Archive for category G
Ok so here I am hiding from the heat (yeah yeah I know its not all THAT hot, but I only really enjoy temps up to 65 degrees), and making sure my music keeps pumping. All so I could go over a couple of new game books my wife got me (she heard I was having a bad day during the week and picked up some great food and a couple of first ed D&D books on her way home. If that is not the definition of a loving wife there needs to to be a freakin update because that was just awesome). And also here comes a new review.
A few weeks ago I got a gift from a dear friend The Wheel of Time RPG. Now then this is an item that has been on my get list for a while. So while my main man over there at Dan On Games got me the gift, there is a serious history here. See my friend and I were in high school together when Robert Jordan‘s first book in the Wheel of Time was published. And as you can imagine, a couple of game geeks, with a strong new fantasy setting that starts with three teen male leads and a couple of female teen leads, written in a way that would make Tolkien go ‘Dayyyumnn!’, or at least in my mind it would, yeah we both got a little hooked.
Anyway, it took a while but Wizards of the Coast created a little system called d20 in 2000 that they put their latest version of D&D into. With that under their hat they created several licensed products using that game engine and the Wheel of Time RPG was one of them. And really no that is not the full story, that is why I put all the bloody links in these things these days so I don’t have to write all of history over and over again. So tell me how this all started… “Well first the earth cooled and then the dinosaurs came, and they got big and died and then…” Yeah, no, I don’t have time for that.
Anyway, the Wheel of Time RPG came to us in 2001 amidst a flurry of other products that were all using the d20 open game license (no you don’t get a link for that one, you should know your way to Wikipedia by now). And to be totally honest at that time we were on book eight or so of the series and things seemed to be taking sooooooooo long that I really did not want to add the game to my collection at the time. Even to dissect yet another version of the d20 system. So instead interest on my side fades until about 2010 when I start rereading the series, and then the hunt began. Not in earnest mind you but if I would have found it I would have picked it up. Last year shortly after the wedding I started reading the series again while on the train back and forth to work (yea I have a regular job and have to commute… I have told you people this like a… no… no I am not going to get off track again.) and so I dropped it on my Amazon wish list just in case anyone could find it for the Yule/Xmas season. And then tahhh dahhh. Gift come round. So yeah, now I have it.
I have played plenty of d20 variants. And this one is not too bad. There are a few things I take issue with in the way they implemented the game mechanics to really reflect how the Wheel of Time world works. The reasons I have issue is… well I will go into that in a bit. Basically if you have ever played a d20 or D&D 3.0 game engine game you will be able to slip into this one with ease. Picking up and running with all the details, not as easy.
So what sort of set up do we have here. Well… let me just grab the good and bad I see to try and give you some of the details.
Good – Instead of giving all human characters (of which you should have 99% human characters in a WoT game) one extra feat, and four extra skill points, you take a background. In that background (all based on regions that your character came from) you have a choice of certain feats, and certain skills. You pick one of each. The feat counts as what you would usually see as the bonus feat for being human. The skill becomes a class skill (meaning it has a cheap cost to raise the level of for folks who don’t know the system) and gets four skill points in it. The background also gives you set languages, and also gives you some starting equipment that does not count against your starting monies (designated by your starting character class). They can also give you some serious restrictions when it comes to initial equipment, like no swords for an Aiel. Now some people would see this as limiting. I see it as a great way to establish solid role playing for whatever region your character comes from, and if you play a character that is even slightly perceptive they can pick up on this in game if someone is in disguise.
Good – Initial skill points are not going to be below 4+INT bonus x 4. There are in the base classes two that only offer 2+INT bonus x 4. And that really limits what a character can do outside of combat.
Good – They really try to fit all of the monsters they can from the books in (well up through book eight of the series anyway).
Good – They do a great job giving the feel of the world in the books. Region descriptions and details about the people are great. And some of the more magical things like The Ways (hidden paths created by magic (the One/True Power) that cross over space via a hidden dimension) get good write ups that help you feel how they could be used in a game.
Good – Equipment details help take all the terms that are used in the books by various cultures and give you something to look at directly and a slightly better description that Mr. Jordan did so that you can get into playing the items with your character.
Bad – While they include almost every human culture in the core rule book they leave out the Seanchan, the Tuatha’an, and the Shara. While they are mentioned in Other Places, and a little about the Seanchan’s use of the One Power is discussed, they put nothing in place to allow you to play a member of those cultures directly. If they would have listed them as monsters (and in the case of the Seanchan I could believe that) I would understand it. But considering the fact they make the Sea Folk playable kinda takes any other valid reason they could present off the board. It would have added maybe twelve pages total to the book. But no. Not there. Even as bad guys.
Bad – Speaking of bad guys, there is no alignment in this game. The setting rather clearly defines good and evil on its own, however the axis of law versus chaos not so much. While it does not have a major impact on game play mechanics, I think it has an impact on role playing. In a game without a way to say a character has a code of behavior or other items to guide the play of good and evil you can roll anywhere at any time. And that can open up a whole realm of challenges a game master may not want to face.
Bad – Ta’veren. O k so in the stories this is the same as being “the One”, “Chosen”, “Destined for something greater” and so on. Instead of putting a solid mechanic of any kind into place they give a short side bar that says something along the lines of, you cant choose this and not all destines are great, a character may posses this trait for a short time. It usually comes with a stat boost to charisma, and whatever else the DM feels is needed. Ok I know that players want to be the heroes or villains of their own stories. But seriously. This is weak sauce. Personally I would have put a progressive mechanic in place. Based on the number of sessions or stories, how much bonus do you get. Or maybe based on impact on the world at large. And apparently the charisma bonus is supposed to simulate the ability of the Ta’veren seen in the books to gather people to them and influence how groups, not individuals but full on organizations or nations will react. Nah, its just weak. And its use on the NPC’s is… sigh…
Bad – The Source, making weaves, using the One Power. Ok I will give them this, they really tried. All in all the mechanic works. However it is clunky and unless you want to have a character who is totally focused on magic from day one and you are willing to wait until you have at least one Prestige class (advanced character classes for those not in the loop. They have requirements that you need to meet in a base class before you can take levels in them) and be at a fairly high level, the effect you are going to have in the game is minimal unless you are willing to risk burning out your powers every time you cast something, oh and if your character is male you will be going mad as you risk your power. To really make things worth while with this mechanic you need to burn every feat you can to make magic low enough impact to use regularly. Now then some people would say that this properly reflects the books. And to a degree it does and that is what makes it worth exploring. How ever the first character I made, a male who could channel burnt out his powers the very first time he tried to cast a weave. So, now I have a character who has a wasted level. All because I wanted to actually be able to affect the opponent I had set up (another first level character by the way). Because by the rules if you have burnt out, or been stilled your powers can be brought back (not easy at all), but you will be two levels lower in effect. So… I would have a -1 level caster if you count zero. Soooo yeah. I like some of the ideas they have for this, like a sliding level for weaves (spells) and how you can over channel (how I got into trouble because my first level weaves had no effect) but the way they are implemented means you have to make a very, very restricted character to make it work, and anyone I have played with will tell you that is sort of not my style.
Ok so that is a lot to take in, how about I simplify things and do my little rating bit?
Overall Fluff 4/5 – The detailing of everything in this book is great. I mean even the intro by Robert Jordan is totally cool. However they are missing a few essential cultures. If they are in the one supplemental book that was published that is great for that book. But in this one I gotta take a point off because to me it just hurt too much.
Overall Crunch 3/5 – Rules there are a plenty, but missing alignment and the way they made the One Power work… it just. I can’t say its better than a three because there is work to do here.
Overall Mod 4/5 – BWAHAHAHA, yeah its D&D 3.0 d20. I can mod this. I can mod the hell out of it. The amount of work I see to get the Channeling system working better though goes beyond what I normally consider fun in a mod kinda way.
Overall Fun 3/5 – Ok so the reason why fun is so low here is actually due to those missing cultures and the work I will be doing to make the magic/channeling system work better. I really wanted to play with those less common cultures, as friend and foe.
Total Score 14/20 – Ok so this seems like a low-ish score. It is not that bad really. And overall I think there is a LOT of great material here to work with. Plus the things they did explore in the setting have just enough flavor to get you running but not so over flavored that you cannot build on it and make it your own.
So as usual this is my opinion and if you dont like it… ask my wife before you bite me. 🙂 heh
But seriously if you can find a copy then you should look it over if you are a fan of d20 or a fan of Wheel of Time and make a choice for yourself if its the game you have been seeking.
Ok I am out. Time to beat the heat and start thinking about what I am gonna set up for my wife for dinner.
Gimme the dice, I gotta see if we have a random food encounter coming 🙂
Good gods. Three weeks without a blog post. Ok while I will take full responsibility for not putting a serious priority on the blog, well, so goes life. I wont try to list all the personal and work things going on that took higher priority in that time frame. And I will not make excuses for putting my oldest friend first next weekend with his reception party for his recent wedding. Nor for putting my wife first and taking her on a vacation to the coast while we make our way to said reception event. So to my loyal reader/s who show up with regularity and read every one of these posts, now you know whats up. And if someone got me a job posting these things and creating wild and crazy ideas for adventures and worlds, well then and only then would I be here on a permanent basis. 🙂
So with all that out of the way, we can ask the usual type of question, what the hell does he mean by Epic Adventures?
So Epic Adventures, also known in some parts as Adventure Paths are a series of adventures and encounters set up to bring a group of player characters in a level based game setting from level one up to the top levels of play. The first example that I am aware of (please note that I say aware of, because there are likely more out there that I dont know of as this is a fairly cool concept) was Castle Greyhawk. This was originally published back in 1988 by TSR for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. It was intended to be a series of comedy adventures in a single castle that you could bring your players back to from time to time to unwind a little from more intense stories. However if you really cleared things out and did not mind creeping through humor all the time you could make it from level one to level 20 or so depending on classes by the time you cleared all the levels under the castle. While the next was not intended to have you start at first level, you could with a little tweaking make it work and that was The Ruins of Undermountain also published by TSR, this time in 1991. What made Undermountain and its sequel/add on was that it was not designed to be anything more than a serious dungeon crawl adventure. However with good work by a good DM you could make it an ongoing campaign.
Later on you would see things like the Shackled City campaign that was originally published in series in Dungeon magazine in 2003, The Worlds Largest Dungeon published in 2004, and a TON of adventure paths set up by Piazo for Pathfinder. The later offerings went past meeting in a bar and starting up a series of raids to gain levels. They plotted a story, gave NPCs background and gave characters a reason to keep things going.
Dont get your undies in a bundle that I am not mentioning your favorite module series. While nearly every game system out there has published adventures that take a story-line over multiple modules (DC Heroes, Star Frontiers, Marvel Super Heroes, and all generations of D&D to name a few) there are a lot of notable exceptions (Champions, GURPS, and SLA Industries once again to name a few). But the reason I am not bringing them up right now is because while they may tell a story over a few adventures, they are not epics that can get characters from the start of their career to the very top of their game. There are also a few publishers that have made a full story-line out of their entire publication series, but only if you pay attention (Shadowrun and the original World of Darkness (all five main games) make great examples here). This last concept is usually referred to as a Meta Plot which means that not mater what you do or where you go you are playing in the same story line.
Now then these epics all have one really big challenge. The players. If they go off the rails of the story/adventure the GM has set up before them, well things go pear shaped really quick. Or at least they can. If the person running the game has prepped for their players to run out at just about any part of the game, then things will not go off the rails at all really.
For myself I happen to love epic stories. However I also happen to know that every group I have ever played with likes to go outside the lines of the story and may want to chase down very minor plot threads that could seem like a waste of time in the overall plot. Actually I have had game groups run from the main plot right at the get go. And while it will occasionally get frustrating, I have a method of working around that. I call it the Epic Clock. I put down a time line for things to happen in on the main plot. If the characters get involved then sure they are the chosen ones. If they run from it, well then whomever else becomes the chosen ones will either save everything or things will get messed up without them. This also means though that the characters can get involved at any time. Either being at the right place at the right point in the time line, or by finding a sub plot of some kind that leads them back into the main story/plot. Also I have a distaste for just setting up modules as offered for an epic. In recent times I have taken some old D&D modules (Basic, AD&D and AD&D 2nd ed) and put them into series so that they create an epic. All of these modules are fairly easy to modify into Pathfinder so I dont have to change too many NPCs or monsters in extreme ways. Or I just build my own out of whole cloth.
Now then dont think this keeps me from running one off nights, or even one off series. But having a over arching epic, and a timeline gives me something to run everything against.
I dont do this too often but I would actually like to hear from readers on this topic. Do you like one offs, epic stories, meta plots, timelines or just what in adventures? Just reply to the posting and let me know.
Ok signing off for now, so gimme the dice, I need to roll a d10000 to see how big the next adventure is…
Hey there readers. So I have spoken up a few times about my dislike of G.U.R.P.S. For those of you that don’t know what the heck I am talking about G.U.R.P.S. is an RPG game engine created by Steve Jackson games. And the acronym name stands for Generic Universal Role Playing System. Now then while this article will not be a game review as such, it is going to be more along the lines of a rant.
First things first though. Remember that this is all my opinion and this game may be the very thing you have been looking for all your life. So take me with a grain of salt until you go over the game yourself. The materials published by SJG do have some very strong points, and their other games have been on my play list for a long time.
So let me start out by talking about what I think that SJG has done right with G.U.R.P.S. They worked very hard to make a scale-able universal game engine. In some respects they failed miserably but we will get to that later. Next comes the fact that they have licensed more properties since the game was released in 1986 than any other game engine that I know of, even to the point of licensing other games. The setting supplements that they publish usually have a ton of detail and fluff that can be used with just about any game engine. They make awesome reference material. To be perfectly honest if it was not for the game engine itself I would be hard pressed to find better material. And even though I don’t like the game engine I still have several of the books they have published to use as reference material. The engine is also point based, which should put it high on my list of great games. I love the design control that a point based system gives you, but that love falls apart when the engine becomes unbalanced.
Now then the things I do not think that they have done well revolve all round the game engine itself. I really have three major bones of contention. And while two of them can be worked around (one easily and the other with some serious rules shifting) fixing the third would just kill the game engine and you might as well use something else. And since I don’t feel like surprising anyone by saving that big one for last, lets just start there.
My big and unassailable issue comes from the games stats system. As most gamers will know the stats are the mechanic that you use to define a character in their broadest and bluntest strokes. There are engines out there like Champions that have over a dozen stats to give you clearly defined lines for what the basic character is capable of without skills, tools, powers or anything else. And then you have games like Big Eyes Small Mouth that uses only three stats and each one is very broad. The game mechanics let you refine them further to detail things how you like. G.U.R.P.S. however uses four stats, and three of them define physical traits. And these stats are used to define the majority of the other skills and characteristics that a character can develop. Now then this may work really well in a strategy game, but in an RPG I personally like to establish a baseline for the mental aspects for the character that have nothing to do with their raw intelligence. Now then while G.U.R.P.S. does have positive and negative traits that you can use to gain more of that level of detail, and has a disadvantage system called Quirks that you can use to give some cool little details that can really define the limits of a characters personality, you still have to face off with the fact that your strength of will is going to come down to an intelligence roll. And I don’t know about you but the number of people I know of with a high IQ, well they are not always the most strong willed. When it comes to scaling of the stats I also have a problem. The stats run from zero to twenty just fine. Very scale-able. Very much running up to peak human. However if you get into the truly heroic or superhuman the scaling goes a little, or even more than a little, out of whack. So much so that they had to create a separate point cost system for strength that you can kick in after a value of thirty for cost savings. This problem comes into play even if you are creating an elephant. Disproportion of costs so that you can build what you want. It ends up meaning that in any setting you will have stat values that don’t make sense for everything from animals to aliens just to try and balance the game play and point costs.
The second issue that I have with the G.U.R.P.S. game engine is an item that they put in called an Unusual Background Cost. Now then whenever I have played G.U.R.P.S. I have tossed this thing out. This is an additional cost that you will pay for your character to have something that is uncommon or unusual in the game setting. So if you are playing a spy game and everyone is building characters with 200 points and you want to be able to do minor magic the game master can charge you up to 50 points so that you can do minor magic. I find that lazy as (four letter word starting with F and ending with K). Personally I would call that a cause for a disadvantage. A reason to have the character hunted by gods only knows how many agencies and religious groups. It is something that I can use to build deeper stories and it gives me a reason to add weird stuff into the game. And if I don’t want that in a game I say NO. Really easy just say that the setting does not support that. End of issue. I mean, seriously… what… the.. FUC… is wrong here. So ok as I said this is the easiest to fix, just throw the dumb ass rule out. However it bothers me to think that game masters need to have a stick like this to either enforce the world they want to use, or have absolutely no ability to say no to players when it will screw up the setting. SIGH… ok… moving on…
Third issue that I have is the way that skills and powers get built out. Just to give you a quick basic way to go about things…. lets see here… Ahh yes. Most folks can relate to fights in RPGs, so lets take a look at punching someone. First we need to know your DX (dexterity) Punching is covered by Brawling so we put points into brawling. But I want to use martial arts so that means I now have to use my Karate or Judo skill which defaults to Brawling that defaults to DX. But if I have a specific technique I may have advantages I have to purchase and then a technique skill that is based off of Karate that is based off of Brawling that is based off DX. Now then if I want to be really good at that one technique, I just really want to use my Martial Master Plucks the Flowers punch better than anything else, and my character concept would agree that everything else I do in a fighting style sucks… I still have to buy up my Brawling and then my Karate and then my technique because I cannot exceed my base skills by more than a certain amount. Ok so my thinking here is how many people might you know that can cook one thing really well, but they destroy everything else? Or can draw one image over and over but then have problems with stick figures? Or or or or or… Now then the sad thing is that powers are built in the same way. Be they magical or super human, they do the game bloody thing. And if you have a power you need a specific skill to use it (back in first edition you also had another step in there where you had to roll one skill to hit something and another to hurt it on top of paying for the actual power to do anything with). This can be fixed, to a degree by cutting out middle skills, removing prerequisites and a few other things. But if you are going that far do you really want to use the engine anyway.
Now then I freely admit that I have not played G.U.R.P.S. since third edition. I have heard that they updated several things but it is really hard to get past twenty years of annoyed and try again.
Overall how would I rate the game I have ranting about, just remember this is for the WHOLE enchilada of G.U.R.P.S. not just the main rule book or any one supplement, this is an all or nothing…
- Fluff – 5/5 – They have some cool stuff
- Crunch – 0/5 – I really dislike these rules and I… I just cant
- Mod – 0/5 – Oh you can mod the hell out of it, you have to, then it still wont play well
- Fun – 2/5 – Some of the supplements really rock, when used with another engine.
- Total over all score 7/20 – You have my sympathy if you play this game.
Ok so let me finish off this crap sandwich here. I have never been impressed with G.U.R.P.S. I quit even trying after third edition. While the game engine, to me, is one of the worst with all the flaws, the supplemental materials, worlds, settings, references and so on are almost all awesome. And when they get a licensed product they treat the materials with respect and go into levels of detail that really impress me. And I know the game system has been hideously successful over the last 30+ years, where games that I find more balanced and playable have fallen to the roadside. So maybe I am an outlier, and maybe its just that SJG has more money to toss at marketing and slightly less expensive books. I really don’t know. So as I said, take me with a grain of salt.
Anyway, peace out, play well, and gimme the dice, I need to find out how deep this rabbit hole of skills goes…
WARNING – This post is dark and disturbing in its content. It is also intended in a humorous and informative manner. You have been warned, so don’t bitch about it later if it offends you and you read it anyway.
So I published a bit about the idea of Cannibal Castle a few years back on a gaming fantasy blog I was writing, and I figured after the last entry I would jump into an entry or two about what makes for good bad guys, and for playing them. So any entry starting out with “The Bad Guys” will be one of these.
A little history. Years back there was a time while I was unemployed that I was staying with a couple of guys who wanted to put together a symposium of a different type together for a local sci-fi fantasy convention. Well they came to me and I created Cannibal Castle and the following material. We got turned down, but I kept the material and have even dropped this place into a couple of game worlds I have run. Had a Pathfinder game group who wanted to play bad guys actually get one game session away from getting into the castle before they were too unnerved by playing the bad guys to go on with it.
What I am going to drop here first is the original pitch for the symposium. Our goal was not to really pitch the castle itself, but to get people talking about what is evil and how to put something more unique into their games and stories.
Cannibal Castle Productions
The first annual panel on the care and feeding of the TRULY EVIL.
This panel is being brought to you to give a look, sometimes silly, at the care and feeding of a truly evil holding. The idea is to give you a look at something so nasty and bizarre that it inspires the creation of nastier villains and challenges that most heroes would probably loose their lunch over.
This years focus will be on keeping the food stores high in your castle thru any and all means possible, the nastier the better of course.
Part 1 – Castle features and their use in feeding the residents.
Torture chambers need to be in the second and third floor of a tower so that it can be used as a meat smoker when you have all the information you need.
Portcullis need to be removable individually so that skewered heroes can be heated up over a nice fire.
Ballista and archers need to fire bolts made from dried hickory or other flavorful woods so that they can be left in the victims to give a nice smoky flavor when cooking your enemies.
Murder holes used in pouring molten fats and oils over invaders need to be cleaned regularly with seasoned boiling hot water to make soup stock.
Underground areas need to be well mapped and trapped so that any and all unwelcome guests can add to the crop of mushrooms that you can grow there.
All vegetables and spices grown in the castle need to not only be flavorful, but also be toxic in high doses so they can do double duty.
Moats should be filled with flammable oils so that they can be used as barbecues during an invasion.
Stables should be kept clean for the storage of the invaders mounts. It is essential to keep them clean and fresh before adding them to the food supply.
At least one underground area needs to be free of running water so that it can be frozen with supplies of winter ice. This is essential for keeping things fresh and for quieting some of the noisier prisoners.
Part 2 – Bringing in the feast.
The fastest way to resupply your meat stock is to find a way to be invaded. This brings the fresh tender meat to your door, no hunting or farming required. A few quick and simple ideas to get this to happen are as follows.
Send out troops to brag about how rich you are. This will attract other evil groups and the poor, the poor are stringy and can be used as slave labor for upkeep, and the evil ones cook up nicely. This also gives you room to expand later.
Send out troops to brag about how evil you are. This will bring in scores of heroes, and as long as you can keep winning it will keep you well fed. Heroes usually cook better than villains anyway.
Send out a raiding party with a declaration of war. For this one you need good men and fast movers that can hairy the opposition and make them want to follow back to the castle in force.
Send out small groups to burn a city or two and leave your calling card. This one serves a dual purpose, it keeps the troops entertained and brings the heroes to your door. Just make sure that all the troops involved know that you get 50% of the take from looting before they head out.
Send out teams to wrangle all the live stock that they can from farms you do not control. This gets you some light eating at first, and as the farmers stock is noticed gone then you will get more and more heroes coming until you are finally invaded in force. This is good for long term planning and used in conjunction with the fires can be a major morale boost for the troops.
This is a small selection of the options that can be used. If you are evil enough you can come up with more.
Part 3 – Proper equipment and training for your minions/cooks.
This part should be done subtly, if you do not then some wise guy out there will organize against you before you are ready to put things to your advantage. Knowing this gear for the troops should include but not be limited to the following.
Razor sharp skinning knives. Knowing that many of the troops that can knife fight would prefer heavy blades this may be the hardest one to get them to use. Just remind them that heavy knives cost food supplies for later by wasting meat.
Hickory projectiles and portcullis. This means that you have a good nice smoked wood flavor coming from anything that gets impaled.
Flammable oil vials with added spices. Letting the troops pick their own flavors might not be a bad idea, this way they can have a little more of a personal touch when they eat the enemy later.
Extra training in anatomy. This way everyone will know just what the best part of the body to use in the field or at home, what will travel best when smoked, and how long to cook that dwarven leg.
Constant exposure to the gardens. This way your troops can develop immunity to the plants you are growing for double duty as toxins and spices.
Training in the various kinds of oils and there uses. This way they will know just what kind of oils to fill the moat with, and which kinds to add to portable cooking kits.
Part 4 – Hiring Minions
The usual deals that are offered by evil overlords are good but there are better plans and small details like the following can help get the best troops in the area.
First you need to start out with the most ragtag group of losers and cut-throats around. These will be your cannon fodder and build your first income base. Remember that this crew is disposable and you would rather have them all destroyed before you get your first castle built, or taken over.
Second and later groups are only accumulated after the castle is built. You make them the following offers.
- Base Pay (from the wealth you never paid the first group)
- 50% of the loot in all raids in your name.
- 100% of all loot from raids in the troops free time as long as they are approved by you.
- Additional training to help beat and eat your enemies.
- A well fortified base of operations.
- A detailed ranking system in the troops so you know who to backstab without making costly errors.
- Medical plans (must maintain at least 1 evil cleric make him/her a lieutenant and you will have it easy)
- Global recognition within 5 years.
Part 5 – Relocation
Knowing that eventually Heroes, Kingdoms, and even good aligned spiritual forces will soon align against you and likely hit you with more force than even a well stocked fortress can endure you need to make sure that you have done the following things.
- Establish a route of escape that no one but you knows about. No one. Seriously. Kill anyone that finds out about it.
- Move at least ½ your wealth to another location regularly. Usually 2 or three locations works better so that even outside raids will not get all of it in one go.
We will go over all this more in detail later on in the symposium, I would like to also offer you our detailed courses in attracting the proper vampire to grant you power and not enslavement, and how to summon demon and evil elemental lords for fun and profit later in the week.
End of original material
So in game play I have a tendency to give things a back story and build up the villain who runs the castle. My personal favorite was a human from a culture in which eating ones enemies was a high compliment, but when he got to the region of the world I put the castle in he found the people there were small minded and considered him evil for practicing his cultures rites. He never ate anyone he had not killed, and he cooked them before he killed them because eating them raw was considered rude. Persecuted for his cultural beliefs and unwilling to adapt to the culture he found himself in, he decided to go ahead and be evil. The castle and these practices resulted. Playing this villain as being smart made for a really good bad guy. Setting up small things, planting rumors with locals and so on all to lure small groups of “heroes” into his castle. Making them the invaders and his enemy. Aaaand you can see where that goes.
So thats it for now… evil is as evil does… heh
Next time I do one of these things about bad guys I may tell you about the NPC that freaked out a whole group of players who thought they were playing the bad guys.
Now gimme the dice, I need to see how many poisonous herbs are in the castles garden.
Welcome again readers. So you may have noticed that there was a slight skip in numbers on the game review. Last one was 12, this one is 14. Well that is because #13 is over on my wifes blog Steam and Lace DIY. Head on over if you want to see a non RPG blog about a game I enjoy that fits fairly well with my wifes love of Steampunk.
Now then over here I am about to add a little something to my game reviews. About two years ago I grumbled in the blog about not wanting to do a blog review of a game when I did not have a physical copy in hand. Something about the feel of a book really getting my creative and descriptive sides going. Well, its time to change that stance. With more and more games coming out in PDF form, some small press companies only having the budget to publish PDF or print on demand, and with some of the classic titles coming out in PDF while the physical copies get harder and harder to find… I just have to embrace the fact that I will not have all the games in a physical paper copy. Oh and I do mean all the games because I really do want all of them… every freaking RPG ever made… I want em all 🙂
So with all that out of the way we get onto the actual review… SLA Industries 2nd Edition.
SLA Industries is a game that has been in many hands, including for a while Wizards of the Coast. Originally published and once again in the hands of Nightfall Games, SLA Industries is the brainchild of Dave Allsop. Originally published in 1993 in a slightly oversized format, the game stood out on shelves wherever it was sold. Now then I have to say that when it first came out I saw it there, on the shelves, and was impressed with the size of it, but the original cover art just had me skipping by it. I gave myself a lot of excuses and reasons not to buy it. I would need a bigger book shelf just for that one book, I cant really tell what its about, and many others. One afternoon in about 1996 or so there was a first edition copy in the hands of a friend and I asked to skim it for a bit. And I have to say the rules in that book did not impress me, so I did not skim too far. Then strangely over the years I heard from other gamers, read reviews and finally in 2006 I hunted down a used copy. And I read it. Even though the rules were hard to work with (sorry Dave but you know its true, character generation is a pain, but especially that damage system and tracking armor in combat, akk) but with a little tinkering to smooth a couple of rough spots I was able to put together a couple of quick game sessions. The first group I ran through it was not really knowledgeable of the whole setting and so they ended up meat for the grinder quickly. They hated it but I was enthralled. The second group ended up fighting for every inch and two of them survived the session. Everyone actually was on the edge of their seats. Unfortunately I could not get that second group together again despite the positive feedback. Other than Paranoia this is the first setting that I have found where, if your players are really devotes of the setting, you can get cheered for running a game with a TPK (total party kill). But you really have to get it right.
So I can hear a few asking, what sort of ungodly setting can you be in that would actually have players cheering about a TPK? Well, actually in SLA Industries there is a god. The god of business. And he goes by the name Slayer. Some people call the setting cyberpunk, and others call it scifi. The thing is this is the most dystopian setting you will ever find in an RPG. At least it is so far as I have found and if you know of something darker let me know. The main setting is in a city called Mort. This city is hundreds of miles in diameter. It is on a planet that is so screwed over the sun has not been seen in centuries. The city has been built in layers that go miles deep, and some of them have fallen so far apart that tribes of cannibals and once human mutants roam in the wasteland sections that are walled off from the rest of the city. Life in Mort is run by a single massive company, SLA Industries. It has dozens of subsidiaries that follow the whims of the high end executives. Mr. Slayer (not a joke… seriously) is at least hundreds of years old, and at his hand he has some of the most powerful and creepy aides. He spent hundreds of years clearing out rival companies on many worlds. Creating new cloned life forms to do war, and gathering up a few alien races to stand beside his army. Once he had enough of the enemy swept away he founded Mort and declared the new World of Progress. In which all you had to do was exactly what you were told, and you would be happy. Now then while there are businesses and technical advancement in this world, the only hope to get out of the pit that is Mort is to take a role as an Operative for the company. Being an operative means that you kill things that are going to try and kill you. And may be a threat to the company. Actually don’t worry about yourself dying because that is not as important as a threat to the company. Now then all this does not mean that the company does not have enemies, or rivals. But given the amount of resources available to SLA, best you can really say to them is good luck.
Now then all of what I said was put a little tongue in cheek. Trying to keep things a little light here. However really when you look at a setting this dark, where every character is going to be encouraged to kill and will be lucky to survive I think it deserves a moniker other than cyberpunk. I think the best call out for it would be Necropunk.
So lets run the numbers shall we?
Fluff – 5/5 – Oh gods the beauty in the darkness. Not only is there a ton of fluff in this game, the pinched and slightly off style of the art makes all the written work more powerful. Even in the rules sections there are comments and notations that add to the flavor of just about everything. The small personal stories and snippets really give you a feel for the world. And it keeps reinforcing the concept that no mater who you are, unless you are the boss, you are screwed. The game starts out with almost 110 pages of information, stories and art of characters and settings just to get you into the grove before diving into the rules. And it just keeps adding on.
Crunch – 4/5 – Ok so positives for the rules – They are consistent, no mater the experience level or power level everything scales at pace. No real stats are ever given for Mr Slayer or the members of his inner circle. There is nothing in the rules that ties them to the world specifically, so no element of the crunch is directly tied to the fluff. You can mod it. Negatives for the rules – Frequently over complex. Frequently recitative. Character generation is a pain. So why do I rate it so high? Because with just a little smoothing you can really make a go of it.
Mod – 2/5 – So you can see this seems a little low. Here is the why of that. With the over complex rules you can do a little shaving and still be a bit flustered with how the overall rules system works. Or, like I do with a lot of GURPS books you can just toss out the rules and use it as source material for a game engine you really enjoy. But to do that effectively you need to be sure you can convey to your players that this will definitely be a darker, nastier world than anything they have used that game engine for before.
Fun – 4/5 – I cannot really max the fun out here. And yeah I have a really good reason. While it is fun to play in the dark side. To have all the reasons you could ever want to subvert, pervert, twist and destroy while still being told you are a good guy and reaping massive rewards for it… It is still playing in the dark. You need to come up for air from time to time and do some kind of game with a positive moral imperative or you are just going to be drawing on dark things forever. Now then while I have a story arc idea that would allow players to develop into something that could challenge Mr Slayer, and bring a moral compass to the world, it would take years of play time and that could get to be a slog just to see the results of trying to be a real hero in a setting this dark.
Overall score – 15/20 – So its not a bad score, not the best by any means. Do I recommend it? Actually I recommend a setting this dark to everyone. Play something like this at least once so you can get a feel for how dark things can get. That way you can really see hero versus evil in a new light. For the game itself. If you like dark to the point of Necropunk then you are likely already playing it. Give it a read by all means though and see if you like it.
Ok so thats the latest, hope you had fun in your visit and I am looking forward to my next post, where I may finally tell you all why I hate playing GURPS, or why I hate gnomes. Lets see what happens.
Now gimme the dice, I gotta see if my operative can find his way home after being maimed by carnivorous pigs (yes those area thing in SLA too). Great gaming to ya all 🙂
You will all notice the little plus sign out there on the title of this one, well that is because I am doing a little pitching for another blog here. My wife has started up a DIY blog for creating Steampunk items for home decorating. GO HERE. I think its only fair to try and steer people her way since she has asked me to do a game review on her blog. It is not my usual RPG game fare though, it is a table top game called Crimson Skies. Some may remember the Xbox game with the same title, or have read some of the game novels, but the table top game was done on a license from Microsoft by WizKidz. I know that table top games are usually the venue of my friend Dan the RPG man over at Dan on Games, but I just had to go ahead with it.
Now with that bit of shameless promotion out of the way, lets get to the reason you are really here, and that is my latest review.
The Street Samurai Catalog is a supplement for the first edition of the Shadowrun game published back in 1989. Shadowrun is a rather unique game due to the fact that it very successfully mixes Urban Fantasy and Cyberpunk into a very dark and fascinating world. It is also unique because even though it has been owned by several hands, since its inception in 1989 (see the link to wiki for a fair description of how it has changed hands) the game has run a series of ongoing story lines in meta plots that have progressed the world from 2050 to 2079. The rules system is a little complex when it comes to combat, and driving but overall it has been a lot of fun to stick with.
Ok so given that the game has been around for over twenty five years, why am I doing a review about a game supplement that came out in the first year of its production of the first edition? Well that is because this was the very first add on that I picked up for Shadowrun. The Grimoire was the second. It took me a while to really find the role I liked to play in this game setting but that is something that can be covered in another review or rant.
Considering that I had started playing RPG’s in the 70’s I had really gotten used to the idea that a supplement book would be just a stack of information about new gear. Maybe a few new rules and if I was lucky maybe an adventure in the back. On flipping through the book the very first time though I was caught off guard. There was not a lot of new stuff in the book. I mean for a 116 page book that I was going to drop twelve bucks on, I was really thinking that there should be more than one new item per page. Now then I will say this was back in the days when I was fairly new to FASA games publications. Only having played Battletech for a few years and mostly in a home brew kinda way, their tendency to add story and color elements to just about everything they do was something I had not completely caught on to yet. So I took a closer look at what they had offered. Yeah there is some cool gear here, and some new rules that made the items in the book a serious threat, or a serious joke.
What really caught me though was the color commentary by characters who were supposedly reading this book as an article posted online. It reminded me of some of the BBS sites that I had been introduced to. If you really think about it 1989, we were still a few years off from seeing the AOL revolution and the internet becoming a big thing. Thank you internet. And yet here was this book giving me the idea that there would be forums online where you could not only connect but to comment on things you were seeing. And even if people did not agree with you, you still had basic credibility because you were smart enough and skilled enough to get to this place online and talk about whatever you were looking into. But the banter that developed between characters, and the way they would evolve over the years became damned impressive. However that was to come, right at the moment I decided that yeah, this was worth my twelve bucks, this was how the future was going to look. And it looked like fun.
The book itself has entries on about ninety weapons, armor, vehicle and cyber options. Commentary on about half of them. Several pages of extra rules, Street Samurai character templates, reference sheets and character sheets.
Now then what is really funny about this, is that at the time this game came out, I was not convinced that I would play it. I was so hooked on supers (still am really) and fantasy settings that I just could not get into Shadowrun that much. I thought it was a cool idea sure. But I talked down about it almost as much as I talked up about it. When this book came out though, I decided that the Shadowrun world was mine, and I did not want to share it. So I sort of purposefully spiked the Shadowrun game I was in at the time by mocking the GM relentlessly (not that he didn’t need mocking) and trying to start up a game of my own (failed ohhh so badly). But again thats another story.
So how does this game stack up when I give it the numbers?
Fluff – 5/5 – This is going to be another moment when folks say… ‘Wait another supplement with a 5/5 in fluff, what the hell?’ And before I tell you to go piss in someone else’s corn flakes, let me tell you this. EVERY SINGLE ITEM that they are adding in this supplement, weapons, armor, cyber and toys gets its own art. Each one gets its own little bit of advertising like you would see in a catalog and over half of them have additional color commentary. Trust me the fluff is strong with this one.
Crunch – 2/5 – So you have to take this score in context a bit. This is a supplement made using the very first edition rules for a new game. In years to come it got easier and some of the rules got less unwieldy. But because of the changes in the rules structure it is a challenge to even import these items into the current edition of the game.
Mod – 1/5 – This is really an issue for Shadowrun over all up until the fourth edition. Due to rules complexity it is really easy to over power something by making very small seeming adjustments. And just as easy to make something completely useless. Actually there are a couple items in the book that really are useless. They sort of did that as a joke on themselves and even added color commentary that says “Wonderful. Now I can flatten light ammo against body armor faster than ever before.”
Fun – 4/5 – Ok so the rules hurt, and the chance to make things work or alter them is slim. But it is still a lot of fun. And it got more so as time went on and you could see the commentators appear in more and more supplements and see how they grew. The toys were fun to play with and it made a real impact on how I looked at games and what they could be. So yeah while I rate the fun high I am not going to max it out.
Overall – 12/20 – Ok so this is one of my lower overall scores. I figure I will have even worse in the future. With a score like this, is it worth looking into? I would say so if you like classic Shadowrun, have an obsessive need to go all pokemon on your RPG books and have to collect them all, or think that the art and comments might give you ideas. This is not going to be a book for everyone. Not even everyone who is a Shadowrun fan. But it is special to me and so I still say take a look and decide for yourself.
Well thats it for this time on my own blog. Not sure when my write up for Crimson Skies will appear on my wifes blog but it is something you can look forward to.
Now gimme the dice, got to see what the odds are that I will appear in other blogs and how much light ammo it will take to get back out of them.
Play safe and have fun folks.
Ok so I warned you all that this might be longer than usual. I also apologize for being an additional week late. But I wanted to get this one filled in a way to really draw folks in.
So where does this one start. Up until now I have given the readers clues, hints and pieces about what would be playable, how the world is formed, who the bad guys are and how the religion operates. This entry is not about the ifs ands or butts, this is about what you need to start the game. So that will mean rules mods for Pathfinder races, and classes. Details on a couple of starting points, and a glossing over of a few basic stories to start games with.
Ready… ’cause we aint stoppin till its done 🙂
Races – My version of all the races uses the rules presented in the Pathfinder Advanced Race Guide. I wanted to get everyone on a balanced field based on their own rules. Every race is built on ten points. This means some races have a little more juju than you see in the core book, and some have less.
Dwarves – Humanoid; Size M; Speed – Normal (30′); Stats (+2 Con, +2Wis, -2Cha); Standard Languages; Hardy – +2 vs Poison, Spells and Spell Like abilities; Sturdy – +4 CMD vs trip and bull rush maneuvers; Craftsman +2 on all Craft or Profession skills to make things of metal or stone; Skill bonus – Depending on caste -(L) +1 on Survival (Underground) and +1 Profession Mining /(M) +1 on Profession Smith and +1 Tactics /(H) +1 on Alchemy and +1 Knowledge metal; Weapon familiarity also depends on caste – (L)Shovel and Pick / (M)Hammer and Axe / (H)Pole axe and Spear; Dark vision 60′
So my dwarves are a little faster, a little more flex at the start based on your caste and no racial rage, while still being tough.
Elves – Humanoid; Size M; Speed – Normal (30′); Stats (+2Dex, +2 Con, -2 Int); Standard Languages; Standard Elven immunities – immune to sleep and +2 vs Charm and Enchantment spells; Skill Bonus +2 Perception; Climb +8 racial bonus to climb skill; Swim +8 racial bonus to Swim skill and base speed 30′ in water; Hold breath – Hold breath up to 4x Con rounds; Low Light vision also functions underwater.
So these elves are not as magical and have no racial weapons. The hit to their Int is not to say they are unintelligent. Quite the opposite. However they do normally lack formal education.
Goblin – Humanoid; Size S; Speed – Fast (40′); Stats (-2 Str, +4 Dex, -2Cha); Standard Languages; Urbanite – +2 Diplomacy and Sense Motive to gather information and understand social situations; Pyromaniac treat as +1 level with any spell/magic using fire includes alchemy; Bite 1d2 + Str bonus; Low light vision
So as their race came to be they started out as prey and got fast. They got magic and got to blowing things up, and while they understand people, they are usually so blunt and direct it is not like they can do much with it.
Halflings – Humanoid; Size S; Speed – Slow (20′); Stats (-2 Str, +2 Dex, +2Cha); Standard Languages; Fearless +2 vs Fear effects; Lucky – Lesser – +1 to all saves; Skill Bonus’ – +2 Perception and +2 Profession of choice or Survival; Silver Tounge – +2 on Diplomacy and Bluff and they can shift reaction results three spaces instead of two.
Again a race without racial weapons. Smooth talking and charming wanderers. I know I have not done an article about them but I think by the stats alone you can see where its going.
Human – Humanoid; Size M; Speed – Normal (30′); Stats (+2 on stat of choice); Standard Languages; Bonus Feat; Bonus Skills; Skill Training – +1 Survival (Wilderness) and +1 Animal Handling and +1 Perception with finally +1 Healing
Humans live in a wild and unforgiving part of the world. No particular weapon skills here either, but in adapting so fast they learn to help the family and themselves rather quickly.
I previously covered the classes that were available in World Building 108. What I did not cover is the fact that in this world preferred classes are a personal choice. Not a racial distinction. The culture itself seems to make things more common for some classes, but the CHOICE of a preferred class is all in the hands of the character. Initial training in some classes makes it a little more challenging to prefer them though. To be a Monk you have to go to the human lands. They have the only monasteries that offer training at this time. To advance as a Wizard or Alchemist you need to go to one of the Goblin Colleges of magic.
Clerics are an interesting item in this world. Clerics do not worship one of the gods. They call on the whole pantheon. You will note that I have not named or detailed the gods. That is because I want to leave that open at this time for anyone to build the gods they want. Mine are mine. Clerics do not have a mandatory deity signature weapon. Their domain ability is based on their Patron. Each cleric has one god that favors them for some reason, and has allowed them to partake of the Gods powers. But that Patron does not demand service or sole worship. Remember the gods in this world are currently working together against a common enemy. They dont have the time or the resources to screw with each other. And truth be told they dont really want to mess with each other. The more clerics that work with them, the more people behold their glory and the more their power jumps. So they want every cleric to succeed.
So my personal recommend is to go ahead and max out the money for starting characters. Dont roll the dice just take the cash and kit up. I also suggest that each character have at least one item that has personal or family history. It gives the players something to get creative with and it gives the game masters something to target to try and spur a story along or to delve deep into a character.
Also when it comes to fashion and the look of your character that this world is not really the usual type of fantasy setting. In some ways it is coming into the early stages of Steam-punk, and in some ways it is high fantasy like Tolkien. I would offer up that some of my own character concepts have things like a studded leather long coat that counts as leather armor. I own one of those things and I can attest to the damage they can suck up and not look scuffed. With the primitive human culture, the island elves, the urbanite goblins, almost Japanese dwarves and the migratory and almost gypsy halflings styles get mixed and mussed. The look and style of your characters should be something that you enjoy. Dont think you have to make it look like platemail from the game books if you want to have your character wear a mix of blended parts that makes you look more like a short metal golem.
Starting points –
So I had three in mind for the meta plot.
1 – Human village to the north and east in the world. Heavily wooded and mostly wild. South of the village is one of the larger logging camps that goblins and humans run together to get wood to the goblin cities for all sorts of things. Over the past several months there have been disappearances of some of the hunters. Not completely fearsome but it is a little worrying as there have been more going missing than in a usual year and no bodies have been found. To the north of the village is one of the three monasteries that the Monks run. To the east is one of the largest lakes in these hills, and the fishing has degraded in the same time period.
Now then there are a lot of things going on in this area. And a lot of places to dive into things. It would be up to players and game masters to work together to create exactly what they want to do. The lake could be some rouge elves. Missing hunters could be same problem. It may be servitors of the Titans in the area looking to disrupt the status quo. I recommend keeping Titan involvement to a minimum, but unleashing a few dire animals could be good. I would also recommend using level 2 characters with a bit more background for characters starting here.
2 – Debriden – The second largest goblin city and one of the acknowledged trade capitals of this world. The city has so many high ranked goblins in it that there is intrigue after intrigue being run. There is even a low level governors servant that has orders to work on from five separate factions. Normally he just sends reports on what he is doing to all sides and calls it good. Jobs can be found around just about every corner here. People are buying, selling, learning, stealing, backstabbing and blowing up so many things it is kind of hard to keep up.
Ok so there is even more going on here. This is the kind of setting you see in many RPG’s where you have a major city and you can actually get a random group of people involved in something because they just happened to meet in a bar and be the last ones standing at the end of a bar fight started by the small man in a cloak that wants to hire new faces so they cant be traced to him… oh wait…
I recommend starting with level 1 characters here. You can delve into just about any kind of story you want here and eventually someone from the human lands will get into town and start rambling about dire animals or rouge elves and giant shadows under the moon.
3 – Iron Wood – The last village before the great desert in the south. This is the path that people who want to get some of the toughest animal companions and familiars take. The village is small but everyone here is a veteran of something. Either a tough life, or the gladiator pit on the edge of the village. Everyone in the village will tell you that it is about two weeks to the far side of the desert and no one will make it alone. The animals on the other side of the desert have a tendency to destroy any being not strong enough to get their attention. So team up, gear up and head out.
This is the one I planned on using for my own game start. A desert adventure to get the team into a well oiled machine and then unleash them on a forest and swamp ridden jungle full of dinosaurs and mastodons and even some smilodons. Characters will need to be at least level three so they can have the improved familiar or companion feats. And remember not to make it easy on anyone. Because you will have to catch a young or pygmy version and then bring it back across two weeks of desert to get back to the main cities and action. Or they will have to be a band of survivalists that want to set up camp in the south. Others have had that idea already… but that is for your wandering monster charts…
Meta Plot Elements
These are all things that can be added to any story series. In the build I am doing they are all in there.
Exploration – There is a lot of the main continent that is not ‘civilized’. There are lots of places that are still unknown to humanoids on just this continent. And there are at least two others out there… continents that is. What secrets do they hold? How rich can you get? What dangers can you face?
Piety – Ok so everyone remembers there was once one more god. But that god is gone now and no one knows why. The gods wont answer prayers about it, and even the spirits of the ancestors refuse to answer those questions. However there are old temples, old books, old magic items, and all sorts of other little things that come from the time when the pantheon was full. Can you figure out who the god was? Would you like to take their place? What would you do with the information about the missing god if you found out who it was and what sort of portfolio they held?
Dragons – Guardians or enemies – The Dragons know what is going on in the world. Big picture. But they are under orders from the gods and titans to say nothing. The ones that have gone over to the titans are allowed to bring in potential allies, but that’s about it. Do the players dare risk going to talk to a dragon if they figure out something is up? How will the dragons show what side they are on? How will they enter the big conflict? Or will they fight amongst themselves and not be a factor?
Mutation – With the advent of the titans entering this world the raw creation energies they control will start to reshape things. Dire animals becoming more common will come first. What comes after is up to the game masters who use the world. I recommend that it hits a peak with the addition of psionics to the game world.
The big bad – Ok so its the titans. Giant races man their front gates and the smaller you get the less the threat and the more likely they are just scouts. Ogre to Giant to Titan, with their megafauna pets, kaiju war machines, and the tarasque at the beck and call of their leader. No thats not a joke, they are just that bad ass. Can they be stopped? Can peace be made? Will the players play a part on that stage, or be somewhere else in the world?
Conclusion – So this is a big world, with tons of room to add whatever you want. It has big bad guys and a fight on such an epic level brewing that you will need to put everything you have into your characters and build them up if you want to play at that game. But it also has depth and a thousand places to go that have nothing to do with the meta plot. you dont have to go there at all to enjoy this world.
Ok so thats a ton of stuff, and I am tired 🙂
I hope everyone enjoys the conclusion of the world building threads. Next time I do something like this I will likely be building a different genre of world.. if there is a next time.
Ok so gimme the dice, I have to see if I can recognize sleep… Keep gaming and play safe.
Ok so yeah I am teasing everyone by not just jumping in to World Building 109 and closing out the series. That is going to be a slightly longer than usual post and I am trying to build things up so I can cover everything I want with less than my usual grammar errors and not be quite as stream of thought as I usually am.
Now then the title of this article may be a little misleading to some. I am not talking about worlds here, but the settings we set up for individual game sessions. The tavern, the house on the hill, the local graveyard and so on are the topic of the day.
Depending on the person running the game your settings can be as simple as – You step out of the hallway and into a really big room with all sorts of wall hangings and a throne – all the way up to – As you are coming toward what looks like the end of the hall way you note the flickering of lights that you have come to associate with multiple torches. There is a scent of some kind of incense in the air that just barely covers the smell of worn and ill treated cloth. As you cautiously enter the room ahead of you, you can see the tapestries that cover the wall, once well made but now filled with mildew and rot surround a dais and throne. The flickering light you noted in the hall is coming from braziers on either side of the throne that give off an oddly colored smoke. Which may be the source of that incense you smell.
Now personally I enjoy adding as much description to things as possible, but I really dont see anything wrong with either of those descriptions. The first one is something I would use with a group that just wants to get in and hack and slash their way through the game. The second I would use for a group that wants to roleplay more and also for a group that wants to investigate everything.
I was going to put a link in for a manga-ish graphic novel series called King of RPGs but the Wiki sort of sucks and I cannot find one by the author himself that is not really a sales page. KOR is the only place I have seen setting up the setting go, in my opinion, too far. I mean when you need to set up a tent so you can add a dry ice smoke machine and have coolers set up with different sealed items to bring the correct scents to the game space and you brought your friends constrictor snake to put onto the game table with the minis so that you can have an accurate representation of the big bad monster snake… yeah… a bit far.
Also I have talked about music in games before, and I really feel like having a bit of well selected music can really enhance the game session. Adding music though you really have to consider the setting and the music you want to use. Its hard to mix things together unless you really know your group. Cranking up I am Iron Man with a fantasy setting may not be the best, unless you know the group loves rock, loves the song, or you just need something a little more intense for that Iron Golom that just crested over the trees. I can say that with all the streaming music apps though that you really want to have a plan going where you do not have commercial breaks as they can completely kill a mood.
Now then normally in an article like this I sit back and stress that every game, and every gamer is different. And that everyone needs to do what they enjoy or are comfortable with or whatever. Never feel pressured into doing something you dont want to do in a game. I would in this instance though like to suggest, that instead of thinking about yourself. You think about the group you are gaming with. Establishing a setting, be it the way a game master does it for the players, or the way the players establish their own presence in a setting, can have a serious impact on everyone who is playing. I know that many game tables have a mix of players at them, some wanting to roleplay until the world ends and some wanting just to get to the next combat. And that can be a hard mix to balance if you are trying to establish a setting. So make sure you have out of game conversations to really see what everyone wants. It may actually be possible to add a lot of detail in things like online blogs or classic blue booking to give the more detail oriented players what they need, and keep the time at the table fast and furious for the combat junkies. Then again other things may be needed.
What I am trying to get to here, really, is that the single most important setting in any game, ANY game, is the communication setting between whomever is running the game and the players. If that setting is get in, game get out, that is fine, just make sure that everyone has agreed to that setting. If the setting is tell a rich in depth story with every detail milked for the most dramatic and emotional response… again make sure everyone has agreed.
I am not going to drop a link in here but almost two years ago I did an article about sound tracks and theme music if you want to know my thoughts on that topic in more detail.
For the moment though I think I have the point across. Communicate. Build settings that you as a GROUP can get the most out of. And have fun damnit.
Ok now gimme the dice I need to see if I can pickpocket myself without me noticing…
Yeah we had another gap week. Life… you know how it goes.
I know there are two more races to talk about in more detail and there are a ton of other little details that could be gone over. But at this moment what I want to do most is start bringing things together so that the game world at the start of a game series can be seen. There will be bits and pieces that come up in this one that will require readers to roll with it because they don’t know those other details. I hope that everyone can just roll with it.
So on this world, adventure starts out on one continent. Five races make up the main population. The gods had left for a time without explanation, but came back about fifty years ago. Minus one of their number, that for some reason, none of the mortals could remember the name of. The dragons who at one time guarded the mortal races have become divided over whether they should protect them any more. And some of them have actively defected to the enemies of the gods. The mortals, blissfully unaware of enemies of the gods go about their lives trying to pursue whatever goals and dreams they enjoy. Some of the mortals, especially the wandering Halflings, and the more primitive humans who live in the wilds have seen things that make them wonder if there is not a bigger change, or problem coming. About seventy five years ago the first stories of strangeness started coming back to the rest of the races from the humans. But until twenty years ago, when a bear hide that was over five feet high at the shoulder and had many other unnatural features made its way to one of the goblin cities, no one took them seriously. Now only a small portion of the various peoples of the world think that something is going on, but more evidence is finding its way to cities and courts all the time. Even among the humans in the North East of the continent, where these things are most common, not all believe.
In the central part of the continent where the Goblin cites stand tallest innovations continue. Alchemy and magic are mixed in odd ways. Ideas with little or no practical purpose are chased, and business is good. In one of the smaller goblin cities, the governor Gillim Flamecaster is working on two things. He is trying to get a group of governors together to make a decision that will affect all of their cities, and he is also trying to act as his own commissioner, in disguise of course, to get a group or even several groups, together to investigate the strange things that are rumored to be going on in human territories.
Under the mountain ranges in the south west of the continent the current lord of the forge, Lady Deliandriaiin Mournhammer is for the first time in a hundred years looking at the possibility of taking a mate. Her rule over the dwarves has been one of the most stable they have seen. She codified the export of raw metals and alloys and dwarven goods to the outside world. She was the first lord of the forge to open direct relations with the elves. And in the last few years of her reign her people have been worried. No mater the clan, no mater the holding, the people think she has been ‘one’ too long. Now that she is actively looking at developing a relationship and moving forward, which should be a positive to her people, she has been spending a lot of time with a halfling woman. Her people do not care that she is with another woman, but the fact it is a halfling. This has clans in an uproar.
On the islands to the west of the continent the elves, well for the most part they are elves. But they have all started talking about the bodies of whales that have been turning up on their island homes. Some have had huge bites taken from them, others have had full trees punched through their bodies like spears. While many of the families are talking about what to do, representatives from a couple of islands have headed to the continent to see if there are any strange things going on there as well.
The humans with their connection to the wild places have been noticing a change for years. Like a pervasive shift in the way things happen. Bird migrations shifting, plants not growing in the same volume as they have in the past. The strange dire creatures that were once very rare becoming all the more common. They have sent word to the other races through the halflings before, but it seems no one else really cares. At least to them. They know the change is underway. Not coming, not soon, but it is ongoing. But they have no idea if it is a natural change or if it is being pushed by someone or something. This worries them.
The halflings continue to be everywhere. Trading information, music and goods all over the continent and occasionally to the elven islands as well. Many of the caravan matrons see something coming, but like the humans they don’t know if it is natural or pushed. However they suspect. They suspect it is not natural. And so now more than ever before the caravans are trading information on the secret locations they have set up. Where they have been hiding some of the best goods and more useful items they have stumbled across in their travels. Since all of the caravans are trading more and more information about their caches, it is getting harder and harder to know if there is someone out there looting them, or if there has been a need when they find one or more that have been emptied.
The dragons no longer debate. For over a hundred years they argued and discussed and even fought over whether it was right to still serve the mortal races. To guard them from the coming titans and their creations. Or to let them fall. Of the one thousand dragons created, lines have been drawn. Three hundred and eight side with the mortals. Four hundred and seventy three side with the titans. And the remaining two hundred and nineteen have decided to go it alone.
The titans have their foot hold in the world. In the extreme northeast of the continent, in the frozen wastes near the top of the world the first hole was opened and they work to keep it that way. Lesser titans and giants are already at watch in the physical world. Speaking with the dragons and looking to the local life forms to see what they can do to add to the number of troops they have on hand. They know the gods had plans for the mortals, and that involved growing into something more than they were, stretching their reach and being challenged on the other two continents on this world. So many of their minions are heading to those other places to see if they can find what the gods left there.
The gods are worried. The mortals were never meant to know about the titans. About the giants, or the powers they wield. The dragons were to be a last line of defense, not a first. The missing god worries them the most though. They found no trace after the conflict, and they do not know if the god has been reconstituted elsewhere, or has truly been destroyed forever.
And somewhere, out there in the dark beyond this world. In between the spheres that the gods have made containing their little worlds and realms. Something as old if not older than the gods has taken notice. And they stir.
This is the very big overview of the world that an adventure would be starting in.
Now gimme the dice… I gotta see if I can roll up a bachelor party.
Ok so first let me say that I know it has been over eight months since my last review. Welp, that just the way a blog goes. Kinda lost track of the whole review thing for a while, and kept going… oh yeah now that this is in the collection I need to do one on that one… and then world building… yeahhhh.
And now that a review is back you may be going… what… nonono Street Fighter is a fighting game, a really bad movie, a cartoon, or an anime (or two), and Storyteller is White Wolf’s RPG system… what the heck! Well Street Fighter is all those things and more. However here we are going to focus on the RPG that was published in 1994 by White Wolf games using their Story Teller system.
So back in the early 90’s White Wolf was hitting their stride with the Storyteller system and their World of Darkness setting. I have no idea what prompted them to do so, but they reached out to CAPCOM and got a license to make a roleplaying game for their Street Fighter setting. Now then I have talked about licensed games before (Tolkien v Tolkien) and you may know from books and movies already that a licensed product can really make a mess of the original. Now when you look at the original Storyteller format you may think that pain and suffering is all that this mix of fighting video games and table top rpgs is going to create. And to a certain degree you are right. But that pain and suffering is on the battle field not for the players.
White Wolf did something rather interesting with their own system when they made the Street Fighter game. They limited the skill selection and they significantly expanded combat while still keeping their game engine in tact. Unfortunately for many fans of the fighting video game style they did not add a huge number of martial arts in the original book, nor did they add weapons elements. They did give you rules though for expanding the combat system, and made it rather easy to combine elements from other White Wolf games into the setting without over-balancing things too much. And before you start screaming about power creep and all, I did run a World of Darkness LARP in 95-96ish where we actually let a couple of Street Fighter characters in. I have to say that even with special abilities an super moves a starting Street Fighter got his a$$ handed to him by a werewolf, a mage, and a Pooka fae in that order. And they were all starters too. However he did turn it in to a role playing effort and ended up after a while becoming the bridge between a group of garou and a house run by a member of the Akashic Brotherhood. For those who don’t know those terms don’t worry. They are in there to help White Wolf players see balance is possible. For those of you who don’t know White Wolf games just imagine a werewolf who can go toe to toe with a kung-fu wizard from the best Chinese wire fu movies. So if anything starting characters in Street Fighter are a little under powered compared to their bretherin. And if you compare them to later offerings in the Storyteller system, like the Aeon Trinity (sorry MTV but I support White Wolf on this one… stupid stickers and re-editing) they seem way under-powered.
What really got me hooked on the Street Fighter version of the Storyteller system was how they broke out the combat skills. Instead of having a general melee skill, or brawl skill, you have Punch, Kick, Block, Grab, Athletics and Focus. What this did was it allowed you to really define the fighting style of your character. Sure they had several styles in the system, however you could still give a boxer a strong dose of Kick just to add something unexpected. Now then some people may look at that and feel things have just become over complicated. Others may look at that and say, but what about weapons skills. And depending on how you use the system both are potentially valid. To look at weapons first, if you remember Street FIghter II, when it came out originally only one character had a weapon. Vega/Balrog (if that confuses you then refer to the links above and find out how the characters were renamed in the US to avoid an issue with Mike Tyson). The game was about empty hand and chi powers (yes the sonic boom and Blanka’s volts were chi powers). Not weapons. They did add rules for weapons in Contenders, and really fleshed it out more in the World of Darkness book Combat. But those are supplements. If you are willing to take the game as a representation of the original Street Fighter II, then there you go. The fact that you could then take special moves, basic moves, and build up combo moves (oh and if you want to create a corner beating move combo you can actually put together a trip kick combo that will allow you to drain almost everything from an opponent, you just have to make sure he cant make a move back… or you are toast).
Now then sadly, White Wolf did not really support Street Fighter as well as their other products after initial publication. Their Players Guide brought the power creep hard core, but skimped on the details like adding a merits and flaws system as they had added to every other Storyteller game in the players guides. The Shadowloo supplement brought more power creep than you can imagine by actually quantifying Vega/M. Bison ‘s martial art and making it accessible to players. However this game is still popular enough in the hands of fans that it shows up at conventions to be played and there are more than a few online groups that have added characters, styles and more to support players who want to get into things from Street Fighter Alpha, SF3, SF4, and even SF5. All in all the ongoing fan support makes things kinda cool.
All in all I have to say that even with the flaws added in the supplements and it seeming a little incomplete by not thinking about things like weapons right off the bat, I feel like this is one of the best martial arts engines to date for table top. And really who would not enjoy being able to take on Vega/M. Bison where your GM can be the cheese and not some smegging computer. 🙂
Ok so ratings… lets see if I remember how to do this too…
Fluff – 2/5 Of all the parts of this book that I enjoy I have to say the fluff is the weakest spot. There is very little art in the book that comes from CAPCOM studios. And even though many of the main characters are depicted when they describe individual martial arts there is next to nothing about the characters that those of us who play the video game would have loved to see. The fiction that they add in, usually a White Wolf strong point, seems weak because once again it does not involve any of the classic characters except as being a dropped name. Lastly the added art that is not from CAPCOM seems a little half assed. Really it is one of the weakest White Wolf products I have seen in the fluff category.
Crunch – 3/5 How then after I have raved about how much I like the combat system can I say that the crunch is weak. Well I said it was good and that it reflected what was in the original Street Fighter II. I did not say that I appreciated that myself. It is solid. It is easy to use. It also feels incomplete to me. It can be fixed, and added to. But the fact that you have to add things like weapons use and the number of initial martial arts is small just makes it a little weak overall.
Mod – 5/5 Ok so in this space, yeah. This thing is so easy to mod, just like most Storyteller products. Add things from other books and settings. Create new moves so you can punch ghosts. This is one of the strongest points in the Storyteller system overall. You can mod the hell out of it and really enjoy adding your own creations with only limited risk of massive power creep. And that limit is you reader… you are the biggest risk here for that. 🙂 heh
Fun – 4/5 Ok so why only a 4 of 5. That is because I had to add other books and work for it to add weapons in in a reasonable manner. Because I had to bar the use of one of the nastiest martial arts ever presented because it was a combination of power creep incarnate and corruption on a stick. Because there was very little effort on White Wolf’s part to help others see how you could incorporate Street Fighter into their other products and lastly because it takes a fair bit of play (going by the Storyteller experience rules and spending about 96 sessions) to actually get your brand new Street Fighter up to the point where you can take on the guys and galls from the video game on an even footing.
Total Score – 14/20 So how does this play out overall? I said a few seriously negative things in my scoring. Well as usual that is going to come down to the players and what they want to do. If you want a cool system for martial arts that you can use to simulate fighting games, wire fu, and kung fu comic books then this is the place for you. If you like the freedom to set up your own martial arts, and even modify existing ones to create wild and crazy new ancient schools of combat then this will work. If you want more description in a fight scene than “I swing at him.” then this engine encourages it. If you want to exactly replicate all your favorite Street Fighter series characters, then be ready to buy more than one book and likely spend some time online. Unless they are Ken and Ryu… bastards get the best of everything… they are the freakin Barbie’s of fighting games. In the end I can say I enjoy the game despite its flaws and weak points. I have successfully made versions of all of my favorite fighting game characters. Even those with weapons, in spite of this game calling itself Street Fighter. But as always you dear reader are going to have to make the choice if this game is for you. Not my call 🙂
All righty that is it for now. Hope you enjoyed. Soon more world building and more reviews.
So gimme the dice, I have to see if the game field is monster free or I need to get the hose out…