Wednesday, 29 January 2020

Up On A Soapbox - Thank you for your patience

It's been awhile since something in gaming got under my skin but I got an email that really set me off recently.  And like most things that set me off it wasn't really this one email, it was the tipping point for something that had been accumulating over time.

For reasons I'll probably never fully understand I've always been more annoyed than the average person when someone uses some well meaning turn-of-phrase that I know has absolutely NO sincerity behind it.

What was the super-offensive phrase that sent me into a downward spiral?   "Thank you for your patience".

In the past few years I have supported a small number of crowd-funding projects.  I have had the good fortune to avoid any of the notoriously bad, mismanaged, or undelivered projects but having said that my crowd funding 'purchases' have basically broken into good and bad experiences with nothing really in the grey area in between.  The funny thing (and I am genuinely sure this really is just a coincidence) is that to date all of my miniature game crowd funds have been good to great, and all of my RPG crowd funds have ranged from disappointing to abysmal.  In every single case the difference between good and bad has been the use of the phrase "Thank you for your patience".  In the world of small indie publications and productions it seems like its the nature of the beast that delays of various lengths are inevitable.  So what exactly slants my view between positive and negative?

The good.
The good crowd funds I've supported when they hit a snag or delay as a supporter will send me a "Thank you for your patience" email followed by a quick note explaining the delay and typically laying out a new expected delivery date that feels like its in line with the type of delay.  Things like 'our packaging arrived a week late, so shipping will be pushed back a week' or 'our printer is running behind schedule so delivery will be a month later than originally planned'.  No one has to like these delays but it's easy to respect a delay when what is being communicated seems logical, reasonable, and doesn't become endlessly repetitive.  In my opinion most well planned product roll outs won't just blow past deadlines they obviously never tried to hit and won't end up taking twice as long (or longer) than originally forecast.  So...what about the...other projects?

The bad.
The bad crowd funds I've supported don't necessarily hit snags they either set unrealistically short deadlines or they don't truly plan for the time line that the work will require.  Nothing happens, or changes, or goes wrong, one day the supporters just receive an email saying "Thank you for your patience" with a promise that work that was already supposed to have been completed will now be done soon.  So from where I'm standing the bad crowd funders shouldn't be thanking us for our 'patience' they should be thanking us for their own 'interest' because interest is what they're collecting while they neither deliver goods to their supporters nor pay for services that they are still waiting to contract out.

So just for a little context.
The first three miniature game crowd funds I backed all included printed rulebooks, physical miniatures and an assortment of other gaming collateral.  All of them were delivered within 8 weeks of their original projected dates with clear communication around delays and in all three cases I got at least what I had been promised in terms of quantity and quality.
The first three RPG crowd funds I backed were all for single printed books.  They all shipped 6 to 13 months late.  Two of the three ended up arriving as much lower quality productions (recycled artwork, thin paper, bad binding) than were promised and in no case was an attempt made to make up for what had been promised but wasn't delivered.

Communication is king.  If you're thinking about just producing something as a one-off and then disappearing by all means ignore everything I just said.  But if your crowd funding project is intended to launch you as a creator; treat your supporters the way you would want to be treated.

This has been a pretty long rant so let me just conclude by saying, Thank you for your patience.


Thursday, 16 January 2020

Review - To Hell & Back Again

What has turned into a solid week of reviewing solo adventures continues with the Descent Into Avernus tie-in; To Hell & Back Again.

I've got to say I didn't know what to expect from a solo module attached to such a weird campaign adventure, but this adventure felt like playing along with the D&D Live The Descent event.  To Hell & Back Again did an amazing job of capturing the flavour of Avernus and gives the player the experience of interacting with an Infernal Warmachine as well as some of the other Avernus weirdness.  The adventure was fun and engaging and filled with a lot of different types of encounters and content.  From combat, to social interactions, to an actual deal with a devil this adventure is both an extremely complete experience on its own while also functioning as a prequel to give a character some background, benefits, ties, and disadvantages for their further adventures in Avernus.

In addition to the overall execution of the theme and satisfying story To Hell & Back Again has a lot going for it.  The adventure is split into three distinct acts, each of which happens in a different location and feels legitimately different.  In spite of the text of the adventure proper taking place over 43 pages it feels truly epic and makes the player character feel like a hero in the truest sense of the word.

If I had one criticism to offer it would be that for my personal tastes the levelling up happens too fast.  I know that milestone levelling at lower levels does generally move very quickly but to me personally the jump from 1st to 2nd level happening without the player character accomplishing anything all that significant cheapens the sense of character development and growth.  Other than that I can't find any fault or flaw with the adventure.

To Hell & Back Again is currently available from DMsGuild at for $9.95 and is a definite must-buy if you're at all on the fence about whether or not Descent Into Avernus is for you or not.


Wednesday, 15 January 2020

Review - Companionable Darkness

Today I look at the final (as of this writing) adventure in the Scarthey solo adventure series; Companionable Darkness.

Companionable Darkness is a return to the more traditional structure of solo adventures.  The player navigates through a branching story tree based on their decisions and interacts with a variety of characters, monsters, and challenges along the way.

The story in Companionable Darkness begins with the player character filling the role of a caravan/body-guard.  An incident occurs early on that leads to conflict and the player must lead their NPC companions to solve a mystery and hopefully save an innocent.

I will start off by saying that Companionable Darkness is the strongest entry in the series so far.  My largest criticism of the first adventure in the series is that it was too short, although Companionable Darkness is only a dozen or so entries longer each entry has significantly more story and action and ultimately feels much more filled out.  Other than format my biggest issue with the second adventure in the series is that there was very little bordering on no story at all, this time out there is a decent story being told and a bunch of NPCs to play and interact with to make the world feel more real and lived in.

My criticisms of this adventure would be that once again a few things were missed that should have been caught in editing or proof-reading passes, this time out the issues aren't significant but it would have been nice to remove the distractions.  My only other criticism would be the fact that very early on all the characters are introduced and there is no apparent antagonist, which means the player is just waiting for the inevitable Scooby Doo style unmasking of one of the earlier 'friendly' NPCs.  I have to say though neither of those issues detract from the overall experience and I still really enjoyed my play through.

If someone were going to play only one solo adventure from Rising Phoenix Games I would definitely choose Companionable Darkness currently available from DrivethruRPG at for $3.95.


Tuesday, 14 January 2020

Review - Forest Of Secrets

Following up on Death Queen And The Life Stone is the next solo adventure in the Scarthey line; Forest Of Secrets.

Forest Of Secrets starts off with the character ostensibly engaged in a simple delivery mission to get some documents from point A to point B, before the player makes their first choice choice in the adventure however the true nature of the adventure is revealed and it takes the form of an escort mission.

Forest Of Secrets differs greatly from most traditional solo D&D adventures and/or adventure game books in that rather than a linear narrative the adventure's progress is driven by exploration of a randomly generated map, more in line with how many 'quest' style board games work.  I suspect that whether a player perceives this as a positive or a negative has more to do with personal taste than with objective quality.  I will say the upside to the random map generation is that it feels like it inherently gives the adventure a far greater deal of replay value than most solo adventures have, but the corresponding downside is that there is little to no developing narrative during exploration.

Forest Of Secrets took longer to play than Death Queen And The Life Stone which may feel like a more rewarding experience for some players but personally I found the experience to feel somewhat hollow and less satisfying.  The NPC that you are escorting through the forest is the single most interesting aspect of the adventure but after her introduction she receives no exposition or development until the climax of the adventure.

For gamers looking for a solo adventure more like an old school random dungeon adventure board game this adventure will definitely scratch that itch.  For gamers looking for a more narrative experience that feels closer to a true RPG game this will probably fall short of expectations.

Forest Of Secrets is currently available from DrivethruRPG for $2.95 at


Monday, 13 January 2020

Review - Death Queen & The Life Stone

After a lengthy hiatus I've returned to another one of my original RPG passions; the solo adventure.

Rising Phoenix Games has published a Potteresque setting for both D&D 5E and Pathfinder called Scarthey on DrivethruRPG and in addition to a setting book and some traditional adventures they have also published three solo adventures, starting at level 1.

I started off by playing my way through Death Queen & The Life Stone.

The adventure was quite short (only 50 entries) and a successful run took under an hour from start to finish.  First up I have to say the art in general was good with the art of the Death Queen herself being exceptional (makes me want a miniature of that character).  The adventure itself is a traditional dungeon crawl with an somewhat Egyptian theme.  The adventure had a few unique encounters and a mix of combat encounters with a few skill/ability checks to keep things interesting.

Although there was a lot I enjoyed about the adventure there were definitely a few opportunities for improvement.  The first shortcoming I encountered was fairly early on, an entry gives you the option to make a History or Religion check to interpret some information but gives no DC for the check.  The second issue I had was during an encounter with some crossbow armed bandits where two escape options were given but in spite of the stats and combat rules being given for the encounter there was no option or selection to choose if you actually fought and won.  Those were relatively minor but both came early on so it made me a bit concerned more issues would follow (none did for the record).  The only other issue I had was that setting a D&D solo adventure at 1st level meant that in most encounters one or two bad die rolls would result in disaster.  In each early encounter the player fights multiple opponents where the action economy means that a character could go out in a single combat round.

Overall I enjoyed my experience playing the adventure and look forward to the next adventure in the series.  Death Queen And The Life Stone is currently available from DrivethruRPG at for $2.95


Sunday, 12 January 2020

Some more horrific odds and ends

Over the Christmas season I got started on a lot of different projects and didn't get around to finishing any of them because of...reasons?

First up I figured I could use more ghost-pants for my upcoming Ravenloft game and really wanted to finally get around to painting my Warhammer Underworlds Shadespire figures so I painted up the first three members of the Thorns Of The Briar Queen.

I really like these figures.  Obviously they're designed in the same style as the Age Of Sigmar Chain Rasps but they have a lot of individual character, as well as some fantastically detailed bases.

The other things I've begun thinking about is where my Ravenloft adventurers will be headed after Forfar.  I haven't decided yet, but if they end up in Lamordia, I think I'm ready.

These are the current WizKids Flesh Golems.  Historically Flesh Golems have been difficult figures to come by as many manufacturers tend to make them really over-sized.  What's nice about these figures is that they are larger than a 'normal' human but not unnaturally over-sized.  I'm honestly not decided yet on whether or not Lamordia will follow immediately on Forfar but if it does this should be a good start.

Next up, some solo adventuring!


Saturday, 11 January 2020

Welcome to the Exclusion Zone

(or if you prefer..Time for a Roadside Picnic)

Osprey's newest (in this case; soon to be released) game is Zona Alfa, which appears to be inspired by the Russian sci-fi novel Roadside Picnic.  In both the game and the novel ex-military operators journey into the Exclusion Zone like Indiana Jones style treasure hunters in an attempt to recover forbidden tech for fun and profit.

I'm pretty stoked about trying out a new post-apocalyptic game (because I clearly don't have enough) and based on the art and imagery I've seen so far I think I already have a great start on my force.

Years ago I bought some RAFM modern SWAT figures as well as some criminal/terrorist figures that are now going to get used for the first time.

In addition to these figs, I have four more across three different variants that should give me a decent-sized start to force to head out into the Exclusion Zone.

Hopefully in a couple of weeks I'll have a first game to report on and some new models added.