Month: December 2012

My gaming 2012 and a look into the future

While the teenagers from my neighbourhood are busy blowing everything up with fireworks,  I sit inside my apartment and ponder about what a great year 2012 was. I achieved my bachelor’s degree, immediately found a job and met a totally fantastic girl. I’m physically healthier than ever before, and more confident than I was ever in my life. I don’t want to sound arrogant, but 2012 was pretty much my year.

Personal achievements were not the only thing that made 2012 glorious. From a gaming point of view, the past year has been freaking fantastic as well. In this post, I want to honour digital and tabletop titles that made my year.

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TSWoD – Anima explained & the birth of Fiddles

Hello guys and gals, and welcome back to another post about my The Secret World of Darkness project, in which I melt the rules of the new World of Darkness with the setting of Funcom’s The Secret World. In today’s installment, we will elaborate the aforementioned Anima power stat and pool, and start the creation of an example character. Call your secret society and tell them Cthulhu has to wait, because this will keep you busy!

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You’ll never forget your first one…

 

I’m spending Christmas at my parent’s place, and since my gaming computer is not so easy to carry around, I’m stuck with my laptop here. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t visit my family so I can game twenty-four-seven, but it’s nice to have something with you to keep in touch with the world.

My lack of hardware made me find games that I could play on my laptop, and so I discovered that the PC version of the RPG classic Final Fantasy VII is on sale on the Square Enix Store. Since I’m more than willing to pay just €6,50 for such an epic game, I opened my PayPal wallet and just minutes later, I returned to Midgar and the adventures of Cloud and his allies.

It’s a crazy experience, revisiting the game that started my love for the genre. It’s like travelling back in time, knowing what the future of RPG’s will look like. Playing a game with an old-school ATB combat system (and a still awesome magic system) makes you forget about the emphasis modern RPG’s put on action-rich combat and dynamic experiences. The quite linear progression of both the story and your characters is something that would be the death of any new title, but in the time this jewel was released, it was praised and loved. Oh, how I remember the days when I put the first of three discs in my PSX, and how my brother, my friends and I enjoyed the marvelous world Square had created. Dressed in our pyjamas and armed with endless reservoirs of patience, we became one with the epic story and grand world of Final Fantasy VII.

Maybe it’s nostalgia combined with the holiday spirit, but as I equipped my heroes with Materia and started chasing Sephiroth, there were several occasions that brought tears to my eyes and a kind of sadness. I know that this generation of gamers will never experience a game like this again, and that my children will ask me what “my” generation found so great about this game, but just like my first kiss, I will never forget my first RPG love. I’ve already placed a box of tissues next to my laptop, knowing well what moments of tearjerkery await me.

Now excuse me, while I trod down memory lane, slaying monsters and breeding Chocobos…

Riverlands Saga – My Song of Ice and Fire

“The Iron Throne, GRR Martin” by MarcSimonetti. Click the picture to go to his awesome gallery

 

Judging by all the TSW posts you’ve been seeing so far, you might think that all I do is playing one MMO when I’m not working. Fortunately, I was lucky enough to start a monthly SIFRP game with two of my long-time players. Next to this campaign being my first time using the SIFRP rules and Westeros setting, it is also my first time playing via Skype. Yep, the times where my friends and I could just meet to game are gone, as we decided to spread all over Europe. I raise my mug of Dornish wine in honour of modern technology, allowing us to play through the world-wide web.

Anyway, the campaign, which is titled the Riverlands Saga, focuses on the minor House Yannor, bannerhouse to the Tullys in the Riverlands. Taking place just a few months after Robert’s Rebellion, the player characters have been tasked by Edmure Tully to investigate rumours of trouble in House Dulver. It seems that the lord of the House is preparing for war, and the last thing the recovering Riverlands need is another vendetta between rival Houses.

The main characters are Jonas Yannor and his twin brother Gavin, along with the bastard and ward from House Bolton, Dana Snow. Jonas, as heir of the House, is being groomed against his will to rule the Yannor lands one day, while his twin brother shows far more interest in such a function. Dana, a talented huntress and reluctant noble lady, dreams of a stranger from the North and longs for roaming the wild lands one day. This unique combination of characters is an interesting mix, which has already shown to offer some great stories.

Next Sunday, we’ll play our next session, and I will post recaps of all the previous sessions on this blog as soon as possible. In the mean time, I’m curious to hear about your experiences with roleplaying in Westeros. What stories can you share from any corner of the Seven Kingdoms?

The apocalypse – what a letdown

Fiddles_picture015

So, the end of the world came and went, with less fireworks and zombies than some of us had expected. Well, at least in the real world. In TSW, zombies keep stalking every player who ventures into the wild, and gigantic beasts of the apocalypse wait to be slaughtered by the champions of Gaia. The dialogue on the picture above also taught me a new way to insult people, so I guess Armageddon isn’t half bad.

How did you end spent the End Times? Did you slay undead in your favourite MMO or at your game table? Share your tales in the comments!

Discounts on Doomsday!

Well, considering I’m writing this post without fire and brimstone falling from an ashen sky, we can be sure that the end of days will not be today. What we will get, though, are some nice discounts on Steam. Next to some really sick prices on some really epic game bundles, The Secret World is now available with 25% discount. So, if you haven’t checked the game out yet, give it a spin for just a bit more than €20 (or whatever currency you’re using). Trust me, supernatural monster hunting and conspiracy-solving was never this fun!

TSWoD – Anima stat, overlapping templates and more!

Another day, another post about my endeavour to dip the World of Darkness in the awesomesauce that is The Secret World. In the previous post, I talked about the basic premises of this project, and today, we will take a look at the only “homemade” rule, along with some ramblings about the material used. Get your spells and conspiracy theories, we’re going in!

Anima
In TSW, a creature’s Anima is its life force. It is something that runs through everything on this planet, but that can only be controlled by a few. Sorcerers control their own Anima to empower their spells, and hideous creatures from the Hell Dimensions seek this essence out to consume and devour it. While Anima is no resource in the MMORPG, it is an aspect that separates the player character from many other agents in his secret society. Swallowing a bee sent by Gaia gives one the power to manipulate Anima, which is quite helpful in the fight against draugr, vampires and the Filth.

In order to measure all supernatural creatures on an identical scale, TSWoD could use Anima as a power stat and power pool. Like Vampire’s Blood Potency and Vitae, or Werewolf’s Primal Urge and Essence, TSWoD’s Anima would measure a creature’s supernatural capacity and ways to manipulate Anima. The latter should be interpreted in the broadest way possible. An old sorcerer would have have the same Anima rating as a vicious demon, but both would show their bizarre powers in different ways. Anima would be a unifying stat, that makes it easier to compare the rather varied palette of otherworldly beings in the setting.

In many ways, Anima would work like the Arete stat presented in Mirrors. It would provide characters with additional health, supernatural resistance, heightened Attributes and a way to heal bashing damage. Unlike Arete, Anima will also grant access to a pool of Anima points, which can be used to fuel the effects of Anima. Also, Anima might not grant any access to Masteries. I’ll get into the reason for that right…now.

The amount of cool stuff is too damn high!
As I have mentioned in my previous post, I’m trying to emulate the setting of TSW with just three books: the core book, Mirrors and Second Sight. Even though this is a small amount of books, it still offers a lot of options. If a player decides to create a character, both Mirrors and Second Sight offer treasure troves of powers, backgrounds and so-called “minor templates” (supernatural templates that do not have an own power stat and pool). I’m afraid that the both books, along with an Anima stat that grants additional supernatural power, will create far too mighty characters. Of course, additional rules can limit that, but I’m still not so sure about it. I guess the only way to see if it works, is to create a character…

Well, guess that gives away what we’ll be doing next time. In the meantime, please share your feelings about an Anima stat and the amount of cool powers found in Mirrors and Second Sight. I’ll be here to listen to your feedback. Stay alive!

TSWoD – The bare necessities

Continuing the train of thought that has left the station of my mind a few posts ago, I have spent my last days thinking about the best way to portray Funcom’s The Secret World in White Wolf’s World of Darkness. The two games seem easy to merge, but before doing so, I limited myself by using the following guidelines:

  • PC’s will be “normal” mortals who are initiated into one of the secret societies. This means that the players will  not take the role of Bee People. Why I made this choice will be explained later on.
  • The game focuses on the discovery of the secret world, and the slow descent into the mysteries kept away from the PC’s. While this seems like a choice of flavour, it will also impact some game system choices.
  • TSWoD should need a minimal amount of house rules, using mostly rules available from a small amount of WoD books.

You’re not special, all you can do is shoot lightning from your hands!
In the setting of TSW, it is rather special when Gaia sends out a bee to give a normal human some wacky superpowers and immortality. To keep them rare, I want players to play humans who have been introduced into the secret world in another, more subtle way than by swallowing a magical insect. Well, maybe not a more subtle, but in a more common way (by occult standards). Think of characters who have witnessed a vampire feeding, or who have learned magic in a special school. Player characters will have “kewl powerz”, but in a different way.

Delving into the darkness
The Secret World is about stepping into the darkness with just the light of a candle, and to boldly stride through this tenebrous world. Unlike most WoD games, it is not about handling one’s own supernatural nature, but about deciding if something is worth knowing, or if the price for it is too high. Because of this setting choice, I would drop any kind of Morality system entirely, and replace it by the Reason stat presented in Mirrors. The slow descent into madness, while gaining more power, feels more fitting to me for a TSW game.

I don’t want to carry all these books!
Let me be clear here: I am a terrible rules writer. I hate to formalise any kind of rule, and I always have the feeling that it takes some kind of special education to be a game designer/ writer. That is one of the reasons I want to keep the amount of “original rules” to a minimum for this project. The other reason is that I believe that the World of Darkness offers rules for most of the things we will need. Especially Mirrors offers a truckload of alternative rules, which fit TSW really well. At the moment, I can limit the amount of titles to three:

  • World of Darkness core book (well, duh)
  • Second Sight
  • Mirrors

This means that, if you have these books, you just have to follow my short instructions, and you are able to run a game in the TSWoD in no time. It saves me the trouble to re-write a system that is already good enough in my opinion, and saves you a lot of reading!

Well, that’s it for now. Next time, I will shine a light on the only “house rule” I would add to TSWoD, and give you a short draft of the character creation. In the mean time, you are free to share your ideas and ask some critical questions. Keep your head up!

Between heartbreakers & rip-offs

Courtesy of Dark Phoenix Publishing. Y’know, just so they do not sue us for plagiarising…

Be honest, dear readers: who of you who has played a tabletop RPG for long enough has not dreamed of writing his own product? Have you not longed for creating a game that has everything you want, that does everything far better than the game you are playing now? If you should have ever followed your desires, you have probably written something called a heartbreaker, a game that surely is not perfect, but it looked perfect for you at the time.

There is nothing wrong with writing and playing heartbreakers. What is wrong, however, is to write and publish a heartbreaker, without actually indicating its inspiration and denying the source on multiple occasions. The game I am talking about is Vampire: Undeath, a title by Dark Phoenix Publishing. While it seems to be “just another vampire game”, Vampire: Undeath is such a blatant rip-off of White Wolf’s Vampire games (both Masquerade and Requiem), and as two reviewers of RPG.net claim, the publisher denies to have drawn any inspiration from the mother of all goth roleplaying.

Of course, it is hard to write a game about cursed bloodsuckers without crossing into White Wolf territory. For more than twenty years, they have milked the vampire mythos for all it is worth, and is hard to be original anymore. That is not the issue though. The issue is Dark Phoenix’ claim of originality, which shows nothing but arrogance. The line between writing a heartbreaker and publishing a rip-off is really thin, and as it stands now, Dark Phoenix Publishing has crossed it.

The Secret World of Darkness?

 

At the moment, Funcom’s The Secret World is keeping me busy. I played the game for about a month after release, but lost interest and time when my new job started and the rest of my life demanded more attention. Now, however, I have given the game a second spin, and I am really enjoying it!

One of the things I like most about TSW is that it resembles White Wolf’s World of Darkness in many ways. Both settings feature a hidden, one might say secret, world full of supernatural creatures. In both games, players take the role of normal people who are plunged into this occult reality and have to survive one way or the other. The only difference is that in TSW, the player characters join a secret society to hold back vile and evil things, while in the WoD, they become one of the many otherworldly beings.

Because of their similarities, every time I launch the game and dive into the zombie-infested town of Kingsmouth or the vampire-haunted farmlands of Transylvania, my mind starts to think about ways to blend both games together. In other words, I think about how to run a TSW tabletop game, using the WoD rules. At first, it does not seem difficult, but there are some challenges:

  • In TSW, player characters are the chosen of Gaia. By swallowing a bee (do not think too much about this), your character gains the means to control his anima, which gives him the power to do some pretty nifty things. While those powers could be emulated fairly easily with the existing rules, the chosen of Gaia have another important feature: they are practically immortal. Some NPC’s in the game refer and joke about the fact that, when a “Bee person” dies, his corpse is carried off to the nearest anima well, where it is brought back to life. While a WoD game like Geist has a mechanic for returning from the dead, it is a challenge to make this feature interesting in a tabletop game.
  • Wait, is everyone a Bee person? While every player character in the MMO is technically a Bee person, it would seem unlikely that there would be so many chosen of Gaia in a tabletop setting. Before running such a game, there should be niches for characters who have not been chosen by Mother Earth, and who aid their society through other ways.
  • Even though they look similar, both settings are different. This is mostly a matter of re-skinning material. The WoD rules offer rules for practically every supernatural being you can think of. The only thing one must do to use them in a TSW game, is to give them a different look and feel.
  • One society or all? A legitimate question. In a game featuring the TSW setting, would player characters come from different secret societies, working together to save the world from some great danger? The setting would not forbid such a thing, but would a single-society setting not offer more chances to dive deep into the secrets of an organisation? A matter of flavour, but an important matter nonetheless.

While I keep thinking about this (and I will probably post more about a TSWoD), what is your opinion and / or thoughts? Feel free to share!