Friday, April 18, 2014


I find myself stuck and I thought I would throw it to the winds of the web to see if any insight comes back. The problem is this:

  • I tossed out an idea to let the Apprentices play some of the DC heavy hitters as a one-shot adventure using the DC Adventures/M&M 3 rules
  • I don't have anything prepared to challenge the Justice League, just some vague ideas - it was "hey would you guys be interested in doing this" comment, and they took it as "we're playing this tomorrow so start discussing how many Lanterns we can fit into one team"
  • I will be running a "Limited Campaign" set in Freedom City later this summer for some of my other players
  • I was planning to run a campaign for the Apprentices using M&M 3 set in Emerald City, likely starting with the Emerald City Knights published adventures, giving me the long-sought two-playing-groups-in-the-same-universe situation
  • It occurred to me this week that I could run the ECK advenutres and kill two birds with one stone by setting it (and Emerald City as a location) in the DC Universe

So ...

I am not sure whether to take on the challenge of moving Emerald City to the DCU. On the plus side it gives me a reason to use all that nifty DC info I have in it's natural habitat and let's the characters rub elbows with all of those other characters - and possibly lets my players play some of them. I found some discussion of this on the Atomic Think Tank (apparently I am not the first to think of this) and it was helpful. Admittedly though,my DC knowledge is far less than my Marvel knowledge, but hey - that's what the books are for, right?

However, doing this takes them out of the Freedom City universe and costs me that oh-so-awesome setup of having two hero teams on opposite coasts who can hear about each other's exploits, come into conflict, and work together to stop the truly world-wide threats.  

My homebrew superhero universe is staying out of this one. This is really just a decision between published settings for this particular set of campaigns.

So, if anyone has any thoughts on this, please share!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Overreaction Wednesday

What if these guys ...


  • "Dead in Thay" is the next big D&D Encounters thing, starting next month. I have two opinions on this:
    • They always run Encounters on Wednesday nights. In Texas at least, Wednesday nights involve two popular obligations: divorced parents picking up kids and/or people going to church. Either or both of those can get in the way of spending hours at the game store Wednesday night. Even schools know not to schedule activities on Wednesday nights. I think it's cool that they have a national program that's on a set night all the time - I just wish it was on a different night.
    • WOTC doesn't get enough credit for D&D encounters. It's been running for years now, giving people a chance to play in-store at a set time on a set night. If you can find a participating store you know you can play D&D at least once a week whether you have a regular playing group or not. That's a big deal. I don't always like what the company does but I do like that they do this. Even during this time of post-4E-but-not-yet-5E they've kept up a steady stream of Encounters seasons. Not that many companies could do this kind of program, and not all of those who could do. Thanks WOTC.
  • The once-weekly rules Q&A and other updates on Next have really slowed down. It's about the only steady source of "Next" that we had and now it's a trickle. Ah, well, I was having trouble getting excited about it anyway - this is just one less thing to worry about. 
  • The big thing over the weekend was PAX East. The whole Penny Arcade thing has never really done anything for me but their cons have turned into a medium deal and this one had some D&D news. There's a forum thread at EN World about it. It's mainly about the whole "Tyranny of Dragons" thing that's kicking off the new edition. Some people are surprised that WOTC is painting Tiamat as something fresh or as a neglected major villain - she was the big bad in both a big 3.5 adventure (Red Hand of Doom) and WOTC's 4E Adventure Path (Scales of War) - which fits with my view as I think she's showing up way too much, right up there with Orcus. I don't know where it happened but it's started to feel like D&D in general only has about 5 major forces of evil. I'm not kidding, if you look through everything from novels to Encounters to published adventures, almost all of them tie in some way into one of these:
    • Tiamat
    • Orcus
    • Demogorgon
    • Lolth
    • The Elemental Princes of Evil  
         Maybe we could spend some quality time with some other major evil with 5E? Jubilex? Gruumsh? Dispater?

... were behind this thing ...

  • Nice long two-part interview with Erik Mona here about Pathfinder and D&D
  • Preview of Inner Sea Gods here. I'll gush a bit about Paizo's campaign setting: It's been years since I got excited about Yet Another Published Campaign Setting - especially a fantasy one. I think Scarred Lands was the last one that wound me up anywhere close to this and that was over ten years ago. Golarion feels like a world meant to be used in a game, not admired from afar or buried in pointless trivia. I expect this book to continue the excellence and I am looking forward to it.
  • An interview with Paizo's James Jacobs here that spends a lot of time on Adventure Paths in general, Iron Gods more specifically, and mixing technology into fantasy in particular. Putting something like Iron Gods out as a full adventure path and not just as a one-off adventure module, is an example of the kind of things I like about Paizo.

... and these guys had to stop it?

  • Plot Points is doing a new adventure for Marvel Heroic that looks pretty promising
  • The ICONS line artist is offering to do some custom work at pretty decent prices here.
  • Not a lot of new M&M news the last few weeks but there is a nice bit about the DC Adventures Universe book and the Origins Awards here.
  • The M&M bundle of holding is still going on for a few more days here. Still a crazy good deal if you're interested in superhero role playing games.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

A Look at BASH - Ultimate Edition

I first ran across BASH about 2011 though it's been out in one form or another since 2004. It's a relatively rules-light supers game with a unified mechanic. The system has been adapted for other genres - there is a BASH fantasy book and a BASH sci-fi book - but it started with superheroes and that seems to be its most popular use.  The publisher's website is here. I'm looking at the Ultimate Edition which was published in 2009. The print version is a full-color 140 page softback and it's also available in PDF.

Character Creation
Characters are defined by the following

  • 3 basic attributes: Brawn, Agility, and Mind. Each is rated on a 1-5 scale where 1 is typical human, 2 is really good human, and 3-4-5 are increasing levels of superhuman. There is a 0 level that represents an impaired or very limited capability in that area. 
  • Powers: There is a list of powers that covers the major areas one might expect and powers are rated the same way as attributes. Categories are Movement, Combat, Bio-Manipulation, Intense Training, Mastery, Mental, and Perception. Some are generic, some are more specific.
  • Skills: Each character has physical skill slots = to their Agility rating and mental skill slots = to Mind. There is a short list of fairly broad skills for each type. Spending a slot on a skill gives it a rating equal to the relevant attribute. Spending an extra slot raises that by 1, spending another slot would raise it by another 1, etc. 
  • Advantages/Disadvantages - these cover everything from a frightful presence to police powers to having a super vehicle on the upside, and everything from being destitute, having a public ID, to having uncontrollable powers on the downside. 
  • Finally there are Hero Points and Setbacks, which allow the user to perform various effects similar to other games from re-rolls to altering a scene in some way. They are presented as a way to balance out characters built on different amounts of points but could really be included in all kinds of ways beyond that.
Characters are built with points which are spent on attributes and powers. Skills are based off of the attributes directly and advantages and disadvantages offset each other directly with no points involved. Point level examples are given for Mystery Men, Street, World-Class, and Cosmic. Just as an example, the World Class level gives enough points to take a 3 in each attribute, or two 4's and a 1, or a 5 and two 2's. 

This whole section covers the first 14 pages of the book. Now the individual power descriptions come later and take up about 20 pages but I was impressed that the basic rundown of building a character is covered that quickly and concisely. 


 The mechanics are pretty simple: 2d6 multiplied by the rating of the attribute/skill/power. Doubles on this roll means roll another d6 and add. If it matches the original dice, then roll again and keep adding until it does not match. 

That allows a pretty good range of results - doubles will come up 1/6th of the time so it's quite a bit more often than a "nat 20" in a d20 game, enough to keep it interesting I suspect. 

The back cover includes a handy dandy reference chart for those who don't want to multiply in their head. 
Attacks are attack roll (Agilty for melee and thrown, Mind for ranged and mental) vs. a defense roll (Agility for most, Mind for mental). If the defense roll is higher, there is no effect. If the attack roll is higher then the attacker rolls for damage (example, Brawn for punching), the defender rolls for Soak (this is almost always Brawn) and then takes the difference between the rolls as damage or suffers whatever condition the attack inflicts. Even if the soak roll is higher, there is chance for knockback but the attack itself does nothing.

Heroes have a set "100 hits" as a damage capability. Tough in this game is reflected in a better multiplier, not more hit points. 

That's basically how the whole game works. There are lots of special rules for things like called shots, slams, grabs, taunts and lots of other comic book staples but that;s the core. There are things that can modify the 2d6 roll. There are rules for extended tests for more complex situations. There are rules for vehicles, chase, and bases. 

The powers section is solid. I'm sure there are concepts that would be tricky to make but it covers the majority of superhero types. Besides the actual powers there are enhancements and limitations that can be applied to each one and that opens up the options considerably. 

The gamemaster's section is solid as well - all the basics of running a supers campaign are here: running villains, the different types of campaigns from golden age to teen heroes to cosmic, running mysteries, including subplots - it's short but it touches all the bases. On the practical side it has stats for a lot of stock character types, from dinosaurs to tanks to dragons to "crowd of bystanders" and giant hunter robots. There's a random events table as well for livening up a session. There is also a good-sized section of archetypal heroes and villains - power armor, sorcerer, master crime fighter etc. 

The cosmic section here runs about 10 pages and is a small expansion of the game in effect to account for this higher power level. It's more than I have typically seen in a superhero RPG core book and is certainly enough to get a cosmic campaign rolling with just the main rule book. 

The book wraps up with a small section on alternate rules mechanics and a 1-page introductory adventure.

So ... what do I think? I like it. I'm going to give it a try with the Apprentices as soon as I can find space for a one-shot introductory run. It's one of the most complete one-book superhero games out there, yet it's mechanically simple and clean enough to be very playable.  

My standard for lighter supers games is ICONS. Comparing the two ICONS has more detail in some ways having more base attributes (6+ vs. 3) and having a more finely grained range of power levels (10 vs. 5) but I'm willing to give BASH a try and see how much that really matters.

I love the art style in this book and I think it communicates the intent of the game well. For a lighter, Justice League animated style short campaign or one-off run, I think it's a strong candidate. For a years-long serious campaign I'm not sure this one has the detail and grittiness that a lot of people want. I started with Champions and still love it but I can see the strengths here of a different approach. If you're looking for that level of detail though, this isn't it. With the multiplication I don't think it's great for younger kids, but for 4th-5th-6th graders I think it could work very well. 

The PDF is $10 from DTRPG here. That's a pretty good deal for this amount of material and a book this good. There is quite a bit of supporting material also, from power expansions to settings to adventures so it has had good support the last few years from both the publisher and some third party companies. I'd say if you're looking for a light supers game it's worth a look.

It looks pretty good - now I want to see how it fares in actual play. I like it enough that I'm going to try running it and I will post a follow up to describe how that went.