A blog about tabletop hobby and or strategy games, with a side order of electronic turn based goodness here and there. Now with tons of retro gaming content both electronic and tabletop. Also with 20% more self loathing douchebaggery!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Some Love for the Sega Genesis

Consider this the odd retro videogame love article. Blame Something Awful which has a SNES and Genesis thread going on right now.

I got into the Genesis really early. Got it Christmas 89. Came with Altered Beast, and I chose Last Battle and Super Thunder Blade as my other games to get with the system. Yeah none of them are great games, but for the time they blew away anything my NES and C64 could do.
Oh, you don't know of the Sega Genesis? The first major 16 bit game console, which in general was a Commodore Amiga 500 computer sans keyboard, but with twice the on screen colors for normal gameplay, and a controller with start and 3 action buttons, later 6?

Oh go here and come back then you silly uneducated person you, this a fond memories thread dangit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sega_genesis

Once a shop rented Genesis games for a few months I got to play Golden Axe, Ghouls & Ghosts, and the holy Phantasy Star 2. (Remember video stores kids? Remember INDEPENDENT video stores? My favorite was Act 1 Video in Jewett City CT.)
I foolishly traded in a ton of NES games that year to help fund my birthday games purchases of Phantasy Star 2 and Super Hydlide. I actually completed both of them, though the latter needed a magazine hint guide. Pretty much my last 3 years of high school involved getting as many RPGs as possible so the few Genesis ones on top of the NES and C64 library. They might have been ehh games, but getting Secret of the Silver Blades, Sword of Vermillion, and Dragon Warrior 2 made for a long amount of RPG playing. Which was sort of why I didn't really have much of a Genesis player network. Everyone either had an NES, or one guy had a TG16. (Which in its Duo form kicks ass, but the original system with no CD paled in comparison to the Genny.) Later on a few people did get them, but when asked about games I would list off my Phantasy Stars and my Valis 3s, and Populous, and my Star Controls. Then a pause. "But what SPORTS games do you have?" Which was NONE, though later on I would grab Madden 92 used for like 10 bucks. I eventually got the CD V2 and the 32X (And even the Nomad eventually!) when in the Navy which allowed for a great for the time rendition of Virtua Racing & Virtua Fighter, and the CD had some fun titles like Silpheed, Dark Wizard, Lunar (where upon playing it the first time had my friends demand me turn that nancy shit off. THE FOOLS!), Jurassic Park, Terminator, and even Time Gal which is like the only FMV game I have ever actually enjoyed playing. Overall I never really fit into the Genesis gamer crowd both RL, and now the online group. I never liked Sonic or Snatcher. Never cared about sports games. Never played the cartoon show titles. It was mostly RPGs and arcade/computer ports. Since the Genesis pretty much was an Amiga 500 without a keyboard. I know, I know. I am a Genesis heretic even if my beloved system from 89 is still in perfect working order and sits with the CD and a handy Power Base Convertor (for Master System love) on top of the barely working 1987 19" cable ready but with VHF/UHF screws TV set downstairs. And now a pictorial comic of my Genesis collection. Because I love my Genesis. I loved Sega. We didn't love Sega quite enough though.
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(Ooops, its the Power Base Converter, not Convertor. Oh well!)

Its hard to really put into words how much good fun I had with my Genesis. It was mostly solo play in a really bad time in my life, but it provided multiplayer fun in the Navy when things changed. Sure the graphics and sound (I always had a set of minispeakers plugged into mine. They aren't in the picture as I use them with my iPod Touch when I want to listen to podcasts before bed sometimes. ) were amazing and the THREE WHOLE ACTION BUTTONS (later 6) provided the best arcade type control you could get for quite some time, but it wasn't just that. The Genesis, especially the early years had this certain indie feel to it. Go back and play stuff like Mystic Defender or Phantasy Star 2. Heck, pretty much everything through 91. There is a certain "something" those games had Sega made or not, that even the later games didn't have even if they were still awesome titles. Just looking over it all makes me want to take a day out to just play Genesis games on an actual Genesis. No emulation or game collection on the PS2 or 360. Just a proper Genny, the slighty tinny stereo sound out of the mini speakers, and barely any light coming out of my bedroom window. Maybe a classic rock station on the radio, and I think we have a recipe for a good day of gaming.


I should look into an S Video cable for mine so I can play it on the 32" HDTV instead of the ancient 19" SDTV whose top lines are dying out.

Games I still want to get: Quackshot, Beggar Prince, Alisia Dragoon, Rise of the Dragon, Eye of the Beholder, D&D Warriors of the Eternal Sun, Ranger X, Gairaes, Target Earth, the Thunder Force series, Truxton, DJ Boy, Atomic Robo Kid, and Syd of Valis. (Plus games ported from the Amiga, which as I have mentioned, the Genesis might as well have been a cheap console version of. One with more control buttons.)

Sadly most of those aren't gonna be put on Wii Virtual Console or a retrogame collection so whenever I have some cash I need to visit Ebay.

So if you have the chance on an off day, give a Genesis or some of its game a whirl. There are PS2, PS3/XBox 360/PSP collections plus some of the titles if you like paying more for less on Wii Virtual Console.

Kind of wish I had some sick time available. I'd call out tomorrow and maybe see how far I can get on Landstalker. I will finish it eventually. Course it would be easier to just buy the Wii VC version (no save battery to worry about!) and play, but then that's hours of work missed and more money spent.

Was so much easier to game as a kid and teenager, wasn't it?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

X-Plorers Mecha and Vehicle Rules Part 1 of 3

Ok folks!  I gave y'all the foundations of my X-Plorers mechanical stuff in a previous posting: http://wargamedork.blogspot.com/2010/01/x-plorers-rules-by-me-for-you.html which gave you the skinny on the new weapon attributes, combat scaling, and how such things work together.

(UPDATED FEB 10 WITH NEW GEAR!)

For a quick refresher I will list some of it here.
We now have 3 scales of combat.  Personal, Vehicle, and Starship.  All scales have an action that takes place together, though the smaller scale gets 2 actions for every 1 of the higher, or 2 Personal to every 1 Vehicle, and 2 Vehicle (or 4 Personal) to every 1 Starship.  Units shooting at a smaller scale unit ignore 4 points of physical Armor class and do triple their normal damage, maximum possible rolled on a 20.  Likewise shooting at a target on a higher scale gives the target +4 AC, and damage is a measly 1 point unless a 20 is rolled to hit which then means you roll for damage as normal.

This is presuming that bigger targets really aren't aiming DIRECTLY at the smaller ones but more in their general direction, and that smaller ones can hit exposed components or luck out and get that super effective shot that otherwise wouldn't affect the bigger thing much at all.

Yes this does mean enough guys with baseball bats can possibly take out a tank.  Its just not really likely.  Mostly because our tank has bigger guns and is much harder to even hurt.

Take the Fighter on page 25 of X-Plorers.  It only has 5 HP and an AC of 10, and does a measly D6 damage.  Against a ground target its got AC 14 not counting things like range and speed, and is doing 3d6.  Most attacks back are only doing 1 point of damage.

Now there is the AV/AS weapon systems.  These allow for smaller scale units to get weapons that are designed to handle the next higher scale, but also have the same firing rate and the inability to move when firing, outside of Close Combat AV/AS which can be used on the move and every round of the lower scale, but lose the to hit benefits of hitting the smaller scale targets.

Ok, now that we have done a quick recap, its on to 2 new armor suits and some Vehicles!

Powered Armor:  A staple of Sci Fi, Powered Armor is the first step in mechanical combat before actual AFVs. (Armored Fighting Vehicles)  Powered Armor costs 2400 credits, and provides the wearer not only an AC 18, but 5 extra HPs.  Powered Armor provides a normal wearer +1 Physique and Agility (Ignore any HP bonus from this), and for characters with cybernetic ports, +2 instead.  HP damage from the armor is taken first, and even if taken to 0 does not effect the armor's use, though it may reduce its environmental protection effects at the GM's discretion.

These suits are  mostly sealed from the environment and provide a +2 to any sort of Saving Throw that full environmental protection could be used for.  Flash grenades, poison gas, flamethrowers, the vacuum of space, ect.  These suits also have 1 System Point for equipment.  (See below.)

Examples of Powered Armor include the armored suits from the Starship Troopers and Forever War novels, the Marine armors in Warhammer 40,000, and the bio armor in Guyver.


Overlord Armor:  Overlord Armor is sometimes considered to be a Super Light Mecha due to its capabilities and effects on the battlefield.  From being the front line of starship boarding actions to being a tank hunter this suit is more like a micro tank than armor!  Overlord Armor costs 10,000 credits (if even buyable!), and is AC 16 with 5 HPs.  Except it is considered a VEHICLE scale unit, and is thus considered to be AC 20 when Personal scale units fire at it.  It has 2 System Points for equipment, and may either mount 2 AV weapons (1 per arm), or 2 Twin Linked Personal scale weapons (1 per arm) or any combination of the same.  Overlord Armor provides a normal wearer +3 Physique and  -2 Agility (Ignore any HP bonus from this), and for characters with cybernetic ports, +4 Physique and -1 Agility instead.  Overlord Armor moves as a normal person though half movement in each Personal scale round or as normal movement but only in each Vehicle scale round.  (Your campaign's choice.)

Overlord suits are completely environmentally sealed and thus provide a +5 bonus to Saving Throws against such effects as listed in the Power Armor entry.

Examples of Overlord Armor would be the Sol Tekkaman suits in Tekkaman Blade, the Tactical Dreadnought suits of Warhammer 40,000, the "Ape" suits in Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles, the Mospeada Ride Armors of Genesis Climber Mospeada (The Invid Invasion segment of Robotech), the Kolossus suits of AT-43, or the Hardsuits of Bubblegum Crisis.


System Points:  System Points are the main feature of Vehicle Scale units which includes the Powered and Overlord armors, Vehicles of any sort, and Mecha.   System Points are what make your machine suited for whatever combat role it was designed for.  Some System Point equipment may ONLY be taken by one type of machine (Armor, Vehicle, Mecha).

System                    Points            Restrictions             Effects
Speed Booster             1                      None                   The Speed Booster allows the unit to move its
                                                                                        normal movement in the next smaller scale round
                                                                                        along with its regular scale move.

Jump Booster              1                      None                   Allows the unit to move up to half its normal
                                                                                        move horizontally, but up to 10 meters vertically,
                                                                                        or 20 meters straight up.

Hover System             1                     Vehicle                 Allows the unit to hover, ignoring normal
                                                                                       ground terrain including water.  However the unit
                                                                                       has a -3 penalty on any sort of maneuver rolls.

Aquatic System          2                      None                   Unit gains the ability to move on the surface or
                                                                                       subsurface of water and other such liquids with
                                                                                       normal movements allowed.

Flight Booster             2                Mecha, Armor           Allows the unit to take its movement as if it were
                                                                                        flying, ignoring all terrain.

Targeting Systems      1                      None                    Unit has +4 to all To Hit rolls.

Advanced Sensors      1                      None                    Unit has sensors for Infared, Geologic,
                                                                                        Biologic, Audio, and so on for half a kilometer.

Stealth Coating           1                      None                    Unit has a mixture of audiovisual and spectro-
                                                                                        graphic dampeners making it harder to spot and
                                                                                        target.  (Advanced Sensors only spot passively
                                                                                        within 100 meters, 250 with an INT S. Throw.
                                                                                        Target also gains +2 AC.

Beam Coating             1                     None                     Laser and Plasma weapons do half damage
                                                                                        rounded up against this target.

Heat Coating               1                    None                      Gains major heat resistances and any heat based
                                                                                         weapons do half damage rounded up against it.

Agility Booster            2                Mecha, Armor          Unit gains +2 AGI.

Might Booster             2                Mecha, Armor           Unit gains +2 PHY for non HP gain purposes.

Repair Systems           3                     None                     Unit repairs d3 HP per scale combat round if it
                                                                                        makes a PHY Saving Throw.  If a 1 is rolled the
                                                                                        Repair Systems have shut down and must be
                                                                                        fixed outside of combat.  (Time to do so is GM
                                                                                        choice.)

Improved Defensive
Systems                      1-4                  None                     Unit gains +1 AC per system point spent.

Improved Construction
Systems                        1-3                None                     Unit gains +5 HP per system point spent, 4 for
                                                                                        mecha.

Teleporter                    3                    None                     Unit instead of moving may teleport up to 20
                                                                                        meters away by making an INT S. Throw.  For
                                                                                        every point missed the location deviates by 2
                                                                                        meters as if it was a scattered grenade in G.T. 1.
Passenger
Compartment             1-4                   Armor                  Each point spent gives a space for 1 human sized
                                                                                       person per size class of the vehicle to be carried
                                                                                       comfortably with their own exit to the side/rear.
                                                                                       (So a Medium tank with 3 points spent could
                                                                                        carry 9 passengers.  A Light would have 6.)

Transformation Gear  2/4                   None                    A Transformation Gear (2 points for Armor)
                                                                                        allows the unit to transform into a humanoid or
                                                                                        machine form from its normal mode.  It keeps its
                                                                                        normal systems from mode to mode though gets
                                                                                        arms and legs if its main mode is a vehicle.  One
                                                                                        vehicle type must be selected and if it is a form
                                                                                        capable of flight, it must also have a Flight
                                                                                        Booster.  Unit's vehicle characteristics other than
                                                                                        HP and system are counted as the new vehicle
                                                                                        type of the same size.  (So an Overlord Armor
                                                                                        would turn into a Superlight class vehicle, while
                                                                                        a Heavy Mecha could turn into a Heavy Tank or
                                                                                        Scout Starship.)
                                                                                                            
Animal Form                1                  None                      Unit is no longer a boxy vehicle or a humanoid
                                                                                        form but is now some form of animal, losing
                                                                                        access to hands if a Mecha type.  Unit gains a
                                                                                        bite/horn ram type attack that does D6+x where
                                                                                        x is a point per size level of the unit.  Close
                                                                                        combat weapons may be selected at GM's
                                                                                        discretion.  Unit may move through all sorts of
                                                                                        terrain freely based on the animal form chosen,
                                                                                        though an aquatic or aerial type would require an
                                                                                        Aquatic or Flight system as well.
    
Well, there we go!  2 new armor types and some nifty new equipment for the BIG GUNS with the next installment.  Now we have toys, we just need the machines to put them on!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

More X-Plorers Rules. Machine Sheet Games Combat!

Yes.  As promised by Grimlock and Mr. Sailor Duckie early this morning.

(THURSDAY EDIT:  Made Gunnery advances faster early on.)

While the main games I am intending this little lock in option to be for are the "Machine Sheet" games of Silent Death, Federation Commander, and Battletech, I see no reason why they couldn't be used for Starfleet Battles, Renegade Legion, and Car Wars, among other games in the "Machine Sheet" genre. *

First off for games that take place in the Vehicle scale (Battletech, Renegade Legion Centurion, Car Wars) you might ask how we deal with the scale changes ala my normal house rules.

This is RULES LIGHT COUNTRY kiddo!  We just consider each MS game turn to be 2 rounds of X-Plorers' Personal combat rounds.  Yeah I know the scales are different and all.  FUGGEDABOUDIT.  Just keep an idea of the size of the maps used in the MS game when doing stuff in Personal scale.

(Example: A hex in Battletech is considered to be about 30 meters.  In 2 X-P rounds you aren't gonna be able to even move a single hex.  Its gonna take like 2-3 Battletech turns to move your poor schlub to the next hex.  Just eyeball it.)

How do we consider how many Hit Points and the Armor Class these MS units have in X-Plorers?
  Well we could come up with some fancy pants chart but that's not OLD SCHOOL.  Consider this a quickie rule of thumb:  For every 1 point of MS Armor/Shielding, it is considered to have 6 HPs.  So a Car Wars 5th edition Stinger car with 25 points of Front Armor has 150 HP in X-P.  A Battletech mech with 9 points of Head armor has 54 HPs.

(For locations just let X-P units shoot at whatever the heck they want if they can see it reasonably and are within range.)

For Armor Class here is a rule of thumb:  In most "Machine Sheet" games you can normally divvy up the vehicles into 5 categories.  Light, Medium, Heavy, Super Heavy, and OH SNAP THAT'S BIG.
Their X-P ACs become 12 for Lights, 14 for Mediums, 16 for Heavies, 18 for Super Heavies, and 20 for OSNTB.  Given our scale rules that means an X-P character in Personal scale shooting at say a Medium Griffin Mech from Battletech means it effectively has an 18 AC.  (14, +4 for being a larger scale than the firer.)

Now howabout them MS duders shooting back down?  Again, EASY.  For every 2 points or D6 damage rolled in the MS game, it is considered to be a D6 in X-P damage.  Since we are following my scale rules that means that 2 damage point Battletech SRM is a d6 hit, which becomes d6x3 against an X-P character in Personal scale.  For odd amounts the extra point becomes a D3 damage roll.

To do the above for Space scale just follow all the rules above, except X-P's Personal scale combat rounds are 4 to every 1 MS scale.  So a band of X-Plorers who take a transporter over to a Federation Commander Romulan ship have 3 combat rounds to fight off those pointy eared jerks in between the one where they act simultaneously with the Federation Commander gameplay.  No sir, I do not think you can get to the bridge in this timeframe.   Note the conversions for Space to Vehicle scale apply too so if you REALLY want to be ridiculous you could have a Silent Death starfighter shoot a Renegade Legion Centurion hovertank while other players are trying to set up an ambush in X-P scale.

If you have a gamegroup full of wargamers and a well organized GM capable of winging it this COULD BE TOTALLY RAD.  For say the arty farty rules light types this is a nightmare.  Keep this in mind folks!

Now the last bit.  How to use your X-P characters as the hotshot pilots of your hovertanks, giant stompy robots, and faster than light starships whose captains.  LIKE! To.  TALK.... like THIS!

In many MS games you have a Piloting and Gunnery rating.  These ratings equal X-P's Piloting and Base to Hit skills.  For PCs who do not have these skills they are considered to have the lowest legally allowed skill for the game in question.  In Battletech's case this means Gunnery and Piloting of 8.  In Silent Death, it means a 1.

But here is a handy chart for those 2 games in order to figure out your skill levels in the MS game.
X-P Skill (Attribute Bonus figured into skill)   Silent Death   Battletech
 15-14 /   1                                                                 2                    7
 13-12 /   2                                                                 3                    6
 11-10 /   3                                                                 4                    5
      9  /  4-5                                                                5                    4
     8   /  6-7                                                                6                    3
     7   /  8-9                                                                7                    2
     6   / 10-11                                                             8                    1
     5   / 12- 13                                                            9                    1
   4-1 /   14+                                                             10                   0


Example:  Dirty Bob is a 3rd Level Soldier with the Piloting Skill at 2nd Level Scout.  (BHB 2, Pilot 13+)  His Agility is a 15, for a +1, meaning his BHB is effectively 3, and his Piloting is a 12+.  This means in Battletech his Gunnery is a mediocre 5, and his Piloting is also a disappointing 6.  If as a Soldier he chooses to take Autocannon as his Weapon Specialist choice, he will be Gunnery 4 but only with Autocannons.  At 5th level with Attribute bonuses would bring his BHB to 4 (5 with Autocannons), and Piloting to a 10+, meaning his Gunnery is now 4, (4 with Autocannons) and his Piloting is also 5.        

(Because of my edit, now PCs get to an average proficiency rate a bit faster, then slow down as opposed to my pre edit version where you would practically have to be a 10th level Soldier before you would be the equivalent of a regular gunner in Battletech.  Now this means a 6th level Soldier is equivalent to a regular quality Mechwarrior by and large.  Or 5th level as a PC with a decent Agility score, 4th if you rolled serious heat or use a less OSR character generation scheme.)

Obviously given X-P's level advancements only up to 10, the highest non Attribute modified score is +6 BHB, and 5+ for Skill rolls.  This means not counting any modifiers the best Piloting is gonna be the near maximum of 9 in Silent Death, 1 in Battletech, but Gunnery is a more modest 6 Silent Death/3 Battletech.  This leaves room for Attribute bonuses, Class bonuses, and any possible level advances beyond 10.

Please note that any damage bonuses in X-P scale ONLY are added in while fighting in X-P Personal scale and do NOT get added into the MS game's own damage.

I will leave it up to GMs as to how any pilot damage is assigned into X-P HP for things like Battletech head hits and the like, but recommend a D6 HP hit.

Now this covers the smaller scale MS games pretty well, but what about big CAPITAL SHIP games like Federation Commander?

For TO HIT/Gunner Phase rolls in such games for every 2 points of To Hit in X-P either give the PC gunner 1 reroll per combat, or allow the PC gunner to modify the die roll to hit by +/- 1 per combat.

(We consider a combat to be the entire encounter with the enemy units.  This could be a 10 turn game where your PC's ship engages and bugs out of a duel with an Orion Frigate, up to a 100+ turn massive fragfest of attacking Moonbase 2 with a giant fleet.)

For a Navigation Phase check, if passed the PC's ship gains 1 extra hex of movement this MS sheet game turn/round.

For an Engineering Phase check, if passed the PC's ship gains D3 damage/shield boxes back at the start of the MS sheet game turn/round.

For a Piloting Phase check, give the PC's ship a +/- 1 die roll modifier to one enemy unit shooting at it in the MS rules.

I think this covers almost any major rules you would use in these games.  As a friendly bonus here are free PDF rules/demo rules covering some of the Machine Sheet games so you can see if they are for you:

(I would highly recommend people go to visit the main websites for the games in question and not just go directly to the PDF but they are listed for your convenience!)

Silent Death:  http://www.wizards.com/starwars/downloads/SW_Silent_Death.pdf
Battletech: http://battletech.catalystgamelabs.com/downloads/CBT-Quick-Start-Rules.pdf
Federation Commander: http://www.federationcommander.com/FCFirstMissions.pdf
Renegade Legion Interceptor: http://www.madcoyote.com/renleg/frame-test.html
(Sadly Leviathan and Centurion are out of Print.  Try Ebay or your favorite OOP game seller.)

The actual "No Frills" X-Plorers ruleset: http://greyarea.webs.com/downloads/X-Free.pdf

And some paid ones:

Car Wars: http://e23.sjgames.com/item.html?id=SJG30-7142
Silent Death: http://shop.ironcrown.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=1

X-Plorers Rules by Me. For You!



(Now edited Tuesday afternoon with some more neat weapon abilities, and some others streamlined because they were too complicated overall!)

Ok, maybe not for you personally, because you probably don't care, but that's besides the point.

I should probably get back to my Dragon Quest 8 game, but it can wait.  MY BRAIN WANTS TO SHARE MY DUMB IDEAS WITH YOU SILLY INTERNET PEOPLE!


Jessica and the Twins going on "The 8th Great Slime Massacre".  Not shown: Silent Player PC Who Has no Real Choices to Make, Fat Guy with Hairy Chest, Silly Chimney Sweep Accent, and a Shirtless Vest; and Party NPCs.


Think of these rules as some ideas how to expand X-Plorers to cover other Sci Fi settings besides the quasi Traveller one the game uses as a default.

Also note these rules DO make the game a lot crunchier, but hopefully still keep it simple enough.  Its for an Old School game.  Use the bits you like, scrap the ones you don't, tweak the ones you think has potential!

Character Creation:  Normal chargen produces the usual weaker PCs OSRites like.  Modern players and even "Middle School" gamers like myself like PCs who survive a bit longer.  The following options will help you out.

Attribute Rolling:  4d6 4 times, take 3 highest dice from each of the 4 roll sets, assign to whichever attribute you like.  You still probably won't have CAPTAIN AWESOME, but you are less likely to play an easily killed worthless goober.

Hit Points:  I say there are 2 fun ways to run this one if you don't want to do the more brutal default one.  Either let players A: Have max possible rolled HP for Level 1 and 2, or B: HPs are now rolled on a D8.  An average rolled PC with B is gonna have 45, while with B it would be 40, but far more survivable on the average for the first 5 levels or so till the laws of averages catches up.

10 Second Scale Personal Movement:  As I mentioned in my review, I think the 3 second round is TOO SHORT.  Increase movement per round to 8 meters normal, 16 at a full run.

Combat:  Combat now has a new function:  Damage Levels:  X-P already has 2 of them, Personal, and Ship, but is missing Vehicle, for stuff like tanks and other ground based armored units.  Your average Tank shouldn't have lots of HP to worry about so we now add this Vehicle damage rating in the middle.


The rules for damage become as such: when attacking up the Damage Level, the target is considered to have +4 Armor Class.  Unless a natural 20 is rolled to hit, you only do ONE HP in damage.  This does not stack therefore a Personal Damage attack still can do 1 HP of damage to a spaceship unless they roll a natural 20 which causes it to be a normal damage roll.  (Ignore the normal rules about double damage in this case!)  Going down the scale the target has -4 Armor Class though this ONLY counts against their physical armor.  Energy fields, cover, movement, and Agility bonuses are never affected.  When hit the lower Damage Level target takes TRIPLE DAMAGE ROLLED from the attack, and if hit on a natural 20 the damage rolled is considered to be MAXIMUM.  (So a hit that is normally 1d6 in Vehicle would do 3d6 against a Personal Scale target, and if the To Hit roll was a natural 20 it would be 18 points and no need to roll the damage amount as it is maximum.)

These damage rules let us keep Vehicles, and Spaceships with normal numbers instead of turning into some JRPG or Palladium like pile of megadigits.   Unless you decide to use X-Plorers to run a "Brave Saga" campaign.  I think GaoGaiGar (FINAL FUUUUSION!) juuust might require a lot of HPs for our stars!


Special Weapon Rules:  While I will probably go back and add actual weapons lists at a later date, here are some new rules for weapons so you can better emulate your favorite Sci Fi style:

AV/AS:  (Anti Vehicle/Anti Ship) This weapon is capable of firing like a normal weapon against Vehicles or Ships and uses that scale's rules for firing against other scale targets.  Because of the size of these weapons, unless otherwise stated firing them is the ONLY action other than a "Free" action (See Galactic Troubleshooters #1) that may be attempted this turn, and it takes a round of reloading before they may fire again, though movement and other actions may be taken at the GM's discretion.  AV weapons may be carried and fired by Personal Scale characters, and AS may be carried and fired by Vehicles.

Option: If a larger scale unit wants to mount the next scale's weapons it may fire two of them as if they were one weapon.  (Like say, pintle mounted anti infantry machineguns on a siege tank, or antipersonnel pods on a capital ship.)  Or they may fire one of the weapons each of the smaller scale's turn, rolling to hit each time, but engaging each round of the smaller scale.

Option:  CLOSE COMBAT AV/AS do not have the penalty for being the only action a character may take, though against the same scale combatants their targets DO NOT get the -4 AC penalty as these weapons are kind of big and bulky.  Your Anti Tank grenade is gonna HURT a human if you hit them, but its not designed for it which sort of cancels out its armor piercing glory a bit.

Flamer:  If you have access to them, the "Flame" spread templates used in many popular wargames can pretty much just be used for this weapon.  If not make it "Flamer X" with a range.  Anything within the flamer's range is automatically hit, unless the target makes an Agility Saving Throw in which they take half damage.  The X is how many feet/meters in game surrounding the initial target are also hit by the attack.  (So everything in a straight line to the target is hit, plus X feet/meters around that target.)  No roll is needed to hit, though GMs may give Saving Throw bonuses based on applicable cover if desired.

Neo-Beam:  Neo-Beam weapons always attack whatever target they are used against as if they are the same scale.  Whether its the swords carried by "Cheddar Monks" , or nerdy assassins, or giant robots that  should really be using GUNS FOR CRYIN OUT LOUD, Neo-Beam weapons are designed to BREAK STUFF.

Risky:  Risky weapons are AV/AS weapons that work like a normal weapon of whatever type they are if fired the normal 1 every other round of their firer's scale.  However in an attempt to improve their firing rate, their critical failure roll gets worse and worse the more rounds in a row they fire it as it has to cool off.  (Normal critical failure roll is a 1 though as we shall see Risky weapons are MUCH worse off for it, though this doesn't start happening until its used multiple rounds in a row.) For Risky weapons the critical failure roll if fired every round after the first with no round to "cool off".   When a Risky weapon gets that critical failure roll it overheats, explodes, or something similar.  The weapon is DESTROYED, and the firer takes maximum normal rolled damage from the weapon on whatever fire setting it may have been on with no saving throw allowed.  Its not considered to be an AV/AS hit, but it does still hurt like the Dickens!  (This means if you want to take that 25% chance of your weapon exploding you can fire it every single round!)

Weapons Link:  Another easy one.  2 or more weapons of the same type can be hardwired together to fire simultaneously.  They are considered to be in a Weapons Link.  One combat action fires ALL the weapons in the link, though each To Hit roll is made seperately.

Ordnance: (Small, Medium, Large)  Weapons that fire a blast radius.  If you have access to game templates, use the small, big, and REALLY big templates available.  If you hit with an Ordnance weapon it lands on target, and everything under the template takes a hit, and must make a Saving Throw to avoid being disoriented and unable to do anything the next round of combat.  (GM's discretion which Attribute to roll.)  If you miss, the hit scatters (See Galactic Troubleshooters #1 for scatter rules, or use a "scatter" die with directional arrows on it some games have.) and where it lands is what is hit.  If you don't have any blast templates, the Ordnance weapons have a blast area of 6, 10, and 15 meters. (Or 3, 5, and 7.5 meters surrounding the blast impact.)

Indirect Fire:  Normally related to Ordnance weapons.  You do not need a line of sight to the target to shoot at it.  If you have some way of seeing your target ala a spotter or remote camera, you roll to hit as normal, though with a -2 to your To Hit roll.  If you cannot see the target period, the - increases to 8.

Rounds Between Scales:  Another easy to do thing, and one I am basically mooching off my "Adamythril Engine" RPG ruleset.  1 Combat round of Space Combat is 2 rounds of Ground Combat which is 4 rounds of Personal Combat.  Meaning if your character is trying to break into a spaceship or fighting a sword duel on top of it for some reason there would be FOUR Personal Scale rounds to the ONE Space.  Or use this handy mini chart:


Round       Units Acting
   1             Personal
   2             Personal, Ground
   3             Personal
   4             Personal, Ground, Space


Using Wargames for Big Combats:  Maybe you would like to use X-Plorers as the RPG system for Silent Death, Battletech, Car Wars, Federation Commander, or other "Machine Sheet" games?

Well to me?  THAT SOUNDS DUCKY.

Grimlock and Mr. Sailor Duckie approve of this message.  Also, they are for Team Conan!


But like Psionics, we will cover that in another update.  I have hordes of Slimes and silly monsters with incredibly punny names to massacre in the name of "Phat Lewts and XPs"...

Updated at 5AM with the RISKY weapon trait because it seemed like a good idea at the time.  And I didn't really want to get too deep into DQ8 tonight lest my already mangled sleep schedule get even more mangly.   "Just a little bit more" is a bad sentence folks!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Review Corner: A review of the RPG X-Plorers and the First Supplement

Unlike my previous review of an Open Gaming License Original D&D clone that just did SQUAT to make it original or interesting or worth playing, this one DOES.

X-Plorers and X-Plorers Galactic Troubleshooters #1 by David Bezio.  Art by David Bezio and Others.
X-Plorers: 60 pages, Free for "No frills" PDF, 6 dollars US for full PDF, 12 dollars for softback book.
Galactic Troubleshooters #1: 32 pages, 5 dollars US PDF, 10 dollars softback book.

I learned of this game from Grognardia, that Old School Blog with its worship of the eye rolling "PULP TRADISHUNZ" and all.  Lulu was having a holiday sale and the price was nice.

See I need a rules light Science Fiction RPG and it seemed to be one up my alley.


X-Plorers and Galactic Troubleshooters #1


I took a quick look at the artless "No frills" version but having a few dollars to burn (not knowing one has a medical bill on the way kind of sucks though..) I chose to go for a nice print copy.  I like printed things.  You can read and enjoy printed books.  PDFs are not so readable or enjoyable to me.  Sorry modern RPGers.  Stop trying to praise PDFs.

Ahem.

X-Plorers' concept is "What if the original RPG creators were fans of Science Fiction and not Pulp Fantasy?", and thus we have this game.

The mostly generic setting is one of future Megacorporations in space with the PCs being tasked with doing jobs for the Corps or just freewheeling exploration of the galaxy.   Its nothing too detailed, though the potential IS there for it to be a solid springboard for GMs.

To explain it simply it is "A little bit Original D&D, a little bit Tunnels & Trolls, a little bit modern gaming".  So you hardcore OSR fans might be angry its not totally worshipful of HOW GARY DID IT, but it takes various influences and makes for a rock solid, rules light Sci Fi RPG you can add detail on if you so choose.

The core rules in the book?  30 pages.  In these 30 pages you get ground and space combat rules, character generation, Gamemaster rules and tips, equipment lists, and pretty much everything else you really need to play an RPG.   While there are a number of typos in both books the writing is clear and the art is pretty good.  Bezio himself does quite a bit of it, and it has a sort of Erol Otus look without the ugliness of Otus' art.




What the book looks like inside.  Nice effective art, easy to read 2 column pages.

I will assume most readers know the core D&D rules but that's basically how the rules of X-Plorers are.  In this case you only have 4 attributes (Agility, Intelligence, Physique, and Presence), rolled on the good old (bad IMHO) 3d6 manner.  13-16 gets you +1, 17 and 18 get you +2, and similar minuses at a score of 8 or less.

This being more based off of Original D&D White Box as befits the Swords and Wizardry White Box ruleset it is a conversion of (IMHO normal S&W is WAY better but lots of the OSR crowd just worship the original 1974 box and even consider the supplements to be "untrue" for some reason.  I just don't get it!) Hit Points are rolled using a D6, and all weapon damage is various amounts of D6s.

Combat is the normal D&D style of roll D20, add bonuses and level to hits, equal or beat target number. X-Plorers thankfully uses ascending Armor Class ala D20 D&D so your target number is the Armor Class.  Easy.  To add a little PC survivability, a roll is made when PCs get to 0 Hit Points where they may not actually die, though its about a 50% chance of it sans any Physique bonus to their rolls.  (This roll gets worse if they keep getting hit while zonked.)  There are a few mentions of bonuses and penalties for things like cover, movement, and dual wielding, but like most Old School games its mostly up to GM fiat and player creativity.

(As an aside: Combat rounds are considered to be 3 second intervals which I consider TOO SHORT.  Unless you are a stickler for movement and scale, you may wish to just consider them 10 second rounds so everyone can say more than a half sentence and pop off a shot.  3 seconds just seems not enough time to do much of anything, especially if you like some cinematic flair to your encounters.  Its nothing major, but something to keep in mind if you like to stay "by the book".  Which makes me wonder why you even WANT an old school game, but YMMV!)

Characters still have classes, in this case Soldiers, Scientists, Scouts, and Technicians.  As fits a D&D game, you have 10 experience levels with increasing Hit Points, Attack Bonuses, Saving Throws, and Skills.

Skills you say?  Yeah.  Each class has 4 skills they possess that they roll like a Saving Throw (more on that in a sec.) with any applicable Attribute Bonus to do something fancy.  Like Soldiers have Demolitions and Survival, plus bonuses to Martial Arts attacks and Weapons Specialization.  Scientists get Computers, Medicine, Science, and Sociology.  In some cases 2 classes have the same skill, but one does it better or in a slightly different way.  GM's can provide bonuses or penalties to the roll for difficulty/situation and roll away.  If PCs rightly want an extra skill they can choose to learn another classes' skill, but are locked into a substantial XP cost to their XP requirements to Level Up and may only learn this new skill to the 5th level of proficiency.

Saving Throws work basically like they do in Tunnels & Trolls.  For any sort of situation not covered in the rules, take the appropriate Attribute Bonus/Penalty, roll, equal or beat your base Saving Throw target number for that level.  Climb a steep cliff?  Maybe a Physique Attribute modifier.  Conning a security guard?  Presence.   You get the idea.

Space Combat is rather interesting in that it gives a Player Character crew options to enhance the abilities of their ship and a simple distance track to keep up with where everything is.  Otherwise its just like ground combat, but with each player helping via Saving Throws to make their ship do better.   Its a pretty clever little system and sounds like a mixture of the abstracted space combat from the original D20 Star Wars RPG mixed in with FASA Star Trek in that each crew member can contribute even if not a pilot or gunner, allowing people to indulge their inner Scotties and Chekovs.

There is a section on building robots, and a nice keyword ability monster creation section with a few handy examples.  The keyword monsters seems a lot like many modern wargames where instead of a pile of unique abilities it makes a selection of most common ones that generically fit anything you would probably want without having to learn a pile of rules.  Much like old D&D, monster XP is based on how many Hit Dice it has, and those abilities.

The GM section is decent overall, though I DO question putting in some light advice.  A few good play examples seem better for new to Old School play GMs than generic advice anyone who buys this game would already know.

Its not like people buying RPGs off of Lulu.com don't know how to play and run RPGs.  Its not going to be someone's first RPG I don't think.

The book ends with a nice 10 page adventure taking place on a space station with that oh so common Aliens trope of "We lost contact with Blah.  Go check Blah out", and then scary stuff happens as you explore the remote place.  Its troubles are a bit more modern in theme than your usual SCARY MONSTERS IN SPAAACE dealie, though.  Its a fun little adventure.

We get a set of pregenerated characters with above average stats, some handy charts you can also get from the game's website, a bonus NPC type with some fluff on it, and the legal pages as it relates to the OGL, and this game which nicely WANTS YOU TO MAKE STUFF FOR IT, even encouraging "for profit" projects.   As most of the stuff I create is foolishly shared with the world here I only skim it the way one skims those EULAs in computer software, but its probably worth a read should enterprising gamers out there want to try their hand at it.

So what do I rate X-Plorers itself?  The price is Good, the writing and art outside of typos is Good, and the game design overall is Good.  While I would have liked some more in depth combat rules, a larger equipment list, and some psionic and ground vehicle rules, it covers what you really NEED, and leaves it to the Galactic Troubleshooters supplements and fan enhancements to cover these bits.

Heck, I may just follow up this post with some fan rules just because I like doing it!

So.. its Good and I recommend it!

Now on to the games' first quarterly supplement!

Galactic Troubleshooters #1 includes a 6 page set of more advanced combat rules with stuff like grenade scatters, more in depth cover rules, various D20 like actions you can take in a turn, using miniatures, and so on.  Its concise, clear, and honestly ESSENTIAL in my opinion.  If it wasn't in this book I would probably end up coming up with these sorts of rules myself, but I like a little bit of crunch and tactical detail in my games.

Most of the rest of the book is the adventure and some fluff/data pages covering the events, Megacorp, and locale of said adventure.  A page devoted to the Corp featured in this adventure and the one from the main book comes first and gives some interesting ideas.  Plus its cool to see an Egyptian themed corp instead of the usual American or Japanese one that most Sci Fi tends to go towards!

The next 2 pages cover the planet in the adventure, even covering sights, sounds, feels, and tastes of the planet.  A clever touch!

So far like most of X-Plorers it gives you everything a creative GM needs as a springboard without gobs of detail you don't care about and will probably forget anyhow.

Its sort of like what Kyle from Australia once said about RPG rules over at RPGsite.  Like a woman's skirt it ought to be long enough to be interesting, but short enough to keep your attention.

(I hope I am remembering that right and not offending anyone by saying it.  But its pretty dang profound!)

2 more pages follow up with some fun critters to deal with, then its on to the adventure.

This adventure is in roughly 3 acts and involves another "We lost contact with Blah.  Go figure out what happened" thing.  In this case you get to investigate a colony ship, go down to the planet the ship is by while dealing with the local environment, then go deal with the main situation.

Overall its a simple but effective scenario, being mostly a sandbox type where inventive PCs and GMs can deal with things any way they want with a couple solutions and actions being covered.  I liked it, but there is a little adult detail given about the main villain that while it provides an interesting characterization hook to him, it probably shouldn't have even been mentioned.  For a more mature audience and a skilled GM it could do wonders, but I just think this sort of information doesn't really belong in a rules light more fun and freewheeling RPG.  It seems like something one would see in a White Wolf adventure trying to be "Adult and EDGY".

So unlike the main book, this one mention turns a game that could have been suited for a 10+ audience to a 15-16+ audience.  Parents should keep this in mind if giving it as a gift.  If adults are running it, its easy enough to ignore however.

It ends with the pregens from the main book at Level 2, and a 1 page legal OGL thingie.

Galactic Troubleshooters #1 is 10 dollars for 32 pages as compared to the 12 for 60 of the main.  I would say that makes the product more of an OK value.  If a GM needs a larger adventure to get their brain cells firing with examples of a planet and creatures its great, if a group wants some harder rules for combat its also a good purchase.  For more inventive GMs or folks who really want more Old School Rules Light stuff I am not sure this book is warranted.

For me I would give the book a Good overall if just for the more codified advanced combat rules, and corporate, planetary, and critter bits.  The adventure could be handy and useful too, but as I may use the game to run in established settings or for my own house Sci Fi settings this book is more useful for the first 6 pages and the rest is just gravy I had to pay for.

The thing with this supplement is not every bit is useful to every person.  Its not quite a magazine, not quite a rules supplement, not quite an adventure module.

So I guess its a Good rating if you get it on sale or while buying other books from Lulu, and OK if it is your sole purchase.

Well, that's the review.  Overall X-Plorers and its first supplement are pretty dang good and show a good example of how taking concepts from the Old School AND Modern School of game design can produce a solid RPG without just regurgitating Gygax and Arneson for the 1000th time.

If you wish to know more, please visit X-Plorers' website at: http://greyarea.webs.com/ .

Look forward to my follow ups where I will cover some house rules.  I have some ideas for Vehicular Combat, Psionics, and new gear I would like to throw in there.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Why I Quit LARPing. (At Least in a White Wolf Game)

For those of you who for whatever mad reason read my older posts from the 08 timeframe will remember I did some reports on playing in a White Wolf Changeling LARP.  In 09 I did a few more, but they became more and more infrequent till they stopped.

Mainly because a few months after I quit writing them I finally gave up trying to have fun with the game, and decided staying home and sleeping before work was a vastly superior use of my time and money.

This little post will be my thoughts on why I tried it in the first place, and then why I quit.

Let's head back to Connecticon 08....

I was there with a friend and his friend and they are active fans of the original Changeling and had some interest in the current one.  They are also in a more hardcore fantasy LARP up in Mass that has the stereotypical "LIGHTNING BOLT LIGHTNING BOLT!", sorts of boffer combat where you get to use nerf like weapons on your opponents while dressing silly.

Not my thing, and working weekends it never WILL be my thing I can safely say.

But as I like to be social I was hanging out with them Friday when they went to look into playing in the Changeling LARP the next evening.  For curiosities' sake I asked how the game was played, having heard how silly the Old World of Darkness LARP games were with Rock Paper Scissors game resolution and people dressed horribly and so on.

The organizer mentioned it used a card draw system, something few RPGs seem to use and I find quite a fun diversion from the norm.

I decide for the hell of it to join in too as the Warhammer 40K tournament I was scheduled to play in would be over about an hour or so beforehand.  (Well it was SUPPOSED to be.  It actually got cut short and still took 3 times longer than it was scheduled to.)  As my friends had the book on them instead of using a pregen I got to make my own character.  (Albeit one that was unoptimized and kind of underpowered due to rules mistakes.)

I learned the basic concepts of Changeling which seemed PRETTY AWESOME AND RAD.  (New World of Darkness Changeling involves people being abducted to the world of Faerie where they are forced to serve their masters, which changes them in mystical ways, and they then escape back to the real world where they try to recover what they can of their shattered lives.)

I chose to take one of my array of characters and build a version of him for Changeling.  Rufus Landale.
Going through the book I found what seemed to be a good fit of abilities and faction selections for his personality.

http://wargamedork.blogspot.com/2008/10/my-changeling-larp-character-let-me.html

Go to next day.  Wake up with little sleep (yay being a night shift worker.  Doing days is VERY hard to impossible for me.) and do my Warhammer thing.  Win the first match with my Tyranids get owned by what was probably a cheating Tau player who seemed to have 2-3 times as many models as anyone should have.  Then its time to go to the LARP.  Since I lost match 2 of 3 and I felt I had promised my friend and his friend I was gonna be there, I go.  It starts off really slow and stupid, but gets moving pretty well later on as in general the entire group works together to find out about a murdered official and take revenge on him and the Faerie minion who comes afterwards.

We kicked butt, and I was apparently so in character I not only won an in continuity leadership position should I keep playing in the active campaign, but by 20+ player vote they also voted me best roleplayer and I won a nifty prize worth a good 25-35 bucks.

I FELT AWESOME.

I don't exactly have the greatest of self esteems and life hasn't done much to help this.  I was nearly bouncing off the ceiling that convention and for much of the week afterwards and the game was to blame.  It wasn't the doofy Goth nonsense I always considered LARPing to be.  It was basically tabletop gaming with cards and you moved around a lot more instead of sitting around a table.  (Well 20 or so people at a normal sit down game all needing GM attention would be INSANE anyhow so it is sort of for the best...)

I find out the normal game is run once a month in the afternoons about 20 minutes from my house and ends with plenty of time for me to get to work after provided I don't mind losing an hour or two of sleep.

I go and in general have a decent time of it for a while.

But the more I play the more problems come up.

The biggest is the one that seems to infest EVERY White Wolf LARP.  Its less about adventures than it is about Machiavellian power struggles as done by supernatural beings.  Its a bunch of high school cliques.  Except they have neato powers.  The campaign settings almost all have ways to encourage and enforce this, and most players and Storytellers LIKE IT THAT WAY.

I constantly had to deal with people wanting power struggles, trying to be douchebags, characters that "in character" were insulting my more straightforward heroic character who the host out of character once in what I considered an insult, deemed me as "A White Hat".

As if wanting to play a hero is a BAD THING.

MY WHOLE POINT OF PLAYING AND RUNNING RPGS IS TO BE INVOLVED WITH HEROIC STORIES.

This does not mean being an unstoppable perfect Jesus figure mind you, but it is about as far away from how most White Wolf games are encouraged to run as you can get before you get into joke games like Paranoia, Kobolds Ate My Baby, and "I Kill Puppies for Satan".

(Which I consider to be the greatest name of a game EVER.)

I was actually starting to feel insulted even though in general most of the players seemed to be perfectly nice folks out of game.  In game most REVELED in playing jerks to various degrees.

The Storyteller's response to my desires for a more heroic game?  "Its the World of Darkness for a reason.  Deal with it".

The fact I am writing this shows I dealt with it by quitting.

Now I am not condemning this style of play.  I just don't get the damned point, and I want NOTHING to do with it.  But by all reports the local group was LIGHT (at least in Changeling.  The Vampire game which I tried on a day or two when I used a sick day was REALLY jerk charactet central!) as many people came from other groups or travelled to other groups where PKing (player killing) and deviant characters forming stupid political alliances to bone over other characters were the order of the day, instead of just most of the side dishes.

Yet it was not the only reason.  Just the biggest part.

Another one is the whole Camarilla LARP setup itself.  Unlike your average RPG campaign, the game is connected to a worldwide organization requiring players to cough up membership and sometimes site fees in order to play.  This of course brings in REAL LIFE politics and organizational nightmares as characters need to be approved and higher powered ones need to be ran through Regional Managers and there are a good dozen or more acronym laden titles going up the ladder.

My friend chose to take one of the local roles which not only involved group voting, but it required TAKING TESTS.

All this to play a game?

And the worst part is yet to come.  Because of this worldwide thing and approval being needed, you could gain extra experience points by going to other games, being one of these Acronym People, or doing things that HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH PLAYING IN THE LOCAL CAMPAIGN.

Yes kids, you can grind for XP in White Wolf LARPs provided you have time to drive around your region.  We had people drive to and from Virginia here to Connecticut, to New York, all over the place.

So in a game where hosing over other people is pretty much part of the normal situation, if you have a lot of extra time and money to get there, you too can play a character that can curbstomp anyone else, especially if you have been playing longer than the newbies.

And don't tell me the whole approval process helps keep broken PCs away in a system that makes it VERY easy to custom build broken characters.  We had more than a few PCs that nobody could really do anything about that if the player wanted to could have wiped out everyone else at the game!

I'm sorry.  That goes against EVERYTHING I think an RPG campaign should be.  Sure its nice you can play in a worldwide metaplot and all, but why should one character be better than another just because they do some extra paperwork?

There were so many broken PCs the higher ups did a "soft reset" which had many PCs brought down to sane levels, but only just.

And once we add in the expense of losing sleep on a workday and the money for meals and the various site/small yearly fee and I just felt it wasn't enough fun for the way I PERSONALLY enjoy RPGs so I dropped out.

The soft reset brought the current story arc to its end and I felt that was a good place to bow out.  I would have tried talking it over with the organizers as I could be taking things the wrong way, but there was no game at this year's Connecticon and the few times I talked about anything at all on the Google Group the local group uses not a single person replied either public or privately as if I didn't even exist so why bother?

Now I am NOT condemning the group or the Camarilla or White Wolf or really even LARPing in general.

Its just a perfect storm of time, money, bureaucracy, and style of game I seriously dislike all joining together to make me not want to play period.


I guess I am just too used to nice normal sit down RPGs where you don't have some silly organization to care about and the GM (with a little help from the players of course!) is all that is needed for a good fun game.


But I am a "White Hat" so what do I know, right?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Review Corner: A review of the RPG Ruins and Ronin

Sigh.  I just KNOW this one is gonna tick some folks off.  But I have to.

Ruins & Ronin: (Written by Mike Davison with assistance from others.  Available for 11.25 in softback format from Lulu.com.  1 dollar for a PDF.  79 pages, 74 numbered.)




Sigh.  Where to begin?  Ruins & Ronin is basically about 10-20 pages of actual changes from Swords and Wizardry: White Box by Matt Finch.  Which you can buy or get for free online.  And its a simplified version of regular Swords and Wizardry.

Which I own.  Because it was a FREE PDF FILE ONLINE.  (I have bought some supplements for it to show my appreciation though.)

See, Swords and Wizardry is an attempt to remake 1974 little booklet Original Dungeons & Dragons, albeit one normal people can understand.  S&W normal adds some rules from the supplement books, and a few bits of modern RPG design thoughts such as the ascending Armor Class from D&D 3rd edition.  (That whole Open Game License thingamajobber.)

Its what we call a "Retroclone".  For the most part these games aren't really designed to be played.  They are just handy excuses to allow for new adventures and supplements for the games they are based on as they tend to be as close as legally possible to the original RPG.  Plus its somewhat easier to get folks to play the older games if they can buy books or download a PDF.  Most are released at a VERY low price usually just to cover costs.  Other entrants in this category are: OSRIC (1st edition Advanced Dungeons & Dragons), Basic Fantasy (Basic Dungeons & Dragons), and Labyrinth Lord (Also Basic D&D, except less changes to the D&D ruleset than BF.)

Well, Lulu was having a holiday sale and at the time I had money I did not realize I would need for hidden bills a few weeks later so why not support those Old School Renaissance folks and buy some stuff?

Now, I knew Ruins & Ronin was a conversion of Swords & Wizardry, but the problem is?

ITS BASICALLY SWORDS & WIZARDRY WITH A FEW NAME CHANGES.

Perhaps I did not read through the book properly (reviewer note: I mostly just skimmed through it a couple times.  Which in the long run is saving me time to read something I haven't already read before.) and I am missing some nuances but as best I can tell the only real changes are:  a new weapons and armor chart, new Asian themed magical items, and a few new monster types.  The 3 classes are basically just Fighting Man, Cleric, and Magic User renamed and with different equipment restrictions based on the new ones in this book.  Even the spells are just the classic D&D ones without even name changes.

And.. that's about it.  Being based on White Box D&D the weapons all use D6 for damage with a few minor plus or minus modifiers sometimes, and everything is barely detailed.  I understand the OSR movement is about "rulings not rules" and the whole appeal of these games is how rules light they really are, but all Ruins & Ronin does is basically reprint Swords & Wizardry.  Its really MAYBE a 20 page supplement.  It should have been in the OSR fan magazines Knockspell or Fight On! (Both available from Lulu.  I recommend both.)

There is almost no fluff, zero internal artwork, no real GM or player advice in running an Asian themed version of OD&D, and no real "feel" of a fantasy Asia.  I was hoping to use it as a springboard to do a more rules light version of "Legend of the Five Rings" a game setting I absolutely love but don't really wish to play using the D20 ruleset I have, AD&D using Oriental Adventures, or learning the original L5R ruleset.

I honestly could have done it myself and saved some money and trees!

On the upside it does look nice, albeit without any artwork inside whatsoever far as I could tell, and having some new critters is always nice.  I didn't notice the usual typo/spelling errors most fan and pro products seem to be infested with now, and it is easy to read and written well.


Ruins & Ronin the internals.  Art free.  Now with 80% recycled content.  That's recycled content.  Yeah.


You do get one new race, the Half Ogre, but all the D&D staples are gone, and the replacement isn't really all that appealing for long term play, though pretty decent for low level campaigns.  Some of the other Oriental Adventures/Rokugan/L5R player races are present to be fought against, but not to be played as, making Ruins & Ronin even more human centric than OD&D itself.

So in final analysis I have to say on my Good/Ok/Bad category its.. BAD as a full purchase print product, and OK as a 1 dollar download for you to just print out the new content to use with your existing old school Retroclone RPG.  Its a minor set of changes to a product most people interested in Original D&D styled games probably already have, and it does little for anyone who may have wanted it to do a Mythic Asian styled game.  While the new creatures and magic items ARE really good. Its so barebones and "Do It Yourself", I think everyone should just download or buy the ACTUAL Swords and Wizardry with its minor extra level of detail, and then grab a used copy of AD&D 1st edition Oriental Adventures or Legend of the Five Rings and.. DO IT YOURSELF.   In the end the extra information, flavor, and fluff of either of those products will produce a vastly more satisfying experience than relying on this book.

I feel bad about writing the above, but its just how I feel!  Its priced fairly but its virtually a waste.

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