Saturday, October 30, 2010

4 Years on a Free Trader, 12 in the Imperial Marines, 8 Among the Space Pirates, and 4 as a Belter: A Starting Traveller Character

This last week I created a few Traveller* characters, mainly out of boredom and restlessness.

I find that making a Traveller character can be sort of an epic experience; when you finish making the character, you feel like you've played an entire campaign, particularly if you like to fill in the details in your mind the way I do. Traveller characters have a tendency to feel very....grizzled.
"Kid, after 12 years in an Imeperial Ground Assault Unit, you learn a thing or two about trust..."

I think other bloggers have mentioned this, but the game stands in stark contrast to most editions of D&D/AD&D, where you start out as a 16-20 year old who can cast one spell per day, or has a about a 25-30% chance of successfully hitting a guy in chain mail+shield in melee combat. (Or has a 5% chance to hide in shadows, etc, etc.)

I also have to admit that I have little to no interest in the Third Imperium setting, but then again I never really dug on Greyhawk or Forgotten Realms, either. Making up your own setting is a major part of the fun of DMing.

*Mongoose Pocket Edition. Don't hate.

Any Tunnels & Trolls lovers out there to answer a question or two?

I found a copy of Tunnels & Trolls online for about a buck... but it seems to be an imported English version from Corgi books. It has a red cover with a slight variation of the 5th edition cover featuring a troll getting blasted by TTYF. It was printed in 1986. My question is this: does it differ significantly fro T&T 5?

My other question is: are T&T 5.5 and 7/7.5 significantly better or improved over 5th edition?

I ask out of pure curiosity, of course... if I wanted to play T&T, I'd just rock the free clone, Lances & Labyrinths, which I printed out last summer. As anyone who reads this blog knows, however, I am often overcome by a strange sort of biliophilia, especially where gaming books are concerned.

Thanks in advance.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pinnacle... why do I not love you more?

Hmm...tonight I made one of my infrequent visits to Pinnacle's websites. I was reminded that Pinnacle probably wins, hands down, for free downloadable goodies. (Especially fold-up paper minis.)
I was particularly delighted to find an adventure for the Hell on Earth setting using Savage Worlds. I'm not sure how long it has been up, since I don't get around to Pinnacle very often, but it makes me hopeful that Hell on Earth will get an update like Deadlands did.

....of course, the adventure also shows me that it is possible to emulate probably 90% of the stuff in Hell on Earth using just Savage Worlds and a little common sense. One of the things I love most about Savage Worlds is the ease of customization.

I also hope they do some kind of update for Lost Colony, though I realize I am probably one of like three people who actually liked Lost Colony... but hey, if I want it bad enough, I should apply some DIY skills, right?
Ah, but if I had that kind of motivation, I'd probably be running a campaign right now instead of leafing through gamebook after gamebook like an ADHD kid hopped up on energy drinks.

Seriously, though...Pinnacle, your website is a thing of beauty. Free, ready-to-go adventures (with free paper minis), cut and paste errata, printable burst/blast templates, test drive rules... I have always found them to be an exceedingly customer-friendly company, and I would do well to show 'em a little more love on this blog, methinks.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Switching Gears, and an Odd Observation About Falling in Gaming

RIFTS Denver has concluded. I ended up 4th level, with 5th a distant shore. I had to revive a party member after he took injuries that he shouldn't have survived, even in RIFTS.

A brief aside: I have noticed that in roleplaying games, if a player character falls off something, particularly something very high in the air, the player believes he is entitled to about fifty different checks/saves to stop from falling. I grab the ledge. Missed it? I grab the other ledge. I grab any player who could conceivably be within fifty feet. I have time to fashion any rope I had been carrying into a lariat that I can throw at every single object within range, one after the other, until I get one of them. If I miss all objects, I can try to lasso the players I failed to grab earlier. I make a separate try for each one of their limbs.

I'm not ripping on the player in question, I'm just saying that I've seen this happen over and over again.

So, RIFTS. It was fun with the new GM. It was not fun with the previous GM. Now our group is going to play Deadlands for a few weeks. Extra players from outside the group will be joining us, then one of the RIFTS players (a different one) will take over and run a different RIFTS game for awhile. We won't be getting back to the "main" campaign for 3-4 months real time.

In the meantime, I have totally stalled out on running anything. I haven't run a single session of anything since the local con back in July. I find that I get enthusiastic for things, start reading the book, and then cool off just as quickly. In theory, I want to run something, but I can't seem to stay excited about any particular game for more than a few days, if that. I also find that my mind is still stubbornly resistant to learning any new system, regardless of the level of simplicity or complexity. I think my brain is full. I'd better start jettisoning all of those awkward childhood memories to make room for new things.

...I also find that I am very glad that I don't have to take over Deadlands.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

An Idle Thought About Game Balance

We've heard it all before; magic-users were too busy studying magic to learn how to use any weapons or armor, clerics are opposed to bloodshed and thus eschew swords (but apparently they are not opposed to bludgeoning someone to death...)and blah blah blah. All hand waving aside, it comes down to this:

In a world where some dudes can shoot lightning out of their fingertips, there must exist some incentive to play any other type of dude.


I've been playing in a RIFTS game for a few months now, as you have probably read about. RIFTS is a rule book that contains character classes that can literally stand up to clusters of missiles and have personal weapons that can level buildings. There are classes that have magic and psionics. There is a playable dragon class... and yet, there are also classes that are scientists, doctors, and petty thieves, characters who have only skills. There are characters who have cybernetics and big ass guns, but not as big as the walking tank characters. There are dudes who can shoot lighting (or worse) from their fingertips, and yet the game has no inherent mechanical incentive for playing a class like Rogue Scholar or Vagabond. (Dudes who know stuff, but have no lighting, and who have puny personal weaponry to start with)

So here is a little bitty theoretical question for you, readers: if all character classes in D&D could use any weapon and any armor, if everyone had d6 hit dice (for instance), would anyone still play a fighter?

Expand that...if your favorite game had absolutely no balancing factor at all, would you still play the character you wanted, or would you play the guy who can shoot lighting from his fingertips?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

WTF, Rolemaster?

As anyone who has read this blog more than once probably knows, I have an unhealthy relationship with one of the used bookstores here in town; namely that I cannot seem to keep from going there every couple of days. Two summers ago, I found a boxed set of Rolemaster, 2nd edition and bought it out of curiosity. I tried to learn it a month or two later whilst imbibing beer. It didn't work out very well. I blamed the the beer.

About two weeks ago, I acquired a copy of the Middle-Earth Role-playing System, 2nd edition from the same store. It appears to be a version of Rolemaster. Last night I tried to start learning it, mainly out of that blasted curiosity I cannot seem to hold in check.

This time, there is no beer to blame. I straight up cannot wrap my mind around Rolemaster. I have also found that the very little bit of it I managed to learn has completely dissipated since last night. I'm talking zero retention, folks.

Well, that's not entirely true. I remember that one of the critical miss entries is that the player trips over an imaginary deceased turtle.


Granted, I haven't read much Tolkien in quite some time (just finished teaching it to my seniors, though we didn't get time to finish it unfortunately), so I'm not sure if that's some kind of obscure Tolkien reference or just a failed attempt at making their critical hit tables funny. (ICE seems preoccupied with doing that)

I'm also not sure what this "animist" business is. Again, my readings on Tolkien could use some serious brushing up, but I don't remember anything remotely like a cleric in Middle-Earth.

I'm not a Tolkien expert, so I could very well be talking out of my ass on this one. For all I know, the imaginary, deceased turtle played a very important part in one of the books that I don't remember very well. Maybe there were animists all over Return of the King. Perhaps that book has an entire chapter of animists tripping over imaginary dead turtles.

...anyway, my gripe is not with how accurate/faithful MERPS is to Tokien's work, but rather with the fact that Rolemaster seems intentionally arcane and obtuse to my sensibilities. It seems robust, and I want to like it, but the mental energy I am investing in learning is producing very little return. I should be pouring any spare creativity/brainpower left over after planning lesson units to get Deadlands or Mutant Future running.

Speaking of Deadlands, the original GM-to-be is no longer moving away, or so I was informed via text message today. I have few details at the time, and it is unclear whether or not I will still be expected to run Deadlands, or if he will run it as per our original plan.
I have to confess that a recent post complimenting my customized mutant races for MuFu has bolstered my enthusiasm.
Not enough hours in a day, not enough days in a week.

...but seriously, Rolemaster: What. The. Fuck.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Time to Mount Up

I hit 4th level in RIFTS tonight. We also solved a combat situation through innovative use of powers and problem-solving skills, rather than an endless Mega-Damage slugfest. My character has been knighted. There is a bit of political intrigue. Who knew?

However, our GM has told us that she needs the month of November to prepare the second leg of the campaign. (Also, work will be calling her out of town for part of the month) Initially, one of the other players in our game had volunteered to run Deadlands in the 5-6 week interim, but it seems he will now be moving to my home town and will have a bit of a commute. He might also have his Sunday availability reduced or eliminated by circumstances beyond his control.
As we discussed this, it was suddenly suggested by the rest of the group that I run Deadlands. (I'm the only other person in the group who has the book.)

Initially I was a bit wary, given that I haven't even started my MuFu game that I have been promising for...too long. However, I find myself strangely invigorated because I have a hard deadline to meet with DL. Working at my own pace, I am easily distrated and can be a bit of a slug... but tell me that I have to have X done by Y and I can kick it into high gear.

I have run Deadlands many times before, though the last time I ran it was 1.) the classic version of the rules, and 2.) it was about six years ago. I have run Savage Worlds only once, though I know the rules pretty well and have been a player in brief campaigns of Deadlands Reloaded and Rippers. Rules-wise, I got it covered.

This does not mean the end of Mutant Future. This is a short range, short term project. I might actually make the sessions unrelated; one of my favorite methods for coming up with a Deadlands scenario is to take a Western movie or story and add zombies or Hangin' Judges or whatever.

After my interim Deadlands session, we'll start leg II of the RIFTS game, or another player will step up to the plate with a temporary game if our Fearless Leader needs some additional time.

Either way, it looks like there's a new sheriff in town.