Sunday, 30 September 2012

Spooky Ooky Stuff

This weekend I've actually had time to just kickback at home and catch up on a bit of reading/watching. A couple things of note/interest:

I finally caved in and got on-board the highly successful Horror on the Orient Express kickstarter before it ended. Bully!

The spooky month approacheth: So I ordered a hardcopy of Dread. But the anticipation might get the better of me waiting for it to arrive and I might just grab the PDF in the meantime.

Also speaking about other Hallowe'en appropriate games, I'm considering picking up Werewolves of Miller's Hollow: The Village for this years' Hallowe'en party. WoMH is a party game that's pretty much a slightly jazzed up version of your basic werewolf or mafia-style game of the group collectively trying to uncover who the killers are amongst them before they out number the innocent. Last year I did grab the basic Werewolves of Miller's Hollow, though attempting to teach the game to party goers later in the evening turned out to be futile given how much some of them had had to drink, and I ended up losing a card of the game. (Nothing crucial, I just like to have a full set.) Either way, I might get it or I might wait. It is something I think I'd like to add to my library.

Another werewolf/mafia-style game, though less thematically appropriate for the season, is The Resistance. I first heard it about soon after I began watching Shut Up & Sit Down, a great web series about two British blokes that play board and card games. The Resistance has the core mechanics of werewolf/mafia, but players aren't removed from play at the end of each round, which is nice because being left out is boring.

My buddy is looking to pick up Fiasco, but our FLGS doesn't currently carry it. Fiasco is an award-winning, GM-less, collaborative storytelling game that requires only a handful of d6's and little-to-no preparation. The Players are members of a small-time caper that goes disastrously awry. Wil Wheaton's Tabletop has a great two-part session play-through of a Playset he co-wrote, and Shut Up & Sit Down has a short written review of it on their site. Very intriguing.

I read two interesting opinion articles on the current state of Dungeons & Dragons: D&D Needs to Die and D&D Needs to Live. Both make very valid points, but neither help me decide on my current stance on impending 5E or D&D Next as it is currently known. An associate of mine suggested I download the current playtest material and I did. I figured I should at least give it a shot and be at least somewhat pro-active in shaping the new edition. But I don't know who'd be objective through the playtest as many I know are already prejudiced against it or d20 in general for various reasons. I shall remain to be seen.

Cheers! ;{١

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Pact Magic (and Roommates)

So this past weekend I travelled up island to meet up with two of my best buds and old roommates. And just like old times we decided to bust out some 3.5E D&D. It had been quite a while since I last rolled up a character on this incarnation of the d20 system, which used to be our bread and butter when we were living together almost 5 years ago. It felt nostalgic, like slipping into a pair of old, comfortable shoes. Although these shoes are comfy, having played many other systems since last, I wouldn't want to wear them for a long trip if you get the idea. They'd chafe after a rigorous hike. But there's nothing better to wear when taking it easy and catching up on old times with good friends.

For anyone's interest, I decided to keep my character "relatively" simple as far as the VAST options that the 3.5 library offers, by playing a 15th level Binder named Ragnar Lokison (I've been reading about Norse Mythology again.). For those uninitiated, a Binder is a base class introduced in Tome of Magic. (That's the 3.5E book, not the 2E book. ;-] ) Binders make pacts with entities that shouldn't be from a place outside existence called Vestiges, who in exchange for being briefly bound to one's soul and experiencing what it feels to exist again, they grant the Binder various supernatural abilities and powers. Binders fit an interesting party role, being they have the potential to fill any role required by selecting certain Vestiges that grant associated abilities and powers. I believe this makes them I highly versatile class, though like a Bard, they wouldn't fill a role as well as one particularly suited to it.

Binders and pact magic really clicked with me when I first got Tome of Magic. The other two magic systems; Shadow and Truename, are interesting too, but I really dig all the different concepts in Pact magic: The idea that entities exist outside the multiverse and beyond the various deities; through simple yet forbidden rituals one can contact these entities and make pacts with them, and possibly have your actions guided or influenced by them from making a "poor" pact; and physically manifesting a sign when your harbour a vestige. (like growing a extra digit on each hand, your body taking on the appearance of cracked stone, or teeth growing out of your skull.)

It all kinda smacks both Lovecraftian and Faustian, without being a blatant take on the Mythos, or a contrived 'deal with the devil'. Nor does it really disrupt established D&D cosmology much. (If you're looking for Lovecraftian-esque D&D monstrosities, check out Lords of Madness, another one of my favourite splat books.)

All of this is ripe with great roleplaying potential for both players and GMs that I haven't seen in many other classes. But, because it can rely so heavily on roleplay to really bring out the class, one would need a GM or players with shared interest in Pact magic to play the part. Otherwise all the fluff would just get waved aside like any other magic system. Unfortunately this kinda happened to me, as I only had a brief chance to play a Binder many years ago, certainly not long enough to get deep into the role. So, I took this opportunity to try giving it another shot, even if only for a short time. Needless to say it was wicked awesome. :)

Now that I've home-brewed stuff for a number of different systems, I'd like to take a shot a creating my own Vestige. This can be tricky, as you need to balance the number of abilities/power granted by the Vestige without making it too over or underpowered for its level. As of this post, WotC still has a couple articles up on designing Vestiges I'll have to read up on later.

Whilst in town, I swung by a local used bookstore I used to visit while living there and picked up a copy of the Spawn of Azathoth campaign for CoC, and all three books of The Lando Calrissian Adventures trilogy.

We also got a chance to play Umläut; which was loads of fun. I played an over-the-top blackened death metal band called Morbid Prophecy, my buddy Mike played a Celtic folk metal band called Bleeding Haggis, and Josh was Thunder Crotch, a glam/power metal group. Much metal mayhem ensued.

All in all it was an awesome nostalgic sabbatical with old friends.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Music To Roleplay To: Conan

Today on Music To Roleplay To, we arm ourselves for harrowing adventure and bloody conflict in forgotten ages common to so many mighty Sword and Sorcery tales! The most well known figure of this genre is of course Conan; "the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet." as created by Robert E. Howard.

Conan the Usurper

Although this instalment might be dedicated to the famous barbarian, we are not limiting ourselves to just adventure in the Hyborian Age. This collection plays well to any game played in a Sword and Sorcery style setting, (and I'm not talking about the brand imprint by White Wolf either) and other related genres such as gladiatorial Sword-and-Sandal epics, Dying Earth subgenre works like the Dark Sun campaign setting and the Zothique cycle, or Sword and Planet works like the Barsoom series of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

    Swords & Sorcery Cover
  • 300 by Tyler Bates
  • Age of Conan by Knut A. Haugen
  • Beowulf by Alan Silvestri
  • Clash of the Titans by Ramin Djawadi
  • Conan the Barbarian, and Conan the Destroyer by Basil Poledouris
  • Conan the Barbarian (2011) by Tyler Bates
  • Diablo, Diablo II, & Diablo III by Matt Uelmen & Russel Brower
  • Gladiator by Hans Zimmer and Lisa Gerrard
  • Hercules: The Legendary Journeys by Joseph LoDuca
  • Inspired by The Witcher by various artists
  • John Carter by Michael Giacchino
  • Krull by James Horner
  • Kull the Conqueror by Joel Goldsmith
  • Red Sonja by Ennio Morricone
  • Rome: Total War by Jeff van Dyck
  • Spartacus: Blood and Sand by Joseph LoDuca
  • The 13th Warrior by Jerry Goldsmith
  • Xena: Warrior Princess by Joseph LoDuca

Lin Carter's Lemuria

RPGs these tunes could work well in: Any of the various Conan games, Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of HyperboreaBarbarians of Lemuria, any iteration of the Dark Sun campaign setting, or any fantasy RPG featuring fast-paced, action-rich adventures. Spice in some music from my Mythos playlist and you'd have the makings of a decent collection for Lamentations of the Flame PrincessCarcosa, or any other weird fantasy roleplaying game.

Leave a comment if you have any suggestions for additional listening!

Mighty Thews!

Saturday, 8 September 2012

The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen

A few days back I was on the hunt for a birthday present for a good gamer friend of mine. I had an idea what his interests were, but I was concerned that I might find something he may already have had or something that would not fall within his pursuits. Time had began to run short and I had still not found what I considered to be the right gift and was close to resigning to something more base when I happened across it in my FLGS. It was amusing and interesting enough that I felt it might suit his personality, which in fact did. It certainly piqued own interest as well, so I picked up a copy for my own collection.

I happened upon it tucked away far from where one would least expect to find it, literally gathering dust. A terrible shame considering how magnificent this piece of work is and the praises that have been heaped upon it. Now, if you haven't guessed already by the title and the image, the object I'm referring to is The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen, a "Game of Telling Tales & Playing Roles" as it were. There, sitting on a shelf amongst a mixed assortment of spin-off gaming trade-paperbacks, were three copies of the ‘Gentlemen’s Edition' of this game. These hardcover editions were limited run to a 1000 copies, and have long been out of print from the publisher since it was released in October 2008. And there three of them sat neglected and gathering dust!

Anyway, more about the game itself, which is simple as it is clever and amusing. The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a collaborative storytelling game where the players take turns regaling each other with fantastic tall-tales spun from short but interesting requests in attempt to concoct the most amusing story, whilst the listeners can add more complexity and depth to each story by wagering twists through objections and corrections with tokens. (The whole ante and barter with tokens kinda reminds me how Fate points are used in FATE games. A precursor perhaps?) The game objective itself is not to acquire tokens nor to lose them, as once everyone has told one story, each player gives all of their tokens to the player they think told the best story, the winner being determined by whom has the most tokens once the game concludes.

Despite its simplicity, the thing that I believe makes TEAoBM stand apart from other collaborative storytelling games such as Umläut, is the utterly brilliant writing of the whole thing. The entire book is written as if by the Baron himself (with assistance from his publisher), and is rife with all the pomposity, exaggeration, and digression of an 18th century nobleman. The book itself is a hilarious read, and helps set the mood for a raconteur of "true" flights of fancy. :)


Monday, 3 September 2012

New Stunt: Shoot the Bullet

So today my buddy Fraser and I were watching The Shadow starring Alec Baldwin (a seriously corny film), and there was this one scene where the eponymous hero and the villain simultaneously fire a shot at it each other and their bullets collided head-on. This extraordinary feat has occurred several times in media, but I do find it a perfect match in Pulp. And since Spirit of the Century lacked a Stunt that allowed one to perform such an action, I decided to whip one up. I present to you: Shoot the Bullet!


Shoot the Bullet [Guns]

   "I dunno how he did it boss, but he shot down da bullet before it could even hit the mayor!" 
Requires Trick Shot and at least one other Guns stunt. 
Once per scene as a reaction, your character may spend a fate point in an attempt use their Guns skill to defend themselves or an other target in range and sight against a single ranged projectile attack or maneuver that your character is aware of. The projectile's owner compares his skill result (normally Guns or Weapons) against your character's Guns result, (the +2 from Trick Shot applies if the projectile itself is solid and larger than a bullet) and if you succeed, your shot collides with the projectile and it's action is unsuccessful. Otherwise the action proceeds on its original target as normal. Normally the Guns skill does not allow characters to defend themselves as well as attack. 

Labour Dabour

"Todaybor Day is a Labor Day!"

So what's new and interesting since I last posted?

Well, last weekend we were actually going to bust into some Spirit of the Century! But we ended up being short two players, and despite it being designed as a pick-up game I chose not to run it because I planned out this awesome pulpy story-arc and I'd hate my other players to miss it. I ran it minus one player yesterday and it was loads of fun. I feel I've got a decent handle on the FATE system, though there was a lot of jumping around referencing rules. I can't wait till the next session.

My schedule at work has shifted, and I once again work on Fridays during the day shift so now I can finally get back to see my Dresden Files group on a regular basis. I was great to be back with the gang. Since my original character Edward had kinda drifted into the background as an NPC in my absence, I decided to start a fresh new character: A Werewolf Drifter!

Our regular GM for Dresden Files is taking a break, letting one of us run something in the game and Nathaniel stepped up to the plate with an arc based off of the indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast. Both Jason and I decided to use that theme as a hook for designing our characters. There's a brief overview of his background and aspects below but first I'd like to address something:

Playing or running anything related to First Nation/Native American cultures can be rather tricky, depending who you're playing with. The major concern tends to be doing/saying something that could be considered derogatory or offensive, and so I think many shy away from the prospect. Though this could hold true to any culture or ethnic group to whom you're not a member or familiar with, in most Canadians this can be a very delicate topic when it comes to the indigenous peoples of our country. It's where ignorance of a culture can really hit home because when you consider it they were the original inhabitants of the country you now live in but you may know very little about them. Some would say one could be more forgiven of being ignorant of the culture of Azerbaijan because you've had no first hand contact with it. But aboriginal culture is ingrained in Canadian culture, though many Canadians don't not know the deeper meanings behind it.

I think we all know in our group that if this does occur it's unintentional and not meant to cause disrespect to any culture or people, so that is why we're fine with playing this concept. I am Métis in background, but this will never be used as an excuse for being insensitive. So if I happen to offend anyone, I am sorry.

That said, I have made my character part-Chinookan and based several of his aspects around Chinook Jargon. Everything else comes from being a werewolf and a drifter.

Character: Robert London
Template: Were-Form
High Concept Aspect: Werewolf Siwash
Trouble Aspect: Loyal to a Fault
Background: Robert was born the youngest of seven to a Chinookan mother and an unknown father, thus making him an outcast in his own family and tribe. His closest companion growing up was the family dog, an Alaskan Malamute named Keish.  Phase Aspect: Misunderstood Mutt.
Rising Conflict: Robert knew he was different, but didn't realize the extent of it until the fateful day when he and Keish were ambushed by a cougar in the woods. Keish attempted to protect Robert from the mountain lion, and was badly injured doing so. This action unleashed something hidden in Robert and he took on the form of a Vancouver Island Wolf and with Keish, drove off the cougar, although Keish died of his wounds soon after. Phase Aspect: Pack Mentality.
The Story: Robert soon left his family and set out on his own as a vagabond into the world. He made his way around Canada and the US hitch-hiking whilst panhandling, busking, and working odd jobs. Phase Aspect: Walking the Earth.
Guest Star: During his time abroad, Robert met many interesting people, saw many strange things, and learned a great deal. But he had never encountered all three of these at once until he met an odd drifter named Bart. Phase Aspect: Wisdom from the Gutter.
Guest Star Redux: Whilst hunting near Bella Bella, Robert came across Kelly K. who had been wounded whilst pursuing a cruel kushtaka or kooshda. They banded together, tracked down the evil spirit, and banished it for good. Phase Aspect: Skookum/Cultus.

Vancouver Island Wolf

A few other things of note:
  • I caved in and put in an order for The Kerberos Club at my FLGS today when I went to pick up more Fudge dice for my friends and last night's game. Unfortunately they need to order the dice in as well.
  • An interesting article on a disappointing D&D 5E playtest at Gen Con. Apparently he had a much better time playtesting 5E at D&D Experience.
  • A great Game Geeks review of Cthulhu by Gaslight and Stealing Cthulhu.
  • Because fighting Nazis is pretty pulp: Seriously? Nazis at the Center of the Earth? Sounds like their trying to ride the coat-tails of Iron Sky.