Sunday, February 12, 2017

Tell Me About Your Character: Ep.4- Tell me lies. Tell me sweet little lies.

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:

Your reality, sir, is lies and balderdash and I'm delighted to say that I have no grasp of it whatsoever.

I tire of explaining things in such a mundane fashion. So, I will allow my followers from Geek and Sundry to explain the good Baron's "Game" with their customary lack of ingenuity and class.

The rules are relatively minimal. The first player prompts the player on their left to regale them with a story of their choosing. This could be anything such as, “Tell us about the time you fended off that invading Mongolian horde with a banana” or “How precisely did you woo Catherine the Great and bring about the age of Russian Enlightenment?” From there, the challenged player begins telling the story with as much detail as possible. The other players may attempt to interrupt, distract, and prove the story false by wagering tokens. “But how could that be true if Genghis Khan had already seized all the bananas in eastern Asia?” The storyteller must then counter the argument with their own token, offering an explanation as to why their story is completely true or an excuse as to why that detail does not fit. Players can argue back and forth until one concedes. Once each player has told their story, all the players use their tokens to select their favorite tale.

Who am I?

I am Marquis Edmond Augustine Ignatious Wilfred Steven du Lac , Second Prince of West Asia, Defender of the Order of Free Peoples, Knight of The Righteous Rose, former Duke of East Carolina.

You've heard of me- or at least my story, you just do not know it yet. Your friend, the blogger, has asked me to fill in to tell you my story in his plain, uninteresting dialect.

I am the second son of the King of West Asia, born far from here in Tycho City, Luna in exile of my homelands. Most of my life was spent sailing the phlogston seas of space and time, having adventures and romantic interludes with the finest lovers and most gallant combatants the ages could have ever produced. Still none have been my equal at sword, treaty, dice, or love. And to this day, hundreds seek my counsel in nearly every matter.

Come to my table and I will merrily tell you a tale. It will only cost you the time and coin to refill my goblet and the pleasure of your company. I need not promise, for it remains fact, that my company is always a pleasure.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen
By Fantasy Flight Games 2017

I do not feel that I have a need to wax philosophical on how the Baron's game came to its Third Printing with the simple plebs of Fantasy Flight. I will say that it greatly improves on previous editions from the likes of Mongoose Publishing by simply adding more words.

Yes, those words highlight new ways to play the "game" with a dozen new variations. They are far from the thirty nine variations the Baron approached me to help him create, but it seems that books can only hold so much information and the publishers were afraid that if we kept my additions, the books would invariably break their bindings and the sheer knowledge that could have been gained would be lost forever. Ah, what a day it might have been to see those words etched forever in paper and ink...

But I digress.

It should be apparent to you that the good Baron consulted me time and again on the creation of his game. He claimed he wanted only to tell the most fantastical tales based on my own exploits, but I suggested he change the focus to others trying to keep up with the truths of my wondrous life.

Wait. Hold. I need to have my goblet refilled. This form of retelling makes one quite thirsty.

Ah, excellent. The Red Queen of the Martian Steppes personally supplied me with this vintage of helioberry wine from the stores of the Jeddak. There is no finer drink of the vine.

Back to the Baron's game. It was nearly thirty years ago that, hat in hand, the Baron approached me gentleman to gentleman and bade me tell him the tales of my exploits throughout the cosmos. As a nobleman, I could hardly dismiss the request of a fellow patrician. So it was surprising, even to me, to see the Baron's eyes wide in recognition of the tales he had heard- far more poorly- detailed before him.

Even from my boyhood adventures at the side of the King of Carolina, my claim to the Shah of Highsand's harem, and my third marriage to the current Queen of West Asia, my tales had spread from dance hall, to tavern; from pauper's pit to royal hall. However, it seems that my tales were so legendary, so influential that others- ne'erdowells and vagabonds, I expect- had dared to lay claim to my story as their own.

And thus, I explained to the good Baron, that he could find his game within. Oh sure, the publisher made the poor decision to not utilize my good name to sell more volumes, but I expect it was fear of my legal wrath if tempted that kept their hand from the affront.

No matter, it is a rare day that I cannot rule the day at the Baron's game, much like any other such idle pastime, simply by telling the amazing truths of the years that have preceded this one in my astonishing life story.

One day, you should see for yourself. But for now, I must call upon the maitre d' to refill my goblet once again.

~duLac

A note from Joe: 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.
~Joe

Thursday, February 9, 2017

General Gamery: Superhuman RPG

Wait... what?

Yeah, you saw it. Superhuman RPG.

Does this mean that I'm not going to continue working on the Superhuman Miniatures Game that was promised forever ago?

No. Not at all. Actually, it's kind of the opposite.

Miniatures are expensive to make. I mean really, really expensive. Especially in the scope that Superhuman requires. But art for the game, I already have in abundance. Not to mention setting.

Oh sure, I'd been tossing around the idea of making a FATE Superhuman RPG... but then I realized something far better designers than me figured out a few years ago. SYNERGY!!!

For the last few years I've been loving the Iron Kingdoms RPG- partially because I adore Immoren as a world. But more than anything else it's that the wizards over at Privateer Press figured out that the same people that roleplay in Iron Kingdoms might also play Warmachine or Hordes. And that making the rules for one work with the others might benefit all three games.

And so that's what I'll do here.

The Superhuman RPG (oh, I should toss up the logo for it, huh?) will use the art I've compiled for the minis game over the years from the likes of Avery Liell-Kok, Bryan Bretz, and Matt Parmenter, build the world, and utilize the entire ruleset for Superhuman with some tweaks and add-ons to give it depth.


Then, whenever it is possible to fund a project like Superhuman Miniatures, we can broaden the scope to change the focus to small teams of supers, rather than individuals like in the RPG.

Sounds simple, right?

Well, it's not. Retooling Superhuman for RPG means digging deep and revisiting all the mistakes I made in the earlier versions of the game. In the decade or so since I first conceived of Superhuman, I've changed and grown as a game designer so much that earlier drafts are pretty much unreadable. Basically it's more difficult to retool than start over.

But no, starting over isn't really the right way. The core of Superhuman was pretty good and I can build from the basic mechanics to something grand on multiple levels.

And I'll want you to help me with it.

We start this summer with Gencon 50.

At Gencon, I will be running a single event for Superhuman on Saturday at 1pm. Players in this event will play the villains in a Bank Heist- the first in The Crew, a line of convention exclusive adventures that longtime readers will remember from my early steps in this blog.

If I do this right, every player will walk away with a copy of the introductory adventure complete with pregenerated PCs and all the rules you would need to run it. From there, we'll start playtests so that Gencon 2018 can see a full release of the book.

Fingers crossed,
Doctor Mono

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