Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Greatness of the Marvel Heroic RPG

Stuff like this makes me appreciate the different approach that the Marvel game takes towards things:

Yep, called to testify in Congress you face a committee - and we have a statblock for it!
(From the Civil War event book)

Friday, November 16, 2012

40K Friday: Red Fury

So ... another 40K novel ... what's remarkable about this one? Well...

Quick Note: this is the third Blood Angels novel (review of book 1 here and book 2 here). Now I try to find something worthwhile about the things I discuss on the blog and I really did not like the first Blood Angels novel, but reading the second one redeemed it in a big way - they should have just been one longer book. So with 1 & 2 averaging out to a reasonably decent story what do we get with #3?

Red Fury is a new arc, so while reading the first two will give you more understanding of what has happened, it's no more necessary then reading all previous issues of a comic book to understand the start of a new arc - helpful, but not required. It's also a much stronger story, with a nicely done beginning, middle and end, ensuring that THIS one is complete in one volume. It continues with many of the same characters from the previous arc and sets up the next book nicely but is a complete story on its own.

The book begins soon after the events of the previous novels and largely concerns itself with the aftermath of those events. The chapter is in a tough spot and is trying to work out a solution. One development is that a conclave of all of the BA Successor Chapters is called on the BA homeworld, giving us a look at a variety of other chapters as well. In particular the Flesh Tearers are major players in the novel so if you have an attachment to them then this is a book worth reading. There is less unity between chapters than you might expect and with the Tearers representing the more barbaric aspects of the primarch and the Angels representing the more refined and cultured aspects, there are some strong differences between those two in particular.

The beginning of the book deals with these issues and then new complications arise which stir things up and then even more complications arise which lead to some nasty combat in and around the chapter's home base. Another fairly major character in the 40K universe shows up as well (I'm trying not to spoil things here) as a part of this and the whole thing is just a ripping good story about space marines doing their things with a solid mix of rivalry, violence, and reverence for the emperor.

By the end, the current crisis has been handled, but the need for both revenge and the prevention of a further crisis will drive the story in the next book.

The bad: The main character, Rafen,  is still remarkably generic.I get that it can be tricky to make "battle brother Johnny" a unique individual in the game but when you've spent 3 books inside the guys head he should come across  as more of a memorable personality than he does. It's not as much of a downer here because there is so much going on. He is the vehicle by which the reader experiences a series of interesting people and events (and they are interesting) and no more. One comparison: the Space Wolf Novels focus on Ragnar, who will someday become Ragnar Balckmane, a unique character in the Space Wold army. No one is going to be clamoring for a "Rafen" entry in the Blood Angels codex anytime soon. Now that can be good, giving a more "average Joe" point of view, and we get a little of that here, but there's really nothing else to the character beyond that.

Who must read this: If you're a Blood Angel player or fan, even if you hate gaming fiction in general, or the the first and second books in particular, this is the one you ought to read. Lots of time with Dante, Mephiston , and the other movers and shakers of the chapter, some exposure to the successor chapters and their chapter masters, and the whole thing takes place on Baal - it's 280-odd pages of immersion in the whole Blood Angel thing and it is definitely worth your time.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Busy Weeks, Busy Kids, and Gaming Triage

With the kids constantly coming and going and with work time creeping up gaming time has been scarce. Heck blogging time has been scarce and that only requires me to make it happen, no one else. The grown-up campaign is back on track, and the 4th Edition Apprentice game is back on track, but we had been hoping to accomplish a little more. In trying to continue down this path I decided it was time to flat-out state what we were going to do and how we were going to spend our time. So, I sat Blaster and Red down and asked them what they wanted to focus on for the rest of the year and it was pretty much this:

  • D&D
  • 40K
  • M&M
All good choices, and all possible, but now we run into a time crunch - there are only two days in the weekend, maybe 3 if you count Friday night, and they keep having stuff to do on the weeknights. So I have at best 3 days/nights a week to play and 4 games to try and work in. Additionally some of the kids are only around on certain weekends, further complicating the schedule. 

D&D 4 works best when played regularly as it keeps everyone familiar with the system and the players learn to do more interesting things with their characters. The boys also really like it, so it's probably top of the list.

40K is fun but has a fair amount of setup time and takes at least as much time as a good D&D run, so it's hard to work both of them in on the same day. Plus we do other things besides play games and those tend to prevent weekly gaming marathons. Aside from that it's a fun game, there's a new edition, we have a ton of stuff for it, and they have friends that play it too. So it's high on the list as well.

ICONS is the perfect candidate for shorter sessions but that means it tends to get squeezed out when things come up as we try to preserve time for the "bigger" games. We haven't played much ICONS lately and I'm not liking that at all.

M&M takes a little setup but not much more than D&D 4 with a character building program and I think it too rewards steady play with better options thru mechanical familiarity. We haven't done much with this one either lately but we're getting there.

Pathfinder and Marvel Heroic were also mentioned but those may have to wait for awhile as one-offs at most. Star Wars, Deadlands, Pirates, Gamma World, Champions, and the others mentioned at various times on this year's posts are all set aside for now.For a guy with too many RPG's this is a hard thing, but it had to be done. I'm especially not caring much for the lack of Savage Worlds as I've been in on that system since it started and I don't have much time in it for 2011 or 2012. That might have to be 2013's resolution.

Tentatively I'm thinking D&D on Sunday afternoons - the most reliably regular day - though I do like football
so we have to work around that. Saturday may alternate between 40K and M&M for a while, and ICONS will continue to be the when-we-can-work-it-in-game.

With the holidays coming up we should have the opportunity to work in some one-shots or extra long sessions and those will likely be ICONS or Marvel, and I might even  get the grown ups to play in those too.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

ToEE 4E Session 9 - The one with the Giant Crayfish

Once again - but for the final time - beneath the Moathouse, our heroes arise from an extended rest:
  • Torgor Bearkin, Dwarf Sentinel Druid with his bear companion "Po" (Apprentice Red)
  • Isaac, Human Swordmage (also Red)
  • Torinn, Dragonborn Sorcerer (Apprentice Blaster)
  • Apollo Magewood, Elf Bladesinger (Also Blaster)
No longer able to resist the temptation (after finally making 3rd level)  our heroes decide that the orcs time has come - no longer will they be allowed to cower in their corner of the dungeon! Despite having talked their way through the orcs twice now, the party was spoiling for a fight. Pausing only to trash-talk the poor humanoids combat ensued as soon as boots hit the floor in the room (28 for those of you following at home).  Overconfidence nearly claimed a victim/taught a lesson in the 1st round as Isaac found himself surrounded by orcs and was quickly bloodied. Round 2 saw Po dispatched to the spirit world (again) and the Bladesinger had to use his shield spell to stop a nasty orc charge that would have bloodied him as well. The battle wasn't totally one-sided but in round 5 the Swordmage was shot by an archer and dropped for the rest of the fight. Eventually the orcs were slain to the last ... man ... and the party took a short rest to recover. 

Examining the map the party soon realized that there were not many loose ends left - in fact there was only one passage unexplored, so they headed straight for it and the glorious finish of their first full dungeon.

Creeping down the stairs ... nothing unusual except some dripping , watery sounds ... around a corner ... a quiet pool ... a light spell cast into the pool and OMG ITS THE BIGGEST LOBSTER IN THE WORLD!

No not that one
An epic 8-round fight begins that sees exploration of the interaction of grabs, escapes, teleportation, forced movement, difficult terrain, and drowning. Lessons learned by the party: a) don't fight aquatic creatures in the water and b) swordmages are very good at fighting grabber type creatures.

Round 1: Swordmage gets grabbed. 
Round 2: Swordmage tries to break out, fails, so he teleports away
Round 3: Sorcerer goes 'zilla again - scorched, blasted crayfish grabs the Druid 

of course you knew I was going to use this
Round 4: Bladesinger gets grabbed, non-teleporting Druid gets squeezed hard
Round 5: Bladesinger manages to break out, Crayfish slides back into deeper water with new Druid friend
Round 6: Fight moves to the water with varying degrees of success for the party
Round 7: Swordmage grabbed again, Druid finally escapes, Crayfish says "enough" and dives to bottom of pool
Round 8: The biggest Crayfish in the world is slain by a magic missile from the Bladesinger

In true D&D fashion the party high fives at surviving and finishing the dungeon, takes a short rest, then heads back to town, in this case the village of Hommlet, but not before stripping off a bunch of Crayfish shell to use as decoration and armor.

Yeah, that one
Back at the village they restock, tell some tales in the tavern, and debate their next move. Most likely they are going to seek out the temple itself - at last!

DM Notes: Those poor orcs were doomed. Talking to the Apprentices when you're a monster makes you look weak in their eyes and spurs a lot of "we can beat them" talk at the table. Ah well - hopefully I gave them a good enough fight to cure them of some of that attitude for now. 

They got very excited when they realized they only had one passage left to explore. We started this adventure a year ago, and they've never cleared an entire dungeon level before, and this is the first time they've made it to 3rd level in 4th Edition, so there were several milestones being passed here. 

The fight with the crayfish was a lot of fun and I hope my tone here captures the spirit of the fight with a lot of comments being made in between die rolls, and much laughing too. Once again, much like their old Basic adventure, Blaster wants to make armor out of a crustacean. I'm not sure that a shell should really count as leather or hide, but I'm going to find a way to give it to them as no one wears plate and no one uses a shield which would be the obvious calls here.

Anyway this forced me to go in and detail out the ruins of the temple and I will be posting them here soon.

Ahhh ..the crayfish was only playing dead - he's now lurking and nursing his wounds, waiting to take his revenge...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

D&D Happenings

A few weeks ago I really liked this article on levels, advancement, and rewards in general in RPGs. I went back and read it again tonight and I still find it thought provoking so I thought I would share:

A new article on monsters in Next (and a survey on presentation) which had me thinking a bit about information and design for efficient use in play. EN World discussion here.

Wait, What? There's a new version of ... PCGen? That's a  bit of a surprise. Notes here, downloads here. Back when I was looking for a 3E character generator for the boys to use I thought this one was just about dead. Maybe not!