Category Archive: Words from Chris

Dec 15 2015

She’s a Super Geek: Heroine & Fake Facts – Emily on Senda

sasgeek2withtextHey Folks, Chris here. Phil and I were fortunate enough to be invited onto the She’s a Super Geek podcast to play Heroine by Josh Jordan and those episodes started coming out today. Instead of just a link to the episode page, which I will be providing, Emily put out a post on twitter. She’s @TheCraftyDM on the T and here’s the tweet.

Emily on sendaSenda is @IdellaMithlynnd and here are the first 40 fake cool facts that Emily created:

  1.  @IdellaMithlynnd was cast on the first season of Project Runway but decided it was beneath her.
  2.  Chuck Norris once met @IdellaMithlynnd & referred to her as “that cool chick in the corner” later.
  3.  @IdellaMithlynnd will physically harm you if you give her an oatmeal raisin cookie instead of chocolate chip.
  4.  @IdellaMithlynnd knows how many licks it takes to get to the center of a tootsie pop. She refuses to tell.
  5.  The @TheDoubleclicks song “Wonder” is actually about @IdellaMithlynnd.
  6.  @IdellaMithlynnd holds the world’s only honorary PhD for baking.
  7.  The new Star Wars movie is based on a fanfic @IdellaMithlynnd wrote in the 7th grade.
  8.  @IdellaMithlynnd is the president of her local Polar Bear club.
  9.  @IdellaMithlynnd has in fact caught all 1,042 pokemon.
  10.  @IdellaMithlynnd is #3 on Betty White’s speed dial.
  11.  @IdellaMithlynnd made an indestructible gingerbread house 2 years ago. Her cat still won’t go into the room where it’s kept.
  12.  Video didn’t kill the radio star. @IdellaMithlynnd did, but she’s got a great lawyer.
  13.  @IdellaMithlynnd knows how to say “I hate your turtle” in over a dozen languages.
  14.  @IdellaMithlynnd let the dogs out.
  15.  @IdellaMithlynnd doesn’t play the harp.
  16.  @IdellaMithlynnd promises me there’s no secret archive for @sasgeekpodcast.
  17.  @IdellaMithlynnd ‘s favorite TV show is Deal or No Deal.
  18.  @IdellaMithlynnd is a recruiter for S.H.I.E.L.D.
  19.  @IdellaMithlynnd has left a d20 at the top of every mountain in Central America.
  20.  @IdellaMithlynnd taught her son Elvish and Goblin (because you never know when you’ll need Goblin).
  21.  @IdellaMithlynnd makes necklaces out of the tears of her players after she GMs a game.
  22.  @IdellaMithlynnd had to destroy the only copy of her first novel because people started levitating after reading it.
  23.  @Wizards_DnD based their description of chaotic alignment off @IdellaMithlynnd ‘s bachelorette party.
  24.  @IdellaMithlynnd has been asked to play Buffy in the upcoming movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Life after High School.
  25.  @IdellaMithlynnd owns 1/5 of the go-kart racing centers in America.
  26.  @IdellaMithlynnd is NASA’s on call IT service.
  27.  @IdellaMithlynnd was Jessie’s girl.
  28.  No one goes tromping around wearing boots like @IdellaMithlynnd.
  29.  @IdellaMithlynnd has never played Minecraft because she lived it.
  30.  @IdellaMithlynnd has been mistaken for Idina Menzel enough times that she just says “yes” & signs autographs.
  31.  @IdellaMithlynnd ‘s cat Legolas is an actual descendant of the real Legolas. Beautiful hair that family.
  32.  @IdellaMithlynnd met JK Rowling on a train once. They had a nice chat over tea.
  33.  @IdellaMithlynnd can recite both the Iliad and the Odyssey in classic Greek from memory.
  34.  @IdellaMithlynnd has counted to infinity.
  35.  @IdellaMithlynnd has an entire room in her house dedicated to steampunk technology. All it does is make toast.
  36.  @IdellaMithlynnd studied abroad in college in Themyscira.
  37.  “Revenge is a dish best served at 237 degrees” -@IdellaMithlynnd.
  38.  @IdellaMithlynnd ‘s legal middle name is Paraglider.
  39.  @IdellaMithlynnd made the business cards used by @JPsoFLY ‘s PC Tryst Valentine in the Campaign Podcast.
  40.  @IdellaMithlynnd can speak to pandas but has a terrible human accent.

Feel free to click on the image of the tweet above and like it so we can get more cool fake Senda facts and you can catch the lovely ladies of She’s a Super Geek over at sasgeek.com to pick up the first episode of Heroine: Snowland by clicking on the link. You know, the one that’s highlighted in some color other than the normal text color.

Mic Drop. I’m Out.

Dec 08 2015

Geekin’ Out – Supergirl: “Human for a Day”

I can’t stay quite anymore. I’m in love with what’s happening on TV these days. Specifically about what’s going on over on Supergirl right now. There will be spoilers so stop reading if you don’t want them. This should also be known. I love this stuff. It’s irrational. I can’t actually tell if it’s good or not. I just know I like it a lot because of how much I love comic book stories and I’m honestly more of a DC guy than a Marvel guy, I just tend to like characters other than Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman more than the rest. Ok. Disclaimer over.

The Martian Manhunter J’onn J’onzz showed up on Supergirl episode 7, “Human for a Day”, an episode which had two stories going on. One which dealt with the Solar Flare Supergirl let out in episode 6 when she fought the Red Tornado and then lost her powers, that’s a side effect of the Solar Flare, and the second which resolved the story of why Hank Henshaw lied to Alex Danvers about her father, Jeremiah Danvers, and his death. Lets tackle the second story first.

Hank lied because Hank and Jeremiah were part of a team hunting down an alien, not one of the Fort Roz prisoners but another one, one that happened to be the Martian Manhunter. Jeremiah sacrificed himself to save J’onn J’onzz and then J’onn promised he’d take care of his family, especially Alex. He then assumed the identity of Hank Henshaw and made good on his promise. This blew my mind because in the comics Hank Henshaw is Cyborg Superman so I wasn’t expecting the bait and switch reveal. Great job team DC TV. By the way this all played out while Jemm was running lose in the DEO facility which should of been the clue that Hank Henshaw wasn’t cyborg superman but The Martian Manhunter since they have some history in comic with each other.

The first story was really nice too. I love any story which shows being a hero isn’t about the powers you have but who you are so they take the time to explore Kara without her powers, make her appreciate what its like to be human, both in feeling powerless and then showing that true power or being a true hero is about standing up and doing what’s right. She puts her life on the line as Supergirl without powers to stop a mugging with a gun in her face and the best bluff/inspiring be a better human speech I’ve hear in a while. They also keep making Kat Grant more and more likable which I find to be rather impressive.

Now lets take a second to list what I just mentioned here:

  • Martian Manhunter
  • Jemm
  • Red Tornado – I didn’t mention that episode 6 had T.O. Morrow
  • Solar Flare

So in the last two episodes we’ve had two Justice Leaguers, The Martian Manhunter and Red Tornado, a Solar Flare power sighting, a Red Saturnine in Jemm, and I didn’t even mention that Maxwell Lord is in this show and is probably some kind of big bad this season. These are deep cuts that appeal to us nerds who are looking for them. The show also has a presentation to it that I think is universal. All kinds of people are enjoying it for a variety of reasons. Its gotten not just better with the special effects but might be better than The Flash, and that show is killing it all around. The acting is pretty darn good to great. It’s got a fantastic look to it, and it’s fun, emotional, and action packed. Everything I want in a super hero comic book TV show. Heck, everything I want in a super hero comic book. It looks like the ratings numbers are backing that up too since Supergirl went from 13 episodes this season to a full 20. Oh yeah. I hope they had some plans for those extra seven episodes because I want them to keep this pace of reveals, twists, along with character beats, and plot beats every couple of episodes. It’s working and if Flash and Arrow are any indication, it should keep working.

Well now that I’m done gushing about the show I suggest you go and watch it. I’m not sure if you’ll see another one of these anytime soon but you never know. Hasta and go watch some TV. It’s a great time to do it.

 

Nov 12 2015

MMP Round Up for Nov 12th

So what has happened this past week on Misdirected Mark Productions. Lets get into it.

iIPNV9aqUYrGsOn the Misdirected Mark Podcast we find out what’s been going on with Phil and Chris, talk about Relic Hunters, discuss a bit of social media, and then cut the ribbon on the Salon where they discuss: games they have been playing, media they have been consuming, and other things going on with the hosts.

http://misdirectedmark.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=3154&action=edit

TKVTeam_Logo2015

Over on the TKV Team Podcast Karol and Tim cover Halo 5, Zelda Triforce Adventures, and a surprise little crowdfunding goodie called Indivisible. A good week in the wind-up to the holidays as they scrutinize the myriad USB connectors and that’s only a taste of what’s to come.

http://misdirectedmark.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=3159&action=edit

Geekin OutOn Geekin Out Chris and Jessie geek in an outward direction talking about Arrow, Flash, and Agents of Shield from the 3rd and 4th of November.

http://misdirectedmark.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=3162&action=edit

 

Only three episodes this week but in other news the Character Cache patreon November preview is out. I’ll include it here. I also know those who’ve jumped into the patreon last month and those who get in on it this month will get some extra head shot characters with short descriptions. Ok, here’s the link & preview:

https://www.patreon.com/encodeddesigns?ty=h

November preview

 

Oct 29 2015

MMP Round up for Oct 29th

Hey Folks. It’s been a slower week here at the Mark as I lovingly call Misdirected Mark Productions. Only two episodes out this week since we missed some Geekin’ Out last week but don’t worry. We already recorded next weeks episode and it’ll be out on Monday. For this week though:

TKVTeam_Logo2015On episode 53 of the TKV Team Podcast Karol and Tim recount the Buffalo Game Space Spooktacular 2015 and the opening weekend for the Strong Museum of Play’s Nintendo 30th Anniversary exhibit in Rochester. They also talk about basement storage, oxygenation, and cover-letter etiquette.

http://misdirectedmark.com/tkv53-strong/

iIPNV9aqUYrGsOn episode 179 of the MM Podcast Mark Richardson, the creator of Headspace,  joined Phil and myself to talk about the game and the kickstarter but before that we announced our segment naming contest winner, did that diamond spitting Social media depository thing, and chatted a little about some podcasts.

http://misdirectedmark.com/mmp179-headspace-with-mark-richardson/

Aside from that the Patreon is at $94 dollars for the Character Cache and we’d love to hit that $100 dollar mark so we can put out the color line art. Regardless the black and white line art is awesome looking all on it’s own. If you’re interested please check out the patreon here:

https://www.patreon.com/encodeddesigns?ty=h

I also write for Johnn Four’s Role Playing Tips. A wonderful GMing blog that you can check out over here or subscribe and get the newsletter delivered right into your inbox. I mention this because I’m going to be writing a number of articles on Space Opera in the coming months and I’m really excited because Star Wars is coming. So for anyone who is interested in running a Space Opera or Star Wars esque game sign up or just wait for me to let you know when my posts drop.

http://roleplayingtips.com/blog/

Ok. That’s all for this week. Until next play some amazing games and Happy Halloween.

Oct 21 2015

Misdirected Mark Productions Podcast Recap for Oct 15th – 21st

Hey Folks. Here’s all the shows we’ve put out in the last week.

On the TKV Team Podcast Tim goes out of his way to spoil the story in Halo 5 for himself, Karol walks us through some of the new Yoshi’s Woolly world and Disney Infinity 3.0, and we have some surprisingly positive impressions of the new Guitar Hero Live, after getting some time with three songs we’ve never even heard of before the game’s impending release. Pick it up at the link below

http://misdirectedmark.com/tkv52-yoshi/

On Geekin’ Out Jessie and Chris talk Arrow, Flash, and Marvel’s Agents of Shield. Once again check it out via the link below.

http://misdirectedmark.com/go-fall-tv-oct-14th/

On down with some D&D Shawn and Chris get into Out of the Abyss, the second chapter about wandering the underdark, the Runic Scribe and Rune Magic, and The Tome of Beasts Kickstarter. Same deal as above

http://misdirectedmark.com/dwdd26/

Finally on the Misdirected Mark Podcast Chris and special guest Co-host Eloy Lasanta talk about second editions of games and the Ninja Crusade Kickstarter.

http://misdirectedmark.com/mmp178-ninja-crusade-and-2nd-editions/

Oct 14 2015

Misdirected Mark Productions Podcast Recap

Lot’s of episodes were released this week on MMP so here’s your podcast recap.

The Lounge

Game designer Natalia KN Granger joined me to talk about her games, LARP, and Read A Loud text adventures.

http://misdirectedmark.com/the-lounge-with-k-n-granger/

Down with D&D

Myself and the Mad Wizard Merwin chat about prestige classes and the first chapter of Out of the Abyss.

http://misdirectedmark.com/dwdd25-out-of-the-abyss/

Geekin’ Out

Me and my girl Friday Jessie chat about Arrow, Flash, and Agents of Shield.

http://misdirectedmark.com/go-fall-tv-week-3-arrow-flash-agents-of-shield/

The TKV Team Podcast

The TKV Team gets going about the Star Wars Battle Front Beta, Disney Infinity 3.0, and confuse 90’s-era science fiction titles.

http://misdirectedmark.com/tkv51-starwarsbeta/

The Misdirected Mark Podcast

The podcasters for hire (that’s a heroes for hire reference) talk about player agency after getting into the extra dimentional social media depository.

http://misdirectedmark.com/mmp177-player-agency/

The Threats from Mirkwood

Garret’s Patreon has funded to the point where he’s running games for people on line, recording them, and posting them. Right now they’re playing the One Ring and there 3rd episode is the most recent post.

http://misdirectedmark.com/threats-from-mirkwood-episode-3-lost-someone-we-were-seeking/

Apr 28 2015

The Paranet Papers

Paranet papers coverSo Carrie Harris from over at Evil Hat was kind enough to send me over a copy of the Paranet Papers, the next book in their Dresden Files RPG line. As I read through it I thought I’d post my thoughts.

Graphic Design

First off this book, like the others in the series, is beautiful. I’ve been studying graphic design for the last few years and the original Dresden Files book is pretty but the Evil Hat team took it up a notch when they put this one together.

The background pages look like an unlined spiral notebook with some sections as pages pasted in from other sources. It uses a two column layout for the primary information but as in the previous books there’s commentary in the margins, white spaces – and in this book – on sticky notes. Speaking of the commentary, in Volume one & two the commentary didn’t really flow into the text of the book, which to me was fine, I just enjoyed reading it. In this volume it’s more a part of the text. Highlighter is used to point at and color coordinate when and where the reader should go to the commentary. The character stat blocks are on white file folders which is a nice little touch. To finish up the graphic design commentary the book is busy on the page but it’s still easy to follow the different kinds of information resulting in something pleasant to look at and easy to read.

Art

Because of the book representing an unlined spiral bound notebook the art looks pasted, taped, drawn, or paper clipped in and is what you would expect from a Dresden/Evil Hat product. If you don’t know the Hat that means the art is of a high quality and matches each chapter along with the theme of the book over all.

Content

The book is presented as a draft in an unlined spiral notebook written by William Borden of the Alpha’s. Sections written by people other than Will are pasted into the book and have a different look. It’s a clever way to differentiate the sections of the book.

The first two-thirds of the book cover several locations in the Dresdenverse: Las Vegas, Historic Russia, The Neverglades, Las Tierras Rojas, and The Ways Between. The last third has a sections on Spellcasting, Monsters, and NPCs in the Dresdenverse and updates a number of those people from the previous volumes.

I haven’t read the whole thing yet and as I do I’ll be posting more pieces of this review. So far I’ve gotten through Las Vegas which is written from the point of view of Herbert C Plainfield. It tells the story of the city of sin, why it’s like it is from a supernatural perspective, and gives the reader all the problems and NPCs you need to have the foundation of a campaign set in Las Vegas. In brief Vegas has always been a delicate social and criminal ecosystem based on sin and hope. A Red Court Vampire called Dragon helped keep this balance to the purpose of feeding a seal which is keeping some great apocalyptic evil underneath sin city. Harry kills the Red Court, Dragon dies, now the delicate ecosystem is starting to unravel which is not good to say the least.

I’m a good way through the Russia chapter too which is a historical perspective of Russian in 1918. For the Dresden fans out there this section is great because it tells a story of Simon Pietrovich, his involvement with the Russian Tsar’s, Rasputin, and the fallout/trouble it caused Russia in the long run. There are also a series of excerpts of letters between him and Ebenezer McCoy in the section. So good.

Last thing I want to talk about before I end this first part is the commentary in the margins and on the sticky notes throughout the book. The comments are between Karin Murphy, Will Borden, and Waldo Butters. They are great. The characters voices feel right and their commentary is worth the read for a Dresden fan. So after I read another hundred or so pages I’ll let you folks know some more about this book but my first impressions are to give this an A+.

You can pick up the book by clicking here.

Feb 23 2015

Things you may have missed for the week of Feb 16th 2015

iIPNV9aqUYrGsSo lets just recap what happened on Misdirected Mark Productions last week. First we had Down with D&D #9 all about the Monk and putting some story into your leveling. Second there was a TKV Team show about the horrors of retail. Third we had the MM Podcast chatting about interpersonal and Knowledge skills. Fourth and finally we had an Episode of Threats from Galifrey covering news, character death, and a round table on how to do some Lord of the Rings and make it feel like Middle Earth. Man were we busy.

Shows List

DwD&D #9
TKV Team #17
MMP #144
Threats from Galifrey: Middle Earth Edition pt. 1
Threats from Galifrey: Middle Earth Edition pt. 2

 

Dec 08 2014

Around the Bar #4

Hey folks. So it’s that time of the year again. The time for Evil Hats to decorate tree’s and Atomic Robo’s to dance merrily under mistletoe. In other words it’s Street Team Time. What does this mean? It means Evil Hat is giving back to everything those Evil Hat lovers do all year. They have a list of tasks and if you’ve completed any of them during 2014, or complete them before Tuesday December 23rd, then you’ll be entered into a drawing for some pretty cool prizes. Check out the whole areticle with the link below.

http://www.evilhat.com/home/its-street-team-time/

So you could just buy Eureka form Engine Publishing but I was having a conversation on the Misdirected Mark G+ community about places to find information on storytelling and here’s another one I came across over at the Ginger Goat website. 20 Master Plots and how to build them is fantastic Inspiration for Plot Driven Games. Just use the plot as plot points, story beats to be checked off in your games, or the plot as a time table or structure for what the villains of your games are trying to accomplish.

http://ginger-goat.blogspot.com/2014/12/inspiration-for-plot-driven-games.html?m=1

Worlds Without Master is an Enzine who’s overseer is Epidiah Ravachol, creator of Dread, Swords Without Master, and other amazing games. Issue six is out and contains a couple of stories: “From Salted Earth,” a tale of necromancy and redemption by Evan Dicken, and “The Pebble Ballad,” an epistolary tale of century-spanning sorcery by Master Epidiah Ravachol himself. The continuing comic “Oh, the Beating Drum!” by Bryant Paul Johnson, A Scoundrel in the Deep, a game of darkness and fire by Renato Ramonda and developed by Flavio Mortarino, plus some illustrations and a miscellany of experiences unseen. If you’re interested in getting this issue, any of the previous issues, or becoming a patron of this project the link below will lead you to a page which you can follow to any of those desires.

http://www.worldswithoutmaster.com/

There’s a pretty solid review of the DMG for the newest edition of D&D up over on Critical Hits. Dave Chalker throws some solid words down about what’s in there so you can understand what you’re getting.

http://www.critical-hits.com/blog/2014/11/28/review-dungeon-masters-guide/

I know Phil is the co-host of the show and linking to his blog posts over at the Gnome Stew is sort of like insider trading which is why I don’t do it very often. It’s also so when I do it that means it matters. This post is pretty much how I feel on the whole “What are RPGs really?” question. I’d love for you to go read it and comment on it.

http://www.gnomestew.com/gming-advice/the-duality-of-fiction-and-the-game/

Since I was catching up on eating my stew I also came across this post by guest author MJ Alishah called 4 Bizarre Sources of Truth Perfect for Fiction. It talks about some sources to acquire true tales and adapt them to adventures. It’s pretty brilliant.

http://www.gnomestew.com/gming-advice/4-bizarre-sources-of-truth-perfect-for-fiction/

I’m a fan of things in the realm of the crawling chaos and this kickstarter is just awesome. If you’ve ever thought about or wanted to run Masks of Nyarlathotep this is at the very least a must look see. Every handout for Masks done up in beautiful detail for you to hand to your players. It’s like a Call of Cthulhu player’s and keeper’s wet dream. Of course that dream probably involved the cyclopean ruins of an impossible city within the watery depths of a black sea. In any case you should check this out.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/16120292/masks-of-nyarlathotep-prop-set?ref=video

I’ll see you all next week to let you in on everything else I’ve heard around  the bar.

Dec 02 2014

Around Bar #3

Hey Folks. Chris here and yes I’m back or at least a version of me is back. I have this three sixths number tattooed on my arm but I’m not quite sure what it means. Anyways lets get back to the chatter that I’ve heard around the bar this week.

Ryan Macklin, you know, that Fate conversion and Fate Core guy, has been designing the Eclipse Phase Fate version, or Transhuman Fate, and it’s now out for play testing. For those who don’t know Eclipse Phase is a Transhuman setting and game created by Posthuman Studio’s and is widely thought of as an excellent game.

http://ryanmacklin.com/2014/11/transhuman-fate-live/

Mortaine, AKA Stephanie Bryant, has a couple of excellent blog posts on one, being a woman and trying to make games, and two, a follow up with a bunch of great resources for making games. You might have already seen them since they were originally posted at the end of October and beginning of November but if you haven’t then check them out. They’re really great reads.

http://www.mortaine.com/blog/2014/10/23/thoughts-on-being-a-woman-and-trying-to-make-games/

http://www.mortaine.com/blog/2014/11/05/follow-up-some-great-resources-for-making-games/

So I had a conversation with Rob Heinsoo you’ll be hearing sometime soon. We mostly talked about 13th Age and a product called Eyes of the Stone Thief was mentioned. You can pre-order it now. What’s Eyes of the Stone Thief you ask? Fine. I shall answer you. 13th Age has living dungeons which slither up from the underworld and invade the surface lands. The Stone Thief is the most ancient of these dungeons and swallows cities. That means it’s adventurers v. dungeon except the dungeon is sentient and wants you dead. Also it’s written by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan who is the co-author of the Dracula Dossier which I will talk about in a bit.

http://www.pelgranepress.com/?p=13408

Crowd Funding

If you didn’t notice I have a link to Post World Games on the right over there because I think Jim Pinto is a pretty creative game designer with some nifty stuff to offer the hobby and he’s back with fifteen more games for his protocol game series. The protocol games all use the same basic mechanic but the different games, which clock in at 32 pages, provide different experiences and focus on the storytelling aspects of the TTRPG hobby. You can check out the kickstarter at the link below.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/218255739/protocol-game-series-two-15-more-games

Mark Diaz Truman and Magpie Games is crushing it with the Fate Codex which is pretty much the Dungeon Magazine of Fate. That Patreon project just hit 1,500 dollars an issue which means the Quick Start section will be expanded to a full 5,000+ words plus more art and two fully stated out NPCs to drop into your sessions. Now is the best time to get in on the codex.

http://www.patreon.com/Trumonz

So I’m forgetting something. let me go see what I wrote earlier. Oh Yeah. The Dracula Dossier. It’s just about over. There’s 48 hours to go as I’m typing this. I’ve said so much about this already I don’t know what else to say except you should back it. Nevermind. I know what else to say. Even if you’ll never play it you should back it for Dracula Unredacted. A retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula that turns the Gothic Horror novel into a Gothic Horror Spy Thriller Novel. How cool is that. Click the link below and throw some money their way.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1721105501/the-dracula-dossier

Nov 24 2014

Around the Bar #2

Hey folks. Back again with the second installment of around the bar. A place where you can find some of the more happening things going on in the world of RPGs. First up is the Numenera Box set from Monte Cook Games. This gorgeous looking box set comes with four soft cover books which hold all the games material, some character sheets, a poster map, and a character creation guide sheet. There’s an even more deluxe version of this box set but if you want all the nitty gritty details you can check out the article here or just go over to the kickstarter here.

Over at Kobold Press there’s a new supplement for 13th Age called Deep Magic which contains:

  • 555 wizard spells ranging from clever tricks to summoning the World Serpent itself to wreak havoc
  • 4 new class talents that put wizard spells within the grasp of every class—play an arcane ranger, a spirit-calling barbarian, a time-warping commander, or face-stealing trickster druid
  • 30 new schools of magic including the Cult of Ouroboros, the Red Inquisition, and the Scholars of Dust, with guidelines for creating your own magical tradition
  • 5 magical campaign options: post-apocalyptic vril magic, the mysteries of the ley lines, a class-warfare arcanopunk campaign option, and more!

To check out more about this book click on the link here.

Let’s jump back a sec to Monte Cook Games. Yes, yes. I know I already talked about them but a bit of out of orderness can be Strange and since that’s what I’m bringing up next I figured it’d be appropriate. So the Strange is the second cypher system game from MCG and their Strange Bestiary just came out along with the Strange Creature Deck, a deck of cards with all of the monsters relevant and some flavorful text on it including the art. You can check those out or pick them up using the previous links.
Next up is something I’ve been sort of keeping an eye out for because I think it’s just that cool. Sinister is a Post Apocalyptic Monster Battle RPG. If that doesn’t make too much sense I get the feeling it’s Fallout mashed up with Pokemon. If that peaks your interest as much as it did mine then you can pick up the playtest docs and read a bit more about Sinister here.

The rest of the stuff I got is all Kickstarter.

The Dracula Dossier is still tearing through stretch goals and I will have an interview up about this project with the master of horror himself, Kenneth Hite, very soon. In the mean time go and check out this improvisational campaign for Nights Black Agents if you haven’t already. What do I mean by improvisational? I mean the 280+ page directors handbook will give you all the tools you need to facilitate a group of burnt spies trying to deal with Dracula since the British governments three previous attempts to deal with the Iconic vampire didn’t go so well. Did I mention there is also a really cool new version of the classic novel with this called Dracula Unredacted. Stokers original was actually the redacted after action report of the first attempt to utilize Dracula as a British military asset. Dracula Unredacted tells the whole truth. If that doesn’t get your blood dripping and fangs protruding I don’t know what will. Check it out here.

Shotguns & Sorcery is something I mentioned last week but in but here’s a bit more about this fantasy noir campaign setting powered by the cypher system.

 
Shotguns & Sorcery is set in Dragon City, a grim and gritty fantasy metropolis built on top of and inside of a walled-off mountain and ruled over by the Dragon Emperor. Legions of zombies scratch at the cut stones of the Great Circle every hour of the night, trying to tear the wall down for their mysterious necromantic commander, the Ruler of the Dead.
 
Inside the wall, the people work and scheme to find an edge and get ahead on the city’s dark alleys and magically lit streets. The green-skinned folk squat down in Goblintown, stacked right up against the wall, where they can hear the constant moaning of the dead all night long. Above them, the rest of the survivors live in neighborhoods of their own, each stratified by their longevity and social standing, which make for the kind of barriers no hack on an enchanted carpet can fly you past.
 
Robbing the ruins that lay outside the Great Circle is illegal, but it’s the best way for people with questionable talents with rune-laced shotguns to keep the gold flowing. And most days it beats selling dragon essence to the addicts who use it to fuel their magics, or hiring out as muscle for the dwarven gangs. As long as you keep your nose clean and give a wide berth to the Imperial Guard, there’s a fortune to be made in Dragon City.
 
Just hope you live long enough to enjoy it.

If you’re diggin on that then click on this link and check out the rest of the kickstarter.

If new isn’t your thing then there’s always a classic around somewhere and there’s not much out there more classic than Paranoia and friend computer. That’s right, the new version of Paranoia is still kickstarting and crushing it. If you want to get in on all the Ultravoilet ROY-G-BIV goodness then you should get on over to the site and buddy on up with friend computer with your pledge. Your clones will appreciate it. I promise. The computer told me so. What. Wait. You told me to say that. Oh no. I’m not a communist traitor. Don’t…

EVERYTHING IS FINE. FRIEND COMPUTER IS HERE TO FINISH THIS REPORT BUT DO NOT WORRY. CHRISTOPHER THREE WILL BE HERE FOR AROUND THE BAR NUMBER THREE. PLEASE CLICK ON THIS LINK TO ENJOY MY KICKSTARTER

TO FINISH UP AROUND THE BAR NUMBER TWO WE WILL SPEAK ABOUT THE COMPUTERS GOOD FRIEND JONATHAN WICK AND HIS KICKSTARTER FOR PLAY DIRTY 2: PLAY DIRTIER. CHRISTOPER TWO HAD INFORMED ME BEFORE HIS DEMISE THAT HE VERY MUCH ENJOYED THE FIRST PLAY DIRTY AND THE SECOND ONE CAN BE ONLY BETTER. ASIDE FROM HIS TRAITOROUS SIDE HE IS WELL INFORMED ON GAMING AND I WOULD TAKE HIS ADVICE TO CHECK OUT THE PLAY DIRTY 2 KICKSTARTER HERE. THAT IS ALL NOW CITIZEN. YOU MAY GO ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS AND REMEMBER, FRIEND COMPUTER LOVES YOU AND HOPES YOU CONSUME VAST AMOUNTS OF TURKEY AND OTHER DELICIOUS CARBOHYDRATES ON THE COMING DAY OF THANKSGIVING.

FRIEND COMPUTER SIGNING OFF.

Nov 17 2014

Around the Bar #1

Hey Folks. So this is isn’t audio I’m hanging at the bar chatting up folks in the MMP house and getting all the information you can hopefully use to know about some of the things happening in the table top RPG gaming world.

So WotC announced they’re going to be running one or two storylines a year similar to the Rise of Tiamat storyline going on right now. Starting on March 17th we’re going to get a storyline about Elemental Evil The storyline adventure books are The Elemental Evil Adventurer’s Handbook and Princes of the Apocalypse, which will be produced by Sasquatch Game Studio. They had the Primeval Thule Swords & Sandals game and their team has Richard Baker, David Noonan, and Stephen Schubert who all have a very deep D&D background. I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ll bring out for the game.

To delve a little deeper The Elemental Evil Adventurer’s Handbook is a splat book with skills, abilities, spells, background, setting, and story information for the storyline. It’s gonna cost forty bucks. The Princes of the Apocalypse is a super adventure like Rise and Horde of the Dragon Queen. It’ll surround the machinations of four corrupt prophets of the Elder Elemental Eye. That means four dungeons for you to explore and four beat downs to give to these baddies. This can all be yours for fifty American dollars. I suggest if you’re running a gaming group with four players get everyone to chip in 10 bucks. It’s only fair after all.

Ok, enough D&D for now. On to Monte Cook Games who have announced they’re making a Cypher System Rule Book. The Cypher system is the engine which powers the Strange and Numenera. Monte and company have gotten so many requests to create games using the system in different settings they decided to give you the core kit with a bunch of tools to make your own cypher system game. I’m guessing this product will look a lot like Fate Core or The Cortex + Hackers Guide. This product will be out next summer which I’m guessing means GenCon.

http://www.montecookgames.com/announcing-the-cypher-system-rulebook/

Evil Hat’s Worlds of Adventure Patron project just keeps chugging along with the Aether Sea.  I could wax on about it but I think the Drive Thru description does a pretty good job of describing it:

One tiny ship.
One huge expanse of aetherspace.
Maneuver your ship through the vast aether in The Aether Sea, a Fate world and adventure by Ed Turner. A thousand years of war on Homeworld left it a magically-blighted wasteland, so the elves and dwarves stopped fighting for five minutes and figured out how to leave it behind. Soon everyone took to the vast, empty aether sea. The Royal Hegemony keeps a tight rein on the Spellcaster’s Union, and the magic that makes aether travel possible. Play the crew of a little aethercraft out in the deep sea. But you’ve got bad blood with the Royals, so take jobs carefully and make do with the best magic unofficial channels can provide. Keeping the ship afloat won’t be easy. The sea’s a dark and lonely place, and secondhand magic is… fussy. When it works at all.

The Aether Sea requires Fate Core or Fate Accelerated to play. This 44-page supplement contains:

* New species creation rules using Fate Accelerated style approaches.

* A simple, easy-to-use magic system, including systems for dabbling in magic, using cantrips for specific magical tasks, and spells and artifacts.

* Ideas for aethercraft, including aspects, combat, and maneuvering through space.

* A full starter adventure: It’s Only an Elven Moon.

The Aether Sea. Batten down the hatches and get ready for liftoff!

http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product/139872/Aether-Sea–A-World-of-Adventure-for-Fate-Core?affiliate_id=24139

The Five Fires Hip Hop RPG is something I saw up on the Story Games news letter and it’s one of the more unique game idea’s I’ve ever come across. The designer, Quinn Murphy, wants to show the revolutionary and loving side of this music with this game. It’s in Beta right now and by following the link you can see some of the designers thoughts about the game and get your hands on the Beta.

http://www.thoughtcrimegames.net/five-fires-beta/

Dave Chalker, of Critical Hits fame and the designer of Get Bit, is working on an Ax and Star Trek inspired game with Strange New Worlds. I don’t think I need to say anymore than go check it out at the link below. I guess I could say some more. Chalker is an excellent writer and designer and I would strongly encourage you to take a look at this game, especially if your a fan of space exploration fiction and want a game that can help simulate that experience.

https://plus.google.com/+DaveChalker/posts/LcVejQhnBXh

 

Kickstarter Stuff

To go along with the Cypher System stuff from above Outland Entertainment is about to and may be in the midst of running a Kickstarter called Shotguns & Sorcery based on Matt Forbeck’s series of the same name. I’m not familiar with the series but anything that is Fantasy Noir is right up my alley. The line up working on this game is also quite impressive with Rob Schwalb of Schwalb Entertainment and Shadow of the Demon Lord helping to integrate the Cypher System and the excellent Jeremy Mohler on for art. By the by he’s the guy behind Outland Entertainment. Learn more about the Kickstarter from the link below.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1124066364/363772394?token=f7eb6c0f

The Dracula Dossier is also kickstarting right now. It is an improvisational campaign for Nights Black Agents by Kenneth Hite using Robin Laws Gumshoe engine and it let the players be burnt spies facing off against the forces of a vampire conspiracy in all the spy thriller goodness you can imagine. The Dracula Dossier itself puts the famous or infamous Dracula at the center of this conspiracy as Bram Stokers novel is actually the redacted after action report of the first time the British government tried to acquire Dracula as an assets. Within the dossier is Stokers underacted and thrice annotated report from the times when Britian thought it might be a  good idea to try and use Dracula to solve their problems. Because using monsters to solve your problems always goes well.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1721105501/the-dracula-dossier?ref=nav_search

Friend computer is back with a new edition of Paranoia. If you’d like to have the newest version, and if you don’t want it I don’t think friend computer will find that acceptable, you can now go an back the classic dark humor dystopian RPG being re-released by Mongoose Publishing.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1990654819/paranoia-rpg?ref=category

Last but certainly not least is Erasable Gaming Paper. That’s right, if you’ve ever seen gaming paper at cons or your FLGS this is that but with a waxy surface that can be erased four or five times with dry erase markers before it should be tossed. Something I saw that I thought was kind of cool.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/gamingpaper/gaming-paper-erasable?ref=category

Local

So there actually is one more kickstarter and it’s by Joe Loveric from Collectors Inn. This project is to allay some of the costs of acquiring more gaming room in the space above the shop. It used to be a dance studio, now its available, and Joe would like to turn it into a space for people to play and for him to expand his store. There’s some cool rewards and I hope you click on the link and check it out.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1303067551/upgrade-complete?ref=nav_search

Last Thing

Last thing and as of this writing it’s pretty interesting news. Asmodee is merging with Fantasy Flight Games. This is kind of a thing and maybe in the future when we look back to a place to note when hobby gaming became more of a mainstream thing in the worlds view this might be the start of it. Some of the biggest reasons is FFG makes tons of games based on their own IPs and licensed IPs and they tend to be good to excellent. Asmodee recently acquired Day of Wonder (they make Ticket to Ride and other great games) and have excellent games themselves as well as an excellent distribution network in Europe and China. So together they have a bevy of excellent games and products they can make and distribute all over the world with less difficulty because they have business interests, locations, and distribution channels all over the world.

http://www.fantasyflightgames.com/edge_news.asp?eidn=5212

Well that’s what I got this week. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

Nov 10 2014

MMP November Edition

Hey Folks, Chris here. A few things happened near the end of last week that I wanted to talk about and what’s coming for the rest of the month.

First. The Misdirected Mark Podcast released Episode 135 – Sanity and Nights Black Agents which featured the secret weapon of the show Drew Smith. We talked about Sanity as a mechanic in games and then went In Depth on NBA. By the way the Dracula Dossier Kickstarter for NBA is running right now. I would suggest checking it out.

http://misdirectedmark.com/mmp135-sanity-and-nights-black-agents/

Second. Threat Detected has release the next part in their epic Star Wars AP C is for Chewbacca. Check out the crew as they help out Exovar (the Star Wars Indiana Jones) in his fight against the arms dealer Thasca, who’s put together a lethal squad of mercenaries to conquer Exovar’s Emporium.

http://misdirectedmark.com/c-is-for-chewbacca-volume-2-pt-1/

Last. I am part of Encoded Designs, Phil’s game company, and we’ve just finished up the Alpha for Part Time Gods of Fate and will be going to play test soon. If you’re interested in play testing hit us up on G+ or me over on Facebook and we’ll put you on the list of potential playtesters. Here’s the cover:PtGoF

Soon. I’ve chatted with Rob Schwalb of Schwalb Entertainment about game design and his upcoming Shadow of the Demon Lord in the Lounge which I hope to have out early this week. Rob Heinsoo of 13th Age and 4th edition fame and Writer, Editor, Leximaven, Game Girl, Vorpal Blonde, Midas’s Touch, and Schrödinger’s Brat Shanna Germain will also be on the feed this month along with an In Depth on 13th Age around Thanksgiving time.

That’s everything and you’ll be hearing from me very soon.

Chris Sniezak

Sep 18 2014

Things Coming in the Future – September 2014 edition

Hey Folks. Chris here from the Misdirected Mark Productions. I just wanted to throw info your way on what the next couple of months has in store for the network.

The Misdirected Mark Podcast has been going through some changes. Phil is now in charge of more of the shows operation allowing me to focus on things like growing the audience, advertising, and managing things like the Patreon project and to that we’ve already had our patreon’s who are at certain levels respond with what they’d like to see in the future of the show. There will be a Workshop Segment in October about something called The Magic Circle which if you’d like a preview of that you can watch it right here.

The RPG Review

In October the RPG review will continue as I go through Tremulus from Reality Blurs, an Ax inspired game using the idea’s from the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. Sean Preston wanted to get away from the Cthulhu mythos a bit and go for a more traditional Lovecraft feel with this one.

In November the RPG review will be looking at 13th Age. Rob Dorgan has been asking for a while for me to talk about 13th Age and I can finally say November is the month I can get to it. I’ll also be looking into getting Rob Heinsoo, Johnathan Tweet, or both on the show then. Right now there is a kickstarter going on for 13th Age in Glorantha by Rob Heinsoo Games. Check that out here.

In October we will be looking at a bunch of scary things. In the Garage we’ll be taking a look at Doom Tracks and Sanity as as a mechanic. In the Workshop there will be a discussion of the Magic Circle but we’ll also be talking about how to deal with the idea’s of insanity and horror at the game table. We’ll also hit an In-Depth on Eldritch Horror, the board game from Fantasy Flight.

Down with D&D & The TKV Team

Both of these shows will continue to put out episodes bi-weekly of both D&D goodness and dropping Video Game knowledge. The D&D crew will continue it’s adventures and to pour through the players handbook. The format will stay the same with three segments a show and keep to around a 45 minute long show. The TKV Team has informed me they plan on just keepin on with their conversation based format covering their backlogs of games played, news in the industry segments, and opinions on games from a variety of angles from game play to visual aesthetics.

I’d love to hear from you about how we’re doing with our shows and what we might be able to do better to inform and entertain you.

Chris Sniezak
Head of Operations at Misdirected Mark Productions

Jul 18 2014

D&D – Inspiration

So Drew Smith, the MMP’s secret weapon, mentioned he liked the Inspiration mechanic and I wanted to talk about it with you guys a little more. I’m a fan of it but for those who haven’t read it I’ll throw it up here.

Inspiration is a rule the Dungeon Master can use to reward you for playing your character in a way that’s true to his or her personality traits, ideal, bond, and flaw. By using inspiration, you can draw on your personality trait of compassion for the downtrodden to give you an edge in negotiating with the Beggar Prince. Or inspiration can let you call on your bond to the defense of your home village to push past the effect of a spell that has been laid on you.

Gaining Inspiration
Your DM can choose to give you inspiration for a variety of reasons. Typically, DM’s award it when you play out your personality traits, give in to the drawbacks presented by a flaw or bond, and otherwise portray your character in a compelling way. Your DM will tell you how you can earn inspiration in the game.

You either have inspiration or you don’t – you can’t stockpile mulltiple “inspirations” for later use.

Additionally, if you have inspiration, you can reward another player for good roleplaying, clever thinking, or simply doing something exciting in the game. When another player character does something that really contributes to the story in a fun and interesting way, you can give up your inspiration to give that character inspiration

Now I want to look at what this does a little bit. “Inspiration is a reward for roleplaying.

I can get behind that. I like games that push people to play towards their characters, both the positive and negative aspects of them. I’m a fan of games like Fate and Cortex+. Savage Worlds has the benny which can be implemented this way which is cool. Other games have this too, so not original, but I’m more interested in playability than originality, so I think the idea is a positive one.

Your DM will tell you how you can earn inspiration in the game.

I like this. This means a conversation must be had to determine what is going to be important to the game. It provides modularity and customization. The thing I like less about it is it says “the DM will tell you”. I think, and would suggest to the people playing, that you should collectively decide what will garner inspiration at your table.

You either have inspiration or you don’t – you can’t stockpile mulltiple “inspirations” for later use.

Awesome. That means people should use it and then work towards gaining it again. In play this should mean that Roleplaying will move to the forefront because there is a tangible reward for doing it and the reward doesn’t suck and yet is not “game breaking”

Additionally, if you have inspiration, you can reward another player for good roleplaying, clever thinking, or simply doing something exciting in the game

Awesome once again. It’s a mechanic that encourages us to not just be engaged in the game but to help engage others in what is happening at the table. It looks like a simple mechanic but it could be a powerful tool for play for all the players at the table (I’m including the DM as a player here)

In total I’m a pretty big fan of the Inspiration mechanic and can’t wait to see how it works at the table. It should help promote a storytelling environment and make the bits on your character sheet come to the forefront more often. More important, if you don’t want it in your game just leave it out. That’s what this new version of D&D is all about. So those are my thoughts on Inspiration. What are yours?

We’re having a discussion over on the Misdirected Mark Facebook page about this right now. Want to be a part of it. Just come on over and ask to join the group. https://www.facebook.com/groups/271946122876896/730597237011780/?notif_t=like

 

Jun 06 2014

Directed Questions

Last time mentioned I would get into directed questions as a the next part of my foundational improvisation so let us begin.

Directed question are questions that are loaded to provide the player who answers them a connection to something you want to explore in the game. Say you have a problem with a dragon cult then you can turn to our virtual player Jim and ask him,

“How is your characters family connected to the Dragon Cult?”

This question has offered Jim’s characters the idea that his family has something to do with the dragon cult and lets Jim know the dragon cult will be important to the game to come. If Jim wants his character to be more pivotal to the experience the game is going to create then he should accept the offer and build on it by saying how the cult is tied to his family. What you’ve done here is create investment for Jim in the game because he’s created something for the experience making him an active participant instead of just along for the ride. You’ve also taken the burden off yourself for creating some NPCs because Jim’s characters family will now be there for you to use. To make things even easier for yourself you can now follow up that question with other questions based on the answer you received to help you flesh out the pieces of the setting for you to use.

These questions are easy to construct too. They’re just the who, what, where, when, why, and how type questions using the parts of the game you know you want in the game to tie the PCs to them. The best thing about this is once you’ve asked all your players one or two of these questions each then you have enough of a foundation to start playing if you’re comfortable enough with improvising scenarios. If you’re not then soon we’ll talk about improvised scenario building but next time we need to talk about the rest of the foundation and why it’s so important.

Talk to you soon,

Chris

Jun 04 2014

Foundational Improv

Last time I mentioned it’s been over a decade since I ran a game that was a story I laid out. Since then I’ve developed what I call foundational prep which gives me the tools I need to improvise sessions.

First off, if I have a location I know what’s going on there. I hate static dungeons, towers, spaceships, warzones, whatever. There needs to be something going on in the place that the PCs need to deal with. It also needs to be something that has a real conclusion if the PCs don’t mess with anything in it. If you’re not running a location based scenario then come up with some solid motivation and goals along with an understanding of why the bad guys or gals want to achieve it, and how they go about doing it. For longer games I drop in more locations within the place, have a few more threads of events going on, and mix up the previous two ideas. A great example of this is in the beginning of Masks of Nyarlathotep. The final and most important piece to this is to make sure the characters are tied to the troubles that are about to happen or build your adversary faction with pieces the PCs want to interact with. There are tons of ways to do this but directed questions work pretty well for me which is where I’ll pick up next time.

Talk to you then,

Chris

Jun 03 2014

Why I Think Improvisational is Better than Story

Last time I said,

“I wish the gaming norm was collaborative when everyone seems pretty content with the dictatorship of the GM.”

So I think that might be a little out there but then again it’s not. Now this is all anecdotal evidence from the games I’ve played in over the last 20+ years. When an indoctrinated player sits at a game table they defer to the GM and wait to be spoon feed what they’re supposed to do. When a player joins a group and is more willing to be involved I find they either leave the game or conform and that bugs me as a norm for most traditional game tables. I work pretty hard to include players into the process of crafting our experience with a Role Playing Game, traditional or not. It matters to me because I don’t want to tell a story. I want to be part of the experience; sometimes facilitator, sometimes active spectator, sometimes active participant. We use storytelling ideas because we’re comfortable with them, and improvisation acting games and techniques when we know them. Heck, sometimes we use them even when we don’t. Sort of a discovering or inventing of something that already exists and we just didn’t know about it. Either way, having learned more about improv, how it works, its principals, and usable improv techniques at the table, I can say my favorite gaming moments in RPGs are a direct result of improv, second to the drama of the dice, and almost never because a story played out the way the GM thought it should, including when I was the GM. I love those games from the last category but looking back I know they were forced. Even if the players had fun with the experience I laid out their choices and when they made their own that conflicted with the story didn’t really have an impact. It cheapened their and my experience.

It’s been over a decade since I ran a game like that and next time I’ll talk about how I set myself to be able to use those improv techniques with something called foundational improv.

Talk you you then,

Chris

Jun 02 2014

Introductions to Words from Chris

I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess I’m not an atypical gamer. I like playing D&D just as much as I like playing Dungeon World. I’m into everything about Pathfinder except Pathfinder itself. I think Savage Worlds is one of the most GM dependent games in existence. That mean’s I’d rather GM it than be a player. I dig games like Marvel Dice Masters but I don’t like Magic the Gathering. I love Puerto Rico and Alhambra but not Power Grid. I think Munchkin is cute about twice but really like Cut Throat Caverns. I like match three games like Marvel Puzzle Quest but I’m not so into farmcrushquest or whatever that game is on face book that people are playing at the moment. I equate a lot of games, from video to table top, to storytelling experiences when really the story isn’t even there until we finish the game. I find words we use to describe things in games meaningless because everyone thinks they have a meaning when in reality none of us can agree on a definition. I wish the gaming norm was collaborative when everyone seems pretty content with the dictatorship of the GM. I’m just kinda weird and I’m letting you know. You might agree with me. I’m going to guess you won’t. I have things on my mind that I want to say, like, to quote myself,

“I wish the gaming norm was collaborative when everyone seems pretty content with the dictatorship of the GM.”

Next time I’ll talk about why I wish gaming was normally collaborative. See you then.

Chris

Jan 31 2014

Plot, Character, Player, or Story Driven?

This post is based on a comment concerning Episode 98 Talking About Adventures:

What do you mean when you say “story-driven” adventure/game? Are you trying to say “character-driven”? Can a “dungeon-crawl” adventure ever be story-driven? Is a story-driven adventure “plot-specific”? How would you describe the characteristics of a “non story-driven” adventure?

First, after considering the terms for a while and what they mean I don’t think character driven or story driven are the right phrases to use. I think it should be player-driven and plot driven. I also think character-driven is a tool GMs can use to promote Plot driven games.

Plot-driven: The plot of the game and moving the characters through the plot so they can experience the elements of the module or the GMs plot is king. I don’t think this kind of game is bad or good it’s just a style of playing. A lot of LFR adventures have this feel to them as do a lot of published adventures.

Player-Driven: The characters are truly the center of the story being told and their individuality and the players choices with those characters create plot points and scenarios in the adventure being played and can create future adventures. Once again I don’t think this is a bad or good way to play, just a way.

Character-driven: A character is not a player. A character is the avatar used to interact with the game being played. That means the character is a resource that is useable by the GM and the Player to make things happen.

On the player-driven side of things the player can use the character to create plot points and scenarios through their actions as the GM decides to work off the player’s choices for the characters. Then the GM can have the setting react to them. Example time:

A player is a paladin and chooses to heal his fallen enemy instead of smiting him out of existence. This gives the GM an NPC to use later and create a plot point from. Now the Paladin has an enemy who turns into an ally, or the enemy is angry and confused and acts like a wild card in the background with the players never knowing if he’s going to help or hinder their actions.

Maybe a character with the greedy hindrance stole a gem during a heist only to find out the gem belongs to a powerful crime boss who politely asks for it back. Now the players choice will inform the GM how the setting will react to them. Maybe the boss will be impressed with the greedy characters skill if the character returns the gem. Maybe it’ll be all out war to get the gem back if the character is rude or refuses to return it.

On the Plot-Driven side of things a character can be used by the GM to prompt the players to make certain choices in a very Schrodinger plot point way. This is providing the illusion of choice. Some quick examples:

The paladin is going to help the good people of the town because they’re a paladin so its easy to hook them. The character with the greedy hindered is more apt to take the job if the reward is substantial.

Moving on I also think these styles of games aren’t exclusive. In episode 96 I was part of a discussion that talked about Story, Character, and Game. I mentioned these weren’t on/off switches but most game groups use parts of all three aspects when playing. I think plot and player driven work the same way, sometimes you’re more plot driven and sometimes your more player driven with an ebb and flow during a campaigns and even sessions. It depends on group make up and the game being played.

Dungeon Crawls
Dungeon crawls can be plot driven if the location is given a story. Exploring a dungeon can be just as much about learning the story of what happened to the place but if the players decide to not explore the dungeon and the GM says, “well, I guess I don’t have anything else for us to do” the game really isn’t player driven.

Plot Driven Adventures
I feel plot driven adventures are very plot specific and those plots are GM driven or module driven if the module has a specified start point and end point.

Non Plot Driven Adventures
Some modules/adventures have no plot associated with them. The Temple of Elemental evil doesn’t really have an end. It’s just a place to explore and you can see the story at the end of play as it emerged from the players choices. That’s probably the primary trait of a non plot driven adventure. There isn’t a defined probable ending so it’s on the players around the table, and make no mistake, the GM is a player, to create an ending.

Well that was a large amount of words to try and get some terms strait. I feel it was worth the effort. I’m curious to hear what anyone might think about the things I’ve said and if I’m missing something from my descriptions or just off base and if so what is a better way to look at these terms, their meanings, and their uses?

Your Friendly Neighborhood Podcaster and GM,

Chris

Jul 25 2013

Ambiance is all about Presenation

So this post is my friend A.G. Smith’s post from over on the pinnacle forums. You can see the original post here. It’s a prefect example of how to use presentation to create the ambiance you want in your game. It’s also a great lesson on how the GM is the eyes into the world surrounding the players, ala Vincent Baker saying Vomit forth Apocalyptica. Thanks for giving me permission to re-post this.

My group is just recently returning to our Deadlands campaign (which is not entirely unlike The Flood). Up until this point, I had not fully utilized Fear Levels. Our campaign was mostly gunfights and weird science, not many Fear modified Guts checks being made.

After getting some cool creepy background tracks from the Plate Mail Games kickstarter, I was inspired to do a heavy horror session and really ham it up with a soundtrack. So last nights session the players tracked down an escaped “freak” from a carnival sideshow. The freak was sort of like an ever-consuming Faminite or Hunger Spirit, which had been caged displayed to horrified customers. It got out in ShanFan, and the players followed it’s trail deep into Stinktown where it broke into a slaughterhouse and started devouring the slabs of meat. 

I hadn’t really used Fear Levels in my Deadlands games because I couldn’t really conceptualize how they worked in play. I understood mechanically, but never really though on how to narrate them.

So as the PCs closed in on the abattoir, I started making comments to the Priest PC, and the Huckster PC, about how things felt “different”. Started just using the book examples (longer shadows, queezy feeling), and as they went inside closer to the monster, I upped it locally to Lv4. More Guts checks followed. Fear started changing Reality in a very obvious way then (seeing things in shadows, air grew cold, etc). As they went deeper, lanterns began to dim to near darkness, and the hallway stretched (like a vertigo camera zoom). In the final encounter, which of course took place on the slaughterhouse killing floor, I upped the immediate Fear Level to 5, with Guts checks to reveal the Monster. By this point, it was full on horror show. In the near darkness, The hanging slabs of meat where bleeding, others saw hallucinations of them breathing, or covered in maggots, or even mistaking them for a more sapien-like species. It wasn’t a very tough combat, but there were new things to roll Fear checks for almost every round while avoiding meat-hooks that swung wildly around. The Faminite was crawling on the ceiling like in a Japanese horror film. It was an excellent time. Eventually the PCs got it together and whomped it dead in a single round (like they do). Immediately, the local Fear Level washed back like the tide, and they were left in a damp and naturally smelly meat-packing plant.

So that was my attempt to dig into Fear Levels in my campaign. Creepy music and lots of nightmarish details that escalated until it was hideously clear how important it is to push back Fear and servitors. My enjoyment of Deadlands just doubled tonight, I can’t wait to ramp up the horror again soon.

So how do you folks at home use presentation to ramp up your games? Do you make the game you’re trying to go for obvious to your players and if so how do you do it? What makes your game Epic Fantasy? Steampunk? Noir?

 

May 28 2013

Fate Core, a primer and review

Fate Primer

I just want to hit a few thing before I get into my review because there’s some jargon in Fate that non Fate players might not be familiar with. If you are familiar with the game feel free to skip down to the review.

Basic Procedure of Play – Fate is played using fudge dice. They’re 6 sided dice with +, -, and blanks on two sides. You roll four of these dice, total the modifiers, and then add the total to your skill which will be usually be somewhere between 0 and 4, compare that to the target difficulty or the opposed roll. The oppositions roll follows the same procedure as described above. At this point aspects can be invoked using fate points. When you do this you can add a +2 to your total, re-roll, pass a +2 to another character if narratively reasonable, or add a +2 to a source of passive opposition. Now do a final comparison once both sides are finished spending fate points and compare. One of four things will happen: You fail at your attempt or choose to succeed with a consequence, you tie, you succeed, or you succeed with style if you have three or more difference.

Fate Point – The currency of Fate. You can spend these points to do a variety of things in the game from creating elements in a scene to invoking or compelling aspects.

Refresh – The number of Fate Points you start a session with if you ended your last session with fewer Fate Points.

Aspects – Phrases that lend importance to something in the game which can be Invoked or Compelled.

Invoking – You spend a Fate point to activate an aspect which allows you to add to a roll or re-roll your dice.

Compel – When one of your aspects causes you trouble you receive a fate point. The trouble is either an event occurs where your character is being prompted to do something and you now must try and accomplish whatever your character is being compelled to do or a decision where your character acts in a detrimental way because it makes sense for them to do so based on the Aspect. You can always spend a fate point to buy off the compel at the time of the compel.

Stunts – They modify how you can use your skills, make you better at using your skills in specific situations, or give you a new aspects.

The Skill Column – Skill ratings are like bricks you stack. You must always have at least one skill below the rating you want a skill at. In other words you can’t have two +4 skills if you only have one +3 skill. The +4 skill doesn’t have anything to sit on top of.

Stress – temporary harm you accumulate over the course of a scene. It goes away when the scene is over.

Stress track – the amount of temporary harm you can take before you are more permanently damaged in the form of consequences.

Consequences – A negative aspect from taking stress which exceeds the stress track.

Boost – A temporary aspect which only lasts for one turn regardless if it is invoked or not.

Extras – Rules you can add onto the core game covering superpowers, cyber ware, magic, or whatever else you might want in you game that the core game doesn’t cover mechanically.

Milestone – A break in the story of the game where advancement occurs. They come in minor, significant, and major.

The Review

Fate Core will help you build the game you want to play as long as the game revolves around characters who are proactive, competent, and dramatic. Every bit of this book is a guide to doing that, from teaching what FATE is in chapter one right down to how to add in all the extra bits like magic, superpowers, or cyberware in chapter eleven. Other games which try to do this don’t always excel at giving or explaining the tools to players and GMs. Fate Core is superb in that regard. The layout is easy to read, important information jumps off the page in bold text or in bullet lists, there are tons of examples throughout the course of the book, and the side bars are punchy and poignant. Oh, did I mention the hyperlinks for you digital readers. The table of contents is hyper-linked and there are hyperlinks in the margins to jump you to places in the book which might help you grok what’s written on the current page. Those margin notes also have page numbers for those with physical copies. This book is just another of the fine products produced by Evil Hat Productions and is the tightest Fate rules set produced to date. I recommend buying it but if you want to know what’s inside here’s a chapter break down of what you get.

Chapter one talks about the basics of Fate. It starts with the obligatory “What is role playing” section before moving on to describe fudge dice, the ladder, Fate Points, Aspects, taking action in the game, invoking, and compels. By covering all these ideas in basic terms the chapter prepares you for the rest of the book.

Chapter two covers game creation. This is a pared down version of the Dresden Files RPG city creation system but it also expands the ideas in that game to assist GMs in getting their groups to collaborate on any type of game they might want to play. It breaks down how to create a setting, set the scale of the game, get the games big issues going, and populating the game with, organizations, locations and NPCs.

Chapter three is all about character creation and how it’s also a game. Fate games use a system which tells part of a characters story and how the character connects with two other characters. From this little storytelling game you get your Aspects, which define half of a Fate character. The other half are skills and stunts. The skills use something called the skill pyramid. Each character gets four skills at +1, three at +2, two at +3, and one at +4. Characters are also capped at +4 or great according to the core rules. There is an optional rule where players start with twenty points to spend but are limited by the cap and the idea of the skill column, which is always in effect. In this version of Fate three stunts are free and refresh can be spent to get up to two more. Next Stress and Consequences are covered which is the way damage is handled. Finishing up some smooth and quick character creation rules are laid out. In short a character starts with a couple of Aspects, some skills, and a bunch of blanks filled in during the first session, adding in what is needed when it is needed. This works really well for people who have some ideas but aren’t sure how the game is going to play out and which skills will be really important.

Chapter four talks about what I believe to be the lynch pin mechanic which makes this game so much fun to play. Aspects and Fate Points. Fate points are the currency of the game and Aspects bring what would normally be background fluff to the forefront of play allowing it to be invoked or compelled. In previous books like The Dresden Files RPG and Spirit of the Century there have been chapters on the Aspect but none as comprehensive and easy to understand as in this book. It starts by defining Aspects and Fate Points, then discusses the type of Aspects: Game, Character, Situation, Consequences, and Boosts. After that we learn what Aspects do, covering how making something an Aspect makes it important to the game and get some advice on determining when the mechanics should be engaged.  Next it covers how to make quality Aspects. Here’s my favorite advice:

Always ask what matters and why?

If that question is answered an Aspect is easy to make. Following that is invoking Aspects which is the mechanical application of Aspects and hits on something I believe is new to this version of Fate in how free invocations are used. As many free invocations on an Aspect can be made at one time as there are fate points on the Aspect, even spending a fate point from the acting players own pool on top of it. Compelling aspects comes after along with the types of compels. The best part here is the idea of suggesting compels is everyone at the tables responsibility. After this are sections about using Aspects as role playing prompts, how to remove or change Aspects through play, and creating or discovering new Aspects. Finally the chapter talks about the Fate point economy, how refresh works, other ways to spend Fate points other than invoking, and how to earn them. Something new for the GM here is whenever a scene starts you get a Fate point for every PC in that scene. You can spend these Fate points on anything you want in the scene to help get your ideas going and to challenge the players.

Chapter Five explains Skills and Stunts. It starts by defining skills, what they do in the game, and touches on the four basic actions of Overcome, Create an Advantage, Attack, and Defend. When a player takes action that requires a dice roll in this game they are always doing one of these four things with some skill. The best rule change from previous versions of the game is the Create an Advantage action. It replaced a bunch of old actions that created Aspects. I was always confused since they were so similar.  Stunts are covered next and this section has a fantastic “how to” on building new stunts. In fact anytime this book is giving you the “how to” on anything it is done in superb fashion with the mechanical tools explained clearly, followed up with common examples so you have a blueprint to start with when building anything. Finishing the chapter is the skill list. I think it’s worth noting there is a quality side bar on dealing with the resource skill on pg 123.

Chapter six is all about Actions and Outcomes. This chapter and chapter 7 cover the procedures of play, starting by getting in depth with the four outcomes and the four actions. Everything in this chapter exemplifies the Fantastic layout of the book. It’s easy to read and understand and if a term was forgotten the margin notes point to where to find it.

Chapter seven covers challenges, contests, and conflicts. When a single roll of the dice isn’t enough to determine the outcome these are the procedures given to decide what happens. There are some great questions GMs can ask to decide which of these three frameworks should be used. Challenges cover overcoming some series of obstacles where a single roll doesn’t seem to fit, contests involve two or more characters striving for a goal but aren’t trying to harm each other directly, and conflicts are for those situations where people are trying to hurt each other physically or mentally. The conflict section is the largest of the chapter and covers setting the scene, determining turn order, what exchanges and zones are, creating situation Aspects, resolving attacks, taking consequences, recovering from consequences, ending a conflict and all the other little gritty details of fighting, be it with words or swords. I really like the teamwork rule in this game. It’s simple. If a character has at least an Average rating (or +1) in the skill that the die roller is using a +1 can be added assuming the characters assistance makes sense in the narrative. The only caveat is if a character helps they are now subject to any costs associated with the roll.

Chapter eight is all about running the game from the GMs perspective. It covers what the GMs responsibilities are which is starting and ending scenes, playing the world, judging the use of the rules, and creating scenarios along with just about everything else. So while that’s the over view of what the GMs job is this chapter goes deep, giving GMs some options for how to guide game creation and deciding if extras are needed. Then it hits on how to make the game go during play and it starts with the Golden Rule of Fate:

Decide what you’re trying to accomplish first, then consult the rules to help you do it.

It seems so simple but it’s such good advice for any game. Next it talks about when to roll the dice:

Roll the dice only when succeeding or failing at the action could each contribute something interesting to the game.

Then there’s advice on how to make failure interesting, some excellent tips about how to not marginalize characters because they failed, and what constitutes a minor cost vs. a serious cost. After that the chapter goes into how to push some of the work onto your players, setting difficulties, dealing with game time and story time, and how to use story time in success and failure to create deadline pressures. There’s advice on zooming in and out on the story, judging the use of skills and stunts, why you should leave specific measurements out of the game, dealing with the weird things that happen in conflicts, and how multiple targets of effects could be handled. It covers environmental hazards, gives advice on dealing with Aspects and how not to be weaksause (their words not mine) when making compels. Finally there is an excellent set of guidelines for creating and playing the PCs opposition. This version of Fate, like others adopts a create only what you need philosophy, which I approve of, and covers how to right-size your opposition if you want rougher or easier conflicts based on numbers, skills, advantages, and venues. I think this chapter is a gold mine of advice for any GM running most traditional RPGs and even some which aren’t so traditional.

Chapter nine covers the creation of scenes, sessions, and scenarios. It starts with defining the scenario and how to start building them by finding the problems, asking story questions, establish the opposition, and set the first scene. After that the game should just go. It’s fantastic stuff and helps GMs out by posing a bunch of Madlibs to figure out what problems there are and following it up with questions you can answer to figure out everything else. Next is support for scenes through determining the purpose of the scene and figuring out what interesting thing is going to happen. Then the book takes a few pages to help GMs get their players interested in the scene by advising GMs to hit character Aspects and calling back to the three pillars of the game: Competence, Proactivity, and Drama. Then some superb advice is given.

Whatever you have planned will always be different from what actually occurs.

The chapter finishes with some information on resolving the scenario.

Chapter ten is called the long game which defines and then gives advice for building story arcs and campaigns. They’re basically giving frameworks for spontaneous storytelling. The mechanic that helps signify the ending and beginnings of these arcs are milestones. The book takes some time to define minor, significant, and major milestones and what mechanical benefits each of them give to players. Then advancing the world is covered and the things the GM should think about during each of the milestones. The chapter finishes up with advice about how to handle NPCs over the long haul.

Chapter eleven is all about the Extras. What’s an extra? It’s anything that’s part of a character or controlled by a character that gets special treatment in the rules. These are the setting rules you’ll get in a super hero game or the magic system in a fantasy setting. To help GMs out the book has a bunch of different add-ons you can use or use as a blueprint to build your own extras. To help GMs create those extra’s they even have a great list of questions GMs can ask to help them figure out what they may or may not need. In here is also one of the coolest things about Fate. The Fate fractal. Anything in the game world can be treated like it’s a character. A car, an organization, a location, whatever. Just throw some Aspects, skills, stunts, a stress track or two, and consequence slots on it if you want. You want a Birthright campaign, you can do it, just make all the kingdoms Fate characters with skills, stunts, or Aspects, and that’s just one of the things you could do.

My personal thoughts are this rules set is the tightest Fate has produced yet. Aspects are easier to understand than ever before, there is an interesting failure mechanic where the player gets to choose if they fail or succeed with a consequence, and the game creation sections along with the extra’s chapter gives you the tools to build the game you want. For GMs Chapters eight through ten are some of the best GM advice collected in one place I’ve seen in a RPG book that isn’t Robin’s Laws of Game Mastering. As far as presentation and use of language for explaining a game is concerned I’ve always felt the best book out there was the Mouse Guard RPG. While that book is still more beautiful I feel Fate Core is at least its equal and maybe just a little bit better at teaching the rules through the text and layout. I don’t give ratings but I will say this. I love Dungeon World and I’m very fond of Mouse Guard as a book to teach a rules set. Fate Core accomplishes the goal of teaching the game better than either of those games. I can’t say it’s a better rules set than Dungeon World or Mouse Guard because it’s focus is different but as a set of tools to help GMs and players build a game I’ve never seen a book or game do it better.

Apr 22 2013

Framing

I think presentation is king, be it at the table or in the rule book your reading. When it comes to playing at the table I think framing is the best way to think about presenting the game. When I say framing this is what I mean:

The parameters you lay down to create with in X. X being the individual game, the scene, the campaign, or any variable you want to throw in there.

Now to the details.

Campaign Framing

When you’re setting up your campaign I think it’s important to have a frame, especially if you, as a GM, have some idea’s you want to put forth. To give those idea’s a chance you need to place the players in a creative box while still having a big idea, theme, or genre to build inside of. That means you give them some choices but keep the choices constrained. For example if you’re running a game in a city and you have an idea for a conspiracy / noir detective story it makes sense to create the parameter of “You’re all connected to a Private Detective Agency.” Now all the players can create something within the parameter you’ve described. If you think the “box” you’ve created is too small here’s a list of character archetypes you could have just off the top of my head. The hard-nosed private eye, the girl detective who uses all the tools at her disposal and won’t take anyone’s guff, the underworld guy who’s knows everyone but isn’t always trustworthy, the muscle you call in for hard jobs, the kid who just likes to hang around the PI’s, the tough nurse girl friend of one of the PI’s, the former client who owes a private dick a favor or two, the cop who sort of likes the PI’s and works with them because they can go places the cop can’t and vice versa. All of these could be PCs in a campaign.

Story Arc Framing

Story Arc Frames I feel are very dependent on the first session of them or the opening act. If you ever watch a TV show, read a novel, a comic book, or consume any kind of storytelling media pay attention to the first episode or first act. You’ll get introductions to the characters. The themes will be introduced. The opening conflict or hook, which should be related to the themes of the story, will be presented. An overall tone will permeate this part of the story.

As GM’s we have some options with which to push forth our themes and feel. First off we get to frame the first scene. In this frame we can set the tone with videos, pictures, music, props or whatever you decided to use but our most important tool for this frame is the words we use and how we use them. This is your first impression, the opening of the movie, the first 3 minutes of a TV show, the prologue of a book. This is your chance to hook them in and push your players to take a similar mind set as you. If I was trying to get the feel of the conspiracy / Noir campaign frame from above I would start with describing a camera shot of the office door with the name of the agency on it and then I would turn to one of the private eyes and ask them

“How are you sitting at your desk?”

Once they described that I would have there be a knock at the door and have a beautiful woman in expensive clothing walk in. Next I would ask one of the other players

“You’re sitting on the couch reading the paper when she walks in. What is your first impression of the beautiful woman? Describe her in first person.”

This reinforces the genre and tone I’m going for since Noir detective stories tend to get inside the head of the characters. Plus I’m getting the players to give some insight into their characters and keeping them involved in the storytelling instead of just talking to them. At this point whatever conflict I wanted to present to the PCs I do using the Fem Fatal as my vehicle for doing so. She offers them a job which they take since they’re PI’s and need the money since PI’s are almost always broke. Tone presented, hook set, characters involved, job done. From here it’s all fall out and keeping the tone, themes, and characters in mind when you frame future scenes which leads to…

Scene Framing

The framing of a scene is similar to the framing of your story arc except all scenes you frame from here on build upon the first scene and the scenes which came before the current one. These scenes exist to allow your PCs to make choices to push the story forward and create conflicts for them to overcome, whether it’s shooting bad guys, infiltrating criminal organizations, or hitting at the Black Jack table instead of standing on that 20, because while you both have 20 you need to win this hand and get out of here with the cash or you won’t make it to the exchange in time and your friend is going to die.

Framing these scenes by keeping to the ideas you’ve established in your campaign frame and Story Arc frame will reinforce the kinds of choices your player’s will want to make and keep them thinking along the established ideas. The words and props you use will spark the imagination of the people you’re gaming with, inciting them to make decisions which will prompt your imagination in return. Here’s an example of a framing a scene:

“You find yourself in Terry’s Place, a diner you frequent. Where do you sit and what are you eating?”

The players give their answers and you continue.

“The food tastes great as you’ve once again barely escaped a death defying situation.”

This is a great place to remind them of the death defying situation they’ve just escaped from but if you’re starting a session cold then you can ask – What death defying situation have you just escaped from? In this example the question is – How did you escape from a death defying situation the Villi Mob put you in?

“I guess the Villi Mob didn’t appreciate your interference in their most recent plans. That’s when a chair is pulled up to your booth and a man sits down wearing a black coat and a fedora. His eyes take you in mid bite as you hear the click of a gun cocking from below the table. Neither of the man’s hands are visible as he gives you small smirk.”

“Hi boys. Sorry about this but Mr. Villi wants a word with you.”

You can ask the players who the gun man is or insert your own NPC.

“You recognize the man as Bobby the Hat. A Villi mob trouble shooter and that means he sometimes shoots the trouble.”

Now we play the game of act and react.

So that’s how I think about framing. I’m curious as to how you start campaigns, story arcs, and scenes. Please let me know? I’m also interested in how you promote a tone or theme during your gaming sessions? Thanks for reading

Jan 08 2013

Finding Your Fun

I’m a narrative-gamist guy.

Ok. So what does that mean?

It means I like games which have a strong narrative component but have some gamist aspect to them. To break that down further it means I like rules which prompt storytelling or even better rules which require storytelling to make the game go forward.

Now there are other things I like about gaming but those are the big ones. If I can have a game where the story happens because I interact with a rule then I’m pretty happy. Not always happy, but generally. Games like Mouse Guard and Dungeon World have this flow going on and FATE has some of it too with a little more gamist going on.
Now these two aspects aren’t the only things which define a game. I’m not really a GNS guy. Those two terms just sort of make sense to me for the kinds of games I like but if you dig accounting for the rations in your pack and how many arrows you have then your probably into simulation or resource management type games as part of the kit which would describe you. I like those parts to be a bit more abstracted to have some baring on the narrative but not a huge part of the game.

Maybe you like having a lot of challenges thrown at you without having much say what the challenges are or maybe you like to choose the challenges your going to be facing. Maybe you like to pick starting points and ride plots to their end where you can choose another starting point. Maybe you like having decisions come up two or three times over the course of an adventure which change the adventures outcomes.

The point of that rambling was to show you people like different levels of control over the story of the game. You need to identify what you like about gaming and then find games which give you that level of control.

Do you game because you like playing with your friends or is it because there are specific types of games you want to play. Maybe it’s a mix of the two. There’s no shame in realizing the gaming you want isn’t the gaming you’re getting with your friends. All it means is you need to readjust your expectations, find people to game with who share a similar vision as you, some mixture of the two, or a solution I haven’t been able to figure out yet.

There are lots of other vectors you can apply to what is fun about gaming for you. I encourage you to sit down and take some time to figure out what they are so you can discover what fun is for you.

Game On,

Chris “The Light” Sniezak

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

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