Monday, March 31, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 31

"What out-of-print RPG would you most like to see back in publication? Why?"

 Because I don't want to pay $100 on a hardcover sourcebook for this game.
I've already done a semi-retrospective of this March Madness, and honestly I can't think of a sourcebook I'd really like to have back in 'publication,' because DriveThruRPG exists and they sell .pdfs of everything I can literally think of. I mean, Mouseguard goes for $20 bucks on their site. I think I just want a hard copy of the book because I like having them.
Zing, I know.
Regardless, I've had a really great time blogging this month about what I'm just realizing is a sore lack of a spanning gaming experience, and am looking forward to rectifying this for what will hopefully be a yearly 31-day challenge.
Next month, look forward to me possibly following through on at least campaign planning for Magic World and beginning conversions for Dark Tower Pendragon (Working title Arthur Eld: The Dark Tower).
Thanks for reading, I'm sure some of my posts were likely spastic and incoherent, but I appreciate all the input!
See you next month!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 30

"Which non-D&D supplemental product should everyone know about? Give details."

"Cat-thulhu" by Gamegeneral
Now here's a game I can talk about, and that I want to talk about, and holy shit people Lovecraft loved cats so much his name has love in it and someone decided to do something about it and I'm totally not talking about the GenCon Kickstarter I totally backed and THIS IS THE INTERNET PEOPLE SO GET EXCITED ABOUT CATS!
Ha, I bet it would get really annoying if I kept writing in that voice for the rest of this post.
In all seriousness, when I'm talking Cathulhu, I'm referring to the Worlds of Cthulhu #4, which introduced CharGen rules for creating feline investigators. The mechanics of doing so are super-involved, and focus on what breed you are, as well as what adorable tricks you may have up your sleeve.
And Wash is a skill. I've homebrewed a rule, thanks to my buddy Scott, that if a catvestigator (heh) fails his roll to wash, he loses Sanity, now called Sentience.

Heh. Catvestigator, get it? Well, when one loses Sentience, they start experiencing adorable cat problems, like toilet troubles, upset tummies, or spontaneous spraying. If they lose all their sentience, cats go feral.
They can also cast spells. Cat sorcerers!

Dammit Google not that kind of cat sorcerer!
Seriously, though. Find a copy of Worlds of Cthulhu #4 and run this. It's totally worth every bit of adorability your players will create in-game.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 29

"What OSR product have you enjoyed most? Explain how."
You know I had to Google OSR for this question? I really hope it means Old School Renaissance, because I have no experience with Old School Roleplaying. I have barely any experience with Old School Renaissance because, well, I guess I tend to play mainstreamish stuff.
The only thing that really comes close is Dungeon World, which I've played once, and the memories are a little hazy. I remember having fun, and rolling dice, and meeting a new player to our group. He took the bard character: I no longer remember what I played. It's like that.
From what I do remember, most of it was the response my GM, David Larkins of The RPG Corner fame (you can find the link to his blog on the right) had to say about it, which was that the system was easy to convert with a setting he'd already either semi-created or semi-stolen to use in another game. That kind of open-endedness is fully deserving of a more intensive look.
But who am I kidding, folks? This month I've pledged myself to:
-Create a BESM setting for Valkyria Chronicles
-Start running Magic World, creating a world setting for that
-Convert AD&D Dark Sun to BRP
-Alter Pendragon to fit the Dark Tower
-Run Shadowrun 5.0 this calendar year
-Invent a new Boardgame system to bridge the gap between Tabletop RPGs and Board games (a la HeroQuest)
-Run Lady Blackbird
-Find a way to run Redwall
-And possibly jump back into a few sessions of D&D 4e so I can revisit my earlier thoughts on the system.
All this, with a full-time job and a serious videogame addiction (Goddamnit Diablo III). You can see where I'm finally starting to realize exactly what I've put on my plate for the forthcoming calendar year. I'm also likely going to receive, thanks to Kickstarter, Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition, Horror on the Orient Express, Ryuutama, Punktown, and Cathulhu this year. Possible something else. And expand wargaming in Santa Fe.
Jesus christ have I gone INSANE?

Friday, March 28, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 28

"What free RPG did you enjoy most? Give details."

A few years ago, when I was freshly off the car trip to Santa Fe, had only made a few gaming friends, and really only knew the extent of Call of Cthulhu, D&D 4e, and Pathfinder, I went to Bubonicon in Albuquerque, NM. There, I encountered various authors on self-funded book tours, saw a shitload of steampunk cosplay, and sat at a table for a half hour and played Lady Blackbird.
(Yay, hyperlinks!)
What I recollect from those halcyon thirty minutes of gaming was a game plot that sounded like the love child of Star Wars Episode IV and Space Balls, and the complete and utter open-endedness of the game. There was nothing plotted out in it, either story or geographically. The included rules specifically state not to plan anything, but to ask your players questions, and let them answer them for you. So I found myself, along with a couple friends, manufacturing an escape from an enemy airship, occasionally rolling dice from a pool mechanic that borders on genius in its approachability, and generally having a great time roleplaying as a varied cast of characters with their own secret motivations and dreams.
My only regret is that the game was so brief (much like this post), but hope springs eternal because the rules are still there, still free, and have options for character advancement, so someday I may find myself in the GM's chair asking my players exactly how they intend to get Lady Blackbird to her wedding in time.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

BRP Releases Advanced Sorcery

And so BRP have released their Advanced Sorcery supplement for their Magic World sourcebook, my current bedside reading material.
I've auto-purchased this, and hope to receive it this coming Monday, which will coincide splendidly with the conclusion of my March Madness OSR blog posts. I'm sure you've all (all one of you) enjoyed reading my thoughts on the various dozen or so systems I have experience either playing or running, so perhaps this is an appropriate place to announce that my project for April will be creating a new original setting for running BRP Magic World with these new supplemental rules.
I'm very excited to see what new pieces of lore and sorcery I can discover by delving through this particular grimoire, and how that information will inform to my worldbuilding.
Time will tell.
(Oooh...time magic. That's an interesting concept.)

March Madness OGBC: Day 27

"What RPG based on an IP did you enjoy most? Give details."

To be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of the Cortex system. It feels a lot like a more complicated take on Savage World's dice-increase-by-size mechanics, while tacking on a significant series of ancillary rules that require an encyclopedic knowledge of the ruleset to run anything smoothly.
That said, the best time I've ever had running an existing IP game was with Serenity RPG, and it's all because of the fanbase.
Joss Whedon's Firefly/Serenity space cowboy universe is, well, almost universally hailed as one of the great original concepts for television in the last decade, and memes lamenting its cancellation still propagate my facebook feed to this day. These are dedicated people, full of fervor and excitement for the setting, and more than willing to do the legwork to feel right at home there. By luck, or pure social statistics, I have a goodly amount of friends who are a few wardrobe pieces away from being browncoats themselves, and they were more than willing to jump into a quickly written adventure that I wrote to take place about a year after the events of Serenity.
I think it's a testament to the 'verse's original look and feel that each player knew how their character would fit into the setting, and it's really rare in most games to know that everyone has a cohesive view of how everything works. Not having to run through an introduction to the basic universe details, or stop every few minutes when a new piece of terminology comes up, even being able to explain new concepts by referring to knowledge players already had by experiencing the show...well, if that's not a windfall for a GM I really don't know what is.
It's one of my regrets as a GM that my Serenity RPG campaign only lasted three or four sessions; the players really enjoyed it, I enjoyed writing for it. Perhaps I can return to it sometime in the future, but then again, there are a lot of things I need to return to in the future, and Diablo III isn't helping.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 26

"What IP (=Intellectual Property, be it book, movie or comic) that doesn’t have an RPG deserves it? Why?"
Oh, hey there childhood, fancy meeting you here.

"Redwall Tribute" by Simbaro
First of all, I'm aware that Mouseguard is a thing. It doesn't have otters.
I started reading the Redwall series in elementary school, and didn't really stop until sometime after I graduated from high school. I fell out of the loop with the series and universe, taking up alternate fantasy authors like Robert Jordan, George R.R. Martin, and David Eddings. Reading through their works. But while just about any RPG setting can be converted to accommodate human characters in fantasy settings (And the Wheel of Time already got a D&D 3.0 sourcebook), the only anthropomorphic animal setting I've heard about reliably is Mouseguard, which currently sits at around $100- used- on Amazon.
And it doesn't have otters.
The Redwall universe has such a unique and interesting setting, with characters juxtaposed from all types of fantasy tropes. And because of the anachronistic style of product release for the series, there is a varied and plentiful history to work from, spanning generations (which, in animal years, might just mean that it encompasses like two decades). Regardless, the loving way that Jacques tells his stories, infusing them with mystery, danger, and camaraderie, really strikes home with me as a GM, and the solid cultures created for each segment of the animal kingdom means that I don't have to guess as to how I'm going to run NPCs, because I have a series of manuals to how each species acts, where they live, and what their diet consists of.
Honestly, I'm surprised someone hasn't homebrewed this already.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 25

"Which game has the sleekest, most modern engine?"
I've talked before, somewhat maliciously and long-windedly, about how D&D 4e strove to adopt aspects of wargaming and by doing so, court some long-standing members of that genre. I also mentioned that the plan failed pretty miserably, the system being a schizophrenic Frankenstein's monster of MMORPG and boardgame elements.
Now time to talk about a game that used a similar strategy and actually succeeded, at least in the gameplay mechanics. Only time will tell if the system takes off commercially; but personally, I really hope it does.

It's Iron Kingdoms again!
As I've likely mentioned before, Iron Kingdoms began as a D&D setting, then evolved into the wargame Warmachine, which became pretty popular, and inspired them to return to the RPG format. Thus: Iron Kingdoms RPG.
While I find that the system prevails over D&D 4e in many places, I'm going to focus on  Combat and Roleplaying.
While 4e had the tendency to grind to a halt due to the morass of class powers and level glut, with each combat taking anywhere from one to three hours to complete while feeling like they were taking twice as long to complete (especially with larger parties), Iron Kingdoms feels swift and streamlined, utilizing the same engine as WarmaHordes, which has proved to be a popular and easy system to learn and use.
Tracking abilities can occasionally be a hassle when you first acquire them, but each is fully defined and becomes second nature once you've acclimated to it, and you're never inundated with new skills or abilities: each come at a steady pace, even slowing down once you reach higher experience levels. And if you want, you never really have to choose new abilities, there are always alternate options when leveling. The option to determine your character's battle complexity is a fantastic way to ensure even novice gamers can pick up and play.
Obviously, in just about any roleplaying game you have the ability to, well, play a role, and there are indeed some systems that have mechanics that actively encourage this by providing a mechanical means by which to assist in player decision making, or even in creating in-game backstory plot points that can be utilized by the GM for developing stories.
Iron Kingdoms has a tiny bit of the latter, with your characters' careers somewhat defining how they've spent their lives up to this point. However, what I'm really appreciative about the system is that it doesn't have barriers to roleplaying. Experience is doled out for player action, not for killing enemies. For a RPG based off a wargame, this is a fantastic step for Privateer Press to take, utilizing a storytelling experience reward system, rather than something combat or loot-based. This allows players who abhor combat encounters to improve by resolving intrigues or investigating mysteries, rather than looking for the next piƱata to beat xp out of.
Iron Kingdoms is a fantastic example of a gaming system that has evolved beyond its roots, and I look forward to every time I can sit at a table and play it.

Monday, March 24, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 24

"What is the most broken game that you tried and loved to play, warts and all?"
Well, because I shat all over D&D yesterday, I may as well give some good memories of the early D&D Next Playtest; specifically the first release. Things were unbalanced, and not necessarily worded correctly, but the feel was classic, and that may have contributed to my enjoyment.
Those that remember, as it was really only a couple years ago now, when Wizards announced they were going to be completely open with the next iteration of D&D, inviting beta testers to take the game through its beginning hurdles to something releasable. The first playtest release for the game had the four core races (Human, Elf, Dwarf, Halfling), as well as the four core classes (Fighter, Wizard, Rogue, Cleric). It was iconic, and super basic, and filled with the possibilities of a genre renaissance.
What I remember most about the ruleset wasn't necessarily how certain parts of the release didn't really mesh with others, or that certain classes were hideously overpowered; rather, I remember that instead of getting tied up with rules lawyering, the group I played with just sort of had fun with the setting, using character sheets and rules as very loose guidelines for play.
We traversed through the Caves of Chaos, fought kobolds, an owlbear, and human death cultists, somehow found our way into a nuclear silo, and our wizard detonated it...somehow? I think resonances were involved, or something. Regardless, it was pulpy, and fun, and fast paced, and I couldn't wait to run my own game in it, which turned out to be super easy and fun.
And then they kept releasing stuff, and I got less excited. Man this story is getting depressing.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 23

"What is the most broken game that you tried and were unable to play?"
Oh Dungeons & amusing that you're here, and today, and I'm smiling.

I suppose I should qualify this by saying that it was one game of D&D that I found too broken to play, and the reason behind its brokenness had nothing to do with the system's mechanics.
It more or less had to do with the idiotic way the GM tried to implement every D&D system in existence for a new gaming store demo. And such was my introduction to Santa Fe's only gaming store. It's also one of the reasons I've never gone back.
Things began with my early arrival, eagerly awaiting CharGen. I'd signed up on their Facebook page to play, but noted that they hadn't provided a system for their game of D&D. Therefore, I took the liberty of printing out 3.5, 4.0, and Pathfinder character sheets. You know, just in case. Imagine my befuddlement upon appearing and being told that the game was being run for all systems of D&D.
Note that this statement is utterly different than saying that the system didn't matter for the game being run.
The resultant party consisted of a 4e rogue, a Pathfinder monk, and I think a 2e fighter? I must have blocked out most of the game, or simply no longer remember, because I left the table after a half hour trying to reconcile the varying types of skill challenges each player was using against the next. There was no plot. There was a tavern, I think. And an arrest.
And the rogue was a dickbag, which is actually pretty standard for a prepubescent playing a rogue.
So yeah, utterly broken game...fucking Realm.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 22

"What is the most gonzo kitchen sink RPG you ever played? How was it?"
Well, I suppose it's time to talk about Monsters and Other Childish Things.
To be fair, the entire kitchen sink doesn't really fall into the core book of Monsters Etc., but in Ross Payton's Road Trip, it definitely starts plucking from a variety of inspirations. Whether pulling liberally from Greek mythology, classic Orwellian literature, Saban after-school entertainment, summer blockbusters, or our utter obsession with Zombie culture, Road Trip takes you on a nostalgia trip through what is, essentially, a Generation Y-er's childhood.
To be honest, I'm not exactly sure how to run Monsters, Etc., because I'm concerned that the proper way might be exactly how I don't like to GM, with players power-tripping over the entirety of the plot. Of course, there is the likelihood that in their power trip they make things worse, but I suppose in my mind, the concept of monsters existing means that PCs should be nigh-powerless.
It's a Call of Cthulhu mentality, and I'm not ashamed of it.
My first session with Monsters wasn't exactly my best introduction to the system, either, as I had easily seven people at my gaming table, all new to the One Roll Engine, and each having their own monster, courteously (or maliciously) run by the person to their left. This left me with essentially fourteen PCs that were acting like children because, well, they were playing children. I was utterly relieved when that game ended, and I don't think I'll ever go back.
I really don't think I'm cut out to be a parent.

Friday, March 21, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 21

"What is the narrowest genre RPG you have ever played? How was it?"
Yeah, definitely Pendragon. A genre of RPG that exists entirely to run games set in Arthurian legend, where if you're not a knight (or at least landed), your life is hella boring, meaning you're an NPC.
And god is it fun.
There's always that adage about how restrictions having the ability to enhance creativity, and man does that ever work with Pendragon. Everything from rolling randomly to see how your family have interacted with the last hundred years of backstory, to creating your own coat of arms, to roleplaying within the strictures of the trait/passion system, if you have a player who doesn't exactly know 'how' to roleplay, I'd seriously suggest initiating them with Pendragon, or at least taking some of its mechanics with you to the rest of your games. And, because it's d100/d20 based, it works well with both BRP and D&D (also Pathfinder, D&D's bastard genius prodigy).
And, of course, if you're going to run Pendragon, you should totally run the Great Pendragon Campaign, which I'm totally playing in right now and you should all go and listen to it.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 20

"Which setting have you enjoyed most? Why?"
I'm vaguely curious as to whether or not my own settings can count toward my favorites. Not really curious enough to care though, because I had a hell of a good time running Dino BRP (The campaign was actually called "The Wrong Side of Everything".)
Why was it a lot of fun? Well, I tend to describe the setting as a recipe of:
1 part Serenity
1 part Jurassic Park (The Lost World, specifically)
1 part Fallout
On post-apocalyptic Earth, increased solar radiation and a new strain of influenza has resulted in the nigh-extinction of all domesticated animals. However, thanks to InGen genetically engineering fucking dinosaurs for some reason, we don't have to subsist on soy products, because apparently these 'abominations' are doing just fine in this new heat.
Of course, at least 50% of them are carriers of the dreaded new antiviral-resistant influenza, but people have to eat, and that is where Dinosaur Poachers come in.
My campaign was set in the idyllic Mexican post-apoc slum of Tetanus Falls, and my fantastic friends played a good portion of the crew of the Stork: gritty entrepreneurs set on striking it rich (or dying trying). Adventures ranged from dino hunts, to rescue missions, to contagion containment, to infiltrating underwater research bases, to a high-falutin' gambling finale on a frickin crashing airship.
Having to WorldGen the entirety of the setting wasn't so bad, it allowed me to create new diseases, alter weapons, and create a host of characters and locations my players would hear about, but never see.
Well, at least they won't see until I convert the setting to Savage Worlds because fuck that system would be perfect with this setting.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Warmachine Wednesdays: The Ironclad

There's not much one needs to say about the default Cygnar beat-stick. The Ironclad has solid hit boxes, good accuracy with melee, and a hand weapon that's capable of putting serious dents in Khador 'jacks.
Despite lacking the nigh-excessive survivability of their northern red neighbors, the Ironclad can take a few solid hits, especially when you factor in that there is really only one arm you need to be especially concerned about. Some of the best strategy that's worked for me with the Ironclad is immediately moving it into combat with the biggest 'jack in your opponent's army, or getting it entrenched with a lot of short-range targets. This negates the main problem involved with losing movement abilities and, to be honest, with the Ironclad's above-par MAT, losing its cortex isn't much of an issue, either.
Used in conjunction with jacks or casters who can inflict Knockdown on the Ironclad's target makes his tactics almost too simple. Auto-hitting with a significant bonus to damage means that almost nothing can stand against this 'jack for too long.
I'm assembling a Stormclad at the moment, for use in conjunction with some Stormblades I have yet to paint up and complete assembly on, so we'll see if this guy gets replaced or simply becomes a necessary adjunct to my lists.

March Madness OGBC: Day 19

"What is the fluffiest RPG you have played? Was it enjoyable?"
And here we are, right back at Maid RPG. As explained before, Meido, while not exactly super light on mechanics, is easily explained and played by anyone with a pair of hands, dice, and a general understanding of the words "harem anime."
And, well, it wasn't that great. The intro scenario, "Birthday Party," is kind of the exact wrong thing you want your first time players going through. It's 90% directionless, relying on players to generate plot, objectives, drama, antagonists, protagonists...
It's a sandbox, basically. But a sandbox where your players are roleplaying Japanese Anime Maids. That already rules out 90% of any target demographic, but when you compound this hurdle with a game that is, to put things amicably, essentially aimless, you have a bunch of people sitting around a table wondering why they even give a shit.
There's a million ways to make the intro scenario more interesting, so in lieu of writing any more about players dropping out of that intro game mentally, then waiting about an hour before thanking god we needed to leave before the weather hated us, I'm going to create a simple random die roll generator to make it better.
So, without further ado, here we have:
Maid RPG Intro. It's Master's Birthday, But (roll 1d6)...
1: Master Wants to Go to the Circus But is Terrified of Clowns
2: Aliens Abduct the Birthday Cake
3: A Zombie Bit the Master
4: Master is Missing (Or Did He Ever Exist to Begin With?)
5: All the Master's Guests are Assassins Hired to Kill Him
6: The Rival Master Next Door Ordered All the Jolly Jumps In Town
Welp, that looks fixed.
*drops mic*

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 18

"What is the crunchiest RPG you have played? Was it enjoyable?"

Oh man GURPS. It's rare that I'll run a game and never look back. But when it comes to the Generic Universal RolePlaying System, yeah. I'll play it, but there's no way in hell I want to dredge through the mire of all its assorted sourcebooks and add ons to get what I want to do together.
I'll even come out and admit it. When I ran GURPS, I didn't even look at the rules more than once. I winged everything after the first session, because I didn't want to deal with the crunch. Part of that may have stemmed from the fact that in my party was a player who had more experience with the system than I cared to learn.
Regardless, after I shucked the rulebook I found things to proceed smoothly enough. Players were never in any danger, of course, because I had no idea how to kill them, and I'm talking mechanically, not fluff-wise. At the same time, the campaign, which was basically a "what if all those steampunk people who dress up today actually came from somewhere real," was a pretty interesting concept piece in cooperative world-building, so I had a player who had his own personal automaton mecha, a player who didn't want to CharGen himself so I made him have unintentional superpowers, and a character that knew all the rules so she gave herself an OP sniper rifle.
And a player who dropped out after the first session because she realized she didn't like RPGs.
So yeah, it was a fun experience, but only because I ignored the crunch.
...Does this blog post even count anymore? I feel like I cheated or something.

Monday, March 17, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 17

"Which RPG has the best high tech rules? Why?"

Despite the above image reading for Shadowrun, I'm willing to pimp Interface Zero for the Savage Worlds system as well. Both have great hacking systems that incorporate aspect of the Matrix, Augmented Reality, and a dystopian worldview regarding the eventual destination of social media (Shadowrun predicting this before the advent of social media, even)
In each game, hackers/deckers 'jack in' to their respective Matrices and mess around with various systems (that, due to their worlds' interest in keeping things as automated and interconnected as possible) which perform a variety of operations, from operating streetlights to deep fryers in fast-food joints.
This concept is interesting in itself, but the crunchy depth each system goes into, whether describing the visual representation of firewalls to Intrusion Countermeasures installed in a database, or explaining how pieces of tech/custom programs interact with each other in the Matrix, is like (at least to me) taking a Comp-Sci class with no prerequisites. I'm honestly baffled by a lot of the stuff put into these, and that isn't the case with a lot of the other sci-fi games I've come across, where a spaceship is a vessel that flies in space, or a laser pistol is a handgun that shoots lasers.
It's oh so complex, but I'm hoping to crack it soon. Later, chummers.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 16

"Which RPG besides D&D has the best magic system? Give details."

Who knew I'd be talking about the Iron Kingdoms again so soon? Or maybe not so soon. This pre-posting stuff is starting to give me an anachronistic viewpoint on life. Regardless, currently my favorite magic system is utilized in Iron Kingdoms, and I favor it over D&D because it eschews the traditional concept of spell failure percentages when wearing heavy armor.
In D&D, wearing anything heavier than basically a tee shirt gave you a chance for your spell to fizzle in the casting of it, probably to prevent casters from walking around wearing plate mail. Iron Kingdoms says to hell with that and decks their Warcasters out in powered plate mail, carrying swords and guns and sledgehammers, and proceeds to beat the everloving piss out of the opposing Warcaster, who is also decked out similarly. In Iron Kingdoms, magic doesn't have to define who you are. You can be a sniper and still cast spells. You can be a warcaster and a Stormblade. This is a setting that looks at the Rule of Cool and asks what else it has up its sleeve, because while giant steam-powered robots are cool and all, what about people who want horse-drawn tanks?
There's also the lore around magic, which involves certain gods disappearing, certain races being really pissed at others and blaming them for the disappearance of their gods, and certain races who use necromancy to cross oceans and enslave entire civilizations.
So, to summarize, in Iron Kingdoms, you can use magic to cast spells, telepathically link with steam-powered automatons, infuse bullets with magic spells, and inscribe non-magical weapons and armor with slottable rune magic (or the souls of your victims, if that sort of thing's your bag, baby.)
God I love this system.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 15

"What pseudo or alternate history RPG have you enjoyed most? Why?"
You know what? I think I'm going to deviate again from standard RPGs, as I just talked about Call of Cthulhu twice, as both my favorite horror and historical tabletop RPG. Instead, it's time to go out on a limb and pitch a setting creation for my own later use.

A couple years back now, I bought the BESM (Big Eyes, Small Mouth) 2nd revised edition core ruleset, because I like anime, and I like gaming. It's been sitting on my gaming shelf since I bought it. I've read through it a bit, but haven't ever really sat down to write anything for the game, or try to run it for friends. This is obviously a travesty, as there are myriad amazing anime series that are just waiting to be plundered for their goodness.
One of those is Valkyria Chronicles, an alternate-universe take on World War II where a small, neutral, resource-rich Europan (not European) nation called Gallia must defend itself from being absorbed by a more powerful neighboring country, called the Empire. The resource, instead of petroleum, is called Ragnite, and is a kind of unobtanium, capable of being used as a fuel for tanks, an accelerant to the healing process, and a key component in weapon function.
Also, because it's an Anime, there are magical women from an ancient stock of Valkyrur that can turn blue and wreck absolutely fucking everything. Obviously, there aren't very many of them.

Converting Valkyria Chronicles to BESM solves a few innate problems with the system. First, it's a specific genre of anime. Characters created in the system have the restrictions of being soldiers, but the lore of the game allows for a multitude of types of soldiers to be created, and latter games add even more insane careers to focus on. VC1 played it relatively safe with Scouts, Shocktroopers, Lancers, Medics, Engineers, and Snipers. VC2 added Fencers and Armored Techs. VC3 upped the crazy by sticking cannons on giant swords. So, depending on your (and your players') familiarity with the series, you can be as conservative or insane as you like with the tech.
Second, it reduces a good number of character options for the system. Magic doesn't really exist in the universe, neither do psionics or superheroes. There are the Valkyrur, but those are super-rare and can easily be nixed by a prudent GM. It establishes a low power level for characters but with the knowledge that your opponents aren't going to be crazy strong either.
Lastly, being based on an existing anime property, there's already a hell of a lot of lore that isn't present in the games existing on the internet because of zealous fans putting things together or the developers releasing their notes.
With all the projects I've taken on this year, I'm hoping I won't get burnt out before attempting this one. Fingers Crossed.

Friday, March 14, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 14

"What historical or cultural RPG have you enjoyed most? Give details."
I suppose I'll have to talk about Call of Cthulhu again, as I've not really touched on any other 'historical' RPGs, and CoC's settings tend to be rooted in historical references, even dividing up different sections of the lore into the eras they take place in. There are a hell of a lot of historical settings to play in Call of Cthulhu, from Jazz Age America to Rome Empire Italy, and each offers its own unique look at how the mythos interacts with the world as well as how the world reacts to the mythos. I'll just take a quick look at my favorites.
The classic Call of Cthulhu setting takes place during Prohibition, shortly after the Great War has finished and the world is simultaneously reeling from the memory of machine gun fire while feverishly dancing the Charleston in one of the many dance clubs in the cities. Fashion exploded, and girls began rebelling against traditional Victorian dress; wearing more revealing clothing (for the time) and engaging in *gasp* casual sex. For visual and cultural reference, take a look at The Great Gatsby. Scenarios in the 1920s tend to focus on fear of the unknown, racial tensions, and a sinister explanation of the various excesses that has marked the decade, occasionally tempered by old-school book learning and academia.
Dark Ages:
Cthulhu Dark Ages brings a little bit of sword swinging back on to the tabletop. Not a great amount, of course, but for a period remembered often for its knights and war-making, there's obviously a good bit of good old-fashioned hitting to be had. This is an age where man feared the dark, the church was the solution to everything, and disease and sickness ran rampant. People still believed in faeries and monsters, so the skepticism of later eras rarely emerged.
Cthulhu Rising:
An intriguing setting that I've only lightly wet my beak with, Rising takes investigators into the far reaches of space, potentially in a post-apocalypse where Earth has been lost and humanity sent into a stellar exile. Here is the opportunity to inject some horror sci-fi into games, pulling from films like Alien and Event Horizon to create jarring intersections between human and alien technology. With the tech increase, there are obviously different methods for investigators to deal with the alien threats of the mythos. The real issue instead becomes one of diplomacy, perhaps. Balancing amicability between the insectile Mi-Go and fungoid exiles of Yuggoth while maintaining one's humanity. Kind of like Star Trek meets Call of Cthulhu.
These are just a few options, and obviously historical accuracy in them is only as good as your GM's researching (or, in the case of Cthulhu Rising, their premonition) skills. However, if you're looking for a system that has mountains of lore pertaining to a specific historical period, you'll likely find it in Call of Cthulhu.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 13

"What horror RPG have you enjoyed most? Why?"
Welp. This one's easy.

Was there ever any doubt? Call of Cthulhu has so much going for it, the classic 1920s setting, the rich mythos, the hopelessness of retaining sanity, the ineffectiveness of modern weapons...
Call of Cthulhu is horror gaming at its finest. Not terror gaming, because a lot of the goodness about CoC is the creeping factor of the scares. The really bad stuff is literally alien to us, defying standard comprehension, and I enjoy seeing how various Keepers try to bring that to the gaming table.
Characters play Investigators, their generic descriptor already setting them up as pre-determined to want to go into strange crypts and open musty tomes. Players in Call of Cthulhu don't get to take the safe route, because even if they've got all the genre savviness in the world, every created character in the game is predisposed to lemming their way into a shoggoth's mouth, and the only real question is how much ingenuity the players can bring to the table to delay that inevitable end, and for how many sessions.

The Sanity mechanic is where the system steps out ahead of its competitors in the horror gaming field. It's the great equalizer. I tend to look at it as a countdown. All RPGs tend to have, in some form or another, a hit point counter. Call of Cthulhu brings two to the gaming table. One for your body, one for your mind. Either runs out, and you're gone from the game; and similar to how some monsters in D&D can one-shot a character with a particularly powerful blow, the sanity losses for some entities in the mythos can also knock a character from play, leaving them a catatonic, drooling mess.
I could go on about Call of Cthulhu, but I won't, leaving this with the final statement that if you're looking to introduce someone to roleplaying and they aren't into Dungeons and Dragons, try getting them hooked with Call of Cthulhu. The mechanics are drastically different, the play style is likewise an almost complete reversal from heroic fantasy games, and the injection into the 'real world' makes it easier to just hop into a character and start scoping out haunted houses and basements.
Seriously, play this game.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Warmachine Wednesdays: The Charger

A significant model for Cygnar, the Charger offers the first hint about the ranged superiority of the blue faction. With a decent range that is meant to be boosted with spells like Snipe, and the ability to boost attack and damage rolls on its gun by spending a single focus point, AND a rate of fire that allows two shots per activation; all this means that the Charger is a focus hungry, but damn effective, light 'jack.
All-but perfect for plinking those multi-HP high-defense targets, if you can get the charger in range of something that doesn't come with insane armor, it can likely put the hurt- if not the unit- down. About the only issue with the Charger is that its damage is negligible when used against Khador heavy jacks. However, if you can manage to get it line of sight of a Warcaster, you'll likely be able to knock off a significant number of damage boxes, and either put the stress on an ill-prepared opponent, or begin one hell of an assassination run.
As the only warjack I own that has significant range abilities, I'm looking forward to purchasing some other Cygnar ranged 'jack options; however, my main opponent right now is Khador, so I find myself needing to tailor lists to focus on high damage in order to at least threaten punishment to my opponent.
We'll see what I can manage for my next purchase. It would be interesting to field an exclusively 'shooty' (or dakka) army.

March Madness OGBC: Day 12

"What humorous RPG have you enjoyed most? Give details."
My experience with humorous RPGs is in a similar category with spies and superheroes, but I have had the pleasure of engaging in one game I would consider to have been exceptionally humorous, and that game is Maid RPG.

What is Maid RPG? Well, It's a celebration of the harem anime culture, where a group of attractive girls (occasionally dudes) coalesces around a main character and showers him (sometimes her) with their love and affection, hoping that today will be the day he chooses one between them all, usually to be his bride.
Such is the affectation behind Maid RPG, except that players constitute the group of love-struck girls, in the form of maids. The GM is called the Master, and it's up to him to create the setting for all the drama to take place in the game. Players attempt to complete tasks and raise his affection levels for them, while occasionally sabotaging their fellow maids and trying to raise their stress levels (essentially hp), in order to take them out of the game for a few scenes.
Maid RPG is the type of game that caters to a certain sect of gamers. Non-anime fans will have very little to enjoy in the setting, in my experience, as a lot of the game relies on a player's ability to act out the various tropes seen in harem anime. My only real criticism for the ruleset is that the introductiory scenario, "Birthday Party," is a bit too open ended and without any real drama to engage the players who need a bit more plot to buy in to the setting.
That said, I'd definitely like to take a crack at running an actual 12 "episode" game of Maid RPG. Perhaps it could get enough steam to get a second season.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

March Madness OGBC: Day 11

"What post-apocalyptic RPG have you enjoyed most? Why?"
Oh man I totally had to talk about Fallout yesterday. Well, since post-apocalyptic is my RPG genre cup of tea, I guess I'll talk about my three favorites: Fallout, Dark Sun, and oh god why can't I remember it's called Deadlands thank god. Each offers its own spin on the post-apocalypse, but all of them are wonderful in that they take place in wasted deserts that have been created by various types of armageddon-generating energy. Let's start with Fallout, because it's my fav, and it'll be like continuing out last conversation, where I talk and you listen.
"Randal Kite don't f- around" by Seamus Heffernan
Fallout's apocalypse came about due to global thermonuclear war. A cold war turned hot, then frozen in nuclear winter, turned hot again by the vast irradiated deserts now carpeting the earth. The most commonly attributed inspiration for Fallout has been the Mad Max films, and various easter eggs have been inserted into the games to let people know it isn't just rumor.
In Fallout, wastelanders stumble around in the remnants of great cities, or in the construction of new ones, living day to day lives. The average intersection of culture is between the Raider, the Trader, and the Mutant. And the Victim, of course, but those types don't really last long in the wasteland.
Stories in Fallout tend to focus on survival. Earning enough cash to scrape by. The games give you a hero, but not everyone in the Fallout universe is the Chosen One. There are schlubs, too. That's what interests me the most about potentially running Fallout. The intersection between the players' perceptions and my machinations. Seeing who would come out on top.
"Stone Figure Design" by Cheyenne
Deadlands is a Weird-West setting that I suppose isn't 100% post apocalyptic, it's more accurate to say that the setting is about five minutes away from an apocalypse. Set about ten years after the events of the Civil War, in an effort to drive out European settlers (now calling themselves Americans), delegates from native american tribes opened a breach from our world into the spirit realm, in an event known as "The Reckoning."
Essentially, the denizens of the spirit realm aren't very cool dudes, so they want to bring terror to our side of the rift in order to manifest here physically, and bring a hell on earth. As a side-effect to the rift, magic has appeared as well as a new fuel source, known as ghost-rock, which powers all the weird technology that appears in Deadlands.
Characters can play investigators, lawmen, scientists, or other variations on western tropes while trying to resolve the abundance of weird that keeps appearing on our side. One only has to take a look at the supplemental materials to know how well that panned out for us.
Dark Sun art by Brom
Dark Sun
Ah Dark Sun. Technically D&D, and by technically I mean absolutely D&D. Athas is yet another scorched wasteland, this time razed by unchecked use of arcane magic, powered by the life force of plants and animals, and the machinations of a group of nigh-eternal sorcerer kings bent on achieving as much power as possible, usually through the tried-and-true method of mass genocide. Trolls, Orcs, Gnomes, Goblins, and a plethora of other demi-human races have been exterminated in order to fuel the ascendancy of the various SKs.
What I love about the Dark Sun setting are its subversions of standard D&D tropes. Elves are like gypsies, wandering traders that aren't trusted by anyone. Halflings are xenophobic cannibals. Dwarves are beardless. Psionics are the name of the game, anyone using magic is likely to be run out of any populated area on a good day; ripped apart by an angry mob on a normal one. Slavery is all-but universal.
Everything wants to kill you.
Gods I love Dark Sun.