Monthly One-Off Recap: Fantasy AGE

This post is written by the GM of our Fantasy AGE one-off, Riley Horn! GRR6001_450_d9ffbea6-fda4-4ef0-b275-a8521e0bd371_1024x1024


I always struggle with the first line of writing any post. I tend to type, delete, type, delete, until I find the exact words that make perfect sense.

So last night I had the chance to GM a Fantasy Age game by Green Ronin Publishing. It had been a while since I GMed so I felt a little awkward doing it. I am still new when it comes to Fantasy Age, but the rule system allows for easy play which is nice, and it’s simple to figure out.

The first of two challenges I found is the use of stunt tables. It is supposed to speed up game play and bring a flair of excitement to the table. I found it a little clunky and slows down combat. I think of the stunts were simpler it would really help to smooth out the process of using them.

The other challenge I found is more of a personal thing, I like to have a lot of variety to choose from when it comes to monsters and creatures in general. In the back of the rule book there are some, but not enough for my taste.

The supplements that Green Ronin makes are great additions, but to me still leave a little lacking in what I wanted to pit my players against. Overall running the game was a good experience and playing Fantasy Age periodically is something I will continue to do, but it hasn’t won a place as my favorite RPG to play, or run.


 

This blog has already reviewed Fantasy AGE (click HERE).

Thanks Riley for the one-off and the write up!

Daredevil and Total Party Kills

daredevil-season-2-poster-2If you’ve ever watched the TV show Daredevil, you know the basic plot. But on of the hero’s traits that stands out to me the most is his ability to stand back up after he falls down (or in the show’s case, gets knocked, stomped, punched, pushed, thrown, shot, or tripped). More than his super-senses, ninja/parkour kung-funess, or Catholic guilt, his ability to keep going is what drives the show and makes you cheer.

(I love Daredevil, and I highly recommend it, but that’s not what I’m here to talk about).

One of the biggest struggles of RPGs (and in particular being a game master) is the challenge. How far do players want to be pushed? How far can you push them? When do they break? Where does it stop being fun, and start being frustrating? Getting knocked down, and standing back up to kick the villain in the teeth is a hell of a lot of fun, and an exceptionally rewarding experience for both the players, and the GM.

But it’s a hard experience to deliver. It’s easy to misstep.

FCI-spots-2-ancient-battlefield-skull-on-postIn the last 2 weeks, I’ve TPK’d (total party killed) both my weekly RPG groups. The most essential item to understand, is the value I place on motivated, exciting, cinematic, and narrative games. Stats, HP, positioning and what weapon you use, are less important to me than fun, drama, and elation. I haven’t had an accidental TPK in almost a decade.

The first TPK, was due to the players’ decisions, and that’s life. Sometimes players won’t listen when the GM warns them they can’t win, and this is a fight that ends badly. Sometimes they vent themselves into space, despite numerous hints that this is a bad idea.

Sometimes the GM screws it up. That was my second TPK. I lead the players through an encounter that was designed to be world building, and inspire questions (with the advent of some setting breaking rules, unique enemies, and their first foray into ancient magicks best left forgotten). I casually put stats to the encounter with unique enemies.

Due to a spat of both exceptionally lucky dice (mine), and exceptionally unlucky dice (the players), suddenly the encounter went sideways. At first it was a lark and a table joke, but after about five minutes, the dire straits the party had entered into was clear. Clearly, I was not at my best with the session, or I’d have not made an error like I did. It’s a mistake that feels like it violates the trust placed in the gamemaster.

It’s a hard thing to assign blame on. The dice were unlucky for the players, and lucky for me, but I didn’t roll them behind the screen I normally use, because I had built a 3D battlefield, so the players could envision the story better. I’m not normally a minis or terrain GM, but I have been trying to stretch myself, so I made the effort. It seems to have cost me.

I didn’t step in when things went south. Since my rolls were public, as were the players, I had painted myself into a corner with the dice, and suddenly I didn’t have an out.

One feels like Fortunato in Poe’s “The Cask of Amontillado” as the dice and your mistakes play the role of Montresor and seem to box you in.

To my players credit, they were excellent sports, and laughed and no one was mad. But, I haven’t accidentally killed a character unless it was narrative driven and appropriate.

It’s an odd feeling.

One I’m not sure I’m at ease with.

Where did I misstep? Did I misstep?

Where should I have stopped pushing and let them stand up?

Now, the questions of where we go from here remain, lingering with the group long after the food is eaten, the crumbs are cleaned, the dice and character sheets stored.

Things to muse on, and take into account as I attempt to improve as a game master and designer. In the end, I realize that mistakes happen, it’s just a game, and no one is mad, hurt or upset (not even me), and all is well.

But it’s an interesting study of what goes wrong, and how one can avoid, build around, or mitigate such occurrences.

Do I stand back up? Do I push the campaign forward, or do I throw in my proverbial towel, and say consequences are such, the story is done, and it’d break the verisimilitude of the story and campaign to force it? There’s a lot of places to go from here, and I don’t think a single one is wrong. Just have to find the right one for the group affected, and work to rebuild that trust and continue on.

After all, if it’s not fun, what’s the point of playing imagination?

First Playtest: Candlelight

5826e2492b9de503630986c7f5df09fcSo, tonight marked the first playtest of Candlelight.

I haven’t talked about it much, but Candlelight (working title!), is a project I’m developing for down the road.

It uses some pretty unique ideas I’ve been stewing on for a while (the first attempt at this game was several years ago), and I tried to deliver those in a uniquely cool storytelling package designed to tell a different sort of story than the one most players are used to.

I’ve been sort of fleshing out the setting, and discussing possibilities with a possible co-writer, but nothings really moving forward, so that’s different.

This was an alpha test: the literal first session of the mechanics. I assembled a new playtesting team for this game, one that has never tried to play in a game I designed from the group up.

First thoughts, go!

  1. No dice mechanic was a success. I was concerned it wouldn’t be intuitive but it seemed to catch on really fast, and my alternate resolution system worked wonders.
  2. Simple classes and abilities worked. This was a nice success. The “classes” or “archetypes” worked wonderfully and got players right into the theme, while allowing them to feel different.
  3. The Dread Track mechanic worked wonders. I liked it, and I think it landed exactly at the right tempo.
  4. The resource management mechanics I’d worked in seemed good, but there were some scaling issues, so when I have time (ie. not working on Tiny Galaxies or Planet Mercenary), I’ll have to go back and re-math those.

Overall, I’d call it a 7 out of 10. The player side mechanics feel good. I need to work on the GM side mechanics/setting building mechanics. I have some ideas I’m really wanting to implement there, and I need to work out what those look like.

 

RPG Review: Cypher System from Monte Cook Games

CSR-NormalToday I’m reviewing the Cypher System Rulebook from Monte Cook Games.

It’s a generic RPG system, designed to make storytelling both faster, easier on the GM, and flexible enough to do anything.


1.) Size and Production Quality 

So, Cypher System Rulebook is large. 400+ pages, with full-color illustrations, layout and more. The sidebars contain call-outs, page references and more, that make using the game exceptionally easy. Big win, and a beautiful book.

10/10


2.) Art

The art is pretty good throughout the book for the most part, but there are a few pieces that just aren’t very good. It’s a little disappointing, but, in the end, the majority is pretty good, and evokes the feeling each particular section is going for.

The cover is fantastic, and I really like how it shows the main 4 types of campaigns the CSR is pointed towards.

7/10


3.) Content and Rules

The “Cypher” system is based on the same ruleset that powers Numenera, The Strange and in a diluted way, No Thank You, Evil!. It’s a system that has been discussed extensively in other places, so I won’t get into details, but I find the character creation to be a joy compared to other games.

The idea of “I’m a [adjective] [noun] who [verbs]” is easily accessible to a majority of players, and makes the character creation fly by. It’s easy to explain and understand, and helps to guide players through the system.

The dice system is probably my least favorite component of the game. It’s a little too unwieldy and hard to explain to new players when they’re playing. The idea of “the difficulty times 3 is what you need to exceed on a d20, but effort/edge can lower the difficulty, so you have to roll X” leads to the GM constantly re-explaining that portion of the rules to new players. For the simplicity the rest of the game follows admirably, this particular mechanic bothers me. It’s not a bad mechanic, but I think it is a little too difficult to use.

The items and flexiblity of the system in running/playing other games is apparently, and the several chapters dedicated to emulating particular genres are very well done.

7/10


4.) Game Master Section

 

Each particular genre section contains information about running the Cypher system inside that genre, and custom rules for that genre. The Game Master section also includes a “bestiary” that covers all the genres, rules for setting tone, theme, and guidance on how to deliver the expectations of each genre. It’s fairly complete but lacks in a few sections.

9/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

There is no pre-made adventure in this game, so instead, we’ll look at the “Campaign Worksheet” add-on. It’s an excellent page, devoted to helping you determine exactly what the game is you’re running, what’s allowed, and what particular rules you’re using, then giving them to players to allow them to have the full campaign in mind. It’s very well done, and necessary to the game.

10/10


Total Score: 43/50

 

Hey, that’s a pretty solid score. It’s beat out all the FFG games, and only falls behind Pendragon and Keltia (theme is my winner there). It’s a good book, and a good generic system, and one I’d recommend to newer RPGers or players who are wanting a fast paced, cinematic, and storytelling focused system. The rules rarely get in the way of the game, and it’s a pretty fun ride on the read through.

I’d purchase this game again, and the fact that I keep trying to come up with campaigns to use this game for is an indicator of how it’s caught my attention.