Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Pacing vs. "Making Progress" in campaign play

Okay, so this weekend I had the pleasure of re-uniting with the scattered members of our extended gaming group for another all-too-rare session of our buddy Steve's game.  The members have become scattered geographically over the years and it is a rare moment when we can all be in the area for a game.  The result is that for this particular game we only meet once or twice a year.  Yes, that's quite a massive lag between sessions.  Luckily for us Steve keeps meticulous game notes so he can give us a detailed recap at the start of each session.  But with so few sessions (and my Shackled City campaign is in the same boat) I pondered the question of pacing.

For me, role play gaming is meant to include plenty of interaction between players and interaction with NPCs outside of combat.  We get clues, learn lore, discover new friends and enemies, make contacts, and discuss plots, plans, and ploys.  But that means that entire sessions can go by without a big battle, travel to a new area, characters leveling up, or other major "events".  That can lead to the impression that we "didn't make any progress" in a session.

But does that even matter?  Yes, RPGs are about enjoying the journey rather than scoring goals.  However it is satisfying to clean out that dungeon, take down the big boss, finish that epic caravan trip, etc.  But if you want each session to include "making progress" then you are forced to trim it back to just the dungeon runs and major battles.  It then devolves into almost a miniatures wargame with character sheets.

My current game is using a published adventure path which was designed as mostly a series of set-piece major encounters anyway.  Thus I have not had to consciously decide between "roleplay" and "progress".  I have actually been fleshing it out on the fly but it's still mostly "dungeons" with travel and meetings in between to provide context.  I have, however, decided to review the upcoming chapters of the adventure with an eye to eliminating or shortening some so that we can play through to a satisfying finish in under ten years.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Neo School Hack: Prestige Classes and Templates

Okay, so I was reading through the next section of the Shackled City adventure path from Paizo which I am running for my group.  This particular chapter is about visiting a layer of the Abyss, going through some lame-ish "tests", and someone finally (maybe) becoming ruler of that layer.  It's clear to me now that this chapter is very heavy on backstory but not much fun to play.  This includes the "winner" who becomes ruler of the small plane being given (stuck with) a template which is almost pretty useless if you're not an evil spellcaster.

So that got me thinking about how to do a similar template for my Neo School Hack (NSH) rules (also applicable to the original Old School Hack), and that made me think about how I could extend that idea to make D&D 3rd Edition style prestige classes.  I was also drawn to the idea because I often think up a class concept but only can come up with three or four really good talents I'm excited about before I have to start forcing mediocre ideas just to fill in the last two or three.

In NSH, classes have six talents and races have three.  So a template or prestige class should have less than six talents and probably four maximum.  For a template I figure you could do three "levels" of template, minor, normal, and major:
  • Minor Template: one talent
  • Normal Template: two talents
  • Major Template: three talents
Prestige classes can also be Minor or Major:
  • Minor: two talents
  • Major: four talents

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Okay, so I haven't been posting a lot lately, mostly due to being busy reading some new books (reviews to come) and putting together my submission for Secret Santicore.  But I wanted to take time to wish everyone the best on this Thanksgiving and hope you have some good things (or even just one good thing) which you feel thankful for nowadays.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Braille Dice Kickstarter - I'm in!

Okay, so I was checking out Tenkar's Tavern as I often do and he had a post talking about a Kickstarter for braille dice for RPG play.  I got interested in the idea of braille dice and other play aids for people who are blind or sight-impaired a while back.  RPGs involve a lot of talking but you still need character sheets, rule books, and dice.  This kickstarter not only includes dice but at higher levels there are some other play aids and teaching aids as well.  I'm backing this project in part due to the "hey, that's pretty cool!" factor, but also because I'd like to help create options for visually impaired people to participate in our fun hobby.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Back from TridentCon!

Okay, so when I say "back from TridentCon" it sounds like I just finished an epic road trip or something.  Actually it means I pretty much drove like two streets over.  Anyway, it was a great little convention.  Due to scheduling constraints I could only attend the 1:30 and 6:00pm slots on Saturday but I got into two very nice events.  The DMs were friendly, patient, and well-prepared.  My fellow players were all great.  Come to think of it, it was better in every way than the last con I attended--nice job Erik!

1:30pm: Break!  DM: Reynaldo Madrinan.  I've been following Rey's website and blog for a while now, vicariously participating in the development of the anime-inspired Break! RPG.  Thus I was quite excited to see that he'd be here in person to run a session of the game for us.  There were five of us playing and Rey recorded the audio of the session for Grey Wiz, the artist who is collaborating with Rey on the game.  The plot involved our group of adventurers being hired to solve mysterious thefts of components from a huge magitech battle mecha slowly under construction in the town of Sprocket.  Not surprisingly, there was a lot more going on in the little town and the surrounding area.  My fellow players were great and we all had fun.

6:00pm: Pathfinder Adventure Card Game.  DM: Eddie Guida.  I play the Pathfinder RPG a lot with my current group but I'd never played the new card game.  To prep I watched several review/how-to videos on YouTube and it seemed to share the characteristics of the RPG: simple mechanics with loads of modifiers on top.  One of the reviews called it "the game Talisman wanted to be".  That caught my attention because I used to play Talisman a lot; it had a lot of potential but just took way too dang long to play.  It's a well-constructed game and I think the cards could be used to run a tabletop "Pathfinder lite" RPG (hmm?).

And there were some dealer tables. I love dealer tables--and it's a rule that you may not leave a con without buying at least one thing.  I bought two, with the CthulhuTech book completing my collection for this cool game:

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Review: Rogue Trader

Okay, so I've been looking for a good go-to set of sci-fi RPG rules for a very long time.  Since 1978 in fact.  I started with Traveler, but it was too limited, too "hard sci-fi", and the concepts were boring.  Quite a bit later I came across d20 Modern and d20 Future.  This was better and catered to concepts I wanted to use but suffered a bit from being kind of "d20 stodgy".

A couple years ago I downloaded some free Warhammer 40,000 (WH 40K) quick-start rules (or other free thingy like that) and ran a decent one-shot about a group of imperial inquisition troubleshooter types arriving on a frozen mining planet and investigating chaos tainted trouble down the mines.  I wasn't super excited about the rules mechanics themselves but the WH 40K universe clearly had a lot of potential for the sort of "non-hard" sci-fi gaming I was seeking.

I didn't buy the books then but I've been watching the new books coming out from Fantasy Flight Games and putting them on my wishlists.  Finally they came out with Rogue Trader and I decided to take the plunge.

Now, going in I was expecting a sort of "Traveler 40K" game: a bunch of random-ass WH 40K types goes around in a small ship trading, pirating, exploring, adventuring etc.  But the book makes it abundantly clear that your little band is much, much more than than.  A Rogue Trader is a unique and powerful person possessing a Warrant thingy to be a Rogue Trader and only people with some Serious Background can get one.  And being a Rogue Trader implies that you are part of a larger organization with resources (represented by a Profit rating) and you are out to accomplish Big Things.

It's like you're supposed to be the East India Company in space, or a space-faring version of Sir Francis Drake on the Spanish Main.  I was actually pleased to see this relatively British take on things.  Most RPGs are American made and tend to use "the frontier" and the Old West as the models for space.  There's a lot of that "rugged individual" and "manifest destiny" type crap built in.  This is refreshingly different.

Character generation has a really nice system where you use a cascading Path chart to work out your character's background and those choices add to skills, etc. which reflect that background.  I like it a lot.  It's simple but effective.  Then you have eight career paths (classes) to choose from. These are all very useful for the setting and absolutely 40K flavored.

But it still left me with the question of just what is this game about, exactly.  Okay so we have this small group of spacer-types in one ship--like the TV show Firefly--but we're supposed to be out colonizing planets, wiping out pirates, and other Big Things--more like Star Trek(?).  Even the ship is supposed to have a crew of hundreds, if not thousands of people.  Maybe the game is actually supposed to play a bit like Star Trek, where you have a big ship with a big crew doing Big Things, but the stories are all about the handful of lead characters.  So, more "Star Trek 40K" than "Firefly 40k"?

For the campaign, the game master is supposed to set up Endeavors, such as "Establish a Cold Trade From Dead Xenos Worlds".  These are usually divided in to three phases (sub-adventures) which lead to accomplishment of the Endeavor once all three are completed.  Naturally there is room for side adventures, interacting with NPCs, etc. but it's all on the way to accomplishing your Endeavor.  A series of Endeavors, related or not, is the course of the campaign.  The book includes an example Endeavor, NPC opponents, and campaign setting to start you off.  It is very self-contained.  You can easily run an entire campaign with just this one book.

Bottom line: I like this book.  I like the career paths, the background Path chart, the campaign setting included with it, and the whole Endeavor concept is way beyond my (somewhat unimaginative) initial expectations.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Finished my huge painting!

Yup, I just finished it today.  There are a couple small touch-ups and then it goes up on the wall.