Sunday, July 7, 2024

It's Nearly That Time Again...

Next month the RPGaDay Challenge returns for 2024 with yet another 31 prompts that once again seem pretty uninspired. Ugh. My main issue with them, as in previous years, is they don't start conversations but simply require answers.




Asking what the first game I purchased this year was doesn't really give cause for a discussion. I tell you what it was, maybe what I think of it, and sure maybe you have an opinion on that game but you could just as easily go, 'Huh. OK.', and move on. A better question might be, "What's the most recent game you've encountered that impressed you? Why were you impressed?"

Here are the prompts in standard text form and my first thoughts - totally going word association, first thing that pops into my mind here:

1 - First RPG bought this year

Really? See above.

2 - Most recently played

OK. Fine. Maybe this could start a discussion.

3 - Most often played RPG

Ever? OK. Feel like I've answered this many times.

4 - RPG with great art

Sure. 

5 - RPG with great writing

Sure.

6 - RPG that is easy to use

'kay. Getting bored already.

7 - RPG with 'good form'

WTH does this mean? Well laid out? Not sure how to answer.

8 - An accessory you appreciate

Sure. Favorite Supplement or whatever. 

9 - An accessory you'd like to see

This is good. Gives us new ideas.

10 - RPG you'd like to see on TV

'On TV'? As a commercial? Actual play? A show based on it? Hmm.

11 - RPG with well supported one-shots

Don't care. Create my own.

12 - RPG with well supported campaigns

Don't care. Create my own.

13 - Evocative environments

This could be interesting. I love exotic locales.

14 - Compelling characters

This could also be cool though nothing unique. We hear about peoples' characters all the time.

15 - Great character gear

Could be interesting.

16 - Quick to learn

A game that's quick to learn? This has to be a separate prompt from #6? Seems the answer to that one could easily cover this one too.

17 - An engaging RPG community

No idea. I don't really deal in RPG communities per se.

18 - Memorable moment of play

Sooo many. Sooo Sooo many.

19 - Sensational session

OK, this could be fun.

20 - Amazing adventure

Sure. Similar to last one.

21 - Classic campaign

Campaigns I have known/played. Check.

22 - Notable non-player character

I think #14 should read 'Compelling Player Character', otherwise you shouldn't have this one.

23 - Peerless player

I like this. 

24 - Acclaimed advice

Oh boy! A chance to give one of my 'hot takes'. I never get to do that. lol My only question here is 'acclaimed'? Are you asking for gaming advice from some official source that I find useful? I am now confused.

25 - Desirable dice

Really? Pass.

26 - Superb screen

Pass. Does not apply.

27 - Marvellous miniature

Pass. Does not apply.

28 - Great gamer gadget

Pass. Not even sure what this means. 

29 - Awesome app

Pass.

30 - Person you'd like to game with

I think I've seen this question before. Possibly multiple times. Could be interesting but it also feels mundane.

31 - Game or gamer you miss

This I can do but it makes me sad. Are you trying to make me sad RPGaDay 2024?

Alternative - Amazing anecdote

This is always fun. 'Sit down kids. Let ol' Barkley tell'ya about the time...'

Now get a load of this...





Easy to read, no? Yeah, no.

In addition to these prompt options, the main site gives an alternate list created by someone named Skala Wyzwania. Many of these are so specific and Fantasy/D&D focused that...well...it kind of turns me off. That said, some of these aren't half bad. I don't know. Am I crazy or is there some potential here?

Text version of the alternative campaign:

1 – Runes 16 - Dungeon
2 – Forest 17 - AI
3 – Demonology 18 - Curse
4 – Cosmos 19 – Hologram
5 – Fairies 20 - Battle 
6 – Portal                       21 - Disaster
7 - Forgotten City 22 - Interdimensional Space
8 – Experiment 23 - Ritual
9 – Heroes 24 - Antique
10 – Steampunk 25 - Mutant
11 – Invasion 26 - Tattoo
12 - Parallel Worlds. 27 - Shapeshifting
13 – Zombie 28 - Mimic
14 – Awakening 29 - Knight
15 – Genetics 30 - Trap 
31 - Dragons

In addition, it is suggested that each day you can roll 1D10 to go with the prompt result on the following chart.

1 - Describe a Monster

2 - Create an NPC

3 - Write a Bulletin Board Quest

4 - Invent an Item

5 - Write a legend or rumour 

6 - Create a random table

7 - Create a simple mechanic

8 - Present an idea for a Random Encounter

9 - Write an Eavesdroppable Dialogue

10 - Draw!

It seems like this random roll (roll or choose of course) would be instead of the 31 prompts listed. I suppose you could also do one in addition to a prompt if the response to said prompt is kind of short. 

So there you have it. The 2024 RPGaDay Challenge ladies, gentlemen, and non-binary friends.

Hurray?

I want to do it, I really do, but I can already see myself becoming frustrated. What to do, what to do?

Stay tuned...

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Barking Alien









Lazy Days of Summer

Sorry for the long delay in getting out posts. Summer has been kicking my butt between an ever changing work schedule and the rather intense heat. I exist in two states lately: Totally revved up and unconscious. No middle ground. 

I still have a lot of Japanese TRPG related subjects I want to talk about but it's taking me longer than intended to get my sources and thoughts together. Fear not, my next entry in my 31 Days/31 Characters project is coming soon(ish). I'm sure the anticipation has been keeping you all up at night.

At present I am involved in a number of online TRPG campaigns and between playing, prepping, and running, a lot of spare time is taken up there as well. I am really enjoying all the games I'm in, so no regrets in that area. Let me give you a brief 'State of Gaming' update:

The longest running campaign I've ever gamemastered continues. Our Star Trek campaign entitled 'Star Trek: Prosperity' using the Star Trek Adventures system by Modiphius games, keep going boldly. Mentioned on this blog numerous times in the past, the campaign in now in its eighth year and shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. I've got a lot of stories yet to tell. Although a Second Edition of the game is on its way, we are still using First, largely because I've made a few adjustments and houserules and said changes are tied to First. Not sure if I need a Second Edition. We'll see. 

I am also running a weekly classic Traveller campaign I call 'Second Survey' in which the PCs are part of the Imperial Interstellar Scout Service's Grand Survey II in the Imperial Year 1024. Their mission is to visit the worlds in the Solomani Frontier Sector of Daibei (specifically starting out in the Outback Subsector) and make sure the information in the Imperial Library Data on these planets matches the reality of their present conditions. Due to the Solomani Rim War that occurred two decades past, much of this info is roughly twenty years out of date. Updates to things such as resource and trade potential, changes in population and/or government, and the like earn the PCs extra pay from their Patron, which is the IISS itself. 

As for playing, the other really long running game I'm involved in is the [roughly] biweekly Hogwarts/Wizarding World of Harry Potter campaign using a homebrew system. The campaign's 'official' title is 'Hogwarts: A Mystery' and is run by my friend Alex, who serves as First Officer and Chief Engineer Bhoth in our Star Trek: Prosperity game. I've mentioned this Hogwarts campaign a number of times in prior posts and it is now in its sixth or seventh year of real time. We, the PCs that is, are Fifth Year Students in House Ravenclaw. My character is Francis 'Frank' Pellgrove and he ranks among the most enjoyable PCs that I've ever played.

Lastly, I am both playing and running in a Star Trek Adventures campaign set in the time of Lower Decks (roughly), the early to mid-2380s. Entitled 'Star Trek: Copernicus'; the game features rotating Gamemasters, with each of the players serving a turn as referee. It has been interesting to say the least. Overall the adventures have been quite good, even great, though I feel my own have been kind of hit and miss (more miss). For some reason I'm finding it hard to motivate the other players to engage with the type of stories I want to explore. It may be that my more 'Original Series' approach isn't jiving with their 'TNG-DS9-Voyager'; mindsets. 

We are presenting going through the 'Season 1 Finale' adventure. After this we may take a break...literally. One of the players wants to GM BREAK!!. It might be a one-shot or it might be a short series. After that, who knows? Could be Star Trek: Copernicus Season 2, could be a short stint of something else...we shall see.

I am generally really happy with the gaming I'm participating in, though as always my thoughts leap to stranger and less traveled roads. I really want to run some sort of Horror game (though no idea what kind), wouldn't mind exploring a period such as 17th Century Pirates or the Wild West, and hope to get back to Ghostbusters at some point. All the while Anime/Manga influenced Japanese TRPGs call to me with their J-Pop siren songs. I also really want to run a Fantasy RPG - I know, I know - but more on that another time.

Sigh.

Man I don't like the Summer. Is it Autumn yet?

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Barking Alien







Monday, June 10, 2024

Savin' The Day

Happy Ghostbusters Day Everybody!

Saturday June 8th was the 40th anniversary of the release of the original Ghostbusters film, a movie near and dear to what passes for my heart. Forty years of bustin' ghosts and feeling good! 

Though my work and life schedules have been crazy again of late, I still managed to go down to the firehouse of Hook & Ladder Company 8 (which doubles as the Ghostbusters HQ in the films) and participate (to some extent) in the celebration held there to commemorate this auspicious occasion. 




It was a blast getting to see and talk to follow fans from all over the country and even a few international visitors. The outfits - complete with amazing Proton Packs, Neutrona Wands, Ghosts Traps, PKE Meters, and more - were incredible to behold! There were at least five different Ecto-Mobiles, from recreations of the original to GB customized alternative car models. Loved the different license plates! 



All in all it was a really fun time and I'm glad I went. There weren't any major announcements about new Ghostbusters projects but teases of a Netflix animated series and more being in the works have been making the rounds across social media. I know I'm excited to see more and intend to keep the faith through tabletop rpgs.




Here's to 40 more years and beyond! 

Who you gonna call?

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Barking Alien





Saturday, May 25, 2024

Great Shot Kid! That Was One In A Million!

 Happy Orthodox Star Wars Day Everybody!




While we love to celebrate Star Wars on 'May the Fourth' for the pun if nothing else, the true birthdate for Star Wars is May 25th. It was on this day in 1977 that the original film, now referred to as Episode IV: A New Hope, was released in movie theatres across the USA..

I saw the film opening day and loved it so much I watched it again! And again. And again. And yes, again. Five times on the day of its release thanks to a day off from school (the reason for which I do not recall) and my maternal grandfather being the manager of a theatre.

Raise a glass of Blue Milk with me won't you and join in wishing Star Wars a Very Happy Birthday!

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Barking Alien





Saturday, May 18, 2024

Thoughts to De-Cypher

My Sunday group recently finished an original 'Mecha vs. Kaiju' campaign using the Cypher System by Monte Cook Games. It's OK, you don't need to apologize. You didn't do anything. I'm not blaming you, nor anyone really. It was my own decision. I could have said no.




In defense of the GM*, he did a good job with the campaign itself, in spite of the fact that he didn't have a really good source for running this particular genre with the Cypher system. Had he had a solid sourcebook/rule supplement specifically geared towards helping a GM to run a Mecha vs. Kaiju themed game, he would likely have been able to add a spoon full of sugar to help the system go down better. 

I'm just joshing of course but yeah, I don't like those mechanics OK, I basically despise them but that isn't really what this post is about. The point of this entry is something I observed during the game that related to something else I've been thinking about lately. In order to wash away my feelings about Cypher, I want to take a look at why it didn't work for me and why a very different outlook on game design is appealing to me more and more. 

In Cypher, the player rolls a D20 and attempts to beat a number determined by the opponent's or situation's Level (or Tier? PCs have Tiers which are just Levels so...) times 3. So, to hit a Level 3 monster, the PC needs to beat a 9. Yep. You get a number (Level - Difficulty), multiply it by a number (3), in order to get another number (in this case 9). Way easier than saying, 'OK, you need to beat a 9', right? Anyway...

During the actual campaign, it seemed like the overall average difficulty for enemies and tasks was 12 and 15. A PC can spend points from one of three pools (which pool dependent upon the nature of the action) to lower that difficulty. Based on another aspect of your character, it can cost between 1-3 pool points to drop the Difficulty one Level. I would guess each of the three Players/PCs spent points one out of every three actions. Why so often? Because we missed a lot. A LOT! Even after spending the points, we still missing fairly often. So much missing!

In a game with a binary Success/Fail outcome, missing sucks. Sure, sometimes you miss or fail, that's gaming and life. That said, if I go and miss and then the next player, two villains, and then the last player go before the GM gets back to me and then I $^%&ing miss AGAIN...it's more than frustrating. It isn't fun.

Bare in mind, nothing else is happening. I just miss. There is no cool side effect, no interesting 'you miss but this opportunity opens up...' or anything like that. You just sit and wait your turn until you miss again. You could also hit. It's possible. Through out this, you are likely spending points from the same finite pool that powers your special abilities and in the case of 'Might' serves as your Hit Points as well. 

Anyway, I don't want to dwell on the specifics of Cypher but rather the mindset that went into the design. It doesn't reward failure, regardless of the context of that failure. A good idea followed by a poor roll equals a failure result. Having a good idea doesn't really matter. Sure, the GM can award you a reduced Difficulty if they want want but I am not sure if the rules-as-written include that idea. My point is, Cypher appears to be built on much the same mentality as Dungeons & Dragons (not surprising - Monte Cook don't you know); Hit/Miss resolution, little Narrative influences or results, and your PC begins the game incompetent. 

Meanwhile...

I've seen some talk about the upcoming Final Fantasy XIV Tabletop Roleplaying Game from none other than the 'House of Final Fantasy' itself, Square Enix. One of the interesting ideas the game is supposed to feature is the way your 'To Hit' roll works. Based on the way it works in the MMO itself, you always hit. Take a moment, step back, breathe deeply and release it slowly, now read that over again. You always hit. 

The Starter Set and Core Rulebook
All coming soon...


From the FFXIV Reddit Community:

  • Attack rolls are checked against physical or magic defense (AC). Attacks will always hit, but rolling (+ bonus) above defense is a Direct Hit and has additional effects (just more damage?).
  • Nat 20s are Critical Hits, which double your damage or healing. There are no critical misses (Nat 1).

What a fascinating approach to the normally punitive to the players combat systems of classic Fantasy TRPGs. I'm not sure I love no Critical Misses as those offer opportunities for cool complications and narrative additions but I get it as those wouldn't appear in the MMORPG. Hmm. Wonder how hard it would be to mod that? Sorry, where was I...

On this same line of thinking there's the Japanese game I recently covered (and merged with Ghostbusters), Tokyo Ghost Research. TGR also has every roll (combat or otherwise) succeed unless the player decrees that they fail. If the roll meets or beats the  Target Number it results in a positive outcome. If its less than the Target Number you get a generally positive outcome plus a negative or problematic outcome to go with it. You either succeed or succeed with 'Trouble'. What's Trouble? Something interesting.

I know I use the word 'interesting' a lot here but really, after 47 years of gaming, games that go: roll, hit, damage, roll, miss, roll, hit, damage are immediately followed by yawning. A lot of RPGs, the majority I think its fair to say, focus on Combat or more accurately have Combat as a key component of the game. If that Combat is flat, untextured, and dry it means you're going to be experiencing that blandness regularly. I just can't take that. I don't have the attention or patience for un-engaging combat scenes that happen often. Ugh. 

The same is true, to a less extent perhaps, to non-combat activities amounting to nothing. Skills rolls for things that should just happen because of the in-setting context that a character is a specialist in the thing they're doing and/or the meta-context that if its just a failure the game comes to a halt. Either just allow the PC to succeed at the endeavor or make the roll have the possibility of an added positive or negative outcome. 

Have actions worth rolling for result in a useful, detrimental, or otherwise memorable outcome. Also, I personally prefer games where the PCs, the protagonists of your story, don't seem like they absolutely suck. They shouldn't always be successful; I want to be clear that's not what I'm saying. What I'm trying to convey is the idea that out of five actions, four of them being failures is lame - unless that failure comes with a 'and yet', 'but you notice', or some other narrative element that makes failure as fun, or at least nearly as fun, as success.

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Barking Alien

*The GM of our Cypher game, as well as the other players, enjoy the system very much. They have various reasons for this and they're all as valid and legitimate as my criticisms (for whatever that amounts to). The GM finds the system extremely easy to run, the rules requiring the least amount of prep of any game he's played. Understandable that this would be appealing, even more so given the differences in how he preps and executes a game compared to myself [who's generally loosey-goosey with rule mechanics in favor of rule of cool.]

Cypher isn't a bad-wrong, terrible system. It just really isn't for me.