Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Last Week in My Gaming Life

Ok, it's been more than a week, but if I keep trying I'm sure I'll eventually get into the groove...

What I'm playing at home:
Sadly I cannot fill 100% of my time with playing face-to-face, tabletop RPGs. Between having a dayjob breaking into peoples computers, toddlers at home, a busy wife, and days my gaming fix has to be of the electronic variety. This is definitely not preferred (my friends who do prefer games with an electronic interface are privy to plenty of railing from me when they turn down a REAL RPG to play a console game), but that doesn't mean I don't indulge.

Two games have been consuming my non-TTRPG hours:

First on my recently acquired PS3, I've been playing Ni No Kuni: Wrath of the White Witch. This game is...odd. First off, the cut-scenes are beautiful in a cartoony, stylistic way, having been done by Studio Ghibli (Princess Mononoke, Howl's Moving Castle, you know). Secondly the storyline and game play are a weird mix of Final Fantasy, meets Harry Potter, meets Pokémon. The main character is a pre-pubescent boy who learns that he is a wizard after his mother dies, then travels to another world and catches adorable little monsters and trains them to fight on his behalf. I'm about 12 hours in (looks like its probably an 80+ hour game) and it's surprisingly good and quite engrossing (though, granted, I've always been into the childish end of electronic games). Also, it apparently won like 7 Best RPG awards when it came out.

The second is a fan-made hack of the best-selling RPG franchise of all time. No not that onethis oneRuby Destiny: Life of Guardians is a ROM hack of Pokémon, Ruby version. Now, before you roll your eyes at me playing two games about ten-year-olds running around catching adorable monsters to fight for them, let me say one thing. This ten year DESTROYS THE WORLD! Yeah, unlike all official Pokémon games, Ruby Destiny has a few unique features: a split storyline, the option to become Evil and join the obligatory evil organization, the bad-guys actually causing real harm to the PC, and a pile of recurring rival trainers (most of whom have fairly realistic personalities and doubts about this whole "run away from home as a child and train monsters to fight for you" thing). If you can get past the base premises of it being a Pokémon game (child PC, train cute monsters, et al.), this game is extremely well made for what is essentially fan-fic.

Recommended Blog Reading:

Sometimes adult gamers act like three-year-olds...
Not going to name names, but the online gaming community (all of it, the whole damn thing) has been in a rather ridiculous uproar for a few weeks now. My wife recently posted about trying to teach our three-year-old to get along with others:
"I try to set them up with people [who will be] interesting to each other…and sometimes it’s awesome, and sometimes, it’s okay. This is what manners are for–if everyone behaves with decency and courtesy, you can have a nice time with someone who is not your absolute one and only favorite person."
"We’ve all met people we didn’t gel with immediately. And what do we do when we run into them at the grocery store? We smile politely, ask about their kids, and then wave goodbye...and everyone is fine."
This post is not about gaming, per se, but maybe we should all learn from these kids and try to be just a little more polite to each other when we have our little "playdates".

Sandbox Wonders
Telecanter has been running a series on random weird things and terrain types that might be found during a sandbox hexcrawl since January. His basic premise is things that might evoke a sense of wonder in both PCs and players. I don't normally run exploration-based games, but these posts have really made me want to. Similar to the "Collection of Curiosities" posts discussed last time, these spark my love of the random and surreal, and I cannot wait to run a game in which they might be usable. Here is how Telecanter describes what he is trying to create. I think he is succeeding.
Okay, so we have not relying on scale as a feature, what else?  Here are some ideas I had:
Something that is a semi-permanent part of a landscape.  A miniature city or a tree that has diamonds for fruit might be cool, but the fact you could dig them up and carry them off in a wagon detracts for me their wonder.  The wonders we want will be locations players can return to again and again. (I guess, in a sense, this is another way that scale does matter).
That being said, it might be more of a draw in a game if players can take souvenirs-- bits of the landscape, vials of liquid-- that have value or strange properties from these sites.
Odd, but not deadly.  Deadly can be awesome too, but I think it is much easier to evoke fear in someone then a sense of wonder and I'm shooting for the latter.  So, we'll try to keep them survivable even if they are dangerous.

They say D&D was created by Mathematicians...
Whether that statement is true or not, it is still played by them. Matthew over on Gnome Stew decided to dedicate a huge amount of brain power calculating the average rate and duration of survival of 1HD orcs based on their hit points. While not exactly useful in a game, it is an interesting read (if you're into reading about matrix algebra and Markov chains), and might just have a tiny insight into how monster tactics might adapt...
This means that large groups of weak orcs are more dangerous than much smaller groups of veterans. Orc leaders should be well aware of this and probably throw waves of slaves and weaklings at threats, using better armed and armored veteran elites to fight particularly difficult enemies (like PCs that have managed to slaughter a pack of fodder).

In Real News:

It's Legal to resell eBooks in Europe
Apparently European courts have ruled that digital assets can be resold. Does this mean I can start making money by redistributing old PDFs of game books?

What I'm Playing This Week:

The Bitter Blades
This game originated as a one-shot, a side story related to the Ruins of Adventure play-by-mail game. The "one-shot" is now on its fifth session. We're playing on G+ hangouts intermittently, with no set schedule other than "whenever everyone can make it". The first round of sessions ended in a near-TPK (one got away), so the surviving PC decided to recruit a new party to attempt the same adventure. Given that everyone who dies on the island comes back as undead the next morning, the PCs are doing a pretty good job of re-populating the dungeon with their own dead...

One Group, Three Games
My regular Sunday gaming group is large (9 players if we all showed up at the same time) and disorganized (we're lucky if 4 show up any given week), but consistent. Since we never know who will be available any given weekend (we've all got families, kids, dayjobs with professional and academic conferences to attend, etc.), we have three dangling Pathfinder (or vaguely D&D 3.5/Pathfinder based) campaigns running in parallel. Whoever is available to GM a given week throws down where their thread left off.

The ongoing campaigns include one set in 14th century China involving a party of drunken poets aiding Timur the Lame in attempting to foment a political uprising against the mongols, a complicated steam-punk mishmash with kaiju and talking penguins that I got roped into GMing after a few rounds of Dawn of Worlds, and the unfinished remnants of our Reins of Darkness campaign, which is itself also a complicated amalgam of unrelated rules and conflicting world-building ideas. At this point, we have so many dangling plot threads and loose-ends in so many campaigns that I'm getting quite confused and frustrated. I'm ready to ditch at least two of the three (preferably the latter two) and start something altogether different. We shall have to wait and see how that goes.