I get so little time to play games and Dark Souls is one that you really have to take seriously, especially when it’s trying to emotionally maim you at every turn. The last few days I have been stuck in one single area and yesterday I almost threw in the towel on the game for good.
The situation is that you have to fight through some fairly tough enemies only to have to then walk up a series of ledges while under fire from some archers who have GIANT dragon killing arrows that will knock you off the ledge if you get hit (whether you block or not). You are forced to run between them so while one is shooting you from the front, another is shooting you in the back. Then you must engage one of them in close combat without falling off the ledge. All told, I think I tried this 50 times before making it through. At try 45 I was like–fuck this game forever. My last ‘stuck’ point was the first Capra Daemon which is understandable for me since it’s a boss and all. Those are SUPPOSED to be difficult. This is just… some area in the game. Praise the fucking Sun I got through it and on to what I’ve heard is the most difficult boss fight in the game…
I picked up the beautiful Banner Saga as part of the Kickstarter, as well as the very indy but so far pretty awesome Inquisitor and am switching between them both with a little Torchlight 2 and Chivalry in between.
The issue I’m having is that Banner Saga and Inquisitor are both READING games. There is just so much text on screen to read in both games (especially Inquisitor) that it’s like reading a novel on the computer– and that’s tough to stomach after Skyrim. Of course no indy shop is going to be able to do the sort of VAST voice acting work of Skyrim or Oblivion– we take that shit for granted at this point. However, these indy RPG’s (including Eschelon and Avalon the Black Fortress) are excellent games with really good writing but… it’s still writing on the screen, and I’m finding it quite a bit of a slog, especially with two games like at once. I get the urge after about half an hour to blow shit up instead.
So how are these games? Banner Saga is unfortunately really boring, but awful pretty. The combat system, compared to Disgaea, Phantom Brave, Final Fantasy Tactics, etc. is not up to par. I’ve been in 10 or so battles and they all are on a flat plane with the same enemies over and over again. With Disgaea and the like, I am excited to get into a fight– with Banner Saga it’s zzzzz….. Frankly, I’m never going to finish it. Other people are liking it so the kickstarter was worth supporting, but I’m not a fan of the game. People have just done that this of game so much better. Aesthetically, it’s amazing to look at though.
Inquisitor is VERY Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. You spend your time dealing with NPC’s and reading their responses and accusations of each other. I do enjoy it but it’s been a LOT of reading. Compared to Eschelon you don’t do much exploring (at first) as you start in a pretty big village. The combat is just fine for this type of game– what’s misleading is that it looks a bit LIKE Diablo 2 so you expect the game to play that way in combat, but it doesn’t, not at all. So, if you like Eschelon and finish 3 quick, Inquisitor is worth looking at. I really like the plot lines so far. There was a battle with bandits early on where they run away after a few go down–that was the moment that I knew this game was a keeper.
We still had communication problems, but were able to eek out a few hour session of 13th Age last night. I really like Roll20 for facilitating online play, despite the crappy voice chat, the rest of it is fucking top drawer. I mostly hate it when people describe what actually happens in a PnP session so I won’t bore you with the details around what happened, but rather stuff about what it’s like to GM the game.
There was a short fight in the session, and it went fairly fast– slower due to communication problems than it should, not because of the game. I built the antagonists for this encounter in about 10 minutes and could have been faster but I wanted some sort of weird power for the caster so did a bit more searching. Balance wise it was exactly perfect for what I was trying to go for, the characters took some damage (two of them were at their staggered level) but the enemies went down quick, since this was a bit of an interlude from the main plot. There’s a lot of stuff that 4th Edition D&D did right, and the encounter building was one of them and it’s even better in 13th Age because only the most ungodly powerful monsters have the mega stat-lines that 4th Edition has. So, I don’t feel like I have to build out mass stats for, say, an Exalted enemy (making the 10 or so that I did took hours and hours) and yet I can have enemies with interesting powers that sometimes don’t come into play during a single fight since they may not proc. Surprise for next time!
This is another area where this game shines. After last night’s session there was no diddling around with XP since…there’s no XP at all! It’s just slowly dawned on me after the last two sessions how awesome this is for me as a GM. I get to decide when the players level up– when it’s best for the STORY and I feel like they’ve earned it. It removes all the fiddly crap since people aren’t writing large numbers on their character sheets, erasing it over and over, using a calculator and then messing around with trying to get into fights with barmaids to try to milk out 5XP for the next level. None of that shit is in 13th Age and I don’t think anyone will miss it at all. I do favor the per-session XP of WFRP as an alternative to no XP, but that is as about as detailed as I want to get.
I frankly don’t know what all the characters can do yet. I’ve read through the classes, but my retention is low– I really leave it up to the players to let me know what their class powers and talents do so far. A couple of the dudes do not have the book, so the fact that they put out an SRD for the game is fucking AWESOME. Really a player just needs a character sheet and the 5-8 pages for their class info and that’s it.
I’m running the first adventure out of the back of the book, it’s no Oldenhaller Contract, but works fine. The players could read it, sure, but with the Icon Rolls and other stuff going on, it’s likely going to be very different than what it’s written as. I have written a custom 5-6 session adventure for the group, if they choose to continue so we’ll be hitting that next.
Just was tooling around and found some posts by Robin Laws about development of Feng Shui 2! This game was a huge influence for everybody, as well as being really fun to play. What it brought to the table were MOOKS and Stunting. Now, stunting has advanced in PNP “technology” over the years so the old Feng Shui stunting doesn’t actually work that great in comparison– but it was the first game that many people were exposed to the concept, and it’s all over the place since (Exalted, FATE, Cortex, it’s actually the core mechanic in Dungeon World as well as a solid place in 13th Age). Mooks are now (with 13th Age) in D&D and will forever be a part of RPG gaming– it’s basically an enemy or mass of enemies
The question I have to ask the man himself is — will the Architects be in the game? The answer is likely yes because Robin Laws is not creatively bankrupt like the current Shadowfist developers.
Clip from “A Field in England.”
I got some shit in the mail this week–sort of unexpected in some instances (and some stuff I ordered) and it turned out to be an RPG blow out.
First– I’ve been looking at a D100 game to run and am considering either Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2nd edition or RunQuest 6. Given that there were a lot of 2nd edition WFRP books that I didn’t get back in the day, but have about 4, that would be the cheapest route. That said, I just had to have the full Career Compendium Fantasy Flight put out when they took over the license. If there’s one book other than the core book (and Plundered Vaults– a bunch of 1st edition adventures updated to 2nd Edition), the Career Compendium is it. I picked it up via DriveThruRPG print on demand, so it’s not an original. It was expensive (40$ for the hardcover) but if I’m ever going to play 2nd Edition WFRP, it’s a must have.
Secondly, long ago I backed the Cortex Plus Hackers Guide kickstarter, and the book finally came in the mail. I’ve had the PDF for awhile but it’s really been tough for me to read PDF books on my PC–I sort of hate it– hence I didn’t read much and am thus happy to get the hard copy. Cortex is the base system for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, and is really good for any sort of 1 off games, especially super powered stuff.
Third– Runequest 6th edition. In the late 70′s, a few years after D&D was out, a bunch of people got together after playing D&D and thought to themselves: “boy, Hit Points as an abstraction of damage sucks real bad.” I agree with this and that’s one of the reasons I moved away from D&D in the early 80′s to other stuff finally landing on WFRP 1st edition– what ARE hit points anyway? Going from 100% combat effective to dead is—difficult to imagine in reality. Over the years, we’ve all learn to accept hit points as an abstraction because, well, it’s fun and fun is the most important thing after all. Runequest tried successfully to keep the fun in a game while making combat more realistic with hit locations and no body-wide hit points. Fights are over in a just a few rounds and have… consequences. The new edition is pretty tight from my short reading so far, and lo and behold I have played the system before many moons ago since it powers Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu. It’s a good Schweizer Offiziersmesser for gritty fantasy games and the combat system is, needless to say surviving from the late 70′s until now, fantastic.
Lastly, one of the developers on 13th Age released a bestiary for the Midguard Campaign setting that I instantly picked up (unfortunately, PDF only). It’s got a mess of monsters and what’s really a bonus, a full suite of Midguard-specific Icons to boot. For all my ripping on D&D all the time 13th Age has warmed me up to d20 big time. I wish I had known about 13th Age at Gencon last summer, I would have given the creators a good slap across the mouth because I like them. 13th Age is going to be my go-to game for light, crunchy fun where as either RuneQuest or WFRP2 for more hardcore play. I do want to take a crack at world building with custom icons, but that may take awhile since it’s no fun if it’s not a group thing and my groups is geographically quite challenged.
That said, the above is a lot of sundry gaming material, so it’s time to grease up and get fucking gaming.
During football season, I get a lot of texts. Hundreds really, sometimes each day about this player doing so and so for various local sports teams. I know I get these because I explicitly do not like American Football. People think I’m being contrarian, but two events early in life coloured my view of watching sports.
First, I had a friend that I had just made at school, I was very excited because I liked this kid and we were going to play at his house. We got there, I figured we’d start playing with toys or some games, but instead, we sat down and watched—football. After 5 minutes I couldn’t wait to go home. This was in first grade or so, and I realized at that time that watching sports, particularly football, was not for me.
Second, I got to go to some Gator games and while fun (read: drunk and with hot girls) the game itself was boring to me. I went to a pro football game a few years later and it completely removed my interest in the sport forever: the COMMERCIAL time outs that turned a 1.5 hour game into a 3.5 hour waste of time just irked me, and nowhere is it more evident than at a pro football game. What happens during the commercial timeouts on the field? Nothing. While you at home are watching Culligan Man or Viagre, the entire stadium is just waiting and the team is just sitting there. It’s the worst ever.
That said, and I digress, I am no longer getting the Football texts, this week I am getting ESCHELON 3 texts– tons of them. Certain people of a certain people are texting back and forth minute by minute progress of their games.
Those Umbral Dogs in the second level of the mine are badass
Yes! I found a book that gave me CARTOGRAPHY!
I have a real hard time spending three points in game.
While this is much better than football, I haven’t played an Eschelon game all the way through, so I don’t have any idea what it’s about (just played the demo).