Sunday, October 26, 2014

Hero Kids - review

Hero Kids, is an RPG designed to be played with kids and features PCs that are themselves kids. This is a review of the 2012 PDF version.

I was rather intrigued by the idea of a game designed specifically for kids, so downloaded this to check it out. The PDF is 39 pages long, and comes in screen and print-friendly versions. The cover features cartoon-like artwork, a style that carries throughout the game. In general it uses a two column landscape layout with artwork and diagrams scattered across most pages.

The premise of the game is that in a fantasy land all the adults in a village have disapeared and so the kids of the village will have to deal with any issues that come up, whether that's a fire in stables, or an evil wizard raising the dead. The missing adults is not a mystery to be solved (unless you want to do that), they could be out raiding, having a party or bringing in the harvest, the point is, the kids have to deal with the trouble.

So the book starts with an brief introduction to roleplaying, and I got the impression that this part was written for teachers, or group leaders rather than the regular roleplayer.

Then we get an introduction to the vale where the village resides and it nicely contains a lot of ominous sounding names, such as "Darkenwold Woods".

Combat rules are suitably simple and match the objective of getting youngsters into the hobby, with four combat related abilities each being assigned a number of dice. You roll your attack dice, defender rolls armour dice. The player with the highest individual die wins. Rather than having the classic Hit Point scale a character  gets bruised, hurt and finally knocked out. meaning that combat will not go on for too long. Incidentally, it means that every single roll matters!

None of the other mechanisms of the game are more complex that those described above, in fact they are generally very simple and this makes it an ideal first game. No complex rules explanations, no beginners-fear of getting things wrong, just straight forward rules.

After the brief character generation rules which are basically allocating dice to the four stats, there's an interesting page about playing the game with other peoples kids and a reminder to be careful of the subjects you cover. Then comes some hints and tips for the referee on how to handle playing with kids, common sense stuff to be sure, but worth the read, as you might be playing with complete newbies to roleplaying and many of us forget what that was like.

Then come five pages of pre-gen sheets. Each with its own drawn character, stats and abilities listed, along with a standee, ready to fold. I love this format. Print the page and hand it to the kids, get them to cut out the character sheet and the standee, making it a project as well as a game.

The last seven pages of the PDF is for monsters. Each type gets a character sheet of its own and a page of standees.

That's it. Simple. Everything about this game is simple, and beautiful. The cartoon look of the characters is excellent and non-threatening, the hints and advice for the adults clear and well thought out. I don't know about reserving this game for kids, that's clearly where it's aimed, but I'd play this at the drop of a hat. Like the awesome game "3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars", it's not about the dice rolls, but about telling the story the dice lead you to.

A quick scan of DriveThruRPG will let you see that this game has a bunch of scenarios to support it and colouring books too!  I was blown away at what a great idea colouring books were. Imagine playing the game then getting to relive the great moments with the kids as they colour-in the scenes they've just been playing in, an awesome idea.

A must buy for parents, I'm so glad I bought it.

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Alien Module 3 Vargr - review

This is a review of the PDF of the third alien module for the ancient sci fi RPG, Traveller.

The PDF is 52 pages long, and is a scan of an original well  worn 1984 printing. The cover is rather worn and showing its age. The text inside is perfectly readable and can be searched, although the scan isn't always as straight as you might wish.

The purpose of this module is to introduce a new sentient and playable race into the classic Traveller game, and from the outset I can tell you it does this very well.

The book starts by telling you what the Vargr are, a sentient bipedal race descending from Terran wolf stock, this leads to some major differences in appearance and character from humans. Namely that they look a good deal like upright dogs/wolves, and everything about their society is built around the pack mentality.

After the general introduction the module details their physiology, psychology, history, society, government, and military is covered in some depth. This is necessary as one of the stated aims of the module is to demonstrate just how "alien" these aliens are, They think differently, the behave differently, they are not to be thought of as humans with fur.

After this essay is a section on the Vargr language. As with the first two alien modules this section not only explains how it's structured and sounds, but gives you the tools to generate Vargr names and words, in fact the entire lexicon if you're mad enough to roll that many dice!

The next section gives you a grounding in Vargr character generation, explaining how the process is similar to, yet different to normal human rules. Those familiar with the core game's rules for character generation will find this easy to work through.

Next comes a section called "Gvurrdon's Story" . This section starts by giving a a short dictionary of Vargr words and then presents an ancient Vargr legend written entirely in the Vargr language. If you have players excited enough to do the translation, you should be scared, they are obviously nutters!

A full page diagram gives you a map of the Gvurrdon sector (not sub sector) for the players.

Then come additional character generation rules for the the Vargr equivalent of High Guard. Then come some rules for the Vargr Corsairs, a sort of Scout/Navy/Pirate mixed service.

The next section of essays informs us about the Vargr homeworld and gives the referee additional notes about the race when being used as Patrons and NPCs.

Then comes a short adventure based around the ancient Vargr text presented earlier, including a translation for the referee to use. The sector map is presented again with more detail for the referee along with the planetary stats. It's really more of an adventure seed than an full adventure.

In the classic Traveller style of book layout, there is very little art within the pages. In fact the only internal art is a medical diagram of a generic Vargr and a line art drawing of a Vargr 100-ton Scout. That's it. Really the only inspiration to be drawn from artwork is the cover of this work.

I stated at the start of this review that I liked this book. I do. The essays are a fascinating read, and if the author has managed to describe a government structure, in a way to keep me interested late at night then he must have done it pretty well! After reading this book, you get a good idea of how the Vargr are to be played as a race, and how they might fit in amongst a party of humans.

If you're playing classic Traveller, I would say this is a must-have for the referee. Not needed of course, as the core rules give you a complete game, but by adding the Vargr into the mix, you'll make your game worlds so much richer. At a price of just a couple of pounds, this PDFs was a bargain, and well worth it
I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Free Trader, goes digital!

A board game I developed a few years ago called "Free Trader" which has you on a solitaire mission flying around the galaxy dodging pirates and aliens as you try to pay for your space ship is now available in digital form on Android and iOS.

Baby Marsupial Creations LLC has given the game an all-new look but kept the core mechanics, so that if you're familiar with the board game version you'll be up an running with this digital version in next to no time.

Here are some screen shots for your visual pleasure:

The game is available on Android and iOS.

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Classic Traveller, Decisions and Choices

Back to the Traveller campaign after a break for a...break. While the game was suspended I added in a couple of between session elements.

An xboat has just come in from the front lines of the fight with the Aslan, and brought this audio from an interview with one of the heroes of Operation Dynamo on Sobifat.

Listen to the audio (only 35 seconds)

Previous news has suggested that the heroic Imperial Army was going to take back Sobifat from the Aslan, but it seems it did not got too well.

The second bit of between session action:

A message arrives from David Lubik, your Recruiting Squire...

"Sir, I've got a group of … of... people, sort of. That're looking to sign up. They're Vargr sir. Actual live Vargr. Can you believe that?

"There are eight of them. I've been talking to them and they seem to be talking straight. I've been speaking to their leader, Goorrvu and he said they were raiding up and down this subsector until their ship got damaged. Corsairs! Now they need to get some work that pays well, so they can get their ship fixed.

"He says they're a team though, they'll only serve together as a unit, and only for a year. He says they have vacc-suits and weapons. And are ready to start straight away.

"Sounds like a good deal to me. be honest, I don't know how to read Vargr faces. This Goorrvu seems a bit shifty.

"Do I sign them up?"

Of course the players couldn't resist having a party of alien pirates on board so they signed them up.

Onto the session itself. Last time the session ended with the home team PCs turning down the job offer from Piertrie Hoolane a lady who had her money stolen by a husband gone bad.  However they had suggested she visit the other ship where the away-team PCs might be interested in some private work.

(As an aside here, they hired 4 engineers to get the old Bertrum35 ship's jump drive up and working)

She was invited into the ship and given drinks. Some careful wrangling, managed to get the offer up to 100,000Cr from the 40,000Cr she started at (10,000Cr less than she offered before). However she did suggest that they would need a team of 10. The deal was agreed with a handshake and she left.

Then the shenanigans started. Now they knew where the money was, who the target was, the PCs kind of agreed to go in, get the money, and anything else they could steal, and keep it all for themselves.

Next up was a little research into the target, a bit of computer skill came in handy. They discovered that her soon-to-be-divorced husband, Garty Jules, was a bit of a big wig.  He lived in a special dome for the really rich, and his house was a mansion in the middle of an estate, amongst other rich estates under this shared dome. It also turned out that he had a lot of financial fingers in various pies, including membership of multiple company boards. Indeed, he was on the board of the company he used for personal security (Kazbar Security).

And speaking of security, a look though the society papers revealed a picture of his security guards. They seemed to be packing some big hardware under their jackets, more than would normally be allowed under local law levels.

The PCs planning was wild and free form. Varying from trying to scare him with tales that the cops were coming for him, and that the PCs could sneak him off planet, right through to knocking on his door and shooting him between the eyes. However they settled for something more sly and devious. They have visions of vast horde of money laying around the mansion with expensive and saleable pieces of art that they could snaffle. Thus they want to get into his mansion for a look around.

Once again the captured/stolen Aslan robots inspired their approach. They thought to pose as business men selling this tech'.  If Garty can be convinced to invite them to a meeting they'll have the "in" they need.

The first step was to put together a sales video which they did with style. They then contacted one of the technology companies that Garty was a board member of and sent them the video. They also took the opportunity to send a copy of it to their arms supplier who's also looking to make a sale for them.

They took over a small factory unit and moved the robot in. They decided to brand themselves as "Killowns", the criminal family they became involved with a while back, thinking it could give them some cache. They talked the Vargr into helping them in their little private mission and they readily agreed, and thus provided a little "security".

A mid level sales representative and his bodyguard from the tech company turned up at their warehouse to take a first look at the robot. They let him in.

Change of scene!

We cut back to the home team who got a call from a potential customer. They went through the interview process once again. It turned out the customer wanted to hire the company to carry out a combat mission on the nearby planet of Rapreroos. The mission was to dress up as locals of Rapreroos and using local weapons attack a base on the planet. Everyone in the base was to be killed and the base raised.  They started asking questions about the base in question and it turned out to be an Imperial training base. The autocthones of Rapreroos were being recruited by the Imperium and trained in the base. There were thought to be around 2000 recruits and a training cadre of 200 or so Imperial marines.

There was a little talking around the project. Money was discussed, and 1 million  credits offered up front with another 5 million to follow. In the end one of the PCs, the Marquis in fact, could not bring himself to hire on the company to attack his beloved Imperium directly. The job was turned down.

Back to the factory!

The PCs were not impressed with being sent just a mid level sales guy. They put up a good front and told him that such a low level contact was not even allowed to the see the robot in action. He would only be allowed to see the robot stationary. The representative was very put out, but he tried to make the best of it.

While he took a look around the robot one of the other PCs started playing cards with the bodyguard. As they played he filled the chap in on the history and capabilities of the robot, giving him much more information than the actual company representative was getting!

As the representative was being shown to the door, some streetwise skillz were applied to ensure that he left knowing he'd been personally snubbed because he was too-low in rank and that he really needed to get his bosses involved.

Thus ended the beginning of the great caper. More to come next week!

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Political game design

I've seen some press recently where the media appear to be turning against whistle blowers. This seems rather dubious to me, a bad sign that the "system" is taking control of the media on this issue. Anyway that spurred me on to make a video about using game design to make a political point. It's a bit of a low-key rant to be honest, but there is a game in there :)

Watch and enjoy.

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A holiday of gaming...

I've just returned from a short holiday, but my holiday gaming started before I even left. I had a few hours just waiting around the house before we started our journey. I decided not to let any of it go to waste!

First up was a dice game based on golf and called "Golo". It uses a handful of special D12s. My round of golf was exceptionally average, quite a feat considering I had two holes in 1!

Next up was a very very quick game of Zombie in my pocket. Moving into the first room, I was smacked down by a horde of Zombies. The second room was the target with the totem, nothing bad appeared but when I spent time to search for the totem, I was smacked by another horde of Zeds! Considering I was already very ill, it wasn't worth running away, and so the Zeds got to breakfast on my brains.

The next game was a real oldie. It was Game Workshop's "Chainsaw Warrior". I took I.R. goggles, wire cutters and a blaster. I went into that big 'ole apartment complex and started in on the trouble I found. I lucked out going through the first room deck. I managed to find an awful lot of empty rooms in which I only found 3 wandering zombies. I have never voluntarily taken wire cutters before, but during this game they were used four times to get me out of traps! I also found a secret passageway that let me bypass ten rooms! Sure I got bitten by a zombie, and irradiated twice but that's pretty normal in this game. Then just a few cards into the second deck I was finally worn down and the zombie venom took me out.

Then it was into the car for a four and a half hour long journey.

Somewhat tired I reached our destination. I admired the view for a couple of minutes and then broke out "Friday" for a quick session of helping Robinson survive the island. Right from the start it went really well. I made best use of all of the cards, and tried to limit the amount of life I spent destroying "zero" cards. By the time I got to the Red pass though the deck, there were only two cards left! Then onto the pirates. The first one was only a minor issue, but I asked my wife to pick the second one, she is after all a lucky charm for unlucky charm as it turned out. I got the 57 point card to defeat. Sheesh!  I started drawing cards, using every ability from every card to destroy ageing cards, doubling others, drawing more, then it came down to spending life to draw more cards. I had to use the abilities on those too! In the end I got a win, my first ever win of Friday, with only two life points left!!!

As night time drifted round I realised I'd forgotten to bring a book to read in bed. What's a gamer supposed to do? I pulled the Lore starter deck out of LoTR:The Card Game and had a read through the cards. I'd not looked at this one or played with it, so it was a bit of surprise to see how many healing cards are in the deck.

The first full day of holiday featured an afternoon snooze, followed by some graphics work on a card game I've been working on.

An early evening two player bout of Death Angel. It was the first time for my son, and he had no idea just how difficult this game was. I could tell he was ignorant of the true misery of this game, as he sat down with a beaming excited face, rather than grim concentration and angst. We managed to journey to the first room before everything went to crap. A killer event card moved all the genestealers onto a single marine. We struggled to whittle them down but we lost a marine with every attack and it was a quick demise to the stack of 10 genestealers crawling along the column.

With another loss to this vicious game I raised the oft stated question. If these are the toughest marines in the best armour the emperor can supply why the hell can't they hit anything with their blasters, and why the hell can bugs open their armour like a poorly made tin can?

Really, it is a good game, but it makes no sense with this theme, or rather the theme gives a lie to these being awesome soldiers. A better theme that would fit these mechanisms nicely, would be to replace the space marines with Strom Troopers from Star Wars and replace the genestealers with Ewoks!

Once again, bed time found me without a book, so I turned to a copy of the "Hero Kids" RPG that I had printed from the PDF for digestion while on holiday. Big bold print suited my aging eyes. I'll review that in a subsequent post.

So onto day two. I tried to solo LoTR:The Card Game using the core set's Lore deck. Wow. Tough. I ground out a defeat as the locations piled up their threat and prevented me from making any forward progress Nine threat was more than I could handle. I was all for giving up, and cheated to see if there were any cards coming up that would make a difference. Well, there was a Gandalf card a few turns away, but at a cost of 5 I would have been stuffed long before he became affordable. So I did give up. What did I learn from this game? Despite having a couple of good heroes there is a lot of chaff in this deck. Denethor seems pretty rubbish. I'm wondering what good being able to have a peek at the bad guys deck is supposed to do for you. So you know what the next card will be. Big deal, doesn't seem to change anything.

And so onto the evening where the encroaching east coast dark summoned forth Shudde M'ell to attack the Miskatonic. Joe Diamond and Jacqueline Fine leapt into action and ran around collecting Elder Signs striving to fight off the unending stream of monsters. I've never played a game of Elder Sign where so many monsters came out of the bag!. In the end old Shudde came out of hiding and we laid into him with everything we had. We got our share of licks in but the card-count-down won the battle for the bad guy (cheating)!

Now, I think our game play was exemplary under the conditions, but that the conditions led to us losing. What were these conditions? My wife was watching a kitchen sink drama from the sixties in glorious black and white! I hate these films. Full of whining idiots bemoaning the the social stigma of the day. To me, it's all boring pointless waffle. How anyone can call that entertainment I don't know. Still, she's never understood the appeal of giant fighty robots either.

So onto the next day. My first game was another run at LoTR:The card Game, but with my first custom deck. I'm still playing the first scenario, and opted to mix Lore and Tactics in a 45 card deck. I took Gimli and Legolas from Tactics and Beravor from Lore.

It was a surprisingly easy win. There was one time where the locations started to build up and I feared  getting trapped in a too high threat situation, but a timely play of Gandalf jumped me passed that issue. I had loaded Gimli with the Citadel Plate and Dwarven Axe, thinking to use him to pound the bad guys. In the end though, I ended up pitch most of the enemies as Legolas, in order to use his defeat-enemy-progress-quest ability. He did get pounded, but every time I was able to use the Daughter of the Nimrodel to heal him back up.  After one play, I feel it's a good deck and I'm itching to use it against the second scenario. I think next time, if given the choice I'll give the armor  and axe to legolas to aid in progressing the game, regardless of the threat in the staging area.

It was time to do a little RPG work. In this case continuing to flesh out a couple of sub sectors for the ongoing Classic Traveller I'm running. It's a slow process for me. Not the numbers but trying to come up with a few lines to describe each system. A rationale if you will for the stats that were generated. Managed to finish off one sub sector and start on the next. This second one looks to be more interesting as it has lots of yellow and red travel zones.

I might also say that my holiday is not all game related. I also started reading a book by the amazing Harold Coyle, of "Team Yankee" fame. This one is called "Trial by Fire" and is a military fiction book, I've wanted to read for quite some time. U.S. Forces vs Mexican in a limited fashion. Of course some of the scenarios from this book "might" make it into my Traveller campaign. :)

I'm also a wee bit of an author, so late into the night I continued work on my Science Fiction gamebook. About a week ago I finished the last editing pass. The next step which I started on this night, was to run the raw text through my gamebook validator. This is a program I wrote to check for basic errors in the structure of the game book and boy oh boy, two hundred and fifty problems! I managed to work my way through them and started formatting the text for publication.

The next day of the holiday really was more work than play. More formatting of the game book until it was done. Then I started on another editing pass through this formatted text. Often viewing your writing in a different format allows you to see things you overlooked before. It was true here too. I only managed to edit the first 50 entries (of 402). More tomorrow. But then it was back to working on my space game. I managed to draw four asteroids and a battlestar as terrain and focus points for scenarios.

Game wise, the only game I got to actually play was a two player game of LoTR:The Card Game, where I played with my custom deck and my son worked with the default Spirit deck. Again we went through the first scenario and it was a breeze. The Spirit deck held up it's end of the bargain and so did mine, however we really lucked out by reaching the third card and the Ungoliant Spawn was already in play and hacking Gimli to pieces. I lost Gimli, but we got there in the end with our second LoTR victory of the holiday.

The next day led us back to Elder Sign. First I solo'ed a game against Cthulhu and kicked his butt (wait for it). Then I coached my son through his first solo. At one point I mentioned that he was missing an opportunity to put dice on the next task and he calmly pointed out that "he wasn't going to cheat like I had". I grabbed the rules and to my horror discovered he was right, you CAN ONLY work on one task at a time. There went my joy at defeating Cthulhu. I was a big cheating b*stard!

In other news I finished up the art work for my card game, proof read the next fifty entries in my sci fi game book and wrote up the details of four more planets for my Classic Traveller game. All in all a good day of gaming related endeavour apart from the Cthulhu-incident which will not ever be mentioned again (but at least now I know how to use those spells!).

No more games, as the next day was tidying up the place and driving home.

I'm an author, I write adventure game books.