Monday, October 22, 2012

Big Bad Con: Mouse Guard


Mouse Guard
Of the games I got to play at BBC (Big Bad Con) perhaps my favorite system was MouseGuard, but the adventure was little more than a fight scene, a trek across a thawing lake, and a final fight scene. From my experience with Ds&Ds I would have expected a lot more roleplaying, exploring, and adventure - not so much combat. Though the combat was quite dramatic, I mean 4 little mice against a great big owl is like a hobbit and 3 dwarves against Smaug, I wanted more in terms of the meat of the adventure. Maybe the game session was too short to have a section where we could roleplay and set up the scenario a little better.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Big Bad Con: Stars Without Number


Stars Without Number
This is a game by Kevin Crawford. It can best be described as Traveller meets OD&D.
I must say Stars Without Number has a great to hit system. It is beautiful in its simplicity and faithfulness to original D&D: just roll a 20 or better to hit on a d20. Add bonuses, add opponent's AC to d20 roll. So an opponent with a high (weak) armor class adds more to your to hit roll while strong AC is a low number and adds less to your roll. It is a sort of reverse THAC0. Very clever, easy, and quite intuitive. I want to steal it for every OD&D inspired RPG I want to make. I'll probably use it when I run OD&D henceforth.
The adventure will sound a little familiar now:
You are part of an interstellar enforcement group called "The Enforcers" 
The leader of your group is missing
Track his location down, and find out what happened
We were too late, he was already dead by the time we found him. A battle insued with some strange aliens that at first looked human, but were infected by strange "tentacle" creatures.
We found out an alien invasion of some sort was underway.
There was a stealth satellite transmitting data to the aliens. Through this satellite we discovered the secret base where the aliens were stationed.
We infiltrated the secret island base and destroyed it, thus preventing the alien invasion and saving the planet.
While fun, I must say it shares problems that all sci-fi games have. It is too open ended. Technology makes everyone into super-wizards, so it is hard for the game master to maintain control over the game. Still, we had a lot of fun.
edit: corrected author's name.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Big Bad Con: Dungeoneers & Dragonslayers Playtest


Dungeoneers & Dragonslayers
"Ds & Ds", as Luke jokingly called it, is a new game under development by Luke Crane (of Burning Wheel and MouseGuard fame) and others. The idea is to turn Burning Wheel into an "old school dungeon crawl" game. I will say it has the most clever inventory system I have seen and all RPG's in the future should adopt it, especially if they involve collecting "fat loot" like old school D&D games did. Basically each part of your character's body has 1 "slot" and each item you carry takes a slot. Pouches, sacks, backpacks increase your slots but at an expense. For example a small bag takes up a hand slot, so now you are restricted to one-handed weapons. A large sack takes two hands...
The system is quite heavy (in a good way), I was expecting something more rules light. But Dungeoneers & Dragonslayers turns social interaction and the process of roleplaying into a complex set of steps and modifiers. This is not a bad thing as each piece is intricately designed into the overall system to encourage those really great moments in the game when cool things happen. In particular I like the Goal system where at the beginning of a mission you declare what you hope to get out of the mission. If you succeed you get extra bonuses.
The best thing about the Dungeoneers & Dragonslayers game was the excellent adventure. Which I don't want to spoil for anyone who might get to play it. All I can say is if this game is as polished as MouseGuard when published it will be awesome!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Big Bad Con

Recently I got to attend Big Bad Con, a new San Francisco bay area game convention that takes place at the Hilton Oakland Airport. This is where Kublacon used to be before they moved to Burlingame (to an arguably much better location). Kublacon has earned its place as my favorite bay area game convention with its great mix of smoothly ran events, open gaming, dealer's room, and the people who run it are always working hard to make sure the convention is fun for everyone. Still, I have fond memories of gaming at the Hilton (in particular an epic run through of the AD&D module: Pharaoh) - so it was fun to be able to attend a new game convention there.
Big Bad Con focusses solely on role playing games, though it does have a small open gaming area for board and card gaming.
At most game conventions I either go as a guest or as a dealer with a table. This time I went just to play games. Sometimes you can forget how fun game conventions are! I got to participate in 4 epic roleplaying sessions: Mutant's & Masterminds 3rd edition, Dungeoneers & Dragonslayers (a playtest of  a new yet to be published RPG by Luke Crane), Stars Without Number, and MouseGuard. I will post my experiences with the 4 sessions over the next few days:

Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Edition
The adventure was just average.
The differences from 2nd edition to 3rd edition were subtle in many places, but also really important. Such as Hero points. 3rd edition focusses on positive reinforcement instead of penalties. It is a further distillation of d20 into an original system, in many ways almost unrecognizable from the original.
The adventure in a nutshell:
You are part of a super powered group of investigators and law enforcers. You have a headquarters complete with a super computer and a super van to travel around in (from San Francisco to Portland Oregon in under 2 hours!).
The Leader of the super group is missing, investigate what happened.
Criminal activity was depressed when leader first disappeared, but now is sharply on the rise again.
We hunted down the last known super villain he contacted. After busting a narcotic ring, inadvertently, we found some minions and found their super villain lair.
Once in the lair we beat up the thugs, got to the headquarters and confronted the super villain - who was annoyed we had "broken the agreement". We endeavored to find out what the "agreement" was.
We then discovered our leader and the super villain (along with other super villains) had made a deal because the leader wanted to retire.
We hunted dear leader down, found him drunk in a bar and proceeded to berate him for his nefarious dealings and deception, and told him if he wanted to retire he was welcome to, even though his power gave him certain obligations, and we left his sorry drunk butt where we found it.