Monday, June 25, 2012


I''ve been thinking for a long time now about the sci fi game I want to run. I'm inspired by transhumanism and the questions it poses. 'What is human' 'What is death' 'What is alive' 'What is valuable about experience' 'what gives existence meaning' of course these themes are by no way limited to scifi I just find trans-fic a great vehicle for this type of philosophic thought experiments. If you are thinking ..'ahhh yeah ...sure..whatever' go and read 'Blindsight' and have your mind blown.

Ive read a lot of sci fi fiction and in all of it I'm yet to read about the leap to FTL and a trans-light society and more then that a world approaching singularity. 'Rainbows End' goes somewhat in this direction as does 'This is not a Game' by my favorite old school c-punk author Walter Jon William yes he of 'Hardwired' and 'Voice of the Whirlwind' so I guess these titles are going some of the way towards what I want to explore. 

Here is the pitch I gave the players

"Its the future of Earth and a colonized solar system. Ecological instability in Earths biosphere has reached the point where heavy industry has had to move to orbit. Had to or we die. Period.
The beanstalk, the mass drivers, the Corporate Council and WorldGov made that possible. 
The corporate council paved the way for Mercury, Venus, Mars, the Belt and Jupiter all have city settlements and factory outposts.
There are corporate research labs around the Sun and in the outer system - Saturn and beyond.
Industrial espionage is rife. Corporates war over market share. The war is clandestine or bushfire. Some of it is essentially terrorism.
Uplifted animals, androids, genetically and technologically enhanced humans are common. Base-humans are fast disappearing or are out competed. Rampant Darwinism.    
Against this backdrop there are a number of technologies just starting to emerge. Making a complex environment even more so
  • Memory digitization and memory grafts
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Nano technology
  • Faster then light travel 
  • Faster then light communication
  • Time manipulation
  • Field theroy advances (higg's particle manipulation)
  • Exo-plantetology
  • Quantum computing

Yeah and against this backdrop your making a living."

The 'Theme' capital T is "change vs stasis".

Narrative mode would be Noir”: the protagonist is the perpetrator of crime, a victim, suspect or mercenary involved with crime.
Regardless he is someone tied directly to crime, not an outsider called to solve or fix the situation.
There is an emphasis on sexual relationships and the self-destructive qualities of the characters
who manage to overcome their flaws and do good, despite themselves

So I've thought about system - most people wold be thinking Eclipse Phase and while I think its very good there is a lot about it I dont like. Chiefly the character generation which would bore my players to tears. The core system and its lack of a narrative focus is also a problem. So EP is out. NO it is out. 

So what else Traveler - nope. I like it for the OTU and the Imperium and all that but as a generic system even the black books dont really give me what I'm looking for. Mainly as I want to place some of the narrative freedom/responsibility back to the players. 

A little left of center I could use Shadowrun however for similar reasons to EP, SR fails to take the top place. Although thinking about it the world is close to the outline in many areas. It would need a hack even so.    

FATE in all its incarnations is not workable for our table. So its out. [long story. Trawl back through the blog if your interested. Essentially FATE is system heavy, rules heavy, core mechanic lite. Just look at any of the book all are really dense with system and subsystem]. "Yeah, well, that's just, like, your opinion, man"

The Cortex+ engine as seen in Marvel and even Leverage come very close to the type of framework I want. So I could do a hack of one of those. 

Very narrative games have my mind share for this. 'Dogs in the vineyard' and 'Apocalypse World' 'Mouse Guard'  and 'Burning Wheel' even 'Technoir' are all the type of thing I'm thinking about hacking to give me what I want. In some ways you would think Technoir comes closest but it has its challenges too.

Yes because I love the simplicity of old school and I've seen it work well something like David Bezio's X-plorers rpg or BRP cold be shoe horned. BRP more so when you add in the Pendragon like passions as an optional rule. 

So over the next bit I'll explore options for this game and post it all up here.

I want to play in this sci fi game world

Yep I want an explorer in this universe. These are all by MANCHU
who is super amazing.

In the deep dark jungels of far Raffic

This has just got to be a High Elven palace in the dark jungles of Raffic in our game world.

its not really but that is the first thing I thought of when I saw this awesome piece of art by

Tuomas Korpi

Friday, June 8, 2012

Are role playing games incomplete?

Normally when you pick up a boxed game, everything you need is in the box and the game is a very specific scenario. I think you can see where I'm going with this already. We could have had a complete D&D game under this model with just the basic set and the Caves of Chaos.

Not so for AD&D and many of the other games which followed. I was going to include Runequest in this but I would argue that Runequest was really the first non-D&D sandpit with the map of the maps on p108 and 109 as the implied sandpit and wilderness setting.

Anyway I have never in 30 years of gaming found adventure construction easy. I used to see this as my own short coming but in retrospect some of that was perfectionism and the other part was simple fact.

The structures provided in many games for adventure construction were really lacking. I see many of the contributions of the Old school movement being a codification of sandpit design. Sure nu-school is doing something similar too. Most notably the contributions of the story games crowd like Cam Banks, Jeremy Keller, Luke Crane and many others. 

So this brings me around to the systems which set the GM up for success. Leverage, Mouse Guard, Space Princes. they all include simple systems to put your game session on track and more or less keep it there.

It seems fairly simple to me now, so I'm going to break it down. I want to come out and state for the record that I'm a strong proponent of player agency however this does not mean the game should allow all actions to succeed so the player can simply play out a power fantasy. Quite the opposite actually - I think the games systems should respond in a very real way to the more fantastical wishes of the players and impose a bit or reality on those more fantastical wishes.

Think of your own life. Despite the best laid plans and preparation, things don't always work out the way we imagine. In a drama this is the very essence of the story. Action-reaction. Desire, impetus, consequence and the reverberating effects on the 'system': The, girlfriend, the family, the workplace, the bar, the vampire clan, the castle, the Imperial senate.

The point being the character needs to be acted on in the story to create drama. The player may not all ways get what they want. They can respond with any idea they have. That to me is player agency. To make choices and to impose those choices on the world - however the 'world' to has agency and is not passive. 

With that out of the way how do I plan for a game. Well I dont really even need to plan it per say.  I do all of this on the fly quite a bit. Mouse Guard is pure genius because it builds this into the game.  

You need a structure so lets not reinvent the wheel [heh]. You need to decide on a 3 or 5 scene session. Do a three scene session as its just less work. Often what will happen is additional scenes will organically/spontaneously emerge during play. Not fight this, just let it happen. As you see part of the session design will manages this too. Its critically important to let this happen as this a) gives the players 'agency" as we talked about above and b) levels the playing field - when the players come to the table they dont know the direction of play and as GM there are times you too should have to manage with this aspect of role playing gaming too.

We need to pick what our scenes are. I mean the location for the scene at this stage. To do this, think of great stories and great locations you remember from them. The cave behind the waterfall, the submarine base on the ocean floor, the luxury penthouse with expansive glass vistas. Brain storm a few ideas. jot down at lest five and pick the best three. You will start to see a patten in session design as everything will be done in threes and fives.  

We don't have to be concerned with dialogue but we do have to be concerned with the forward momentum of the session. I call this 'Impetus'. In a good game system the characters come preloaded with some existing Impetus in the form of setting related hooks, goals or relationships. For simplicities sake we are going to use just three forms of Impetus. You can think of more or refinements if you like but these will give you a session of play every time.
  • The Get (this includes find and explore and all those permutations) PC's need to get something or someone, for something or someone - Why? Why? Why?
  • The Stop- PC's need to stop something or someone or  maybe the PC's need to be stopped - Why? Why? Why?
  • The Give - Someone or something the PC's know will be given something or someone Why? Why? Why?
Use each one multiple times in a scene. but try to use them all each scene.  
As you can see to make this work you need some things and I well build game engine will provide these for you. You may need location maps so get them sorted or be prepared to wing it.
You will also need to identify objects - people and things which you can being to the table when the mechanics of the game demand them. Most 'monster' books will give you 'bads' to knock down. Good players will give you relevant NPC/GMC's to link into the story. If not invent them on the fly. How? every time the players want something they have to interact with people. Make those people relevant. To assist in this have name lists ready to use for these instant somebodies or prepare them in advance.

As your going make sure you can answer for this story "Who, What, Where, When, Why and How"

You now only need to add the PC's to the first scene and push them with impetus. If things slow down throw a 'contest' at them. This can be the proverbial smoking gun or some more subtle test but make it relevant to the players right now.

This is my off the cuff writing of how I do it. I'll give it a bit more thought over the weeks to come and try and codify it some more.


Thursday, June 7, 2012

"Iconic" Sci Fi game ideas

I've been reading about the work of Jonathan Tweet and Rob Heinsoo on '13th Age' and I'm really taken by the Icon idea they have incorporated in the game. So being a sci-fi aficionado I could not help but start thinking about the same type of 'Iconic' setting for sci fi.

For example Imperial Storm troops

and the list goes on
  • Prison Planet
  • Beanstalk 
  • Megacorp council 
  • Street Gangs 
  • Imperial Destroyer
  • Research Installation Alpha 
  • Jump Gates
  • Malevolent AI
  • Sector Governor
  • Underworld Boss
  • The Resistance
I could go on but you get the idea. There really is a set of 'tropes' which epitomize sci-fi. This also probably means this 'setting' is slightly more 'space opera' then 'hard' but that is not necessarily a bad thing. 'Newtons Wake' is subtitled as 'a space opera' for example.  

However the point of such a design artifice, is to make for a very accessible sci-fi setting. All too often sci-fi milieu are nigh inaccessible due to the voluminous nature of the material. For gaming I think it is a bad thing to have too much background. I also think that only a few of us really read the game background maybe a third of the market really reads the background. I have nothing to back up this claim players I've GM'd and often they dont bother to open the books of the game. The icons approach shows there are 'Archetypes' we can access, which imply or cast the sci-fi setting in much the same way as the Iconic high fantasy setting.

Yes you still need to make this linked intrinsically to "the character" so the PC needs hooks which draw on these elements easily.

This is in no way revolutionary, I think most pastiche settings do this in an unknown or unplanned way.   Again its not linked to character and its not done in a 'just-in-time' 'Lean' manner to minimize the amount of  background and to deliberately use the collective recognition of archetypes to power the game.


X-Plores  is just such a great game. Its a little over shadowed by 'Stars Without Number' and a minor quibble is its not exactly a retro-clone of the original game. Its a super great game and certainly a great retro-sci-fi of 60's-70's sci-fi.  

And the new cover really captures this. There is an old time Aussie author Bertram Chandler who I read as a young-takka whos sci fi really captures this feel go see if you can find some of this books for some really great reads.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Got Skillz?

Skills and skill systems as they relate to OD&D.

We have ported our Labyrinth Lord game to Savage Worlds and while it works well ...very well even. Its just not D&D. Years ago, for me that would have been a plus. During my rebel years when I lauded all things not D&D.

No, though I'm a reconfirmed and born again in my original faith - that of D&D and the OSR. I'm a little dismayed at the growth of our house rule document. That is however under my control and I could had line a more traditional approach.Why should I really? I think many other games have brought some meaningful technology/Systems to the original game and making use of them is I think of benifit to the flow of the game at the table.

Key to this is skill systems. I'm yet to be convinced by advantages and disadvantages (- although I think Savage Worlds and my other favorite system Hollow Earth Expeditions "Ubiquity" do a good job of including them but minimizing the addition of complexity).

So what is a good skill system? As a DM I'm happy with the OSR skill system and the way I implement it.  Lets look at it more closely.

OSR Skill system v01. There really isn't any skills and it comes down to DM fiat as to weather or not a player can succeed. The up side is the DM has complete control over moving the story forward  by providing responses to player questions. The down side is the DM has too much narrative control. In effect the DM is controlling the player character as well as the milieu and he can manipulate the outcomes far to much. More importantly the system is dependent on the skill of only the DM and I think this is both a boon and a bane.   

OSR Skill system v0.2 Under that skill system in and our old game players could attempt an attribute check on anything that was conceivably related to their class. They could make a half attribute check for nearly anything else. This is a good quick system which gets a lot done. It favors inventive players and I think they are worth rewarding. 

Rules Encyclopedia, skill system as written in those rules. The difference between this and v0.2 is a) It has a structured skill list, b) It has a number of accrued "slots" for the structured skills c) It only uses a simple roll under stat mechanic. I find this a little too structured.

I wont go to the proficiency system of revised AD&D as I don't think its much more then the Rules Encyclopedia, skill system in different clothing,  revised AD&D  was my least favorite version of D&D. Anyway there is not a lot between the two systems with "slots" being replaced by "proficiencies"  

There have been a number of notable retro clones which have added skill systems.The ones I find noteworthy (these are others I like too but these were landmarks I think in the OSR community)

Most people seem to like LotFP's d6 skill system. It does have much to be admired a) its simple and b) its just enough of a list and c) and it opens up (the Thief) skills, at a basic level to everyone, which should have always been the case.

The Majestic Wilderlands skill system which is closer to a modified  Rules Encyclopedia, skill system and the OSR Skill system v0.2 we use.

Microlight uses an elegant system of skill "clusters" sort of mega-skills which the player has and can use and are resolved with a skill check.

Castle and Crusades SIEGE engine Primes and challenge classes also gets a respectful nod.

Stars Without Number has a fully defined skill list and a resolution mechanism using 2d6. Its not  

The critical success factors as I see it for a skill system is it should;
  • Be easy to understand
  • Support player narrative input (as opposed to supplanting it)
  • Fit with the feel and spirit of the classic rules, so it should use poly dice
  • Should only be used for those activities which have a significant importance to the story OR where success/failure is important to the simulation (depending on paradigm) 
  • give a pass/fail result when required 
  • give a more nuanced graduated result when required
Also I think the skill system should use the Target 20 model used for combat with AC being replaced by Difficulty and the mods being environmental and other factors which increase/decrease the difficulty

TARGET 20 "SKILLS" ALGORITHM: d20 + level + Dif# + mods ≥ 20

I'm also somewhat partial to using the OD&D/Chainmail Man to Man resolution system. This would call for rolling d6's based on level and looking for "hits". 

when I can be bothered I'll pick this up again. 

Technoir, Smallville, FU RPG.

So the D&D game has been great even tho its D&D powered by Savage worlds. Its just so much better in terms of useable rules for a sandbox then I found OD&D to be. Yeah I love labyrinth lord as a rule set but by the time I tack on all the house rules we do actually use -things that date back from our D&D in the 80's and other stuff we have picked up along the way the house rules were getting very large. I've talked about this before. We can play savage worlds D&D and don't need house rules. Also our observation is the combats move much faster - for a number of reasons.

But last week we had two of the players no-show so we "unboxed" Technoir. Its cyberpunk clasic 80's style and more modern stuff verging on trans-humanism and is very tool kit oriented while still being a complete game. What I really admired was the story-path mechanic. Its reminiscent of the relationship map in Smallville only its a GM only resource used to propel the narrative. It works well and I was able to kitbash a story on the fly that felt like it was preplanned. We all had fun and that was what was important.

The core mechanic is essentially an opposed dice pool roll only the 'defender' does not need to roll but just sums up the contributing traits to determine their total which speeds things up considerably. You through around adjectives and can place them on the 'target' of your action. Essentially if you 'win' the roll you get to narrate. However if you don't 'Push" your action - spend some special story point like dice on the action - then the result can only be fleeting which constrains your narration and indeed even your choice of adjective.

Its a very subtle point but the resolution guideline has a step in the procedure which says you must respect the narration - this becomes very important in the case of fleeting results. So you narrate the story and you must observe for the scene the adjective regardless of the fact that 'fleeting' adjectives will disapear at the end of the scene. This is just one way in which the game drives the story. there are lots of story driving mechanics in the games design. If you do spend your push dice you a) lose them to the target of your action and b) can then make the adjective 'sticky' you need special attention to remove or deal with the adjective, or even 'locked' which makes it last permanently. Adjectives can be positive or negative.

The interesting thing is canny player soon realise they can take non-physical types of harm get adjectives and hence push dice and make thing go their way but its cyclical - literally what goes around comes around - and hence very Noir.  Hording push dice only results in trivial results and a trivial story line. So it is up to the players to 'push' the games drama forward. 

Its a lot like the FU RPG mechanics actually which is free and you can find it on RPGnow. Go have a look. FU is good in its own right so take a look. If you like cyberpunk and story support mechanics then I highly recommend Technoir.

I'd be remiss if I didn't take a moment to talk about the Transmission concept in Technoir. You use these 'Modules' to craft your game session. At the core they are a list of things, People, objects etc which play into the story you will craft. Its worth noting these take exactly the concept of sandbox pre-development i.e its a required game-mechanical representation of a "thing" you will use during the game session - in Technoir parlance 'Runtime' cute huh, nice co-opting of the computer term. What this means is not only is it a list of names and role but items, organisational entities and equipment too. They are really evocative.

Interestingly you can sequence Transmissions together as your story grows and moves around the world. One minor quible I have is that the content of a transmission is very small essentially it is a 6x6 matrix and then is everything stated out all under the one Transmission and per the rules as written they represent that locale. I'd probably extend this concept and say that a single Transmission is just a setting abstraction and have a number of Transmissions which could apply to a location. But it does work as is.

Overall its a really clever design and a fun game. Its much more of a pick up game then FATE <<anything>> ever was so if you want a good, fun, easy to use pick up game I say you could do much worse then Technoir.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Jeffs Questions

I have been meaning to do this for like forever now and I need to get this done for the Stones game so I'll have these answers up here later in the week.

1. What is the deal with my cleric's religion?
  •  The Religion of the Common lands is called the 100,000. It is inclusive of just about any religion you can find in Deities and Demi-gods or any of a number of other sources. The groupings/pantheons among the Gods are:
    • The Lords of Light - Gods of a Nurturing, genial and caring nature
    • The Night Lords - Gods of a deliberately sadistic, warlike and cruel nature 
    • The Mad Gods - Gods unfathomable to the Common-folks, strange, weird, human like  gods, commonly but no always destructive
    • The Elder Gods - inhuman, alien, uncaring, outer gods [Yep them]
    • The Spirits of House and hearth - common house hold spirits of inanimate objects or concepts
    • The Ancestor Spirits - personal family spirits of past family members  
    • The Greater Elemental Lords - Fire, Water, Earth, Air, Aether
    • Mother Nature - the gestalt spirit of all nature
    • All Father - the gestalt spirit of all intelligence
    • The Malignance - the gestalt spirit of decay/entropy
Temples are dedicated to;
  • The 100,000 - best to be safe then sorry. 
  • The pantheons
  • A revered Deity with associated shires to the associated pantheon 
 Druidic and Shamanistic sites tend to venerate the spirit "houses"

2. Where can we go to buy standard equipment?
  • Smithies, a small towns/neighborhoods  Miscellanea store, open markets and specialty vendors. Its common in a fair sized town or rural farming community to find a Coaching Inn which will have all the above located under one roof along side dining and accommodation.     
3. Where can we go to get platemail custom fitted for this monster I just befriended?
  • Specialty stores in major cities. Or a store in a monster enclave or city. 
4. Who are the mightiest wizards in the common lands?
  • The Dread Daetheon Kurrz "aka" Kurrz the Accursed
  • Artesia Earthshaker aka The Sungold Sorceress
  • Maegesh Gelash aka Maegesh the Meddlesome       
5. Who can best the greatest warriors in the land?
  • The Knave of Knives Erises Five Fingers
  • Raigre the Reaver 
  • Ottavio de'Malatesta 
 6. Who is the richest person in the land?
  • The Emperor  
  • Diedric Brueghel the not so frugal 
7. Where can we go to get some magical healing?
  • Provided you are a worshiper or can convince a worshiper to petition on your behalf you can receive healing from a temple. 
  • Additionally it is possible to find healing charms and potions for sale at a Miscellanea store.
8. Where can we go to get cures for the following conditions:
  • poison, disease, curse, level drain, lycanthropy, - A temple
  • polymorph, alignment change, death, undeath - A Sorcerer
9. Is there a magic guild my MU belongs to or that I can join in order to get more spells?
  • There are no organized guilds since the guild-wars and the Empires Fall
  • There are however many secret societies of mages which pool there resources for mutual protection and benefit (they are however highly suspect of outsiders and protective of their knowledge)  
10. Where can I find an alchemist, sage or other expert NPC?
  •  Major cities and the occasional mid sized town (that is there is none in Sandypoint)  
11. Where can I hire mercenaries?
  •  Isaleaire and Seaton
12. Is there any place on the map where swords are illegal, magic is outlawed or any other notable hassles from Johnny Law?
  • In Isaleaire it is Illegal to go around with an unsheathed weapon or a weapon with out an honor knot keeping it in its scabbard. Other weapons such as axes and maces must be like wise "slung" and honor knotted. 
  • Wizards, Mages, Sorceress must "honor knot" a formal scroll case and their chief component pouch  
  • This "knotting" has become an art form and Noble fashion know as Passementier
13. Which way to the nearest tavern?
  •  The Hairy Clam is the main (and only) bawdy tavern of Sandypoint 
  • The Barron's Barrel is the main tavern in Seaton with stiff competition from the Sea Maids Tale and The Ten Bells
 14. What monsters are terrorizing the countryside sufficiently that if I kill them I will become famous?
  • Goblins, Hobgoblins (of which the Orc subtype is most common) Serpent/Lizard men, Pirates, Outlaws
  • Dragons
  • Atlantian  Sorcerers and Sorcerer-Knights 
 15. Are there any wars brewing I could go fight?
  • There are frontier wars all across the Common Lands in the so called Frontier Lands. The Raiders from the Sunrise lands, some of who remain in the Common-Lands still wage wars.
  • The Omadin in the southlands venerate Mad gods and the Temple-Knights are often crusading in Near-rafike in the Provence of Eshebah and Tauanis and the far Caliphates   
  • The Dreadane and there High-King Volsgar Ulf have new colonies far across the sea in the Untamed Lands and they are open to lords who can claim them
  • The Atlantians - once the cruel overlords of Ayerth have declined since their civil war and the over throw of Shelonrathon Varvipathis Aeonscion the Sorcerer-God. They do however still wage war on the Common-Lands from time to time. In the past these were one-sided affairs. However since the advent of blasting powder (and continued Atlantian infighting) this has change. Presently Atlantis is on good terms with the mainland and trades with the Empire and treats it as a vassal/tribute state. 
  • The seas between from the Untamed lands, the Common Lands and Atlantis are beset with pirates out of the serpent islands and the Freeport at all times.   
16. How about gladiatorial arenas complete with hard-won glory and fabulous cash prizes?

  •  Yes but only in Rafike, the Caliphates and the Frontier Lands of the Empire. 
17. Are there any secret societies with sinister agendas I could join and/or fight?

  •  Yes....

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Game Goodies

In doing weekly preparation for the Stones of Ayerth game (which we only play every two weeks or as we say here fortnightly) I had the urge to share some of the resources I've been using in the game.

The game started as a Labyrinth Lord game and were it not for the extensive house rules we would have stayed using it. Essentially I think - dare I say it, that although I love the classic game I actually thing  do think there have been significant advances in the "technology" of role-playing design.

We as a group have been heavily influenced by D&D 3.0 which was a great version of D&D in its own right. It still felt mostly like D&D. What I haven't liked is the commercialism of the game. As a result they sell upgrade-books of all types which only serve to dilute the strong core of the game.

Hence the change over to Savage Worlds which plays mostly just like the way we had our D&D game running, only all the rules are now in the one place. I still have pangs of OSR longing. Its quickly redressed when I think of the players. They expressed a strong like for the skills and edges of Savage Worlds. Funnily as the GM these are some of the things (the lack there of ) I thought was a strength of the classic game.

Anyway I'm still using the classic game as my inspiration for the Stones game.  

The game stared out in Saltmash as in the Sinister secret of, although the town council all voted to rename the town Sandypoint in an effort to attract new business, and settlement from the nearest major city, Isilaire. they are a weeks horse ride from the city and there are a number of towns on the way to "Sandypoint" the most notable of which is Seaton.

I've kludged that module together with the original B series modules (sort of like my own take on In Search), the Freeport Anniversary collection, White plume mountain, Castle White Roc and Totems of the Dead and Griffin Island, to mention the most immediate contributors to my sandbox.       

Here are some great map resources by the Mad Irishman  for the main module.

there are some good maps online for Saltmash too. Many are much larger then I see "Sandypoint" but they are good to grab if you need a coastal town.

My fav' is this creation and is the one which most matches my imagination of the locale

 this one is also good. Honestly my own version - in my mind - is like a mash up of these three.

I'm off to create, by hand my version of the maps. If they look ok I'll scan them and add them here for people to swipe and use.

and here are some more for you too as well as an awesome looking lizard man.


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Marvel Aussies

Here they are

Bishop (Lucas Bishop)   is possibly the highest profile Aussie mutant as his Grandfather is Gateway 

A guy called Dreamguard although there is very little on him. Force works found him and helped him out.

Black Archer from Earth-s so not really a pert of the core MU 

Lifeguard is a a fairly high profile Aussie too. Only I assume she is depowered due to the aftermath of "NO MORE MUTANTS" of M-Day. Or dead after the X-Corporation's Mumbai, India branch's destruction.

Slipstream lifeguard brother 

Boomslang Is a villain with a really bad costume

Kangaroo Really...No Really? come on, I suppose we have, koala, Wombat, Ecidna, Platypus,

Cap'n Oz Uniforms quite good really. 

Talisman Yet another dream-time bloke 

Gateway who is now dead but was a pretty cool character 

Red Lotus is an Australian of apparent Chinese descent and pretty cool as he kicked Xmen ass.  

Examiner is someone Red Lotus knows and is not a nice guy

Grizzly He is an associate of Cable

All in all that's very few Heroes for us Downunder I for one would like to see more and less of them based on stereo types too.

Marvelous Friday Night Game

"Cuchulain" could not make the session. So we were going to play Warhammer Quest. However I go my hands on a new game and had time to prep it before hand. It was one we were looking forward to due to love of Cortex+.    

So Friday night we played the great new Marvel Heroic Role Playing Game.

We did the included adventure/mini Epic and it was a lot of fun. More so for me as I remember reading the comic it was based on and it made it that much more enjoyable.

The Players took a bunch of Avengers or soon to be Avengers to the disaster on the Raft [did it ever occur to anyone the Hudson is a bad place for a super  prison? I guess so hence the negative zone prison but still right off NY what where they thinking?]. We lampooned this many times during the game session.

The roster of your dreams
Ms Marvel, Spider Woman, Cap, Wolvie, Luke and Iron Fist were the active roster at the time of the breakout. Things got heated up pretty quickly when Count Nefaria was the first prisoner out of the Raft accompanied by his Lethal Legion of Living Laser, Whirlwind and Power Man (Erik Josten). Well after that it was on!!!

Battles were great, mental and social conflict equally so. Initiative is so simple and yet innovative
It goes like this once the "Scene" has been introduced and the stakes have been set and its clear to everyone what happening one of the players gets to go first it can be say the central leader hero, or one who is fast, or the first player to speaks up. Once the first character has had a go, whether it’s a player hero or a GM's character, the "Action-Order" has begun. And here is the genius of the system It’s the player of the character who just acted that determines who goes next. The other neat wrinkle is that the person in control of the last character to act (player or GM called the Watcher in the game) in the "Action-Order" chooses who goes first at the top of the next action order. Its so simple and yet in play its genius. This one item alone is a great piece of rpg design. I think it may come from LARP as it feels like a LARP rule in its simplicity.
Sure. All Ozi heroes are like this.

Their are other rules which are very close to Leverage and more close again to Smallville, with a number of new tweaks to make action scenes really shine. The effect die which has sort of been in Cotext+ really gets called out in this game and you can make some fun tactical choices about your use of the dice that "feels" like your making in game decisions. 

We are still learning the new rule nuances but we where up and running really quickly.
There are some great play aids which make leaning the game easy and plenty of great examples to make gaming actions understandable. These proved very handy as many of the rules are very subtle and nuanced yet far reaching so we really appreciated these aids and hints. 

Now that's a much better Aussie Hero
Ultimately (pun) we had a great time and the PC's won the day and will be off to the Savage Lands. as a result. It was great the way the rules encouraged the following of character and adventure agendas via "milestones" one of the game innovative subsystems and  experience points get "used-up" by in-game actions the players will want to take. 

We are having fun and will be doing this game again soon.

Oh yeah in case your wondering there IS support for making your own heroes, and normally we would do just that. However the game has done such a good job in capturing the flavor of each of the characters you just want to play them. I found myself really wanting to be able to purchase a Datafile character book to just drool over like the old Gamers Handbook of the Marvel Universe.

I'm really anxiously awaiting the other releases in the line.

It probably wont take the place of our regular game [although it *could*] but it will be our choice of "pick-up" game for the foreseeable future.  

THE 20 Questions and the Answers

20 Questions Answered

Brendan of the blog Untimately has really stated something across the web and it dovetails nicely with my D&D Next post of last week, so I'm joining in the fun.

1. Ability scores generation method?

R4d6K3, (4d6 drop the lowest), pick a stat pug in the value and repeat. No rearrangement – no trading points.

2. How are death and dying handled?

Player characters can't have less than 0 hit points.  Each time a player character takes damage that would take them to or below 0 hit points their hit points hold static at 0 and they must roll on the Grievous Injury and Mortal Wounds table modified by the damage taken.

2 or lower
Instant Death (decapitated or similar death).
Fatal Wound (gutted, stabbed through lung, broken back, and the like) die in 1d20 x 10 minutes. A Wish or similar effect would heal wound.
Knocked Out until death unless Save vs Death is made.
Severed Limb use hit location die, if head rolled and no helmet then as '2', if body rolled and no armor then as '3', otherwise will bleed out and die in 1d6 rounds. Magical healing (magic used for this will not restore lost hp), a tourniquet, or cauterization with fire will allow a Save vs Death with bonus equal to lvl of spell cast, if any. Success means character requires 3d4 weeks of healing.
Knocked Out until death unless Save vs Death is made.
Broken Bone use hit location die. 3d4 weeks to heal.
Knocked Out 1d20 rounds unless Save vs Death is made.  If head bone was broke and no helmet and failed save then knocked out, "in coma", until healed instead.
Knocked Out for 1d12 rounds if wearing a helm. If no helmet then as Broken Head Bone.
Stunned for 1d4 rounds and lose helm if wearing helm. Knocked Out for 1d12 rounds if not wearing helm.
"Now I'm Mad" a surge of adrenaline returns 1d4 hit points per hit die. At the end of the combat, the adrenaline drains away, hit points are reduced to zero, and the PC faints for 2d6 rounds. If you roll this more than once in a single combat consider yourself a Bezerker under the effects of a potion of super-heroism.

PS - I cant remember who's table this is but all credit and thanks

3. What about raising the dead?

Yes. Per the Spell. Paying for it is not enough. A PC should be able to demonstrate they are a lay member in good standing of the god. Friends of the PC who are religious can can petition on behalf of a Irreligious PC and this effectively doubles the required tithe. This makes religious observance appropriately "Genre" and removes the "I'll buy that for a dollar".

4. How are replacement PCs handled?

The newly created PC level is determined by the hit Dice of the cannon fodder most of the party would be taking on in any given encounter. Retcons so the new PC happens to be a henchman with the party, a wandering <<class>> the party encounters, a prisoner in a cell etc. 

5. Initiative: individual, group, or something else?

Group d6 initiative

6. Are there critical hits and fumbles? How do they work?

Any time a player rolls a natural ‘20’ on a “to hit” roll, it is a critical hit. This results in a Grievous Injury and Mortal Wounds roll on the table.
Likewise, if a player rolls a natural ‘1’ on a “to hit” roll, it is considered a critical failure or fumble. Typically, this means the combatant hurts himself, drops his weapon, breaks his weapon, or just plain falls down – GM's discretion.
7. Do I get any benefits for wearing a helmet?

 Maybe. Helmets are mostly cosmetic in D&D. However in some cases they will be beneficial. If you wear a helmet you can push your Grievous Injury and Mortal Wounds result up a "band"

8. Can I hurt my friends if I fire into melee or do something similarly silly?

No your a legendary archer/ Wizard/ Knife thrower and have the control required. Unless a Fumble occurs.

9. Will we need to run from some encounters, or will we be able to kill everything?

Sandbox rules ... so some encounters are going to be too hard. A Wizard can use his knowledge and spend a round "espying" a target and get a rough sense of its threat to him. This is partly why scrying wizards are so bad ass.

10. Level-draining monsters: yes or no?


11. Are there going to be cases where a failed save results in PC death?

Yes. Thankfully you can - if you are a worshiper or have some friends - get resurrected. 

12. How strictly are encumbrance & resources tracked?

Resources yes, as it add to the challenge of an adventure torches, rations etc. Therefore encumbrance has to come into the equation.   
Encumbrance as follows - thanks to Dragon warriors: A character can carry ten items equivalent to
"a weapon" in size and approximate weight.
Such items also include the following:
  • a scroll
  • a days rations
  • a bottle
  • a lantern or torch
  • a sack of coins (about 150)
Small items such as rings and amulets are not counted.
Armour is also excluded as you need to be trained in its use and that is a function of class.
Add or subtract your characteristic bonus value from the ten items you can carry.

13. What's required when my PC gains a level? Training? Do I get new spells automatically? Can it happen in the middle of an adventure, or do I have to wait for down time?

No training is required  to advance a level and revive the new hit point allotment. If there is a class ability that level *which would seemingly require training* such as spells etc then a teacher must be found. Regardless you have to lose cash each level. Some times this is for teaching other times its celebratory or a combination of the two.      

14. What do I get experience for?

Some treasure, all Monsters - killed, tricked or cleverly avoided/bested and clever roleplaying or table laughs.

15. How are traps located? Description, dice rolling, or some combination?

Roll only however you can redo so if you really think its there and you have all the time in the world. Some traps can not be *disarmed* in any way other then triggering them.

16. Are retainers encouraged and how does morale work?

Yes. retainers and henchmen are encouraged. Morale and relationship mods works on all NPC's and are activated as required.  

17. How do I identify magic items?

Most magic items give themselves away due to the way they look. Anyone can tell. Magic Users may know the story of the item and therefor may know the special uses of the item. All magic items have a hidden special ability even +1 swords etc but you need to know how to activate it.    

18. Can I buy magic items? Oh, come on: how about just potions?

You could buy a magic item. Some common items such as charms, talismans and potions (essentially all the same thing) are relatively easy to come by.

Magical weapons and special items are too precious and are horded by nobility and monsters ...and hum ere Monster nobility.  

19. Can I create magic items? When and how?

Scrolls at 1st level (if you can copy a spell permanently into a spell book you can write a scroll), potions at level 3, minor/one-shot magic at level 6, and powerful/permanent magic items at level 11. Of course doing so requires major investment in time and money, and results may vary.

20. What about splitting the party?

Not a problem, it produces some of the most fun moments of the game.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Mike Mearls D&D fail - Lets get back to the game we know

If you know me you know my opinion of Mike Mearls and his butcher job of D&D 4th ed. 4th ed is in my opinion a good set of really detailed skirmish rules which are not as good as the much better Warhammer Quest and Descent Journeys in the Dark etc ad nauseum. Its Bloat-ware meets skirmish gaming.

How Mike Mearls got this job I don't know. How he has kept his job after Paizo Publishing and PATHFINDER gave his D&D Fail edition a spanking, I just don't know.

Thankfully Hasbro/Wizards got Monty Cook back who does have some real D&D cred and the Bruce Cordell who does great work on his books.

Just go and try find out what great outstanding rpg product Mike has made. His Gimmicks guide to Gadgets showed an appalling lack of Mutants and Masterminds system understanding and a lack of general comparability with the core Mutants and Masterminds rules. His other land mark products were the Alderac Entertainment Group D&D stuff which was really quite pedestrian/ordinary except for the d20 Toolbox which was really very good ...but which he did not work on. Just so you know the list of works the guy did before the landmark D&D Fail Edition go have a look. I'm really not sure how he got the big gig for Fail Edition.

So D&D Next - stupid uncool name by the way. I say build off of what is essentially Basic D&D, Labyrinth Lord and Swords and Wizardry, and some sprinkles of AD&D. Look at the proliferation of house rules people have compiled. It looks like people out in the OSR like things like
Fighter options - i.e Feats for fighters
Easy and few, skills  maybe even on a D6
Easy multiclassing
No demihuman level limits
Shields which shatter
Optional alternate spell system to Vancian
Just go google fu "House Rules" and you will get a great list with a large consensus of applications. If shields don't shatter in the new edition you will know they did not browse OSR blogs, as this one rule is nearly a ubiquitous house rule.      

If you want to see the sort of thing people want from a serviceable game outside of D&D go look at D&D 3.0, Savage Worlds and BRP. In the framework these games provide for their systems there is a lot to learn.

Bring back a focus on the story telling, the role playing and the emergent game actual play at the table over character optimization mini games .

And Hurry up Wizards !!! Your fast becoming irrelevant, with the OSR and Pathfinder I dont NEED a game with the D&D label on it - You need to show me that I do ... Or I'll go on playing stuff I call D&D but is not your product.

If OD&Ders and other folks can do this in a few months and get it right, why is it taking you so bloody long to get it right?


Friday, February 17, 2012

Adventure ideas for totems of the dead

A common question for Totems of the Dead is what do I do;

I think there is some source material that would make quite good inspiration or maybe even adaptable for a  Totems game.

I think it would be relatively easy to adapt the Griffon Island boxed set from Runequest. Sure you could equally use the original Griffin Mountain but you would require more normalization to get it striped and fitted to a Totems of the Dead game. The "map" coldnt really be reused but much of the content could be re-purposed and put to use to create a good sandbox for play. 

The other solid option in a similar vein would be to adapt the Mongoose publishing Slaine rpg adventures
that is
  • The Invulnerable King
  • Teeth of the Moon Sow
  • The Ragnarok Book
  • Way of the Horned God

I also remember there is a Conan d20 rpg adventure about Thunder River and settling lands out form a fort
I think its Across The Thunder River

But many of them could likely be adapted including
  • Trial of Blood
  • Ruins of Hyboria
  • The Lurking Terror of Nahab - city based so this would have to be in one of the big hubs
  • Reavers of the Vilayet

If you have some good suggestions please post them in the comments section so I can follow them up.    

I would not be surprised if there were some good and appropriate pathfinder modules that could be tweeked too....humm Kingmaker for a group of Sea Wolves setting out to expand the frontier?

Passive players

Over on the Scrolls of the Platinum Warlock (btw he often has good stuff to say so go follow his blog) he talks about this month's topic, hosted over at Nevermet Press:"Things to Love, Things to Hate"--essentially, what do you (as a GM or as a player) look for in an RPG, an adventure, a system, etc.

So I have to try and make time to get my set down in the blog by months end.

One of his dislikes really stood out for me as its my own number 1 pet peeve

I hate it when players don't give me anything to work with...then complain about it.
  • GMing is hard work.  It's a lot of prep, and it's a lot of writing.  If I'm asking you, as a player, for a background, that means that I need your help in contributing to the world and to have an active investment in it.  It means that I want to engage you as both a player and a character.  And, when you reject that?  Yeah...that sends a pretty strong message that you don't really care about playing.

I could not agree more. Furthermore why is it many players;
  • Don't read the games background material
  • Only will play one meta-character The Ninja, the Barbarian, The Notice-everthing- monster, etc
  • Not get with the setting trope - ie Black Magic with a cost in Swords and Sorcery, A Noble not a fighter, as a knight in Pendragon.  
I think in this age its ideal when a player becomes engaged in the game world and want to offer up ideas ...  its a two way street. However if the player does so, then as a GM you need to respond POSITIVELY and work the players ideas into the game or come up with a workable counter proposal "Yes And" or "Yes However". The Player, likewise should not be doing this for game or power-building reasons but for play/story reasons.

I need to try and develop a subsystem which is quick and elegant and handles this... hum already I can see I'll be turning to Leverage rpg and Mistborn maybe even a bit of FATE for some research on how to facilitate this during a session.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Savage worlds and retro gaming

In jumping around the blogosphere in regard to Savage worlds and OD&D I have come across a number of interesting bits and pieces.

Not the least of which is Mandate Archive - Transhuman Tech     I'm a huge fan of the work Kevin Crawford has done on the Core Stars Without Number material and I'm impressed that he has put together some great Trans Human material. We once joked on one the irony of playing transhuman stories using the oldest and original rpg systems. The result though is very satisfying.

SWN has some issues no doubt - 1st lvl characters are gossamer like targets for many of the weapons in the game so navigating low levels is best done with caution. Not necessarily a bad thing just something to be aware of.  Transhumanism complicates and challenges some of the basic assumptions of an old school game due to the post scarcity economy of a post-singularity society. This is were the advice in this supplement, but also in Darkness Visible. are going to be useful. There is a very neat fit with the two supplements. If you read a lot of trans-lit much of it focuses on the agendas of various factions as they advance their belief systems and explore their humanity and the vastness of space and the universe.   

I'm enjoying the read and getting ideas for Sci-fi gaming. The fact that its old school is just "cherrys-on-top". 

Also in old school sci-fi, which a lot of people are propagating right now, is the wonderfully pulpy  "Tales of the Space-Princess". What is wonderful about this game is it was designed in response to the challenge that sci-fio games where somehow inferior or not as fun as Fantasy games. As a result this game is very much about "go get the MacGuffin". In this case, its more or less a "dungeon" with scifi trappings "spaceship/space-station/outpost/flying-city" etc. There is a handy-dandy included map for just this purpose. The characters "classes" have a satisfying old school feel to them and even a retro-scifi feel, which I don't think is strictly needed.  However advancement in the game doesn't seem to me to have the longevity other games seem to have. Then I remembered early traveler with its "no advancement" and I was all ok. However I can see how some people would not like the large-grain advancement in the game. However it IS very Old school being reminiscent of the chainmail treatment of character figures. 
The interesting generic characters of "Savage Worlds Characters Are All The Same"
which, clearly are not make interesting grist for the Savage character mill. The granularity in Savage Worlds is fairly high level i.e. there is not a lot of fine grained distinction between Attributes and  Skills however the canny application of Edges and Hindrances gives the definition. While its not actually an old school game it plays very well and is obviously a game put together with the forethought and experience of actual play.

In a effort to immerse my mind in the zeitgeist of Totems of the Dead, I'm reading and getting into Aztec again. Do yourself a favour and pick it up if your interested in the ancient native American and south American society and culture. I'd love to know more books like this so I went to Goodreads but had trouble finding anything. I'm still looking but its not so easy.

What I did find was more information on  by

Friday, February 10, 2012

A Savage Switch

Game night was last night. We switched from OD&D, to Savage Worlds to see how the game would run under those rules, more as an experiment, than a real plan. Actually it was quite good. It hit all the "F'"s. Fast, Furious and Fun. The players seemed to enjoy the switch and want to keep on "giving it a go".

The extra options supported by Savage Worlds; a skill list, edges, hindrances, beanies and the magic system, all seemed to suit them and what they wanted from a game (as Players). I have to say, the system is, very easy to prepare for as a GM. Management during the game is a breeze too. The hardest concept in Savage worlds is the "Shaken" condition and the players easily took it in their stride and gamed on. 

I have some small regrets leaving OD&D behind. OD&D is great from a GM's perspective, lots of support, great community, ease of preparation, all of that. House rules for OD&D is however getting quite frankly, ridiculous. While its fun to do this type of thing, its a bit of a joke keeping all the tiny tweaks for the game in line. I do share the perspective that JM shared; house rules should only be the rules used at the table. Unfortunately straight Labyrinth Lord, Original Edition D&D, Rules Cyclopaedia or OSRIC just doesn't quite get the players over the line - they want more from the character subsystems. The things above are good examples.   

To give you an idea of the breadth of our house rules, which have crept in over time,
Fighter options - sort of like "feats" see original edition delta for the same sort of concept
No Cleric class only a magic user class, a combined spell list with some spells culled
Thief skills on the Target 20 check type
Target 20 for combat
"Good At" skills based off appropriate stat bonus using Target 20

I think its happened as a result of liking many of the innovations in  3.0+ D&D. They are not a huge change to the dynamic of the game but significant enough. I wonder how D&D5 will manage these realities. Small changes to what was the 3.0 core would actually us back to the core game. Not in the direction of Pathfinder. Its to power game-ist, too ... I cant really find the words but its sort of a good example of the "wrong" direction to my way of thinking. I want a "Less is more" approach. David Bezio's X-Plorers being a great example of just how much you can do with a "just-enough" approach.  
After following a few online discussions and looking over Blogs like the The City of Iron [great blog] it seemed like savage worlds was a natural move.

I was already predisposed to Savage Worlds due to the wonderful World of Solomon Kane, Beasts & Barbarians and the splendiferous, Totems of the Dead.

My only concern now is to make Savage Worlds feel sufficiently gritty enough for a  sword and sorcery feel and I'm sure we can get that happening. To be totally honest I have some doubts about the game and its play style. For me I could try a new game every few weeks though so - mainly because I find role playing such a compelling hobby. 

I also feel Savage Worlds opens up a whole new realm of gaming for the group maybe giving them a desire to play the games listed above as well as games like Deadlands. 

So we go on with this until I get a Sci Fi game all planed out and ready to go. Who knows maybe I'll use Savage Worlds for it too.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Sci Fi tease

This has me interested same artist from Totems of the Dead doing a Sci-Fi sorrow setting. Not necessarily my type of thing for gaming but the Tomaz' art is gorgeous.

Dead Iconic

Totems of the Dead by Gun Metal Games. Its a Savage worlds game right now but I wouldn't be surprised if it got the Pathfinder treatment too at some point.

A bit busy for the cover IMHO
Better? Very evocative!!!

What a strange idea from which to bring forth lots of cool - Vikings sail to America and settle in Vinlund (historical fact) and Native American tribes are warring with Wedigo's and Atlantis.  In Matt Kisser's words the games dev "I was daydreaming about how cool it would be to have a fully fledged fantasy setting based not on the standard European and Asian mythological fare, as cool as that stuff can be, but rather one loosely inspired by the rich history and mythology of the native peoples of the Americas".

Essentially the setting is a Sword and Sorcery not high fantasy setting which will scream Conan or Kull to you if your like me.

I've only just got my hands on this lovely book the "players guide" and now I really want to get the GM's guide too but I'm disappointed it does not contain a full plot point campaign - which at one stage it was going to. Still the Player guide is so good I'll be ordering the GM's book too.

I'm still getting into the background of the game. I've always wanted to do a Last of the Mohicans type game and that has attracted me to game like Colonial Gothic, Witch Hunter, Northern Crown/Septentrionalis, The Savage World of Solomon Kane etc.  This give that type of feel, but is set much earlier in an alt-history Earth the time of Viking and the first empire-cultures of the world.

A Map of the "Untamed Lands"

I'll post more on my impressions of the game once I've read more. However even now I'm thinking this would make great source material for a sandbox game and it would be easy to use it as a setting for  an OSR game. This will be easier if a Pathfinder version does come out.

The essential conflicts of the games setting are:

1. The Arrival of the Skadians: The Skadian (Viking) settlers who came to the Untamed Lands had to conquer and displace a number of tribal peoples to establish themselves. While many of these conflicts have simmered down, many of the Skadian’s neighbors still nurse a grudge over the land forcibly taken from them. Meanwhile other Skadian groups, known collectively as the Sea Wolves, still raid the coastline, pillaging native communities and Skadian villages alike.

2. Spiritual Turmoil: The Skadians did not come to the Untamed Lands alone. A slower immigration of linnorm dragons, frost giants, and other such creatures followed them to the Untamed Lands. Like their human counterparts, these mythic beasts have disrupted and displaced local monsters and spirits, sparking conflict in the supernatural world that often bleeds over into the human realms.

The Skadians also seem to have brought with them the mysterious ‘Spirit Mist,’ a supernatural fog that blankets the land and weakens the barriers between the physical world and the spirit realms. When the Spirit Mist rolls in, one must beware of ghosts, illusions, and supernatural terrors lurking within the ethereal vapors. Of course this much upheaval in the spiritual world allows evil sorcerers to work black magicks and dark rituals hitherto undreamed of.

3. Environmental Decline: For unknown reasons, the crop yields across the land are falling. This famine is causing food shortages where there was once surplus, and has served as a stressor on inter-tribal relationships. Old enmities grow fiercer and new rivalries are igniting across the land. Landlocked tribal confederacies must go to war to expand their territories and feed the people of their shining cities. When supply runs short, some needs can only be answered with blood.

4. Foreign Invaders: Foreign invading forces now beset the Untamed Lands on both coasts by. The Atlanteans, a bizarre human culture ruled by Sorcerer-kings and possessed of advanced magic and technology, are invading from the eastern ocean. Their last attempt to conquer the Untamed Lands might have succeeded had their troops not been recalled to squelch a slave rebellion in their homeland. Now a second wave of Atlantean invaders threatens sweep over the land. Meanwhile the fierce Ruskar have descended from the frozen Northwest. These warriors are as cold and fierce as their frostbitten homeland, and they bring with them strange magics and terrible war-beasts. These vodka-fueled warriors weave webs of death with whirling steel blades and stain the arctic snow red beneath their booted feet.

5. Ambitions of the Aztlani Empire: A third battlefront threatens in the south, as the great Aztlani Empire completes the massive Coatyl road, linking several strategic oases to make the Great Barrier Desert far more passable than any point in history. With the ability to march their forces northward through the desert, the Aztlani now cast their imperial ambitions on the lands to the north.

6. Revenge of the Serpent People: In the background an ancient reptilian race plots from the shadows. The remnants of an ancient pre-human empire, the Sheti serpent people bide their time with cold-blooded patience, coiled and waiting to strike the heel of the embattled human civilizations. They vow in the names of forgotten gods to take back a world that was once theirs.

If ever the land needed heroes, that need is now.

I'll leave you with some art so you can see just how imaginative the game is :Be Warned: this will probably make you want to pick up the game and play it.

Atlantis. Decadent. Decaying. Deadly. The Big Stick of the setting.
A major Viking settelment in the Untamed Lands i.e. NthAmerica
Zipacan (Mesoamerican) Empire "Dungeon" Deadly!!!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Friday night became Quest night

Warhammer quest that is. Again this follows and exhibits the Rule of Cool aka the Rule of Awesome and also the Rule of Fun

It was handy as I'm still doing work on the game so one of the other guys ran it.

Really? Really? I mean have you seen my AXE!!! Now sod off!

Its a really fun game. The mechanics are simple and it gets right down to the hack and slay really quickly. During play we made comparisons to just how alike Warhammer Quest was to D&D4th ed. Of course we came out on the side of WHQ and not on the side of D&D4. WHQ is so honest in what it does. So much more lean. So much less in the way of rule bloat. Ok there are times WHQ isnt very balanced. Particularly when you have a string of bad luck in an important room. The result can be effectively game ending, which is not so great. However this is a bit of an edge case. Your not that unlucky all the time and the game runs smoothly. Yet it has nearly all of the tropes of D&D 4th ed and more importantly (to us) earlier editions of D&D.

Look I know I have put on some weight! K!
So whats the game all about? Like many other games of its type - cooperative quest games - your on a mission which culminates in the fight with the big bad or some other genre cliche. Necessarily you need to chose a character - all have great flavor inherited for the most part from the Warhammer "Old World". The basic classes are nothing all that special. Barbarian, Wizard, Elf, Dwarf you get the idea. With more advanced add on sets - character packs - you can get Chaos Warriors and War Dancers to name a couple. You equip them with swords, armor, spell and staff and go off on either random or slightly more planned adventures - sound familiar. Well yes, its essentially a roll playing game in a box. A lot like Descent Journey into the Dark and not too unlike Claustrophobia too. And a lot like all versions of D&D and other role playing games.

The main difference is the role play part. You really don't do that - if you do you are bringing it yourself. There is not really much support for doing that in the game i.e. it doesn't give you pages on what playing a role is in an rpg context. It just lets this be either an emergent part of the game or not as the case may be.(also a bit like D&D 4th ed. heh)

While yes, it lets you level your hero and collect magic crap, it really does not develop the world or the character much beyond that. Other then some neat travel tables and what not.

This was something of a revelation during play. I came to appreciate a couple of things.
  • Basic combat is the most "simulationist" part of a table top rpg and as it is the most like a conventional game it is the element more people can game and what to be played like a game
  • An extension to that is some of the other mini games in rpg's most of which are solo in nature. Like character generation. But these is not really a lot of these tools for GM's
  • This highlighted the lack of mechanical game support in (other?) table top role playing games;  ultimately the most important part of any rpg if the game is to be played as a campaign and that is adventure design.

Really, I think, in order to call a role playing game a "game" it requires mechanical support for the GM's interaction with the game during campaign design. I've seen a number of very good adventure generators now and I think more work on this front will happen in the next wave of designs.

The light hit her wet chrome like neon sex
Already games like Leverage, Technoir, The One Ring, Warhammer Fantasy Role Play, and to a large extent the Savage Worlds Plot point campaigns and Pizo's Adventure Paths, show solid movement in this direction. New OSR product like Darkness Visible and its parent game Stars without number provides solid GM mini games and "run-time" support. Interestingly Traveller has always provided at least sketchy support in this regard, by providing rules for planet and patron generation and definitions for what the planet/patron aspects mean. Add in Library data and the players backgrounds and away you could go.

It would be possible to suggest, based on the above position, that many previous rpg's have been "incomplete" in this regard. Not providing GM assistance, no lets say min games, to support adventure generation, left the GM in a state where they were required to do a lot of work, with very little. Support and direction is required for how to make a sustainable ongoing game. Not esays on good GMing (although there is no harm including this). If not for early modules there would have been little in the way of example. I'd also suggest commercial modules make a poor examples of the actual material required for running a home game. For example when I'm doing well with a game system and campaign, spiral bound notepads are my go to device for jotting up the game. That and a folio, to store lose paper.

Perfect example of GM support min games
Interestingly the OSR crowd cottoned on to this approach long ago with the idea of emergent play. Have lots of pregenerated easily "re-assignable', "Objects" in the Design and Plutonian sense. That is "things" that can be pressed into service. A few ready maps, villians, thugs, treasures and what not that can be pressed into service, to cover the emergent content which is coming out of the run-time spontaneous play.

However for the "Game" part of the hobby to really be present for the GM, I think its furthermore required we as GM's have a number of plot "patterns" we can reach to and press into service, to give some GM direction, structure and definition and importantly constraint, to the emergent play and to remove to much of the free form and thereby stabilize play for all parties.

That's where the work of S John Ross comes to the fore. Reach over and grab one of the convenient plot patterns and then continue on. Because a conventional table top roleplaying game should be much more satisfying then Warhammer Quest BUT a table top roleplaying game should provide the type of gaming support to the GM that Warhammer Quest hints is possible.

If you want a great old school game were you get nearly all of this, you had best go look at perhaps the most realized rpg ever published. Pendragon.

Possibly the perfectly complete game?