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. 

Saturday, January 30, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 25: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness

 New Year, New Character 

 Day 25 

 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness 

In Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness (TMNT), one is not required to play a teenager, a ninja, or even a turtle. You do, however, end up playing a mutant. An animal who, through some manner, has been altered and changed and turned into something resembling a human. Resembling, but not quite. 

Though there is a bias towards learning ninjitsu, because this was the published in the '80's and ninjas were just the shit back then.

The game is, obviously, a licensed property. But one based on the Eastman & Laird comic books, rather than the animated show that really made the Turtles a "thing." As such, the game is much more brutal and violent than one might expect from the title alone. In fact, the "kiddiefication" is allegedly why Palladium end up dropping the game back in 2000, and so this is not only an old game, but a long out of print one as well. Which is a shame, as there's some truly neat stuff going on with it. 

It's based on the Palladium system, which I've already touched on with Palladium Fantasy and Heroes Unlimited. As such, there's a lot of randomness to character creation, which I adore, but also a lot of neat and unique rules about building your mutant animal. For all I love about the game, I've only been able to ever play in a single one-shot game, much to my chagrin.

Friday, January 29, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 24: Wolves of God

  New Year, New Character 

 Day 24 

 Wolves of God 

Wolves of God is a stripped down, OSR-influences game of adventure and survival in Anglo-Saxon England. While placed in an historical time and place, much like Ars Magica this is a "fantasy" version of the real world, with ancient magic buried in Roman ruins, and the potential of supernatural monsters lurking amongst the bogs and fens of the wild. 

Despite the fantastic elements, Wolves of God is hyper focused in creating the society and world of the time. The most obvious comparison, for me, is with Pendragon, another game that sets the characters firmly in the historical world of post-Roman Britain. But despite using the real world to fill in the gaps of the sagas, Pendragon was always more focused on recreating the characters of the legendarium. Wolves of God attempts the opposite, to include the legends, but also to tell adventures of something like a real person of the time and place. It's a complicated thing to pull off, but I believe it does so quite admirably.

Part of this, to be fair, is in the writing. The entire game is presented as if it were a true document, a long lost and recently rediscovered work that is only now being published. It presents Wolves of God as a translation of an authentic roleplaying game written during the 8th century, thus making it the oldest complete copy of an RPG in existence. Reading a game supposedly written by a Christian monk in 710 A.D. is a very different experience.  

Unfortunately, I have not yet had a chance to actually play Wolves of God. I backed it on Kickstarter due to the strength of Kevin Crawford's previous work, but the long shadow of Dungeons & Dragons seems to have a stranglehold on my gaming circle. Having merely read it, it strikes me as a unique and fascinating game, one with potential to tell stories that other games, even other Sine Nomine ones like Scarlet Heroes, would be ill-suited to even attempt. Therefore this will be another "first character" with the system, as I attempt to delve deeper into the game rather than merely reading the text. 

Thursday, January 28, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 23: Aberrant

  New Year, New Character

 Day 23 


Aberrant was White Wolf's take on the comic book/super-hero genre. It was the 2nd game in their "Aeonverse" trilogy, which reimaged a new "pulp" history for our world. In this world, a disaster on a research space station led to a dousing of the world with radiation, and the people began to change, and to exhibit strange, superhuman powers. While still relatively rare, the presence of these "Novas" fundamentally altered the world. 

Unlike traditional comic books, or those games that seek to emulate the like Mutants & Masterminds or Heroes UnlimitedAberrant is an attempt to explore "what would really happen." There are few, to almost no, "supervillains." Sure, there are super criminals, but they don't dress up in gaudy outfits and rob banks--they control or are top-enforcers for crime syndicates and cartels. Those that do dress up in gaudy outfits are more likely to be hired mercenaries--dubbed "Elites"--as interested in their Q-Rating as anything else. There is a few "superheroes" but these are more likely to be employees of a given city or nation or, among the best of the best--members of the official UN super team "Team Tomorrow." But there is darkness in the world, as well. There are "Teragens"--radical Nova supremacist's who believe that they are destined to inherit the earth, and willing to use terrorism and violence to bring that inheritance about. And Team Tomorrow is far from perfect, something that rebellious "Aberrants" have only recently come to understand. Most aren't really part of any of these factions, instead using their powers for profit. Why rob a bank, when you can be hired by the bank and make seven figures starting, complete with benefits?

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 21: Shadowrun

  New Year, New Character 

 Day 21 


Of all the games from my initial list, Shadowrun was the one I was most dreading. I've never actually made a proper character for the game. The only GM I've ever played it under is an expert in the game and world, not only running it for decades, but he even wrote a few source books as a freelancer. For my first character, he worked closely with me, and we used an auto-calculating spread sheet. Subsequent characters were "pre-generated" by the GM, using Hero Lab.  So, this will be my first attempt to make a real character, by the book, with no help.

It's rather intimidating.

Even separate from Character Creation, Shadowrun is an intimidating game. Its a mix of cyberpunk and fantasy, melding together over the top action, cyborg super soldiers, magic of various type, netrunning...there are just so many sub-rules covering all of these "types." And the world is just as complex, being gripped in decades chaos and change, with old nations falling apart, and myriad new ones rushing to fill the void. Oh, and then there's the Races--you have Orcs, Elves and Dwarves running around as well, due to magic stuff. And the game has decades of modules and novels and multiple editions that have constantly driven the meta-plot forward. 

I try to read the book, and am forced to accept the fact that I have no idea what is going on. 

But, the only way to do so is to try, and so that's what this is. I'm hoping Character Creation will be simpler and more engaging that I fear, and that by doing so certain things I've never quite understood will click. As per the rules of this series, I'll be using the 20th Anniversary Edition of the game, as the only version I have in print. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

New Year, New Character, Day 20: Legend

  New Year, New Character 

 Day 20 


Legend is a semi-generic fantasy RPG from Mongoose, based on the classic game Runequest II. Now, I've never played Runequest II. Heck, I haven't played Runequest I, or III know, I know nothing about Runequest, except that it had some really awesome looking books back in the day. But it was never a game that had a presence in my gaming circles, so it just sort of lurked at the edge of my awareness.

I didn't buy Legend due to its legacy, but rather what it promised. About a decade ago, I was getting rather burned out by Dungeons & Dragons. 3rd Ed, Pathfinder, 4th Ed--none of them were all that much fun anymore. Still enjoying the tropes of fantasy gaming, I sought out something else. Of the games I checked out around that time, Legend stood out the most. 

I'm not sure I "get" Legend, as to this day I haven't had a chance to run or even play it. It seems mainly driven by percentile skills, and has more than a passing resemblance to Call of Cthulhu. It's generic, but seems pretty focused on a more brutal and grounded approach to gaming. From what I've read of it, I think it could be a game that I could love. I just don't know much about it. Like others in this series, this will be my first attempt to even make a character using the system. So, while I expect misunderstandings and mistakes, I'm also really excited about this chance.

Let's begin.

Monday, January 25, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 19: Traveler The New Era

 New Year, New Character 

 Day 19

 Traveler: The New Era 

I'm not sure, but I think I got conned when I purchased Traveler: The New Era (TNE). As a young gamer, I had heard of Traveler, of course. It was famous for its rock hard Sci-Fi setting, it's long history, and its notorious "you can die in character creation." Despite the hushed whispers and gossip, though, none of my friends actually had a copy of it, nor had ever actually played it. 

I was at my very first convention, and talking to one of the vendors when, somehow, the topic of Traveler came up. He immediately pressed into my hands a copy TNE. Maybe he was a fan of the New Era, maybe it was just the "new" one at the time, but I had no idea I was getting something...different from the Traveler I had heard about. 

TNE was a "reboot" of the setting, taking place centuries later than the "classic" era of the game, after the iconic Empire of the setting had fallen into chaos. In TNE, this time was marked by a brutal civil war in which one of the belligerents released a horrific computer virus that had devastated almost all advanced technology, plunging the galaxy into an era of isolation and barbarism. TNE takes place just as the society is preparing to rebuild, with much of what was settled and peaceful space turned into unknown and wild territory. I didn't realize at the time how radical or controversial these changes were. To me, this was just Traveler

Sunday, January 24, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 18: Vampire The Dark Ages

  New Year, New Character 

 Day 18 

 Vampire: The Dark Ages 

The first proper "sequel" to Vampire: The Masquerade, Vampire: The Dark Ages sends the players back a thousand years to when vampires ruled the night as lords and masters, before the internecine war known as the Anarch Revolt and before humans rose against them in the form of the Inquisition. Rather than skulking about in alley ways and cheap bars, vampires in Dark Ages exist more or less openly. Their battles are fought just as fiercely, but with fang and sword rather than false promises and gossip. It is an age of war and adventure. 

To be honest, I've never been a huge fan Dark Ages. I've played, and run, a few Chronicles for this game, and they've been enjoyable. I guess it's just not what I wanted when the game first came out. The few hints we had of this time in the original book made it seem...quieter. Smaller. A time of ignorance, isolation, and overwhelming personal ties. An era when one could spend centuries surrounded by the same few vampires, believing that you were the only damned forced to walk the earth until judgement day. I've talked about this before (here)--in short, I understand why they went the way they did, but it still ended up less compelling that what I had hoped. 

The Chronicles that have worked best leaned much further into fantasy than is probably "proper" for a vampire game, and I often think taking what's in Dark Ages and mixing it up with "D&D" style world might be the best solution. Just cut it off from the "personal horror" angle, and play up the monster element. 

Of course, for all my "it didn't live up to my EXPECTATIONS!" complaining, it's still Vampire, and so still falls into the category of "one of my favorite games of all time." The Chronicles I've played and run may not enter into the "my dream game" category, but they are still some of my favorite games of all time, and stories of our adventures are still regularly retold around rounds of drinks. You play an undead creature of the night rampaging across medieval Europe--what's not to love? 

For this post, I'll be using the 1st Edition of the game, simply because it's my preferred one, though the least played.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 17: Call of Cthulhu

 New Year, New Character 

 Day 17

 Call of Cthulhu 

Call of Cthulhu (CoC) is one of oldest, most famous, and venerable RPG's out there.  Even if you haven't played it, you know about it. Inspired by the writings of horror author H.P. Lovecraft, CoC takes the players into the world of weird horror. They play investigators of the mysterious, bizarre, and unknown. While horror has always been one of the keystones of RPG's--even Blackmoor had "Sir Fang," the vampire--few tackled with anything resembling the care and precision of CoC. This was no casual horror adventure, where the monster was slain and the heroes moved on.  Rather, battling the "Cthulhu mythos" would cost the PC's their lives, their careers, and even their sanity. 

To some, it can come across as overly dark and nihilistic. Why bother finding out what the mysterious statue represents, or what happened to the eccentric artist cousin of yours, if all you were going to find was death and madness? The stars will, one day, be right, the Old Ones will arise, and the age of man will come to a close, after all. But, for me, it's the very bleakness that makes the glimpses of light and the potential heroism of the PC's that much more bright. Yes, the Old Ones will arise, but through your skill, luck, and determination, you might be able to push if off for one more century, or year, or even a single day. It may mean nothing in the long arc of the universe. Hell, our lives may mean nothing in the long arc of the universe. But, for that one day, your lives mean everything. And that is a victory all its own. 

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 (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." 

Friday, January 15, 2021

Universal NPC Emulator and The Everyone, Everywhere List

As I was going through my various creations for the New Year, New Challenge, there were two tools I keep referring to--the Universal NPC Emulator and The Everyone, Everywhere List. Both of these are incredibly useful tools that I use both for my frequent Solo games as well as when I'm running a traditional group game. Neither is terribly complicated, but I feel that both could benefit from a proper, if belated, introduction.

New Year, New Character Day 9: Starfinder

New Year, New Character

Day 9


This post is a little bit of a cheat. So far in this series, I've been using a random number generator to decide which game I would be creating a character for. So, for example, on Day 1 I used a random dice roller and rolled a custom "D31." Comparing the result to the chart I made, I ended up with Mechwarrior. And all subsequent posts since then have followed the same basic format. But for this post I'm deliberately choosing Starfinder.  

The reasoning for this is pretty simple--I need to make a character for a Starfinder game. Technically, I already have a character in the game, but it's going through a bit of a change. My current PC isn't quite working out the way I wanted him to, and so I want to try something else. I have a better feel for the group and its interactions now, and I feel like I can make a character I'll enjoy a bit more this time around. 

Starfinder itself is something of an odd game. A mix of Sci-Fi and Fantasy, Starfinder sets the characters loose in a wild and woolly universe. It is derived on Paizo's Pathfinder game, itself a descendant of the Third Edition of Dungeons & Dragons. As such, the base mechanics are fairly "classic"--for example, having Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma as Abilities-- and not all that different from other D20 games (for example, Mutants and Masterminds). 

Thursday, January 14, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 8: Mutants & Masterminds

 New Year, New Character

Day 8

Mutants & Masterminds

Mutants & Masterminds (M&M) is a superhero RPG, based on the then dominate "D20" system, though with a number of unique features and systems. Unlike other systems, it truly is a "D20" game, with every roll being based on a roll of a d20, creating a fairly streamlined system. It does away with such legacy systems as "hit points," instead using things like "toughness saves" to show how unstoppable and untouchable certain comic book characters are. 

It's also probably the superhero game I've played the most. It's first edition came out when everyone was still incredibly excited with the D20 system, and it was easy to get my friends and other nearby gamers interested in trying out the game. The fact that it was a point based system and allowed for a wide variety of types while still keeping everyone more or less "balanced" also factored heavily in its popularity. I was never able to get an ongoing campaign going, unfortunately, and so my gameplay was limited to occasional one-shots over the years. It's currently up to the third edition, but unfortunately I don't own that particular version, not even as in PDF. So, I'll be creating this character with the now-dated 2nd Edition rules set. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 7: Thousand Year Old Vampire

 New Year, New Character

Day 7

Thousand Year Old Vampire

Thousand Year Old Vampire (TYOV) is a different kind of game than any of the others I've done so far for this Challenge.  It's not a traditional table top roleplaying game, but rather a solo journaling one. It's an intensely personal game of memory and loss, seen through the eyes of an immortal vampire as they navigate the long centuries. I've played a few games of TYOV, and I have to admit that the game affects me in ways that few other RPGs can hope to match. I'm actually rather annoyed and frustrated that I never conceived of this idea, but I still have nothing but great admiration for Tim Hutchings and what he managed to accomplish. 

Given it's unusual nature, character creation is similarly unique. There's no list of skills or abilities, and there's no way to "optimize" a character or worry about making the wrong decision. This is the story of your character, however you conceive them and whatever they might be capable of. Any "victory," though, is likely to come at a high price, and even the clearest will be bittersweet at best. For the key to the game is identity and memory, and how time dulls even the most intense of experiences, and how things that once meant so much to you can fade away and ultimately be forgotten. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 6: Silent Legions

 New Year, New Character

Day 6

Silent Legions

Silent Legions is an "OSR" style Lovecraftian horror game, where valiant investigators plumb the mysteries of strange and inhuman monstrosities and cults. It's a fairly "light" system from the point of view of the players, with the unique hook of it being a "sandbox" style game. Most of the core book is a series of charts and other tools to help the GM come up with their own horror setting, with multiple vile groups working their schemes, and the players interacting with them based on their own motivation, rather than the conventional "mysteries" in other, more famous takes, on this genre. I have a lot of love for the Sine Nomine games, but other than Scarlet Heroes, I haven't yet had a chance to actual play any of them. So, this will be another "first character" for this Challenge. 

Monday, January 11, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 5: GURPS

 New Year, New Character

Day 5


While not the first, GURPS  is probably the most famous of the classic "Universal" Systems. More recent games have stolen some of its thunder--Fate, Savage Worlds, Powered By The Apocalypse, etc.--yet it still remains a corner stone of gaming. Even if you don't want to use their system, GURPS has put out some absolutely amazing supplements that cover almost every conceivable game idea you might have. 

But I did use the system--a lot. Back in the day, GURPS was my go to game for any time I wanted a system that ran fast at the table, and would otherwise stay out of my way, and played/ran a ton of games with the 3rd Edition rules. But sometime around the release of the 4th Edition, my group and I just stopped using GURPS. There was no particular reason why, just other games took our attention and we have never found our way back. So, for this Challenge, I'll be trying to create my first character with 4th Ed. 

Sunday, January 10, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 4: Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 2nd Edition

 New Year, New Character

Day 4

Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, 2nd Edition

I'm pretty sure that the 2nd Edition of AD&D was the first RPG I ever played, and was probably the default game in my life for more than any other. In fact, I'm pretty sure it was the longest lived of any given edition of Dungeons & Dragons. Despite that, it appears to be something of forgotten beast these days. The first edition and the various permutations of "basic" get much more attention in the "OSR" community, while 2nd Ed is often barely remembered. Still, it had some wonderful settings and supplements, and fired up my imagination for years. 

Having said that, this is still going to be a bit of a learning experience for me. There were a ton of supplements over the years, and I don't think I've ever created a proper "by the book" character in all that time. Elven Fighter/Mage "Bladesingers," Orcish dark clerics, "Ratcatcher" dwarves--sure, all of these were played, and played heavily. But all of them were made with supplements, and add ons, and Dragon articles, and not a small number of DM houserules and handwaving to make it all work. For this, I want to do it as by the book as possible. 

But, options are part of what makes 2nd Ed so much fun. And "options" are something I've been avoiding so far. So, for this take, I want to make a non-human, non "normal" type character. Since I'm limiting myself to the core book only, this leaves me doing something with a Elves, Dwarf, Gnome, or Halfling. I have never made a Gnome or a Halfling, and so I'm going to pick one of those two.  And with that, let's get started!

Saturday, January 9, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 3: Palladium Fantasy

 New Year, New Character

Day 3

Palladium Fantasy

For Day 3 of the New Year, New Character challenge, I roll up Palladium Fantasy. This is a pretty obscure game these days. As far as I am aware, it's origins lay back in the early '80's, as a series of house rules for a game of Dungeons and Dragons. Eventually, the house rules so changed the game as to become something different. While it has its adherents, Fantasy was never that popular, at least among my small group of gamers. Its system, though, spawned several successor games--Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness and Robotech were probably the first batch to gain wide popularity. But, if it is know today, it is probably from the game Rifts, which was immensely popular back in the '90's. Still, Fantasy has its own, unique charms. 

Fantasy has the classic fantasy races--Humans, Elves, Dwarves, etc--as well as a number of more unique ones like Changelings (shape changers) and Wolfen (wolf-like humaniods). There are also a number of classes covering a variety of types--Mercenary, Paladins, devil worshipping Witches, Shamans, or even regular folks like Peasants or Merchants. Combat is d20 based, but is an active challenge. The attacker rolls to strike, and the defender rolls to defend themselves. This results in a number of bonuses and modifiers to various aspects of battle. There is also a separate skill system, which is based on percentiles. 

I own both the 1st and 2nd Editions of the game, and for this Challenge I will be creating a character using the 1st Ed rules. I've always been rather fond of that edition, but have never had a chance to run or play in it. Nor have I made a character before, so it will be something new. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 2: Ars Magica

 New Year, New Character

Day 2

Ars Magica

For Day 2, my rolling brings me to Ars Magica, one of the oddest and most interesting games I own, but have not yet been able to play or run. The game takes place in "Mythic Europe"--a world based on our own history, but where magic, demons, faeries, and saints work their will on the world. What makes the game so interesting is that you do not play one character, but rather a member of a Covenant. In one game, your mighty Magus might lead a troupe to engage with the trolls who live nearby. In the next, your mage might stay home to study and practice their illicit arts, while you play your friendly thief Companion, assisting another PC's magus in the rough and tumble city. In the next, you might play a tough as nails Grog, there to provide muscle and protection for yet another Magus' schemes. 

For this Challenge, though, I will be limiting myself to creating a single Mage for the 3rd Edition of the game. While I own the 5th and am quite fond of it, my self-imposed rules force me to only use games I have in print, and I only have 5th as a series of PDF's I got through Humble Bundle. So, 3rd Edition it is. Let us begin, shall we?

Thursday, January 7, 2021

New Year, New Character Day 1: Mechwarrior

 New Year, New Character

Day 1


It’s Day 1 on the New Year, New Character Challenge. As per my outline post, I had no idea which game to start with. I headed over to my favorite online die roller (The old Wizards of the Coast one) entered in a custom “D31” and got a 28, which results in Mechwarrior

Mechwarrior is an old RPG put out by FASA as part of their Battletech line of tabletop games. In the 1st and 2nd Editions of the games, the assumption is that the PC’s are “mechwarriors”—pilots of the huge, humanoid war machines that dominate the battlefield of the far future.  Later editions aren’t quite as tied to the concept, but it’s still pretty core for the game. Of course, the name “Mechwarrior” is probably more well known for the series of videogames, rather than the table top RPG. 

New Year, New Character 2021

New Year, New Character

Over on Facebook (yes, I’m an old), I stumbled upon a pretty interesting “X Day Challenge”—The New Year, New Character Challenge, which basically boils down to creating 31 Characters in 31 Days.  I’m starting fairly late, but this sounds like a pretty fun setup. Timing might be a bit of a challenge, but, well, that's in the name.

From The Other Side Blog

Still, the challenge itself is fairly vague. 31 Characters, granted, but what else? One could, I suppose, create 31 5th Ed D&D Characters, or all Fate, or anything else. As such, I’m going to add a few more “house rules” to my creation. This is just for own personal guidance, others who are doing this challenge have their own.     

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&#...