Category Archives: Reviews & Culture

Review – Dave Arneson’s True Genius by Robert J. Kuntz

I ordered this book, and let it default to the faster shipping option, instead of letting it take a few more days. Normally, I don’t read other reviews before I write my own. However, I was struggling with what to say, and was curious what others thought of it. I found one strongly positive review by Paul Stormberg of The Collector’s Trove on Facebook. I found myself wondering if he had read the same book I had. I also saw a brief one on G+ by +Greg Gorgonmilk, where he admitted having difficulty trying to find something positive to say about it.  It is with some reluctance that I publish my first solidly negative review.

First Impression

I was very surprised when it came in the mail. I didn’t realize this $20 volume plus several dollars for mailing was only 69 pages long. That was a big let down. However, the introduction and footnotes make it clear that this is just a preparatory volume with a lot of the content in Mr. Kuntz’s upcoming full monograph*: A New Ethos In Game Design.

My initial impression of reading this volume is that it feels like reading 17th, 18th, and 19th century books. I’ve even read some 20th century texts written in this style. My background is studying history and theology, so I have lots of practice reading this style of writing. Basically, the sentence structure is archaic, and the length of sentences reminds me of my forays into studying German in college. Once I determined it was going to be that kind of read, I realized that I had to avoid distractions while reading, so no TV in the other room, and my granddaughter down for a nap.

This may just be the way that Mr. Kuntz writes. Many of my rough drafts have long sentences, and awkward phrasing. In some ways, I felt like I was reading one of my own rough drafts, or one of the “BS” philosophy papers I wrote in college. {I have a minor in philosophy to go with a BA in history. I mean no disrespect, I am just reminded of my own worst writing.]

In spite of the dense and complex way to say things, I was able to change gears from the lighter fare of most of my recent reading, and dig in.

Within these pages it is stated that Dave Arneson is the origin of roleplaying, and stating that David Wesley’s Braunstein or Gygax & Perren’s Chainmail are not true antecedents of The Fantasy Game, later marketed as Dungeons & Dragons.

Mr. Kuntz points out that original D&D is closer to children’s make believe than any other game. He argues that historians of D&D should look to systems theory and design theory to see that neither Chainmail nor Braunstein, on their own, have all the elements by themselves to play a RPG.

He concludes this monograph* with what some may consider a shot across the bow (An apt metaphor for a book about the creator of a naval warfare game.):

RPG historians should take serious note of systems thinking and design theory before making claims which paint unscientific pictures for public consumption and, in such cases, that are rife with errors of even the most basic kind. This form of historicity is not consonant with readily available scientific methodology but tends towards haphazard guesswork.

Mr. Kuntz obviously has a dim view on the historiographic** methods of many RPG historians. Perhaps the issue is a lack of primary materials from Dave Arneson and his players. In-depth interviews with the remaining first generation players would clarify this. As I have not delved into the methods and footnotes of all extant histories on RPGs and D&D, I cannot comment if that is the issue.

A more accessible presentation, i.e.  easier to read, would better serve Rob Kunt’s goal of expressing to the world that without Dave Arneson, there would be no D&D. It is clear that this is true. It is also clear, from what I have read, that without Gary Gygax’s collaboration, RPGs may never have taken off and would be an obscure phenomena limited to the original group of players.

Rob Kuntz is by many accounts a very intelligent man, and obviously widely read. From his many footnotes, it is clear that he is widely read in the theories of systems and design. Most of those footnotes read like his writing. Other reviews I have read have stated that he could probably say the same thing in one third the number of pages. I tend to agree.

The argument is stated that Dave Arneson’s vision of what RPGs can be is stunted and too strongly tied to what have become more and more rigid rules with each version of D&D. He thus seems to advocate what those in the OSR movement are all about, “rulings not rules”, and using the parts that fit what is right for you and your group. He points out that Gary Gygax advocated this early on, but for financial/profit reasons developed more rules to keep players tied to his version of the game, rather than getting by without rules. While this is demonstrably true based on Gygax’s own writings, it is not new.

However, I do not see how one can take the RPG concept further than “rulings not rules”. The upcoming book is claimed to answer that question.

What I Liked

  • A good reminder that without Dave Arneson, there would be no D&D.
  • Supports the OSR ideal of “rulings not rules.”

What I’d Like to See

  • A more direct and clear writing style.
  • Mr. Kuntz was there are the beginning of the Arneson/Gygax collaboration on D&D, and his personal insights add perspective to the early days. I’d like to see this more plainly explained. Perhaps it is his upcoming monograph*.

Conclusion

If you are one of those who researches the history of D&D, you will want this book for your collection.  Some who are completionists will find that they want this in their collection. Dave Arneson did not come up with his idea out of nothing. He was a long time game player, and had multiple experiences in different aspects of games, that one can see their impact on what he shared with his gaming group and later Gary Gygax. While it is helpful to have primary sources from those who were there, the writing style is far from accessible to the general reader. If this is the style we can expect from his upcoming book, then I seriously doubt I will buy it. His goal of raising up Dave Arneson would be better served by a more clear and concise presentation of his argument.

*Monograph – A fancy word for a book with one author.

**Historiography is the study of the methods of historians. It is in a sense, the history of the study of history. [The upper level historiography course was required for my BA in history.]

Dungeon Grappling – eBook Review

I have already done a review of an advanced copy, PDF, and book for Dungeon Grappling. Doug did above I beyond and along with the PDF released two eBook formats ePub & mobi.

I fired up my Kindle and loaded it up. It is Black & white with no graphics for speed at the table. All the content is otherwise the same. It has the linked table of contents and index like the PDF.

It has a clean and crisp layout. I’ve not tried using my Kindle at the table, but I may have to give it a go.

I also fired up my Samsung Galaxy 5 tablet and opened it in the Aldiko reader and it looks good there too. The PDF looks good on my tablet as well.

If you have an eBook reader, or want it on your phone or a tablet, this is a cool option to have.

This part is worth repeating:

Doug took one reviewer to heart about the art and has published a book of just the art. The cut is for the artists to get a bonus, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and towards a bit of the overhead. You can buy Dungeon Grappling On DriveThruRPG and on Doug’s website, Gaming Ballistic.

Dungeon Grappling – Book Review

I was right in yesterday’s post when I said I squeaked my review of the PDF of Dungeon Grappling in under the wire before the arrival of the book today!

It is an 8.5 x 11 inch AKA U.S. letter sized volume in softcover. It has a wraparound cover image that Doug sprang for when the Kickstarter was only $180 short of the goal.

The art is more gorgeous on the printed page. I mentioned in my review of the PDF that the background image did not obscure the text. The same is true of the physical book. There is a bit of a shine at some angles, but that does not stop it from being legible like some slick-paper books with a background image I have, like the 5e rulebooks.

I’m old and remember rule books with perforated sheets in the back. While this book has 3 reference sheets in the back, they are not perforated. That’s OK with me, since I wouldn’t mar a book anyway. Also the PDF has the same sheets and it is trivial to print those three sheets if you need them.

If you prefer physical books for your rules, or you just like cool art, this book is for you. The PDF, two formats of eBook, and this volume were at the $18 level, plus shipping. I sprang for the bundle of the 8 issues of The Manor. Plus, the physical book with an initial goal of shipping in April has arrived in January!

Doug Cole has taken to heart the advice of +Erik Tenkar over at Tenkar’s Tavern and many others. Doug is planning another Kickstarter, and from this experience, if he does anything else that I find useful at the table, I will back that Kickstarter!

This part is worth repeating:

Doug took one reviewer to heart about the art and has published a book of just the art. The cut is for the artists to get a bonus, St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, and towards a bit of the overhead. You can buy Dungeon Grappling On DriveThruRPG and on Doug’s website, Gaming Ballistic.

 

Mini Review – Apes Victorious

There’s a new RPG in town, Apes Victorious. It’s built on the standard RPG engine of so many other games based on the original RPG. The focus is on a world like that in the Planet of the Apes movies and TV show. Release on Monday, it is now the top seller on RPGNow.

It takes the “standard” RPG rules and comes up with a game that is its own setting. It is faithful to the cinematic world, and lays out the different types of apes, with the addition of bonobos. Humans can be time travelling astronauts, humanoids (regressed non-speaking humans), and underdwellers. It postulates a 1970’s era technology far in advance of what it was, but using the films as a starting point for what happened.

The nuclear apocalypse and subsequent ice age to wipe away most of past humanity’s efforts sets the stage for the rise of apes. The movies’ world setting is well presented, and suits many other apocalyptic settings.

One could argue that you can just use Metamorphosis Alpha, Gamma World, or other science fiction/apocalyptic RPG. However, the authors have anticipated this argument and made a case for multiple ways to make this a stand alone campaign of more than just one-shot adventures or convention play.

They also present a sample map and scenarios and creatures to encounter in the wilderness.

As someone who loved the original movies back when they finally made it to TV, and acted out scenarios with brothers and friends before we found RPG’s, it feels like the movies.

There is a free no art version available and two variation on the character sheet here. You can get the complete PDF at RPGNow for $4.97. Print options are forthcoming.

I tried to think of what is lacking in this game. The main reservation I had, of making it a campaign worthy game, were addressed by the authors. A niche game in a niche hobby, it is good to see the developers acknowledge what some will see as shortcomings.

I am curious about the art, so I may give in and get the art version.

There is a G+ Community that started back in the spring when they first announced the summer release of Apes Victorious.

This article uses affiliate links. A small portion of your purchases on RPGNow and DriveThruRPG help support this site.

Empire of Imagination – Mini Review

I finally made the time this week and read Michael Witwer’s book, Empire of Imagination, a biography of Gary Gygax. You can read about his research [here or here] on the sanitorium that was not in the original hardback, but is detailed in the paperback.

I’m a fast reader and I made it through in two evenings. It is well written and flows

The narrative style makes it a non-traditional biography, but does help take the reader into the story of Gay Gygax’s life before and after D&D. There are lots of footnotes, photographs, and a bibliography of Gygax’s works.

For a quick and entertaining overview of Gary’s involvement with D&D and TSR, this book does the job. It reads like one wrote down all the stories from Gary’s life. The care and detail in research shines through.

Some of the jumps in the presentation from one chapter to the next seemed abrupt and not well explained. However, as I think about it, that is often how our own lives are when we realize that we have entered a new chapter. Even though we were there for he whole thing, we can still wonder, “How did I get here?”

I enjoyed the style, and like good things found myself wanting more. Now I know why this book took off when it came out. If you haven’t read it, I suggest adding it to your reading list. It is also available in audio book, if you prefer that sort of thing.

D&D Documentary Number 3 – Rebuilding Trust

While at Gary Con, I attended a session titled, D&D Documentary Teaser and Q&A. Pat Kilbane is working on a D&D documentary. It is a third documentary totally unrelated to the other two documentaries now tied up in litigation*.  There is enough about this documentary to impress me, that I decided on the spot to write up a separate article to give it the focus it deserves. In short, I will do what I can to promote it.

My new friend, +Satine Phoenix, is one of the interviewees in the three clips we were shown, and she happened to join in, as she was early for Frank Mentzer’s D&D game in the same room, following this 1 hour session.

I wish I had the foresight to record this. It was a good discussion, and my notes were only on the high points. As more comes along, I will mention it here on my blog.

Satine & Pat after the presentation.
Satine & Pat after the presentation.

The three interviews in the sneak peak were with:

So far, shooting for those on the West coast has been done. Next, while at Gary Con, he is interviewing all the old guard from the beginning to get their perspective. He filmed a session by Tim Kask on the first five years of TSR. I had the honor of asking the last question.

Rather than have yet another Kickstarter for a D&D documentary, when the previous two are tied up in litigation, Pat wants to focus on building trust with the intended audience. His idea is to do small two minute pieces as part of a Patreon to create a track record of delivering smaller bits, until there is enough trust to do some form of fundraiser, such as Kickstarter.

An example of the short videos he envisions is the Gary Con Two-Minute History video, featuring Luke Gygax explaining what Gary Con is.

You can follow Pat’s efforts on the Facebook page, Dorks of Yore.

*Full disclosure, I am in for and most likely out $50 for the second documentary’s Kickstarter, The Great Kingdom. The first film that Kickstarted is Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary, which I missed the Kickstarter altogether. You can find details of the trials and tribulations of these two films with your google-fu. I want to stay positive and show what Pat is doing. As with most of us, I think we just want any film, that is well done, to come out while the old guard is still available.

Review – Day Trippers Game Masters Guide

This is a follow up post to my review of the Day Tripper’s Core Rules.

I was invited to review the entire system after my review of the Planet Generator guide. There are two other generators for Locations and Lifeforms from the GM Guide that are available on DTRPG/RPGNow. If you have the GM Guide, you don’t need to purchase these stand alone generators. My review of the GM Guide will be much shorter than the review of the Core Rules. I’m sure many will appreciate that.

Setting The Tone:

The GM Guide begins with a discussions of surreal and surrealism, and then goes into a discussion of it in science fiction and then RPGs. This might be eye glazing fodder for some. While a good presentation of the subject, I am not entirely sure it is warranted. We know that dreams and the chao are possible slip types, so many may find it a long winded way to say “weird”.

“Appendix N” Material:

There is a long list of resources for inspiration. The selection deals with “alternate realities, multiple dimensions, subjective worlds, bizarre lifeforms, surreal space adventures, and time travel.

This list is limited to one page and helps give flavor. There are things I’ve never read, some I have heard of. Thanks for making my read/watch list longer. There aren’t enough hours in the day to read all that I want to read, or watch all that I want to watch. (I’m the only with that problem, right?)

Other movies/TV shows I thought of are “The Fly” (original or remake), “Incredible Shrinking Man/Woman”, “InnerSpace”, adn TV shows: “Seven Days”, “Land of the Giants”, “Lost In Space”, and many others. As with other RPGs, almost anything can be an inspiration, even your weird dreams.

Details:

As expected, the GM Guide fleshes out things from the Core Rules. For example, NPCs get a whole page here instead of a paragraph in the Core Rules.

There are examples of how play proceeds, and 16 pages at the end that walk through generating your own adventure using the generators and forms provided.

Generators:

56 of the 120 pages are dedicated to 12 generators: Missions, Stars, Planets, Locations, Lifeforms, Societies, Drama, Character, Alternate Earth, Dream World, Multiversal Chao, and Time Travel.

Most, if not all of these generators can be used in other RPGs of any genre. As with all generators used in prepping to play, they are suggestive, and are a means to help you think of things to mix it up so each adventure is different.

You already know what I think about the planet generator.

The cool thing about these generators is how flexible they are. Many of them require two rolls, one using 1 to 3 d6’s to determine the general nature of the particular table, and another d6 for the sub-item in that category on the chart.

The parallel earth generator walks you figuring out what is different and when it happened, and how likely the characters are to figure it out, or how they might figure it out.

Page 88 has a cool flow chart to determine when to use a given generator in the course of developing a mission.

Questions:

From my review of the Core Rules, there are two questions for which I was looking for answers in the GM Guide:

  1. What happens to players that fail to return in 24 hours?
    Here’s a link to a G+ thread where my review is highlighted by the game developer. He mentions that the results of exceeding 24 hours is meant to be determined by each GM. In his game it creates an alternate reality, and they are “gone” from the original. What happens if a player isn’t there that session? The party would be split up.
    Rescue missions are discussed and they involve time travel to go to where the lost people are and insert them into the time stream in this reality a moment before the rescue ship leaves. It also mentions changed time lines/new alternate universes created, etc.
  2. Are the action/combat charts in one handy section of the GM Guide
    The charts are not in one location in the GM guide. I did find on the DayTrippers website that they have a GM screen.

Free PDFs – Follow Up:

All the forms that are available for free on DTRPG/RPGNow that I mentioned in my Core Rules review are in the GM Guide. However, the players hand out is not. I would recommend it be in the PDF so that the GM has everything in one place. The Traveller conversion PDF is not in there either, but that is not critical in my mind, since it is a special case for a single game.

In addition to including the free PDFs there is an Adventure Sketch Sheet to hold the bare facts about an adventure.

What I Like:

All the awesome generators! These generators do a great job of giving ideas, and would be helpful for developing one’s own generators, perhaps with more options.

There are 6 sample missions, examples of NPCs, a walk through of building a mission, all designed to help the GM prepare for game play, or figure it out on the fly.

The sandbox style of play is promoted by suggesting preparing outlines of missions, since the idea is that characters and other NPC’s are in the business of doing missions. Also developing NPC’s ahead of time for use as needed. The nice thing about he majority of NPC’s is that they have stats of 1, so you don’t need to write down all their stats, just the ones that are not one.

In addition to the generators, there are drama templates that guide the GM in preparing the mission/adventure. These templates include what kind of locations, gear, and NPC’s are needed to help you cover all the bases. This would be a handy tool for those new to running games. My only caution is to avoid a railroad, just as these rules do.

The advice in the GM Guide is if the players don’t notice your clues or pick up on them, it is a sign that you are doing it wrong. That is, you need to describe them better, give them an idea of why they should notice them, etc.

What I’d Like to See:

The only thing I can think to add, is that all RPG’s should have a section to clarify what types of dice they require. In the Core Rules 1 or more d6’s are mentioned. However, on page 35 of the GM Guide for node type determination, it mentions the possibility of using 2d4. I am OK with that, but this is the only place in both manuals that I am aware of that mentions anything besides using d6’s. As with most players of RPG’s I have dice to cover almost any situation, and even dice for which I don’t have the particular RPG they go with, but have them anyway. Since it is only in the GM Guide, it won’t impact players, but a heads up before then for this one-time suggestion for a scenario to use d4’s would be helpful.

Conclusion:

I’d buy this just for the generators. $12 for 12 generators is a good price if you are looking for that sort of thing.

I could run this game. I would want to play a game as a player first, or watch it played (see YouTube Video below). I’ll watch these videos later.

The mechanics are interesting and simple. There’s no guess work or fumbling with the manuals to see if you hit/succeeded. Until you get the hang of it, you might want the suggested results when something more than straight up success or failure happens. You’ll need the Core Rules handy for that.

The GM Guide is$12 on DTRGP/RPGNow.

There is also a GM Bundle that includes the GM Guide and the Core Rules for $25.98 (save $5 from purchasing individually) at DTRPG/RPGNow.

So far, there are two modules for DayTrippers available on DTRPG/RPGNow. I have not read them, so don’t know specifics. One of them is refenced in the GM Guide to illustrate the use of the Runsheet.

DayTrippers has its own website with other PDFs and forums.

I found two YouTube videos on topic. One is an interview with Tod Foley at Legends of Tabletop, and the other is actual play GMed by Tod Foley. I plan to watch them later.

 

 

Review – Day Trippers Core Rules

I did a review of the Day Trippers Planet Generator back in May. The author contacted me to review the Core Rules and Game Masters Guide.

I was interested to see what Day Trippers was, and why the name. Before I could get the time to read what I had downloaded, I saw that others had posted their own reviews of Day Trippers, so I made sure to avoid reading them until I had a chance to see it for myself. I read and reviewed the Core Rules before this review. This should help me understand how the players see the game, verses the “inside information” in the GM Guide.

I was concerned about how long it would take me to get through the books, but the Core Rules is only 44 pages. I got through half of it in one sitting. The other half I finished in another sitting.

I went in-depth in this review, far different from how I would review a movie. This should give you an understanding/feel of the game and creating characters and resolving actions.

The layout is clean and it is easy to read on my tablet. It has good art, and no typos or grammar errors that I noticed. The Table of Contents is hyperlinked. The index is not hyperlinked. This is not an issue, I am not aware of any index that is hyperlinked. The Table of Contents does not include the character sheet and ship sheet on the last two pages of the PDF. The rules are Creative Commons 3.0 UNPORTED LICENSE (CC BY 3.0). THEY ARE OWNED BY EVERYONE AND NO ONE. HTTP://CREATIVECOMMONS.ORG/LICENSES/BY/3.0/

It starts with a story to set the history and tone. It’s the campaign world setting. It was interesting and let me in on the origin of this concept in the mind of the game creator. As with any “default” campaign setting, it is up to the user to use it or not. In short, crazy super genius invents method to travel between dimensions. Once he proves it, other individuals, corporations, and governments get involved. There are locations that others find and keep a secret to use to their own advantage, in addition to well-know places, and places as yet undiscovered.

The premise behind the game is slipping between dimensions, different realities, planets, etc. It reminds me of the times older episodes of Dr. Who (AKA Tom Baker) moved sideways to other realities in the TARDIS rather than through normal time and space. I also was reminded of the TV show Sliders, although I think I only ever caught one episode of that show. It also reminds me a bit of the TV show 7 Days where they could only travel back in time seven days.

What I find hilarious in the backstory for how such travel was discovered, the acronym for the first device in my mind is TRAP, although it is referred to as TRA Pod in the text.  I then imagined Admiral Akbar, “It’s a TRAP!” I often come up with weird acronyms others didn’t intend.

There are terms used in the rules, Slip Space for the space/stuff traversed between starting point and destination, and Slip Pods for the devices that carry people through Slip Space.

There are five variations on slip travel, called Slips: Cartesian, Temporal, Para Terran, Subjective, Compound

  • Travel across the universe in this home reality. That is travel to other planets. (Cartesian)
  • Alternate Earths/Parallel Universes (Para Terran)
  • Time Travel, but limited to the time line of Earth 1. (Temporal)
  • Dream Worlds (Subjective)
  • The Multiversal Chao (Compound Slips – Which is a combination of two or more other kinds of slips.)

One Slips into one of 6 Nodes: Known Planets, Unknown Planets, Time Travels, Alternate Earths, Dream Worlds, and The Multiversal Chao. Dreams reminds me of the movie Inception, or places where stories are real. There is more than one story I am aware of about the characters and places in fiction are real. With all of these possibilities, there is no shortage of potential adventures. One can do any genre with these rules: science fiction, steam punk, western, spy, gangsters, fantasy, suspense, horror, sword & planet, etc.

The origin of the title of the game, Day Trippers, is that one is limited to 24 hours for the maximum length of time one can stay in their destination. If one does not return in that time, they cease to exist in the originating point. My question is, if they stay in this dimension/universe/timeline, that would mean they cease to exist, but does that mean they are trapped in different dimensions/realities if they fail to return? This is not clear to me in the Core Rules. As I read it, I would rule they are trapped in that other dimension. I will look to see if this is clarified in the GM Guide.

Character generation is a point buy. Each character begins with 100 CP (Character Points) to spend building characters. An interesting concept is that these CP can be saved and used during play for Progressive Character Building. CP are used to generate the stats for players, buy skill levels, and purchase equipment, just like using money.

There are ten classes: Amateur Explorer, Gonzo Writer, Grad Student, Politican/Nobility, Special Forces, Celebrity/Entertainer, Government Agent, Scientist, Soldier, Tourist.

There are six stats (ability) scores: Brains, Charm, Grace, Health, Might, Psyche.

The interesting thing about ability scores is that they all start with one and then CP can be used to bump them up to a maximum of six. The number one through six represents the number of d6’s to roll for each challenge/impediment one faces in the game. To bump a score from 1 to 2 only costs 5 CP, but adding more increases the cost. To bump the score of a starting stat to 5 costs 100 CP and 6 costs 200 CP.

CP is equal to one unit of currency, called a Mega, which equals one million dollars. One can go into debt to build and equip a starting character. The debt has to be paid at one mega a month. Experience Points, XP, can be used to improve one’s character or pay off debt. The equivalence of each CP/Mega/XP makes it easy to figure out and track.

The Total Character Value (TCV) is the sum of CP and XP spent to develop your character. This would be analogous to level in other games. Similarly, Potential is the sum of unspent CP and XP.

There is a list of skills that have a note of one or two stats that apply to their use. Some skills assume the presence of a kit, for example a doctor has a bag, a technician has a tool kit, etc. New skills can be added with GM agreement, and must specify one or two applicable stats for their use. Skills also go from 1-6.

Classes can also be used to boost stats and skills before adventuring begins. Stats and skills get boosted by one and debt is increased.

Crew is the name for NPCs, they have 1 in all stats and cost one Mega or CP for a year of service. Additional stats, skills, and gear can be purchased for them as with characters. “[T]hey are assumed to have an unglamorous but serviceable place to live.” This same assumption is made for characters.

Rank applies to those from military, political, or secret careers, also from 1-6. My only issue with the rank, is for military, it used army/air force/marine ranks for levels 1-5, and level 6 is admiral, a navy rank. An admiral of the same number of stars is equivalent rank to a general of the same number of stars, so I would change level 5 to colonel and make level 6 general. If you want navy ranks list them. Keep in mind that a navy captain is equal to an army colonel.

Retired rank translates to last rank-1 for resolving actions.

Fame is a stat that indicates how well known a character is and there are benefits from the level of fame from 1-6. One has to make an effort to maintain their level of fame, either by spending megas or doing something to stay in the public eye. It boosts charm rolls.

Debts can be to legitimate sources like banks, or loan sharks. The difference is in how they handle late payments. Such as, legal action vs. broken legs. Not paying debts on time can lower one’s fame.

Life Shaping is done via events that shape the life of a character. These events can be presented before or during play, or even between sessions. LifeShapers can be used to deal with problems, with a reasonable explanation. There are twelve slots available for LifeShapers, so one can only add so many.

Gear ranges from 0-6, with 0 being standard items that add no bonus to actions. Gear with levels 1-6 are increasingly more expensive and add plusses to rolls.

There is a list of sample characters provided that can be used to get players started, or be used for one shot adventures, etc.

Action resolution begins with difficulty levels from 1-10, 1 being a no-brainer to a 10 being insane. Any difficulty of 7 or higher is impossible without leveled skills and/or gear, since the max stat is 6. You roll the number of dice equal to the appropriate skill and keep the highest. This just improves your odds of rolling a 6.

After the roll is determined, the appropriate/applicable skill, gear, rank, and fame are added.

Actions can be unopposed or opposed. Unopposed is more direct. With an opposed action the “defender” also rolls.

There are five possibilities for all results:

  • Miss by more than 1       No, AND (something negative happens)
  • Miss by 1                               NO, BUT (something positive happens)
  • Hit Exactly                            YES, BUT (something negative happens)
  • Exceed by 1                          YES (Nailed it precisely)
  • Exceed by more than 1  YES, AND (something positive happens)

This makes it easy to determine the “flavor” of successes and failures. For example, taking out the guard in one strike, but he makes a noise that alerts other guard(s).

Combat works similarly to actions, but level of armor and weapons play into it.

Other players can help the character performing an action, such as opening doors. The helper makes a roll, but helping could be not helping. How many movies, TV shows, or real life situations have you seen where someone says, “Please stop helping!”?

Damage reduces stats by one, and since they are in alphabetical order, you work your way down the list. If there is multiple damage in one action, take one from the first stat, one from the next and so on. When a stat hits 0 you are stunned, when 3 stats hit 0, you are dead.

There are no luck points to burn to avoid a bad situation. It is all up to the player(s) using their wits to make their current mix of stats, skills, and gear work to their advantage. Being able to come up with a plausible reason why a certain stat or skill applies in a given situation is key.

Healing is likewise simple, if only one stat is down a single point, three days of rest. More than that takes longer rest, involves hospitals, doctors, spending Megas, and possible devices found in one’s travels. Healing heals one point in each stat in alphabetical order.

An exception to healing is damage to the Psyche, which requires therapy and/or medication and can take months or years. It requires a level 5 difficulty roll to heal psyche after each month of rest. This is an interesting idea for the horror/Cthulhu type genre where one can regain sanity.

Vehicle actions are resolved similarly to other actions and combat. The appropriate stat,  skill and their levels, plus the level of the vehicle are added to the roll.

The vehicle combat table has the same five levels as other actions, but the results are specific to vehicles, like one hit on a vehicle and a critical strike, or vehicle escapes.

Vector Slipping is the action of using a Slip Ship to Slip into one of the 6 nodes. The action roll for this again has 5 possible outcomes. One knows by the result of the roll how well it succeeded or failed, and possible complications, but the details require looking at the chart. (I hope to find pages of all these charts in one place in the GM guide.)

The stuff between here and there is deadly, not only does it require a Slip Ship, but it also requires a Survival Suit. Both must remain intact to protect the user from the catastrophic and get you back to your origination point.

There is a discussion of the use and consequences of damage to the survival suit.

There is an explanation of the construction of a slip ship, from carrying capacity in crew, to core ship components, to amenities and even weapons. Each piece has a level, higher being more expensive. There is a list of sample ships and their cost to give you an idea. Ships can be owned by a player, in massive debt, a group, or a benefactor/sponsor.

There are six types of missions, seven if a mission mixes two or more types: Exploration, Emergency/Rescue, Sightseeing, Surveying/Fact-Finding, Acquisition/Trade, Politics/Diplomacy.

There is an explanation of how to build a mission and quantify it.

The rules end with a brief discussion and charts for conversion to and from four other systems: PbtA (Powered by the Apocalypse) – [I had to google for that acronym.), d20, 1-20, and 1-100. This makes it easy to port other systems, such as clones like White Box, or specifically White Star to use this game.

After the credits and a one page index, is a one page character sheet, and a one page ship sheet.

This gives players and GM the bare bones to play this game.

I have left out that this is a story style game. I don’t have experience running or playing story style games, so I can’t comment on that other than this impression. It reminds me of what I have read about Fate, and observed in people playing Fate. I can see the appeal of the collaborative effort of building a story together. To me this type of game play being fun would depend on the right mix of people and how narrowly or broadly they adhered to the role playing aspect of it. If the point is to get together and have fun with the rules as a guiding framework, I could have fun. If the point is to adhere to strict interpretations of the rules and strictly stay in character during game play, I might not have fun. I think this is true of any RPG.

In short, with the right mix of people, I might enjoy story style games.

Speaking specifically about Day Trippers, I see many interesting things, like the point buy character generation. One could have a super genius that isn’t much good for the charm or physical, a tough brute short on brains, a beauty/charmer, or an average person. By eliminating rolls for stats, one has flexibility to play the kind of character they want. I think this would appeal to those who feel that scores are more important than how one plays and has fun with it.

One does not have to play the game as a strict story game. I’m all for use the rules you want.

I think there are some interesting ideas here. Personally, I don’t think I’ll find a group that will play this game, but I definitely see some interesting ideas, that like many games, I can use for my own creations in the various genres of RPG that I play and run.

The rules are $5 at DriveThru/RPGNow, so it is inexpensive if you want to have a look for yourself. There are also free PDFs of things that are not in the Core Rules, in addition to the character sheet and ship sheet at the back of the Core Rules.

  • DayTrippers Mission RunSheet – A one page PDF for developing a mission or adventure. Not form fillable.
  • DayTrippers Player Handout – This is a very helpful one page summary to explain to the player how the game works. It is not part of the Core Rules.
  • DayTrippers Lifeform Sheet – This one page PDF has fields to describe various life forms and they use the same six stats as characters. The life form could be anything from a “monster”, or animal, to a sentient being. Not form fillable.
  • DayTrippers Planet Sheet – This one page PDF holds the information on a planet and two locations, and has a world map on the bottom of the page. It is not form fillabe.
  • DayTrippers PC Tracking Sheet – This one page PDF allows a GM to track 4 characters. It is not form fillable.
  • Converting from Traveller – This one page PDF goes into depth about converting characters to DayTrippers from Traveller. This is more involved than the bit in the Core Rules.

Lords of Waterdeep

+Jared Randall, his wife Karen, and their five kids hosted a housewarming/tabletop game party at their new house Saturday.

It was a fun time!

I played a board game I had heard of but not seen or played before, Lords of Waterdeep. Waterdeep being one of the cities in Forgotten Realms.

It looks complex for all the various cards and pieces, but is fairly simple once you understand. I do not recall the man’s name and his son who showed Jared’s oldest daughter and I how to play. But he said that by the third turn you will understand it. He was right.

There are enough options to it that a beginning player can do well against seasoned players. Yet there is enough complexity and depth that one could play a lot of games and not grow bored. Shuffling of decks and drawing random cards that define how to focus your play make each game unique.

Both the quick play and full rules are available in PDF from WotC. WotC has a quick start video and also links to Wil Wheaton’s Table Top episode where they played the game.

At the end of eight turns, a final tally is made and the person with the high score wins.

It says for ages 12+. I think some younger players that get it could do well at this game.

There are a couple of expansions for it, but I can’t see running out of options unless you played this game all the time.

I liked it and had fun. If I thought I would play it even a few times a year, I would get it. It is fairly fast to play. With four players, my guess is that it took an hour, but I wasn’t timing it, and did not check start and stop times.

It is not an introduction to RPG’s as there is no role playing and no characters. There is no way for players to operate outside the rules as written, since it is  within the realm of a “standard” board game.

$49.99 suggested retail price seems a bit steep, but it is not as simple or straightforward as the old standbys, like Monopoly or Scrabble, that you can get at the major chain store for $9.99. If you play it often, it can soon seem like a bargain. With a cost like that, I can understand if you want to see it played, or better yet play it yourself, before buying. There’s nothing worse than getting a board game, getting it home, and it being either too complex, or too simple, or something that you wouldn’t get had you only known.

I don’t have a lot of board games, and don’t play them often. Most are designed for two or more people, so when you live alone, they gather dust on the shelf. Are there any single/solo player board games?

If your family likes board games, they might want to give this one a try. I can see a marathon weekend series being an option, if I were still in high school, with no responsibilities.

Side note: There were a couple of kids,none of them Jared’s, there who did not know how to shuffle cards. It makes total sense why this is: computers and solitaire. Not many kids play card games anymore, unless they are in a household that plays them. I was younger than these kids when I was halfway competent at card shuffling. My suggestions for teaching them were not accepted. Oh, well, kids these days…. I wonder how long until the skill of shuffling cards is lost to all but the dealers at casinos.

 

READ AN RPG BOOK IN PUBLIC WEEK – 2015 – July 26th – August 1st, 2015

Just a little reminder that next week starting this Sunday, July 26th through August 1st, is the second of the three annual weeks for Read an RPG Book in Public Week.

This year, I have not managed to read an RPG book in public during an official week, but I have read part of the 5th Edition Player’s Handbook while in my hammock, between two big trees in my front yard. If the weather cooperates, I should be able to manage to actually meet this challenge.