Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Con on the Cob 2018 After Action Debriefing

First I need to thank everyone who showed up and made this convention special. You guys are the best friends ever!

2018's Con on the Cob was a great success for the Nerds-International crew this year, at least in my opinion. I got to see some new faces and a whole bunch of old ones. Some alcoholic consumption may have been involved also. The daily schedule were games from 9am-1pm and 3-7pm. Afterwards we usually just sat around and chatted while playing pick-up games of Zombie Dice, Epic Spell Wars, Spank The Yeti, and Joking Hazard.

This year I only ran one game and I had a blast running it. I chose to try running Blood In The Chocolate, a Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventure written by Kiel Chenier. This Willy Wonka chocolate factory was fun for everyone who played. The goal is for the characters to collect several items for a French merchant who wants to steal the secret recipe for this addictive chocolate. In this particular scenario, the players never crossed paths with Lucia, the owner of the chocolate factory. They muddled their way around the factory collecting the requested items until the opened a trapped safe where the recipe book was destroyed by a sulfuric acid trap. They also found 40,000 in gold bars so they called it a day and escaped the factory by rappelling out of a window on the second story. During all of this, one of the characters swelled up like a blueberry and another contracted the peanut brittle throat disease. This is one of those adventures you could run several times and still have a blast with.

One of the nights we guilted Gary McCalum into running ICRPG for a few of us. Unfortunately, it was a short-lived game since Gary was still really tired from not enough sleep and James Clarke laying across the table for a photo op. Gary did a great job up until that point. Overall I'm still not sold on ICRPG. When I asked Jaime what he thought of it after playing in it on The RPG Brewery, he said it felt too much like a board game to him. I would agree after thinking about it for some time. I never liked the mechanic of one person at a time taking a turn all the time. When Jaime said board game that hit home for me. It does feel that way. I'd rather play Descent or Dark Tower than ICRPG.

I think the best game of the con that I was in was Tony Fanning's Genesys Deep Madness. We played as characters sent into an underwater complex to recover survivors and an unknown artifact. While the FFG system isn’t new to me, this game did feel different thanks to Tony's madness rules he created. It is much like the critical injury list but is dramatically different. Once you fail fear checks and accumulated 5 insanity points, you would roll on his chart and gain an insanity. This was such a great game even if we players removed some of the feeling of direness due to crazy antics.

Another notable game was Eric Lameroux's Trailer Park Shark Attack written by Karl Keesler. At first I was unsure how this game would play out. I was confident I would like it because it uses Savage Worlds but what I wasn’t sure about was the very nature of the game. Eric told us up front that your character will die. He came prepared with 24 pregenerated characters so we could respawn when we died. This game felt gonzo from the get go where I started out as a midget drug dealer with a Napoleon complex, watching Jerry Springer in my trailer when the levy broke. The trailer park gets flooded and we have to survive electric sharks. Eventually we find out that the sharks are alien inventions and the aliens crashed their flying saucer into the levy. After making our way to the ship we failed to stop the imminent alien invasion. What can I say, it's Savage Worlds, great game. 

I also got to try out Legend of the Five Rings Beginner Game. I had no idea what to expect since I have no prior knowledge of this game. I knew it was made by FFG so it couldn’t be horrible. This was a fun game but I doubt I'd ever get to run or play in this game again. It's Japanese cultural inspiration is amazing but the game felt almost too narrative to me. There is a dice mechanic involved but the game plays more like a story telling session. The world of Rokugan is great and I would absolutely love to read this just for the background info. The dice mechanics were easy enough to pick up that I was able to grasp it within a few rolls. This game definitely requires the right people to play with. I really enjoyed this game and would recommend it even though it lacks solid dice mechanics. It might not be the dice mechanics but there is something about this game that is missing for me.

I finally got to try out Dungeon Crawl Classics. I've had the book on my shelf for a few months but haven’t had the time to read it yet. When I heard there was a slot open for this game ran by Harrison Hunt I jumped at the opportunity. As is usual for Harrison, he put on a great game. We started out by taking a job to help out a tavern owner by getting rid of a small problem for them. Then when we kill the perpetrators we find a sealed talking coffin. The mysterious man in the coffin tells us that there is an enormous amount of wealth and jewels in a far off cave. Of course we will save the world for you. Now I have to drag around this coffin all over the place because we can't open it. Finally, we make it to the cave where some dude touches an obelisk and grows like 50 times his normal size. Needless to say, we saved the world. The only problem I had with this system was the Deed mechanic and my unfamiliarity with the system in general. I kept getting confused on what to roll and when.

I'm a fan of FFG's dice system in general but it does have its shortcomings. The next two games I'm going to mention both use it. Jaime Pearson ran us through some Realms of Terrinoth using the Gen Con adventure from last year. This was a fun game and I'd say this would replace D&D 5th edition for me if I could find a game to play in or run. I'm not a huge fan of 5th edition much anymore. It is a good game but it just feels like the same old game that they keep changing and resleeving to make more money. Enough on that though. Terrinoth feels like a great high fantasy setting and the magic system from Genesys is unrivaled in my humble opinion.

The last game I played in was another one of Tony's concoctions. His Star Wars game was a continuation of last years Vanguard Squadron game. Vanguard Squadron was one of his campaigns he ran for his home group and he loved the characters so much that he started his own convention game. In this episode, the squadron is sent to recover survivors from a cave on Hoth. Well, we ran into a few Wampas. In fact, one threw me against a wall and nearly killed me at the beginning of the game (Tony had fun getting revenge on me from last year). Once we saved a couple of survivors we find out that Vader is landing and we need to provide support to fleeing transport ships by escorting them past the blockade. Once in our ships we had no problem escaping the star destroyer’s gravity well after our ace YT-2400 pilot caused a rebellion on the star destroyer (a special talent of his). This game took second place for me behind Tony's other game. Tony is truly a remarkable GM. If you have a chance to play one of his games don't pass it by.

There was also a Stephanie sighting. Our friend Stephen Dragonspawn did some cosplay on Saturday night and stole the show. This was definitely the pinnacle of the weekend. Thank you Stephen. I think some pictures will say it all for me.

Monday, October 22, 2018

A Look at Stars Without Number Revised Edition; Part 1

Captains Log: Stardate 96407.88

Just this last Friday I was preparing to write a review on Stars Withou Number Revised Edition by Kevin Crawford but when I got to the sector creation chapter I got really, really sidetracked. It took me about an hour to roll up my own sector and organize it into an excel spread sheet. Then I started looking around for a standard 8 by 10 hex sheet online and saw some unique ideas. This got my imagination going and I said screw it, I'm gonna make my own.

Here you can see my creation and use it for your own if desired. This 30 page pdf took me most of the weekend to create because I was also learning a new tool, Affinity Publisher. Now, I should mention that the document is not finished. For the most part it is complete but I still need to add layers for the map. That is one shortcomming of Affinity Publisher. Creating a layered pdf seems to not be an option.

Another option that I would have like to have seen is the ability to create text frames on a "Master" page and be able to edit each pages master text frame. Hopefully that makes sense. As an example, page 30 is the clean version of this master page. Pages 4-29 all have text in the upper right box that would have been much more simple to edit if the master page allowed a generic editable text frame on each page. This was the most tedious part of creating the document.

You might be asking yourself why is he talking about some publishing software. Thats because about a month ago I cancelled my subscription to the Adobe Creative Cloud where I had access to all their tools. I now only have the photo suite of Adobe's tools. I was paying $50 a month to use 3 programs. Fuck that. Now I'm paying $10 a month and thats only because my wife needs Light Room. Otherwise I'd have canceled all of it. Now that I've found Affinity Serif, I'm looking at replacing photoshop with their version. It's a one time payment of $50 and you will still get updates to the software. Remember those 3 programs I said I use? Well, unfortunately Affinity Serif can only replace 2 of those for me at the moment. The last one that I need is a replacement for Adobe Acrobat Pro.

Anyway, back to the SWN sector map. I think I'm going to do this review in a slightly different manner. I'm going to look at the tools provided to the GM first. Then we will go back and look at the player options for the game. So obviously I'm going to start with the Sector Creation chapter. It's a really simple process and Kevin Crawford did an excellent job presenting it. The first step is to figure out how many star systems are in your sector. Roll a d10 and add it to 20. These are your star systems. I rolled a 6. Generally speaking each star system will have 1 major inhabited planet and that is all we are concerned with at this point. Next up we can roll d100 for two world tags and 2d6 for each of the remaing tags of atmosphere, temperature, biosphere, population, and tech level.

EDIT: I almost forgot one crucial step. We need to figure out where the stars are located. Roll a d8 for the column and a d10 for the row for each star. When I did this I came up with 7 duplicates so I just re-rolled until I had 26 unique locations.

Each tag has a short description so lets take a look at one of the worlds I created. If you would open the bookmarks tab on my pdf you can then click on "0501 SESH". The first tag you see there is STAR TYPE. I'll get to that a little later. Next up is Atmosphere: Breathable mix. "Breathable mix atmospheres can support human life without additional equipment or gengineered modification. Any world that has a human population in the millions or more almost certainly has a breathable mix atmosphere."

After that we have Biosphere: Human-miscible biosphere. "Human-miscible biospheres are those in which some substantial portion of the native life is biologically compatible with human nutritional needs. The local plants and animals may not be tasty or terribly nourishing, but they can support life without the serious importation of Terran crop seeds and livestock."

Following that is Temperature: Variable Warm, with temperate places. "Variable temperature worlds tend to show a greater distribution of climates than other worlds, either ranging from cold to temperate levels or temperate to hot levels. This may be a climate that changes world-wide when a long, slow orbit brings the planet into proximity with a stellar primary, or it might be a world that has substantially different climatic zones spread across its surface. The north pole of one world might be a sun-blasted desert that moderates to a cool, wet equator, or an icy world might be warmed here and there by complex channels of geothermally-heated subsurface rivers. Variable temperature worlds tend to have savage weather. The mixing of hot and cold air can send ferocious cyclones and raging hurricanes across the surface of the world, some large enough to consume most of a hemisphere."

Moving on to Population: Outpost. "Outposts are rarely composed of more than a few hundred or few thousand colonists at the most. Outposts are either very new colonies that have not have the requisite time to grow or they are uncolonized worlds that just happen to have a naval or corporate base on the surface."

Here we can also see the most common Tech Level: TL4; modern postech. "Tech level 4 worlds are the most common in human space, and their technical expertise is the baseline for modern post Silence “postech”. These worlds can create spike drives rated up to drive-3, fusion power plants, grav vehicles, simple energy weapons, and medicines that extend human life to a hundred years of vigorous good health. They can manage sophisticated gengineering on simple life forms, and some tech level 4 worlds have even attempted to improve the genetic structures of human life itself."

And of course my favorite part about Sesh, World Tags: Pleasure World of Beastmasters. Each of the world tags has a short description and some inspirational plot hooks. "Beastmasters: The natives have extremely close bonds with the local fauna, possibly having special means of communication and control through tech or gengineering. Local animal life plays a major role in their society, industry, or warfare, and new kinds of beasts may be bred to suit their purposes. Pleasure World: This world provides delights either rare or impermissible elsewhere. Matchless local beauty, stunningly gengineered natives, a wide variety of local drugs, carnal pleasures unacceptable on other worlds, or some other rare delight is readily available here. Most worlds are fully aware of the value of their offerings, and the prices they demand can be in credits or in less tangible recompense."

I really enjoyed making 26 worlds for this document but I needed slightly more. What kind of star did these worlds orbit? Seeing nothing in the book I decided to make my own 2d6 table for this.

Star Types roll 2d6
Binary Stars (roll again to find out type)
Red Giant
Red Dwarf
Yellow Dwarf
White Star
Blue Giant
Variable Star (roll again to find out type)

I'm almost done with sector creation now. Well, essentially I'm done. The only thing left is to fill in the details of each planet. As you can see on my pdf that I didn't fill in the bottom section. This is because I will fill it in as players explore those worlds. It makes more sense to me to do it this way. Perhaps the players will have some influence on details of these planets or other star system details. Within the Sector Creation chapter there is a section on Additional System Points of Interest. This will help flesh out the details of the individual star systems. It includes topics such as adding other worlds and other points of interest, as well as random tables for each topic.

Next time I'm going to take a look at Factions so stay tuned!

P.S.  Please feel free to criticize and comment on the blog about the pdf. I would appreciate any feedback and suggestions. Also, please go over to John Polack's Mr. Mean Speaks Youtube channel. I hear he's going to do a new video on the game Faith 2.0 soon.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Tales from the Loop post game thoughts

This past Friday I was blessed with the opportunity of running some friends through Tales from the Loop: Roleplaying in the 80's that never was. The game turned out great in my mind and I had a blast running this for The RPG Brewery. The players were fantastic and they all got on board the train. I devised this mystery myself and just thought I'd share my notes with everyone. At first I made a different mystery that was more Lost Boys themed but I quickly scrapped that as I wanted more of a Halloween themed adventure. Luckily the game got posponed and I had time to come up with another idea. I'm so glad that happened eventhough it sucked because I was really hyped to run the game two weeks ago.

If you haven't seen the video yet, I suggest you go watch it here on Youtube. The basic premise of the game was the 1982 classic Poltergeist movie written by Steven Speilberg. Overall I'd say the game went fairly well. I planned for 3 clue scenes but the third one wasn't needed. I did think the game could have gone a little more smoothly but that might just be my own perception. The players said they enjoyed it so it was a success in my books. There was one image near the end of the game that couldn't be seen in the video because we did it all theatre of the mind so VTT's were not used and Skype can't do screen sharing. The players had just crossed through the portal and as they turned around to look at their envrionment they see a tribe of native american warriors on horseback charging straight at them.

If I were to run it again I'd shorten the name of the ride to Troll Tunnel or Troll Twister. A mistake I made during the game came near the end in the showdown. Kelly decided to use her Lead skill for the showdown in order to add dice to the other players dice pools. What I did wrong was let her keep her successes for the total showdown accumulation. The showdown specifically requires the Lead skill to either add to the total success or give additional dice to the other players, not both. At least I know now for future reference. As you can see below, my notes are rather short and just give the truth of the mystery. Everything else was more or less adhoc. I had some ideas but I wanted to see where the players took the game.

Next time on Thoughts Of A Barbarian I think I might do a bit of a science fiction RPG review. I have Stars Without Number by Kevin Crawford in mind but there is another I might do first. I'd also like to mention that the weekend of November 30th Hobbs & Friends of the OSR are hosting an online gaming convention called Hobbsapalooza. Check out this video for more information.

Don't forget to come out and join the Nerds-Interantional at Con on the Cob in Richfield Ohio this November. Our tables will be located in the Atrium near the swimming pool. I'll be running some Lamentations of the Flame Princess and the new Judge Dredd game. I had an amazing time last year and this year should be even better.