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F*ck the ENnies

Stargazer's World - Wed, 03/13/2019 - 08:40

Please excuse the click-baity nature of the title, but I thought it was the best way to get your attention. So what is the issue I am having with the ENnies? First let me state that I don’t have any beef with the people running the ENnie awards. But I think the ENnie awards are basically worthless. Let me explain.

Usually when someone gets an award you think it’s because of excellence in the field. Just think of the Nobel price. The best and brightest are rewarded for furthering human knowledge, culture, or working towards peace. It is not a popularity contest. Sure, even the Nobel Price committees got things wrong from time to time, but in general if you won this award you’re an expert in your field and you achieved something worth of merit.

The ENnie awards don’t work that way. Every person or company can enter their products as long as they were released in a certain time frame. Out of all the entries a small number of judges pick a couple of nominees the public then votes on. So, it’s a popularity contest. Usually the game, blog, etc. which wins an ENnie award has been highly successful and popular before. RPG products of excellent quality but which are not well known, usually have almost no chance to get an award and the publicity that comes with it. Even if the judges try to nominate niche products with excellent quality, in the end the public still votes for what’s popular.

Another issue is that companies or persons with a large following can easily make sure their products get the votes they need. I also assume that it should be quite possible to have people vote several times, or to automate voting, so the results get skewed even more. Personally I think the whole idea of having such a popularity contest is wrong. People already vote with their wallets, why should we – as the RPG community – then give awards based on popularity? Shouldn’t we instead promote quality?

Don’t get me wrong, some of the products winning an ENnie might actually be of extremely high quality and deserving an award. There may have been cases where the ENnies even managed to put an underrated product into the limelight. But in general the same companies, game lines and products get rewarded. For example, can you remember a year in which Gnome Stew didn’t win an ENnie? Sure, they have put out quite a few great articles over the years, but are there no other blogs worthy of an award? Or think of all the WotC and Paizo products nominated.

So in the end, an ENnie award is basically not that different to having a Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum Seller badge on DriveThruRPG. It’s just a more complicated and expensive procedure to get one.

In the past I submitted my blog to the ENnies a couple of times. When I tried for the first time I was actually hoping to at least get an honorable mention. Is it possible that I am now biased against the ENnie awards because of that? Yeah, that’s possible. But even if I were, my arguments still hold up. The message is clear: the ENnie awards are a popularity contest – nothing more, nothing less. Do we really need it? No. Is there a better alternative? I don’t think there is.

By the way, this post was inspired by the Grumpy Old Gamers podcast by jim pinto and Richard Iorio which recently had an episode talking about awards in general and the ENnies in particular. If you haven’t done so, you definitely should listen to it!

Related posts:

  1. My thoughts on the 2009 ENnie Award Nominations
  2. I Voted!
  3. Some thoughts on the ENnies nominations

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Critical Role KS Criticism

Stargazer's World - Tue, 03/12/2019 - 15:14

I have to admit I haven’t really followed the discussions surrounding the Critical Role Kickstarter project. Heck, I haven’t even checked out the project itself until recently. So what is all the fuzz about? Matthew Mercer and his motley crew of voice-acting friends, famous for their D&D actual play series Critical Role, are raising funds for the production of a animated TV series called “The Legend of Vox Machina”. In no time, they reached the set goal of about 666.000€ and at the time of this writing they have raised over 6 million euros. This is HUGE! I don’t think any roleplaying-related fundraiser had ever raised that much money.

Quickly criticism was raised (Check out this article on Kotaku). At first people from the industry were obviously miffed that streamers like Critical Role make more money off of RPGs than the people actually designing those games. In a way I can understand the frustration. Making money in the RPG business is extremely hard. There are only a few designers out there who can live off RPGs alone.

But in that case it’s IMHO an apples versus oranges situation. Critical Role is raising money for an animated TV series. A lot of the people interested in this series might not even be roleplaying game fans themselves. I have watched a couple of episodes of both seasons of Critical Role and I can see the appeal of taking part in their adventures as a spectator. It is possible that some of the backers have never played a roleplaying game in their lives. Perhaps they heard from friends about the show, or they know Vox Machina from their cameos in the Pillars of Eternity 2 video game. Will some of the people backing Critical Role now eventually throw money towards roleplaying game creators? Possible. My point is that the show might have a larger appeal than just people playing D&D 5th Edition or Pathfinder at the moment. In the long run the success of Critical Role will probably lead to more sales in the RPG industry.

The second criticism raised is about diversity. While this particularly group of friends is not entirely male, like way too many roleplaying game groups, the lack of persons of color is noticeable. We all know that representation is important. Critical Role has become a kind of ambassador for the roleplaying hobby, and so it would be great if their cast included persons of color.

But things are not that easy. Before Critical Role was a hit show on Twitch and YouTube, the members of the group were just friends enjoying the game. There have been several guest players on the show and perhaps they might actually add a non-white person to the cast. Since the show evolved from a fun past time to something greater, calling for more diversity and more representation of minorities on the show might not be unreasonable, but it’s not something we can force. Change is slow. But I think we are on the right track.

With their popular and financial success comes a certain responsibility. The future will show if they use their power to do good for the whole community or if they are more interested in increasing revenue for themselves. From what I’ve heard so far, Matt Mercer and crew are good people. They’ll hopefully do the right things. And if not, we – as fans and fellow roleplayers – can nudge them into the right direction again. It’s the same in live as it is in roleplaying games: It’s not only one person’s job to ensure everyone is having a good time. This responsibility falls to all of us.

What are your thoughts on the criticism regarding the Critical Role KS? Please share your thoughts below!

Related posts:

  1. Warhammer Fantasy Role Play 3rd Edition Trailer
  2. The Mercer Effect
  3. Time to Speak Out with my Geek Out… Role-Playing Games in my case!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Colonial Gothic: Grim & Perilous RPG

Stargazer's World - Tue, 03/12/2019 - 08:32

If you have been following this blog for a while you might already know that I love the old Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Game from Games Workshop. It was basically the first RPG I played for an extended period of time, and back in the day I immediately fell in love with both its setting and the rules. So it is probably no surprise that I have a soft spot for Zweihänder by Grim & Perilous Studios (My fellow blogger Peter recently wrote an extensive review of this game here on our blog). Zweihänder is a fans love letter to this game, a 600+ pages tome which contains enough material to keep you playing for years. Zweihänder’s rules are pretty close to the 1st and 2nd edition of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay, but also introduce new ideas. It’s not just a “retro clone” but rather a refinement of the original rules. The implied setting is basically the Old World with the serial numbers filed off, but there are also a few example settings included.

A while back, Grim & Perilous Studios’ David D. Fox started posting artwork for an upcoming project and I immediately thought: “Hey, this looks a lot like Colonial Gothic”. Unbeknownst to me David D. Fox had been working with Rogue Games’ Richard Iorio to combine the awesome setting of Colonial Gothic with Zweihänder’s rules. Personally I love this idea. I think Colonial Gothic needs more love. It is an awesome game but is often overlooked by the gaming community. Combining the setting with a more popular system could bring it into the limelight.

Ok, what is Colonial Gothic all about? Colonial Gothic is a roleplaying game set into the early years of the American Revolution. Aside from the fight against the British there’s also a secret war brewing against the forces of chaos and darkness. These might be unspeakable horrors spawned by Magick, vampires from the old world, witches, angry spirits, and many more. What sets Colonial Gothic apart is the amount of research that went into it. Some of the sourcebooks for the game can easily double as historical text books. Yes, they are that good!

I probably should also mention at this point that I also have a more personal connection to Rogue Games. I first met Richard at GenCon in 2010 and we have stayed in touch after that. Even though we don’t talk or chat as often as I’d like I consider him a friend, a kindred spirit. I also did proof reading for several of his books. Unfortunately I was never able to actually run a game of Colonial Gothic. The interest in the setting is quite limited over here in Germany.

Ok, let’s talk a bit more about the upcoming game. Colonial Gothc: Grim & Perilous RPG will be another 600+ page book. It will be an all-in-one rulebook with all-new artwork (I’ve added the example artwork from the official press release into this post). I guess the rules will mostly be unchanged from what we’ve seen in Zweihänder, but there should be new careers, new monsters, and a different magic system. While some might be intimidated by the tome-like qualities of the book, I actually applaud the decision to make it an all-in-one affair. That’s actually one of the reasons why I always preferred the original WFRP to its successors. I have to admit, I am pretty excited about this upcoming game and I really hope this will be a successful venture for both David D. Fox and Richard Iorio. I wish you guys all the best of luck!

What are your thoughts on this marriage of Colonial Gothic and Zweihänder? Are you as excited as I am or does the setting leave you cold? Please share your thoughts below!

Related posts:

  1. A Grim And Perilous Adventure
  2. Small Press Publisher Spotlight: Rogue Games
  3. What about The Ruins Perilous? A review…

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Achtung! Cthulhu for 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu

Stargazer's World - Tue, 03/12/2019 - 07:36

A few days ago I was surprised to find emails from DriveThruRPG in my inbox with links to free copies of three new products. As it turned out Mödiphiüs had just released an updated version of their Achtung! Cthulhu game for 7th Edition Call of Cthulhu, and as one of the original backers I was eligible for a free copy. The core rules consist of the Investigator’s Guide (a 128-paged PDF containing all the rules needed by the players) and the Keeper’s Guide (a 216-paged PDF with the background, new rules for WW2 combat, a bestiary, and everything else the GM needs to run this game).

Achtung! Cthulhu is – as the name implies – a Call of Cthulhu game set into World War 2. The horror of war and the atrocities of the Nazis are combined with Lovecraftian cosmic horror. The characters are Allied soldiers or agents of Allied services fighting both the Axis and the Mythos creatures weaponized by them. The setting also helps to solve one the issues that often crop up in Call of Cthulhu games: why should the investigators travel the world, risking their lives and their sanity, while at the same time jeopardizing their jobs and relationships? Delta Green solved the issue by making the investigators members of a government conspiracy. In Achtung! Cthulhu you’re playing the soldiers fighting a war. Unfortunately I haven’t had the time to actually play Achtung! Cthulhu yet, but now I can at least do so with the latest iteration of the Call of Cthulhu rules. If you enjoy Lovecraftian Horror and have an interest in WW2, you definitely should check Achtung! Cthulhu out!


While checking out the official Mödiphiüs site I was also reminded of Achtung! Cthulhu Skirmish, their tabletop miniatures game in the same setting. Miniature skirmish games have always been a mixed bag for me. I love playing those games, but I am not particularly good at them. They can also quickly become a huge money and time sink. I have to admit that Achtung! Cthulhu Skirmish looks quite tempting and the miniature prices are very reasonable. If you are into these kinds of games, you definitely should give it a look.

What are your thoughts on Achtung! Cthulhu? Have you actually played the RPG or the miniature game? Please share your comments below.

Related posts:

  1. Kickstarter: Achtung! Cthulhu
  2. Review: ACHTUNG! Cthulhu – Three Kings
  3. Kickstarter: Achtung! Cthulhu – Assault on the Mountains of Madness Confirmed!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Hell froze over: Bethesda granted Modiphius Fallout RPG license!

Stargazer's World - Wed, 03/06/2019 - 14:16

If you told me yesterday that Bethesda would eventually allow someone to design a Fallout pen & paper roleplaying game, I wouldn’t have believed it. For a very long time they weren’t willing to let anyone touch this franchise. But it seem Modiphius managed to convince them that Fallout was in good hands with them.

What’s even more surprising that they’ll not just release one but two RPGs in the Fallout universe. The first one will be a roleplaying expansion to their successful Fallout Wasteland Warfare miniatures game (check out our interview with its designer James Sheahan). The second one will be a more traditional tabletop RPG using Modiphius’ 2d20 System. You can learn more about these games on Modiphius’ Fallout Roleplaying website.

The one based on the miniature game will actually be out this summer and will be playable without miniatures as a standalone RPG using free downloadable cards!

I am extremely excited about these news and hope we’ll get more details on both games in the near future!

Related posts:

  1. Fallout Wasteland Warfare Q&A with Designer James Sheahan
  2. Hell froze over: There will be a new Alternity RPG
  3. More Modiphius News: Grimmerspace

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

From my blogroll: “expensive toys” by Brad J. Murray

Stargazer's World - Wed, 03/06/2019 - 09:41

Today I stumbled upon an excellent article written by Brad J. Murray about luxury games (like Monte Cook’s Invisible Sun) and the struggles of indie game designers. It’s definitely well worth your time. I posted an excerpt below.

My business, the VSCA, is in a very privileged space. It’s not for me to talk about whether someone elses pricing scheme is good or bad, just or unjust. It is certainly all those things. So let’s just look at some things that are certainly true and wonder how much we care. You get to decide how much you care for yourself.

Monte Cook Games pays a decent wage to their writers and artists. Far above the indie norm.

A hundred bucks in one outlay is too much money for some people to pay. They cannot afford to buy this game (Invisible Sun) even in digital only form. [..]

Check it out!

Related posts:

  1. Monte Cook’s New Game will be Weird – With a Capital W.
  2. Some thoughts on Invisible Sun
  3. Humble RPG Book Bundle: Numenera

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Some thoughts on Invisible Sun

Stargazer's World - Mon, 03/04/2019 - 08:09

A couple of days ago Monte Cook Games finally released their roleplaying game Invisible Sun in digital form. Until then the PDF version of the game was one of the exclusive Kickstarter backer perks. The digital edition not only contains multiple PDFs with over 1000 pages of text, but also countless cards in a printer-friendly format and handouts for all the props included with the physical version of the game. The price tag is at $99.


This may sound a lot and quite a few people have been arguing that its way too much, but this is not the issue I am having with the game. Invisible Sun is a surreal fantasy game, a game in which characters wield unimaginable powers, a game which is supposed to change your perspective on what roleplaying games could be. This might to a certain extent be quite pretentious, and a bit of hyperbole, but the people who read or even played it, seem to like it a lot. So what’s the issue?

My issue with the game is that aside from either getting the $99 digital copy or the $250 physical one (aka the Black Cube), I have no way to find out more about the game. Sure, I can watch the videos Monte Cook Games has uploaded to YouTube, or I can read one of the few reviews out there. Having a reasonably priced starter set or perhaps even some free quickstart rules would make it much easier to find out whether Invisible Sun is worth my money or not. With a game at such a high price tag, I just want to be really, really sure, that the game is for me.

Is the price itself fair? Undoubtedly so. Monte Cook Games creates awesome products and I never regretted putting down money for any of their books. Especially the physical copy of the game is probably quite cheap considering how much material you get. I’d love to get my hands on a copy, but at the moment, a $99 or $250 minimum to get into the game, just seems too much for me.

By the way, I just noticed that Invisible Sun is actually the #1 best selling title on DriveThruRPG at this moment. I don’t know how this is measured, just by the sheer number of purchases or is the price factored in? Still, it’s pretty impressive.

What are your thoughts? Are you intrigued by Invisible Sun, but shy away from the high price tag? As always every comment is highly appreciated!

UPDATE: My friend Roberto aka Sunglar let me know that there’s actually a preview for Invisible Sun available for free on DriveThruRPG. I haven’t had the time yet to fully read it, but it seems to give a good overview on character creation, the magic system and some of the “fluff”.

Related posts:

  1. From my blogroll: “expensive toys” by Brad J. Murray
  2. Monte Cook’s New Game will be Weird – With a Capital W.
  3. More Thoughts on the Cypher System

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

ZWEIHÄNDER

Stargazer's World - Mon, 02/25/2019 - 22:10

I have spent the past seven weeks reading the Zweihänder core rules cover to cover.At nearly 700 pages this was not a small task. The reason for this was purely for review purposes.

Over on my own blog I have done a chapter by chapter read through as inspired by Jeremy Friesen’s SWN series. I did the series on my blog for two reasons. The first was that there are potentially useful elements in Zwei for Rolemaster fans as both are d100, detailed and gritty games. Zwei by comparison is brand spanking new and shiny but most to of my blog readers are old hand Rolemaster GMs playing a game that is 30 years old or so.

The second reason is all about word count. I think I have written something like 12,000 words about Zweihänder in the past two months. That is fine on my own blog but it is a little presumptuous to monopolise Michael’s blog just to review a single game.

So enough about the how and why, what do I think of Zweihänder?

Mechanically, it is a simple enough game. It is a well written and simple game using a roll under mechanic on a d100. Some of the things that immediately appeals was that there are no levels and no hit points.

What Zweihänder lacks is survivability. It is written in that players are expected to hold a stable of characters and swap in a new PC when the current one dies. This is something that I struggle with. I find it hard to invest in a PC that I know is almost certainly going to die. I know that PCs die all the time but a great many fantasy games include Raise Dead, Resurrection or Life Giving which means that death is not necessarily the end. Of course if death is a real possibility it means that choices have meaning. If death is an almost certainty it goes too far the other way.

That is probably my only gripe.

On the plus side there is a lot of really good stuff here. I personally would have said that the magic system in Zweihänder is one of the three best magic systems I have ever used. The other two are Hero System and 7th Sea. Hero is simply the most flexible system imaginable and 7th Sea is the most integrated into the setting and by extension the most flavourful.

Zweihänder has a very simple critical system, both for critical success and critical failure. This same system runs through skills, combat and magic. The way that critical failures are applied in magic is that the successes and failures are explicitly described in each and every spell. You don’t get any of this bland “You failed so your spell doesn’t work.” Take this spell as an example.

FEAST FOR CROWS
You conjure forth a murder of crows, which harry and harm your
enemies.
Distance: Any one place you can see
Reagents: A crow, sacrificed (expended)
Duration: Instantaneous
Effect: After successfully casting this spell, you can conjure
a flock of murderous crows that swoop about your enemies,
dispersing only after tasting blood. All those who are caught
within the Burst Template suffer 2D10+[WB] in Damage.
Critical Success: As above, but those caught in the Feast for
Crows begin to Bleed.
Critical Failure: You call forth a flock of murderous crows –
armed with iron beaks and dagger-like talons – not from the
Material Realm but from the Abyss! They swoop about you
and you suffer 2D10+[WB] in Damage and begin to Bleed.

You can see from the spell description how those critical successes and failures are unique to each spell and add to the flavour of the spell. That runs right through the magic system. Everything feels really tight, slick and polished.

The next thing that I think is good is the bestiary. This is not the biggest bestiary in the world but the way it is structured and the breadth of the monsters included is more than adequate. They are also all the most iconic of monsters. Zweihänder also uses a system of true names. So where some games may have seperate stats for a Frost Giant, a Jotun and a Nephilim, Zweihänder uses a single base creature but rather than creating numerous variations it integrates the monsters into its folklore skill. So a Frost Giant is a nephilim as is a Jotun as is a Giant. The actual monster stats are kept secret but the characters can learn, through their skills and game experience interact with just the local names and local monsters.

Zweihänder also has a feature and mechanic for corruption. This also integrates with the bestiary with its mutants and corruptions. The lasting impression is that everything in Zweihänder is, just like the magic, tightly, slick and polished.

So my conclusion is that I like Zweihänder. Right now the game is $14.99 on DTRPG but it is about to disappear. Grim & Perilous Studios have signed a publishing deal and will be disappearing from all the OBS websites. You can preorder the printed books through Amazon and apparently Target and Walmart if you are that way inclined but the price is going to be an awful lot more than the PDF pricing.

It seems like the world and his brother already own Zweihänder but if you don’t and you think it could be your thing then I would get it sooner rather than later. If you really want to read about it in depth then you can head over to the RolemasterBlog and search for Zweihänder there and you will find my read through.

Related posts:

  1. ZWEIHÄNDER supplement round up
  2. Zweihänder Collaboration
  3. The Dungeon Master Guys

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Freebies: Skyfarer–A Sunless Skies RPG

Stargazer's World - Mon, 02/25/2019 - 08:07

If you are an avid fan of PC gaming, you have probably heard of Sunless Seas and its successor Sunless Skies. Both games have a strong focus on story and exploration. In Sunless Skies you are the captain of a locomotive exploring the skies. And that’s not where the weirdness ends. In Sunless Skies stars are highly intelligent … and dying. The Victorian Empire has built its own Sun and Queen Victoria reigns from the Throne of Hours, which gives her control over time.


If you want to explore the vast skies in a tabletop roleplaying game, don’t fret, Failbetter Games has you covered. Skyfarer is a Sunless Skies RPG which you can download for free. The game uses a simple d10-based mechanic and is focused on narrative gaming. If you expect complex rules and tactical combat, Skyfarer is not for you. But if you intend to tell exciting stories in a delightfully weird world, you definitely should check it out.

Related posts:

  1. Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies now available over RPGNow
  2. Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies
  3. Freebies: Renaissance

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Huge Pathfinder Bundle for $18

Stargazer's World - Thu, 02/21/2019 - 12:39

A friend of mine just pointed a pretty good deal out to me. In order to celebrate Pathfinder 10th anniversary, Humble Bundle is selling $505 worth of Pathfinder stuff for mere $18.

The offer is tiered with the lowest tier starting at $1 and containing the Pathfinder Beginner Box, the core rules, several sourcebooks and trial access to Pathfinder Online. The next tier starts at $8 and contains additional material like the Advanced Player’s Guide and the Villain Codex. The third tier starts at $15 and contains books like the Ultimate series of sourcebooks, Bestiary 2 and 3. Last but not least the highest tier starts at $18 and contains more material for Pathfinder, and also the core rules for Starfinder, Paizo’s new Science-Fantasy RPG.

Of course you can always decide to pay more. Each Humble Bundle sold supports charity. You can either choose the one featured by Humble Bundle this month, or choose your own.

Related posts:

  1. Humble RPG Book Bundle: Numenera
  2. Humble RPG Book Bundle Warhammer
  3. Bundle of Holding: Traveller New Era

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Twitter Update

Stargazer's World - Tue, 02/19/2019 - 19:35

This is a short update to let you all know that I’ve created a new Twitter account. From now on, my old account @StargazersWorld will be exclusively for blog-related stuff, while my personal account @LordStargazer is for everything else. Please note that it will probably take me a couple of days to get everything sorted.

Related posts:

  1. Leaving Twitter
  2. Twitter
  3. Twitter Trouble!

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Sision Tower: Preview

Graphite Prime - Mon, 02/04/2019 - 16:41

Praise the Fallen focused on a place of chaos, now its spiritual successor, Sision Tower, explores a place of law...sort of.  It’s easy to make chaos dangerous and creepy, but can the same thing be done with something Holy?  This became my goal, although, it didn’t start out that way...
     Sision Tower is a vertical dungeon crawl using a non-traditional map.  So far, I've drawn about 30 pictures for it (Praise the Fallen had 7 or 8) and a solid majority of the writing is done.  Still far from finished, but definitely starting to come together. 
Here is some of the art...






Meanwhile, I thought this was cool...

http://hyperborea.boardhost.com/viewtopic.php?pid=16946
Back to work.




Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

DCC Dice Meets FASERIP

Graphite Prime - Thu, 01/03/2019 - 03:16


I've said before how the Marvel (FASERIP) RPG was my go to super-hero system for years, so much so that it nearly ruined percentile systems for me -- I probably passed on a lot of good games over the years simply because I was so sick of rolling percentile dice.  These days I don't care so much, whatever works.
The other two super-hero systems that I like are DC Heroes (Mayfair Games) and Heroes Unlimited by Palladium.  Notice a trend?  All three are old-school games.  I would love to encounter a modern super-hero game that I liked, but I haven't (Mutants and Masterminds isn't bad, so I suppose an honorable mention...)  Most modern super-hero games seem to be "story-based"-- not my cup of tea.  Some of the games do look like nice products, so I'll give them credit for that.
The last Marvel game (Marvel Heroic) was terrible, not trying to offend anyone, it just was.  It's flaws?  1.  Being forced to not only play Marvel characters, but, Marvel stories as well.  Stories, I might add, that you've probably already read.  2.  No robust character creation rules, though I think something half-assed was added later.  People ALWAYS want to create there own characters.  The Marvel (or DC) universe should simply be a guideline, a sample setting, something you can use or not use.  3.  Typical story-game nonsense made it possible for Dare-Devil types to even have a chance to defeat Thor types.  This reminds me of the "every one gets a trophy" nonsense.  Sorry, Dare-Devil, you can't beat Thor, I don't care how well you describe it.  I understand, they're trying to recreate those clever little comic-book moments where Ant-Man and the Wasp defeat the Absorbing Man and Titania, but......no.  Roll some dice, the story will tell itself.  4.  The dice-step system using only d4 - d12 is extremely limiting, they should have at least included the d20 to give the game more depth, but that still only leaves a 5 or 6 rank difference between normal folks and godlike beings.  I'm sure it can be done...  And to be fair, there is (subjective) dice-pooling involved.....which, I'm never a fan of dice-pool systems where you inevitably spend too much time making the case to include certain dice in your pool and then spend time "interpreting" your roll.  
Anyway, that's just a little rant, if you disagree with any of it, that's cool.  To each their own.  I always say, play the games you love and don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
What this post is really about, is this:

More specifically, those dice.

I've designed several complete super-hero role-playing systems.  Or rather, I've designed my own system and redesigned it several times over.  For whatever reason super-hero games, up until recently, were my favorite to design.  Probably because no system out there truly satisfied what I wanted in a super-hero game.

Yet I keep coming back to FASERIP.  Those seven abilities (Fighting, Agility, Strength, Endurance, Reason, Intuition, Psyche) perfectly describe super-heroes.  Add up the first 4 for Health, the next 3 for Karma.  Perfect.  I used to think the Talent system was lame and we craved more "skills," but now I don't.  The Talent system makes sense.  The Powers could have been better explained, and the character creation system could be better tweaked to include more detailed "archetypes," but should remain random.  There are ways to create randomly rolled characters without it being nonsensical.

Here's what bugs me about FASERIP:  No matter who you're fighting, your chance to hit remains the same.  Aunt May, who probably has Feeble (2) or Poor (4), Fighting, has the same chance to hit Captain America as she does a hapless child (not that Aunt May would ever attempt either.)  The system doesn't take into account the combat prowess of your opponent (unless they actively try to dodge, which rarely happened because it costs your turn.)  One thing that was beautiful about Mayfair's DC Heroes, is that your fighting ability (Dexterity) was directly cross-referenced with your opponents score to determine your chance to hit -- the height of logic.  But, you had to consult charts, and that can be a pain.  FASERIP has this chart flaw too.  Charts were big in the 80's.


Right, those dice...

I've often pondered how to play FASERIP  without using percentile dice and/or charts, or at least only one chart, and include a way to make the opponent's power-level relevant when you attack/manipulate.  Zak Smith came up with an idea on his blog (I can't seem to find the exact post.) 

http://dndwithpornstars.blogspot.com/
It involved assigning a number (ranging somewhere between 7-ish and 18-ish, like a D&D saving throw) to the FASERIP ranks and rolling 3d20 to hit that number.  One hit is a green success, two is a yellow, and three is a red, so you still need the small results chart atop the Universal Table.  Example, lets say Amazing (50) would be target number 8, you would need to roll at least one 8 on 3d20 to hit.  Pretty cool idea.

Fast forward to my recent purchase of Dungeon Crawl Classics and the special dice needed to play that game.  I was toying around with these dice to see just how well they roll and they're not bad, though some will keep rolling forever unless they hit a barrier.  I was thinking, why don't the games out there with dice-step systems (such as Savage Worlds) use these dice to improve or broaden their systems?  Does Goodman Games own these dice?  I doubt it.

My mind quickly went to FASERIP, maybe because Zak Smith had made another post where he talked about designing a super-hero system using a d4 - d20 dice step system.  As a fan, I'm sure it will be good.  But I find myself thinking, why not use the extra dice?

 http://dndwithpornstars.blogspot.com/2018/10/new-toys-new-toys.html 
Well, the answer's simple, you never want to force players to buy "funky" dice to play your game.  And OSR types (myself included) are plenty content with the dice we already have.  Still, it's too good an idea to ignore, so how about this?

Feeble  d3Poor  d4Typical  d6Good  d8Excellent  d10Remarkable  d12Incredible  d14Amazing  d16Monstrous  d20Unearthly  d24Shift X  d30
Don't worry about ranks above Shift X as they almost never enter the game anyway.  You could simply treat them as d30 with Advantage.
The numbers for Health and Karma are the dice numbers, so if you had all Excellent's, your Health would be 40 and Karma would be 30.

When you attack someone, it's an opposed roll, Fighting vs. Fighting, Agility vs. Agility, Psyche vs. Psyche, or a Power vs. any of these, there are multiple possibilities.  If you beat their roll it's a green success, if you beat their roll by 5 it's a yellow success, if you beat their roll by 10 it's a red success.  You obviously still need the effects part of the Universal Table, but that's just a quick glance, no biggy.

Damage could be a dice roll or a static number (static number would be better I think.)

Talents improve your rank by 1 or 2 as normal.

Higher level, Thor types would be prone to wilder results when they fight thus resulting in people getting "slammed" all over the city.  Regular humans would rarely "slam" anyone.  Perfect.

Feat rolls would be made against the GM's roll for the feat.  Example, jumping across roof-tops might be an Excellent level feat, so you roll Agility vs. the GM rolling a d10.  Certain feats might be automatic if they're below your level, unless your attempt is under duress.

Spending Karma equals to die type you're upgrading to, e.g., you have Incredible d14 and want to upgrade to Monstrous d20 would cost you 20 Karma, and you can never upgrade more than 2 steps.

I've run some samples based on some FASERIP characters, and this all translates very well.

I almost feel like writing up a rule-set, but beyond what I just did, there's not much more to it.  I might however, write up a new random character creation system for FASERIP, but that's for another time...

Meanwhile, I'm working on another OSR Dungeon and will be posting a preview soon.




Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

The Fourthcore Crew Have a New Kickstarter Up: 5e Team Deatchmatch

Thought Eater - Mon, 11/19/2018 - 19:05
I was a big fan of 4thcore. Some of those folks have moved on and now do some cool stuff for 5e. It is weird, I just recently heard about some kind of upcoming 5e competition series that is going to be live-streamed, then a few days later I was made aware of this. My money is on this being waaaay cooler than whatever the other thing is.

5TH EDITION TEAM DEATHMATCH KICKSTARTER

It has already funded and the thing is apparently already written. These guys are endlessly creative and really know how to kill...errr challenge a PC. For more on what they do, check out their home base, DEFY DANGER.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Hundreds of OSR Blogs in an Easy-to-Read Format!

Thought Eater - Sat, 10/13/2018 - 11:55
The inestimable Ramanan S of Save vs Total Party Kill fame and originator of the Rammies, the only RPG award that has ever truly mattered, has given anyone that enjoys reading about old school gaming a great gift.

CHECK IT OUT
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

OSR Guide for the Perplexed Questionnaire

Thought Eater - Fri, 10/12/2018 - 22:17

You might see this questionnaire popping up a lot. I have enjoyed reading what other people had to say and thought I would add my two cents.

1. One article or blog entry that exemplifies the best of the Old School Renaissance for me:Hard to point to one but stuff like THIS gives me warm fuzzies.
2. My favorite piece of OSR wisdom/advice/snark


3. Best OSR module/supplement: Wow these questions are tough. I'll cheat a tad and go with Richard LeBlanc's d30 books .

4. My favorite house rule (by someone else): MUs being able to spontaneously cast from their spellbooks rather than prepare specific spells. Forget who mentioned it, but it allows for much more variety and creativity in play. 

5. How I found out about the OSR: When I got back into gaming I was looking at buying old 1st edition AD&D books and discovered that not only were people still playing it, they were making clones of it, adventures for it, blogging about it, etc 

6. My favorite OSR online resource/toy: Hmmm THIS is about as awesome as it gets. Also the Greyhawk weather generator

7. Best place to talk to other OSR gamers: Well that is kind of the question right now. I immediately fell in love with G+, but it is going away. I am optimistic with what I have seen on MeWe. 

8. Other places I might be found hanging out talking games: Here, G+MeWe, rarely on various forums. 

9. My awesome, pithy OSR take nobody appreciates enough: You cannot have a meaningful campaign if strict time records are not kept. I wrote that. 
10. My favorite non-OSR RPG: If you don't think pre-7th Call of Cthulhu is OSR, then CoC. If you do, then...maybe Savage Worlds.

11. Why I like OSR stuff: Nostalgia, creativity, DIY spirit, amazing talent, cool people, fun games.

12. Two other cool OSR things you should know about that I haven’t named yetTHIS spreadsheet, THIS Patreon. 

13. If I could read but one other RPG blog but my own it would be: Old Grognardia posts. 

14. A game thing I made that I like quite a lot is: I think I did a pretty good job with this adventure.

15. I'm currently running/playing: Running a weekly 1e/BX mashup game, playing in a bi-weekly Castles and Crusades game. Occasionally run a BX Stonehell game for my daughter. Jump into online games here and there when I can. 

16. I don't care whether you use ascending or descending AC because: Oh, but I DO care.

17. The OSRest picture I could post on short notice

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Let's Read Polyhedron: Issue 6

Thought Eater - Fri, 09/21/2018 - 16:07
You can check out previous posts in this series HERE.

Ok, let's see if Polyhedron can bounce back from a weak issue 5.


So I dig the Boot Hill sort of cover.

In the letters section someone writes in about a religious group trying to ban D&D from their school. Ah, memories of the satanic panic. What is interesting is TSR replies here that if you need help with "these sorts of problems" to write to them with "Attention: Duke" on the envelope. Maybe I don't know my TSR lore as well as others, so if you know anything about "Duke" and if their job was just dealing with crazy moms 24/7, let me know.

Where I'm Coming From references TSR's acquisition of SPI. Notes from HQ mentions how to become a Top Secret game admin for the RPGA, and again plugs the RPGA belt buckles (I want one).

Part 3 of the Jake Jaquet interview is terminally boring. They talk about calling the mag Dragon instead of The Dragon. Jake likes basic D&D over AD&D. There is a little talk about how computers could eventually influence the hobby but nothing is particularly prescient or worth mentioning.

Notes for the Dungeon Master basically talks about complaints about "realism" in D&D, something that has always seemed kind of silly to me. It is game about, like, elves and dwarves and stuff. This issue is a bummer so far.

Mercifully, Jim Ward manages to give us something worth reading with some Gamma World items. The Weapons of the Ancients include things like a Crystal of Seeing (glorified telescope) and a Holarator (used to project holograms). The flavor here is good and at least it is gameable material.

Spelling Bee spends a lot of time talking about adjudicating illusion spells. Dispel Confusion covers thief armor (no studded leather allowed), monks wearing bracers of defense (they can, but wouldn't want to according to the author...yeah right), and then a question/answer that really struck me as odd.

Someone asks about to-hit rolls for monsters with just hp listed. With AD&D, I always just used the max level on the HD chart as the base (16+ for AD&D), but here they say to divide the total hp by 4.5 for the HD and extrapolate from there. This would make many monsters/gods even more powerful...to the point where there would never be a point in rolling anything. Did anyone play that way? Like a Tarrasque would be a 66+ HD creature. I'm no mathematician, but using this system with the AD&D charts, the THACO would be 0 around 23 HD....so yeah, 66 HD would be what, THACO -21? I know its a tough monster, but sheesh. Weird answer imo. I looked at BECMI, knowing it deals with very high levels, and a 35+ HD monster has a THACO of 1, which is much more sensible. In fact, from 25-35 HD, all monsters stay at THACO 2. Maybe they didn't think this one through before answering, but they probably killed a LOT of PCs in the wake of this answer. Hey wait, now it is growing on me.



There is a solitaire scenario for Fight in the Skies. A list of some RPGA charter members. Tips on how to run your own D&D tournaments. The issue ends with another "Nor" comic.

Another not-so-good issue. Maybe #7 will be better.

Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Rub It Review: Al-Qadim

Doomslakers! - Tue, 09/18/2018 - 13:23
I have only played in a single game set in Al-Qadim and I have never ran any games in this setting. I didn't own a single Al-Qadim book until just a couple of years ago. But I remembered my play experience from 1994 quite fondly and I fell in love with this campaign world... so I started collecting it all. I'm still working on the collection, very slowly, as a casual hobby.

Anyhow. I've already said a lot about Al-Qadim in other posts. For this mini review I'm just going to link to all the posts I've made so far talking about Al-Qadim.

It's so damn good. Even though it has it's flaws... which are almost exclusively related to rushed production and recycling cover art and what-not. But on the whole...

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JamesVWest/posts/WPed4KGepnb

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JamesVWest/posts/8WvWK2D6snu

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JamesVWest/posts/66wkWB9u1ux

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JamesVWest/posts/HhpqdB2SZNK

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JamesVWest/posts/STkSxc1wCVE

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JamesVWest/posts/BWeRRUtALSA

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JamesVWest/posts/CKzLpFoB1q4

https://plus.google.com/u/0/+JamesVWest/posts/ScCeHD191gu

#al-qadim
#salt
#djinn


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Troll Bridge Sketches

Doomslakers! - Sun, 09/16/2018 - 18:51
I worked on a new one-page module called A Trolling We Will Go. It was inspired by the old fairy tale of the three billy goats gruff. Plus I just love classic D&D trolls. Here's the troll, Urnt, as a work in progress.



And in Urnt's river lives a lot of very angry fish. In fact, each person slain by the angry fish becomes and angry fish.


Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

Classic-Era Waterdeep Products to Use (and Avoid) with Dragon Heist

Thought Eater - Sun, 09/16/2018 - 12:46
The D&D community is abuzz with excitement about the new Waterdeep module, Dragon Heist. Aside from maybe Curse of Strahd, there seems to be more chatter and anticipation surrounding this release than any other so far. There is already a steady stream of fan content coming out on the DM Guild site, but as Waterdeep is probably the most famous D&D city of all time (other than maybe the City of Greyhawk), DMs can also benefit from the classic-era products that came before. Here are a few to check out (and some to avoid).

CITY SYSTEM: HIGH USABILITY 



Known for its massive map collection of the city, the real strength of this set comes from its booklet. Filled with random tables and useful info to expand your campaign, this is in my opinion the #1 classic-era product for Dragon Heist DMs.


VOLO'S GUIDE TO WATERDEEP: HIGH USABILITY


The creative travel-guide presentation of this book serves it well, effectively humanizing (demihumanizing?) the city with flavorful entries. Compatibility with the City System map keys is a huge plus. Part of what makes this and the City System box so useful is that most of the material doesn't rely on then-current events.


FR1 WATERDEEP AND THE NORTH: MODERATE USABILITY


This was the Waterdeep bible for a while, and it is a good book. Much of it could find some use in your game, but a good portion is focused on then-current events. I am no Realms expert but I am pretty sure they have been like exploded and put back together a lot of times since this came out, and a lot of the NPCs have been dead and buried for years.


THE RUINS OF UNDERMOUNTAIN: LOW USABILITY


As I expect most Dragon Heist DMs will segue into the upcoming Dungeon of the Mad Mage, you can skip the original Undermountain. There is scant Waterdeep or Yawning Portal info to be found here.


FRE3 WATERDEEP: COMPLETELY USELESS



Don't be fooled by the title. This is one of the worst modules TSR ever released. This is a novel tie-in that makes the Dragonlance adventures look like sandboxes. The party doesn't even get railroaded to Waterdeep until towards the end. A couple of generic floor plans are all you might find useful in this turd.

Note: I don't own the City of Splendors box set, so I didn't feel comfortable recommending it. From what I understand, it reprints a lot of FR1 and the City System, so I never felt the need to seek a copy out. That said, it could be another good option, just keep in mind it might overlap a lot with other products.
Categories: Tabletop Gaming Blogs

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