Daily Archives: July 21, 2011

[Smallville RPG Contest] And the winner is…

After a week from starting off the Describe YOUR Pointyman contest, we’ve received several interesting responses.  Among all of them though, I felt that one put a lot of effort thinking of a complete backstory, powerset, motivation and even adding in notes on how to play Pointyman in a game.

This definitely puts him above the other entries, which, while very amusing, just didn’t seem to quite match the winning entry in sheer effort.

Therefore I’d like to take this time to congratulate our winner: Uriah!

Make sure to watch your email, Uriah, as I’ll be sending you the download code for DriveThruRPG that will let you download your copy of the Smallville RPG for free.

Thanks again to everyone who participated, and keep checking the blog for when I next run a contest like this.

[Review] In Flames by Greg Saunders

Let me start off by saying that In Flames caught my interest right off the bat with three things:

  • It uses the Mini Six System
  • Pretty, pretty cover art by Paul Bourne
  • The presence of Haitian Vodou Mythology used in a Sci-Fi Setting

And so I decided to grab the PDF and check it out.

If there’s one thing I have to say about Greg Saunders’ work, it would be that he is very, very thorough.  In Flames is a game written as a true corebook, one that is meant to cater to people who are already into RPGs as well as those who are new to the hobby.

Greg’s writing is approachable and easy to understand, but I do have a slight impression that there’s a distance to his writing.  It’s clear to see that he’s enthusiastic about his setting and his game, but I can’t help but feel that he’s holding back.

Thankfully that tone doesn’t harm the fact that In Flames offers a fresh take on the Sci-Fi RPG by slipping in a good dose of mysticism and moral ambiguity, which takes the form of the situation that the player characters find themselves in.

There’s no short way for me to describe exactly what the player character are, but I’ll try to give the Cliff Notes version.

There are two “realities”:  The Understar, which is the home of the Loa, godlike beings who occasionally entertain themselves by essentially possessing humans in the Flame Worlds, which is the material world where the game takes place.

The Player Characters are former Loa who have committed a crime so heinous that they were cast out of the Understar, and forcibly injected into one of the humans in the Flame Worlds.  As Exiles, they have to make the most of their suddenly limited existences.  Thankfully, they have hope, as a being calling itself Ghede offers them a chance to earn their place back in the Understar… if they perform several tasks for Ghede.

While this might seem like blackmail, the situation is actually somewhat better than it sounds.  It turns out that Ghede wants the Exiles to earn their place in the Understar by taking on other Loa who have begun to abuse their ability to ride humanity in the Flame Worlds.

What I loved about this setup is that becoming an Exile opens the character’s mind to how things are from a human perspective.  As Loa, humanity and the Flame Worlds in general were nothing but an amusing diversion.  To use a terrible analogy, the Loa are playing The Sims.  They indulge their desires by possessing hapless humans and get their jollies taking over the steering wheel.

But now that they’ve become the very playthings that they toyed with, things are different.  The Exiles don’t retain much memory of their time in the Understar, and are forced to rub shoulders with the people here, forming relationships and bonds that they would otherwise have missed as being the Loa.

Everything clicked in my head the moment I made the connection.  In Flames is Demon: the Fallen in SPACE.  Flawed godlike beings forced to lesser forms taking over bodies of humans in a world that was so divorced from the paradise that they once knew.  Except this time, Ghede takes pains to offer them a way back to paradise… but that itself raises a different question.  Now that they’ve opened their eyes to the reality of the Flame Worlds… can they go back to the Understar and go back to their blessed ignorance?

Mechanically, In Flames takes the Mini-Six and shows off exactly what it’s capable of.  My experience with the D6 system is that it’s a robust system that can handle pretty much anything, so I remain confident that In Flames will run without a hitch.

What I did like about it is the fact that Greg managed to slip in two interesting “Scales” that every Exile has:  Guilt and Dislocation.  Guilt is a meter that shows just how close a character is to their eventual forgiveness, where Ghede will allow the character back to the Understar.  Dislocation on the other hand, is a measure of the Exile’s connectedness to his host body.

These meters are an interesting way to track a character’s status, and how far along they are to their redemption.

In Flames is still a sci-fi system, and definitely doesn’t let you forget that one bit.  From the neat little sketch artwork to the fact that Greg has painstakingly statted out Vehicles, Technology, Robots, Planets and Stars.  Don’t let all my talk of the internal conflict fool you, In Flames has a lot of potential for action and adventure.

The missions that the Exiles are sent off to are the type that wouldn’t be out of place in say, the Mass Effect videogames.  The D6 systems supports this sort of play very well, and fans of harder sci-fi won’t find themselves wanting.


In Flames offers something that most Sci-Fi games tend to overlook:  Internal Conflict.  While that’s easy enough to inject into a game as a GM, it’s rare that you see one built-in to a game right out of the box so well.

The use of the Mini Six system is an excellent choice for the setting, and In Flames offers a large open solar system with different environments that could easily be a springboard for any sort of campaign from action-adventure to espionage.  Sci-Fi is all about the toys, and the game has it in spades.  Exotic environments, vehicle stats, uplifted creatures, and corrupt and dangerous opponents are all over In Flames, and it has enough stuff in it to keep a campaign going on for a long, long time.

In Flames is a solid sci-fi game, and fans of the genre should definitely consider picking this up.


In Flames is available in DriveThruRPG for $14.00 or roughly PhP 603.00

[Review] Glimpses of the Unknown

Glimpses of the Unknown is White Wolf’s latest PDF product released for the World of Darkness. In a nutshell, the 50 page pdf is a compilation of plots and story seeds that GMs can use for their campaigns.

The book contains a whole slew of story ideas, arranged according to the various game lines in the new World of Darkness. Everything from vanilla World of Darkness, to Vampire: the Requiem, to Changeling: the Lost and even the mini-settings presented in World of Darkness Mirrors gets some love.

This is a predominantly GM-oriented product, as the story hooks are technically all spoiler territory for players.

The story seeds themselves are divided into two types. The usual Story Seeds which are about a paragraph long and present a hook or twist that could be used as a springboard to get player characters involved in supernatural weirdness, and Glimpses which are entire plotlines that discuss the issue, provide a backstory, and suggest possible means to resolve the storyline.

The one thing to note about all the above material is that is suggestive instead of authoritative. Ultimately, the GM is the one that decides the “truth” of the matter. This may end up annoying GMs who prefer to have everything statted out as the Seeds and the Glimpses do not have any NPC stats at all.

Rather than thinking of this as an “Adventure Module” I think it would be best to consider Glimpses of the Unknown as a book that addresses the common question of many new Storytellers: “Okay, I’ve got the book and read the rules, but what do my characters DO?”

Glimpses of the Unknown also introduces a few mechanics to the various game lines, but these are not really much in terms of heft. The Mage: the Awakening chapter for example, gives a new rote. Just one. The usefulness of the mechanics introduced in this book may vary depending on the GMs, but they’re not about to make this book a must buy on strength of mechanics alone.

Overall, Glimpses of the Unknown is a book that will come in handy if a Storyteller is feeling uninspired. The Seeds and Glimpses provided are all generally interesting, but whether or not they will see use in a campaign is solely up to the GM.

While the seeds are arranged according to game line, nothing is stopping people from grabbing a storyline from one line and using it in another, so thankfully the book’s usefulness doesn’t end with just the chapter specific to the game that the Storyteller is running.

I would recommend Glimpses of the Unknown to Storytellers who often find themselves without the time or inspiration to think up on new plots all the time. Ultimately, it makes for good reading, and with a little elbow grease, many of these plots could be recycled with a new coat of paint if necessary.

That said, this isn’t the book for you if you’re looking for more crunch. As I mentioned before, it’s there, but there’s not a lot to it. People going into this looking to use things to min-max characters are going to be disappointed.


Glimpses of the Unknown is available through DrivethruRPG for $6.99 or roughly PhP 300.00

%d bloggers like this: