RPG test drive: Turn

I had a chance during the holidays to play with one of my online groups. You know how hard it can be to get a group together, especially when they are spread in different time zones; when the friend who was supposed to run the adventure had to ask for another week to prepare, I offered to run something in our original time slot so we would not lose our precious gaming time.

Since this group has greatly enjoyed Golden Sky Stories, I first thought I would try running Chuubo’s Marvelous Wish-Granting Engine, but I just can’t quite grasp how play proceeds, let alone explain it to others. So I decided to playtest Turn: A Game of Shapeshifters in Small Towns instead.

Turn (Daedalum Analog Productions) is “a slice-of-life supernatural roleplaying game set in the modern era”; I think of it as Northern Exposure meets Teen Wolf, or Twin Peaks done by Studio Ghibli.  It’s written by Brie Beau Sheldon and recently had a successful Kickstarter campaign (where you can find the beta playtest version, freely available.) Here is what the author says:

Players in Turn are shapeshifters in small, rural towns who must balance their human lives and habits with their beast needs and instincts in quiet drama. Their baser natures will challenge them as they strive towards goals from everyday tasks to life-changing experiences, and they will need to find comfort in one another to make it through without becoming stressed out.

Turn is part of the family of games Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA), which means that a lot of the setting and story creation comes from the players, not just the game-master. Starting a game involves group creation of the small town where the stories will unfold, and player characters are designed by picking one human role and one beast archetype and selecting from their menu of options to customize your characters.

Continue reading “RPG test drive: Turn”

Black Panther: Spoiler-Free Mini-Review

We saw Black Panther and it was even better than I had hoped. It’s now a strong contender for best Marvel movie ever, and therefore, for best superhero movie ever.

  • Visuals and special effects: 5. The most gorgeous eye-candy delight Marvel Studios have ever brought us. In scale and poise it holds its own against Asgard, and is much more joyous and colourful. Every visual choice was very carefully made. The tribes of Wakanda feel very different yet true and (mostly) unified.
  • Soundtrack: 4. Good mix of pop, traditional, and orchestral music.
  • Writing: 4.5. I have very few quibbles; the main one is that some characters I would really have liked to see again appear to have died the Final Death. But the dialogue is fun and smart, and the pace is good. Also, reflections on insular and and nationalist attitudes well-suited for our times, by a film-maker who cut his teeth on current events.
  • Casting: 5. There was not one actor I didn’t love, the choices were excellent all around. The characters’ personalities shone brightly and the lines were well delivered.
  • Direction: 4.5. Superb attention to detail and sense of an overarching vision. Ryan Coogler assembles the funny, dramatic, sad, tense, and absurd moments into a lifelike tapestry. I really enjoy the glances that characters exchange, the little non-verbal moments. Some exposition, but really not that much considering the amount of material the movie brings in, and well handled.
  • Editing: 4.5. Tight. Even the slower or more solemn moments did not feel like self-indulgence.
  • Superheroics: 4.5. The only problem is that the Black Panther suit is, well, black and can be a little hard to follow in the action. But the fights were definitely larger than life.
  • Diversity: 4.9. As the meme says, they even had two Tolkien white guys (Andy “Gollum” Serkis as Ulyses Klaue/Klaw, and Martin “Bilbo” Freeman as Agent Everett Ross.) Gender, orientation, and ability diversity not really showcased.
  • Feminism: 5. It passes the Bechdel test as well as the Strong Female Protagonist benchmark. Female characters have their own agendas and goals, their own opnions and methods. You can’t swing a dead panther in this movie without hitting a cool female character doing cool stuff.
  • The Edward S. Curtis Award for Anthropological Detail goes to Ryan Coogler and the set design team for the futuristic Wakandan buildings in the style of the Songhai and Aksum empires.

My take on it: who says intersectional social justice is dour? This is the bomb!

 

 

Play and Review: Alas for the Awful Sea

I finally ran Alas for the Awful Sea (Storybrewers Roleplaying) at Big Bad Con. This is a game Powered by the Apocalypse, built to tell dramatic tales about the characters’ needs, feelings, and conflicts; it’s set in poor coastal villages of the British Isles during the 19th Century and includes elements of history, legend, and supernatural.

Created by Australian game designers Hayley Gordon and Veronica “Vee” Hendro, the game was funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign back in February 2017. I was really excited about the focused theme, the promise of a streamlined approach to PbtA, and the team of women and non-binary people putting together the main book and the digital stretch goals. Besides, I don’t have very many Australian role-playing games (I can’t think of anything except Hunter Planet right now…)

They delivered right when promised and this beautiful book arrived in time for me to prep a game for Big Bad Con. It fit well, since I had decided to run only games made by women and non-binary people.

So here is a description of how I prepare the adventure, how it turned out in play, and finally a review of the game itself.

Whaler hove down for repairs

Continue reading “Play and Review: Alas for the Awful Sea”

RPG a Day: Finding Reviews

10. Where do you go for RPG reviews?

I check out a lot of reviews from friends in my social media feed on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter. When I know I have a lot of tastes in common with the reviewer, I check their new write-ups as soon as they are posted. If it sounds like my cup of tea, I put the title on my list of games to try.

If I’m looking for reviews of a specific game, I usually start with the official website of the publisher, then big distributors like DriveThruRPG or even Amazon, then do a general search to see what the word is. If it’s an older title, I also check RPG.net’s Game Index; if it’s a small press/indie/non-traditional sort of game, I’ll search a bit on the Forge and Story Games forum archives.

#RPGaDay2017

 

 

 

 

Play Report and Review: Relicblade

On Thursday my husband Edmund, our friend S., and I got to try Relicblade, a miniatures game from local company Metal King Studio. This is a skirmish-level, 35mm-scale game pretty much conceived and executed by one person, Sean Sutter: he wrote the rules, drew the art, and sculpted the minis!

The Relicblade had been Edmund’s birthday present this spring, but we had not tried it yet because Edmund wanted to paint the minis first. The basic game set comes with two factions, the Heroes and the Pig Men. Edmund had immediately declared them to be social justice warriors and male chauvinist pigs, respectively. The colour scheme of the heroes was selected to reflect his official team name, the Rainbow Warriors.  Continue reading “Play Report and Review: Relicblade”

Misspent Youth: Join the rebellion

Misspent Youth game

A few years ago I reviewed Robert Bohl’s role-playing game Misspent Youth. Well, two exciting things are happening with that game right now.

The Revolution Will Be Televised

First, it was demo’ed by Wil Wheaton on his show Tabletop (Geek & Sundry channel on YouTube), with geek blogger / vlogger / podcaster / actress Amy Dallen (Geek & Sundry, Future Girl, Nerdy But Flirty), and comic book writers Kelly Sue DeConnick (Bitch Planet, Captain Marvel, Pretty Deadly), and Matt Fraction (The Invincible Iron Man, The Immortal Iron Fist, Casanova).

This demo provide a very good impression of what the game is like. I recommend viewing the episodes in the following order:

  • Part 1 for the first three minutes and 15 seconds or so, in order to get the introduction.
  • The entirety of Part 0 for the full setting and character creation.
  • The rest of Part 1 (from 3:17 to the end.)
  • Part 2.

Sell Out With Me

Second exciting happening: A revised edition and a supplement full of new playsets, ideas, and art are being released soon, and the Kickstarter funding campaign is under way.

The new edition will be published through Burning Wheel Headquarters. The development team comprises writer and creative director Robert Bohl, book designer Joshua A.C. Newman, lead artist Jennifer Rodgers, editor Adam Dray, and publisher Luke Crane.

Contributing authors include some fantastic people:

Caitlynn Belle, Strix Beltrán & Ajit George (writing together), Misha Bushyager, Judd Karlman, Kimberley Lam, Daniel LevineKira Magrann, Matthew McFarland, Michael Miller, Quinn Murphy, Joshua AC Newman, Dev Purkayastha, Alex Roberts, Hannah ShafferJared Sorensen, Daniel Swensen, Curt Thompson, Rachel E.S. Walton, Bill White, and Gregor Vuga.

Artists include more luminaries:

Christianne Benedict, Nyra Drakae, Alex MayoJennifer RodgersEvan Rowland, Ernanda Souza, Rick Troula, and Jabari Weathers.

The Kickstarter campaign is already funded and runs for eight more days. Grab your music box, your balaclava, and your spray paint cans, the revolution needs harbingers.

Software Review: Scrivener

OMSFSM, Scrivener! I love it so much!

I wrote War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus on LibreOffice and it worked well enough, but by the time the manuscript got to about the 50% mark, it started being a real chore to revise and restructure. By the time I finished, it was 221 pages that we were passing back and forth between writer and editor to handle in LibreOffice and MS Word, and it was rather unwieldy.

Towards the end of the process I downloaded Scrivener but I was too far along to try converting the document. However, when I worked on the Open Content materials from War of Ashes later on, I tested a variety of more advanced writing tools (mostly distraction-free editors and LaTeX-based power tools), with the most promising being LyX and Scrivener.

In the end I decided that Scrivener was a good option for me. It was powerful, flexible, inexpensive, multi-platform, easy to learn thanks to its great tutorials and manuals, and supported by a vibrant community.

When I say inexpensive… The macOS, Windows, and iOS versions go for $40, just enough to cover minor support costs, and you can download a free trial version. The Linux version (that’s the one I use) is free because it’s unofficial but the user community is very helpful, and I ended up sending my $40 as a donation because it was worth every penny.

It has so many features and so much flexibility to work the way you want. I use it right from the planning stage to create my structure and outline, and to gather my writing resources: publisher’s guidelines, references, examples, cheat sheets, lists of names, notes I jotted down, etc.

I use its metadata features to add notes to each section such as keywords, actions needed (“Write examples of play,”) references cited (“Top Secret, TSR, 1980,”) status (“first draft”), or who will be a collaborating author on this section.

I have Scrivener set up to save the draft in my working folder and create a backup on Dropbox, in addition to using iDrive for my regular computer backup. On top of that, every time I stop working for the night or reach a significant milestone, I compile an export version of my draft in .docx format and post it for my publishers on Google Drive so they can follow my progress, and have a work product in hand if anything happened to me.

But I kind of got used to its ease, and I forgot what an improvement it was! Except that when I stopped to take stock of my progress tonight, I looked at the page count and realized what a chore the current drafts would be to handle on a basic word processor. In addition, I had reworked several individual sections of the Tianxia Rules Companion this weekend and instead of being a major hassle to locate the sections to edit in the middle of a manuscript, it was a breeze. So I just had to say a word for useful software!

Game Review: Gloomhaven

Back in 2015, Edmund and I backed the Kickstarter funding campaign for Gloomhaven, a new legacy-style miniatures game. Legacy games are campaigns where actions in one scenario may affect game world conditions and future scenarios. Because they involve placing stickers or marking cards, maps, etc. to indicate persistent effects in the game world, it can be very hard for a dedicated gamer to accept.

Many gamers can’t bring themselves to permanently alter game components! Nevertheless, the scope of the game was ambitious and the price tag ($79 for the full version with miniatures for each player character class) was perhaps steep if it turned out to be a game we’d rarely play, but really cheap if it we worked our way through the 70 or so scenarios then expected to be included, even if we only played through the campaign once, so we decided to risk chipping in.  Continue reading “Game Review: Gloomhaven”

Game Review: The Lost Age

On Friday afternoon at KublaCon, Edmund and I ended up playing in The Lost Age, run by author Keith Leiker. Although people had signed up for the game, they did not show up — not an uncommon occurrence on Fridays afternoon games at conventions — but we were looking to get into a game. Along with another player, Kim, we took the opportunity to try a new game.

The Lost Age (Leiker Games) is a combat-oriented fantasy game, which I would label as moderate-to-heavy crunch. [Update: And the funding campaign is now live on Kickstarter!]

Those who know me well will realize that that this is not my forte, I’m more of a rules-light, story-heavy gamer. However, I had heard the pitch (to other potential players) before I decided to jump in, so I knew what I was getting into and I was in a mood to try something different from my usual fare, to broaden my gaming horizons if you will. Continue reading “Game Review: The Lost Age”

Masks: Play report and review

Masks

A few weeks ago, our friend AW ran a one-off episode of the role-playing game Masks for me, my husband Edmund, and two more friends, SP and MP. I thought this was a good time to talk about this game since the PDF version just became available on DriveThruRPG. First, I share a play report that goes a bit long, but talks about the mechanics as well as the fiction generated in play. I follow with a review of the game. Continue reading “Masks: Play report and review”