Saturday, October 20, 2018

[Review] Pulp Detective By Todd Sanders/AV Studio Games

NOTE: I swear I'm still blogging about role-playing games too. I just happened to have a backlog of board/card games I've been wanting to review, so enjoy the next few posts!

For anyone who's ever read a Sam Spade/Phillip Marlow crime novel, or those who have more than a passing interest in the Pulp Noir genre, Todd Sanders has designed a game that places you in the heart of your favorite pulp dime novel. Pulp Detective is a clever little dice-rolling card-based game released by AV Games. This game is designed to be played solo (which will be my focus in this review), although a head-to-head cooperative and competitive version for two players is also included. (The game is still being rolled out to Kickstarter backers and may not be retail available at the time of this writing.)
In Pulp Detective, you play a detective trying to solve one of three cases included in the base game. (More cases and options are available in the follow-up supplement which I'll describe later.) The game consists of various sets of cards that represent your detective, your held items, your stamina and clues found, the case you're trying to solve/timeline, and the deck that makes up the Storyline deck (Cliffhangers, Informants, and Follow The Lead cards). You also have a set of yellow Investigation dice, a red Paperboy dice, and a grey Underworld dice. Eight colored bits are used to mark your status on the various cards, and an assortment of black Twist Markers rounds out the contents. The art design of the game is AMAZING, using the covers and paintings from a variety of pulp novels to illustrate every scene and character you may meet. Even the box looks like it's been weathered and aged since the 1920s, lending a truly gorgeous design to the game's contents.

To play, you first select your detective -- each with a Special Action that gives you an advantage in the game. Each detective then gets a card to track his/her stamina, clues, and items found. You then select one of the cases, and place the tracking bits on the timeline and stamina depending on the difficulty level you want to start with. Beginners get full stamina and a full 24 hours to solve the crime; experts may have fewer hours and stamina at their disposal. Gameplay consists of pulling the top three cards of the Storyline deck, choosing one to tackle, one to discard, and one to place back in the deck for a future pull. Each of the three types of cards gives you a better chance of granting you a specific element needed to win the game: Cliffhangers are likely to replenish your stamina, Follow The Lead will give you items, and Informants give you valuable clues. (Four clues are needed to reach the endgame...)

As you draw and choose cards to play, you place them into a Storyline you build. (And you can add other cards to a Subplot line once too.) Once in the Storyline, you must roll the four Investigation dice and try to match the icons shown on the card. And, if you have Underworld contacts or a friend who's a Paperboy, you may also get to roll the red and/or grey dice too! Finally, if the icons on the edges of your new Storyline card matches any in the current Storyline card, you get to reroll another dice too. If you succeed with the roll, you get the element shown on the card. You could find a bottle of whiskey for more stamina, a taxi to gain extra time, or a tip from a reporter giving you access to the red dice. Or you may "dig deep" and regain some stamina. Or that Informant may let slip with a clue needed to solve the case. Conversely, if you fail, you lose the element shown. You could drop an item, get shot and lose stamina, or just waste your time and watch the hours tick down and down and down...

Time is something you never have enough of in this game. Each played card costs an hour. Each failure may cost you an extra hour. Use of your Special Action might cost your an hour. And as the hours wind down, the icon cost on the cards actually INCREASES, making successes even more difficult to accomplish. And once time is up, the game ends. The game is a true pressure cooker as you fight the clock to win.

However, with each failure, you may also take a black Twist Marker that matches one of the dice faces shown. This Marker can be used once with future rolls to act as that dice face. So at least failure may give you a chance at future successes!

Once (and only  *IF*) you've discovered all four clues -- and if time remains -- you can confront the Master Criminal who's behind the dastardly deed. The Criminal (chosen depending on how the Storyline/Subplots fleshed out) is super-tough to beat, usually requiring 5 dice to defeat. Hope you saved your Twist Markers and/or have your Underworld/Paperboy on-hand for the Big Confrontation!
For this review, I've tried to hit the basics of gameplay, but there are a lot of details and other elements I've glossed over. Although the game may seem simplistic (roll the dice/match icons), a lot of the game hinges on HOW you build the Storyline and Subplots, and what elements you decide to pursue. Sure, you could chase clues, but once you have the fourth one, will you have the resources to confront the Master Criminal? Not likely! And vice-versa, if you build up your stamina and grab a bunch of items to help you win, you may run down the clock, making it impossible to win as well! There a great amount of nuance at play here as you build your case, strengthen your detective, and prepare for the endgame!

There is a supplement also available called Sidekicks, Double Cross, and Masterminds that greatly expands gameplay! Sidekicks offer your detective their expertise in solving the case by giving you a one-time in-game bonus. (Plus a new Sidekicks dice!) The Double Cross cards bring a random element of bad fortune as you chase the bad guys. The Masterminds are World-Class Criminals with global plans of evilness who require **SIX** dice to defeat! Oh, and there are four new detectives to play, more items to find, and four additional cases to crack too!

Pulp Detective is a great game with awesome art elements and tight gameplay. And it's a tough game to win at. Out of a dozen games, I've solved the case and brought the villain to justice once. In fact,in the game illustrated above, I ran out of time and was brought down to 3 stamina, allowing me to roll only three dice. Hard to regain stamina or solve the case when 4-5 dice are typically required! Even the Twist Markers couldn't bail me out of my spiral. Sniderman says, "Check it out."

Saturday, October 13, 2018

"OSR Guide For The Perplexed" Questionnaire: My Thoughts...

So Zak S. posed some very interesting questions in his "OSR Guide For The Perplexed Questionnaire" which has become a bit of a round-robin in the OSR blogging circles. What is the OSR? What does it mean to you? Is it important? What's the best parts of it?

Always willing to become One More Lemming with these things, I thought I'd jump in and give my thoughts on these queries...

1. One article or blog entry that exemplifies the best of the Old School Renaissance for me:

When I first started poking around in this musty corner of the role-playing universe, I stumbled across Jeff's Gameblog and the long-since-defunct blog Grognardia. I can't really put my finger on one specific article that exemplifies the OSR, but these two encompass the spirit of the OSR best, so I'll go with that as my answer.

2. My favorite piece of OSR wisdom/advice/snark:

The classic: "Rulings, not rules" maxim. And something my DM said back in the 80s after I argued about what I felt was an unfair PC death: "Of course it's unfair! It's D&D!"

3. Best OSR module/supplement:

I love, love, love Vornheim. I've never before seen an RPG supplement just CRAMMED with useful stuff. Every chart, every table, inside and out (including the dust jacket, for god's sake) is chock-full of useful in-game stuff. Blew my mind when I first got my hands on it.

4. My favorite house rule (by someone else):


The d30 Substitution Rule that sprang from The Order of the d30 G+ group. Once per session, any player can use a d30 rather than whatever dice the roll calls for. So that 1d4 dagger damage could instead cause 25 points of damage (severing a major artery for insta-kill) or that To Hit roll now has 10 chances to roll ABOVE a nat 20 to hit. (I usually give out uber-bonuses when someone rolls a nat 30.) This simple rule gives the PCs a chance to perform some legendary feats and/or epic failures.

5. How I found out about the OSR:

Used to be seriously into role-playing back in the 80s during the hey-day. Wandered away during the college days, though I still puttered around with shared-universe writing, a local LARP group, etc. Online about 10-11 years ago, and wondered if gaming was still a thing. Found Goblinoid Games by chance, bought Labyrinth Lord and Mutant Future, jumped into the OSR movement, and haven't looked back.

6. My favorite OSR online resource/toy:

The online tools created by Purple Sorcerer Games for DCC RPG and MCC RPG is nothing short of amazing. PC generators, grimoires, charts, tables, etc. all at the click of a button. But their Crawler's Companion is a work of art. If you play DCC RPG, this handy app is all you need at the table. When I play DCC at conventions, everyone has this app running on their phones. And the fact it's free? Amazing.

7. Best place to talk to other OSR gamers:

The current online resource for talking about OSR-related things is G+. For some reason, the OSR gaming fans and subgroups glommed onto this social network rather than Facebook and the like. However, for face-to-face interaction, you have to attend one of the OSR-centric conventions, such as Gary Con, North Texas RPG Con, and many, many smaller and well-attended game conventions.

8. Other places I might be found hanging out talking games:

Typically one of the local-ish game stores. The SoldieryThe Guardtower, and Ravenstone down in Columbus are good hangouts, as well as Weird Realms up north in Cleveland.

9. My awesome, pithy OSR take nobody appreciates enough:

Whether you defeat the dragon, rescue the princess, thwart the evil wizard, etc. it doesn't matter. All the stuff leading up to those climatic game-ending events, that's the fun stuff.

10. My favorite non-OSR RPG:

I consider it OSR as it's been around since the 80s, but other may not. I'm a huge fan of the Pacesetter line. The original games Timemaster, Star Ace, Chill are fantastic. Even though I wasn't playing for 20 years, I still held on to my well-played, well-loved Pacesetter games. The fact that Goblinoid Games now owns the trademark and - gasp - I've written stuff for the lines has been an amazing bit of karma for me.

11. Why I like OSR stuff:

If I'm being honest, what brought me back in was the nostalgia. OSR games were the games I played in the 80s. 3d6 in order. 18(00) STR. The DM's word was law. All of these trappings were familiar and comfortable, so I was able to pick right back up after a lengthy absence without missing a beat. However, I also see we have the ability to mix and match the best parts of various systems without a lot of conversion. The OSR has exploded from "yet another fantasy heartbreaker" to various genres and settings, various derivative rules, various creative folks putting their spin on the classics and releasing it into the wild for all to enjoy -- and all of it is both familiar and brand new. Exciting stuff always happening in the OSR!

12. Two other cool OSR things you should know about that I haven’t named yet:

1. Contrary to outsider opinion, there is no "wrong way" to play. I've not yet run into anyone with a "badwrongfun" attitude. For example: after one game I ran at Gary Con, one of the players came to me and said, "I didn't want to say anything, but you were throwing your saving throws backwards the entire game." When I asked why he didn't mention that during the game, he shrugged, smiled, and said, "It's your game. I figured you were running it the way you wanted."
2. The folks in the OSR are the friendly I've met in 35+ years of gaming. For a group commonly considered grognards with an "old school" outlook, these folks are open to new ideas and welcoming to new members.

13. If I could read but one other RPG blog but my own it would be:

Jeff's Gameblog. Lotsa good stuff there.

14. A game thing I made that I like quite a lot is:

For purchase: One Year in the Savage AfterWorld -- a book of 52 mini-adventures for Mutant Future. Also, Burial Plots -- a book of 5 adventures for Cryptworld.
For freebies: The Apocalyptic Stormfront Mega-Table -- a table of 50 weird, wild weather patterns for gonzo post-apocalyptic RPGs. Had a lot of fun making this and have heard a lot of folks are still using it in their games.

15. I'm currently running/playing:

Always playing Timemaster, Cryptworld, and Mutant Future. Have taken a recent shine to Mutant Crawl Classics and am noodling around with the system and creating material for it.

16. I don't care whether you use ascending or descending AC because:

Either is fine by me. I don't care if your AC goes up, down, or sideways. Roll the damn dice, and let the DM figure it out.

17. The OSRest picture I could post on short notice:

Stared at this classic DM Screen image during my many games in high school. It's burned into my consciousness as "This Is Gaming":




Monday, October 8, 2018

[Review] Palm Island and Sprawlopolis - Two Micro-Card Games That Fit In The Palm Of Your Hand

During my lengthy hiatus from posting here at The Savage AfterWorld, I've been doing quite a bit of board gaming. Because I'm usually on my own here at Casa Sniderman, I've discovered solo board games. Typically these games are spread out all over your gaming table with many figures, cards, counters, pawns, dice, and a sundry of other bits and pieces to lose or knock onto the floor. However during a Kickstarter shopping spree of the past two years, I discovered two solo games that consist of no more than 18 cards....each. These two games literally fit in the palm of your hand. First we'll take a trip to Palm Island, followed shortly by a visit to the thriving metropolis of Sprawlopolis.


Palm Island by Portal Dragon tasks you to develop and expand the resources of your tiny Island Kingdom. You do this by amassing resources and spending them to “level up” your island's temples, housing, markets, etc. As your island begins to thrive, you have access to more resources to further expand your domain. Did I mention the game is played solely in the palm of your hand?
The 17-card deck is shuffled, then each card in the deck is dealt with one at a time. To store a resource (fish, logs, and stone) for future use, you turn it 90 degrees to expose it. If you amass enough stored resources, you can then spend them to develop your island's buildings and temples by straightening them back up, paying the cost to upgrade. As your island grows stronger, you have access to better and more abundant resources. When you've gone through the deck 8 times, the game ends. Each developed card is worth a certain point value depending on how far you managed to upgrade it. I've oversimplified how to play for this review, but there is an amazing amount of depth and gameplay here. Plus, if you meet certain goals in play, you can add additional cards to the game, such a "Feat" card which gives you special abilities and bonuses. There are Villagers who can offer their help to your island paradise. The game can be played head-to-head, both cooperatively and competitively! And watch out for disasters such as hurricanes and volcanoes that could destroy your kingdom! The portability of this game allows you to play it anywhere you have a free hand, because you don't need a playing surface at all! Very highly recommended!

<><><><><><><><><>

Sprawlopolis by Button Shy Games challenges you to build a thriving city made up of industrial, residential, commercial, and city park blocks, while meeting certain predetermined construction goals. And your city will come together with only the 18 cards in the deck!
To begin a game of Sprawlopolis, you shuffle the cards, then pull three at random. On the back of each card is a unique construction goal that applies only to this game. For example, one goal might be "Morning Commute" which gives you a two-point scoring bonus for any roads that pass through both a residential and commercial block. Or "Go Green" which gives you a point for every park block, but penalizes you three points for every industrial block! Each goal card also has a target score number -- adding the three goal numbers together gives you your final Target Score which must be reached or exceeded to win. To play, you use each card in order in the deck from top to bottom. You can play a new card next to or overlapping any card in play, as long as it's always lengthwise oriented and not played corner-to-corner. Your placement determines whether you can meet the scoring conditions on the construction goals. After the last card is placed, you score points per the beginning goals. You finally score one point per block in your largest area of each zone type. If you reached or beat your target score, you win! The Kickstarted version I got also has a few bonus cards, such as Points of Interest (city beautification!), Construction Zones (under development!), and Wrecktar (monster attack!).

Both of these games prove you don't need expansive boards and fiddly bits to have a great game. These 17-18-card decks have given me a lot of gameplay is a very small footprint. Sniderman says, "Check them out!"

Thursday, October 4, 2018

It's Labyrinth Lord....With The Great Seasonal Taste Of Pumpkin Spice!

It's autumn, and the flavor of pumpkin spice can be found in nearly everything -- pumpkin spice donuts, pumpkin spice cookies and breads, Pumpkin Spice Labyrinth Lord, pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin spi…

Wait a minute, back up one.

A bit of backstory: Last year at this time, Goblinoid Games' Overlord Dan Proctor was railing against the explosion of pumpkin spice-infused products appearing everywhere overnight. As a goof, he suggested he should release Pumpkin Spice Labyrinth Lord to take advantage of the yearly fall trend. So he created a new pumpkin spice-themed cover for the classic RPG and tossed it up on Lulu as a joke.

And folks loved it. And they bought it. And, true to the season, once Halloween rolled by, the Pumpkin Spice-Flavored edition disappeared as well.

However, due to popular demand, the 2018 edition of Pumpkin-Spice Labyrinth Lord is now available!

http://www.lulu.com/shop/daniel-proctor/labyrinth-lord-pumpkin-spice-edition/hardcover/product-23822766.html

The 2018 Pumpkin Spice Edition of Labyrinth Lord is only available in hardback at Lulu. And, once Halloween has come and gone, this edition will disappear as well. What started as a goof has (hopefully) become the start of a yearly tradition of spooky LL covers infused with pumpkin goodness!

(Oh, and if you'd also like an appropriately-themed Labyrinth Lord adventure, check out Scribe of Orcus Issue 1, which contains the adventure "The Pumpkin Lord of Shady Hollow"!)

Sunday, September 30, 2018

So Where Have I Been? And Where Are We Going?

(WARNING: This "return post" is incredibly self-indulgent. If you want to skip over a bit of navel-gazing, just come back for my next post that will have, you know, CONTENT.)


Hiya everybody! It's been...well...

(checks calendar)

...a pretty long time, actually. I'll bet most of you thought this corner of the gaming blog-o-sphere was long-ago dead-and-buried. You have every right to think that seeing as I went from close to two to three posts a week to as few as one a month last year. So what happened to The Savage AfterWorld?

The last couple of years have been busy for Your Friendly Neighborhood Sniderman. My wife and I moved, got a new house, took on extra work to pay for it all and just got busy with Real Life Stuff. Seems like every spare moment was focused on either making money or spending money I didn't have. Aside from that, my gaming interests shifted around a bit. Got serious involved in  board gaming, so role-playing took a backseat. Most of my online activity shifted away from Blogger and toward G+ and Facebook, where I'm fairly active on both sites. So you've probably been seeing my presence on the Interwebs, just not...here.

And, creativity-wise, I dipped into a bad case of the lulls. I've noodled around with some long-stagnant projects, but I haven't really felt a need or drive to get any of these out of my brain and into your hands. Those times I did drag out my notes, maps, and rulebooks to work on something, I stared at the screen, thought about what I wanted to do,....then went to YouTube and watched cat videos or something. Just a crushing bout of "Analysis Paralysis" -- knew what I wanted to accomplish, but didn't know how or where to start. So I just didn't.

Fast-forward a year...

All that changed recently. Why? Because tomorrow is the first day of October. My favorite season -- autumn -- is here. It's the time of Halloween and horror. Full moons and falling leaves. It's when I'm overflowing with horrific scenarios and gaming ideas. I've been rereading Cryptworld and delving into Eldritch Tales. I've got Arkham Horror: LCG on my table now, and Tiny Epic Zombies waiting in the wings for a go. In about a month, I'll be attending Gamehole Con for the first time (and it's the first gaming con I've been to in almost year). I've got gaming on my mind and on my table and on my nightstand. I'm so filled with creativity and nervous energy I'm gonna burst.

And I'm planning on channeling that energy into The Savage AfterWorld.

At one time, this blog-o-mine was a warehouse of every gaming idea that passed through my consciousness (and my subconsciousness as well). Scenarios, NPCs, supplements, adventures, creatures, and monsters sprung forth for a myriad of game systems, and all found their way to these blog pages. And I miss bringing them to you. So today The Savage AfterWorld begins anew. What will you see here? Well, I'm not certain quite yet as TSAW was always written in a "stream-of-consciousness"-type process.My goal is to get back to posting at minimum once a week in the coming year.

So stop by and join me, won't you?


Friday, September 28, 2018

We're Not Dead Yet...

The Savage AfterWorld returns to to regular posting this Halloween season. Stay tuned...



Friday, April 20, 2018

"Quill Noir" '30s Pulp Detective Setting for Quill RPG Now Available

Quill: A Letter-Writing Roleplaying Game for a Single Player is one of my favorite stand-alone solo games, as this review I wrote will attest. Last year, I wrote a scenario supplement for Quill called Quill Quest, in keeping with the pseudo-medieval theme of the original game. However, the open-ended mechanics of Quill seemed to be easily adaptable to other genres, other themes. So I stripped away the fantasy world trappings of original Quill and placed the game smack-dab in the middle of the 1930s pulp detective era. Hang tough, gumshoes, as you're about the enter the rough-and-tumble world of Quill Noir!


The case had me bewildered. I lit up a Lucky Strike and leaned back in my chair, propping my feet up on my desk. Lacing my fingers behind my head and closing my eyes, I mulled over what Sgt. Ward had said. Despite the fact mob boss Felix Bunte would be free to swoop in and take over the waterfront district, I didn’t think he had anything to do with Martino’s murder. It was too sloppy to be one of his goons. The blood at the crime scene had come from someone else; there were animal hairs clutched in Martino’s hand; and there was a cigarette butt found near the body. My eyes popped open and I lept from my chair as if I had been seated on Ol’ Sparky. I lunged for the phone and hurriedly dialed the station as I fumbled with my hat and overcoat.

“Sgt. Ward? Yeah, it’s me. Grab a couple of your boys and meet me at Luanne McKenzie’s place. Yeah, Martino’s girlfriend. I want to ask her again how she hurt her hand. Stop by Judge Smalls’ place on your way and get a search warrant too. I want to check out any fur stoles in her closet as well as what brand she smokes.”

Quill Noir takes place in the world of 1930s pulp crime fiction novels and 1940s hardboiled detective films. In Quill Noir, clever gumshoes try to solve baffling cases while gangsters and gun molls thwart their efforts to bring the guilty to justice. Using a new Quill letter format, “The First-Person Narrative,” you'll compose your solution in a first-person perspective, as if you were mulling over the facts of the case to yourself while sitting in your seedy downtown office, interrogating a suspect in a back alley, or staring down a mob enforcer. Quill Noir contains six new Character archetypes (the Private Eye, the Plainclothesman, the Dilettante, the G-Man, the Newshound, and the Enforcer) and four exciting cases for you to solve.

Quill Noir is now available in PDF at Drive Through RPG. (A copy of Quill: A Letter-Writing Roleplaying Game for a Single Player is required to play.) Both Quill and Quill Noir (and Quill Quest too) are available as Pay What You Want releases, so try before you buy, if you prefer. Also, Quill and Quill Noir have been released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.