East Texas University

ETU

As both a native East Texan and a fan of Savage Worlds, the Pinebox setting Pinnacle has been publishing has really piqued my interest. After all, most Yankees (that’s anyone not from Texas for you non-Texans, by which I mean Yankees) think all of Texas is either a Clint Eastwood Western or an episode of Dallas. My life growing up in the Piney Woods of East Texas was nothing like either of those experiences. Instead, my childhood was much more like growing up in the Deep South, especially since I grew up very close to the Louisiana border.

So knowing that one of my favorite game companies was going to tackle the little known area where I grew up, I hesitantly excited. The recent release of East Texas University was the first opportunity that I got to actually see some of it.

And I have to say, they’ve done a good job. I’m don’t know if the author is actually a native East Texan, has lived there for a while or he just did a lot of research but, reading East Texas University is like reading a travel guide to my home. Ok, in my experience, there were fewer chupacabres and demon possessions but otherwise, it’s quite authentic. In fact, in the whole book, I can find only one “fact” that couldn’t actually be true. One of the fictional landmarks in the setting is a geographic impossibility bu that is seriously overbalanced by the number of little details thrown into the product that are very true to East Texas.

Or, to put it in East Texas terms: I figure they done a purty aight job. Actually that statement is a good example of some of the flavor they put into the product to give players and game masters a feel for the region. There is a section for both vocabulary and dialect in the players section of East Texas University. For example, Yankees think that “Coke” refers only to the Coca-Cola beverage. Natives of East Texas know that “Coke” refers any carbonated beverage including Pepsi, Dr. Pepper or Mountain Dew. There are even a few phrases in the list that I’m not familiar with but I can hear coming out of the mouth of an East Texan.

One of the other small touches is that the ETU mascot is the Raven. This is minor but that just happens to be the name the Cherokee gave to their friend Sam Houston, the man who would go on to be the first President of Texas. And even just little facts like these are not where the feel of the region ends. There are also cultural things that are very Piney Woods like the fact that the law in Pinebox, the small town near ETU is a small police force while the law at ETU, which is out in the county is up to the Sherriff’s department in the county. As someone who grew up in a place where there was no police department, this is very familiar to me.

Another important point that is discussed, at least in passing, especially for college students is the concept of wet and dry counties. For you Yankees, a wet county is one where you can buy booze (except part of Sunday, Jesus is still watching, after all) and a dry county is one where you cannot. The border between the two is invariably lined with bars and liquor stores and would be well know to any college student.

For those of you who are not interested in East Texas, I pity you. Nonetheless, there is still plenty you’ll find interesting, because East Texas University isn’t just a fairly faithful representation of life in East Texas. Idyllic as that might be, unless you like hunting and mudding it would also be pretty boring. So, thrown into the mix and to make the setting much more interesting, there is a lot of paranormal strangeness going on around East Texas University. Imagine your basic small town, situated out in one of the last really dense wildernesses in North America where Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural and X-Files is all happening at once. In fact, that adds another level to the spookiness. Unlike Sunnydale, Pinebox is surrounded by wilderness that is dangerous and unclaimed even without being filled with monsters and demons.

While this is still a Fast! Furious! Fun! setting, it, like many others in Savage Worlds, strays to the darker side. There is a lot going on under the surface in East Texas University and Golan County, like Sunnydale has a death rate that must raise the eyebrows of outside officials.

And the setting doesn’t just limit itself to ghosts and demons. Apparently, there is plenty of room for conspiracies, cults and cryptids in the Piney Woods where I grew up. I’m kind of glad I didn’t know about it and thankful that I got out of there. I’m questioning the wisdom of going back for Thanksgiving.

In keeping with the normal people facing supernatural terror theme, East Texas University is a distinctly low magic setting. In fact, the Arcane Backgrounds from the Core Rulebook are banned and are replaced by Ritualism rules. These are a modification of the rules for rituals given in the Horror Companion and are rife with opportunities to fail, go horribly wrong, or just cause unexpected results. Add to that the fact that each ritual has to be carefully researched out of some ancient tome, which has to be found, and that they can have very difficult to procure components that are used up every time a spell is cast and it seems obvious that the answer to a supernatural menace has to be some investigation and a shotgun loaded with rock salt as often as it is magic.

But East Texas University isn’t only a setting about hunting the things that lurk in the shadows at the edge of human knowledge. As might be expected from the last word in the title, it is also about going to college and it handles this aspect perhaps even better than the location or genre rules. Each rank is considered a new level in school. Novices are Freshmen, Seasoned characters are Sophomores and so on. Instead of the Dean (the title given to the game master in this setting) having to keep careful track of the date and the players having to keep careful track of how much homework their characters do and when they’ll find time between stopping a werewolf apocalypse and laying an angry ghost to rest to write that term paper, the entire academic process is largely abstracted. Each time the characters get an advance, they make a roll on their academics skill to see how well they’ve done in their classwork. There are also extracurricular activities that the characters can select that have various effects on their studies and lives.

One of the best things about East Texas University is that it does not have to be used whole cloth. People interested in one aspect of the game and not the others will find it is quite easy to pick apart the strands that make up the game and use them for other purposes and in other campaigns. For example, Pinebox and its inhabitants and the culture presented could easily be used as a setting without the school portions, and could even take out the supernatural elements. An alien invasion encroaching on the area would make a compelling campaign, for example. There’s nothing more classic than some good ol’ boys teaching some alien scum why you don’t mess with Texas.

On the other hand, if a Game Master wanted to run a college game, in any setting, ETU has all the information needed to pull it off. Separating those elements out would make an excellent base for any school setting. It would be just as easy to use the East Texas University system to run a game about a super hero high school or perhaps a wizarding academy as it would be to run it as it is with the inherent story and supernatural elements involved.

I went into East Texas University expecting a lot. Much as I would have liked to have picked apart the product, especially given my background, I couldn’t find anything wrong with it and a whole lot that was right. I was much more than pleasantly surprised by just how good it is. Even people who aren’t from East Texas can get the feel of the region and anyone who enjoys any of the many occult shows on TV now and in the recent past will love the game system and the supernatural elements included in the product. So round up your Scooby gang, grab your rock salt loaded shotgun and head out into the Big Thicket and Piney Woods to find yourself some trouble.

Beer. Run Geek. Episode 1: This is Where My Body Will Be!

It’s here! The first episode of our new video series, Beer. Run. Geek. is live now!If you have an interest in craft beer, or wondering how to get into running, this video series is meant for you!

In this episode, we visit Winston-Salem, NC, and discuss:

  • Hoka One One Running shoes: www.hokaoneone.com
  • Foothills Brewing: www.foothillsbrewing.com
  • Mystery Brewing: www.mysterybrewing.com
  • Small Batch Beer Co.: www.smallbatchws.com
  • Hoots Roller Bar: www.hootspublic.com
  • Liberty Brewing: www.libertysteakhouseandbrewery.com

Follow us on Twitter @BeerRunGeek!

Have feedback and suggestions for future episodes? BeerRunGeek@outlook.com

Funnybooks with Aron and Paulie: A Good Week for Wonder Woman!

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This week on Funnybooks we look at THREE new issues of Wonder Woman related titles – were they all worth reading? We also get caught up on Spider-Verse and All-New Marvel Now! Also, Batman whoops on Kalibak, and Sleepwalker Returns!

  • Convergence
  • Batman and Robin #36
  • Justice League #36
  • Superman/Wonder Woman #13
  • Wonder Woman #36
  • Sleepwalker Returns!
  • Spider-Verse: Amazing Spider-Man #10, Spider-Verse #1, Spider-Woman #1
  • New Thanos OGN from Jim Starlin
  • All-New Marvel Now! Thor #2, Superior Iron Man #1, All-New Captain America #1

The Reign of Ironclaw is HERE!  Check out Knights of Reignsborough Season 3!  Episode seven is coming for Thanksgiving!

Also, check out the Ideology of Madness YouTube Channel for enhanced content!

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Boss Monster

14a1_boss_monster_dungeon_building_card_gameI have a soft spot in my heart for the old side scrolling adventure games of yore. Kid Icarus and Metroid being my favorite. I know that I can not go back and play them with the dame verve that I had when I was young but I have discovered a neat way to feed that nostalgia. The game Boss Monster.

Boss Monster is a card game based around these self same side scrolling 8-bit adventure games. Players take on the role of the Boss Monster at the end of the dungeon. Your reason for being is to entice heroes to your dungeon and kill them for fun and profit. To accomplish this you build dungeon rooms that are both damaging and enticing to certain types of heroes.

The game is for 2-4 players and takes about 45 minutes to play the first time and then about 20 minutes after that. Each player is randomly dealt a Boss Monster. Each player is also dealt room and spell cards to begin the game. Play begins with the Boss Monster with the highest xp value and then proceeds down. Each player places a room card face down and once everyone has done so they reveal the rooms. The heroes then go to the most enticing dungeons based on the treasure type listed on the cards in the dungeon. If there is no single dungeon to attract a given hero, they remain in town and more heroes arrive. This can cause a bottle neck of heroes and builds tension in the game.

The winner of a game of Boss Monster is the first Boss to achieve ten souls harvested in their dungeon. A player can also lose the game by taking enough damage from heroes that reach them without dying in their dungeon.

Boss monster is fun and easy to play. It conjures up those fun Saturdays of banging your head against Metroid with out actually being Nintendo hard. I was pleased when I saw one of the heroes that is in the set looks just like Kid Icarus. It made me laugh and fight hard to lure him to my dungeon. One of the game play things I liked was that you can level up as a Boss. Once your dungeon reaches five rooms, which is also the maximum size of a dungeon, you level up. This allows you to do the special action listed on your boss Monster once during the game. This is a special action that gives a small advantage over the other bosses for the moment. It was pretty cool to be able to level up as the bad guy.

I have really enjoyed sitting down to play this game. It is easily accessible and makes for a good gateway into the gaming hobby. The $25 price point is hard to beat as well. There is alson an expansion out for the game that adds power up to the heroes coming to the dungeons which sounds pretty interesting as well.

I am looking forward to more hours of playing Boss Monster and hope for even more expansion for the game in the future.

Dragon Age Inquisition: A Review After A Few Hours Of Gameplay

So, I wandered into GameStop Tuesday morning just looking to see what I could get.  Little did I know that my pre-ordered copy of Dragon Age Inquisition Deluxe Edition for PlayStation 4 was sitting there waiting for me.  I happily picked it up and went back home.  Now, I’d intended to set it aside and get to work in The Iron Banner in Destiny in order to get my raid-level gloves but like a man under a siren’s song, I found myself ejecting the disc for Destiny and inserting Dragon Age.  After the usual install and update process (as well as taking the time to download the bonuses for my Deluxe Edition), I started playing the game.

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Funnybooks with Aron and Paulie: Kenneth Hite and the Dracula Dossier!

FB_HITE.fwOn this week’s show, writer/game-designer Kenneth Hite joins us.  The Day After Ragnarok creator is kickstarting a new campaign setting for Pelgrane Press’ Vampire Spy Thriller Gumshoe-based RPG Night’s Black Agents, The Dracula Dossier.  Ken tells us all about the project and we take the opportunity to chat him up about Star Trek and Day After Ragnarok as well.

Want more Ken?  Check out his podcast, Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff!

The Reign of Ironclaw is HERE!  Check out Knights of Reignsborough Season 3!  Episode seven is coming this weekend!

Also, check out the Ideology of Madness YouTube Channel for enhanced content!

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Shadowrun: Crossfire

CrossfireCoverI seem to have an abiding fascination with deck building games. They allow me to get my Magic: The Gathering fix without the massive investment in money and time. The newest one that I’ve been lucky to play is Shadowrun: Crossfire.

Shadowrun: Crossfire is a cooperative deck building game built upon the setting of Shadowrun. Players take on the roles of Mages, Faces, Street Samurai, or Deckers. The game is for 2-4 players and according to the box should take 30 minutes to play.

Each player chooses a metatype which determines starting hand size, starting nuyen, and maximum health. The choices are human, troll, elf, orc, and dwarf. Players then choose a role which determines which starter deck they receive. There are four types of cards necessary to overcome obstacles; skills, decking, magic, and equipment. Each role gets more of the type of card that matches the role. Samurai receive more weapons, and so on. Any given role can accomplish a given challenge but it will take time without help.

The objective of the game is to complete a scenario and receive karma which can be spent on character upgrades. Scenarios are completed by overcoming a set number of obstacles. These are cards which are placed in front of players and represent something in the Shadowrun universe like gangs or security. The top of each obstacle lists what cards and in what order they must be played to overcome the obstacle. The obstacle card also lists the amount of nuyen available upon the completing the card as well as the damage it deals if left for a full round. On a players turn they can play the cards in their hand. They able to play them on any obstacle in play thus working a more difficult obstacle out of play to earn more nuyen or protect a weak player. After playing their cards, a player can buy cards from the center with the nuyen that they have. This builds the deck so that they can overcome obstacles quicker.

There are a few things that make this standout from other deck building games. First, there is the crossfire deck. This is a set of cards that serve as a timing mechanic. For each full round of play that passes with their still being an obstacle on the board, you pull a card from the crossfire deck. These are cards that increase the difficulty of the game in some fashion. there are a few positive cards but they are rare. They also have triggers for how many crossfire cards are in the discard pile which can make a card even more difficult. This serves to simulate the pressure of needing to get a job done quickly. Second, you earn karma which is experience which can be spent on upgrades. As a fan of the table top role playing game Shadowrun, I like seeing karma being incorporated. It provides a nice way to customize the game for each player thus keeping the game fresh. Finally, the metatype cards are designed to be kept by the player. They have slots on them where stickers go to keep track of upgrades.

I only have two issues with the game. One is that I am collector at heart. I love the idea of the players getting to keep their metatype card but the thought of putting a sticker on it makes me cringe. I thought it would be easier to keep a sheet with a list of upgrades on it rather than mar the neat card included in the game. I know, I’m crazy, but it bugs me.The other is that it was several games before we ever won. This is standard for cooperative games but it makes me wonder if I would ever use the hard level rules which are included in the game.

Overall, Shadowrun: Crossfire is an excellent deck building game. It captures the feel of the table top role playing game and has excellent replayability. It has a retail price of $59.99 which is a bit steep but can be found on-line for about $39.99. It is well worth the investment.

Funnybooks with Aron and Paulie: Bang it Out!

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The universe is at stake! Spider-Verse has alternate universe Spider-Men in danger. Secret Wars and Convergence see Marvel and DC’s multiverses clashing against each other. The Black Vortex sees the X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy colliding. And John Carter returns as the Warlord of Mars! So much galactic action in this week’s new episode of Funnybooks!

  • Aron saw Interstellar
  • The Six Billion Dollar Man with Marky Mark
  • Paul saw Marvel Universe Live
  • Amazing Spider-Man #9 – PWA
  • Spider-Verse Team-Up #1 – PWA
  • Secret Wars and Convergence
  • Action Comics #36 – PA
  • Earth 2: World’s End #5 – PA
  • Earth 2 #28 – PA
  • Gotham Academy #2 – PW
  • The Black Vortex (http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=56842)
  • Legendary Star-Lord #5 – PA
  • John Carter: Warlord of Mars #1 – PA
  • Tooth and Claw #1 – PA

The Reign of Ironclaw is HERE!  Check out Knights of Reignsborough Season 3!  Episode seven is coming next weekend!

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Pathfinder: Inner Sea Gods

PZO9267My gateway into roleplaying games and the science fiction & fantasy genre was mythology. In elementary school, I found a book on Greek and Roman mythology and I was hooked. I would spend my time in the school and local library finding what other books about mythology they had. My sources did not have the breadth and depth that one can find on the internet today but I was tenacious. I remember reading Egyptian, Finnish, Aztec, and Mayan mythologies and just imagining the worlds that these people inhabited.

I enjoy playing Pathfinder as it has this broad setting that has so much potential but the books themselves are almost all mechanics. They leave out setting stories that I so badly want when I am playing a roleplaying game. This is not to say that the lack of setting material makes it impossible for me to play in a world. Far from it. I enjoy Apocalypse World wherein the group created the setting as they go. If I am given a robust setting at the outset, I want to be able to read about it as I digest the mechanics. This makes everything coalesce for me.

In Pathfinder and other variants of D&D, this is even more important for me. I play clerics. I invest my character into the deity that they represent. I can play a stereotypical member of the clergy but I would much rather have some depth, even if it is only just in my head. Pathfinder has suffered in my eyes for this lack of information in the base books. There is plenty of setting information strewn about in their adventures. I have not had the opportunity to participate in any of these so I miss this information and feel left out as a fan of the system.

Inner Sea Gods corrects this problem. This is a campaign setting book that addresses the main gods in the largest section of the setting. It delves deeply into each deity and and provides information on the deity, their church, the priest’s role, relations with other religions, realms, and planar allies.They take what has been a single class and give players a means of taking that class and tailoring it to fit their specifications. In addition, the authors provide aphorisms and holidays that allows players to add even more depth to their interaction with the setting.

I picked up the book and was in heaven. The book provides a better understanding of how each religion fits within the setting as well as how the people in a given village would see a cleric of a particular deity. From a player perspective, I feel like I have a better grasp of the cleric in this setting. I can participate more fully with those who are veterans of the setting without continually asking how this or that religion is viewed. As a GM, I now have ways of both making the games I run have more depth and a way reward my players that are vested in the setting by being aware of this investment more fully.

The book is gorgeous. It is a full color hard back book that weighs in at hefty 332 pages with a price point of $39.99. The art is gorgeous throughout. In particular I loved the depictions of each deity presented. The picture of Sarenrae was just gorgeous. There is plenty of setting material presented but the mechanics are not ignored either. There are three prestige classes presented in this book and each deity has a list of benefits that they provide to members of these classes. In addition to these new prestige classes, there are new feats, spells, and magic items added to the mix as well. The various altars are a nice way to add a nice benefit for clerics to visit temples before heading out on an adventure.

Pathfinder: Inner Sea Gods is a book that has been sorely needed in the Pathfinder library. It fleshes out the setting for those of who don’t play the adventure paths and has plenty of crunch to add to any on-going game. I am very glad I picked it up. If you are a fan of Pathfinder, then this is an excellent addition to your library.

 

Reign of Ironclaw: Your City is Doomed!

kor_s03e06.fw…This is it, Citizens!  It’s the final face off between the honorable powers of the United Tribe and their loyal, Nazi allies against the stinking, traitorous Aquaiians and the terrorist organization of Shadow Override. 

We’d love to hear from you! We’re busily preparing for the Season 3 Feedback Show.  So, give us a call and share your comments, questions, and suggestions. If we use your voicemail in the show, you’ll win an Ideology of Madness SurPrize!

GM’s note: Knights of Reignsborough: Reign of Ironclaw is a role playing game actual play podcast. It is not our intent to teach a system, rather to entertain. As such, much of the game mechanic discussion has been edited from the audio.

Special thanks to Tony Mast and Gary Layton for lending their voice talent.

Knights of Reignsborough: Reign of Ironclaw Epilogue will be released the weekend of November 22.

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