Friday, May 24, 2024

d6-y Time

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the release of Star Wars (what the kids today know as Episode 4: A New Hope) in theaters back in 1977. And yes, I'm running another session of my Star Wars d6 game. The players from my May the Fourth game are returning, and two more players are showing up. Richard is our Call of Cthulhu Keeper, and recently joined my TS&R Jade game. Randy is a friend who's been interested in getting into RPGs, but had a new baby late last year so hasn't had much time for gaming until recently. 

The d6 system, in its more generic form, was on my mind recently. I actually woke up from a dream yesterday in which I was modifying the system to create a Mabinogion/Irish Myth based fantasy game. I've never played, or even read, the official d6 Fantasy game that came out 20-some years ago, but in my dream I was coming up with a list of skills for magic: enchantments, transmutations, illusions, etc.

Then I come across Tim Brannan talking about Star Wars d20 and mentioning how he prefers those rules to WEG d6, and also Weregrognard talking about WEG d6 Star Wars and the d6 System in general. So it seems to be a bit of a mini-topic these days. 

About 10 years ago or so, when Jeremy Hart and I were gaming together more actively than we are these days, he often talked about wanting to run something with Mini Six, the slimmed down d6 System game. But then he'd run something else, home brewed or Black Hack, or something interesting he'd found and wanted to try. So we never got that Mini Six game going. But at that time, it did get me to download Open d6 and I did really like what I saw in it. 

In fact, I've considered making a 2nd edition of Flying Swordsmen using Open d6! I had fun playing Dragon Fist for a bit when it came out nearly 25 years ago, and had fun with FS for a while, but honestly, it's not the best fit for a long term wuxia style game. With the bell curve results of a totaled die pool, the flexibility to determine what attributes and skills are in the game, and the lesser focus on tactical placement and more on descriptive engagement with encounters, I honestly think it would be a better fit. OSR style mechanics are great for a game where exploration and acquisition, plus combat, are the key drivers of play. Good wuxia stories are about exploring relationships and social norms as much as they are about the martial arts combat. I think d6 would be a better fit, honestly. 

Finally, yesterday this YouTube video on various die rolling methods was recommended by the Almighty Algorithm. Now, before you click on it -- I am not the intended audience, and you, my reader, are most likely not as well. It seems to be pitched towards teens/tweens who are just getting into RPGs, based on the guy's content and his delivery. Why I mention it is that while he mentions the White Wolf style # of successes die pool system, he doesn't mention the WEG d6 die pool vs target number system. There are lots of other die systems he also neglects...like I said, the target audience seems to be kids just getting into gaming, not us old fogies. 

While I didn't learn anything from that video, it did get me thinking about the way that certain systems seem to promote different aspects of play. I'm currently involved in games using d20 for combat (TS&R, although it's got percentages, x/d6, and 2d6 roll mechanics as well, and Gamma World 4E), exclusively d% (Call of Cthulhu), and dice pool (WEG Star Wars) systems. 

The swingy d20 and d% systems are geared around exploration. TS&R (D&D) and Gamma World are about exploration of the setting. CoC is about exploration of mysteries. 

Dice pool systems like WEG (and what little I've played of WW d10 dice pool games) are more focused on telling an interesting story, or at least entertaining the players and allowing them a structure to immerse themselves in their character. I've used some dungeon crawling and wilderness hex-ploration in my Star Wars game from time to time, but for the most part the challenges I set up are situational, with a lot of if/then triggers, rather than site-based. The d6 Star Wars game was designed with this sort of play in mind, and I think it works really well to encourage that. 

Also, the way that the probabilities work out with a dice pool means that characters are a bit more consistent in performance than those using a flat distribution mechanic like d20/d%, although things like the Wild Die, losing dice for multiple actions, and opposed rolls do keep things interesting. 

I'd been thinking that after I finish revising/editing/formatting the TS&R Game Master Guidebook and editing it down to a Rules & Procedures table reference, I'd try my hand at another setting/genre set of players' book/monster book. Middle Eastern/Arabian Nights style gaming, or retro Sci Fi rockets & rayguns, maybe. Now, though, I'm wondering if maybe that Celtic Myth fantasy game or a revision of Flying Swordsmen, both with the Open d6 system, might catch my interest more.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

First Draft Complete

I've finished the first draft of my Treasures, Serpents, & Ruins Game Master Guidebook. Well, not technically the first draft, but the first completed draft. I made three or four abandoned starts at it before I got the book I wanted. And I've still got to write the Afterword. But pedantics (yeah, I know that's not a word) aside, the first complete draft is done. I've got all the explanations of game play, advice to the new (or new to OS game style) GM, game systems for dungeons, wilderness exploration, town adventures, domain administration including warfare, planar exploration, and high level epic quests. I've also got a fairly lengthy section on alternate or optional rules and suggestions for limitations or allowances to make the game fit the GM's campaign world and preferred style of exploration-focused play. 

I've got to get my notes organized for the next Star Wars game coming up in a week and a half, but after that's done, my game time will be devoted to reading carefully through this whole 128 page document and revising/editing. Then I'll format it, and I should have it up on DriveThru some time this summer. 

Once it's up, I'll also make a condensed Rules Reference book, with just the rules and system guidelines that can be easily used at the table, without all the explanations for new GMs. Experienced DMs who aren't curious about my gaming philosophy and don't want to bother with yet another explanation of how to play the game, but just want something to use to check the rules, this will be the book for you.

 I also want to do a few updates to both the Ruby and Jade players' books, based on play at my game table and also a few mistakes I've found here and there. And that will make TS&R complete...until I decide to add a Middle Eastern/African fantasy supplement, or a pulp sci-fantasy supplement, or a Pre-Columbian Americas supplement, or an Australian/Oceanian supplement. Potentially. I'm not as well versed in the myths, legends, or history of some of these other areas as I am with European and Easter/Southeastern/Central Asian myths, legends, and history. 

Anyway, it will be a complete fantasy heartbreaker soon.

Thursday, May 9, 2024

More Star Wars (and other gaming) Coming

My May the 4th game went well, but I'd still like to try and get a few more people interested in the campaign. So I'm gonna try again. May 25th is the anniversary of the release of A New Hope, and it's also a Saturday. Perfect timing. 

I've got a very busy gaming schedule at the moment. Tomorrow evening, Richard is running his Call of Cthulhu game. Taking a cue from me, he'll be running it face-to-face instead of online. 

Sunday is my regular TS&R Jade game. For the past two sessions, the party has been trying to reach some dimension door portals in the Pits of Lao (the micro-mega-dungeon) to restore companions who were bitten by spectral hounds. They finally achieved that, and there are seven portals in that room, and they only know the destinations of two of them. There's also a lot more dungeon to be explored. But some players mentioned that they want to return to the 18 Chambers of Lotus Fist temple to continue clearing it out (that's where there met the hounds). So I have no idea how this session might play out! 

Wednesday next week is a public holiday (Buddha's Birthday), so I'll be heading down to my friend Adam's house to continue the Swords & Sorcery board game campaign. 

And then there will be Star Wars on the 25th. The 26th should be my next Jade game, too, but we'll see if my wife will allow me to spend that much time gaming on a weekend. Hopefully, she'll be busy with her badminton club! 

 As Wayne and Garth famously said, "Party on, Wayne!" "Party on, Garth!"

___________

In other news, I was watching a Bob Worldbuilder video on YouTube where he was praising the 5 Room Dungeon. For D&D, I find the format a bit too stiff, because it's purposefully made to mimic the rising/falling tension of a movie's five act structure. If you don't use the encounters in that order, you don't get that rising/falling tension, so why not just create a small dungeon as you like? And if you do the dungeon rooms in that order, it's railroady.

For Star Wars, however, I think it might work a bit better. The d6 game is designed to be "cinematic" and the modules I've looked at so far seem to be saying "Choo Choo, Motherfuckers!"

I may not go full on railroad with these adventures (my game the other day was set up as presenting the challenges, but not expecting any particular attempts at solutions), but the idea of an initial "guardian" encounter, followed by an unexpected complication, then a trap/setback/lateral thinking challenge, then a confrontation, and finally a reward or twist seem reasonable for a cinematic style game. 

Of course, I won't force the plot on the characters, and I'll give them plenty of opportunity to flip the script or make an end run to skip stuff, but for my notes, having a chain of encounters set up for the most passive play style seems handy. I can riff off of that when the players go "off script."

Alright, time to decide what exactly the next adventure should be about! I've got an idea involving the death of Jabba the Hutt. The campaign started shortly before the Battle of Hoth, and it's probably been going on long enough that they're coming up on the Battle of Endor (not that the players have ever had much interest in joining the Rebellion).

Sunday, May 5, 2024

SWD Game: Thoughts and Player Reactions

My May the Fourth d6 Star Wars game was a success from a player standpoint, and from a referee standpoint. From a "get new people into the game" standpoint it was a little disappointing, but part of that is my own fault.

First of all, I prepped an adventure that was designed to bring various characters together. I borrowed the opening of the official module Starfall. The PCs are prisoners of the Empire, but a Rebel agent droid helps them escape. Only instead of setting it on an ISD, I put them on a moon base prison mining colony (borrowing thematically from Andor) with the map of the detention block taken from Starfall, but the upper levels of the base taken from the Hideouts & Strongholds supplement. The modules I've looked at are a bit too railroady, but I found it pretty easy to take a few ideas from them and turn them into challenging scenarios rather than storylines to play through.

The basic idea of my adventure is that the PCs are all new prisoners, held for only a week or so, and the Rebel droid infiltrator has identified them and a few other prisoners as not yet broken by Imperial slavery, and wanting to escape. This allowed the PCs some NPC assistance with overpowering the guards, but also a means of recruiting a replacement character mid-adventure if someone's PC died (none did though). 

The general goal was escape, bringing the captured and out of commission Rebel spy Walex with them for a reward beyond freedom. I gave each player a personal additional goal, which they were free to share or keep secret, as they liked, just to add a bit of potential complication. 

The part that was disappointing was that only three players showed up, and they're all in my D&D game. Everyone else was busy or uninterested. And as I said above, several friends who are not in the D&D game told me it was a cool idea, but that they didn't have free time. It's my own fault for coming up with this idea on the spur of the moment. Next year, I'll give people more notice. 

The players who did show up, and their characters, were: 

Steven (my son), playing his new Tech-warrior (modified from the Loyal Retainer template) Jim Bumass.

Denis (long time player), playing his Smuggler Nito.

Charles (first time playing d6, he's only been playing TS&R for a month or so) selected from my pregens the Twilek Gearhead (modified from the Tongue-tied Engineer template), and named him Conan (after O'Brien, not the Barbarian). Conan had an R5 astromech. 

I won't go into full detail of the play-by-play, but the PCs and the rowdy prisoner NPCs used Brawling until they secured weapons from defeated guards, borrowed uniforms, made good Con rolls to convince staff that they were the guards transporting other prisoners, recovered their gear, got intel on the mining operation, and rigged a the station's power generator to blow with a thermal detonator before hijacking the supply ship and evading the station's tractor beam to escape by an appropriate use of a Force Point by Nito. 

They managed, through clever ideas and lucky die rolls, to complete each player's secret objective and didn't trip any alarms along the way. They also avoided fights with a squad of 4 fully armed stormtroopers and the station commandant's security droids. Everyone had a blast playing through it. 

Afterwards, Charles was really enthused by how much tension the Wild Die added to every roll. Even when his Gearhead was using his 6D Computer skill, he was nervous about rolling that 1 on the die. He also liked how I had set up a variety of challenges, and he said he was trying to anticipate problems and think around the corners to come up with solutions. 

Denis felt similarly about the challenges faced, and that there were multiple ways the session could have gone. 

Steven told me, before bed last night, that he liked Star Wars more than D&D...but liked D&D more than Star Wars. He meant he really liked both, but they're different so hard to compare. He did really enjoy the fact that I broke out the minis for this game. The tactile play with the figures themselves, and the tactical use of them minis on a board, kept him a bit more interested in the session.

Our heroes (L to R): Nito the Smuggler*, Jim Bumass the Tech-Warrior, Conan the Gearhead with R5 droid. 

*Nito is human, but Denis told Steven to pick a mini for him and he picked Plo Koon. 

I collected these figures back when the Prequels were coming out, when I was living in Japan. Pepsi gave them away as freebies with every 500ml bottle of soda, and despite preferring Coke, I drank a LOT of Pepsi back then. I also visited the local resale shop often and picked up a lot more figures there. 

The figures are 54mm (green army man scale), so you can see I've mixed in a few Kamen Rider and Gundam figures I also got at the resale shop, and a few of the classic SW knock-off Galaxy Laser Team as well. I've been thinking of trying to add to my SW mini collection, but the table top games use 28mm or 35mm scale figures, so they'll look dinky next to these guys. If I ever want to expand the collection, I'll probably need to find some scalable STL files and have a friend with a 3D printer custom build them for me. I've realistically got enough minis...but there's a part of me that can never have enough minis.

So to wrap up, the game went well, but it would have been nice for me if I could have gotten a few more people out to try it. I'm re-energized about the SW campaign, though, so I'll be running it again soon, and maybe running both online and offline if I can find a few more offline players. It may cut into my D&D/TS&R time, but like Steven said, they're both good games that scratch different itches.
 

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

I'm Doing a Thing

As this coming Saturday is May the Fourth (Star Wars Day), everyone's favorite unofficial holiday...or second favorite, behind Talk Like a Pirate Day...I'm gonna run an open table game of WEG d6 Star Wars. 

Flynn is in America, so he won't be able to join unless he can stay up real late and video conference in. Not sure if my phone battery would last that long or how feasible that would actually be. I'm going to be using my tablet for referee stuff so that's not an option. He's probably going to have to miss it. 

Steven, however, is excited. A few other players in my TS&R Jade game also plan to attend. Denis plays Nito the Smuggler in my SW campaign. Charles is new to TTRPGs. A few other friends have shown interest, and I may get some walk-ins. I made this poster to advertise: 

I just completed a set of 14 pre-gen characters. Some were standard templates, and I just had to select the starting skills and add a bit more gear. Others I had to modify templates, but in general that was pretty easy to do. You can download it here if you want to take a look.

I have a few house rules for skills (parry skills don't exist in my game) and at least for this open game session, I'm going with the 1E rules for the Force. If you're trained in the skill, you can attempt any related Force power, without having to select powers like feats in 3E.


Thursday, April 25, 2024

When to Hang Up the Hat

One of the best play-by-post DMs I've played under, old school forum-goers will know him as "Jeffery St. Clair" (DMJSC), announced yesterday that he's got to shut down his games. He's been running his AD&D game over 17 years now, and I've been playing in it for exactly 13 years (my request to join was April 26, 2011, and today is April 25th, 2024). 

He's also shutting down a much shorter lived Mazes & Minotaurs game that I was in, that never quite found its footing. He also, over the years, ran a great Star Frontiers game until we ran out of his prepared adventures, and for a short time he ran a high level AD&D game. 

His main game, called Mines of Nemrac, was actually two campaigns, as he ran an Oriental Adventures game on the other side of his campaign world (there were connections/portals between the two game zones, but they were rare to stumble upon). This is the one I was in for 13 years, and I had four characters in it, two in each zone. 

Wehostan, Son of Bardolph (Halfling Fighter 4/Thief 6) was my main and longest running PC. He had some great adventures over the years and got to do many of the things players dream of when playing D&D. He helped slay a dragon, battled an evil wizard while his party was paralyzed, got the snot knocked out of him by an ogre-sized bullywug, and lots of other fun stuff. 

Gwire (Human Cleric 7) was my attempt to run a cleric not as a holy crusader but as a Van Helsing/Solomon Kane/Simon Belmont type monster hunter (which was the original impetus of the class in Arneson's campaign), and he also had a lot of great adventures over the years. Starting out penniless, his first two forays earned him no treasure, but in the end, he was slaying demons and whatnot. He amassed a huge pile of treasure and magic items. 

Chie Enokido (Human Kensei 5) was my main character in Pingbo Lake. She was the daughter of a disgraced landholding family, and specialized in naginata. She was racking up fame and honor in the campaign, and was trying to avenge her honor on an ogre-mage (or full oni?) who pretended to be a kensei but wasn't. She was very upset about that. 

Five Dragons Xiong (Human Sohei) was a fairly new addition, still first level. He managed to help his party overcome some bandits, and that was his career. 

I'm actually sad that I won't be able to continue the careers of these characters. Well, not so much Xiong, who I was just starting to get a feel for. But the other three were well developed and fun to play. And sure, I could maybe take these characters to another campaign if there's an opening, or remake then in a new campaign some day, but it won't be the same. A lot of the fun of the characters were the way they interacted with their parties. Especially for Wehostan, as his group, known as Gang Green after the green dragon they slew, were just the most rowdy, scruffy-looking scoundrels you could ever find, and a blast to game with. Especially in the OOC, when certain other players would get seemingly very offended that we were pretending to run a protection racket for new players in the game. 

Nemrac players, if any of you read this blog, feel free to memorialize your PCs in the comments!

And to get back to DMJSC, he's had some family issues, and some health problems recently, but he says he's actually in a good place these days. In fact, he's just too busy to keep the game up. And I don't blame him. Nemrac has 75 PCs (yes, 4 of those are mine, and other players also run multiple PCs, but not all!). I'm not sure how many players, exactly, there are. It's a lot to manage. It's impressive that he kept it going for so long and managed to grow the game as large as he did. Most of my attempts at PbP have ended abruptly in failure. [Fingers crossed, my current Gamma World game will keep going.]

To thanks to Jeffery St. Clair/DMJSC, for all the years of gaming. And to all the players in the game as well!

Monday, April 22, 2024

Movie Review: Rebel Moon (Part 2)

Yeah, I said I probably wasn't going to watch this after watching Part 1, but I did. So how was it? 

First of all, there was a bit of swearing, but not much. PG-13 level. 1 f-bomb, a few other swears. Not a lot. So parents searching for "curse" words, you've been warned, but it's not bad. 

This was more of the same. 

There were some cool visuals and action sequences, but not as many as in Part 1. 

There were ham-fisted attempts at characterization. Sorry, this is a bit spoilery, but it's at the beginning so I'm not spoiling much. They literally go around the table with each "hero" telling their sad tragic backstory with flashback. And no, they don't actually make me feel more invested in each hero. Except Kora, the main character. She had an additional flashback during a love scene (didn't they do that in part 1 as well? I think so...). During the group therapy session, she clams up. 

King Kong had better character development in Godzilla x Kong (which I saw just before leaving for the USA, and enjoyed, I should write about it). 

The villains are cartoonishly bad. They should be menacing, but they're just kind of pathetic. Why isn't the Resistance mopping them up across the galaxy?

So many plot holes. 

So many predictable developments. I was literally thinking, "Oh, this should happen next" and it does, quite a few times. 

They took the basic framework of 7 Samurai, but other adaptations ranging from The Magnificent Seven to Battle Beyond the Stars have made you at least feel invested in the seven heroes. I don't need to know what it was that Robert Vaughn's character did to feel an attachment to a guy trying to redeem himself. I just need to know that he did some shit and now this is his last chance to make up for it. 

Part 1 at least had some interesting visuals and action scenes to just sit back and enjoy the eye candy. Part 2 felt pretty flat, although the conclusion was done in a way that makes you feel the triumph of their victory (yeah, spoiler, but you knew they were gonna win)...until something happens that seems like it should be a reversal...and then predictable deus ex machina saves the day after all. 

And of course, there's set-up for a sequel. 

I really wouldn't waste your time on this. I had two hours to kill Saturday morning, but even if you are in a similar position, find something else to watch. It's disappointing.