Friday, June 24, 2016

Big 40K Friday: Our first video battle report!

Well, it finally came together, so here it is, all 12 minutes of it:

Blacksteel & Sons

(Their idea, by the way)

All the Apprentices will be back the week of July 4th so I anticipate a second and maybe third batrep that week. Production values and camera technique will improve.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Side Quests: June

23rd century (actually maybe even 22nd?)

The good: The Marvel heroes Anniversary Event continues and is a lot of fun. Lots of free stuff, some crazy event overlaps, and it continues for another week! Also, a playable Ultron is coming, probably next week as well. yes, they call it "Marvel Heroes" but it has playable villains as well. Doctor Doom, Loki, Magneto, Juggernaut, and a few others, soon to be joined by the evil robot himself.

The less good: Star Trek Online is going in an odd direction. The upcoming expansion is full-on retro, allowing players to start a new character as a TOS federation character with uniforms, ships, gear, etc. It still bugs me a little bit but it is the 50th anniversary and it's not like time travel isn't a huge part of Trek anyway so I can deal with it. Now, in addition to that direction, we have this:

26th century - the "Nautilus" class
Spock, the legendary Starfleet officer, scientist and diplomat, accepted a mission to make a daring attempt to save the dying star Hobus. His mission was not successful, however, and the effects of the Hobus supernova have echoed though time and space. This series of events is now referred to as the “Kelvin Incident” by temporal agents and multi-spatial researchers. 

The sheer destruction from that moment in time has weakened the barrier between our reality and one strangely similar to our own, leaving a strange temporal anomaly in its wake. While most are content to allow alternate realities to be, others have looked on them as unique opportunities to exploit, the consequences to the natives be damned.

“Terminal Expanse” will take players not only back in time, but to this strange, alternate “Kelvin Timeline”. This mission will be available to all players at level 40 and above once Agents of Yesterday launches.

Look for future updates on new missions as the launch day approaches, and we’ll see you in-game for the release of Agents of Yesterday!

This is where it's starting to get messy. The game has a really good concept of the future of the original trek universe, covering the 20-50 years after TNG/DS9/VOY. That's where the focus has been barring the occasional time-travel scenario or mirror universe incursion. The trunk of the tree has very much been The Federation/Klingons/Romulans in the decades following the TNG era with branches for various other races, the Dyson sphere, the Iconians, etc.

The first big expansion added playable Romulans and covered their story in the wake of the destruction of their homeworld - it was great!

The second expansion covered the Delta Quadrant - not my favorite, but it added a whole new region with new races and a new missions so it was solid plus it  continued the story of the setting.

This new expansion goes backwards to the TOS, jumps to the 26th century somehow, and adds in the JJ Abrams movie universe in what I assume is the first of a series of missions at the very least! That seems like an awful lot to cover, even if it is an expansion and not just a smaller patch type update. I'm a little concerned that they're going to lose focus on the "now" of the game and get tangled up in all of these side areas. Players have been asking for stuff like playable Cardassians and now they get TOS Feds. In the wake of that quite a few Klingons have asked for playable TOS Klingons and so far that does not seem to be in the cards.

I can see making some tie-ins to TOS and to the movies with all of the attention they will be getting but it still feels like wheel-spinning to me on some level. There were already retro-ships, retro-uniforms, and some retro-missions in the game. heck, one of my characters and his crew wears the Wrath of Khan uniforms exclusively, because I like them! Making it the focus of the whole expansion, though? I don't know, that doesn't seem like a great choice for the long term. I'll give it a try when it comes out and share my thoughts then.

Almost a Loknar ...

26th century version

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Something Old and Something New

The RQ2 Reprint Kickstarter payoff arrived last week and over the weekend I actually had enough quiet time to read the whole thing. I like it. There's a practicality to it,  a very definite sense that this developed in play and was not sent out with zero playtesting. One example: You improve stats and skills by paying for training, in addition to experience. That's something we never used much in my prior RQ playing experiences, but it makes a ton of sense as far as a playable solution to character improvement. It also implies a ton about the world, way beyond Glorantha-this and Lunar Empire-that - there are fighting guilds, temples, and other organizations that provide this training, even going  so far as to do it on credit to new adventurers! Yes, "adventurer" is a known and widely accepted occupation. In a world full of ruins and monsters that seems eminently reasonable - and practical.

It's also very clear the influence of the SCA experience of the primary author, Steve Perrin. Combat is all about weapon types, weapon length, the order an attacker might be able to strike vs. different weapons, how much one might reasonably carry and still be effective in a fight. Including Size as a stat is another sign of this as it plays a role in a bunch of combat elements. With Apprentice Red in a similar organization at school I'm picking up on a lot of the influences here - moreso than i did before, anyway.

The whole book is written in a conversational tone that  I found incredibly appealing. It's something you just do not see in modern RPG writing. Comments like how an referee certainly could track a bunch of different elements if they wanted to overburden themselves, but in the writer's opinion it's simpler to just do X. It's very different than the contemporary (circa 1980) Gygaxian I was immersed in at the time, and it's very different form what I see in books today too It's personal without being ego-driven, which can be a tricky balance to strike. It's much more like how I think   I would want to write a RPG supplement if I ever got around to doing that - that's intended as a compliment!

We've already agreed within out group to run a session of RQ and see how my mix of veterans, experienced non-RQ'ers, and millennials take to it. I'll let you know how that goes.

On a different note, while I was re-reading some of my Savage Worlds stuff last week I got to thinking about how it would make for a really strong Star Wars ruleset. I started looking up conversions online, dug out some of my d6, Saga, and even Star Frontiers stuff with an eye towards outlining how I might use it. I also came across my AoR book and reviewed our playtest of the Beginner Box and how much fun we had with it, and started thinking I should really give this set another chance. So after I finished reading RQ I sat down and read AoR.

This is the serendipitous path we all tread at times. Honestly I was really happy to find the time to read two RPG books in detail in one day.

Maybe reading RQ helped open up my mind a bit, but I think I get the FFG system's appeal now. There are some touches with Marvel Heroic in the whole "building a dice pool" thing and we love that game. I know it's a giant rulebook, much like the Pathfinder ruelbooks, but it is a very different approach from PF mechanically and I think we could have a lot of fun with it. I'll have more on it next week but I am furiously thinking up campaign options in between the rest of life and at some point it will click and we will set up a one-shot to try it out. Also, there are a lot of cool things being done for this game by players - for example:

I still think Savage Worlds would handle Star Wars really well, and I may try it too. One nice touch is that both games, SW and AoR/EotE/F&D are mechanically light enough that you can put NPC's on cards. My take on the SW ones is here, an example of FFG's is here. I really like that these exist. Going back to my RQ take, they are very practical, an approach and an item that's intended to help you actually run games and not just sit on a shelf! That's becoming more and more of a factor for me in games: Is it a good game, is it fun, will my players have any interest in playing it, and is the "work factor" in running it high or low?

More to come!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Savage Worlds Super Powers Companion 2E

Savage Worlds has had a steady progression when covering super hero games. We started with Necessary Evil all of 12 years ago (!), and that was it until 2010 when Pinnacle released the Super Powers Companion alongside a slightly revised Explorer's Edition of NE. In 2014 they released a second edition of the Super Powers Companion. I finally picked it up and since I own all 4 of the books in question I thought I would talk about Savage Supers in general and the new book in particular.

NE in general is a very limited scope campaign - it all happens in a single city over the course of a few months, maybe a year at most. Certain powers were included - or not - based on the campaign conceit. There are some definite balance issues as we discovered when my wife's character went around happily mind-controlling everything in sight. Now we were all having fun so it was not a huge issue - "Why bash down the door when you can have the guards let you in?" - was the general approach. Balance is tricky in a supers campaign anyway and not really at the top of the list. The Savage Worlds system worked well as a framework for comic book action and we really felt like we were exploring the city, discovering a plot, and taking action to throw out the invaders. Both times I have run multiple sessions but both were eventually interrupted before we could finish the campaign. That said it's something we talk about starting up again whenever a new game is discussed.

NE was the only official source for super powers for a long time but after many requests the company did release a super powers companion. This was better, but it was still largely a collection of material taken from NE and very lightly revised. Some new material was added like super-bases, but it still felt like less than a full effort - limited, in some way.

The latest version is much, much better and finally feels like a full, standalone, superhero campaign supplement for Savage Worlds. If the prior versions were like the early versions of Champions, this book feels like the SW version of the Champions 4th edition Big Blue Book. It brings together everything they've learned previously, makes it right, and presents it well. So...

  • If you are interested in Savage Worlds and super heroes, do not have any of these books yet, and are wondering where to start this is the one to get.
  • If you have NE and would like to broaden your horizons beyond that book then this is the one to get.
  • If you have the prior edition of the companion there is a free PDF containing all of the changes here. Note that it is 54 pages long so it was much more of an update than a few pages of errata and clarifications. 
I don't see myself running a pure Savage Supers game just yet, but that's not because of this book. It's mainly because Savage Rifts is coming later this year. I figure a superhero might show up in that game at some point and who knows - I might dust off Atomic City for a one-shot using these rules to help get us warmed up for that.