Tuesday, July 30, 2013

"Ugly Bugger with the Wings, Private Jones 261. Three rounds rapid if you please ! " Only The First And Best Victorian SF RPG ever written coming back !

 In which our tardy correspondent from the blog-o-sphere does gush forth his fanboy affection for a very different kind of role-playing game; various components of other less satisfying systems discussed; comic British public school wallah accent attempted; main advantages of 1889 enumerated; a picture stolen to good purpose; commands to the reader; to which extensive informational and educational afternotes are appended

So, Space 1889 is back (again), and no surprise, it's a kickstarter, with the same setting, but a new rules system.  I think its the same rules system as Hollow earth adventures, so, cool there - at least they know how to do pulp right.  me, I actually liked the old (much berated) system, even the combat, but hey.  In this case, the game is the setting. 

Seriously, probably the best actual Victorian SF game with the possible challenge of Forgotten Futures.  - See, shortly thereafter Falkenstein and Amazing engine took it off to Vicotrian/Gothic Science fantasy by adding in the supernatural, Airships, brass,  leather corsets with goggles and called it steampunk. Or Spells, wizards, Elves, Dwarves,Sprites, Pixies, Lady Cottingly's unpressed Fairies and making it all Romancey* Gothicy Victoriany.  and  No complaint, and a favorite genre of mine, but as an old colonial miniatures player, this is always my go to game for Victoriana.  Not Punk, nor neccessarily Steamy, it simply says, "I say, what if all the boffo chaps in the labs made some ships that let us bring the benefits of modern plumbing, education and heavily favorable trade to the poor benighted Martians and what not, eh ?   Whizzers, I say !"  And off we go with an electric Ether flyer, a red coat** and a Webley pistol.

 1889.  No Elves.  No Magic.  Steam Optional.  Science, Rifles and unabashed colonialism in the solar system.

Role playing in a more civilized time. ***

This game is great.  I'm backing it****.  Read about it here (and back it. So let it it be done !)

Just Shut Up and SHOOT colour Sergeant !


 * Romance in the older use - a fantastical adventure, without the ripped bodices and bad boy seduction now associated with the term

 ** yes, yes, for the three of you who spotted this, I know that the well before 1889 the British army was no longer using Red for service uniforms -going over to mostly Khaki, with Red or Blue for most units on home service. But see, Mars is the RED planet, so a RED service coat will clearly blend in just smashingly, eh wot?

*** As long as one is British, at least.  I mean, we all know that savages begin at Calais, after all.

****I also bought the Savage worlds adaptation, and while it was mostly excellent (for my money it underplayed the role of  class in Victorian society which messes up the flavor, but far from fatally ), but it seems to have lost support.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Quick review: Orbital by Zoser games. A traveller setting & sourcebook

A traveller setting & sourcebook
Paul Elliott & Ben Lecrone
From Zozer Games
From the blurb: Orbital is a science fiction setting for Traveller with a fairly realistic (TL 9) feel that is set within our own solar system.
Yeah, well I say, Orbital is great !  It is exactly what  Open source Traveler should be (and is) creating.  New campaigns in new settings, with all the bells and whistles; chargen, ship building, planetary info, etc. It’s a TL 9 setting  confined to the solar system – no FTL, no gravitics and actual rockets instead of grav thrusters – so, although they are super efficient &  advanced fusion rockets, fuel use and burns are important.
It includes rules for chargen appropriate to the setting, necessary modifications to ship design (spin-grav modules and fusion drives in particular), planetary lift off , re-entry and orbital travel rules; a bunch of stuff that does a very good job of adding granularity to the low tech levels in any traveler game, even one set in the Third Imperium.  It probably worth getting for that alone if you are a 3I purist.
The setting is cool, although I have to admit I freaked when I saw it described as Cold war (” Dammit ! pipped again ! ) – but, it turns out to be a late 80’s type cold war tech +100 years – and the main cold war is between earth nations and Luna.  So, cool; my retro cold war  setting is still viable (see this blog for details) (assuming it ever wakes back up)
 A very 1980’s SF setting, no cyberpunk, no transhumanism, just corporate greed and nationalism in space. 
Chargen is well modified for the setting, and presented with a minimum of “look it up in the core rules”, and a good selection of hardware and “stuff” is included.
Orbital tells you the events and timeline, discusses politics and society, and does it in an engaging and detailed manner;  It’s harder to do well than it seems –I’ve read quite a few attempts that seem more like an unusually dry  sixth grade social studies report copied from the encyclopedia than I care to think about. 
I heartily recommend Orbital.
Get it here at DTRPG

Saturday, July 13, 2013

In Case You Were Confused....(AKA Dog headed opinion time)

To all want-to-be RPG designers, I feel it is my public duty to point out an issue that seems to be being overlooked in many new RPGs, and that seems to confuse many recent authors: RPG rules are not a venue for publishing your short (or interminable) gaming fanfic.

Not only is it blatantly inflating the page count (and price), but publishing your own fiction  in your own game is self indulgent vanity wankery of the first water.

I understand that a setting has to tell a story (really, I do) and yes, adventures need setting up – but neither of these are effectively accomplished by including interminable short stories about the tragic hero with a long duster, a shiny gunswordpowerthingie, and a tragic backstory attempting to make up for incomprehensible motivations stereotyped personality traits and pathologically confused  social relationships.    Okay ?  

Repeat after me: "A good RPG author is not automatically a good fiction author, and vice versa."  

Rules need playtest; stories need editorial criticism.   One doesn't substitute for the other. 
Cut it the hell out.   When I want crappy adventure fiction, I’ll read Gor; for crappy SF, there’s always Blake 7.

As an afterthought, the lack of actual fiction sections alone can be considered a major strength of the OSR and pocket/lite RPG design schools.  Even if I hated everything else about them, (and I don't) that alone would endear them to me.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Post game thoughts

So, actually, it went pretty well.   Yeah, they got thru exactly one random overland encounter, and two rooms in the dungeon in a 6 hour run, but what the heck. No timeouts, no tears, no threats.  And to be fair, at least three to four other rooms in the dungeon came to them - they were not really the most stealthy group, no they were not.

Highlights include:

The orc berserker ignoring the golinoids that charged in from the next rooms over in favor of looting corpses from the previous fight (for several turns), until one party member promised him 100GP to join the fight right now -he did, and kept the party from being rolled up but got torn up, badly; when he demanded payment, the answer was "I lied, and by the way, how does it feel to have only four hitpoints left, hmmmm? Tell you what, I'll sell you this heal spell for 100GP"

The huge Legolas vs Chuck Norris fight when the bosses main minion hobgoblin monk mook (MMHMM) smashed thru a door and got all "boot to the head" with the Elven ranger.  Turns out that a +1 bastard sword and good armor beats long training and mystic martial arts -although it was close.

(It was initially suggested that it was Bruce Lee vs Legolas, but everyone pretty quickly agreed that no way could Bruce Lee lose a fight, period.  One of them even referencec the dragon movie where Bruce kicked Chuck's ass, which, true or not, impressed the hell out of me for geekery above and beyond....)

The final fight ended with two epic crits on the same round * just as the two really tough mooks were about to win ; one delivered by a 1HP fighter at -3 from a concussion (the other to the Chuck Norris hobdude).  There was massive high fiveing, fist bumping and general jpyful end zone dances.

Now thats a way to end a game !  Yeah. 

And this, is apparently, post 200.  Wow. 

* both legit nat 20s rolled in the open, same round; double damaged followed by a max damage roll.  I described everyone in the room as looking like they had exploded a can of dinty-moore beef stew.