Archive for category PP

Review #27 IronClaw (G)

Iron_claw cover

Those who are familiar with the game will notice I am using the second edition omnibus cover. To be honest the current copy I have in my collection is digital and I cannot remember which version it is. I know there have been a few changes since first edition and that can make some interesting comparisons but I am going to try and stick to what I have on hand for my review. The other reason I used this image is because the original cover was a little too cheesecake for my tastes.

Ok so you can see from the image (if you dont know the game) that Iron Claw is an anthropomorphic game. That does not make it a Furry game. The Furry Fandom may enjoy the game and feel it meets with what they enjoy, but there is a big difference between Anthropomorphic and Furry. I want that out of the way because I know too many folks who confuse the two.

IronClaw is Sanguine Productions… original… game I think. I believe that they picked up other anthropomorphic games and then converted them to their unique game engine later. IronClaw has a very solid not quite mid-evil Europe/Renaissance setting with an edge of fantasy to it. They supplemented the game with JadeClaw using the same rules to add an Asian part of the world in which they could expand their combat system to include more martial arts and also expanded their magic system to add more types of magic.

Now all of that seems rather brief I know. However there is an element of this game that really drew my attention, and still does. They also put it into a sci-fi setting called Myriad Song that takes things outside of being in an Anthropomorphic setting. That element is their skills and stats system.

To introduce the idea they used, I think that every gamer I know of has at one time or another pulled up a handful of dice and gone, “I am gonna role a 1deverything.” Well in some ways that is what this system feels like. During character creation you start with a set number of dice of different types. These dice are then assigned to stats, your characters race, and also to their profession. This can stack up so you will be rolling several dice of different kinds against a difficulty score. More successes equals more impact on what you do. You also add skill ‘marks’. More marks in a single skill give you more dice. Let me give you an example.

You have a Rhino. (just roll with it) Racial skills for a Rhino are Endurance, Presence and Tactics. A career as a Knight Errant adds the skills Dodge, Melee Combat and Tactics. There are four stats in the game Mind, Body, Speed and Will. So if a player were to put a d6 in Race, and a d8 in Career, and a d4 in Mind, and then 3 skill marks in Tactics, when the time comes to roll for Tactics they would roll 2d8 + 1d6 + 1d4. If the task is easy then you have a difficulty of 3, so you need a four or better. As it gets harder the number goes up, the number of successes needed might go up too. Rolls against another player or an active NPC come up as who gets the highest and most… most of the time.

There are of course modifiers and gifts you can get that will alter the value of the die, add bonus’ of one kind or another or simply add dice. It can be a little challenging to track at first but they make a really nice character sheet that actually tracks all of this quite well so you dont have to think about it too much.

I will admit when I first played this game back in 2000 I had a hard time with the mechanic. It just kinda felt, off. I was so used to single dice unless I was doing damage, or multiple of the same die no mater what I was doing, that having all of these dice to try and do an action just felt wrong. But once I got used to it I found it actually enhanced my tendency to tell stories. I mean when you can see just how your race or career training has helped develop your skills and your natural traits all blend together, it gets very descriptive. And you can make in character comments like “I made it through mostly due to my training, but I think my natural tendency to ….. also helped a bit.” And that to me seems cool.

There are a lot of little things in the game engine to like or dislike as well. But that is true for any game system. What I really enjoy is that they were able to use their game engine to do both fantasy and sci-fi without modification. If you look at games like D&D and the 3.0 experiment with d20 Modern you can see how they had to modify things to compensate for guns and heavy weapons. But that is not an issue with the Cardinal game engine.

So that gives you some of my basic thoughts, what do the numbers say?

Overall Fluff 3/5 – I have to go a little lower on Fluff than I would like to. The art by and large is just ok. If you have any issue with Anthropomorphic stuff then, well sucks to be you, but this is not the best example of the art that I have seen. Also the background material is, well its a little stunted. It is designed to give you just enough to run with but still make you need to buy the supplements to really know what is going on in the world overall. I would not have an issue with it if the supplements were only need to have a good grip on specifics like houses and guilds but this goes beyond that.

Overall Crunch 4/5 – These rules are well written but poorly ordered. So you end up needed to go back and forth a lot before you can really get them down. Sure that is more an editing error than a problem with the rules themselves, but it leads to misunderstandings and with newer groups more than a few arguments.

Overall Mod 4/5 – Given that they have already published rules that show what can be done with sci-fi you know you can mod the engine. I do not think you could pull off supers with it, but if anyone can figure out how to without breaking the engine let me know and I will take this up to a five.

Overall Fun 4/5 – I really enjoy the story telling elements of this game engine. However finding a group to play this is harder than with most engines due to the nature of the game setting. Just from that I would usually bump it down to a three, however I really do like the game despite the difficulty finding folks who would play.

Total Score 15/20 – Not a bad score overall. No hideous either. I like the potential here and would really enjoy playing with it more. In this instance to me the engine gets more props than the setting but not a bad combination.

So as usual, think for yourself, check it out and see if you agree or disagree and have some bloody fun with your gaming 🙂

Now gimme the dice, I have to see if my cats are break in artists of any skill level or not.

 

 

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Review #26 Monster Manual (S)

Yeah I wanted to go deep flashback with this one.

monstermanual

Originally published by TSR in 1977 the Monster Manual has become sort of an icon figure in gaming. There has been a version of it in every edition of D&D save for the Basic/Rules Cyclopedia version. Even the original white box edition had a booklet for Monsters and Treasures. It has also appeared in movies, and in TV series like Stranger Things.

Personally this was one of the coolest books ever to me. Even when young I was a fan of mythology and fairy tales and here in one big hardcover book were tons of the creatures that legendary heroes fought against. Here were all the dragons I would ever need. All the types of giants that had challenged Thor, and Titans who were not monsters but heroes of the monster world. It was amazing. It was also amazing because while my mom would not let me see Clash of the Titans in the theater because there was a scene with a topless woman, I already had a copy of the Monster Manual which had several topless creatures drawn in. It was better than trying to steal a Playboy magazine.

Now then that might not be ok to talk about in modern politically correct terms, but considering that there is the internet these days… well a few hand drawn images of topless women should be the least infuriating thing that could happen.

What I find very cool these days about the book is that the monsters published in this book became the core monsters for so many fantasy role-playing games. And for so many generations of players. The history that got started by this one book is really impressive. And considering how many editions of D&D have come and gone since its publication you might think that this list of creatures would have become out dated, or that something else would have taken its place. But that never happened. Instead it became the model for most everything that came after it.

As a game player and collector I am going to step up here and say something I rarely do. If you plan on playing first edition AD&D then you need this book. Of you can make all the monsters you want to using the rules for encounters in the Dungeon Masters Guide, or encounters with villains by making characters in the Players Handbook. But this book gives you monsters, horrors, and even peasants to run up against with very little effort. It gives you simple images (by today’s standards) to show your players, and just enough info to give you a basic understanding of the creature in question, but not so much info that you feel compelled to put them (save for a few) in any type of tight knit ecology or society. One of the things that a savvy reader will come across is that in the 4th printing, or 1979 edition of the Monster Manual (the version that was reprinted in PDF version and the most common one to find in used book stores as it had the biggest print run, also the version that was reprinted on new stock back in 2010 I think for the retro edition books that Wizards of the Coast released) the section on Elves is updated to include information on Drow, or Dark Elves. They actually made their first appearance in the module series Against the Giants (G1-3) in 1978 when the three adventures were being published separately. However the version most people know of those modules is from 1981 when the three were combined into one module for play. So if you don’t pay close attention to these things you might think that Dark Elves were something that they had always intended for the game.

If you want to play history buff then maybe you can tell me why the Monster Manual was published in 1977, but the Players Handbook was not published until 1978 and the Dungeon Masters Guide hit in 1979.  I have a theory but I don’t want to spoil your questions and thoughts by positing it first.

So how do I rack this classic supplement up in terms of the numbers?

Overall Fluff 4/5 – Some might think I am overdoing the fluff here since the art is weak by modern standards and there is no backstory or city or anything to drive them along. But remember that this is a supplement full of monsters. And while the art may seem weak today when it first came out, it was a dream come true. They could have added more of just about anything to it, but all in all for the time it was published and the content, I have to go 4/5.

Overall Crunch 5/5 – Monster with stats. That’s what you want in a book like this and they give it to ya. Even going so far as to offer you the option of making things a little different by not giving everything just straight hit points but having die values to mix it up from goblin to goblin. Again might seem a little weak by today’s standards but this was the original that set the later standards.

Overall Mod 3/5 – Ok so I go a little low here and that is more about the game engine than the book itself. Within the rules it is not easy to mod much of anything past hit points. However with tossing the rules out the window you can mod just about anything. Just ask me about goblins with belts of giant strength and see where that goes 🙂

Overall Fun 5/5 – Even though by today’s standards the book is light on material, I still think this is a heck of a lot of fun. Nostalgia and such aside there are monsters in here that have yet to appear in other games and they can still be converted over. Plus this was the first book that named names when it came to evil demons and that kinda fed into the whole screaming parents who were overly religious saying that their kids were being sucked into demon worship and under the influence of the devil. Ahhh those were the days.

Total Score 17/20 – So this might seem ridiculous to some but to that I say 😛 its my review and I can point it like I want to. Seriously this thing is a classic and if you cant see that then maybe you should delve a little deeper into your games and hobbies to see where they come from.

Ok so that’s the entry for this week. Hope everyone out there is having a great time and gaming their butts off.

Now gimme the dice, I need to see how many folks I can bother with a single game review.

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Cyberpunk to Steampunk a mod story

So I need to start this posting with a little bit of a flashback. The very first review that I posted was for the original Cyberpunk RPG by R Talsorian. A game which I said could be modded to hell and you could come up with a lot of cool things. Well this is where I talk about one of those cool things. Modding it into Steampunk. And by the way Mike, if you see this please note that you should really consider putting this out officially to expand the line while all of us long time fans wait for Cyberpunk 2077 to come out.

I am going to make a big assumption here in writing this, actually three of them.

  1. You know what Cyberpunk is as a genre
  2. You know what Steampunk is as a genre
  3. You have a passing familiarity with the Interlock system created for the Cyberpunk roleplaying game.

So the reason I am tossing this together is that I have a few friends, and my awesome wife who love the Steampunk settings. Hells the wife and I have a Steampunk themed library in our house that we took about four months to build so yeah its a kinda big deal. I have looked into a lot of different RPG’s and several board games but I had not been able to find something that had a clear and easy steampunk setting that I felt was just completely top of the line. So I decided to kitbash one using a game engine that I felt really kicked ass on doing the cyberpunk theme.

What I came up with was basically a double mod. Using the Cyberpunk game as a base I realized that I could use every role in the game with just a few changes to description except one. For example the Rockerboy could become a Presence, the charismatic leader type that runs guilds and unions or even goes into politics. Solo’s become Dragoons while keeping everything that makes them feel like warriors. Nomads can be migrant working families or gypsies or both. Corporate’s stay as they are really, and  Techies, well they were always going to be techies, just now driven by steam, clockworks, and primordial electricity instead of hydraulics and nano-machine interfaces. The hard one is the Netrunner. That is also where the split happens that gives you so many options.

I thought to turn the Netrunner into an Arcanist. Now then depending on if you want to have a Steampunk setting with actual magic or not you would need to either make the Arcanist a fortune teller who knows legends and can be sort of a mystical con man, or if you want magic to be functional then you should pull in the stat Psi from Mekton Zeta Plus and change the psi powers to magic spells. In either case the role skill of Arcana can be used. In one version it is used to try and add mysticism to the world and in the other it allows the Arcanist not only knowledge but it is essential in the casting of spells or channeling the mana that powers magic. If you go with the real magic version you can also do up a Techie who is an Arcane Engineer who’s tech skills revolve around using mana as a power source.

A quick check of monies made it seem like all the gear and tools could be used if we just divided all the starting money by ten and do the same to the costs. Most of the blatant cybernetics could stay, but would have to fall into things that are steam powered and therefore bulkier and have the right look. For things like the neuro enhancements and skill chips we need to have the setting include magic to make it make sense without having everything go sideways.

Next step is to add to the idea of corporate powers. In addition to them you will also have guilds. Groups of men and women who control certain skills and knowledge. Corporations will have to deal with them to get the resources they need to get the advancements they want. This will give players even more factions to work with and fight.

With all these possibilities on the doorstep you can see where the options can roll to. One of the big limits that I tossed in when I made my version of this was to have the Magic stat be opposed by the Empathy stat. By that I mean that between the two of them you can only ever have a score of ten. So an all powerful Arcanist who has a Magic stat of 10, also has no empathy and therefore no humanity. And they then become the magic equivalent of a cyber psycho.

All in all this is a really easy conversion to make.

You will also please note that I did not go into all the details that I could have. I did not put down any lists of Unions or Guilds that I put together for my world. There is a reason for that. This article is about giving others the idea and letting them run with it. If folks want me to flesh it out I could do that, but I honestly think that with what I put here you have enough to drive your own version.

Now gimme the dice, I need to see if a mana powered steamcat can be used to sneak past some lack luster Dragoons to pick up a few things for me…

Have fun and keep playing folks. 🙂

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Review #24 – Dream Park RPG (G)

Ok so while I work on the editing for the last part of the Delta City postings, fiction, I thought I would post a review of a game I have never had the chance to use in its ultimate form.

So while I have reviewed material from R. Talsorian Games before, this is a licensed product of theirs that falls outside of their primary game engine. The Dream Park RPG takes place in the fictional world that was created by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes for their novel Dream Park. The role playing game was published in 1992, which is the same year the third book of the series was published. All three of the books published at that time get little call outs in the RPG.

For those who have not read any of the books the concept is that at some point in the future LARP games will become so popular that there will be an international organization that runs them, and technology is sophisticated enough that places can be set up with holograms and mock weapons so that LARP players can be filmed and their adventures in role-playing get turned into films, and even home versions so that folks can LARP along with the stars.

What makes this environment so entertaining is that it is at the heart of the concept of meta-gaming. Short and sweet, meta-gaming is when you take knowledge outside of the game into the game. Also it ends up living by the slang term ‘meta’ which means self referencing. We get to that because in the game you are playing a player who is playing a character in a game. Confused yet? Simple way to look at it … You are playing Bob. Bob is an accountant who goes to Dream Park to play the character Dubois the Slick in an adventure.

Now then if you try to do things that are in the novels you will have people who are playing under assumed identities in the game to track down criminals who are inside the game, but their crimes have happened in the world outside of the game. Getting messed up yet?

Now then imagine that you can actually put Dream Park the RPG inside of another RPG game that you are playing. Because you can. You can actually make it work rather smoothly with Cyberpunk 2020. Yeahhhh… just let that sink in. You can play a character, who is under an assumed identity, to play a character in a game to catch someone doing something in the world out side. You have to use the main RPG engine to resolve real world issues while using the Dream Park RPG rules to resolve in game in game issues so that you are not seen as being anything other than your character. To be perfectly honest I love that level of inverted strangeness but I have a feeling that is why the game never really caught on big.

There were three modules that I know of that were published for the game, and each one has a different flavor. Supers, pulp spy and Arabian knights. Just to give you a feeling for the flexibility of the system.

The actual game mechanics are rather simple and only needs a pair of d6 to play. You can play it on its own and just run a Dream Park game, but as I said before if you want you can drop Dream Park into any other RPG environment as an aspect of that world. So that you can layer things up. I ran a few games of Dream Park at a game shop back in the  early 90’s but  I could never get anyone interested in doing anything more than one off adventures with only the Dream Park setting. To this day I still look forward to being able to insert this game into another to really drive some kind of meta meta-game story line.

It doesn’t help that I love the books too. I go back and reread them every few years, and only recently found out that even though the third book was published in 1992 there was a fourth that came out in 2011. Long time to wait to do a sequel, but now I need to reread the whole thing and add that book four to the list.

One person asked me if it was necessary to be a LARP player to really get into this game and my answer is a resounding no. Even if you have spent time mocking people who play LARP games (even though I have played many a LARP myself there are some folks that I rib about it) you can enjoy this setting, and the books.

So what do the numbers look like on this one?

Overall Fluff 4/5 – Even though the book is not that big there are a lot of elements that give it a good score here. The art is clean. There are sections of the game book that appear to be written by characters in the novels and the author of the game even gives himself a position on the staff in the park. If you can find a whole copy of the game book there are cardboard cutout cards that allow you to track characters by genre type and special abilities very easily. And the art is consistent on the cards to match the art in the game book.

Overall Crunch 3/5 – The rules are a little light, while that is done to try and reflect that this is supposed to be a simulation of a simulator it does lead to the need for a little tweaking. Played on its own it can make some things seem a little to challenging or easy. But that happens in every game system. With the rules being as light as they are here that makes it easier to tweak.

Overall Mod 5/5 – Ok so due to the meta meta factor for this game I have to put the mod at 5. You can change so much just by dropping this in to Cyberpunk and making it the Disneyland there. You can drop it into Rifts and making it a lost remnant of the old world of the greatest entertainment for the masses in the new. You can drop it into a D&D game and make it run on magic instead of tech. You can toss it into SLA Industries and make it lethal. There are so many ways to work with this and to tinker it, it just blows the mind.

Overall Fun 4/5 – Ok so with all the positives why am I only giving it a four of five for fun? That comes from personal experience with the game. It is a challenge to take a setting like this and play it on its own. You really need to add an outside framework for the world the park is in otherwise you will end up with a one off game. And for someone who enjoys running stories, that just does not work for me.

Total Score 16/20 – Ok so we got a fairly high score here. However this is not a game that I am going to say just run out and read it and see if you like it. Because of the nature of the game, and the setting, you really need to know if you want to run one off games, or if you want to insert it into another game world. If you are a fan of the books and a player of RPG’s then just for the novelty of it I would say hunt it down for a read.

Anyway, now you know my thoughts, as always though think for your own bloody self and decide if something is right for you or not.

So then gimme the dice, I need to find out how many d4 I can fit into a sphere without poking holes.

Keep gaming and have fun all!

 

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Game Review #20 – Spycraft 1st edition(G)

Ok so even though I have a request in to do a review of another product I decided to go with Spycraft instead. Why, well it is a d20 game and this is the 20th game review I have set up, and my wife and I have been watching a lot of Archer lately and when I busted up during a season 4 episode I told my wife I could actually turn this whole thing into a RPG setting she actually said she would play it. Since she has never expressed even a joking interest in playing a table top RPG before it got me thinking very seriously about how to put a game together. And that train of thought lead me into Top Secret (the game not the movie), and Spycraft. Still have not settled on a game to use yet, but that is a story for another post.

So a little history on Spycraft. Spycraft is a d20 rpg that came out after the publication of the original 3rd edition D&D but before d20 Modern. Originally published by Alderac Entertainment Group (AEG) currently under license to Crafty Games, unless they have finally bought it completely and I have not heard. Now then the time line is a little funky on publication as I can only find notes online that say it was published in 2002, just a few months before d20 Modern came out, but I have a PDF and a copy of the book that says copyright in 2001 and lists that for the original print date. I know that distribution may not have happened until 2002, I mean if you look into the history of AEG’s early print and to shelf history it reads a lot like Palladium Books history. Sorry guys but neither company has a rep for getting things to the stores in a timely manner or anything close to when you stated it would be published.

Not here to rant about that though.

Spycraft took the original d20 Players handbook and stood it on its ear to create a modern setting. This was not the only game to do that, but in my personal opinion it is the one that did it best. They took a few hints from the licensed Star Wars RPG that Wizards of the Coast was publishing and improved on them. Examples would include having a defensive bonus instead of just an AC and having your Hit Points/Life Points being tied more directly into your Con than being based on a roll every level. Instead of a race you would have a Department, and the classes, while they stuck to a lot of the basic tenants of D&D at the time (there is a function that each class does really well and most others can only half @$$ at best), they also established a firm role for the characters in the setting unlike d20 Modern. The fact that you can still multi-class gives you the chance to make very detailed agents and enemies. They also added class level features called Budget Points and Gadget Points. Not as quick to use as simple cash, but better than the d20 Modern finance system by far. The initial setting reminded me a lot of the old Top Secret game but with a lot better depth and detail. Making a comparison on that is not really fair as Top Secret had to come in at under a hundred pages, and Spycraft came in at almost 300.

Second edition made some very interesting changes to pull it a little further from the basic d20 system, but that is also not something for this review.

Having had a lot of fond memories of being a teenager and really messing with Top Secret game sessions… (“Ahead of you in the darkness you see a stair case.” “Ok we stare back.” and “You have successfully snuck to the door without being seen. All of your intel says your target is inside that next room.” “Ok so we open the door just a little and toss a grenade in.” “You what?!”) I was really looking forward to having some fun with Spycraft. Unfortunately the first two groups I played with were all about recreating James Bond situations, and that meant that you could not really go off the rails and one of the players was always going to be the main spy. The games rarely lead to the types of teamwork the game engine makes possible or the levels of fun I was trying to recapture. So I let it go for quite a while. The potential was there, but my game groups did not really want to go in that direction. But now with Archer on my brain, I am looking again.

Ok so that gives you some background. How does it rack up in the scores?

Overall Fluff 3/5 – The art in the game is hit or miss, and the background material is sparse in some areas. Admittedly later supplements fleshed things out a lot, but the core rule book was more about making sure you could play, than making sure you had everything you might want in a setting. Like I said earlier though it is a big improvement on the old Top Secret game. It is enough to spur the imagination and not force you down any one path.

Overall Crunch 4/5 – Being a d20 game engine much of the rules are cut and paste. Easy enough to get by with. The added rules are good and do not bog down action, they just mean you need a little more time to set everything up before you begin an adventure. Overall I think it is one of the better d20 adaptations.

Overall Mod 4/5 – Again it is a d20 engine so you can mod the hell out of it. Because of its independent concepts it is a little challenging to bring in outside source materials, but a little effort there and you can come up with some really X-files like stuff.

Overall Fun 2/5 – Yeah this score is a little low. And that is more from my personal experience with the game than from its potential. A game setting like this is going to be something where everyone wants to be James Bond or Maxwell Smart. The one person who can get it all done. But RPGs are mostly about teamwork and story telling, not being a stage hog. Same sort of challenge you usually get in a pulp setting.

Total Score 13/20 – Could have been higher if I had a better time with it originally, but I still see a lot of potential to dust it off and run with it anyway. Anyone who is into d20 games could get this running really fast. I am still looking forward to putting together a Wheel-man / Black Ops character so that I can add a Transporter like character to a Spy game.

As always my final recommendation is to look it over and decide for yourself if this is the game that will do what you want and let you play what you want. If not then toss it. If it is, then AWESOME you got a winner. 🙂

Well thats it for now. Hope everyone is having a great 2018 so far and is remembering to date documents and checks correctly. Yeah checks, some of us still use them.

Now gimme the dice. I need to check to see what sort of random encounter is showing up here next.

 

 

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Mixed game media

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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World Building 207

Hello Readers

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

So where did we last leave off…

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

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

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

Let me tell you why.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hope everyone is staying safe out there.

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

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Holiday Shopping for your Gamer

Hello all readers 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Game Review #19 – Heroes Unlimited 1st ed

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So how does it score?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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World Building 206

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ok so lets put this in a brief for review…

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

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

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

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

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