Monday, September 21, 2020

2020 RPG Contemplation - The Science Fiction Options


Earlier this year I was running a Pathfinder 2E campaign in a homebrew setting, exploring, tinkering, getting to know the system with my players. Then "2020" happened and it all ground to a halt. Finally though there have been some murmurs in the group and it's time to contemplate what we might do for the last part of the year. So after setting my RPGs aside for the last six months  I've started diving in and reading through a bunch of rulebooks and a pile of old notes for many of them to determine my best options. I'd kind of like to have a fantasy game and an "other" game going and playing at different times. I'm not sure exactly how it would work so that's all a little fuzzy but we will figure it out. Thinking out loud ...

Star Wars
I have way to many ideas for Star Wars campaigns, covering all editions. Before the shutdown I was discussing a Republic-era game and I still like that idea a lot. I just see it as a longer campaign and I kind of want to start with something else before diving into that. A warm up game to get back into the groove sounds like a good idea. 

I discovered Traveller almost 40 years ago and I've played or run every version other than Traveller 5, Mongoose 2nd Edition, and d20.  I like the system  have some ideas and most of them are tied to the setting and I'm not sure I'm in the mood for 3rd Imperium stuff right now.

Jovian Chronicles
Serious left turn here I know. It's an easy pitch as "The Expanse with mecha" and that had me fired up. Humble just had the whole set of books up for not too much money so I dove in and started learning the Silhouette system. I really want to like it and I do think it's good but it gets fairly crunchy when it comes to vehicles ... and there would be vehicles everywhere in this game. mecha, fighters, bigger ships ... it would be a serious commitment to learn this. Thoughts started creeping in ... Mekton seems both simpler and more cinematic than this ... if I'm going to need a full on complex vehicle design system I already know Battletech way better than I'm going to know this ... so it's on the back burner for now. I still like the system and if I knew someone that already knew this system and I could play a while to learn it I would but I do not.

Well, sure - after the thought process above the military mecha campaign was a solid idea in my head and this is familiar territory. I have the first 3 versions of the RPG and I've played and/or run all of them but I thought I would take at the later version "A Time for War" - it's terrible. It reads and looks like it was designed by engineers and the system is shoehorned into a small box mechanically because of the overriding design goal of "make it work seamlessly with Battletech's system for pilot and gunnery skill and wounds. Bought it, read it, disliked it thoroughly. So, back to MW 3rd edition! Look - I have a whole starting campaign written up! House books, Mercenaries book, Rules Companion ... this is totally do-able. So this is one very much on the list. 

Dark Conspiracy
I don't know why but I do have a soft spit for this weird 90's game. Something made me drag it off the shelf and skim through it again. I have an adventure I like for it but it would very much be a one-shot at this point. The system is easy enough but I'm not sure I want to spend time setting up the universe for what would take us maybe 3 sessions to play through. Still thinking about this one. Conspiracy X kinda falls into the same pit - "90's secret conspiracy X-Files type game" is almost as unknown to people today as the "post-apocalyptic" game that doesn't involve zombies. Speaking of those ...

Gamma World
I love this game. Pretty much any version. Many people think it's a joke game but if you just play it straight it's amazing and it supports long campaigns just as well as early D&D did. Anyway it's always made for a fun game and here again I have at least one adventure I really like that my players have never experienced. Beyond this I would really lean more towards running Mutant Crawl Classics just because there is more system stuff to play with and it has a string of really fun adventures too. This is still on the list as well - actually both of them.

The 40K RPG - yeah that new one, not the old one
Interested of course, and it's not like I don't have the miniatures or know the setting, but this feels like a "later" kind of game. I don't have a solid campaign idea yet either so the fire is not quite as strong. we will get around to it but it's not a priority right now. 

Cyberpunk 2020 - because third edition was a mess
I know there would be some interest because of the computer game that's coming out and I have always liked the rules but anytime I start seriously thinking about adventures and situations and NPCs for this game I can't help but think "this would be cooler in Shadowrun" and then the whole thing kind of short-circuits. 

Aeon Trinity 
I've always wanted to like this game but the background feels ... preachy. The PCs are heavily tied to particular agencies because of their powers and it just feels like the metaplot is so heavy handed it gets in the way of letting the players do their thing. Now I've never run it so that's just my feeling after reading the new version again. It seems like a cool concept mixing near-future sci-fi with super powers but I think most of the pure space games and the pure superhero games do it better. 

Stars Without Number
Every time I read this game I am blown away. It's uncomplicated but not really "simple". It covers a wide range of options but doesn't really lock the GM or the players into anything. The advice is dead-on with how I feel about running games these days and the tools it provides are clearly a product of actual play vs. theorizing about the perfect RPG. Who would have thought that a fusion of Traveller and 70's-80's D&D would work so damn well? I have a set of ideas for this one, some adapted over from Traveller notes, that I think would run well and make for a fun campaign. It's definitely an option. 

So after weeks of research and contemplation my leading candidates are
  • Mechwarrior
  • Gamma World/MCC
  • Stars Without Number
So there's a chunk of what's been going on here this month. More to come!

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

40K Friday - Special Monday Edition: Space Marine Miracles


What a glorious week we had last week! Various leaks indicated we had some major changes coming besides just rules - equipment and statlines were both clearly in play with this new edition, and with one leak a day it built up interest and discussion until finally on Thursday we had the big reveal...

Classic marines are all going to 2 wounds! Finally! Space marines are finally making that jump to the elite force they always should have ben but haven't quite lived up to since 5th edition, at least.  Terminators are going to 3 wounds! Astounding! it appears as though marine units are finally going to live up to the backstory!

Beyond that we have flamers going to 12" range - which allows them to shoot after deepstriking, the various power weapons all getting a strength bump - +1S power swords are a very interesting option for a lot of my armies now, 2-shot multi-meltas should be decent, and heavy bolters going to 2 damage - yes! They are now pretty much the .50 cal in the WW2 American Army where they were stuck on every surface that could fit one, from Jeeps to halftracks to damn near every tank produced by the end of the war. 

I have to say I really really like this reworking of the marines and their tools. It's going to be a fun and different-feeling edition for some armies that have looked pretty much the same for a long time now. 

Then of course there are the other impacts - Chaos Marines are getting the same upgrades. CSM's finally step out in front of cultists! 3W Chaos Terminators! 2W Death Guard Plague Marines? 2W Berserkers? Oh it's going to be fun for the spiked ones too!

The weapon changes will spill over to the Guard and the Sisters and even into the Eldar armies as well. 

So much to ponder with these updates! I expect I will do so right here over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

City of Heroes - Analyzing my Character Choices


Golden Griffon (Brute) over Talos Island

A bit of introspection today - what kinds of characters have I made in this new incarnation of Paragon City?

Melee Types:

  • Tankers: 10
  • Brutes: 11
  • Scrappers: 10
  • Stalkers: 1
Well that's weirdly even. I was more of a Scrapper Guy than a Tanker in the old days, then once Brutes became a hero side option I dove into those pretty hard. For those not as into the game Tanks are the strongest defensively, Scrappers are the strongest offensively, but Brutes are almost as good as both of them in both categories. The "fury" mechanic for Brutes makes them probably the easiest class to play as they are almost a s tough as a Tank, and they gain damage output every time they hit someone -or- get hit by someone. They are quite a bit of fun because they feed directly off of doing what they are supposed to do. I like all of the melee types though. 

Stalker is a bit of a specialist, more about sneaking through enemies than a straight up fight but they are enjoyable for a change of pace. My one in play is a Crow homage so he's very much a theme character. I never played them in the old days so this is an area I ought to explore more.

Amazing Aluminum Man (Blaster) over Steel Canyon

Ranged Types:
  • Blasters: 11
  • Corrupters: 6
  • Defenders: 3
  • Sentinels: 4

Not a big surprise - my main is a Blaster and I tend to create a version of him on each server which pumps that number up a bit. Corrupters are a better fit for some concepts and I have explored a few different directions there. Defenders are great on a team, less so solo so while I do have a few and have some ideas for more they will always take a back seat to the first two. 

Sentinels are the new archetype on Homecoming. They were a concept in development on live and then completed between then and now. It's a ranged combatant primary power - like a blaster - but the secondary is a defense set which is something entirely new. It's an "armored shooter" type which actually fits my original concept for Aluminum Man better than Blaster, but I've been playing him as a blaster so long I can't change now. I did recreate American Ironhead as this type and he's been a lot of fun. I have a fire blast/fire armor character that's been pretty amazing too. 

Utinni Utinni (Robot Mastermind) wishing he could see over the counter... 

The Specials:

  • Mastermind: 5
  • Controller: 3
  • Dominator: 2
I did not play a ton of these in live and that seems to have continued. Masterminds are a lot of fun so there will be more at some point but I don't really want to duplicate the primaries right now. Theming matters so I would rather run one of them up to max level before I try running the same thing again. 

Controllers are cool but I am not a huge fan of running them solo - they are way more fun on a team, even a two-man team, so I tend to only run them with friends which keeps the numbers down. 

Dominators... their powersets are the trickiest for me to reconcile as a character. I get an occasional idea for them, and they are fine for solo play, but they just don't speak to me like a lot of the other options do. 


Well I'm sure all that says something about me but I'm not sure exactly what. I will say one of the reasons to have a large slate of character options is that whatever mood I'm in I probably have something that fits it perfectly. Charge in and bash heads, fly around and snipe, team up ... there are lots of ways to go - and I'll be going for a while longer. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Finding Some Fun - Back to City of Heroes

Aluminum Man vs. the Giant Donut

So when it came back last year I played it damn near daily for about 4 months ... then I just burned out on it ... to the point I barely touched it until last month. having more time at home though, and having run through some other options to the point of near burnout - namely World of Warships and Command & Conquer Remastered - I kinda fell back in love with it again.

Hammer O Justice and Blue Aluminum Man team up for ... justice!

While many of my friends are still out on it, a few have come back with me so that we are getting in some decent team time again. Yes I do have a ridiculous number of characters but this round I am not making new ones, just levelling up the ones I made last year.

Son of MacGruff dispenses some Street Justice
I've also discovered the oddly comforting feeling of running into some of the same NPC's and running the same missions we were running ten years ago. There are multiple levelling paths in City of Heroes so you usually have choices as you climb the ladder but there are some favorites along the way. Since everyone had to recreate their characters there have been some moments of deja vu here and there as we find ourselves having flashbacks to live with the same characters running the same missions. There's some nostalgia, sure, but it's also fun to re-acquaint yourself with something that is unchanged after a minimum 7 year gap. A lot of other things may have changed but Paragon City is just as you remember it.

Ten years later Fusionette still needs rescuing over in Faultline
There have been some updates - there are new powers and power sets, tweaks to some existing powers and archetypes - even a new archetype: the Sentinel -  costume updates, and lots of quality of life stuff. Vidiot maps is still an extremely useful add-on (and has been updated), MIDS is still there for power-building (also updated), and the forums are new but still an incredibly helpful resource for learning the game, or re-learning when memory fails.

"Hey Hammer! I bet we can take that Rikti ship!"

So if you're bored at home or in a superhero kind of mood come check it out!

If you get on and get interested message me here and maybe we can team up!

Ack! Maybe we can just wait 'em out!

Monday, August 3, 2020

Pathfinder 2 in 2020

I really liked what I saw in Pathfinder Second Edition when it launched about a year ago. I bought all the books and decided to give it a try and it works well and seemed to have a lot of potential until the whole virus thing killed my RPG-ing this year. Even with that blockage though, I continued to follow the game and added the next wave of books - the Lost Omen World Guide and Character Guide and Gods and Magic - and figured that would just be a thing this year.

Now... I'm kind of not doing that.

Part of it is that after months of not being able to play I'm not really buying any RPG material other than the occasional PDF. I got into a cycle of picking up a new book, getting excited about what I could do with it, and then getting another month of quarantine time - so I stopped doing that. I mean, it can still happen with stuff I already own, but at least I didn't spend new money on it.

Side note: Humble Bundle has a strong deal on the current Star Trek RPG line. If you're at all interested it's only about 15$ to get damn near every book they have now.

PF2E specifically though, I am weirdly disappointed with what they are doing. Sure, they started off with Core Book - GM Book - Bestiary - that's totally fine. Then they added a trilogy of setting books - also fine. But now, we have ... Bestiary 2 ... and the Advanced Players Guide. For next year they just announced ...Bestiary 3 ... and "Secrets of Magic" which is clearly "Ultimate Magic" for 2E. So .. .we're just going to follow the release schedule for 1st edition? Just re-do all of those books? We have AP's running alongside them too so it's looking very familiar. The only thing we don't have are the monthly softcover player books/DM books.

It's difficult for me to explain the feeling here but "disappointment" is probably the best word. I was expecting or at least hoping for a different approach here. I'm not sure what, but it wasn't damn near the exact same thing they did last time. D&D changed things up dramatically for 5th edition when compared to 4th or even 3rd. It feels like other games have changed up their approach as well. The Star Wars and Star Trek games being two current and at least slightly popular other examples.  I know there's a demand for this kind of stuff in general and with the Pathfinder crowd in particular, and I get needing a regular release schedule to maintain interest and to provide cash flow. I totally get it ... but I'm still weirdly disappointed with it.

Maybe because it makes things fairly predictable? A bestiary each year,  a class-type book each year - one for the Fighter types ... Ultimate Primal, Ultimate Occult, Ultimate Divine to round out the spellcasters ... another Ultimate Campaign to add more to the downtime and a kingdom management system (again)  ... no doubt another attempt at Mythic play in year 3 or 4 ... probably a tech book tied in to Starfinder to liven up Numerian campaigns ... it just feels somewhat by-the-numbers looking at it now.

Who knows - maybe they will surprise me! It's not strictly the thought of buying the same books for a new edition - lord knows I'm not against spending money on a game I like - but following what looks like the same approach as before does kill some of the anticipation. Look! The new Ultimate Magic is going to have the Magus and the Summoner! I mean, I like those classes, and the mechanics of the game are definitely different, but ... man it feels like the shine has just peeled right off of this thing. It would probably help if I was running or playing actively right now but I think it would still be less than awesome.

Attitude and first-world problems aside I do still like the system. For a full-on, long term, crunchy fantasy game system I like it better then D&D 5E and I'll probably find myself running it again at some point. At the moment though it feels a little deflated.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

40K Friday - Thursday After a Long Gap Edition

Yes there's a new edition coming - it looks good at the moment ... of course 'at the moment" the various tournament blogs and forums and YouTube channels haven't boiled everything down to the  optimum configuration and tiered out every codex so we can all be optimistic that every army has a chance to be good!

I'm actually feeling pretty optimistic about this. With so many events cancelled there will be a lot more theory-hammer happening these first few months and less "OMG Did You See That List From the Two Guys and Some Tables Tournament?!" It should be fun for a while.

It is a little weird in that my kids started playing 40K in 2010 with 5th edition. Ten years later we're on 9th edition so they've now played through half of the editions of a 30+ year old game in just ten years. I'd like to see this one last longer than the 3 years of 8th edition but that doesn't really seem to be the trend does it?

Anyway news of a new edition is a good time to re-assess the state of one's forces and think about priorities for playing the new game. What I've been thinking:

  • Kinda bad timing of me to take a big dive into Age of Sigmar right before this was announced but oh well ... I like fantasy games too.
  • Iyanden Eldar and Iron Warriors CSMs are solid from all the work I did in 6th and 7th. I still have units to add to them sitting in boxes or on the workbench but I could play multiple configurations of them fully painted right now.
  • My mighty Crimson Fists have expanded greatly during 8th. For an army that goes back to 2nd/3rd for me I just never get tired of adding to them. They are my main "normal" space marine army and I have a ridiculous number of options for them now. This year it's mostly been adding terminators and various dreadnoughts and contemplating the primaris options.
  • I've been enhancing/updating my Blood Angels - they will probably be the first one I take out in 9th if I can finish building them. Much acquired, some built, not much new painted so we will see.
  • Black Templars: had a plan and a roster but reconsidering some of it now. The changes to vehicles and some other rules have me rethinking how I want this army to operate. It was going to be all old-school marines as well but there may be some room now for some of the new guys. It's pushed them back a bit.
  • Grey Knights: All painted, all built ... these guys are ready to go whenever and in much better shape after their Psychic Awakening book. 
  • Imperial Knights: About 1/3 built. 2500 points or so total. Will be  effectively a new army for 9th so I'm looking forward to trying them out.
  • Imperial Guard: ready to go! Tank-heavy force, mostly painted, part of the fun will be figuring out how to make them fit into the new formations.  
  • Death Guard: Looking a lot better after War of the Spider. Have not played them in a few years. Have plenty of stuff to have fun with them, could add a few more units to make them moreso. Just a question of whether or not to make them a priority.
  • Dark Eldar: I like the way it looks like they will play in 9th. The new missions seen very compatible with their high mobility so I'd like to try them out. I just need to get them into playing shape. 
  • Orks: Played them last month to get reacquainted and they are a lot of fun. I have some finishing work to do on some units but I could play them early on.
  • World Eaters: The priority! I've played them multiple times in 8th and have a roughly 1000pt core and several groups I can swap in and out to make a 1500 or 2000 or larger force. I have them all, I've built them all, I just need to paint them. 

Honorable Mention: Necrons. I seriously considered starting a necron army a while back. I bought the codex, some colored rods and a monolith and had a look in mind. Once their inclusion in this new boxed set was announced I considered it again. The thing is I just can't seem to get too excited about them. They were mostly "menacing robot" before but now they are seriously upping the Egyptian look and lots of scribblly detail that kind of interferes with the nice clean "chrome death machine" look I was wanting to do. So no necrons for now.

More to come but that's where things stand this week. 

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Old Habits Die Hard

The fact that I first read this as "Amazon Echo Show 8 hit dice touchscreen" probably says a lot about how things work in my head.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The Last Month of the First Half of 2020

...hopefully we're almost done with all that ...

Where to begin? Such a weird year. I was actually running and playing in games again and then ... POW! Nope!

Two college kids doing school from home full time, one working more (delivery), one working a lot less (retail).

Friends isolating so the only way we see each other is online. Tabletop simulator is interesting, Lords of Waterdeep is a really good group game, and we've played a lot less of the MMORPG option than I thought we would - even City of Heroes. Thank god for Steam sales, GOG sales, and the Total War series of games, especially Warhammer 1 & 2. I might be a little obsessed these days.

Working from home full time ... I worked from home a few days a week already so all I really did was slide that control over to "max" and have more time to do whatever I wanted to do. It was not a tough situation here, especially compared to a lot of other people.

RPG Talk:

As all of this hit and shut everything down I had decided it was time to push the Pathfinder 2E tryout campaign into something real. I had been running it using Frostgrave as a model for the setting and while everyone was having fun it was not all that conducive to a long term campaign - it's kind of limiting as far as social activity and general downtime fun when you're in a giant uninhabited frozen ruined city and the nearest outpost of civilization is a village like the one  in "Hardhome" in that great episode of Game of Thrones.

I had high hopes for it but quickly realized that by fairly strictly following the structure of the miniatures game's background I had crippled the potential in a lot of ways. Even worse, when I thought through what I could do to improve things it quickly turned into my Phlan campaign with more snow being the main distinction. What can I say? I kind of have a template for running a ruined city D&D game and I didn't really want to repeat myself just yet.

So I poked through the stacks and realized there was a fairly obvious thing to try: What if it's not a ruined city? What if it's a living breathing city full of interesting situations? now I've thought for a long time the next time I ran a city campaign it would be Waterdeep and all of those nice supplements they've put out covering it over the last 30 years. Nope!

They ran a kickstarter a month or three back for a D&D 5E version  of it but if I'm running it for Pathfinder 2E then I don't really need that do I? I can convert from the book that's been sitting on my shelf for 10+ years now just as easily!

So that's the plan for the Big Fantasy Game that I always seem to be running ... well, once the restrictions lift and everybody feels comfortable gathering again. More on this later.

The plan is to run a game weekly but sometimes that's not schedule-friendly so to allow some of my players to lighten the load I'm considering running two games, alternating weeks. For the second game I presented a few options but we settled on Star Wars, FFG-funky-dice-Star-Wars because I want to give it a real test. I'm adapting one of my old ideas so the actual work is small and feels like a lot of fun as I look back through it. Setitng it in the Clone Wars era opens up a nice set of options, including active Jedi types, and with official FFG support material it's pretty damn easy to put together.

Oh and now there's a 9th edition of 40K coming soon too - I'll save that for Friday.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Campaign Length

I'm looking at campaign options for when the current situation winds down and we can begin gathering again. This means I'm poring through old binders and spirals looking at what I've done before and I thought I would share some numbers from the last 20 years:
  • 3E Seas of Kalamar campaign - 34 sessions
    This was set in Kalamar and combined the original Freeport trilogy (which we finished) and the Savage Tide adventure path from Dungeon magazine (which we did not). This was my last 3rd edition campaign.
  • 3E Scarred Lands campaign - no fancy name here - 54 sessions
    This was set on Ghelspad in the Scarred Lands and covered quite a bit of territory from Vesh and Mithril out to the Blood Sea and eventually spent a bunch of time in the city of Amalthea. I used a lot of Necromancer Games and Goodman Games modules in this one - Seroent Amphora, The Wizard's Amulet, Idylls of the Rat King, The Dragonfiend Pact, Tomb of Abysthor, Bloody Jack's Gold, White Plume Mountain, The Blackguard's Revenge, and Iron Crypt of the Heretics, where the whole thing ended in a TPK around 11th level.
  • 4E Return to the Ruins of Adventure - 30 sessions
    Yes it's Phlan,from the AD&D Ruins of Adventure module and the Pool of Radiance computer game! It was a lot of fun.
  • 4E Savage Swords of Impiltur - 30 sessions
    Most of this campaign was following the Red Hand of Doom mega-adventure from D&D 3.5. I had heard good things about it, never ran it in 3E, so I converted it to 4th and we got very close to finishing it but not quite. 
  • 4E Temple of Elemental Evil - 11 sessions
    This was a side campaign I ran for the boys in between other games. It didn;t last as long as the others but they did explore Hommlett, cleared ourt the Moathouse, and cleared the ruins of the Temple. We just didn't dive into the dungeon beneath as other things took priority.
  • Pathfinder  Wrath of the Righteous - 38 sessions
    I've written about it, particularly why it ended, elsewhere on the blog but it was fun most of the time. We've discussed picking it up with PF2E but we all want more experience with that system before we try to go high-level with it. 
  • 5E Cormyr Classics - 21 sessions so far
    This is set in Cormyr and has included conversions of Keep on the Borderlands and Isle of Dread and is ongoing though it's been a few months since we last played.

I ran an earlier 3E campaign set in Greyhawk but I didn't keep notes like I did with later games. It ended in a self-inflicted TPK in the middle of the crater ridge mines in Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil. There have been various other one-off, short runs, and faded campaigns with other games over the years but I'd say these are the "core", longer-running games I've had.

Seems like 30-50 sessions is my sweet spot - should I consider this in planning a campaign? No more epic adventure path type runs? Maybe shorter ones? Or should I go for it - buckle down and aim for a full level 1-20 progression, even if it takes 100+ sessions?

Something to think about.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Goodman Games - Temple of Elemental Evil for 5E

Well, this was announced over the weekend. I'm in.

I have their first 3 books: Into the Borderlands (B1 & B2), Isle of Dread (X1), and Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (S3). I've run a group all the way through Borderlands, and the same group through most of Isle of Dread and they are excellent - if you like those old adventures.

I do not have the 4th - The Lost City or the 5th - Castle Amber. I don't think they're actually available just yet but those don't carry the impact for me that the others do. I liked Lost City but I didn't play it as much back when and it's kind of a self-contained campaign all it's own. Castle Amber was even less "my thing" back then - I didn't really care about puzzling out the politics of a family of crazy people when I could be doing .. .well ... pretty much anything else in a D&D game.

But this ... ToEE is potentially a cornerstone adventure for an old school campaign - particularly a Greyhawk campaign. Most of my 5E experience has been running old school adventures so this would make for a nice second campaign option in that vein. I've been running everything in the Realms thus far and I would probably do the same with this. For the Realms I already worked through whether to put it in Impiltur, settled on the Dalelands, and then agonized over the backstory. So a lot of the work there is already done.

There is some temptation to open up Greyhawk here, though I'm not sure it's worth the separation from the other campaign. Placing them both in the Realms opens up some crossover potential and other interesting possibilities.

Ah well - it's a good problem to have. More to come I'm sure.