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Showing posts from February, 2013

Tactical Superheroes?

No, not that kind of tactical superhero, I'm talking about tactical play, and by that I mean gameplay which uses, even emphasizes depicting the RPG action on a table utilizing maps and miniatures.  For superhero games, the ultimate expression of this is Champions, whose "Speed Chart" was the brilliant means to stagger actions between super-fast and rather sluggish characters, but also dropped game speed down to a crawl.

The other end, my current gamesystem Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, whose abstract gameplay means I could probably play in my living room without a table at all.

Why is tactical gaming valuable, not just in superhero games, but in most games?  For me, the benefit became obvious when I once had a player whose character seemed to be everywhere.  Watching the door, checking the chest for traps, and looting the bodies.  Whatever could be done, her PC was there.  Being able to say, "no, you're here" is pretty helpful.

In addition, there's the &q…

Do superheroes get better?

In the comments section of my last post, Barking Alien raised two of the most common critiques of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying: the lack of PC improvement with experience, and the lack of tactical play. I'll tackle the first issue in this post, and the second in a later one.

The Experience Point question has several levels.  MHR does have XP, which are usually used to unlock plot elements that has a positive impact on the game.  There is some very desultory discussion about changing or improving powers, but like most things in MHR this is more of a plot issue, not a gameplay one.  In other words, the question is does the story support the idea of your character gaining new powers, not have you played your character enough to justify the improvement.

Part of this dynamic is MHR's rather consistent bias towards using their own characters in their own re-hashed-from-the-comic-book storylines.  This is my least favorite aspect of the game, to be quite honest.  I buy the sourcebooks t…


Last night I had a great gaming session, not because the group hit a ton of great plot milestones but because in addition to some good in-character roleplaying, there were just a couple of moments of pure hilarity that literally brought tears to my eyes.

But when it was all done, I needed to have a conversation with my group and tell them the truth: I'm burned out on D&D.  I've been running it, roughly speaking, for several years now.  The only change I have had really is the annual EOW event, and that's just a couple of days.  Now it's been good and I've gamed with a lot of great people and I've had a lot of fun, but I'm tired of the game and more broadly the genre.  I told the group that either someone else had to take over running the game, or I needed to change the game.

With the other GM in the group already running another game on another night, the group readily agreed to a different game, but wanted to discuss options.  After kicking around idea…

Scooby Balance

....or "why complicated plots are a bad idea."

It's funny how a single essay can evolve into something else. Zak at PDaDwPS writes a Valentine's Day post about game balance called Balance.  His point?  Any challenge posed to a group of players is acceptable as long as the group could overcome it through cleverness and thinking.  My "NPC from another table" Barking Alien says that's all well and good, but there are plenty of GM's who disallow clever responses if it doesn't fit what they thought the solution should be in his post Counterbalance.

Which brings me to a comment I made there about Scooby Doo.  I think a lot of really creative storylines die horrible deaths on the gaming table because GM's either lock themselves into too rigid a plot, or create a plot whose narrative is so convoluted that the players miss large chunks of it and everyone ends up frustrated.

My axiom: no plot should be more complicated than a Scooby Doo episode.


Book Review: Broken Angels

Takeshi Kovacs, the body-jumping soldier of the future is back in the sequel to my previously-reviewed Altered Carbon.  But while the first book was a cyberpunk noir detective story, Broken Angels is a completely different style of story, albeit still set in the gritty far future as the first novel.

Kovacs is back to being a soldier-of-fortune, rather than a detective, and is approached by a shifty individual with a plan: stake claim to a priceless alien artifact smack in the middle of a war zone.  Kovacs signs up for the caper, joining forces with an archaelogue (I do not know why Morgan doesn't use the word "archaeologist" like everyone else) and a sleazy corporate operator.  Later they recruit a band of fellow mercenaries who you know will just serve as cannon fodder for the rest of the book.

Like I said before, Altered Carbon was a detective story, but Broken Angels is much more of a techno-thriller: weird alien artifacts, mysterious deaths, and an escalation of vio…

Why I love my local gaming store

Four blocks from my house is a small gaming store featuring miniatures, roleplaying games, and board games.  The owner, Mike, bears more than a little resemblance to the comic book store owner on "The Simpsons."  But one reason why I like the store, Hometown Games, isn't just its convenience, it is because Mike is perfectly willing to talk me out of buying an RPG rather than try to convince me to, if it isn't the game I want.

Case in point.  Last night I was wandering around there and Mike said to me, "are you looking for something?"

I explained to him that I was several months away from ending my D&D campaign and was looking for something else, something different.  "Let me guess," said Mike, "you've got shelves of games at home, and none of them are right."

I agreed, and told him what games I had decided not to go with, like Pathfinder, because it was too much like what I had been running for the past several years. I asked him…

Gaming Night Pic

Here's a pic of my honest-to-God, mixed-gender, multi-generational gaming group, all together Friday night.

Good gaming session, actually one of my favorites that I've run in a while.  The group now has a flying ship that can transcend dimensions.  While flying over one of the layers of Hell they were attacked by an earthquake dragon and a bunch of vrocks (Vrock Lesnar, Vrock Obama, Vrock from Pokemon and Dwayne "the Vrock" Johnson).  One of them managed to hurl one of the PC's over the side of the ship, causing an outright panic.

Later (having saved the falling PC) they had a solid roleplaying session featuring an NPC uncle of one of the PC's, and a legit "which direction to you want to go in the campaign" question.  Player agency, woo hoo!

And then the third act featured a battle with a bunch of pod demons, which are just fun monsters with loads of weird powers, etc.

My group always begins by having dinner together: my classic pulled pork and no …