Christmas Saga

The last week or so in the UK has been pretty damn grim, and while I am hideously behind on my Christmas shopping, there is at least one part of the season I am ready for. World building is something of a passion, and over the last… let’s see… eight years? I have been building a world, a mythology of Christmas that I use for a host of role-playing games over the festive period. It’s a story I have told over and over again, adding a little more every time. Here is the story to date, concisely summarised for you.

The Archipelago of Misfit Toys

A band of slightly broken toys escape solitude and captivity among the broken and discarded things of the world, and in their bid for freedom they come across a freedom fighter, Bannock, Gingerbread King of the candyfolk, the only creature capable of evading the elfen wild hunt, dashing through the clouds on their one horse open sleighs. By helping one another they overthrew Santa and his hunt, sneaking into his feasting hall through a tunnel opened by the Muffin Man, driving the Slaver of candy, the dark lord of festivity, into the darkness and obscurity.

The Castle of Teeth

In a faraway village the children brave the cold and the dark to do mischief, acts of rebellion, fights, gorging themselves on sugary treats. Only tooth fairies could cause such havoc, finally freed from the service of Santa Clause, they can do whatever they please. Fortunately King Bannock has friends, the ones who taught him to sneak and creep, a group of Bogeymen whose duty it is to keep children safe and fearful in their beds, to teach them the wisdom of caution. Through the hall of lanterns where teeth burn, revealing the disposition of each child – be they naughty or nice – and into a secret cellar, the Bogeyfolk halt a plot to build a Krampus of their own, that would abduct children and feed them to the fey.

Long Live the King

King Bannock is dead. His champions take the long climb up Mt Verdance Eternal, a conical mountain fraught with beguiling hazards, baubles that dangle your greatest desires before you, twinkling lights that are malevolent fey that would lead victims into deep gorges, and the twisting, shimmering, Tinselworms. At the top, an angel, of the order Solar, who alone may declare the name of the heir to the Sugar Throne. Only a deceptive and cunning confection can keep his people safe, a member of the resistance… the Muffin Man… now the Muffin King. Only one champion crawled down from the sacred mountain to share the news.

Unholy Night

A prison of festivity hides deep in a cave, in which the words “HO HO HO” are gouged with deep claw marks upon the walls. A handful of Santa’s truest disciples climb down to try and free the Fey Prince who once ruled the solstice. Through malice and carnage they work their magick upon the locks, dragging a sacrifice behind them, and conduct a powerful ritual, hanging stockings with care, ensuring that nothing stirs, leaving an offering before the fireplace… but the creature that stepped free of the chimney was not who they expected to find, a puppet and his master, a servant of the Black God of Candy, the Bittersweet, Bartholomew Basset.

The Factory Awakens

A hidden fortress in the snow has sprung to life, brightly coloured packages loaded into the back of a cart that already has a team of reindeer tacked and harnessed ready to fly, but no elves work here. A team of assorted Christmas Champions attempt to sneak their way inside to learn more, fighting their way past the clockwork guards, sneaking into the factory floor to find the place overrun with long-legged scaly creatures that laugh and sing, and giftwrap chaos for a whole new year to begin!

This Saturday… the story continues. A nightmare being guides the hand of cruel old St. Nick, and despite the best efforts of good, and honest heroes, it’s looking less and less likely that there will ever be a silent night again.

Gloomhaven on PC

You may remember I chatted about this one, and about a year or two before that it was all over the board game social groups. In short it’s a leviathan board game in a box the size of a couple of breeze blocks, it has a foot firmly in the RPG camp in the same way that Diablo and Grim Dawn are RPGs, all the stabbing, easy on the character moments, incidental decision making with pretty direct fallout, but damn it does the hacking and slashing well.

Characters are diverse in appearance and collection of powers building to tactical combinations with the rest of your party, clever but frustrating action economy, and so many possibilities, status conditions, and moving parts that the whole thing is far easier to manage with an app or three on the side. And actually with that electronic assistance Gloomhaven becomes an incredibly fun game, without it you’ve really got to enjoy your bookkeeping.

Borne on its popularity, Gloomhaven now has a video game version, all of the heroes fully animated, the modular board pieces turned into deep, rich scenery, and all of the numbers handled for you from behind the proverbial curtain.

Almost.

The video game version is still in early access stages so that players can help test the hell out of the many features to make sure that every character is ready and waiting to go. Currently the only playable characters are the Brute, Scoundrel, Spellweaver, and Cragheart, and after a recent update, the Tinkerer, which means that of course, my character has to wait until last. It’s almost like the Mindthief’s deck is filled with complex strategies, different mechanics, and like huge swarms of rats are hard to animate! Vermlings will not be sidelined!! Although apparently he gets released some time before the end of the year.

The board game has a mass of other characters who are unlocked over time, and given the pace of updates we might not be waiting all that long for the full release as it’s the characters and their management who are the most intricate part of the game. If their actions can be managed properly then so can all of the creature actions.

Oh, and on the subject of the creatures, the creatures in Gloomhaven always looked pretty in the artwork, but seeing them brought to life is something truly incredible. Demons, elemental undead take on a far more haunting aspect when they float and shamble their way towards you to kill you. “Elite” creatures also take on a better visual aspect, rather than being the same cardstock token inserted into a different colour stand, cultists change robes, bandits gain subtle armour decorations, and while the differences are not dramatic, they do add a little depth to the design that sets it apart from the tabletop version.

The gameplay is practically identical, you have your deck of cards, each of which with two options, in combat you choose two cards per turn, and you execute the top of one card and the bottom of the other, typically the top half will be more offensive, the bottom will be more tactical. For a turn based strategy you can easily take your time mulling over your options, and because you can play alone you’re not rushing to ensure you’re not holding everyone else up. When using those abilities, there is always the extra step of “confirming” your moves, which can be skipped by double-clicking, and there’s also a lot of confirming the end of turn, confirming how you take damage, and while it’s all necessary, it does jar the flow of the gameplay a little. Better I think to have played the board game to appreciate the reason for each feature, or maybe in-game tutorials will help advise new players after the proper release.

Early reports are naturally mixed because this game is early access, but fixes have been swift, broadly successful, and expected features are being released at a respectable pace. Whether you decide to jump on in the early days or wait for the full title, I think it’s safe to say that this will be a worthwhile investment for fans of the original board game. Whether or not it will translate to a broader audience… I’m going to suspend judgement for now.

World Building Is Just Window Dressing

So What Could Be More Important?

You’ve been struck with inspiration for a wonderful idea for a tabletop RPG campaign. Deities, pieces of landscape, ideas for brand new races – all of these are flashing through your mind at breakneck speed. The inside of your skull is now an incubation chamber for a continent, a planet, or even a universe. You have a clear idea of concept, of theme, of the kind of adventures that you want to run in your newfound playground.  Continue reading “World Building Is Just Window Dressing”

Why I Love Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky

Throughout it’s 20+ year history, the Pokémon franchise has enjoyed several spinoff games with each new generation. Ranging from photography in Pokémon Snap, to Tactical RPG gameplay in Pokémon Conquest, even letting you battle Pokémon in 3D – long before the main series games made the jump – in Pokémon Stadium and Battle Revolution.

One section of their spinoff games made their mark on me: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon.

Throughout it’s 20+ year history, the Pokémon franchise has enjoyed several spinoff games with each new generation. Ranging from photography in Pokémon Snap, to Tactical RPG gameplay in Pokémon Conquest, even letting you battle Pokémon in 3D – long before the main series games made the jump – in Pokémon Stadium and Battle Revolution.

One section of their spinoff games made their mark on me: Pokémon Mystery Dungeon.

Continue reading “Why I Love Pokémon Mystery Dungeon: Explorers of Sky”

The Elder Scrolls Online: My Journey to CP810 Is Over

I play Elder Scrolls Online quite a bit, so earlier this week marked a massive milestone for me. I reached CP810; or Champion Point 810. This is effectively the level cap of the game (as of the time of writing). I’ve spoken to people who’ve been playing for years and have never reached this level; and it’s not like I grinded specifically to get to this level. Nevertheless, here are my thoughts of the game now I’ve done sort of just about everything (with the exception of the absolute hardest content).

I play Elder Scrolls Online quite a bit, so earlier this week marked a massive milestone for me. I reached CP810; or Champion Point 810. This is effectively the level cap of the game (as of the time of writing). I’ve spoken to people who’ve been playing for years and have never reached this level; and it’s not like I grinded specifically to get to this level. Nevertheless, here are my thoughts of the game now I’ve done sort of just about everything (with the exception of the absolute hardest content).

Continue reading “The Elder Scrolls Online: My Journey to CP810 Is Over”

The “Level Up” Illusion

It’s a staple mechanic of so many games, a simple metric for measuring advancement, a point of comparison to where you were compared to where you are, and where other people are around you. Levelling up unlocks new skills and powers, grants access to new gear, and ultimately makes the whole process of murder-hoboing through life a far flashier affair.

But here’s the thing… Continue reading “The “Level Up” Illusion”

Mobile Game Review – RAID: Shadow Legends

One of the more common genres on phones, at least from what I’ve encountered, are these hero collection games. You can call them an RPG if you want, but the main premise is to collect heroes, upgrade them and work through the campaign. This is another one of those games, where you are presented with a series of campaign stories, as well as dungeons and PvP content, all so you can get the best heroes and gear, upgrade them all and make the best team possible. Whilst the premise isn’t unique, the way the game presented itself looked great, so I gave it whirl.

One of the more common genres on phones, at least from what I’ve encountered, are these hero collection/Gacha games. You can call them an RPG if you want, but the main premise is to collect heroes, upgrade them and work through the campaign. This is another one of those games, where you are presented with a series of campaign stories, as well as dungeons and PvP content, all so you can get the best heroes and gear, upgrade them all and make the best team possible. Whilst the premise isn’t unique, the way the game presented itself looked great, so I gave it whirl.

Continue reading “Mobile Game Review – RAID: Shadow Legends”

Dungeon Situational – A Faction

A mad month of events is almost over for me, so this should be the last late article for a little while… should be.

Within every nation, powerful factions rise to serve a singular purpose. Military, academic, economic, and philosophical affiliations cause people to draw together, to organise, and to work together in pursuit of a common goal. Where adventurers are concerned, a faction can be a powerful ally, or a dangerous enemy, and the line between the two can be a delicate one, and each step in favour of one can lead powerful individuals away from another. Continue reading “Dungeon Situational – A Faction”

Three RP Systems In Two Weeks

I’m on something of a mission to break out of my own habits, and the biggest one by far is Dungeons & Dragons, I’ve been role-playing for eleven and a half years and I’ve branched out into… one other role playing game ever, Pokethulhu. I mean, including Pathfinder I’ve played a total of four different editions, and I’ve played in other people’s games, like Dragon Age, Call of Cthulhu, Battlestar Galactica, and others. But I don’t run enough of a variety.

So what do I do? Give myself a bunch of deadlines and cram like mad! Here’s what I’m up to…

Call of Cthulhu

7th edition.

Moving from a heavy combat system into something that offers a very different kind of threat is a fun shift in terms of writing. As a fan of horror it’s nice to put players in front of a situation they can’t stab to death, so naturally I’ve been composing something where the characters are about as bland as I can muster, a bunch of office workers trapped in an industrial estate in a “situation” (don’t want to give too much away here, GM’s prerogative) that they are completely ill-equipped to handle.

The principle mechanic is the Sanity system and that’s the thing I need the most practice with. My biggest mistake was applying sanity effects without a numeric reflection, lesson learned there and I should know better than to separate mechanics and narrative. The character sheet communicates a great deal about the intent of the game, and the CoC sheet is heavy on the skills… extremely heavy on the skills, but there’s a lot to play with in character creation, you can basically create any scale of investigator, from the slick 30’s high-collared detective to the most mundane office worker.

Sentinels Comics: The Roleplaying Game

Starter pack.

Superheroism has been on the to-do list for a while, and I rather like the roster of characters from Greater Than Games. The card game, Sentinels of the Multiverse, is based on a fictional comic book universe featuring some new faces that are oddly familiar, almost as if they were drawing some unapologetic inspiration from elsewhere. It’s all about action and heavily focused on visual story telling, as the intent is to describe your actions in the form of a comic panel. This means I have to get better at my visual descriptions but given that I go heavy on the “theatre of the mind” it shouldn’t be too difficult to shift.

In terms of the mechanics, the character sheets are… if anything too thorough, so for my players it was awkward to pick out exactly how to put together their attacks and techniques, but once that hurdle was overcome it actually proved pretty comprehensive and useful, and has the potential for a lot of scenarios. Currently I’m only playing the preset scenarios which takes me out of my comfort zone, but without the full product in front of me I’m unwilling to start writing. If you’d like the full product the Kickstarter only ended in February, so preorders are still in the works.

Era: The Consortium

My regular group are unaccustomed to d10 systems, and frankly so am I, nor am I all that great at writing science fiction, but this was fun, if anything this was the most fun, especially because it’s one I’ve been studying for a while (including roping in a friend to help me break it down, thanks Chris) to make sure I get it right, but actual practice has been slow in coming. I’ve played systems before where your skills determine the number of dice you roll, first time running one, it’s… interesting not setting the target numbers, there’s a lot less of the “winging it” that I have become accustomed to.

But running sci-fi is good! I never get grenades, or guns, or systems to hack, or vehicles, oh am I going to have fun with vehicles. I’m playing The Consortium over the weekend, but I’ll be spending some time thereafter writing games, putting together some one shots and maybe a campaign or two. Sci fi opens up a few options in terms of social commentary in terms of narrative, offers a new toolkit for action scenes. The Era universe has the backbone for corporate warfare which is all kinds of my thing, but I think I made need to give the aliens a soft intro to my writing, so for now I’m going human-heavy, and bringing in the races of the Consortium over time until I can do them justice. It’s nice to finally get some momentum going, anyone want to play some sci fi?

Lasers and Liches – Kickstarter

This article has a weird back story so bear with me! I was just relaxing one evening and looking through my notifications and noticed I had a new follower on Twitter. Now I usually am quite curious about people who follow me on Twitter. I wonder if they don’t know me personally then I wonder which bit of random content bought them to me. So I begin to head down the so-called rabbit hole which led me to somewhere rather interesting.

This article has a weird back story so bear with me! I was just relaxing one evening and looking through my notifications and noticed I had a new follower on Twitter. Now I usually am quite curious about people who follow me on Twitter. I wonder if they don’t know me personally then I wonder which bit of random content bought them to me. So I begin to head down the so-called rabbit hole which led me to somewhere rather interesting.

Continue reading “Lasers and Liches – Kickstarter”