Posts tagged Doctor Who

Thoughts on “Goblin Dice”

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I recently read a fascinating blog entry at Ponderings on Games called Goblin Dice. He sums up the term pretty well:

D&D’s d20 is a prime example of what I’ve taken to calling a “goblin die”. You roll high, a goblin dies. You roll low, a goblin lives. No one doubts the eventual fate of the poor goblin. It doesn’t matter if it’s killed this round or the next. But it’s still fun to roll those dice, just as it is fun to fight the scrambling goblins. Hence, goblin dice: good for determining the fate of goblins. Not so good for determining the fate of heroes, or worlds. They are terrible for anything important.

The author goes on to point out that, because of this binary pass/fail mechanic, a number of problems with this ambiguity occur. This was even parodied here in the web comic DM of the Rings where whether or not Frodo managed to destroy the One Ring came down to a single d20 roll and the DM rolled…a 10. Well, did Frodo destroy the Ring or not?

Part of the problem when interpreted this way is that a d20 roll is often seen as a result on a continuum. A 1 is an absolute failure, a 20 is an absolute success, and everything else is in the middle. I suppose one thing that I like about “cinematic” systems like Savage Worlds and the good ol’ d6 System is that they avoid this problem by having open-ended die mechanics. You can’t judge your dice result of 1 to infinity as a continuum, so you compare the result to the target number and it’s pretty obvious by how close you were how much you succeeded or failed by. Roll 10 under, you definitely failed. Roll 1 under, you barely failed. Roll 20 over, you definitely succeeded and probably won a medal for it. Granted, this can still result in Goblin Dice if you’re not careful, but I think it’s a step in the right direction.

Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space avoids this problem by having different levels of success. Just hit the target number? You get a “Yes, but…” result, meaning you got what you wanted, but it didn’t work as well as you hoped. Get it by a moderate amount? You get a “Yes” result, meaning it happened just as you wanted. Get it by an extreme amount? You get “Yes, and…” meaning it turned out better than you’d hoped. The inverse happens with failure as well.

I encourage gamers to read the whole article at Ponderings on Games, it’s a really a good read. And feel free to share your thoughts, here or on the original article.

Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space

GenCon 2012 Experience

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This past weekend, I went to GenCon, the largest gaming convention in America. Although I went largely to promote Wild Card Creator, this was also a great opportunity to do some personal gaming.

Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space

The box set featuring Matt Smith made it’s release at GenCon, but I think I’ll always be attached to my David Tennant box set.

Saturday I arrived in the Dealer Hall when it opened and got a quick look at the place. Boy is it massive! I only got to visit a few booths before I had to go off to run Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space. Just like last year, I volunteered for Cubicle 7’s Demo Team which gave me a great opportunity to run one of my favorite systems and get some store credit while I was at it.

The scenario they gave me was called “Ghost Engines” and was actually a pretty decent scenario involving body-swapping aliens, gargoyle-like people, and a trans-dimensional train. It was a pretty enjoyable scenario that kept everyone engaged. I have to say that the writing quality for premade adventures for the line have improved markedly over the years. Maybe one of these days I’ll throw my hat into the ring too and write up a scenario to submit to Cubicle 7.

It’s become a tradition at the larger cons for Pinnacle to run a Savage Saturday Night event where dozens of Savage Worlds games are run. The turnout for GenCon was unprecedented and I would estimate that at least 50 games were run, all with full tables! I handed out as many cards for Wild Card Creator as I could, then got roped into a Gilligan’s Island game. As hard as it is to believe, I’ve never seen the show, but I was told that all I really needed to do was hear the theme song and I’d be good.

We played a somewhat modified crew of the original five on the ship. I wound up being the millionaire’s cousin; an Olympic athlete. It’s not every day that your Savage Worlds character gets to wield a javelin and a discus! Not long after we crashed, we fought a boar. Feeling overconfident, I decided to throw my Olympic javelin at it with a called shot to the eye (–6)…and made it! The boar was instantly killed by the assault and we had a tasty meal.

Unfortunately, Gill went missing and we had to go look for him. Turns out that he found himself in some Mayan ruins and put on a headdress that turned him into an ancient Mayan sorcerer king that could summon mummies! After half an hour of whiffs from both sides, we finally managed to get the stupid headdress off of him, patch up the ship, and complete our three hour tour.

Sunday was devoted entirely to roaming the Dealer Hall and it took a good six hours to do so, including stopping to play a few demos. I wound up picking up the new Doctor Who Card Game, The One Ring: Tales of Wilderland, five Paranoia supplements for a buck each, the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying Game, and $3 used book describing all of the original worlds of Torg (one of the most inspiring settings of all time in my opinion). Not a bad haul.

I also got a chance to watch a demo of Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, the first of three role-playing games for Star Wars. Fantasy Flight Games has elected to follow their Warhammer 40k RPG model and release multiple rulebooks each focusing on a different aspect of the universe. Edge of the Empire focuses on bounty hunters, smugglers, and scoundrels while the upcoming Rebellion vs. Empire and Force and Destiny books will focus on soldiers and Jedi respectively. The rules are cross-compatible so you can mix characters from any of the books. They also use specialty “narrative dice” like Warhammer Fantasy 3rd edtion. Although the beta rules were available for purchase, I ultimately decided to save my $30 for when the real thing comes out.

I was surprised to see just how many companies were running Kickstarters; I saw no less than 15. While I imagine there are a greater number of RPG-related Kickstarters around the time of GenCon than at other times of the year, it was surprising just how important that crowdfunding platform is in the roleplaying game industry (or if you’re cynical, how glutted it is).

And at the end of the day, I got to visit the booth for Mythic Era of War Games, the company founded by one of Wittenberg’s own alumni (no website yet, so I can’t link to their stuff). Perhaps next year Journeyman Games will have its own booth as well.

All in all, it was a great trip and I’m glad that I got to go. If you ever get a chance to visit, even if it’s just for a day, take the opportunity!

Origins 2012 Recap

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Several days ago, I posted about my first day at Origins. Things were going very well and I was enjoying both the roleplaying games I was playing and the board games I was running. Now that the convention is over, I’m pleased to say that the great experience I had that first day carried over through the rest of the convention as well. And contrary to the previous years at Origins, I didn’t have a single bad game!

I don’t know how interesting a full recap of my events is to others, but I’m going to go ahead and post one anyway! 😀

Thursday

Mutants & Masterminds 3rd EditionI got up bright and early once again for an 8 AM game of The Avengers using Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Edition. I’ve always liked the Mutants & Masterminds system for doing a good job of emulating the superhero genre while still allowing it to be somewhat tactical and crunchy if desired. And after being blown away by this year’s summer film The Avengers, I decided that it would be a lot of fun to play in it.

I grabbed Captain America (my favorite superhero) as soon as the sheets came out. It turns out that this group of Avengers was from the comics, rather than the summer film, so we had Iron Fist and Black Panther available rather than Hulk and Thor (the GM did note that Thor would likely be too powerful given that he tended to be the Avengers’ magic bullet rather than an equal member of the team). I had to get a recap on who Kang the Conqueror was, but ultimately, I was able to enjoy the session despite not being nearly as well-read in the comics as the other people at the table. And in the end, Cap was able to help his fellow Avengers save America from yet another supervillain threat. The GM could have been a bit more enthusiastic, but all in all, it was a great session.

The rest of the day consisted of me running not one but two roleplaying games. First up was A Traveller’s Guide to the Galaxy, which was an intro to the Traveller roleplaying game (Mongoose Publishing version) consisting of both character creation and a quick scenario (feel free to see part 1 and part 2 of my review of Traveller). I had a pretty eclectic mix of experience levels with two players who had never played Traveller, one who just started GMing a campaign but had never played, one who played about ten years ago, one who played when the first version came out in 1977, and one who not only played since 1977, but works for Terra/Sol Games which sells nothing but Traveller supplements!

Players old and new enjoyed creating characters. To my surprise, every character had average or above average stats with multiple 12s being rolled at the table. Almost all of the chosen careers wound up being military occupations, so it was definitely a battle-hardened group. To my surprise, the players were deathly afraid of the Aging Table, so our characters mostly ranged from 34-46 years old with only one character adventuring at the ripe old age of 54. As a result, group character creation only took 1 1/2 hours, which was the shortest that I have ever had it take.

The scenario I ran was a pretty basic one where someone hires the crew to do a field survey on a recently colonized world, but it quickly becomes apparent that their patron is motivated by something else. This time, it was a search for psionic artifact that the government had placed there as an experiment to diminish aggression, but with prolonged exposure, it wound up making beings far more aggressive. The team recovered it and decided that the best way to deal with their treacherous patron was to space him. Not all that heroic, but it was an interesting turn of events.

In the evening was Stargate Universe: Rescue using the Savage Worlds system. Stargate Universe was the third (and currently last) show in the Stargate series. Although admittedly the first episodes were very poor, the show got quite a bit better about halfway through the first season and had a (in my opinion) stellar second season. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough to save it from a premature cancellation from Syfy Channel’s chopping block (or from Syfy’s vendetta against all sci-fi shows if you’re bitter about Sanctuary and Eureka also getting prematurely cancelled and being replaced by yet another paranormal show). The final episode was left pretty open-ended with everyone in stasis pods and Eli alone on the ship, looking out at the stars.

So I created a scenario that provided at least some closure to that. One and a half years later, the Lucian Alliance had managed to recapture Destiny by leading a covert strike on Langara and using their Stargate to dial the ninth chevron and gate to Destiny (and I decided that a successful ninth chevron dial to Destiny immediately drops the ship out of FTL). So what does Stargate Command do? They send their A-Team to get it back! So we had Samantha Carter, Daniel Jackson, Rodney McKay, John Sheppard, Carson Beckett, and Col. Telford leading a rescue operation on Destiny.

The whole explanation of how that turned out is too long for this blog post, so I hope at some point to write up how that went and how our group decided to provide a partial conclusion to Stargate Universe. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, some time ago, I did write up a conversion for using the Stargate setting in Savage Worlds, but it’s undergoing a complete overhaul to bring it up to the same level of quality as my Elder Scrolls conversion. So if you’re a Stargate fan and you want this, stay tuned!

Friday

Friday began with the new board game Oh My God! There’s an Axe in My Head! by Game Company 3. After hearing about it from the Wittenberg Role-playing Guild Patriarch since I joined the Guild, I decided to try it out (apparently the company they originally hired to print it didn’t pull through, but they broke away from them and it’s finally coming out).

In this game, you are all delegates meeting in Switzerland to negotiate treaties following World War I. The Swiss have hired axe jugglers as entertainment, but they have suddenly gone crazy and are chucking axes into the crowd! So now you’re left to negotiate treaties while dodging axes flying past you. Oh, and you can pick them up and throw them at other delegates too! It was a fun game and I decided to splurge for it.

In the afternoon was our Battle of Endor LARP. This was intended to be the Wings of War LARP (without full cardboard planes) adapted to the Battle of Endor from Return of the Jedi. On paper it sounded great and we prepped it for 21-42 people (which happened to give us a whopping 21 credit hours for the purpose of getting free rooms).

Unfortunately, only one person (who was from the Wittenberg Role-playing Guild) showed up, so we obviously couldn’t run it. I think there were two main factors that kept people from signing up. First, it was classified as a LARP, but wasn’t a typical LARP and so it probably didn’t appeal to the right crowd. Had we advertised it as “GIANT Battle of Endor” much like the popular “GIANT Settlers of Catan,” and advertised it as a miniatures game (kind of a macro-miniature game I guess) we might have drawn the right audience. Second, they placed us in the farthest room of the farthest hotel adjoining the Convention Center, meaning there was no potential for walk-ups. It’s unlikely that we’ll try this again in the future, but it was a valiant attempt.

Then in the evening was The Price of Success, a Firefly game using the Savage Worlds system. In this game, we got to play the remaining crew members of the Serenity after the Miranda incident (minus Kaylee who was back on the ship). I got to play Malcolm Reynolds!

The game used the increasingly recycled scenario of the characters waking up without any memories of the last day and having to retrace their steps to figure out what happened. In the process, we found out that, among other things, Jayne got caught up in an underground fighting ring (and became the hero Clobberin’ Cobb!), River had helped Simon cheat at cards in a casino, and the rest of the crew crashed a party Mr. Niska hosted for his (very ugly) daughter. The author said that at some point he would post the characters and scenario online and I’ll be sure to link to them when he does.

EDIT: Less than twelve hours after I post, it’s up online! Check it out at Dragonlaird Gaming!

Saturday

Saturday I started off with the D&D Next playtest. Yes, I am allowed to talk about it, but I would like to save that for a later post about what I think about D&D Next as a whole.

Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and SpaceIn the afternoon, I ran A Timelord in King Arthur’s Court, a scenario for Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space. Although the tickets sold out in 20 minutes, I was surprised to find that only four people showed up. I felt bad for the people who told me during the convention that they wanted to get in the game, but couldn’t because it was sold out.

The players decided to try something I’ve never seen done before: they wound up choosing both the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors for the same group. Fortunately, the players who played them were able to have a lot of great banter off of each other. Accompanying them were Donna Noble and Rory Williams (without Amy apparently).

In this adventure, the characters found themselves in the time of King Arthur. (When is that time exactly? Forget that you asked, it gets in the way of the story!). After being sent to look after the missing Knights of the Round Table, they ran into a suit of armor with a Vashta Nerada inside (who fortunately was prevented from leaving to wreck havoc among Earth), a downed spaceship, and a cage that housed a creature that looks remarkably like what Earth people would call a dragon. Oh and they discovered that Merlin was The Master!

There was a very epic ending to the scenario in which The Master was using Blood Control (from the Sycorax) to control the dragon to destroy Camelot. The companions decided that King Arthur needed Excalibur to slay the dragon. But where do they find Excalibur? They came up with a very creative solution: they remembered that Excalibur was sometimes called “The Singing Sword,” and so they decided to rig up a Sonic Screwdriver with a standard sword to create a Sonic Sword! Then they gave it to Donna, who was dressed in blue, to be the Lady of the Lake (she at least called herself Lady since she was a Noble) who badgered King Arthur until he took it. During this time, Rory taught Lancelot CPR, which likely evolved into the legends about him being able to lay on hands.

And then the epic showdown came when the Tenth Doctor confronted The Master and told him that what he was doing was wrong. Meanwhile, the Eleventh Doctor snuck behind the unsuspecting Master and knocked the Blood Control device out of his hands. Rory smashed it to bits and Donna yelled for King Arthur to attack as the dragon plunged toward him and his army. With everyone chipping in story points for extra dice, King Arthur rolled a whopping 73 to slay the dragon (mind you 30 is “Nearly Impossible”). And so we decided that the tale of King Arthur slaying the dragon would be a legend forever.

The group let the Master get away and we decided that the final scene of the episode was The Master getting into the downed ship and the Vashta Nerada’s ominous shadows closing in.

Finally, I ran Night Train for the Deadlands setting of Savage Worlds. Did they survive the scenario that is known for resulting in many TPKs? That’s a story that will have to be saved for another post!

Live from Origins 2012

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Today was the first day of Origins Game Fair, the second largest gaming convention in the world (after GenCon). This is my third time going to Origins (you can read about my experiences last year with what I ran and what I played parts 1 and 2). I’ve been looking forward to this for quite a while.

Although the convention date has been moved earlier this year (and conflicted with many school schedules), it fortunately didn’t affect me and it seems like we’ve had a good turnout so far. We’ll see how it winds up affecting attendance for the con as a whole.

Play in a game from them and you won’t regret it. And you’ll get a free d6 with the logo on it!

Today was a bookended with two RPG games run by the fantastic Matinee Adventures. Bright and early was Avatar Book 0: Rescue (using the Ubiquity system). Set 100 years before Avatar: The Last Airbender, it involves six teenagers who can bend the various elements that are caught in the middle of the Fire Nation’s invasion. Turns out that story was based off the events of the game I played in last year, so our primary objective was to rescue the Fire Nation girl who stayed behind to allow us the time to escape in that scenario.

Ending the day was Paranoia: You’re a Time What?. Paranoia is set in a dystopian future that’s a cross between 1984 and Monty Python and the typical characters are Troubleshooters who are tasked with killing Commies, Mutants, and members of secret societies. But it turns out that you all are commies, mutants, and/or members of secret societies. For this scenario, we were sent to investigate a big blue box that showed up outside* of Alpha Complex. Yup, The Doctor came to Alpha Complex and his psychic paper revealed that he was Ultra-Ultra-Violet clearance! I wound up using up all six of my clones by the end of the session, so it seems like I was playing the game just right! 🙂

A sample (and very powerful!) Knightmare Chess card

In between, I tried something new: running board games. First I ran Knightmare Chess, which takes a standard game of chess and adds all kinds of interesting cards to replace your moves. I’ve always had difficulty finding players for it, so I was shocked to find three people preregistered for it and two more who showed up with generics! We had an odd number of players, so I got to play against a player who enjoyed the game as much as me, but had always been short on players. Everyone had an absolute blast playing it and several of them were hoping that Steve Jackson Games would have it available at their booth this year. I sure hope so!

The game actually comes with sunglasses for El Presidente!

I also ran Junta! Viva el Presidente, a tongue-in-cheek game from Z-Man Games where you are all vying for control of the República de las Bananas. Throughout the game, you’re funneling foreign aid money in order to backstab each other and vie for becoming El Presidente in order to eventually become the strongest power in the island. Three players came to that, so I joined in as well so that there would be some more interesting diplomacy (and I lost horribly both times). The players had the right mentality for the game and I think that this is probably the best session of the game I have ever had.

Overall, I found running board games to be very fun and not very stressful and I will definitely consider running more if I ever get a chance to run games at Origins again.

I’ll be doing a lot of role-playing games over the next few days. Tomorrow I’m playing in a game of The Avengers (using Mutants & Masterminds 3e) and running both A Traveller’s Guide to the Galaxy (using Traveller) and Stargate Universe: Rescue (using Savage Worlds). Should be fun!

*We did get to venture outside, which is usually forbidden. My first death happened because Friend Computer told us about outside, which I knew was (normally) treasonous knowledge, so I went ahead and shot Friend Computer. I was of course vaporized on the spot!

Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space

Playing a Game You’ve Always GMed

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Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and SpaceI’m a big Doctor Who fan and picked up Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space from Cubicle 7 about as soon as it came out. Since then, I’ve GMed the game many times, including at Origins 2011 and at GenCon 2011. But this is one system that I had never got a chance to play because I could never find a GM. Consequently, I think that I kind of got burned out with Doctor Who because I ran it too much (I also retired my scenario involving Blackbeard the Pirate after having run it 8 times).

Fortunately for me, The Wittenberg Role-playing Guild had their weekly “Friday Night One-shot” and this week’s game was Doctor Who, run by Amber. Finally, a chance to play a game I’ve only ever GMed! Although she was borrowing my set of the books, Amber chose one of the sample adventures (Arrowdown) which I fortunately had not read. So I sat down and got a chance to play the Tenth Doctor alongside Martha Jones, Jack Harkness, and K-9.

And you know what? I absolutely loved every moment of it!

Even though I consider myself to be a fairly skilled GM, I think there’s something to be said for playing in the games that you love the most. I love Doctor Who and have really enjoyed presenting some great stories to the players, but I think I found out last night that I kind of missed being one of the people on the other end not knowing the answers and trying to figure out the mystery. I think it also reignited my excitement in the game after having been burnt out by it. (And I’ll be running “A Timelord in King Arthur’s Court” at Origins this year).

It made me think again about if a requirement of being a good GM is to be a player every once in a while. Not only do you have someone to compare your own GMing style to, but I imagine it also helps a GM stay in touch with what a player is actually experiencing. It also seems to help you get passionate about your own setting. I suppose if you have a good experience playing in a game, it helps you want to give that same experience to other players.

So I’ll pose two questions to my readers: Are there any settings that you’ve always wanted to play in, but have only gotten the chance to GM (or vice versa?). And does a good GM need to be a player every once in a while to improve?

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