Thursday, October 23, 2014
Instead of working on ideas for a Castlevania themed Retro Phaze game (something I do plan to do eventually), between researching a paper I'm thinking about that Gamma World game I posted about last time.
I finished up a map this morning using GIMP, but I won't post it here yet. Too many of my potential players read the blog and I want the map to be a mystery. When I get a players' map done, I'll post that.
I'm also thinking about the sorts of dangers and opponents that players may face. Of course, GW (and Mutant Future, which I will probably use actually) have plenty of mutant beasts and robots to throw at players. And it's not too hard to reskin D&D or other games' creatures for the setting. Game stats are easy. I'm thinking about flavor.
In Light on Quest's Mountain, one of the encounters you can have is with a gardening robot. The unspoken assumption is that if there had been a mutant plant character in the party, the robot would have tried to prune, weed or transplant the mutant against its will. But the protagonist is a Pure Strain Human, and his companions are a lizard mutant and monkey mutant. Anyway, I like the idea of robots that may help the party, except for that one guy over there...
And so, in this game, there will be
Once I decided on this, though, I got to thinking. Was the cataclysm the Days of Future Past timeline events? Or the Age of Apocalypse? Do I want to set a Gamma World/Mutant Future game in the far dystopian future of the Marvel Universe? It would sort of explain where all these beneficial mutations PCs tend to have come from.
And that power armor the PSH characters are after?
So, I don't know if my game will be in the Marvel Universe's future, but I may take some inspiration for "artifacts" from them.
Monday, October 20, 2014
However, after meeting with my adviser today, I had some time to kill and started jotting down some notes for a Gamma World campaign.
My first introduction to GW was through the Endless Quest book Light on Quest's Mountain. I was aware of Mad Max and some other post-apoc stuff, but Thundarr the Barbarian was the show that really made me want to run a game. When I picked up the '91 Fourth Edition of GW, I was sort of surprised that the assumed culture of the PCs was a Renaissance tech level in those rules. Of course, flintlock and matchlock weapons are fun, as are random mutations, so I just went with it. But the semi-Stone Age village in Light on Quest's Mountain, and the "barbarian" aspects of Thundarr have always left me wanting something a bit more savage from Gamma World.
Anyway, the setting notes I jotted down would be more LoQM/Thundarr. It would be a sandbox game. The map would draw inspiration from LoQM. There would be a variety of terrain types, with some "clean", some "dirty", and some "wastelands." The starting village would be in the center, in a "dirty" area to encourage adventure. Sprinkled around the wilderness would be other settlements, ruins, and strongholds of Sorcerers (a la Thundarr). In a way, it sounds like bog standard D&D sandbox, just with mutants and leftover tech instead of magic items. Well, so be it.
|I may have to use some of these ideas, too...|
If I ever get to run this, I'll work in lots of rumors. Some of the ruins will be known (as will some lairs of creatures or robots), some will be rumored. Others will be unknown at first, but clues to their existence will be scattered around the lands. Or if the PCs just manage to wander in the right direction, they may find them by chance.
I'm enamored of the idea of the PCs starting out at a semi-Stone Age tech level and working their way up to the high tech stuff while their home base is still neolithic.
Maybe in a year or two, after the dissertation...
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Monday, October 13, 2014
Chanbara is coming along more smoothly, although more slowly thanks to all of my grad school work. In fact, I should be writing up a reflection to a chapter in one of the books right now, but I'm blogging instead.
For one thing, I'm much more familiar with Japanese jidai-geki (period piece) and chanbara (samurai/ninja action) film/TV. A decade in Japan can do that. The tropes come to me much more easily than wuxia. Don't get me wrong, I've watched plenty of Chinese fantasy action movies and read some of the books. I know it well. I just know samurai/ninja stuff better.
The other thing is that Chanbara is really lending itself to more D&D style play. It won't play exactly like D&D, but since the conceit is "fighting monsters to take their stuff and give it to your lord" it plays similarly to standard D&D. Without the treasure hunting element, Flying Swordsmen has the potential to bog down unless the players are active in seeking their own adventure, or the DM has a good system of hooks/events/complications to use to draw the players in.
A couple of weeks ago or so, I read some good things from the dreaded two-some of RPG Pundit and Zak S. (yeah, the "5E consultants from Hell," cue ominous music!) via G+. Pundit pulled a quote from one of Zak's art history posts that really resonated with me. Something along the lines of "don't let your inexperience with a genre hinder you, just take what elements of it you enjoy and rock them hard." [Sorry, I find G+ too ephemeral to track town the actual quote from Pundit. Zak's post is here.] Zak was discussing art. Pundit was discussing his RPG, Arrows of Indra.
That's one of the things that inspired me to write my last post. Flying Swordsmen has enough in it for someone like me to take it, identify the things about wuxia that I think are cool, and play the hell out of them.
Today, Dariel at Hari Ragat posted something relevant. So did Bedrock Games about their upcoming wuxia game, Wandering Heroes of Ogre Gate.
I used to worry about the people who don't like OA/Al Qadim/whatever non-Middle-Earth/Hyboria/Westeros mashup because they think it's "D&D in Funny Hats." As a player or DM, I wanted to get more into the setting/characters/tropes that make these settings distinct. Then I got over it.
But as a game designer, I was still worrying about that. I wanted FS to be more than that. I still want Chanbara to be more than that. And Dariel's post is spot on about that. Use what works in the D&D system, if that's what you're basing your game on, but find some mechanics that will reinforce the setting tropes. I think I fell short in Flying Swordsmen on that account, but I've got it covered in Chanbara.
But like Pundit said and Bedrock Games also, so what if Flying Swordsmen is really just D&D in Funny Hats? No, it's not the best system for emulating the personal drama that is key to wuxia. But it gets the surface details right, IMO, and with the right group of players and right GM they can run it with all the character drama necessary for a satisfying wuxia campaign. It's not baked into the rules, but in a way that can be a good thing. People who don't know the genre except in a more surface manner can find things they like in it, and use them in their own way.
I thought this was going to be a short post. Getting rather long, wouldn't you say? So I'll just wrap things up.
There are no RPG police. There are no genre police. Yes, I hope that eventually I'll get around to revising Flying Swordsmen, and add a few genre specific mechanics to better emulate wuxia fiction. But until then, I do have to say I'm happy with how it came out, warts and all.
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
But did you play it? Probably not.
Did you make a Flying Swordsmen PC and run it through a FLAILSNAILS game? Never heard of anyone doing that, and I was pretty much too busy with grad school stuff and our local games to do it myself (although I wanted to).
Did you at least throw one or two of the monsters into your megadungeon just to mess with the expectations of your players who are jaded from years and years of the same old Monster Manual listings (which they know by heart because hey, they're often DMs too)? Why the hell not?
Anyway, the point of this post isn't me trying to guilt trip you into trying to actually play my game. There are lots of pdfs of games and supplements and adventures that I've downloaded, maybe looked at and thought it was neat, and there it sits on my hard drive collecting virtual dust. It's actually sort of the opposite.
I've tried to run it several times, and while in theory it should be a lot of fun, something about the game just doesn't work the way it's intended.
Flying Swordsmen is about emulating all of the awesome wire work/CGI stunts you see in Hong Kong martial arts fantasy action movies. Dancing over the helmets of a troop of warriors. Fighting across a crowded inn while balancing a tray of dim sum on your head. Standing on a swaying bamboo branch and fencing with a master who outclasses you.
But what happened when I ran the game? "I roll to hit." [clatter clatter] "I roll for damage." [clatter clattter].
The problem wasn't that the system didn't support the desired actions. Flying Swordsmen, and Dragon Fist before it, both do. The problem is that neither game rewards such play.
If a player is fighting a villain, they can make a risk-reward analysis each round of combat. Should they attempt something flashy just because it's cool? Or should they just make an attack to whittle down the villain's hit points? In my experience running the game, they choose the latter. And why not? The only thing going for the first one reward-wise is bragging rights.
Sunday, October 5, 2014
First is something I picked up on in the Basic Rules .pdf (or maybe it was in the final playtest stuff even), and just read again in the PHB yesterday. In the section describing spell levels, we get this fluffy text:
Every spell has a level from 0 to 9. A spell’s level is aEmphasis added.
general indicator of how powerful it is, with the lowly
(but still impressive) magic missile at 1st level and
the incredible time stop at 9th. Cantrips—simple but
powerful spells that characters can cast almost by rote—
are level 0. The higher a spell’s level, the higher level a
spellcaster must be to use that spell.
(from Basic Rules pdf page 78, but it's the same in the PHB)
Looks like someone has a bit of a problem deciding how to describe spells to new players. Us old hands know what levels of spells are all about, so this is for the new player. What does this tell us? A 1st level spell is both lowly and impressive? Oxymoron alert. And 0 level cantrips are simple and powerful. While linguistically inoffensive unlike the magic missile description, I'm not sure if I like the idea of cantrips being powerful.
Anyway, whoever wrote that passage must have been thinking something along the lines of: "I need to describe how higher level spells have greater effect than low level ones, but we can't let players of spellcasters feel like they're weak and ineffective at low levels. It might hurt their feelings."
Another annoyance is how it describes movement as if it's some accounting procedure (or maybe that Common Core Math I keep hearing about?).
Every foot of movement in difficult terrain costs 1Is it so hard to say that movement through difficult terrain is at half speed? I just said it. See, that was easy. There are a few other lingering "tactical board game" phrases like that in the rules that sort of bug me, especially since this edition is making a determined effort to show that "theater of the mind" play is appropriate and encouraged.
extra foot. This rule is true even if multiple things in
a space count as difficult terrain.
(from Basic Rules pdf page 70)
At least it does lead to some interesting effects, like a double penalty reducing speed by 2/3 rather than 3/4.
So, nothing wrong with the rules per se, more the presentation that I don't like.
Saturday, September 27, 2014
My son and I just finished up putting the first coat of paint on his Predator costume. We'll touch up some areas and do some detail work later.
Probably none of the kindergarten kids will have a clue what he's supposed to be. But he's so excited about it!