June 29, 2012

[First look] Psi*Run

Last night I played the first session of a litlle game called Psi*Run, written by Meguey Baker.

In Psi*Run you are a bunch of Runners, amesiac with Psychic powers that try to run from the Chasers.

The game looked nice, with a really simple conflict resolution mechanic and a story-driven soul that I appreciated. The game never really went full speed, but the potential was there and I'm waiting to know something more about my silent Ivan.

Full review next month.

June 26, 2012

[Review] Hellcats & Hockeysticks

Before Monsterhearts there was an indie game called Hellcats & Hockeysticks (born 2009). It's a game based on the popular UK movies about a girl school named St.Trinian (renamed St.Erisian in the game) where girls learned all things beside good manners.
It's a game about adolescent and their impulses, anarchy and big explosions, witchcraft and mad science. 

In the game the PCs are some of the girls attending the school, trying to balance frienship, rivalries and girl stuff with all the weird thing appening around them.
The system is d6 based.

Let's cut the chase, ok?  Hellcats & Hockeysticks  is a little pinch of good ideas mixed with a barrel of crap. The system simply doesen't work well, the mathematical foundation of the system is wrong and using your dice in a bad way can make you lower your chances instead of rising them. The idea of anarchic girls in a boarding school is neat, but they are thinked like a D&D party all the time. sure, there are rules for rivalries and internal turmpil of the group, but "The group must stick together" is still a powerful implicit rule.
Lastly the adventure included is uninspired and dull.

I appriciate the effort, but trust to me and go play Monsterhearts.

June 18, 2012

[Kickstarter] Durance

A couple of days ago, taking advantage of the RPG DAY, I played a demo version of Durance, the new game of Jason Morningstar, the author of Fiasco and Gray Ranks.

It was fun, although the randomness of the table added a little drag to the story. Like Fiasco, Durance is a game that cannot go wrong but, with the right people, can go way better.

If you like Fiasco or you don't know it, Durance is the game you must support now!

Durance is designed for 3-5 players and can be played over one or more sessions with very little preparation required. Players assume the dual roles of Authority and convict colonists trying to survive on an outrageously hostile planet. The thin veneer that separates the two classes tends to erode during play, raising questions about corruption, justice and mercy.

One cool thing about Durance is that, like Fiasco, you generate the setting and characters as part of play. This step takes half an hour and results in an exciting, unstable collection of characters mired in a grim and equally unstable setting you helped to devise.What will your colony be like? What dismal horrors does the planet it is carved out of have in store? And, most importantly, who are the people who are marooned there?

The hierarchy of status and position, called the Ladder, is central to the game. Players will author and control two characters ("colony notables"), each one from a different class and station.

Gameplay is fast and loose. You'll take turns in the role of Guide, asking questions about the cast of miscreants and ne'er-do-wells you've created and seeing them answered by your friends around the table. Those answers are always flavored by savagery or servility or some drive unique to your colony, like harmony or control. In the end, your friends will always surprise you.

June 14, 2012

[First look] Tephra RPG

A little while ago I backed a project about the publication of a steampunk RPG: Tephra. A week ago the book arrived to my home and this is the first look at it.

Tephra is a traditional RPG with a classical approach (GM+2-5 players). The book is an hard covered beauty, with an inspired cover.
The system is based on d12s and by looking briefly to the manual is really detailed. There are chapters about crafting objects, a lot of character creation options and a really small GM (here is called Narrator) section.
Apparently there is almost no setting (me sad) and no first adventure in this book.
On the other side the book seem well written and easy to use.

I want to run a game right now?
No, it's not so inspiring.

I want to read it carefully and maybe run a game with it?
Definitely yes.

June 13, 2012

[News] Hell on Earth: Reloaded

I don't do plain news. I don't like news. There are better places to get them.

I don't do news unless the news is totally awesome for me like this one.
Pinnacle announced somewhere in the future we will be playing Deadlands Hell on Earth again!

It's called Hell on Earth: Reloaded and i can't wait to be a DM of this game again. It was one of the most successful games I ever pulled, one that required every player to drive 45 minutes to attend the game at the noisy pub that was hosting us.
For this game I had to tell the law enforcers I was reading the future with poker cards (to avoid being accused of gambling)

I want to play Hell on earth again! And I will! Yeah!

June 12, 2012

[Preview] Things to come

Sometimes I stumble in games that makes me think: "This looks interesting". Here some of the things I may cover in the future.

Uber RPG: Steampunk 
Because it's steampunk and we need more steampunk in RPGs, cover art is nice and there are already 3 supplements. The bad part is that it can be played also a as a LARP.

Über RPG: Steampunk can be played as a table top roleplaying game or a Live Action Role Playing game, and it provides all the tools and background you need to enter this retro-futuristic universe with just as much potential for light hearted adventure as it has for deep dives into the psyche of a dark and harshly split world.

Hero’s Banner :  The Fury of Free Will
It's a fantasy game, but your hero will last just a session. 
Yeah you heard me.

Hero’s Banner: The Fury of Free Will is a fantasy roleplaying game with a razor sharp premise and elegant mechanics to match. Every character is faced with a choice between three mutually exclusive and world-changing paths to glory. Which will he choose, and what will he forever give up to achieve his goals?

What’s more, Hero’s Banner supports multi-generational epic play. Each character is designed to last a single session. But the game can go on forever as you link one character to the next in a chain of heroes, each one idolizing the previous.

6d6 Core
I brought this baby time ago, but I haven't found the time to read it yet.
Review and, hopefully, interview sooner or later.

I also brought Outbreak! the zombie apocalypse setting and I can't wait to run a zombie game!

The cheerleader, the criminal, the driver, the guard, the punk girl, the cage fighter and the child. Seven lucky survivors of the first day of the zombie apocalypse. As nightfall approaches, can they find some way to survive until dawn?

Blade Rider
A kickstarter campaign of a fantasy RPG. Looks ordinary, but sounds better when you read the perks of the system.

Blade Raiders is similar to the games you know and love in the sense that it utilizes a character sheet and you roll dice to see if you succeed when attempting an action. What sets it apart is that there's a strong focus on roleplaying rewards and a strong focus on natural character progression and development.

You begin your adventure with a clean slate. You don't start with a ton of skills and abilities. In fact, you don't even select a character class -- You select a TALENT. 

Streets of Bedlam
A Savage World setting I backed on Kickstarter and I'm waiting showing at my door.

Streets of Bedlam: A Savage World of Crime + Corruption is equal parts neo-noir, pulp detective fiction, and a bit of the ol' ultraviolence thrown into a cement mixer and poured on top a heap of nameless bodies no one will ever miss.

It's a modern urban setting full of despicable people doing awful things in the name of God, money, politics, or to pay off old debts. The stories shine light on the dark places of the human heart but it's about finding diamonds in the rough, about good people in bad situations. The heroes may have questionable means but they have good intentions.

Of course, you know what they say about good intentions.

What I was saying about the need of more steampunk RPG? This baby showed up at my door a week ago and I'm currently reading it. 

Enter a world of gut-wrenching steampunk adventure!

Don your top hat and grab your aether-blasting shotgun – you are about to enter the steam-powered world of Tephra. Enjoy the elegance, poise, and aesthetic of a Victorian world while you’re ripping 50 calibers through airship pirates, sword-fighting with gentlemen swashbucklers, and taking down hulking automatons with nothing but your hunting knife clenched between your gritted teeth.

June 11, 2012

[Kickstarter] Dungeon World

I love Apocalypse World. I love even more Monsterhearts. I can't wait to start playing Dungeon World. (Yeah, it's a big Apocalypse World Hack from what they have told me).

Dungeon World is a fantasy roleplaying game about exploring dungeons, fighting monsters and looting treasure. In Dungeon World you and your friends take up the role of classic character classes and undertake exciting adventures together. Through your triumphs and travails the world changes around you.

The Dungeon World rules are simple and elegant. They exist to help you create unpredictable adventures and fluid action - to move from battles to exploration to moments of magic and mystery with ease. Dungeon World's rules all tell you when to use them: every rule comes into effect just when it's needed and stays out of the way the rest of the time.

Dungeon World emerged from our love of two things—modern game design and old-school RPG action.  We wanted to create a game with the wide-eyed excitement and wonder of your first time playing a fantasy RPG and rules that draw on a long history of innovation and creativity. The best of both worlds!

The text of the game is complete and we're working with an editor to polish and perfect it right now. The text of Dungeon World is available under a creative commons license and will remain that way whether we meet our Kickstarter goal or not (we wanted to make sure that everyone got a chance to play Dungeon World).

I know that you are fed up with Fanatsy RPGs and that D&DNext is just a downgraded version of 3.5 built just to avoid saying "Sorry, D&D4E is not selling enough, let's take a step back", but trust me, if you haven't already played one of the two games I mentioned earlier, you MUST try this.

June 10, 2012

[Interview] Jake Richmond about The Magical Land of Yeld

Some time ago, before my mysterious disappearance,  My eye got caught by The Magical Land of Yeld: Mermaid Hunters. Why? Could be the fresh ingenuity to the approach to the fantasy setting or the retro vibe was flooding me with.
I asked Jake Richmond for an interview and he agreed, so here we are!
He also agreed to show me (and you reader) some of the illustrations of the full fledged RPG The Magical Land of Yeld, so be thankful!

1) Let's talk about The Magical Land of Yeld: Mermaid Hunters. It's a 36 page game in the land of Yeld which is the setting of your RPG coming out in the summer. Releasing a standalone game and a full fledged RPG in just a bunch of months is an interesting choice. Do you want to boost the sales, using the Mermaid Hunters as a trial version, or do you address two different audiences?

Yeld is a fairly different tabletop rpg than most people are used to.
It plays a lot more like a Final Fantasy or Zelda game than Dungeons & Dragons or other traditional rpgs. We wanted to make sure that players had an easy way to try the game out and see most of the basic concepts that they'll interact with as players. So Mermaid Hunters is a tryout kit, and easy way to teach people how to play the game without asking for them to commit to buying and reading a larger and more expensive book.

Mermaid Hunters is also just the tip of the iceberg. Each of the systems introduced in that book are massively expanded on in Yeld. Mermaid Hunters gives you a taste of combat, magic, monsters and the Special dice system, but there's just so much more to show! Plus, Mermaid Hunters doesn't even touch on some of the really unique aspects of Yeld, like the map and calendar system, the rotating GM and the player quest. These ideas are just too big to fit into a small, single session tryout kit!

2) Normally RPGs try to simulate as best they can a coherent reality. Your game is very often bending the "reality approach" to the "console game logic" (respawn, no permadeath, loot/treasure mechanics, etc...). Why this choice? Is just for a nostalgia feeling you wanted or do you think that this kind of simplifications can change/make better/make easily approachable the gaming experience?

I grew up playing games like The legend of Zelda, Dragon Warrior and Secret of Mana. When I first tried a table top rpg in high school I was horribly disappointed. It was nothing like the console games I loved. Dungeons & Dragons felt stale and colorless next to Final Fantasy. We designed Yeld not so much with a sense of nostalgia, but with the idea the fantasy rpg's don't have to stick to the D&D/Tolkien traditions that we're all so familiar with.   You mentioned a "coherent reality", but traditional style rpgs like Pathfinder and GURPS games are often as abstract as any console game.

I think, at least for a certain audience, that a game that plays like Final Fantasy Tactics or The Legend of Zelda is going to be much more interesting and much more approachable than D&D. It's a very different game experience, one that caters to a certain kind of player. The kind of player that traditionally hasn't been very satisfied with table top role playing games.

3) Both The Magical Land of Yeld and the Mermaid Hunters standalone game are heavily tied to a fixed type of campaign (child gets trapped in a fantasy world and must defeat some evil bosses to return back home). This type of approach, a fixed narrative structure, is similar to the one chosen by the latest Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Basic Game. Why choose this approach and what are the benefits?

Again, this idea goes back to Yeld's console game roots. We want players to experience Yeld in the same way they experience the new Final Fantasy game or the new Tales game. You play Yeld like you'd play a video game, except instead of sitting in front of a TV you sit at a table with friends. You can beat the game,and you can share your experience with other players who have also beat the game and see what they did differently.In that way Yeld provides a fairly unique experience in gaming, a semi-fixed narrative structure, complete with milestones along the way, where the players fill out the details and ultimately decide what happens. Of course, players can and will use Yeld in any way they see fit, but the narrative we're providing is the structure that the entire game is built around. It provides players with a beginning, middle and end, and if they choose to use it instead of a typical, run of the mill dungeon slog.

Nick (Smith, the co-author. NdP&P) and I have done this with other games as well. Classroom Deathmatch, Ocean and GxB all have set narratives that guide play. The key to making this enjoyable is to provide plenty of details, but also leave all the choices in player hands. We'll gibe you a compelling premise, we'll provide you with a sketch of an interesting world that you can fill in and we'll create enough milestones that you can find your way through it, but following those milestones, exploring that world, expanding on that premise... that's all up to you.

4) Your games are deeply rooted in Japanese RPGs. Choose three of them that I have to play before playing The Magical Land of Yeld.

Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions was the obvious inspiration for Yeld's combat system. It's a deep, complex game with rewarding game play, great characters and a kickass story. The Legen of Zelda: Link to the Past isn't an rpg, but it's model of an explorable world full of secrets and challenging dungeons leading to memorable boss fights is something I always wanted to see in a tabletop rpg. Secret of Mana was the first co-op rpg I ever played, and still one of my favorites.

5) This is not the first game you have done together. Do you want to talk about you previous collaborations and how this type of combined style of writing works for you?
We have a pretty simple design method. Generally we get together and throw ideas back and forth. I think all three of the games we've worked on together were spawned out of a single night of this kind of brainstorming. Once we have a basic text we decide what we want to add and divide op the writing. Nick will work on this bit and I'll work on that. generally it all goes pretty quick. The first draft of Yeld came together in about a week, and the next draft, based on playtesting, came about 2 months later. I think we created a total of 4 playtest drafts over about 14 months in 2008 and 2009. We took 2010 and most of 2011 off from Yeld to work on other projects. Nick produced The Tulip Academy's Society for Dangerous Gentlemen and I created Panty explosion Perfect and GxB. We've been working on the finished Yeld text since late in 2011, and at this point we're down to the fun stuff like designing the big boss dungeons and creating new monsters!

6) Now a question about another of your games: Sea Dracula. This game is about crazy animal lawyers who are prosecuting an important case in Animal City’s highest court. Do you think that the RPG world need to take himself less seriously?

Maybe. RPG fans and publishers are pretty damn humorless, and rpgs that are designed to be funny are usually pretty awful. Sea Dracula, which was originally an adaptation of the Hugh Jackman van Helsing film, and later a hospital drama game, is really not so much about humor as humiliation and pride. It takes a lot of guts to get up in front of a room of 30 relative strangers at an game convention and give some other dude a lap dance. Or let some woman climb on your back and pretend to be a crab while she talks about how awesome ham is. It's impossible to play Sea Dracula without looking like you're on drugs, and Nick and I have got  a lot of mileage out of watching our friends make total asses out of themselves over the years. And of course, if you can get over yourself it's actually a ton of fun to pretend you're a 7 foot tall beaver in a suit with a law degree and a lisp who has to do a sexy waltz with a woman pretending to be a raccoon in order to keep your city from being destroyed by some type of Godzilla.

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

I know Nick has a game that's right on the edge of being ready. My own next project, a very different kind of console style rpg called Leviathan Knight, probably won't be done for quite some time. After that... I have no idea!