Friday, February 27, 2015

This Month in Gaming

Yes, it has actually only been one month (+/- a couple of days) since I did one of these posts. Success!

Ideas Worth Exploring:

Fermi's Paradox:
In recent weeks, my Sunday gaming group, while hanging out waiting for everyone to show up have invented a new card game. The basic premise/story (because everything we do has to have a story attached) is that the players are great old ones (or gods if you prefer) founding civilizations throughout the galaxy. The players attempt to advance those civilizations as high as possible before, then destroy them before they are able to make contact with other sentient civilizations. The more advanced the civilization at the point you destroy it, the more points you get. We're calling it "Fermi's Paradox".
We've had enough fun playing and have enough ideas that we think we might be able to turn this into a viable product. As such, I'm not going to go into great detail on the rules or how its played at the moment. We're still prototyping, looking into manufacturing costs, and lining up artists right now. If it works out, you might be seeing a KickStarter campaign from us in the near future...
Multi-Factor Counterspelling?
In a recent discussion with Kingworks about one of our regular games, the topic of wizard vs. wizard combat was broached. Let's be up front, wizards are and always have been cool, and form the core of much of the fantasy genre. Stories abound where wizards duke it out with each other in one form or another--pokemon-style summoning competitions, shape-change fighting in The Sword and the Stone, etc. The image of wizards repeatedly trading spells, countering spells, catching spells, deflecting spells, and then eventually getting the final decisive blow is certainly fun.
So why then, do most versions of D&D have only a simple "dispel magic" spell and possibly a "counterspell" rule? In most editions, you have to sacrifice your action to counter the opponent's spell, and then all it does it nullify the spell completely. In a game that is often very tactical, wizard vs. wizard has no tactics at all, nullify the spell, then hope you have more spell slots than the other guy.
5th edition corrected the action-loss problem, allowing "Counterspell" to be cast as a reaction, but that still just ends up being two high level wizards casting and countering each round, nullifying each other spells so that they are effective just standing there staring at each other until one of them runs out of slots.
So...what if, instead of a Counterspell that nullified spells, it instead deflected/altered/warped the incoming spell? Either changing where the spell is targeted, reducing the incoming spell's power, or even completely altering it into a form that is beneficial to the target?
And what about the interaction between various schools of magic? Would a Necromantic counter do something weird when used to block an Illusion? Maybe when an Evoker counters a spell it just gets shaped around them, leaving the rest of the spell intact (like the Evoker's shape spells archetype ability). 
Anyways, that's the current weird game design challenge I am mulling over. Hopefully I'll be able to come up with something cool (with sufficiently random/weird outcomes included) and put up a proper blog post about it in the near future.
From the Blog-roll:
Bubble Economics in D&D:
Perhaps the best thing I have seen all month is an article about the Murder Hobo Investment Bubble over on First, the tone is great, but, more importantly, it is a pretty reasonable assessment. This actually fits right in line with what is going on in my Ruins of Adventure campaign -- with a few wealthy patrons bankrolling several parties of adventurers to basically beat up a bunch of humanoids as part of a massive land-grab.
This is paralleled by another critical-hits post on the Supply Curve of Evil (because economists are wonderful people to game with). Especially considering the example of the PCs taking on slavers, only to send the economy into complete chaos and increase the economic power of potentially worse slavers elsewhere (which is also a thing currently going on in my games).
Excellent ideas that are immediately applicable? Sold! We are definitely adding this to the daily list and reading their backlogs as well.

Ten Foot Polemic:
Another new addition to the blogroll is James Young's Ten Foot Polemic. The blog name alone is worth the price of entry. The post that sold me on the blog though, was Cast this spell and then kill your family. I love magic that is complex, ritualistic, and has troublesome side effects, so the idea of a simple 1st-level spell that could render any wizard Immortal, but that takes years to cast, requires murdering your own offspring, and creates a (very) long-term situation that can only add to your paranoia is brilliant.
The fact that this spell would also help explain hundreds of fantasy tropes (wizards being very old loners, the dangers of true names, birthday parties, the existence of cursed magic items and evil artifacts, why none of the research notes looted from the old wizard's desk are useful, etc.) only makes this spell that much more awesome.
Needless to say, this is going to find its way into the hands of all of my PCs very soon. In a long-running campaign, covering long time spans, with morally ambiguous player characters, this is something that just HAS TO HAPPEN. 

What I've Been Playing:
Conquest, Death, and Those Left Behind:
The three main games in the Ruins of Adventure setting have all taken unusual turns.
The Sunday-night face-to-face party took their army of undead and headed across the sea to Hillsfar, overthrew the government there, and then got lost in the dungeon beneath the former ruler's citadel while looking for his treasure, ending with a fight against aquatic vampires in a sharknado.
The G+ group who had been playing the Amazons pursuing them, took a hiatus to spin up a new party formed of the NPCs and older PCs who had been left behind at Kryptgarten Keep after the Sunday group abandoned it. The party included Tamn (originally of the Bitter Blades), Grinkle (the Sunday group's hobgoblin cohort), Isti and Yury (from Noriss's Boys), and Zander (one of the chaos cultists brought over from Hillsfar) -- in a wonderful example of the players being willing to go out of their way to fill/retcon gaps in the campaign's story.
In the two sessions so far, things have not gone well for this new party. First they were nearly killed by rats on returning to Phlan from Kryptgarten. Then they attempted a burglary only to find that the only portable loot was books. 
The PbM group got briefly split while fighting kobolds, which ended with Donovan, the nominal leader, getting killed by a collapsing bridge, and recruited a couple of replacements in the form of a halfling and a dwarf who had been prisoners of the kobolds.
In all, a lot of character turnover and significant re-directs to the various segments of the campaign.