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Battle of Wits – How would you do it?

Hey there readers

So in going over some older materials I ran into some concepts in gaming that I think it might be fun to see more of. AKA the battle of wits, damaging repartee, the verbal @#$%& slap that puts your foe so far down that their reputation, or maybe even their health is destroyed by the power of your words.

Now then wayyyy back in Dragon Magazine #60 ….

..there was a character class published called the Jester. It was updated and changed for D&D 3.5 in the Dragon Compendium…


…however the class was changed it still had one goal. And that was to act much like a Bard, but with a focus on wit and antics that could be distracting. Some of their special abilities could actually turn their words into weapons (so to speak) and cause the jokes and barbs they tossed to cause physical damage or require saving throws.

Now then Hero Games actually published something along a similar vein in their Adventurers Club Quarterly Magazine #27.


An article on the power or Repartee. How to build powers that represent the use of words in high society to damage reputations and destroy a persons self confidence. Using the model though it is easy to see tons of ways to modify this into a power that causes physical damage too.

Now then I also know that games like Toon and Tales from the Floating Vagabond have elements like this. But those games are set to be very comedic in tone. They are intended to be light hearted and make everything feel like a joke if at all possible.

What I am interested in knowing dear readers is how you would put something like this into a more serious game? The potential antics of the Jester from D&D can be comedic, but the words can also have an insidious impact. Jokes can kill. Is this the moment someone grabs the gaming materials at hand and makes a Jester for Joker and an urban Ranger/Monk for Batman and things get out of hand? Maybe.

With the Hero Games materials they built up a framework so that your repartee can drain the will of others, or destroy reputations, with a few well placed words. They even show you how to use a power add on called Damage Shield to help create a character that is always ready, or just witty enough, to always have a comeback on hand. The immediate impact seems more mature and more serious. But it can still easily be taken for comedy.

I do like the Hero Games version because you can take that model down to a level where you can use it to simulate the power of bullying on someone else. If you drain someone low enough in regards to a stat like Ego, or Intelligence, you may have the chance to kill someone. Or if you put it as physical damage with a delayed effect that would be when someone hears everything and goes home and hurts themselves.

I dont want to make this a completely dark post by focusing on the power of words and quips to hurt. Because the opposite is also true. Words can invigorate. A few well chosen words can inspire, heal hearts, and give someone the opportunity to go home and make things better for someone else.

And any of these, when played seriously can also be played for laughs. Both by the players and in the game worlds they are in. So really we need to look for a mechanic that is very versatile. Something that can have both positive and negative impacts. Something that can heal or harm depending on the words you choose. Something that can be very serious and yet can also be played for comedy. It is also going to need to be something that is not just offensive. I mean how many times have you seen something go down where one person tosses an insult or a quip and another just completely turns it around and so the person tossing the insult has it slapped back into them like some form of verbal Judo. Or maybe you can see a situation where a number of people team up and lay on insult after insult or complement after compliment and things just build and build. We should really take into account how to defend against it too… I mean I know some folks who are just not fast enough on the uptake to understand a joke. I also know people to whom social standing means nothing. Would they be immune?

So what I am asking readers is how would you do it? Would you set up a class? Maybe make it a feat? Would you build a power point structure? Would you make it a standard skill in the game engine you use so that everyone could have it? Can you get magic or tech armor to stop it?

I had a couple of ideas for modern versions… like having Snopes on your phone so you can say “Lets fact check that should we?” and get an immediate bonus to counter. Being so far outside a culture that the comments dont mater. And a few others.

So tell me… how would you do it?


Now gimme the dice I need to roll up a comeback…


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This weeks blog not brought to you by anything…

Thats right… just not feelin it this week.

And thats ok 😛

Now gimme the dice, I need to see how many dice you need to use to make a comfy pillow… I am guessing a lot.

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Game Review #46 – Pathfinder 1st Edition (G)

Hello Readers

Well this is one I have been holding off on for a while now. The reason is that I really love this game and I did not want to be gushing all over it without being able to give a balanced review.


Pathfinder by Piazo Publishing did not start out as its own role-playing game, but was originally a setting of sorts for Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 by WOTC (Wizards of the Coast) that was presented in Dungeon Magazine’s Adventure Path materials when the magazine was being published by Piazo.

The sordid history regarding WOTC canceling their open licence for 3.5 and canceling contracts for things like the publication of Dragon Magazine by third parties that resulted in Piazo creating D&D 3.75 (aka Pathfinder) is not something I will go into here. There have been enough internet rants and flame wars on the topic over the years to satisfy anyone but the most hardcore troll. Whats done is done, and the end result was Pathfinder. I am also not going to go into my opinion regarding some of their more recent (last four years) products and publication methods. This is also something that has been argued to death in many places and I dont want to waste my time with it. I would rather just enjoy the original game and talk about it. So here goes…

The short form of what makes it different from D&D 3.5 was that it took all the elements of 3.5 and improved on them either slightly or greatly. Some of the things that they improved slightly were things like the overall power progression for every class. They balanced them out and upped the power level overall a little in regards to things like Feats so that everyone could feel more heroic. They made skill progression a little more instinctive (less futzing around with class non class) and rewarding for taking class skills. In regards to combat they did one really big thing that helped the game flow a TON and that was to remove the uniqueness of the different combat maneuvers (each having their own method of resolution) like tripping, or charging, and merging them into a combat stat called Combat Maneuver (Bonus or Defense CMB or CMD). Feats and bonus’ for specific maneuvers were added or subtracted from that value. And they made the math just as simple as Armor Class or Base To Hit. It seriously saves a lot of time and effort if you are playing with people who want to do more than just hit things.

Overall magic remained mostly the same, save for making magic items. They ditched the XP cost for making magic items and made it more challenging skill wise.

Overall they increased the flexibility of the system.

When it came to the publication itself the initial book was basically the equivalent of the Players Handbook and the Dungeon Master Guide in one publication that was big enough that you could beat someone bloody with. The interior art was so good that it would become a challenge for other publishers to meet. I mean really, monks and druids are rare in my games so I have to figure they are fairly uncommon in other groups too.. but look at this halfling druid and human monk…

Seriously does that not look inspiring? These are straight from the Pathfinder Core Rulebook. Artists are credited there. But seriously does that not make it look cool to be a druid? Or a monk?

And the basics they gave for the setting were enough to titillate a bit but not enough to lock you into any setting specifics other than suggested deities.

Now then what was really interesting was that they had set up Pathfinder so you could grab most anything from D&D 3.5, including their own Adventure Path settings and just run with it. Pathfinder characters would be a bit more powerful, but scaling was easy too when it came to the monsters, so you could just tweak things a bit and get up and running.

Now then I did encounter a number of people who for various reasons did not want to move their campaigns and such over to Pathfinder when D&D 3.5 had the plug pulled. And even though it was a bit frustrating to have something superior on hand to use I always tried to keep myself in check since I had a similar reaction when AD&D 2nd edition came out. It can be hard to let go of something you like and have invested in.

Another thing that I have enjoyed about Pathfinder is teaching the game. With the games layout, art, and presentation I have successfully taught more than one player who was completely new to role-playing games to create a character and be under way in less than two hours. I have had similar success with groups who are mixed being new to games or just new to Pathfinder. Being that easy to teach, and D&D 3.0/3.5 easy to mod, the game is solid and quick to work with.

Now then I said I was not going to go into the later publications but I do have to say that there was something about their publication model from day one that irked me. Shortly after they published their first Bestiary, they published a small press booklet titled the Adventurer’s Armory. Everything in that book came out again in the larger book the Advanced Players Guide. This pattern has meant that if you were on the ball and hot for everything that came out to supplement your game, you would end up buying the same information two or more times. While this does not directly affect the quality and the coolness of the original game book it does impact long term play-ability and affordability. And I have to mention this so that completely new players have a heads up, and can look for the books that have the most content and do not end up paying multiple times.

Ok so I have ranted and rambled lets see what I see by the numbers…

Overall Fluff 5/5 – Ok so there is little back story, and little follow through in setting up a world in the core book. However the style, the art, the look of the overall publication. This, this is just… dang…

Overall Crunch 4/5 – There is a lot of good stuff in the rules. They are well laid out and easy to follow. If you are coming from D&D 3.0 or 3.5 it should take you all of fifteen minutes to convert over. I have taught new players with this book in under two hours. And that is new to gaming. Not just new to the game. There is a bit of editing error… but for that I am only going to take away a point. It is more aesthetically displeasing that really screwing with your enjoyment and how well you can understand things.

Overall Mod 5/5 – It was made to be modded. I have used D&D Basic modules, AD&D both editions and 3.0/3.5 materials and modded them to Pathfinder with little effort. So the modding goes all ways.

Overall Fun 4/5 – Ok so this may seem a little short on score, but I have to say my overall fun was marred badly by their publication tactics and an overall deterioration of quality the further you get from the original product. When the rules first came out it was a 5/5, no questions asked. But with current eyes and experience I cant feel justified scoring it that high.

Total Score 18/20 – Ok so this score is pretty high. It really is worth it though I think. There are a lot of things that could be considered small flaws. And the follow though on future publications is a little… spotty… however I think in the end this really is the right score.

Ok so that is it for this week.

Play hard, play well, and have fun

Now gimme the dice I need to know how many hit dice my random hit die roller can generate.


Seasonal pains

Howdy readers…

No serious post this week. Tis the start of allergy season and I am not focusing well so I would likely ramble more than usual. Just putting this in place so that folks know the blog is alive, just covered in Kleenex this week…

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Game Review #43 – Marvel Super Heroes Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe (S)

So a while back I did a review for the main rules for this game on this post here. Since that post has tons of links to things about Marvel Comics and TSR I did not want to over do the links and repeat myself a lot so I only will be adding new links to this post. If readers think that approach sucks just let me know and I can copy over older links again later. For the moment this article will only have new links that are part of this products story.

To tell that story we need to look back to 1983 to get things started. Marvel Comics started up a series of comics book guides called The Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe.


Yeah I know you are wondering why this is going to be important to a licensed RPG product that shares the same name. Just run with it I am giving you a history lesson… a little one…

In 1985 DC Comics followed up with their own version of this kind of guide book called Who’s Who.


Also in 1985 Marvel started to publish the Deluxe Edition version of the Official Handbooks.


Ok so here is where we tie it all together. In 1986 Marvel and TSR had gotten together to print up the Advanced version of the Marvel Super Heroes role playing game. And to that point in time the adventures that had been published for the games basic version usually had all the characters the adventure was written for included inside. But what about everyone else in the Marvel Universe… So in 1988 using the format of the Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe Deluxe Edition, TSR started publishing a complete set of the Handbook Characters. It was a truly epic idea. And they worked rather hard to keep not only the feel of the Deluxe Edition handbook, but make everything they could game relevant.


Ok do you get it now… see where I was going with the pics and stuff…. heh… see I even kept things all around the same issues so that I could use Cap… sigh… ok yeah its obvious…

The main competition in the Mayfair Games DC Heroes game did not try anything this epic to keep people interested in the game, but later licenses did try to put at least rouges galleries together.

The books that were published by TSR had a large number of characters per book. They were also designed (look closely at the pic of Cap’s character sheet above) to be placed in binders. You did have to tear the book apart to be able to put everything in binders. But there was a reason behind their method of doing things that way. It was because as Updates came out to the Handbook in Marvel, TSR would be putting out updates at the same time. The game updates were designed so that if you did pull everything apart and put the sheets together in binders you could keep every character in alphabetical order and keep updated characters together so you would have different versions in the same place and not have to go hunting.

The anal retentive part of me thought that this was a great idea and so when I did finally start to collect the books I was right into binders with them. That was when I found the first down side. The holes for the binder clasps did not match up from book to book. And some of the perforations to break the books down into their pages are so close to the binder holes you cannot expect the holes to actually be intact enough to work all the time. Now then I have seen this change book to book and not all copies of the same issue have the same problem. So you will be really hit or miss.

The second flaw that I have with the books is that they really pushed to get all of this material out as soon as they could and so converting characters from one medium to another can leave some pretty serious issues in translation. Considering the original handbooks listed things like strength levels with statements like “Has the strength of a human who engages in moderate regular exercise” how do you translate that into game stats. And with the FASERIP (see the other article on this game system for a better look at that acronym) system for stats that statement can give you a fairly broad range of physical strength. That combined with other challenges in translation means that there will be a percentage of characters that do not match up with someones point of view. A few characters I really like just seem so wrong in their stats, but their powers work well, or the other way around. But I have found no character that I would say is 100% wrong.

Anyone taking a look at this product today will also have to remember that these are stats for the characters at the time of publication. Many of them have changed and grown, so you cannot really reference todays characters as being 100% the same as they were when these were published, but they should give you a great start.

So lets take a look at the numbers…

Overall Fluff 4/5 – In some ways these books can be seen as all fluff. Backgrounds and art along with character sheets to get you in the game with your favorite Marvel characters. My biggest issue with the fluff is that I would have loved to see even a little more art.

Overall Crunch 4/5 – The biggest benefit that I got from these books was how to combine some of the more… poorly defined powers in the game together to create effects that really fit the characters. For me that insight into the rules really helped me play the game better.

Overall Mod 3/5 – I am giving this a 3 because I promise you there will be characters you have to mod to fit your view of them. Cant make everyone happy I know. So just taking that into account.

Overall Fun 4/5 – Ok so only a four on the score here because of the physical flaws in the books I got and for the number of characters I have to mod up to fit my view of them. Still it is a fun system, and I think it is really cool that they took the handbooks and converted them like this as directly as possible.

Total Score 15/20 – I think my reasons stand for themselves. If you take a look at the original product I scored this supplement higher. Maybe it is the geek nostalgia but who can tell. 🙂

Hope everyone out there is having a great time and playing hard.

Now gimme the dice, I need to see which version of Cap had the best shield….


Tales from the Game Table – Draw your swords!

So back in the day when Dark Sun was just being published and Ravenloft had recently become more than just a module regarding a castle I was with a game group that most folks should know from at least one point in their game lives. We had the Chemical Gamer who could explain everything on at least a beer. We had the Faithful Sidekick who joined the group to follow another. We had the Eating Machine… dont touch his snacks. And we had others… But most of all… we had Rouse.

Now then Mr Rouse was not a Chemical Gamer, nor was he an Eating Machine… He was Rouse. There may be many other stories here about him. But while you laugh please remember that everyone in the group loved playing with this guy. He was always enthusiastic and happy to play, he would try hard, and quite frankly sometimes we took advantage of his innocence and desire to be part of the team as the adventure was going on. He could also be the most bull headed member of the party… I think if I told you the reincarnation story you might get the point on that trait….

But this is about a maneuver that Rouse pulled three times. Twice in one night and then again in a session a couple weeks later… it stuck after that one.

Anyway Rouse was playing a Fighter. And before you can wonder about the equipment, yeah the game was a bit Monty Haul but that was part of the fun for us at the time. The game was more about having fun than telling in depth stories and deep role playing. So anyway Rouse had picked up two swords. One was “Of Sharpness” and the other was “Vorpal”. For long time players you may be seeing where this is going already…

Anyway Rouse was very keen on his fighter looking very cool and so he had these blades strapped to his back in the classic X format.

After a couple of fights we got curious about how he was using them… and so at the start of the next fight the question was raised “How are you drawing those swords Rouse?”

In reply he crossed his arms in front of himself and mimed pulling both blades forward at the same time in a manner that would surely not end well with blades that powerful on his back.

He was made to roll an attack on himself and was shocked when he rolled a critical hit.

You guessed it.. instant decapitation.

Ok so the first time was played for laughs and we did not enforce anything in the game. However an hour or so later we get into another fight and “Rouse how are you drawing the blades?”

He mimed the same thing again and looked shocked as he realized just what he had done. Without being asked he rolled an attack against himself… double crit. The decapitation was enforced that time. Everyone including Rouse got a bit of a laugh out of it.

We let it go for a while… no one bothered him since he go the character resurrected and all was good. Until about three months later…

“Rouse how are you drawing those swords?”

Third time…yeah… here we go again…

The thing that pissed Rouse off the most at that point though was that he only seemed to roll critical hits when he was attacking himself.

He decided to play a wizard for a while after that. Only used a staff too. We did drop a Staff of Sharpness into the game… he destroyed it.

Anyway… hope that got you all a bit of a laugh.

Stay safe out there in the late season snows.

Now gimme the dice, I gotta see how many critical hits I can get in an hour…


World Building 306 – Power level is how high?

So I know to some this question is going to be coming rather late… to a few it may seem a bit early. But there is a reason I leave the question of power level to this point.

In 30X and 301 I mentioned power levels, what a game engine can support and what sort of flavors it can create in a game. In 304-305 I mentioned how the level of power can influence the perceptions of the world in general toward the individuals that have power. But setting the power level itself… I wanted to wait  to discuss that until this point so that it is something that is brewing in your mind and may already seem obvious.

However there is a BIG difference between the level of power in the world overall, and the level of power that is wielded by the PC’s and your main villains. Or at least there can be.

If you look at what Marvel Comics had been doing with the X-men before the series got to the House of M and Decimation story lines you see that the majority of the Mutants in the Marvel Comics universe are very low powered or may just seem like they look like non-standard humans. Where as the X-men themselves are mid to high level powered mutants. And most of their enemies are right there with them. And the very lowest power tiered mutants kinda feel like they got screwed over by the genetic lottery that gives out powers. However it is the powerhouses that get the press. And so everyone who is a mutant gets treated as if they could be that big of a threat.

After those events you ended up with the really big powerhouses being left and so the threat of the high power to everyday normal people was even more visible.

When I put out hints and ideas about power in the previous sections those posts should have been getting the idea in your head about the overall power level in the world at large. This section though is to think about your game specifically in regards to how much power the players have and how big their bad guys are in comparison. Because the power level that the world is perceived to have by the average every day person, is how they are going to be judged.

I mean lets take a look at another couple of examples. Take the Tick. On average in this world super-humans have such low power levels that they are taken to be a joke by most of the world. Occasionally they do stop a really big bad guy but it is kinda rare. Someone with the actual power level of the Tick is rare, and so very few individuals know how to deal with something on his scale.

TMNT is another one to look at comparatively. The turtles themselves and the villains they most often face are fairly low powered. But they exist in a world where there are Superman level heroes and villains. At least in the original comic books. So until they become famous the majority of their activities fall under the radar of the press. Or they get mixed in with reports of gang wars and the like.

I bring all these versions together to try and make the example that even though a world may have a certain power level overall, your game, your players, and your villains, do NOT have to be at the world power level. You can be way above or below the standard. You can pretty much do anything you like. You just need to remember to take the world level into account.

I have found in the past that playing with characters above the average for the world ends up quickly creating an Avengers / Justice League kind of environment. Where the characters start to see themselves above the rest of the world and either need to save it or guide it, or if they go outside the law it can get a bit like the 1980s X-men where they try to save the world in spite of itself.

I have also found that in playing with characters below the average for the world you end up with a TMNT or Sleeper kind of game. Where, while the action is important, out thinking the enemy and role-play is more important than power. Also in this kind of environment the Good v Evil slider seems to slip a lot easier.

Playing at power level for the environment seems mostly like Legion of Superheroes. That is because there is a high level of technology everywhere that can do many of the things that supers can do. Not always at the same level, but it comes close a lot of the time. However the heroes come up with innovative ways to apply their powers that take them outside the more rigid thinking of the people relying on technology.

So there are a ton of ways to do whatever you might like to do. And every one of them comes with a unique feel to for the players. Especially considering that if you are building a world from scratch then you can populate it how you see fit. Power or de-power it how you like.

To go back to the world I am building lets see it by the sessions…

  • 301 – Origin of Power – A cosmic/celestial event causes mutations. Also technology.
  • 302 – Which Earth – Our earth
  • 303 – Timeline – Slightly in the future. So that things like cybernetics and power armor could be possible.
  • 304 – Percent of power – 1 / 25000 have mutation. Specific tech that could be called super powers is more common.
  • 305 – Perception of power – Mutants are the new target of fear and racism, Tech characters are seen as heroes.
  • 306 – Power level – World – Mutants vary but low power is more common, and that does mean power, all mutants have something extra. Tech is fairly standard and can make one man equal to about a Main Battle Tank. Game – Mutants will be on the higher end but not the top. Tech characters will have unique toys that go well past the current standards.

So you see how my world is shaping up. How is your own doing?

And as always remember, this whole thing is my suggestion, if you dont like doing it this way then dont 🙂

Peace to all the gamers our there and I hope that no mater where in the world you are you are having fun and staying safe.

Now gimme the dice, I need to roll up a random power level to see how extreme things can get.



Game Review #39 – James Bond 007

Welcome to the thick of the holiday season readers. As such I wanted to give you the gift of classic games. I also want to give you a warning that with a licensed property like James Bond there will be words used and things that you can infer that will make this seem more of a PG13 review if not R. Just in the next few sentences I will be referencing a James Bond Movie title from 1983 that has a history of spurring the immature to laughter and the mature to going… really… you named it that…

James Bond 007 by Victory Games seemed to be one of those games that was in the right place at the right time. Octopussy the thirteenth James Bond movie had just come out. The franchise was stronger than it had ever been. Roger Moore was, at the time, the only James bond that I knew. I was greatly shamed to later learn how much better Sean Connery had been in the role and had to move Moore to #2 on my all time Bond list.

It would not be until 1991 that I found this game even though it was published in 1983. Completely out of print, and if you take a look at the link above for Victory Games… you may see why. Back in the 80’s role playing games were getting out from under the “ohhh this is Satanic… worshiping demons… blah blah blah… my kids are doing something I don’t understand so I have to panic and over react and get all sorts of people to scream because I am prejudiced and stupid…” period that seems to come up with every generation and their forms of entertainment… (Please note I will now step away from my soap boxes before this goes from being a review to being a rant about generation vs generation stupidity). So in getting away from all that you had game makers looking for ways to pull in role-playing games. Make new ones. And license properties that would draw in new and experienced gamers. And of course this lead to companies that had the money, or could fake it, buying up anyone who would sell to them so that they could add their properties to their libraries, or cancel them over all and strip the talent. Guess where Victory Games was in all that… or read the link above and take note that the article in Wiki it takes you to is about Avalon Hill Games and Victory is a sub section of their story.

Oh and just to keep a flashback going, I found this game at the one hobby story I will always have big props and respect for, even though now they are gone… American Eagle Games and Hobbies. They dont have a wiki page I can refer you to, however Piazo apparently does and they bought up all of the stock that American Eagles had when they went out of business. Sigh… I miss that shop…

Anyway, still a James Bond fan in 1991, and I thought what the heck. I have played Top Secret and a few other spy games. Lets give this a shot.

Now then I have to say I was really impressed with all of the little notes, flavor text and even the slightly mocking “technical” drawings (yeah look at the quotes… technical my ass) for gear and vehicles. Add movie quotes, text from the novels and it is a fanboys… well it is not a fanboy paradise but it spurs you on. There are no photos from the movies and the character drawings in it are jusssst far enough off that I doubt they had to pay any actors royalties from the game sales. Considering all the fun I was having at the time with Shadowrun supplemental products and the quotes from ‘users’ in their weapons guides this book just added to my love of those sorts of flavor bits. It was not until later that I realized that the idea may have been done better, and definitely done sooner with this game and that Shadowrun was just imitating their betters.

As I broke the game down I found that while there were rules elements that I loved, there were a lot of gaps that left me feeling like they should have tried harder to get good rules and spent less time on the awesome fluff. Things that I liked included in the point based character generation you have a factor called Fame. You actually pay points for your characters height and weight and looks. The more “average” you are the more it costs and the lower your Fame. Play it cheap and you stand out so much it makes you much more easy to recognize. Strangely enough it does the same with rank. If you are a lowly agent your Fame stays low. If you are playing games at the ’00x’ level then your Fame is higher… sure you get more points to spend on making your character for that level, but you risk so much being so much more famous.

One of the other elements that I really liked was the difficulty bidding system for skill and action use. So the engine takes a stat plus skill to give you a total. Then you get a multiplier to set your difficulty level. So if your character is trying to drive, stat plus skill equals say eight. Average difficulty is a times five (x5) and so 8×5=40 you need to roll under 40 on a d100 to succeed. Now then if you are in a challenging moment and you need the success to really mean something you can bid your difficulty higher with the game master to get more out of what you are doing. So if the game master says the difficulty is x5, but you want to not only drive but get away with style you might offer to bump the difficulty to a x3 and now you would have to roll under a 24 on a d100 with that skill plus stat total of 8. Difficulty in the game engine runs from a x1/2 (hard as hell to pull off) up to a x10 (why are you even rolling)

Unfortunately they, in my opinion, blew it when they set up the combat section because they would do things like rating everything in a code for damage instead of just telling us how many dice to roll or anything like that. You end up tracing code versus code and you have a series of tables that unless you practice a lot with it you would end up confusing Gygax himself even after he created his falling tables for D&D. They then blew it further by listing things like anti tank guns and telling you that they were not giving them a damage code because that goes outside of the scope of the game. I can see setting expectations, but don’t go an list a piece of equipment only to then tell me I can’t get stats for it because it just does too much damage for you to feel like having it in the game. They ended up pulling the same kind of stunts a few times and that just ended up feeling like it was sloppy work to me.

Now then I know I said I was never going to do a bad review. And yes I do still have this game in my collection. And there is a reason for it. Things like the difficulty mechanic and the Fame tool were inspired. The level of detail in their fluff is just mind-blowing. Even without awesome art, the sheer flavor you get from it, if you are a James Bond fan is off the hook. Sure the game is hard to mod, but you can still steal from it freely to enhance your other games. You can take all of the reference materials and put them into another setting. You can even take the details they give for both MI6 and Tarot as awesome examples of how to build secret organizations. No one has beat them in that regard yet. So in the end, much like GURPS, this is a game I wont play, but I respect it a lot. I love the fluff and I steal from it liberally.

Overall Fluff 5/5 – I think I have gushed about it enough but this one is a tough call. With only mediocre art I am tempted to say its a four and not a five. But the volume of fluff and the use of it is just too good to say it only rates a four.

Overall Crunch 3/5 – There are some rules that I love and am happy to steal but overall the game mechanics, especially in combat are just not user friendly. The level of detail you can get in the rules for just about anything you want to describe is bloody impressive.

Overall Mod 1/5 – Just… no.. you cant.. well ok, I cant but if you can… maybe you can salvage more than I could out of the game.

Overall Fun 3/5 – Fun to steal from, fun to abuse, fun for fans. Yes its fun… but not fully fun.

Total Score 12/20 – Not a great score but I think I gave you enough why up above that I dont need to dive into a serious recap here.

All right then folks, thats it for now.

Game on, have fun and happy holidays

Now gimme the dice… I need to see if I can use the tables, tables, to retable the table of tables, table on that last table.


Another lack of post week

Yup we are back to it again.

I hope next week to start the World Building 300 series… Supers.

But we shall have to see.

Peace out and game on folks.

Gimme the dice… I dont need to roll anything at all I just want the dice 🙂


Game Review #37 – Cthulhu Tech (G) Catalyst Games edition

So on the heels of Should it Blend I wanted to bring in a very blended genre game.

Two great tastes that taste??? Well that will be up to you.

So the setting for Cthulhu Tech is a blend of Anime Sci Fi and Cthulhu horror. Strangely anime seems to go with anything, and so does Cthulhu. And the writers for this setting really jumped on the idea. In some ways it reminds me of the epic setting for Macross/Robotech. But instead of Robotech Masters or Invid you have the MiGo running the show in the background. You also get a bit of Guyver and Neon Genesis Evangilon or any of the other mecha anime where there is actually a living mind behind the workings of the mecha. Amazingly they blend it well.

I have to say that the setting itself, the fiction and art around it, all make this a rather compelling idea. I can really see why the authors would not give up until they could get the game published in a full color format. And as that hint would suggest the creators had a bit of a challenge getting the book off the ground. Read the wiki for more details but this games publication is a story of persistence in regards to the creators. In that regard alone I think that it should be in the library of anyone who has any interest in anime or Cthulhu so that the authors can keep working, and that other small press publishers will see that taking a risk and pushing for your vision can pay off.

The game mechanics in this engine are a little unconventional and yet completely basic at the same time. Roll dice. Get high numbers. Beat difficulty. Ok so that is the basic side. Now to the unconventional. You have options as to how to get the high number. To use an extreme example lets say you roll six dice. Your dice come up as  4,5,6,7,7, and 8. Now then you could take the 8 as it is your highest die. You could also add together the 7’s for a total of 14. Or since you rolled more than three dice you could add the 4,5, and 6 as they form a straight for a total of 15. So you have many options to win a die roll. You also have to fear 1’s as they cause bad things… more 1’s means more bad… so yeah… if you had rolled those six dice and they all came up ones… I would be thinking about creating a new character… even if the roll was for getting out of bed in the morning. Personally I like the versatility in this kind of dice mechanic. It can skew probability in the favor of the die roller, but considering that the game is lethal in its challenge level… yeah dying is easy. I think this compensates well. That and it build hope which can be crushed and that adds to the Cthulhu factor.

Speaking of the Cthulhu factor, lets talk about bad guys. There are actually a lot of them in this setting. And they all want to either take over or destroy the world. So you have epic baddies. You have the Mi-Go with their manufactured humanoids (who join the humans, well the humanoids do anyway) and giant space mecha and weapons. You have the underwater servants of Cthulhu who have both mechs and magic. You have the evil cults that have magic and madness. And then you have the evil corporation/cult that is using bio-demonic power suits to try and run the show behind the scenes. Now then what is really interesting is that while this sounds like a lot of fronts to be fighting on (and if you have to do them all it really is) but depending on the origin of your characters and the place you are joining into the worlds story from you will only usually go against one or two of them. But you CAN get into all of them. This is another one of those things that feeds into the Cthulhu factor. The more your character knows about all the fights going on, all the foes around them, the harder it can be to go on, because it all seems so hopeless.

The game engine for character generation is another one of those that seems a little blended. You have an occupation, so there is a template to start with. However you have points to build with so you have a lot of control over what goes where and why. You are also not limited to your template in your skill selection. So you have the ability to be much more than your job title would suggest. This part of the system to me is a little clunky but not something that cant be overcome by the calm and judicious application of a couple a house rules. You wont need to mod the rules, just compensate a little.

Combat is also a little clunky, but that stems more from the dice resolution system. It can make choosing your roll a little difficult, and it really makes you feat rolling 1’s. All those positives I mentioned in the dice mechanic can… well fall apart on you in combat quickly. And honestly I think they did that on purpose… again to strip hope and once again heighten the Cthulhu factor.

So how do I distribute the numbers on this one…

Overall Fluff 5/5 – The detail in the background, the fiction, and the art in this game all fuel the setting in a way that few publishers even think about achieving. I can not put it much better than that.

Overall Crunch 3/5 – The rules are fine, but you will need to make a few tweaks to make it really run well. The challenges are not insurmountable by any means, and some of the issues with the rules actually help fuel the dark side of the game if you play it straight.

Overall Mod 3/5 – Not too hard to mod. But you have to be careful of modding too far otherwise you will blow the aesthetic of the game. Usually I would not mind even a bad game engine that I can fix, but this is a pretty good game engine that is not easy to tweak without paying for it elsewhere in the game. If that was on purpose the authors have a better grip on that whole Cthulhu factor than I would have imagined.

Overall Fun 5/5 – Ok so for me it is hard not to enjoy these two flavors on their own. The rules work, the options are awesome, and there are so many story elements that you can make an epic campaign that will blow the minds of many. This sort of game is fun for me as a player or a GM.

Total Score 16/20 – Not a bad overall score at all. Honestly this game is one I rarely get to play, and the only thing that can put a damper in my playing of it is a bad group of players.

So there you have it. Please though as always take a look at it on your own and see if its right for you. Dont just take my word for it. Make up your own mind.

Ok so gimme the dice… I have four dice to make breakfast and… oh dear.. .. .. .. .. I did not know we had He Who Should Not Be Named cereal with the Yellow King surprise inside…

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