Friday, January 22, 2021

New Day, New Character Day 16: Star Wars (West End Games)

New Day, New Character 

Day 16 

Star Wars 

I'm not sure I can give the West End Games version of Star Wars a proper introduction. Others have written about its influence not only on RPG's, but in a perhaps unique occurrence, influence on the original IP itself.  In any case, I'm certainly not qualified to speak of the game in terms of its "greater impact," only in terms of my history with gaming. 

This version of Star Wars was the first licensed RPG I ever played, and my first experience delving into a world I had already "played" in, even if that play was classic make believe of running around with friends and having "lightsaber" battles with flashlights, or smashing our toys together in pretend battles for the fate of the galaxy. Being able to combine my love for the movies with my love of RPG's was absolutely amazing! Even if the first games I played tended to focus a lot of time on smuggling "spice" under the watchful glare of imperial authorities. Still, the magic was there, and it was incredible. 

The game is a "D6" game, with everything being decided by throwing six sided dice. Characters have various attributes that have a value in these dice--for example, a really strong character might 4D6 in Strength. Various skills are tied to each attribute, such as Brawling for Strength. These have their own ratings, and one combines them for the pool. All the results of the thrown dice are then added together, and then compared against a difficulty to determine success or failure. In addition, there are "in between" stages, referred to as "pips"--either "+1" or "+2." So, a character might have Brawling of 1D+2, and they would roll 5D6 and add 2 to the total. There's no +3--one just goes up to the next die at that point.  As I'm restricted to only the editions I have in print, I will be using the Second Edition for this post. 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 15: CAPERS

New Year, New Character 

Day 15 

CAPERS

CAPERS (yup, all caps), is a superhero RPG by Craig Campbell, with two unique twists. First, in 1920's America, at the height of Prohibition. Rather than "fighting crime," the default PC is a criminal, running alcohol and protection rackets. They're not super-villain's but rather, well, super-criminals. There's the option of playing super G-men as well, but the thrill of the game is to play proper 1920's gangster with super-powers. 

It also has, for me at least, a unique resolution system, driven by drawing playing cards. Ones value in any given statistic indicates how many cards one can potentially draw to resolve any issue. Obviously, the card value is a key component, indicating success or failure. The suit of the card determines the quality of the success or failure, with clubs being the lowest and spades the best possible. Thus, the PC's not only gamble with their life and freedom to find a place in the world, but the players take a gamble with each action they take. And, yes, card counting is thoroughly encouraged. 

I backed CAPERS on Kickstarter , immediately entranced by the concept of the game. I've run a few "villianous" super-hero RPG's, and they can be quite fun. Generally, I like to run them leaning heavily into the tropes of comic book super-villain's, but the combination of "grounded" yet still "pulpy" adventures was one I couldn't pass up. Unfortunately, I haven't actually had a chance to run a game of CAPERS yet, so this will be another "learning a system" type post.  

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 14: Werewolf The Apocalypse

New Year, New Character

Day 14

Werewolf: The Apocalypse

Werewolf: The Apocalypse was the second in White Wolf's "World of Darkness" lines, a "storytelling game of savage horror." It followed Vampire: The Masquerade and was in turn followed by Mage: The Ascension. In it, players take on the role of, well, werewolves in the modern day. Your kind once stood as proud, spiritual protectors of the Earth, guarding it against the deprivations of the all consuming and destroying Wyrm. The tools of the Wyrm range from raw demonic minions to the corruption of humanity, leading to violence, vice, pollution, environmental devastation, and the slow poisoning and death of the world. To put it simply and overly glibly, you are huge monstrous eco-terrorists fighting a tragic and loosing battle against destruction. 

While Vampire was my first love, I played Werewolf far more when I was younger. Its combination of tragic heroism, brutal violence, splatterpunk, and adventure just appealed more to my friends than Vampire. Plus, you know, wolves are just inherently cool. Who doesn't want to turn into an 8 foot tall wolf/man hybrid and just wreck shit? And it didn't have that pesky "humanity" mechanic to make you feel bad when you ripped someone's head off and went bowling with it. 

For this post, I'm going to be using the Second Edition of Werewolf. There's been a number of them, including a medieval one, and a Wild West one. There was also a 20th anniversary edition published somewhat recently, but per the rules of this challenge, I have to go with books I have in print. So, 2nd Ed it is. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 13: Heroes Unlimited

 New Year, New Character 

Day 13 

Heroes Unlimited 


Heroes Unlimited is Palladium Books take on the Super-Hero genre. It's a "universal" toolkit to make a variety of types of heroes, though not quite as universal as it likes to pretend. Each hero is based on a specific "category" of archetypes ranging from Alien visitors to Mutants to Robots to hyper-trained Super Spies. Each has their own distinct rules, and little effort is made to "balance" the various characters. Instead, the intent is to create a distinctive character, with, much like a comic book, the balance coming from what happens in the story, rather than any sort of mechanical enforcement. 

Like the rest of Palladium's books, Heroes Unlimited (HU) is derived from their Palladium Fantasy game, and follows much of the same rules. There are obvious additions, of course, through super powers, psychic abilities, alien life forms, and complicated cyborg and robotic creation rules. 

Perhaps it's my nostalgia guiding me, but I have a long and deep affection for HU. I've only played or run a handful of games over the years, and I'm willing to admit the game has its flaws. Mainly, it doesn't quite reach the crazy heights of what a lot of comic books do. Instead, it's a "grounded" game, where combat is nasty and lethal, and powers, while extraordinary, are still mortal and limited. I've only played a few super-hero games, but the ones done with HU have always been my favorite.

Monday, January 18, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 12: Stars Without Number

New Year, New Character 

Day 12 

Stars Without Number 

Today marks something of a landmark for my take on the "New Year, New Character" challenge. When I started, I created a list of 31 different games I wanted to make a character for. I thought of sorting them by system or theme or age or something like that, but decided to go random. Given the odd numbers involved, I had been using Wizard of the Coast's old online dice roller. I simply add in however many systems were left as a custom die and "rolled" that. I've now completed 11 of these, meaning I have 20 left. Which means I actually got to roll an actual, physical d20. I did, and got a 4 giving Stars Without Number.

Stars Without Number (SWN) is a fairly "hard" Sci-Fi game, in the tradition of Traveler. Players take the roles of mercenaries, traders, and explorers in the far future. A few hundred year prior to where the game begins, a massive catastrophe devastated all of settled space. The survivors have slowly rebuilt, and are tentatively rebuilding the old political and trade networks, but limited by much slower FTL drives, forcing the focus onto a more localized sector rather than careening throughout the galaxy. Like most of Kevin Crawford's games (including Silent Legions), the game is intended to be a sandbox for the players stories. The bulk of the book is about providing the GM with various rules, tables, and other tools for creating this sandbox, with the game being about what happens as the players set forth and explore the world around them

Sunday, January 17, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 11: Mage the Ascension

 New Year, New Character 

Day 11

Mage the Ascension

Mage the Ascension is a "Storytelling Game of Modern Magic." It is, in many ways, a successor game to both Ars Magica and Vampire: The Masquerade, so we are treading fairly well worn ground when it comes to creating a character. In it, players take the roles of "awakened" Mages, seeking both to understand the true nature of reality as well as to share that understanding with a world that not only fails to understand them, but which can barely tolerate their existence. They are locked in a millennia old war against the Technocracy, a group that desires to control reality and humanity. It is a war the Traditions (the disparate groups of mages the players belong to) are losing, and reality itself rejects their feeble attempts to change or alter it. 

It was the first of the White Wolf "World of Darkness" books that hadn't been released when I first started playing their games, and one I eagerly anticipated. I always liked playing wizard PC's and reading books about mages, and the idea of playing such a character in the "Gothic Punk" world was exactly what I was looking for. Unfortunately, I never really got a chance to play it much--just a few scattered one-shots over the years. And to be honest, most just didn't work. Or at least, just didn't work the way I had dreamed. Due to its rather "freeform" style, it is a system that, in my opinion, is heavily depended on the Storyteller. And so long as the players and Storyteller are, more or less, on the same page, it seemingly can be a wonderful game. At least, according the stories and tales I've heard from friends and co-workers over the years. I hope someday to be able to experience at least a bit of its magic for myself. 

Saturday, January 16, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 10: Vampire The Masquerade

 New Year, New Character

Day 10

Vampire: The Masquerade (V5)

After my brief detour towards "actually making a character for a game I'm going to play" with Starfinder, I'm back to randomly determining the next game for this series. I ended up landing on Vampire, which is easily my favorite game of all time. Even a casual perusal of this blog will show the majority of posts are somewhat related to this game. On my initial post, I listed the 1st Edition as the game for this challenge, as it has become my favorite version of the game. But, I rather like using this series to play around with games I'm not as familiar with, so instead I'm going to go with the latest version--5th Edition, or as it's also known as, V5. 

For those who aren't familiar with it, Vampire is a "Storytelling Game of Personal Horror." In it, players take on the role of a blood thirsty vampire living in the shadows of the modern world. Stories in the game can vary widely from brutal street battles to high-society politicking to "urban fantasy." The best ones combine all of this with an intense exploration of morality and help the player question not only the characters decisions and beliefs, but their own as well. The first edition was released back in 1991, and numerous editions and spin offs (Dark Ages, Victorian Era, "Kindred of the East", etc.) soon followed. Each tweaked and altered various rules and setting information, but the core always remained the same. After being officially cancelled in 2004, the release of the 20th Anniversary Edition in 2011 showed that there was still a passionate fan base, and the 5th Edition came out in 2018. The 5th Ed has probably the most significant changes to the basic rules in an attempt to update and revise things for our modern world. 

Despite running and playing Vampire more than any other game (save for D&D), I haven't yet had a chance to play or run V5. I could get some of my friends to try out the "playtest" material, but no proper "Chronicle" (Vampire term for "campaign") yet. So, this will be my first time doing more than "idly reading the rules." 

New Day, New Character Day 16: Star Wars (West End Games)

New Day, New Character  Day 16  Star Wars  I'm not sure I can give the West End Games version of Star Wars  a proper introduction. Other...