Monday, October 30, 2017

Zweihander: The Grim & Perilous RPG free in PDF right now

Grab it here! The PDF of Zweihander, and enormous Warhammer Fantasy RPG retroclone is free right now until Nov. 1st. Well worth it, trust me....I have it in print and the sucker is giant, and very, very complete. Thanks to Tenkar for spreading the word.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

13th Age: The Death of Kalen Dan Hesperos (Lingusia in the Age of Strife)

Earlier this year I ran a reasonably long campaign that took a party of level 1 13th Age characters from 1st to 7th level. The initial story arc was as follows: escorting one of the PC's cousins, the knight Hesperos, to be buried after he was killed in a battle with trolls. Here's my very lightly cleaned-up main notes from that first story arc:

The Death of Kalen Dan Hesperos:

Opening Event: the group is part of a caravan that just arrived from the southern route to Dagger Falls in the city of Lancaster. The caravan has set up camp in the grounds outside the city when the Mihidir Trolls make a major strike! A Troll Warbrute is leading a charge to destroy the city gates….as the PCs seek to protect the caravan, the knight Kalen Dan Hesperos, who was negotiating a fair price for supplies with the Merchant Nesmith, asks them to aid him in fending off the attack. The city is more vulnerabile than usual as half the main garrison was sent east to investigate an attack on Baldric Castle. Most of the remaining garrison are fresh recruits from Octzel, assigned for a summer of drilling and general patrol duty. The trolls haven’t mounted any raids in nearly a year….

Encounter One: Lancaster, which is built defensively against a great wall along the mountain, is sieged by an army driven by the mihidir trolls, led by several massive trollish warbrutes…a 50 foot tall giant bred as a living siege engine. The trolls are led by the warmage Hanun-Daval, an ambitious mihidir warmage who seeks to destroy the human city and claim it for his people.

The PCs are pipsqueaks in this. They can run interference while Kalen Dan Hesperos tackles the warbrute. Hesperos will be picked up by his war griffon and start the attack, leaving the PCs to face a horde of mihidir shock troops:

Encounter #1:
1 Troll leader (troll, main book)

1 Mihidir Warmage
1st level caster (humanoid, lesser giant)
Init +4
AC 17 PD 11 MD 15 HP 26
Black Bolt +6 ranged attack against up to 3 nearby targets, 2 necrotic damage per bolt
Claws +6 attack, 3 damage; on a 16+ target takes 6 damage from a rend
Dread Growth (5-6); pick one Mihidir grunt. The grunt grows to large size for the remainder of the combat, gaining 20 hit points and doubling its claw and rend damage, but discards its cleaver.
Trollish Regeneration 5: when damaged the mihidir warmage heals 5 damage at the start of its next turn. It has 5 regeneration tokens. It does not regenerate and loses a token if dealt fire or acid damage.

The mihidir war mage is a clever troll of the mihidir kindred, born and bred in the depths of the Ancient City of their kind for war and magic. The warmages are indoctrinated at an early age in to the teachings of the god Thasrik, lord of slavery and domination. They learn to abuse and subjugate the grunts to tortures considered “humane” and “character building” in the eyes of the mihidir elite. Over time, the best are culled from the chattel and taught a mixture of necromancy and polymorphic magic, especially the ability to enhance the already volatile chemistry of trollish flesh.

20 Mihidir Grunts (mook)
1st level troop (humanoid, lesser giant)
Init +3
AC 17 PD 15 MD 11 HP 7
Cleaver Strike +6 attack, 4 damage; on a 1 or 2 attack roll cleaver breaks!
Claws +6 attack, 3 damage; on a 16+ target takes 6 damage from a rend
Trollish Regeneration 5: when damaged the mihidir grunt heals 5 damage at the start of its next turn. It loses this ability if dealt fire or acid damage. The troll may make a save (11+) when dropping 0 HP, so long as it has not taken acid or fire damage it will restore 5 hit points.

The mihidir grunts are medium sized trolls by any other standard, but still stand at least 6-7 feet tall against men and elves. Bred in the breeding pits of Thasrik, the grunts know only slavery, subjugation and torture. They are raised and released as dogs of war, chattel to be thrown against the enemy. The average grunt is an adult by age 6 and dead by age 7.

If the PCs somehow get in to a major tussle with the warbrute:

Mihidir Warbrute
5th level huge wrecker (greater giant)
Init +8
AC 22 PD 20 MD 13 HP 220
Claws +10 attack (two attacks), 30 damage per hit. If both attacks hit a living target it deals 20 extra rend damage and tosses the target 15 feet.
Siege Strike: If both claw attacks hit, and the target is an object (such as a porticullis or defensive castle wall), then double the damage and target collapses if both attack rolls were 16+.
Trollish Regeneration 5: when damaged the mihidir warbrute heals 20 damage at the start of its next turn. It has 5 regeneration tokens. It does not regenerate and loses a token if dealt fire or acid damage.

The worst spawn of the breeding pits, the warbrutes are shaped and morphed into monstrous savages by the mihidir elite to become living siege engines. The warbrutes are so large, some up to 50 feet tall, that they are often mistaken for giants. They can transport dozens of mihidir grunts and are usually “directed” by a mihidir troll.

Side Action: Kalen Dan Hesperos will slay a warbrute on his own, where the troll lord Hanun-Daval is mounted, and almost kill him as well, but not before Hanun-Daval rips his heart from his chest and then somehow manages to slink away, calling a retreat as he does. The green troops of Lancaster rally, when the High Priestess Elana Tovarei (of Mitra) appears and aids them with columns of fire. She seems to take a great toll in calling this magic forth, however.

 The PCs should, ideally, be regarded as exceptional for their efforts in the battle, and if possible their close proximity to where Hesperos fell.

Elana Tovarei will rush to the aid of Hesperos, but see that he has been mortally wounded (and his heart missing). She will grieve, but after a day’s ceremonies she will announce that he is to be canonized for his great deeds over many years as a defender of Lancaster, and so the duke Maldric Gonn Esantras will declare that a procession shall carry his remains to the Island of Mitra off the coast of the capitol for burial in its tombs as a saint in the goddess’s honor.

Either their presence on the battlefield or their relationship to the Dann will lead the PCs to be invited to escort the procession.

The procession will start off well enough; the journey will be led by priestess Elana Tovarei, who PCs may deduce had some sort of relationship with Hesperos. Thirty pilgrims of the High Temple of Mitra and ten monks of the Order of Graethos will accompany the procession and carry the decorated coffin by hand. It makes for slow going, but seems to be the proper ritual. A dozen additional soldiers who all served under Hesperos also volunteer to accompany the procession as guards, along with the PCs.

Travel Encounters:

1.       A farmer with his family have a broken wheel on their melon cart. Their two horses are a bit sickly. It’s raining and they need assistance.
2.       An area has washed out and revealed a stream exposing bones and old armor. The armor has ancient marks on it; it looks like old Halic armor, from the barbarian peoples of old, predating Octzel’s founding. The stream cuts through an innocuous hill, but a partial dolmen has been exposed. 50% chance of a wight and skeletons inside….
3.       A caravan of musicians and murmers passes and tries to entertain, despite the dour nature of the funeral procession. Before being run off by the priests a woman dressed as death will proclaim that the funeral is a farce, and that she senses no soul to be buried….if pursued, the high priestess will contend she is a fraud, and expose her as such rather cruelly.
4.       One day a horse in the group collapses and dies. It seems to have some sickness that made it overly pale and weak.
5.       An orcish warband will be spotted in the distance and pace the group, waiting for an opening to strike, or maybe just to suss out vulnerabilities before deciding to look for easier prey elsewhere. The orcs are led by Huul Drag, a younger warrior looking to make a name for himself. They will follow for at least 3 days to assess weakness, and prospect of making a name for their band if an attack succeeds.

Days 1-3: uneventful, but slow due to rain and mud. Each PC makes a DC10 save vs, CON to avoid coming down with a cold or flu. Failure means they must roll again each day and take -2 penalties on all actions until better.
   Observant PCs will notice that Elana seems to be sick as well, and gets worse as the procession continues.

Day 4: The procession arrives at the mountain overpass, where a crossroads with a hangman’s tree is located, as well as the nearby Inn of the Croaking Raven. The skies remain dark and dour, the rain almost constant. Everyone is ill and there is a worry the pass will suffer from flooding and washouts. Elana calls to stay the night here, and wait out the rains.

The innkeeper, a stout fellow named Taunten, offers his cellar for the body, but several customers will quietly steal away. These four men will make their way to the bandit enclave where the brigand Artosios Valdurante operates….a former Hyrkanian soldier who went awol two years ago during the war and has set up his private army as a bandit prince. He is intrigued at the idea that the coffin may contain a saint’s body, and associated magical reliquaries. He decides to take it…

Day 5: the group finds the rains unabated, and three trappers arrive saying that they saw a storm giant in the pass. Elana grows sicker, and that afternoon the innkeep tells the PCs his daughter Masra has gone missing, and he is worried she may have been lured away by the local bandits (he’ll speak of the brigand Artosios). If they take his offer of 100 gold to look for her while the group is stuck here, he will do his best to describe where she might have gone. Tracking is impossible in the rain and mud, however.

If the group leaves for a day to look for the daughter then they will be absent when the group is attacked that night and the bandits haul the coffin off. If they do not go, then they will be there when approximately 40 bandits and the brigand prince Artosios attack.

(32 level 0 bandits L1)
(8 level 1 bandits L2)
(1 level 3 bandit prince L4)

They’ll try to abscond with the coffin in a bargain for the lives of the priests and monks. Failing that, they’ll try to torch the inn. If the PCs are absent, they will return to find that the bandits escaped with the coffin after taking the priestess Elana hostage, but three knights defending the coffin fell, though not before a dozen bandits were killed. The rest of the knights are out trying to find her in this event.

Day 6: The bandits are back with the coffin and possibly Elana by midnight, assuming they succeed. If they failed, then this event does not happen and there is one more day of dreary rain and flooding.

The bandit caves are north of the crossroads, not far from an abandoned lumber mill (about 7 miles). Locals, such as the trappers, will mention that they have seen the bandits going in to and out of a valley beyond the old Harrid Mill. They also warn that the mill is haunted. Leaving in the morning will mean most of the day is spent travelling due to the horrible weather conditions.

The Harrid Mill: Vance Fatterad ran this mill long ago and stripped the region of trees. He and his boys were rough woodsmen, but they were all curious looking souls, overly large and ungainly. No one ever spoke of their mother…..because as it turns out she was a gruesome ogre woman named Abara, kept deep in a basement below the mill!

After a major fire the mill was abandoned, Fatterad and his boys were run out when accusations of their impure blood were leveled. They left Abara behind, though….stories are the place is haunted by Fatterad’s wife, but they are only half true. She’s still alive, and lives in a carefully dug out complex beneath the mill where she and a new pack of ogre children now reside.

Anyone poking around the mill will risk getting caught in a spike or pit trap, or spotted by ogres. A careful search can reveal the secret trap door that opens up to the compound below. Abara has grown to immense size, unable to move from her bed chamber, but her boyz are busy expanding the complex and providing for her.

Regardless….anyone searching for Masra will find her blue scarf in the ruins. Turns out she may have been taken by the ogres below…in fact, interrogating an ogre will reveal they captured her, but then their brother “Ghasambad” stole her away!

The Valley:  The valley has several denizens of note, including…
1.       Ghasambad, son of Abara – an ogre penitent who regrets the family he grew up in, but remains close to his mother to try and mitigate the evil his siblings may commit to. He just rescued Masra and is keeping her at her camp to heal her wounds. She has taken a liking to him.
2.       Near the entrance to the cave is a scout lookout point where usually four bandits are assigned to guard at any given time.
3.       A wild bullette roams this area, and likes to stomp and churn and prance and threaten any who approach its territory at the base of the valley. Astute trackers will notice the embedded trails go well around the valley floor.

The Bandit Cave: The cave entrance is shadowed and hard to spot along the cliff walls toward the valley’s end. The entrance contains tall pillars of stone carved into crude images of ancient solders and monsters, and the walls are covered in the main entry with ancient petroglyphs of Halic design. Inside the main entrance is a passage opening into a huge amphitheater-like cave where an immense stalagmite has been carved in the crude image of a giant, ancient mother goddess figure which resembles an ancient rendition of the goddess Hellias, or possibly Karsyllym.

The bandits have turned this chamber into a large encampment, and a hole in the ceiling with ladders leads to a smaller upper chamber where Artosios dwells with two women, Kala (human) and Etana (tiefling) serve as his consorts. He also keeps a small horde here of some 3,200 GP, 3 potions of healing, a potion of strength (+4 STR 1 hour), a quiver of ten twin strike arrows and a longsword +1. Lots of trade goods are here as well, and a crude rope pulley system for lifting and lowering goods. He’ll have the coffin in the lower area, having not yet raised it.

Below in the encampment are his fifty-odd followers, less any lost in prior excursions.

If the adventurers arrive here within hours of the coffin’s capture, they will find the entire camp abuzz with activity. Assuming they are looking for the girl and not the coffin, they will find the same. 

If the coffin has been here a day or more, they’ve opened it and discovered the secret within: Hesperos has become a vampire with his heart captured by the troll warlord! He has slain the bandits and they have been raised as an army of undead…..but Hesperos will lie dormant in the coffin. If Elana was captured, she will be silent and terrified in the upper chamber, protecting the two women and possibly the bandit prince. If forced to confront what happened, she will reveal that she needs to get Hesperos to the temple to purify him and save his soul from the troll warlord….nothing else will work. But so long as the coffin is not opened, he will remain at rest!

Part II: this could go a few ways, but in the campaign as run the adventurers made it to a port where they took Hesperos, contained once more, by sea to the Isle of Enki where he was properly put to rest by the priests. Perhaps more on that soon!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Gaming in the Death Bat Zone These Days

Things have been busy with life and work, which has meant neglect for the blog. Luckily, it's always possible to just chat a bit about what's been going on, talk about the ongoing campaigns....

On Wednesday I continue to rotate two campaigns (each one gets a week in the spotlight). Every other Wednesday sees a continuing tale of a gang of adventurers with too many paladins (and paladin-likes) roaming the desert lands of Galvonar in Lingusia. On the other week we have the ongoing tales of a gang of sailors and adventurers for hire who have now been marauding their way through the Western Nakamura Isles, with each session slowly bringing them closer to visiting mainland Mataclan.

The Galvonar game is level 5, creeping very slowly to level 6. The Western Isles game started at level 1 and everyone just hit level 3. Both games are aimed at more visceral "low key" adventuring, with no obvious "epic plots" looming....this is pure sandbox-style adventure, survival and exploration. The Galvonar game has also been working to defy expectations and norms....the first major "lost temple" they had to explore was actually a forgotten bastion of a good deity, for example. When the players are so used to temples being for ancient evil gods that they rationalize how the "good deity" must have gone evil or rogue then you know I, as GM, both made the right choice and need to break out of my traditional mold a little bit.

Saturdays have been a serious contrast. Saturday mights have been my "historical, or something like that" evening for gaming, with two rotating games using Call of Cthulhu and Mythras, respectively. The Call of Cthulhu game is about ten sessions in and focuses on the weird happenings of coastal Oregon near the towns of Coos Bay and Astoria. It's got a bit of a Twin Peaks vibe (a subject on which I have not yet written but really should, given Twin Peaks: The Return was the best damned television I've seen in decades) but this is Twin Peaks with the characteristic mythos twist. The campaign is really about seven different mythos tales all interlaced and sometimes connected together. The adventurers have been exploring these many weird tales at their own pace and often jumping back and forth between one situation and the next according to where their investigations take them....the net result has been a fascinating proof that you can indeed run Call of Cthulhu quasi-sandbox style. The game takes place in the modern era, and I'm borrowing more than a little bit from Delta Green as well.

The off-night game for Saturday has been Ancient Mesopotamia, powered by Mythras. I plan to put more up on the blog about this setting soon, but the idea is it is a "historically precise" time period set at the dawn of the Sumerian kingdoms, some time during the formative years of the Ubaid dynasty (the first kings of Sumeria), around 2,900-3,300 BC. It's sufficiently early in the era that much of what is known from later periods does not yet apply, or is simplified (or has been mythologized)...smaller number of deities, for example, and the fact that the first direct evidence of mass siege warfare dates to around 3,500 BC. Small donkey-like asses (onagers) are the only real "horse" in the region (mostly Elam), and they are considered prestige animals for nobles to use to haul their don't see the Eurasian horsemen until you get out past Elam, and even then it's still a style in infancy. The professional soldier isn't a thing, yet....every able-bodied male may need to take up arms for the city but needs a viable trade to sustain his or herself outside of the protection of the city....except in Spring when everyone goes to war against the neighbors you hate.

It's been a great deal of fun running a literal swords & sandals epic at the dawn of civilization and the early bronze age. There's magic, and a hint the supernatural is real....but it's tricky, too! Players have noticed that I've been describing magical effects as potentially "influential" but not necessarily real....and the only "magic" people see is in the eyes of the one looking for it. The result is the hint that magic is real and subtle....but potentially also just a matter of belief and not necessarily really there, either.

Anyway.....eventually I'll have content to post related to these campaigns, but not until my players exhaust one or more of the settings. In all four cases it looks like that could be a long ways off, possibly months before any one of these campaigns reaches a conclusion, especially considering all four campaigns are modeled on a sandbox-style approach. This is both cool and rough at the same time, as I have a great interest in running a Cold And Dark Campaign, or trying out Hyperlanes 5E, never mind the fact the new Conan RPG is now out and my copy awaits my chance to grab it at the game store this week! As always....too much gaming goodness, not enough time.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Post-Apocalyptic Mythras (Inspiration from Horizon: Zero Dawn)

Recently I've been playing Horizon: Zero Dawn, a PlayStation 4 exclusive that is honestly good enough that if you need a reason to buy a PS4 I would suggest this is it. H:ZD is a story about Aloy, an outcast girl who grows up in a remote woodland along a mountain in the presence of a people called the Nora, who are subsistence scavengers and hunters that survive along the mountainside in a very hostile landscape dominated by animal-like machines that are at best dangerous and at worst actively determined to kill humans. The Nora have developed a wide range of bizarre taboos and traditions designed to keep their people out of trouble, especially when it comes to the ruins of old civilization that dot the landscape, and the nature of the machines.

The setting is pure post-apocalypse and possibly the best take I have yet experienced (Fallout 4 feels trite by comparison, with it's retro-styled take on the after-the-bomb scenario). Horizon: Zero Dawn by contrast is set very far in the future, and the relics of man are not just rusted hulks, but fragmentary debris that blends seamlessly with the natural can be exploring and come across a whole city which you will not at first realize is what it is until you begin to notice the rusty skeletal structure hidden beneath the jungle canopy.

If games like The Last of Us and The Division deal with a very recent apocalypse, and Fallout 4 deals with a gonzo sci-fi retro apocalypse, then Horizon: Zero Dawn explores a potential and very eerie "distant survivors of an ancient apocalypse," and it does so very well. It's not clear to me just how far in the future H:ZD is set (it feels like anywhere from a realistic 2-3 centuries to maybe thousands of years....there are subterranean complexes with stalactites that had to have taken a very long time to form, for example*), but it's far enough in the future that almost none of the contemporary tribesmen regard the memory of old man as anything other than religion and myth.

What grabbed me about the game that led to thinking about Mythras is just how "grounded in reality" it is. This concept...that the game is grounded in reality, and runs with that as a baseline, might sound like a no-brainer but trust me, video games regularly have your avatar dealing in crazy levels of power and ability with boundless fatigue. H:ZD does the opposite, with a character who is essentially just a good tracker and hunter, can use a bow, and is a reasonable but not spectacular melee fighter. Aloy is a realistic protagonist, in other words....and her skill set is enhanced only by a relic of ancient technology that lets her see the remnants of the ARG grid that was once the principle communications technology of lost mankind.

Given that the game's character is dependent entirely on realistic skills, I realized that Mythras would be an exceptional fit for this sort of game, one in which your abilities as a nomadic hunter or sedentary woodsman might be the most relevant defining component of your character, and the only special currency for "magic" was the information gleaned from relic tech that let you tap in to a long-lost ARG grid, or an occasional bit of working tech that lets you affect the behavior of the mysterious machines.

Mythras, in fact, would be a fantastic game for this sort of extremely low-tech post-apocalypse. I'm working out some ideas right now, and I'd prefer not to rip off H:ZD whole cloth so the idea would be to work out a good altenative post-apocalyptic reality, but the idea of what amounts to a "realistic future SF P-A game" powered by Mythras has me extremely intrigued right now.

*If the wiki is to be trusted, then at a .12 inch rate/year of formation one can assume many of the stalactites seen in the underground ruins on H:ZD that are on average 4 or more feet long may have taken between 400 and 600 years to form. That's from the date when the complex was "compromised" and began leaking, mind you....or worse yet, from the date that the complex was eventually covered in dirt and began to develop cave-like limestone deposits. Some of the cave formations, assuming they weren't there before the apcalyptic event, are large enough that they may have taken tens of thousands of years to grow as large as they did. So.....yeah. Long time.

OTOH some of the ruins, as ancient and crumbling as they appear to be, may not be as old as the caves suggest.....depending on your source, some studies on the likely rate of decay of a civilization like ours may happen in only centuries, if even that. So there's probably a little artistic license taken here in the game, but considerably less than is seen in, say, Fallout 4 where the setting is allegedly 2 centuries after the apocalypse yet looks and feels like the war happened only 20 years ago. 

Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Loot Crate Problem

This is a topic that's been making the rounds recently, thanks to a sudden explosion of AAA games with very finely tuned Loot Box systems aimed at getting Real Money out of you. The most egregious example under discussion is the loot crate system in Middle Earth: Shadows of War, but Star Wars: Battlefront II is coming in at a close second with a randomized loot system that awards what appear to be very advantageous "pay to win" bonuses. In fact most big budget games coming out in the next few months are going to have some form of loot crate system in place.

This isn't new, of course....the loot crate concept has been gaining steam for a while now, and it's been in place in the Call of Duty franchise, Overwatch and other games for a few years. MMOs have been abusing the loot crate concept for a while now, and layering it with multiple forms of specialized currency, each with their own rules that are ultimately designed to get you, the player, to part with more cash. Many of these games have so far shown restraint, offering up purely cosmetic options in their loot crates.....but this season seems poised to change all of that.

There are people who see pros and cons to loot crates. One of the identified "pros" is that it's a mechanism for people who have more money but less time to stay competitive. Actually, that's the only one I can think of (or find), offhand. The publishers of these games try to spin it as a choice issue.....sure, you can buy our loot crates, they say....but you can also just play the game, acquire currency, and then get the crates in-game without spending any money.

There's a problem with these viewpoints, of course.

The first issue, and far and away the most important one to keep in mind is: the game develpers (and publishers) are in total control of this process. They set the bar for how much time it takes to grind for content (loot crates), vs. how much money it will cost to bypass the time process, and what you get if you are buying what amounts to randomized blind bags. Parents of children in today's world know of the concept of the blind bag/collectible toy conundrum: it's the way a toy manufacturer gets your kid to buy 20 blind bags to get the 8 toys they actually package in the bags (numbers will vary). If they just sold you the 8 toys you'd spend your $5 a pop, but if you don't know what you're getting, it may take you 20 or more purchases to get the same 8 figures....thus putting you in the hole for $100 or more to get the same collection.

Kids are especially susceptible to this predatory marketing tactic, due to the fact that they have not yet developed enough (mentally, emotionally and in the manner which allows them to accurately assess the risk factor of their behavior, especially in abstracts like this) to really appreciate just how insidious this is. As a parent your best bet is to step in and provide the breaks, the controls to the behavior.....but it's not easy, and you can't always be there to remind them that spending all their hard earned money on what amounts to a mess of duplicate toys for the chance of that one figure they are missing is not a good idea.

Add this process to video games, which have an insidious additional mechanism to incentivize you to purchase loot crates by making the grinding process onerous and soul crushing, then add in a large number of kids and adults under 25 (who are still mentally developing their ability to assess risk, and the publishers know it) who may be especially susceptible to falling for a gambling tactic thinly disguised as gamification, and you have a recipe for predatory sales practices aimed at pure exploitation.

"But I don't want to grind for loot, and I have limited time but am willing to spend money to get the crates," you might say. Don't worry, they have you covered! They will insure that the grind is excruciating, and only the most die hard and penniless players will suffer through this process. For the rest of us, we fall in to two categories: people who will never pay for loot crates (a small minority) even when the game provides plenty of bait in the form of some free currency or free crates to try and hook you in....OR you stylize yourself sufficiently well-to-do that you are willing to spend what it takes, even if that could be in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Maybe you don't do it all at once, but over time? Sure, it will add up. You might even style yourself one of the legendary whales, the term marketing in games uses to refer to that golden player who is willing to shower their product with cash to "get it all."

If you're one of the few guys in the middle who will play the game and refuse to buy loot crates....congratulations on the self control, it's hard for most players to accomplish this, but you're one of them. Unfortunately the game no longer cares about you. If you paid for the base game? That initial $60 purchase, maybe with a season pass, was the money they knew they could get out of you already, and they got that. Now you either buy in to the game, or play it until you're no longer relevant. Odds are you won't be around that long, anyway, because you value both your time and your money, and realize that the game does not respect your time and it desperately wants your money.

So next time you're playing a loot crate styled game, keep that in mind: every single step along the design process was aimed at getting you, the consumer, to play the game the way they want it. So the question is not "grind vs. pay," got it? That's an arbitrary distinction that was built in to the game to make you think you have to grind or you have to pay. They did not have to make it that way, but they did, to give you the illusion of choice here.

A lot of the new games being criticized are only just now about to come out. We'll have to see what the landscape looks like in the next few months, if these games prosper or wither and die. Unfortunately I am not betting on the latter. The psychology of addictive behavior, combined with the cunning manipulation of gamification, suggests that this approach will continue to prosper. Our best best for those like me who are getting tired of this predatory design practice is to continue to purchase and enjoy the games that have not yet fallen victim to the loot crate design philosophy.

On the plus side, there is (as yet) still no way for this kind of nonsense to affect the tabletop RPG experience....

Monday, October 9, 2017

FrontierSpace is Live and in Print!

If you have heard of DwD Studios then you know their amazing lineup of low-cost, easy-entry games which include the OSR White Box inspired White Lies, the D00Lite powered Barebones Fantasy RPG and Covert Ops Espionage RPG. Now we have a new addition to the fine roster of games: FrontierSpace, the sci fi RPG. I've been reading through the PDF and really like what the game offers. To give you a brief run down:

5 major races (covering five core types including humans, robots and three suitably exotic but familiar races)
12 skills (in the "d00Lite" system skills are comparable to professions or classes you simultaneously level up in....think of it like a sort of professional "bundle" of skills that each one represents)
Lots of neat stuff in character design (homeworld, quirks, background details, charts to roll on)
A very large equioment section with plenty of cybernetic implants
Lots of vehicles and starships and rules for both
A short overview of the default setting
A bunch of pregenerated character examples

FrontierSpace's core mechanics is very simple: roll percentiles against or under a target number that's usually an attribute plus skill modifier. So if you have a 50 agility and +20 in warrior might have a chance of success of 70 or less to dodge out of the way of an attack. Modifiers and situational bits apply, but the basic rules in the game cover about 14 pages of actual content.

Like the other DWD Studios games, this one is complete in one modest volume. It's worth noting that unlike some other recent releases this is a complete game in its own right. The world of FrontierSpace is designed for straight science fiction and provides no rules of psionics, weird space magic (the Force cough cough) or anything else....though I imagine you could hack Barebones Fantasy to add some of that to your game if that were your thing.

If you're looking for an easy pickup and play system, with lots of details but a mechanically lite approach that still has plenty of working parts, this is a great choice. Very much recommended!

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Justice League's Latest Trailer

November 17th is not that far away! I am completely stoked...I think I'm looking foward to this one more than Star Wars.....(well, almost, maybe):