Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Class Clown Kid update

This is just a short update to add my poor attempt at a final version of the Class Clown Kid. I'm going to be running Tales from the Loop at Con on the Cob this year for my friends over at Nerds-International. I also plan to run this for my friends at my LFGS, Affinity for Gaming in DeKalb IL. You can click on the hyperlink above to get your own copy or you can see a quick preview of the file below.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Aliens vs. Rednecks Review

Aliens vs Rednecks is Just Insert Imagination's newest entry in what they're calling a "plug & play adventure". This latest adventure is their 5th in this line of PnP adventure series. The other PnP adventures from JII are Fuhgeddaboudit!Size MattersBadabing Badaboom!, and White Noise (which will be reviewed later). Coming soon to this line of adventures will be Ashen Thorns, a "spooky and creepy, perfect for a dark night with the wind howling outside." PnP adventure.

I've been resisting the urge to read this adventure in the hopes that I would get to play in it beforehand. Oh well, at least I can say I tried. The basic synopsis of this adventure written by Eric Lamoureux and Harrison Hunt, is that the Klarrgian aliens are in danger of being extinct and they need to abduct a human female named Jenny. She is believed to be the only gene carrier that can save the planet Klarrg from a plague. This beauty pageant queen is somewhere in the town of Jefferson and the aliens can't leave without her.

This adventure introduces a couple of new setting rules, Hold mah beer! and The Xeno Shroud. Basically, they’re rules for in game drinking and allowing the aliens to walk around amongst the humans unnoticed by the townsfolk. If you haven't already figured it out yet, the players will be playing the roles of the inept aliens attempting to abduct Jenny. In this PnP there are a total of 9 scenes/plot twists with my favorite being Just Ridiculous. Another identical race of aliens unknown as Qlarrgians are after Jenny for the exact same reason as the Klarrgians.

AvR is a 20 page PDF which includes a cover page, 3 pages of adventure with NPC’s, a town map, 2 pages of basic figure flats, 5 pre-generated character sheets, a blank character sheet, 5 pre-generated table tents, a blank table tent, and a one page advertisement of JII products.

Overall, I’m really digging this adventure. I mean, who doesn’t want to be an awkward bungling alien searching for (in the voice of Forrest Gump) Jen-ay in the backwoods town of Jefferson. Some of the things I like about this game are the Alienudes, an alien inspired version of interludes and the Klarrgian slang included (which are also on the table tents for easy player access). As usual, the artwork is fantastic and I only have a couple of gripes. The first is the page layout on pages 2-4. They tried to make those pages look like an open book laid flat so you can see the crease in the middle of the page. To me it looks like everything is slightly squished on those pages. This gripe is not a major thing at all. It is merely a personal preference on my part.

The second gripe which is the big one for me, is that I can’t copy and paste anything in the document. As a Virtual Table Top user of Fantasy Grounds, this means I have to re-type everything into the program instead of Ctrl C, Ctrl V. This is easily fixed in Adobe but the PDF is locked and only the publisher can unlock it to make the changes to allow copying. Edit: This issue appears to have resolved itself as I can now copy and paste from the document after a power restart on my computer.

Depending on the players at your table, this game will be a hillarious, gut ripping, and flatulence inducing alien adventure to remeber for a long time.
I’m giving this one 4 out of 5 Jalizaran Moons. After an error from within my computer has been resolved, I would still give this 4 out of 5 Jalizaran Moons.

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Curse Of Calimah

A while back, on April 8th, I had a chance to run my first Fantasy Grounds (FG) game during FG Con 10. I ran an adventure I wrote, titled The Curse Of Calimah. This Savage Worlds adventure was designed to be an introduction to the Pirates of the Dominions sourcebook from the Beasts & Barbarians setting published by Gramel. I would say that overall, it was a success. Unfortunately, I had to omit lots of information in order to try to finish the game on time. Even after that we still went an hour over the scheduled time. The players said they had a good time and it was fun but I’m not sure if they were just being polite.

I learned some valuable lessons. First is to make sure the images and maps are under 1MB in file size. The images I used were large and stopped the game for 5-10 minutes while the players downloaded them. Alternatively, you can set the images to be Force loaded to the players. This means when the players connect to your game all of the images will be downloaded at that time. This can take some time if the file sizes are large but that also means that the game will run faster for everyone during actual play.

Second, if at all possible, try to have a veteran Fantasy Grounds GM as a player. They can help tremendously for a first timer in FG. There were times I felt bad because the game slowed to a standstill. I couldn’t figure out some of the nuances of the combat tracker like adding multiple NPC’s under a single action. I’ll have to go back and revisit that. I know Eric Lamoureux has a video on YouTube about that here. You should go visit his channel because he has a good selection of instructional videos as well as recorded game sessions.

The third and last lesson I learned was that, if you make the players unnecessarily chase after a bad guy, they will either hate the NPC or you, the GM. There is a fine line here and hopefully I didn’t cross it. The first few rounds of combat during the final encounter were slow to say the least. Each player had an allied extra that were relatively close enough to engage an enemy but most of the players were out of range. Then the final bad guy is revealed and the players had to chase after him. They hated the NPC (or me, it’s hard to say for sure) so much that when one of the players killed him, they wouldn’t let him die until I spent all of my GM bennies to try and soak the damage.

I’m starting to come around to the idea that I ran a good game because the players had some laughs and by the end they got emotionally involved in making sure the bad guy felt every last wound. 

With the announcement of the Beasts & Barbarians Steel Edition crowdfunding via Indiegogo, it's fitting that I can announce I've finally gotten approval from Piotr Koryś to release this adventure. For anyone interested, you can download the adventure for free here The Curse Of Calimah.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Herald: Lovecraft & Tesla

Today I finally got around to downloading the digital Kickstarter rewards for Herald: Lovecraft & Tesla from Ravendesk Games. Part of the rewards were three Action Lab comic books titled, wait for it, Herald: Lovecraft and Tesla. I must admit that these comics do a good job of inspiring me to want to play this new game. The only problem is that I don't have the RPG yet. Eventhough the Kickstarter campaign has ended you still have a chance to get in on this and preorder a copy for yourselves. You can follow the link above to the Kickstarter page.

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

The first comic of the History in the Making series, is an introduction to the characters and the beginning of the story arc. We are introduced to Amelia Earhart, Nikola Tesla, H.P. Lovecraft, Harry Houdini, and Albert Einstein. It starts out in October of 1923 and Amelia is taking flight in her history making trip to become the first female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean (its fun to read fiction that incorporates historical fact). As we break away to Nikola in his workshop, he discovers that a prototype engine has just disappeared in front of his very eyes. Now we break away again to see Lovecraft shaking down Houdini in order to get him to investigate a man called The Beast. The next day Nikola meets up with Albert Einstein at the local patent office where Einstein works. Nikola tells Albert that an unfinished prototype engine is in Amelia's airplane. Einstein informs Tesla that this engine will take her to a different dimension. As Nikola is leaving the patent office, a man waiting in line overhears the whole conversation and tells Tesla that H.P. Lovecraft can help him. Nikola then seeks out Lovecraft to ask him for help in finding his betrothed, Ms. Earhart. Suddenly they are attacked by a Mi-Go. The end. Ha-ha, hows that for a cliff hanger?

In the second comic, Nikola uses his Tesla pistol while H.P. uses some sort of arcane power to defeat the Mi-Go. After some arguing between Lovecraft and Tesla, the Mi-Go comes back to life and kills Lovecraft. The Mi-Go disappears out of sight and H.P.'s mother comes down into the basement to find her dead son. She scolds Tesla and tells him to not speak of this incident with H.P. whilst she revives her dead son through the use of magic. After some discussion on what to do next, it is decided that they would go to Brown University to seek out Lovecraft's former professor. He may or may not be in posession of a tome of Necronomicon, or at the very least know where to obtain it. Meanwhile, back at Nikola's workshop, Peter Mackleroy Esquire, a debt collector working for Thomas Edison is going through the inventions to catalogue and inventory Mr. Edison's new belongings. Back to Brown University where we meet Dr. Carlow, Lovecraft's occult professor. Howard Phillips Lovecraft is dismayed that the good professor doesn't remember him with his excuse being that he has lectured many students and can't be bothered to rember names. Howard tries to jog Dr. Carlow's memory of him only to incite an argument between the two, which reveals the location of the Necronomicon to be at the Anthenaeum Library. After leaving Dr. Carlow's office, Tesla and Lovecraft get into a squabble in which they decide to go their own ways. Unbeknownst to each other, they each break into the library after dusk. Tesla through a basement window and Lovecraft stealing the keys from a librarian. Both of them inadvertently walk into a trio of trouble in the basement of the library (as seen on the cover of the next issue).

The third comic begins with Amelia flying somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean and her plane disappears into thin air. Then we go back to the library where Nikola and Howard discover the three cultists who are trying to awaken the great Cthuhlu who's wrath will birth the world anew. Matilda, one of the cultists, discovers that the Necronomicon is a copy and she needs an original tome. Just then Dr. Carlow walks in to confirm his suspicion that Lovecraft wouldn't let go of searching for the tome and Matilda shoots him in the gut. Tesla and Carlow are then dragged into a small room and locked inside. Dr. Carlow proceeds to pass away and Nikola escapes from his cell. Then Tesla rescues Lovecraft from the cultists by causing an explosion in the basement of the library which allows the two to escape.

Overall the three comics are good. Some of the scenes need to be more descriptive or perhaps even more scenes added because I don't feel like I got all the information I needed. Who are the cultists and what about Edison's henchmen? What happened to Harry Houdini? I left out the last scene in the third comic because it doesn't make sense to me at all. It appears to be an everyday conversation between two older gentlemen and a younger man. One of the older men has a unique ring on his left ring finger which leads me to believe it is a much older Nikola Tesla but I'm unsure. They definetly left some questions that need to be answered. Maybe they will be answered in the RPG book but I sure hope the comics will continue into a full series at Action Lab Comics.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Memorial Day Weekend Update & Random Thoughts

I've been quiet for some time now on G+ and here at my blog. This past month has had me busy at work and at home. With the weather warming up and the weekly yard work I've had less time to think about RPG's. We are in prime construction weather here in Illinois which means I'm staying busy at work with airport improvement projects and the seasonal HVAC issues at many of my sites. At home I've been busy with getting my Chargriller Smoker put together and varnishing the wooden bits. This Saturday I'll be seasoning up Charlie for her maiden voyage on Sunday. She'll be smoking me up a brisket for this Memorial Day weekend.
Just yesterday I made a trip to Rockford to pickup a used Char-Broil grill. It's missing a door but not bad for $60 used. This 6 burner baby retails for around $300 new. Not bad eh.
Soon I will be fixing up my front porch which will require at least a full weekend to repair then on to painting. This will have to wait after our family vacation in a couple of weeks. We're going to Walt Disney World in Orlando Florida. I'm dreading the drive. Google maps says it will take 18 hours but my father-in-law says it is more like 22 hours. I'm sure it'll be a blast once we get there but 22 hours in a car, ugh!

In my last blog post I said I was going to try to run a game of Tales from the Loop, well that game fell through. I might try to get it going again but lately I've been reading Rippers Resurrected and I'm getting interested in trying to start a campaign for this. I've played in a game of this before but I really didn't know anything about the setting so it didn't really sit well with me. Now that I've had a chance to read the first half of the players guide I really like some of the mechanics. I need to get back to writing because Con on the Cob is just around the corner on Veteran's Day weekend and I want to run a great game. I also need to work on my second Beasts & Barbarians adventure for the Fantasy Grounds Convention coming in October.

For the online FG Con, I plan to run a follow up adventure to The Curse Of Calimah. This first adventure was an introduction to the Beasts & Barbarians Pirates of the Dominions. I tried to design it so that it would ease the players into this new setting materiel without feeling like it was overly swashbuckling. This next adventure will solidify the characters' path into the murky seas of pirates amongst barbarians. They will have been Pirates of the Dominions under the tutalige (perhaps miguided) of the crew aboard Etu's Manhood for more than a month. This will allow the characters to have "forgotten" some skills in favor of learning new, more seaworthy ones to replace them. Captain Kodar has a special mission for the newest members of his carousing crew.

Lots of members from the Nerds International G+ community will be meeting up at Con on the Cob this year and I've been doing some research for a one shot I plan on running. I'm not 100% sure that I can make this work but I want to run a game titled Attack From Mars!. I've had Steve Jackson's GURPS Mars Attacks source book for some time now and have read it several times. I hope to have this adventure ready for the Con, which will include miniatures, maps, characters, bennies, and of course the story. So far the basic premise is that the Martians have landed and the players need to get to the most defensable building in town to fend off the never ending wave of Disintegrator Ray gun toting Martians.

Please take a moment this weekend to remember those that gave their life to keep this country free. I wish everyone a fun and safe Memorial Day weekend. Post your weekend pics on G+ for me to see.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Class Clown Archetype

Yesterday I started reading the first published Mystery included in the Tales from the Loop book. As I’m getting ready to start uploading materials into Fantasy Grounds I realized the book is missing an archetype I think should be included. I decided to try my hand a making an iconic archetype that I can provide to my players.

So far I haven’t added anything to Fantasy Grounds or even invited players yet. If I can get four or more players to try it, the game time will be on Wednesdays at 1500 GMT. This will be a one shot just to see if I/we like the game. If there’s any interest in continuing on then it will be a short campaign of the 4 Mysteries in the book. I estimate all 4 adventures taking anywhere from 5-10 game sessions of 3 hours in length.

Class Clown

Key Skills
Charm, Sneak, Tinker

Iconic Item
Choose one or make up your own.

Can of Fart Spray.
Rainbow Jacket Nylon Windbreaker.
Lots of Jelly Bracelets on each arm.

Choose one or make up your own.

I have an improperly diagnosed learning disability and have been prescribed Ritalin.
I have an older sibling that likes to beat me up.
Most of the stories I tell are lies to make people laugh but now no one believes my true stories.

Choose one or make up your own.

I’m always trying to vindicate my outrageous stories.
I’m in it for the excitement of new adventures.

Choose one or make up your own.

Everybody likes me.
My friends can count on me.

Relationships To Other Kids
Choose one for each other Kid or make up your own.

We are best pals.
He/She is socially awkward but is still my friend.
He/She tutors me in school.

Relationships To NPC’s
Choose two or make up your own.

Ing-Marie Blankang [Karen Richards] the new police detective, is the only one who believes my wild stories. She even asked me for help fixing some photographic devices placed around Lake Mead.

Dax, the roller rink DJ, said he overheard Lena Thelin [Diane Petersen] say she was going to get revenge on everyone at the Loop who got her fired.

I overheard my friend Bjorn [Brian] talking to himself about Peter Mansson [Peter Dale]. He said something about Peter controlling dreams, and how this must be stopped.

Choose one or make up your own.

English Teacher
Roller Rink DJ

Typical Names
Choose one or make up your own.

Girls names: Avery, Julie, Kimmi, Stephanie
Boys names: Clarke, Jeff, Ralph, George
Nicknames: Butter Buns, Chewbacca (Chewie), Mouth, Snickerdoodle

Monday, April 3, 2017

Tales from the Loop Review Part 6 of 6

Chapter 6:  The Mystery

This marks the start of the GM section of the book and will be the last post in the series. If you’re a player and want to be surprised by how the game will flow through the session, then I recommend you don’t read this.

A Mystery is the term used for an adventure module that the Kids must solve. How the mystery plays out is up to the Kids, depending on the choices they make. The first part of the Mystery is called The Truth of the Mystery, this is a short overview for the GM which also gives insights in order to help tie the story to the Kids.

There are six phases to a Mystery, they are as follows.
  1. Introducing the Kids.
  2. Introducing the Mystery.
  3. Solving the Mystery.
  4. Showdown.
  5. Aftermath.
  6. Change. 

Phase one is introducing the Kids. At the beginning of a mystery each Kid gets to play a scene from everyday life. This scene may or may not include a trouble. This is an opportunity for the player to show what his Kid is like to the other players and the GM. These scenes should be kept short.

Introducing the Mystery is phase two. This is where the GM lets the Kids see something or hear something that should be looked into. You should try to make sure that all the Kids are present together during this scene or at the very least have another scene to allow all of the Kids talk together and discuss the problem. You may need to emphasize the players Drives in order to get them to bite on Mystery.

Here we get into the meat of the Mystery. Phase 3, solving the Mystery. The GM sets scenes about the Mystery and everyday life. The Kids should be together for the most part during this phase but as we all know sometimes the party gets split up. When this happens, the GM should provide a means to get all the Kids back together.

In most Mysteries, there will be more than one location to visit. Each location should have some clues and possibly a Trouble. You shouldn’t force the Kids to visit all the locations. If they figure out the clues sooner than expected, then let them move on. A clue can be anything really, a letter dropped by Mrs. Smith or shell casings from a gun. Somehow the clues should be connected together that allows the Kids to search out the next clue.

Once the Kids solve the Mystery, they can move on to the next phase, the showdown. This is the crux of the Mystery. This is where the Kids must stop someone or something from happening. Typically, this will be an Extended Trouble. All the Kids should definitely be present for this scene.

After the Kids have stopped little Johnny from crushing the life out of Mr. Johnson by using the robot he stole, we can move on to the Aftermath. Phase five is where we let each of the Kids play out a scene from everyday life. This is meant to show that even though the Kids managed to save the town, no one will believe their story and life moves on. Everything can be explained or rationalized and their story has no merit. These scenes should not have a Trouble associated with them.

Finally, the last phase of the Mystery is change. This is where we allow the players to change their characters. If there is something the player doesn’t like anymore or if the Mystery changed something that dictates a change to one of the Kids, it should be done now. Perhaps a relationship changed, they want a different iconic item, or maybe they solved their Problem and need a new one. If a player went past their birthday during the Mystery, then they get to increase one Ability but they also lose a luck point.

To round out this chapter we will discuss experience points (XP).
After every Mystery or session (up to the GM), the GM will ask each Kid 5 questions. If the Kid can truthfully answer yes to any question then they get one XP, with a potential of up to 5 XP total per Mystery. The five questions are always the same and are: “Did you participate in the session? (Each Kid present always gets at least one XP.) Have you been in Trouble because of your Problem or your Relationships? Did you use, or struggle with, your pride? Did you put yourself at risk for the other Kids? Have you learned something new? (What is it?)”

For every 5 XP, a skill can be raised by 1. Remember that a skill can never go higher than 5. Kids can save their XP but only up to 10 can be saved. XP can only be used to increase a skill before or after a session, never during the session. It would be a good practice for the GM to ask the players if any of them want to increase a skill before starting the session.

Chapter 7:  The Landscape
This chapter provides the GM with some locations and tips on how to use these locations, in both settings of Boulder City, Nevada or the Mälaren Islands in Sweden, to create a sandbox environment for the players to run around. This is different in that it allows the Kids to discover their own Mysteries to solve. I’m not going to delve further into this section because it could potentially reveal information not meant for the players.

Chapter 8:  The Four Seasons Of Mad Science
This chapter contains background information on the mini campaign included within the last four chapters.

“The first three Mysteries each take about 3-5 hours to play. The Gamemaster can extend them by adding more Locations or setting more scenes from Everyday Life within them. The fourth Mystery, I, Wagner, is longer, and will take 2-3 sessions to play. It is intended to be played as the finale of the campaign and not as a standalone Mystery.”

As I said in the last post, the last 4 chapters are mysteries for the Kids to solve and I won't be covering those. I don't want to give spoilers on the mysteries included in chapters 9-12, especially since I'm considering hosting a game.

I hope you all enjoyed the overview on Tales from the Loop as much as I had writing it. I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, or criticisms on the book or on the way I have presented and written the review. I mean overview.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Tales from the Loop Review Part 5 of 6

Chapter 5:  Trouble

“Trouble is something that prevents Kids from doing something; it can be a bad thing about to happen or a possibility fraught with danger.”

The GM will give the players challenges, these challenges are called Trouble. When this happens, the player can try to overcome the trouble or sit back and just take it. Not all trouble will give you a condition but when it does, the GM should inform you of such and as to what kind of condition it will be.

The player then rolls a number of six-sided dice equal to the Ability being used and a skill that may apply. Sometimes you will have items that can help and give you some bonus dice to apply to the roll (1-3). Every time you roll a 6, it is counted as a success. Most of the time only one success is required to overcome a trouble.

You also may have some Luck points depending on how old you are. You can use a luck point to reroll failed dice. This can only be done once per dice roll. This is not the same as pushing the roll. Pushing the roll is another way to reroll all failed dice, the difference here is that you must also check off a condition before re-rolling the dice. If you still fail the dice roll, congratulations, you now have two conditions. One thing that is not quite so clear is if you push the roll and gain a condition before the roll, do you apply the -1 condition modifier to the re-roll?

If you roll more successes than necessary, then you can use those to buy effects. Effects are essentially bonuses. The example given in the book was a kid wrestling with his brother. He rolled three successes, so he bought two effects. His brother is humiliated and he doesn’t have to roll again when wrestling with his brother. Effects should not be used to accomplish the task. They are a way to achieve more on top of the task you overcame.

The other players can help you out in a trouble. Only one kid can assist you and give you one extra die to roll. You are stuck with whatever you roll in this case. If you fail the roll, then the kid who helped you also suffers the same effects as well. If everybody is attempting to overcome the same trouble at the same time, then no one can assist each other. The example given was that all of “you are trying to walk home through a blizzard or sneak past the headmaster.”

Next up is Extended Trouble. This is where the kids have to work together to overcome a pivotal moment in the mystery. There are five steps to extended tasks.

1.   Set the stakes.
    The GM declares what is at stake and what will happen on a failure.
2. Threat level.
    The GM tells the kids how many successes are required to overcome the trouble. A normal threat level is 2 successes per kid.
3.   Make a plan.
    The kids come up with a plan and decide who does what and what skill they will use. As long as the GM concurs with the skills used.
4.   Play the scenes.
    Each player gets a scene to act and to roll as normal for the required successes to overcome the threat level.
5.   Outcome.
     If the total number of successes is less than half of the threat level, the kids have failed. If the total number of successes is at least half of the threat level then they may earn more successes by giving themselves conditions in order to reach the threat level. If done this way then they only achieve part of their goal. If they get enough total successes normally then they have overcome the trouble and completely succeed.

Here’s what every GM wants to hear. “The Gamemaster never rolls dice for the NPC’s.” The GM decides if an NPC is successful or fails. NPC’s not only cause trouble for the players but can also help them. An NPC can give the player some bonus dice, but this is rare. Special NPC’s are much harder to beat. They will have special attributes that make them harder and will require more successes to overcome.

Now onto Kid vs. Kid, or PvP as most of us know it. Not only is it not discouraged but they have included some rules for it. You both say what you want to do then you roll the appropriate amount of dice. The player with the most successes wins. You can also push your rolls and buy extra successes by checking off Conditions. You can even push yourself to the limit and become Broken in order to win. If it’s all tied up after all of this then you get interrupted. A teacher breaks up the fight or the recess bell rings and you have to go back to class.

The last four pages of this chapter list the Skills with a brief description and the bonus Effects available when you buy them. An example would be the skill of 
Sneak (Body) - The ability to hide, sneak or steal.
Bonus Effects - Give a success to another Kid or You find something unexpected, or more of what you were looking for.

The dice mechanics are similar to Fri Ligan/Free League Publishing's other games, but unlike Mutant: Year Zero, you don't need different colored dice. This game simply uses a d6 dice pool with results of 6 being a success and no mechanic for rolling a 1. They don't specifically say that each of the condition modifiers of -1 subtract one from the number of successes you rolled (I rolled 3 successes -1 for a condition gives me a total of 2 successes), I'm going to assume that is the case.

This is the last chapter for the players. The next 3 chapters are for the GM, on how to run the mysteries and advice on creating a campaign. The last 4 chapters are mysteries for the kids to solve and I won't be covering those. I don't want to give spoilers on the mysteries included in chapters 9-12, especially since I'm considering hosting a game.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Tales from the Loop Review Part 4 of 6

Chapter 4:  The Kids

Now we’re getting somewhere. Here is where we find out about character creation.

But wait! There’s already a problem. On page 49 it says “There are four pre-made Kids at the end of this book. These can be used to start playing immediately, without having to create characters for the game.” THEY’RE NOT IN THE FUCKING BOOK! I searched high and low to find them. I scoured the interwebs only to find out on Fria Ligan’s forum that pregenerated characters will NOT be included in the book. Character generation appears to fairly fast and easy but that’s not the point. If you say you’re going to include some pregens then put them in the book or at the very least send out an addendum and apologize for the inconvenience. Okay, I'll get off of my soap box now.

As I said earlier, character creation appears fast and simple. The steps to create a character are as follows.

  1. Choose a type.
  2. Pick an age between 10-15.
  3. Distribute Attribute points.
  4. Figure out how many luck points you start with.
  5. Distribute 10 skill points.
  6. Pick an iconic item.
  7. Pick a problem.
  8. Pick a drive.
  9. Pick a pride.
  10. Define relationships to other kids and NPC’s.
  11. Select an anchor.
  12. Name your kid.
  13. Write a short description.
  14. Choose your favorite song.
That may seem like a lot but they have made it easy because for every character type they have broken down most of these steps into multiple choice options for you. For example, the first character type is Bookworm. The Bookworm has a choice of three different iconic items. They are Dog named Plutten (named Tiny for Americans), an Encyclopedia, and a Magnifying glass. Each character type gives you options for Iconic Item, Problem, Drive, Pride, Relationships to other kids, Relationships to NPC’s, Anchor, and Typical Names. Of course, you don’t have to pick any of the choices given to you. You can make up your own. So that takes care of items 1, and 6-12.

There are eight character types in this book.
  1. Bookworm
  2. Computer Geek
  3. Hick
  4. Jock
  5. Popular Kid
  6. Rocker
  7. Troublemaker
  8. Weirdo
 Before I go too much further I will attach a character sheet here so you can see what all the attributes and skills are. Here is a form fillable character sheet.

Next. we need to pick an age which can be from 10-15. Your age determines how may attribute points and luck points you get. You start with attribute points equal to your age (e.g. 10 years old = 10 attribute points). You can never have more than 5 points in any attribute and you also must have a minimum of 1 in each as well. The four attributes are Body, Tech, Heart, and Mind. Body is the equivalent to strength and agility (dexterity for you D&Der’s). Tech is your ability to comprehend, fix, or manipulate all technology in general. Heart is basically charisma. It’s your ability to make friends, persuade someone, or know some contacts. Lastly, we have Mind. This is your smarts or intelligence. It allows you to solve puzzles, find weaknesses, and know shit.

Luck points are used to re-roll dice when you get into trouble. The younger you are, the luckier you are (beginners luck?). These luck points get refreshed at the start of every session (bennies for the Savage Worlds fans). Luck points are determined by subtracting your age from 15 (e.g. 10 years old = 5 luck points).

When you grow another year older, you gain an attribute point to spend. You also lose a luck point every year and it is permanent. Once your character reaches the age of 16, you’re too old for this game and need to make a new character.

Now we need to pick our skills. We start with 10 points to distribute for skills, but before we do that, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Each attribute is related to three skills.

Body – Force, Move, and Sneak.
Tech – Calculate, Program, and Tinker.
Heart – Charm, Contact, and Lead.
Mind – Comprehend, empathize, and investigate.

Every character type has a set of skills that are considered key skills. For example, the Bookworm’s key skills are Calculate, Comprehend, and Investigate. Each of these key skills can have a maximum of 3 to start with and all other skills can only have a maximum of 1.

I’ll skip the last two steps of character creation as those should be self-explanatory.

The next two items are things that are supposed to be done collaboratively amongst the players and GM. First, every group of friends needs a hideout. Not only a place where the kids can be alone and feel safe, but also a place where NPC’s can’t go. Where is it? What is it? These are just a few questions to ask while building your fort.

After all characters are created and the hideout is built, the GM will have a series of questions for everyone. These should be answered before the game starts. Some questions are for the individual kids and some are for the group as a whole. There are 26 questions total but only 6-9 will be asked. One example of a question is “In what way has your Problem gone from bad to worse lately?”

Like I said, it looks like a lot but it is easy and well laid out. Character creation can be really fast, say 20-30 minutes, or it can take as long as you want, and come up with your own ideas.

There are two more things included in this chapter that aren’t considered a part of character creation. The first being Conditions. The fourth principle of Tales from the Loop is that kids don’t die. They can however, suffer conditions. “When you try to overcome Trouble but fail, or if you push a dice roll (Chapter 5), you may be forced to take a Condition.” There are 5 conditions and each one causes a -1 to your dice roll. These conditions are also cumulative (e.g. 3 conditions = a -3 to the dice roll). The 5th condition is called broken. When this happens, you automatically fail all dice rolls. You are not dead but something really bad has happened and you are hurt.

The last item is experience. The GM will award experience (XP) at the end of every session. It is covered in more detail in chapter 6 but they do mention that it can be used to raise skills and it takes 5 XP to raise a skill one point.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Tales from the Loop Review Part 3 of 6

Chapter 3:  The U.S. Loop

Although the Swedish Loop is bigger and more popular throughout the world, the Loop in Boulder City started it all. This top-secret facility in the good ol’ U.S. of A. is just a little over an hour outside of Las Vegas. President Eisenhower ordered the creation of this research facility in hopes of teleporting U.S. soldiers anywhere on the planet at a moment’s notice.

The 80’s were the heyday for the United States of America. Nixon submits his resignation and Ronald Regan steps in as the oldest president this country has seen. The commie Russians are on the way out the door fighting tooth and nail to stay on top of the heap. There’s nothing that can stand in the way of The Stars and Stripes.

Again, more political bull crap that kids don’t care about. Sure, we knew it was going on, but that’s for the adults to deal with. The kids in America were dealing with their own problems like underage drinking, the War on Drugs, and there are only four major television stations. Toy companies start making cartoons to sell their product to kids. He-Man, G.I.-Joe, and Thundercats are just a few of the popular shows.

This section of the book goes into much better detail of what life was like for kids in the 80’s in the U.S.A. than they did in the Swedish section. Roleplaying games are becoming more popular and those pesky adults start banning them because they are perceived as a form of devil worshipping.

Here they start to develop the 3 locales of this patch of desert. Boulder City, Lake Mead, and Las Vegas. It should be obvious that Boulder City, Nevada is the main setting in the United States. It is a town built for the workers of the damn dam. As a kid in Boulder City there’s not a lot to do except for hanging out at the city pool or playing games. Those lucky enough to have cable TV can watch music videos on MTV. There are six points of interest here that range from the local bowling alley to a junkyard. Lake Mead has three points of interest, most notably the dam. They also include a national recreational area and a state park. Las Vegas has two points of interests, the strip and Area 51.

Next up is DART, the Department of Advanced Research into Teleportation, but it is more commonly incorrectly referred to as the Department of Advanced Research and Technology. Eisenhower ordered the development of DART to oversee the Loop project, and the first rule of the Loop project is you don’t talk about the Loop project.

Just a few short miles to the West of the Hoover Dam is the particle accelerator known as the Loop. Most of the DART employees occupy the homes of the original builders of the Hoover Dam, which happen to be inside the Loop. Most of Boulder City’s residents don’t even know how big the DART Loop really is. As with the Swedish Loop, this one has multiple underground service tunnels with unmanned entrances also. Someone might be able to sneak past the not so obvious security measures to investigate strange happenings.

Every so often someone disappears from town. When this happens, most folks assume they got caught somewhere they shouldn’t have been and are off to federal prison.

If I get the chance to play this game I think I would prefer the Boulder City, Nevada setting over the Swedish Mälaren Islands. I think both are fantastically described but I’m more familiar with the U.S. version, and I can pronounce all the stuff on the map. It would be great fun to play in either version and I would not hesitate to play regardless of which locale is used. I think that the U.S. setting lends itself to more of an Area 51 alien vibe and the Swedish one a mysterious dinosaur roaming forested area. Now I’m changing my mind. The Swedish one sounds better now that I think of robots and dinosaurs.

What do you guys think? Sweden or America?

Which would you prefer?

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Tales from the Loop Review Part 2 of 6

Chapter 2:  The Age Of The Loop

First off, an astute reader would recognize the fact that I forgot to include the sixth principle of Tales of the Loop in part 1 of my review. This last principle is the setting is a collaborative one between the GM and players. The GM sets the scenes and describes them but the players are just as responsible as the GM. The players are encouraged to help the GM by providing details. Why does the old cat lady down the street hate you?

On to chapter two. This chapter contains all of the fluff and background information on the Swedish Loop. This is where you find out that this game is about the 80’s that never was.

Those of us that are old enough to remember life in the 80’s will remember iconic popstars and movies of that generation. Not to mention the cold war and threat of Global Thermonuclear War (would you like to play a game?).

In this game technology is more advanced than what we remember. The particle accelerators in Sweden and the U.S.A. are still operating. Robots and flying magnetized ships called gauss freighters are commonplace. The Soviet Union discovered an effect of magnetization that allows robotic freighters to fly along the routes of the Earth’s magnetic fields. It is stronger in the northern hemisphere and larger ships are seen there while smaller ones are in the southern hemisphere.

It’s important to note here that “Tales from the Loop is science fiction, but it is not about technology. At its heart, this game is about growing up in the shadows of strange things and solving mysteries. It is about the Kids.”

By the end of 59’ the world’s first particle accelerator is built in Boulder City, Nevada. Then later in 69’ the Swede’s built their Loop which is the biggest in the world. It is operated by Riksenergi, a government agency of course. They are the largest employer on the islands and most of the populace consider their employer as “theirs” and are very protective when rumor mill is prolific.

They go on to describe life in the 80’s in Sweden as a tumultuous time with the government trying to navigate between capitalism and communism. Although Sweden is officially neutral, communism is a strong sentiment amongst the country and they refer to themselves as a Social Democratic government.

The Mälaren Islands is your typical middle-class suburb of Stockholm, Sweden. Almost in the countryside but close enough to the city to make a daily commute possible. Who cares about all this, right? We’re playing as kids in the 80’s. When I was a kid, all I cared about was what we would play after school. Not about politics and other adult shit.

The next section of this chapter is all about life as a kid in Sweden in the 80’s. During my childhood, the BMX was the king of the hill, it still is in this game. While the BMX is the preferred mode of transportation other means are of course available. Bus passes and walking being the most common. Homework, social life, tests, bullies, chores, and dealing with parents and siblings are just a few of the tools available to the GM.

The next three sections describe each of the three islands, Svartsjölandet, Munsö, and Adelsö. Svartsjölandet is the main island of the setting. Here they describe 6 points of interest which include settlements, an abandoned factory, a stone palace that was turned into a prison but has been dismantled, and the newer prison that replaced the palace conversion.

The three massive cooling towers as seen on the cover of the book are located on the island of Munsö. This is the heart of the Loop and is still open to the public. I know what you’re thinking. What the fuck? Open to the public? The island is open to the public, not the facility itself. There, you will need security clearance to access the Gravitron, the power generator for the particle accelerator.

The last island of Adelsö is covered by forests. Only a few farmers are the inhabitants. Three points of interest are detailed which include a small village, an old royal estate, and a youth correctional facility.

Hang on. We’re almost there. The Loop. There are three loops to be exact. Prim-1, Prim-2, and Aux-1. Visitors to the facility need to pass multiple security checkpoints and it should go without saying, NO KIDS ALLOWED. Although there are multiple underground service tunnels with unmanned entrances. There are of course security measures in place making it difficult but possible to gain access.

Inside the facility, secret projects and experiments are conducted. Speculations and rumors of large reptile animals caused by the high energy produced at the Loop fuel the wild stories told by the kids these days. One unexplained phenomena is the echo sphere. It is a large metal sphere that appears around the perimeter of the Loop. No one knows who made, what they are, or what their purpose is.

This is a very intriguing book to say the least. The artwork is amazing! I must confess, this is the main reason I made the Kickstarter pledge. The other being nostalgia, RPing kids in the 80’s, that was my childhood. My only complaint thus far is the font size used. In the PDF version they use a Sabon font sized at 9. This is slightly too small for my older eyes. I would prefer an 11 or 12 but this is being nitpicky and I can adjust the size of the pdf for my eyes anyway. I should also mention that this is the longest chapter in the book clocking in at 17 pages total.