Will you find your happily ever after with The Dance and The Dawn?

Cover of The Dance and the Dawn, via ndpdesign.comThe Dance and the Dawn is a fantasy roleplaying game of romantic tragedy by Dev Purkayastha of Sweet Potato Press. It tells the tale of a midnight waltz in the court of the Ice Queen, where the forlorn Ladies of Ash have come to dance with the mysterious Lords of Ice, each Lady in search of the True Love that can yield them happiness. Happily ever afters are possible, but far from guaranteed.

The game is designed for one-shot play for 3-5 players (but 4 players is recommended). One of the players is the GM (or Narrator) and the others play the Ladies of Ash.

The action of the game takes place in the ballroom of the Ice Queen’s court. The dance floor is represented by a chessboard, and all the attendees by chess pieces. As the pieces move around the board, the clock ticks on to morning. At dawn, the Ladies will have to make their fateful choices.

I recently had the opportunity to play the game, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s not for everyone, and I’m ambivalent about its replay value, but there’s a lot of great stuff in it that I think is worth unpacking.

The Dance and the Dawn is available for purchase from Lulu or Indie Press Revolution. There’s even a live-action roleplay (or “theatrical experience”) adaptation of the game, if that’s more your sort of thing.

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Turning over a new leaf: A villainous Cortex Prime playtest

It’s 2018, hurrah! A new year means a new year for roleplaying, and I’m looking forward to a few upcoming changes in my roleplaying calendar. First, all three regular campaigns that I’m in are reaching their climactic finales, which will be an exciting if bittersweet farewell to some characters. Second, I’m hoping to play some more one-shots, particularly in systems I’ve never tried before. Third, I’m putting my hand to game design a bit more—unusually, I’ve been inspired to dip my toe into OSR gaming, so we’ll see where that goes.

Most immediately, though, there are two things that are dominating my early 2018 roleplaying thoughts: GMing my first new campaigns after a relatively lackluster 2017 in that area, and the Cortex Prime playtest draft rules.

These two things go together pretty well, it turns out.

Mick Rory (Heatwave) in Legends of Tomorrow season 3 episode 2,
The gif that inspired it all.

Right now, I’m running a Cortex Prime game of supervillains, whisked out of the toxic environments that enabled their iniquity to fight a greater threat, given a chance to do something good for a change. Something like Legends of Tomorrow, Suicide Squad, or Guardians of the Galaxy (only the last of which I’ve actually watched, admittedly). Can they reform and become better people? Do they want to? Can they save the world? This is Set a Villain.

Since I last blogged about Cortex Prime, its Kickstarter was fully funded with all of its stretch goals reached, and several drafts of an SRD have been released for playtesting. I initially used v2.1 of the SRD (released on 19 September 2017), but I plan to update this to the latest versions as they come out. Currently, that’s v3.1, dated 1 January 2018. Happy New Year!

In this blog I’m giving a rundown of my new campaign, including the Cortex Prime variant rules we’re using. Note that while I’ve been writing detailed feedback on the game so far and sending it to the developers, I’m not going to copy it out here. Cortex Prime is still a work in progress, and (I hope) any feedback I’d write now would be irrelevant by the time the game is finalised and published. The most you’ll get here (for now) are some general opinions. Onward!

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With Great Power comes great enjoyment

Cover of With Great Power (Master Edition), art by M. P. O'Sullivan

With Great Power by Michael S. Miller is a superhero roleplaying game that emulates the melodramatic, four-colour style of the Silver Age of comics. It’s uncannily attuned to the tropes of that era, and what’s more it’s fantastic fun to play.

I wanted to play a staunch defender of the people, a larger-than-life, powerful, positive character and boy did I ever get that in the Glowing Guardian! With his allies, Little Young’un and the Armoured Arcanist, he defends New York City (because of course New York City) from the plots of supervillains like Zoltrak the Cursed and the Incandescent Inquisitor!

So how does the game itself encourage such incredible stories?

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Will Cortex Prime light our darkest hour?

Optimus Prime displaying the Cortex logo matrix of leadership
It’s Optimus Cortex Prime, geddit?

The Kickstarter for Cortex Prime is currently live, and it’s doing rather well. It funded in 36 hours (I helped!), it has just passed its third stretch goal, and it still has 12 days to go.

Cortex Prime is the latest iteration of the Cortex roleplaying system and, more immediately, the successor system to Cortex Plus, which gave us games like Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, Leverage, Firefly and my favourite Smallville. (I’ve blogged about Smallville a lot. Have a look.)

This seems like a good time to talk about my feelings for the new game. In short, I’m looking forward to it. My last Cortex Plus game, the X-Men drama Worthington Academy, wrapped up last year. I had no intention of running another one, but just before the Kickstarter launched I was starting to get the itch for a new Cortex Plus Drama campaign, and so Cortex Prime showed up at just the right time.

But what do I think about what I’ve seen so far?

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A roll in the hay with Kagematsu

Cover of Kagematsu

Kagematsu is a roleplaying game by Danielle Lewon, based on a design by S.R. Knipe. The simplest, most obvious summary of the game would be to call it a romance game, but there are aspects to it that prevent it from being so easily pigeonholed. If you’ve heard of Kagematsu, you probably know it as the game that must always be GMed by a woman, and that’s important to its exploration of gender and power imbalance.

I have been wanting to play it for a long time, and I’m glad I have because there is so much to say about this game!

Here’s the highlight, though: I had a great time playing Kagematsu. I want to play it again. I recommend it, but there are things that I wish the game did better so I fully understand if it’s not the game for you.

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Star Wars under the Microscope: What if Darth Vader wasn’t Luke’s father?

Our Star Wars timeline in Microscope. Only the events of A New Hope were considered fixed.

A long time ago (about a week), in a galaxy far, far away (an hour on the London underground), I sat down with three of my friends to play a game of Microscope that retold the Star Wars saga. Let me tell you about it!

“So what I told you was true, from a certain point of view.”

I used to write a lot of fan fiction. I don’t do that much anymore, because now I prefer to collaborate with other people when making up stories, but one of the pieces of fan fiction that I never got round to writing was an alternate Star Wars saga, exploring what might have happened if the franchise had gone in another direction during the production of the original trilogy. Things could have been vastly different if the producers had made different decisions at that early stage.

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I ❤ Heroes of the Hearth

Seven Wonders cover, from Pelgrane Press LtdHeroes of the Hearth is a GM-less, diceless story game by Stiainín Jackson. In Heroes of the Hearth, you tell the story of a group of villagers, the family and loved ones left behind by the fantasy adventurers who have left home to battle evil. It is included in Pelgrane Press’ Seven Wonders anthology.

I recently had a chance to play the game, and I  it. (I “heart” it, you see, because the heart symbol stands for love and “heart” sounds like “hearth”… Visual wordplay is difficult, ok?)

Before playing it, I’d been worried whether I’d enjoy the game. The characters were all pre-generated and I was concerned they would be flat or hard to customise. The scene structure seemed paradoxically to be very rigid and yet offer little support.

Which just goes to show that you should never review roleplaying games without playing them, because my fears were unfounded and I had a great time. Let me tell you about it!

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