Monday, August 18, 2014

Preview: Rise of the Kage


Right before Gen Con GCT Studios (creators of Bushido) reached out to the community looking for bloggers who were willing to demo Rise of Kage. The game revolves around this clan of ninjas who are on a mission whether it be to assassinate a high ranking official, stealing an artifact or kidnapping a princess  these are but a few things that were mentioned as possible missions.

For the demo the group was provided with three characters, one was a heavy combat character another a master of stealth and the third a balance of of the two. They also had different special abilities and bonuses but they fit into their own roles quite well. In Rise of Kage the ninja have a sort of "dice pool" for abilities. On the character sheet there was a nifty reminder about how many dice each ninja had in each skill (either combat or stealth). For example the more combat oriented ninja had 3 dice for combat and 1 for stealth, the stealthy one had 3 in stealth one in combat and the balanced one had 2 in each pool.

Now just because you do not have a lot of dice in one skill does not mean you cannot succeed in the skill. For example when opening a door you can try and sneak/lock pick it or choose to just slice/crash through the door. When making a test you can use any of your dice as long as it includes 1 from the relevant skill. So if you want to bust through the door successfully even if you only have 1 combat dice you can use some of your stealth dice in addition to any combat dice you think you need in order to achieve the task.

This makes the ninjas able to do tasks a little more liberally though it does require some planning on the part of the player. Would they rather save their stealth dice in order to achieve objectives? or sneak through a window? how about evading the notice of a guard? Or would you rather bust through the door and start killing guards left and right? Both have their merits pending on the mission  at hand, though be warned the more noise you make the more actions the guards will be able to move about.



Which brings me to the next point, in Rise of Kage the player who controls the guards is not simply a drone or "AI" but another player who is also trying to win but under different conditions. After the ninjas have done all their actions the guard player gains 8 actions to move his various guards. This includes moving a guard 2 spaces, turning to face a direction, attempting to actively detect a ninja etc. If the ninja somehow made noise or alerted a guard during his turn the guard players gain noise counters. These counters provide the guard player with additional actions or abilities he can cash in on. The guard player can also "spawn" more guards from established points on the board marked by "barracks" counters.

It was also mentioned that the guard player has an option to choose a different "guard boss" which can give his guards different abilities. It gives the guard player the ability to customize his army to a degree which I really like because the player is not "locked" into just one play style. In addition it was hinted that there will be different levels of guards with different skills or abilities. So for example if you start with "10 guard points" you would be able to pick 10 level 1 guards or 5 level 2 guards.

In our demo we played a mission where the ninjas were looking for an artifact on the grounds of the "boss guard". It was mentioned that the guard player picks his force first, then the ninjas have a mission deck that only they can see, with that information they can decide how they want to make up their team. They are planning to have 3 different ninja houses with at least two different ninjas a player can pick from each house. Once the ninjas have been picked they can pick their intended points of entry through the board. Each ninja player places a possible points of entry before the guard player deploys his guards. Once all of the guard player places all of his available guards and draws cards from the guard deck (which have special events that the guard player can use to boost his guards or slow/stop the ninjas) it was up to the ninjas to deploy.


I should note that on the board there were also cache markers marked with different numbers, ninjas can use their stealth dice to roll equal to or over the printed number in order to find any valuable equipment or special events that can be used to help the ninja player on his mission. Since we drew the "steal the artifact" mission every time we uncovered a cache we would roll a d6 and add our total numbers of uncovered cache markers. If the number was 8 or more (established by the mission card) we would find the artifact and we could start to make our escape.

Adding to the ninja players woe is the fact that there are a limited amount of turns in every game, which means that teamwork cooperation and good planning will greatly help the odds of the ninjas on their mission. Although it does not mean that victory is assured even if you manage your objective as fleeing the board becomes a challenge once all of the guards start closing in on your ninjas.

What I found interesting was that before the ninjas roll initiative among themselves they must plot out their intended moves. They can stop at any point during the moves pending if things are going to plan..or not. The initiative roll makes things a bit random between the three players using the ninjas but it also adds to the game as it adds a level of uncertainty. Will the stealth heavy ninja be able to accomplish his mission on time? Or will the impetuous assassin type ninja just take the lead and do what he desires, plans be damned? Certain ninjas also do gain a bonus to their initiative roll giving them a measure of control just in case.

With that said I found our game to be very enjoyable and quick even when we stopped to talk about the finer points of the game and possible future plans for a melding of characters into the Bushido universe took a little less than an hour. I am excited at the possibilities this game has to offer and I am glad that they will be going through the Kickstarter route for this board game. With additional funding they will be able to add more to the game and simultaneously add to the Bushido universe.

Alright gents I hope that you all check out the Rise of the Kage when it goes live onto Kickstarter in the coming weeks, I for one will certainly back this project and wait to see what else GCT Studios has planned. Till then keep it classy and await further updates as I will be able to hopefully post all of my Gen Con adventures! Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Drew's Gencon Schedule!

Well kids you know what time it is? GEN CON! Every year thousands of people flock to the middle of nowhere (Indiana) to the "best four days of gaming". They could not be more right! Gen Con is the place to meet up with old friends, meet new ones and everything in between. From the dealers hall to the demo tables it is a frenzy of gaming almost a week long (pending how long you stay) with your fellow gamers. 

There are literally thousands of events that you can pick from in the catalog, which is your vice? Miniature games? Role Playing? Painting lessons? With so much to pick from I decided this year I would stand by my promise that THIS year I was going to attempt to join a few rpgs instead of jumping from tournament to tournament. 


With that said, this is what my tentative schedule will look like for this year's Gen Con. Only two miniature tournaments a few seminars and LOTS of rpgs. This means i won't have to lug my miniatures ALL the time through the halls instead i can carry around a small case and switch out the foam I am really excited that I can relatively "take it easy" this year by not jumping and making a marathon session of tournaments.


As the days pass by I will attempt to post a few thoughts before Gen Con and of course full reviews of everything that happens during my adventures! 


THURSDAY

9am -1pm: RPG1453408 - Bridge Over Troubled Waters -Endless Terrors RPG, 2nd Edition

2pm-3pm: NMN1464466- Tales After the Cataclysm-Tales After Cataclysm, 1st Edition


4pm-5pm: SEM1465780 -Finding Your Identity as a Game Designer-

-(4pm-6pm: NMN1458629- The WitchBorn)

6pm-8pm: BGM1459968- Consequential- Tale of the Cataclysm 


8pm-10pm: RPG1460940- The Nuclear Summer Playtest- Apocalyptia , Beta 2.0 Edition



FRIDAY

8am-12pm: Gears of War RPG-

12pm-1pm: SEM1465770-  A Career in Gaming-


2pm-6pm: RPG1465049- Power- Clockwork: Dominion, beta Edition


8pm-1am: NMN1456333- Dark Age Immortal- Dark Age, 2013 Edition



SATURDAY

9am-6pm: NMN1453469- Bushido Tournament- Bushido, New Dawn Edition

6pm-8pm: RPG1460947- The Nuclear Summer Playtest- Apocalyptia , Beta 2.0 Edition


SUNDAY

10-11am: SEM1465774 - Board Games: the Future

2pm: Rise of the Kage Demo

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

GenCon Schedule

Tentative GenCon Itinerary.

THURSDAY
9AM-12PM: Bridge Over Troubled Waters: Endless Terrors RPG
(10AM-11AM: Roll for Initiative)
(11AM-12PM: Basics of Tabletop Game Design)
2PM-4PM: The Psychology of Gaming
(4PM-6PM: What's Your Gameplan? Turn Any Idea Into a Game)
7PM-9PM: Dark Dungeons: World Premiere
(8PM-11PM: Fantasy Film Short Block)
(9PM-11PM: Nerd Imrov)

FRIDAY
10AM-11AM: Roll for Initiative
(10AM-11AM: Cognitive Bias in Players and How to Leverage Them)
(11AM-12PM: A Crash Course in Game Manufacturing)
12PM-1PM: A Career in Gaming
2PM-6PM: Clockwork: Dominion, beta Edition
(2PM-3PM: So You Want to Start a Podcast)
(3PM-4PM: So You're Making Your First Game)
4PM-5PM: Toastmaster's Gamers Meeting
(4PM-5PM: Business of Writing: Working with a Publisher)
(5PM-6PM: Business of Writing: Selling Your Stories)
(5PM-6PM: Cardboard Meets Plastic: Miniatures Board Games)
6PM-10PM: The ENnies
8PM-9PM: Last Annual Zombie Walk

SATURDAY
9AM-11AM: Hickman's Killer Breakfast
(10AM-11AM: Roll for Initiative)
(10AM-11AM: Publishing: Self Publishing)
(11AM-12PM: Publishing: Small Press)
12PM-1PM: Creating Pulp Adventure
(12PM-1PM: Publishing: E-Publishing)
5PM-6PM: Live Shut Up & Sit Down Podcast
10PM-12AM: D20 Burlesque

SUNDAY
(10AM-11AM: Roll for Initiative)
10AM-11AM: Boardgames: The Future
(10AM-12PM: What's Your Gameplan? Turn Any Idea Into a Game)

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Campaign Setting: Population Control & The Frontier

"A few hundred I guess."
I don't know about other people, but I have a very hard time guesstimating the populations of cities and villages. It's like when someone asks you to guess their weight. I have no idea, I freeze. Ultimately it's probably not important at all. I'm willing to bet that players don't care that much. If they ask how many people live in a village, they're probably going to take your answer at face value and move on. An answer of "a few hundred" will be accepted and brushed over as they ask about the more interesting things like item shops and other typical adventure stops. I have small amounts of OCD though, so I want some method to my kingdom population. Luckily I stumbled across Medieval Demographics Made Easy and it answered just about every question I had. So for people with small or large amounts of OCD that want some sort of system or general idea of how to populate a kingdom.. there ya go. Pretty convenient, right?


The Frontier

The Frontier, for lack of a better or more original name, is the current setting for the campaign I'm running. The Frontier is based off of The Nentir Vale, a temperate wooded stretch set between two mountain ranges. The Frontier was settled around 300 years ago as The Empire expanded its holdings north. The Empire brought peace to the vale as it drove out hostile creatures and assimilated the native people. Now, 300 years later, The Empire is collapsing. Great fortresses are left abandoned and entire legions are dissolved as The Empire finally withdraws the last of its forces and people are left to defend themselves. Surrounded on three sides by untamed and unexplored wilderness, the vale quickly finds itself home to new and monstrous residents. Strongholds of civilization remain stubbornly entrenched along the Frontier, determined to make a life for themselves amid the deteriorating walls and crumbling keeps of their ancestors. Barbarians, usurpers, monsters, and worse constantly batter against the walls of humanity. The land is ripe for adventurers, legendary men and women anxious to make both name and wealth for themselves by selling their blades.


Yea that's nice, where are the characters?

"Okay so how many 0-Levels can  this village provide?".
Glad you asked! The party is currently adventuring out of the of the Delver's Dave Mining Camp located along the Eastern edge of the Dawnforge Mountains, a few days ride East of Hammerfast. Delver's Dale is a dwarven mining outpost with around 400 residents and a steady flow of trade. Most of the mined goods are sold directly to the dwarves while the rest go to trading caravans or river merchants. Delver's Dale is mostly residential and industrial with a few shops and a rotating population of merchants, businessman, and roughnecks. Two Temples, an Inn, and an apothecary dot the landscape of the village while the entire thing is looked over by a Stout dwarven fortress carved directly into the mountainside. Delver's Dale is home to several significant NPCs and host to several significant problems brewing outside the gates.

Other villages, trading hubs, ruins, and sites of interest surround Delver's Dale but are not detailed here. Basically I'll throw up the concept artwork, information, or maps to areas either at whim or if they become interesting enough to warrant the attention. It should be noted that none of the maps or artwork are mine, I mercilessly pillage and re purpose anything I can find online and press into service. That being said, kudos to the artists, whoever you are. You've used your skillsets and provided fuel for the imagination of one more game out there. Keep up the strong work.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sepulcher of the Mountain God, Part 2

The adventurers paused reluctantly at the outer door and peered into the tomb of the ancient warrior. Their torchlight flickered dimly off of pillars and walls, casting dancing shadows at the edge of their vision. The scene was set. They crept their way across the silent chamber methodically. They took note of every small detail on their way across the room. Hell broke lose when the halfling lifted a fist-sized yellow gem from it's resting place atop the alter. Stone pillars rumbled to life and eternal guardians began to step down from their resting places. The stone monstrosities looked at the party and began a lumbering advance. Fuck.

The stone guardians definitely laid a beating on the players. Combat opened with a few 0-Levels being crushed and the Cleric getting his noggin dented in by a stone fist. The party scattered around the room, half of them bolting toward the northwestern door and other half taking defensive positions near the eastern alter. The wizard's idea of a defensive position was jumping atop the alter and kicking the bones of an ancient warrior to the floor while a 0-Level Peasant combat dragged the unconscious cleric into cover. Joe Kickass picked the halfing up and tried to run straight through the guardians and out to safety. RIP, Joe Kickass. Meanwhile the wizard botched his casting roll and froze himself in some kind of stasis bubble. The stone guardians took a few rounds beating on the bubble before they gave up and looked for something else to hit. The western side of the room was being held by two warriors and a gang of peasants. They set up a good impromptu defense and managed to overcome the guardians after a few rounds of attrition. Some bodies were recovered, but more were rolled for their loot and left to rot on the side of the chamber.

The game wrapped up some time later after they pushed deeper into the dungeon and took out a group of monstrous cockroaches. The party was beat up by this point. I can now see the beauty of DCC RPG. Dungeons are not easy. Monsters are not pretty. Results are not always optimal. It's a nasty, dirty, dungeon grind that takes wits, balls, and luck for a character to survive. Next week we'll pick up right back in it and hopefully finish the module. For now we leave our heroes in a subterranean cave network, surrounded by ancient ruins from a time long past and the ever-present scuttling of the creatures in the darkness around them.





Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sepulcher of the Mountain God, Part 1

This guy is a real party animal.
Last Sunday we played our second DCC RPG session and I walked away from the table with a few realizations. First, we need cheat sheets. We spent way to much time cracking the rulebook. "People them with Monsters" has some great resources that I plan on using in the future. Second, I need to print a stack of randomly generated 0-Levels. The party hired some retainers in town so we had to roll up new characters mid-session. We did it quickly, but the players would have been just as happy to save time and pull from a pile of pregens. Lastly, although first level characters might have some pretty cool abilities and better odds of survival than their previous 0-Level selves, they're still squishy as hell. The first combat ended up roughing the party up pretty badly due to some bad rolling.

Criticisms aside, the first chunk of the module went pretty well. We didn't get too far into the adventure on account of all the dicking around, but we established a beachhead. Picking up from where we left off, the characters had just shipwrecked into a pile of rocks after careening down a waterfall. They gathered themselves up from the banks of the river and followed it downstream hoping to find a village. Along the way they found the remains of some adventurers and helped themselves to the free gear and a map indicating some sort of nearby treasure. They stashed the map and continued downriver until they eventually found the Silverton Mining Settlement. They spent the rest of the day doing off duty adventurer things; buying and selling supplies, tracking down leads, drinking, whoring, etc. After recruiting a few redshirts at the local tavern they spent the night at the Broken Carriage. The following morning they pulled out the map, grabbed their sacrificial hirelings, and set out nice and early.

The first combat was a rude wake up call. The characters entered a cavern at the base of a mountain and quickly found themselves in a sea of pissed off skeletons. By the end of the combat there were a few deaths, some butthurt, and a better understanding of the rules. During the course of this the cleric somehow managed to frustrate his god so badly that his healing powers were revoked. Great. While looting whatever they could find they discovered some religious scrolls on an alter carved into the back of the cave. The scrolls described the area as an ancient holy site dedicated to a mountain god named Ira. At least they knew what they were in for. Over in the next room the thief set off a trap that I found way funnier than I should have. A large set of bronze doubledoors with huge rings to pull them open... pulling on the rings causes the doors to fall forward and crush anyone under them. Reflex to avoid. Simple, effective, and lawlz. Our thief now acts more thieflike and searches for traps more often after almost being crushed.

Behind the falling doors was a set of iron doors leading to a large hall supported by pillars carved like giants At this point the characters were pretty beat up, few in number (one player couldn't make it), and the cleric had lost access to his healing ability. They really weren't in any shape to press into the actual dungeon, so I convinced them to fall back, regroup, resupply, and take another crack at it next session. I'm anxious to run the next session. Everyone is more sure of their abilities now, myself included, so the session should roll faster, smoother, and further.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The People of the Pit, Initial Impressions.

Just look at that sweet retro art.
Next on deck is Dungeon Crawl Classics #68 "The People of the Pit" (Sailors on the Starless Sea was #67 for anyone interested). People of the Pit is the next module in line and designed for 8-10 1st level characters. I'm still getting use to the idea of players running multiple characters, but then again a hallmark of DCC is that player characters die in droves. People of the Pit seems like it's going to do a pretty good job of living up those expectations. Several nasty combats and one hell of a final encounter are going to separate the men from the boys. I'm curious to see how my players approach this module.

I'm excited to run the game for other reasons. Aside from seeing my players driven before me and hearing the lamentations of their women, the module promises to be another pulp masterpiece. It borderline reminds me of an old Sci-Fi film or a Twilight Zone episode mixed with Cthulhu mythos and steroids. The adventure hits all the B-Movie basics; faceless robed cultists, shrouding mists, an alien atmosphere, funky natural denizens, a virgin sacrifice, slaves (to replenish the inevitable character deaths) and more tentacles than a hentai movie. Seriously, the tentacle factor is through the roof here. There are helpful tentacles, harmful tentacles, atmospheric tentacles, mutated tentacles, big tentacles, small tentacles, tentacle beasts, tentacle statues, tentacle cultists, tentacle summons, tentacle transit systems..

The dungeon looks like it's going to be a lot of fun to explore. I feel the entire things is designed pretty well, but there are some bonus areas that add a nice touch of variety to the package. The cursed workshop of a wizard has some great atmospheric effects, interesting loot, and creative encounters. A bit further down the line is a tomb full of ancient chaos warriors that should likewise keep the players on their toes. There are a few other gems scattered throughout the the adventure that add some "ohhhh that's pretty cool" moments to the module, but I don't want to give too much away. I tend to get excited about corny things, but I think that these areas are a great touch.

The trend I'm noticing with Goodman Games products is that they take adventures outside the familiar realm of repetitive room to room combat and skill-checks and into the realm of outright bizarre and fantastic. They're not afraid to take creative liberties with stories, encounters, or settings. This module continues to play upon those strengths and promises to be memorable. People of the Pit doesn't look like it can be finished in one session, although the possibility does exist if players are tenacious enough. If taken from top to bottom this adventure will probably stretch anywhere from 2-3 sessions depending on play style and length. Players might gain 2nd level by the end of the adventure, but I'm not 100% sure on that.

After last session my players are going to want some downtime to explore town, resupply, scheme, and get into trouble. I'll hold off on this module and feed them a one-shot adventure unless they feel like diving right in. Either way I'm looking forward to running it, seeing how they hack it, and submitting the post-game review right next to the obituaries section.