Thursday, November 26, 2015

RPG Equipment - Lumping or Splitting?

If there is one thing I like about Rifts, it's the diversity of equipment.

Rival corporations and companies (and in some cases, even weirder stuff) putting out kewl weapons, armor and other equipment that have their own distinctive brands.

A similar feel is in cyberpunk 2020, Darwin's world d20 and I'm sure others can mention a ton of other sources.

however, there is a side effect of this.

Namely a ton of stuff that people just don't use.

In contrast, I was incredibly less then impressed by the 3.0 arms and equipment guide. It really felt like it fell short, especially when compared to the 2nd editions aurora's whole realms catalogue, but it did contain one very key line.

namely that your style of weapon doesn't could conceivably look like anything within a certain metric, but the stats wouldn't change.

4th edition dnd and especially the new gamma world really take this frame of thought to an extreme (heck gamma world just uses one handed/two-handed and light/heavy and melee/ranged to differentiate between weapons).

My questions are as follows:

1. Do you prefer more or less choices for equipment?

2. what convinces you that something needs to be added, equipment, to a game?

3. If you are a lumper when it comes to equipment, how do you define rival products? Do you simply emphasize the color text or do you do a minor tweak and use it as a definition for the role of a corporation or kingdom?

4. If you split, where do you split and how. Not many people care about 35 pieces of av equipment, but weapons are usually a defining splitting category. 

5. Which genre's or games push towards lumping or splitting?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Dungeons and Dragons - Some Musings on Editions

A while back, I was asked for my opinion on the different editions and still stewing over 5e, but posting because it's Thursday.


After pretty much completely redesigning a d20 system from the ground up, I really appreciate the game design of 4e.

If nothing else, they have a real separation of fluff and crunch so rules aren't hidden.

The other is a term I like to call Cookisms, after Monte Cook's love of mages.

This is wherever a rule that balanced Spellcasters in 2nd was mitigated or outright removed from 3rd.

For example

1. in 2e, a spellcaster was successfully hit, they lost their spell, making their overpowered spells have a real chance of failing. In 3e, spellcasters were given a concentration check which usually removes that chance entirely.

2. in 2e, most magic items found are for nonspellcasting classes, especially fighters and making magic items is a real choice and a real loss to make. In 3e, spellcasters can make magic items and combining that most spellcaster magic items are cheap as hell, so it really disrupts this balancing mechanic.

3. fighters went from having some of the best saves at high levels, to only being good with fortitude...which makes them easy pickings to will and ref saves.

4. To placate the need for somebody to play a cleric, they got spontaneous spellcasting of healing spells, instead of opening up whom can heal. Words cannot express my joy of the warlord of 4e that can fit a similar role.

5. Druids are similarly broken. While I never liked the druid duel for the connection., one single feat really broken them completely: natural spell. You can now cast spell while shape shifted, which after about 8 level is pretty much all the time.

hell I used to pretend to be the wizard's familiar for ambushes, and turn into something big like a bear (because my physical stats were determined by which creature I shifted into). I had this dire ape, wood shape, shillelagh trick that allowed me to thump people for massive damage.

6. feats, while a good idea if refined a bit, became a straight jacket for the fighter class. it really limited what the fighter could do without feat investment and there was no gauge for power level.

7. the idea of system mastery: A lot of stuff was seeded to trick and trap pcs into bad character builds.

8. prestige classes were required for anything beyond the core to keep up and they weren't made equal. I had a good friend who wanted to play a master lasher whip master and he was pretty much useless in most scenarios.

9. worse, optimized characters rarely looked like the standard archetypes. You had to mix a prestige class in there somewhere to get what you want and it usually ended up as a frankenstein.

Pathfinder did fix a few things (such as balance the druid), but it's biggest problem is it didn't use it's fixes completely.

CMB/CMD is a fantastic mechanic. However, it should have been used consistently throughout all associated mechanics. There are a few places where they merely copied and pasted the original spell and ignored the mechanic.

They also introduced new tier 1 (aka broken classes): the witch, the summoner and the oracle.

This is to not say 4e isn't perfect

1. skill challenges needed serious refining so it wasn't used as a blunt instrument by vindictive gm's to force you to use your weakest skills. While this was fixed somewhat in dmg2, some strands still occur.

2. we never got a martial controller ....grumble (I want my acrobat dag nab it).

3. feats went as crazy as in 4e as in 3rd.

4. there was a math fix that was required based on game design.

None of these were insurmountable and was kinda looking forward to a 4.5, but it ultimately it was undone by licensing.

the gsl was much stricter then the ogl

1. It could be revoked at any time. Thus very few people wanted to put their faith in wizard's judgment. This decision was proven correct.

2. It had no wiggle room for alternative setting development. I wanted to see a 4e modern dag nab it.

3. they used the dnd insider to limit access to 3rd party development.

and it was even worse on inception.

honestly, if the gsl was more lenient, I probably would have used gamma world 7th as a base for my own material. It is one of my most favourite games and is amazing for duplicating rifts without the bull.

I'd love your thoughts on the subject.  What changes have you seen over your gaming career.  Feel free to post in the comments below. :)

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Why I like Daybreakers

This one is a relatively new post that draws on my last post regarding Blade III

Daybreakers, the vampire movie of 2009, is one of my favorite movies and I've been itching to put it into words for some time.

If I could sum it up in a few words, it is a phrase I've used in the past: the monstrous in everyday life.

Much of my personal work explores this theme, but this movie shows the everyday actions of creatures that would be considered monsters for good reason.

Humanity has fallen to the Vampires.  However, despite their severe blood needs and sun addiction, they have, more or less settled down and have become the dominant life on earth.

Yet in spite of this, Vampires have a shade of humanity that shows more then they most likely would have cared about.

This woman is a specific example of this.


In any other world, this vampire, dubbed the blood lady, would be a minion of the vampire lord or prince.  Instead she is a working stiff that is just doing her job, not unlike what she did when she was alive.  She's not overtly evil, just another friendly face in the hospitality industry.

Another example is when the Vampire Army patrol enter to track a monster, a vampire that has drunk vampire's blood and become a batwinged aberration.  They act as cops with as much concern with the home owner that we would expect.

Even the "blood shortage" is a thinly veiled analogy about our own fossil fuel dependency.

They even try to solve this problem using a tool that defines Humanity: Science.  From using cameras on cars instead of windows (complete with automated warnings), using walkways between buildings that are completely covered, they work around their limitations of their physiology.  When confronted by a "blood shortage", they immediately get to work on an alternative, which is one of the driving goals of the protagonists.

At least until they figure out a cure for the vampirism.

Ultimately, this human perspective of vampirism really impressed the heck out of me.  Having William Dafoe in a firebird as a bad ass vampire hunter was icing on the cake. :)