26 January 2016

Best systems for a convention

Running a game at a convention has the problem of time, usually a four hour block. You want to get to the adventure but some (or all) of the players may not know the system, you have to teach them, but you do not want to take an hour to teach it and the players want to play, not be lectured.

To help this I have selected a few systems that I find easy to teach and run.

1: Savage Worlds

Shane Hensley's very playable system is easy to teach the basics in about ten minutes. It also has the advantage of running fast and having a quick combat system with little paperwork. Players also love the card initiative system and the way the dice work, GM's love the way it can play a wide variety of genres, and both love the cinematic feel of it. It also has a lot of support and settings from the publisher (Pinnacle) and third party developers.

2:  WARP

Once upon a time there was an awesome, Philip K. Dick meets William S. Burroughs game called Over the Edge, set in a surreal island where multiple dimensions interact, strangers migrate from all over the world, and intrigue, violence, and weirdness meet. The game engine was ahead of its time, being a very rules light game all the way back 1992, years before such games became a popular thing, emphasizing story over mechanics. Recently, Atlas released the rules under the open gaming license and have it for download FREE! It's called WARP (Wanton Role-Playing System) and it's only 28 pages including fringe powers. Also, there are WARP adventures available for sale. It won't handle everything, but what it does handle (conspiracy, thrills, fear, and weirdness) it does well.

3: Rolemaster

No, just kidding. Not Rolemaster. Not ever.

4: Tales of Blades and Heroes

This game is simple to learn and play. It captures sword and sorcery gaming perfectly. It also has one of the smallest character sheets around, and the magical system, which is improvisational, lets a creative player have a really good time.

Here is a typical character from the book:

Alika the Mighty (50 pts)
Q 4+
Hero Points: 1
Special rules: Bow 3, Fearless, Knife 2, Magic Resistance,
Strong 2, Two-handed Sword 4, Vengeful, Lethal versus
Kobolds, Light Armor
Equipment: bearskin armor, bow, quiver with 20 arrows,
greatsword, dagger, rope, 24 silver pieces

It fits on a business card!


If you want old school D&D without the complexity, basic/expert is the way to go. It has the feel of OSR (because it is) without the weird complexity of AD&D based games. You do not have to go to ebay for an old copy (though scoring a copy of the Rules Cyclopedia is always nice) as there are a few OSR retro-clones of basic/expert rules to choose from that present the rules cleanly and include some modernization to improve play including Dark Dungeons (sharing the name of a famous anti-D&D Chick tract), and the Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game, which adds a few changes like ascending AC and separating races and class making it more modern but easy. Both are free to download and have print on demand options, and both work with adventures for basic/expert D&D.

IMHO, do not run low level adventures because the person playing the magic-user will not have fun. Also, the stats are meant to be rolled 3d6 down the line, and are anything from 3-18, with 10 in the center, so do not give stats all above 10 the way you do in modern D&D. It will throw off the encounters in the adventures. Players of newer games will think it low, but assure them it is not.

6: N/A

Who is number six?


I hesitated to include this because some people have a real hard time grokking the system of tagging (because it is unlike most other games out there), but the play is so good, fast, and interactive it has to be here. FATE Accelerated is a simplified version of FATE Core, and is a strong narrative game that gives players a lot of say in the adventure, and the character sheets are small and easy to understand. Price is right: pay what you want for the PDF (give them at least $2.50 please), or you can get the printed book and PDF for a mere five bucks.

There you go. Check out these games and whatever you run at a convention, thank you for making fun for players. Without you there would be no RPG cons.

24 January 2016

MaricopaCon 2016

You know you want to go.
Here is a shout out to my Arizona peeps! MaricopaCon 2016 has its Kickstarter up and running. Its the only way to get tickets. Its a fun, local con run by Jason Youngdale who has done an excellent job the past few years. Lots of role play and board games to keep you having a blast! It is located in Mesa, AZ.

I'll be running two RPG session's. One will be set in the dystopic/ultraviolent supers setting of Undergound (the Mayfair Games' title from 1993) under Savage Worlds. I will also be playtesing a secret project!

Get off your lard butt and support this Kickstarter!

Traveller needs a reboot

The new logo, stolen from Red Dwarf.
Traveller, the sci-fi RPG created by Mark Miller, has been around a long time. It is a classic, bringing a cool universe full of adventure with its original rule set being really progressive and helping shape the future of roleplaying (the skill system was really amazing in a world of D&D and its imitators). It has been through many versions (original Traveller, MegaTraveller, Traveller: The New Era, Traveller 4, GURPS Traveller, Traveller T20, Mongoose Traveller, Traveller Hero, and the dead on arrival Traveller 5. Also the excellent fan made Spirit of the Far Future for FATE).

Some of the editions used far different rules, but the background was one continuous story of the Imperium and its intrigues in different eras (and even in an alternate timeline where Traveller split into Megatraveller and GURPS Traveller). What never really changed was the technology. Not only has tech plateaued where it has not changed much over millenia, it also has not kept up with real science as it changed over the last forty years. It is missing the future of gene manipulation, transhumanism, nanotechnology and so much more. Traveller has become quaint instead of imaginative.

There is a second edition of Mongoose Traveller coming out, but it is more of the same (in fact, it looks like it is only a minor upgrade to the rules, yet costs an arm and a leg).  The more Traveller changes, the more it stays the same.

What Traveller needs is a reboot, similar to how Battlestar Galactica was rebooted on television. It was at the same time familar and yet so different and modern. This might make some Traveller diehards cringe, but the truth hurts. Cutting edge games like Eclipse Phase are an extension of today's science and are relevant to today's vision of a possible future.

A rebooted Traveller would be similar, with the Imperium, feudalism, jump technology, politicl intrigue, and so on. The history would change but be similar, incorporating the effects of what science might be in the view of today's knowledge. It would be at the same time familiar yet new, and would appeal to newer players as well as making new types of adventures playable.

However, the chance of this happening now are smaller than the distance between gluons inside baryons. As sci-fi has shown us, the future is always in flux, so maybe it could happen.

23 January 2016

3D printing becomes affordable

My precious!
I got a 3D printer for the holidays and I am having a blast with it. From the replica lightsaber I am making, to cool minis for RPGing, it is very cool. The best part is you can afford one. I got the XYZPrinting DaVinci Jr. for $299.00, though it seems to be going for $339.00 since the holidays ended.

The DaVinci Jr. is very easy to use. Out of the box it just worked, so for a beginner it is excellent. It is not fast, but you just leave it to do its job. Printing a 28mm figure takes about two to three hours at "excellent" quality, less time for good quality. A great feature is that you can save the print file to an SD-CARD and put it in the printer and it will print it, so your computer is freed up unlike some other printers.

It is small, limited to a 5-inch cube maximum, but that is fine for minis, and many models are broken up to print out and glue together, like my lightsaber which is longer than the five inch maximum. The software that comes with it is not bad. It processes models to work with the printer, and you can scale prints up and down, such as taking a 52mm figure and shrinking it to 28mm.

You can find free models on Thingiverse, YouImagine and other sites. Companies are coming out wit printable models you buy (DriveThruRPG has a format categorty called .STL; STL is a popular format for trading models). Fat Dragon Games is at the forefront of this with their DragonLock terrain, and will have figures and objects available soon. More companies will join in as the market hits critical. You can also make your own with a 3D modeling program, or rework other objects into something new (just don't share any unless it is based on an open license). Blender is one of the most popular and is FREE! Free is always good. Plus it is very robust for an opensource product and available on Windows, Mac and Linux.

If you love to paint models you need to get into this.

18 January 2016

System Mastery: City of Violence

MC Hammer was wrong, you can touch it.
I want to give a shout out to a podcast I recently found due to a mention in a listener letter on Happy Jacks' RPG podcast. I decided to check it out and found that System Mastery is a great listen.

The hosts are Jeff and Jon, and every couple of weeks they read an old RPG and critique it. By critique I mean make fun of it mercilessly. They are not just cracking jokes though (and making some off-color humor... well.. lots of it at times so kids, be good and don't let your parents know you listen), they are making a lot of salient points about these games and about game design in general. They have a list of do's and don't's about game design that is on point, and emphasize a game being fun. For example, many of the games have a low chance of success for rolls due to the mechanic, causing the character to fail more than succeed and that is not fun for players.

They also cover the fluff of the game, and some are basically unplayable, like C°ntinuum, or insane like Immortal or Haven: (long pregnant pause) City of Violence. I also find it funny how some designers seem to hate the work they are doing (Furry Pirates which is not really that furry and surprisingly bad for a company like Atlas Games), or even the author talking about how much he hates RPGs (Fantasy Wargaming: The Highest Level of All). Although, to be fair, they have found some they would play like Gamma World (4th Edition D&D version) which, by accident, they actually like.

They also do episodes between reviews and talk about topics of interest, and have a movie review podcast as well. They don't do actual play, thankfully. Not a fan of that myself. I want to play and have fun, not watch others do it like I am some kind of peeping tom.

As for the guys, I know nothing about them: how old they are, education, nothing except that they are from SoCal. From what I gather though they are pretty well read. They drop surprising tidbits on media, science, gaming, and more. Also, it is from many eras, not just recent stuff. It is nice to hear some literate comments mixed in among the poop jokes.

Now guys, take on Traveller 5. There is plenty wrong with that one.

12 January 2016

D&D 5e: GOING OGL!!!

A great website... for me to poop on!
A new year has come, and I am finally over the rush of the holidays that have kept me away for so long. I was thinking of something to post about and had a few ideas, then today came and something struck like lightning out of the blue: D&D 5e has been released as an SRD under the Open Game License (OGL), the same OGL version 1a that Pathfinder uses.

Last time, back in the third edition days, d20 products were coming fast and furious and then took a dive in sales. Companies over committed to it, and good products were hard to find in a sea of crap. It made some smaller publishers big (Green Ronin), some other made great product but it undersold (Atlas Games), and some companies crashed and burned.

Pathfinder, an OGL game, has had more success with other company's products. This is because the industry learned its lesson and only a few companies are in the market, and they are nor riding a bubble that will crash, but are making their plans realistic. The general quality has been pretty good.

Well, Wizards of the Coast is implementing a way to lessen the crap. First, you can make D&D 5e compatible products and sell them yourself, like the old days. The other way to do it is sell it through the Dungeon Master's Guild, an official WotC online shop on DriveThruRPG. If you go it alone you may not seem as legit as selling through the guild, as the guild has a rating method to give buyers an idea of quality, lacking if you publish on your own. This makes working outside the Guild seem a little less legit.

Also, the Guild let's you write adventures in The Forgotten Realms, which is a vibrant world people love. Pathfinder's world, Golarion, it their own property and outsiders cannot write adventures in that world. The downside is that the selling on the Dungeon Master's Guild mean you have to share profits with WotC. The advantages may be worth it, we shall see.

Get to the guild HERE.