Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Character Generation Project: Serenity

Those of you new to the blog will find an explanation of what this "Character Generation Project" is here. As always, the questions are in bold and my comments are italicized.

This is the fourth game for which we have generated a character. This link will take you to all posts in the blog which are tagged with "Character Generation Project."

Serenity Page 1
First Page - Click here for larger view.
Which game is this for?  
It's worth noting that this game has gone out of print - you can buy other games which use the same core system here. They are mostly cross-compatible (Smallville and Leverage use a heavily modified version of the system that is sheer genius).

How long did it take you to generate the character?  
A couple of hours, but not steadily
Stephanie made this character on a train enroute to California to visit a friend.

What was your character concept going into generation?  
Pilot/mechanic, smarter than he is strong

Did you feel like character generation captured the flavor of the setting?  Did this influence your decision-making process during character generation? 
It moved me to be more of a lawman than I had originally planned and it did capture the setting well.

How much control did you feel like you had during character generation?  
Plenty - Traits and Skills helped flesh out the character well.
Serenity Page 2
Second Page - Click here for a larger view

Did the game help you make the character you wanted, or did it feel like you were fighting the game?  
It worked with me - I didn't have to fight.

Do you like the character you ended up with?  

Do you think your character fits your concept?  

Do you feel like your character would be effective and/or useful in a game?  
Yes - not the greatest fighter, but smart and valuable.

Was there anything in particular that you struggled with mechanically?  
Finding where the Traits points came from - I missed the initial mention, and having Attributes first threw me.  Also, I couldn't find how to calculate Endurance and Resistance right away.

Did anything run more smoothly than you had expected?
Overall, it was very smooth.

What changes would you have made to the character generation process?  
Traits before Attributes, and including Endurance and Resistance with the rest of character generation.  Other than that, and doing this on a bouncing train, it was all good.

Did anything leap out at you as obviously broken or unbalanced?  
No - the balance of points and the Assets and Complications helped balance the generation overall.

What led you to choose this game as the next one to make a character for?  
I love Firefly.
I can't blame her - it's a great show, for those two or three of you who haven't seen it.

How would you compare your experience with this game to your experience with other games? 
One of the better ones - complications were mostly due to being on a bouncing train.

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

Does this character make you want to play this game?  
Did you notice the exclamation point? She has a form she fills out to answer these - I didn't add the exclamation point.

Do you have any other questions, comments, etc.?  
If Traits affect Attributes, it would make more sense to put them before Attributes in the book to make it flow better.

Have you given any thought to what game you'd like to do next?
Not yet.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Wizards

My wife just pointed out to me that I left wizards out of today's post.

Oops.  Those of you reading by RSS probably won't see it, but I'm adding this line to the post:

Wizards are scholars, teachers, and advisors.

What Is Your View of the D&D World?

You know the world I'm talking about, right?  The one presented in the Player's Handbook and the Dungeon Master's Guide?

Of course there is a world presented there.  It's just not explicitly there - you need to read between the lines to find it. And how you perceive it impacts all of your play - even in other published world settings. Because your view of the world as a whole alters the role of each class.

In many ways, it's like the Platonic Ideal of a setting. In others, it's a kitchen-sink hodgepodge of everything the designers could think to add.

Here are some notes on my view of the setting:

It's post-apocalyptic. The Apocalypse in this case could be any number of things, but any central authority has broken down, and has not yet been fully restored. There are pockets of civilization, and the occasional small kingdom, but for the most part, towns are on their own, the roads are filled with bandits, and any trade that happens requires a number of armed guards for the caravans. Territory is often claimed by multiple kingdoms and empires. Either way, there is a constant need of armed parties to patrol, protect, and raid.

It's low-technology. Have you seen stats for repeating crossbows? How about guns? They may be out there, but I've never seen a PC with a Musket +2. Not only that, but technology doesn't seem to be advancing - parties regularly venture into the ruins of ancient cities seeking treasure, and they often seem to find equipment which is even better than what they already have (often due to enchantment). Are the Wizards suppressing technology so as to hold onto power?

Gods are real. It should go without saying, but sometimes it doesn't. And I'll admit to being annoyed at how most parties handle religion. Players seem to pick their Patron Deities at character generation, and then proceed to ignore that line on the sheet for the rest of the game (with the exception of Divine characters, who still ignore the rest of the pantheon - another error). In fact, there's a whole post about this stashed somewhere.

So why does this matter?

It gives characters a reason for existing - a place to fit, as it were. Using just the Player's Handbook, here are a few ideas:

Fighters can serve as town guard, soldiers, gladiators, bodyguards, thugs for the local thieves' guild, or escorts for other classes between cities. Warlords can be captains, generals, and sergeants for any role a Fighter can fill, as well as filling a number of administrative and governmental rules.

Rangers and Rogues are thieves, assassins, scouts, snipers, huntsmen, spies, and merchants.

Wizards are scholars, teachers, and advisors.

Clerics are special to me. Remember the concept of circuit preachers from the Old West? I see clerics filling that same role. They ride from town to town following a specific route performing the work of their Gods in each village - performing weddings, funerals, and other specific duties as needed.  They follow a set schedule, and report to someone else in their church hierarchy.

Paladins (to me, at least) fill the role of circuit judges. They ride from town to town dispensing justice as appropriate. Even unaligned paladins will interpret and enforce the law. The interpretations will of course vary depending on the paladin's patron deity. Additionally, paladins get to be their deity's special forces and temple guards.

Do I favor Divine classes with more authority?  In general, yes I do. At the same time, the divine classes are likely to be involved in a power structure with central authority which hasn't broken down. Where a fighter may be part of an army, it will be the army for a small kingdom - a Cleric will be a part of a church hierarchy which may stretch into multiple kingdoms. And may lead to conflict with nobility - just look at the (real-world) history for examples of this.

When I get around to it, I need to write up my perspective on religion in D&D, but I have some other posts I need to write before then.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Expansions Coming This Year!

I realized last week that the games I'm most looking forward to this year are all expansions or sequels.

In no particular order, they are as follows:

I really like this game (and need to spend some serious time writing about it in the not-too-distant future - if you're not playing this game, you should be). The upcoming Gosu: Kamakor's Treaty looks to be just as good. In fact, this may be my most-anticipated expansion of the year (ahead of even Dungeon Twister, which I, personally, find shocking).

Preview material on the expansion reminds me of Three Dragon Ante and its expansion - whether you are using the expansion or not, you'll still have the same number of cards in play.  It's a matter of deciding which ones to use that makes for a hugely variable and interesting game.

7 Wonders
I haven't received my copy of the base game, yet, but that hasn't kept me from enjoying this game. The expansion doesn't look like it throws any particular curve balls, but it also seems to make money more important.

I didn't expect to like this game in the first place.  Then I was concerned about the expansion. Now I'm really looking forward to Dixit Odyssey (don't hold me to that title, either). More art and some variant methods of play?  Sign me up! I'll admit that I was a bit hesitant initially about having a new artist, but Marie Cardouat is still doing the coloring, and the new artist ... well.  You'll see.

Dice Town
This game still catches me off-guard with how much fun it is. Having recently seen the rules for the expansion (which includes the infamous Indian Die), I suspect that this will kick the fun up a bit. Even if you choose not to use the Indian Die, there is a lot going on in this little box. Panning for gold, Outlaws, Ranches ... I sincerely hope this one is a big winner.

Dungeon Twister
You shouldn't be surprised to find this one on my list. LIDT Members have had a bit of preview info made available to them (but I'd love some more ... ). The most common rumor is that it will include the (much-desired) Master of Time as a character. Which would be really sweet, considering how hard he is to come by, otherwise.

Okay, I'm not sure if this'll be this year or not. But the preview information that's leaked out so far on the expansion sounds really good. Cyclades was the best game I played last year. And it's a game I still love.

If ever there was a game that was crying out for expansion ... I enjoy this game. Unfortunately, my two-player time isn't what it used to be, so I have to schedule this one if I want to play. Having seen all the scenarios that are on the website, I can see a lot of potential for this one.

So seven games with expansions due this year. And all of them are either published by Asmodee or distributed in North America by Asmodee. Meaning that I'll likely be demoing all of them at GenCon this year.

I can't wait.

Friday, February 04, 2011

At Last!

Google has finally released a Blogger app for Android. This means that I can upload pics & quick posts from GenCon and other conventions I get to attend.

It's not quite as full-featured as I would like (it saves drafts locally, for example), but it'll do until they improve it.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Running A Demo

I've had some editing dumped on me, so this week's post is a bit short.

A few weeks ago, I was teaching Dungeon Twister at SCARAB when Geoff paused by the table. He saw a move that was clearly better than the one I had chosen to take, and ask why I hadn't done it.

"First of all," I said, "I'm three actions away from winning the game - if I want to. But I don't want to, because then this gentleman" - and here I gestured to my opponent - "won't get the full experience of the game."

I've spoken before about teaching people to play games. As I've said: I don't necessarily believe in the "Let The Wookiee Win" philosophy of teaching. At the same time, you need to make sure that your opponent plays a full game so they can get the full feel of it.

Dungeon Twister is an excellent example of this - a good learning game will include all four of the basic character actions (revealing, moving, rotating, and combat), and ideally will show off a few of the more advanced bits (group combat, for example).  If I beat you five minutes in, you won't get an idea of how the game feels in play, and you won't be able to make an educated decision about the game.

It's okay if the game teacher wins.

Roleplaying games, however, are different. Most roleplaying games don't have a single winner. There are a few exceptions, but not many.  RPG demos are also structured differently - when I'm running a board game demo, I'll try to get two (or more) players to face one another. For an RPG demo, you need a gamemaster who is familiar with the game (and who has a scenario available for play).

A good demo scenario for an RPG covers the key parts of the system in play.  It'll show off the skill system and the part of the system used for combat and damage. The (pre-generated) characters should show off the types of characters available - they should also have the skills necessary to complete the adventure provided.

A small handout with a summary of mechanical options (in addition to the character sheet) would not be a bad idea, but it should be AT THE MOST half a page.  If you can fit it onto a 3x5 card, so much the better.

The adventure itself should be pretty straightforward.  Item retrieval is among the best choices.  There's a good reason early RPG design was filled with dungeon crawls. Deep games of political intrigue will not often work well in a demo environment.

You also need to learn to read your players quickly and be able to improvise on the fly. Even though players at a convention will be less likely to wander off in totally random directions, they will still pursue false leads and miss critical clues. Just like your group back home.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Free Issue of Kobold Quarterly!

You know how I keep going on and on and on about how much I like Kobold Quarterly?

It's always a bit risky buying a magazine just based on someone's say-so.  So how would you like a free PDF copy of Kobold Quarterly No. 11? That way, you can see what I've been talking about for yourself.

Just follow that link, add it to your cart, login (or create an account) and use the coupon code KQ11Gift (it's a redemption code).

The code expires 2/9/11, so act quickly!