Thursday, February 16, 2017

Review: Legacy--Life Among the Ruins...and more.

Okay, so I haven't been posting very actively lately.  I'm going to blame it on...let's see...too much gaming on Roll20, a welcome uptick in in-person gaming, and Netflix.  Also, I purchased several more gaming books which I'm slowly working my way through.

One of my latest acquisitions is Legacy--Life Among the Ruins by James Iles.  I came across this game while browsing all the games I could find at which use the Apocalypse Engine.  I bought another game "Powered by the Apocalyse" a little while ago (Dungeon World, see my review here) and was intrigued by the mechanics and its fresh approach to gaming.  I've been wanting to run some sort of sci-fi game to balance all the fantasy and superhero gaming my group does and so I bought Legacy and the two expansions: Legacy--Echoes of the Fall and Legacy--Mirrors in the Ruins.  I got all three pdfs for under US$20 so that's less than one typical print book for the whole set.

Legacy is set in a not-too-far future after civilization has collapsed.  The game does not lay out any specific timeline or even a specific location on earth.  There is mention of stories passed down by grandparents and great grandparents.  It could be that the very oldest people around (90+) still remember the pre-fall world, or maybe it's a generation or two beyond that, depending on what suits the GM's concept best.  But it's not so far back that everything old has crumbled.  There are still a few working vehicles, weapons, tools, and machines around.

Players play both a single character, as one expects in an RPG, but also that character's family.  There are eight character classes and five types of families.  Because this is a PbtA game, there are Moves which represent what you can do.  Each class has a set of unique Moves it can perform but so does each family.  Characters have four stats but families have three: Reach, Grasp, and Mood.  Reach is the family's influence in the wider world; Grasp is the family's ability hold onto what it has; and Mood is the family's overall well-being.  A family also has points of Tech which can be hoarded or spent.  An average family is posited to be 20-30 able-bodied adults.  Interacting with other families in your area is intended to be a feature of any campaign.

Another feature of Legacy is "Ages".  Ages allow you to move the game time forward, apparently by a couple generations.  There is a move for this called The Age Turns, the roll for which is modified by your family's Mood.  This feature may not appeal to all groups but it is a nice addition to the PbtA system overall and could easily be adapted for making other campaigns multi-generational.

As noted above I also bought the two expansions, Legacy--Echoes of the Fall and Legacy--Mirrors in the Ruins.  Echoes of the Fall adds two new family types and one more PC class.  Mirrors in the Ruins adds four very science-fictiony families and a new PC class to go with each.  While the main rules and Echoes are about humans in a near future Mirrors goes much farther into the realm of science fiction and I would definitely use it in a Legacy game to spice things up.

Friday, January 13, 2017

I Hate Keeping Track of Stuff in RPGs

As I peruse various articles on old school gaming I come across a certain thread from time to time.  Old school dungeon crawling and hex crawling campaign rules had a definite resource management side of them.  Players and DM alike were supposed to carefully account for every potion, torch, ration, arrow, coil of rope, etc. acquired and expended.  This, allegedly, provided a challenging mini-game within the larger game.

Frankly, I hate having to keep track of stuff whether as player or GM.  It's just a annoying, boring distraction from the fun stuff.

I prefer games which either hand-wave resource management or build it smoothly into the rules.  For instance, in Dungeon World you have the option of losing one "ammo" if you fail a shooting roll.  Outside of that you just assume the character is being careful shooting and scavenging arrows along the way.  The character does need to possess at least one notional "ammo load", but that's it.  Delightfully simple.

This also goes for keeping track of various conditions or effects, particularly spell effects.  In a lot of games when battle is joined you will likely have multiple spells functioning at one time to either buff the PCs or hinder their opposition.  Each spell has a different duration, may allow/require saves each turn, etc.  That's just more crap to have to keep track of--and who really wants to waste mental energy on that?  I'm thinking it would be much better to frame durations in a way which eliminates that sort of micro-managing.  A suggested set of duration frames, which I'm using in my Neo School Hack rules, is:

- Instantaneous (same round as initiated)
- One round (lasts into the round after the round initiated)
- Until end of action scene (some GM judgement on when to call it off)
- Set number of hours/days/weeks/etc. (okay a bit of tracking, but low granularity)

Sunday, January 1, 2017

So I made this Kraken...

My buddy Steve is running a great campaign for us.  In our last session our intrepid heroes boarded a surprisingly small ship and headed across the big ocean to the undead-infested mainland on a quest.  I figured that at some point while we sailed around we'd get attacked by a kraken.  I didn't have a kraken figure so I decided to make one.  I needed something big but something I could do pretty quickly.  I decided to go with foam core poster boards and soft foam sheets, plus some styrofoam balls.

Made several small scale models using stiff card to test out shapes before cutting the posterboard.

Cut a foamcore sheet to make the two sides and positioned on a base sheet.

Messed about with the positioning til I was happy with it.

Used tape to keep the boards in place while I used the hot glue gun.

Cut the styrofoam balls in half for eyes and warty bumps; also grabbed a conical piece left over from a previous project.

Clued on horn, eyes, and small warty bumps.

Decided I needed a tail (or fin) sticking up for dramatic effect, so I sketched one on a foam sheet and cut two pieces.

Tail glued on!

Proper kraken have spiky bits down the back.

Must have scary teeth: soft foam teeth on top, foam core on bottom.  Deliberately made teeth slightly different sizes and added notches and chips for "ooglyness" (yes, that's a word).

Proper monsters are green.

Painted eyes yellow for contrast.  Decided to add appropriately weird tongue; sparkly purple seemed like a good color choice at the time.

Black spray paint on inside of kraken, darkest at the back but light near the mouth for blending later.

Just add water.

Added some watery effect squiggles with markers.  Also carved out horn and eyes to add small wooded button pupils.

Decided the eyes needed edge rings, partly to pop better and partly to hide the gap.  Burgundy goes well with golden yellow. Noticed the base warped due to the dampness of the paint; used books to form back flat. (Knew I'd get some use out of those 4E books some day!)

Tongue shaded with black at back and glued in; red pupils glued in place.

Eye rims glued on and final paint touch-ups.


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Review: Black Pudding #1

So I've been following James V West on Google+ for a while.  I like his artwork and he's put out some fun OSR stuff such as new character classes.  Very recently he put a bunch of cool OSR stuff together in a zine and called it Black Pudding #1.  I quite eagerly purchased the pdf at DriveThruRPG and dived right in.

It has a couple beautifully illustrated character sheets, seven very different character classes, magic items, two mini-dungeons, eight hirelings, a bunch of monsters, and some house rules.  There is art all over the place in James' engaging style.

Bottom Line: BUY IT!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Old School Hack Race-as-Class: The Dark Fairy

I've been going back over the various OSR rules I have to soak up ideas.  My current favorite, Old School Hack, borrows the race-as-class concept from the earliest editions of D&D.  So I thought I'd come up with something new in that vein.  In one of my early playtest games of OSH for my group they met a creepy dark fairy lurking in a vine-tangled gorge but were able to bribe her with pie.  Dark Fairy sounded like a pretty cool name for a new class so here it is.

The Dark Fairy
- Dark fairies are a fey race famous for their gloomy dispositions.  The drift through life on an apparently destination-less journey with somehow makes sense to them.  They are slender humanoids with grayish skin, hair of muted shades, and a pair of small moth wings which are colored in shades of brown, grey, and black.  They also traditionally wear a lot of black, brown, and gray and prefer silver jewelry.

Inherent Talent: I Am Smiling/constant: you are immune to emotional states such as fear, sadness, joy, panic, etc. because they have been your constant companions for as long as you can remember--not that anyone cares

Classic Weapon: blowgun

Class Talents

Touch of Sadness/encounter: you can share your apathy and ennui with other creatures merely by touching them.  If the one touched cannot pass an opposed Commitment check they collapse into a semi-catatonic state of depression for 24 hours so you'll have one friend who truly understands you.  You can also transmit this touch via any item held in the hand, such as a rose or a willow branch.

Twinkle, Twinkle/focus: with a sweeping gesture you conjure a bit of fairy dust to sprinkle.  Any creature or object, including yourself, sprinkled with it will remain weightless for an hour.  While under the effect of fairy dust dark fairies can use their small moth wings to flutter around.  One tiny handful of dust may be put in a small container instead of being used immediately but only a fairy's most recent conjuring remains magical and effective.

Nobody Even Notices Me/focus: with a sweeping gesture you conjure a bit of fairy dust to sprinkle. Any creature or object sprinkled with this dust becomes invisible for an hour.  The affect only makes the recipient undetectable by vision; they can still be detected by hearing, scent, etc. If the invisible person sneezes the affect is dispelled.  This spell can be cast in reverse to make a dust which dispells magical invisibility effects and makes normally invisible creatures visible for an hour.

Fairy Ring/focus-rested: you can create a magic fairy ring on the ground by dancing in a circle while making music, including simple humming, singing, or whistling.  The ring will be 20 feet across from the center point you danced around.  By sleeping in this ring for one hour a person will be as rested as after a full night's sleep.  However, there is a risk: the person must make a Commitment check and if they fail they will instead fall dead asleep for 24 hours and can only be awakened with magic.

A Rose By Any Other Name/focus: you conjure a magic vampiric black rose.  By touching another living creature you transfer life energy from them into yourself (causing them to lose 1 HP and you to heal 1 HP); if this kills the victim you gain 1 Awesome Point.

Dart of Darkness/focus: you infuse a dart, delivered by hand or shot through a blowgun, with dark ennui.  Any victim struck must pass a Brawn save or go blind for one hour.

Friday, November 11, 2016

My next fantasy RPG campaign...maybe

So I've been tossing around ideas for the fantasy campaign I'd like to run after the current one is done.  This one still has a goodly number of sessions ahead but I like to play with game ideas and the sooner I decide the more prepared I will be when it's time.  I was thinking maybe a megadungeon.  I've never run one or played in one but the idea has always attracted me: What if you could explore all of the Mines of Moria?  Or maybe a big city campaign where all the action takes place in a sprawling metropolis with occasional side jaunts outside. Or something on the Astral Plane--that's a very cool setting--possibly combined with a "Fantasy Battlestar Galactia" concept, like the creative Last Fleet campaign Lowell Francis posted about on his Age of Ravens blog.

So many little time.  Or...maybe I could do ALL OF THE ABOVE AT ONCE!

Okay, here's how it would go.  A long time ago a group of peoples were faced with the destruction of their home plane/planet by some vicious enemy.  They were able to build (or already had) special ships/mounts capable of carrying them to the Astral Plane and thus escaped.  But the enemy sent pursuers.  The survivor fleet fought and fled deep into the astral void, finally ending up at a immense floating tomb-like structure associated with a long-forgotten dead (or maybe not) deity.  For some reason the pursuers were afraid of the tomb/building and retreated, but today occasionally still send scouts.  The refugees found that the massive structure had bits they could mine/gather/harvest(?) to survive.  Eventually they found out the hard way that the tomb-thing contained lethal dangers.  The leaders finally forbade all from delving into the place so that no threats might be aroused or released.  Only the outer portions could be used for the activities upon which the community depended  Over time the old fleet ships were expanded, linked, and then increased in number by building additional ships/hulks. Later traders/explorers from distant parts of the Astral Plane discovered the community and some low-volume trade opened up, allowing them to prosper by selling the various rare products obtained from the outside of the tomb.

Today the fleet is a sprawling connected tangle of ships and other floating structures, some permanently connected and some not.  There is a lot going on in the "town" and outsiders occasionally visit.  Inside the tomb-thing is a megadungeon awaiting foolhardy adventurers, possibly multidimensional (like a Tardis) but definitely with a Deep Dark Secret buried deep within it.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Powered by the Max Galactica

Okay, so I'm still trying to come up with a concept for a science fiction game I'd actually be excited to run.  I recently bought Dungeon World and found the game mechanics very interesting.  Today I bought the original game, Apocalypse World, and started into it.  I'm finding I like the fresh take on gaming that the Powered by the Apocalypse games all seem to have.  Too many games out now are either later editions of "original" games or retro-renaissance retreads of one of those games.

Two campaign concepts which I think would work for a sci-fi campaign are either a Battlestar Galactica type game where a small fleet travels around fleeing and/or exploring or a space scavengers sort of game where they explore and loot their way through the dangerous locations of a devastated galaxy (basically a sci-fi take on dungeon crawls).  As I read through AW I noticed that a couple of the playbooks (character classes) include a set of followers for the character.  As first I thought it would be awkward to include a large community of NPCs but quickly realized it was perfect for a "wandering ragtag fleet" based game.  For instance, each player with a Hardholder character could design a ship which is home to their community, and each Chopper one for their gang.  A Maestro'd or Hocus character might have their own ship or be housed on another charancter's ship.  Or you could include one big main ship, maybe a former luxury space liner, with everyone on board in their own "neighborhood".  The Mad Max type post-apocalypse background setting of AW also contains a streak of psychic weirdness.  This lends itself well to a space scavenger game set in an area of space ravaged in the fairly recent past by some event which left behind things of horror and wonder.