Thursday, April 3, 2014

Wreck Age Review

Wreck Age is an interesting game.  It combines two things that have filled up a lot of my hobby time over the past decade.  Tabletop RPGs and Tabletop Wargames.  It offers a way to play one, the other or some combination of both styles at once.  This idea isn't one that is seen much in today's market but makes perfect sense given the hobby's history. Chainmail and D&D.  The new Iron Kingdoms RPG from Privateer Press is essentially Warmachine with a different focus. Examples are out there and there is a space for this kind of all in one package and Wreck Age does a good job fitting right in.

I found myself reading most of the book through the eyes of a Tabletop Wargame so if a bias comes across I apologize.  I see the merits of the blended system but I really LOVE Skirmish Wargames that allow for advancement and story opportunities.  For that reason Wreck Age kept my mind thinking on the wargame side of the coin.

Let's dive in to Wreck Age from Hyacinth Games.

Setting


Wreck Age is a post-apocalyptic game.  Sometime in the 23rd century there was complete and total collapse of the world as we know it.  Everything from climate shifts to nuclear disasters and pollution attribute to the economic meltdown.  The Earth's elite formulate a solution: The Exodus.  

The Exodus was supposed to be a staggered evacuation of the entire planet.  Escaping to the stars and starting a new life on some distant, better world.  Here is where things get good.  The whole thing is a lie meant to keep people from panic.  The first wave lifts off, comprising of the most intelligent, wealthy and powerful families.  They leave with arks, ships, science vessels, the works.  And . . . that's it.  No second wave.  No third wave.  No more Exodus.  The rest of the residents of our fine planet are left to rot.

What follows is a slew of natural disasters and chain reactions of species extinction.  Wreck Age tells the story of the remaining humans surviving by new rules in a ruined world generations after the Exodus.

The first chapter gives a timeline of important events leading up the Exodus and leaving off with 200 years A.E. (After Exodus).  It's all well done and paints the setting in a very fun and "game friendly" light.  There is a chapter all about the known locations of the setting as well.  This is great fodder for the RPG portion of the game of course but I think wargamers will get some mileage from this as well.  Some of the locations have very different aesthetics and could inspire some varied custom terrain boards.

Community


The idea of Community is a large part of the Wreck Age game.  It informs a large part of the character (or warband) creation.  You get to come up with a post apocalyptic community (I think of the small enclave in Road Warrior every time) and will be using the Community's characters to advance the Community itself. This is done through the tracking of "Resource Units."  Think of RU's as the abstract money of the game.  It really represents everything from the ability to scavenge, social currency, barter and all kinds of other "post collapse" economic goodness.

Here is the first place we see the natural blend of RPG and Tabletop Wargame.  If you are playing the RPG, you create the Community together with your group.  The main characters will all be from the same Community and working toward it's advancement and survival.  If you are playing the Tabletop Wargame, you can create a Community on your own.  Each player will have a Community and his "warband" will be all the characters from that Community.  Each game mode allows you to play as the movers and shakers of a community.  

I really like the way it slides from Cooperative and Competitive with the two modes of play.    

Factions of Wreck Age




The basic Faction types offer an easy entry point for deciding what your Community might be like.  Again, I was mostly reading the book in hopes to play the skirmish game, so having a Faction to play appealed to me.

Stakers

The defensive, isolationist Stakers are the game's faction that is most focused on sustainability. They maintain an utilitarian approach to most aspects of life.  Everyone has a job and when everyone does their part, the Community can thrive.

Drifters

Drifters are the nomadic barbarians of the game.  The group up in roaming clans and attack the more stable communities.  They are always after a challenge in combat and live by a strict Drifter code.  It's all about Freedom in this brutal warrior/raider society.

Stitchers

The Stitchers are great.  They are the boogey-men of the setting.  These terrible, selfish predators.  They are group of organ harvesters that extend their lifespans with experiments and surgery.  Best part?  They trace their lineage back to a medical vessel that crashed during the exodus. A bunch of the best medical personnel that got pissed that they were stuck on this rock with the rest of the ignorant masses.

Reclaimers

The Reclaimers are the Tech-focused scavenger cult.  Wreck Age offers up a cool take on what has become a post apocalyptic staple. They are secretive and revere technology over all else, however they also trade energy and other supplies to other communities.

The book has one page write-ups on some other factions too.  I don't want to spill all the beans on the setting but here is a quick run down:
  • The ARHK - Stands for Autonomous Region of Hong Kong.  A brutal corporation that is here in Merkia to scavenge ancient technology. 
  • The Church of Fun - Live fast, die young.  This group revels in excess and hedonism, believing it to be the best course of action in such dark times.
  • Unicephalon - Shadowy corporate monks that seek to influence the events of the world.
  • The Vale - A true Death Cult.  They believe that humanity has run its course and they are the bringers of the End Times.
  • Caravaneers - Traveling between communities, these men and women form the new trade routes of the world.
  • The Fringes - Any other group that might be banding together for some common cause.  They could be hired guns, outlaws, scavengers, you name it.
All in all, I really enjoy the picture of the world that these Faction entries create.  I see influences from everything from Mad Max to Fallout.  But those are good influences to have if you ask me.  Wreck Age does well to shape each of these Factions to be at once recognizable in the tropes of what has become Post-Apocalyptic fiction while at the same time adding new details to make it all work.


The Rules


The rules of Wreck Age do well to fit the genre.  The combat can be brutal and deadly.  The equipment is mostly shoddy quality and jury-rigged together (yea malfunction rolls!).  It uses D6's, a tape measure in inches and is typically played on a 3'x3' surface.  Pretty standard tabletop wargame stuff.  The additions that make it shine for me are the campaign rules and the encounter/scenario rules and alternating activation.  I love a game that includes campaign advancement and has some degree of hidden objectives for each side. Most of the rules are written through an eye for conflict/combat.  This works fine for me, it is typically the meat and potatoes of any tactical RPG and of course is the most important part to any wargame. Simply put, it all works out quite well.

You will create a group of characters, each with their own level of training, equipment and skills.  Once you go through and create your community, select it's faction and then make the characters (one of which you will designate as a leader of sorts, your Player Character), you are ready to set out and wage war / make alliances with the communities around you.

That brings me to a cool part of how Wreck Age comes together.  Nothing states that every encounter has to start with combat.  You could really play your wargame campaign with "encounters" that are about negotiating trade and such.  Maybe things go bad, maybe another party ambushes the both of you.  The RPG elements give some cool avenues to pursue for using a wargame to tell a story.  This is something my group and I did back in our Necromunda days.  It's a welcome sight to see its possible to do with Wreck Age.

The book has a huge section of salvage and equipment for your characters to fight over and with.  There is a section on scenario special rules as well.

Conclusion


Wreck Age is a game I would certainly play.  I like the setting details and the way they are presented.  The Factions all seem like great fun (Drifters FTW!).  It has enough meat to be a really deep skirmish game and the campaign/advancement/community management aspect is something I wished more games were designed around.  I can always get behind a set of rules that doesn't require a miniature line to go along with it.  You can play Wreck Age with whatever miniatures you would like.  That isn't to say that Hyacinth aren't producing a great line of mini's to go along with their factions though.  It's a best of both worlds kind of thing.

If you are a fan of detailed skirmish rulesets and look back fondly at having long campaign in various other games (Necromunda, Mordheim, etc.) the Wreck Age is definitely worth a look and a buy.  I look forward to getting it on the table for a campaign.  

Wreck Age is available from Hyacinth Games directly and at DriveThruRPG here

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Fighter's Dying Breath

This weekend saw our first death in our Underwatch campaign.  The group made it to the lair of the Lantern Goblin horde that has taken up residence in the city's ancient sewer network.  What they faced was a small horde worshiping a giant glowing crystal suspended in the air (The Source of the Goblin's Light!?!).  Lasbador the Wizard quickly launched a fireball into the crowd and maximized the damage.  That is a whole lot of Goblin death.  Funny thing about Latern Goblins is that when they die their "light" travels to another one of their horde to make them stronger.  This resulted in a huge amount of Lights flowing around the room and empowering the remaining dozen goblins.  One of these goblins was special.

He stood head and shoulders above the rest and had a powerful build.  In his filthy hands was a huge double bladed axe ablaze with green flames.  He let loose a terrible war cry and charged the party with his retinue of vile companions.

Our Fighter, Aubrey, charged right back.  She was determined to smash into the enemy line and give the other heroes time to destroy the crystal.  Dash the bard was right next to her side but that is beside the point.  The story today is all about Aubrey.

The two sides met in the middle of the chamber.  Aubrey and Dash being surround by the Goblins while our Druid and Wizard were going around to break/dismantle/disenchant the big glowy crystal in the center of the room.

Aubrey charged through the crowd to meet the Goblin Warlord (this title sounds appropriately bad ass doesn't it?) in combat.  She described how she would slide along the ground (not hard since she is a Halfling) and swing for the legs with Sally, her Messy, Forceful, Piercing Signature Weapon.

I can hear the epic film score chugging along in my head.  I'm ready for the slow-motion sequence of Aubrey cutting the legs right off the Goblin Warlord.  I'm ready for it! ROLL Hack & Slash!

::shooka shooka go the dice:: Aubrey gets a 6.  A Miss.

That big Axe with the green flames?  The one the Goblin Warlord has? It has Messy too.  The Goblin leaps in the air right over Aubrey's leg sweep.  He comes crashing down and the axe chops right through Aubrey's arm, taking it off at the elbow.  Aubrey is on the ground and wracked with pain. The Goblin screams triumphantly and raises his axe to finish her off.

Dash tries desperately to reach Aubrey and parry the blow.  Sounded like a Defend to me.  He rolls a 5.  Miss.  The other goblins swarm him and hold him back.

At this point I thought to myself, "Is that it?  Is Aubrey dead?  Did that arm come off and now the Goblin finishes the job?  Or did the shock of the wound really have time to set in yet?  Is there time for the bravest Halfling that every graced the City Watch to get in one last swing?  She is THE Fighter.  She's got time for one last swing of her axe.  Aubrey is THE Fighter.  I'm a fan of the characters after all.  Fighter's go down swinging.

I look to Aubrey's player and describe the Goblin's axe coming down on her.  "What do you do?" I ask.  She described how she is going to drag her axe along the groung and bring it up in a brilliant upward arc toward the Goblins face. Awesome.  Roll Hack & Slash.

She rolls.  She gets a 9.  They are both taking Damage.  What results is a simultaneous double-kill right out of a movie.  Both of the weapons strike true and do enough damage to end the life of the other in the most gruesome manner possible.  The Goblin's axe bites into Aubrey at the waist. Aubrey's blow cuts straight through the Warlords arm and buries itself in the foul creature's face.

During this chaos, the big crystal is pushed over and takes a tumble down the pit (why do the bad guys always place their McGuffins in such precarious places?).  Druid's in Bear form make short work of pushing stuff over.

Aubrey rolls Last Breath.  She gets an 8.  Death offers her a deal.  She stands before the Black Gates and talks to Death.  Death tells her that she still has much to do in the world.  He can send her back.  She just has to murder Lasbador (the party's Wizard) without hesitation when Death calls her to do so.

Without hesitation, Aubrey tells Death "NO."

This is how THE Fighter dies.  With Glory and with Honor.

Rest in Peace Aubrey.  The Underwatch will miss you.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Dungeon World: Underwatch Episode 1

Episode 1: The Kidnapping


Cast:


Aubrey, Halfling Fighter


Lasbador, Human Wizard


Akajj Farstrider, Elven Druid of the Eastern Desert


Dash Seraphim, Human Bard


You stand at the end of a long hallway in an ancient building deep within the Undercity of New Axiom. You hear an anguished scream from the other side of the wooden door.  You need the man on the other side of that door alive.  You can still see the look on the Captain of the Guard's face as he told you the importance of the task.  Time is running out.  What do you do?


This was my opening description to the first session of my group's newly formed game of Dungeon World.  I tried to follow the book's suggestion to start the game in the thick of things.  I came armed with only the most basic of frameworks of what the session was going to be about:  all the stuff we outlined in the world creation step about 30 minutes before we started playing and a kidnapping/rescue scenario.


What follows is going to be a highlight of the events of the session.  I plan on going through some of the awesome events that took place and discuss what was going through my head and some of the judgement calls I made.  I'm no stranger to running games but Dungeon World is a different beast.  You really have to think about the consequences of player actions and know exactly what is at stake each time the dice are rolled.  Because of this you will find plenty of threads in internet land about "understanding" Dungeon World enough to run the game.  I figure if I running through reports like this might help me find ways to improve my game as well as giving some insight for others.


So what did our Underwatch do?


Aubrey charged at the door and busted it down!


I liked it.  Iconic Fighter type stuff.  A quick Bend Bars / Lift Gates roll later the door was smashed off the hinges and the group charged into the room.


The Watch found themselves standing in front of five men.  Four of which were obvious members of the Bower Street Boys and the fifth was some poor chap tied to an old chair with the visible signs that spend most of his free time as of late being someone else's punching bag.


The shocked thugs were speechless and most started to fidget nervously while the Watch filled the room.


I admit that I didn't much know where to go at first.  I liked the idea of starting the game with the group busting in on a crime in progress.  I rolled with it and made the thugs scared and nervous and waiting for the Watch to make the first move.  I get the idea that my players expected these guys to charge at them and for combat to break out after busting down the door.  I thought maybe that's what I should have done.  But it turned out better this way.  They got to do try out some "police procedure."


The Watch declared who they were and their intentions to bring these men to justice.  The Undercity isn't home to anything remotely close to the "suspect's rights," so the interrogation began right at the scene of crime.


It was learned that the poor chap in the chair was Dillard, a young member of the Stonemason Guild. The Stonemasons are responsible for the upkeep and construction of New Axiom.  They also have the reputation of having access to blue-prints, schematics and maps of most of the city old and new.  In other words, young Dillard is a fount of the kind of information that a band of thugs could have some real fun with.  Dillard was also the very man the Watch had been sent to find.


It was around this time the scrawniest of the Bower Street Boys became extremely agitated.  He was vigorously fiddling with an object behind his back, desperately hoping that the watch wouldn't catch on.


They caught on.


All at once they demanded to see what Scrawny was up to.  But it was too late.  As he showed the wondrous items his hands concealed they heard the calls and screams of more thugs outside.


What were these items?  A pair of enchanted bottle caps that were glowing with a soft blue nimbus.  A rushed interrogation had the scrawny thug reveal that those were gifts from The Stoutman.  It was here that we established that The Stoutman was some kind of criminal Kingpin in the Undercity.  Some kind of back alley boogey-man that no one had ever seen.  The bottle caps?  When rubbed together they allowed communication between the gangs remotely.  Bad news for the Underwatch.


After it was clear these "suspects" were not going to come in quietly, our group quickly attacked them.  Aubrey cleaved one in twain, Dash pinned one to the wall with his rapier, Lasbador fired magic missiles and Akajj was fighting tooth and claw (and spear).  Just when the characters seems their most Bad Ass, I had the front door the building smashed down and a flood of Thugs started to poor down the hallway.  The magic bottle caps work.


Soon the party was running for their lives with a couple of hostages suspects in tow.  They started to smash their way through the dilapidated wall into the building next door. One of the suspects took his chance to try and escape and was run through by Dash. They proceeded into the building to find an old stone door.  Akajj took a position to hold off the stampede of gangers while the rest of the party examined the door.  It was sealed shut by ancient dwarven mechanisms.  Akajj quickly shifted into Bear form and starting to fight the thugs 2-3 at a time.  Aubrey did a Bend Bars / Lift Gates and got the old door open before returning to Akajj's side.


Meanwhile, Dash and Lasbador were debating how safe it would be to descend the pitch-black staircase that was behind the door.  Lasbador quickly tried to cast his Light spell and got a Miss (6-).  The clean glow of the magical energy swirled around and was quickly siphoned down the staircase.  Oops.  Not one to waste a good scouting resource, Lasbador shoved the remaining suspect down the stairs.  The poor guy's anguished screams and loud thud of impact as he met the bottom was all the scouting the young Wizard needed.  Dash and Lasbador nodded at each other and followed down the stairs, calling to Aubrey and Akajj to follow.


Once the pair could push the gangers back they charged after their companions and met them at the bottom of the steps.  The only light in the tunnel at the bottom was the swirling energy from Lasbador's previous Light spell.  A large group of gangers were now at the top of the steps.  It was either take their chances with the darkened hallway or fight the mob coming down the steps after them.  They decided to run headlong into the darkness.


So you might be saying "Hey Guy, didn't the Wizard miss with that Light spell?"  Why yes he did.  The move I choose to do was Turn their move back at them.  I described the desperate chase down the hall.  The countless enemies to their rear and nothing but the ghostly whisp in the darkness to lead their way.  Suddenly, the light picked up speed and was consumed by something at the end of the hall.  The soft glow turned an angry red as the magic from the rogue spell brought an ancient construct to life.  Standing around 10 feet tall and made of smooth rock segments connected by ancient dwarven mechanics the towering war golem stood up.  It's eyes glowed with such intensity that it bathed the hallway in a dim red light.  It started to run toward our Underwatch.


It was right around this time that I really fell in love with Dungeon World as a game.  I hadn't even really considering what might be beyond that door when I put it in their way.  The miss on the Light spell immediately gave me the idea that the magic was "drawn" to the old magi-tek that was in these ruins.  And what would it turn on?  Huge Dwarven War Golems that's what!


The look on the players' faces was priceless.


The group immediately turned and started running back toward the mob of gangers.  They figured it was the best of the two options.  The Wizard Spouted some Lore about what this thing was as they ran full tilt the way they came.  The result was 10+ so I spilled the beans.  "The intense RED glow of this golem's eyes sends a shiver down your spine.  The only golems that were said to have eyes like that were the ones crafted by Garven MadAxe, a twisted rune-tek that was said to have found a way to power his creations with Hellfire.  As a result they have a special hatred for all living beings.  Oh, and they are said to be indestructible."


 'RUN!" Lasbador screamed in response.  On one end of the hall we had an ever increasing amount of Bower Street Boys flooding down the path and on the other we had a twisted dwarven warmachine bearing down on them like a locomotive.  The Underwatch needed to think fast.  Luckily someone was able to spot a hallway on the right side of the tunnel.  They ran right past it in the dark.  Thanks to the Hellfire glow emanating from the 2 tons of death behind them, it was somewhat easier to see this time around.


The group did a quickly timed turn and the Golem smashed into the oncoming Bower Street Boys.  Screams of agony mixed with the sounds of pistons and gears as the mechanical monster tore through the poor Boys.


The rest of the adventure was a short affair.  They hurried their way through the tunnels and were able to find the secret passage out.  It was at this point we learned about Lasbador's "other gift."  He's a Human Wizard so he get's a Cleric Spell to start.  He decided to take Guidance, but instead of always seeing his deity for the answers, he has a vision/hallucination that is appropriate to the task at hand.  He rolled well and saw the "ghost" of Garven Madaxe himself.  After a short conversation with the vision (giving the rest of the group the heebie jeebies) Lasbador found the way out.  Just in time too, the sounds of more of the Hellfire Golems waking up echoed through the chambers.


So the first mission of the Underwatch was a success.  They made it back with Dillard the Stonemason.  They made enemies of the street gangs below.  They unleashed a group of life-hating automatons.  Oops. That last part isn't so good. But fear not!  The Underwatch always cleans up their mess.  I hope.



Plot Hooks



  • Who is the Stoutman and how does he have access to create such wondrous items?

  • What were the Bower Street Boys trying to beat out of the Stonemason, Dillard.

  • How in the nine hells is the group going to explain / deal with the Hellfire golems they have unleashed?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dungeon World: Underwatch Characters & Setting

So I finally put together a game of Dungeon World.  This was our group's first experience with any of the *World games.  Short version of the story:  It was amazing.  It simultaneously scratched the itch to run a very free form story game while supporting all the Old School D&D troupes.   The way the mechanics helped the events in the story snowball into more and more exciting scenes was great.  Enough gushing over it though.  Check out the PDF for $10.  It's well worth it.


I'm going to do some actual play reports of the game to showcase some of the fun.  Dungeon World assumes and suggests that you fill in a lot of the setting details throughout the first session of play.  The GM comes to the table with a loose idea and asks the players leading questions to fill out the rest.


We decided to form the setting a little bit before making characters since I was interesting in twisting around a few setting assumptions to incorporate a more urban environment.  I stumbled upon this post and fell in love with the idea.  So a big Thank You goes out to henrythewhite for the inspiration.  Hopefully he doesn't mind me taking his idea and running with it.


I really liked how you could do the old school "dungeons everywhere" theme and literally put a sprawling metropolis right on top.  So the adventurers would descend into the trouble levels while backstabbing nobleman made life on the surface just as dangerous.


This is the pitch I sent to my players:




In the largest and the oldest city in The World, adventure lurks around every corner. The city has been leveled and rebuilt countless times due to wars and disasters both magical and natural.. As a result the sewer system and underbelly is home to whole communities of the “lesser” members of society and ancient passages are always being uncovered from the “old times.”


The City Below has always been ignored by the City Watch. Resources are stretched to their limit patrolling the city proper. That is until now. Something has the ruling body angry. They are fed up that the Watch does nothing in the City Below. The rulers and the Captain of the Guard came to an “agreement.” Thus the Underwatch was born. No one was required to transfer to the Underwatch but each District had to find “volunteers” to make the change. The worst miscreants from the Watch have been given positions in the Underwatch. YOU are a member of the Underwatch.

Are you ready to fight your way through the crime and grime in the City Below? Are you prepared to unearth the secrets of the cities of old buried deep below the streets? Sharpen your sword. Study your spells. Your career in the Underwatch starts now.

Lucky for me they all ate it up.

So fast forward to last Saturday when we finally made the setting come to life and make some quick characters (all character creation in Dungeon World is quick.  And like most of the game, Really Awesome).

For those of you that haven't done a collaborative Setting/World building exercise as part of an RPG before, I highly recommend it.  We played a recent game of Dresden Files and had a ton of fun making the city.  Dungeon World takes a more free form approach compared to Dresden's phases.  Normally you would just start in media res in some dungeon or other dangerous situation and build the world through actual play.

I decided to combine the approaches.  I went around and asked people questions regarding THE CITY.  Once we had a solid idea of what the city was like, we jumped into the game right in the middle of the action like normal.


The first question I asked was "What's the City's name?"  The players quickly responded with "Axiom.  New Axiom, ya know, since it has been destroyed over and over.  They always call the current top side city New Axiom."

Our City was born and all the questions and answers spawned more questions and answers.  So how did The City turn out?  Let's take a look.

Welcome to New Axiom


New Axiom is a sprawling metropolis that is situated on the coast.  It is massive in scale and many of it's structures have towers or are otherwise designed to have a large vertical footprint.  The city is divided into Districts.  Each District has a Councilor that is in charge of the goings on within that district.

My players loved the idea of a City Council of sorts that ran the city.  It also opens up the path for political games between Districts.  New Axiom also has a figurehead Chancellor or Regent that is "officially" the ruler but holds no real political power.  The Districts keep their own branch of the Watch that has jurisdiction within that District.  The newest district, The Undercity, has no official Council member and the Underwatch is comprised of all the worst of the Watch from other Districts.

Through the questions and answer session regarding the city and Characters we  were able establish that there are 12 districts.  We haven't defined them all (keeping with the make maps, leave blanks principle of Dungeon World) but came up with a bulk of them.

The Districts that were mentioned:

  • Magistrate: Government District.  Home to House Vansteel

  • Sky: Home to House Saraphim, who control the City's Magi-Tech Airships.

  • Garden: Home to House Highgarden, a posh "vacation" spot for nobles.  Also controls the Food production and distribution for New Axiom.

  • Arcanum: Home to University Arcana.  The entire district is the campus and home to the magical scholars.  Their branch of the watch is known as the The Black Wands. Their specialty is to police their own regarding crimes of a magical nature. The players determined that Divination is illegal (punishable by death even!) and summoning is highly regulated.  Magic is still very rare and powerful but these are laws held over from an age past.

  • Stonekin:  The Dwarven District.

  • Northgate:  The main enterance to the city.

  • Craftsmen:  Lower class workers.  High Halfling population.

  • Westgate:  The entrance for the "low."  It was established that Dwarves and Humans are viewed as equals and Elves and Halflings as "lesser" races.  Elves are prejudiced against for being responsible for the destruction of the city in ages past with their misuse of magic.

  • Undercity:  EVERYTHING under ground level.  It's big, dangerous and mysterious.  The first few levels are inhabited by people and after that its all buried secrets, ancient ruins and unearthed tombs.


This leaves us with 3 districts to play with as well as all the supporting details of the ones above.  Without really trying we basically built a fantasy version of Hive Primus from GW's 40K Necromunda setting.  Rival houses, buried relics, dangerous gangs living in the Undercity.  All great stuff.  We mapped out some broad stroke details and got a little more description from character backgrounds.  I feel like the there are still enough "blanks" on the map to make anything else work.

Meet the Underwatch


Lasbador Bentledon - Wizard


Lasbador is a former student of the University Arcana and quickly gained the disapproval of the Archmage.  He was quickly offered a job in the Black Wands simply to be stripped of the title and "volunteered" to the Underwatch.

Bonds:

  • Aubrey will play an important role in the events to come.  I have foreseen it!

  • Dash is keeping an important secret from me.

  • Akajj Farstrider is woefully misinformed about the world; I will teach them all that I can


Dash Seraphim - Bard


The third son in the Sky District's Seraphim family, he decided to skip out on his "mandated" appointment to the church of Pelor.  To make matters worse he further soiled the family name by engaging in a high profile scandal with the daughter of Lucius Vansteel.  Maybe a stint in the Underwatch is exactly what he needs.

Bonds:

  • This not my first adventure with Lasbador

  • I sang stories of Akajj Farstrider long before I ever met them in person

  • Aubrey is often the butt of my jokes

  • I am writing a ballad about the adventures of Aubrey

  • Lasbador trusted me with a secret

  • Akajj does not trust me, and for good reason


Aubrey - Fighter


Aubrey grew up in the streets of the Craftsman district.  Being a Halfling is hard in New Axiom.  Prejudice is everywhere.  Aubrey's spirit was only strengthened through the constant adversity.  She befriended a retired war hero Gregor and became the daughter he never had.  With Gregor's axe in hand she was determined to get a position in the City Watch.  Luckily the City Watch had an opening . . .

Bonds:

  • Dash owes their life, whether they admit it or not

  • I have sworn to protect Lasbador

  • I worry about the ability of Lasbador to survive in the Underwatch

  • Akajj Farstrider is soft, but I will make them hard like me


Akajj Farstrider - Druid


Akajj Farstrider is an elf from The East.  Tales of these dark skinned elves paint them as savage and cannibalistic desert nomads.  Half of that is true.  No one is sure yet of which half that is.  Akajj traveled to New Axiom and was recruited to the Underwatch.  Press ganged really.  Either way, it is a means to the check out the rumors of an ancient forest that grows beneath the city.

Bonds:

  • Lasbador smells more like prey than hunter

  • The spirits spoke to me of a great danger that follows Aubrey

  • I have showed Dash a secret rite of the Land


 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 Year in Review

The Year I Learn to Love Organized Play

I launched Bored & Sorcery 6 months ago.  I was riding a wave of inspiration to write about my hobbies and give myself a platform to speak about all the games I love.  It was a time where I was spending many more hours thinking about gaming than actually getting any time to play games.  I set out to post at least once a week (what I thought to be a moderate goal).  I kept up for a while and then Gen Con 2012 hit.


This year's Gen Con brought out a few games that have since taken up a lot of gaming time. Things took a shift and I started to spend lots of my free time gaming and was taking a break from the constant reading, analyzing and planning for games to play in the future.


The first game was Android: Netrunner.  The first of Fantasy Flight's LCGs that I really bought into.  I love the concept.  I love the mechanics.  I love to play it.  I was lucky enough to get the majority of my gaming group to take the plunge and we were soon playing as often as we could.  Much to my pleasure, this is still the trend.


With Netrunner came another first for me.  Branching out and finding a local scene for the game.  I tried a few times in the past to get involved in a game and never really found any success.  I was eager to play as much Netrunner as possible and was lucky enough to stumble on a post in the FFG Forums about a casual league starting up at Cat & Mouse Game Store here in Chicago.  I quickly recruited some of my fellow players from my circle of friends and we decided to join up.  What resulted was some of the most fun I've had in quite some time.


The store is amazing and the staff are great.  The steady group of players are top notch and a blast to play against.  I just love going there and geeking out for a Sunday afternoon.  I found that this greatly improved my game as well.  I get to play against different people with different play styles and it has helped me see some things that I may have missed otherwise.  I am also loving watching the group grow and get better at the game in general.  People trying out new factions or strategies after discussing them during a league match.  I see some real growth as a group from the frequency of play.  Players not falling for the same old tricks.  New players learning the game and keeping everyone's enthusiasm up.  It was my first real experience playing a game in it's Prime and experiencing everything that can go with a local "meta" scene.


As the first cycle of Data packs for Netrunner is starting to release, the excitement is still very high.  We are currently getting ready to hold a tournament to wrap up Season 1 of the League and then start Season 2 as the New Year gets underway.


My experience with Netrunner lead me to seek out other games too.  Instead of just looking for games that interested me and trying to sell them to my friends, I sought out games that that did that AND already had a game night or group somewhere for me to jump into.  I found a great group playing the X-Wing miniatures game at Games Plus on Monday nights.  I immediate felt welcome and have made some friends there while making "pew pew" noises and constant Lando jokes.  It has proved to be a great pick up and play game.  The pre-painted miniatures and the quick and intuitive gameplay make it truly enjoyable.  More so than I thought at first glance.  I bought into the game pretty deep and am eagerly awaiting the release of the second wave of ships.


It may sound cheesy or even strange but both of these experiences has really made me love gaming all over again.



So where do we go from here?

2013 is shaping up to be a fun year.  I've found 4 or 5 solid games that I plan on playing a ton of.  I have had some issues in the past with always searching for the next game to play.  I'm sure that will continue to some extent but my wallet will appreciate the effort of focus for once.  For the upcoming year I am going to focus on playing these games and seeing what happens.

I'm guessing you want to know what games made it on my list.  No?  Well here it is anyway.

The top 4 I am pretty sure on.  The Star Wars LCG looks really interesting to me.  I was lucky enough to get one as a gift this holiday season and am eager to try it out.  It borrows enough from a lot of games that I like and turns it into something really fun.  If nothing else, it should be a game that sees a good group of players (it's Star Wars remember) and the games look like they will go by quickly.

I already have plans to attend Adepticon 2013 and Gen Con 2013.  I might even make a trip to Fantasy Flight Game's Worlds Weekend in November as well.
What does this mean for the Blog?

This is an interesting question.  With all this gaming I should have more than enough to talk about right?  I mean with all the gaming books I still read there should be plenty of reviews going up and if the above is any indication plenty of after action reports and event coverage.

I really fell short of my goal for the first 6 months here.  I still have 6 months to go to make the first year come out right.  I want to expand my audience and take on some new perspectives too.  I'd like Bored & Sorcery to gain a voice in the scene in 2013. I know I can't do this alone.  I am going to look for some like-minded individuals to contribute on a fairly regular basis.  I will continue to look for a few authors that will have fun writing about everything and anything about gaming.

I have to do my part as well.  I'm going to go back to my original goal and try to post at least an article a week.  I feel like I am in a position to do that much easier than before.

So here is a sincere Thank You to all of you that take the time to read my ramblings.  A Thank You to all of those that have helped contribute content to this site and a Thank You to all of those that I play all of these crazy games with on a regular basis.  I'll see you all in 2013.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Barebones Fantasy Review

The Fantasy RPG genre is certainly one filled with choices.  Some might even say that it is getting overpopulated at this point.  I think that is all the more reason to check out the new games that are coming out.  Each author and publisher is looking to give us a new way to experience the genre and I am always eager to take a look at what might make them stand out from the pack.

Enter Barebones Fantasy from DWD Studios.

Barebones Fantasy fits within the rules-lite category as far as RPG systems go.  It offers an easy to learn rules system that keeps character creation quick the game moving along.  I was surprised to find out that Barebones Fantasy (despite the name) had quite a bit under the hood.  So let's crack it open and see what's what.

The Cover

Sometimes you want to judge a book by the cover.  In this case I was greeted with some traditional Fantasy RPG fare: A party of intrepid adventures about to battle the big bad Red Dragon.  In my eyes this is a good thing.  If you're selling a new take on traditional fantasy, why not open up with some familiar imagery to get the reader's head in the right place.







The System

The basic dice mechanic is a simple percentile.  You roll a d100 and compare it to your Ability or Skill.  If you get equal to or below your score you succeed.  Simple and to the point.

There are four Abilities that make up your character.  They are Strength, Dexterity, Logic and Willpower.  These are used to do the normal attribute stuff that any RPG player is used to with some slight differences.  Strength lets you lift objects and influences melee weapon use but also determines how much damage you can take (something a Constitution or Endurance stat usually does).  Dexterity is used to shoot, jump and dodge out of the way of incoming harm.  Logic is used for perception and deduction and Willpower is used for persuasion, bluffing (borrowing for traditional Social or Charisma stats) and some spell resistance.

There are eight different Skills that a character can learn.  They are: Cleric, Enchanter, Leader, Scholar, Scout, Spellcaster, Thief and Warrior.  These function as areas of expertise that a character has as opposed to singular skill specialties that some games rely on.  Scout, Thief and Warrior are Skills that all characters can use.  The others require training (meaning points must be invested in these) for a character to use them.

Character Creation

Making a character in Barebones Fantasy is a pretty straight forward process.  First, you roll Ability Scores.  To roll up a set you roll 5d10 and add 30 for each score.  Once you have four of them you can assign them to the four Ability Scores.  You then pick your Race (all the standard fantasy races are included).  Then you assign a primary and secondary Skill (which boost your starting score using it) and then assign one Skill rank to a skill.

Players then get to define one positive and one negative "descriptor" to their character.  These are roleplaying quirks that will reward the character with bonus Development Points (XP) if they portray this during the gaming session.

Next is Moral code which steps in and takes the place of an alignment system.  This is a cool change of pace as it gets rid of the tried and true Good vs Evil distinction.  Instead you decide to what degree your character displays certain aspects.  There are three levels: Somewhat, Very and Totally.  These are used to describe how Kind or Cruel, Forcus or Unfocused, Selfless or Selfish, Honorable or Deceitful and Brave or Cowardly they are.  After these guidelines are set, the GM can call for a WIL checks when the character is acting "out of character" and wishes to act outside their personal moral code.

After that you buy some equipment and determine all your derived stats (Body Points, Initiative, Damage Reduction from Armor and so on).

Magic and Spellcasting

Like most actions in Barebones Fantasy, Spellcasting is easy to execute.  Usually this is just a test of the Spellcasting or Cleric skill.  What is worth noting though is that spells have a toolbox approach that can change from casting to casting.  You might have a buff spell that can improve an ally's ability score.  At the time of casting you can change which Attribute is the one to get boosted.  The same goes for some of the damage spells.  Fireball one turn and Lightning Bolt the next.  It allows for quick rules but different trappings for each casting.

Combat

Combat is a straight forward affair.  You roll a d100 and compare to your ability or skill.  If you get equal to or lower you succeed and deal damage.  You'll notice that there is no "defense trait" like Armor Class or anything factored into the equation.  This is because defending counts as an action.

Each action after the first you take in a turn results in a -20 percent penalty to all skill and ability checks.  So it creates a simple tactical decision of whether you want to defend (and make any subsequent attacks suffer the increasing penalty) or do you take the hit and hit them with your full skill rating.  It also allows for multiple attacks per round, making higher ranked characters able to dish out some punishment to groups of bad guys.

GM Guidelines and Setting

The rest of the book is all for the GM.  You have a chapter that goes into more detail on running a game.  It has guidelines for bonuses and penalties to rolls as well as rules for all kinds of conditions (dazed, immobilized, prone, slowed) and different ways to get hurt (falling, starvation, fire, environmental exposure).  This alone gives Barebones Fantasy a little more meat than a traditional "rules-lite" game.

There is also an included setting that is presented in a very "broad strokes" fashion.  It requires the GM to fill in most of the details but the inclusion is a nice starting point for new comers.

The Verdict

I think that DWD Studios have a great rules-lite game on their hands.  Barebones Fantasy gives some comprehensive attention to areas that most rules-lite games simply skimp on.  This is especially welcomed in the areas of Spell utility, equipment lists and character statuses.  The rules are simple and easy to learn and teach.  I think for $10 it makes a perfect game for teaching beginners the hobby or for anyone who is looking to throw some of the crunch to the side and dive right into the game.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Patch Notes: Caduceus



Patch Notes is going to be my ongoing series about Android: Netrunner.  In the first  installment we will look at a new piece of Weyland ICE that is part of the upcoming Genesis cycle.

FFG was awesome enough to give a German Netrunner site by the name of Wyldside.de an exclusive preview of the new card.

Like any Runner worth his creds, I grabbed the data and ran with it.

I have to say I like what I see.

The Breakdown

Name: Caduceus

Faction: Weyland

Type: ICE: Sentry - Tracer

Strength: 3

Rez Cost: 3

Sub-Routines:

  • Trace 3 : If successful, the Corp gains 3 Creds.

  • Trace 2: If successful, End the Run.

Influence: 2

Initial Thoughts

I think this is a pretty solid piece of ICE, especially for early game.  Those sub-routines really play nice with each other.  The first one is pretty much a win/win for the Corp.  The runner is either going to break the routine (costs creds), pay to win the trace (costs creds) or let you Trace them and grab 3 Creds for yourself.  Any of these options is looking in your favor as far as the Cred war goes.  Early in the game the Runner might be tempted to let you have this one and focus on spending the creds to fight off the second routine.

The second routine is another trace but this time it ends the run.  What's great about this is that if the runner ignored the first routine and let you grab the credits, you can then immediately use them to beef up the strength of this trace and end their run.

I see this being more influential in the first few rounds of the game, before the Runner can come up with an answer to Sentries.

This card also strikes me as interesting as it seems gaining Creds through their ICE is something that will continue to happen for Weyland.

Either way, I'm glad that this first cycle is giving more love to Traces.  I have a feeling that Caduceus is going to find its way into my NBN deck for sure.