31 March 2012

Recommendations: March 2012

Recommendations March 2012

In this category of posts I will highlight three links I find worthwhile and tell you, the readers, why that is so. In every post like this I will link to one podcast, one other blog, and one free game, be it video-, table-top, RP-, or other. I'll try to keep this as regular category at the end of the month/beginning of the next month, hence the “of the month” attached to each category. Take that however you will. All things presented here are things I listen to/read/play on a regular basis and that is my only certificate of quality I'm offering here.

Podcast of the month: Actual People, Actual Play
This is yet another podcast on the topic of role-playing games, albeit a bit more on the theoretical and intellectual side of things. The crew basically reviews game-sessions they have played on a variety of different gaming-systems, ranging from traditional RPGs to more experimental ones lacking Gamemasters and such things. They put a lot of thought into game-mechanics and how they affect gameplay and the overall experience and, as they put it in the beginning of each episode, "the fiction during play". Anyone who is a GM or likes to design their own games will find this well worth listening to so check it out!

Blog of the month: Greywulfs Lair
This man, original inspirateur for my own Sudongeon has a blog that is a mixture between art-blog (he does 3D-designs, mostly of fantasy-characters) and musings on classic and more recent Dungeons and Dragons. As the man has quite the background in the latter, his texts are always worth a read, even if you don't play actual D 'n D, for his ideas for campaign-settings and rule-deviations are inspiring for any kind of game, really.

Free game of the month: How to Host a Dungeon
How to Host a Dungeon is a procedural world-generation tool that you play not with your computer, but with pen and paper and some dice. Watch in awe as a dungeon is created from the formation of caves, the intrusion of dwarves and dark elves and their eventual demise through cultural enthropy or invading monsters. This creates a dungeon that has a history of centuries, allowing a GM to fleshen out descriptions nearly endlessly, or is just a fun exercise in itself. There is a free version as well as a paid version with additional illustrations and features.

30 March 2012

Playing Oblivion: Day 3 part 1 – Daywalking

This is part of an ongoing series. If you want to start at the beginning, go here.

It's early 2012 and I'm playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Why? Because I (finally) can. Join me on my path to glory and the stabilization of the status quo in almost-Tolkien-land.

It's night in the Imperial Capital. A figure wanders through the streets, from shadow to shadow but without any real aim. It's Martor, the hero, the traveler, the unwilling vampire. The thirst must be killing him by now but his quest has only just begun. At some point, I realize, I must wait until the day. I have come to the capital because I have heard that one can buy a soul gem here. In fact, I know so, because after all I have read the online wiki about how to complete this vampire-cure quest. It turns out that without reading that, I wouldn't have stood a chance. It's hard enough as it is: Martor burns up quickly upon contact with sunlight, which I could help with by drinking someones blood. But Martor has sworn never to do such a thing.

29 March 2012

Game Spotlight: Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator

Last night, a few of my roleplaying-buddies and I got together to play a hybrid of video-game, life-action RPG, and social game called Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator. And it was awesome. Never before have I felt so involved in a multi-player experience and never before was a LAN-party this much fun. Here's how it went...

Artemis is a game designed to be played by a group of people in the same room. Everyone (except the captain) needs a computer as their work-station on this totally-not-Startrek-at-all space voyage. Every player plays a distinct role on the command bridge and they will only see what their role requires them to see on their screen. There is a main screen that can show different aspects including informations from each individual station as well as outside-views of the ship. This leads to a gaming experience where each player does their job on board while the captain runs around and tells everyone what to do, requests status-reports or this/that to be put up on the main screen.

24 March 2012

Playing Oblivion Day 2 part 6: Looking for a Cure

This is part of an ongoing series. If you want to start at the beginning, go here.

It's early 2012 and I'm playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Why? Because I (finally) can. Join me on my path to glory and the stabilization of the status quo in almost-Tolkien-land.

It takes me a while to find the entrance to the castle in Skingrad, accidentally ending in the guard-quarters at one point. The count’s secretary tells me to wait and I pace around the grand entrance hall of the incredibly gothic-looking castle thinking about what to do when the guy shows up. Is he going to fess-up and I’ll have to kill him? With all of these guards around? Will he have a cure and I can just go, being back to normal human Nord again? Making himself seem very important, the count lets me wait for a while. When he finally shows up I get to watch him slowly walking across a balcony and then coming down the stairs. When he deems it fit to speak to me, my hopes of a quick-heal is quickly shattered.

23 March 2012

Pen and Paper: Casualties among PCs part 3 - Left in the Ditch and other Deaths

Still talking about characters who died on me, this time we'll look at the other three deaths in my roster. My first character death was something I actually enjoyed, from a story-perspective (going out in a blaze, saving the world and killing a lot of evil authority figures in the process) as well as from a meta-gaming perspective (screwing up the deus-ex-machina players-not-involved ending the GM had prepared). The second one much less so.

22 March 2012

Pen and Paper: Casualties among PCs part 2 - Blaze of Glory

In the last post I talked about me as a GM killing player characters because that'll teach 'em. This time I'll tell you about my own PCs that, despite my guidance, didn't live to see the end of an adventure. It's not often that Player-Characters in a traditional pen & paper role-playing-game die. This is due to some technical limitations (creating a new character takes some time - if my guy in Rogue Survivor dies, I hit some keys and get a new one started, if my character in Vampire dies, I need to make up a new background-story and allocated points for half an hour), as well as emotional reasons (getting invested in a character takes time, being invested in a character means you don't want them to die unless it really fits their story - either way you want to spend time with your creation). Over the years I have played about two dozen characters in pen & paper RPGs, most of them in longer campaigns, and only four of them have died. These are their stories.

21 March 2012

Thoughts on Pixels: Genre or Genre?

The big-bucks in entertainment have recently been putting out more and more "re-imaginations", "reboots", and "re-launches" of old and even ancient franchises, apparently working on the assumption that there is no new IP to be made. This trend first hit movie theatres near you with all sorts of content from the 1960s through 1990s re-made (and often dumbed-down) and newly adapted. Some were more successful (the recent Batman movies), some were less so (the remake of The Thing, anything involving TV-serials turned into feature films decades after the fact), some were downright ridiculous (the board game Battleship as a movie-adaptation?!), but what this post is going to be about is the fact that the remake-wave has hit gaming.

Now, video-gaming has always been a category of entertainment where sequels were generally like re-makes of their predecessors: Basically the same game but with better visuals, ideally some tweaks in game-play and some furthered story for the player to follow. This has mostly been the case because there are two genres that any given video-game is part of, both of them having nothing to do with one-another: The genre of game-play and the genre of story. And that's exactly what some of the modern re-makes fail to understand.

18 March 2012

Schmidtennistan files part 3: Glorious Army

Seven decades ago my grandfather was a child in Nazi-Germany, playing war-games with a friend of his. These games were rather elaborate and involved not only toy soldiers but also diplomacy and even bureaucratic processes of the two countries involved. I found the files containing what my grandfather made up back then and here is the second part of my analysis of them. For the first part, go here.

All that stands in between the people of Schmidtennistan and the undisciplined hordes that the Dreessenistani call their army, is the glorious army of Schmidtennistan. The „War-related“ chapter in the state-file is filled mostly with lists, which gives an impression of how the armed forces were structured and where the priorities within them were placed by the government.

12 March 2012

Playing Oblivion Day 2 part 5: Bitten!

 This is part of an ongoing series. If you want to start at the beginning, go here.

It's early 2012 and I'm playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Why? Because I (finally) can. Join me on my path to glory and the stabilization of the status quo in almost-Tolkien-land.

Those who have played the game will probably know what is coming, those who haven't may get tipped off by the title of this post. It hit me completely unprepared even though the signs were clearly there. Here's the tale:

Martor got up after a night of sleep and I decided that the first thing for us to do was to find an alchemy-store to get rid of all the loot we had acquired yesterday. Martor wanders through the streets of the city a bit until he finds what he’s been looking for and goes into the alchemy-store to sell his stuff. It goes quite well, fetching a price I find quite alright. Now, quite a bit wealthier than before, there are only two places for a warrior to go to. And there are no brothels around in Oblivion, so Martor goes to the local smithy for a shopping-spree. Upon trying on new armor, I notice something odd about Martors face (and we can totally imagine him noticing in a mirror while in a dressing room). That isn't Martors face! What the hell? He looks like crap! Martor appears to have aged decades and has also lost about ten kilograms and all complexion from his face. He looks downright ill. My brain puts two and two together and comes to one conclusion: There must have been a vampire in my room last night, the nightmare was real! Oh god, no. No. Nooooooooooo!

09 March 2012

Pen and Paper: Casualties among PCs part 1 - I am a cruel GM.

When it comes to traditional pen & paper RPGs there are two types of games you can play and I will judge you as a person depending on which you favor. There is the no-fail-state heroes can't die power-fantasy that a lot of early DnD-goups seem to have favored and there is games where your character can actually die. I despise the former, as it makes all combat and adventuring devoid of risk and thus pointless. As a friend of mine once said: „Adventure without risk is Disney world.“

07 March 2012

Talking Boardgames: Pandemic

Talking Boardgames: Pandemic
Pandemic is a cooperative boardgame designed by Matt Leacock and published here in Germany by Pegasus Spiele. With three different settings of difficulty and a strict cooperative victory or loss for all players, it separates itself from most other boardgames. Of course there are other cooperative games out there but it is still a niche in game-mechanics.
Each player takes on the role of a member of the CDC, the international agency for the control of diseases, in combating the simultaneous outbreak of four different pandemics on a global scale. This story is supplemented greatly by the games mechanics. Every player has a set number of moves and all randomness in the game is the result of some clever card-drawing mechanics including the re-shuffle of one of the stacks. Players travel around the globe to dampen the diseases’ effects in hot-spots, all the while trying to coordinate themselves towards finding the cure for each type of pandemic.

05 March 2012

Playing Oblivion Day 2 part 4: Caves of Loot

 This is part of an ongoing series. If you want to start at the beginning, go here.

It's early 2012 and I'm playing The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Why? Because I (finally) can. Join me on my path to glory and the stabilization of the status quo in almost-Tolkien-land.

The winged creature I had spotted fires off a spell at Martor as he goes in to attack. Luckily the creature doesn’t realize that the man attacking it isn’t very proficient at using his bow. It could just fly up and pepper Martor with majick but instead it hovers a few feet above the ground and doesn’t even retreat to a safe distance when being rushed and subsequently murdered with a long, sharp blade. It had been guarding a door in the hillside that probably represents the entrance to another dungeon. Not quite fully loaded with loot, Martor decides to go look what’s to be found in there. After all, the flying creature was just labeled “Kobold”, not “Winged Demon” or some such thing, so it doesn’t seem too dangerous…

02 March 2012

Things to come 3

Another month has passed. So what's going to go on here in March 2012?

-The conclusion of the Schmidtennistan-Files. This time we're going to get around reviewing the army that was apparently defending my grandfather's bedroom in the late 1930s.

-More pen and paper thoughts! I'll give you some hints on world-creation for a low-fantasy setting. We'll see where it goes.

-More Oblivion. This month we'll conclude day 2, which means that I'll actually have to play the game again in the near future...

-Another Board Game Review: Pandemic. See if you are going to get infected or not (I just had to make that joke. Sorry!).

I have to admit that three posts per week seem realistic in my current life-situation. Also it's quite possible that I'm going to release some small-scale video games soon, as part of the Rock-Paper-Shotgun Gamepunk-Movement. Stay tuned on that one, though I'm not going to promise too much. Also, and this is all hypothetical right now, it's possible that a buddy and I are going to make a mobile app in the foreseeable future. Maybe.

I'm outta here!