Saturday, February 24, 2018

Hollow Earth Expedition (HEX) Rant

I'm only 4 pages into the combat chapter of HEX and I already can’t get over the Defense mechanic. Why are we required to make extra unnecessary rolls to defend against attacks? In this game, all attacks are opposed rolls which will severely slow down the game. I attack you and get 4 successes, now you roll defense to see if I hit you. Why? Why not use a static modifier like other games? Armor Class, Toughness, or whatever you want to call it. It's a combination of attributes, armor, or anything else used for defensive purposes. Then I started looking at how the Defense Rating is calculated and I was appalled to see that they take two ratings, change their names to confuse you and then combine them together. Defense Rating = Passive Defense + Active Defense - Size. Look though the book and try to find Passive Defense or Active Defense. I found two instances where they explain what they are on pages 47 and 125. Passive Defense = Body rating and Active Defense = Dexterity rating. Now, I've got no problem with combining stats to get a derived secondary statistic but when you start changing names of shit then the meaning starts to get lost. At this point I've only hit the first page of chapter 4 and already I'm jumping around the chapter trying to find the meaning of Defense Rating.

Let's move on to combat maneuvers. Block is a maneuver that foregoes your attack to block all incoming Brawl attacks against you. Ok no problem, but wait, there's more.

Instead of making an attack, your character attempts to block all Brawl attacks made against her during the turn. If she is attacked, make an opposed Brawl roll against her opponent, including any appropriate Defense modifiers. If you roll more successes than her opponent, the blow is blocked and does no damage. If he rolls more successes than you, your character takes damage equal to the number of extra successes he rolled. Normally, only Brawl attacks may be blocked. If your character wants to block a Melee attack she suffers a –2 penalty on the attempt. Special: Because your character is actively trying to block Brawl attacks, her normal Defense rating does not apply. She retains her normal Defense rating against other types of attacks, however."

So, what are the appropriate Defense modifiers that apply if her normal Defense rating does not apply? Well let’s go look for Defense modifiers and see. Guess what, there's 2 pages of modifiers starting on page 125. Luckily there's only a few. Size, Armor, Cover, Multiple Attackers, Wound Penalties, Touch Attacks, and Area of Effect Attacks. Here's my point, it's very difficult for a GM to make decisions on the fly with so many defensive rules. Sure, you can ad lib it on the fly but why should I have to. Give me a +1 or +2 and leave it at that. All of this may sound trivial to you but I'm only 4 pages into the chapter out of 22 pages and I'm already trying to figure out what all this stupid defense shit is all about. 

At this point I'm ready to give up and say screw you guys, I'm outta here. I think I'll just put it back on the shelf for a while and come back to it again at a later time. 

Dont forget to check out the Nerds-Internationl Virtual Convention (NIV-Con) on March 10th and 11th. It's a great way to meet new people and have a fun time gaming online.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Herald: Lovecraft & Tesla The Tabletop Roleplaying Game Review

I finally got around to running Herald: Lovecraft & Tesla, a Savage Worlds tabletop roleplaying game from Ravendesk Games and Action Lab Comics, and I really like the game. I would say this is pulp style of Cthulhu but honestly it all depends on your GM style. You could easily run this game in a pulp fashion or a hardcore Lovecraftian Cthulhu style. I had loads of fun running an adventure over the last two weekends even though there were some flaws that I should have anticipated before running it. I think the game I ran started out as a pulp version but by the time we got to the last scene it was more reminiscent of a Cthulhu game where 2 of the 3 player characters died and the last ran away in babbling frenzy of fear. MUWAHAHA!

This 180 page book contains the typical character creation and setting rules along with new edges and hindrances. The first 57 pages contains the player section while the remainder of the book is for the GM's eyes only. Included within are 45 pregenerated Novice characters, 5 Seasoned characters, and 5 Veteran characters. You also get a character sheet, a two page spread of 20's slang, a 10 page bestiary, 6 one sheets, and 5 adventures. As part of the Kickstarter campaign I took part in, I also got an adventure titled A Fistful of Dholes.

The setting book itself is a rather fast read that I enjoyed. In this game the players are part of the Mythos Resistance, a secret organization of people from all walks of life (mostly famous people and celebrities) who are trying to protect John Q Public from the invasion of unnatural beings during the roaring 20's. They "keep the world safe and ignorantly blissful." Cosmic horror and invaders from beyond the stars is what this game is all about. There isn't any magic therefore there are no arcane backgrounds. Saying there isn't magic is a rather broad statement but it doesn't mean there isn't really magic. It just means that if it’s not normal or un-explainable then it’s not natural or "unnatural". There certainly could be magic in your version but in order to maintain the pulpy feel of the game then it should be explained in a way such as weird science rather than magical.

This setting uses the Fear mechanic from the Savage Worlds Deluxe core rulebook with a slight twist. It's up to the GM when a Fear check is called for but it shouldn't be used for anything weird or mysterious. This is more for Cosmic horror or unnatural encounters. "Being surprised by a bear in the woods is natural." Seeing giant 3 foot long worms erupting from a rotting corpse towards you is a Fear check. They also replace the d20 fright table with a 2d6 Cosmic Horror Chart. While you can still use the standard fright table, this new chart changes things up a bit. Most notably by removing the heart attack effect.

If you've already purchased other Cthulhu style games then this book may not be for you. Don't get me wrong, this is a good book but the ideas presented here aren't entirely new. What you're getting are some new edges, hindrances, Tesla tech gear, lots of pregenerated characters, bestiary, and some adventures to run. Having said that, I think it's worth the $24.99 PDF price tag. The artwork is fantastic and looks like it came straight out of the comic books. The style and feel of this game via the artwork, time period, and Tesla inventions are what sets it apart from other Cthulhu games.

I decided to run the Dhole adventure for my friends Blaine, Jamie, and Stephen. As I said before, I had a blast putting my friends in the Mythos Resistance and seeing how they reacted to the situations they were put in. This adventure had two major flaws that I should have caught beforehand. One was a scene where the player characters talk to a condescending university professor as one of the clues they were provided. This scene has way too much information to convey to the players that it almost fell apart halfway through. There's nearly a full page and a half of text that your supposed to read aloud along with a requirement to have them pass a short oral exam of what they just listened to. If they fail the exam then they miss out on some vital information. I should have anticipated this ahead of time and adjusted how the information was conveyed. The second flaw comes in the final scene where the players are supposed to summon an Egyptian demi-god who helps them eliminate the threat. The problem with this is that it turns into an NPC vs NPC encounter taking away any heroic acts of the player characters. I think the right word for this is anticlimactic.

As a side note, I just saw that the characters should have had some equipment that is supposed to be standard issue. The Lightning Pistol is a hand held lightning bolt projector that ignores armor. Oh well, at least I know for next time. Sorry fellas, I'm just a dumb dora that's full of banana oil.

As far as the setting book goes, I'd give it 4 out of 5 Jalizaran Moons. I think the sheer number of pregenerated characters and combination of one sheets and adventures bump it up a notch. The adventure A Fistful of Dholes on the other hand would get 3 out of 5.

P.S. Some friends of mine have a new podcast about the Genesys RPG from Fantasy Flight Games. It's called Finding The Narrative: A Genesys RPG Podcast. The link will take you to Podbean and you can also find them on the Nerds-International Google+ subcategory page. Check it out and you wont be disappointed. 

Monday, February 5, 2018

Wacom Intuos Art Tablet Installation Problems

Over this past weekend I was gifted a new Wacom Intuos Art Tablet from my parents for my 40th birthday. Yay! This is where my excitement stopped. Well, at least for the weekend anyway.

I spent over 14 hours trying to get this tablet to work with my computer. At least 1 hour was spent waiting for my computer to restart many, many times. For whatever reason I kept getting an error that the driver is not running and no device was connected when I opened up the Wacom desktop center. At first this doesn't seem like a big deal because Windows did recognize the device but only as a mouse. The problem is that the pen buttons and the tablet buttons have not been set up properly and I can't configure how I wan't them set up. The use of pen pressure is also nonexistent for programs such as Adobe Photoshop or Corel Painter. By Sunday afternoon I finally got it working right and I only lost some sanity, hair, and time. Below you will find what I did to finally get it working.

One last thing. When you finally get it working I highly recommend you unplug your computer mouse and stick it in a drawer. Use the tablet for everything from now on, or at least until you get competent with the pen and tablet. It's not hard to use but it does take some getting used to. I've had 25 years of practice using a computer mouse but only a few hours of graphic art tablet use.

Getting this tablet to work was such a pain in the ass that I don't have any plans to update the driver unless it suddenly stops on me. I now have reservations recommending this brand to anyone with a Window based PC. If all of Wacom's tablet products are this difficult to install on Microsoft Windows then I would suggest a different manufacturer that has better support. There are lots of threads on the internet about this very same problem but none of them worked for me and Wacom has all but washed their hands when it comes to customer support for this particular tablet. It is their cheap model and I would hope their more expensive models would work right out of the box but I suspect they are leaning more towards Apple consumers for their customer base. All I can say is do your research before buying a tablet and that includes reading up on the problems associated with the software drivers.

Dont forget to check out the Nerds-Internationl Virtual Convention (NIV-Con) on March 10th and 11th. It's a great way to meet new people and have a fun time gaming online.

I'm using the 64bit Windows 7 Professional Operating System. I've heard that Windows 10 is very similar in function so this might help people with that OS.

First of all don't follow the directions in the box. I'm going to assume that if you're reading this then its too late anyway and you got here by doing a google search. The first thing we need to do is unplug the tablet from the computer.

Now you need to remove files with the label of Pen, Tablet, WacHID, Wacom, or any combination of these.

Disclaimer: If you remove the wrong files from your computer you might just screw something up. I'm not an expert and you should verify your own work before making changes. 

Go to Start>Control Panel>Programs>Programs and Features. Scroll down and uninstall any Wacom programs. Then if it asks you to restart your computer click the Restart Later button.

We still have to remove some files. Go to Start  and in the box for searching for files type regedit, press enter. You need to be careful while in the registry editor. You can mess up your computer if you delete the wrong files. There are three folders we're going to need to look in. HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT, HKEY_CURRENT_USER,  and HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE. In each of these folders you need to navigate to the Software folder and expand it. Scan through this folder for the 4 key words mentioned earlier and remove only those folders.

We're not quite done removing the corrupted files yet. Now you need to go to Start>Computer>OSDisk(C:)>Windows>System32>DriverStore>FileRepository. Again scan through the files for the 4 key words and remove those files. This task is a little more difficult to accomplish though. For some odd reason you can't just delete these files. You see, eventhough you own the computer and files, you need to give yourself permission to make changes to these files. Select the file, right click and select Properties. Click on the Security tab and then select Edit underneath the usernames. Now you can give yourself permission to change the files by selecting the checkbox Allow Full Control for your username. Click Apply and then close the dialogue boxes. Congratulations you can now delete that file you just gave yourself permission to, but only that file. Yes, you have to give yourself permission to each file you want to remove.

Now we finally have all Wacom software removed from the computer and you can restart it. Make sure you do a restart and not a shut down. They are different and changes may not take effect unless you do a restart. After it boots back up you can go through all of those file locations mentioned earlier and verify they're still not there.

Warning: You are about to disable all of your computers protection and it's imperitave that the computer is not connected to the internet either wired or wirelessly. 

Turn off or unplug your internet connection. Go to Start>Control Panel>System and Security>Windows Firewall. On the left side click the Turn Windows Firewall on or off. Now select both boxes labeled Turn off Windows Firewall (not Recommended) and then OK. Now you need to disable any anit-virus/anti-malware programs you have installed on your machine.

Once all this is done you can insert the disk provided with the tablet and install the device. Follow the on screen instructions but do not install any updated drivers. Just use the disk and when it prompts you to connect to the internet and download updated drivers, ignore that. Select the Restart Later option.

Now go to Start>Devices and Printers and you should be able to see the tablet listed there. Right click on the icon and select Properties. Under the Hardware tab select Properties again. Under the General tab select Change Settings. A new window will pop up and under the Driver tab select Update Driver. Select Browse my computer for driver software>Let me pick from a list of device drivers on my computer. Uncheck the box that says Show compatible hardware. Scroll down to Wacom Technology Corporation and select the Wacom Serial Pen Tablet driver. A warning box will pop up and just select Yes. 

We're almost there. Go to Start and in the search box type Services. At the top, under Programs you should see a gear or cog icon next to Services, select that one. On my computer there were two programs that I needed to restart and alter. Scroll down until you find Tablet PC Input Service and right click that program. Select restart and wait for the program to restart. Now right click again and select Properties. Under the General tab Startup type: I left it on Automatic but some people have better luck with changing it to Manual. All this does is make the program try to start up when your computer reboots. Next go to the Recovery tab and change the First, Second, and Third failure options to Restart the Service for all three boxes then select Apply. Close out the dialogue box and scroll down to Wacom Professional Service and do the same procedure.

This is a very important step that you don't want to skip. Turn on your Windows Firewall and any anti-virus/anti-malware programs you have. When you restart your computer one of the things that happens is that it will search for an internet connection and I don't wan't you to get any viruses because you were a dumb-ass.

After the restart your graphic art tablet should be working and you should be able to set up the buttons and pen pressure. If not then try restarting the programs under Serivces. If that still doesn't work then I don't know what to tell ya. You're fucked and I can't help so please don't ask me questions about how to help you.