Thursday, 31 October 2013

Music To Roleplay To: Sci-Fi Horror

Happy Hallowe'en! Today is the perfect day for a terrifying instalment of Music To Roleplay To! They say in space no one can hear your PCs scream, but that doesn't mean all of you should be listening to dead silence! The right tense background music can add the perfect level of atmosphere to any Sci-Fi Horror game!

For best listening arrange your playlist by degrees of intensity: from slightly creepy to full blown horror. That way tense scenes that demand a brooding theme laced with dread aren't overblown by sheer terrifying pandemonium, and vice versa.

..ppressss plaaayy...
  • Alien by Jerry Goldsmith
  • Aliens by James Horner
  • Alien 3 by Elliot Goldenthal
  • Alien Resurrection by John Frizzell
  • Cube by Mark Korven
  • The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) by Tyler Bates
  • Dead Space, Dead Space 2, and Dead Space 3 by Jason Graves
  • Doom 64, Doom & Final Doom for PSX by Aubrey Hodges
  • Event Horizon by Michael Kamen
  • The Fly by Howard Shore
  • From The Depths by Cryobiosis
  • Pandorum by Michl Britsch
  • Prometheus by Marc Streitenfeld
  • Quake by Trent Reznor
  • Sensitive Document by Tillinghast Laboratories
  • Sphere by Elliot Goldenthal
  • System Shock 2 by Eric Brosius
  • The Terminator, and Terminator 2: Judgement Day by Brad Fiedel

RPGs these tunes could work well in:

An Eclipse Phase or CthulhuTech game that focuses heavily on horror would be excellent, along with any generic horror system using a Sci-Fi setting, such as Dread. Other games include Dark Space, Yellow Dawn, Maschine Zeit, Abandon All Hope, Chthonian Stars, and Rapture: End of Days.

Leave a comment if you have any suggestions for additional listening! ;{١

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Shadows and Dread - Play Impressions

Tons of gaming fun before Hallowe'en the past couple days, with some old and some new games:

Shadows over Camelot 

Last Saturday I met a bunch of my friends that had gathered together for few board and card games. I joined them just as they were finishing a game of Carcasonne. After that the six of us played Shadows over Camelot. I've played SoC once before to much hilarity and enjoyment, and this time was no different.


Unlike last time, this time the knights of the round table triumphed over the forces aligned against Camelot; but like last time it came to great surprise to discover when the game was finished that not one of the players was a traitor in disguise. Perhaps our next game we'll actually have a traitor in our midst...

The first time we played, our downfall was partially due to suspicion getting the better of us as we began to question each other players' actions and motives.

Shadows over Camelot is definitely in my top favourite board games for a couple of reasons: It's a co-operative game where the player's play against the game itself; there's a chance it might have a traitor to throw a wretch in the works, making it a social/deduction game like The Resistance or Battlestar Galactica; it's got a great looking modular board with fun components; and probably my favourite of all, is how much bloody fun we have getting into character by laying down banter and insults in Ye Olde English accents. Zounds!

Rune Age

Afterwards we attempted a deck building called Rune Age. Normally a competitive game I believe, we opted to play the cooperative scenario, whose title I can't recall. Rune Wars I think.

We were obliterated in the first couple rounds to much of our dismay. We went with a ruling that made it a tad easier for the beginning of our second play, but the game was still merciless to us and we lost.

As a co-op card game, I don't think I enjoy Rune Age that much, especially when compared to...


My friends and I have played ShadowRift many times, and I quite enjoy this co-op deckbuilder. It has a variety of scenarios, options for customizing your card selection, and interesting monster and village mechanics.

I haven't tried any other deckbuilding card games beyond those two, but the whole concept has a neat mechanic.


Yesterday Fraser and I took part in a game of Dread that a newcomer to Victoria was hosting. Larry (our Host [GM]) had run Dread several times before, most recently at PAX East and he was quite proficient in both running in the game and in the narration style of horror stories and their common tropes.

Lazarus Rook, a technician.
Our tower at the beginning.
We played a scenario called Beneath a Metal Sky, one of the three pre-written ones provided in the book. Despite having read the book and the scenarios before, my enjoyment was not diminished at all. Part of me was excited where and how us players' and our Host were going to take the story next. That said some basic plot elements may be spoiled in the following; but then again, nearly all horror movies seem to follow many usual tropes; what makes it interesting is how each film arranges them. (perhaps like the pieces of the tower in Dread...)
Andrew deftly removing a piece...
...and placing it on top.

The basic premise is that the characters were the crew of a small spacecraft that happened upon apparently abandoned & powered-down space hulk, which they were sent to investigate. After searching the vessel and finding only one survivor, we eventually realized that someone (or something) boarded our own ship and absconded with it. We had decided to restore power to the hulk in attempt to broadcast an SOS and possibly fly it to the nearest part of civilized space.

Fraser making an attempt on the tower...

...and succeeding. Look at that curve!

After we repaired the blown conduits and switched the reactor back on all hell broke loose and we were attacked by deformed, skinless creatures that used to be the crew of the ship controlled by parasitic entities!

We fled engineering and sealed the door behind us, but not before one of the creatures slipped through the gap. Rufus, the researcher (Andrew's PC), drove his emergency axe right through the spinal parasite, killing it but also hacking into the ex-medic Glenn's (Fraser's PC) leg, badly laming him.

We made our way to the bridge, where we met up with the (as yet uninfected) Pvt. King (the one whom we rescued) and decided to make a break for the escape pods. Here's where the action both in the story and on the table got really tense; the tower was very rickety at this point! Making our way down the corridor we were stalked by the creatures using the overhead ventilation ducts. During a social conflict one sprung out right between us; Rufus and Glenn on one side, Lazarus and Pvt. King on the other.

I told King to run whilst the technician met the creature with his plasma torch, he succeeded in killing it but it knocked him unconscious. The ex-medic ran back to check on Lazarus, whilst Rufus (who never paused) kept running for the hangar with King limping behind him.

Glenn was relieved to find Lazarus still breathing and administered a stim (which the tech is also addicted to) to wake him up. The tech started awake confused, and screaming when he saw a creature hanging above the medic on the ceiling.

Luckily Glenn saw the reflection of it in his companion's helmet visor and dodged out of the way and fired on it with the recovered shock-rifle he had found.

Alas, the tower was too rickety to risk the pulls needed for the two of them to get out alive, so Glenn slew the creature only to have his throat slit when a parasitic claw burst out from Lazarus' flesh as he bent over to help him! Lazarus was so horrified a the death of his crewmate from something that was inside of him (he had a serious problem with germs, parasites, and disease) that it took him a bit of time to stop screaming and retching to regain his senses.

Fraser willing toppled the tower so his character (the ex-medic) could succeed in his task to protect my character whilst dying in the process. A noble and heroic sacrifice.

During that time, selfish Rufus was confronted by three creatures outside of the entrance to the hangar. He grabbed King and cruelly threw him into the trio as a distraction whilst he dodged through them into the hangar, killing one in the process.

Perhaps it was seeing this vile act that finally snapped Lazarus out of his hysteria, and he scooped up the shock-rifle and a few stims off his fallen compatriot. By the time he reached King, one of the creatures was injecting several of its tendrils into him, and the other rushed at the technician. It received peppering of shock blasts from the rifle, and the one on King was likewise removed. Lazarus resuscitated King within an inch of his life and revived him with a stim, they then both proceeded to the hangar.

Rufus had made his way through the hangar and was priming the escape pods (to his credit he did set two). After jumping into the closest one, sealing the door, and strapping himself in he discovered to his horror one of the creatures was in the pod with him. From his awkward seat he fought it off with the axe, and succeeded in bisecting it. (At this point, after Andrew had placed his third pulled piece on top of the tower, its weight caused it to tip and collapse) Thinking it dead, Rufus breathing a sigh of relief that was caught short as the parasite leapt from the carcass onto his face!

Most appropriate image I could find.
At this point with two PCs dead (as there were only three players) our Host offered to sum up the remainder of the story with King and Lazarus escaping, but I asked for the tower to rebuild because I had a specific idea in mind for a good horror ending; I wanted to see if Lazarus could fulfil it, or die attempting.

Once the two of them made it into the hangar, they searched for any spacecraft equipped with cryogenic stasis pods, as Lazarus reasoned if he, maybe both of them, were infested with alien parasites they wouldn't last long even if they made it off the hulk in escape pod. They found the ship they needed, a small long-range scout vessel, and began starting it up and completing launching procedures.

Once free of the hulk, Lazarus sent King to the cryopods when he began complaining about weird feelings (similar to the ones the technician himself experienced back when they regrouped on the bridge after shit got real). He programmed in a FTL destination (the port location of his sweetheart) whilst fighting off a brief emergence of the parasite, made a brief explanatory entry, and prepared to settle into his cryopod.

Suddenly rudimentary arms burst from his lower abdomen, keeping him from getting into the pod! The parasite was now in his brain and it knew is intentions! Through sheer force of will (and some very lucky final pulls) Lazarus greatly injured himself forcing himself into the cyropod! Through the pain, the sight and sound of the pod's mist descending was the last thing he witnessed...

*End of Story (and possible Spoilers)*

We had an amazing time playing Dread! I want to again thank Larry our Host for blowing us away with such an horrific and awesome story! My play impression/review lets me state confidently that Dread is truly a game experience different than any other horror RPG; one that should must be experienced. As of this post the PDF is $3. $3! Get it and Play it!

Soon, Tremulus...

Afterwards we relaxed a bit talking about and looking through his collection of (mostly horror) indie games.

We might play with Larry again soon in the future, as he mentioned he'd be willing to run Dogs in the Vineyard for us after we expressed our interesting in trying it. I'd also like to learn more about many of the games he showed us, as they all looked really interesting and I love RPGs. :)

This has also fanned the flames of running my own Dread game! Possible a sequel to this story because there are so many loose ends to wrap up! I'm also further driven to finish working on my homebrew idea for it the game... Stay tuned!

Boo! ;{١

Friday, 25 October 2013

News & Nostalgia

Ever since my work schedule got changed around a month or so ago; combined with feeling under the weather; I've dropped from three RPGs a week, to one (occasional) biweekly game. It's been making me ancy for gaming and socialising, especially with all the interesting news lately. In the meantime I've been filling in the void of RPGs with other games, chiefly board games and retro video games:


A lot of stuff recently, which I'll try to keep concise:

  • The Strange RPG has broken more stretch goals and released much more setting info. The setting still hasn't grabbed me and I'm still iffy on the value of backing the project.
  • Speaking of kickstarters, the adventure game Obuction by the creators of Myst and Riven is one I'm more inclined to back. Game and soundtrack for less than all the Ebooks from The Strange? Count me in.
  • Whilst on the topic of kickstarters, news has finally come out that Robyn D. Laws' Hillfolk: DramaSystem RPG that I backed almost a year ago is finally being shipped, and should hopefully be landing on my doorstep soon. The Series Pitches are beginning to roll out as well.
  • Though I didn't back the lovecraftian horror storytelling game Tremulus, a buddy of mine got his copy and is looking to possibly run it in the coming weeks!
  • Speaking of horror storytelling games, I mentioned a few weeks ago about possibly running Dread. I haven't been able to organise a game of my own, but it just so happens a local gamer has! Next Tuesday my friend and I are hopefully going to be playing a spooky game of Dread!
  • The adventure book The Devil's Spine for Numenera was just released, and I picked up a PDF on DriveThruRPG for cheap. I'm a couple pages into it and like it so much I want to get it in print!
  • On the topic of Numenera, I've decided to run a couple sessions of it next month at ConCentric at UVic on the 15-17th. I've yet to make my choice what adventure exactly I'm going to run, but right now I'm learning towards Vortex spread over two slots if I have enough interest. Otherwise I might do The Nightmare Switch and/or The Beale of Boregal possibly with the In Strange Aeons: Lovecraftian Numenera glimmer releasing next week. [Post by Numenera.] I'm also considering The Devil's Spine if I can find a print copy in time and see if I can make it work.
  • Finally now that things have slowed down for my buddies and myself work-wise, I'm hoping we can begin our continuation of our Vortex adventure online via Google Hangout. The Numenera CC App has been updated on iOS, hopefully correcting the bugs we encountered last time, and making long-distance character tracking easier for us.


I'm in the process of sorting through my collection of video games, and deciding which to keep and which to sell/trade. I don't play video games really at all any more, so I decided to reduce my collection that has mostly been gathering dust the past several years. 

Heh heh, Snoopy's dead.
First I started with my two dozen or so NES cartridges; cleaning, testing, and sorting by the one's I can't get working, the one's I'm going to keep, and the one's for sale/trade (which also include copies of Super Mario Bros. 3 and a gold-cartridge of Link's Adventure, so it doesn't seem like I'm hoarding all the good games to myself).

After that I'm moving on to my Sega Genesis, then GameBoy collection (Colour, Advanced, and DS), then on to XBox and Wii (I'm skipping my SNES & N64 as I'm hanging on to what I've got.)

A couple of people I know would like to have a browse to my selected pile and buy any games they'd like off of me before I bring them in to Fan Favourites to sell/trade.

I think one of the reasons why I don't play/enjoy modern video games as much as retro games is part nostalgia, but also that they're games I never feel I have to dedicate much of my time to, I can just pick up and play whenever I feel like it. Also their simplicity appeals to my imagination.

Cheesy as it is, this marketing image does have a point.

I find video games (even MMORPGs and other such games you can play online) are a fairly solitary activities; growing up as a only child in a rural area, I spend most of my free time playing video games. But retro games are believe are more physically social than most modern games; before the advent of online play if you wanted to play a video game with your friend, he'd come over to you house or you'd go over to his, sit down in front of the same screen, and play it together. And being an only child, that's what appeals to me in retro games the same way as RPGs and board games, they bring people together to play and socialise face to face

Even though my girl doesn't join me playing, she always mentions how she likes watching my play video games, and I do enjoy myself much more having someone share the experience. :)

Starships, Deserts, and Timelines

Last Monday was a buddy of mine's birthday and we hung out at his place and played a few board games, starting with X-Wing.

I finally ended my losing streak against my friend in our game with my thrown together squadron: Turret Trio. He made a bad tactical move early in the game and my Ion Cannon Turrets were punishing him for it. I was surprised my half-baked squad idea actually held some water: Kyle Katarn in the Moldy Crow with an Ion Cannon Turret supporting Horton Salm with R2-D2 and the Blaster Cannon Turret worked well together focus-firing on one target at a time; Dutch wasn't that useful aside from soaking damage, and I didn't use his ability combo with R5-K6 as neither his two allied ships really needed target locks, and the 2nd Ion Cannon Turret though useful for stunning ships, was an ineffective damage dealer. I'm considering swapping him out for an A-Wing, B-Wing, or X-Wing with good synergy.

We called the game early as a victory for me since me wanted to get more people into board games. Next we played Forbidden Desert that I picked up earlier that day at a discount because the tin case was damaged (but I was shown all the components were undamaged*). The four of us were making our way through the game when we discovered one of the Part Location tiles had been doubled in place of standard Gear tile. Nevertheless we succeeded in finding all the parts and escaping the desert. I find it kinda funny that the damaged case game would also contain this misprint; I send feedback to the company so maybe I'll get a replacement tile. Either way I wouldn't care too much, it's an easy enough problem to fix.

My friend told me she received two copies of the storm track in her game, so I wonder how frequent these kinda misprints are?

Finally we ended the night with a couple games of Timeline (his recent copy of Historical Events and the copy of Diversity I bought for him). Timeline is a fun little trivia card game.

  • Pros: It's quick, light, and easy; great for non-gamers; semi-educational.
  • Cons: It's not really an even playing field for those less inclined to trivial facts and historical minutiae (like most trivia games) against those who are; after enough plays one gets familiar with the cards and their corresponding dates, though this dilution can be avoided somewhat with additional expansions.

Cheers! ;{١

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Strange Impressions

Okay, so here's a fully-backed kickstarter that I'll throw my two cents in before it's finished it's pledge period:

The Strange is an RPG devised by veteran designer Bruce Cordell, co-designed by Monte Cook who's own Cypher System from Numenera will be doing the heavy-lifting in The Strange.

My initial thoughts were to jump on the bandwagon for another Cypher System-powered RPG (having missed my chance with Numenera), but after looking over the presented material and the kickstarter info I've come to a bit of a standstill:

Both the setting and the kickstarter are HUGE and somewhat bewildering. There are so many pledges, packages, and kit options (with more material to come from stretch goals) for a backer to choose from (the chart near the bottom simplifies it a bit), although the majority of them are out of my budget. I'm tentatively leaning towards the $80 BASIC STRANGER pledge (along with the current majority of backers) which would net me the corebook in print, all the books in electronic format, plus other perks; but I'm not prepared to lay down cash for this just yet; is this worth $80 + shipping when I can get the corebook at my FLGS when released for ~$60? I'd be much more inclined if it also included a physical copy of the Player's Guide. A lot of pledges aren't a great deal for the amount of money they're asking for, but this may change once more stretch goals have been reached.

If I choose to back The Strange I'll probably wait till its final hours before making my choice to view all the options, much like the option-bloated Call of Cthulhu - 7th Edition kickstarter at during its final countdown.

The designers have stated that results of the online quiz How Strange Are You? will determine the outcomes for special stretch goals. (Reminds me of something similar done in the Hillfolk kickstarter)

Apparently I am an Ardeyn Ally..?
The general theme behind The Strange is that your characters have the ability to travel between worlds (referred to as recursions) that may have different laws of reality. The setting presents three recursions: one based upon modern Earth, a fantasy world called Ardeyn, and an alien world called Ruk. It has also been hinted players can create their own recursions.

To me this pretty much sounds like four huge settings crammed into one book: you have their take on prime Earth, two for Ardeyn and Ruk, and one for the whole Strange multiverse thing. With such a grandiose theme I feel reticent, perhaps maybe intimidated, to back it right away. Personally, I like to back RPGs with a clear (don't mistake that for simple) setting that goes hand-in-hand with the system. The Strange sounds like the GM and perhaps the players have to wrap their heads around a multitude of settings/themes, and although I can see the Cypher system easily handling transitions between recursions well (arriving in a recursion changes the Focus of your character descriptor, I think cypher abilities change as well), I don't think I like the whole 'multiple worlds' concept. Too much juggling.

This probably harkens back why many multiple-genre/theme RPGs don't interest me as much as their basic counterparts. Here's an example: I like Fantasy; I like Cyberpunk; but put those two together (such as Shadowrun) and I'm less interested than if it was just one of those genres. Mind you I have yet to actually play Shadowrun, and I am sure I'd enjoy it as much as any other RPG, but I feel that certain themes from either genres become more diluted in hybrid genre RPGs. Another example would be: I like Cthulhu; I like Mecha; I don't really like CthulhuTech. Or any genre and Rifts; yikes.

This isn't always true though, I do like Deadlands, which is Western and Horror with a little Steampunk thrown in..

Anyway, at it's core The Strange's three 'vistas' makes me think "Do I want to do a Modern, a Fantasy, or a Sci-Fi-themed game?" and if so "Aside from the option for characters to traverse between these worlds, the multiverse trappings, and the Cypher system, what draws me to running my game in The Strange as opposed to d20 ModernPathfinder, or Eclipse Phase for example? Why?




These questions may seem minor to some, but they are pretty important to me in this stage. If anything The Strange certainly lives up to it's name. What does everyone else think so far of this game? Am I just confused?

What do you think of The Strange?

Monday, 14 October 2013

Thanksgaming Weekend 2013

Happy Thanksgaming to all my fellow Canadian gamers! I hope you enjoyed the long weekend with friends and family, perhaps with a bit of gaming?

Saturday the 12th 

This was the grand opening of the new Interactivity Board Game Cafe, and I swung by to check it out after having a thanksgivin' sammich at Chef's Quest. Pretty much all my friends were out of town so the only chance I got to give the extensive game library a whirl was by playing a bunch of rounds of the co-operative game Escape: The Curse of the Temple with a pair of friendly blokes. We had all seen of this game on Shut Up & Sit Down's review of it and thought to give it a try.
Here are my impressions:

We lacked a CD player for the narrated disc and also the hourglass was missing, so we ended up accessing the timed audiotrack online via smartphone. The rules were a little vague in some respects, although we were more so quickly taught the rules by a staff member than reading them from the beginning.
Our first game we easily won only because we had missed the prompts in the track when to return to the starting room within a time limit or lose a die from your die pool. Also we randomly drew a lot of rooms that allowed us to place a lot of gems co-operatively on our way to discovering the exit.
Thus our second game was thus much more difficult, and we lost handedly. There was also more confusion on the prompts because it's easy to ignore them because of the frantic nature of the game and how they can blend into the rest of the ambient background noise of the track.
By our third game we found a track that was just the prompts minus the ambient noise (which made it easier to know when to flee back) and we all managed to succeed in escaping the temple.
On our forth and fifth games we decided to add the cursed and treasure rooms, which added more interesting elements. The challenge was far too great and we failed both times for all of us escaping, though usually just from time running out on our final mad dash to the exit.

Escape: The Curse of the Temple's concept is quite simple and I enjoyed the frantic nature of it; both a good family and/or party game. There's not much else I could say beyond SU&SD's review which covers the pros and cons of it.

Sunday the 13th 

After purchasing and getting some assistance transporting our new coffee table home, the Missus and I attended thanksgiving dinner hosted by her cousin and wife. After a wonderful traditional feast and homemade pie for dessert, a bunch of us got together and played The Resistance, the party game of deception and deduction in a totalitarian dystopia.

For those uninitiated, The Resistance is very similar to mafia or werewolf minus player elimination and with greater social interaction. Again I'll reference Shut Up & Sit Down for their excellent review of it and TableTop for their superb example of play. This was a game I had bought so many months ago but never had a chance to play until now. Here are my impressions:
It's an excellent party game IMHO, and one of the things I love the most about The Resistance was that all the players in our game apart from me don't frequently play games, if at all, but they were all quickly brought in by it's simple concepts and kept engaged by it's social aspects. 
Next time we play The Resistance, it'd like to give The Plot Thickens expansion a try, which looks to add more interesting fun. I'm also keen to try out it's newer fantasy sibling The Resistance: Avalon.

Monday the 14th

Thanksgiving Day the Missus and I mounted our bicycles and together rode down to Interactivity Board Game Cafe. There we played three games: Forbidden Desert, vanilla Carcassonne, and Tsuro.

I'd twice previously purchased Forbidden Desert's older brother Forbidden Island for friends of mine, and thus had numerous chances to play that well-made co-operative game. So when I heard that a sequel had been recently released I was eager to try it out.
A fellow patron joined us for the game we played. Forbidden Desert takes the core gameplay concept from it's elder but adds on a layer of additional survival aspects without making it overly complicated. I'm working on introducing Missus' to board games and this game was very easy for her to pick up, and only took brief consultation of the rules to answer any questions. Hallmarks of a good family game.
Despite being easy to learn and play, like it's predecessor it's hard to win, possibly even tougher with the increased ways to fail. We did lose our game, but only with victory near, so it wasn't a hallow loss. Even with one game under my belt I think I can safely say I prefer Forbidden Desert over Forbidden Island as it's additional strategy keeps it from being too simple.

I've played Carcassonne several times with friends, and thought it'd be a relatively simple game to introduce, especially just the vanilla version. Our companion had played it before many times but only on Xbox Arcade, so this was the first time he played the actual board game version, which he preferred being able to sit down together with live players.
Not much to say about Carcassonne that hasn't be said before; I quite enjoy it and I think my better half did too. Our companion emerged the winner, with the Missus 4 points behind him, and me more than a score behind the both of them.

Finally just the two of us played three rounds of Tsuro, an abstract tile game. It's an incredibly simplistic game, that'd be perfect for introducing to the very young. I also find the simple concept, abstract gameplay, and beautiful artwork very Zen. 
My better half beat me best 2-out-of-3. An excellent game if you're in the mood for playing something simple and not complex, or want to play with a diverse age-group of players.
Afterwards we rode our bikes around a bit more, and then returned home to our own private Thanksgiving supper. Yummy!

Other Recent News

Patron Pride

Here's a brief story: around 6 years ago when the word had spread that WotC was to be discontinuing the print versions of the both Dragon and Dungeon magazines and reverting to a online subscription format, many fans of those publications like myself were dismayed over the end physical periodicals. Along came game designer Wolfgang Baur and his radical concept of creating a magazine called Kobold Quarterly to fill the large OGL content niche both Dragon and Dungeon were leaving in their wake via a patronage business model. Needless to say it was a hit and two years later was an 5-time ENnie Award winner.

After a five year run, sadly it was announced the magazine would fold after its 23rd issue. But Open Design lives on and Kobold Press was created for the purpose of creating and publishing RPG adventures, sourcebooks, content, etc.

I have a small measure of pride to know that I was a patron of KQ in it's initial run, though at the time I did not have the finances to keep up my subscription beyond the first four issues I received, I still have them on my gaming shelf.

Recently when I saw that more Kobold Unit Patches available I leapt at the opportunity to order one and now I flaunt my loyal pride to the Small But Fierce fanzine that I supported. :)

Star Wars RPG News

Still with no news on the Star Wars: Age of Rebellion Beta book arriving locally, I was disheartened when I discovered that FFG had already released their first Beta Update for it. I fear that by the time I get my hands own my copy the majority of the Beta test period will be over, and I'll have wasted money on a sub-par version of the final product that I won't even of had a chance to submit feedback on. The initial excitement I had has now been dulled by my impatience, and thinking about it realistically the AoR Beta isn't as big a deal as the EotE Beta because I/we already know all the core mechanics of the system. It's that fanboy completionist side of me that wants it.

Speaking of Edge of the Empire, the first FAQs & Errata have been released as well. One thing I have of contention is how the errata treats the Pierce and Breach weapon qualities versus how myself, other GM's, and some forum posters have interpreted it: ignoring Soak vs. reducing Soak. I prefer the ignoring interpretation as it makes the quality more useful by making the weapon more effective against high Soak targets by at least dealing the Pierce value in damage to a target on a successful attack, even if it doesn't initially deal enough damage to overcome its Soak.

This errata ruling might be the better way to go in the long run (especially if you apply the ignoring Soak to Breach weapons), but it still seems to be a stable (if stopgap) balance against really high Soak PCs and NPCs and preventing combat escalating into a proverbial arms race.

If character with high enough Soak can take an average shot to their unarmoured body from a blaster pistol and walk away unscathed, that's immersion breaking. Blaster technology has always outmatched armour technology in the Star Wars Universe, that's why despite wearing armour Stormtroopers fall to a well aimed blaster shot from an unarmored Han Solo (and cinematic license of course).

March Against Darkness

I am really poor at mentioning RPG kickstarters until I get a reminder email that it's in its final hours: March Against Darkness is a Canadian designed dark fantasy RPG that was brought to my attention a few weeks ago by a local gamer. It cleared it's funding and cleared two stretch goals (neither of which was cast custom dice I'd like).

March Against Darkness seems pretty cool setting-wise though I'm a little wary of the system; sounds a bit crunchy for my tastes but I could be wrong. I'll find out once I receive the print copy I backed hopefully around May 2014.

Happy Thanksgaming everyone! ;{١

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Music To Roleplay To: Numenera

We're back with another instalment of Music To Roleplay To. Today's entry sends our listeners a billion years into future in the fantastical lands of the Ninth World where brave explorers sift through the remains of prior civilizations whose incredible technology is indistinguishable from magic! This is the world of Numenera!

Personally I would place the background music of Numenera into three categories: Wonder, Mystery, and Strife; each covering a collection of musical themes.

Wonder is themes of optimism, enchantment, awe, and devotion: Soaring music that plays whilst characters travel and gaze upon the majestic and amazing landscapes of the Ninth World.

Mystery is themes of skepticism, secrecy, foreboding, and mystification: Enigmatic songs for searching bizarre ancient ruins and to play during anxious or tense moments.

Strife is themes of conflict, determination, courage, and discord: Music for struggling against adversity or fighting for one's life.

Below are a number of albums and artists that contain songs that fit into several of these categories:
Last Update: NOV/07/2013

  • A.I.: Artificial Intelligence by John Williams
  • Anarchy Online - Original Soundtrack Vol. 02 by Morten Sørlie
  • Cloud Atlas by Tom Tykwer, Johnny Klimek & Reinhold Heil
  • Dune (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) by Toto
  • Frank Hebert's Dune by Graeme Revell
  • Frank Hebert's Children of Dune by Brian Tyler
  • The Fifth Element by Eric Serra
  • The Fountain by Clint Mansell and The Kronos Quartet
  • Green Desert by Tangerine Dream
  • Journey (Original Soundtrack) by Austin Wintory
  • Marsbéli Krónikák (Martian Chronicals) by Solaris
  • Myst: The Soundtrack by Robyn Miller
  • Myst III: Exile by Jack Wall
  • Myst IV: Revelation by Jack Wall and Peter Gabriel
  • Myst V: End of Ages by Tim Larkin
  • Myst Uru: Ages Beyond Myst by Tim Larkin
  • Oblivion by M83, Anthony Gonzalez, and Joseph Trapanese
  • Other Landscapes and Other Landscapes II by Ian Harvey
  • Oxygène by Jean Michel Jarre
  • Panzer Dragoon Orta by Saori Kobayashi and Yutaka Minobe
  • Passion (Original Soundtrack) by Peter Gabriel
  • Phaedra by Tangerine Dream
  • Planescape: Torment by Mark Morgan with Richard Band and Pull
  • Rebel Slave Warriors of Alpha Centauri by Mister Vapor with Phillip Wilkerson
  • Red Planet by Graeme Revell
  • Ricochet by Tangerine Dream
  • Riven: The Soundtrack by Robyn Miller
  • Rubycon by Tangerine Dream
  • select tracks by digitalR3public
  • The Killing Fields by Mike Oldfield
  • Zeit by Tangerine Dream

I'd also like to mention that I can't claim credit for many of these musical suggestions, that belongs to the various posters on the Music for Numenéra group on Ninth World Hub. I chose to compile many of their inspiring suggestions with my own selected tunes to create a collection.

Other RPGs these tunes could work well in: Numenera is pretty unique as far as RPGs go and there isn't really any other game that has a similar setting. In any case, these tunes could work in a pinch for most Science Fantasy RPGs with weird and wondrous themes.

Leave a comment if you have any suggestions for additional listening!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Old Guard Gaming Holiday 2013

Hoo boy, what a awesome fun busy time off I had! Lemme tell you all about it...

Tweed Ride Victoria

Saturday was Tweed Ride Victoria and despite the weather being positively lousy with wind and heavy rain, the coordinators threw together a last minute plan for the attendees. Those brave enough met up at St. Anne's Academy for a brief wet bike ride through town to our destination, and those less inclined were free to join us via their preferred method of transportation.

photo by geoff robson
Photo by Geoff Robson
As the Missus and I had received two Schwinn Cruisers on loan for the event, were determined to make use of them and braved the rain with our friend Mr. Prins. We bundled up well, and despite the dampness the ride there was much fun in the weather. All the riders and comers met in one of the dry buildings of the decommissioned railyard in Esquimalt where picnicking commenced along with judging for numerous prizes. I myself won Best Facial Hair (a gift certificate for a hot lather shave and haircut at my favourite barber in town Victory Barber & Brand, along with a tin of their moustache wax and hairbrush), the Missus won Best Female Accessory (a gift certificate for custom tailoring), and our friend won Best Female Bicycle for her beautiful vintage ride.

I splendid time was had and everyone had their picture by many a photographer. You see some of their collections Here, Here, Here, and Here.

photo by geoff robson
Photo by Geoff Robson
Can't wait for next year!

After the Tweed Ride was over, we had a bite to eat at a nearby brew pub and went home so I could pack and catch the bus up island.

Gaming Holiday

About the same time last year my good buddies and old housemates met up in the town we used to live in for some good old gaming. We decided to keep this tradition, and again convened. We spent our days off catching up and playing a variety of games:

This year I had been passed the GM mantle and had convinced my friends to try Numenera, which they took to quite well I believe. Mike played a Strong-Willed Nano who Commands Mental Powers and Josh played a Strong Glaive who Masters Weaponry. They praised it's free-form simplicity over the rules-heavy 3.5 d20 games we used to run in the past, and I think they also enjoyed the unique setting. I ran The Nightmare Switch for their first adventure, (which might have been a little slow, but we were also learning and getting the feel of a new system) which I followed up with The Vortex which we only made 3/4 the way through Part 1 of.

We've been excited about the prospect of gaming online via Google+ Hangouts or perhaps Skype at least monthly, so perhaps we'll finish the remainder of The Vortex in the future if they are interested.

Numenera CC App Testing

As I mentioned previously in my Numenera First Impressions post I had intended to make heavy use of the Numenera Character Creator App this weekend to give it a thorough testing, and that was exactly what I did. We used the app to create the PC's, track their stats, and upgrade them. Initially I was intending to use the App as a digital backup whilst my players used character sheets, but Mike was down with getting the App for his tablet and Josh opted for using a spread sheet on his tablet for tracking his PC. It went Ok at first, but there were limitations/bugs, one of them pretty heavy:

  • We were unsure if the +1 to Intelligence pool provided by the extra equipment granted from the Mike's PC's focus was included in his stats, and how to include it if it wasn't.
  • Didn't seem to be an apparent way to add or track custom Cyphers.
  • Bugs when raising the number of ammunition above the clipsize, and also errors when deleting an item.
  • The biggest bug was when Mike's PC's stats (Base, Pool, Edge, and Effort) just reverted to zero for no reason, and I believe his Tier dropped from 2 to 1. His Abilities, Equipment and Skills were unaffected. This is a serious bug as there is no way to revert to a previous save or fix it without recreating the character, and it wasn't just limited to his App (Android), I was tracking his PC pretty much exactly the same on my tablet (iPad) and the exact same bug occurred.

That's nice.... >:(
I've sent the developers bug reports on these issues, so hopefully they'll find and correct the cause of these bugs, especially the latter which is too disruptive.

Numenera Session Impressions

I originally thought that the GM'ing never rolling in opposition was going to take some getting used to in Numenera, but to be honest I didn't even really consider it until after our first session. As the GM I felt invested enough in the story and gameplay that I wasn't bored, nor did I feel the need to control anything. I didn't even feel compelled to direct the story via GM Intrusions, although I did them as much as I felt I could without seeming a jerk in order to give them XP.

I had intended to bring tokens, beads, or some sort with me up island, but I ended up not doing so. I wish I had because I think I would've felt more comfortable introducing an Intrusion by sliding a tactile representation (a la FATE) of XP to entice my players (not that they ever said no in the first place).

XP distribution was interesting: Because of poor rolls, Josh ended up spending more of his XP on rerolls than Mike, who reached Tier 2 with his character sooner. This is not to say Josh was far behind Mike in terms of power and ability, far from it, they were both fairly balanced despite the difference in both XP and Tiers. I think this is representative of the fact to reach your next Tier you have to purchase 4 benefits at 4 XP a pop, costing you a total of 16 XP to ascend, and anyone else behind you power-wise isn't going to be that far behind. Mike also some spent his own XP for Josh to reroll, and that teamwork also self-balanced their XP totals. Additionally as they were the only two PC's, each GM Intrusion gave them both 1 XP anyway. I can see games with 3+ conducive players actively keeping XP balanced between characters.

My intent was to be heavy on the XP distribution to allow us to experience a bit more of the crunch of the system. It turned out well I think.

All in all, I am quite happy with Numenera and I think my players were too. :)

The evening following our first session we played Cards Against Humanity. I had heard much about this game and I'm sure you all have too (if you haven't, it's like a super non-pc version of Apples to Apples. If you don't know what that game is, find out yourself.); but this was my first chance to actually play it. Hilarity Ensued. If I remember any one of the really funny rounds, I'd probably wouldn't write here them anyway on account of how horrible they'd be!

The following day was also spent playing Numenera, but we also took a break to play this free award-winning, cross-platform smartphone/tablet game called Spaceteam. I heard about Spaceteam sometime last year via Penny Arcade but never looked into it. I'd suppose it combines the frantic energy of Space Alert with the faulty teamwork dynamics of Space Cadets (neither of which I have actually played, only read about). It's a really fun group game if a bunch of you have smartphones and/or tablets and you should totally check it out because it's FREE (has non-required micro-transactions) and functions between both iOS and Android devices.

That night we went out for dinner at a local Sushi bar, and I had a bunch great rolls and some of the freshest nigiri I've had in a while. We then played Super Bros. Brawl and some Halo 3.

Edge of the Empire

Tuesday we decided to take a break from Numenera as I wanted to introduce my buds to the latest Star Wars RPG: Edge of the Empire. To avoid losing time on character creation and to lighten my backpack, all I brought with me was the narrative dice, the GM Screen (which I didn't even use/need), and the Shadows of a Black Sun (or Under a Black Sun if you prefer) adventure.

We printed off the pre-generated characters available on FFG's site; Josh chose CH-1 and Mike chose Matwe; and played through the adventure in a session. I count Black Sun a pretty good adventure; lots of things and options for the PCs to do, although they were a little at a loss what to do at the Zelcomm Tower, as I might have missed giving them enough information/hooks for that area; but they had already formed enough connections and performed enough grunt work to usher them into the third and final act.

My friends really got into EtoE; they liked the narrative dice, which is good considering it's the key part of the system. On a related note, one brilliant GM created a custom EotE dice extension for Goggle Hangouts that is compatible with the Roll20 extension, so we have another RPG option to play remotely!

I really need to practice taking photos, let alone remembering to take photos.
That pretty wraps up my time off. It was a blast and I was happy to meet up with my best friends again!

No Hunger Games

One final thing I wanted to mention was that this upcoming Saturday October the 5th from 11:00am-11:30pm is a local gaming event called No Hunger Games, where all proceeds from the silent auction go a local charity. Originally I thought I was going to miss it, but having checked the schedule at work today I might get to attend the latter half. Pre-registration ends October 4th, so I need to figure out if I can attend or not, and if so what games I'm going to play.

Anyway, if you're a local and looking for something to do this Saturday, check No Hunger Games out. It's for a good cause!

Cheers! ;{١