Showing posts from July, 2012

RPG Review: Wild Talents

About ten years ago Hobgolblyn Press came out with the World War II superhero RPG game Godlike. Superhero might not be the right word though - it presented a gritty world where being superpowered was no guarantee of your survival. For most "talents" a bullet to the head could kill you as easily as any other soldier. Even if you were armored that armor was dependent on your willpower. If your will failed you, your armor would too.

The game found its way to Arc Dream. Knowing that people were using it for non-WWII superhero games they did a pre-Kickstarter crowdfunding operation to produce the Wild Talents RPG based off of Godlike. I wasn't part of the crowdfunding but I did manage to snag one of their extra copies. I will say one thing for that first edition - its binding rivals the old TSR 1st edition AD&D books - for some strange reason it slipped out of my car at my daughters' daycare as a blizzard was beginning. Unable to find the book at home and seeing the …

Actual Play: The Shrine of Pluto Part II [DCC]

Summary As our valiant band of would-be adventurers looted the barbarian bodies (and those of their friends) additional patrons of the inn from the previous night arrived - either they had slept late or it took time for them to build up their courage.
The entrance cavern sunk into the depths of the earth. Borrowing a goat from one of the many farmers in the band, a hardy dwarf drove it down. Tragically both of them perished around the same time from the toxic air they had been breathing. A swarm of rodents of an unusual size (large, not small) emerge from the side of the corridor and began consuming the dead. One climbed atop the goat and also died from poison air, yielding a vital clue - the air was not poisonous close to the ground. Hugging the ground the remainder of the company charged at the rodents and with only a few fatalities - peasants and slaves whose names history will forget - persevered.
The next chamber featured an statue of a hideous being with a combination of goat a…

See You at Munden's

Back in the 80s and 90s my brother and I were perplexed by a frequent letter-writer in comic books, one "Uncle Elvis" who used to close his letters "see you at Munden's". What the heck was he talking about and why was the editor replying as if she knew what he was talking about? You know nowadays one simply Googles for the answer to such questions...

Eventually my brother discovered that Munden's was a bar in a city at the nexus of realities, Cynosure. Cynosure was the setting of the comic book Grimjack, published by First Comics and created by John Ostrander and Tim Truman, both still active in comic books last I checked. At the time my brother discovered all this First Comics was either out of business or about to go out of business, though over the years (and with the help of eBay) he was able to get a complete collection of Grimjack comics. I've inherited that box of comics and I've also been purchasing the collected versions from IDW, though t…

The Superhero Blues

Despite my loving comic book superheroes I've had limited luck in long-term superhero RPGs. I've been thinking that a bit of late with the summer movie season in full swing with an allotment of three superhero movies (I remember a time when there would usually be none...) Sooner or later I'll want to try my luck at another one so it's with a little bit of self-interest that I give some thought as to what it is that makes superhero campaigns challenging, at least for me.

I think that genre emulation is something important to the superhero RPG, typically balanced with how it handles action. In games such as  Smallville genre emulation is the most important thing, even linked to the action. Why you are using your powers and for whom plays a huge role in how effective you are in a game of Smallville.

The game I think handled genre emulation best while keeping the action level high was TSR's Marvel Super Heroes Game (MSH). MSH wasn't a perfect - its handling of pow…

AD&D Reprints First Impressions

The reprints for the AD&D 1st edition rulebooks arrived at my house on Friday from Noble Knight Games.

If my memory serves, this is not actually the first time the original AD&D books have been reprinted - I seem to recall an Italian publisher got permission to reprint the books in an extremely tiny format back in the late 90s - I remember seeing them at Cambridge's Pandemonium Books & Games. They were more a curiosity, with each page being condensed to something around the size of a playing card. I didn't pick them up and to be honest it's not something I regret not getting.

These newest reprints are designed to be more useful, being back to the original size. I've read on Wizards of the Coast's website that a lot of work went into the reprints - there were no digital files beyond basic scans so apparently each page had to be redone. The effort seems to have been successful - comparing them with my original AD&D books you really can't see any …

Non-Fiction Review: "Superman: The High-Flying History of America's Most Enduring Hero" by Larry Tye

I've been in a bit of a superhero mood of late. This summer has seen  The Avengers and The Amazing Spider-Man in the movie theaters and The Dark Knight Rises is just being released to theaters at the time I'm writing this.

My introduction to superheroes was through cartoons. Being born in 1971 I used to watch reruns of the 1960s Spider-Man cartoon ("Spider-Man, Spider-Man, does whatever a spider can...") as well as The Superfriends. We used to always mock the Wonder Twins. Now that I think of it, I also used to see a very silent Spider-Man on The Electric Company television show.

1979 saw the release of Superman: The Movie. To this day it is probably the Christopher Reeve incarnation of Superman that I think of when I picture Superman.

You'll note I've not yet mentioned comic books. I began slowly discovering comic books after a bunch of us started playing TSR's Marvel Superheroes RPG. We had familiarity with the characters from shows like the aforementi…

RPG Review: The Palladium Book of Weapons and Assassins

The 1980s were a time for ninjas. We had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In the GI Joe comics and tv show the most popular characters were the ninjas Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. I worked in an amusement park's arcade and one of the more popular games was Ninja Gaiden. Even movies not about ninjas managed to sneak them in. And a good way to get in trouble at my middle school was to smuggle in a throwing star...

In our RPGs we loved our ninjas as well. I recall photocopies of the ninja and samurai classes from Best of Dragon II getting passed around my middle school. (Wow, throwing stars and photocopies magazine articles - we were little criminals.) TSR finally gave into the craze with the Oriental Adventures hardcover book.

Palladium Books had a series of reference books that were system-les, designed to go with any RPG. Oddly enough, one of my favorites was Weapons and Assassins which covered various kinds of historic assassins: Middle Eastern Assassins, the Thugs of India, and, mo…

Actual Play: The Shrine of Pluto Part I [DCC]

Summary The adventure began at the Inn of the Flying Swordfish, a small inn in the old section of Tagentium. It wasn't a place where adventurer met. Rather it was a place for tired fishermen, farmers, tradesmen, laborers, and the like to rest after a long tiring day.
This proved not to be the case on the evening of our tail in late summer in the year MCCLXXVIII since the founding of the Imperium's First City, now under the rule of the barbarian lord Marcus Olbar. While enjoying their drinks a half dozen skeletons, un-dead creatures with coldly glowing blue eyes, burst into the front and rear of the inn. The patrons drew whatever they had with them to battle these skeletons. For most, this was little more than a knife though there were some out of work mercenaries - mercenaries armed but not bloodies. Sadly a scribe quickly fell to their weapons though by overwhelming sheer numbers the remaining patrons overwhelmed the skeletons.
After the battle an old-timer, Quintus Decius c…

Fiction Review: "Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal" by Christopher Moore

I talked a bit about religion in various fantasy worlds last week which got me thinking about religion in our world.

It's a touchy subject, whether in office conversations or your gaming group. I've gamed with followers of Christianity, Judaism, Paganism. I'm not certain but I think I may have gamed with a Hindu and a Buddhist. I've gamed with believers, atheists, and agnostics. And truth to tell I'm comfortable with all of them. But I've also learned to respect people have different comfort levels with the way their beliefs (or things they don't believe in) are treated in fictional works. When I had a group playing D&D 3.0 several years ago I was strongly tempted to run a game using Green Ronin's Testament setting, based on the lands of the Old Testament of the Bible. One of my players was, quite honestly, horrified of the idea of using that for a game. I had thought it made for a fascinating setting with lands being conquered, betrayals, nomadic …

DCC: Actual Play Impressions

After some scheduling hiccups my gaming group had its first game using Dungeon Crawl Classics. I'll probably be doing an actual-play writeup later this week but for now I'm focusing on my impressions of the game.

This was our first time using Google+ Hangouts as a virtual tabletop solution. Originally we all hung out at my house but with the real world intruding not everyone is able to make it (and not everyone is even in the country any more). For our group's Call of Cthulhu we used the Fantasy Grounds tabletop application. It's a program that worked very well for us but it is rather difficult to tweak for games it doesn't explicitly support.

For our Google+ Hangout we used the free Tabletop Forge application, an application that adapts Google+ Hangouts to serve as a Virtual Tabletop. It worked pretty well with some hiccups that my group will be working on going forward. Off the top of my head, the biggest issue seemed to be one of latency - for some players the …

RPG Review: D&D Expert Rules (1st-3rd Printings)

The product I'm reviewing here isn't quite the Expert Set that had the most popularity. The better known version is a heavily revised version with a cover drawn by Larry Elmore (on the right). The version I began with has the Erol Otus cover featuring a wizard observing the scene that was on the cover of the original D&D Basic Rules. Back when Wizards of the Coast offered legal PDF downloads only the 4th+ Printing was made available. I really wish Wizards of the Coast would make a reprint of this version, digital or physical, available.

Overview As has been my habit we'll begin with an overview of what we get in the book. I won't be going in as much detail as I did in my review of the Basic Rules as many portions of this are simply an expansion of what has come before.
Part 1 - Introduction The Expert Rules begin with a description of what this book covers. It expects that you've got the Basic Rules. It explains how these rules cover 4th through 14th levels of …

Religion in Fantasy Settings

As a preface to this post it probably makes sense to describe how I view religion in the "real world" as it surely has an impact on how I view it in fictional settings.

I was raised a Roman Catholic and I remain one though I suspect if the pope ever had a chance to have a chat with me he'd probably show me the exit in short order. I believe in marriage equality (aka same-sex marriage), believe the church's teachings on the ordination of women and contraception are flawed, and I don't believe Catholics or Christians have an exclusive claim to salvation - to be honest I'm a believer in making this world the best it can be. I am a huge fan of Jesus who spent an awful lot of time telling people to love one another and not much time talking about birth control or homosexuality. Generally speaking if your religion gives you what you need and leads you to a compassionate life I'm fine with it. Heck if your lack of religion takes you there, awesome too. A lot of …

Developing a New Campaign Setting: Tagentium Map Finished

Finalized my map of the starting town for my DCC campaign. It was interesting how I began finding a story to match the map.

The west side of the map is the older part of the city and the one where the patrician families are most likely to be found. The buildings are made of brick and concrete, the streets are all paved, and there are many pleasant garden areas to be found. One can see the palace of the administrator of the island, the Comes Fraterculus. Nearby is the old market, still in use where one can find more luxury goods.

The eastern half of the town is the newer part though it is also not in as good shape. A century ago the town was sacked by barbarians and the walls were breached with much of the town destroyed. It was rebuilt, though many of the eastern half of Tagentium consists of wooden buildings and dirt streets. There's a lot less planning to be found on this side of the river as well, with nice back alleys for cutpurses. We've also got the main market and chur…

Developing a New Campaign Setting: The Town of Tagentium

Some dental "fun" (I wonder if clerics can fix teeth) and work-related issues have forced me to delay kicking off my DCC campaign by two weeks. During that time I've been doing some reading on late Antiquity and noodling around with my setting. As I've mentioned previously, my game's feel is inspired by the decades following the fall of the western Roman Empire. I'm not looking to create a 100% historical analogue. But there's a lot about it that screams D&D. You've got your barbarians kingdoms. You've got the eastern half of the fallen Empire that still considers those lost lands part of its territory (paging Emperor Justinian). Now we'll be adding to the mix the undead, dragons, sorcerers, and the like.

I've been giving some thought to the starting town of the game, currently named Tagentium. The idea is the game begins on a small island close to a much larger island. I've not been planning on developing it too much as I expect p…