Friday, 10 July 2020

Babylon RPG Blitz of Reviews

Tags seem to vanish off my blog posts while working on them and I cant cut and paste tag lists in from other posts with same tags - thanks google apes

I was madly running 4 Mesopotamian BRP games and more recently my Exilon setting (here) and adventures (Patreon) an I thought I might be involved in one. Suddenly lots of RPG floodgates are opening. I always dreamed of doing a BRP or Gurps one but like most stupid dreams I didn't. Even as an editor or reviewer or consultant sniff. One of my right-hand links goes to my posts on this theme including comprehensive image dumps to help players visualise the era mostly focused on Iraq and other nearby places. 

So after hearing of a new one and getting It I hunted for hours through LuLu where I had seen one only to discover same was a PDF of drive-through with a new colour cover. So anyway here are some links to some more which I have added to my Mesopotamian Adventures. Here I am reviewing BFJB and Into the Bronze. There was a sorta biblical series of ancient near east harbacks in d20 days but it had this biblical veneer and some mythic touches I disliked but I would nab it in a flash If I saw it around. I have reviewed Ankur and Blood & Bronze before. And then there is Puerta De Ishtar in Spanish which looks amazing, sounds cool and I wish I knew Spanish...or is it Catalonian?

As I'm a bit of a fan with 40kilos of books on the subject next to me, I do like to see this stuff used well or interestingly and slide away from pop cliches or through a lens of Christians looking through a lens of the old testament and people many time removed. Pazzuzu is a-ok demon yet Hollywood and gamers make him a non-useful demon. I got the Cthulhu Britanica: The Curse in Nineveh and I was miffy because they made Nabu into Yog Sothoth and then act out of character to me when Nabu is Thoth Hermes so other mythos gods a better fit. Possibly Bast is over used by HPL fandom too.

One of my other interests is sceptical archaeology so lots of the UFO ancient astronaut stuff I see that it causes actual harm on evidence and to current occupants so I am running out of being able to enjoy all the products based on this premise now. At least HPL declared he wrote non fiction, unlike 
Zechariah Sitchin who proclaimed it was the truth. Then there is that great Essay on how Von Daniken ripped of HPL methodology and writing style.

Blood & Bronze RPG
Some crew here worked on some similar themes in their retro and clones
Into The Bronze RPG
Babylon on which fame and jubilation are bestowed
i presume is older version i spent hours looking for
Design Mechanism Promise a book for this line...
Ankur (all this + Aliens and UFO Cult Dogma)
If i had to pick a game of ancient aliens based on mad racist Zechariah Sitchin
Though for superheroes to visit or an alt timeline I guess Its cool and has lasers

So I am going to get hard copies of Into the Bronze and BFJB. Latter I have looked over the old version PDF and gosh I like it.

Babylon on which fame and jubilation are bestowed (old pdf LuLu version)
It has some impressive research, campaign info and use of authentic language (+just read the kings laws for game seeds). Plus It has and like spells and other mechanics which lots of the 250 pages in the earlier part are character generation. As I know the history here I'm pretty impressed mostly. They do slap in elves and make dwarves Sumerians and end races which I would just drop possibly. Several other games have gone this way and Egyptian ones to put in their tolkien races in other settings. Lots of setting stuff is in the mechanics and detail in the skills that is quite intense. So based on simple and but it has skills and lots of other add sons. The magic associated with gods was not quite what I would do but is very fun and interesting to link spells to gods as they do. As someone writing my own retro-clone I appreciate lots of thought here and was surprised I liked lots of the mechanical ideas which I don't feel often.

There are so many good things about this I'm jealous and even though I ran the same period for years there Is a lot in here setting wise I really like/ Especially for character cultures and home cities. Unlike lots of games, this has some good city details. I look forward to the newer edition and will post it here when I get it. It is good to see a book full of stuff you meant to do in a long term campaign detail wise. So interesting for the history, setting and as a retro-clone that is thorough. 388 pages - older B&W PDF cheaper I'm getting a new book later

As for my own take in things, I guess I syncretized the crap out of the religion to make a consistent pantheon which barely happened sort of cos the real ancient world was local and diverse in styles. I guess I did It for similar reasons that empires did for easier paperwork. I guess I used are and maps and historic texts and miniature to convey lots of detail visually when I run these. 

Into The Bronze RPG
It is a simple and pretty RPG pdf, more minimal and about graphic design. Lighter, more wire space and lots of historic clip art. Some though is thousands of years later than the era depicted here. Instead of detailed setting lore, you have lots of tables for adventures and hex crawl. It talks about Sumerian and shows what I think Is Brugel and mentions the surviving religions as a source which I am not hot on. Once again The first part of the book looks great. The random map I found was a bit ugly but they for making a hexcrawl on the flyover detail and simulation of history. The last section has some monsters and more art that while is well used as design is more off theme. I don't think this game teaches as much about history or is for a long game. Id rates it highly as an art-game though. To be honest get only a vague sense of middle eastern history here or even any distinctively Sumerian. 60pages.

I rate highly for the look and feels and for sandbox improv tool and pretty utility tables. but I'm more likely to use it to add detail to another more detailed game. Comparing one of these books to the other Into The Bronze makes me think of splash spreads of design first and BFJB I think of as lots of mechanical goodies and some history and sensitivity to the culture.

I guess having done 2300BC and 1800BC and 700BC games I see differences some don't and as an image researcher, I know where most come from (and more nobody else has used). My more recent Exilon being more DnD was less historical more fantasy and intended to be easier to run by not being as intimidating as history can. Filling in some gaps with other tropes like Robert E Howard seems a popular approach too as three games claim to do it but all different. Anyway looking forward to some hard copies and for what Mythras will do as they do some good history gaming.

A 25 page pdf zine? Describing a diseased chaos cult with monsters, spells, mini-dungeon and lots of goodies and nice art. I kinda wish it had a few more pages to print it easily. A timely snippet of chaos fouldom. Entertaining waxing poetical on a needed topic.

Book Of Lairs vol 1&2
I recently struggled through these old classics. Potentially useful to drop-in games and for a novice npc describe monsters tactics in an environment. Each has a few hooks to get players on board. Lots of variety of monsters. Vol2 get more Oriental content, more guest star writers and possibly some of the more interesting ones. So do players really go about killing animals that much in DnD? A good mix of level stuff for lots of settings.

Some problems include often overwritten in some cases like a spread on an encounter I've had in dozens of games and most people just improvise it the same. 
Alot of these are just killing animals all who are extra cunning in many cases and won't fall for obvious stuff. Quite a few good monsters to hurt too which I have never killed with any but I had slept with a silver dragon in Dragonlance. Lots of these are controlled or duped or wrong or just too demanding. A few monsters take a while of being stubborn before you kill them so I guess its their fault. I like one good magic monster was just hard of hearing and easily confused but it suggests you give xp for not murdering the critter. There is one halfling weirdo who sounds like a modern kidnapper maniac but he only torments and verbally abuses victims for months before scrubbing their minds and releasing when bored. This guy is kinda the creepiest nothing villains on any official module. I like the idea of this as a one-page dungeon thing but Maps and bullet points would beat text in a few cases. The writing style varies from concise to somnambulistic. 

More stuff coming In


  1. I really like the 2nd edition of BFJB (and I should really get back to posting my adventure!). 2nd ed. does away with the D&D-isms regarding races (humans only) and totally reworks the magic too. The new game system is very rules-light, but has proved workable. I don't know how it would fare over a lengthy campaign; maybe a little like Traveller where stat & skill increases aren't the measure of a PC's success.

    There was a free Mesopotamian BRP supplement, Uruk, that came out a few years back. It's in French, though. There's an update for using it with Revolution d100 (also in French).

    What's a good source for images of scenes/things from the Old Babylonian period? Everywhere I look I can find either Sumerian or Assyrian, but very little in between.

    1. Youve seen the 8 blogs of bronze age illustration ive done? i did this because there were no single good sources online really. Ive about 40 kilos of books. Art of the ncient near east probably the fattest but some on old babylonian. Early babylonian derivitive of other cultures but reflects new influences

  2. It's always really weird to see my own work on a blog that I've followed for so long. Thanks for the mention!

    What alea iactanda est said is correct: the 2nd edition of BFJB is substantially different from the first. There's a rules-light system there, but I've significantly expanded the cultural and geographical sections. The Second Edition also includes much of the information about tribal peoples from the 1e Tribes and Armies supplement. I'm pretty proud of the work that went into the Second Edition -- in many ways, it's the completed version of what I set out to do with the original book. (I've tried to delete the 1e print version hosted on lulu, but it seems to keep cropping up!)

    I believe strongly that RPGs should mine the depths of non-European cultures, but actually publishing material based on those same cultures has its own difficulties. It's a whole lot easier to create a game set in faux-Europe, or even Rome or Greece, not only because there's a wealth of research material readily-accessible to the public-at-large, but also because Western schooling and pop culture have already done a fair bit of the education.

    With something like Mesopotamia, I feel like you have to choose one of two routes. The first is to try to convey the look-and-feel of life in the ancient world, by using themes and tropes from ancient literature, and making ultimately cosmetic changes: swapping out steel for bronze, and books and scrolls for tablets, for instance. The second is to ground it heavily in the historical milieu, which not only takes quite a bit of research from sources that you usually can't find at the local library, but also a lot of reading and writing.

    That said, I'm actually quite curious as to how players and GMs who don't have a significant amount of knowledge about historical Mesopotamia feel about either approach. My players seem to enjoy my occasional forays into obscure bits of Mesopotamian language and culture, but I've always wondered if they're just trying to spare my feelings.

    1. players will take on what thet want how best suits their taste. As a few people were into barbarians the fact there are horned hat wearing axe wielding barbarians or sea people pirates works pretty well. Most players liked educational oportunities but I think so many elements feel strangeley familiar - like callenders, measurements and finger counting kinda have some sense, gods have familiar symbols and roles and can be equated syncretinisticly with other gods peopl know.

      Using myth in adventures peopl learn stuff like Enki is tricky. Public rituals and fstivities. RQ3 worked well because in statting up the the gods spells you described the basics of religion and in RQ you need a cimunity to get good magic.

      Id be happy to look at some stuff or chat
      I have done ten mini adventures that need editing from my patraeon ive meant to release.

      Let me get new copy of book but i might like the earlier one just because it is a good oldschool system that thought out lots of spot rules and detail - i will probably get both in near future

  3. So you want to feel extra bad about the Cthulu/Lovecraft Mythos in Bronze Age Mesopotamia? Apparently some publications are associating Ishtar with Shub Niggurath. Even going so far as to back date it to Hyborean Ishtar!

    Some connections are a bridge too far.

    1. The important thing with mythos is all religion is wrong. Not all religion can be or should be mythos assimilated with syncretism

      A big lack of female mythos gods to work with - really needs some balance to all the rapey male ones


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