Episode 073 – In Which We Fail To Review D&D Books

Well cultists, we set out to review not one, but two new Dungeons and Dragons books in this episode. But then we had technical failures and the reviews were lost! We promise that they remain forthcoming.

In the meantime, we got:
– Trail of Cthulhu
– West End Star Wars 30th Anniversay
– Mutant Crawl Classics
– Free RPG Day
– Phoenix Fan Fusion
– Happy Time Dungeon Hour
– All that shit plus more!

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Ghosts of Saltmarsh Review

Ghosts of Saltmarsh is a recent release from Wizards of the Coast for the Dungeons & Dragons 5th edition roleplaying game. In the interest of full disclosure, we here at Full Metal RPG were given this book free of charge by Wizards of the Coast for the purposes of review, and will be raffling off the limited edition cover variant. Ghosts of Saltmarsh (GoS) is a series of nautically themed adventures, some of which are part of a linked narrative, while others are stand alone dungeon crawls. The adventures are appropriate for various character levels, not necessarily flowing into each other easily. Often there are level gaps between where one adventure would end and another would begin, or no threads tying the narrative together.

The intro of the book details the town of Saltmarsh, and is easily the section from which I would derive the most utility. Set in Greyhawk, Saltmarsh is not part of the current Forgotten Realms default setting, but there are sidebars about porting things over to other settings in the line. The town is laid out and explained in a way that makes sense. The various dramatis personae and factions dwelling within the town are explained with enough detail to allow the GM to flesh out and explore the politics and tensions. The are mentions made to the Pirate Kings and various kingdoms, but no details given on those factions, so expect to do some additional research if you would like to include any of that content in your game. Saltmarsh is listed as having a population of 5,000, with 100 active guards, which feels incredibly high given the talk about how much smuggling is reported to occur. That is one guard for every 50 people. Assuming the average family is 4 people, each guard could personally inspect 3 dwellings a day without having to exceed a five day work week. How good are these smugglers? Or perhaps how lazy are these guards? That quibble aside, the town would make for a nice grim dark low fantasy location for something like Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay or something more OSR and less epically heroic than D&D. At a certain point, the type of characters you grow into in the World’s Most popular Roleplaying Game are no longer going to want to hang around what is basically a glorified fishing village.

After the chapter on the town come the adventure modules. There are seven in all: The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh, Danger at Dunwater, Salvage Operation, Isle of the Abbey, Final Enemy, Tammeraut’s Fate, and The Styes. Finally, the book contains three appendices: Of Ships and the Sea, Magic Items, and Monsters and NPCs.

The Sinister Secret of Saltmarsh is billed as a haunted house adventure, which I found an intriguing prospect. As someone who loves horror, I was very interested in what they were going to do with this concept. The answer, disappointingly, was that the house is not really haunted at all, and is instead a fairly standard “murder all the baddies” room by room search. This felt like a missed opportunity to do something really unique with the line and grow it in a new direction. The adventure is fine, but nothing remarkable. I would do something different with it, playing more on the haunted house angle.

The next adventure, Danger at Dunwater, is intended for 3rd level characters.  Continuing off of the first, it sends the characters on a mission of diplomacy to some lizard folk. While the leader of the council impresses on the characters that this is an information gathering mission, it is entirely possible to slaughter your way through the dungeon and not bother with negotiation at all. Given the usual way these adventures run, this is how I would expect things to play out. I prefer this adventure over the one that preceded it, as smart characters can avoid a fight entirely, though I would certainly make it very clear from the outset that killing absolutely everyone is not the desired solution of the town leadership. With branching paths and multiple means to success, this tale is one of the more compelling to appear in the book, though by no means the best adventure.

Following the crawl through the home of the lizard folk is Salvage Operation, and adventure for 4th level characters. This adventure is not connected to the first two in any way, and sends the party off to retrieve a chest from the cargo hold of a nearby shipwrecked craft. The confines are tight and the idea of exploring a derelict craft is appealing, but I wish it had gone for a more supernatural theme instead of the more standard fantasy creatures employed. Spoilers: Servants of Lloth show up! Good old Lloth, who as the Drow spider goddess of course makes perfect sense as a villain in an adventure set at sea. I suppose octopuses have eight legs, too, so maybe there is some kinship. I wish they had played up that angle, honestly. This is shortest adventure in the book, coming in at all of seven pages.

Next is Isle of the Abbey, intended for 5th level characters. The town would like to claim a small, strategically located island in order to build a lighthouse. The island is home to burned out abbey, which is itself home to cultists who survived a recent attack by pirates. Getting on the island involves making landfall on a beach, with threats buried beneath the sand. From there the party explores the ruin and drives out the remaining cultists. Rather standard fare, honestly.

Continuing the story from Danger at Dunwater is the Final Enemy, an adventure for characters of 7th level. Having either murdered all the lizardfolk, or agreed to aid them against a common foe, the party is once more sent on a reconnaissance mission is the stronghold of the Sahuagin. This is a slog through a dungeon packed densely with foes. It is possible to complete the investigation without needing to resort to violence, but not probable given the number of threats contained within the confines. There are some nice set pieces here, and it can be a little overwhelming in spots.

Next is Tammeraut’s Fate, an adventure for 9th level characters. The characters are sent to investigate an island recently reclaimed by a religious order. Of course, something has gone terribly wrong, and the party must perform a room by room exploration to ferret out the enemy and stop a terrible evil hidden in the depths of the sea. Spoiler: It is Orcus. It is always Orcus. I do not know why you cannot have an adventure without Orcus showing up as the bad guy at some point, but here he is, for anyone who was worried he would not make an appearance in a nautical adventure and the writers might use a more appropriate villain instead. When I think of the ocean, I think of Orcus and Lloth.

At least we come to the final adventure, and the standout for me: the Stye, for characters of 11th level. This is a street level, Lovecraftian style murder mystery with dark conspiracies and an evil cult. It is probably the best arc of the lot, however at 11th level are characters really interested in skulking back alleyways and dealing with peasants getting murdered? It is a shame that so many of the iconic and disturbing monsters are reserved for characters reaching a point where they can venture to other planes and take in strange, otherworldly sights. 

There are three appendices, the first of which covers ship stats and ocean travel, which I suppose is useful for people who want that level of detail and immersion in their game. This seems like it would have been good information to have at the front of the book, given that several of the adventures involve travel over open water and will likely require the characters to have access to a ship. There are rules for ship combats and environmental threats and challenges, along with tools for undersea and shipwreck adventures. The next two entries cover magic items and NPCs and monsters appearing in the book, which is to be expected. Nothing too controversial. This is the portion of the book most likely to entice the nautically inclined.

In terms of physical quality, this is a Wizards of the Coast product, with high production values and the quality of art, maps, and construction you would expect. You will not be disappointed in the book as an artifact. WotC makes quality goods.

Ghosts of Saltmarsh is an odd little book. Clearly not meant for new GMs or players, it is a nostalgic uplift of older modules from various sources. The different adventures all orbit around the sea, but it all feels disjointed. I would expect GoS to appeal to older, more experienced gamers, the kind of people more than capable of taking an old adventure and tooling it to the current edition themselves, should they so desire. Perhaps it is merely meant for aquatic enthusiasts, but the lack of rules for pirates or a royal navy faction would seem to limit the appeal to that audience as well. It gives rules on constructing ships and ocean travel and environmental threats, but was this something the community was clamoring for? I have been disconnected from the Dungeons & Dragons world for so long that perhaps this is the case. In the end, I would expect the people this type of content speaks to know who they are, and completionists will purchase a copy because that is the nature of being a completionist. I would have a difficult time recommending this book to anyone who is not enthralled by the core concept and the idea of oceanic adventures. There is not enough there to entice me to do much with the book.

Bonus Episode 023 – Mattiaz Fredriksson – Red Moon Roleplaying

Hot damn! It’s been a minute since we served you a piping hot BONUS EPISODE! Today we have none other than the long suffering Mattiaz Fredriksson of Red Moon Roleplaying. He’s back for his second interview, but this is the first time you will hear it!

Today we talk about:
– Red Moon Roleplaying
– Actual Play Podcasts
– Recording, Editing and Sound Effects
– Horror Roleplaying
– Kult Divinity Lost

Check it cultists, and make sure to check out Red Moon Roleplaying and their line-up of great Actual Plays!

Check out our sister shows:
Darker Days Radio

Red Moon Roleplaying

Twin Cities by Night
twincitiebynight.podbean.com/Red Moon RoleplayingActual PlayHorror RoleplayingUnderground RoleplayingTabletop RoleplayingHorrorBrendan CarrionAdam SinkRitchie BuzzkillKult Divinity Lost #KDL #HelghastAB

Episode 072 – (Still)A Podcast About Roleplaying Games

Whaddup cultists?! We are BACK after cult month and it sounds like the posse at Full Metal RPG has been up to…nothing? This is still a podcast about roleplaying games, so let’s talk about ’em!

But if you are finding the show to be say, “Meh” check out this content from our friends:
Darker Day Radio

Red Moon Roleplaying

Twin Cities by Night

Episode 071 – Robin Liljenberg – Kult Divinity Lost System Designer

In this brand new ep, we interview Robin Liljenberg of Helmghast AB about his design work on Kult: Divinity Lost. It’s a great interview with lots of hard hitting insights into game design, especially insights into writing for PbtA! Check it!

Make sure you check out our Instagram for a chance to win a brand new copy of the Kult: Divinity Lost core book, shipped to you for free anywhere in the world by your pals at Full Metal RPG and Helmghast AB!

Check out our cousins in horror over at Darker Days Radio!

Episode 070 – Petter Nallo – Kult Divinity Lost, Helmghast and Horror Roleplaying

This brand new episode of Full Metal RPG is dedicated fully to a one on one interview with Petter Nallo, one of the lead developers of Kult: Divinity Lost. This is a great interview cultists, don’t miss it!

Check out the Full Metal RPG Instagram for your chance to win a brand new, K:DL core book!

And our friends over at Darker Days Radio:

Wrath & Glory Review

Wrath & Glory is a game from Ulisses Spiele North America, based on the popular Warhammer 40,000 setting by Games Workshop. This game is not an evolution on the Black Industries and subsequent Fantasy Flight editions of the Warhammer 40,000 roleplaying, but a ground up rebuild. Gone is the d100 percentile system, and in its place the designers have built a d6 system. I think this is a solid choice stylistically, as Warhammer 40k players are very familiar with d6s and should have quite a few of them lying around, particularly if they have bene playing the most recent edition of the miniatures game. Given that the primary market for this game would be fans of the tabletop wargame, this makes a lot of sense.

Weighing in at just over 450 pages, this is a decent sized book. The hardcover has a matte finish that is pleasant to the touch. It is full color and has a number of evocative illustrations, many of them pulled from the miniatures game. There are two ribbons provided for keeping track of relevant pages or points of interest in the book. The sector map is very well done. Everything feels very polished and professional.

The first forty pages or so are an introduction to the game, with twenty odd pages devoted to the setting, which is not an adequate amount of space to get into the meat of the universe. There is so much going on in the lore and meta of the game that attempting to condense all of it down would be a herculean undertaking. Broad strokes are given the various factions within the imperium, the forces of chaos, and a handful of the xenos races. This is not a significant problem since, as previously stated, the people who are likely to buy this game are likely fans of the setting already. However, if some kid off the street buys this they are in for a surprise when they realize how deep that rabbit hole goes. There are entire wikis and youtube channels simply devoted to exploring the voluminous lore or the Warhammer universe.

The next section covers the rules of the game, which are rather crunchy. The core mechanic is assembling a pool of d6s, determining the difficulty number, and looking for 4,5, or 6 results. 6s are treated differently than a 4 or a 5 and may offer additional effects if certain criteria are met. One die is always the wrath die and rolling a 1 or 6 on this die has its own special effects. Additional success beyond what is needed can be shifted in various ways, such as to speed up the time needed or gain extra information. Honestly, the rules can feel a bit fussy. There is a lot going on here, and this is before getting into Wrath points, Glory points, and Ruin, which are each acquired and spent in different ways. Individually these are far less powerful than the older fate points, but you get a whole lot more of them. Combined with shifts, Wrath, Glory, and Ruin are the methods by which you can inject some narrative tricks and flare into the game, and they work well in that capacity. Or you can just get rerolls with them, which is… fine. I guess.

The book then goes into character creation, which is 140 plus pages of rules on the various tiers, which set the expected power level of the game, different archetypes that can be played, including Chaos, Eldar, and Ork characters, and character advancement. You can level a character up to another tier if, for instance, someone really wants to play an Imperial Guardsman in a game with Space Marines and not die horribly in the first three minutes. The main focus of this book is the imperium, and there are a healthy number of imperial archetypes to choose from. Everything from Scavvys to Rogue Traders to Techpriests. If it is an Imperial group and you want to play it, you probably can, unless you are looking for the Custodes or something, but then your entire game is going to focus on standing around the golden throne making sure no one gets too close. Chaos, Eldar, and the Orks only have a handful of options available by comparison, and I would expect them to be built upon in subsequent releases. I understand including them in the core book, but it feels like they would really benefit from a deeper exploration in the future. I imagine most of the major factions will get a treatment, perhaps baring the Tyranid and Necrons, where free will does not exist in any real sense.

Following character creation, we have combat rules. Unsurprisingly, Wrath & Glory has a heavy focus on combat and doing damage. In the grim darkness of the far future there is only war, after all. The combat rules, much like the core rules, get finicky. You will need to compare your attack roll against the target’s defense to see if you hit, then compare your damage roll against resilience to see how much damage is done, then the enemy may or may not get a soak to see how much of that damage gets downgraded into stress vs wounds. There are rules on fighting mobs, grappling, critical hits, multiple actions, scattering, called shots. It gets overwhelming pretty quickly. When I ran the game, I did it using the stripped-down rules from the quick start I found even those to be unwieldy. I do not love all the various subsystems and special cases found in this section. It all got to be too much and required several rereads. The initiative system is a very curious beast. There are no rolls. The players always get to nominate one of their characters to go first. Then the GM picks an NPC, then back to the players. This is easily my favorite innovation in the game, as it leads to tactically interesting choices and discussions among the players. Do they want the Space Marine to try to mow down the mob, or have the Psyker try to neutralize the leader first? There are tools to spend Glory, for players, or Ruin, for the GM, to seize the initiative, altering this flow a bit. It works really well at the table.

The remainder of the book covers adventuring, weapons and equipment, cybernetics, vehicles, voidships, psychic powers, corruption, and mutations. The vehicle rules need more attention and fleshing out. The decision to give them defense, resilience, and wound ratings like the characters is not one that I love, though I do understand why it was done. They had to keep it brief and focus on the characters. It was simply an odd choice given how almost everything else has special rules. Perils of the warp and Corruption have their own specific systems that have to be interacted with, for instance. Psychic powers have the potential to be seriously unbalancing but are also a hell of a lot of fun. The book culminates in a bestiary, which offers a selection of iconic foes with which to harry the hapless protagonists or slow them down slightly if they are playing Space Marines. The enemies have threat ratings to give you a sense of how they should be employed against the different tier levels. A genestealer is a significant problem for a Tier 1-2 party, but an inconvenience for Tier 4 characters.

In terms of the experience, the game does give you the feeling of being in the world of Warhammer 40,000 in a way that previous incarnations sometimes struggled with. The percentile system was often times unforgiving, and while that was fine for a game like Only War or Dark Heresy, you needed to be rather generous with bonuses when playing Death Watch or Black Crusade to make characters of that caliber accordingly epic. In Wrath & Glory the Space Marine feels like a Space Marine. The Guardsman feels like a Guardsman. The characters work well, and each one had something unique and interesting about them mechanically. With that said, the grim dark and perilous nature of the 40k universe has been replaced with a far more heroic sensibility. Traditionally there are not any heroes in the lore, just degrees of awful, and a sense that everything is continually getting worse for the galaxy. This tonal shift is something Games Workshop has been making in the core game, with the reintroduction of the Primarchs and a focus on the Imperium as somehow being the good guys, despite being fascists that willingly sacrifice tens of thousands to keep the astronomicon glowing and subjugate entire worlds to fuel a war machine that has spun out of control. #horusdidnothingwrong

I would recommend Wrath & Glory to any fan of Warhammer 40,000 who longs to play a game set in that universe, if only because it is effectively the only way to do so. With the implosion of the Fantasy Flight/Games Workshop alliance those books are all out of print and notoriously difficult to come across at rates that do not border on extortion. Simply understand you will be interacting with a traditional style game with a heavy focus on combat and few bolted on narrative tricks. It gets the job done, and in the end, that is impressive enough given the source material.

Episode 067 – Brendan & Adam Tackle the Issues

In this episode, Brendan is more unhinged than usual and Adam tries to reign him in.

We talk about:
Shadow of the Demon Lord
Nazi Punks Fuck Off
Wrath & Glory
Arizona Game Fair

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Darker Days Radio: darkerdays2.podbean.com/
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Mammary Alpha: www.postrepost.com/mammaryalpha

If you read down this far, write Tim at the Eye of Horus podcast and petition him to add Brendan to the list of hosts for Gang Bang, the Necromunda podcast for EoH! Hit him up at eyeofhoruspodcast@gmail.com