31 May 2023

Tales of the Variants

As I noted back in February, following the great “OGL Crisis” of Janurary 2023, a couple of companies that produce materials for 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons decided to produce their own versions of the game in order to avoid being subject to any future deleterious decisions by the Wizards of the Coast (even after WotC backed down on scrapping the old OGL).


One of those companies, Kobold Press, recently announced a kickstarter for its 5e variant, Tales of the Valiant. If you’re curious about it, there is a free preview PDF that you can download from the kickstarter page (available even if you don’t want to be a backer).


The name is terrible in my opinion (I think I preferred its previous name, “Project Black Flag”), but the company is solid. I'm mixed on what I’ve seen of the system so far. (I mean, it’s 5e with tweaks, but I'd rather have something more stripped down.) Nonetheless, I’m more likely to use it as a resource in the future than the revised 2024 version ("5.5e") of D&D that WotC is currently working on. 


Cubicle 7 is also coming out with its version of 5e later this year. C7 did very good work on Adventures in Middle-earth – indeed, in terms of the rules, I liked running it a lot more than standard 5e. And I’m going through C7’s Uncharted Journeys book now (which adapts the AiME travel rules to standard 5e fantasy). It also is very good, and I’m thinking of using it in future games. So I’ll be interested in checking out “C7d20” whenever it’s released.


(Regarding AiME: as mentioned last year, the game is now the Lord of the Rings 5e. The system has been revised and is now published by the Free League, just as the Free League also has taken over publishing The One Ring 2nd edition. I just got my "physical" version of the LotR 5e core book, and it looks excellent. AiME/LotR shows how 5e can be used to create something better than the original WotC 5e game. But I digress…) 

For 5e D&D, I remain very happy with my version of it: Into the Unknown with some houserules. However, I do sometimes wish that ItU had similar production values to TotV and the like. But, well, it's only an “indie” game. The kids these days sadly prefer fantasy super-heroes to gritty old-school dungeon delving.

17 May 2023

Russ Nicholson RIP

Some sad news: the amazing artist Russ Nicholson has passed away. 

Nicholson probably is best known for his art in the Fiend Folio (1e AD&D), as well as his work in many of the classic “Fighting Fantasy” gamebooks, including the first one, The Warlock of Firetop Mountain

Fellow fans of Mythras may recognize his work from Monster Isle
One brilliantly disturbing example:

Back in 2011, I identified Nicholson as my 5th favourite FRPG artist of all time – and Nicholson was kind enough to post a “thank you” comment.

Many great works by Nicholson can found at his blog, The Gallery: Art of Russ Nicholson. (All of the illustrations in this post, except for the one of the Githyanki [which is from my PDF of the Fiend Folio], were taken from Nicholson's blog.)


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I'm a Canadian political philosopher who lives primarily in Toronto but teaches in Milwaukee (sometimes in person, sometimes online).