Friday, February 5, 2016

40K Friday: Kings of War

So we're going to dust of the long-neglected Warhammer minis and try Kings of War tonight ...

I'll let everyone know how it goes. Saturday may be Frostgrave's first run so I may have two new games to discuss next week.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Galavant! Season Two!

This is a very funny gem tucked away on ABC's Saturday night schedule. It's over now but you can catch at least a few episodes on the network site. What is it?

  • It's a very modern medieval fantasy show
  • It's a musical
  • It's funny
  • It's short - there are around 10 half-hour episodes per season 
I mentioned it last year but season 2 is even better. I think my favorite episode is the one where they encounter dwarves, and giants, and a dragon, all for the first time. It's not exactly traditional but it's a bunch of fun and I am not usually a "hey it's a musical - awesome!" kind of guy. It works very well here though.

If you like any significant percentage of what I talk about here then it's worth a little effort to track it down.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Review: Mecha vs. Kaiju

The short version: I so wanted to like this ...

I read this back before Christmas. Then I set it aside to give it some time to percolate. Then I went back and looked at a few specific things that were bothering me and ... they're still bothering me. Time to talk about it on the blog.

I have a huge soft spot for pretty much all of the kaiju movies - Godzilla, Gamera, King Kong Escapes, etc. They are one of those rarely obtained fruits from childhood back before everything was on-demand or even at a local video store. When one of them showed up on the Saturday afternoon movie listings (or one of the late night Saturday listings) it was a big deal. For many of them, watching on a big hi-def screen doesn;t really recapture the experience  - you have to watch them on a 19" tube TV, possibly even a black and white TV, to really go all the way back.

Nowadays, like so many nerd things, they're almost respectable, but back then while some kids loved them, most adults thought they were stupid. To a point, they are. But sometimes I don't want drama, or witty dialogue, or tastefully done nudity - I want to see a model city get crushed into rubble by some giant clawed feet. Not nuked and destroyed in one shot. Not a matte painting wiped clean by disease or a CGI background reduced to the near-silence of shuffling undead feet. I want to see models being viscerally, literally, stomped flat.

For that, there's one section of the movie universe that you go to. It's based out of Japan and subtlety is not listed on the ingredients.

As much fun as it is to watch, how much fun would it be to play as one of those things? Or even as one of the many human attempts to take one on in a giant robot? One of my earliest and fondest  Battletech memories is at a local con where 30-something players took our mechs against Godzilla. An RPG on the subject should be awesome!

Enter "Mecha vs. Kaiju".

It's for FATE - that's good, because that's a game I really want to like but I keep not finding a setting that really pushes me into saying "we're playing this next week".  A lot of them look good, seem like a fun concept, and then I dig into them and there's just not much there. I don't know if that's a signature of the system, of Evil Hat who publishes most of them, or just what other fans of the game prefer, but so far it's not helping me get into the game.

MvK, thankfully, does not have this problem. There's a pretty solid setting in this book though, much like a superhero setting, it's core is "now + some alterations". Nothing wrong with that - it's what I would want and expect in a Kaiju game.

The first part of the book is great. It starts with a tone-setting short story (and I mean short - less than 3 pages), a discussion of the inspirations for the game (everything you might expect), It then dives right into character creation - archetypes, skills, alterations to basic FATE to fit the setting - there are about 20 pages of this stuff and it's fine.

Then we start digging into the setting: a history of Japan with Kaiju (lots of nods to kaiju movies here), there's a discussion of the Mecha Assault Force (the central focus of the game - it's what your players will be a part of), rules for mecha in FATE (both designing them and playing them), sample mecha from the MAF (it's not Battletech or Mekton but it's plenty interesting for a system like FATE and I think it would be a lot of fun).

Then we get into the gamemaster section. There are spoilers below so be warned.

The first section for the GM has a bunch of sample kaiju and rules for creating and running them in FATE, much like the mecha section earlier. This is all good.

Then we get into the Secret History of Japan and this is where it falls apart for me: It's all supernatural. We get Kami vs Oni in pre-history. The Oni create Ogres and train humans in the dark arts who become ninjas, and they fight Kami-trained humans all through history.  The origin of the kaiju is tangled up with a demon-summoning ritual at the end of WW2 along with the traditional atomic aspects and this really derailed the setting for me. I don't mind supernatural elements being a part of the setting - they've certainly been a part of quite a few kaiju movies - but I really didn't want them to be the core of it and they are. The included campaign has ninjas (cool) and kaiju (of course) but it is mainly a fight against the Oni-powered Ogre Ninja organization and their efforts to control various Kaiju and use them to attack the MAF. Besides not liking the main badguys conceptually I also think it distracts from the main theme of this kind of campaign: STOP THE GIANT MONSTERS FROM FLATTENING YOUR HOME! I don't mind a ninja guest appearance. I don't mind a supernatural guest appearance. I just don't want it to be the dominant theme. I could rewrite it to remove this aspect, but it would be a very different campaign. Also, the way it is written feels more like an anime series than a kaiju movie or series of movies - one of the near-incomprehensible ones that you just have to go with, especially once you add in the supernatural stuff

I just really don't like the extremely heavy supernatural angle to it. It feels out of place to me and my own view of a kaiju universe. I was probably looking for more Pacific Rim - more straight-up man vs. kaiju. Like that movie, part of the campaign is discovering that there is an intelligent opponent behind the kaiju and then uncovering who they are and what they are up to. I'm cool with space aliens or dimensional aliens or even straight-up power-mad humans but the Oni/ogre thing just falls flat for me. I am pretty sure that if I ran it as-is my players would look at me like I was looking at the TV near the end of the Battlestar Galactica finale - "they're what?!" I just can't get onboard with it.

Now my own dislikes of the secret history aside, there is a lot of good material here. If the idea of a Kaiju-centric campign interests you and you are interested in FATE then this is still a great book. The "stuff I don't like" is less than a third of the book. The whole MAF section is a pretty good example that could be used in any game.

There is a website for the game that, while it hasn't been updated in a while, it does have stats for some additional characters like Optimus Prime and Ghidorah.

Now there's an idea:
  • Season One: Fight the Kaiju to a standstill. 
  • Season Two: A talking truck shows up and warns you about a galaxy-wide war that's about to land on earth. I'm pretty sure any fan of this kind of thing is up for Dinobots vs. King Ghidorah
So, to wrap up: there are a lot of good ideas and useful material here, even if you're not playing FATE, and it's not like there are a ton of games on the topic anyway. Consider it, think about what you would want from this kind of campaign, and if anything in this review sounds interesting, well, it's not terribly expensive on DTRPG  - and it has a soundtrack too. How cool is that?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

ICONS Kickstarter - Against the Axis

Another Kickstarter and this time it's World War II Superheroes! The setting is Stark City, an ICONS setting which was Kickstarted a while back and delivered on all of its promises. It's written by Steve Perrin whose main fame is tied to Runequest and other BRP games but he's done some interesting work with superhero games as well. There will also be Supers and Savage Worlds conversions as fairly easily reached stretch goals too. I like ICONS, I like WW2 superheroics, and I like the people working on this one, so I backed it and I thought I would share.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Scarred Lands Kickstarter

There's a kickstarter running for one more week to update Scarred Lands to both Pathfinder and 5th Edition D&D. I was a huge fan of Scarred Lands for 3rd Edition D&D so I backed it and thought I would post it here in case anyone else was a fan too. It's funded so now it's just a question of stretch goals.

Kickstarter is here.

It's a great setting for D&D or any kind of epic fantasy game. There's a mythic feel to it that In haven't seen since Glorantha for Runequest - but I like this one better. I'm looking forward to seeing it in a new form.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

40K Friday Special Edition: Eldar Battle Reports

Just in case there's anyone else out there interested in seeing how some other people are playing the space elves in 7th edition, here are some links to video battle reports I have found and enjoyed:

  • Eldar vs. Chaos Marines (Iron Hands) - I have an Iron Hands army too so this was fun to watch. Nice looking table, nicely painted armies.
  • Eldar vs. Dark Angels - I also have a Dark Angels army so this was another doubly informative report. Another nice table.
  • The Bellport Battle Bunker gives us 3 nice reports vs. Crimson Fists (another army of mine!) 
  • Skari has been doing batreps for a while now. Lately he's been running a combined Dark Eldar/Eldar force and it's fun to watch. 
  • Finally MiniWargaming has a really nice fight between Eldar and Necrons that is totally worth the time. These guys do a great job - even the room they are playing in is interesting.
So there are ten reports I found interesting enough to share.  Tomorrow: my own non-video battle report.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

5th Edition - OGL, SRD, and a new campaign?

Well WOTC set the RPG Internet on fire last week and there was some additional news of note this morning. Short takes below:

  • 5E opening a lot up to the OGL: Good thing. I kind of like the limited number of published adventures out there but I'm not playing it so that's not really fair. I think the original OGL was huge for the hobby (it's how we got Mutants and Masterminds among many other things) so anything that embraces it is a positive, and the big name in RPG's coming back to it is a big, big positive.
  • The SRD: a few are talking about what it lacks but I see the races, classes, alignments, gear, spells, combat rules, magic items ... all the standard elements of the D&D rules over the last umpteen years and editions. Looks like a pretty solid start to me.
  • The DM's Guild: Well if you wanted to try and make some money off of those adventures you've been writing they're making it pretty easy now. Explanation of how it works is here. It's of limited immediate interest to me as I'm not playing 5th but it's an interesting model for letting other people play in your sandbox and get paid for it. I think reputation will play a big part in this, but that it will quickly sweep away a lot of other efforts for the low-hanging fruit: NPC's, new monsters, and short encounters that a lot of the DTRPG publishers like to sell. I do wonder if prices will settle at certain tiers for specific content or if it will be a race to the bottom with almost everything going to 99 cents. It will be fun to watch over the next year.
  • That Ravenloft thing is coming back too. I'm glad to see something that is more than another campaign pulled over to the Realms. This one sounds like it's staying home and you can get there from anywhere so that's good. It's also cool that they have the original writers involved.

    It is, however, another update/rehash like the Tiamat adventure, the Elemental Evil adventure, and the Drizzt/Menzoberranzan/Underdark adventure - now it's the Ravenloft adventure. Lord knows there's plenty left - will we see a slaver's adventure? An S-series special adventure? A giant-heavy adventure? Planescape Redux? Another Keep on some Borderlands-centric campaign? I bet we see at least some of that. I would be interested in seeing something new though - something that's not a direct homage to one of the classics. How about a new classic for 5th edition? Even if it's in the Realms there's a lot of ground to cover. How about something in Chult with all of those dinosaurs running around? How about something mummy-ish in Mulhorand? How about Paladins vs. Liches in the Blooddstone lands? Ok some of those could be made tribute-ish but it's not required.  

It is cool to see activity on 5E - even if I'm not diving in to it I think it's important to the whole RPG hobby to keep it alive and active. I'm sure I'll take another run at it one of these days.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Green Ronin 2016

Green Ronin posted their plans for the year on their site and it looks like a pretty good projection for some games I like. Link to the article is here. My thoughts are below. In general though I am a fan of GR, both what they have done and how they have done it since Freeport and Mutants and Masterminds were first released.

  • First up: Fantasy Age is something I know little about - I have not played Dragon Age, I haven't watched the Titansgrave web show, and I'm not really interested in Blue Rose. My standard attitude is "I have plenty of fantasy RPG's already." That said it seems to be doing pretty well for them and that's a good thing and having quality alternatives to D&D & Pathfinder out there is a good thing too, even if I never play them.
  • The meat of it for me: Mutants and Masterminds!
    • Cosmic Handbook Print Edition - I think the PDF has been out for a while but I like hardcopies for this game and I am interested. Don't know how often it will come up but it's a handy book for a GM to have even if your team never leaves the earth.
    • Revised GM Kit - well I have the original and it's not like I need another screen but reference cards and a combat tracker sound interesting. 
    • Hero High - I can confidently say I will never run a supers campaign based in a high school but the teen hero thing is a huge part of the genre, it's good to have options even if it's mainly for character background, and the original is one of the more highly regarded 2E books so let's see what comes from a new edition and 5+ years of thinking about it.
    • The biggest single item for me: Freedom City 3E. It's an update of my favorite super-setting book in 30+ years of playing them. The 1E book was good, the 2E book took it to a new level, and my hopes for 3E are very high. With just the previous book and the 2E core book you could run a superhero campaign for years. Hopefully the new one does the same.
    • Atlas of Earth Prime, once collected, will make a nice supplement for Freedom City but it's not the main attraction for me. Rogues Gallery is more of something I do not need more of. I went for their first two "supplement a week" programs with Threat Report and Power Profiles only to see them collected at the end of the year so I've waited on these for the full set. As much as I want to support M&M I'm not as much of a fan of the way these are produced as I used to be.
  • Freeport for Pathfinder is getting a campaign, a bestiary, and some small encounter support - that sounds solid. I can't use it right now but if I return to d20 piracy and high seas adventure these will be on my list for a look.
  • Song of Ice and Fire continues to get support which is cool. This one falls into the "It's not my thing but I'm glad someone is doing" category. If a group of players ever hits me up to run something like that,well,  I know where to go.
Looks like a busy year for them and a nice growth year for M&M in particular. I just hope I can run through enough of my on-again-off-again M&M Freedom City campaign to justify moving it all over to 3E when the time comes. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Header Pictures

I've only had a few different top pictures on the blog over the last 6+ years but I decided with the new year I should change things up a bit. For 2016 I expect to post up a few different title pics depending on what we're doing around here. Lately the dominant gaming topic has been 40K Eldar, specifically Iyanden Eldar - so they get the top spot for now. Here's the full picture:

It's one of the many fine works produced for one of the more recent Games Workshop Eldar Codices.

Remember their new marketing slogan:

"Craftworld Eldar: For when you want to make people angry just by placing your army on the table"

That's all for now.

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Perils of Ebay ...

I order stuff on eBay all the time but this time and I don't always know which package is which when they arrive in the mail.

OK, so far so good

Wait ... what?

Ah ... OK then

Like I said I do a lot of business on eBay and I have never received packaging quite like that before!