Archive for the ‘D20’ category

Wednesday September 7, 2011-Share the World, Share you Character

September 8, 2011

Over the last month, I have been working on a Dresden Files campaign for my older brother.  I have to admit that I am finding many of my GMing habits need to change with this indie game.  Although I have played several different RPGs; today, I realized that all of them have been one-shots.  I have never run a campaign with an indie system.  Despite all the little changes, which I might address later; I feel that there is one large encompassing abstract issue that I am struggling with; the illusion of control.  Control over what, you might ask? Well, everything. 

Being one of the disgruntled old-school gamers from the early 80’s, I have always been looking for new innovative games that went beyond the dungeon crawl.  Matter of fact, part of the reason I started GMing was to figure out a way to play something more than just hack n’ slash.  Being an unhappy product of the old-school, I advocated player control and anti-railroading by the GM.  I wanted players to contribute more to the adventure; because as a player, I felt that I was not allowed to contribute much.  Back then, I had to figure out what the GM thought was the right answer, instead of having any other options. 

As I delve deeper into the Fate System, I am beginning to realize that the GM has much more control over the Player’s character.  True, players have their own systems to create elements within the world; however, with the way Fate slings aspects around, I am noticing that a GM has a direct way to tweak characters.  A GM for D&D only had to throw monsters and traps at characters, GMs that had heavy-handed and extreme consequences where considered dicks-Never touch a golden duck you just know something bad is going to happen.   With the Fate system I can inflict several different aspects onto a character; like “Afraid of Colonel Mustard” or “Miss Scarlett Always Sounds Right.”  The amazing thing is that it is completely okay within the system.  I feel a slight conflict of motives here. 

I guess it is a little ironic that the first real indie campaign I am running allows the players to share the story with the GM, but also allows the GM to share the character with the players. 



Monday June 13, 2011-Two scoundrels and a Wookiee enter a bar…..

June 13, 2011

Before they even enter the hotel, Lando flips a credit chip to Chewie and tells him “rooms are on me, I get my own.”  Of course he does this in front of a few porters, doormen, and people who always hang outside of any hotel; if there is a woman he winks at her.  He walks right through the lobby like a politician, ignoring everyone around him; even Han pauses with Chewie so they can organize the logistics of renting rooms.  Lando walks with purpose, going directly to the bar as if he had been there a dozen times.  Lando is in the mood for something and he has plenty gold to buy it, without paying a dollar more.  That gold is charm. …

So, in Star Wars’ Saga Edition the group of Heroes gets some rooms at the local Hotel.  Many GMs, myself included, could quickly gloss over this fact.  Yet, some players would protest, some players want “color” and “hero definition” where a hotel bar could be an opportunity.  After all, Lando cannot demonstrate his suave and charming side while piloting the Millennium Falcon.  Being a good GM, I let the player play out a color scene for his hero, Lando. 

The player wants to use his charm and charisma to get a little nookie.  WHY, this is D20, who really knows?  Maybe the player just wants some of that old time rag; piss off the other players by showing off their Hero’s skills, or maybe there is a lead of some sort to work out later?  One of the amazing things about D&D and D20 is that players can call for scenes and skill rolls that have every little consequence on the current situation.  Yet, at the same time, the more they gather the more they can use against you, the GM.  Some players use a shot-gun approach, especially if you use any bonus with “natural 20’s.”   The more BS rolls they make the greater chance to get a “natural 20” which gives them a useable boon.  Unfortunately, there is no mechanic to address this situation within the game.   

Anyway, let’s get back to the game; roll for “somthum and somthum.”  That is how D20 deals with it, make a roll for “somthum and somthum” if you make it, then you got somthum; if not, then you didn’t.  Now comes the stupid ass complications, are you making an ability or skill check, what skill are you using, is this an oppose roll or using a DC number, should you use everyone within the room Will Def as a DC?  The problem with D20 is that the system only deals with the immediate results of an action, not “officially” anything else.  It does not matter what you used roll, all that matters is if you succeed or fail.  This simple go/no-go roll makes it really boring for all the players, including the Jerk-off who requested the roll in the 1st place. 

And then there is semantics, you just want to get some nookie? Okay that is an easily DC 10, you rolled a success!!! You are awakened by a man screaming for Lola in the lobby and hall.  The amazing woman that you met last night has been replaced by a frighten abused woman, whose name happens to be Lola.  The player never said what type of “somthum” he wanted.   

May 11, 2011- One rule to role-play them all, One rule to find them, One rule to bring them all and in the darkness fights them

May 11, 2011

One of the greatest strengths of D&D is that it only has one rule for role-playing: pick an alignment from the following nine types.  There is some description of the nine types, but they vague and purposely left open to interpretation.  That is all there is.  This means how you role-play is up to you, the player, and the GM.   The rules do not interfere in any role-playing choice; your hero’s chance to hit somebody is not affected by if you are good or evil.  The system never addresses “why you are swinging a sword at someone.”  This is the genius of D&D, why it became popular and remains popular; an unregulated system for role-playing attracts the widest range of players who role-play.   Nobody is turned away.  If you want to role-play motivations and passions, then just do it during actual play-there is no rule against it.  If you want to compete with the other players, treat them as rivals, work with the GM to make a story, or just explore a setting, then just do it during actual play-there is no rule against it.  That is really cool.

However, there are weaknesses with this type of free range; a bad taste that grows in one’s mouth after playing a few times.  Good games work only because you are with a group of players that mostly agrees with your way to game.  Bad games happen when you play with others who do not share your way.  Since there are no rules regulating a difference in style/interpretation; the conflict is resolved solely on players’ personalities.  This could make a game horrible.  Additionally, players can only fully recognized these differences through actual play.  After all, how many people say they believe in one thing, and act in another?  The only way to truly know there is a conflict is when the conflict happens.


May 5, 2011-Willy Lowman of Gaming

May 5, 2011

Having just written about, I have been keeping an eye on it more than usual.  This allowed me to catch a little blip that just came up this week; a game in my hometown.  Interesting. 

Normally, I would just blow off something like this; however, I have a new goal for myself, after realizing that online social networks cannot replace the normal footwork.  The goal is; to do the footwork to expand my gaming social network.  This is like being a salesman, going out and fishing for contacts which most end up being dead ends.  Most people don’t have the constitution to put up with a social situation where there are more misses than hits.  Feeling that there should be some sort of return equaling the effort put into the situation.  I still feel the same way.  I have been a salesman, it’s not my forte.  I usually over analyze the risk and conclude a miss before even trying.  Naturally, I started accessing if this game would meet my goal and if the energy put into would pay out. 

Do you know what makes a good salesman?  A good salesman finds the reward in making a pitch, not just in making the sale.  That is why they don’t mind the misses, because they still got something out of it. 

Here is an opportunity for myself.  True, chances are, I will not get what I want completely from this game.  Chances are this will be a miss.  If I go into this with an agenda, with baggage, and only an end goal being the reward; then it will be a complete waste of time.  However, if I go into it just wanting to enjoy the game, I will get more out of it.  Sure, it would be a miss, but I had fun failing the whole time.

I guess I am joining a gaming group.


April 25, 2011-More Storms in April

April 25, 2011

This month is turning out to be a disappointing month.  Not only did I not get my Apocalypse World game started but now I got the talk from my son that I have been speculating would happen since December- “you know Dad, I am getting bored of Star Wars, pretty much all role-playing, and I think I would rather play RPGs on the X-box.” 

You see, I am a divorced Dad that lives about an hour away from his kids which only allows me visitation every other weekend.  Playing Star Wars was a good way to bond with my oldest son; it was something to do over the weekend and gave special attention from me to him.  In December, he transferred schools and moved in.  Over the last four months he has found more things to do around our home than he could by just visiting every other weekend and has received that fatherly attention you can only get by living with your father.  When you are a visiting Dad, you want the all the weekends to be good; so you don’t worry about the little things, you turn a blind eye to a messy room, and empathize about school and grades because they are not your responsibility.   A weekend Dad has to accept that he does not have any direct control over his children but rather influence which is directly related to how receptive your children are to you.  Pissed off kids, generally, are not at all receptive to your opinions, so you want to keep them happy. 

Living with your child is a completely different setting which changes nearly all the dynamics.  That messy bedroom for two out of fourteen days is now messy twelve out of fourteen, no blind eye turned for that.  School and Grades are now my responsibility, so I have to directly get involve.  Sure I can still empathize once every three months when we have a heart to heart talk about his feelings towards school; but I also have to make sure he is turning in assignments every week.   Instead of worrying about what we can do, I worry about what he is doing.  Also, he gets to see my bad days and normal flaws, which can be shelved for two out of fourteen days.  In other words, we are getting normal parent/teenager relationship.

All of this has taken the luster out of gaming together, which I figure would happen down the road when I agreed to having him live with me and Laura.  I hoped it would not be so soon, that the game would be compelling enough to keep his interest.  However, can a teenager keep his attention on a game that happens at most-once a month?  No, not really.  So, when he talked to me this gaming weekend about not wanting to play, I complemented him on his honesty and courage.  I was disappointed but not angry, I understood where his heart was coming from which lessen the pain- I did hound him about his homework. 

Many people say that they game to get away from their life that it is an escape and that they can be briefly somebody else who is not them.  I never really understood that, because life has this way of following you around.  When try to stop it, it is like putting post in a field, life just walks through the gaps.


4/13/2011-The Wrath of Ashardalon Board Game Review

April 14, 2011

Take a knife to 4th Edition D&D and cut down anything that hints at role-playing; leaving just the bone of having to work together.  This includes the Dungeon Master because he would add too much flavor to the game.  Then boil down all the rules to make it simple, because you have to add an additional layer of random meat to compensate the loss of the GM.  Pepper in some artwork, but not too much, and you will have Wizards of the Coast’s basic D&D board game mechanic; making The Wrath of Ashardalon, a fairly bland game. 

This is the second Dungeon Crawl board game produce by Wizards of the Coast/Hasbro with the same basic system using D&D as its inspiration.  WotC obviously has the outside goals of, introducing more people to the D&D Brand and getting a piece of the Dungeon Crawl board game market by using the brand.  Unfortunately, the game does not raise interest in RPG because it is really just a tactical game.  True, my nine-year old enjoys playing it, but he admits he doesn’t want to try the RPG.  I guess there is a chance for his palate to grow.  However, there is a good chance that WotC might get enough of the board game market and make a profit to keep adding supplements. 

The Crunchy Bits

Players can choose a dwarven warrior, half-orc rouge, dragonborn wizard, half-elf paladin, or human cleric to be their hero for the game.  From there, the players can choose their heroes’ special powers, mimicking 4th edition’s mechanic of “At Will,” “Daily Power” and “Utility Power.” The “at will” powers can be used throughout the game, but all others are a one-time use.  Not all heroes or powers are created equal; the wizard is very useful while the rogue is almost pointless.  Each hero has basic stats for the game; hit points, speed, AC, and such.  Your hero can advance a level during gameplay, which gives you bonuses to your stats.  Gameplay for the heroes is a simple “move-attack” phase during your turn, with your hero rolling a D20 adding combat modifiers vs. a monster’s AC. 

There is no Dungeon Master with this board game; therefore the players have to take some additional responsibilities and there are a few minor random systems.  The players are in charge of the monsters that they draw from the deck, however, each monster have a set priories in which they act.  This surprisingly works really well; even if you mega-game the monsters to the heroes’ advantage.  The random systems involve drawing dungeon tiles and cards (monster, encounters, treasure, adventure cards and a few more). These systems might be optional add more complexity to the game.  They work well in adding more flavor and tactics to the game; however, some rules are not distinct or clear, requiring some house rules or group agreement on how to apply them.   

The game includes an adventure book that, in theory, contains over twenty different quests, but that is based on drawing cards.  The first few quests get players acquainted with the game while the others provide enough different flavors and tactics to avoid game repetition.  Oddly, there are campaign’s rules which allow players buy magical items and bring them from one quest to another.  If you are going to have a campaign, why not play a RPG?  Old dogs…

The Soft Chew

There is not much fluff to this game, yet for some reason I feel transported back to sixth grade going through the module B-1 “Search of the Unknown.”  You go down a hall and get hit by a fungal plume and when you open the door it releases a lava trap; impractical and very old school.  Players argue about tactics not motivations and the setting is defined just enough to explain why you want to play.  There is a nostalgic feeling to playing this game.  True, some people will miss the competition and strategy in playing against a human opponent (Game Master), but the random element maintains a mystery and tension for everyone playing.   

Unfortunately, the game loses the basic role-playing fundamentals that higher principles were built on; creative problem/solution and prevention actions.  Players cannot tap a 10-foot pole in front of them to set off pits before walking on them.  Heroes cannot take hours investigating a well of water or clump of mushrooms to figure out if and how they might be dangerous.  There are no GM tricks for them to out-wit.  The walls turn to magma because the card that was flipped over says so.  Without these basic role-playing options that were a given during the old school days, players are pigeon-hole into making only tactical and risk assessments for the game.  This means that they only see the hero that they are playing as a tactical tool instead of a character.  This is the one true irony of the game, D&D is the founding brand of role-playing and this game has nothing to do with playing a unique character. 

Tasty Bits

Miniatures Stuff!!!  You get 35 unpainted figures with this game, 40 interlocking dungeon tiles, and other gaming tiles with this game.  Even if you don’t like the game, you have the basic requirements to have a good fantasy RPG session.  They are not the cheap stuff that Milton Bradley produces but good solid Hasbro pieces.

Versatility!!!  I don’t know about other dungeon crawl games, but there is a wide range of stuff to apply some creativity too.  WotC has built into the game several categories and discrete intricacies into the game that a creative person could effortlessly start playing with.  For example, want a Dragonborn rogue? Then replace the Half-orc race card with the Dragonborn race card, now you have it.  Make your own powers, races or monsters.  I started house ruling during the 1st game that I played, talk about old school.  I am surprise that there is not an online presence adapting and adding to this game.

Solo Play!!!! If you do not like grinding to MMOs, then try playing this game solo. Solo play is the greatest aspect of this game.  You can get a deeper level of tactics and possible combinations of actions than any button pusher online.  Start off playing three heroes, then try two or if you want a real challenge, try just one.  If you get bored, start playing with the versatility of the game and see where that takes you. 

Bitter Bits

No role-playing-I identify more with Professor Plum more than Quinn the Cleric. 

Inheritance of D&D- Because this game is structured on D&D, it inherits some of the problems that come with playing D&D.  Most of the challenges and creativity is external; monsters, events, magic items and setting; not within the hero you are playing.  This will move many players to find new and creative external challenges, keeping the hero stagnate.  Okay, this is an abstract way to say: if you like this game, then you will want to buy supplements that give you more figures, tiles, monster and event cards. 


The Wrath of Ashardalon is a stew of good and bad things with nothing being exceptional.  It is bland; but none the less, filling.  It barely meets the two requirements of a game, it’s fun and you will want to play it again.  You are not going to beseechs others to play with the excitement that a typical RPG invokes.  Instead, it will be a good filler when you cannot play any real RPG. The game is like ranch flavored potato chips, it has some flavor and will satisfy your hunger, but it’s not a real meal. 

On a personal note; I would be tempted to buy supplements if they were priced right.  However, I don’t think I would spend another $65.00 for an additional and compatible game, like the soon to be released “legend of Drizzt.”  I certainly will not pay for additional adventures that are sold as PDFs. 


Content: 3 out of five-I like playing it instead of MMOs, but if I hope my friends bring a new game on gaming night.

Style: 2 out of five-The miniatures are good, but I wanted more pizzazz with the cards and tiles.

4/8/2011-Clone Wars Story Arc-Part Two-The Basic Story “All Roads Lead to the Core”

April 8, 2011

Chess Game Cliché –The Heroes and Villain have to win the hearts and minds of the populas.

Cat n’ Mouse Cliché – The Villain is at the forefront of every conflict.

The Villain

The female Besalisk, Major Shahhat, is the villain of this story.  By lumping Lucas’ Cannon about this species with the background of the Mythical Basilisk, which the species is tied to, creates a visual inhuman threat.  Major Shahhat is an imposing creature on sight and her motivations are poisonous extensions of greed.  An obese octopus destroying most of what is around her, while hording what is left.  If a Hutt symbolizes complacent gluttony; then this Besalisk symbolizes resentful greed.    Major Shahhat not only will take what you have, but is insulted by the fact that you have it.  She is a large bloated six arm and four legged creature of hate that the heroes will need to overcome.  Her troops and tactics reflect her personality. 

The Story

With the Trade Federation controlling most of the Rimma Trade Route, the Separatist’s military leader Major Shahhat wants to move deeper into the galaxy.  She desires to seize the riches of the Core Worlds, starting with Herglic Space.   This sector, with an incredibly large docile species, can easily be a launching point to take opulent Core Worlds.  Besides, Herglic Space’s luxury is nearly comparable to those of the Core Worlds; an appetizer before the entrée. 

Her invasion begins before the Battle of Geonosis with poison and panic.  Endorsed by Count Dooku and backed up financially by the Retail Caucus, Major Shahhat buys both; the means for propaganda and inter-sector manufacturing on 26 (of the 40) star systems.  The first corporation, The HoloMarket Corp, has started a subversive crusade to create fear and panic through Holonet broadcasting.  The Second corporation, The Enlighten Funding Foundation, is removing the middleclass while destroying the efficiency and quality of the sector’s manufacturing.  After the Battle of Geonosis, Major Shahhat secretly moves her droid troops into the sector for her invasion.    


The real twist within this story is that the troops are the Cat n’ Mouse.  As the heroes pit their troops against the Separatist’s, Major Shahhat moves them around fairly effortlessly destroying anything she held.  The real Chess Game is dealing with the population’s attitude, which means chipping away and undoing the propaganda and economical machine that Shahhat has set up. 

Another twist about this story is that; as the heroes use the military, the more damage and change is inflicted on the population.  Herglic Space starts out as a near utopian suburb, only to be slowly turned into a polarized military complex.