When I was a kid, I read T.H. White’s THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING. I recall reading it twice, back-to-back, never quite getting enough of the legend of King Arthur. There is something inherently awesome about those stories, something that pulls at me. Anything that has a sliver of Arthurian legend in it automatically piques my curiosity.

I was recently sent a copy of Mark Plemmons’ Role-Playing Game core book, CORPORIA, with a polite request to give it a peek. I don’t normally review RPGs, not because I don’t like RPGs (I do), but because I’m never quite sure how to review them. However, in the case of CORPORIA, I’m making an exception.

Check out this first paragraph from Chapter 1 of the book:

“Corporia is a tabletop role-playing game set in “The City”, a future metropolis ruled by an alliance of powerful mega-corporations. Players take on the roles of members of the Knightwatch, the elite supernaturally-powered special operations unit of the Watchman private security  company, under the the auspices of its mega-corporate entity Valyant and Chief Executive Officer Lance Martin – the reincarnated Sir Lancelot du Lac. The Knightwatch resolve extreme incidents involving manifestations of other-dimensional energies (aka the Flux), including mutated humans, monsters from other dimensions, and corporate experiments gone wrong.”

So yeah. think Cyberpunk King Arthur. That’s all I needed to know.

Let’s go down the list of chapters to give you a good idea of what you’ll find in the book, as well as any particularly cool things or particularly bothersome things. I’ll keep it as spoiler-free as possible since, after all, my ultimate recommendation is that you should buy this book and play it with your RPG group.

Chapter 1: The Basics
Pretty straight-forward. This is where it details out the absolute basics of the setting, what role-playing is (eeeeeeeasy there…keep it PG:13. I’m talking about gaming you dirty-minded….), and the basics on how to play the game (what dice to use, etc.). honestly, there isn’t much to talk about here. It’s pretty clear what kind of dice to roll, and when.

Chapter 2: Human Resources
This is where it gets fun. One of the main reasons I am in a constant RPG group, and the main reason I got into playing in the first place, is because of character creation. I love the aspect of making a new character and creating that back story.

In CORPORIA, the character creation is both awesome and a bit muddled. Plemmons has given players a gajillion character archetypes. They are seriously so incredibly varied that my mind immediate started pulling together imaginary groups that could have endless combinations. Yet at the same time, when I went to create a character from scratch as an experiment, I found I didn’t quite know where to begin. It wasn’t until I’d read the entire book (the character creation chapter twice) that I realized what exactly to do. And a lot of that came from a summary that was found at the very end of the book. All the information is here, but it needs to be organized better, and worded a bit clearer. That said, with an experienced GM, this wouldn’t even be an issue. My concern is with a brand new group where everyone is starting this game for the first time.

Chapters 3 & 4
These chapters deal with all the accessories you get for your character. Assets, spells, weapons, etc. The cool thing to me was the augments section. It is obvious a lot of thought went into these sections. I’m not going to go into it too much, but I found them pretty awesome.

Chapter 5: The City
My favorite section of the book. This chapter deals with all the different districts in The City. It is shocking to me just how deep the info is here. It would be easy to overlook it as “fluff”. That would be a huge mistake. While there is fluff here, there is a TON of data. Simply reading the description of each district made my mind whirl with potential story ideas. And I don’t just mean for GMing a game. But for fiction set in the universe. For modules. For the fun of pure imagination. This section was absolutely incredible for me.

Chapter 6: Game Mastery
This game makes it very easy to get started in an adventure. all of the prior chapters lead very nicely into this one. I’ll leave it at that.

The Book
Let’s talk about the book itself. RPGs aren’t just about the info in them. Look at any Legend of the Five Rings book and you will see that they are pieces of art. So how does CORPORIA stack up against the rest?

The book’s size is slightly smaller than your average RPG core book. I don’t mean just in thickness. In actual dimensions. Honestly, at first I was a little put off by it. but then I began reading through the book, and found that it was actually a lot more comfortable to hold and read than other core books. I don’t know that I want all RPG books to become this size, but I don’t have any issue with it anymore. The paper used seems a bit thin, almost like a magazine, but overall it isn’t an issue.

The cover art is striking. A knight set against skyscrapers. It pretty much pulls together the whole theme of the book. The art on the inside, however, is not my favorite. Rather than using original art, it is all photography and, essentially, cosplay. While I imagine it is way WAY cheaper, I just wasn’t a fan. I’m used to this style of art from Flying Frog’s games, but here a lot of it just seemed cheap. My hope is that in a subsequent version it can all be replaced with actual art…cause this setting deserves it.

At the end of the day, I think your group will decide if this is a good RPG. A good group will have an amazing time with this game. A bad group will ruin any game, no matter how good.

I personally think this is a killer RPG. There are so many ideas here. So many ways to play this game. While there are some things that bothered me about the book itself, those have no impact on the actual GAME.

Simply put, there just isn’t an experience out there like this one. Anywhere.

Get the book here:


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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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