Tuesday, August 30, 2011

RPG Review Recess -- Bulldogs! Fuck yeah!

Another book that I picked up at Gen Con this year was Bulldogs! Sci-Fi that Kicks Ass! by Brennan Taylor and Brian Engard. Now, I got to see bits of the alpha, which made me really want to get the book, so when Brennan said that there would be copies available at Gen Con I knew I had to make my way to the IPR booth at some point in time during the convention.

Well, I made it there on Thursday during when all the VIG's got into the con and I said hello to Darren and asked if there were any Bulldogs! available. He pointed me to the stack and I took the top one and say that it was 200/200 that was signed. Now, I'm not a huge person that needs to get their books signed but it was one of the serendipitous moments that just worked. I picked up the book then and there and have enjoyed every single minute of it.

First of all, this needs to be move out of the way, Bulldogs! and Galileo Games wins at FATE. I bet you didn't know there was a competition, well there is. Every other FATE book I have read, skimmed through, or looked at is working to be the largest book that they can possibly be. Spirit of the Century, Kerberos Club FATE Edition, Dresden Files are all FATE books that are huge. It's like they're trying to see how big the book can be. Now, that's not a knock on FATE games, I'm just saying that most of them ... pretty big books. Malcolm made the joke at Fan Expo that they're great for pickup games, you pick up three and curl them and see how many times you can do that.

Bulldogs! wins because it's not nearly as big as the rest of those books. It still uses FATE, and does some really wonderful things with it, but everything is just more compact. It also wins because it's a great game, but the fact that it's got one of the most concise versions of FATE can't be overlooked at all.

What I like about it
The game itself is brilliant. I love the concept, that you all play people who signed up to be the ones who run the D class ships for a Corporation who will make money on you if you fulfill the requests or die and allow them to claim the insurance.

I love how the captain is defined by the players, and the ship are defined by the players.
I love how the ship is always a wreck no matter what you try to do with it.
I love the focus on adventure and space opera rather than the nitty gritty SF.
I love how FATE is used in this game. It should really be the benchmark for using FATE.

If you want to play a Space Opera game with a lot of action and excitement, this is the game to get. Get it now. No, seriously.

What I don't like about it
Um, it's really picking at nits but this would have to be the book where I feel that the art isn't up to the same standards as the other books. Mortal Coil is amazing, and done by Jennifer Rodgers, to How We Came to Live Here, I don't have the artist's name on hand but they are amazing, to Kingdom of Nothing by Jeff Himmelman. I know it's supposed to be campy, and fun, and it is. It's just not as campy and fun as I think it could have been.

This is the best FATE game you're going to pick up. If you want high action in Space, you should pick it up right now. RIGHT NOW. That way you too can read through the book and make your own alien species.

[Need a Catchy Contest Name] - Post your Final Product Here

For all of you not paying attention, we've got a contest that's going on where you have to Blood-bowlify a winter sport. The original thread is here if you missed it. Well, with a month and a bit left to go I thought I'd post the link that allows you to put forward you finished product.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Fan Expo 2011 - The Wrap Up

Ah ... Fan Expo. What can I say about Fan Expo? I enjoy the person who runs the gaming section, I enjoy sitting down and playing games. I enjoy waiting for that shoe to drop that makes us all look at each other and go, "Uh-oh ... here we go again."

This year that was the fact that all the gaming panels but one, the GM Masterclass one, got canceled for lack of space. Not that we were picky, basically the Gaming Track got to pick at the bottom of the barrel. Okay, that's not fair ... the Tabletop Gaming track got to try to scrape something together and in the end there was nothing left for us.

That said, there was a lot of good stuff going about. The Catalyst Folk were in force and doing what they do best which is running Battletech and Leviathans all day, every day of the con. Snakes and Lattes had a presence there, where you could just sit down and they would teach you boardgames. It's impressive when you consider that the place is usually full whenever I walk by, so the fact they where there was nice. Managed to play some Lemming Mafia and Hey! That's My Fish (and they were my fish damn it!).

The people who make Dungeon Crawler, Jay from Gifted Visions, was there and they were busy demoing their game. Malcolm showed up, and we had a good chat. Then Mikael showed up and he played some stuff with Justin, Amber and me. Brought out Blood Bowl: Team Manager and had a blast with it.

I think maybe I should have done more stuff at the con, but I'm glad I just got to sit back and relax. I didn't expect much of the con, it's the con that usually has then "when something goes wrong" feel rather than the "if something goes wrong" feel.

Next stop, Hammercon. I was going to go to Metatopia (and if you are in the area you should, it's going to be a developer gold mine) but I just can't afford another large trip. Gotta pay off the trips from this past year before I can start going off again on others.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fan Expo - 2011 - What's going on?

People might be wondering where I am going to be this weekend, that will be at Fan Expo happening at the MTCC, which is right smack in the middle of downtown Toronto right next to the CN tower.

What am I scheduled to do there? Nothing! I haven't got any games, and the panels we were supposed to do got kneecapped. However, we're working on something where we can have a little impromptu-kind of sit down conversation thingy with some of the guests. I'm not 100% sure where, or what's going on but you can check here, the Facebook Page, or more likely the twitter account for updates as to what's going on.

I'll be bringing games, lots of them, and I hope that folks want to sit down and have a good time playing. I'll be in the gaming area, which is I think the 701 room.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

RPG Review Recess - Unhallowed Metropolis

One of the two books I picked up at Gen Con was Unhallowed Metropolis. I love Horror Games, I pick them up almost out of habit, but this one I was looking forward ever since I first heard about the game.

Now, something you need to know about me. The older I get, the less I enjoy fiddly bits. Fiddly bits, those little bits and pieces of games that so easily get lost. They're the million or so pieces that come with games, the ones that are all vitally important to how the game functions and heavens help you if you lose one or two pieces. The parts of RPGs that requires an encyclopedic knowledge on how every thing works. You know what I'm talking about, I'm talking about Pathfinder and the bajillion and two feats that you need to know in order to make sure that the players aren't powered to the point of being boring ... you get the picture. I'm not a big fan of 4e either, with all the card powers stuff. It's the same kind of thing, but now everything you do is one of those little card things.

Annoying. Massively so.

Unhallowed Metropolis is kind of filled with fiddly bits.

I don't care one whit.

The basic premise of the game is that the zombie apocalypse happened, it just started in 1905 rather than say today. Any major city was pretty much wiped out, as not only did the zombies just appear out of nowhere, but any bite led to infection which led to more zombies which led to further destruction. Humanity had to live on the outskirts until they co-ordinated themselves enough to fight back. The game itself takes place I think in 2150 which is some time after the British managed to reclaim London.

I love this game because it's got a huge social stratification, the upper classes don't mingle with the commoners if they want to avoid scandal. The poorer places in town, notably the East End, is full of poverty, desperation and spontaneous animate outbreaks. You've got a people who had their technological advance halted in the early 20th century and are figuring things out that we take for granted. There are body snatchers, mad scientists, broken war veterans and a blighted country-side that has pockets of survivability. It truly is an amazingly bleak setting.

That's one thing that I love about this game. The setting is both original, in depth, stark, dark and rather deadly. You have to worry all the time about the GM springing an animate outbreak on you, especially if you're playing a group of people who live in the East End. You can try to pretend that the outside threat doesn't exist, but it's always got the potential to just explode from the city itself. I love the disconnect that the upper classes feel the right to since it really only happens to those of the lower class.

The system itself is where you get all the fiddly bits. You have to pick a role, I don't have the book on hand so I can't check out what they're called officially, and every role has their own special features that you can pick. Now, they aren't all specific to one role. Some of them overlap, and all of them make sense. They're all special rules and abilities that just that one character gets.

*sigh* Fiddly bits.

Another amazing part of the game is that everyone is corrupt. There is no way to escape this. There is something eating at your body, your soul or your mind that causes you to be, a little darker than you should be. This leads to a few more fiddly bits, things you're going to have to keep track of in regards to negative effects on your character.

*sigh* Fiddly bits.

The mechanic is a 2d10 mechanic, and it is set up in such a way that you've got a pretty good chance at succeeding at most things. The problem that occurs, especially in combat, is that everything else also has a good chance at succeeding at what they do which is killing and/or eating you.

Despite all the fiddly bits, that normally would drive me up the wall, I can't wait to play this game, or run this game. Hell, I'd love to run this game as a LARP, because it would just be that awesome. It'd have all the societal maneuvers of Victorian London with the very real threat of zombies. You could have three of four different groups doing different things, I mean having the Deathwatch have to corral some annoyed Noblefolks would be a great scenario. You could make the LARP book just as beautiful as the main book which is filled with amazing photographs and really good illustrations. To be fair, I wanted more of the photography but I'm not going to complain. The book is very, very pretty.

Ultimately this is, for me, a game that shows that a phenomenal setting can overcome personal problems that you might have with a system. They even tackle trickier problems like mental illness in the game, and very explicitly tell you that if you're looking for an excuse to play 'the crazy person' then maybe you had best find a different game. Even if you don't agree with how they went about implementing things like mental illness in a game, or even if it should be in the game, the fact that they took the time to tell people who play "crazy" in games off is worth it for me. Get it, get it now and scare the hell out of each other while being incredibly snooty at the same time.

Unhallowed Metropolis is one of the best settings I have ever seen. It's the future after the zombie apocalypse hits in 1905. It's dark, deadly, scary and worth every penny you spend on this gorgeous book.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Critical!: Go Westerly and hard copies of Geasa - Update

Hey Folks!

Quick update in regards to the book. So far, it's looking like December will be the release date for the book. If you're interested, we've got the amazingly talented Avery Liell-Kok doing all the art for the book. You can check out the link that is her name and it will take you to her portfolio site. I'm excited to see what she is going to produce for the game.

As for Geasa, I still haven't heard back from the printer. They were supposed to be on the line as of three weeks ago which I assume means that they're done. However, they haven't gotten back to me at all which makes me a tad nervous. I'll keep you all posted as to what's going on there. If this happens again I'm more than likely going to have to change printers for Critical!: Go Westerly.

If you have any questions, leave them in the comments and I'll answer them as quickly as I can.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Previously Generated - Bulldogs! - The Erlamigel

It's not surprising that many people haven't heard of the Erlmaigel. They are a pretty common star-faring race, but years of evolution have taught the Erlmaigel to hide everything from everyone, including people they know and trust. It's what happens when you evolve on a planet where you are considered a most delicious prey. You learn how to hide really well, but the Erlmaigel took that one step further and integrated themselves into predator societies by taking the form of the creatures that would hunt them. They learned how they moved, and their habits and eventually grew smart enough not just to hide within the ranks of their enemies but to use the information they had gathered against them.

This led to the rise of the Erlamigel on their own world, Erlami which is located on the periphery of the Frontier Zone though they never seemed to be able to get off world. Then, a couple of Pan Galactic Ships landed on the planet, looking for some wild game to take with them for someone within the Nova Corps of the Templari's hunting grounds, when an Erlami snuck on board and managed to integrate themselves as part of the crew. This allowed them to steal the technology needed in order to create their own space ships.

That's when they took to the stars, though again in limited numbers, to learn what they possibly could from everywhere else. The Erlamigel don't really create or innovate, they steal and adapt from others for their own use. That means if you find someone on the Erlmaigel ship that looks strangely like something you've created on your own, you had best make sure that you don't have a spy among you.

The Erlamigel as a society is very odd, they tend to be loners and work individually but they seem to be more than happy to come across others of their kind. In turn they will share whatever information they have with each other, in a strange telepathic kind of way that only works with members of their own kind, whom they call 'my cousin.' It is believed, once the Erlmaigel were discovered, that this allowed them to transmit information from one to another while they were infiltrating various enemy groups. As individuals, they feel most at home impersonating others. Once they are seen in their regular form, which consists of humanoid looking creature with white skin they seem to panic and do anything they can to escape.

Once the Erlamigel were discovered, they quickly gained use as spies and infiltrators for various organizations. However, there is a high price to pay for these creatures, none of the information that they get for you is for your use only. The Erlmagiel will gladly share any information with any other Erlamigel, it is how they survive for centuries amidst tougher being on their planet, so there is a chance that information you don't want will fall into the hands of others. There are many that feel that this risk can be mitigated enough that hiring these beings as spies is worth the risk.

Erlmagiel Names
Erlmagiel names aren't really spoken. They know each other by various means, so instead they tend to take on the names of the races that they emulate the most. Gender is irrelevant for most of them since they're able to shift, a lot like Saldrallans, which leads people to believe that they have amphibian or reptilian ancestry.

Typical Erlmagielian Aspects

I absolutely need to know that!
Invoke: You're genuinely curious about things, and you can pick up pertinent information where others don't.
"No really, I'd love to hear, in detail, about how you managed to modify the viscosity of the oil to create faster speeds!"
Compel:You don't know when it's not a good idea to ask.
"Can you tell me the story about how you fell from disgrace and totally ruined your family name, again?"

Trapminded Deviousness
Invoke: If there's a trap that needs to be created, you know how to set it up.
"My people have fought with the Qu'Linar for centuries. We know their weaknesses, and we know how to set them up for a fall."
Compel: You tend to be a bit petty and can't really stand up the fight even if it's the best course of action.
"We can't fight them head on. We'll get ourselves killed. We need to find a way to trick them."

The Stillness of the Undergrowth
Invoke:You can avoid moving to avoid being seen by predators, or overzealous guards.
"Don't move, and they won't see you. Blend into your surrounding and the Qu'Linar will ignore you. They think they have more important things to kill."
Compel:You tend to want to hide rather than run.
"Stop running! They'll see us!"

I love talking to friends and family!
Invoke:You tend to have friends in places other people wouldn't expect.
"My cousin is in that ship, I'm sure we can find a way to help both sides escape."
Compel:You let slip information that the crew might not want to get out.
"I just told my cousin that we had the shipment of high grade Zinorcium that they were looking for.

No one can see me naked!
Invoke:You have such an aversion for people seeing you as you are, that you will go to any length to prove that you are who you say you are.
"See, I told you that I'm Nova Captain Akryl. Torture me all you like!"
Compel:If you are seen without a persona on, you just want to escape.
"Look at that white creature! It's trying to cut through the hull to escape! That's madness!"

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!
Invoke:You're amazing at copying things that you've seen only once.
"I can remake that engine part. I studied it not too long ago, and this should be easy."
Compel:You're not good at improvising when things break.
"Um, what do you mean we have to build a different one? I've never seen a 'different one'."

Erlmagielian Special Abilities [-3]

No Natural Attack [+1]
As a herbivore, the Erlmagielian don't have any natural defenses other than their ability to integrate into other groups. If you come across one in their regular form, they have no natural ability to attack which is one of the reasons why their instinct is to hide or get away.

Shapeshifting: True Shapeshifting [-4]
Erlmagielian can change their shape to fit the needs of the group that they're infiltrating. Literally they will seamlessly go from group to group gathering information, though they can be discovered as the personality doesn't change at all.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Geasa and the Fear of Failure

If you read my Gen Con 2011 you know that I ended up running a game of Geasa for a group of people that didn't go so well. In the almost two years since I started running it, through play-testing and at conventions before and after it was published, only one game could compare to it in regards to it not going as well but the difference there was that the people seemed to be having more fun during the first game.

I thought it would be a great game when I walked up to the table. There was a group of people who knew each other, and they seemed to have a really good rapport. They were busy chatting, and playing a dice game that they seemed to be really enjoying. They seemed to be able to play off of each other in a relaxed and easy way. Not that this is mandatory to play Geasa, but if you're able to play off of each other and trust the people you're with then what RPG won't be better for it?

What happened during the game was that I got a lot of blank looks from the people around me. That group of four, the fifth guy was trying his best but he had just run a game and really was busy kind of zoning out after that mental exercise, just didn't want to do anything much. They kept looking to me to tell them what to do, and the only advice I could give them is "tell us what you want to do." That didn't seem to be the answer they wanted and we continued to do our best to muddle about our Carribean Sea Side town. After two rounds I had a sense that I was dealing with a group of people who were used to having a particularly strong GM who they were used to deferring to. It also wasn't hard to figure out who it was. While I was busy trying to coax the younger players into telling me what they wanted, and what they felt that they saw he would just get flustered and ask if he could take over and give a long narration about just exactly what was going on.

Not to knock the guy, he was really good at that. The scenes were evocative and really quite breath taking. The problem is that they kind of missed the point. The reason why I always try to have people explain their own scenes because once they get over that hump they gain the confidence to start getting involved in the game more. However, whenever they would start to fumble there was GM dude ready to swoop in and do the job.

The problem is that he never really got into the game as well. He spent most of it with all his dice in front of him and didn't really do anything with them. He never really challenged for things, or did stuff that would kinda of make people jump up and get in the way. He shrank away from anything that might be a confrontation, and it hit me what the problem was. He was afraid of failing. He didn't want bad things to happen to his person, and so he was playing close to his chest.

That's perhaps the worst way you can play Geasa. In Geasa, bad things happen to your people. That's kind of the point, they can overcome, they can move beyond, or they can end up stuck in the cycle of their own downfall. The first step is risking things and pushing where you might fail. That's the only way you can be an active participant in the story. Without doing that, you're just a passenger watching as other people shape the story which is as boring an experience as you can have.

In order to fly, you've gotta forget failure and just jump.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

CyberGeneration Announcement!

Well, since Kathryn over at the CyberGen Webcomic, CyberGen2027 made a bit of an announcement I guess I should make it official here and on the website.

Firestorm Ink has officially given up the CyberGen License.

It's been a really long and hard six years working on that line, and trying to come up with the products that we thought would do well with it. We've met with mixed success, and with the feedback we're getting with Geasa and Critical!: Go Westerly, we felt that it was for the best that we focus on our products and games, since that's where the future lies for us.

It's been a great ride, with a lot of great memories but now that time has passed. I'd like to thank anyone and everyone who showed up to the events, bought our CyberGeneration stuff and were a great support. We'll still be selling the supplements that we created, but we won't be making any more.

Right now Shapeshifter Studios, the same people who do CyberGen2027, are in negotiation for the rights to make the RPG. We wish them well, and will help support them if they do get the rights, so we're not completely going to keep our fingers out of that pie. We're just not going to be responsible for baking it anymore.

Report - Gen Con 2011 - The Turning Point

Normally I find that I have a lot more fun at Origins than I do at Gen Con. It just seems to me that the atmosphere was far more relaxed than anything at Origins while at Gen Con it's nothing but pushing as fast as you can all the time.

This year was the Turning Point. This year I walked in and felt like I was going to have a lot more fun this year than the I've ever had. We had arrived in on Wednesday, because I come in with the Canadian Contingent for Catalyst (yay Alliteration), I had a day to just kind of acclimatize myself. No more rushing to get there and jumping right in, it was a far more pleasant experience. Maybe it was the better mindset that I was coming in with, there's an announcement that's coming forward that might have something to do with that, but it was just different, and better.

That being said what happened to me at Gen Con?

Games that I ran:
I had two games of Geasa go off and 1 game of Critical!: Go Westerly go off. That means that the one CyberGen game that supposed had 6 people, and in reality only had one, failed ... again. I'm sure that this is a sign that I'm only not slowly starting to understand here, I think I'll get it eventually.

Geasa Game 1
We ended up playing in the second century, with a Devil trying to be good, an Angel trying to understand humanity, the head of the Catholic Church and a Macedonian Spy looking to get out with his information.

A couple of great Fae moments. The Spy was trying to escape and instead had to stick around because of his Fae. He ended up just paying half of his travel costs when he was compelled to investigate a fire because it might have to do with his mission. Annoying, certainly and he railed about it a little bit.

The second bit was right at the end when the Angel, trying to negotiate between the Church and the Old Believers for peace ends up being compelled to blame the Old Believers that they had made up that someone had stolen their artifacts and riots in the streets ensued. Which is where we ended it because of time.

Geasa Game 2
The second game of Geasa didn't go as well, mainly because the group mostly didn't get it. When four fifth of the table sit there and wait for you to tell them what's going on it's hard to run a GMless game. They had an interesting dynamic between them, because they had come in as a group. You could tell who was their GM and how they were used to just kind of letting him go, and most certainly he could go and tell a great description and a wonderful narrative, but he just didn't seem to be able to let go. It got me thinking and will probably lead to a blog post on Geasa later on.

Anyway, they were a motley group of characters. We had a pirate trying to reform, we had a fisherman who lost his ship to taxes, a smuggler on the run from his former employer, a tavern wench wanting something more and a noble dandy looking to escape an arrange marriage. When I saw this I went, "Hey, this is the best start of a pirate crew ever" but I didn't say anything because I like to watch the stories develop but it kept stalling. Not what I had in mind, but the story in question. Eventually it culminated with their GM guy going, "I don't know where we're going! I don't know how to get there."

Now maybe I got lazy and didn't explain goals enough, because that's supposed to be what drives you. Maybe it was a case that I should have taken a far more proactive approach to what's going on. Maybe Geasa isn't for everyone and some people are going to have a hard time with it. Whatever the reason, I don't think my answer of "Well, we'll find out when we get there" satisfied him, but oh well.

Critical!: Go Westerly
The Game of Critical went off beautifully as well. Geoff and/or I will have to come up with a new scenario for the next con season, but we'll have a couple of months to pound that out. However, You All Meet in a Tavern ended up with some gems for lines.

Stelph: "Is this Human Seawater? Elven Seawater is far superior."
Angelique: "You just suck the fun out of every trap."
Barnabus: "There you go perpetuating stereotypes. 'Peaceful Protestors' and 'Blood-thirsty elves'"

I really can't wait to get this book out. We've commissioned the art, and now it's just the last edits and the getting of the book together.

The Stuff that Came Out and/or I Picked Up

I managed to pick up a copy of Bulldogs! and Unhallowed Metropolis Revised. I also got a copy of Blood Bowl Team Manager which is perhaps the best deck building game I have played (Yes it's a Deck Building Game, but it's not the only focus of the game). I picked up Escape from Aliens in Outer Space which looks pretty damned awesome but I want to wait until I have at least 6 people playing.

Smirk and Dagger ended up putting out an amazingly addictive Dice Game called Suttaku which I think everyone should go and pick up. It's got 12 beautifully created large dice for stacking and is one of those games that you can play quickly and end up playing 10 games before you feel any desire to stop, but then you pick up the dice and you just want to keep rolling.

What Else?
I ran into the awesome people that I always run into. I got to laugh, and have fun and enjoy myself and feel that Firestorm Ink is actually doing stuff, and possibly stuff that people want to see.

Now to finish up Bulldogs! and Unhallowed Metropolis ... and Eclipse Phase (which I should have done ages ago).

Monday, August 1, 2011

Gen Con - Where to find me (If you care enough to look)

Gen Con is upon us, and while we're all waiting to go I figured I'd tell you where I'm going to be in case you want to say hello.

Most of my time is going to be spent at the Smirk and Dagger booth which is located at 1621. It's a 10 x 20 booth, so it should be easy to spot. Just look for the people having a better time than anyone else.

As for the schedule of events that I'm running, here's what we've got:

RPG1119295 :: An Evening of Curses :: Geasa :: Thursday 3:00 PM :: Location: Crowne Plaza : Grand Central Blrm B : 4

RPG1119298 :: A New Dawn, A New Day, A New Life :: CyberGeneration, Evolution 3.0 Edition :: Thursday 9:00 PM :: Crowne Plaza : Grand Central Blrm B : 1

RPG1119296 :: An Evening of Curses :: Geasa :: Friday 3:00 PM :: Crowne Plaza : Grand Central Blrm B : 5

RPG1119297 :: You all Meet at a Tavern :: Critical!, 0.5 Edition :: Saturday 3:00 PM :: Crowne Plaza : Grand Central Blrm B : 2

Now there have been some set back in regards to Evolution 3.0 of CyberGeneration so I may have to substitute a game of Critical! but I hope the people there will be forgiving.

It appears I'll be spending a lot of my time in the Crowne Plaza, which is totally fine. It's nice to be in the same spot again and again, makes the con that little bit easier.

See you all there!

Firestorm Ink's Fan Box