Thursday, August 27, 2015

RPGaDay Favorite Idea for Merging Two Games Together

I wasn't too sure what he meant by this. I could take it to mean, "Favorite idea for merging two campaigns into one," or I could take it to mean, "Favorite idea for merging two game systems or settings into one," so I will just take it both ways.

I have a lot of experience with merging games. I have run different groups in the same campaign world, sometimes even the same dungeon, for a number of years. Most recently, I have drawn all the heavily used areas from my recent fantasy campaigns into one world. This was pretty easy to do, I just cut out those sections of the maps and then glued them back together. They key was that by eliminating all of the history that my players never encountered in game, I found I had almost no conflicts that would have to be explained away, even if all of the players involved discovered everything that the other players knew (unlikely). I think they lesson here is that if you only create what you need, and do not get attached to things your players have never seen, it is easy to merge parts of a game world together. The benefit to this is, every part of my game world, that I know anything about, has been developed through play.

As far as merging two systems or settings together, I have to go with the upcoming Savage Worlds version of Rifts. I am really eager to see this.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

RPGaDay Favorite Gaming Inspiration

The inspiration for games I run tends to come from two places, books and maps. Generally, I get science fiction inspiration from books and fantasy inspiration from maps, although this is not always the case. I think this is because my science fiction games tend to be about an idea, usually a "what if question", and my fantasy games tend to be about a journey or exploring a place. 

Almost any kind of book can inspire a science fiction game, from a science fiction novel, to a book on phone phreaking. Sometimes I will get an idea while reading a history book or a social science book. The inspiration almost always takes the form of a question, from the dumb, "What if this happened in spaaace?" to the more complicated, "What would a democracy look like if everyone could vote on hundreds of little issues every day through the internet?" Even when I am dealing with a licensed scifi game like Star Wars, the basis tends to come from a question.

To a certain extent, this is true for my fantasy games as well, except that the question is almost always, "What is over there?" I am not a big fan of epic, world-saving fantasy. I find that it all tends to be very derivative of Lord of the Rings, and very backwards looking. Epic fantasy tends to ape Lord of the Rings without thinking about what it is doing, romanticizing pastoral, rural, medieval England even when written by an American. I do not find this to be fun. The events of fantasy are very, very boring. Exploring fantastical locations, on the other hand, is interesting stuff. 

Because of this, my fantasy games tend to be site based, not event based. I get excited by the big world maps that come in campaign settings. I trace the rivers and roads with my finger and look for places that call out to be explored. I like my campaign setting books to come with brief, evocative descriptions of the locations on the map, and more detailed maps of those areas. I am not going to read the painful elf history or list of dead kings. Just give me the map and a few lines of description.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

RPGaDay Favorite Revolutionary Mechanic

This one is really hard. I am having a hard time coming up with a mechanic that I feel is really revolutionary. And I am going to answer this from the perspective of what felt revolutionary to me when I encountered it. That means that if someone else did it first, but I never encountered it, too bad.

While there are plenty of times that I have found a mechanic clever, I can only think of two times that I can say I was surprised by one. The first was saving throws, it actually took a while for me to get my head around those. Part of that was that I was 10 years old, the other part o it was that it was the opposite of the way everything else in the game worked. You generally rolled to make stuff happen to another character, not to keep it from happening to you. I was comfortable with hit points when I first encountered them, they were the same as hearts in Zelda, but rolling to keep a status from being applied to my character was a bit mind bending.

The other was the conflict resolution system used in Dogs in the Vineyard. This was really the first time I ever encountered a game that was not just "D&D but different". Prior to Vince explaining it to me, I thought I had encountered games that were more than just "D&D but different", but I realized that was not true immediately afterwards. It was the first time that I encountered a game where I could say, "This is what RPGs might look like if the person who invented them was not coming from wargames." There have been other games since that clearly not drawn from the D&D tradition, Dread is what RPGs would look like if the inventors came from Jenga, but DitV was the first I encountered.

Dogs in the Vineyard's core mechanic is my favorite, and possibly only, true revolutionary mechanic I have encountered.

Monday, August 24, 2015

RPGaDay Favorite House Rule

My favorite house rule is my dungeon crawling house rule set for Castles & Crusades. While C&C is great as written for most things, it does need some tightening up for extended dungeons crawls of the type I run. While I am always working on my house rules, the general gist is to get combat out of the way quick, and to have a very strict exploration round. I have talked about these rules before.

I slim down combat by using group initiative and break combat into phases, each side takes its turn before moving on to the next phase. The phases are Missile, Melee, and Magic. I extend the combat round to 1 minute so movement can mostly be abstracted. I also treat all enemies in a group as a bucket of hit points. When you kill one foe worth of hit points, I subtract one enemy from the group. Any damage dealt beyond what is required to kill an enemy is applied to the hit point bucket. This means that characters regularly mow down multiple weak enemies in a round. This makes them feel cool, and speeds up combat.

My exploration turn is just a list I go through each turn: Move, Roll Searches, Describe, Actions, Mark Time, Roll Wandering Monsters. I am considering making two small alterations to make the tun smoother. Instead of tracking turns on torches/lanterns, I would have the players roll a die with a value equal to the number of turns that light source is supposed to last, with the roll of a one indicating that it is used up. While it adds some randomness, it eliminates an often forgotten tracking step. I am also considering rolling for wandering monsters every turn, even when the table calls for a roll less often, I would just decrease the chance appropriately. This means I would take the same actions every round.

Roll20 Gaming: Backlog

Last week I played in a DCC game using Roll20, and I was impressed with the system. I have been thinking about running some games using it, especially games that I don't think I will get much chance to run in person, things like starter sets and the huge number of perfectly good modules and adventure paths I have accumulated over the years. These things have the advantage of generally being low prep time, accessible, and having a pre-defined endpoint for buy in purposes.

Looking around my shelves I see things like the Pathfinder Beginner Box, several Paizo adventure paths for both Pathfinder and 3.5, a stack of 3rd edition Dungeon magazines, Ptolus, White Wolf's Scion campaign, the 5e Starter Set, the 4e Starter Set, the Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars Starter Sets (there is a dice roller, I checked), WEG Star Wars Darkstryder Campaign, some C&C modules, lots of Lamentations of the Flame Princess modules, and that doesn't even touch on the .pdf bundles I have purchased over the years. Many of these are are very good, or at least good introductions to their system. I think Roll20 would actually work great for this kind of thing, it is easy to estimate how many sessions they will last, and you can pull people from across the country.

On Steam we call this our backlog, anyone else working through their backlog on Roll20?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Star Wars Armada

I played Star Wars Armada to day at my FLGS today. I stopped in the store two weeks ago and asked some people playing the new Halo fleet battles game about it. They told me that they play Armada every other week, so I picked it up to get ready for this weekend.

The game is a lot of fun, and moves quicker than I expected. The first couple of turns were a little slow because I was figuring out how things worked, but the second half of the game really picked up. We played a game with 200 points on each side in well under 2 hours, including instruction.

I played the Imperials and got lucky and won. We reached the turn limit and I had destroyed a Rebel corvette, but lost only a few fighters. I say I got lucky because had we played a few more turns, my Star Destroyers would have ran off the edge of the map and my opponent would have been awarded points for them. It took me a while to realize how hard the Star Destroyers are to turn. If you are playing them, you will need to use the maneuver command regularly to keep them on the field. The rules really give them a feel of inertia, both from how hard they are to turn, and the fact that you have to issue your commands 3 turns ahead. When a game is only 6 turns, this means you don't have a lot of ability to respond to your opponent. In an embarrassing note, I actually ran my Star Destroyers into each other, hopefully I will not make that mistake again.

The models look great, and it looks like they are building up a pretty good variety. This is the game I have been looking for, a pre-painted, quick-playing miniatures game. I have been wanting to get into a miniatures game, but hadn't found anything that seemed affordable and didn't require lots of painting at home. You will be seeing more posts about this game.

RPGaDay Day 23: Perfect Game for You

I wasn't exactly sure what this question meant, so I am going to assume that it means which game I would want to play if I could always get enough people. For me, the answer is GURPS. For all the time I spend talking about, and running, rules-lite games, I actually prefer crunchy games with a high level of granularity to skills and mechanics. I think this is because, if I could run any kind of game, I would run hard science fiction games. I prefer that kind of game to have several different kinds of physicists and chemists, not just a generic "Science" skill.

And it isn't just in hard scifi that granularity matters to me. I love Savage Worlds, but I have some problems with the system in long campaigns or back-to-back campaigns. Savage Worlds does not have a very high level of detail in its skills, this is great, it is what makes it so fast and easy, but it can make everything start to feel the same after a while. I have found that two Savage Worlds campaigns in a row can feel very much the same, even if they have very different themes, because of the simple mechanics. It is also hard to keep things mechanically fresh over long campaigns. I do not think this is an actual flaw in the system. The game was designed to be "Fast, Furious Fun" and mechanical granularity is going to be one of the trade-offs for that. GURPS, on the other hand, takes a while to get up and running, but offers many ways to make things feel very different due to its detailed, modular nature.

I like long campaigns. I like spending a lot of time working on the game world, and campaign specific rules before the first session. I want to distinguish this from something that requires lots of prep time every week before play, like Pathfinder. GURPS requires a lot of work setting up the campaign, but very little on a weekly basis. GURPS gives me the ability to make a very realistic world, and to fine tune the game systems to get the feel I want.