Saturday, August 30, 2014

RPGaDAY - Day 30 - Rarest RPG Owned

I'm not terribly concerned about this one. Who cares if it's rare? Plus, between used bookstores, eBay, and now PDF's there's not much out there that can't be acquired one way or another. Plus, well, if by 'rare' you mean "a lot of people haven't seen it or played it" well, it may be because it was a crappy game.

Lords of Creation seems to be at least uncommon. I talked about it here.

Battle Born came in a magazine 20+ years ago and I talked about it here.

I have Tarantis and some of the old ziploc-baggie format Invincible Overlord stuff from Judges Guild but those are really settings/adventures, not actual games.

I have one of the Cthulu/Melnibone Deities and Demi Gods that is at least a "limited run" but it's just a supplement not a full RPG.

I have a couple of "fantasy heartbreaker" type games that I had never heard of before seeing them in person.

  • I have a version of "Phatasy Conclave" that is 3 small paper, uh, "booklets" staple -bound that look like something that would be handed out at a PTA meeting. It's somebody's tweaked version of D&D and is in no way memorable. Heroic Worlds says there was a boxed set for it in 1984 but all I have are the booklets and they don't really look like something you would have put in a box at that time but who knows?
  • I have something much more recent, the Peryton Fantasy Roleplaying Game from 2009. It's a 140-odd page softcover that is a pretty direct rip of the D&D SRD that doesn't do anything really special or unique. The classes are a little different, but not enough to matter. It's really just a cut-down compilation of D&D 3E. 

In the end despite the large number of game books I own I don't really care about rarity for its own sake. I keep games that I am playing or running, that mean something to me, that I think I might play in the future, that serve as a resource for another game, or that are cool even if I may never get to play them. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

RPGaDAY - Day 29 - Most Memorable Encounter

Lots of choices here, both as a DM and as a player. I'll focus on one from awhile back because it still comes up in conversation sometimes.

We're playing AD&D 2E. This was a mid-level party with everyone in the 5-9 range and about 6-8 characters in any particular session. We were traveling cross-country somewhere in the Forgotten Realms, I don't remember the region but it was an area of open plains probably near the Sword Coast.

Camp for the night, Someone casts Leomund's Secure Shelter as was our routine. We eat, sit by fire, then sleep. LSS is a great spell for travelling (4th lvl wiz) in that it pops in a stone building with wizard locked doors and alarms and an unseen servant all built-in - no lousy tents & bedrolls for us! Also it meant no need for watches as we felt pretty secure.

So this particular night everything seems normal until the building disappears from around us in the middle of the night. So we are a)surprised b) unarmored and unarmed c) on our butts in heavy darkness. Then the breath weapon hits. I'm pretty sure one character died in that first blast with a failed saving throw.We start scrambling around for gear and get hit again. Then the thing lands and tears into one of the unarmored fighters and takes care of him. A Great Red Wyrm has stumbled across us, dispelled our Secure Shelter, and attacked with surprise.

It was as one-sided a battle as I have ever been in with characters past starting level. I don;t know that we could have taken it if we had prepared for it and surprised it - we had pretty much no chance given the way it began. I was running one of my clerics, Brutallus Maximus the First I believe, and he died of course - unarmored war clerics don't last long once the unarmored fighters go down. I know our bard turned invisible and hid - and survived - but that was kind of his thing.  The only other character that lived was our paladin, who the dragon picked up in one claw after beating him down into almost no hit points, and who started bargaining for his life with one of the mightier incarnations of chaotic evil on the planet! I was so disappointed, though it was a little funny to watch the up-til-now lawful good character completely ignore any "heroic last stand" thoughts to try and save his own skin as the beast flew off with him, leaving our shattered party behind.

I believe that was the end of that campaign in that form. Even though the bard could have some of us raised I think we called it as a group, and then created a new party, recruited by the bard for revenge on the dragon that killed his comrades. We never did get that revenge as we got sidetracked with other adventures, but it was a sore spot for a long time:

  • "Where did he come from?"
  • "Wouldn't there be some kind of local legend about the huge ancient red dragon that lives around here?"
  • "How did he see our little cottage at night from way up there?" (OK I thought this one was a little weak but it did come up)
  • "How have we not heard anything about this thing if it's out flying around and attacking things?"
Anyway, we survived as players, if not as characters, and moved on. Turned out it was a completely random encounter, a good (!) roll on the wandering monster tables he had for the area. That really didn't make us feel any better when we found out, and it's still a legendary story among my long-time players today.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

RPGaDAY - Day 28 - Scariest Game

I've never really been "scared" in a RPG session so I don't have a lot to say on this one but I can relate a few things:

  • Being seriously wounded in a Twilight 2000 game can be pretty scary as there aren't any clerics, there aren't many hospitals still functioning, and you're lucky to have someone with a little medicine and some medical skill nearby when you need it. Even then, it's not always enough. Neither the characters nor their immune systems are superhuman and it puts a different feel into the game. 
  • Games where a single hit in combat can kill or seriously maim your character can put some fear into a game. Old-school Runequest and low-tech games of GURPS both have this "feature" and it can be quite a bit different from a D&D session.
  • As a DM the one thing I have seen consistently put fear into players is old-school level-draining undead. Any level of character tends to go pale when they run into a pack of spectres or vampires. Nobody likes losing levels and losing a bunch of them at once is a great reason to run away.

Note that all of these deal more with the practical side of the game and not so much with atmosphere. Atmosphere can be interesting, even creepy, but I've never felt it was scary. Scary in my view tends to happen when your character is under direct threat of some kind. I'm sure we will see some different views on this one but that's how it works for me. 

Overreaction Wednesday

Alright this is relatively minor but there's an interview with Mike Mearls on EN World that is pretty good overall and is worth reading if you're interested in that kind of thing. Early on he's talking about the design thinking behind 5th edition and says this:

But they’ve probably played a role-playing game… they’ve played Skyrim or [World of] Warcraft or any of those game, so they probably actually know what a role-playing game is. We can probably just assume they know what a role-playing game is and they know they just need to make a character, and let’s just start explaining how this game works.

Sure. Except you left that whole how-to-make-a-character thing out of the Starter Box! I know there's a free PDF download, but seriously, to make that statement then leave it out ... ah well the PHB is really nice. More on that as I work back through it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

RPGaDAY - Day 27 - Game I'd Like to See a New Edition of

Making a return appearance ...

Somehow, even with a pair of successful movies in the last five years,  Star Trek hasn't had a game in print for ten years now.  Why not? Is the era for Trek in tabletop gaming over? I just don't think so. The Attack Wing miniatures game seems to be doing OK. Star Fleet Battles lives on. Other boardgames seem to do alright. The MMO is chugging along, doing well in the free-to-play era. Why not Star Trek?

D&D has a new edition, Pathfinder is rolling along, Star Wars has a current edition (even if I'm not its biggest fan it had one I did like recently), DC had a good run with Green Ronin. Game of Thrones has a game! Editions come and go, publishers and rights holders to various settings come and go, yet Trek still sits on the sidelines.

I'm assuming it might be feared interference from CBS/Paramount. It might be the short lifespans of the last two attempts (both LUG and Decipher Trek flamed out in about 3 years). Maybe it's the cost of the license, I don't know. It just seems like someone out there should be able to find a way to put together a Trek RPG and stay in the black for a few years. I don't care who so much as I would like to see what someone could do with it using current design and production trends.

I'm assuming there's still a clause that prevents Star Trek and Star Wars from going to the same company and that's a shame because I'm sure FFG could make some beautiful books that would be very expensive and probably use some radical new system but at least it would be well done and well supported for a few years. WOTC hopefully has their hands full with D&D and Paizo with Pathfinder as I don't think d20 is a great fit for Trek, but it could be worse. I don't know that Savage Worlds is a great fit either but they would find a way to do some cool stuff with it.Green Ronin probably has the best track record in this area and I'd love to see what they could do if they were given the chance.

I'm not sure what it's going to take, but one of these days ...

Runner up: How does Marvel still not have a game with all of these damn movies coming out? Even with that last attempt blowing out early, there has to be someone who could make that work too.

5E PHB Quick Thoughts - 4th Edition Class Types Live On

After spending a fair amount of time with 4th Edition over the last 4-5 years it was nice to see some familiar elements some of the 5th Edition class details:

  • The Fighter has 3 sub-types that covers the traditional Fighter, the Warlord, and the Swordmage
  • The Paladin covers the traditional Paladin, the Warden, and the Avenger
  • The Sorcerer keeps the Wild Mage option that was available in 4th and goes back all the way to the 2E Wild Mage.
  • The Warlock keeps the pact options it had in 4th including the Fey pact which always seemed especially flavorful to me.
Now with a new system everything is not going to work exactly the same but when the Battle Master Fighter has an ability called "Commander's Strike" that lets him forgo his own attack to allow another character to make an attack with a bonus, well, it's nice to see some of the good ideas in the last version of the game have carried over.   

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

RPGaDAY - Day 26 - Coolest Character Sheet

I don't know, while I used to get kind of picky about which character sheet I used, I have also spent years using some of the plainest, most perfunctory character sheets ever made. Just as an example:

It's just dull dull dull but that's what we used a lot, I think for AD&D 2E.

The basic sheets that came with AD&D (1st edition) had more flair than that.

The last few years though I think Savage Worlds has the coolest character sheets. Here's Deadlands Reloaded - it's probably my favorite right now:

Here's Necessary Evil:

Here's the sheet for Slipstream, the retro pulp sci-fi setting:

Here's Weird War 2:

I like these a lot and think they add to the atmosphere when you're getting a campaign off the ground. Considering they are usually juts a front and back print job I'm willing to burn up some ink for a nice-looking sheet.

5E PHB Quick Thoughts - Barbarian

I'm re-reading the classes and the barbarian stands out as a real tank type character. With the traditional d12 hit points he's off to a good start. They get up to medium armor + shield, but with no armor (shields are allowed) they get to add their Con bonus to their AC - could be a viable option if you can manage 3 decent scores (Str + Dex + Con). Rage gives resistance to B/P/S damage so you're taking half damage from pretty much all physical attacks. That's a strong start and they do have some offensive options as well.

The "Primal Paths" up this even more.

  • Berseker is a slightly more offensive option as it gets a bonus melee attack every round. By 6th they get immunity to charm and fear while raging. 
  • The Totem Warrior/Wolf grants his allies advantage on melee attack rolls against any creature within 5' - that's a pretty strong bonus if you're going to have some fellow melee combatants in the party. 
  • The Totem Warrior/Bear path though, while raging ... "resistance to all damage except psychic damage" ... that's very strong. At 14th any creature within 5' of them (while raging) has disadvantage on attack rolls against targets other than you - hey look that's a real 4E-style tanking feature! It's a shame it takes until 14th level to come through, but that's a really nice ability for a "tough" fighter type.

It's a very combat-focused class but I think that's almost expected of a Barbarian, right? Someone has to be the combat monster and this class can definitely fill that role.

Monday, August 25, 2014

RPGaDAY - Day 25 - Favorite RPG No One Else Wants to Play

Oh lord, take your pick. I have quite a few games, and most of the time we play ... D&D. I like D&D (and Pathfinder) but there are so many options out there. If only I had the collection I have now back when I was in High School and College and had more time to blow on these things. Oh well, I'll pick a few - like a lot of my other posts this month - and they're going to look pretty familiar.

I suppose I shouldn't complain since in the last 3 years or so I have run sessions of M&M 2E, M&M 3E, ICONS, Marvel Super Heroes, and Marvel Heroic. That's not a bad sampling of superhero games. Every time I look at one of these books though, the creative stuff starts flowing. When I've asked my players to rank a list of say 5 different game options Champions will get a few votes but it's not at the top of anyone's list so it never gets played. That has to change sooner or later.

It doesn't matter which edition or what kind of campaign I propose, no one wants to play Trek. Apprentice Blaster is interested, but he's the only one. So ... much ... material ... and yet nobody is interested. At some point I should probably quit my whining and start looking for players online specifically for this or just break down and run one online, but even then I'm not sure how many players are interested enough to stay with it over time.

Motivational Monday - First Day of School Edition

Sunday, August 24, 2014

RPGaDAY - Day 24 - Most Complicated RPG Owned

Well, it's a lot easier than yesterday.

I have never successfully run or played a session of Aftermath. I've tried twice, both a long time ago, and it just bogged down in character creation and a sample combat. I know there have to be a few people out there who have run it, but it quickly runs into the hassle factor wall and eventually the cry goes up - "Couldn't we just play D&D?"

Runner up is the other system of which I have never successfully run a session:

I know people have run it and played it, I used to know some personally, but it just never clicked with me. Between D&D, Runequest, GURPS, Palladium Fantasy, and Fantasy Hero (and continuing on with Pendragon, Savage Worlds, and 13th Age) I just never found a reason to play Rolemaster over any of those options. I'm not slamming it - if you like it and play it then thumbs up from me - but it never worked for me as a player or as a DM.

Honorable Mentions

  • People tend to think of Champions as complicated and it can be, and I own a lot of stuff for it, but my friends never complained about it being complicated. Once you grasp a few basic assumptions about the system (3d6 roll low. 5 points = 1d6 of effect, Stun/Body/PD/ED) then it seems pretty intuitive to me. I'd say that certain other games are at least as complicated as Champions, including ... 
  • Pathfinder is about as complicated as any other game out there once you start throwing numbers on top of a die roll. So.Many.Things can affect every single roll that it can be very challenging for a DM to keep track of everything. It's presented pretty well, and the basic system has been out for so long that many people don't even think about it any more, but it is not a simple system in play.