Mad Max much?

Friday, 4. February 2011

Who needs to go to the post apocalyptic future to see how they refine oil when it can be had right here.. right now. In Indonesia apparently to boot. All it really needs is a couple bleached and oil soaked skulls, some towers and barbed wire.. and of course some guards posted carrying AK’s and spears (because there really isn’t that much technology difference between the 2 sadly.) Leather armor or wearing tires is of course optional.

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Saturday, 15. January 2011

Munchkin - A game of backstabbing. Literally

As I am not a huge card game goer, I finally got around to playing Munchkin from Steve Jackson Games. Of course, this was at a small party with 6 other people. The you are definitely in it for the long haul with that many for all the rules wrangling you can pull off as well as all of the backstabbing.  All that aside, it was still some pretty good times and I can see why its heavily played.

Essentially for those who don’t know (Which is probably everyone except me but I’ll write this anyways,) it’s basically a cardgame dungeon crawl. You start out classless and raceless and at level one. You can pick those up through play, as well as varying equipment that can and can’t be used depending on your race and class. Elf for instance gives you a bonus to run away and gives you a level when you help someone defeat a monster. They also get completely ripped apart by certain monsters that don’t like them. (Better negotiate for some help with those ones!) The idea is to get up to level 10 and win, via collecting loot, killing monsters and any other of the various insane ways to get levels.
Read more Ľ

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Game Breakups

Monday, 27. December 2010

NZ Quake - Martin Luff

I’ve read an awful lot of listings lately with various game breakups and for whatever reason, I can’t relate to too many of them. Typically I’ll bail early if I’m not too happy with how something is working out. This is after all, supposed to be entertainment in some form or another. I think I seem to be a major culprit lately in that I have a tendency to get sidetracked by about 600 different things and then have a problem getting back on track to game.

In this case, it’s Christmas gifts, hobbies (a little knifemaking and leatherwork) working on side projects that relate to this blog, finalizing how I’d like to handle a podcast here as well as how to fit it into my schedule, and hopefully another project that I am about to launch here sometime in the new year. Of course, there is plenty of cleaning up from all of that mess to eat up my time as well.. when work isn’t keeping me busy with travels.

Its either that or if its not me.. then everyone just gets busy with real life and has the same problem. Summer and winter seem to be the real major contributors to this. There are either bunches of vacations, activities to make use of the good weather or family is in town in the case of the summer. Winter however is similarly nefarious. Lots of winter plans, hunting seasons, vacations and family and of course planning for the holidays proper all take their toll.

I suppose this somewhat leans into hoping and trying to get around and game more for the new year. Fortunately, entertaining aside (which is of course required) it’s a relatively cheap hobby.

What sidetracks you from games?

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Errant Beta Live

Monday, 20. December 2010

Errant cover

Greg Christopher creator of Synapse has decided to toss his hat into the D&D OSR ring on the off chance you haven’t been following.¬† The entrant in this particular case is Errant.¬† The systems are quite different¬†however they¬†have a couple of the same flavor elements that marry them in a similar fashion.¬† Both are of course, free for the plundering however any feedback you can provide is quite appreciated.

The main immediate similarities are that of a simple gaming style, familiar statistics and a couple of old school classes.¬† Of course, claims of old school D&D being simple is somewhat of a nefarious misdirection.. old school was a byzantine labyrinth of rules and regulations.¬† Errant really is simple however, staying true to it’s predecessor Synapse.¬† The game retains¬†the original¬†6 statistics of STR, DEX, CON, INT, WIS and CHA.¬†¬†Actions that aren’t tied to anything specifically¬†are resolved through a simple stat check.

Major differing points are relatively in depth character creation for an OSR game (Gifts and some character customization in skills) and taking another leap for the time frame.. actual character motivations other than raiding dungeons for loot and fame.  Spell casters in this set are also very specialized and themed versus the generic wizard or mage.  Notably absent however is the cleric or priestly class, with the Paladin filling the holy mans void.

The books artwork is rather light versus some of the major producers, but filled with good quality pieces that have been donated.  The location of each piece is rather well themed and fits in well.  The books character creation and rules flow rather well and is condensed into a neat 80 pages.

Rather than making this review overly long, I will suggest taking a look at it if you’re interested.. (and even if you aren’t~)

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MMO & RPG Crossover

Wednesday, 15. December 2010

WoW - Lich King

There are some interesting questions posed at Beyond the Black Gate¬†regarding MMO and RPG crossover.¬†¬†If you’re too lazy to go look, the specifics are regarding setting customization, rules customization, and character development driving the game.¬† The assertion is that MMO’s will get there eventually, simply because there is so much money involved. World of Warcraft is a good one to pick from since it’s currently the giant, however it doesn’t have all the distinguishing features of some of the other MMO’s.

Now admittedly some of these have already happened efficiently in games.¬† Neverwinter nights with it’s GM’ing tools did a pretty good job with rules and setting customization, within a limited frame of what the tool set could do.¬† NWN 2 improved on this in some ways and fell away in others, namely the ease of using the GM tool when it was released.¬† Rules tweaking.. not so much so.¬† Some of the physics and other mechanics of the game could be programmed however in Second Life from my understanding.

As far as MMO’s, City of Heroes/Villains has a pretty good generator for making custom adventures.¬† The tool offers a lot of flexibility in setting up an adventure from dialog to various combat scenarios as well as, however it doesn’t really allow for the setting “mood” changes that¬†a GM can impart.¬† The genre is that of an action superhero game and its hard to shift that dynamic to anything else.¬† Moreso, the game has the standard MMO drivers to continue playing, which I will address below.

For rules customization there has been something that you could tweak spur of the moment.. but to instantly adopt something, you’d really have to look at some of the more “classless” games, such as EVE.¬†¬†¬† True, it’s impossible to implement anything at more than a¬†newb level, but that’s possible to change.¬† Final fantasy was able¬†to implement class games, but as mentioned it requires a lot of outside input to make it happen.¬†

Character development driving the game?¬† I think it’ll never happen. Never ever.¬† At least not in the sense of character development¬†being “further developing the character in terms elements unrelated to pure¬†advancement of power or other advantages.”¬† Play in MMO’s revolves around¬†3 concepts:¬† entertainment, social circles,¬†and¬†character advancement.¬† If you remove the MMO element?¬† Well, then you can put some character development in, but from what I’ve seen otherwise it is mutually exclusive.

I think at best that this is something that can be filled partway, but the real crossover of why people enjoy role playing games.. the same reasons that Al mentioned aren’t going to be fulfilled anytime soon.¬† I’m going to leverage that character development as one of the main tabletop advantages, and something that it will keep the crown for a long time.

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PC Game Nostalgia for the Holidays

Wednesday, 8. December 2010

MY latest examiner article is up…

So you’re looking for PC games for your resident fanatic, but you’re not happy with the current releases. The economy is tough and money is tight. Whats a shopper to do?¬†

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Using Established Settings

Monday, 6. December 2010

Yay, star wars trilogy

Although I don’t watch a tremendous amount of television for movies for that matter, I’m always fascinated by the huge amounts of time that goes into making them.¬† Not only do you have to pen everything in, you have to create everything visually as well and then take your time filming it to get the shots you want.¬†¬† It’s produces a well defined setting that looks like it would be great to play in… except for the fact that in most cases the settings are already encased in stone.¬† We can use books and TV for sake of the argument as well, since they’re more or less the same backdrop.

Star wars is a pretty good example to work with because everyone is familiar with the setting, most people like it for one reason or another and consequently a lot of people play it.¬† It has a predisposed timeline and major characters however.. events X, Y and Z will happen unless you’re playing away from something that is canon.¬† As a result any other action that goes on can never be within the first chair of action.¬† You’re lucky if you get into second, but most of the time you would be third or even fourth.¬† If you’re game for that, go ahead.¬† I want my players to have the flexibility to do nearly anything without inconveniences such as pre written story to adhere to.¬†

This is precisely why I love Knights of the Old Republic.  Nothing like a few thousand years of blank slate to play with, of course with the exception of whats already established in terms of planets, technology and setting.  You have virtually all of the advantages, and none of the hinderances from above.

This can go with pretty much any setting you might imagine of course; Willow, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Narnia, Terminator, Blade runner all have very interesting settings that you can work with, except for the established timeline.¬† I think the consistency that film produces is some of the draw to these, everyone more or less sees the same thing with the exception of what details are you focusing¬†on.¬† Eventually however you’re going to run into that while playing unless you set your campaign far enough ahead of¬†or behind whats already going on.¬† Or, maybe just do a series of short adventures within the settings.

That is the angle that I generally try and work from -¬†before or after the time lines or just do a short series of one off adventures that fall in-between or perhaps run parallel to the main movie plot.¬†¬†I avoid using any of the main characters like the plague, unless they are pure background characters.¬† If I wanted fan fiction I’d write it!

Who else uses some of the established settings, and what are your work arounds?

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Why Game?

Friday, 12. November 2010

“When looking at hobbies it is obvious that some produce more tangible results than others.¬†¬†After all, many produce beautiful¬†showpieces and show an evolution of ones ¬†character throughout them.¬† Gaming of course, usually has no such tangible results..¬† This can lead one to ask the question; why games?

The defining feature of a hobby perhaps is that is something one enjoys doing as a labor of love.  Were it profitable after all, it would be called a business would it not?  We can therefore set aside profit as a primary motivator for hobbies in general.

The true value lies in other places..  providing entertainment as well as  developing associated skills.  In getting our entertainment we might do so passively as in watching a movie or television, allowing ourselves to be entertained.  Then again, we might do so actively as in playing a game and build ourselves in the process.

Of all gaming, one of the defining features is that requires its players to be mentally active.  Depending on the game, either the next set of moves is being played out in ones head.. response times and judgement is being considered or the gears of the brain are truly turning as an engine in creativity in a role playing game.  In all cases the players are actively involved and building skills that can be later applied either directly or indirectly.

Next time you have¬†the opportunity to entertain yourself, what will it be?¬† Passive entertainment¬†through a movie or something that can be¬†used to further oneself.. a game?”

Busy week here, this is a little piece I wrote for an application to the Examiner.¬† They apparently would like me to write… for video games..¬† but¬†I suppose there is enough crossover there to make that a worthwhile project.

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Damage Scaling

Monday, 25. October 2010

BX has an interesting post on the use of a simple d6 damage mechanic for D&D gaming.  The argument is essentially that all weapons are lethal and equally capable of gutting someone should they connect.  I agree to a point, but there is definitely an advantage to be had for reach and then armor adds just another entire level of complexity.  Lets face it, most of the time damage in games is pretty abstract because it would be very disappointing for someone to get gutted in the first hit particularly after spending all that time making a character.

So lets look at using something similar or perhaps a “slight” change in the damage die for weapons if you¬†prefer just based on¬†the mass of damage done.¬† In this case, we’ll just keep with a simple d6 however for sake of simplicity.¬†¬†From there, we’ve got another couple layers that¬†heap on complexity and perhaps affect the damage we can do with a given weapon.¬† Technique (combat experience, skill etc)¬†has a¬†lot to do with it, so that should be¬†a major factor.¬†¬†Strength plays a smaller part and speed is¬†equally important.¬† (I know there are a lot of¬†other factors we can incorporate, but this has to be playable!)

For D&D it might be something like this

Skill – Every 4 levels results in a +1. Classes that are specialized in fighting gain an additional +1 to this scale.
Strength - Each point of bonus represents +1 on the scale.  Likewise with penalties.
Speed – Dexterity is factored in a similar fashion.

All of those attributes end up getting summed on each side of the equation and a comparison is made between the 2.  If there is no or simply a small difference, the damage for each weapon remains the same.  As the difference increases, whomever has the advantage increases their damage in increments.  For D&D, a d2 would be appropriate.  For games similar to heavy gear, a damage increase of 1 per step would be appropriate.

Difference Added damage
0-3              None
3-6              d2 (d6 would be d8 now, etc)
6-12            d4
12+             d6

What does all this do¬†put together?¬† It provides a relative effectiveness of each combatant with a weapon.¬† The more able combatant is going to be able to better leverage his ¬†weapons strengths and the damage increase shows this.¬† In the case of the less skilled person;¬†a lethal¬†weapon is still lethal.¬† Damage in their case remains¬†the same to reflect this. It also represents the multiple hits or other techniques that might be applied with a weapon that’s seemingly “less” lethal to greatly increase its effectiveness.

If you wanted to get away from hit points, you could use a scale of combat advantage the combatants progress along until one wins, with the win resulting in a wound for the other.  Combat progresses until a clear winner is there.


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Castlevania – Lords of Shadow (2)

Saturday, 23. October 2010

Castlevania Lords of Shadow

Just in case you’re wondering where I’ve been instead of posting. The current incarnation of Castlevania – Lords of Shadow is an excellent addition to the franchise. I’m probably a little over 1/3 of the way into the game right now, playing the 360 version. It’s good that there was some pressure to get this game right, because previous incarnations of Castlevania in 3d have been lacking both in both game play and graphically.

Fortunately this is not the case with LoS; the game uses a well polished but similar style of play to what you might expect out of Darksiders or God of War. Camera angles are for the most part pretty good although there is the occasional spot where you wish it would move more. Thus far however, they haven’t gotten in the way of any major fights. Game play depth is added through the use of both light and shadow magic. The one heals you and the other increases damage. Both have substantial effects on your sub-weapons; Shadow magic for instance turns your daggers into small explosives.

Gone is the familiar system of using hearts for sub-weapons. You actually carry a set number of items to use, and when they are gone, they’re gone. Fortunately the items for the most part drop quite frequently, Your carrying capacity for each is also upgradeable.. particularly if you are efficient at finding all the upgrades. They have varying effectiveness against different monsters which are shown on each monsters description page after you defeat them.

Graphically the game is simply amazing. The textures are very well done with little awkwardness to at all (Incidentally, character texture was always well done in their earlier 3d games.) The backgrounds however is where this game really, really shines. Gone are the boring obviously templated rooms with a full rich 3d background and simply amazing environmental and lighting effects. It really adds a lot of feeling to the game to see everything hidden by fog or shadows. There isn’t just that in the game however; there is a tremendous amounts of area that Gabriel covers, lush woodlands, dank swamps, arctic cold. All are done amazingly well.

Without giving anything away; the plot so far seems to be keyed in heavily in the duality of human nature – Good & evil as you would expect in a Castlevania game. This game is pretty dark, I’d say a lot more so than the feeling of the other games with your hero Garbriel being quite tormented by his actions and mistakes. The voice acting in addition is excellent and adds a real quality unlike a lot of previous games where its some cheesy translation. (Which is good, I’d have expected Patrick Stewart to tell them to go to hell if it wasn’t, hah!)

All in all, this one seems to be a good one for the collection and not just for hardcore enthusiasts. There is a mention of previous characters from the other games, but you would not lose anything if you hadn’t played any of the franchise before. The game is a bit twitchy however and while I wouldn’t say exceedingly difficult there is a distinct learning curve with most bosses. If you’re on a proper difficulty expected to be playing each a couple of times before you finally beat them.

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