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Welcome to another round of Tales from the Game Table
Todays episode is brought to you by a madman and the world of Dark Sun.
The madman was playing a Half Giant (and I hate Wikipedia for this because Goliaths are not Half Giants but they tie them together anyway in the Dark Sun article) whos character class was Gladiator. So some may recall I did a review on the original Dark Sun setting for AD&D. Some may remember the comment of “Lets go back to Ravenloft where its safe.” Well the madman in question had a hand in getting that phrase uttered.
Short series of fights had left the characters low on weapons. Just reaching for anything they could to continue the fight.
Half Giant picks up a fallen elven foe. Please note that I said fallen, not dead…
“How much damage would I do if I hit someone with the elf?”
Ummmmmmm *runs quick calculations in head* “About 1d10 to both your foe and the elf.”
“Ok so since a Gladiator is proficient in every weapon, and paired weapons, what would happen if I used two?”
“Well there are five of them here, tie em up a bit stuff em into a sack and when they break use another one.”
“So you are telling me you want to used paired elves to keep fighting?”
“Cheaper than trying to buy weapons when on the run.”
So if you have not read the links, Half giants are 10-12 feet tall, and weigh up to half a ton. And in the 2nd edition of AD&D a 20 strength was in the giant and demigod range… so lifting a couple of 100 pound six foot tall elves was not really out of the question.
“Ok but you will have to deal with the rep you get with the elves. And I am going to give you a penalty until you put a proficiency in Elf for weapons since they are not normally a weapon.”
“Lets do this!”
There is a level of creativity and depravity in that moment that had me thinking that we were in a very wrong place. And it was just a little later that someone uttered the “Lets go back to Ravenloft where its safe.” statement.
After that he came up with other ideas like since halflings in Dark Sun are mostly feral cannibals (Yeah suck on that Frodo, I mean… ummm… hmmm that sounds worse when I read it now but I think the humor factor will let it survive.) that he could tie two of them together at the feet and that they could bit and claw at enemies as he used them as Halfing Nunchucks. (Half chucks, nunlings, half nuns?) Surprisingly enough the only player in the group playing a halfling likes the idea (food on the fly) and offers to try and convince other halflings to sign up for the job.
This happened quite some time ago, but it is one of those moments that forever left me with the feeling that i should never underestimate the creativity, depravity, or stupidity of players. (BTW I was playing a Thri-Kreen Ranger since no one would let me play a monk, and since the Thri Kreen hunt and eat elves, as a character I was very supportive of the paired elf useage. Even offered to help with some of the tying up. Regardless of what I was feeling as a player. Ahhhhh the heck with it even as a player I thought it was kind of a cool idea.)
Ok so everyone needs to stew on that for a while…
Gimme the dice, I need to know what sort of strength it would take to wield paired half giants…
Play safe, have fun and remember that party members are not to be used as weapons without their consent. NPCs are up for grabs.
Posted in Uncategorized on August 11, 2019
Happy weekend to ya readers
So today’s review is going back to a publisher that I have loved for a long time, and the mecha game that they came up with ages ago that still rocks. Mekton Zeta.
So back in the early 80’s (1984) R Talsorian … (yeah they have been around that long… what you think the Cyberpunk 2020 game they are turning into Cyberpunk 2077 and the new tabletop RPG Cyberpunk Red that was just premiered at Gen Con was something that was newer? Get some history in ya) … came up with an RPG to bring together all the things they had seen in Gundam (started 1979), Macross [aka Robotech] (started 1982) and other anime that have young people piloting giant robots into wars that are epic in scale in space.
The original Mekton products stacked up into several books but the main ones were Mekton, Mekton II, and Roadstriker.
In 1994 the books needed an update and so we got Mekton Zeta. The source of this review.
So much like the way the publisher set up things for Cyberpunk, character backgrounds, point based builds, and a simple game mechanic that used only d10 and d6 dice, they used the same structure for Mekton. The combat system was set up to be a little simpler than the infamous FNFF (Friday Night Fire Fight) system that was used in Cyberpunk, but if you wanted the added detail you could add it in with no problem at all since the overall mechanic was the same for the game engine.
One of the things that made Mekton so much fun is that the mechs themselves are in scale to their human counterparts. In a manner much like how Palladium used Mega Damage to scale their Robotech (1986) game up for large mecha, Mekton just added a scale factor. If you are not at the right scale or above you cannot affect your target. And the level of detail that they put into mech building made it feel more like you were taking in all the detail needed to build a mech in Battletech (1984).
Now then while the main mechanics of mech building in Mekton have stayed relatively the same from Mekton to Mekton Zeta, the detail level increased immensely. Allowing you to refine your builds over and over again so you can get that anime feeling you always wanted.
And of course your characters have the same sort of advantages. The background generation system become more and more in-depth as the generations increased. And sometime in-between Mekton and Mekton Zeta they even added a primary world and story that influenced character backgrounds.
Now then if you got all thrilled thinking this main book also has the materials for doing transforming mecha like the Valkyrie you are going to be a little disappointed. Just like how they added that mechanic in Roadstriker for the original game they added it into the Mekton Zeta Plus added book. Which also added more things like alien origins for characters, psychic powers and a few other things to tweak mechs and characters. All positive adds I have to say from a personal perspective. But that is not to say that mecha are not awesome in the main book alone.
One of the things that the whole set up gives me is the feel overall of what might happen if you took Macross and mixed it with Gundam. The game engine plays quick and easy. And as with most games building a character is the hardest part of the game. But the level of detail you can put into that character is awesome. I love the fact that you can randomly role up a geek character who also happened to be in bomb disposal for the police and spent some time in deep space… and it makes SENSE! Ok so character creation is actually the second hardest thing in the game… building custom mechs are the hardest. But they give you enough material to play with in the main book that you can get all sorts of standard mechs into play and then mod the crud out of them to help you learn how to build one and then build your own dream machine later. Actually you never have to build a custom mech, you can just use published ones if you like. I however enjoy building the mechs just to see what I can come up with. So I am a bit biased on the positive side there.
I will say that the one thing the game struggles with is how to tie it all together in the world they have created. If you have previously published books like Mekton Empire it becomes kind of obvious, or if you happen to get Starblade Battalion and some of the other Mekton Zeta books you get the full serving of how the world works. But in the core book its is really much easier if you just take the mechs provided and build your own world. They try, they really do, but it is just not something that comes together easily for someone new to the product.
So what do I think of this by the numbers?
Overall Fluff 4/5 – The art and story elements are all top notch anime. If they tied the story parts together better for a more complete and playable world I would not hesitate to put this at a 5/5. There are even some custom blowouts of technical parts to help you get an idea about construction of some of the parts. Not many but enough to whet your appetite.
Overall Crunch 4/5 – Ok so the reason I cant give this a 5/5 is because of the layout of the crunch more than anything. R Talsorian learned a lot from their previous publications and tried to add foot notes and guide points to help you find the rules they were talking about but they had a number of editing errors that took you to the wrong point or wrong rule. Not a fatal flaw by any means but distracting and a little frustrating if you are in hurry.
Overall Mod 5/5 – Ok so this is one of those places where R Talsorian shines. You can mod the ever living snot out of this game (and yes no mater what you think snot does live forever). You can quite quickly tie it into Cyberpunk. If you are a fan of Fuzion (the combination of R Talsorian’s Interlock system and the Hero system) you can steal things from their Votoms and Bubble Gum Crisis books, and if you are a fan of CyberFang (the home brew [Published in White Wolf magazine] combination of the original World of Darkness and Cyberpunk 2020 you can use that as a translator to bring vampires and werewolves into your mech game. I cant recommend trying to bring in mages though… its suuuuper hard to get that to cross over… strangely changelings come over fairly smootly and make for some rather offbeat mech pilots.
Overall Fun 4/5 – Ok so the faster a game plays, and the easier the rules the more fun I can have with it. However I also need to find folks willing to play in the system. And that is where this one hits a bump in the road. I can count on one hand the number of times I have been able to get a group together for this game engine. Even though I have had a ton of players for Cyberpunk, Robotech, and Battletech. I dont know why it is so hard to get players together for this game… but I pity all the folks who have passed on it.
Total Score 17/20 – So overall this game gets a pretty high score. Even with the bumps I mention and the low number of times I have had the chance to play. I have to rate this high and say I would play it again in a heartbeat. I even have a couple of custom mechs and characters ready to go.
Ok so that is my overall view of this one. As always think for your self. Check it out, see if you like it and if not tell me I am off my rocker and should just shut it. I will of course say you are totally entitled to your thoughts and I would prefer you to just chill and then go about my day, but whatever it takes ya know. 🙂
All right so that is it… and yeah this one is early again. My moms birthday is tomorrow. Gotta make sure I have time for her on her special day.
So gimme the dice, I need to find out just how disconnected a background I can create for a 12 year old character… seriously, it can get strange…
Play on and play hard folks.
Ok so this is a little under a day early, but the wife and I have plans tomorrow so I figured I would get this up tonight instead of dragging things into a rush in the morning.
If you took a look at the comments from my friend Xen a few posts back we had started talking about communication and the way some of these things end up resulting in your entire campaign being #$%^ed up.
Yeah the world goes boom. Players go boom. GM goes boom.
So Xen suggested I use that as an article header, and ya know, he was right.
So this may be an ongoing, may not. But for the moment lets take a look at the two major categories of problems that cause a campaign to get completely @#$%ed.
- Your Game Master #$%@ed up.
- Your Players @#$%ed up and the GM let them.
Hmmmm, looks like a lot of responsibility ends up on the GM no mater what. I mean sure the players can go ahead and hit the big red button…
But in the end it is the GM who took the risk of putting it in the game hoping that his players would not go all cartoon happy and rush to see who could trigger it first.
The same sort of thing goes with all the potential magic items that could be out there that could completely destroy everything…
Sigh… swords… why does it always have to be swords…
Anyway, what I am going on about here are things that go well beyond derailing a campaign, and lead to the destruction of the game world. Or the nation that your game is being played in. Or something else of that Armageddon level, world ending level sort of thing. There is also the aspect that a player or GM may use language/terms/settings/thoughts that are offensive or threatening to players. Or that players may use the same things to have the same impact to each other or the GM. There are a lot of ways from game balance, story use, rail-roading, and interpersonal communication that can @#$% up a campaign.
Maybe I should re think this a little and take a look at the levels of @#$%ing up a campaign… hmmm
- A player is allowed to play a character that does not fit the campaign
- The players want to do something other than the story you have prepped.
- The game has become slightly unbalanced / A single player has become offended
- The players manage to use an unusual means of accomplishing a mission that was completely unforeseen
- The players manage to sidestep a major portion of the story
- The game has become significantly unbalanced / The GM has become offended
- Ok so one side or the other in this story sneezes and the other falls down dead / Players realize they are being rail -roaded and the GM wont listen
- A chain of events has been allowed to take place that has resulted in the destruction of the campaigns primary city/village/dungeon
- A chain of events has been allowed to take place that has resulted in the destruction of the campaigns primary nation/continent / All of the players have been offended
- A chain of events has been allowed to take place that has resulted in the destruction of the campaigns primary world/dimension
- Someone brought foods to the game that the GM is allergic to and they will not be able to game because of the need for hospital time and they will never trust the players again not to threaten their life for something even so simple as an extra 50′ of rope. Other less savory tales of assault or physical action taken by players against each other (and yes that includes GMs when I say players there)
Yeah ok so that dial goes to Eleven.
No not really to her but I love the show and I had not put a link into the page yet so I thought I would get a two fer… heh
That is much better… and the right reference…
So yeah. I have heard all those things used as reasons why a campaign is completely @#$%ed. Heck I have uttered it myself more than once for more than one of the reasons on that dial. But to be honest I really dont feel like anything on that dial less than an eight is really a reason to say the game is over and we need to think about something else to do with our time. If the players and the GM are willing to talk things over and take a few risks, then you can recover from pretty much anything on that list as long as you dont crank it up to 11.
Sometimes a fix might mean a change in the story. It might take a series of apologies and taking a new approach to things. There is also resetting game balance. A games setting might need to change worlds. But there is no way a game should survive intact if assault or other physical interactions that are non-consensual have happened. That last one there is when the dial hits eleven and you need to get at least one person out of the group and start up something else so the game session itself does not become a trigger but a means of support and family for the person or people who were harmed.
So I know I dropped some humor in here, and there are parts of this that are more serious than others. And because of that combination, as I do not want to be insensitive, but I also do not want to push a topic to the point where I @#$% up an article I am going to pull the plug here for a moment. I may come back to the topic and pick a spot on the dial to make suggestions on how to fix the situation, may not… we shall see.
Ok so I am out… gimme the dice, I need to see if I can come up with a functional D11.
Keep gaming keep safe and keep having fun out there all of ya.
Posted in Uncategorized on July 28, 2019
Been a while since I did a game review so here is one of the classics.
Ages ago I did a review on the Middle Earth Role Playing game, by Iron Crown Enterprises, which was a derivative of the Rolemaster rpg. The most recent edition of Rolemaster that I have been able to find is shown in the picture above. Considering that I.C.E. was bought out, changed hands and its properties are now in the hands of another company, Guild Companion Publications, it can be a little hard to remember that the whole game engine started out as a way to add critical hit tables to D&D.
Rolemaster has a long history as both being an exceptional game, and being a system that should have been called Rule Master. The first one is very much deserved, and the second one, I can see that being used to deter new players or to make sure they want to play and are not just there to rubberneck.
As to the history itself there have been a number of editions of Rolemaster. As you can see in the images below.
However while multiple editions have been created the core mechanics have stayed the same.
One of the reasons the game has had a reputation as being Rule Master is because of the arrangement of the rules overall. I mean if you take a look at one of the rare occasions when a box set was issued you can see a little bit of the problem…
Character Law covers character generation, but you need Spell Law to see how the magic system really works and you need Arms and Claw Law to fight effectively. Top that off with the fact that it will take a new player several hours on average to create a character it can seem really daunting. I mean just look at this character sheet.
There is a lot of information to take in there. And it looks kind of intimidating for someone who has never seen it before. However once you figure it out it is not all that bad. Remember I said that a first time through could take a player several hours, well the second time through should take a thirty minutes tops. Unless of course its been years since you played then you would need to give yourself a chance to go over it all again.
This review is focusing on Character Law. So diving into it…
This is one of the first games I played that your background and growing up really had an impact on what your character developed into. You roll up your stats and then start assigning points from race, background, apprenticeship, and career into their appropriate slots on the sheet. And guess what, they all use the same kinds of slots so it makes it easy to keep track of. All of the combined factors end up giving you a percentage score for actions and then there you go. Percentages all over the place. You even end up starting with a kit of gear and a bonus of some kind that might be an item or a skill boost, or with some backgrounds a combination of that and other things.
Over the years there have individuals that have set up spreadsheets and even Java programs to handle character generation to take the process down to however long it takes you to make a decision.
One of the things that I loved in the first edition of this game was that the designers had comments in the skills section to say that, yeah you can have more skills, mechanic stays the same, add whatever you want. And that attitude lead to players and GMs reaching out and letting them know that they had created spells, skills and all sorts of other things that worked their way into Rolemaster Companion books. As time went on a lot of that material ended up going into new editions of the main three books. So they were always about evolving the game.
Now then even though your characters roll for stats, and then you assign skill points this is a level based system. So you get your profession and then you rock that to get your build. Now the one thing that I have not seen replicated in other game engines that use levels is the fact that spells are treated like a skill. So does that mean that your bare bones fighter can cast spells? Yesssssss in-deedy. It is not as easy for them to get spells as it is for a wizard. And their spell list options are much more limited. But yeah, your big bad burly barbarian thug, can cast spells if you dedicate the points to it. Can your wizard learn to use a sword or sneak like a thief? Yuuuup. Again due to their profession they will have to put more points into it to rank up, but you can totally do it. Truth be told, until D&D 3.0 I thought that this was going to be the ultimate in the idea of multi-classing.
So before I ramble in every direction possible let me put a score to this
Overall Fluff 1/5 – The only fluff here is a little sketch art and whatever background you bring for your characters. The game engine is world agnostic so you need to invent cultures for the races and reasons for the backgrounds unless you buy an added world.
Overall Crunch 5/5 – The rules are solid. It is different enough that it takes a little time to get it down but it is not that much really. Add all this stuff up and then roll under that number. Get a critical hit and roll a 66 or really high. Annnnnd you are done.
Overall Mod 4/5 – The vein of ‘of course we didnt create everything, so do what ya need to’ is still in the game engine. Depending on the flavor you want to bring to the game you will either have to mod or can mod anything your heart desires. So your character can really be what you want it to be.
Overall Fun 3/5 – Ok so putting this at a 3/5 may seem a little off considering how much I like it. But this is for this one book. Ok so by itself it is only a third of the game engine. You can have a blast with it creating very unique and well structured characters. But until you add the other two books for the core you are going no where else. You cant even define your characters starting spells.
Total Score 13/20 – Not the best score ever by any means. And the amount of fun I have talking about this game may make you think that I messed this up. But with the low fluff and needing the other two books to really have the best levels of fun that you can, it really makes sense. Well to me anyways.
Ok so thats it for now. Play hard, play often and have fun.
So gimme the dice, I need to get a random background for a half ogre thief with odious personal habits like eating mice when dining with royalty.
I do plan on getting to another game review next week. But this popped up on my radar and I wanted to chat about it for a little bit.
Just about everyone has heard about Kickstarter and some of the variants that had popped up in order to establish not only if a product has value, but to enable publishers and artists to raise capital without issuing stock or taking out a bank loan. It is a great idea really. And as long as everyone knows that they are making an investment, just like playing the stock market, and that you stand a chance of loosing everything you have put in, you will be ok.
It wasnt always like that though. Years ago the terms of service in Kickstarter were that if you put money in you got something. And if the person starting the kickstarter could not get you what you had put money in for then you needed to get something else. There were a lot of things that happened that changed that but one will forever stick in my mind. Palladium Books and their Robotech RPG Tactics. They have been raked over the coals for this by thousands of people so I am only going to highlight. They raised almost 1.5 million dollars to get this game off the ground, and in the end they fulfilled about 30% of what they promised on. Their communication was poor and they did not monitor their own Kickstarter page well to respond to concerns and questions. Basically they did everything they could wrong and pissed off tons of fans. I have a feeling this contributed to them loosing the license for Robotech but no one has ever said in a concrete manner that this is true.
So lets talk about someone that is doing it right.
Right now there is a kickstarter going on for BattleTech Clan Invasion by Catalyst Games. Now then for those of you who chase my links you are going to notice that I actually put a link in for the kickstarter. I dont do that sort of thing often. In this case I think it is the right thing to do. The reason is the same sort of fan outpouring is happening with this BattleTech kickstarter that happened with Robotech. The initial funding goal of 30k was hit in under seven minutes. At the moment that I am typing this there are 27 days to go and they have hit over 830k. They have been adding stretch goal after stretch goal to the kickstarter. And it just keeps going. So watching this to see if Catalyst can pull off something that shredded another publishers reputation and fanbase will be interesting.
Some of the key differences you can see right from the git go…
- Catalyst made sure right off the bat that they told everyone that as the stretch goals mounted they may need more time to manufacture everything. That they would need to ship in waves. And that there was no way they could estimate shipping before they even knew what the total volume of materials would be in the main box, let alone the add ins.
- Catalyst made sure that their estimated shipping dates were in the future. That little estimated date under the listing for each pledge level… yeah that one… I have been so ready to pledge to kickstarters and seen a estimated ship date of a month out and then reached out to the publisher only to be told that no that is not the ship date, and when I send them a screen shot of their kickstarter they freak.
- Catalyst is making most of their stretch goals really minor overall. yes some of them add in a good number of added miniatures. But most of them are adding copies of digital fiction. PDF files of maps. Backgrounds of art. A pair of dice. These are not huge outputs of effort or time in most cases as many of the digital materials already exist. And having previously set the expectation that shipping dates can change and that they would need to ship in waves, the larger stretch goals do not seem so challenging.
- Catalyst is making an effort to make multiple updates a day on their website, on social media and in the kickstarter itself about how the stretch goals are impacting what they are doing, and they are so appreciative of the fans that they cannot stop thanking them. If they maintain even a semblance of that level of communication when the funds have been raised, they will put the breaks on so many potential problems.
They are currently giving the impression that they have learned well from the mistakes of others. Now we just need to see if they follow through. I honestly recommend taking a look at this kickstarter, even if you have no interest in the game, or no desire to support the effort. Partly to see how I feel a large kickstarter effort should be run. The simple truth is that even though there seems to be a large difference already between Catalyst and the Palladium kickstarters there is no way of telling if the positives will stay, or if this may be another game companies chance to fall in the eyes of their fans and supporters. So yeah… drama 😉 It may be like a soap opera with tactical mecha miniatures… so does that make it an anime….
Anyway… as usual think for yourself, discover for your self and have fun out there folks…
Now gimme the dice, I need to see how many heat sinks I can sink in synch… sink… 😛
Posted in Uncategorized on July 14, 2019
Hey there readers
So in going over some older materials I ran into some concepts in gaming that I think it might be fun to see more of. AKA the battle of wits, damaging repartee, the verbal @#$%& slap that puts your foe so far down that their reputation, or maybe even their health is destroyed by the power of your words.
Now then wayyyy back in Dragon Magazine #60 ….
..there was a character class published called the Jester. It was updated and changed for D&D 3.5 in the Dragon Compendium…
…however the class was changed it still had one goal. And that was to act much like a Bard, but with a focus on wit and antics that could be distracting. Some of their special abilities could actually turn their words into weapons (so to speak) and cause the jokes and barbs they tossed to cause physical damage or require saving throws.
Now then Hero Games actually published something along a similar vein in their Adventurers Club Quarterly Magazine #27.
An article on the power or Repartee. How to build powers that represent the use of words in high society to damage reputations and destroy a persons self confidence. Using the model though it is easy to see tons of ways to modify this into a power that causes physical damage too.
Now then I also know that games like Toon and Tales from the Floating Vagabond have elements like this. But those games are set to be very comedic in tone. They are intended to be light hearted and make everything feel like a joke if at all possible.
What I am interested in knowing dear readers is how you would put something like this into a more serious game? The potential antics of the Jester from D&D can be comedic, but the words can also have an insidious impact. Jokes can kill. Is this the moment someone grabs the gaming materials at hand and makes a Jester for Joker and an urban Ranger/Monk for Batman and things get out of hand? Maybe.
With the Hero Games materials they built up a framework so that your repartee can drain the will of others, or destroy reputations, with a few well placed words. They even show you how to use a power add on called Damage Shield to help create a character that is always ready, or just witty enough, to always have a comeback on hand. The immediate impact seems more mature and more serious. But it can still easily be taken for comedy.
I do like the Hero Games version because you can take that model down to a level where you can use it to simulate the power of bullying on someone else. If you drain someone low enough in regards to a stat like Ego, or Intelligence, you may have the chance to kill someone. Or if you put it as physical damage with a delayed effect that would be when someone hears everything and goes home and hurts themselves.
I dont want to make this a completely dark post by focusing on the power of words and quips to hurt. Because the opposite is also true. Words can invigorate. A few well chosen words can inspire, heal hearts, and give someone the opportunity to go home and make things better for someone else.
And any of these, when played seriously can also be played for laughs. Both by the players and in the game worlds they are in. So really we need to look for a mechanic that is very versatile. Something that can have both positive and negative impacts. Something that can heal or harm depending on the words you choose. Something that can be very serious and yet can also be played for comedy. It is also going to need to be something that is not just offensive. I mean how many times have you seen something go down where one person tosses an insult or a quip and another just completely turns it around and so the person tossing the insult has it slapped back into them like some form of verbal Judo. Or maybe you can see a situation where a number of people team up and lay on insult after insult or complement after compliment and things just build and build. We should really take into account how to defend against it too… I mean I know some folks who are just not fast enough on the uptake to understand a joke. I also know people to whom social standing means nothing. Would they be immune?
So what I am asking readers is how would you do it? Would you set up a class? Maybe make it a feat? Would you build a power point structure? Would you make it a standard skill in the game engine you use so that everyone could have it? Can you get magic or tech armor to stop it?
I had a couple of ideas for modern versions… like having Snopes on your phone so you can say “Lets fact check that should we?” and get an immediate bonus to counter. Being so far outside a culture that the comments dont mater. And a few others.
So tell me… how would you do it?
Now gimme the dice I need to roll up a comeback…
So my friend Dan over at Dan on Games has asked me the following in the requests page…
“Here’s a question I’d like to hear your thoughts on: with the incredible popularity of video games now how do you feel that’s affected tabletop RPGs? I’m totally out of the tabletop scene so I don’t have any idea. Are people more power game-y/dungeon crawly/Diablo-ish nowadays, or are there still good role-players out there? (Not that those are mutually exclusive but you know what I mean)”
It is a good question but, I think it bears a little elaboration. Just so that readers know you can find a summary statement near the end of the post. Very much a TLDR, cause I ramble. I think that video games overall have had an impact on table top RPG players and publishing. However the specific types of impact vary from gamer to gamer and their experience with what types of video games.
The simplest answer to Dan’s question is that there are still good role-players out there. But just as there is a difference with what makes a role-player ‘good’ there is a difference in expectations as to what makes a ‘good’ game session.
I know this sounds like a bunch of blather, but what I am trying to say is that I feel like Dan’s question is looking for a very basic answer to a bigger question. Let me see if I can break things down from my personal perspective.
Video Game Impacts –
Video games have definitely had an impact on table top RPGs. But it is not simply possible to say that video games as a whole have had a specific impact. Lets take a look at a few of them as I see them.
- Fighting Games – (Negative) Even as far back as the arcade game ‘Karate Champ‘ fighting games have been raising the bar for the level of description that can happen in a fight in a table top RPG. (Positive) Strangely that negative is something that also positive. The drive for more detail in what is going on can really help a story develop. While these are obviously not true for all players the ones who get into combat role-playing want more detail, about how you move, how you hit, what gets hurt, and more. This is also true from the rise of the FPS type of game.
- Side Scrollers – (Negative) Action and adventure games galore come in this format. For the role-players who want to get to the finish these games have given the impression that there has to be one and only one path to the ‘finish’. (Positive) On the plus side the fact that timing maters gets a nice bump in stories. Again not things that happens for everyone. But true for some.
- Tactical games – (Negative) Sadly the impact here is not what I would have liked. The real impacts here are that all of your enemies are stupid, or can be over powered if you ignore them long enough to grind through side events so you can just bowl them over. (Positive) For some the exact opposite happens, and they figure out that out thinking a foe can be just as if not more effective than raw power. Again not everyone has this impact but it is the one I see the most often.
- RPGs – (Negative) So this is kinda strange. There seems to be two impacts here. The first is the that you always can fall back to a save point and try again. So if you dont like something, restart or hack it. (Positive) The opposite can also happen. Learning that choices mater. That each thing can have an impact on the story and the other players.
- MMO RPG – (Negative) The main thing that seems to come out of these games is that you can be an @$$ to everyone else in the game and it does not mater. (Positive) However if you are not in that group of players you may have figured out that team work is a big thing, and that what you say can have as much of an impact as what you do.
So just to recap, those are all really extreme views. They comprise the most obvious impacts to players. There are thousands of more subtle things that have happened to players over time too. So dont think it stops there for good or for ill. Now lets take a quick look at publishers.
- The lure of money – Video games have raked in billions. So there is a temptation to license them, replicate their mechanics, and follow the herd so that they keep a bigger fan base. However all these things have a tendency to rebound on the publisher in the long run.
- The urge to be unique – For the publishers that dont jump on the bandwagon, you usually see them make other alterations in their mechanics to try and force them to be different from what ever video game is popular enough to pull customers away.
- Reverse engineer themselves – In trying to turn themselves into video games they usually face the disappointment of their fans. To date there have been very few successful adaptations of a table top RPG into a video game. Now then this is not saying that the games have been bad, many of them have been awesome (I am looking at you TSR/WOTC, and waiting with baited breath RTalsorian/CDPR) but that awesomeness does not mean they have replicated the table top games mechanics, or the setting in a way that matches up well with the published work. It makes the game something that was ‘based on’ a table top RPG, and not an ‘adaptation’.
Now then again this is going to feel like some rather extreme comments. And they are. They are calling out the largest visible impacts. Not the thousands of little details that vary from publisher to publisher and game engine to game engine. It would be impossible to put them all into a simple statement, or even a really complex one.
Now then comes the bigger part of the question Dan asked. Are there good role players still out there? The quick answer is yes. However there are a lot of different role playing styles out there. In a previous post I talked about this so I am going to keep this version short.
- Power gamers frequently take what they see in video games and want to replicate it so they can have something with more boom, or something that sliced up the bad guys real nice. If you can get them to tell a story about it, you can actually get some background and in game role play out of them
- Pros tend to get ideas for new ways to apply their “this is how I am best” approach to things. Again you can use this to try and get stories. But it also means they may have something to beat. Be it a hero or a villain that they now have to be better than.
- Quirks and Dramatists are usually disappointed by the lack of personalization in video games. Their details and voice do not get everything they need out of video games. So if they are stuck without a game group for a while and have been playing video games they may come out over the top on how they play.
- Balance players usually find video games just as fulfilling as role-playing games, so while a video game may inspire them, it usually does not have a negative impact.
- With other personality types the reactions can be broader or even completely unexpected. For example I know some folks who have been addicts to MMOs, and others who have found something they just so enjoyed in Diablo that they gave up on table top gaming for a few years.
Now the element of Dan’s question about environment. Referencing whether players have taken more to dungeon crawls or the MMO style… well, I think in all honesty you will have to run with everything I have been going into above. It will vary person to person, and making a generalization is kinda hard. I can say that what I am seeing in publication tends to lead me to believe that the old school dungeon crawl is not what is making money right now. And that even though MMOs are on the down turn again open worlds in table top RPGs are seeing an upsurge.
I think I need to summarize this – (TLDR)
- Video games have had an impact on table top role playing games.
- Video games have had an impact on table top players.
- Table top games and players have had an impact on video games.
- These impacts have been both positive and negative.
- There are still good role players out there. Just make sure you have the conversations you need with potential players to ensure your idea of good role-play and theirs match.
I know I rambled, but I think this was worth it.
Now gimme the dice, I need to see what the odds are I rambled my way into oblivion here…
Todays blog is about a little thing that I think will appeal to everyone who games. The influence that the gamers have on the products they use. Now I am sure that everyone out there knows that if you dont buy a product it will go out of print. Sure it may be picked up by another publisher or show up in online forums or scanned in and shared. But at that point there is fan generated content and nothing that can be considered cannon for the timeline and stories that had been generated by the publisher. And if you remember the original World of Darkness, or have played Shadowrun for more than a couple of years, some of those story-lines can get rather epic.
Not to dis on those stories and worlds but there was one in particular that really caught my attention back in the way back. Torg.
I know there are going to be a lot of readers that go WTF and have no idea what Torg is/was, but there was something very interesting about what the publishers were doing with their world. They created a way to get ongoing feedback from their players that they called the Infiniverse. It was handled in a newsletter format that published rumors about things going on in the world and depending on the feedback from player groups they would take some of the information and make it fact for the main story-line in the world they were publishing. The idea was that there were an infinite number of alternate realities (every group playing Torg was its own splinter reality) however if something is happening across enough realities then it was what was happening in the core reality of the Torg storyline.
Think about that for a minute if you will. Players, all over the globe with access to the game could subscribe to the Infiniverse Newsletter and be part of the driving force that was creating the game they were playing.
Now then while there have been groups set up for player participation for, well, nearly every RPG that has had some success over the years, like the Pathfinder Society, and the Adventurers Guild, these are more about organized play and keeping everyone on the same story. Feedback can be important in these groups and does help create product improvement but they do not necessarily drive the ongoing meta plot/story-line that the publisher is developing.
Now then the next thing to think about is that the Infiniverse Newsletter idea was set into motion in 1990. At this time the most technically advanced game publishers like Steve Jackson Games were running BBS to get interaction with players. And over time those have evolved into forums (same thing really but much prettier now) and nearly every game publisher runs one. And while I think the publishers may take a bit of what is put in the forums seriously it is hard to imagine that it is driving any of their development. If you doubt that thought then consider the number of publishers that continue to fumble on power creep and the number of them that fail to draw players into their ongoing stories and so sell less and less material over time, or get stuck selling volume after volume of new rules because they dont have an ongoing story.
From having met several game writers at conventions over the years I know that at least the ones I have met are always interested in getting gamer feedback. It helps them drive things forward and lets them know they have been connecting to the people who love their products. So my real thought here is why dont more publishers take an interest in making the players a driving force in the worlds they are publishing?
Anyway, thats all I am going on about today.
Hope everyone out there is gaming hard and playing safe.
Now gimme the dice, I need to roll up some old feedback articles.
Ok so before I go on the rant I just wanted to apologize to readers for that last game review. I was tired and not all together together when writing it. So it is not some of my… I was going to say best work but heck that was not even some of my average work… so I am sorry. I will try to do better next time but I am not going to fix it up because I need the reminder from time to time to do it well or just call it a day.
Ok so onto the rant.
As you may be able to tell from angry hamster this rant is about being exasperated. Also about some of the things you can experience to get there.
In all the creative challenges that I face, lacking time, work load, home care, personal time to relax, being sick, needing sleep, and so many others, I think the greatest challenge is stupid. And by that I mean other peoples stupid. My own ignorance tends to be frustrating but I know I can learn and fix it. When I encounter stupid in the world around me though or when stupid invades my blog, I don’t always take it well.
Example. Right now my blogs settings for feedback are heavily restricted. That is because in any given day I get 1-20 postings that are by bots, are sales people, or carry links to places that would mess up my computer or anyone who clicked on them should they post. Thankfully the spam filter here is already high and it catches most of it on its own. But seriously people how many blogs or other posting sites are so weak in their security that this volume of spam and crap is actually a valid method for scammers and black hat hackers to get into peoples systems. Or for advertisers to be subversive. Either this means that there is a ton of stupid on the part of the scammers or in the average human online. Sadly I think it is not the scammers fault.
Example. The number of people that I contend with on a weekly basis both in the flesh and online that have no idea how to research a topic to discover if the information they are spewing have any veracity in the real world. I mean, on how many topics would a quick trip to Snopes not help out. Lets see here… politics, religious history, science, regular history, common freaking sense… I am so…so tired of the “Well my one source that has no validity on the topic what so ever but I am too stupid to check anything else and choose to follow the crap this one source has given me because for some reason they have triggered several of my emotions and so I choose to follow that blindly instead of actually thinking for my own !@#$ self” mindset… yeahhhhh. Also supported by the “Well all these people online/on the news/in my favorite magazines/on the radio stations I listen to ‘think’ the same way I do so I have to be right” mindset. Did ya notice that I put think in bold and italics. That is intended to convey SARCASM… sigh…
So yeah, for a while now I have been using a slight change in definitions to display how I see things and I need to share it in this rant…
- Ignorance – A state caused by a lack of knowledge. This may be because emotional content is easier to digest/accept. It may be caused by a lack of exposure to facts and other elements of reality. It may be caused by involvement in a community or organisation that prides itself on using outdated or false information to support their own actions or maintain their status. However this state can be fixed by taking action and learning.
- Stupid – A willful choice to remain ignorant on any topic. Especially given the volume of comparative information available. Making this choice means that either you are choosing not to learn, or that your fear of being wrong is to the point where you need help, or you may need help dealing with your arrogance.
- Tragedy – When one individual or a group encourages others through whatever means to embrace being stupid. Just think about it.
- Evil – When an individual or organization enforces under penalty, even if it is just exclusion from the organization, that being stupid is the only correct behavior.
Now then you get to this point and likely go “ohhhh what does all this have to do with gaming…” or maybe “what does this have to do with being creative” or maybe… ya know what… I dont care at the moment my blog my rules… 😛
So if you didn’t click on the link to go to the definition of exasperated, exasperation is the emotional state of being so sick of something, a behavior, an action, or lack of something, that frustration is on the edge of or slipping over to becoming anger.
What all this leads to is what kills my buzz to be creative.
I am exasperated by the ongoing evil (see my definition above at bullet point 4) tragedy (definition on bullet point 3) that is going on right now in the world around us. It invades everything. Look at the news, or what you call the news, listen to almost any politician or leader from a major religion. This crap is getting out of hand.
And before anyone can play the “Oh but so and so is a good leader, so an so is saying this, my religion is tolerant, my faith isn’t like that” card… I am not saying it is all messed up. Not everyone and everything is @#$%ed in the head. But if we do not start thinking for ourselves on a whole new level philosophically and culturally on everything from personal interactions all the way up to how we hold our faith’s and political systems accountable for their actions and in actions… then this is not going to change. And movies like Idiocracy go from being a clever little poke to being prophecy on a scale that should be feared.
The way this kills my buzz is that if all this is going on I keep having the feeling that I don’t have time to be creative. I need to educate, I need to fight, I need to wake people up from their own personal stupor and quit trying to escape into works of fiction and fancy so that the world doesn’t blow up or burn out or get taken over by extremists who think settings like the Handmaid’s Tale are a really positive example of a functional and correct running world take over everything. And yeah that link is to info about the book not the TV series but if you think about it you can find your way there.
It takes me a while but then I end up coming back to the thought that books, games, and stories can all be used to help create a thinking underground. I can teach, I can fight, and I can wake people up by using what I love to help people step out of ignorance, avoid being stupid and never enter into a tragedy. When I get to this point I usually come out and create a story or a world or something else… and I hope that it helps a little. Even one person. Because that will be one more person who can take up the fight. It is why on almost every one of my reviews I encourage folks to give things a try but to make up their own mind. Its why I encourage people to tell me I am wrong in an opinion or a bit of information so that I can research and remove some of my own ignorance or be aware of where it exists for others.
So I just want to call the rant quits now. I think I got it out of my system for the moment. And the angry hamster can slip away now.
Remember to think for yourself.
And gimme the dice. I need to roll up a revolutionary.
Game Review #47 – Through the Breach (Fated and Fate Masters Almanacs – aka Malifaux RPG) (Warning – Potentially disturbing art in review)
Ok so I am starting this with a bit of a warning because the art I am including, even just from the book covers may seem a little creepy, startling or disturbing to some. I think personally it is still mild but since this blog gets posted to FB and I have family that might read it I wanted to make sure that its known right off the bat.
Ok so with that warning out of the way, lets take a look at Through the Breach.
This RPG was actually created to support, sort of, the table top strategy game called Malifaux. The setting was created by Wyrd aka Wyrd Games as a story driven miniature strategy game setting. The setting itself is sort of a horror, steampunk, dystopian, Shadowrun setting. There is an extensive history that ties Earth to another world and from the other world magic comes into Earth. Seeing as how this happens in the 1700 – 1800 time range you can guess as to where the steampunk elements come from. In the alternate world there is an apparently abandoned city. The city and the world basically get the same name from the earthers and from that point on things get weirder.
Through the story arcs in the miniatures game horror is established as humans quickly determine they are not alone. And the things in this world hate… welllll, everything. But that does not mean that there is not a bit of a sense of humor to it as well…
… as is evident by the monster being named Lord Chompy Bitts…
So while the miniatures game uses the same world, and the characters from the miniatures game can show up in the RPG, the players in the RPG have a lot more freedom to adventure how the want and not be as limited by faction or alliance as the miniatures game is.
The scope of the world of Malifaux is really interesting, as, well, its not all published. There is no telling where everything is out there in the world. It may be huge or it may end completely just past the edge of the known. So for everything they have published so far, we as players and consumers may have barely touched the surface of the world.
The scope of the city of Malifaux is a little more controlled… but only a little.
I mean if you look at that map you can see two huge areas called Quarantine Zone. Both of those areas offer elements that are unexplored, dangerous, and frequently just weird.
The content of the setting is an eclectic mix of cultures, myths, and almost a stereotypical wild west kind of feeling. It has firearms and steampunk cybernetics, mixed with magic and sword fighting. living mythic monsters and strange horrors that Lovecraft would sit back and smile at.
So I think you are getting the picture here. The setting is well detailed, the art backing it up is beautiful and the stories are awesome.
Now then comes the challenge. I dislike the game mechanic almost as much as I hate GURPS.
First and foremost I dont like using cards as the main mechanic. And mixing cards and other mechanics together… unh… no… just no. They have also described the world in such a way that it is a challenge to even mod the game setting to other core rules without loosing something. That makes it a bit frustrating to mod unless you are using a game engine that is totally open ended.
Strangely in spite of that challenge, I still find the setting all kinds of fun, I think the Malifaux minis are beautiful, and so I can let a few things go by.
My wife is setting up a game for us right now (board game) so I am cutting this review short. I mean most of the rest would be me soap boxing or blathering on.
Overall Fluff 5/5 – It is freaking beautiful. Background stories, art, NPC opinions and so many of them fleshed out well. Yeah this is worth a 5/5.
Overall Crunch 2/5 – Ungh, the rules. It is playable dont get me wrong. But they took nearly every thing a game can do that I dont like and rolled it up into a single playing engine. There are a lot of ways to spoof the rules and moving the setting to another engine that can work better than plying it as is.
Overall Mod 3/5 – Not easy to mod. The intricate way things have been put together makes it harder to tinker unless you just keep the story and then add new rules into play.
Overall Fun 4/5 – The setting is weird. Horror, steampunk, and so much more. The fact that is it outside our current reality by just a couple of steps. It is unusual, it is interesting, and it feels very much alive to play in… if only the rules.
Total Score 14/20 – Ok so here is what we are looking at overall. The setting rocks the rules will be a matter of taste. Its a lot of fun but the rules can get in the way. It is worth a look at the very least.
Ok so that is it for now. I hope everyone out there is having a good day and is not working too hard if you are working.
Now gimme the dice. I need to see how many soul stones can fit inside of one editors in box.