Saturday, January 24, 2015

My Recent Gaming Life

Here you go, it's been a solid two months since my last round-up post of gaming-related activities, so there should be a lot to throw down here, despite the interference of events such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and all those other holidays that need scheduling around.

Recent Additions to the Collection:
I'm something of a minimalist, I don't buy a lot of things (games or otherwise) and generally ask that people don't buy things for me. One of the reasons I play RPGs is that they represent a truly infinite amount of entertainment for a small one-time outlay of capital. I do invest in the occasional kickstarter or indiegogo campaign, and do get some presents at the holidays (though my favorite Christmas present was a pair of pants from my mother-in-law). Here are the relevant ones: e.g. games acquired in the last month.
Six books: D&D 5e core rulebooks, plus three Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventures--Death, Frost, Doom (James Raggi and Zak S.), A Red and Pleasant Land (Zak S.),  and NSFW (Rafael Chandler). These pretty much sum up what I'm playing now (D&D 5 with a LotFP twist). All six have gotten extensive use already, and should be enough new material to last a year (with the existing collection, and my tendency to not use much in the way of written adventures). See Let's Break It for some extra twists to use with DFD.
From my Grandmother-in-Law and Wife respectively.
One of my goals for this year is to build up a solid arsenal of board games for when I have non-D&D players over to my house. These are the most recent additions. I've played Arkham Horror before, and am very happy to have a copy. My wife and I have played a few games so far (though it's sufficiently slow that games started after putting the toddlers to bed are unlikely to be completed before we both pass out). Revolution is a good bit faster, but less fun as a two-player game--if you manage to make significant gains in the first round it starts a groove that is pretty-much unbreakable.
These are not the only things on the board-game shelf, but overall its pretty slim. I'm hoping to add at least one new game a month to join them this year, and also threw down for a couple of Kickstarters for board/card games: Exploding Kittens and Conan. Both (a) Look awesome, (b) are already fully funded by a factor of 10 or more, and (c) have several weeks left. You should get in on this action.
Feel free to leave suggestions for good board or card games that I should pick up (especially cooperative ones) in the comments...
This last one was a gift from my sister, which I quickly added to (partly because you cannot play with just one deck), and got copies for my local regular gaming party. Historical Conquest is a CCG/deck-building game with mechanics very similar to Magic the Gathering (or pretty much any other CCG) but with all of the cards representing characters or events from real-world history which is the result of a barely-funded kickstarter. Not sure if you can make it out from the crappy blue-shifted photo, but I got the Boudica and Nicola Tesla starter decks, plus booster packs for WWII, the American Civil War, the Revolutionary War, Roman Expansion, and the Old West. 
I've played a few times and it is looooong, but fun (mostly from the opportunity for anachronistic combos -- like Tesla working with Timur the Lame), and can handle any number of players (2-4 works best though). There are some clear misprints in one or two of the cards (picture of the Eiffel Tower but text about China for instance), but overall it is well designed, well implemented, and decently manufactured.
Regarding Video Games:
Lots of time off from work for holidays combined with difficulty getting games scheduled due to other gamers being out means that I had a lot of time for solo electronic gaming over the holidays.Unsurprisingly, text-based RPGs got most of my time...
Corruption of Champions
For those who have not played it, Corruption of Champions is a text-based, hentai RPG written in Flash. The story is pretty basic, your PC is a human villager selected as a "champion" by their village to go through a portal to the "demon realm" and guard it against demonic intrusion. The problem is that the demons are all sex-obsessed and the nature of the food (and everything else) in the world is to corrupt and mutate the PC Champion (hence the name). Game-play is pretty basic, click, read, click some more. If you lose a fight, you WILL be raped (it's just that kind of world), but at least you won't die (not that that is any relief). In addition to demons, the world is populated by the usuals you would expect from a hentai-themed fantasy game: tentacle monsters, kitsune, naga, centaurs, cat-girls, etc.). 
The game is extremely graphic in its depictions of sex, violence, and violent sex, and I would not recommend it for anyone who is turned off by such things (and hopefully not for people who are turned on by such things either). There are also some significant gross-out factor from other story-elements as well (and some cute redeeming moments and the ability to form fairly benign relationships with many NPCs). That said, you can download it from github and play it locally if you so desire (remember this is seriously NSFW and very graphic despite having no graphics).
The most interesting take-away from the game is the inevitability of physical corruption/mutation. If you manage to survive even 10 frames of the game without growing cat ears, or a tail, or an extra penis you've done something truly remarkable. My own main character is described thusly (after 130 days in-game time):
  • "Your face is human in shape and structure, with ashen, dark skin. A set of razor-sharp, retractable shark-teeth fill your mouth and gives your visage a slightly angular appearance. It has a tiny touch of femininity to it, with gentle curves. The shaggy, silver transparent hair atop your head is parted by a pair of rounded protrusions with small holes on the sides of your head serve as your ears. Bony fins sprout behind them. Your mouth contains a thick, fleshy tongue that, if you so desire, can telescope to a distance of about four feet. It has sufficient manual dexterity that you can use it almost like a third arm. A pair of four inch horns grow from the sides of your head, sweeping backwards and adding to your imposing visage."
While I would not necessarily take anything as-written from this game, the underlying inevitability of change is something that I wholly embrace in my D&D games. Really I need to throw more and weirder physical changes into the game...
Or, as Rush puts it, "changes aren't permanent / but change is."
Syrth is very similar to CoC, in that it is a text-based, flash RPG. Luckily, it is much more "traditional" fantasy, having none of the enforced physical changes or sexual content of CoC. That said, it is still a lot of fun, having a very well developed world, hundreds of adventures, long campaign arcs that can take you all over the world, and a fairly robust skill/magic system and a lot of different options for bypassing various encounters. The writing is not stellar, but it is solid. I highly recommend...
...AND you can play a good chunk of it without paying a cent -- though, as with all freemium models, some of the best and most in-depth adventures are only available to "Adventurer's Guild Members" ($20 per year) and you can pay extra $$ to get fancy items (which are not at all necessary, since the item drops in AG scenarios should be more than sufficient).

From the Blog-roll:

A Look at Old-school Magic-Item Pricing
I don't like or use magic item shops in my games. I will occasionally let players from one party of another put an item up for sale (to other PCs), but the idea of generic commoditized magic annoys the hell out of me. Talysman, over on The Nine and Thirty Kingdoms seems to share my dislike for the sale of magic items and did some excellent analysis of the economics of magic-item creation based on the LBBs and Holmes rulesets.
 Some Suggestions for Indie-Adventurer Writers
Jez, who gets a lot of links from me it seems, did a survey of what types of modules (system, format, length, et. al.) the people on various old-school gaming forums are interested in and the results are in. As he states, respondents are self-selecting and not-at-all scientific, but if you are thinking of making something to sell to the OSR/DIY gaming community, his data is a good place to start. Some examples: 
  • Labyrinth Lord / BX / LotFP / DCC are all good choices for system. 
  • Should be playable in 1-2 sessions.
  • Should feature about 4(ish) encounters per session (so only 7-8 combats).
  • Should have things like: "Non-linearity", "Atmospheric design", "Intriguing concept/hook"
  • Should include full monster stats (or at least abridgments, not ex-refs to core books)
  • Should cost between 45 and 50 cents per page.
Anyways, if you're planning to do something like this, go check it out, there are a lot of good suggestions.
A Couple of Things For you Tolkien Fanatics
First for the serious part, Black Gate posted this great analysis just before Christmas of why Galadriel is bloody scary (and possibly how all of The Lord of the Rings is her fault) and why Frodo actually really knew what he was doing when he offered her the ring. It's a really interesting perspective and gives a good intro to the rest of Tolkien lore, like Unfinished Tales and The Silmarillion (for those of you who haven't read them). Go check it out (if you're into that sort of thing).
For an even weirder take on Tolkieniana, check out this post, in which Zak S. proposes a world in which Tolkien is asked to produce a sequel to the Hobbit, but instead gives you some early notes to LotR and asks you to write it. He got some really great (and gonzo) responses from the G+ community, many of which are imminently gameable.
What I've Been Playing:

Players Hunting Players
Just before Thanksgiving, my Sunday evening party finally tipped the scales of public opinion against them. Their response to a complaint from their serfs was a bit too extreme (murdering people in their sleep and rendering their bodies into soap extreme) so the local government issued a writ of outlawry against them and stripped them of their lands and titles.
The official announcement of a bounty on the heads of another group of PCs was so intriguing to my Saturday G+ group, that they specially requested to drop their previous lines of adventurous inquiry and instead The Amazons went hunting for the bounty on the other party. This is not the first time that I've run this kind of multi-party, proxied, asynchronous PvP, and maybe if I get some time I'll write up a post about the general idea/practice/theory (see Way of the Wicked and A Week in the Life of a Witch Hunter for the last time this happened).
It all came to a head for both parties in the last week or two, with the Sunday group raising a huge army of undead and the Amazons catching up with them just in time to watch said undead army march out
Multi-Format Time Lag
One problem of running games in the same setting with different parties using different formats is keeping track of time. Weekly games are faster than bi-weekly games and face-to-face or G+ games are orders of magnitude faster than PbM or PbP games. 
To keep track of it all, I ended up having to make a complicated timeline, almost like the swimlane charts I use for IT project management stuff, to keep track of where each of the parties are relative to each other in the story (and also to keep track of major events triggered by Party A that I need to make sure appear in the stories of Party B for them to react to). Note to myself to include this as part of the asynchronous PvP discussion if I ever write it up. Here is the short version:
Forgotten Realms calendar included for reference