The Coriolis Effect – Season 2 Episode 7

Gruesome Deaths at Dragonmeet!

We talk Kickstarter fulfillment; Dragonmeet adventures; and what to do with too many Darkness Points. We also interview Nils and Mattias; and Coriolis GM Remi Feyomi (pictured above with fellow gamer John Dove) is our “Player in the Hamam”.

00.00.39: Introduction
00.06.24: World of Gaming – Forbidden Lands delivery! Forbidden Lands delivery problems! Emissary Lost delivery! Nibiru Kickstarter
00.25.22: Dragonmeet 2018 – how it went, especially our Forbidden Lands Grindbone Challenge
00.33.16: Interview: Nils and Mattias from Free League
00.56.40: Players in the Hamam – Remi Fayomi
01.11.38: Spectral Corsair update, and we discuss the “Darkness Point glut” problem
01.22.35: Next episode; Seasons greetings; and goodbye

*There is a more than usual political commentary in this episode, please excuse a couple of citizens of a country with an apparently incompetent political class. Normal service will be resumed next episode.

The Coriolis Effect. Presented by FictionSuit and the RPG Gods. With music by Stars on a Black Sea, used with permission of Free League Publishing. Imagery from NASA and the Hubble Space telescope, brought to you by wikimedia commons. Typeface is Code by Fontfabric

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Democracy in Action

A few weeks ago after episode 2.6 we ran a poll (or three) on whether we should play (and record) Coriolis or Forbidden Lands. We don’t play on line, and we don’t get together often, less than once a month, to play around a table. Given that we have traditionally taken turns GMing, it means that we might only play a couple of sessions on each game a year. Dave is running Symbaroum, Tony runs L5R, Andy, Savage World of Solomon Kane, so this poll has been about what I run. We are all enjoying both games, so this is a real quandary.

So, we asked our listeners. I put a poll on Facebook, Twitter and G+. It’s interesting to see how differently each “constituency” (users of each social platform reacted).

I put the poll on all three platforms in the same day. People responded quickly to the ones on Twitter and G+, less quickly to Facebook. I automatically shared my poll post on G+ with the Coriolis and Forbidden Lands groups, but I didn’t think to do that at first on Facebook. When I noticed how low the response rate was on Facebook, I shared it with each game’s group and the respondents came – in the end Facebook returned the most answers.

Twitter responses started well, outpacing Facebook on the first day, but in the end returned the fewest responses. You can set how long the poll lasts on Twitter and Facebook. For Twitter I thought it wouldn’t not last long, and set it for three days. I might as well have set it for one day though, given the nature of Twitter, most responded on the first day, I might have got a couple more on day two. Nothing in three.

As you can see nine people voted Forbidden Lands, six Coriolis. A win for Forbidden Lands it seems. But Twitter is our smallest constituency. Let look the next largest. G+ doesn’t let you set a time for polls. To end it, you just delete the post. Which isn’t very satisfactory – people can’t check if I am telling the truth about what the vote was. I would write to Google to tell them to fix it, if they weren’t shuttering the whole thing. Anyhow, the G+ poll lasted over a week. And saw the scales tipping one way, and then the other before:

The G+ poll was the last to close, and before I finally deleted the post I took this screen grab. Thirty two votes for each game. The G+ constituency was just as divided as we were.

And so we turn to Facebook. I already mentioned that, in the end, the Facebook constituency returned the most votes, enough to tilt the scales back in the Coriolis direction, or was Facebook too more balanced?

97 votes, and another small but clear majority for Forbidden Lands.

So Forbidden Lands is the clear winner. It’s also interesting to note that the Forbidden Lands AP episode that we released a month or two ago, are already becoming out most popular downloads. Session Zero, for example, is already our sixth most downloaded episode ever. So the next game I will run in the new year will be Forbidden Lands. We won’t forget Coriolis though, in fact the next AP to be released will be our Coriolis adventure Song to the Siren, which we recorded back in November, just as soon as I get round to editing it.

So in conclusion: this is what we are expecting to put out over the next few weeks

  • This week: The fifth and final episode of our current Symbaroum adventure Troubled Spirits
  • Next week: Episode 2.7 of The Coriolis Effect, with reports and interviews from Dragonmeet
  • Then: weekly releases of only our second Coriolis AP. The crew find themselves marooned on a prison planet in Song to the Siren
  • After Christmas more The Coriolis Effect, and from Dragonmeet, The Grindbone Slave Tournament

Review – Forbidden Lands

From today, Forbidden Lands can be ordered from Fria Ligan, Modiphius or DriveThru . I was a Kickstarter backer and so have had early drafts, completed PDF’s and now the physical product for a little while, so I think it is worth  publishing a review for those considering purchasing it. This is based upon experience of playing, reflection and, having the books in my hand.

Conclusion

Lets cut to the chase. This is what you really want to know. But if you want a little more detail, on how I came to these conclusions, there’s more below.

You might imagine that, as a Kickstarter Backer, and one half of the Coriolis Effect podcast, I may be predisposed to liking this game. And I am. But my expectations were high, and I have not been disappointed. Yes, obviously I would recommend this game. We played a one-off scenario, and my players wanted more. One of the starts running his own campaign on Monday.

Specifically I would recommend it for two audiences. For many around my age, the team at Free League have created the game were wishing for back when we were twelve. All the possibilities that the games of the early eighties offered us, are here finally realized. Intuitive mechanics make combat gritty and heroic, magic thrilling and even resource management entertaining and fun. For people starting out in the hobby, this is an excellent value box, that gives you everything you need (apart from dice and a pencil) to build your very own world of adventure.

Who is it not for? Well, I know somebody who hates dice pool systems, and prefers a d20. It’s not for him I guess. But even if you are wary of dice pools, let me reassure you that this one is simple, fast and fun.

The physical product

This is a boxed game, a conceit that reflects its origins. In Sweden many games RPGs are still boxed, in the way that early Dungeons and Dragons, Runequest and Traveller were. The publishers, Free league (or Fria Ligan), set out to create a modern take on the classic games that some of us remember from the early eighties. So by boxing this game, they are not just conforming to the Swedish market, but also asking the rest of the world to remember the good old days. Open the box however, and the old hands may be somewhat surprised the the quality.

In the eighties, the boxes would contain a few (maybe as few as two) stapled, softcover and slim books, plus quite a lot of air. (To be fair my D&D box also contained my first set of polyhedrals). In contrast this box is full, and heavy. Most of the weight consists of two hardback, faux-leatherbound volumes, with a tasteful dark-ages design in gold on the front. and nothing but the Free League logo (also in gold) on the back. The Player’s Handbook is burgundy red and 208 pages. The Gamemaster’s Guide has 264 pages bound in Green. each of these books also has a black ribbon bookmarker.

There is a lot of wish fulfillment in these books. Forfilling the wishes of a very niche part of the market. The staples on those early games rusted, staining the pages, and those thin softcovers were not really up to being referenced back and forth again and again by players and gamesmasters alike. I am sure that many of us who enjoyed those very first RPGs sometimes wished for a rulebook that better reflected the fantasy world we were playing in. Indeed I am sure a few people collected together their rulebooks and a few supplements and and had them bound together to make them look like the sort of tome that graced a gentleman’s library. If you didn’t have the money or the initiative to get them bound though, these are the RPG books you have been waiting for for almost four decades.

But that’s not all. If you want a book that more closely resembles the thin, stapled, softcover game books of yore, Free League has you covered. Under the hardbound volumes you will find Legends and Adventures a booklet with an alternative character generation system, and monster and legend generators. And there is even more – a folded, full colour map and a sheet of stickers. The map is double sided (though sadly with the same map on both sides) and the stickers are transparent hexes so that you can place them on the map as your party explores the Forbidden lands, and make the map your own.

This last component is the most disappointing production-wise. The printing on the stickers is a little muddy, and thus the icons and labels on them are hard to see. Also, the implication of the doublesided map is that you could run the campaign twice with two different groups, but there are not enough stickers to use both sides.

Opening the two main volumes, you’ll find a version of the map on the endsheets at the front and back. These are black and white, clear and beautiful and they almost make you wish that the the main map was black and white too. Which brings me to the illustrations. In creating their modern but retro game, Free League were inspired by the black and white drawings of Nils Gulliksson, who illustrated the first Swedish language RPG, a Runequest clone called Drakar och Demoner. Indeed most of the illustations are classics from the early days of Swedish gaming, complimented with newly commissioned pieces from the same artist. These have a certain beauty which younger gamers might find difficult to fully comprehend, especially when compared with the exquisite full-colour work of Martin Grip in Free League’s other fantasy game, Symbaroum.* There is certainly a degree of nostalgia in their appeal.

Playing the game

The heart of the system will be familiar with players of Mutant: Year Zero; Coriolis; and Tales from the Loop. Of the three, its closest to MY0. Which is entirely appropriate because it is a game of survival, in a fantasy world that has had its own apocalypse of sorts. Like that game, it is best played with enough dice of three different colours. There is a custom set available (more on that in another post) but MY0 veterans can play with those, and lets face it d6 are not something most gamers are short of. Most rolls are made by pooling a number of “base” d6 for your attribute, with a number for your skill and maybe one or two for your gear, and rolling. All you need to succeed is one six (which is marked with crossed swords on the custom dice) to succeed, but more successes improve the effect of your action – more damage in a fight, for example. If you fail, or if you want more successes, you can “push” the dice, rolling again. But the cost of this can be harsh – you can not re-roll any base dice or gear dice which came up one. And these, plus any more ones you roll on your base or gear dice, will do you, or your gear, damage.

This version of the dice pool might seem complicated at first, to those who have come from Coriolis or Tales from the Loop, but you soon get the hang of it, and it creates a wonderfully nuanced and narrative flow to the game.

Unlike MY0 or its sister games, Forbidden Lands also uses d8, d10, and d12, mostly for magical artefacts, but I particularly like the Pride mechanic, which enables a player to name one thing they are very good at. Once per game session, when a player has failed a vital role even after pushing their dice, if they can explain how their pride applies, they get to roll the d12. This has a greater than 50% chance of turning your failure into success, and not just one, but up to four success, which could mean a critical effect. The catch is, if you roll 1-5, your pride was obviously a false one. You strike it from your character sheet and must play a whole session before you can pick something to replace it.

Its a tough combat system, your strength attribute is your “hit points”, and only the most exceptional character will ever have as many as six. Given even a glancing blow from a heavy axe can deal three, your players will find combat short, gritty, exciting, and something to be avoided. A quarter day’s rest will restore all your attributes, but if you are broken in combat, you also take a critical hit, for the possibility of permanent damage, a slow death or, if you are lucky, a quick one. My advice to players is hit first, hit hard, wear armour, and take up archery.

Character generation is speedy and fun, especially if you use the random system found in the Legends and Adventurers booklet. If you do though, note that unfortunately a number of talents are named in that booklet that don’t appear in the Players Handbook. In Horseback Archer becomes Horseback Fighter, and we had to replace Scrounger with Quartermaster. I guess the talents named were in an earlier draft. If random generation isn’t your thing, then there is a simple point-buy alternative. One feature I particularly like is that you can start out, young, adult, or old (unless you are an elf – elves are ageless). As you get older you loose attribute points but gain skills and talents. Talents I should say, are specialisms and abilities that turn your relatively broad skill set into a very individual character.

I am generally not a fan of magic systems based on lists of pre-defined spells, but that said recognize the difficulties of creating more freeform RPG magic systems, especially in regards to spotlight  balance in games where not everyone is a magic user. This is spell list based but flexible in the casting. Players should learn quickly though that magic is risky – a couple of unlucky rolls can see you cast into a terrible hell with no hope of return – as a PC at least. The risk can be mitigated with preparation though, taking time to write your spells down and gather ingredients.

Which brings me onto a key philosophy in the game. This system makes resource management easy and fun to play. By breaking activities down in quarter days, by using simple mechanics like resource dice for ammunition, food and water, and a carrying capacity defined by lines in your gear list the system neatly abstracts and gamifies the more simulationist tendencies of (what we used to call) wilderness campaigns. We’ve played a couple of adventures so far and my players have enjoyed the scavenging for roots to supplement their food supplies. The resource management has not got in the way or story, indeed its has informed  the narrative.

There is one resource that you can only get through failure. When you push your dice and take damage (or wear for your gear) on ones, you also earn willpower points. Willpower powers magic spells and a good number of talents. There has been some debate about this mechanic. Some people are unhappy that only physical strain earns you the power to do spells (players start with no willpower and can only store up to ten points), or they can’t see a connection between taking damage and gaining resolve. It may not lend itself to immersion, but I like the way it builds the narrative beats – your triumphs are all the sweeter after failure, after all.

The World

Part of me wishes the setting was a humanocentric one, like Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones or The First Law books, but this is a retro game, and so of course there are not just humans, but Elves, Half-Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Orcs, Goblins and (less obviously retro, except perhaps to Traveller players) Wolfkin. Swedish genre author Erik Granstrom manages to give us all the nostalgic fantasy tropes our heart desires but put a subtle spin of novelty on them which makes this world strange and beautiful. Part of the strangeness is due to this world being described mostly in myth and legend, with some of the stories contradicting each other and very little (but just enough) explaining the “true” ecology. The elves in this game have a marvelous yet non-game-break-y immortality that makes them seem truly alien. Halflings and goblins have a link that is both novel and yet a reflection of the Frodo/Gollum relationship, and Dwarves build the world as much as mine it. Humans in this world are the invaders, and orcs the (by no means hapless) victims. There is just enough cliche to recognise and plenty of novelty to explore and excite the imagination.

One of the best assets of the GM’s Guide (and the Legends and Adventurers booklet) is the help it offers in world building. There are three sample “adventure sites”, none of which offer an “on the rails” story, but NPCs, motivations, and opportunities that allow your party to truely create their own adventure. On top of these sites however there are random generation tables that enable any GM, even the greenest, to confidently prepare an adventure in advance. A quick thinking GM could even create an adventure on the fly, while it is being played.

As I was ready the GM’s guide indeed, I was thinking this  might well be a perfect gift for a young and aspiring potential GM. It could be an ideal first RPG even. All you really need (apart from dice) for a world of adventure is contained in just one box.

Further Reading

If you want even more detail, check out my previous read-though of the PDFs.

* Free League and Jarnringen have merged.

Forbidden Lands has arrived

No podcast this week as we are preparing for #DragonMeet ~PodcastZone tomorrow Saturday 1 December. But in the place of our dulcet tones, a quickly made video of my Forbidden Lands unboxing. There may be other boxing videos out there (I was one of the last of the Kickstarter backers to get their copy, earlier today), but do they show the GMs screen? Didn’t faff around mixing the sound for this, so I am quiet, but its not what I say but what you see that counts.

The Coriolis Effect – Season 2 Episode 6

A price, and a place, for everyone.

With just one week to go until #Dragonmeet #PodcastZone we share our plans in more detail. And, the first ever audio unboxing of Forbidden Lands… doesn’t happen, as we are still (at the time of publishing) waiting for our copies. Plus, the Draconites, a prison planet adventure, and Mutant: Elysium.

00.00.38: Introduction
00.03.01: World of Gaming – impending delivery of Forbidden Lands, looking forward #Dragonmeet #PodcastZone; the Mutant: Elysium (in English) kickstarter; plus shout outs to Dan at the Formal Gamer; the guys at Darker Days Radio; and to Doug at Victory Condition Gaming, if you catch this on Sunday 25, stream his interview with Tomas live!
00.18.34: Coriolis – The Draconites
00.35.20: We ask which Actual Play you want to hear most: Coriolis or Forbidden Lands?
00.39.34: Playing a randomly generated Forbidden Lands adventure, plus how will you use the map?
00.57.43: Dave praises Matthew’s Coriolis adventure, Matthew basks in the the glory
01.07.18: Forbidden Lands – Grindbone (spoiler warning!!!)
01.20.03: Our plans for the Grindbone Tournament at #Dragonmeet #PodcastZone
01.24.12: We muck up saying goodbye

The Coriolis Effect. Presented by FictionSuit and the RPG Gods. With music by Stars on a Black Sea, used with permission of Free League Publishing. Imagery from NASA and the Hubble Space telescope, brought to you by wikimedia commons. Typeface is Code by Fontfabric

The Coriolis Effect – Season 2 Episode 5

As it once was, so shall it be again.

We ignore another DIYer who occasionally (cos’ I edited him out when Dave was talking) sounds like an annoying mosquito to deliver another hour and an half of Fria Ligan goodness.

00.00.39: Introduction
00.03.50: World of Gaming – Kicking off with plans for #Dragonmeet #PodcastZone, and our discussions with Nils of Fria Ligan;  our upcoming weekend of gaming; Spire’s new Strata Kickstarter; comparing space combat in Star Trek Adventures and Coriolis; and, the Google+ news
00.30.04: What should we do with a problem like the Zenithian Hegemony?
00.56.53: Expanding the Effect
01.01.58: An aside about a new Symbaroum dice mechanic
01.09.47: The Star Singer – another ancient ship for Coriolis (its the liberator really)
01.24.53: We talk about next episode and say goodbye

The Coriolis Effect. Presented by FictionSuit and the RPG Gods. With music by Stars on a Black Sea, used with permission of Free League Publishing. Imagery from NASA and the Hubble Space telescope, brought to you by wikimedia commons. Typeface is Code by Fontfabric

Ravenland Tales – A Forbidden Lands Actual Play: The Hollows, Part 3

Goblins and Ghost Stories. 

Gormer spots an opportunity for some petty thievery, then Tengrail and Isembold create another. Though intrigued by stories of ghosts and tombs, our “heroes” decide to leave before anyone notices their coin has been stolen…

Ravenland Tales – A Forbidden Lands Actual Play. Presented by FictionSuit.org and RPGGods.org. With music by ALVE, used with permission of Free League Publishing. Typefaces in the graphics are Code by Fontfabric and Duvall Outline by Paul Lloyd

Ravenland Tales – A Forbidden Lands Actual Play: The Hollows, Part 2

The Bailiff and the Dwarf. 

Gormer, Tengrail, and Isembold discover that crime does not pay as well as they had hoped, and get embroiled in local politics.

Ravenland Tales – A Forbidden Lands Actual Play. Presented by FictionSuit.org and RPGGods.org. With music by ALVE, used with permission of Free League Publishing. Typefaces in the graphics are Code by Fontfabric and Duvall Outline by Paul Lloyd

The Coriolis Effect – Season 2 Episode 4

Jarnligan: The Iron League?

Merger! Dave and Matthew speculate as only two excited fanboys can. We also talk about Forbidden Lands and #Dragonmeet #PodcastZone

00.00.39: Introduction
00.04.00: World of Gaming – apart from the merger (the video we mention is here), we also remember to mention the Things from the Flood (get your pledge in before end of play Monday 8th) and Judge Dredd and the worlds of 2000AD kickstarters.
00.29.02: We talk about our first Forbidden Lands game
00.40.00: Our plans for #Dragonmeet #PodcastZone
00.45.00: Forbidden Lands and Symbaroum
00.50.15: Some Coriolis content – Extended Manipulation Challenges
01.07.45: Spectral Corsair update
01.15.15: We talk about next month and say goodbye

The Coriolis Effect. Presented by FictionSuit and the RPG Gods. With music by Stars on a Black Sea, used with permission of Free League Publishing. Imagery from NASA and the Hubble Space telescope, brought to you by wikimedia commons. Typeface is Code by Fontfabric

Ravenland Tales – A Forbidden Lands Actual Play: The Hollows, Part 1

First steps. 

Gormer the goblin, Tengrail the elf, and Isembold the halfling ride towards the Hollows in the fog.

There are a couple of hiccups with the pause button towards the end.

Ravenland Tales – A Forbidden Lands Actual Play. Presented by FictionSuit and the RPG Gods. With music  used with permission of Free League Publishing. Typefaces in the graphics are Code by Fontfabric and Duvall Outline by Paul Lloyed