Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Forget the Hobbit – This is Your RPG Hero

I started reading the original Mike Grell run of DC Comics "The Warlord". Grell wrote and drew this crazy thing.
I remember reading the odd issue as a kid but this stuff is crazy violent pulp seventies anti-hero genius. This is pre Star Wars but is seriously tapping into the Zeitguiest as it's obviously influenced by Flash Gordon as well.

Much more exciting than the old D&D ads that would appear several years later.


Sunday, February 9, 2014

2014 - Year of the Sci-Fi RPG?

Over the last several months I've managed to aquire a number of new games, many of which are thematically sci-fi. I'd really like to play them, so maybe this year for me is the Science Fiction RPG year.

Recently sci-fi seems to be occupying more of my time as well. I'm in a sci-fi book club and my regular D&D group defaults to Gamma World when some of us can't make our regular game day. I play Battle Tech monthly and sometimes X-Wing miniatures as well.

Recent sci-fi acquisitions include Numenera, Star Wars Edge of the Empire RPG and Traveller 5.
Also on the shelf: A Time of War (BattleTech RPG), Star Frontiers, FASA Star Trek and Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space. Generic Sytems could of coarse be made to  fit a sci-fi game with ease. BRP, Cortex or Fate anyone?

I've already got an excellent idea for a custom campaign using the Traveller5 rules. I should really get that ready for the next con.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

PseudoCon 2014

So somehow I managed to get caught up in a few RPGs near the tail end of the week.
I ran a game and played two I'd never tried before.

Wednesday offered up a chance to play FATE at my FLGS. I've always heard good thing about it and wanted to give it a try. I ended up buying the fudge dice required to play between character creation and before we started playing. I had such a good time that I ended up purchasing the core rules at the end of the session.

I'm a big fan of what I like to refer to as "modern" or "contemporary" RPG styles. That might seem odd since most of what I write here is about older games and the games that are influenced by them.

The classic games I like most are rules light (usually fitting into a 64 page book), random (tables and wandering  monsters), and have a good deal of GM adjudication. The three things I consider to define a contemporary RPG are simple rules, group story telling, and character connections. They might not be the same as each other but they feel related.

 I can't help shake that something terrible happened in the 90s and 00s when many of the current OSR gamers were absent. Since many of us have come back to gaming, tabletop games are thriving again. When we were not paying attention the gamers that remained  helped prop up bloated jalopy games like d20. It's easy to see now that rules systems of that nature are broken and more work to run than they are fun to play. It's as if d20 and it's ilk are the Prince John of RPG games and the OSR is like King Richard returned with perhaps the proliferation of new modern RPGs being like Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Not that I won't play these games, they're just not very flexible as written and are a bit of a chore.

Thursday brought me to another newer game, but this one was specifically designed to feel old-school – Dungeon World.

I'm running a regular game and it's lots of fun. The prep is specifically intended to be bare in order to "play to see what happens". I like this a lot since it mimics exactly how I DMed my very first and most fun games of basic D&D. I'm often just as surprised as the players and the excitement of seeing the story unfold without prior knowledge of anything but the main plot points is amazing.

Friday presented the opportunity to play Runequest (Chaosium 1980) with people from the miniatures gaming group I meet with monthly. I'd never played Runequest before although I've played Basic Roleplaying and other BRP style games like Stormbringer, Hawkwind and Elfquest.

I'd also never played an RPG with anyone in this group before as all our past gaming together has been focused on miniatures gaming. This was very fun as all the players were clearly very experienced and the world setting itself was super fun with all of its background, religions, tribes, cults, guilds etc.

Lot of games played and it almost seemed like it could have been a Con. PseudoCon 2014? 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

JimCon 3

Jim Con 3 was last weekend (November 15-17, 2013).

Friday November 15th
I ran a game of Doctor Who Adventures in Time and Space.
Ashes of the Daleks from the adventure booklet was played.
I had one excellent Whovian player who played as the first Doctor.
Not the best choice for physical stuff like forcing open doors on a space station (there were lots of these) and with no sonic screwdriver... well lets say at least the jiggery-pokery made up for the lack of more obvious solutions. Oh and with a Tardis that basically can just leave and not come back the level of play certainly was improved as more thoughtful solutions to problems were required. I really enjoy this game and once again I was left with the impression of having just watched an episode of the show. Cubicle 7 has done a great job not only with the quality of the boxed game itself but with the game system as well. I would say this falls into the category of the modern RPG.

Its bigger on the inside?

Saturday November 16th
A very busy day.

I started off running Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG for two players who played two pre-gen characters each. "Tower out of Time" was provided free from Goodman Games as part of their DCC 2013 world tour. I was send a package of "Road Crew" goodies including buttons, pencils, bookmarks and badge tags ( I paid the shipping on this stuff as I'm in Canada and that's their set up, but they sent me enough stuff to host three events - so I guess I'll get a couple more games in this year if I can).
It was a very weird adventure and very pulp fantasy influenced. That's good as that seems to be the point of the game being inspired by Appendix N genre writing. I don't think one of the players really liked the spell tables but for me this random element is what is missing in most Baroque style game systems (d20 et al.) which focus on balance when designing an encounter.
Everyone seemed to have a great time even though (or perhaps especially that) half of the party died.
I think it all turned for them when the main adversary had a spell failure that ended up working in his favour resulting in an effect that caused all the armour within a 25' radius to fall apart.

Its made of flesh!

Fuck you Tipper Gore!

Next was playing in the Total Warfare BattleTech Solaris VII Tournament . I picked some mechs from those available and started shooting. I could see this perhaps being a little more interesting next time but considering that the BattleTech group put a weekend of demos and tournaments together despite having lost some of their organizers for the event I would say they did an above par job. Great fun.

Finally I joined in on a game of Numen̩ra. We played an adventure called "The Vortex" written by the game's designer Monte Cooke and GMed by Chris Wachal. I don't want to give away any details on the adventure but I would like to say that I haven't felt this sense of wonder playing an RPG since the very first times I played D&D back in the fall of 1982 when I was nine years old. It was great fun discovering my characters powers and abilities all the while exploring a mysterious temple with no clue as to what to expect next. Rules light system, all new idea, all new encounters Рfantastic! BTW my character died at the very end.

Monte, I almost forgive you for helping make D&D shitty
Sunday November 17th

Early morning as I was scheduled at 8:30 in the morning to run a Gamma World adventure I'd written for the second edition of that game. I had one person show up that expressed interest but he wasn't willing to play unless there were some more people showing up. Lesson learned – pad the table with a player or two of friends and don't run your game too early on Sunday morning. I can't help but think that I got that early slot because I may have expressed interest in leaving the Battletech:Alpha Strike Tournament slot open so I could play in that. In any case I plan on posting the adventure I wrote here along with the one I wrote and ran at JimCon II.

Possibly the best edition

Last of all was the BattleTech: Alpha Strike Tournament using the new Alpha Strike rules that recently came out. I've been playing this for a couple of months and its a really fun game that uses a more modern rules light miniatures game system but still has the feel of BattleTech. I came in fourth place but I had great time playing with the other guys and it looks like there is going to be a resurgence in the local BattleTech community.

All the fun in less than half the time

I had a great time again this year and I recommend that anyone that enjoys tabletop games of any kind come out and play next year.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Top Secret: Meta Agents

Top Secret: Meta Agents is on its way to becoming a reality.
I've been proposing this for almost a year now and have now managed to wrangle up a number of players.

The idea is to play a Play by Post game of TSR's 1980 RPG "Top Secret" using snail mail. Players play sleeper agents that have been using their real identity as a cover. Mission packages and agents reports are sent back and forth creating the story.

"Too secret for WikiLeaks, too dangerous for the Internet"


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Game Play Report - KeyCon 30

This past May Long Weekend (actually the 17th -19th - Victoria Day being the Holiday on the 20th) marked the 30th Anniversary of Manitoba's premier sci-fi and fantasy literary convention. This year as with most others, gaming was a popular component and I took the opportunity to run a couple of RPGs, in particular "Doctor Who - Adventures in Time and Space" and  "Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game".

The theme for this year's KeyCon was "The Stars are Right" celebrating 30 years of KeyCon, 50 years of Doctor Who and 100 years of H.P. Lovecraft. This lead me to run the Doctor Who RPG which I had purchased several months ago but never played before. I took my time reading the rules and the adventure during the previous two weeks and became excited about running the game as I thought I had a reasonable idea how it would play. What a surprise when it turned out to be even better. After the game was done it felt like I had just watched a good episode of Doctor Who. Of coarse I have to thank my players, none of whome I'd met before, for doing a really good job of playing the parts of the 10th Doctor, Donna Noble and Captain Jack Harkness. Thanks for playing everyone. That was Saturday afternoon.

Sunday brought me to running Dungeon Crawl Classics. We played "Portal Under the Stars" an adventure for 0-1st level characters that was included in the rule book. I had run this before at an OSR Manitoba game night I ran at my home and was feeling good about introducing it to KeyCon. Very fun time was had running this for a table of five players,  most of whom I knew from playing Pathfinder Society games (none of which were being played that day due to lack of players). We started with zero level character creation, which everyone seemed to enjoy, and moved right into the adventure which they played with a mixture of ingenuity and humour. Way to go guys, I hope to see all of you again when I run a level 1 adventure at this years JimCon in November.

I tried to record all of the players who died in the DCC game and will compile it in a later "Hall of Heroes" post along with the dead from the OSR game night.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Unheroic Demise of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

In the world of super-hero comics the death of a hero can be an ostentatious event and great characters often don't stay dead for long. Unfortunatly I feel that the loss of licencing from Marvel for Margaret Weiss Productions' Marvel Heroic Roleplaying will not follow the same narrative cycle as the heros it portrays.

Annihilation - omen of an RPG.

This one really hurts as I've only seen good stuff regarding this game and have purchased almost everything on the shelf for it at my FLGS. I even asked if they could bring in a hard copy of "Civil War - X-Men"

So what happened here? I have my own theories and something about the following quote from MWP doesn't ring quite true - there's something not exactly transparent.

"And in Marvel news… the economics of licensing a tie-in product is always something we have to weigh carefully. We brokered an admittedly ambitious license with Marvel. Our first event, CIVIL WAR, was successful and well received, but it didn’t garner the level of sales necessary to sustain the rest of the line. We’ve learned from this and are taking a very different approach with the other licensed properties we’re bringing out to you in the next three years. We believe we created a great game. Those of you that have supported us have been terrific, and we appreciate you. But, unfortunately, we will not be bringing any new product out under the Marvel line. We know this affects our customers. Those that have pre-ordered Annihilation will receive a full refund or a credit worth 150% of their Annihilation order to use on existing or future product".

Really? This game has hardly been out for a year. It also was the 2012 ENnie Awards Silver Award winner for Best Game and Gold Award winner for best rules. They even say in the quote above that CIVIL WAR was successful and well received. How much better was this expected to be. I can't help but think that somehow this has something to do with Marvel over valuing their licence for this game after the success of the Avengers movie. If this game can't make enough money to be viable then I seriously doubt Marvel will be able to find a game company (or develop a game themselves) that will "garner the level of sales necessary to sustain the rest of the line".

If MWP would come clean with the details maybe the fans could do something regarding this. Specifically, did MWP dump the line because they couldn't make enough money on it? I hope not because they just invested in that tired old property "Firefly". If they dumped Marvel Heroic because they felt they couldn't keep both it and their other newly acquired properties then that would be tragedy. That would essentially mean that they were not prepared to let Marvel Heroic grow and produce returns for them and that they took the money we spent on it and rolled it into a licence for crap like "Firefly".

If that isn't the case, it means that Marvel wanted too much for the line as negotiated between the two  and MWP couldn't make enough profit to viably keep publishing the line- "an admittedly ambitious license". Also if the stuff already written is now being scrapped that means MWP expected to take a loss if they continued. The other scenario here is that Marvel was in a position to request even more for the licence after a set time period, and seeing the success of their Avengers movie, jacked up the fees, making Marvel Heroic unviable. 

Here's the situation. If MWP pulled out because they felt they would rather focus on other properties because they were more profitable than Marvel Heroic, but Marvel Heroic was still making money then basically it's over. If MWP lost the license from Marvel because it was too expensive then it's clobbering time. Basically it's unlikely that a new Marvel RPG is going to do better than Marvel Heroic. Its popular and won 2 ENnies. Marvel has to understand the "actual value " of its propery in the RPG game industry. They can either make some money or no money. But here is the game changer. If a game that was popular in the circle of customers that would be interested in such a game didn't generate enough value to continue the line, we need to let Marvel know that we want it to support Marvel Heroic, and that we will not be supporting any forthcoming system. This in effect will make any Marvel RPG completely unviable, unprofitable and generate nothing for Marvel and its properties. If Marvel wants to make any money from our hobby they need to renegotiate a new deal with MWP to continue the Marvel Heroic line. Simply put, we don't need Marvel to keep playing this game, we can make the content ourselves,the OSR has proven that it can be done, and MWP could easily publish the operations manual without the Marvel IP. Marvel has an opportunity to create even more fans, make some money, and watch a game line grow, with the future opportunity to make money on RPGs for every comic book tie in / event they have ever published and/or ever will. However this is Disney - creator of the Disney Vault - they're perfectly willing to sit on this, It's worked for them in the past. This time it's different, because if we keep building our own events and data files then there will never be a demand for a Marvel RPG. Our community will become the one with all the content and all the players. If Marvel sits on this they lose.