Friday, August 11, 2017

Edge of the Wasteland - A Fallout Hack for Edge of the Empire

So anyone who's been following this blog for any actual length of time, or anyone who's attended GamerNationCon these past two years, is familiar with my Fallout Hack for the FFG Star Wars Narrative Dice Setting. Backers to last year's GNC Kickstarter got access to these documents, and since it's been a year I figured it was time to share those documents with the masses.

This is the setting that started it all; Sam Stewart found the game "enlightening" when he got to play it (he got to play the Vault-Dweller, Artie Drake). Six months later, I'm getting an invite to playtest "Genesys", so it must have been really enlightening.

Anyway, since these documents were written, I've taken everything I've learned along with the Beta Rules for Genesys and re-written them. I've done a lot of cleaning up, reformatting, balancing, and rewriting to conform to what folks will see in the Genesys rulebook when it drops. So think of this as a "Prototype" for what Genesys could be, and take it with salt as to what to expect when the game launches later this year.

Edge of the Wasteland and Module 1: "A Better Man"

Feedback is always welcome, with the caveat that much of the information here is obsolete (power armor is pretty different now, for example).

#RPGaDay: Day 11

Which "dead game" would you like to see reborn?

I've been pondering this answer for the past 24 hours.

I think the one I'd like to see come back in some form or another is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness. I loved that setting, and after the D&D Red Box was my first real dive into RPGs. The core book had rules for making all sorts of mutant animals. Each animal had a set amount of "mutations" you could take; you might have animal features or a look that could pass as an ugly or exotic human. You might walk upright or hunched over. You may have paws, partial manual dexterity, or full human-like hands. You might be able to talk, you might not. You could also develop psionic powers. Maybe you kept your claws, or keen senses, or armored shell, or spines (the poking kind, not the skeletal kind). Each animal had a set number of "points" to spend on mutations, so you couldn't have everything. You had to give up some things for the sake of human-like stature.

The supplemental books expanded on the core book, adding more animals and weird tech as seen in the TMNT comics; Triceratons, TCRI Aliens, space-faring adventures, even time- and dimensional-travel (along with mutant dinosaur heroes!). While the system was Palladium's core rules set, back then it wasn't as bloated as it got in later decades and was playable at that scale.

I'd love to see a revamp of that setting and a rules set that plays an homage to the original mutation rules, but obviously without the Palladium system. That could be a ton of fun. Someone should get on that.


*adds "TMNT" to the growing pile of Genesys Themes to write*

Adolescent Gene-spliced Martial Porcupines

Thursday, August 10, 2017

#RPGaDay: Day 10

As predicted, this day is going to be a short day...

Where do you go for your RPG Reviews?

Gonna be honest here; I don't. I've long sense grown out of the "Pokemon Phase" of gaming ("gotta play them all!") There was a time when a new game would come out and if it was a subject matter that interested me I'd pick up the core book, but I've got a mortgage and bills to pay now. And a house with a finite amount of space in it. Even taking into consideration e-published books, I simply don't have the time to play all the RPGs out there I might be interested in. So unless it's something I'm die-hard into, like Star Wars or Fallout or something like that, I typically don't go hunting for RPGs these days.

In those rare times I might be looking for something, like I was last year when I was hunting for a system to run my Anomaly setting in, I did some basic research online for games. There wasn't any one specific site I went to, so I suppose you could say my place I go for reviews was Google.

Although maybe that's not true; I have gone to the r/RPG section of Reddit a couple times to see what redditors say about some titles, or see what their opinions are for certain system. So I guess there's your answer; Reddit.

Tomorrow looks like fun; I'm going to have to put some thought into this one...

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

#RPGaDay: Day 9

Day 9: What is a good RPG to play for about 10 sessions?

...all of them?

Well, okay that's not really accurate. I'd be hard pressed to play a 10 session arc of Lasers and Feelings or Og. Those games tend to be short one-shots that you play in an afternoon or evening, then call it done. Most other traditional RPGs are designed for a typical campaign arc of multiple sessions.

But let's take this exercise to the next step and be literal, what RPG is good to play for 10 sessions. A session could be a couple hours or it could be 6-8, but I'll use the "industry standard expectation" of 4 hours. So a 40 hour game, essentially. If I'm running such a game, I want the game to be easy to run and easy to play. I don't want to spend time looking over or arguing about obscure rules. Combat should be quick enough that we're not spending hours on one fight (unless it's a climax) but also long enough to really feel like your tactical choices matter. Finally, character advancement needs to be meaningful, some games out there it takes a lot of effort to "level up".

I'm going to try and grade some of the systems I've played based on the above criteria. I'll use a scale of 1-10 with 10 being the "perfect game for 10 sessions".

Here's my breakdown...

Palladium: Rifts/Robotech
I really enjoyed playing the Robotech RPG when it came out, and collected as many books as I could. When Rifts came along using the same system, I was in love. Sadly, it was a love that would not last, as the object of my affections became more and more bloated, with each year adding more and more insanity to the mixture. Finally, I had enough, and couldn't handle the craziness of the system or the skyrocketing stats I had to deal with. Running the game was difficult, with powers and abilities spread out across a dozen books. The amount of damage creatures and vehicles could take got obscene, so combat turned into a slogfest of whittling down outrageous numbers of hit points. Prep time for Robotech wasn't bad, I could use basic, pre-printed stats for most opponents, but for Rifts it was worse than Heroes Unlimites. Advancement wasn't bad, but it did exasperate the problem of higher hit points making combat last longer.

Easy to Run: 3
Easy to Play: 6
Combat Time: 4
Advancement: 5
Final Rating: 4.5 - A fun setting, but the system prevents it from being a contender for a 10 session campaign

Palladium: Heroes Unlimited/TMNT And Other Strangeness
I've played the hell out of these games back in High School and into College. I even had a pretty regular "Century City" campaign going for a while that ran bi-weekly. These were pretty good systems for it. Combat wasn't too long once we got used to rolling initiative, and it certainly wasn't any length I'd consider "too quick". Character advancement felt meaningful with level-ups occurring every other session. It was a bit of a pain to prep for, as creating stat-blocks for mutant animals or super-villains got pretty cumbersome; I'd probably spend 1 hour prepping for every 2 hours of gameplay.

Easy to Run: 4
Easy to Play: 8
Combat Time: 6
Advancement: 6
Final Rating: 6 - A fun game with the right players, but there are probably better games out there for a 10 session arc.

D20 - Dungeons and Dragons (3.5 Edition, Star Wars Saga Edition)
This was the system of D&D I really got into. For the most part, it was pretty easy to run as long as I was using stat blocks right out of the Monster Manual. If I had to make an NPC with levels or added a template to a creature, it increased prep-time a little bit. Ease of play was average, most of the time things went swiftly but then there were moments where we had to dig into sourcebooks or try and figure out who certain checks worked (damn you, Grapple rules...) Combat time was decent until the game got into the level 10+ range, then opponents started to get significant hit point totals and slowed combat down. Character advancement was generally pretty good, with level ups occurring every session or every other session depending on several factors.

Easy to Run: 6
Easy to Play: 7
Combat Time: 7
Advancement: 8
Final Rating: 7 - The classic scores an above average score. A D20 system is a solid choice for a 10-session game.

FFG Narrative Dice System - Star Wars, Genesys
Boy howdy, do I love running this system. It shows too, I've pretty much been running this system exclusively since 2013. I've found that it fits perfectly into my lifestyle; the only regular games I can play are either bi-weekly for a few hours or once every couple of months for 5-7 hours. Once you learn the system, I find it a breeze to run. Prep time is fractional compared to other systems I've referenced, and in many cases I can go completely off-the-cuff and none are the wiser. Players may have some complex characters options, but those tend to be rare or limited to advanced Force users. Combat feels like a dream to me, with initiative rolled once and combat time usually being a sweet spot of "just enough but not too long". Advancement might be a little slow if players want to dive deep into specialization trees.

Easy to Run: 9
Easy to Play: 8
Combat Time: 9
Advancement: 6
Final Rating: 8 - A great system for a short game or a long game. Perfect for a 10-session arc.

That was a long answer for today's question. Which is good, because I'm not expecting tomorrow to be a lengthy one.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

#RPGaDay: Day 8

All caught up, let's keep this train a rolling (mostly because I'm sure to fall off the wagon late next week...)

#8 What is a good RPG to play for sessions of 2 hours or less?

Definitely not Earthdawn...

There's a few I've played that could certainly fall into this category. The best games for short game sessions are, in my mind, ones that have basic rules and are easy to run, rather than something that takes a long time to run and adjudicate. Most of what leaps to mind are all these one-shot, one page indie RPGs that are out there; Everyone is John, Lasers and Feelings, and Fiasco. But, there are some larger, more robust RPGs that work in a two hour format too. If it's a narrative driven game, rather than a tactical rules-based one, you can get some decent game time in 2 hours. FATE, for all that I'm not enamored with the rules, tends to have quick play and conflict resolution. My go-to game lately, FFG's Star Wars (and soon to be Genesys) narrative dice system also does well in a shortened format. My bi-weekly Wednesday night game sometimes only actually plays for 2 hours, and we are usually able to move the story and plot along at a decent pace in that short time-frame.

I'm really enjoying this series. Looking forward to some of the answers coming up later in the month.

Monday, August 7, 2017

#RPGaDay: Day 5, 6, and 7

As expected I got behind in my posting for this over the weekend. But we're back today to make up for lost time.

Day 5- Which RPG cover best captures the spirit of the game.

Good question, there's a lot of games out there that have covers that really inspires the game within. In recent memory, the one that I feel captures the game the best is Pathfinder. I mean come on, look at that thing; it's got adventurers fighting a dragon amidst the ruins of some castle. The only other one that comes close to such evocative imagery is the cover for Eberron, and that was done by the same artist. The problem with Eberron was that the full artwork got condensed on the cover, so only if you saw the original piece would you appreciate it's full glory. Meanwhile, limiting it to a small piece of it was a disservice to the artist.

Moving right along...

Day Six: You can game every day for a week; describe what you would do.

Good lord, I'm reminded of my college days...

If I was running the game and had to run for a week straight, I'd have a ton of prep-work to do; I can tell you that. Actually, gaming every day for a week actually wouldn't be great if it was limited it to one game; it would be a lot of "game, pause for several hours to plan next phase, game, plan for several hours, repeat".

What would be better is to get six others and have each person ready to run a solid, long game sessions of their game. So seven campaigns in seven days; that sounds awesome. Now, if I could only  still survive that long on gamer food without dying from digestive distress, it would be better.

Day Seven: What was your most impactful RPG session.

Oooph. Yeah, I remember this one. It was a 3rd Edition D&D game back in...2002? An epic Twin Worlds game titled "The Four Aces". The scene was that the heroes were opening at a dimensional opening from the "other world" (long story). They were ground zero for a Yuan-Ti invasion. In my mind, the fight was supposed to be a "present PCs with overwhelming forces and make them run". So there's my group of 8 PCs (ah, the good old days...) and about 60 Yuan-Ti come flooding out of the gate, with more behind them. According to my plans, they turned and ran. This is when I made my first mistake (well, second one actually, my first one came in the pre-game statting for my NPCs, I'll explain in a moment); I had several Yuan Ti teleport in front of them. Not many, maybe a half dozen big ones (abominations?). In my post-game discussions, the mentality of my players turned from "he wants us to flee" to "okay, he wants us to fight; let's do this". So they pause in their escape to take out six abominations while the bulk of the Yuan Ti invasion force comes at them from behind. A grand melee starts, one that would prolong a one hour engagement into a three hour slogfest, and my second (or first) mistake happens.

While crafting up the stats for the lead Yuan Ti warriors, I gave their commander a magic scimitar. It was a Greater Displacing Scimitar, a nice threat for my brother who was playing the Aasimar Paladin. I mistakenly thought to myself "this would be fun if he got hit with it and was forced into another plane of existence", not actually thinking he'd fail the save throw necessary to keep that from happening.  I thought it would be a nice "you feel dislocated for a moment, but snap back to this reality" that would ramp up the threat and tension.

He got hit with the scimitar and proceeded to roll a "2" on his Saving Throw. So the big, bad tank got punted into a hell dimension. This was in round 3; remember how I said this turned into a 3 hour slogfest? My brother ended up going into his bedroom and poking his computer (justifiably) in an angry funk while listening to everyone else at least have the enjoyment of playing out the battle. At the end of the fight, they found a way to open a dimensional portal where they found him standing amidst the bodies of dozens of minor demons (I didn't want to gyp him out of XP). My brother was not happy, my players felt challenged to the point of frustration, and I learned a valuable lesson about tactical management, scene setting, and Murphy's Law.

Friday, August 4, 2017

#RPGaDay: Day 4

#4: Which RPG have you played the most since August 2016?

This may come as a shock to you all, but it's the Star Wars Narrative Dice System by Fantasy Flight Games!


Since August of last year I've ended my Legacy-era Another Longshot campaign, continued my Rebellion-Era Relics campaign, joined my buddy Tim's Rebellion(?)-Era Hay in a Needlestack campaign, and started a Dawn Of Rebellion-era Renegades campaign.

Oh, and I ran a KotOR Era JLA/Star Wars game down at GamerNation Con that people seemed to enjoy.

I have played A LOT of Star Wars since finding the West End Games edition in High School. I've also purchased just about every book there was since the D20 OCR. My PCs have faced clones of Darth Maul and dead Jedi Knights from Geonosis, outsmarted hutts and bounty hunters, and even were the reason there wasn't an At-At at the bunker during the Battle of Endor. They've rubbed elbows with Luke, Han, and Leia, and even been some of them in Alternate Universes. 

You'd think that after...25 years?...of gaming in the Star Wars universe, I'd be tapped out. But I'm not.  I'll keep running and playing as long as the ideas keep coming.  

And I don't feel like I'll be running out of ideas anytime soon.

Hmm...I'll need to do some research for tomorrow's question...