Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The new Metamorphosis Alpha is out.

So there is a new edition of MA out this month - it's available here.

There is a free preview document here which sheds some light on the background and the system.

I was not a part of the kickstarter but I have read through the preview document and I have a few thoughts:

  • First, I've always loved the concept of MA. The descendants inhabiting a lost generation ship is an awesome setting for a game and a step beyond the basic post-apocalyptic world in a lot of these swords & laser type of games. It's a game I always wanted to play or run but have never had the chance - Gamma World was our bread and butter for this kind of thing. 
  • Second - I really don't like that cover. It tells me nothing about the game and looks like it could be anything from a typical fantasy game to a stone age type of setting. Compare it to some of the old MA or GW covers and while it's more professional on the surface than some, it just doesn't convey anything about the game itself.
  • Third, I've never heard of "System 26" before this but it looks a lot like the basics of the classic Shadowrun rules and that could be just fine. You have a variable number of dice (d6's) with a variable target number and each die is a success or failure - more successes = a better overall result. 
Bonus thought: From the book itself:
"✇✇ “The Petting Zoo of Death” is an introductory

adventure for Metamorphosis Alpha. It offers a great
starting point to get a group of diverse characters
together and shows how scenarios are presented in
the game.

Yeah - that's a terrible name for the intro adventure too.Whatever seriousness is conveyed in the intro and background material flies right out the window upon reading that, and this is coming from a guy who was perfectly happy fighting Gallus-Gallus-13's in Famine in Far-Go years ago.

Despite the stylistic knocks I am more than a little interested. A classic setting with a ton of potential combined with a simple yet mechanically interesting system ... yes, I will probably pick it up at some point. The only thing holding me back at the moment is the giant backlog of RPG material I am reading through and the ever-present "when am I going to get to run this" conundrum. I'll work through those and let you know how the full game looks a little bit down the road.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Spirit of 77 - in Hardcopy!

The hardcopy books from the Kickstarter arrived this week and they look good. They are digest-sized, more like the Savage World books have become of late. I am a fan of PDFs, but there's still something about holding the book in your hand that feels good. It seemed particularly appropriate to post them up for Throwback Thursday.

Now to find time to read them ...

Friday, May 22, 2015

40K Friday - Catching Up

 I haven't played any 40K in the last 2 months but I have been working on some of the armies. Details below:


I finally picked up the "new" codex and started going through my existing army. This was going to be a project for 2016 but I decided I wasn't that far away from a usable force and I already had the parts. The "right now" force is shaping up like this:

  • Warboss + Nobz in a battlewagon
  • 3 mobs of boyz in battlewagons
  • A mob of infiltrating Kommandos
  • Dakka jet and a Burna-Bomma
  • Rokkit Launcher Buggies
  • Grots
This is just a regular CAD force for now and ends up around 2000 points. I have enough boyz to use the Ork Warband formation and the Ork Horde has some potential too. The biggest problem at the moment is that Heavy Support slots are over crowded. I'm working on a second CAD force as a Mekboy force - Mek Gunz, Kans, Tankbustas, another battlewagon, etc but the points get really high with "everything". It's going to take some experimentation to figure out whats fun for small/medium/large point values. The good thing is that almost everything in the above list is painted and finishing it up won't take much time. That's really the goal here is to get something together I can put on the table in a week or two.

Chaos Marines!

The Iron Warriors "ally contingent" (cough) has expanded beyond its original purpose and is becoming a full-fledged second Chaos Marine army. At the moment that's 3 squads of CSM's, a Rhino, a Helbrute, and a Heldrake, led by a Chaos Lord and a Warsmith. All of it is painted too, which is nice. Future goals include more rhinos, a triple-lascannon predator, and maybe some vindicators. I plan for it to be my vehicular CSM army so there's a lot of room to grow. 

Force Bane, the plague marine army, has not changed much. I am up to 6 squads of plague marines and I am still painting them. That's really the core of my army so I want to do it right. I've also made a little progress on the chaos spawn and it should take much to finish them up. once that's done it's really just touching up the havocs and then the Nurgle bikers and some terminators are all I have left to finish. Can I finish it this year? Hard to say. It seems totally doable, but the other armies on the list may distract me.

Blood Angels

All army parts acquired, very little work done on building and painting them. Pretty much the same plan as outlined in this post, just not much to report. 

Dark Angels

Not much progress here either. all parts acquired, all tanks built, squads and weapons allocated, everything base coated, but not much infantry actually completed. The basic outline is still the same as what I described in this post.  

I did add the Deathwing Knights and the Crusader. I also added a terminator chaplain as a possible second HQ unit (instead of the librarian) because he makes the Knights even nastier in melee and adds a little more punch to the squad - probably more than 2 warp charge dice are going to bring in a bigger battle. 

I added a third tactical squad to increase my options to something besides "more plasma". I have not added a third rhino to transport them as right now I see it more as a swap-out option than as adding a third squad to a fight. 

Finally I picked up a second Razorback to serve as a transport for the devastator squad. Why not add another vehicle and another heavy weapon to the mix?

It was a good cover ...

Oh boy, Eldar got a new codex and I've been furiously rearranging and acquiring the elements of what I want the army to be. 

I was working on an Iyanden-style all-wraith army as my core and the new codex slightly alters that with a new formation. I have all the pieces, I juts need to build and paint them now - same old story.

I also started refining my non-wraith units to form a Guardian Battlehost. I have everything for it except the artillery so that's high on the list of Things to Acquire. Supplemental forces will include aspect shrines and possibly the wraith host too.

So for smaller battles I can go with a CAD and/or the Wraith Host. Bigger fights could bring out the Battlehost formation with some extra support. 

The newly-squadron-ed eldar tanks are interesting but I don't have enough of them to make use of the special rules. I did pick up a pair of wave serpents to give the wraithguard some mobility but that's as far as I've gone. 

For this army I have plenty of options. the goal is to get it to a playable state and start figuring out what works and what is fun to play and moving in that direction. 


So ... five armies all in various stages of building. I don't know if I will "complete" any of them this year but I hope to get them all into shape as a playable force - even a small force - and get in some games with each of them. I don't recommend this approach if you're just getting started but it's where I am at the moment.  

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Long Term RPG Thoughts

I haven't run or played anything in more than a month - taking care of business etc. I have had some time to reflect on the whole hobby though.

  • It takes a fairly high level of effort to conceive, create, begin, and maintain an ongoing RPG campaign. 
  • It takes a long term commitment to keep one going, for the GM and the players. 
  • Playing takes up space and time.
  • The books take up space and typically are not free. If you're like me they can take up a lot of space. 
  • There is an opportunity cost as well - if you're playing for six hours on a Friday night that's time you are not doing something else. 

All of these things may sound obvious but I think that we (and I know I do) often sink down into the daily or weekly routines and don't really assess what the upsides and downsides are of these things.  For a casual player who owns a few books and plays a few times a month it's probably not that much. For those of us who are more into it though, who are constantly running, playing, or thinking about them, it can be difficult to step back and look at the bigger picture.

On one level, no matter what you're playing you are having fun spending time with friends and family and that's a good thing to have in your life on a regular schedule.

But it doesn't hurt to ask questions of oneself: Is this still a good way to spend my time? What else could I be doing with that time/money/effort/mindspace? Do I need all of this stuff? Do I truly enjoy the specific game I am running? How about the people I am playing it with? Where does this rank among my priorities? What about my other interests and hobbies?

If you're a single guy in your teens or twenties you probably have a different set of conditions than the forty-something married with kids guy who is writing this, and that's cool because I was there once too. Things change though - relationships, living space, finances, families - all can have an impact. For me there were the junior high /early high school days, then the later high school days with a job and a car, then the college days with new friends, and then the post-college days of singlehood and full time employment, and then the family days of adding a wife and kids on top of the full time job. It's worth re-assessing the whole picture every so often to see how it's working for you right now.

Now I'm not planning any drastic changes for myself right now. I considered thinning out the RPG collection but there's not a really urgent need to do so. I did end the Necessary Evil/City of Heroes game because while it was fun I was having trouble meeting the commitment and it just is not worth the aggravation when I can't maintain it like I want to. For now I'm running the one Pathfinder campaign bi-weekly and playing in another one monthly and that's enough. Anything beyond that will probably be one-offs or a limited 2-3 session game planned that way from the start. I feel like I need to spend a little more time with the non-RPG'er friends and family and that's the way I see to do it. I'd love to run a regular, ongoing supers campaign but if there's any genre best suited to short runs and one-offs it has to be superheroes and that's how I'm going to handle it for now.

I know it's not for everyone but right now I am totally happy running and playing Pathfinder. I accepted long ago that I would always have a "D&D" game if I was playing at all, and anything else would be a bonus after that. If I can work in some M&M/Champions/ICONS?Marvel after that I would be very happy too.  Spirit of 77, Feng Shui, Deadlands, and other Savage Worlds games are going to have to be one-shots or irregular games at best. Star Wars and Star Trek are "someday" games where I'm going to have to round up some new players to make them happen and I just don't have the bandwidth to do that - but I might someday.

So I'm still going to be involved in RPG's and they are still one of my hobbies. I may not have quite as much to say because I'm not as worried about the day to day new type stuff about them right now and I'm not running quite as much as I have been in the past. I will talk about what I do run here though and try to keep the focus on running and playing and less on theory, news, and generic stuff. More "games I like and am playing" and less "gaming stuff" in general.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Back to Action!

Things are settling down a bit so I thought it was time to catch up with some new arrivals.

First the final PDF of Spirit of 77 came through last week - now to read it! I am looking forward to this and already have some thoughts on a limited series (noted here) that might even allow me to run it semi-regularly. Also:

The supplementary material PDF came though too. man I love that cover!

Then today, some other stuff came:

Like everything else about this game it's done with coolness and style and completely in the spirit of the theme. Just passing this stuff around the table will help set the mood bigtime.

Last week also brought the PDF of Feng Shui 2E:

Now I've never been able to talk a group into playing FS but with a new edition, why not try again? I need to read it and brush up on the changes first but I think a one-shot is possible this summer. I usually pitch it as "the game you would use to run Big Trouble in Little China" and that should be enough to get that far at least.

A few weeks back I added this to the collection:

Partly because I'm in a Star Wars kind of mood what with the trailer and all, and partly because I want to see how FFG's funky dice based rules are really working. I liked d6 , I liked Saga, might as well give this a whirl, especially since the build-up to the next movie might finally push some of the crew over the top in wanting to play a Star Wars game. I picked up the starter set too so we have some pre-made characters and adventures to expedite things if we need them.

The main focus is still the Pathfinder campaign and given our limited time right now anything else is a bonus, but I suspect we will at least get in a try-out session with most of these before 2015 is over.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Rig for Silent Running

Too much going on here at the Tower this month so I'm going to have to submerge for a bit. More to come as things develop.

"... and - Dive!"

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Spirit of '77 Adventure Seeds

I was doodling a bit the other day and started coming up with one-liners I thought would make a good title for an adventure for Spirit of '77. These are in no particular order and may of them are clearly mixing some familiar things:

  • Land of the Lost Saucer
  • Space: 1977
  • The Outlaw Mary Tyler Moore
  • Interstate '77
  • Cloned to Run
  • Schoolhouse Rockets
  • The Poseidon Inferno
  • Any Which Way You Can Lose
  • Capricorn Dos
  • How the West was Run
  • The Galileo '77
  • The Shiner Syndrome
  • Kotter vs. Kotter
  • May the Magnum Force Be With You
  • The Computer Wore Racing Slicks
Now those alone might be enough to start your wheels turning, but here's what I came up with for them as I thought through it a little more. I may have individual entries on them down the road when the final rules come out.

  • "The Computer Wore Racing Slicks" - The world's first intelligent car is being tested - then it takes off! The PC's are hired to secretly (SECRETLY!) bring it back "alive". The car appears to have an agenda of its own and there may be more going on than simple advanced electronics. There are also other parties interested in acquiring the vehicle for themselves, some far less scrupulous than the party.
  • "Land of the Lost Saucer" - An old friend of one of the PC's, a crazy scientist, has been working on a wrecked alien spacecraft and its robotic crew. When terrorists interrupt his first attempt to power up the craft, the crew takes a journey to ... somewhere else. Somewhere with dinosaurs, furry humanoids, scaly humanoids, and strange crystal-filled pylons.
  • "Space: 1977" -  Organized crime has taken a crew of NASA astronauts hostage. They are the only ones trained to fly a new experimental spacecraft and with the launch only days away the agency needs them back, pronto! One of them may have escaped - and is now hiding on the tour bus of a famous rock band.
  • "The Galileo '77" - a massive, high-tech airship named "Galileo" is taking its maiden voyage from LA to Honolulu and the PC's are invited. While on board they get to know the other members of the inaugural passenger list and everything seems fine until a storm and a series of equipment failures force the airship down onto a strange island filled with strange, savage inhabitants. Can the PC's keep the peace? Can they get everyone working together to repair the craft? Can they protect everyone from the savage inhabitants?
  • "The Outlaw Mary Tyler Moore" - An old reporter friend of the PC's shows up on the FBI's ten most wanted list. Has this once happy big city girl gone rogue and fallen in with kidnappers? Is it case of stockholm syndrome? Or is there more to this than meets the eye? 
  • "Interstate '77" - in a nod to the wonderful 90's PC game Interstate 76 the team crosses paths with Groove Champion and Taurus for some automotive mayhem out west.
  • "Cloned to Run" - a new criminal gang is causing trouble back east and when the PC's intervene and get a chance to remove some perpetrators' helmets it turns out they are identical! A science experiment gone wrong falls into the hands of organized crime and it's up to our heroes to clean up the mess.
  • "Schoolhouse Rockets" - A high school auto shop class in the inner city has become affiliated with a powerful local gang. When the PC's intervene to save a kid brother, the gangs don't take it well. Lessons are learned and extreme property damage is inflicted. An ABC Afterschool special produced by Michael Bay.
  • The Poseidonworld Inferno - The PCs are on vacation at a massive underwater resort which suffers a few problems when a nearby underwater volcano erupts. Also, why is the robotic waiter looking at us that way?
  • "Every Which Way You Can Lose" - Clyde the Yeti has escaped and taken up with a trucker and part-time brawler out west. Add in a animal activists, corporate repo men, vengeful motorcycle gang, a legend ready to retire, and some rival girlfriends and things get complicated quick. (PC hooks include contact by the biologist or being old friends of the trucker) Lots of room for a sequel too.
  • "Capricorn Dos" - A fringe reporter friend of the PC's has photographic evidence that an astronaut who supposedly dies in an accident years ago is actually alive and living in Mexico. He wants the PCs to head south of the border and find out what's going on.
  • "The Shiner Syndrome" - In the wake of widespread reports about the appalling conditions of the big corporate breweries the best little brewery in Texas is trying to expand -  but the Big Beer Companies are trying to buy them out (to water them down like any other corporate beer) and the PC's are called in to help out and deliver a special shipment to a potential benefactor across the country.
  • Kotter vs. Kotter (double sequel) - A high school teacher meets himself walking into class one morning. A science prodigy with a thing for the teacher's wife accidentally clones the teacher instead. Ties back to "Schoolhouse Rockets" and "Cloned to Run"
  • "May the Magnum Force Be With You" - San Francisco's greatest inspector runs thinks he's investigating a series of grisly killings but this time the perps are Not From Around Here and this time the .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, may not be enough.
  • How the West was Run - A greatest hits adventure as all of the notable NPC's from all of the other adventures - and some new ones - come together for a "friendly" race across the country. A big "season finale" adventure that's going to take multiple sessions to complete. It should also lay the groundwork for some future encounters too. Featuring:
    • The Car from Computer Wore Racing Slicks 
    • The Mad Scientist from Land of the Lost Saucer who shows up in an unusual prototype
    • Groove Champion and Taurus
    • The High School crew from "Schoolhouse Rockets" has an entry - possibly the cloned teacher from K vs, K
    • The main NPC from EWWYCL (and Clyde?). The motorcycle gang will probably show up somewhere along the way too. 
    • Reformed bad guy from Shiner Syndrome shows up as another driver
    • Outlaw Mary could be an entry
    • A famous Russian race driver
    • A British secret service agent

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

More on Patreon, VIPs, and Insider Access

On the ranty side of things... 

A month ago I posted about the creeping doom of Patreon infiltrating a bunch of gaming sites. Poking around I see that both Priority One and Critical Hit are asking for money now. EN World has started their "EnSider" program. Several blogs are doing it now too.

All of these things started out as hobby endeavors, becoming another link in the chain of fan-produced support of a particular game or type of game. At some point, they have exceeded the capacity of the creators to produce them the way they want to without seeking additional funding from outsiders, at least that's how it is presented. 

To me, the Patreon type support is unlikely to be enough to replace a full time income. I can see it helping to offset bandwith costs, sure.  So one of the common complaints of "it takes too much time to support it" - well, I'm not sure how a hundred bucks a month buys you more hours in the day. You still have a day job, you still have some kind of family/social obligations. Presumably you still need/want to spend some time actually playing the game that got you interested enough to start the whole thing in the first place. If the mindset has become "wow for as much time as I spend on this thing I should really be making some money off of it" then that's great but this particular hobby doesn't seem to carry that kind of weight for most people. 

Some of them seem to be more interested in funding their hobby activities too. I'm not terribly interested in helping other people get to conventions, shoot videos (what's the additional cost here? videotape?), get new mics (how many microphones do you need?), travel costs to game companies (seriously? what happened to phones and the internet?). Some also hold out special insider content or early access to new content as a reward. I'm sure some people get excited about that kind of thing but it does little to nothing for me.   

So while they're growing past "easy fun hobby project" none of them seem determined to turn it into a real business - and many of them cannot (see below, though ENWorld already is to a point with ads etc) - so they're going to an intermediate level of asking for donations. It doesn't hurt to try, but there is a whole lot of asking for money going on in the hobby right now and I am not at all confident in how sustainable it is. If you realize at some point if you can't afford to meet your vision on your own is it no longer acceptable to just run it as best you can at the level that you can?

Part of the problem here is that all of these projects (and many others) revolve around properties they do not own. In fact, the reason that most of them exist in the first place is that most creators/copyright holders know that fan activity and discussion is a healthy thing for a business. They tend to be fairly liberal with the rules and encourage participation right up until someone tries to make money off of it. If you don't own a license from CBS or Paramount there is not a lot you can do to make money off of Star Trek. Perhaps this is the downfall, an inevitable cycle of growth and collapse:

  • Enthusiast discovers there is a Star Battle online game or RPG
  • Enthusiast creates a podcast or blog about Star Battle
  • Site becomes very popular, taking more time and possibly money to run
  • Enthusiast (or Enthusiast's spouse or boss or bank account) signals that the level of involvement has become unacceptable and unsustainable
  • Enthusiast tries various adjustments and modifications 
  • Enthusiast and either achieves a new, sustainable level of involvement and continues with a revamp or does not and podfades or sees more intermittent content updates as time goes on.
So it's awesome to have these awesome sites about awesome things such as  Trek or Marvel or D&D but ... they aren't yours. While many of us are grateful for the megafans who perform ridiculous feats of posting or podding I also know it's not a terribly rational decision, but many of them are done by the younger end of the gaming curve and they aren't terribly concerned about that anyway. I think a thing can be both admirable and unsustainable. Regardless, you're unlikely to get rich investing a tremendous amount of time and effort into promoting and supporting something you do not own.

So we get GoFundMe requests and Patreon links.

Maybe the future will bring a new and better option.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Monday Runaround

The good stuff:

  • Green Ronin has a fun list of movie plots to adapt to an RPG session when you need an idea in a hurry.
  • Barking Alien had an interesting post about Types of Games last week. It's worth a look if you haven't seen it yet. 
  • If anyone out there is still playing Marvel Heroic then you should know that over the last monthPlot Points has been posting up a complete event - Fear Itself. It's always good to have more of those on the shelf and this one is now complete. 
Tomorrow - the ranty stuff

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Hell on Earth Reloaded: The Worms' Turn Review

This is the first plot point campaign published for Hell on Earth Reloaded. It was released in 2015. The short version: It's really good, shows the potential of the setting post-Reckoners, and has me wanting to see more.

This one is centered around Junkyard and the Iron Alliance. It begins with efforts to recover from the big battle at the end of the previous edition of the game, then expands across the wasted west before coming back together with a direct threat to the city and bad news for humanity if the threat is not stopped. Denver, Raven, and the Rattlers/Wormlings are the main threats here.

The plot point itself has 9 "backbone" points. There's not a strong plot feel IMO until about #6, where 6-7-8-9 feel like they would run mainly sequentially. The first 5 though could be run in a different order and over a lengthy period of time if you wanted to. Now that's just the spine of the campaign and it takes up about half of the book - descriptions, maps, plot notes, NPC's.

Most of the second half of the book is 13 "Savage Tales" which are adventures that are not related directly to the plot but can be played in between the others. They range all over the west from Templar HQ in Boise to Seattle to the Mall of America to the swamps of Louisiana. Most of these are pretty interesting in their own right and given the quantity you could run a completely separate campaign just using them! Combined , if it takes one session for each one, that's 22 sessions of play in this one book. That's a great deal! Considering that's without adding anything of your own, it's a deal and sets up a zero-prep campaign that looks like a lot of fun.

Special Callout - one problem with a lot of plotted campaigns is that there's not a lot of discussion about what happens if the PC's fail. I've noticed this in everything from Pathfinder AP's to Shadowrun adventures to some of the adventures for other story-heavy games. This one has notes on exactly this kind of thing in most of the individual plot-points as well as an entire page discussing what happens if they fail in the finale. This was great and I'd love to see more of this kind of coverage in similar adventures.

What would make it better: Well, I don't see a whole lot wrong with this as-is.

  • "More" is better of course so more Tales would have been nice but 22 is really enough that I cannot complain. 
  • There are cyborgs and librarians in some of the adventures so the Companion is a handy thing to have. This is fine with me but some might see it as a negative. 
  • Dr. Hellstromme shows up in one of the Savage Tales as a quest-giver and seems to me like a stressed party could start trying to bring him in to solve larger problems - like the one driving the big finale. I think the easiest solution is to use his adventure early before the main thrust of things becomes apparent and then have a good answer as to why he's not answering the phone when the party calls him for help later. 

The Verdict: 

As a player:  this book is not for you. Let your GM get it. In fact, encourage them to do so.

As a GM:

  • If you're already running a game and have a definite direction you want to go I'd rate this as "useful" as it's good to have drop in adventures on hand even if you're not going to run the main thread. 
  • If you are running a game and do not have a set concept for the future then I'd say this is a "get" as it gives you one idea of how things could go and has a lot of useful parts.
  • If you are contemplating a new campaign of HOE RL but are not running yet then this becomes a must buy
So yes, I really like this campaign, as much as I like some of the best Pathfinder AP's. 

It also makes me wonder what they will put together next (there have to be more, right?) and it also makes me consider pulling together a "Classic" campaign from the old books to set up a prequel to this game. My players never played through much of the old published adventure line, so it could be a lot of fun - something to ponder for now.