Monday, October 31, 2016

Kickstarter: Demon Cults & Secret Societies (for PFRPG & 5E) by Kobold Press

I designed the graphic layout for the Demon Cults & Secret Societies (by Kobold Press) Kickstarter campaign, which I am happy to announce has fully funded with $50,461 and 1,310 backers! It was fun to be a part of another successful project with the Kobold Press crew, and watch yet another Kickstarter campaign that I designed become a success.

Link to the Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/350683997/demon-cults-and-secret-societies-5th-edition-and-p/description

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Ascent of Tempest Tower

Another Mini-Dungeon that I wrote is now available for purchase. The Ascent of Tempest Tower (published by AAW Games / Adventureaweek.com) is an adventure for 3-4 PCs of 20th Level.

Tempest Tower is a spire that reaches skyward from an expanse of open plains. The stone monument rises nearly 100-feet above mostly-featureless terrain. At its apex swirls a maelstrom of storm clouds that extend half-a-mile from the center. The landscape directly below is speckled with small craters and charred vegetation from frequent lightning strikes. The sound of rolling thunder is near constant and can be heard for miles in every direction.
The tower was constructed eons past to bind a powerful monstrosity from the elemental plain of air nown as the Storm Song which once roamed across these lands, consuming the greenery and the earth in which it was rooted – creating the vast, featureless plains that now exists.

This adventure is available for purchase via Adventureaweek.com, DriveThruRPG, RPGNow, and Paizo

AetherCon V Panel: Propping It Up -- How To Create Ambience at Your Table

It was just announced that I was invited to speak at AetherCon V on a panel about ambience at the game table. The panel will be held in "The Philosopher's Conundrum" tavern and broadcast live on YouTube on Saturday, November 12, 2016 at 6:00 PM EST.

Guests on this panel include: Bill Web (Frog God Games), Justin Andrew Mason (Paths to Adventure), Brian Fitzpatrick (Moebius Adventures). The panel will be moderated by Devon Kelly  (Sharkbone Podcast).

Article Update (11/12/2016): I had a fantastic time speaking on the panel. It was probably one of the most fun panels I've ever been a part of. Bill Web couldn't make it due to convention conflicts and we were joined instead by Matt Finch (Frog God Games). If you missed the live broadcast, the video will be released by AetherCon in January 2017, and I'll post a video link to this article at that time.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Peril at the Lamiak Bridge

Another Mini-Dungeon that I wrote is now available for purchase. Peril at the Lamiak Bridge (published by AAW Games / Adventureaweek.com) is an adventure for 4-5 PCs of 3-5th Levels.

Leuna and Ederra, a pair of lamiak twin sisters, have built a bridge over the rushing waters of Amorrura River. The stone bridge provides safe access across the river for the villagers of the nearby settlement of Urakurba into the hunting grounds of the nearby forest. In return for this gift, the villagers leave gifts to the sisters of ale and fresh fruit each night at a shrine near the river’s edge.
 

The rare stone that the bridge is crafted from cannot be found nearby, and is only sourced from high in the peaks of the nearby Harrizko Mountains. The material is exceptionally strong and is the  coveted treasure of the mairuak who mine the stone from quarries high upon the mountain peaks. The reclusive giants selfishly hoard the special stone and do not share it with others. The mairuak utilize it only to build their sacred mountain monoliths and dolmen.
 

Ederra, with intent of building a bridge that would assuredly withstand the raging waters of the violent river, snuck into one of the mountain quarries and took just enough of the stone to build the bridge. The mairuak have more than ample supply of the material, and she was convinced that the minuscule amount needed to construct the bridge wouldn’t be missed – she was wrong.

The adventurers come upon the stone bridge spanning Amorrura River. On the scene is an encounter between Leuna and Ederra and a hulking mairu named Peril. The giant is demanding in return for stealing his tribe’s stone that one of the sisters elect to be subjugated into servitude and use her magical abilities to assist the mairuak in building their massive dolmens.

Neither of the sisters is interested in spending the rest of her life in service to the giants, and have told him as much. Angered both by the lamiaks’ theft as well as their refusal to provide restitution, Peril is loudly threatening to destroy the bridge and bring wrath and sorrow down upon the denizens of Urakurba for whom it was built.


This adventure is available for purchase via Adventureaweek.com, DriveThruRPG, RPGNow, and Paizo.

AetherCon V Panel: In The Margins -- The Mysteries of Graphic Design

It was just announced that I was invited to speak at AetherCon V on a panel about graphic design as it's related to the gaming industry. The panel will be held in "The Philosopher's Conundrum" tavern and broadcast live on YouTube on Friday, November 11, 2016 at 1:30 PM EST.

Guest on this panel include: Rachel Meyers (Drop Dead Studios), Justin Andrew Mason (Paths to Adventure), and Emily Mottesheard (Mottfolio Design). The panel will be moderated by Rich Howard of Tribality.

Article update (11/11/2016): I had great fun speaking on the panel, which was moderated instead by Travis Gasque when Rich Howard was unavailable due to a family emergency. If you missed the live broadcast, the video will be released by AetherCon in January 2017, and I'll post a video link to this article at that time.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

AAW Mini-Dungeon Video

Pondering ways to promote the latest Mini-Dungeons from AAW Games/Adventureaweek.com, I decided to put together a short video that shows me flipping through the entire available collection in print.


Need an affordable solution to one-shot games or campaign side-quests? Adventureaweek.com Mini-Dungeons are single page, double sided adventures which are setting agnostic. Available for 5th Edition, Pathfinder RPG, and Fantasy Grounds virtual tabletop. Adventures are available for characters of any level. Each Mini-Dungeon includes one unique adventure map, an exciting adventure, and is beautifully illustrated. #tabletop #rpg #gaming #dungeon #quest #adventure 5th Edition: http://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/4409/AAW-Games/subcategory/8538_26567/5E-MiniDungeons Pathfinder RPG: http://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/4409/AAW-Games/subcategory/8538_23785/PF-MiniDungeons Fantasy Grounds VTT: http://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse.php?keywords=Mini-Dungeon+Fantasy+Grounds&manufacturers_id=4409&x=0&y=0&author=&artist=&pfrom=&pto=
Posted by Justin Andrew Mason on Sunday, October 16, 2016

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Commissioned Cartography: From Start to Finish

From client sketch to finished map, I have created a step-by-step album of photos on my Facebook account which contains progress shots of an actual map I was recently commissioned to create for a private client (used with permission). The gallery should give a good idea of how the cartography commission design process goes.

Like what you see? Remember, I'm always available for cartography commissions -- dungeon maps, encounter maps, as well as world/setting maps! 


https://www.facebook.com/justin.andrew.mason/media_set?set=a.1174212415970633.1073741858.100001456563719&type=3

Friday, October 7, 2016

Gamer Bling: Mythical Coins for your RPG Campaigns


Gamer Bling is a series of posts where I share and review amazing products, services, and accessories for tabletop role-playing games that really take gaming to the next level. In this article, I will actually be covering products from three different companies: coins by Campaign Coins, coins by Fantasy Coin LLC, and coins by Rare Elements Foundry.

Campaign Coins


Photo of Campaign Coins from the
official website gallery.
I will begin with Campaign Coins, as they were the first set of RPG-related coins I ever owned. My original collection of Campaign Coins was gifted to me by a fellow gamer and co-worker (sometime in 2007), and consisted of two of their original "starter sets". Each of these original sets consisted of 121 coins and cost around $70. These particular starter sets are no longer available, but several new "starter sets" (tavern, market, dungeon, and castle) are available via the website store.

Campaign Coins are made from zinc alloy and have an average price point of $0.89 US - $1.25 US (depending on coin size). They also offer trade bars and accessories.

One neat feature of Campaign Coins is that in addition to the beautiful fantasy-themed 3D artwork depicted on each denomination, the coins are actually enumerated to a specific value: 1, 5, 10, 50, 100, 500, and 1,000; which makes them very easy to use for fantasy commerce. They also come in four different finishes: copper, silver, gold, and gleaming platinum. 

Image of the gold d20 coin from
the Campaign Coins website store.
In the years since I procured my particular starter sets of coins, Campaign Coins has gone on to create a plethora of new styles and even had a wildly successful Kickstarter (which included 500, 5,000, and 10,000 enumerated sets).

Finally, I would be remiss not to mention the awesome d20 "Crits or Fails" coins (copper, silver, and gold) -- I managed to snag all three from GenCon 2014 when they were first released, and they make a fantastic d2 to any dice collection.

Campaign Coins is operated by King of the Castle Games (Andre Bishop [founder], Mark Morrison, Lee Smith, and other team members) from Melbourne, Australia. They have been making fantasy coins since 2007. You can find out more about Campaign Coins via their website, Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr.

Fantasy Coin LLC


Photograph of some of the various
coin themes from my own collection of
Fantasy Coins by Fantasy Coin LLC.
Next let's take a look at Fantasy Coins. These coins are very similar to Campaign Coins in make and design, but Fantasy Coin LLC offer a much wider variety of themes. The coins are devoid of enumeration or other specific identifying markings, which for many purposes (outside of in-game accounting) is more practical. The largest portion of my gaming coins collection consists of Fantasy Coins, and they make an appearance at every single one of my weekly game sessions; several others in my gaming groups have also adopted them for the games that they run as well.


Fantasy Coins available themes include: elementals (fire, earth, air, water and magic), fantasy cultures (dwarf, elf, goblin, dragon, and fantasy kingdom), historical cultures (feudal Japan, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, barbarian, and valkyrie), and over a dozen other themes including steampunk, science fiction, pirate, and even Cthulhu.

Yellow Hex Gem photo from the
Fantasy Coin LLC web store.
In addition to their standard coins Fantasy Coin LLC also offers a wide selection of accessories (including amazing fantasy treasure chests), heavy bars (think gold bricks), 24K Gold and Pure Silver plated coins, and even a selection of acrylic colored gemstones that remind me quite a bit of the "rupee" from the Legend of Zelda series.

I first became introduced to Fantasy Coins via their primary Kickstarter campaign in April 2014 where I picked up over 300 coins and several of the bars for around $120. In all honesty, at first I thought them to be the same company who had manufactured Campaign Coins when I backed, but was pleasantly surprised to discover they were an entirely new company broadening the market for fantasy-themed coinage. I mention this to point out that coins from both companies mingle well in the same collection. I have since invested in several of their other Kickstarter campaigns, including  snagging one of these limited custom fantasy treasure chests with locks and keys.

Fantasy Coins are struck from quality zinc and then electroplated with colored nickel. Each coin is is antiquated with a finish that simulates actual aging, which lends the entire series of coins a very authentic appearance for any fantasy setting. Fantasy Coins have an average price point of $0.57 US per coin, making them the most affordable option of the three companies reviewed in this article.

Fantasy Coin LLC is operates out of Woodbridge, Virgina and was founded in 2012 by the company CEO, Tim West. You can find out more about the company and Fantasy Coins via their website, Facebook, or Twitter.

Rare Elements Foundry


A photograph of my coins from
Rare Elements Foundry which I
obtained as a backer of their
Kickstarter Project.

Last, but certainly not least, let's take a look at the magnificent coins offered by Rare Elements Foundry. These are absolutely the crème de la crème of the mythological coins I'm reviewing in this article, and by far the most authentic.

Rare Elements Foundry coins are actually minted using the same materials and process as US currency via Osborne Coinage  who are America's oldest private mint and have been minting coins since 1835.

While all the coins I've reviewed here have the real heft to them that coins should provide, only Rare Elements Foundry coins offer that true *ring* when the coins clink together. The minting process used also offers a very fine detail to the artwork displayed on each coin that all the other mythological coins fail to achieve. It's a notable difference that can be seen, felt and heard when using the coins.

Photo of the "Fire Dragon" 100
Denomination coins from the
Rare Elements Foundry website store.
However, a notably more expensive price-tag comes along with this level of quality. With an average price point of $3.50 per coin, Rare Elements Foundry is three-to-six times as expensive as coins offered by Campaign Coins and Fantasy Coin LLC. That can add up quickly for the budget-conscious gamer.

I discovered Rare Elements Foundry via their 2014 Kickstarter campaign where I scored a set of 60 coins and one solid .999 Fine Silver 39mm coin (about an ounce of silver) for $120. I've been a huge fan ever since.

While Fantasy Coins maybe my favorite to use at the game table, Rare Elements Foundry coins are my favorite overall. I adore these coins -- so much so that I shy way from exposing them to wear at the game table. These are even nice enough that I included coins in all of my "Gruss vom Krampus!" cards that I sent to friends and family last year.

Rare Elements Foundry also offers very nice character token sets as well as "Re' of Light" which is a D20 OGL adventure setting that makes use of their coins as a part of the storytelling mechanic.

Rare Elements Foundry is run by Miya Sohoza and operates out of Cincinnati, Ohio. You can find out more about Rare Elements Foundry via their website, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

The Pros -

Using coins as an interactive prop for tabletop RPGs can add a level of immersion to any fantasy setting, and there's just something about grabbing a fist-full of hefty metal coins and hearing your wealth clink about that surpasses simply jotting down a number on a character record sheet.   

The Cons -

Budget. In most cases using coins for your game is going to be entirely fluff, and though the average price points vary, none of them are especially inexpensive. They don't really add anything new to the mechanics or procedure, and at higher levels characters can amass enough wealth that it becomes difficult to use coins to assume a placeholder for treasure.

Product Ratings -

In conclusion, I rate all three company's coins as 4.5 / 5 Bling! products, but for very different reasons detailed below:

Campaign Coins -- Perfect for players who want to track their wealth with a physical representation. The enumerated denominations on these coins literally add some weight to the decisions of how to spend a character's wealth. However, at higher levels it can be difficult to maintain enough coinage to account for everyone's money.

Fantasy Coin LLC -- Perfect for players on a budget, you get the most bang for your buck here, though the lack of any denomination can render them less than useful as a wealth-tracking utility, as tokens or icons they are ideal (I hand them out as rewards to players who use them as hero/luck points).

Rare Elements Foundry -- If you are a collector of things shiny and beautiful, these coins are absolutely perfect for you. These are truly keepsake quality. If budget isn't a concern and nothing but the best will do for your players, then these are the coins for your game. Or, do as I've done: just get some for yourself and hoard them like a greedy gamer troll.