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Why I hate Elves

Unlike many nitpicky party poopers out there, I really love Peter Jackson’s big-screen rendition of The Hobbit. It’s fun, action-packed and just great to see, even though it doesn’t stick entirely to the source and is spread out across three movies. However, just a few minutes into the movie, we meet Legolas’ daddy, the king of the wood-dwelling pointy ears: Thranduil. When he came riding in on his elk-moose thingy, I was reminded of one of my favourite aversions: Elves.

From the day I fell in love with fantasy fiction and role-playing games, I have always despised Elves. Something about them just really, really irritates me. Over the years, I have found out what it is about these often immortal, fair beings of the mystical places, and it saddens me every time an author or game designer portrays the pointy-ears in a way that incorporates those features. Wanna know what they are? Well, I have the urge to share my hate with you, so read on and bask in my animosity!

First of all, Elves are perfect. Everything you can do, an Elf can do better. Think you’re the greatest archer in the world? Sorry, but that Elf over there just shot a penny from a distance of five miles while fighting off a group of Orcs. Thought you were the greatest wizard to ever roam these lands? Think again, because that smug-faced treehugger over there has been channeling cosmic powers since first grade! I just can’t stand this perfection most Elvish races in the fantasy genre have, because it makes all other races in a setting look kinda dumb. Yeah yeah, Dwarves have their blacksmithing and humans are somehow always the heroes, but that’s probably just because the Elves are too busy being utterly majestic.

Second, Elves are always pretty. Legolas is pretty, his father pretends to be pretty (he would be without that dumb crown), Drizzt would never say he’s pretty, but according to the fan girls he is, and the list goes on! Beauty is nice and well, but it’s just lame that all Elves are handsome. I’ll give a digital high-five to the person who writes a book with a really, really, really ugly Elf as the main protagonist. I’ll buy that book the moment it hits stores, no matter how retarded the plot is.

Finally, Elves always have some mystical power. They are either immortal, naturally magical or both at the same time. In the German tabletop RPG Das Schwarze Auge, Elves are so damn magical they sometimes craft items and enchant them without noticing. How stupid is that? Could you imagine an Elf making a beautiful necklace for her husband, but it turns out she wove a barkskin spell into it, turning her hubby into some kind of treant? That would at least explain why a large part of the Elvish population lives in forests, and why they care so much about their damn trees.

Really, the only setting that has made Elves interesting for me is Dragon Age. In the world described and shown in the BioWare games, Elves are a kind of gypsy-like race, who have to live in ghettos and who are almost extinct. They have to face persecution and hate every day, but they don’t surrender. They fight for their place in the world, and ally themselves with the forces of nature. They are an interesting race with many problems, but also with enormous reserves of hope and positivity. They’re not perfect, they’re not always magical and surely not always pretty. I salute BioWare, for showing the world how Elves should be.

Now, please excuse me, I have to get that image of Thranduil out of my head. Damn goldilocks with his pathetic crown…

TSWoD – The secrets of the secret societies

Yeah, try saying that ten times! Anyway, welcome to another installment of The Secret World of Darkness. Today, we’ll take a look at the factions of the secret world and how to represent them best with the World of Darkness rules. We’ll be adding another WoD book to the material used, so if you want to find out what you’ll need to get from your library to bring Funcom’s world to your table, read on!

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TSWoD – More Anima, more rule hacks and more Fiddles!

Another day, another post about The Secret World of Darkness. In today’s installment, we will take another look at what Anima has to offer for a character, look at some notes about conflicting rules and expand Fiddles’ character sheet. Here we go!

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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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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!

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!