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.