Archive for category PP
Ok so with the last post, and the comments I figured what the hell I may as well jump in and run with a new review. And I wanted to jump in with a long time favorite… well sort of a long time favorite…
Product history first… Originally there were four game modules that were created for tournament play at Gen Con in 1980. TSR updated material a little and then published them for sale in late 1980 through 1981. The titles and designations were as follows – A1 “Slave Pits of the Under City”, A2 “Secrets of the Slavers’ Stockade”, A3 “Assault on the Aerie of the Slave Lords”, and A4 “In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords”. Early reviews were hot and the series became a fan favorite. In 1986 the setting was altered slightly to make the modules fit into the specific game realm of Greyhawk, and all four of the earlier modules were put together into the collected module Scourge of the Slave Lords. In 2000 there was a supplement printed that was supposed to be a follow up to the Greyhawk version, but… yeah lets not go there… And then in 2013 there came the reprint that I am using for this review. It is the same as the original printings from 1980 and 81, however it also adds in a new module A0: “Danger at Darkshelf Quarry” created just for this hardcover collected reprinting. So… just so you get this part right… this series of adventures has been around for over 35 years and it keeps coming back. Not just in scanned reprinted PDFs (which are very very cool when it comes to finding old modules and adventures online) but this was popular enough to get the current publisher to pay to get the collection together, add a new additional adventure and print it again in a hard cover format. And it has kept selling.
Personal history… I first found out about the A series of modules in the fourth grade. I had just moved into a new area, and the first group of friends I made were with others in my class playing the A series of modules. We had a teacher running the game. The game ran into the fifth grade and we pushed to finish the series off because sixth grade meant going to another school. We did some seriously crazy things. Like getting the teacher to agree that the wand of magic missiles we found recharged between adventures. If you want more stories about it you can ask me or Dan over at Dan on Games. Yeah he and I have known each other that long. Sorry to put that out there my friend but it is a part of my background for this one 🙂 heh. Over the years I have pulled out this collection of modules from time to time for various things. Playing them as is, or as part of a larger story, and occasionally even as inspiration for adventures based on the modules concepts but not the provided characters and monsters.
So what is it about this specific set of adventures that makes them fun, makes them cool, or why are they a favorite… right… that’s the real question isn’t it?
For me it is equal parts nostalgia, simplicity, and balance. So I have a history with the material as seen above. Simplicity is from the fact that there is only enough fluff in this series of modules to tie them all together but not to force it into any specific game world (well except for that Scourge reprint ungh… so much fluff there to tie it to a specific world just … bleh…) Balance stems from the way the adventure set was built. When things are built for tournament play you have to have a set number of encounters, traps, fights, puzzles and so on. They are also designed to be run in a specific amount of time. And to be survived by players who work together and think. Now then putting all of that together is not as easy as it may sound. I mean if you look at some adventures, some of the writers just dont seem to be able to respect the level of power, skill and abilities of the characters involved. There are lots of conversations online right now talking about problems Piazo is having along these lines with Pathfinder and for myself the best example is… well ok this is another inside joke but… ummm Mr Agents… those who know will laugh.
So how do I rate something like this overall…
Fluff – 5/5 Ok I can hear you saying “WHAT?!” Its a game adventure. How could it have enough story, background, art, and color commentary that you could even think to justify a 5 for Fluff. It’s easy really. When I get a published adventure I want to be able to add it into whatever world I am running. I like to have just enough information and adventure hooks that I can grab it, read it, and go… Oh yeah I can put that over here and just make that fit into this part of my world. I want characters with just enough back story that I can tie them into my stories and world flow. I want maps that tell me what is going on in the adventure not tie it into a world. I want art that give me more to drag my players into the story and game I am running. I dont want to have to take the time to rewrite every page of the adventure and then still have to shoe horn it into my efforts. The ONLY part of this collection that goes a little over is the new A0 module and it is so loosely over what I need that I still have to go with a 5.
Crunch – 5/5 Ok so not everyone will have a problem with this one. I base this on the new monsters and treasures that show up, and if the adventure is really balanced to fit the characters it is created for. So in this series A0 is for characters level 1 to 3, and A1 through A4 is set for characters level 4-7. So do the monsters and treasures match up? Are the villains characters that can actually be beaten by the characters intended? The answer here is a resounding yes. It is really easy to find adventures that you don’t stand a chance in hell of beating unless you either have an extra three or four characters or you some how power up well past the listed levels / power points, whatever. You don’t find that here. Ok ok I take that back you do find it in A3 BUT it is part of the plot and the ongoing story. They even offer you options in the module for if you want the characters to win it all right there or go on to A4 and face the challenges there. Yeah thats right A3 is designed to beat your players, only to have them come back in A4 and come out on top.
Mod – 5/5 Another slight surprise here for some. With me talking about using the modules in multiple worlds and stories you should see a pattern forming here. I have actually modded the modules in this book for games like Pathfinder, Rune Quest and with a little more effort that I like to admit I have modded them to work with a Call of Cthulhu game. Yeah that was a weird one. That is what happens when the Fluff is tight to the material and the Crunch is balanced. It is instantly scale-able and if you know the game engine you are changing to you can easily just grab and go.
Fun – 5/5 Yeah this is a favorite. I have had a lot of fun with this material over the years and I think that anyone willing to look at it as something they can mod and add to just about anything they are working with. And I will admit that my history with and and great memories from so far back just colors my views a little… maybe on all the categories.
Overall – 20/20 Ok ok so IS this a perfect product? Is this the best of the best ever? Nope. It is not perfect, it is not the best ever. But going by the way I score things this is worth the best score I can give. Yeah like I said under Fun my history with the product and long time love of it may color my score a little here but I dont think that is really an issue here. For myself this collection represents some of the best fun I have had gaming. In many ways and on many levels. I wont take that back or cut it down any. I really do think though that it is worth that score. For all the reasons I listed.
Well thats it for the first none core review. Let me know what you think and I will let you know if I care 🙂 heh
Keep the dice rolling folks and then give em to me… I need to see if my cross dimensional games can stake the save vs death…
So yeah, not only a new posting two weeks in a row but reviews two weeks in a row. This is by no means setting a precedent. So don’t expect another post or a review next week. I am not going to say it wont happen, but just don’t expect it ok 🙂
This review starts with the question, why 2nd edition? In part because it cleaned up some of the rules a little (unfortunately it also cleaned up one of my favorite rules in regards to weapons from the first edition) and also in part because I was lucky enough to find a copy at a used book store (Half Price Books, which really should be called, Half Price Books Unless We Have Figured Out There Is A Collectors Market And In That Case We Will Take Up The Price Until We Are Charging Whatever Out Team Saw Online Or A Price On Amazon Or Ebay, Or Maybe Higher If Someone On The Team Thinks We Can Make That Much) for slightly less than it would have cost me to get it off Amazon or Ebay. I had vowed not to do a review without a copy of the game on hand so that when I make references I can be specific.
So originally Paranoia came out from West End Games in 1984. I did not get into the game until 1985. But as soon as I read the back of the game box I was interested. Having seen Logan’s Run for the first time in 1982 and really enjoying the setting, I had thought, ‘Ya know a little sci fi comedy based in something like that cant be too bad, I will give it a shot.’ Oh gods, the insanity that I let loose. 2nd edition did not come out until 1987 but by then it was too late, I was in hook line and sinker. At the very first I did not like the way they had cleaned up 2nd edition, but I eventually came over to believing it was for the best. If you want a fairly good breakdown of the history of the game try the wiki for Paranoia, or maybe you want, like me to keep up on the latest updates regarding the newest version that is scheduled to hit the streets come late summer this year you can check it out on their Kick Starter page here. And technically while West End Games went kaput back in 1999 or so you can still get some of their games online in digital format. Anything that was not a licensed property or Paranoia that is.
So what really is the deal for Paranoia? Why is it one of the few games that keeps coming back no mater what? I really think it comes down to the setting. If you have seen Logan’s Run then you know how dark and twisted a vision of the future it is. If you don’t know about the movie then try starting with IMDB and see if you can get some of the basic ideas about the film. To give you my interpretation of things, imagine a future where the only way for humanity to survive the impending world war three was to place people into a vast covered city complex. Now then to make sure that resources were used correctly that group of people gave up a lot of their control to a computer that was supposed to help keep them safe. That computer also decides that cloning is the best way to ensure that people survive. Ok so that is how it started. Now then move forward in time say six or seven hundred years. Humans with access to the computer have been giving it conflicting updates for generations. Human wisdom is almost gone. And now just to make sure that a single type of clone will live more than a few days due to the violence inherent in the system six of the same person are decanted from the clone tanks at a time. Lets now move forward another few hundred years so that the computer in charge can get into full blown digital paranoia and all the humans in the complex can fall into a state where all of this seems so totally normal that its boring. On the back of the rule book for second edition they have a little quote “Imagine a world designed by Kafka, Stalin, Orwell, Huxley, Sartre, and the Marx Brothers.” I would have used the Three Stooges instead of the Marx Brothers but for those who read a lot that should give you another point of view on the setting.
Paranoia invites us to take a look at the most ridiculous aspects of how life is run, how complex we make things for ourselves, the extent that we let ourselves get buried in bureaucracy, and just how desperate we get for someone to blame. And to laugh our asses off about it while taking a laser pistol to everything. Imagine a place where everything you are, and nearly everything you do can get you killed for treason. Unless you get someone else to take the fall, and if you do that well then you get rewarded. Imagine a place where team work is needed to get the job done, and boot-licking is the best way to save your life. And even if you are totally incompetent you can come out on top.
Second edition of the Paranoia RPG was laid out in a way to make that sort of thing easy to do. Basically the section of the book for the players gives you a glance at the daily life of the players, the rules for rolling up a character, and none of the explanation of how it works. The game master gets all the real rules. Knowing the real rules, if you are a player, is treasonous. However if you can act like you don’t know the rules and blame another player, or their character… well you see how this is going 🙂
In regards to the game itself, while some people will see Paranoia as a beer and pretzels game (this means you take the game out for a one shot that no one takes seriously and you just have fun with it for a night to take a break from your real gaming) I actually see it as the single most challenging long term game ever created. Because it is so easy to have your character die, and it is so tempting to do really stupid things because you have back up clones, it is easy to just say ‘Fuck it’, and run with it. However if you really get into it and want to see just how far you can go you can challenge yourself in ways you never will see in another RPG.
So by this point you will have noted that I have not gone into a lot of details about the rules, or been very specific about the characters and the things they can and can’t do. That is on purpose dear readers. This is one of those games that I want to pique your curiosity about and get you to find out more on your own about, and also I wanted to live up to Paranoia itself… by giving you just enough information to get you into trouble 🙂
Ready for the numbers?
Fluff – 4 This game is so full of little details, like the Termination Voucher, the Mission Report Form, the art, the bits of information that are detailed out in such a way to make it easy to play a character it is kind of nuts. The details for the game master are just as thorough. However to really get the full feel for the game I would have to suggest that there are also some supplements that you would need to have if you are planning on playing long term. The DOA Sector Travel Log, Hill Sector Blues, and Acute Paranoia. All three of these together give you more rules and more flavor so that you can really really go over the top. Without them you are not in trouble, and not short on anything you really need, but they really seal the deal. There are actually about twelve pages or so in each of those supplements that if they were in the main book I would have been telling you a five is not enough score. So really lets call this one a 4.5 in the meat of the text here, but since I like rounding lets still call it officially a 4.
Crunch – 5 Overall the rules are simple and effective. There is enough detail given so that you can teach yourself the game quickly, and then spend years finding ways to take advantage of any of the loop holes. Now if we were talking first edition I would have had to go with a three for the score because there were too many conflicting rules and some that made no sense what so ever. One of those that made no sense really but I had a blast with it is the games version of a rocket launcher originally had a firing range of 160 meters. The Tac Nuke shell had a blast radius of 200 meters. Characters top run speed is 20 meters per turn. Damage from a Tac Nuke is to destroy everything in the blast radius. Not using Computer provided equipment on a mission is treasonous. So here is the question, do you use the shell and die? Do you not use the shell and die from committing treason? Do you come up with a scapegoat to get out of your first two choices? But they went and fixed this in second edition… of all the rules to fix… sigh
Mod – 4 Giving this game a mod of four is actually a hard choice for me. With the cleanup of the rules done for second edition it is actually fairly easy to add things like more secret societies and mutant powers. It is a bit more challenging to add things like new weapons. And unless you are a form junkie please do not try to add any new forms. Time consumption really is what that one comes down to, and really how do you get professional looking forms anyway. The overall rules are not designed to be all that alter friendly, but you can do it with a little effort. The setting information though can be updated, altered and twisted with ease. And when the Paranoia team originally came out with adventures for Vulture Troopers from Dimension X they showed how well you could actually cross genre this game. So I think 4 may be a stretch, but not by much.
Fun – 5 Whether you are playing this game as a beer and pretzels shoot em up, or you are playing a longer running game I think Paranoia is a lot of fun. It is twisted and it is strange and it can reflect real life whether it intends to or not. It can also teach you a lot about gaming. One of the best things it taught me was to run ‘Live Table’ games. If you don’t know Live Table that mean that while players and GM sit at the game table anything (or should that be everything) they say is in character, or on behalf of their character. You need to get up and move away from the table if if is not something you need to say in character. Also it taught me the best ways to keep the pace up in a game. Oh and I learned how to tie a Tac Nuke shell to a scrub bot and then convince the scrub bot to go clean a place 210 meters away and then blame the commie mutant traitor on my team for destroying computer property. Yeah, that taught him not to mess with the Hygiene Officer on the mission.
Overall – 18/20 Paranoia is a hell of a good game, in a great setting. Even though there are later editions, and Paranoia XP gives you some great advice and options for going all the way into a completely serious campaign or getting so far out there that you may need to have a couple dozen pregenerated characters for a single nights gaming, I think that second edition came closest to being the perfect version of the game so far… I may see a new top version this summer though 🙂 🙂 🙂
And now if you made it this far citizen, the debriefing. You will have noted that in the reviews I tossed in a few terms that may seem off, they are from the game. I am trying to hint a little more without being treasonous you know…
Keep gaming everyone and gimme the dice, I need to make a Chutzpah and a Moxie check to see if I can get another scrub bot to do me a favor…
Ok so some have been waiting, and unfortunately for one of my readers this is coming before my review on Paranoia 2nd edition (I got lucky and found a copy at Half Price Books yesterday. Had to pay a collector price for it but it feels good to have Paranoia back in my collection again).
So I have posted other comments and statements about games by MCG (Monte Cook Games), things from compliments to questioning their supply chain. Even though the wait was long for the game, I think it is worth the wait. Because of that I am not going to go into the usual depth I do about the game maker and the publishing company. If you really want to know more look up Monte Cook on Wiki, or look for the MCG website. While this review is about the game itself let me just say that from what I have seen of the materials available anyone who wants to give little ones (smalls, children, kids, the watchers under the stairs, or however you choose to call them) an introduction to RPG table top gaming, this is a great package to do it with. The physical materials them selves are set up with color and art that will appeal to many, and the shape and size are perfect for those who have less practice with physical dexterity to hold on and really feel like they have a hand in everything.
No Thank You Evil is a game that is targeted for younger players. Sort of a gateway game. MCG took their Cypher System (originally used in Numenera and Strange, but now also appearing in its own game engine) and gave it a bit of a twist. The Cypher System is original in that you make a character with a sentence, I am an ADJECTIVE NOUN that VERB. Each of the three elements is tied into a template that gives stats, bonus, powers, or all of the above. They also have the ability to level up so that you can grow a character. For NTYE the scaling is done in the format of, youngest players (or complete rookies because it works there too) is just done with one part, I am a NOUN (also shown as an Orange Triangle). As they advance you add the adjective (now things become a Green Square), and then you get into adding the verb (and the shape becomes a blue circle). It gives starting players, regardless of age, a very visual clue as to the level of difficulty they are playing with regarding the rules. Adding in companions and items as you go helps build up the character even further. I love this structure. The only challenge that I really have with it is that you can only take a character so far. Unlike the usual Cypher System there is no experience mechanic. For very young an very inexperienced players I can totally get behind the mechanic being absent. It allows for stability and can give a player a character they can really connect with and get into and want to play again. It also means that if a player gets tired of or annoyed with a character it is not going to be all that time consuming to get them set up with a new one. But when you get the ones on the edge, who want to see their creation grow, you are going to need to change systems or add in other CS mechanics. I am hoping that one of the expansions they come out with for NTYE in the future includes a growth mechanic that fits just as smoothly with the rest of the game engine as all the other slight twists I see.
The rules are printed up in a format that if you are just starting to teach a little one to read, if you sit down and read with them you can actually give them a chance to learn right out of the book. If your little ones do better by the watch and do format you can pull out your materials and walk them through character creation and taking actions in about 30 minutes if you go slow and answer all their questions.
Game sessions are actually structured to take about an hour. This is a great scale for both little ones and rookie players as you don’t over load them, and don’t stretch their attention span. basically its a super win.
Graphics, color, and texture, all elements of the physical structure of the printing process are appealing to little ones. Well unless they are addicted to anime already then the response seems to be, ‘Oh that’s cute but its not as cool as Naruto.’, but that only seems to last until you give them a mini T-rex as a sidekick. Then its more ‘Screw Naruto I have a tiny T-rex that does…’.
Ok so enough of my gushing over this thing… Lets get into the ratings since I have talked about all of them a bit already…
Fluff – 3 If you have the Kickstarter set you have all the fluff you would need in the cardboard cutouts, extra stories, adventures, map, and everything else that comes in the box. It does not however give you anything you can use for making depth to a story really. It is designed for single shots really. I think this is part of the genius here though. While there are little bits about everything in the game world, very little, you can encourage the smalls and the rookies you are playing with to come up with their own stories, backgrounds and all sorts of added features to the world. I would say we could go 3.5 because quality is a 4 quantity is a 2-2.5 but I want to round. And 3 is not really a bad number.
Crunch – 3 Ok so again three is not a bad number. These are simplified scale-able rules taken from an existing game engine in order to introduce and teach a whole range of new players to a type of game that they may have only heard about or watched the big kids play before. The rules are solid, and they take as much into account as they can. There are several things I would love to see added in a future supplement, but for a starter set, this kicks.
Mod – 5 Ummm yeah, you can mod the hell out of this. I have already scoped an experience system change and a few other things I can add as needed. The mechanics are easy to use and skill and ability checks are easy to get into place. But from the very beginning this is a system that is designed to be modded to fit your needs and the players needs and and and… sheesh, yeah you can mod it… just run with it.
Fun – 3 One more time 3 is not a bad number. I rank this one at three because while I love the way it works and what you can do with it, this game is about your player audience. I know I am writing this as an adult experienced gamer who enjoys teaching smalls how to game. However if any of your little gamers are having issues, a bad day, or suffering a little on attention span, then something you find enjoyable can quickly become a pain in the ass. As long as the players are enjoying whats going on you will find the fun a 5 or even higher if you like teaching and watching little ones smile as they come up with really creative ways to solve the challenges in the game. But it can also crash into a sub one range as soon as the bad day hits.
Overall – 14 I think this is a great teaching game that with a few mods can become a great way to take newbie players all the way into a full burn campaign. The tools, toys and everything that comes in the box are great. And even though this is not getting the highest score I can give. I think it is one of the best I have seen, ever, for its intended goal.
Ok so thats it for now, gimme the dice I need to check my pack to see if I have some brain flavored candy for the zombie ninja.
Keep the critical hits coming folks. Game ON!
What do you mean you want a review of No Thank You Evil…
Nope, gonna play it a bit more with my captive audience before I do that. It is stacking up to be a good review though.
While everyone waits for that, lets talk instead about one of my all time favorite mech games. Now then I know I may have lost a few people with that statement. And so long you are gonna miss out on some fun.
So Heavy Gear is both an RPG and a tactical miniatures game all in one. Some will try and compare that to Robotech by Palladium (nope, nothing tactical there unless you want to count the new boxed game that does not tie into the RPG they created), Mekton by R Talsorian (again not tactical but a really fun vehicle building system), or BattleTech (ok this one is the reverse it is a tactical game that they added MechWarrior to so that you could add an RPG game element to long campaigns, technically two different games). But there is a reason for me that Heavy Gear stands on its own among all those challengers. but we will get to that in a minute or three.
Heavy Gear is published by Dream Pod 9 (and I still cannot figure out if Ianus Games became Dream Pod 9 or vice versa but one of them became or absorbed the other), and first came out in 1994. For anyone interested in anime they would immediately note a likeness between some of the earliest Gears (the main mechs in the game) and the 1983 anime Armored Trooper Votoms. There have been multiple editions of the game published (including Heavy Gear Blitz, the latest edition which unfortunately to me takes out all of the RPG material and goes straight into the tactical). Also a video pair of video games (1997 and 1999) and an animated series (2001). Now then Dream Pod 9 has several other RPG’s that they have created with the same game engine (Jovian Chronicles – another mech setting with space mechs instead of being planet side; Gear Krieg – WW II mech setting; Tribe 8 – post apocalyptic horror that has no mechs; Core Command – Sci Fi space opera setting), and some might ask, ‘With all these to choose from why go with Heavy Gear if you are going to talk about the game engine?’ I will get to that, just gimme a bit.
Like BattleTech, Heavy Gear has created ongoing story in their products. This is great for someone who plays long term because you can go back into old products and play through the history and major events in an established timeline. Or you can change them and make the world completely your own. Now then if you are a twisted person you could actually take some of the DP9 products and put together a reaaaaaly epic story line going from Gear Krieg, to Jovian Chronicles, to Heavy Gear, to Core Command. I say reaaaaaaly epic because if you want to play through all those era you would be looking at about ten thousand years of time, or maybe even longer if you consider all the material in Core Command. And for all of them they have the same core game engine. Oh and the truly sadistic game masters out there may try and squeeze Tribe 8 into that long line to if you want to have an abandoned Earth after the Gear Krieg or Jovian Chronicles time.
Ok now that I have dropped a little history and some info out there on the topic lets get into the review. For my review I will be focusing on Heavy Gear second edition. In my opinion it had the best product support (which may just be because of the area I live in) with the most availability of both the books and the minis. So that’s the one I have the most experience with.
Fluff – 3 Even with all the product support and history in the materials I still cannot go too high in the fluff score. The art is great, but sporadic. The tech drawings for the Gears are pretty slim on material unless you invest in the tech manual. And frankly I never actually read a single story in the core rule book that made me go ‘I want to know more about this!’ Now then I am not saying it is poorly written or poorly presented. I am saying none of it lit a fire under me. It was the concepts that got me going. Now then I would have scored this a two, BUT, as part of the fluff score I have to consider the minis. I have not done any research on this part of the company but who ever they got to design the minis, dammmmmmmmn. Back in the mid 90’s even though I was a bigger fan of BattleTech I wanted the Heavy Gear minis. great sculpting and very little flash. I can’t boost it more than one for the minis though. They are awesome, but not that awesome 😉
Crunch – 5 Ok here is where the love comes from. The SilCore (or Silhouette) system that they created for these games is just awesome. It is point based and scaleable. It is not really designed to play to a level of truly superhuman without breaking the game. But that’s just fine with me. It was not made to be a system that covers everything. The engine is more about being human, and doing everything you can with it. And it does it well. Other games will try to get out of their strong suits and they end up paying for it with massive power creep and strong divisions of fans. These rules wont do that. Now for the really tricky part. While other games like Robotech or Mekton make the character skills a part of the giant robot combat there is no real tactical element to the fighting. While this can work well if you have a lot of players that enjoy imagining the fights, I tend to have people who want to map it out and see what is going on, regardless of the scale. So with the SilCore system you have the fun of needing to have character piloting the Gears because without the pilots skills the Gears cant fight. Then you have the weapons scaled up and everything integrates. If you are playing a combination game of BattleTech and Mechwarrior you end up having your characters being pretty much irrelevant as soon as they get into the robot fighting machine. And due to the scale of the Gears, your gear gets disabled and you can still get out find a spot to hide and try to get in close and push a grenade into the hip of an enemy gear to bring it down. Just remember that one shot from that thing and you are a fine mist grenade boy. The game engine is smooth and fairly easy to learn. I would recommend to anyone that they pick up the RPG before they try the mini combat.
Mod – 3 Ok so someone is going to say ‘If the engine is that great why cant you mod it?’ So remember what I said about the rule system not being able to be everything and that is ok? That’s it right there. Within its scope Heavy Gear can be modded a lot. You can make tons of character types, you can build a near infinite number of Gears, but you really can’t toss a superman in there. You also really can’t cast spells. If you are willing to add elements of Tribe 8 into the mix you can do some of that, but you cannot go full spectrum changing things. That’s why this is a three. You could make a case for anywhere between 2.5 and 3.5 for me but I wanted to just keep it rounded. It mods really well for what it is designed to do.
Fun – 2 Yeah it hurts me to give a game that I enjoy a fun score that low. Now don’t get me wrong, Heavy Gear is a fun game in a dark universe that has a lot of things going for it. However you really need to have the right group of players to get the most out of this one. Of the three groups I have played Heavy Gear with, one, and only one of them really embraced the rules and the setting. I know the golden rule is that if something doesn’t work for you or your group don’t use it, but in this case I think the setting would be hard pressed to work well without rules like this that limit you to really being human. So its not really the game itself, but finding the right players that limits my fun score on this one.
Overall Score – 13/20 Great rules and great minis, limited to doing very well what it set out to do, and that you need to find the right players or it really just wont work for you.
Ok so thems the breaks, I have to get back to the house and the love of my life.
Gimme the dice, I need to find out how long I will be away from the blog this time…
Keep em rollin 🙂
Ok so I have mentioned in the past No Thank You Evil and the Kickstater from Monte Cook Games.
While I was never impressed with their communication skills regarding the Kickstarter campaign after they got funded. I have to say I am totally #$#@$$%@# impressed both with their shipping skills and the final product they put together.
Within hours of completing the shipping form in the Monte Cook Games website (which really made me wonder why they ever sent out the request for addresses on a survey if all the contributors were going to have to go to their site and put in our addresses and get things shipped from there anyway… ) I got notification that my order was packed and being sent. My original notice said it was going USPS. When I checked the tracking number it was going USPS 2 day Priority Mail.
I got it I got it I got it… yeah that was going through my brain while we had company over on Saturday. I finally get round to opening the box. I was worried at first because there was a hole in the top of the box. Not gaping but big enough for a finger or a bullet to have gone through. No exit hole though and nothing foreign in the box. Inside the shipping box, the game box itself was wrapped in a foam sheet that was suspended in the middle of the box with Styrofoam corners. Now then I have a history working shipping and I can honestly say this was above and beyond what I would have expected. That level of packaging is something I would think to see on small fragile collectibles or aircraft parts. Seriously this is hard core great packaging.
Once I got it out of the packaging and took a look at the contents I was even more pleased with my investment. The cloth map gave me an instant flashback to playing the Ultima computer games back in the 80’s, the punch out tokens for stat use and for character standups sent me back to all the classic board games I have ever set up. The wet erase character sheets and the paper ones gave me reason to go “YEAH this is going to be great for teaching smalls.” The oversized dice were a perfect fit, and all the accessory cards… yeah… oh yeah…
Needless to say I spent some time reading through the books for the game and I will be teaching it to a small soon.
For this being my first Kickstarter, I am really pleased with how it came out. I may have to do another one in the future from another company to see if I can come up with something to rant about. For now though, I am just going to be smiling along.
Gimme the dice, I need to see if the Awful Waffle can be rescued or not… 🙂
Hey there readers
Ok so the post today is to distract everyone while I am working on the first Crazy Shit I Have Created post. The Random Deity Generator.
With that teaser in place lets move into the topic.
Not every table top RPG is going to be played using a table top map, but many do. When it comes to using the maps on a table top there are a lot of options for how to show where everyone is and to keep things all lined up. Hmmm, lets back up a little for readers who are not so familiar with table top games.
When playing a table top RPG there are times when it really helps some people to be able to visualize what is going on in the game by setting down a map of some kind and placing markers on it to keep track of everything from the characters to the objects in a room or on a battle field. The maps are usually made to some kind of scale so that not only position, but distance (or range) from one item to another is easily tracked. Also so that movement across the area can be tracked. And that specific position can be tracked. For people who have little to no experience with table top games this may sound really involved or complicated. Truth is it is only as involved or complicated as people want to make it.
When I first started playing AD&D back in the fourth grade the teacher who was running the game had us use regular old graph paper and push pins that had hole punch dots on them with initials of the characters to mark our places. Today there are a lot of options available depending on the amount of time and effort the players and the person running the game want to put into things. I will always recommend that if you can run a game on imagination alone, then go for it. If that is not feasible then you may want to look into setting up maps of some kind.
Just for the heck of it let me list out some of the options that I have used in the past.
- Sheets of standard graph paper with penciled in notes, or push pins.
- Large sheets of graph paper (24×36 ish) with counters of some kind (cardboard cut outs or miniatures).
- Dry erase boards with taped lines and small magnets.
- Wet erase vinyl maps (Chessex Battle Maps have always had my vote here), and counters of some kind (cardboard cut outs or miniatures).
- Pre-printed cardboard or paper maps/map tiles with miniatures. (WOTC Dungeon Tiles from 2005 or so up until about 2009 I think were some of the best I had ever seen, good luck chasing them down now though anywhere but Ebay)
- Foam or plastic 3d map tiles and miniatures. ( Dwarven Forge is a great example )
Oh and in regards to the miniatures I have used…
- Cardboard counters (Pathfinder does some cool ones)
- Pewter (Reaper still makes some of the best out there)
- Prepainted (prepainted plastic fantasy D&D and Pathfinder are not too bad I really like the out of print Mage Knight and the Hero Clix by Whiz Kids though, even though Mage Knight is not in print any more)
- Self painted (only once and never again… I dont have the patience for it)
- Self Assembled (yeah this was the one I painted… I think I ended up making a gelatinous ooze for a miniature with all the extra glue and paint I put on that poor halfling… and no I am not stealing that from something Phil Foglio wrote years ago in Whats New with Phil and Dixie)
Something that is new that I have not used (cause its really freaking expensive right now) is virtual table tops. With virtual maps and markers. Least expensive of them is Fantasy Grounds, but I have seen others that you need to by a 27 inch touchscreen custom insert into a table to use correctly and those are the ones I am saying are way to expensive.
So there are tons and tons of ways you can work maps and miniatures into a game. And there are tons and tons and tons of options as to what to use and how detailed you want to be in their use. Personally my current favorite is to use Lego (ignore things like Friends and Duplo) to let players build the minis they want and then I can build an environment to suit.
In all this though you have one big thing to consider, and it is not just my usual find what you like and use what you enjoy. In this case its think about what you can afford to put into this in regards not only to money but in time. If you enjoy painting and assembling miniatures you can end up spending hundreds of dollars on paints and tools alone before even getting into the cost of an individual figure. And for folks running games just remember you will usually be the one setting the pace. So if you want the absolutely over the top personalized minis with custom paint jobs to represent all the characters in your games, then you better be ready willing and able to assemble, paint, and pay for every miniature your players will use. Because I can promise you not all of your players will have the time, money, talent or patience to do that sort of thing. Be willing to compromise, be willing to use things that are not quite right but close enough to get the point across (I used a Hawkeye Hero Clix figure in a fantasy D&D RPG for a long time and it worked well enough).
Anyway, I gotta be off to work on how to randomly generate dieties… so gimme the dice, I think a d27 should get this table to work…
Oh wow posts two days in a row… is it a trend, likely not.
So my last post about Points vs Levels is going to get a bit of play here. And for those who are going, “Why do you keep looking at older games? 3rd edition is out for Mutants and Masterminds.” Well that is because this game runs a bit closer to D&D 3.0/3.5 than to Green Ronin’s True 20 game set up, but just a bit.
Personally for me this game is a great bridge between purely level based game engines and point based game engines. Also it adapts d20 for superheroes in a way that no other game engine has been able to meet up with. While engines like the d20 adaptation of Aberrant work and work well, I think this version captures the older Silver Age comics better, while still giving players and game runners the edge they need to get more modern comic simulations into play.
Originally published in 2002, with second edition coming out in 2005 (current version in 2013) Mutants and Masterminds is one of the staples of the Green Ronin library of games. With only three years between first and second edition people had to wonder if anything was really new in second ed, and in reality, there was not much of a change save to streamline a few things, clarify a couple of rules and to get an editorial team to look over the book and get rid of a lot of grammar and spelling and type setting errors. I have to say that in my experience that editing has been Green Ronin’s biggest weak spot.
So for folks that are familiar with D&D 3.0 if you crack this book open you will see a lot of familiar things, the same stats, the same saves, feats, skills, and a combat/skill system that is governed by a d20. What is missing is all the classes that you have to level up in. Instead the engine is point based with every 15 points spent equaling a level. Why are levels important to a point based game engine? Well that is because they also kept in the level based limits for skills and abilities. So even though your character will start at Power Level (not class level) 10 you have a way to compare against level 10 characters in other d20 based RPG’s.
Sadly though with the system of combat being changed the way it has been for Mutants and Masterminds it is a bit of a pain to get your tenth level Ranger to fight a Power Level 10 super. A little bit of conversion work later and… hmmm, this does not seem right… well then, how about, hmmm… ok so in my trials I ended up finding out that only the magic using classes in D&D 3.0 fall short on the supers in M&M. Everything else its up for grabs depending on how things are built in M&M. Build a good brick and very little will touch it from D&D, build a martial artist and they will go toe to toe with any fighting class. Energy projectors are hard to counter unless you have an immunity, and stealth characters are usually hideously over matched. Psionics jump back and forth. Skill heavy actions well that seams dead on matched. The big differences here are in regards to special abilities based on class, rolling for stats, and spending points.
So in d20 you level up and get set special abilities. In M&M you spend your experience points directly to add to your character. In d20 you roll for your stats and that can have a major impact on your skills and how things like magic work for you. In M&M you buy your stats with points and can sacrifice having some powers for the sake of having over the top stat bonus’. Additionally in M&M there are no stat limits save the points you want to spend. None. In 3.0 you are limited by the combination of dice you are allowed to roll, or the point spread or whatever other method you want to use, but every method limits the upper value of the stats your character can have, and the game engine limits the ways you can bump those scores up. Some of the special abilities are hard to replicate in M&M unless you have sat with the math and know how to bend things to your will. Then it is still not easy, but it is no where near as hard.
So while M&M does not have classes, they do have templates. Each template listed is a generic version of one of the classic comic book archetypes. The Powerhouse (brick), the Elementalist, the Pugilist (yeah its a martial artist, by any other name), The Armor, and several others. These templates are all set up with options so you can modify them to your taste, but still make it really easy to start play. None of them take complete advantage of the game engine though and all can be tweaked in ways that boggle the mind if you are willing to put the time in. Plus, as I said these are based on the archetypes, so they do not replicate every kind of hero you can imagine. That is up to the players.
One of the features that I really love in M&M is something that most D20 games consider to be optional if included at all. Weaknesses. You can take a weakness to add more points to your pool for building your character. To me this gives characters more flavor and helps distinguish you from other characters of similar builds. Now then I can say that WOTC did add weaknesses as an option for 3.0/3.5 in the Players Handbook 2, and the Pathfinder version of d20 added them into the Advanced Players Guide. But to me that feels like an after thought.
Overall I have to say that if someone is experienced with D&D 3.0/3.5, d20 Modern, or Pathfinder then learning M&M 2nd edition is not going to be hard at all. And for someone looking for a Super Hero RPG, while there are easier systems to get up and running (like say Stuper Heroes, yes thats real, no dont ask for a review… at least not yet) once you muddle through character creation the first time you really have the whole system down pat.
So here come all those little numbers I have set myself up for in a review…
Ok so this can be a bit of a challenge for me in regards to Green Ronin products. They move back and forth from having either tons of fluff, or next to nothing. This being a basic rule book I am reviewing, and not a setting book or a licensed product, well… the fluff is weak in this product. Likely it was done to save on production costs, but the bare bones here hurts. Only a few villains, very little write up, and after Unicorn quit doing the art, well, it fell a little short too. Sorry guys but there is not a lot here.
Overall Fluff Score 1/5
Rules, rules, and more rules. Samples on how to use the rules. Demos on how the use the rules. Variants on how you can use rules within rules. All handled very quickly, cleanly, and in an easy to read manner. This is where Green Ronin’s genius shines through. These guys know rules and how to write them so that every day people, not just hard core gamers can read them. As long as they have a good editor for grammar and a great spell checker, and a copy editor that makes sure things flow smoothly, you are going to see great work. And for me this is really really good work.
Overall Crunch Score 4/5
Kind of cheating here since this is a point based game engine. That means of COURSE you can mod it. Since it is tied into a series of publications like the d20 materials that means you can also grab from other sources with only a few challenges, and you can drag things out of the game and drop them in other places as well. It is not that hard, but it still requires work. The real challenge is in Feats. They can get a little ambiguous and since they do not have a way to point build and put feats on an even keel, they can get a little messy when you do mod them.
Overall Mod Score 4/5
So this is a superhero game based off of one of the best game engines ever designed for level based work. It allows me relatively easy ways to pit fantasy setting characters against super heroes, and gives ways to play with everything (except for feats really) you could think about tinkering with in a d20 game. Yeah it is fun 🙂
Overall Fun Score 4/5
Total Score 13/20
Conclusion – A very good game. A great way to teach players about level based or point based systems depending on their starting point. Not hard to learn, and if you know something about d20 it has a very very short start up time.
All righty, time to do something else for a bit and then start thinking up my next post or two.
So, gimme the dice, I need to make a reflex save to avoid responsibility today.
Ok so this will be a relatively short post, going out to enjoy the warm early summer weather the best way I can, find a place with AC and avoid the heat 🙂
Some have noted that in several of the posts and reviews I have made I tell people over and over to make up their own mind, this is all my own opinion. I have been told thanks for that by some, and I have been told things like ‘How do I pick a game or make up my own mind if I don’t know what I am getting into.”
Now then while I could go off and be insulting about making up your own mind, I wont. I have already done a post about where I go to chase down games, but I have not really touched on why I pick a game. So that is what I am going to try and put into words here.
For myself there are a lot of different reasons I may get into a game. Here are a few,
- I am familiar with the works of the publisher. I like their games and want to give something new that they have come up with a try.
- Similarly I may be familiar with or a fan of the games author. This one drives me a lot as some game authors really strike a chord where others don’t.
- It is a licensed product (tied to a movie, comic book, or novel series) that I enjoy.
- I have read reviews on places like RPG Now, Pen & Paper, or even the publishers web site, and really enjoy the high points being brought up about a game.
- Sigh… yeah sometimes it is an impulse buy…
There are a lot of other reasons that can come into play as well. Like with my last review, I had been looking for a way to incorporate supers into a d20 fantasy game and all the rules available, at the time were so far out of balance, or such a hodge podge of rules changes I could not use them. Aberrant d20 actually worked for what I wanted to do, and I enjoyed the original game so, it was an easy pick.
With my broad tastes and knowledge of the industry and the publishers my usual problem is narrowing down my choices so I don’t try and spend too much money on something, or several somethings.
For someone who is just starting out in table top RPGs I would suggest doing something methodical to get your first game. Something methodical like going down this list…
- Narrow down what you would like to start with. The broadest categories would be Fantasy, Sci Fi, and Modern settings. Pick something that you like a lot.
- Be mindful of the following. There are complex rules systems and there are simple ones. There are some that are designed for a younger age range than others. I would honestly recommend starting simple. Just remember that the more complex the rules, the more specific detail they add to what you can do in the game and how. Some people like the complex rules, some prefer to rely on imagination to fill in the details.
- Talk to people who know you who play these games, their honest thoughts could lead you to a great game that really suits you, your tastes, and your sense of fun. If you do know people who play consider borrowing books from them or asking to join a game to see if you like the specific game they are playing and its rules.
- If you don’t know any gamers who play table top games look online for reviews and go to stores that sell the games and talk to the people who work there. That is what the stores are there for. And do not worry about going into a store and not buying anything your first time or two in. Talking to the people in the store obligates you to nothing.
- Be ready to read, and to take time tinkering. Making your first character and seeing what you can do with the rules in regards to that character can be a little time consuming but, it will also give you a great handle on how to play. Additionally it will help you figure out what sort of characters you want to play.
You can use the same list if you are a parent or guardian of smalls and they have expressed an interest in gaming, but instead of using your tastes, and your opinions, use theirs. I have found over the years that nothing drives a small from wanting to play faster than not paying attention to what they enjoy. If they tell you they want space ships do not bring them D&D.
So yeah, in the end I am not going to tell anyone a specific game to start with, I am not going to say this is the best thing in the world to play, because quite frankly, I don’t know what everyone else wants. Not a telepath, not all knowing, and don’t want to be. I have enough trouble knowing what I know 😉
Well hope that helps someone 🙂
Now gimme the dice… maybe I can role high enough to find a freezer to hide in for the summer.
Ok so John over at QuantumXen asked in a comment on my last post about where I go to pick up product and why. I can really understand as there are a lot of options out there, and in some cases requirements. In the end where I go when I am looking to get something, is going to depend on what I am after.
Let me break down why for you.
In chasing down RPG materials these days you need to think about a few things.
- Is it a licensed product? If the answer is yes then you need to know if the license is still held by the publisher you are looking for. As I said with the Tolkien v Tolkien post, currently for RPGs the license is held by Crucible 7. So materials by ICE and Decipher can no longer be printed and sold in any fashion (unless they purchase a secondary license and the current publisher does not have a ‘no competition’ clause in their license). Even if you find a PDF online of the material the previous publisher has printed its distribution is illegal unless there is a license in place for it. And if it was copied and is being distributed with out permission (pirated) this is also illegal. This will usually leave you with getting a used book.
- Does the publisher still support the game? When we ask this question it usually means is there new product being produced for the game? If you take a look at Wizards of the Coast and the Dungeons and Dragons line currently the only new product being created is for Fifth Edition. But they are offering materials from the First edition of the game in PDF form online. So in a very real way while they are not creating new material for previous versions they are still supporting the older product by continuing the sale of it. So if you want the old books you can get some of them in PDF but you can only get all of them if you go hunt used books.
- Is the publisher a proprietary distributor? So the best way to explain that mouthful of a question is to talk about Dream Pod 9. At one point in time the only way to get DP9 products was to be a store that was purchasing directly from them. They did not use the regular distribution channels for any of their products. You could also order directly from them if you were a player, but that was not going to save you any money and in addition to the cover price you had to pay shipping. They did not stay with this model for long, but they had enough success with it that others followed. If you do not have a store near by that works with a proprietary distributor, then you will need to go to a used book store.
- Do you want PDF or hard copy book format? Now some companies like Catalyst put their games into PDF form in many places on the net, and some like Steve Jackson Games act more like proprietary distributors and the only place you can get a PDF of their products is on their own web site.
- Is the publisher domestic or international? If the publisher is in your country of origin then you have a better chance of finding the printed version of the game locally. Other wise you will have to buy it online and get it shipped to you, or find a PDF version.
So you can see there are a lot of things to consider, that most wont consider when hunting for a game. I take it all in stride and hunt like this…
When window shopping for a new game or when looking for a recently published game I like to go to one of my local game stores if at all possible. Sure I could in all likelihood get it delivered to my door by Amazon, but to my mind it is the brick and mortar stores that really kicked the industry off and I want to keep them around. In the Seattle Area my top choices for RPG materials that are new are Card Kingdom/Mox Boarding House, and then Uncles Games. CK/MBH usually has a better selection of small press and specialty RPGs and a slight discount from cover, but the Uncles team will keep things around longer on shelf and when ordering something I have had better luck with Uncles than CK/MBH.
If I want a widely distributed PDF then I go to Drive Through RPG/RPG Now or Piazo. DTRPG has a much better selection, but Piazo has better online security and in my opinion better online billing processes. In either case though I don’t always trust the internet so I will buy gift cards offline and use them for online shopping. The fact that you can get a book that would be costing you 60 USD in print for 10-20USD as a PDF means you can get more bang for your buck that way. However that cost savings is only with some publishers, notice that I said CAN not WILL. Some publishers charge the same for a PDF that they do for in print.
If I want a PDF that is for something like Steve Jackson or Piazo I go straight to their site. I use the same rule about gift cards for the direct purchase of PDF that I do for the bulk sites.
When I get the need for books that are no longer published or I just don’t want to pay cover price to get that book feeling in my hand or the publisher is not printing their older materials online, I hit used book stores. Hitting the mom and pop stores is always a blast. You never know what someone may have dropped off. There is a chain of used book stores locally though called Half Price Books (and no they do not live up to that name when it comes to game items) that has their inventory on a database for all of their stores. You go in with a title in mind and they can see if anyone has in their network has it. They also sell online. Oh and speaking of used games online, there is the court of last resort… eBay. Now then I have a great friend who has helped me out with eBay many times over the years, and his skill at auction action is something that should be of legend, but I warn you unless you have skills like he does and are willing to wait for something to show up on the market place, well… good luck getting what you want and still having a home to live in. eBay auctions can get over priced so fast its nuts.
And if anyone wants to comment about me and the internet purchasing thing… 🙂 go for it… I really don’t care.
Ok so that really covers what I think about when going out to get games, and where I go to do what I do. Hope that more than answers your question John.
Ok ok gimme the dice… I know there is a dragon disguised as a bunny around here some place…
Ok so I know I made a few folks wait, but I really did need to figure out how to give a non review review. All the while picking up new responsibilities at work, and a general ahhhh screw it attitude to the internet for a couple of days.
That means this column is coming up under the headings of Games and Product Placement more than anything else. I will be using some of my terms from ratings like Crunch and Fluff, but I will not be putting values to it like I do in a regular review.
On with the show then…
First off let me start out with an opinion that I think many will share. Monty Cook is bloody good at what he does. His labels, his books, his mechanics, they are always solid. They may be a little off the beaten path, but they are good. His publishers, printers, and business folks, not always so good.
How does that relate to reviewing this new system and the games made in it so far, well lets do a little show and tell.
First off Numenera and Strange and the upcoming Cypher System rule book, oh and the upcoming No Thank You Evil! game, all share the same rules. The mechanics are really simple at their base, and can get as complex as you want to make them. Challenges are set up on a level system 0 – 10. Each level of difficulty adds three to the number you need to roll against on a d20 (yeah I know that means that if you have anything over a seven you cannot get it on the die roll, but wait for it). Characters can have modifiers that remove levels of difficulty, or add a bonus to the die roll. So you can make it easier and that gets you back in range of the d20 as long as your character is good enough. Characters are built on templates that form a single sentence. “I am a (adjective – template 1) (noun – template 2) who (verb – template 3). ” Strangely it works. Each template has level related advancement, so as you get more XP you get better at whatever you Noun/Adjective/Verb. Instead of stats you have pools of points you can expend to modify die rolls. Depending on the DM and the setting will tell you how fast they regen. The mechanics even take into account things like what most know as ‘magic items’. In these rules they come in two formats, single use and multi use.
And that is the core of the crunch. It can be simple, or it can be complex depending on the template structures. In Strange they simulate moving from world to world as Translating, and that changes one of your templates depending on the world you go to.
Now then in regards to the fluff. Oh damn. I have to honestly say that in both of the published settings (and I will rarely say this) there may be too much fluff. There is so much thought and detail put into the settings that it is kinda hard to take it all in. The core book for Numenera focus’ on the world itself, and gives only a few crunchy bits in regards to NPCs and monsters. But with the simple crunch you can take care of that pretty easy. Strange seems to focus mostly on the agency that everyone will belong to at the start of the game. There are some good details about some of the worlds you can translate to, but I have a feeling that is left as open as possible for two reasons. First so the original author of the Strange can create more books without fans jumping in and saying things like “But you put so and so in cannon over in the game, why did you do it differently over here?” and to give players the freedom to run like mad all over the place.
So we basically have very adaptive, simple rules, and tons of quality fluff.
Oh wait you say to yourself, he started this out saying that business and publishing has been a Monty Cook weak point… so when will he… ooops, that’s right here.
So I have no idea where the supply chain or quality control broke down but, I had to go to three different stores before I could find a copy of either book that had a spine that was not falling apart. Also there was damage to all the covers. All of them. I was told at two of the game stores that I hit in my search that their distributor… starts with an A… works with a D in some form of an alliance… told them that they got the best copies they had to send, and that many copies were sent back because of low quality. IF that is true on all fronts, The Cook team needs a new printer and bad. At sixty bucks a pop, I really expect more.
I emailed my thoughts on this to Monty Cook games via their Contact us email address on their site (http://www.montecookgames.com/contact-us/) via the General Inquiries box and never got a reply to either. So either they are having bad email days, the guys watching the email boxes are having bad days, or their quality and business guys don’t care because I already paid for the books. So quite seriously in viewing over thirty copies of the books in chain book stores and game shops, I did not find a single one that was not damaged in some way on the cover. I also got one of the few that had limited to no spinal damage because I was picky, but after about a half hour of reading holding the book carefully, the spine gave up anyway. Honestly it usually takes five to seven years for that to happen to my new books unless I loan them out to someone who is careless with them, if it happens at all.
Now while I am still looking for a group to play these games with, I can say I expect things to run smooth in a game session as long as everyone has made characters ahead of time or we are willing to take a session to get through all the potential templates you can build with. I can also honestly recommend from what I have seen and what has gotten back to me from other gamers, buy the PDF version of these games unless Monty announces a new printer.
Anyway, thats my thoughts on them. Like it or not folks 🙂
Now gimme the dice, I gotta find out if my subtle agent who has a license to carry can actually shoot that cat out of a tree.