Archive for category SGR

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

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

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

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

Let me give you a few ideas why.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game on and have fun folks.

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

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Game Review #36 Gargoyles : The Vigil

Ok so feeling a bit better and now for something a little different.

Back in 1994 Disney put out a cartoon that I would love forever. Gargoyles. At the same time I was playing a lot of World of Darkness (WOD) by White Wolf. And some time after 1996 someone pointed me to a file they found online called Gargoyles : The Vigil. The author is listed as one Lee Garvin, who makes it very clear in his second edition PDF of the game that neither Disney, nor White Wolf endorsed this creation.

Currently the only place I can find this work is on file sharing locations like Scribed. Since it is totally fan made I see no issue in downloading it.

Now then you should not confuse this with the official White Wolf WOD supplement called Gargoyles. That official book has nothing to do with the animated series and in my opinion is one of the worst additions to the WOD anyone has made. It just… ungh… no… no bad reviews.

Anyway, Gargoyles : The Vigil takes the Disney animated series and drops it right into the WOD. Basically making the Gargoyles the natural enemy of vampires, occasional allies of the were creatures, and known to the other supernatural entities in WOD, but still having totally their own flavor.

The document that Lee Garvin put together, even in its slightly prettier second edition is not all that well edited. And it leaves some serious gaps in describing the rules to add. However when I took a look at copyright law I found out there is a little genius in how it was made. Turns out that fan use usually means that you can use a certain percentage of material before you start hitting infringement territory. That is as long as you do not seek to profit from it. It has something to do with the same reasons that authors can mention real companies in their books without permission. As long as you do not defame the name, use too much about them, and, well there are a few other loop holes. But the gist of it is that Lee Garvin rode that line right to the edge so that neither Disney nor White Wolf could do too much. At least, that is if I got all that information right. However it goes that would explain why it is a little hard to find and not the best edit in the history of fan material.

On the plus side, I think it really catches the feel of the animated series. And the rules make the characters possibilities fit well with any WOD campaign, from Hunters up through all of the mains.

I know a lot of folks over the years have tried to put together RPG supplements and games for Gargoyles, and a lot of folks have felt disjointed in the results. While the editing and the self defense of not using EVERYTHING in either WOD or the animated series makes it a little bit of a challenge to use right out of the gate, I, as a fan, think that it is worth the effort to get it going.

Ok so I am still trying to roll quickly and keep working to feel better so this is not going to be a long review. Lets get to the numbers…

Overall Fluff 1/5 – There is not much. They could have used other fan art and images to keep from hitting copyright issues, but there really is no art. There are quotes from the series, and a little bit of fluff to place the game setting. Overall this is the biggest disappointment in the game, but also the most understandable if you dont want to be sued.

Overall Crunch 3/5 – The rules variants that the author came up with work really well. It is kind of amazing how simply the Gargoyles characters can fit into WOD and how easy it is to create brand new ones that just rock. And yes that should be a bad pun 😛

Overall Mod 4/5 – As easy to mod as any other WOD title.

Overall Fun 5/5 – I am a fan of both WOD (the original anyway) and Gargoyles (RULE THE NIGHT FOREVER!!!!) so yeah I think its fun.

Total Score 13/20 – A rather weak score, but still, I love it. Can I recommend it. Yes. Is it for everyone, no.

Ok so I gotta run…

So gimme the dice, I gotta see if Goliath can keep up in high winds 🙂

 

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Game Review #35 Rifts 1st Edition (G)

Hey there everyone

So while I have reviewed multiple products from Palladium Books before, and I know that in the last year there have been a lot more blow outs regarding the company and its owner Kevin Siembieda. I am not going to rehash that at all though. This post is about the first edition of the most ambitious setting I have ever seen. Rifts.

So let me say I first found this game the year it came out. I was interested right off the bat because after Shadowrun came out the year before, and in my mind blew the doors off of putting Fantasy and Cyberpunk together into a single setting, I wanted to see what one of my favorite publishers, the folks who had brought me Heroes Unlimited, TMNT and other Strangeness and Robotech could do with a setting that essentially mixed… everything… together in one place.

I wanted to be tough on them, to really put the pressure on to make sure they kept up the quality of settings I had seen them do, and license. I gave up on that completely when I got to the RCC (Racial Character Class) section and found that you could start the game playing a dragon. And that while dragons generally preferred not to get cybered up, you could. And they had natural magic. And… well yeah… so…

Anyway they had a ton of other interesting classes. The original book had humans, dragons, psychics and ‘dog boys’ as the races you could play. And if you were human you could pick an OCC (Occupational Character Class) to go with your race.

Your initial setting is on a post apocalypse Earth. Where things had gone high tech. There was a lot of cool gear and toys. Humans got stupid and went WW3 on each other. Massive death toll on just the right time pulled all the psychic energy into the worlds ley lines and they went nuts. Magic returned to the world, the ley lines turned into Rifts bringing things from multiple different dimensions and worlds to Earth. Death toll rises. Things lock into place and humanity has been shattered. Three hundred years or so later a small human empire is up and running in the midwest using Nazi like tactics to get folks under their thumb. And in the setting at the moment the first book came out you could either be a part of the empire, our choose to be outside it.

Later books would expand things, a lot… no really… a lot. I wont go into detail but add in books about parts of Earth, other dimensions, lists of deities (yeah they are wandering around too), alien parts salesmen and all sorts of other stuff and the whole thing gets freakin’ huge. Unfortunately all that growth comes with an epidemic of power creep. However that is not the point of this review.

One of the things that really drew me in was that fact that this setting was in the same rules as every other Palladium Books game I had played. And they stated right in the book that they were going to put out a supplemental book that would tell you how to bring over every other type of character and make it work. So of course the first thing that I did with a game group was to put together a mission in which the TMNT stole the SDF-1 and tried to raid the capitol of that burgeoning new human empire with the assistance of a few super humans and more than a few cybernetic spies. Yeahhh. Thats the kinda stuff this setting lets you get away with.

Now the game itself is far from perfect. My current copy of the original rule book is eighth printing and it still has a ton of editorial errors. The art is the usual Palladium mixed batch where you may have one or two artists that are pretty good, but the cover is the only art really worth drooling over (save for licensed titles and some of the most recent books they have done when they finally got new art teams and the owner quit trying his hand at art from time to time).

My biggest issue with the game is that the leveling system calls back to original D&D, with that poor elf who does elf things. And the fact that you cannot change classes at any point other than to just clear everything you have learned and take on a new roll. So you start at ground level all over again despite how ever long you have been playing. This type of level system does have its benefits, and it can keep a player from over reaching and trying to become a dragon with a borg aspect who pilots giant robots and has made magical pacts to become… ohhhh you get it. If the rules wont let you do it it stops things from getting too far out of control unless you make exceptions and get into power creep (cough cough later books). Even though it would be ten years before we would see D&D 3rd edition and get a really solid look at what you can do slipping between classes ‘officially’, there have been examples for years of a controlled method of mixing rolls so that players can build what they can imagine without getting too far out of control.

Even with its built in imperfections this game has been an inspiration to me for a long time. I love the potential in crossing genres. And while there were other game engines like the Hero System and GURPS that set you up to be able to do EVERYTHING in one game engine. This is the first setting that I became aware of that actually put EVERYTHING in one place from the beginning.

Ok so lets look at the numbers…

Overall Fluff 4/5 – There is enough background info here and in both editorial and character voices that the setting really comes to life. The art helps a little when it can avoid being distracting. There are so many bread crumbs dropped that ties this setting into everything else that Palladium Books published that you cant help but feel things coming together are you read.

Overall Crunch 4/5 – Standard Palladium Books rules. It is a good system if you accept its limits and the things that it wont let you do. If you take it on its own the rules are comprehensive and cover just about anything you can imagine.

Overall Mod 3/5 – Adding things and subtracting things is about the best you can hope for. However that adding and subtracting allows for bringing in things from so many other settings it is kind of hard not to say you can mod it.

Overall Fun 4/5 – I enjoy it a lot. I occasionally have moments where I want to mix classes and it frustrates the crud out of me until I remember where I put my house rules to blend OCC and even RCC. But then I have to find it again and the realize I can do enough with the character I have and … then I am back to having fun 🙂

Total Score 15/20 – Not a bad score overall. If you can get past all the current hullabaloo about the company and the owner/author then you might want to consider this game if you like the mixing of genre. If you do I would recommend going first ed over the later versions due to the fact the book changed to try and compensate for the power creep in its other books and made some changes that hampered some of the choices you could make regarding the character types you could play.

Ok so thats it… my thoughts and opinions. Run with it or dont its up to you 🙂

Now gimme the dice, I gotta see how much more power creep we can work with… hmmm how did a 924 get on my d20…

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Game Review #33 CM4 Earthshaker (M)

Ok so this review has a bit of a twisted origin, but still flashes us back into the 80’s.

The first time I saw this module (CM4 Earthshaker), for a version of Basic D&D I never got into until the 2000’s called The Companion Rules,  sitting in a local book store I knew I had to have it. GIANT FREAKING ROBOT! It was the mid 80’s and I had only recently discovered anime. Voltron, Robotech, and so many others with giant robots. I had to know more.

What I learned did not really help me enjoy… much… when it came to giant robots. Less so for D&D. It also put the capstone on my long lived hatred of all things gnome. However it did cement for me the idea that cross genre stories, adventures and setting could be done. IF they were done right. Looking back at the module today it feels more like an attempt to get players to really feel what it is like to run a kingdom when there is a huge potential disaster coming your way. But this one has an element of the disaster that you can fight directly. It also feels a LOT more like steampunk than anything else. I still hate the gnomes though.

This module also started me asking the questions again regarding the limits on character levels that you see in D&D, the limits on roles per race, and how much better AD&D was because while you still had level limits based on race (which everyone I knew tossed right out the window) it was better than having to have a conversation like…

“So what are you?”

“An elf.”

“And what do you do?”

“Elf things.”

“No I mean what is your job?”

“I am an elf.”

“No I get that I can see the ears… I mean what do you do? I am a Cleric, I use holy magic.”

“No you dont get it… Elves, Dwarves, Halflings (because Hobbits are under another copyright) we dont get careers… I am an ELF, that is my race, my job, my fate… I can only do ELF things… and I cant advance like you do… dont you see!!!”

“I…ummmm… wow….unhhh”

(uncontrolled sobbing)

Yeah, so moving on lets see what the numbers look like before that elf gets back…

 

Overall Fluff 2/5 – Like most early modules for D&D of any version, the fluff is weak. Cool cover art by a D&D legend helps, but that can only take you so far.

Overall Crunch 5/5 – This is where this really shines. The added rules to help you solve problems for a large area/kingdom really can give you a grip on scale, even though they only take up about half a page. The rules for supersized constructs, they rock. hard to imagine it taking several hundred beings working together to make it work, but hey, that is the steampunk way.

Overall Mod 2/5 – Ok so here is a big challenge. You cannot really scale this to lower levels. You cannot really alter a lot of the material. You can however replicate it and make a giant steampunk robot setting with it. So I still have to give it some points.

Overall Fun 3/5 – I may not have learned much but it allowed me to destroy a full tribe of gnomes while taking a giant steam powered robot off their hands and foil some villains and use the robot to set up a new version of the Colossus of Rhodes.

Total Score 12/20 – Not the best module ever. However it does have some nifty little things that you can use to build up a campaign, or just toss a wrench into the day of any group of heroes you might know.

So there it is… look it up, toss it out, whatever works for you.

Now gimme the dice… I need to see if I can roll up a job for that elf so he will stop crying.

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Game Review #32 Marvel Super Heroes – Advanced – TSR(G)

Hello Readers

So this review is a flashback to 1984 and 1986. Back in 1984 TSR published the first licensed superhero RPG, Marvel Super Heroes. Well it is the first as far as I know. DC Heroes from Mayfair came out in 1985 and Palladium Books published their Justice Machine book (for Heroes Unlimited) the same year. I cannot find any others that came out at the same time. Superhero 2044 was the first in super hero games overall (1977). So while Champions (Iron Crown Enterprises/Hero Games 1981) and Villains and Vigilantes (Fantasy Games Unlimited 1979) also had comics associated with them, those comics were spin-offs of the game and not what inspired the game in the first place.

Now then over the years there have been other Marvel RPGs. Heck TSR even did another game using their SAGA system  for Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game in 1998. (Articles on numbers 3 and 4 are in the links on the numbers) And then there was the 250 Point Project (now defunct and only remnants and links remain on the original Tripod web page – visit and follow at your own risk) which was an effort to convert famous characters in comic books into starter characters in Champions which makes it an unofficial Marvel RPG.

All of which tells me that folks really want to play RPG’s in the Marvel Comics Universe. And likely, regardless of a published system just for the setting or not, those folks will continue to find a way.

Now then for myself, I got into the game in the first edition in 1984. Drug a good friend into playing it with me, and while there were some things that made no sense what so ever (the use of Areas to measure distance and an Area was very irregular on the maps, and that base speed is never mentioned, oh and lest I forget the fact that you can loose more Karma [the exp system] for missing a charity event that you could gain by stopping a crime in progress) made for some pretty messy game sessions when we first started out. The second big hit came when we realized that no mater what you did you could never make a character that would be equal to any of your favorite characters, it kinda got shelved for a while. When I got my hands on the 1986 Advance version of the game, it had a lot more options. Strangely the Karma and Area issues were still there (to be honest the Area issue was reduced by having some standardized spacing on most of the new maps but it was still not a grid or the like), but they were softened by having a lot more options for building characters and the chance to actually make something that could go toe to toe with many of your personal favorites. No one could take on Galactus on their own, but hey, you have to have limits.

Something that made the game a lot of fun for me other than being able to make so many characters was the overall mechanic for action resolution. When I was playing regularly I would always call it the FASERIP (acronym of sorts for the game stats) chart.

FASERIP Results

The chart shown here is from the advanced game. The basic one had less to it. Overall the idea is to roll high on a percentile die. You want to be in the red. Green and Yellow are ok. And White is bad. And you get the number you need to roll by looking at the value you have… smeg ok let me just give you a sample. Hero has Monstrous Strength and is trying to lift something heavy. The object has a weight that is above Monstrous so his roll to lift it will move down two columns. So now he has to roll on the Incredible column. Hero wants to lift it over his head and throw it. GM says that means he needs a Yellow roll if he is going to throw it right away, Red if he wants to hold it and actually aim before he throws. Green means he can pick it up but wont be able to toss it, and White means he strains something. So when rolling a d100 player for Hero needs to roll a 61 or higher to do what he wants. And if he rolls a 30 or less then he will hurt himself.

This same type of game engine was used for action resolution in the 3rd edition of Gamma World (TSR 1986) and the overall mechanic looks like it might currently be held by Ronin Arts, for use in their Four Color RPG. However Ronin Arts has not published anything since 2015 and there are several other publishers putting out their material, so I am unsure what is really going on there.

Now then the reason I wanted to work this review with the Advanced version of the game is because it offered so many more details and options than in the Basic set. Even to the number of prepackaged characters there were more. Bigger better stronger. All of the above and then some. The Advanced version really did level up the game.

So was it fun to play, yeah it was, and if you wanted to roll up a character just make sure you have expectations that you would not make someone equal to Thor right off the bat and you will be fine.

They published a lot of additional books that expanded on.. well… everything. And they did modules for two of the biggest events in Marvel history up to that point, the original Secret Wars, and Secret Wars 2. Overall you really only needed one additional book to take character creation over the top. And if you were happy running your favorite characters from the comics you would not even need to do that. Especially given how many characters they published in modules, supplements, and even in Dragon Magazine. You could be perfectly happy without ever getting a rules expansion.

So given the breakdowns above and the fact that I still collect the game and would love to find a group to play it with again, how do I rack up the numbers?

Overall Fluff 2/5 – Really there was very little fluff to it. The art was wicked cool, but everything was written from the perspective that you had read a lot of Marvel comics well before playing. At least in the core game. Supplements had more flavor and feel to them, but the core set relied heavily on the art for its fluff. And there was not really enough art to make up for that lack.

Overall Crunch 4/5 – The rules are surprisingly solid. Even with the flaws in things like Karma, and Areas and Movement, with some creativity they could all be worked around or ignored easily.

Overall Mod 3/5 – It was not easy to mod this system in to other genres. It could be done but it was not easy at all. You also had to mod the rules to make the EXP system something that would work well. And anyone who had played 1st edition knew that up front.

Overall Fun 4/5 – Ya know it is actually really fun for me to get my favorite heroes and villains to fight it out. And to be able to put them into impossible situations and get them out, or even fail on purpose so I can see characters I hate burn to ash… yeahhhh. And in the end I like the engine. Even if I have to tweak it a little to make it work completely.

Total Score 13/20 – Another one that does not get a mind blowingly high score. But also another game that with all its flaws and need for home brew adds that I would play again in a heartbeat. I cant be alone in that with the number of web sites you can find with people posting up to date versions of the characters, and expanding the material in the books. I mean if nothing else look at this versions longevity compared to anything else done for Marvel Comics in an RPG.

All right so in the end… YOU reader needs to take a look at this and see if it is right for you. If it is not then dont worry. Just move along and be happy.

All righty, so gimme the dice, I need to make a Feeble (see chart) attempt to think about dinner.

Have fun out there gaming all 🙂

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A brief review – Stormbringer RPG

No no no… not StormBREAKER… this has nothing to do with the MCU tossing another characters hammer to Thor… sheesh…

StormBRINGER is a magic weapon of its own accord that was created by Michael Moorcock for the character Elric. The Stormbringer RPG was created by Chaosium under licesne using the same game engine that they used for Call of Cthulhu but without the sanity score and the issues that sanity creates. Not that you could not put sanity into the game… but…

Anyway, as a fan of the Eternal Champion multiverse that was really into Moorcock’s work, I had to play the game.

To be honest I really enjoyed playing this game for two major reasons. First is that without the sanity issue the game engine actually seemed to run smoother… Second is that when it comes to magic items, in this setting you could either put a temporary enchantment onto something that may last a day… or you could bind a being to it. Spirits of Order or Chaos, Elementals, Animal Kings, and even on one occasion that I know of a ghost. Which meant that on some primal level every single permanent magic item has a mind and character of its own. This is not something that the original books go into much but it is something that is present in the major magic items… like Stormbringer itself.

This game has been republished several times over the years and there has even been a d20 version. For my money though nothing stacks up to the original. The world is a departure from the usual fantasy settings. It was followed up by another Eternal Hero setting for Hawkmoon. Which is a good combination of magic and post apocalyptic tech. And this meant that you could actually play crossovers of the Eternal Champion in game. Which is the sort of stunt that any fan with a licensed product in hand wants to do.

So since I am running this one fast so I can get to things I need to work on in the house today and keep the puppy from chewing up too many supplies… lets dive into the numbers as I see em…

Overall Fluff 5/5 – For a fan the first editions of this game were awesome. Many minor characters and all the major ones are given a good blurb, not enough to give too many spoilers from the books, just that right amount to keep you going. The world is also brought out in the same blurb format. Most of the art is ‘meh’ in quality but in the places where it is more than meh it blows the doors off. I dont know why but I included my favorite cover to the game as the image. It is from the Chaosium/Games Workshop edition.

Overall Crunch 3/5 – We lost a little detail on the game engine. You had to wait until second edition of the game to really get a good look at how the magic works. And the rules got modded a little bit by the time the Chaosium/Games Workshop edition came out so that at that point things made a lot of sense. This game engine suffers from the Basic RPG systems biggest issue, and that is that most starting characters will rarely have the skills to get out of their first two or three game sessions without a bit of help or even a lot of help from NPC’s.

Overall Mod 4/5 – So I am rating this one a little higher than I really should  because even though the game engine has its weak spots, with this engine you could… pull in supers… or Cthulhu himself (I actually tried to figure out how to bind him to a soup spoon… long story) or anything else the game engine is tied to REALLY easily. So you can tweak it a lot. Why is this not a 5/5 then… well its because the game engine itself is not generic enough… even with the publication of the Basic Game engine all on its own to allow special abilities and the rules for them to transfer smoothly from one game to another.

Overall Fun 5/5 – Lets just say I did figure out how to put Cthulhu in a spoon so I could challenge Elric to a fight. I dont need a lot more fun than that.

Total Score 17/20 – Another really high score… For myself it is totally worthy of that score… the rest of you will have to look up a copy and decide for yourself…

Ok so things are quiet, I need to go see who has destroyed what while I have been typing.

Gimme the dice, I need to see if I can bind my coworkers to their desk to make magic computers 🙂

Peace and play nice folks 🙂

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Review #27 IronClaw (G)

Iron_claw cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Review #26 Monster Manual (S)

Yeah I wanted to go deep flashback with this one.

monstermanual

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Review #24 – Dream Park RPG (G)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what do the numbers look like on this one?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep gaming and have fun all!

 

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