Archive | Tabletop RPG

The heat wave has passed and my computer is once again reasonable to use during the day.  I’ve cycled into maintenance tasks in Minecraft.  I’ve reached the crux of the mods I’m working with and i’m up to farming beans (magic beans) to hybridize and build out my supply of Thaumcraft Essentia.

I spent several days hanging out with Katie of katilimade.com where we talked about Pathfinder, WoW and EVE Online.

I suspect we’ll have more coverage ideas on this blog in the nearing future.  I’m planning a brief jaunt into Neverwinter with dropping some money and playing some content.  I haven’t topped level cap there yet.  I topped ESO and completed the first-run plot, so I’m story-complete as far as I’m concerned.  Though I’ve toyed with the notion of running the other faction stories just to see how they compare.

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Dresden Files: Your Story

Once upon a time I was deep in a search for a class-less game system.  Having spent years mired in D&D 3.5, with it’s level progression at the front of my personal annoyance, I was in the market for a game with similar ideas (magic, adventure, tombs to rob) and conducted not a little research in this pursuit.

It wasn’t until years later my good friend Scott convinced me and my roommate to play Dresden Files.  At first I was caught relatively off guard.  Unlike many games you make characters last.  The people you’re about to play don’t come into the equation until after, as a group, you’ve talked about the game and the world and made decisions on key locations or people with which to interact.

So far I’m splitting my favor 50/50 with World of Darkness for ease of play.  While it makes an interesting story-spin for the Dresden Files books (which I’m told are quite good) I find it’s potential for other games is an under-discussed point.  You spend almost a whole session on building the world you’re about to venture into, why not sand off the minutiae of conventional Dungeon Plundering and weave a compelling story of adventure and high fantasy.

I’m not sure where I was going with this.  Dresden Files is worth playing if you happen to roll dice on a regular basis.Dresden Files Your Story

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Something New, Something Old

Part of my journey in 2014 is trying out new and old games, their mechanical route and figuring out what I like and don’t.  I’ve picked up more TableTop pencil and paper RPG books than I care to comment on.  Among them stories and histories that I can’t always remember.  I’ve started my run through Mutants & Masterminds, a journey that started some years ago as D&D 3.5 was offering it’s infrastructure to anyone who wanted it.  This lead to various games with basic rules that were all the same and only the details changed.  Crossbow here is a Lazer Kanon there.  It was what we might call a second Dark Age after TSR got devoured by Wizards of the Coast (who was then eaten by Hasbro).  History aside, it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t good.  Currently at it’s 3rd Edition it’s replaced some of that infrastructure for a simpler approach to Superhero gaming.

All you need is a single d20 and time.  For RPG veterans, it falls solidly between Storyteller system and Pathfinder for complexity with combat being the only troubling point.

Character construction is very open and allows for a variety of powers in styles I’ve played in other games.  Notably I rebuilt a City of Heroes character with the assistance of a sidebook they made “Power Profiles” which was easily the second best purchase I’ve ever made following a main book.  There they make themed suggestions on powers and build them using the rules in the main book.  No, there’s nothing new, no new powers or options.  Everything you ‘need’ is in the main book from civil weapons and vehicles to animals and thugs.  I took the time to build myself a resource document to see where Normal People sit compared to Supers.

It’s well done and and easily amusing.  You enjoy superhero table games, give me a chat we could meet online and play a dash or if you’re in the PDX we could have coffee over smashing a car and stealing minds.

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D&D: I don’t know what we’re doing, but I’m certain i’m not prepared for this..

And there we were, standing on a tower laden with five ballistae each capable of oblitering my team six ways from Sunday at least a half dozen times.  Each ballistae stockpiled with ammunition that would spell out the aforementioned doom should any one of them detonate via sharp impact or fire.  Being a aptly prepared wizard I did what I do best.. Edged what I’d call a leaning lightning bolt down a narrow 5ft line through five ugly dudes I really wanted to take off the battlefield.

They responded in kind by one of them trying to stab me with his impromptu spear at great disadvantage.  I did my wizard thing with a spell called Mirror Image which always seems to amaze the DM.  So several rounds later when the Barbarian had enough of the fight and the Ranger’s player, eager to recycle this character to the Great Beyond, exchanged what would be described in-character as a knowing look I started to panic a little.  The barbarian, who I’d Hasted as a means of empowering us to kick even more butt, rushed me and picked up the fighter and myself as he ran us like a linebacker hauling groceries over the edge of the tower, down it’s side and out into the forest some 100ft beyond.  Then the tower blew up.

I did that math.  That was a scary fight.

Post Update: As the Barbarian is rushing over the side of the tower I remark “Wait.. what about my Clone!?”

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Werewolf: Verona

I’m a geek of varied feather.  I play games, obviously, more often than I care admit sometimes.  Among my interests are Tabletop RPG’s.  Y’know.. the ones where you sit in a room and roll some plastic dice and drink Mt Dew til dawn rears it’s ugly head.

Friday nights are an open-mic night at my apartment.  Among the regular attendees one of us runs a game until we get bored or we need a break.  For a brief time it was a quiet TV interlude.  For the past few months it’s been Vampire in one capacity or another and very soon it’ll be Werewolf.

My roommate has engineered a diverse social structure for a fictional city set on the East Coast, one where all her games are based leading to a kind of familiarity you don’t often see in RPG’s.  You could talk to her for hours about the people in this city, what they’re up to and who pissed off whom.  Her and I often talk about npc’s in previous games and what we did or didn’t like about them.

Among her and my favorite was Alexi.  We’ll talk about characters later, I have so much space and so much time it’s bound to happen.

Lexicon for the Uninitiated:

Werewolf – Werewolf: The Forsaken (white-wolf.com)

Vampire – Vampire: The Requiem (white-wolf.com)

RPG – Role Playing Game

PC – Player Character (participant)

NPC – Non-Player Character (everyone you’re going to talk to, shoot at, talk about, bargain with or otherwise interact with all voiced and operated by the GM)

GM – Game Master (Also the Dungeon Master [DM], Moderator or Storyteller)

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On Vampire and under-used abilities

I’ve crossed it on occasion as a frequent argument.  Powers that nobody takes or uses, GM’s that argue it’s usefulness.

I fight back, I like to believe there are no choices bad in a tabletop RPG, merely varying in situational relevance.  Such was the discussion last night about having Animalism (the ability to speak and command animals as a Vampire) in a game set in the run-down un-recovered fragmented New Orleans mock-up we’re using.  I’ve wedged my foot into that door as I do with many GM’s, start small establish an idea and then remind them that this idea is workable.  That this idea would be well used here and there.

And there I was.. sitting in a worn-down ward of the city trying to make sense of some semi random murders and wishing I had more accurate information to move on.  “This is where Animalism would be good.” referencing an earlier argument on the usefulness of said powers.  The GM in question has come to an accord on the idea.  So I have at least that much victory.

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Shadowrun – Post-Industrial Espionage

This ends with Pie.

Team was hired to pick up some data.  Seems Corp A was hoarding some lucrative hot new mid-compact car design on isolated servers running their heavily fenced (10m tall) factory in the industrial corner of Hong Kong.  For this, they needed a hacker.

And Seamus was what they got.  He may not smell nice, his social habits lean on the edge of Hermit, but he knows his way around the matrix.  His inaugural run was brilliant, he was in and out of the system within a minute of plugging in.

The hard part was getting him within cables’ distance of the server.  For that we saw one invisibility spell, two bullets and a lot of blood.  A.. lot.. of.. blood.

The post-mission pizza, what to celebrate the quality work that had ensued, was interrupted with gunfire and Mayhem.  Seamus narrowed down the attackers to a commlink and a series of commcodes to a building in downtown occupied by a string of AA corps.

For the time, the question is looking more like ‘who’ will pay them.

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Shadowrun – Hong Kong: The Prelude

Dr Strange, Mayhem Molly and Sam Lee walked to the corner noodle shop “Wang’s Noodle”.  With over a thousand locations worldwide it was hard not to find one no matter where you were.  Rumor had it Zurich Orbital had two, but nobody could or would confirm.

They’d met after a local contact handed a stack of dossiers to one of them and suggested they ‘get a team together’.

2 hours later it was soykaf meetings.  They had some familiarity, they had some experience together.  Dr Strange, a shaman of Cat, was practiced in illusion and making uncomfortable situations.  Mayhem Molly was a razorgirl and general badass.  Sam Lee rounded out the trio as the resident gun-slinging huckster with a curious sense of humor.  Sometime, ask him about his Spanish friend.

And so they ate noodles and chatted quietly to themselves in the cool late-night air of Hong Kong.  That was when the girl showed up.  She needed help and desperately asked for it as six of the Ivory Dragons Triad showed up.  In true Triad fashion, they had bravado and they had numbers.  What they lacked was skill.

The fight wasn’t particularly quick, but it did start with a broken nose and ended with the two survivors running away bleeding and morally broken.  Molly hoisted Sam over her shoulder as Strange grabbed his discarded gun and they retreated to a nearby motel to lick their wounds.  Would the Triad retaliate?  Would the Johnson call then with actual work? Only time will tell.

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How I Spent my Summer Vacation

I recently found myself with a bulk of vacation time and so escaped from work, turned off my email and stocked up on hot pockets. What follows is a rough accounting of my journeys through the gaming landscape and my occasional stops.

Kingdoms of Amalur: the Reckoning

I’m something in the order of 40 hours committed to KoA:R with an end in sight far down the road.  If I had to guess, I believe I’m another 10 or 20 hours shy of the end by the way I’m playing which is doing roughly 70% of the side quests that get offered to me before getting bored and moving the plot along.  So far, I’ve really enjoyed KoA:R and would definitely recommend it to my Fable-playing friends.  The combat mechanic gets a little frustrating at times, as I can’t dodge around enemy swings and often get ‘juggled’.

There’s a definite order to the quests and a progression they don’t illustrate very well.  I nearly skipped over an entire region of the game styled after some rocky badlands.  It was only by nature of my curiosity that I followed a side-quest through the mountains and into the arid countryside to discover this area.

It’s a large game, varied in colors and styles and easy to pickup and play.  I’ve enjoyed my time with it but by Wednesday evening I’d had just about enough for a bit.

EVE Online

I don’t play often, largely I keep my account active to maintain skill training so that when I do play I’ve cleared 33 day training humps.  I played a fair bit, 2 or 3 hours at a time through my break.  I made money, I lost money.  Tried my hand at marketing.

I found I’m only really good at PvE combat.  That is, I can fit a ship, shoot stuff and generally advise new players on skill progression and ship selection for what they’re looking for.

To date, I’ve lost every PvP encounter I’ve entered.

EVE is a Sandbox MMO, what you do is more a matter of imagination than anything else.  If you’re tired of the Theme Park MMO (of which World of Warcraft and many others are part) then you might give EVE a spin.  Drop me an email and I’ll send you an invite and can give you some rudimentary advice on where to start or what to look at.  There’s a lot of resources and frankly, much of it is rampant with biased opinion.  malformedfork (at) gmail

League of Legends

A friend of mine talked me into trying it out.  Free to Play, you’re offered a selection of Champions from various worlds each week and given the chance to throw down with other humans or against a limited AI.  By Limited, I mean you’ll wind up fighting Trundle Bot more often than you care to count.

A neat game with a built-in progression in the form of talent-like ‘Masteries’ and Runes.  Fights earn you points, points you spend on runes or permanently unlocking Champions.

The only downside to the game in general I found is that if you like say Lulu (this adorably random fae sorceress with her faerie companion) and want to play her all the time you can buy her either with points purchased from real money or with earned points.  But if you enter a match with another person who has Lulu and wants to use her, it’s first-come first serve and you’re likely out of luck.

The upside is that you can usually find a range of Champions that meet your play style or interests.  It does require some research both in-game and out.

I like the game and I’d recommend it to a few of my friends, but I’m hard-pressed to begin comparing it.  That’s the problem with cornerstone games.  You use them to describe other games, but how do you sum up quickly the game that forms the corner?  Try it, it’s free.  Also one of these premises where if you note me as your referrer then I get bonus points.  I never turn down bonus points.  EgoProvince is my handle in-game.

Portal 2

Went from “Haven’t played at all” to “Fully beat the multiplayer portion” inside of six or so hours.  Not terribly long, the puzzles tricky but not impossible in complexity.  A fun romp and fortunately if you want more there are some quality user-generated maps out there.  Not a game I’d recommend to everyone, as this game has the power to induce motion sickness.  It did to me the first time I watched.

Crimson Alliance

I picked this up last summer during XBox’s Summer of Arcade or there abouts.  A cheap little arcade excursion you buy access to the game through purchasing one of the class packs.  For 10 bucks I got the three classes available.  After that it’s a skill-based button smasher with 4 or 5 hours of content.  I’ve given it more than that, as I pursue higher scores and try to perfect my technique.  It really shines when you have more people and are able to employ strategies beyond dodge, slashslashslash, dodge.

City of Heroes

I’m eagerly awaiting Guild Wars 2 and at present CoH is the only game I have access to that really scratches a particular adventurous itch I have.  But I haven’t played since around January this year and though the game is Free to Play I haven’t felt the interest.  I was reminded at the end of my vacation as I tried to login several times and was turned away by the low-grade textures and the stiff animations.  It’s showing it’s age.  If I weren’t looking at prettier, smoother, more refined games in my near future I might look past the failings.

I do eke out some measure of reward from CoH, it’s not without it’s merits.  It’s one of the few places you can build a team of -anyone- and get stuff done.  Full team of Blasters, check.  Totally doable.  Full team of Tankers? Yeah, slow but manageable.  Full team of Controllers? Yeah, I hear of those regularly.  It’s been descibed to me as MMO on training wheels.  And I rather agree to a point.  There’s room for deep technical builds in the mechanic they use, but right out of the box it’s the easiest MMO I’ve ever played.  Yes, even easier than WoW.  Not to say faster, but certainly easy to pick up a character and ride all the way to 50 without knowing what you’re doing.

Unfortunately, for all my time with City of Heroes I’m afraid I may be soon for retirement and never going back.  Only time will really tell.

EPIC SPELL WARS OF THE BATTLE WIZARDS: DUEL AT MT. SKULLZFYRE

Ridiculous and quick to play, this is a card game I picked up a month or two ago and it took me this long to find someone to play with.  It’s great.  I’m just going to say that.  It’s easy to play, the mechanics are simple and it goes fairly fast once you have the basics under your feet.  Much like Robo Rally, you can lose your footing pretty fast as I had to give up a precious artifact to my opponent what cost me the game.  Sad times, but such is the way of things when you bargain with dark powers and throw hastily constructed spells back and forth.

Totally a beer and pretzels game and easily increased fun as you add additional players.

Hunter Prey

A movie in the style of Enemy Mine about some aliens tracking an escaped prisoner after their ship crashes.  The audio is tricky at the start as they were helmets and are semi hard to understand.  Don’t fret, you aren’t missing much as I was able to keep up with the plot through to the end.

Conan: the Barbarian (2011)

I like it, but I’ve been a fan of Conan since the original movie with the Governator.  My only complaint against the movie is that the evil witch-daughter really needed to use more of that magic she was huffing earlier in the film.

Sneakers

A relaxing film about some computer nerds and espionage.  It’s relatively quiet and I spent Monday night curled up on the couch nursing a headache while I watched this for my third or fourth time.

Closing Comments

And that concludes my Summer Vacation.  Seven days of games, pizza, soda and sleepless nights.  See you all next time!

-Mercator

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Shadowrun, a GM perspective

I love being a GM.  I truly do.  I enjoy playing on occasion, but if you ask my girlfriend I make a horrible Player.  I much prefer to run things.

Very few things satisfy like the ability to incite panic and mayhem.  A well coordinated team will have a plan inside of 10 minutes and follow through.  A less-coordinated team will fiddle with the details for a while before eventually falling back onto the Run and Gun approach.

We’re taking a brief hiatus from the plot and the game in general while one of my players is out of town.  During this time I’ve offered them a chance to change characters.  Having planted the seed of possibilities, I wait to see what kind of wondrous options arise.

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