Friday, November 25, 2011

And We Go A Frolicking In The Vale

I have recently been picking up some of the "new" Dungeons and Dragons Essentials books and I have to saw that I really like what I see.  In fact Spacer has even expressed an interest in trying it out so this is another game that I've added to our gaming queue.  Unlike the Gamma World or Leviathos adventures, I want to run this game mostly right out of the books.  I like the setting and the stories that that the folks at Wizards have created for the Essentials products so I'm really excited to explore them.  They have also thrown enough other juicy tidbits into the setting that it would be very easy to build on them and create some really interesting stories.

That said I really don't see running this one past tenth level which is the end of the Heroic tier in the game.  Once you get past this point it seems like things start to bog down as the number of powers and hit points and effects all pile on top of each other.  Of course this opinion is only based on what I've heard of actual plays that are way up there in level and don't feature the Essentials products but I'd rather end things with a pleasant taste in everyone's mouth instead of the bitter pill of rules grind.

So what's so special about Essentials that could make it different?  Well it seems somewhat trimmed down from the regular 4e experience based on what I've read and heard on podcasts.  Rather than bogging you down with tons and tons of choices for your characters, they've really slimmed things down but still give you the option of adding more from the other products if you want.

I really like this approach as it makes the game seem much more approachable (go figure...) and gives a pretty reasonable gateway for people interested in taking a look at this game.  In fact I'm even thinking about making a couple of adventures that I can run to introduce my daughter to this part of my hobby.  Probably somethings with goblins since I have all those minis already... but more on that later.  Until next time...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Are You Ready For The Ultimate Prize?

While flipping through recommendations on Netflix I stumbled on something that really surprised me.  Sit down and strap in because we are about to race for the ultimate prize.

This is an anime with a twist.  It's not just Japanese... it's also French!  Created by Savin Yeatman-Eiffel and first airing in 2006, this anime follows the story of a team of star racers from Earth (think podracers from Phantom Menace but much, much cooler... and they have guns too!) that have been invited to join the Great Race of Oban.  The prize for winning the Great Race?  Well, to find that out you'll just have to watch!

With lots of action and characters that really pull you into their personal struggles as they work together to win the race, this is an incredible series.  When I first started it up I was a little skeptical but I found that it quickly drew me in and left me wanting to find out more of the story, not to mention the crazy Car Wars like action of the race itself.  I definitely recommend checking this one out if you haven't already!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Leviathos Arises Again!

This week we finally managed to get role playing back to the gaming table!  We are once again returning to Spacer's wonderful, watery world of Leviathos but this time with a twist.  Originally Spacer had been running this as an open world campaign; basically just laying out the sandbox and letting us run wild in it.  He did plan out a few parts of it but he really tried to give us a ton of free reign.... which seems to have been part of the problem.

Things were flying along at a breakneck speed!  We were about to betray our former employer as she prepared to start a war against a powerful empire, that same empire had just found the hidden cove that served as one of her bases, we were running to get onto a ship to head to the frozen waters of the north with a crew that we didn't know if we could trust and even other party members we didn't know if we could trust... and then the writer's block hit.  Spacer had a mental overload and sadly the story ground to a halt.

Time has gone by and inspiration has struck for him again but this time he's looking at things a little differently.  Instead of the open ended epic campaign of all eternity he has scaled it back to a more manageable size and I have to admit that I'm glad.  Sprawling epics are all well and good but as I've mentioned before having an ending is so much more satisfying.  That's not to say that we can't revisit these characters in the future, far from it.  It just means that one story can finish before another begins... and hopefully means that I can get some more of my games to the table but more on those later.

The thing that I really wanted to mention was what Spacer did to tie up the infamous "you meet in a tavern" loose end that plagues so many games.  Just why the heck is this random band of misfits together anyway?  I mean really, a dwarven barbarian, a half-elven druid, and a very refined half-elven sorcerer of extremely high caliber? (bet you can't guess who I'm playing...) Why in the world would they have anything to do with each other?

To tie us together (and give us a little mechanical perk as well), the story Spacer is telling focuses on a dwarven archaeologist and anthropologist (aka tomb robber) turned tavern owner who we all dealt with at one time.  The barbarian has worked in his bar before, the druid has helped on some of his digs years ago, and I was also in his employ in the past as well... no doubt doing something scholarly and noble as fits the skills of one of my high quality and distinction.  (yep, this time I'm playing egotistical bastard)  The tavern owner went missing and his wife sent us letters asking us to come to the tavern and find him.  Three totally random people who have nothing to do with each other except we all know the same guy... who actually isn't missing and asks us all to help him.

Personally I love this idea as the one thing that always seems to be lacking in the beginning of an adventure is a reason for the group to be together in the first place.  Our first foray into Leviathos and my Wastelands game had both lacked this and it was really something that bothered me so I'm really excited to see how he's addressed it.  Now we just have to do the job and not kill each other.  Ah yes, good times....  But more on that later.  Until next time...

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Back To The Wastelands

Its time to hope on the role play tour bus to start looking at some of the ideas that I've got floating around.  The first stop on this little whirlwind expedition is Gamma World.

Though it's been months since my group sat down for our one (and unfortunately only) game of Gamma World, we have been looking at bringing it back to the table again with a few modifications.  When we first did it, the players had a really hard time with the completely random nature of the character generation system.  Random equipment is one thing but random everything made it really hard to get their heads around the characters so I've decided to make a few changes.

The first thing is the whole random origin system.  Not even being able to choose your origins made developing a character concept really hard for my players so I've decided to introduce some free will to the process.  Instead of using the random tables, I'm going to let the players pick their origins so they can get into the character's heads a little easier.

Next up is the rolling the abilities themselves. According to the rules you roll up most of the stats in order using 3d6 which is all well and good but it leave you with a really erratic bunch of scores.  Instead I'm pulling in the point buy system for abilities from D & D 4e as it gives the players more control and puts most of their scores at a minimum of 10.  The characters are supposed to be heroes after all so it only makes sense that they wouldn't have a bunch of scores that are below average.  How the origins relate to the abilities has been tweaked as well.  Instead of giving them an auto 18 in their primary and 16 in their secondary I've changed it to a +2 and a +1 for each so that it fits better with the point buy system.

I'm also not a fan of how the skills are handled.  According to the rules, you have a +4 in skills relating to each of your random origins and a +4 in another random skill.  Again its all just a little too random in my opinion.  Instead each origin gives a +2 bonus to their related skills and then giving the player eight points to apply as they see fit.

Last but not least (as far as character generation anyway...), we are going to choose the alpha mutations instead of randomly drawing them.  We did this in the other game and the players really like having control over at least that one aspect and really helped them start to develop characters a little.

Overall I'm really hoping this will help my players get more into their characters as I've got a few ideas for Gamma World campaigns that I'd really love to run.  Just what are these ideas?  Well I'm glad you asked!  Right now I have three different setting/campaign ideas that I kicking around.

1) The Wastelands Campaign: With the Kaiute tribes moving south into the United City States of Texas, its only a matter of time until the new south of Merica erupts into a massive bloodbath.  Preparing for war, the future looks grim until a lone wanderer staggers back from the wastelands to the west with stories of tombs of the Ancients.  Could this blasted land hold the secret to their salvation?
This campaign is actually the one that we had already started and is the most fleshed out.  Basically its a mix of wild west and post apoc all rolled into one.  Can't go wrong with that, right?  This gives the region a somewhat lawless feel while still having some semblance of  civilization.

2) The End of Times Campaign: Life is almost idyllic in the Dah-Koh-Tah territories of old Merica until rumors begin to circulate about an ancient menace coming from the north. Is it just idle chatter or have the evils of the End Times returned to finish the job they started all those years ago?

This was actually my original idea for our Gamma World campaign though I didn't get it as fleshed out as the Wastelands idea.  I was also trying to set it in the region of the published adventures so that I could easily pull those in if I wanted to.  Nothing like having a published adventure on hand just in case your feeling a little lacking in the creativity department.  Even so these are just fall backs as I've already got some pretty solid ideas for this one as well.

3) The Rise of Empires Campaign: While most of Gamma Terra struggles to maintain some kind of order, the self proclaimed Empire of Humanity has risen out of the ashes to the east. Is this a benevolent power that can restore order to the broken land or just another tyranny that will threaten the world with its grab for power?

I went seriously old school for this idea as I've pulled a lot of the initial concepts from the old After The Bomb supplement for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles RPG from years ago.  I'm definitely going to tweak it to give it my own flavor but this is a setting that has always been near and dear to my heart.

So which one will it be in the end?  Well, I'm not sure.  I've sent off the three ideas to my players and right now I'm just wanting on some feedback from them as to which one interests them the most.  Hopefully they'll let me know soon and then I'll be sure to pass along the good word.

That's about all the radiated goodness for now but there is more to come as the ideas just keep bouncing around my noggin.  Until next time...

Friday, November 11, 2011

So Many Ideas, So Little Gaming Time...

As we move into November work is slowly building up for two members of our group.  Ah yes, the joys of retail Hell... Black Friday, the last minute sales, the returns... Esh.  Sometimes I'm glad I'm not in retail.  Unfortunately this means that for gaming the next two months are going to be sloooowwwwwww...  As I said, esh.

In the meantime I've got a some time to brew up and fine tune some role playing ideas so I thought I'd throw them out here on the blog.  Not only does this give me a chance to get the thoughts down on "paper" but I can also let them stew around to see what cooks up.  Some of these are fairly well developed (such as the Gamma World game that we're talking about possibly rebooting) while some of the them are just pipe dreams that I want to fine tune some more (such as the Toon one shot I want to run).  As you can see the games cover a broad range of genres and game systems but they all have two things in common.

1) I want to be able to run them all in chapters (except of course for the one shots).  This doesn't mean that I want every adventure to only last for one night but I really want to make sure that each session ends with a logical stopping point.  I know it seems pretty obvious but with as erratic as our gaming schedule sometimes gets I want to make sure that we end sessions at logical breaks in the story in case we miss some sessions or are missing a player in the next session.  Hopefully this will let us pick up and continue onward without too much difficulty.

2) All of the stories have an end.  Be they a short campaign or a one shot, I want to make sure that there is a definite story arc to the overall plot so that we don't wind up with the whole open ending on a campaign.  Stories are more satisfying when they have a definite end to them rather than just rambling on and on.  This isn't to say that the stories can't continue but I want that to be a group decision and not some desire to get closure to the story.

Hopefully keeping these two aspects in mind will make it easy for the group to getting into the games and give the stories enough life to play out to the end.  Of course only time will tell but ya gotta start somewhere, right?  Until next time...

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Wench Thought That Was Her Tip

There's been a bit of a lull around here lately as I've been busy with Halloween but I'm back, this time for a look at some drunken revelry.  Grab your gold my friends because its time to go to...

Spacer first introduced me to this little gem and I was instantly hooked.  Yeah, it's really that good.

In this game the players are a group of adventurers.  Having entered the dungeon, slain the monsters, and defeated the evil warlord there's only one thing left to do... get drunk!  But not before everyone else of course.

At the start of the game each player has their own deck of cards (different for each character to reflect their various classes and races), ten gold pieces, a Fortitude of 20, and an Alcohol Content of 0.  In addition to this there is a communal drink deck which gets passed out (and "drunk") as the game goes along.  Using your cards (and the drinks of course) the players are trying to make their opponents pass out by making their Fortitude equal to or less than their Alcohol Content.  As an added twist you can also knock out another player by making them loose all their money gambling (the only thing worse than a drunk is a drunk with no money).  The mechanics are very straight forward and the flavor text and artwork are hilarious.

Currently there are three different versions of this game available and they can all be played together for a massive twelve player game if you wanted to.  Don't know if I'd recommend it as the potential down time between turns would be a little much but it's possible if you're crazy enough to try!  Personally I think the sweet spot for this game is four players but I've never tried it with two.  I imagine that would make for one fast and furious drinking game!

It should be noted that all three versions are not the same.  The third iterration includes some additional mechanics for each character which makes them play somewhat differently than characters from the first two sets.  Nothing too complicated but it does change the game and we have wondered if they might not be very balanced against the other sets.  I don't think it would really boil down to a massive advantage but its definitely worth pointing out.

Overall these are really fun games and I can't recommend them enough.  Interested in picking it up?  Well then give your FLGS a call or hit our Amazon link at the top of the page.

That's about it for this time but I've got more in the works, including that Halloween Fear and Faith session.  Might be a Thanksgiving game at this rate but it really is coming soon along with some other goodies.  Until next time...

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Mini Review for a Mini Game

I promise, I'm not repeatedly dying and rerolling, I just totally space on writing here, hence the nickname I suppose. Anyways, I am pretty tired at the moment but I had to get in here and post real quick before i forget. If you haven't already, go check out Dungeons and Dragons: Heroes of Neverwinter on Facebook. That's right, I am violently opposed to Facebook time-waster games, but this one stands out, and does a great job selling a simplified D&D flavor to newbies, brand new players, and veterans alike. You can choose from prebuilt characters or customize one, complete with stat point assignment, then take your character on adventures with the hired help of your friend's heroes. Each adventure is comprised of a bunch of mini-encounters, including combat, traps, and of course, good ol' slow D&D levelling. After three beginner adventures, I hit level 2 and am 100 points in to the 2500 I need to reach level 3. There's a neat random loot system, an intuitive user interface for spells and abilities that appear from characters and targets as radial menus, and it's all turn-based, based on initiative scores. The maps are cutely detailed grids, and the sprite graphics are nice and moderately custom. All in all, it's worth at least a quick peek.

Hope y'all have as much fun as I have!