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!

Monday, September 22, 2008

My Playtest Review of Tunnels & Trolls

Now that I have read the main rulebook and played out a few combats with the solo module I can add on some more meat to a proper review. Combine it with my first look/unboxing comic.

T&T uses 8 statistics for its characters. 4 affect "Combat Adds" which directly influence combat resolution, 1 does double duty as your Hit Points, and 2 are primarily based around Magic, one being your Spell Points. The other is the classic Charisma.

Character generation is based on rolling 3d6, assigning scores however you want, and if you happen to roll triples you roll again and add it to the original roll. Obviously this makes generally terrible starting characters with the odd idiot savant if triples come up on a roll. As a GM, I would probably give players the option of rolling 2d6 and adding 6. The manual does give a constructed character option with suggested power levels. If you take a Kindred (race) other than human there are multipliers to your initial scores both positive and negative. There are 5 common Kindreds which are almost sort of kind of balanced with Humans, and then 32 more with wildly different levels, some of which include full grown Dragons!

Also note that D6s are the ONLY dice used in this game. You will need a LOT of them. D6 Star Wars lots. Charging Ork Mob in Warhammer 40,000 lots.

None of the Kindreds have any actual detail or special powers outside of whatever Attribute Multipliers they have. Including what the hell they are.

Depending on your scores you then pick a class based on what you rolled up.
Citizens, which are NPC characters who have penalties to both spellcasting and combat.
Rogues, who are closer to the AD&D 2nd edition Bard than an actual Thief, capable of using spells and weapons.
Warriors, who are combat beasts and capable of taking more damage than anyone else due to superior armor skills.
Wizards, who are limited in weapons, but cast spells better than anyone else and have a lower cost to do so.
Specialists, who generally need a rolled triple and who have various special bonuses but otherwise act like another class depending on choice.
Paragons who need all 12s or better in their stats and have most of the skills and abilities of both Warriors AND Wizards.

Gameplay itself is largely broken into 3 subsections that all work together. Combat, Saving Rolls, and Spellcasting.

Combat: In combat each combatant adds up their Combat Adds to their weapon damage dice, rolls them together and adds it up, with any 6s rolled doing an automatic point of damage to the enemy regardless of who wins or loses the combat or what kind of armor is worn. This is called Spite Damage.

Your character's attributes as briefly mentioned above determines your adds. In the 4, anything over a 12 adds 1 to your adds, and anything under 9 subtracts one. Meaning a starting character has around 2-7 adds most of the time.

So a character whose damage dice was 3d6+2 with 5 adds would roll 3d6+7 in Combat. Everyone on your side of the combat normally rolls their dice and adds and puts it all together with the other side doing the same. High roll wins, and the difference in score is how much damage is evenly distributed to the losers. Armor reduces damage taken, and Spite Damage is applied on each side ignoring Armor or who won.

While this is clever and super fast, it requires a LOT of dice, and it really limits the kind of enemies PCs can fight at any given time. Its gonna take an attentive GM to keep things from being broken or unbeatable.

Monster opponents can be even simpler than having to make a character. Many modules and the monster booklets just include a MONSTER RATING. Take 100 as an MR. To find out its combat stats, its dice is 1/10th its MR +1 (Or 11 in this case), its adds are 1/2 its MR (50), and its Wizardry (we will get to this soon) is 1/10th its MR, (10), and its Hit Points are 100. Some creatures also have special effects that happen whenever their dice rolls are over a certain threshold. This could be Spite Damage at 5 and 6 on the dice, spell effects, ect. Unlike characters, monsters lose adds as they take damage, but keep their dice rolls.

Needless to say, our 100 MR monster is UNSTOPPABLE by and large to any individual low level adventurer, but 5 or 6 working together can take it down. However if its a bunch of 20 MR creatures, players may wish to engage one on one.

I find the combat system clever, but its incredibly abstract (each round is considered to be 2 minutes of fighting, and also adds in ranged combat and spellcasting as part of the total compared score), and really seems similar to the combat systems most console RPGs use. High values beat low values and you can't get out of it. If you are seriously higher in scores than your opponent you WILL win, with maybe minor scratches thanks to Spite Damage. (House ruling Spite Damage to be the minimum damage of your weapon sans combat adds seems like a fairer solution, with monster Spite Damage doubled as well.)

However, the game encourages clever players to try out crazy ideas and stunts in combat and anywhere else, this is called the Saving Roll. (SR) In Saving Rolls, you roll 2D6, add the attribute applicable to the situation, and beat a target number based on a Level. (A level 1 roll is 20, and it generally goes up from there in increments of 5.) If you roll doubles, you roll again and add the dice together, but on your initial roll a 1 and a 2 result on the dice equals automatic failure. These Saving Rolls are done to pretty much do anything in the game not related to basic combat. Cast Spells, Resist Spells, Ranged Weapons, avoid traps, and so on. Its smooth, fast, elegant, and I like it. If your roll fails but your character's level would bring it to the needed score, it is added on. So if you rolled an 18 for a level 1 SR and were level 2, you would pass the SR.

However your character as they level up gain Talents, which are specialized attribute checks you get an extra D6 to roll to SRs that affect that particular situation. Like Thievery would be a Dexterity talent when thief type SRs could be required. When you gain the talent you roll the D6 and whatever you roll becomes your PERMANENT modifier with that talent. It never gets better, but you keep collecting them.

Spellcasting is basically a SR that uses this game's Spell Points, called Wizardry. Spellcasters must know the spell they wish to cast, and meet the requirements for casting it. Decide if the spell is being boosted causing greater effects but being harder to cast and using more Wizardry, then make an Intelligence SR. If the target, friendly or enemy has a higher Wizardry score your spell does not affect them, but can be used to drain them of Wizardry at the same cost as the spell you just cast. Yes, even healing spells don't work on someone with a higher Wizardry then you. ( I would house rule this and let beneficial spells always work on targets. That's kind of a stupid rule in my opinion.)

Adventure Points (AP) are gained as your characters do things in the game with a fairly large list of what they get points for, which roughly seems to be almost anything they do. While its a good way to encourage players to do things, it could be a pain for the Gamemaster to constantly calculate, and players to constantly add and erase. (I would house rule it into a set AP per session, based roughly on the listed AP gains in the book.) APs are spent to boost the 8 attributes, and character level is based on how high your highest attribute for your class is. Character levels provide a number of small but essential bonuses depending on class, but don't really matter to the amount they do in D&D. Advancement is more subtle and detailed, with characters getting a little better each adventure as opposed to the nothing then all at once setup of a D&D like level system.

As is the case in most RPGs, there are laundry lists of items and equipment and spells for players to acquire with some small descriptions.

However the game's biggest asset is also its biggest flaw: Its so light and streamlined it really requires a good GM and clever players. Its stupidly simple if you just play by pure mechanics, and most of the it is left to GM fiat to determine. There are a couple of examples and ideas, but its mostly a rules light toolkit with a very small amount of setting information which amounts to the included map and a timeline of the gameworld.

The included solo module is a prime example. Its not made for low level characters at all, and if you don't have the right character you will die in minutes. Even making the recommended Troll or Minotaur Warrior with a whopping 28 combat adds and 3d6 damage won't help when the random monsters average a 150 MR or so. With a good GM clever and creative players could defeat these monsters by running away, parlaying with it, bribing it, or any number of things. In the solo game with just a couple options the monsters are just impossible for a starting character.

Tunnels & Trolls was one of the first RPGs after D&D and much of it's qualities and new ideas have been taken over by later games. This version is of course the most complete version of the system, and a hell of a bargain for experienced GMs looking for a fast, rules light RPG that is newbie friendly on the player standpoint, provided they aren't in the D&D 3.x+ "I NEED RULES FOR EVERYTHING" mindset.

The writer Ken St. Andre basically tells you its your game run it how you want. As a system to do fast narrative games it looks to be pretty excellent. As a massively deep crunchy game to appease power gamers? Not so much.

That being said, I look forward to running this game for my players. Its very much a toolkit styled game ala White/Brown Box original D&D except with a much better game system, light years better writing, artwork, layout, and value.

On my scale of Bad, OK, and Good (with Very Good and Very Bad being for special cases) I give this game Good.

Go buy it!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My AD&D 2nd House Rules Part 7 - Combat Part 4

No comic style this time. This one is back to text. And it is also MUCH shorter.

Encounters, Initiative, and Other Stuff.

For encounters its usually best to let the DM decide based on player actions which side is going first each round, and continue on that pattern unless something drastic happens. There is no need to roll opposing dice or anything. In the rare event two sides run into each other, roll 1D10 on each side, high side gets to act first.

Being surprised or getting the jump on the other side should again be DM determined. Either let the surprised side go second, or give the surprisers one action in combat then do the combat encounter as normal.

(To me this is simple, fast, elegant and usually how I played it in most RPGs to begin with.)


There are two choices for Initiative. Super Simple, and Advanced.

In Super Simple each side does all their actions at once, including multiple attacks per round, and spell casting, with Segment 5+ spells (to ones that take multiple rounds of combat which activate at however many rounds it takes just before that caster does anything else) happening AFTER the other side gets to do its actions.

The above is best for non miniatures combat, quick easy fights, or similar situations.

Advanced Initiative requires a bit more record keeping, but provides more tactical options. In Advanced, each side does their normal one side at a time deal like above, except you go based on your Dexterity Modifier during your side's actions. So a party with 4 characters in it, one with Dex 10, Dex 13, Dex 15, and Dex 17 would have the Dex 17 character perform his actions first (+2 modifier), the Dex 13 and 15 could choose to let one go before the other each round ( +1 modifier), and the Dex 10 (0 modifier) goes last. Then the other side goes.

If the other side doesn't have any units with a written DEX score, the DM can choose however he or she wants the order to go for the rest of the fight for those units. Generally officers, lightly armored units, smaller things, and such should go before the big lumbering bits. So a trio of Kobolds, an Ogre, and an Orc Commander would probably have the Orc Commander go first, then the Kobolds, then the Ogre.

Spell casting times go as follows:

Segment 1-3 spells go off instantly.
Segment 4-6 spells go off after half the other side has taken their actions.
Segment 7-9 spells go off just before your side's turn comes up again.

(The above is way simpler and faster than how AD&D 1 or 2 handles combat rounds. My combat movement seems to be too complicated for many, and the main goal of this is to simplify and streamline much of AD&D to play how I want it to. Thus we make up for it in how the round actually plays out.)

Other Stuff:

This is mostly a placeholder for things that come up in the midst of play. Usually let the PHBs or your DM handle it as you all think fit. Call this section the FAQ if anyone in my group or anyone online has questions that should be answered.

Like Power Stunts. Do you get multiple stunts, or is it your only combat action for the turn? Its the latter. You have one chance to do something that fancy a round.

TA DA! House rules are finished! Outside of doing a full combat round explanation comic, my little project has reached the end of the road! I'm sure there is plenty I have missed in rules to be tweaked, or in some cases my streamlining might just be complicated in all new ways, but it is something I am happy with overall.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Saturday Changeling LARP Report: Rufus' War Journal

(Bold is Storyteller stuff, Italic is Rufus' journal entries, normal text is me out of game stuff.)

Last month the news of the Summer King's death hit the Lost of the area pretty hard. The Summer Court went out seeking vengeance for their monarch's murder. A trail of blood was left in their wake. In the void left by Sid's passing, another stepped forward to take the reins of leadership. Meanwhile, a newcomer to the city claims he was lured back into the Hedge by none other than the Spring Queen. He found his way back out again but says that something was chasing him in there. While the Lost sit stunned at the accusation, a self-proclaimed loyalist arrives asking where this year's tithe is. He claimed that a Lost was suppose to be left in the Hedge for him to take back and this deal is what kept the city safe. If someone didn't come with him, then there would be war. Refusing to sacrifice one of their own, the local Lost banded together in defiance of their former masters' henchman. War would be preferable to cowardly submission.

For so long I was a traveller, running on my own, or amongst people who were not escapees like myself. This summer I met others of my kind and together we fought against our former captors. I was honored with becoming the Summer King for my efforts, I was given the burden of command.

Luckily the regular LARP takes place during the day and not during worktime on the second Saturday of the month so I can attend, provided I don't mind missing some sleep! MagicDrew was gonna be able to make this one as well, and since it was only about a 20 minute trip and a 10 mile drive I figured I might as well give an actual game a go!

Upon reaching the meeting place in Willimantic for us, the Lost, I met one of the locals who wasn't at the August incident. She asked me if I was a local or a visitor, being a wanderer, I replied justly, having been searching the region for evidence of our foes. I was given a letter. This letter basically threatened those of us who fought so hard against our captors and the sacrifices they demanded. They said we were going to be attacked by the armies of the Fae and anyone supporting us would be harmed as in the crossfire. Others soon showed up, including two more women, and two men, one of which I had met before. A mirror visaged man who was eloquent in speech. While I don't exactly trust him, his council has been sound and wise so far. Damn politicians!

The Mirror visaged fellow was another guy at the Connecticon LARP. One of the female players was an NPC there, and the other two were both brand new folks to me. Apparently it was a pretty decent turn out. Hmm, maybe if I and MagicDrew help promote it a bit, we can get more folks to play? MagicDrew is utterly FEARLESS when it comes to actively promoting things. I tend to take the passive route. Because I am a wuss. And a pessimist.

We continued investigating the events and aftermath of the incident, trying to find out more about the previous Summer King, Sid, and the missing Spring Queen, April, who sent a good man into the hedge. Very little help from the Autumn Queen Maude was given, which made us suspect she is a part of this sacrifice for safety deal, or at the best, she could care less about us. Not that I exactly made myself friendly to her.

I sort of sent an EXTREMELY powerful NPC a cellphone message telling her to "DIE BITCH". That might not have been such a good idea...

With some investigating we found out that April was married and her husband has been worried for her. When heading back to our Freehold, I decided to walk back, just in case we were being followed. We did attract Enemy attention, but it was at the Freehold itself. The gateway to Hell, the Hedge opened up, surrounding the building. I ran towards the siege, hoping to break it off, or sacrifice myself dearly to the monstrous dogs that had been trying to get in. One came towards me and I fought it off, with great injury to myself, while quick thinking on the rest of the team's part kept them from any harm, and Maude surprisingly arrived for a moment and used some incredible magic power to eliminate or drive off the rest. As I said, she might not actually be our enemy. But no matter what I do not like her, and I doubt she would be fond of me. Helping your friends and defending the innocent on the front lines is more important than any power she seems obsessed with preparing for, leaving us to fight and die on our own! She says she isn't concerned till its her season to rule.

Rule? We of the court should not rule, we are officers, commanders, figureheads. The first to battle, and the last to leave.

While I am sort of posting a few things out of order above (we actually investigated someone else as well, but it was a dead end and this sounds more interesting!) its basically how things went. I dumbly split off from the group to check on a lead, but after a point gave up on it. I also was hoping that being on my own would draw our adversaries out in the open. Rufus is a lone wolf sort. He will command and do his best at it, but he prefers to lead by example as opposed to by command. Plus our Mirrorvisage is way better at the political and organization bits. Rufus is better on the front line. Which meant I don't think I was particularly good as a Summer King, unless being a massive meatshield counts as Kingly.

Plus my first time gaming with a new group, and with a game system and style I am not very familiar with. I didn't want to be a glory hog. I've always hated those players who try to make the whole damned game about them. Thus I felt more comfortable in being quiet more often (because I naturally have trouble being quiet anyhow.. I DO NOT SHUT UP EVER) and hopefully not making an ass of myself. If MagicDrew wasn't there I probably would have barely talked at all.

It also helped everyone was roleplaying really well (better than me really) and everyone had some great ideas. Sometimes I just sat and listened, and took some notes.

We went back to the scene of Sid's death looking for more answers which due to the Mirror's ghost speaking we found, and another teammate put her life at risk to set up a meeting with the criminal scum in the area. Sadly, when the Mirror morphed into a cop, the locals were.. not too pleased. Our car was damaged, but I fought off as many enemies as I could while they started up the car and pulled my heavily injured self along with them.

I would rather take the injury than the people under me. That's what the good guys do.

I'm seriously truncating what happened and not detailing what everyone did, but as in the game I am trying to avoid metagaming here. There were some cool things that happened that I wasn't a part of at all and quite a bit of time was spent just making decisions and figuring out what to do next. LARPs tend to involve more actual roleplay than your average sit down game which has combat and lots of game mechanics in there.

I was dumped off at the ER for some R&R while everyone else continued to find out what they could about the new criminal kingpin, The Scorpion. According to what they told me afterwards, he may be one of us, and he may have April locked up, doing horrible things to her on a regular basis! Even if she is a part of the plot to sacrifice us to the Enemy, nobody deserves that sort of torture and abuse! As soon as I am able we will mount an assault on this Scorpion.

Justice will be done, and we will be a united front against those who took us from our loved ones and our homes. I do not fear our enemies or my fate. Optimus Prime wouldn't back down from Megatron when he attacked Autobot City, and neither will I! Mine are the claws that slash through the darkness.

Even if the light shines for but a moment before I am silenced, I will do what is right.

Overall it was a pretty damn good game, even if we sort of went the kick ass route most of the time. Half the party being combat types, or at least having combat oriented personalities tends to cause havoc, even if much of our rage might be misplaced at the wrong people. As mentioned, I feel I didn't roleplay my best or do as well in my command position as I should have. Next session should be in the Autumn Court so I won't be in command anyhow and Rufus can kick ass for justice as he is wont to do.

Hopefully I didn't suck too bad, and hopefully I will get to know everyone and start remembering their names too. I'm thinking of the usual nicknames for the blog updates, but right now all I have is Snarkrabbit, Vodkasmash, Platformiz, Storymiz, and MirrorCauldron for them. I dunno. Its not grabbing me as of yet.

I guess I wasn't too awful as I was invited to stick around for the Vampire game happening later with MirrorCauldron running it, but being rather hungry, a bit tired, and the basic fact I wouldn't be able to do Vampire much at all in the long run, I declined. Plus not being all that familiar with that area of Norwich I wanted to follow MagicDrew out. If any of the LARP crew are reading I hope y'all had fun with the fangs and the vampirey nighty stuff!

Everyone seemed like a nice group of people and made my second LARP experience a pleasant one as well. Now I just need to join up in the Camarilla to be "Official" and whatnot before next game. And probably type up Rufus' backstory besides just leaving it in my head.

Thanks again for the great game Midnight Rose!

iPod Touch: A Gamer's Best Friend?

Yes, yes, we all know all the hipsters and insane people are buying iPhones with their 70 dollar a month contracts.
Provided you don't mind missing the phone and camera bit, the iPod Touch is the same machine, except you drop 230-400 at once and nobody bugs you.

I went with an 8 gigger. Why? The Application Store makes these overblown MP3 player/PDA hybrids into the pocket computer we all have wanted but nobody has bothered to give us.

I currently have an animated dice program capable of running 100 polygonal dice on screen at once, and it will add things up plus any other adds you put in. Good for games like D6 or Tunnels & Trolls! The developer is working on more seriously needed features (like holding dice, multicolored dice, ect) and so forth. And it was a buck! Some die rollers had more features currently in for a higher price, but a buck for a gamer die roller in my pocket is sure handy!

With the program DataCase my machine can now read locally stored PDFs, though the larger file sizes can bring the application to its knees if not outright CRASH it. But its got handy bookmarks, is easy to use, supports lots of various computer files, allows for easy deletion (more on the machine's god awful file system in a minute...) and so forth. Image and text quality is good. Now I can carry any PDF I need for gaming in my pocket, saving paper, ink, and materials carried. A simple binder to print out charts and game maps and character sheets, and everything else could just fit in this little device that is about as big as my small hands (1 hand) sideways not counting fingers. Want to play Basic Fantasy or OSRIC on the go? You can do that now! All those retro RPGs only available in PDF format are at your command. Public domain books to read, magazine and comic PDF collections... this program alone makes this a wonder machine.

The machine is solidly constructed, with a metal back and a glass front. The only button on the face is the wakeup and backout of apps button. The bottom of the machine has the headphone jack/speaker, and the dock connector most every iPod has. The left side has the volume buttons, and the top has the lock/sleep button. The image quality is great, being about 25% smaller than the PSP, but about 33% bigger than either DS screen. Depending on which way you hold it, many applications have a landscape or vertical layout. Its built in accelerometer that allows you to tilt and turn the machine like a Wii Wiimote sees this. This is very handy for PDF reading!

Built in applications include a notepad, a calendar, a contact list, Safari Web Browser, Weather, a basic calculator, the App Store, iPhone Youtube (These touch machines don't seem to like flash much, so it gets its own custom setup), an email client, stocks, a fancier clock than the top screen timer, a map program, the settings options, photo viewing, itunes store link, the iPod Music, and Video playback.

I moved most of the online required programs to the 2nd page. The Videos seem primarily designed for iTunes store purchasing, as does the music. (Though some file programs like the one I bought above circumvent this.) I converted a working mpg film into an iPod format and transferred it over via the usual iTunes requirements. The video came across and was nice, but the audio was missing. BOO. Its largely gonna be alright for pure Quicktime video, and probably squat else.

Conversion of the file on my 2.8 ghz 2 gig ram dual core iMac took a good 5-7 minutes for a 2 minute video. My second attempt involved a high res Quicktime movie of the Watchmen trailer. It converted in a MUCH quicker timeframe, and the sound was fine. Viewing it on the iPod I saw some missed frames (something I saw in Youtube as well), though this could also be attributed to the conversion removing them in the first place when I played it on the iMac before transferring it over.

The iPod interface got a massive overhaul from my 1st gen Nano with more bells and whistles. Nicely done, but it wasn't really a must need. It was pretty good to begin with! It also has a fairly ok sounding and ok powered speaker so you don't need to buy one or use headphones, though obviously the volume and quality takes a bit of a hit. Nice when you want to annoy people with Wesley Willis music though, or need to throw up a quick RPG background music playlist to get your players in the right mindframe. (Or because you are a bard. And the 2 main reasons to play that class involve getting chicks, and shoving your music down everyone else's throat. Its just the latter that actually works. The former is akin to being good at Guitar Hero or Rock Band.)

Now one thing I need to bring up is transferring files over. Unless its built into iTunes IT SUCKS EGGS. You have to sync files and folders to the machine and whatever is in said folder is shot over, and everything not in that folder is erased. For iTunes music and movies and apps this isn't too shabby. Delete on your computer (or on the machine for the new downloaded apps only) and drag and drop new stuff over and turn that sync malarkey off. This makes using the built in Photoviewer kind of annoying. But you can use those photos for your wallpaper with a flick of a finger.

Because you pretty much control it with your fingers, moving and flicking and pointing. Stylus control doesn't work, but a few companies are making ones that will, giving you more accurate control, which is handy for fat fingered folk, or anyone who wants to type or do any data entry on this thing. It could be a handy tool for writing down notes in RPGs, drawing quick maps.. lots of uses!

So this little gadget plays music, videogames, does most PDA functions, web browsing and other net functions, plus whatever features developers make and hopefully only charge a small fee for.

As a gamer's handy friend I would say it might be one of the better investments you can make. Outside of having a cellphone functionality that I could use with a pay as you go plan like AT&T's Go Phone (which I use for my current phone), its the all in one pocket computer we have all dreamed of!

Its not perfect though. Apple's distrust of the end user, the amount of horrible drek on the App Store, and a few minor quibbles keep it from being a must have.

Its more a REALLY COOL TO HAVE sort of device, especially if you are as nerdy as I am!

My score? Is it Good? Is it Ok? Is it Bad?

It is Good.

With more and better apps to buy and more OS updates this thing should just get better and better though!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

New Editions, Feel, and Compatibility

Over at RPGnet there was a discussion about if 4th edition D&D is D&D at all. Of course the usual comments were made. Its whatever you consider it to be, whatever Gary Gygax did, whatever the current owner of the IP counts, yadda yadda.

The thing is, its a new edition. Its gonna cause angry feelings!

The problem is most RPG editions are SO DIFFERENT FROM THE LAST ONE it causes all this mayhem. Games Workshop for all their flaws basically have kept the same game engine and just tweaked it since the early 80s. The only major drastic rules shift was with 40K between 2nd and 3rd. 3rd was justifiably terrible because of this, but 4th and 5th being 95% compatible with the previous ruleset ended up being very fun and satisfying games provided you still didn't hold a 2nd ed grudge. They kept working on it, and tweaking, and fixing the game system till it shined.

D&D generally followed this up until 4th. OD&D with expansions was quite similar to AD&D which was super similar to 2nd (unless WAAH NO DEMON AND DEVILS CALLED AS SUCH is unsimilar enough.) and 2.5 was kind of close to 3rd though it was a much greater departure if you never bothered with the Option books.

4th is too much of a change for most people. Its barely recognizable outside of keeping the name. Its game rules feel is totally off.

Now setting and gameplay feel can be affected by the players themselves, the rules are the biggest part. Its not really designed for anything other than one certain style of play.

It was bad in 3.x for this, but you could finagle enough of the previous versions' style to work. 4th seems to in fact have decided 3.x's intended design style is the ONLY design style to play and wham bam thank you Tiamat.

Any new game edition that makes most of the previous edition's supplements useless is gonna cause no end of grief for players, and bitching online.

And it's generally DESERVED.

To be sure, the Internet is mostly for ineffective complaining and pornography, but there are enough people who are justifiably mad at this. Hell, a number of companies are betting their livelihood on this. (See Paizo with Pathfinder.)

Of course, this being RPGnet, the land where new editions MUST. BE. BOUGHT. since apparently the industry is a charity as opposed to a niche hobby for dumbass losers like myself who like silly things like reading and using our imagination, rude comments were made.

Meaning its time to stop posting for a while till my tolerance for stupid aligns with my need to be in the know about RPG stuff.

I dont even think I am being that hard on 4th. Just making some common sense comments. If you change a game that much and make 100s if not 1000s of dollars of people's stuff suddenly useless and change the basic feel of the entire game, some people are gonna be pissed, especially online, which as I mentioned, is nothing but porn and bitching about stuff nobody in the real world cares about.

D&D is just a big example of how such a major shift can screw you. Just ask Wizkids whose 2nd edition of Mage Knight effectively killed the game. Or Mechwarrior Dark Age which was such a shift from Battletech that even though Battletech was kept in production, the sheer level of hatred put it in such a weakened position it was never going to be a big hit period. Or Space Marine/Titan Legions. The shift to Epic 40,000 turned Games Workshop's 3rd pillar into a barely existing nonentity residing in the fringes of GW's Specialist games line.

Should we really accept these sorts of shenanigans? In the world at large even modest tweaks to a little stand alone game like Clue cause major news stories and outrage.

Yet in the hobby gaming field we seem to have such an addiction to buying MORE OF THE SAME DAMNED THING (almost) that it should be praised?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Tunnels & Trolls 7.5 Unboxing and First Look Review

I might as well post my first look review of Tunnels & Trolls 7.5, and in my handy comic book format!


I was pretty much blown away by what they crammed in here. Not to mention using my game book preferred style of binding, the spiral! (Spiral binding good. Spiral King? BAD.)

The problem is now I want to use T&T instead if AD&D even though I will be required to do some serious conversion work. I'll most likely keep AD&D and my house rules for my upcoming game though. Maybe T&T can be a light pick up RPG. If I can get the thing read by next Tuesday anyhow.

I had the mehs this week. So its variety pack time.

Its kept me from doing more rules comics. But.. I have many interesting (not really) things I posted elsewhere that I can cut and paste.

I will probably be un meh next week though. Possible LARP Saturday if I can wake my butt up, and just other good stuff possibly down the pike.

First topic: Why I like western electronic RPGs to Japanese ones. Dunno if I haven't said it before, but hell, its content. Makes it look like I wish to entertain my nonexistent readership!
I've always preferred western RPGs to JRPGs.

Because in most western RPGs its about MY STORY, not whatever silly anime otaku pandering pile of cliches and character stereotypes destined to be turned into fan made porn the developers came up with on the wheel of generic RPGs this week.

(Not to say western devs don't beat that wheel like it owes them money mind you..)

I like having freedom and choice. Communist choices ala Suikoden actually just make me angrier. Its like they genuinely believe you would only pick the answer they want you to!

It isn't helped by most JRPGs being stupidly easy and generally all the random combat which was originally in RPGs as a resource sink causing risk vs reward choices to be made is just there to waste time.

By 3-5 hours into a JRPG I am sick of the combat. Its why I like the autofight options of games like Etrian Odyssey where you press L and the AI handles combat. A little poorly, but for random encounters it usually is more than adequate. ( I use party control for the dangerous boss fights.)

With save points and the general fact you will almost always be at top power and resources when fighting the dungeon boss, what's even the point of the random combat outside of a tactically irrelevant timesink?

Almost every JRPG with random combat could be improved vastly by multiplying the money and XP gained by 10, and reducing the combat frequency by the same factor.

I also love making my own characters. Its really part of the fun. I would NEVER make annoying twits like Cloud or Squall.

The point of roleplaying is to.. ROLEPLAY.

And most JRPGs are more or less boring graphic adventures with tedious combat as a timesink as opposed to ridiculous puzzles no rational person would figure out.

Is it any wonder a game like Fallout and Fallout 2 with its massive amounts of freedom to do whatever you want in whatever way you want it has such a devoted fanbase?

Its not because the characters are a bunch of fapworthy bishi boys or some girl only a mentally disturbed otaku shut in would find appealing. Its for for some rehashed story that tries to be deep and post modern, but ends up sounding like a 15 year old's fanfic.

Its because its an actual roleplaying game designed to work you creatively, strategically, and mentally.

But maybe this is because I come from Ultima 1 as my first RPG and I play a ton of tabletop RPGs.

I came into the genre differently than most, and I have higher expectations.

Its not so much (even if I came down pretty hard on them) that JRPGs are bad.

Its that they are wasted potential in comparison to the competition they were an offshoot of in the first place.

Exciting eh? Ok, not really. Part 2 is what my game group is currently playing and has played in the past. This is coming from my Yahoo Group which has so far failed to actually bring any new people into our gamegroups. Of course me happily hating on whatever version of D&D is currently in print probably helps.

We play in the Griswold/Norwich CT area, though I tend to wander down to New London for my 40K and AT 43, and another person on the group goes down to Groton for gaming. (We are pretty close to the casinos, so our stores are Sarge's Comics, Citadel Games, and Arkham Asylum.)

Currently we have 2 active (ish) play groups, one meeting on Tuesdays in Griswold and another on Wednesdays in Lisbon. (I am not at that one as it conflicts with my 40K and AT 43. I have Warmachine but I barely bring it down there. I haven't actually played my Cryx since 06 I think.)

Some of us are playing various other games like boardgame pickups on the weekend, or various LARP events (which suprisingly aren't the trainwrecks I thought they were. Let's hear it for good convention games I guess..) or other events here and there.

Some of the games we have actually played: (As a group, not counting con or individual pursuits.)
Battletech, AT 43, Warhammer 40K, Titan Legions, Warhammer Fantasy, Ogre/GEV, Squad Leader, Federation Commander, Silent Death, Magic, World of Warcraft CCG, Star Wars Minis, Heroclix, Horrorclix, Star Wars RPG, All Flesh Must Be Eaten, D&D (various versions), New World of Darkness, Doom, Heroscape, Castles and Crusades, Chez Geek, Swipe, Monopoly, Risk, Final Frontier, Munchkin, other Star Wars CCG/Build a Ship games, Blood Bowl, Necromunda, Zombies!!, Space Crusade, All Wound Up!, Axis and Allies, Gettysburg, BattleLore, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness, Catan, Formula De, Crossbows & Catapults, Car Wars, Gurps Lite, D6 Adventure, and probably a bunch more I am forgetting. Or we haven't gotten around to playing.

Currently the games on the front burner are AD&D house rules on Tuesdays, and D&D Fourth Edition (BOOOOOO!) on Wednesdays.


Now I can just cut and paste the above as needed and not have to retype it all that much!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

My AD&D 2nd House Rules Part 6 - Combat Part 3

My descent into needless minutae and silliness CONTINUES...


Almost at the end! Just a little on encounters, Initiative, and probably unarmed combat (which is gonna be super simple).

There have been some comments where I attention whor... I mean also posted my house rules that the combat section is overdetailed, and a little bit anal really. Which I can understand. But as I come from as much RPGing as I do tabletop wargaming, covering the major situations and having a little crunch to sink my tactical teeth in is something I am used to and have come to expect, especially given some of the more powergamey of people I have played with and against over the years.

But this did cause me to ultrastreamline cover and terrain and area effect spells/attacks more than I already planned. But to save time I did Power Stunts and Attribute Checks as pure text. Which means less chances for silly jokes though. Oh well, there is always the final section for that, right?

Monday, September 1, 2008

Genre Books are BAAAD... Mmmkay?

I constantly see Internet complaints about those DIRTY, STUPID, and CHILDISH CRAP gamer novels. You know, Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms. You can probably count other series books like the Star Wars and Star Trek books under this heading.

The basic Internet line of thought is that they are all garbage and we should be reading more "intellectual" books.

Which mostly means snooty, self absorbed literary fellatio that few people actually finish reading, and even fewer understand.

Now on to my thoughts on gamer novels and such straight on. Honestly? I quite enjoyed a lot of them as a high school and Navy era teen. They are light and fun mostly. The problem comes when they start acting like comic books where nothing is ever really accomplished, nobody is in any real danger, and the only setting changes happen when the game company wants more money so they do a total rules rewrite. (Which leads to God awful games such as D&D 4th edition.)

Which tends to be just as bad as no change really. (Just like actual comics!)

Now I think most of the bashing of genre novels is really unfair. And mostly reserved for the Internet, which has been proven to have no basis in reality. Just bored people like us who really should get out more often as the "real world" could care less about Joss Whedon, Ron Paul, or any other hot button issue serious or entertainment based we have.

But these books do get tedious after a while. I still really like Dragonlance, but outside of the Tasslehoff book, I only read the Weiss and Hickman co written books. So from 89 to 2003 or so I read 11 books from that line. Chronicles, Legends, New Generation, Summer, and War of Souls. Now the last 4 books were pretty much KILL EVERY CHRONICLES CHARACTER WE CAN, but I didn't have any fanboy rage or anything. I actually enjoyed the work as a whole complete story. I just don't want or need anything else from Dragonlance.

The Crystal Shard was probably my first "real" novel at the tender age of 13 and no matter what anyone thinks about Salvatore he got me into reading actual big arse books. And for that I will be forever grateful. And I enjoyed the first 2 trilogies, but stopped caring by the black hardbacks.

Again, see the comic book comparison. Plus the plots got silly.

I've read a TON of the Battletech novels, most of the Ravenloft ones, and I read some of the Warhammer 40K books.

Tad Williams and other so called "respected and worthwhile" authors aren't my cup of tea. Or as one friend put it "All Williams does is spend dozens of pages going on about the most meaningless detail I don't care about". I do not disagree.

Considering your average person in the street MAKES FUN OF BOOKS AND READING, do we all need to bash silly summer reading novels?

No, no we don't.

If I am a big bad dummy for enjoying such "populist" books as stuff by Stephen King or JK Rowling or various other authors? (Except for the burgeoning "Female Written Supernatural Horror/Fantasy That's Really Just Porn for Women" genre. It can eat a big bag of fart. Seriously. Either do porn and call it such, or get the foot long weretiger shlongs out of the novels because the kinky sex is ruining some seriously cool "Urban Fantasy" novel concepts!)


My AD&D 2nd House Rules Part 5 - Combat Part 2

I'm honestly not sure if I really needed to do this section even as a set of house rules, and if I didn't do it comic styled I could have finished it in, oh 2, maybe 3 paragraphs. But this is sorta fun! I miss doing these photocomic thingies! I used to do them every week just as a silly fun story. Good times, good times...


Next time, cover, terrain, and other wierdness.


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