Monday, October 12, 2015

Blood of the Night for Pathfinder

Why? Because Lady Blacksteel has been known to play a vamp PC a time or three)

This is the "Vampire PC Book" for Pathfinder and it covers exactly that.
  • There are notes on running vampires as PC's, the biggest of which is "it's not a great idea but here are some ideas on how to make it a little less broken". My own take on it is that if you're starting a campaign at 1st level, sure, it's a terrible idea. If you're starting one at say 10th, well, that might work. 
  • The main focus is on the Dhampir, which is basically Blade - one parent is a vampire, one is not. This lets them manage the power level to the point that it's equivalent in power to the standard races while still keeping most of the flavor of a vampire type character. I originally thought it was a stupid idea but I've come around on it and there are enough good ideas here that I can see it being a pretty interesting character to play.
  • The book describes 4 different sub-races of vampire, branching into Asian, Indian, and the Nosferatu in addition to the more traditional Dracula type.
  • There's a lot of information on how the various races and the dhampir fit into Golarion as well so it's not all about the mechanics. From deities to areas of influence it's plenty to get the wheels turning without overdoing it.
With a cover price of $11 it's fairly inexpensive for Pathfinder books and if you're interested in playing a vampire PC, well, this is the book you want. If you're a DM planning a fang-heavy campaign it's worth getting as well. Within that narrow scope, I like it just fine.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Pathfinder Unchained

Pathfinder Unchained is a kind of book that you could only get with a solid, mature rules system. Pathfinder may be on its initial edition but it's effectively the third edition of "d20 fantasy" and this is the kind of book you can do and do well at that point. It also helps if the game is popular enough to support this kind of supplement as I would bet that most Pathfinder campaigns will not use it, and even fewer will use anything beyond the character classes.

Unchained takes pretty much every even slightly controversial rule in Pathfinder and offers a way to change it or eliminate it. To make a comparison to a lesser-known book, it's similar to the Mutants and Masterminds "Mastermind's Manual".

  • The first chapter is a reworking of 4 core classes: Barbarian, Monk, Rogue, and Summoner. I won't spend much time on these other than to say they seem solid to me and if you play one you should take a look at them. There are also sections on staggered advancement and fractional base bonuses. I've never had any players that thought the math progression in d20 was much of an issue but if you do here are a couple of ways to address it. 
  • Beginning with the second chapter the skill system gets a bunch of options:
    • Background Skills separates out "background" skills into their own point pool. This evens out things like Profession and Craft for everyone and makes each class' skill points count towards the more adventuring-specific things like Climb or Diplomacy. I like this  and I did something like it in some of my 3rd edition games years ago. It's nice to have an official option to refer people to.  
    • The Consolidated Skills option cuts the skill list down from 35 to 12, similar to the way D&D 4E and M&M 3E handled them. I'm a fan of the broad skill list approach in games so I like this a lot. I find players and GM's spend a lot less time debating what skill is appropriate to a given task when the broader options are used.
    • Grouped Skills is an option I didn't like quite as much. It lies in between the existing granular skill system and the Consolidated option as it still uses the full list but gives bonuses for groups of similar skills. It makes characters more broadly competent but doesn't completely change up the list. I think it's a half measure but it might be easier to integrate into an existing campaign. 
    • Alternate Crafting and Profession rules give a different way to use them in play. The alternate crafting stuff is interesting but you need to have a player who is really interested in it to make it worth implementing. The profession section is more interesting to me as it includes a system for using one's profession to run a business, including the size of the business, profits, and how much of the character's time it takes. I don't know that it would come up a lot in my games, but it's nice to have it on the shelf if it does.
    • Skill Unlocks are nifty little perks one receives in specific skills at 5/10/15/20 ranks. I'd say they are roughly equivalent to Feats but access is limited, even in this optional system, so they shouldn't break the game as presented. They's a big part of the revised Rogue class earlier in the book. I think it's a nice way to include a themed feat chain, roughly, without adding in stuff that anyone can take anytime. 
    • Variant Multiclassing: This is very similar to the 4th Edition D&D version of multiclassing. Instead of spending levels, a character gives up their feats at certain levels to gain features from another class. Each of the classes from the core book and the Advanced Players Guide is written up to be compatible with this approach and somewhat to my surprise I really like it. I thought one of 3E's great innovations was per-level multiclassing and I still do, but not every concept needs to take full levels in another class. Sometimes one just wants some of the flavor, and this option allows that without losing any of the benefits of your main class. I do think they are weaker than a lot of multiclass combinations, but there are still a lot of interesting possibilities here. 

  • After skills we get the general "Gameplay" chapter and it covers a lot of ground:
    • There's a section looking at alignment and adding some new mechanics around using it in the game
    • There's a section about taking alignment out of the game completely and how that affects some mechanics of the game
    • Revised Action Economy: I'm not as clear on the goals for this section but the idea is to drop most of the different kinds of actions and give everyone 3 "acts" per round. This also drops multiple attacks as presented but it lets people use an act to make an attack if that's what they want to do. It's basically an action point system (see FASA Star Trek for my favorite AP system) but it feels really constrained with the 3 act (effectively 3 points) limit as all of the existing actions one can take in Pathfinder are presented in a list with a cost of 1-3 acts and various special rules or limitations applied. I think action point systems are great in general but I don't see what this one brings over the normal Pathfinder system. I don;t see the win here.
    • Removing Iterative Attacks: This changes the existing system of rolling for each attack into what a lot of systems do for autofire type attacks - rolling higher = scoring multiple hits. The stated goal is to save time and I can see some of that but you are supposed to oll damage separately for each hit so I'm not sure it makes a huge difference in play. I am curious enough to consider trying this one at some point.
    • Stamina and Combat Tricks: Options for fighters to do more than just swing and hit for damage. They can inflict various conditions, add temporary bonuses or penalties. There are over 20 pages of these with over 20 items on most pages so it's a very robust set of options if you choose to use it. To me it would make fighters more like 4E fighter types and their set of powers that did more than just "2d6 + Str". Another benefit I can see is differentiating between melee types even more than the system already allows. It looks interesting on paper and I'd like to see it in play some time.
    • Wound Thresholds: A system that inflicts penalties as hit points drop. I like it but I'm not sure what it does to the rest of the game. A lot of players do not like "death spiral" mechanics but I don't have a huge problem with them. I tend to think of them as "warning lights" that it may be time to retreat when things start getting too hard. It does make in-combat healing more valuable than it already was, but I don't think that alone would stop me from using it. It's another item on the "we ought to try it sometime" list.
    • Diseases and Poisons: Each type of disease or points has a progress track and as saves are failed or made the victim moves up or down the track and suffers from various problems. I think this would be worth it where a disease or poison was a big part of the adventure, particularly if it applied to a PC or important NPC. I don't think I would implement it just to accommodate the average rat bite.
  • Chapter 4 covers Magic:
    • Simplified Spellcasting: As a character progresses their lower level spells become a pool instead of something that has to be tracked every day. I like it, but I've never met a player who complained that setting their spells for the day was a chore - most of them enjoy it!
    • Spell Alterations: This section presents some general options for  magic as a whole: Limited Magic (weakening it overall), Wild Magic (more random!), and Active Spellcasting (use attack rolls for casting spells). Interesting but nothing that wound me up a whole lot.
    • Esoteric Material Components: This really made me think of Ultima IV and it's "Reagents" for casting spells. There are some materials that enhance certain schools of magic and one universal type that can be used when casting to  add in some additional effects. It's interesting but I think it would have to be a part of the campaign world to make a lot of sense. I also don't know that magic needs another option to be more powerful or have more bits to keep track of in play.
    • Automatic Bonus Progression: This is one of the most interesting options in the book. The math in Pathfinder assumes characters will have certain bonus to attacks and defenses at certain levels, hence the large number of magic items that give numeric bonuses to stats, like the +1 sword, + 2 shield, or Headband of Intellect +4. This system builds those types of bonuses into the level progression (via a single table) and eliminates magical item bonuses entirely. Now a flaming sword only has the "flaming", it doesn't have to be a "+1 flaming sword". I think it would make for a very different kind of game but it's something people have discussed since D&D 3.0 rolled out and I think this is a simple and elegant approach if someone wants to explore this option/. 
    • Innate Item Bonuses: This is a slightly different way to do the same thing I described above but with a little more attention to items. I can see that it would probably work but I didn't like it as much as the Innate option. In short, there is a bonus associated with the type and cost of each item slot in the game and putting anything in that slot grants the character that bonus. It eliminates the +2 stat bonus item but does not automatically grant a replacement bonus unless the character slots in another item in that same slot. 
    • Scaling Items: This is a nice option. This changes the approach to magic items so that they grow as the character levels up. This gets rid of the whole scenario where a character has to set aside the magic sword they found at first level because it's just not strong enough at 10th. The section includes 17 pages of magic items rewritten for this approach and while I think you would want to implement it at the start of a campaign, I think it's a very nice way to make magic items take a better place in the campaign as rare and powerful items. I don't think you would need to account for magic item shops in a campaign using these rules.
    • Dynamic Magic Item Creation: Makes creating a magic sword much more than a couple of rolls. Instead it's a little like a skill challenge form 4E in that there are a few steps to it and failure doesn't mean it didn't work, it just means you take more time and may have a quirk or a flaw in the item. As a DM I like it a lot, but I suspect my players would not like it as much, if only from a resource expenditure point of view. I'd say it's worth a look in any campaign. 
  • The final chapter is Simple Monster Creation - all 50 pages of it! Humor aside, this is a great addition to the game. It takes an approach similar to 4E of looking at the monster's role in the game, type, and level and assigning stats based on that rather than the more Hero-system-esque 3E approach of building it from the ground up just like you would a player character. If you're running your game from a computer using Hero Lab or Combat Manager then I don't think it's as much of a benefit as you have decent tools already. Similarly, if you're running an Adventure Path pretty close to the book then you may not be building many monsters anyway. However, if you are writing your own material, and especially if you're doing it on paper, this is a much better way in my opinion than the existing system. 

So what parts of the book do I like? Well, I like most of it. I don't know how much of it I am going to use in my current campaign, but I do like it.  There's nothing bad here, just options that may or may not interest you or fit your game. I think the classes are the easiest part to drop in as they only really affect that character. Simple Monster Creation is mainly on the DM - the players are not likely to be able to analyze your beasties enough to know whether you're using it or not. The system changes in between those two parts though ... that's a group discussion in my eyes. Some of them could really freshen things up for a veteran group.

For me, I think we're going to continue our campaign with the standard rules. Since it's Wrath of the Righteous we're already using Mythic Power and the mass combat rules from Ultimate Campaign so it's not exactly "vanilla" anyway. Once we finish it we should have seen Pathfinder at it's most over the top, all the way through 20th level. After that we may look at trying some of these out for the next campaign, and if I get some kind of side game going then they may be on the menu too.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Why I Like Rifts - Ley Lines, Nexus Points, and Magic

I touched on this in my previous post but I thought it deserved more discussion. Ley lines get occasional mentions in other games but they are a big part of the landscape in Rifts. Here's why:

  • Within a mile of a line caster get extra energy and spells are more powerful (range, duration, etc)
  • Actually being on a line does even more
  • Being at a nexus point (where two or more lines cross) does even more
  • Certain times increase the power of a nexus point as well: noon, midnight, equinoxes, solstices, lunar eclipses, and solar eclipses. 
  • Some of the above times also include a rift opening at a nexus point
Think about the above details. Before we have defined anything about kingdoms or races or other terrain we know that ley lines are where interesting things happen, and serve as paths to where more things can happen. Magic-using characters are likely to seek them out. Magic-hating characters might seek to avoid them, or they may seek them out to hunt demons or wizards or any other spell-tossing threat. Even without knowing much of anything else about the setting we know this is something to look for. 

It also makes the calendar a little more significant. It may make a huge difference if there's an eclipse coming up if a nexus point is involved in one's plans. There are reasons to be in a particular place at a particular time, from traveling through a gateway to crafting some potent new magical item.

Once we do start fleshing things out, they help define the map. A nexus point seems like an obvious place for a wizard to live ...or a demon lord! Many wizards can teleport along a ley line with little effort, and some techno-magic devices can fly along a ley line - that could make it an easy path between cities of a nation or it might be a terrible window of vulnerability that must be patrolled.  

With Magic in general Rifts gets into more details than some games. Magic users can draw energy from outside themselves, typically from another living creature. The available amount is dependent on whether they are willing or unwilling targets, and then the energy doubles at the moment of a creatures death. This gives an in-game reason for why those evil types are always performing human sacrifices and might give non-evil types a temptation in difficult circumstances.

The thing I like about all this is that it grounds magic in the world in a very playable way and gives it some flavor that you don;t find in the typical D&D type game. Sure, you can still play a classic robed, bearded, pointy-hatted fireball tosser but there's more going on in the world than just that. Maybe the reason the warlord is conquering everything in the area like a madman is not because he's evil and that's what evil warlords do, but because his wizard has promised he can bring back the warlord's dead wife if he has control of a local nexus point on the day of the next lunar eclipse. It fits the setting and it's something the players could research and figure out to some degree because it's built into the setting.

It's significant enough that they made a whole class that has powers dealing with ley lines. It's great if you're especially interested in that aspect and it's one of the signature character types of the game. Even with the mechanics change I expect Savage Rifts will spend some time on "Ley Line Walker" as a character type.

So I like the presentation and the flavor of magic in Rifts and I'm looking forward to seeing what Savage Worlds can do with them.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Why I Like Rifts - The Apocalypse

(I mentioned to Barking Alien a while back that I would do a post on "Why I like Rifts" as it's a game I like that he doesn't get and I know he's not alone. I think there's a segment of the gaming population that gets caught up in the messy mechanics or the 157 splatbooks and never gets to looking at the actual setting. With Rifts for Savage Worlds on the way I thought it was time to take a look at the setting again, so I will be doing a series of posts on "why I like Rifts". This is the first.)

That title probably sounds a little strange but in any post-apocalyptic game the nature of the apocalypse plays at least a small role in shaping the setting. Most of them are the typical Nuclear/Biological/Chemical war, the traditional late 20th century end of the world scenario. Lately the zombie thing has made a strong showing. Rifts is different though.

The Rifts background is that sometime in the future, when technology is quite a bit more advanced than now an age of enlightenment ends in a series of short skirmishes that escalates quickly into a massive worldwide war that is over in a very short time. Thousands, then millions, of people are killed almost instantly. One of Rifts conceits is that psychic energy is doubled when something dies. The psychic energy released by this massive slaughter is so tremendous that the old ley lines, currents of magical energy from a prior age when the earth was a magical place, are reawakened and become more than just a current, they become torrents of psychic energy, rushing around the globe in a flood of power. Anywhere two or more lines cross is a nexus point, and at times of high energy these nexus points can tear open gateways into other dimensions. With this kind of energy unleashed, pretty much all of the nexus points around the globe rip open and stay open, and a ton of bad things come through, adding even more carnage to the apocalypse. Large areas of the land phase in and out, trading places with other dimensions, the old continent of Atlantis is pulled back into the world, and the earth is now a supercharged magical dimensional nexus point.

The reasons this stands out to me are these:

  • The apocalypse sets up and shapes the game world in interesting ways, both with the backstory and mechanically with ley lines, magic, and psionics.
  • It gives the GM a great starting point to put anything into the campaign that they think is interesting. "Thousands of dimensional gateways" is wide open for exploration in a campaign.
  • It gives players a reason to go places - "we're following a ley line", "We're headed for a nexus point that we believe opens up to the plane of shadows every new moon. 
  • Lots of ruined cities (one of the staples of a post-apoc campaign) and they may not even be human cities.
  • It provides a nice reason for widely varying conditions and terrain anywhere in the world. "Sure, Kansas is still flat. Well, except for that triangle shaped chunk just west of Wichita that's full of mountains now."

It pushes the apocalypse to be more than your standard nuclear war scenario. It explains both the end of the world and the re-entry of magic into the world at the same time. It sets up the ley lines and nexus points that are a fairly significant feature of the setting. I'll touch more on this in a future post.

One possibly overlooked aspect of the coming of the rifts is that it is considered tragic by most of the humans of earth, something to be "fixed", not some great blessing to be appreciated. Humanity used to own the planet (and some of the solar system) and that's no longer the case. Of course there are differing views but the biggest human powers view the time before rifts as normality, and the time since as a continuing war for the survival of humanity against an invasion of alien monsters. This coloring of viewpoints leads to some interesting shades of grey when it comes to non-humans who were born on earth and consider it home. That is, if you choose to explore it. Like many of the elements of Rifts, you can choose to ignore it and run a straight up shoot-and-loot campaign or you can let some of those differences play out between PCs and NPCs or even within the party. It's a nice little extra element that pushes things into more complicated territory than good vs. evil.

So that's the first element that caught my eye with Rifts and one that should remain interesting regardless of the system used for the setting. 

Thursday, September 24, 2015

FFG Now Owns L5R

This came out around two weeks ago and I did not see a whole lot of discussion on it ... and I suppose that says a lot about why I think it's a good thing. Presumably there was discussion on the current L5R forums and groups but outside of that I saw one article on EN World and one on Bell of Lost Souls and that was about it. Since then - nothing. L5R doesn't seem to have much buzz at all right now but becoming a part of Fantasy Flight will surely change that. The card game will get a lot more attention, there will undoubtedly be a boardgame or six released in the next few years, and the RPG will get a complete redo, I presume.

Big factor, IMO: FFG's big hitters are licensed - Star Wars, Warhammer, Game of Thrones - all are licensed properties and it's hard to plan for the true long term with a heavy dependency on someone else's universes. With a somewhat known brand & setting - in gaming circles at least - completely owned in-house, FFG can really dig in and take it somewhere without fear of a license change a few years down the road.

For me personally I have a very limited relationship with L5R. I never got into the card game - there were so many when it came out in the initial rush after Magic exploded! I was temp[ted and came very close to picking up the miniatures game but that's one I managed to resist. I do own a copy of the RPG but I've never run or played it. There just is not enough interest in fantastic medieval Japan here to ignite a session, let alone sustain a campaign. I have always thought it was interesting though, and I thought the "roll and keep" system was pretty slick. The 3E D&D Oriental Adventures was a nice book, used the same setting and I thought that might be one way to lure my players in - sadly it was not.

So while I have no real personal stake in the game it is nice to see that it is getting a good home with one of the "good" gaming companies.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

New Edition of Traveller Coming

Mongoose is working on a 2.0 release for their Traveller line. I thought it seemed a little fast but they released the current version in 2008 so 7 years ago ... I suppose that's alright. I have a couple copies of the core book and a handful of the supporting books but I managed to stop my usual collecting impulse (One that comes up a lot with Traveller in particular) for a couple of reasons:

  • No one here has been interested in playing a Traveller campaign in ten years, despite my best efforts
  • The line quickly grew to a _lot_ of books and I just did not need another game to try and "maintain full compliance". Around this time my general RPG policy became "get the core book and maybe an adventure and see if I can get anything going"/
  • I know Mongoose and in addition to their tendency to crank books out at a rapid pace, they have a track record of publishing books that have problems, pushing them out the door regardless of the state they are in. For examples look into the Conan RPG issues, and the Traveller/Babylon 5 supplement as a start.
Other issues aside I thought the core book was solid and looked like a lot of fun. I just never got anywhere with trying to run it. With our group right now, and particularly the Apprentices, if I bring up "Space RPG" then it's pretty much StarWarsStarWarsStarWars! with a slice of StarTrek! in there too.  Even for the other members of my group Traveller has always seemed a little ... dull. Without a personal history with the game, it loses out to all of the other options.

The Beta rulebook is up on DTRPG ... for $20. This recent trend of charging for "beta access" is a thing with me and I will not be a part of it - for them, or FFG, or anyone else. I can sort of see why they are doing it. I think the assumption is that someone who has dropped $20 on it will give real feedback and has some investment in the game versus making it a free download and getting input from anyone who took the time to grab it. I don't necessarily agree with it. Part of me says well, yes, gamers are cheap and putting an up-front price on it probably does weed out some of the griefer types. Another part of me says that $20 investment gives everyone a financial stake in it and is going to open up the entitlement floodgates in a big way. I will say that taking the beta $20 off of the price of the final product is a nice way to handle it and I appreciate that part of it quite a bit.

I never thought the core game had huge mechanical issues so I wondered what they were planning to improve. I haven't seen much about it online but I did find this post over at the Bravo Zulu blog. He looks to be a bigger fan of current Traveller than I am and I do not like much of what he has to say about then changes. I get the copy of advantage/disadvantage but it doesn't really feel all that "Traveller" to me. It looks a lot like change for the sake of change with little concern for backwards compatibility and that's never fun.

So I'll probably wait and see on this one. It can't be as bad as 5th edition Traveller -  no I don't like that one at all - but I'm not thrilled with the direction this one is taking either, based on this early report. I'll look up some reviews when it is released and then we will see.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Necessary Evil 2 - Released!

Well, it's out. I don't know much about it, but I'm interested. The blurb:

The villainous resistance of New York City was one of the last to hold out against the alien invasion. The evil v’sori responded by placing the island of Manhattan beneath an unbreakable energy field.
Trapped within, the city’s toughest and most cunning super villains must battle it out for food, weapons, resource, and dominance. But they are not alone. A strange creature swarms in the sewers and subways. Powerful gangs rise and raid their rivals. The Black Hand controls a vast black market of scavenged goods. And rumors of a way out are–so far–nothing more than street gossip. Only the strong will survive, and only the most calculating will eventually…


DTRPG link is here.

Additional notes specifically mention going to street-level supers and that's probably smart as a concession to challenging the players. Original NE could get tricky as more super type supplements have been added to the game over the years - but that's part of the fun of running a super-powered game right?

Also setting it in a real place (well, sort of) is a nice change too.

Anyway, I don't have it yet but I likely will soon and I'll have more to share then.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Monday Morning MMO Talk - Star Wars, The Old Republic, and Bringing in New Players

Zooming across you-know-where
Whether online or tabletop, some conversations happen again and again...

Star Wars: The Old Republic is the current Star Wars online RPG. I've gotten back into it recently and I like it, a lot. The big news for Fall 2015 is the coming expansion "Knights of the Fallen Empire" - trailer below:

It's pretty slick and shakes things up quite a bit by having this new threat dispatch both the Sith Empire and the Galactic Republic. There are some controversies though:

  • There's a time jump of maybe 5 years. In a story-heavy game that's a big gap. There's some concern over how exactly that's going to work. 
  • Companions are a big part of the story and Bioware has said that not all of them will be a part of this new story. With 8 class stories with 5 companions each that's a lot of NPCs running around and I can see that it would be difficult to shoehorn all of them in to a single plotline for all classes. Some people are still upset though.
  • To encourage new players to join in there will be an option to create a brand new Level 60 character. This is the current max level in the game and the new expansion will raise the limit to 65. 
It's the last point that I want to address because it links back nicely to tabletop RPGs: Whats's more important, a character's written background, or a character's actual experiences in play?

For SWTOR, max level characters have played through a lengthy story with 3 chapters spread voer hours and hours of missions, travel, combat, cutscenes, and dialog with NPC's. They've made choices regarding who lives and who dies. They've chosen to follow the light side or the dark side. They may have abandoned old friends to their fate/ They may have romanced others, and may even have married a close companion. They journeyed through this in real time and their character has certain qualities because of it. 

The insta-60's will be able to read the official class backstory on the webpage, but they won't be making those choices, meeting those other characters, killing various monsters, or romancing those NPC's, They won't have the titles or the gear or the strongholds or the suite of companions that the played-thru characters will have. 

In a tabletop game characters developed in play have reasons for the things they do, the reactions they show, the stuff that they carry, and the relationships they have with various NPC's, often earned through either triumph or tragedy. Characters with 3 pages of background and not hard-won experience may look complex but it's not the same. "My character is the king of Greymoor" means one thing when it's a bullet point on your background story compared to when it's a title you earned by taking it from a usurper in single combat while the rest of the party took on the royal wizard and the elite bodyguards. 

Now a lot of people think a deep written background is an important part of a game and I don't really have a huge problem with it. I do think in-game experience trumps it, but using it as a starting point is fine. 

SWTOR and the expansion has a problem similar to having a new player join a long-running campaign: If my player characters are 9th level, where do I start the new guy? 1st? That's not really practical. 9th? That seems a little unfair to the existing players who had to work to get here. Recently I've gone with a policy of "current campaign level -1" for my Pathfinder game. I don't know that it's the best solution, but it feels reasonably fair and it works for us for now. A new character has to work a little bit to catch up to the veterans but he's not useless, fragile baggage for multiple sessions. For SWTOR I suppose that would mean insta-55's and making them play through the prior expansion before getting to play the latest one. That's probably not a great approach business-wise in the instant gratification age we live in. Not if you want them to spend money, anyway. 

So I understand Bioware's decision, and you won't find me ranting that it's some kind of betrayal. It does seem counter-intuitive and somewhat counter-productive to take a game who's big selling point is "experience a Star Wars story" to encourage players to skip the first 60 "chapters" in a 65 chapter tale. I get the economic realities though. It really is a similar problem to the new tabletop player - I can't run a separate game for the new player to begin at level 1, level up through my "content", and then join the party once they hit level 9, mainly because I'm not a server. I'm also not asking my players for money either. 

One note - This is not the first online RPG to do this. Everquest, Everquest II, World of Warcraft, and probably some others have done it too. I think WOW even sells instant max-level characters in their shop. So it's become an accepted thing in the industry to do this. 

Still though - In a tabletop game you might not have as many options but online you do and given the choice of "you can play through 60 levels of a great game with multiple story lines" or "here, read this 3-page summary of your back story" I know which path I'm choosing.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Beyond the Gates of Antares - Starter Set Coming

Not a lot of mystery as to what they're aiming for here, eh?


That noted, it does look interesting. I saw an announcement somewhere that had the bullet points but I can't find it now so here's my take on it:

  • Written by Rick Priestly, the guy who wrote Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000
  • Uses a modification of the Bolt Action system so it will not be I Go/You Go
  • Comes with 2 sets of order dice
  • Templates are plastic
  • Hardcover rulebook
So ... yes, I think it looks pretty interesting. Main page at Warlord is here.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Inspiring Game Images - Gamma World

This topic from the 2015 RPGaDay event at first seemed kind of shallow to me, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that images do carry a lot of weight for me when it comes to RPGs. In fact, I liked it enough that I think it's a subject worth coming back to on a weekly basis at least. First up: Gamma World

Gamma World - 1st Edition

My thinking is that the cover of a role-playing game should demonstrate what the game is about. This cover does that in a very strong way. Plus I'm a sucker for the ruined modern city, so it gets bonus points for that.I'm sure my thing for tech-ruins was driven by everything from the Planet of the Apes movies to Logan's Run to some episodes of Star Trek, so the visuals play a strong role here. Quite a bit of the focus of Gamma World is on scrounging through ruined cities and buildings looking for high tech gear. I know it's not a particularly modern-looking picture, but when this game was new (circa 1978) it looked pretty good and made a strong impression on me when I first saw it.

Now the interior illustrations are not as evocative as the cover but that is a very strong cover in my opinion and it sold me on the game before I cracked open the box. The picture of the Hoops above does seem to have struck a cord with some people and it does capture some of the feel of Gamma World beyond the "ruined cities and lasers" vibe of the cover.

I've talked about the actual game in other posts (here and here) so I won't repeat all of that but we had a lot of fun with it over a long period of time. I spent a lot more time playing 2nd, 3rd, and 4th edition but my interest started with 1st edition and that wonderful cover picture.