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.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Starting the New Month off with a Look to the Future




I am still shocked by this whenever I think about it. Rifts is coming to Savage Worlds. A setting I've liked for 25 years is being converted to  a system I've liked for 114 or so -  ever since they first started discussing it in the wind-down of the original Deadlands. I can't think of a system that will make it more playable. SW is is lightning-quick compared to the massive-hit-point-beat-down of the original system. It's something I thought we would never see - an official, licensed, and approved conversion to another game. Palladium has been notably aggressive in preventing even fan conversions of Rifts to other game systems - now they're going to do it themselves. It's a tremendous about-face.



I'm not terribly interested in speculating on the "why" because in the end it doesn't really matter. It really appears to be happening, and there are good people involved all the way around.



I have to say that when the day comes that we can roll a wild die for our Juicers, Crazys, Dog Boys, Dragon Hatchlings, and yes, even the Glitter Boys, I will be picking that book up and trying to put together a session the very next chance I get.

Monday, August 31, 2015

RPGaDay - Day 31 - Favorite non-RPG thing to come out of RPG-ing




Friends.



I mean, the whole thing is a group activity. You have to have other people to have a game. Hopefully people you like. They may start off as "game friends" but over time at least a few of them are bound to turn into just "friends". Fighting monsters, looting treasures, and saving the planet can be an amazing shared experience. Share it with people you like.





Sunday, August 30, 2015

RPGaDay - Day 30 - Favorite RPG Playing Celebrity




Oh please - the slow rise of D-list celebrity gaming is probably my least favorite development of the last few years. I don't care when an otherwise famous person mentions that they have played RPG's. There's nothing wrong with that. I just don't care much for the "celebrity gamer" thing. I like Wil Wheaton's Tabletop show, but I don't care about buying an RPG with his name on it just because his name is on it! I don't care about watching a video of an RPG session because of who is in it. I don't care about the latest OSR kerfluffle about who said what about who. None of it matters to me as a guy who runs and plays games.

If the #1 aspect of something RPG-related is who's name is on it then it's a problem.

If people get all excited because somebody famous "came out" as an RPG player, well ...

I'm sure it stems from D&D and the whole 80's nerd/devil cultist thing that blew up back then. I grew up with it and I don't feel some desperate need to force-legitimize the thing by trying to tie it to some famous person.

It doesn't matter.

Go play your game and enjoy yourself.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

RPGaDay - Day 29 - Favorite RPG Website/Blog


Because I like it, that's why


Hey, there are links right over here!

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  • I check EN World at least weekly, if not more often. For D&D or Pathfinder news, it's the place to check.


    There are also the various SRD sites listed off to the side there and those are handy too.


    Friday, August 28, 2015

    RPGaDay - Day 28 - Favorite Game You No Longer Play

    Well this one is fairly easy. There are a bunch of games I am not playing right now that might get played again in the future, so I am going to take this as "... no longer play and are unlikely to play again." That does make it a lot easier.


    I spent a lot of time playing AD&D in the 80's. We had a blast and it was the major game that formed the baseline of what "RPG" meant to me. I bought the books, read the magazines,  painted the miniatures, wore the t-shirt, and fought through innumerable adventures for a good 10-11 years, from elementary school into the college years. When the next edition came out we moved on to it and never looked back. That's sort of the problem ...

    I haven't sat down to run a 1st edition AD&D game in over 20 years. I haven't played one either.  I loved this game when it was "the" game but I've never thought the mechanics were the peak of game design for all time. Everyone I played with thought 2E was an improvement and moved on. We all moved to 3E when it came out too.

    When it comes to nostalgia I've considered running an old school game but when it comes up B/X D&D is the game of choice as it's simpler, cleaner, and faster. Goblinoid Games managed to add in most of the good parts of AD&D into it with their Advanced Edition Companion for Labyrinth Lord.
    So there's not much need to go full-retro with AD&D just to be able to play a dwarf cleric. I suggested it to the Apprentices and they said "but we like Basic" and that was that.

    For a while I even considered running Hackmaster, the older edition, which is a whole bunch of AD&D 1st & 2nd edition with some updates. No one took it seriously as an option.

    While I may have some nostalgia for it, no one else is willing to spend some of their limited gaming time on an old, clunky game when there are other options, options they like better, available. So it seems unlikely, very unlikely, that I will ever run or play this again unless I stumble into a nest of old-schoolers  - and decide it's truly worth some of my limited gaming time.




    Runner Up:


    We had some really good times playing this game in the late 80's and 90's. You wouldn't think the end of the civilized world would be great for that but it was a lot of fun as a game. It was never the most popular RPG but it was my favorite game of that type.

    This one is suffering from a similar yet different problem from AD&D. Tastes change and time moves on and my friends and the Apprentices are not terribly interested in the post-apocalyptic game as a genre anymore. With AD&D it's about the mechanics - the subject matter is still awesome, but the system has been surpassed. For Twilight 2000 the mechanics are fine, and being able to cut loose with an automatic grenade launcher from your humvee is still a cool thing, but the setting as a whole is just not something they care about.No magic,  no mecha, no powers, just normal humans and real-world gear. I'd love to run some of my current players through the epic published campaign but I doubt that will ever happen.







    Thursday, August 27, 2015

    RPGaDay - Day 27 - Favorite Idea for Merging Two Games Into One

    Well this is easy. Ahem:



    1. Concept
    2. Framework
    3. Content
    4. Other Discussion
    Now for #5 - How it went in actual play!

    It went well! The players liked it as it merges the concept of Necessary Evil (which we had started and enjoyed years ago) with the familiar environs of Paragon City (familiar because we were all multi-year veterans of City of Heroes). They dusted off their old characters and we jumped right in to a classic comic book retcon to move it over to the new setting. 

    A peaceful holding facility - before the PC's got ahold of it ...

    Unfortunately it fell victim to logistics and the difficulties of having another standing game with all the complications of adult and family schedules. 

    I know it works, we like both the concept and the system, and one of these days we will pick it up again. 


    Wednesday, August 26, 2015

    RPGaDay - Day 26 - Favorite Inspiration for Your Game




    I've talked about my inspirations from some online games, mainly Star Trek and City of Heroes. I think that leads into a discussion of some easy places and sources of inspiration.



    • IP settings like Star Trek and Star Wars certainly benefit from cross-pollination. I'm digging into The Old Republic for the first time in a long time and many of the NPC's and missions are quite steal-able for a tabletop game. The same goes for various Star Trek Online missions. Sometimes even a simple screenshot can provide both inspiration and illustration - a planet, a ship, a building, a ruin, an opponent - maybe it all starts with the visual thing.

    • Beyond the games there is also a large set of books and other media too. I'm catching up on Star Wars Rebels with Apprentice Who and if that's not all about a PC adventuring party I don't know what is. With Trek there aren't any new shows on TV right now but there are several online Trek series that come up with some pretty interesting stuff. It's always been fairly easy to me to pull in characters, objects, plots, or concepts from all of these that inspire you and turn them into something new. 

    • Supers is another genre that benefits from the vast universe of material out there. Tv shows, movies, comic books, novels, online videos - there is so much there you can find almost anything. Obligatory Moment of Silence for City of Heroes here ...
    Crossover!
    I'd say that's where my main inputs and outputs of inspiration are. The genre I run most, D&D type fantasy, I don't really look to other sources. I am not sure why, it just works differently for me. Part of it might be because I've been immersed in it more and over a longer period of time than these others. Part of it might be that  I run a lot of published stuff too. Regardless, it's working for me right now.

    Tuesday, August 25, 2015

    RPGaDay - Day 25 - Favorite Revolutionary Game Mechanic

    There have been a lot of eyebrow-raising moments over the years when it comes to the "how" of making a game work. All of them were important to me at the time. A sample list in chronological order:


    • Traveller - my first encounter with a non-class-and-level system after a couple of years of D&D. It was a very different approach and opened up my eyes to new possibilities.



    • Champions - Point-based character creation! Superpowers! A mechanical framework for every object in the universe! Opposition built on the same rules as the PCs! This whole game was a revelation and is still a very different approach than most RPG's




    • James Bond 007 - A unified task resolution chart was a huge innovation, one that would show up in a more popular game (Marvel Super Heroes) the following year. Figuring out how that fit into the game and how damned useful it was made this game even more fun.

      Also: Hero points! This is the first RPG I know of where players had a pool of points for their character that could be used to adjust die rolls on the fly. It fit the genre perfectly - after all, a 00 doesn't miss that critical shot! The GM had a similar system of points for villains. This kind of "bad roll insurance" mechanic took a while to really take off but you find something similar in a whole bunch of games nowadays.




    • Shadowrun - The whole system was amazing. I have Unarmed Combat 6 and I am fighting a guy with Unarmed Combat 4. That means I roll 6 dice with a target number of 4, and my opponent rolls 4 dice with a target number of 6 - genius! How simple is that to keep track of?! Non-opposed checks have a target number, typically a 4. The whole game works like that! Now the math can be strange, and figuring probabilities can be tough, but as far as intuitive mechanics it was great and at the time we loved it. There was very little book-checking for normal stuff and that's a huge win even today. 




    • 3rd Edition D&D - while the unified mechanics got all of the attention that had been done before as far back as the 70's in everything from RuneQuest to Traveller. Feats were just Champions Advantages. The big innovation to me was per-level multiclassing. This took what had been a fairly restrictive class and level system and turned it into a modular Lego-style system where a player could build exactly the character they wanted as the levels piled up - regular classes, prestige classes, and racial levels all combined to make for a very cool and very flexible set of mechanics for creating a character.  It's not quite Hero System in flexibility but it's closer than one might think. 




    • Savage Worlds - The first RPG I can recall that was expressly built with playability as the top concern. It's a radical change from the prior Deadlands system which was very very crunchy and detail-oriented. Savage Worlds chucked all of that and started rating stats and skills in dice - not number of dice (ala Star Wars or Shadowrun) but type of dice. The "Wild Die" a bonus d6, separates important characters from mooks. Target number is always a 4, with a few potential modifiers, bonus effects for exceeding the target by certain increments, and the occasional exploding die. A Savage Worlds character will never have the kind of detail found in a Pathfinder character, but they will have more mechanical differences and details than a Fate character. It's a system with a nice balance of speed and simplicity while still generating interesting outcomes.

      Additionally, the game uses cards for initiative. Instead of rolling a die players draw a card. This doesn't seem like much  of a change but it opens up some interesting mechanical options beyond just "who has the higher number" and adding or subtracting bonuses. First, you have a suit and a color in addition to a ranking and some effects can key off of one or more of those. Similarly, the two jokers trigger certain effects as well. Also, things that impact a character's speed or capability in an action situation can be reflected in having them draw more or fewer cards, having them choose the higher or lower card, or letting them use multiple cards in a single round. Some people might look at the cards as just a quirky difference of the system but they can be a lot more. 



    • D&D 4th edition - Taunt mechanics! There were powers in the game that inflicted penalties or even damage on a target if it attacked anyone other than you! This is a surprisingly powerful thing and really does open up the option for a "tank" type character approach.

      Next, certain classes had the ability to lock down enemy movement as a built-in capability. When you can stop an enemy from moving on their own turn it opens up a lot of tactical options. This also added to the "tank" concept described above and seriously increased the importance of the "Attack of Opportunity" by inflicting a consequence other than straight damage. I miss this ability in other games, from Pathfinder to 5th Edition.

      Finally, the entire concept of forced movement of other characters: Many powers in 4E involve moving another character away from another (a "push"), or pulling them towards another (a "pull"), or moving them at the acting player's discretion (a "slide") and it really changes up combat from a relatively simple exchange of damage to a far more dynamic affair.  A pull could represent anything from an insult that strikes home and enrages the target into charging the taunter to a magical tractor beam to an entangling tentacle. A push might be anything from a magical force effect to a mighty punch. Superhero games tend to have some kind of knockback mechanic, but the only game that even comes close to accommodating some of these kinds effects is Champions, and even then it typically happens only on a character's acting turn, not as an interruption or a reaction on another character's turn.

      All of these innovations made a combat round in 4E far different than any other RPG combat round I have played. Just because it's "your" turn doesn't mean you're the only one that will be doing something. It's a full-table interactive process and it is a blast when running at full speed. It does mean that combat takes a while sometimes, but people have had the same complaint about Champions for years and you know what - it's worth it! If you want "crunchy" combat, where every move matters, this is a great system.




    • Marvel Heroic Roleplaying - a radically different approach in mechanics for ... everything - especially when it comes to a superhero game and the way those have been traditionally handled. There's a little bit of other games from Fate to Savage Worlds but the system as a whole is not like anything else out there. One description was that it's an exercise in justification and building dice pools, so it rewards both understanding a character and a player's ability to think on their feet. On top of the innovative approach, it manages to balance Hulk and Hawkeye to where both can contribute equally well to a team, something that is tough to do in a lot of other games. Plus, it a) works in actual play and b) is a lot of fun in actual play and c) requires very little book-lookup, another strongly favorable aspect of these mechanics, especially for a superhero game. 




    • D&D 5th Edition - Advantage/Disadvantage. Such a simple concept! Such a simple mechanic! Now everyone can be a 4th Edition Avenger! One of my players ran an Avenger in 4th edition so I have seen the power of "roll twice take the highest" when applied on a large scale and it is great. It can wipe out a large number of modifiers - instead of a bonus or penalty for certain actions or circumstances you have advantage or disadvantage. It's a great example of innovation that improves a game in every way. 

    Monday, August 24, 2015

    RPGaDay - Day 24 - Favorite House Rule




    Well if we go by the one we used the most it's probably "4d6 and drop the lowest" for rolling up D&D characters going back to sometime in the 80's.

    Other than that we don't usually need a ton of house rules, at least not a codified set of them. Lord knows Pathfinder has enough rules already. Savage Worlds works pretty well as-written. M&M does too.

    I've played around with some tweaks for ICONS here. It's the kind of game that inspires some mechanical exploration.

    All of my rules-related posts are here so I'll just let that stand as the rest of my entry for this one.