March 31, 2009

Power levels of games

Filed under: General — bilbo @ 10:39 am

I have come to realize I truly enjoy low powered games. I am not a “I want to play 30th level out the gate” or “I want to be a god” kind of guy, either as a game designer or a player. This led to problems in Vampire as I often played and GMed in a very different style from what a lot of players expected. For instance, I was at a con, oh, I think in Spingfield IL called CapCon. Fun little con and well organized. Linda and I signed up for a V:TM game. I played a Knights Templar who had been embraced in the Crusades. He was not a particularly vicious guy but did what he had to to get by. Anyway, through the course of the game, a magic whatsit turned me back to human again. My character was overjoyed. He ate the foods he loved, he laid out in the sun, he drank in life. Then, as night fell, his sire sent dome goons to take him in. He went and everyone, even the GM, expected my character to happily run to my sire to make me a Vamp again. As my sire apprached I asked if I could get to my gun.

The GM said, “Sure, but it wont do you any good. He is too fast and powerful”.

I said, “It is not for him.” Put the gun under my chin and pulled the trigger. They were all floored. They could not understand the idea that you would rather die then become a vampire, especially after several centuries of being one.

This attitude is reflected in my games or so I think. At no point when you are playing your character is the power of the character so great that you fear nothing. I was always struck by moderate level DND characters and their ability to judge that the kobolds were no threat. Yeah, sure, smarty kobolds can set traps but the whole “I can walk into 50 kobolds and have no chance of damage” always stuck me as…distasteful. That said, I can appreciate that folks do enjoy it. I just can’t get behind it.

March 29, 2009

Zombipocalypse cover and title

Filed under: General — bilbo @ 10:15 pm

In the last play test some folks questioned the title. They felt Zombipocalypse was too campy zombie when the game is more sci-fi post-apoc. I have my doubts but came up with a name I like:
Infected: End of Days

Infected Cover

ZP 1 Cover

ZP 2 Cover

Thoughts? Opinions?

March 27, 2009

Relative Damage Levels

Filed under: General — bilbo @ 9:23 am

I had an idea. I know, that only leads to trouble but it was something like 3 am last night and I was struck by how Zombipocalypse with its wound levels could be made to deliver subjective damage descriptions. So, for instance, you might have Critical Wounds knock someone unconscious or even have them merely be incapacitated for the combat or it could be an outright kill. The advantages here are:

1. GMs can modify the system to meet their setting and campaign goals. Playing Squirrel Attack? A Critical means the squirrel has the wind knocked out of them. Playing Nebuleon? Critical means someone just put a bullet through your head.

2. The player can be descriptive within the system as to the effects of their damage. What to knock someone out? There is no modifier or differing mechanism, same mechanism, you just describe how you are going to achieve the attack.

3. The Group can decide on lethality levels. Since we have a degree of success system you can easily set the level of what the wound levels mean. Make your crit by 4 you incapacitate, more than 4 kills. Or, Criticals kill, Moderate wounds incapacitate.

I like this idea very much and so does Linda. THAT is amazing since she is even less a system person than me. 😉

March 25, 2009

Kill Ratio: Part Duex

Filed under: General — bilbo @ 12:20 am

Continuing this thought, I believe I can sum it better with the idea that I normally have a vary gradual slope to death for characters in my games. In ZP, it is all or nothing. I should say, yes, there are light and moderate wounds but really, these are independent of each other and entirely of critical wounds. If you get enough moderate or light wounds you might be knocked unconscious but you wont die. If you get a critical wound, most likely you will die.

I think a number of the play testers were seeing this as well. Some have liked it and others just “didn’t like how combat works”. This may be because it is so different from my normal combat sequences and pacing. Part of me likes that idea. It models the idea of combat being a risk between minor and moderate walking wounds and being laid out. Also, it can happen BLAM! just like that.

I will have to think more on this. I am not sure it should be changed.

March 24, 2009

What’s in a Name?

Filed under: Games — bilbo @ 4:05 pm

So, another point that came out of the play test this weekend is that I suck at titles. No real news there but specifically they felt Zombipocalypse was:
1. A good name for a campy zombie genre game.
2. Not a good fit for the what they considered a sci-fi game with zombies in it.

Now, by “they”, I mean one player. The rest seemed good with the name. An alternate that he came up with was Xenopocalypse…

This leave me flat.

Linda suggested “Infected” but I am pretty sure that is in use.

I appreciate what is being said and I do like Infected better but I also think Zombipocalypse cuts to it as well.

I often feel i am going around in circles…grrr.

March 23, 2009

Kill Ratio

Filed under: Games — bilbo @ 1:02 pm

This weekend I had a pretty good field test of Zombipocalypse. Amongst other things, I felt two things leapt out. The first I will call the kill ratio. This is the how what the PCs kill combined with the “feel” of it. For instance, with ZP, you can have a bunch of light and moderate wounds dealt but then, blam! the critical comes across and you are down. The second was the give and take of the PCs’ and foe’s damage. It seemed a bit one-sided.

With kill ratio, it seemed like it was a bit easy to go from fine to dead. There is something to be said about this but I was a bit put off by it. With Iridium, my original baby, we have a very long gentle slope to death. You have plenty of opportunity to back up, apply healing or generally save yourself. In the play test, it seemed the players were…alright for the most part. The enemies were fine until they weren’t. It was abrupt and, although I think this is an interesting element that reflects an aspect of the genre, it makes me wonder about the enjoyability of play.

This leads to questions about the PC damage. It seemed a bit light. We had a couple of guys get beat up a bit but, I feel, there was no time when they said “Holy carp! We are in trouble”. Now, was that me and a new scenario? Was it the system? Was it the sense they were playing in a play test? Just not sure.

March 19, 2009

Stories that do not make Good RPGs

Filed under: Games — bilbo @ 10:39 pm

I love Star Trek. I think its optimistic view of the future is cool. I love Kirk and TOS. I think the new stuff is o.k. but I seem to like the ones others hate like Voyager and Enterprise while despising the stuff others like such as DS9. No biggie, suffice it to say I have a wide range of Star Trek RPGs and all of them fail to varying degrees to handle the issues of incontinuity of the Star Trek franchise.

Sacrilege you say! Death to the infidel!!

One of the reasons I made up D.R.A.T.S, a diceless RPG with rotating GM responsibilities was to deal with the incongruous details that come up through the long running series being written by a varying army of writers. In my view, you have several points of incontinuity:
1. Tech as related to Star Power. Scotty con modify the thransporters to store his pattern for 75 years, on the fly, on a crashed ship, with a wounded crew mate as his help but Star Fleet R&D can’t come up with a better improvement than adding range to the transporters given 120 years to work with them. Geordi…he does anything. Belana…flunked out of SFA but she is sarter than any SF trained engineer. Sure, you could explain this with hero points but…damn…

2. Tech Amnesia. This is when something amazing happens, that is a major break through, but then is forgotten. For instance, what i all the “Riker Duplicate”. This is when Riker, several years before being on the Enterprise, was on an away mission and his transporter beam was reflected back to the planet but also appeared on the ship. This meant a duplicate was made on the planet. Think how awesome this would be. You could have a technology that would allow you to store the patterns of the Away Team. If anyone died, you just beam them back to reality and little Timmy does not have to deal with the loss of his mother. But no, this was a freak accident…or it would destroy the series as a plot ender.

3. Ethics Benders. Many fans of canon will tell you that Trek is all about the morality. That if the group gets out of line, have Star Fleet lay the regs down on them. This is another point that does not hold up. How often did Kirk piss in the pool of the Prime Directive? How often did we hear how “This civ is stagnant” or “already polluted”. Hell, even Picard, mamby pamby by comparison, would agonize over it and decide int he end, the Wesley boy just stepped on the grass and your rules do not apply to us so, suck it.

In the end, the problem is that all this points are plot driven. RPGs are not plot driven, at least not the ones that normally are used to try and model Star Trek (LUG, Decipher, FASA). You cannot assign a single use tot he Transporter when you have an Engineer in the group. All he needs is technobabble and he is on his way to having whatever magic ite…ah, technological marvel he might need.

I believe this principle could be applied to any story that is long running and has multiple authors. Some stories, not all, do not translate to games.

March 17, 2009

Video Intro for Zombipocalypse Adventure

Filed under: Games — bilbo @ 12:45 pm

So, I went to the zoo. I did some voice overs. Too geeky? Not entertaining? Useful for an adventure intro? You decide.

March 16, 2009


Filed under: General — bilbo @ 10:58 am

I begin to wonder if we will see terminator style robots in my life time. I have cyborgs and androids in Nebuleon and I have a game all about these buggers rising up and taking us out on the drawing board but …

Building a game community

Filed under: Business,Games — bilbo @ 9:06 am

I am horrible at this. Part of the problem is purely order of magnitude. It is much easier if you have a group of employees or fans willing to organize and administer things like play leagues or organized play groups but it is both difficult and expensive for a small press company to try and emulate such efforts. Why? Because inevitably, you are compared to WoTC or a mid tier company.

Now, you might think, “Yeah, but that is your job.” I can appreciate that but the role of a small publisher is wide. Often it involves things like managing advertising, managing other writer or your own writing time, attending cons, promotions, managing printing, artists, layout your books and a sundry other tasks that small business owners need to address. People often do not see the administrative time sink that efforts like the RPGA are.

That said, the above are mostly excuses (and a little bit of explanation). It does make small press publishers really appreciate the fans who go above and beyond buying their book.

Older Posts »

Powered by WordPress