Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Marvel Multiverse - The Intro Adventure PDF is Out


Quick note - Marvel finally put their intro adventure up in PDF form for free on DTRPG. It starts out as a straightforward hostage situation:

When the heroes arrive on the scene, the police officer in charge informs them that the situation is even worse than what they were told. The Hydra agents are demanding that the city of New York drape the Statue of Liberty in a Hydra uniform, and they’re threatening to kill a researcher every hour on the hour until that happens. There are five minutes left until the first hour is up.

I mean ... that's pretty Silver/Bronze Age appropriate I would say. As you might suspect there is more going on here than Hydra grandstanding. There is a solid map which is nice if you're going to have action scenes in a modern office building. Also there are stats for Hydra Agents (which are already in the main book), Officers, and Armored Agents (like that one up top) so it beefs up the non-super foes list a bit and it's nice to have them all right here in the adventure instead of being referred to page X. It's a nice introduction and it's exactly the kind of thing that could have been included in the main rulebook in my opinion. A free PDF is not a bad option though - thanks for that Marvel. 

That's the latest and greatest for the Marvel game as far as I know. Kang is coming in November so we will get a better look at what the big books for this game will look like then.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Firing up ICONS again


So I was going to be short some players this week for a variety of reasons - thus thwarting myself once again from wrapping up the Perdition Elections arc in my Deadlands campaign as I want everyone present for the finale. The bonus complication here was that the mix of players this week did not match the mix of players I have had for Warhammer, Sentinels, Marvel, or either of the Star Wars games I've run in the past year - inset appropriate emoji here. With the chance to continue an existing game game out the window I dropped back into the Hall of Gaming, took a look around, and contemplated my gaming life thus far. 

I needed something that was easy to drop players in and out of, that could be run as an episodic campaign - self contained from game to game, and something that would not take a great deal of time to prepare as this gear-switching tends to come with only a few days notice. I do not want to keep crash-course-re-learning games for one-shot runs like I've been doing so I want to pick something as the "Plan B" game and stick with it. 

Superhero games are the easiest type of RPG to manage variable player attendance issues in my experience so that's where I started. Simpler rules ... simpler character generation ... lots of support ... this was really going in one direction from pretty early on. 

So ICONS it was! I haven't run ICONS in 5 years but I ran a bunch of it from 2011 up to about 2018 and wrote about it a lot here so it's not unfamiliar territory. I mostly ran it with my kids though so my regular players have not spent much time with it. The other bonus with ICONS is that I have a bunch of short adventures for it - and I like them, which is a rarity with superhero games as most of them are not good. For some reason though this game brought out good things in people and resulted in some really fun scenarios with classic comic book themes front and center. Fainting Goat Games in particular has had a nice run.

So I spent two days re-reading the rulebook and choosing an adventure, then we got together and rolled up some characters. I ended up with only two players but that's fine for a supers game. 

  • Variable Dave ended up with "Phantom Justice", an interesting mix of Phasing, Density Control, Fast Attack, and ... Spinning ... of all things. He made it work.
  • Shootist Will put together "The Amazing Sub-Zero" - an Ice Controller that ended up pretty cohesive.
For this run I chose "Primal Power" from Fainting Goat. I don't want to spoil much so I'll stay general but it's a great situation involving gorillas, a zoo, mind control, a secret lab, and some other heroes, a police force, and an agency to interact with during a crisis. There are character stats and some maps to give the GM an idea of where things are happening and of course it could lead into more. 

My players being veteran superhero fans didn't even blink at a hostage situation involving armed gorillas and dealt with the initial situation quickly and efficiently. One reason for this involves one character having a high degree of proficiency with the Reflection power and the large number of tranquilizer rifles in play. Lots of mechanical interaction there but it does make people drop quite quickly when they can  be knocked out on their own turn!

I freely admit I came out of it happy that they had fun but feeling like I had a lot of homework before the next session based on the number of questions I wrote down. Combine a few new powers with not having played in a while and uh, yeah, I felt like I was behind on and off all night - it still went well though.

This weekend will probably be another session as I already know we will be missing a few players. More on that next week! 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Superhero RPG sale at DTRPG

 I just saw that DTRPG is having a superhero RPG sale all week long and some of the discounts are pretty hefty. We live a golden age of supers RPGs with more options than ever before and there are a lot of interesting new takes on the genre so it's worth a stroll through their selection to see if something catches your eye. 

Anyway, just a heads up!

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Trying Out WFRP 2E


Over a prior weekend we were going to be short a couple of players so I pushed back the next session of Deadlands. The next one will be the finale of the Perdition Elections arc - if you've played The Flood you probably know - and since I had full attendance for the first two parts I wanted to maintain that for the big finish. This meant that we had an opening to try something like we did with Marvel a few weeks ago and with a bit of a fantasy itch we decided to try Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.

I say "try" but I've run it before and run and played 1st edition going back to the 80's - it's just been awhile. WFRP is up to a 4th edition now but I don't own it and was more inclined to run the one I have a bunch of books for already than start diving into the latest version. It may have been ten years since I ran it last for the apprentices and it's never really been a thing for my current group of players so it was fresh territory for us.

I planned on running the starter adventure in the back of the core rulebook as it's pretty good for this kind of thing and has the bonus of leading into the first published adventure if you want to go that route. I'm not planning too far ahead but one of the reasons we are doing these little one or two-offs is to try out things we might play after Deadlands wraps up. If we decided to go with WFRP then having that link to a potential campaign is handy. 

So we had 3 characters rolled up:

  • Grognard Mike made a Dwarf Soldier - this was by far the most capable fighter in the group with some armor and a big axe.
  • Variable Dave ended up with a Halfling Entertainer - this is potentially a hilarious character with strong Blather and Public Speaking skills which could let him talk people into damn near anything.
  • Next-Gen Patty came out of it with an Elven Apprentice Wizard which is a fairly rare thing in my experience for a starting WFRP campaign. We dug into the magic rules to make sure we were doing things right and he was pretty happy with his options for "Petty Magic".
Given the random nature of character creation this was actually a pretty impressive party. A fighter, a face, and a wizard is a good mix. I gave a general primer on the world while pointing to the map hanging on my wall and we have a party on their way to the town of Untergard shortly after a major chaos invasion of the Empire and a battle at the town. 

I wanted to remind us all that combat in this system is not like D&D so along the way to Untergard our party encountered 3 optimistic goblins and a fight was on. This fight went on for 7 rounds as there is a lot of "missing" in WFRP fights. Starting characters typically have a 20 to 30-something percent chance to hit and though there are ways to boost that by 10 or 20 points it's still tricky. That said anything that connects can get nasty quick. A typical weapon will do a d10 +3 or 4 points.  Everything has a Toughness number that is effectively damage resistance and armor is added to this (also absorbing damage) which will end up stopping 3-4 points for most characters. That means most of your effective damage comes from that d10 roll. Characters have a variable number of Wounds but it's typically about 10 so you can take 1 or 2 hits before it gets bad. 

It gets bad once you run out of wounds as at that point you start taking criticals which are resolved on a  set of charts based on hit location. There are ten possible results on each one ranging from very minor like a penalty on rolls for a round on up through losing a limb, and then finishing up at "dead" in whatever way the player or GM wants to describe. 

On a final note that d10 roll explodes on a "10" so a fluke set of rolls can absolutely destroy a character in one attack. Warhammer adventures typically do not include clearing a large dungeon full of monsters and this combat system shows why.

The fight against the goblins gave us a good introduction with magic, missile, and melee combat all happening. Out of the PC's only the halfling took a critical and he was just bonked on the head and knocked down, nothing too serious. Test fight over the party proceeded into town. 

I don't really want to spell out how the starter scenario goes in detail but there is some NPC interaction and then an attack on the war-ruined town by some Beastmen-type enemies. There's more beyond that but we did not have time to finish out the rest of the story but hopefully we will get to do that soon. 

It's a fun, fairly gritty system that gets more interesting as you gain more abilities from Talents and Magic and also as your skills improve and you hit more than half of the time. I'm not sure where it will end up in our survey of possible games but my players seemed to like it and that's what counts the most. 

Friday, August 18, 2023

40K Friday - Of Necrons, Knights, and Backlogs ...


It's been a fairly slow summer here miniatures-wise but I am pushing forward. The weather finally cooperated enough to fall within a decent range for spraying for a few hours so my Necrons are almost all base coated now. With all of the models built (barring one older monolith) I am in the unfamiliar place of having an up-to-date fully-painted army with no backlog. It is a strange feeling as pretty much every other army I have inevitably has a shelf full of boxes, sprues, and in-progress units that seem to linger for years, never quite vanishing regardless of progress made. So yes, with this new approach for the Necrons I am hoping to change that and also to start applying it to my older armies. 

For one example I decided to make Imperial Knights a full army this edition and the backlog for them at this point consists of one larger knight and a group of 4-6 smaller knights. It -really- shouldn't take that long to build and paint 7 models, even larger models, and once they are done I don't really foresee a backlog developing there. 

I also ended up adding a Chaos Knight army but this one was largely pained, big knights and small knights alike, so I really just have some touch-up and base unification to do here so again no backlog and the army is playable as it is right now with one possible new knight to add to round out the force. Maybe not zero-backlog - but close!

I added a Custodes force for this edition too but they were also mostly painted so my backlog right now is repairing a unit that arrived broken into damn near every single component that could be glued together and then adding in a few standard bearers and one more sagittarum squad. So two units and a character or two - I think I'm getting the hang of this.

The Tyranids are a new from-scratch force for me and I want to paint them up in my own scheme so this is where most of my effort will be going. It's not really a backlog when you are just starting the army ... right? I'll have more to say about them over the next few months. 

With most of the new stuff in good shape and one new army waiting to begin the gaping hole in my current state is the Imperial backlog - beefing up the Crimson Fists with a bunch of newer Primaris stuff, major reinforcements to the Imperial Guard, and massive updates for the Black Templars ... this is probably where I should be spending my time but I suspect the Nids will jump in front of them. 

Anyway there's the ramble for this week. I may actually have to put up some pictures of these things as we move into fall. More to come for sure. 

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Marvel Multiverse RPG - Playtest Report


Saturday night four of the regular crew got together with me and we gave the new Marvel game a spin. 

One of the great things about playing in a well-known universe like this is being able to pick a character you like and jump right in. I did not want to get bogged down in character creation this first time so we picked from the 100+ heroes described in the book:

  • Thing was played by Grognard Mike
  • Iron Man was played by Variable Dave
  • Spider-Man 2099 was played by Next-Gen Patty (who also brought a copy of the book)
  • Beast was played by Battletech Terry
So that was our mix of heroes. One of the best parts of sitting around the table with a group of guys like this is that everyone has strong comic book knowledge so over the course of the evening I learned:
  • Mike spent some time looking up Jimmy Durante videos and info so he could sound more authentically Thing-like and figuring out which era of Ben Grimm he was aiming for.
  • Dave worked up Tony Stark's speech that kicked off the adventure with no prompting from me.
  • Patty broke down the history and origin of SM2099 for us because it has been 20+ years since I looked at any of that.
  • Terry spelled out the relative capabilities of original-form Beast vs. Blue-Fur Beast as we debated various numbers assigned to the different characters 
This was not doing Google-searches on the phone - this was guys talking through it as we played. Very casual and tons of fun. 

There is no starter adventure for this outside of Roll20 or Demiplane or whatever online play platform they are using so I had to put something together fairly quickly. The situation is this: Stark Industries is launching a new ferry boat in NYC harbor powered by a new Micro-Arc-Reactor. Once tested this will usher in a new era of clean safe power that could be expanded to other infrastructure uses and will also allow riders to charge up their electric cars as that becomes a more common need.  Stark will be there to make the speech, Miguel wanted to see the speech and also scout out a new Roxxon facility going in across the river, while Hank and Ben are meeting there and then going to try a new restaurant afterwards. 

Unfortunately Hydra has its eye on this new technology and has hired The Hand to disrupt things while a pair of Hydra agents steal the reactor. Classic Marvel stuff in my mind.

So this first part was to try out heroes vs. mooks as everyone that will be showing up here is at a lower rank than our heroes. I had a second phase sketched out that would have involved more actual villains but we didn't get to that point. It does leave me an easy in for a second session though.

The Scene: a large ferry boat with a lower deck about half-full of cars, 20-30 people milling around there and on an upper deck where our heroes have gathered along with a few notables. It's still at the dock for the moment. 

So some open areas, some cover, a somewhat limited area overall assuming you don't want to go into the water, an upper and lower level to add that third dimension plus some cars to throw or blow up along with a lot of potential hostages. I try to give my guys options.

This game uses 5 foot squares so I sketched it out on a battlemat and added some toy cars and 40K vehicles and a monitor stand for the second level and we were set!

Tony Stark says his piece, there is applause all around, and then a bunch of ninjas led by the infamous Elektra  appear out of the crowd and the shadows and begin ordering people to the back of the ferry.

I had thought we might work in more social interaction but my players were really just waiting for the trouble to start so we jumped right in. Initiative is the standard 3d6/d616 as they call it roll modified by Vigilance + any Traits or Powers. It is called out on the character sheet so it saves you from doing the math each time. We ended up with:
  • Ninjas
  • SM2099
  • Beast
  • Thing
  • Elektra
  • Iron Man
The Hand is busy doing crowd control. We decided in this universe Stark still has a secret ID as does this Spider-Man so they spend the first round ducking out of sight and changing. Beast drops into a Defensive Stance while Thing grabs a ninja and throws him into another ninja (Quick Toss - a Super Strength power) knocking them both out. - an awesome start!

Starting with this first round a growing feeling crystalized for me: many of these powers feel like 4th Edition D&D powers. I felt like it after re-reading the powers section and my players came around on it too. Here's the Quick Toss power:

Every character gets a Move Action, a Standard Action, and a Reaction every round. So the trick here is to use a Standard to grab someone, then use your Reaction to do this and damage two targets. There are a LOT of higher-end powers that do interesting things like this. 

Another thing to note is that this one has a Focus cost. Originally I thought Focus was just another damage track to cover non-physical stuff but a lot of powers (particularly the more advanced ones) have a Focus cost and there are ways to recover some focus during a fight. This feels a lot like the Vitality and Wounds system from the first version of d20 Star Wars (originally used in Spycraft) where Jedi burned Vitality to use force powers and yes there are consequences to running out of Focus. We will need to play more to see just how extensive this is in play but it is a pretty common thing among the higher-up Powers.

Next round most of the Ninjas start lining up on the heroes as Elektra moves to engage Beast. Iron Man appears as if out of nowhere and unloads a missile swarm onto part of the upper deck catching multiple ninjas in the blast!

Now admittedly we did get a laugh out of Tony Stark's area effect blast being based on his Ego but this is one area where the flavor feels a little off. Iron Man's Elemental Control powerset is labelled as "Energy" which is fine in general but a) I never pictured Iron Man as an "Elemental Control" type character and b) the character write-ups have zero notes on what the different powers are supposed to represent beyond that broad descriptor. Johnny Storm, sure, I know what his blasts and barrages probably look like. Iron Man tends to have a bunch of different ranged attacks and while I get leaving it up to the player's interpretation is a valid approach in general I didn't design this character so I would really like a few words next to each power describing what they were thinking. Which version of IM is this? Is one attack meant to represent the palm repulsors? Is another the uni-beam? Is another one missiles like we went with? Flavor is a huge part of a superhero game and this one falls down a little here. 

Another trend to note here is that it is extremely common to have multi-target powers inflict half-damage with full damage + a special effect on a Fantastic Success. Remember a Fantastic Success is a 1 on the Marvel die which is treated as a 6 for the math. So one out of six rolls you will get something awesome so if you're used to d20 critical frequencies, well, these are far more common.

The battle is fully on now and the ninjas are not having a big effect on our heroes - Beast, Iron Man, and Thing are all basically immune to ninja-punches - so Elektra is in the fight trying to keep Beast and Thing busy ...

Alright so many of the power sets have a version of this - this is for Melee Weapons but there is also one for Marital Arts and one for Ranged Weapons, among others. This is a pretty basic attack - notice no prerequisites and no Focus cost - but it does let you do something cool by striking two nearby targets with one action. In this case Thing and Beast and Spider-Man all had versions of this and used it to great effect on ninjas, but for Elektra it was ... not great. She was not going to have much impact on either of her targets with half damage.

After a few rounds Thing has leapt aft to take out the ninjas guarding the hostages while Beast and Spider-Man finish off Elektra and her helpers while Iron Man sprays missiles anywhere he can hit at least two of them. Then two Hydra agents emerge from below decks carrying a chest between them as a minisub surfaces next to the ferry and a giant man in a hydra uniform stands up next to the boat as well. 

This is called "putting a clock on it" as even a mook-fight can get more tense if the enemy has a chance to get away with something important. The heroes were having no trouble at all with the Hand but I was hoping Hydra Giant Man - I literally used the Giant Man stats - would make it a little more tricky. 

It did not work out that way as 2099 gets ridiculous with one of his moves ...

You can see this lets him move, smack two people - possibly webbing them up - and then move again. This felt very spider-mannish!

Meanwhile Beast is playing leader and starts calling out to the rest of the team ...

This felt like a perfect fit.

 IM blasts one of the Hydra Agents leaving the other one to drag the chest to the side of the boat. The Hydra Giant smacks Thing for just about no damage. Ben then sees an opportunity, leaps in between the two, and bashes their heads together!

This move takes out the last two standing combatants and that poor Hydra agent ... in Thing's words "This man needs a hospital". Iron Man picks up the sub and places it on the deck, the pilot surrenders, and the Micro-Arc-Reactor - and the hostages - are saved!

Post-Game Thoughts

  • Number one my players had a really good time. Something about superhero games, especially ones using familiar characters, really brings it out. So right away I will say the rules did not get in the way of a good time.
  • The core mechanic of the game is used consistently throughout and as far as I can tell resolves everything with a single roll - that's huge. It plays quick which meant my players weren't tied up doing math on multiple rolls so they naturally tended to describe what was happening with their powers. I like that a lot. It's not as detailed as the original "One Roll Engine" as seen is Godlike and others with the height and the width etc. but it is easy to grasp and plays quick.
  • It feels very much like 4E D&D when it comes to powers - look at Spider Strike up there. I consider that a good thing.
    • Now look at Battle Plan and Combat Support - the 4E Warlord lives! You can have a character who can fight well who can also hand out buffs throughout a combat! The whole Tactics power tree is made up of powers like this and they are awesome. Beast and Cap and other leader types feel like they actually have useful, flavorful abilities in a fight beyond just punching like everyone else!
    • The possible downside here is that you are choosing from a list of pre-built powers rather than building your own and that's where the lack of flavor and customization could come in. Playing known superheroes it was not a huge problem though Iron Man did feel a little clunky with that power set. Workable, but clunky. Making your own character is going to push you down some set paths that could feel limiting but in return they will help make a cohesive character. We will have to explore that part. 
  • On my previous post I had some concerns - let's talk about those:
    • The 5' square thing did not feel particularly limiting.
    • Lack of a skill system was not the problem I envisioned. This session was mostly combat but I think the tags and traits will allow for enough specialization that it will work just fine. this is probably something to be better evaluated in a long term campaign.
    • The lack of vehicles/animals/robots and the very limited number of NPC type stats is an impediment to putting something together on the fly. There are a few agent-types in the book but not many. I've been spoiled by games from M&M to ICONS to the prior Marvel Heroic Roleplaying for including a lot of these building block type units and it does feel like a miss here. 
    • I didn't change up the task numbers here as it was mostly combat and I don't see a point to adding that in to the mix. 
  • This game could -REALLY- use a cheatsheet. There is a list of specific Standard Actions and Reactions and there is a size chart that is referenced a lot. Many characters have some level of "Mighty" and that references the size chart for how much you can lift and carry and what it does to your combat numbers. I may have to make one myself before we play again. 
  • One rules issue I need to look up: Elektra does that double strike move to hit Beast and Thing. Beast has Defensive Stance up which gives attackers Trouble when attacking him. The attack is specifically called out as one roll vs. both targets ... how does this work? Thing inadvertently benefits from Beast's defensive move? Do we keep track of the roll vs. the re-roll separately? At the time I just went with Trouble on the roll as it's still just one roll but given how many powers use this same approach I'd like a little more clarity.

Anyway that is a very long rundown of our session. It went very well overall and at least one other player was going to pick up the book after trying it out. I am very sure this is not our last round with this system - it's just a question of where it falls in the list of options for The Next Game. 

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Marvel Multiverse RPG - First Look


Quick take: this is a vastly improved system compared to the initial playtest rules. I talked about them here and then a later take on the playtest updates here. I did not like that initial version at all but had more interest in the final playtest rules. This new version is improved in every way over those and I like it enough I will be trying it out with the crew this weekend. 

Of course they're going to want to sell you some dice!


  • It's still 3d6 with one designated as the Marvel die where a "1" counts as a "6". Add these together, add a stat modifier, then compare to a target number where meeting or exceeding = success and rolling under = failure. So it's similar to most d20 systems but with a bell curve and a wild die mechanic. 
  • A 6 on the Marvel die and succeeding means you have a "Fantastic Success" which gives a bonus effect depending on what you're doing. Some of these are defined but there is a lot of flexibility here. A failure when you do this is a "Fantastic Failure" and means something good still happens - this is similar to netting out with only advantages in FFG Star Wars. It's not a success but it's still beneficial somehow. 
  • Rolling all sixes is an "Ultimate Fantastic Success" and is an auto-success which ignores any Trouble (see below)  and is pretty much the best possible outcome you could have.
  • Some powers, traits, and situations, grant "Edge" which is reroll one die from your roll and take the best result - so it never hurts you. 
  • "Trouble" is triggered in similar ways and means you must reroll the highest die and take the worst of the two. Trouble and Edge can stack up individually and they do cancel each other out if both would apply. 
  • They dropped the "Botch" concept from the early version so they figured out that you don't really need a critical failure mechanic, especially in a superhero game. That said the concept is out there if anyone wants to add it back in. 

  • A character is built around the 6 core stats: Melee, Agility, Resilience, Vigilance, Ego, Logic. Yes it spells Marvel. Yes they mention it. Your score in these stats is your modifier like Mutants & Masterminds. Human average for all of these is zero and derived stats typically have a minimum of 10.
    • Melee drives HTH attacks
    • Agility drives ranged attacks
    • Resilience x30 is your Health - hit points by another name.
    • Vigilance x30 is your Focus - this is another damage tracking stat but it's not Stun as in Champions or Shadowrun. It's more for emotional or possibly fatigue type effects. This is where psychic damage hits. Reaching zero here gives a character Trouble on all rolls. I think there are some interesting implications in this.
    • Ego in D&D terms is sort of Wisdom + Charisma and it drives magical attacks and rolls
    • Logic covers the obvious and also drives mental powers. The example given in the book is that Reed Richards and Professor X both have high Logic scores.
    • I think the usage of these are fairly obvious but I do like seeing Vigilance in the mix there. Perception type skills are used a lot in in RPGs in my experience so why not make them a core stat?

    • There is also "Karma" which starts off equal to Rank and allows one to heal and activate Edge and Trouble once per point and then refreshes with a good night's sleep.
    • Beyond the stats a character is defined by Powers, Traits, and Tags
      • Powers are covered in about 14 pages and I am sure we will see more in future books
      • Traits are like advantages in other games. They add flavor and typically give a small bonus like Edge on certain checks
      • Tags are more like disadvantages in other games - think secret identity, dependent NPCs, code of honor, etc. - and give no mechanical benefit but can be touched on for Karma
    • They did, thankfully do away with the archetypes and the 25 ranks that were in the original version. I really don't think many people are asking for classes and levels in a superhero game these days and they figured that out during the playtest. 
    • Rank is still a thing though. There are six ranks that are really a power tier kind of system. Rank 1 is "normals" even with some training, Rank 2 covers neighborhood protectors as they say - like Daredevil & Elektra. Jump to Rank 4 and that's where most of your Avengers and X-Men fall like Spider-Man, Cap, Iron Man, Black Panther, Colossus, Wolverine, etc. Rank 5 covers your heavier hitters like Thor and then Rank 6 is Cosmic level - Captain Marvel and the Silver Surfer types.

      This does have a mechanical impact on the game as your Rank is a multiplier to damage. So if someone throws a punch it is the result of the Marvel die (so 1-6) x the characters rank  and then we add the Melee stat modifier (the stat is the modifier like Mutants & Masterminds, average human is "0"). 

      Example: War Machine has a Melee stat of 2 and is a Rank 4 hero so a punch will do 1d6 x4 + 2. There may be some additional power or circumstance that could impact this but that's the base. Also, a Fantastic success  in melee means double damage so that could change things dramatically.

      If you're wondering how this stacks up to his defenses ...

      War Machine has "Sturdy 2" which reduces the multiplier of incoming attacks and has 90 Health so an average punch to himself would do 3.5 x2, so 7, +2, so 9. So he could take 10 average punches from himself.

      But if, say, Thor whacks him with Mjolnir, well ... now we're looking at a d6x10 (which we reduce by 2 for the armor) so 3.5x8 = 24, then we add 12 for the stat ... so BAM! 36 points in one average hit! On the third one of those Rhodey is down and out!
    How many spider-characters will be in this book? 10? 20? 100?


    • This game does use rounds of 5 seconds where each combatant gets a move action, a standard action, and a reaction once per round. 
    • Initiative is a standard 3d6 test - highest goes first.
    • Distances are measured on a grid of 5' squares. This is the weirdest thing left in this game to me - an obvious D&Dism that is just silly in a game where people fly and teleport and run around the world in ten seconds. It's not really an obstacle to anything, just a weirdly specific baseline to have.
    • In addition to Health and Focus damage there are various conditions like Blinded, Stunned, etc. I think the game covers the full range of things one would expect. 
    • The topper: Knockback ...

      It's a good start ...

    That example just cracks me up and this whole section shows me that someone gets it on the writing team.

    Initial Concerns

    • Well, there is no skill system. Your stats combined with Traits pretty much describe your day to day life.
      • You're not going to make a "Stealth" roll - you're most likely going to make an Agility check with an Edge from your "Sneaky" trait if you have one.
      • Defensive use of stats, like say the guard you are trying to sneak past, is the modifier + 10. So this sneak check would be Agilty + bonuses vs. the guard's vigilance defense which would be Vigilance + 10. 
      • Not much modifies these rolls - having a trait gives you an Edge or gives the opponent Trouble, depending on who is doing what. It's playable but it's not exactly intuitive coming from many other RPGs. 
    • There are no vehicles listed in the core book. I have a process for throwing a car at someone and a process for punching someone through the side of a battleship but I don't have stats to use either of those things in the game. That feels like a miss.
    • Task numbers are good but there is one concept that leaked in that is a personal beef:
      • There are 7 levels of difficulty from Trivial at -6 to Challenging at 0 to Absurd at +6, with steps of +/-2 in between. This is fine and expected.
      • Then there is a separate chart for "Challenging TN by Rank" which presents the base target number for "Challenging" tasks as 10 + Rank. I really really dislike this approach as a task, in my mind, should be rated in its absolute difficulty - If climbing the side of a skyscraper is a "Difficult" rated task then it should be, say, a TN14. It shouldn't be a TN12 for a Rank 1 character and a TN 16 for a Rank 4 character. Rank 4 types are inherently more capable so yes, they will typically have an easier time completing the same task than a Rank 1! Changing the base number equalizes the difficulty between the two which defeats much of the reason for designating Rank in the first place.
      • This feels especially off when they note that many teams have members of different Ranks like the Avengers where Hawkeye is Rank 2, Black Widow is Rank 3, Captain America is Rank 4, and Thor is Rank 5. 
      • I'm going to try it as written first but I will be keeping an eye on it.
    It's not just a pun - pretty sure he will be in my game this weekend!

    Things Done Well
    • The rules are presented in the right order: Basic task resolution mechanics, then how to read a character sheet, then combat, then how to create a character, then the reference sections. Excellent! Don't jump into telling me how to build a character before I have any idea how the system works!
    • The layout, language, and examples all seem right. It's a good-looking book.
    • It does contain a full character creation system so one can make an original character right from the start.
    • There are about 130 pages of character profiles and they take one page each so that means we start off with about 130 Marvel characters to use. Now some of these are things like "Hand Ninjas" or "Vampires" but the vast majority are named Marvel characters which is exactly the kind of thing a game like this needs. Well done!
    So there's my initial rundown of the book. I'm going to get my hands dirty with it this weekend I will post about that next week!

    Monday, July 31, 2023

    Campaign Planning 2023


    I say 2023 because I am betting this will start later this year though you never know with schedules and complications and I'm not going to rush the Deadlands game to a conclusion. It's good to have a plan though. 

    Fair warning: this will pretty much be me thinking out loud about various options, many of which I have outlined before, sometimes years ago on this very blog.  Hopefully it all makes some kind of sense.

    I have been running Deadlands "The Flood" since September of 2021with 25 sessions completed. That sounds light to me but there was a 3-month gap at the end of 21 and start of 22 then a 6-month gap last spring/summer as I went house-hunting and then moved into a new place. So when we get going we are pretty consistent but we do have gaps here and there. It has been the main game for the last three years so Savage Worlds has been our main system.

    This year I have also run some FFG Star Wars as a side campaign and ran a Sentinels of the Multiverse kick-off session that has thus far only been that one session. 

    When we finish the Deadlands game that's probably enough Deadlands for me for a while though I do have plenty of material to run more. After running a particular setting for an extended period I like to  switch to something else even if I know I'll be coming back to it later. It helps me to change perspectives and assumptions.

    System-wise I do like Savage Worlds and I have since it was first released but I'll probably change that out too. System mastery is nice but there are a lot of cool games out there and I'd like to spend time with all of them so rotation is important.

    That said let's talk about Savage Worlds options: it's probably Rifts. I'd love to run Weird War II, and for some reason Slipstream has been calling out to me lately, but if I turn right back around into this system it will probably be for Rifts. Even now, 30+ years later that game calls to people with all of the character options and setting weirdness and I should probably take another run at it. I have plenty of ideas and there is more than enough setting material new and old for a nice long run. I had a thought recently about converting some adventures from other games that I like to see how it might go - from D&D to Traveller to Twilight 2000. It's definitely a candidate. 

    Another candidate would be some kind of old school D&D type game. The Black Hack looks like fun, with Labyrinth Lord or OSE as more traditional options. I might run this as a traditional Town + Wilderness + Dungeons/MegaDungeon setup. I haven't run a fantasy game aside from a one-off last year in a long time and this might scratch that itch. The other thing here is that I don't see this being as much of a long-term campaign as some of the others. Make characters, get our hands dirty running through a few levels, and then consider rotating out. There tends to be less system overhead with games like this so in my experience you get more done per session than some games. I'd play this pretty loosely and let the players choose their path of course, as sandboxy as they want, and try to have a suitable stopping point in mind. 

    A smaller contender for a fantasy game would be a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay campaign. This would probably be 2nd edition as I have all of the books and between published adventures and stuff I sketched out years ago I could run for quite a while. It's a fun system and it's not like I don't have the miniatures ... it's just a matter of getting people to try it. 

    The other fantasy contender would be a 5E game that would take the classic path of Temple of Elemental Evil-Against the Giants-Drow Series with a finale at Queen of the Demonweb pits. There are good 5E conversions of most of these so the technical side is easy enough. I've wanted to run these for years and this would be that effort. looking at the long term there are several built in stopping points too - maybe if we completed ToEE my guys might have had enough 5E for a while so we rotate to something else and then come back to it down the road to play through the Giants series. I know I tend to burn out on 5E so if it takes a year I may well be ready to do something else myself. There are enough monster books out now for it that I can probably make them interesting at least and If I do run 5E again this is the most likely path.

    Getting away from fantasy campaigns the dream would be to finally have a superhero game as the main campaign for the first time with this crew. I like Sentinels after trying it out and there are a lot of other good supers rules but for a longer-term campaign I would go with Mutants & Masterminds. Tons of support both books and online , tons of characters and villains both, locations ... it has everything I would need. I'd probably go with my own setting rather than Freedom City but I might still include a lot of FC elements. This is the dream but I have to make sure my crew wants to commit to it before I start going nuts.

    Star Wars will always be an option and I've run enough now that I feel like it's a real campaign but I kind of like it better as the side/backup option. Everyone's familiarity with the setting and the visuals makes it very easy to drop in and out without missing a beat and I'd like to keep it going in that role. So I'm not ready to move it into the main spot right now.

    Other Space type games would be some version of Traveller or Stars Without Number. I'd love to run a post-apoc game like Gamma World or Mutant Crawl Classics but I think Rifts would take precedence. Maybe Hell on Earth makes it in next time as a compromise. Star Trek would be a blast but will probably never make "main game" status. 

    So there are my thoughts on the Next thing. More to come.

    Friday, July 28, 2023

    Catch-Up Time


    Tres Gatos

    Had a lot going on around here lately so posts have been sparse. I took some time to go and get married so that did have an impact but things are settling down now. It's also Con Prep Month so a bunch of my players are tied up with that so the regular RPG action dries up until August. But things are not -completely- idle.

    With the slowdown RPG action turns from "running" to "reading" and after working through MB and The Black Hack I am working on Hellfrost for Savage Worlds, the Trinity Core rules & Aeon (again), and Traveller Mongoose 2.0 Core 2022 Updated Edition etc. etc. with Sine Nomine's Wolves of God and Godbound on deck. Trying to cut down the stack but it's been a slow go with everything else going on and trying to read some non-game books too.

    RPG-wise I am also contemplating what to do after Deadlands wraps up. It's a few months off at least but I like to have some options ready to go. More on that later.

    Fred on the Fence

    With 10th edition 40K in that weird quiet time between the initial launch and the release of the first codex I've managed to work in at least one game and pick up some new units, new terrain, some of the index datacards (mostly for codexes we know are a long way off), and to manage some painting here and there. 

    The weather is not cooperative here right now as it's too humid in the mornings and too hot in the afternoons to spray anything and considering that affects both the first step and the last step in my process I am developing a logjam of almost-finished stuff and built-and-ready-to-start stuff. My Necrons especially are suffering here and I am feeling it because they are very close to "complete" as an army - well as "complete" as an actively-played army can be anyway.

    The plan was to finish the robots up and then dive into the Tyranids but it's not moving very quickly. In between the pile of Crimson Fists that are ready for paint and the Berzerkers in the same state to mostly finish out my World Eaters are getting some though no enough attention. Then there are the shelves full of Black Templars and Imperial Guard that are sitting there waiting for a turn as well. I might have overdone that whole "getting ready for 10th" thing. At least those two are playable armies I was just adding to, not starting from scratch.

    Ranger and Sam the newest cat

    Computer-wise it's been intermittent City of Heroes, some World of Warships, and starting out Baldur's Gate 3.

    So it's an active summer if not especially game-intensive - a bit of a break between a busy spring and a hopefully busy fall.  

    (Slow gametime-wise so why not some animal pictures? Enjoy.)

    Thursday, June 22, 2023

    The Black Hack


    Looking at another OSR type game that's not just an edit of an old rulebook this week leads me to the Black Hack. I was only peripherally aware of this one until last year when I finally picked up a copy of the rulebook and dove in. I am mainly looking at 2.0 here as I assume that is the author's "best" version to date.

    The Basics

    We have the usual six stats, the four basic classes, an option for backgrounds but no real race options outside of that background piece.

    Normal "test" are made by rolling a d20 trying to roll under the relevant attribute which is very common in OSR-type games . Instead of the traditional list of modifiers for things, though, TBH introduces Advantage & Disadvantage from 5E D&D - that's a good thing. 

    In another deviation the game steps away from the traditional dungeon grid of 5' or 10' squares and brings in a range band system similar to say FFG Star Wars among many others.

    Combat is also notably different in that PC's make an attribute test to hit an opponent and they also make a similar roll to defend when attacked. This is not an opposed roll situation - rolls are strictly made by players.

    Also armor absorbs damage in this system but not in a typical way. The wearer chooses when to use their armor which then absorbs all of the damage from that blow but the catch is that it can only do this a limited number of times from twice for leather armor to four times with plate. This is a version of the "shields shall be splintered"  rule that's been kicking around for quite a while now. One bonus is that there are built-in rules on how to repair one's armor right there in the same section so it's treated as "this is how armor works" and not as some special one-off event that will require a trip back to town. 

    Now right here we can see that despite the OSR label this game deviates from typical D&D conventions in many ways. A lot of more modern design concepts are showing up here and this spills over into other areas too, such as monster design. Each monster lists the attribute a PC must defend with but they may also have some special qualities too. Some examples:

    - Stubborn
    If hit by an Attack with an odd die roll, the Monster takes half damage.

    - Striker
    Targets must make two Defence Rolls that each only deal half of the Monster’s normal damage

    - Frenzied
    Every time the Monster misses, it gains an additional Attack in all subsequent Turns. All additional Attacks cease if it deals damage.

    Right there these simple modifiers make it easy to tweak the feel of combat against different creatures and liven it up from the simple swing/hit/miss/damage dynamic that can sometimes dry out basic D&D combat.  I like this a lot. Here's a specific example:

    Skittering strike - STR (1 Close) 6 dmg
    Swift! If the elf is hit by a melee Attack it may Move immediately

     Now we are starting to look more like 4th edition D&D's monster design and that is nothing but a positive in my opinion. Giving monsters (and player characters) things to do besides trade die rolls until someone's numbers run out makes for more interesting fights. 

    Spellcasting is simplified but still seems useful - it's memorize one per level up to the character's level. Casting it once is automatic and is then followed by a stat check to see if the caster retains it. After the second time this roll has disadvantage. A success here means the caster retains the spell while a failure means they have lost it until they re-memorize their spells for the next day. 

    Other Stuff

    There is the expected OSR obsession with random tables on full display here - a good-sized chunk of the back half of the book is random tables, maps that can be used alongside those or as random generators themselves (drop some dice on the picture to see what's here). There is good advice on running a game here as well. 

    I'm glossing over a lot of the details but all said this is a a comprehensive game covering all of the little stuff like light levels, diseases, poisons, magic items, etc. The difference here is that things that would get pages or a whole chapter in some modern games are covered here in a paragraph + a table or a half page. It is very flexible, giving the basics and assuming a DM will work from that and improvise as needed. Reading it, I don't see any major gaps but I will test that when I run my first session.

    One of my favorite monsters from this book the "Long Dead Future Man" which sounds like a name Hank Venture would come up with.


    The level of supplemental material this game has inspired is pretty remarkable. Just go to DTRPG and type in "Black Hack" and well over 1000 items come up - adventures, monster books, class books, race books ... it's impressive. Then add on all of the "inspired by" items like Mecha Hack and the game's impact/lineage/coaching tree is very strong. In short - the game is good and there's a ton of more good stuff for it and inspired by it.

    To close out I think this is the best of the OSR type games from the last 5 years. If you like B/X or BECMI type fantasy games but want to change up the system with some different concepts this is a great game to try and at the very least may inspire you to try tweaking a more traditional system in some interesting ways even if you don't go "full hack". I recommend it as strongly as any game I ever have on here.

    Tuesday, June 13, 2023

    Mork Borg


    So I finally took a look at the bright yellow hotness of the past year. Short take: it's a lot of style, some actual substance, and it's basically OSR Diablo.

    First off, the look: Yeah, it has a very distinctive style. It stands out on the shelf for sure. That said the differing fonts and colors and scattered layout make it a lot less efficient for looking things up and burns up a lot of space. It's supposed to be influenced by metal - doom metal/death metal - but I don't remember neon pink and bright yellow being players in those sub-genres - hair metal maybe but that's not really the theme they're going for here. 

    There are 10-12 pages of setting and it's very much a tone thing - a Realms-style detailed breakdown with maps is not what you're going to find here. I'm not going to get into the details here because a) it's an important part of the book's effort to set a certain tone and b) there's just not that much here. It presents a few paragraphs at most about a city or a region and maybe mentions what kind of insanity the ruler has ... it's a very loose kind of setting guide. 

    The end of this is where we find one of the more interesting things in this game: the "when the world ends" table. The DM decides how long they want their game to last and based on that they roll certain dice (ranging from d100 to a d2) every morning. On a 1 a "misery occurs" which is rolled on a random table on the facing page. There are 6 levels to it and each one can only happen once and then the 7th misery is the end of the world. Bang! End of game!

    Now this is cool on some level but the letdown here is that book sets this concept up but then fumbles at the goal line - what happens when the world ends? What do your player characters do? Is there a giant demonic beast to fight? Does the game shift over into some new kind of play? Do we at least roll on a random table for individual grisly ends?  Nope. As written it just ends. It's not even that it's hopeless it's just a non-event. The look and wording of the game is very Diablo-esque but those games typically end with some kind of big boss fight - here there is nothing. One of the points of a role playing game is doing stuff and there is nothing to do at this point - demonic rocks fall and everyone dies. Thanks for playing!

    Rules-wise it is again pretty loose. You can pick a class but the default is classless. There are 4 ability scores on the usual 3-18 range and they give modifiers to a d20 roll vs. a difficulty class similar to most modern d20 games. Race doesn't come up so presumable everyone is human or the world is so bleak it doesn't matter. There is a basic equipment list and armor is rated as a die roll to subtract from damage received. Magic comes from scrolls (which are permanent - not like D&D scrolls) and involve a roll so of course there are tables of bad things that can happen when you blow a roll. It's a fairly light set of rules but I can see a fair amount of page-flipping being needed during creation as things are mostly in one section but scattered around within it. 

    The book ends with a sample dungeon that is  fine in my opinion. It is the lair of a specific individual and his minions so it is not generic at all and the PCs are sent there on a rescue mission, not just to loot, so that's a nice start. It's maybe a session's worth of exploration and violence.

    Overall the game feels somewhere between tabletop Diablo with all of the doom and gloom and "Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay +1: Even Darker" with low-powered barely competent characters and a lot of mishap/injury opportunities like that game. I can see a touch of RuneQuest as well where the world is full of mysterious things and it can be very dangerous to go poking about. 

    My question after reading it is really how much time do I want to spend here? I just don't see the makings of a long term campaign here and the game doesn't really seem interested in a heroic fight against the darkness - it's more of a "keep your head down and try to get by until the lights mercifully go out" feel. I feel like it needs a table for why your character is being forced to go on these adventures in the first place because neither loot acquisition nor the zero-to-hero climb to power seem to be a part of this world. In the sample adventure you're offered a reprieve from execution if you can rescue a hostage from a dungeon - that's perfect for this world ... but then why go on with it afterwards? The whole setting is dark enough I'm just not sure what is supposed to motivate the PC's and to me that makes it mainly a one-off convention type game, not something you're going to run every week as an ongoing campaign. 

    Strong Veteran DM Take Here: The world should never because of a roll on a table. The world should end because of player actions. I realize that's a core conceit here but that doesn't make it right. That kind of event should come about because of your players.

    As far as an OSR type game this honestly feels nothing like the early days of Holmes Basic, AD&D, and Moldvay Basic. Not the tone, not the look, not the system, and not the adventures or setting. Early D&D was not especially dark and while your characters might be shanghaied into taking on a quest there was always a future to look towards: levelling up, finding gold or magic items, exploring the world, and just making some kind of progress in general. So if someone is looking for the feel of and old school game this is not that. Mechanically it has some of the loose feel of OD&D but even there the tone and approach is very different. 


    • If I am looking for something old school but more modern in design my personal choice would be  Labyrinth Lord or Old School Essentials. 
    • If I wanted something a little different then The Black Hack is out there for the taking. 
    • If I want a more distinctly different system with the old school tone then Dungeon Crawl Classics would be my choice. 
    • If I like some of the direction of Mork Borg but want a more defined setting and a little more "system" to go with it then WFRP is definitely in the sweet spot. 

    So to wrap up I don't hate Mork Borg and there are some interesting ideas here but if I ever run this game it will be a one-off to give it a spin but it will never be in the regular rotation - there are just too many other games that suit my and my players preferences better. That is the beauty of RPGS though - whatever your tastes you can probably find one that fits really well.