Cosmic Patrol from Catalyst Game Labs appealed to me the instant I saw the book. Such classic iconography with the rocket ship surrounded by orbiting bodies. A name so evocative of the pulp stories and radio serials that I love. Elegant graphic design in an attractive digest-sized hardcover. Wait. Digest size? I suppose that’s when I knew that something was about to go terribly wrong. After all, RPG books are supposed to be the full size of a 8.5×11 sheet of paper. It’s only reluctantly that Savage Worlds and Fate won me over to the 6×9 novel-sized format. Certainly Palladium’s decision to publish the new edition of Robotech: the Shadow Chronicles in manga-sized trade made the book completely undesirable from my point of view.
Summer of 2014 saw the release of the fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons in a box set designed to introduce new players to the game. The box includes a rule book, an adventure book, pregenerated character sheets, and a full set of dice. It retails for $19.99.
Create Your Character +0: The production quality of the box is fairly average. The dice are a nice, marbleized deep blue with bright white numbers. The rule books use thick, glossy presentation pages, and the character sheets are on heavy-weave linen. Both books are coverless, saddle-stitched jobs. A 64-page rulebook and a 32-page adventure book. The included rules are meant to take characters as high as 5th level, and the adventure booklet maps out this structure very well. The box set plays as a quaint little self-contained game that will provide four or five complete gaming sessions.
The Challenge Rating System that Pathfinder uses is a holdover from D&D 3.5. This time around, Curtis and I dive into the math underneath building opponents and dig into where it works and where it doesn’t. We share some of our own observations, and offer up a more simplistic alternative – just go for it!
Curt and I fire up the reaction chamber to talk about some of the documentaries we’ve watched recently. We review “Rewind This”, about the VHS tape collector’s community, “The Game Masters”, profiling the lives of several people who are into pen and paper RPGs, and “The Dungeons & Dragons Experience” a general treatment of the hobby. Following the movie reviews we discuss the mechanic of Concession in the Fate System, a counter-intuitive method of conflict resolution that has still made its way into our games. The Kickstarter for Opposing Forces is still funding, so don’t forget to check out the project and help make an awesome game book!
The Fate System measures health, willpower, composure, structural integrity and even the progress of a scene using the Stress Track mechanic. This measurement tool flexes to adjust to the current situation; it is not meant to emulate the absolute durability of an object, but the relative importance of the subject to the dramatic potential of the scene. The Stress Track interacts with every skill usage in exactly the same way, but the dramatic intention of the skill dictates the way in which results are applied. In Fate Core, the four actions used to affect the Stress Track are Overcome, Create Advantage, Attack, and Defend.
Most RPGs are predicated on the 50% success rule. Heroes will succeed half the time they attempt a task. Fate Core takes a quantitatively different approach by predicating on the 100% success rule. Heroes are equal to any task which they attempt to undertake. The static skills test throws the differences between the two approaches into stark contrast and highlights the effectiveness of each.
The 50% rule is seen most clearly in skill tests against a static difficulty. Pathfinder and the d20 games even have an option for players to automatically succeed at tasks within a certain difficulty range. This is known as Taking Ten or Taking Twenty because it assumes an average die roll. This type of mechanic evolved from the roots of the game as a tactical simulation, under the philosophy that success should be based on tactical choices rather than luck. When adapted for dramatic simulation, the die roll represents the effort of the characters in a very real way.
Curtis and I continue our Doomsday Prepping, focusing this time on how to get ready for the advent of the Dark Sun, when a rogue asteroid spins our planet into a closer orbit, turning the world into a desert planet. Curtis got some new toys, and we do a bit about using the new Dwarven Forge miniature dungeon. The pieces are really spectacular, and there will be pictures posted into the blog later in the week. Other topics include updates on our plans to attend Fear the Con 5, Free Comic Book Day, and the premiere of The Avengers this weekend. Check out the artwork from Atomic Earth, and send us some feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org!
Watching the Deadliest Warrior is like watching a train wreck. You know exactly what’s happening, and what to expect – you just can’t look away. I still can’t understand why these guys are surprised that a given weapon will inflict lethal damage on the human body….
Predictably, the kids walk in and trump both warriors with their own guile and craft!
Now taking bets … Spartan vs Ninja!
Some quick reviews on the Horseclans stories by Robert Adams, How to Train Your Dragon follows. After that, the guys and I sit down and discuss elements of rpg settings and what makes a good one.
Those Horseclan books are hard to find, check the Amazon store to make the job a bit easier!
The October/November Bard contest is over, and we have some clear results. The Podcasting for Water Benefit book is done, and John Wilkerson speaks a bit about his perspective on the past year. Some cool music from The Get, and the final few days to take advantage of a huge offer from Spirit Blade Productions. Merry Christmas to all!