Tuesday, August 31, 2010

D&D Red Box, I have it and Post 300

So something special today for Post 300.  I picked up the new D&D4 "Red Box" starter rules and I like it.


As you can see it fits in nice with the other boxed sets I have picked up over the years.  But how does it stack up to these worthy predecessors?  After all that "magenta" Basic Box with the Erol Otus cover is the box that got everything going for most people my age (not so much the "other" Red Box, which I don't own).  I suppose I had better make some distinctions so we are all talking about the same things.
There are a lot of games called "Basic D&D" and a few of those are even red in color.  Here is how The Acaeum breaks it down.

D&D Basic Set (blue box) edited by J. Eric Holmes and cover art by David Sutherland, 1977-1979, also called "Holmes Basic" or sometimes "Blue Box Basic". That is edition on the far left of the screen. Packaged with module B1 and dice.

D&D Basic Set (magenta box) edited by Tom Moldvay and cover art by Erol Otus, 1981-1983, also called "Moldvay Basic" or "B/X". The book inside is red. Package with Module B2 and dice. In the center of the picture.

D&D Basic Rules Set 1 (red box) edited by Frank Mentzer and cover art by Larry Elmore, 1983-1989, also called "Mentzer Basic" or "BECMI". Comes with Player's and and DM's books, dice and no separate adventure. (not pictured above).

There were more, like the D&D 3.0 one up there and one for D&D 3.5 that came with a softcover of the PHB.

Now we have this one for D&D 4.

Unpacking the box is like that of unpacking the old Mentzer Basic, which this one owes a lot of homage too.


Inside there is a Player's book (32 pages), a DM's book (64 pages), 4 color character sheets on heavier paper, 6 dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12 and d20), a poster map, power cards (lots) and tokens (repalce minis).

A few things are obvious from the start here.
1. This game assumes you have never played D&D in your life. This is a starter set.
2. The game is still D&D 4.  The wailing and gnashing of teeth can stop now.  This is not 4.5, 4.1 or even 4.0.1, it is still the same game from 2 years ago.  Things have been simplified to make learning and getting right into playing faster.
3. Wizard's knows the Grognards are out there.  This game might not appeal to them, but it might to their kids.

Ok what is actually here?  Well let's start with the Player's guide since it has a big "Read Me First" label on it.
The Player's Guide sets the stage on what is D&D and RPGs in general, and it gets you right into thinking about your character.  Not what your powers are, but what you want to be in the game. I liked this.  The rest of the book is dedicated to a pre-programed adventure (yuck) but I can see where this is god for a newbie or a solo player.    As you go through this adventure you are introduced to your abilities, skills, spells, feats and other powers.
The DM's guide is similar.  It gets you up and running fast and explains things along the way.  Obviously lots of room for future books here, OR you could take this game and mover right into the D&D 4 hardcovers proper.

The adventure is nothing great.  It will not ever measure up to the epic quest of Keep on the Borderlands or even In Search of the Unknown.  I played it at Gen Con with my kids.  They had fun.  It is a good mix of combat, skill challenges and role-playing.  Yes. I said role-playing while talking about a D&D4 product.  there is a coupon inside to let you download another adventure for it for free, The Witchlight Fens (which does not seem to be up yet).

The tokens are nice.  Cheaper than figs and certainly have more utility.  Bloodied? Flip it over, same picture now with a red border.  While this will make it easier to stock up on all sorts of characters and monsters, I see a third-party market of blank tokens and instructions on how to print out and glue on your monsters, characters and the like.

The dice are nothing special, but look like they won't chip like the old marbleized dice from the old basic sets.

The redesigned character sheets are really nice.  Heavier paper and full color the skills are now listed under their associated ability.  Visually it makes skills seem like a sub-set of ability checks.  Maybe they are going after the Grognards?

So who is this for?
Well obviously it is designed with the new player in mind.  If you are reading this on my blog then chances are that is not you.  If on you are reading on Facebook, and you have never played but are interested, then this might be a great start.

I like D&D4, should I buy this?
Well....There is nothing new here.  I got it for playing with my boys.  I am sure you can get the tiles elsewhere.  Unless you are a completist, or teaching the game to someone new (I am a little of both) then this is a good buy.

I hate D&D4 should I buy this?
Can't help you there.  I like D&D4, but like I said there is nothing here that is 100% new.  If you hate D&D4 you will hate this too I think.  But in truth the rules are streamlined now and this is a much better "D&D" than 3.0 was.  Hell, when we played at Gen Con we were one character death away from a TPK; so yeah it felt old-school.

I have 20 bucks, is this a good buy?
Yes.

I have some friends that have never played, is this a good buy?
Yes. You can't go wrong with this.

Nitpicks
Well.  The adventure is not great and there is something up with the paint/ink on the books that is giving me a huge headache; before I use them I am going to air them out a bit.
I was hoping for something new (not just revised or tweaked); but I think that is just me and not a fault with the game itself.

Overall
I like it.  I'll catch grief from my D&D4-hating friends, but it is going to do exactly what I need it for and rarely can I say that about a game.

Superheroes

I am planning on doing a series of posts next on Superhero RPGs, focusing on some new ones I have picked up with some retrospective of some older ones.

I have spoken at length about Mutants & Masterminds, my "go to" Supers game, but I have also talked a bit out Silver Age Sentinels and Smallville.   Games I want to cover are the DC Adventures, Icons, BASH and Villains & Vigilantes 2.1.

Obviously one of the things I like to look in any system are the magic rules.  I like to think that Supers and Horror games are reflections of each other.  They share a lot of the same tropes and even plot designs.  Supers are obviously the "light" world and Horror is the darker reflection.  The core philosophies are are also very different.  I think two quotes sum this up perfectly by two of the "kings" of their respective genres.
"We believe in heroes because, ultimately. we believe in ourselves." -Jack "King" Kirby
"We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones." - Stephen King
Horror helps us deal with how the world is.  Superheroes help us by showing us what the world could be.

Of course I see this link since I was re-introduced to horror from comics.  "The Tomb of Dracula" took me from Marvel (which took me from DC) into the world of Horror, Occult and all sorts of things that go bump in the night.  It should also be no surprise that my favorite parts of AD&D were the horror-themed elements; the gothic tradition and the weird horror of Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith.  Supers comics even got into the game, alot, and not just Dracula. Read a copy of Dr. Strange, or anything with John Constantine in it; monsters abound.  Twilight is less about vampires than it is about super-powered humans.  So yeah there is a lot crossover.

So as I review these games this is something I want to keep in mind.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: Episode 1

So my Fridays are likely to be very busy so I am thinking of going through my big CineUnisystem adventure season The Dragon and the Phoenix.  These will be mostly plot summaries and some actual play reports.  Keep in mind that these games are now almost 10 years old.  I wrote and ran these a long time ago.  They were the playtest bed for Buffy, Angel and Ghosts of Albion.  Plus I have talked about these for so long I assume everyone already knows everything about them and that is really not the case.  So sit back a enjoy.

Episode 1: Will We Burn In Heaven?


Willow (crying): I thought…I thought I had lost you!
Tara (kissing her face): I’ll find you. I will always find you. 

- Willow and Tara: The Dragon and the Phoenix, Episode 1 “Will We Burn in Heaven?”



November 7, 2002 Thursday
(Ran this during Summer 2002, right after the Dark Druid)

Willow and Buffy have just been visiting Tara’s grave when they get two unexpected visitors, Cordelia and Tara. Tara comes back from Heaven to help the cast defeat a group of fallen angels bent on finding the Enochian Tablets and destroying all of creation with the Word of Unmaking. Tara helps, but is torn between her duty to the Creator and Creatrix and her love for Willow.  Te tablet is found, in the hands of a magical merchant named E'rif E'nur.  He is found dead and his local contact, Spike is horribly burned.  Anya is later found also burned.  Tara is able to heal her by touch, but both Spike and Anya tell her that they are "afraid" of her now. The fallen angels are found and there is a great battle.  An angel tries to burn Willow, but Tara gets in the way and engulfed in flames.  She walks out of the flame, unharmed, and in full angelic form to fight back.  The fallen angels are defeated with daggers given to them by Anya.  The tablet is destroyed and Tara must choose whether to return to heaven or remain. In the end Tara chooses Exile; she gives up her powers and angelic life force to be human again.
Giles discovers that the dead god Leviathan will be entering our reality.


Story Arc and Game Design elements: Introduce the new Ascension, Other Worldly and Geas quality/drawbacks.
Soundtrack: Foo Fighters “Learning to Fly”, Enya “Exile”

Notes and Comments: This is the first adventure and it is fairly linear, but also fairly combat heavy. What is new here is the first time we have seen angels in the game or universe, and they are evil ones. We also see the return of Tara and her exile. One thing quickly became obvious to us that a demonic Anya is not a playable character. She can't die, she is totally beholden to her demonic master D'Hoffryn and really she should be out to kill the Cast. Finding things to do with Anya was a problem. Another problem was Dawn. We had big plans for her, but no one wanted to play her. Spike gets burned pretty badly in this episode by the angels so we could have an excuse not to have him. The focus of this of course is the return of Tara and how Willow could deal with it. In the begining I wanted Willow to be completely de-magicked; unable to cast any spells. It would have been great for a story, but for a game people want Willow to have spells. So we comprimised and had Willow's magic reduced. Throughout the series she begins to gain it back. Tara shows off some of her new powers too here, the ability to heal and her "otherworldlieness". We liked the idea that every demon and vampire in town was now terrified of Tara. Later in Episode 4 Spike describes her as appearing as if she was on fire.
Some elements from my old AD&;D game appear here. Luna is a former character and E'fir E'nur was an NPC. E'Fir E'nur was also going to be part of the D'jinn arc as a summoneer and binder of Iffrits.

Like the D'jinn series, this also had a tie to the Dark Druid episode that was published in July of 2002. The Dark Druid, with your cast, acts a prelude to the D'jinn or with the original cast as a prelude to this.

Tara Maclay
Keribum (Ascended Human Witch)


Life Points 71
Drama Points 20

Strength 5 Dexterity 4 Constitution 5
Intelligence 4 Perception 3 Willpower 5

Qualities Ascended
Attractiveness +3
Empathy
Fast Reaction Time
Hard to Kill +7
Nerves of Steel
Sorcerery 5

Drawbacks Adversaries (lots) 5
Honorable (Serious)
Geas
Minority (Gay Wicca)
Obligation (Major)
Otherworldly

Skills
Acrobatics 2
Art 2
Computers 1
Crime 0
Doctor 2
Driving 2
Getting Medieval 3
Gun Fu 0
Influence 2
Knowledge 3
Kung fu 3
Languages 1
Mr. Fix it 0
Occultism 5
Science 1
Sports 0
Wild Card (riding horses) 3

Combat Dodge +7 -
Magic +15 varies
TK +10 2xSL

This is Tara at the beginning of the first episode of the Dragon and the Phoenix. She has returned as a Keribum (or not exactly a Kerubim from WitchCraft) to stop the Knights of Elohim from the Unmaking. Or at least she (and we) think so at first. She allowed to go into exile but keeps the healing touch power of the Keribum and demons and vampires still fear her.

After Episode 1 her stats return to what appears in the Magic Box or revised Core (which were based on the above stats in the first place).

I also made a print quality pdf of her character sheet.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

LEGO Minotarus

I don't talk much about board games here.  Nothing against them, they are just not something I talk a lot about, but I would hazard a guess and say that a full half of my game room shelf space is devoted to board games.  My kids and wife love them and it is something we can all do together.

So if you were at Gen Con this year you saw the LEGO booth.  And if you saw it then like me I am sure you looked at their new board games, Minotaurus, Rames Pyramid, and Lava Dragon.  I am sure that LEGO is still kicking themselves for not bringing product to sell, because they would have raked in the bucks.

We went to our local LEGO store and picked up Lava Dragon and Minotaurus.  The salesman mentioned that they had been selling out of them over the last three weeks and couldn't keep them in stock.


Well I can see why.

We got the games home and my LEGO loving son wanted to build them right away.   That is part of the appeal of these games over say most board games.  You have to build everything first.
It was easy for him (he regularly builds the big Star Wars LEGO sets, so something under a 100 pieces is nothing) and we all sat down.

The rules are simple.  Roll a die, move your pawns.  Try to get to the center of the maze and don't get hit by the Minotaur.  Oh, and you have to build the die too.  On some rolls you can move the Minotaur to send a pawn back to "home" or move a wall to block an opponent.  The game move quick and I can see how it will be a little different each time.  The rule book also comes with some suggested "house rules" like more or less powerful Minotaurs, the ability to jump over some walls and how many pawns you need to get in to win.

In truth this game reminded me of the old Mattel "Electronic Dungeons & Dragons" game from the dawn of the D&D age.

If LEGO is moving into the board game world then I think they are going to do very, very well.  For the RPG crowd this game is nice little diversion and I am sure it will not be long before there are house rules about how the pawns can attack the Minotaur and even rules separating the three pawns each into "classes".  Maybe that is too much, but I can see ways to do it now and certainly someone else will too.

Anyway, see more here.  http://shop.lego.com/ByTheme/Product.aspx?p=3841&cn=595&d=70

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Cortex: The Hex Girls

Given yesterday's post, this seemed like the logical choice really.

So I am working out some ideas for a Third Season of the Hex Girls.  No ideas yet, but I thought I would try them out in Cortex after already stating them up in Unisystem, Witch Girls Adventures and Cartoon Action Hour 2.

Still sticking with the same idea here; this is Scooby-Doo in reverse.  The Hex Girls tour all over performing gigs and fighting various supernatural threats.  The monsters are real, but most everyone thinks they are people in masks or special effects and the like.

For a change of pace I used the "Mystic Arts" magic system found in Demon Hunters.  Demon Hunters has a lot in common with Scooby-Doo and would make for a more Scooby-Doo like game than say Supernatural would.  For Willow and Tara I used the magic system out of the Core book.

Thorn
AKA Sally McKnight
Agility: d6
Strength: d6
Vitality: d6
Alertness: d8
Intelligence: d6
Willpower: d10

Life Points: 16
Initiative: d8 + d8
Endurance: d6 + d10
Resistance: d6 + d6
Move: 15
Innate Def: d6
Dodge: d6

Traits
Allure d4
Initiate of the Mystic Arts d2
Talented d6 (Guitar, Singing)

Complications
Idealist d4
Superstitious d2
Insatiable Curiosity d6

Skills
Artistry d6
- Poetry d8
- Writing d10
Craft d6
Discipline d4
Influence d4
Knowledge d6
- Folklore d8
- Occult d10
Performance d6
- Guitar d12 + d6 (Talent)
- Singing d10 + d6 (Talent)
- Stage Magic d8
Tech d2

Mystic Arts: Witchcraft d6
- Alteration d8
- Defensive d8
- Detection d8
- Offensive d8

Not completely different than previous stats, but a good reflection of her say Post Season 1.

Luna
AKA Kim Moss
Agility: d6
Strength: d6
Vitality: d6
Alertness: d8
Intelligence: d8
Willpower: d8

Life Points: 14
Initiative: d8 + d6
Endurance: d6 + d8
Resistance: d6 + d6
Move: 15
Innate Def: d6
Dodge: d6

Traits
Allure d4
Initiate of the Mystic Arts d2
Talented d6 (Keyboards, Bass)

Complications
Idealist d2
Glory Hound d2 (wants the Hex Girls to be a number 1 rock band)
Duty, to the Band d6  (Luna lives for the band)

Skills
Artistry d6
- Poetry d10
- Writing d12
Craft d4
Discipline d6
Influence d4
Knowledge d6
- Music Business d8
- Occult d8
Performance d6
- Bass d10 + d6 (Talent)
- Guitar d10
- Keyboards d10 + d6 (Talent)
Tech d2

Mystic Arts: Witchcraft d6
- Alteration d8
- Defensive d8
- Detection d8

This Luna is still more focused on the band and what they can do with it rather than the mystical powers they all have.  Why does her skin appear darker here than in previous posts?  Easy, she has stopped wearing the "vampire" make-up.  It also looks like they have all dropped the fake fangs her father made.

Dusk
AKA Muffy St. James
Agility: d8
Strength: d6
Vitality: d8
Alertness: d8
Intelligence: d6
Willpower: d6

Life Points: 14
Initiative: d8 + d8
Endurance: d6 + d8
Resistance: d8 + d8
Move: 15
Innate Def: d8
Dodge: d8 + d6

Traits
Allure d2
Initiate of the Mystic Arts d2
Talented d2 (Drums, Guitar)
Wealthy d2

Complications
Crude d4
Glory hound d2
Rebellious d6

Skills
Artistry d6
- Writing d8
Athletics d6
Covert d4
Influence d2
Knowledge d6
- Occult d8
Performance d6
- Drums d10 + d2 (Talent)
- Guitar d10 + d2 (Talent)
- Singing d8
- Survival d2
- Tech d4

Mystic Arts: Witchcraft d6
- Alteration d8
- Defensive d8
- Obscuring d8
- Offensive d10

This Dusk looks older.  I would say here she is more mature now, less of the party girl (although she still has it in her) and has finally come to terms with her rich, yuppie parents.  Her magic is more attack focused that Luna's.

"Crush"

Better known to you and I as Daphne Blake in a Goth Cheerleader outfit. (That phrase will increase my hits for this post by at least 20%!) In the episode "In Fear of the Phantom" she became a Hex Girl so she could draw out the Phantom, but in the process wrote a song about how she feels about Fred.

This magic system is more skill based, so in some respects it shares that with the WitchCraft RPG.  I think it would work fine for a Hex Girls like game, but not for say a Charmed RPG. Might need to look a bit deeper.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

New Hex Girls

Ok.  I am such a geek.  But you all know that by now.

Well there is a new Scooby Doo cartoon out now, Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated.  I am not completely sold on it yet, but my boys like it, so really that is all that is important.  Today though, I watched a new one with them featuring the Hex Girls, "In Fear of the Phantom".  Obviously I wanted to watch, but had to get the morning prep done before school/work first.



Here is what I saw.  The visual style has changed a bit and Dusk has a new voice, but all in all I like the new look.  So people online are complaining (shock! I know) about the changes (they are rockers, they should update their style every so often, and excuse me, but Luna was always African-American, or at least bi-racial).

Thorn looks mostly the same, I like the new looks for Dusk and Luna, very Goth-Punk and neo-Victorian. In fact I might adopt this as their new look in either the "Season 2" game I am thinking about for Cartoon Action Hour, or as a new Season 3 game.  No ideas are hitting me just yet.


I won't go into the episode too much.  It was cool to see Luna playing bass.  Dusk also looks older now.  I do plan on using the Hex Girls more often in my games, even if it just as a background thing in a more serious game and I still like the idea of using them in Witch Girls Adventures and Cartoon Action Hour.

To tie in this episode, I might have a nod in Season 2 to a single, "Trap of Love" that was recorded live with another lead singer, the 4th (or is it 5th) Hex Girl, "Crush"; really Daphne in disguise (looks like bondage gear to me, but hey) to lure out the episode's bad guy.


So yeah, some new stuff to add to a game.  My kids were very excited to see the Hex Girls again and I am sure it is only a matter of time (and repeated viewings) before they ask me to make them a CD with the new songs on it.

Links
Clips, Screencaps: http://www.comicvine.com/news/scooby-doo-mystery-incorporated-in-fear-of-the-phantom-clips/141930/
And of course Danny's Hex Girls site, http://www.angelfire.com/goth2/thehexgirlscoven.com/

Cortex, Part 6 - Final Thoughts

I have spent some time with Cortex and Cortex Plus.  I like the games, they are a nice mix of elements I enjoy in games.  Cortex does not give me anything new, say over Unisystem or Savage Worlds, but it is a nice presentation of ideas in a different way.  Cortex Plus is new and has a very interesting element to it.  Character creation though takes a long time and is typically only suited for groups who know who and what their characters are about already.  Sometimes you want to discover these things in game.

I will discussing Cortex Plus more as I move over to super-hero games.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cortex, Part 5 - Cortex ++

So I am continuing to spend some quality time with Cortex and Cortex Plus.    One thing though has become very apparent; the only proper way to build a character in Cortex Plus is in a group.  You need the input of others in order to determine what it is your character will do.  This is a cool thing, but doesn't work well in all situations.  For example, me working by myself to stat up some characters on my own in far more work.

When putting together the cast for The Hallows, one thing became very obvious.  Rachel is the star of the show, the others support her.  This is perfect for a book, a less than perfect situation for a game like Smallville.  While playing some D&D with my boys this weekend I thought it would also be cool to try the Cortex Plus system with their D&D 3.0 characters.  They could tell me how they all reacted to each other, how their actions played on each other and what their goals were.  Not bad for an 11 and 7 year old.  This got me thinking.

Could you apply this system of social interaction to any game?

I think the answer here is yes.  The other question is, would you want too?  This one depends on your group.
For most of the D&D-like games I am in, I am thinking not.  But certainly I could see doing this in a Unisystem game (Unisystem Plus?) and I know some of the people on the Cartoon Action Hour yahoo list are discussing this very idea.  But as it turns out there is a game that is absolutely PERFECT for this.

Cortex.

Cortex in it's classic version (BSG, Supernatural) is a great game as I have mentioned in the past.  It is lacking something though to separate it away from the likes of Unisystem and Savage Worlds.  Cortex Plus is a great system that does some very different things, but sometimes that high level of social interaction between characters needs to take a back seat to beating the crap out of some monsters.  The two systems share a base and they have many of the same design elements in place.  What they need then is to be merged.  This gives you the best of both worlds.

Cortex ++ ("Cortex Plus Plus", like C++) combines the best of both games into a cohesive whole.  It has the same base character development as Supernatural or the Core, along with the added Social Development dynamic of Cortex Plus.   Some of the points might need to be tweaked a bit, ad this would make the character sheet a minimum of 2 pages.  But it is something I would like to see and try out.  Players would start with a concept, stat out their characters per the points given by the GM (basic stats only) and then everyone would come together for the first session to work out the details and the social interactions.

This would provide multiple levels of play and interaction.

I want to provide some write-ups this week of some characters both as Cortex Plus characters and as Cortex ++ characters just to see how it would work.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cortex, Part 4 - Building your Cast

The Smallville version of Cortex Plus has an excellently detailed character creation method.  If you , like me, love to develop characters  for a game then this a very cool thing.  The trouble is though you really need a good idea who your characters are, what the game is going to be and how the Players will work together.  This is great for 99% of the groups out there, but for me, trying this out by myself, it will take some more work.
So I have to play the part of both player and GM for this.  Come up with the world, the setting and the characters.

I am going to have to cheat then.

I need a world and a cast.  I want to use five characters since I like the way dynamic would work, and I like the visual appeal for the diagrams.  Here is the diagram I am going to use.



So here are my choices.

"Sunnydale"
A Season 5 game set in a similar, but not quite the same, cast in a similar town.
Characters would be Willow, Tara, Buffy, Xander and Anya.  Focus on the relationships.  Maybe even have Xander sleep with Buffy once just stir the shit a bit.

"The Hallows"
Using the characters from Kim Harrison's Hallows/Rachel Morgan series. I would pretty much run it as is.  This one actually has a lot of potential.  The main cast has five characters, and all have very complicated relationships that range from utter loathing to love to love/hate.  So I would include Rachel, Ivy, Jenks, Trent and Algaliarept.

Yeah I like that.  I think I'll use The Hallows characters.  Plus it gives me a nice collection of supernaturals to deal with: a witch, a vampire, a pixie, an elf and a demon.  Sounds like fun.  Here is my new chart then.


Not all the details are there yet.  Obviously I want to detail the relationships more.
So obvious ones first, Ivy LOVES Rachel, but Rachel doesn't feel the same way.  Jenks is the business partner of Ivy and Rachel, and is Rachel's best friend.  Algaliarept has alternately wanted to kill, bed, kill and now teach Rachel.  He has also bent sent to kill Trent and Trent and Rachel both thought the other summoned him.  Al has a lot of Power, Trent does too.  Rachel finds often that Power gets her into trouble.

I'll need to get into more detail of course.

More later.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Cortex, Part 3 - Cortex Plus


So everything I have told you is wrong. Or rather, everything I have told so far about Cortex is fine, but it does not cover what is going on in the newest Cortex game, Smallville.




Now a few things to get out of the way first and foremost. I have never watched Smallville really. I saw an episode way back when because it had some witches in it and it was when Clark learned he was vulnerable to magic, and I tried to catch the Zatanna episode, but my DVR took a nap and it didn't happen. So I can't judge this game on the merits of how well or not it emulates its source. What I can so though is judge it on how well it emulates young adult drama, with a supernatural/paranormal/super twist. In that case we could be talking about almost any show on WB/UPN/CW, and many of the ones on Fox too.

So what is the deal with Smallville anyway?

Well the biggest thing is the character development which according to the book will take your first session. Now let me pause here a bit. I loves me some character creation. I have pages of character notes on D&D characters and that is not counting what I have on characters for other systems. So I can dig this sort of interactive character development, but will everyone else? This feels rather indie for a mainstream license. I am going to roll with it all the same and see what it does for me. Granted my doing it will be a tad artificial since it will be just me at the moment.

Now this new interactive character development does pose one issue; you need to have a really good idea of what you want your series to do and who is going to be in it. This is the same issue that Cartoon Action Hour has; it might make a pick-up game a bit harder to do.

So how is it different? Well. There are no abilities or skills. How much stronger is Clark than Chloe? Don't know. Is Lex smarter than Brainiac? No idea. But it doesn't matter either. Clark and Chloe are not going to be arm wrestling and Lex and Brainiac are not going to be playing Trivial Pursuit against each other. But what we do have is how do Clark's actions affect Chloe, or Lois, or Lex. How can he do what he feels is right. So instead of Attribute + Skill +/- Assets we have Drives (Values + Relationships) + Assets. You are still using the Step Die methods from the previous version of Cortex, just in a new way.

So what are these? Well Drives are what motivate you or your character. The first set are called Values. Thes are Duty, Glory, Justice, Love, Power and Truth. Each of these gets a die and a defining statement. If we go with the idea of setting a game in a theoretical "Season 5" (the default power level) then we can provide some examples. So I could look at my witches in a theoretical show called "Sunnydale" and it's Season 5. Willow would have Power at d12 with the text, "I need to be able to control the chaos around me." Tara would have Power say at d6 or d8 with the text "Power is a responsibility and one that can't be ignored." It's kind of a neat way of looking at your characters really. These Values then tell you why you are motivated to do what you do. So Willow would seek out a dangerous occult text, but Tara would caution against it.

We have Drives in Values and they affect your Relationships. The player characters are called Leads and the NPCs are "features" (though I like Guest Stars better) and how they relate to each other, friend, enemy and lover alike, are called Relationships. These are mutable obviously. These are also ranked with a die and description. So between Willow and Tara we can write "in love with". So on Willow's sheet I write under Relationships "d12 TARA is my soulmate." and similarly on Tara's "D12 WILLOW is my soulmate". Since it is Season 5 I could even write on Willow's sheet, "d8 XANDER is my best friend" or "d4 I don't like ANYA". It is bit freeform at this point since it is just me. Relationships work out best when discussed with the other players. It looks like the die value's don't have to be equal, so Clark has a d10 listed for Chloe in the book, but Chloe has a d12 for Clark. This matches reality really; not all relationships are equal.

Relationships can be with other Leads or Features (PCs and NPCs). You also can have Resources, people or things you can call on to do things.

Assets are the closest to what you could describe as "Powers" or "Qualities". In my quick read over of the rules these seemed to be the most similar to Classic Cortex. Clark has things like Super-Strength and the like. But these again are more descriptive and are not a measure of his strength per se but rather a measurement of what using his Super-Strength means to the show and to the characters around him. If an asset is not here then adding one is not too difficult really. I could see an asset like Megan Maclay's Spellbook (Magical Artifact), with the text "add d8 to Trouble to use a new spell" or bit of occult knowledge as the case may be.

All of this though is designed around the interpersonal relationships the character have with each other. It is an interesting focus for a game to be honest, and one that leads itself to certain level of tinkering. Think about it for a bit, you could take any group of characters and provide a "Cortex Plus" sheet for them as well. They would have their powers, skills and other details in Assets and then you focus on the interpersonal dynamics.

I think I should try this out. Plus a game like this needs to be tried in order to get the proper feel.

DriveThruRPG Blog Support

I keep forgetting to do this, so I'll post it now.

As a gift to you the loyal readers/followers of this blog, DriveThruRPG has given me some codes to give to you to get 20% off from some publishers.

So go to DriveThruRPG and use this code: DTRPGAugust2010BlogPCast

To get  20% off all products from these publishers:


My way of saying thanks!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

100 Reviews (and then some)

So tonight I hit the 100 mark for my reviews over at DriveThruRPG.
You can see them all here.

While we are at it, I also did some reviews over at Amazon and RPG.Net.
Obviously there is some overlap.

That is still a lot of games.

Willow & Tara: Cortex (Cortex Part 2)

So I am going to pull out my iconic witches again because I want to test out the magic system Cortex presently has and work through my Unisystem conversions.




Following up from yesterday's post, I decided that what Cortex does rather well is "normal people in an abnormal world" thing, with Supernatural being my Cortex game of choice for this.  This is something that Savage Worlds (out of the box) does well too, but Cortex does it a bit better in my opinion.

Let me begin with the conversions. Some of this is very similar to the Savage Worlds conversions I had done a bit back.  So I'll re-include those numbers again.

Basic Conversions
Conversions between the two systems are surprisingly easy. I say surprising, it isn't really since I feel both games appeal to the same kind of gamer and similar kinds of game worlds. Both games assume normal humans (at least at their core) and a small set of skills.

Attributes and Skills
Conversions here could not be easier. Attributes are roughly the same. Strength = Strength, Dexterity = Agility, Constitution = Vitality, Intelligence = Intelligence, Willpower = Willpower and Perception = Alertness. Even the ranges are roughly the same. 1 = d2, 2=d4, 3=d6, 4=d8, 5=d10 and 6=d12, with the proper human mins and maxs lining up. Cortex even assumes the human average to be about d6, similar to Unisystem's 3. With the point buy systems Cortex's Veteran is roughly equal then Experienced Heroes in many Unisystem games. Life points are calculated differently, so I would stick to the system used in each game rather than a full conversion between the two.

From the Unisystem perspective the lowest human score is a 1, but most heroes will have a minimum of 2 in their Attributes. For Cortex that is a d2 (rarely used in my experience) and the d4.  Again, on par with Savage Worlds. This give us this:

Unisystem        Savage Worlds  Cortex      
1 d4-1 d2
2 d4 d4
3 d6 d6
4 d8 d8
5 d10 d10
6 d12 d12
7 d12+1 d12+d2
8 d12+2 d12+d4
9 d12+3 d12+d6

Success are easier in Cortex, but Cortex is scaled more like d20.  So an "Easy" Difficulty needs a 3 (which can still be botched if you roll all "1"s.)  The scaling is similar to Unisystem's Success levels, so in practice I would often adjudicate them the same way.
Cinematic Unisystem has Drama Points, Cortex has Plot Points, and they have similar uses.

Cortex does split off it's damage to Stun and Wound, round towards Stun.  This way a character can be knocked out or stunned in some cases.  I like the idea myself and it is a neat and simple way of doing things.  Not something I would use in Unisystem, but I might give it a try just to see.

Qualities, Drawbacks, Traits and Complications
Unisystem characters get Qualities and Drawbacks. Cortex characters get Traits and Complications; and they get a few of those. This is fine really when dealing with normal humans. In the core rules there are still a few to choose from and there are others in the other, licensed material cores. In this respect it is closer to Savage Worlds. All three games have some overlap here, but each has something here and there to offer the others. Demon Hunters and Supernatural can get a boost from the likes of Buffy, Angel and Ghosts of Albion, while Unisystem gamers can get a different feel for their games from Demon Hunters and Supernatural. Adding Battlestar Galactica to the mix extends this even more. Ghosts of Albion/Angel/Buffy, Supernatural and Demon Hunters all live under the same basic idea; the supernatural is real and you need to fight it, though they all differ in approach. Mixing the games up a bit would be perfect for that Urban Fantasy genre that is so popular these days, with a perfect balance of fluff and crunch and rules-lite cinematic fun. While conversions are easy, some would be harder to convert. For example, a Cortex Vampire costs d6, in Unisystem Vampires are 15 pts. Granted they are different sort of vampires. But something like a Slayer or Protector would cost quite a bit in Cortex, and for the current games they have not really appropriate. I'd have to go through all the Demon and Supernatural creation rules (in Angel and Ghosts respectively) to see if they would convert fine to Cortex.
There are not as many choices in Cortex as there are in Unisystem, but then again you are limited to how many you can have more in Cortex too.  So Qualities/Drawbacks don't always line up perfectly with Traits/Complications.

The Core book is straight forward and takes a lot of cues from Savage Worlds,  provide lots of crunch, some builds and almost no fluff.  That is fine by me really.  Makes the Core easy to read.  There are some sample "worlds" or campaigns (like you find in the True 20 book) to get you going.  IF you don't like those then there are all the other books they make.

I played Cortex for the first time a couple of Gen Con's ago and it is easy to learn on the fly, very fast and very fun.  The advantage it has over Unisystem is the more interesting (to me) probability curves of the different sized dice. d12+d6 is much more interesting than  d10 + some number + some other number.  Though even given that it still has not really replaced Cinematic Unisystem in my heart.

Willow and Tara
Ok for this time I am going to use the magic system as-is and see how things stack up. Normally I would stat them up the same year I was introduced to the game, in this case 2008.  But that puts WAY outside what Cortex could do in post "Season of the Witch" terms.  There are more details on my "seasons" here.  I think I'll still say 2008, but use slightly scaled back versions.  Parallel worlds.  Wibbly-wobbly and all.  Maybe this is the Willow and Tara that live in the same universe as Sam and Dean from Supernatural.

Tara A. Maclay
(circa 2008 game time)
Female; Age 28; Height: 5' 5"; Weight 125lbs

Agility: d4
Strength: d4
Vitality: d6
Alertness: d12 (*Tara is an empath, so I bumped this up to this level)
Intelligence:  d10
Willpower: d12

Life Points: 18
Initiative: d4 + d12
Endurance: d6 + d12
Resistance:  d6 + d6
Move: 15
Innate Def: d4
Dodge: d4 + d4

Traits
Allure d2
Animal Empathy d4
Contacts (Supernatural) d6
Enhanced Senses d10 (Empathy, The Sight) *In a Supernatural game I would make this Clairvoyant at d6 (I know not in the rules...)
Healer's Touch d2
Higher Education d6

Channeling Trait (Magic) d12 + d8
Telekinesis d12

Complications
Allergy, Shellfish d2
Erie Presence d2 (to supernaturals only)
Shy d6 (though by 2008 she has grown out of this)

Skills
Animals d6
- Riding d8
Artistry d6
- Writing d8
Athletics d4
Craft d6
- Cooking d8
Discipline d4
Drive d4
Influence d4
Knowledge d6
- Folklore d10
- Occult d12 + d6
- History d8
Medicine d4
Melee Weapons d4
Perception d6
Performance d6
- Dancing d8
- Singing d8
Science d6
- Social Sciences d10
Tech d6
Unarmed Combat d4

The magic trait is Magic.

Willow D. Rosenberg
(circa 2008 game time)
Female; Age 28; Height: 5' 3"; Weight 105lbs

Agility: d4
Strength: d4
Vitality: d6
Alertness: d10
Intelligence:  d12
Willpower: d12

Life Points: 18
Initiative: d4 + d10
Endurance: d6 + d12
Resistance:  d6 + d6
Move: 15
Innate Def: d4
Dodge: d4 + d4

Traits
Allure d4
Ambidexterity d2  
Attuned to Technology
Contacts (Supernatural, Business) d6
Enhanced Senses d10 (Lesser Sensing)
Head for Numbers d6
Talented (Computers) d6
Wealthy d8

Channeling Trait (Magic) d12 + d8
Telekinesis d12

Complications
Anger Issues d2 

Skills
Athletics dd
Craft d6
Discipline d2
Drive d4
Influence d6
Knowledge d6
- Occult d12 + d8
- History d8
Mechanic d6
Medicine d6
Melee Weapons d2
Perception d4
Science d6
- Biology d10
- Chemistry d12
Tech d6
- Computers d12 + d4
- Robotics d10  (though this would not work in a Supernatural game, in a Demon Hunters game though it would)
Unarmed Combat d4

The magic trait is Magic.

After building these I would like to give the out of the box version of the magic system a trial run again.  It would be interesting to see how everything fits together.    Stat wise I do like how they came out.  These are not starting characters and using the same ideas I used WAAAY back in the WitchCraft days I advanced them with points.  I am pleased with the results.

Of course to really try this out I have work up some more characters.  If I am going to do that then why not see how they all work together as a social group.  Sounds like the perfect time for Smallville and Cortex Plus.


Monday, August 16, 2010

Cortex, Part 1

I think it is high time I devoted some photons to Cortex.  In truth I already have with these posts:
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2009/06/supernatural-rpg.html
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2010/02/cortex-and-unisystem.html
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2010/02/magic-in-cortex-savage-worlds-and-witch.html
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2010/03/sympathy-for-succubus-part-2.html
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2010/07/savage-worlds.html (a little)
http://timbrannan.blogspot.com/2010/07/tale-of-two-supermen.html

I am going to talk about Cortex, or I guess what could now be described as "Classic Cortex".  The Cortex in Smallville and Leverage is something called "Cortex Plus".  There are more differences between Classic and Plus than there are between Classic Unisystem and Cinematic Unisystem or even between D&D 3.0 and 3.5. Enough that I want to detail them as separate systems.

Cortex has a generic book (pictured above) which is the core of the Cortex System. There are many licensed products that Margaret Weis Productions makes.  These include Supernatural, Serenity, Battlestar Galactica, and Demon Hunters. Smallville and Leverage use the new Cortex Plus system.

So what is Cortex?  Other than a system that seems to be doing a lot of TV shows?  Well I have described Cortex in the past as the love child of Unisystem and Savage Worlds.  The system is closer in feel to Unisystem and is a step-die system like Savage Worlds.

So unlike other reviews I want to hit some very specific things with Cortex.  These might sound a tad negative, but they are not really. I am just focusing on a few things here.  I do want to spend some time still talking about why I like this system.

Magic -  I have gone on about how Cortex needs a better magic system, and it does, but to be fair none of the licenses the Cortex currently has does anything near the magic you see in Buffy or Ghosts of Albion.  Supernatural and Demon Hunters, while they do have magic, are also not at that level.   I have toyed around with converting the magic system from Ghosts and even using the one from Witch Girls Adventures. While these are passable, I really think something new and excited is needed here.  For starters I would take what I learned for Ghosts and keep it simple.  I'd also want to split magic up into different types of magic.  Say like "Earth Magic" and "Diabolic", not just the descriptors I used in Ghosts, but separate "Skills", this would control the power levels some and keep things at that "human" power level that Cortex works well at.

What Book Do I Buy? - Interesting thing about Cortex.  I have never watched any of the shows they have games for.  BSG was good, but I lost interest.  Never watched Firefly (and no plans to start really).  I watched Supernatural and I loved it, but could never find the time in my days to watch the episodes I had recorded.  Same with Smallville and Leverage.  So I can't judge the books on how well they emulate their respective universes.  My gut feeling is that Supernatural is really, really damn close and so is Smallville.  But say you are new to Cortex, what should you buy?  Well...I guess I would start with, what show are you wanting to emulate?  I knew nothing of "Demon Hunters" till I signed up for it one Gen Con.  Cam Banks ran it and it was a blast!  The background is bit more silly that I normally take my modern/horror, but there is no reason at all you could not play it straight.  Supernatural is one of my favorite games presently as well.  It is a great game if you want to play normal human versus things that go bump in the night kind of game.  Actually, Supernatural is a GREAT game if you loved Chill.  If you want to play in outer space, well they have two games for that too.
Smallville, and from what I can tell Leverage, are different.  These games are for interpersonal relationships and drama, regardless of background.  Sure Clark can leap tall buildings in a single bound, but how is going to do if Lois starts filtering with him?  Some people don't like this kind of game, but personally (as a gamer and a designer) I find it fascinating! But I am getting ahead of myself...

Why do I need this if I have this? And this is a good question to ask.  Why would I play Cortex if I have Unisystem or Savage Worlds or True 20 or GURPS?   I think the answer here is people will play it because of the licenses.  This certainly worked great for  Buffy and Unisystem and it seems to working great for Cortex so far.  I think to get them to the next step is to have more products out for the "generic" rules that can be used with any book they sell.  Cortex Plus expands this and the system itself now becomes something of an interest above and beyond the license itself.  So say you are like me and you have Buffy, Chill, Ghosts of Albion, World of Darkness, Call of Cthulhu and Ghostbusters; what does Supernatural give you?  Well I guess that depends.  If you are a fan of the show then you have that.  The book is one of the nicest looking RPGs I have seen in a long time. Beyond that Supernatural is about normal people.  Characters in Ghosts of Albion are not normal.  Same is true for Buffy, CoC and World of Darkness.  Chill, like I mentioned, comes the closest, but Chill is a very old system now and there are parts that are showing that age.  Supernatural + the Cortex Core Rules gives you plenty on doing a "hunter" game or even a "survivor" game.

Why I Like Cortex
I will be honest, I like Cortex.  The math geek in me loves the step die progression and the fact that you have die + die/dice to get to a success.  While my love for Unisystem know no bounds, the d10 + numbers is a bit of flat outcome. I have talked about my fondness for Supernatural already and even in re-reads I still think it holds on well.  Here is how I feel about Cortex in general.
- The system is easy to learn.  Look, I have done my tenure with tables, insane formulas and dozens of subsystems.  I don't have to do that anymore.  If game wants my attention then it needs to be simple or have a good reason for the complexity.
- The game is improving. You can track Cortex's development through it's licensed games.  Yes there were some issues with earlier games, but now I feel they have a good handle on what they want to do and how to do it.
- Cortex has some great looking books.  I know that is not the end all be all, but a lot of work, care and effort goes into producing these books.  Supernatural and Smallville in particular are two of the best looking games I have seen in a while.  Minor quibble, not enough pictures of Lenore and Zatana respectively.
- Most importantly I feel it is a system that can do more than it currently has.  The core book is presented in a very "tool box" way and I'd like to try to build something with that.

I will do some Unisystem/Cortex conversions next and talk about magic and what Cortex Plus adds to the mix.

Links
http://www.margaretweis.com/
http://cortexsystemrpg.org/

Friday, August 13, 2010

I Got Nothin'

Post Gen Con and Back to Work and getting everything done for the Fall term has left no time for blogging this week.




You could pop over to DriveThruRPG and read some of the reviews I have written I suppose.  I am up to 92 now.




Thursday, August 12, 2010

This will not end well

I like to keep an eye on the OSR movement since I like the spirit of what is going on, I love many of the products and most of the people involved are also very cool.

But this is something that will not end well at all.


http://www.diecastgamesinc.com/ADD-Adventures_c2.htm

I also saw this at Gen Con and wondered at first if this was an old TSR book that never saw the light of day or something new.
This issue here of course is using a trademark, "Advanced Dungeons and Dragons" which is specifically prohibited by the OGL.

There are more discussions going about here:



Even people that don't like new D&D or WotC see this as a bad move.

There are a lot of problems with this, mostly effecting the OSR publishers wishing to reach out to new audiences.

This is one to keep an eye on.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Gen Con Haul, quick and dirty reviews, Part 1

Here are some of the things I got at Gen Con this year.

Ok, that is a small lie.  I actually didn't buy anything this year, but instead bought some on PDF before the Con and others afterwards.

First up Pathfinder, the big Ennie winner of 2010.

Pathfinder Advanced Player's Guide
OR "Bought it for the Witch, Stayed for the Paladin"
The one thing I see here is some serious influence on what I will call "new School" D&D.  Pathfinder and D&D4 took the same base idea (D&D 3.5) and then went in very different directions.  I think Pathfinder is exactly what we would have gotten in D&D 4 had the same team stayed at Wizards/Hasbro.  That is more evident with this book.
The race section is interesting, but I am not sure what I'll do with that all yet. Though I like the potential of what they have here.  I can see similar options for various countries or lands the characters grow up in.
I love the new classes.  The Alchemist, Oracle and the Witch are all kinds of awesome.  The cavalier is a nice throwback to the old UA.  The Witch Hunter Inquisitor is also quite cool.   The Oracle and the Witch are like Divine and Arcane versions of the same thing really.  That is how it should be.  A multiclassed Oracle/Witch (a Seer? A Sybil?) would be very cool if built properly.  I love all the archetypes (Mysteries, Orders and the like) really gives each class some style.  Speaking of the witch, I love how much she is reliant on her familiar. Something I think other witch classes for *D&D over the years has forgotten. Though I am not a fan of the witch needing a hag for a coven.  I don't mind that she can count as a hag, but I still think three witches should be able to form a coven on their own.
The section on expanding the existing base classes is equally as awesome.  Again, this book seems to deliver on the promise of the old Unearthed Arcana.  All sorts of new archetypes are detailed.  Think of what they did with the Sorcerer and bloodlines and now apply that to every class.  Sorcerers get new bloodlines, fighters get new fighting styles (which helps move them away from the Cavalier.  This is a good thing). Wizards get new schools (Earth, Wind and Fire...and Water.  Benders or 70's Soul.  You decide).
The Zen Archer Monk is cool beyond words.  In one of my Pathfinder games I am playing a Paladin, so I am looking at the various archetypes (Divine Defender, Hospitaler, Sacred Servant, Shining Knight, my faves Undead Scourge and Warrior of the Holy Light) really closely.  There is also an Antipaladin class, not a prestige class.
Plenty of new feats.  New equipment (no new polearms). Lots of new spells. And Prestige Classes.
While there is nothing here that screams witch or oracle, there are some neat ones for the cavalier, inquisitor and paladins.  The Holy Vindicator certainly looks fun. There are some new magic items, cursed items and artifacts.
There are some new rules, including Hero Points, which is nice and the whole section on Traits; which I am unsure if this is the same as what come out before or not.

All in all a really awesome book.  If you are playing Pathfinder then it really should be a must have.
The best comparison is of course to the old Unearthed Arcana of the 1st ed days (not the 3rd Ed one).  The rules here are designed to be added right into your game with a minimal of fuss.
As a publishing model I can see Pathfinder coming out with these every so often, like WotC and their Player's Handbook X model.  But the issue with that is there is so much in this book now and it adds so much flexibility that I am uncertain where they would want to go next.  Mind you I do have my own ideas, but would those support a line?

Other Random bits:
I like the witch. I like her a lot.  But there are things I would change about her to be honest.
I guess the Witch iconic character is named Feiya, but I have not seen her stated up yet, other than she is Chaotic Good and has white/blond hair like the iconic sorceress,  Seoni.

While the expanded races are neat, I think I would have liked to see something new too.  A new race really should not be out of the question given the races that both 3.x and 4e have given us.  Not a dragonborn or a wilden, but a demonic type like the Tiefling might be cool.

The three core Pathfinder books, the Core Rules, Bestiary and Advanced Player's Guide, use the same color on their bindings as the core D&D4 books.  Red, green and blue.  Granted these are the most common colors, but it bears mentioning.

With the release of this book would it be safe to call Pathfinder "Advanced D&D 3rd Edition" instead of D&D 3.75?  I personally like that better.  So once again you could say we have AD&D and D&D.

I mentioned it before, but the art is fantastic.  It is still the "dungeon punk" feel of 3.x, but updated to the D&D4 style a bit.

What is missing here I think and needed is some information on Pathfinder Epic level play.  I was never thrilled with the Epic Level Handbook from WotC and I also don't think it will work very well with this book. But I would like to see something.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Pathfinder APG

I now have my hands on the Advanced Player's Guide for Pathfinder.


Still dig the witch, but would rather see her stats based on Wisdom or even Charisma. 

Love the art.

More once I have had a chance to go over it proper.

Would have liked to see more witchy Prestige Classes too.

Gen Con 2010 in retrospect

All things considered Gen Con 2010 was a great time. It was the first time I took the wife and kids and everyone had a blast. Here are some of the highlights (and lowlights) of my time.

Best:
- Playing the Red Box D&D4 with my kids. It was awesome and it felt like "old D&D" to me. I know there is a lot of FUDing about this (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt) about the new Essentials line, but I can tell you this it was fast and fun.
- My Ghosts of Albion games went great! Ran Obsession and I loved seeing how the different groups dealt with the same problems.  Kurt Wiegel of Game Geeks fame played in one of my games and it was great time.  Earlier in the same day Andrew Peregrine of Victoriana fame also played in my games. I always try to get in a game of Victoriana at Gen Con, but couldn't this year.  So it was nice to get Andrew in a Ghosts game instead.  By the way, Andrew got a silver for Best Writing  for Victoriana at the Ennies this year!
Wanted to run some more games, but didn't have the time.  Having the boys with me made the social and gaming dynamic very different.
- Playing our regular D&D 3 game in the hotel lobby with my boys.  I wanted them to have the full Con experience.  We only played for about an hour, but they managed to get pretty far.

If you have that Facebook thing on teh internets at home then you can see my photos.

Looking Forward to:
- Ravenloft board game.  Saw it run at the Con and it looks fun as hell.
- D&D4 Red Box.  I know this send hordes of people that like to read my blog scratching their heads in disbelief, but I played and it was fun.
- Ravenloft campaign setting.  That was totally unexpected!

Sorta Bad: I bought nothing the entire con. I decided to pick up the books I want at my local game store instead.  I am buying Advanced Player's Guide, Smallville, and DC Adventures.  I might also pick up Icons, even though I have all of these on PDF already.  So I'll head to Games Plus and buy my stuff.

What was up with the White Wolf booth anyway?  Were they selling anything at all?

Kinda Bad/But also Good: Son and I tried to get into a D&D4 game but the line was longer than his stamina. We wanted to play but went down and had chili dogs and soda instead.  Again, the full Con experience.  I have to admit I was getting tired too and having a chili dog and a soda with my little guy was a fantastic way to spend the time.

Worse: Some guy fell asleep on I-65 back to Chicago and hit us doing 75 miles an hour. We went across 2 lanes of traffic and landed in a ditch on the side of the road.
Kids and wife are fine, no one was hurt. Had a lot of help from some really nice locals. Really killed the post-con high we had going.   We will be back next year of course. But I might be taking back roads home.

Other News

The Ipad seemed to be to tool of choice this year.  I can easily understand why.  Once they have one big enough to hold all my PDFs then I am there.

Ghosts of Albion did not make it to print for Gen Con this year.  But I understand that we are going to be seeing it in game stores in a couple of months.  Frankly a Halloween release would be awesome.  I'll write a new Halloween themed adventure for it to run when it is out.

Not Gen Con related

Amber Benson has some updated information about Drones on her blog.  I support Amber. Mostly because I know her and I have known about Drones for a while. Long enough to support her claims.
http://amberbensonwrotethis.blogspot.com/2010/08/why-are-these-two-things-different.html

I made the OSR News!  And not for any of my OSR support or my insane liking for the new Tomb of Horrors. ;)  They liked my Dark Druid adventure!  Thanks for the nod guys.  It really made my day today when I saw that.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Gen Con, post note

Hey all.

You will get some updates from me tomorrow.  I hope.

On our way home some dude fell asleep and came across our our lane of traffic and hit us, sent us flying across two lanes of 70+ mph traffic on I-65 and into a ditch.

Everyone is fine. The van is a little messed up though.

So, I am going to spending some time on the phone with the insurance guy instead of blogging.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Live, from Gen Con

Well sorta. It's almost 1:00am here.

The day is ending on Gen Con Day 2.
I just finished running a marathon day of Ghosts of Albion: Obsession today.
Both groups were fantastic and I had a lot of fun.  Both group also managed to save a few of the NPCs before the demonic janitor did them in.

So my purchases have been non-existent.  I stopped by many booths today to say.  Talked to George, Derrik and Alex at Eden.  The new Hack/Slash game looks like it could be fun. Got to say hi Matt McElroy from DriveThruRPG. Stopped by to see the guys at Cubicle 7.  Andrew was in a my afternoon Ghosts game so that was awesome.  Nice parity since I was in one his early Victoriana games.
Said hi to Cam Banks at the Margret Weis Game booth.  Love to write a new magic system for Cortex, something awesome and cool and something people will want to buy and enjoy playing.
Kurt Wiegel of Game Geeks was in my night Ghosts game.  That was a blast.

Tomorrow is costume day and Day 3 of Gen Con; AKA the busiest of the whole con.  I have no major plans.  I had considered running some Ghosts games, but I am hoping to get some emails back on that.

Need to come up with a new Ghosts of Albion adventure I think.  Blight and Obsession were an absolute blast, but I don't think I can talk about Miriam White anymore.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Dragon and the Phoenix: The Dark Druid

A Gen Con treat for those of you who can't make it to the "Best Four Days in Gaming".

The Dark Druid: The Director's Cut




A bit of history.  Back in 2002 Eden was getting ready to release their newest game, The Buffy the Vampire Slayer game.  As you know, I had already been playing a Willow/Tara focused WitchCraft game for about a year, so I was pretty excited by this.  Well I got asked by Eden to write the first Buffy adventure that would appear in "Games Unplugged" along with an interview with C.J. Carella talking about the game.
I took an idea I had been working on for my other game (tentatively called "All Soul's Night") and thus the Dark Druid was born.

The original featured, rather prominently, Willow and Tara, as to be expected.  I had to make some changes to make it playable for others and to make it an "intro" or season opener type episode.  The plot dealt with an enemy from the Cast's past as a portent to greater evil in the future.  It was designed to be a opening episode of the season, but one that may or may not be directly related to the seasonal arc.  We were going to use this i n part of the great "Djinn" story, but that never happened.

Fast forward a few years and I was finishing up work on Ghosts of Albion and another adventure that sprang from "All Soul's Night" called "Blight" (which I have played at Gen Con before).  I felt it was time to bring back the Dark Druid and restore it to the mythology that I had created in my games.  Now you can have it too.

I updated it not only to fit better with my world-myths, and with some of the work I did on Ghosts of Albion and the adventure Blight.  In fact you can run Blight and The Dark Druid as co-adventures, separated by time.

The story is rather direct and linear.  This was partly due to the nature of the story and what is was supposed to do (introduce new players to the game) and part of just me writing for the Buffy game for the first time.  I have opted not to change that here, despite nearly 8 years of Cinematic Unisystem adventure writing since then.  It is supposed to be a quick, fun little adventure dealing with past lives.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Coming Attractions

So what is on tap here at the Other Side post-Gen Con?  Well I'll do some blogging about Gen Con, especially if I buy something.  But here are my big plans.

Cortex
I like this little system ad want to do some more with it.  I especially want to look at Supernatural, Demon Hunters and Smallville.  I have already seen some really cool posts on somethings people are doing with Smallville.

Super Hero RPGs
I also want to spend some quality time with some of the new super hero RPGs I have or will have bought.  As a quick rundown I want to look at DC Adventures, ICONS, BASH, Villains and Vigilantes 2.1, and Smallville.

Since my goal will be similar in each I might spend one day each week covering the game in question, instead of a week to look at one game in depth.

Horror Games
Every so often I feel like I am neglecting my RPGs of choice; Horror.  So I want to also spend some quality time with Slasher Flick and Little Fears.
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