Monday, September 26, 2016

Meme-tastic Monday

Rebels Season 3 started up over the weekend ...

I'm a little disappointed in the internet - there just aren't very many Rebels memes out there.

Ah well - next week!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Two Deadlands Kickstarters

Pinnacle is busy outdoing itself by running two simultaneous kickstarters: One for the 20th anniversary edition of Deadlands and another for the fourth and final big metaplot campaign book for Deadlands. Pinnacle has a really good track record in running and delivering on their Kickstarters so I assume they can handle these two just fine.

First observation: Deaadlands is 20 years old! I tend to think of it as a "newer" game. It is, compared to D&D and RQ and Champions and  V&V and Traveller and all of the other original generation games. I suppose this is only going to keep happening as I get older.

OK the cards do look good - I may have to spring for those

The 20th anniversary edition: I have to admit I was a little surprised. I thought this was going to be one of those fancy leather-cover things for Deadlands Reloaded. It's not - it's a new printing (presumably full color) of the original Deadlands rulebook! Well, the second edition of it anyway. It hadn't occurred to me that this might be a thing until I read through it. I mean ... I liked the system when it was new but it is really clunky compared to Savage Worlds and I honestly do not expect to ever run Deadlands in its original form. That makes this book for me ... probably a no-sale. It would be a pure "collector" buy as even if I did want to run original recipe Deadlands again I have a couple of copies of the old rulebook sitting on the shelf right now. I was all fired up when I saw the headline and I love what the Pinnacle guys do but this is just not something I will ever use. 

Now the other KS ... I am 100% on board with this one. It's #4 of 4 and of course I already have the first 3 so I am right there. Why 4? Spoiler: The big bad things in the background of the DL setting number four and each has a primary servitor. Each of the first 3 campaigns deals with one of them so this one finishes the set. I actually do hope to run these one of these days and they are not sequential - theoretically you could have four different groups running all of them in parallel. I think that would be awesome but I'd settle for two teams, or even one at this point.

So anyway, there's the big fun time RPG Kickstarter update for the week. People keep doing interesting things, this may turn into a regular thing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Issues With Rules Complexity

Sometimes you have a feeling about something in your head that you know you want to post about but it just hasn't quite coalesced yet.

Sometimes while that is happening you wander down an internet rabbit hole and end up running across a post by someone else that expresses exactly what that feeling is about.

Sometimes it's to the point that trying to express the same feeling would feel like you were stealing their work, because it would be so similar.

So I'll just do it openly:

This is a post from 2014 by someone named Robot, or Grant, or possibly both and while it is specifically about one game it expresses my feelings about a lot of games nowadays.

Looks like it is "Grant". Good. Don't know him, never met him, just ran across the post this week.

It struck such a nerve with some people that it's still attracting comments as recently as this month Not from me of course - I'm just going to link to it.

A few observational points

  • I can't understand why more game publishers don't look at the playability of their game. Not "is the math right" or "have I faithfully included ways to make every conceivable character from prior editions of this game" but "how much page flipping are people doing during play" and "how long does it take to resolve combat? to infiltrate an enemy outpost? to create a magic item? to make a character?" - things people might want to do who aren't sitting in the same room having it explained to them by the designer.

    Shadowrun at one point was a fairly intuitive game to grasp: roll your stat/skill rating in dice to meet or beat the other guy's opposing stat/skill. That was it! the core of the whole game! But  layer after layer has been piled on, typically in the name of "realism" - in a game with magic and fictional technology - to the point that it's just not that simple anymore. 
  • Older games still have trouble integrating a lot of newer style ideas, even when it would make them obviously better. That "Dead Man's Trigger" example is a perfect illustration of this. The basic idea is very new school and would make Shadowrun a better game . Then there are a bunch of mechanical conditions the player has to jump through to use it. Why? Is there a balance concern here? What is the problem that those 3 extra rules solve?
  • I don't get the commenters who keep equating 4E D&D with "easy" and SR5 in a "complexity" level with Rifts. Rifts! There are typically two types of "complexity" when it comes to games: 
    • Games where the systems are complicated and involved. Shadowrun is in this bucket.
    • Games where the core mechanics are simple but there's just a lot of stuff to sort through. This is Rifts. It's not a difficult game to understand mechanically - there's just 100+ books of options that you could pull from for a game. 
Anyway, there's an "easy way out" post for Tuesday!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Meme-tastic Monday!

Yeah there's a battle that never ends ...

Friday, September 16, 2016

40K Friday: New Books!

I don't have them yet and I've only seen pictures of the insides but at the very least we have some new formations for Chaos Marines and Blood Angels. I'm seeing mixed reviews of what is inside but I am willing to bet there's something interesting for both armies in each book.

That said I do not understand the reluctance on GW's part to just issue a new Chaos Space marine Codex. We're still using the one from 2012 which was the very first codex for 6th edition! It's the oldest current codex while the loyalist marines, eldar, and tau have all had two books in that time. New formations and some special rules do not fix the basic problems with the book as it is now.

GW is advertising a new combined digital codex for the Blood Angels but nothing about a new print version. I'd like to see that too but I'm not sure we will.

I get that there is a new additive approach now - instead of replacing a codex we're going to put out a campaign book that adds formations and characters to what's already there. It's not terrible but it does make things difficult for a new player. Pick Eldar you just need the one book. Pick Blood Angels you need two now to be  current. Pick CSM's and theoretically you need four (!) to have the full set of options. It's messy and I think a company at GW's level could do better.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Rogue One and the Star Wars RPG

A long time ago and not all that far away I used to hear a common complaint when it came to the Star Wars RPG:

"Eh, the main story's already been told. I don't want to play second fiddle. There's nothing else to do."

First it was at the local game store, in the college dorms, and at the occasional con.

Later it was online. There was a lot of this attitude online.

It used to annoy me. I used to try and open their minds. "Hey, you know there are a lot of other things going on besides the Skywalker stuff. There are comic books. There are novels. There are a lot of other places to steal plots from. Heck there are other SF RPG's like Traveller from which one could adapt material. By the late 80's West End had multiple published adventures to give examples of the kinds of things a party could do in the Star Wars Universe - and those are just the easy options.

By the mid-90's the West End RPG was in full swing with a ton of sourcebooks and adventures. The comics were going again, and the novel line was rolling hot. We started exploring the Old Republic. The TIE Fighter and X-Wing computer games opened up some new territory for play. We were given the "Shadows of the Empire"  multimedia plotline.

I still heard that there was not anything really interesting to do with a Star Wars game. Often from people who raved about the Dark Forces PC game.

By the end of the 90's we had a new movie and plans for two more! Whoa whoa whoa! If there's nothing left to do with the universe how are they doing a new movie? Oh wait, it's a prequel about how Darth Vader gets to be Vader so it doesn't count!

Early 2000's we complete a new trilogy, get a new RPG with a whole new take on things, more sourcebooks and adventures, oh - and we get a new computer game about the Old Republic.

I'm still hearing it.

We get a new TV series about the clone wars - nah, it's too much jedi/too high powered/ a kids show - pretty much any excuse you can think of to ignore the single best new era for an RPG camapign since the original movies.

We get another new movie "but it's a sequel so it doesn't count".


Now we have a new series set prior to the rebellion with almost no connection to the original trilogy  AND we have a movie coming out that is neither a prequel nor a sequel nor a remake of any prior material. Coincidentally both of these are scenarios that have been played out by anywhere from a dozen to a thousand RPG groups over the last 3 decades. We also have yet another new RPG out with a whole new set of adventures and sourcebooks. Not to mention another wave of novels, comics, and computer games.

And I still hear it!

It amazes me that in the face of almost 30 years of additional Star Wars stories from comic books to computer games to TV shows to additional movies I still see people who a) don't have any idea what to do with a Star Wars campaign when given the chance to run or play in one or b) even worse, object to the idea of a Star Wars game at all because they don't think there's anything else to do outside of the movies. I don't think you have to be a huge Star Wars nerd to have picked up on some of this stuff.

For me, Rogue One is the final nail in that coffin. You don't get to say that anymore as an educated position on the subject. It's been disproven in every form of narrative media we have today.

So I'm not going to try and convince anyone who says this that there is another way anymore. I'm just going to let it go and talk to someone who isn't still living in 1983.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Underwhelming Star Trek 50th Anniversary

I know I know - I'm a few days late. It's a big anniversary - or at least it should be. So far it feels pretty underwhelming. How many TV shows/movies/book series/IPs in general have a continuous 50 year history? Not many? Even non-fans are at least aware of Trek, and quite a few of them think favorably of it. Your grandmother probably knows about Star Trek and has probably seen it at some point! How many have generated 5 separate TV series? How many have spawned 10+ movies? Star Wars. Superheroes. The Wizard of Oz. Monster movies. These are the only things close, and in terms of "content" as we all like to say nowadays, I would bet there's more trek than any other single IP out there now.

Fifty years. So what do they do to celebrate it? Well ...

  • They made a movie they were going to make anyway. There was nothing specifically "50th" about Beyond.
  • They announced a series for ... next year. Impressive.
  • A concert tour. Alright. 
  • An existing computer game got an update. OK.
  • A Facebook video. A Facebook video! A weak facebook video!
  • And of course the fan films got slapped around. That was nice.
It's just seriously disappointing. If you want a general sense of what I mean then ask yourself this: How do you think Disney would have handled it if they owned Star Trek?

I think it would have gone quite differently myself.

This guy says what I feel in more detail in this article. I think it covers the rest pretty well. 

Underwhelmed. Disappointed. This could have been used to pump a burst of energy into the whole thing. Instead it feels more like "oh yeah, we have that. we should do something. Nothing too big though." It's like they were afraid of annoying the neighbors. 

In spite of all this I am hopeful for the future. It would be nice to show the kids an active, interesting Trek show that's on TV right now while they're still kids. If the new show is good then I'll still get to do that. If not, well, maybe the new RPG will be good at least so we can make our own.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Meme-tastic Monday

It's good to have football back!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Villains and Vigilantes 3.0 Kickstarter

Jeff Dee and Jack Herman, the original creators of V&V are running a Kickstarter to produce a 3rd edition of the game. I know new editions are often painful but considering it's been 24 years since the 2nd edition I don't think anyone can say it's "too soon". I shared my thoughts on the game in a post about 5 years ago and to update that: haven't played it since then, still have the books. One of the best things about V&V is that it came out of someone's home campaign - it wasn't written to fit a specific universe, it wasn't written as a "product" - it was a game first and then a book on the shelf.

I do like to see original creators coming back to a game, especially considering the legal fight these two had to have to get here. It will be interesting to see how their perspectives have changed in 30+ years. Considering they were in high school when they wrote it I suspect there will be some notable differences.

The one disappointment: The book is in black and white. They are saying it's to save time and get it out there and that does make sense. Still, it's a comic book RPG - I'd love to see it done in full color. A future project, perhaps?

There is a pretty reasonable set of pledge levels, starting at $15 for the PDF. It's already funded so it's going to happen. Jeff Dee has run a few Kickstarters for other things previously and they've been playtesting the rules for a while now so I'm confident it will come out in a timely fashion. No uncertainties here - I'm in on this one.

Anyway, I was pretty happy to see this happen and thought I would share for anyone else out there who's a fan.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Kickstarter

So there's a Kickstarter for GURPS. I shared my experiences with GURPS in a post a few years back and to be honest I haven't added anything new in the six years since I wrote that. It's just not a game my players are interested in playing. I've actually sold off a lot of my books because they gathered dust for ten years and with the Great Internet Attic of eBay I can always go get them again if there's a sudden outcry for GURPS again.

Part of the lack of interest I think is because there have been a lot of new editions and new game systems that have come out, many for specific genres, while GURPS has been pretty much the same thing since 2004 (4th edition) which is really not dramatically different from 3rd edition (1988). So feel comfortable blaming some of the disinterest on Steve Jackson Games (insert smiley here). The 4th edition version of GURPS Traveller was a prequel setting, a lot of the more interesting books and concepts for books from 3rd never made the jump to 4th (Discworld, Myth, Atomic Horror, Rome, Greece, Autoduel) and while 4th involved the usual re-purchasing of the same books you probably owned in 3rd it never really went beyond that for me. They did branch out some with PDFs (full list here) but that was a few years into the new edition and I just was not interested by the time the PDF machine was really rolling.

The other problem with GURPS in the last decade especially is "what is the flagship GURPS game"? It's a great toolkit game for GM's who want to do their own thing but settings are what get attention and keep the interest levels up even when not actively running or playing a game. Of the universal multigenre games Hero has Champions, BRP has RuneQuest and Call of Cthulu, Savage Worlds has Deadlands, GURPS has ... what? For a while it was the alternative system - there was a GURPS version of Vampire, Werewolf, Deadlands, Castle Falkenstein, Conspiracy X, Prime Directive, and of course Traveller. Those are all licensed settings and while that's a totally solid way to go it seems like after 30 years of GURPS there should be a go-to setting for the game, something it's known for that is not a Plan B version of someone else's game.

  • "Banestorm", formerly GURPS Fantasy, is a cool idea and one I fell in love with a long time ago but I've managed to run all of 3 sessions of it because non-history buffs don't get excited about it and would rather play Greyhawk or the Forgotten Realms or Middle Earth given the chance.  
  • "Ogre" is another one SJG owns completely but is a little bigger in scale to the point that there's not a ton of opportunity there to do RPG things with the flagship entities. Battletech has good-sized war machines but they each require a human pilot, keeping characters right there in the middle of things. The whole point of Ogre is that the giant tanks are autonomous and don't need human control. At one point I thought playing the ogres themselves was the key to making it work but with no free will, no emotions, and no manipulatory limbs there's just not a whole lot to build on there. 
  • "Autoduel" seems absolutely perfect as a setting for an RPG. It's semi-post-apocalyptic so there's room to roam and ruins to explore. It's near future with lots of higher-but-recognizable tech floating around. There are obvious and well-supported options for playing duelist types in the big cities, lesser duelists in the smaller towns, or roaming the wastelands in between as adventurers or truck drivers (all of which have been covered in supplements for the boardgame to some degree). There were adventures in Autoduel Quarterly that were effectively RPG adventures, some of which were pretty interesting. It's just never really taken off and I'm not sure if that's lack of a big push by SJG, the declining interest in post-apoc RPG's in the 90's and 00's, or what exactly but it's a setting with a lot of potential. 

I spent a ton of time playing through this solo and with friends
So GURPS has been around but not really a big part of the RPG scene for the last few years. It's been supported, but not really promoted outside of the existing player base. Now SJG is launching this Kickstarter to re-ignite/gauge interest in the game and I have truly mixed feelings about it.

I'm really glad they're doing a KS for GURPS. It's about time!

I'm disappointed that it's for "Dungeon Fantasy" - the most generic kind of RPG. The kind of RPG I already have at least ten other systems for and so do many other players!  From the site:

Sometimes you want an intricate fantasy setting that encourages roleplaying and characterization – one with lovingly detailed cultures and plots, enabling you to give each hero a past, a family, and a home town. Sometimes you want to use every rule, making the game richer and more realistic . . .

. . . and sometimes you just want to play a combat-monster warrior who stomps monsters and takes their stuff!

Many – perhaps most – gamers started out playing simple dungeon-crawl RPGs or hack n' slash computer games. Some of us still recall that time fondly, but pretend to have "outgrown" it. But if you love the smell of fireballs in the morning, GURPS Dungeon Fantasy is for you.

No - D&D is for you! or Pathfinder! Or Swords and Wizardry! Or Labyrinth Lord! Or Dungeon Crawl Classics! Or any of the other umpteen dozen dungeon crawling RPG's on the market!

GURPS was the game we played when we were tired of dungeon crawling! because D&D was built for that and has always been better for that kind of game! 

GURPS is a great game for so many other genres, why did they choose this specific subgenre of fantasy for the "GURPS litmus test kickstarter"? If it fails or just barely funds I suspect we won't see renewed support for GURPS in a big way and that would be a shame. I know fantasy is the big dog in RPG's but its also the most crowded pool and dungeon crawls are the most crowded part of all. 

Also, from what I am reading, GURPS DF does not have any particular setting associated with it. It's sort of generic D&D type fantasy without any well-defined world. So there's no setting hook here and  the playstyle is certainly not unique - the pitch is pretty much "play D&D using some of the GURPS rules" and that's a shame. I suppose you could adapt one of the D&D settings over for it but if you;re going to play this style fo fantasy game and set it in a D&D setting why not just play D&D?

So I don't know if I'm going to back it. I kind of want to because it's GURPS and I'd like to see more from them, to see what a new generation of designers could do with the full game. 

Sidetrack: Imagine if they had an easy 3rd-party licensing setup like Savage Worlds or Mutants and Masterminds or Pathfinder - we might see a new wave of some pretty cool material come out for the old game. If an announcement of that kind of thing was part of the Kickstarter I'd be at least a little more interested too. 

That aside, it's $65 (with shipping) for yet another dungeon crawling game using a different system. Why not put that money into games we're already playing which include several other dungeon crawling type games? Why not build on what I already have instead of starting a new project? Heck, why not go buy a copy of Descent ($60 at Amazon as I write this) and get plastic mini's and cardboard map tiles?

What are the odds it will have support at the level of Pathfinder? D&D? DCC? Based on the track record I'd say it's pretty slim as it's been awhile since SJG really got behind a particular part of the GURPS line and really pushed it. Looking at what's available DF might be the best-supported GURPS sub-line but if the new set covers a lot of the core material, well, there's not a ton left over. Looks like there's all of one published adventure and no real setting material so it's mostly short books on mechanics. Whee.

The other question, if I did back it, is "when are we going to play it"? When are we going to choose this over D&D, Pathfinder, DCC - the usual suspects. What makes this better than those games for dungeon crawling? "But it's GURPS" - well that makes it different but not better. What hook does it have besides "GURPS"? How do I sell it to my players beyond "it's GURPS" because most of them have very little experience with that system and are pretty happy with the last 3 versions of D&D and Pathfinder. 

So I don't know - I'm still undecided. Leaning towards "skip it" but undecided. The KS runs for 23 more days. If I do jump in it will probably be late in the run and it will mainly be because I want to see GURPS get another chance at growth and not because I expect to play it much. I'll force a session or three on the Apprentices if nothing else if it goes that way but it will be more about future possibilities than the actual game in the box.