Monday, August 27, 2012

Chronicle 014: Star Wars


Finally! Fantasy Flight has announced that they are putting the license to use.

Take a look. I'm excited!

Not that I need another RPG system to learn, but this should be good. Although my guess is that FF will use their acclaimed system that's used in Rogur Trader, Deathwatch and Dark Hersey. Playing as a band of heroes during the Rise of the Rebellion will hopefully bring back the classic feel that we all experienced in the original films.

I did not see a reference to Jedi, which can be a good thing, as Wizards of the Coast made Jedi to be GODS in the Star Wars Universe. If you played any of the older versions of SW, if you didn't play a Jedi you were sort of lack luster during play. So perhaps by excluding them from game play, at least initially, then we'll see a more balanced party system. Not to say that the all powerful Force wont be in the game, probably a slow integration of it, but I can see it becoming something you develop into.

If you've played any of FFs previously mentioned games (I'll take what I know from Dark Hersey), level progression was a career path. You chose your character class and then as you gained experience you gained access to improved feats and skills. And instead of a numeric classification (1 thru 20) you gained a new title. So a Solider could become a Demolitionist, having access to skills and feats set towards that title. Meaning that your character becomes more specialized the further you develop your character. Not to say that you won't have access to other things, you just won't be as good in certain skills as someone who chose a different path. Compare it to prestige classing.

I'm really looking forward to this game. However, it's only in the Beta stages, leaving only a few the opportunity to play test this new game.

(Yes I know 14 comes after 13, but I've had writer's block)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Chronicle 012: Savage Worlds - A Review


About a year or so ago I bought the Savage Worlds: Explorer's Edition. This thin, soft cover, inexpensive sourcebook was my first look into this game. I had seen it several times on the shelves last year, but knew absolutely nothing about it. Tony, at Neverland Games, brought my attention to it when I was looking for a new system to run. The groups I played in, at that time, were playing several different games, but the systems were all the same. To me, the system was specific for that genre, and there wasn't much give and take with the world in which you wanted to play. Sure you could hand wave the setting and make a fantasy game take place in modern times, but that thought had never occurred with these groups (at least, not to my knowledge).

So Tony told me about Savage Worlds, especially pushing the price and versatility of the system. At the time he was looking for someone to run a weekly game (well any game really), but I was unavailable due to life. I went home and read the book once through (more liked skimmed) and downloaded a couple one sheet adventures.
----Side Note: Savage Worlds is awesome for this alone. They offer an entire adventure that is printed on the front/back of one sheet of paper. All the fluff is pulled out; there are no descriptions, no stat blocks, just the critical information that you (the GM) need to run the game. Everything else you could need is in the main sourcebook----
The thought of running  the game excited me (as does any new system that I pick-up) and I informed one group that I was willing to run a game or two. Alas, life got in the way. The sourcebook soon found a place on my shelf and the adventures went MIA.

Fast-forward to a couple months ago with the release of: Savage Worlds: Deluxe Edition. I snagged a copy of the online pdf and took a read. The rules once again sucked me in. What I found fascinating was their use of a single target number to determine a dice roll success or failure. Target Number: 4. All you have to do is roll at or above this, and pretty much no matter what it is you succeed. There can be conditional modifiers to this number, but otherwise, you just need to a roll a 4.

So, which die do you roll to try and hit this TN? That depends. There are no d20 rolls. NONE. The dice used are the d4 to the d12. Your stats are based off of one of these five die types (much like in the Firefly RPG). There are five abilities (Dexterity, Smarts, Strength, Vigor, and Spirit), and there are skills tied into those skills (like is all other systems). Each of which are bought with points (5 for the abilities and 15 for the skills) when the character is created. Picking out some Edges (aka Advantages) and some Hindrances (aka Disadvantages) help round out your character. And then finally there are some Derived Stats that come from all the above. And POOF! you have a character ready to play. Or you could have skipped all that a used one of the archetypes that are brilliantly presented in the book. Regardless of your character building option you are now ready to play Savage Worlds.

There are many "savage" settings for this system, including Deadlands, 50 Fathoms, and Weird Wars. Each have a unique twist to them that sets them apart, but maintains the same game mechanics. The rules allow you to also play in a high fantasy setting similar to D&D. Or play super villains in a setting called Necessary Evil where all the super heroes have died defending Earth from an alien invasion, and the only people left to fight are the villains. You can also have games set in the modern era, like d20 Modern or Call of Cthulhu.

This past Friday I was finally able to run a game for two brothers, Chris and Tim. Both have years of gaming experience and are great at analyzing rules, as they are R-O-L-E players first and R-O-L-L players second. What's going to make the game more enjoyable, is a common idea for them. First let me point out that Savage Worlds presents their One Sheet adventures in such a way that you could possibly play an adventure with one person. While this wouldn't be as fun, it is plausible. But with two, we were at least able to have a lead character (Tim) and a major support character (Chris). I didn't feel there was a need to have any NPCs, as the rules are written to tell a story.

Neither had played a Savage World game before so there was some introduction required. However, I was greatly assisted by this with a beginner's character sheet, aka Training Wheels. This sheet explained where stats were derived from and presented a summary of actions, all while maintaining a front only character sheet. There was no flipping from front to back, it was all right there on page one. As well, to get to the game quicker I had them choose which archetypes they wanted to play. These are great as they allow for some customization -- permitting the player to choose their own Edges and Hindrances. Tim took advantage of this and let his choices dictate who his character would become. Where Chris had a preconceived notion of who he wanted to play and made his choices based on that concept. In the end Tim played Manny Mans an investigator, and Chris played Joan Earhart, a Fencing Fighter.

Chris' choice in character slightly altered my perception on the overall feel of the canned game that I was going to run (which was in the core rulebook). So instead of having a straight up Detective/Horror story it became more Pulp Horror, which was completely fine. I set the adventure in 1944 Hagerstown (where I live) and set the events in motion in which the heroes discovered that a vampire was feeding on workers in a renovated theater.
----Reminder: when pitting monsters against heroes, be sure to know how that monster can be killed----
When the heroes faced off against the vampire and his youngling, the heroes wiped the floor with them. Tim killed the youngling in one shot, and Chris flashed his blade and brutalized the elder in two rounds. Which shouldn't have happened. One of the descriptors I missed was that vampires can only be killed in several ways. Holy Water, Holy Symbols, a Stake through the Heart and something else were the ONLY ways to cause wounds. While Chris had Holy Water, he never used is, as I had mistakenly permitted him to kill the foul creature with a mundane weapon. So what should have been a hard fought battle, turned into a ass-whooping. Oh well, I know better now.

One of the other cool things that I enjoyed about Savage Worlds was how combat initiative was handled. Instead of rolling dice, as it is in most rpgs, you are dealt a card (from a standard deck of cards). Higher card goes first, and in the result of a tie the tie breaker is determined by suit: Spade, Heart, Diamond, Club. And while in other rpgs the order of combat never changes, in each round of Savage Worlds a new card is dealt. This way no one person has to go last each round. As well, if a Joker is dealt, then that person can go at anytime and even interrupt another character from going. Once a Joker is dealt, the deck is reshuffled.

I think this system is fantastic! Compared to recent play tests of Sword's Edge and the Dresden Files, this game ranks very high on my replay list. It's versatility for settings is great, and it's ease of use is nearly perfect. I highly recommend you at least pick-up the pdf version of this game on DriveThruRPG. It is my opinion that this system would easily replace the systems used for Star Wars, Shadowrun, or Dungeons & Dragons or Legend of the Five Rings.

Until next time gamers.

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Saturday, August 4, 2012

Chronicle 011: Dice


In almost every RPG I've played, dice were involved. Whether it was Exalted (d10), Dark Heresy (d100), WEG Star Wars (d6), or D&D (d20 system) we all came to the table with a multitude of dice.

ice come in all sorts of colors and styles, and ranged in type from marble to metal. Some of use have mismatched sets that we've collected over the years. While others of us seek out the next perfect set in our local gaming store as if we were searching for a sign that the Gaming Gods exist.

But why is this? What's with this obsession with different dice?

From my standpoint, an avid collector of dice, I must say that dice are like children. Without a doubt you'll have a favorite. You'll have a bastard. And then you'll have the red-headed step child that you wish wasn't there, but keep around because you have some odd attachment to it.

Your favorite die will change from time to time. There will be one day when the dice land in your favor, and so you keep that set close. No one else can touch it or even breathe on it. But then one day, and it always happens, where the die will not be in your favor. These days, where the Gaming Gods are not looking upon you in favor, you curse your dice and banish them to the dice bag. "Shame on you dice. You have failed me this day." So you reach into your Crown Royal bag and pick out a new set of dice. When these produce better results they become your new favorite, for the next couple games.

The bastard set is your cursed dice. And everyone has a set of these. No matter when you roll them they always do the opposite of what you need them to do. The very first set I had was a black d20 set from Wizard's Star Wars game -- a box set called Invasion of Theed. No matter if I was the GM or a player, when I need to a critical hit, I got a critical failure. When I needed to make an ability check I'd fail. If a player was about to die I'd pray that the dice wouldn't come up a hit. Yet low and behold the attack would and result in the player's death. "Bastard!" I'd curse my dice.

Finally, there's that red-headed step child set of dice. It's a set that has no two dice from the same set. You vaguely remember where each die came from and maybe one matches a set you have. This may be a set you  proudly use or a set you hide away, denying their existence.   They sort of double as your bastard dice, so you keep another full set on hand when you need a "good set". While I don't have a set like this, I have seen them in many a dice bag.

So again. Why the obsession? I believe it stems from us needing choices. In life we desire the option to choose our fate. Do we take a chance with the bastard dice? Do we use a favored son? Or, do we bring out the mix-matched dice and hope the Gaming Gods are on our side? We need choices. It's like, which game to play. We're not always in the mood to play D&D, so we pull out Victoriana, or Sword's Edge. Choice.

Choose wisely my friends.

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