Thursday, September 2, 2021

Bogged Down by Big Moves

 So, I kind of got stuck on writing on rpgs (or playing them) in the last months - my family relocated to another continent a month ago, and getting us settled in is basically eating up all of my free time.

Which is a pity; I really want to finish my series on vsD (the scenario in the core rulebook is pretty great, basically a sandbox mini setting, but with strong story seeds well-supported by the material), and I'd also like to get around to take a closer look at Gildor Games' Elemental system, which, by first reading, looks like a kind of GURPS ultra-light to me (highly universal in its applicability, classic attribute+skill mechanics with a few little twists, point-buy characters). Not to speak of finishing another 3-4 Mythras scenarios I have outlined, translating them into English and converting them for a few other systems like Warlock!, Troika! and, probably, Elemental. And another Ashen Stars scenario is waiting in the wings, as well.

I hope that 2022 will be my year of getting to work on rpg stuff in earnest. Until then, have a great time and stay safe, everyone!

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Reading vsD Part 3: Combat, Magic and the Flight from Weathertop!

 The next part of this review covers the major game systems vsD employs: skill rolls, resistance rolls, casting magic, combat, health and healing and rules for stuff like travelling and equipment. While the core system is true to it's MERP/RM lineage, the influence of more current game design becomes more apparent in this chapter. There's rules and guidelines for the ad-hoc creation of safe havens or healing herbs that encourage player input and also minor stuff like "choose how you fumble". Both reminds me a lot of pbtA games.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Reading Against the Darkmaster Part 2

 I kept the subchapters about Passions, Drive and advancement for the second installment, because I want to stray a little further afield here.

In vsD, there's an interesting relationship between Passions/Drive and Achievements/Experience. Both are about getting yourself into trouble and feed into character development, with Passions being more about each individual character and achievements being more about the experiences the party makes as a whole.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Reading Against the Darkmaster Part 1

So I caved in and got me that not-quite-MERP-clone I've been eyeing since the quickstarter came out two or three years ago. I played a lot of MERP back in the days, and the gory criticals and the good adventure modules made it a fun system. For us, it was always less "play something that feels like LotR" and more "Let's play some gritty low fantasy that happens to take place on Middle-Earth."

So I was a little wary of Against the Darkmaster's (or vsD's, as they abbreviate it) stated goal to drift the whole game more towards LotR style Epic Fantasy; and I was even more wary of the idea of blending all this with Heavy Metal aesthetics (as in Blind Guardian, not as in Metal Hurlant). Both seemed to imply the danger of making vsD something overly pompous, the RPG equivalent of Zack Snyder's painfully dull and self-important takes on Superman and Batman.

I'm happy to say that it's not.

Oh, there's pompousness to be had here, especially in the art: There's brooding guys in heavy armor smiting orcish scum and beautiful-but-sad women in flowing gowns weaving mystical energies. But it all feels tempered by a certain amount of both black and good-natured humor, and by the whole game obviously not being about wading through your enemies. There's a fine balance struck between the dark fantasy melodramatics of heavy metal, the cheesiness, but also creativity of 80s movies like Krull and Dragonslayer, and the simple good-heartedness of something like Terry Brook's Shannara books or David Edding's Belgariad books, which were pretty much We're going on an adventure to save the world, because, you know, we're the good guys!

Which is pretty much saying: vsD doesn't really harken back to Tolkien as the "source"; it harkens back to a mix of 70s-90s media that has been heavily influenced by Tolkien, which serves not to dilute, but to expand it.The result is the most convincing of the slew of "nostalgic but re-imagined" RPGs I've encountered yet.

In other words, I think I like it.

So let's have a thorough read-through, shall we?


Friday, January 29, 2021

Out of the Ashes, OpenQuest and Groundedness

I'm gushing a lot about the beautiful weirdness of Troika!, but I also have a soft spot for a very different type of fantasy, something that feels more grounded and familiar, something about relatively ordinary, good-natured characters doing the right thing. It probably comes from the fantasy I read as a child: LeGuin's Earthsea, Lloyd Alexander's Taran and, maybe most importantly, Ronja Robbers Daughter by Astrid Lindgren. (I've just read the latter to my daughter and was suprised how many of the themes and monsters I'm using when designing scenarios can be traced back to it.)

Sunday, June 28, 2020

God Creatures and Cults with Ulterior Motives

... I seem to be unable to come up with something else!

Well, it's not quite as bad as that. I'm okay with writing low fantasy stuff that doesn't touch on fantasy religion at all - dealing with wacky goblins, negotiating with a bored dragon, finding out about that giant boar that terrorizes the village.

But whenever I'm writing something that is supposed to feed into my far too ambitious weird fantasy heartbreaker setting, I come up with some combination of the following elements: Some (usually giant) god creature (floating in space in an ancient cocoon, sleeping at the ocean bottom with its back bristles breaking the surface, living in a giant hive of beetles conditioned to do staggeringly complicated calculations for it), some kind of cult that has access to a valuable ressource (a drug produced by people turned into trees that lets you experience a jumble of their memories, the boiling, poisonous blood of that sea good, impossibly accurate answers to complex mathematical and mathemagical problems), and an event that involves the player characters and that will probably upturn everything.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

What's Up?

I haven't blogged for a while - so here's what I'm up to and what you can expect in the next few weeks from me:

First, I'm reading Sword of Cepheus (Sword&Sorcery based on the Traveller-inspired old school Cepheus Engine) and FrontierSpace, and I'm hoping to give both a spin soon, so reviews are coming up.

Second, I have a lot more Troika! backgrounds in store, but I'm also working on two scenarios to tie in with them, so I'm holding some of those back to see how exactly the scenarios shape up.

Third, I'm eagerly awaiting the "Zero Edition" of Newt Newports new d100 game Skyraiders of the Floating Realms. Don't know exactly what I'm going to do with it, but a lighter, more streamlined version of Newt's OpenQuest sounds very enticing to me!