Thursday, August 29, 2019

The Three Estates

History & RPG
I don't back a lot of Kickstarters, but occasionally something comes to my attention that I think is
"must have". I recently kicked in on the new edition of Chivalry & Sorcery and am starting to receive the first fruits of that expenditure. Chivalry & Sorcery is a game that has been on my favored list from the first moment I discovered its existence. As a devotee of feudal history, I am drawn to all things that model that particular interesting and alien time period. While many fantasy games borrow the trappings of medieval western Europe, very few attempt to model its society. C&S was perhaps the first exception.
Obviously, we live in a world much different from that of the middle ages - "a world lit only by fire", as it was termed. Our understanding of the world, and our societal values, even our assumptions of what is true and just, differ quite significantly from that of medieval Europeans. Realism in gaming is to some extent a fool's errand, but for those of us who enjoy playing in an alien environment and exploring what it might be like to exist in a different time and place, the historic feudal times is as exotically different as any fantastic imagining.
Historians have described the organization of medieval European society as "The Three Estates", the nobility, the church and the peasantry, in other words, the people of war, people of faith and people of labor. Society paid strict attention to one's station in life and it was your station rather than your deeds that defined who you were, what privileges you enjoyed and how you would be treated. For the most part there was no social mobility. The station your parents existed in determined your position in society, for life. Only by joining the church could one hope to change their station in society, but the church practiced its own strict internal hierarchy. Money bought you little in terms of status and its accumulation was looked upon with suspicion and sometimes, contempt.
Role-playing is a unique kind of game. It encourages the player to adopt the point-of-view of a character in an imagined setting, for fun and entertainment. It allows us to explore what a life quite different from our own might "feel" like. It is a shared form of mental escape or make-believe with game rules and parameters. Part of the fun of role-playing is experiencing novel and heroic (or slightly scary!) thoughts and collectively making up stories about the lives of imaginary characters - all from a safe distance, of course.
Tabletop role-playing comes in many flavors. You can play virtually any kind of sentient being you like and be from any setting that could possibly be imagined - or you can play a human physically much like us in many ways, except they are from a past time and place such as medieval Europe, Africa or Asia. This type of role-play requires a bit of effort in terms of research and "getting into character" by trying to think like a person from that time might have thought. Part of the reward of this type of role-play comes from the satisfaction of "doing it well" by self-limiting our play to that which is consistent with our understanding of the behaviors and beliefs of the historic period - that is by staying "in character".

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Game Mastering

The Art of Running the Game
Referee, world-builder, record-keeper, the person behind the screen is the unsung hero of the game. Mr. Gygax made it just so, and tells us as much in his Game Masters Guide, for without the GM putting forth effort even before play begins, there is no game. To view the job as merely one of necessity is an injustice, however. Taking one's turn behind the screen can be, and should be, quite rewarding.
Acting as the impartial adjudicator of the rules governing play of the game is the role of the referee. In a role-playing game, as in table-top wargaming with miniature figures, it falls to this individual to set the parameters for play and to describe the scenario. Keeping track of important game information is another task that this person usually assumes. Record keeping is especially important in campaign play where details are carried forward affecting future game sessions.
Fairness and consistency in the interpretation and application of the rules is important and forms the basis of the trust that must exist between the referee and the players. It is the basis of the referee's legitimacy. The responsibility of enforcing the rules makes the referee's word final during the game. To avoid disputes is why the game has a referee.
The game master or dungeon master creates the context for play. Whether that involves drawing a map on grid paper, setting up replica terrain, or merely describing the surroundings and situation in which the players are to imagine their characters, the game master devises the world in which the game's action will take place. In a role-playing context, it also falls to the referee to play the part of all the characters not controlled by the other players.
Keeping record of the passing of time and the achieving of goals is also the responsibility of the referee or game master. Recording hit points, experience and treasure is a part of the game and forms one element of the multi-tasking experience of the game master. If campaign play is the goal, it becomes important to keep records not only of how much time passes but also what non-player characters have interacted with the player characters, and what knowledge of the setting has been revealed to them. Details are what brings the imaginary world alive and consistency across sessions is highly desirable.
This all may seem like a big responsibility and one that is often underappreciated, but it is great fun to watch the game you have set up unfold during play. It is only through the interaction of the players that a world you created really comes to life. And players will surprise you, entertain you and at times frustrate you. Remember, it's all in an effort to have fun together playing a game everyone enjoys.
It is important to note that the referee of a role-playing game is also a player. The referee or game master is there to have fun too. Not by killing or humiliating characters, but by seeing the setting they have worked to create come alive through play and provide entertainment for others. The referee desires for the players to have fun and it should be the case that players also make an effort to see that the referee has fun as well. It's just part of being a good player to do your part to help others have fun too. Think of it as one element of "mastering the game".

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Rick Loomis

On Friday, August 23, 2019, just one day short of his 73rd birthday, Rick Loomis passed on to whatever awaits good gamers once their spirit departs this mortal realm. In 1972 Mr. Loomis founded Flying Buffalo Incorporated (FBI) and has continued to contribute to the hobby in several ways up to this year. Rick's Flying Buffalo published many games over the decades including Tunnels & Trolls, which many claim to be the second role-playing game ever published, his play-by-mail game Starweb and the popular card game, Nuclear War. Among his many firsts, Rick Loomis authored and published the first solo module, which he titled Buffalo Castle, as a way to play Tunnels & Trolls without a group. Rick Loomis stands as one of the early pioneers of our hobby and although my personal interactions with him amounted only to brief encounters at his convention booth, my memories of Rick are all positive and cherished.

Friday, August 23, 2019

Shadow World

Emer Atlas and Eidolon City
A really enjoy discovering new worlds, therefore I read setting books. Shadow World is a setting that has been around for decades having its origins in the Rolemaster material released by Iron Crown Enterprises (I.C.E.) as far back as the 1980s. Shadow World is still supported by Iron Crown and new products continue to be developed and released for the Shadow World setting.
Setting material can easily be adapted for any role-playing system because maps, descriptions and ideas transfer across system regardless. The fact that I like Rolemaster does not hurt the appeal of these products for me, however. I read and borrow from a lot of setting material which I never run as written. It's part of my enjoyment of the hobby.
Two of my recent Gencon purchases are Eidolon - City in the Sky, and Emer Atlas III - The Southeast. The Shadow World is a science-fantasy setting with a floating city and airships. Alien technology accounts for much of the more fantastical elements, but magic certainly abounds as well. The Eidolon location is actually a twin city, Sel-Kai, an earth bound settlement built on a number of islands and criss-crossed by water canals (similar to Venice, Italy). Sel-Kai is where the lower classes dwell and Eidolon, which is "the city above", was built using advanced technology and is floating in the sky above Sel-Kai. Eidolon is where the upper classes reside. Class politics as well as trade and exploration are integral to the Eidolon culture.
Eidolon is located to the northeast of a continent called Emer. The Southeast of that continent is the subject for the second of the Shadow World volumes I have added to my Shadow World collection this year. The Southeast is host to an ancient, mostly lost, civilization centered on elemental magic and demon summoning. It is home to secret societies, dragons who live as humans, a unique race with retractable talons, and an ancient artifact that could change the future of the planet. With lost ruins, tropical jungles and volcanoes to explore, this atlas presents a vast canvas on which many adventures (some starting in Eidolon?) may play out.
Setting can be more important than the rule system or characters in shaping the flavor of play. A setting is the stage and the assumptions about what is possible which allows the action to take place. Characters are the actors and without them there is nothing in the way of game play happening, but I have run various characters through the same adventure and noted that the setting places all the characters in a similar situation with similar options thereby playing a large part in what is likely to develop. Each session is a unique combination of characters, rules and setting which often produces something surprising and fun. Finding out what will happen and how is fun. For me creating the setting is also part of the fun. Books such as these are aids in that process.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

1974 Character Class

Less Is More
When it comes to fantasy role-playing games we all have our preferences. Some like classes, some prefer the freedom of a classless system. Some think alignment adds an important element to the game, some prefer to not use it. Some like rolling dice to randomly create their character, some prefer a point-buy system so that they can deliberately design their character. Some prefer a system with comprehensive rules for everything, while others prefer less rules and more freedom for the referee/GM to make rulings as needed. While there seems to be no "right way" to play, most of us have a favorite way to play.
I can only speak for myself, and state my own preferences which is generally for less when it comes to most aspects of rules for role-playing. Occasionally I enjoy a rules heavy system such as Pathfinder 2e, Hackmaster 5 or some other thick tome system. The more complex games do have their appeal. There is something satisfying about learning and mastering a complex system and developing strategies which take advantage of the opportunities presented in the rules.
More often than not after a brief sojourn into such rule complex systems, I return to a state of rest where I am perhaps most comfortable and familiar - that of simplicity. I recently ran a session of Call of Cthulhu without opening a rule book or consulting a chart or table and frankly, I find that appealing. It's comfortable. CoC uses an intuitive d100 percentile skill mechanic system that rarely requires more than the information on the character sheet. It is an investigative game that often leads to someplace scary and in the best sessions, players become engaged and maybe a little spooked. There was no combat in this session because the players choose to leave that option on the table and avoid face-to-face confrontation with "the thing in the dark".
The imagination can dream up much better fiction than I can describe, or draw, or paint, or act out. A few words of suggestion from the referee are often enough to get our thoughts rolling and for the players create the scene in their own heads. This works especially well for horror because once the monster is seen, some of its scariness abates. It is no longer as "unknown" as before.
Defining a thing limits it. Everything we know about something eliminates several possibilities which we now know are not true of this thing. Defining a thing breaks it down and allows us to form strategies using what we now know to be true. Knowing allows us to form and test hypotheses. It suggests what may be possible and pushes aside what may not be possible.
One aspect of RPG systems that use the class and level mechanic is that they define characters by their class. Some systems use a broad approach to class, such as The Fantasy Trip which has heroes and wizards, those who don't cast magic spells and those who do. The Original FRPG, which I refer to as White Box, offers the player a choice of three classes for human characters, fighting man, cleric and magic user. There are three non-human options drawn from popular fantasy fiction, elves, dwarves and hobbits/halflings. The non-human characters all have limits on how high into levels they may become. all may be fighting men and elves are an early form of dual class fighting man/magic user.
With just two or three classes from which to choose and no feats or skills to pick from, ODD players are encouraged to individualize their character in other ways. This is where the creativity comes in. Character description can include distinguishing physical features, distinctive dress, signature weapons or equipment and catch phrases that all help define the character's uniqueness in non-mechanical ways. Flavoring the character in such a manner can result in them becoming much more memorable than the mechanical feel of any special build in more complex systems and has more in common with the way an author builds a character in a novel or the way that film character's are portrayed in Hollywood.
I have always enjoyed a "blank slate" where the possibilities seem endless, and I have the freedom to take my imagination anywhere. As I imagine the early days of the hobby, I think on conversations that may have occurred between players and referees about characters and new classes. I imagine the birth of the thief class, the barbarian class, the paladin sub class and more, all originating from a character concept and the creative collaboration between player and referee. This appeals to me on several levels. Less can lead to more.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Pathfinder 2e

An Old School Perspective
As frequent readers of this blog know, I have a great preference for tabletop role-playing games that remind me of the heady early days of the hobby when publications were largely amateur and required a lot of creative input from the end user. I call this my "old school perspective" because I associate my preferences in RPGs with tastes and sensibilities I acquired as a college undergrad during the very late 1970's. I have stated my favorite system remains the one I started with, the original version of D&D, which I like to refer to as White Box. (It has taken me forty-some years to figure this game out and I am reluctant to abandon all that effort!)
A year or so ago I started looking at and refereeing, and occasionally playing, the Pathfinder Playtest rules. I liked Playtest. Now that 2e is available, I have played a couple games and have read through the 640 page tome, and I like it. I am not a "one system guy", never have been. I enjoy tabletop games of all types and see no reason to devote myself to playing just one game. Life is too short, and I will never have enough time to enjoy all the games that interest me, but that doesn't keep me from trying.
So what does this "old school" gamer like about Pathfinder 2e? For starters, the three-action combat turn economy. Having three actions at their disposal, a player my announce that their character is moving, attacking, casting, manipulating an item, or taking another action in any combinations that add up to three. Move three times, attack three times, use one, two or three actions to cast magic, or combine two or three different actions, all these are PC options and it all makes combat quick and interesting for all. The resulting tactical play in 2e comes down to being more about your choice of actions and less from the placement of figs. on a display (which is optional).
Shields are meaningfully modeled in Pathfinder 2e. One of your actions can be to "raise your shield" which results in it counting toward armor class and allows you to use it to react to damage, i.e. blocking damage. The original RPG idea of a shield adding a point or two to armor class has always seemed inadequate to me given how important shields have been in military history and I have frequently "house ruled" shields to have additional effects in the systems I have refereed.
Magic comes in four flavors in Pathfinder 2e. Arcane and divine magic represent that of wizards, sorcerers and clerics and is similar to that found in previous editions. Pathfinder 2e strives to be a bit more edgy and adds occult and primal magic. Throwing spells may require one or more actions to cast and some spells have variable effects which are determined by the number of actions used in casting them. (Additional actions are described as adding somatic and material components and this also adds to the fiction associated with using magic.) An example is Magic Missile which creates one, two, or three missiles corresponding to the number of actions used in casting the spell. Casters may also have ritual magic at their disposal for use in non-combat situations. The result is that magic in Pathfinder 2e seems more variable and more flexible and requires a bit more thought on the part of the player. It all adds up to aspects I appreciate in my RPG.
Pathfinder 2e breaks play time into encounter mode, exploration and downtime modes. This is more conceptual than mechanical as the referee can transition through the modes using narrative and need not announce the change. The mode concept is handy for emphasizing that journeys and time in between encounters can be interesting opportunities for skill use, discovery and role-play. I am fresh off reading a lot of The One Ring and perhaps because of the way that game uses Journeys and the Fellowship phase, Pathfinder 2e modes makes a lot of sense to me.
Healing rate is one of the ways that I judge a game's believe-ability. It is purely a personal preference, but I prefer what I term "more realistic healing", which means I prefer slow natural healing of lost hit points, damage and particularly wounds. Barring the use of magic, humans heal in terms of days and weeks, not in minutes. I don't want to belabor this point so let me just say that Pathfinder 2e passes my "sniff-test" in terms of healing mechanics.
Pathfinder 2e is a d20 skill-based system in so much that there are a list of skills for each character which is connected to class as is the feat system and skills are rolled against to determine success or failure in various character activities, usually outside of combat. Relying on dice rolls is not my preferred manner of role-play and I run my Pathfinder table in a way that reflects my roots in the original edition little brown books. That is, I ask a player to tell me what and how you are wanting your character to act, and depending on our conversation, perhaps that will require a dice roll, but maybe not. Skills are useful as a game mechanic as long as they are not overused. Again, "Tell me what you say to the knight." (As a player, please don't just announce a desired outcome and roll a skill check. I find that approach "roll-play" not "role-play".)
Skills in Pathfinder 2e use a proficiency system based on five levels - untrained, trained, expert, master, and legendary. Unskilled tests are resolved on a dice roll adjusted by your ability score value. At trained and above you add your level and proficiency bonus (2, 4, 6, or 8) to the adjusted d20 roll. Degrees of success also matter in determining the outcome. Critical results are those scores either 10 points above or 10 points below the required score or occur on the traditional "natural 1" and "natural 20" die rolls. A crit on an attack means double damage and can result in a "one shot" kill.
Feats are now specifically tied to ancestry and class. Each ancestry and each class in Pathfinder 2e  have their own set of feats from which the player may choose when he/she/they levels up their character and this allows players to customize their characters. Regarding multi-classing, Pathfinder 2e allows players to take certain feats from an archetype list including other classes instead of the class feat list of their original class. That is essentially the 2e multi-classing... one feat at a time.
Ability scores in 2e can be determined by rolling dice or through a point-buy, but using the more interesting new system they are built up by choices in ancestry (what we used to call "race"), background and class, making each of these choices meaningful mechanically as well as for role-play. Abilities start at a value of 10 and each ancestry, background and class chosen either adds to or subtracts from one or more of the six ability scores.
A frequent complaint I hear from old school gamers is that modern games "nerf" the danger to player characters and therefore the game feel like playing superheroes rather than believable mortals. Pathfinder 2e is mathematically modern in that the game uses bigger numbers, double digit hit points, double digit damage and double digit skill checks, even with low level and starting out characters. This can produce a shocking effect among players that are used to much smaller values and the game can then feel "odd" or super-powered. There really is very little difference between 1-6 hit points and weapons that do 1-6 damage verses 15-20 hit points and weapons that deal 15-20 damage. Each system can result in "one-hit, one-kill results."
Pathfinder 2e is not all good news for me, however. The "balanced encounter" concept remains in evidence, although it is less restrictive to the referee than in some modern games. Pathfinder 2e gives the referee/GM some freedom to scale the difficulty level of encounters from easy to extreme, but even the extreme levels are supposed to be beatable by a well rested party. There is no provision for the "run away to fight another day" level of challenge which I find is so necessary to maintain a setting's verisimilitude. Pathfinder follows the recent trend in returning to an old school philosophy and states that it is "your game" and changing the rules is permitted (with player consent?).
So in summary, I am liking Pathfinder 2e. It delivers fast, furious combat with the threat of one-shot kills for monsters and characters. The three action combat economy allows for lots of swift movement and tactical choice. Pathfinder 2e is edgy and even shocking, in a good way. The bard class uses occult magic and goblins are among the playable races because some goblins are now trying to move away from being monsters and to fit into civilized society. (This is a situation that presents many role-playing opportunities!) Pathfinder 2e is a thinking person's game that seems to reward clever table play. I am making room on my gaming shelf for Pathfinder 2e.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Conan Revisited

Robert Howard's Barbarian and gaming
My introduction to the character Conan probably came through Marvel Comic's Conan "comic" books. Sometime around 1970, my sister picked up a copy of Marvel Conan, which I read and instantly became a fan. In those days the back section of many comics had a brief history piece connected to the subject matter and I recall reading that the character Conan the Barbarian was the creation of pulp author Robert E. Howard. That knowledge led me to the collected stories of Robert E. Howard, especially the fantastic ones including Conan, Kull, and other sword-swinging heroic barbarian types.
Conan proved a popular intellectual product during the 1970's with many paperback books to be found in local retail book racks which featured the great Cimmerian or barbarians bearing different names, but cut of the same heroic cloth. A series of Conan collected stories published by Lancer Books and later Ace Books containing stories by Howard himself as well as some additional stories written by L. Sprague DeCamp and Lin Carter fed the appetite of a hungry group of fans. These volumes often featured captivating cover art by Frank Frazetta. The Conan popularity quickly led to a number of other paperback books by various authors using Conan-like characters and eventually to a major motion picture starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Onto my personal mental stage, prepped to appreciate heroic fiction by reading many Conan stories as well as The Lord of The Ring and other fantastic fantasy of a similar vein, came the original fantasy role-playing game. No doubt I saw this new wargame as a way to further explore my interest in heroic fantasy. The stories I had been reading, especially those Conan stories, greatly influenced my personal brand of fantasy finding their way into most of my game player character concepts as well as the settings I created as a referee. To this day, I run a home-brewed world setting that draws heavily from R.E. Howard's world of Conan.
Apparently there are/were many fans of Conan who have ended up playing adventure games and there have been a number of RPG products that have either used the Conan IP or feature heroic barbarians who much resemble the famous Cimmerian. TSR published a number of Conan related products including reference to Conan in the original Deities & Demigods, a couple of Conan D&D modules and a complete Conan boxed game authored by David "Zeb" Cook. GURPS featured a number of Conan titles during their 3e days.
Modiphius recently published a very attractive Conan RPG that draws heavily on the work of a number of R.E. Howard historians as well as the original fiction of Mr. Howard. Modiphius uses their 2d20 system in their Conan RPG and while I have experimented some with the system, and I do think I see where the intent of the momentum and doom economy is to give one the feel of the source fiction, it can all be  a bit too mechanical feeling for my taste. Barbarians of Lemuria by Simon Washbourne and Barbarians & Basilisks by John M. Stater are two role-playing games that also draw heavily upon the traditional sword & sorcery barbarian icon for inspiration and work better mechanically for me.
While moving some paperback books recently, I stumbled upon a few of my old copies of the Conan books including the one pictured above. This is one of the Ace reprints and why the layout artist choose to overlap the Conan title covering part of the barbarian's head in the Frank Frazetta illustration seems odd to me. The cover illustration is one of Frazetta's best and features Conan astride the ape-man Thak wearing a priest's red robe from the tale Rogues in the House. The dramatic effect of the facial expressions of both Conan and Thak, the use of red and the motion in the piece really stands out to me and conveys some of the energy and atmosphere found in Howard's story. Howard's writing is a celebration of nature, not the soft, beautiful side of nature, but rather the tooth and claw side. Dark, savage, and exciting, Howard, like E.R. Burroughs, brings us up close and personal with a world our collective subconscious may dimly remember and in the process provides us with engaging adventure fiction and possibly with a connection to our ancestral past. Yes, it all makes for some fantastic escapism and imaginative gaming.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Call of Cthulhu

...and other Starter Sets
One of the fun things I did at this year's Gencon was to run a session of Call of Cthulhu for my friends using materials from the recently released starter set. The hard box starter set seems to be making a comeback in the past year or so as several new ones have appeared and the quality seems to be quite nice among most of them. Paizo, who does some of the best starter boxes, has one out for their Starfinder science fiction game. Cubicle 7 released a starter box for their Warhammer Fantasy Role Play around Origins time. WizBros has released a couple new 5e starter boxes in the past 12 months, the first a tribute to D&D in Stranger Things and the most recent, currently only available through Target combines nicely with their original starter set from a few years back by adding content for the campaign setting from the first box. Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu Starter Set is my favorite of them all.
The Call of Cthulhu Starter Set contents includes three paper cover booklets titled Alone Against The Flames, Introductory Rules and Paper Chase and other adventures. Also included in the sturdy, well illustrated box are a set of dice and a selection of pregen characters. The contents also include some handouts (to be expected in CoC) additional blank character sheets and a couple of info sheets. All the contents are nicely executed and demonstrate the superior quality that Chaosium Inc. is currently providing in all of their products.
As previously mentioned I ran a CoC game for my friends at Gencon. I started with the adventure, Paper Chase, from the starter set. Taking inspiration from the published adventure, but having some ideas of my own I changed the location to Istanbul circa 1922 which allowed me to make the adventure more exotic. This places the scenario events near the end of the Turkish Civil War, the Greek War for Independence, and the forced relocation of ethnic Greeks and Turks accrding to the realignment of national boundaries. I rewrote the starter pregens to fit my altered setting and recast the main NPCs to fit the Turkish location, the missing professor becoming a minor Russian noble longing to return to his native land now occupied by communist revolutionaries. That is the extent of the spoilers I will give as my intent here is to merely demonstrate how I frequently modify details of a printed adventure to suit my personal interests and sensibilities. By investing some of my own creativity into the module I am both more conversant with the material and more excited about what I am running. Enthusiasm is infectious a usually transfers to my players.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Gencon 2019

Gencon Rewards
One week ago I was preparing for Gencon with much anticipation. There are games to be played and products to see in abundance. Old friends and new friends to share gaming experiences with. This week I am reflecting on Gencon and have decided the best part about Gencon are the people.
I had a most satisfying four days of gaming and socializing at Gencon this year and most of that I attribute to the many fine gamers and vendors who attend Gencon. I got to play in several games with good friends and new acquaintances. I even ran a session of Call of Cthulhu for my friends. I also had many impromptu conversations while sharing a dining table, or sitting next to someone on the exhibit hall floor, or at various booths. Everyone I met was positive, friendly and interesting. Those interactions made my Gencon experience one to remember.
I also did a bit of shopping and picked up Mothership and the newly released Pathfinder 2e books as planned. The Iron Crown Enterprises booth was also at the top of my list and I visited them a couple times while picking up printed copies of the Rolemaster Classic volumes and the Shadow World setting books, Eidolon and Emer Atlas III.
One of the highlights during each Gencon is the awarding of the ENnies. The ENnies awards recognize some of the best creative talent in our hobby and among this year's winners are several nominees which greatly appeal to me. At the top of the list is Mothership which won the gold for Best Game. It's the game I voted for and obviously I think Mothership deserves the title best game of 2019! Other gold winners I would like to mention are Seth Skorkowski for best online content (check out his YouTube channel here). Chaosium Inc. won awards for a number of their excellent products and the gold for Fan's Favorite/ Best Publisher is a well deserved honor.
My personal award for "best experience at Gencon 2019" has to go to Jim Felli of Devious Weasel Games. Jim is the designer of Shadows of Malice, my favorite fantasy boardgame, which has just been reprinted by Devious Weasel. For about three years running I have pestered Mr. Felli about Shadows of Malice asking when it would be re-released. Shadows is an excellent substitute for a fantasy role-play session in the form of a boardgame with near infinite replayability and it needs no GM. Mr. Felli seemed genuinely happy to have what I wanted this year and was kind enough to sign my copy of Shadows of Malice and set me up with everything he had for the game. This is a game I was introduced to some years ago, but until now have not been able to acquire my own copy.