Monday, September 29, 2008

Roll Or Choose

So here's an idea I had the other day: a series of random charts entitled Roll Or Choose, each of which posits a question and answers it a number of ways. Each chart pulls double duty -- it can either answer such a question in-game, or it can be used as a springboard to a planned encounter or maybe even a whole adventure.

Here's an example, why not.

WHAT'S THAT STARSHIP DOING ON A MOUNTAIN?
  1. Crashed there (1d4) weeks ago. 75% of valuable cargo being salvageable.
  2. Abandoned (1d4) (1d4; 1=Days, 2=weeks, 3=months, 4=years) ago. 65% of still being operable.
  3. Engaged in smuggling operations! (Even=Picking Up; Odd=Dropping Off). The PCs are witnesses -- which the smugglers don't intend to leave...
  4. It's stranded! The crew are friendly (2-in-6) or terribly grumpy. May trade goods/favors/information for assistance/rescue.
  5. Hiding from pursuers who, naturally, show up right after the PCs do.
  6. Hiding in ambush! 4-in-6 chance that the crew will immediately mistake the PCs for their targets!
  7. It's illegally parked! If the planet has a starport, the encountered ship has set down in the mountains to avoid starport docking fees. If confronted about it, the crew will (Even) politely ask or (Odd) threaten the PCs not to tell.
  8. Vacationing! GM must determine crew's willingness to invite the PCs to their little party.
There. Not much to it, but maybe some interesting ideas, don't you think?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I Heart "The Real Ghostbusters", But Do I Heart It THAT Much?

I've always liked The Real Ghostbusters, the cartoon adaptation of the movie. Even at age 13 I could tell the writing was good stuff; I even found some of the episodes downright haunting (pun intended, sort of).

My wife was a big fan, too -- she' come home after school and watch it every day. And our daughter has watched the same episode about...5 times in two 24 hours.

We've started looking for the shows on DVD, and...no go. So I dug a little deeper, and - guess what? Time-Life is releasing a 25-disc set this November. It'll have every episode and 12 hours of extras, including the unaired pilot, interviews with J. Michael Straczynski, Maurice LaMarche and others, a booklet...

...dreamy. Absolutely dreamy.

Guess I'd better just keep dreaming, though.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Have Two Things stuck In My Head

One is the theme song from Freakazoid!, arguably the funniest cartoon of the otherwise-poopies 1990s; the other is the germ of a game idea which I have developed no further past the following illustration:


No, I don't know why, either.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Doc Rotwang! Reviews StarSIEGE - Event Horizon

No one asked for it, really, but I felt like doin' it: my review of StarSIEGE - Event Horizon. ¡En Ingl├ęs!

WHAT IT IS
StarSIEGE - Event Horizon (SSEH) is a new science fiction RPG from Troll Lord Games, designed by Josh Chewning. It's the first published use of the popular SIEGE Engine outside of Castles & Crusades. You get a box (a sturdy one, at that) with 2d20, 4 copies of the Field Manual (aka Player's Guide), 1 Operations Manual (aka GM's Guide), 1 copy of Victory: 2442 (a sample setting), and some cardstock reference and character sheets.

SO...IT'S CASTLES & CRUSADES IN SPACE?
Some folks want exactly that; others, anything but that. The answer to the question is:

No, not really.

Here's the skinny: SSEH uses the core SIEGE Engine to get things done (the use of a Primary ability has lower base target number than the use of a Secondary ability), but it does so without classes. Neither will you encounter Armor Class, Hit Points or even Levels. BUT! If you really want that stuff, it's embarrassingly easy to drop it back in - a series of sidebars tell you how.

You CAN have it both ways. Enjoy that cake, Chico.

WHY STARSIEGE - EVENT HORIZON IS AWESOME
...oh, boy. Where to start? It's all in one box, for one; that's great, because not only is it complete in that box, but you have room for notes, character sheets, etc. Nice.

The real meat of SSEH's awesomosity lies in its flexibility. A wide range of SF characters, equipment, settings, powers and so on are available to you, in the form of Trappings. There is a built-in system to help you design anything you need, from aliens to weapons to starships...and it's fast and easy to use. No HERO-style point-juggling here; jot down everything you need, add up the Building Points, then spread out the total amongst the necessary stats (XP cost, Drain, Reliability, Value, Size, Tech Level, etc.). There's a slight learning curve, but trust me, you'll get it.

No less awesome is the fact that the SIEGE Engine was pretty much made with improvisation in mind. It has a very strong Old School flavor wrapped in a contemporary "unified mechanic" style, which makes the game fun for player and SIEGE Engineer (read "GM") alike.

The most intriguing aspect, though, has to be the planet creation system. Planets, you see, are designed like characters, and rules are given for interactions between them -- even for fights. How cool is that?

Oh, and hey -- you know how it's easy for PCs to get left out in starship combat? Not in SSEH. Everyone has a chance to do something when the TIEs (or the Starfuries, or the Interceptors or the...) come 'round. The rules for this are damn easy, too. So that's pretty awesome.

IS THERE ANYTHING THAT'S NOT AS AWESOME?
Well, yeah. I mean, it's not perfect. Thankfully, its flaws are, in my estimation, few and far between; still, here they are.

It can be argued that the Trappings system is a little tricky to use. However it's not because of any inherent complexity or clumsiness in the system, but rather because a Trapping can be too simple. My first Trapping was, not surprisingly, a cyberdeck; I ended up with a device no larger than a tennis ball which almost never crashes, is cheap enough to buy in bulk and can be manufactured AND operated by any Neanderthal who is close to hand. Thankfully, when I mentioned this on Troll Lord's SIEGE Forum, Josh Chewning showed up and set me straight (you can read our discussion, and get his rad 'deck, here.)

The movement rules in the Ops Manual and the Field Guide contradict each other (the Field Manual is correct). The art is sparse and repetitive. The layout is very, very bare, which means it's legible as all get-out but not exactly exciting. Minor, minor gripes all.

The biggest gripe is (or rather, might be) this:

It's a toolkit.

That means that, while there are a good number of Trappings already made up (equipment, races, etc.), a lot of stuff is left up to you. You may dig that; you may not. It's easy to build stuff if you have a clear idea and make sure to think thoroughly, but you're still building. (I haven't read Victory: 2442, therefore cannot comment on it as a setting -- but it's chock full of spaceships, cousin.)

SO WHAT'S THE VERDICT?
It's rad. Totally. I'm serious. This game is good for tons of fun, and it can support your campaign for a long time all by itself. Despite a few very minor flaws, StarSIEGE: Event Horizon is solid, uncomplicated, and ready to roll.

So roll, already.

Monday, September 08, 2008

I'll Tear At You Searching For Weaker Seams

Alison Moyet was close; it's not winter that kills. No, the killer is fall.

I don't need a calendar to tell me when it's near. I an tell from the sunlight, the way it changes, and what it does to me. I'm not looking forward to it.

That said, a buddy of mine is opening an honest-to-goodness comedy club here in town and he has asked me to come in for Open Mic Night. He thinks I have The Funny, or...something. Maybe he just needs warm bodies, I dunno. Maybe if I do that this fall, maybe a few times throughout the season, it'll take my mind off of it.

In the meantime...I dread the turning of the Sun*.


*Yes, I know the Sun isn't turning -- it's the Earth's axial tilt. But you notice it because of the Sun's path in the sky, and that's relative to the observer on the surface f the Earth, so...hey, I remember Astronomy 101 with Professor Stuart Mufson. That was 15 years ago, too. Huh.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

"So...Where's That StarSIEGE Review, Doc?"

Yeah, I know! It's in the draft stage. This is the busy* season at work, and I'm spending a little more time with my kid (not that I didn't before, just a little more of it, is all), so that slows down my internet ramblings.

Don't worry. You'll get a thorough review of StarSIEGE because that sucker deserves it.

*I almost typed "busty". What's up with that?