October 31, 2017

Danny Copperfield, Novice Wizard and Amatuer Sleuth

Happy Halloween!!!

So I'm writing this post coming off the conclusion of the long-running Curse of Strahd campaign that my friend Eric has been running for our Saturday night online group (used to call it the Skype group, but we've pretty much switched over to Discord at this point as it's given us far less grief that Skype so far, and the ability to have separate channels for general and game-specific discussions is quite nice).  I don't think any of us were really expecting the campaign to end the way it did; yes we managed to defeat Strahd, but it was a very bitter victory indeed, leaving the party largely broken and ultimately going their separate ways.  I did have fun playing Sir Thomas, even though in hindsight there are things I would have done very differently if I'd had a better handle on who the character was.  Still, it's nice to bring that campaign to a conclusion, with the advent of running a campaign that's far more cheerful and bright on the near horizon.

Now, to continue with my string of Samhain appropriate blog postings, I thought I'd post up a character that I'd made a while back, got to play briefly, have remade and may have a chance to play again.

The character in question was originally made for the Dresden Files Role-Playing Game by Evil Hat Productions, taking place in the world detailed in the highly enjoyable Dresden Files series of novels written by Jim Butcher.  Personally, I prefer the audiobooks as I honestly feel that James Marsters (best known for playing Spike on the classic TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer) does a bang up job of giving voice to the many characters; it's at the point where to me he's pretty much the voice of series protagonist Harry Dresden.

Said character was Danny Copperfield, a young/novice wizard of the White Council, and can be summed up as Dresden-Lite.  This was deliberate, as I liked the notion of playing a still-fresh and mostly-untested wizard, just barely into his 20's (Harry started out in mid to late 20's I believe), albeit one that had proper training as a wizard and lacked the many tragic elements of Harry's personal history.  In his original incarnation, Danny had a solid mix of control and power, in that while he might not have been hitting at the same level of power as Harry Dresden, but neither was he quite as likely to set the immediate on area with an errant blast of flame.  I did get the chance to play him in a rather short campaign, and he was quite a bit of fun, delivering snark and unexpected bouts of sheer magical power with aplomb.

So when Evil Hat released the Dresden Files Accelerated RPG, updating the material to work with their very fun Fate Accelerated Edition, I decided (mostly on a lark) to do an updated version of Danny, just to see how the character would work out given DFA's method of using Mantles to set character archetypes.  And overall, I think it worked out pretty well.  The fact that in DFA a spellcaster isn't nearly as restricted in hurling magic (that was an issue with the original DFRPG was that spellcasters had very limited mojo, an issue that in the books really only affected Harry "powerhouse slob" Dresden given his own admittance for simply grabbing as much power as he could and hurling it at his foe with little to no finesse) means that Danny can make much more use of his evocations, in particular attacking enemies with fire.  As a bit of a trade-off, he's not quite as adept starting out with divination or ward magic, but seeing as how his Mantle gives him a much broader bonus to thaumaturgy makes up for it.

One thing that is nice about DFA is that by essentially rolling spellcasting into a character's approaches, there's not as much worry about balancing things out for the Pure Mortals; yes a spellcaster does get to work their mojo at a higher power scale, but magic may well not always be the answer.  That and I suspect a GM could easily compel the Wizard part of the character's aspect to have modern technology breakdown around the spellcaster.  And even the higher power scale isn't that huge of a boost when competing with Pure Mortals, whose own Mantles have some pretty neat tricks of their own.

With my friend Doran wanting to run at least a one-shot of Dresden Files Accelerated (to the great delight of the entire group as we're all fans of the Dresden Files), I'm looking forward to an opportunity to once again don the red canvas duster and whip out the blasting rod (mind out of gutter, thank you very much!) and step into the role of this character.  Given the interesting personalities that I'm sure the rest of the players will bring to the table with their own characters, it should be interesting to see how things shake out... preferably without multiple buildings being on fire (especially if it's not his fault)!

Danny Copperfield
Mantle: Magical Practitioner
High Concept: Novice Wizard of the White Council
Trouble: Chronic Wiseass
Aspects: Amateur Sleuth; Don't Underestimate My Power!
Refresh: 1

Good (+3): Force
Fair (+2): Haste, Intellect
Average (+1): Focus, Guile
Mediocre (+0): Flair

Stress and Conditions
Stress: [1][1][1][1][1][1]
Combat Wizard: [1][1]
In Peril (sticky): [4]
Doomed (lasting): [6]
Indebted (sticky): [_][_][_][_][_]
Exhausted (sticky): [_]
Burned Out (lasting): [_]
The Third Eye (sticky): [_]

Evocation: You are able to cast spells on the fly and without need for ritual preparation.
Thaumaturgy: You are able to cast a variety of arcane rituals, adding a +2 bonus to the roll.
Soulgaze: You have the ability to look directly upon the soul of another person, and they can look at yours in turn.
Combat Wizard: Gain two stress boxes explicitly for enhancing evocations.
Evocation Specialist: Gain +2 bonus when making a Force attack using the element of fire.
White Council Membership: Once per session, you may request aid from the White Council.

Danny is a tall, lanky young man just under six and a half feet tall, with shoulder-length charcoal black hair, several strands of which constantly hang in front of his dark blue eyes, a good-natured lopsided smile befitting his generally irreverent nature on his face, although his expression turns much darker once his ire has been raised.  His preferred attire is a dark-hued shirt, a pair of blue jeans, simple sneakers, and a full-length red canvas duster, with his blasting rod tucked away but always within easy reach.

Notable Possessions
Blasting rod (made of hickory), red canvas duster with extra pockets, assorted ritual tools and aids stuffed in said extra pockets.

October 28, 2017

Light and Darkness: Two PCs for D&D 5th Edition

And so it is that Halloween is pretty much upon us.  In the spirit of the holiday, I'll be doing three things related to role-playing games.

The first of these is that this afternoon, I will be running "Under a Harvest Moon," a 7th Sea 2nd edition conversion of the Shadow of the Demon Lord adventure "Apple of Her Eye" for one group of gamers that want to try out 7th Sea 2e.  I've had a fair amount of success with this adventure, which you can grab from my blog here: http://jedimorningfire.blogspot.com/2017/10/once-upon-harvest-moon-7th-sea-2e.html

The second of these will be later this night I will be gaming with an online group via Discord to engage in what may very well be the final confrontation with Strahd Von Zarovich in the possible conclusion of the 5e Curse of Strahd adventure.  As our group's DM for this adventure, Eric has done a bang-up job, not only in running the adventure but in customizing it so that the lands and culture of Barovia have some very distinctive elements.  I've had fun playing an Oath of Vengeance Paladin who due to decisions made has taken a much darker turn, and to be honest I'm not sure he's going to come out of this even remotely close to the person he was when the adventure started.  But as much fun as I've had, I think I am ready for this to wrap-up and for our group to move onto something a bit more cheerful and less dark.

As for the third, well you're reading it, as I thought I'd post up a couple of D&D 5e characters who are about as different as night and day, an aasimar paladin and a half-elf warlock, both of good alignment though of very different means and outlooks.  I opted to go ahead and post the third level versions of these, as the general agreement online seems to be that 3rd level is when a character really starts to "come alive" in terms of their abilities on top of not being frail enough that a single wayward encounter could spell their doom.

Aramir Greyhaven, Aasimar Paladin of Lathander
Class/Level: Paladin 3
Alignment: Lawful Good
Background: Acolyte
Personality Trait -  I've spent so long in the temple that I have little practical experience dealing with people in the outside world.
Ideal - I trust that Lathander will guide my actions; I have faith that if I work hard enough, things will go well.
Bond - I owe my life to the priest who took me in when my parents died.
Flaw - Once I pick a goal, I become obsessed with it to the detriment of everything else in my life. 

Ability Scores
STR 15 (+2), DEX 10 (+0), CON 12 (+1), INT 10 (+0), WIS 14 (+2), CHA 14 (+2)

Armor Class: 18 (chain mail and shield)
Melee Attack: +4 (longsword, 1d8+4 slashing, versatile) 
Ranged Attack: +4 (javelin, 1d6+2 piercing, range 30/120, thrown)
Hit Dice: 3d10
Hit Points: 25
Speed: 30 feet

Class and Species Abilities
Darkvision - see in dim light as bright light out to 60 feet, and in darkness as dim light.
Celestial Resistance - resistance to necrotic and radiant damage.
Celestial Legacy - knows the light cantrip and can cast lesser restoration once per long rest.
Divine Sense (3/day) - as per page 84 of the Player's Handbook
Fighting Style - Dueling (as per page 84 of the Player's Handbook)
Divine Health - as per page 85 of the Player's Handbook
Divine Smite - As per page 85 of the Player's Handbook.
Sacred Oath - Oath of Devotion (as per page 86 of the Player's Handbook)

Spellcasting (Spell DC 12, Spell Attack +4)
1st - Compelled Duel, Divine Favor, Searing Smite

Languages and Proficiencies
Saving Throws - Wisdom and Charisma
Languages - Common, Celestial, Draconic, Elvish
Skill Proficiencies - Athletics (+4), Insight (+4), Persuasion (+4), Religion (+2)

Gear: Longsword, 5 javelins, chain mail, shield, holy symbol of Lathander, explorer's pack, prayer book, 5 sticks of incense, vestments, set of common clothes, belt pouch containing 15 gold pieces.

Image: Aramir is quite tall, standing just over six feet, but with a lithe build that belies his strength of arms.  His weapons and armor are kept in near-pristine condition, which along with his shoulder-length mane of golden-blonde hair and soft blue eyes marks him as a champion of the light, with a gaze that is resolute and firm yet fair.

Summary: Aramir is at heart your typical knight in shining armor type, the heroic and noble champion of all that is good in the world.  He's also not very worldly, and will probably be likely to take most people at their word unless he has cause to distrust them.  From my own experiences with playing a Paladin, he'll be able to hit pretty hard a couple times of per day, and with his Oath of Devotion he can power up his sword to be able to inflict substantial damage to creatures that are otherwise resistant or immune to non-magical attacks.  As for the source of Aramir's racial traits, I used the Aasimir write-up from pages 286 and 287 of the 5e Dungeon Master's Guide, so check with your GM to see if they will allow that race at their table.

Xevlanna Nightblossom, Half-Elf Warlock
Class/Level: Warlock 3
Alignment: Chaotic Good
Background: Entertainer (Routines - Dancer/Tumbler, Storyteller)
Personality Trait -  Nobody stays angry at me or around me for long, since I can defuse any amount of tension.
Ideal - The world is in need of new ideas and bold action.
Bond - I want to be famous, whatever it takes.
Flaw - I have trouble keeping my true feelings hidden; my sharp tongue lands me in trouble.

Ability Scores
STR 8 (-1), DEX 15 (+2), CON 14 (+2), INT 12 (+1), WIS 10 (+0), CHA 17 (+3)

Armor Class: 13 (leather armor)
Melee Attack: +1 (spear, 1d6-1 piercing, versatile)
Melee Attack +5 (Shocking Grasp, 1d8 lightning)
Ranged Attack: +4 (dagger, 1d4+2 slashing, light, range 20/60, thrown)
Ranged Attack: +5 (Eldritch Blast, 1d10 force, range 120)
Hit Dice: 3d8
Hit Points: 24
Speed: 30 feet

Class and Species Abilities
Darkvision - see in dim light as bright light out to 60 feet, and in darkness as dim light.
Celestial Resistance - resistance to necrotic and radiant damage.
Fey Ancestry - advantage on saving throws against being charmed, cannot be magically put to sleep.
Skill Versatility - proficient in two skills of your choice
Otherworldy Patron - The Fiend (as per page 109 of the Player's Handbook)
Pact Boon - Pact of the Tome (as per page 108 of the Player's Handbook)

Spellcasting (Spell DC 13, Spell Attack +5)
Cantrips - Eldritch Blast, Minor Illusion, Shocking Grasp*, Thaumaturgy*, Vicious Mockery*
Spells (cast as 2nd level) - Hellish Rebuke, Hex, Scorching Ray, Suggestion
*from Pact Boon

Languages and Proficiencies
Saving Throws - Wisdom and Charisma
Languages - Abyssal, Common, Elvish
Skill Proficiencies - Acrobatics (+5), Arcane (+4), Deception (+6), Investigation (+4), Performance (+6), Persuasion (+6)
Tool Proficiencies - Disguise kit, flute

Gear: Spear, 3 daggers, leather armor, arcane focus, scholar's pack, flute, entertainer's outfit, belt pouch containing 15 good pieces, an old divination card bearing her likeness, a silver teardrop earring (favor of a past admirer).

Image: Xevlanna's very presence draws attention, from her eye-catching apparel to her long tresses of curling raven-black hair decorated with colorful glass beads to her languid yet graceful movements to her smoke-grey eyes.  Not much taller than most elves, her features retain a sense of elvish delicateness, and her lips are most often settled in a mirthful smile.

Summary:Xevlanna is pretty much the ideological opposite of Aramir in many ways.  Where he's a devout servant of the light and a champion of good, Xev is more self-centered and draws her power from a devil's bargain.  She's also a talented manipulator of people, sweet-talking and deceiving as the situation warrants or her whim decides.  She's also very much a blaster-caster and would do well to stay out of range of melee-focused opponents, though she's got a couple tricks to make enemies that do close with her regret it.  Her Pact Boon certainly broadens her spell repertoire, giving her a few more options both in and out of combat.

October 19, 2017

Thoughts on FFG's Legend of the Five Rings Beta

So as many may have heard, Fantasy Flight Games has released a beta version of their spin of the Legend of the Five Rings RPG.  If not, you can grab it here from FFG's own website or you can snag a copy from DriveThruRPG.

So first off, I will admit to not being that impressed with the system.  One thing that people have noted and railed against was that the game uses custom dice rather than the classic d10s that prior versions L5R used in the long-standing Roll and Keep system.  Seeing as how FFG likely only bought the rights to L5R as a property and not the actual R&K mechanics from AEG, it's no surprise that they'd use a dice mechanic of their own making.  In fact, many folks (myself included) suspected that FFG would use the Genesys dice system, as that had by and large been tested and validated by means of their Star Wars RPG, with the Genesys dice being much the same but using slightly different symbols. Instead, FFG went with creating an entirely new set of custom dice, this one using just d6s and d12s.  At least with Genesys, odds are good that you'll be able to use the dice there for different settings, and for those of us that already have a bunch of Star Wars dice we can go ahead and use those (something I will probably do as I'm already very familiar with reading those symbols to get the results of a roll).

My own take on the current state of the L5R Beta is simply that there seems to be a lot of added complexity for no reason other than to add complexity.  A prime example is formal iaijutsu dueling, which in the previous L5R games by AEG were resolved with three rolls (Assessment, Focus, Strike) and unless the battle was to the death, once those were resolved the matter was settled.  Under FFG's system, dueling feels like it's more fitting for a western-based RPG replicating the back-and-forth of the famous duel between Inigo Montoya and Westley in The Princess Bride instead of the single stroke contest that the samurai-genre is well known for.

Another issue is that starting characters don't feel very capable, as the dice mechanics are skewed to very heavily favor Skill ranks (which use the d12s) over Ring rating (which use the d6s) and characters don't get to start with that many ranks in skills.  Easy solution here is to simply provide the PC with a small number of extra skill ranks, so hopefully FFG does something to address other than to say "if you want more capable PCs, simply start with more XP."

Now, I did manage to play a short session of the L5R Beta this past Saturday, with a friend running a modified version of Heroes of Rokugan II: Champions of the Sapphire Throne module "Writ of Justice."  Our party composition was rather interesting, consisting of a Kakita Duelist (myself), a Togashi Tattooed Monk (wandering kung fu fighter), a Kuni Purifier, and a Shosuro Infiltrator (cover was traveling performer).  Certainly an interesting and diverse group, with my PC winding up as the closest thing to a proper "face character" simply due to what skills were available and the general lack of being able to select skills outside of the presets that the beta schools provide.  While there were some hiccups in making the characters, they did turn out to be an interesting bunch, and were this 4th Edition L5R I'd certainly be looking forward to playing more sessions with this particular cast.

So, after having played at least one session of this new version of L5R, I'm still not convinced that it's something I want to continue playing, especially as I'm not at all found of the "forced social outbursts" that the current Strife mechanics enforce, as we had much of the group breaking their composure and displaying dishonorable behavior more often than any of us would have liked.  I know that it's probably far too late for any sort of changes to how the dice are laid out, but in all honestly the rate at which PCs gain Strife compared to how they lose it needs to be revised, or at the very least the rules on "outbursts" need to be addressed; I'm very much of the camp that simple dice rolls shouldn't dictate how a character reacts to a scene, and unless it's from a mystical source the most they should do is help inform the player how their character might react to given stimuli.

But ultimately, I think I'm at a point in my gaming preferences that I'd rather stick with systems that don't overwhelm you with options on how to resolve in-game challenges, and that's something this version of L5R does, is overwhelm the player and GM so many different ways that skills can work.  Again, it feels like complexity for the sake of complexity without really providing anything meaningful to the story being told.  And to be frank, if that's the sort of thing I'm after, I'll go play 4th edition Dungeons and Dragons, since the high degree of complexity that it had with regards to combat works with what the game was meant to be.

Given the limits of my own time, especially with working on my own Force and Destiny campaign and working on modules for next year's GamerNationCon (I may just scale back to two modules instead of the three I was initially leaning towards), I'm not really keen on learning the ins and outs of a complex set of RPG mechanics when they don't really provide a satisfying return on investment.  I was willing to learn the complex rules of FFG's Star Wars RPG because it proved to be a very fun experience, a high return on the investment of time made.  But for a setting that I don't see myself doing much gaming in to start with, FFG's Legends of the Five Rings just falls flat.

October 16, 2017

The Building of a Crane Duelist (Legend of the Five Rings Beta)

So as I mentioned in last week's blog post, for the Legend of the Five Rings Beta one-shot that I played in, I created a Kakita Duelist for my PC, who generally wound up being the party face due to how skill selections played out.

For this week, I'm going to go through the 20 Questions character creation process as outlined in the initial release of the beta rules.  It's entirely possible that aspects of the process will have changed between when I made my character and now, but I'm going to stick with the original process.

So let's get the ball rolling...

Part 1: Core Identity (Clan and Family)
#1) What clan does your character belong to?
So looking through the options, I decide I want to go with elegant and refined, so the easy choice is Crane.  Scorpion was also a possibility, but got dismissed for reasons you'll see later on in the process.  Being a Crane, this gives my character a +1 to his Air Ring and 1 rank in Culture, and a starting Status of 35

#2) What family does your character belong to?
Since I already chose Crane as my clan, going through the options I decide to pick Kakita, as I've always enjoyed playing iaijutsu duelists in my prior L5R outings.  This choice gives my unnamed PC a +1 bonus to his Fire Ring as well as 1 rank each in Aesthetics and Meditation, and sets initial Glory at 44.

Part 2: Role and School
#3) What is your character's role and school?
Since I'm leaning towards being a duelist, that means my character's role within the Crane is that of a bushi, which makes my school choice simply as Kakita Duelist is the only bushi school available to the Crane in the beta rules.  This provides a +1 bonus to both the Earth and Air Rings, as well as 1 rank in five skills of my choice, for which I select Courtesy, Fitness, Martial Arts [Melee], Meditation, and Sentiment, and sets initial Honor at 50.  This also gives me the Iaijutsu Kata and Weight of Duty Shuji (social technique), and the Way of the Crane school ability.  For chuckles, I choose an attendant as part of my starting outfit (do need somebody to handle the menial tasks that are beneath a Crane samurai's concern after all)

#4) How does your character stand out within their school?
Okay, so for this one I went more with a mechanical choice than a character-driven choice, deciding to take a +1 increase to my character's Water Ring so that he's fairly well-rounded in his Rings rather than being strongly focused in two and deficient in two.

Part 3: Honor and Glory
#5) What is your character's duty to their lord?
Well, being that a large part of a Crane duelist's job is to serve as a bodyguard and stand-in for the Crane diplomats at court, I decide my character serves as yojimbo and companion to his lord's niece, a demure yet elegantly lovely young Crane courtier, with whom my character is enamored with though he knows that she's far too high of station for him to pursue.  And so my character's Giri is described as "Yojimbo to my lord's niece, a demure yet elegantly lovely young Crane courtier."

#6) What does your character long for?
Now I could just go the easy route and say that my character longs for the hand in marriage of his lord's niece, but instead I decide to go with another classic staple and decide that my character wants to become the most renowned duelist of the era.  This sets my character's Ninjo as "Become the most renowned duelist of the era."

#7) What is your character's opinion of their clan?
Before even looking at the options, it's easy to determine that my PC has a positive view of the Crane and how they do things (after all, it was Lady Doji that set the standards for proper civilized behavior in Rokugan, and who is he to disagree with a Kami?)  While disagreeing would net me a free skill rank, agreeing with the Crane outlook instead gets me a +5 increase to Glory.

#8) What does your character think of Bushido?
I picture this character being a firm believer in the tenets of Bushido, though probably not to the zealous extreme of the Lion Clan, which increases my character's starting Honor by 10.

Part 4: Strengths and Weaknesses
#9) What is your character's greatest accomplishment so far?
I figure being an iaijutsu duelist, that my character is very quick to react to danger, and so select the Quick Reflexes as his Distinction, having used his speed to win several iaijutsu contests during his time as a student at the Kakita Academy.

#10) What holds your character back the most in life?
This one gives a character an Adversity, for which I pick Sworn Enemy, with the idea that it's a young samurai of a different clan and higher status that is also enamored with the young Crane courtier that my character is charged with protecting.  I'm not sure which clan yet, though Scorpion is a strong contender as is Lion (particularly if the enemy were of the Matsu family).

#11) What activity makes your character feel most at peace?
This choice gives my character a Passion, and for this I pick Wordplay, so that rather than being stoic and stolid, my Crane bushi has a penchant for amusing phrasing of words and statements that can seem complimentary but frequently have added meaning to them.  It's also an in character excuse for me to make puns and quips at the table, so added bonus!

#12) What concern, fear, or foible troubles your character the most?
And lastly one's choice here gives the character an Anxiety, and this one proved tough.  I initially leaned towards Irrepressible Flirtation, in no small part to convey his trouble with keeping his feelings towards his charge within the realm of propriety, or with Jealousy given his Ninjo, but I ultimately go with Painful Honesty, to reflect his commitment to Bushido, and that while he might make clever insinuations about a person, there's always going to be a grain of truth to them.

#13) Who has your character learned the most from during their life?
For this one, I'm going to say that it was his sensei that my character learned the most from.  And as I want my character to be a very capable duelist, I opt to take an extra rank of Martial Arts [Melee], bringing that skill up to two ranks, as well as the disadvantage of Whispers of Poverty, for which I decide is reflected in my character opting to dress in a somewhat subdued manner compared to the ostentatious style that many Crane prefer leading others to incorrectly conclude that he lacks the resources one would expect a member of his clan to have.

Part 5: Personality and Behavior
#14) What detail do others find most striking about your character?
Well, apart from his more modest style of dress, I go with my character having the classic Kakita look of the lean bishonen, with a polite smile and striking eyes that have an almost predatory cant to them.

#15) How does your character react to stressful situations?
Okay, this is a part of the game I'm not enthused with, as it plays into the Strife mechanic that I really dislike.  Still, it's part of the process, so going with part of what's described directly above, and that his eyes taken on a much darker aspect and his expression hardens from that of cheerful bishie to the fierce warrior that he is, with his verbal remarks often becoming far harsher.

#16) What are your character's preexisting relationships with other clans, families, organizations, and traditions?
For a character that I'm really only planning to play once, I'm not going to go into a lot of depth on this one, so I'm just going to say that my character leans towards the general Crane attitudes of the other Great Clans, as well as having the previously mentioned relationship with the young Crane courtier he's been charged with protecting.  I also put a bit more thought into his Sworn Enemy, and decide to buck the trend and make it a Yoritomo courtier, who would be of lower status given the Mantis are a Minor Clan at this point in time, but said enemy is obviously more politically savvy, making for a contrast of brains vs. brawn.

Part 6: Ancestry and Family
#17) How would your character's parents describe them?
Again, more of a RP-heavy question that isn't important for a one-shot character, so I'm just going to say that they're proud of his accomplishments thus far, but hold him to a high expectation given the Crane Clan's long legacy of expert duelists and gallant bushi.

#18) Who was your character named to honor?
I'll go with a great-great grandfather as the person, and rolling on the Samurai Heritage table I get a result of 3 for "Wondrous Work" (netting my character +5 to his Glory), and a 6 for a free rank in Composition, which works nicely for his Wordplay advantage.

#19) What is your character's name?
Finally we get to the "what's your character's name?" section, and frankly I think this should be pushed up in the question order, probably to be under Part 1 and as question #3.  After a fair bit of musing, I decide to grab a name from the Bushi character booklet that Katrina Ostrander made for her L5R 4e module at GamerNationCon 2017, and pick the name Takahiro.

Part 7: Death
#20) How should your character die?
So putting aside the temptation to use Tyrion's answer from Game of Thrones, I figure a fitting end for one that lives by the sword is to die by the sword, perhaps perishing in a manner not unlike that of his school's founder, that being of wounds inflicted during an iaijutsu duel of great importance.

Phew, okay now that I've worked my way through the 20 Questions process, here's what the final version of the character's stats look like.

Kakita Takahiro, Crane Duelist
Clan/Family: Crane/Kakita
School: Kakita Duelist
Rings: Air 3, Earth 2, Fire 2, Water 2, Void 1
Skills: Aesthetics 1, Composition 1, Fitness 1, Martial Arts (Melee) 2, Meditation 2, Courtesy 1, Culture 1, Sentiment 1
Techniques: Iaijutsu, Weight of Duty
School Ability: Way of the Crane
Giri: Yojimbo to his lord's niece, a demure yet elegantly lovely young Crane courtier.
Ninjo: To become the most renowned duelist of the era.
Glory: 54
Honor: 60
Status: 35
Focus: 5
Composure: 8
Vigilance: 3
Starting Outfit: Daisho, yari, traveling clothes, ceremonial clothes, traveling pack (blanket, bottle of sake, chopsticks, coin purse, daisho stand, pillow book, sweets [4 servings], spare kimono, week's reations, wide-brimmed straw hat), attendant, 10 koku
Distinction Advantage: Quick Reflexes (Fire)
Passion Advantage: Wordplay (Air)
Adversity Disadvantage: Sworn Enemy (Earth), Whispers of Poverty (Water)
Anxiety Disadvantage: Painful Honesty (Air)

October 13, 2017

Once Upon a Harvest Moon (7th Sea 2e Adventure)

So quite a while back, I found myself in need of a one-shot adventure for my online gaming group, something we could play while our scheduled GM was indisposed.  Luckily, I had some advance notice of this, giving me time to consider options.

Given that it was close to Halloween, I wanted to something that had a horror theme to it, while also really wanting another shot at running 7th Sea 2e for my group, given the fun we'd had when I ran a one-shot.  But also being a backer of the Kickstarter of the Shadows of the Demon Lord RPG, I also wanted to make use of one of the adventures that were provided as a backer reward.  Which, seeing as how Eisen in second edition is a bit less of "war torn wasteland" and a bit more "dark uberwald crawling with monsters," it seemed like a pretty viable combination.

The SotDL module I wound up choosing to use and modify was "The Apple of Her Eye," a Novice-level adventure written by gaming industry legend Steve Kenson (seriously, is this man even capable of creating a product of sub-par quality?) which I felt would be of suitable challenge for a group of freshly-made 7th Sea Heroes.  I obviously changed the name to prevent any of my would-be players from stumbling across the source adventure and thus spoiling the tale, but I also had to adapt it from a fairly crunchy "move then roll" system to a less crunchy "roll then move" one, which made some bits rather interesting, especially as there really wasn't much of anything in the way of actual guidelines in creating a 7th Sea adventure, just some general suggestions.  Of course, this was meant as a one-shot, so I wasn't that worried about it, and instead was more concerned with my players having fun.

And they did.  One of my usual players is a mother, and a core aspect of the adventure really hit home for her given it involved children and a not-so-pleasant fate for them (something that is probably the norm for Shadows of the Demon Lord, but then pretty much everyone in that setting is doomed to a not-so-pleasant fate).  Another of my players, who is a big fan of the Witcher series loved it, saying that it felt very much like a sidequest he might have chanced upon in Witcher 3.

So yeah, mission successful.  And certainly successful enough that I decided to run it as a scheduled event at GamerNationCon 2017, adding a few more pre-gens (five instead of the original three) and tweaking a few things to make the adventure flow a bit smoother and perhaps make it a bit more challenging.  I will say this, having a Hero with access to Hexenwerk makes things generally easier for the party, and I am curious to see how the adventure turns out if none of the Heroes have Sorcery.  For the most part, fun was had, though the mood towards the end was soured by one player that was more focused on ordering food on their phone, something that didn't really sit well with a couple of the players.  Ah well, such is the peril inherent in running games at a convention, though I will probably institute a "no smartphone/tablet" policy unless it's being used as a dice roller or to reference rulebooks at any future games I run.

That all being said, here's the link to a seasonally appropriate 7th Sea 2nd edition adventure for the time of year:

Once Upon a Harvest Moon

As was the case with "An Idol Venture," I'm including the five per-generated Heroes that I created for the adventure, with the character sheets being fairly simple.  Still, each of the characters worked out well for the adventure, and folks had a lot of fun playing them.  Also included is a reference sheet for the Major and Minor Unguents that the Hexenwerk Hero knows, so whichever player has that character doesn't have to reference the books to see what their Sorcery does.

If you're interested in Shadow of the Demon Lord (which is itself seasonally appropriate for this time of year), you can check out the main website at http://schwalbentertainment.com/shadow-of-the-demon-lord/, as well as DriveThruRPG for PDFs of the books and numerous adventures, including "The Apple of Her Eye."

August 31, 2017

RPGaDay Question #31

Question #31: What do you anticipate most for gaming in 2018?

First thing that immediately sprang to mind is GamerNation Con 2018, or what I choose to think of the "The Best Four Days of Actual Gaming."

While weather caused me to miss the inaugural GamerNation Con, I've been able to make it to all the subsequent cons, and Yoda willing I'll be making it to the 2018 edition as well. It's a small gaming-centric convention, and the small size really helps as you get a much better sense of camaraderie with the folks in attendance.  Plus, the Guests of Honor have been pretty cool individuals, and I even got to help induct Rodney Thompson (he of Star Wars Saga Edition fame) into the Rebel Legion as an Honorary Member, as well as play in games run by Sam Stewart (just the tip) and Katrina Ostrander/Lee, which were both a lot of fun.  I've got a couple of modules in mind to bring to run for next year, and am eager to see what other folks bring.  I suspect there will be a lot of Genesys games using assorted homebrew settings, which while cool will take away some of the charm that GM Phil's "Edge of the Wasteland" Fallout conversion has.  Though at least Phil can always claims "First!" in terms of his Fallout conversion being a "proof of concept" for FFG, which I'm sure is something that Phil will never get tired of reflecting upon.

Other things I'm looking forward to for 2018 is the resuming of Eric Brender's Mutants and Masterminds 3e Emerald City campaign.  Even if it does wind up being the swan song of Spider-Man and the Stormbreakers, it's been a blast to of a campaign to play, with a pretty cool set of characters, though my favorite of the PCs is probably Mayfield, a Golden Age style Superman that never lost his Idaho country farmboy roots.

I don't know for certain if it's going to start up this year or not, but I am looking forward to the Kickstarter for 7th Sea: The East, the sister game line to 7th Sea 2nd edition.  I've checked out the quickstart document for 7th Sea: The East, and on first brush it looks pretty neat, with a few system tweaks that I wouldn't mind seeing make it over to the main game.  I've generally enjoyed the 7th Sea 2nd edition product line, even if I've not gotten to play it nearly as much as I would have liked.

I'd be remiss if I were to omit the previously mentioned Genesys RPG, Fantasy Flight Game's translation of the Star Wars narrative dice system into a setting-agnostic game.  While I'd so love to see Mechamorphosis make a return as an official sourcebook for Genesys, I'm not holding my breath.  Depending on time and interest, I might kitbash my own conversion of the Not!Transformers d20 game that FFG published back during the days of the d20 boom.  I don't know how much actual usage I'll get out of Genesys as my regular gaming group is pretty happy with Star Wars, but we'll see.

Well, that about wraps up not only this post, but also RPGaDay 2017.  I'm not sure that I'll do this again next year, but it was a fun experience.  Now admittedly, I did cheat a little and take advantage of posting these to my blog to write a bunch of my answers in advance (usually no more than a few days), which worked out as there were some days where after coming home from work my brain felt like a lump of clay.

At any rate, I hope at least a few folks found my answers at the very least amusing if not interesting.  Thanks for playing along, and see you on the flip side.  Or maybe better yet, see you at GamerNation Con 2018!

August 30, 2017

RPGaDay Question #30

Wow, almost forgot to post this one.
Question #30: What is an RPG genre-mashup you would most like to see?

Honestly, most of the genre-mashups I'd like to see have already hit publication.

For instance, Horror+Western is covered by Deadlands, while Horror+Noir is covered by Deadlands: Noir, and Horror+Post-Apoc is addressed by Deadlands: Hell on Earth, so Pinnacle's got my back there.

Lovecraft-themed supernatural horror and anime is addressed by the sadly underrated CthulhuTech.

Then there's just the simple fact that Star Wars, as the embodiment of the space opera genre, is itself a mashup of genres that it covers a lot of bases.  Heroic knights with laser swords and quasi-psychic powers squaring off against faceless minions of a cruel tyrant with quick-drawing smartass scoundrels, sassy nobles that can handle themselves in a fight, and non-human mascots at their side goes a long ways.

7th Sea might have a Renaissance-era Pirates and Swashbucklers feel to it, but it can easily be adapted to cover themes of horror and/or exploration, especially in 2nd edition where the Syrenth are far more of an unknown and the mystical elements of the world have much more of a sinister cant to them.

Welp, one final day to go in RPGaDay for 2017.  I have to say this has been interesting, and certainly gave this ol' blog of mine a lot more activity in the span of a month than it usually sees over the course of a year.  But as for what the future holds?  Well, guess we'll just have to see, won't we?

August 29, 2017

RPGaDay Question #29

Question #29: What has been the best-run RPG Kickstarter you have backed?

Far and away that has been the FATE Core Kickstarter by Evil Hat Productions.  Quite honestly, Fred Hicks could teach a class on how to properly run a professional Kickstarter campaign.  Not only is he transparent about where things are, he's been savvy enough to avoid over-extending Evil Hat's ability to fulfill the various goals.

A close runner-up are the various Maps of Mastery campaigns run by cartographer Christopher West.  While I may not use maps quite as much as I used to these days, I still back every single one of his Kickstarters, and he's got the process more or less down to a science.  He doesn't go crazy with stretch goals, though a part of that may be due the fairly short length of some of his more recent Kickstarters, as he's only got so many days to reach the intended goal.  And since he's created the maps ahead of time, there's generally not a huge delay on getting the maps either, which is always a plus.

While it's had some hiccups and delays, the Kickstarter run by John Wick for the 7th Sea 2nd edition was handled pretty well.  I figured from the get-go that their proposed production schedule was very aggressive and required that nothing go wrong to cause delays, something that veteran gamers know almost never happens as something hiccup or another occurs that causes delays and products to be rescheduled.  Still, they've been very good about producing the supplements in roughly the order proposed, with the only switch-up being they released Heroes & Villains prior to Pirate Nations.

Now to be fair, I don't tend to back a lot of Kickstarters, mostly as I've become adverse to pledging money for RPGs that I may very well never get to play.  Thus far, I've only gotten burned twice, one was due to the backer suffering some catastrophic real life issues regarding his mental health that were beyond his control, and I don't begrudge the man for not being able to follow through given that by the time he was able to resume working on it, all interest on both the part of him and the backers had passed.  Which is a shame, as it looked like it had a lot of potential.

The other "burn" thus far has been the Mekton Zero Kickstarter by R. Talsorian.  Honestly, I really should have known better for a company that's become increasingly infamous for not being able to follow through on a timely manner.  There's still periodic updates, but the last few that I've seen have been more about their woes with the minis line, which I frankly don't really care about as I'm more keen on the RPG.  Hopefully they'll get things sorted out and have an actual rulebook put together, but I've kind of given up on having it anytime in the near future.  Which is a shame as the few times I was able to play Mekton Zeta, it was quite fun even if the rules could be horribly abused by savvy players that knew what they were doing.

Only two more days in this marathon of questions, so check up here tomorrow for what won't quite be my final answer.

August 28, 2017

RPGaDay Question #28

Question #28: What film/series is the biggest source of quotes in your group?

To start with, Monty Python and the Holy Grail isn't very commonly referenced in our Skype group, which is currently the most enduring gaming group I've had over the past several years.  I think the main reason for that is enough of us have been gaming long enough that quotes from said movie are more annoying than amusing at this point.

Frankly, there are times it feels like I'm the one that makes the most movie quotes, and I tend to draw on a number of different cinematic sources, though I do have a few that consistently draw from.

Of course, it's hard to go wrong with The Princess Bride, as just so much of that movie is quotable in and of itself, even more so if playing a swashbuckling-themed game such as 7th Sea.  During the running of Erebus Cross with a short-lived group, my Castillian Duelist dropped many a line from the film, including switching up the "You seem a decent fellow, I hate to kill you / You seem a decent fellow, I hate to die" exchange, with Estevan saying the second part when about to face off with an honorable Vodacce swordsman in the employ of an unscrupulous merchant.  Playing a character that was a romantic idealist and a bit of smartass (that last part covers an unsurprisingly large number of my characters over the years) gave me plenty of chances to quote either Inigo or Westley at various points of the adventure.

I suppose that if I ever wind up running a pirate-themed 7th Sea game, then I can expect the various Pirates of the Caribbean flicks to be mined for quotes.  But it's not happened yet.

I also favor the sayings of Doctor Peter Venkman, another smartass character (sensing a theme yet?), especially the "nice thinking Ray" when a fellow PC does something foolish or unwise.  And there's always Egon's "Sorry Venkman, I'm terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought" for situations that get really hairy and other PCs are turning to my character for suggestions on what to do.

Star Wars comes up a fair bit, given one of our more recurring RPGs is Star Wars, especially the wit and witticisms of Obi-Wan Kenobi as well as the nigh-obligatory "I've got a bad feeling about this!"  Han Solo lines also get some love, but not nearly as much.

But frankly, I think our group tends to draw more from pop culture, with various memes being dropped, such as "Morrigan Approves +10" when my Human Paladin in Eric's D&D 5e Curse of Strahd campaign pretty much entered into a pact with the essence of a corrupted mad archangel housed in an amulet.  Or one of our players, Rick, dropping a YouTube link to an audio clip of "dark side points gained' from KOTORII whenever a PC does something dark/evil in the game.  It also depends on what movie has come out recently that at least a few of us have seen, especially the Marvel movies if we're in the midst of playing Mutants and Masterminds.

I think for us it also depends on the setting and characters, as we tend to skew more heavily towards playing our roles and not making quite so many fourth-wall breaking comments like quoting media that don't exist in the setting.  Of course, I'm also the guy that played a character that was Harry Dresden Lite in a Dresden Files RPG that spouted pop culture references like they were going out of style, much the mixed enjoyment and chagrin of the players and their characters; I believe there were a few times the padre thought my far younger White Council wizard's brain had been utterly fried given some of the pop-culture nonsense I was spouting off.

That's all for today, so check back tomorrow for another answer in the RPGaDay question series.

August 27, 2017

RPGaDay Question #27

Question #27: What are your essential tools for good gaming?

Good friends that you enjoy laughing and telling shared stories with?

Too simple?  Probably, but gaming is only as good as the group of folks that you're playing with.  As GM Chris of the Order 66 podcast has often said, "no gaming is better than bad gaming," so if you've got a crappy group of players or a crappy GM that's more interested in indulging in an ego-fueled power trip than in the group having fun, then you're not going to have a good gaming session.

I've been in this hobby for the majority of my adult life, having cut my teeth on D&D as a great many of us did before moving on to other systems and settings as the years progressed.  I've played RPGs that frankly are not so great, but had a lot of fun because the players and GM were a fun crew to roll with, and I've played sessions of Star Wars (my fave RPG by a country mile!) that were teeth-pullingly horrible because of players that were more interested in running roughshod over the rest of the group than in actually completing the adventure; con games have an unfortunately deserved reputation for this, which is a shame as con games can also be a great chance to roll dice with folks outside of your usual gaming circle.

So yeah, while you might have piles of dice, reams of notebook paper or a high-end tablet/laptop, and cunningly crafted characters, none of that matters if you don't have a table of players who are both invested in the adventure the GM is presenting and are willing to indulge in at least some attempts to roleplay their character as opposed to just rolling the dice when necessary.

For example, to call back to that Vampire: The Masquerade session where my murdered Mortal returned as a Crow for a rousing roaring rampage of revenge, once the Caitfiff combat-god player was gacked (carrying a bunch of white phosphorous grenades as an anti-vampire weapon when you're a vampire yourself is a good way to get burned, to say nothing of being thrown into an oncoming semi while already on fire), the other players soon grasped that this wasn't going to be a typical session, and very quickly got into things, with the guilty characters trying to find in-character ways to escape retribution at the hands of a creature that made the Terminator look like it was phoning it in.  But if the remaining players had railed against their characters being set up for inevitable execution at the hands of a fellow player, then that session wouldn't have happened, and I would have gotten all dressed up for nothing.

Also helpful for good gaming is for the players and the GM to having a willingness to not stress about how exactly the rules work, especially when the game has reached a tense situation or climactic moment.  As a GM, I'm okay with a player asking if something is working the way I'm running the game, but I'm a firm believer that once the GM gives their answer, the question is to be tabled until after the session.  Nothing pisses me off more as either player or GM than when a rules-lawyer starts a full-on argument with the GM about how the rules are "supposed" to operate, especially when that rules-lawyer is trying to skew things to their benefit.

Now I will admit that I have been guilty of questioning a GM's interpretation of the rules during the course of a session, mostly out of curiosity of their reasoning for making the decision they have, but I also shut my yap once the GM gives their answer and let them get on with running the game.  Granted, there have been times I've piped up to remind a GM of something rules-wise that works in their favor (sometimes to the groans of my fellow players), but I'm a firm believer in fairness on both sides of the screen, even if it puts my character at a disadvantage.

The only exception to my behavior on that front is that if I feel the GM's call is unduly screwing over another player, doubly so if the player is new to the RPG, and triply so if the newbie is new to gaming in general.  Nothing can ruin gaming for a new player than a GM that is being a flaming doucheasaurus, and I've been around long enough to hear plenty of horror stories of bad GMs turning people off from RPGs in general.  Though as I've gotten older, I've come to realize that asshole GMs are going to keep being assholes, and that the best thing to do is to provide the other players an alternative by my offering to run something for them and promising them that they won't have to deal with a flaming asshat GM like the one they're currently dealing with.  I did have one memorable moment where the GM of a Star Wars d6 session at a local small-time convention was being such a roaring jackass that when he got called on his BS by not only myself but most of the other players for being needlessly cruel in how he interpreted the rules with regards to the players, he stormed off and I quickly slipped into the GM's chair to make up an adventure completely on the fly.  I know I botched some of the rules, but the players had fun facing the challenges and being able to actually get into playing their characters, which is the important thing.

So yeah, in my book a sold group of players and a GM that's working to ensure everybody at the table has fun, those are the tools that are essential to good gaming.  Check in tomorrow to see what media is almost essential viewing for most of the folks that I game with these days.

August 26, 2017

RPGaDay Question #26

Question #26: Which RPG provides the most useful resources?

Okay, though I'm aware that there is the choice to "opt out" of a question and answer an alternate question, I'm going to stick with the base questions, difficult or as unusual as the answers might be.

For this one, I guess it comes down to what you consider a "useful resource?"  For instance, D&D has had a plethora of resources available through both WotC's own publishing efforts as well as countless third party publishers, but I wouldn't really count any of them as being "useful" since a lot of it boils down to character options, the balance of which can be hotly debated (especially the third party small publisher stuff).

For me, what really counts as a "useful resource" is anything that helps expand on the setting of an RPG.  And pound for pound, that's been the plethora of sourcebooks that West End Games published for their version of Star Wars Roleplaying Game.  Even after the big canon reboot that Disney executed back in April 2014 that made most of that material Legends, I've found those books to be wonderful not only to mine for adventure ideas, but just helping to paint a broader picture of what the galaxy far, far away outside of the films is like, with my two favorite supplements being Galaxy Guide 5: Tramp Freighters and Galaxy Guide 9: Fragments from the Rim.  GG9 is especially great because it does provide so much minor fluff elements about the Star Wars universe, introducing things such as beverages for your salty spacer to sample, notions of what types of music one might listen to during those long hyperspace jumps, and a number of different faces your character might encounter.  It also introduced the notion of Inquisitors as the Empire's top hunters of renegade Jedi such as the PCs, in addition to various training exercises that a Force user could attempt as a means of improving their Force abilities, from a series of increasingly complex lightsaber cadences to telekinetic regimens.

WotC and FFG have both kept this going, as I often find myself going back to their Star Wars sourcebooks to look up some bit of info that got mentioned, either as part of writing up an adventure to run or to build on backstory for a character, be they ally or adversary to the party.  And there is of course Wookieepedia, which is a huge boon and precarious time sink to a GM that wants to look up some obscure element of the setting.

Another RPG that for me has plenty of useful resources is 7th Sea, in particular the 1st edition run of books.  Each of the Nation and Secret Society books gave the reader a whole lot more information about the nation or society in question, presented a collection of NPCs that could be used as-is or more frequently as inspiration for the players to make their own Heroes or the GMs to craft their own Villains and Henchmen.  Granted, some of the books were less beneficial to a GM's game than others (Sophia's Daughters is a major culprit on this front), but they all had something to contribute in terms of helping flesh out Theah.  Now while the 2nd edition of 7th Sea has gotten rolling, I've found the sourcebooks for that edition to be more of a mixed blessing, though a part of that may just well be how much I enjoyed the 1st edition version of setting, and how 2e seems to be changing things up just for the sake of changing things up, and then not giving nearly as much useful info, with the one notable exception (for me at least) being the Pirate Nations sourcebook, which provides a GM enough detail to run entire campaigns set in the Atabean Sea, especially if they're looking to emulate the general feel of the "golden age of piracy" that has inspired many a pirate-themed film.

Also helpful for players and GMs of 7th Sea 2nd edition is the Explorer's Society, which offers up adventures and supplemental material for use in your games.  I'll admit that some what's on offer is a mixed bag, ranging from being only marginally useful in certain settings to being an almost indispensable aid.  My recommendations are to at least snag The Wine List and the Hearts and Harlots, maybe the Dark Journal series if you're running an Eisen-centric campaign, Sharper Than Any Blade if you want heavy social combat in your games, and just avoid At Sword's Point like the plague.

A third choice is Green Ronin's Mutants & Masterminds RPG, especially for 3rd edition*.  Thanks to the various "bad guy" files that they've produced as part of either the Threat Report or Rogues Gallery series as well as Power Profiles and Gadget Guides, there's plenty of options for players and GMs to work with.  Power Profiles is great in that it presents ways to emulate certain power themes without creating a whole mess of brand new powers, simply by showing how the proper applications of labels to a power effect can give the player the desired result, and even provide some unusual suggestions for power stunts that still fit within the theme of the character's powers.  Also a huge boon for MnM3e GMs would have to be the Emerald City sourcebook, which moves the action out of 2e's signature Freedom City and to the eponymous Emerald City, set on the US West Coast.  The book not only provides a lot of detail on the location itself, but also includes a ready-to-run campaign that enables the players to have their characters become the city's premiere superhero team.  Now I've not played the adventure itself, but my friend Eric is running an Emerald City campaign that I've very much enjoyed, as our team of heroes (called the Stormbreakers by the initial troupe of players, of whom only one remains) have in little ways helped shape things in the city, making it less of a place setting for our adventures and more of an actual character in the campaign.  I understand that they're working on a 3rd edition version of the classic Freedom City setting, moving the timeline up to make the setting more current, but alas with their publishing timelines being glacially slow at times, I've no idea when that's actually going to be released (supposedly we should be seeing the PDF in the near future), but if it's even half as useful as Emerald City was, then it should be a pretty awesome resource.

Hopefully this answer has itself proven to be a useful resource about RPGs with useful resources.

*See what I did there ;)

August 25, 2017

RPGaDay Question #25

Question #25: What is the best way to thank your GM?

Honestly, both as a player and a GM myself, the best way to thank a GM for being your GM is to literally say words to the effect of "Thank you for running this game, I had a lot of fun, and look forward to the next time I get to play in another of your games soon!"

While some GMs may be able to make it look effortless, in a great many cases being the person in charge of running an RPG session, of acting as the mostly-impartial* referee with regards to how the rules operate, devising and presenting a story for the players to engage with, and running various adversaries for the player-characters to overcome is really hard work.  And sadly, there are players that just take all that hard work for granted.  I've been the GM where I poured hours into crafting an engaging story, coming up with challenging foes for the characters to defeat and interesting NPCs for them to interact with, only to have the players barely acknowledge the time and effort it took for me to do all that work, and a few points it was enough to put me off GM'ing and to bring campaigns to an accelerated close (I don't do "rocks fall, everyone dies" TPKs as that to me is the ultimate expression of a lazy GM) just so that I could let someone else deal with those ingrates or in some cases simply leave that group entirely.

Admittedly, there have been sessions I've played in that have less than thrilling, but I still make it a point to verbally thank the GM for taking the time and energy to put that session together and to run it for us.  For someone that's new to the role of a GM, getting that bit of positive reinforcement, of knowing that their efforts were not a total waste of time can be a huge deal, and might make the difference between that person working to improve their craft as a GM or just giving up entirely.

Now that's not to say appreciation in the form of covering the GM's part of the food bill for the night isn't unacceptable, but with online gaming via Skype or even play-by-posts where the players all live in different parts of the world, offering appreciation by way of free food isn't always easy to accomplish.  That and it might come across more as an attempt at bribery to earn the GM's favor, especially if done prior to or during a session rather than an act of appreciation.

Well, thanks to you the reader for sticking along with these posts.  Hopefully you'll come back tomorrow to see what answers lay in wait for tomorrow's question.

August 24, 2017

RPGaDay Question #24

Question #24: Share a PWYW publisher who should be charging more.

Easy answer for me, that being Evil Hat Productions.  They've got a plethora of Pay-What-You-Will products up on DriveThruRPG that either supplement or expand upon their excellent FATE Core and Fate Accelerated Edition RPGs, with suggested prices generally being one or two dollars.

Now admittedly I've not picked up a lot of these, as I've managed to cut down on buying RPG materials that I'm not likely to get much use out of, but the few I've grabbed have been well put-together and are a bargain for the suggested prices.

Well, hopefully you don't feel short-changed by the brevity of today's answer, though fair warning tomorrow's answer probably isn't going to be a long one either.  But thanks for following along this far, and I hope you'll stick around for tomorrow's answer as well.

August 23, 2017

RPGaDay Question #23

Question #23: Which RPG has the most jaw-dropping layout?

I will admit, this was a tough one for me to decide upon... so I'm going to pull a cop-out and not really decide as the three choices are both equally solid.

It's probably no surprise that one of those three is FFG's Star Wars RPG, helped in no small part by the awesome artwork they use in each of their books.  As I said in an earlier answer to this series, there's so much of the art that can spark ideas for an encounter, an adventure, or even a whole campaign arc.

The next on the list is John Wick Presents' 7th Sea 2nd edition.  While the artwork isn't always as amazing, the book in general is well-laid out in terms of where to find things, and the art does a commendable job of conveying the look and feel of Theah, taking cues from real world equivalents of the late 17th century will adding the occasional distinctive touch that reinforces this game takes place in an alternate and somewhat idealized version of our own world.

Last (but certainly not least) on this list of three is the Dresden Files RPG.  Between looking like a weather-beaten copy of a notebook with the pictures being 'taped' in and all sorts of wonderful in-character comments in the margins between Harry Dresden, Billy of the Alphas, and Bob the Skull, both the player's guide (Your Story) and GM's guide (Our World) look and feel very much like they could be part and parcel of the Dresdenverse (albeit an alternate one where Harry isn't quite so damned tight-lipped about things).

A runner-up would be the 4th edition core rulebook of AEG's Legend of Five Rings RPG.  While the book organization isn't entirely perfect (still light years better than the 3rd edition core rulebooks were), the artwork goes a long way in helping to set the mood and look of Rokugan, ensuring that each of the Great Clans has their own distinct look and that their core values are carried across to the viewer.

Alright, that pretty much wraps this one up.  Hope you'll return tomorrow to see my answer to the next question on the list.

August 22, 2017

RPGaDay Question #22

Question #22: Which RPG is the easiest for you to run?

At this point in time, I'd have to say FFG's Star Wars Roleplaying Game.  As long as I've got some already made characters on hand and a core idea for an adventure, I can throw down a session on pretty short notice.  And in fact, have done so more than once, where the usually scheduled game for one of my groups has gone belly-up for whatever reason, and I was able to spin an entertaining full-length session out of a single sentence idea.

A lot of that "wing it and go" ability got honed on WEG;'s Star Wars d6 game, which has the benefit of a fairly simple yet functional rule system and the assorted character templates, from which it's quite easy to add a name and some skill points and get playing.  Had a lot of fun sessions with SWd6 that sprang out of  "we're bored, let's do something!" back in the 90's.  Now I'll be the first to admit that a great may of those off-the-cuff sessions weren't exactly high-minded or really all that nuanced, but for being off-the-cuff they did the job of providing an evening's entertainment with laughs and excitement for all.

Another RPG that I'm getting increasingly comfortable with running is John Wick Presents' 7th Sea 2nd edition, which generally speaking is mechanically simple in task resolution (decide on what Trait+Skill is being used to overcome a Risk, decide how many Raises are needed to overcome Consequences) and coming up with adversaries to face is an equally simple matter, especially for Brute Squads, who really boil down to a roving pile of Consequences that's going to smack an unlucky Hero in the face.  And if I don't have a collection of pre-made Heroes already on hand, I can easily fall back on the Heroes and Villains supplement for player-character options to draw from.

There was a point that I could do an easy job of running WotC's Star Wars Saga Edition, as I was very familiar with the rules.  However, doing an off-the-cuff session wasn't so easy, since I'd need to worry about creating characters as well as NPC stat blocks.  Yeah, I did compile a rather huge list of pre-made NPCs of various challenge ratings for Saga Edition (there's still an active link to it in the archives of this blog if you're interested, though the production values are pretty damn lacking).

Yeah, not too surprising that of the various systems that are easy for me to run, most of them are Star Wars.  Given how much of an impact Star Wars RPGs have had on me as a gamer and for how long they've been a part of my life as a gamer, that's not really much of a surprise.

Tune in tomorrow to see if tomorrow's question has a (not really) jaw-dropping answer.

August 21, 2017

RPGaDay Question #21

Question #21: Which RPG does the most with the least words?

Huh, this is a tough one.  The one RPG that leapt to mind for me was Evil Hat's Fate Accelerated Edition.  It gets the core rules and concepts across very quickly, and doesn't need to take a lot of time with examples of how things work given how quick and streamlined it is.

Of course, there are a bevy of "one page RPGs" but I'm discounting those as I really don't consider them to be full RPGs and are instead in the vein of "beer and pretzels" games like Munchkin that you simply pick up and play on a whim rather than telling an extended story as is the general intent of full length RPGs.  Yeah, it's a bit of snobbish attitude, but there it is.

Well, that was a short answer, fitting for a question revolving around brevity.  Maybe tomorrow's answer will have a bit more meat to it.  Check in tomorrow to find out.

August 20, 2017

RPGaDay Question #20

Question #20: What is the best source for out-of-print RPGs?

In this day of PDFs and digital copies, my go-to would probably be DriveThruRPG, since it's often far easier and cheaper to track down an electronic copy of an out-of-print RPG than a dead tree version would be.  Plus, having a PDF means that it's not taking up space on my bookshelves, and my apartment only has so much space, and they already has to share with an extensive collection of Star Wars LEGOs and Transformers figures.

Of course, that doesn't help if the RPG is for a licensed property or if the publisher didn't ever create a legal PDF version of said RPG before they closed their doors.  In that case, I've had pretty good luck with Noble Knight Games in the past.  I've heard good things about Miniatures Market, but I've never used them for out-of-print books myself.

If all else fails, I suppose there's eBay and Amazon, but at that point you're pretty much at the mercy of the sellers, some of whom are quite eager to gouge potential buyers by jacking the prices up to ridiculous amounts.  Then again, you can on occasion find some pretty good deals, such as my snagging a copy of White Wolf's old Street Fighter RPG core rulebook for half off the original cover price and the book itself being in excellent condition.  The thing is you have to go hunting for those bargains on top of needing to be very patient.

Now, while I don't subscribe to the practice of pirated PDFs (or "Yar!" copies as a friend of mine calls them), I suppose if you really must have a copy of that out-of-print RPG and there's no viable legal means available to you, then it is an option.  Again, not one that I subscribe to, though that's more of a moral choice on my part.

Alright, so that's that question in the bag.  Come back tomorrow for the next question.

August 19, 2017

RPGaDay Question #19

Question #19: Which RPG features the best writing?

Okay, that's a tough one.  I've played a lot of RPGs that have solid writing, both in terms of explaining the rules but also giving a feel for the setting.

But after some lengthy pondering, the one RPG I keep coming back to is Deadlands Classic.  The text throughout the line was heavily seasoned with Old/Wild West flavor, be it in explaining the rules to given examples of hombres doing various things, such as the quite popular Harrowed gunslinger hero Ronan Lynch and his various misadventures.  It really got the reader into the mindset of the genre, especially the instances of gallows humor when discussing some of the creepier aspects of the setting, in particular the horrors that served as antagonists to the posse.

A close runner-up would be WEG's Star Wars d6 Revised and Expanded core rulebook, with them making use of in-setting characters such as smuggler Platt O'Keefe, bounty hunter Tirog, and Imperial Customs officer Jex Lerrian, amidst others to explain the rules, with a number of little sidebars done in-character to explain something in further detail, including a few instances of some of the characters bickering with each other.

Alright, that's #19 in the books.  Come back tomorrow for my answer to #20 as RPGaDay 2017 continues.

August 18, 2017

RPGaDay Question #18

Question #18: Which RPG have you played the most in your life?

The answer to this one actually has a bit of humorous timing, in that the one RPG that I've played the longest is West End Game's Star Wars d6 system, having started playing it in 1993 while in college (yes, I'm old), and played in some form or another almost continuously until shortly into 2000, at which point my group of the time decided to retire our current campaign and try out WotC's new d20 system.

Now why is this humorous?  Because just a couple days ago, Fantasy Flight Games announced they were doing a 30th Anniversary edition of the Star Wars: The Role Playing Game corebook and the very useful Star Wars Sourcebook supplement, with updated art, paper quality, and sold in a slipcase cover.  If you've not already seen the announcement, you can read about here.

If you discount specific editions of D&D, then that one would also be a contender, though most of the campaigns I was in only lasted a few months at best before whatever story the GM wanted to tell was accomplished or the PCs were wiped out.  Of the editions, I've probably played 2nd edition and 4th edition the most.  Now I've played a bunch of different RPGs that used the 3.X/OGL ruleset, but those weren't D&D and instead were based around other properties, such as Babylon 5, Conan, Mutants and Masterminds (all three editions) and even the occasional oddball such as Mechamorphosis (seriously FFG, this needs to come back as a Genesys splat!)

And of course there was Deadlands (which nowadays would fall under the "Classic" label), of which I managed to run a campaign that lasted just over 2 years before finally running out of juice, and I payed off and on in various campaigns (both short and long) for another couple years.  I had a lot of fun with that system back in the day, playing a few different characters that were quite fun, such as a youngish Templar from the Hell on Earth branch by the name of Christopher Devlin (who in retrospect had a lot of similarities to Michael Carpenter of the Dresden Files with the exceptions of age, family, and wisdom born of age/experience); while not a total paladin (as is often the case with Templars in Hell on Earth) he played it pretty close, which is even more amusing if you know the significance of his particular surname (sadly, the campaign ended before anything ever came of that).  Another fun character was a Chinese martial artist that somehow wound up being called Mike (in spite of his name, which I don't recall, not sounding anything even remotely close to that) by the other characters.  At least it had a funny pay off when my character busted out the Fu powers to leapfrog up the sides of a box canyon to unload a flurry of fists upon a black hatted bandit that'd been harassing the local townfolk, after which a player (his character being a young, good-hearted, and frankly naive farmhand) said with a straight face, "I want to be like Mike."  Given this was during Michael Jordan's basketball hey-day, the phrase made the rest of us crack up laughing and netted the player a blue Fate chip from the GM for not only the timing of the line but being able to keep a straight face for several seconds after saying it.

Hopefully, I'll have opportunities a plenty to add Mutants and Masterminds 3rd edition to the list of long-runners, as well as 7th Sea 2nd edition.  I've had a lot of fun playing Spider-Man in my friend Eric's Emerald City Knights campaign that he runs for mutual friends over Skype, and would very much love to keep playing that character for as long as he's willing to run the campaign.

That's all for today.  Check back tomorrow for the answer to #19 on the list.

August 17, 2017

RPGaDay Question #17

Question #17: Which RPG have you owned the longest but not played?

I suppose I can count myself lucky in that many of the RPGs that I've got the books for (especially the physical ones), I've managed to get onto the table at least once, be it as a player or a GM.

The one major exception that I've had the longest is probably the original Blue Rose RPG by Green Ronin, published under their True20 system way back in the day.  I always liked the setting, but at the time I just could never get a group together to play a high fantasy game that didn't revolve primarily around slaying monsters and looting dungeons.  I did pick up the AGE version courtesy of the Kickstarter, but that was more to support the idea of the game (which I fully support) than with any notion that I'd ever get it on the table.

Another RPG, one that exists in PDF format only, that I've had for a while and never played was Katanas & Trenchcoats, which initially started as more of a tongue-in-cheek joke about 90's style overly dramatic role-playing (World of Over-Bearing Angst, anyone?) using Highlander-style Immortals as the PCs.

There's also Mouseguard, with a co-worker gave me the core rulebook to as he was never going to get a chance to play it, and I'd expressed an interest in the game.  I then promptly forgot all about it, though I'm sure said corebook is still floating around my home somewhere (likely packed into a storage bin with other RPG books that I've not used in several years).

But yeah, the winner for "longest owned but never played" would have to be Blue Rose.

August 16, 2017

RPGaDay Question #16

Question #16: Which RPG do you enjoy using as is?

In spite of my penchant for being a tinker-monkey, there's actually quite a few RPGs that I enjoy playing or running "as is."

One of the more recent ones is 7th Sea 2nd edition.  There's so much freedom for the GM to run things with the rules that one doesn't really need to "tinker" with it.  Heck, I could probably run a lengthy and successful campaign using just material from the core rulebook, and never run out of options for players, either in things to do or ways to advance their characters.  Granted, the system takes a little getting used to, especially wrapping one's head around the "roll then move" approach that it takes versus the "move then roll" approach that is the industry standard.

Another RPG that I can easily run or play as-is would be FFG's Star Wars RPG.  With the exception of one minor rule in the combat section, I really don't have any glaring issues with how the system works.  While I agree that starship combat is its issues, notably the propensity for "rocket tag" if the PCs are in starfighters, over all it's pretty solid, and at thus far has yet to fall prey to the "Force users are overpowered!" issue that's plagued pretty much every other Star Wars RPG, be it official or a system hack of some type.

A third RPG that I've mostly enjoyed playing as written is The One Ring by Cubicle 7.  I pretty much grew up with Tolkien's works, and this RPG does a pretty solid job of delivering the Middle Earth experience as the Professor described in his writings.  I did get to play a fairly short-lived campaign, taking up the role of a Barding Warden with our company mostly playing through The Marsh Bell and a bit of the Tales from the Wilderland before ending abruptly due to over half the group forgotten this wasn't D&D and that getting into fights could be extremely dangerous.

And lastly, there's Mutants and Masterminds 3rd edition.  Frankly, that game is so flexible in terms of what a character can be built to do that there's really no need to introduce a plethora of house rules.  The fact I'm in a group that is currently comprised of a Golden Age Superman, a pastiche of Spider-Man, a quasi-ninja with shadow powers, and a flying version of Frozen's Elsa, and each of us is capable of pitching in during just about any sort of encounter just goes to how versatile the system is in the hands of a skilled GM.  And luckily, we've got a very skilled GM in the form of Eric running out MnM3e campaign.  As much as I'm enjoying Curse of Strahd, I can't want to get back to our Emerald City campaign.

That pretty much wraps it up for today's answer, so check in tomorrow for the answer to #17.

August 15, 2017

RPGaDay Question #15

Question #15: Which RPG do you enjoy adapting the most?

I think it's safe to say that I've tinkered with or "adapted" just about every RPG I've played in some form or another.

As a self-professed "tinker monkey" when it comes to RPGs, I like mucking around with the system in various ways, introducing various house rule ideas to see what works, what doesn't, and perhaps most importantly why it does or doesn't work.

In terms of sheer volume of system tinkering that I've done, I'd probably say that WotC's various d20 Star Wars games take the cake.  For its flaws, the d20 engine does permit for a whole lot of customization, tweaking a whole mess of things to deliver whatever sort of game experience the GM and players enjoy.  I think the enduring popularity of Pathfinder is a testament to that, as they're still riding the 3.X gravy train long after WotC moved on to other iterations of d20.

I've also enjoyed playing around with ideas and concepts for FFG's Star Wars RPG, although the amount of "new material" I've created has been substantially less.  I think one of the biggest contributions that I made was the tandem effort between myself and Ben "Cyril" Erickson with the Unofficial Species Menagerie, which we first created way back in the days of the Edge of the Empire Beta, mostly as a way to give players viable options for species outside of the eight introduced in the EotE Beta rulebook.  In hindsight, we probably could have gotten a lot more daring than we did, but it was a new system and both of us were still in the learning curve of what was balanced and what went too far.  It's been interesting to see how FFG has approached a number of these species, and seeing where they diverge from what we did.

One fairly recent bit of system adapting I tried my hand was for 7th Sea, that being the conversion of a slew of 1e Swordsman Schools into 2e Duelist Styles.  I probably spent more time that I really needed to on that one, mostly out of an effort to avoid falling into the ever-present trap of creating home-brew material that was vastly more powerful than the official stuff.  Granted, I started this project even before the 7th Sea core rulebook was officially released (perks of being a Kickstarter back), mostly as a way to broaden the number of options available for characters.  I didn't wind up trying to adapt all of the 1e Swordsman Schools, as some of them were so unusual or out of place as a "dueling" style that it didn't seem applicable.

As for the idea of shoehorning an existing system to make it work for another setting, I'd have to say I'm generally not a fan of such an approach.  I know there are folks that love using FATE Core for pretty much everything, and I've lost track of the numerous different attempts people have made to run Star Wars in their preferred system de jour, but for me a lot of them just fell flat.  That being said, I have to give kudos to Green Ronin for in their efforts to make Mutants and Masterminds be able to replicate the sort of antics we see in various comic books, they wound up creating an RPG that can indeed be adapted to just about any sort of genre and still work as intended.  Back during the 2e days, I used MnM2e to create a bunch of characters from the Danny Phantom cartoon series (it was really good, but sadly got shafted by Nickelodeon, especially its third season), with Danny himself turning out to be a serious powerhouse for a PL9 hero.  I also used MnM2e to do character builds of characters from the Final Fantasy series (specially 7, 8, and 10) and Kingdom Hearts (dear lord Sora was a beast for being PL10/150 points), as well as the named characters from Avatar: The Last Airbender as of the conclusion of the second season.  For a while, the Atomic Think Tank (Green Ronin's official Mutants & Masterminds forum) was chock full of folks using the system to create heroes and villains of numerous genres, and none of them really felt out of place in a game about superheroes.   Sadly, Green Ronin's forums have turned into a cesspit full of bile and resentment, with a lot of posters suffering from entitlement about how they're not getting the products they feel they deserve (this was especially true with Dragon Age and the third box set, an issue that was completely out of Green Ronin's hands due to the approvals being held up on BioWare's end).

Come back tomorrow to see which RPG I actually enjoy using "as is" without tinkering around with it.