Monday, November 25, 2013

Edge of Empire 12:

Session 12 started with the characters heading off to Coyn with two goals. They intended to meet with Tamaron Pol, the rebel contact for the drug deal and force Lud Chud's deal on him. They also wanted to explore the second ancient pyramid to get another data point for their Dyson sphere search. Coyn is home to a proud warrior race, kind of like space Klingons (errr). They arranged to meet their rebel contact in the alien quarter at a bar.

As they approached the bar they were surprised to catch sight of Braddock drinking with Nills.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Lords of Waterdeep

Well, the Swords and Wizardry game did not go off as planned tonight because we did not have enough people show up at start time, but it actually turned out for the good because we played Lords of Waterdeep instead. Lords of Waterdeep is a board game based on the classic D&D setting, the Forgotten Realms. Waterdeep is one of the most famous cities in that world, having been passed by Baldur's Gate in the '90s for name recognition.

But don't worry if you aren't into dungeon crawlers, because Lords of Waterdeep is a worker placement euro game in disguise. And don't worry if you don't like euro games, because it is fast paced, with a lot of interaction, and a lot of fun. There is no trading logs and bricks in for castle parts for the king in exchange for victory points here, you are gathering a band of adventurers to take on quests.

In Lords of Waterdeep, you have a limited number of workers to place each round and you have to choose between placing them in buildings that will let you recruit different kinds of adventurers (cleric, rogue, fighter, wizard), build more buildings, get money, get quests, or get intrigue cards to stab other players in the back. Each quest you collect requires you to gather a certain number of each type of adventurer to complete it for victory points. You can build new buildings that have better payout in adventurers per worker placed there.

The game is a lot of fun because you never have enough workers to do all of the things you want to do in one round, and you are constantly making meaningful, tough choices. The game stayed tight all the way through, and even though I pulled out to a decent lead a few times, the other players were able to catch back up. At the end, I finished in second by one point, very exciting.

While the game is not super thematic, it is pretty thematic for a worker placement game, and you do feel like you are gathering adventures and stabbing each other in the back. The theme is not quite as strong as in Yedo or Manhattan Project (other worker placement games), but it is a much easier game to learn.

Overall, a great game that I will certainly be picking up in the future.

Swords and Wizardry at the FLGS Tomorrow

Tomorrow I will be running a Swords and Wizardry game at my local gaming store, High Tide Games. This is the same store that I run Edge of Empire in every week (last weeks play report coming soon). hopefully I will be running the game for many of the same people. I billed the game as Basic D&D on the stores calendar, because I assume that the awareness of the Swords and Wizardry name is not very high.

I will be using a heavily house-ruled version of S&W that I like to use at conventions. I draw heavily on Akrasia's Swords & Wizardry house rules, as well as various other house rules that I have picked up over my years of OSR reading, and many that I have developed myself. I am thinking about posting these rules, the problem is, I have no idea where I got half of them anymore, and I am not sure if they are all Open Gaming content. I may post them after further investigation.

The players will playing in my long-running campaign world that contains my Castles and Crusades City State of the Invincible Overlord game, my OSRIC Stonehell game, my Savage Worlds Ruby Isles game, my old high school 2nd Edition game, my summer games during college, and many a convention game. As always, all events will be canon.

This game will be a one-shot that centers on the refugee city outside the walls of Dar Janix. Dar Janix is a great marble city of towering spires, built on a large island in the middle of the ocean. It is home to an order of knights who were forced to flee the mainland after The Overlord began large scale conquest a few centuries ago. As the Overlord sought to expand his grasp across the ocean to the New World tens of thousands of refugees from those unexplored lands made their way to Dar Janix seeking help.

Eventually the knights would no longer let the refugees in the city, but allowed them to live in the old warehouse district on the docks. Over the years that district has grown into a Kowloon-like city several stories high, filled with all styles of architecture and people from all over the world. The players will take the roles of characters looking for their break to move up out of the refugee city. They may just get their chance when news arrives that a Castle Whale has been sighted not far from Dar Janix.

A Castle Whale is a whale hundreds of feet long, that lives for many centuries. When it dies, its body hardens instead of rotting, and it remains afloat. Their corpse can essentially be made into a floating castle. It appears that someone already made this Castle Whale into a lair, and abandoned it. It may be full of treasure... and danger.  

I'll be packing my copy of Dungeon Alphabet for this one as well.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Edge of Empire 11: Blown

The party returned to Elrood after escaping from Derilyn and met with Paz Nor to pitch him on the spice deal. Paz Nor did not seem pleased with the deal they had struck with the rebels. To recap, they accepted spice in return for the weapons they smuggled onto Derylin. The party would get 10% of sales for transport and Paz Nor would get 10% of the sales for use of his distribution system. The rest of the money is to be delivered to a rebel agent on Coyn. Because of the large amount of spice and its high street value, both Paz Nor and the party stand to gain many, many times the value of the weapons from this deal. Paz Nor insists that they meet with Lud Chud, head of the crime family, to explain their actions.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Edge of Empire 10: Blow

In last week's session of Edge of Empire, the party decided to run some guns to the rebels on Derilyn. The party's loyalties are starting to get muddled. They are made members of Lud Chud's crime family, they joined the local rebel cell, there is at least one member (Kal) studying to become a Jedi, and one member (IG-13) that is a droids' rights advocate. These are just the loyalties that they have made public to each other, there may be other, secret loyalties that have not come out yet.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Edge of Empire: Session 9

The party began session 9 huddled in their camouflaged ship, recovering from their battle with the pyramid droids and the Imperial Special Forces. The giant beam was still firing through the lens on top of the pyramid, so they decided to determine where it might be pointing. After some discussion Tarn, the smuggler, informed them that since the planet was rotating, and all of the heavenly bodies involved were moving in relation to each other, they would only be able to determine a series of planes swept through space by the beam on which the Dyson Sphere could lie. They would need to find the other two pyramids and see where the beams intersected in order to determine where the Dyson Sphere was located. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

Edge of Empire: Session 8

Since the group is pretty stable, I thought I would take the chance to give a quick rundown of the party members:

  1. Neelo: a mechanic
  2. Anoon: a twi'lek politico
  3. Kal: a Mandalorian marauder
  4. Tarn: a human smuggler
  5. IG-13: a droid assassin 
  6. Lockett: a human scoundrel
  7. Sal: a hired gun
  8. Caitlin: a slicer
Caitlin and Sal are the most recent additions to the group and I realized that I do not have all of their character details, even though they are late-comers to the group they have been good additions both in person and in game. The game plays very well with eight players, it really helps that everyone is very professional. We have a lot of fun joking around at the table, but all of the players are always ready to go when their turn comes up. I do play a little bit looser with the rules to keep things moving, but the game seems designed with this in mind.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Star Wars: Issue 1

Last month Dark Horse began a new Star Wars comic series based on a very old Star Wars. "The Star Wars" is based on George Lucas's original script for Star Wars, a script that is very different from what we eventually saw on the screen. It is set in a galaxy that is at once familiar and completely new, as many of the names, and concepts were in an earlier form during this version of the script. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tom Vasel's Top 100 Games of all Time: # 100 - # 91

Tom Vasel and the Dice Tower guys are one of my favorite parts of the internet. I find his enthusiasm for games to be really infectious and genuine. I had the chance to meet him, briefly, at GenCon this year and he seems to be just as nice in person. In fact, Tom was the very first person I saw at GenCon this year, bright and early Thursday morning, I knew GenCon was off to a good start.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Edge of Empire Session 7

On the way back from Merissee the party talked to Mia and determined that she felt that The Seekers had been responsible for her kidnapping. When the party returned to Elrood they learned that students and the robot mining union were rioting over the recently revealed bugging of the union office. The party decided to spend this session working off their debt and took a job from Paz Nor to fix a fight for the Arena Battles Championship. Paz Nor wanted the Elrood System Champion, Starchild, to defeat the current Galactic Champion, Karl Bruno. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Culling the Collection: Warhammer 40K RPGs

A few years ago I purchased the Rogue Trader and Dark Heresy RPGs from Fantasy Flight Games. These games are both set in Games Workshop's Warhammer 40K universe, and share a common system that is a close relative of the earlier editions of the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay system. Both books are very well produced, as expected from FFG, and are massive RPG tomes topping out around 400 pages each.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Wrestling History: Starcade '83

I intend to use these Wrestling History posts to examine some of the best feuds in wrestling history. Sometimes, a feud will be encapsulated in a single post, other times I will spread a feud across several posts. I will try to group posts into chucks that tell a logical story, even across a few feuds. I have a reason for posting this to a RPG blog, there are a lot of things GMs can learn from prowrestling about serial storytelling, character development, building heat for villains, and promotion. I was inspired by John Wick's (yes the designer of Legend of the Five Rings) Wrestling Sunday School podcast.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

Rifts: Initial Research

As I mentioned in an earlier post, on of my goals for this year is to run a Rifts campaign. I intend to play it straight, I am not planning on running a tongue in cheek, campy Rifts campaign. I am planning on running a serious, well thought out Rifts campaign. I already had this goal in mind when I went to GenCon. At that point, based on what I had heard about Rifts over the years (and my own minor personal experience), I was not even sure that was possible. I picked up Rifts Ultimate Edition at GenCon and I have read through it, the Gamemasters Guide, and the Adventure Guide, as these were recommended to me as the core books (along with Rifts Magic). After reading them, I think that this is a sound recommendation and I would repeat it for others interested in getting started in Rifts. Below are my first impressions of the Rules and the Setting:

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Culling the Collection: Sales

Below are the listings for my eBay sales

Recent Absence and Tom Clancy

I had a busy week last week and got sick, I did not have a chance to check the blog, and I just noticed that I did not use the scheduled publishing feature correctly. This means I have a bit of a backlog of posts to get out over the next few days. 

Last night I ran a game session that climaxed with a submarine battle, today Tom Clancy died. I was a huge fan of Tom Clancy as a child and young adult. In his early novels, Clancy painted a picture of the United States where men in uniform, civil servants, and industry worked together to achieve the goals of the nation. He also went into painstaking technical detail on submarine and anti-submarine weapons systems. Both of these had an enormous impact on me. 

In my mind The Hunt for Red October and The Cardinal of the Kremlin are two of the greatest spy/military thrillers ever written. There was no sign of the ridiculous camp or silly paranoia of the 1970s spy thrillers to be found, just regular people working together to protect their nation. Over time his main character, Jack Ryan, became more and more of a Mary Sue, the plots became more and more ridiculous, and the books became a soapbox for his personal politics. By the time I stopped reading in the '90s Jack Ryan was president, and Tom Clancy had fallen into the same tired "everyone in the system is an idiot but the main character" tropes that infect most American fiction. Jack Ryan and the system versus another system was inspiring; Jack Ryan versus the system was just lazy.

I don't think that Tom Clancy's influence on me can be overstated. His technical descriptions fired up my young, geeky imagination, and helped propel me towards engineering. His positive portrayal of the U.S. Government, and specifically the Navy, shaped my worldview at an early age in a way that directly lead to what I do today. I don't think there are too many things from a political worldview standpoint that Tom Clancy and I would agree on, but the optimism that Americans can accomplish anything through teamwork and elbow grease has stuck with me for my entire life. Thanks Tom.

Edge of Empire: Session 6

My Edge of Empire group did not get to meet last week because I was sick, but we were back in full swing this week. The group was focused on rescuing Mia and Zann from the Loag assassins that had kidnapped them at the end of the last session. They were concerned that her visions indicated that she was force sensitive and she might fall into the wrong hands.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Culling the Collection: D&D 4e

I started playing 4e at release. I ran Keep on the Shadowfell and a few adventures of my own before my group moved on. I did not touch it again for a few years until I moved and it was just about the only game in town. I played in the Crystal Caves Encounters campaign and enjoyed it. Recently I was a player in a 4e campaign at my FLGS. I know there are a lot of people out there that hate 4e, I am not one of them.

I see each version of D&D as a tool for running different kinds of games. 4e was a decent tool for running a lighter game than 3.x and was easier to introduce new players to. But it isn't the best tool I have for this kind of game. There were several games released in the 2000s that aimed for this same slot in my collection, and quite frankly Savage Worlds fills the slot better than 4e. I would go as far to say that Savage Worlds is better 4e D&D than 4e is.

The dilemma I have is that 4e is much more popular than Savage Worlds. It is far easier to find a 4e game than it is to find a Savage Worlds game. But I have no desire to run 4e ever again. I may need 4e for the purposes of playing a game at my FLGS, but if I am at the helm I am far more likely to use an earlier version of the game, or Savage Worlds if the players are looking for a minis based game.

While 4e is far faster to prep for than 3.x, it is still slower than Savage Worlds. There are enough moving parts that it is harder to create on the fly than Savage Worlds and it still winds up being more restrictive as to what the players can do. The game is very grid-centric, even more so than Savage Worlds. While I appreciate the well defined powers, they tend to limit player creativity. It is also heavily locked into the encounter format that Wizards developed during the d20 days.

I enjoyed the whole "Points of Light" idea, and I was really excited about it when I got the Worlds and Monsters preview book. But I feel like they never really developed it fully. While there were a bunch of changes to the Forgotten Realms that got the internet worked up, they did not create a new setting with 4e in mind that leveraged the idea.

This means that I will be keeping a few 4e books, mostly the essentials stuff I will need as a player, but getting rid of the rest. Sorry 4e, I really did have a good time with you, but it is time to go.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Edge of Empire 1

The way I have structured my Star Wars: Edge of Empire campaign at my FLGS is based on my observations about the way that in-store campaigns tend to go. I find that there is usually a large turnout for the first few weeks and then the numbers tend to drop off a bit. You may actually see all of the people who show up that first week throughout the life of the campaign, but there will be a core that will be there every week while the others drift in and out. I find that by the end of week three I have a pretty good idea who will be in that core group of players.

I structured my campaign with those observations in mind. I decided that I would go fairly linear for the first few weeks to maximize action and keep a fast pace. Running a plot driven game instead of character driven game for the first few weeks also makes it easier to deal with the fairly unstable player base during that period. After a few weeks I move towards a more character driven format. I try to set up at least one ongoing hook for each character in the core group. I can usually develop two to three of these hooks each session.

In my current campaign I have six core players with another three that come and go. I spent the first three weeks setting up the campaign. The campaign started with the players in the detention block of a crashing Star Destroyer. They had to escape from detention and get to their ship before the crash. In the second session they smuggled some weapons to a gangster named Lud Chud on Elrood. I used this session to introduce the rivalry between Lud Chud and Boss Kaggle, the Elood sector, and the city of Elrooden.

In the third session Paz Nor, Lud Chud’s right hand man, hired the characters to shake down a woman named Mia So for money she owed the gang. Mia So is a young art student who recently moved from Elrooden to an artist colony on nearby Akana. They travelled to Akana and learned that Mia So had borrowed the money to pay for doctor appointments for bizarre, vivid nightmares she has been having. Her nightmares involve a Dyson sphere with something inside that “wants to get out and kill us all.” They were attacked by a group that Mia identified as “The Seekers” from her dreams. The characters were also stalked by a strange trapezoidal ship during their journey. On their way back to Elrood, they were intercepted by a Star Destroyer and one character was arrested.

In this week’s session that characters decided to drop of some money they owed a Hutt for their ship. Kal, the character who was arrested and managed to escape in a solo session, examined a datapad that he had recovered during the escape. When powered up, it displayed a trapezoid similar to the ship that had stalked the party. The characters accepted a job from Paz Nor to bug a droid rights group, but they let the droids know that they had been bugged. On the way back to their ship they were ambushed by assassins, but managed to fend them off. Upon return to their ship they discovered that Mia and her mother Zan had been kidnapped.

At this point I have set the overall tone for the campaign, and have given the players several hooks to follow. I have also started to work in and develop several of their personal goals. My goal in the next few sessions will be to keep the ticking clock going on the Mia So story so they have a focus while really setting the hook on their personal stories. Following that the campaign will open into a more sandbox like game where they are free to pursue their characters’ personal stories and follow up on hooks I give them.   

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Culling the Collection: Hollow Earth Expedition

I purchased Hollow Earth Expedition a few years back at GenCon, and I have had a chance to run it a few times in the intervening years. I picked up all of the books that were available at the time, the core book, Secrets of the Surface World, Mysteries of the Hollow Earth, and the GM's Screen. I really like the Ubiquity system that it uses, the game moves fast and players have a lot of freedom to describe their actions and try off-the-wall things.

That said, the actual Hollow Earth Expeditions setting is pretty generic pulp. I understand that this is on purpose, and I do not fault them for it. But, there is little here that I could not get from an hour or so on TVtropes (do not click if you do not have the time). This raises the problem that while I like the system, I have a lot of generic systems, and the setting offered is very generic here.

The Ubiquity system has some clear advantages over both Savage Worlds and GURPS, it is much lighter than either. It has the same pulpy feel that Savage Worlds has, but does not use a map and moves a lot faster.

Luckily that is not a choice I am forced into with HEX, because I also have All For One, Paul "Wiggy Wade's supernatural musketeer game, another Ubiquity game with a much stronger, and cooler, theme. So I will be holding on to All For One and selling Hollow Earth Expedition.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Culling the Collection Intro

A few weeks ago I decided that I needed to reduce my RPG collection significantly. I just have way too many games, many of which I know I will never play. In fact the entire area under the stairs of my house is full of RPG books are the shelves in my office. Due to the nature of my career path, I expect to move a few times over the next few years, so we rent. This means we move on a fairly regular basis, and I am starting to haul around too much stuff. I have decided to cut my collection by at least half, but I have a feeling that I will wind up cutting more by the end. The following is a series of posts I have done on the Fear the Boot forums so far. I will be continuing the series here.

Edge of Empire

For the last several week I have been running an Edge of Empire game at my friendly local gaming store (FLGS). I am a long time fan and advocate of the West End Games (WEG) d6 Star Wars RPG from the '80s and '90s. The game was fast playing and easy to learn, and had the second greatest collection of sourcebooks in RPG history. It was obvious to me that the people putting the sourcebooks together were big fans of Star Wars, and that they had been given plenty of room flesh out the universe. I would say that WEG Star Wars was second only to Iron Crown Enterprise's Middle Earth Roleplaying Game in this respect.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Back Again


It has been a year since I posted here, and what a busy year it has been. Actually the last several years have been pretty crazy. I finished law school in 2011 and started a new job. Last August my wife and I had a little girl, and I am just now slowly emerging back onto the internet. I managed to make it to GenCon this year, and had a blast.

I have several things going on at this point:

1) I have returned to board games after several years of low interest. I have especially been enjoying many of the card games out there now. I really like the whole deckbuilder genre. My #1 purchase at GenCon this year was the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game. I expect I will be discussing them some.

2) I have an ongoing Edge of Empire game I am running at my new FLGS. I live in Southern Maryland now, I work at the Navy base down here. There was not much in the way of gaming the first year I was here. There was a game store, but the guy who owned it had no idea how the business worked. But now we have a comic book store and a new game store. The owners of High Tide Games really understand the game business and the importance of community building and having people in your store playing games. I am really enjoying my Edge of Empire game, so I will be talking about that some.

3) After meeting the gregarious Mark Oberle of Palladium games at GenCon this year, I have , for the first time in my life, a Palladium project. I have never really played Rifts and I have decided that before next GenCon I will run a Rifts game, and that it will be good. I have begun a long term research project into Rifts and I will be talking about that here.

4) After a little experimenting with online RPG gaming over the last few months, I have decided that I want to get an online game going. I don't know if it will be play by post, chat based, or Roll20, but I am pretty sure that it will be Castles and Crusades, drop-in/drop-out, and a sandbox.

5) I have an idea for a game of my own, but I would like to get some experience writing modules for established games first. I will be doing some research on what game systems are easy to write for from an intellectual property standpoint, and then I will get started. I will certainly start with free stuff, but if it goes well I may move on to more polished modules.

I have slowly been regaining my online life. First by returning to a few forums and now by returning to this blog. Hopefully I can stick with it this time.