Monthly Archives: August 2012

Gen Con 2012

Another Gen Con is behind us. Conventions like Gen Con are a paradox: when you’re working the convention, 5 days (4 days of convention + set up) is too long, but at the same time, it’s too short to do everything you want to do and see everyone you want to see. Since I have duties as Submissions Coordinator of the ENnie Awards, I have too little time to game at Gen Con. I played exactly three games while I was there (four if you count a demo): Pathfinder, Bulldogs!, and Project Ninja Panda Taco.

Pathfinder: I ran a Ptolus/Pathfinder game for some friends Wednesday evening. The PCs were reformed monsters from the Brotherhood of Redemption. There was a budding romance between the minotaur gunslinger/rogue and the troll fighter; my wife was a good sport to go along with the silly banter. It was interesting that they chose to bypass the Bluesteel door by chopping THROUGH the adjacent wall with an adamantine greatsword.

Bulldogs! Sci-Fi That Kicks-Ass: My wife and my first FATE game. I already loved what I read about the game and really enjoyed the system. My wife thought it was awesome and wants to play FATE (particularly Bulldogs!) again. Yeah, I’m down with that.

Project Ninja Panda Taco: You may remember this from the Kickstarter. We played with the creator of the game, Jennifer Steen (of Jennisodes). It’s sort of a hybrid improv/RPG. It was a lot of fun; another game my wife judges as “Awesome.” Actually, I think she may have said “Totally Awesome.” My Mastermind, Otto von Schnitzelpusskrankengescheitmeir was horribly ineffective and by the end of the game, he completed 0 projects. His minion, Larry the Loitering Lisper, however advanced to Mastermind status by the end of the game. I look forward to playing it more when I get my copy from the Kickstarter.

I also demoed a game of Edition Wars with the good folks from Gamer Nation Studios. It’s a card game that reminds me a bit of the good parts of Chez Geek, but with simpler mechanics. It was a lot of fun. I bought a copy at the con, but now I wish I’d supported their Kickstarter when I had the chance.

I bought way too much stuff. The games I’m most excited to play are Deadlands: Reloaded and Call of Cthulhu (I’m a late bloomer). I also picked up the Beta of Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, the new Star Wars RPG by Fantasy Flight Games. Despite my misgivings about the custom dice, (at least the Beta has stickers you can apply to create the dice yourself) I’m finding myself liking what I’m reading about the mechanics. I hate required fiddly bits and custom dice in RPGs, probably because I have SO many dice already, not being able to use them for a game is a barrier to entry for me. Of course, there is a conversion chart for regular polyhedrals, but that’s a pain in the butt.

The production values are really good. I was thrilled to see actual ARTWORK in this book, rather than having it crammed full of movie stills. It’s already my favorite visual presentation of a Star Wars RPG since WEGs 2nd edition (not the Expanded & Revised; I think they overdid the “Look! We can print in color now!”). For some reason, having original art in a Star Wars RPG book inspires me more than movie stills. Probably because it gets me thinking about how I can use the world instead of how it was presented to me (there’s a lesson there for people making licensed games).

The class & talent tree system reminds me a bit of The Old Republic MMO, but only so far as they have classes & talent trees. They’re not really implemented the same way. It uses a dice pool mechanic. I have no idea how it compares to WFRP, but I’ve heard it similar. It actually looks pretty easy once you get used to the symbols on the dice (and a small cheat sheet will help with that).

Edge of the Empire offers a smattering of species: bothan, droid, gand, human, rodian, trandoshan, twi’lek, and wookiee. I would have preferred mon calamari to gand, though, but it’s still a nice mix. I guess I’ll have to run a few sessions of it and see how things work.

The ENnie Awards ceremony went very well. The venue was the Grand Hall at Union Station and featured cathedral ceilings and stained glass. As Monte Cook said, we “leveled up” (the first ENnie Awards ceremony was held in an internet chatroom). You can see the complete list of winners here. Carlos, the official ENnie Awards photographer put pictures of the ceremony up on his Flikr account.

I’m still working on the Doctor Who post. I thought I would finish it up after I set up the booth Wednesday night or before I got started on Thursday. We all see how that worked out. The next Doctor StrangeRoll game will take place on Friday, August 31st, wherein the PCs will begin exploring the tomb of Pharaoh Amun-Re.

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Categories: Conventions, Star Wars RPG | Tags: | Leave a comment

Basic D&D Thoughts & Future Plans

When we wrapped up low-level Basic D&D play, I asked my players for their opinions on how the game played.

Finias Jinx’s player had this to say:
Pros:

  1.  I like the uniqueness of having to pick a race…in 2nd edition, everyone picked demi-humans because if you didn’t you were weaker, and in 3rd they changed it up so at least if you pick human you get something for it…an extra feat and such. In 1st edition you either picked the demi-human and all it’s limitations or human with no limits…I like that.
  2. I like the fact that you get the magic you get and you don’t pitch a fit. I just would rather have had more…see item 1 of cons.
  3. I like the fact that you progress faster or slower by class, especially for rogues…but see cons item 4.
  4. Very freeform, but perhaps a bit too free.

Cons:

  1. The magic items and stuff were few and far between…it was not as bad as that [specific name omitted] though…where there was only one magic item for the whole campaign or something outrageous.  I like more magic, but not so much that you end up having characters selling junk to get exactly what they want. 
  2. The combat mechanics are too simple. It’s more fun to see what’s going on in the room and maneuver around it. We sort of played a hybrid kind of combat, but it didn’t hold a candle to 3rd edition miniature battle rules.
  3. I don’t really like wilderness campaigns, so that was a drawback of X1 to me. I’d rather have done B2 in that case.
  4. The rogue skills are lame even at mid-level. The skills checks again way are better (and more fun) in 3rd edition.
  5. Few ways to customize your character beyond class/race.

Wikki Swiftwind’s player had this to say:
“In terms of fun factor, I thought the best parts (other than role-playing) had little to do with mechanics (e.g. figuring out how to bypass obstacles). I think the mechanics of character progression kind of suck.  One needs to gain a lot of XP to gain very little in power.  Doesn’t feel very heroic compared to other editions.  However, gains in spell casting DO feel like the characters are becoming more heroic. Since finding secret doors is often critical, I think that mechanic should be different.  Not really a fan of this mechanic in any edition, but at least in later editions, you could “take a 20″ if you search long enough. Growing up, I think I only played basic D&D a few times (less than 10) and mostly played AD&D.  My recollection is that all my friends thought AD&D really made the game a lot better.  In fact, since AD&D came out when I was 6 years old, I started playing AD&D.  I think we only played the basic system for the sake of trying it out.”

For background, one of these players is heavily involved with the Pathfinder Society and the other belongs to a board games group and prefers (I believe) 4th edition.

For my part, I like the ease of prep Basic D&D offers. I like that I can use AD&D adventures with no conversion and there aren’t a lot of fiddly rules and conditions I have to track. Basic D&D relies on a good deal of GM fiat, making it easy to rule on the fly without worrying if some book I haven’t seen or haven’t read thoroughly (but one of my players might have) is going to contradict me. I think sometime overly complex game mechanics can overshadow the story and turn a role-playing game into a roll-playing game. There’s nothing wrong with that particular play style, but it’s annoying to have one when you want the other.

After talking with the group, we’re definitely going to skip AD&D first edition in favor of AD&D 2nd edition when playing the AD&D Phase of the campaign. We feel there just aren’t enough differences in the game play to make it worth the tedium of playing the same adventures with those two editions. Speaking of playing the same adventures, something else I’m considering is NOT running the group through an entire series of modules, but, instead, if they go through the first part of an adventure in one system, play the NEXT adventure in the series with the next system (e.g. They’re playing I3: Pharaoh now with Basic D&D. They’ll play I4: Oasis of the White Palm with AD&D 2nd edition, and I5: The Lost Tomb of Martek with Pathfinder). That way, it won’t be quite so tedious.

One thing on the horizon that concerns me is D&D 4E. Wizards of the Coast has been pretty tight-lipped (as far as I know) about future plans for DDI as D&D Next develops. I’m concerned that the character creation & encounter creation tools for 4E will no longer be accessible by the time I get to the D&D 4E phase. My players, generally, are not the most ‘Net savvy players I know, so finding 3rd party replacements for these resources will be challenging. If WotC does, in fact, remove access to the 4E electronic tool, I will most likely NOT include a D&D 4E phase in this campaign. I don’t know anyone who does character creation for 4E without those tools, and at this point, I think creating characters without them (not to mention converting all the encounters) will be too much hassle for me to worry about. This campaign is supposed to be a fun hobby for me, not a challenging job.

Categories: Phase One - Basic D&D | Tags: | 1 Comment

Seventh Session Report – Pharaoh

“Lucky” Copperpot’s caravan made it way across the world to an exotic land of palm trees, oases, and fabled treasures. Wikki Swiftwind and Finias Jinx recruited additional people from the caravan into their little band of trouble makers. Pat the Dwarf was replaced by Bunny, Lorelei the Fighter was replaced by her sister Annastasia, and Herrick the Cleric was replaced by Nallon. The caravan seemed successful for a while and they stay out of trouble, accumulating much wealth. No one is quite sure how, but our heroes found themselves surrounded by armed horse men in the desert. One of them was reading a list of accusations: short-sheeting the wizards bed, placing him in a compromising position with a woman of ill-repute WHILE he was engaged with another woman, etc. etc. They don’t know for certain if the PCs were responsible, but the PCs WERE foreigners, and thus, a convenient scapegoat. They were given a choice: go into the Desert of Desolation and track the raiders who have been making their Lord’s life miserable or death by [insert unpleasant death here: there are many from which to choose!].

The PCs wisely decided to cooperation and go into the desert. It was not a hard choice since they were told they could keep any treasure they found. They were given provisions and supplies to last a few weeks (except water, they would have to find more on their own) as well as a choice of a draft horse or a camel each. In the end, they all chose camels and named them appropriately. Bunny named hers Thumper. Nalton named his Billy Bob Thornton. Wikki Swiftwind named his Flower. Finias Jinx named his Dumbass. Annastasia named hers Buttercup. They were also given a map inscribed with symbols that neither thief could decipher, nor could Wikki’s casting of Read Languages. (Mostly because no matter where I looked, I couldn’t find any translations in the adventure … even I had no idea what it was supposed to say.) 

Our heroes set off through the desert, following a path left by the raiders. A few hours in, they found what appeared to be some sort of pool of water. When Finias moved in to investigate, he was caught in the trap of a dustdigger! The creature (it’s similar to a pre-Special Edition sarlacc, except smaller) tried to make a meal of the thief, but was quickly killed when the rest of the party came to his aid. Pressing onward, after a few more hours, they found two pillars rising out of the sand. The path continued between them. Finias was able to read an inscription on the pillars: “The gates of Sule cure ye who enter unbidden.” Finding this warning silly, Finias urinated on the pillars.

By the time the day gave way to night, our heroes found themselves at a fork in the trail, marked by a fallen obelisk. The obelisk seemed to be a directional marker with two inscriptions: “Here lies the road of the kings,” and “There lies the road to the pyramid.” The directional arrows were eroded away, so they couldn’t tell which path led where. They choose to make camp for the night. During the 3rd watch, an orange glow appeared on the horizon. As the sky brightened toward dawn, they could see it was accompanied by a column of smoke. In the morning, it was still there. While it did not appear to be at the terminus of either trail they could follow, they decided to follow the trail that led generally in the same direction. A few hours later, the desert gave way to craggy hills. By the end of the second day, the trail came to an end. The smoke was still on the horizon, but was the only landmark in the otherwise featureless terrain.

That night, an apparition appeared. The apparition was not aggressive and spoke to them. It was the Amun Re, son of Tokash-Ru and gave a long-winded explanation of his life, death, and curse. Essentially, he was cursed to remain between worlds, unable to cross into the afterlife until his un-robbable tomb is defiled (the tomb was built on the backs of the people he swore to protect and nuture). He answered no questions, only pointing in the direction of his tomb. The tomb was basically in the same direction as the column of smoke, still rising on the horizon, so our heroes headed in the direction to which the apparition pointed.

After more hours of traveling through inhospitable terrain, our heroes arrived at a large pyramid surrounded by a wall. The entrance appeared to be through a temple  built on the southern side of the wall. Two men guarded the main entrance, demanding the new intruders state their purpose or leave. They were not amused by Annastasia’s insistence that they were here for the tour. The guards attacked, but were quickly defeated. Our heroes proceeded to explore the temple, killing any other dervishes they came across. Shortly after finding a statue with jeweled eyes, from which Finias and Annastasia promptly took one each, they prepared to explore the other side of the temple, despite having found the exit that led to the pyramid.

How many other dervishes can they defeat while making cruel suggestions as to what to do with the remains?

With names like Bunny, Thumper, Billy, Flower, Dumbass, and Buttercup, my players’ days of taking the Doctor StrangeRoll Campaign seriously have come to an end. Alas, my attempt to spin an epic tale in the land of pharaohs and mummies will probably devolve into a bunch of Stargate/Go’uld jokes and humor about the Middle East that will toe the line.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I bumped everyone up to 35,000 XP and we started the mid-level adventure portion of the Basic D&D phase of Doctor StrangeRoll. This put everyone except Wikki Swiftwind at 6th level. Now they’re getting access to some of the iconic D&D magic: fireballs and lightning bolts, as well as being leveled high enough to encounter more challenging opponents like mummies.

Stay tuned for some player reports on the game play of Basic D&D as seen through the eyes of players who prefer Pathfinder & D&D 4E, as well as a report on a Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space game we played last week when there weren’t enough players for the D&D game. The next Doctor StrangeRoll game will take place on August 31st. August 17th is Gen Con and we’ll all be there. 

Categories: Phase One - Basic D&D | Tags: | 2 Comments

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