Monthly Archive: October 2012

Oct 31 2012

Episode #34 – Cheap Ass James

034 – Cheap Ass James

“Cheap Ass Games Prints games in the Margins of other Games” was the quote of the night by James Ernest and it pretty much sums up the philosophy of his company too. For you fans of CAG or those game designers who want to see how you can run a game company by yourself these days take a listen. Also poker players might be interested. Oh yeah. Sorry about the front bumper this week. We ran out of money and couldn’t afford it. I also had to rent Marks good mic so he had the bad one.

Timer Notes

0:33 – Watercooler
Stupid Phone
MiniCon – Nov 3rd
Tremulus is Full for the 13th of November
Buffalo Spree on the QCC

5:45 – Gameroom
Chris is in a gaming slump and writing a ton
Mark is playing lots of games
Ultimate Werewolf
Planetside 2 beginners video

11:23 – The Lounge
Cheap Ass Philosophy
Hobby Board Games
Fish Cook
Poker Chat
Frankenstine Poker Variant
Pitch – The prime ethic of James Ernest’s game design
The Totally Renamed Spy Game
Redesigning games
Falling and a series of back pocket games
Looney Labs
Lord of the Fries and the Brawl Printing Bid Mistake
GenCon
Kill Doctor Lucky and Paizo
Button Men
Lightspeed
Cheapass.com not Cheapassgames.com

44:44 – Geekery
National Novel Writing Month
National Game Design Month
Hillfolk

Links

Saturday Night Poker
Arts Cow

Oct 24 2012

Episode #33 – Halloweenie

033 – Halloween

Happy All Hallows Eve my gaming friends. I hope your sweet tooth is satisfied this year be it by candy or costume and welcome to the 2012 Halloween edition of Misdirected Mark. So sink your fangs into this one as we discuss horror gaming for the holiday and say hi to Samhain if you see him. Also watch out for sparkling vampires. If you see them KOS with extreme prejudice.

Time Notes

1:24 – Watercooler

Halloween time
Where you can find us
telecommute gaming with MM on the 13th of November
James Ernest from Cheepass games and the EST EDT rant

9:18 – The Gameroom

Channel the Gygax
Tentecal Bento
LFR Directors Cut
D&D Encoutners – Next Season by Shawn Merwin

16:14 The Workshop – Horror games and gaming

The Dorothy Costume
List of “scary” games
Suspense is key?
Cabin in the Woods
Horror is about Losing control?
Tracks which count down to zero.
Whispers from a ghost
Setting the mood
Improv game design
Slasher film tropes
Tremulus talk
Using something innocent in a horrific way
Take away things they care about and use them.
Story time
Ticking time bombs
Dangling the hope

42:06 – Geekery

Bats in the Geekery
Hillfolk
Kickstarter Warnings
Kickstarter Reassurances
Halloween Parties
Hard Magic by Larry Corriea

Oct 22 2012

Nile DeLuxor by Minion Games

Recently I got a taste of Nile DeLuxor and by taste I mean I played four games of it. It’s a fun little set collection card game. The object of the game is to have harvested the most of a variety of crops. I’ll explain this in a moment if you’re confused. The crops come in seven different flavors (wheat, lettuce, flax, Papyrus, onions, grapes, and castor) but in the 2-4 player version you only have 5 in the deck, adding one more crop for each player up to six. You start with 5 cards in your hand and on your turn you take the following actions in this order:

  • Flood
  • Harvest
  • Trade
  • Play or Speculate
  • Draw

You flood by flipping over the top card of the draw pile. This indicates which crops can be harvested in the harvest phase and which crops can’t be planted during the Play or Speculate phase.
The Harvest Phase allows the player or players who have the crops shown on the flood card to harvest one card of that type and place it face down in their scoring pile. I say player or players because some of the cards are speculation cards which have two crop types on them and only one player may have a singular crop type at a time. In other words if I have flax then Jen can’t have flax.

The Trade phase allows you to trade two cards from your hand, your score pile, or a combination of the two, to do two things. You can either flip a new flood card or draw a new card into your hand. You can do this as many times as you are able to in a single turn.

Playing or Speculating is the choice you make now. Playing means you are planting crops but there are some very specific guidelines you must follow when doing so. When playing card or planting crops you can either play exactly two different crop cards into your field, two or more of one type of crop card into your field, or reinforce any crops in your field with as many cards as you’d like. The rub is if you’re planting a new crop into your field it has to have more crop cards than anyone else to be planted. If you do this then the player who now has less crops in their field than you must discard their field to the discard pile. This could probably use an example:

 

It’s Jen’s turn to play. Her flood card was Papayas and she had three of those in her field so she takes one and puts it in her harvest/score pile. Looking down at her hand she see’s four onion cards. Chris has two onions in his field and knows he needs them to balance out his harvest. She plays her four onions with a smirk as Chris gives her the stare of death and discards his onions. Now Chris starts working on building up onions in his hand to have a chance at winning. He hopes Jen harvests one or two of her onions so he can play more than she has in her field and take control of the onion fields again.

Speculation is a different bag. There are cards in the game which have two crops on them around a circle labeled speculation. Instead of playing cards you can play one or two speculation cards and if the next flood card drawn has a crop on it matching your speculation card or cards you get to draw three cards. This stacks so if you play two speculation cards with castor on them and castor comes up you get six cards. It’s a good way to build up cards but you could also get nothing, hence speculation.
The draw phase is just drawing two cards from the top of the draw pile which ends your turn.
One more thing. There’s a card in the deck called Swarm of Locusts. When this is drawn the player with the largest single crop field loses all the crops as the locusts devour them. This card doesn’t take the place of the drawn card and another is drawn after the swarm is resolved.
Now that I’ve explained the phases of a turn I guess I should tell you how the game ends. There are six season cards. The season changes when the draw pile runs out and the discard and flood pile are reshuffled. What this means is each season will get shorter as people bank cards into their harvest piles or keep cards in their hands which has no limit. Once the sixth season is over the winner is determined by the person with the most variety of crops in the largest number. This needs an example:

Chris and Jen are playing a 2 player game so there are only 5 crops: wheat, papyrus, grapes, castor, and onions. Chris has five wheat, four papyrus, grapes, and castor cards each, but only 2 onions. Jen has 3 of each crop. This means Jen wins because she has a wider variety of more cards. She had three of each while Chris only had two of each. If Chris had three onions he would have been the winner because the sets of three all balance out but Chris also has four cards of at least four different crops where Jen has no crops with four cards. I believe this is the reason you can choose to pull cards from your harvest pile to trade in for a new card or a new flood. Having 12 wheat cards doesn’t do you squat if you only have two castor cards and a grape, especially if your opponent has three of each kind, so remember to diversify if you’re playing this game.

I suppose I should throw the length of the game out there. The box says it takes about 30 minutes to play. The first game I played was with 6 people and the expansion and it took somewhere between 45 minutes and an hour. I and my fiancé Jen were new to the game but I believe the other four players had played at least once before. I took the demo copy of the game home and me and Jen played three two player games which took about 30 minutes give or take 5 minutes. Once we got a feel for the game it was really fast.
Nile is the base game Jen and I played three times. The six player game had the expansion which included three monuments and stone, another “crop” to manage. I don’t think I played the expansion enough to get a feel if it’s worth it to have or not but I do know I like the two player version. This game has a little bit of depth to it because of how you can manipulate and manage the draw pile to attempt to get the cards you want or need. It’s also important to keep an eye on your opponents so you can figure out what they’re trying to harvest and what they might have. You can do some nasty things by harvesting and holding cards they might be trying to harvest. The pace of the game seems to flow from a mad grab to get whatever you can in season 1 and 2 to trying to fill in and block your opponents from collection what they need in the later part of the game and because you can play cards to wipe out your opponents fields there’s a bit of a screw your neighbor element to the game. With six it felt like a party game. With two it was very strategic. I’m thinking it plays best with four and well with three but I can’t say for sure. I am looking forward to finding out.

If this review was helpful or not please let me know and also let me know what you did or didn’t like about it and if you’d like to see more reviews on the site.

Game On,
Chris “The Light” Sniezak

Oct 18 2012

Episode #32 – All about the Drama

032 – All about the Drama

Hello my fellow gamers. This week we chat about a variety of things including dramatic characters and situations and some ideas to get more of this type of play in your games. Also we had our first contest at the mark and I’d like to congratulate our winner Bryan McGowan who’s guess of 23:00 was the closest to when my phone went off.

Timer Notes

0:41 Watercooler

Epic Glass clinking
BGS meet up 200
Mini Con
Con on the Cob

6:56 The Gameroom

Mr. Pant’s don’t scare the horses
D&D Encounters
Teaching D&D
Infinite possibilities, myth or legend?
Creativity in players and gaming.
John Wicks Play dirty
New Encounters Season by Shawn Merwin, The War of Everlasting Darkness
Artemis across the world
Ascension
Puerto Rico, How do I describe this?
Dungeon World
Tecmo Super Bowl

21:23 The Workshop

Horseback riding and Sky diving
Dramatic characters and idea’s in traditional games
Contest Winner 29:01 – Bryan McGowan with a guess of 23:00 was the closest
Drama System
Firefly
Hacking the game
Experience point discussion
Expectations at the table

56:56 Geekery

Oogie Games 1, Shoplifters 0
Firefly animated series?
Misdirected Mark T-Shirt
Hillfolk Kickstarter
Dramatic Groundhog

Oct 11 2012

Episode #31 – Blind Ranger

031 – Blind Ranger

This week we had a very special guest in Jamie who is a blind gamer and game master. Mark had a very interesting sit down and chat with him which I hope you all enjoy.

Timer Notes

0:41 – Watercooler
8:05 – The Gameroom with a little workshop action
29:09 – The Lounge with The Blind Ranger
57:06 – The Geekery

Oct 08 2012

My 4e Dungeons & Dragons Playbook

I usually don’t do this because I try to keep my advice general but my friend Drew is running a 4e D&D campaign for some of his friends as his last hurrah for 4e Dungeons and Dragons before putting that game away for just about good. I told him I’d share some of the things I’ve done over the years with him so I thought I’d share them with you too.

Rolling Encounters

What I mean by rolling encounters is encounters that roll from one into the next. I’ve run plenty of sessions where the game felt like one huge encounter. I do this using primarily these three methods:

  • Reinforcements showing up.
  • Changing the objective.
  • Changing the terrain.

I consider each of these three things an event or something that happens to change the situation. For example I had a battle on a bridge as the PCs were trying to move from one tower to another. All around them battle was raging in the skies as dragons and their allies battled with the occupants of the towers of Darkenspire. On the partially enclosed bridge the PCs had run up against the Followers of the Sacred Lady, a holy order who worshiped one known as the Sacred Lady. As the battle progressed more and more members of the Sacred Lady came from the far tower to help their allies. The idea of reinforcements changed the nature of the battle. Players didn’t want to unleash their most powerful abilities or press to far forward because they weren’t sure what was coming out of the door next and how many were left.

The next thing I had going on during this encounter was a dragon was hit by a lightning bolt and was going to crash into the bridge. This was going to change the terrain. I had the passive perception set higher than anyone’s passive since they were in the middle of a fight when the dragon was hit by a lightning bolt and crashing into the bridge. The thing I did to give the players hints to the event was by throwing specific flavor text into the fight about things happening around them. I use a lot of flavor text in my combat sequences so this wasn’t unusual. During the second round of the fight I mentioned a dragon was struck by a lightning bolt. All anyone needed to do over the next three rounds was say they look to the right or mention they check on the dragon. Someone did the initiative count right before the dragon hit the bridge so they were the only one who got a chance to move before the dragon hit the bridge. I had a flip mat with the bridge drawn on it. I had it folded over so when the dragon hit I marked where everyone was, flipped the mat, and had a drawn crashed into bridge with the dragon on it. Some people were crushed by the dragon, some buried beneath it, and the crashing into the bridge almost knocked a couple of people off who were on top of the bridge.

I always enjoy changing the objective or at least adding something to the objective of an encounter or an adventure. During the last part of the Drakenspire arc I ran (It was something like 8 to 10 sessions) they were in a tower where energy was being gathered and focused for some nefarious purpose through several crystals in the tower. Up to this point the PC’s were just trying to get to the last tower to kill a mind flayer named Quat Lilarack. They hated it for various reasons. In any case once they got to the last tower they learned of this energy, found one of the focusing crystals, and figured out how much time they had left before the energy needed to do whatever was happening was gathered. This wasn’t at the speed of plot. I had an actual doom track, taken from Arkham Horror. The track went from 1 to 7 and every five minutes it would gain a tick. Basically every short rest was a tick and after any 3 encounters I threw a tick up there to take into account exploration and fighting time. I also threw a tick up there if I felt they had used up 5 minutes worth of time. The thing was they could gain ticks back if they messed up the focusing crystals, which they did. It also made them conserve powers so they could skip short rests here and there to cut down on their time. It changed the objective from just killing Quat to stopping Quat from doing whatever it was he was doing. If anyone is curious he was gathering the energy from a pair of “gods” trapped beneath the mountains Darkenspire was built on to open a portal large and stable enough to allow the King in Yellow to come through from Carcosa, one part of my version of the Far Realm.

Setting this up changed the encounters and scenario from getting through to the top of the tower where Quat and the energy being gathered was to a timed situation where making stops to mess with the crystals and resource management became very important.

Enemies

So I’m not a huge fan of solos, I’ll talk about them in a bit, in D&D but I do like elites and I like encounters where some NPC’s are dependent on other NPC’s. Linking them up together or giving them abilities which make them work together in synergy. Two examples:

In one encounter I had a knight who had two men next to him at all times. As long as those men were next to him it increased his defenses so it was easier to take out the side guys first then go after the knight. The second example is a two-headed dragon with a caster who used primarily ice attacks. One of the dragons was a white dragon who could frost up the battle field. This was in an open field but the ice mage and the dragon were creating terrain with icy spots which the ice mage could teleport to and from as a move action while also being able to teleport back on top of the dragons back. This goes back to changing terrain but also shows how two different adversaries can work together to create an interesting situation for PC’s to deal with.

Sly Flourish

Mike Shea has an invaluable tool on his website Sly Flourish. It is a chart with every level of damage expression, hit points for monster type, and DC’s for skill checks. I have one of those screens where you can slide in paper inserts. It’s a great tool to have if your players go off the cuff. You can ad lib encounters from it. It’s like having wire frames for any possible thing you can think of.

Staying with Mike Shea I stole an idea he started applying to solo monsters. I always give any solo an ability where they can shake off any single effect at the beginning of their turn but they take 10, 20, or 30 points of damage depending on the tier of monster. Now there are a couple of variations you can put on this idea. Instead of shaking off an effect you can have them ignore it for a round so it has the potential to happen again the next round. You can apply some penalties to the monster along with the damage. Instead of Stunned the monster is dazed. Instead of immobilized its slowed and takes a -2 to its attack rolls. You have some options but my preference was always the monster shakes off the effect but takes damage for doing so. Now I only ever did this for things like stun, daze, and immobilized because the action economy in 4e is a very important part of the game. Having an extra action, extra attack, extra turn or even an extra move is very powerful and taking away those actions is just as powerful, especially when you’re a solo and only have a few actions each round. Having the choice to shake off a status for damage fits in with the mechanics of D&D pretty well. You’re not getting everything you want but solos should be scary things that can pound through your abilities and status effects. Making it cost the monster hp gives the mechanic some “balance”.

If you’re looking for more 4th edition Dungeons & Dragons tricks I would suggest reading Sly Flourish. It’s quite good.

The Healing Surge

The healing surge is a resource which is very plentiful in my opinion. Players have a lot of them and I have implemented a few house rules which make them a little more interesting and useable:

  • If you miss by one you can spend a healing surge to put forth that little extra effort in order to succeed on what you’re doing. I always ask for a little descriptive flavor to go along with it.
  • I implemented the use of second wind three times. Once as a minor, once as a move, and once as normal each encounter. This rule is excellent when you have situations where there isn’t a leader.
  • Sometimes I’ll tie healing surges into player’s special abilities. For instance one of the characters in a game could wreath themselves in a blue magical fire which made them more powerful when using magic (+2 to hit, +5 to damage) but it cost a healing surge every round it was activated and it required a saving throw to turn it off. Of course when it ran out of healing surges it would start dealing healing surges of damage.

The Choice

This is the last one and isn’t really a D&D 4e trick but one that can be used in any game. You have the players come up against a situation where they have to make a choice and the choice isn’t good or bad but will push the story one way or another or give them a difficult decision. For example one of the PC’s had just ripped an abnormally large amount of aberrant energy out of an angel of death. They decided to help this angel of death instead of killing her. The problem was the energy didn’t dissipate due to not rolling quite well enough so instead the PC had a choice. Absorb the energy or let it randomly fly about which might get one of his allies, possibly the angel again, and maybe it would just disperse. He chose to take it into himself. He made the choice which drove the game forward. Now he has to deal with this energy which basically makes him the incredible hulk. Giant aberrant rage monster once he is bloodied twice in a fight or knocked out once.

The thing with the choice is whatever the decision is it needs to have a consequence that is visible to the person who made the choice eventually, otherwise the choice becomes meaningless.

Please feel free to throw out some more interesting tricks and hacks you’ve thrown on your 4e game to make it play better.

Good Night and Good Gaming,

Chris “The Light” Sniezak

Oct 04 2012

Episode #30 – All about the Benny

030 – All about the Benny

Hi folks. Mark and I are back again and this week we chat a little about Descent 2, football, Segway’s (mines pink), and I have an interesting chat with Mr. WNY Savage Worlds himself,Tim Hannon about the benny, savage worlds, books GM’s and players should pick up to help with their games, and toys. Enjoy and feel free to leave a comment. Oh yeah. We still have a contest going on. Leave your name and a timer number and whoever is closest to when my phone goes off on the show which drops on the 18th win’s an engine powered PDF pack.

A little snaffu. Something got messed up with the audio during the geekery and some of my files were compromised so there is unfortunately no geekery this week. Sorry folks.

Timer Notes

0:38 – Watercooler
QCC Post mortem meeting

4:26 – The Gameroom

14:20 – The Workshop
Bennies, Books, Systems or Tool box, and Toys

Links

Ken Hite
Tremulus
Rich Berlew
Order of the Stick
Queen City Conquest
Descent: Journey’s in the Dark 2nd Edition
Tecmo Super Bowl
Rhythm Heaven Fever
Rising: LASH
Realms of Cthulhu
The Nerdherders
Ken and Robin Talk about Stuff
Night’s Black Agents
Gumshoe
Drama System
Hillfolk
Trail of Cthuhlu
Pinnacle Entertainment
Robins Laws of Good Gamemastering
Never Unprepared
David Allens Getting Things Done
Wild Card Creator
Hero Lab
Savagegmtim@gmail.com – Mr WNY Savage Worlds email address
Armcannon

Oct 01 2012

A Few GM Tips

I think I want to give you a peak behind my screen. Get that sick thought out of your head. That’s not what I meant. Ok. Now that we’re all on the same page I’m talking about some of the things I do to make games flow better.

Initiative Tents

I got this trick from someone else but I swear by it now. I take index cards or some kind of paper and make tents out of them. I tend to rip the index cards in half to do this so they’re not quite so big. Then I ask the players to put their characters names on both sides of the tent. I hand these tents on my screen or put them in front of me if I don’t have a screen. When I ask for initiative in games with an initiative order I arrange the tents and then have a visual system both the players and I can see which helps games move quicker.

Plotting?

I’m a very off the cuff kind of game master. My preferred method of preparing is knowing what the bad guy wants and having him pursue that goal. So there is a series of events he’ll be trying to accomplish. It’s sort of like portents in Dungeon World. While pursuing that goal I try to give the players a reason or hook to interfere with the villain. Now we have conflicting goals while the PC’s and villains are competing and there is a track for the villain to complete his objectives.

Tangent time. I feel that Plot is a loaded word. The bad guy can have a plot he’s trying to follow and the players can have some kind of plot they think they’re following but the plot is something that happens at the table so while you might have your plot and they might have theirs don’t get to married to it because the real plot is what happened after the session is over. It’s what you created at the table, sort of like discovery writing or Improv Theater. Ideas were brought but the plot was discovered.

Wire Frames

When I’m playing a traditional game I dig having a bunch of basic stat blocks I can throw whatever skin I want on them. By a bunch I mean four or five I can use in a variety of ways. Need a goblin archer, an ettin, and a pack of wolves. Well I have these wire frames for a brute, and a bunch of quick creatures. I throw a range attack on the quick ones for the goblins, use them as is for the wolves and give them a pack attack, and throw an extra attack on the brute for the ettin and give them a little personality. Maybe shift some defensive points here and there for variety and I’m good to go. Encounter on the fly from two level appropriate wire frames.

Now if anyone shouts about balance there is no such thing as balance in a RPG. There is only the illusion of balance which is what you provide. The trick is “don’t let them see you sweat”. You know what you’re doing but they don’t. They can’t see your notes. They aren’t in your head. They might be trying to read your face though so just roll along with it like nothing is wrong, you’re not just making stuff up, and all of this has been planed right from the beginning.

Ok. There are three tricks I use. I’ll probably be sharing some more in the future and some examples of how I use them. Let me know what you think and feel free to share some with me. I’m always trying to get better.

Game On,

Chris “The Light” Sniezak