Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Character Generation Project: Mutant City Blues

Those of you new to the blog (or especially to the project) will find the overview of what this "Character Generation Project" is all about here. Stephanie's overview of character generation in general is here.
The sheet is easier to read here.

Which game is this for?
Mutant City Blues

How long did it take you to generate the character?
About an hour.

What was your character concept going into generation?
I didn't have one - I took the player's handbook's advice, and looked to the Quade Diagram for inspiration.
It really is that easy in this game - just pick a super power that seems interesting to you and see what it's linked to. *BAM!* Instant character concept.

Did you feel like character generation captured the flavor of the setting?
Did this influence your decision-making process during character generation?
Yes - using the Quade Diagram definitely helped keep the flavor of the setting up-front.

How much control did you feel like you had during character generation?
Quite a bit - putting the skills together gave me a lot of control over what direction my character would take.

Did the game help you make the character you wanted, or did it feel like you were fighting the game?
I think going through the various skills helped guide me into a character concept.

Do you like the character you ended up with?

Do you think your character fits your concept?
Again, I didn't come into this one with a preconceived concept.
I pressed her on this a bit - even though she didn't come into it with a concept, the character - on paper at least - does fit her on-the-fly concept.

Do you feel like your character would be effective and/or useful in a game?
Something I like about the Gumshoe system: It's next to impossible to create a truly worthless character. Not that I plan to issue that as a challenge to any of my players ...

Was there anything in particular that you struggled with mechanically?
I still don't quite understand "pool points", and I'm not sure I've handled those properly - I'm not sure where the "pool" for each of the skills comes from.
Having played other Gumshoe-system games before, I know that your Ability is your Pool for points - but that's not explicitly spelled out in Mutant City Blues, for some reason.

Did anything run more smoothly than you had expected?
The mutant powers - I was expecting that to be more difficult than it was.
Other than possibly ICONS, MCB has the easiest super power selection process I've ever seen. The Quade Diagram is a concept I'm likely to import into other super-powered games.

What changes would you have made to the character generation process?
A quick discussion of the pool points (especially Health and Stability) would have been useful before the general skills.

Did anything leap out at you as obviously broken or unbalanced?
Not really - the Quade Diagram helps keep you from just picking all the "best" powers and enforces a balance with its defects.

What led you to choose this game as the next one to make a character for?
It looked like an interesting idea, and I like the idea of having mutants integrated into society, and how that would affect law enforcement.

How would you compare your experience with this game to your experience with other games?
This was a much easier character generation than, say, All Flesh, and I think I ended up with a character I would really like playing.

Is this a character you would be willing to play in a campaign?

Does this character make you want to play this game?
It does - I'd like to see how my character would work with a team.

Do you have any other questions, comments, etc.?
In the end, I really enjoyed this character, and the generation process gave me a good idea of the flavor of the game.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Five Years Down

As of today, I've been keeping this blog going for five years.

Somewhere along the way, people started paying attention to what I have to say. Not huge numbers of people, but definitely more than I had expected when I started.

Thanks to this blog, I have met a lot of people that I would otherwise never have known. I've even had people seek me out at GenCon.

I just want to thank you for taking the time to read what I have to say.

Thank you for making me a success.

Let's hope the next five years are even better.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Advanced Feats + Kobold Quarterly Magazine

Not too long ago, I spent a few paragraphs on Advanced Feats: Secrets of the Alchemist, an Open Design product for Pathfinder which impressed me with its balance and utility. It's seriously very hard to balance Feats without making them too specialized to be useful.

VERY hard.

A few weeks later, they sent me a copy of Advanced Feats: The Witch's Brew, and I ... I never got around to saying anything about it - just like the earlier Secrets of the Alchemist, it's a ... well-balanced book of Feats for Pathfinder.  Much like Secrets of the Alchemist, I had to have a friend who is an expert (although he'll never lay claim to the title) on D&D 3.x and Pathfinder.  And by "expert," I mean "rules lawyer capable of breaking systems."  When he tells me something "seems balanced," it means, "There may be something broken in here, but it'll take some effort to take advantage of." And I trust his gut feelings.

They also recently released Advanced Feats: The Summoner's Circle, as well.  Given the success of the first two, I can only assume that it will also be both well-balanced and useful.

I mentioned that it's difficult to keep Feats balanced - and it is. You want Feats to be useful, but not so useful that they're the only clear and obvious choice. Players should have to think when choosing Feats. You also want players to be able to "flavor" their characters with Feats.

It's a tricky balance - one that I would not be able to pull off for more than a Feat or two. There is no way I could put together multiple booklets like these.

The KQ team ALSO sent me a review copy of Kobold Quarterly Magazine #15. Now, I was a KQ subscriber a few years ago. I didn't renew my subscription because I wasn't playing 3.5 anymore, and KQ hadn't started supporting 4E, yet. And the only Pathfinder I had was the pre-release beta PDF.

That has all since changed. Well, other than the 3.5 thing.

Issue number 15 starts off with some Pathfinder material - I'll be honest with you, I only skimmed the first article, which was on variant Druids. I'm sure there are ideas in there that I can use in one of the 4E games I'm in or pondering, but right now, I want to see what goodies Wolfgang & crew have assembled for 4E this issue.

The second article is on the ecology of the Giant Ant. Even though it's written with Pathfinder in mind, there are some great ideas in there that I can use to modify a 4E Giant Ant. I'll admit it - I was caught by a Pathfinder article that I hadn't intended to read.

The next article is "Reasons to Ride," a 4E-flavored article that makes mounted combat significantly more useful. Useful enough that I may consult with one of my DM's about the possibility of getting my Paladin a mount - like they had in the old days. A thorough reading of the article doesn't show anything broken, either.  It seems well balanced.

This was followed by another 4E article, this one on trapmaking for PC's - all too often, only the villains get to make all the traps, and the PC's role is limited to avoiding them. I really liked this article, even though I don't tend to play Thieves - the closest I came was 2E, when I nearly always played Bards.

Then a Pathfinder article on pit traps, which a quick glance shows as having some ideas that can be easily mined for 4E. Or Burning Wheel. Or Legends of Anglerre. Or any number of fantasy games, honestly. I could probably even use these in an AD&D game, if I wanted to.

There's a lot more in this issue - By "a lot more," I mean, "I've only covered the first half or so, here." James Lowder and Monte Cook both have articles that are system-free. My good friend Wade interviewed Margaret Weis at GenCon, and that's in here.  Book reviews ... I could go on for another couple of hundred words on this issue.

The 4E vs Pathfinder balance of the issue is pretty even - Pathfinder has a slight edge on page count, but a lot of the Pathfinder material can be adapted to 4E with a bit of work.

It's solid enough that I regret letting my subscription lapse. The 4E work is occasionally a bit rough, but it's the best third party 4E product I've seen - and the Open Design team aren't the sort to rest on their laurels.

I look forward to next issue.

You can subscribe (and order back issues) at PDF back issues (and the current issue as well) are on DriveThruRPG. If you play Pathfinder, all of the back issues will be worthwhile.  If you play 4E, they started including material in Issue 6, but the page count for 4E material has crept up as time has gone by. And, of course, you can grab and adapt ideas from older issues.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Contest Winner

The winner is: Jonathan Howard

Please check your e-mail. If the codes aren't there, check your spam/junk e-mail filter. Your ISP is famous for filtering the wrong things.

I had a total of six people enter, so your odds were all pretty good. Of the six, I know two of you from the real world, one of you from Twitter, and the remaining two of you were new to me. The winner, by the way, was new to me.

One person got zero correct guesses, one person got two questions right, and four people got one question correct each, for a total of twelve entries into the drawing.

ALL of you did more than just give the answers - you either provided a tidbit of trivia or a bit more information about why you guessed the way you did. It made reading your entries very interesting.

The answers were:

Favorite Doctor: Tom Baker (the Fourth Doctor). He's the Doctor I saw on TV when I was a kid, as he was the one that got the most play on American TV in the eighties. And by "American TV," I mean "PBS."  William Harnell (the First Doctor) is my second favorite. I really like the idea of a cranky old man as the Doctor.

Most of you got this one right.

Favorite thing about the Eccleston Doctor?  Scary Daleks. I liked all of the suggestions I proposed, but it was nice to finally be able to see something scary about the Daleks.

I remember them as fairly humorous villains when I was younger. I would occasionally shout at my TV to help the Doctor "Run upstairs! They can't catch you up there!" And the fact that those shells can hover and fly was the first step they took towards making the Daleks individually frightening.

Thank you all for entering.  I have responded to each of your entry e-mails with a personal thank you, as well.  I hope to have more contests in the future - this was weirdly entertaining. Moreso than I had expected.

And, most of all, thank you all for reading.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Reminder: Dr. Who RPG Contest Ends Friday!

Just a quick reminder: My Dr. Who RPG PDF Giveaway Contest ends Friday. Get those guesses in if you want a chance to win PDF copies of Dr. Who: Adventures in Time and Space and Aliens and Creatures, thanks to Cubicle 7.

Chinese Food

I like Chinese food. There are exceptions, but - in general - I very much like Chinese food.

There's one particular dish that I like. It's called "Sesame Chicken." Here's the thing, though: I've never had it the same way at two different restaurants. Not even close, sometimes.  One restaurant has a dry, deep-fried chicken where the sesame seeds are part of the coating, and it's served with a gravy.  One restaurant has a honey-sesame glaze. One restaurant serves me a sweet-and-sour coating on a deep-fried chicken. So far, I haven't had a sesame chicken that I disliked.

I see gaming the same way. The RPG world? That's Chinese food. Each dish? That's a game. Every restaurant is a different group, and so on. Sesame Chicken? For me, that's fourth-edition D&D. No two chefs (DMs) prepare it in the same manner, but so far, it has not failed to be enjoyable.

A few weeks ago, I was browing the forums, and I stumbled across a discussion of minions.

In D&D, a minion is a monster with a single hit point. If you successfully hit a minion, you kill it. Minions don't stand alone - they travel in packs with more durable foes.

Now the rules - so far as I have been able to find - don't tell you if the PC's should know who is a minion and who isn't. Why is that important?

In D&D, there are three sorts of powers - At-Will, Encounter, and Daily. You can use At-Will powers every turn. Over and over and over. You can use Encounter powers once per Encounter. They take a five minute rest to reset themselves. Daily powers can only be used once per day, and require a six hour rest to reset. Especially cruel DMs won't allow players that much time to rest. It's a resource management decision - before attacking someone, you have to ask yourself, Is this worth spending a Daily attack on? If it's a minion, then using a Daily is a complete waste.

As you may or may not recall, I'm currently involved in two games - one is traditional table-top face-to-face, and the other is online. In neither one does the DM tell us who the minions are. This means that we end up 'testing' our foes with an at-will or two before wading into the bigger ones.

Both of these games have been going pretty much since 4E was released, just over two years ago. And we've used the same set of rules since we began.

So I was a bit shocked when I read in the thread mentioned above that most (if not all) DM's tell their players which ones are minions - either blatantly pointing out, "These six goblins are minions," or through description, "These six are similarly-armed with what looks like hand-me-downs from their older siblings."

And, while I prefer the way we do it, I can see the appeal of knowing who the minions are in advance. I wouldn't walk away from a game using this interpretation of the rules.

It's just a different kind of sesame chicken.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

A Contest!

While this appears to be a second post, it's not, really. This apparent post is actually a contest with a prize that you can win.

Those of you who know me in person know that I'm a fan of the Doctor Who TV series. You probably also know that I was skeptical of the newer series, as I was (and continue to be) a fan of the older material.

I finally had a chance to start watching the new Doctor Who a few months ago, and found that I actually enjoyed Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor - I was disappointed that he only managed to stick around for one season. David Tennant is growing on me. And yes, I know that he's since been replaced.

At GenCon, we purchased Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space from Cubicle 7's booth, and I devoured the book - there are a lot of good ideas and some solid advice in the book. And I'd love to play and/or run this game sometime, even if it's as a one-shot (which is very possible - I have an idea for a game).

Fast forward to last week.  Cubicle 7 reached 1000 fans on Facebook, and had one contest per day to celebrate. I entered the first few, not expecting to win anything.  Friday Night, I got two e-mails informing me that I had won the Doctor Who themed contest, and so was to receive both print and PDF copies of the core box set and the new Aliens and Creatures box.

Well, someone goofed and I got two download codes for each of the PDF prodcts.  I checked with Cubicle 7, and was told I could do what I wanted with the extra codes.

Thank you, Cubicle 7.

I have a friend who has been on the fence about ordering the RPG, and I thought that maybe a PDF copy would give him that additional push he needed.  "Actually, Eric," he told me, "I'm going to pick it up even without the PDF.  Why don't you give it to someone else?"

That is where you come in.

Do you want free PDF copies of these two (excellent) products? All you have to do is answer two questions. You don't even have to answer them correctly (but you get more entries if you do).

Entering the contest is worth one "ticket" in the drawing.  Each correct answer to the questions below is an additional "ticket."  The most entries any one person can obtain, therefore, is three.

On Friday the 12th of November, I will randomly draw a name from among all the entries, and I will forward the extra coupon codes that I received to that person. The drawing will be in the evening (Pacific time, as that is where I live). I will use to determine the winner.

If you can't download files from for some reason, these codes will do you no good.

Send your answers to  I will delete all e-mails (and addresses) after the contest, and I will not add you to a mailing list or give away or sell your e-mail address.

One entry per person, please.

To make things fair, the questions are such that 99% of you will be randomly guessing, as I (so far as I know) haven't posted the answers anywhere else.

If you have any questions about the contest, just comment on this post and I'll answer in the same way.

Question Number One
Which Doctor is or was my favorite?

Question Number Two
What did I like most about the Christopher Eccleston Dr. Who?
Since this question is quite a bit tougher than the first one, here are five options, one of which is true:
  • His snazzy leather jacket
  • Finally being able to see Daleks as something to be feared
  • The Face of Boe
  • The almost off-handed explanation of what a Police call-box is
  • The regeneration sequence at the end
Again: You have until Friday the 12th to send me your answers.

Good luck.

English Games of the 1500's, Three Years Later

It's been just over three years, now, since Google first told me that "English Games of the 1500's" was suddenly a popular search topic that led people here.

It led to this post. Over the last three years, I've watched my analytics numbers pretty closely most of the time, and that continues to be the most-read post in the blog. By a lot.

So it wasn't a one-time school project. In fact, it's a rare week that some variant of "English Games of the 1500's" fails to generate at least one hit on my blog.

So here are a few fresh links to add to the ones from that earlier post. Maybe it'll make this my most-read post after a few years, right?

This is actually one of the better links I've stumbled across.
This page also has some good links.
This book looks like it could be extremely helpful, as well - assuming you're not just working on a one-off project.

And last, but not least, the single most-helpful link I've found with regards to Renaissance-Era games.

Monday, November 01, 2010

A Bit Of Housekeeping

This is not my post for the week.

There has been a fair amount of interest in the Character Generation Project upon which my wife and I have embarked.

So, to aid your navigation, I have added a link into the "Key Posts" box to the right that will show you all of the project posts with one convenient link.

Oh - and there is another character done that you'll see in a few weeks.

Mutant City Blues