Thursday, October 31, 2013
The following is the basic outline of my National Game Design Month project. It's the skeleton of what I hope to accomplish in 30 days and is pretty much my entire planning process.
Working Name: Occultpunk
Genre: Dark Fantasy, both modern and medieval.
Randomizer: Tarot deck.
Core Mechanic: Player selected tarot card + skill + attribute must meet or exceed GM selected tarot card + difficulty level.
The Elevator Pitch: Occultpunk is an RPG that is firmly rooted in real world occultism. Everything about a character can be traced back to some sort of idea in actual magical traditions. For example, the characters have five attributes based on the five traditional elements. There is a more adversarial relationship between the players and the GM, as each is able to choose a tarot card from a hidden hand when resolving actions. Therefor, insuring success or failure requires strategy. The system is extremely loose in order to facilitate expansion and new settings.
Image by karlekforsverige.blogspot.com/
Friday, October 25, 2013
I'm pretty unprepared for this task, but that's part of the fun. The game will be built on a rough idea I've been kicking around my head for about a year, so I'm not starting from scratch. The next week will probably have me preparing in any way I can, reading as many RPG rulebooks and essays on game design as possible.
I'll blog the process so you can see just how terrible an idea this is.
I'm making a big list of cool DIY D&D resources found on the internet. I'm keeping it here. There'll always be a link to it on the top of this blog's sidebar.
It is not a definitive list and it will be added to as I come across the resources or whenever I feel like reading someone's entire blog while doing a lot of copying and pasting.
The basic criteria for inclusion is that the resource has to be usable in a game of D&D, available for free, and produced by someone who is not a professional game designer who makes a living off selling games. My definition of D&D is pretty loose, but it basically includes any game that closely resembles something published under the name of D&D until the fourth edition.
Let me know if I'm missing something obvious and awesome or if it's clear I am not following someone who produces quality D&D material.
Thursday, October 24, 2013
I'm currently running (at home): Cyberpunk Savage Worlds
I would especially like to play/run: Unknown Armies; DC Heroes
...but would also try: weirdo horror RPGs.
I live in South Bend, IN
Some well-known RPG products other people made that I like:
Vornhiem by Zak S.
Dungeon Crawl Classics by Goodman Games
Some novels I like:
The Illuminatus Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea
Those Song of Ice and Fire novels
VALIS by Philip K. Dick
Some movies I like:
La Passion de Jeanne d'Arc
Best place to find me on-line: Google+
I will read almost anything on tabletop RPGs if it's easily manipulated for on-the-fly rulings, breaks from traditional settings.
I really do not want to hear about: What you find offensive. Games that aren't worth playing.
I think dead orc babies are ( circle one: funny / problematic / ....well, ok, it's complicated because....)
Problematic. For orcs.
Games I run are like this.
Free RPG Content I made for playing Attack on Titan in D&D is available here.
... for using Wealth as a Trait in Savage Worlds is available here.
Thursday, October 17, 2013
Attack on Titan is pretty rad and begs to be translated into an RPG. The following is my attempt to translate the best parts of the show into something simple that can be used at the table.
(I'm only about half way though the show, so I might be missing something especially cool. Also, this hack is based around Castles & Crusades, but it should be basic enough to work with most D&D flavors. The armor class for the titans is descending with ascending in parenthesis.)
NO. ENCOUNTERED: 1 - 10
SIZE: Ranges from Large to Fucking Gigantic
MOVE: 40 ft.
AC: -2 / -6 (17 / 21)
ATTACKS 1 Grab, see below
SPECIAL: Fear Aura, Regeneration
ALIGNMENT: Neutral Evil
Titans are gigantic, naked and genital-less humanoid creatures who only exist to devour human beings. They range is height from 10 to 50 feet. The do not appear to have any motivation other than the consumption of human beings, which they do not require for food. It is speculated that titans gain nourishment from the sun. Upon death the titan's body dissolves into nothing, making it nearly impossible to study the creatures.
Titans are have extremely fast reflexes regardless of their size. If an attack roll against a fails, the attacker must make an immediate Dexterity-based saving throw. If the saving throw fails, the attacker is grabbed and consumed. The titan's grab attack also results in immediate death if successful.
Titans can only be killed by attacking the back of the neck. A titan's default Armor Class is -2 (17), but attacks to the back of the neck must beat an Armor Class of -6 (21). Essentially this is a called shot. Any attack to the back of the neck with a damage roll of 5 or better immediately kills the titan.
Attacks to other parts of the titan's body is essentially useless due to the creature's extreme regenerative capabilities. The titan regains 2d8 hit points per round. Titans that are reduced to 0 hp are unable to act for two turns while their bodies regenerate.
Titans are incredibly unsettling and grotesque monstrosities. Anyone character who has never encounter a titan before must make a save vs fear or be paralyzed. The character makes this check every round until passing the check, at which point the character can immediately act.
(This titan is 75% a re-skinned hill giant and only represents the standard grinning naked zombie variety. Other giants could work for the unique variant titans.)
Vertical Maneuvering Equipment
In order to reach the vulnerable spot on a titan's body, human beings have developed a technology that allows them to move quickly and gracefully around the hulking behemoths. This technology includes a harness with two pneumatic grappling hooks and a boosting mechanism to achieve momentum. Soldiers typically wield two swords with exchangeable blades to insure a deep cut into the titan's neck.
When using a vertical maneuvering harness, a character can move 80 ft per round, plus 10 ft for each point of their Dexterity modifier. For example, a character with a +2 Dex modifier can move 100 ft per round.
Due to the extremely high speeds of the vertical maneuvering system, it imparts an armor class bonus of +10. A harness cannot be used with any armor heavier than leather.
If a character is not actively using the system (i.e. standing on the ground), the armor class bonus and movement rate are negated.
One proven technique for combating titans with the vertical maneuvering system is flanking and distracting the target while one character goes in for the attack. For every character in range of a titan's grab, the attacker gains a +2 bonus to their To Hit roll.
While I like to avoid grids and miniatures, this would be a good time to use a grid for strategic combat, especially to help calculate the flanking bonuses and the disparity in the movement rates between PC and titans.
Please note that none of this has been play-tested and I'm just going off what would feel right to emulate the show in D&D. If you see any glaring mistakes or if you think my math is all screwy, let me know.
Tuesday, October 15, 2013
There is yet another Bundle of Holding. This one has indie horror RPGs, including Dread, which is famous for basing its fear mechanics around a Jenga tower. Also included is Don't Rest Your Head, which I have heard good things about. Kingdom of Nothing and Murderous Ghosts are also included, but I know nothing about them other than they have cool titles. Luckily I can resist beating the average to get the bonus games, which is rare with these bundles as the BoH crew have made an art of getting the most money for the games they offer.
I've also broken down and tossed my money into the indiegogo campaign for the revised LotFP referee's book. I don't even run LotFP, but I found the original ref's book to be the best thing about the game's Grindhouse Edition. The revised book along with the revised classic adventures made it difficult to resist pitching in at the PDF tier.
I'm supposed to be saving up to buy a new computer. Stop taking my money, you guys!
Thursday, October 10, 2013
Regardless of the system I'm running, I use a deck of playing cards for initiative. As a result I have developed an addiction for different themed decks so that I have the perfect deck for the RPG that I'm running. These spiritualist-inspired cards would be perfect for a Realms of Cthulhu or old-timey World of Darkness game.
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Bundle of Holding: Stars Without Number
Intrigue at the Court of Chaos, a new level 1 adventure for DCC available for pre-order.
Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque: The Clockwork Crackdown in Halloweentown, a spooky setting sketch that draws inspiration from the works of Tim Burton and Neil Gaiman.
The Metamorph, a new playbook/character class for Dungeon World.
Arnhack, a complete medieval horror-fantasy game.
Josiender, a fantasy tabletop RPG featuring multilayer puzzles, rich ecosystems, ever-progressing timelines, and the Discipline System.
Tuesday, October 8, 2013
- Bundle of Holding: Unknown Armies Bundle of Holding Ends at 8:00 PM today.
- OSR Compatible Site Launched: The goal of this site is to promote an open, flexible standard for Old School Renaissance publishers. OSR Compatible is a quick and easy way to indicate that a product will work with all the games, classic and modern, that OSR gamers enjoy.
- RPGnet: Best Setting Blogs
- Monster Manual Sewn from Pants: Crazy tables, including instructions on making Pandemonium Fracking Coffee.
- Tenkar’s Tavern: Compiling a List of Good Low-Level Adventures by Goodman Games.
- Tales of the Grotesque and Dungeonesque: The Hand-Maiden, an excellently creepy OSR-compatible monster.
- Lamentations of the Flame Princess Referee Book: Tower of the Stargazer reprint is the next streach goal.
- Unwritten: A FATE-powered tabletop RPG based on the video game series Myst.
Saturday, October 5, 2013
Those familiar with National Novel Writing Month know that every November thousands of people attempt to write a 50,000 word novel in only 30 days. I have participated several times and have completed at least three terrible short novels. NaNoWriMo is frustrating but incredibly fun. Although it is unlikely that anyone participating in the event will produce a novel even close to readable, it's still a worthwhile creative exercise.
One option of NaNoWriMo is to produce something other than a novel during November. The organizers of National Game Design Month (NaGaDeMon for short) have decided that designing a complete game in 30 days can be just as fun. Participants can write their own RPG or design a board game and are encouraged to publicly discuss the creation of the game.
I am seriously considering participating this year since I have been kicking around an idea for an RPG for some time now and probably should just put pen to paper at this point. I did have a sort of five year plan for this game with designing an original system being the final step, but I've always found a close deadline to be extremely motivating.
Friday, October 4, 2013
In time to make October extra spooky, Jack Shear has released his third volume of resources for running a Gothic-themed RPG and it makes me wish I were not committed to running a cyberpunk campaign. Once again Jack delivers the goods in the form of excellent random tables and setting details that will set your imagination sprinting. He's also thrown in a great deal of inspirational resources.
For shit's sake, he gives a option for bonuses based on phrenology! These are the options you didn't know your game needed but desperately does.
Download the free PDF or buy a hardcopy for the table.
Thursday, October 3, 2013
The newest Bundle of Holding showcases the Unknown Armies RPG. I don't know too much about this game, other than it has been described as the closest thing we have to an Illuminatus! Trilogy game. That description alone has made me very interested in this game.
Pay what to get the core rules. Beat the average to get a bunch of supplements. Currently the average is just under $11.
For more info on the game, check out the page on Atlas Game's website.
The recent release of a Hacker Name Generator PDF has brought to my attention that there is a need out there for filling cyberpunk settings with appropriate named characters and places.
Before you spend any money, check out the cyberpunk name generator at donjon. It provides male and female names for American, Chinese, Japanese and Russian characters, along with netrunner handles. It also provides corporation and location names. Each click results in ten entries, so you shouldn't have any problems quickly fleshing out your notes and character sheets.
The handles, locations and corporation names are especially good and really capture the classic cyberpunk feel. The Shiki Datavault in Paris sounds like an awesome place for an adventure.
Monday, September 30, 2013
This weekend I ran my first game in an episodic cyberpunk campaign with just a few people in attendance. We system is Savage Worlds and one of the three players had any experience with the system. I gave the most rudimentary of rules explanations and jumped into the story, believing it best to learn Savage Worlds as we go.
At the beginning of the game, one of my players asked what the Notice skill does. I explained that it helps the character pick up on things that are out of the ordinary. This player would go on to use Notice in a way I didn't anticipate. He made it a weapon.
Most of the time, Notice checks are a way for the GM to reveal information to player, such as finding a clue or seeing the danger in the shadows. It's typically the GM who says when the Notice skill should be used. That wasn't the case with this player. Instead, he interpreted the skill to apply to Krav Maga-style combat situation awareness. And because I am of the opinion that no successful roll should be wasted, he would find something to his advantage each time he used Notice in combat, typically resulting in a bonus or other advantage in the following round.
Although this isn't how Notice is supposed to work, and it can result in some serious metagaming, I'm going to allow it. When a player suggests a dramatic detail for a situation and can back it up with the roll of the dice, who am I to prevent it? Anything that engages a player in active storytelling shouldn't be discouraged.
Monday, September 23, 2013
I am currently collecting resources for my upcoming cyberpunk campaign and one of the most helpful ones I have come across thus far is The Shadowrun Complete City Kit and New York City Guide. Using the city generation tools presented in Zak Smith's Vornheim, this is an indispensable resource for anyone running a game in a cyberpunk urban sprawl. Although my game is neither Shadowrun or set in New York, the pages of random tables are going to be tons of content for my game. Unlike fantasy games, cyberpunk seems like the sort of genre that is a bit harder to improvise, but this guide should be able to generate excellent adventures for cybernetic badasses on the fly without fail.
Friday, September 20, 2013
Wild Card Creator is still not a perfect piece of software, but it's definitely getting there. At this point you are best using the software to run vanilla games or use one of the currently supported settings. If you are going to create a custom setting, which is probably unavoidable for most GMs running Savage Worlds, I highly suggest that you keep your rules changes to a minimum or simply use the vanilla rules and edit the character sheet after export to best fit your setting.
For example, for my cyberpunk setting I wanted to create an Arcane Background for Netrunning (hacking in cyberspace), but for the life of me I could not make the custom AB work. As a solution I am simply using Weird Science, house ruling the differences in the program and then renaming the AB on the character sheet. It's a bit more work than I would like, but programming these ABs are obviously tricky and SW characters aren't that hard to manage on paper anyway.
Another tip: use a custom setting if you are using any Knowledge skills. WCC only supports Knowledge skills that are explicitly mentioned in supported settings, which means that they are impossible in a vanilla game. You will need to create a skill for each Knowledge skill in a custom setting to give a character any skill that's not on the menu. I expect this to be fixed very shortly as it is probably the one feature that is missing regarding running a game only using the core rules.
So, should you get WCC? If you are running a game only using the core rules or one of the supported settings, definitely. It's a real time saver and will have you spitting out characters in minutes. However, you may want to hold off if you are into making custom settings with new Edges, Hindrances, Skills, etc.
Friday, September 13, 2013
I've been looking for good rules for a classic cyberpunk game and things weren't going too well. I'm pretty set on running the game in Savage Worlds, but Interface Zero, the most popular cyberpunk setting for SW isn't really my cup of tea. The rules for hacking and cybernetics seem overly complicated and the setting doesn't have the run-down, lo-fi feeling I want from cyberpunk.
I contemplated checking out Cyberpunk 2020, but I don't have the time to learn a whole new system. It does, however, seem to have the best definition of cyberpunk out there.
My search is over now that I've come across Daring Tales of the Sprawl by Triple Ace Games. You can download their cyberpunk rules for free on their site. At only 13 pages, their rules are much easier to digest than Interface Zero. Triple Ace also takes a more freeform approach to cybernetics, which is much in line with what I was drafting, right done to the abstract monetary cost for installing cyberware. The rules are also free of any setting details, which make the great for any flavor of cyberpunk.
Monday, September 9, 2013
1. How You Got Started: My uncle gave me a bunch of old D&D books when I was about 12. I read them but was too shy to actually ask anyone to play. Plus, my mom was convinced that D&D would damn me to hell. So I didn't go near D&D until I picked up the 4e Red Box because it was cheap. Convinced some adult nerds to play with me and that's that.
2. Favorite Playable Race: Dwarves. Obviously.
3. Favorite Playable Class: Magic User. These guys are fucked up and awesome but no one wants to dick with magic systems.
4. Favorite Game World: I could never bring myself to run a game in a published setting, so none? I do like reading oWoD novels, so maybe that counts.
5. Favorite Set of Dice: I have a set of Q-Workshop dragon dice that I use more often then not, but I can hardly read them so I don't know if I actually like them at all. My favorite individual die is my d2.
6. Favorite Deity: Null, the god of antimatter and the void. It's the only deity a player of mine had ever given any effort in fleshing out.
7. Favorite Edition: Basic.
8. Favorite Character You Have Played: Rodrick, from my Vampire: the Requiem Gen Con game. He was a baby vampire who became Prince of City Town by being a jerk, having snappy one-liners and apparently being one of only five vampires in the entire city.
9. Favorite Character You Haven't Played: Like, another character from a game I've been in but didn't have control over? My brother-in-law had a cool magic user who got addicted to a magical drug and lost everything he owned and sentenced himself to death before leaving a dungeon.
10. Craziest Thing to Happen on an Adventure: A druid became friends with my worg. It was the only card I had up my sleeve for the encounter and she named him Jorge.
11. Favorite Adventure You Have Run: Death Frost Doom was a lot of fun.
12. Favorite Dungeon Type/Location: Old ass ruins.
13. Favorite Trap/Puzzle: I've never actually used any traps. I'd like to get someone in a pit trap someday.
14. Favorite NPC: Zeke from Death Frost Doom. I had him talk like Bubbles from Trailer Park Boys.
15. Favorite Monster (Undead): Vampire.
16. Favorite Monster (Abberation): Otyugh
17. Favorite Monster (Animal/Vermin): Wolves always work.
18. Favorite Monster (Immortal/Outsider): I don't know what this is. Cthulhu?
19. Favorite Monster (Elemental/Plant): I've never used one, but I'd sooner weaponize a corpse flower than use an elemental.
20. Favorite Monster (Humanoid/Natural/Fey): Goblins. I'll always use goblins.
21. Favorite Dragon Color/Type: Red. All others are just My Little Ponies in disguise.
22. Favorite Monster Overall: Giant, crippled demon the size of a city block that I threw at my players during a city siege.
23. Least Favorite Monster Overall: Kobolds. Why bother?
24. Favorite Energy Type: Excuse me?
25. Favorite Magical Item: Anything that requires removing body parts and slapping something dusty and cursed in its place.
26. Favorite Non-Magical Item: I dunno. Sword?
27. Character I Want To Play In the Future: A magic user who is obsessed with collecting spell components. He uses every part of the dead rogue.
28. Character I Will Never Play Again: Multiple members of the Serenity Crew.
29. What Number Do I Always Seem to Roll on a d20: It's a pretty even spread between 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, and 20.
30. Best DM You Ever Had: Dude who ran the Doctor Who game at Gen Con 2013. Got me to speak in a British accent the whole time and had a story worthy of the TV show.
And I just realized that many of my answers involve games other than D&D. Oops.
In order to procure an item or service, the player will need to roll a Wealth check. Hitting the Target Number of 4 results in a successful purchase, but there are some complications.
For every successful purchase, the character gains a point of Financial Stress, which accounts for dwindling cash reserves. Each point of Financial Stress results in a -1 penalty to the Wealth check. Financial Stress scores can be lowered over time or when players come into a certain amount of cash. If the player receives a windfall, they can actually receive negative Financial Stress, which would instead be a bonus to their next Wealth check.
Each Raise on a Wealth check prevents a point of Financial Stress. Two or more raises actually removes Financial Stress.
Rather than having a specific monetary value, every item and service will have a cost rating. This cost rating translates into another penalty to the Wealth check.
0 - Normal living expenses, cheap consumer goods.
1 - Expensive items, weaponry, mid-range consumer electronics.
2 - Very expensive items, basic augmentations, high-end electronics and weapons.
3 - Military grade hardware, complex augmentations, top-of-the-line electronics and gear.
4 - Highly experimental or secretive services, cutting edge augmentations and electronics.
Player's start with a d4 as their Wealth trait die. This die can be adjusted by choosing Edges and Hindrances.
Poverty - d4-2
Normal - d4
Rich - d6
Filthy Rich - d8
If a player fails a Wealth check, they can spend a bennie to turn the failure into a success. However, they will immediately gain the In Debt hindrance. This hindrance will act much like the Enemy hindrance until the player is able to appease their creditor. This appeasement is at the GM's discretion. Possible applications would be a semi-permanent level of Financial Stress until the debt is paid or running dangerous missions.
Hopefully this will make my players think twice about what items they purchase, will prevent them from loading their character's up with augmentations and will potentially cause some drama should they find themselves in Debt.
*I was able to find a similar idea on the Pinnacle forum, but it's a little more complicated than I'd like.
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
- I like the idea of a 0-level character without class as a starting point. When I was cobbling together a basic fantasy RPG a while back, toyed with this very idea, although I never thought to give each player four such characters with the intention of killing of most of them by the end of the session. The character funnel seems like a cool idea, but it may quickly loose its appeal when a higher level character dies and is replaced with cannon fodder midway through a campaign.
- I'm a big fan of the experience point system. I haven't gotten to the part that explains how to calculate experience rewarded to players, but I'm loving that all of the numbers involved are very low. One of the very first things I thought when I saw my first D&D rule book was that the experience points for each level could be divided 100 and be much easier to manage.
- One of the things I like about Savage Worlds is that every single mechanic in the game is intended to be fun. DCC is the same way, but with the mechanics rooted in old-school games. Rolling for a warrior's attack bonus every round is a great example. Although I haven't gotten to it yet, the rules for magic seem to be very fun, rather than the book keeping of other games.
- Demi-humans seem to be much, much more powerful than the human counterparts.One would need to make good use of the random occupation chart to keep things under control.
- I don't know how one could run this game without multiple copies of the game book or both the physical book and a PDF. There are plenty of good resources online, but the long spell descriptions, various crit tables and other stuff makes it seem impossible to play the game without printing out pages upon pages of reference sheets for each character. Maybe I'm over thinking this, but I don't want to have to slow down play to look up every spell, crit table or rule for a class when the players could do that for me.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
My rewards for kickstarting the publication of Better Than Any Man for Free RPG Day arrived yesterday and I cannot wait to get this stuff to the table. The package contained a copy of Better Than Any Man (including the backers-only cover), three d6s with the Dead Sign on the 1 side, and a matching d30. Also included was one of the monster cards which I don't recall being part of my reward tier, but I'll definitely accept it.
The dice are my favorite part of the package. Having the Dead Sign pop up rather than the one makes for some extra dread at the table. I'm not sure, but I suspect that Raggi may have put some sort of curse on these dice because the Dead Signs seem to come up way too often.
And then there is the backers-only cover. As the shipments were going out, Raggi warned backers several time to not open their packages in public, at work, near children or the easily offended. When the publisher of Lamentations of the Flame Princess gives such a strong warning, I braced myself for impact.
And then I saw that it really wasn't that bad. It's just a monster with a mouth that looks like a human vagina. If you're offended by the way a vagina looks, I suppose it's pretty bad, but as someone who has recently gone through the process of childbirth, I think it just looks goofy. I definitely prefer the normal version of the cover since that monster has much more personality. He seems like a pretty fun guy.
I'm going to post the image now for the curious. It's pretty NSFW since it's an image of a big, sticky, fuchsia vagina. Don't scroll down any further if you have someone looking over your shoulder.
You've been warned. I am absolved from all responsibility.
Thursday, August 22, 2013
My recent purchase of several "funky dice" was to facilitate a shot at running Dungeon Crawl Classics, but I immediately started thinking about how they could apply to my favorite generic system, Savage Worlds.
One of the beautiful things about Savage Worlds is that almost everything about a character is measured in in dice types. For example, a character with unremarkable intellect would have a Smarts score of d4, while a genius would have a score of d12. This system facilitates extremely easy and fast rulings.
Unfortunately, this system breaks down once a character achieves a power level over the d12. I've yet to look into the relevant supplements, but I imagine this is considerably common in games with superheroes. Because the next highest die type in a standard RPG set is the d20, the Savage Worlds rules begin to add a flat bonus for any rank higher than the d12 (e.g. d12+2, followed by d12+4).
I've never liked this system because adding the flat bonuses makes failure too unlikely, especially since I'm not the sort of GM who likes to add a bunch of penalties to any rolls. At the rank of d12+2, the player can only fail by rolling either a 1 or 2 on both the skill/attribute die and the wild die. This is extremely unlikely. Failing on a d12+4 is essentially impossible unless there is a significant penalty involved.
But what if the rank of d12+2 was replaced by a d14? This would allow for less math and a failure/success rate that is in line with all of the ranks below it. The broken system is fixed by adding a missing part. With the use of funky dice, the ranks in Savage Worlds can run from d4 to d24, all using 2-side increments. At a d24, the character is incredibly powerful but still has to worry about rolling a 1, 2, or 3. Using the old system, the rank would be rendered as 12+10.
I've considered how this could be applied to unskilled rolls, which are normally a d4-2. It's possible that this could be done with a d2 as the skill die and a d4 as the wild die, but the likelihood of exploding the dice increases as the number of sides goes down. Using the alternate dice could actually result in more successes than failures. This may require some actually experimentation.
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
According to the normally optimistic Kicktraq, the campaign is not projected to hit its goal in the next 11 days. Looking at the day-to-day data is especially interesting as there are actually days in which the campaign lost backers and one day that found $35 being removed from the pot.
If I were to speculate, it may have been this interview that resulted in the net loss of one backer and $35 on August 10. When the details of the actual games, especially The Oldest Cruelest Sword are presented in full view, its understandable that some people would have second thoughts.
After having read some of the drafts of the rule sets, I am honestly not shocked that this campaign is slowing way down and would be much more surprised if Misery Tourism actually succeeds in funding this project. The controversy surrounding these games is the only thing interesting about them.
My last day at Gen Con was dominated by a single, very long RPG that had a lot of promise. It was a Doctor Who/Firefly mash-up run in Savage Worlds. I know, right?
This was probably the game I was most excited about playing in since I first saw the listing months ago. Titled "The Great T.A.R.D.I.S. Robbery," this game was going to put together two of my favorite sci-fi franchises, both of which should compliment each other nicely. A real chocolate and peanut butter situation.
There were three other players at the table and all three immediately grabbed up Doctor Who characters. There was the tenth Doctor, River Song and Captain Jack. Immediately our fan fiction switches were flipped. Since I didn't want Firefly to be unrepresented in the game, I grabbed the sheet for Captain Mal. It would appear that one Serenity crew member wasn't enough for the GM, so he had me also play as another Firefly character. I naturally picked Zoe but I was wary of playing two characters at the same time.
(I'd like to point out that the player who grabbed the Doctor only did so when prompted by the GM. The Doctor has to be the single hardest established character to role player, simply because he knows the very things about every situation that only a GM should know. No one should be forced to play the Doctor. I can't see how it could be fun for anyone.)
The adventure started out well enough. Mal and Zoe agreed to help the Doctor and companions get their TARDIS back from the local magical repairman (with intentions of selling them out to get free repairs) but the plan quickly changed when Inara was captured by crazed cultists. Our inevitable betrayal had to be put on hold.
It seemed like the GM was weaving in a lot of different elements and was withholding information from players based on their series of origin. This was pretty cool until I figured out where all the weird confusing stuff was coming from: Classic Battlestar Galactica.
You know that peanut butter and chocolate analogy I used earlier? It still applies, but now some fresh dog shit has been mixed in. Now nothing tastes good in the slightest.
Yeah, characters and technology from the old Battlestar Galactica started popping up and I'm pretty sure that only the GM was having fun with it. The other players were just confused. I was just frustrated because I had no idea what to do with this shit. We ran into two crew members of some battlestar and they proceeded to do pretty much everything important in the story while we just hatched schemes that the GM wouldn't acknowledge. The GM actually started acting bored with everything we were doing and would not allow us to progress the plot. Might I add that I paid $8 for this?
Here's the weird part about all the Battlestar crap that was added: it was both pointless and the only stuff that mattered. If you were to remove all of it, we would have had the same story since the players had no idea how to actually use or care about anything not from Who or Firefly. At the same time, the GM ignored any solutions we offered and instead let the douchebags from the wrong franchise swoop in an solve every problem.
This was pretty much the textbook case of how not to run a con game and it left a very bad taste in my mouth. By the time the climax came around, I couldn't even feel good about victory. Once it was clear that the game was done, I got up and booked it to the exhibit hall. I bought some more weird dice and got the hell out of Indy.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
If you're in the mood to celebrate Lovecraft's birthday by supplementing your gaming collection with come tentacled monstrosities, DriveThruRPG is having a sale on many Lovecraft-inspired products, including Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea, Delta Green, CthulhuTech, Achtung! Cthulhu and a ton of stuff by Chaosium and Cubicle 7. The sale lasts until August 26.
I had three different RPGs on Saturday, each one a game that I had purchased in the past but have yet to run. Now, as the books and boxes gather dust on my shelf, I can at least say I played the games once.
Because of the tight schedule, no purchases were made. My wallet thanked me later.
DC HeroesI have been waiting to play this game for probably twenty years. It was the very first RPG I ever purchased as a kid and I never got past geeking out over all the statted out superheroes. Here was my chance to finally take this beauty for a ride.
The game was titled "Time Bubble Trouble" and had the Justice League jumping around in time and space looking to put things right. Because I showed up early, I had one of the first picks of heroes, so I couldn't resist playing as Batman. As others filed in, we formed a team of mostly heavy hitters, but Metamorpho and Black Canary allowed for some fun, unexpected situations.
Let me focus on the positives first. The couple playing as Black Canary and Green Lantern were awesome and knew their shit. At one point we encountered an alternate reality version of Guy Gardner, who was naturally being a dick. I had enough and decided it was time to reenact one of the greatest moments in JLA history.
Using more than a few hero points, I insured that I would be knocking out Guy in one punch. The player controlling Black Canary was there to joyfully announce that she finally got to see it happen and wished someone had been taping it.
Most of the other players, especially those playing Green Lantern and Metamorpho were very inventive in the use of their powers. They were a lot of fun to play with.
And then there was the guy who was playing Superman. Good god, he was the worst. He was a nightmare, an amalgamation of every bad trait a role player could have in a single package. He hogged the spotlight, role played the character terribly, metagamed constantly, outright cheated at least once, and farted in my general direction. And he thought he was entitled to be this douchebag because he was the god damn Superman.
At one point we had to take on the evil Russian Superman from Red Son and came up with an excellent plan of turning Metamorpho into a giant kyptonite bomb. And then our idiot Superman got between us and the target, as if he hadn't heard a fucking thing we said in the fifteen minutes we took to formulate our plan. I had to save his life as he plummeted to earth wrapped in a ball of 50 different types of kryptonite and he didn't even notice.
He was That Guy. Don't ever be That Guy.
The GM did nothing to reign him in or question his outright stupidity. I understand being a "yes and" GM, but none of us have chosen to play with this guy. Telling him to chill out or making him suffer for his idiotic actions might have damped his experience, but it would have greatly improved the game for the five other people at the table.
At least he helped me channel a decent pissed off Batman.
I ended up having to book it to my next game, which was a mile away. The plot seemed to crumble at the end of the session and I have no idea why we had to beat up on Darkseid or what the Time Trapper was even attempting. I would have loved to pick the GMs brain, but I had to go and get away from Superdouche.
Vampire: The RequiemThe next game was my first experience of the World of Darkness games. I had read most of the rules for nWoD and some of the fluff for V:tR, but the was probably the one system I had least of a gasp on.
There were only three players in this game, which was expected to have about six. This is probably for the best because this was going to end up being the most role playing focused game I've ever been in. When one of the players introduced himself his vampire completely in character with a Louisiana accent without skipping a beat, I thought I was going to be in trouble. On the role playing style spectrum, I am as far from the Actor end as possible.
But by the end of the game, especially during the lengthy debate and political posturing that developed in the story, I ended up speaking almost entirely in character. It was exciting to be so out of my comfort zone.
Of all the games I played at Gen Con, I suspect that this was the most improvised by the GM. This was probably for the best since things got a little crazy towards the end. I'll spare you a detailed plot summary, but the endgame scenario had us choosing between sticking with our Prince or siding with a insane ancient vampire with giant mutant animals in his control. Because we were only baby vampires, the smooth talking "face" of the group outright bailed from the story, seeing it as a zero-sum outcome.
I was of a similar opinion, but I felt that at a con game there is no reason to ever give up and not go out in a blaze of glory. In the end, I was able to harness the power of poor decision making, badass betrayal and snappy one-liners to muster the strength to ambush the Prince and tear her head from her body.
In my first game of Vampire I ended up becoming the Prince. It doesn't get much better than that.
Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and SpaceI don't know his name or where he came from, but this GM was amazing. He had put together an adventure and a cast of characters actually worthy of the Doctor Who name. It could have been an episode of the show. It was that cool.
(UPDATE: Actually, I do know his name. He's Clinton Boomer. He's an author, which explains a lot. You can kickstart the publishing of some of his books right now.)
Each character had a secret agenda and a history that tied in perfectly to the story. As we played, things kept clicking into place, forming a unified whole. It was astounding to experience. I can only imagine how much time and effort this took to plan.
Although the ripping off of a Prince's head was awesome fun, the following exchange was the single best role playing moment of the night:
GM (as immortal debutante in a house clearly occupied by Weeping Angels): "I have a guardian angel who protects me."
Me (a psychic con man who posses as a spiritualist): "An angel, you say? Can you show me this angel?"
GM: "It does not like to be seen! You will need to close your eyes."
GM: Covers his eyes with his hands.
Me: I close my eyes.
At that point I nearly had my head ripped off by a Weeping Angel in the exact same away I did to the Prince only a few hours before. I spent the rest of the game with my character at death's door screaming about ghosts and demons and using my psychic powers to feed clues to my fellow players.
Oh, and I spent the whole time speaking in a terrible British accent. We all did. That was silly fun.
It's worth noting that Doctor Who was the most rules-light game I played on Saturday and it was probably the only game in which all of the rules were actually followed. Vampire and DC Heroes were so fast and loose that the core mechanic was bullshitting.
Monday, August 19, 2013
The day started at noon with yet another game of Arkham Horror, this time incorporating the King in Yellow expansion. Because of the extremely nasty nature of the expansion, our tactics immediately changed from the usual sealing of gates to intentionally waking up Nyarlathotep and punching him to death. This is the first time I've even encountered the Ancient One and not had everyone give up hope of winning. Our encounter with Eihort the previous night was an exercise in futility. Yet somehow we managed to beat the crap out of the Crawling Chaos and earn a win.
While my cohorts demoed Decent 2nd Edition, I fell into a demo of Blood Bowl Team Manager. Although the demo was very short, it left me with a good impression of the game. It combines elements of deck building and hand management that I love in a card game. Plus it has Warhammer races being goofy, which never fails to please me.
The day ended with a large group game of Castles & Crusades run by none other than +Stephen Chenault, the CEO of Troll Lord Games.
|Not the best photo of the game, but the only one in which something awesome must have happened.|
I did a majority of my shopping on Friday since I had a large chunk of free time.
My first purchase was a bunch of weird dice from Impact Miniatures, who seemed to be the only vendor selling unusual dice in multiple colors. I especially liked their 7-sided die, which has a pretty brilliant design. I purchased the weird dice because a GM can never have too many in his dice bag, but having the unique dice in my possession made it easier to give in and purchase a copy of...
Dungeon Craw Classics! I'm not sure I'll ever run DCC over C&C, but the game is just too fun and strange to ignore. And $40 for a massive book seemed like hell of a deal. I purchased the level-0 adventure Sailors on the Starless Sea, which allowed for a cool dice bag to be included. This made me feel a little silly when I had just bought a dice bag from Crystal Caste. If only I had gotten my head out of my ass and bought DCC earlier, I could have saved some cash!
I also purchased a sleeve of 1100+ Magic: The Gathering cards. I'm not a collector but I like the idea of making cool decks and I just can't make anything coherent with the small sampling I have now. At only $12 for all those cards, I think I'll be just fine.
Friday, August 16, 2013
|This is only half of the board.|
Rather uneventful day. Played two games of Arkham Horror, one of which had all of the expansions in play. It was beautifully chaotic. The GM could have been better since a game with so many expansions and already overly complicated rules would require someone with encyclopedic knowledge of the game. Unlike the typical game of Arkham Horror, which is pure co-op strategy, this was more of a you're on your own survival horror experience.
Bought some weird dice but still unsure if I will purchase Dungeon Crawl Classics. It seems like a very fun game, but I'm pretty committed to Castles & Crusades. Also, purchased a sweet C&C screen.
Wednesday, August 14, 2013
First, this novel is so character-driven that it doesn't even seem like the Warhammer 40k universe, let alone a story about the ultra-macho space marines. There is a lengthy battle sequence in the first chapter, but it's written in a very dreamlike style that puts more emphasis on how the battle felt than how it actually was. This brings Horus Rising into sharp contrast with the one other W40k novel I've read, Assault on Black Reach. Designed to provide lore for a box of space marines and orks, Black Reach is nothing but non-stop violence and hero worship. The plot is slaughtered along with the countless orks. It's honestly jarring to read space marines as multifaceted characters after that novel.
Secondly, Horus Rising was either written with a thesaurus in one hand or as SAT prep. The word choice is absurd in this book and it would be essentially unreadable without the dictionary built into my Kindle. I'd like to think of space marines as medieval knights in space, so I normally don't mind the archaic vocabulary, but it's going a bit far when the dictionary makes a point of saying that a word is only used in flowery language.
Tuesday, August 13, 2013
The newest controversy to hit the world of RPGs has arrived! And just in time if you ask me. Things were getting pretty boring and pedantic among those who think that games are the most important things in the world.
The Misery Index is a collection of "terrible games about terrible realities." Basically they are story games that combine genre settings (vampires, near-future cyberpunk, heroic fantasy, etc.) with disturbing and transgressive themes (racial violence, poverty, sexual assault, etc.). Naturally, there are more than a few people who think that these games are vile and will set back the human race hundreds of years. Others believe that they are either brilliant satire or smart examinations of themes that should be addressed. And others still don't give a shit either way, but those people don't post on forums or blogs, so you'd never know they existed.
I have no real interest in story games in general, so I'm probably not the intended audience for these games or the resulting controversy. However, if I had to play a story game and Fiasco wasn't an option, I'd probably try out one of these games. The reason being that unlike other popular story games about unsavory subjects, these actually look like fun. Yes, they require a good helping of dark humor and the genre trappings help hide the bitterness of the themes, but most "socially aware" story games come off as depressing death marches through the darkness of the human condition with the intention to somehow make the players better people by acting out the pain of those less fortunate then themselves. Pity should not be a core game mechanic.
I wish the creators of The Misery Index the best of luck with their campaign and I look forward to seeing some quality hyperbole and self-righteous nonsense in the realm of RPG punditry.
For a taste of what the Misery Index has in store, watch the above pitch video. You will experience extreme sensations of fremdscham. You will be miserable. Your character will die every time you pause or look away from the video. This is an incredibly hard game, but it does get much easier once you get to the Parent's Shed encounter.
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
The newest Bundle of Holding includes some doozies. Pledge more than the average (currently $20.54) and you will get a copy of Ars Magica 5th Edition and Colonial Gothic, both games that I have been interested in for some time. The third bonus game Clockwork and Chivalry looks pretty cool as well.
You have until August 12, 2013 to take advantage of this deal.
Cave Evil is a necrodemonic dungeon brawl board game (first printed in 2011) that takes place in a vast deeply subterranean cave-crypt necropolis. Players take on the role of Necromancers locked in a desperate battle to harness the power of The Pit, a chasm that connects to the realm of Shadow. The Necromancers must raise squadrons of creatures, demons and monstrosities to battle and do their bidding (players control 6 squads at the same time) through a maze of tunnels that can be strategically constructed or collapsed and are constantly evolving during game play in a process of brutal player elimination. Minions must mine and excavate or destroy opponents to gather up resources to raise their Necromancer's army. Resources come in three varieties and correspond to various types of creatures (130+ unique creatures are included in the game).The publishers of Cave Evil are currently taking preorders for a second (and final) printing. They have reached the minimum of 420 preorders, so the game will receive a run of 1000 new copies. Ordering now will lock in the price of $75, rather than the $90 retail price. But hurry if you are interested! Preorders close on August 9, 2013.
Here is a look at the components in the first printing of the game:
There is a trailer of sorts for the game but it doesn't provide much insight into gameplay, so here is a special presentation of the teaser from me to you.
Having just reviewed the ROLF rule book and being left with uncertainties on the system, I'm glad that this adventure provides some insight on how to run a ROLF adventure. Although it is not clear in the rule book, this adventure makes it clear that ROLF should be played with a game master who takes the role of the antagonists and describes the world to the player who controls the protagonist.
Unfortunately, this adventure includes Traits and Combat Maneuvers not found in the ROLF core rule book with little indication as to where to find the new rules. The adventure is supposed to be compatible with a game called The Violent Worlds of Robert E. Howard, which may be bundled with other ROLF products but does not have a listing of its own. I understand that ROLF is a very loose system that is spread out across dozens of cheap supplements, but it would be nice to have some idea what products are required to run an adventure.
UPDATE: NEULOW Games is very quick to respond to feedback. Here is their response to the problems pointed out in this review.
I can see we need to do a better job at labeling these things--or maybe just de-list this particular product. You picked the ONE ROLF! supplement that is the odd-one out among them. It was intended initially JUST for inclusion in the REH anthology "Shanghaied Mitts," but we decided to make it available by itself, in case someone had picked up "Fists of Foolishness" (which included "The Violent Worlds of Robert E. Howard") but didn't want to spring for the second anthology. It's the ONE time where the Combat Maneuvers and Traits not in the core rules but used in the supplement are not included.
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
I had to do a double-take when I was typing in the title of this game for this review. Yep, it's a "rollplaying game." I've heard an awful lot about rollplaying and how terrible of a thing it is, so I was surprised to come across a game that is all about the ill-aligned practice.
ROLF is a beer and pretzels game about sexy muscle bound idiots who either want to kill each other or fuck each other. It's a game best played with a lot of beer and pretzels. This is the kind of game you bring to the table when you've lost the cognitive faculties for a more nuanced game. A dumb, frisky warrior is very easy to roleplay when you've had a few too many.
The game is based on a simple roll-low system based three attributes and there are no rules related to anything outside of combat. At only 10 pages, you don't get much more rules-light than this. There are some rules for Traits, for players who want more fleshed out characters, but the book makes it perfectly clear that your priority should be killing things, not telling an interesting story.
The one problem that ROLF may have is its initiative system. Each character makes two moves each round, but in a forward and back order. For instance, if there are three characters in a fight the order of moves would be ABCCBA. This seems like it would add some interesting strategy, but I can also see it getting a bit messy since Character C's first turn may be a reaction to Character A's move, but first they have to wait through Character B's turn to resolve if Character A's move is successful. This can get very dicey if more than three characters are in a combat, which puts a hard limit on how many people can play ROLF and what a gamemaster can throw at the players.
As I wrote that last sentence, I realized that there is no discussion of a gamemaster anywhere in this book. I assumed that there would be a gamemaster, but it's possible that ROLF is intended to be a GMless free-for-all game. There is mention of using ROLF for a campaign, but that seems impossible if this is the case.
ROLF is an incomplete game. The foundation is strong, simple and goofy fun, but you can't help but think that there is a lot missing from this game. It's important for a beer and pretzel's game to be as complete as possible since drunk players are not going to want to figure out a way for fair rulings on the fly. However, ROLF is very well supported by the publisher, so some of the holes in the system may be addressed in other releases.
With a list price of only $1.50, ROLF may be worth a look for your gaming arsenal. The concept of stupid, sexy fighters is certainly something that would appeal to gamers who need something simple and lighthearted. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if it can match the quality of similar games like Old School Hack and Kobolds Ate My Baby.
Buy ROLF at RPGNow.
UPDATE: Below is a response from the publisher of ROLF regarding the holes in the system and which supplements to use to plug them up:
ROLF! was created as a spoof RPGs, which is the reason for the holes you mention; it's shot through with game design meta-humor. Said holes have indeed been plugged in the supplements that are currently available--with the most important "plugs" appearing in "Icing Oetzi." The strictly two-player variant "You Vs. Me" was not shot through with quite as much meta-humor as "Big Dumb Fighters," so it is complete ROLF! was also originally conceived as a GMless free-for-all and we had actually never seriously considered it usable for campaign play. However, we have learned that GMs have been used in running it and that there have been at least one campaign. So, in supplements, we have attempted to take that into account, (Again, "You vs. Me" is very clearly presented as GMless.)
Monday, August 5, 2013
"I can't play the game I want to play because of someone on the internet."
-No One Ever
A hobby is not a religion or a political movement. It is not harmed by the opinions on topics not related to the actual hobby. The only opinion that matters is your own. This means that your opinion isn't shit to other people unless they really want it to be.
Don't be a baby about people who think differently than you. They aren't villains. They aren't 'part of the problem.' There is no 'problem.'
Take some god damn responsibility for yourself. Stop thinking that stranger from the internet is going to take away the things you like in games or force in things you don't like. That will never happen. That's not how RPGs work.
I could spend all my time writing on this blog about things I don't like in games, bit that would be a waste of time. Those things don't effect me. I'll stick to writing about things I like. Those are the only things that matter.
I will be attending Gen Con this year and with only nine days to go I am getting very excited. I attended last year but didn't really do much other than tool around the exhibition hall, play one game of Savage Worlds, play a single game of Dominion, and volunteer for four hours each day. It was still fun, but I couldn't help but feel like I missed out on the Gen Con experience.
This year will be different. I've taken full advantage of the event registration system and will not be volunteering at all. I will be playing in five different RPGs and a ton of Arkham Horror games. My schedule is so packed that I will be making rations packages because I will not have time to leave the convention center for a meal on some days. It's going to be a very busy four days.
Here is what I am looking forward to:
I've been wanting to play this game since the early 1990s when I purchased the second edition box set and several supplements with my allowance. It was my first RPG but I just wanted it for the books of stats and background on various superheroes. I read some of the rules but never worked up the courage to ask someone to play it with me before eventually selling the set on ebay. It was a real missed opportunity since I didn't get to play an RPG until I was an adult.
I'll be playing in a Justice League game of DC Heroes at Gen Con. I"m currently re-reading the rules since I'm expected to know them for the game. This is probably the one game that I'm looking forward to the most because I can't wait to see how it actually plays at the table. The MEGS system seems like a strange rule set, but it's surprisingly simple and facilitates much more improvisation that its universal measurement system lets on.
Doctor Who Games
I'll be playing two different Doctor Who-related games. The first is a session of the Cubicle 7 official Doctor Who game. The second is a Savage Worlds game that mashes up Doctor Who with the Firefly universe. It seems that many of the games at Gen Con are big, high-concept, mash-up extravaganzas and The Great TARDIS Robbery sounds too cool to miss.
Ever since I registered for these games I have been binge-watching Doctor Who, viewing every episode from the beginning of the rebooted series. There's something terrifying about playing as characters from the series, especially the Doctor himself.
I'm not much for shopping in the exhibition hall, but it's very hard to resist the siren call of the giant bins of dice at the Chessex booth or the beautifully designed dice of Q-Workshop. Hopefully I will be able to resist buying another coffee mug worth of dice, but I will be on the lookout for unique dice that I can add to my GM arsenal.
Arkham HorrorI'll definitely be getting my Arkham Horror fix this year with three games, including a session of To the Barricades, which adds all of the expansions for a massive 18-player game. I don't play all that much Arkham Horror, so that game sounds terrifying for many reasons. I may be biting off more than I can chew, but the epic scale of the game is hard to pass up.
Being the PlayerSince jumping into the hobby three years ago, I have been the player in a game only once and that was at last year's Gen Con. GMing a game is fun and exciting, but it is a very different experience than that of the player. The level of mystery and urgency isn't there. A game experience is so incredibly different when you are on the other side of the screen.
I'll also be playing in a Vampire: The Requiem and Castles & Crusades game, and I'll probably hang out at Games on Demand should I ever find myself without something to do for a good chunk of time.