Posts Tagged ‘ RPGs ’

Gaming: The Power of a Good Story

Games, games are changing.

Yes the graphics are always improving and the physics engines both imitate and subvert reality in many outstanding ways but now we have something more….

Story.

At the dawn of video games, there wasn’t much space in cartridges or floppy disks for stories.  Most developers didn’t bother, but as the first decade of gaming progressed (that’s the 80’s for you youngsters, yeah the ones wearing the John Hughes’ movie wardrobe), RPGs crossed over to home computers and PCs, which meant stretching the hardware to accommodate story beyond “here be aliens, shoot them!” explanation of the earlier frantic gaming mechanic.

Most of said story remained buried in the manuals with the game itself providing more shooting, spells swinging and sword bashing than complicated plot points.

Not anymore.

Somewhere around the turn of the century a combination of more powerful machines and graphic cards, game worlds could be rendered in glorious 3D (as opposed to the chunky polygons of the century before) and with plenty of space in both hard drives and disks (CDs, then DVDs and now Blu-Ray) they could inject great soundtracks, thousands of lines of spoken dialogue by dozens of highly skilled voice actors (and not a few celebrity cameos).

Which still leaves one thing….

Story!

The best games in the last few years, specially in the Console/PC RPG market, not only have stunning visuals and fast paced action but powerful story lines.  You don’t simply want to blast your enemies into pink (or green or blue, whatever) mist, but you want to known what your father was working on, who is behind the abduction of of human colonies and why your family was slaughtered while you were spared.

Story matters.

Story makes the difference.

The age of true interactive entertainment is here.

——-

And to show you what I mean, here is a bit of epic writing that turns the Mass Effect franchise into something more than alien fodder blasting or Space Opera Light:

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Off the wagon!

Well Magic: The Gathering™ doesn’t have trap cards, that’s another collectible card game with a anime/cartoon show on Saturday mornings.

Alas, the addiction has returned.

Way back in the Nineties, the granddaddy of collectible card games came into a market crowded by AD&D splat books on the RPG side and bland tabletop board games on the other. It mixed and matched elements of the two and added a $$ making idea, lets make the cards collectible and like splat books, we will launch new expansions every so often which the players must buy or find themselves defeated the next time they play.

And I caught the bug bad then, bad.

I bought many a card and lost many a game until I grew sick of it.

Mainly because I ended up losing far more than I ended up winning.

I even gave away all my cards and swore the game off.

Then last year I bought a couple of premade decks just to play when the regular RPG group wanted a break from the story. I didn’t buy too many cards this time around. Not going to get hooked again. Just take them out of the box once in awhile and play, loose and put them back in the box again.

Then a friend of ours discovered that a local Gaming/Comic book store was having an offer for the new Magic edition.

Half-price.

So, yeah I bought some.

And I lost.

But then I decided that instead of playing the decks as is, I should do something I resisted doing a long time ago, creating my own deck of cards. I went to the Holy Internet and found the answers I sought.

And I won.

You can see where this is going, right?

Now I’m hooked, again.

I can kiss my soul goodbye!

Oh well…..

😀

———

My Game Review: Munchkin The Card Game

The online Urban Dictionary defines Munchkin as:

3) The most annoying roleplayers you’ll ever have to deal with, who characteristically max out their stats, mostly without reprecations (sp?), play to mindlessly kill anything in their paths and boss the rest of your players around, and get as many dots or levels as possible. Most don’t really develop their characters’ personalities.

It also defines the theme of the game of the same name. The goal of the game is to reach level 10 by any means (both foul and fair), as befits its namesake. The game comes with two stacks of cards: Doors and Treasures. The players start with four cards (two of each) and play in a clockwise sequence from whomever rolled the highest number. Then game starts:

1. Pick a Door Card: If it’s a monster you must fight it or run away. You win if your total score (Level + Item bonuses) exceeds the creatures level. If you loose or choose not to fight the monster then you must run away. You successfully run away on a roll of 5-6 on a d6.  Failure means that Bad Stuff happens to you (each monster has a short description on the bottom telling you what that is). Success means you gain a level (or more if the monster says so) and you take it’s treasure.

2. Look for Trouble: If there was no monster, but you have a monster you can play it then, so you can fight it and try to gain levels and treasure.

3. Loot the room: If you successfully defeated a monster then you get to draw a number of treasure card from the Treasure card pile. You can play then right there or save them.

Fighting monsters is not the only way to gain levels. For every 1,000gp worth of equipment you sell (discard) you gain a level, and other cards give you level raises. The thing is that you can only win (reach level 10) by killing a monster or (if they are clerics) by a card called Divine Intervention.

Races and Classes come from the Door pack, and players can choose to be any class or race (and even have more than one with the right card). It may seem like winning this game is easy, but other players can ruin your game by boosting enemies, throwing down curses, stealing treasures or backstabing (last two abilities belong to the thief). Also you can draw curses from the stack which can wipe out your items or even take you down back to the lowest average level among the players. Cooperation is also encourage by the promise of sharing loot (only the player that drew a monster can gain a level) and in the case of Elves, by assisting other players in combat (only one player can assist another, but everyone else can dump on them if they want).

The cards are illustrated by John Kovalic (of Dork Tower fame, well fame among the RPG playing set that is) and are rife with gamer humor such as: Duck of Doom (curse), Lawyer (monster, won’t attack thieves out of professional courtesy), Gazebo (monster), Sex Change (curse), Pantyhose Of Power (+3 item not usable by Fighters) and many others. It is a fast paced game for 2-6 players and with a galaxy of expansions and sets (Munkchin in Space, Superheroes, Horror and Pirates) it won’t get boring anytime soon.

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And no for some more gamer induced humor I present The Gamers:

Web Tools for Your RPG Campaing- Obsidian Portal

I found (via the Penny Arcade news page) a new web based site for tracking and keeping notes about pencil-and-paper RPG campaigns. Its called Obsidian Portal. According to their home page:

Obsidian Portal allows you to create Dungeons and Dragons campaign websites and other tabletop role-playing games. Rather than trying to automate the playing of the game, Obsidian Portal provides tools to help facilitate the storytelling. Every campaign gets a shared blog/wiki to showcase their story, as well as integrated tools to help track NPCs, locations, treasure, and all the other minutae that makes up an RPG. Check out this video for more details.

Basically you can upload background information, maps (in jpeg format) and all the minutia of your current campaign. It need not be a D&D campaign or for that matter an RPG at all (great for fantasy/sci-fi world building) and the service is free (although if you want to use the full features you need to “upgrade”). So far I found it useful if nothing else a backup for my own files in case the worse happens. For example, I uploaded this map of one of the locations for my upcoming campaign (made with the Neverwinter Nights 1 Aurora engine, however my copy of NVW went kaput, so I lost the ability to create more 3D maps!). Feel free check out my campaign page here.

 

And now for some over the top anime action!