Tuesday, December 6, 2016

How Many Games is Enough?

Barking Alien had a great post last week about how he really doesn't need more games. He likes new games, but that's different than needing them. I'm pretty much in the same ballpark. A current example:

If I want to run a Star Trek game I have -

  • FASA Trek
  • Last Unicorn Trek
  • Decipher Trek
  • Where No Man Has Gone Before
  • Various other options from a Savage Worlds conversion to GURPS Prime Directive
So there are at least 5 different ways to play a Trek RPG. Now we have Modiphius' new "double d20, all-era's, full support promised" line of Trek RPG goodness promised for 2017. I'm digging through the playtest rules and while I don't hate it I do start to wonder how much I need another Trek game. Granted, most of the other options are over a decade old but there hasn't been much new development in the Trek universe in that decade. The Abrams movies, sure, but those could be run with the old systems pretty easily. 

If I liked d6 Star Wars, I was good through the 90's but once the prequels started coming out there was a lot of new stuff to address in the game. If you like "official" stats for your powers and vehicles and gear then it was tough, so there was a fairly solid reason to look into a new system. 

Trek is really not in that position. 

The Super-Shelves
Superhero games are in a similar place. I have around 3 different systems each for DC and Marvel alone. Throw in multiple editions of Champions and M&M, old school classics like V&V, new school options like ICONS, Bash, and Supers, plus GURPS, various FATE kits, and Apocalypse World Engine books, well, there are a ton of ways to put on a cape. This is a fairly niche type of game even within the niche of RPG games! D&D type games are the same way, and even general sci-fi games are all over the place these days. 

I'd say there are at least 3 ways to play any genre of RPG you want. How many ways do you need?

That said I am not declaring an embargo on RPG's here. I like to see what's new. I like to see if someone has come up with something truly original. Evan a new spin on a well-known approach can be interesting. I just can't do the "freeze" and run the same game for 20 years. I've seen what that does - it turns you into the guy on the Facebook group that doesn't understand why anyone would play anything but class and level fantasy games.  Or, conversely, the guy who can't understand why anyone would ever play one of those. I have no interest in joining that crowd. So the new RPG's will continue to wander through the front door.

Friday, December 2, 2016

40K Friday: High and Low

I see a picture like the one above and say "YES! Finally an up to date codex for the Chaos Marines!" After 4+ years of being behind everyone, watching as many of them get TWO updates, we should get something decent.

Then I see this:

Sources tell BoLS:
-8th Edition starter is Astartes vs Chaos Marines.
-Rulebook will be similar to Age of Sigmar’s General’s Handbook.
-Look for Campaign Books similar to the Realmgate Wars series.
-Point costs and rules for Army construction will be in the “General’s Handbook” and future codex-like Books
-Release date for 8th Edition is June
-The new Edition will be set after Abaddons’s 13th Black Crusade
-Initial focus on factions will be on Imperium vs. Chaos
-There are brewing disagreement between the returning Primarchs
-Many are shocked and disagree the 40th Millennia Imperium’s religion and injustice.

Now the previous rumors were heavy on what the rule set would be like:
GW is borrowing some rules mechanics form Age of Sigmar to pull over into the new edition.
Look for an emphasis on ease of play, especially for new players.
Look for the variable-stats-based-on-damage rule mechanic seen on some Age of Sigmar monsters to make it’s way into the Grimdark.
Look for Psychics to be greatly simplified.
Army construction will not be constrained.
Some version of AoS Warscrolls will make their way into the game.
The game will retain it’s gameplay and tactical depth, and not come anywhere near AoS’s tiny 4 pages of rules.
GW’s design goal is to maintain 40K’s depth of tactics and play, while speeding up playtime and removing needless detail.

It makes me wonder if it will even matter in 6-7 months. A radical new edition (like we saw with 3rd) would demand an entirely new book anyway.

Ah well. We will see.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Superhero Settings and Me

I've been digging through the superhero RPG shelves quite a bit the last couple of weeks and I spent some time thinking about settings - specifically campaign settings for superhero games.

In the ancient times of the early 80's there was Champions. Lots of Champions - and occasional episodes of Villains and Vigilantes. We didn't really have a specified setting - we just ran some games and assumed everybody's characters were available and local to "super city USA". There were suggestions in various books about setting it in your home town but I never cared for that idea. Partly because it seems limiting to me to set it in a real world city as-is. Partly because DFW isn't on a coast so you lose all of those ocean hooks from sinking ships to invasions from Atlantis to random sea monster attacks. Champions had an implied setting with organizations like VIPER and various heroes and villains but never went into detail on cities and nations.  We treated it kind of like we treated most of our D&D games - assumed/implied setting without getting too detailed on the larger picture.

Mid 80's we got a Marvel game and a DC game. We played them in-universe. Why wouldn't you?

In the 90's Champions finally put out a dedicated setting book with "Champions Universe". It was kind of cool but it was also a jumbled conglomeration of notes about characters, organizations, and world information that was way more than any of us were looking for at the time. I also wonder how much of it came from someone's campaign as opposed to being written up specifically for this book. I never worried about ti too much as anything other than a back up reference in case I needed to throw in a random organization for something.

My Champions games in the 90's ended up set in what I called "Miami 2000". It's a little dated now, but I love Florida as a superhero setting: Ocean access, home of the space program, the Everglades, the occasional hurricane threat, plus proximity to Communist Cuba, the historical pirate waters of the Caribbean, and the Bermuda Triangle. This is all great stuff for running a superhero campaign and it's all built right in. I have lived in Florida multiple times and also watched a lot of Miami Vice, so it was easy for me to envision the whole thing in my head. It represented a softening of my attitude towards real-world cities but only to a degree as my version of Miami roughly ten years in the then-future was altered in many ways. I started with a simple fold-up map of the city circa 1990 and had so many notes and changes by the end I'm not sure anyone could have deciphered it but me. A lot of it never saw table-time as I didn't run nearly as much as I had hoped but it was there, waiting. I still have most of the notes but I lost the main map somewhere along the way. I'm sure at some point Miami will return in one of my games - it's too good to ignore.

The biggest change of the 2000's has been my own personal drift from Champions to Mutants and Masterminds as my supers game of choice. M&M comes with Freedom City as its own setting and it's a great one. A nod to all kinds of comics, particularly the silver age, it's the reason M&M exists as Steve Kenson actually wrote it first for a different game. When that game folded part of the deal to publish the setting was to come up with a new system for superhero play - a d20 game.  As much as I like Freedom City and M&M I have probably run fewer than 25 sessions of the game. Most of those were scattered one-offs with the occasional two-parter or three-session run here and there. So we've never really spent time digging in to the setting, making it our own. I'm hoping that will change soon.

The second biggest emergence of the last ten years for me is ICONS. Lighter than M&M it's a great game, a nod to Marvel Super Heroes, and it's amazingly playable. For a more casual style of play it's just the best thing I have found. There are a ton of PDF adventures out there for it along with hero and villain supplements if you want them. Spurred by the revelation that was this game I started coming up with a new setting for my own games and ended up with "Atomic City". It's somewhat detailed in some areas and very loose in others, mainly because it's developing as we play rather than via me writing up 1000 pages of history. Sketch out the big picture, worry about the details when they come up. I went west coast instead of east this time but it's still a coastal American city with a growing population of super-types. I was happy enough with it that I've used it for some  M&M games too.

Finally we also had a new round of Marvel and DC games. I've written quite a bit about the Marvel Heroic game here and it ended up being a third style of game (with Champs and M&M being more detailed and ICONS being more fast and loose), one that I liked way more than I expected. Of course we've played it in the Marvel Universe and enjoyed it every single time. DC was the initial release of M&M third edition and I didn't really care about playing it as "DC" until last year when Apprentice Red asked about doing that. I still wanted room to do our own thing within that universe so I used Emerald City, the M&M 3E west coast counterpart to Freedom City, with some tweaks to add it to the DC universe. After all, it's not like the "X City" naming convention is unknown in DC anyway. This turned out to be easier than I thought and I was pretty happy with it during our brief run.

Emerald City makes even more DC sense now since there is a set of adventures for M&M tied to EC that begin with a "precipitating event"  which grants a bunch of people superpowers. It looks a lot like the beginning of the CW's The Flash with the particle accelerator explosion and plays into a nice campaign from there. I plan to emphasize this even more the next time we play.

So M&M and ICONS have taken over as our main games and I have tied them to particular settings. Marvel and DC are occasional side trips and I expect to continue with their own built-in settings whenever they come up. I still like Champions and I do want to give it a chance with my current group of friends and Apprentices but it will probably be sometime next year. I'm not sure what I would do there - go with Millenium City from 5th edition and the MMO? Resurrect Miami 2000? Roll it in to Atomic City since I use a lot of Champions villains there anyway? Not sure - we will cross that bridge when we get there.

The dream setup: A regular M&M campaign with a group based in Freedom City, another group running in Emerald City, and an occasional Cosmic game with members of both groups taking part. Additionally a M&M game running in Atomic City in its own universe with its own mix of players and the occasional crossover with the Freedomverse campaign. ICONS would still be "The Animated Series" for Atomic City run as one-off adventures when the option presented itself. Marvel and DC sprinkled in as completely separate games here and there. At some point: an ultimate finale crossover event where everyone picks their favorite character between all of the games, adjusted to make sure we have each one represented as a one-time, translated into one system, and run through a weekend-long epic adventure.

Could it happen? Sure. Will it happen? Probably not, as I'm not sure how I would find the time to run all of these games often enough to call them a "campaign". Maybe of one of the Apprentices started up his own game ... Anyway there's the backstory and the dream. More to come - a lot more - the rest of this month.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Member City of Heroes?

Member 2012 when they shut it down for no great reason? Aluminum Man remembers ...

Four years ago today it all came to an end.

Still haven't found anything quite like it.

Someday ...

Monday, November 28, 2016

Meme-tastic Monday

Now that we're past Thanksgiving it's officially OK to put up those lights ...

Thursday, November 24, 2016

40K Thursday

Haven't posted much about 40K so I figured I would show my progress on the Eldar army so far this year. There's everything that's painted or started so far.

So there's 3 squads of Dire Avengers on the left - bases and fine-tuning of each squad is in progress. Next to them are the Fire Dragons and their favorite ride the Falcon grav tank.

The meat of the army: three squads of Wraithguard, a Wraithlord, a Spirit Seer, and a (primed) Wraithknight. That's my wraith host, the big thing I started last Chrtistmas break and the only two pieces left to finish are the Spiritseer (no problem) and the Wraithknight (well ...) so I'm hoping I can wrap them up by this Christmas break. The finished Scorpion squad is right there in the middle and a finished Ranger squad is on the right. The one painted Farseer has been my HQ in every battle so far this year and is often joined by the unpainted Farseer in there as well.

At the back are the work-in-progress guns and gunners of the Vaul's Wrath support battery. I'm debating whether to go ahead and finish them or to focus on the seer and the 'knight. There also an older metal Wraithlord (needs flock and a second gun) and some metal Wraithguard (just need flock) too. I wasn't going to use metal WG in this army but I keep coming across them already painted and sometimes it's a good deal so I may end up with a second Wraith Host down the road with minimal effort. Do I need one? No. It seems fitting for an Iyanden army though, and one day we might do another stupidly large game where I could use both at the same time.

Other elements: You can see the Swooping Hawks in baggies off to the right. I have two Wave Serpents primed but nothing more. I have three squads of Dark Reapers waiting on the shelf. That's really it. Most of the army will walk into battle but I'd like to get a 3rd serpent and use them for the Dire Avengers as their standard transports. The Scorpions usually start the game scouted or infiltrated up on the field. One squad of Wraithguard is often beamed into battle via webway portal with a Dark Eldar Archon. An Archon + warrior squad + raider is a small price to pay to be able to drop a squad of D-Weapons anywhere on the field with perfect precision. Beyond that one dirty trick it's a surprisingly mobile force as everything has Battle Focus so can shoot and move.

So far I am happy with it - it's formidable but not over the top like an all-scatbike army.  I'm hoping we can get in some more games soon, then I'll do an end of the year update with hopefully everything finished.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Week Off

I have a week off but it's consumed with other things than posting. Lots of catching up around the house etc. I did manage to get some painting time in and I am also prepping for the Big Game on Friday.

Tonight is Apprentice Twilight's birthday dinner, tomorrow is turkey and football with family, then Friday is time with friends who are like family - it's a good week. I hope it's a good week for anyone who's reading this too.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Crisis With Too Many Settings

I'm having a bit of a crisis now with the Big Friday Game. I had an adventure in mind which a) I love b ) feel is appropriately epic for a special get-together and c) has a lot of ties to the Freedom City setting. All set, right?

Well I was - then I started looking through my campaign binders. I have one for Freedom City (M&M 2E). I have one for Atomic City (M&M 3E), Then I have the Emerald City book (also 3E). I have a lot of good stuff sketched out. Almost all for 3E.

I want to run the big adventure, but it's written for 2E. I have a big bunch of stuff for 2E, much of it tied to Freedom City. I don't really want to convert it all. But I really like 3E. I don't want to move it to Emerald City either.

I also really like my home-grown setting. I could use it instead but I don't want to tie it to the Freedom-verse.  I want it to be completely free. It will have a fair number of Champions nods, and maybe some M&M bits too, but I don't want it to be one more city in the Freedom City setting.

If I am looking at this as a kickoff for a new campaign, and I want that campaign to be in my own city, do I want to weigh it down with 2E? If I don't want it tied to Freedom City it's probably better to not even run this adventure and use one of my own ideas instead.

So yes I'm spinning through this little dilemma right now.

If I run this with FC now it's not really a "kickoff" and it doesn't really help me run AC later. If I run FC as the ongoing campaign, I'm limiting my chances of running AC in the near future. If I run it in 2E it's less work (no translation) and it's easier for new players coming over from Pathfinder to get. I just like 3E better for a lot of things.

Of course Freedom City 3rd Edition is in the works. I expect we will see it in the next few months but that doesn't help me run a week from now. If I'm going to run it in the future as a say once a month open-table type game then a well-known setting would make it easier for players to connect their characters to the setting. But a setting of my own design would be easier for me to run.

In a week I will have it figured out and ready to go. This is typical for me early-stage campaign overthinking while climbing up the "how do I want to do this" hill. Once I get over the top it will come together easily. I just have to get to that point.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Ultimate Game: Follow Up

So in my Ultimate Game post I think I left out one big thing:

Why haven't you run it?

 For me, well, it's a combination of a few things:

  • Players: I want at least 4 regular committed players to make it worth doing. 
  • Opportunity: I have commitments to run other campaigns that we started quite a while back. In general those come first. That also means my players are committed too. 
  • Timing: I don't want to run it once and then have to wait for months to play a second session. I've run a lot of my superhero stuff that way over the last few years and I hesitate to call it a real campaign. It's more of a series of one-shot runs some of which feature some of the same characters. 
So I've done it to myself with a set of minimum standards: I need a good mix of players, time to do it right, and the opportunity to run for a while. 

I may finally have the chance to get something going. The day after Thanksgiving we are having a game day and the plan is to take most of the day and play through a Mutants and Masterminds adventure. There are very few published adventures for superhero games that I like pretty much as-written and I am finally going to have a chance to run this one. It's a new mix of players too featuring one of my regulars, a couple of the apprentices, and a couple of new people to our group. I'm looking forward to finally running 

If it works, we could do a follow-up in December during the holiday break. After that one of my goals for next year is to carve out some time, maybe a set weekend, to run a supers game regularly and whoever can make it can play. After our Pathfinder ups and downs this year I'm a little tired of seeing a campaign bounce all over due to multiple schedule issues. This adventure will be one of the big events to bond some of these guys as a team and should be something we can reference years from now - perhaps even a "founding moment". After a series of previews and Issue Zeros I'm aiming to make this a regular monthly title - finally!

Regardless, it's going to be a lot of fun. Pressure? What pressure?