Tag: Rambling

Android Netrunner is going out of print

Not sure how I missed this extremely sad news, but Android Netrunner officially went out of print a week ago: Fantasy Flight’s blog post. Sounds like a licensing issue with Wizards of the Coast, which is not surprising. So yeah, that’s a big bummer. I need to stop at my local hobby shop asap and pick up any expansions and cards I want before they become expensive Ebay purchases.

I still try to play Netrunner once a month with my friend, and I don’t see that stopping. Just sad that it’ll be one more barrier to entry if someone else wanted to buy the starter set. Ah well, it won’t be the first out of print game I’ve played and loved (see also Silent Death and Car Wars).

Seems like FFG is going to continue the Android universe. They just announced a sourcebook for an Android RPG using their generic Genesys sytem. I’ve always though Genesys was bit like my own Fickle RPG, from being setting agnostic, to using a common dice pool pulled from a variety of stats, etc. I imagine Genesys has the flaws that annoyed me about Edge of the Empire/Age of Rebellion though (mainly scaling poorly, slow to resolve with no meaningful choice, and was confused between a crunchy combat game and a light narrative game).

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Recent status

There’s been a real smattering of activity recently, plus I had a third kid, so you know how busy that makes life. Plus I tend to slow down on game design over summer since I’m spending much less time holed up by my computer typing stuff and more time enjoying the weather.

Unnamed Dungeon Crawler – now named Glowquest
I haven’t had an unnamed game in forever, but I just can’t think of a good title that encapsulates this game. EDIT: Finally did name it Glowquest. You can see more details on the rules page itself. But basically:

A dungeon crawler with a focus on combat, exploration, looting, and improving and advancing your heroes. Heroes will leave the comfort of their town to undertake expeditions to randomized dungeons, which are represented with square grid tiles from Advanced Heroquest. The game is designed for 1-3 players who each play a role from the classic โ€œholy trinityโ€ of Tank (Defense), DPS (Offense), and Healer (Utility). There is no requirement to have an extra player as a dungeon master who runs the game.

So my nostalgic homage to Advanced Heroquest, with many modern mechanics pulled from all the best systems and ideas. This is currently my focus, and initial playtests are promising (and a bit easier than solo testing other RPGs since the party size is only 3, and the game is meant to be DM-less anyway). I have pages of brainstorm notes and ideas, and I’ve slowly been compiling them into a roughly formatted rulebook. I want to start filling out the Activators (basically special moves/attacks) list for classes/races/equipment soon so I can really sink my teeth into playtesting. I also want to try it with my oldest friends near the end of the month (who literally played Advanced Heroquest with me way back in school), so we’ll see how that goes!

Blood Bowl
I’ve read White Dwarf since before I was a teenager. I remember seeing Blood Bowl way, way back then, and thinking “oh yuck a football game, I wouldn’t enjoy that at all”. I unfortunately have a bad habit of prejudging things before I try them.

Well with the re-release of the ~4th edition official 2016 Blood Bowl game I finally sat down and tried it with my friend. I played Humans (him) vs Skaven (me), and thought, “hey, this game is basically just tactical movement with an objective!”. I enjoyed it and was pleasantly surprised. Then we brought out the turn timer, and the game went up a few notches for me just from that, because then you had pressure and had to think fast. We did 4 minute turns and I loved it. Soon after I bought a copy of the game for myself, including the Steam PC version (on a deep sale of course). I fell in love with Lizardmen. And since them I’ve played probably half a dozen more face-to-face games and double that on PC. I’m thinking of putting together a proxy Lizardmen team of underwater fishmen from Reaper Mini. Anyway that’s been lots of fun.

Vermintide 2
Oh yeah and I’ve played like 300 hours of Vermintide 2 because man oh man, you wanna talk about a satisfying core gameplay loop?

Echo Death
A while back I got an actual playtest against a friend with Echo Death. We normally play a monthly Android Netrunner but he was nice enough to try out my half finished game for a night. The game held up pretty well, and has a few areas that definitely need improvement, but was overall a good time. I compiled some Echo Death Playtest Notes that I need to revisit and apply to the rulebook. But for now that’s on the backburner.

White Line Fever
My next game to work on was White Line Fever. I played it a couple of times against my wife, and although it was okay it didn’t feel like driving a car recklessly. So I changed the main mechanic to be a “push-your-luck” style where you can try to get more actions (movement, turning, and shooting), but potentially can spin out of control (wherein the opponent moves you – normally face first into a wall). I also added the idea of record sheets instead of a paperless system. Tough to balance between customization and how lightweight I want the game to be. Either way this version was much more enjoyable. I’ve updated the rules with this “second edition” on the White Line Fever page. So yeah, a bit more polishing needed there, as well as fully printable record sheets (I just scribbled some notes on paper when I was playtesting). But again, that’s on the backburner too.

The human brain and “roll under” systems

I’m a big fan of the voodoo and beliefs the human brain can attach to dice. From switching dice because certain ones are “rolling badly”, to feeling like you’re “due” for a good roll, to thinking you can downright force the dice to roll a certain number, to the rituals around blowing on dice before rolling or shaking them a certain way. It’s amazing what we can trick ourselves into.

Anyway recently I’ve been playing Warhammer Fantasy RPG. Just a few sessions in as a Zealot. It’s been pretty fun. The melee combat is enjoyable with the different stances you can enter and how you can split your attacks. A few of the other players don’t really get too in-depth besides “I full attack”, so that’s too bad. The system unfortunately uses D10s. As you know, me and hundreds of thousands of other people don’t like the D10. But I digress.

The point I wanted to make is the system is Roll Under. Which means if you have a Weapon Skill of 45 you need to roll 45 or under on percentile D100 dice. Games Workshop always seems to be torn in this regard as their other approach in Warhammer 40,000 and similar is to have a Ballistic Skill of say 4, and to figure out what you need to hit you subtract your BS from 7, so 4 BS = 3+ on a D6.

So the other day when I was playing we had many missed attacks. But I noticed something funny: people feel okay failing a check when they still roll high. There’s still something so natural about seeing a roll of 98 out of 100 and feeling good about it. “Sure I missed, but damn did you see that roll?!”. Certainly makes for an interesting look at human nature and our long standing relationship with dice.

Encounters and hazards for car chases and races

Here’s a big list that might be a useful reference for you when having a modern day car chase or race. You and the players can throw these curve balls into the mix to add some excitement.

  • Motorcycles or dirt bikes, perhaps a gang tour
  • Giant crowd or carnival
  • Person (old, homeless, kid) or animal crossing the street, bee or other insect flying inside the car
  • Drawbridge slowly going up
  • Detour due to bridge being closed
  • Train on tracks, or trolley car in road
  • Parking garage
  • Garbage truck backing out of alley
  • Rock slide, avalanche, mudslide along the road
  • Rain, fog, sleet, snow, hail, freezing rain, ice, dust storm, or other weather
  • Tunnels
  • Have to split across a few roads or blocks
  • Going into the opposite lane
  • Going down a dark alley and turning off lights and engine
  • Jumping an off/on ramp
  • Emergency cargo dump to try to gain more speed
  • Nitro boosts
  • Look away at distraction, look back and crash
  • Fruit cart or other market items in the (perhaps closed to cars) street
  • Semi truck rolling over to get out of the way or spilling chemicals
  • Sudden ambulance or fire truck
  • Rolling roadblock of semi trucks that have to be weaved through, or funeral, or old people
  • Oblivious taxi or drunk driver
  • Driving through construction site or wood frame houses
  • Workers crossing the street with a huge pane of glass, massive painting, moving a piano, etc.
  • Black ice, oil slick, or other slippery conditions
  • Spike strips or flat tires
  • Huge pile of cardboard boxes, could be full of packing foam
  • Having to drive through a fire (forest, maybe burning building)
  • Road closed due to a wreck
  • Pot holes, open manhole cover, or other debris
  • Police road block (for player or someone else)
  • Running out of gas or overheating the engine or even having the engine catch on fire
  • Hacker messing with the traffic lights
  • Airplane landing on the road
  • Water main breaking and flooding the road
  • Tire rolling across the road, or blown tire treads on the road
  • Driving through a corn field
  • Swarm of insects or birds hitting the windshield
  • Driving on 2 wheels (“skiing”) to go between a narrow space
  • Driving through a war zone or active police/SWAT scene
  • Going up or down stairs or through a hilly park
  • Damaged hood flies up and blocks the view out the windshield
  • Jumping between cars, or from an overpass to the roof

Thanks to some great suggestions from this Reddit thread.

Late night Fickle RPG brainstorming

Deep in thought, eyes closed with my headphones on and Phantogram pounding tunes (check them out!), trying to figure out defeated alternatives, Karma/luck dice, and a few other Fickle RPG tweaks.

btw Judge Dredd one-off went wonderfully! Real hoot, system held up well, was fun to play powerful folks with plenty of equipment. Pacing was a bit off, but that was my bad on having little experience with one-offs.

My flaws as Gamemaster

I organized and ran my first game when I was 10 years old. Since then I’m tended to be the person in my group of friends who buys games. I inevitably learn the rules best, and end up shoehorned into being a Gamemaster (GM). The term varies: Dungeonmaster (DM) for Dungeons & Dragons, Storyteller for my own Fickle RPG, etc. But the concept is the same. The GM runs the game. They make the story and campaign, play NPCs, balance encounters, figure out plot twists and guide character development. Depending on the system being a GM can be exhausting. When I ran D&D 4th edition for 6 months I was basically putting in 4-8 hours a week in prep work, between drawing maps to choosing miniatures to calculating encounters. Thankfully with Fickle RPG my prep work is almost nil as I just show up with my binder of rules/dice/sheets/notes and play a story with the group.

(And no, that isn’t me in the picture above, that’s from an enjoyable episode of Freaks and Geeks)

Anyway for all my experience and breadth of games I’ve run, I still have plenty of flaws as GM. I thought I’d list a few here as a bit of an introspective look, and also to help other GMs who might struggle with the same.

1. Exposition Dump

I generally like to create a somewhat mysterious and somewhat interesting plot, but then instead of slowly leaking the info out to the players so they can start to see the big picture, I inevitably end up with a scene with a pivotal, know-it-all character, with plenty of time and no pressure, where they unfold the whole thing, and the players have ample opportunity to ask questions or get any clarification. Then after this they sort of know the whole story, so we more or less go through the rest of the story with no more mystery. This is called an Exposition Dump. I’ve done this for an embarrassing number of campaigns.

Literally happened last week with my alien Fickle RPG where the characters got to talk to one of the big cheese know-it-alls to the point of him literally saying “Anymore questions?” I didn’t like the situation as it was happening and I knew I had failed at slowly showing the plot.

The ideal would instead be revealing enough information through dialogue, scenes, atmospheric descriptions, etc. that the players could get the jist without needing an “exposition dump”.
Basically the opposite of William Gibson.

Some interesting articles on the idea:

NOTE: Just an aside on the last link. One of the people involved with Extra Credits is James Portnow. In my honest opinion the guys a bit of a fake who talks a lot, but hasn’t actually designed anything. Trying to find proof of any actual work results in a ghost town. Some funny forum posts on the topic (#1 #2)

2. Memorable/Unique Characters

Part of this weakness comes from my improvisational style and freeform campaigns where I don’t like to plan too much in advance or railroad the players. So we end up in unexpected situations every single session.

As a result when I make an NPC or character for the players to interact with I generally slap a name on a vaguely defined outline of a person. They’ll likely have a gender. Maybe a binary age of “old” or “normal”. And that’s about it.

I’ve improved a bit by always keeping a list of random names (pulled from census data) so at least I don’t have a legion of “Bob” and “Jill”.

What I need to do is figure out a rough GM system that I run/use behind the scenes to make better characters. Sort of like “choose name/race/gender/age, choose 1 defining physical feature, choose 1 motive/attitude”.

My other problem with characters is I have trouble roleplaying them. Part of this is because the character’s aren’t well defined in my mind or those of my players. So I don’t know what kind of voice they’d use, or speech pattern, or slang. Honestly a lot of the characters end up just talking pretty much like me.

I have a lot of motivation to improve here. Whenever I HAVE made a memorable character (normally by a simple change to my routine like HAVING a specific speech pattern) the players have brought that person up months later.

3. Environmental Descriptions

I think I’m alright at scene descriptions, especially depending on the genre. Depending on the game I might have a map to help me. Or if the scene is based in the real world I can fallback to common tropes or basic descriptors that paint the scene (like saying “a convenience store”).

What I am rather bad at is incorporating weather (lots of unspoken sunny days), time of day (normally I don’t get more granular than day/night), or environmental differences like fog, slick ground, etc.

Some of this flaw stems from improvising. And as with characters I think the solution is similar: a better GM system on my end of the table. Even just another step or reminder to myself when describing a scene. Physical features, time of day, but then remember to say the weather and anything different/unique to the area.

I think this would benefit a lot of encounters because weather can have such a cool impact on an otherwise run-of-the-mill scene. Chasing a thief through the streets is a lot more interesting if there’s a howling snow storm at the time, reducing vision and numbing fingers.

What designers wish they knew before starting

Found an interesting article a few days ago asking various professional game designers a simple question: What’s one thing you wish you had known before starting as a game designer?

You can see the full article here: http://makeboardgame.com/20-board-game-makers-chime-in-what-i-wish-id-known-before-starting-my-board-game/

And my two favorite quotes are duplicated below:

“Playing with the same group can become rote and leave you trying add more depth and flavor than you need to get them engaged. This leads to over-complicating things that should have been left simpler and more new player friendly.”
– Adam Rehberg

This strikes a chord with me from my Dinosaur Cowboys work, where I was tempted to add more mechanics, equipment, skills, etc. to satisfy the growing understanding and playtime of my friends. When realistically the game is fairly well tuned for new and experienced players. Just need to take a step back sometimes and really consider why you’re adding a rule/new system, and if it fits into your original vision.
Which leads nicely into the next quote…

“Always look for better ways to do each individual game mechanic but never lose track of the big picture or the scope of the game in general.”
– Larry Harris

Very, very true and important to keep a clear picture of what you are trying to achieve with your game. In fact even having a well defined big picture view in the first place helps a ton. Because then when you’re going to add a new mechanic you can ask yourself: does this fit my game concept? Basically test yourself each time you want to change or add something.
From my experience my Life of a Dinosaur Cowboy RPG had the problem of a lot of cool mechanics that led to a not very cool or fun game. Very easy to lose sight of the forest through the trees.