Reviews and Ramblings
Eclipse Phase by PurpleXVI - 01/10/14
BESM, 3rd Edition by PurpleXVI - 06/14/09
View All Articles
GM Startup Guide by PurpleXVI - 06/10/09
View All Articles
DORF FORT ELLPEE by CAPSLOCKGUY - 10/19/08
View All Articles
What if you\'re not prepared?
10:47pm EDT - 9/19/2014
I think we've all been in this situation before(those of us cursed eternally to GM, and never to play, at least). Maybe the game hasn't been on our mind all week, maybe we've been distracted, maybe we've got ideas but none of them are quite polished enough to use for this session or maybe the ideas we WERE going to go with were simply reliant on the presence of the player who had to go ahead and work overtime or get sick this particular session, but we don't want to make the others miss a game just for that.
But it's only a couple of hours till gametime, and you're not prepared! What can you do?Why you should be prepared
There are some things that are relatively easy to improvise, especially if it's a game that runs a lot more on thematics than on crunch, for instance like FATE, or if it's a game heavy on social stuff. But some things always require preparation, for instance combat. An improvised fight can either be a meaningless hour of mooks running into the players and being unable to harm them, or it can be a "CR 4"* creature pulling a total TPK(Total Party Kill) on a 10th-level party simply because you forgot to actually run the maths on its stats and abilities.
A dungeon crawl, of any sort or by any theme, can also quickly turn into a lot of oddly identical rooms and choices on whether to take the left or right turn fifty times in a row if you didn't actually prepare any content to fill it(or maybe if you didn't make a map, but one of the players IS mapping, he may come to the conclusion that they've wandered into some sort of wormhole or singularity because by now they've passed through their own route ten times without seeing the same things).
You may be introducing a major character un-statted, expecting him to make an epic escape or simply talk with the players(leaving you time to stat him properly for a future session), but when the players throw a punch out of the blue, and he's got no character sheet, you have to decide if he demolishes them out of hand or whether they just stab him, get away with it and you have to revamp your entire plot.
*For those not familiar with the D&D editions between 3rd and 5th, they used a theoretical system, "Challenge Rating" or "CR" to judge the strength of a creature. Unfortunately this CR was only loosely based on anything, and made a lot of huge assumptions(players always have a mage and cleric, for instance), not to mention was instituted for most creatures in a vacuum never considering splatbooks and supplements past the core three(PHB, DMG, MM), and ended up being about as useful as tits on a bicycle. A CR1(intended for a 1st-level party of four people) creature could utterly demolish a group, five times above that, while a CR10 creature could likewise be stomped by a group of 2nd-level characters.So what do you do, then?
In short, the answer is to distract them. Most players tend to have a lot of easy triggers you can pull to give them the fast food equivalent of gaming. Something that doesn't leave them particularly filled over the course of the campaign, and which they'll get sick of if overfed with, but which they'll happily gobble down for a session every now and then and compliment you on.
Of course, it's also about knowing your players, depending on how much initiative they actually take in situations, it may be more or less easy to distract them. Players that take a lot of initiative and like considering choices and options and making plans are the easiest, while those that stare blankly into the air without clearly labelled options A and B(don't introduce a C or they'll probably panic) are, perversely, almost impossible to befuddle.
Each experienced GM probably has his own methods for distracting the players, but I find that there's a short-list I can make use of in most cases...Shopping Trip
One of the most "classic" NPC's(at least to me) in just about any setting or story with even the faintest fantasy twinge is someone the players might recognize as CMOT Dibbler from Pratchett's Discworld books. In other words, a highly charismatic bullshit artist who will attempt to flog non-flying magic carpets, magic lamps full of nothing but spiderwebs and enchanted swords that couldn't cut toast to the players, but who does it with a smile and never gets offended if the players call him out on his bullshit(but does lament that they're leaving his 1d6+2 children, wife and assorted livestock to starve. Reroll the number of children for each lament, even if it's the same salesman).
In most cases, players get mesmerized by him, wanting to see what the next thing is, curious about whether any of the items actually have any
use, even if unintended(maybe the magical sword isn't merely blunt, it actually sucks so hard that it makes what it touches harder to cut, could have defensive uses!), and are of course on the lookout for a bargain. Have him pepper the conversation with a few "facts" about what exciting origins these items have and you've got future quest hooks(especially if he offers to sell them totally legit maps to these not-at-all-tapped-out sources of artifacts).
Despite largely being a fantasy archetype(in my experience), he can, of course, also be jammed into sci-fi games, where he'll offer to sell them totally-not-stolen starcruisers and ancient alien doodads that will make the players young, virile and immortal. It's a bit harder in modern games(if there's no occult element), but it can be done.
Generally, the ease is that you can simply keep making up new products until the players get tired(which will probably be half a session if you play it well), and that each product is simply something that they want or might be interested in(vorpal swords in D&D, plasma guns in WH40k, a kebab not made from dog meat in a modern game), but with some sort of obvious, unmentioned flaw that is entirely obvious the moment someone uses it/holds it/looks at it(the sword can't cut hot butter, the plasma gun emits copious amounts of thick, greasy smoke when you press the trigger, the kebab is, in fact, made of plastic). As soon as the players point it out, the merchant offers them a discount or tries to explain away the flaw(It can cut anything BUT butter, just try it somewhere far away from him, the smoke will clear up in a few minutes, plastic is actually more nutritious than meat and vegetables).
Then when the players discard buying the item(or buy it heavily discounted, perhaps with a look towards scamming someone else), he brings out the next thing in his repetoire and laments for his starving children again.Potential Crisis
This one is a bit simpler and a bit of a mindfuck, it doesn't always work, but when it does, you'd be surprised at how it can throw the players for a loop. It works best when the players are currently in the middle of travelling from one place to another with NPC's along, and it works simply by putting a potential crisis on the horizon. It could look like a natural disaster, it could look like an obstruction or it could look like enemies.
But it's not clearly ANY of them, and the players have to choose whether to delay themselves or head straight through it(and maybe the delay heads past/through something ELSE that looks worrying). Now, the trick is to get them trying to decide which option they'd rather take, or what to do to ward off danger. What they don't know is that no matter WHAT they do, they'll have made the right choice for avoiding danger, so they'll argue, they'll debate, they'll try to use their skills for more info, they'll ask NPC's(who will, of course, only contribute to the gridlock by supporting whichever argument is currently losing).
When they finally make up their mind, biting their nails... it'll turn out they were right, they'll be relieved, high-five and feel good about themselves. By then, of course, half the session might have passed and you might be able to go, "Gee whiz, guys, I'd love to keep running, but this seems like a decent cliffhanger and the next bit is something I'd hate to interrupt halfway through... how about we pause here and tackle the next part with a full session?" Players never seem to recognize that this excuse is almost always because you need to do more planning.The Sims: RPG
Some players love to play with dollhouses.
Give them property, ANY sort of property, and they'll want a map. Then they'll try to decide what to do with each part. Where can they put a winecellar? What sort of drapes will the big window on the bridge of their starcruiser need? Should the necromantic chapel be lined with femurs or ribcages?
The ease of messing with this one is, again, down to player personalities, they have to actually enjoy this sort of thing, and also down to whether you can reasonably introduce any sort of property to them. Sometimes it's easy, for instance if someone's got some Manse-rating in Exalted and never bothered to stat it out because he just wanted the goddamn hearthstone, or if it's assumed that everyone's got a home in a Modern game but never expected their apartment to be particularly relevant.
But a few oblique questions that might suggest someone's going to get attacked in their apartment will get them started down the road on what they've got in their home, what it looks like and how they could best fortify it against zombie hordes.
This sort of thing mostly works well in the first few sessions of a game, however, and is hard to sneak in later. But hey, sometimes we need this sort of thing in the first few sessions.Be a man, admit you forgot to prepare, postpone the session
Ha ha ha. I'm such a funny guy.
When have any of us actually done that
Thanks for tuning in to yet another of my stupid rambles, and if you want to tell me how awesome or stupid I am for writing it, pop on to the IRC.
No Fun Allowed: Stross Edition
10:14pm EDT - 5/30/2014
Welcome to another edition of "Your Fun Sucks And You Should Feel Bad."
Today we're going to explore why Charles Stross is a goddamn hack and anyone enjoying his "The Laundry" novels should summarily sterilize themselves. Let's start with an introduction to the series for those of you who are suffering from senile dementia or have yet to read them(lucky bastards).
The Laundry proclaims that it's a different, unique take on the by-now somewhat tired old Cthulhu mythos and attendant concepts of universal nihilism, god is dead(or never was), terrible things lurk in the dark, etc. etc. Most of the basics are still the same, in that dark gods lurk in space, underground, and in the oceans, and doing the wrong shit can awaken them, end the world, or summon bad stuff. Now, where it tries to be different is that instead of sorcery... it's really just high-tech technology and mathematics that make it all function. And instead of a square-jawed manly investigator, our protagonist is basically a dweeby sysadmin for the tough guys who really DO go and resolve things.
Alright, so clearly, this isn't a bad concept. I mean, seriously, it could be fun, right? Possibly even funny
, not taking itself too seriously, that sort of thing.
And for most of the first book, this largely holds true. Our protagonist is a bit of a dork, he does just enough to justify being the protagonist rather than a side character, but by and large he seems relatively realistic. It's not all love and roses, clearly, there's the issue that he still scores with the staggeringly hot girl, the terrible writing for his winceworthily stereotypically prancing homosexual roommates, etc. but it could scrape by as just a bit rough, rather than outright bad.
Then we get to the second book. It features the line "Occupied by a dead man's dick."
Now, the first book hints a bit that Stross maybe needs to go have a wank before he writes, but the second one cements it. Like, really, our protagonist teams up with a sex demon who, because of PLOT, has him psychically tagging along when she fucks a guy (and kills them in the process). Again, sex isn't necessarily bad, but when written in first-person-perspective by someone who clearly needs to get laid to work out some weirdness, it's not something I want to be along for. See because in one of the cases, the guy dies DURING the fucking, not AFTER, so our protag narrates himself jerking off while the succubus rides the dead guy's still-rigid wang. This is a no thing.
Also the stereotypical homosexual roommates get even more offensively mincing and our protag fucks a Deep One.
Still, if that was the worst of it, then you'd have to hate on a lot of authors for having badly-written sex scenes in their books. This is a thing authors do... no, what we REALLY hate on Stross for here is, much like the Dresden Files, essentially betraying the Laundry's core concept by the second book. Our dweeby sysadmin kills frogmen and generally acts like a fucking James Bond character more than a dweeby fucking sysadmin. It very quickly starts feeling like Stross put a bit too much of himself into the guy and desperately wants him to be a badass so he can feel like one by proxy.
Also, re-iterating: OCCUPIED BY A DEAD MAN'S DICK.
It's frankly a shame, too, because Stross actually does come up with a good concept for this one, namely somewhat-strained diplomatic relations between humanity(secretly, obviously) and the Deep Ones, getting more complicated when someone wants to basically snatch a doomsday weapon(a cybernetic Chthonian) out from under their noses and use it for Generic Villainy.
Essentially it's a story that would've been good if anyone else had been writing it.
So I can only assume that if you bother to read his shit, you're like Stross and jumping on the weird power-fantasy bandwagon, that your taste is shit, or that you like dead men's dicks.
Thank you and goodnight.
More Fun To Read Than To Play
Now that "all" of Eclipse Phase is out and it's basically a "done" game until an eventual second edition or the rumoured FATE conversion happens, it might be time to look through it and see what it got right, what it got wrong, and which things they go so wrong we should just outright mock them for it.A Brief Timeline
The original EP corebook came out in 2009 accompanied by considerable hype and containing basically everything you needed to play the game, but being at kind of a dearth for information about a lot of the actual gameworld(which can, I suppose, be excused, considering that said gameworld covered nine planets, countless off-planet habitats, asteroids, comets and exoplanets).
2010 provided Sunwards(near-Sol to Mars) and Gatecrashing(away-from-Sol locations accessible via the Pandora Gates) and both were essentially necessary to actually use any of those elements. Sunwards finally gave the Planetary Consortium, LLA and Morningstar Constellation some actual details and gave some canonical habs to work with. Prior to Gatecrashing, there were literally no mechanics or any sort of real information beyond a couple of vague paragraphs with regards to the Pandora Gates, it also had a lot of useful hard-scifi stuff for GM's who wanted to be detailed when making their own alien planets.
Panopticon in 2011 was the book where they made up for largely forgetting Uplifts and realizing that they'd made a relatively undetailed review of hacking and computer security in the core book, despite having a world where even half the population's brains
could be hacked.
2012's Rimwards expounded on the Sol system from Jupiter outwards, again sorely needed considering the very, very vague sketch we'd been given of things in the core book.
Finally in 2013 we got what's looking to be the last Eclipse Phase book until the system gets an overhaul/conversion: Transhuman. It's the only book that's purely mechanics and zero fluff, containing a revised character generation system that does a lot to make things more interesting.
Oh and there's also Glory. Glory is going to get its own subheading.An Overview of Eclipse Phase
The core conceit of Eclipse Phase is that some Unspecified Period into the future, things are going decently for humanity. We're expanding into the solar system and have experimented with Seed AI's(self-improving AI's) named the TITANs. Predictably, considering the ominous name and the utter stupidity inherent in permitting an intellect-singularity, the TITANs go insane and decide to start massively fucking humanity over. Earth rapidly becomes uninhabitable, billions are killed, displaced or forcibly have their minds uploaded into TITAN memory banks.
Earth is sealed off by the off-planet authorities, leaving the surviving TITANs either trapped on Earth or having escaped out of the system through the Pandora Gates, being newly-discovered alien artifacts connecting to vast networks of Pandora Gates in other solar systems, permitting instantaneous travel between them. The TITANs have at this point also basically evolved into horrifying things utilizing femtotech and nanoplagues, real Lovecraftian horror stuff. Humanity eventually stabilizes the situation, and this is where the players are introduced. The game intends for them to be agents of Firewall, a secret organization dedicated to preventing humanity fucking itself over by fucking with seed AI's, TITANs/remnant TITAN technology or alien technology in the future.
Oh yeah, there are aliens. We'll get into that later.
The main "novel" mechanics for EP are that minds can be uploaded and transferred, meaning that players can swap bodies. It also adds a "horror" element that minds can be stolen, modified and etc. But as most people know by now, "horror" RPG's are easier said than done.What They Got Right
All of the in-setting fiction, from snippets to exposition to start-of-chapter/start-of-book storytelling is excellently written. It really does feel like they got people with writing experience doing this, not just random grogs who wanted to write about their goddamn waifu characters. It also feels like, by and large, thought was actually put into how all of the new technologies and concepts would change people's attitudes and lives. The art also deserves praise, as it's well-done, creepy and doesn't just gank some pre-existing aesthetic, but seems very dedicated to creating one of its own.
Everything about the game speaks of creators who really, really wanted to do something good, who really had soul, and some degree of talent, and invested both into Eclipse Phase.What They Fucked Up
Sadly, just WANTING to do things right isn't a magical potion. Once past the writing(which does have its issues at times), the game starts to show some strain.
The core mechanic, 1d100-roll-under, is functional enough, but considering the low cap for skills and the lack of any modifiers like perks or feats, characters and monsters tend to end up very similar and there's very little room for describing a truly exceptional individual or dangerous enemy. Considering the hugely generous point pool for chargen, it's very likely that most characters will never see any growth after being created.
Equipment-wise and morph-wise(morphs being the setting's words for the bodies that can be swapped between), there are also a very few, very obviously superior choices that aren't even exceptionally expensive to make them something to aim for in the long run. You can start out with a "maxed" loadout during chargen except for one or two very specialized morphs. In fact, morphs are a specific issue in and of themselves. They're split into three groups: Bio(entirely organic), Pod(heavily mixed cybernetic and biological) and Synth(entirely robotic). Biomorphs and Synths each have their strengths and weaknesses, as well as some mods that the other group cannot use. Pods, on the other hand, have nothing unique or exceptional except for a tendency towards(very shit) natural weapons and low cost, they can't use any of the group-exclusive mods, and have no exclusive mods of their own.
They're really only useful to use if your GM regularly and viciously one-shots party members and they need cheap body replacements, because you may as well otherwise just make a hyperstrong, 'roided out, modded-to-the-max bio or synthmorph that he can't
kill without cheap one-shots.
As mentioned, equipment-wise it's really bad. Literally only ballistic weapons are worth using, a bit of mods and special ammo and they're by far the superior choice for ANY situation. Armors have different kinetic/energy resistance values, but the difference is never huge enough to justify energy weapons over ballistic, and the Spray/Explosive weapons have even less going for them. Melee weapons are really only competitive if you focus EVERYTHING about your character on maxing their damage and then wear power armor to boost it further.
The issue is that the mentality appears to have been that players have a lot of sub-standard morph/equipment choices they might have to resort to in pressed situations, but since they can start from chargen with the best choices, it really requires the GM to take away a lot of their toys immediately after chargen, which is a dickasstastic goddamn move from any GM. Either don't give them the toys or don't just strip them away arbitrarily.
And starting off with all the best stuff and letting PC's make themselves superhard to kill and carrying a bunch of stuff they do not want to sacrifice also kind of sabotages resleeving(getting put into a new body) as a mechanic, because why would they ever swap unless it was for disguise purposes, upgrading(which there's little left to do) or after being killed(which they're unlikely to be)?
Another useless thing they added is Psi. One nanotech virus unleashed by the TITANs rewires your brain towards you being psychic, but without turning you into a monstrous, Lovecraftian terror. Sounds neat, right? Except Psi is basically entirely useless. It has one or two useful powers out of twenty or so, no combat applications, and generally sucks except as a plot hook. There are SOME really awesome, powerful psi sleights... but they're restricted for use by totally corrupted TITAN servants/monstrosities, not for PC's.
Despite really lauding the writing earlier, they also made some slipups there. The core book mentions an alien species, the Factors, that makes contact with humanity not too long after the TITAN issue... and then none of the other books ever really bring them up. They're not encountered on the other side of any Pandora gates and somehow they just seem to not affect humanity at all. They're just there, slightly odd, don't even switch anything up or introduce any cool new technologies. Similarly, two large groups, one antagonist to Firewall, the other neutral(Project Ozma and Oversight, respectively) get brief mentions in the corebook and then, again, never really get elaborated on all that much.
Ozma is just nebulously a bunch of dickheads with no real motivation for it that's ever elaborated on, Oversight(essentially the Planetary Consortium's police force/FBI/CIA) could be an immensely handy ally or potential enemy depending on how players handle situations... but there's nothing to really help the GM utilize them for it.
There are also some hilariously blatant writer biases in the setting. Religion tends to be disparaged unless it's Eastern, and adherents tend to be referred to as "clinging on" to their antiquated beliefs. The main religious force in the Sol system is the Jovians, who are entirely antagonistic and whose churches are literally just religious Wal-Marts, entirely corrupt and commercialized. Anything reminiscent of current social models or economic systems also tend to be ruthlessly portrayed as evil/sinister and part of mankind's eventual doom.
By comparison, anything related to Anarchy, Communism, Socialism and rebelling against THE MAN tends to be shown in a positive light. Even when it's completely absurd hedonism and insanity that results, it tends to have a less vicious vocabulary directed against it. And for the record, I'm actually a proponent of Communism and Socialism and I still
think they're aggressive and ham-handed about the whole thing.
Oh and then there's Glory. Fucking GLORY.Glory, Glory HallelujaaaaaaaarghA detailed review of Glory by yours truly
I reviewed Glory once, but here's the Cliff's Notes: It's a fucking hentai adventure about rapist fuck-aliens planning to spread boner-alien spores all across the solar system and infect everyone with their dongthirst. And it's official. It's not fanmade. It's shit on every level and it's utterly depressing that it was allowed to become a thing. It's an adventure that needs to point out that the exsurgent virus carried by the Glory exsurgents can be spread by sexual contact. Seriously.
And to make things worse it's even inconsistent and doesn't even manage to get its writing and rules working together. Fuck Glory.
Fuck it sideways.A Small Saving Grace: Transhuman
The last released book, Transhuman, did a lot to make the game more playable, more than could be expected for a book that really only exists to market an alternate form of chargen. Original EP chargen was basically "assign points, buy skills, buy gear, go nuts." Transhuman, on the other hand, does "lifepath" chargen, two variants. One where you pick the life path yourself, from start to end, following the trail, and one where you randomly roll your route at each stage.
Either version ends up with less optimized, equipped and powerful characters than the original EP chargen, however, which suddenly means characters have a lot more to strive for, neither they nor the things they fight need to be bumping against the skill ceiling right off the bat to stay "competitive," they might have to improvise with regards to morphs, mods and equipment rather than all starting off with machine guns/sniper rifles packing Shredder ammo.
After having had my hands on Transhuman, I would really never recommend playing the game without it, and more than any other of the expansions, it should have been part of the core book.The Final Verdict
Save yourself the headache and avoid Eclipse Phase until it gets a new edition/FATE sidegrade. Currently it suffers a good bit from forcing you to browse through supplements for specific morphs and pieces of gear/upgrades rather than having one unified list, and even Transhuman doesn't help out the issues with equipment balance, that a lot of it just... feels very similar. None of it really has any distinct properties that make it separate. Using a rocket launcher instead of an assault rifle doesn't change much except for descriptions.
The FATE edition, if it ever hits, sounds like it may have a lot of potential for making the game worthwhile, though.
Why the Dresden Files Are Bad And You Should Feel Bad For Liking Them
12:12am EST - 12/07/2012
So as it turns out, someone was wondering why I had an issue with the Dresden Files, by way of wondering why I had an issue with the Dresden Files RPG.
Well, let's take a look at what the Dresden Files are, for those who don't know. The Dresden Files are basically the World of Darkness but where wizards are the top dog for the most part, they need staves and rituals to cast magic, not all of them are superpowerful, they've got a bureaucracy and by and large they're the most benevolent faction out there. The wizard we follow around is Harry Dresden, a low-ranking mage who works as a private investigator and is highly disliked by the rest of the wizardy fellas because he cut his magical teeth by being in the employ of an evil cultist whom Harry eventually murdered(mostly in self defense).
The core conceit is that Harry is not Gandalf, he cannot fireball his way through everything. Firstly, he must be subtle, the world at large thinks wizards and vampires are just a fairy tale. Secondly, spontaneous magic is tough and relies mostly on the charge left in his staff, ritual magic is way more reliable, and so he cannot magic himself out of trouble every time, he needs to use rituals and preparation. This is largely upheld in the first book where Harry deals with demon-summoners, vampires(reasonably classic ones, the Red Court) and pixies.
By the second book this is quickly in shambles and it only gets worse from there. First we get "splat-bloat" that would make White Wolf recoil in terror: Four kinds of vampires(Red, Black, White, Jade), three or four factions of wizards, demons, angels, dragons, three kinds of werewolves, two kinds of Fae and the list goes on. Secondly, Harry rapidly drops the idea that "he's gotta prepare" and starts to DBZ his way out of most conflicts with vividly-described energy blasts and masturbation over guns so overt you can literally hear Jim Butcher(the author) panting in the background. He has bondage sex with a half-vampire, fifty percent of the text is dedicated to describing tits(including a friend's teenage daughter's tits, eugh, Harry, keep it in your pants) and yes, it turns out that Harry's half-brother is a vampire.
In short, Harry rapidly becomes a goddamn wish-fulfillment Sue of the worst kind. He even redeems a fucking Biblical demon and becomes an archangel's chosen. It's goddamn stupid. Also by the point where zombies, undead T-rexes and wizard laser battles are spilling into the streets of Chicago for days on end, humanity in general would need to be suffering from severe brain injuries not to realize something was up.
The point where I finally gave up on the series was when Harry's half-vampire baby got introduced. Fuck's sake, Butcher.
HOW TO MAKE AND RUN PEN AND PAPER CAMPAIGNS ONLINE, THE BLAXPLOITATION WAY
11:52am EST - 12/28/2009
Hello. Chances are if you've ever gone to the sup/tg/ IRC, you know who I am. If not, then it doesn't really matter, both those unfamiliar with me and those who know and hate me can read this article, I don't fucking care, I'm not your mother.
Anyway, this article is about what the title says: Making and running your very own PnP campaign to run online. I'm being very broad here, but this guide should work for any setting, be it High Fantasy, Low Fantasy, Mid Fantasy, Higher Fantasy, Pulp, Noir, Sci-Fi, Horror or even Ero, if you're a weirdo pervert. The difference is, I'm not going to try and make some ALL ENCOMPASSING GUIDE TO RUNNING GAMES or anything. Chances are these guidelines won't work for some people. But, that's what this list is: How to run games as Blaxploitation does it.
Now, chances are that most people who read this have NEVER EVER played a game I have run, or even know I DM at all. The truth is that I do in fact run Pen and Paper games quite often, so I know what I am talking about, fuck you. But, again, if you've played in one of my games or if you haven't shouldn't make a bit of difference.
So enough Rambling and introductions, let's go on with the LIST.
BESM is short for Big Eyes, Small Mouth, which some might recognize as describing a stereotypical anime character's deformed mutant face. And BESM is, indeed, mostly billed for running anime. All the art is anime-related, a lot of the fluff sounds pretty anime-tastic and it's hard to ignore that most of the system seems geared towards replicating DBZ or some sort of harem anime.
But that would be selling this thing short, because it can do so much more.
BESM relies on a simple mechanic of rolling 2d6+stat(of which there are three, possibly also +skill or some such) or 2d6+(defensive combat value/offensive combat value). In the former case you roll against a TN from 6 to 24, as decided by the GM, in the latter case it's an opposed roll. Armour and damage are static, so combat is fast and easy, with the occasional extra roll to control or resist some side-effect of an attack.
Extreme freedom for character creation. At first it looks like BESM merely has a sizeable list of pre-made abilities with everything from flight through sixth senses and highly customizeable weapons. But then right in the next chapter, it lets you customize those abilities with special limitations and side-effects that can make your character even more unique. If it's not for some GRIM DARK DARK GRIM GRIT game, you can make your character in BESM. BESM works well for sci-fi, fantasy and just about anything with a dash of supernatural or superscience.
BESM also handles high power levels really well since it doesn't, like some games, blossom into absurd numbers of modifiers, rolls or dice.
Simple mechanics and high customizeability are rarely wedded as perfectly as they are in BESM.
Freedom requires a lot of vigilance as BESM unfortunately makes it very simple to make completely broken characters, even without trying. Additionally, two characters made with the same point total can also end up highly divergent in actual power. So it requires a capable GM to make sure no one is going to hog all the glory in one form or another.
The art is pretty much fucking atrocious from one end to the other. It's actually so bad it might count as an Up because it's fucking hilarious half the time.
Simple and customizeable, and the only things that mar it are essentially superficial.
This is intended as a guide for startup GM's, for the people running their first game(or second, after the first one imploded dramatically and they want to do THIS one right...).Read More...
The Google Docs upload of Weave [#]
Weave: The Threads of Reality
11:03am EST - 1/30/2009
So I talk a lot about making games, and I often add a lot of unsolicited advice about other people's game-making, I even tend to feel that I have a lot of ideas for improving professionally designed games. You know, the kind you buy for dollars(or pieces of bark and wood, if you're Canadian, you get what I mean.).
Here's my attempt at making a little thing of my own. Still very much under development, but I like to feel that even though I cranked this out over fifteen minutes of original writing, twenty minutes of talking to people and then five minutes of revising, this thing is pretty close to its final shape.
The basic concept is a game where magic(in this case Weaving) is synergistic with other skills, rather than some sort of separate profession that makes you way more powerful than others. Instead, the people with access to Weaving use it to craft impressive or useful items, to make themselves more powerful in combat, etc.
Of course, some people are capable of using Weaving without combining it with skills, more close to traditional magic, but this is a tricky and dangerous thing to do, as fate, known as the Great Loom, dislikes those who try to escape the predestined way of fate so grossly. In systemic terms, it temporarily robs you of Pattern(the way in which fate defends those vital to the proper happening of things with small miracles), making you more susceptible to being killed by accident or people with unpleasant intentions.
I like to feel that I've taken the chance to rob nice things from several systems(Earthflame's Mosaic inspired parts of the "Weaving" system, Trigger Discipline inspired the minimalistic approach and I've probably been inspired by a few other things without realizing it) without ripping off any of them.
Latest version of the rules.
So, when I first heard of Trigger Discipline, I looked at the name, I looked at where it came from(/tg/) and assumed it was some crazy-detailed, realism-wanky piece of shit and completely ignored it. Later some people mumbled something about mecha and I still proceeded to ignore it, because, hey, come on, giant robots do NOT need realism, are we agreed? They need to be all BAM BAM BAM, SPEED, BOOM, POWER GIANT LASER KATANAS, KABOOM, POWER, SHAZAM.
On closer inspection Trigger Discipline actually turns out to be pretty close to this.
Board and Card Games on XBLA
10:04am EST - 11/21/2008
Now Fa/tg/uys Never Have to Leave the House
Board and Card Games on XBLAPart I: Catan
Pause: A Game of Times and Place
07:22am EST - 11/20/2008
That was the last real sound. The cut off so sudden, so loud in that sea of silence. Everything around was still, even your own flesh. Not paralyzed, not changed, not even sore. Just still. And then breath came again. The air around you moved sluggishly as you slowly stood up, and looked around the now silent lecture theatre.
All was still.
And then it wasn’t. One by one, a couple of others stood, shaking off a tangible slowness, and gazing around the room in shock. Everything was frozen. Chairs on the verge of sliding, drinks on the edge of spilling, a thrown paper aeroplane carrying a message from one side of the crowded hall to the other, all stopped in their tracks.
A silent, frozen world, populated by the five, counting yourself, you could see almost wading through the sea of slowness. Some seemed to be speaking, yet there was no sound passing through the still air. How odd…
Then a crack appeared through the wall. Except, it wasn’t in the wall, and even as you watched it spread, moving through the air, the furniture, the people, seemingly without effect. A sense of profound wrongness surrounded it, a feeling of instinctive dislike and discomfort, a knowledge that, whatever it was, it was Wrong.
Ultima Online: The MMORPG Version of PnP Gaming
12:29pm EST - 11/19/2008
So, upon reading the subject line you're gonna ask: "LOL PURPAL MMORPGS IS ABOUT GRINDANS AND LOOTANS HOW CAN THEY BE ANYTHING LIKE A PNP GAME HUR DUR I'M GOING TO GO CHOKE ON A DICK RIGHT NOW?" Because, hey, I know you people. This is what you're like. Crazy for dick and retarded.
But, merciful that I am, I am going to tell you how Ultima Online is fucking awesome and worthy of your attention.
Earthflame's Games: An Introduction
04:56am EST - 11/15/2008
Hey all, this is Earthflame. No, I'm not coming back any time soon. No, I'm not entirely better yet. I'm going to return at some point, but until then, I'll satisfy myself with writing articles. I'm not yet back on /tg/ or the sup/tg/ IRC, but I will answer questions posed in comments or emails. I'd prefer if these focused on the game or matter being discussed, rather than my own personal health or somesuch. There'll be plenty of time for that later.
This brief Article will, hopefully, serve as a foundation, giving the basic premise of the following articles, as well as a list of the games I've currently thought up, letting people know what's coming.
It also serves to let me put out a little of my game design philosophy. First and foremost, I design my games to be fun. Second, and nearly as important, I try to design games which will, at the end of the day, work with the players to make a good and interesting story.
Optical Character Recognition and You: A Primer and Handy Guide
10:07am EST - 11/13/2008
But, what’s OCR? Why should I care if my PDFs are tagged with the (OCR)? Well, fair reader, let me explain.
Optical Character Recognition, or OCR, is a method of recognizing letters in a PDF in order to make it searchable. By stringing letters together to form words, the program – Adobe Acrobat – is able to turn what was a jpeg or similar image into clickable, highlight-able, searchable text. Sounds pretty handy doesn’t it? Why yes, yes they are! OCR technology makes reading a PDF that much simpler. In addition to making the text interactive, it also allows for the compressing of PDFs. Take your average Dark Heresy scan. It’s about 200 megs, give or take a few megs for the differences in scans available. Once run through an OCR converter, that size can shrink all the way down to under 50 megs. Repeat this process for any book out there.
“But if OCR is so good, why aren’t all books OCR’d!” one might be wondering. Well. There is a slight loss of quality involved in the process. The same Dark Heresy book lost some of its quality. It still remained an excellent scan, however during the OCR process it does lose some. The remaining problem is the necessary equipment. Not just any program either. Adobe Acrobat is the only one I’ve found so far that is able to perform the process. Along with the program, a certain amount of time is needed, usually a few hours for the OCR to take place. During this period, the program uses a large amount of resources, making other endeavors nigh on impossible.
However, this brave author, has started OCRing books, in a venture he calls UNLIMITED OCR WORKS. Through this program, he’s OCR’d a fair number of books, and the library grows often. Though intensive, I have a number of books that I have OCR’d personally. The catalog will be updated and posted shortly, along with handy links.
If you have a particular or special request, please field them. It’s kind of fun to OCR books and stuff, so let me know over the IRC or something.
Technical Read Out 3015: The Collective
09:10am EST - 11/13/2008
As you may have guessed, I love mechs, and Mekton is my system of choice for robot fightan. What you may not know, though, is that I greatly prefer “harder” scifi to Newtype hax and experimental mind-powered units that are actually the demons. I have created a setting to accommodate this, and in so doing, I feel, have curbed the worst excesses and exploits of Mekton. These mechs are powerful, sure. But they rely on a good pilot, accurate shooting and tactics rather than flying, beamspam and the Itano Circus (although I would argue the Bane-3, YMN-6Y or LGB-12C could probably outshoot any Valkyrie when you’re talking missiles, but a Battletech versus Macross debate should probably stay in /m/.)
This article will take the form of a series of flavour texts for 6 “medium” mechs, followed by a link to where a collected set of datasheets can be downloaded. They make good enemy units or NPCs in a semi-realistic, “3025-era Battletech” style campaign - the weapons are not hax powerful and there aren’t any really odd things.
View Older News