Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dex Con 2011 - Everybody Loves the Funny

My second con in three weeks just happened, and it's Dex Con in Morristown New Jersey. It's one of the largest local cons in the North East for gaming (where I include Toronto and anything 8 hours away for me, your geography may vary). I love this convention for a variety of reasons. I've gone there now for I believe it's six years and I've gotten to know a lot of the people there very well. A lot of my best friends when it comes to gaming are there, and so my glasses are coloured by that.

It's also a place where a lot of the NE Indie designers show up to test their new games. The joke is that if a game survives Dex Con then it's good to go. Most of the games that I've made have been improved from the feedback that people are more than willing to give. It's a great place to make your game that much better. That being said, let's talk about the games I did run, or that were run.

Critical!: Go Westerly
Wow. This con was the con that really showed me that this is going to be a good book when it comes out. We had three games go off, there might have been four but the midnight to 4 am slot isn't one that I can do easily anymore, which I'm going to call a 100% success rate, which always surprises me.

We ran two instances of You All Meet in a Tavern, though Geoff ran them off on a different adventure than the one that was written, and there was a lot of good times had. I think the best part of the game I ran was Brennan, who was playing Marten, was quite gentlemanly and made sure that all the gold was split evenly between the party. I think much to the surprise of the other players, who then expressed their guilt over the fact that they did try to screw over Marten at various points in the game for gold. I was amused greatly.

Geoff told me about his game, and for me the best part was when the player realized that crawling through an earthen tunnel to get to an actual dungeon meant that they were on a dungeon crawl. The other best part was when they awoke the giant stone idol because the thief wanted to make it look like the victim they were rescuing had escaped.

Hoggart's Follow was one of those game where you had an idea of where you wanted it go to and the player end up going completely the opposite direction. I had wanted them to try to gather the pieces of the only map that was created of Hoggart's Castle, but instead it ended up as some sort of political intrigue game where the Guards and the Guides were busy fighting each other, so that the Maids (I had to try to come up with something funny, so I came up with Ninja Maids) had to find a way to defend the King and Queen from being attacked. That was the hope anyway, but it did end up turning a little more serious than I had intended which just proves that it's hard to be spontaneously funny all the time.

Ultimately there was a lot of interest in the game, which makes me anxious to get it out. I need to talk to the artistic folk and see if we can't get this done by the end of the year. It's really something I think will do well.


I only ran one game of Geasa, because I made a mistake and they ended up duplicating the Critical! stuff rather than the Geasa stuff, but it was a lot of fun. We ended up telling a story of post-war London with a Streetkid who was looking for his parents, a pub owner who was a pillar of his community, a noble woman looking to get a better sense of the common folk and a constable that was still on the take for the remnants of the Axis.

The game ended with the Constable being run off after capturing the orphan Streetkid by the Pub Owner and his local mob. There were some great moments, Eric playing the Fae to the Noblewoman ended up making her obsessed with Stags even though he didn't spend a die. It's just another moment that shows you can do a lot as a Fae even if you don't have any dice.

Ultimately, I would call this a super successful con. It's given me that extra push to get Critical! done, which I may or may not be working on ... right now. I just hope I can get most of it updated and organized before Game Chef kicks in. Damned Shakespeare theme.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

24 Hour RPG Contest - THA WINNA IS ...

You can read it here, or read it over at the Free RPG Blog but we do have a winner for the 24 Hour Movie Mash up RPG competition. Without any real peep of complaint the winner is Droog Family Song Book.

My big question though, is what came in second for a lot of the judges. That's where the conversation really starts, and where it gets interesting which is why I want to bring it up.

The Silver Winner for me was All the King's Men. You can read my review of it here. What is yours and why?

Monday, July 4, 2011

Critical!: Go Westerly - Introduction Redux the Second

Well, the first attempt at doing an introduction wasn't so hot. This means I'm going to get back on that horse and see what I can do here. This is a draft copy, I'm looking for any feedback I can get on this thing.

What is Critical!: Go Westerly!?
Eat, Drink, Fight, and be Merry, each one of those is important because it’s been capitalized, but also because that is the basis of Critical!: Go Westerly. Play that character you always wanted to have in a world slightly twisted sideways. You will go forth into a world where monsters are organized by height, dysfunctional duchies try their best to deal with their personal demons, and a land war is fought over who doesn’t have to control and monster filled, bug infested swamp. You will gather gold for personal gain by killing monsters and pilfering off of friends who stay conscious on the other end of a fight. You will learn how to fight, and help others, and cheat your way to victory in wonderfully descriptive training montages.

Critical!: Go Westerly is more than just a collection of punctuation nestled between a valley of words. It’s a world that is in dire need of questionable heroes who know how to fight and how to cook, possibly at the same time. A world in dire need of Bards who are willing to stop at nothing to produce the best music that they can. Fallen sports heroes who are looking for a less dangerous line of work, or even Wizards looking to advance their careers by walking about righting wrongs and wronging even worse evils. A world in dire need of peat farmers, because it’s a dirty job and somebody has to do it.

Adventure and hijinx awaits! All you need to do is keep reading, and convince someone else that they really want to be the Bartender.

RPG Review Recess - Remnants (Yay! Alliteration!)

Origins 2011 had a lot of great moment, but one of them was meeting Steve Bergeron and his crew at Outrider Studios, another Crazy Canadian designer out of Cornwall Ontario. They had even got a booth! Which was both insane and, well, insane but it allowed them to meet a pile of people. I was one of those lucky people, they were really cool and eager to show off their game. This is how this review was born, I was given a copy and I said I would have a review done in two weeks.

Here is this review.

Remnants can be described as Mecha Combat meets Post Apocalyptic game. You play people trying to survive on a planet where the ancient ones basically wiped each other out through by using their MAD weapons. There is barely enough to scratch out a living, let alone grow in a wild and inhospitable environment. However, there were pieces of grand technology that were left behind, most of them are small and insignificant, but then there are the Ishin, the Battle Remnants.

The system itself is a traditional RPG that works off of a single D6, and it a Margin of Success Game. The bigger the margin of success is, the more good stuff you get. The more damage you do, the better the result is for the action you're doing. The system, which is also used in their Fantasy Game, has a wonderful term for it called The Lead, which is something everyone should use right now when they have a MoS game. It's elegant, and to the point. I know I'm going to steal it if I do one.

What I liked about this game
Thematically there are a lot of lovely little moments in the setting. The fact that as the descendants of a highly advanced race you are all immortal. That doesn't mean you won't get killed when someone sharp stabs you, but you are the progeny of people who knew how to tinker with genes and so you're not going to die of old age, hooray! However, the amount of food you need after you hit 40 is more than what most cultures can sustain in this post apocalyptic setting which means you'll end up starving to death, boo! It's morbidly perfect.

I like the fact that the Ishin are actually the low end technology that survived because they were scouts that were meant to be self sufficient. This leads into the fact that in order to upgrade your Ishin, you need to put stress on it. The more dangerous a situation is, the more risks you take the more Duress you put on your Ishin and the more points you get to upgrade. When it gets damaged to the point where it's wrecked, it gains points to upgrade. It gives you mechanical incentive to push your Ishin to the limit.

The world feels deadly and dangerous, which is wonderfully in keeping with a Post Apoc game. Not only do you have to deal with other people trying to kill you, you have to deal with the environment doing its damnest to make sure you die.

The system works, and is pretty deadly. You can take about 5 hits before you're out of the fight and one more hit before you're dead. One good roll and you're looking at a spear through the chest. That means your players are less likely to jump into a fight right away after they learn the hard way that swords and spears are sharp and look good covered in your blood.

Finally, I love the economic system. Anything that can take the bookkeeping of most other RPG games and turn it into a concept called "Easy Living" is great. Easy Living is how many days you can basically live off the avails of your work. You can barter that away, since money really isn't used much outside of the few major cities and then each city has its own currency which renders it really useless, but it's nice and abstract. Good for getting what you need and then discarding the rest.

What I didn't like about the game
The Economic System. I know I just said that I loved it, and I do. I love the concept of how everything works. What I'm not too interested in are the guidelines provided by the book. I think at no point in time should a player have anything more than a week's worth of easy living. However, there are jobs that the book says that a player should get something like 60 days worth of easy living. In a world with very little, my acceptance of the fiction took a huge blow at that. My thought is that if it gets to be that big, you should just give them some land or something big and cool rather than a lifetime supply of kicking back with cold ones.
My personal suggestion is to take what the book suggests and then slash a zero from the back of number. That should be the figure of easy living you use when dealing with financial rewards in the game.

The art. There's nothing intrinsically bad with the art. A lot of it is really good, actually. The problem is that it looks that in a lot of places that they took colour art and just desaturated the photos in photoshop. A note for Steve in the future, there are better ways to turn colour images into B&W. You need to play with the filters, or else you'll end up with pretty flat images. I found that out the first time I went to take the images for Geasa and turn them B&W, they weren't nearly as clear and awesome as they were in colour and I knew there had to be a way to fix that.

Remnants is a pretty good mash up a Mecha game and a Post-Apocalyptic game. It pushes you to put yourself at risk in order to improve yourself, and uses a very fast and deadly combat mechanic. It needs a little tweak on the finance end, because the suggestions don't seem to apocalyptic, but that's pretty minor. For 20$ it's a pretty good deal, and a good gateway into Outrider Studio's House system which is called something I can't remember because I don't have the book on me this second.

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