Saturday, August 27, 2016
Probably when I first started gaming there were some unusual circumstances and places.
My first gaming group met at the Howard Whittemore Memorial Library in my hometown of Naugatuck, Connecticut. I was in middle school at the time and they hooked us up with a meeting room located near the children's section of the library. Of course we always got yelled at for being too noisy to the point we were pretty sure the sound of dice rolling would earn a "shhhh". Admittedly, it was a library... It did get a little bit awkward when part of the room was dedicated to storage and we had to maneuver our way to the table. I did make some friendships which lasted for many years.
I also remember occasionally being granted permission to play in study hall back at City Hill Middle School. By then we'd mastered the technique of rolling on hardcover books to muffle the sound of the dice rolling. Back in the day we had to have book covers on our textbooks. Fun fact - a Dungeon Masters Guide with a book cover on it is indistinguishable from a textbook from a distance... The study hall gaming typically involved a single encounter rolled on the spur of the moment. I still feel guilty about killing that unicorn...
Friday, August 26, 2016
Really any when you think about it. Just looking at some of my own:
- As a software engineer/data scientist I'm awfully good at using and making digital tools
- As a history geek, I've got a wealth of information that gets a good outlet
- As an amateur cartographer, I can make a reasonably good map
- Though I've not hiked much since having kids, once upon a time I spent a ton of time up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire - something which gives you an appreciation for wilderness movement rates...
I've gamed with people skilled in art, always an asset in RPGs. Alas, my drawing skills are limited to purple Risus stick figure dudes...
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Once upon a time I might have a long-winded answer to that. Nowadays my answer is as follows:
- Someone you want to play
- Someone that fits in with the group
- Someone that can be used as a launching point for adventures
I don't need a forty page background story. On the other hand, if you've got a forty page background story, cool, we'll be sure to use some of it. Just please don't write that background for a pre-funnel Dungeon Crawl Classics character...
Wednesday, August 24, 2016
I really hate giving gifts when I don't know the recipient. Does he or she own a ton of games and I want to present something unusual? Or do I want to break someone into gaming? And is money an object? Is being in print one?
However, I'm going to make a few assumptions. I'm going to assume this game is a gift for someone who is into some moderately geeky stuff but isn't a gamer. And I want to get him or her hooked.
With that in mind I'm going to go with a game that I've used to introduce lots of people to gaming - the West End Games incarnation of Star Wars. Back in the day, I'd have a new player, usually a friend of someone in the group, show up for a game at my apartment, and within about fifteen minutes I'd have explained the rules and had a character ready for them. The D6 incarnation isn't flashy and it does have its flaws, like any game, but it is incredibly easy to grasp, slides out of the way, and feels appropriate for the genre. It doesn't have a lot in the way of bells and whistles and isn't big on narrative control, so for some experienced gamers it might be a bit on the bland side. I've found that these bland games often make for awesome gaming experiences.
As far as the version I'd give, I'd be giving the underrated Star Wars Introductory Adventure Game boxed set. It's a complete game that dials back a lot of the 2nd edition's added complexity (not that it was super-complex) but is a much tighter and robust game than the 1st edition was. I also liked it stayed clear of most Expanded Universe material, focusing just on the films. If West End Games had had an opportunity for a 3rd edition, it might have been interesting for them to have used this as a starting point. It's got sections teaching the rules, character generation, and a nice series of adventures making up a campaign.
Honorable mention to Evil Hat's Young Centurions, a great presentation of the Fate system.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
In early August 1985 the Brooklyn Ghostbusters were nearing the official launch of their franchise. Doctor Mike Slade was down in Washington, DC, receiving mandatory EPA training for the proper and environmentally proper containment of ghosts. A possible office had been located in a vacant storefront in Kings Plaza. Physicist Billy Robertson and grunt/romance novel cover model "Chilli" had joined Ethan Sharp in the main office. They'd been nervous about opening a franchise so close to the main headquarters. but given they'd yet to actually see Venkman, Spengler, Stantz, and Zeddmore outside of VHS training videos. They'd seen Janine Melnitz, who forced them to answer the phone at the firehouse...
A call did come in - "Ghostbusters! Help us! Our television sets turn on when we're not there! We can't see Dallas or Miami Vice! The landlord won't help us! We're the tenants, and we pooled our money, and you can have it all! Just get rid of our spook!"
And so as the sun began to set they arrived at 66666 Flatbush Avenue. Super and wannabe Ghostbuster Don Davidson met with them, explaining how televisions in the building seemed to be forced on and fused to Channel 6, WBOR, all reruns all the time. Don did indicate how he'd be a great asset to them, an electronics whiz temporarily out of work. Indeed in his mess of an apartment they saw some fragments of a picture tube - from an old Zenith television he'd been restoring. Their PKE meters took them to an apparition, sitting in a non-existent chair, eating non-existent popcorn, and watching a rerun of My Mother the Car on an existent television. He fled before their proton packs opening fire, going through the ceiling.
Upstairs was aspiring "actress" Sirena LaCoque, she of the crocheted caricatures of poker playing canines and the animated bed. She was less than pleased to have them witness that and kicked them out. Just as well, as the PKE meter indicated the ghost was even further upstairs. They bypassed Mrs. Pogoni's place to Doctor Hunter Panama's apartment, investigative journalist and nutball with boarded up windows and a quintuple locked steel door. They managed to bluff their way in (he thought they were selling girl scout cookies) but he was a frightening character - very paranoid, fond of guns, and possessing bowls full of "vitamins". The ghost was in his scientific research room - a room filled with ultraviolet lamps and a variety of illegal plants. And a ghost whom they opened fire on. Unfortunately they missed and took out one of Thompson's plants, causing him to open fire on them. Fortunately, high as a kite, his aim was poor and they were able to chase the apparition down to the basement.
In the basement they managed to get the spook out of the Zenith tv it hid in, getting it into a ghost trap. Unfortunately in the process they started a fire. Fortunately there was a tank of water they could open to put out the fire. Unfortunately all they did was start an electrical fire. Fortunately there was a second water tank - a hot water heater. Unfortunately rupturing that filled the basement with steam. It was time to leave and call the fire department. Unfortunately they had neglected to get Don to sign a damage waiver. Fortunately LaCoque had some grateful friends without necks who both enjoyed her work and were also pleased to see some paperwork in the building basement get burned and flooded, providing them with several thousand in payment. Unfortunately that just about covered the damage costs.
Our spook had died in the 1950's while watching My Mother the Car, being in the process of modifying his Zenith television and getting electrocuted. He was awoken when Don began trying to restore the television set. As it turns out, My Mother the Car was a real television show, about an adult dude whose mom died and was reincarnated into... a car! It lasted all of one season.
This was based on the West End Games adventure The Couch Potato from the Ghostbusters boxed set, though I did move WBOR from Channel 5 (real in New York City) to Channel 6 (fictional).
The Ghostbusters certificate at the top of this post is from Nerdy Show's Ghostbusters Resurrection. It's a pretty neat site. They also have other Ghostbusting gear for sale, including Ghost dice (many showed ghosts in this adventure), equipment decks, and possibly even some digitized rules. Check it out...
Ghostbusters has a "ghost die". It is the predecessor to the West End Games Star Wars RPG's wild die.
In Ghostbusters the ghost die is rolled as part of all tests. If your skill gives you five dice, four will be normal dice and one is a ghost die. On the ghost die the six is replaced by a ghost. If you roll it something unfortunate happens (and the roll counts as a zero). You still might succeed, but if you do something went wrong. Now the odds of something unfortunate happening being one in six is actually rather high, but since Ghostbusters is a humor game, it is appropriate for the genre...
With that in mind, in our most recent Ghostbusters game the characters had the ghost cornered in the basement of an apartment building. Zap. Success, but with a ghost die. OK, the ghost is caught in the trap but... a fire has broken out. We'll just use the water tank to put out the fire... Oh dear, a failure with a ghost die. The fire is now an electrical one... And so it continued...
In the end the building was saved, but with such damage the cash made was more than offset by the damage done to the building. In the future, always get the liability waiver signed.
Monday, August 22, 2016
A robot in our Icons game had a limitation that it could short out after any usage on a 1 in 3 chance.
I don't believe there was a single instance where it did not short out. Now 1 in 3 is something that we should have seen with some frequency certainly, but not every single time...