I want to do a serious post about my thoughts on 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons, the system and where I think it’s great and where I think it’s sort of lacking.
We had our monthly Straahd session a week or so back and it was a good one, we ended up in our first (that I was there for) combat with the vampire himself and one of the characters was completely destroyed in a single round, which always keeps you honest.
While I think 5E is excellent, there are times when, compared to my other d20 faves (13th Age and DCC) it can fall flat like when BLAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT
I first saw this Anime on netflix years ago, watching only the first episode. We just had a kid and I couldn’t give it the attention it deserved at the time. You can tell from the first episode, it’s going to be a series that rewards close attention. My first draw was that Shigurui looked like the art style of Ninja Scroll with some of the same animators and, of course, it is, which should tell you something about it’s quality. For those of us that grew up with Ninja Scroll as the GOLD STANDARD (along with Akira) for Anime, Shigurui is like Ninja Scroll all fucking grown up.
From the outset, I want to highly recommend this anime with almost zero caveats… maybe just two. First, it’s very dark and violent along the lines of 13 Assassins but a bit worse. Second it is UNFINISHED. There is no resolution to the entire story, as that would have taken most of a second season which was never made. You never get to see what happens in the end, which a tough pill as things are set up in the first episode for a climactic battle, yet most of the series is a flashback that never flashes forward again! How can you get the full story? You have to read the manga. That said, while incomplete, this is a masterpiece of anime.
What’s is Shigurui about? Like the film 13 Assassins, the series takes place during a peaceful era after the ‘warring states’ period in Japan. And again, like 13 Assassins, a relative of the shogun is a Daimyo of a province and a full bore psychopath, one who dreams of a more violent era, regardless of the fact that he lives in lazy splendor and can kill servants on a whim. At the beginning of the first show we see him getting his head lopped off in a seppuku ceremony– one in which he ONLY touches the fan–he isn’t even given the time to touch the fan to his abdomen as is traditional– the executioner just lopped his head right off! So he must have done something more than raping and killing peasantry right? Right.
We then have a first flashback to a one armed man and a blind man about to duel to the death in front of said Daimyo. They prepare to fight and then another flashback occurs when one of the men (the blind one, but no longer blind) steps into a dojo. The other combatant is there and neither have any injuries (yet). The show moves on to show the rivalry of these two men at the dojo, but then turns into something very different towards the end.
Add to this the fact that the master of the Kogan-Ryuu dojo is insane, and lies in a state of dementia for most of the show, however, he has massive parts in the series when he is in his right mind and is probably the most dangerous character in terms of ability to apply violence.
The show and manga has everything samurai you can imagine–various fighting styles, ‘magical’ or unlucky swords, western sword styles, rival schools. You know how Game of Thrones very much includes nearly every fantasy trope and most of the ‘fantasy’ races without being like a bad Forgotten Realms based Dungeons and Dragons movie? Shigurui HAS all the samurai tropes, it just presents them in such a way–again, much like ninja scroll– that helps you forget that you are seeing/reading about the same old tired stuff that showed up during the ninja and samurai craze in the 80’s.
The meat of the show outside of the character development are the various fighting styles. The fighting styles are extremely well detailed, and will have you thinking quite a bit about it as the learning of the two protagonists increases and they not only learn the secrets from the master, but come up with their own modifications and evolution to the styles. Having read the manga, I can say that this continues well into the second half of the series and ends spectacularly.
One other thing I really like is that if you look up the series in google and do an image search, you cannot find out what happens in the final duel. The manga author has many dream sequences and day dreams where BOTH of the main antagonists are show to be killed or terribly wounded during the final fight, so it’s impossible without reading the manga to get spoiled by the internet. The picture you are looking at with the guy with one arm’s face cut off could be during the final duel, or could be a dream sequence.
The only mechanical system that would be able to handle Shigurui’s level of combat depth and manner of wounds, is, of course, Mythras. Most of the sword fights are over in a SINGLE stroke, which is simply not possible with D20 systems that use hit points, nor WFRP, nor 13th Age. Story games would not effectively simulate the fights without far to heavy narrative control: you may as well just play with action figures at that point rather than roll dice.
In Mythras, both of the protagonists would have over 100% in their relevant sword skills (in the Kogan style), and you would probably need to break out different weapons having different skills (such as the shorter sword, the longer katana’s, and the big honking club thing one of the characters uses, and two swords at once).
One other thing that may be difficult in any RPG, even Mythras, is that the Kogan-Ryuu sword school students NEVER parry. This means that the swordsman that strikes at the higher strike rank and hits is going to need to score a heavy wound most of the time to not himself be killed, but vs another Kogan swordsman, he will get a special effect straight away since there is no parry.
In order to simulate the sword styles, I would give special traits when characters got to 90 %, 100% and finally 120% skill levels, so every style would have three traits. These are usually only given once to an entire style in the core game, but it should not break anything to give more, especially at such high skill levels.
I would also recommend using the advanced range and distance rules. There are a couple of the fights in Shigurui where the range is critical. In fact the first Kogan style trait I would add at 90% mastery would be that the sword used counts as one level up in terms of weapon length.
Passions can also be very useful in this type of game, as they could boost combat skills in certain situations to god-like levels. Getting close to 10% chance of a critical is scary– 14-17% is insane. Anyway, a game with Mythras where on one wears armor and no one parries could be very interesting…
Night of Blood is a classic WFRP adventure and it’s free on Drivethru RPG.
I partially ran this one in college– the players didn’t take the bait due to ‘running away from some baron’s men’ factor and avoided the fun. There are many, many adventures influenced by this one, including 2-3 DCC ones I can think of off the top of my head that are now ALSO classics.
I haven’t picked up WFRP 4 yet, but it’s bound to happen eventually.
The Shinobigami Modern Ninja Battle game final PDF just dropped for Kickstarter backers. This is VERY late as we were supposed to have the printed book by now according to the original timeline. SBGMNBG was going to go on my fucked kickstarter list for 2018 but for the fact that they released a playable draft in the original Japanese layout very early after the kickstarter, character sheets and the battle sheet– so you had what you needed to play, absolved them of being considered fucked. Also, these are the guys that did Tenra Bansho Zero and Ryuutama, so this thing has been worth the wait.
So what the fuck is this game? Shinobigami is a single session Japanese RPG by the Adventure Planning Service produced in English by Kotodama Heavy Industries, where you play as a single ninja trying to fulfill their secret goals in some sort of scenario set up by the GM. The closest games to it that I’ve played are Carolina Death Crawl and Hillfolk, but Shinobigami seems to have more of a board gamey feel to it than those. There are a number of ’rounds’ and each round all characters and important NPC’s have a ‘scene’ which they control the start of the narrative and setting whether having a discussion or trying to fight someone. This leads up to a climax scene where the remaining characters may be trying to take out a powerful NPC or free for all to fulfill their characters goals. Yes, you read that right, RPG PVP, something very difficult to pull off well.
Your character has a bunch of ninja skills that can include stuff like Cooking, Torture or Apparel– all of which can be used to fight people because you are a ninja and everything you do can be deadly as fuck. Characters also have the obligatory nimpo as well as a very powerful attack that can tear up anything but leaves the character super vulnerable later.
Combat ahhhh– I can’t really comment on it before actually getting stuck in as it’s quite strange, like Ryuutama, using an abstract board.
Needless to say, I’m fired up to run a game. I hate reading rules on a screen/ipad and was going to wait until the book came out– which you may have to if you aren’t in on the kickstarter, but I may just print the damn thing out and get greased up.
While I think any multi-session or long term ‘story game’ is going to be a bust and end up super tiring and annoying (FATE, Dungeon World, etc.), these single or limited session games like Shinobigami, Feng Shui, Carolina Death Crawl, Tenra Bansho and Hillfolk are cooking with gas. To me these story games are like going out to eat at a well-appointed restaurant. You go once in awhile and it’s great but if you go too much it’s just a series of gastrointestinal issues such as sharting in Walmart, needing a manpon at work all day or just lying on the ground with constipation cramps even after drinking pickle juice. No one wants that, regardless of the mouthfeels when you are bellied up to the slops. What you want 95% of the time is just a simple home cooked meal and that’s DCC, D&D and it’s ilk, WFRP and Mythras (and yeah, if you can stand it, stuff like Rifts), but for that 5% of the time when you are bored of the lack of innovation in the OSR (imagine that…), or RPG’s in general and want to try something minty fresh– yet Tenra Bansho Zero looks like too much work to cook up–Shinobigami smells like pretty awesome eats. It also will make Steve uncomfortable on account of the required improv.
Got to Gamehole con Friday and Saturday to good effect. Yet, again I think it’s the best con in Wisconsin aside from Gary Con, which is great on account of it’s location in Lake Geneva and it’s focus on old school RPG’s (which includes the current incarnation of D&D).
The dealer hall was small, but had a good selection. There was one vendor that had superlative deals on board games (like you’d see on Amazon) and that was a feeding frenzy. I had to get out of there without spending anything, but my friend’s certainly did.
Friday was all board games, all damn day and it was great. I like to try stuff either from my collection or from other people’s that I haven’t tried before so that’s what we did. Saturday we played Numenera for half the day and then got back into the board games. ALL of my events were apparently cancelled so I wasted some money on those. Michael Curtis’s DCC events were all gone, so that sucked.
First up was a co-op called Batman the Animated Series. Most of the time I despise the co-op games and avoid them as much as possible on account of the quarterbacking issue and most of them are pretty boring after more than one or two plays. This was a decent game. Moved fast, was not super quarterbacky and we were playing with the designer (Mike) who did give suggestions on what to do, but he wasn’t like I would be if I knew the game (i.e.: terrible). Actions are definitive and you can really do a lot of crazy stuff in order to meet the Act’s goals. The buildings are neat but they block line of sight to the other parts of the city a bit if you are sitting down. I could see this ‘engine’ being great for a game of alien invasion (say the Invid from Robotech) BUT where each player has a secret goal as well as the goal of saving the world to shut down any possibility of quarterbacking.
Matt caught Eric Lang walking around and talked to him about Rising Sun (a great game) and other stuff.
Saga of the Norsemen. This is an area control point salad game. I remember them playtesting this up at Game Universe a few years back. This is not a bad game at all, but has some typos that caused MASS confusion when we first started (Chieftains are heroes or?? what). Overall though I think this plays solid with enough people. You try to influence the Viking countries (by having the most influence in each which is handled by card draws) and direct where they go viking so you can get the spoils. I’m not sure who YOU are supposed to be in the game (an arms dealer? a viking god?). Matt did not like this one all that much, but better than the next one.
Bunny Kingdom. This is a drafting area control point salad. In fact it is probably the ultimate in this type of game. I liked it at first but as the game wore on there was a lot of maths and then more maths. There are people that will love this game– trying to squeeze out point here and there and set up comboes, but near the end of the game it was obvious the winner had been determined during the third turn and there was no catching up. Neither of the other players dug this much. Very EASY to play though. This made me simply want to play Feudality by Tom Wham.
Next up was Victory Or Death (a Quartermaster General game). I have a thing for the long, terrible war between Sparta and Athens which ended up completely pointless and could have destroyed Western civilization as we know it. This game pits Corinth and Sparta vs the Delian League and Athens in the typical ‘card deck is your economy and war powers’ quartermaster game. Needless to say, if you like 1914, you will dig this game. I enjoy the theme a lot more despite the fact that I got my ass kicked as the Delian League/Athens vs Justin and Matt. I do take consolation that the Spartans were terribly frustrated during the game with all of their attempts to do anything shut the fuck down, and it was Corinth that eventually took Athens. The supply rules in this game are a bit difficult to grok, but the rest is very easy. Excellent game.
Colt Express. This is a Robo Rally type of game where you play as bandits trying to rob a train and shoot each other. Theme is excellent and the components are very interesting. It’s not a deep game, and I can’t see repeatedly playing this, but it was fun. There’s a mcguffin that you pretty much need to get in order to win the game and that can be difficult to figure out at first. I knocked the shit out of the holder of it multiple times, but couldn’t pop it out of his possession. I’d play this again with the kids.
Fairy Tile. I had my daughter with on Saturday and so we busted out some lighter fair. This is a game where you try to move three pieces on a board in order for you to play cards from your hand. You have 10 cards and you win if you are able to play them all. It’s a tricky little game that plays fairly fast. I like the tri-hex board (I use that in my upcoming game as well) and the components, art and the miniatures are top drawer. I can’t see playing this with adults much, but with kids– great.
Keyforge-– this is our the game of the con. They should have had a lot more decks/stuff available for people to buy instead of this pre-release BS! This was at a game con for fucksakes four days away from the game’s release– just sell the stuff. Anyway, we got some decks after the demo and were pleasantly surprised at how good it is. While the TYPE of game that it is is nothing really crazy, the fact that you collect DECKS instead of cards is something really special and frankly, sort of insane. My kid said: “out of five stars the game is a six.”
I will be doing a post just about keyforge shortly after playing 10-20 times for the two readers of this blog that may think they want to buy it.
Since Google+ and the OSR movement are going away in a year after G+ closes down, there’s a lot of pre-shutdown nostalgia already for the OSR, though the movement will go on for another year (until the day G+ shuts down for good, then it will be gone outside of Garycon and Gamehole con).
The questionnaire below was posted as a nostalgia piece that bloggers can fill out to have some feels together now at the end and for the posterity of the movement. The OSR had a good run, and G+ was entertaining to say the least.
In terms of content that the OSR produced, there were some good adventures but I think 90% of the ‘hacks’ people put together were in some issue of Dragon magazine from 1978 – 1985 but people were just too lazy to find them and tell the people that what they were suggesting had already been done before.
OSR Guide For The Perplexed Questionnaire
1. One article or blog entry that exemplifies the best of the Old School Renaissance for me:
Greg Stafford, a huge visionary in roleplaying games and founder of Chaosium passed away in his sweat lodge yesterday.
This is a bit more sad since Runequest and Glorantha got beautiful new editions this year, yet the man had a pretty awesome run as a game designer. While we (unfortunately) did not get into Runequest as kids, we definitely did the Call of Cthulhu and a little bit of Elric. The BRP system (designed by Steve Perrin) is the best RPG system (in it’s modern forms) there is and we all owe a great debt of gratitude for years of excellent gaming with Call of Cthulhu as kids and gaming to come with Mythras and Runequest.
Stafford came up with his ideas for Glorantha while at Beloit College, proving yet again that Wisconsin is where all the critical RPG ideas came from and will come from in the future.
What’s more, without Glorantha/Runequest there would be no Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and likely the Warhammer old world and 40K would be VERY different than it is today (discounting Age of Sigmar entirely as it’s fluff is basically fanfic).
Importance of Art in RPG’s. This has some other stuff about FATE that you can skip over, but mostly it’s about GURPS and FATE and the issue with ‘generic’ RPG systems and their lack of direction around art. Mythras avoided this by focusing all art in the game on sword and sandal stuff (the base setting). Rob Heinsoo lists his artist for 13th Age as one of the GAME DESIGNERS (Lee Moyer) even though he didn’t do the system design– as the art is a huge part of the game. Think about Exalted 2E vs Exalted 3E for example. 2E is like “what is THAT??” and 3E is like – — ‘oh generic westernized Anime we’ve seen 1000 times before at this point, sans cleavage.’