Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Experience logs

In 1996, I was introduced to LARP in The Camarilla. With this introduction came an interesting item that I continue to use today: an experience log.

In White Wolf's World of Darkness, you spend your earned experience points in order to advance your attributes, abilities, powers and just about everything else. For The Camarilla, you needed to maintain an experience log for each character you played so that the ST's would know where you received your experience and where it was spent.

Since its introduction to my life, I have used experience logs for every World of Darkness game I've run... and others have followed suit.

I think that this concept can be easily adapted to every other experienced-based RPG.

"Why" do you ask? Easy. I've noticed too many people forgetting when they receive what amount of experience and they attempt to rely on other players and the DM to maintain a level of consistency. It should be the responsibility of the individual player to track their own experience.

For World of Darkness LARP, it comes down to recording experience, you have a few specific items you need:
  • When XP was earned.
  • How much XP was earned.
  • When XP was spent and on what.
  • A running total of remaining XP.
Since I'm currently developing a Pathfinder campaign, I'm thinking I'll need the following:
  • When XP was earned.
  • How much XP was earned.
  • A running total of XP earned.
  • If any XP was removed/lost.
  • When your character leveled-up.
Has anyone else ever added XP logs to your games outside of the World of Darkness? If so, how did they work for you and do you have any opinions?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Continued progress

While my personal schedule is filled with things like work, school and family, I have had a little time to myself to think about what I'm going to offer my players for this "epic" campaign I'm designing. I want to give it the right mixture of classic fantasy, but also go into some ideas that I've never really gone before.

In a word: GUNPOWDER

I'm familiar with settings like Stephen King's "Dark Tower", and that's kind of what I'd like to bring to this game. I've never included gunpowder in any of my games before, and I'm reaching out to those who have for some advice.
  • Are there any pitfalls you may have encountered with gunpowder in your fantasy setting that I should be aware of, and how did you manage to overcome them? 
  • Will the addition of gunpowder to the campaign detract from the magical nature of the setting?
  • If I allow my players to have access to gunpowder weapons, are there any limits you would suggest?
I always like adding a bit of diversity to my games. As many of my players can attest to, when I run a genre specific game (i.e. Vampire: The Masquerade, Werewolf: The Apocalypse, etc.) I open it up beyond the "confines" of the specific game. (i.e. For any singular World of Darkness game, I always add elements from several of the other games to help provide the proper feel of "You're not alone in this world" -or- "You're not actually top of the food chain.")

For those players that are interested in playing a race outside of the norm, I'm going to give them a chance... albeit a slim one. 4% or 5% depending on the player's choice. Here's what I was thinking:

   4%- (player rolls)
  • 2 #'s = the players current age and *2. (i.e. Player is 23 so they get 23 and 46.)
  • 2 #'s = chosen by the player
   5%- (DM rolls)
  • Extra # chosen by DM.
I'm not sure how this option will be received, but I thought I'd give it a shot. As always, I welcome your thoughts. I've already modified some of my design based on the feedback I've received thus far, and I DO appreciate the feedback.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The NPC progession & character creation

As I've mentioned before, I enjoy bringing old characters (mine or others) back to life in the form of NPC's in my games. This way the back story that I or a friend originally created can live on or evolve into something new.

The Pathfinder game that I'm working on will be no exception... but it will take some serious work on my part to bring back some of my favorite characters into a fantasy setting.

Since about 1997, I've primarily focused of playing or storytelling White Wolf's World of Darkness games. Most of these games have been in a modern setting. While many of the character concepts can be easily translated to a fantasy realm, there are those that will just not do like the hacker character that I've re-envisioned from a ghoul in a Vampire: The Masquerade LARP to a house-bound Glass Walker for Werewolf: The Apocalypse. Although it could be done with some serious tweaking of the concept, I'm just going to let it go as there are a plethora of other characters I can use.

I'm planning on spreading these NPC's out across the land, but I'm sure that there will possibly be 1 of them that will travel with the players depending on if there's a major gap in the parties needs.

So that got me thinking about character creation. I'm actually considering the first session of the game to bring everyone together to create their characters at one time. This way, we could try and strategically craft each character to fill the roles for the party. I've done this a couple of times before with the mortal campaign, and it seemed to work well.

For those ST/DM/GM's that allow players to have technology at the game table, how do you regulate players from being distracted by going online? I'm torn on technology at game for a number of reasons:
  1. It's a distraction to players and they frequently lose track of their place in the game.
  2. Not all players have the necessary books for the game, and I would like to be able to share my digital copies as well as other specific online resources.
  3. Sending players an IM for secret communication is easier than slipping them a written note.
  4. Allowing players to use computers or similar tech for character creation will allow me a chance to gather copies of everyone's character sheets easier.
Depending on the location of the game sessions, the solution to the online issue could be as easy as not allowing players access to the wifi. If the sessions are held at a public place, like our LGS, then I don't really have control over that.

For the books I have digitally, it's easy enough for me to have them available to download from a thumb drive. Certain online resources, such as, are invaluable to have access to. If only I could find an offline program that had the same functionality of that site, with all the information included. (You'll have to take a look for yourself to know its usefulness.)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The beginning dilemma

So, I want to make this campaign epic and memorable so that the players will remember it and stories will be told for years. I have the overarching concept for the game, plus the end result for the finish. There is even a clever way of getting the party together. But right now I'm stuck on the horns of a dilemma...

Do I start players at 1st level characters, or do I advance them so I can get them into the meat of the epic?

I plan on having experienced players for this game, so it's not like we'll have a huge learning curve to get through... but the way I'm bringing the characters into play, they won't necessarily be accustomed to their skills and class specific stuff like spell casting.

I feel that if I start the characters off at 1st level, there may be a level of boredom for the players as the tediously advance to a level where I can begin running them through on of the adventures I've scouted for this campaign.

I know that reading this may not make much sense to some of you, but I don't want to give away my surprise for this game. Think of it like watching M. Night Shyamalan's "The Sixth Sense" or "Signs" for the very first time. You didn't know what the twist was or where it would come into play, but when it did come, you were amazed... or at least amused. I'd like to try and get that feeling from my players.

I've already been able to adapt a couple of modules from 3.5 to get the characters to at least 3rd or 4th level, and that's almost enough to get them ready for the larger campaign.

I am planning on giving the players a brief questionnaire that will help me to give the world a feel that they would enjoy instead of playing everything cookie cutter canon. My intent is to give the campaign the fantasy feel of whatever setting world they choose, but give it enough customization to liven it up and give it a more personal feel. (i.e. Inclusion of black powder weapons. Use of undead.)

I welcome your thoughts and opinions.

I think the next step I'm going to take is developing my NPC's and figuring out a clever way to organize character creation.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Onward I go

As I'm working on the specifics for each of the campaign settings, I realize that I really wished I hadn't sold all my old D&D books (save the AD&D hardbacks that I still have). I'm fairly certain that I had each of the adventures I want to run for each setting... minus Dark Sun, because I never really got into it. I had most of the 3.5 conversions, where they were published... like Expedition to Ravenloft or Expedition to the Ruins of Greyhawk. I'm working on reacquiring some of these books as I have a need to have the physical copy in my hands even though I have digital copies.

As for the Dragons of Autumn and Dragons of Winter 3.5 books, I was fortunate enough to find someone who was selling them off at a very reasonable price. (Not nearly what I found the Dragons of Spring book for, but also nowhere near what others are asking for them on Amazon and eBay.)

Something I think I'm going to start doing is actually using the digital copies that I have to keep notes on. This is easy to do, and I don't mark-up... thus devaluing... my physical copies. Never done this before, but I need to roll with the technological advances at my fingertips.

So far, I have plans for the following campaign settings:
  • Forgotten Realms
  • Dragonlance
  • Greyhawk
  • Ravenloft
I'm very on-the-fence about Eberron. From what I remember of the setting, it's good but I don't know that there were any "epic" adventures for it.

Dark Sun is basically out. As I mentioned above, I never really played it so I am very unfamiliar with the setting. Same can be said for Spelljammers. I don't even think they made a 3.5 version of SJ, so that works to my advantage.

Though I'm familiar with the Oriental Adventures setting for D&D 3.0, I don't think I'm going to offer it as an option because another DM is working on an oriental themed game as a continuation of the campaign he's been running for several years now.

I posted a poll on a Facebook group for local gamers that I help support, and it seems like the majority prefer Forgotten Realms. Even though my purchasing has been focused on Dragonlance, I think I should turn my attention to FR now and see what I can put together.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The planning begins

When the concept for the new campaign hit me, I was very excited about the prospect of being able to DM a large-scale game again. I don't want to give away the surprise I have in store for the players, but I will divulge the process I've gone through to come-up with the finished product.

I'll be the first to admit that more often than not, I tend to improvise on much of my campaigns. I'll start with a great concept and get much of my good ideas out within the first few sessions... and then I'm left with an open story but I've lost connection with how I would like to see the players get from point A to point B.

To alleviate that problem, my concept isn't about the actual A to B, but rather an overarching issue that the players will need to solve and the middle will be filled with some of the great and epic adventures that D&D has produced over the years.

My first thought was to use the Dragonlance settings series of "Dragons of" modules. Margaret Weis retooled these modules for 3.5, so it wouldn't be hard to convert them to Pathfinder. I loved these modules when I was younger, and I felt that they would be good for the "filler" for my campaign.

Dragons of Autumn, Dragons of Winter & Dragons of Spring are the names of the specific books that compiled the entire "Dragons of" module series for D&D 3.5. I didn't have any of these books in my collection, and unfortunately I didn't even have digital copies either. Fortunately, a friend was able to find a copy of Autumn for me, and I found a very reasonably priced copy of Spring. I have my eyes open for a copy of Winter now.

Only a few days later, I started to think of other epic adventures and modules D&D has had to offer over the years, and it made me think that perhaps I should broaden my idea outside of a single campaign setting and let my players choose where they will adventure. We've got Forgotten Realms, Greyhawk, Ravenloft, Dark Sun and so many other settings available. I'm a personal long-time fan of Ravenloft and Forgotten Realms... but I also love the Temple of Elemental Evil modules based in Greyhawk.

At this point, I've decided to come-up with a few options for my players with regards to setting. Since I'm going to be taking my time with my research and development for this campaign, I'm really looking forward to the end result of it and the beginning of a new gaming experience.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Working on a new campaign

Recently, I had an epiphany. I haven't actually run a large-scale game in quite some time. Over the past few years, I've run a couple of Hunter: The Reckoning games and I'm currently running a Werewolf: The Apocalypse game, but nothing with more than a small handful of players.

I remember a time when I was running games with 5-8 players. I kind of miss that. More to the point, I haven't run any really epic games in many years.

That's got to change!

Last year, I was finally introduced to Pathfinder. I've found that I like it, and I'm going to use it for the system of my next campaign... but with a twist. I'm going to work on adapting a few classic and epic modules from AD&D, 2nd edition and 3.5 to be run with Pathfinder.

In order to accomplish this, I'm going to have to do quite a bit of research and acquisition of books. I sold all of my D&D 3.5 books several years ago and I only have a couple of Pathfinder books. Fortunately, most of what I need I have available in digital format... so I'm not starting from ground zero.

For this and the fact that I'm still working to complete my schooling, I'm going to take (at least) the next year to create this campaign. I plan to give my players a lot of options at the beginning of the game from character creation to actual campaign setting. Not sure what I'm going to title the campaign either, but I'm going to blog about the progress of my research and acquisition under the label of "The Pathfinder Progression".

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Dungeons & Dragons Cartoon Series

Last month, the Dungeons & Dragons cartoon series turned 30-years old. That means I was 8-years old when I started watching it... and it left an impact. This cartoon helped inspire me to take-up roleplaying. At the time, D&D had a label of "Ages 10+" on it, so I had some time to wait before I could actually play it. (Yes, I thought this was mandatory.)

After reading so many of the articles that were posted when the cartoon hit 30, I was thinking about a special book that came with the DVD boxed set. I'm talking about the Animated Series Handbook for Dungeons & Dragons 3.5 edition.

I remember wanting my character to have items like the Energy Bow and the Cloak of Invisibility. This book has all the characters stated-out including their magic items. There are even stats for Uni, Venger and Shadow Demon. This sole book made purchasing the DVD set worth while.

This is also when I began to adore the mother of the chromatic dragons - Tiamat.

This cartoon series also inspired me to run a D&D game where the players were actually their characters in the D&D world... including all their knowledge of the game system. It worked well for as long as it ran. I think, some day, I'd like to revisit that idea and run a longer campaign. Something to consider for the future.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Games We Play: Breaking Bad

Back in my days of playing the CCG Jyhad/Vampire: The Eternal Struggle, I learned to make custom cards. (Customizing Your CCG's) I'm a huge fan of the TV show Breaking Bad, and recently I was thinking about how the characters could be adapted to Vampire: The Masquerade. (For the record, I have not actually created these cards for V:TES. If you interested, the primary resource I've found is Damnas' VTES Page.)

Walter White/Mr. White -  A chemistry teacher diagnosed with Stage IIIA lung cancer who turns to making meth to secure his family's finances. As his shady businesses progress, Walter gains a notorious reputation under the name of Heisenberg.

When the series starts, I would say that Mr. White is a normal human who end's up being ghouled. Over the course of the series he becomes more acquainted with vampire society and eventually is embraced Brujah.

Skyler White - Walter's wife who was pregnant with their second child prior to his diagnosis, and who becomes increasingly suspicious of her husband after he begins behaving in unfamiliar ways.

Just as with Walter, I think Sklyer would have started out as a normal human and once Walter had been embraced, he would slowly have worked to ghoul his wife.

Jesse Pinkman – Walter's former student, Pinkman, is a drug dealer who partners up with Walt and makes high-level meth.

I'm thinking either a ghoul or Caitiff at the start. If you go the ghoul route, I think that he would have been embraced Malkavian without knowing it. If you go the Caitiff way, then he's being toyed with by a Malkavian.

Hank Schrader – Walter's brother-in-law and a DEA agent.

I'm thinking Gangrel sheriff or archon. I would think it depends on how big of a scope you actually want to give him. Granted, being Gangrel doesn't support the fact that Hank keeps getting hurt, but I think it works best for the character.

Marie Schrader – Hank's wife and Skyler's kleptomaniac sister.

Malkavian or a ghoul to one. This lady is all over the place throughout the entire series. She's got issues only a Malkavian would understand and adore.

Walter White, Jr. – Walter and Skyler's son, who has cerebral palsy. He begins lashing out after Walter's cancer announcement.

Normal human. I'm not convinced that Mr. White would have ghouled his son.

Saul Goodman – A crooked strip mall lawyer who represents Walt and Jesse.

Tough call on this one. Maybe Tremere as they're the only clan I could reasonably see embracing a sleazy lawyer.

Gustavo "Gus" Fring  – a high level drug distributor who has a cover as a fast food chain owner.

Hands-down, Follower of Set. No discussion or hesitation on that choice for me.

Mike Ehrmantraut – works for Gus as an all-purpose cleaner and hitman, and also works for Saul as a private investigator.

Assamite! Any doubt?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


As some of my favorite RPG titles are celebrating their 20th anniversary, it gives me pause to reflect over the last almost 3 decades I've spent with role playing games.

If I hadn't gotten in to RPG's...
  • I would not have met most of the people I currently or have called friend. (For the good or bad)
  • I would never have experienced LARP. (For the good or bad)
  • I wouldn't have gotten interested in CCG's.
  • No going overboard on collecting CCG's like Magic: The Gathering, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Wars, Jyhad/Vampire: The Eternal Struggle and (to a lesser extent at one time) Yu-Gi-Oh.
  • I probably wouldn't have survived the times of unemployment I have gone through since I wouldn't have had the books to sell to pay the bills.
  • I'd probably have a larger comic book collection. (The extra $$ I would have from not buying RPG books has to go somewhere, right?)
  • I wouldn't have to break my back moving my book collection when I've moved.
  • I would have so much extra space on my hard drives from not having so many RPG books in digital format.
  • I wouldn't have had such a great creative outlet for my ideas.
  • I wouldn't have a little, dark piece of guilt about Creative Pastimes going out of business.
  • I probably wouldn't have had as much fun in my life as I've actually had.
  • I wouldn't have this blog to post items like this. :-)
All-in-all, I have no huge regrets from getting into role playing. In my life, the PRO's outweigh the CONs.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Games We Play: Drawing Concepts from Movies, TV & Literature

I know that I've mentioned that I've taken character concepts from characters in movies, books and television; but I'm not sure that I've ever run a game where it was entirely based off of one of those mediums. I've never run a Star Wars "A New Hope" campaign based primarily around the movie or an "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" campaign... although the later might be incredibly fun if done right. :-)

The closest I've come to this is bringing my players into the game as their characters similar to the 80's Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. That was the extent of taking from the cartoon and I never introduced a little Dungeon Master character... even though that would have been cool.

As I was driving home from work today, I started thinking that a couple of books that have been made into movies would make a great campaign. I'm going to try and connect with someone who can help me bring my idea to life, and I think the finish product will be exciting.

My question to you... Have you ever run, or been a part of, a game that was directly based off of a movie, book or television program? And no I don't mean have you run or played in a licensed RPG system but rather the campaign was designed around a specific book, movie or TV program. (i.e. Campaign was "A New Hope", but not necessarily set in one the of various Star Wars RPG systems.)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

My Experiences as a Member of the Camarilla/Mind's Eye Society (UPDATE)

As of right now, I am no longer a member of the Mind's Eye Society. I have allowed my membership to lapse and began to focus on other things in life for a few reasons that I feel I can now express without fear of retaliation:
  • As much as I enjoy playing the game and being the one in charge, I can't do it alone. While, in some instances, I had the support of a handful of members in the Domain... in most, I received little to no feedback. I can't function that way.
  • In the end, the Domain had only a handful of active members. This, along with the fact that no one could or would accept the role of Domain Coordinator when I stepped down, led to the Domain having to close. I wish things had been different.
  • When I came to the decision of leaving the MES and stepping down in my role as Domain Coordinator, I realized how much of a mess I had let myself become. Without going into too many details, my health is not what it used to or should be. This is no fault of the organization or the company I kept, but rather my decisions to "deal" with anxiety I felt.
  • When I came into the organization, I entered just for the gaming. As time went by, I grew to enjoy the community service aspect of things. Over the past year of being DC, it seemed like the members of the Domain were there only for the game and were less interested in getting involved in food drives or other works of charity. This saddened me greatly.
  • While I am not entirely opposed to change, I don't like change for the sake of change. I prefer to live by the saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." With the updated rules earlier this year, I felt like they were trying to fix something that was working well. Through this, I continued to become disillusioned with the organization.
I'll miss the good times and the enjoyable storylines. Many of the people I want to keep in touch with are connected with me via Facebook. I'm sorry that the Salem Domain's ship had to sink one final time.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Character Generation

I know there are so many different systems that have various methods of generating characters. Since I originally was brought into RPG's using Dungeons & Dragons, I've always been accustomed to a 4d6 method of generating your characters attributes. For those who don't know what I'm talking about, you roll 4d6, remove the lowest single result, and that's your stat score. (i.e. 4d6 rolls 4, 5, 6 & 2 so your total would be 15.) When I joined the Pathfinder game I'm currently in, I was finally introduced to a point-buy system of stat generation.

I recently found a post entitled The Ultimate Question – Roll or Point Buy? and it got me thinking. While I understand the fairness of a point buy to all players, I feel that this doesn't allow for much creativity for the players. In the day's of Gygax, Perren & Arneson, dice were the method of character creation. Why change? For some people, it make character creation a little more difficult. I was able to adapt, but I went down that path kicking and screaming. (Figuratively speaking, or I doubt the group I'm gaming with would have let me stay.)

We have dice for a reason. For me, character generation has always been a time where I get my dice rolling out of my system. (For reference: I'm usually relegated to playing the supportive spellcaster, and don't make too many rolls in combat situations.) This is why I have dice and this is why I purchased them. Granted, one of my favorite systems (White Wolf's classic World of Darkness) is a point buy system... but when I play D20, I prefer to roll my stats and let fate step in.

I know I can go on and on about this, and I know that many of my readers have opinions on the subject. I would welcome you to leave comments about which system of character generation you prefer and why.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Aging Gamers

More and more I find myself saying (or at least thinking as to not suffer a slight amount of embarrassment) "When I was your age..." towards many of today's gamers.

When I say Dungeons & Dragons, younger gamers are more likely to relate to 3.5 or 4th edition. My first D&D characters were generated using books from a red or blue or blue box... well before Wizards of the Coast got their hands on it.

Of course, gamers who have been around longer than myself also give me a funny look since they cut their collective teeth on a wood-colored or white box.

While many things change as we get older, it seems like gamers feel the effects more viscerally than the average person. In my youth I would turn a 3-day weekend into a 72-hour role playing session. These days I'm finding it difficult stay awake past 10pm. Ah, the glory days!

In the mid to late 90's, I started LARPing in The Camarilla. These games would typically run from 7pm to midnight, and (in the spring and summer months) often actually end between 1-2am... after which we would depart to the local 24-hour restaurant for "Afters" until who-knows-when. Back then, I could do all that on a Wednesday or Thursday night, and still be able to catch my ride to work for an 8am start.

When I rejoined The Camarilla (now known as the Mind's Eye Society) in 2011... after a sabbatical that began in 2004... I was invigorated again. It was like taking a Viagra (I would assume), as I was easily able to keep pace until midnight and stay awake for "Afters". That lasted for a couple of months before I began to feel the weight of my years again.

I recall my junior year of high school where I was working on a campaign for the Champions RPG. As I look back on this time, I remember just how immature I could be. The title of the campaign was to be "The Pervert Campaign". I had created an organization, akin to Cobra from G.I. Joe, that was based around using weapons and vehicles of a XXX variety. Phallic imagery and the copious use of breasts were sources of inspiration for the game. The "evil" organizations name was S.P.E.R.M.I.E.S. I don't quite remember what it stood for, but I remember asking a student teach to help come up with it. This campaign never actually ran. In hindsight, I think that may be for the best.

Another look back at my younger days as a gamer allows me to reflect on the fact that I didn't really become responsible until around 2003. During my earlier days, after high school but before 2003, I was rarely employed and earned money from doing various odd jobs. I made use of this "freedom" by playing and running as many games as I could. As much as I appreciated the games and friends during those times, I now find myself lamenting the choices I made to not be more responsible.To illustrate, I didn't get my driver's license until 2009. Had I been a "normal" teenager and got my license when I was 16, I think my life would have turned out much differently.

The term "gamer" has come to incorporate a larger population than just role players. You have to add MMORPGer's, CCGers and video gamers to the mix as well. Where you were once considered an outsider for playing these types of games, now it has become more mainstream thanks to shows like The Big Bang Theory. Sure, they still poke fun at nerds, gamers and geeks, but these terms have become more a badge of honor than a scarlet letter.

I've found that my standard gamer diet has evolved over the years as well. When once cheap pizza, Funyons, Mt Dew and pizza rolls were key "gamer chow", I find that peppers (yellow, red and orange), vegetable trays, Vitamin Water and sliced apples are more my speed now. Sure, I'll occasionally pick-up a Mt Dew or a bag of chips, but it's not as often as in my youth. I even remember trying a Twinkie-Wiener Sandwich once or twice.

As I sit writing this post, I'm thinking about the latest in changes of my gaming habits.

In 2011, I became the coordinator for the Salem domain of The Camarilla (MES). My duties were to make monthly reports, secure sites for Domain events (games and other meetings), track and be liable for Domain's finances, communicate to the Domain information from a Regional or higher level, and help solve out-of-game disputes. It wasn't a horribly hard task, until I started going back to school in 2012. That's when I realized that I didn't have as much time to devote to the position of coordinator. On June 1, 2013, I officially stepped down from my position as Domain Coordinator. To be honest, a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders by not being responsible for the few remaining members of the Domain.

Younger gamers may not realize it now, but they will one day reflect on their lives much as I am doing now. I hope that they can see more good than bad from their experiences. In the end, it's all about our experiences and those we've shared them with. To all you younger gamers, I hope the best for each one of you.

"Weird Al" Yankovic - When I Was Your Age

Special thanx to my friend Evonne for suggesting this topic.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Systems We Play: Star Wars vs. Star Trek

There have been several RPG incarnations of both of these sci-fi classic franchises - from traditional pen-and-paper RPG's to various dice variations, card and miniature games. I'd like to break down each version and give some opinions on what I'm familiar with.

Star Trek-

FASA (1982-1989):
The game system was percentile based, meaning that for every action or test desired, players had to roll two ten-sided dice to generate a random number from 1 to 100. Success or failure was determined either by rolling against a set difficulty target, or a player's own skill, or a hybrid of both, adjusted by circumstances.

For example, assuming no modifiers, if a player had a skill of 45 and rolled 33, the character was assumed to have been successful in that action. If there were tools for the task available, the player might have a bonus of +25; if the task is made more difficult because of conditions (such as a space battle) the player might have a penalty of -25.

FASA had previously written supplements for GDW's Traveller, an association which influenced the early structure of the Star Trek game, particularly in character generation.

The rulebooks also provided systems for governing personal combat, space and planetary exploration, and the first edition provided rules for combat between starships; second edition moved the starship combat rules into a separate boardgame. Supplements provided additional rules for characters in the Klingon Empire and Romulan Star Empire, interplanetary trade and commerce, starship design, and campaigns focusing on other non-Starfleet players.

Each planet in the game's atlas had a code that - coupled with the character's merchant skill and some luck - allowed players to buy and trade across the galaxy. A ship's carrying capacity was not based on tonnage, but on volume (i.e. how much space a ship can hold). There were also rules on buying and selling stock on the Federation stock market.

Zanziber Sez: I barely remember playing this in my youth, though I have most of the books for this now. It takes me back to an earlier age when games came in simple boxed sets and the Cold War was on. It's an interesting system. My only negative thought is that you're stuck in the universe of the original series. (Yes, I prefer Next Generation and beyond over the original series. I'm a sucker for good writing, acting and effects.)

Last Unicorn Games (1998-2001):
Due to licensing issues, LUG did not release the game as a single core rulebook and setting supplements for the various series, but instead intended to release a core book for every series. The Star Trek license was lost to Decipher before a Star Trek: Voyager rulebook could be released.

Last Unicorn Games was one of the first role playing companies to utilize the concept of releasing additional pages for published books via the web. LUG dubbed these "Icon Links," in reference to their overall "Icon System" game mechanics (the term Web Enhancement hadn't been invented yet). Unlike current web enhancements, which are simply additions that can be added to the end of a book, LUG took a unique approach, by planning the enhancements ahead of time, and printing a small Icon symbol at various points in a given book, informing the reader that additional material on the subject-at-hand was available on the company's website to read or download and print. These enhancements are now being stored online, and can be downloaded from Memory Icon, under the Icon Links section.

Many additional books and supplements were planned, and quite a few had various chapters already written, in varying degrees of completion. LUG's former writing pool has been extremely generous and supportive of the fan-movement to keep the game alive and expand on it. In support of this, much of the unpublished material has been released for the fans.

Zanziber Sez: Since Last Unicorn came in during the Next Generation, I appreciated this version. I think that this is my favorite of the 3, I just wish they had kept it up in order to include later material. I guess I can't have everything.

Decipher (2002-2007):
When Decipher acquired the rights to create the RPG, they also acquired most of the gaming studio from Last Unicorn Games. However, the Decipher game system is dissimilar to the one that Last Unicorn published. Instead, the system is similar to Wizards of the Coast's d20 System but uses 2D6 to resolve actions.

The CODA System is a role-playing game system designed by Decipher for Star Trek Role-playing Game. It uses six-sided dice, and a standard set of character statistics, as well as skills and edges (which are similar in function to the d20 System 'Feats'). Characters belong to a class, and can adopt more than one class as they progress.

The CODA System terms character leveling advancing and refers to characters as having N advancements rather than being of a particular level. Advancing gives the player a number of picks with which to buy upgrades to their character's statistics and abilities.

Characters have a total hit point pool segmented into health levels; each health level of damage incurred imposes a wound penalty to certain actions. Characters also have a number of 'weariness' levels; extended or intense activity can result in penalties to certain actions based on the number of weariness levels lost.

Zanziber Sez: I never actually played in this system because I was thoroughly entrenched in D20 and White Wolf's classic World of Darkness. I appreciate that they were able to bring in the additional settings, but the 2d6 system bothers me a bit. I'm just glad that Decipher made the Star Trek CCG.

Star Wars-

West-End Games (1987-1999):
Characters in the D6 System are defined by attributes and skills. Attributes represent the raw ability of a character in a certain area. Most D6 System games utilize anywhere from six to eight attributes, though these can vary greatly in number and name by the game in question. Acumen, Intellect, Knowledge, Perception, Presence and Technical are examples of mental attributes; Agility, Coordination, Mechanical, Physique, Reflexes and Strength are examples of physical ones. Skills are the trained abilities of the character and are associated with a specific attribute (e.g., driving, acrobatics, and climbing might be skills based on the Reflexes attribute). Each attribute and the skills under it are rated in values of Dice and Pips; Dice equal the number of dice rolled and Pips equal a one or two point bonus added to the roll to determine the result. The more dice and pips in the rating the better the character is at that skill or attribute. A character with a Strength rating of 4D+2 is stronger than a character with a Strength rating of 3D+1, for example.

Zanziber Sez: Even though this system might be considered "difficult" to people who are relatively new to role playing now, this was fun. I may have a biased point of view due to Star Wars being some of my favorite movies of all time (pre-prequel). The fact that this was the first time I could interact with the setting I enjoyed when I was younger really speaks to me. This system helped to introduce the fiction beyond the movies to me. This is when I began reading Timothy Zahn. (I should really get those books in my collection again.)

Wizards of the Coast (2000-2010):
The Star Wars Roleplaying Game is a d20 System role playing game set in the Star Wars universe. In 2007, Wizards released the Saga Edition of the game, which made major changes in an effort to streamline the rules system.

The game covers three major eras coinciding with major events in the Star Wars universe, namely the Rise of the Empire, the Galactic Civil War, and the time of the New Jedi Order.

The Star Wars Roleplaying Game originally came out around the time of the release of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. It included statistics for many of the major characters of that movie. The later Revised game included material from Attack of the Clones and changed various feats and classes.

The Star Wars Roleplaying Game uses a Vitality/Wound point system instead of standard hit points, dividing damage into superficial harm (Vitality) and serious injury (Wounds). A character gains Vitality points just like hit points in other d20 games, and rolls for them each level and adds their Constitution bonus. A character's Wound points are equal to their Constitution score.

Most game mechanics are familiar to players of Dungeons & Dragons and other d20-based games. Characters have six ability scores, a class and level, feats, and skills. Most actions are resolved by rolling a twenty-sided die and adding a modifier; if the result equals or exceeds the difficulty, the check succeeds.

Zanziber Sez: Much like with Last Unicorn Games version of Star Trek, I have a great fondness for the d20 based system for Star Wars. By the Saga Edition, we had sourcebooks covering all the movies and much of the extended universe. I was sad when I noticed Wizards not publishing any additional material.

Fantasy Flight Games (2012-current):
In August 2011 Fantasy Flight Games acquired the Star Wars license from Lucasfilm Ltd. and announced two Star Wars gaming products: the miniatures game X-Wing and the card game Star Wars: The Card Game.A role-playing game was rumored to be in the works but only a whole year later, in August 2012, the editor announced the publication of Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, the first standalone game of a whole of three, constituting the Fantasy Flight Games Star Wars role-playing game. The second installment, Star Wars: Age of Rebellion, conceived for playing rebels against the Empire, and the third one, Star Wars: Force and Destiny, conceived for playing Jedi characters, are not yet published.

Zanziber Sez:I haven't had the opportunity to play in this system yet. When I first saw the miniature game, I was enthralled. The only thing keeping me from getting into the miniatures game is the fact that it is too expensive. I'm looking forward to giving the RPG and possibly the card game a try; But until I either win the lottery or Fantasy Flight lowers the price of the mini's, I won't touch them.


In 1994, Decipher brought us Star Trek Customizable Card Game. This game instantly drew me in and kept me entertained for several years. When they ultimately stopped publishing new material, a group called The Continuing Committee took over... unofficially. They continue to support tournaments and still generate virtual sets of cards that can be printed for use.

From 1995 to 2001, Decipher also published Star Wars: Customizable Card Game. When Decipher lost the license, Wizard of the Coast developed their own version. For the Decipher edition, again a group was formed to continue to support the fanbase with tournaments and virtual sets. They are called the Star Wars Customizable Card Game Players Committee.

In 2002, Wizards of the Coast started publishing Star Wars: The Trading Card Game with a different style and feel from the original Decipher games. This was shelved in 2005. They also began to produce Star Wars Miniatures to coincide with the Dungeons & Dragons Miniatures game.

In 2011, Fantasy Flight Games picked-up the license to publish Star Wars: The Card Game and X-Wing.

Zanziber Sez: I loved the CCG's by Decipher. I bought and sold my original collections, but a few years ago I started collecting again. I now have large collections of each game... but I have no one to play and no time to play.

I never played the Wizards games and have yet to play the Fantasy Flight version.

I know I didn't touch either Young Jedi or Jedi Knights, which were also produced by Decipher. They never had the same popularity as the other CCG's Decipher published.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

What if the Transformers had landed of Rifts Earth?

I've been on a bit of a writing hiatus, but this week I started thinking about a new series of articles I thought I could write for RPG4EVR. Being a person with a very open mind, and a long-time fan of the Marvel comic book "What if..." series, I decided that this would be an interesting direction to go. Please enjoy the inaugural post of my "What if..." series.

What if the Transformers had landed of Rifts Earth?

We all know the story well. A group of sentient, alien robots leave their dieing planet in search of a new home and they happen to find Earth. Those who grew-up in the 80's... like myself... remember the cartoon and comic books. I'm sure that few of the "younger" generations even knew that there was already a Transformers movie well before Michael Bay came along.

While I must admit that I was never a huge fan, I did enjoy the cartoon series and I read some of the comics... mainly the crossovers with G.I. Joe. I even had some of the toys when I was younger. Like most kids of that era, they were played with until they were falling apart or destroyed as casualties of war involving firecrackers.

These day's, there are more people who know the Transformers only from Michael Bay's movies. For those people, I lament that they don't have a rich and full understanding of the actual Transformers. Sure, the cartoon and comics were specifically designed to help sell the toys, but I'm sure that the toys and subsequent rise in popularity from the movies didn't hurt Hasbro.

In 1990, the role playing community was introduced to the first real multi-genre RPG, Rifts. This game made it possible to bring aspects of all the other Palladium games under a single umbrella. In the base setting, you have your fantasy and sci-fi elements all in one. From dragons to aliens and everything in between, Rifts made so much possible. I think it also opened a Pandora's box.

Now, try to imagine the aforementioned sentient, alien robots landing not in 1980's America, but rather the Earth of Rifts with those previously mentioned dragons and aliens. The Autobots landing in North America. Would they side with the Coalition? How would their presence change the landscape of Rifts? Would the Decepticons ally themselves with creatures like the Splugorth?

Maybe the original Megatron was the concept basis for Glitterboy armor. Could you imagine Spike (from the cartoon) or Sam (from the Bay movies) wearing something like this:

I wonder if the Decepticons would find a way to convert the magical energies from leylines into energon.

I invite my readers to post their comments on how they would see this "What if..." played out. Since there isn't a currently licensed Transformers RPG, how would you attempt to run this type of setting?

I would also like to invite readers to post their own "What if..." questions that they'd like to see posted about.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dice - The Odessey

As I've stated before, I've been role playing since I was 10 years old. Through all those years, I have accumulated a large collection of dice. I think all of us who have spent a number of years as a gamer have. Some of you may have even used a Crown Royal bag to carry your dice... I know I have at least once.

The other day, during the Pathfinder game that I'm currently playing, one of the players started sorting through her dice. She was sorting through them to make sure she wasn't missing any as her cat had knocked them over at home earlier. I watched as this process made its way through 2 additional players, and I got the itch to organize my collection at home. 

This is how my dice collection was originally organized: 2 dice bags, a Blue Man Group coin bucket from Las Vegas, a brandy snifter and a Halloween candy skull. I currently have them in 5 separate 32oz World of Warcraft AM/PM plastic cups (previously unused) that I received when I attended Wizard World Portland in 2013.

Here are the components of the collection:





The Oddball's
When I was working as a buyer for a used book store, one of my specialties was RPG's (go figure). Occasionally, a collection would come in where the seller wanted to get rid of everything, including the dice. I was more than happy to assimilate them into my own collection.

Several years ago, when I actively held games at my home, I had a friend who would go through my entire collection and organize them by the few actual sets I had. After that was done, he would occasionally suggest that a few dice were his or that perhaps some of his dice were actually mine. I never minded this ritual as the few actual sets of dice that I have I try to keep out of the main collection.

When I was in middle school, I had a friend who wanted to develop an Asian themed game with the system being totally devoted to the d100. I don't mean d%, I mean the actual d100 die (as pictured in "The Oddball's", there are 2 still in my collection) and nothing else. I didn't know what he was actually intending when he asked me to develop stats for weapons. I used my common sense and gave damage rating consistent with the weapons. (i.e. d6 for a dagger, d10 or 12 for a katana.) When I showed them to him, he informed me that he wanted EVERYTHING based on the d100. That's when I stopped working with him.

Also in middle school, I started learning to play Champions. That is when I cannibalized every board game I could find for 6-sided dice. Yahtzee, Monopoly, Clue, Risk. I don't think I ever gave those games back their dice. Years later, I would find my first "DM Slayer" in a National Geographic board game. As you can tell in the d12 photo, I still have that die.

I also remember when I purchased my first d100. It was $5 and I bought it at the only game store we had in town. I don't know that I ever really used it all that much and it's no longer in my collection. I think I was the only one in my gaming group that ever owned a d100 for many years.

I know that Gygax Magazine has been posting images of dice collections people have sent to them via Facebook or Twitter. I hope that they'll post my pics and I look forward to seeing yours as well.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Games We Play: Pantheons

I think it's safe to say that there are not many games that are run where the prime focus is on religion or religions. In a way, this idea saddens me because I personally feel that if more people had a better understanding of other religions that they would be more tolerant of other people's beliefs. Please don't think that I'm going to go on a rant about religious freedom or how a single religion is the way to go. On the contrary, my mind is open to most religions and I openly welcome their use inside my games.

When I play a fantasy RPG like D&D or Pathfinder, 9 times out of 10 I am relegated to the role of Cleric so the party is covered for healing and "buffs". I don't ever mind this, until my character is hassled about his religious choice for no reason. I try to play by character's faith to the best of my ability, but I never go so far as pushing my religion onto any other characters. Instead, when my character is able to perform feats that may seem miraculous, I make sure the character gives open thanks to their chosen deity. For instance, in the Pathfinder game I'm currently playing...

Our characters were put through several tests to see if we were worthy of a minor artifact. One of the tests seem to be a test of penitence and humility. My character took it upon himself to weather the test, only to find out that it was actually a test to see if any of us would succumb to an evil deity. Long story short... 2 fire elementals unleashed 3 rounds worth of lava on my poor Cleric character. He survived and gave praise to his deity. Not bad for only being 4th level.

In the a Hunter: The Reckoning game I ran, I decided that each of the characters were going to be tied to a specific Greek god. Unfortunately, this aspect was never explored because a) the game didn't last very long -and- b) the players never really caught on to the few hints I was able to drop about this. The biggest hint was a painting of the characters, created by one of them, which had each character with a glowing symbol of a different Greek god. I was going to run it as each character was guided by a specific deity that they were linked to. I'm not sure how that would have played out, but I think it would have been interesting.

I would invite storytellers and players alike to bring an aspect of religion to your games to see how your fellow players respond. With the right group dynamic, I belief that it will create an interesting aspect to your games.
Help to eliminate this common issue with Clerics in your games. :-)

Monday, May 13, 2013

Game Store vs. Comic Book Shop

Due to some events that have happened in my local area recently, I was inspired to write this and the corresponding post on my Zanziber's Point of View blog.

My local game store, Borderlands Games, knows its stuff when it comes to RPG's, CCG's, miniatures and board games. Just because they carry the latest comic books does not make them a comic book shop, though... at least by my definition. IMHO, in order to be considered a "comic book shop", you should not only offer current issues, but also have a healthy supply of back issues including issues that could possibly draw in collectors (i.e. key issues, graded comics, variants, etc.). This is by no means my entire definition, but I think you get the idea.

You would no more expect every games store to carry comic books than you should expect a comic book shop to deal in the secondary market or CCG cards (buying/trading).

Now, stemmed from recent local events, I feel the need to speak on customer service.

To any managers of game stores, I would hope that you read this and take it into consideration within your own domain. Your employee's are a reflection of your store to the public. If they bad-mouth the competition to customers who may be dropping-in for the first time, you will not receive repeat customers and this will create negative word-of-mouth. If your employee engages in a one-sided debate towards said customer about all the seemingly negative aspects of the competition, this will leave a lasting impression and a bad taste in the mouths of those that experienced the event in question.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Games We Play: Chess Magic

Way back in Duelist #4, Chess Magic made its debut. The idea behind Chess Magic was simple - try
to create a format specifically designed to recreate the feel of Chess. The goal of the format is not to exactly duplicate the Chess game, but simply to give a Magic game the feel of a good Chess game.

Unfortunately, the format from Duelist #4 is quite out of date, and in serious need of upgrading. That's why I have decided to open up my compendium and place another entry herein. It's high time that we had an updated version of this really nifty variant, so I am updating the older rules and streamlining the process a bit.

This variant comes with a lot of strict deckbuilding rules, so let's go over the easy ones briefly. The deck's creatures are divided into a King's side and a Queen's side. The deck can be one or two colors. All creatures on the King's side are one color, and all creatures on the Queen's side are another color. Each side has four pawns, a bishop, knight, and rook. The two sides can be the same color.

In addition, the King has a Wizard and the Queen has an Artifact. The rules for these cards are listed in detail below.

Every creature in the deck must conform to a chess piece. Each deck has the exact same chess pieces represented. The rules for what may, or may not count as a chess piece are listed below. I added a few examples in parentheses to start the ball rolling for ideas.

The King must have a casting cost of four or more and be legendary. The King must be male. After all, this is the King of a whole kingdom we are talking about - he's legendary. (Kamahl, Fist of Krosa, Arcanis the Omnipotent, or Tahngarth, Talruum Hero.)

King's Bishop:
The King's Bishop must be the same color as the King. It must have power equal to or greater than its toughness. Additionally, it must have a power higher than that of the King's Knight. The King's Bishop cannot have a power more than three greater than the King. (Quicksilver Dragon, Serra Angel, or Cateran Slaver.)

King's Knight:
The King's Knight must be the same color as the King. It must have a power greater than the King's Pawns. Its combined power and toughness cannot be more than six. The King's Knight must have a combat-related ability that does not allow it to evade combat, such as first strike, vigilance, banding, double strike, flanking, haste, provoke, rampage, bushido, or trample. As other combat oriented keywords are added, they count as a Knight as well.

Note that there are no evasive-oriented combat abilities listed (ninjitsu, flying, shadow, landwalk, protection, etc.). The King's Knight enjoys combat and relishes in it. Note that it can still have an evasive ability, as long as it has one of the combat-oriented abilities.
(Examples include Nekrataal, Narwhal, Jolrael's Centaur, and Suq'Ata Lancer.)

King's Pawns:
The four Pawns must be the same color as the King. All four pawns must be the same creature. A pawn must have a casting cost of three or less. It also cannot have a combined power and toughness greater than three. It cannot have any abilities that make it bigger or require the use of tapping or mana. These are the little guys that make the army go. (Defender of Chaos, Cloud of Faeries, or Soul Warden.)

King's Rook:
The only restriction on the King's Rook, other than being the color of the King, is that it must either be a wall or a creature with defender. (Kaijin of the Vanishing Touch, Wall of Blossoms, or Wall of Diffusion.)

King's Wizard:
The King's Wizard is the only creature in the deck that may be of two colors, if you wish. It may be the King's color, the Queen's color, or both. The King's Wizard is also the only creature other than the King and Queen who can be legendary. The King's Wizard must have an ability that requires tapping. It cannot have a higher power and toughness than 4/4. (Goblin Wizard, Royal Assassin, Prodigal Sorcerer, or Ertai, Wizard Adept.)

The Queen may be of a separate color than the King. The Queen must be a female legendary creature with a casting cost four or greater. (Radiant, Archangel, Autumn Willow, or Grandmother Sengir.)

Queen's Bishop:
The Queen's Bishop must be the same color as the Queen. It must have power equal to or greater than its toughness. Additionally, it must have a power higher than that of the Queen's Knight. The Queen's Bishop cannot have a power more than one greater than the Queen. (Ball Lightning, Exalted Angel, or Sengir Vampire.)

Queen's Knight:
The Queen's Knight must be the same color as the Queen. It must have a power greater than the Queen's Pawns but a combined power and toughness no higher than six. Like the King's Knight, the Queen's Knight must have a combat related ability - but it may count any combat ability, including evasive ones. The Queen's Knight can be a bit sneakier than its companion Knight. (Thalakos Scout, Phantom Monster, or Yavimaya Ants.)

Queen's Pawns:
The four Pawns must be the same color as the Queen. All four pawns must be the same creature. A pawn must have a casting cost of three or less. It also cannot have a combined power and toughness greater than three. It cannot have any abilities that make it bigger, destroy other permanents, or require the use of tapping or mana. These are more little guys that make the army go. (Disciple of the Vault, Atog, or Merchant of Secrets.)

Queen's Rook:
The Queen's Rook must be the same color as the Queen. The Rook has to be either a wall or have defender. (Wall of Hope, Wall of Putrid Flesh, Wall of Wonder.)

Queen's Artifact:
The Queen's Artifact represents a little toy of hers that she uses to great effect. This cannot be a creature. It cannot produce mana of a color other than the Queen or King's color(s). There are no additional restrictions. (Cursed Scroll, Wand of Ith, Jayemdae Tome, or Ivory Tower.)

18 Non-Creature Cards: 
There must be an additional eight cards in the deck. There cannot be any creatures with these cards. They must be in your two colors, though they can include gold spells. See the banned list for special rules.

24 Lands: 
All lands must be basic except for four non-basics. A legendary land can count for one basic, but only one may be played. All lands must tap for mana from either the King or Queen's color.

The Banned List
The following effects are banned from the environment. Even creatures cannot have these abilities:

  • The ability to make token creatures (The Hive, Grizzly Fate, Dual Nature, Stangg.)
  • The ability to destroy or damage most or all creatures in play (Wrath of God, Massacre, Decree of Pain, Earthquake.)
  • The ability to take control of any card an opponent owns (Control Magic, Animate Dead.)
  • Wishes, Ring of Ma'Ruf
  • Any card which destroys or goes after a creature type (Extinction, Engineered Plague.)

  • Humility
  • Any effect that removes a creature for the game (Swords to Plowshares, Final Judgment.)
  • Any card or ability that has or makes permanents indestructible (That Which Was Taken, Darksteel Gargoyle.)

  • That covers the basic deck construction rules. You will find advanced deck construction rules later in the article. On to the play rules!

    Creature Abilities:
    In order to roughly simulate the Chess experience, there are a few special abilities for creatures, as follows:

    All Pawns have haste. Additionally, all Pawns have the following text: "At the beginning of your upkeep, you may remove this card from the game to put a creature card of the same color from the graveyard into play tapped. You may not put the King into play this way." This ability can only be used by one Pawn per turn.

    Rooks, King/Queen
    Rooks have the following text: "At the beginning of your upkeep, you may return this card to your hand and put a King or Queen of the same color into play." The King and Queen have the following text: "At the beginning of your upkeep, you may return this card to your hand and put a Rook of the same color into play." You may only use this ability once per game.

    Note that you cannot use the King's Rook for the Queen (or vice versa) unless they are of the same color.

    King's Death
    When the King goes to the graveyard from play, the controlling player loses half of his or her life rounded up.

    King's Ploy
    Every servant of the King (Bishop, Rook, Knight, Pawns and Wizard) has the following ability: "Tap, Sacrifice the Queen: The King is indestructible until the end of turn"

    After looking over the deck construction and playing rules, you'll notice that the deck is divided virtually evenly into creatures and non-creatures. That means you can rely on your opponent playing with enough creatures to make cards like Exclude perfectly acceptable. With only one artifact in the required cards, and no enchantments required, you'll have to decide yourself if Disenchant-type removal is relevant.

    Spells cannot utilize colors that are not part of the Queen/King color spectrum. You can't play Illuminate, for example, unless your lieges are red and blue. You also cannot add additional creatures through any means, including token creature generation.

    With around 50% of the deck being creatures, you obviously cannot stock up on creature removal. A few creature removal cards are good ideas, but if you spend too much time worrying about creatures, you'll have difficulty winning.

    In deck construction, make sure you make full use of your creatures. Note that your Bishops are usually your heavy hitters and beaters. You've probably noticed that the King's Bishop can be much more powerful than the King, where the Queen's Bishop can be, at most, just a little more powerful. This reflects the power of the Queen in chess.

    The only other major difference between the King and Queen pieces lies in what abilities a creature must have in order to count as a Knight. The King's Knight looks for "hard" combat abilities, whereas the Queen's Knight can use those, as well as using evasive and sneaky combat abilities.

    Advanced Rules:
    If you are looking for an additional bit of flavor, take a look at our advanced rules. You might want to try these out after you've played around with the first version, or you may just want to dig on in and try these rules as well. You can pick and choose from these rules or use them all.

    Deck Construction:

    King's Beast
    The King's Beast must be of the same color as the King. The King's Beast represents a typical court pet. It must be a monstrous or cute creature and not an intelligent race (no Merfolk, Goblins, Humans, or whatnot). (Ertai's Familiar, Kavu Chameleon or Jamuraan Lion.)

    Queen's Jester
    The Queen's Jester must be the same color as the Queen. The Queen's Jester cannot have a combined power and toughness greater than five, and it must have a very powerful ability. (For example, Ali from Cairo has a powerful ability; Ali Baba does not. Archivist has a powerful ability; Chaos Harlequin does not.)

    Court Enchantment
    The court has an enchantment over it, represented by this card. It must be in one or both of the legal colors. The Court Enchantment must be a global enchantment, not a local one. (Future Sight, Grand Melee, or Bad Moon.)

    Coat of Arms
    The court must have some banner, coat, or whatnot to count as the court's Coat of Arms. This can be either an artifact or an enchantment if the enchantment fits. Obviously, it must be of a color that benefits the King or Queen's color. (Konda's Banner, Jabari's Banner, Coat of Arms, Coalition Flag, or Leonin Sun Standard.)

    The land ruled by the King or Queen must be represented as well. If this has a color, it must be in the King or Queen's color(s). This can be an enchantment (Castle, Great Wall, or Teferi's Realm), a legendary land (Urborg, Tolaria, or Eiganjo - remember that lands can only be included if they tap for a legal color) or the rare artifact, if you can find one that fits. If you use a legendary land, then you can count it as one of your required lands, if you wish to do so (thereby giving you an extra business card).

    Play Rules:
    For an attack, you may give one of your creatures Provoke. However, if you do, your opponent will get a free Provoke on the following turn for any creature of his or her choice. (This represents sacrificing a piece to take a critical piece from your opponent.)

    Feel free to try out the advanced rules and see how they do. They'll be taken out of the eighteen extra cards - so if you play with all five extra cards, a deck will only have thirteen extra cards (fourteen if you use a land to fulfill the Demesne obligation.).

    Wednesday, May 1, 2013

    System's We Play: d20


    I think that the "birth" of the d20 system stemmed from the original Dungeons & Dragons. Wizards of the Coast took the idea, added some fun extras like Feats and a large selection of Skills and made the basic system available for other publishers to utilize while keeping certain creative rights.

    The d20 System is a derivative of the third edition D&D game system. The three primary designers behind the d20 System were Jonathan Tweet, Monte Cook and Skip Williams; many others contributed, most notably Richard Baker and Wizards of the Coast then-president Peter Adkison. Many give Tweet the bulk of the credit for the basic resolution mechanic, citing similarities to the system behind his game Ars Magica. Tweet, however, stated "The other designers already had a core mechanic similar to the current one when I joined the design team".

    To resolve an action in the d20 System, a player rolls a 20-sided die and adds modifiers based on the natural aptitude of the character (defined by six abilities: Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma) and how skilled the character is in various fields (such as in combat), as well as other, situational modifiers. If the result is greater than or equal to a target number (called a Difficulty Class or DC) then the action succeeds. This is called the Core Mechanic. This system is consistently used for all action resolution in the d20 System: in prior games in the D&D family, the rules for different actions, such as the first-edition hit tables or the second-edition AD&D "THAC0" and saving throw mechanics, varied considerably in which dice were used and even whether high numbers or low numbers were preferable.

    The d20 System is not presented as a universal system in any of its publications or free distributions, unlike games like GURPS. Rather, the core system has been presented in a variety of formats that have been adapted by various publishers (both Wizards of the Coast and third-party) to specific settings and genres, much like the Basic Role-Playing system common to early games by veteran RPG publisher Chaosium.

    The rules for the d20 System are defined in the System Reference Document or SRD (two separate SRDs were released, one for D&D edition 3.0 and one for edition 3.5), which may be copied freely or even sold. Designed for fantasy-genre games in (usually) a pseudo-medieval setting, the SRD is drawn from the Dungeons & Dragons books Player's Handbook v3.5, Expanded Psionics Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide v3.5, Monster Manual v3.5, Deities and Demigods v3.0, Unearthed Arcana, and Epic Level Handbook. Information from these books not in the SRD include detailed descriptions, flavor-text, and material Wizards of the Coast considers Product Identity (such as references to the Greyhawk campaign setting and information on mind flayers).

    d20 Modern has its own SRD, called the Modern System Reference Document (MSRD). The MSRD includes material from the d20 Modern roleplaying game, Urban Arcana Campaign Setting, the d20 Menace Manual, and d20 Future; this can cover a wide variety of genres, but is intended for a modern-day, or in the case of the last of these, a futuristic setting.

    The wonderful thing about the d20 system is that it allowed so many smaller publishers to write material for it and it would fall under the Open Game License (OGL). This was a great idea and allowed small publishers to get some notice and recognition for their work.

    Wednesday, April 24, 2013

    System's We Play: World of Darkness (Classic)

    World of Darkness (Classic):

    Back in the early 90's, I was introduced to a couple of supernatural RPG's that I thought were interesting. I even got the main book from Werewolf: The Apocalypse for 50% off from my local book store because the front cover was torn. (Fans who remember the 1st edition, softcover will get a chuckle from this.) Between that and the 2nd edition of Vampire: The Masquerade, White Wolf had my attention. It wasn't until my friends started a Mage: The Ascension group that I actually played in the World of Darkness... and I have never regretted this first step.

    The World of Darkness started with 5 core games...

    Vampire: The Masquerade-

    This was the first game from the World of Darkness line. You are vampires descended from Caine. (Yes, this game draws from a biblical origin story.) In modern times, you either live to maintain your hold on what is left of your humanity, or you embrace that you are beyond the concept of humanity.

    Werewolf: The Apocalypse-

    In Werewolf, you typically portrait a warrior of Gaia (defender of the Earth) against the corruption of the Wyrm. There are other were-creatures you can choose from as well, such as cats, spiders and crows. You fight for honor, glory and wisdom to raise yourself in Gaia's army of shape-shifters.

    Mage: The Ascension-

    An inner power has awoken inside of you, but there are those who would either exploit your power or kill you for it. Mage is probably the best game in the World of Darkness if you want a player vs. "The Man" game as you try to keep yourself safe from a government group known as The Technocracy.

    Wraith: The Oblivion-

    Death is not the end, but just a new beginning. Something is keeping you from the afterlife that is promised after you die, and this ties you the world you once knew. Your new home, known as the Shadowlands, is a dark image of the world you once knew. You seek your redemption while others would seek to keep you where you are or use you as something else.

    Changeling: The Dreaming-

    Faeries from childhood stories are real, and they have been living amongst you without your knowledge. Better yet, you've also started to understand that you're one of them. Fueled by creativity and imagination, Changelings are hidden from the real world but still need to work within it. Be careful not to stray down the wrong path and get stuck in the world fueled by banality lest you lose your Fae self.

    And then came the additions to provide a little flavor to the World of Darkness...

    Kindred of the East-

    Not quite the same of the traditional vampires we're aware of. Asia has its own spin of vampires, spirits and shape-shifters, and it all started here.

    Hunter: The Reckoning-

    With all these supernatural creatures running wild in the World of Darkness, there has to be a group of people who can offset them. Where each of the individual games have their counterpart (perceived "good vs. evil"), the Hunters are out to cleanse the world. Armed with powers and abilities of their own, Hunters don't see themselves as part of the problem but rather as the ultimate solution.

    Mummy: The Resurrection-

    In the 1st edition of Vampire: The Masquerade, we're introduced to Mummies. Now, here they are expanded with a ton of extra powers and abilities that will overpower just about any group. If a Mummies body dies, no worries. The spirit moves on to the Shadowlands until the body is repaired.

    Demon: The Fallen-

    If having Mummies weren't overpowering enough for your game, you can add a healthy dose of "evil" to your games. Even though I have some of the books for this game in my collection, I have yet to actually participate in a Demon game.

    To add a little extra flavor to the original line of games, White Wolf also published a Dark Ages series that included Vampire, Werewolf, Mage, Fae and Inquisitor. These are great for the World of Darkness feel in a less modern time frame. I think these were created in light of the favorable response to Vampire: The Dark Ages.

    There were a few off-shoots that were published but never that popular. Vampire: The Victorian Age (set in the late 19th century), Werewolf: The Wild West (set in the 19th century), Mage: The Sorcerer's Crusade (set in the late 15th century) and Wraith: The Great War (set during and immediately after World War I).

    Other than Demon, I have either played or ran games and.or characters from every single game in the World of Darkness. This is perhaps my favorite of all systems. It's easy to learn and each individual game within the system has a well thought out back story.