Archive for the ‘State of Play’ Category

[The Long March] Ages 1-3, inclusive

June 8, 2014

Moth gently reminded me that I hadn’t been updating here regarding our progress on the Long March in about six months. Shameful! We continue onward!

The pace has been slower than originally intended.  What I envisioned as one-shots has become 3-4 shots so it’s taking us about 2 months to get through each Age. I don’t think that’s entirely a bad thing; it gives us a chance to poke at the systems in more depth and also to get in touch with the characters.

The other change is that John dropped out, which left us with a substantial hole in the roster of games to be played. We’re filling that in as we go, and I’m hoping to stumble across some games when we go to Origins next week that can be put into the lineup. As noted in the paragraph above we’re not in an all-fired hurry. So far we’ve swapped out Burning Wheel for Torchbearer (easier to jump into for a short run), added in the “basic” version of D&D Next that is coming out later this summer, and Ali is probably going to run Princesses and Palaces at some point.

I’m going to focus on system stuff here. The “in-story” stuff can all be found at the game wiki:  (Eventually. I haven’t put up all the 3rd Age stuff yet)

The  First Age/Chapter 2 was Agon, a game of Greek myth, legend and honor. Ali ran this one. I’d played this at come cons years ago and really liked it but I have to say it didn’t click for us here. I’m not sure if it was the size of the group or the fact that we’ve now seen 13th Age do zone-based combat really really well (no offense to Agon) but the combat piece in particular felt clunky and we didn’t really get the hang of positioning and splitting the dice pool and such, and we ended up just kind of abstracting things toward the end.  I wish I’d written this back closer to when we played so I could give more concrete examples of where the system caused us frustrations; I remember flipping through the book a lot and looking for answers to some questions that came up. Maybe I should have read the text more carefully to internalize it and prepare.

For the Second Age Bill ran Numenera.  The default setting for this game is a post-apocalyptic world, so Bill crashed a moon into the middle of the map. The system here I feel took a backseat to a mystery/puzzle solving bit Bill inserted where we were trying to decipher the strange runes and text we found inside one of the complexes.  The fact that these runes were from a culture with a completely different mindset and the same rune could mean multiple things depending on context really added to the mysterious and alien feeling of the game.   The system itself was okay, but not something I’d rush back to play again. It uses the same stats for expending effort as it does for “hit points” with the result that once you start getting injured it’s hard to succeed at anything and you just get locked into the death spiral. That’s one of my pet peeves in games. I also think it would have been better if it hadn’t been slavishly married to the d20.  Each “step” of difficulty was actually +/- 3 on the die and at least initially that gave me a massive brain disconnect. I feel like moving it to a percentile based system or a dice pool or something might have gotten around that.

We’re currently in the middle of the Third Age, which is being run by Kevin. For this we’re going back to the classics: Basic/Expert D&D. The red and blue books from the early 1980s. It’s a fun nostalgia trip for those of us who played back then, but I fear it’s all weird nonsense to those who didn’t.  When we were making characters, Jonathan asked why all the attributes were in the “wrong order” (Strength, Int, Wisdom, Dex, Con, Cha) rather than being grouped logically like in 3/4e (Str, Dex, Con, Int, Wis, Cha). The only answer we could give was “it’s the order that Gary thought of them. Now shut up and roll your 3d6 to generate your random stats!” Armor Classes going down instead of up, THAC0, wanting high rolls for some things and low for others, alignment languages…man, this game is nuts. Also brutal. Two Cure Light Wounds spells per day does not get the job done! 4e has made us soft.

So that’s where we are. One or two more sessions of Basic and then I inflict Rolemaster on the group!


The First Transport Is Away!

October 9, 2013

Tonight was the first session of the “campaign” I discussed in my last post. It’s a series of 13 one-shots, building up the world for an eventual 13th Age campaign.  Possibly the most ambitious gaming endeavor I’ve ever been a part of.

(obligatory wiki/site is here: The Book of the Long March)

Fortunately I’m not doing this alone.  I have the crew from our previous 4e/13th Age game, and we’ll be rotating through the GM’s chair. Everybody put in games they want to run and we’ve got a vague sense of how this is all going to work. One session for each Age, with the first being the rise of the Dragon Kingdom/Empire and the Dawn of the First Age. (more…)

13 First Dates

August 4, 2013

A word about why I’m reading Dungeon World.  I had an idea that I proposed to my local group (the same bunch from my 4e/13th Age campaign) – we would do a series of one-shots of systems we’ve wanted to try out for a while, rotating who GMs, using those to build a world history for an eventual main campaign. Kind of a longer-running variant of a lexicon game.

I have a handful of systems I want to try out for this. Dungeon World, Burning Wheel/Torchbearer, Sorcerer & Sword, and of course my beloved Rolemaster (or a d20-ish mashup of it that may be more palatable to the group). Others have thrown in 3.5 or Pathfinder, Sons of Liberty, Falkenstein, Agon, old school BECMI D&D, and who knows what else is to come.

The eventual goal is a 13th Age campaign with a fleshed out history, with legends epics of the past and different Icons for each age, all fleshed out by the group. We may well end up with a very different picture than the established Icons and “modern” setting of the 13th Age core book (the presence of Sons of Liberty and Falkenstein in the lineup suggests rather more steam-power than canonical) .  We may well have a one-shot for each Age (I’m planning on kicking things off with a 0th Age Sorcerer & Sword session around the fall of the Wizard King). And if we do one game a month (one session for character creation and basic grasp of the rules, one for play) we may well be looking at a full year.  It’s exciting, challenging, ambitious, and likely to end in calamity. We’ll see where it goes.

Gentlemen, to evil!

July 7, 2013

This summer I’m running a game of the late lamented Marvel Heroic RPG. But with villains. It’s an angle on supers that I haven’t done and I think allows for more sandboxing than the usually responsive hero mode.

John and I whipped up a Pathways system based on the Smallville RPG, and out first session was to follow the flowchart and make the relationship map. It was a lot of fun, and it created a lot of interesting twists the players hadn’t considered, but we should have talked more about themes and directions before setting off into it. And we made some assumptions/mistakes – we left out the step from Smallville that everybody defines their connection to all the other PCs. I’d said (but perhaps not very clearly) that I’d wanted the group to be an already established crew. It turned out very much not that way and the first two sessions have almost entirely been trying to get the PCs together.

I also wouldn’t recommend this kind of approach to a GM who has a firm story that s/he wants to tell in mind. I went into the session with only the vaguest notion of an overall plot for the game, and have since completely discarded that.  Too much good stuff on the paper to just ignore it (and why ask the players to do all that if you’re not going to use it?).

Regarding MHR itself, I still really like it but I feel like I don’t fully get it. I have no idea if I’m managing my Doom Pool correctly. I don’t have a good sense of what’s an appropriate opposition level for my group. I feel that the differences between Assets/Resources/Complications are fuzzy at best. It’s hard to explain but it feels like a better game in theory than in practice to me.  I’ll keep keeping on – this game has 4 or 5 more sessions theoretically – and see how I feel at the end, or if I can explain the problem I’m having with it any better.

Also, note to self: 4-5 players, max. Always. I love my friends dearly and love that they have interest in things I want to run but 7 person games are going to drive me to drink.


RPGs and Crowdfunding

January 28, 2013

Have many of you gotten involved in crowd funding games on sites such as KickStarter or Indiegogo?

I’ve been late to the game, I think.  I’ve only recently started looking at this (last 6 month or so), but I see that more and more small press and indie games are being funded this way.

From 20th (or 10th, or Xth) anniversary copies of older games, to expansions of more recent games, to variations of the latest indie darling – there is a variety of things being put up for crowd funding.  Given the contraction and consolidation of the game market through the latest recession it seems more and more individuals and companies are using sites such as Kickstarter to not only judge the interest in their product, and fund it, but also to solicit feedback and playtest comments that are then incorporated into the final product.

Planning Ahead

November 30, 2012

I’m beginning to toss around thoughts on my next game after my current one (D&D 4e converted to 13th Age) wraps. I’m pretty firmly settled on some kind of historical fiction. I’ve never really done that before but I work better either in a licensed setting or when stealing someone else’s intellectual property.  I’m a better synthesizer than I am a wholesale creator; I know this about myself and it’s where I have more fun. And history gives me that. (more…)

A couple more 13th Age things

September 6, 2012

1. Session 3 of my one-shot went very well. It was an evening of almost entirely combat – 2 encounters plus some stuff in the middle. The encounters went very nicely and there was some sweet improvised stunting.

At one point the characters were on an airship that was plummeting to the ground, out of control.

Len (whose character had taken the ship’s helm and was looking for a place to crash land): “Is there a body of water nearby? or some woods?”
Me: “Well, there’s the Queen’s Wood…”
Len: “Do you think she’d mind?”

Next up for us is converting the characters from our 4e game!

2. Support the Kickstarter to fund the first supplement (which will include the Monk, Druid and Chaos Shaman classes as well as some really sweet setting stuff like Living Dungeons, which are awesome).

3. One thing my players didn’t like was the character sheet. The defenses are on the front (or page 1) but the basic attacks are on the back (or page 2), leading to constant flipping. So the redoubtable John O’Brien cut and pasted up a one-page version from the one that was provided. Since it was directly derived from their sheet I checked with Rob Heinsoo before posting it, and he said okay, 13th Age- New Sheet!

4. Dan – you remember Dan? From the last post? – played a demo at GenCon. Here’s his report:


Changing Horses Pt 3: 13th Age Part 1

July 26, 2012

Last night I ran the first of a 2-part session of 13th Age, a game that is a strong favorite to be the system I convert my 4e campaign over to. It didn’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped but I still have faith.  This system still “feels” like a right fit to me.

13th Age is a d20-based fantasy game. What another one? Yes, but this one is by Jonathan Tweet and Rob Heinsoo, two names with strong game development kung-fu.  Right now the game is in “pre-release” stage; you can pre-order it from the link above and you get a draft pdf. It’s gone through a number of extensive playtesting rounds but its far from finished. Still I couldn’t wait to get my mitts on this game.  It’s closer to 4e than other d20 variants in a number of ways but strips out a lot of the complexity of other versions and replaces it with a shot of indie game narrative control.

For example, where other games present players with a fixed laundry list of Skills, 13th Age uses “Backgrounds”, which are free-form player-created short phrases, much like Distinctions in the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game or Tweet’s own Over the Edge.  The result, I think, encourages players to be more creative to solve skill-based problems and requires that they think a little bit about their character background/values.

For this two-shot I statted up characters beforehand but left off the Backgrounds, the Relationships (connections the character has to the 13 most powerful NPCs/factions in the world) and the character’s One Unique Thing.  Every 13th Age character has a Unique Thing about them, and developing these can help to shape the campaign world as well as defining the character and what makes them special.

(more behind the break, but hey you can download the actual audio of our session here! (please please right click and Save Link As instead of just streaming))


Changing horses midstream, pt 1

July 15, 2012

My 4e D&D game has now passed its third birthday. What started with three players in May 2009 dealing with mysterious zombie uprisings and hostile tribes of Shifters lurking in the woods has transformed to a cosmos-hopping six player epic scale beast with all of Creation at stake. I’ve never had a single game run this long, nor been running one system pretty much exclusively for this length of time.

But a couple months ago I started to feel burnt out. (more…)

1st Ed Greyhawk Campaign

April 15, 2012

I expect more folks will be exploring older editions of D&D as the D&D Next speculation builds, and in anticipation of the promised play-testing sometime later this year (or early next).  The re-issue of the original AD&D core books this spring/summer practically calls for it.  So cue the announcement from the local gaming store that a DM has stepped up to run a monthly 1st Edition Greyhawk game.  Now, I am an old fan of the World of Greyhawk – but specifically from the original presentation in 1st Edition AD&D.  I had most of the box sets and modules based in Greyhawk up until the advent of the Greyhawk Wars meta-plot, after which I kind of lost track of events and situations.  So in my mind, Greyhawk will always be stuck in those early days, which means this is an opportunity to revisit the imagined lands of my childhood.  I remember when my best friend in grade school showed off the original Greyhawk maps, and we gleefully recognized names and locations alluded to in some of our favorite modules.  Later, when I got the first World of Greyhawk boxset, it gave actual map coordinates for many of those same adventures, which brought a sense of depth to the world.  All of which leads this campaign idea to be just my sort of thing.


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