Monthly Archives: March 2018

The close of It’s In the Cards Week brings us to one of the most famous and beloved examples of card-based games ever published – Castle FalkensteinThough the poker-deck mechanics were a bit difficult for many to wrap their heads around, the setting carried the day as one of the earliest examples of steampunk at the RPG table. The game lay fallow for quite a while, but Fat Goblin Games revived it with an entire line of products dedicated to updating and expanding the Falkenstein experience.


When computer game designer Tom Olam found himself sorcerously shanghaied by a rogue Wizard and a Faerie Lord, little did he suspect that he would soon become the pivotal force in the struggle to control an alternate Victorian Universe. But before the deadly game could end, he would first have to battle gigantic Landfortresses, outwit Dragons, romance a beautiful Adventuress, and defeat the Evil legions of a Dark Court determined to destroy him at all costs. 
Then maybe, just maybe, he could find a way home again …

It’s a novel. It’s a game. It’s both. It’s Castle Falkenstein™, an amazing journey into another universe just a few steps away from our own: a place where Dragons and Steampower rule the skies, Faerie Lords duel atop the battlements, and where the forces of Wizardry and Magick meet the gaslight streets of the Victorian Age. But with Castle Falkenstein™, the story never ends, as you too take up saber and spell to adventure in a distant world on the other side of the mysterious Faerie Veil: a world of Swashbuckling Fantasy, High Romance, and Magickal Technology. The world of—Castle Falkenstein

Sean Patrick Fannon
Writer & Game Designer: Shaintar, Star Wars, Savage Rifts, Freedom Squadron, and much more!
Please check out my Patreon and get involved directly with my next projects!

There really aren’t that many games that fit the bill for It’s In the Cards Week, but here’s another Tarot-driven one that can also be played with standard (poker) playing cards. Trials of the Magi falls firmly in the 21st-century realms of player narrative and innovation, though there are firm mechanics in place. Intended to help bring players new to the concept of roleplaying into the hobby, the game focuses on allowing players to essentially “be themselves” while the explore the concepts of RP and shared fiction.

Trials of the Magi is a tabletop role-playing game centered around the idea that arcane spell casters known as Magi exist within our world and have kept their existence hidden for thousands of years. Those with the potential to learn magic are scouted out and must prove themselves worthy by undergoing a specialized exam.

Inside each session of this narrative card game a group of Candidates attempt to overcome the surreal and magical challenges put before them by the Arcane Scout. Where each success bringing them one step closer to becoming fledgling Magi.

Who is this game for:

While any group of players can pick up and play the game, Trials of the Magi was developed as a tool to introduce new players to the hobby of role-playing games. This goal is achieved through the game’s quick to learn, tactile mechanics and the ease of roleplaying within the game’s fiction.

In contrast with most role-playing games, the characters that the players control in Trials of the Magi are direct representations of themselves known as Personas. These imagined characters look, act and talk just as the player would, making it easy for some one new to the hobby to step into their first game.

How the game is played:

The Candidates construct their personas by choosing 3 cards from the four possible Tarot suits of Swords, Wands, Cups or Coins. Then by answering a suit specific question they determine the source of the cards power, and write it on the card. This written word shapes the narrative capabilities of each card, as it represents what form of magic the Persona has access to within the mental landscapes of the trials.

Each Tarot suit represents a type of playstyle, and by picking a combination of 3 cards, you tailor your gameplaying interactions effectively create your own custom “character class”.

This hand of cards comprises the entirety of each player’s Persona, and gameplay revolves around each player’s ability to effectively manage how their cards cycle between the three positions of, in their hand, on the table, or discarded. This is crucial because if all of the players are forced to discard all of their cards, they fail the trial.

Sean Patrick Fannon
Writer & Game Designer: Shaintar, Star Wars, Savage Rifts, Freedom Squadron, and much more!
Please check out my Patreon and get involved directly with my next projects!

If you have a Tarot deck of any kind, you can play Reign of Terror, based on the Tarochi card game that uses such decks, and the latest entry in the It’s In the Cards Week theme. In this setting, you face the utter terror and devastation of the French Revolution while investigating what sinister forces might be pulling the strings behind it all.

The Terror, during the French Revolution, was one of the most horrific moments in history. At its height, thousands were imprisoned or executed.  But what if the Terror wasn’t just happenstance? What if there were dark forces at play behind those, and other, historical events? 

In Reign of Terror play the part of a Revolutionary seeking to find the truth behind the Revolution and Robespierre’s Reign of Terror. This book contains everything you need to start playing, including: 

  • an original system based on Tarochi, a Tarot-based card game
  • the detailed history of the French Revolution
  • a chapter devoted to the daily life of people in Revolutionary France
  • a simple character creation system that gets you playing within minutes
  • a Cast of Characters: over 60 historical figures described for the game

Be a Revolutionary! Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity! Or, Death! 

Sean Patrick Fannon
Writer & Game Designer: Shaintar, Star Wars, Savage Rifts, Freedom Squadron, and much more!
Please check out my Patreon and get involved directly with my next projects!

Not much chance of doing an It’s In the Cards Week without talking about one of the style’s more standout examples. Based on the Malifaux miniatures gaming universeThrough the Breach makes use of regular playing cards to move players through character creation as well as task resolution.

Control your destiny.

Journey back to the early 1900s, where a dimensional rift leading to the magical world of Malifaux has changed human history. Steam power and steel collide with magic and monsters in this dangerous and exciting roleplaying game. Are you brave enough to change your destiny?

This second edition rulebook has been designed to be backwards compatible with all first edition Through the Breach supplements and adventures.

The Core Rules contain all the information players need to begin adventuring in the world of Malifaux!

Sean Patrick Fannon
Writer & Game Designer: Shaintar, Star Wars, Savage Rifts, Freedom Squadron, and much more!
Please check out my Patreon and get involved directly with my next projects!

The long-awaited James Wallis art-as-RPG, Alas Vegasis finally available for purchase, and it’s led me to launch It’s In the Cards Week – a week dedicated to games that eschew dice in favor of cards for gameplay and task resolution.

This game was Kickstarted five years ago, and various elements in play pushed its final delivery out quite a ways. However, the wait is more than worthwhile as “the Godfather of Indie Games” (as anointed by Robin Laws), along with a truly all-star cast, brings us one of the most innovative immersive story ideas with a gameplay style that will throw you for a loop while it drags you into a story you help unveil as the clock keeps ticking.


You wake in a shallow grave in the desert. It’s night. You have no memory of how you got here, or who you are, or the location of your clothes. A scar of neon in the shape of a city squats on the horizon. There are answers there. And trouble.

ALAS VEGAS is a dark journey through a bizarre and terrifying casino city where everything has a cost. Caught in a war between the Rat Packers who run the place, the players must find allies, the truth, and a way to escape. Memories are recovered, secrets are revealed, old debts are settled, and nothing is what it seems.

Your character sheet starts as blank as your memories, but your character gains skills by having flashbacks to their previous life, so as the game progesses their backstory does too – creating a twisted web between the characters, as they piece their past together and work out how that fits with what’s happening to them.

The mechanics are based on the casino game Blackjack played with Tarot cards, creating high-stakes narrative showdowns, and spinning elements of the game’s story from the cards that come up in play.

‘Alas Vegas’ lasts four sessions, structured like a high-budget HBO miniseries, leading to a revelatory final climax that’s a fitting end of the campaign. It’s Franz Kafka’s Fear and Loathing. It’s The Hangover meets The Prisoner. It’s Ocean’s Eleven directed by David Lynch. It’s like nothing you’ve played before.


ALAS VEGAS runs on the Fugue game system, built to tell stories of characters with amnesia. It uses Tarot cards and rotating GMs to create unique, high-tension adventures, heavy on character and narrative. As well as ‘Alas Vegas’ itself, the book contains three extra complete Fugue campaigns:

  • YET ALREADY, frantic time-travel to save a chaotic, collapsing universe, written by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan;
  • WARLOCK KINGS, paladins returned to life as generals of a dark army, by Allen Varney and Johnstone Metzger;
  • REMEMBERING COSMIC MAN, in which you play two characters: one of a gang of superheroes whose leader has just been found dead, and one of the police investigating the crime, by Laurent Devernay and Jerome Larre.

Plus all the Fugue mechanics, of course.


ALAS VEGAS also contains articles by some of the finest games writers of the last two decades:

  • Kenneth Hite contributes a complete stand-alone story-game set in the blood-red heart of classic Vegas, ‘Killing Bugsy Siegel’;
  • Robin D. Laws tells you how to use tarot cards to create game narratives on the fly in ‘Tarot-Jumping Other Games’;
  • Mike Selinker adds a bizarre casino in which your characters can place bets on their own chances of success in the adventure;
  • Matt Forbeck details the ins and outs of running gambling games in RPGs ;
  • Richard Dansky expands the Alas Vegas setting in ‘Grifts, Scams and Making it’;
  • John Scott Tynes serves up cocktails in ‘The Guide To Drinking Heavily In Vegas’;
  • Eye-popping interior art by World Fantasy Award-winner John Coulthart and Dennis Detwiller;
  • John Kovalic contributes an exclusive in-game comic strip!
  • And Sean Smith describes how to… but you have to let us keep a few secrets.


Sean Patrick Fannon
Writer & Game Designer: Shaintar, Star Wars, Savage Rifts, Freedom Squadron, and much more!
Please check out my Patreon and get involved directly with my next projects!

Closing out Tales of the Five Editions Week with, naturally, a 5th Edition product. One of the coolest things about the latest iteration of D&D is the Dungeon Masters Guild, a place where creators of all types can bring their best and most interesting ideas to life for other fans of the system. The Mines of Chult is actually the inspiration for these week’s theme, one of the latest such presentations that features the top-three selling creators on that site.

Presenting The Mines of Chult! This Savage Encounters adventure supplement features nine mini adventures from three best-selling DMs Guild authors. Featuring adventures for character levels 1 through 16, your PCs will challenge several new monsters, discover fascinating new magic items, and interact with some wickedly fun NPCs.  Though designed with Tomb of Annihilation in mind, each of these adventures can be easily adapted to any campaign setting. With over sixty pages of thrilling 5th Edition D&D adventures ready to go, what are you waiting for? Dig in to The Mines of Chult!

Sean Patrick Fannon
Writer & Game Designer: Shaintar, Star Wars, Savage Rifts, Freedom Squadron, and much more!
Please check out my Patreon and get involved directly with my next projects!

The Fourth Edition gets a lot of bad press (and, frankly, it’s not all undeserved), but as we roll on through Tales of the Five Editions Week, it’s important to acknowledge the edition that (a) lots of people still love and (b) brought many new gamers to the table. The attempt at appealing to the computer gaming crowd met with mixed results, but there’s a lot of noteworthy innovation to give a positive nod towards.

As anyone who’s followed me over the years knows, I will always have a special place in my heart for the Keep on the Borderlands. The very first module to bear that name came in my first D&D boxed set. Upon its foundations, Shaintar was built.

At Restwell Keep, you’ve heard that fortune and glory await those bold enough to brave the dangers of the Chaos Scar, a valley carved ages ago by a fallen star. The same tales warn that this Chaos Scar draws wickedness to it. Perhaps you can help stem this tide… and gain some treasure along the way.

(Excerpts from the Product History)

“Keep on the Borderlands: A Season of Serpents,” by Chris Sims, is the adventure series for Season 3 of D&D Encounters. It was released for play in Fall and Winter 2010.

Continuing the Encounters. “Season of Serpents” generally follows the model of the previous season’s adventure, “Dark Sun: Fury of the Wastewalker” (2010). It presents a multi-week adventure as a set of individual encounters, each of which is meant to be run as a single session lasting 1.5 to 2 hours. Again, the adventure is broken up into chapters, each of which contains multiple encounters; at the end of each chapter, characters are given the opportunity to rest.

“Season of Serpents” is the longest Encounters season ever, with five chapters of four encounters each, resulting in 20 total sessions of play. Considerable effort is expended to differentiate the chapters and the overall play experience; thus, PCs adventure in broadly different areas during each chapter of play. Nonetheless, many GMs found the adventure too long—mainly because it made it hard to bring in new players late in the season, something that matters more in an organized play environment.

Each chapter of “Season of Serpents” was released to DMs as an individual booklet, which was the same format used for “Fury of the Wastewalker,” the only Encounters season divided up in this way.

About the Homage. Though the first two Encounters seasons returned to the classic settings of Undermountain and Dark Sun, they weren’t exactly homages: Rather, they were totally new stories told in the old settings. That changed with “Season of Serpents,” which is obviously an homage to B2: “The Keep on the Borderlands”(1980). It’s probably no accident that this Encounters season went hand-in-hand with the introductory red box for D&D Essentials—just as the original “Keep” was packaged with D&D’s first red box (1981).

(OK, technically the 1981 edition is now widely called the “magenta box,” to differentiate it from the 1983 edition, but you get the idea.)

That said, “Season of Serpents” is not a return to the actual setting of the original “Keep on the Borderlands”; it’s more of a thematic homage. You get the story of a civilized keep and nearby monstrous lands: Here, the stronghold is the dwarven-built Restwell Keep, while the monstrous lairs are in the Chaos Scar, a location that also received considerable attention in the online Dungeon magazine.

Sean Patrick Fannon
Writer & Game Designer: Shaintar, Star Wars, Savage Rifts, Freedom Squadron, and much more!
Please check out my Patreon and get involved directly with my next projects!

Today’s the day we look at the third of five in our Tales of the Five Editions Week. When 3e came out, it had been quite a while since D&D had gone through a major change, and it was one of the Big Events of gaming history. The Red Hand of Doom is one of the most highly praised and respected adventures to come out of that time – called a “super adventure,” it’s pretty much a campaign all its own.

Who Can Stand Against the Son of the Dragon?

The Wyrmsmoke Mountains shook with the thunder of ten thousand screaming hobgoblin soldiers. From the phalanx emerged a single champion. One by one the tribes fell silent as the warlord rose up, blue scales gleaming along his shoulders, horns swept back from his head. A hundred bright yellow banners stood beneath him, each marked with a great red hand. He stood upon a precipice and raised his arms. “I am Azarr Kul, Son of the Dragon!” the warlord bellowed.

“Hear me! Tomorrow we march to war!”

Red Hand of Doom is a DUNGEONS & DRAGONS® adventure designed to take characters from the 6th level to the 12th level. Confronted with the relentless advance of Azurr Kul’s horde, the characters must undertake vital missions to influence the outcome of the war. Can they shatter the armies of the enemy, or will Azarr Kul’s dreams rain destruction upon the human lands?

(Excerpts from the Product History)

Red Hand of Doom (2006), by Richard Baker and James Jacobs, is a super-adventure for D&D 3E. It was published in February 2006.

Continuing the Super Adventures. D&D adventures from Wizards of the Coast were shockingly rare during the 3E era (2000-2008). That’s because they expected d20 licensees to focus on adventure publication, taking the brunt of one of the least profitable sorts of RPG publication.

Super-adventures from Wizards that were larger and more important were even rarer. Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil (2001) and City of the Spider Queen(2002) were the only two in the early 3E era, then Wizards almost totally abandoned adventures for three years, with the exception of some Eberron modules. Red Hand of Doom thus marked a big return for Wizards. It would be followed by several other Wizards adventures in the final 3E years, most of them in the “Expedition” series (2006-2007).

To qualify Red Hand of Doom as a super-adventure, designers Baker and Jacobs made sure it was both “huge” and “epic”. Though it’s not a full-fledged adventure path, it should support 6 months of play.

Origins. Red Hand of Doom was written as a classic adventure that could be used in any setting. To make the adventure classic, Baker and Jacobs focused on one of best-known races of old: goblinoids, with plenty of class levels to make them dangerous foes. To make the adventure generic, they created a new locale, the Elsir Vale, that could be placed in any setting.

Sources. Baker based the plot of Red Hand of Doom on something he’d seen in many fantasy novels, but that was less common in D&D adventures: “the Army of Evil … trying to conquer everything.” He didn’t muddy that concept with dungeon delves or macguffins — instead wanting to focus on the armies themselves and the sort of challenges that they presented. It was an adventure style that hadn’t been seen much since the “Bloodstone Pass” adventure series (1985-1988).

Jacobs notes a few more disparate influences: the Return of the King movie (2003), World of Warcraft (2003), and a Chris Thomasson adventure called “Foundation of Flame”, which appeared in Dungeon #113 (August 2004).

Hail to the Designers Notes! The biggest innovation in Red Hand of Doom is the inclusion of about a dozen designers’ notes. These boxed notes talk about the philosophies and expectations behind some of the encounters. Wizards had never done anything of the sort before.

Sean Patrick Fannon
Writer & Game Designer: Shaintar, Star Wars, Savage Rifts, Freedom Squadron, and much more!
Please check out my Patreon and get involved directly with my next projects!

Even as my own Freedom Squadron Kickstarter is rolling along, I want to take some time to point out some other great opportunities to support your favorite publishers, creators, and wonderful ideas in gaming (and otherwise).

Let’s open up with a Kickstarter I’ll be writing a One-Sheet for (since they hit that Stretch Goal that listed me), a world of crazy colorful outfits and giant monsters that will make a fine companion product to the aforementioned Freedom Squadron

Transforming heroes, kaiju running amok, giant robots versus the monster of the week, and more built for the Savage Worlds rule set.

Tokusatsu is the Japanese word for any live action movie or television show that makes heavy use of special effects. The word’s literal translation is “Special Filming.” 

Even if you aren’t familiar with the word itself, you are familiar with the works that fall under its umbrella. Giant, lizard-like kaiju that breathe atomic energy, quirky teens that transform into superheroes to fight against aliens from the moon, and giant robots going blow for blow with one another are all fundamental works within the genre of tokusatsu.

Savage Tokusatsu is a game built from the ground up specifically for the Savage Worldsroleplaying game. Within the pages of this softcover book are new rules and character options to help you capture the feel of any tokusatsu story in the collaborative storytelling experience that is tabletop roleplaying. 

You can be the transforming team of heroes working together to control a giant mech simultaneously. You can play the desperate humans trying to halt the advance of an unstoppable monster that towers above skyscrapers. All this and more is possible with Savage Tokusatsu.

Next is a series of short fiction pieces featuring my dear friend, Carolyn Kemp. It’s not just short fiction, though – it’s a rather amazing new take on the concept of the Choose Your Own Adventure books that has to be seen to be believed –

10 characters. 10 settings. 100 fictional possibilities. Choose your own story in this sci-fi short-story collection: Crash Philosophy.

If you could select your character and setting, what would you find? Choose your own story with “Crash Philosophy.”

Hello, I’m Thomas A. Fowler, Author of Nerdy Things. I’m creating an anthology called “Crash Philosophy” alongside over two-dozen amazing authors and writers! Our goal is to create a printed and digital experience to give you, the reader, the power to choose your story!

It’s been 20 years since a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book was published. 20 years! At Nerdy Things Publishing, we want to create a new reading experience that embraces a new way people can choose their story. With 10 characters and 10 settings, 100 fictional possibilities are at your fingertips!  

I originally wanted to create an anthology about dinosaurs, but there’d be little to it that’d disrupt the anthology market. I wanted to do something more. And there was my answer: do more. So I sat down with dozens of potential characters and settings and decided to make this weird collaboration.  

With this anthology, you choose one of the characters (Alien, Clown, Dinosaur, Great White Shark, Human Baby, Imaginary Friend, Kaiju, Keytarist, Psycho Killer and Robot Assassin) then you place them in one of the settings (Alternate Future, Apocalyptic Wasteland, Evil Laboratory, Flying Prison, Human Mind, Ocean, Pet Store, School, Space, and Triassic). Then you can do this 99 more times!

This gives you the power to decide which combinations to read. And with a diverse group of authors, you’re going to get a lot of different voices, approaches, and narrative structures even. It’s something the world hasn’t quite seen yet and I couldn’t be more excited to share this with you.  

The great thing is backing us also gives you the ability to vote on future characters and settings. Backers at all levels will get access to early voting to help determine the next 5 characters and settings in the Second Collision!

Next up is a superhero support book with a rather odd and engaging twist – what if you had a group of folks that felt as much like the original Rat Pack as they do superpowered beings?

It’s a superteam. It’s a Rat Pack homage. It’s written by Christopher McGlothlin (TIME OF CRISIS, TIME OF VENGEANCE, GOLDEN AGE, NOIR).

One of the masters of the superhero RPG genre, Christopher McGlothlin (Time of Crisis, Time of Vengeance, Golden Age, Noir, Freedom City Rogue’s Gallery, Earth Prime Atlas), has a new book. It’s called World Defenders: The Summit. It’s a fun supplement about a team of superheroes. (Or supervillains, if you prefer.) It’s also been beautifully illustrated in full color by Storn Cook, whose work has appeared in hundreds of RPG products over the years.  

In fact, World Defenders: The Summit actually marks the beginning of a new era in Chris’ career. The release of this book will be the first product from Chris’s new imprint GHOST SHOW PRESS. Yes, Chris has decided to hang out his own shingle and produce his own projects. 

World Defenders: The Summit includes everything you need to know to use the Summit, a United Nations-backed superteam, in your own game: the team’s historical background, their personal and UN resources (HQ, vehicles, and more), their adversaries, adventure hooks for the team, and advice on how to use the Summit as a gang of bad guys instead of good guys. Of course, you also get detailed writeups, and full color art, for the six core members:  

  • The Constable, who wields his Physique Incroyable on behalf of the downtrodden everywhere while also enjoying a single-malt Scotch.
  • Tidal Wave, a Brazilian YouTube superstar and master of water. Oh, and he’s dating a supermodel. 
  • Swiftsure, a Welshman and SAS veteran whose exposure to time-travel experiments has given him superspeed. 
  • Destiny, a hero and warrior whose fighting skills have been honed over many lifetimes, as both a man and a woman. 
  • Conjurer, an Ethiopian by descent, an Israeli Jew by birth, he wields divine power to protect and heal his comrades. 
  • Blue Bolt, the third Australian woman to bear the name, this Blue Bolt brings investigative and technical skills to the team.

The Fading Suns universe comes back to digital gaming with this new real-time strategy endeavor –

Noble Armada: Lost Worlds is a real-time starship fleet strategy game by Holistic Design set in the Fading Suns universe!

Noble Armada: Lost Worlds is a real-time strategy PC title based on the Noble Armada miniatures game. Set in the Fading Suns Universe, where the suns themselves are dying, humanity battles to revive its lost greatness – or just take what is left. The five great Royal Houses dominate human space as they battle each other for control of the greatest resource – humanity itself.

In Noble Armada: Lost Worlds, players take on the role of a noble in one of the five Royal houses, vying against rival fleets and houses for control of human space. They battle pirates, barbarians, heretics and others in their quest for supremacy. Noble Armada is a game of broadsides and boarding actions, as players maneuver their ships to line up their best shots, fire off broadsides of fiery energy and then board their enemies to end the battle with desperate boarding actions. As they travel from planet to planet, making allies and building up their fleets, they also gain the experience they need to make their crews and marines truly formidable. 

My buddy Craig Campbell’s superhero gangsters of the `20s game is going strong –

In the CAPERS tabletop roleplaying game, you portray a character with extraordinary abilities in the Roaring Twenties. As a gangster, you seek to exploit the law and get rich off of alcohol, gambling, prostitution, and racketeering. You join up with other players to collectively seek your fortunes in the vice-riddled, booze-soaked casinos and speakeasies of the Jazz Age.

Alternatively, you and the other players can portray members of law enforcement seeking to bring these criminals to justice.

The setting features some prominent, historical Prohibition Era characters but also a variety of gender-swaps and race-flips to make the game about more than mostly Italian and Irish guys. A slew of unique, fictional NPCs of all types have been created to give every player something to latch onto when perusing the game world. 

CAPERS is a game of action, adventure, virtue, and vice in a world coming into its own. It’s a world of theft, fraud, subterfuge, and espionage. Your character will risk their life to find their place in this world, regardless of which side of the law they fall on. 

Then there’s this amazing alt-history fantasy jaunt into a world where dragons took over the Americas –

Historical fantasy tabletop RPG with an intuitive system to control your luck set in Mesoamerica during the 16th Century.

Dragons Conquer America is a CLASSIC ROLE PLAYING GAME, with high adventure, monsters, and epic struggle between the mortal and supernatural worlds.

It will allow you to play stories about ADVENTURERS who explore the Mesoamerican lands, hunt devilish monsters, and discover ancient ruins. Create your character from one of the 13 available orders, cast powerful faith based spells, safeguard yourself from corruption and curses, outgrow your prejudices, and unravel long-forgotten mysteries! 

With gameplay inspired by video games such as Monster Hunter, and a setting that draws from fantasy sagas as The Witcher and alternate reality novels like Temeraire, the game offers an honest depiction of the Mesoamerican world, its people and their lore.  

Dragons Conquer America takes you back to a warped, fantasy version of 1512 Mesoamerica, a few years after the first Europeans reached its lands. At that point in time, this region of central America is a melting pot of cultures and identities, bound by the might of the Mexica (a.k.a. the Aztec) empire and threatened by the terrible evils that lurk in the depths of the mossy jungle.

Rumors of foreboding omens seep through the grapevine and keep children up at night;dreadful monsters and decadent phantoms ignite fear and fury among peasants and monarchs alike; the promise of gold and glory forges the most unlikely hunting parties, as adventurers from different nations – and even continents – join forces to vanquish the darkness from the world. All this happens under the deceitful gaze of the Dragons, both American feathered and European scalebound, whose ultimate endgame – if they have any – is yet to be uncovered.

Finally, this new one that’s already gotten a ton of attention, a steampunk flavored story game where relationships and resistance of tyranny are everything.

Sean Patrick Fannon
Writer & Game Designer: Shaintar, Star Wars, Savage Rifts, Freedom Squadron, and much more!
Please check out my Patreon and get involved directly with my next projects!

As we march through Tales of the Five Editions Week, we come to 2nd Edition and this absolutely classic module – Curse of the Azure Bonds. Not only was this one of the most compelling, non-dungeon-drive adventure experiences in D&D, it started out as a great novel by Jeff Grubb and wound up as one of the best D&D computer games of its time. Jeff and my friend, George MacDonald (of Champions fame) wrote this masterpiece.

Day breaks, and the crowing of a distant rooster wakes you from an all-too-short sleep. Another day for adventure, you think as you arise – but then you stop short. You, and all of your companions, have an elaborate blue tattoo covering most of your sword arm! 

And there is more to these marks than a drunken prank. As you try to find out the source and meaning of your new adornment, you are drawn further and further into danger and mystery. Will you become a pawn in somebody else’s power game, or will you fight for your freedom and individuality? 

Curse of the Azure Bonds is an adventure set in the Forgotten Realms game word for the AD&D 2nd Edition game. It is based on the best-selling novel, Azure Bonds, by Jeff Grubb and Kate Novak.

(Excerpts from the Product History)

FRC2: Curse of the Azure Bonds (1989), by Jeff Grubb and George MacDonald, was the second and final adventure in a series adapting the SSI gold box computer games to AD&D. It was published in April 1989.

Act I: The Novel. Curse of the Azure Bonds started out as a novel, Azure Bonds (1988). Jeff Grubb came up with the idea of an amnesiac swordswoman, Alias, seeking her origins while she fought against the azure bonds that sometimes controlled her. In order to tell this story, Grubb outlined a novel that mixed swords & sorcery with mystery. He then pitched it to his wife, Kate Novak, and she agreed to come on as a co-author – although in the process one of the characters swapped sex, with the bard Oliver becoming Olive.

Azure Bonds was scheduled as the fourth Forgotten Realms novel, following Douglas Niles’ Darkwalker on Mooshae (1987), which had originally been written for an epic TSR UK campaign that was cancelled; R.A. Salvatore’s The Crystal Shard (1988), which had been sent to TSR as a semi-unsolicited submission; and Ed Greenwood’s Spellfire (1988), which he wrote after completing his work on the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (1987). Grubb figures that TSR liked having him as their fourth author, because it would be easy to cancel the book if the Forgotten Realms line didn’t do well. Fortunately, it did well – quite well – so the Azure Bonds novel was published in October 1988.

Act II: The Computer Game. Meanwhile, TSR had licensed SSI to produce AD&D computer games. The first of them was Pool of Radiance (1988). SSI’s George MacDonald then joined with Jeff Grubb to write the plot for the second computer game. They opted to use Azure Bonds as its basis because the plot focusing on mystery and discovery would make for a good computer game. Rather than directly adapt the book, Grubb and MacDonald created a sequel to Azure Bonds. The resulting Curse of the Azure Bonds (1989) computer game was set after Azure Bonds and featured the player characters wakening with magical bonds just like those that had once controlled Alias. As the PCs investigate, they discover that a New Alliance is trying to use the magic of the bonds.

The Curse of the Azure Bonds computer game was also a sequel to the Pool of Radiance computer game; thus Tyranthraxus – the adversary from Pool – is one of the members of the New Alliance.

Act III: The AD&D Adventure. TSR opted to adapt the Curse of the Azure Bonds computer game as an AD&D adventure, just as they had with Pool of Radiance. Grubb and MacDonald wrote most of the adventure book, but the deadline was very tight, so other TSR staffers chipped in, including Tracy Hickman, Kate Novak, James Lowder, and Steve Perrin. Grubb says that he found the work on the Curse of the Azure Bonds adventure for AD&D tough, as it was literally the third time he’d written the same material, for a different medium each time. Of course doing so gave him insight into the advantages and disadvantages of the fiction, computer game, and RPG mediums.

Amusingly, Grubb would return to the characters from Azure Bonds in a fourth medium when he used the characters of Alias and her companion Dragonbait in issues #2-4 of his Forgotten Realms comic (Oct – Dec 1989).

Sean Patrick Fannon
Writer & Game Designer: Shaintar, Star Wars, Savage Rifts, Freedom Squadron, and much more!
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