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Two Necronomicons are better than one!

The latest edition to the old gaming shelf is Cthulhu Realms, a new deck building game from Tasty Minstrel Games. The game was designed by Darwin Kastle one of the designers of my favorite deck building game, Star Realms!
For those familiar with Star Realms some of the mechanics will be familiar. The goal of the game is to pummel your opponent to zero sanity, or have the most sanity when the cards for purchase have been exhausted.
Each player gets a starting deck of ten cards: followers, goons and initiates that allow you to purchase Lovecraftian horrors and locations to add to your deck in hopes of bringing on the end of all things.

The cards have different color, abilities and the like with lots of interplay between card types. Creating many different options for play and replay.Opening up many many strategies for victory. Monster hordes, evil books and iconic and creep location it is all here.

imageThe art on the cards is cartoony and wonderful. Some of jokes are subtle enough that it might take a couple of plays to notice them. Aside from the game play the cards are just fun to look at.

All in all I give this game high marks, deck builders are usually not my thing, but I think Cthulhu Realms may well dethrone Star Realms as my favorite, with deeper game play, but it never feels too heavy, or like I am playing solitaire, next to other people playing solitaire (my big complaint about Dominion) It is also has a reasonable price point of $20 its a bargain!

If you have been reading this blog you have been thrilled by the I Fought the Law story-line. Sadly the player of Sean Hastings has dropped out of the game. The group as a whole has moved forward and we have played a few more scenarios since the last session detailed on this blog. The solution to what happened in Sri Lanaka is this: as the game moves forward, someone will drop a line about Sri Lanka, then every one eles will simply comment. “Hey, we agreed we would never say a word about what happened in Sri Lanka”

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Our cast of characters:
Dylan Eldridge – Teenage Wiz kid
Professor  Ray King – Soldier of God
Tyrone Mayfield – Werewolf on the Rise

At the University of St Thomas-Adjunct Faculty Office Ray King Finds himself doing the end of the semester clean-up when the monsignor asks him to stop in and have a chat with a student who is having some trouble.  The student, Billy Wright is freshly back from Afghanistan, and insists no one else can understand why he is hold up in his dorm room.  Ray being a vet of the first Gulf War is able to convince Billy he might understand.

Billy hems and haws but tells a story that to most would be unbelievable story of he and his squads las night in-country and a horrible atrocity committed against an Afghan village,the slaughter of the community and the village elder calling down a curse of vengeance against he and his comrades, with his last breath. The vengeance comes in the form of an Ifrit that is working its way through his comrades, immolating each one of them, Billy knows it is just a matter of time. Ray knows what he needs to do, he starts making calls to Tyrone and Dylan.

Dylan is not answering his phone. Dylan and his friend George Marcone are at George’s fathers bowling alley/bar, Memory Lanes to hopefully meet some girls at the newly established Ladies Night promotion. The place is hopping a local disco tribute band is on tap for entertainment and Dylan and George are starting to make time with some female patrons when Dylan falls to the floor with a vision of the bartender bursting into flames as the song Disco Inferno plays.

Once on his feet he explains he is fine to the onlookers and notices a sign over the bar that says “Welcome back Nick!” A bartender with a military haircut is dutifully slinging drinks. Dylan goes for his phone, and returns Ray’s call as the opening bars of Disco Inferno play over the sound system. Dylan tells Ray to get to Memory Lanes ASAP, as a humanoid dower of flame erupts from thin air and the bartender is set a blaze. Dylan quick on his feet uses cold magics from his Winter Court heritage to fight the creature and save the bar before the whole place burns. The Ifrit warns Dylan not to stop him on his mission before exiting back into the Never-never.

EMS arrived as do Ray and Tyrone. Statements are given, nobody admits to seeing a anthropomorphic pillar of fire attacking the poor bartender. After comparing notes they round up Billy and head over to the Basilica hoping that it will offer some protection from the supernatural threat.

Billy is encourage to make use of his time at the church repenting and seriously consider turning him self in for war crimes. Billy eventually after some soul searching agrees to take responsibility and turn him self in to the the military police at Fort Snelling. Ray calls detective Baker to take him into official custody and do the transport.

On the road the Ifrit strikes, manifesting in the middle of the highway. The car slams into the the creature, it appears no worse for wear. Baker and Billy run for Tyrone’s bike while Ray faces off with the Ifrit. It warns Ray not to interfere, as he like Ray, serves the Almighty and is on a quest of holy vengeance. Ray exchanges blows with the creature but is taken out of the fight, leaving the Ifrit to attack Billy.

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The Ifrit belches fire that imomolates the young man and causes the bike  the crash. Dylan arrives intime to cool down the bike with his cold magic. The Ifrit moves
on, eventually Billy’s confession is passed up the line to his unit and the remaining memebers of the squad taken into custody.

Some of you may have noticed that this story is very similar to a subplot of one of the last couple of seasons of the HBO series True Blood. You are correct I am a thief only the urban fantasy series and foreign war and names have been changed. No appologies though, it felt right for the game. 

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Earlier this summer, I picked up a copy of Dead of Winter after playing it at a friends house. It is one of the best horror or zombie apocalypse games around.

The story of the game is that you control a number of survivors at a sanctuary from the hungry dead. You are trying to survive the winter that has set in, complete story and personal goals, as well as keep the people in your colony, healthy and fed. There is also a chance someone is a traitor who has a personal goal that is cross purposes with the group as a whole.

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Turn by turn players forage for supplies, shore up defenses and try to avoid being ate by zombies, getting frostbite or just getting injured in the environment by using their survivors’ special talents

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This is accomplished via a dice pool determined by the number of survivors controlled by the player at any given time. These dice are compared to a survivor’s skill and applied to an action.

Fighting or moving between locations an exposure die is used and it determines injury, frostbite, death by zombie attack, or making it out unscathed.

Adding to the fun are the crossroads cards that toss in randomness into every turn and could bring in good or bad fortune.

The game does an amazing job of simulating the best parts of zombie apocalypse stories. There is palpable tension that builds and builds until the final turn. It gets in your head a lot more than a game like Zombicide or Last Night On Earth. While fun, they don’t bring the drama or real feelings of dread that Dead of Winter does.

If you like the zombie apocalypse genre, or co-op games with a traitor mechanic it is well worth the price.

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wpid-20150808_123909.jpgIn 2013 I made my first visit to Los Angeles, It was a good trip for many reasons,  My first trip to Disneyland, lots of amazing vegan eats, and on a trip to Vroman’s bookstore I stumbled on my new favorite series: Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

Ex-Heroes is a Zombie and Superheroes mash-up set in the ruins of Los Angeles. Unlike other Zombie Supers mash ups (I’m looking at you Marvel Zombies) this is amazing and fun from beginning to end. At the moment there are four books out, with the fifth due out early in 2016.

The zombies in universe are referred to as Exes, or Ex-humans, and they are legion by the present of the books. The Exs are Romero type shamblers, but they are not moaners, their teeth chatter and clack in a cacophony of terror.

The heroes are not globe trotters, or world shakers, they are city level heroes.  Think Batman Year One, Daredevil, Spiderman and the like. Most of them fit a classic super hero archetype. Stealth is The Cowl, St George The Cape, Zzzap who is a bit like and electric Human Torch that goes to eleven.

wpid-img_20150808_123823.jpgThe Chapters are divided into THEN and NOW. I really enjoyed this set-up allowing for a good deal of world building, origin stories and how the heroes were un able to stop the undead plague despite their best efforts, as well as telling the story of the present pickle, usually with something in the past informing the current situation.

The books tread into areas familiar to readers of Powers, and a few other comics that address the effects on ordinary people in a world of super beings. How do you cope when you fear your protectors can up and leave, or inadvertently destroy your infrastructure in a super powered fist fight. Clines plays with conventions, and tropes of both superhero and zombie genres involved, making the story feel very fresh.

Don’t let those bigger questions fool you the books are fast paced, and Clines write’s superhero fights better than anyone. All while conveying a definite sense of place, the land scape of LA to me felt like a character unto itself, to the point I knew where I was when traveling around LA from remembering passages in the text.

So any way, you know you love superheroes, and you know you love zombies, why note dive in!

The books:

Ex-Heroes

Ex-Patiots

Ex-Communication

Ex-Purgatory

And coming soon…

Ex-Isle

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So for my birthday I received the third book for the Dresden Files RPG: The PARANET PAPERS. The title refers to an online network that evolved from The Midwest Arcane in the Dresden-verse.

The contents feature a lot of information about the wider world of the Dresden Files, including other eras and several well fleshed out, areas to visit (just don’t violate that Sixth Law of Magic visiting the past).

Other sections update several entries from the OUR WORLD DFRPG source book. Mixed in with this are tips for creating plot device level entities and updates to Sponsored Magic and Thaumaturgy systems.

My only real complaint is the art in the book being a little inconsistent, and a stylistic departure from the first two books in the line.  This is only a minor complaint, the book is a solid addition to the Dresden Files RPG.

Important locations are fodder for the city creation process for the Dresden Files RPG. So here are the first batch of  locations that have made appearances in the games so far. Where appropriate I will link to the home pages or Wikipedia entries of the places in question.

NAME:Summit Avenue

DESCRIPTION:Old money and big housesgriggs house

THEME (OR) THREAT:Theme

THE IDEA:The home of old families of the Twin Cities, and all the baggage that implies

THE ASPECT: Old money and dark secrets

THE FACE: Martha Griggs – Protector of reputations and tradition.

NAME: Dinkytowndinky1

DESCRIPTION: A borough of Minneapolis surrounding the University of Minnesotacampus, populated predominantly by college students and townies.

THEME (OR) THREAT: Theme

THE IDEA: The muggle origins of the name “Dinkytown” are unknown, but to the supernatural world, it is a central hub for pixies, brownies, dwarves, elves, sprites, and their related changelings, all of whom maintain a bustling Dinkytown Overcity of tiny homes and businesses atop the muggle-sized homes and businesses. The Dinkytown Overcity is, believe it or not, the center of supernatural commerce in the Twin Cities.

THE ASPECT: Fragglesque goblin-a-rific market.

THE FACE: Squeentyn McFarklerface III, the pixie mayor of Dinkytown Overcity, who is commonly seen to riding a massive rat that he insists is a mouse that he has named Lieutenant Bunderplum.

NAME: The Blue Door

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DESCRIPTION: An upscale jazz bar owned and operated by supernatural creatures, for supernatural creatures, located in downtown St. Paul. Muggles need not apply.

THEME (OR) THREAT: Theme

THE IDEA: The Blue Door is Accorded neutral territory and one of the only agreed upon safe havens in the Twin Cities. Owned, operated, managed, and staffed entirely by supernatural creatures, it is a true nexus where the disparate supernatural powers truly play nice.

THE ASPECT: Peace enforced by threat of gratuitous violence.

THE FACE: Valentine, the owner, manager, and primary vocal entertainer for the Blue Door, is a mysterious figure of unknown nature and origin. She is beautiful and dangerous, with honey-colored skin, striking violet eyes, and is rumored to be one of the oldest denizens of the Americas, and possibly the world.

Aiden Croft acts as chief enforcer and bouncer at the Blue Door. Tall, broad, muscular and strikingly Teutonic, he makes no secret that he is, in fact, a werewolf. His dominance is sufficient that he could easily take alphaship of any werewolf pack in and around the Twin Cities area, but he instead chooses a solitary life as a lone wolf. It is believed that he and Valentine were lovers once, but now their relationship seems strictly professional.

NAME: St. Thomas Universityust2

DESCRIPTION: A parochial university located on Summit Avenue in St. Paul.

THEME (OR) THREAT: Theme

THE IDEA: Higher education with a very special library

THE ASPECT: Knowledge is a double edged sword.

THE FACE: Monsignor O’Malley – The Good Shepherd

NAME: First Avenue / 7th Street Entrance1stave

DESCRIPTION: Aging music venue barely holding its market share. The walls have an amazing history of acts of all genres, home of the Twin Cities Sound.

THEME (OR) THREAT: Theme

THE IDEA: Don’t like the music, come back tomorrow, really please, come back.

THE ASPECT: The Twin Cities sound… of desperation.

THE FACE: Steve McClellan – club owner at the end of his rope.

NAME: Magus Books

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DESCRIPTION: Dinkytown’s finest magic bookstore.

THEME (OR) THREAT: Theme

THE IDEA: The place to go for bits and baubles of a magical variety

THE ASPECT: A glimpse behind the veil

THE FACE: Derius DeWitt – the magic man.

NAME: Stardust Lanes

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DESCRIPTION: South Mpls bowling alley with a sketchy reputation

THEME (OR) THREAT: Theme

THE IDEA: The seedy underbelly of Mpls

THE ASPECT: Good old fashioned corruption.

THE FACE: Leo Marcone – Hungry crime boss

NAME: The Basilica of St Mary and St. Paul’s Cathedral

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DESCRIPTION: Center of Catholic Faith in the Twin Cities

THEME (OR) THREAT: Theme

THE IDEA: The archdiocese of these two great institutions form the heart of Catholic worship in the entire

Twin Cities Metro Area. Behind the scenes, however,  the leaders of the church are reassembling a gnostic group that looks strikingly like the Templars. Whether or not this is done with the blessing of the Vatican remains to be seen.

THE ASPECT: Psalm 23:4 (Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.)

THE FACE:  Father Benedicte Christos, Peaceful Warrior

NAME: Saint Paul City Hall

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DESCRIPTION: The police on the east side of the river

THEME (OR) THREAT: Threat

THE IDEA: Minneapolis has its trouble with mundane corruption, the SP-PD has more supernatural troubles.

THE ASPECT: Saintly halos are beginning to tarnish

THE FACE: Detective Cameron Baker – Remarkably savvy peace officer.

City building in an important step in the start of a Dresden Files game. During that process the players and gamemaster create locations and important or noteworthy NPCs or Faces for those locations. What follows are the faces that have thus far come into play in the game I have been GMing the last few months.  We did some casting along the way finding appropriate images for the NPCs.

NAME: Martha Griggs msgriggs

IS THE FACES OF: Summit  Avenue

HIGH CONCEPT: Protector of reputations and tradition  

MOTIVATIONS: Protect the privileged.

RELATIONSHIPS: Knows Monsignor O’Malley  socially. She knows the business of anyone  who  is  anyone. Could be a powerful friend or enemy.

 

NAME: Monsignor O’Malleyomalley

IS THE FACES OF: U of St Thomas

HIGH CONCEPT: The good shepherd

MOTIVATIONS: Protect the flock from dark forces.

RELATIONSHIPS: Ray’s boss, knows Martha Griggs socially. Professional dealings with Thao Nguyen. Has met both Leo and George Marcone in roles both clergy and academic.

NAME: Big Wally Gundersonbigwally

IS THE FACES OF: North of 694

HIGH CONCEPT: Werewolf from up North.

MOTIVATIONS: Protecting his pack.

RELATIONSHIPS: Knows Leo Marcone, has done construction all over the Twin Cities, including UST

NAME: Squeentyn McFarkler III dinkytown

IS THE FACES OF: Dinkytown

HIGH CONCEPT: Pixie Mayor of the Overcity

MOTIVATIONS: Sing, sing everyone  sing for me!

RELATIONSHIPS: Knows Darius Dewitt  very well, and Valentine.

 

NAME: Valentine _20150615_194737

IS THE FACES OF: The Blue Door

HIGH CONCEPT: A song as old as time

MOTIVATIONS: Keeping  the peace

RELATIONSHIPS: Romantically  linked to her bouncer, she has a wide range of admirers. McClellan  has heard of her talents and tried to book her into his club, but she never returns his calls.

 

NAME: Aiden Croftaiden2

IS THE FACES OF: The Blue Door

HIGH CONCEPT: You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry…

MOTIVATIONS: Unknown.

RELATIONSHIPS: Has an intense on-again off-again relationship with his boss, Valentine. Seems to know most all the supernatural players on a first name basis. Charismatic and extremely dominant, he could easily unite the conflicting werewolf packs in the Twin Cities, and possibly beyond, but he seems to have no interest in doing so.

NAME: Leo Marcone marconetheelder

IS THE FACES OF: Stardust Lanes

HIGH CONCEPT: Hungry crime boss.

MOTIVATIONS: Honor the family name, become a player.

RELATIONSHIPS: Cousin to Chicago’s own John Marcone. His son, George, goes to U of ST. Has dealings with Big Wally’s construction company. Leo has recently become the business partner of Tyrone Mayfield in a takeover bid of the First Avenue nightclub.

NAME: George Marcone georgemarcone

IS THE FACES OF: The Obsidian Club

HIGH CONCEPT: Future crime boss

MOTIVATIONS: Honor the family name, become a player.

RELATIONSHIPS: Recently initiated Dylan Eldridge after helping George steal a trophy from the MSP admin building. Knows the Monsignor and has taken a class from Ray.

NAME: Steve  McClellan firstavessteve

IS THE FACES OF: First  Avenue/Seventh Street Entry

HIGH CONCEPT: Club owner at  the end of his rope

MOTIVATIONS: Get the club on its feet again.

RELATIONSHIPS: Knows Marcone, has rented the club for private events to Mayor Dan Roe.Has tried to book Valentine into the club on numerous occasions but to no avail. He is desperate to hold onto some shred of control of his club

NAME: Father Benedicte Christos christos

IS THE FACES OF: The Basilica of St. Mary and the St Paul’s Cathedral.

HIGH CONCEPT: Peaceful Warrior

MOTIVATIONS: To confront evil in all it’s forms.

RELATIONSHIPS: Knows most of the major league players in town by sight, is Ray King’s mentor and trainer.

NAME: Detective Cameron Baker baker

IS THE FACES OF: The St. Paul Police Department

HIGH CONCEPT: Remarkably savvy peace officer.

MOTIVATIONS: Detective Baker is driven by the need to know the truth. She will stop at nothing to find it.

RELATIONSHIPS: Knows Albert Aberdeen, Eoin Murphy, Thao Nguyen, Steve McClellan, and Valentine in a professional capacity. Knows Father Benedicte Christos through reputation (and by the fact that she is a lapsed Catholic). Knows George and Leo Marcone by their rap sheets.

NAME: Derius DeWitt  dewitt

IS THE FACES OF: Magus Books

HIGH CONCEPT: The Magic Man

MOTIVATIONS: Knowledge and profit

RELATIONSHIPS: Knows all the supernatural players, has a difficult relationship with Mpls PD. He has sold Dylan a few books to aid in his mystical education