Magazine: Cirsova #1

Another piece spotlighting Cirsova Issue #1!

Planetary Defense Command

Cirsova Cover SmallCirsova Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine
Issue #1

My magazine quest has gotten expensive, so I’m driving an 18-wheeler to make some money. I speak into my voice recorder.  “Trucker’s log. Date: 6-6, midnight. Weather conditions: clear, but no moonlight. Cargo: timber products. Many rigs headed same direction.”

The chimpanzee in the passenger’s seat raises one hand towards me, repeatedly flashing three letters in sign language. He must have seen the billboard. I don’t understand sign, but I’ve learned those three letters:  K-F-C.

“We had Kentucky Fried Chicken for lunch, Bobo. Let’s have something else for dinner.”

Bobo jumps up and down in his seat, shrieking out a primordial jungle call.

“Put your seat belt back on, Bobo!”

A pair of gorilla arms reach forward from the sleeping area, signing furiously.

“I don’t understand sign, Herman. I didn’t understand it yesterday, I didn’t understand it ten minutes ago, and…

View original post 760 more words

B4: The Lost City – Part 5

The journey into the tomb at the heart of tier 4 was a bloody mess.  We’d have to go back to the DCC funnel for a session where we lost more characters.  Impressively enough, my players wanted to soldier on and keep trying!

With some dithering about early on, trying the “haunted” path one more time (only YOLO Swaggins made his saving throw against fear), the party eventually hunkered down to take the nautilus path into the center of the tombs.  The party managed to find and not spring any of the traps in the hall, and, with an abundance of caution, they reached the false tomb. Though their quest givers had specifically warned of the false tomb following the council of war, the party inspected it with an abundance of caution, piling up rocks and debris on top of one coffin before examining the other.

Now first, let me say that I don’t think that pyramid should be taken in a linear fashion, as there’s almost no way to deal with one of the tomb haunts by the level at which the players would normally arrive at it – they should almost certainly continue exploring down to the 5th floor for a bit, finding some of the necessary magical weapons, before returning to the king and queen’s tombs.  But the players were relatively insistent.

Unfortunately for the party, they chose the southern tomb (the king’s) first and got their shit utterly wrecked by the Banshee.  While not quite as fierce as its AD&D counterpart, its immunity to all but magical weapons and unavoidable AOE attack made it much more formidable than the party could deal with.  They went at it much longer than I thought they would and much longer than they should have.  Three rounds and four bodies later, the party realized they were way out of their depth and finally ran – even though they blamed not rolling a hit earlier so they would’ve known right off that their silver weapons were useless, if it were me, the second I knew I was up against something that did AOE damage for which there was no roll to hit nor to save against, I would’ve been out.

The only characters who escaped were YOLO and a Cleric who’d also reached level 2 last session.  They lost a cleric, a thief, a prodigal apprentice and an elf.  The elf was a real tragedy, because she very well could’ve levelled up this session if she’d lived.

The survivors ran like hell back to the friendly areas on the 2nd and 3rd tiers.  We finally reached the point where most of the original pool of characters are dead, and new characters are now rolled up from the Cynidiceans.

“After discussing the matter, the factions have agreed that an expeditionary force be sent with you to ensure that the relics are retrieved.”

“Awesome, how many guys are they sending with us?”

“The new characters you rolled up; you are the expeditionary force.”

The first order of business was retrieving as much of their party’s loot from the tomb as possible. Out of generosity, I’ve been giving a lot of the nastier tomb-guardians the Scooby-Doo treatment – if, after it menaces, you run the hell away and leave it alone, it won’t hunt you down and murder you.  If you peeked around the door, the Banshee would give you frowny eyes.  Luckily, YOLO Swaggins had good dex and a lot of HP, so he was able to survive long enough to lasso and drag out a couple of the bodies, though the thief who’d tried to backstab the Banshee was out of reach.

Y’know, more’s the pity that the party didn’t roll up any MU characters or that their elf died, since their best chance against the Banshee would’ve been to buy up a ton of scrolls of magic missile from the Magi of Usamigaras and spammed those.

The new party went for the Queen’s chamber and, just as scripted, the Queen pops out of her coffin and attacks.  YOLO took point on opening the coffin as he had the most HP.  He also had the most to lose when the Queen hit him.  There’s nothing quite like the response from your players when they’re up against something that causes level drain and you play it straight.  I do need to make note that I owe him about 400 XP, because instead of knocking him down to the half-way point between level 1 and 2, I took off the full 2000XP for level 2.  The party was fortunate that the Queen rolled for crap and that YOLO had decent AC, she only got one hit in before being hacked to pieces.  Still, level drain is always sobering.  The crown and the reward that the Sisterhood gave the party was enough XP to knock everyone new up to level 2 straight away, YOLO got his hit die back (and lucky for him, rolled a 6 again, so he’s still the party’s tank!) and the cleric now gets 2 cure light wounds!)

So, a few things:

-Doing individual initiative has actually sped things up, and there has been no complaining or arguing about who is doing what when.

-The Lost City does not make a lot of sense from a dungeon design standpoint; this isn’t going to be a problem except for when you have players who care about sensible dungeon design and will call you on it when it becomes relevant.  A lot of random encounters aren’t going to make sense, so you may need to wing it if the results you roll just don’t work for the room you’re players are in.

-It’s probably just because it’s the Tomb level, but things have gone from really Role-Play-ey to Hack-and-Slashy – this hasn’t been a bad thing, as it’s meant that the last couple of sessions have required almost no prep.  We’re very likely not going to go beyond some of the 5th Tier stuff, so I think I’m good on prep work.  I’ve got a tear-off I can hand whichever player gets possessed by Demetrius, I’ve already mentioned the rumor of a high priest of Zargon visiting the pyramid, and all I have to do now is let my players find and kill him.

-Even when players should know better (i.e. the first character dies before anyone can get a hit), they will attempt to persevere when they should run.  That Banshee was ye-close to a TPK.

Spotlight: Cirsova Magazine

Check it out! The Book Wars did a spotlight on Cirsova!

The Book Wars

As a follow up to the “I’m Back!” post this morning I’d like to draw all of your attention to:


This Zine is brought to you by our very own fellow blogger Cirsova (a.k.a. Alex) who frequently comments and participates here on The Book Wars. He comes from a sci-fi and table-top gaming background (much like yours truly) and when I saw his project on Kickstarter back in January I had to reach out.

That said–this post is about four months late! The only upshot to that is that Issue #1 is already available to you AND Issue #2 is well on it’s way.

Here are a couple of reasons why you might like to pick up Cirsova: Heroic Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine:

  1. This Zine is chock full of very cool and very creative stories by new and established authors. Support up and coming fantasy and sci-fi authors and…

View original post 195 more words

Free Digital Review Copies of Cirsova #1

Are You a Book Blogger*? Would You Like Free Review Copies of Cirsova Magazine?

I know for a fact that a lot of really cool book bloggers follow us on WordPress. There are probably a lot of other regular readers off-platform.

If you would like to receive free digital copies of Cirsova, leave a comment on this post with a link to your blog!  We’ll send a PDF to the email address associated with the account you commented with.

Let us know when you have a review up and we will link to you.

Out of 0ver 100 posts in April, Black Gate’s review of Cirsova #1 was their 13th most popular.  We’re worth talking about!  Just sayin’.

*:Gaming and other kinds of bloggers welcome, too!

Robert Szeles Considering Starting a New Fantasy Market

I got a pretty cool shout-out the other day; I sort of read this as “Cirsova’s not enough; we need more, so should I start my own magazine?”

And it’s true, Cirsova’s not enough. But I sense that we’re on the verge of major pulp renaissance that will be well under way over the next few years. The best thing that could happen, I think, is people deciding that they need to create their own outlets to publish and promote the kind of fiction they would like to see more of. If I could do it, anybody can.

Skelos is posed to be a pretty big deal and they’re showing that the demand is out there. Compelling Science Fiction fired a shot across the bow of publishing by offering pro-rates for hard sci-fi, and that’s just one guy doing it – I hope it has staying power. And there are a number of publications which I’ve heard of, which Robert lists, that I haven’t had a chance to follow, but considering some of Cirsova’s contributors also have stories there (Grimdark, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly) they’re bound to be worth checking out.

The tricky part is where Robert asks “Could I get the support needed…to edit and publish such an anthology, pay pro rates, [etc.]?” For Cirsova, the real answer is, “I don’t know yet.” I don’t know that we’ll ever be able to pay pro rates, as it would quadruple our per-issue content cost. I mean, I’d love to be able to reach the point where a check from Cirsova covered more than a utility bill, but our first goal would have to be a sustained profitability in the semi-pro rates.

I wish this guy the best of luck if he decides to take the plunge and open his own market for stuff “the quality of the golden age fantasy stories (Leiber, Vance, Howard, C.L. Moore, Moorcock)”; in the meantime, though, I’d like to note that Cirsova will be re-opening for 2017 submissions in early fall, and we’d be happy to take a look at anything he’d want to send us.

You can find his art and fiction here.  It looks worth checking out.

In other news, the first pre-proof copies of Issue 2 arrived yesterday – they look fantastic! I can’t show you yet, because they’re the Variant Cover, and I’d feel silly showing off the variant cover before I had the regular cover done, but I can tell you now, you’re going to want to get one of each. These will be undergoing the next round of external edits to make sure that Cirsova is as relatively free of typos as any publication can reasonably be and ready to be sent out to our backers as soon as possible following the close of our pre-order Kickstarter.


Author Update — Matthew D. Ryan, Author

Yay!  The countdown to more Drasmyr begins!

Well, it’s May, 2016. I have nothing else to write about tonight, so I figured I would do an author update to fill people in regarding my current writerly adventures. I’ve joined a Writer’s Group, which is cool. I’ve been itching to do so for several years, now; I just was having difficulty finding one.…

via Author Update — Matthew D. Ryan, Author

2016 Cirsova Line-up

As you can see, we’ve got an incredibly impressive roster for our upcoming issues through the rest of 2016. (Help us keep it up through 2017 by taking out an ad in issue 2!)

We’ve upped our page counts for our Summer and Fall issues to 108, though, as you’ll notice, Winter is going to be double-stuffed, with approx. 216 pages of content.

Issue 2 (July):


  • Images of the Goddess, Schuyler Hernstrom

Short Stories

  • The Sealed City, Adrian Cole
  • Hoskins’ War, Brian K. Lowe
  • Squire Errant, Karl Gallagher
  • The Water Walks Tonight, S.H. Mansouri
  • Shark Fighter, Michael Tierney


  • My Name is John Carter (Part 2), James Hutchings


  • Rescuing Women, Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Issue 3 (September):


  • The Wooing of Etroklos, J. Comer
  • The Mad God’s Scepter, Edward McDermott

Short Stories

  • War in a Way that Suits You, Michael A. Michaels
  • The Lion’s Share, J.D. Brink
  • Blood and Bones: Caribbean 1645, Jim Breyfogle
  • The End of the Golden Age, Tyler Young
  • Othan, Liberator, Kurt Magnus
  • Clock’s Watch, Michael Reyes


  • Retrospective: The Best of C.L. Moore, Jeffro Johnson

Issue 4 (December):


  • The Vault of Phalos, Jeffery Scott Sims
  • Shadow Vision, Preston Dennett

Short Stories

  • The Lady of the Amorous City, Edward M. Erdelac
  • A Suit of Haidrah Skin, Rob Lang
  • …Where There Is No Sanctuary, Howie K. Bentley
  • The Last Dues Owed, Christine Lucas
  • The Witch of Elrica, Jennifer Povey
  • The Bubbcat, Sean Monaghan
  • Wall Wardens, Lynn Rushlau
  • Lost Men, Eugene L. Morgulis
  • The Unfolding of the World, Harold R. Thompson
  • The Priests of Shalaz, Jay Barnson
  • Dust of Truth, Joyce Frohn
  • The Ride, Edward McDermott
  • The Sands of Rubal-Khali, Donald Jacob Uitvlugt
  • The Phantom Sands of Calavass, S.H. Mansouri


  • The Feminine Force Reawakened, Liana Kerzner

Zine News & Reminder

Just a reminder, we’re still offering our early-bird pre-Kickstarter ad rates for Cirsova #2.

We will be at River City Comic Expo June 11 & 12 selling copies of issue 1. We will also have a VERY SMALL quantity of Issue 2 proofs for sale. These variant cover* ad-free copies will NOT be made available elsewhere.  We’ll be selling them for $10.  I’ll also be trying to unload as many copies of The Worst Music Dracula Ever Heard as I can because, after 5 years, I really want all of these CDs and LPs out of my back room so I can turn it back into an office.  I will also maybe have a bag of kettle corn from which I will proffer handfuls in lieu of an answer for those who ask about my Chuck Tingle: Legends of Science Fiction shirt.

Tomorrow, we will announce our full lineup for 2016.

Things may be slow here the rest of the week while I try to catch up on content for Wargame Wednesday and Short Reviews.

*We ended up with our variant cover done before our regular cover. All will be revealed when both covers are ready and we launch our Kickstarter for issue 2.  I can guarantee you’re going to want to get both!


#notatmytable: Making Tabletop More Welcoming and Inclusive by Spouting Off What and Who Are Not Allowed

Amazingly enough, I was too busy to talk on #NotatMyTable when it was going on.

I didn’t even know that it started out as a Social Justice hashtag, but I guess it makes sense as, from my experience, gaming bloggers need neither twitter nor hashtags to say “not no, but hell no” about things.

Of course, it likely was meant to be “goobergrapers, puppies, and white people playing cishet characters #notatmytable”, but quickly became “5e, d6 thieves, Paizo, whitewolf, elven blade dancers, splatbooks #notatmytable”, because if there’s one things that tabletop rpg gamers love its edition warring and crusading against ecumenicism just for the fun of it.

In fact, if someone didn’t know that #NotatMyTable had been a social justice hashtag, they might have unwittingly stumbled into it and had a grand old time. The average gamer is more concerned that one of their players may be insistent on being an Elf in every game (even ones set in space!) than that they may have some outside interest or belief that is contrary to their own.

So, Kudos to those gamers who took to NotAtMyTable to have some fun with it.

Not at my table 1.png

Honestly, this is the only one that made me laugh out loud.

Not at my table 2

You guys who are taking this #NotAtMyTable thing super-serious? This is what you look like to everyone: