Press "Enter" to skip to content

Month: June 2008

Weekend Entertainment Pursuits, Part III

I also played some D&D 4e. Tom runs a nifty game, plus it’s always fun playing with new peeps. Rock on, teenage love triangle, rock on. I’m trying to decide if my Felix is crushing on Geoff. It seems likely.

That link there is a good description of the game and I agree with all of the points made therein. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a remarkably movement-oriented system. Most of our fights were in clear space, and by the end of the game I was just moving thirty feet every turn, because I wanted to tag enemies with my Curse and you can only do that to the closest enemy. The one fight where my back was to a wall, that made me sad. Playing a Warlock is like playing a GEV with a howitzer bolted to the top in Ogre. Zip zip zip. BOOM. I very much regret the failure of my 5d8+1d6+6 bomb single-turn attack sequence.

It feels like D&D. Lots more powers, and much more to do, but it’s a d20 and you roll it and you hit things and do damage and move six squares and take attacks of opportunity and flank. The changes just sort of supercharge it in an alarmingly Hong Kong actiony sort of a way. Also, there are still weird little side cases that make you go “hm, not sure how that should work. Please send lawyers, runs, and FAQs.”

Cian, who I mentioned in comments a few posts back on the LJ side, was a cleric with a side business in being an archer. I spent a lot of feats and points on that, because I was expecting to get very bored if I was just a healer. I knew I’d run out of spells and I wanted to be effective in other ways.

If I was using 4e for him, I wouldn’t need to screw with any of that. He’d have a lance of pure holy light zapping out of his fingertips on demand, a million times a day. There is nothing bad about this. I like that I don’t have to spend feats to avoid boredom.

It is lacking in out of combat skills, albeit not to the degree that detractors claim. Also I don’t know if I like skill challenges. We did one and it felt a touch artificial. The old ad hoc system that Jeffwik or someone described based on an early leak, where you did whatever you wanted and rolls just applied? That seems better. I think Tom was running ours sort of like that, but since we were not RP-focused we were a bit slow to get into that mindset.

That, however, was my only beef. I have already created a spreadsheet to assist me in choosing 1d6+3 rolled against Will vs. 1d10+4 rolled against Reflex. It is a good system for the crunchy side of me, and it is simple enough to be fun for the non-crunchy side of me.

Weekend Entertainment Pursuits, Part II

Wanted sucked rocks. Here’s a list of the good:

  • Set pieces: the skyscraper assassination, the sunroof bit, the keyboard across the face.
  • Angelina Jolie’s performance, which was surprisingly nuanced and subtle, especially at the end.
  • The Russian thriller-verging-on-horror aesthetic: the knife fight in the denoument.
  • Timur Bekmambetov bringing in his Russian homeboy Konstantin Khabensky to play a supporting role.
  • Curving bullets.

And the bad:

  • That’s not a plot, Timur.
  • That’s not an American accent, Wesley.
  • Blurred choppy confusing action sequences. And I like fast cuts.
  • Misogyny to beat the band, lovingly preserved from the original comic.
  • No wasting Terrence Stamp, please.
  • What the hell? The rat bit? That makes no sense.
  • Come to think of it, the weird recuperation pools kept changing, too.
  • After all that talk about how assassination can be moral because it saves lives, the train? Excuse me?

The scales balance poorly. There were way more blurred choppy confusing action sequences than there were excellent set pieces. If the action had been all good, I might have forgotten about the lack of creamy moral center. However, none of the victory conditions were achieved. Pity.

Weekend Entertainment Pursuits, Part I

In the order I feel like talking about them.

On Sunday, I bought Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. This is my first guitar game! It is in a sense a trial run for Rock Band, or rather Rock Band 2, because I won’t play Rock Band on a console that doesn’t give me downloadable content and we only have a Wii at present. It seems prudent to find out if I like the genre before getting all ambitious.

Aerosmith rather than the main game because again, I’d feel cheated out of downloadable content and also I happen to dig the Aerosmith a lot. I’m from Boston. Suck it up.

So it’s cool! It took me like an hour to figure out that Easy mode is dead boring, which is why I was getting bored. I went off and tried Medium mode and that was much, much better. The game cleverly makes you play through the opening bands first at each venue, so you don’t get to wallow in Aerosmith immediately. This works for me.

The narrative is pretty clever; this is completely a game for fans. You start out at their first show, a high school venue, then move on to Max’s Kansas City (where you play the song that refers to playing at Max’s Kansas City), and so on. Between each venue, there’s a video with band members talking about how their careers were progressing and so forth. I, um, skipped those.

Other than that it’s a guitar game and I’m the last one to this particular party. I do find myself wishing the guitar was more prominent in the mix, but moving to Medium helped there as well. Fun. If the fun persists, there will be Rock Band 2 someday.

4e Character Sheet

After too much time spent poring through forums for D&D 4e character sheets, I wound up with this one, which worked out great in play. The form-fillable version, by some new Adobe magic, allows you to save your filled out sheet. Handy.

The landscape one found here is also very nice — much more compact — but not form-fillable. Plus I really liked the power card holder on the previous one. Yeah, I assembled it. Rubber cement and scissors and all. It’s handy.

Oh, yeah. Five hour one shot, four combats, a smidge of RP. We were focused on system. It’s a quick little combat system. It feels like D&D to me; you’re rolling a 20 sider and doing damage. Certainly PCs are way more sturdy early on. Still and all, rolling d20s, rolling damage, all that fun stuff.

Combat was really mobile. Lots of shifting and hitting and movement. I kinda wanna play Sunless Citadel in 4e to compare and contrast. Maybe I’ll go write up Cian now.

The Branch Office

This is just another one for the hopper.

The system and setting is Over the Edge, with a minor setting tweak; the D’Aubainnes are not quite as powerful in international terms as they are in vanilla OtE, so they need to worry more about maintaining a delicate balance between the USSR, China, and the United States.

The campaign framework: there’s a United States consulate located in The Edge. The D’Aubainnes are not currently allowing the United States to have an embassy in Freedom City, although Russia does have one. All PCs work for the consulate, whether they’re American citizens or local employees. Preferably mostly the former, I think. Obvious archetypes: the consul himself, who could be a bright young kid looking to make his name at State, or a cynical veteran, or someone being punished for a screwup elsewhere. The CIA rep under cover as an agricultural attache. The press attache/PR spokesman/cultural activity organizer. (“Hey, kids, wanna learn baseball?”) The US citizen who sought and was granted asylum in the consulate but can’t return to the States for complex legal reasons. The local working as a secretary.

PCs deal with the interesting and diverse problems that US citizens bring to them; I’d have a lot of room to drive stories. Also plenty of room for the PCs to drive their own stories. I’d expect plenty of espionage stuff. Mystic shit depends on the degree of player desire. Some horror, of course.

Influences are Charlie Wilson’s War, The Quiet American, etc.

OK, *mutter* World of Darkness

Obscenity ahead. You have been warned. In order to provide a proper buffer, I give you this picture of a typical pastoral landscape in Warhammer 40K:

There. Now. Where was I about to be? Right.

Fucking World of Darkness! I was looking at jeffwik’s list of systems and thinking about my go-to systems, which led me to think about Adventure. I’ve run Adventure in the D20 version and it was fun cause I had great players. But the system was a bit of a hack and eminently prone to abuse, so why was I not going “Oh, yeah, the original version, yeah.”?

Well, because there’s this stunningly elegant skeleton in the middle of Storyteller. Dots are great, the attributes are great, every shuffle of the names of the attributes and skills and shit has been just fine. Skill plus attribute is the best system, because even if you’re mostly using Guns and Dexterity, hey, the ability to use Guns plus Intelligence is fun. Yes it is.

And then there’s this steaming pile of wacky complexity called the combat system, and I lose it entirely, because I hate it, and while various and sundry people at White Wolf have made great attempts at revising it — the Aeon version of the system is pretty OK! — it’s still just oh god my head hurts. Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck. I get trapped in this every single time, too, I go “but the character creation system is great, how bad can combat be?” and it’s bad.

You roll! And then you maybe roll again, or maybe there’s soak, and you lose some dice for armor, or do you lose successes based on armor? Do you add Strength to your damage? Do you add Dexterity? Do you add an attribute sometimes, but not sometimes? Does it matter how much you succeed by? Can I dodge? Can I parry? Do I roll for dodge? What do I do with my dodge successes? FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK FUCK!

I mean. I play Champions. For fun. Don’t get on my ass about complexity, it’s my breakfast cereal. This shit makes no fucking sense!

Fuck this noise. I’m rewriting it. I even have design goals. Look, here they are.

Wizards' GSL and Restraint of Trade

This is the bit where yet another uninformed non-lawyer spouts off. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Wizards has released a license for third parties who want to publish 4e compatible work. It’s much more restrictive than the analogous license for 3e, which is Wizard’s right. One of the interesting sections is section 6, reproduced in full down below, but which in short says that once you publish a work using the new license, you cannot publish an OGL version of that work or of any works in the same product line.

I.e., Green Ronin has this popular and successful Freeport product line. They’ve published a generic book that describes Freeport, and they plan to publish system-specific books for a number of systems which contain stats and mechanics. So far they’ve done three of those; one for Savage Worlds, one for True20, and one for D20. The latter two are OGL products.

If Green Ronin wanted to do a 4e system book for Freeport, they could. But they’d have to stop publishing the True20 and D20 system books. And they’re not allowed, by the terms of the license, to go back and republish those even if they stop publishing the 4e book.


Now the uninformed question: does this constitute restraint of trade? (Oh, god, linking to Wikipedia in relation to legal questions. I’m going to hell. WINAL, as they say.) I note that Wikipedia claims that restraint of trade is generally applied to post-employment clauses in employment contracts and conditions on sale of business. The former is why it’s hard to enforce non-competes in California employment contracts, for example.

So probably not; but it’s an interesting question. My instinct is that Wizards would argue that the clause acts to protect their interest in their logo and brand — another clause sets standards of quality for licensed material, and allowing a third party to publish material in the same product line which does not fall under those quality standards perhaps risks brand dilution.

But yeah, not a lawyer.

I'm Not Gonna Run This

But I did just shell out $4 for a PDF of Against The Giants so I could convert it to 4e.

Edit: the tournament characters included in the back of the book are named Gleep Wurp the Eyebiter, Cloyer Bulse the Magsman, Roaky Swerked, Frush O’Suggill, Fonkin Hoddypeak, Flerd Trantle, Redmod Dumple, Faffle Dwe’o-mercraeft, and Beek Gwenders of Croodle. So there’s my money’s worth.

On Gumshoe

I owe Simon Rogers some conversation about Mutant City Blues, but I haven’t had time to play it yet. On a readthrough, however, I’m quite impressed — all the usual Gumshoe goodness, plus a creative implementation of superpowers, plus excellent material on running a police-oriented investigative game. The section on roleplaying police interrogations ought to be stapled in front of any police procedural game ever. Which, come to think of it, includes Dark Heresy.

Maybe next weekend I can ad hoc something with the back of the book adventure. Anyhow.

I’ve also been playing the Penny Arcade game. (Fine. On the Rain-Slicked Precipice of Darkness.) For the record, point and click adventure games are remarkably suitable for the Gumshoe engine. It’s the same investigative model — clues are there when you look for them. Less room for improv and branches, of course, but that’s why I love tabletop.

(Knowledge: Mimes.)

The fights in OtRSPoD are pretty pre-ordained as well. You need a bit of reflexes, but you can always run and start over, and death is no big deal, and the combat system is not hard. In fact, the fights are almost just a mechanic to time-delay the delivery of the story. Hm.