Friday, August 8, 2014

RPGaDAY - Day 8 - Favorite Character

I'm going to bend the rules here - I have multiples on this one, and fortunately I've already written about most of them. I'll limit it to three:

  • The AD&D ranger I ran up to high level is discussed here
  • My favorite Gamma World character is here
  • My favorite Mechwarrior character is here
A somewhat sad note is that no, I haven't played any of them since I wrote those posts. I don't really expect to, since they are mostly from older editions of games, but it could happen someday. Also, I haven't played much at all in the last 15 years or so as I've been almost 100% on the DM side of the table. I have managed to play a few sessions of D&D 4E and I'm playing a cavalier in a friend's Pathfinder campaign right now and that's been fun but it's a rare thing for me. 

40K, er, "Science Fiction Game" Friday - Attack Wing at the Lake

So while on our last short vacation of the summer we did get in a little game time. Normally I try to travel light and focused but between what the kids asked for and what I thought we might play I ended up dragging along a pretty big bag of game stuff. I knew were getting to the ridiculous level when I stuffed the cowboy hat we use for fate chip draws in Deadlands into the bag but I did it anyway. Of course, we ended up playing very little of it which I hope I will remember the next time this comes up. On that note, some good travel games:
  • ICONS - short rules, random character generation, short adventures, plays with just a pair of d6's apiece, this is a great RPG on the road.
  • Mini-Games like the pocket-box editions of Ogre etc. Kind of obvious but occasionally forgotten after years of looking at them on the shelf
  • Card games like Munchkin that everyone can play - we taught the grandparents to play Munchkin on this trip - though too many expansions can make transportation a little tricky
  • Prepainted plastic miniature games played in a limited space like X-Wing and Attack Wing. Mini's and cards in a box, rolled up mat, and you're ready to go.
40K is not so travel-compatible so I have nothing to report there this week but we did get in some Attack Wing. We even got to use the new mat which is much easier on the eyes than the old Paisley Nebula battlefield we had before.

We settled on 100 points each with Blaster taking the Romulans and myself taking the Federation. Originally we were thinking it would be 3 ships each but by the time we loaded them up with captains and upgrades we ended up with two each. Taking more but weaker ships is something to explore in the next game I think. I ended up with the Defiant under Sisko and the Enterprise under Picard (shocking, I know). He ended up with the named D'Deridex and the Valdore.

The Defiant ends up with Transwarp Drive instead of a cloak here
 I had a vague strategy of pulling him into a position where both of my ships could fire on one of his but he could not fire on mine via the Enterprise's 360 firing option and some of the maneuvering options I put on both ships and the handiness of rear-firing torpedos since the Romulans are a forward-firing-only fleet in this game. It ... sort of worked.

 Due to my split deployment the Defiant spent the first couple of turns running for its life and failing to fire rear photons because I kept making stupid mistakes like forgetting that I could not order a target lock  after executing a red maneuver. The running part was part of the plan, the lack of damage to the enemy was not. With some careful positioning I could have knocked down the shields on the Dex while staying out of range of the Valdore, setting up the Enterprise to come in (form the left there) and finish off the Dex. Then we would combine on the Valdore.

We did manage to take down the shields on the Dex (finally) but mistakes caught up with me and the Defiant blew up. 

 A turn or two later the photons locked on and blew the D'Deridex away. See, it sort of worked.

Unfortunately this left a shieldless Enterprise running from an undamaged Valdore while trying to rearm photons and establish a lock on to the enemy warbird. Red maneuvers really hurt the Enterprise as you lose your normal action AND you lose the bonus action from Picard. Especially after you get the critical that reduces your captain skill to a "1" I had to use a few to try and get away from the 'bird and the edge of the map but no longer had the initiative and was not able to shoot back while doing it and the Enterprise went down to the vicious roll you see above .

It was a lot of fun and hopefully shook the rust off. Yeah the edge of the map thing is kind of dumb in a space game that is not specifically about defending a fixed point like a planet or space station, but it's part of the rules. I flew like I had never played before and even Blaster said he thought I had the ships geared correctly, I just didn't make it happen. So, A for planning, F for execution. Ah well, there's always next time.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

RPGaDAY - Day 7 - Most Intellectual RPG Owned?

I'm not even sure what that means. System-wise or setting-wise? Concept-wise? Time spent thinking about it -wise? I don't own any of the more popular games that I suspect are meant to be identified here like Dogs in the Vineyard, Monsters and Other Childish Things, or Microscope, but I do have some possible candidates:

  • For time spent noodling over the mechanics and how to make characters while liking the system, Champions is probably up there. Mutants and Masterminds is not too far behind.
  • For time spent trying to envision the mechanics and how it all works together Marvel Heroic, or Cortex Plus as the mechanics are now known, was a fairly recent mind expander. 

  • For time spent in my head trying to make a coherent set of rules out of it, hands down it is Rifts, the unsolvable problem of RPG's.
  • For time spent building worlds and equipment, some form of Traveller - Original, Mega, maybe even New Era - as it had some construction rules down to where you could design your own guns down to bore in mm and type of propellant. I did. 

  • Concept-wise I think Reign is a level beyond the "normal" view of most RPG's. I don't know that I'll ever get to run or play it but just reading it made me think differently about some aspects of all of my games.  

  • I'll also throw Dawn of Worlds in there - it's a world-building game that's even more different than most RPG's. It's definitely on the edge of what should even be called an RPG, but there it is. More on it here.

Gaming Gadgets - Cast of Cards for Savage Worlds

I ran across these on DTRPG last week and didn't think they made much sense as a PDF, then I realized they could be ordered as physical cards and got more interested.

There are 17 cards to a deck. They are normal playing-card sized. The set above is the "Dread Pirates" deck. Each one represents an NPC (or a vehicle in the case of the pirate ship here).

The barkeep is from the "Typical Tavern" deck. The cards are also double-sided, with stats on one side (above) and background details and some names on the reverse.

Now NPC cards alone might not be revolutionary - although these do look very nice - but these are also printed on a sort of plastic or with a plastic coating that means dry erase markers work on them just like they do on a whiteboard. This ups the utility considerably. Besides the obvious uses for combat, it is also handy for noting things like reactions, modifiers, magic effects, or just monkeying with the stats.  Maybe there are two "ladies of the night" in the bar - use two different colors of marker to keep notes on both of them on one card!

I'm a big believer that when you're actually running games you can never have too many NPC's at the ready. Going back to 3E D&D I printed out a set of monster stats on index cards and kept that little card file on the table for my entire run with that system. Savage Worlds is easier to run than a lot of games, but it is definitely a "GM Enhancer" to have complete stats for a pirate ship and crew, or a tavern and all of its patrons, or a set of fire cultists right there, ready to go with no work on the GM's part. This is very much a "zero-prep" kind of product.

I picked up the pirates (for our eventual Pirates or 50 Fathoms game), the tavern set (for a lot of potential games), and the wild west archetypes set (for Deadlands). They are each an interesting mix of "standards" and some unusual types, like the character in the wild west set that dual-wields cavalry sabers. I like a sprinkling of the unusual and these hit the mark really well.

There are a lot of different sets - here's the link to their list on DTRPG.

Here's the company site too though there's not a lot there.

A few final thoughts:

  • It would be really nice if they could work out some kind of licensing deal with Pinnacle and create campaign-specific sets. What if you could get a pack that covered every NPC in 50 Fathoms or Slipstream? I'd pay for that.
  • Vehicle cards would be nice too, say for a Weird Wars campaign. Tanks, jeeps, aircraft can come up quite a bit in that kind of game.
  • How about some other games? I'm pretty sure ICONS characters would fit on a card like this ... maybe. Traveller characters could (and vehicles! and spacecraft!). Heck GURPS characters might be able to fit on here. Old school D&D monsters certainly would. There is a lot of potential here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

RPGaDAY - Day 6 - Favorite RPG that you never get to play

A few weeks ago I might have said "Savage Worlds" but I'm fixing that particular problem so I'll say it's this:

The Original
I've owned this game since 1982, picked up every version except the latest, have a ton of supplements for it, and haven't run or played it in at least ten years. Why?

  • It's a fairly complex game that rewards "system mastery" but not many people want to take the time to "master" it nowadays.
  • Combat is complicated, though I don;t think it's much more complicated than most 3E/4E/Pathfinder D&D games and like those it smooths out a bunch with experience
  • Champions books were everywhere in the 90's during 4th edition. Most RPG'ers knew about Champions/Hero System. Then the company that published it hit some hard times and it took a few years to get the game back on track with a new publisher. I think this put it behind the curve of the 3E boom when a lot of people came to/came back to RPG's circa 2000 and it never really caught up in "mindshare". Now it's on a 6th edition and it still almost non-existent in game stores as the company again has had some rough times the last few years. 
  • It covers a lot of genres but it was always best known for Superheroes, and in the last 10-15 years a bunch of superhero RPG's have come along, from Mutants and Masterminds to ICONS. Not all of them have survived, but going from 3 or so popular superhero games to half a dozen or more really segmented up what was already a niche genre.

The Peak
It's big advantage though is that it models anything you can dream up with a system that is pretty crunchy and uses a point system that has 30+ years of actual play behind it so when they say "balance" it's not just a bullet on a list of design goals. It's also pretty fun to play (and run) based on my more-distant-than-I-would-like memories. There is also quite a bit of supporting material developed over the years and even more from hardcore fans on the internet.

The Current
(and wow that is not my favorite cover)
I really need to find a way to work this game in to the rotation.

Gaming Gadgets - The Savage Worlds GM Screen

I use screens less now than I used to. Actually there have been peaks and valleys over the years. I used to think of them as a cool extra thing, then I got to considering them essential, then I backed off a bit, then they started making those cool hardcover-stock landscape format screens (Star Wars Saga Edition had the first one I believe) and I was addicted for a few years. I've gotten better, and I run a lot of games "screenless" now because it gives me more flexibility with the setup of the playing area, lets the players know I'm rolling straight, and it's one less thing to keep up with. I run Pathfinder, ICONS, and Marvel screenless though I admit I did use one for 4E D&D. The last screen I paid anything for was the one that was part of the Werid Wars: Rome kickstarter and that was because it kind of came in the set.

That's changed as of last week. I finally picked up one of Pinnacle's customizable DM screens and I am pretty happy with it.

Now these things have been around for probably ten years in one form or another. I know they came along pretty early in the Savage Worlds run - because it makes sense to have a flexible screen setup for a game that covers as much territory as it does -  and I always thought they were cool but I was never running it enough to justify getting one. Necessary Evil came close but it ended before I pulled the trigger.

Think of the nicest, heaviest, 3-ring binder you have ever seen, one with the see-thru plastic pocket/cover on the outside. It's like that, only it's a tri-fold landscape design (and doesn't have the rings) and has the cover/pocket on both sides.

There are of course PDF's customized for various Savage Worlds campaigns available for a few bucks. More generic ones are free. It is completely possible to make your own too, and they don't even have to be Savage Worlds - you could use it with any campaign and any RPG. It's a great idea made even better by the total portability of PDFs.

Heck just being able to customize the player side with things like maps of the current campaign area, notes on NPC's, or pictures of the PC's is a pretty cool option.

I don't know that I will start using it for ICONS or Marvel or even Pathfinder, but I am going to try it out with Savage Worlds and see what I can do with it. If the 4E game ever gets rolling again I may do up some custom inserts for it too. It's another tool in the toolkit and I'm looking forward to trying it out.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

RPGaDay - Day 5 - Most Old-School RPG Owned


See Days 1-3 for more.

Here's a post from last week that covers some of this ground as well.

Hers's another post on "back when" as well.

Deadlands - Return of the Clampett Gang!

Our Deadlands campaign "continues" from where it started (almost 3 years ago! - that went by quick!). Having boarded a west-bound train in Missouri, the next leg of the trip will take them across the great plains of Kansas. Next stop is Andover Station, followed by Barlowe Station, then Varney Flats - and veterans of the Weird West probably know where this is heading now.

For now though, we have a brief stop in Andover to change crews and take on water and coal. To pass the time our heroes (gunslinger Will Treaty (Blaster), huckster Isaac O'Hardy (Red), and new scientist Doc Lightning (Who)) stop in at the saloon after the mad scientist stops in at the general store and buys some "junk". Conversation at the sparsely-populated bar reveals nothing of interest locally and the boys are resigned to drinking to pass the time.

A shout from the street brings rouses the bored patrons. There is a group walking towards the town from the north, and as someone recognizes them - "It's the Clampett Gang!" - doors and shutters start slamming as the well-known local criminals make their approach. The gang hasn't been seen in these parts for months but their reputation does not seem diminished. The sheriff is not in town as he rode out to deal with trouble on a farm this morning and hasn't made it back. As the other townsfolk run for cover our heroes are perfectly fine taking on the gang.

Will Treaty calls out that they know who the gang is and the town doesn't want any trouble. The criminals continue to approach without making a response.

Isaac calls out that the gang needs to stop at the edge of town. The criminals continue to approach.

Will fires a rifle shot over their heads as a warning. Nothing changes.

Doc Lightning charges up his lightning gun and moves to a better position, grinning.

As the gang closes in, it looks like the biggest member, Jethro, is in the lead, along with the sharpshooter Ellie May. Jed, shotgun man and the leader, and Granny, his adviser, are behind them. Drysdale, the knife specialist, and Hathaway, the pistoleer are spreading out to the flanks. Our heroes take cover and prepare to fire and note an odd, shuffling gait to the intruders.

Then Doc Lightning rushes from cover, closes in on Ellie May, and realizes she does not really match the tales of her comliness, what with the oddly colored skin, open wounds, and groaning sounds coming from her mouth instead of speech. He unleashes the power of the lightning gun on her  as she raises her pistol and puts an end to whatever problems she is having.

This opens the festivities on a high note and in less than a minute a tremendous volley of shots, electricity, and flying magical cards are blasted all over the place. The gang is clearly some kind of walkin' dead and their well-known gun prowess appears to be vanished but they are still firing. Gunslinger Will drops his rifle and fans the hammer on Jethro and Hathaway as Huckster Isaac drops a huge blast of green flame to finish them off and Granny is blown away by lightning. Drysdale almost gets close enough to use his knife on the huckster but falls to urgently-tossed magical bolts and a bullet as the fight ends.

Art by DrStein - lots of good stuff here

Shaken, the grateful townsfolk thank the travelers. Drinks are on the house, and the sheriff returns before the train leaves and gives them a reward - "well, I don't know what they were but they're dead now so you can claim the reward" is pretty much the extent of the discussion.

DM Notes: This was a short "shake the rust off" encounter to get us back on track with Savage Worlds and Deadlands. It was a couple of hours of digging out character sheets, re-gathering the props (poker chips, cards, hat for the fate chips, miniatures) and bringing them back up to speed on the situation. I like my "westbound train" campaign kick-off idea and I'm going to stick with it for the first few sessions. Sure, it is literally a railroad, but they don't have to leave the train station/saloon and go looking for trouble - that's strictly up to them. Once we reach California they will have more options as the Great Maze is just full of interesting things.  

The session went well with some socializing and haggling followed by combat. I think the walkin' dead having guns was a surprise but they handled it (and they only have a d6 in shooting anyway) and they all got some glory time in. They're pretty enthusiastic about it and they've been asking to play again ever since but with vacation in there we haven't had time, or rather I haven't had the energy after being out on the boat all day. We will try to pick it up again this week and move on down the line to Barlowe Station.

Monday, August 4, 2014

RPGaDay - Day 4 - Most Recent Purchase

My most recent RPG is a set of stuff for Savage Worlds during DriveThruRPG's recent sale. They are:

This is a military-oriented sci-fi game by a Polish company named "GRAmel" that looks a lot like a 40K/Warzone type universe but I'm perfectly fine with that, that's a good option to have with teenage boys in the house. Savage Worlds also plays a heckuva lot easier than the official RPG's for either  setting.The company's main website is in Polish but if you want to see their English work here is their DTRPG page. I'm still reading this one so I'll have more to say next week.

Also from GRAmel is a swords and sorcery setting that I have heard a lot of good things about but never actually read. Honestly, I don;t really need another fantasy RPG but there have been a lot of good reviews of this and it was on sale! I also think it could fit very nicely with the SW mechanics so I need to take a look at it. Again, I'll have more next week.

This is a campaign from Pinnacle that's been out for a while but I never managed to acquire. I have it now in PDF at least and it looks like a lot of fun. It's very much Flash Gordon 30's/40's style pulp sci-fi and I can see it being a blast to play. I have read this one and as much as I like it, I'm not sure who I could run it for - I could probably talk the Apprentices into it even with the retro, because they've seen  the 1980 Flash Gordon and I could show it to them again as a warm-up. Ray-guns, rockets, lion-men, and bird-men all sound cool and the action-oriented nature of the setting would be perfect for them. Beyond that though, I think it would take some doing to convince my other "usual suspects" to dive in for a full campaign.It's still very cool though.

This is an even older Pinnacle campaign that I never picked up. It takes a lot from Van Helsing (the Hugh Jackman movie) and some League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, and is sort of a Victorian cyperpunk  - not so much steampunk - with two secret societies at war in the shadows using dehumanizing magic/technology to even up the odds. I'm still reading the campaign section and it's fairly dark. There's less pulp here than in many Savage Worlds games, and more ... dismemberment. It does have some cool ideas, but I'm not sure how interested I would be in running or playing it for the long term. I need to finish it then I will write up my thoughts on the whole thing.

RPGaDAY - Days 1-3

Blogger RPG Meme for August?

OK, I'll play. Expect short posts, but I'll play.

It's an easy thing to catch up because the answer to the first 3 are all the same:

It's my first played, first DM'd, and first purchased. It was the only RPG I owned for a couple of years. Old posts about it here and here. I still have the contents, though the box is long gone. I picked up another copy of it a few years ago and that one is in pretty good shape.

Motivational Monday

Our little vacation did go better than this but it's important to cover the basics ...