Archive for category SGR

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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Review #23- Central Casting (Heroes books) (A)

So while I am reediting more of the Delta City materials (you guys who had seen this stuff before could have said something about how crappy my editing and grammar was ya know, it would not have killed me) I wanted to keep posting weekly. So this review has come up.

I have a feeling I may have mentioned these three books before but to do an actual review on them is something else.

I am willing to bet that most gamers out there know people who really piss them off. When it comes to gaming. Those slick folks who can just nanoseconds after rolling the dice right in front of you have a fully detailed background for their character. Tying it into all the previous games you have ever played and putting in so much color and flavor you have to wonder just how all that crap came to life in under an eye-blink of time. I mean given time I can think up a fairly good backstory. I will likely tinker the crud out of it and revise it a few times before I give it to a GM but so it goes. And I know there are other players out there who feel like their character sheets should be enough work and that a background is not needed at all, “I am just here to roll up stuff and make fleshy things scream and bleed on the tips of pointy things.”

Well it is because of that frustration and the sad shaking of heads that they have to have a background that Task Force Games started up their Central Casting series of books. Published between 1988 and 1991 the three Heroes books (Heroes of Legend, Heroes Now, and Heroes of the Future) are all designed so that you can roll up (yeah completely at random) a time period correct character background. The level of detail in these books is so in depth that it makes every other background generator look like the creators half assed it.

Some of the things that this series of books does is to give you some bonus and penalty scores that would need to be converted into the game engine you are playing in. The write ups are mostly for a percent based system. So if you happen to be playing something like Rolemaster you should be fine right off the bat. In a mixed format like Palladium you are going to need to do more converting. And in something like Hero System or the original DC Heroes, it becomes a real challenge to convert the points in anything that represents a linear crossover. The thing is with a quick talk with a GM most of the time background details can get added, points can get swapped, things can get bent so that you can fit things in and make it work.

Now then you will notice that I mentioned that you can roll this all up randomly. And you can. But you can also use the books in a decision tree format to get the background that you want. Because two or three steps in you may find something clicks and suddenly you know where you need to go with this character, or piece by piece you may feel your way through until you come up with something part rolled, part chosen, and part just fate, yeahhhh it had to be fate.

What seems really strange to me about these books is that they seem to have fallen almost completely into the collectors market. You cannot find mention of them in Wikipedia, even in the Task Force Games page who originally published the books for Flying Buffalo who’s page does not mention them either. You cannot find PDF copies of them in any legal sales format. And when you can find them in Amazon or Ebay you are looking at paying anything from 90 – 800 dollars for a copy depending on condition and seller. What I have been able to find out about them tells me that they had a very short print run, like many things that TFG created. Also their publication happened at the same time that TFG was going out of business and selling their properties to other parties. So there may be some long standing issues with rights. It may be that they all went back to the original author Paul Jaquays (now known as Jannell) but even in her Wiki page the books only get a very brief mention. With the number of items being republished in PDF form in recent years and the fact that the prices for the originals are soaring I find it hard to believe that whomever has the rights has not brought them back to the digital world to try and make some money off it.

Next thing to bring up is why am I doing three books in a single review. Well that part of this is easy. All three books follow the same pattern. Birth on through the moment right before you start adventuring. Regardless of setting. They all use the same mechanics and styles. And THAT is a true miracle. When they were being published there were so many specialized game worlds with so many unique game engines that making materials to support them also became very diversified. But the author stuck to her form and format to try and make universal support. I think that was an awesome choice and it really did unify the books into a single whole support setup.

So lastly lets get into the numbers shall we…

Overall Fluff 5/5 – These books are pure fluff. It is all for story and all for fun and to add some depth to your own work and your own worlds. They work great for PC or NPC characters.

Overall Crunch 2/5 – These things are really rules light and can be used in a lot of ways. They are not directly tied to any specific RPG but are easier to use with some games than others.

Overall Mod 3/5 – There is need to mod versus fun to mod. Basically unless you are playing one of a few specific games you will need to mod your results if you want to bring anything more than a story into your game. The fun to mod side is using these books as a decision tree instead of as a random roll set of tables.

Overall Fun 5/5 – I have a lot of fun with things like this, and have in the past used these books to create back stories that are just so impossible to understand they can be used to create legends or insane NPCs. Sure I could do that on my own, but going this way I have an excuse so I dont get blamed directly 🙂

Total Score 15/20 – Overall a good score here. I have to say that I really wish these were more available and that some of the mechanics might be revisited so that a table of standard conversions could be created allowing the bonus’ to be read into most major game engines. But I enjoy using them and even still have my original copies. 😛

Well thats it for this week. Hopefully next week my re-editing will be done and I can continue to drop more Delta City goodness.

Hope everyone is having fun out there gaming.

Now Gimme the dice, I have to roll up random laundry and I am hoping to get something other than socks….

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Game Review -21: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness (G)

Just because I thought it would be a funny combination of having something listed as being 21 and teenage at the same time.

So how many of you out there are familiar with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? And no I do not mean the animated ones from the late 80’s early 90’s. And no I dont mean the Michael Bay abominations that made it to the big screen. I am talking about the original Turtles. Before there was any desire to have politically correct non-lethal child friendly cuddly turtles. I am talking the original TMNT. Done in black and white. Where you could only tell the turtles apart by the weapons they carried and by actually reading the dialog to understand how different each one was. These turtles used their weapons to injure and when needed, kill enemies, who were trying to kill them.

These are the Turtles that I know and love. These are the Turtles that were created back in 1984 (or at least first published) and in 1985 there was an RPG put out about those Turtles by Palladium Books.

Now then dispite what the wiki page says these Turtles were not part of RIFTS. RIFTS did not come along until five years later. So if anything RIFTS is an expansion of the Turtles :). A more honest timeline would be that Heroes Unlimited came out, then TMNT, and in true Palladium fashion another game setting called Ninja’s and Superspies, released in 1987 could be used to expand the martial arts past ninjitsu. After publishing about seven books for the TMNT over several years Palladium and the original creators of the Turtles called it quits. Dont know why, I do care, but I cant let that drag me down. Now then one thing I cannot speak to is if the mechanic for mutation was originally part of the TMNT game or if it was first in Heroes Unlimited. I have not seen a first printing of the HU game. But I can say that it is one of the things that makes the game really cool. And it has been in every edition of the HU game that I have played and still exists in the Palladium books and it still lives in the After the Bomb RPG that Palladium still releases.

Like other licensed products by Palladium the TMNT game does its best to keep to the source material and give players a good way to get into the world of the characters they have come to love without actually forcing them to just play the characters from the source material.

The game also has one of the coolest game rules that I have ever encountered. I have modded it a little bit from time to time over the years to add it to other games that I have played. The team character rule. As originally printed if players are going to share an origin and all be the same type of mutant animal then you get extra character levels. So if you have four characters of the same animal type sharing the same origin, with the same mutations then you are all starting at level four. If you have a different animal type, or different mutations still sharing the same origin then you drop a level off of that. It was something that encouraged players from the start to build a story together. I usually found it too limiting for a game group to all want to be the same animal so I would mod that so that if they all just shared the same origin then it was all they needed to get the bonus levels.

The mutation mechanic also allows you to build just about any kind of mutant you would like. And the supplemental books added ways to give your animal super powers, and to even use animals that came from other times. Personally one of my favorite builds is a T-rex that stands about four feet tall that has super strength and practices Muay Thai. Yeah, you can do that kinda stuff with this game. I also really enjoyed making a mutant porcupine that looked totally human but still had quills and was trained as a bookkeeper/bodyguard. You can do some totally off the wall stuff with this mutation engine and it all balances out. But to do all that I brought up means you have to use multiple books and so we need to pull it back to the main book itself.

I have lost track of the number of times I have played this game over the years. And considering that the first copy I had was back in 1986… I think… It is a lot of years. Sure I have had good game sessions and bad ones, but mostly it has been fun. And considering the number of ways that Palladium books crossover, it can get really weird the things you can do. Ahem… yeah… A band of mutant animals and ninja with a couple of supers and a disgruntled mystic taking over the SDF1 and driving it to RIFTS earth to try and stop the Coalition. Shhhhh, shhhh, dont fight it… it will all be over soon.

Ahhh still trying to pull back to the main book…

Ok here we go… So this game engine still suffers from the usual issues you see in a level based engine for character growth, and it does not allow for later enhancement or alteration of mutation. Mutation is a point based system derived from potential bio energy, and that potential is usually limited only by the size of the creature. So the bigger you are the less energy you have. To get more you need to get small. Now then sadly the original engine did not completely balance that energy level and so there were one or two animals that you could mutate the heck out of  while others you would struggle to get a pair of opposable thumbs. Back when I started playing this just meant that there were a few animals that never got played. Later in life it just takes a few minutes to re-balance any animal to a set of numbers that works completely.

Ok so how do the numbers look?

Overall Fluff 5/5 – The story bits and art are mostly from the original comics and the creators. The character backgrounds and samples are also from the original character info from the comics. Some of the supplemental art is from artists who really understood the TMNT mindset.

Overall Crunch 3/5 – There was a need right off the bat with the original printing to do some game balancing, but overall the Palladium rules are a solid level based system. The rules are a bit soft on some of the gear and tools you can use and their overall game effects, but if you have other books by the publisher it works easy enough.

Overall Mod 4/5 – This particular Palladium book seems to have brought the mod to the table. It is easy to balance things out, and of course you need to mod all characters according to taste, while also having the first and best team creation rule in an RPG.

Overall Fun 5/5 – Speaks for itself. Mic drop.

Total Score 17/20 – Ok so there are a lot of points here. Is it worth it? To me this is one of those games that if you love any version of the Turtles, you need to hunt this down. You wont find any legal PDF copies online, because, licensing. You can usually find them in used book stores starting at about 10 bucks.

Ok so once again, my thoughts my opinions, get out there and game for yourself and make up your own mind 🙂

Keep it fun folks

Gimme the dice, I need to see if I can make all my skill rolls to get through all the running around today.

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Game Review #21 – S1 Tomb of Horrors (M)

Ok yeah so its a little odd for me to do two game reviews in a row but I have a need to get this one out there.

You see there is a movie coming out shortly Ready Player One. Based on the book of the same name by Ernest Kline. (Movie / Book) Now then I am not sure how much they are going to keep in the movie, but in the book Tomb of Horrors plays a role. I am tempted to give a book review on Ready Player One, but let me just say that if you ever played Adventure on the Atari, and geeked in the 80’s you will likely find several things to enjoy in the book.

So what is the Tomb Of Horrors? This is a module created back in 1975 for AD&D. Published in 1978, and became a tournament standard in 1981. Penned by Gygax it created the S series of (mostly) tournament modules for convention play. That means the module comes with a lot of add ons that you did not always see in D&D modules. Like art books so you could show your players just what they were facing. And a list of tournament PCs so you at home could play the same characters that came up at the convention.

Now then the S series of modules in general gets some serious crap from players. It also gets some of the best reviews. The whole batch of four modules was reprinted by Wizards of the Coast in a hardcover archive format in 2013. So you wont have to pay collectors prices to get it. You can also download it in its entirety online. There have been remastered versions that were published for D&D 3.5, 4th and I think 5th edition as well. Also a Return to the Tomb of Horrors was created to be an official sequel but to my mind its not.

The reason why it gets so much crap, and the reason I do not see Return to the Tomb as a sequel, is because the modules are mostly TPK (Total Party Kill) modules. These things are hard core and so over the top that in all likelihood your players will not get out alive. Seriously. There are steps in the module that say things like “Count to six, any players that have not stated that their characters have moved to another part of the room by the time you reach six, those characters are dead.” There are several moments like this. No chance is listed to detect the trap, high powered magic items are needed to see them, and if you are playing AD&D the old way, then they are freaking rare.

I have been a player in this dungeon twice. Decades apart in play time. The first time we had a TPK. The second time we ended up having one player make it out alive with cuttings from the rest of us so we could be resurrected or reincarnated. And when that character suggested that now that we know what we are up against we could go back and really clean up, the rest of the party killed him and refused to get him brought back to life. To be honest though, as a player I look forward to the day I have a team at the ready that can clear this place. The design is sweet, the set up is of course a challenge, and if you actually get to the real final boss you had better have some serious spells and magic at hand because that beast can auto kill up to eight party members without you getting a save.

As a DM I have looked to the Tomb of Horrors for inspiration. This thing is not a one off game night kinda place. This is what the approach to the final boss of an epic story should be. This is the place you have to bring your best, everyone on the team needs to bring their best. And if you as a DM have inspired the players with your story and your encounters that lead up to the Tomb then you are going to see them pull out all the stops and they will have one of the best games of their lives. I have not used the Tomb… yet… but I have built it into more than one of my worlds so that I can use it as the finale should the players go after the big bad.

Frankly I think that “I survived the Original Tomb of Horrors” products could make Wizards of the Coast some serious bank with old school players.

So how do the numbers look on this beast of an adventure?

Overall Fluff 3/5 – There is very little backstory as is the case with a lot of the early modules, as it was designed to be dropped just about anywhere. The added art is very VERY 70’s fantasy. Sometimes it is a little hard to look at, but the level of detail is awesome and can be useful in game. However it is also in black and white so all the color elements that come up in the module need to be described in just as much detail to really make them work well. Flavor text is minimal, which is actually unusual.

Overall Crunch 5/5 – Normally a module would not have much in the way of crunch but this thing has so many GM Fiat moments (the players get no say in the moment shit just happens) that it sort of feels like there is a good selection of new rules and the materials are presented in a way that makes it work.

Overall Mod 1/5 – Now then usually I find it really easy to change a 1st edition D&D or AD&D module over to something else like 3.0 or Pathfinder without an issue. However those same GM Fiat moments make it a pain to convert it. Other game systems might allow a save or have some kind of warning that you would have to put into place, or a character might have an ability or power that could nullify a trap or something. Meaning you need to take a lot into account if you are going to try and change it around and fit it into something other than its original setting.

Overall Fun X/5 – Ok I am fudging the hell out of this one. As I said above this thing is written as a TPK module. It is winable but it is not an easy win by any means. I have heard more horror stories about this module than almost any other adventure. But the folks who have survived and made it back with stories to tell seem to walk a little taller if you know what I mean. Having lost characters to it twice myself I am leery about going back in, but I want to. I need to rate this one as an X because sometimes I love it for the inspiration it brings, and some times I hate it because of just how lethal it is.

Total Score 9+X/20 – Ok so this is my first review with a variable score. Because I torn with the love it or hate it. So it is both a 10/20 and a 14/20 at the same time. I honestly think that if nothing else folks should look it over, and see what I mean about it being an inspiration. Then love it or hate it you can figure out what to do with it on your own.

So as always I have to say remember that this is my opinion and you need to decide for your own bloody self if this is for you or not. I am not here to make up your mind for you, just to put my words out there and see how you feel about it.

Ok now gimme the dice, I need to see how many cats would survive if I set a thousand of them loose in the Tomb. Curiosity and all that 😉

Keep gaming and have a great time folks.

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

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

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

Not here to rant about that though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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