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.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

System's We Play: Pathfinder


Granted, this has only been out for a few years, and I only started actively playing less than a year ago, but I really enjoy Pathfinder. I liked D&D 3.5, so it makes sense that I would like it. I'm not entirely certain what took me so long to actually get into it. Perhaps I was feeling a little gun-shy after Wizards of the Coast took me on a long and drawn-out ride into virtual poverty with Dungeons & Dragons.

As of this writing, I've only purchased the core book. I have also purchased (free and paid) several apps that compensate for the lack of actual books, plus I have everything I could need digitally.

After the first few sessions, I finally got back into the swing of things in a fantasy setting. The past several years had been primarily devoted to White Wolf's classic World of Darkness line, and I found I was out of practice. Time to get back to my roots... sort of.

The last several D&D games I have played, I took the role of the Cleric. Back then, I was primarily cast as the healer and not generally someone any of the party members actually spoke to for advice. This time has been different.

The pantheon is a homebrew, so I get to work from the seat of my pants when I really get into character. I don't actively seek-out to convert my fellow party members, but I do try to lay down a bit of "the gospel" every now and then for effect. It helps that I have a background in studying various religions. I take a little from every religion, when the time seems right. I could imagine that what the other players and I may see as funny may seem like taking a stereotype and running with it to someone unfamiliar with the group.

If you're familiar and comfortable with the 3.5 edition of D&D, you should have little problem playing Pathfinder. I'm enjoying the game that I am currently a part of, and I look forward to joining others in future campaigns.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

System's We Play: Palladium


This was the first system I remember playing that had more than a single genre attached to it. For those that don't know what I mean, Palladium includes Robotech, Rifts, TMNT (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles), Heroes Unlimited, Palladium Fantasy and so much more. I believe Palladium may have coined the term "Megaverse", meaning that all the games in the system are interconnected. With Rifts, this allowed GM's and players alike to start playing in cross-venue games. People could play their mutants from TMNT into the world of Robotech or Rifts. This opened-up a large realm of possibilities that my fellow players and I took full advantage of.

My first encounters with the Palladium system was through TMNT. I remember making so many different mutants, from tigers to frogs and even a porcupine. There was even a memorial day weekend where to friends and I stayed in a mobile home outside of one of their houses to play a session of TMNT for the entire weekend. Those were the days.

Skills in the Palladium Megaverse were based off of a percentage system rather than ranks or dots. This made it very easy to understand where your characters strengths were. The method of advancement may be a bit flawed in some peoples opinions, but I think it works well.

Most of the games I've played in the Megaverse are:

Beyond the Supernatural: A modern horror RPG along the lines of Call of Cthulhu. Even though my group of friends didn't care for this game, I was able to create several of my favorite characters using is.

Heroes Unlimited: A superhero RPG. This also included Villains Unlimited and Aliens Unlimited. This was the source for all the superpowers you'd want to use in the Palladium system.

Macross II: based on the anime of the same name. The next line of the Robotech RPG several years after it had all but died-out.

Nightbane (formerly called Nightspawn): A horror RPG set in the year 2004 (a near-future setting when the game was released). It differs from Beyond the Supernatural in that the supernatural elements are not as hidden and more open. The series is placed after "Dark Day", an event where the earth was plunged into an unnatural, starless night for 24 hours, and supernatural entities infiltrated or subverted various governments and organizations across the globe.

Ninjas & Superspies: Based on both martial-arts and espionage movies with some science fiction elements mixed in. As Heroes Unlimited is the source for the superpowers, this is the source for the martial arts for Palladium.

Palladium Fantasy Role-Playing Game: A fantasy RPG set in a unique world, which was the home of Kevin Siembieda's fantasy games. The obvious pull for people who enjoy playing Dungeons & Dragons.

Rifts: Set primarily on Earth, four hundred years after a war-triggered magical apocalypse, opening dimensional gateways and heralding the return of magic, Atlantis, and numerous invasions by alien forces. Rifts is Palladium's flagship line.

Robotech: Based on the anime series of the same name. I grew-up on this cartoon and loved this game to death.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness: Based on the original comic books.

Something I recently found out was that Palladium is aggressive in preventing wide distribution of fan-made conversions of their games to other systems (such as the D20 System), and also strongly discourages converting the intellectual property of others into their system; while they cannot prevent it, doing so is not allowed in venues owned by Palladium Books. Palladium also routinely threatens legal action against fans who distribute conversions in other venues by issuance of cease and desist orders. When asked why Palladium was so much stricter in regard to conversions than other game companies, Siembieda stated that the policy had been adopted due to advice from Palladium's lawyers, to shield Palladium from liability for conversions of other parties' intellectual property.

In the past when I've had to sell pieces of my collection to offset unemployment, I found that the books from Palladium never really held any type of second market value. I wonder if this is primarily due to an overabundance of books being printed by Palladium, or the seeming lack of interest the player community has in the system.

For around 3 years,  2 friends and I played in the Megaverse with multiple characters. Much of this was set in the Heroes Unlimited world. The above picture is what we came up with for a human version of the Invid's Royal Command Battloid from Robotech. If I remember correctly, this was modified to also run on modern or a nuclear fuel rather than what the Invid used.