Archive for September, 2011

Monster Corp

Posted: September 19, 2011 in 1 Heart, Uncategorized

Have you ever played Zoo Tycoon or one of the various clones? Then you understand the basic concept behind Monster Corp. Basically, it starts out with a very Jurassic Park-esque intro sequence in which it is revealed that the fossils of ancient monsters have been discovered and the scientists have begun extracting DNA from them to clone the creatures. Obviously, the next step is that you open a zoo to exhibit these monsters. Because clearly, there is nothing wrong with opening a zoo containing giant horrible bloodthirsty monsters. This clearly won’t end in terrible, right?

So, basically you have this little room that they keep calling a museum but it looks much more like a zoo, given that it has live animal…monster…things. You have to make sure you keep food and such stocked. You also have to keep cleaners and such on the payroll to make sure they keep your monster cages clean.

So, then you start in and realize just how unintuitive the interface is. I’m pretty sure that it has stopped  acknowledging any times that I send people out to explore for new fossils. They seem to be charging me the money but not giving me any DNA. Also, both of my monsters just died from neglect while I was writing this. I’m not entirely sure how the goals work in this game. They seem to keep giving me more goals to achieve despite the fact that I haven’t completed the earlier ones.

My favorite part of this comedy of errors is the grammar. I’m pretty sure the designer was translating their dialogue using an electronic translator. The word choice and grammar only get better in the help screens and such.

Over all, this game is hilariously bad. The story doesn’t make sense, the grammar and writing are atrocious and the mechanics didn’t make any sense. The graphics were kind of cute…I guess. The music was repetitive and kind of hurt after a while. I’m really sad to say it, but I feel like this might be the worst I’ve ever slammed a game, this might be worse than Kitty Spangles, which is impressive in a terrible kind of way. In conclusion, like the aforementioned nightmare of my gaming, Monster Corp has earned 1 out of 5 hearts.

Pokemon Tower Defense

Posted: September 16, 2011 in Uncategorized
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So Tower Defense games are cool right? And RPGs are cool right? And everyone loves Pokemon right? So lets take all three and mush them together and make a single awesome game. Basically, the concept is that you are a pokemon trainer and start out with one of the traditional starters (bulbasaur, charmander, squirtle). Then you head out and start interacting with the extremely unusual plot. Almost immediately you encounter Team Rocket, as per always, but strangely they seem to be working with Brock.

So, basically you line up your pokemon in the available squares and then they auto-attack with one of their 4 attacks. You get to choose which one, but they default to the top attack. You can move your pokemon around mid-battle to better face the enemy. You can also capture pokemon that have red health bars by clicking on the pokeball in the bottom right hand corner. This also pauses the game so that the pokemon you want to capture doesn’t get fainted before you can catch it.

The art looks entirely like the old Pokemon gameboy games which just adds to the novelty of the game. They also used all of the old music and sound effects. You can also eventually unlock a pokedex to keep track of all the pokemon you’ve seen and captured. And there is challenge mode which allows you to unlock shiny pokemon.

Overall, I find this to be a very entertaining take on the class tower defense genre. The story is entertaining and keeps taking twists that I don’t expect, while still going through the same classic pokemon formula. I give this game a 4 out of 5 hearts. Its a good game and the story definitely keeps it going. The menu also includes a multiplayer mode to be added later and I look forward to it.

4/5 Hearts

Swords and Potions

Posted: September 14, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Envision your standard shop in an RPG style game. You come in and the merchant may or may not have what your looking for, and you might be able to sell inventory items to the merchant. So imagine now that you’re the merchant instead of the adventurer. You get to haggle with the adventurers coming into your shop, you get to hire craftsmen to make your merchandise. There are a lot interesting stats that can be messed around with and achievements for the gaining, which is always awesome.

So, here’s where the complaining begins. First off, its a microtransaction flash game. Well…that could be reasonable, except that every few in game days you see a screen like the one below. You can buy more days for money…but that’s no fun. Its particularly depressing when you’re going along and doing really well and suddenly…wait 10 minutes before you get to do anything else. What makes this worse is that the game itself is very very fast paced. So you’re completely focused, in the zone and then BAM! Black screen of boredom.

There are some games in which the requirement to build up a lot of a resource in order to upgrade your existing items or to buy more items. And in a lot of games this is really fun and good. And then there are some games in which the costs are prohibitively high and the other option requires real world money. This is one of the second kind. There’s a whole menu of things that can be purchased for the shop to get you more customers or increase the skill of your employees, however they cost so much gold that buying them is silly.

Overall, as much fun as I have been having playing this game, it has so many problems that it probably isn’t really worth my time. I give Swords and Potions a 2 out of 5 hearts. Better luck next time.

The Peanut Gallery

Posted: September 9, 2011 in Uncategorized
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Table top gaming was once relegated to the darkest corners of the basement, surrounded by old pizza boxes and soda cans, hiding the faces of the players from the accursed day-star. In recent years, however, watching table tops be played has become almost as much fun as playing in them, especially with a good story teller. I frequently find that my games include one or two people who aren’t playing, but sit in the room to record the ridiculous things that get said or done. I have special rules for the people who are observers in my game, and sometimes I feel like these rules should be unnecessary but every time, I get surprised.

Have you ever been running a game and had someone around who wasn’t playing but insists on talking to someone who is? Have you been another player in that game? Have you been the one being talked to? How about the one doing the talking? Recently, I was one of the players who was sitting there during a Dungeons and Dragons 4E game, waiting on another player to make her move during combat and one of the guys watching us play was talking to her about something, slowing down our game. What made matters worse was that the GM was trying to also talk to her. So, first rule of watching games is not to bother the players, especially if they are currently making an action, working on making an action or talking to the GM.

So, the players are in a room with a table and a mirror and you’re thinking ‘Really? You don’t know the answer? Really guys?’ So maybe you blurt out the answer. This is going to anger the players because maybe they think that you think they’re too dumb to know the answer. This angers the GM because you just gave away the secret of the room and potentially ruined part of the game for the players. I’ve run this particular puzzle before and have had it go anywhere from seconds to nearly an hour before the players got the solution and every time they’ve been proud of finally getting there. Having that moment of achievement taken away because of someone who wasn’t even part of the game sucks.

play puzzle 150x150 A Fun Brain Exercise

In review, one of the most important things you can do while watching a game is not distract the players or solve puzzles for them. But here’s something I bet you weren’t expecting. If you’re watching a game, there are two important things you should do before the game even starts. You should first ask the GM for permission to sit in on the game. Some GMs might be opposed to having something else in the room. The second thing you should ask is if this is a one-shot that may be run again in the future. I have a bunch of one-shots that I run in Fudge, many of which I have run multiple times. I have no problem with people who have already played sitting and watching the game to see how they go differently but if I know someone wants to play in a later run, I will not allow them to stay in the room because it ruins the puzzles and surprises.

As I’m sure some of you know, I am a Fudge storyteller. I hesitate to say GM because my games are very much interactive stories with very little in the way of the standard table top roleplaying elements. For the campaign that I am running, I maintain a setting known as Nightshade Academy. This is a medieval fantasy based setting with a school for magic and magical creatures. One of the major problems I had been having with this setting was resolving the way werecreatures and shape changing creatures are treated in most table top system with each other and with the way that werecreatures feel like they work in fantasy and mythological stories. As such, I wrote out my way of handling such creatures. Basically, you take a human and write up their base form. Here I am using a human wizard, age 11. My normal character builds give 3 free stat increases, 3 great skills, 8 good skills, 2 gifts and 2 flaws. This character, known as Magen, is a were-jaguar. Magen has only 1 gift and 1 flaw free for the player to choose. The other gift is “Shift – Were form” and the other flaw is “Werecreature”.

Human

  • Stamina – Fair
  • Health – Fair
  • Damage mitigation – Fair
  • Dexterity – Fair
  • Perception – Good
  • Willpower – Good
  • Reasoning – Good
  • Skills
  •       Great
  •             Literacy
  •             Theology/Myths/Rituals
  •             Language – Greek
  •       Good
  •             Legends & Stories
  •             Scholarly Magic
  •             History
  •             Thaumatology
  •             Arcane Lore
  •             Language – Mayan
  •             Language – French
  •             Language – Latin
  •       Gifts
  •             Eidetic Memory
  •             Shift – Were-Jaguar
  •       Flaws
  •             Shy
  •            Werecreature

 When the shift to her jaguar form occurs, she gets 3 more free points to put into her physical attributes and has to take 2 mental attribute reductions. She gets 3 new great skills and 8 new good skills, replacing the skills from her human form. She also gets a new gift to replace her human form gift and her human form flaw is replaced with “Unable to Speak”. This may or may not apply depending on the setting.

Were-Jaguar

  • Stamina – Good
  • Health – Fair
  • Damage mitigation – Good
  • Dexterity – Good
  • Perception – Good
  • Willpower – Mediocre
  • Reasoning – Good
  • Skills
  •         Great
  •             Acrobatics
  •             Athletics
  •             Move Quietly
  •         Good
  •             Weapon – claws
  •              Read Opponent
  •              Tactics
  •              Balance
  •              Climbing
  •              Jumping
  •              Ambush
  •              Stealth
  •         Gifts
  •             Quick Reflexes
  •             Shift – Human
  •          Flaws
  •             Unable to speak
  •             Werecreature

My intention with this way of writing up the character is that the player can make two character sheets and switch between them when the character changes forms. It addresses the fact that a character expending an entire gift for another form should truly have another form and other skills and talents in that form. This can also allow the player to choose what parts of their mind they choose to retain in their animal form. An optional addition, at the discretion of the GM, is that while in the wereform, the player can use all of their Great ranked mental skills from their base form.

This method of creating a were-creature was tested over this past weekend during a pre-genned module calling Sorting which is part of my Nightshade Academy fantasy setting. One of the students newly come into their power is a werewolf. Three different players played the werewolf and they all enjoyed the character, especially since switching forms is essentially free. Out of the three players, 2 had played Fudge before and 1 had not. The only complaint was that the Gifts of a character should be available in both forms. For example, the pre-generated werewolf had Danger Sense in its human form but no in the wolf form. I do agree that this makes more logical sense and for player created characters this should always be an option. But there may be powers such as Mechanical Genius, which wouldn’t make any sense to apply while in an animal form.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little ramble about this new way of doing werecreatures and shifters. In the future, I intend to discuss my new system for characters who don’t know they have powers yet and how to do it.

So no shit there I was, supporting a line defending my new home in the lands of Chimeron against the darkness of Bedlam. Our line was doing well, keeping solid. I was running messages, casting a spell here to there as I was useful and things like that. Suddenly, one of our mages panicked and let fly a spell that sent such uncontrolled terror through me that I couldn’t help but flee as far and as fast as I could. I hid in the forest until I had calmed back down enough to return to the fight, only to discover that it wasn’t just myself that had fled, but every faerie or part faerie in the immediate area. We were no longer doing so well in the defense.

The point of that little story is that I am a roleplayer, a paste eater if you will. Sure, 3 years after this story took place I am now a fairly capable fighter with none of that magic nonsense, but I am still playing a faerie and still quite prone to little problems like the casting of a spell known as “Fear the Purging”. Stick Jock and Paste Eater are two very interesting words wrapped up in quite a bit of meaning. A stick jock is a person who plays a combat LARP primarily or even solely for the combat portions of the game. A Paste Eater is someone who plays a LARP primarily or solely for the roleplay aspects of the game. Now, of course, there are people who bridge this gap and enjoy being thugs while also roleplaying their hearts out. These people are usually going to be the vast majority, in my experience. Especially since we’re talking about a combat game.

So you want to be a Stick Jock

Maybe your friends LARP and you’ve liked sparring with them so you’re going to throw on a little garb and go hit things. Maybe you found the system on your own or through an on campus club. No matter how you found your way to LARPing, there are some very important lessons that a stick jock needs to learn early on. The first one is simple and applies to everyone, not just stick jocks, because there are days when even the most paste eatingest roleplayer just doesn’t care: No matter how much you don’t care about the story or the plot, do not break the mood for others, do not ruin the fun of others and above all else, do not make the person running the game have a hard to or regret running it. There is nothing more discourage to a person running a LARP than people mocking their game or event. There is nothing that will more anger and upset a hardcore roleplayer than someone talking about something that has nothing to do with the game. For example, there was one time that I was standing before the currently sealed open in a cave tunnel, we were preparing to face off with a very powerful golem and a troll wizard. We had just completed a very powerful (and very disgusting) ritual to Gaea and we knew that we would now be able to harm the golem. I was standing there, axe and shield in my hands trying to psych myself up for the final fight of the night when suddenly the half elf standing next to me starts talking to his lord about where they’re going to go for dinner after the event ends and whether they’ll be able to make the next event because of work. It was more than annoying, it completely broke the mood that we were about to go attempt a very difficult fight and that we might all be about to die.

Another thing that can be very important as a Stick Jock is making sure that you have picked a combat system in which you can fight in a way you enjoy and still be safe for the other players. There are many types of combat LARPs, using everything from foam swords to nerf guns. Some systems have hit points, some have location based systems. Some allow head shots, most don’t. A lot of LARPs include a rule to limit the amount of times you can swing your weapon in a given period of time, either by requiring that the weapon come back to a certain point or by flat out saying you can only swing so many times before you have to take a step back. Most LARP systems are going to be what is called Lightest Touch. What this means is that you have to take any blow, no matter how light. You also have you to swing as lightly as possible to make contact. There are a few systems, however, where you are allowed to hit people harder, if they are for example wearing plate armor. Anyone who wants to play multiple systems should always make sure that they are safe in all the systems that they intend to play in.

Remember that you are playing a roleplaying game. Some people are going to make pacifist characters or maybe a character that dies instantly if you hit them with a weapon made of silver or magic. These sorts of things happen and you should be understanding of these people and their characters. If that is the sort of fun they choose to have, then there is no reason that you should not let them. You’re probably thinking, why on earth should I care how the other people are playing? What if the other people on your line are faeries and a spell is cast that causes them to run away, or you’re fighting alongside a bunch of undead and the enemy takes control of them. These sorts of things happen, and you just have to roll with it and not let it get to you.

In review, the code of a good Stick Jock is as follows:

  1. No matter how much I don’t care, I will not break the mood and ruin the fun of others
  2. I will be a safe fighter for everyone else playing
  3. I will be understanding towards people who choose to have character flaws that may detract from their combat and interaction ability

So you think you’re a Paste Eater

You probably play table top games, maybe you really like fantasy or science fiction novels and movies. Maybe you play an MMORPG or other roleplaying video games. You probably have a really in depth character background, and odds are your character has all kinds of interesting flaws to them. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having character flaws. I encourage them because they round out characters and make them more realistic. Being a Paste Eater has just as many responsibilities as being a Stick Jock. The first thing to remember is that in any LARP, there is no such thing as a main character. You are one of the players, everyone gets the chance to be a hero if they so choose. While you might get a moment here or a moment there where you get to be the star, you can’t demand that people constantly be paying attention to you at the cost of other people, or worse at the cost of the game master’s story. Its alright for your character to stand by their morals and refuse to kill and eat babies, for example, but you shouldn’t continue to harass the people who did months (or years) later. You can be a pacifist or hate elves or fear magic or whatever you want, but do not make it so that other people aren’t having fun because of the type of character you have chosen to play.

There are times when you just need to give up and hit things with a stick. Maybe there are bandits blocking the way, maybe you’re in hell or maybe you’re in the middle of a war. There are going to be times when you can’t talk your way out of the situation. You can try your damnedest, but maybe the NPCs are playing aggressive characters or maybe they were told to resort to combat. Combat happens, I promise you that. If you’re completely averse to combat, consider trying a theatre style LARP. But if you want to take part in a combat LARP, you will get hit and you will sometimes have to fight.

When you’re making your character, it might seem like a good idea to be afraid of fire and the dark, to be weak to iron and to have a specific way that people can take control of your character. It might seem like a good idea to only speak in your own native language. Maybe your character can only repeat the last word said to you. Maybe you have horrible amnesia. No matter how you build your character, you need to stop and think about how this character will interact with other people. Can you have a conversation? Are you willing to let your character be taught and change?  If you’re willing to have character growth, you can get away with more than you can otherwise. But remember that your character should always be able to handle dealing with other people. You can be shy or afraid, but be willing to talk to people.

To review, the code of a good Paste Eater is as follows:

  1. I will not detract from the event or other people’s fun with my character’s drama
  2. I will take part in combat if combat is necessary
  3. I will not make a character that has so many or such severe flaws that they cannot be interacted with by others
No matter which side of the equation you find yourself landing on, its important to remember that your focus should be on everyone having fun and being safe. LARPing is about people having fun together and no matter who you are and what you’re playing, you should do your best to play nicely with the other players.