To Boldly Nerd…

Video games, pen&paper RPGs and other nerdery

04/08/2016
by Kadomi
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#RPGaDay 2016 – Day 4

Another day, another question answered for #RPGaDay 2016. If you want to join in, check out RPGBrigade.

#RPGaDay 2016

The questions

Most impressive thing another’s character did?

From a player’s perspective, I still fondly remember the hijinx of my SO’s utterly unlikeable halfling ranger. She had the charisma of a rock, but she was wild and daring. The group was investigating the kidnapping of a local lord’s daughter and sneaked through an ogre hideout. Not sure you could call it sneaking, really. There was a cave, with a swinging log trap. Euphoria managed to jump onto the swinging log, sat astride and rained her arrows upon the enemies’ minions. I think the minions were goblins. It was crazy, and fun, and I enjoyed it.

Yeah, I really should be playing in more games instead of GMing, shouldn’t I?

03/08/2016
by Kadomi
0 comments

#RPGaDay 2016 – Day 3

On we continue with #RPGaDay 2016, today with question number 3.

#RPGaDay 2016

The questions

Character moment you are proudest of?

This will be a very short response. I’ve only ever played in one long-term campaign, as I almost always GM. I played a halfling rogue called Discordia, short Disco. My SO played her irritating and very uncharismatic sister Euphoria. They fought non-stop. I would love to say that I had grand character moments, but the highlight was probably when Disco managed to pick a lock and managed to free all party members from their cells when they had been kidnapped by a group of henchmen. Hardly a huge character-building moment. What I learned in this campaign though is that in order for your players to have fun, you should shine the spotlight on each character, not just one of them. But that’s a totally different story.

One of these days I’ll be a player again and will have proud character moments, honestly.

02/08/2016
by Kadomi
2 Comments

#RPGaDay 2016 – Day 2

On we go with #RPGaDay 2016, with a very tough question:

#RPGaDay 2016

The questions

Best game session since August 2015?

I’m currently running three games, and in the course of the last year I also played in two other campaigns. It’s very tough to decide which one was ‘best’.

Instead I’ll go for the most memorable and fun event that happened, in my Rise of the Runelords campaign. You know, this thing you totally haven’t planned for, and then you just roll with it.

We originally started this game in September ’14, and last October, the party of six investigated Thistletop, the goblin stronghold where the Big Bad Evil Girl of Book 1 was hiding out. Thistletop is a small island connected to the mainland by a rope bridge high above the sea. The party had managed to sneak into the basement without alerting any goblins and took care of Nualia’s mercenaries there.

They decided that they wanted to check out the goblin situation first before finding Nualia and sent their gnome ranger Fynn ahead to scout. She found the goblin forces, about 20 of them, with their leader and his riding gecko in his throne room, and was spotted. Fynn decided to tell the leader that she was a new mercenary that Nualia had hired, and that apparently he hadn’t been introduced yet. Then, she rolled an 8 for her Bluff check. I rolled a 2 for his Sense Motive check. He totally bought it.

She then went downstairs again to discuss this development with the others. Seeing as bluffing had gone so well, the rogue snuck out and headed to the rope bridge, which had a trap mechanism he had figured out. His Disable Device check was high, so I let him rig the bridge. The ranger went back to the chieftain and told him that Nualia had given the command to assault the town, and that his forces should cross over to the mainland. She rolled an 8 again. I rolled a 1. It was meant to be this way.

The full forces including the leader on his gecko crossed the bridge and fell into the sea, to be eaten by the bunyip in the water. A few goblins clung on, so the party cast spells to have the remains of the bridge go up in flames. It was a tragic defeat, and a fantastic moment for the party. Ultimately, it was much cooler than the massive battle with 20 goblins would have been.

Only downside: they missed Chief Ripnugget’s cool loot, which drowned in the sea…

Alas, Chief Ripnuggest and your trusty mount, you were too easy to fool.

Alas, Chief Ripnuggest and your trusty mount, you were too easy to fool.

I’m a bit sad that this was the last game we played in a party of six. The rogue player quit after that session for personal reasons. We’re now in the middle of book 2, and the party is about to head into the Misgivings. I hope it will be as memorable as Thistletop turned out to be.

01/08/2016
by Kadomi
2 Comments

#RPGaDay 2016 – Day 1

I decided that this year I would like to participate in a blog event: #RPGaDay 2016. There are two reasons for this: 1. I want to blog more frequently. 2. I’ve been slowly transitioning to write more about RPGs than my other nerd hobbies, pretty much replacing my former MMO passion with RPGs.

#RPGaDay was created a couple years back to be something to do for the folks who can’t make it to Gen Con, which is probably the largest tabletop RPG convention in the world. In order to participate, you answer an RPG-related question every day, for all of the month August. I enjoy the writing prompts and am sure I’ll be rambling away as I usually do. I want to give a shoutout to Blaugust, which is a similar initiative that mostly MMO bloggers do every year. If you want to jump on that train, talk to @Belghast.

#RPGaDay 2016

The questions

Day 1 of #RPGaDay:

Real dice, dice app, diceless, how do you prefer to ‘roll’?

It really depends on my gaming environment. My favorite will always be real dice. They’re shiny, often-times pretty, and there’s something visceral and satisfying about rolling dice. I actually own a dice tray from UltraPro, to enhance the dice rolling experience. Is there really anyone who would prefer rolling with a dice app? Who knows. I don’t even have a dice app on my phone.

However, when I prep my game sessions, I usually sit at my computer. If there’s anything that requires a roll (e.g. cypher selection in Numenera, or duration of effects in Pathfinder), I use a browser-based dice roller. I usually go with the quick and easy roller that’s available from Wizards of the Coast.

Additionally, I am currently experimenting with dice rooms. In my Legacy of Fire Pathfinder campaign, we had a timejump of a year and the players were allowed to pick a task they did in that year. With one player, I am now playing out what happened in that year off in a solo e-mail adventure. Just a little side plot for her character, per mail. In case we need to roll dice in a task resolution, I have set up a dice room at Roleplayer’s Dice Roller. When she needs to roll the dice, she can log into the dice room, roll her dice, tell me what she rolled, and if I want to be on the safe side, I can check by looking at the dice room log. Also handy for online games that do not use Roll20 e.g. as it comes with Google Hangouts integration.

But again, if left to choice alone, always real dice. Can I say diceporn? 🙂

28/07/2016
by Kadomi
2 Comments

RPG-Blog-O-Quest #10

For this month’s RPG-Blog-O-Quest, Greifenklaue picked the subject ‘Fantasy’ as opposed to Science Fiction last month. As usual, the first segment will be in my native language German, the second part will have a translation. Game on!

rpg-blog-o-quest

  1. Lieber Low- oder Highfantasy? Warum? – Eigentlich bin ich prinzipiell ein Fan von High Fantasy. Meine erste große Fantasy-Erfahrungen als junger Mensch waren Die Unendliche Geschichte und Herr der Ringe, höher als letzteres geht es ja kaum. Letztendlich bevorzuge ich das Genre ‘Epic Fantasy’. Mir ist jetzt egal, ob der Anteil an Fantasy sehr hoch ist, und es nur so vor Drachen und anderen mythischen Kreaturen wimmelt, oder ob es eher Richtung ‘grimdark’ geht, mit viel Gemetzel und wenig Magie. Hauptsache, es ist eine epische Story.
  2. Mein liebstes Crossover mit Fantasy ist derzeit Numenera, weil es einfach unheimlich viele Kreativitätsschübe in mir auslöst. Numenera kann sehr fantasy-lastig sein, mit Burgen, Königreichen und verschollenen Prinzessinnen, aber die Prinzessin kann auch in einem abgestürzten Raumschiff zu finden sein, oder man hat andere technologische Erlebnisse. Ich find’s einfach nur fantastisch. Shadowrun ist auch sehr cool.
  3. An Oldschool gefällt mir eigentlich nix. Ich bin ein Fan von story-lastigem Spiel, und epischen Abenteuern. Wenn ich Oldschool höre, verbinde ich das automatisch mit sehr dungeon-lastigem Spiel, mit tödlichen Fallen und Gegnern, und TPKs. Ich bin ein großer Fan von Creighton Broadhurst, dem Chef von Raging Swan, der ein glühender Verehrer von Gary Gygax ist. Ich finde aber, dass es Gründe gibt, dass Systeme sich weiterentwickeln, und D&D 5e scheint dabei ja einiges richtig zu machen, und das Rollenspielen zumindest in den USA deutlich zugänglicher zu machen. Neuere Systeme liegen mir einfach mehr.
  4. Im ausgelaufenen Monat war Drachen das Thema des Karnevals. Meine liebste RPG-Anekdote mit Drachen ist leider noch nie passiert. Ich hatte noch nie hochstufige Charaktere, die sich mit Drachen beschäftigen durften. Deswegen hoffe ich, dass wir es mindestens bis Buch 4 beim Erwachen der Runenherrscher schaffen!
  5. Welches ist Dein favorisiertes Fantasyvolk? Warum? – Ich kann jetzt nicht sagen, dass ich ein Lieblingsvolk habe. Wobei ich Halblinge schon ganz cool finde. Die sind so gemütlich wie ich. 😉 Definitiv nicht Elfen, über die lese ich nur gern, spielen eher weniger.

rpg-blog-o-quest logo1

English version

  1. Do you prefer low or high fantasy? Why? – I consider myself a fan of high fantasy. The first fantasy books I read at a young age were Neverending Story and Lord of the Rings, which is the poster child for high fantasy. Yet, I would say that the fantasy style I like most is epic. It doesn’t matter if this is high fantasy style with lots of magic and dragons, or the gritty, grimdark stories like A Song of Ice and Fire (aka GoT). It just needs to be an excellent, epic story.
  2. My favorite crossover with fantasy is Numenera. Just two weeks ago I waxed poetic about this, how creative this game makes me. Numenera can be a game with many fantasy elements. Kingdoms, castles, missing princesses. Of course the castles can grow continually with self-creating rooms, or the missing princess might be stuck in a crashed spaceship. The possibilities for crossover are limitless.
  3. In Oldschool gaming I particular like nothing at all, really. I am not a fan of the oldschool revival movement. When I think oldschool gaming, I am thinking it’s about endless dungeon crawls, high lethality and TPKs, drawing maps on notepads and micromanagement. I am a huge fan of Creighton Broadhurst, head of Raging Swan, who create some of the best GM aides for Pathfinder (with system-neutral publications now as well). I however cannot understand his infatuation with old first edition rules. There’s a reason games evolve. I think DnD 5e has made big steps on finding a new audience, with the rise of Actual Play Podcasts and streams. I prefer newer systems.
  4. In the previous month, the RPG blog carnival had the subject ‘dragons’. What’s your favorite RPG-story regarding dragons? – None, unfortunately. I never GM’d for a high level party to meet dragons or had a high level character myself. This is why I am hoping my Rise of the Runelords campaign will make it to book 4, to return to Sandpoint…Oh yeah.
  5. What’s your favorite fantasy race? Why? – I don’t actually have any favorite race. I know people out there who play elves in just about any game (like Pike, e.g. ;)) but I have no preference. I kinda dig halflings, because I’m a chubby lady who likes food and being comfortable. Which is not particularly heroic, but fun.

25/07/2016
by Kadomi
3 Comments

RPG Tools: Campaign Management using Scrivener

As mentioned in my Numenera post, I am currently creating a campaign from scratch. This is very exciting to me. However, it’s led to me re-evaluating how I organize the games I am running. With now three different games, I felt that I definitely need to keep my notes straight. I felt I needed a way to plot outlines and story arcs.

Previously, I’ve always been using Evernote. I extensively use the Web Clipper to yank ideas from websites straight into my notes but also, to add the campaign newsletter that I send around for my Runelords campaign. The advantage is that I can use Evernote anywhere I have web access or wifi. This means I can jot down ideas during my lunch break. You can use different notebooks to organize your notes, and tag them. I still don’t feel very organized using it though. Sure, I can favorite notes, and create different notebooks, but I still have to click through my notes or use the search, without having any real way of adding structure. It is however still a great tool for simply taking notes. A ‘jot down your ideas anywhere’ tool.

Evernote in action

Evernote in action

I would like to note that their new pricing model kinda blows. Thanks to my ISP I had Premium access for free for a year. I definitely do not need 10 GB of notes every month nor use all the business features. It would however be nice to sync on all my devices, which was always free until now but which would cost me 29,99 € a year now. Certainly not a pricing that would kill me but a bit over the top just so I can sync on my 3 devices. I deleted it off my phone, and now only use the clients on my PC and my tablet. The web version will have to do when I am not at home.

The search for the right client

So what to do for campaign management? There are several solutions. There’s Obsidian Portal, but for me, that’s less about campaign management but about being the chronicle of a campaign. It offers a wiki for worldbuilding, a blog, etc. I am doing something similar using a WordPress.com blog as adventure journal for my Legacy of Fire campaign: The Adventures of the Cactus-Slayers. I have lots of plans and little time for this site, but it’s wonderful for showing the creativity of my players and their campaign diaries. What I need is a tool that allows me to structure and plot my campaign, without any worries about player access.

I was looking for a software solution. I briefly looked at The Keep, which actually looks to be a fantastic piece of software, but the screenshots didn’t quite grab me. It looks clunky? I dunno, I am probably wrong. There was only a trial version of 1.0, which I didn’t care for.

I had long lusted after Realm Works from Lone Wolf Development because based on screenshots and videos I had seen, it does everything that I was looking for. As the software is by the same guys who created my beloved Hero Lab, I was very tempted. However, there were three issues in my way: high price point, no trial version, no way to export data. The last is really the deathblow. You can’t even print any files! I want to be able to add handouts and print them. I want to be able to export notes as PDF or whatever file format I need. Not offering any of that, plus no trial to even look if the software is what I want killed my interest. Which is a shame, it still looks awesome but export is really a requirement for modern software.

Scrivener, for writers and GMs

During my hunt for a campaign management tool, I stumbled over a post at Gnome Stew, which is an excellent RPG site, btw. It gives a comprehensive overview over using Scrivener for managing an adventure. Of course an adventure is only a part of a campaign and thus, you can use Scrivener to structure more deeply.

So, what is Scrivener? It’s a creation suite for writers, offering a full word processor, a way to structure writing, create character outlines, revise your writing, keep your research handy, use a name generator if you can’t come up with names, index cards and so on and so forth. Unlike Realm Works, it comes with a free 30 day trial. Not only that, it only counts down 30 days of actual use, so if you really want to give it a spin, that’s a long trial period. Despite its focus on writers, don’t be disparaged, because what is a GM but a storyteller, a writer. Unless you are one of those crazy improv GMs who fly by the seat of their pants. Major kudos to you.

I must admit that after first starting the software, it is incredibly overwhelming. It takes you through a tutorial template that is very extensive and will likely take 45 minutes to an hour of concentrated reading and testing. The learning curve seems steep, but it’s really not that bad. Once you understand cork boards and the difference between folders and files, you are really good to go. Also, there are about a million Scrivener tutorial sites out there. Just don’t fall for the ones that want to sell you tutorials, because there’s a lot of good free training stuff out there.

Using the RPG template

Scrivener is template-based. There’s a default template you could work with, or you could do what I’ve done and grab a ready-made RPG template, kindly created by Ricardo Signes. I loaded that into Scrivener. Then I started fiddling, making adjustments, and before I knew it, I was deep into plotting my campaign and prepping adventures.

A very bare-bones cork-board for my planned adventures.

A very bare-bones cork-board for my planned adventures.

Scrivener has a so-called Binder as left side-bar. That’s where you create a structure. In my case, I have a campaign section, where I will outline my campaign in broad strokes. There, I also collect story hooks and track major NPCs that will impact the whole campaign, like the Big Bad Evil Guy.

There’s a so-called Research folder, which you can use to add external files like images, PDF files, etc. I’ve used that to add images of the maps I am using in my adventures. I’ll also add the PDF files of the character sheets of my players. It will be awesome to track that between sessions. I need a good long look at everybody’s skills and abilities. This will allow me to create GM intrusions and RP situations utilizing those abilities and skills.

An imported image file that I am using as an adventure map.

An imported image file that I am using as an adventure map.

Not only can you bring structure into your campaign management, you can also visualize the structure, by assigning icons to folders and files. For NPC folders, I am using a mask, e.g., or for rules sections and GM intrusions I am using a d20. I am sure there’s probably tons more icons out there that could be added to this template.

Changing icons in (my German version of) Scrivener

Changing icons in (my German version of) Scrivener

It’s definitely a much more streamlined and organized way of structuring game information than what Evernote offers. I will continue to use Evernote for what the name suggests: taking notes. The fine tuning and detailed planning will happen in Scrivener, which I will happily purchase.

In case you have any questions about using Scrivener for RPGs, I am happy to answer. If I know the answer, hee. 🙂

13/07/2016
by Kadomi
3 Comments

RPG: Numenera, my new infatuation

Life’s busy, and so once again there’s been little to no time to blog here. I wanted to write a lot during my time off work two weeks ago, but my computer decided to make my time off a nightmare. Result: I am now using a 256 GB SSD with Windows 10 as OS, I bought a 3 TB Seagate Expansion external USB disk and lost all my campaign prep that I had stored on my fairly new Lexar USB flash drive. At least I didn’t lose my main hard drive and was able to back things up. Still, a nightmare. There were tears, let me tell you. Tears.

But now I am back and kicking, and I am actually liking Windows 10 quite a lot.

I need to finish up my coop boardgames posts with a look at Cthulhu-flavoured games, but for now, I want to talk about my current gaming passion: Numenera.

numenera

I’m a huge fan of Science Fantasy, a mix of Fantasy flavoured with Science Fiction. Usually formerly advanced worlds fallen back into feudal systems, with remnants of advanced technology out and about. Examples of fiction like that that I used to enjoy are Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books (admittedly those jumped the shark at some point in the series) or Robert Silverberg’s Majipoor Chronicles.

I was delighted when I first heard of the Numenera setting. Earth, in about a billion years. Eight major, highly advanced civilizations have risen and fallen, and humanity now lives in the so-called Ninth World. Some civilizations were space-faring. There are tantalizing hints that for a while humans weren’t living on Earth anymore, but now they are back, living in a world that’s full of mysterious remnants of the previous 8 worlds, full of utterly bizarre things no one in the Ninth World actually understands. It is up to the players to discover the mysteries that were left behind.

Imagine Mass Effect’s Protheans, and Shephard hard on their trail. That’s Numenera, only that the players are less capable of actually dealing with what they discover because the other civilizations were so far advanced. Monte Cook, the author of Numenera, quotes Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the SF author, right in the introduction to the corebook: ‘any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic’. This is where Numenera is at. And it’s all very weird. This weirdness is what makes Numenera so compelling.

Given that the setting fascinated me a lot, I had no idea if the actual game system would actually play well. I’ve been groomed with D&D and compatible systems like Pathfinder and have only dabbled in other systems like Shadowrun and World of Darkness as a reader. I am most familiar with the D20 style of D&D 3e and higher. Players receive bonuses, GM sets a difficulty class, players roll a 20-sided die and add those bonuses in hopes of cracking the target difficulty class which is usually 15+. The Cypher system uses a similar, yet in practice very different system. As GM you still set a difficulty, between 0 and 10. 0 is an automatic success and doesn’t require any roll at all. For the other difficulties the player needs to reach a target goal on a d20, which is always the difficulty multiplied by 3. A task with a difficulty of 1 is simple, and thus the player needs to roll a 3 on a d20 to succeed. A task that is demanding and requires some focus is a difficulty 3, so a player needs to roll a 9. The highest normal difficulty a player can roll for is 6, which requires an 18 and is considered intimidating. Difficulties 7-10 cannot be succeeded at with a normal die roll.

In a D20-system game, the players try to stack bonuses to get their rolls as high as possible. As feats and certain conditions can add or subtract from these bonuses, Pathfinder is a very math-heavy game. I will admit to being unable to quickly calculate all this in my head as GM and am using Hero Lab as a formidable yet necessary crutch. The higher the character’s level, the more numbers to crunch. The Cypher System has a different approach. You set a difficulty, and the players now have to try to lower this difficulty with the means they have. For one, they can spend effort which lowers the difficulty by 1. Assuming the character is trying to convince someone to give them some kind of information, and the NPC is very unwilling, making this a difficulty 5 task with a target roll of 15. The character can expend effort and use points from their stat pools to lower the difficulty by 1, making it a difficulty of 4. The character has a descriptor of Charming, which means they are trained in positive social interactions. This lowers the difficulty by 1 again. The difficulty is now 3, and the target roll is a 9, which the player decides to go for.

That’s a lot less math than Pathfinder.

On top of that, the GM doesn’t do any rolls in Numenera. The GM sets the difficulties, and tells the story, but all rolls are made by the players. In combat, the GM doesn’t roll the dice for enemies. When enemies attack, each player gets a defense roll. Difficulties in combat are determined by the enemy’s level. A level 3 monster does 3 points of damage, to attack it players need to roll a 9 (or lower the difficulty) and to successfully defend they also need to roll a 9. Isn’t that easy? Of course there are exceptions for some creatures, but it’s all still very manageable.

The Amber Monolith

The Amber Monolith

First Numenera session

Having perused the corebook, I decided I wanted to play a Numenera one-shot, and a couple we used to play Pathfinder with and my SO were willing test subjects. My plan was to run The Beale of Boregal as one-shot. This adventure is in the core rulebook and it was advised that it would be a great introduction to Numenera. The basic story is that the characters are all pilgrims on the Wandering Walk, a pilgrim route that supposedly goes around the whole of the Ninth World (which only contains one super continent). While on the route, it turns out that the whole area is in distress for an undisclosed reason. Normally peaceful creatures turn hostile, pilgrims get murdered, and nano-technology goes haywire. The PCs get involved when a teenage boy asks them to bring his sick sister with strange mental powers to Cylion Basion.

For this one-shot, I didn’t use pre-gen characters, because I also wanted to test Numenera character generation, which is really fun and easy. Despite only having three character ‘classes’ or types, as they’re known here, the options are basically limitless. Any character can be different. A Cypher System character is created with a sentence: I am an adjective noun who verbs.

The descriptor is an adjective that describes the character. The ones in the corebook are all positive, which is why I also allowed the ones from the Character Options book, which also adds negative descriptors, making for richer, fuller characters, IMHO. My players agreed and exclusively picked descriptors from the Character Options. The noun/type is one of the three different classes you can play: a glaive aka warrior/fighter, a jack aka rogue/hybrid or a nano aka magic-user. The last part, the focus, is the character ability that makes the character special and stand out. Once you’ve picked all three, you add a number of free points to your stat pools, write down your skills and abilities and off you go. We also used the table to come up with a character hook.

My players came up with the following characters:

  • Ophelia is a clumsy glaive who exists partially out of phase: a warrior who is so clumsy that she gets an asset to breaking things. It also makes her more charming, in a self-deprecating manner. She looks oddly transparent and at first tier has the ability to walk through solid objects, e.g. walls. Her story hook is that she deserted from the army of her native country and is on the run.
  • Lemy is a weird jack who fuses mind and machine. Born with a long lizard tail, Lemy is a strange brainiac with very high intellect who’s always been cast out because people are creeped out by him, which makes social interactions tougher for him. He’s used nano-technology to enhance his brain capacity and will continue to do so. He leans more on the nano-side of the jack. His story hook is that he used to be a member of a travelling circus and is a wanderer.
  • Sam is a vengeful nano who employs magnetism. With her only goal in life being total revenge, Sam knows how to employ nano-technology in a way that seems like magic. She’s also able to control metal objects with her mind, serving as a magnet. Her rolled story hook was very cool. Sam once killed a crime lord in self-defense, which made her a local hero. It also forced her to leave her home town, fleeing from repercussions from the crime syndicate. Just like Ophelia she’s on the run.
A nano in action against Broken Hounds

A nano in action against Broken Hounds

My observation was that it was very easy to create unique characters with interesting story hooks for immediate play. I left the players alone for a bit to discuss how they ended up traveling together on the Wandering Walk and off we went with the adventure. The adventure is quite fun though it offers very little hooks why people would actually investigate, simply assuming that curiosity is enough to move them on. Especially if you have a party of people who are fleeing to the Beyond region of the world to escape the army and criminals. They didn’t go off the track anyhow. We didn’t actually manage to finish the adventure in one session, as it runs fairly long, and so quit just after they got to Embered Peaks to investigate the final section of the adventure.

The verdict of the players was ‘Hell yeah, let’s turn this into a campaign!’ and I was very thrilled about this. It was very fun to run the session, and incredibly relaxing. No GM screen, no dice, no character management. I mostly told my story and explained the rules as we played. I loved it.

Since then I have been very busy. I have always used published adventures because I am not confident with coming up with my own adventures and encounters. However, I find Numenera so easy to run and so inspirational that I am coming up with my first very own homebrew campaign. I will weave some published adventures from Weird Adventures and other sources into the campaign but the main campaign story is my own. I have the first half of the campaign all written up and hope to keep you posted with story progress when we play.

With the campaign outline being fairly advanced already, I am in the process of translating Justin Alexander’s excellent Numenera Cheat Sheet into German, as a reference for my players as Numenera’s German translation has not been published yet. I also want to write three flash fics about events in the characters’ past, so they can get further into the weirdness of the setting. It will also serve as introduction to some major NPCs of the campaign. I am very excited about this campaign. It’s an incredibly creative setting. I can only recommend it. The core rulebook is probably the nicest rulebook I ever owned and it’s pretty much a 3-in-1 book: player’s handbook, campaign setting + small bestiary and GM’s guide. Plus four included adventures! And if you’re not planning on GMing, and only want to play, you can buy the much cheaper Player’s Guide, which only includes the player sections from the core rulebook, which you can buy for 7.99 USD as PDF. Very cool.

My follow-up adventure to the Beale will lead the party further towards the Great Slab on the Wandering Walk, using info from The Wander, a 3rd party supplement. My goal is for them to travel the world, always hard on the heels of discovering more information about a mysterious key that one of the party members is already carrying on them, with many opposing parties trying to stop them…

09/06/2016
by Kadomi
0 comments

RPG-Blog-O-Quest #9

When the German RPG bloggers Würfelheld and Greifenklaue started this monthly blog project, I hopped aboard the train and posted the first one. Then I stopped blogging again, and now I am back at it. So darn it, I missed seven months, but damn it, I am back now. Like the last time, the first segment will be in my native language German, the second part will have a translation. Game on!

blog-o-quest

So, nach langer Pause bin ich jetzt wieder dabei, und springe mal auf das Thema von Würfelheld auf: Science-Fiction.

  1. Wie bist du zur Science Fiction gekommen?

    Die erste Station war Raumschiff Enterprise während meiner Kindheit in den 70ern. Wurde bei uns regelmäßig jeden Sonntag geguckt. Ich fand’s toll, wobei mir schon als kleine Göre auffiel, dass sich der Frauenanteil der Serie irgendwie in Grenzen hielt. So mit 13 kam mir eine Ausgabe von Perry Rhodan in die Finger, und ab da war ich Hardcore-Fan. Hab alles gesammelt, was die Serie so hergab. Silberbände, die Lexika, habe fünf Auflagen parallel gelesen, und viel Zeit auf Flohmärkten und im Second-Hand Comic Shop in Dortmund verbracht. Heute schnupper ich alle paar Zyklen wieder rein, merke, dass ich gar nichts mehr schnalle, und hör dann direkt wieder auf. PR Neo hab ich ein Jahr gelesen.

  2. Warum ich da nie reingeschnuppert habe? Keine Ahnung. Ich wäre definitiv Arkonidin!

    Warum ich da nie reingeschnuppert habe? Keine Ahnung. Ich wäre definitiv Arkonidin!

  3. Was macht für dich den Reiz dieses Genres aus?

    Sense of Wonder ist ein Begriff, der sich nicht wirklich gut übersetzen lässt, für mich aber die Quintessenz von Science Fiction darstellt. In Fantasy-Literatur geht schon viel, in guter SF geht noch mehr. Ich liebe die Erforschung von neuen Planeten, neue Rassen, und ein auszeichnendes Merkmal von Perry Rhodan war für mich immer, dass nicht alle Rassen humanoid sind (wie es z.B. bei Star Trek der Fall ist). Es gibt Methanatmer, Insektoide, Plasmawesen, etc. Ich brauche keine Raumschlachten zum Glücklich sein.

  4. What a fantastic sourcebook this was!

    Was für ein fantastisches Quellenbuch!

  5. Welche SF Rollenspiele hast du schon gespielt und was war das besondere an ihnen?

    Vor gefühlt einer Million Jahren (also Mitte der 90er) habe ich das Star Wars RPG von West End gespielt. Da ich mich bei der Namensgebung von Charakteren fast immer an Objekte auf dem Tisch vor mir orientiere, wurde aus I love Milka-Pralinen eine rodianische Kopfgeldjägerin namens Aklim Evol I., aus einer rodianischen Adelsfamilie. Gerne hat sie Graffiti in Form von Beleidigungen wie ‘Alte Hackfresse’ hinterlassen. Eine tolle, wenn auch kurze Zeit.

    Derzeit spiele ich Numenera, bin ein Riesenfan. Dazu aber mehr bei anderer Gelegenheit. Nie gespielt habe ich Shadowrun, habe aber zu First Edition Zeiten viele Quellenbücher besessen. Unter anderem auch Deutschland in den Schatten, für mich eins der besten Quellenbücher aller Zeiten.

  6. Welcher SF Hintergrund, ob Rollenspiel, PC-/Konsolengame oder Roman ist dein absoluter Favorit und warum?

    So ähnlich hat meine Shep ausgesehen...

    So ähnlich hat meine Shep ausgesehen…

    Mein Name ist Commander Shepard, und Mass Effect ist meine Lieblingsserie auf der Citadel, oder insgesamt im Universum. Keine SF Story hat mich je so gepackt wie diese Trilogie über den Kampf von Shepard und Gefährten gegen die Gefahr der Reaper, die jegliches organisches Leben in der Galaxie auslöschen wollen. Tolle Charaktere, im ersten Teil noch viel Erforschung von Planeten, spannende und abwechslungsreiche Rassen, Raumschlachten, vergangene Zivilisation und mysteriöse Geschehnisse. Scheiß auf das Ende, die Trilogie ist herausragend und sollte von jedem, der Computerspiele mag, erlebt werden.
  7. Welcher SF Hintergrund sollte unbedingt in einem Rollenspiel umgesetzt werden und warum?

    Ähnlich wie es bereits Dragon Age tut, sehe ich bei Mass Effect auch die Möglichkeit eines Rollenspiels. Die verschiedenen Klassen wie Ingenieur, Vanguard oder Biotic gibt’s ja schon aus den Spielen. Schönes Settingbuch für die pre-Reaper Milchstraße und das könnte echt toll sein. Könnte man aber z.B. mit dem Cypher System auch selber machen, wobei man dann viel Arbeit mit den Rassen und dem Setting hat. Bei dem Gedanken läuft mir aber ein freudiger Schauer über den Rücken.


And here’s a translation from the above. This month’s topic is Science Fiction!

  1. How did you become interested in Science Fiction?

    My first contact with SF was when I was a little kid. Every Sunday, classic Star Trek was on TV, or Spaceship Enterprise, as the show was called in German. I liked it. It was campy even back then, with the terrible special effects, but I loved the Trek technology. In my teens I started reading Perry Rhodan, which is the longest-running SF serial in the world. They started publishing in the 60s and still release an issue every week. There’s more than 2800 issues now. I didn’t just read, it was my first real collector passion. I spent hours on flea markets and in second hand book shops trying to find issues I had missed. I think I had almost all issues between 1-1200 at the time. Nowadays I occasionally try to get back into the series and give up after a couple issues.

  2. What’s the appeal of the genre for you?

    The sense of wonder, no joke. Even more so than in fantasy, the possibilities are really limitless. One of my first memories from reading Perry Rhodan was a planetary story based on a planet of a race that breathed methane, the planet being completely hostile to human life. The unknown, the weird, exciting places and races, that’s what I like best.

  3. Which SF tabletop games have you played and what was special about them?

    About a million years ago (sometime in the 90s) I played the D6 Star Wars RPG by West End Games. I was Aklim Evol I., a Rodian bounty hunter, and she was as awesome as her name indicates (read it backwards). Her callsign was leaving insults engraved into walls with her laser weapons. We didn’t play very often, but Star Wars is a fantastic setting for any RPG, for sure. I am looking forward to a test game of Edge of Empire, eventually.

    I am currently playing Numenera, which is not hard SF, but instead the genre Science Fantasy, and I love it. But that I’ll post about in a separate post. From the same genre (sort of), I also used to own a lot of Shadowrun books, which is science fantasy + cyberpunk, but I never actually played it. I do love the setting a lot, though. Especially the Germany books were absolutely outstanding.

  4. Which SF background, regardless if RPG, video game or novel is your absolute favorite, and why?

    Mass Effect forever! No fictional SF universe has ever grabbed me like Commander Shepard and her fight against the Reapers. It has all the elements I like. It has sense of wonder. Exploration. Compelling characters. Mystery. Ancient relics of lost civilizations. A space station with elevators (and elevator music). Cool races. Gigantic space battles. The end might be polarising, but I don’t care. The Mass Effect trilogy is a science fiction epic and it made me cry, which is more than I can say about any other SF movie or show I ever saw. My hopes are riding on Mass Effect Andromeda to see if a new galaxy will mean an equally epic tale.

  5. Which SF background should be turned into an RPG and why?

    Dragon Age has its own RPG, why not Mass Effect? Different classes we already got from the game, like Vanguards, Engineers or Biotics. The different races are cool. Give me a great pre-game sourcebook about the galaxy and this could kick ass. I think the Cypher system might be ideal to come up with something like this, but would require a lot of legwork with the setting. Still, entirely possible, and a very cool idea.

08/06/2016
by Kadomi
1 Comment

RPG: Roll the dice – a review

As a GM and tabletop player, I love dice. I think everyone who gets to play falls in love with dice. There’s something that really speaks to a gamer, rolling dice for something. My RL Pathfinder group, most of them newbies, get super-excited when it’s time to roll, and why shouldn’t they be? Dice are fun, and thanks to dice manufacturers, there’s an incredible variety of colors out there.

0030_12_BigBagODice

So color me super excited when I received an e-mail from the guys at Easy Roller Dice if I’d be interested in reviewing some of their dice. Of course I was! I had a fun time picking them up at the customs office. Try explaining RPG dice and reviewing them to a bureaucratic customs officer. But I was able to take them home and opened them in delight.

I received three sets of dice: The Black Ice 7pc set, the Purple Marbled 7pc, and the Legendary Copper Metal Dice.

The 7pc sets both came with a nice black cloth dice bag, with satin lining. The bags are fairly small, but they’re definitely a lot nicer than carrying them around in a clear plastic case, which is usually what dice come in. The bags draw cat hair like heck, but then, what doesn’t? I live in a very cat-hairy household, thanks to a very fluffy Mo.

Matches our African violet nicely, doesn't it?

Matches our African violet nicely, doesn’t it?

Of the two dice sets, I really enjoy the purple marbled the most. They’re really gorgeous, a nice, rich purple with incredibly crisp numbers. I didn’t perceive any flaws with that set of dice. We were testing them on Saturday, in our last game session. My SO used them and I sat across the room at my own GM table. I was able to read her dice rolls quite easily, which doesn’t happen with the Chessex dice she usually uses (for reference, she’s using Chessex Gemini Blue&Purple). They’re just not as legible as the Easy Roller dice. As consequence, my SO claimed them after the game, to keep as her own. sighs It was really noticeable, because we play in dimmed light sometimes, and the other players had to pick up their dice and look more closely at their die results.

The dice bag that comes with it on the right.

The dice bag that comes with it on the right.

I had no issues with the purple set at all, but I had some with the Black Ice set. They’re also beautiful, and just as crisp as the purple set, but there were some flaws. The numbers were not painted as crisply, as if paint was missing in some spots, and one of the dice had a white stain, as if from the paint used to color the digits. The color of the dice doesn’t quite match my expectations from the photo on the site, being a slightly different shade of blue. They’re still lovely but not my favorite set.

In this photo you can compare how well you can read the dice, compared to our Chessex dice

In this photo you can compare how well you can read the dice, compared to our Chessex and Pegasus dice

Which brings us to the Legendary Copper Metal dice. Presentation is awesome. The dice come in a leather display case that’s velvet-lined. The dice are protected by styrofoam. If you remove the foam, you can store a lot of dice in there, but I think I’ll keep the foam. The dice are pointy, with relatively sharp edges, but it’s not as if you cut yourself on them. Still, make sure the D4 is not near your eye when you slam your head on the table when your group is doing something you completely did not expect to happen. Ahem.

The Legendary Copper Dice in their display case and the dice cup

The Legendary Copper Dice in their display case and the dice cup

The dice, in a standard 16mm size, are absolutely gorgeous. I can easily say I have never owned such luxurious dice before. They have a rich copper finish. I think that will only improve with the years of use I hope to get out of those babies. The size seems a bit off, but that might just be my impression. The D6 seems incredibly large compared to the other dice, especially compared to the D4. The dice are fairly heavy and roll with a satisfying ‘thunk’. As my GM table during last week’s session was a glass table, I only used the metal dice on the Ultra Pro Dice Tray I own (which is awesome, btw), so I wouldn’t damage the table or the dice. I don’t think they would scratch up a wooden table, but I would generally recommend a dice tray for them, if not the Ultra Pro, then maybe this one right at Easy Roller Dice. If you are in the market for metal dice, I highly recommend them. They look great, they feel great when you roll them, and the display case is a nice extra-added value. They have a variety of metal dice on their site.

This is the dice tray that I use, velvet-lined.

This is the dice tray that I use, velvet-lined.

The final sample I received was a p/u leather dice cup. It’s black, branded with the company logo and has blue velvet lining inside. It’s sturdy, a lot sturdier than the two leather dice cups I already own. It’s a perfect addition for the metal dice. It came with a small set of 5D6, so if we’re ever playing a round of Yahtzee, I am set, hah. I honestly would have greatly preferred if the brand logo was not on the cup. I understand why they used it, but I honestly would prefer the cup without it, or maybe with a smaller, less prominent print. I also would have liked if it came with a lid, like comparable dice cups from Koplow and Q-Workshop do. Maybe they’ll drop the logo in the future. Still, for that price, you get a fantastic dice cup.

As you can tell, the D4 really looks tiny compared to the massive D6

As you can tell, the D4 really looks tiny compared to the massive D6

For total value, I think the dice can easily compete with Chessex or Pegasus (a German brand), and I would prefer them to Q-Workshop dice. The latter are absolutely beautiful, with a variety of specialty dice, for example Legacy of Fire and Rise of the Runelords dice (the two Pathfinder Adventure Paths I am currently GMing), but my number one issue with them: very hard to read. Gorgeous to look at, honestly, but if I have to squint to read them, not worth my time. I didn’t know how important it is to read dice until I tested these dice.

I will likely never get any of these dice again, unless they get a German distributor, but if they did have one, I’d highly recommend them and pick up some more marbled sets. My players all liked them too, and I think there was some envy about the metal dice for sure. 😉 If you’re in the US, I would definitely give them a shot.

Disclosure: I was not compensated for this post, however I did receive free samples for my review. All opinions are my own and not influenced in any way.

12/05/2016
by Kadomi
2 Comments

How I turned into a cooperative board gamer

Last week, I posted how in video gaming I prefer the deep single-player experiences, games with rich stories and no social pressure whatsoever. I always thought it’s me, but it was very heartening to see that others echo my sentiment.

I love social gaming. It’s just that video games don’t hit that spot for me. Tabletop RPGs and board games do. Today, I want to talk about a wonderful development in boardgaming that’s totally changed the way I play them and has revitalized my interest in them: cooperative board games.

I love board games but I’m not very good at them. (Incidentally, the same could be said for most video games I play. Maybe I suck?) In competitive board games, which is the vast majority, I prefer games with elements of luck, like…Yahtzee (which technically isn’t a board game), because as soon as we come to heavy strategy games, I’m swimming in deep waters. This is the reason that my SO and I have pretty much given up on 2-player games. She’s a board game genius and wins almost every game. No matter what you play with her, she has an uncanny grasp of strategies. I don’t mind when this happens in a four player game. In fact, we have one friend who’s similarly brilliant and usually gives my SO a run for the money. But if it’s just us two, and she crushes me decisively once again, it’s no fun. At least not for me.

But then I found cooperative games. Games where your goal is not to be better than the other players, but to work together to accomplish a goal. If you haven’t played games like that, they’re fantastic. Some are RPG light and a great introduction to people interested in tabletop RPGs. Some are quick to play. Some of them take hours. Most of them can be played with 2 people, and are maybe even easier to beat this way. I think they’re great fun.

Here’s a run-down of cooperative board games I have played and enjoyed.

andor Legends of Andor was the first co-op game I played. It’s probably the one my SO likes among the least, and so we haven’t played it in ages, mostly because of its structure. But I am getting ahead of myself. Legends of Andor is an RPG light. You choose a character to play from different classes and follow a campaign of several linked scenarios. Once you have defeated a scenario, you move on in the story. The story is fairly default, with invading hordes of orc-like creatures advancing on the main castle. You have to carefully weigh the scenario objective and the danger of the enemies invading the castle, which effectively makes you lose the game. There’s a time limit as well. The first scenario is very simple, the second adds more elements, and it was by the fourth scenario where all elements came together that we really felt the difficulty. I hope to go back one fine day and actually finish the campaign. The expansion is supposed to be a better story.

Legends of Andor is a very pretty game, with many tokens.

Legends of Andor is a very pretty game, with many tokens.

forbidden-island Forbidden Island is the first Matt Leacock game we played, the latter being like the godfather of coop games. I picked it up at a bookstore when I last went to the US in 2014. It came in a metal tin that looks fantastic. We played it quite a bit and I find it enjoyable, but it’s the most simple of the Leacock games, in terms of game mechanics. Not as many fascinating ways to die as Forbidden Desert or Pandemic offer, still enough to utterly frustrate some people. After we played this game with my friend Anika, she declared she would never play this shit game again, hah. It’s not a shit game though, we just had bad luck. The objective of this game is to secure four treasures and fly them away in a helicopter before the island consisting of 24 tiles has sunken. Each player draws a job card, e.g. the Engineer, who is really good at using sandbags to keep above water or the pilot who can zip around the island easily and save cornered players surrounded by water. Each round you have a limited amount of actions (move, shore up, pick up treasure) and after that draw treasure cards in hopes of matching four treasure cards in order to secure a treasure. Sometimes you have to trade cards with other players, especially if you are the Messenger. Sometimes you get really unlucky and draw a Waters Rise card, which means the island floods more. Every round you flood a specific amount of island tiles. If a tile gets flooded twice, this part of the island is lost forever. You have to carefully weigh which tiles to shore up, which tiles are safe to drown and use all your abilities and extra special items the treasure deck contains to ultimately win.

The metal tin is so snazzy.

The metal tin is so snazzy.

Forbidden Desert steps the whole principle up, and is very similar, and yet different. This time, the explorers have crashed their helicopter in the desert and find a mystical flying ship, with four parts missing. It is your task to dig up the missing parts, without succumbing to thirst and without being buried underneath the sands. The different jobs are almost the same compared to Forbidden Island, though this time you don’t have a diver of course, and instead of shoring up tiles, you have the Archaeologist, who is skilled at digging up stuff from underneath dunes. In Forbidden Desert, I find the game board itself more mobile. You have a sand storm theme, and every round you draw sand storm cards to see how many and which tiles will be covered with sand, making the search this much harder. As the wind changes direction all the time, this adds a lot of mobility (and possibly frustration) to the game. When my SO and I first got this game, we easily beat it and thought it was much easier. We’ve played a bunch of four player games since, and haven’t won a single time! It’s always been incredibly close games though. Lots of fun.

The German version of this game comes with the ugliest minis you have ever seen.

The German version of this game comes with the ugliest minis you have ever seen.

pandemicPandemic is what I would consider the crown jewel of the Matt Leacock games. If you have played any of the others, the mechanics are very familiar, but different enough to make this a completely different game. As example, my friend Anika who hates Forbidden Island, really enjoys Pandemic. Go figure. In Pandemic you are not an adventurer but instead a member of a disease control team based in Atlanta. You travel across the world fighting epidemics. Unlike the other two games, there’s an actual board here, no tiles. Again, you have a limited amount of actions and can use them to travel, treat a disease, build a research station or actually cure a disease. You cure them by drawing cards and match 5 cards of the same color. At the same time, diseases spread by infection, and you add more disease cubes to the cities with infections. If a city has an infection if there’s already 3 disease cubes in the city, you have a so-called outbreak, with the disease spreading to every neighboring city. This can lead to really nasty nasty chain reactions and bam, you go from almost winning to losing. There are multiple loss conditions for Pandemic. Too many outbreaks. No more disease cubes available. No more cards available. It’s challenging, and tough, and really really cool. There’s a gazillion expansions for it, and a very cool Legacy version where only the very high price point scares me away (plus the need to have a regular group for it).

These lucky fellas actually won the game, which is a rare occurrence. But ever so satisfying!

These lucky fellas actually won the game, which is a rare occurrence. But ever so satisfying!

That’s all for now, but I will continue this with a follow-up, about 4 more coop games that I had fun playing: Arkham Horror, Elder Sign and Mice and Mystics and the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, plus a wishlist of games I want to try. If you have any suggestions, please share!

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