This month the subject of the carnival is The Combat Experience and it is being hosted by RPG Alchemy.
Love it or leave it combat is one of those parts of the system that has more than it’s fair share of table time so finding a system that the players engage with is something that is always something I look for.
At school I studied fencing and attended an after school fencing club, the romantic ideal of swinging a blade was what attracted me to the idea. Since then I’ve always checked to see how a combat system models something as simple as feints, parries and riposte.
When I started gaming combat was something I enjoyed, as it gave me an outlet to swing swords or blast away with rayguns. I remember finding Pheonix Command and relished looking up on the various tables to see where someone had been shot. While this appealed to me as a games master it was very time consuming for the players as I had to perform a few calculations and look up the result.
While Phoenix Command handles gunfights and the aftermath of being shot I was very disappointed by the hand to hand side of things; even with the hand to hand supplement things never got any better. Millenniums End also had a novel way of doing things, align a template over a silhouette of a person and then you could work out where you hit. This also worked for hand to hand and I remember an afternoon of two players consistently kicking each other in the groin for what seemed like ages; the happy spree was broken up when one of the combatants switched locations and axe-kicked his opponent in the head.
I even tried playing Middle Earth Role Playing (MERP) but I was confused more by the game mechanics than the combat system, add percentage this to skills etc.
Warhammer 1st edition had a pretty solid combat system that was only slightly wonky but did cater for hit locations.
In the end I decided that I preferred a system that gave me the detail if I was after it, something the narrative games like FATE cater for and the system is a lot more cinematic and pulpy which is something I always enjoy playing with.
So it’s been a year since I started this blog and I’m pleased with how it’s turned out so far.
Once I started I realised how much I missed writing for pleasure; most of my penmanship has been dull technical stuff that while serviceable isn’t something that I can point to and say “I did this”. Which is very unlike this blog my main outlet for my creative urges although my muse seems to be driven by my sickness, something that I find very amusing.
I thought it was also time to expand upon my origin story that I first mentioned here, while searching through a box of books it turns out that I had accidentally deceived you all and my first purchased RPG turns out to be the basic edition Marvel Superheroes RPG. I purchased in 1986 while on holiday after being driven to find it by the amazing adverts in the back of the Marvel comics I was reading.
I think I forgot about buying it as I never seemed to know what to do with it or how to get other people interested. Bear in mind this was before the days of the internet and gaming magazines in the UK were had to get hold of from the local newsagent.
What really grabbed my interest in gaming was a programme I saw on LWT back in the early 80s called “South of Watford” and presented by Ben Elton. I remember watching him go to the Games Workshop store in Hammersmith and talk to the store manager before later on playing some D&D. Five years later I would be in that very store and buying my first games.
Games Workshop then was a different store, one that sold other peoples material and long before the advent of the Games Workshop hobby which is what they’re best known for these days. In those days you could pick up a licensed copy of Runequest, Traveller or even Call of Cthulhu.
Moving behind the screen.
After being a player for a short period of time I decided to try being a gamesmaster and looking back on those days I think it was my sheer enthusiasm that kept me going. I was at one point gaming five nights a week running a different game each night with a different system. It was during this time that I started to understand what I liked to run; science fiction piqued my interest more than fantasy did and I loved the four colour superhero genre. Much Traveller and Marvel Superheroes was played along with a side dish of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
The Critical Miss years.
It all started simply enough with an open call for players at a local comic shop; the owner knew me and the people organising the event and I decided to turn up and try to play with a different group of people. Let me tell you those first few weeks were a great time, we all brought games down to play and since we never really that organised you could never count on the same group of players for each game. I took my chances and dusted out Paranoia second edition and over the course of several weeks I ran through the published adventures I had bought. The players had fun trying to kill each other and deal with the game forms a friend had photocopied.
Slowly the group started to crystallise from the raw elements we threw at it, after a few months we lost a player and the venue; we found a new home in a building owned by the father of another player and we played in that cold cramped warehouse amongst the boxes of paper. Summer came around and then we started to lose players until by the following October we were d0wn to a handful and we moved once again to my place.
I found myself running more games and with a stable group we could try to play campaigns together. I was now playing twice a week with two different groups and this became once a week when the two groups melded together. We lost more players as well; one went off to university, one moved away and one left for personal reasons I won’t go into here.
It was during this period I broke out Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay and embarked upon the Enemy Within Campaign.
Over the years I’ve only played with a handful of gamesmasters, some of whom have been very good while one or two I haven’t got along with as we have very different ideas and playing styles. I would like to think of myself as a good gm and that is something one of my players was telling me after each session; his feedback was really good and I’ll admit is was something of an ego boost for me.
So it is hard for me to pick out one specific GM and say they are the best overall since each have had their own unique ways of doing things. One of my friends managed to create such a spellbinding atmosphere, it was almost like being hypnotised and we were rudely snapped out of this state when a door in his house suddenly slammed shut; I don’t mind admitting that I jumped out of my seat when that happened!
During the Cyberpunk 18.104.22.168 Night City Blues campaign there was one particular session that really sticks out as I managed to weave two or three sub-plots into a scenario along with the main plot for them to discover and I received some very positive feedback about that.
When it comes to crafting my own scenarios I tend to go with the three act model as this works really well for me and gives room for creation of sub-plots. This style also works if you decide to play a pulp based game and I cribbed plenty of advice from the Lester Dent Master Plot formula, if you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a read and I was able to use this advice to create a random pulp adventure generator. I’d like to share it with you all, but as it’s based upon a few commercial products I can’t as not only would it violate copyright, it could also hurt the sales of them.
When I was writing my top 10 list of games I mentioned the excellent cross-genre game Torg.
Now for a limited time you can get a selection of Torg books including the players guide which greatly expands upon character creation and the revised edition of Torg from the good people at Bundle of holding
So if you have ever wondered what is so good about this game you can pick them up for a steal.
I picked this game up as I was a fan of the biomechanical art style made famous by the late H.R Giger and this little book seemed to be my sort of game.
Two things struck me about the book, the first was its size as it was much smaller than an ordinary game book and full glossy colour; the second thing was that it was expensive, I guess that full colour glossy art came with a premium price. Despite these details I bought it, read it and admired the artwork before losing it as the small book just vanished. So I write this overview from memory.
The background for the game itself was promising, all characters belonged to a hive mind and operated together for the good of the Equanimity. Even though you were all relatively equal you all conformed to one of the few roles that existed within this community.
The game was almost like playing the Borg from Star Trek, even naming your character involved rolling a handful of d6s and that was your “name”, you could allocate the digits however you wanted to. I also recall the interesting skill system; you could determine the number of skills you had and the more of a Jack of All trades you were the harder it was for you to accomplish a task.
Moving beyond character creation and into the story of the game. An event happens which severs your characters from this hive mind and you suddenly have to cope with being alone, an individual lost in their thoughts and unable to reconnect to the Equanimity; worse still, the queen wants you dead and devotes time and effort trying to hunt you down for termination.
There were a couple of supplements printed for it but they became hard to find and the meta-plot died with the game line, which is a shame as this little gem had so much going for it.
I understand that as a result of Lester Smith’s successful Kickstarter for his d6xd6 core rpg, Zero will once more live again and I can’t wait to see the results.
If you want to see this new game then please click here http://www.d6xd6.com/ and have a look.
One area that Dark Conspiracy shone was the free fan created resources for it. There were two free downloadable ezines available to read.
DEMONGROUND: Reflections of a Darker Future is a fanzine dedicated to supporting the genre of Modern Horror in roleplaying games.
The first nine issues were dedicated to Dark Conspiracy and later issues would cover a broader range of horror games. Demonground seems to have stopped publishing over a decade ago.
Protodimension Magazine is a fanzine devoted to the wonderfully creative world of conspiracy horror role playing. It’s about the worlds.
This is a spiritual successor to Demonground and carries on the work laid down by it.
There is also one final area of support, a fan based website :http://darkconspiracytherpg.info/
After publishing the post about Top 10 rpg list: Number 2 – Call of Cthulhu I realised I had forgotten the honourable mention, so rather than edit the original post I present to you a bonus post:
I had previously mentioned this game twice before, most notably in the #RPGaDAY post http://www.generaltangent.com/blog/2014/08/28/rpgaday-day-28-scariest-game-youve-played/ .
I have often regarded this as a forgotten classic of the day, what I loved was the background. This was a world teetering on the brink of collapse; ecologically ruined areas, society divided into a class structure of the have and have nots. Cities had effectively vanished and controlled by the corporations. In some ways it is a bit like Cyberpunk for the attitude but the rest of the game exudes a 1930s depression era setting. Technology has stagnated and even a simple thing like a telephone is the purview of the idle rich.
The game has gone through three editions with the first edition being the one that I purchased, a gorgeous black and white softcover book with some fantastic colour cover art. Stylistically this is where I think the game shines; if you have a world that has become black and white then using a monochrome book does set the tone. After GDW closed their doors, the game was licensed for a second edition which tidied up a lot of the information scattered in the first edition books and divided it into two players guides and two games-master guides. The Master edition of the players and GMs books were slightly longer and had extra material.
There is currently a third edition published by 3Hombres Games I have as yet to give it a good read.
The first and second editions of the game used the same system that was derived from Twilight 2000 Second edition and while clunky in places it did give you an idea of your characters background. Shortly after first edition appeared so did a GM screen with a booklet called the PC Booster kit and this gave you expanded backgrounds and migrated the game to the D20 system which was being used by Twilight 2000 v2 . The booster kit also gave more information on the social classes so you could play the ultra rich nomenklatura, the middle class Mike or the lower class prole or if you desired it the rogue android.
There were a wide range of occupations your character could take including the Cyborg Escapee, Doctor, college student, plus a bunch of military types imported from Twilight 2000.
Apart from what I mentioned above, there is a little more to the background that needs mentioning. Humanity wasn’t alone; there were alien races that were working to subjugate mankind, entities from parallel dimensions bent on global domination and dark beings from Earth’s past.
Lester Smith also had a wry sense of humour when he wrote the book, there are a few Easter eggs to look out for, including the sunglasses that are popular among monster hunters.
This section was also taken from Twilight 2000 and in the first d10 version of the game had an interesting rule for shotguns, you rolled a number of six sided dice and you got a hit for each 6 that came up.
There were a few published and they weren’t bad but a couple of misunderstandings did arise, the curse of American English I suppose 🙂
If you get the chance to pick this game up its worth a look but the system may seem very dated.