March 29, 2012

One Ring: A handy list of resources

Over on the Cubicle 7 Forums, Jon Hodgson was considerate enough to create a sticky thread with a plethora of resources for One Ring players and Loremasters.

TOR Resources Thread

Here's some of the highlights as I see them:

Online Character Generator
Made by forum-user Azrapse (and apparently with Cubicle 7's unspoken blessing), this pretty much has all that you need to make a character for The One Ring, including the option to get pretty detailed descriptions of just about everything. Granted, this may be in part to what I bore witness to back in the days of the Revised Core Rules for Star Wars d20 and that which is referred to as the "nameless blessing" (aka a character gen program that was really frikkin' awesome), in which the creator of said program was issued a cease & desist letter from WotC by way of LucasArts and their control over "electronic Star Wars media" (aka the reason why even when they were doing PDFs of their books WotC never put the Saga Edition books up for sale as PDFs), but it does seem surprising that the parent company doesn't mind that a healthy chunk of what's in the Adventurer's Book is pretty much up for grabs for anyone that wants it. Then again, there's next to nil about how the game works mechanically beyond character stats, so maybe it's a moot point. Anyway, great resource if an aspiring Loremaster with a handy internet connection needs to create a bunch of heroes on short notice.

Unofficial GM Screen
This time forum user Kaltharion steps up to provide a GM/Loremaster screen to be used until such time as the official one is released, or possibly even after depending on the individual GM's tastes. Seeing as how I'm not actively GM'ing TOR at the moment, I've not delved too deeply into this, but I know from many years of GM'ing that having a handy reference screen is great, especially when a viable index is lacking (much as I love The One Ring, the index is not the greatest, but at least it's there).

A Collection of Old Norse Names
The big thing with this thread, other than the plethora of Norse names, is further down in the thread, namely a post by a chap under the handle of jefferwin. In his post is this link: Names of Middle Earth. If you recall, our TOR group's GM provided a spiffy list of Middle Earth names for us to use. Here's that list ;)

There are some other neat finds on the Cubicle 7 forums, including a few stabs at adding a magic system to the game (neither of which I care for to be frank), unofficial "race stats" for Rangers of the North (presentation is awesome, overall looks pretty good), High Elves (pretty much a reskin of Mirkwood Elves with very few tweaks), and Riders of Rohan, amidst other odds and ends. So bop over and give things a look. Particularly as there's a thread discussing their release plans for the remainder of the year.

One Ring: And then there's tweaking the default archetypes...

In my last post about One Ring, I discussed about how I could tweak the fluff without modifying the crunch-parts one bit.

Well, seems that at least one player in our group convinced the GM to allow him to tweak a bit of the crunch to. Figures it was the bloody elf :D

Now rather than come up with a new background or racial skill set or anything like that, what Caranlas' player did was ask the GM if he could reduce one of the ranks of his starting skills, citing that while Silven Elves start off with a pretty good grasp of battle-tactics, he really didn't see his character has having that kind of battle-savvy, being more of a book-worm and his knowledge of warfare largely limited to a "I studied something about this once" compared to Brander having a practical grasp of such things due to his psuedo-Ranger training. So instead, Caranlas spent the extra points gained to pick up a single rank in other skills that he'd at least have some passing ability with.

I was talking with my friend, and discussed my post on building Brander, and was surprised when he asked me why I didn't ask the GM if I could drop his skill level in Spear and replace it with a skill level in Bow. In retrospect, I almost did, but opted that I wanted the option of a cool spear toss like Eomer pulled in the Return of the King during the Battle of Pelennor Fields when he took down two Mumikul with one spear throw (suck on that, foofy elf-boy!).

Moral of the Post? If you're not entirely happy with the sort of character the default character creation method provides, ask your GM if you do some minor tweaks to better fit your concept. Then again, there can be a fine line between "a slight tweak" and "just re-write the whole thing from scratch," so I'd suggest Loremasters be a tad wary as to just how much "tweaking" they should allow.

March 26, 2012

One Ring: Character Creation and going outside the lines

A few weeks ago, my Saturday gaming group made characters and played a session of Cubicle 7's One Ring RPG.

I thought I might take a moment to go through the process of building a character, and the bits of wiggle-room you may not think to have the way it's set up.

To preface, there's no dice rolls involved with building a One Ring player-hero (the term the books use for Player Characters), but instead you go through the following checklist:

Step 1) Determine Race
There are six to choose from: Barding of Dale (aka stock human), Beornings, Dwarves of Erebor/Lonely Mountain, Elves of Mirkwood, Hobbits of the Shire, and Woodmen of the Wilderland. Your choice of race provides your racial perk (for example, Bardings get to roll their feat die twice and take the better result on Fear tests) as well as a couple of Traits that describe what sort of skills you've picked prior to becoming an adventurer. It also provides you a base list of skills that your character has, including one favored skill, which is the same for each player-hero of that race. So our two Hobbits, Rory and Mira, had identical skill lists at this stage in making their respective Hobbits.

Step 2) Select Background
Each race provides 6 different background options, which determines the base values of your three Attributes, provides you with second favored skill. This is where characters of the same race can really start to differentiate themselves. For example, Rory choose the Bucklander background while Mira opted for Restless Farmer, giving them quite different attribute scores. Background also provides the choice of a couple character traits, things that set you apart from most folks.

Step 3) Select Calling
This would be your class for those coming from a traditional RPG background, and in effect determines what sort of adventurer you are. My character opted for Warden (for reasons I'll go into detail about further on), while Rory chose Treasure-Hunter and Mira took Wanderer (both were inspired by Bilbo's stories, but each in different ways). Your Calling provides what might be called your "central class feature" in the form of a distinctive trait that's generally not available to anyone outside of that Calling, as well as the choice of two more favored skills from specific groups, allowing you to further tailor what your player-hero is good at doing.

Step 4) Customization
This actually encompasses a few different steps, but I'm rolling them together. Next part is selecting your favored attributes (which of the three you're really good, pretty good, or above-average, in that order), spend an allotment of 10 XP to tweak your starting skills (such as raising ones you already have or buy ones that your starting racial skill list didn't provide), then choosing your starting gear (typically three weapons, some armor, and traveling gear), before determining whether you place more value on bravery or wisdom, and then finally determining your character's staring Endurance and Hope scores, whose base values are determined by your race.

So all in all, which of the 6 races you play has a lot of impact what sort of character you're going to wind up with, and in fact your Calling/Class has very little impact, which can be a bit of a shock to some die-hard D&D gamers.

It also doesn't look like you have a lot of room to expand past that point, at least in terms of what's officially out there. So no Elves of Lothlorien or Rivendell, no Dwarves of the Iron Mountains, or even Riders of Rohan or Men of Gondor or Rangers of the North. Right? Not exactly ;)

I'll be honest in that I've long held a fascination with the Rangers of the North, as personified by Aragorn, and even more so after the movie given the way that Viggo Mortenson portrayed the character in the films. So I was initially sad that I didn't have the option to play a Ranger of the North. But then I thought the matter over. Who was to say that I couldn't have my Ranger player-hero right out the gate, but without introducing any drastic changes to the rules?

So, I sat down with the other players and our GM/Loremaster to make our characters. As the Rangers of the North were Dunedain (humans with vague traces of elvish ancestry), I opted to start with a Barding of Dale, mostly as the stout-hearted nature really fit with someone that was trained to fight nasty things in the course of protecting folks from orcs and such. But instead of my character having crossed over the Misty Mountains and into the Wilderlands (the default setting of One Ring for the moment), I instead asked the Loremaster if it was okay that one of my character's ancestors had made the trek, himself a Ranger of the North that had eventually come to settle in Esgaroth? Loremaster said it was cool; so far, so good. I also chose to focus on swordsmanship rather than archery, in large part because being a ranged combatant isn't a truly viable option a lot of the time, but also because we already had the Elf as an archer and Mira with her sling (a bit of house-ruling the Loremaster introduced as it fit Hobbits to be good with slings rather than just bows). No archery skills for me, but my player-hero would be good with a sword, and passable with a spear or dagger.

So I had my race, now onto Background. I knew I was going to tweak the fluff, so I was a bit more focused on mechanics at this point. I went with Dragon-Eyed, which made Awe a favored skill (useful) and said that my character had ashen/grey eyes which gave him an intimidating gaze that had been passed down from my hero's great-grandfather, allegedly from bearing witness to Smaug destroying the Kingdom of Dale a great many years prior. Here's where the tweaking of fluff began. Although the old folks might say the ash-grey eyes and gaze came from seeing Dale razed, the truth was that those traits are signs of my hero's own Dunedain heritage, passed down through the men of his line from his great-grandfather, who for reasons yet unknown chose to settle in Laketown. Background selected, I dutifully copied down my hero's attributes and chose two character traits (Adventurous and Eager).

Now onto Calling. Easy one for me given my concept. So, Warden it was. Wardens are described as being those folk that actively fight and defend against the various threats to the Wilderlands, namely the minions of The Enemy Sauron. Again, this fit with my notion of a Ranger of the North, or at least someone that had similar training, passed down from father to son over the years. I chose outdoorsy skills as my two favored skills, again keeping to a Ranger theme, though I noted one of them I didn't start with any ranks in, but I knew that I'd have those XP to spend in a bit to address that shortcoming.

Being a warrior-type, I made Body (physical) my main focus for my Favored Attribute, giving me a respectable value for when I really needed the boost (such as eventually for weapon skills), followed by Wits (mental) since my starting background had left me with a fairly low value, and lastly Heart (spirit/will), as my background gave me a very good score in that and I'm not likely to ever gain any of the skills related to Heart as a favored skill. XP was spent to bolster a couple skills and get some needed ranks in Rangerish skills (though not great at them, he'll get by). Equipment choices were a basic sword (was sorely tempted to take a long sword, but maybe later on, a spear, a dagger (filling out my three staring weapons). For armor, I chose a leather corslet (decent protection but not as encumbering as mail) and a medium shield, and finally traveling gear (which is a very simple package that assumes the basic supplies one would need for venturing out in the wild as opposed to going into detail about what's included). Again, being the sort that would facing various threats, I opted to focus on bravery over wisdom to start with. And finally, my player-hero's starting Endurance and Hope were calculated (my high Heart score really helped on both of these). Looking over the list of Middle Earth names the GM had kindly provided (great list, no idea where he got it from, but will see if he'll send me a copy for me to toss a link to up here), I went with Brander, a Dalish name that equates to "Fiery Sword." Cool.

Now, one bit I didn't mention earlier was that your choice of whether to focus on bravery or wisdom also provides your character with an extra perk, be it an item of greater-than-average quality or some special talent, both of which can be influenced by which race you chose to play (told you selection of your race was very important in this game). As I'd chosen bravery or Valour, that meant I got the choice of an item upgrade. None of the specific options for Bardings appealed to me, so I perused the generic section. The weapon options were nice (more damage, better chances to badly injury a foe), but I went with a reinforced shield, which not only boosted the defensive bonus provided by my shield, but I tied it into my altered background by saying this shield had once been used in service of Arnor before its destruction by Angmar and the Witch-King, and thus bore the six star sigil of that ancient kingdom, having been carried by my great-grandfather when he made is journey to the Wilderlands, and was now passed on to Brander for him to use.

And so, without the slightest bending of the mechanics involved in character creation, I now had my psuedo-Ranger of the North. At some point I really would like for him to met up with the true Rangers, though meeting Aragorn is unlikely given he's just starting his own heroic career at this point in time (not sure if the GM is using the default timeline for us or setting things later), but that's not bound to be for a while yet. And even then, Brander is more likely to stay near the Wilderlands to protect the land and people that he knows from childhood rather than a foreign region to which he has few ties. So far, he's definitely felt as a good fit for the Aragorn/Faramir type of character, but time will tell if he'll keep that mold, or diverge to a different course.

For a bit more concrete information on One Ring, be sure to check out Cubicle 7's website for the game:

March 21, 2012

Proud to be Rebel Scum

Courtesy of the All Wings Report In! blog for the Rebel Legion, here's the official write-up of my being granted status as a Friend of the Rebel Legion.

So I guess I now officially am Rebel scum. Guess it's time to dust off the lightsaber and brush up on my combat forms :D

March 20, 2012

All-Con 2012, Defeated!

I spent the past few days down in the Dallas/Fort Worth area of Texas, both to attend All-Con 2012 and to hang out with my long-time long-distance friend ZRissa.

I'll spare you the details on the flight both to and from, though frankly the flight to Texas was a lot worse overall than the flight home. Now this was my first time attending All-Con, and to be frank it'd been a while since I'd last attended a "small" convention (that would have been NecronomiCon in Florida several years ago). After two GenCons (2009 & 2011), it was actually kind of nice to not be going at a breakneck pace, and the crowd itself seemed generally much more relaxed and easygoing.

Maybe it's just my perspective, but All-Con seems more of a "cosplayer's convention," at least if the number of folks that were dressed up just for the sake of dressing was anything to go by. Now that said, there were a lot of really neat costumes, including one lady that did a freaking fantastic Draenai complete with hooved leg extensions (and got a well-deserved win in the Saturday costume competition along with her two partners). And there were quite a few folks in costume that were also in character, including a J. Jonah Jameson and a very genki Rainbow Brite (probably from the star-shaped candy she was carrying around), and the White and Black Queens of X-Men fame. There were also a lot of anime maids running around, including a quintet of rather cute Japanese ladies. One guy had made a pretty nifty Optimus Prime (G1 for those that care) using mostly cardboard, and I salute the guy for wearing that thing because it had to be uncomfortable as well as a royal pain to move about it.

For the most part, I just wandered, attending a couple of panels, but also taking pictures of various costumes that caught my eye. And before any accusations fly of basis, pictures were taken of both men and women in costume. I did attend the Miss Star Wars 2012 contest to provide morale support to ZRissa.

Speaking of Star Wars, I guess I am now to officially be considered "Rebel Scum" as I've been made a Friend of the Rebel Legion (a costuming group that is the opposing number for the more well-known 501st Legion) for both the small bit of work I've done in the Star Wars universe (including sneaking in my first Star Wars d20 PC by way of Jedi General Morningfire) and a few other tidbits here and there, such as donating a signed author copy of Galaxy at War to the RL for a charity raffle to help support Make a Wish. No huge ceremony involved, but it was very cool, and thanks go again to ZRissa as well as to Phil aka DarthGM aka guy that now does Fragments from the Rim for the Order 66 podcast. Long live the Rebellion!

So flights aside, it was quite a fun weekend. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a lingering case of Con-Crud I need to get rid of.\

March 14, 2012

The Virtual Tabletop

Hopefully in a few week's time, I'll be joining in on a Star Wars Skype game run by Ben "Cyril" Erickson.

Now I've only played a few games through Skype before. One was another Star Wars Saga Edition game that sadly fell through after only two sessions due to half the players simply being unable to commit (a small child does that). The other notable time was again Star Wars, which was intended to be a 3-part cameo in a side-adventure run by Garrett of the Threat Detected podcast, though sadly I missed 2 of the 3 parts (first session due to illness, third due to oversleeping) and felt like a lout for doing so (particularly the third one).

Which kind of brings me to the point of this musing. It's becoming more and more common nowadays to play RPGs online as opposed to on the table. Granted, I have been and always will be a proponent of having the players all gathered around a single table and playing face-to-face, but the reality of today's world is that getting everyone into one place isn't always feasible, especially if your local area has a very sparse gamer population, or simply a lack of gamers that want to play the same RPGs that you do.

And so, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, enters the realm of virtual table-top gaming. Again, I am far from any kind of knowledgeable expert on the subject, especially when it comes to what sorts of software to use. That said, I am certainly looking forward to Cyril's game, which is set in the comic book version of the Legacy Era of Star Wars. I've always felt that setting has so much untapped potential for GM's set their campaigns in as the Heroes of Yavin are all dead & buried, the Sith and the Imperials are around to serve as villains, and though they're hunted, the Jedi are still around. And as a Legacy Era campaign I played in a few years back showed, the setting works just fine if there are no Skywalkers around.

For this one, instead of playing a Jedi or a general-purpose beatstick, I opted to play what Rikoshi over on the D20 Radio Forums thread for this on-line game described as a "smart-mouthed ex-cop living on the edge." Cyril's also using Aspects ala FATE/Dresden Files, so that should make things a bit more interesting than usual. So here's hoping it's a long-runner, because it's bound to be a fun one.

March 11, 2012

They're taking the Hobbits to... Mirkwood?!

Well, it was a bit ahead of what I thought was going to be the schedule, but my Saturday gaming group had our first go at playing Cubicle 7's One Ring RPG. Seems the GM really was eager to back behind the GM screen for the first time in almost twenty years. A short summary would be to say that we had a lot of fun and the game mechanics generally worked really well. But this particular tale is going to grow in the telling ;)

At the GM's request, all five players sat down at the same time to build our characters (he expressly told me not to make a character as he knew I had the PDFs) so that we'd have an idea of what each person's strong points were and where the others might shore-up their less-than-stellar aspects. So after a half-hour or so actually putting pencil to paper (we'd spent an hour previously just discussing what sorts of characters we wanted to play), we had our Company, consisting of a Human Warden, an Elf Scholar, a Beorning Orc-Slayer, a male Hobbit Treasure Hunter, and a female Hobbit Wanderer, with the Hobbits being cousins as a way to connect the two of them. We've got a broad skill base to draw upon, with my character jokingly being dubbed "proto-Aragorn" due to how many of the journey and combat based skills I'm pretty good at. Brander's still going to need to work on getting his stubble up to Viggo's impressive standards though :) The GM had done some online research, and provided a plethora of names from Middle Earth for us to use as a resource, including translations. I ended up choosing Brander (Fiery Sword) for my Human Warden's name. I have to say that character creation is generally painless, but I'll go through that process another time.

Our characters at the ready, the GM ran a short intro-adventure to let us get used to the system and have our characters met up. We didn't met at an inn, but rather at the site of an attack upon a trade caravan that was a few days out from Esgaroth (near Long Lake). The Hobbits (Rorimac aka 'Rory' and Mirabella) and the Beorning (Grimbald) were traveling with the caravan, fresh from a stop at Beorn's place, with the later serving as a guard and the Hobbits as fellow travelers. The Elf (Caranlas) was simply gallivanting in Mirkwood (he apparently does that a lot according to his background), with Brander the proto-Ranger having been tracking a group of raiders that had been harassing travelers of late. The bad guys turned out to a group of orc raiders that attacked just as the sun had begun to set.

The way One Ring handles combat is really neat, with your base Target Number to hit or be hit determined by how ferociously you decided to attack the enemy, so the more offensive you get, the easier it is to hit and be hit, while playing it safe and fighting defensively means you're going to miss a whole lot more. It can also be fairly nasty, as armor only helps against attacks that have a chance to deal an injury. As a group, we weren't overly thrilled with that notion, Grimbald's player most of all as his armor proved to be of no help whatsoever against being nicked at until he dropped (orcs pretty much spent the first round ganging up on him), so we might adopt a house rule to make armor a bit more useful in general. As expected, Grimbald with his long-handled axe dealt out horrific amounts of damage per swing, while I wound up being the most difficult to hurt in melee thanks to my high Parry rating, though the Elf went unscathed due to his own high Parry score and distance. What's also cool is that you have the option to use various skills to help your allies with a quick burst of recovery or overawing the enemies and causing them to lose their own fighting spirit, which I did to end the fight by pretty much scaring off the few remaining orcs after we'd taken down the orc boss. So bonus points to the designers for having codified rules for using some of the more social-based skills to do more in combat than just attacking the bad guy. I'll admit that damage output looked a tad low, but after a couple of combats, I now see that it's quite easy to rack up some impressive damage if the dice are on your side (which I bore witness to by taking down a warg in one blow thanks to a phenomenal check result).

I suppose I should give mention to how dice work in One Ring. It uses a single d12 (called the Feat Die) and you add a number of d6's (called Success Dice) equal to your rating in whatever skill you're using. So Brander, with a Swords skill at 2, would roll 1d12 + 2d6 when trying to cut down an orc. Now, the part where One Ring gets a bit tricky is that the 11 and 12 on the d12 and the 6 on the d6 have different effects. On the Feat Die, an 11 represents the Eye of Sauron, and counts as a zero for your hero's check as well as potentially triggering something nasty, but a 12 represents the rune for Gandalf, which means you automatically get a basic success at whatever you were trying to do. Now with the Success Dice, each 6 you roll increases the degree of the success and makes the task you were attempting that much more successful, such as dealing a lot more damage in combat or learning extra information when searching an area. However, in case this seems a bit swingy to some folks, particularly the d20 crowd with their long-standing use of modifiers to a die roll, each character has three Attributes, called Body, Heart, and Wits, that can be added to a roll by spending what's called Hope Point, of which a hero has a finite supply and represents their courage and ability to keeping going when lesser folk would give up.

What's also neat with One Ring is they actually give a structured set of rules for traveling, which does fit as journeys play a big part in both the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, with each hero taking at least one particular role (guide, scout, look-out, hunter) and then making checks to see if any hazards or troubles come up, as well as the occasional check to see if you wind up exhausted from traveling, and depending on how the heroes roll on their travel checks, you might have a random encounter, which I think is a better way than the GM rolling randomly on a chart; the better the heroes roll, the easier their journey. It's here where Brander's proto-Aragorn status showed up, as he's pretty decent at each of those roles, with the GM permitting me to act as both guide and scout (dunno if that's allowed by the rules though). Since we were only a few day's out from Esgaroth, we didn't have to make many rolls, and it went pretty smoothly. We largely used it as a chance to roleplay a bit and get a feel for our characters; it would seem that Mirabelle is quite taken with the brave Human that had come her rescue and slain the nasty orc-hound that was going to make a meal of her (something she needled her cousin Rory about, seeing as how Rory's player was to busy trying to finish off a different orc rather than come to her aid). For his part, Brander seems bemused by the halfing girl and has become a bit fond of her, much the way an older brother is fond of a kid sister.

Which brings me to another important part of the game, the Company. Now in most RPGs, the PCs are simply lumped together, with few perks for sticking together as a group other than strength in numbers. Not so with One Ring, as it takes a cue from its source materials and introduces two important group-related traits. The first of these is the Fellowship Score, which can help keep a member of the group from losing all heart when things look bleak, but there is also a hero's Fellowship Focus. Much like Samwise Gamgee was devoted to Frodo in Lord of the Rings, a hero's Fellowship Focus has several key effects. The first is that if your Focus gets through a battle without being injured or killed, you regain a spent Hope Point, while the second is that if you spend a Hope Point in some way that benefits your Fellowship Focus, you get that Hope Point back. So, from the bit of roleplay that occured during the journey, Brander selected Mirabelle as his Fellowship Focus, kind of like how Aragorn might have taken Frodo as his Fellowship Focus when the Fellowship set out from Rivendell on their quest.

The GM did manage to spring a surprise encounter on us in the form of a pair of overly large wolves, which were made quick work of though their dread howls left both Hobbits badly shaken, though the Beorning was able to use his knowledge of beasts to quickly suss out that the beasts were afraid of fire, urging the little folk to use tree branches to make impromptu torches and hold the wolves at bay while the rest of us set about dispatching the monsters. Which brings up another aspect of One Ring, something that may look a tad familiar to FATE players, that of Traits, which describe certain aspects of your character, be it things they know or certain skills they have. These traits can be used to allow a basic success on a fairly simple action or as a basis to permit a roll or to help earn some experience after making a successful roll. You don't have to pay anything to invoke them, but you do need the approval of both the GM and the rest of party to gain any sort of benefit. So in the above example, Grimbald used his Beast-lore trait to see if there was a simple way for the Hobbits to protect themselves from the wolves other than cowering away. Being a man of the wild, we all agreed that the trait would fit the scene, and so the GM suggested that most wild animals are quite afraid of fire, and that these wolves were trying to avoid getting too close to the campfire we'd just built.

Two days later, we roll into Esgaroth, the trade caravan leader quite thankful for the extra aid, and giving each of use a bit of treasure as way of payment (even the Hobbits, as they'd helped out quite a bit along the way instead of just being along for the ride). Instead of the usual method of breaking out monetary rewards into different types and coinage, One Ring simply uses Treasure Points, which can represent just about anything from sacks of gold to precious gems to pieces of art and most anything in between except for special items such as magical swords or mithral armor (no rules on getting those outside of character advancement as of yet). The journey over, we then entered what is called the Fellowship phase, or the stuff that heroes do once the adventure is over and they head back to base to recover. The Fellowship phase when you spend your gathered experience and accomplish a particular undertaking, be it making some subtle tweaks to your character's Traits (within reason), raising your standard of living, or finding/contacting a patron.

So, that was our first adventure in the realm of Middle Earth using the One Ring RPG. And it was quite fun, with us getting into the spirit of things and talking in a manner not too far removed from how Tolkien has the various characters talk. The GM's already got the next adventure planed out, but that will have to wait until April, to which I'm very much looking forward to.

March 4, 2012

New Gaming Horizons

Well, last night would have been another adventure in my Star Wars Alternate Universe game, had it not been put on hiatus by majority vote (fine, I'll admit that I'm still a tad bitter about that, but mostly as the vote had been made before I really got offer any input on the matter).

So instead of playing Star Wars, we discussed what game we'd play next. Oddly, as most of this group has played d20-based games for the majority of their gaming history, they didn't want another d20-based game. So, after some discussion of possible options, we're going to be giving The One Ring RPG by Cubicle 7 a whirl. Most of us are fans of Tolkien, and at the very least have seen the Peter Jackson movies. We've only agreed that we're going to play this, but so far no idea on what sort of characters we'll be playing or even what era (the corebook is set shortly after the Hobbit and thus before the time of the LotR books), so further news as it develops.

There was also the discussion of Margaret Wies Production's Marvel Heroic RPG. I'll freely admit that when it comes to superhero RPGs, I am heavily biased in favor of Mutants & Masterminds, having totally fallen in love with 2nd edition and being quite enamored of 3rd edition as well (though I've not had a chance to get that on the table as of yet), with Hero System being a runner-up. As noted, we agreed upon One Ring, as our communal love of Middle Earth won out over a modern-day supers game (which in some aspects we already are playing one via our Dresden Files campaign).

Having some money to spare, I opted to take advantage of DriveThruRPG's GM Sale, and pick up the PDFs for both games. I've only taken a cursory look at both, but I must say my preference is for One Ring at the moment. Then again, it could be that just trying to figure out the MHRPG's dice system so early in the morning isn't the best of ideas, to say nothing of it looking less "super" and more "story". Not that I have an issue with "story" focus for mechanics, but generally speaking, if I'm playing an RPG built around superheroes, I want to be able to be a superhero. Now I could have a wrong first impression, so I'm willing to finish reading through the PDF before I make a final call as to whether I just wasted 15 bucks or not.

Now, as for One Ring... early impression is I like it. There's some dice funkiness, but overall it looks like task resolution is pretty simple, and a good range of character options. I may end up buying the dead-tree version, simply for the ease of being able to flip back and forth between pages, something that's a tad more difficult when using PDFs. There's not much in the way of magic, which on first view is probably a good thing, as the stories and movies really didn't have much in the way of overt magic like you see in most fantasy RPGs. So I guess I really am looking forward to taking a trek into Middle Earth, something I've only been able to do a scant few times (two attempts under MERP that both ended badly, one attempt under Decipher's CODA version that simply never took off).

March 2, 2012

The building was on fire, and this time it was my fault.

Got another chance to play some more Dresden Files a while ago, and I think our GM is really starting to get a feel for what sets games under this setting apart from your typical RPG, particularly in terms of group dynamics.

For starters, during our first run-thru, she seemed convinced that we had to follow the typical party dynamics, up to and including starting the campaign by having us all meet outside of a coffee shop. This time around, she seems to be taking more of a note from Jim Butcher's books and letting each of us start on our own side story before we wind up getting pulled into the main plot, much like how Harry, Murphy, Thomas, and the rest all do their own thing before their respective stories get interwoven together. We each had our one B-plots that linked up to the A-plot, and nobody really felt short-changed, which is always a plus.

What also set this apart is that the GM's starting to let go a bit and let the players have a bit more narrative control in terms of aspects, both the declaration and invoking, particularly when it comes to the bad guys and being "close enough" in guessing an aspect and trying to invoke it; then again, maybe she's just willing to let the aspect be applied to the NPC based upon how she's portraying the character. Now that I think about it, for a lot of scenes, she also used to go ahead and establish most of the aspects for a scene, rather than giving a few basic details and then letting the players flesh it out. Granted, it forced us to be that much more creative in making declarations about the scene, but I suppose that's a matter of opinion on whether its a good or bad thing.

I do think she took my suggestion to give the Actual People, Actual Play podcast episodes pertaining to Dresden Files a listen, if only due to the appearance of Red Bliss, which by the adventures' end we'd learned what it was (in a word, yuck!) as well as what the intent was (for our game, it was a power-ploy by a White Court vamp looking to earn favor with the Red Court vampires).

City Creation for this game was done in an odd fashion, as instead of it being a group effort, the GM did all of it by herself, adapting the setting she'd worked up for a very short-lived Buffy RPG campaign. So it was noticeable that we got to spend time getting to know people/faces of the city a bit better as well as meet some new ones, both the good and the bad. And perhaps true to the source material, I did wind up burning down what used to be a very nice suburban mansion (it was White Court vamp's personal base of operations). That's Danny for you, saving the city, one random act of destruction at a time (^o^)

Since the re-launch of the campaign, the characters in the group have changed quite a bit. Of the original crew, only Danny the Young White Council Wizard and Jessie the Scion of Athena have returned. We met one of the two new PCs in the form of Anthony something-or-other, Knight of the Order of Saint Dumas, who is pretty much a Champion of God wielding a watered-down Sword of the Cross (still holy, but not quite as much righteous mojo behind it). And yes, in-character I made light of the fact that he was on "a mission from God" and even asking if he had shades or enough gas in the tank of his car to make it to Chicago. Still have one more new character to meet, but as the player couldn't make it to the session, I have yet to see what sort of character she'll be playing.

Looking forward to some more Dresden Files sessions, particularly if my suspicion is right and the Vampire War is about to heat back up. I may be adding "Warden" to my High Concept after all..