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Game Review #47 – Through the Breach (Fated and Fate Masters Almanacs – aka Malifaux RPG) (Warning – Potentially disturbing art in review)

Hello Readers

Ok so I am starting this with a bit of a warning because the art I am including, even just from the book covers may seem a little creepy, startling or disturbing to some. I think personally it is still mild but since this blog gets posted to FB and I have family that might read it I wanted to make sure that its known right off the bat.

Ok so with that warning out of the way, lets take a look at Through the Breach.

This RPG was actually created to support, sort of, the table top strategy game called Malifaux. The setting was created by Wyrd aka Wyrd Games as a story driven miniature strategy game setting. The setting itself is sort of a horror, steampunk, dystopian, Shadowrun setting. There is an extensive history that ties Earth to another world and from the other world magic comes into Earth. Seeing as how this happens in the 1700 – 1800 time range you can guess as to where the steampunk elements come from. In the alternate world there is an apparently abandoned city. The city and the world basically get the same name from the earthers and from that point on things get weirder.

Through the story arcs in the miniatures game horror is established as humans quickly determine they are not alone. And the things in this world hate… welllll, everything. But that does not mean that there is not a bit of a sense of humor to it as well…

Fate chompy

… as is evident by the monster being named Lord Chompy Bitts…

So while the miniatures game uses the same world, and the characters from the miniatures game can show up in the RPG, the players in the RPG have a lot more freedom to adventure how the want and not be as limited by faction or alliance as the miniatures game is.

The scope of the world of Malifaux is really interesting, as, well, its not all published. There is no telling where everything is out there in the world. It may be huge or it may end completely just past the edge of the known. So for everything they have published so far, we as players and consumers may have barely touched the surface of the world.

The scope of the city of Malifaux is a little more controlled… but only a little.

Malifaux City

I mean if you look at that map you can see two huge areas called Quarantine Zone. Both of those areas offer elements that are unexplored, dangerous, and frequently just weird.

The content of the setting is an eclectic mix of cultures, myths, and almost a stereotypical wild west kind of feeling. It has firearms and steampunk cybernetics, mixed with magic and sword fighting. living mythic monsters and strange horrors that Lovecraft would sit back and smile at.

So I think you are getting the picture here. The setting is well detailed, the art backing it up is beautiful and the stories are awesome.

Now then comes the challenge. I dislike the game mechanic almost as much as I hate GURPS.

First and foremost I dont like using cards as the main mechanic. And mixing cards and other mechanics together… unh… no… just no. They have also described the world in such a way that it is a challenge to even mod the game setting to other core rules without loosing something. That makes it a bit frustrating to mod unless you are using a game engine that is totally open ended.

Strangely in spite of that challenge, I still find the setting all kinds of fun, I think the Malifaux minis are beautiful, and so I can let a few things go by.

My wife is setting up a game for us right now (board game) so I am cutting this review short. I mean most of the rest would be me soap boxing or blathering  on.

Overall Fluff 5/5 – It is freaking beautiful. Background stories, art, NPC opinions and so many of them fleshed out well. Yeah this is worth a 5/5.

Overall Crunch 2/5 – Ungh, the rules. It is playable dont get me wrong. But they took nearly every thing a game can do that I dont like and rolled it up into a single playing engine. There are a lot of ways to spoof the rules and moving the setting to another engine that can work better than plying it as is.

Overall Mod 3/5 – Not easy to mod. The intricate way things have been put together makes it harder to tinker unless you just keep the story and then add new rules into play.

Overall Fun 4/5 – The setting is weird. Horror, steampunk, and so much more. The fact that is it outside our current reality by just a couple of steps. It is unusual, it is interesting, and it feels very much alive to play in… if only the rules.

Total Score 14/20 – Ok so here is what we are looking at overall. The setting rocks the rules will be a matter of taste. Its a lot of fun but the rules can get in the way. It is worth a look at the very least.

Ok so that is it for now. I hope everyone out there is having a good day and is not working too hard if you are working.

Now gimme the dice. I need to see how many soul stones can fit inside of one editors in box.

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What is a Horror game?

Howdy readers.

I need to ask you all the question, what is a horror game?

I mean sure you can go play Call of Cthulhu, or get into Ravenloft, you can get games going in the World of Darkness, you can get lost in the Void, and so many others.

But are these really horror?

I mean when I read a book like In the Mountains of Madness by H.P Lovecraft, there is a sense of mystery, an air of suspense as you learn more about what is going on but never really see everything. When I play a game of Call of Cthulhu I am usually looking for the next monster to kill and hoping that I dont loose too much in the way of SAN so I wont mix up my black powder explosives and my writing kit.

Maybe its me as a player. I really dont get a feeling of suspense. I dont really get why my character should be afraid. Maybe I know the game mechanics too well and just get frustrated by not getting good die rolls. I do at least feel trepidation when die rolls are taken out of my hands, or I dont know what the GM is doing behind their screen. But that is not a sense you can really sustain.

As a GM I have tried things for players like telling them up front that I have changed some of the game mechanics and until your characters encounter them you are not going to learn about them out of game either. And that does seem to cause a little bit of horror. When no one in the group knows something… it seems to add that bit of ‘oooooooooo, scary’ to the situation.

So what does it mean to you readers? What makes a horror game? What makes a horror campaign? How do you make it work?

Ok now gimme the dice… one at a time… slowly… and if you hand me any of them with a number other than 1 there will be… consequences…

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Tales from the Game Table – Live Table

Welcome readers, running a little early this week so as to have a bit more weekend fun tomorrow.

dm disaster mw kaluta

So early on in my game playing days I started experimenting with the concept of playing a live table. For those who dont know what that means it is when everything that is said at the game table is said or done by the characters in the game. Players talking to each other is assumed to be in character. Statements of action are what a character is doing. It is not an easy thing to get used to, and usually it is easier to get it going in a serious game than a comedic one.

So in one of my very first attempts to play a live table, young me and young other players… and well… we happened to be playing a little game called Paranoia.

Things had been going ok… not great but ok… for the players…

But then that is the nature of Paranoia.

I had been using live table off and on in the game, trying to get the players to act things out a bit more, role play a bit more. And we had some really good moments. Then we get to a point where the players had lost most of their gear, but caught the enemy and were about to bring them in for questioning, when they suddenly realized they had no rope… and we had a moment that went like…

“Ok so how are you going to secure your prisoners?”

“I don’t know… we don’t have any rope…”

“Could we tear up our clothes?”

“Roll against your Moxie.”

****rolling sound of 2d10****

“Ok with a roll like that you realize that ripping up your uniforms would be very creative but it is also willfully destroying property of the Computer, and that is treason.”

“Shit… ok… ummm… ok…so… so I…”

****sounds of dice rolling****

“Looks like they are about to wake up… what do you do?”

“Ok… so I take of my belt and… awww #@%&-it.”

“You have no lotion so it hurts, make an endurance roll…”

Young male jokes about sex ensue.

I quietly rolled a couple of dice and realized that the prisoners had been so sheltered that what they saw as they were waking up scared them… I mean if he was willing to do that to a belt there was no telling what he might do to them…

We didn’t get much further that session. But in the end everyone was either having fun or young enough to be totally confused about the whole thing but too nervous to say anything. Young male players in the early 80’s.

So yeah… that happened… and things like it happened again and again…Not the worst thing really 🙂

heh

Ok so that’s a short post this week. I hope that everyone is having a great weekend.

Now gimme the dice. I need to see just how many troubleshooters could shoot trouble if trouble didn’t shoot back.

 

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Game Review #45 – Ruins of UnderMountain (S)

Hello Readers and welcome to another game review. Now then using my standards some might wonder why I am designating this as a Supplement instead of a Module. I will get into that in a little bit.

SO while the wiki page for UnderMountain is a little underwhelming it does have a few links to other TSR related information that can help you get a little more info about the author and how this ties into the Forgotten Realms setting, especially the city of Skull Port.

From my personal perspective UnderMountain was the first true mega dungeon. Sure the box set only had three levels. But those three levels were mapped out on four poster maps. The guide book only had information on about 25% of the rooms that were shown on the maps. And there were rules and suggestions for how to add, well, anything you wanted into the unwritten areas to specifically enhance any campaign you were running.

This thing is freaking huge… I mean just look…

undermountain-maps

…and if that wasn’t enough (and for some it was never close to enough) TSR also came up with additional materials to support UnderMountain later… Ruins of UnderMountain II : The Deep Levels (not as good but it really kept up the theme), Dungeon Crawl UnderMountain the lost level (this was actually pretty good if you tied it into other things, on its own… meh) And of course there have been reprintings, updates to later editions of  D&D and knock offs by the score that have tried to out do UnderMountain like AEG’s Worlds Largest Dungeon.

The funny thing is that most of the other mega dungeons that are out there exist only to be adventured in. They dont have any real connection to their environment or world. That means you can drop them any place you like and play the crud out of them. However UnderMountain was tied to the Forgotten Realms in some rather interesting ways. Its primary entrance was in a specific city. It had interesting new magic items and spells that were tied into either the Forgotten Realms as a whole, Skull Port the city it resided under, or some of the background characters that TSR authors and creators had been using for a while. Now then this is not to say that you cannot take UnderMountain and just drop it anywhere you want. You can. You just have to ignore or modify the background and characters a bit so the story elements fit, that is if you want to use them. Considering that the publication only has about 25% of the rooms filled at best, it is really easy to mod it out to whatever setting or location you want to use. My personal favorite of all time is putting UnderMountain under the City State of the Invincible Overlord. Giving me a huge and detailed city with a massive underground complex underneath.

One of the things that comes in the box set that I think is very under valued are the DM assistant cards. Not their real names I know. But these handy little cards have information on treasures, traps, and some of the odd magics that are in the dungeon. TSR put similar cards into other products but most of the time they made them 8 1/2 x 11 page sized, and these cards are just a little over the 3×5 note card size. Much easier to use and keep out of the line of sight of your players.

And of course if I am going to be totally honest… without the maps this thing would not be worth it to me. I am all for added information, new monsters and toys, but… mmmmmmmmmmm maps. These things are very detailed, well presented and… sigh… beautiful. One of the reasons I do not like the follow up products as much is because the maps seem more like a cheap imitation and not trying to keep the feel and build on what they already created.

Ok so I have ranted and rambled a bit, how do I call the numbers…

Overall Fluff 3/5 – There is good background material, and some interesting story. However this product is one of the weaker ones that TSR put out in regards to art. And while a part of me wants to call the maps art, I am actually putting them under Crunch.

Overall Crunch 5/5 – The new spells and monsters really do well in AD&D as a whole. The new trap rules and details also build things out in ways that enhance the setting, and the game. MAPS!!!!!!!!! I would almost like to give them a separate score but that would really skew the review.

Overall Mod 5/5 – It is old school AD&D, so you can mod the crud out of it. And I have. And you need to. The fact that you need to in many ways almost made me give this a 4/5 instead of the 5/5 score. Almost. The fact that you know from the ground up that you will need to mod it, and they make no bones about it, saves it from the lower score.

Overall Fun 5/5 – MAPS!!!!!! no not just the maps… heh. Overall this is one of those rare gaming products that encourages you to think. To add the flavor to make it your own, while giving you a solid framework that you can run with to your hearts content even if you never tweak a thing. It is a ton of fun and I cannot be positive enough about it.

Total Score 18/20 – Yeah I think this is a great supplement for gaming. I think it is worth the collectors price if you can find it in the physical world, and I think it is not bad at all if you can get it in a digital format and come up with some way to scale up the maps so you can use them effectively. While this is not something that will change your life it really can change your game.

Ok so thats it for this week. Stay tuned because next week will have another blog entry and I have no idea what I am going to do with it.

Now gimme the dice, I need to see how many random dungeon levels I can roll up before I need to actually use them for something.

 

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World Building 308 – Whats your story?

Ok so I am finally going to close out the Supers world building series.

Now then with everything else that has been put into this series about world building you most likely are wondering why in the monkey I would save the actual story until last.

Well the reason is because of the evolution of comic books themselves. Just to use Marvel comics as an example… If you look back you will see a number of comic book titles that were created early on. And then for marketing and profitability they put some of their more popular characters together to create the Avengers. And THEN they started thinking about continuity. I know that this is a massive oversimplification and that there are some rather beautiful examples of characters and storylines surviving even from the earliest days of comic book publication. However if you look at comics in general it takes a while to get characters and titles to cross over. And the actions taken in one story rarely directly effect what is going on in another characters book. Or even the books that the character is involved with as a team member (**cough cough** Wolverine **cough cough**) unless the character dies.

When those crossovers finally happen you usually end up having to rewrite so many of the rules on how the world functions, or how powerful one character is in relation to another that you end up changing the nature of characters. When that sort of thing happens in comic books it is not always bad, and can lead to some interesting follow up stories. However when you are playing in an RPG it can really piss players off if suddenly the physics of the world changes. Or suddenly one of the minor villains accidentally becomes unstoppable because now all his stories about magic being real are no longer a joke and no one in the game has magic powers because they were not part of the world and so you cant counter him (sorry personal grudge there). Or when your power levels are not clearly defined and a single agent can take on a super hero (crap another grudge there). Are you getting the picture there?

If you put your story ahead of your world, and your characters, then from my personal experience 7 out of 10 times you will piss off at least half of your players. And yes I have had enough experience in bad supers games to make that assessment.

The second big part of it is that when you are building a world you are going to start finding all sorts of things you want to limit or put center stage. You will discover you want to encourage certain types of characters or NPCs to be a part of the world. And once you have it all laid out that makes it fairly easy to wrap a story into your world.

So all of that is why I save the story for last.

Now then there is absolutely NOTHING stopping you from going the other way around about it. You can totally start with your story and build a world to fit it. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with doing things in a different order. This is just the order that makes the most sense to me and has worked best in my experience.

The other benefit of doing things in this manner is that if you are someone like me who works with a bunch of different game engines you can pick the one that really suits the world you have built up and take advantage of everything you want to do. That way your world, your game engine and your story all compliment each other. If you have only one engine you like to work with then this sort of order might not make as much sense because your world and story will need to fit into the engine you are using. And if you are using a licensed product then you will have a predefined world to fit everything in to.

So lets take a look at the world I have been building here…

  • 301 – Origin of Power – A cosmic/celestial event causes mutations. Also technology.
  • 302 – Which Earth – Our earth
  • 303 – Timeline – Slightly in the future. So that things like cybernetics and power armor could be possible.
  • 304 – Percent of power – 1 / 25000 have mutation. Specific tech that could be called super powers is more common.
  • 305 – Perception of power – Mutants are the new target of fear and racism, Tech characters are seen as heroes.
  • 306 – Power level – World – Mutants vary but low power is more common, and that does mean power, all mutants have something extra. Tech is fairly standard and can make one man equal to about a Main Battle Tank. Game – Mutants will be on the higher end but not the top. Tech characters will have unique toys that go well past the current standards.
  • 307 – Known Earth – There is going to be an alien research vessel that knows about Earth. They noted the unusual solar flare activity and they have been monitoring the effect on humans since. Both physically and sociologically. They trade out teams on a regular basis and have rules about interacting with humans. I have no intention of introducing the aliens any time soon. I think if the players get creative they might be able to find them and go chat. But unless the game needs a kick in the butt, I have no intention of dropping this in the players path.

So this world gives me a few types of stories I can tell…

  1. Humans who fear mutants and use tech to keep them at bay.
    1. Using tech to take away their powers
    2. Using tech to be more powerful
    3. Using tech to imprison or drive off the mutants
  2. Mutants who want more than what they have
    1. Rule the world
    2. Be free of oppression
    3. Live in peace with everyone
    4. Escape earth and find a world of their own
  3. Mixed groups who want to unite mutants and humans for whatever reason
  4. Normal people living day to day

Personally I want to tell story about characters who want to see how far they can push both technology and mutant powers. And that being heroes is a great way to exercise that growth. This means they are going to be put in the path of human supremacists, mutant supremacists and be looked to in regards to how to develop both tech and powers. They may decide that one side is wrong, or all sides are just too messed up and that they should find another world to inhabit or something else along those lines but that is going to be up to the players to decide.

The game engine I have decided to use is Palladium Books Heroes Unlimited. The reason for this is because it has clearly defined classes for mutants and tech based heroes. And while it wont stop a mutant from taking up tech and using it, there is no way they will ever be as good with it as a pure tech character. Also it is not possible for a tech hero to mutate without a complete change in character class and loosing most of their ability with tech. This division makes the kinds of stories that I can tell in this world a lot more powerful because there will be rules that enforce what sort of stories I want to tell already built into the system. Also there is a random power table that players can use to get their mutations. And personally in a world like this I find that to be a great option. Sure you dont have to use it, but it can make for some very interesting combinations of powers that you would not usually see.

I do have some home brew rules I want to add on the mutant side so that I can have a few over the top powerhouses in the world that will still fit the environment. Such as in the original rules they have a strict rule that if you roll a power more than once you have to reroll. However the publishers have made some NPC characters that have a single power more than once and I want to incorporate that. Specifically into some characters like Dust. If I stack the teleportation power multiple times on the character it will have the same effect that Dan originally wrote up for the way his powers worked.

Any way, that rolls up the world, the setting and the stories I want to tell with it.

Not sure what the next World Building series might be but I will do another in the future.

Keep gaming and keep having fun, all while thinking your own thoughts on how you want to game and what you want to game with.

Now gimme the dice, I need to see how many NPCs I can fit into an ordinary shoe box.

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Game Review #42 – GURPS Humanx (S)

Did you know there is not a decent RPG that has been created specifically for Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy? SIGH… Ok so for review #42 we will stick with SCIFI and hit something a little unexpected.

You may remember a while back I did a review for GURPS. I was not a happy camper in regards to the system, but did mention more than once that when GURPS does a game supplement they go all out. They treat it with respect and do a great job of it. This is one of those examples.

The Humanx setting is from the works of Alan Dean Foster. I got into the setting back in the late 70’s with the book Orphan Star, with Flinx and his minidrag Pip. And I could never get enough. Foster did frustrate the crud out of me more than once when he would write a new book (and I have to say his writing has never stopped improving over the years) and it would come in-between things he had already established as cannon for the setting and it changed two or three things and so now you have to reread to ensure you have everything right in your own head… but that is between me and Mr Foster.

Published in 1987 GURPS Humanx takes into account not only the series of books that is my favorites (Flinx and Pip) but also takes into account the whole freaking setting. And that is not something that is easy to do given the number of books that Foster had published in the setting by that time. In the books 96 pages you got the whole history of the Humanx Commonwealth and even a look at some of the major players. I was really surprised at how much information they were able to cram into such a small space. The weakest part of the whole thing was the art in my mind, considering that they go permission to use the Michael Whelan cover from one of the books.

To be honest I could rant on for a long time about how much I loved this book. And how it broke my heart that it was in GURPS and not a game system I enjoyed. But on the up side there is so much information here that if a GM cannot take this book and put it into their own preferred game system… well I would be looking for a new GM.

Lets take a look at the numbers….

Overall Fluff 4/5 – The only reason I put this at a 4 and not a 5 is the interior art. The details and snippets from the books are just freaking awesome.

Overall Crunch 4/5 – There are a couple of new rules added for the Humanx setting in this book and while I am not a fan of GURPS they fill in for things that would otherwise feel like big holes in the setting. Like I said I may not like GURPS overall, but when they do a source book or licensed item they do not short change you.

Overall Mod 1/5 – This is in the tank because in my case, you have to mod it, into a whole other system. But the level of detail that is present makes it pretty easy overall. I have in the past put it into Star Frontiers (the Thranx and the Vrusk trade up pretty easy) and into Mekton (yeah I was in a ship to ship combat stage at the time)

Overall Fun 5/5 – Ok so I am totally biased and I admit it. I love the setting and I love the way they treated the material. Even though it takes time to mod it to something I can use in a game engine I enjoy, I still think the book itself is a lot of fun for fans.

Total Score 14/20 – I tried to be as even handed as I could given that I dont like the game engine but love the books this is based on. Not an easy task. For a fan of the setting who games I think the book is essential. For a fan of the books it might be a nice to have just so you can see how other people treat the property. For fans of scifi gaming it could be a very nice alternate setting. For fans of GURPS… … … … … sorry, got nothin’ but snark.

All right so fairly short review this week. Oh and yes this is the official post for the week. Seattle’s Snowmageddon 2019 has brought you everything else published this week. Remember this is all my opinion. Get out there and game for yourself. Make up your own bloody mind and have fun doing it.

Now gimme the dice, I need to see if I can make friends with this minidrag.

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Game Review #41 Classic Organizations for Champions 4th Edition (S)

Welcome readers. Yeah, two posts in under a week. No this is not a sign of the apocalypse, that is already underway and in the hands of other management. 🙂

Having recently found out that Hero Games, the creators of Champions, have been putting a lot of effort into adding PDF versions of the Champions game into online retailers like DriveThruRPG I wanted to pull up one of my favorites from my OVERALL favorite version of Champions. Fourth edition.

Avid readers will remember a while back I did a review for another Champions item. CLOWN. That adventure module, and three others from third edition Champions have been updated, reedited and added to this supplement. What was collected in this book was,

CLOWN, the Criminal Legion Of Wacky Nonconformists.

CLOWN

Neutral Ground, A safe space for heroes and villains to chat, heal, and seek advice or training.

champions ng

PRIMUS and DEMON, A government organization to fight super-crime with an almost military efficiency, and a magical organization bent on world corruption and or domination, either would work.

champions PnD

And Red Doom, a very 80’s look at Russian supers and the teams they had in order to counter evil American heroes who might interfere with the Motherland.

champions red doom

The first thing most folks would think about in a supplement like this is, “Well if you are just reprinting old stuff who cares. I can just use the old books.” And while you definitely could the four original supplements were created in first through third editions of the rules for Champions. Now then while the changes between the four editions are not as subtle as going from AD&D 1st edition to AD&D 2nd edition. They are no where near as extreme as say going from Basic D&D to Third edition. Things like Martial Arts and some of the powers went through major changes. And while you could muddle through quite well, it makes it a little easier to have it all worked out for you.

In addition to the rules updates you also had all four books pulled together to tell a single story. That updated all of the characters from the original four books. And pulled in additional ones from other old supplements. And when they built this new story they also mapped it out completely so that characters could be directly involved and change a number of elements for their own world, or they could deal with the aftermath of what happened. When they did the update of the organizations they made some fairly significant changes in a few of them. Everything from reorganizing teams, to completely changing the origin stories for characters and in two cases of the organizations themselves.

The combined effect of the rules updates and the story that was created, along with the effects on individual characters and the grander implications for the world of Champions gave this supplement something that was close to unique in the evolution of the Champions RPGs. A true sense of continuity. This book told players that yes your old supplements still mattered. And look how you can tie them in with all the new stuff that is being created for the game.

Hero games did one other book for fourth edition that started with Classic in the title. And while it collected characters from a lot of previous supplements, it did not try to build continuity like this one did.

While I did not get to play with much of the material here… finding Champions players can be a pain some times… what I did use balanced well and ran just like I would expect anything from 4th edition Champions to run. Very very well.

In the end this book is one of five books that I would put into a bundle to say this is your core for Champions 4th edition. That though can be the topic of a later post.

So lets take a look at this book by the numbers…

Overall Fluff 4/5 – Using a ton of the original art, and adding several new pieces the art fits well into the whole Champions product line. This however is the fluff flaw as well. The art is not really top of the line when compared to comic books or a lot of the high end art that other games were using at the time or since.What really stands out though is the story and the character narratives. It adds a lot of great material and makes for a very nice bit of ongoing plot and gives a lot of potential for players to run with and build their own stories and for GMs to integrate it into their worlds.

Overall Crunch 4/5 – While there are no new rules in this book, this book has examples of just about everything you can do with the Champions game engine. Using those examples you can really map out how to do a lot of the more complex things in the game engine like vehicle design and base construction with a lot of ease.

Overall Mod 4/5 – Champions as a whole is really easy for me to mod. And plots and character elements are usually very easy to mod too. However the story elements and background are so well integrated that it can be a bit of work to pull out and use only parts of it, or to add a lot of additional items to it.

Overall Fun 5/5 – So I seriously love this book. Even with a few flaws and not great art it is one of the best supplements that came out for Champions 4th edition. At least in my mind. And as noted above, I enjoy it so much I put it as one of the books you would want to consider your core material to play in the Champions universe.

Total Score 17/20 – A high score, but in my mind this is one where if I have a really good game session or three with the material again I would likely bump it even higher. The book is not without flaws, but overall it is a very very useful collection of material that should not be under rated.

Ok so as always, this is my opinion. Get out there, read it, play with it, and decide for yourself if you agree.

Keep gaming and have fun out there folks.

Now gimme the dice, I need to see how many comic-book villains can fit into the CLOWN car for rapid transit.

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Game Review #40 Night City – Cyberpunk 2020 (S)

Greetings readers. With the still pending release of Cyberpunk 2077 from CD Projekt I thought I would get a little ahead of the curve and pull out a few of the Cyberpunk 2020 books and see if I could give myself an edge when 2077 is finally released.

On the top of my list is one of the game supplements that has been at the top of my list for years when it comes to city guides. City guides have been around for a long time in gaming, and one of the first that really got me going on the idea of an entire publication for a city setting was the City State of the Invincible Overlord. I got the Mayfair Games boxed set version when it came out (1986/87) and was floored at the amount of detail that they had and it got incorporated into many of my game worlds going forward. There were others that I found and read/used/loved/hated after that boxed set. Some older, some newer, but none of them captured my imagination or respect in the same manner that the City State did until I found Night City. I will freely admit that I did not get it as soon as it was printed, but it was not too long there after.

Night City, after I read it, set my new high standard for a City guide. There have been a few that have come close sense, but it takes a lot to equal it.

Let me give you a few ideas why.

To start off with in its presentation the Night City guide is formatted to look like the kind of material you would get from the in city Data Terms. Data terminals that you can use to get everything from maps to the daily newspaper. It then goes from a general overview of the city, with everything from weather to hot spots before going into a history of the city itself. Then it moves into things that get a bit more specific, like depending on your finances where you might live and how you do it, the descriptions of street gangs (the Bozo’s are still one of my all time favorite gangs and I am reeeeeeeeealy hoping they make an appearance in the 2077 game). Then it finally moves into specific regions of the city. Including specific locations, hot spots, local characters and even the types or some very specific contacts that you can develop in each region.

Now then inside that presentation it also slips in game specific stats. However it does it in such a way that you feel like it is supposed to be there. Like when talking about the street gangs they do not give you set stats for your generic members of the gangs. But it gives you averages and then adds a little color as well. For example the Interlock System that Cyberpunk uses has a stat called Cool that defines your mental stability, and a few other traits. Under the listing for the Bozo’s under Cool it has the comment – “Do crazy people truly have Cool?” (Page 53). That kind of added flavor gives a nice touch that does not distract from the presentation and still makes it useful in game.

The third big deal is that this book is actually great for all of the in game roles that players can have and that game masters can abuse for NPCs. Not just in local hots spots or encounters and contacts. It also has layouts for a few sites on the Net so that you can set things up for hacks. It has details on corps and the law so if you are playing a corp or a cop you can have material to enhance your game. And it has details that you can use to add to any character that would have been hinted at in their Lifepath at character creation. And for those that dont know Lifepath is a series of tables that you roll on at character creation to set up a background for our character. Or at least the framework for one that you can flesh out.

Last big deal is that this is one of the few game supplements in a cyberpunk or scifi setting in which, to myself at least, all of the art and technical-esqe art fits. It is rare that you can say that about the art in any game book. Usually there is something that takes you out of the moment and makes you go… why… really, why is that here?

So I have no idea if this game book would be helpful at all when 2077 comes out. The scenes that have been shared so far give me a bit of hope that at least some of the material will be on the nose. And since Mike Pondsmith himself is involved with the creation of 2077, and he is a solid story teller and enjoys Easter eggs as much as anyone, I cannot see it being completely useless.

Ok so thats my rant about it, lets see how I set the numbers.

Overall Fluff 5/5 – Read all of the above and you will see that the fluff is out of control here. I would have given it a six out of five if I could let myself out of my own rules.

Overall Crunch 2/5 – There are no new rules in this book, but there is also nothing that breaks existing rules. So it has a low score here because nothing is added.

Overall Mod 5/5 – Interlock is one of those systems that you can mod the heck out of. The Fusion System and CyberFang prove this. And the material is presented in such a way that it is very easy to drop in your own NPC’s or full fledged features to make the city match you own game, or even game engine if you want to export it.

Overall Fun 5/5 – Again read the above and you will know I think this is a blast. Even though the setting is a dystopian cyberpunk work.

Total Score 17/20 – Ok, pretty high score. And it is WORTH IT. Nuff Said. (Nuff Said credited to the memory of Stan Lee, because he is forever awesome.)

Ok so thats my post. Hope the new year is kicking much ass for everyone already and that your game days rock even harder than last year.

Now gimme the dice, I have to see how many Bozo’s are around here and clowning…

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Product review – Murphy’s Rules

Happy holidays readers.

I want to keep posting even over the holiday season, but in giving respect to my family and household it will be a short one this time.

This is the first time I have set something up as a Product review and not a Game review. Depending on how it goes I may do more in the future.

This particular product is a collection of material that Steve Jackson Games published between 1980 and 1998 in various media that they had been producing like the Space Gamer magazine and Pyramid. Quite frankly I have heard rumors that there was a sequel published but I have never been able to find it, in person or in a PDF format online. Steve Jackson Games website does not list it as something they have ever created, so my hopes are low that it exists.

This book is 80 pages of taking pot shots at stupid rules in role playing games, board games, card games and computer games. Each one is given a little bit of art to illustrate the silliness, and the art interpretations are just as funny as the rules themselves. This is one of my favorite examples…

Image result for Murphys rules

The book also contains a few pages of random tables, small art projects, and it closes with a written article that reads like something out of a Readers Digest advice or letters column from the 80’s.

Now then given that this material is from 1980 – 1998 originally you may think it is strange to still be amused by all of this. Personally I think it is a great way to look back and be able to say that games have always had issues. Strange rules, stating the obvious, or just plain weird. And the fact that game designers have had to put things like that in their games means that players have always had issues too. I mean if you feel it is necessary to put a rule in your game that states that a dead character can take no action… how many players during your play test sessions tried to actually have their dead characters do something?!?

It is also for me a great way to look back at games I have played for years and see how far they have come, or not come in some cases. It also reminds me of games that I have not played in years and lets me quietly flashback and go… I wonder what heck I was thinking playing that mess… or … I wonder if I can find a copy of that now… 🙂

If I have to give something like this a review rating by the numbers there is only one category that it really should have…

Overall Fun – 5/5 – Funny, well presented, cute art, and a ton of flashbacks, the good kind, make this little book something that I am determined to always have in my collection.

I hope that everyone out there has a great holiday season, keeps gaming, and thinking for themselves in regards to everything they enjoy.

Ok so gimme the dice, I need to roll on the random pole-arm generator to see what I am getting the neighborhood orcs for the holidays.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game on and have fun folks.

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

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