April 13, 2012

[First Look] Degenesis

One of the most incredible things D&D 4th edition bringed to the RPG market was the destruction of his own monopoly. Right now I cannot keep up with all the amazing things I want to explore so I'm forced to leave behind a lot of things, focusing only on those I think deserve (or potentially deserve) more spotlight time in this flourishing market.

This week the english translation of a post apocalyptic German RPG caught my attention: Degenesis
Degenesis is the story of mankind’s struggle in the wake of Earth’s greatest catastrophe: a rain of massive asteroids. Europe and Africa have been cut off from the other continents and battle against each other for control of the known world. In Europe, the people are finally emerging from a dark age that spanned half a millennium, whereas Africa has become complacent and corrupt after centuries of wealth and splendor.
From the ashes of the Eschaton, seven new cultures arose. They span from the frozen northern regions of Europe across the Mediterranean and down into Africa. They are mere children compared to their ancestors and yet they rule over the known world.
These survivors have formed new organizations and factions, all with their own history and goals. There are now thirteen cults which vie for dominance in the ravaged lands of Europe and Africa.
Five hundred years later, the world is a very different place and a new threat to mankind has emerged. The great ice age is ending but the land is covered with a foul decay that twists the people and animals into bloodthirsty monsters.
The publisher, Posthuman Studios, is a little bit shy about this product and trying to find some info on it was pretty hard. Luckyly the same published who gave Degenesis a one page website (Really? One page? Come on!) Made available for free to the public a 16 pages Degenesis Quick-Start Rules including a brief background blurb, a quick start rulebook about CatarSys (a new rule engine) a small adventure and 4 pregenerated PCs.

CatarSys it's a d10-based rules system where the base mechanic makes you sum the stat value to the appropriate skill value to obtain the Action Value (AV), a number between 0 and 20, then the GM will assign a difficulty to the task, normally a number between 4 and 16. Finally the player will roll 2d10. If the result is a number between the difficulty and the action value, the action was a success.

Damage locations are also treated in a strange, but nice, way. You have 3 locations: head, torso and legs. Each location can stand a fixed number of flesh wounds. When a location is exhausted, the damages will remove trauma wounds, which are in common between all locations.

Another nice rule is the weapon damage/armor rule. A weapon have damages listed like this 5(7) meaning that if you hit you have to roll 5d10 and every die that rolls 7 or less is a wound. If you have an armor that grants armor 2 in all locations, the dice that rolls 1 or 2 does not wound the target.

Reading the Quickstart guide was nice: it's beautifully illustrated, the rule explanation is concise but very easy to understand, the 4 PCs are served with a nice backstory that can make spring out nice roleplaying moments between the.
On the bad side, the background section was way too short to understand if this settings hides some aces up his sleeve or if it's just another post apocalyptic clone.

About the adventure I have mixed feelings. For sure it's not designed for inexperienced GMs. Everything is just sketched and a GM will have to figure out by himself most of the NPCs reactions and do a lot of improvisation. I was also surprised by the combat attitude of the adventure: PCs are supposed to run all the time. There are 2 fights in this adventure, the first supposedly will make the PCs run, the second will make them run again, maybe thanks to a friendly sacrifice. Wow, that's butal! If all the setting is so dangerous prepare to generate a lot of characters. 

I admit that I've a soft spot for post apocalyptic games, so making me want to run a game with Degenesis was an easy win for him, but reading the quick start guide was also intriguing. The adventure, even if flawed as an introductory adventure can be, was a nice change of pace afetr a lot of games where PCs are invincible heroes and made me want to read the book.

Hope to put my hands on a physical copy of it soon enough.
What do you think? Would like to try it?


Disclaimer: This is not a review. This preview can be based on prejudice and/or wrong information. Be warned.

Degenesis is available from:

Degenesis Quick-Start Rules
Degenesis Quick-Start Rules
Degenesis Quick-Start Rules

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

April 10, 2012

[Kickstarter] Dog eats Dog

Last week we talked about a project tied to an old school RPG: Shadowrun. (HERE)
Today I want to point to you a new game about the colonisation process and hios effects on cultures being colonized.
This game is Dog eats dog-
This is how the autor of the game present it:

Dog Eat Dog is a game of colonialism and its consequences. As a group, you work together to describe one of the hundreds of small islands in the Pacific Ocean, defining the customs of the natives and the mores of the outsiders arriving to claim it. One player then assumes the role of the Occupation force, playing their capable military, their quisling government, and whatever jaded tourists and shrewd businessmen are interested in a not quite pacified territory. All the others play individual Natives, each trying in their own ways to come to terms with the new regime. The game begins when the war ends. Through a series of scenes, you play out the inevitably conflicted relationship between the two parties, deciding what the colonizers do to maintain control, which natives assimilate and which run amok, and who ends up owning the island in the end. The game will come in the form of a book, with the full rules, author's notes that explain the design process, and a brief historical overview of colonization in the Pacific.

One of the most interesting facts about this funding is that the autor is willing to send via email a text copy of the game if you can commit to running the game and writing a little about your experience, on a forum or blog or wherever. How great is that?
He is worthy of your money just for that attitude!

HERE you can find the first play report by Giulia (http://giullina.net/).

[Rule Test] [Necessary Evil] Character Creation

Last week we created the (pulp) superhero Jonathan Neutron, amazing explorer, with the Wild Talents Core Book and the result was really good if you are willing to endure the pain the core book will inflicts you the first time you'll use it.
Now it's time to test another game with the same character: Necessary Evil.
You can find the Wild Talent's Jonathan Neutron HERE and the starting premises HERE

Necessary Evil is powered by a Savage World Engine and the basic premise is that you play supervillains trying to reclaim Earth from an evil alien race.

As usual the character creation process is fractioned in steps, 7 in this case.

STEP 0: The base mechanic
All Attributes (read Stats) and skills assume, instead of a static value, a die type (es. d10). When you want to do a check, you roll the appropriate die and hope to do 4 or more to succeed. Implicitly as the die top value increase so does the chance of success.

STEP 1: Villain Concept
Fist up you have to came up with a concept for you villain answering to three questions:
How did your character get his powers? Easy, recovering ancient artifacts all around the world.
What sort of powers does your villain have? Jet boots, force field belt and an energy rifle as a starter kit.
Why did your character become a villain? I think Jonathan is not really a full fledged villain but more an adventurer not really caring for good or evil as long he can still explore ancient ruins discovering the hidden history of the world.

Comments: I like games that start from making you build a concept, especially if that concept is just a draft that can, and must, detailed. Starting impromptu with points distribution can lead to confusion but, on the other side, a too well defined concept can lead to utter disappointment.

STEP 2: Race
I can choose between three races: Human, Atlantean and Hybrid, but i think I will stick to the Human.
Race: Human (gain a free Edge)
Comment: I was hoping in more different races like cyborgs, aliens, robots, undead and so on, but the game makes you build races customizing powers. It's not fancy, but it's sure it will work.

STEP 3: Traits (Attributes & Skills)
Attributes are Agility, Smarts (intelligence and knowledge), Spirit (wisdom & willpower), Strength and Vigor and they start at d4 (no values but types of die, remember?) I can now spend 5 points raising up stats. Considered that d6 is the human average, I will go with a d6 everywhere.
Agility d6
Smarts d6
Spirit d6
Strength d6
Vigor d6
Skills are a little more edgy, considered that I have 15 points to spend in them.
Every point die type increase costs me 1 point, so if I want Stealth at d6 value, I have to spend 2 points, one from 0 to d4, the other from d4 to d6. The cost raises to 2 points if I want to surpass with a skill the attribute related to the skill. In the example above Stealth is linked to agility so if I want to go past d6, I have to spend 2 points for every step. I'll start making a list of interesting skill, then I will distribute the points. Climbing (St), Driving (A) Fighting (A), Guts (Sp), Investigation (Sm), Knowledge (Sm), Notice (Sm), Piloting (A), Repair (Sm), Shooting (A), Survival (Sm), Swimming (A), Tracking (Sm) all seems appropriate. Wow, that's a big list of 13 skills! Lets drop Tracking, Repair and Notice for now and distribute the 15 points among the remaining 10 skills. Five of them will be at d4, the other 5 at d6. At this point I don't know yet if my shooting skill will be used to shoot my energy rifle, so d6 is due.
Climbing (St) d4
Driving (A) d6
Fighting (A) d4
Guts (Sp) d6
Investigation (Sm) d4
Knowledge (Hidden History of the world) (Sm) d6
Piloting (A) d4
Shooting (A) d6
Survival (Sm) d6
Swimming (A) d4
Comments: Skills description are in the Savage World core book, so you must have both books with you while making characters. You can raise skills but you don't know yet if you'll have higher attributes in the end o if you'll be able to spend more points in Traits. That's confusing.

STEP 4: Hindrances & Edges
Now it's time to choose hindrances that will grant me more points that I can spend in Superpowers and such. I can add to Jonathan up to 2 minor hindrances and up to 1 Major Hindrance (+1 more Major hindrance that I can only spend if I want to to get 5 more Power Points). First of all I can use my free Edge ('cause I'm human) and get Arcane Background (Superpowers) and then consider further hindrances.
Arcane Background (Superpowers) + 10 Power Points
Now I scoop the Savage world core book highlighting the hindrances that are plausible for my character. the first one that comes to mind to me is a peculiar form of addiction. Jonathan Neutron is a Thrillseeker, a daredevil, maybe for the kick he gets from this kind of situations. So here I get
Habit: Thrillseeker (Major)
if my life does not get dangerous very often I'll get very sick and/or really depressed.
the other logical hindrance that my hero/villain is made to have is
Curious (Major)
I cannot picture him turning his back from a mystery.
The first minor hindrance that I can consider is logically derived from my old age. I'm a man out of his time, listening the wrong kind of music, liking the wrong kind of things, trying to live as a gentleman in the future. So...
Outsider (Minor)
Last but not least my gentleman adventurer is also a pacifist and will not kill if he can avoid it.
Pacifist (Minor)
With this I've topped my allowed hindrances. considered that I've chosen 2 Major hindrances, I'm forced to use one of them to get the "super Karma" bonus for my Arcane Background
Arcane Background (Superpowers) with Super Karma +15 Power Points
The other hindrances grant me 4 points that I can use to buy edges, money, attribute dice or skill dice.
I will start with powers, 'cause I've already a good idea of what I want.
First power: Flight. flight is a simple power that can cost from 2 to 15 points. Flying at the same seed of myself walking is a 1 point power (there is a discount for being in a device). Double that is a 3 PP Power and it's fine with me. Note that for 1 point more i could have doubled that value again. let's see if I'll have a point left at the end to do that.
Flight (device) 3PP
The second power I'm needing is the force field belt. The powers are really wide in scope so I'll go with the Armor power. The armor power is easy but can be tweaked a little.
Armor (6)
Requires Activation (-1)
Device (-1)
The armor is purchased at max value with the device discount and the fact that I need to activate the belt to be protected. The Device discount is always the last thing to be calculated because depends from the total point cost of the power. from a mathematical point of view not taking the "Requires Activation" modifier would have left unmodified the total cost of the armor power.
Armor (device, requires activation) 4PP
The last core power is the Energy Rifle that starts from the Attack, ranged power
Attack, ranged (3)
Extra damage +1d6 (3)
Armor piercing (2)
Device (-2)
The result is a little rough but acceptable.
Attack, ranged (extra damage +1d6, armor piercing 4, device) 6PP
Last power that I want is Ageless. This is not embedded in a device and so no modifiers for me.
Ageless 1PP
At this point I've spent 14 of my 15 points. Time to use the remaining point to buy skills.
Super skill 1PP
I've decided not to increase attributes anymore. It's really expensive and not so rewarding for the character I have in mind.
Skills on the contrary are really something I need to invest in.
Super skill: Shooting d6->d10 1PP
Now I have still to spend 4 points gained with hindrances. I will buy the Rich edge, just for flavor sake, but I'll use the remaining 2 points to increase my
Vigor d6 -> d8.
Comments: Powers are nice. Tweaking them is easy and satisfying, even if you cannot build them in a really detailed way. The real issue is that in Necessary evil you are supposed to create a minor villain, and the lack of points can be a little frustrating. Consider that you can build Pyro, not Wolverine.

STEP 5: Gear
Due to my Rich edge, I have at my disposal a 3.000$ to buy equipment. With 40$ I've brought some clothing and a cellphone and don't need anything more than that. For my personal safety I could buy a .50 pistol ad a Flack Jacket (530$ total)

Necessary Evil Explorer's Edition
Necessary Evil Explorer's Edition
STEP 6: Secondary statistics
Time to calculate some fixed values.
Charisma +0 (fixed)
Pace 6" (fixed)
Parry 4 (2+half my fighting)
Toughness 6 (2+half my Vigor)
Comments: Necessary Evil is a nice game, mostly 'cause makes you play the supervillain. The rule set is solid and fun to play, but you have to be prepared to impersonate a villain like Electro, not Loki. The biggest flaw is that the character creation process is not easily scalable and just raising the starting points won't do the trick. Powers are fast to assemble and versatile enough to make you simulate everything but you have to cope with powers similar to the desired effect. Building, for example, a force field tied to a specific situation or that activates only in a certain condition is not possible.

April 7, 2012

[Kickstarter] Shadowrun Returns

I know that this is not a classical update for this blog, but this project lay his roots deeply in a classic of the RPGs genre: Shadowrun.
Today we are used to the concept of mash ups, but back in the day, when Shadowrun came out, it was something new and exciting.
If you don't know what I'm talking about here some blurb clarifying the setting.

According to the Mayan Calendar (and lots of tabloids), the world will end on December 21, 2012. It’s part a 5,200 year cycle of death and rebirth that, in Shadowrun, actually charts the ebb and flow of magic from the Earth. So, on 12/21/12 magic will return, end this world, and wreak holy havoc while starting the next. Aboriginal cultures, who maintained their mystical traditions, are the first to feel the return of magic and use their newfound power to reshape the political, financial, and physical world around them. As the magic increases, Elf and Dwarf babies are born to very surprised parents who carry the right combination of long-dormant genes. But all of these events pale in comparison to the horror of "goblinization", which painfully reshapes the teenage bodies of those unlucky enough to carry dominant Ork or Troll genes. And then the first Great Dragon rises from its 5,200 yearlong hibernation and circles over Tokyo, signaling that the world has truly AWAKENED.

Fast forward two generations, to a world transformed not only by the growth of magic but by the acceleration of cyber technology—a continual effort to improve upon the gifts that nature gave humanity; by the inevitable maturation of the World Wide Web into the Matrix—a network directly accessible by the human brain; and by the near elimination of governments as they are replaced megacorporations—monolithic entities who see only customers, not citizens.

And moving through the dark shadows cast by the gleaming towers of the corps, are Shadowrunners – disposable assets and corporate pawns scratching out a living using a combination of technology, magic, and street smarts. Shadowrunners live between the cracks and operate outside the law, doing the dirty work that corporate wage-slaves won’t soil their hands with and occasionally acting as the only protection the citizenry can turn to.

Welcome to the world of Shadowrun, where man meets magic and machine.

So, what are we trying to fund? A PC and MAC RPG in the world of Shadowrun's Seattle. If you could like that, please go visit the Kickstarter page and back this project to make him the more fabulous we can.

If you need more info, you can also see the following video:

April 1, 2012

[First Look] The Magical Land of Yeld: Mermaid Hunters

Today, in the RPGNow newsletter, a game draw my attention: The Magical Land of Yeld: Mermaid Hunters. I like little games that doesn't need anything else to be played besides the core book and this little book (36 pages) is up for just 2,17 €. Nice.
This game is just a single adventure, introducing the "Big Book" of The Magical Land of Yeld coming out this summer.
Premises are good, let's see if I can learn more.

First of all, a brief synopsis taken from the website of Cel Style:
After discovering a hidden magic door 3 friends find themselves in a strange new fantasy world, where an angry monster demands that they hunt down mermaids with nothing more than a net and mallet! Of course, there’s a reward as well, if the friends survive long enough to defeat the Mermaid boss! 
Browsing the website of the Author/illustrator of this game, I came up also with this scheme and the three characters that you can play with in this game.

The rules seems based on rolling multiple d6 and add them together trying to do the highest number possible. Easy enough for a 36 pages game, but I cannot refrain to wonder what kind of special dice you can add.

It strikes me also the nice graphic aspect of the scheme. i like the anime-like approach, mostly because it's friendlier to teach rules.

Next in line to be looked at is the character sheet. In The Magical Land of Yeld: Mermaid Hunters you can play with 3 characters: the Tomboy, the Know-it-All and the Dog (literally a dog, not a S/M slave fantasy).
Character generation is really simple:
Each character starts with 1 of each Core dice, plus an extra Core die of your choice. Next you’ll choose what kind of Friend you’d like to be. Tomboy, Know-it-all, Baby, Brat, Big Brother, Dog,  Bully, Liar and Princess are your choices. Each Friend type gives an extra Core and Special die.
Let's see one of them: the Know-it-All. 
Looks keeping the promise to be simple ^_^
Probably I would have changed the font weight between titles (as "Core dice:") and detail lines (as "Strong 1").

We also know (from today) how advancement and jobs works:
Each game you play will bring more Reward dice, which you can spend on Special Dice or Treasures. After your first few Adventures you’ll be able to choose a Heroic Job, including Black Mage, Oath Breaker, Soul Thief, Freelancer, Shepherd, Witch Hunter and Witch. Each Job gives a kit including 2 Core dice, 2 Special dice, a Job Ability, a costume, a list of weapons you can use (as well as one of those weapons). When you choose a Job you also gain access to an exclusive set of job specific Special dice that only you can buy and use
It looks nice and professional as a stand alone game but mostly as a preview of The Magical Land of Yeld role playing game. I don't know if this game can convince me to buy the full game, but for sure I want to give it a shot.

As a side note, the playtesting version of the full fledged RPG is 175 (booklet format) pages long. 
I'm printing it right now ^^


Disclaimer: This is not a review. This preview can be based on prejudice and/or wrong information. Be warned.

The Magical Land of Yeld: Mermaid Hunters
The Magical Land of Yeld: Mermaid Hunters