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?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Thinking about what should be Friday night

So thinking ...

Eclipse Phase
Star Wars
Carnage 3:16
Savage Worlds - Deadlands or Mars

Or Good ol OD&D - It will probably be this but

I'll try and make up Eclipse Phase PC's for the guys.

This has got to be what you call GM ADD right?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Best Eclipse Phase Character Sheets

These are the best I've found for an old school static sheet. I'd like to give proper credit for these great eclipse phase sheets but I cant remember where I found them. If you can let me know I'll give due credit they are not my creation but are so awesome I had to share them. However I think it highlights some of the complexity issues with Eclipse Phase that this number of sheets are helpful during play.


I hope others find them useful too.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Eclipse interest and other stuff

I'm getting closer to putting together an Eclipse Phase game. NPC File 1: Prime is a real help giving a lot of pregen NPC's for use. I'm still not convinced character generation should need to be as laborious as its its and I'm a little meh about he idea of Psi in a hard sci fi game [although the rule of Awesome would suggest PSi is a good thing].

I also found some great player created character sheets for Eclipse phase I cant remember where I got them but I save them locally as they are under an Open License I'll put them up here as some point.

I've also had a bit of a returning interest in L5R so its had some mind share as has Rogue Trader which per the aforementioned Rule of Awesome should play well at the table.

So my times been reading those and still looking at Secrets of the Ancients.

I spent some time reading Mistborn rpg and its right up my ally so I need to review that here soon too.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thursday nite procrastination

The week has passed and although I've done lots of prep on a number of properties I'm not sold on any one direction yet. That's OK I have wonderful table-mates to role play with and they are happy with me test driving some stuff with them.

Last test drive before Christmas was Ashen Stars - I wish I could say it worked out. It didn't. We like more action orientation then the game gives support for. Also I personally thing the rather large skill list is just not required - it actually slows things down and creates a situation where some skills may be "missing" an eventuality the game actively tries to avoid with some of its rules - more elegant to simply have less I think. Also we had general skill levels at the ~8 ranks level [as a result of using the pre-gens in Dead Rock Seven] and in actuality we find out ~11 is the level you really want for a signature skill. I think most would be happy to take it out for another trot but some of their confidence has been rocked.

So looking at my existing short list of games;

  • Eclipse phase- the character generation is really daunting. The generation sheets are more or less required to make it work smoothly. My players don't like PC generation. So I'd use the pregens from the 3rd edition which are apparently quite well done now. Further then that this would be a sandpit game with me building on the themes the players like and a campaign idea I've had for some time about the "invention" of FTL drives and the industrial espionage that inspires.  
  • Shadowrun - We gave this a nudge and doing more of this could be ok too. Mostly we have fun when we play this game. Its got a heck of a lot of "crunch" so its quite the investment in time to get into this game. We have actually started into the Brainscan module and it went only ok. The first mission is not much to write home about and not very inspiring either. I could take the next installment out and run it for the guys tomorrow. 
  • Technoir - I like this but I'm afraid its a little too story-game-ist for my guys. I'd like to use a play-test slot to give this a try. But the rules are a bit unique and I've heard they are a little fiddly to get working. Combine that with a less then traditional rpg resolution mode and its a toss up as to weather it would find any converts at the table.  
  • MGTraveler - Secrets of the Ancients is a really cool campaign and I could truly commit to running it. I believe the group would have fun with it so its a solid option and one I can prepare for the evening as I've already read and prepped it.
  • In Flames - Its transhuman "of the bat" but is really improved with the addition of Uplifts and Chimera. Its in serious consideration for our game from that stand point. I'm not sure if it would have much mind-share at the table my bet is not. This really is my Eclipse Phase lite option and maybe I should just go with the full trans-lit experience and do EP?
  • Aegis Project - This is a very narrative game, yet also very capable in combat. Its lite on setting and has just enough system. Its actually very good.
So I need to hone it down to a fine point for the session tomorrow night. 

Monday, January 9, 2012

Ok if its got to be Fantasy what Fantasy do I like.

I've talked about this before. I dont really like High Fantasy. I love Sci-fi. However I find that its often very hard to run a sci-fi game. What you get at the game table is not what you read in sci-fi lit. I think thats because so much of sci-fi lit is about exploration and that does not translate well to the game table. At least I'm yet to find a way to make it work well.

So in that case what games that are like Fantasy but not fantasy have my mind share:

I like Ars Magica and Pendragon  "alr-history" type rpgs. I'm interesteg in seeing Yggdrasil for this reason. Solid "history" with a mythic bent.

Grimm is a fairytale rpg where you play kids from our world falling into fairy. Playing kids is fun but I'd like an option to play natives of the fairy land too. A proper game with that flavor I think is fun, fun, fun. Maybe The Zorceror of Zo could be like that too?

Similarly I like Qin: The Warring States The Quasi historical Wu Xia inspired setting of Qin is very inspiring. I've always like Chinese cinema and so called "Kung-fu" films. This is a roll playing version of that. Whats not to like. Qin's focus is on the politics of the day and the creation of the Chines superstate.
Legends of Wulin has just come out. It is very similar to Qin. LoW focus is specifically on the  Jianghu River-lake world of secret societies and bandits. That just screams good role playing material.
Both these games toss in ghosts and other supernatural elements as well. 

Legends of the Five Rings fourth edition. The new books are beautiful, really very attractive. Its actually more a Fantasy game then any mentioned so far. However the strong grounding in Bushido and quasi-samurai culture mare it a solid option in this field of faux-history games.   

Then there are the Witch hunting games of Colonial Gothic, Solomon Kane and the eponymous Witch Hunter. I love the idea of playing a game like Last of the Mohicans with sorcery and the supernatural. That just reeks of cool to me.  

All For One - Regime Diabolique is swashbuckling in an Alt-France of the musketeers. I like Seven seas and this is much better done. has the flavour of En Guard and Flashing blades too. I loved the original stories growing up and the scarlet pimpernel which is a nice segue into  

Castle Falkenstein. Victorian pre world war high society with magic and adventure. Its just fun. The core system didnt seem to work that well but now with my experience of narrative games may work better. There seems to be a nice synergy between this and Grimm some how.

Sure there are others  but I read these ones and collect stuff on them and in some way they have all captured my imagination.

Game for 2012

In thinking about the game for this year here is a list of things I've gone over and considered for a predominantly Tans-humanist game - i.e. a game where humans memory can be digitized and humans are now neigh immortal and to some degree super human.  

Games that are out with a tans-humanist slant.
  • Eclipse phase is good. Its quite system and background heavy. However its essentially Altered Carbon, Newtons Wake and Singularity Sky the rpg. With just a dash of Blindsight. For now its a good choice for a tanshuman game perhaps the best. Personally I'd like a bit less background with rules by Cortex+ [sort of like leverage]. Well I can dream cant I!!!
  • Interface Zero is a bit gonzo/anime for my taste, plus they are idiots as they don't know the difference between Australia and New Zealand. If I was 15 I'd probably love it. But then I'd probably also like Twilight.
  • GURPS Tanshuman Space is not a good as Eclipse Phase, IMHO its GURPS so you know rules aplenty which can be both good and bad.
  • Mindjammer is a pretty good FATE driven Transhuman rpg setting if you want FATE.
  • Shadowrun is also now verging on fairly decent tanshumanist themes and has heaps of support [you could even recon the Elves, Trolls and Dwarves as a product of either a nanoplague or gene-hacks if you wanted less Elf in your sci-fi soup. Magic could be all Psionic or some other pseudo science <<hand wave/hand wave/hand wave>>]
  • The latest version of Stars Without Number has a section on AI with that and Polycrome you could pull off a transhuman game although its only toolkit like support.
  • goose'Traveler with the cybernetics book gives you a toolkit also
  • In Flames - Its transhuman "of the bat" but is really improved with the addition of Uplifts and Chimera. Its in serious consideration for our game.
  • Aegis Project - This is a very narrative game, yet also very capable in combat. Its lite on setting and has just enough system. Its actually very good. We had a play test of this and it was surprisingly good in play. As such also on our list as game engine possibility.
  • Remnants - more mecha really then translit but its shares many of the themes and is also a great game
Two games I'm waiting on which were meant to get out by Christmas releases, but are now releasing some time this year;
  • 2300AD - Based on the work Collin Dunn did for his 2320AD this should also capture a strong trans-lit flavor [2320 had uplifts and genehacks so there is a fair chance this will also share some of these ideas]
  • River of Heaven- this is by John Ossoway of Cthulhu Rising - Horror Roleplaying in a Dark Future fame. That was a great effort (as you can see). This is his tans-lit inspired work using BRP well "open quest" really, an open version of the BRP rules, as its platform and I'm sure it will be a good solid offering also. There is a blog talking about the game milieu. 
Right now Eclipse Phase and Aegis Project are pulling ahead of the rest of the pack. In Flames has fallen off a touch as I may as well go with Eclipse Phase as go with In Flames and Eclipse phase gives me the wider canvas too, which is something I was looking for.  

Perhaps strangely, I'm also considering straight Traveler and the Secrets of the Ancients series intertwined with the Classic Traveler adventure material. Why? The new Secrets of the Ancients material has transcendent/singularity themes and avoids some of the future shock for the players by having them as "regular-folks". So in that way it works quite well for starting non-trans-lit players off in the story and getting into play quickly.

As a aside we play tested Ashen Stars and found it was not what we were looking for. First Gumshoe. If you do this game and you want your PC to do well make your signature skills 10+ including the Health Skill. Second Combat. Its not geared for action adventure - its an investigation framework so your not going to be emulating Serenity anytime soon.

Anyway I have to hot the books and make a call for what to run as a play test or otherwise, by Friday.    
Funny thing is if I turned up with D&D stuff ready to go there would be no complaints. Wish I could just come to terms with Fantasy but I'd prefer historical + Occult over straight High Fantasy. I'm some type of gaming rebel I think? Everyone else seems to love Fantasy rpg's. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Its been far too long since I've blogged. I got out of the habit when I fell ill and havnt really gotten back into it. Its a lonely feeling hobby blogging. I like more feedback then is typically available from a blog. I've decided to forge ahead anyway. To help I'll broaden my themes and include the hobby 'lit, TV and movies I like and even the more then occasional art I find inspiring. I'll go for once a week and make it Thursday night as my Blog time and discuss whats happening with my gaming etc.

In 2011 we didnt do as much gaming as I would have liked. My bout of illness got in the way. Also despite loving OD&D and having a wicked-good time doing fantasy stuff, I'm a sci-ficionado and I want to do Sci-Fi gaming. I'll post more on my efforts in this direction this year too.

Games last year -2011- which rocked my world were a shorter list.
Top billing has to go to Leverage which may just be one of the best games ever developed. Cortex+ as presented in leverage does the heist genre perfectly. It does other games really well too.
Stars Without Number is also a favorite despite not being exactly what I'd do with the OSR and space
Ashen Stars - I wanted to like it but Gumshoe is not a good match for my sci-fi tastes
Project Aegis was also a present surprise  
Additional present surprises were
Legends of the Five Rings 4th ed
Warhammer 3rd ed
and In Flames

I'm going to make a habit of doing gaming viewpoints/reviews through the year too on various products and I'm sure many will find those interesting too.