

Because of the recent surge seemingly out of nowhere of anti-RPG propaganda, this Kickstarter caused me some confusion until I watched the video. A filmmaker decided to go after his dream of bringing the Jack Chick comic DARK DUNGEONS to the big screen. Or straight to DVD, whatever. Either way, he has a Kickstarter to fund the project. This started a conversation between myself and some friends about whether it is possible to be outrageous enough to be obvious parody. Either way, tongue is firmly planted in cheek throughout the video as they seem to be going for the Stephen Colbert style comedy of pointing out the absurd humor in fanatics by acting exactly like they do with no irony and only a slight wink at the audience to know it’s not to be taken seriously.

Being a dungeonmaster is a much underappreciated profession. We spend hours creating adventures every single week so our players can have fun, creating an entire world out of nothing. And in a combat-heavy game, it’s like playing chess against 3-6 other people for hours straight and trying your hardest to just barely lose. But the Dungeon Bastard seems to disagree. He thinks our job is easy.  So easy, in fact, he’s written the World’s Worst Dungeon Crawl, an adventure that sucks so much Matt Forbeck compared it to a black hole. Not only that, but he’s also going to run it at GenCon to prove how easy it is to make something this shitty into something epically awesome. Well I’ve got something to say to you, Mr. Bastard. I can’t wait to see you fail miserably in front of an audience. And if you do succeed, you’ve only proven that we DMs have the hardest job in gaming and it takes true talent to run an adventure. You’ve got until May 19 to get in on this trainwreck, which is already halfway to its funding goal after having been launched a few days ago.

In GUARDIAN CHRONICLES, 1-4 players team up as Captain Ersatz (AICN is not responsible for any lost productivity due to getting sucked into TVTropes) superheroes fighting an evil supervillian controlled by a DM-like extra player. The villain sets up a secret lair with traps and enemies to thwart the heroes as they attempt to accomplish objectives to defeat him. It looks a bit like a comic book HEROQUEST or DESCENT from a glance, but with more restrictions on the “bad guy” player so that it’s more competitive than GMing a game. The figures look great and a very early stretch goal is getting the main heroes pre-painted. This Kickstarter’s going to be around for a while, so you have until June 18 to decide if you want in. The pledge level for the base game is $70, with several more levels to get new characters, extra minion miniatures, and other goodies.

CHRONOS CONQUEST uses hourglasses as game pieces. That in and of itself is pretty damn cool. All players also play simultaneously in real-time. You put your hourglass on the card you want and, if yours is the only empty hourglass on the card, you get to take it. There’s a lot more to it and the rules explanation on the site seems a bit overly complicated, but in that sort of way like PANDEMIC is complicated the first time you play it but moves quickly after a few rounds. This is a Kickstarter for an import of a French game called Witty Chronos and will be running until June 17 to reach its massive $100,000 goal.

So Larry Elmore, Margaret Weis, and Tracy Hickman decide to make a RPG setting together. No, that’s not a set-up to a joke, it’s the true origins of SOVEREIGN STONE, a fantasy RPG that has been out of print for almost a decade at this point. Time Out Diversions (publishers of “the undisputed champ of pro-wrestling RPGs”) are converting the beloved setting to the Pathfinder rules set (meaning you need the Pathfinder Core Rulebook to play). Funding has already been reached on this Kickstarter, and it runs until May 26 with options from $10 for the PDF of the core rulebook all the way through to sets that include hardcopies of the core rulebook and all the sourcebooks.

Whew!  That's it for this week.  You can click on the pictures to be taken to amazon if you wish to purchase some of these products, and don't forget to contact me at theabstruseone@gmail.com or you can follow me on Twitter at @Abstruse for more game info!  Thanks for playing! 

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