Sunday, October 24, 2010

D&D Gamma World in actual play

So, yesterday I participated in the Wizards of the Coast Gamma World Game Day and I have to admit, it was a blast. Sadly we didn't have a lot of players so we ended up having two tables each with a GM and three players. We were charged by he mayor of the town we were in to investigate some mysterious happenings at an old medical laboratory just outside of town. I was playing a psionic Yeti, and we also had an earth shaking cockroach and a doppleganger. Character creation in the game is quite a bit different from regular D&D 4E. Each player rolls 2d20 to generate random primary and secondary origins. Your origins determine two of your ability scores and each provides one power. Your primary origin allows you to place an 18 in one of your ability scores, while your secondary origin awards a 16 in another. after that, your remaining scores are generated by rolling 3d6 in order, which I love. I actually like that chance that I could roll a 3 for an ability, but then I'm weird. Equipment isa lot more generic than in D&D, but that makes for in some cases more interesting equipment. Weapons are grouped into light and heavy by class, (melee, ranged) and then one-handed and two handed. This means that I can have a 2 handed weapon and say that it's a huge club, while someone else can have one and say that it's a garden rake, which I think adds to the overall amusing feel of the game. Armor works in a similar way, being classed as light, medium or heavy.
My character as I said before was a psionic Yeti and my main weapon was a parking meter. Combat is very much D&D 4E, but there is no magical healing and there are no healing surges, making the game far more dangerous. To counteract this somewhat, each character is permitted to use their second wind, which is now a minor action, once per encounter. Second wind in Gamma World heals 1/2 of your total hit points. Additionally, short rests after each encounter allow for full healing.
For each encounter, every player is dealt one alpha mutation which provides some for of special ability. The player can use this card once during the encounter and then it becomes "tapped" much like a Magic the gathering card. At the end of the encounter, the mutation card are turned back in and each player draws a new one for the next encounter. When using an Alpha Mutation, players also have the option to attempt to overcharge them by rolling 10 or higher on 1d20. Successful overcharging enhances the power, while failure can lead to some hilarious side effects. I used a time shift power and failed my overcharge roll, which led to my character vanishing for 1d6 hours. Of course I rolled a 6. :-) There has been a lot of debate around this mechanic, but I for one am a huge fan of it. I love the random element and while players are allowed to build their own custom mutation decks with a minimum of 7 cards and no more than 2 of the same kind of card, I think that I prefer the wackiness of using random cards drawn from the master deck that comes with the game.
Treasures in the game fall into 2 categories, ancient junk and Omega Tech. Ancient junk isn't exactly what the name says. Some of it is junk, but some of it can be useful too. One of the players found tape, while I found a saxaphone. The treasure system sort of reminded me of the random equipment table in Aftermath. Omega Tech are the real "treasures" These are more akin to magic items in D&D and are usable once per encounter. My Yeti found a Leaky Fusion Rifle, which did 7d8+1 damage, but caused 2d8+1 damage to the user.
I have to say, I'm a big fan of this game. I'm not convinced that it would be completely viably for a long-term campaign, but o while a way a fe weeks, I think it's splendid.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Requiem for the Rail Rat Kid

Well, last night's gaming session saw the demise of Mortimer the ratling, better known as Manchego's sidekick, the Rail Rat Kid. No The RRK was hardly adventurer material, and he was somewhat of a magnet for disaster, having been horribly burned, blown up, nearly downed in sand and finally impaled by a somewhat hormonal, totally psychopathic, and fully cybernetic wench named Mila Mars.  He wasn't particularly effective, but he was earnest and always tried, and damn it he was Manchego's sidekick. Now Manchego's not really the sidekick having type of dude, but somehow he clicked with the RRK. In the end, Manchego hauled his corpse out of the collapsing dome city so that he could at least have a decent burial. He was a member of our party and he will be missed.  So, roll on Rail Rat Kid, and may your afterlife be filled with willing rat ladies.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Monday, May 3, 2010

Another spooky thing from the crypt to go with the one from a few weeks ago.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Miniatures Monday

Lurking in dank corners of the earth, green slime has been the bane of many an adventurer.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Set the Wayback Machine for 1984

A while back, in my travels through the internet I came across two games that whisked me back to what was, for me, the heart of the golden age of computer gaming, 1984. The first is the Adventure Creation Kit, which is a free version of the old Electronic Arts Adventure Construction Set, which was to toolkit for crafting computer RPGs in the vein of Wizard's Crown and Ultima III. I have very fond memories of spending hours playing around with this in high school. My friends and I always hoped to use it to create adventures to share amongst ourselves. Sadly, that never panned out, but this might just offer a second chance. The Adventure Creation Kit is available for both Windows and Mac OSX. Additionally, a version is provided that is suitable for use under DOSBox for those of us who are Linux users.

The second game is Oolite, a clone of the old space trading game Elite. It's probably not the most apt description, but I think of Elite as sort of Star Raiders on steroids. Now Elite wasn't a game that I had ever played back in the day, but a friend of mine who grew up in the U.K. has regaled me with tales of the hours that he spent playing this on his Spectrum Plus. Oolite is available for Windows, Mac OSX and Linux.

Oh, and both of these games are free as in beer.

Quick Links:
Adventure Creation Kit

Monday, April 19, 2010

Miniatures Monday

So last week while I was in Vegas, there was a glitch of some sort with my post scheduling, so this week there Will be two!
Here we see two valiant knights, exploring the unplumbed depths of the ear in search of riches.
The topmost miniature is a 1999 Reaper Miniatures casting, but the one on the bottom is a special treat. It is a 1981 lead casting from a company known as Wizards and Lizards. I distinctly remember picking this miniature up in the early 1980s at the hobby shop on the lower level of Century III mall. This was the same shop run by the crabby dudes who once told my friends and I that we were, "cluttering up the store." Never mind that there were only four of u,s and no one else was in the store. Hard to believe that they went out of business isn't it?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Survivor: RPG Island

The other night I was perusing my collection of RPGs, and while not as extensive as many that I have seen, my collection has two closets and several additional shelves dedicated to it. Every few months I lovingly rearrange the books, moving those that I find the most interesting to me at the time to "The Shelf of Prominence", where they are made easily accessible. Sadly the collection has become unwieldy. This is not to say that I have any plans to reduce the size of my collection. Far from it. It just got me to thinking about which of those games are the most important to me. If I could only keep one RPG, which one would it be? Well, that was just a ridiculous question as I could never possibly settle on just one. But what about three to five? That would seem like a more reasonable number. Reasonable, but by no means simple.

Slot 1: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons: (1st Edition) plus the Holmes and Moldvay Basic D&D sets. Yes, this is cheating, since it's technically 2 or 3 games, but these are such an integral part of my childhood that I can't let them go. Besides, it's my list and my rules. ;-)

Slot 2: Savage Worlds. This was a tough fight with the Hero System. I need a generic system and while I love Hero (at least up to 5th edition), I'm old and don't have as much time as I used to, so Savage Worlds wins here.

Slot 3: Labyrinth Lord. Yes, it's just a retro clone of Moldvay & Cook's Basic and Expert D&D, but I still like it. The artwork is cool and players can buy a copy without going to ebay. For a quick, fun dungeon crawl with easily replaceable characters, this is my game.

Slot 4: The Dying Earth Roleplaying Game. This is the weird one of the bunch. I'm quite fond of Jack Vance's Dying Earth stories and Pelegrane Press did a wonderful job capturing the feel of that bizarre and doomed world. It's a shame that it's out of print, but they are in negotiations to reacquire it. The Scaum Valley Gazerteer remains one of my favorite RPG reads of all time. Definitely not a game for those who love combat. In fact, the game tells you that if you find yourself in combat, something has gone very wrong. Deadly, ;-)

Slot 5: Dungeons and Dragons (4th Edition) Hey, it's grown on me.

Slot 6: Justice Inc. Whoops! I did 6. :-)

Slot 7: Tunnels & Trolls. I've always loved this game, but rarely been able to find players who were into it enough to play it with me. Take That You Fiend!

Runners up:

Hero System (5th Edition)
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying (2nd Edition)
RuneQuest II (Mongoose Edition)

Dishonorable Mention:

Powers & Perils What was up with this game? Seriously.

I should really just have made this a top 10.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Inspirational Imagery

Ever since I was a child, this has been one of my favorite D&D images. Now, everyone who has ever been anywhere near a D&D book KNOWS what's inside the devil's mouth, but something about this picture really strikes a chord with me. It just oozes mystery. The leering bas-relief of the daemon with its gaping maw and the mist filled archway really puts my old-school dungeon senses on high alert. I know the death that awaits, but that still doesn't allay my curiosity. Like the mage in the picture, I still want to look...

Sunday, April 4, 2010

An Improbable Revelation

For the past three weeks I have been playing in the Wednesday night D&D Encounters game at my local gaming store. I'm not sure why I even decided to play. Quite possibly it was just that I needed my fantasy with swords fix as most of my recent gaming has been fantasy with guns. Now, I had no small amount of reservation about playing in a random pickup group. My fourth edition experience up to this point had been limited to a one-shot when 4e was released and a couple of WOTC Game Days. The one-shot was fun and I didn't hate the system, but the Game Day games were iffy at best. At Games Days, I've had a tendency tend to wind up at tables with people who know the rules far better than me and are more interested in optimizing their play rather than just having fun. Now anyone who knows me knows that I'm not much of a rules guy. I like to know enough about the rules to get by, but I'm far and a way more interested in playing and having fun and having people tell me that I'm playing my character wrong doesn't do much for my enjoyment level. In any case I decided to try it, and I'm certainly glad that I did. I sat down at a table with a GM four other players that I'd never met and had an absolute blast. I knew early on that it was going to be a good games when one of the players, who just might be nearly half my age said that we wanted to go any buy some equipment. And what did he want to buy? A ten foot pole! Yes, a ten foot pole. Now, I can't remember the last time that I saw someone buy one of those, but it just may have been in the 1980s. In any case, that little event made me think, "This is going to be good."

So we were off and running. Our group, known unofficially as the Band of the Naked Minotaur set forth in search of fame and glory. These guys knew the rules, but everyone was there to have fun, and the more I have been playing, the more that the 4e rules have come to grow on me. No, this isn't MY D&D. My D&D will always be rooted in randomly rolled stats, save or die poison and rust monsters that eat your normal armor with no saving throw, But that doesn't mean that I can't enjoy 4e as well. A lot of people have complained that 4e is more about roll-playing than role-playing and that the game has borrowed too much from MMOs. To the first point, almost any game can be a role-playing game. I've played games of Nuclear War where people played roles. If people want to role-play, they will, if they don't, they won't regardless of the rules. As for borrowing from MMOs, sure, there are plenty of things in 4e that remind me of World of Warcraft, but it's still a tabletop game and we're all still sitting around telling stupid jokes and rolling dice rather than sitting hunkered down in front of our PCs all alone.
As with all of my posts, there is no grand and powerful point here. I'm not trying to sell anyone on anything. I ramble on about whatever strikes my fancy. I've found that I can enjoy 4e, and in the end having fun is what games are all about for me.

Addendum: I've actually been reading the 4e rules. Yes, Virginia, I've been reading a rulebook, and I may just have to give 4e a try form the GM side of the table one of these days.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Miniatures Monday

From the dark heart of the Stygian desert comes the sinister Serpent Sorcerer!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Miniatures Monday

From dark catacombs, far beneath the earth, comes the dreaded wraith. Spooky...No seriously. Spoooooky!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Miniatures Monday

Quake in fear at the Moleman Champion! He'll dig up your yard....with a sword!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Inspriational Imagery

This is so awesome it hurts! Is it a trap, or just an interesting doorway? A gateway to another dimension, or the maw of a gigantic demon? Who can say?
Check out more of his art here.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Miniatures Monday

Deep beneath the earth, the Crimson Sorcerer searches for arcane treasures!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Inspirational Imagery

This image from the old Grenadier "Dungeon Explorers" set, really captures what I think of as an old-school dungeon in a way that graph paper maps rarely do. Note the winding stairs and the multiple dark passageways leading to parts unknown. What dangers lurk in the shadows just out of sight? And who are the two people at the bottom of the steps? Advanced scouts or rival adventurers seeking to snatch the treasure from our intrepid heroes?

Monday, February 1, 2010

Miniatures Monday

He is the baddest hombre in the west. He is.....Manchego, the cheesiest gun in the west.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Imagination Gaming

Back in the day, much of gaming happened in our minds. Tabletop RPGs we to a great extent designed this way. We had thin rulebooks with poor artwork, some dice and maybe a few poorly cast miniature figures. There wasn't much else to have early on, so we had to imagine, based on our GMs descriptions and our own imaginations, what the dungeon looked like, what the orcs looked like, etc. Sure, most everyone had some common basis for things like orcs and dragons, but everyone "saw" things in their own particular way. The game happened in our minds and to some extent was a personalized experience.
Things were much the same with early computer games. Due to the limitations of computer graphics in the late 1970's and early 1980's, imagination played an important role in the enjoyment of early computer games for many of us. We weren't a square on the screen, we were and adventurer! Those weren't badly designed ducks on the screen, they were dragons! The dungeons of Wernda weren't glowing static lines, they were dank stone chambers. The computer presented representations of the world. It was up to our imaginations to flesh them out and add life to them. It was a grand time. But of course, times changed. Things "improved" in the computer world, and I'll admit that going from being a square to a 30x30 pixel vaguely humanoid shape was pretty nice. Even in the tabletop world, things got "better". Better sculpting gave us more detailed miniatures. Artwork in our rulebooks improved and we got color! Things were great.
But the computers didn't stop. Graphics kept getting better, games kept getting bigger and more involved. As things got more realistic, the need for imagination lessened. When a dragon looks like a dragon, there isn't much need to imagine that it looks any different from the way that it is presented on the screen. tabletop games were falling behind.
So tabletop games worked to keep up. Rules became more detailed, artwork became even more realistic and polished. Combat became more tactical and terrain came into more common use. Tabletop roleplaying games tried to look more impressive, but there was still a lot of imagination required for the tabletop experience.
Computer games are fairly ubiquitous these days. Tabletop roleplaying games are not. Kids these days don't need to imagine what their fantasy worlds look like, they already know, and those worlds look the same to everyone.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Monday, January 11, 2010

Miniatures Monday

This week's installment of Miniatures Monday features the heroic barbarian doing what he does best.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Welcome to Miniatures Monday

One of my plans for the new year is to paint more miniatures, so I've decided to start posting the ones that I complete in 2010. My goal for the year is 52 miniatures in 52 weeks. I doubt that I will achieve such a lofty goal, but I'm going to give it a shot. So, welcome to the first installment of "Miniatures Monday"!
I thought that it would be fitting to give some love to the lead and start with an old-school miniature from the Grenadier Fighting Men set.