Sunday, January 1, 2017

Tell Me About Your Character: Ep.3- By Crom!

Box Text:
Following in the footsteps of Matt McFarland, my fellow Saturday Morning Gamers, Jonathan and Geoff, have begun to slog through their RPG collections and they are making a character for each game. My plan is to do the same, with a slight variant. A lot of my collection is made up of several editions of the same game or setting (D&D, Marvel, Star Wars, Star Trek, Shadowrun, etc.). So while I will document the characters and process for most games normally, for those with multiple editions I will be making one character and remaking the same character for each edition. Ideally, this should give some insight to some of the decisions the design teams made and how they differ even with the same subject matter.

Wherever possible, I am using randomized stats or whatever the most common methods were to build characters at the time and core books rather than entire game libraries to give the entry level experience. Oh sure, there will be some games that I'll pull out all the stops and use half a dozen game books to create a fleshed out character. But that will be a rare occurrence.

Also, I'm not going to be showing you optimized characters. First, that's not how I build characters, I'm a story guy. But more importantly,this column is about the process, not the result.

As usual, we'll start with the character and concept first:

To crush your enemies, to see them driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of their women.

Ah, Conan.

First an admission.

I do not like Conan stories written by the character's creator, Robert E. Howard. Nor do I particularly care for any of the books that followed from authors like Harry Turtledove, Sean A. Moore, and Robert Jordan. Most of my interest in Conan came directly from two sources: the fantastic Marvel Comics Savage Sword of Conan series and the Schwarzenegger films.

But Conan, while a suitable protagonist for his series, did little for me as the hero of the stories. He seemed to be simply a collection of tropes that would have seemed new and interesting in the pulp era, but lost something in the eighties and nineties of my youth.

What really drew me in was the world-building Robert E. Howard and subsequent creators put into the Hyborian Age where Conan's tales are set. Unlike many of the worlds in which sword and sorcery stories find themselves, the Hyborian Age melded historical (if somewhat anachronistic)times and places with an artificial mythology of magic, monsters, and brutality. While Howard himself created a world he placed between the fall of Atlantis and recorded history (around 10,000 BCE), the final creation felt more timeless as it blended in later european, eastern european, and north african influences.

Who is Petrucco?

Petrucco was born to sail.

The town of Tortage is called the gem of the Barachan Islands by the pirates that dwell there. When Petrucco began to quicken in his mother, Carisia's belly, she drydocked the ship she had captained for nearly a decade for exhaustive repairs while she reared and raised her only child.

When Petrucco was old enough to man a sloop of his own, Carisia and the captains of several allied Tortagian vessels took him under their wing to learn the Barachan ways of sword, sea, and piracy. For the next two decades, Petrucco sailed with any ship that would have him and earned a reputation as a fearsome pirate, canny gambler, savvy carouser, and brilliant sailor.

 When Petrucco finally decided to captain a ship under his own flag, he had no shortage of able bodied sailors vying for a position on his crew. It was his mother, now years into a wasting disease that would finally take her life, that offered him the ship he would come to call home- her dry-docked barachan galley, Leviathan.

Conan: The Roleplaying Game
By Mongoose Publishing, 2003

So what the hell was that, right? Okay, again, Conan was far from my favorite character in the series. If I wanted to see Conan, there are plenty examples of him in the book. I wanted to play with other parts of the world.

I toyed with making someone close to Subotai, my favorite character from the first movie. But the Hyrkanian race are built to make pretty much only him (even though Red Sonja should also be Hyrkanian and is far from an archer), so that wasn't really what I wanted to do.

Instead, while I was mulling over the races (more on that in a minute), my wife was watching the most recent version of The Count of Monte Cristo. I got to thinking that Luigi Vampa would be a great Barachan pirate, and on I went. And as Barachans are essentially Italian pirates (related to Argossians which are Mediterranean seafaring merchants), I gave him an Italian sounding name in Petrucco.

Conan: The Roleplaying Game is standard d20 fair with very little deviation from the OGL. Other than a few specifics, no standard D&D 3.0 character would be too far out of place. This meant, for the most part, I already knew what I was getting myself into for character creation.

The bulk of the differences are as follows:

  • There's no alignment and characters are based on their code of honor (if any) and allegiances instead.
  • All characters are human, but a differentiated by their culture, conferring different skills and abilities by region. I love this idea and plan to make culture have as much significance as race in a Pathfinder based campaign world book called Boomtown that's been on the back burner a while. 
  • Multiclassing is done differently,but I'm making a starting character. NEXT.
  • There are 2 stats, Dodge Bonus and Parry Bonus that reflect the defensive options a character can take instead of the normal Armor Class. Instead, armor gives a character damage reduction, but takes a greater toll on what a character can do than in vanilla OGL games.

On to character creation!

I started with Ability Scores as normal. Conan offers two options for standard or heroic character generation. I chose heroic, because duh. Basically, you roll a d10 and add 10 for each stat, then distribute the scores as you see fit. This makes pretty powerful characters, but is fitting with the setting.

I rolled 19, 17, 16, 15,  14, 14. Pretty swanky.


Next I chose Petrucco's race. As an Argossean/Barachan he got all of the "civilized" Hyborean bonuses too, so this was a lot to add in. These included greatswords as martial weapons, extra Fate (think Hero or Force points), and bonuses to all kinds of piraty skills.

The Pirate class is essentially a rogue/ranger mix with a seafaring theme. But it has some pretty cool abilities like Ferocious Attack, but I explain all these on the character sheet.

One of the things I like about Conan is that if you can use a weapon and it is a "finesse"weapon, you are treated as if you have the Weapon Finesse feat from D&D. So that saved me from wasting a feat on it. Two Weapon Fighting was included with the class, so I decided on Persuasive (because Luigi Vampa- remember him), and Combat Expertise. There's a great feat called Intricate Swordplay that eventually allows you to add your Charisma to attacks and Parry Defense. Combat Expertise was the first feat in that tree, so that's what I planned on.

Beyond that, I filled in skills for a swarthy, charismatic, and skilled pirate and gave him class based starting equipment. Nice and simple.

Overall, I'm happy with how Petrucco turned out. He's a little more like the most recent Sinbad that used to be on Syfy than Luigi Vampa, but that's not a bad thing.,

As always, the running list of characters can be found here. If you have any other ideas for games not on that list, or know what you'd like me to dive into next, drop me a line.

~The Doc

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Tell Me About Your Character: Ep.2- A Galaxy Far, Far Away

And so it begins...

Box Text:
Following in the footsteps of Matt McFarland, my fellow Saturday Morning Gamers, Jonathan and Geoff, have begun to slog through their RPG collections and they are making a character for each game. My plan is to do the same, with a slight variant. A lot of my collection is made up of several editions of the same game or setting (D&D, Marvel, Star Wars, Star Trek, Shadowrun, etc.). So while I will document the characters and process for most games normally, for those with multiple editions I will be making one character and remaking the same character for each edition. Ideally, this should give some insight to some of the decisions the design teams made and how they differ even with the same subject matter.

Wherever possible, I am using randomized stats or whatever the most common methods were to build characters at the time and core books rather than entire game libraries to give the entry level experience. Oh sure, there will be some games that I'll pull out all the stops and use half a dozen game books to create a fleshed out character. But that will be a rare occurrence.

Also, I'm not going to be showing you optimized characters. First, that's not how I build characters, I'm a story guy. But more importantly,this column is about the process, not the result.

For now, let's dive into a character created from games spanning three decades and all kinds of dice mechanics.

We'll start with the character and concept first:

A long time ago...

Why Star Wars? Have you seen Rogue One yet? Hell yeah, Star Wars!

Disclaimer: If you haven't seen Rogue One yet, stop reading this. Leave your house, go to the theater, watch the great movie, and come back to thank me later. You can owe me later.

Soooooo.... I knew I'd be starting with the WEG Star Wars game and after decades of playing that system, I was more than a little familiar with the templates they designed for character creation. So, before I began to flesh anything out, I had my wife randomly choose a number between 1-16 (the number of templates in the main book). Her pick? 3. Brash Pilot.

So,that meant a rebel pilot character across all 4 games- this mattered especially for the Fantasy Flight game since it would decide which game I would be using (more on that later).

I'd always intended this character to be built as if I was playing the excellent WEG campaign,Darkstryder. For those of you that don't know about Darkstryder, the players have several characters aboard a modified Corellian Corvette called the Farstar. You are behind enemy lines, chased by an Inquisitor, possibly infiltrated by traitorous elements.. oh, and the Captain is dead. Basically,it plays like Battlestar Galactica in the Star Wars universe.

Yes, I changed the Farstar's mission patch to Aurebesh. Sue me.
Darkstryder is a low force campaign, so I would have had my wife "reroll" any of the three force-user classes. It's still Star Wars, so Force sensitive characters are okay.  Just no Jedi. That being said, I knew my pilot was going to be Force sensitive.




I also wanted to pull away from the Maverick/Top Gun style of over-the-top pilot that thinks they're the best even when they can't see the forest for the trees. I wanted someone more cerebral. Someone that could think, not just act. I was trying to build Apollo from BSG or Wedge Antilles, not the Last Starfighter. For me, this meant giving him somethingto fight for, but making that something that would make him think twice. Luckily, the Star Wars Universe has that in spades- especially with Alderaan.

I also needed a name. Wizards of the Coast is always my biggest help there when it comes to Star Wars. About a year after they released the Revised Core Rules, WOTC put out the Galactic Campaign Guide. It was meant to be a fast, easy reference for GMs to make quick NPCs, ships, planets, and encounters. But it has a bunch of random tables with names, personality types, quirks, etc. for every race available in the game at the time. And we like random tables. And so, Vyntal Drase was born. I also could pick out Personality types, Identifying marks, Height, Weight, Hair, and Skin color from WOTC's charts, so I did that ahead of time.

As a fan of BSG (both versions), and fighter pilot movies like Top Gun, I truly believe all pilots should have a callsign. And yes, I know in Star Wars they often just use their squadron designation (as in Red 5, Rogue Leader, Specter 4). That's a cop out because George Lucas sucks at this kind of thing. Fuck that, they get a name. Pilots thriveon that kind of camaraderie.

Problem is, I was at a loss. In the Rebel Legion (the good-guy arm of the 501st Costume group) I dress as a Rebel Pilot with the callsign Hooligan. While I could fallback to there, it doesn't fit the image of Vyntal I'd already begun to create in my mind. When I'm at a loss, I'll sometimes look through old toys from my youth. GI Joe, MASK, Robotech, Starcom, and Transformers have provided names to many of my favorite pilots, ships, and superheroes over the years. And they came through with the Aerialbot called Slingshot.

Who is Vyntal "Slingshot" Drase?

Vyntal (Vyn for short) grew up on Alderaan, the son of a pair of free traders. While Vyn could still barely walk, Castin and Iella took him throughout the core worlds as they continued to make contacts and move freight. By eight, he could already fly a shuttle and was considered one of the best pilots in the Drase's operation before his twelfth birthday.

Any dreams Vyn had of joining the Alderaan Space Control fleet when he grew up died a crib death as the Death Star destroyed Alderaan while the Drases were making a habitation module shipment to Corellia. Sure the Drase family spent half the year off planet, but Alderaan was their home and the terror of the Holonet's coverage of the disaster grew in the small family right from the start.

Castin wasted no time. He had contacts in the Rebel Alliance from years of delivering weapons and foodstuffs to their bases and ships throughout the known worlds. He hadn't chosen a side,until the Empire chose it for him. He signed up to direct supply lines and fly a freighter when needed. But Castin was wise enough to keep his family far from it all. Iella set up a speeder repair shop in Coronet City on Corellia until Vyn passed the age of consent. Two years later, Iella and Vyn joined Castin at the rebel base on Talus.

At nineteen, Vyn was considered a bit too untested to be trusted to fly one of the Rebellion's few remaining starfighters, but a few months of seeing his calculated and precise piloting of speeders and transports was all it took to get him drafted for heavier lifting.


It was his squadron mates that gave Vyn the name "Slingshot." Vyn had earned a reputation for always being in the right place at the right time. Sometimes, Vyn would seem to be far from a target or wingmate, but would appear just in time to blast a Tie fighter or drop the payload- whatever was needed. "It's almost as if Vyn knows what's coming before it happens," Lt. Lara Hannser once mused, "or he was shot out of a slingshot to get there just in time."



Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game (Second Edition)
By West End Games, 1992

West End Games released it's first edition of Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game in 1987. It was based on their earlier Ghostbusters RPG and created much of what became the expanded universe.

How much, you ask? When Timothy Zahn was hired to write Heir to the Empire and the rest of the Thrawn Trilogy, Lucasfilm sent him a care package of West End Games' Star Wars material to study and from which to base the background of his story. This included species names like Twi'lek and Rodian and much of what was created for this game still exists in Disney's canon for Star Wars today.

West End Games' Star Wars:The Roleplaying Game (sometimes called by it's current name, the d6 System) is a skill based system. Each skills fall under one of six attributes (Dexterity, Knowledge, Mechanical, Perception, Strength, and Technical) which are assigned numbers to tell you how many 6-sided dice to roll. All skills under an attribute roll at least that attribute's amount of dice when untrained, but if your character is trained in a skill, they can roll more (sometimes many more) dice. It's also possible to specialize in certain aspects of a skill to be better at some part of what that skill purveys.

For instance, a Smuggler is a fairly agile template and rolls 3 dice for a Dexterity check and adds 1 to the final result (this reads on the character sheet as 3D+1).  Her player might have sunk some points in the Blaster skill (which falls under Dexterity) to make the smuggler a really good shot at 5D+1. However, that smuggler has a trusty heavy blaster that never leaves her side, so the player adds a specialization in Heavy Blasters that is 6D+1. That means this smuggler rolls 6 six-sided to take a shot and adds 1 to the sum of all those dice. Like most games on this list, these results are rolled against either a difficulty number decided upon by the GM or opposed by an opponent's rolls.

Building Vyntal was going to be a breeze in this system. First, because I didn't want to make something from scratch, I chose one of the 16 pregenerated templates in the core book (There are actually many more in the revised edition and supplement books like the Tramp Freighter Captain or New Republic Pilot). These templates offer a wide range of character types and nearly every character in sci-fi could be created from these alone. In this case, Mary had chosen for me: the Brash Pilot template.

The template gave me Vyntal's base attributes, his skill list, starting equipment, and spaces for personality, background,connection to other characters, physical description, objectives, and even a place fora quote. These I filled in immediately from my concept, story, and things I rolled up in the Galactic Campaign Guide.

Following this,beginning characters have 7D to allocate to the skills on their template, but no skill can be raised past 7D and no more than 2D can be allocated to any one skill. Vyntal was going to be at his best in a cockpit, so I didn't feel the need to up his Blaster skill past his Dexterity's ample 3D. Dodge,however could use 1D. I applied 2D to Starfighter piloting then 1D to each of Starship Gunnery and Starship Repair. I wanted Vyntal to be able to talk to people, but not exactly a scoundrel so 1D was added to persuasion. And because pilots get in fights, I couldn't go wrong by adding 1D to Brawling.

Next, characters get to pick 3 skill specializations. Vyn has been flying X-wings exclusively for a few years now and knows their quirks better than his family's. So I gave him an X-wing Specialization for Starship Piloting and Starship Repair, and a Laser Cannon specialty for Starship Gunnery.

Finally, there's the Force. This is Star Wars, so it makes sense to show you how it affects character creation. For now, it just means that Vyn gets 2 Force points instead of 1, giving him the ability to roll more dice in certain situations more often than non-force sensitive folks. Eventually, this ability would affect Vyn a great deal as it opens up force powers and the ability to sense or change his surroundings with space magic. But for now, it's not that big a deal.



Star Wars Roleplaying Game (Revised Core Rules)
By Wizards of the Coast, 2002

After West End Games ended their relationship with Lucasfilm (and went bankrupt), Wizards of the Coast got the rights to Star Wars. Around the time of the release of Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, WOTC released the first edition of its D20 adaption of Star Wars with a second edition called Revised Core Rules a couple years later to clean up the system a bit.

For the most part, this game is the standard D20 RPG introduced with Dungeons and Dragons 3.0: it has the same six attributes, classes, levels, feats, and skills. Actions are resolved by rolling a twenty-sided die, adding your character's modifier, and comparing the results to a difficulty number or the GM's roll. Higher numbers win.

Where Star Wars diverged from its pedigree was in the details. The races and classes didn't quite resemble D&D, skills and feats worked the same but were flavored for the Star Wars universe, and Hit Points were separated into Vitality Points (for superficial damage) and Wound Points (for more serious injury).

This was my least favorite build. The Revised Core Rules doesn't feel particularly like Star Wars and actually suffers from its parent system. Sure, character creation is easy because I've built more D20 characters than all other games put together, but in RCR the characters only seem different in very small ways at low levels. Sure it can be argued that the variety in stats and feats is the qualifying measure, but it's only barely so.

So, Vyntal. In this version of the rules, I knew Vyn would need a lot of feats to make him even remotely a pilot. There's a real lack of specialty in this system, so basically other than one feat, I built him just like I would any other character with a gun that was something other than a scholar or face character. Vyntal is a Human Soldier with a high Dexterity, average Strength, and slightly better than average everything else. I didn't want to min-max too much here, because I envisioned him to be more of a person than a video game character.

Other than the normal soldier starting feats, he got Starship Operation and Force-Sensitive because they are part of his background already. For skills I went with piloting and mechanics, some astrogation and knowledge of planetary systems, and some talking ability. Nothing special, just the basics. But other than maybe a skill or two, it's the same I would build for an Endor Trooper, an elite officer, or some hutt's arena gladiator. That's the problem here. Maybe if this version of Vyn was played to high levels he'd feel more like a pilot, but that's like playing a video game for the end content only. What's the point?



Star Wars Roleplaying Game (Saga Edition)
By Wizards of the Coast, 2007

In 2007, WOTC did a line-wide overhaul of their Star Wars RPG. Saga Edition was more than just a streamlining. While gaming had moved to make more use of miniatures in RPGs, Saga embraced this. The Vitality/Wound system was flawed and cumbersome, so Saga returned to Hit Points. Classes were reduced to five, but they were given specialized "talent" trees that made characters from the same class vastly different. Saving throws were gone and replaced with "Defenses" that married the old saves to armor class. And skills were paired down with skill points all but eliminated, instead characters had "trained" skills that would advance as the character leveled up.

There were also some new tricks. Characters had a Destiny that had a rules component to give their characters onus to be part of the story and the feeling of the movies instead of gritty realism. Force sensitive characters had a skill that would handle most minor Force use as well as a repertoire of powers and other abilities.

Honestly, Saga Edition was an improvement on its predecessor in every way. If the design concepts that went into Saga made their way back into Dungeons & Dragons, I'd likely not be playing Pathfinder today.

Back to Vyntal.

I started by bringing over the same attributes I had in Revised Core. That wouldn't need to change much. But this time, with some pretty awesome talents waiting for him, we were going for the Scoundrel class instead of Soldier like the last version. All beginning characters get a talent from their class, so from Scoundrel I gave Vyn the Spacehound talent. Mostly this just give him the ability to deal with zero G environments and makes him proficient with starship weapons. But in a couple levels he'd get Starship Raider or Stellar Warrior to get bonuses to attack rolls and temporary Force points while on a starship- perfect for a pilot!

For Feats and Skills SAGAVyn stayed close to the RCR version. Force Sensitivity gave him the ability to use the Use the Force skill this time (which I took) and the Vehicular Combat Feat lets him avoid damage to any ship he pilots- much more useful than in RCR.

While not as specialized and not as good a fit as the West End Games version of the character, this is
a good compromise between the systems. It uses some of what made d6 work with one of the best versions of D20 ever. As this version of Vyn went up in levels, there would be more and more to add to make him an effective representation of his concept- especially once the Ace Pilot prestige class could be applied.



Star Wars Roleplaying Game (Age of Rebellion)
By Fantasy Flight Games, 2014

In 2010, WOTC decided not to renew their license for Star Wars. This was thought to be the death knell for the Star Wars gaming franchise. But lo and behold, here came Fantasy Flight with fancy dice and something new in 2012.

Fantasy Flight's Star Wars Roleplaying Game is actually three standalone games with each one meant to play a specific flavor of character and campaign. 2012's Star Wars: Edge of the Empire was tailored around smugglers, bounty hunters, pirates, and other fringe elements of the Star Wars universe. Star Wars: Age of Rebellion centered on soldiers, pilots, and diplomats of the Rebel Alliance in their struggle against the Empire. Finally, in 2015 there was Star Wars: Force and Destiny to play the last few Jedi hidden under the watchful eye of the Empire. Each game is interchangeable with only a few mechanics specific to each flavor (Duty for Age of Rebellion, Morality for Force and Destiny, and Obligations for Edge of the Empire). These rules really have more to do with how the gamemaster adds complications or boons to the group as a whole, so the various mechanics do little to interfere with each other in gameplay.

Each version of the rpg had a Beginners Box released with simplified rules, dice, pregenerated characters, and a multi-session adventure to play. There was also a fourth Beginner Game released in 2016 for The Force Awakens, but this was meant to pull from all three parts of the RPG instead of acting as a precursor to a fourth iteration of Fantasy Flight's Star Wars.

Fantasy Flight's Star Wars uses special dice similar to their last edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. These measure results on two axis, success/failure and advantage/disadvantage. While normally only one success is required to succeed at a test, the other axis could mean you missed the target but pinned the enemy down so that your teammate might have an easier time hitting them on their turn (Failure and Advantage) or you climbed up the hill but accidentally kicked a rock making it easier for the enemies below to realize you're there (Success and Disadvantage), or some other variety. You get the idea.

When you roll dice in this game, you gather a dice pool. It's made up of Green d8's (Ability Die) from your attributes, Yellow d12's (Proficiency Die) for abilities you have some skill at, and light blue d6's (Boost die) from advantageous factors like higher ground, insight from previous turns, or the like. On the negative side there are purple d8's (Difficulty Die) where the harder it is to do something the more purples are rolled, red d12's (Challenge Die) for opposing skills ore really difficult situations, and black d6's (Setback Die) for when things really aren't going your way.

The results on the dice are Success (explosion symbol)/Failure (caltrop symbol), Advantage (a pip in a wreath)/Threat (a pip on the central facet of a faceted sphere), or Critical Success ("Triumph", a starburst in a circle)/Critical Failure ("Despair", a triangle in a circle). Blank faces confer no benefit or penalty. The result depends on subtracting the lower result from the higher result on an axis. A result of 5 Successes and 3 Failures is a Success of 2. A result of 2 Advantages and 5 Threats is a Threat of 3. However, Triumph and Despair do not cancel each other out and double as a Success or Failure result; a result of no Triumphs and 1 Despair is 1 Critical Failure / +1 normal Failure. These results mean that the character made the Skill roll with a bonus of 1 Success, but suffered 3 Threats and 1 Despair as well. The Game Master would interpret the result to indicate what problems and difficulties would happen next.

For example, a Rebel commando bumps into a squad of Stormtroopers turning around a corner and he shoots his blaster at them. The player rolls the 1 Success, 3 Threats, and 1 Despair from the above example. His blaster shot hits (1 Success) and does the blaster rifle's base damage +1 (from the number of Successes). The Game Master interprets the negative results to mean that the commando suffers 1 point of Strain (1 Threat), suffers 1 Black Die on the next skill roll (2 Threats), and the power cell in his blaster ran out and needs to be reloaded (1 Despair).

There's also a white d12 (the Force Die) that has the double duty of calculating Force Tokens (think Luck or Hero points) and powering Force powers. These don't get used nearly as much.

Characters have Attributes and Skills similar to previous Star Wars games. Their Attribute score (numbered 1-6) tells a player how many Green d8's to roll. If they are skilled in the skill requiring a roll, their skill's score tells the player how many of those d8's to make yellow d12's with a greater chance for success. There is some wackiness to numbers but after a roll or two it makes sense.

There are also derived abilities: Strain, Wounds, and Soak. Strain (seen in the example above) tells you how much physical, mental, or emotional stress the character can take before passing out. Wounds are all about physical damage, and Soak is the protection gained from clothes, armor, or natural toughness.

Fantasy Flight brought together all the things that worked in all previous Star Wars games and found a balance that should not have worked at all. But it REALLY REALLY does. Once again characters are really specialized, but in a way that makes sense and is really well balanced between careers and specializations. More than anything else, I've described it as WEG Star Wars through the lens of Saga Edition.

So, on to our friend Vyntal Drase.

Step 1 is to create a character concept/background. I did that three games ago, we're good.

So now it's to the Age of Rebellion specific mechanic: Duty. Of course all the characters in Age of Rebellion want to defeat the Empire. This is HOW your specific character expects to attain this and what they bring to the table. For Vyn it's easy- Space Superiority. He knows he belongs in the cockpit and what cards he has up his sleeve. This is also a team mechanic that stacks and can affect the team's resources within the Alliance, and the GM will make rolls to have it apply in game at random times. Working with an estimated group score, I figured on starting with 15 duty. This lets me spend some to make Vyn better. I spent 10 to give him more XP.

After picking a species (you, still a boring ol' human), it's time for career and specialization. The Ace career is full of pilots, drivers, beast riders and the like so Ace career, Pilot Specialization was a given. These allowed me to choose six trained skill levels after the two free non-career skill levels for being human.

Finally I get to spend the starting human XP and bonus Duty XP to flesh him out. So I raised his Agility (where piloting comes from) and Cunning (street smarts)a bit, added to his skills, and gave him a second specialization: Force Sensitive Emergent. Like the Pilot specialization this opened a talent tree to spend XP on. In this case,the Uncanny Senses talent to make him supernaturally aware- especially when flying.

A little fleshing out and spending some credits and we're all done.

This felt like the best version of the character. From the beginning, he felt as close to the core concept as the West End Games version and far, far ahead of anything WOTC offered. But while the WEG version would not change all that much as the game wore on, the Fantasy Flight version would adapt and grow similar to Saga Edition.



Annnnd that's all folks! Sorry it ran so long, but there was a lot to talk about.
The running list of characters can be found here. If you have any other ideas for games not on that list, or know what you'd like me to dive into next, drop me a line.

~Me

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Tell Me About Your Character: Ep.1- The Master Plan and Character List

This was not my idea.

No, seriously it wasn't. This was the brainchild of Matt McFarland. Soon after, Jonathan and Geoff decided to do the same. Seemed like a good idea to follow suit.

The concept is simple: Make a character for every RPG you own. 

Anyone that knows me can tell you that is a very tall order. But since creating a character is step 1 in learning a game for me, this is absolutely well within my wheelhouse. At least initially, I'm going to limit it to games I have in a physical format (obvious exceptions will be games made by me or my friends). Once I've slogged through them, I'll follow up with PDFs- so figure we'll get to PDFs sometime in 2028 or so.

This brought up something of a quandary. For my 30th gaming anniversary a few years back, I'd planned to have all my friends choose their favorite Marvel superhero and I'd run each of the demo adventures for each edition of a Marvel RPG so they could see how the games and characters have grown. While I ended up just running Shadowrun instead, that nugget of an idea stuck in the back of my brain. This might be my chance to exorcise some of those demons.

Whenever I have a game that has made it through several editions, I'll make the same character for each edition to show the changes in design philosophies. Obviously there will be some things I won't fully flesh out. For example, the differences in Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition to 3.5 is too slight to remake the character entirely, but from 2nd edition to 3rd is big enough to talk about in depth.

So using that method, I'll be starting with the various Star Wars roleplaying games (mainly because Rogue One comes out next week so I've got Star Wars on the mind). I'll make the character in West End Games' Star Wars D6 first and remake him or her in every version of Star Wars through Fantasy Flight's most recent offering.

Below is a list to represent my game shelves, and it will be broken up into categories to correspond with the blog posts as I do them. For now, I'll keep it alphabetical. Every time I make a character or add a game I'll update the list accordingly.

If your game isn't on the list and you would like me to make a character for it, feel free to contact me. I'd be happy to add you to the list.

Oh, and this list isn't even close to complete. But with X-mas taking temporary residence in my Nerd Cave, I can't get to my shelves to write them all down.


Role Playing Games Master List

7th Sea
13th Age
A/State
Aces and Eights
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition
Apocalypse World
Atomic Highway
Atomic Robo
Armageddon 2089
Batman Roleplaying Game
Battlestar Galactica Role Playing Game
Big Eyes Small Mouth
Blowback
Boldly Go
Buffy: The Vampire Slayer
Bulldogs! Sci-fi that Kicks Ass (FATE)
Burning Wheel Roleplaying Game
Call of Cthulu (D20)
Changeling: The Dreaming
Changeling: The Lost
Chill 3rd Edition
Chivalry and Sorcery
Conan: The Roleplaying Game- Petrucco
Cortex
Critical!: Go Westerly
CthuluTech
Cybergeneration
Cyberpunk:2020
Dark Heresy
DC Universe Roleplaying Game
Deadlands
Deathwatch
Demon Hunters Role Playing Game
Dime Stories
Do (FATE)
Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space
Dogs in the Vineyard
Don't Rest Your Head
Dragon Age
Dragonlance Fifth Age (SAGA)
Dragonquest
Dread
Dresden Files RPG
Dungeons & Dragons "White Box"
Dungeons & Dragons 3.0
Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition
Dungeons & Dragons 5th Edition
Dungeons & Dragons Basic Game
Dungeon World
Earthdawn
Epyllion
Exalted (1st Edition)
Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Fantasy Age
Farscape: The Roleplaying Game
FATE Core
Feng Shui 2nd Edition
Fiasco
Fireborn: The Roleplaying Game
Firefly Role-Playing Game
Freemarket
Gaesa
Gamma World
Gear Krieg
Godlike
Haven: City of Violence
Headspace
Heavy Gear
Hellas: Worlds of Sun and Stone
Heroes Unlimited
Horizon d20: Redline
Horizon d20: Spellslinger
Horizon d20: Virtual
Hunter: The Reckoning
Icons
In Nominae
Interface Zero
Iron Kindoms Roleplaying Game
Iron Kingdoms (d20)
Ironclaw
Jumpers
Katanas and Trenchcoats
Leverage: The Roleplaying Game
Little Fears
Little Wizards
Mage: The Awakening
Marvel Heroic Roleplaying
Marvel Super Heroes
Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game (SAGA)
Marvel Universe Roleplaying Game
Masks:A New Generation
Mechwarrior
Mekton II
Mekton Z
Men In Black: The Roleplaying Game
Metal Wars
Middle Earth Role Playing
Midnight (Fantasy Flight d20)
Monsterhearts
Monsters and Other Childish Things
Mouse Guard Roleplaying Game
Mutants and Masterminds 2nd Edition
Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition
Mystical Magic
Numenera
Outbreak: Undead
Paranoia (2nd Edition)
Pathfinder Roleplaying Game
Pendragon 5th Edition
Prime Directive (d20)
Prince Valiant Storytelling Game
Project Ninja Panda Taco
Rifts
Savage Worlds
Serenity Role Playing Game
Shadowrun 1st Edition
Shadowrun 2nd Edition
Shadowrun 3rd Edition
Shadowrun 5th Edition
Silver Age Sentinels
The Sixth Gun
Smallville Roleplaying Game
A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Game
Spirit of '77
Spirit of the Century
Spycraft (d20)
Star Trek Role Playing Game (FASA)
Star Trek The Roleplaying Game (Decipher)
Star Wars (Fantasy Flight)
Star Wars Roleplaying Game (d6)- Vyntal "Slingshot" Drase
Star Wars SAGA Edition (d20)- Vyntal "Slingshot" Drase
Star Wars: Revised Core Rules (d20)- Vyntal "Slingshot" Drase
Star Wars Roleplaying Game: Age of Rebellion- Vyntal "Slingshot" Drase
Starship Troopers: The Roleplaying Game
Superhuman: The Roleplaying Game
Supernatural Role Playing Game
Tales From the Floating Vagabond
The Sword and The Hand
Technoir
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
The D6 System Customizable Roleplaying Game
The One Ring
Toon!
Trinity
Vampire: The Masquerade
Vampire:The Requiem
Venture City
Void Vultures
Warhammer Fantasy (Fantasy Flight)
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game (Black Industries)
Werewolf: The Apocalypse
Western City
The World of Indiana Jones
Wraith: The Oblivion

Enjoy the meal,
~Doctor Mono


Friday, December 9, 2016

General Gamery: New Roles, New Campaigns, and a New Plan

Ch-ch-ch-changes......

I know, I know.. who's this guy darkening up my feed?

That's on me. I haven't really touched this blog in... well.. okay.. Too Damn Long (tm).

Sorry about that.

I have a ridiculously adorable 2 year old and a lot of gaming to do.. so while I haven't been avoiding you, fearless reader, I just needed some space.

But I'm back. And I've made a plan. Okay, a few plans, but first some accounting:

New Roles

Pathfinder Society Roleplaying Guild

For the last eight or nine years, I've played off and on in Paizo's worldwide ongoing Pathfinder fantasy campaign, the Pathfinder Society or PFS for short. For those that don't understand this style of play, let me video game reference it for you. Your home campaign is Elder Scrolls: Skyrim. You can make uber powerful characters and enjoy a rich, intense gaming experience pretty much at your own pace. But you are limited to playing with a defined group of people and it tends to keep the scope of the game small-ish. Pathfinder Society is the equivalent of Elder Scrolls Online. You are more limited in what you can do with your character, and the game is not as deep or rich.. BUT you are playing with people from all over the world and it is far more balanced than Skyrim at your house with all your fancy mods.

But I'm not just a spokesperson for PFS, I'm a client!

No seriously. On a whim- okay, it wasn't exactly a whim- I put my name up there to join the ranks of Paizo's Venture Officers within the Pathfinder Society. From conversations I'd had, PFS seemed to be waning in the Queen City area, and with fantastic new stores opening locally, this would not stand. I jumped on to run games twice a month at the newest, and prettiest comic store in the area, Up Up & Away in Blue Ash and was rewarded with the position of Cincinnati's ranking VO, the Venture Lieutenant. I've worked with several of the local stores and brought in new (and fantastic) blood in local GMs to help me revitalize the area.

And we've had great success! One of my Venture Agents has risen to take over the role of Venture Lieutenant of Northern KY, and another former venture officer has returned to the fold to assist me as a co-Venture Lieutenant for our city. These are good times.


New Campaigns

A few months before Gencon, Rise of the Runelords came to an end. No, the PCs did't reach the end of the story, and despite some serious close calls, there wasn't a TPK either. But it found an end point that suited it.

While we've continued playing in a monthly Pathfinder: Carrion Crown campaign run by one of my awesome PFS venture officers, I wanted to lay low for a bit and plan for new games to run. With Gencon coming, we filled in with some home games of Pathfinder Society in a very irregular and inconsistent capacity. But all that was to prepare for what was to follow.

Mutants and Masterminds: Emerald City Knights

Mutants and Masterminds has always been one of my favorite games. Since it is essentially a standard D20 game with some very compelling window dressing, it was a fairly easy game to slot my regular Pathfinder group into for a monthly game. Savvy gamers and longtime readers know MnM to be a standard 4-color superhero game and Green Ronin's Emerald City Knights campaign builds on that idea.

As a tool to help me in my GM prep for the game, I designed and printed out a set of face cards for every PC, NPC, and villain in this series of adventures. The front of each card has a picture (usually from Green Ronin's excellent sourcebooks and adventures) of the character/location/event with a player friendly blurb. On the back, each one has game data and statlines pulled form the adventure text. This is handy for introducing and bringing back NPCs for the players to interact with and keeping me from flipping through books in combat situations.

I don't own the rights to any of these characters, so I won't be putting these up on Drivethru to sell or up here for download. But I highly recommend something similar if you have the requisite talents required.

The story itself is pretty straightforward. In Emerald City on the US northwestern coast, there is a catastrophic event called the Silver Storm. During this event, many people are injured and some die. But still others are changed by the storm's effects giving them wondrous powers- some become heroes, others have more nefarious plans. No one knows what caused the event, but our heroes have made it their job to find out.

Our heroes seem to run the gamut of origins.

Lionheart- At fifteen, Fiona Perez was abducted by Labyrinth and forced to undergo the DNAscient process. The telepathic abilities she gained from the experiment helped her escape, but fractured her mind. For a time, she worked alongside fellow escapees Rant and Rave as the psychic villain, Fiasco. But after Labyrinth captured her again, she was rescued by her enemies, the teenage superheroes called NextGen. With the Master Mage's help, NextGen was able to repair Fiona's fractured psyche and gave her a new start. With a new heroic identity, Lionheart enrolled in Claremont Academy and became a valued member of NextGen for a while. After heroing for years, Fiona put away the tights and moved to the west coast as a social worker intending to help children stuck in similar situations she had been through.

Vegas- To say that Zack Slater was born lucky would be too easy. Zack was born to Emerald City's upper crust as the heir to Slater Advanced Ideas Inc. But rather than his father's genius, Zack's uncanny luck allowed him to skirt by on his good looks, charm, and natural athleticism. Where Zack tread, women and attention followed. The silver spoon kid enjoyed anything he could desire, until he fell for the lovely Amanda Agostino. When he last saw her, Amanda claimed she was leaving him because she had gained super powers and had no time for a silly little rich boy like him. As a result, Zack did something really, really stupid. He thinks that mixing a cocktail of a bunch of unlabeled chemicals in his father's lab gave him powers. In reality, he's just supernaturally lucky that he isn't already dead.

Reaper- Dr. Lillian Graves thought she had found her calling as one of the most respected emergency room doctors in the city. But there were clues early in her residency that something was amiss. She always knew when a patient was near the end of their life,and even could see something of their image passing on- if only from the corner of her eye. But recently, she learned that there was more to her parentage than she could have ever suspected. Supernatural bodies had labored to bring her to life, and she had the Fates invested on one hand, and Death himself on the other. While Death expected her to join his service as the first among his reapers, for now the Fates had other plans for poor Lilly.

Ghost- When the U.S. Army came calling, Sgt. Quincy Carlisle signed up for tour after tour, dedicating himself to the defense of his country and the brothers he forged in the desert sun of Iraq and Afghanistan. But when he  tried to return to a normal life, the war came with him. Sgt.Carlisle could never shake the specter of the things war had made him do and the soldier he had become. Homeless, jobless, and suffering from PTSD, Quincy had planned to pawn his beloved rifle, Daisy, for his next meal when the Silver Storm hit. But now, he has found that he had to concentrate simply to maintain solidity, and even the bullets he shoots from Daisy's barrel can become intangible enough to pass through solid steel.

Dr. Dino- Dr. Paul Moncrief is the leading expert in the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods on the North American continent. When the Silver Storm hits, the paleontologist was working on the newest display for the Emerald City Museum of Natural History, the most complete skeleton of a tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered. Little did he realize that the storm would merge him with the dinosaur at a genetic level making him the super-strong powerhouse, Dr. Dino.

Fastball- AJ Dalton had never dreamed of becoming a super hero. As the starting third baseman for the Emerald City Ospreys, he was already living his dream of baseball super-stardom. When his manager set up the signing for AJ on a beautiful day at a store opening on Yellow Brick Row, he thought it would be the least exciting day of his week. But after the Silver Storm hit, all AJ could consider is whether he could still play for the Ospreys with his newfound light based super powers.

I'm sure there's a lot more I could talk about here, but until the Emerald Guardians (as our heroes have named themselves) discover more about the events they have found themselves involved in, I'll refrain from giving away any juicy spoilers.



Pathfinder: Curse of the Crimson Throne


With the anniversary re-release of this fantastic adventure path, I knew it would be a hit with my group. Sadly, Mary is sitting out on this one because of taking care of our Princess Monster (tm), but in that case she gets to see behind the screen of my GMing duties and read ahead of the players.

Here's the 30 second pitch for this campaign:

The king is dead! In the Varisian port city of Korvosa, the death of a monarch leads to chaos, and only the PCs can hope to save the city from its own darkest tendencies. As the rule of the young queen grows more and more draconian, it's up to a band of bold adventurers to stop the spread of tyranny before all of Korvosa is crushed beneath her iron fist.

In the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path, the heroes delve into the depth of urban adventure in order to stop riots, combat a plague, root out organized crime, and rescue political prisoners before escaping to the harsh badlands of the Storval Plateau, where only the friendship of the barbaric Shoanti and a weapon drawn from the heart of a gothic castle can give them the strength to return and depose the evil queen once and for all.

Our group is a little less diverse than I expected:

Junior Moncrief is a Dwarven cleric of Desna from a small mining town outside the Korvosan hinterlands. Young and impressionable, this is Junior's first time in a big city like Korvosa and while he's found work at one of the local places of worship, he still misses the small mining town where he grew up.

Natzumi is a Ratfolk wizard that spent much of her life with Varisian caravans and until recently, was a student at the Acadamae. As a ratfolk painted in varisian colors, she's already less than trustworthy to the good people of Korvosa. But being a bit shifty herself and caring for an unsavory drugg addict half-elf named Tsuto makes it much worse.

Orik Vankercaskin was an NPC from our last campaign. He's a former mercenary that was on the wrong side of Thistletop in Rise of the Runelords. A decent fighter, great with a bastard sword and prone to making bad decisions.

Caden grew up an orphan in Korvosa and was one of Lamm's Lambs. Despite his unscrupulous youth, he found hope and rescue from Gaedren Lamm in the guise of Lilly- who eventually fell victim to Lamm's wrath. In despair, his hand found the sword and his soul fround the Inheritor's grace. He's been a paladin of Iomadae ever since.

Dray either doesn't know, or doesn't speak much of his past other than from the bottom of a bottle. He's varisian and not opposed to do more underhanded jobs for the right pay. But since his only remaining parent died under Lamm's orders, he's wanted nothing else than to see the shafts of his arrows protruding form Gaedren Lamm's chest.

A New Plan

Amazing! I have a plan. Like many of my plans, I don't foresee them all coming to pass. But who knows? We might get lucky.

Reviews

My game collection has continued to grow and there's a lot of smaller, lesser known games I'd like to shine a light on. Games like Hologrid, Epic PVP, and Kodama all have been gathering dust on my shelf waiting for me to talk about them. Newer materials from Games Workshop like the new Warhammer Quest, Blood Bowl, and Horus Heresy games need this attention too alongside newer minis games like Konflikt '47, the new edition of Heavy Gear, and Dropfleet Commander. Not to be outdone, there are RPGs I want to talk about like the new Chill, Headspace, and so much more. These will be making their way soon.

Marvel Burger

This week, Marvel Comics has resurrected my favorite hero, Nova. With Rich's return, it has rekindled my interest in this particular column. As I originally planned, I'd be giving a play by play of each issue in the original Man Called Nova run and end it with characters and/or scenarios for play with the long lost Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game. In the next few weeks/months, I should be jumping back in with a repost of Issue 1 and soon after a jump to Issue 2.

Should.

Operative Word.

Tell Me About Your Character

Following in the footsteps of Matt McFarland, my fellow Saturday Morning Gamers, Jonathan and Geoff, have begun to slog through their RPG collections and they are making a character for each game. My plan is to do the same, with a slight variant. A lot of my collection is made up of several editions of the same game or setting (D&D, Marvel, Star Wars, Star Trek, Shadowrun, etc.). So while I will document the characters and process for most games normally, for those with multiple editions I will be making one character and remaking the same character for each edition. Ideally, this should give some insight to some of the decisions the design teams made and how they differ even with the same subject matter.

Or I'm just being lazy.

You decide.

Either way, I will be putting up a list of my games and update that list as I create characters. I hope to start with Star Wars in the lead up to Rogue One next week.

More to follow,
~ The Doc


Friday, October 2, 2015

Reviews: Exponential by Adam Cesare

I'm going to start this review with something that you, my fearless reader, might already know. In general, horror is not my go to genre for reading. Sci-fi, fantasy, superheroics- these are my bread and butter. But my own logical skepticism has a tendency to pull me away from truly enjoying most horror books and films. Especially when they devolve to unmitigated- and not scary- gore porn.

That is not the case with this book.

Imagine a world where a nightmare creature born of Miyazaki's mind blending a classic D&D Gelatinous Cube with a little bit of Katamari Damacy to make a perfect cinematic horror monster. Adam Cesare's monster, Felix, brings back memories of the thing in the lake from Creepshow 2 (aka Stephen King's the Raft), and I found myself wanting to hear the characters exclaim "I beat you!" before their imminent demise.

But Felix is not what made me love this book.

In any monster book or film, the monster can be creepy, scary, and downright disgusting- but it's only as good as the eyes that tell its tale. Here Cesare shines. Exponential is a series of small vignettes, each highlighting an individual character. While the protagonists earn multiple chapters to tell their tale and eventual meeting at Rose's Tavern- where the book finds its climax, victim after victim get to be fully fleshed out characters as their lives and potential are snuffed out in horribly messy ways by our not-so-beloved Felix. This made the book for me. Anyone can tell the tale of survivors holing up in a southwestern bar hiding or combating a horrible menace. Plenty of crappy movies have used that plot to hide small budgets and unimagined authors. But Cesare doesn't have that problem. He embraces every character, no matter how small, with the mantra that everyone has a story to tell.

Now, why horror usually fails with me because I let my disbelief color my ability to feel fear from books and movies. Yet there is one aspect of horror and disaster fiction that I love- rising dread. I love that feeling when characters go about their own lives unaware of the increasing danger waiting to find them. And like the first Fall about to embrace Pern's shores, Exponential has tons of characters waiting to die, unaware of how short their life really is or the troubles about to find them.

But in my desire to keep this short, and not ruin the whole story with spoilers, I'm just going to go right to the rating.

Final Rating:

Underwear on the Outside uses a FASERIP rating system derived from TSR's beloved Marvel Super Heroes Role Playing Game from 1984. We will give a numerical score somewhere between 0 (for the REALLY GODAWFUL) and 1000 (for the "slit your wrists because now you can die it's that good"). These numbers fall into categories on the chart above. Through varying degrees of dislike we would likely not recommend things from Shift 0 up to Typical. We feel fairly "Meh" about Good and Excellent. We'd spend money on Remarkable and Incredible but anything above that we get into varying levels of like, love and geeking out.  There's also a little space there numerically. We may give one item a rating of 35 and another 38. Both are considered REMARKABLE, but we think one is a little better than the other. 


Exponential is the third book I've read by Cesare. The first, Tribesman, was an enjoyable romp with cannibals attacking a movie crew reminiscent of old Italian cannibal movies. It was pretty much how I always felt King Kong should have ended, without the big, building climbing ape. It was good, and for a quick read, it scratched an itch.

Video Night hit me a lot closer to home. It brought back old days of video rentals, Nintendo, and classic horror fare. It was a nostalgia filled blast, but didn't transcend the genre for me. I enjoyed it enough to add it to my "READ ME AGAIN" pile, but not enough to put word to screen to laud its accomplishments.

Exponential took me places I didn't expect. I found myself rooting for characters I normally would have hated enough to cheer on the monster. It kept me engaged and drove me to eat up each word despite not particularly liking the reader on the audiobook version. On its own merits, Exponential earns a fitting 75 Monstrous  rating.

The audiobook version has issues. I'm particular in how I listen to a book. Originally, there were problems with the audiobook missing a couple chapters at the end, but that didn't flavor my review. Really, it's the reader. While competent, his voice and delivery grated on me. His throaty voice and the way he chewed on the words seemed incongruous to the majority of the characters he was describing- and don't get me started on his accents. It's enough to lower the grade for that version three levels. 32 Remarkable. Would I still buy the audio version? Yeah, sure. But unlike books like World War Z that were improved by their audio variant, Exponential suffers from it. Any day of the week, this book needs to be enjoyed in print or on screen rather than listened to.

In fact, go buy it. Now. Here.

Full disclosure: Adam Cesare is my cousin. However, he doesn't need to be my relation to get this review. Exponential is the third book of his that I've read and it is my favorite so far. The book earned a review all on its own and Adam's personal style of writing has made me embrace the genre more than I had reading heroes like King and Koontz. And if I wasn't related to Cesare, I'd say the same thing. Every single word.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

General Gamery: Back to Backwater- New Products & Promotions for Dime Stories

The impending doom that is Gencon always gets me working hard to finish projects in time for the con, and this year is no different. I hate to admit it, but work on Saturday Morning Games projects tends to take a backseat to freelance work, but not having a hard deadline for my own projects will do that.

Design

Earlier this year, I noticed the fifth or sixth game project on Kickstarter that used the Bleeding Cowboys font for its logo- just like Dime Stories. It was enough to make me change the logo to something more original- so away to Illustrator and Photoshop I went to push out something that felt right. It took me a bit, but in the end I created something that really works and I'd be proud to put on every Dime Stories product from now on.


The timing for this change could not have been better. After working with a few printers on costs and formatting, it was made apparent that the landscape format I used for the main rulebook would likely end up prohibitively expensive and for some POD printers, impossible. To be fair, I'd already been reconsidering some of the art I had in the game- sure it was all free up to this point, but I wanted more. I've been in talks with some game artists I grew up loving, so that's already coming along. And changing to a portrait 5.5 x 8.5 format would end up far less expensive over all. So a new cover was also required. I wanted something that would be easily modified for different books, but would retain a consistent style throughout the line. This was far easier to accomplish with the new logo, so bonus!
And before you ask, no, the rulebook has not made it to print yet. While I am waiting for the new art, it will remain the same PDF only book as before. I expect to have a print run ready by the holidays.

New Products

All these changes made me reconsider some of the original products I had intended and more importantly, how I used them in practice.

Anyone that got to play last year's Gencon adventure, Among the Living, would have noticed that the Ten Cent Tale incorporated two sets of cards for play. The first (and I doubt I'm giving much away here) is the zombies and other NPCs that the player characters run into around every corner. These are randomly drawn, so I had simple cards printed out for my use only. The second deck was Infection Cards, since every attack from a zombie had a chance of spreading their disease to the player characters. This year, I wanted to use some more professional looking cards for the adventure, and I'd already been working on some Dime Stories cards with Drive Thru Cards (see Promotions), so it made sense to keep going. Once I'd reworked the
NPC cards with more of the free art I'd originally used for the rulebook, I continued on and made a card for each player character, and finally six cards to tell the adventure itself. This was an entirely new format for the module, and I love it. As long as the module clocks in under 70 cards, Drivethrucards.com can even provide a nice plastic case for a dollar. If the proofs were halfway decent, I'd make it available to the public, if not I just end up with fancier cards for personal use at Gencon.

They came out spectacular. I really like this format and it makes a good and different product for our modules. Among the Living has the most use of cards for our current crop of Ten Cent Tales, and it ended up 70 cards exactly, so the cards fit in plastic case perfectly. As a result, today I hit the publish button and Among the Living will be the first Ten Cent Tale available to the public. By Gencon I will have the Potter Creek Massacre also in card for use at the convention, but our previous adventures probably won't be available until after Gencon (I'll update you if this changes).

I have ten adventures planned leading up to the Grand Imperial Civil War (Oh, didn't know we are doing a civil war in Dime Stories? Yep), and ten during/after. Each Ten Cent Tale will be available on Drive Thru Cards and I'll do my best to make them fit in the convenient plastic boxes. Pre Grand Imperial Civil War adventures will have the brown leather backing designs while later Ten Cent Tales will have different backing. Soon after Gencon we will have Among The Living, Easy Money (Jeph Lewis' Ten Cent Tale from the main rulebook), The Village at La Naranja Mesa by Geoff Bottone, and The Silent Silo Run by Jeph Lewis all done in this format. While The Potter Creek Massacre and My Dearest Clara will both be ready, I plan on holding off on publishing them until early next year since they have been written specifically for this Gencon.

I know what you're thinking: "Won't cards be a little small for maps?" You'd be absolutely correct. Instead, I will be providing free maps on Drive Thru RPG for free. My plan is two map packs- one pre and one during the civil war. As each adventure is published, the files for the map packs will be updated at no extra cost.

Finally, I decided to start a new small PDF line for Dime Stories. As I was working on the Gencon promotion, I wanted to write a bit more about the character involved- General Cassar. For the most part, Cassar is General Custer. With very little retooling, he fit perfectly in the Dime Stories universe. This meant a short five or six page PDF that I would put on Drive Thru RPG. IT would not only provide rules to make Cassar usable as an NPC in Dime Stories, but it would also give a character history and rules for the Imperial Units that follow him.

But why stop there? This is a great way to flesh out the universe, so I'm going to have to make more. In all likelihood, the villainous La Esqueleta will be next, followed by some more characters based on personalities form the wild west. The line will be called Dime Stories: Wanted. I hope you will all enjoy it.

Promotions

I keep talking about how this promotion pushed me to work on other products, so here it is:

With a name like Saturday Morning Games, it stands to reason that our favorite events to run at Gencon would be the ones we run on Saturday Morning. This is usually the new game we're showing off, or a brand new adventure for one of our existing games. And each year I've provided individual sized cereal boxes and milk for all of our players.

This year I wanted to provide something special to our Saturday morning players. Last year, General Cassar showed his ugly, scaly head in adventure after adventure, this year our players will get to leave with him in miniature form. And true to form, it will be in a format befitting Saturday Morning Games.

I hooked up with Bryan Steele while he was still at Cool Mini or Not. He hired me to do reviews for Ravage Magazine, and when I needed a sculptor to bring General Cassar to life, he was more than happy to help. After a couple pictures and descriptions, Bryan sculpted a great 28mm scale miniature and introduced me to people that could take the green and mass produce it.

Emily at On the Lamb Games is one of the nicest people in the industry that I've had the pleasure of meeting. She patiently walked me through every step of taking the green to full production and my order for General Cassar miniatures were on their way to my home in no time at all.

I had barely received my General Cassar miniatures when I instantly dove into painting the figure, choosing the colors that would not only grace him, but all the Imperial troops in the upcoming war. The light grey I chose worked on many levels- especially when I began to nickname Imperial forces as Greyscales in my mind. Trust me, this is terribly funny.

Blackwater Gulch from Gangfight Games had been one of my favorite miniatures games since I'd been able to take part in their Kickstarter back in 2012. So naturally, if I was going to make a western style miniature, I'd want to be able to play it in that game. Thankfully, the guys at Gangfight Games were gracious enough to let me make a card for Cassar compatible with their awesome game.

This is where Drive Thru Cards came in. With cards for Cassar in Blackwater Gulch on the way, I thought it would make sense to (as in: I would be an idiot not to) include a card to use the character in Dime Stories. This card became the format for all the cards to follow and was where the idea for the Wanted line began.

Now all I needed was the right presentation. No matter what people try to tell you, if you are trying to get something to the public, presentation is always more important than content. Oh sure, people try to tell you not to but a book by its cover, but that's only because most people will, every time. I could have just handed out free blister packs with the miniature inside to my players on Saturday, but where would the charm be in that? That is piss poor advertising and honestly, not worth the attempt. Instead, my fantastic wife made the best recommendation- cereal. Make the miniature the prize in the bottom of a cereal box!

Genius.
Despite the headache of finding a company to make individual cereal boxes cheaply- most companies won't touch it for less than 1500 units- I was able to get a local printer, Peerless Printing, to push them out for me with time to spare.

So on Saturday, players for our 3 events (Dime Stories: The Potter Creek Massacre, Dime Stories:  Assault on Fort Ss'zithriss or To My Dearest Clara, and Velour & Go-go Boots: The Vatizar Incident) will get a box of General Flakes with a prize inside.

Hope to see you there!

~the Doc.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

General Gamery: RPGaDay Catch-up 21-31

And finally, the remainder of my adventures in RPGaDay:

21st- Favorite Licensed RPG
There's a lot to this category. Evil Hat has had a stroke of genius in their Dresden Files and Atomic Robo licences. Cubicle 7's The One Ring and Fantasy Flight's Star Wars: Edge of the Empire/ Age of Rebellion/ Force of Destiny series of games are unequivocally the best incarnations of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars respectively. But there is one licensed game that takes the cake for me.

Marvel Heroic.

Yes, I know I'm biased since I got to work on this game (The Civil War: X-men supplement and the Annihilation books have my name in the credits). But seriously, everything about this game is awesome. It is born of the Cortex Plus rules system, but goes so far beyond its predecessors, Smallville and Leverage. More than anything, Marvel Heroic evokes the same feeling I got as a kid turning the 4-color pages for the first time. In fact, read my review for more.

22nd- Best Secondhand RPG Purchase
Ah, I love conventions. Sure, I've picked up my fair share of secondhand RPG books at Half Price Books, at my local brick and mortar, Yottaquest, at garage sales, and some just as hand-me-downs. But the bargain basement booths at conventions give me so many options to scratch that cheap RPG book itch.

Through the convention buy one get on free booths I've completed collections of great games like Margaret Weis Productions 3.5 run of Dragonlance, okay games like the d20 Conan from Mongoose, and pretty crappy games like Decipher's Star Trek RPG. But one series of games stands out among the morass of... admittedly mostly d20 products: Fantasy Flight's Midnight.

I usually explain Midnight as what Middle Earth would be like a hundred years after the fall of Gondor if Sauron had won the War of the Ring. The player characters have to hide their abilities and act mostly in secret to avoid being noticed for being heroes because the known world is under the occupation of the dark forces. It is fantastic. And one Gencon, I got used copies of every book in the series for less than fifty bucks.

23rd- Coolest Looking RPG Product / Book
Numenera.

I'm not the biggest fan of Monte Cook. I was one of the few people I know that hated Unearthed Arcana, and while I like his take on World of Darkness and I love the Iron Heroes books produced by his company (but mostly not written by him), for me most Monte Cook books fall flat.

However, Numenera is gorgeous. Set one billion years in Earth's future, Numenera seamlessly blends science fiction and fantasy for a rich and deep world. But as good as the world is, as innovative as the mechanics are (and Monte made a lot of great choices in his design elements), these are not what drove me to this book. The art is amazing. It is full of lush landscapes, evocative imagery, and some of the nicest paintings of the human figure I've had the pleasure to witness. And the graphic designer managed to keep their design elements unobtrusive enough to be able to showcase the art, but in a thematic way that brings the books together as a whole. It's enough to warrant the tagline: "Numenera- Come for Monte Cook's rich world and game mechanics. Stay for Kieran Yanner's amazing art."

24th- Most Complicated RPG Owned
I've played a lot of complicated games over the years- I am a product of the '80s RPG scene and an avid wargamer, so it comes with the territory. But despite the complications of certain aspects of Shadowrun, or Traveller, most of my games aren't all that complicated. Oh sure I've played HERO system, Mekton Zeta, and Hybrid, but none of those grace my shelves. Nope, my most complicated RPG shares double billing for my rarest RPG. I'll let you read more about it there.

...so many graphs...

25th- Favorite RPG No One Else Wants To Play
This is an easy one. Mouseguard.

Mouseguard is based on the Burning Wheel system, but is a bit more approachable. I played Burning Wheel at I-con a few times and loved it. But Mouseguard takes those rules and simplifies them in the right parts while clarifying in other. It makes a good game great. But that's not the reason it's not played.

Mouseguard is based on the popular indy comic of the same name. The brainchild of the far too talented David Petersen, it is the Eisner award-winning tale of a cadre of mice charged to protect the borders and peoples of an all mouse society. It is full of medieval imagery, some blood, violence, and pretty amazing dramatic moments. It might be the best indy comic in my formidable comic collection.

So.. great world, great game, why does no one want to play?

Easy- too many games. To date, my amazing wife and I are the only ones that have read enough of or really have an attachment to Mouseguard. Add that into the inevitable glut of games like Pathfinder, Star Wars, Firefly, Shadowrun, etc, etc, ad nauseum. Yeah...back burner of the back burners. Maybe when my daughter is old enough to enjoy the comics, I'll find a way to indoctrinate her to the Mouseguard.

26th- Coolest Character Sheet
I was going to originally mention Spirit of the Century for this one, but then I looked up and remembered Numenera's unfathomable sheet.  I mean, seriously- look at this thing!

27th- Game I'd Like To See a New / Improved Edition Of
Please, please Star Trek.

Look, I love the old FASA system. Decipher and Last Unicorn should never have been allowed to write games ever. For anything. Ever. And the d20 Modern system that works so well for Spycraft doesn't quite fit for Prime Directive. What it needs is a rules-light system that lets you get thrust into plot and character over mechanics.

Sound familiar, Geoff?

Also, In Nomine. More than a revamp- this game of angels and demons needs a line-wide retooling. Scrap the old ruleset and start anew. But I might as well wait for hell to freeze over for that to happen (heh). Instead, I'll just write that myself in Cortex Plus. It's coming. I promise.


28th- Scariest Game I've Played
Spin the bottle in the 4th grade with Gina Fuentes. Oh, wait we're talking RPG.

It will seem cliched, but for me it was a game of the modern incarnation of Call of Cthulhu, a game called Cthulhu Now that I played in the early 90's. With a really descriptive and imaginative GM, this game can be as terrifying for the player as it is for the characters. I don't remember his name, but our GM that night in his seemingly abandoned house in Norwood was both of those things. And he set the scene with all the lights out in the house on a stormy night and only a couple candles to play by.

I remember having nightmares from it, but not much else.

29th- Most Memorable Encounter
There have been so many encounters over the years. Maybe too many to count.

Like the time I killed a party of overzealous 10th level adventurers with kobolds and clever use of murder holes.

The "Zone of Truth Incident."

Vecna's Knot with Treena hiding in the treasure room.

Jaster's great fall.

"Vesh just killed the Moff."

Khoth turns to the dark side.

Chris brings Khoth back to kill his other character- the traitorous doctor.

"You guys are level 6 right?"
"No Todd, we're level 3."
"Crap."

Fester, goblin cook, exalted of Vecna.

Jack Rolls a 20.
Adam: "Jack, I think Falcon just one-shotted Hades. Here's a hero point so you can reroll."
Jack rolls a 20.
Adam groans.

But for most memorable, I'm going to have to go with the play in the Council of Thieves adventure path.
You did not make them do a table reading of The Six Trials of Larazod!
Yes, Self, I did. And it was GLORIOUS.

30th- Rarest RPG Owned
Chivalry & Sorcery: Warfare and Wizardry in the Feudal Age (1st edition).

This book entered my collection as a hand-me-down form my father's board game collection. Released in 1977 as a more realistic slant on D&D, Chivalry and Sorcery didn't have a very large following or print run- at least initially. My dad doesn't roleplay, so how this ended up as part of my his collection, I'm not sure. And I really don't know when it ended up in mine, but I loved the book. Despite the abundance of charts and graphs that were exceptional, even for that era of gaming, C&S was more a study of feudal life and conflicts than monsters in dungeon.

While there are more than a few limited edition gems on my shelf, this book is by far the rarest and hardest to find.

31st- Favorite RPG Of All Time
I would love to say that one of my own games, Dime Stories, Superhuman, even the unfinished Playthings is my favorite RPG. But I don't really have that kind of attachment to any of my creations other than my daughter.

The problem is, so many different games are my favorites because of certain aspects of them. Shadowrun's setting, D&D's longevity, the way Pathfinder retools and fixes all of the issues I had with 3.5, the various incarnations of Star Wars... because Star Wars, Firefly for similar reasons, Smallville for no other reason than because it was my first professional credit, Marvel Heroic because it is Cam's best work and I got to write Nova and X-Factor, everything with the FATE rules because they are awesome. No sir, I don't have just one favorite. I have many, for as many different reasons.

Instead, I'll talk about the one game that should be on everybody's favorite list. The best free, downloadable, independent RPG on the market. The steampunk tour de force called Lady Blackbird.


Lady Blackbird feels as if it was written as an adventure first. The characters and game rules followed. In sixteen pages, John Harper (of Agon and Danger Patrol fame) gives us a pretty complete game with multi-faceted characters, a steampunk Firefly-esque universe, and just the right rules to make a fun, rollicking romp of an rpg. This is what I was failing at doing when I wrote Dime Stories, and will be the benchmark for me as a game designer for years to come.

It's that good.

Even better, John offers it up for free on his website. Go there now.

~Joe