Sunday, January 31, 2010

Some random thoughts

I'm working on a few things right now.  The first is the ever constant work on building my book of species for Star Wars.  The book draws from not only Star Wars sources, but from Star Trek, Babylon 5, Farscape, Fading Suns, various D20 franchises (D&D, Iron Kingdoms, D20 Modern, etc...), Rifts, HERO, and so on.  I've got 804 species in the monster 272 page tome right now.  Why?  Mostly for the fun of it.  Star Wars for me is the perfect setting.  You can literally fit anything into it.  Plus, I don't tend to stick to canon in my SW games, so having a group of heroes consisting of a Twi'lek, High Elf, Turian, and a Vulcan is just simply cool to me.  Plus it's an interesting creative exercise as well, since I add a blurb with each species on how they fit into the SW universe.  Sadly, this book is going to stay just to my group since there's a LOT of unlicensed IP in it. 

I mentioned Dungeonslayers in my last post.  It's a free download fantasy game that tries to capture that old school dungeon crawling feel without rehashing old school dice mechanics.  The complete game is 10 pages long, but is easily added onto.  I've played a few test encounters just to get the feel of the game, and it's pretty slick.  I'm planning on trying it out with the group at our next game day.  Hopefully they'll like it as much as I do. 

The last game I'm working on that will headline our next game day (I tend to run most of the games) is Mutant Future, another free to download game.  It's essentially Gamma World 1E with all the IP filed off.  I really like it.  I started out with Gamma World with 3E, which was based on the color coded chart system featured in other games like Marvel Super Heroes.  Being a big fan of cartoons like Thundarr the Barbarian, and movies like The Road Warrior and The Omega Man, getting into Gamma World was a lock.  I only got a chance to play 1st edition Gamma World a couple times, which is based off the 1st edition AD&D rules.  Anyway, I'm hooked on Mutant Future and want to get a game going, so I'm working feverishly to get everything ready to roll for the next game day.  

Gamepro this month has an interesting article about the supposed downfall of Japanese style computer RPG's.  I haven't read the entire article yet, but I'll post my opinions when I'm done.  Being a long-time fan of games like the Final Fantasy series, Lost Odyssey, and Wild A.R.M.S., the subject matter is very intriguing to me. 

That's it for now, I'm going back to working on my Mutant Future game. 

Friday, January 29, 2010

My Love/Hate relationship with D&D.

My first taste of gaming was when my step-cousin got Heroquest for Christmas. He had no interest in it, but I did so I traded him a copy of Bases Loaded for the NES for it. It was the best trade I ever made (and I loved Bases Loaded, BTW). I devoured the rules and the system, played through all the dungeons, made my own, and so on. I was hooked on fantasy gaming, which lead me straight to Dungeons and Dragons' doorstep.

When I was getting into all of this, there was still a bit of the leftover hysteria in the media and various other afraid of their own shadow wingnuts that D&D was a satanic game that would drive people insane. My dad forbid me to play the game because of this hysteria. My dad isn't one of the stupid religious, hell, he's not even very religious at all. He just figured that if there were stories of D&D driving kids nuts all over the damn place, then why even take a chance? As kids are prone to do, especially me at that age, telling me that I can't do something only made me want it more. I snuck around and borrowed a copy of the Basic D&D rules from a friend's dad. Then I borrowed his copy of the 1st Edition AD&D Player's Handbook and cobbled together some rules between the two.

When my dad found out that my brother and I were playing D&D, at first he wasn't happy about it, but that quickly passed when he saw that we were still playing baseball, generally being ourselves, and going to Sunday School with grandma without the church bursting into flames. He didn't understand the attraction, but what the hell it really was just a harmless game.

As the years wore on I got into the 2nd Edition of D&D and it became my game of choice. However, I started to wonder at some of the silly things behind the system. All fighters were the same. Most rogues were identical. Why the hell couldn't a dwarf be a wizard and why bother with level limits? The rules started to feel stifling to me. Plus, my houserules folder was damn near as long as the PHB. Then I went to college and discovered other games that felt a lot less constraining and I left D&D in the dust. Vowing never to return. I had had enough.

I played several games in the time between my last days with 2E and the release of 3E, which would bring me back into the fold. Most were sci fi and post apocalyptic games like Rifts (what a horrible system attached to so much awesome setting material, it's a damn shame really), WEG's Star Wars, Gamma World (although I got my start with GW about the same time I got into D&D), Alternity (which was my favorite game for a few years), and so on. However, I still longed for a fantasy system that was fun.

It appeared that my prayers were answered with the release of D&D 3rd Edition. No level limits, no restrictions on what races can be what class, a simple, unified mechanic!!! I was in love. I jumped in headfirst. Not only was 3E a lot of what I wanted out of 2E, the Open Gaming License and the System Resource Document brought about a wave of new material (most of it just freaking awful, but there were still a lot of good nuggets) that I could plug into my games. It really felt like gaming Nirvana. Then around the time that 3.5 was released that feeling of longing for something else came back. High level play, hell mid-level play, can start to be a drag. The system made sense, it just wasn't fun anymore. I was restless. I felt like I spent more time worrying about not forgetting something or writing up new NPC's that I did actually playing the damn game.

Once again I moved on. I played mostly D20 games like Mutants and Masterminds, Star Wars, Revised Star Wars, D20 Modern, Star Wars Saga Edition, and so on. D20 Modern kept me occupied for a couple years, but it suffered from some of the same combat drag that D&D did, but I discovered Savage Worlds and fell in love with it. Star Wars Saga drew me in and hasn't let me go yet, but I still wanted a good fantasy system. That didn't take forever and a day to play.

When D&D 4th Edition came out. I gave it a look. It was totally incompatible with the mountain of 3/3.5 material I had amassed since 2000, but sometimes a fresh start is good for the soul. The mechanics were interesting, but I'm just not satisfied. It doesn't feel right to me. It's a good game, and I'm up for playing it whenever, but I don't want to run it. It doesn't inspire me at all.

So here I am, looking at my unused D&D books in disgust. It's the big dog on the block and likely always will be, which means that what most people will want to play. I want to like it, I really do, but I just can't bring myself to giving a damn about it anymore. There was a time when I'd wait with baited breath for the next D&D release. I'd have my pre-order in months in advance. Now, releases go and go and I don't even notice it unless someone else is talking about it.

However, I do have to thank D&D for something. While Heroquest introduced me to the hobby, D&D kept me a part of it. I've had a lot of fun over the years playing RPG's. I've made some good friends and have memories that I'll cherish forever. I may never play D&D again, but thanks to D&D I'll be playing something. With the great new material coming out for older editions and games coming out that try to capture that old-school feel in easy to run systems, I may yet find that system that truly feels like home when it comes to fantasy gaming. Dungeonslayers is starting to look like a real contender, but that's a post for another time.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bittersweet Rebirth

I've ignored this blog for a while, but I've been wanting to start writing my thoughts about games, gaming, and other forms of geekery. It just so happens that two big things came to my attention today about two franchises very dear to me: Star Wars and Gamma World.

First off, Wizards of the Coast announced today that they are going to cancel the Star Wars miniatures and RPG lines. There are still one more minis set and another book coming out in April, but they're done after that. This, well, sucks. The Star Wars minis have been getting better with each set as far as the variety of figures and species covered (the quality of the paint jobs and the sculpts have dropped off for both the SW and D&D minis of late, however). The Star Wars Saga Edition was simply the finest Star Wars RPG I've ever had the pleasure of playing (and I've played them all). It wasn't just a good Star Wars game, but the best derivative D20 system I've played. It's what D&D 4th Edition should have been. It's a damn shame to see the lines die.

I do want to send out a heartfelt thanks to the folks at WotC for their excellent work on SAGA. Thanks to Owen KC Stephens, Rodney Thompson, Christopher Perkins, and everyone else that helped bring the Star Wars universe to life in RPG form in the best way possible. I look forward to getting my hands on The Unknown Regions as soon as it comes out.

The second bit of news that got me excited and then got just as quickly destroyed was the announcement that Gamma World would be returning. For those that don't know, Gamma World came about back when D&D was owned by TSR. It was a wild and wacky game dealing with mutants and survivors in a post-apocalyptic setting. I first got into GW with the 3rd edition of the game back in college when I rolled up a mutant cactus gunslinger by the name of "Prickly Bill." GW was part Mad Max, part Island of Doctor Moreau, and part Thundarr the Barbarian. You had mutant raiders, survivors delving into ruins looking for lost technology on par with stuff seen in Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon, and so on. It was a lot of fun.

Anyway, it was discovered on Amazon that a new edition of GW (which was being called the 5th edition, but 5th edition of GW was the one made for the Alternity system, but I digress) was coming out in October. Great! Even if it's just GW draped over the D&D 4th Edition system, it could still work. I'd at least give it a look. Surely it couldn't be worse than the abortion of the D20 edition of GW that was put out by Sword and Sorcery Studios (6th Edition).

Yes. It can.

Info came out today stating that (in a Tweet by Dave Chalker of "Gamma World. Uses D&D rules. Complete game experience in box. 160 rulebook included. Rooted in d&d. Chargen, how to GM, monsters. 10 encounters, poster map, tokens. New card mechanics. Character will be mutant. "part cockroach, part yeti" In GW starter box, item cards and mutation cards that come up randomly. Some powerful, some silly. GW will have booster cards for players. GW booster packs will be random, only found in hobby stores (not bookstore) Will also have game day."

They are turning Gamma World into a damn collectible card game. What the hell? Why? I know there's overlap in the RPG and CCG markets, but the two arenas only shared themes and customers, not system components. That just took the elation of having new Gamma World to read and play and shot it in the head. I'm not even going to touch on the "Character will be mutant." or the cockroach/yeti stuff. This sounds like a product aimed not at both the old guard of GW fans and possible new players, but solely at the damn Pokemon and Yu-Gi-Oh crowd.

I understand that WotC wants to get a product out there that will keep people coming back to buy more and more and not just once a month, like usually happens with D&D, but at any time. I get that, I really do. After the 5th and 6th editions of GW that didn't even attempt to get what GW was all about, they go into uncharted water into an arena sure as hellfire to piss off the RPG crowd: collectible RPG's. Sure, we bought into the damn plastic crack that is the minis lines, but those weren't necessary game components (unless you played the actual minis games, that is). I could just as easily play without the minis as I could with them. This sounds like if you want the really cool mutations, and that's all that GW was about: mutants (that was sarcasm, BTW), then you need to buy packs of power cards until you get that super uber L33T chromium Duality card! Bullshit.

I've avoided most of the collectible gaming hobby. I got into the minis because I wanted cheap (relatively) figures that I didn't have to spend a lot of time on assembling, priming, and painting when all I want to do is play. I wasn't after every rare or very rare figure, just something that accurately and adequately portrayed the characters and monsters that I fielded on the game table. I never got sucked into Magic: The Gathering or World of Warcraft (the care game at least) or Pokemon, or any of the other myriad of CCG's on the market, and I'm sure as shit am not getting sucked into it to play GW. I'll stick to the excellent Mutant Future rules instead.

To top it off I fear this is the kind of thing they wanted to do with D&D 4E. Now they're digging up the corpse of Gamma World and creating a monster to test the water. I don't wish any of the designers as WotC any ill will, and I hope this hybrid of RPG and CCG does well for them, but I'm not getting in. My interest level is in the negative on this one. Count me the hell out.

There you have it. Other than the occasional pack of minis, WotC has in the span of literally hours ensured that they won't be getting anymore of my money. While I still kinda like 4E, I'm burned out on it (more on that later), and haven't picked up anything since the Eberron Player's Guide. Star Wars and the odd minis pack was what was keeping me a WotC customer, but no more Star Wars, minis that aren't nearly as good as they were a couple years ago, and now this news about a Gamma World that once again doesn't even try to get it are forcing me out.

Adios, Wizards, at least you're saving me money.