Friday, December 14, 2018

Second Game Of Christmas 2018

Previous Games of Christmas: Earthdawn

Sometimes to fight great evil, one must turn to another type of evil. When heroes fall, and systems collapse, sometimes all you have left is the lesser evil. That is the idea behind today's game. Supervillains save the day. I kind of fall in love with ideas, and from the moment I encountered this one, I was infatuated with the idea of this game.

Necessary Evil

Story time. Back in 2003...or maybe 2004, not sure...I was at a gaming convention(MACE if it matters). Anyway, I was signing up for games and I saw this one listed as Savage Worlds. I had never heard of it before, but the setting was Star Wars, and I thought it sounded fun. The GM was Clint Black and he kept going on about all the cool settings and the like. And he held up his copy of Necessary Evil and said it was brand new. Ho man was it fun. I ended up getting a copy at the con and getting it signed. A lot of very important things happened for me at that convention. This game is fun to play and solidly designed. I will be using the Explorers Edition throughout this, as in most respects it is an improvement on the original edition.

Peritextual Elements
Pictured 1st Edition, much the best
The book is solidly built and holds up well. the cover is OK, though I really prefer the original cover to the new one. Inside it is all high gloss pages with lots of solid art. Funny story, at the time I first played the game I was also playing City of Heroes and there is a character in the game that is almost an exact match to my character in the game. It was part of what sold the game tome. It is a solid visual design through some of the art and layout is less than perfect. Overall though I find it fun to look through even if I am not playing.

The game uses Savage Worlds as its engine. you have a number of attributes and skills, they use die steps, much like yesterday's game. you also have levels and you gain edges as you go forward. Edges are limited by level and die step...except if you take the super edge superpower which lets you take any edge. You can start off super powerful in this game. the game is kind of unique in that it is pretty simple and yet has a lot of fiddly bits and subsystems. That seems contradictory...and it is, but somehow it manages to be both complex and simple. I like it. The game also has an interesting adventure building mechanic, where it randomizes the type of adventure while still getting a slid campaign thru line. In the first edition, it was far worse than this, explorers edition has a much better-designed adventure path system.

Second edition, which I like less
The setting is a pretty standard supers universe in its history. up until the alien invasion. Aliens invaded and the heroes fought back. It was a tough fight and they only won through the help of a friendly group of aliens. After the victory everyone celebrated, and all was great...for about ten minutes. You see the friendly aliens were secretly behind the invasion, to begin with,
and they used the victory as a way to wipe out the heroes and conquer earth once and for all. So the heroes are all dead. However, this worlds top mastermind realized a plan to gather villains and use them to defeat the aliens, both groups of aliens. Anyway, you play as the villainous members of the resistance fighting against evil fishy overlords from space. There is a lot more t the setting than that, but that is the basics and I love the concept too much to spoil it for you.

And that is all for today folks. I hope you enjoyed it.
Next time...

Dogs in the Vinyard

Thursday, December 13, 2018

First Game of Christmas 2018

Once again, dear friends, we delve into our recurring tradition of doing mini-reviews of games I have played. That's right my peeps it is time for the First game of Christmas.

This year we start with a game I played long ago. When I was first getting into games(I was fourteen or fifteen at the time) I had this odd categorization of games in my head. First, there were the games I played al the time - Palladium games, D&D, and Traveller - which I thought of as Normal. Then there came the games I was forced to play - Mostly White Wolf Games, and games that imitated that style - that I thought of as snooty games that I didn't like. though to be honest I think I disliked the people who played those games and their attitudes toward other players than the games themselves. And finally there were the games that looked interesting but I could never get into a game. Mostly these were games like Cyberpunk 2020, Battletech, and Ars Magica. Anyway, one day I was at the game shop and this girl was in there with this game I had never seen before, never even heard a whisper of it. When I asked about it she spoke of it like it was a very important and powerful thing. I knew right away I wanted to play it, I wouldn't get a chance for years(over five years). That game was...


First Edition
This game, I think, is a response to two things. First, it's a direct response dungeons and dragons. a way to build a setting and game system where delving into dungeons would make sense. Second, it was a response to the styles at the time(the game came out in 1993). Games that focused on metaplot and narrative structure. It was the same time a bunch of games of that type came out. Games where politics and NPCs were as important as fighting monsters and getting loot. FASA was really big in the meta plot-heavy games, ask any hardcore old-school Battletech players and they will tell you all about metaplot, Shadowrun was also pretty heavy into it as well. Heck, the plot f Earthdawn and Shadowrun are intrinsically linked.  However, I did not mind the metaplot as mu h in Earthdawn as I do in other games. Not sure why. Maybe it is enough in the background of the standard mode of play that I didn't notice.

Through this review, I will be using the first edition of the game(there are like four editions out now). The reason is that it is the only edition I have played, so I feel a little better discussing that edition that those which I have only read. And now without further ado, let's dig into Earthdawn.

Peritextual Elements
The book is solidly put together, I have had mine since the nineties and the biggest problem I have had some fading and curling of the cover. the font choice was a solid, simple design that is easy to read and follow along. The art is very well done, especially for the time it was written. mostly black and white, though there are some color inserts. The art is spread out evenly throughout the book and is a nice breakup. Flipping through the bk I still get excited to see what is on the next page. Always fun when you get some solid art in your book. The only issue I have with the art is that sometimes it has nothing to do with the mechanics or setting described on the page. 

The mechanics of the game are somewhat complex. For the time period it was fairly middle of the road, but seen through the lens of history it is complex. That is neither a condemnation nor a confirmation of that complexity. In the nineties, there was a glut of games with intense amounts of complexity, games like AD&D, Champions, and GURPs. compared to games of its age the Earthdawn is about the middle of the road. the game is a task-based system where you roll dice of carrying types against a target number. I think this may have been the first game to use die steps(d4, d6, d8, d10, etc), in fact, I think this game was the one that invented the term itself. 

You have a set of attributes which set ut the base die step of any given task with that attribute. Then you add in any relevant skill or Talent(magical ability) to that rating to get the final die step for your task. This game has levels, in which you gain new talents and skills, but they didn't call it that. The levels are called circles, I think this is to make them a part of the setting rather than a metanarrative conceit of the game. There are a number of things like that. Maybe that is why I liked the game so much when I was a kid. It was the first game I had encountered where the mechanics were linked to the setting explicitly. Even names had importance in the game, names of people, places and things are deeply connected to eth magic system in the game. Though I do need to be clear that I have always been a bit lost n the names, patterns, and threads. My GM really seemed to get it, but it got kind of obscure as I dug further in. This Naming thing did allow for a cool feature of magic items. Basically the more you knew about the name and history of a magic item the more powerful it became. This has always been a neat idea and I would love to use it in many other things. 

The setting of Earthdawn is what truly drew me to the game. It was aCaerns, underground chambers made of pure elemental magic material, from dragons and begin making them. Lots of politics and the like happen and the magic rises to even greater levels. Eventually, everyone that will retreat int the Caerns des so and they begin the long wait for the magic levels to drop back to safe levels.
s if they sat down and looked at the tropes common in the fantasy RPG genre and tried to come up with a setting that would make them all make sense. It is pretty spiffy. It goes like this: long ago there was a time of high magic. One day a wizard discovered that the magic levels would keep growing and growing until the walls between worlds began to break a little. When that happened, horrrs would creep into the world and destroy, torment, and devour any and all they encountered. This had lead to previous cataclisms and the shattering of history. This wizard spread the word and started a project to save civilization, he began archiving all the histories and knowledge he could trying to find a way to save the world. ver time all this knowledge and power became an empire built around this archive and project. Now that I break it down like this I see some interesting parallels to Isaac Asimov's Foundation series. So with the empire building and growing they eventually find the solution to the Horrors. They learn the secrets of building

Some folk began to reopen their Caerns and explore the world left bear by Horrors and hundreds of years. They began to rebuild and explore. For a while things were good, then the empire began to come back and use its massive magical power to try and reestablish their great empire. Now the players play members of the Naming races exploring underground Caerns, fighting horrors, and dealing with troubles with the empire. The naming races are the elves, dwarfs, orks, trolls, humans, Windlings(pixies), Tskrang(lizard people), and Obsidimen(rock people). overall the setting is very deep and well put together. I have just hinted at the basics, I would recommend digging in further, it is a fun trip.

First game of Christmas is now complete, tomorrow we will dig into...

Necessary Evil

Should be fun fun!