Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Review: GURPS Low-Tech

More than once, I joked that 3rd edition GURPS had more published supplements than Talisman. And let's face it, 3e GURPS had a shmupload of worldbooks, with occasional supplements in between on how to handle different genres and settings in more general terms

But these days, it's a while between publication of hardbound books for Steve Jackson Games' flagship system, as the team is normally publishing either a) PDFs of smaller GURPS supplements or b) Munchkin expansions. They've chosen to reserve the physical production for those general genre books, the ones that would have narrowly escaped between the previous generation's worldbooks, and it shows in their presentation. The latest, GURPS Low-Tech, is out now, and I wish it had arrived sooner.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Review: Fiasco

You might look at this and think, "Really? Hasn't this thing been out for a whole year now?" Well, yes, but that doesn't mean it's not worth scrutiny. The year it's had to gain traction in the marketplace is, in fact, why it is worth scrutiny.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Prop Comedy

Here I will only mention The Campaign I'm running briefly, to say that I'm thinking about stuff to run after the "first season" concludes. And my fancy turned briefly to TORG, a game made more interesting with the inclusion of a thing called a "drama deck."

And it happened a few nights ago that I was scanning cards from Freemarket. There's not yet a way to buy new cards or decks if something happens.

The two thoughts collided, and realizations started cascading. I had to write them down. Or type them. Or something.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Campaign: Five, Six, Pick-up Play

The campaign has run through its second session and, by my reckoning, its first adventure. I see where some rough edges are, and I can act to fix them. Another issue popped up in that second session, though, and it exacerbated a problem I'd left for myself.

So I figured, why not cash in on the experience here? The knowledge might benefit someone else.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


A small gathering I attended on Saturday, combined with some of the concerns the players had when creating characters for the current HERO campaign, has me wondering if there's an epidemic condition out there.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


There is a tab in the Blogger interface called the Monetize tab, which would reconfigure my blog's layout so it will support advertisements placed there by Google. In exchange for a little money, I could add to the irritation of my reader ("readers" would be unwarranted optimism). I regard it as evil. And sadly, I think I'm in the minority.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Campaign: But What's My Motivation?

Last Sunday, I spoke to one of the players and started talking with him about the concept he wanted to play, as well as nailing down some of the alternative history which the campaign is set in (possibly a topic to revisit later). On Thursday, I spoke to two more of the players about their characters and got fairly good partial presentations of those.

And I noticed something which all three players did. It's understandable considering the system we'll be using for this game, but nonetheless, it's somehow ...troubling.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Campaign, and Starting from Scratch

The setting was far from optimal. There I was, playing my first ever game of Gamma World, trying to get the hang of the system and wondering if my new spreadsheet was indeed doing all the math correctly. (I'm still thinking of improvements to add to that, but that's a story for another time.)

Then several people approached, and I was dividing my attention between the gaming table and prospective players for that new campaign I was talking about before. It was an inconvenience right up until my character got knocked out and I could talk shop.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

A New Campaign

Admittedly, it's hardly groundbreaking news, and not terribly befitting a blog site that aspires to product reviews. I mean, here I am on this fancy-shmancy blog talking about creating my own campaign, and for a bunch of new players at that. It's so personal it's almost irrelevant to anyone else, right?

But then again, I have to buy the products I review, so there's a personal element right there. Then there's also the readership issue: I have one subscriber, and even she's only posted one comment so far. Start sending me review copies and get me up to 100 subscribers, and then we'll talk about this "journalistic integrity" think, okay? Until then, kthxbai.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A small correction... a VERY small correction

In my original Gamma World review, while I was complaining about the booster pack system, I had said there was a better than 50-50 chance of getting a dupe in your third booster pack, and one came with the game.

I have a correction to make ...kind of.

This afternoon, on a whim and to prove myself right about something, I bought two booster packs. The expectation based on my math was that I would have no repeats in the first purchased (the second) booster, and had about a 31% chance of getting a dupe in the second purchased (the third) booster.

As I was inspecting the boosters I had from the first pack, though, I realized that the numbers on the Alpha and Omega cards were all over the place. In the gratis booster, I had Alphas 3, 11, 19, 60, and 99, and Omegas 27, 35, and 72. There was no way to split the deck of 120 cards that those made sense.

So I realized that this had to be a universe of 240 cards, 120 Alphas and 120 Omegas, not just 120 cards split between Alphas and Omegas.

Different numbers? Of course the math is different!

If the universe held 120 cards, and the first booster didn't have a dupe, that would mean I held 16 unique cards, and according to my original calculations would only have a 31.8% chance of getting another dupe-free booster, and the odds would go down on subsequent boosters.

With a universe of 240 cards, you still have a 57.58% chance, better than 50-50, of being dupe-free after your second purchased (third) booster.


Then I opened my boosters.

I got a dupe anyway.

What a shock, right? I mean, there was only a 42.42% chance of that happening!

Your odds of remaining dupe-free per booster:


So, yeah, uh, if anyone wants to trade for a Force Axe (Omega 35)...

Thursday, October 28, 2010


Rather than one game, the GUMSHOE system is represented across three different games, two in the contemporary horror genre and one in the superhero genre, which has horror potential, but I digress. All three are joined by a quirk of execution: each is primarily geared to handle investigative scenarios.

They take a bit of getting used to, because all three are partially diceless systems. Yes, I said partially diceless. It's possible to play a game of this without ever rolling a single die. But there are mechanics which use dice, and depending on the scenario, you may be using them a lot.

The horror games are The Esoterrorists and Fear Itself. The superhero game is Mutant City Blues. Keep reading to review the evidence.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Road Less Traveled

If I picked up anything from Adventure Burner, it's that setting can have a profound influence on the game. A lot of games, though, have settings so traditional they're almost trite. You have your basic proto-medieval fantasy, your basic proto-futuristic space opera (though fewer of those), your basic proto-four-color superhero world, etc.

But then there are the alternatives.

High Score!

@zarawesome: is there any way to make a mmo system that doesn't make every player into a number crunching maniac

Territan: @zarawesome Yes: Don't let the players see the numbers. Hide the stats and let 'em guess. They're adiegetic anyway.

@zarawesome: @territan thing is, in MMOs, roleplaying is less diegetic than number crunching

@Territan: @zarawesome No, the RP is diegetic, and the numbers are adiegetic. But the players prefer the numbers, so the MMO panders.

@Territan: @zarawesome Just to confirm, we're NOT talking about a Math Blaster MMO, are we? If we are, then please parson my confusion.

@Territan: On the bright side, I just got a boffo lead into an IPTD post.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Settling, and yet unsettled

I wondered if I could generate enough content to fill a blog. Given that this is my 15th post in the month since I first started this thing, I no longer wonder. I've tweaked the stylesheets to improve the readability, and sooner or later I'll find someone to draw the kickass silhouette logo that this site (and its T-shirts) needs. And yet, there is a void. If you're here reading this, then you're helping to fill it, but I need more.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Review: Adventure Burner

It's possible you've never heard of Burning Wheel before. That would be sad, because there is quite a bit to like about it, both in the rules of play and the somewhat formalized manner in which play should be conducted.

So far, Luke Crane has released the two-volumed set of Burning Wheel, Revised Edition, Monster Burner, Magic Burner, and just recently the promisingly named Adventure Burner. Interestingly, the name is a bit of a misnomer—the book really covers more than the title suggests.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Somebody Skipped Triage

There’s a lot of denial among gamers that their hobby is shrinking — a combination of anecdotal evidence (“There are plenty of gamers around here.”) and One-True-Way purity (“My hobby will NEVER die!”). Mixed into this is the always-charming assertion that the industry may be shrinking, but that “the hobby doesn’t need the industry.” (Never mind asking such geniuses to ponder where new players will come from without product on store shelves drawing their attention — or when was the last time they met a player-piano enthusiast, another form of entertainment that no longer has an industry producing material for it…)

Gareth-Michael Skarka, "Tabletopcalypse Now"

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Review: Doctor Who

When I first opened the box, I was impressed by the presentation. Here, in vivid (almost lurid) color, the publisher (Cubicle 7) introduced its labor of love, dedicated to the recent version of the television series.

Finding the game in the box took a little bit more searching.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Taking the “P” out of “IP”

It's no secret that as a rule, I tend to hate licensed or "intellectual properties." Yes, as a comic book, novel, movie, or whatever original media it was it could well have rocked. But build a game out of it, and things start to slide around a bit. And usually, that sliding is downhill.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Individual Helping

With roleplaying games traditionally recognized as a social activity, it may seem strange to talk about one-on-one play. Sometimes, though, you don't have the luxury of several players. Either you only have the one friend to play with, or the rest of the group has had some catastrophe and/or scheduling conflict.

But all is not lost. There are ways to make the one-on-one game work. You do need to put a little thought into the system and the scenario, but once you do that, and put out of your mind the notion that multiple players are needed, the game can proceed.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review: Gamma World

Pity poor Gamma World. Its spiritual brother, Dungeons & Dragons, has always been its parents' favorite. With each change and edition, the developers have lavished upon D&D the best system revisions, press, and organizational support. Gamma World, hobbling along behind its more successful and revered brother, has had to make due with the cast-offs from its cousins to limited effect.

Well, once again Gamma World has been lavished with a little bit of attention and a few gifts. It's gotten some much fresher, cleaner hand-me-downs from D&D 4th Ed., tailored simply but quite colorfully, as well as a box, maps, counters, and one or two surprises which aren't hand-me-downs from anybody.

This time, will it finally break out of D&D's shadow and find a niche of its own where it can strut its stuff? No, almost certainly not. But let's open the box, look inside, and see if it should at least try.

A Game of Story

The overarcing genre known as the "roleplaying game" had humble beginnings as a conceptual variant to then-conventional wargaming. It was a novelty that the game which focused on large-unit tactics could be refocused on the capabilities of the individual rather than the squad of six or ten or twenty.

More recent developments in the field of "roleplaying games" have had people trying to simplify the game itself, arguably down to the level of finger-paints and Duplo™ blocks.

I don't necessarily want to focus on the gamey games or the non-gamey games. I want to focus on the argument.

Review: Freemarket

"We are a society of functionally immortal, cybernetically modified, telepathic infovores. Our culture is centered on a reputation-based economy in which all basic needs—sustenance and shelter—are accounted for. If you wish to do more than just survive—if you wish to create, perform, build or destroy—you must win the approval of your friends and the community at large."

—The first paragraph of the Freemarket rulebook

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Batteries Not Included

Surely you remember those dread words from your childhood—the thing you (or your child) asked for you/he/she/it finally get on Christmas, but because someone didn't look at the box carefully, a warning slipped by: this thing didn't come with everything it needed to run out of the box. You could expect things with lights and motors to need batteries, but occasionally a board game would escape scrutiny and be gifted unusable. (Batteries might be included in the stocking, but that's not so much "oversight" as "relief from an extra pair of underwear.")

And you might wonder what this has to do with RPGs, right?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


If we were to track trending topics in games, the notion of "transhumanism" would be on a slow rise. You have the well received Freemarket, created by Jared Sorensen (Memento Mori Theatricks) and Luke Crane (Burning Wheel), and from Catalyst Game Labs you have the slick and inviting Eclipse Phase.

Eclipse Phase is already on my bookshelf, and Freemarket will very soon be a welcome addition. I have just one little problem with the setup, though. Either every game which aspires to represent transhumanism is flawed (out of necessity, no less), or the notion of transhumanism itself is a steaming load of bunk.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Realigning, aligning, or juggling?

New blog-posting client, new theme (which actually says something, if only "I play like a fracking lunatic"), and I'm starting to tweak the look into something I can live with.

But there's oh so much I still have to do.

(If you dreaded the notion of reading more gaming spew from me this quickly, then rest easy and skip this post. It's pure meta.)

Mapping on the job

Yes, it's another post where I start talking about D&D, so naturally I first refer to GURPS.

No, really.

Thinking Outside the Power Description

I hereby inaugurate this brand spanking new blog with a post about... well, what else? Dungeons & Dragons, 4th Edition. Not that I'll be talking about it all the time (in fact, I'd rather not), but I might as well kick things off by explaining why I selected the name that I did above.