Saturday, December 31, 2011

A few thoughts about D&D/Gamma World

It's wintertime, and thoughts turn towards gaming (or at least mine do).  While most of my gaming these days revolves around games suitable for playing with a four-year old, I've also been thinking a bit about my current (if sporadic) D&D and Gamma World games.  As my players know, I've been a bit unhappy with my games for a while now, though I haven't exactly been able to put my finger on why I've been unhappy.  My most common complaint sums up as "the combats are too long", but thinking it over, I don't think that's quite right.  It isn't that the combats are too long in an objective sense -- it's that the combats are too long by the metics I want to apply to role-playing game combats.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Gamma World Update

Yesterday we had our third session of Gamma World and much was accomplished.  The band of merry mutants were able to beat back the robots at the back door of the Federated Robotics factory and push into the main factory area.  After an encounter with a lonely and bored security door (bypassed because the AI was more friendly than smart and easily distracted by a laptop plugged into a local interface port), they fought their way into the main factory floor and waged a pitched battle with barbaric hoop bandits and their robot servitors.  Mid battle an alpha flux occurred - shifting all of their powers and throwing them a bit off balance.  In the end the party triumphed and discovered a cache of Omega Tech weaponry that made everyone happy.

So that ends the first adventure for this group - the adventure that came in the Gamma World boxed set.  Overall it was a lot of fun, but I have to admit we've tweaked a few things.  For starters, we've made the Alpha Mutations a lot more stable - instead of changing after each encounter the characters keep their mutations until an Alpha Flux happens.  We tried the "change after every encounter" rule and it just didn't work as well in practice as it seemed like it would reading it.

As of right now we're planning on keeping with Gamma World when our next game day comes up.  The characters managed to get to 3rd level through the course of this adventure, and it will be interesting to see how the game operates at higher levels.  We'll get back to the D&D game, but for now the Gamma World game has a grip on us.  And who knows - with the crazy way Gamma World works these characters may end up over in the D&D game before things are all said and done.

(Lords of Creation is also messing with my head - I have some ideas about laying a Lords of Creation mask over the top of the Gamma World setting as it sits right now.  But that's probably another post - maybe after I talk about the "Powers" setup in Lords of Creation...)

Monday, October 03, 2011

Lords of Creation - Skills

The skill system of Lords of Creation is one of the more unusual elements of the game.  The game provides a large list of skills, with each skill broken into 5 levels.  Each level of a skill carries a "name" that indicates the capabilities of that skill at that level.  For example, the Detective skill is broken down into four levels as:
  1. Police Connections
  2. Basic Criminology
  3. Wiretapping
  4. Advanced Criminology
  5. Futuristic/Magical*
The named level of a skill gives an indication of what the character is capable of doing with the skill.  The game advises that if a character has a skill level that indicates he can do something, then the skill should work automatically.  For example, a character with Detective - 1 would have Police Connections, which means he automatically gets access to small favors from his friends in the police force like checking addresses or tracking a license plate, and he also gets a number of criminal informants who answer questions "for a price".  Essentially this "skill" mostly operates like a perk would in other games (like Champions or GURPS).

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Lords of Creation - Creating Characters

After the one-page intro section, Lords of Creation moves to what I often considered the most important part of an RPG during the days of my youth - character creation.  When I first started gaming I would often sit and create character after character just to get the hang of a new system.  I don't do that so much anymore, mostly because the character creation process in modern games isn't as much fun.  Often character creation in games these days boils down to a process that is only slightly more fun than filing my annual income taxes.  I think that this is because most modern RPGs have taken their character creation process directly from Champions, where no randomness is allowed.  While this allows players to realize the exact character they have in their heads, the character creation process loses aspects that I have always found fun - that bit of randomness that spontaneously generates a character you would never in a million years have conceived of yourself.  This is one of the things I love about the new Gamma World - the random character creation process that has a bit of a "throwback" feel to earlier days.

Like most games of its time, Lords of Creation has a semi-random character creation process.  Every character has five basic attributes that feel very familiar to folks who grew up on D&D - Muscle, Speed (which covers "muscular coordination and manual dexterity"), Stamina, Mental ("intuition, logic, and willpower") and Luck.  The first four of these map to 5 of the six standard D&D attributes (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution and a mix of Intelligence and Wisdom), and are generated with scores between 2 and 20 for new characters.  Which again makes for very familiar territory, though unlike D&D the scores are generated by rolling 2d10 rather than 3d6.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lords of Creation - Intro

While many modern games will open up with a piece of game fiction, back in 1984 intros like that were rare.  It was more typical to open up with a "What Is Roleplaying" introduction, which is what Lords of Creation gives us here.  This would have been a perfect place for a blurb telling us what the game is about, but we don't really get that.  The closest we get to that is:

LORDS OF CREATION is a role-playing game of science fantasy, fantasy, science fiction and high adventure that explores the farthest reaches of the imagination.  Game adventures take place throughout time, space and other dimensions.  The game is designed for both experience role-playing gamers and beginners. All that's needed to play are these rules, the dice included in the game, and your imagination!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lords of Creation - Opening Moves

To start my examination of Lords of Creation, it's probably best to begin at the beginning.  In this case, with the Cover :

There we go - right from the cover we know that this is going to be a genre-mashup game.  We have a couple of adventurers wandering through an obvious portal between worlds.  On the one side a fairly standard fairy-tale kingdom complete with menacing dragon.  On the other some kind of pock-marked alien landscape with a robot standing sentinel.  Our adventurers are clad in strange garb - one is a man who is maybe supposed to look like his clothes were designed during the Italian Renaissance carrying a blaster pistol, and the other is a woman who looks to me like a starship pilot casting a lightning bolt.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Lords of Creation

So late last week the following showed up in my mailbox:

Lords of Creation!  The copy is pretty beat up, but both books are complete and mostly intact.

Monday, September 19, 2011

More Gamma World

So yesterday we had our second Gamma World session.  Three of our four intrepid mutants returned to the table to continue their search for the source of the strange malfunctioning robots that are bothering the village of Owl on the outskirts of the Great Forest.  Last time they tracked the robots to a warren of mutant badger-men (badders) and after a pitched battle they tracked the source of the robots to somewhere deep into the lower levels of the badder warrens.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Sci-Fi Channel Universe

So last night I watched the Sci-Fi Channel Monday night line-up:  Eureka, Warehouse 13 and a new show caled Alphas.  For those not in-the-know, Eureka is about the small town full of geniuses in Washingon State, where the sheriff has to deal with all kinds of screwball weirdness -- like antigravity machines accidentally getting turned on and causing the town bank to float away -- which was almost but not quite the plot last night.  And Warehouse 13 is about the giant warehouse full of bizarre mad science technology and magic items being collected and maintained by a government conspiracy.  These two shows have been crossing over for a couple of seasons now and have established themselves as being in the same universe.

Alphas is a new show about a group of "people born with incredible abilities based on their genetics" who have been organized into a group to track down and stop other "alphas" who are using their powers for selfish/evil reasons.  Think X-men without costumes or code names and with a Sci-Fi Channel TV show budget.  The show so far has been fairly serious - the alphas are generally tracking down individuals who are part of a terrorist network of other Alphas.  Think Brotherhood of Evil Mutants without costumes or code names and with a Sci-Fi Channel TV show budget.

Oh yeah - THAT will work

So Warner is planning on making another Green Lantern movie despite the fact that the first one didn't do as well as they hoped.  Well good - it's a decent franchise idea.  I mean, I'm not a big Hal "second most boring superhero on the planet" Jordan fan, but there's an appeal there.  Not character setpiece type of drama, but big space adventures, or possibly aliens coming to Earth to menace the locals.  It's "space cop with a magic wishing ring" - how can you screw that up?
To go forward we need to make it a little edgier and darker...
 Gah?  Green Lantern - again "space cop with a magic wishing ring" - and you want to make it "edgier and darker"?  WHY?  FOR THE LOVE OF GROD WHY?

It's like they've got some program that they're using to try to target post-adolescent males, and when things don't work the only thing they can do is ADD MORE EDGY DARKNESS.  The thing doesn't have any other settings - and heaven forbid they think about maybe, you know, making a movie that appeals to a wider audience.

Most prolific DC Comics writers

Now this is interesting.  It's a list of the "most prolific" DC comics writers as determined by the number of pages of published stories as recorded in the Grand Comics Database.  Very cool - I didn't know that the GCD had the kind of interface where you could get direct access to their data like that.

Interesting, but not too surprising I guess, that Robert Kanigher would be the most prolific -- he wrote a LOT of stuff back in the day.  And it's across every metric too - pages, stories, issues it just doesn't matter.  Gardener Fox comes in second, which is also not a surprise.

The surprising one for me is that Chuck Dixon comes in third.  I knew that Dixon wrote a LOT of stuff for DC -- I remember buying a lot of it -- but damn, he's got more pages under his belt than Bob Haney or Carey Bates?  That's surprising.  Also surprising - Geoff Johns coming in right behind him.  And he'll probably surpass him in a couple of years since he's only about a thousand pages and twenty stories behind him.  And right now Johns has Justice Society as his #1 title -- I imagine that will shift to Green Lantern if he keeps on the book for much longer.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Gamma World Origins - Magic-Users

I've been thinking a bit more about adding "Thundarr the Barbarian" elements to the D&D Gamma World game.  The previous three posts (and a few others that I'm still fleshing out) are some of my thoughts on characters whose primary abilities come through training rather than through mutations.  I have some more ideas on these types of characters, but there are other ways to approach this problem.  The Gamma World game has some suggestions on other origins that can be imagined as coming via training rather than training -- such as the Felinoid, Yeti or Speedster origins might be used for a martial artist, or the Hypercognitive as someone with highly trained intuition and reflexes.

This is approach I've been thinking about when it comes to magic-users in the Gamma World game.  The Dark and Psi based origins almost all scream wizardry - pick two, put them together and you have a wizard.  An elementalist, for example, could be built using some combination of Pyrokinetic (fire), Seismic (earth),  Telekinetic (air), Cryokinetic (ice) and, with a bit of re-themeing Gelatinous (earth or water) origins -- different combinations of these origins give you different elementalists.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Gamma World Origins - Fighter

There's nothing subtle about your fighting style.
You have a very classic approach to fighting -- you move up next to an enemy and you hit it.  Simple and direct.  Maybe your friends call you reckless, or maybe they appreciate your blunt technique.

Appearance:  Your other origin is going to dictate your appearance -- with a little work almost anyone can learn to be a fighter.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Gamma World Origins - Knight

You're a defender of the innocent and protector of the downtrodden. Or maybe you just like dressing up in armor and carrying a big sword.
You wander the land righting wrongs, slaying dragons and rescuing princesses.  Or maybe you've sworn fealty to a king and act as the defender of his lands.  Or maybe you're just a weirdo who likes to dress up in heavy armor and hit things with a sword.

Appearance:  Your other origin is going to dictate your appearance -- Knights come from all walks of life.  However no matter what your other origin is you're probably going to be wearing some heavy armor, toting a hefty melee weapon, and carrying a large shield.  Otherwise why call yourself a Knight?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Gamma World Origins - Brawler

You're an expert in fighting more than one opponent at a time
Your training focused on taking on multiple foes at once and making use of makeshift weapons that happen to be at hand.  Perhaps you were trained by a Revered Master in an ancient form of a long lost martial art, or maybe you've just been in a lot of barroom brawls.

Appearance:  Your other origin is going to dictate your appearance -- being a Brawler is more about training than birth (Brawlers are made, not born).  However your career as a fighter has probably left its mark somehow.  Maybe your face is scarred or you're missing an eye or an ear.

Gamma World

This past weekend I finally got a chance to run a session of the new Gamma World game from Wizards of the Coast.  All in all, I had an excellent time.  Part of that is that my group is fairly awesome, but part of it does come down to the fact that the Gamma World rules are just fun.  Character creation was relatively fast and simple -- and after a number of years of playing games where character creation takes hours and is all about making multiple painstaking choices, it was nice to run a game where dice are rolled and characters come together randomly.

And let's try this again

So it's been a while (ha!) since I last tried to do this "blog" thing.  It didn't go so well last time, but in the last 6 years my life has changed a bit.  I've finished my degree and have had a kid, and I'm finding that I need a creative outlet.  So I'm going to try this "blog" thing again

Right now I'm feeling the itch to work on gaming-related stuff, so this place is intended to be a bit of an outlet for that particular creative itch.  So we'll see.