Mixed game media

So while I am not the only one out there doing game blogs and creating stuff and giving advice, I wanted to dedicate a short article to others who are having fun, and promoting games and game discourse.

There is a lot of fun to be had out there in the big bad electronic world. And there are some people who take it further than others. Door Monster is one of the posters on YouTube that I like to go to when I need to see people acting out the games I have played at the most ludicrous levels. Take this piece on using the Diplomacy skill in a d20 fantasy game setting for example. Another one I enjoy on YouTube is Puffin Forrest. Now you will notice that I did not put a specific piece on that one. That’s because Puffin is all over the place. Some of the posts are rants about games, or players, or characters, or any number of other things. Some are stories and some are reviews. I did not want to push a specific one there. And who can forget when Wizards of the Coast was putting 4th ed out and they put this up on YouTube to help promote it.

Now then if I am feeling more like reading or setting up some bait to get an argument started I look for some good forums. If I feel like discussing a specific game product I will go to Drive Thru RPG or RPG Now (same site really, owned by the same company and offers the same stuff on both). If I really want to get in depth though I will go to either RPG Net or Pen & Paper.

Now then did you notice that I have not listed, nor posted a link to any specific game community? Or to any group that specifically supports one game, or even one style of game? Yeah, there is a reason. Those folks get hard core quick. I have been ejected from a few because I was not online posting all day, or I did not pick Kirk over Picard for higher stats in the classic Star Trek RPG. There are tons of them out there. Over the years I have found some to be very accepting and some to just be full of asshats. I will instead say just google it and good luck.

Speaking of google. Need some character ideas or game art? I hit up google images all the time. Also kinda fun to wander around in Deviant Art.

Oh gods and the number of online comics about games is just… damn… I mean WereGeek is a long time favorite but they have gone rather off the rails in their latest story arc… And if you don’t know Full Frontal Nerdity then, well you really should. 🙂

Of course you could always go and hang out at your local game shop too…

Basically what I am saying here if you have not figured it out, no mater your social niche or how anxious being out in the physical world makes you, if you enjoy gaming there is no reason not to enjoy it and to enlist others. Heck there are even online services so that you can set up a table top game in an entirely virtual environment. I have played one session with folks from multiple countries. It was… more challenging that going to a game con and playing straight and serious on day three.

Ok all, thats it for now. Hope everyone is having a great weekend and is looking forward to a great holiday season, or having one, or recently finished one, or whatever 🙂

Gimme the dice, I need to roll to see if the laundry is still fresh.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

World Building 207

Hello Readers

So a bit out of pace for me to be posting early, but with taking a couple days off to do holiday shopping and that sort of thing I thought I might squeeze the time in to do another post.

So where did we last leave off…

  1. The sci-fi style will be pulp sci-fi. So things can get weird.
  2. Humans are trash. So at the very least they will be low class citizens, maybe worse.
  3. Players will not know how big the universe is, and I will sketch out a couple of places in advance but otherwise let the players drive things so the universe will become as big as it needs to be.
  4. Timeline is about 30 years in the future and there are older humans who remember ‘today’ as the good old days.
  5. There are many alien races but humans currently only know five.
  6. There are two “magics”, technology and psychic powers. Psychic powers are used to stratify the over reaching galactic society and technology is used as a tool and extra lever over ‘lesser’ races. And humanity is one of the very lesser races.

So step seven in this mix is to try and find a game engine that really works well for the ideas I am using here. Now I totally understand that some folks may be limited in the game engines that they use. Sometimes you find that one game engine that really works well for you and you just have to run with it. Sometimes you can only really afford to buy into one game engine and have to pray you never run into anything it cant handle. If you are in a situation like that I really suggest you just apply the first six questions and build a background and go for it. There is no stopping you and you will still have a great game if you work to make it work. 🙂

For myself I love to look at all the game engines that are out there. I am sure that I could make my design work in just about any system going. What I want to use for this setting though is the d6 game engine.

Let me tell you why.

Just so you know a bit about it, the game engine is currently published by Nocturnal Media. And if you want to get into the game engine you can go over to Drive Thru RPG and buy a copy of the rules or get the d6 game engine bundle (at the time of this writing the game engine bundle is listed as being free and all you need to do is have an account at Drive Thru and down load it at no cost.) It is a venerable system that has been around since 1987 to the best of my knowledge. Not too complex, easy to mod, but a little rough on vehicles. (Previous post talking about it is here)

So why would I want something that does not work easily with the space ships that can be so important in a sci fi game? That really refers back to another question. Two of them actually. And the answers to those two questions are that Humans are trash (so they have not had the opportunity to get into the wondrous worlds of tech that are in the universe), and that tech is basically one of the magics. So if the game engine itself does not lend itself to making star ships easy to create, and some weapons tech seems a little inconsistent, that will actually reinforce the feeling I want to create for the game. Sure you can make an engineering role to fix something, do you know how you are fixing it, no not really you just read the book or were told to fix it that way. Do you know where you are piloting? No but the computer says to go this way to get where we want to go.

I am not saying that this is a bad game engine. I am not saying that this is a way to frustrate players on purpose. You can still do all the tech balancing and shipbuilding you want to do. It is just a little cookie cutter. All the real customizing and balancing will come mostly in role play. Which to me makes it a stronger choice.

The strength in the mechanics really shines in system for special abilities and powers. It breaks everything into three skills and makes it really well defined for what can be done and what cant be done by any given character.

For me this is a quick, easy, and inexpensive way to run. Especially since I can just get a copy downloaded to my computer and play with six sided dice that I stole out of other board games. 🙂 heh

Since I kind of went over the strengths and weaknesses of other systems in the earlier post I linked to earlier in this post, I will just say that in the end you will need to come up with a system that is going to work well for you.

Ok so World Building 208 will have a bit of a write up on this game setting and then we move on with other things.

Hope everyone is staying safe out there.

Now gimme the dice, I need to roll to see if I have anything left to buy more gifts with…

1 Comment

Holiday Shopping for your Gamer

Hello all readers 🙂

Ok so I know we are in the Christmas/Hanukkah/Yule/Kwanzaa/so many others season. And that does not include birthdays and other events that might happen in which you have that fun combination of a gamer in your life and a need or desire to get them gifts.

A lot of people in this situation freak out and decide that there is no way in any of the possible hells that they would get a game item for the gamer in their life. And there are a lot of good reasons not to. I mean do you know the games they like? Do you know what they have currently in their library of games? Do you know what they may already have on order some place? Do you know the difference in the types of games that are out there? Do you know the types of games they prefer (this is actually different than knowing what games they like)? These are questions you need to ask yourself before you go out and buy a specific game. And this is true for any type of gamer. Card games, collectible card games, video games, board games, role playing games, console games, computer games, dice games, and more. And each of these categories have individual categories and then genres to take it even further. So there are a ton of options, and not everyone is in to every kind of game.

So does this mean that you give up and just get them socks? It does not have to, but never underestimate the power of fun socks either. Mmmmm thermal socks that look like Animal from the Muppets (if you can actually find them put them in the comments because I have been looking found regular men’s socks with the Muppets on them but no one seems to do thermals).

The first thing you actually have to do is understand the basics for what the gamer in your life like to play. This will help you break down where you can buy, what you can buy, and if you want to take a leap and grab a real game, or just fall back on a gift card that they will actually use in very short order.

Funny thing is both the gift givers and the gamers usually dread having this conversation. Oh I wont be able to get them what they want… Oh uncle Mephistopheles never gets this shit right…. and so on. And I have to say that if neither the gift giver or the receiver are willing to take a chance and have the bloody conversation, then yeah everyone mucks it up and its socks all around for Xmas once again.

Now then gift givers, you have one responsibility in this conversation. Remember what you are told so you can Google the crap out of it. You do not have to understand the difference between D&D, AD&D, AD&D 2nd edition, or why Xbox games wont run on a Playstation. You just need to remember what it is that they are interested in so you can put in a little research and try to get them something that actually fits what they are in to. I cannot tell you the number of times, as a gift receiver I have been thrilled to get something I already have, that I may not be able to return or trade in or anything else, because someone important to me listened, and took the time to try and get me something that I would really be in to.

Ok gift receivers that means you are going to have to do something too. You are going to have to actually talk. To people who may not play what you play or even give a shit about it. But they want to give you a gift you like, something you will have fun with, and by all that’s unholy they are freaking trying. So be honest, and do you best to use basic terms that they can Google. Tell them you like FPS games on PlayStation. Tell them you like deck building card games. Tell them something, and be honest about it. As a gift giver I have always appreciated when someone actually tells me about the things they like so I can give it a shot.

Now then if you listen and still don’t know what to get someone then you can really get into just giving gift cards and that is ok too. If someone likes table top RPG’s, collectable card games, deck building, and or miniatures, Amazon can really be your friend. Same goes for console games of any kind. If they are into PC games then you might try Steam. If they happen to mention a specific shop they like to go to, then by all means get a gift card or gift certificate there. Because you know they will use it.

Not understanding why someone games, or not understanding why someone doesn’t, is not a big deal. Just take a deep breath, have a conversation, and then take a risk. Or don’t. Socks are always an option. 🙂

Last piece of advice. Gift givers, do not expect your gift to be ripped out of the package and played with immediately. Gift getters, be thankful that someone in your life cared enough to try and get you something you would enjoy and dont be a whiny little shit and focus on what you could have gotten instead. And both of you remember that the honest conversation once had, will make it easier to do this in the future too. Or once again… socks.

A’right. Holiday gifting rant over. I can do something more productive next week.

So gimme the dice, I have to play a longshot on a certain gift, I need that crit hit.

2 Comments

Game Review #19 – Heroes Unlimited 1st ed

Yeah so I am always on a superhero kick, it just has not shown itself here as much as it could have 🙂

Also one of my earlier reviews was on Ninjas and Superspies, also by the same publisher. Palladium Books.

I wanted to do this review more for adding a little bit more visibility to the publisher in a way that is not just bitching about them. There has been a lot of web traffic in the past few years about Palladium and the owner of the company than I have really seen for anyone else. I am not saying that the people ranting are incorrect in their points of view, but I want to put something out there that is not feeding those fires, and just talking about one of their classic products. If you want to read about or participate in those conversations then I suggest you look for them online elsewhere as I will actively delete any comments that bring those things up.

So Heroes Unlimited is another one of those super games that makes some interesting claims about what they provide, and when they provided it. They, at one time, called themselves the first complete superhero role playing game. If you are skilled with search engine image searches you can still find them. Since the game was first published in 1984 and there were a ton of other supers games coming out at the time I think you may have to take a broad perspective to get a real feel for who was first at what, most complete at what, or, well, anything really.

Just like anything else that has come out from Palladium the game engine is their Megaversal system. Which means it is a class and level system. Unlike some other class and level systems it does not allow you to multi-class. So your mutant will not also have cybernetics, or magic or anything else. They will always be a mutant and that’s it. Now then there are ways around that, like just going ahead and having the GM approve that the money your character saved up will buy a talisman that gives you something extra, or that the accident your character was in means you need to get them cybernetics as well. But this takes some home brewing and it can make things a little unwieldy. There are other elements that are very strict as well in playing the game. The combat system is a little bit hinkey, and if you are thinking about starting characters at first level, I really cannot recommend it. I remember sitting down to play a first level game back in high-school and we had one fight take hours. Unless you do some serious power tweaking on average you will need to have one character hit a thug at least five times to knock them out. If you are facing an enemy super you need to look more along the lines of about twenty five times with above average rolls. Part of the reason fights can take a long time is because of the way the Megaversal engine works with damage. Characters have classic hit points, but they also have SDC – Structural Damage Capacity. The rules describe the SDC as being the same as all the cinematic damage you see in the movies that makes the hero look beat all the hell and back but never actually slows them down. Personally I love the idea, but the number values that most characters build up means you can shoot one in the face with a rifle about six times and it will not faze them. On the up side they have things like a random background generator that you can have tons of fun with, and an alignment system that feels a lot more natural to me than the one you find in D&D. Also on the up side, even thought the system does not allow multiclassing, the individual classes themselves are actually pretty cool. Some allow for more customization than others, but you can still create just about anything you want.

The power level of the characters in the game actually can be seen as an issue for some players. The game engine does not really allow you to get a Superman or Thor level of power. You can look like it, but you cannot get a power level that will let you pick up battle ships and beat others with them, or use your optical laser to cut through a mountain. That is because the game engine is trying to keep things somewhat balanced between the mutants, the mages, and the super spies. It is a hard thing to do when you want to put rules into place so that a super spy feels useful when mages, psionics and alien robots are all on the same team. There has to be something unique that each character can do, or at least something they can do way better than anyone else. And still have it feel that way both in and out of combat. And that is something that the first edition, specifically the revised one, does really well.

The other challenge Palladium faced is that they want to make games that can all cross over. So their big gun Rifts can be crossed into your super world with everything else they do. Sadly the power creep in the Rifts setting makes this a pain in the butt to keep up with. But at the time of original publication, it worked and worked well.

When it was first published the game did not get a lot of support, and the only other book for Heroes Unlimited for quite some time was a licensed product for Justice Machine. A comic book series that most of you will never have heard of before. Still its in my collection because I know them, and loved the characters in the original two series. I think the reason they put that book out though is because they did not really put much into the original book in the way of setting, or pre-generated villains to fight. Of the five villains they did publish in the main rule book all of them are min-maxed and higher than level one. So there is no entry level play possible without some work by the person running the game. Even when they later published Villains Unlimited there was only one character in there that was level one. If I remember correctly. I don’t have that in front of me while I am writing this, and so if someone out there has the first edition VU and wants to correct me I will admit being wrong.

There is a ton of material in the book for tools, toys, vehicles and so on, that anyone can get with the right money, so you can even set up a super hero base pretty easy and kit it out without much effort.

If you get the idea here that I am pushing even though I am bouncing around a lot, the game is very much a mixed bag. There are some really cool aspects of it, there are also some really ‘WTF did I just read’ aspects of it. It got a little better in the 2nd edition, but that is not being covered here.

So how does it score?

Overall Fluff 2/5 – There is some really cool art, and some really bad art. There is a very cool section about world hot spots that they used in a lot of their other games. There is no setting and only five NPCs so not a lot to work with. And unlike other Palladium games there is very little color commentary by NPCs or even book quotes.

Overall Crunch 3/5 – The rules are a mixed bag and I would honestly recommend that if you don’t play the Megaversal engine a lot you might want to start with another one of Palladium’s games so you can get accustomed to everything you will need to do to shake and bake the game to fit your needs.

Overall Mod 2/5 – Not only is the game not easy to mod while maintaining the balance it created it is necessary if you want to step outside the standards even a little.

Overall Fun 4/5 – So with all that in mind how do I still find it fun? I know the engine, I know the system and I really do like being able to play supers where I don’t have to worry about meeting up with some boyscout with an S on his chest making me and everything I do seem useless to the city. There is a lot of fun to be had if you are willing to invest the time to get to know the rules and make an investment in some of the supporting materials to take a little bit of the stress off the game masters shoulders.

Total Score 11/20 – Another low score for a game I have played for years and will keep playing. One of the reasons I loved this game right off was due to the fact I could mix it with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game and Robotech. That also required more than a few mods but still… heh that was fun.

So I hope everyone is remembering to have their own opinions and enjoying whatever games they love to play, regardless of what anyone like me says about them.

Now gimme the dice, I need to have a random encounter for breakfast.

2 Comments

World Building 206

Hey all, special Black Friday special edition since I want my Sunday to spend relaxing with the wife and chilling. For those readers outside the US or who don’t care about the events in the US that much, Black Friday is the day after the Thanksgiving holiday that supposedly marks the start of Christmas shopping. However from the fact that you can find places putting up Christmas trees after Valentines Day and shops talking about pre-holiday sales so early any more… I don’t see why anyone bothers. But still there are huge sales on Black Friday, there is annual news about mob like behavior at stores and other bull crap going on, so my wife and I keep the same mind set. Find something to do at home and avoid the mess out there.

And now you know part of why I am posting a blog today. And knowing is half the story.

So what do we have in this little world so far?

  • The sci-fi style will be pulp sci-fi. So things can get weird.
  • Humans are trash. So at the very least they will be low class citizens, maybe worse.
  • Players will not know how big the universe is, and I will sketch out a couple of places in advance but otherwise let the players drive things so the universe will become as big as it needs to be.
  • Timeline is about 30 years in the future and there are older humans who remember ‘today’ as the good old days.
  • There are many alien races but humans currently only know five.

And the current question is… What is your worlds “magic”?

Now then just like I posted the first time, you will note the quotes there. “Magic” here means anything you cannot or will not explain with any ease. Usually it is something that just has to be accepted. Be it technology, the Force, psychic powers, actual magic or something else. You can find it in every sci-fi setting. Even hard sci-fi that is taking its queue from modern technology and trying not to go to far ahead. And also in every genre of sci-fi you can find it. Hard sci-fi, pulp, cyberpunk, steam punk, space opera, and on and on. There is always some kind of “magic”.

Now then one of the things that you will find when “magic” comes up is that somewhere in the story you will find someone who tries to explain it. At least a little. And in a game you will always have at least one player who wants to know how it works. The player will usually want to know how it works so they can circumvent it in the game to one degree or another. Now then this does not mean that you need to understand how virtual reality programs can allow one structure to alter another in one way or another to allow your virtual avatar to hack into a storage mainframe. Nor do you need to know how to circumvent the conversion of mass to allow a vessel to move faster than light in three dimensional space to have faster than light travel. You do have to be ready for the questions though. And when they come up there are three ways you can deal with it.

When it comes time to explain or define your “magic” for the players you can

  1. Tell them to shut up and accept it
  2. Research something similar or steal from other sci-fi so you can have talking points
  3. Create a game skill to cover it and just let them roll for it (kinda like shut up and accept it but it gives ya a little more wiggle room)

Technically there is a fourth way and that is to mix and match the other three in a way that works for you. Personally that is how I tend to approach things. If there is something I enjoy or want to play with I research it a bit so I can at least seem like I have half a clue. I also steal liberally from other settings and mix and match that with the things I have researched. Then I add in a couple of skills like ‘Science!’ I actually took that idea from Steve Jackson Games in their IOU GURPS supplement. When I originally read it I had to have it. They also have ‘Magic!’ in the same supplement and over the years I have taken that model and just made these massive overarching skills that allow you to do things like combining other skills together to somehow cover what you are doing in the name of the direction you are trying to run.  And I have to say that in a pulp setting like I have planned things like that really allow for mad scientists and for people who have no idea how something should work to say things like “Yeah I just picked up a little of this over time.”

Now then if your “magic” has some sort of power to it, like the Force or psychic powers you need more than a skill, you need to have people who use it. You might want to have a background for it. And if you are really over the top you could have an ultimate reason for it. I mean if you look into Babylon 5 you can see that they hint at but never clearly say that psychic powers are in many of the races in that setting because one elder race, the Vorlon, wanted to have a weapon against their enemy the Shadows. And so they did genetic tinkering all over the galaxy. A great many game engines support the use of something supernatural or preternatural or however you want to view the power.

Last thing you might want to think about is how many of these things should you mix together. I mean if you look at something like Star Wars, depending on your race, would depend on what you see as “magic”. I hate to use this example but if you take the (shuddering) Ewoks as an example. To them the Force and a lot of the high tech was all “magic”, but to most of the other races only the Force was “magic”. This is a difference in a game setting that can get you a lot of mileage in role playing. If you allow one player into a game with a character from an advanced race, to them everyone ohhing and ahhing over the tech is little more than a bumpkin or a hick. But even to them there is something that is still “magic”. And even in those cases you will find someone who ‘just has a knack for it’ and they really can change the dynamic.

To give you a personal example I was playing in a Star Wars game and as players we were allowed to make our own races. We had one player create a character that was quite strong in the force, but was not a Jedi. Their culture treated it differently and so he was always surprised by people treating the power with reverence and dividing everything into good and evil in response to the Force. Another player made a character that had a natural sense of technology, and even when she was exposed to something new she would just tinker with it for a moment and then make it work better. No formal education, no Force powers, just a natural talent that was really really helpful. While in the same group we had a formal Jedi, and a mechanic droid. It was very fun watching them banter back and forth about what could and could not be done. Each treating their opposite number as some kind of witch or heretic, or just a hick with no real knowledge what so ever who just needed to be educated.

So by now you have to be wondering what I intend to do in this setting.

My plan here is to actually do a mix. I want to have something that will stratify the setting. A reason why humans could be considered trash, that has nothing to do with the fact that humans are behind the rest of the setting in terms of technology. So I plan to use psychic powers. I am trying to see if I can come up with something that will explain the trait across multiple races with no physical similarities, but that one is going to be hard to pull off unless I can put a mutagenic element into multiple species DNA… hmmm, that might just work. Using the “magic to tier the society I can have a setting where if you do not have psychic powers you are not going to be a full citizen, and then if your race has low power levels you will be in the middle class. Judging by race this would allow them to have superior and lesser races, attitudes and all sorts of judgmental bull shit going on. Now we add technology to the mix too. If these racist races have an uplift policy then they might have something in place where taking a lesser race under your care allows you to treat them however you want until they get used to the modern society. And getting used to being a race without psychic powers and no native tech basically makes you slave labor and cannon fodder. Because in a setting like this you can be sure that somewhere out there a society like this has an enemy, and why would they use actual citizens as fighters when they can take entities that they see as little better than uncivilized animals and toss them into the war on their behalf. Ohh wait that sounds like an awesome meta plot.

Ok so lets put this in a brief for review…

  1. The sci-fi style will be pulp sci-fi. So things can get weird.
  2. Humans are trash. So at the very least they will be low class citizens, maybe worse.
  3. Players will not know how big the universe is, and I will sketch out a couple of places in advance but otherwise let the players drive things so the universe will become as big as it needs to be.
  4. Timeline is about 30 years in the future and there are older humans who remember ‘today’ as the good old days.
  5. There are many alien races but humans currently only know five.
  6. There are two “magics”, technology and psychic powers. Psychic powers are used to stratify the over reaching galactic society and technology is used as a tool and extra lever over ‘lesser’ races. And humanity is one of the very lesser races.

Ok so there is only one question left on my list. After that I will do a short write up of the setting I have in mind and you can see where it goes from there if you want to use it yourself or just use the questions to build your own setting.

Hope everyone out there is having fun, enjoying the holiday if you got one, and playing safe if you are in the mix for Black Friday.

Now gimme the dice, I have to make a saving throw against the siren song of left over pie.

2 Comments

Game Review: Villains and Vigilantes (G)

Welcome back readers. Anyone who knows me even halfway well knows of my love for all things superhero. My long term love of comic books and the worlds built in them. And this of course leads to superhero role playing games. The very first one that I played was the Marvel Super Hero RPG that was published by TSR back in the day. Next came Heroes Unlimited by Palladium. Then Champions by Hero Games/ICE. After those three I sort of picked up games all over the place. One of them was Villains and Vigilantes (V&V) by Fantasy Games Unlimited.

I was first exposed to V&V by Dragon Magazine. This was back in the 80’s when Dragon was not just a magazine that supported Dungeons and Dragons, but it also had articles that would support other game systems and game companies. I do not remember the issue number for the magazine but they had an article about powerful female characters in superhero settings. Marvel Super Hero got a bit about Phoenix, and for V&V they published a character called Maxima I believe. They gave her a great background and by reading over the stats I was interested in how the game mechanics worked. It would be a few years before I got my hands on a copy of the game itself. Now then for those who only know the modern online version of Dragon Magazine I suggest you look back at the old issues. There is a lot of interesting things for a lot of games that you can find there. Even in support of Steve Jackson Games Car Wars, Dragon magazine was the first place that had rules published for using tanks in the game… heh.

Now then while FGU claims on their web site that V&V is the first successful superhero RPG, I am not sure I can support that idea. V&V was first published in 1979, and did not see a lot of popularity (according to their wiki) until 1982. Meanwhile Superhero 2044 was published in 1977, making it the first superhero game that I know of. And when Champions was released in 1981 it sort of took things by storm if the distribution people I have talked with are to be believed. So I am not sure I can believe that it was the first successful superhero game. Also remember that the US is not the only place publishing role-playing games. MANY other countries publish games and I would love to get more of them. Especially things like Golden Heroes from the UK. There are also very very indie publications that may have only seen local distribution in a city, not even getting to a large audience. So the claim is tenuous that they have the first successful superhero RPG.

Now then even though I have doubts about the game being the first successful superhero RPG, I can say that it is very long lived. Even though it has been around since 1979, there are still new publications coming out for the game. And FGU is still soliciting for new things to come out. The only other game that I know that is still sporadically publishing is Heroes Unlimited. Champions has been on hiatus for the last several years due to, well lots of things. Marvel Superheroes has been licensed to other company and the original game engine is now running a completely different game. DC Heroes has been licensed to others and so on. It looks like Superhero 2044 is going to make a comeback, maybe, but it never had a lot of publications to support it.

Once I got the game in hand I quickly found it both very cool and very frustrating at the same time. On the frustrating side is the combat system. Instead of setting up skills the game engine uses the powers to govern combat. Making it harder or easier to fight based solely on the power you use. Defense is also governed the same way. So they made a table for it. Then you modify the table with other tables that govern experience and a few other things. Now then, to be honest, in most respects this really simplifies combat. However it makes it so generic that you will not be able to get much variety between characters with the same powers. On the positive side they had some really innovative ideas about things like character generation. You see in this game you are supposed to start with an honest assessment of yourself for your basic stats. That’s right this is one of the few games where you are your character. And one of the things that this means is that if YOU have a skill or a knowledge so does your CHARACTER. Brilliant really. When every other game system is warning players about the difference between what you know and what your character knows and the challenges of role-playing that difference, these guys just said shuck it and ran with the idea of you being your character. They do not kill the option of just randomly rolling stats, and they give options for it, but to cover skills they, well they dont really save to talk about taking on a profession and you can do those things. The second is experience. Now then with most level based advancement systems you are going to see very specific growth. In a point based system you have the option of doing whatever you want even if it does not make sense for the character. Well much like 3rd edition D&D and Pathfinder this game combines them. Once you start your character you select a mode of training. This training will give you advances when you level up. Every time you level up you can select a different type of training. They give a lot of suggestions but also have a little marker that says ‘Whatever’ (no, it literally says Whatever) because all of the training listed is suggested. You can come up with your own ideas and the GM can approve or not.

Now then please remember this review and my comments about the game are based on the 1982 Revised version of the game. There are newer editions and even alternate versions of the rules that were revised by other game companies during the life of this game. So if you know of alternates to the things I am talking about, that is cool. I know they are out there and I even have some of them, but this is where I got my start with the game and this is what I am reviewing.

Ok so background and flavor text in place. Lets take a look at the numbers I put on it.

Overall Fluff 2/5 – Other than the art by Jeff Dee, there is really very little you can call fluff in this game. There is no setting, there is no background. All that is up to you and the people you play with. I give it two stars because I really like Jeff’s artwork.

Overall Crunch 3/5 – I talked a bit about the rules above. One of the things that really caught me up in the game was that they also talked about the legal ramifications of superheroes. Citing actual laws and how they could be applied. Some might think of this as fluff, but I see it as a part of running the game.

Overall Mod 3/5 – This is a tricky one. You can mod within the rules, a little. But mostly if you want to mod it you need to get home brew and find ways to slip in changes that dont kill the system as it exists. Its not that easy really, but it can be done.

Overall Fun 4/5 – So with only twos and threes above how can I still call it a four for fun? Easy. In-spite of the challenges it is fairly easy to play and replay. It is one of the few games that tells you to play yourself and rewards you for it. It is inexpensive in a world of high priced game books and it lends itself to just about any super hero world you can imagine.

Total Score 12/20 – Ok so its only a 12 of 20 but it is still fun. I still like it and even have both digital and paper copies. Would I recommend it to others? Only on a limited basis. If you like supers and you enjoy the ideas above then yes, whole-heartedly. If you enjoy putting your own world into place and don’t need a background, then yes. If you want to play in a pre-made world or don’t have the time for building your own then no. So just like everything else I review, its going to come down to you and what you enjoy.

Ok so thats in the tank. 🙂 I will be back next week with more of… something. 🙂

Hope everyone out there is having a grand ole time and if you happen to be in the US and celebrate Thanksgiving or Native American Remembrance or whatever excuse you want to have family and friends over to binge on turkey and other foods then I hope you have a great time.

Now gimme the dice, I need to see if I can make a defense against feline mind control.

 

2 Comments

World Building 205

Welcome back to scifi world building. So far we have looked at four questions and got the following answers…

  1. The sci-fi style will be pulp sci-fi. So things can get weird.
  2. Humans are trash. So at the very least they will be low class citizens, maybe worse.
  3. Players will not know how big the universe is, and I will sketch out a couple of places in advance but otherwise let the players drive things so the universe will become as big as it needs to be.
  4. Timeline is about 30 years in the future and there are older humans who remember ‘today’ as the good old days.

The fifth question is “Other than humans how many races are present in the setting?”

When I first posted the question in the World Building 200a post I mentioned that there are a ton of options. Everything from no aliens to, well, all the aliens, can work in a setting. So you really need to consider this in the context of your other questions.

For the example I have been building you can see the following setting up.

  • Pulp setting – This is going to mean that just about anything is possible. We can see examples from everything that Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote and that H.P. Lovecraft created. You can get as alien as you want, but there will always be at least one race that ‘seems’ human. In the end they could be something completely different, but they will be able to pass for human most of the time.
  • Humans are Trash – So with this sort of thing you have to consider that there is at least one alien race. And that they have something that makes them seem more powerful than humans at the very least. When I read this though I think a lot about how humans have their own prejudice. How we quickly put certain ethnic groups, religions, sexual preferences, and just about any little reason we can find to stratify our world. Haves and have nots and everything in between based on the models that fit best in our little region of life. So why not have that on a huge scale. It fits the pulp model of taking something humans can relate to and making it writ large on the canvas of your words. (Sounds like poetic bull s#it I know)
  • Players will know a little bit of the universe – Ok so this right here gives me the ok to put whatever I want in the universe. Add new aliens whenever it suits me and just keep running. However I will have to have at least one at the start. I think at least three so players can see the stratification in things, and see that alien can be human like, and can be really really ALIEN.
  • We are only 30 years in the future – So this one does not have much impact on the number of aliens, but it has to do with what the humans will understand of alien tech and cultures. Someone born after the ‘event’ would likely know more culture and language  and be more comfortable with things alien than someone born before. So the impact here is during character creation and not world building.

So stumbling though all that I am thinking that I should actually go with five alien races. And that I should make about three of them playable races at the start of the game.

That decision tells me a few things. First is that I am planning on letting players play non-humans. That there will be other races that are ‘trash’ like humans. And that I have something in mind, even if I dont know what yet, that will allow other races to become playable over time. And now my list looks like this…

  1. The sci-fi style will be pulp sci-fi. So things can get weird.
  2. Humans are trash. So at the very least they will be low class citizens, maybe worse.
  3. Players will not know how big the universe is, and I will sketch out a couple of places in advance but otherwise let the players drive things so the universe will become as big as it needs to be.
  4. Timeline is about 30 years in the future and there are older humans who remember ‘today’ as the good old days.
  5. There are many alien races but humans currently only know five.

So you can really see how answering each question and keeping them all in mind when you answer the next and the one after that and so on, that things build. You dont have to have all the answers at once. I have been asked more than once if worlds spring full into my mind, and to be honest I usually have bits and pieces and then need to do a lot of the Q&A stuff to get to where I can really see the setting that I have been thinking about.

You will notice that I have not been asking questions about the state of the universe, or what is going on out there in the worlds. That is because those elements are the key note of the setting you are creating. I am just trying to help you put a place together that will be a good setting for you to play out whatever stories you want. I do have a specific campaign world planned for the example setting. And I will go over that in the last part of this series. Just to show how I brought all of these things together.

Ok well that should be enough rambling and trying to fill space in the blog for now.

So gimme the dice, I have to see if my reflexes are high enough to get Nerf darts away from cats.

Leave a comment

Gaming accessories… not really a review

Ok so this is sort of a rant sort of a review…

See I have been going to Half Price Books a lot, gotta keep eyes open for cool stuff ya know, and there has been an item in their little locked collectible cabinet that I have been thinking about picking up. Finally did it yesterday and found it was incomplete. Not the worst thing that could happen as it was mostly for the flashback value that I picked it up.

It was a set of trading cards from 1993. Supposedly a complete factory set. Missing about 30 cards but still not a bad grab. Now then you will notice that there is no link to a product or wiki page here. That is not on accident as these cards are not really mentioned in any of the posts that I have found. 1991, 92 and 93 saw these cards come out. The cards predate Magic The Gathering, and they are not cards that play a game on their own like MTG. Much like current products by companies like Piazo, they are there to supplement game play. Monsters, treasures, NPCs and more. All on cards so that you could whip them out and show your players what the hell was going on the game without relying on miniatures or props.

To be honest I have loved this idea for a long time. When R Talsorian Games produced the Dream Park RPG in 1992 they included punch-out cards in the main game and in the supplements that would allow you to do the same thing. Strangely though when Piazo started doing them in the 2000’s people reacted like it was a totally new idea. Now then I will admit that the Piazo art team usually put out higher quality art and used a more modern card stock for their materials, but it was far from new.

There are a lot of things that will help make games a little more visual and help people get more into the game, but I really think the trading card idea is something that games could use… well… forever. Even in the market today with all the digital maps and encounters that are on the market, it can be nice to have something like these on hand so that you can hand players a prop for the super special equipment they found, or to slip them a little more information on an ally they can call on.

If I have to put a review score to tools like this I would rate them as follows…

Fluff 5/5 – It adds color and flavor to the game no mater what you are doing.

Crunch 2/5 – Not a lot of space so some important things can get missed.

Mod 4/5 – Most of these kinds of tools come with blank cards so you can make up anything you might need.

Fun 5/5 – Makes it easier to prep for a game, and lets the GM and the players have something on hand to add to the environment. Actually ran a game with these back before 2000 where players would actually try to steal the cards to take important items for themselves. Got messy when someone stole an ally card instead of the equipment they wanted.

Total score 16/20 – Something that I highly recommend you look into using.

Seriously these things are fun to use and I really suggest looking into them for yourself. However before you go lipping off that something is a new and unique idea, check into it. And if you are a seller of used items, look over the damned cards and make sure you are selling a complete set. No one likes to get home and find things missing, just take a few minutes to go through them… they are numbered rather obviously.

Ok so time to peace out and enjoy the extra hour of the day… yay for daylight savings time.

Now gimme the dice, I need to make a reflex save against leaping cats.

 

1 Comment

World Building 204 – Suplimental

So it was pointed out to me that I forgot a really important part about setting up the timeline for the story. It was kind of reflexive for me but might not have been obvious for everyone else.

There is a common trope in sci-fi that if the jump to other worlds or the change to something more technologically advanced happens during the current recorded history, then there will be an Event. This is the day everything changes. Whether it is an invasion by aliens, the invention of a faster than light means of travel, the ascension of AI, or that big meteor that everyone worries about ending the world. There comes a point that everyone remembers as the day everything changed.

Now then the further you go from the event the more it goes from being historical, and then into mythical and eventually will be completely forgotten. In Star Trek it was the first use of a warp engine by humans. In Starship Troopers it was the first encounter with the Bugs. In Robotech/Macross it was the crash of the SDF-1 into Earth. When you look at worlds like Star Wars, and even Fading Suns, the Event is so far back in history that it is at best a historical footnote if it is not completely forgotten.

The big Event (note that I do capitalize it to stress its importance) can be positive, it can be negative, but it is never really seen as neutral. At least not initially. If you get to the point where it is a historical footnote, or a myth, then many will see it as neutral or a parable. But the closer you are, historically, to the Event, the more emotions will be tied to it. You can see examples of that in some of the versions of Star Trek. If you see the original series or Next Generation the creation of the warp drive and the impact of its development is just a historical footnote. But if you look at the series Enterprise you see a lot of people tied to the first engine, the first encounter with an alien race, and the resentment that the alien race will not help bootstrap them to the next level of tech.

So in a setting with a human focus, you need to consider your timeline and your distance from your Event.

I had been thinking about my Event when I decided to make the human race a trash culture. I wanted to know what might cause that, and then I tied it into my timeline so that I could keep emotions high about it. Because it is not just a historical footnote, it is a part of recent history.

Now then the funny thing is you can get away without an Event as well. You just have to be able to describe it. And that can be an Event all its own. Such as why do none of the humans on Earth remember the year 2040 even though it is 2045 and why in their memories of 2039 are there no aliens, but in 2041 we work for them. What the hell happened in 2040, and what could affect billions of people all at once? So now your lack of Event has become not only an Event but a major plot point and gives you a lot of time to sort it out as you begin play. Personally I dont mind single character amnesia but a whole world missing a year, that might be a bit too much for me to have fun with.

So when you are asking question 4 on the list and trying to decide just how far from modern day you are going to have your setting. Make sure you also look into your distance from your Event as well. If it is just a footnote in history or if it is a driving element in how you are pushing things forward. It is a key part of your timeline.

And even though I put out an Event idea dont be afraid to experiment and see if you might want a bunch of smaller events that tie together, or if maybe you just see things as a long term evolution. Or some combination.

And just like I said about myself the Event is not something that is really tied to any one of the questions. It can have an impact on many of them. So dont worry about having it in mind specifically at any given time, just remember the impact it will have in the world you are building. Your timeline will tell you how much emotional impact it has on the characters in the setting.

Ok thats it for today, short post I know…

Now gimme the dice, I have to try to make a saving throw vs emotional blackmail by a cat.

Game on folks 🙂

2 Comments

World Building 204

So yes todays post is going to be looking at another one of the world building questions. However before I get there someone asked me why I had gone from putting links to specific game websites, movies or books to using  almost all wiki pages. The answer to that is easy. The answer is that wiki has a ton of info on it and a ton of links to other associated websites for many of their topics. I actually feel like I am giving people more resources by connecting them to wiki and letting them roam than by dropping them into a specific companies marketing tool.

So as a quick recap on the real topic of the post…

  1. The sci-fi style will be pulp sci-fi. So things can get weird.
  2. Humans are trash. So at the very least they will be low class citizens, maybe worse.
  3. Players will not know how big the universe is, and I will sketch out a couple of places in advance but otherwise let the players drive things so the universe will become as big as it needs to be.

Question number four is ‘How far from today is this happening?’

So there are a lot of elements to this question, but in the end they break down to one really interesting idea. How much of the world will players be able to recognize based on what they currently know? If you look at things like Star Wars and Star Trek, you get an idea of what I am talking about. In both of them the relationships between people and some of their roles in life, like being a mechanic or a pilot or a soldier, are really all that you can say is familiar. The languages and technology are all things we can dream about and wish for, but they are not things we can just go to the store and pick up. So they seem kinda fantastical. If you look at a sci-fi like Stranger Things, all of the main things that the characters can do is something that you can work with right now, except for the psychic powers and the fantastical inter dimensional horror/tech bits. But since Stranger Things is actually set to be in the 80’s then the tech does not seem completely far fetched. If you look at RPG’s you end up with some of the same stuff. In Fading Suns the biggest tech changes are in the star ships and some of the guns. Even though it is far future it has a fantasy kind of feel to most of it as society is falling backwards. Space 1889 had that feeling that this all would make for a great pulp novel setting or even steampunk. That all stemmed from most of the technology being from our past, but tricked out with a bit of sci-fi magic. But when you look at things like the Star Wars rpg’s no mater what you do you are still not going to know how the X-wing’s engines work. So you just have to suspend your disbelief and run with it.

Since we are looking at all of these questions from the human centered position, we also have to look at what NPCs or even the characters will be ‘remembering’ about the past. I mean will there be flashbacks to happy people with iPhones fighting over who has the best apps? People talking about the first electric cars to be mass produced? Or would things like that be ancient history? I mean if you think about it, right now there are people who have never seen a corded phone except in pictures on Facebook. Twenty years from now personal communications may have changed so much that even posting pics on Facebook of a corded phone will seem so antiquated that no one would understand even what Facebook was.

Another aspect of that is how much history do you want to invent. Unless you take the easy way out and put in a few world wars that wipe out most of the historical time lines and folks just dont remember, you are going to have to explain what the hell happened between now, and whenever your story gets going. And not everyone has a great staff of writers like the folks who created Shadowrun. I mean when they published the first core rule book they had a very concise history that took them up to 2050 when the game started. It hit on politics, technology, social movements and a ton of other things to give you a really deep feel for how we got to that point. That takes time, effort and a great attention to detail because you know there are going to be people who try and rip something like that apart, just because they can.

The last aspect that you have to think about is, just how much wonder do you want the characters to have? This is different from the players knowledge. I mean if you think about it from a movie stand point lets go to things like say The Last Starfighter or The Flight of the Navigator. Here you have characters with a totally one world mindset and they get tossed into something far more vast than themselves. Compared to say Star Wars where even the most extreme worlds or tools are just every day things.

Here comes the hard part. Do you want the characters and the players to have the same experience? Are they both going to be in a sense of wonder, dealing with the familiar, jaded because they have seen it all before, or wondering if they might be able to get college credits for studying history? Or will the player see things one way and the character sees them another? This is why you need to know how far things are from today.

My personal rule is that if you can keep things inside a thirty year gap then everything will be familiar in the terms of the world. It will be all of the alien/strange/mystical whatever stuff that you are adding to make it sci-fi that will impact both the players and the characters. You get outside of that window and unless you have players that are science/history/engineering/anthropology (depending on which way you go be it future or past) buffs then you will start to get a separation from the players and their characters. Either way can be a good thing. Both have advantages and disadvantages. The closer you keep things to now the more times you will have to be careful of modern facts and media that players will likely be aware of. The more you space things out the more you can play with the development of, well everything.

So how do I tie this into the decisions I have already made?

  • The sci-fi style will be pulp sci-fi. So things can get weird.
    • This is not going to really impact how far we are from now. This will be more of a style thing.
  • Humans are trash. So at the very least they will be low class citizens, maybe worse.
    • Ok so human characters will not have access to the best of things. That means that they are going to have a sense of wonder already when they run into the really cool stuff. And maybe a sense that they should have it too. Non human characters are going to be more jaded, and possibly see human things in a ‘retro’ kind of light.
  • Players will not know how big the universe is, and I will sketch out a couple of places in advance but otherwise let the players drive things so the universe will become as big as it needs to be.
    • Players are going to have a sense of wonder, and so are the characters unless they come from a non human culture. And that sort of interaction will lead to some very interesting conversations.

Alright, I know that I want humans to be the main race in this setting. That actually jumps ahead a little bit but I am rather sure you had already figured that out. I don’t want to take the world war history removal option, and I want that sense of discovery to be something that the players will share with their characters. Help drive for a little better role play I think.

So I am going to try and keep things in that thirty year gap. Since I like the idea of having some crusty humans who want to remember the old days I think that thirty years in the future will be the best bet. So I am going to be looking at 2048 and I need to figure out what happened in that time to fill in all three of the above questions.

So now we have

  1. The sci-fi style will be pulp sci-fi. So things can get weird.
  2. Humans are trash. So at the very least they will be low class citizens, maybe worse.
  3. Players will not know how big the universe is, and I will sketch out a couple of places in advance but otherwise let the players drive things so the universe will become as big as it needs to be.
  4. Timeline is about 30 years in the future and there are older humans who remember ‘today’ as the good old days.

All righty then. Coming soon we have a look at question 5, how many races and how diverse. Another review. And likely another rant or three. Just to give you an idea of what is out there.

I hope folks are finding this all very entertaining, and now gimme the dice, I have to go and check on the cats vs human reaction table. Is there any use in actually speaking to cats or do they just have such a negative reaction modifier that they will say screw you no mater what.

Have fun and play nice folks.

Leave a comment