Friday, February 5, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 22: Pendragon

  New Year, New Character 

 Day 22 


Pendragon is a game where players take on the roles of knights in Arthurian Britain. That's it. There's no rogues or wizards or priests. Oh, sure, those folks are around, but they're not the PC's. The game is laser-focused on recreating the stories of knights like Lancelot, Gawain, and Perceval. And it does this spectacularly.

Mechanically, it has a number of things going on which can be slightly overwhelming at first, but almost everything is resolved with a d20 roll. It uses a "Price is Right" style system, where you want to role as high as you can without going over the Trait you are rolling against. So, if Character A has a 14 and Character B has a 12, A would win if they both rolled a 13, while B would win if they both rolled a 12 (as that is exactly the number he needs to roll). A 1, while a success, is always the weakest possible one. 

While it has Attributes and Skills of various sorts, Pendragon also has a couple of unique elements. You have various Personality Traits, which are pairs of opposed traits (such as Merciful and Cruel), with the total value of the pair adding up to 20. So long as the ratings minimal, they are more intended as roleplaying guidelines, but at extreme ratings, they can actually compel the player to take action. Also, if you have the right ones, they can provide you with a variety of bonuses. Which is a great way to get the min/maxing power gamer player to commit to playing a chivalric "lawful good" knight, as it's the best way to become an "OP Badass."

New Year, New Character Day 31: Rifts

 New Year, New Character

 Day 31


Rifts is everything. If you took every single game I've made a character for so far in this series, added a couple dozen more, and threw them all into one bit pot, you'd have Rifts

And I don't mean that in a "generic game" kind of way. Sure, you can use GURPS, or D20, or Heroes System, or RISUS, or FATE, or whatever to play "any game you want." I mean in Rifts you can take any concept you might have, find a Character Class that fits it, and they all exist in the same world. You want cyberpunk? There's Street Rats and Operators running dirty job in massive arcologies and hacking mainframes. You want fantasy? There's wizards and dragons and elves and goblins. You want horror? There's zombies and vampires and Lovecraftian monsters. You want mecha? The 50' tall mechs, power armor, and everything in between. This is a game were one player is a card-sharp cowboy and the other is the child of gods and they team up with a knight from Camelot to fight the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. 

It's ridiculous, over the top, tonally all over the map, and I absolutely adore it. 

Thursday, February 4, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 30: Dresden Files

 New Year, New Character 

 Day 30

 Dresden Files 

Dresden Files is a game of pulp supernatural mystery mixed with "urban fantasy." Based on the best selling series of books by Jim Butcher, Dresden Files uses the generic FATE system. In it, players take on the roles of wizards, vampires, lycanthropes and mortals in the modern day, dealing with murder, mystery, and intrigue among not only the supernatural, but the mundane world itself. 

Dresden is another of those "games I've never gotten to play." I came across its base system around the same time I stumbled on Legend, when I was looking for something different than the games I had been playing. The base concepts of FATE were quite interesting, with its focus on group storytelling, simplified die rolls (using the, to me, odd FUDGE Dice), and focused Character Creation. 

Like almost all the games I came across, I could never get a group together to actually play it. Though, oddly enough, a number of my friends ended up running FATE games with other groups after they had moved away. Had more than one conversation that, more or less went: 

"Yeah, I've started running this really cool [FATE GAME]--it's not quite the normal RPG, but I think you should check it out." 

"You mean like Dresden Files? That game I was going on about 2 years ago?"


Not that I'm bitter. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 29: Dungeons & Dragons

 New Year, New Character 

 Day 29 

 Dungeons & Dragons 

 (Rules Cyclopedia)

Dungeons & Dragons has been the great, hidden presence throughout this series. Palladium started off as a series of House Rules for a game of D&D, and that system begat Heroes Unlimited and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Advanced Dungeons & Dragons is, directly, a successor game. Pathfinder and Starfinder are both based on the third edition of D&D. And the Sine Nomine games of Silent Legions, Stars Without Number, and Wolves of God are all based on off D&D. I often described things like "the classic six attributes"--and by "classic" I just meant "the things that Dungeons & Dragons" used. 

This isn't really all that surprising. D&D was the first, and remains the most popular, role-playing game. I suppose one could cite Blackmoor, but let's be honest--Mike Pondsmoth wasn't thinking about Blackmoor when he wrote Cyberpunk. As I approach the end of this series, it makes sense to go back to the original.

Or at least, the original that I have in print. I'd love to do an "original boxed set" character, but I only have those rules in PDF. Instead, I'm going to use the Rules Cyclopedia, the final official version of the classic rules. Much like with Legend, this one of the games I picked up in my searching years, as I grew increasingly dissatisfied with (then) modern edition editions of the game. The complete classic game, all in one book, was quite appealing. 

And it's a pretty neat game! Lots of interesting and fun rules and mechanics that I had never seen before, a lot of which made the "end game" particularly interesting. But, like most of the games I randomly picked up, I was never able to convince folks to get in a game with me. I've only ever run this game with a group totally new to roleplaying, and it was quite a blast. One day, I would like to be able to play it myself. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 28: Pathfinder (2nd Ed)

 New Year, New Character 

 Day 28 

 Pathfinder (2nd Edition) 

Pathfinder (2nd Ed) is the latest version of not only the best selling Pathfinder RPG, but the now venerable D20 system. Pathfinder has an interesting history, being an almost rebellious response to the then upcoming 4th Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. It was extremely successful, particularly for a roleplaying not put out by Wizards of the Coast. But what really attracted me to the game were the top notch modules and adventures. Especially their Adventure Paths.

The desire for "pre-written campaigns" has been around for a while, but few companies have ever done them justice. Sure, there were plenty of antecedents for what Paizo did with Pathfinder--Call of Cthulhu had such epics as Masks of Nyarlathotep and Beyond the Mountains of Madness. Even Dungeons & Dragons had boxed sets like Night Below, but few companies put out the sheer volume that Paizo did for Pathfinder, or provide anything resembling the quality and support they offered. 

Of course, I've only played a few of these, with most of my Pathfinder games being strictly "homebrew." And that was fine, as the D20 system, for all its flaws, was still a solid system for running a variety of game types. But, over the years, the game had dozens of supplements, new classes, new prestige classes, and all the other stuff that clogged up the game, and it was time for a break. 

Monday, February 1, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 27: Star Wars (D20)

 New Year, New Character

 Day 27 

 Star Wars (D20)

During the D20 boom in the early 2000's, Wizards of the Coast landed the rights to the Star Wars RPG. I wasn't terribly aware of what had happened with West End Games, or why Wizards got this license. All that mattered was that, since my group at the time was enamored with the then new D20-system, I could actually play some Star Wars, rather than having to cajole folks into letting me run a game. 

I'm not sure how well D20 actually served Star Wars. On the surface, it seems like a natural fit. Star Wars was always more "fantasy in space" than "science-fiction" and D20 was built for Dungeons & Dragons and fantasy adventures. But it could also get bogged down in minutiae--do we really care about five-foot steps in a running blaster fight to escape the villains lair? That's not to say it wasn't a good game. In fact, it was fun as hell. Some of the tweaks they made to the rules really helped to keep the drama and danger present in the game, and I even find myself guilty of comparing this to Starfinder, often to the latter's detriment.  

While the West End and Fantasy Flight version of Star Wars focused on the classic era of the Original Trilogy, the Wizards version came out roughly the same time as the Prequel's, and so the focus is different. While there is some support for the various Era's, the game defaults to being in the "Rise of the Empire," when the Republic was still the dominant force in the Galaxy. Other than that, the classic tropes are all present--Jedi, smugglers, wookies, beaten up space ships, nobles, fast travel to distant and exotic worlds, the whole thing. 

Sunday, January 31, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 26: Cyberpunk 2020

 New Year, New Character 

 Day 26 

Cyberpunk 2020 

Cyberpunk 2020 (CP2020) is the "roleplaying game of the grim future." It paints a bleak vision of the far off year of 2020. A future filled with ecological collapse, near constant wars, overwhelming corporate power, and a divide between the small number of elites who control the wealth of the world, and the vast majority of humanity ground beneath their greed. As the masses are fed a constant diet of fake food and faker entertainment, the true power and decisions are happening in corporate towers and backroom alleys. An incredible imaginary world, indeed.

Ok, so, they got some things right. Others they got wrong--did anyone besides hipsters still listen to tapes in 2020? Is "protest rock" even remotely a "thing," let alone the voice of mass movements? Any "near future" work is going to be eclipsed sooner rather than later, and CP2020 was always on the tail end of the literary movement anyway. It's not about what the world is like now, or even really what people thought our world would be like back in 1990. It's a game, and that's how it should be judged. 

And it's a high energy, hopefully nihilistic rampage of a game, driven high on emotions, passions, and fading glimpses of a dream you dare not let yourself belief. It's dark, and sexy, and violent, and goofy. Nowadays, it's probably best know for the video game based on it which had a...controversial rollout. But this book was the one that I was always fascinated by. It's also a game I've never been able to play. 

Which I'm starting to realize is a recurring theme in this series. 

New Year, New Character Day 22: Pendragon

  New Year, New Character   Day 22    Pendragon  Pendragon is a game where players take on the roles of knights in Arthurian Britain. That&#...