Saturday, December 31, 2011

RPG Thoughts: Maths Vs. Rule of Cool

Apparently someone has noticed that I've been placing random labels in my blog posts. Excellent. My plan to conquer the internet is working. Slowly but surely. Muahahaha!

Anyway, I have a topic, Maths vs. The Rule of Cool. For me, this is something that I take very seriously. I love tinkering with systems and rules to get the most bang for my buck. I spent all of last week looking over spell dimensions for Wall of Stone, Stone Shape, and Animate Object to figure out something. I use the Math inherent in the system to do something cool. One of these days, I'm going to post up my plans for those spells. That's me.

My kids on the other hand, are totally different ball of wax. They don't care so much for the math. They want to do cool things, and they want to have cool things happen in their games. That's the great thing about new gamers, they just want to do the awesome thing, not necessarily the right thing in the situation.

So a bit of a campaign update. I had locked them up in a dungeon that they managed to escape from. Now, since the Spelljammer campaign has landed in Forgotten Realms, there were certain things that I wanted to include to make a signature FR adventure.

1. An extraordinarily high level NPC.
2. Drow and the underdark.
3. Zhents.

Now, I had already decided that the people who had captured them were Drow, and one of their fellow prisoners was Drizzt Do'urden. Haven't worked in the Zhents yet. Now, the kids were totally unimpressed with the name drop. Which took me by surprise, but totally shouldn't have, since they haven't read the hundreds of novels that have him as a main character.

So, I missed out on the Rule of Cool for them. My normal group would have been overjoyed. I had an ace up my sleeve though. Looking through the D20srd, I found something neat, an Ettin Skeleton. A two headed skeleton was cool, but not cool enough. Here's where I went against my natural inclination to make a more memorable session.

To make the two-headed skeleton cooler, I decided to extend the rib cage down to the hip bones, with a cage door. Inside the 'rib cage', I put a bunch of dwarves. So the Ettin skelly would open the door, and then throw on of it's captives at the kids. Literal dwarf tossing. It was funny in a horrible un-politically correct way.

Technically, an Ettin Skeleton is a Large creature, and a dwarf is a Medium creature. At best a Large creature could fit ONE dwarf in its rib cage. However, Rule of Cool trumped rules in this one case. It was fun, the kids enjoyed killing it slowly while the NPC Drizzt killed off the other one that was there just for him.

The whole time they kept doing cool stuff. The halfling tried to use a grappling hook to scale the thing, and the elf got grabbed and tossed at his friend. Would this have happened with strict rules intrpretation? Probably not. Would the kids have had as many laughs with it? No, most likely not.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Philosophy and Games: Math Makes Worlds

Ok, so I missed another Monday Night Mordheim, again... Blame it on Christmas burn out. I should be back on target for next week. Back to what I was thinking about though.

Math Makes Worlds.

Every game, RPG, CCG, and wargames is built on a math base. The amount of math and how it is applied. Never has this

simple fact been more apparent to me then last Friday.

See, last Friday, I got to do something that I haven't been able to do in a long ass time. I got to re-unite with my old

High School D&D group. This was interesting, and I'll get to the maths in a moment, but I have to explain myself a bit first.

This was a very cross edition game. With my wargaming background and love of OSR blogs, I have a very first edition mindset. The game started and was primarily played in 2nd edition. The game rules we were using was 3.5 since that was the last time we all were together enough to play. And the DM and about half the other players have been playing mainly 4th ed since it came out.

This is the part that I get to about maths. The thing is that all of these editions of D&D are D&D (except 4th, but that's neither here nor there, and possibly a blog post in and of itself). The game world we were playing and sharing in was shaped through its various incarnations by not just the cool fluff that the DM was reading, but the hard crunch.

Every game's hard crunch, the maths that build the system influence how the game is played. Call it the degree of abstraction. It's a bit of an inverse rule though, with a bit of re-curve backwards. For my love of maths, my lack of a grasp of the simpler stuff precluded me from taking more advanced mathematics, so I am probably using the words wrong. Regardless of my mangling of the words, the point is there.

The degree of abstraction is how much rule detail is in a game. The less rules details, the larger picture a game has and also how less realistic that the game is. Then it re-curves backwards if you have too much detail in the rules, it bogs down and becomes usable only as a small scale combat simulator.

That's interesting. So let's see if I can talk this out in a way that makes since. Many wargames are considered rule heavy, but in all honesty, they aren't. Seriously, especially when compared to the average RPG.

Let me do a compare and contrast. WH40K, is a 250 page rule book, and we'll say a dozen books that when you take out the fluff and pretty pics you get maybe 25 pages of rules. That's a grand total of 550 pages of rules. Conversely, the basic rules for D&D are ALL crunch and there are three necessary books that are all around 250-300 pages, so about 750-1200 pages of rules, easily twice that with 40K, especially since no one needs all the rules for 40K for any given game.

That's a bit much, and not a little bit misleading. It's quite a bit misleading. The thing is that fluff aside, its the mechanics that build the game. There are some people that would argue that some RPGs lack a deeper feel because of a single mechanic, like Star Wars D6 or World of Darkness. However, the lack of differing systems doesn't make it less of a indepth system. It goes back to the reflex curve again. The reflex works both ways.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Monday Night Mordheim: The Big Guys

Ah, the big base dudes. The monsters. Show Piece Models. And totally not worth it in 90% of circumstances.

There are some people out there that would disagree with me. However, at the end of the day, they are over costed and do not do what people think that they do.

Trolls, Ogre Bodyguards, Rat Ogres, and Possessed. Many people would not include the Possessed in this list, because they are heroes, not henchmen or hired swords. I tend to lump them in with the rest for the same reasons.

The thing with the big guys is that people think that they are killers, but they are not! What the big guys are there for is to hold the line. Their stats are not so incredibly better then the standard warrior. Yes, they are SLIGHTLY stronger, but most of them are not faster, or even have more attacks then a well rounded henchman with a couple upgrades and the right equipment. The main point of the big guys is to sit there and tie up other units, so that some other killer can come in and finish them off.

Let me examine them a bit in depth.

The Ogre Bodyguard is probably the most common, but it has a few huge advantages. While it doesn't have stats that are amazingly better then a henchmen or a hero, it does gain experience, it isn't stupid, and you can equip it with either two hand weapons or a two handed weapon. That gives it a leg up on taking what you need. If you need a high strength guy to cut through armor or high toughness, he can do it. If you need to get more attacks in to cause more wounds, then he can. The main benefit of the Ogre Bodyguard is that he's realitively cheap at roughly x3 the cost of a warrior.

The Rat Ogre is both better and worse then the Ogre Bodyguard. It is much stronger then the average henchman and hero, which makes up for it in the early stages of the game. There are a lot of HUGE detriments to the Rat Ogre though, first and foremost is the extreme cost, almost half of a starting warbands cost. Then it also does not gain experience, which is fine since it is better then most things. The main downfall though is that if it drops out of action, and then dies, you are out a HUGE amount of crowns. Many people advise you to wait until later in the game for a big guns, but with the Rat Ogre, its only really a good investment in the opening stages.

The Troll is probably the best of all worlds. Its big, its tough, it regenerates. While it is ridiculously expensive, you never have to buy another. Even if it goes out of action, it never requires a serious injury roll. While it is stupid, it is the probably the most like what people think of as a true monster. It has enough power to take out almost anything in the game, and it gets a regeneration roll after every wound taken. While it is hands down the most expensive, and still requires upkeep, it is the all around best.

The Possessed is not a true monster, its a hero. What I've found to be very effective with them is to take them vanilla with no upgrades in the opening stages, and then save as much money as possible for when (not if, when) they finally die, so that they can be replaced with Possessed with Mutations. At first glance the unupgraded Possessed seems like a bad deal, but it is the equal of an Ogre Bodyguard only with one less wound and one more in weapon skill and initiative. That's why I include them on the list.

The reason I wanted to talk about these guys is because of last week's column where I talked about the different types of units that people often overlook. The mud unit. The big guys are all about tying things up. Often they are not the most killy guys around, but there is nothing to bog down the opponent like a big guy.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

RPG Thoughts: Rule of Cool II

Hello again! I just read over the whole last post, and I realized that I really didn't get into the Rule of Cool thing. I titled it that, but I kinda missed the point.

The Rule of Cool is exactly that. According to The Rule of Cool is; "The limit of the willing suspension of disbelief for a given element is directly proportional to the element's awesomeness."

That's Spelljammer in a nutshell. Hell, even in the main book it calls out to the Rule of Cool; "How does it all work? Well, the easy answer is 'It's magic.' The more involved answer is 'It's magic and it knows it's magic.' The rules are still there and must be obeyed, but it is a different set of rules from what we are used to in our world. As anyone here will tell you, a fire-breathing, 50-foot-long, flying reptile is impossible, but it can live in our imaginations. The same argument applies to spelljamming ships." -Forward by Jeff Grubb, Spelljammer AD&D Adventures in Space, p3.

If that isn't a cognizant argument for the Rule of Cool, I don't know what is. Also its a pretty good definition of the Rule of Cool as well. With this campaign, I not only wanted to give my kids a grand tour of the old TSR stuff and play some 3rd Ed, I also wanted to do the most off the wall wild stuff that I can think of. I'm tired of naturalism in RPGs, and politics of game worlds. Fuck it. I want neat things to happen, because NEAT THINGS ARE HAPPENING!

Dungeons and Dragons is built on the Rule of Cool. Each different campaign setting does it, and I think that it is funny that the two biggest (in scope) run on this Rule Cool exclusively. Planescape is Rule of Cool in philosophy and strangeness of characters. Spelljammer on the other hand, is running of pure Rule of Cool in the setting itself. Flying boats that go to other planets? Hell yes! Squid head people who eat brains? Yes, please! Floating xenophobic magic eyeball maniacs? Of course! Hippo men with flintlock pistols that dress and act like the height of the British Empire? FUCK YEAH!

Now, here's the thing. Spelljammer is pure Rule of Cool. That's great in and of itself, but it doesn't help make things happen. What makes a great game is the stuff that is around. Did up the NPCs, and I gotta say, they are real Rule of Cool type guys. Granted, I already elaborated on the captain, but I got some others. I have a real thing for those quirky shows about small towns. Right now, I am almost finished watching Northern Exposure, which is about the a small town in Alaska. Quirkiness abounds. I find nothing more Rule of Cool then quirkiness.

Sir Captain Reginald Dawntree: 6th level Half Elf paladin, going to the stars in a quixotic quest to win the approval of his potential father-in-law.
First Mate Juan Obi: 7th level Elven Monk, best friend of the captain. He's rather exasperated and the most level headed of crew.
Navigator First Leftnenant Monticello: Giff navigator, prone to fights and takes things rather literal. As in when asked to go to the 'coolest' planet in the system, he plotted a course to an ice planet.
Ship's Cleric Helmsman Father Ishmael O'Flanigan: A 5th level human cleric of a sea god who looks like the Gorton's fisherman. He's at home on a ship even in the roughest weather, but gets spacesick.
Man-at-Arms and Ship's Butler Bigglesworth Mount Veracci Gucci Jimmy Chu: The gnome butler who works for Sir Dawntree. He's the stereotypical butler with a bowler hat, cane, and monocle. The thing is that he has a nasty temper. What the PCs don't know is that he's a 12th level barbarian. The bowler hat is a Keen Vorpal Throwing Bowler Hat +2 (1d2 damage, critical range of 14-20). He's there to be the 'dues ex machina' in case the kids get over their heads, BOOM Bigglesworth to the rescue! He is the epitome of Rule of Cool.
Ship's Wizard 'The Boy': a first level human wizard. The Boy is the former apprentice of the previous ship's wizard (who blew himself up by casting a maximized fireball in the phologiston). So The Boy has all the magic items of his former master and very little idea of what to do with them. The other main thing is that the Boy isn't actually a boy, but a girl who was posing as a boy so that she could get onto the ship (since women at sea are bad luck).
Siege Engineer Ironfist: 3rd level Dwarf rogue. He keeps going on about how he's too old for this shit. Even though he's only 45, barely out of his teens, and his beard is only 7 inches long.
Quartermaster Whose Name I already Forgot: 12th level dwarf aristocrat. He's there to make sure that the 'quest' of Sir Dawntree goes according to Hoyle. The fun thing about him is that he's slightly corrupt and slightly incompetent. So when told to get food for the journey, he'll buy a ton of escargot instead of hardtack or something.

A big group of quirky people. They are not in and of themselves an adventure, they are there to add some background and flavor. With the NPCs in place I can start working on the really cool stuff. I'm thinking of some Gith pirates riding pterodactyls. That's cool. Minotaur vikings in a spelljamming longboats (horned helmet on top of horns!)? A magic item powered version of the Justice League (Capes of Flying anyone!)? Rock'em Sock'em Golems? Getting caught in the cross fire of a beholder and Illithid battle? An Immoth Bard Rock Band playing heavy metal via auditory illusions? Wolfmen on the moon? Ninjas? Any other suggestions for Rule of Cool encounters?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

RPG Thoughts: Rule of Cool

Well, hello, again wide world of blogging! I realize that sometimes I'm just talking to an empty theater, and my hits go up with the vitriol. I don't like being that guy. Seriously, I don't. It comes too easy for me, I am by nature an angry person, and dear god does GW bring it out in me sometimes. This is why I love to write about the type of stuff that I am about to write about.

I like to play RPGS, (dur), and my kids are starting to get into them as well. Eldest child has a fairly regular D&D 4th ed game that he's involved in (gah!), which has nothing to do with me. Which is both a blessing and a curse. The kids started the group and I was contented to stand aside. Eldest child and his friends needed to get their games in without a meddling old dude. My dad was never a gamer (even though he did introduce me to all the stuff that lead to gaming), and it is a tad creepy with an old dude playing with a bunch of middle schoolers. That's my thoughts on it. However, Eldest Child's best friend had an uncle who disagreed. So he's running their group, which is why they play 4th ed. That's fine. I really have no problem with that, especially since he brought in some more kids around the same age to play. So bigger group is a good thing.

So here I am trying to not to be the only adult in a room full of kids, and boom! They go get an adult to run the game anyway! Now, here's the thing. I can deal with the not being the adult, I can deal with the not being the DM, I can even deal with them playing with 4th ed. So, what's my problem with it? I'm not too sure. See? Like I said, anger comes easy. Regardless, I wanted to play a game with my kids, and just my kids.

So I've been looking over stuff to play. I finally decided on the one thing that could really keep a campaign going for a long haul and not get too caught up in the long term adventure.


They both rolled up rogues. Halfling and Elf respectively. One focused on talking, one on actual stealing stuff. Dropped an anchor on them from the sky, they climbed it and now they are on the Rock of Bral. Which is an excellent starting place.

Where I plan on taking it, though is the best part. I'm going to do the Grand Tour of the old TSR stuff. Hit all the major campaign worlds, giving them a 'signature' adventure in each place. I'm not sure where they'll go, or in what order, but I'm going to make up some good stuff. The point is to capture the feel of each game world.

So right now, I'm just spit balling ideas before I send them anywhere. Listing things that make each world special. Here's the list so far;

DragonLance: Krynn. Kender, draconians, dragon riders. That scenario practically writes itself, doesn't it?
Forgotten Realms: Toril. Drow, Zhentarim, and ridiculously high level NPCs. Might take a bit more thinking.
Dark Sun: Athas. Technically not accessable by Spelljamming, but fuck it. Psionics, Thri-Kreen, Gladiators, and life destroying magic. What's not to love?
Greyhawk: Oerth. Old School. I'm thinking a dungeon with lots of death traps.
Birthright: Aebrynis. Yes, I had to look it up. I owned this game, and I couldn't remember it. Though a bit of intrigue, politics, blood lines stuff, and those weird halflings and elves they got.
Mystara: Mystara. Well, that's a good question. Mystara was a big melting pot of everything. I could literally shove anything in here, and it would fit. Going to think a bit to get something signature.
Ebberron: Ebberron. Damn, I know nothing about this game except for warforged. That should be easy to work in, though.

That's a good start. I might expand it a bit. I mean Kara-Tur, Maztica, and Al-Quadim are now technically part of Forgotten Realms, but I think that with a bit of spin, they would be fine to use as a base for a different planet and do something.

Now, the really fun part, I've created the crew of the ship they will be traveling on. The Lady Danielle Ashley II. The Captain is a half-elf paladin who went to the stars because of the following conversation;

Paladin; Milord! I wish for your daughter Lady Danielle Ashley's hand in holy matrimony!
Lord: Go to hell!
Paladin: Verily! I shall go to the place that evil dwells to smite it!
1st Mate: He's being a dick, that's not a real quest!
Paladin: Is this true, milord?
Lord: Fine. Go to the stars and bring me some stardust!
Paladin: Verily! I shall go to the stars themselves and bring back the glittering majesty that is the firmament of the universe!

Then he went to the stars and found out that they are made of dirt, or portals to the elemental plane of fire. Neither of which is actually a great thing to take home to try to impress your future inlaws. So he's still out looking for something that is suitably impressive. I'll have more on the rest of the crew later, after I introduce the kids to them. They are all created and stated out, just waiting to be introduced.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Monday Night Mordheim: Warband Construction

Well, it seems I'm on a roll here. Two weeks. Its good to be back at work. Or rather having work back to the way it was. Now, I wanted to take a moment to talk about warband construction. There are something things that are big 'duh' like taking the maximum amount of Heroes.

I want to talk a bit more about the more ephemeral things that go into warband construction. Some of these are best used as heroes with some skills, and others are better as henchmen.

Throw Away: Normally, you don't want to Rout. However, there is a bit of wiggle room in that. That's what the throw away member is. Something that can act as a meat shield for retreating people. These are best to use with cheap henchmen and animals.

Monster Slayer: You want to get at least one person who takes a high strength weapon to deal with things like Ogres or Trolls. These guys often fall into the same category as the throw away, because they often get taken out of action after one or two big hits.

The Quick: This is one of the guys you want to build up from skills for one of your heroes. If one of them gets an initiative boost, take skills (if you are able to) to increase that model's speed and climbing abilities. Many of the scenarios require collecting wyrdstone, so having a quick guy is a must. Someone who can get to the places others can't, or quicker then the others.

The Mud: Personally, I love the mud. Or maybe its tar. Whatever, according to your region and/or personal preference. The mud is a warband member who may not necessarily deal the most damage, but can TAKE the most. Ogres, Trolls, Possessed, and things like that generally lean toward the mud, but often a well equipped henchmen with a sword and buckler for parrying can do it. The mud is excellent for getting your opponent's models stuck in combat before your own killer units come in.

Hunh. I just realized something, these types aren't just for Mordheim warbands, they apply across the whole spectrum of wargaming. Perhaps there's a lesson in that. I think that I might need to elaborate on that on some later point.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

RPG Thoughts: Plot Help

I recently got a message from a friend of mine, and he gave me the OK to share it with you guys:

From Consadine:
I found the Steal This Hook! section on the WotC website, not too shabby. I've given the players the Etched With Mystery one; already dealt with the druid, now on their way to the one that tends a glassware shop. Problem is I'm not too sure how to make it exciting. The others are easy. Organized crime, hermit = dungeon crawl, missing body can be tied into the organized crime. But a glassware shop?

My Reply:
Glassware shop is EASY! Just think about the type of people who need glass...

1. The obvious is to include a Minotaur, the proverbial bull in a china shop. A little obvious, but think about it. Etchings while mainly done by glassblowers, are also used in Scrimshaw. The minotaur came across one of his buddies' horns with an intricate design, and wanting to find who killed his buddy is seeking out places where the work is done. The guy who commissioned the scrimshaw will have more information.

2. Glasswork is also used extensively by mages. Cool idea for a rod of lightning. Perhaps the PCs run into a mage who needs just one more thing for his wand...and if they bring him enough, he can make two of them- one as payment for services rendered. Into adventure!

3. The holy water maker needs more flasks, but the glassblower is stacked with other orders, perhaps something the PCs can do can either make the work go quicker, or find another way to get the holy water where it needs to go. Now, WHY does this cleric NEED all that holy water?

4. The Noble's Kid: THe PCs enter the glassware shop as the keep and a young nobleman are agruing. The kid apparently broke one of his parents glass sculptures. He needs to replace it before they come home next week. The keep can do the work, but wants payment, but the noblekid can't afford it. However, he knows where he can get some treasure, if there just happened to be someone around who could help him.

5. Golem Bits: The stained glass golem is almost finished, but the glass keep needs more red sand from a certain beach in order to finish it for the church. Go forth for sand in a very dangerous area!

6. Tied together: Have the thieve's guild there shaking down the keep for a protection payment. This imbroils the PCs in thieve's guild politics, which will lead to the other warforged.

7. Impish Nature: There's a radient mephit in the shop breaking stuff, because it makes such pretty prisms. Or a bunch of them. Whatever suits needs.

Personally, I love unique locations like that. I never would have thought of a glassware shop as a place to begin an adventure, but as the saying goes, the more unique the start, the more memorable the adventure. Just as an FYI; he decided to go with #6.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Monday Night Mordheim: A Thought On Returning

So...I'm back, well and truly back. I'm going to leave the last thoughts alone. Man, I got some wicked invective there, didn't I? Some would say it shows great passion for the game, or rather games I was talking about. That is a point, but I find it to be something else. Sometimes I get very angry. I don't like being angry. That's something I like about Mordheim, its a rare jewel in the wargame market. It doesn't piss me off every time I play it. There's a number of different reasons for that, and I'll probably get into them all eventually, but first off I want to talk about one in particular.

The Uniqueness Factor

The thing is that in a good wargame, every distinct group of warriors plays sightly differently. At first glance this does not seem to be the case in Mordheim, almost all of the human warbands are remarkably similar. That is true for a bit. What makes Mordheim different, though is not what you do like the others, but what you do that's different. HA! Bit of faux-zen there for you.

At the end of the day, everything in Mordheim should balance out. That's the thing, every game has a base line, a standard so to speak. Everything should be built up or deconstructed from that base line. In Mordheim that base line is the Human Mercenary. So it stands to reason that the majority of things in Mordheim are remarkably similar.

However, its the deviations from that baseline that make the differences in the warbands. It's the models and rules that are unique to a warband that makes it fight so differently. There are similarities, but that is as far as it goes, similarities.

Warbands are each unique, not just from each other warband, but after the first game, each warband is unique from others of its same type. I love that uniqueness. I know that if I play Jim with his undead, it would be a completly different game then if I were to play someone else with the undead. That is what makes the game one of my favorites.

On the other hand most other games don't have that. While I love me some 40K, most lists are fairly similar, and they play in an almost identical way. WHFB is worse, 'Line up and march Forward!', at least with 40K there's something more tactical then just putting down a list. I've played Maulifaux, and I've enjoyed it, but the list is pretty much dictated to you, and you can't really even customize a particular model. Don't get me started on other games. Mainly cause I don't have enough information or play time under my belt to really make comments (I could if I wanted to though).

Saturday, December 3, 2011

RPG Thoughts; What's Your Number?

I've played a lot of RPGs over the years. And I do mean a lot. So I was thinking of doing a list. Since I have trouble remembering the names of everything I've played I enlisted the help of the Wikipedia List of RPGs. This list I wrote is a bit like a little black book for me. There's the one night stands and brief dalliances, and then there's the loves of my life. It's very interesting to reflect back on these games. Maybe someday I'll do a little piece on each one of these, but not today.

How I qualify if I've played a game;
1. Time Played as a Player. I have had to play either multiple sessions or at least one 6-8 hour marathon session.
2. Ran the game. If I DM'd/GM'd/ST'd a game, regardless of how long that game lasted, it counts.
3. Owned the game. This one is iffy. However, I think it counts if I owed at least 3 supplements for a game, regardless of how much I actually played it. I can reasonably account this, at least in my mind, because owning that much means that I MEANT to play it at some point but never got around to it.

The List in Alphabetical Order;
Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (1st and 2nd)
Big Eyes, Small Mouth
Call of Cthulthu (5th)
Changeling; The Dreaming
Dungeons & Dragons (Basic and 3rd Ed)
Heroes Unlimited
Hunter: The Reckoning
Kindred of the East
Mage: The Ascension
Marvel Super Heroes (Saga System)
Mech Warrior
Middle Earth Role Play
Palladium Fantasy Role-Playing Game
Star Wars RPG (2nd Ed d6 and d20)
Tales from the Floating Vagabond
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Other Strangeness
Traveler (or is it Megatraveler? I have no idea, it was 15 years ago)
Twilight 2000
Vampire: The Masquerade
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay
Werewolf: The Apocalypse
Wraith: The Oblivion

So, that's 32 games. All of them fit into those three broad categories as I've mentioned above. I didn't count the different editions, that would be cheating, and it would fluff my numbers. Not that it needs any padding. Looking at it though, there are several games that are really all the same system, notably all the Palladium stuff and all the White Wolf stuff. I guess you could say if you played one, you've played them all. There are significant system and game differences that I feel that they are worth placing in separately.

To be more honest with you though, I think it would be beneficial to list my top games in sheer amount of play time. These are the ones that I keep coming back to over and over again. This is in order from most played to least, a top five so to speak.

1. Dungeons and Dragons; With the sole exception of 4th Ed, I've logged more time playing variations of D&D then any other game. Multiple campaigns lasting multiple years, both as DM and as a player.
2. Star Wars; Yet another edition spanner. I've had more characters in d6 then I've GM'd, and this is the game that we all really cut our teeth on in High School. We made so many mistakes and learned how to actually PLAY an RPG on this game.
3. World of Darkness: I'm just going to lump these all together, because the big three (Vampire, Werewolf, and Mage) would crowd out the rest of the list. Besides we did a lot of crossover campaigns with this.
4. Alternity; Regardless of my love of Star Wars, this is the TRUE everything Sci-Fi game. We've run Star Wars, Star Trek, Space Marines, Ringworld, Lost in Space, Transformers, and other things that were vaguely Sci-Fi with it and didn't have a game of its own.
5. Marvel Super Heroes (Saga): I love this game. It didn't do well at all in sales, but it had the single best supplement ever- 'The Reed Richards Guide to Absolutly Everything'. I find myself always going back to that game anytime I want to do any type of super hero game. Stating out Green Lantern and Superman is fun...

So, what's your number? And more importantly, what's your REAL number?

Friday, December 2, 2011

RPG Thoughts; The Skinner

I've been thinking about the World of Darkness. Again, its because of the gamer ADD. The thing I keep coming back to is how wonderfully integrated the Classic version is. That integration is never better exemplified then with The Skinner- Samuel Haight.

Haight was unique, he was a Garou with an Awakened Soul, and was a Ghoul with Disciplines. Eek. That's a lot of capital letters, which means that they are specific game terms. To boil it down, he was a Werewolf Mage with Vampire powers! He was the cross over baddies to end all cross over baddies. He represented what each one of the groups absolutely hated. The Skinner appeared as a villain in an adventure for each of the big three games, culminating in the mega-adventure 'Chaos Factor', which was technically a Mage game, but usable by any of the three games. Background wise, he was the big bad of the first editions of the games, and 'Chaos Factor' was (I believe) the last thing released for the first edition.

Samuel Haight, The Skinner, had a wonderful character arc, to be honest. He started out as a normal human who had Werewolf relatives (a Kinfolk). Envious of his Garou cousins, he became a big game hunter, until he got bored with it. Then he moved on to hunting Vampires. Managed to kill one, drink its blood and get some Vampire powers, and learn some Vampire magic (Thaumaturgy). He managed to then learn a bunch of magic rites, one of which would allow him to kill Garou sew their pelts together and become a werewolf himself. Which is what he did in his first appearance in 'The Valkenberg Project'. So a Garou with Thaumaturgy, already pretty dangerous, he then was out and about and managed to kill a Dreamspeaker (Mage shaman) and steal his magic powers. So then he was a Garou with Thaumaturgy and an Arete rating (Mage magic). He then decided to try and become a god and drink the blood of an ancient vampire, which is where his story ended in 'Chaos Factor'.

However, while The Skinner was the in-game big bad, he was also something of an allegory for the players. I think that he was something the designers put in as a teaching tool. There were multiple references in game about hating people telling the designers about their character ('Subsidiaries- A Guide to Pentex' had the most obvious references). The thing is that I think he was created in the very earliest Werewolf supplements when the idea of the crossover game was starting as an allegory of why things work the way they do, and why one groups powers do not cross over to another games' inhabitants. He was designed to be the ultimate piece of cheese, twink, power gamer, meta-thought. He is everything that the designers hated, over the top, power heavy, and had a unique place. Hell, even his name is Haight, which if you say it quickly is a homophone of hate! He was a cautionary tale, if you want to do this stuff, this is where everything ends up.

'Chaos Factor' involved probably the most stated-out character in WoD history, Shaitan, a 4th gen Baali vampire. This thing was basically the Tarrasque of WoD. That was really the only thing that could stop him. No PC had the power to stop something of that magnitude, and the end was a dues ex machina. He blew up and took the ancient Vampire with him. Even when White Wolf published their Armageddon books, the ones that ended the lines of the Classic World of Darkness, they didn't give the stats of anything so powerful. The Skinner, Samuel Haight, was in and of himself a power spiral. Clearly with The Skinner, the fine people over at White Wolf were painting a broad story in strokes of the epic over what NOT to do as a character in the World of Darkness. Which was wonderful, and I wish more games would include this type of in-game lesson. The problem was once the 2nd editions and the revised editions came out, he was regulated to the back story (being dead and all). A piece of game history that should have been remembered and painted across all the games to serve as a warning. He was a sign post saying 'This way lies Madness'.