BFJB 2.0 Released

The PDF for the second edition of Babylon, On Which Fame and Jubilation Are Bestowed is live. You can purchase it now at DTRPG.

I wrote a rather long post a few days ago about this release, and rather than repeat myself, I’ll direct your attention to that. For now, I’m going to enjoy a bit of rest. As anyone who’s ever worked on a months-long project like this knows, the final run up to release is usually a bit stressful.

At this time, I’m probably not in a good place to speculate on what’s next for BFJB, or my own RPG work. I have plans and ideas, a three-fourths finished Ešnunna supplement that just keeps growing, and of course I’m still gaming. But a little break is in order, I think, so that I can get a better perspective on the future.

Release Date Set for BFJB v2.0: March 2, 2020

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The second edition of Babylon On Which Fame and Jubilation Are Bestowed is complete.  I’ll be hammering out a few minor issues over the weekend, but the PDF should go live on DTRPG on Monday, March 2, 2020.

I’m really excited for this release, because it brings BFJB even closer to what I always wanted it to be — a comprehensive overview of the world of the Ancient Near East during the reign of Hammu-rapi.

A couple of notes on this edition, while I have your attention.

The System

The first (and revised first) editions of BFJB used a re-skinned 3.5 d20 ruleset.  While D&D 3.5 remains one of the most popular TTRPG systems ever, it’s outmoded and cumbersome.  Roughly 250 pages of the 383 page first edition of BFJB were taken up with re-hashing this system.  While character creation and game mechanics don’t take forever in 3.5 (I say this as someone who runs a Rolemaster game), I’ve always felt that BFJB would benefit from “faster” character creation and mechanics.  A system where characters live and die quickly, and where players can replace them with little fuss.

BFJB 2.0 is an attempt at that.  Mechanically, characters begin with three stats (each with scores between 1 and 6), one profession, and four talents (three of which the player chooses).  There are no derived stats.  Skill checks, including combat, are determined by a 1d6 roll, added to the relevant stat.  Total results of six or more always succeed, while a total of less than six fails.  It’s a simple system that relies on a healthy dose of GM discretion; that might be a turn off to players who enjoy gaming out complex mechanics, but the longer I play TTRPGs, the more I feel that complex rules systems, while fun in and of themselves, ultimately detract from narrative focus.

By stripping out all of the d20 mechanics, I remove roughly 250 pages from the book.  In its place, this new system itself takes up less than 80 pages, but with the new setting content in BFJB 2.0, the final work is 307.  More about that below.

Since combat and damage are part of the vast majority of TTRPGs, a fair portion of the rules describe the consequences of martial conflict.  Characters, however, are not meant to be limited to fighting roles; in fact, most of the professions in BFJB have little or no weapon training, so that when these characters do engage in armed conflict, they usually do so at a substantial disadvantage.  The reason behind this is that as a player, I find that I enjoy RPGs where combat is only an infrequent element.  BFJB 2.0 is structured in such a way that a shepherd could spend an adventure dealing with issues surrounding herding sheep, rather than trying to stab and kill an enemy.

When combat does occur in BFJB 2.0, it can be quite lethal, even for trained characters.  In short, characters make a skill check to attempt to hit an opponent, who also gets a skill check to try to avoid a successful strike.  If the attacking character succeeds, and the defending character fails, they are hit, and take a fixed amount of damage based on the weapon.  This damage immediately reduces a relevant stat.  When one of the character’s stats reaches 0, they are removed from combat and suffer an injury, which is rolled on a chart relevant to the injured stat.  Results of injuries vary between temporary and permanent disabilities, to total and lifelong incapacity, and even immediate death.

To be certain, the above can be unforgiving.  And that’s the whole point really; life is rough, and there are consequences to putting yourself in situations where someone swings a sword at you, or (in the case of a world with fantasy elements) where a sorcerer bewitches you.

The Setting

In a general sense, the setting of BFJB 2.0 remains the same as that of the first edition: the 25th year of Hammu-rapi of Babylon’s reign, or 1767 BCE (by the Middle Chronology).  At this time in history, various powerful monarchs compete to extend their influence over the city-states of the Ancient Near East, all while protecting their own regimes from internal and external threats.  Of course anyone who half-remembers their high school history knows that Hammu-rapi eventually won out over his rivals in Mesopotamia, cementing the legacy of Babylon for the rest of human history.  But at the start of BFJB this is by no means a forgone conclusion; Babylon is a relatively new power in the world of Mesopotamia, and faces strong rivals in the kings of Mari, Ešnunna, Larsa and Elam, to name a few.

What makes BFJB 2.0 an improvement from BFJB 1.0 is the inclusion of significantly more setting information.  The cultural sections have been reworked, incorporating significant information that was touched on in Tribes and Armies regarding pastoral populations, as well as everything from historical diseases to Babylonian units of measure.

Even more substantial is the upgrade to the geography sections.  BFJB 1.0 features lengthy notes on the three major cities of the Kingdom of Babylon in 1767: Babylon, Kiš and Sippar, along with a few notes on the lost city of Akkade along with Borsippa, Dilbat and Rapiqum.  BFJB 2.0 expands upon this with several paragraphs on 29 additional cities of the Ancient Near East.

In writing all of this content, I discovered a wealth of new material upon which to base all manner of fictional campaigns, both in set in historical Mesopotamia and elsewhere.  The cities of the Levant were particularly interesting, in part because I’d previously ignored them in favor of cities located in Mesopotamia.

The Product

All that said, I’m really glad to get this book out of the door.  As with BFJB 1.0, this book will be offered in PDF at DTRPG on the day of release.  I also plan to offer it as a print-on-demand work at DTRPG, but I need to work out a couple of minor issues with the proof before I allow someone to give me money for it.

As for the original, 1.0 version of BFJB (really 1.5 since it was lightly revised in 2018) and its supplements, I plan to leave them available for purchase at their reduced prices.  A note will be inserted into the description on for the 1.0 Core Book that it’s been superseded by the new edition.  The print-on-demand version of BFJB 1.0 available on Lulu will finally be removed.

Ever since the original release in October of 2016, I’ve always been pleased with the reception BFJB has received.  As I’ve said before elsewhere, I would have written this book regardless of whether or not I actually ended up publishing it or made any money from it.  BFJB was never meant to be all things to all people.  It’s something I’m very proud of, and I hope everyone who has an opportunity to read or play it finds something enjoyable or interesting in it.

Christmas 2019 Update

I’ve been up to a couple of gaming-related things since my last update.
First and foremost, I submitted a scenario to the Ryuutama Holiday Scenario Competition.  All the entries were amazing, but somehow, I came in first place.  I won’t bother rehashing what Ryuutama is here, but if you’re interested in my scenario (Home for the Hearthsdays), or any of the other submissions, you can find all the submissions aggregated into one file here.
After a hiatus, all of the players in my online Star Trek Adventures group, for the first time since we started playing, were physically in the same place.  I ran a scenario of my own creation where the crew has to thwart a temporary technology exchange between the Dominion and the Borg.  The consequences of failure would have not only changed the events of Deep Space Nine‘s Dominion War, but also derailed the events leading up to Voyager‘s “Scorpion”.  My regular players are veterans of the game at this point, but their spouses played as well, so I collaborated with them on their characters and then produced a bunch of handout player cards and tokens.
I’m actually really proud of the way everything turned out, and everyone seemed to have a great time.  You can see some of the tokens I made below (using the Star Trek Miniature Maker 2.0), as well as player, ship and NPC cards which I designed myself using my aging copy of InDesign.

All that said, I’m in the process of finishing the last three chapters of writing on the new edition of BFJB.  Still no release date, but one of the beautiful things about being a small operation is that once it’s done, the road to putting it up for everyone to purchase isn’t that far away.

October 2019 Update

BFJB 2E

The Ešnunna supplement is officially on an indefinite hiatus. Instead, I’ve been working on a new edition of BFJB — one that dispatches with any vestiges of the out-modded d20-OGL ruleset. I’ll write about this more as we get closer to a release, but suffice it to say it’s 95 percent written, and about 60 percent laid-out as of this post.
Because I’ll be deprecating all of the BFJB products that use the 1.0 system, I’m reducing the prices of all of those products on DTRPG today, and pulling the print editions.
My hope is that this new edition can be a more comprehensive framework for adventuring in the Ancient Near East, while making character creation less convoluted and much, much quicker. This second edition also includes much more setting information, with more details about the cities and kingdoms around Babylon.
Here’s a taste:

What I’ve Been Up To (All Aboard for Murder! and Ešnunna Update)

First things first — the Ešnunna supplement continues to be delayed. The manuscript is roughly 75% finished. No ETA on completion, although I don’t anticipate layout to take as long as some other products I’ve made.
In the meantime, I’ve been playing or GMing various other games. My play-by-post Mesopotamian Rolemaster game continues at the leisurely pace of a forum game. My weekly Star Trek Adventures game has gone on a temporary hiatus, after my players once again encountered their favorite NPC.
But the real reason for this update is because today, I released a free scenario for the Japanese RPG Ryuutama. Ryuutama is a popular system for honobono (“heart-warming”) adventures, focused on traveling and discovery; it’s often described as “Hayao Miyazaki’s Oregon Trail.”
Here’s the product description:
All Aboard for Murder! is a free, unofficial scenario for the Japanese RPG Ryuutama.
The PCs board a train bound for a distant land, and travel for several days through the lawless wilderness between stations. When one of their fellow passengers is killed, and another passenger disappears, the PCs are presented with a cast of suspicious characters, and must determine who committed the murder before they arrive at their destination and the culprit escapes.
All Aboard for Murder! has 17 main NPCs and maps for each of the cars. You’ll need the Ryuutama rulebook to play.
You can download it at DTRPG, for free.

Core Book Corrected Edition Now Available

Two years on from the initial release, Šukāmu Press has issued a new version of the core book for Babylon On Which Fame and Jubilation Are Bestowed.  This revision includes multiple corrections and other minor edits.  Of greater significance is the updated timeline, which rectifies any discrepancies with the forthcoming Doom of Ešnunna supplement for the years from 1772 BCE to 1756 BCE.

If you’ve previously purchased the PDF version from DriveThruRPG, the new file is available to you now, at no cost.  Šukāmu is currently in the process of transitioning away from Lulu’s Print-on-Demand service, but for the time being the corrected edition is also available for purchase there.

Once we’ve completed the transition to DriveThruRPG for POD material, we will withdraw the Lulu editions, and update our links to this new service.

Thank you again to those of you who sent in corrections.

July ’18 Update

The Doom of Ešnunna

Work continues on the next BFJB supplement, The Doom of Ešnunna.  Previously, I’ve stated that it would be available in Q2 of 2018.  Well, since yesterday was the beginning of Q3, unless I have a time machine, and you’ve gotten stuck in an orphaned, pre-rewrite spacetime continuum — that didn’t happen.

As a window into the current state of the supplement, about 75% of the text exists at this point.  However, several issues regarding research and sources are slowing down the process.  An identical situation occurred at this point in the production of the Core Rulebook.  As one or two of the footnotes and a few editorial comments in BFJB indicate, our knowledge of Eighteenth Century BCE is far from complete.  In the Core Rulebook, and now in The Doom of Ešnunna, a fair part of the actual writing “work” lies in presenting and synthesizing conflicting data and theories about (often minor) aspects of life in the Ancient Near East.

There are several ways that I dealt with this in BFJB.  First, I would try to make all of the pieces fit.  When I couldn’t, I would instead choose whichever information I thought would be most compatible and interesting within the context of a roleplaying game.  Finally, at a few points, I had to invent information out of whole cloth, as I did when creating entries for Hammu-rapi’s wives.

The cities that fall under the hegemony of Ešnunna have their own problems, primarily that there is comparatively less written about them than those of Babylon or Mari.  Even something as simple as chronology can be difficult, and it’s hard to present a coherent historical narrative without deciding “okay, this happened before that.”

Revised BFJB Core Book

The mention of timeline revisions segues well into my next topic: I’m currently working on a revision of the Core Rulebook.  Several kind reviewers have noted myriad typos and errors, ones which I would like to reconcile as quickly as possible.  There’s also an image I would like to replace, and with the composition of The Doom of Ešnunna, I’ve discovered there are several minor adjustments to the timeline I would like to make.

As with all DriveThruRPG titles, this revision will be free to customers who have previously purchased the Core Rulebook.  You should be notified when it is available for download.

Reviews

I also want to say that I appreciate several people who have purchased the book and written reviews on DriveThruRPG.  It means so much to me that you not only liked my work, but took the time to write a multi-paragraph review of it.  I especially want to thank the customer who went through the book and provided a detailed list of typos and corrections.

Thank all of you so much.

The Plague of the Raging King

Lastly, I thought I would note that I am currently running a Mesopotamian-themed play-by-post game over at the Real Roleplaying Forums.  We’re using Iron Crown Enterprises old Rolemaster Fantasy Roleplaying (RMFRP) rules, and we already have a full party of player characters, but anyone who would like some ideas about adventures set in the Ancient Near East might find it interesting.

WIP Announcement: The Doom of Ešnunna

Tribes and Armies took longer to produce than expected.  As previously discussed, that book includes important supplemental character options and setting information.  It is a natural companion to BFJB‘s Core Rulebook, but was delayed because of the promised — but much less essential — system for adjudicating mass combat.

With Tribes and Armies now out of the pipeline, Šukāmu Press can begin to look beyond the Kingdom of Babylon, to Ḫammu-rapi’s neighbors.  Our next product, The Doom of Ešnunna is slated for release in Q2 2018.

Eshnunna Frontpage

Ešnunna — the city, the kingdom — is doomed.  Centered on a tributary of the Tigris River, this ancient city-state is surrounded by powerful, populous neighbors — Babylon to the west and Assyria to the north, with Elam to the south, and the wild, tribal areas of the Zagros Mountains to the east.

The Doom of Ešnunna details those areas which fall under the hegemony of the King of Ešnunna, Ibal-pi-El II, in 1767 BCE.  This supplement also focuses on the history of the city-state and its people, including the fascinating career of one Ṣilli-Sîn.  Born a commoner, destined to be king, Ṣilli-Sîn would only rule for a few years.  The city would be deserted within a decade.

We recognize that even with the Internet, detailed information on the world of Mesopotamia isn’t always readily accessible to interested laypersons.  While The Doom of Ešnunna will include a sample adventure, the focus of this book will not be on game mechanics, but rather setting material.  As with all BFJB publications, options will be included for fantasy campaigns, however, we remain committed to the presentation of historical Mesopotamia.

Tribes and Armies to be Released Nov. 6th

Just a quick note to say that Tribes and Armies is finally going to see the light of day.  Accordingly, we’ve updated the product page, and you can read more about the particulars there.

This book has been in the pipeline since November of 2016, but now it’s done, done, done.  After all this time I can’t be happier to get it out there.

Per usual, Tribes and Armies will be available electronically at DriveThruRPG.