Monday, February 27, 2012

Pre-pre Game Show: Why Does My Brain Shut Down?

At this point, I've already packed up all of my Rogue Trader material for Thursday night's character creation session.  I made up nice folders for all of the players with a character sheet, the campaign standards, and some scratch paper.  I also have the ship record sheet, the origin path, and the warrant and ship origin path sheets all printed out.

Over the last few weeks I've picked up a few Rogue Trader books, and I have to admit, my brain shut down.  My original intent was to plow through as many of them as possible so I could be a relatively well informed GM on a variety of topics.  As it stands, I read a lot of the Core book and Into the Storm, and a little of the rest, but not 100% of any of them.

The more I really wanted to buckle down and read, the harder it was for me to concentrate on the books.  I jumped around a lot and cross referenced tons of stuff.  I would have felt better had I been able to say that I 100% absorbed everything, but I know me.  I had too many different books for me to bounce around looking at.

Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty confident of the core concepts and rules of the game.  I've spent more time with the core book than anything else, and much of that dovetails with the core conceits of Deathwatch.  It's just I wanted to be able to spout chapter and verse on starship weapons and to know psychic powers in and out and . . . my knowledge is not going to be that extensive out of the gate.

Despite that, I'm pretty excited about the campaign.  I have a really good idea of what direction I want to take the game, and I have a few NPCs pretty clearly set in my mind.  I know I'll just have more material once the players get their PCs up and running.

Another thing that is interesting about Rogue Trader:  I like to watch movies and television shows that set the mood for the games I'll be playing for the week.  It's hard to come up with good military based science fiction to get in the mood for Deathwatch.  It's not that I had a hard time getting excited for Deathwatch, but little, quirky, interesting bits that might have come up in military based sci-fi was harder to come by.

Denise Richards was horrible, by NPH could totally pull off being  with the Inquisition . . . 

On the other hand, it's pretty easy to find inspiration for Rogue Trader.  Science fiction that involves traveling from here to there in a ship, strangely enough, has a lot of inspirational material.

Star Trek?  Away teams, engineering mishaps, first contact.  Heck, the original series even had some Rogue Traders in the form of Harry Mudd and Cyrano Jones.

Star Gate?  Exploring planets that have human cultures that were cut off from the mainstream human culture thousands of years ago, weird alien afflictions, pyramid shaped alien ships  (wait . . . my players may not like what that implies).

Aliens/Species/Predator?  Hostile aliens stalking humans and using them to generate their future generations at the expense of humanities continued existence, or just because it's fun to hunt and kill humans.

Anyway, just looking at all of the options on the origin paths has me really excited about the full range of potential options for the campaign.  I'm so excited I almost forgot that Justice League:  Doom is going to be out tomorrow . . . ;)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Temptation Continues (Way of the Wicked--Call Forth Darkness . . . and a Thematically Friendly Product to Boot)

I just finished up reading the second adventure in Fire Mountain Games Way of the Wicked evil Pathfinder Adventure Path.  I was pretty impressed with it overall.  I really do want to run this one some day, so it's in the hopper if any time opens up on the old gaming schedule.

Call Forth Darkness

That having been said, I'm kind of glad I do have time to read ahead in this series and make sure things keep moving along swimmingly.  One thing I've noticed about even Paizo's best adventure paths . . . there almost always seems to be one adventure out of the bunch that just doesn't quite work.  I am hoping Fire Mountain Games can avoid that "this one was pretty much filler and only X in it is really important to the overall plot" feeling that I get from the ones that don't work for me.

The concept of this one is a really nice twist on the traditional dungeon crawl, in that it's a sort of "capture and hold" adventure instead of a "raid and collect X" objective.  Add to this some neat rules on what to do with those minions that aren't quite full blown combatants, like your good old cohort is, and this looks like a lot of fun.

It also looks like something you will have to bring your GM A game for to keep the pacing feeling right and to gently nudge the players towards some of the more interesting options in the game.  As I said in my reviews on Paizo and RPG Now, it's not a failing of the adventure, it's more that it's one of those adventures that gambles on doing something in a certain way, and if it pays off, it will pay off big.

I'm not going to say it's quite as good as my favorite AP installment of all time, but it shares that kind of "greatness gambling" with the Sixfold Trials in the Council of Thieves AP.  If the PCs just don't latch onto performing the murderplay and then chatting up the cream of Westcrown's crop at the Mayor's place, the adventure is going to fall flat.  If they really latch onto being actors and rubbing elbows with the elite, they are going to remember the adventure as one of the best of their gaming careers.

While I don't think this is quite as awesome  (not an insult, Sixfold Trials is my high water mark for Paizo adventures), it really does have that kind of potential for being actual plotting villains instead of just evil characters doing evil missions.  The payoff could be huge and memorable if the buy in is there.

I am really enjoying how this AP is unfolding.  Mayhap someday I'll even get to see how it performs in the wilds.

On a related note, I picked up Super Genius Games Genius Guide to Hellfire Magic.  This is a fun product, and I enjoyed reading through it.  More than that, it really dovetails nicely with the Way of the Wicked AP.

I've liked a lot of SGG products over the years.  I think they put up some really strong crunch that does a good job of not so much contributing to rules bloat or power creep but actually has some nice thematic weight to the material.  That having been said, I've been reticent to add too much third party material to my campaigns in the past, because you never know how something simple might react with something else that just came out to throw a huge monkey wrench into a campaign.

The nice thing about the SGG products is that in many cases, the offering is so thematically realized that if you come up with just the right campaign, it's kind of easy to be modular and just add what seems like it would be perfect for that particular campaign.

Long story short, I'd throw Hellfire Magic into a Council of Thieves or Way of the Wicked campaign without too many reservations.  In fact, if I ever do get back to running Pathfinder on a regular basis, I'm seriously thinking about finding one simple thematic third party product and allowing that in that particular campaign.  Easy to keep track of and not much to get too far out of hand.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

KnightErrantJR Versus the Sentinels of the Multiverse: Round Two+

Last week, interspersed between other gaming of the roleplaying persuasion, I got a chance to play a few more games of Sentinels of the Multiverse.  A great time was had by all, and my record against this game's 2-D villains is 1 win, 3 losses, and 1 tie  (more or less).

Showing up early for once, we played a game of this before my DC Adventure game  (thematically appropriate) and three of us went up against Omnitron, the evil factory/robot.  Sort of Ultron/Master Mold/HARDAC.

We battled Omnitron in the Megalopolis setting  (i.e. we were fighting him in a big typical superhero comic book city).  Our heroes were Bunker, Tachyon, and Wraith.

Omnitron's healing drones are a pain the the rear end.  Also, getting hit by an elevated train isn't as bad as it might seem.  However, in the end, when the bad guy is getting repaired a whole lot and causes your equipment to explode  (especially when two of the guys at the table, Wraith and Bunker, are very equipment dependent), the bad guy might win.  Like in this case.

Oddly enough, I found that my fellow gamers suffer from the same addiction to having a villains boot up their rear ends that I suffered from, so as soon as the session ended, we recruited several more players, and we actually had a full crew of five heroes against a villain.

Our team was Bunker, Ra, Fanatic, Absolute Zero, and Legacy.  Our environment was Insula Primalis  (think the Savage Land or Skartaris) and our villain was Baron Blade  (kind of a Bronze Age Lex Luthor).

Baron Blade's hit points are lower than the rest of the bad guys, but he resets when he flips.  Absolute Zero went down, but then again, his powers damage him  (he does damage on several cards based on the damage he does to himself), but in the end Baron Blade fell before us.  All five of us.

And I think if I read correctly, Baron Blade is suppose to be the weakest villain.  Hrm.  Hey, it's a win!

Now with a taste of victory, we snagged another player and went with four heroes against another villain before our Pathfinder game on Thursday.  Our lineup this time our was Ra, Legacy, Tempest, and Haka.

We went up against Citizen Dawn.  Citizen Dawn is one of the two "tough" bad guys in the game, up there with Voss.  I didn't know why at first, until she flipped, and became invulnerable about the time that a bunch of us gained major damage buffs.  We fought her in Atlantis.

Then we all lost our permanents when she went nova.  And her allies all had these synergistic abilities. It hurt.

Eventually we got to the point that none of us could play hero cards, Tempest was dead, the rest of us were very low on hit points, but Tempest kept letting Haka activate an ability that kept us from taking damage.  We went multiple rounds doing this, hoping that we could nickel and dime Citizen Dawn down, and she kept getting cards that let her heal.

This went round and round and drug out longer than any of our fights thus far, and since our game was starting soon, we called it.  I think Citizen Dawn might have won, but who knows.

Atlantis is interesting, because it has some crazy effects that can really mess you up, or can really let both heroes and villains go completely gonzo with their cards and powers.

Analysis:  Still loving this game.  Not fond of Citizen Dawn, and not because we didn't beat her, but because her synergies are crazy.  Looking forward to playing again and looking forward to the potential expansions to this game.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Game Night: Pathfinder Shackled City Campaign--The Sloth Whisperer (2-24-12)

Our intrepid band continues to march away from Cauldron to save it.  Following the ancient map on the relic we picked up on town from the elderly halfling and continuing on based on the clues we picked up from the Chisel members in Red Gorge, we set forth down the river towards adventure and our destiny.  I strikingly stood at the front of the raft pointing my sword towards the horizon, but unfortunately Linderath doesn't sing as well as Chesterfield.

As we sailed down the river, we saw some gnolls fishing.  Chesterfield and Darkboon talked them down, and we kept sailing.  Eventually we found the demonic statue that showed us we were still on the right track, despite our temptation to keep looking for a demonic statue with the head still attached since, of course, the statue on the relic had a head and this one was missing it's head.

During the trip, Linderath decided that Sir Albert needed to be indoctrinated into the ranks of adventurers, so he began to . . . test his perception.  Mainly by calling him names under his breath and then coming up with elvish phrases that sounded similar to what he just called him, and while Darkboon found this quite amusing, Chesterfield was  wondering why Linderath kept calling Albert various strange non sequitur elven words.

Eventually we ran into a band of gnolls that was less likely to stand down and fish.  The gnolls weren't from around here, but they claimed the area was sacred, and as we had reached an impasse, we dove into the fight with relish!

Our elemental human druid locked down a band of gnolls with entangle, while some other gnolls came from behind us to attack.  The gnolls were competent, and didn't go down quickly, but they didn't do much damage to us.  However, this was our first combat together since the reboot and with some of our new characters.  Even though the gnolls weren't much of a threat, I tried out my tactics of boosting my attacks with magic and ensuring that I wouldn't miss.  It felt good for a melee type character to know I could do what I could do with my sword.

Our cleric of Helm also got to try out his Mace of Odo, as well as summoning his spiritual bastard sword.  The force weapon array was pretty effective, and the Mace of Odo leaves a nice taunting light spell right where it drops a bad guy.

After the fight, further down the road, we found a cave, filled with rotting corpses  (or at least the smell of them).  Darkboon scouted ahead and saw a giant dire sloth.  Chesterfield and one of the druids attempted to calm the thing down, but it charged out at the group, and Darkboon kukried it in a very sensitive spot.  Then the sloth sunk it's claws into some of Darkboon's favorite organs.

I charged it and did a respectable amount of damage, but the cavalier got a chance to charge and show what he is good at in combat.  He did a phenomenal amount of damage that still didn't kill the sloth.  Eventually it went down . . . right on top of the dying Darkboon.

In order to get the dire sloth corpse off of Darkboon, I carefully tied a rope to the sloth, then asked Sir Albert to hold onto the rope.  When he asked why and looked at Linderath funny, Linderath tied the rope to the horses military saddle and slapped it's rump with my bastard sword, and it darted away until Albert got control of it and it had pulled the sloth off of Darkboon.

In the cave we found some nice shinny stick that used to belong to the paladin that we have been chasing after.

We rested, kept traveling down the path, and ran into a loud noise, apparently corresponding to the Voice of Vaprak, so loud that we had to stand right next to one another and yell just to be heard.  Eventually we entered a new dungeon complex and started looking for "things that should not be."

Darkboon scouted ahead and left notes for us and the rest of us followed behind trying to find the notes.  Eventually he wrote a warning outside of a pool that had something swimming in it.  Then he went further into the complex, did some climbing, and found a hill giant.

Darkboon "snipered" a rock at the giant and got sneak attack damage with bleed.  Then did it again.  The giant called out for help, but Darkboon was wedged into a hole the giants couldn't get into.

As this is going on, our group found the pool and was attacked by a steam mephit, which we managed to dispatch pretty quickly.  We caught up with Darkboon's location, and eventually saw the hill giants that showed up to aid the bleeding, "snipered" giant, and Chesterfield magically confused them, at which point we got to watch the jotun version of a three stooges skit as the giants took each other out.

In order to call off the help that the giant was calling for, Darkboon attempts to mimic a giant accent and yells in giant to call off the help.  Which is where we ended the session, waiting to see if Darkboon's bluff is called by giants.

We have an interesting set of dynamics developing in the group.  Our human druid is a misanthrope that likes sloths more than the rest of the party.  Our goliath druid is a worry wort that keeps scrying on the city to make sure nothing changes after we leave.  Linderath and Darkboon are professional adventurers that kind of "know" how each other operate, and both of them are keen on hazing the very upright, professional Sir Albert.  Chesterfield  (our bard) and Enoch  (our cleric of Helm) have a bit of a rivalry over the direction of the party, as Chesterfield has a flair for the dramatic and a more general adventuresome bent, and Enoch is a more down to earth "let's not make waves and get the mission done" kind of guy that has worked with adventurers enough to be pragmatic.

It's a fun dynamic so far, and I'm looking forward to seeing how this progresses.  It's nice to have a better grasp of what we are doing and why.

Side note:  due to the furry population on the internet, even googling images of gnolls is a scary prospect.  That is all.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Game Night: DC Adventures--Pay-Per-Views and Infomercials (February 22nd, 2012)

When last we left the Justice League New Guard, most of the group was mulling over the visit by Ubu  (Ra's al Ghul's right hand henchman), while Marathon was rocketing towards South America to violently deconstruct the Kobra cult.

Before the rest of the New Guard could follow Marathon, HIVE drones attacked the base, dropping little robot bees that burrowed into the ground during the fight.  Fahrenheit got to use his new illusory powers to trick a bunch of the drones into firing on the non-existent Fahrenheit Fighter Wing, and as the drones started to drop, eventually the little robot bees formed into a big robot bee that went head to head with Beorn, and eventually Paradox and Myrmidon as well.

Down in South America, Marathon ran into some tougher than expected Lanceheads, the foot soldiers of the Kobra cult.  Marathon actually took a few bumps and bruises before finishing them up, and then tearing into a retro-fitted pyramid that was serving as the Kobra base.  Oddly, the sacrificial chamber was already torn up a bit, and the Bestowed cultists were knocked out.

Back in the outskirts of Central City, a HIVE commander showed up cloaked, zapped Fahrenheit's powers, and then was stunned by Fahrenheit's line of bull about his powers being impossible to contain for long and how they are unstable enough to blow the HIVE commander up.  This gave Necromancer . . . er . . . Guru enough time to start talking to him, and Guru and Myrmidon talked the guy into a career change and gained some information about HIVE potentially being circumvented by some other force.

Back in South America, Marathon goes one on one with Kobra himself, the Kali-Yuga, the Naja-Naja, and the Avatar of the Coming Age of Chaos.  He has the area covered with hovering cameras so that the world can see his victory over a member of the Justice League.

Kobra didn't win that fight, though he hung in there for a while.  Marathon ended up using his telekinesis to strip Kobra down to his serpentine boxer shorts on world wide television to make sure he wasn't concealing any other weapons.  Marathon then runs into the Secret Six, who managed to escape from the sacrificial chamber and take the Outsiders with them.  On his way home, Marathon drops Kobra off with Steve Trevor and drops the Outsiders off at STAR labs to try and find a cure for their brainwashing.

The HIVE commander retired from villainy thanks to Guru's advice, and Paradox rips the giant robot bee's stinger out while Beorn rips it's head off.  The group then uses the HIVE commander's helmet to pinpoint the Queen Bee's main base.  Using the Watchtower's sensors, they find out that the primary HIVE is now located off the coast of Zandia, and that there are cultists of Blood working with the HIVE drones.

Myrmidon then gets a call from his uncle Hephaestus about how Ares' cult is being subverted as part of some larger world wide cult.

Thinking that there might be something up with cults and secret societies around the world, Marathon wants to put an ad in the paper for cultists to ask them if their cult leader is acting funny, but Myrmidon takes it one step further and pays for an infomercial where he talks about cults and secret societies being subverted and gives out his own phone number.

After getting a new phone, the group analyzes the information coming in from the responses to the infomercial, and finds references to the "Immortal Prophet" as a recurring theme among the world's secret societies and cults.  Myrmidon also gets a call that gives him a lead to a secret meeting place for the Order of St. Dumas.

The group heads over to the private club, and Guru is such a famous author that he gets the group in, more or less undercover.  Myrmidon is the toast of the bar, and the group finds a secret door, which Myrmidon does his best to draw attention away from as his companions sneak through it . . . in some cases, such as Beorn, he does a lot of distracting before he can go through unnoticed.

In the depths of the hideout, the group finds another Kobra modified Lazarus Pit with a body near it.  The body is Ubu.  Guru returns Ubu to life, and he says that Azrael hunted him down and told him that the Order of St. Dumas would use Ubu to strike at his master.

Myrmidon speaks to Ra's al Ghul about this, and Ra's thanks him for the warning and returning Ubu to his service, and begins to try and set Myrmidon up with his daughter Talia.

Now, a few notes about the characters, in the aftermath of the time travel incidents.  Necromancer decided to embrace is various alternate versions of himself and has become a self help writer and has changed his name to Guru.  Myrmidon is less physically powerful and also managed to get a hand on some of Hades gold, and is a bit more subtle.  Myrmidon, in the past, left notes for current Myrmidon to help him avoid various pitfalls in life.

Fahrenheit was still picked up by the feds just over a year ago in Hawaii, where Fahrenheit's latent meta-human powers were activated and increased by Pele if he became a champion against cold fiends threatening the world.

I'm always fascinated by the various ways my players approach problems in the campaign, but it was even more interesting this time around seeing how several of them managed to find solutions there were just as unorthodox, and yet a whole different kind of unorthodox.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Pulling the Alien Boot out of My Rear End--Sentinels of the Multiverse Trial Run

I finally got a chance to play Sentinels of the Multiverse tonight with my daughter.  I had fun, but we did get our rear ends handed to us.  Probably because we had no idea what our heroes did well, and what the villain was like.

For my character, I picked Legacy, and I learned once we got to playing, Legacy is not a direct damage dealer.  He is the bard of super heroes.  Not in flavor, but in execution.  He can limit damage and bolster other hero's damage, but he doesn't have a lot of damage effects of his own in his deck.

My daughter picked Fanatic, who is very much a direct damage dealer.  This might have actually been a good combination, except that the villain seems to have a lot of effects that have to do with minions, and Fanatic is better at one on one damage dealing rather than area damage  (although she does have at least one power that is a whopper of an area damage dealer).

The battle field was the Mars Base.  I haven't really looked that much at the various other terrains, so I'm not sure if this was more or less brutal than other environments, but I do know that oxygen leaks are a pain later on in the game with a few discards in the environment trash.

And finally, our villain for the evening was Grand Warlord Voss, who looks like a cross between Doomsday and Darkseid, which I suppose should not bode well right from the get go.

Right off the bat, my daughter wanted to do direct damage to Voss, but his victory conditions include getting 10 minions on the board, and fairly early on, the villain deck vomited up a card that allowed the villain to draw an extra card if the card that went into play was a minion.  Yikes.

Since I do almost no damage with the effects I have in my deck, I went into heavy boosting mode for my daughter.  Eventually she got a "holy nova" effect that wiped the board, but she did that just before the oxygen leak would have killed off the minions anyway.  That's okay, because I took damage to keep her from taking damage just before we drew a meteor swarm, which kept anyone from taking damage.  Sigh.

Long story short, by the time we wiped out the 7 minions that Voss had out on the board  (in part because his flagship, once it's in play, pulls minions from his trash pile), Voss started doing direct damage to us, and the oxygen leak was up to 9 damage from the environment trash . . . we went down hard and Voss was just closing in on half his hit points.

I'm sure with a few more go rounds I'll get the hang of when not to play any powers at all, and when to hold back on using effects that seem "neat," but honestly, the first time you play, you always want to see what the new toys do.

Looking forward to playing this again, with more players, to see how it works out under those conditions.

I have read that the biggest criticism of this game is that there is a lot to track.  While it's no worse than a lot of RPGs when it comes to buffs and debuffs and the like, I will say that, yes, it can get a little confusing trying to track all of the effects going at one time, but then again, by the next turn, half of those effects can easily be wiped out.  There seems to be a sort of ebb and flow as to how many effects are going on before either the villain cards or the environment cards work to whittle down the number of ongoing effects again.

I had fun, would like to try it again with more people, but best of all, I got to sit down and play it with my daughter, so that's the best thing of all.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Game Night: Deathwatch--GM's Don't Kill Campaigns, Players With Props Kill Games (2-17-1012)

On Deathwatch Eve, I crept out of Fortress KEJR on a brilliant mission.  My idea was that I would take a prop to game night.  Since Rangar was losing an eye, I thought it would help me to stay in character if I had a genuine "I'm missing an eye" reminder on all night, so I went out and bought an eye patch.

Not only did I buy an eye patch, but I go my lovely wife excited over the potential for a craft project.  I explained to her that my character would be getting a cybernetic replacement eye, and suddenly she wanted to help me craft a LED light up replacement eye patch to wear for Deathwatch.

I love my wife.

So armed, I set out for the Deathwatch game, and at the appropriate time, I donned said eye wear.  It went over well, even though my actual roleplaying involved putting on the eyepatch and the spreading out and drooling out of the corner of my mouth until I was revived.

Let me set the scene.  We had just been on a whirlwind killing spree involving daemonettes, a greater daemon, chaos space marines, cultists, Imperial traitors, ogryn, and more chaos space marines.  While out course of action was not particularly wise, we actually left quite the impressive swath of doom behind us.  Unfortunately the last session, we were missing our Apothecary.

So the fight, as we left it, saw my devastator marine incapacitated, having burned a fate point to survive a massive head shot, the librarian with one leg and incapacitated, having burned a fate point to survive, the assault marine heavily wounded, and the tech marine and our tactical marine both having suffered some injuries.

Our remaining immediate opposition consisted of four chaos space marines and a dark apostle.  The apostle was badly injured by our librarian before he went down.  We were pretty sure our apothecary would make the session, so all we had to do was have our assault marine, tech marine, tactical marine, and apothecary quickly dispatch the apostle and then finish off the four chaos space marines.

The good news is, our apothecary made the session.  The bad news is that the assault marine and the tech marine did not make the session.  Exhibiting the same wisdom that got us to this point in the campaign, we opted to play, since four of the six players were present  (never mind that only two of the PCs were not incapacitated).

The tactical marine impressively dove for my missile launcher and fired a krak missile at two of the chaos space marines, blowing them both up handily, before he also joined the "I'm going to burn a fate point to avoid certain death and just take a nap in the corner" club.

Our apothecary destroyed some weapons with his snazy power field relic blade, then charged the apostle when he took down the tactical marine.  Then the unexpected happened.  The player of our librarian asked if he could have issued a last command to his psyber raven.  The GM allowed it . . . and the psyber raven scored a massive critical, tearing the apostle's head off of his body and throwing it 14 meters away.

Two chaos space marines down, and the dark apostle dead?  The apothecary might have a chance against just two chaos space marines.  I mean, it's a long shot, but he could hold out long enough, with a few good rolls and enough fate points.  He could . . . get killed and die, leaving the entire team defenseless against the chaos space marines that were left.

All in all, it was a rather valiant and epic effort.  If you have to die, this is the way to go!

Most of the games at the Gopher have adopted a rule that if a player isn't present, and the rest of the party TPKs, then everyone in the party is dead.  Thus ended the illustrious careers of our kill team.

So, talk turned to what was next.  We talked about continuing Deathwatch.  We talked about playing Black Crusade.  Talk came around to basically making the night a sort of "round robin" 40K RPG night, with campaigns swapping out at the TPK mark or when something major was accomplished.

Then talk turned to my desire to run Rogue Trader, and how we could rotate GMs when we rotate RPGs as well.  The current GM and I refrained from voting, and we were down two players, but the players at the table were all for giving my Rogue Trader game a whirl.

Obviously, if there are major objections from the missing two players, we'll rethink things, but as it stands, it looks like I've got a second campaign going, and I get to feel like I wasn't just sinking money into a game I was never going to run  (not that I generally regret things like that).

Thus passes Rangar Then, 10,000 year old Space Wolf into the annals of history.  May his spirit find it's way home to Fenris to guide the young Space Wolves and run with his lost pack.  And hopefully everyone will be okay with my GMing turn as well as have a good time in the campaign.

Time to turn some gaming conjecture and abstract thoughts into a campaign.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Pre-Game Show: Deathwatch (2-15-2012)

Well, it's Deathwatch eve here at KEJR's place, and I came up with one way to get into character that I'll explore a bit more after tomorrow night's session.

As far as getting psyched up to play, I've been listening to the NerdBound Podcast actual play sessions of Deathwatch.  Its been a fun listen, and I'm always up for hearing how other people tackle a system I am running or playing in.

I also recently  (finally) finished the first Horus Heresy book, Horus Rising by Dan Abnett.  I was willing to give it a try because I had read some of Abnett's work for Marvel and enjoyed it, and I liked the novel.

Not directly inspired by, but somewhat prodded by, finishing the book, I finally got an idea to gel for a Black Crusade character.  Sometime, in the future, our Deathwatch game may shift over to make room for a Black Crusade game, and I wasn't really getting any ideas for the game.

Finally, one has started to form in my brain, but it's still a theoretical character for a potential future game, and as Yoda says, "always in motion the future is."

Anyway, the crux of the character is this.  He was the good boy favored son in the family.  He idolized his "bad boy" brother that was always getting into trouble and causing his parents grief, because his brother, deep down, was a good guy that groused at the way things are  (and in the Imperium, it's kind of understandable).

When the Imperial agents showed up looking for psykers, he was identified as someone with potential.  His father, a minor bureaucrat, muddied things up a bit so that his brother was taken instead.  Unfortunately for his brother, the "bad boy" of the family also had potential, but only enough to warrant being thrown onto the Black Ships and sacrificed to the Emperor.

After this, he left home, developed his powers in secret, and developed a hatred of the Imperium.  He has no faith in any higher power (not even the gods of Chaos), and looks down on those that are fervent in their worship of such.  He has one dangerous flaw, and that is the murderous intent that overtakes him whenever he sees any agents of the Imperium searching for psykers, or officially trained Imperial psykers.

Despite his disdain for fanatics, his allies among the forces of Chaos are his surrogate family.  Even if he hates some of them with a burning passion, he won't turn his back on them, because he desperately needs a family to replace the one that he walked away from.

I'll have to dig in more here and there to flesh him out, but I've got a framework to hang some things on now.  I'm kind of jumping into psyker because it's the part of the 40K RPGs I'm the least familiar with, and I like pushing out those boundaries a bit, especially if I ever end up running that hypothetical Rogue Trader game.

Well, the car is packed up, all the books and dice are in their place, and I should probably get some rest.  It takes a lot of energy to play a Space Wolf.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Sick Movie Marathon . . . Wait . . . Not Like That

I've been a bit under the weather this weekend, and I've been bedridden because I'm trying to get to the point that I'll be fine for work next week.  As I've been sequestered in my own disease ridden chambers, I decided that between protracted bouts of unconsciousness, I'd check out some cheesy flicks from Netflix that I haven't made time for in a while.

One thing that I've noticed is that when I watch geeky movies, I have a hard time not thinking about how to translate things in the film to a Game Master's frame of mind.

I also have to say that originally I figured everything I watched would be potentially bad but entertaining.  One movie on the list has actually become one of my favorite movies, and I am kicking myself for not watching this sooner when some of my gaming circle told me to watch the film.

The first movie up on the Sick Movie Marathon is Season of the Witch.  It's Nick Cage, so you know that it's either going to be terrible or really entertaining, or some strange amalgam of the two.  One thing you can say about Nicholas Cage . . . he doesn't do things halfway.

What bumps this up on the list is that it not only has Nick Cage, but it has Ron Pearlman.  Okay, that whole  "awful but entertaining" side of things should at least come into play.

I enjoyed the movie, but I will say this, right off the top:  this movie has, in full force, the same bad theology/bad history lessons that Hollywood seems to automatically fall into for the period in question. If you can get past that, then you should be fine.

Cage and Pearlman are fun to watch as they play off of one another, and the bait and switch towards the end, while not brilliant, worked out pretty well.  It's never really scary, but it is creepy in a few places, and it moves pretty steadily towards resolving the story and doesn't stall out much.  If there is one thing, action wise, that bugs me, it's the use of spider climbing fast forwarded zombies that Hollywood seems to love to steal from Japanese horror films.  Just didn't seem to work well with the tone up to that point.

Spoiler Time:  What I liked about this, from a GM's perspective, is that this was actually a great set up for an adventure for an RPG.  You have three members of the group that are in trouble and can get out of trouble for doing a job, and two "true believers" that really want to be on the mission.  You have a set up for the group to take a prisoner to a remote location to determine if she is the X that is doing Y, because the remote location is the only place that can undo Y if she is the X.

Then you have encounters and challenges on the trip to remote location, and at remote location, you find out that she isn't X but she still has something to do with Y, and everyone at remote location is unable to undo Y but one of the people in the party has a chance to undo Y now, and a huge fight takes place at the end to keep Y from being reversed.

Really, it's a good set up for the opening arc of a campaign or maybe even a convention game, if you could tweak it so that no one that's seen the movie would realize what's going on right off the bat.

Overall, it was worth the time to watch it, and it was entertaining, but not a great movie or anything.

So I decided to watch the Midnight Chronicles, because it's based on a gaming property  (even if it's not one that is still active), and I know that this was done on a shoestring budget and I wanted to see what it looked like.  I had heard people say that it actually turned out well for being done on the cheap.

First off, don't look at the cover above.  There is no dragon.  Still with me?  Good.  I'll agree for a really cheap fantasy movie, this thing could run circles around much bigger budget 80s fantasy movies.  I'm not sure how much of a win that is, but it's a frame of reference.

Second, this doesn't watch like a movie.  It watches like a television pilot.  They introduce a ton of plot threads that aren't resolved and then they introduce a ton of characters that are only tangentially connected to the plot, and the story that resolves feels very minor compared to everything that has been introduced.

Third, this movie fully embraces the least endearing parts of the Midnight setting.  For anyone that isn't familiar, the Midnight setting is basically a d20 setting that posits, "what if Sauron had won in the Lord of the Rings."  Not directly, of course, but the "Shadow in the North" has cut off the rest of the world from the gods, elves are kind of helping humans sort of resist, orcs are everywhere, etc.

The problem is that in the setting good will someday rise again and have a chance for another round with evil, but since the crux of the setting is to explore what would happen if LOTR had an unhappy ending, the day for good to win, or begin to win, is not this day.  The PC heroes are suppose to pretty much fail at anything of long term substance striking back against evil.

If the PCs give up and try to become guys that work to line their own pockets, and give up on being heroes . . . they are doing it wrong, and the really evil guys get to squish them.  They are suppose to remain heroic and die doing something that barely helps.

"Well guys, we delivered the stolen bread to the village so that they won't starve next week, it's totally worth it that we have to fight 100,000 orcs now, even though once we die, those orcs are probably going to raze that village we just fed for a week."

Setting problems aside, the movie itself is plodding.  There is a vague curse that is the main story, and there are multiple vague prophesies that remain really vague despite a whole sequence with the standard old crone oracle.  There is some crime boss that is in power that is sort of helping the good guys and some villagers that joined or want to join and . . .

It's not worth it.  It might be somewhat decent with a half hour cut out as a TV pilot, if the series went against setting conventions and resolved a few things, but as it stands, too much time and effort for a really pointless payoff.  Watch only if you want to see orc makeup that doesn't look that bad, on guys that mainly stand around waiting for orders.

I love this movie.  The Warrior's Way is a movie that several of my gaming group have told me I should watch.  I hereby apologize to all of them that I didn't watch this sooner.  I think this has catapulted to one of my favorite movies . . . period.

Kate Bosworth is still too skinny, but she was cute enough in this movie that I can almost forgive her for being a shitty Lois Lane.

This thing was crazy over the top, and I expected it to be crazy over the top in a cheesy way.  But it actually worked, and worked really well, to tell the story it was trying to tell.  One thing that has sunk in to me over the years is that, despite a lot of RPG tropes being based on literature and fiction, an RPG session has a lot more in common, when it comes to good storytelling, with movies and comic books than when novels.  It is a medium composed of scenes that must have some kind of impact to be of value.

The deaths are over the top and completely unrealistic . . . which is short hand for "the person that just made that kill is bad ass."  One of the big villains is a scumbag of a human being, and you would probably hate him to begin with, but to cement him as a visually bad guy, he's scarred and wears a mask . . . well, you'll see if you watch it.  It becomes shorthand for "this is a bad guy, a really bad guy."

Another thing, related to gaming, that this movie reminds me of, is that sometimes you really need to let your players pull of really crazy schemes.  As long as they have to do something  (make plans, make checks, work together), there is nothing wrong with letting that plan significantly thin out the herd of bad guys.  The key is to make sure that it doesn't replace the big scene  (i.e. the fight with the BBEG or guys as the case may be), and it has to feel like the PCs earned their success with the plan.

But, getting back to the movie.  This movie is a story that really utilizes the visual media to tell a story with images.  I don't know a better way to sum up why I liked this so much, other than to say that asian swordplay and westerns seem to mesh really well.

Anyway, I don't know how lucid I am at this point, but I'm feeling a bit better, and perhaps I should get some sunlight.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Evil Campaigns Never Work . . . Except this Time . . .

So, I might be able to count on half of a cartoon character's hand the number of people that actually read this blog, however, if there is a chance that I might expose this product to someone that might not have run across it before, I'm glad to give it a try.

Long term readers will know I distanced myself from Pathfinder for a bit, and I'm not currently running any Pathfinder, only playing in a game.  That having been said, I found a campaign that I actually would like to try to run, eventually.

Also for anyone that has really been following me for a while, you know I've never been keen on evil campaigns.  It's not that I don't think that you can have a decent campaign with evil characters, but I have seen issues with said campaigns before.  There is a temptation to "out evil" one another, and even more of a temptation to be "in character" and take out one of your party members if things get tense.

Turns out, even people that think that you can run a good evil campaign have noticed these problems.

Fire Mountain Games is publishing a third party adventure path, designed to go from 1st to 20th level, called the Way of the Wicked.

The opening adventure  (the only one currently available) is a fun set up for an evil campaign that teaches the PCs to rely on one another right from the start  (they break out of jail together), and gives them a specific goal to work towards that works to countermand the "out evil" each other trend, since the PCs have a benefactor with a very specific goal for them.

Not only is the adventure solid, and the campaign outline looks good, but there are articles that talk about avoiding the pitfalls of running an evil campaign, a gazetteer of the islands that the adventures use, and campaign traits for the campaign based on what crime the character got arrested for in the first place!  It's a stroke of genius.

The art is nice, the layout and presentation of the book are really stellar, especially for the first release of a third party publisher.  You can even order a print on demand version of the book at RPG Now if you just have to have a physical copy.

I wish the evil masterminds at Fire Mountain Games great success in their plots.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Game Night: Pathfinder RPG Shackled City (February 10th, 2012)

After our . . . ahem . . . incident last session, we ended up refocusing and restarting the campaign.  Several of us either weren't in the campaign from the start, or were away from the campaign for a while, and some of us had kind of lost the thread of what we were actually doing.

Some discussion yielded the idea that our characters might need more of a reason to care about Cauldron, and to have a bit more of a unified reason for being together.  Only two characters remained from the original adventuring party  (The Company of the Whispering Madness . . . yeah, I kind of cursed us with that name).  A lot of us didn't even know how we knew each other.

So, at this crux in the campaign, many of us retired our other characters, and the Church of Helm sent out a recruiter to find an adventuring party that would be willing to do some investigation for them, and issue them a charter.  One of the players was adopting the cleric that would be acting as our point of contact with the temple.

My character, who took the "adventurer" trait, and has been wandering the Tashalar for a while, already knows said recruiter and the party's rouge.  Both druids and our bard are left from the old party, but were recruited anew to join this group.  We picked up a zen archer monk, and a cavalier from a noble family in the city.

After talking with the officials at the temple, we outlined three overall goals, all under the general aegis of protecting Cauldron and rooting out corruption.

1.  Investigate the secret organization known as the Chisel, accused by some in the city as being the conspiracy that was working to bring Cauldron to it's knees.

2.  Keep our eyes open for those Ebon Triad villainous folks.

3.  Investigate the disappearance of the paladin that issued a public challenge to the Mayor's champion.

Somewhere along the line we  (and by we, I mean some of we, not all of we) began to theorize how Stone to Flesh could fix the food problem in Cauldron, if only we could find a powerful enough wizard.

"That's 100 cubic feet of meat!"

We talked to Tygat at Tygat's Old Things, to get some clues about the Chisel and find a lead.  Tygat had a neat ancient object with strange alien type creatures on it and ancient writing, and we managed to get a general idea that the creatures were Spell Weavers that had enslaved ogres to help them create a portal between worlds.  Plus, there were headless demons and rivers and such.

There was some haggling over the art object.  Some contention between our bard and our cleric of Helm.

Following another lead, we went to find Maavu in Red Gorge, and after talking to some people in a bar and my magus having a dance off with the cavalier, we ended up being invited to the Chisel's secret club house.  The Chisel proceeded to explain why they weren't nearly as bad as some conspiracy theorist made them seem, and answered some questions.

We also found out that the paladin we have been looking for headed south, towards the vacation spot known as Vaprak's Voice, towards the Demonscar, after hearing angels talking to him.  There was also something about the Elixir showing him the light.

We could be completely wrong, but the paladin was beyond scrying, and as such, perhaps in another plane of existence.  The Spell Weavers were creating some kind of dimensional nexus.  The place the paladin was heading was Vaprak's Voice, named after the god of ogres and trolls, and ogres were the Spell Weaver's slaves.

Plus, there has been lots of pictures of demons, beheaded and otherwise, along the way, and there is that ominous name "Demonscar," so I'm also wondering if the Spell Weaver's dimensional portal might not be keyed to, let us say, a bad alternate reality.

Getting back on track, we avoided combat.  Hopefully the next time the party kills, we won't be in any kind of legal trouble because of it.  That's what the wilderness is good for.  Killing without legal ramifications.

Also, thus far my most notable accomplishment is convincing aasimar rogue to use the name "Darkboon Fearlock," because it is a more marketable name for a rogue.  No, Darkboon Fearlock is not his given name.  But when you want to hire someone to do something nefarious?  Darkboon Fearlock jumps right to mind!  Marketing success!