February 19, 2012

I'll be back

I'll be back at the end of the month. :) See ya!

February 16, 2012

[Interview] Joe Mcdaldno about Monsterhearts

How can I give you the newest news? How can I get a step ahead anyone else. No idea. While i try to figure that out, you can read this interview to Joe Mcdaldno the lead designer of a game not yet printed: Monsterhearts.

First of all, please go look into the Indie GoGo campaign and, if this game has some appeal to you, please contribute. The project already reached his goal, but if we manage to reach 10k$ there will be 2 more PDF games for everyone (and I'm really curious about Perfect Unrevised).

Now here we go with the 7 Questions of Doom (really guys, this title is embarassing!)

Joe Mcdaldno has been designing story games since 2006. He uses game design as a means to exploring human and social conditions. Previous to Monsterhearts, his published design credits include Perfect Unrevised and Ribbon Drive. Outside the realm of games, the things he's excited about include performance poetry, kitchen dance parties, and discussions about gender. He's your friend.

1) Monsterhearts it's about teen monster emo angst. Teen monster emo angst? Really? Why?
Yes! Monsterhearts is a game about unstable, brooding, whiny, teenage monsters. It's about what it means to be a teenager and what it means to be a monster.

Why? Because it's consistently fun to play. These characters are volatile and irrational, meaning that their lives are constantly full of drama and action. These characters are sexy and interesting, meaning that we actually give a damn about them. And finally, these characters have serious faults, and the game mechanics make sure that those faults actually matter to the game. What results is a perfect storm: dramatic characters that we can't help but love and hate.

The other reason is that teen monster drama comes with a lot of genre formula built in. That's a good thing! That means that as gamers, we aren't fumbling around trying to make a story in the dark. We have a structure to work with. We can choose to follow or subvert that structure at any moment, but it's always accessible.

2) The only game that I know, kinda similar to Monsterhearts is The Silver Kiss of the Magical Twilight of the Full Moon. Do you know it? How this two games differentiate each other?
I've read The Silver Kiss of the Magical Twilight of the Full Moon. It's really cute! While the subject matter is very similar, the design and the culture of play are very different. Silver Kiss is for a set number of players, and is closer to a structured freeform scenario. Monsterhearts leans upon dice and mechanics, and is more open-ended in its play expectations.

Mechanically, Monsterhearts is based on the Apocalpyse World game engine, designed by Vincent Baker. It gives lots of structure to the MC role, and lots of evocative mechanical options to the players. The mechanics are designed to give the story momentum and to introduce lots of awkward truths and hard choices. The result is a game that responds to what the players say in interesting ways, and offers lots of inspiration whenever its needed.

3) In a typical game of Monsterhearts, every player can be a monster? How roles are assigned? Everyone knows from the beginning who's who?
Before play, someone puts a collection of Skins onto the table. Skins are character workbooks, each one built around a different kind of monster or supernatural character. So, you put those out on the table: The Werewolf, The Mortal, The Infernal, and so on. Each player picks a Skin, and that little workbook (a double-sided page, folded in half to form a pamphlet) has all of your character creation rules right there.

Skins are similar to clans in Vampire: the Masquerade, and sort-of similar to classes in Dungeons & Dragons. They give each character a unique niche, but they also allow for lots of meaningful choices and customization.

So, all the players definitely know what kind of monster each character is. That doesn't necessarily mean that all the characters know about one another, though. That kind of stuff is partially established in Your Backstory (a final stage in character creation, linking the characters together in interesting ways), and partially established through play.

4) In a previous post on this blog, a reader expressed doubts about playing this game with unattractive, older gamers. Do you think this could be an issue?
I mean, it could be an issue. In my experience, though, it's fun to play sexy teenage monsters with anyone. When the people around the table are young and cute, it might be a little steamier. When the people around the table are old and unattractive, maybe it's more snarky and satirical. But generally, I find that I enjoy playing the game no matter who's sitting down to play it with me. People who play roleplaying games are already well-versed in pretending to play elves and dragons, after all! It takes a lot to break our suspension of disbelief.

5) In Monsterhearts love and friendship will be managed trough rules or will be left mostly to player management?
There are rules that govern things like arousal, sex, and emotional power. But when it comes to love and friendship... that's an area that few mechanics touch. And there's a really specific reason for that.

In Monsterhearts, the rules detail the kinds of physical effects people have on you, like turning you on. The rules detail the kinds of social impact people can have on you, like spreading gossip and destroying your reputation. But when it comes to how you respond to other characters, that's something that's left up to you. The game tells you what the world is doing to you, and you respond by telling us what you do about it.

If you're the MC, one of your jobs is remember to ask, "What do you do?" after introducing a twist into the fiction. Your job isn't to push the characters into doing something. It's to tell them what the world is doing to them, and then finding out how they respond.

6) Violence is normally not a taboo in games and levels of comfort, usually set themselves in a couple of session. Sex, on the other hand is normally something just suggested, if ever mentioned, but you have rules that gives you mechanical effects with sex, somehow encouraging players to acknowledge the sex life of their characters, when not actively exploiting it. How this will work out in a typical Monsterhearts game session?
Well, when you tie mechanics into sex and seduction, there's an interesting set of things that happen as a result. Some people are excited that the game supports roleplaying about sex and seduction, and they dive into it because it's fun. Other people see the mechanical benefits that emerge from roleplaying about sex and seduction, and they dive into it because it positions them to better accomplish their goals.

Both of those reactions are awesome. Both groups of people are exploring some new roleplaying terrain, and they're finding different rewards for doing so. Whether you're super excited or super cautious about roleplaying this sort of thing, Monsterhearts provides the mechanical support and guidance to make it rewarding.

7) Expanding the audience for RPG is a critical issue these days. Do you think that your game could open our hobby to new audiences?
Absolutely. This game connects with lots of non-gamers more than it does with lots of old-school traditional gamers! The media properties it references (True Blood, Twilight, Buffy, Vampire Diaries, Ginger Snaps) all have major popular appeal. The Twilight Saga and Vampire Diaries both have their own popular convention circuits. Not just a single convention each year - they each have 5-15 conventions dedicated to them each year. These are new geek markets, and some cross-pollination is bound to occur.

February 15, 2012

Things to Love, Things to Hate!

This is the February post for the RPG blog Carnival: Things to Love, Things to Hate! sponsored by Nevermet Press  HERE

So, let's start with my personal Love & Hate List in No particular Order

LOVE: D&D Setting
Planescape. I Love Planescape. When I first opened the Planescape boxed set was really like opening a portal to another world.

LOVE: Setting
Mutant Chronicles. I know that this will be an unpopular choice, but if you manage to avoid the testosterone trap, Mutant Chronicles is a deep sci-fi setting rooted in the fear of the unknown. Something like Asimov meets Lovecraft meets E.R. Burroughs.

HATE: Setting
R.I.F.T.S. Enough is enough. When designing RPGs i firmly believe that you have to make choices. The RIFTS settig does none and put everything together. My suspension of disbelief is not able to cope with that.

LOVE: Dungeon Adventure
Greyhawk Ruins It's everything a fan of a good hack & slash can possibly dream of sprean along 24 huge dungeon levels. Go and have fun, boys.

HATE: Dungeon Adventure
Ruins of Undermountain. Everyone is able to drav random maps and then say to GM: fill them yourself. Lame!

LOVE: RPG Engine
FATE Engine. It's light, fun and adaptable. I've already said that's fun?

HATE: RPG Engine
World of Darkness Engine. Higher ability scores does not translate in better success probability. WTF!?! Simply doesn't work.

LOVE: Solo Adventure
Arena of Khazan. A tunnel & Tolls adventure made of pure fun. nothing deep or extraordinary, but just fun.

HATE: Solo Adventure.
Lathan's Gold. I remember this adventure being pretty lame, but I totally don't remember why. Does it count anyway?

LOVE: Old school game
Dragon Age. It's definitely old school with a modern twist and a good setting. It's just the right mix.

LOVE: Idea
Xcrawl. In a sci-fi setting, you compete in a new sport that basically is live action holografic classic D&D. Get in the dungeon, slay the tragon, and be famous on TV.

LOVE: Idea
Rogue Trader. Are you kidding? Space Pirates! This game rocks!

LOVE: Superhero Game
Necessary Evil. The idea behind of this game is simply pure genious: all the good guys are dead and now only the bad guse can defend normal people from a big alien invasion.

HATE: Superhero Game
The Marvel Universe Rolplaying Game. Tokens on the sheet? Really? Reaching for the soda can totally be a problem with this game...

That's (part of) my Love/Hate list.
Do you agree with me?

February 13, 2012

[Review] Faiths of Corruption

Faith of Corruption  is Pathfinder Player Companion for the Patfinder RPG easily adaptable to any fantasy world.

What are you buying?
A supplement of 32 pages about playing characters faithful of an Evil God in Golarion. Pay attention to what I've just said: it's not about Evil GODS, but about the characters worshipping them. There are no godly plans, godly relationships or even pantheon structure. This supplement helps players and DM that want to go into the spiritual and mundane life of a faithful of an evil religion. All the six major evil religions are detailed in a practical and concise way. You will learn who is the typical follower, what's his relationship with the civilized world, how he can express his devotion and what are his taboos.
there are also small chapters about other minor divinities and organisations.

Who need this?
Enyone, in any RPG needing a quick way to roleplay an evil character with a religious flavour or any GM needing a quick way to portrait an evil church.

The Good
  • RULES LIGHT Only 4 pages are strictly related to the Pathfinder engine. The rest of the book is totally crunch free.  
  • PATHFINDER QUALITY 100% in color, with nice illustrations and good paper. What do you want more?  
  • EASY TO USE. If you have character wanting to worship, let's say Lamashtu, you have 6 pages to read and you can start playing.
  • NUALIA The cover depicting the villain of the first volume of the Rise of the Runelords adventure path is lovely and makes me feel delightfully old.
The Bad
  • SHORT Every cult here was worth more space. Minor divinities and organisations are just sketched. 
  • CTHULHU Full fledged Lovecraft mythos in Golarion are a little out my zone of comfort.
The Verdict
It's a good book if you need it. If you don't, probably you can save the 11$

Faith of Corruption is available from:

NOTE: If you buy from here I will get a little income, with no extra cost for you. Just to be straight.

February 10, 2012

[Interview] Greg Stolze about A Dirty World

Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon
I've just done a review of A Dirty world and it just felt natural to replicate the 7 Questions of Doom to his author. Of course, different game, different questions. What do you think if I make this a regular column?

Greg Stolze (born 1970) is a novelist and writer, whose work has mainly focused on properties derived from role-playing games.
Stolze has contributed to numerous role-playing game books for White Wolf Game Studio and Atlas Games, including Demon: the Fallen. 
Together with John Tynes he created and wrote the role-playing game Unknown Armies, published by Atlas Games. He has also co-written the free game NEMESIS, which uses the One-Roll Engine presented in Godlike and the so called Madness Meter derived from Unknown Armies.

1) Why do you have chosen the Noir genre as the topic for this game? 
Well, I've had an on again, off again love affair with old films noir like "The Maltese Falcon" or a lot of Hitchcock stuff.  And I went through a phase where I read a ton of Chandler and Hammett and a touch of Highsmith, so I was certainly enthused about the tropes and characteristics of these hard-boiled detective stories.  But actually, it wasn't MY idea: Another game designer approached me about collaborating on a sort of "Film Noir + ________" game.  I don't want to name names or fill in that blank - I think the project's been hanging fire for a long time - but in the course of discussing it with him, I had the idea for the core adaptation of "character sheet as a game board in which your abilities shift according to what's happened to you."  Once I'd had the idea, I couldn't really unthink it, and I bashed it out pretty quick.  Eventually, I got the book put together because it seemed like a shame not to share it.

2) I like a lot your version of the One roll engine. It's elegant end effective. Do you think that this engine could be applied to other type of games? Which ones?

The ADW variation is optimized for emotional conflict, I'd say, both internal and external.  It's the foundation for "Better Angels," which is in the pipe with ARC DREAM publishing, and it's the second in a series of books that poke at some central questions or elements of the superhero genre.  

To digress, the first book in that string was PROGENITOR -- an alt-history with metahumans appearing in the late 1960s.  The setting quirk there is that powers can be contagious, so if you use your mind control to stop a bank robber, he may catch powers from you and turn into your nemesis.  Or if a supervillain uses telekinesis to shove you out of the way, he just might make you into a superhero by mistake.  This is prominent in a lot of classic DC properties - where Batman's responsible for the Joker getting mangled and going insane.  Or some versions of the Superman story where it's his fault that Lex Luthor goes bald!  You can kind of see it with Spiderman and Harry Osborn, too.  So I wanted to set it up so that there's a very clear and present reason for people to create their own superpowered nemeses, and to have close connections to other metahumans so that it's not just "bad guy of the week."  It worked splendidly with my own group, where they started out by messing with the heads of a pair of hitch hikers, only to have one of them catch powers -- specifically, the power to kill people with a word.  Now they're faced with cleaning up their mess, but they couldn't just kill the guy because (1) he was dangerous and (2) they weren't sure he was actually EVIL and not just the victim of a sick joke of fate.  If you didn't know you could kill people by yelling at them, how much collateral damage would your daily commute rack up?  

Anyhow: The question at the center of "Better Angels" is, why do supervillains engage in VILLAINY (of all things) when they're clearly geniuses or super-powerful or whatever?  Why are they robbing banks instead of legitimately OWNING them?  And what's up with those crazy monologues ("Only YOU will understand the brilliance of my plan, Dingo-boy!") and death traps ("Oh, I could just shoot you in the head, but it's more AMUSING to trap you in... MY LIVE-ACTION BIOENGINEERED POCKET-MONSTER ARENA!")?  The answer, according to the "Better Angels" setting, is that villains are possessed by demons.  By acting eeeeevil they keep their supernatural tenants amused.  But at the same time, the human half of the supervillain pairing is desperately trying to fail.  Hence the monologue.  It entertains the evil spirit by mocking the enemy... but also gives the human a chance to drop hints.  Ditto the death trap.  They both have the subtext of "Please stop me before I kill somebody."  

So "Better Angels" has a combination of physical conflicts alongside interior ones ("oh, my demon rider would get off my back for WEEKS if I just kick-murdered my ex-girlfriend's new fiance...") and external emotional struggles ("No Jethro!  You're not a killer!  Don't listen to Xotappath the Reaver, he's not a true friend to you!")

Scarlett Johansson in The Black Dahlia
3) Noir is a really hard game to put together. Do you have advices to players and GMs trying to write and play adventures in this genre?
With ADW in particular, don't take it personally if the other PCs kind of dick you around.  It's Chinatown, Jake, and as a bonus it can make your character stronger.  (I'm very pleased with how the emergent mechanics in ADW turned out: Events that happen immediately impact your abilities, and I tried to fix it so that taking abuse equips you to pay it back in kind, eventually.)  For general Noir players, trust no one, take big risks and poke your nose in where it doesn't belong.  For GMs, let people get away with all that but keep the pressure on and make sure that there's no clear-cut, easy solution.  Stories about good people doing good things are boring.  In Noir, everyone's on the continuum between a little bit bent and totally depraved.

4) I brought my copy of A Dirty World on lulu.com. How well goes the online self publishing gig, compared to the PDF publishing and/or traditional publishing? Do you believe in a future paper free?

"Traditional" vs. "Indie electronic" both have their charms.  A lot of times, it's great to have an editor with a vision telling you where to go and bouncing ideas off you.  It's lovely to work with other talented writers, supporting each other and specializing.  With a lot of my indie stuff, I do everything myself.  (I even did all the illustrations for the first version of "eCollapse," with so-so success.)  I have to be the publisher, the layout guy, the marketing department and the accountant.  I... haven't exactly min-maxed any of those skills.

I think the "paper free future" is a bit overhyped.  No, in fact, I'll go farther and say that the 'conflict' between e-books and print books is mostly a figment.  Both formats have unique advantages.  Electronic files are easy to store, easy to share, cheaper to produce, simpler to search and you can have a ton of them on a device the size of a checkbook.  Books, on the other hand, are platform-independent, the batteries never run out, drop safe, nicer to look at and handle, and you can write in the margins.  Saying one or the other is superior seems, to me, like saying that escalators made stairways obsolete.  

(As an aside, "eCollapse" was another in that series of books examining the core ideas of superheroism.  In its case, it's a question of "What makes you a hero or villain?  Is it up to you, or can a good guy and a bad guy do the same exact things, just on opposite sides of a polarizing ideology?"  It's also super-sarcastic about, well, everything.)

5) Do you think A Dirty world could catch unusual demographics for RPGs or you imagine your audience just as hard core gamers?
Man, I don't know.  If I knew what was going to be popular, my stuff would sell better.

Mike Hammer
6) Let us know you better: tell us a game other than yours, that you love and a game that you hate and why.

"FIASCO" is pretty glorious, but it gets a lot of love already, so I'll go more obscure.  "A Penny For My Thoughts," by Paul Tevis, is like this perfect little design gem.  It does one thing, one hyper-specialized thing, perfectly.  It's a game about recovering traumatically repressed memories, and it's optimized to create juicy, scenery-chewing scenarios of big, weepy pain.  It's all spontaneous, GM-free, but structured.  It's simultaneously spare and rich: There aren't any wasted or pointless rules, but everything gets covered.  And you can tweak it for "I lost my memory to hideous Lovecraftian awfulness" or "I lost my memory because I'm a super-spy."

I'd decline to slag anyone else's game, though.

7) Do you want to talk about your future RPG projects?

Sure!  I blathered about "Better Angels" a bit already, and I'm fussing about with "HORIZON," which I'd call a sort of 'fantasy-science' game.  It's got a blog at http://gregstolze.wordpress.com/ and what I want to do with it is start a world-history at a primitive state, and then move it forward through historically important eras with PCs at the helm of social and magical developments.  You can download a rough draft of the rules in the first blog post there, and I'm still looking for comments from people.  

A Dirty World is available from:

A Dirty World
A Dirty World
A Dirty World

A Penny For My Thoughts
A Penny For My Thoughts
A Penny For My Thoughts
NOTE: If you buy from here I will get a little income, with no extra cost for you. Just to be straight.

February 9, 2012

[Kickstarter] Monsterhearts

I know that it's not a kickstarter campaign, but a IndieGoGo one, but the title tag was alredy fixed and Indie GoGo it's really similar, so bear with me.

Monsterhearts is a story game about the messy lives of teenage monsters.
Monsterhearts lets you and your friends create stories about sexy monsters, creeping horror, messy love triangles, and teenage angst. When you play, you explore the terror and confusion that comes both with growing up and, say, being a undead flesh-eater. Or bartering with demonic forces. Or being an unstable werewolf.

The game runs on the Apocalypse World engine, designed by Vincent Baker. As a result, the two games share similarities in play style: emergent story, messy relationship webs, mechanics that give players hard choices to make, and a structured MC role.
It's designed to evoke stories like True Blood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ginger Snaps or The Twilight Saga. If you like supernatural romances, or stories of monstrosity and personal horror, or if you just like watching sexy people ruin their lives, then you'll love this game.

Want a teaser? See this example of play, taken from the book.

I'm not a Twilight fan, but Buffy it's still in my heart, so... let's give him a shot.

February 7, 2012

RPG Gaming Survey - Let's be helpful.

JB from B/X Blackrazor putted toghether a survey about RPG gamers.
If you want to do something nice, go there, download the file, fill it and send it back via email. 

February 6, 2012

[Review] 3:16

3:16 Carnage among the stars is an indie tabletop RPG. At first self published, now is distributed by Cubicle 7.
What are you buying?
A full fledged RPG about space marines wiping out alien life from different planets.
In a remote future life on Earth is so safe and predictable, that even death by natural causes is not an option anymore. In 3:16 every player is a human that, bored by the eternal predictable life he was living, joined the Expeditionary Forces (read space marines). Now his mission is to eradicate alien life from worlds that can eventually menace the Earth.

Every marine is defined by FA (Fighting Ability), NFA (Non Fighting ability) and some strengths and weaknesses generated during actual play.
Strengths make you win a conflict against dice results, weaknesses make you lose a conflict at your terms.
Rule mechanics are simple and mostly combat oriented.

What's new?
The military ranks system is interesting and new. You can gain and lose ranks, changing you mission objectives in between sessions.

The Good
  • BODY COUNT You must keep tracks of the number of kills in each combat and in your whole career. Sweet!
  • PRETTY The black and white illustration and the unusual book format make this little RPG stand out in your collection.
  • EXPERIENCE Levelling up is managed with a certain elegance. You can improve your abilities, your weapons and/or your rank in a simple way. 
The Bad
  • LACK OF SETTING Your space marine will kill 2bugs" all across the universe, but every effort to define the setting is in the hands of your GM. no setting is really provided. 
The Verdict

3:16 is nice. Not beautiful, not amazing, but nice. If you want to kill aliens in a power suit AND you do not want to go trough the Deathwatch Core book, 3:16 is a decent light alternative.

3:16 is available from:

NOTE: If you buy from here I will get a little income, with no extra cost for you. Just to be straight.

February 3, 2012

[D&D4E][Rules] Badges of Achievement house rule.

It's some time that I puzzle about how to show my players that the road that they  are travelling is not the only one they have available. Let me go deeper in this problem. they have entered into the 4th consecutive year of play and everything is going smoothly. Maybe too smoothly. their choices are so natural for them that often they simply cannot see how things could have gone differently. That's nice, because the game is flowing, but that's not nice because they feel (big spotlight on "feel") a little railroaded.
Yesterday I was reading This post @ Geek Related when I stumbled the badge system he uses to reward his players, instead of giving them XP. nice idea! It will never work for my players, but i like the idea of a reward for completing things you do not have to complete.

So I came up with this idea: what if I reward my players with badges when they complete something in the best possible way?
Badges are a growing trend in videogames, make you feel the accomplishment you reach more valuable and are a little incentive to not be satisfied with the minimum wage. I'm sure I'm not the only one playing a game more after his completion if there are achievements to be gained.
In the last session they had to recover a piece of a child scattered in a dream realm from a wannabe hero. They could kill him, recovering the child's feet, but they accepted to duel with him, defeated him, agreed to make this pass as a draw keeping his honor intact and eaten some carrots with him chatting after the duel.
I think this is worth a little reward, right?

The party gains a  Badge of Achievement when it solves a problem or a puzzle in the best possible way or when complete a secondary quest. The Badges of Achievement rewarding is totally arbitrary.
Once gained, the  Badge of Achievement is put in a Badge Pool, available to every character in the party.
A Badge of Achievement can be reclaimed by one of the characters in any moment
A Reclaimed Badge of Achievement grant to the one who reclaimed it a one-shot bonus that must be applied immediately, even after dice are rolled.
After being reclaimed, a Badge of Achievement is discarded (or collected in a separate poll).

The picture is the printable version of my first badge. (Print, fold, glue)

What do you think? You would like them as a player?

February 2, 2012

[WOW!] Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game is coming

28th of February a new game hit the shelves. It's the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game.
I've just snooped the website but one thing already got my interest. It will be the first game based on the Ultimate universe, more specifically it will be set during New Avengers #1-6  by Brian Michael Bendis, David Finch, and Danny Miki.

Considering that one of the post challenging things in a superheroes game is to integrate it with an universe, focusing the scope of the game to a specific moment in space and time could led to a more playable situations.

Probably I will spend some time digging into it in a few days.

New logos!

Today I worked on a new series of logos for the blog.
Do you like them?