Monday, March 5, 2012

Tale of Two Games

It has been a busy week.

So busy that I have not had the chance to game (and next weekend is not looking good for that either).  I had a lot of things planned to talk about, to do.  Just none of those happened.

But one thing I do want to talk about, two games I just picked up. And really they could not be more different.

Adventurer Conqueror King System and Marvel Heroic Roleplaying


Let me talk about why they are similar first.
Both are highly praised games that have been well received by players and designers.
Both owe something of their popular due to the legacy of games produced by TSR in the 80s.
Both, now during the GMs sale, are under $10.   So for a Hamilton, you can get a new game.
I was eagerly waiting for both. Was slightly disappointed when I finally got them (expected more from one,

But there the similarities end.

Designwise, Adventurer Conqueror King System (ACKS) has defined beginning, middle and end.  Marvel Heroic Roleplaying (MHR) is open ended. In deed things on character sheet (Milestone) change as the game goes on. In the case of milestones, something that gave you experience last year, might not this year.

Greg, my friend and GM for myself and one of the games my kids play in described MHR as the "Antithesis" of the OSR, whereas ACKS is a synthesis of all the OSR embraces.

Character design in ACKS is straight-forward, roll your dice assign (in order) your scores.  Then see what you are going to be?  Rolled high in Strength? Congrats you are a fighter!  But don't worry about much else, in fact roll up four more characters, you might need them.

Character design in MHR starts with a concept, and a fairly well articulated concept at that.  Who is your hero, what does he do? How does he work in teams or with a partner? What are his goals, his issues?  Once you have that THEN you assign values to them, but in truth these values can be about anything.  It doesn't matter to MHR that the Hulk and Thor are both strong, we don't even need numbers for that.  If the hulk wants to pick up a tank and hit you with it, he does.  What matters instead is what motivates the Hulk to do that.  How does he perform in a group.  What are the things that are important to his story.

Character design then are two very different things in both games.  Given that overlap one could stat up the Howard version of Conan (from the books) and the Marvel Comics version of Conan, but come at it from completely different mindsets.   In ACKS we would be interested in his level (depending on when we read the tale), his strength and prowess with a blade.  When the Player's Companion comes out we might even be better able to mimic him.  In MHR we are interested in his ability to work in a team, partnership or solo.  We would also be interested in who his enemies are, what his goals are.   How close is he to regaining his throne? His loves?

On a personal note. It took Greg and I a couple of hours to detail Justice and Zatanna in MHR.  Earlier in the day he, my son and 4 other 12 year olds rolled up 5 characters each for ACKS.

ACKS is a D&D clone that attempts to mimic the great stories of the pulp age.  Conan rose to power from humble beginnings. As did John Carter and the Grey Mouser.

MHR is social game that attempts to mimic comic books, not supers games.  Comic book writers don't keep track of such things as how much can the Hulk or Spidey can bench press, only that they are as strong as they need to be for a particular scene.  MHR is the same way.  Can Spidey lift 1 Ton?  No idea, can he lift enough to save Mary Jane?  That is a more important question.

ACKS will run like any number of D&D games, but maybe a little grittier, a little more deadly.
MHR will run like any number of supers games, but while you might not ever die in this game, you can loose everything important to you.  Which is sometimes worse.

I guess there is one other area where the games are the same.
Both are great fun.

It took me a bit to see the value of each game.
After all I have tons of D&D clones and Supers games.  In the end it is not about what these games do that is the same as their "cousins", but rather what they do that is different.

ACKS is about the Short Game, or rather the game that is like a story with a beginning, middle and end.
MHR is about your hero and their story, their struggles and stress.  What makes them get up and keep fighting.  To me it is no wonder that the unofficial mascot of MHR is Captain America.  In fact I think I "get " Cap a little bit better now thanks to this game.

I normally would put a "Which Game Should I Buy" section here, but I won't.   I think you know already which one is right for you.  I say that you take the time to look at the other game too.

Please expect more detail on each game in the next week.

Sunday, March 4, 2012


Don't you hate it when you get everything ready to game and the DM says you can't play today because of other issues (family, work...)

What makes this worse is I am the DM.

Crazy hectic week and I had hoped that the 12+ hour days I had been pulling this week would have given me some time to play today.  No such luck.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Victorian Games for Sale

There are plenty of sales at the GM's Day sale at DriveThruRPG. At the time of this writing I found over 8,000 pdfs. Some I didn't even know about.

Here are a list of my favorite Victorian Era games that are not Ghosts of Albion.

Castle Falkenstein - the original weird Victoria.  Great game.
Cthulhu by Gaslight - the horror classic.  Gothic horror + Lovecraftian horror = win.
Gaslight Victorian Fantasy (OGL Edition) and
Gaslight Victorian Fantasy (Savage Worlds Edition)  - Victorian game that you can shape how you wish.  Compatible with 1000s of other products.
Rippers - Savage Worlds Victorian horror tech
Victoriana: 1867 Edition - the original version
Victoriana 2nd Edition Core Rulebook - the updated and far superior version
Abney Park's Airship Pirates - alt Victorian high concept based on the albums and Victoriana's rules
Space: 1889 - The original trip to space, based on H.G. Welles and Jules Verne stories/
Space 1889: Red Sands - the new updated Savage Worlds version
The Kerberos Club (Savage Worlds Edition) - your characters need a place to go
Etherscope - and a way to tie all these worlds together.

All of these games are great fun in their own right, but I like them all and combine bits and pieces of them with Ghosts of Albion.

Grab them all while they are on sale.

What does D&D Sound like?

What does D&D sound like?

This is what it sounds like to me.

D&D sounds like Rush.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dragonslayers: An Epic Epic of Epicness

So after my Book of Vile Darkness enhanced version of S4:The Lost Caverns of the Tsojcanth, the characters all for the most part hit 20th level and frankly I don't want to stop.

So I am pouring over the Epic Level Handbook now.  This is not something I used back when I was play 3.x, and it has taken this long for the boys to get to this level.  I have some issues with it, for example the editing seems bad in places. But man this book is just full of great ideas.  Some of which would be great for Epic Level Play in D&D4 or 20+ level in D&D Bacic/BECMI.
Really it is kind of a fascinating book.  It takes the rules into places the original designers I don't think expected, but yet there is such an enthusiasm for it that it makes the reality of a 30-level D&D4 a no brainer.

They have not leveled up yet, they are still in the caves.  I am merging the 3.x rewrite of the LSotT with the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdûn.  I now have the temple far, far underground where the dengerate Norkers dwell and keep millennia old rituals alive to a God no one remembers.  There will be demons, monsters of pure chaos and all sorts of evil.  Maybe even a rogue Brain Collector.  Love those guys.

To keep the sense of evil, dread and most importantly fear, I am still going to use the Book of Vile Darkness (both the 3.0 and 4.0 versions) but I'll also include some elder scariness from the Epic Level Handbook too.

The idea here is to build to something big, apocalyptic even.  That is why I bought this thing.

The Mage Knight Apocalypse Dragon to stand in for the full Goddess form of Tiamat.  That is the 3.x era Aspect of Tiamat and the 4e Orcus.   I am not sure how powerful she is going to be, but I am expecting HP in the low 1000 area, at least 30-35 HD and enough magic the stomp a small city-state.  I want it to be so epic that the boys will tell their own kids one day.  Just like the time that my characters had to defeat Orcus in the original H4 Throne of Bloodstone back in that far off time of 1987 and that mystical land sages once spoke of, Southern Illinois.

But since I also want to make all the battles leading up to this one epic in feel I am also reading other's play experience with these two modules.

Beedo over at Dreams of the Lich House has a great post on his group's battle in the Temple of Tharizdun.  This is a great run down and shows that all in not quiet in this so-called Forgotten temple.  James of Grognardia gives us his retrospective as well.  What both bloggers offer me is something I already knew, but was glad to see it all spelled out again.  The Forgotten Temple is not a simple dungeon crawl. Sure it looks like one, but it isn't one. This is alien horror.  This is Lovecraft meets the Satan Pit.
There is no over ridding goal to this adventure.  This is uncovering a plot and then running the hell away. I'll give them chances to acquire some magic items, even face some ancient, eldritch evils.

If I ever do Tharizdûn it will have to be even bigger than the Tiamat battle.

Tharizdun. Now there is name.  You don't need to know anything else about this guy other than his name to know he is up to no good.

In Gygax's Oerth he is the next best (worst) thing to Satan.  He is the Source of All Evil, to borrow a page from Charmed.  He is the biggest baddie there is.  I'll take his "Satan" aspects and his "Thasaidon" aspects and maybe even pepper in a bit of Lovecraft for good measure.

Links I am currently reading for "inspiration".

Anyone else run an Epic level game?  Or take on the Temple of Tharizdun.

Beware the Sales of March

Today is the first day of March.  The beginning of March is always a good time in the gaming world for me.

It means spring and spring mean that Cons are coming up.  It also means the Games Plus spring game auction.  If you have never been please make the effort to go.

It also means the GM's Day sale at DriveThruRPG.

There are a lot of deals this time around.  I noticed more that a few that were at 40% or more off.

Great time to grab that game you always wanted.