Posts tagged Cubicle 7

The One Ring: Adventures Over the Edge of the wild

The One Ring: Adventures Over the Edge of the Wild

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The One Ring: Adventures Over the Edge of the wildThis semester, I’ve been playing in a weekly campaign in Middle Earth using The One Ring: Adventures Over the Edge of the Wild, a new role-playing game from Cubicle 7. It’s set in the northern parts of Middle Earth after the events of The Hobbit and allows you to play Dwarves, Wood Elves, Men from the Mirkwood areas, and Hobbits. Cubicle 7 is planning to release future sets that move the timeline closer to the War of the Ring while also moving geographically closer to Mordor.

The game comes in a box set containing two books (one for “adventurers” and one for “loremasters”), two maps of the region, and a set of six d6s and one modified d12. The d12 has the numbers 1-10 and an “Eye of Sauron” symbol for a critical failure as well as a “Gandalf Rune” for a critical success (a normal d12 can be used too with an 11 being the Eye and a 12 being the Rune). The basic mechanic is to roll a number of dice equal to your skill level and roll the modified d12 along with it, adding up the total and trying to reach a target number.

Both books are in beautiful full color with a lot of original art that generally matches the style and appearance from Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies (as opposed to some of the illustrations in the books printed prior to the movies’ release). It really does a good job of capturing the feel of Middle Earth and helping to get everyone excited about playing in the setting.

Character stats are derived from three aspects: their race, their background (i.e. their race-specific upbringing and reason for adventuring), and their calling (i.e. their profession as an adventurer). Each race has six backgrounds and there are a total of six callings, although it wouldn’t be that hard to create your own. One of the players in our group created a custom calling that they called a “Shadowhunter.” My character was a Hobbit named Drogo Brownlock who was a Bucklander and felt called to be a Treasure Hunter. I kind of saw him as a burglar like Bilbo, but he was actually good at his job.

Another aspect of characters is their Wisdom and Valor stats. Each is used to resist the influence of evil, with Wisdom helping against corruption and Valor helping against fear. But they are also an indicator of how much the character has grown personally during the adventure. With each point of Wisdom, the character gains a special ability (similar to a D&D feat) to mark how they have learned special talents. Nothing special there.

Valor really impressed me. When you increase it, your character gains some sort of special or magical item, either as plunder or given as a gift. At first, that may sound a bit strange, but it fits well with the Tolkien theme. When Bilbo tried burgling from the fearsome stone trolls, he likely upped his Valor stat afterwards and consequently he found Sting in the plunder. The Fellowship visited Lothlorien and, because they increased their Valor stats after going through the Mines of Moria and faced all sorts of fear, they were given gifts from the Elves. It’s a mechanic that may be a bit strange at first, but it really does help fit with the theme and make those special items truly special.

Gameplay is divided into two phases, the Adventuring Phase and the Fellowship Phase. The Adventuring Phase is much like you would find in any fantasy role-playing game. You decide to go on a quest, you fight, you save the day. The Fellowship Phase represents an intermediate time where character development is taking place. This may be taking a journey to visit someone, making a return visit to your homeland, spending your treasure, or establishing a safe haven (a.k.a. freeloading off of Elrond’s house). Stat advancements are purchased during this time, so it also represents taking time to train skills or to receive gifts (like the aforementioned Elven gifts). Each player is required to share (preferably as a short story) what their character is doing during that time. All this is probably more suited for long term campaigns rather than one-shot adventures, but it really does support the storytelling and character development common in Tolkien’s works.

Combat is rather simple with characters either being in either a Forward, Open, Defensive, or Rearward battle stance. In the Forward stance, they are more likely to go first and have a lower target number to hit their enemy, but also have a lower target number to be hit. The remaining stances raise the target number to hit the enemy, but also raise the target number to be hit. Ranged attacks are only allowed from the Rearward stance, but a character can only be in a Rearward stance if two or more characters are in the close combat stances. Characters hit by normal attacks lose Endurance, which may cause them to be wearied or too tired to fight effectively. If a piercing blow is delivered, the hero is wounded (and if already wounded, they are dead). Although it may seem rather lethal, it encourages players to run if things are looking bad. Tolkien never felt the need to give much detail to battles (the chapter on the Battle of Helm’s Deep is incredibly short) and this system enables these sorts of fights to take place quickly and easily while still maintaining the overall feel.

The biggest problem I have with The One Ring is that the books are poorly organized. For instance, our group were playing a premade scenario and were told to make a “Corruption Test.” It wasn’t listed in the index and we couldn’t find any reference to it in the chapter on Adventuring Mechanics. Turns out that it was buried in the chapter describing Character Advancement under the section about Wisdom (where you wouldn’t think to look if you don’t know the two are related). Similarly, it took us a long while to figure out how attacking and damage worked in combat because it was vaguely written and in a strange place in the book. It’s not impossible to find what you’re looking for and there isn’t anything missing, but it shouldn’t be this hard to figure it all out.

There’s also some weird quirks in the system. My Hobbit had the “Cooking” speciality meaning that I knew how to cook and didn’t need to make any die rolls for it. However it also says that the action of cooking is handled by the Craft skill, which I was untrained in. We joked that this meant Drogo could cook at leisure, but if he ever had time pressure or had to make it really good, he would panic and forget everything he knew.

Also since every roll includes the modified d12 and a Rune symbol is an automatic critical success, it means that one in every 12 times the character can accomplish whatever they try to do. It’s cinematic, but can get a little ridiculous at times. One of our players tried to jokingly cheat this by rolling his untrained Search skill and saying, “I’m looking around for the secret ruins that nobody has seen in a hundred years. Do I see them?” and rolled, hoping for an automatic success.

Although it does some things poorly, The One Ring does does a lot of things very well and includes a lot of unique mechanics that help evoke the feel of the Tolkien setting. I’m enjoying playing it and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a game system for playing in Middle Earth.

Pitching Story, Setting, or System

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Yesterday was the first meeting of the semester for the Wittenberg Role-playing Guild and we had a fantastic turnout including a lot of new faces! I’m optimistic for this year and I’m glad that we were able to bring in more people to share our love of gaming with!

One of the big things we do at the first meeting is announce the upcoming semester’s role-playing campaigns. Turns out that we’ve got quite a few (as you can see here) and many of them are full, which is very exciting!

I noticed that the GMs pitched their campaigns in different ways. Some emphasized the story, others emphasized the setting and still others emphasized the system. That’s not to say that the other aspects weren’t noted, they just weren’t the focus of the elevator pitch. To better illustrate my point, I’m going to give the gist of three different pitches I heard for campaigns at the meeting.

Story-Centered Pitch:Necessary Evil

I’ll be running Necessary Evil, a premade plot-point campaign using the Savage Worlds system. The premise is that the big bad aliens invaded Earth, the superheroes banded together to fight them, and they got massacred. So now it’s up to the supervillains to save the world. The fate of the world lies with the scum of the earth!

This one’s actually my upcoming campaign (and I’m very excited about it). To me, the important thing about the campaign is the story because it’s so unique and it’s what I hope will draw people in. It does use a system that is popular in the Guild right now (and that I like) and I know there are a lot of supers fans out there, but those were my secondary selling points. Still, it seemed to work since I got a full table of gamers that night!

Setting-Centered Pitch:The One Ring

I’m running The One Ring, a new system released by Cubicle 7. It takes place in Middle Earth after the events of The Hobbit. The action will be taking place in the region of northern Mirkwood, the Lonely Mountain, and the eastern slopes of the Misty Mountains that is growing under the influence of “The Shadow.”

You can see from Chris’ description of his game that the big focus is on playing in Middle Earth. Very little is given about the story and the system isn’t that big of a focus either. Perhaps players know what type of stories might come from this if they were familiar with the setting, so advertising the story was unnecessary. And Chris did get a good turnout of players for this (including me!).

System-Centered Pitch:

I’ll be running a campaign titled Hard Rain using a system called Cold Steel Wardens. If that doesn’t ring a bell, it’s because it isn’t out yet since…I’m writing it! I’ve got about 65,000 words written and I’m looking for players to help alpha test it. This game is about the Iron Age of comics, which you might recognize from works like Watchmen, or Dark Knight Rises where the heroes are flawed individuals with struggles. Also, anybody who attends 2/3rds of the sessions will get their characters as pregens in the hopefully forthcoming finished product!

This is perhaps an atypical system-centered pitch in that Andy (the Platinum Warlock) is asking for testers for his new system. However, the pitch is definitely focused on advertising the system in order to draw players in. No mention is made of the story of this particular campaign and, while the setting may be closely linked to the system, it’s not a strong focus of the pitch. You might see a similar situation if a GM were to advertise that they were running “Dungeons & Dragons” with no mention of a storyline (although a type of setting may be implied).

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the focus of a pitch tends to be whatever aspect of the campaign that the GM is most excited about. For me it was the Necessary Evil storyline, for Chris it was the Middle Earth setting, and for Andy it was the system that he was writing. Each was effective in drawing players and so I would argue that no approach is a “bad” approach.

I would encourage GMs to be aware of what aspect of their campaigns that they are most excited about and pitch their campaigns with that as their focus. It’s my opinion that an excited GM is the most influential aspect of getting the players excited. Sure there are other factors, such as personal tastes, but if you’re not showing your excitement, how are the players going to be excited along with you?

GenCon 2011 Experience

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I had a great time at GenCon 2011 this year. Unlike Origins, I only went for the weekend, but enjoyed it nonetheless. My time was divided between running Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space for Cubicle 7 and touring the vendor hall at the exhibit.

Running Doctor Who was an interesting experience. I was given some prerelease materials including character sheets for the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith), Amy Pond, Rory Williams, and River Song. The current box set features the Tenth Doctor (David Tennant) and his companions, but Cubicle 7 is in the process of creating a new box set which has the same rules, but has art for the Eleventh Doctor era. I’m told that PDF character sheets from both eras will be available online once the new set is released.

I ran three sessions of the adventure “Cat’s Eye,” which will be released soon (probably as an adventure in the Matt Smith set). As I hinted in my last post, it involved hobos, aliens, and lots and lots of cats! The scenario only took about 2 hours, but since the players signed up for a 4 hour game, I ran a shortened version of “Sovereigns of the Sea,” my one-shot involving the TARDIS arriving on the Queen Anne’s Revenge and Blackbeard trying to find a treasure that, unbeknownst to him, belonged to aliens who didn’t take kindly to pirates.

All my games went well and I had a lot of fun with them. But my favorite one had to be the “Sovereigns of the Sea” part of the second session. The player who was playing The Doctor had to leave early, so we were left with River Song, Captain Jack Harkness, K-9, and Craig (that guy from the episode where the Doctor rented out a room in a house where the second story was actually an alien spaceship). None of the players wanted to take the Doctor, so we decided that River kicked the Doctor out of the TARDIS and took the companions on their own adventure!

River SongJack Harkness

There was so much great banter between River and Captain Jack in our games. They really need to meet!

Fully intending to go to the Caribbean beach (and leaving the TARDIS decked out in beach attire, complete with putting a Hawaiian shirt and sunglasses on K-9), they arrived on the Queen Anne’s Revenge. When the pirates tried to make them walk the plank, River just led the group into the TARDIS and (knowing how to actually drive the thing) took it to the beach where they waited for the pirates to arrive. River told the dumbfounded pirates that she was a magical witch and proved it by “resurrecting” Jack when they shot him.

When the monsters started emerging from the sea, they all figured that since The Doctor wasn’t around, they could just shoot them willy nilly. Craig on the other hand had a shining moment of awesome as he grabbed a coconut, chucked it at the Sea Devils, and rolled 15 over the “Nearly Impossible” difficulty level, knocking out two of them and intimidating the third to drop its weapon! The pirates decided to flee, what with a witch, an immortal man, a mechanical machine, and “The Craiginator” on the shores!

Then detecting the Sea Devil’s hibernation pods inside the mountain, River decided they should all take a shortcut. So they hopped into the TARDIS to have it materialize where the hibernation pods were. Seeing the Sea Devils emerge, “The Craiginator” convinced them all that he was the Chief Warlord of Earth and that they should all go back into the hibernation pods instead of die trying to fight him. Another incredible roll and he actually managed to pull it off! With the aliens dealt with and the pirates gone, the companions decided to spend the rest of the time lounging on the Caribbean beach!

Going through the vendor hall, I got to pick up a preordered print copy of Savage Worlds Deluxe and had it signed by Shane Hensley and Clint Black. My Savage Worlds fanboyism definitely showed through there. I bought a few new nifty things as well, including The One Ring and the very strange Spam Dice Game.

Signatures inside Savage Worlds Deluxe

My signed copy of Savage Worlds Deluxe!

Spam Dice Game

Not sure that I'll play it very often, but it's definitely an interesting thing to have on your gaming shelf!

I also got to try prerelease demos of Fantasy Flight Games‘ new Star Wars Games: X-Wing and Star Wars: The Card Game, both to be released in Spring 2011. The first was a tactical minis game which pitted X-Wings versus TIE-Fighters. It was a lot of fun and in our demo the might of the Empire used superior tactics to crush the pathetic Rebellion! I asked if maybe it might be possible to do the Death Star trench run in the final game. The GM gave a huge smile and said, “Fantasy Flight Games is big on expansion packs.”

The second was a cooperative “Living Card Game.” Basically, several players with different Rebellion decks worked together to whittle down the non-player Empire deck. Unlike traditional trading card games, all the cards in a set are included in the expansion packs, so trading is not necessary and you don’t have to worry about commons, uncommons, and rares. It was pretty fun and I just might purchase the base set at least.

All in all, a good experience and I wouldn’t be opposed to going next year if things work out.

Heading to GenCon

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Sorry that I haven’t posted recently. I’m trying my best to make a blog post every 3 or 4 days, but Real Life™ has gotten in the way lately.

Thing is, I’ve been preparing for GenCon! I’m going there for the weekend and running 3 sessions of Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space. I ran two of them at Origins, but this time I’m actually running them for Cubicle 7, the company that makes the Doctor Who RPG. They sent me the adventure (involving hobos, aliens, and lots and lots of cats!) and some prerelease materials for the Eleventh Doctor (Matt Smith) set that is coming out soon. And I’m getting a free GenCon badge out of the deal too!

So it’s all going to be an awesome weekend. I probably won’t have the time or the energy to update my blog while there, but I should blog soon after. Hopefully it will be a good time all around (and I won’t break the bank too much in their giant vendor hall)!

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