Saturday, November 13, 2010

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

L5R RPG : FInal Rest : Epilogue : Hour of the Hare

A miserable end to any revenge story is one where the protagonist does not get his revenge at all. However, the GM of this story may choose to have both the protagonist and antagonist die. Or have the protagonist learn there is more to this story than just a kidnapping. Or, have the villain escape for a long term nemesis to hound and annoy Samurai X.

GM's should tailor the finale and the denouement to the player's style, giving some degree of control to the player who has endured so much to get to this point.

Some final questions.
Does Kajime survive?
Is the ceremony thwarted? If not, what happens?
Who else knows about this?
How does everything turn out for the other parties involved?
Are magistrates involved? Or does the story end inside a vacuum, with 99.9% of Rokugan never hearing anything of this tale?

Homage
Man on Fire

L5R RPG : FInal Rest : Part 12 : Hour of the Tiger

Hour of the Tiger
In this chapter, Samurai X has his final showdown with the leader cultist, who is no push-over.

First. He must find him in the temple.

Second. He must stop the ritual before the final hour bell rings.

Third. He must get his revenge.

Step one can be as easy or tough as you'd like. Is the interior a labyrinth? Is there a second or third floor? Are there secret doors? Panels?

Step two involves a little more creativity. Should Samurai X get to the final chamber of the temple, the entire room goes pitch black as the cult leader waves his massive cloak and extinguishes all of the candles.

And then the snakes enter into the room

So. Step three becomes more about surviving and escaping with Kajime and less about killing the leader of the cult.

Note. The leader's stats should be similar to the PCs. His skill sets also similar, although

Required Rolls
Everything

Homage
Silence of the Lambs

Thursday, August 26, 2010

L5R RPG : FInal Rest : Part 11 : Hour of the Ox

Hour of the Ox
In this chapter, Samurai X must fight wave after wave of fanatical zealots, loyal to the cult's cause. The interior of the temple can hold as many monks/cultists as you would like, but beyond 30 and this is going to get very silly. The hallways are wide enough for 2-4 cultists, coming wave after wave.

The PC should actually get tired of the fighting.

As for the temple itself… since this temple was built for another purpose, feel free adorn the interior however you like, and desecrate the walls with unholy words, strange markings, and blood.

Required Rolls
Fighting. Lots and lots of fighting.

Homage
Jackie Chan

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

L5R RPG : FInal Rest : Part 10 : Hour of the Rat

Hour of the Rat
In this chapter, Samurai X must find a way inside the temple, which has been barred during his fight with the other cultists and with 'Moose.' And since it's uncertain where the hostage is, burning down the temple is not an option.

And time is running out.

The GM should increase the tension here. Screams from inside the temple, eerie sounds that aren't quite right, and movement in the dark that can't be parsed or explained. All the while, the temple proves to be insurmountable as a task in from of him.

Required Rolls
Anything requiring ingenuity or persistence.

Homage
Throne of Blood

Thursday, August 12, 2010

L5R RPG : FInal Rest : Part 9 : Hour of the Boar

Hour of the Boar
Having just killed a squad of cultists, Samurai X must now contend with the temple bodyguard who is no push-over. It is recommended that you open with a sweeping scene of the carnage surrounding the samurai, followed by some cleaning of his wounds, and the bathing of his sword in a brook of clear water before ascending the step of the temple.

The temple bodyguard is a moose of a man, without much brains and easily manipulated by the cult leader. "Moose" as he is called by his fellow cultists should make even a Crab samurai stop and consider what is at stake here. If this guy gets in one solid strike, it is all over…

It is recommended that the GM use some kind of time-stopping, dramatic showdown rules here to really ramp up the drama…

Required Rolls
Intimidate
Awareness
Perception

Homage
Yojimbo

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

L5R RPG : FInal Rest : Part 8 : Hour of the Dog

Hour of the Dog
In this chapter, Samurai X seeks out the temple. Perhaps with the aid of a local, or through grit and determination, he comes upon a well-defended temple. Which should seem suspicious, since most monks have nothing to guard.

This chapter is pretty straight-forward. Keep throwing cultists at the samurai until the he has had enough a dozen or so should do it.

Required Rolls
Fight!

Homage
Sanjuro

Sunday, August 01, 2010

L5R RPG : FInal Rest : Part 7 : Hour of the Rooster

Hour of the Rooster
In this chapter, Samurai X basks in the glory of his actions from the previous chapter, either from violence or subtlety. Regardless of the reason, the people of the village take notice of the samurai's prowess, feed him, bathe him, and guide him up the road to the temple that he seeks.

It's only a matter of time now…

The Samurai should be able to taste his revenge.

Required Rolls
Test of Honor

Homage
Zatoichi anything

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

L5R RPG : FInal Rest : Part 6 : Hour of the Monkey

Hour of the Monkey
In this chapter, Samurai X reaches the half-way point of the story and the first real break in his travels. A small village in a remote part of the province is the resting place of several cult members, indulging in worldly pursuits before their plans see fruition.

There are many roads the samurai can take here. Direct confrontation will most likely lead to violence, which isn't necessarily a bad thing… these cultists deserve to die, but it could mean jeopardizing the mission. Subterfuge will lead to more information about the whereabouts of the enemy, but an honorable samurai would never reduce himself to suck chicanery. Taking a cultist alive won't help matters as they are sworn to secrecy. And waiting to see what the cultists do is not an option, as time is running out.

It is up to the GM to determine the next course of action for the hero, as time is running out.

Let the samurai set his own path here.
Be prepared to dig two graves.

Required Rolls
Kenjutsu
Dodge
Anything related to fighting

Homage
Ronin Gai

Monday, July 12, 2010

L5R RPG : FInal Rest : Part 5 : Hour of the Goat

Hour of the Goat
In this chapter, Samurai X must take time to re-center himself and reflect on what has happened so far and where he is going. Wisdom gained here will help him in all the following chapters of the story.

After the last chapter, the samurai should be on the right path to finding the cultist. The road is brambly, overun, and generally not well maintained, but eventually he will reach a bridge over a calm brook of water. Serenity starts to seep in and the surroundings take the samurai away to a better place. Cherry blossoms fall to the earth and mingle with the near-perfect beauty of the surroundings.

The scene is breathtaking, even for a a samurai who has seen it all.

Almost blending into background is a lone, elderly monk, who leans on his staff and watches the water cascade ever so effortlessly down the brook. He beckons to the samurai to join him in quiet contemplation upon that which Amaterasu has blessed us with.

The goal here is to calm the samurai who is most certainly vexed by the situation he is in.

Guide the samurai to inner tranquility
Get him to focus his mind and body
Offer him wisdom that will aid him in the final chapters
Answer one question he has
Offer the samurai experience points once it is over

Required Rolls
Void
Meditation
Tea Ceremony

Homage
House of Flying Daggers

Friday, July 09, 2010

L5R RPG : FInal Rest : Part 4 : Hour of the Horse

Hour of the Horse
Once again, speed is of the essence. If Samurai X wasted time in the previous chapter — as he should have — then he should feel as though the trail is growing cold. If he questions the locals, they know nothing. If he searches for tracks, they are washed away by a small creek. If he pushes on, despite having little clues, his horse collapses in exhaustion.

The is a good time to get the samurai lost. Take him down a road into a part of the empire he is not familiar... and watch what happens. This should be a short distraction from the task at hand, but being lost should definitely worry the PC. He is now in a place where the villagers do not recognize him or do not trust him. Perhaps they even have their own dialect. Play it up however you like.

Do not distract the samurai for than one (rokugani) hour, but make finding his way back difficult.With or without a horse. Throw in a minor side-plot about a peasant needing help with a bully or something if you really want to mix it up.

I don't recommend it, but it's your game.

Required Rolls
Willpower
Perception
Honor

Homage
Throne of Blood

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

L5R RPG : FInal Rest : Part 3 : Hour of the Serpent

Hour of the Snake
In this chapter, Samurai X must choose between two paths. He can believe whatever lie the cultist told him last time or he can go the opposite way (it is the GM's job to make sure that there are only two real possibilities at this point). One decision will surely put him hours behind where he needs to be.

The point of this chapter, however, is to heighten the tension and let the PC think he has lost time. Perhaps the cultist had a map to a place that does not exist. Perhaps he gave bad directions or with his dying breath tells the samurai the missing girl is in a place far from where she really is.

Speed up the action
Slow down the action
Describe unimportant things in detail
Gloss over seemingly important things so the samurai must ask questions


Required Rolls
Perception
Willpower
Intelligence
Honor

Homage
16 Blocks

Friday, July 02, 2010

L5R RPG : FInal Rest : Part 2 : Hour of the Dragon

Hour of the Dragon
In this chapter, Samurai X comes upon one of the cultists on the road. The cultist is disguised, and is actually here to detain the samurai, but that should not be evident. Vengeance should fill the mind of the samurai, clouding his decision-making. The overly helpful-cultist should send up a warning flag, eventually, but only after he has done everything in his power to confound the samurai.

Should the samurai try to the cultist, however, the cultist is ready.

If a fight ensues, make sure it spills into the streets and becomes as public as possible. While this is the last thing the cultists want, this is a great way to heighten the drama and tension. Now the samurai has publicly defeated (murdered) another person. Certainly magistrates or authorities will hear of it.

Lie to the samurai.
Lie some more.
Give false information.
Misdirect.
Offer aid that is unreasonable, but seemingly a gift.

Required Rolls
Manipulation
Kenjutsu
Perception

Homage
Kill Bill, Vol. 1

Thursday, July 01, 2010

L5R RPG : FInal Rest : Part 1 : Hour of the Hare

Hour of the Hare
In this chapter, Samurai X must give chase. And quickly. Speed is everything here. Do not give the PCs time to think about anything. Every peasant they talk to gives different information about where the cultist went. Most did not see them. Others are terrified of both the samurai and the cultists. A few are willing to help, but don't know much. Only one knows the truth.

Keep the PCs on their toes.
Keep them guessing.
Put an hourglass on the table to increase the tension.
Play music from the Onimusha video game.
Distract them with the descriptions of mundane activity all around until they focus their mind on the task at hand.

Required Rolls
Void or Meditation

Fire or Dexterity
Air of Awareness

Homage
Akira Kurosawa's Stray Dog


Goru runs to the street, finds a peasant gathering water from the well for early morning tea and soup. He makes wild accusations, he points and shouts. He even threatens the peasant. This continues for several minutes as he goes from peasant to peasant looking for answers. In desperation, Goru starts running north to the edge of the village and he does not stop running until he spots a dirty mendicant digging in the mud of worms… a few zeni should get this man to tell Goru everything he needs to know.

"My steps never faltered. My resolution never wavered. I am samurai. I am the way and the path and the sword. Nothing, not even the ignorance of the cravenly will deter me from finding Kajime. These villains will taste my blade. The heavens will tell my tale."

L5R RPG : Final Rest, Part 0 of 12

In contrast to the previous adventure which takes place over many days, weeks, etc... depending on the length of the chase, this adventure is structured over a 24-hour (12 in Rokugan) period, with each hour broken down into a separate chapter.

Having nothing to do with the the show 24, this idea was based on a video game I played where the main character was racing up a hill against a clock... and that blossomed into what you are reading now.

This is the start of a 12-part story, that I will detail over 12 small blog posts.

Zero
Samurai X must get from location A to location Z in 24 hours. The reason is inconsequential to the story. The GM is encouraged to make this a revenge story, but it's not necessary. The threads of the plot will be left open for you to detail.

Each chapter will have an example based on the idea that Goru must reach the Swift Viper's Temple before the sun rises tomorrow in order to stop the Cult of the Snake from sacrificing his daimyo's niece — Kajime — to the great serpent.

"The run was rising. Kajime was already gone… My head still spinning from last night's sake and whatever those bastards used to poison me. They should have used a lethal dose. Whatever lead time they thought they had, wouldn't help. I am coming for you."

Monday, June 14, 2010

Girlfriend Deletes Boyfriend's WoW Characters

I don't like WoW, so I don't really care what this guy is going through, but man is this chick out of line. Way way way out of line.

This is why women and gaming don't mix, people.

Link

Board Game Documentary

Link

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Kublacon

It's been too long a break from posting and luckily for anyone who comes to read this blog, my regular computer is being worked on... so I'm stuck on this water-cooled VAX-encapsulated calculation machine. Also known as a bubble-shaped iMAC.

I just returned from the Bay Area's favorite game convention, Kublacon… run by Japji Khalsa, a perennial feature in the gaming industry. I attended the show from Friday at 2pm until Sunday night at Midnight and had one of the best times I've ever had at any show.

I demo'd Thunderstone and Adventurers many many times.

And I played a few of my own designs with friends as well. However, the highlight for me was playing George's Children, which we haven't played in a long time, Dogs in the Vineyard (with Inquisition-era Paladins), and Tales of the Arabian Nights (by Z-Man games). George's was the best of the games, but we did get in THREE different games of TALES during the weekend.

I also got to see a few friends that I haven't seen in a while.





Someone ran a session of Thunderstone as an RPG. But I didn't get to play in it because I was starving and had to get some food.

Great show. I'm hoping to see everyone there again.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Family Games : 100 Best

Yours truly has an essay coming in Green Ronin's Family Games : 100 Best, edited and compiled by Mr. James Lowder himself. Rumor has it that James almost stalked and killed writers who were late with the essays. However, my abysmal essay was submitted over a year ago. Who knows if I even agree with my opinion anymore?

Anyway. If you liked this first one, this promising to be a hit. And Robert Schwalb and I appear back to back inside the book. Weird.

Link

UPDATE: We were mentioned on wired.com

Monday, April 26, 2010

L5R RPG Adventure : Winchester 73 : Kono no Tachi

If you've not seen this classic Western, Winchester '73, it's not a deal-breaker to run this RPG Adventure. However, if you'd like to watch it, it's really good. If you do intend to see it, do so before reading this, as the adventure has spoilers.

what you will need
one gm
two players
any edition of the legend of the five rings roleplaying game
rank 2 characters with significantly developed histories (see below)
a willingness to start a campaign from scratch and/or make characters specific to this adventure's tone

names
if you need names for characters, use these. but you might want to set this adventure in your own game world, so use whatever you like.
city — shinsei's hope
local lord — lord kenjire
blacksmith — o-kono

blade — kono no tachi 
murderer — tsuchiro


background
this adventure is set in any mid-sized town/city in rokugan. the crab or crane are ideal to host it, but it can really be anyone. the story begins when a master craftsman forges his final blade before retiring and giving up the blade to his lord. spending a lifetime honing is skills and perfecting his craft, this blade is the most perfectly balanced, most delicately engraved katana he has ever created. there's all kinds of cool here for a montage scene involving it's creation, the blessing of the water that cools it, and so on. his lord, a benevolent man, decides that the blade belongs in the hands of a true master. and in order to find this master, he holds a competition six days after the setsuban festival to determine who should receive the blade.

so enters the player characters — as well as a host of npcs.


characters
one of the players will take on the role of the "main character" [character a] and the other should be his "sidekick" [character b]. in rpgs circles this is a rare adventure structure, but it's very important to this story's development that only one of the characters bear a "grudge" and the other support his friend in this task. if the gm runs another adventure for these characters, he can balance it with a tale focused on character b.

the two characters are completely loyal to one another. party in-fighting has no place here, although the sidekick is allowed to be the comic relief at times, and certainly question the judgment of his friend. character a probably shouldn't get angry at this. he knows character b has his best interests at heart.

character a should max out his kenjutsu and iaijutsu as much as he can. he should also be a ronin, recently deposed after the murder of his master — a shameful act that has forced him to hunt the killer, rather than commit seppukku. there's a number of roleplaying advantages and disadvantages that reflect this background, so i leave it to the gm and players to find the best mix. this means character b is either from the same school/master, or a long-time friend of character a. either way, the characters aren't part of the social structure of rokugan — they have their own revenge mission to attend to.

lastly, character a (and b) should come from honorable families or at least backgrounds that do not encourage murder or treachery. this story doesn't make much sense if character a kills the murderer in his sleep.

character b should take a number of utility skills as well as a few combat skills that character a did not take (so they don't overshadow one another mechanically). he should not have many disadvantages. being character a's friend is disadvantage enough. also, since the adventure is not really his, he would be silly to allow him an enemy, addiction, haunted past, or any other self-interested disadvantage that draws attention to him.

character a arrives in the town, not knowing about the tournament, but instead following a lead on the man who killed his master (a fellow student of that same master). he quickly finds the culprit in a tea house (he's here for the competition), but must obey the local lord's law of no-fighting under the same moon as the setsuban festival (it will be eight more days before changing of the moon). in the film, this murderer is character a's brother, which the movie keeps a secret until the final act. it is not necessary for this adventure, but would be really cool if the gm and players agree.

note: if you're already running legend of the five rings for two players, this is a great adventure to place in the middle of your campaign, as a revenge tale for one of the pcs. although it would make him a ronin, so the gm should offer up some character points or xp as a reward for going along with this.

at this point, the adventure begins.


plot
character a has a number of choices here. he can wait patiently for the moon to change, hoping that the murderer doesn't slip from his grasp. he can enter the tournament and hope to win the blade. he can try to fight the murderer and face the prosecution of the local lord (should he survive the fight).

the obvious plot here is for the pc to join the competition, but the gm is encouraged to take this plot in any direction he wants. since this is a revenge story, the gm's goal is to draw out the killing as long as possible, in order to make the pc earn it.

anything but the competition
if the pc waits, the murderer flees in the middle of the night and the hunt begins.
if the pc fights the murderer in town anyway, he will most certainly lose (see below) and depending on the circumstance be on the run. not a good place to plot revenge from.
if the pc does anything other than enter the competition, the gm will have to decide what happens, taking into account everything written here.

competition
if the pcs enter the competition, the gm has the opportunity to draw up a 32 (or even 64) samurai tournament. he can really go nuts and develop every samurai in the competition, or just worry about the top eight. it should be noted, that it does not matter who wins (see below) as events will follow that get the adventure really rolling.

each round of the tournament is a non-lethal, boken-only duel. the first strike is all that is required to win, so the gm has to be careful about how to adjudicate this under the present dueling rules, because crane npcs and those with high-void have a huge advantage.

in a perfect world, the tournament comes down to character a and the murderer, with either winning as a great finish to the competition. more drama can be added by having character a holding himself back from giving the murderer a true thrashing with the boken. the gm is free to tailor this portion of the adventure to his personal taste.


the sword
whatever the outcome, the murderer will steal the sword and flee the city in the dead of night before the actual ceremony of gifting the sword can take place. maybe the murderer kills a few guards or the npc who was supposed to win the blade (if neither of the main figures won it). if this happens, the gm should give the pc some way to intervene — if necessary — but this is a plot-heavy adventure (at this point), so a lot of fudging might be in order to ensure the murderer gets away. but, some distraction or intervention should stop the murderer from being able to kill character a outright, too. short of losing the sword (if he even had it), the character has lost anything else (maybe a few boxes of honor and a few bruises).

wow. that's a poorly constructed paragraph.

additional complications include:
character b being distracted with menial tasks (i'll get the horses)
character a being drugged or knocked out
the local magistrate having to intervene (or being paid off)
another murder at the hands of the culprit, adding to his list of offenses
the player's horses are stolen, giving the murderer a head-start

each complication puts the pcs that much further away from their goal. each complication helps build the bulk of the story, however, so it's a balancing act for the gm and pcs.

the hunt
now the pcs have an objective they can pursue. with the murderer on the run, they can give chase. the gm should determine how many hours (or days) the murderer is ahead of the pcs. using the following chart, the gm can divide the time into segments.

headstart segments
0-3 hours special
3-6 hours 1 hour
6-12 hours 2 hours
12-24 hours 4 hours
24-48 hours 8 hours
48-96 hours 16 hours
96-192 hours 32 hours
192+ hours lost

each segment is a measure of how much time the pcs will gain or lose on the suspect during each leg of the hunt. up to twice per day, the pcs should be allowed a chance to gain on the subjet, by following local clues, interrogating people, and common sense ("he'd have to stop for water at some point at there's a river this way"). each of these "tests" should be a contested roll of some kind, devised by the gm, bearing in mind that the further away the murderer gets, the harder he will be to track. also bearing in mind, that once the pcs are less than a day from their prey, the tension will certainly mount, and the murderer will get sloppy.

this, dear readers, is a classic game of cat and mouse.

once the pcs are within 3 hours of the murderer, the adventure grows tight. the murderer must act now… and all of his options are drastic and panicked.
  • a quick murder should force the honorable pcs to stop and help.
  • a hostage will make them think twice before attacking.
  • threatening to break the katana should stop them.



the murderer
whatever the murderer's skill level at the beginning of the game, the murderer's stats are exactly the same, except he rolls 1k1 more in every combat related skill set. however, the murderer will not acquire XP as the adventure goes on, but the pc will. this means the pc will most-likely lose in a straight up fight with the murderer early on, but will grow into a better swordsman overtime.

the murderer's needs
the murderer is not just a 2-dimensional villain. he should be fleshed out by the gm. is he really character a's brother? did he kill the master for a reason? revenge of his own? to learn a secret? to bury a secret? to hide his shame? to avoid dishonor? if the gm doesn't have an answer to these questions, i have provided a character sketch for our villain tsuchiro (see below).

once you know who the murderer is, you may need to determine his needs. if he's a pirate, he's going to need a boat. if he's a "ninja-type," he's going to need a disguise. if he's a member of the imperial family, he's going to need to cover his tracks and destroy any evidence linking him to this "identity" and so on. in our version, tsuchiro is a self-centered, cowardly brute. his needs are simple:

horse (if does not have one)
water
food
shelter
change of clothes
rejoin his "gang"

the clues
as the pcs get closer and closer to the murderer, they should hear rumors of what he's been doing. "he wasn't alone." "had a woman with him." "two of his gang stole my horses and ran off without paying." "he looked hungry and mean." "someone gave him that scar."

obstacles
if you want to continue to confound the pcs and slow them down, put some obstacles in front of them. bandits could attack, or a village could be in need of aid. a way station is burned to the ground (perhaps by the murderer), or the local magistrate needs assistance in transporting a prison. if you own the gm's survival guide, roll up some random goodies and take the pcs on a tangent for a few hours.



the finale
once character a has finally cornered the murderer, the showdown begins. the showdown is a great concept that i've always wanted to sneak into any edition of L5R (or any RPG for that matter). but the drama of the samurai really embodies the showdown. so. here's how it works.

first. forget what you know about initiative. the showdown isn't about going first. it's about having the will to hold out as long as possible and force your opponent's hand.

second. it's very much like every showdown you've ever seen in a movie, where the camera cuts from one angle to another, showing the intensity growing on the faces (and features of the characters involved). the showdown at the end of good, bad, and the ugly is ideal.

okay. here's how it works. each character multiplies his FIRE by 5. this is the value of his "patience." sorry. i don't have a better term. each round of the showdown, the characters will make contested willpower rolls. each time a character fails by a measure of 5, he removes 1 point of patience (2 if he fails by 10, and so on). should this patience ever reach 0, he acts, strikes, lashes out, etc. his action is his own, but his timing is not. he's lost the showdown, and played his hand.

during the first round of combat, the character that "lashes out" acts last. if there are still people in the showdown, they will act in descending order or remaining "patience." so, the character who held out the longest, will actually act first. in a game about samurai, this is hugely important, because there might not be a second round of action.

in the showdown of this adventure, character a should have a huge advantage over the murderer (while character b deals with the "gang," etc.) — after all, the murderer has been chased for days and is exhausted and desperate. whatever drove him to murder his master did not die there… and his past has come to haunt him.

if the gm has done his job correctly, there's a lot of cool drama here.


tsuchiro
tsuchiro never bothered to fathom the candle and the flame... he just wanted the flame. meditation and honor were breaks in-between lessons about perfecting the sword stroke. his master always tried to nurture his intellectual needs, but tsuchiro had none. while the other students learned go, shogi, and poetry, tsuchiro learned how to run faster, climb higher, and plot deeper. when he was old enough, tsuchiro began to sneak from the dojo and committ petty crimes… anything to challenge himself… to see what he could get away with.

tsuchiro grew addicted to the life, addicted to the thrill of being a samurai on the outside, and a criminal on the inside. this duality never escaped his master, or character a. but his master's code also taught temperance and understanding. in time, tsuchiro would grow out of his antics, right?

epilogue
revenge stories fork at this point. some deal with the pointlessness of vengeance. others deal with the emptiness of no longer having a goal. some speak to faith... "how did the heavens let this happen in the first place?" and others still speak to the restlessness in all of us to mete out violence with violence.

what conclusion will the players draw? the gm? your characters?

and is this the end for them? or is the road of justice just beginning…

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Hey Everyone

So. I've been buried with a lot of work, lately. I haven't been gaming for a while. And I generally have lost faith in gaming groups... ah... just let me got through my grief.

That said, I have been busy as the art director of L5R again, and I'm also finishing up my tour of duty on Thunderstone before Brent Keith takes it over.

Sometime in the summer, I'll be able to tell everyone the cool thing I've been working on.

In the mean time, I'm just really filling up internet bandwidth.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Blackmoor Fate

Over at my portfolio, there's a discussion about what happened to Blackmoor.

I posted the cover I designed as well. For anyone that's into that sort of thing.

Link

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Geek Art

Without introduction…

Link

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Hiatus

Sorry for the long break in posts. Work has been arduous. My RPG group is no more. And I'm generally writing so much during the day, I have no interest in typing anymore at night.

The good news, though. Thunderstone is already sold out and we're printing it again.

Who knew?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Looking for Playtesters

Hey everyone. I know I've posted about this before, but if anyone is available to playtest board games, please contact me through the comments or e-mail.

Thanks

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Awful Game, Awesome Marketing

I don't play MMOs. I don't like walking simulators. Not sure how fun it is to watch a character walk from point A to point B and then back to point A.

However, a friend of mine tries all the new ones. Even if it's just a week. He of course tried the really, really, really poorly thought-through MMO — Age of Conan. I won't go into why it's bad. If you've played it, you know. If you haven't, go find one of the 600,000 disgruntled reviews online.

Below is a copy of a mass e-mail sent to a quarter of the planet who started and no longer plays this atrocious MMO.
This message is being sent to you because you have shown an interest in Funcom products. Get your email from Funcom, add newsletters@newsletter..funcom.com to your address book. You may unsubscribe at any time. [see the extra punctuation?]

Dear customer, [notice lack of capitalization in a form letter]

Thank you for playing Age of Conan.

As part of our maintenance your account is now flagged to have your characters below level 20 deleted as part of maintenance. Please re-activate your account now to ensure that your characters progress and names stay intact.

[say what now? my 200kb of data is ravaging your server?]

As a welcome back offer we would like to give you a time-limited offer for 7 days of additional play time if you choose to re-subscribe now. Please click this link to use this special offer!

[so... first you threaten me and now you're welcoming me back?]

We hope to see you back in the game preparing your characters for the new adventures that will soon be introduced in the expansion "Age of Conan: Rise of the Godslayer". Click here to read more about the expansion.

Here are just some of the some reasons why you should return to Age of Conan now:

Veteran Points
Exclusive Subscription Rewards
Free Level 50 Character
Tons of New Conent
Enhanced Performance
Most improved
MMO of 2009

Welcome back to Hyboria, Adventurer!

[to quote Moe: "that's a funny looking strike."]

© 2010 Funcom. All rights reserved. © 2010 Conan Properties International LLC ("CPI"). CONAN, CONAN THE BARBARIAN, HYBORIA and related logos, characters, names, and distinctive likenesses thereof are trademarks or registered trademarks of CPI unless otherwise noted. All rights reserved. Funcom authorized user. Windows and the Windows Vista Start button are trademarks of the Microsoft group of companies, and "Games for Windows" and the Windows Vista Start button logo are used under license from Microsoft. Eidos & the Eidos logo are trademarks of Eidos Interactive Ltd. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. Software platform logo (™ and ©) IEMA 2006. The rating icon is a registered trademark of the Entertainment Software Association.
Funcom is headquartered at
Funcom GmbH, Lavaterstrasse 45, 8002 Z├╝rich, SWITZERLAND
You may unsubscribe from this publication at any time.
Ah. Yes. It all makes sense. Switzerland. That poor, third-world nation devoid of grammar and common sense. I understand the letter perfectly. We should be grateful they were able to even program this game on their country's single Apple 2E. They had to import an Amiga from Luxembourg to finish the job, I hear.

Sigh.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Video Game Break

I took a short break from work at the end of the year (as well as RPGs) and played a few video games... and I thought it appropriate to tell you what I thought of them — because you're dying to know.

GTA 4. I took a long hiatus from this game because the damn phone calls stopped me from playing the game. Anyone that's read a review of GTA 4 or otherwise played with the game, knows how annoying it is to have Jacob, Roman, and your bevy of girlfriends calling every 10 minutes wanting to hang out. With a character as rich as Niko Belic and a story as deep and moving as GTA 4, no one wants to stop and shoot pool.

It was fun once. Pool doesn't get better in GTA the 17th time you play it.

And neither is Air Hockey in the Lost and Damned expansion.

Dancing is annoying in Ballad of Gay Tony, as well.

GTA 4 was worth every penny and then some, beyond the in game distractions. Only a couple of the missions were really really hard and the story peaks in the game can't be matched by any version of the franchise. The follow-up games are weak by comparison.

MOST AMAZING GTA 4 MOMENT: I was done with the game and shooting random people and cops (as is my want). I walked up to a cop car. Fired into the passenger's seat and filled the window with blood (it was graphic). The driver got out and died soon after. The city went nuts with terror and I got into the car and drove away; the dead cop still sitting next to me. Later, I got hit by a cop car and the passenger's door opened. It wasn't however, until I drove backwards and spun the car hard into a bootlegger turn that the body flopped out of the car, onto the pavement, and under the wheels. While most people might be sickened by all this, I marveled in the physics engine that understood inertia and acceleration.

Assassin's Creed 2. Also known as GTA: Crusades is a vast improvement over Assassin's Creed 1. However, the repetitive and mindless side questions and treasure hunting do nothing but clock more hours on the game. You gain absolutely nothing from them.

Even the special Armor isn't important to the finale, despite SIX ADDITIONAL QUESTS to find it.

The worst part of this game though, has to be the brain-dead idea of adding "city-building" to the game. Money effectively becomes useless by the time you get to your second assassination (and there are nine of them again — how creative). Effectively, you inherit your uncle's villa and must improve it — fixing whatever fell into disrepair. The game then starts spitting out money in 20 minute intervals (that's right 20 minutes) to the tune of 2,000 florins (to start). This number climbs to 20,000 by the end of the game. After the game makes FOUR DEPOSITS (of any size) into your account, it caps out and your sister takes the overage (who cares?).

If you need money, just leave the game on and walk away (mow the lawn, whatever), because there is no time urgency of any kind in the game. None. Zero. Ever.

Imagine playing an RPG that rewards a player who sits there and has a staring contest with the GM during a seven-player combat and you've got an idea of how bad this mechanic is.

Not. Thought. Through.

The conspiracy gets a lot more interesting to be sure. And the glyph puzzles are interesting, if not sometimes annoying.

And I of course loved the Italian motif. Venice is so well done, and each of the four towns has it's own personality and size (no more three same-sized cities, with three same-sized sections). This part of the game felt really organic and when he had to visit a muddy little nothing of a village, it brought everything into focus that this really was the Renaissance.

Guitar Hero Van Halen. My worst purchase this season was GHVH. Not only is Van Halen a most mediocre band with two extremely talented musicians, but the team who phoned in this game, apparently didn't even like Van Halen.

Where do I start with what's wrong with this game?

Song List. 25 Van Halen Songs. 19 Guests. Maybe 3 of the guest songs are fun. Regardless of whether I like the songs or not. Some of them just arent' fun. Of the 25 Van Halen songs, one is a repeat from World Tour (Hot for Teacher), and the three instrumentals are all saved for the very end, instead of peppering them throughout.

Now. I'm no David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar fan. I don't tune into VH for the vocals. In fact, this game helps to sharpen the edge of all the bad VH lyrics as you traverse the landscape of "songs about girls." Every overplayed, annoying Van Halen tune you can remember from the 80s is on here. Even Jump. Dear god. Jump. To make matters, worse, Panama... among the best of their tunes is the FIRST one you play, making sure that you play the simpliest, stupidest, most dumbed down version of the song possible.

Sigh.

I haven't finished all the songs and I'm not sure I'm going to. Game Stop will probably give me $30 for it and I'm going to see if that can go toward my copy of Mass Effect 2, which promises to eat my soul unless I feed it everyday.

If anyone from Red Octane, Activision, or Neversoft is reading this... "go to hell." GHVH was disappointing.

ASIDE: I'm not a Metallica fan, either. But GHM was a lot of fun. GHVH is an exercise in sad, mediocre gameplay.

UPDATE: I owe everyone a story about how the L5R campaign ended, the next d20 World installment, and the set up for our new fantasy campaign (using the rules from Tribe 8).

Gamer Sex

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