Archive for category R!

World Building 200 – First steps

Ok so I know I have been non-posting, but hinting at the start of the 200 series of world building. So ya know what? Despite how much I know my friend over at Dan On Games is looking forward to a rant of some kind I am going to start here instead and categorize it as a rant 🙂 HAH!

So what the heck do I mean by First Steps? Well just like with building any other type of world or setting for any game or fiction you have a few things you need to know about your setting that can be summed up in a few questions. Once you get these down then you can really sort out the rest of it fairly quickly… well… as long as you have a little time, some imagination, a few other settings to steal from, oh and did I mention a little time… undisturbed… without other things going on… cause other wise this sort of thing takes forever. I mean if you have a job, and a life outside of gaming… well then…

Heh… see how I snuck the rant in there… 🙂

Anyway the questions that you need to ask to get to building a sci-fi setting/world are really similar to fantasy, or any other world really. The ones that I find the most important to answer go like this…

1 – Hard sci-fi, space opera, or pulp sci-fi? What you have here is the biggest aspect of sci-fi. Much like how much magic goes into a fantasy setting. Hard sci-ci is based on known science. Or even theoretical science that seems really plausible without a too much of a stretch. In hard sci-fi you will keep referring back to the science. A lot.. There are a lot of cyberpunk and a few hard sci-fi games out there that are good examples of this concept. Space Opera is more like Star Wars and Star Trek. You can mention the science but it is so advanced that you cant explain it so you don’t even try. You can use the science as color comments if you have a really good idea or want to make something dramatic, but it is not as important as in hard sci-fi. Pulp sci-fi is a category I may have made up for myself, but if you look back at the classic pulp sci-fi stories and the movies from the 40’s and 50’s that really got into the pulp style of sci-fi then you can see that they usually treated science with a mix of the space opera and the hard sci-fi at the same time. I mean that if you want to make a death ray out of a toaster to take on the 11th dimensional invading pumpkin people you better make sure you have three paperclips and a can opener… because SCIENCE!

Each one has something to recommend in it. Each one can be a heck of a lot of fun. All of them can be silly, or dramatic. Even with the little bit I put in there about pulp and science, it can be very dark and very serious for the characters, it is just the science itself that can seem, well, kinda like MacGyver on crack. There are a ton of other types of sci-fi but these three I find the easiest to start with.

2 – How important are humans? This is a very serious question to be asking in any sci-fi setting. You can find a lot of settings in which humans are the only sentient species. You can find even more in which humans are one of hundreds if not thousands of sentient species. You can find in the ones where there are hundreds of species that humans have been relegated to slave status in the universe, and others where they are the heads of empires. You can even find settings in which you question if humans are really human any more. The reason this is so important is because most sci-fi stories need a way to be relate-able to the players. And when you are dealing with technology that may seem like magic, and things that go outside of all current expectations of the future, a human being is going to be the way to tie things together and give you the most common point of reference.

In fantasy we look at how many races you want to have in a setting. And you will need to do that in sci-fi as well. But deciding the scope of human influence and impact will actually help you define that better.

3 – How big is the known universe? That question is going to seem to be a little misleading at first. But take it in the context of the previous question. What do humans know about what is out there? Are they still in their home solar system? Are they stuck to a single world? Do they roam the galaxy? This question is really just like the one for fantasy where we look at how big the world is. If you know the scope of your genre for the setting and you know how important humans are, you can give this a much needed look.

Now then unlike a fantasy setting where you need to have a really good idea of the primary environment (world/continents/nations) in sci-fi you can actually make up a lot of it as you need it a lot easier. You just have to take good notes as you go so you can call up worlds, or asteroid communities, or wandering groups of space stations as you go. You still will need to define your starting point rather well. But that goes for any type of game setting. It is just that this time the starting point is not limited to being a city or a nation, it can be just about anything.

4 – How far are we from today? This question will really lock in the flavor of your setting. I mean if we are in a galaxy hopping setting that is just next week… that is going to be completely different than a setting that is galaxy hopping a thousand years from now. It makes a big difference for what is human relate-able in regards to technology. And the sense of human achievement is going to be different. It will change the roles that people have in their lives regardless of race or gender. The jobs that can be done and even how trade and commerce are impacted.

You will notice that none of these questions actually try to define the technology. Talk about ships or how things move in space if you are even in space. These questions don’t ask what roles or classes of characters are going to be involved. They are all designed to get you thinking about scope. About how you want to define the realm you are creating.

Now then I have a setting mapped out and the following World Building 200 series will be answering these questions and adding some additional details to flesh out the world/s that are coming. Personally I am not trying to build a traditional sci-fi setting. So my answers to questions may seem a little weird. Then again this whole blog may seem a little weird. 🙂

Ok so that’s enough of a post for now.

Gimme the dice, I gotta give MacGyver a saving throw against science crack.

Play safe, and play well friends.

 

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Update on World Building and ‘That Guy’

Ok so to be totally honest last weekend I just had too much on my mind and wanted too badly to relax to even think about putting up a post.

So I have decided that for World Building 200 series I will be working on a Sci Fi world. A lot of people have tried to tell me that Sci Fi is the hardest of settings to work with. I disagree. There are a lot of options sure. And I will be walking through several of them. However there is a lot more to consider if you are going to build up a solid and sustainable Supers environment. Seriously. Supers will be the 300 series for world building and then you will see what I am talking about.

Ok so getting on to ‘That Guy’. Disclaimer – Yeah I know there are female gamers. Tons of them. And they fit the role of ‘That Gal’ but typing Guy/Gal or coming up with something witty like ‘Galuy’ just feels forced and non-conversational. Not trying to slight anyone or be a sexist ass. Because if I am truly being fair then I have to go beyond cisgender or transgender or non gender and that gets messy and so if I am going to play it neutral as hell I would have to say ‘That Person’ but someone would take offence to that too. So screw it I am using ‘That Guy’ and you will just have to roll with it.

Every gaming group has one. If they are a rules lawyer, a bad player overall, someone who just gets to bloody enthused about the game, the ultimate geek, the lucky roller… whatever stereo type they fit, whatever role they fill in your gaming group, they are unforgettable. The funny thing is that in almost every game group you will find that ‘That Guy’ is remembered by everyone. What they did wrong, how lucky they got when they got it right, how they must have cheated, and on and on.

Want to know a secret?

EVERY game player ever, is ‘That Guy’.

No joke. You may not figure it out until years later but everyone is memorable in their table top game groups. EVERYONE ends up having a signature move, an incredible event, a bad habit, or other feature that will make them stick in memory. Even the guy who just sat there an nodded and maybe smiled once in the three years they were at the game table.

The reason I am bringing this up is because I talked to someone recently who had no idea that they had ever been ‘That Guy’. They had thought that everyone else in their game group had a signature of some kind and that they had just gamed. None of the gamers they had associated with had ever told them they were ‘That Guy’, that they had done something memorable or had a pattern that everyone found predictable.

So why am I bringing this up?

I would just like my fellow gamers; male, female, trans, cis and every other option out there; to consider just what kind of ‘That Guy’ they want to be. If you know now that you will be remembered, that you will have an impact on others, how do you play that?

I am sure that every gamer out there has stories about ‘That Guy’ that made them want to play more, or quit gaming, or even go all stabby at the game table. I have met so many versions of ‘That Guy’ it is hard to say what ones have had the most impact. I mean I can tell you stories about ‘That Guy’ that almost made me quit playing LARP games. And the one that showed me not everyone was an asshole. I can tell you stories about ‘That Guy’ who made so many stupid errors in games that we thought he might have a hard time with basic thought, but damn he was enthusiastic about gaming and loved everything, even his mistakes. I can tell you about ‘That Guy’ who ruined a specific RPG for me. And I can tell you so many others it is ridiculous.

Are you getting the point?

To paraphrase DC Comics the Martian Manhunter (sorry but I cannot quote issue I just know it goes to him unless he stole it too) “Everyone is someones ‘That Guy'(alien).”

So really. Think about it before you sit down at your next game session. Know you will be remembered. You will have an affect on other gamers. You will leave a mark.

What do you want to be remembered for?

Ok gimme the dice, I gotta see if that warrants a dramatic exit crit or not… 🙂

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Excuses Excuses

Ok ok so it has been a while again.

Illness, injury, work load, working on improvements to the house, life obligations, friend obligations and more.

Ok and lets add Dr Who’s new season and Flash and Arrow dropping on NetFlix. Just for complete disclosure.

Needless to say there is a lot going on in life right now and while the blog here is a pleasure it had to take a back seat. I will still have things going on this weekend so I have to put the blog off until next week.

The plan for next week is to do a review of an awesome gift I have received. The Wheel of Time RPG. Done in the d20 system for D&D 3.0.

Now then while you wait for a full on blog post I want to ask folks out there a question about the d20 system for D&D 3.0. There were a lot of licensed and original settings created using it. When we talk licensed we have to talk about things like

  • Wheel of Time
  • Red Star
  • Star Wars
  • Farscape

And in the other category you might want to think about games that made versions of themselves in d20 like

  • Guardians of Order – Big Eyes Small Mouth
  • White Wolf – Trinity setting (Aeon, Aberrant, Adventure)
  • White Wolf – World of Darkness
  • TSR?? – Gamma World

As to original settings, there were dozens with one of my personal favorites being Spy Craft.

Now then with all these products basing themselves out of the same SRD (System Reference Document) and supposedly tied by the OGL (Open Game License), you would think that they all would be balanced and play well with each other. Welllllll that was not really the case. Folks tried but… yeah… did not always work that well.

So I was wondering if any of the readers out there have ever done cross overs, or super crossovers and just tossed balance to the winds and said screw it if you can find a character class and race bring it to the table and lets rock?

I did it a few times with a few game groups and it got… strange… quick. What happened to you?

Ok so thats it for now. Gimme the dice, I gotta see if I can roll up another excuse from the d18 table of excusology table…

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Epic Adventures

Good gods. Three weeks without a blog post. Ok while I will take full responsibility for not putting a serious priority on the blog, well, so goes life. I wont try to list all the personal and work things going on that took higher priority in that time frame. And I will not make excuses for putting my oldest friend first next weekend with his reception party for his recent wedding. Nor for putting my wife first and taking her on a vacation to the coast while we make our way to said reception event. So to my loyal reader/s who show up with regularity and read every one of these posts, now you know whats up. And if someone got me a job posting these things and creating wild and crazy ideas for adventures and worlds, well then and only then would I be here on a permanent basis. 🙂

So with all that out of the way, we can ask the usual type of question, what the hell does he mean by Epic Adventures?

So Epic Adventures, also known in some parts as Adventure Paths are a series of adventures and encounters set up to bring a group of player characters in a level based game setting from level one up to the top levels of play. The first example that I am aware of (please note that I say aware of, because there are likely more out there that I dont know of as this is a fairly cool concept) was Castle Greyhawk. This was originally published back in 1988 by TSR for Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. It was intended to be a series of comedy adventures in a single castle that you could bring your players back to from time to time to unwind a little from more intense stories. However if you really cleared things out and did not mind creeping through humor all the time you could make it from level one to level 20 or so depending on classes by the time you cleared all the levels under the castle. While the next was not intended to have you start at first level, you could with a little tweaking make it work and that was The Ruins of Undermountain also published by TSR, this time in 1991. What made Undermountain and its sequel/add on  was that it was not designed to be anything more than a serious dungeon crawl adventure. However with good work by a good DM you could make it an ongoing campaign.

Later on you would see things like the Shackled City campaign that was originally published in series in Dungeon magazine in 2003, The Worlds Largest Dungeon published in 2004, and a TON of adventure paths set up by Piazo for Pathfinder. The later offerings went past meeting in a bar and starting up a series of raids to gain levels. They plotted a story, gave NPCs background and gave characters a reason to keep things going.

Dont get your undies in a bundle that I am not mentioning your favorite module series. While nearly every game system out there has published adventures that take a story-line over multiple modules (DC Heroes, Star Frontiers, Marvel Super Heroes, and all generations of D&D to name a few) there are a lot of notable exceptions (Champions, GURPS, and SLA Industries once again to name a few). But the reason I am not bringing them up right now is because while they may tell a story over a few adventures, they are not epics that can get characters from the start of their career to the very top of their game. There are also a few publishers that have made a full story-line out of their entire publication series, but only if you pay attention (Shadowrun and the original World of Darkness (all five main games) make great examples here). This last concept is usually referred to as a Meta Plot which means that not mater what you do or where you go you are playing in the same story line.

Now then these epics all have one really big challenge. The players. If they go off the rails of the story/adventure the GM has set up before them, well things go pear shaped really quick. Or at least they can. If the person running the game has prepped for their players to run out at just about any part of the game, then things will not go off the rails at all really.

For myself I happen to love epic stories. However I also happen to know that every group I have ever played with likes to go outside the lines of the story and may want to chase down very minor plot threads that could seem like a waste of time in the overall plot. Actually I have had game groups run from the main plot right at the get go. And while it will occasionally get frustrating, I have a method of working around that. I call it the Epic Clock. I put down a time line for things to happen in on the main plot. If the characters get involved then sure they are the chosen ones. If they run from it, well then whomever else becomes the chosen ones will either save everything or things will get messed up without them. This also means though that the characters can get involved at any time. Either being at the right place at the right point in the time line, or by finding a sub plot of some kind that leads them back into the main story/plot. Also I have a distaste for just setting up modules as offered for an epic. In recent times I have taken some old D&D modules (Basic, AD&D and AD&D 2nd ed) and put them into series so that they create an epic. All of these modules are fairly easy to modify into Pathfinder so I dont have to change too many NPCs or monsters in extreme ways. Or I just build my own out of whole cloth.

Now then dont think this keeps me from running one off nights, or even one off series. But having a over arching epic, and a timeline gives me something to run everything against.

I dont do this too often but I would actually like to hear from readers on this topic. Do you like one offs, epic stories, meta plots, timelines or just what in adventures? Just reply to the posting and let me know.

Ok signing off for now, so gimme the dice, I need to roll a d10000 to see how big the next adventure is…

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Not feeling the love… Unofficial Review #15

Hey there readers. So I have spoken up a few times about my dislike of G.U.R.P.S. For those of you that don’t know what the heck I am talking about G.U.R.P.S. is an RPG game engine created by Steve Jackson games. And the acronym name stands for Generic Universal Role Playing System. Now then while this article will not be a game review as such, it is going to be more along the lines of a rant.

First things first though. Remember that this is all my opinion and this game may be the very thing you have been looking for all your life. So take me with a grain of salt until you go over the game yourself. The materials published by SJG do have some very strong points, and their other games have been on my play list for a long time.

So let me start out by talking about what I think that SJG has done right with G.U.R.P.S. They worked very hard to make a scale-able universal game engine. In some respects they failed miserably but we will get to that later. Next comes the fact that they have licensed more properties since the game was released in 1986 than any other game engine that I know of, even to the point of licensing other games. The setting supplements that they publish usually have a ton of detail and fluff that can be used with just about any game engine. They make awesome reference material. To be perfectly honest if it was not for the game engine itself I would be hard pressed to find better material. And even though I don’t like the game engine I still have several of the books they have published to use as reference material. The engine is also point based, which should put it high on my list of great games. I love the design control that a point based system gives you, but that love falls apart when the engine becomes unbalanced.

Now then the things I do not think that they have done well revolve all round the game engine itself. I really have three major bones of contention. And while two of them can be worked around (one easily and the other with some serious rules shifting) fixing the third would just kill the game engine and you might as well use something else. And since I don’t feel like surprising anyone by saving that big one for last, lets just start there.

My big and unassailable issue comes from the games stats system. As most gamers will know the stats are the mechanic that you use to define a character in their broadest and bluntest strokes. There are engines out there like Champions that have over a dozen stats to give you clearly defined lines for what the basic character is capable of without skills, tools, powers or anything else. And then you have games like Big Eyes Small Mouth that uses only three stats and each one is very broad. The game mechanics let you refine them further to detail things how you like. G.U.R.P.S. however uses four stats, and three of them define physical traits. And these stats are used to define the majority of the other skills and characteristics that a character can develop. Now then this may work really well in a strategy game, but in an RPG I personally like to establish a baseline for the mental aspects for the character that have nothing to do with their raw intelligence. Now then while G.U.R.P.S. does have positive and negative traits that you can use to gain more of that level of detail, and has a disadvantage system called Quirks that you can use to give some cool little details that can really define the limits of a characters personality, you still have to face off with the fact that your strength of will is going to come down to an intelligence roll. And I don’t know about you but the number of people I know of with a high IQ, well they are not always the most strong willed. When it comes to scaling of the stats I also have a problem. The stats run from zero to twenty just fine. Very scale-able. Very much running up to peak human. However if you get into the truly heroic or superhuman the scaling goes a little, or even more than a little, out of whack. So much so that they had to create a separate point cost system for strength that you can kick in after a value of thirty for cost savings. This problem comes into play even if you are creating an elephant. Disproportion of costs so that you can build what you want. It ends up meaning that in any setting you will have stat values that don’t make sense for everything from animals to aliens just to try and balance the game play and point costs.

The second issue that I have with the G.U.R.P.S. game engine is an item that they put in called an Unusual Background Cost. Now then whenever I have played G.U.R.P.S. I have tossed this thing out. This is an additional cost that you will pay for your character to have something that is uncommon or unusual in the game setting. So if you are playing a spy game and everyone is building characters with 200 points and you want to be able to do minor magic the game master can charge you up to 50 points so that you can do minor magic. I find that lazy as (four letter word starting with F and ending with K). Personally I would call that a cause for a disadvantage. A reason to have the character hunted by gods only knows how many agencies and religious groups. It is something that I can use to build deeper stories and it gives me a reason to add weird stuff into the game. And if I don’t want that in a game I say NO. Really easy just say that the setting does not support that. End of issue. I mean, seriously… what… the.. FUC… is wrong here. So ok as I said this is the easiest to fix, just throw the dumb ass rule out. However it bothers me to think that game masters need to have a stick like this to either enforce the world they want to use, or have absolutely no ability to say no to players when it will screw up the setting. SIGH… ok… moving on…

Third issue that I have is the way that skills and powers get built out. Just to give you a quick basic way to go about things…. lets see here… Ahh yes. Most folks can relate to fights in RPGs, so lets take a look at punching someone. First we need to know your DX (dexterity) Punching is covered by Brawling so we put points into brawling. But I want to use martial arts so that means I now have to use my Karate or Judo skill which defaults to Brawling that defaults to DX. But if I have a specific technique I may have advantages I have to purchase and then a technique skill that is based off of Karate that is based off of Brawling that is based off DX. Now then if I want to be really good at that one technique, I just really want to use my Martial Master Plucks the Flowers punch better than anything else, and my character concept would agree that everything else I do in a fighting style sucks… I still have to buy up my Brawling and then my Karate and then my technique because I cannot exceed my base skills by more than a certain amount. Ok so my thinking here is how many people might you know that can cook one thing really well, but they destroy everything else? Or can draw one image over and over but then have problems with stick figures? Or or or or or… Now then the sad thing is that powers are built in the same way. Be they magical or super human, they do the game bloody thing. And if you have a power you need a specific skill to use it (back in first edition you also had another step in there where you had to roll one skill to hit something and another to hurt it on top of paying for the actual power to do anything with). This can be fixed, to a degree by cutting out middle skills, removing prerequisites and a few other things. But if you are going that far do you really want to use the engine anyway.

Now then I freely admit that I have not played G.U.R.P.S. since third edition. I have heard that they updated several things but it is really hard to get past twenty years of annoyed and try again.

Overall how would I rate the game I have ranting about, just remember this is for the WHOLE enchilada of G.U.R.P.S. not just the main rule book or any one supplement, this is an all or nothing…

  1. Fluff – 5/5 – They have some cool stuff
  2. Crunch – 0/5 – I really dislike these rules and I… I just cant
  3. Mod – 0/5 – Oh you can mod the hell out of it, you have to, then it still wont play well
  4. Fun – 2/5 – Some of the supplements really rock, when used with another engine.
  5. Total over all score 7/20 – You have my sympathy if you play this game.

Ok so let me finish off this crap sandwich here. I have never been impressed with G.U.R.P.S. I quit even trying after third edition. While the game engine, to me, is one of the worst with all the flaws, the supplemental materials, worlds, settings, references and so on are almost all awesome. And when they get a licensed product they treat the materials with respect and go into levels of detail that really impress me. And I know the game system has been hideously successful over the last 30+ years, where games that I find more balanced and playable have fallen to the roadside. So maybe I am an outlier, and maybe its just that SJG has more money to toss at marketing and slightly less expensive books. I really don’t know. So as I said, take me with a grain of salt.

Anyway, peace out, play well, and gimme the dice, I need to find out how deep this rabbit hole of skills goes…

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Getting into Character

Howdy all, another week, another blog post 🙂

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Questions –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Game Settings

Ok so yeah I am teasing everyone by not just jumping in to World Building 109 and closing out the series. That is going to be a slightly longer than usual post and I am trying to build things up so I can cover everything I want with less than my usual grammar errors and not be quite as stream of thought as I usually am.

Now then the title of this article may be a little misleading to some. I am not talking about worlds here, but the settings we set up for individual game sessions. The tavern, the house on the hill, the local graveyard and so on are the topic of the day.

Depending on the person running the game your settings can be as simple as – You step out of the hallway and into a really big room with all sorts of wall hangings and a throne – all the way up to – As you are coming toward what looks like the end of the hall way you note the flickering of lights that you have come to associate with multiple torches. There is a scent of some kind of incense in the air that just barely covers the smell of worn and ill treated cloth. As you cautiously enter the room ahead of you, you can see the tapestries that cover the wall, once well made but now filled with mildew and rot surround a dais and throne. The flickering light you noted in the hall is coming from braziers on either side of the throne that give off an oddly colored smoke. Which may be the source of that incense you smell.

Now personally I enjoy adding as much description to things as possible, but I really dont see anything wrong with either of those descriptions. The first one is something I would use with a group that just wants to get in and hack and slash their way through the game. The second I would use for a group that wants to roleplay more and also for a group that wants to investigate everything.

I was going to put a link in for a manga-ish graphic novel series called King of RPGs but the Wiki sort of sucks and I cannot find one by the author himself that is not really a sales page. KOR is the only place I have seen setting up the setting go, in my opinion, too far. I mean when you need to set up a tent so you can add a dry ice smoke machine and have coolers set up with different sealed items to bring the correct scents to the game space and you brought your friends constrictor snake to put onto the game table with the minis so that you can have an accurate representation of the big bad monster snake… yeah… a bit far.

Also I have talked about music in games before, and I really feel like having a bit of well selected music can really enhance the game session. Adding music though you really have to consider the setting and the music you want to use. Its hard to mix things together unless you really know your group. Cranking up I am Iron Man with a fantasy setting may not be the best, unless you know the group loves rock, loves the song, or you just need something a little more intense for that Iron Golom that just crested over the trees. I can say that with all the streaming music apps though that you really want to have a plan going where you do not have commercial breaks as they can completely kill a mood.

Now then normally in an article like this I sit back and stress that every game, and every gamer is different. And that everyone needs to do what they enjoy or are comfortable with or whatever. Never feel pressured into doing something you dont want to do in a game. I would in this instance though like to suggest, that instead of thinking about yourself. You think about the group you are gaming with. Establishing a setting, be it the way a game master does it for the players, or the way the players establish their own presence in a setting, can have a serious impact on everyone who is playing. I know that many game tables have a mix of players at them, some wanting to roleplay until the world ends and some wanting just to get to the next combat. And that can be a hard mix to balance if you are trying to establish a setting. So make sure you have out of game conversations to really see what everyone wants. It may actually be possible to add a lot of detail in things like online blogs or classic blue booking to give the more detail oriented players what they need, and keep the time at the table fast and furious for the combat junkies. Then again other things may be needed.

What I am trying to get to here, really, is that the single most important setting in any game, ANY game, is the communication setting between whomever is running the game and the players. If that setting is get in, game get out, that is fine, just make sure that everyone has agreed to that setting. If the setting is tell a rich in depth story with every detail milked for the most dramatic and emotional response… again make sure everyone has agreed.

I am not going to drop a link in here but almost two years ago I did an article about sound tracks and theme music if you want to know my thoughts on that topic in more detail.

For the moment though I think I have the point across. Communicate. Build settings that you as a GROUP can get the most out of. And have fun damnit.

Ok now gimme the dice I need to see if I can pickpocket myself without me noticing…

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Buying Games Online

Ok so its not a world building moment nor is it a game review. Thanks to the holiday season and the chance to play with a little gift cash, I of course got games with some of it. And this is about that experience.

So anyone who is a gamer or knows a gamer knows that there are a few ways to get games. Go into a local game and hobby shop, a book store, maybe a comic shop, and then ordering online. Now then some people will tell you all about the convenience of ordering online. Some will talk to you about the cost savings versus cover price. And all those things are truly possible. And in the case of board games or boxed sets then you may very well see a quality product at your door.

The thing that makes me edgy about going online to order games though is that you are going to be relying on someone you have never met, to ensure the quality of an item you have not seen with your own eyes, that they will package it in a manner that means you are getting your new game all in one piece, and that it will actually get to your door and not be delivered into some other state.

Am I paranoid about these things. You betcha 🙂

Let me give you the example of my latest online game purchase. Being a table top RPG player I ordered from Amazon. But since I ordered a few things that were out of print I ended up actually ordering three books from three different vendors. Now then I start out a little nervous but these were items I wanted in my games collection… again in a couple cases. So my order ends up having one book from Amazon itself, one from Vendor X (not naming them directly), and one from Wayne’s Books.

So the king of dance swing, Amazon, actually fulfilled my order from the local depot, or so it seems as it only took two days to get here by USPS. When it arrived I opened the mailer envelope. Inside I see my book. Oversized 8×10 or so book format like a magazine (for those of you who remember them… heh) The mailer is one of the plastic, heavy sealing, padded bags. And that was it. USPS had shoved it into my mail box and ran. So I take a look and there seems to be some damage around the edges, and with the cold weather there was a little curl…but nothing too bad. SO I took my new book and read through it a bit… and it all seems ok. But this could have been shipped much better, with out adding much cost to Amazons shipping process. More on that later.

Vendor X… Well their Amazon listing for the book they sold me said near mint condition on the book. But they were selling it at a fairly low price. They sent the book in a paper envelope with a small padding structure inside. The book was much lower in quality than they had it listed for, and if it was not for the fact that I feel I spent what the books quality was really worth I would have sent it back and asked Amazon to consider some sort of financial reprisals. I am still considering it because they charged me six bucks for shipping and forgot that I could see the stamp on the envelope that said “Media Rate”, and having worked in shipping I know that with the cost of the envelope included, I was wayyyyyy overcharged for shipping.

Now then to Waynes Books. I was not surprised after I got the book that they not only have their own website and store, but that they have been at this for a while. The book I ordered from them was listed on the Amazon site as being – Very Good – quality. When I got it I would actually say it was more Near Mint. I was expecting bad pages, roughness around the edges, a slightly discolored or damaged cover. And instead I get something that has a slight crease in three pages. If the quality grading scale they use is that strict. I like them a lot. Actually getting to my book was kinda fun and it showed me they have a lot of respect for the product they send and the people they send it to. The book was first wrapped in a plastic media bag. Like the kind you store comic books in. That was then padded with a layer of cardboard that was slightly larger than the book. And then a little more cardboard that was smaller. This collection of material was then put into a plastic padded mailer envelope. Someone was going to have to do some serious work to damage that book. They also used “Media Rate” for shipping and it took a few days to get to me, but for a quality book and quality shipping like that I can wait.

Now then on Amazons web site both Vendor X and Waynes have 99% satisfaction ratings. Both have 4.5 stars overall on reviews. So mayhap with Vendor X I just happened to get the wrong guy or someone was having a bad day or who the heck knows. I can say however that the next time I go game hunting I will likely look at Wayne’s site directly first. And may just go to them right off the bat and order from them. Because with their first effort for me. They impressed me. I cant say it better than that. Amazon did a so so job, and Vendor X got the only 2 star review I have ever left someone… they got two stars because they got me the right book, I can use it, and I know I dont have to go back to them. For me leaving a one star review means that I have actually sent something back, along with comments regarding our next steps with the lawsuit I am initiating.

So yeah this has been a somewhat ranty post. And that was the intent. Ya see this is the kind of situation we get ourselves in when we dont have well supported brick and mortar stores. You have to go online, and trust that what you ordered will in fact be what you get. And you have to be ready for it not to be so you can play the return and send me what I want game… over and over again. With an economic power like Amazon backing the stores that sell through them I can understand giving a bit more trust… because if Amazon pulls their support or offers a bad review from their own perspective… that could be the first or last nail in a vendors coffin.

In the end what I really want to say is pursue your hobbies and your joys. Chase the games and titles and such that you really want. But just be ready to have to either fight for it, or be totally surprised by how good it comes out.

Ok so gimme the dice, I gotta see whats on my collection list that I want to pursue next…

Peace and games to all in 2017, next week a return to world building… or a review… may have to roll for that one…

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Used book stores

Ok so I have talked about chasing down old and out of print games before. I have talked about my methods of going after them and all the fun that you can have if you are a fan and you really find something good. Well this is likely to be a short post, however I wanted to take just a moment and say WOOOOHOOO in regards to one used book store in particular.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I look for classic RPG’s and things that are on my list of games I have played but are no longer in my library all the time. Of late I have been jonesing a lot for some of the stuff I played in the way back times but have not seen for a while. In the last year I have found three of those games, and I have found them all in one store.

Torg, and Paranoia second edition from WEG, and Gamma World third edition. I found Gamma World yesterday and was very surprised to find a boxed set with not only the original rules but all the printed supplements that usually get lost from the boxed sets, a GM screen from second edition and the GM screen for 3rd edition with the added adventure supplement all in the box and all for only forty bucks. When I hunted on eBay or Amazon for the box set for second or third edition Gamma World I usually find incomplete box sets for about a hundred bucks. Paranoia I found for seventy, and even though the book inside the box was a little messed up the last time I checked for it online it had been going for about 120. Torg, well since it had the complete master deck set of cards I had been expecting it to go for over 200. They had it for thirty. All in all several great deals.

And I said it was all from one store. So this is my big plug and I hope that gamers looking for out of print material start hitting them up. Half Price Books in Redmond Washington. Not everything they have is a steal like that when it comes to classic games. They have out of print modules that you can find in PDF format online for 3-5 bucks for anything from 15-50, so for me those are a no go. But the Forgotten Realms Horde boxed set for fifty… that might be worth thinking about.

Anyway I am not sure what is going on right now with Half Price but their stores (at least the ones that I go to) seem to be getting an influx of gaming materials lately. So I want to thank whoever has been selling off their stuff, and to Half Price for not going full collectors market price on some really cool things.

Does this mean that I am going to do a Gamma World review in the near future… maybe.

For now though just gimme the dice, I gotta see if this kinda luck keeps rolling crits.

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Game Companies, why oh why have you changed?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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