Monday, July 26, 2010

Schilling for contest Entries

Troll in the Corner is Having a Contest.

Like they used to say in the 80's—You may have already Won the Pathfinder Core Rulebooks or Various PDF files.

Here's How to Enter.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Being Off the Rails is Hard

We met for another exciting adventure in California. This marked the first session of Deadlands that was truly off the rails. Back when we started, I began in Colorado and used the adventure module Coffin Rock as an introduction to Deadlands. I did this because I was still reading The Flood, and I wasn’t ready to start. In hindsight, that was probably backwards. It would have made more sense to start The Flood and Throw in Coffin Rock as a Savage Tale (Savage Tales are Smaller Stories that happen between the main plot points).

So, the beginning of this evening was to finish off the plot point that was started last time. In prepping for the game, I really didn’t know what to prepare ahead of time. The Posse had a number of ways they could possibly go—they could choose to go to Virginia City, the destination they were headed toward when they were literally railroaded to California; or they could follow the plot point and head to Shan Fan; or they could decide to do something completely different.

I read half of the Shan Fan plot point. I had decided what to do if they went to Virginia City and read that Savage Tale (but apparently I skimmed a little too much—more on that later.) When the game started, I felt half prepared—which is more than I can usually expect for an off the rails session.

When the Posse was deciding what to do, I looked at the Map and realized that Virginia City was a lot further north than I thought it was.  Which kind of messed with the way I connected Coffin Rock and The Flood. . . but I didn’t mention that to my players. However, it did solve their question of where to go due to the fact that Shan Fan was closer than Virginia City, and they could take a train from Shan Fan to Virginia City.

Looking at the Distance between where they were, and where they were headed made me think about the way that other people must run these games. There were charts and tables in Zombie Run for traveling, and the book assumed that you would make the use of a map, choose the way to go, roll to determine what happens every ten mile stretch of road, or some nonsense like that. Old D&D has similar charts and tables for wilderness travel. Similarly, The Flood also has rules for traveling in California, which differ a bit from the charts in the base Deadlands book. I simplified a bit and tried the random encounter table.

Due to the Great Quake that occurred in the canon of Deadlands, California is an even harsher wilderness to travel than in other parts of Deadlands America. It’s supposed to take longer to get from point A to point B. The tables indicated that the Posse should encounter nothing—I ascribe to right of Game Master Fiat and moved the encounter planned for Virginia City to middle of nowhere California. I grabbed Saddle Sore and I was running one of the Savage Tales found in that Volume, but I definitely didn’t read it thoroughly enough. I had to retcon several times throughout the evening, and when I got lost, I found myself sitting there a little confounded—just reading. I feel bad about that, because it just leaves my players in limbo, so the conversation wanders to extra-game topics.

I have to apologize to P the most, since he had to leave before there were any mini-fig-on-battle-mat encounters. A creature did attack, during the day this time, in broad daylight, in the travelling show. I’ll have to think about how I’m going to use the outcome to my advantage.

Speaking of the encounter, I pulled the low card, and Brandon’s character is overpowered (for this part of the Plot Point) I don’t know what to do about that.  It’s not that my creatures keep feeling the wrath of his “razor sharp cloud of card shuriken” (Bolt), it’s that I had to finagle things just to give the group the clue that the encounter was to provide. How many power points do you have Brandon?—I think I need to look at your character sheet again.

All in all, it wasn't a bad session—but it wasn’t the greatest either. I think the person that gets the most impatient with me when I’m trying to figure out what’s going on, is my wife. . . that’s stressful to me.

I have to admit though, that the actions of certain Posse members have set in motion some very interesting possibilities. Mwa–ha–ha–ha–ha.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

House Party July 31

So, my Wife applied to be the host of a House Party that Activision is using to promote their rhythm game DJ Hero.

We're big fans of the rhythm game genre at our house. We have Three Rock Band Games and Six Guitar Hero Games—still I was pretty skeptical about the announcement of DJ Hero. I'm not as much into the DJ style music, and though I played around with a real turntable setup once, I never really got into it.

However, I saw the Game setup at Best Buy once and gave it a Spin (Ha Ha). It was not easy, my mediocre Guitar Hero skills didn't transfer directly to the turntable controller and I scored an abysmal, one star...It didn't help that the guy that was playing with it before me had chosen the Hard skill level.

It was a lot more fun than I thought it would be, and I've sort of wanted to get it since then...

Our home was picked as a location for one of the House Parties. We'll be provided with a copy of the game and Two Turntables. We're going to put up some Christmas Lights, and have a Daft Punk costume contest.

If you've received an invite from my wife please RSVP, it's a real thing and we would love for you to come, it's going to be fun. Set aside July 31... the more the merrier. (This conflicts with a Deadlands Game so all My Deadlands players are invited) More invites will be going out shortly...

More Details Here.

Bluetooth + Wii Remote + Classic Controller + Glovepie + Joy to Key =

A Nostalgic Journey with a twist (For those the grew up playing games on the Nintendo Entertainment System).

Bluetooth Dongles can be obtained for Pennies plus Shipping from Amazon.

Wii Remotes and Classic Controllers cost a bit more ($40 and $20 respectively)—But we already had those.

Glovepie can be found Here. (Free)

Joy to Key can be obtained Here. (Also Free)

Connect the Wii Remote to the Computer using Bluetooth (skipping the authentication number bit). Then connect the classic controller. Open Glovepie and apply the zSNES Script found here. Then Run Joy to key and map the arrow keys to the directional pad, and z, x, and c to buttons.

Then You Go Here for Squeee (You may have to setup the controls in the game options for it to work right)


Tuesday, July 06, 2010

I Finally Got to Play 4th Edition
Dungeons and Dragons

Thoughts?

Well, I still like Savage Worlds Better. Part of that is probably the fault of the Character Sheet I was given, and another part of the fault may be Dungeon Master that was running the game, and part of that may be the rules system...but I'm not completely sure about the rules system part of the equation.

The game took place in the home of the same person that introduced me to the game back when Third edition was making the transition to three dot five. Their group has grown too big, and so they have decided that the thing to do, was to split the group and run two games. Both groups would be playing the same adventure and have the same encounters planned. The plan was for it to be a competition, and allow both groups to compare notes afterward for camaraderie.

I've been wanting to try 4th edition since its inception two years ago (2008), but that was about the time our regular D&D group stopped being regular, and then stopped altogether. I was actually excited about the game, and I talked it up with our Dungeon Master—He got the books and we never played (I felt bad about that, since they aren't exactly cheap, and he was having some employment issues at the time.).

I eventually got the books (Heavily discounted—a lot of people disliked the new edition so much that it became easy to find them cheap in the second hand market), and I finally got to bust them out Monday.

I didn't go into this completely blind. Granted, I haven't really had a chance to read the books, but I have listened to/watched several actual play recordings/videos that I found on the internet. It didn't seem terribly different—roll d20 to determine success or failure, roll other dice to determine damage, and every one has specialized skills that they can use with varying frequencies.

Having played 3rd edition and 3.5 edition, I should have been able to understand the character sheet, but I couldn't. Some of the acronyms made no sense to me, even after seven hours I still didn't get it. This is not the fault of the system, this character sheet was a custom one, created by the host for their regular group. The Regulars all seemed to understand the formulas. That was my first frustration.

The second thing that I found frustrating, was that the Dungeon Master was not terribly descriptive. For an example, in our first encounter we found ourselves in an arena being attacked by creatures. When I asked for a description, all I got was, "Green Humanoids." According to the Tournament Rules anyone could ask to do a Lore roll to see what they know about the creatures encountered, and when someone did that, depending on a measure of success he would read a portion of the description directly out of the Monster Manual. I just wasn't feeling terribly immersed in the world, it felt like the focus was more on the Game portion, rather than a balance of Game and Role Play. It went something like this:

Game Master Reads Some Story, then an encounter that was just an exercise in die rolling. No descriptions of the action. These figures on the Grid Surround these figures on the Grid, and every one just roll dice until the Game Masters figures are removed from the table. Role a die for loot and move on to the next encounter—which goes down in pretty much the same way, starting with the reading of some story.

I'm pretty sure that could mostly be attributed to the Game Masters abilities, and I'll cut him some slack, because I know from experience how difficult it is to run a game. I've done it quite frequently in the past year.

The part I will put more blame on the rules for, is the seeming lack of room for creativity. The encounters seemed to be an exercise in picking the Rule off of the Character sheet that would allow you to create the most damage with your die roll. It felt stifling and uncreative, and I was bored with it after two encounters. In the third encounter I wanted to do something that wasn't, "I hit it with my short sword."

My trying to do something creative with the rules at hand made me think of a line from Galaxy Quest:
"I know! You'll need to make a weapon. Look around; can you construct some sort of rudimentary lathe?"

In the second encounter I had picked up a bag of nails and a small hammer, and I was trying to come up with something creative when we were attacked by Giant Spiders. I decided to do something different than just hit it with my sword, I tried to jump on the spider's back. I failed, but I was close. When it came around to my turn again I had decided to tie my rope to one of the legs and then weave myself in and out of the legs and tie it to a tree. I succeeded, but it was dead as soon as I started to drag it toward a tree. I felt much more satisfaction from that than the previous encounters, and I continued to look for opportunities to pull off such maneuvers in the remaining encounters, but the rules don't seem to award that sort of thinking.

To me it felt as though you'd be less likely to pull that sort of creative move off (one of the other players in the upstairs game tried to use the bag of nails in a creative way and the Game Master disallowed such an action), and you'll be less likely to take an enemy down through creative tactics, than if you just pick one of your encounter powers and roll the dice accordingly; I fully admit it might just be my lack of familiarity with the rules that make it seem so, it also could be that the lack of description made it feel like we were playing with  figs in an empty space, just us versus the monsters in a board game sort of way—rather than feeling like we were adventurers battling for our life in a fantastic and strange land—which made it difficult for me to creatively use the space tactically.

Don't get me wrong, I had fun, and the game wasn't that bad—I think I just have different expectations than this group of players.

Friday, July 02, 2010

I think I Handled the New Player a Little Better This Time. . . Maybe

It's been a month and I finally got to play Savage Worlds again.

We have a neighbor who expressed curiosity in playing with us some time ago, so I've been inviting him since then and Saturday he was able to come to the game. Brandon helped him to create a character (So I could read a One Sheet that he has written to give him some feedback), but I handle character creation differently—so I'm kind of regretting that (just a little bit).

It took longer than anticipated, but I finally got the game going. This was a high box-text part of the adventure, and rather than paraphrase like I normally do, I decided to just read the text, as is, from the book. We're still in the highly railroady part of The Flood. My wife constantly mocked me during the reading portions.

Then Finally, they got to the encounter. The whole thing felt forced and inorganic. When they started fighting the bad guys, I finally remembered something that I've been wanting to do for a long time. The technique is called: yes...but...

I think I heard about this Technique from Sean Patrick Fannon on one or more of the Gaming Podcasts to which I subscribe. I believe he stated that it is an old improvisation exercise. It works like this: If someone asks a question, the answer is yes...but there is some caveat .

I.e.—"Is there a Garbage Can I can Hide Behind?"

—Absolutely, but it's across the street, you could probably make it past the crossfire to take cover. . .

This, added to the fact that this game marked the first use of a Battle Mat owned by myself, made for an interesting encounter. My wife was holding the Wet Erase Marker, and was using the Yes...But... technique to her advantage, drawing in all the fiddly bits.

What I thought would turn into a shootout in the street, ended up with the Posse holing up inside: throwing tables in front of the windows, locking the proprietor of the establishment in a closet, Molotov cocktails. The most creative maneuver by a Player Character of the night, happened because of the Yes...But... technique. He asked if there was a Sign hanging from the Balcony above, that he could shoot the supporting ropes of, and have it fall on the guys below. The answer of course was yes...but it's going to be a difficult shot to do so. Essentially, he had to roll a six on a six sided die to be successful. He rolled, and because of the exploding dice mechanic he got a fifteen on his six sided die, that's a very solid hit, which means that he gets to roll an extra six sided dice for damage.

In this case that meant 3d6 for damage—He rolled a one a one and a two for a grand total of four. Which was the lowest number he could get and be successful in breaking the rope. Then the damage the sign caused didn't even phase one of the guys, but the other guy was out of the fight because of it.

At this point it was late and all they had to do was get out of Lost Angels. I threw one more group of bad guys on the table, just for some dramatic flair—make them feel like they were being chased and there was danger around every corner. They were on the opposite side of the Map, all they had to do was run around a corner and make a stealth check and they were safe—so of course they took cover and proceeded to take them all out.

My conclusions for the evening:
Players never do what you think or hope they will—luckily that's a big part of the fun. I'm starting to enjoy the Behind the Screen part of the game a little better. Molotov cocktails need to be less easy to create. I love it when players are more creative about the encounters, now if I could get them to be more creative with the use of the game mechanics (Taunts, and Ganging Up, and getting the Drop...that sort of thing). I need to use the awesome weapons that my wild cards have, instead of forgetting that they have them until after they are incapacitated—this game was not the first (and probably not the last) example of this happening.

As for the new player thing. I ruined someones enjoyment of RPGs during one of the first sessions I ran. I feel bad, because they still won't play with us and have no desire to do so at all. I completely recognize that I ruined their enjoyment of the game, and their view of role playing games in general. I also recognize that I was so new to the Game Mastering side of the hobby that I had no way of recognizing that I was creating a negative experience.

This time went much better, he had played D&D once before, but I think allowing him to come up with this plan concerning the hanging sign really added to his enjoyment of the game. (I overheard him telling his Dad about it in Church between meetings the following day) Yes...But... is a tool that every Game Master Should be using. It allows people to come up with crazy things, and go away with an amazing cinematic experience.