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Game Review #39 – James Bond 007

Welcome to the thick of the holiday season readers. As such I wanted to give you the gift of classic games. I also want to give you a warning that with a licensed property like James Bond there will be words used and things that you can infer that will make this seem more of a PG13 review if not R. Just in the next few sentences I will be referencing a James Bond Movie title from 1983 that has a history of spurring the immature to laughter and the mature to going… really… you named it that…

James Bond 007 by Victory Games seemed to be one of those games that was in the right place at the right time. Octopussy the thirteenth James Bond movie had just come out. The franchise was stronger than it had ever been. Roger Moore was, at the time, the only James bond that I knew. I was greatly shamed to later learn how much better Sean Connery had been in the role and had to move Moore to #2 on my all time Bond list.

It would not be until 1991 that I found this game even though it was published in 1983. Completely out of print, and if you take a look at the link above for Victory Games… you may see why. Back in the 80’s role playing games were getting out from under the “ohhh this is Satanic… worshiping demons… blah blah blah… my kids are doing something I don’t understand so I have to panic and over react and get all sorts of people to scream because I am prejudiced and stupid…” period that seems to come up with every generation and their forms of entertainment… (Please note I will now step away from my soap boxes before this goes from being a review to being a rant about generation vs generation stupidity). So in getting away from all that you had game makers looking for ways to pull in role-playing games. Make new ones. And license properties that would draw in new and experienced gamers. And of course this lead to companies that had the money, or could fake it, buying up anyone who would sell to them so that they could add their properties to their libraries, or cancel them over all and strip the talent. Guess where Victory Games was in all that… or read the link above and take note that the article in Wiki it takes you to is about Avalon Hill Games and Victory is a sub section of their story.

Oh and just to keep a flashback going, I found this game at the one hobby story I will always have big props and respect for, even though now they are gone… American Eagle Games and Hobbies. They dont have a wiki page I can refer you to, however Piazo apparently does and they bought up all of the stock that American Eagles had when they went out of business. Sigh… I miss that shop…

Anyway, still a James Bond fan in 1991, and I thought what the heck. I have played Top Secret and a few other spy games. Lets give this a shot.

Now then I have to say I was really impressed with all of the little notes, flavor text and even the slightly mocking “technical” drawings (yeah look at the quotes… technical my ass) for gear and vehicles. Add movie quotes, text from the novels and it is a fanboys… well it is not a fanboy paradise but it spurs you on. There are no photos from the movies and the character drawings in it are jusssst far enough off that I doubt they had to pay any actors royalties from the game sales. Considering all the fun I was having at the time with Shadowrun supplemental products and the quotes from ‘users’ in their weapons guides this book just added to my love of those sorts of flavor bits. It was not until later that I realized that the idea may have been done better, and definitely done sooner with this game and that Shadowrun was just imitating their betters.

As I broke the game down I found that while there were rules elements that I loved, there were a lot of gaps that left me feeling like they should have tried harder to get good rules and spent less time on the awesome fluff. Things that I liked included in the point based character generation you have a factor called Fame. You actually pay points for your characters height and weight and looks. The more “average” you are the more it costs and the lower your Fame. Play it cheap and you stand out so much it makes you much more easy to recognize. Strangely enough it does the same with rank. If you are a lowly agent your Fame stays low. If you are playing games at the ’00x’ level then your Fame is higher… sure you get more points to spend on making your character for that level, but you risk so much being so much more famous.

One of the other elements that I really liked was the difficulty bidding system for skill and action use. So the engine takes a stat plus skill to give you a total. Then you get a multiplier to set your difficulty level. So if your character is trying to drive, stat plus skill equals say eight. Average difficulty is a times five (x5) and so 8×5=40 you need to roll under 40 on a d100 to succeed. Now then if you are in a challenging moment and you need the success to really mean something you can bid your difficulty higher with the game master to get more out of what you are doing. So if the game master says the difficulty is x5, but you want to not only drive but get away with style you might offer to bump the difficulty to a x3 and now you would have to roll under a 24 on a d100 with that skill plus stat total of 8. Difficulty in the game engine runs from a x1/2 (hard as hell to pull off) up to a x10 (why are you even rolling)

Unfortunately they, in my opinion, blew it when they set up the combat section because they would do things like rating everything in a code for damage instead of just telling us how many dice to roll or anything like that. You end up tracing code versus code and you have a series of tables that unless you practice a lot with it you would end up confusing Gygax himself even after he created his falling tables for D&D. They then blew it further by listing things like anti tank guns and telling you that they were not giving them a damage code because that goes outside of the scope of the game. I can see setting expectations, but don’t go an list a piece of equipment only to then tell me I can’t get stats for it because it just does too much damage for you to feel like having it in the game. They ended up pulling the same kind of stunts a few times and that just ended up feeling like it was sloppy work to me.

Now then I know I said I was never going to do a bad review. And yes I do still have this game in my collection. And there is a reason for it. Things like the difficulty mechanic and the Fame tool were inspired. The level of detail in their fluff is just mind-blowing. Even without awesome art, the sheer flavor you get from it, if you are a James Bond fan is off the hook. Sure the game is hard to mod, but you can still steal from it freely to enhance your other games. You can take all of the reference materials and put them into another setting. You can even take the details they give for both MI6 and Tarot as awesome examples of how to build secret organizations. No one has beat them in that regard yet. So in the end, much like GURPS, this is a game I wont play, but I respect it a lot. I love the fluff and I steal from it liberally.

Overall Fluff 5/5 – I think I have gushed about it enough but this one is a tough call. With only mediocre art I am tempted to say its a four and not a five. But the volume of fluff and the use of it is just too good to say it only rates a four.

Overall Crunch 3/5 – There are some rules that I love and am happy to steal but overall the game mechanics, especially in combat are just not user friendly. The level of detail you can get in the rules for just about anything you want to describe is bloody impressive.

Overall Mod 1/5 – Just… no.. you cant.. well ok, I cant but if you can… maybe you can salvage more than I could out of the game.

Overall Fun 3/5 – Fun to steal from, fun to abuse, fun for fans. Yes its fun… but not fully fun.

Total Score 12/20 – Not a great score but I think I gave you enough why up above that I dont need to dive into a serious recap here.

All right then folks, thats it for now.

Game on, have fun and happy holidays

Now gimme the dice… I need to see if I can use the tables, tables, to retable the table of tables, table on that last table.

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World Building 301 – Origin of Power

Hey there readers

So I cant find an image that really supports what I want to say here, but maybe you can. After reading the article, if you can find something please forward me a link to it in the comments.

So what are we talking about when we say what is the origin of the powers of superheroes?

Well lets look at a few examples…

  • The X-men all gained their powers by a quirk of genetics.
  • Green Lantern gained his powers because someone gave him a ring.
  • Superman gained his powers because he was born on another world
  • Hellboy has powers because he is a demon.
  • Hulk got his powers from radiation.
  • Doctor Fate got them from a helmet and study.
  • Batman got what counts as powers from training and cash.
  • Deathlok got a ton of machinery added to him.
  • Red Tornado got powers by being built that way.

There are tons of others out there too. So why should that concern you at all when setting up your game? Well as it turns out a lot of existing game engines come with pre-generated worlds with some interesting backgrounds as to how the powers came about. And while you do not have to use them at all, it can actually make things a lot easier on your players if you set some specifics in place.

A few examples from game engines include…

  • In GURPS Supers from GURPS second edition, the timeline for the world says that 99% of superhumans come from genetic manipulation done on humanities genetic ancestors.
  • In Champions 5th edition all of the available supers, no matter the style, stem from the fact that magic came back into the world allowing physics to be broken in some very serious ways. That’s right even super science is because of magic.
  • In Godsend Agenda powers came from alien races that could use energy called Ka, or had a genetic disposition to shape shifting (over simplification)

While in others it does not really matter because you can do just about anything for any reason as long as you pay the points or follow the classes.

Ok so again why is it important? The answer is because of how easy it can make things on you and your players. If you can literally do anything for any reason with any character… well then you can come up with a lot of things that have no reason to be together and it also can make power gaming all sorts of ridiculous. If you take an example of Grond in Champions. Most of his origins end up reading something like… “prisoner who offer to be in an experiment. Experiment went wrong and he ran. Into toxic waste. Only to get hit by lightning. And run over by a magical super. And got smacked by something cosmic. And then got shot. And then he transformed into Grond.” Not the actual origin of the character but as you can see it kinda got out of control.

It makes it a lot easier on everyone if there are only one or two ways to gain powers. In giving things limits you can have a much easier reason to gather characters together.

However if you do keep things wide open, you can get some really creative stuff out of everyone. Just getting your players to become a team after all the diversity that created them can be a serious adventure in and of itself. It is just going to take more time and more work to make sure everything meshes together well.

If you limit the origins of powers you can also get a fairly concise origin for supers in your world. Timelines are easy to establish and quick to run.

If you go wild you need to figure out how everything integrates together, if it does at all.

Lets go back to a couple of pre published game worlds.

Marvel Super Hero Role Playing Game.

In this game setting you have the entire Marvel Universe at your disposal. And that means that magic, aliens, and cosmic entities have been around forever. Mutants have been around for quite some time but they are relatively new to the scene. Genetically modified races have been on earth since prehistoric times. Since time travel exists it is possible that in some alternate futures superpowers are common to all humans. Alien hybrids are a thing too.

So now you have to figure out how all of those things come together. Or do you even care? In the end that will be up to you.

Champions 5th Edition.

Ok so everything comes from the fact that magic surged into the world. In the past surges have happened and caused human myths. It has also allowed super advanced alien races to defy physics and create ancient artifacts that others can find. And you can learn or have a genetic disposition to magic and just manipulate the raw stuff. Everything comes from magic. The thing is unless you are a mage you wont know that. So you can freestyle origins, but in the end it is all magic.

Both of these game engines allow you to do, well, anything you could want. But one gives you a singular origin for everything and that allows you to tie things up neatly even when the players think they are a mutant, an alien, and a guy in power armor. In fact all of them can do these things because of magic. You take the magic out of the environment, or even tone it down a lot, and everything would start to fail.

For myself I am using a system that comes with a few possible origins. But I am only going to use some of them. That way I can put a real origin point on each one. That will also allow me to create an environment with a few more human characteristics, like bias and prejudice being at the forefront of a lot of stories.

Now then the second reason it is important is because when you take into account the origin of all powers, you can set power limits easier. More on that in a later article, but really the origin, if you think about it… ok lets go like this.

  • All powers come from training. There is no magic. So the most powerful characters would be like Batman.
  • All powers are granted by the gods and so your average character has powers and power levels like Thor.

I think that is kind of extreme but it gives you a very clear picture of the kind of differences that origin of power can influence in other decisions later.

I will start a summary of my choices in my build an article or two down the line. So for now… thats it folks 🙂

I hope everyone is having a great time and gaming the backsides off.

Now gimme the dice, I gotta see if Batman could smack Zeus and get away with it.

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Game Review #38 – Dark Sun AD&D 2nd Edition (S)

G’day readers. So you may have noticed that I tagged this review as being a game supplement instead of a game. There will be some who say it is a game all its own, but I say it is a setting, and has supplementary rules but not a game all its own. And you wont convince me otherwise.

Dark Sun is my second favorite setting in D&D of all time. And to be quite frank it disappointed me greatly that it got such a shabby treatment into 3rd edition. I know it was brought into 4th. But 4th was such a disappointment to me overall that I never really investigated it. And I have had no interest really in 5th after 4th so I have not even checked to see if they were bringing it in to the latest edition.

In the history of AD&D there have been a number of settings released. A brief history of some of my favorites will include…

  • Greyhawk 1980 (actually the original setting but not codified as such until later)
  • Forgotten Realms 1987 (there were other settings that were part of this world like Maztica, Oriental Adventures/Kara-Tur, and Al-Qadim)
  • Spelljammer 1989 (magic in space)
  • Dark Sun 1991
  • Council of Wyrms 1994 (Dragons as player characters)
  • Planescape 1994 (Where you can get to everywhere)

There is a much more complete list in Wiki but I can tell you it is not fully complete.

Those who know me know which one of the settings on that little list is my all time favorite, but for the moment I aint talkin.

As to what makes Dark Sun such an awesome thing for me, well let me break down some of the coolness for you.

  1. The setting is so lethal that you have to
    1. Start all characters at 3rd level. Minimum.
    2. Create a character tree with at least four characters in it so you can have replacements handy.
    3. The setting calls for using a different method of stat generation
      1. Original 3d6 per stat. Average roll is 10.5 Low is 3. High is 18.
      2. New version for this setting is 4d4+4 per stat. Average roll is 14 Low is 8. High is 20.
  2. Magic drains life from the world around it
  3. There are no gods, but the worlds elements will act like they are.
  4. The new races added include half giants, half dwarves and the preying mantis like thri kreen.
  5. Variants on old races include nomadic thieving elves and cannibalistic halflings.
  6. Even though the Manual of the Planes and Spelljammer set it up so you could access any setting, this world is blocked off from all the others save in very rare places that are so dangerous to get into that you may as well not try.
  7. Even though I love dragons there is only one in this world, and dragons are not a species but something that very, very, evil people can become.
  8. 90% or so of the planet is desert, caused by the over use of magic. The sun is dark for the same reason, as the sun provides life to the planet. So tap it for power and… yeah.
  9. You can either be one of the rare characters that actually believes that things can get better and you are willing to fight for it. Or you can embrace the fact that your world is doomed and be as big a bastard as you want. Basically this is about as dystopian a fantasy setting as you can get.

To be totally honest I was not sure at first that I would like the setting, but when a man a few of us know as ‘Drunken Tom’ decided that he was going to say screw it and invent a new weapon proficiency for his half giant gladiator called paired elves… yeah I gave in and started to see the potential. When I found out just how nasty the place was… and well we also heard things like players saying “Lets go back to Ravenloft where its safe.” I got hooked.

Looking over a copy of the main boxed set I got hooked even further. The cloth map. The player and DM flip books. All the materials present just ramped it up notch after notch. The added books that came out just thrilled me more and more but we wont be going into the additional setting supplements or the fiction right now. This is all about the original boxed set.

I could ramble on about this a lot longer but lets take a look at the numbers instead.

Overall Fluff 5/5 – The original setting box came with so many goodies that they alone would put this at a five of five. But when you add the content, the art, and the detail in the setting, yeah, if I could I would give this a six or a seven for fluff.

Overall Crunch 5/5 – The additional rules added in this setting are well crafted and well balanced within its own setting. Between the variants on magic and the additional races it is really well crafted.

Overall Mod 2/5 – The one major weakness in this setting is its ability to cross over to other settings. Even dragging the races within to other settings was challenging at the time. When you got into third edition the races themselves were overbalanced making it so that even a basic thri kreen was to be a fourth level character with the racial level adjustments in place. Tweaking these rules is a pain in the ass. But it can be done.

Overall Fun 5/5 – Again, this is one of those places where if I could put a higher score than a five in place I would.

Total Score 17/20 – One of the higher ratings I have given and it is totally worth it. I love this setting and all the things that have come out of it. I really think it should be one of the core settings for any future edition of D&D, but that is my mind.

Ok so that gives us my overview in brief. I love the setting. I want more of it. I want it in every game engine you can imagine.

But thats me. Make up your own bloody mind if it rocks or sucks. 🙂

Game on and have fun folks.

Now gimme the dice… I need to see how a cannibal halfling would have dealt with Smaug.

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World Building 30X – Game engines

Morning readers

Someone has already reached out to me in regards to the fact that my listings for the questions about supers did not include the usual discussion about game engines. Well there is a reason for that, and it is really tied into a lot of the other topics.

You see when it comes to playing supers games a lot of those other questions end up leading you to the game engine you might want to use. One of the chief things in making that kind of decision is tied up in how much power do you want characters to have.

Let me give you a quick breakdown using a few of the game engines you can possibly use.

There are a lot of other game engines out there. And each of them has their own features, positive and negative, to take into account. And even though I did hit a few of the small press games in this list there are a ton of very unique game engines out there.

The way I broke them down is based not on what your hero’s and villains can become. But instead based on what you will likely have when you first create your characters.

Variable power level game engines have a lot of possibilities right off the bat. Either due to their set up being point based and the person running the game can choose if you want to be lower power characters or higher ones. But engines like 4 Color rely on random rolls that can actually take players in a single game across the full spread of strong to weak.

Lower Tier game engines will 90+ percent of the time get you a character that would keep up with Robin or the New Mutants in their original forms. Not likely to be world breakers by any means but still a lot of fun if you are looking to play at that power level.

Higher Tier means that you are going to be making characters that will usually start out on par with more experienced comic book characters. Not really fully fledged Avengers or Justice League members but you will be at that level really fast. And if you are a power gamer or just get really lucky rolls you can be at or exceed the levels of characters on those famous teams without batting an eye.

While power level is indeed a first consideration you also have to take into account that some of these game engines also pre-define how someone gained their powers. Training, mutations, gifts from on high, and so on. Some are more open than others, but when you look at game settings like Underground (Sci fi, lower tier, dystopian supers) everyone gets their powers via scientific experiment. Now then there is no reason that if someone likes an engine they cant just toss out the world and make up their own reasons for powers to be what they are.

And that note there about the setting for Underground also gives you a hint in regards to some of the other baggage that can come with an engine. The world that it was built to play in.

All of these factors and more are why I will not be focusing directly on the game engines. I will be giving a few hints though in each of the other postings to talk about game engines that might fit what someone could be looking for in regards to that specific need. Like in power level I will talk to game engines that fit the power level. In origins I will talk about pre-published engines that fit that need, and so on.

I wanted to ensure that I had made that aspect of this current world building series clear.

Hope everyone is having a great time out there in the world, playing hard and having fun.

Now gimme the dice… no all of the dice… no really those too… yes even those you have hidden in your bag… I have to roll for effect… a big effect.

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World Building 300 – Supers

So in my series about world building I wanted to hold off on doing one about supers for as long as I could. When you ask yourself why… look back at the other two I have done so far. The level of detail and the number of options there gets pretty big. In a supers setting it can go COMPLETELY off the rails.

Just like building any other setting you have a lot of options available to you in a supers setting. If you want to have a for instance lets take a look at some of the settings that have been used in the comics already. Marvel and DC alone have not only their own main worlds, but alternate earths, alternate time lines, “What If”s and “Elseworlds” that are usually one offs. In these settings you have your standard comic book places where just about anyone can find a way to be a super. Accidents, mutation in genetics, building power armor, gifts of power, objects of power, and raw magic are all in the mix. Other settings they have published make everyone powered by magic, or some sort of event suddenly gives a rare few powers, or it is in space and every race has something superhuman about it save for humans (actually that one is considered part of the main stream but…), cybernetics make supers… and on and on and on.

Lets also talk about the timeline… I mean we have seen things in modern times, future, world wars, the 1600’s, 1880’s, prehistoric times, and tons more.

We have also seen Armageddon stories, world changers, new concept stories, invasions, healings, contests, and more.

Then you start in on all the other options… and well… it can really be overwhelming.

Now then to be honest it does not have to be. Seriously you can just sort of go… yeah its like the Marvel Universe but none of the supers exist. We are going to use all new characters and see what happens. It really can be that easy. Also many supers RPG’s come with a basic world anyway. Something that you can flesh out.

So the very first questions you need to ask are, why in the @#$% are you creating your own supers world? What in the #@!! possessed you to feel you needed to make something all your own? Is this trip really necessary?

And then you need to calm the @#$% down and just go for it if that is what you really want to do. 🙂

Heh.

So in this series of entries we will talk about the questions you will need to be thinking about as you build out one of the most potentially complex worlds you can build.

301 – Origin of Powers is? – What sort of limits are you going to place here to support your world?

302 – Which Earth? – Do you want to use this earth? Another alternate earth? Another planet all together that has nothing to do with earth?

303 – Timeline is when? – Even if you are not using earth you need to know when you are doing this in terms of cultural evolution. So When are you?

304 – Percent of power? – How many have access to what kinds of power?

305 – World perception of power? – How do people react to someone who can fly?

306 – Power level is how high? – Burning paper or planets?

307 – World is how well known? – Aliens? Time travelers? Alternate earths? Sealed system?

308 – What is your story? Do you have a timeline for a story, or planned events or are you winging it?

While each one of these topics will influence the world you are building, you will figure out for yourself what ones are the most important to you. In coming posts I will bring up ideas and further questions to help you figure out what you want, and to give you some examples of a world of my own.

Now then to be totally honest this world is going to be taking a few things from a project that Dan over at Dan on Games and I started tinkering with years ago. The overall idea has changed a lot but I am inserting one of my favorite characters of his into the world in the same type of situation he was in when he was originally created. I hope you remember ‘Dust’ dude. The world is not the same, but that one character is in the same type of predicament.

Anyway. This posting should be enough to give you an idea of where this is heading and start you thinking about questions for yourself.

In the interim gimme the dice… I have to see if I can resist the pets long enough to get the house cleaned up.

Play hard and play fair.

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Another lack of post week

Yup we are back to it again.

I hope next week to start the World Building 300 series… Supers.

But we shall have to see.

Peace out and game on folks.

Gimme the dice… I dont need to roll anything at all I just want the dice 🙂

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Random Bureaucracy Generator

Ok I know what you are going to say… there is enough Bureaucracy in the world already.

Well sure… but when you play a game like Paranoia, or want to really mess with your players by making them jump through so many hoops that actually slaying the dragon that kills half the party seems like a relaxing vacation, then you might want to use something like this.

As I said this started out being a part of my preperations for playing Paranoia which is why there are references to R&D in there. However you can change anything and everything in this setup with ease. The format as presented is for requesting dice. Now then originally in Paranoia your game mechanic really did not require many dice, and only had you using one or two at a time… so… yeah anyway there is a long story behind this set up and I really dont feel like telling it at the moment. Anyway here is how it works…

First you request a die…

Request die for roll
1-14 d4 granted
15-20 d6 granted
20-24 Die not avaliable
25-29 Form 24c required
30-35 d8 granted
36-39 d10 granted
40-49 Bribe required
50-58 d12 granted
59 There is no 59
60-69 d71 granted Go see R&D
70-79 Questions raised
80-81 Permission needed
82-89 Ignored
90-99 d20 granted
100 Police called
101+ d100 granted

Ok so… first of all in the game itself d10 were used in first edition. Mostly as d10 or as d100… so why would you need… yeah just dont ask about the others as they are not used in the game unless you come up with a reason to use them on your own…

Anyway you will see that in many cases no die is provided and something else happens… in all of those cases you go to the sub table for that particular item…

Die not avaliable
1-16 File a 24c form
17-22 Go see R&D
23-46 Bribe requried
47-58 Call police
59 There is no 59
60-85 Permission needed
86-100 Questions Raised
Form 24c required
1-29 Form not avaliable
30-42 Ignored
43-58 Questions raised
59 There is no 59
60-63 Permission needed
64-85 Form 24c required
86-92 Bribe required
93-100 Police called
Bribe required
1-5 2 vegitarian tacos
6-31 Form 24c required
32-58 Police called
59 There is no 59
60-71 Go see R&D
72-88 Questions raised
89-100 Permission needed
Go see R&D
1-46 Die when you enter the room
47-58 Questions raised
59 There is no 59
60-68 Permission needed
69-80 Ignored
81-84 Bribe required
85-100 Form 24c required
Questions raised
1-14 Police called
15-30 Form 24c required
31-37 Bribe required
38-58 How did you get dice already
59 There is no 59
60-67 Permission needed
68-88 Ignored
89-100 Go see R&D
Permission needed
1-20 Form 24c required
21-29 Questions raised
30-58 Ignored
59 There is no 59
60-65 Bribe required
66-71 Police called
71-100 Dave is in
Ignored
1-58 Police called
59 There is no 59
60-100 Bribe required
Police called
1-31 Questions raised
32-58 Bribe required
59 There is no 59
60-71 Form 24c required
72-91 You have been detained
92-100 Ignored

Now then you will notice that these other tables feed on each other a lot. And one even feeds on itself. There are a few ways out of most of the tables. The most notable is the ‘There is no 59’. This can mean anything the game master wants it to. It can be an out, it can be a re-roll, it can simply be a moment to go ‘hmmmm interesting’ and make players panic.

With a format like this it is fairly easy to modify and remake it for anything you want to use it for. I have had cause to look it over in some of the places I have worked to wonder about getting anything done at all… in real life… so I know this is not just for games.

The key to using something like this is to remember that you only want to build up, just so much frustration in the players. And you dont want to use it every session.

You may however want to set it at your desk at work as a way to get your co workers to take some time to figure out how to talk to you… If you do such a thing it pays to get other co workers to be the living example for other tables… or even set it up as a maze inside your office for Halloween. Nasty little scary office costume…

Ok so gimme the dice… I need to see if Dave is in…

Game hard and have fun folks.

 

 

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Game Review #37 – Cthulhu Tech (G) Catalyst Games edition

So on the heels of Should it Blend I wanted to bring in a very blended genre game.

Two great tastes that taste??? Well that will be up to you.

So the setting for Cthulhu Tech is a blend of Anime Sci Fi and Cthulhu horror. Strangely anime seems to go with anything, and so does Cthulhu. And the writers for this setting really jumped on the idea. In some ways it reminds me of the epic setting for Macross/Robotech. But instead of Robotech Masters or Invid you have the MiGo running the show in the background. You also get a bit of Guyver and Neon Genesis Evangilon or any of the other mecha anime where there is actually a living mind behind the workings of the mecha. Amazingly they blend it well.

I have to say that the setting itself, the fiction and art around it, all make this a rather compelling idea. I can really see why the authors would not give up until they could get the game published in a full color format. And as that hint would suggest the creators had a bit of a challenge getting the book off the ground. Read the wiki for more details but this games publication is a story of persistence in regards to the creators. In that regard alone I think that it should be in the library of anyone who has any interest in anime or Cthulhu so that the authors can keep working, and that other small press publishers will see that taking a risk and pushing for your vision can pay off.

The game mechanics in this engine are a little unconventional and yet completely basic at the same time. Roll dice. Get high numbers. Beat difficulty. Ok so that is the basic side. Now to the unconventional. You have options as to how to get the high number. To use an extreme example lets say you roll six dice. Your dice come up as  4,5,6,7,7, and 8. Now then you could take the 8 as it is your highest die. You could also add together the 7’s for a total of 14. Or since you rolled more than three dice you could add the 4,5, and 6 as they form a straight for a total of 15. So you have many options to win a die roll. You also have to fear 1’s as they cause bad things… more 1’s means more bad… so yeah… if you had rolled those six dice and they all came up ones… I would be thinking about creating a new character… even if the roll was for getting out of bed in the morning. Personally I like the versatility in this kind of dice mechanic. It can skew probability in the favor of the die roller, but considering that the game is lethal in its challenge level… yeah dying is easy. I think this compensates well. That and it build hope which can be crushed and that adds to the Cthulhu factor.

Speaking of the Cthulhu factor, lets talk about bad guys. There are actually a lot of them in this setting. And they all want to either take over or destroy the world. So you have epic baddies. You have the Mi-Go with their manufactured humanoids (who join the humans, well the humanoids do anyway) and giant space mecha and weapons. You have the underwater servants of Cthulhu who have both mechs and magic. You have the evil cults that have magic and madness. And then you have the evil corporation/cult that is using bio-demonic power suits to try and run the show behind the scenes. Now then what is really interesting is that while this sounds like a lot of fronts to be fighting on (and if you have to do them all it really is) but depending on the origin of your characters and the place you are joining into the worlds story from you will only usually go against one or two of them. But you CAN get into all of them. This is another one of those things that feeds into the Cthulhu factor. The more your character knows about all the fights going on, all the foes around them, the harder it can be to go on, because it all seems so hopeless.

The game engine for character generation is another one of those that seems a little blended. You have an occupation, so there is a template to start with. However you have points to build with so you have a lot of control over what goes where and why. You are also not limited to your template in your skill selection. So you have the ability to be much more than your job title would suggest. This part of the system to me is a little clunky but not something that cant be overcome by the calm and judicious application of a couple a house rules. You wont need to mod the rules, just compensate a little.

Combat is also a little clunky, but that stems more from the dice resolution system. It can make choosing your roll a little difficult, and it really makes you feat rolling 1’s. All those positives I mentioned in the dice mechanic can… well fall apart on you in combat quickly. And honestly I think they did that on purpose… again to strip hope and once again heighten the Cthulhu factor.

So how do I distribute the numbers on this one…

Overall Fluff 5/5 – The detail in the background, the fiction, and the art in this game all fuel the setting in a way that few publishers even think about achieving. I can not put it much better than that.

Overall Crunch 3/5 – The rules are fine, but you will need to make a few tweaks to make it really run well. The challenges are not insurmountable by any means, and some of the issues with the rules actually help fuel the dark side of the game if you play it straight.

Overall Mod 3/5 – Not too hard to mod. But you have to be careful of modding too far otherwise you will blow the aesthetic of the game. Usually I would not mind even a bad game engine that I can fix, but this is a pretty good game engine that is not easy to tweak without paying for it elsewhere in the game. If that was on purpose the authors have a better grip on that whole Cthulhu factor than I would have imagined.

Overall Fun 5/5 – Ok so for me it is hard not to enjoy these two flavors on their own. The rules work, the options are awesome, and there are so many story elements that you can make an epic campaign that will blow the minds of many. This sort of game is fun for me as a player or a GM.

Total Score 16/20 – Not a bad overall score at all. Honestly this game is one I rarely get to play, and the only thing that can put a damper in my playing of it is a bad group of players.

So there you have it. Please though as always take a look at it on your own and see if its right for you. Dont just take my word for it. Make up your own mind.

Ok so gimme the dice… I have four dice to make breakfast and… oh dear.. .. .. .. .. I did not know we had He Who Should Not Be Named cereal with the Yellow King surprise inside…

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Should it blend?

Ok so anyone who remembers the old “Will it Blend?” add campaign online for a certain blender company will likely be asking why I dont have a blender image on here… well it looks like they still have a trademark for the campaign and so I want to avoid it as much as possible…. heh.

So what is this question about?

Well back in the 90’s a writer named Deird’re Brooks (hope I got your name right, I have seen it spelled three ways) wrote a series of articles in White Wolf Magazine under the heading of World of Future Darkness. It spanned issues 36 – 38 of the magazine and it was all about blending Cyberpunk 2020 in to the World of Darkness. Many people that I was gaming with at the time called the setting Cyber-Fang. The rules were fairly easy to mix, and it worked well. But in the end it never really seemed to catch on.

Several years later a few game designers got together and officially put the Hero System (Champions) and the Interlock System (Cyberpunk 2020 and others) into a new game engine they called Fuzion. It is not a bad system revision. It has a nice mix of both systems but is not really as solid as either one is on its own.

I am sure that these are not the only cases where blending of game systems has happened. I am sure that folks do it all the time. And anyone who knows me at all will know that I blend genre’s mercilessly.

But here is the real question… Should game engines be blended?

Each game engine has been made to fit a purpose. Not every engine can do everything well. Most only do two or three things really well.

So I ask should it blend? Or should we be looking to update game engines? Revise and repair them… or is blending the better way to evolve game engines?

Ok so gimme the dice… I need to see if I can mix a d4 and a d12… hmmm

 

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Game Review #36 Gargoyles : The Vigil

Ok so feeling a bit better and now for something a little different.

Back in 1994 Disney put out a cartoon that I would love forever. Gargoyles. At the same time I was playing a lot of World of Darkness (WOD) by White Wolf. And some time after 1996 someone pointed me to a file they found online called Gargoyles : The Vigil. The author is listed as one Lee Garvin, who makes it very clear in his second edition PDF of the game that neither Disney, nor White Wolf endorsed this creation.

Currently the only place I can find this work is on file sharing locations like Scribed. Since it is totally fan made I see no issue in downloading it.

Now then you should not confuse this with the official White Wolf WOD supplement called Gargoyles. That official book has nothing to do with the animated series and in my opinion is one of the worst additions to the WOD anyone has made. It just… ungh… no… no bad reviews.

Anyway, Gargoyles : The Vigil takes the Disney animated series and drops it right into the WOD. Basically making the Gargoyles the natural enemy of vampires, occasional allies of the were creatures, and known to the other supernatural entities in WOD, but still having totally their own flavor.

The document that Lee Garvin put together, even in its slightly prettier second edition is not all that well edited. And it leaves some serious gaps in describing the rules to add. However when I took a look at copyright law I found out there is a little genius in how it was made. Turns out that fan use usually means that you can use a certain percentage of material before you start hitting infringement territory. That is as long as you do not seek to profit from it. It has something to do with the same reasons that authors can mention real companies in their books without permission. As long as you do not defame the name, use too much about them, and, well there are a few other loop holes. But the gist of it is that Lee Garvin rode that line right to the edge so that neither Disney nor White Wolf could do too much. At least, that is if I got all that information right. However it goes that would explain why it is a little hard to find and not the best edit in the history of fan material.

On the plus side, I think it really catches the feel of the animated series. And the rules make the characters possibilities fit well with any WOD campaign, from Hunters up through all of the mains.

I know a lot of folks over the years have tried to put together RPG supplements and games for Gargoyles, and a lot of folks have felt disjointed in the results. While the editing and the self defense of not using EVERYTHING in either WOD or the animated series makes it a little bit of a challenge to use right out of the gate, I, as a fan, think that it is worth the effort to get it going.

Ok so I am still trying to roll quickly and keep working to feel better so this is not going to be a long review. Lets get to the numbers…

Overall Fluff 1/5 – There is not much. They could have used other fan art and images to keep from hitting copyright issues, but there really is no art. There are quotes from the series, and a little bit of fluff to place the game setting. Overall this is the biggest disappointment in the game, but also the most understandable if you dont want to be sued.

Overall Crunch 3/5 – The rules variants that the author came up with work really well. It is kind of amazing how simply the Gargoyles characters can fit into WOD and how easy it is to create brand new ones that just rock. And yes that should be a bad pun 😛

Overall Mod 4/5 – As easy to mod as any other WOD title.

Overall Fun 5/5 – I am a fan of both WOD (the original anyway) and Gargoyles (RULE THE NIGHT FOREVER!!!!) so yeah I think its fun.

Total Score 13/20 – A rather weak score, but still, I love it. Can I recommend it. Yes. Is it for everyone, no.

Ok so I gotta run…

So gimme the dice, I gotta see if Goliath can keep up in high winds 🙂

 

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