There’s a week to go in drivethruRPGs Christmas in July sale, the annual promotion to clear the virtual shelves before GenCon ushers in a wave of new shiny goodness so I wanted to quickly promote a selection of publishers that are included and worth looking at. All of these are personal picks based upon my own purchases and I did not receive any review or promotional copies.
Spy Master by CM Games
When it comes to spies and espionage there are few individuals more iconic than James Bond, sat the casino table with a martini in his hand. Utilising a system inspired by the equally iconic casino game of blackjack Spy Master works aims to emulate the genre with rapid fire mechanics where players must push their luck as they draw cards to build upon their characters specialities. The rules are designed to support play that sticks closely to the spy genre and avoids the trap of many games that try to build in eventualities for every gadget or weapon. Agent characters are just as deadly when wielding a pencil as they would be with a silenced Walther PPK, allowing for the action to spring forth from each and every scene.
Built upon the popular Black Hack OSR system the Cthulhu Hack applied the lightweight approach to the otherworldly incursions of H.P. Lovecraft to create a standalone game of investigative horror. With a focus upon simple, elegant mechanics the system is quick to learn yet provides enough depth to facilitate campaign play and the near infinity mythos of the parental material. Character creation is quick, befitting a setting where character death should be expected and campaigns may require a rotating cast of characters who interact only through the diaries and clues they may leave behind. Well worth picking up for both Lovecraft fans and those who have just begun their journey into the cosmic mythos.
You can find The Cthulhu Hack and its supplements on DrivethruRPG
RPG stock art by James Shields
JEShields should be a familiar name to anybody following my Demon Hunters or Project Cassandra posts as the majority of the artwork I have used in them has been sourced from him. Why do I keep going back to his art? First and foremost because of the consistent high quality and clear style that is available across a range of genres. Second because of the price, both stock art and direct commissions are extremely well priced. Finally because every interaction I have had with James has been positive and professional, both through his patreon and when commissioning artwork directly.
Using miniatures at your game table can turn quickly become either expensive or restrictive as you either expand your collection to allow for the adventure your players seek or limit yourself to what you have at hand. Trash mob mini’s provides a way out with their themed collections of printable mini’s. For only a couple of pounds per pack you get multiple mini’s (most packs have 6) with front and back artwork plus bases. Simply print onto thick paper and cut out to build your encounter. Need a mob of goblins? Then print out multiple sheets and quickly expand your forces. With clear artwork in a fun, cartoony style Trash Mob Mini’s make a perfect addition to any fantasy RPG combat.
If you’ve been following my Demon Hunters or Project Cassandra posts then one thing you might have noticed is a consistent art style for the characters. That’s because the vast majority of the artwork I’ve used to date has come from a single source, James Shields (JEShields). He primarily releases his work on Patreon and drivethruRPG but every so often runs a Kickstarter for larger projects.
His latest is focused on Sci-fi stock art, what makes it unique though is that the final images will be released as a series of mix and match components. Want an alien cantina but with a giant arachnid in place of the bounty hunter? Switch them out and create the new scene. The possible number of combinations is massive, especially if you go all in and pick up each of the five packs (weapons, ships, portraits, characters and scenes) on offer.
If the art itself wasn’t enough then how about bonus backer rewards of games and supplements donated by a range of indie publishers? I won’t go over the full list but suffice to say they really boost the value of the Kickstarter.
Having done a full character in the form of the Aether Knight I wanted to turn my hand towards a simpler creature for the next release. With the Demon Hunters setting incorporating both magic and mad science it was all too easy to imagine a range of unusual and warped creatures. The Volta Cingulata, or voltaic armadillo, is the first of those, a mad science experiment that didn’t quite have the impact its creator intended.
As an opponent the armadillo is easily overlooked. Small, relatively weak and not particularly aggressive. In its favour is its armoured shell and lone stunt, which allows it a single strong attack in response to being startled.
In developing the stunt I included an option to recharge it through the use of Demon Dice. Overall I find that with the exception of invoking aspects I fail to really make use of this GM resource, especially as I’m not fond of clearing NPC conditions without an in fiction reason. So instead my aim is to start incorporating their use into stunts, to make them a little more special and unique, which led to the idea of recharging a single use ability.
Following some final tweaking the first character sheet template is now complete as is the first release, the Aether Knight. Rarely encountered on the mortal planes Aether Knights serve as guardians of the veil between worlds and, in their natural form, neutral in the eternal fight between Good and Evil. Unfortunately as so often is the case their purpose can be tainted by those willing to shed blood to fuel illicit magics. Dragged into the moral realms they are used as nigh unstoppable assassins and hunters, bound to a mission until it is completed or they are destroyed.
Aether Knights represent a significant challenge for Chapters even at the highest level and are designed to be employed by the DM as opponents that must be out-thought rather than out-fought. With their invulnerability to physical weaponry, high number of conditions and ability to bypass mild conditions when using their sword they are an opponent that no group should take lightly.
Next up, adjusting the template for minions and mobs.
The mad genius of Victor Frankenstein needs no introduction. In crafting the creature that would become his tormentor he exceeded all but the gods in giving form to artificial life. In the years since Victor’s death the Creature has walked the earth, slowly learning to control the rage that has threatened to consume it time after time. It is alone. Unique, but flawed. Patient.
Many have hunted the Creature, in the name of God and of Science and of Power but none have come close to understanding its motives. That it desires purpose. Arriving in London under the guise of a circus freak it quickly learned of Mina and her team of outcasts. A meeting was arranged and an agreement reached. The Creature would join the team and aid in combating the pervasive rise of mad technology ushered in by the steam age. In return Mina would redirect the Brotherhood, Chapters re-assigned to inconsequential locales or sent on wild goose chases. All know that the status quo cannot be maintained for long, the Creature is too well known to stay hidden forever and the longer it associates with the team the greater the risk that all involved will be compromised.
Mystic arts d4
Covert ops d4
Social engineering d8
Combat & tactics d6
Concept: Monstrous creation of an infamous scientist
Trouble: Barely restrained rage
Discipline 1: An intellect surpassing my creator
Discipline 2: Harbouring hidden hopes for humanity
Discipline 3: They may hunt me but they will never break me
Stunt 1: Because I am the brawns as well as the brains I gain +1 when I forcefully use Combat & Tactics
Stunt 2: Because I was built to surpass the frailness of mere humans I gain 1 extra moderate condition
Stunt 3: Because I have learned to live in the shadows of civilisation I gain +2 to sneakily overcome attempts to spot my hulking frame
Vulnerability: Because my inhuman visage is impossibly terrifying I automatically inflict the minor condition of “horrified” on all mortals who see me if they have never encountered the supernatural before.
Baron Albertus Beechworth IV arrived in London six months ago from Australia to raise capital for expanding the prosperous mining town bearing his name. At least that’s what the socialites and high flyers of London were led to believe for Albertus is nothing more than a con artist. The Baron, as he prefers to be called, lives day to day, lie to lie, driven to bigger and bolder cons by the blood of his infernal ancestors.
The big con fell apart while trying to offload a batch of so-called meteor alloys to an undercover Winnifred. If her ability to reform the lump of metal into cuffs around his hands hadn’t already scared him senseless the fact she described him of smelling faintly of brimstone would have. He’d heard the tales repeatedly as a child, of an ancestor who’d made a deal they couldn’t keep and been possessed by the devil in return. Stories meant to scare children with an inclination to lie to their parents. Now here was this woman who could smell the corruption of his lineage. Perhaps it was a sign to change, to make the biggest con of his life… convincing himself that he could somehow manage to redeem his soul.
Mystic arts d4
Covert ops d8
Social engineering d10
Combat & tactics d6
Concept: Charming descendant of demons
Trouble: Eternally damned by the sins of my ancestors
Discipline 1: Why lie when you can be creative with the truth
Discipline 2: Debauched darling of high society
Discipline 3: Connoisseur of the five-finger discount
Stunt 1: Because snake oil doesn’t sell itself I gain +2 when I flashily create advantages based on lies, half-truths and pseudo-science gibberish.
Stunt 2: Because demonic essence flows through my veins I roll d8s instead of d6s when rolling demon dice (the DM adds d6s to their pool as normal)
Stunt 3: Because all the best cons require careful planning once per session I may create an aspect with 2 free invocations by describing how I arranged it via a brief flashback