Archive for category HNP

Getting into Character

Howdy all, another week, another blog post 🙂

So I have run around talking about world building, games, reviewed a few things and ranted about others. Ya gotta ask from time to time what the hell is he going to talk about this time.

Well what I really want to talk about is finding and getting into your character.

Why do I want to talk about this? Well, from my perspective there are hundreds of table top RPGs out there. And about two years ago I wrote a very short article about choosing a game to play. But I looked over my posts and while I have mentioned using music and settings and a ton of little things that you can do to get into a game, or character I realized that I have never talked about actually choosing a character to play.

Now then regular players of any single game will usually end up having a favorite that they always play, a favorite that they never get to play because the people they play with dont allow that rules supplement to be used, or they have a non-favorite that they frequently play because they are really good at it, or they have a character they are stuck with because the party needed one. For new players they will either be dropped into the middle of selection and just given free reign, or they will have friends and mentors who guide them to a type of character that is easy to learn the rules with. And then with time and practice they get to see what they might like, and develop favorites.

Some people never do develop a favorite. They enjoy exploring concepts and ideas and the latest thing they have seen on tv/cable/video games/movies/convention/that hot chicks tattoo, or wherever. And personally I think that concept players actually are playing their favorite. It may seem like a flavor of the moment to others, but in that moment, they are playing the coolest thing they know. So it kind of balances.

Now then for the folks that are not concept players… really… how do you pick your favorite. Let me blow your mind for a minute here. At its peak, when you include third party publications Wizards of the Coasts D&D 3rd Edition, had at rough estimates, over 1000 character classes that could be played. You have over one thousand options just to start playing a character. And then if you have a path for the character to grow in mind you have the ability to multi class. Meaning you can add more than one class together at a time to make something more unique. And if you wanted to absolutely useless you could make every one of your twenty base levels a different class, meaning by the time… yeah… ok you see it there, that damned big number. Ok so Minds blown a little right? Now imagine you are playing a point based game engine like GURPS by Steve Jackson Games or Champions by Hero Games. No classes. No restrictions. Build as you see fit in the points allotted. Totally free form.

So again, really, how do you pick your favorite?

Well, really, regardless of the genre you just need to answer a few questions and you can get right to it. I know that everyone is going to have their own way to do things in the end but here is a method that I have used in the past and I know it can be helpful.

Questions –

  1. Do you have a character from a movie or book or comic that just fits and you love and want desperately to play something just like them? If yes then make that character. Please do try to give them an original back story of some kind because we all know the story of Conan the Barbarian by now. But other wise, if you want Conan make freaking Conan. If you do not have a preexisting character you want to bring into your game, then go to the next question.
  2. What do you find the most fun to play in a game? This can usually be broken down into a few really big ideas. Physical Power. Skills. Esoteric Powers (this can be magic, psi powers, holy powers, super powers and any number of others). Toys and Gear. Speed. Combat Skills. Charisma. A combination of the above. I usually find that if I rate these seven items on a scale I can get an idea of just about any character type.
  3. What sort of backstory do you like? Money (lots of or lack of its still money). Mystery. Race. Gender. Weird. Basic every day until the adventure starts. Again if you set these up in order of importance you can really get a quick outline of a background.
  4. What is it that you want to drive the character forward? The Past. Money. Adventure. Justice. Balance. Quest. Gods this place is boring. Shank a Bitch. That last one used to be called something else. Thanks to the ladies in my life though it got changed.

So did you notice how nothing in those questions talked about a genre? Thats because if you like a character concept  you should be able to move it from genre to genre. It does not have to be the same character, but it can be a theme in what you play.

If I build with these ideas you will see the following happen.

  1. Skills, Toys, Combat skills, Speed, Esoteric Power,  Physical Power, and Charisma floats it either bottoms out or hits the top.
  2. Mystery, Race, Money, Weird, Gender. Basic everyday life does not usually show up at all in my idea of fun.
  3. The Past, Gods this place is boring, and Shank a Bitch. These are the drives I have the most fun with usually.

Now then if I was going to look at that list, and I was playing a D&D game, I would be looking for a Rouge, maybe a Bard or Monk. Who came into their skills and training from an unknown location and likely an uncommon race for the area the game starts in. They are either running from something, or out to kick some ass, or maybe both.

When I use that list playing Shaowrun I usually end up creating some sort of Rigger with a few extra items you wont find on a regular character template.

If I go into Champions I have some unusual mutant martial artist that may have a bit of a Batman complex mixed with a Punisher attitude. But they wont talk about why.

The fastest way to do something like this is to only pick one or two items from each question and make a really focused character. Then add things as you grow them. If you are used to building this way then you can do like I did and mix and match you your hearts content.

I will freely admit that this is a process that is not for everyone. Some folks may like using something like the Life Flow chart in Cyberpunk by R Talsorian, or the background generator in Palladium Games books (even though it wont help you really pick a character it will give you a background for one). Or if you want to go to real extremes using tables to create backgrounds I would suggest looking into Buttery Wholesomeness, a supplement for White Wolfs HOL game, or if you are ready to search for them, Task Force Games put out three books in the late 80’s under their Central Casting blazon – Heroes for Tomorrow, Heroes NOW, and Heroes of Legend (supposedly system neutral but if you are using their stat bonus’ for characters you create you have best be using a percentile system).

So did this blog post really lead anywhere. In a zen kinda way, yes. By now you should know that there are a ton of different ways to come up with a character. Using whatever system you prefer, whatever method strikes your fancy. The only thing I would suggest is that you make a character you like, to play in a game you like, that represents a genre you like, with people you enjoy spending time with.

Be what you want to be, dream or nightmare. Here, all things are possible. Just remember that as in any other world, your choices will have consequences.

What does that mean? Well I have a feeling I will go into it in a later post about playing villains in a hero setting or something like that.

For now, gimme the dice, I got to see what happens when I roll up a half dwarf half giant using the 3.5 D&D rules… because I can.

Peace out, game on, and have fun while playing nice people 🙂

 

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Game Supplements

So it occurred to me some time this week that so far all the reviews I have done are based on core books and box sets. For those non gamers who read from time to time that means I have been focused solely on the main rules for games. In the end this is going to leave a lot of products untouched. By my best guess about 80% or more of the products for games are not main rules. The rest are supplements.

Does this mean I am going to loose my focus and start branching out into other products? Am I going to start reviewing supplements too? Yeah I think I am. However I needed to jump in here first and talk a bit about them before I put any reviews into place and to update how I am going to post reviews. First, lets talk about what the hell a supplement is.

So I see supplements as falling into four different categories, regardless of how many other titles or headers publishers may put on them. Rules Supplements, Campaign Supplements, Adventure Supplements, and periodicals. Now then some of these have other names and I will try to avoid flipping back and forth between them when I chat about them but you may have to read through a couple of times or send me a message just in case I ramble… you know how it goes.

So what is a Rules Supplement (RS)? An RS is something that expands the rules of the game to take something new into account. Whether its a new class for a character to play, rules for how to adventure in deep space or underwater, or maybe something as massive as adding vehicles to a set of rules that never had them before. So an RS expands on what is possible in a game. The fun part is that every gaming group will have to decide if they are going to use them or not. Most of that falls onto the person running the game. But players are encouraged to issue bribes to get those tasty new rules that will let them do all those new strange things. Whining, whimpering and being a snotty little shit about it is not encouraged, nor is holding a game hostage until you get what you want. Bribes though, yeah, go that way.

Campaign Supplement (CS)? Well while an RS adds new options for a game, a CS usually adds new places and people to meet and destroy, or not depending on your campaign. Now then there is another type of supplement that has similar material, but it comes down to a mater of scale really. A CS will give you a city, its history, the major power players, and lots of the skeletons in all sorts of closets. However most of this material is sort of just… there. Some publishers will include an adventure idea or two. By and large though a CS is put out there an the person running the game needs to figure out if it will add something to the campaign. While there may also be new rules specific to the location and people, the new rules are not the focus of the book. HEY! PALLADIUM!! Thanks for being one of the few publishers that somehow manages to blur the line between three of the four supplements all the smegging time. YEAH, you know what I am talkin’ about…

Adventure Supplements (AS) are then? AS’s are usually smaller books, like a comic book in printed pages at magazine size, that have a story, place for the story, and all the NPC’s you could ever need for that story. So when you have an AS in hand you can either run it as is or smack it around until it fits your world and your over all story best. Oh yeah an AS is also called a module by some… so be ready for that. Most of the time I recommend that for someone starting to play RPG’s they buy a few AS and run them as is. And then go back later and see how they would run them in the same world now. Most of the time I get a reply like, “Oh damn yeah I would change this and this and this and add two of these and oh yeah I need to change him to her to match up with my main story…” and so on. The other use for them is if you are in a situation like, “Honey, your friends are here for game night….” and you completely forgot its game night. I challenged myself to take a bunch of older AS from D&D, AD&D (+2nd), and D&D3.0 and build up an adventure that I could translate into Pathfinder. Currently there are 14 AS involved and I have a single story that could run characters from zero level to about 18th. May-hap a little higher. But it is from completely unrelated AS and I have had to re-engineer some of the material to fit another system… heh, I just need to get a game crew together to run it some day.

So then whats a Periodical (P)? Ok, so I just did not want to call it a magazine because so many of them are printed online in PDF form any more. P come out on a regular basis (monthly, weekly, semi annual or annually or something like that). The thing is a P can have new rules, new places, adventures and a host of other little things, even forums and reviews like the ones I publish. Usually however they are dedicated to a single game engine, at least these days they are. There was a time when you could pick up a Dragon Magazine at a book store or magazine rack and find information on five or six different games. Yeah they focused on D&D, but they did not even care if the company was a big publisher. Now days you need to chase some of the smaller press guys down to the forums and chat functions of their own websites if they have them.

Ok ok so that’s a lot of stuff to toss out. What does it mean for me and my on going reviews and such. Well that’s easy. I intend to start doing reviews based on supplements as well as core rules. I will do my best to title reviews in the following formats

  • Review # 568 – Isle of Dread (AS)
  • Review # 90008 – Rigger 2 (RS)
  • Review # 363 – Rune Quest (Core)
  • Review # 7411 – Hidden Lands (CS)
  • Review #44 – Dragon #1 (P)

I am hoping that going in that format folks will be able to see if the review is something they are interested in based on content.

Well my fellow gamers, curiosity seekers and doers of strange ne’er-do-well, I am out for now. Keep the games going and keep being creative, thats what really fuels this industry.

Now gimme the dice… I need to role on the random dinner chart from the latest supplement.

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Game Companies, why oh why have you changed?

Yeah I know folks are still waiting on a review for No Thank You Evil. I hope to make that my next post.

Right at the moment however there is something that has been on my mind about companies that make RPG’s for a while now. I call it the One Engine Problem.

So at least in my area there are very few published RPG books (yeah that means printed with bindings and all that, not the digital copies) where you can find an company with more than one game engine. I mean if you go looking for Fantasy Flight Games you may find their Star Wars RPG and their Warhammer 40K game Dark Heresy. And they are one of the few who has more than one game engine. WOTC has D&D 5th, with occasional books being published from the older versions (so that sorta counts as more than one game engine). Piazo only has Pathfinder. Palladium, Chaosium, Post Human (or is that supposed to be one word) and so many others have only one engine. When a publisher has more than one engine it seems like most of the places that carry games will only carry their biggest name game.

So here is the thing… I can hear a lot of people saying “So what?!” out there. “I can find a lot of stuff on PDF, or order it from the publisher directly if I want some in print.”

Here is my so what. I… I guess really I miss the 80’s for RPGs.

Back when TSR was in its hey day they had all sorts of regular games, each with their own game engine. D&D, Star Frontiers, Gamma World, Boot Hill, Top Secret, Top Secret SI, Marvel Super Heroes, Amazing Engine, and a small string in the early 80’s of mini RPG games sold as one offs. West End Games hit the ground running with Paranoia and before the 80’s ended they had added Ghostbusters, Star Wars, and Torg, but they kept on coming with new systems and new ideas even after they merged with Humaniods and eventually passed. And even Steve Jackson Games was in there with more than just GURPS.

I can understand from a business perspective, the 80’s were full of money, expansion was crazy, no one wanted to specialize. More was better. Everyone went crazy and then the top blew off. So then game companies started to specialize, or get bought out. And so the number of games dwindled. Now online companies are bringing many of them back. Digital versions of so many older games. And a few of them are coming up with new material… but only a few.

I would really love to see a new publisher that comes out with four or five game engines and works to support them all. Digital or print. Actually the heck with that if I were to have my druthers I want it all in print…

Sigh ok so it was a bit of a rant… and it rambled.

Gimme the dice, I need to chase a game engine.

 

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Sound tracking and a note

Ok so while I work on my next serious post… well not serious as in something that is full of earth shattering factual detail, more serious as in a rather large posting… I thought I would bring up a topic I have talked with more than one of my gaming friends about more than once, sound tracking.

Now then for those who dont know at all you may say what the f### is sound tracking. Well its a term I use to help set the mood when I am being creative. When I am making a character for a game I will usually get an idea about the character and then dig through my music collection or crawl all over YouTube and find three to five songs that really fit the character. They may fit the characters actions, their hidden self, the way they move or fight, just about anything that helps me feel out the character a bit better. Let me give you an example, there is a character I am setting up to use in some short stories and maybe turn into a role playing character, for the moment his name is Relentless.

  1. Kick in the Teeth by Papa Roach – This song sort of defines how he is no longer willing to be held down, and that he feels like every blow to him is pushing him further and faster to freedom.
  2. Rock Star (Jason Nevins Remix) N.E.R.D. – As he gets free this song describes how he is feeling, like everything is just one heartbeat from ending, so you might as well go for broke.
  3. La Grange by ZZ Top – As strange as it may be this is actually the song he plays in the back of his mind to give himself a little peace during the rough spots. It is familiar like comfort food, and brings him peace.
  4. Tommy’s Theme by Noisia – When he is planning or plotting or even thinking things through this is the song that sounds to me like him thinking.
  5. Big Balls by AC DC – This song just strikes me as everything the character is against in the stories. And then again for what I have in mind for the character, yeah he has them 😉 heh

So anyway that is the sound track for Relentless as a character. There is a much bigger list of songs that create the sound track for the stories themselves.

I do the same thing when I am plotting out a game. I make a sound track that hits various points or themes for the story I am looking to tell, and maybe pick out one or two songs for major NPCs. It helps me to tie things together and putting the songs in the order of the plot and then adding in the songs for the NPC introductions just gives me a way to make things flow. And then if my players take things in a different direction I can just put the music in another order or find new songs to cover the way they are taking things.

Anyway, I know some folks will flesh out backgrounds, draw their characters, build props or custom paint minis to help give them a hint of their characters. And if you like to go to extremes there are GM’s who build out models and maps with elevated terrain or look into buying massive touch screen tables so they can use digital models and mapping to really give themselves and their players flavor and a deeper feeling for the game. For me, no mater what else I do, it all starts with music.

So what about you lot? Anyone out there do something similar? Here is a chance to share 🙂

 

Ok gimme the dice, I gotta figure out how how to merge three games in six books and two rules systems into one review… yeah… I know at least one of you know what that means…

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Oh where are you Champions?

So a little game history here… and a little sadness for fellow gamers who love this game.

Champions Role Playing Game.

I was introduced to this game back in high school by a guy named Arron Shue (gods its been so long I may have misspelled his name, if that’s the case Arron and you are out there reading this I am sorry dude but I have not heard from you since junior year 1989), he had a copy of the game that was a photo copy that was all set up in a three ring binder. I was hooked at once on the point based system as he never told me there was a limit on the characters and the rules stated that such a limit was to be handed down by the GM. I found out later that there were certain standards but he had left that out of the copy he loaned me to read. So my first character was basically a ‘What if the Hulk had been trained by Captain America kinda thing. I think I used something like six hundred points to build that guy out (just for reference starting characters were supposed to be 250 points total at the time).

So anyway the quest goes out and rule books, adventures, game nights and so on. When I was working in a book store my junior year in high school I got copies of the fourth edition rule book (The Big Blue Book) for myself, Arron and my other amigo, let us just call him D as I don’t know if he wants his name revealed in my blog. 🙂 And more game were had, and the meeting with Mr. Agents was had, and more fun.

And then it got put on the shelf for a while. Occasionally to be pulled out and played for short sessions, or used to define characters in stories and some other things. It got pulled out for a short lived kung fu style game I ran and then onto the shelf again. Sort of a cycle thing going on there with my history with the game. Until recently though I thought that the BBB was going to be my cream of the crop for Champions. Then there was the team up with R Talsorian with the Fuzion version, and then I tried to get into fifth edition but the expansion of the rules and the fact that the base character points went up to 350 kinda put me off a bit. The BBB was about 350 pages total the big Black Book was about 550 or so if I remember right. And then came the MMO, and then came sixth edition which, oh my gods two 400+ page books just to get the full ‘Basic’ rules. Anyway I abandoned sixth edition without looking back, until recently that is. Just got ahold of a PDF of what they call Champions Complete which is a simplified set of the rules for sixth, well not really simplified just it does not have all the details and examples and options that are in the two monster books. And I have to say there are some improvements that will make the game easier to learn for new players and get rid of at least a portion of the issue that some had said for years that there is too much math in making a Champions character O_O.

Anyway, so that’s me and Champions in a nutshell. So why am I talking about all this in a post labeled ‘Oh where are you Champions?’ Well for that let me get into the history of the makers a little. Please note that the following is a half assed summary at best and you can get more information by going to Wiki and looking for Champions RPG, or Hero System and then following up more with other entries there and maybe getting a little on what is left of the Hero Games web site (mostly just a forum now).

  • 1981 – Champions first published at a con. Sold out. Decided to make more.
  • Between 1981 and 1984 (not sure on date) Hero Games and ICE (Iron Crown Enterprises) team up to publish Champions and all of the Hero spinoffs (Fantasy Hero, Space Hero, Robot Warrios and more)
  • 1986 Comic book versions of the characters come out from Eclipse comics
  • 1989 Big Blue Book published
  • 2000 ICE Hero team up is over Champions New Melinium is published in the Fuzion rules as a team up with R Talsorian. Later reprinted by Cyber Games
  • 2001 Hero picked up and dusted off whole sale by new owners. Fifth edition published
  • 2007-ish Fifth edition materials getting PDF treatment on sites like RPG Now
  • 2008 (this one gets weird) Cryptic Studios buys the intellectual property of Champions so they can make the MMO but they also sell/lease the rights back to Hero Games so they can create and publish sixth edition
  • 2009 MMO and sixth ed released (MMO is still sorta out there… kinda)
  • 2012 Champions Complete released
  • 2013/2014 Hero Games website becomes little more than a chat posting with some notifications coming up as to products other companies are publishing in the Hero System
  • 2013 a Reorg is announced at Hero Games
  • 2015 Kick starter campaign to get Fantasy Hero Complete up and running

So really, what happened? I honestly don’t know. What I can tell you is that the modules, rules and adventures from the earlier editions are not available online save for two of the early modules, and they are under the publisher name Heroic Publishing, not Hero Games. The Hero Games website, which was at one time full of books, ideas, talk about the game. Well it sort of dried up when the MMO went bust. And now they have to run a kick starter to put out their first new book in a couple of years, even though it is just a revised version of something they already published. This game once had a big enough following that stores like Barnes and Noble or Boarders (yeah you remember them) used to carry their books right there with D&D stuff in their tiny little gaming section. As the MMO came out they got even bigger. MMO dies and they all but disappear… makes you wonder.

Personally I am hoping that this is a down time like the gap after the alliance with ICE went south. Or that due to the title purchase by Cryptic there is an issue in the authors being able to publish anything new, or maybe even the remnants of ICE and the companies that bought out their properties to publish, R Talsorian, Cyber Games, and others are all fighting over the property and we just cannot get word on what is going on because its all under legal hold.

I really do like this game engine, in all its editions, even the over detailed fifth and sixth. Fourth edition will likely always be my favorite and I would love to get a group together to play again. I would also love to see the publishers come back and get more going, because it is always awesome to see someone who makes good, fun , and interesting creative materials make it big.

Welcome to the history of a game… and a player…

Now gimme the dice… I need 36d6 for Dr Destroyer’s main energy blast

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So many topics

While I was at work today I had a few things run through my mind about where to run with this blog, where to start, and what could I say on so many topics.

With this being the second post on the main thread, I thought I would just start clipping off some of the things that will be coming up. I cannot tell what order they will be in or if there will be an order, or if as in this paragraph I will simply ramble until I get to something that may in fact resemble a point. Those that know me wont care… those that don’t know me may suggest medication. 🙂

Coming topics –

Games (G) I like or have loved over the years. Frank discussions on what I loved about the games, and if they are out of print may-hap tears for the loss to the rest of the world.

Specific game reviews (SGR). The strengths and weaknesses of some of the games I have played. Ratings will be given based on a scale of 1 to 5 (one = something I hate, five = I want in every game.Possible high score for a game in review 20. To be honest I am not sure I will ever give a score of 20, but I may surprise myself.) in the following categories –

  •    Fluff (the material that gives everything flavor, background, story, developed NPC’s and no not that marshmallow stuff some people put on sandwiches… looking at you lass, yes you)
  •    Crunch (the rules, now this one will be tricky because sometimes hard rules are good and sometimes easy makes things good)
  •    Mod (how easy can I break the rules, add house rules, or power game. Mod can be good or bad depending on how you play and what you like to play with)
  •    Fun (in spite of it all just how fun is this game and this setting)

RPG’s and smalls (RPGSS). (Smalls is a term that I use to describe what are classically known as children. Quite frankly because I try to treat them with just the same kind of respect I do adults, and that usually leaves me feeling that terms like kids or children have a connotation of them being less than adults.) To be honest part of this one stems from the fact that I started gaming at a young age, and the small that my dear lady tutor’s and nanny’s for has expressed an interest in the things that I enjoy doing… so that one is getting introduced to RPG’s.

Crazy Stuff I have created (CSIHC)- Worlds, characters, game engine ideas, game engine failures, settings, strange items, game martial arts, class variants, and ohhhh so much more. And to be totally honest, if I share it here please feel free to use it, share it, and have fun with it as long as you give me some credit for it. If I find my stuff getting into books that others are paying for, and I am not even getting name recognition for my work… -_-

History and Philosophy (HNP)- Not of the world in general but of RPG’s. Why do we play them, how old is the practice, what drives us to unleash our imaginations this way all that sort of fun stuff. This topic type may get a little ranty but I promise to have at least a few facts or historical tidbits that may be of value to trivia collectors.

RANT! (R!) – Yeah if you see this topic someone, or something has gotten my goat in the game community. Not the hardest thing to do, my goat likes to wander and seems to give in to anyone with a bit of rope. But usually I will save this for things like, oh the old “D&D is demonic and it leads children to worship Satan, or Rush Limbaugh or what ever,” crowd.

Product placement (PP). This is going to be me talking about a local game shop, a place to get PDF’s online or something else like that which has stuck me as cool as a way to get a hold of games and game accessories.

I may add more categories in the future but those are the ones I intend to start with. I will save tags to help with more description on a specific post.

Given the work week I may not get another post until the weekend, but who knows…

Keep gaming and gimme the dice, its my turn to roll to hit 🙂

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