Nordlond Sagas for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG

Back in September 2019 (read it HERE) I posted about Gaming Ballistic‘s latest Kickstarter which would eventually get 420 backers pledging $24,912 to produce four books for the Norðlond Sagas. These books are

The Dragons of Rosgarth

112 pages written by Kyle Norton & Douglas H. Cole. Full colour softcover book with lay flat binding. Essentially it works just like a ‘Hollow’ in a hardcover book allowing the book to lay almost completely flat without putting undue stress on the spine covering. I’ve had some considerable training in hand bookbinding. I’ve taken several workshops and completed Level One and Two training in London City & Guilds courses in bookbinding. That being said I’m very pleased with the binding and sewing of these books.Sewn signatures will last much longer than just glued sheets as are done in a Perfect Bind.

Now what about the content of The Dragons of Rosgarth? The events that unfold in the books expand on what was hinted at in Hall of Judgement. It takes place in Isfjall roughly 300 miles east of Norðvörn where we were first introduced to Douglas Cole’s “Not Really Icelandic” fantasy setting. You are given enough background information to set an adventure that will span a hundred mile journey with enough to keep the players busy. Background information for the main NPC’s is provided making it easier for the GM to direct their actions. Over 20 new monsters in the Bestiary, some of which I hope I never have to come across as a player (I’m looking at you Stothtroll!). The story line is not linear which for a GM makes it much easier to run. Nothing is worse then trying to herd players down a single path.

The artwork is lovely and the maps are by Monkey Blood Design who I’m particularly fond of his works. On a side note I was very pleased that the May 2020 Cartography Annual from ProFantasy was done by Glynn Seal! I have read most of The Dragons of Rosgarth before my physical copy arrived but it is more enjoyable to have the book in your hand rather than on a backlit screen. I can’t thumb through a pdf with as much enjoyment.

Forest’s End

92 pages written by Merlin Avery. Same binding quality as The Dragons of Rosgarth. My only issue with the pages is the border graphic. It’s sharp contrast is distracting when reading. I’m dyslexic and things like that and page colour really matter. Maybe if it was more of a solid colour than the flames and black from the background graphic it would have been a bit better.

Forest’s End is an adventure book with dungeons! I’m really torn between wanting to run this and wanting to be a player in it! The information provided within makes it easy to use with the other books in the series. I would be nice to be able to purchase posters of the dungeons with 1″ Hexes much like the ones from “I Smell a Rat” that came in the box set of DFRPG. Obviously the cost and logistics of such an option would be a nightmare but maybe the option to purchase the images and getting them printed online or locally could be an option for the future? Who knows, I will suggest it though.

Lots of little gems in the book as well, such as new traps, random tables, and 20 Monsters and NPC’s. I particularly like the Blóðughúfa (redcap) as it represents how horrid and evil faerie can be. GURPS Faerie is one of my favourite books which heavily influenced my first GURPS Fantasy campaign in which I replaced having Gods with Fey.

Norðlondr Fólk

16 page booklet by Kevin Smyth. This stapled booklet is on heavier paper than the previous two books. Lovely full coloured pages with amazing artwork on each page.16 templates to use with your Dungeon Fantasy RPG games. Obviously geared toward Norðlond Sagas, they can be used in any DFRPG setting. Lots of beast races such as the “Not Really Egyptian” Cat-Folk, Björnhjarta (Bear-Folk), Gullinálmur (Boar-Folk), Úlfblóðugur (Wolf-Blooded), Hrafnar (Raven-folk), and the very odd Triger-Folk.

A delightful section on Half-Breeds which takes me back to 2008’s Dungeon Fantasy 3 The Next Level (has it really been 12 years!) with races as Dragon-Blooded, Eldhuð (Demon-Blooded), and Himneskur (God-Blooded) with it’s clever artwork.

We also get a more Norðlond version of Dvergr (Dwarves), Elfàrd (Elves), Gnomes, Vandræðagemsi (Fae Gnomes), Half-Ogres, Half-Orcs, Neveri Halflings, and Hálfálfar (Half-Elves)

The Hand of Asgard

Like Norðlondr Fólk, The Hand of Asgard is a booklet of 16 pages stapled together also written by Kevin Smyth. Thick full colour paper of good quality and with some lovely artwork. The Hand of Asgard is a must for GM’s and any player wanting to play a Cleric or Holy Warrior. Kevin Smyth adds both Cleric Spell list and Holy might and suggestions for Holy Warriors as well. There are no stats for the ten Gods listed, I mean they are Gods after all! However there is a lovely surprise of Valkyrie’s in the back of the book!

To be honest I was unsure of how useful The Hand of Asgard was going to be at 16 pages but there really is 16 pages of very useful information to use. It isn’t just a fluff piece.

I have not been this excited since opening up the Dungeon Fantasy RPG box set back in October 2017. Gaming Ballistic have continued to offer a quality item that makes me feel like I’m 10 years old again playing D&D with my school mates. The Norðlond Sagas for me are like Forgotten Realms of my late teenage years full of information on the culture, area, and history which lays the foundation for adventures for years! Hints of “Not Really England” and thoughts of “Not Really Japan” have been mentioned (although nothing concrete or binding). Personally I’d really like to see a “Not Really China” Wuxia setting for DFRPG set in a Three Kingdoms period or Warring States.

So congratulations to Douglas H. Cole, Kyle Norton, Merlin Avery, and Kevin Smyth on four wonderful products! We hope to see more in future! Also a thank you from this fan to Steve Jackson Games for signing off on these great books, I also hope to see more DFRPG from SJG in the future.

Dungeon Fantasy RPG

I’m playing a weekly game of Dungeon Fantasy RPG powered by GURPS. We are using Roll20 to play the game and it has been a learning experience as I’ve not played GURPS in some time.

I decided to try something that I’ve never done before and I’m playing a Cleric. However I wanted to do something unique so I’m playing a Half-Ogre Cleric that uses a Bec de corbin, a type of Pole Axe (permission granted from the GM to switch Staff with Poleaxe). I’ve selected it to be Dwarven, Fine, Silver plated, Power Item with 7 FP. This will offset the unbalanced penalty allowing the character to attack and defend normally.

It has been years and years since I have been able to play GURPS as a player and it took some getting used to. That and playing with new people meant learning how to interact with their specific play styles, characters, and tactics. It has been a fun experience and has sparked a renewed interest in gaming.

It has been over five years since I used Roll20 and there have been a few upgrades since I last used it. One thing I am particularly fond of is the GURPS character sheet which really speeds up the gaming.

Once the information is filled out it is just a matter of clicking a button to run a macros of your dice rolls including modifiers

Of course I still much prefer to play in person as you don’t have audio issues, drop of internet, and other technical glitches. However with Covid-19, lockdown, self isolation it really is the best option. Plus there are not that many players in my location so being able to play with people at least in the same time zone is helpful! The plus side with the lockdown is more people are home and they are happy to find days to play when I have a day off as I’m still doing shift work and don’t always have the same days off from week to week.

Other news

I’ve received my Kickstarter pledge from Gaming Balistic’s “Nordlond Sagas for the Dungeon Fantasy RPG” and I’m very pleased with the resuts. I’ll make a different post about those books.

I finally broke down and ordered Amazon PoD copies of Companions 2 and Magic Items 2. Now I was extremely critical about the first Companions PoD book (read it HERE). I stick by what I said and I’m still annoyed that SJG do not even attempt to find an EU and South American publisher for easier distribution of their printed products, but I’m not an expert in these things I’m just a customer.

That being said Companions 2 and Magic Items 2 were much better quality then Companions was by a long shot. Full colour pages, better quality paper, much more what I have come to expect from Steve Jackson Games in the past.

Much better quality print

Now the content is of both books are great resources for those playing Dungeon Fantasy RPG. Companion 2 gives 16 magical items, 6 new monsters which includes Adventure Seed ideas and the option to play a Centaur as a delver! Also 14 NPC villains with optional new Racial Templates, Advantages, Traits and a Spell. Certainly makes it worth having in your library. Magic Items 2 has 48 pages and 44 different magic items to entice or harass your players with.

Combining both books together opens a world of possibilities. I was very inspired to use Lady Aimara DFC2(50) and possibly the sword Xingyung (DFMI2 46) in a Wuxia inspired adventure.

I certainly hope we will see more Dungeon Fantasy RPG powered by GURPS in the future!

SJG Print on Demand

Two years ago I posted about the Steve Jackson Games (SJG) Print on Demand (PoD). You can read it here if you would like. I was pleased just to be able to get GURPS books because lately you just can’t. I’m afraid my bitterness has increased since then. The closing of Pyramid, the lack of GURPS products being released, and now the latest Kickstarter (DFRPG Magic Items 2) will only ship to the USA only. Everyone else will either have to make arrangements to have it shipped from the States to their home or purchase it from SJG Amazon Print on Demand service.

Now two years ago I thought that was great despite the black and white pages. Since then I’ve taken several courses in book binding and I can now tell how inferior these PoD are compared to normal SJG printing. Now personally I would prefer hardcover as they just last longer than a paperback but I’m being told by everyone that I’m being unrealistic.

So lets compare the PoD compared to the books that cam with the DFRPG box set.

Now the Companion is Pod and Exploits is from the box set. The covers are comparable but there is more of a gloss finish to the Exploits. They have comparable gsm (read below for gsm definition). I don’t have a lot of complaints about the covers.

Companion Cover
Exploit Cover

“GSM is an acronym standing for ‘Grams per Square Meter’. Quite simply, it allows print buyers and print suppliers to know exactly about the quality of paper that is being ordered. The higher the GSM number, the heavier the paper.”

Now that isn’t strictly true. You can have higher quality paper in a lower gsm to a higher gsm. Mostly it lets you know how thick/heavy the paper is in a generic sense. So the paper of the Companion is thicker at 0.10 mm and the exploits is 0.9 mm thick. However the Companion is less dense or more porous. It would, in my opinion, tear easier than the paper from Exploits which is a gloss paper and better quality.

Companions isn’t horrible, but it is more like a high quality colouring book. Not even as good as a cheap paperback from a book store.
Exploits paper is comparable to the GURPS Hardcover books which have lasted me almost 20 years with hardly any wear or tear.

Now here is where I really get critical. Exploits is either Saddle stitched or Loop Stitched. Meaning they used some type of thread to keep the pages together in groups called ‘Signatures’. Companions is Perfect bound. Perfect Bound is when they take single sheets of printed paper (2 pages) or one sheet folded (4 pages) and bind them together with a thermal glue into a book. A very good quality thermal glue should last a few years. It is fairly flexible. A cheap thermal glue will dry out, crack and fall apart. I don’t know which type that Amazon uses but I wouldn’t push my luck by stressing out the spine at all.

Companions on the top, Exploits on the bottom.

As you can see from the top book, which is Amazon’s Print on Demand Companions it is a folded sheet of paper (4 pages) stacked and glued together, sparingly at that. Now the bottom book is Exploits from the box set and bound in China. You have 4 sections (roughly 28 pages), sewn together then perfect bound with a generous amount of adhesive.

Exploits stitch hole. I can’t actually see any thread but it is apparent they have stitched in some manner otherwise the other pages would fall out. I’m not an expert on Perfect binding techniques.
PoD Companion just goes straight to the adhesive.

So what it comes down to is that if SJG is using the same printers then those in the States, or able to get ahold of the Magic Items 2 books being shipped to the States will be getting a better quality book for $18. How much will those outside of the U.S. be charged for an inferior PoD? Companions is $19.95 for 78 pages. That is only 30 more pages then the Magic Items 2. So those in the States get the PDF and the print book for $18.00 but those of us not in the U.S.A. Have to pay $10.00 for the PDF then probably another $15.00 for the PoD which will be a less quality product for much more.

Maybe if they put as much enthusiasm into GURPS as they do trying to resurrect Ogre and Car Wars of even half as much effort as they do Munchkin they might have better success trying to get GURPS out to a new generation of players. It won’t work if they start out with making it inaccessible.

This isn’t a criticism of GURPS Dungeon Fantasy but of SJG and it has only been increasing over the years do to the lack of effort and attention given to GURPS. Yes I’m bitter, I may or may not be reasonable in my criticism but customer expectation is what decides a chunk of sales. It’s just my opinion.

UPDATE

Although nowhere on the Kickstarter page mentioned the PoD version of DFRPG PoD would be colour instead of black and white like all the other SJG PoD, Phil Reed has confirmed it will be available in colour

The book is color, yes, both when as a Kickstarter reward item and when ordered through the ongoing GURPS On Demand program that is described here: http://www.sjgames.com/gurps/ondemand/

The Citadel at Norðlond

Gaming Ballistic has started its deliveries from their latest Kickstarter, The Citadel at Norðlond. This is their second kickstarter to sell Dungeon Fantasy powered by GURPS. Both have been very successful and a third is in the works.

Unlike Hall of Judgment, The Citadel at Norðlond is not a stand alone adventure but a sourcebook with enough information to run campaigns for many gaming sessions. It has something for just about everyone from political intrigue to good old hack and slash. A good GM could easily use the many factions to cause tensions within the group, or to just harass them on their journey. Evil cultists, Dragonmen, Fae, and more abound in and around Norðvorn.

I really like the representation of the Fairy in this book. My original Dungeon Fantasy game from ten years ago had Fae everywhere. It was a real hassle for the players to go anywhere as they had to stop and give offerings to each area for safe passage. That setting had no Gods, just Fae, everywhere. In your house, the inns, outdoors, etc. So I was very pleased to see them represented, although differently, in The Citadel at Norðlond.

There are other things then fairies to worry about in this setting and plenty of opportunities for the players to get in trouble. Douglas Cole has not only given you fuel for the fire by providing you with the information for all the factions and political turmoil, he has provided everything for a rich setting. Names and proper pronunciations, holidays, towns, traditions to really get the players engrossed in a fantasy viking region. Even if you don’t play GURPS (but why wouldn’t you?) The Citadel at Norðlond would be a great setting sourcebook for any rule system.

The Citadel at Norðlond and Fantastic Dungeon Grappling to add new combat options for Dungeon Fantasy RPG.

Now all we have to do is sit and wait for the third Kickstarter which I believe is going to be The Dragons of Rosgarth