Magnus – CGI Short

Monday, 4. July 2011

Magnus from Meradi Omar on Vimeo.

Linked from Geeks are Sexy, this is some serious eye candy. Feels very remineniscent of Final Fantasy 7.

“Made by Dos Santos Nelson and Meradi Omar at ATI for their master’s degrees, Magnus is a full CG movie telling the tale of an old train which travels through landscapes to get to an ancient city. Enjoy!”

ProFantasy Software

Wednesday, 20. April 2011

CC 3

Someone sent me a nice link to some mapping software earlier today, and I was wondering if anyone had any thoughts or experience with it.  The companies name is ProFantasy and they have an entire product line.

The flagship program is called “Campaign Cartographer 3” and seems to be about the best put together piece I’ve seen so far for the purpose. It’s available digitally and you can get the physical product as well if you prefer although it will cost you a little extra money.

Thoughts at a glance
Heavy Duty software
Entire selective suite of software
Priced for it’s capabilities (meaning expensive for more than 1)
Very good looking maps with a variety of products
Modular, with most building off the main software
campaign cartographer)

Anyone have any experience that they could comment on this?

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System Selection: Heavy Gear

Thursday, 30. December 2010

Heavy Gear, 2E

Moving along to one of my more perennial favorites, Heavy Gear. It’s always good to be able to stomp around in mid sized gasoline powered mechs in the desert. The setting is pretty harsh, and there are a lot of ways to die if you take it as a role playing game rather than a pure tactical simulation. The system has a inherent simplicity within it, so it makes picking it up or running a game very easy. You can quickly focus on game play and the storyline elements, or run complicated tactical scenarios because of this without an entire manual of character sheets. It likewise plays very quickly, so everyone can get in on the action.

General Setting: Terra Nova, a desert planet in the future a couple jumps away from Earth. Left abandoned during hard times the colony survived and flourished. When Earth returned to reassert its control, the people of Terra Nova fought off the invasion using gears, smaller gasoline powered mechs. There is plenty of other vehicles, but the gears are what makes the system what it is.
Read more

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System Selection: Dungeons and Dragons

Thursday, 9. December 2010

The Traditional Red Box

Moving along in our commonly available systems, we move into one of my favorite old school games; Dungeons and Dragons. Technically speaking, I could probably make this a 5 part post considering all of the versions of it out there and maybe even more if I consider revisions. In the spirit of going with what is commonly available at the stores however this really needs to only tie into 2 editions… 4th edition and Essentials. Bashing the game for its inadequacies is as old as time itself and yet it still manages to hang in there with the best name recognition out there.

Game System: 4th Edition & Essentials. Technically they both use the same system although essentials is a bit of a step back in simplicity and game nostalgia with the available classes. It’s also a good opportunity to correct all the errata that 4th generated. Love it or hate it, I think it plays very similarly to world of warcraft with its abilities and style.

General Setting: Vanilla fantasy with a modern theme, although a tremendous number of well defined settings are available: Darksun, Forgotton Realms, Al-quadim, Ravenloft to name a few. The settings a quite different from each other and you should be able to find a setting style you like with a little bit of looking. If you’re into custom worlds, that is essentially fully supported through templating.

Detail Focus: Combat, Adventure and Exploration. The original game themed somewhat in the reverse order, 4th and Essentials are very much a fighting game at heart. The system is designed to be used with miniatures and is a miniature tactical combat simulator. Abilities and classes are well defined as is their role within the group. D&D is very well setup to be a team game, with everyone covering each others weaknesses and playing to their strengths.

System Difficulty: Moderately difficult (6 of 10.) Dungeons and Dragons is a game of rules and abilities… and there are a lot of them to learn. Even at a basic tactical level it is very helpful to have someone showing you the ropes until you figure out what you’re doing. This is particularly important since you’re supposed to be working as a team.

Kid Suitability: Moderate to Well. Depends on their age…how well they are able to grok what they are supposed to be doing. The team aspects and elements work well for kids in my opinion, as roles are pretty clearly spelled out. The setting is not particularly horrific or flowery and plays well as it’s supposed to… epic fantasy.

Cost: $20 to get started for essentials. More for 4th Edition which you’ll probably be picking up eventually.

Other Notes: I haven’t played a whole ton of 4th Edition as I’m more of a 3rd edition guy. Wizards of the Coast owns this, so it’ll be interesting to see what direction they take the game as far as online support and how long the current edition sticks around. Most schisms in this game focus around the various editions. Love it or hate it, the game pays to be somewhat familiar with as it’s been around forever and is widely played in one form or another.

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Good food locally – CSA’s

Tuesday, 7. December 2010

Evansville Produce (Flickr / JaseMan)

Or in long.. Community Supported Agriculture.  This is one of those oddball topics that fits into my “What interests me” categories on this blog, so bear with me here.  It fits neatly into my “gaming as entertaining niche” however, since it’s hard to entertain with crappy food.  If you’re aware of what I’m talking about - great.  If not and you enjoy cooking, supporting local businesses and/or fresh organic food for a good to low rate then keep reading.

The entire organic eating movement developed because people are/were sick of eating pesticides, GMO food and generally unhealthy food that was mass produced and outsourced from halfway across the planet.  Some food we need to get that way.. but obviously not all of it.  The USA is geographically diverse enough to produce pretty much anything you can think of with a few exceptions.  As everyone knows though.. “Organic” food is boutique and mostly freakin expensive as a result.

Alongside this, the locavore movement was getting established at the same time.  If you are too lazy to click, it basically means eating locally.. foods that are in-season.  They taste way better and if you pick them up from a smaller producer..  are mostly organic and potentially very cheap.  Farmers markets are a good example of this, and forutuately the number of them have exploded in the last 10 years.

Now, CSA’s are essentially eating local food, mostly organically produced with a bit of a twist on it however.  The food is paid for in advance, as a “share” of the crop - for a season. For those of you unfamiliar with farming… farmers get screwed particularly in 2 situations.  When there is a poor harvest (there isn’t enough food to sell even though the prices are high are a result) and when there is a great harvest (prices plummet even though there is a lot to sell.)  So, by getting a fixed price at the beginning of the year the farmer is assured and income… regardless of the harvest.  If they want to keep their shareholders happy, they will of course do their best to ensure the best harvest possible. 

Anycase, your next thoughts are probably “Why now, it’s winter and nothing grows in winter.”  You are of course right, however the shares for these have to be purchased in advance, so now is a good time to start looking.  Shares vary from CSA to CSA to the number of available, but most have half shares available if you don’t cook as much or happen to be flying solo.  There are also working and non-working shares depending on the CSA… working shares involve you getting your hands dirty from time to time with weeding, planting, harvesting and the like.  The costs for such case are typically lower and it is a great way to get local expert advice and experience on local growing and gardening if such things interest you.

With a share purchased, you will typically get food weekly throughout the growing season.  This is either picked up from the farm itself or a local distribution point in the city if the farm has enough shareholders.  Anything that can be locally grown is in the harvest.. and if your CSA doesn’t offer a given item.. say milk, eggs, honey or some of the more esoteric food.. they often partner up with another CSA that does giving you some of the best in local fresh food.

Now.. last question is probably “Great, but how do I find one?”   There is a site for that as well.. Local Harvest.  Assuming you’re not living someplace really arid, you probably have a lot more of these around you than might imagine… Like any other business not all of these are created equal, but they are definitely worth investigating if you’re into fresh and/or local food.  It’s also a good opportunity to build community.. and actually meet the person that provides your food which is pretty great in the era of big box anonymity.

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System Selection: White Wolf

Thursday, 2. December 2010

It’s nice to be able to talk about all sorts of obscure as well as ancient systems and their tweaks, but what if you want to get a game and play something right now?  Well, you are limited to what you can get off the shelf or at your local hobby shop.  With dwindling numbers of hobby stores, if you’re really lucky (like myself) you might only be able to get whats available at your local book store.  Fortunately however,  they are carrying more and more.  So, over the next while I’ll be looking at commonly available games, as well as their flaws and perks.  You might think I’d start with Dungeons and Dragons in this case, but actually I’m going to start with White Wolf, simply because I think it gives character details the emphasis that are required to get players somewhat excited about them from the get go. 

Game System:  White Wolf – Vampire, Werewolf, Mage, Changeling, Wraith.  I am gloming these all together because they’re all World of Darkness settings, even though they have vastly different focuses.  The various groups tend to hate each other as well so it can make for some pretty interesting role playing if you have a mixed group.

General Setting: Wold of Darkness – Alternative contemporary, but can also be alternative historical given the number of resources available.  This makes setting up games rather simple as you can simply look around your area and “White wolf-ify it” as in make it dark and sinister.

Detail Focus:  Mystery, Intrigue, Drama, Character relations are all major driving factors in white wolf games.  These games are very heavily based on actually role playing and the character generation and notes reflect it (as does the character sheet!)  There is a lot of complicated interpersonal relations that get played out that drive the plot.  Combat although important is a small portion in comparison.  The game certainly can be a combat game, but the system is rather abstract compared to others out there.

System Difficulty: Simple (3-4 out of 10) with a major Caveat.  The system in WoD is very simple to learn the mechanics of and you can be up and running in a day pretty confidently.  Caveat – Tons of customs and behaviors need to be learned to play your character effectively.  You’ll either be riding the learning curve with a storyteller or more hopefully have a group and storyteller that will be along with you to help you “ride the lightning,.”

Kid Suitability:  Rather Low.  The setting is very dark and sinister, and if you aren’t getting the life sucked out of you, ripped apart, tortured, turned into a ghoul etc (or doing the same to others) you are doing something wrong.  Not something I would teach to kids although teens are going to get into it for  those very factors. 

Cost: 35$ or less if you find it used gets you started on a particular journey.

Other Notes:  While I don’t play this a whole lot, I love the concept and settings as well as the simplicity and role play focus.  I am back in second edition with these games however, and I understand there have been at least 2 more revisions since then.  Not a huge problem, but apparently a lot of what was considered canon within the settings have been changed which makes for some interesting schisms.

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Khara Thel – Simple 2d6

Sunday, 7. November 2010

Considering the complexity of some modern games, it seems a lot of them are intent on competing with computers for what computers do best… crunch numbers.  Tactical simulation is one thing however you can only get to a certain point before it becomes a tactical game instead of a role playing game.  This seems ludicrous to me.  Due to this, I am always a fan of looking for simple role playing systems that don’t let their egos get in front of of what a game was designed to do… be played and have fun.

Enter Khara Thel, Simple 2d6. It’s still a work in progress currently, but has a lot going for it. Judging from the lack of setting information I would assume it’s meant to be tuned into whatever setting you feel for now, provided its the proper time frame (Sword and Sorcery.) I’m sure the that will be filled in a bit more into the book proper later… it is there you just need to dig through the blog to find it~

As for whats going for it.. For starters, it is as the title claims to be, simple. The same resolution mechanics are used throughout the entire game system from combat to conversation to spell casting… this is important because it keeps the required knowledge base of the game to play low. That in turn leads to more time gaming instead of teaching or arguing over rules. Secondly; Runjikol has a pretty good concept of how martial engagement works such so that one might infer he is a martial scientist himself. This carries over into the combat system making it look quite good while retaining it’s inherent simplicity. The magic system itself seems to be quite intuitive although a bit light on spells proper at the moment.

In anycase; I recommend heading over and taking a look when you get a chance. Any development information is useful and a good ribbing to keep progress in order is always a good thing!

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Preparation? No, Triage

Monday, 13. September 2010

Fame and Fortune is running this months RPG Carnival, with the theme being preparation.  A lot of times it’s either all or nothing depending on what you’re running and how long you’ll be running it for.  It’s a very good test of storytelling ability to be able to run a good game on the fly.  I can only do it part of the time, and the rest really prefer to get some proper preparations in.  This leads into questions such as…  How do you spend your time setting up for a game, how much is too much, looking at a variety of variables depending on the game you are running that include but are not limited to…

- complexity of game system (compare 3:16 with D&D 3.5 with high-level Rolemaster)
- session duration (D&D Encounters vs. tournament vs. an evening’s gaming)
- if the game is a one-shot or part of a campaign
- nature of the setting (pre-generated module vs. self-created sandbox).

I think it’s a good start if you want to try and quantify everything, but is really overkill. I can simplify how this works to 1 simple word.. “Triage.” Time is limited, and no matter how much time you have available eventually you can only get so fine in the amount of detail given. Depending on the setting and your style of game play you might not even want to get ridiculously detailed. Having another book to look up information from (this time your self created module) can really stifle game play.

With that in mind there are 2 things you need to put in place before you really get started.
1) Your style of Game play (Noir, Mystery, Action, Horror, etc.)
2) How much time you have (or want to spend) to prepare
Once you’ve figured those out, you can get started on the next process. You’ll have to budget enough time to get the first 3 steps done or you’re really going to be winging it.

1) Overall Area Map – This doesn’t have to be detailed, it’s simply a sketch of major points of interest in the area your campaign is being held in. Cities, Kingdoms, Spaceports, Dungeons and the like.
2) Roughing in the Major areas – You are going to go into a little detail with major NPC’s, Organizations, and the overall “feel” of each major area. You’ll be able to build more detail later, this is simply setting up framework to run a campaign.
3) Probable Plotlines – Since you should already have an idea of how you are going to run the campaign you now need to populate it with some motivations between characters and organizations, who hates who, and what the current happenings are in the area. With this in place it becomes very easy to wing it if your players decide to do something completely different. However, you are also set in case they decide to run with whatever your plot lines are.
4) Minor Map areas – Continue filling in your map with minor areas of interest. Your plot lines should help direct what some of these might be (Towns in duress, druid circles, crashed spacecraft, etc)
5) Familiarization – Make sure you have a good feeling about being able to describe all the major areas that might be visited, how you are going to describe them, points of conflict and so on. Understanding what you’ve put together at this point to make it run smoothly is more important than adding more detail.
6) Minor NPCs and events – I put these after familiarization simply because they’re simply filler for you to pull from for personalites, enemies and the like.
7) Additional detail work – Self explanatory, and can be repeated ad nauseum.

This entire process should give a pretty good breakdown of putting together a campaign within some time frames, and whats actually important to your running it. Its possible to get as detailed as you like, but the major elements are the most important part and are what need to be there first. After that, everything is just feelings and filler.

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The arguement for standardized systems & worlds

Tuesday, 31. August 2010

Greg has a few good points as to why having linked systems and settings are a bad idea. I agree with his assertions in general as for the game being terrible for world building, but not everyone are at this stage to where it’s useful. I’ll argue in the case of devils advocate for standardization here at least for the beginning. The majority of them are for marketability in terms of the developer.

In fact it might be simply terrible for any sort of beginner to have to come up with everything without any form of guideance. That is an absolutely a huge turnoff for new players, not only are you required to learn the rules and come up with character, but come up with a world as well? Very harsh.

I believe that having a temperated world for each system is an excellent idea… provided that each system has added rules for expansion in the longer term. Even as an experienced player, I want something to give a general “feel” of the game play and system. Inevitably rules will be tweaked and the setting may be changed, but at least I have a baseline experience to work from. This also makes a game very relatable.. other players and storytellers instantly have a connection when a game is talked about, simply because there is a baseline of how it works.

There is of course, the simplification argument for is that having all classes and clans is that the play is focused. This focusing simplifies game play, it simplifies rules and times at the table and allows everything to move quickly and hopefully smoothly. Assuming the game has been streamlining rather than adding useless rules, the standardization allows for quick quashing of arguments.

From a marketing perspective it allows a designer to cover the largest variety of their players at once. This efficiency hopefully lowers cost for them and prospective buyers in the future. Nobody from a production perspective wants to create a product that has very limited appeal… its inefficient to produce unless you can sell it for high cost or are just into it for the art. If you’re selling cars then for instance; you want to be able to sell tires which everyone needs, not huge spoilers.

In addition, there are branding issues. It’s difficult to brand pure flexibility in a game system as it’s primary attribute. It’s not something that sticks in ones head as a usable attribute. So setting is used to differentiate one system from another.. one does dragons, one does vampires, one does sci-fi, etc.

–Note that I do think modern systems are too limiting both in terms of choice, but also in terms of typing them strictly to the producers product. (Edition, expansion, etc.) But there is a good reason for it other than just being purely greedy.

Synapse Beta now LIVE

Tuesday, 24. August 2010

Synapse is now live in it’s Beta form. If you haven’t taken a look at it, you owe it to yourself to download a copy and look it over. Greg Christopher’s work is very dynamic and one of the most novel twists in defining character mechanics I’ve seen to this date. The system is universally applicable to any setting, and has a good number of templates to quickly make characters and societies. I’ll cover what I consider some of the more unique features of the game. I’m sure Greg will argue with me there is much much more but in my opinion this is what makes the game really stand out.

To begin; rather than planning standard character statistics you actually patter your characters brain. The brain patterning determines how you behave, your strengths and weaknesses as well as the applicable skills your character can learn. Going forward there is a convenient step by step process that builds skills and further tweaks your mentality as you proceed. For instance growing up in the wilderness will naturally skew your skills towards the applicable, but will also tilt your mindset to be self reliant. Everything proceeds in a logical, simple fashion that’s produces an well polished, excellent overall result without being completely overwhelming.

The other particularly unique feature is that the brain characteristics determine the choices your character can make, and how easy they are to make. They also can change based off of your decisions, particularly if you are attempting something that is very contrary to your characters nature.

Along with tracking mental characteristics, this game also tracks stress. Too much, and your character breaks down into a quivering, useless catatonic state. It’s really a good incentive to avoid hazardous situations or if you can’t, catch some relaxation afterwords to avoid snapping like a dry twig. As you might imagine this ties in beautifully with horror games, and you can see your characters getting slowly worn down in a Lovecraftian fashion.

The game is really leaning towards social interaction and role playing rather than just being a combat game with role playing thrown in on the side. I am cutting this short of the sake of brevity, but you really need to check out Synapse if you haven’t already.

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