Monday, 17 March 2014

Mustering a party for Deadlands Noir

Our Warhammer FRP campaign is drifting towards its conclusion, and we expect its climatic and no doubt bloody conclusion imminently. Those who want the latest update on that can check it out here. We are not far from the final show-down, it just seems as if the major villain has chosen to flee to an alternate dimension, as they invariably do.

Last week, a player short, we decided to begin generating characters for 13th Age and Deadlands Noir. I'll go into more detail on my impressions of 13th Age in another post, but suffice to say that they are favourable.

For Deadlands I'd like to run the Red Harvest mini-campaign in 1935 New Orleans. Hence, we needed a party of characters that could work together as part of a private detective agency. I've left the players to come up with a name for this, but suffice to say they are all employees of said agency. Here's a quick run down on who we have so far.

Nukarah Vestal - Nukara was born in Argentina but grew up in New York. She moved to New Orelans in search of work.

Ag d6, Sm d6, Sp d6, Str d6, Vg d6; Cha 0, Pace 6, Parry 2, Tough 5. Skills: Notice d6, Investigation d8, Repair d6, Tracking d8, Survival d6, Riding d4. Edges: Sleuth.

Weapons: trench knife, Star Pocket automatic pistol

Ramsey Gordon - patent scientist (because no Deadlands party is complete without one)

Ag d8, Sm d10, Sp d6, Str d4, Vg d4; Cha 0, Pace 6, Parry 2, Tough 5. Skills: Driving d6, Knowledge - Ghost Rock d6, Knowledge - Explosives d6, Repair d8, Shooting d8, Weird Science d10. Edges: Arcane Background (Patent Scientist), Hindrances: Impulsive (minor), Major Delusion (cats are intelligent), Hard of Hearing (minor), Curious (major - machines only).

Powers: Bolt (prototype bazooka); Weapons: Mauser (used)

Ross Lebouf (aka The Doctor) - the group's healer?

Ag 6, Sm d8, Sp d8, Str d4, Vg d6; Cha 0, Pace 6, Parry 3, Tough 5. Skills: Healing d10 (+2 doctor's bag), Investigation d6, Knowledge - Medicine d8, Knowledge - Biology d6, Knowledge - Occult d8, Notice d8, Persuasion d6. Edges: Veteran of the Concrete Jungle (bollixed), Comfortable. Hindrances: Obligation (minor)

Weapons: knife

Lee De Ville - Harrowed private eye

Ag d4, Sm d8, Sp d8, Str d8, Vg d6. Cha 0, Pace 6, Parry 5, Tough 5. Skills: Fighting d6, Intimidation d6, Investigation d8, Lockpicking d4, Notice d6 (+2 clues), Persuasion d4, Shooting d4, Streetwise d8 (+2). Edges: Harrowed, Supernatural Power, Investigator. Hindrances: Enemy (minor), Lech (minor), Curious (major).

Weapons: Colt .45 automatic

So, there we have it so far. The party has been generated around the table in a single evening with the omission of one PC. We also had time to complete a couple of 13th Age characters, but more on my Dragonspawn Rogue another time. The players pointed out at the time that the Deadlands party lacks a 'bruiser', i.e. a specialist in hand to hand combat. But bear in mind this is a Novice group of characters with relatively limited resources, especially as Depression-era New Orleans finds them fairly short of cash to begin with (only $75 each). More Deadlands later...

Monday, 10 March 2014

Playstation Games awaited in 2014

I spent a convivial evening chatting with my son yesterday about the sorts of games we'd especially like to see appearing on the Playstation in 2014. While we're not yet in the market for a PS4, some of the work already being done for it by software houses is impressive, to say the least. The two games below are due for release on the PS3 / PS4 in 2014, and both coincidentally deal with post-apocalyptic settings.

Mad Max

One of my big beefs has been the lack of a decent two player road warrior game on the platform. By this I mean a post-apocalyptic driver vs driver game with cars equipped with weapons and armour. I am thinking here of Car Wars as was (Steve Jackson Games), but adapted for the console market. Such a game should be able to support two player online teams, with one driving and the other manning weapons.

Avalanche Studios seems to be on the verge of releasing a game (projected April 2014) using the Mad Max IP, which looks intriguing, although we shall have to await the first reviews once it is finally released. This sounds as if it will be published for the PS3, which would be excellent. Whether it actually does a good job of road-based combat is another question. Early scenes do not reveal this. But it does seem to promise a much more open environment to adventure in, rather than linear plot development, which is all for the good.

 The Division

Sadly I don't play Shadowrun any more, but some of the great team-based dynamics of that game seem to be in the offing from The Division. This looks like an entirely new level in multi-platform, collaborative gaming in an urban environment. Okay, so there isn't any Awakened world here, but check out the drones and remote gun platforms in this trailer, and the superb delivery of vital stats and map overlays. The ability for players to work together in the environment is also very reminiscent of Shadowrun, and if they can participate using different platforms, even better.

Apparently the game is inspired by Operation Dark Winter (a simulated bio-weapons attack on Oklahoma City in June 2001). The Division seems to be using New York instead. It will apparently only be playable online.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Viscounts and Vagabonds - design precepts

Some time ago, on this very blog, I postulated an idea for a RPG about 18th century rakes and raconteurs called Viscounts and Vagabonds. The game takes its inspiration from films like Dangerous Liaisons and Plunkett and Maclean, as well as the plays of Richard Sheridan (1751-1816) and the 1990s play by mail game En Garde. It can be played for high and tragic drama (e.g. The Duchess) or fast and furious laughter (Blackadder the Third). Part social comedy, part caper, typical adventures would involve PCs seeking to advance themselves socially and financially in Georgian London and further afield.

Although I've not started writing this yet, here are some of the key design elements I'd like to include in the game:

  1. PCs start impoverished; wealth and social standing should be quantifiable elements, although reputation should also be important. There has to be a mechanic for controlling reputation, the perception that society has of that character, particularly the viscounts. While the Georgians were probably not as obsessed about reputation as the Victorians, it still counted.
  2. Each player runs two characters - a viscount and a vagabond. The vagabonds are servants of the viscounts, but you don't run your viscount's vagabond - you run another player's!
  3. The vagabonds are there partly as gofers, but also as a means for the viscounts to access the social under-belly of Georgian society without getting their hands dirty. The vagabonds are the henchmen - the question is how reliable are they, and what their own personal goals are. Think of Baldrick in Blackadder.
  4. Characters have to reach specific goals, which could be drawn from a deck at the start of the campaign, or determined by the player in consultation with the umpire. Once a viscount achieves his goal, he is retired as a PC.
  5. I'd like a campaign to be structured a little like King Arthur Pendragon - there should be some kind of ultimate objective, and character activities in downtime should be important. A campaign should have an achievable conclusion within six to eight four hour game sessions - it should not ramble on indefinitely.
  6. Relationships with NPCs and communities should also be important, and measured by dice pools, as with the Circles mechanic in Burning Wheel.
  7. Character passions should be important, and will probably be the way experience and character advancement as generated (e.g. a character with a gambling addiction should have to test against this regularly). The more you go to your passions, the more XP you earn. V and V will not be an XP per session game - the player will be responsible for this. Thus, you can choose to ignore your passions, but you will harvest less XP at the end of the game.
  8. Quotes from Sheridan plays - additional XP can be earned by using quotes from Sheridan plays in your dialogue.
  9. Adventure cards - as an optional extra, Adventure Cards will be dealt each session to throw unexpected events in the paths of characters, which can earn extra XP if resolved. These are like side quests or adventures which PCs can undertake with the aid of their friends, or on their own.
The game is still very much in the early development stage, and keeps getting put on the back burner. One important decision has to be whether to use an established rules system, or go with a stand alone engine. The former might be easier. But combat should take up less of the game than social interaction, ergo expect a game that is more about politics and social intrigue than duelling on Hampstead Heath or privateering against the Spanish.

More on this once it begins to take more shape. Feedback and ideas are always appreciated!