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Favorite New Game — #RPGaDay2015, Day 3

So, anyone who’s paying particularly close attention (I know who you are, all … three (?) of you) will have noted that I am slamming through these #RPGaDay2015 entries in fairly fast succession.  The day’s not over yet, and here I am, working on the third entry.

It’s not a huge mystery.  I really hate being late about this, and what with Gen Con and not really paying attention, I’m nigh on a week behind.  I mean, it might be fine with Ironbombs to be a couple of days late, but here in the Library … something.  Either that, or I’m so sick of Ironbombs snagging all of the good games away from me that I’m not going to play catch-up any longer.  (The truth being, with this blog close to a year behind on keeping a real schedule, I’m just glad to have some measure of inspiration at all.  And this is enough to keep me in front of the keyboard for a couple of minutes, all things being equal.)

This one is a weird one, for me at least.  I tend to buy so many games that there isn’t a lot of new stuff that goes into the Library.  More often than not, I tend to buy games to patch holes in my collection, which doesn’t really feel new so much as it feels like an addition to what has previously been established.  That said, I think I can make a good claim.

Favorite New Game (within the last 12 months)

My current favorite game happens to be one that I don’t yet own, technically.  And it’s only been released about a week back.

This honor goes to Fantasy Flight Games’ Force and Destiny RPG, which I have been playing since the Beta ruleset was released a year ago at Gen Con.  Right or wrong, I find Fantasy Flight’s strategy of putting out a hard copy of semi-finished rules to be a fascinating idea.  Paizo does similar with their playtest versions of upcoming character classes (most recently, the Occult Adventures collection, their own version of Psionics), but there’s an attendant murmur within the fan community of whether or not these actually serve as a bed for playtesting Beta rules or not.  FFG does put out incremental updates to specific rules and sich in their Beta versions, so I think there is a fair amount of feedback within the forums.  For whatever that is worth.

For my own part, I enjoy the early access to the material for my own sake.  I haven’t been active on the forums to see what the moods within the community are, nor have I spent much time trying to suss out what changes are needed to make this game into something other than what I familiarized myself with after the last Gen Con.  Really, all I did was get a handle on the specifics that were introduced for the broader Jedi campaign and ran with it.  If there was something that seemed out of place or egregiously overpowered, I checked against the forums as needed or did my own edits as I went along.  I know Star Wars well enough that I didn’t need to reference too much beyond Wookieepedia, and these rules are pretty conducive to kit-bashing as the need arises.

There are a couple of serious contenders to being my new favorite game, and they deserve some mention herein.

First up against the wall would be Anima: Beyond Fantasy, but this doesn’t really rate as being new, so much as it’s new to me.  I picked the entire line up during an online fire sale, where everything was marked down to a mere fraction of what it originally retailed for.  I get the idea that Fantasy Flight is burning all of their extraneous merch lines, of which this one would have been more expensive than its profit margins would have allowed for.  And I can’t blame them for this, since it’s a weird niche product anyway an English translation of a Spanish game that tries its best to emulate Japanese fantasy.  And it’s pretty crunchy, as well, with an ostensibly percentile based system that goes off the rails almost as soon as complexity and variant power levels are given text.  I’m a huge, huge fan of the detail that I’ve seen in the game, but it’s going to require some serious devotion to crack the code enough to play the damned game.  And let’s not think of how much work it’s going to take to allow me to run it for a new group, let alone explain the rules quickly and simply.

Next, there’s the Cthulhu assortment.  Again, I managed to find an internet fire sale, reducing all of these titles to an much more manageable price point.  I bought all of these on the same shipment, which means that I’ve only skimmed some occasioned bits of text of each, but it gives me some fascinating insight as to which ones I’m more likely to run at a given point.

Working roughly backwards, we start with The Laundry, based on the book series by Charles Stross.  I have yet to read through these, but they come highly recommended by one of my regular gaming group.  The plot concerns an underfunded section of British Intelligence that deals with Mythos threats.  On the surface, this puts it as being a version of Delta Green, with parts of Necroscope and Night Watch, only with more bureaucracy and a slightly tongue-in-cheek outlook on things.  It’s a neat game, from what I’ve looked through thus far, but it suffers from being a standalone game, rather than a Call of Cthulhu supplement.  As such, there are rules from the Cthulhu main book included to allow the game to run without referencing anything else.

Then comes Achtung! Cthulhu, which casts the Cthulhu Mythos against a more or less Pulp version of World War II.  Easily the prettiest game line of the three within my Cthulhu assortment, this game suffers not from being a standalone, but from trying to dual-stat the damned things.  I hated it when games in the Deadlands line did this, and it’s not any better here.  A good portion of my discontent hinges on the fact that I rabidly dislike Savage Worlds, so having to share space on the page with that game means that there’s wasted space in the book for my purposes.

And finally, there’s Cubicle 7’s take on the same material as Achtung! Cthulhu, in the form of World War Cthulhu.  This is good, good stuff,  but where Achtung! would have you mix and match whatever interesting pulp ideas come to mind, this is treated a lot more drily.

The big difference between these two games comes in how the war itself is given treatment beside the in-universe truth of the Mythos.  For Achtung!, there’s no problem coming up with some convoluted plot involving the Thule Gesellschaft and Nyarlathotep.  If it sounds entertaining, throw that shit in!  In comparison, World War Cthulhu goes to great lengths to note that it was actual, human evil that bombed London and set up Auschwitz and Dachau, so involving the Cthulhu Mythos cheapens what they consider the true horror of the setting.  If Himmler was corrupted by whispers from Azathoth, that offers him a ready excuse for his actions.  Instead, the game goes in the direction of setting the two horrors beside each other, forcing a balancing act between a pair of different (yet no less abhorrent) evils.

I can’t say which of these games ranks higher in my estimation, but I have the feeling I would be more likely to run Achtung! on a regular basis.  I’d certainly use elements of WWC, but it comes across as being much more grim and scarring.

So, yeah.  Those are my runners-up for Favorite New Game.  I’m sure, had I read through them and run them after I’d gotten them, they may have displaced Star Wars, but right now, my priorities lie with the bird in the hand.

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Kickstarter Game — #RPGaDay2015, Day 2

This entry follows the previous memetic post, inspired by Autocratik and noted by Ironbombs.  The official title is the oddly awkward “Kickstarted Game Most Pleased You Backed,” which I would have phrased in one of a dozen different ways.  I’m sure that there is a better, more succinct way of getting this idea across, as this sort of makes my head hurt.

I have to be honest about this.  I really do not have a great track record, insofar as Kickstarter goes.

The very first Kickstarter I ever backed, the one that I created my account simply to pledge money for, never happened.  The ones that I pledged around $100 for?  Yeah, most of those have yet to be fulfilled.  The ones that I pledged the most for?  Haven’t really played any of them, to this point.

And yet, I keep putting money out for these damned things, like the worst sort of KS Apologist, eager to be hurt again.  It would be different if I were possessed of interminable amounts of ready disposable income, but most of the time, these things push the hard edges of my careful budget.  Yet none of this stops me from putting out more money when they come around, cup in hand, to ask for alms and donations.

That aside…

Day 2 — Most Positive Kickstarter RPG Experience

All in all, I’d have to say that the Pathfinder version of the Advanced Bestiary from Green Ronin ranks right at the top.  There are a lot of other possibilities that I could put forth as contenders for this ranking (and I’ll get into those potentialities further down), but this book is everything that it needs to be, at a solid value for what I pledged.

The problem with a lot of Kickstarter campaigns is that, for my dollar, most products end up being better housed in the “wait until it hits retail” category.  Yes, I realize that the money that goes into the Kickstarter campaign helps to improve the finished product, thereby improving the overall value of the game, but so many of these companies treat Kickstarter as a glorified pre-order system.  (I’m looking directly at you, Onyx Path.)  As such, there’s little reason to pledge money beforehand, if you’re going to be paying as much or more than you would at retail.  I’ve heard many stories of people putting $100 into a Kickstarter pledge, only to find out that buying it retail would have saved them 20% overall, and in some cases, the backers would have received their product earlier by not waiting for the fulfillment to arrive in the mail.  (Again, Onyx Path.)

The Advanced Bestiary was delivered to me for the end retail value, with shipping included, which hits the first point directly.

The next point is that this is one of the most useful books that has ever been written for Pathfinder.  I fell in love with the first incarnation of the book, which I believe was solidly D20 (putting it more or less in D&D 3.0, for grognard purposes) and came out in the wake of the D&D 3.5 revision.  This was a book of indispensable utility.  It followed the template system laid out in the D&D Monster Manual, allowing all manner of tweaks to be lain upon monstrous foes.  These ranged from very minor to complete reworkings, allowing an unheard of degree of customization for your campaigns.  If you were running a game concerned with weird, clockwork monstrosities, there was a template to upgrade normal monsters to fit this paradigm.  If you wanted to tweak a normal creature into bipedal version for a weird race, there was a template to make sense of this.  And if you wanted to create some unholy gestalt creature (there was once a discussion of a Gelatinous Beholder), that was entirely within the framework of these rules.

There was an entire line of Advanced books from Green Ronin at the time, but this book was the most useful, far and away.  As such, when it came time to kick for this book, I was immediately on board.  There was nothing particularly revolutionary about the book; it had all been done before, more or less, and this was just the rules upgrade that had been promised.  For me, the fact that it was cleanly laid out, quickly delivered, reasonably priced, and exactly what I wanted ranks it very highly.

In terms of solid contenders for this entry, the next possibility would have to be the Lone Wolf Adventure Game from Cubicle 7.  This has less to do with the game itself, and more to do with the fact that I am really looking forward to the full release of this game and where it goes.  Cubicle 7 manages to put out some of the prettiest games around (Doctor Who, One Ring, and Qin, not to get into the necessary obsession of Kuro), and this is no exception.  As such, the forthcoming products are going to be amazing.  Moreover, I’m really happy with this game because I had a collection of the Lone Wolf Adventure Gamebooks from back in the day, and seeing this world put to paper with the approval of the author is phenomenal.  (Let’s leave aside that I got to meet Joe Dever at Gen Con, which was a hell of a thing.  There are pictures of this floating about, and I’m generally grinning like an idiot.)

Following up, we have the Shadows of Esteren Kickstarters.  I do dearly love this game, but until I manage to actually throw dice, I can’t actually profess my true, deep adoration.  A similar sentiment pervades my outlook on the original Dwarven Forge Kickstarter, since I’ve managed to use the terrain all of once.  There’s a whole stack of Onyx Path Kickstarters, which run a weird path of fascination and disappointment.  They always take forever to arrive, but when they finally show up, the production value tends to be top notch.  (The less said about the Exalted 3rd Edition, the better.)

And finally, the one that I’m looking forward to most happens to be the Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Kickstarter.  This isn’t because I’m particularly bound to a new edition of a classic game (though, to be honest, it will be a great revision), it’s because the fulfillment of the Kickstarter has apparently shaken up the company so badly that they needed to restructure themselves on a corporate level.  There’s a lot more to it, of course, but the advent of this new system had the end result of disposing of the old guard at Chaosium in order to actually get it to the backers.  Here’s hoping that this portends well for the company going forward.