All posts by Stargazer

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team.

In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games.

Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

Of Hermits, Snakes and Near-TPKs

Recently I started a Titansgrave campaign using the Fantasy AGE rules. If you haven’t heard of Titansgrave before, I wholeheartedly recommend you to check it out. It’s a Sci-fantasy setting conceived by Wil Wheaton and the campaign which has been available for purchase quite a while now, has been run by him on YouTube. I’ve embedded the introductory episode below.

Since I had the impression that one of my players knew the campaign by heart, I decided to not run this campaign, but start with “The Hermit’s Road” which was recommended for players of 2nd to 4th level. After that I planned to write my own adventures and use the adventures in the Titansgrave book as inspiration.

Character creation took us several hours, not because the rules are hard, but because I had to do a lot of explaining and translating for my players. We also followed the recommendation in Titansgrave and I asked my player several background questions like: “Who contributed most to your last adventure? Now who REALLY contributed most and why is the other person getting the credit?”
My players had a lot of fun coming up with cool answers and everyone was excited to finally start playing.

181895The Hermit’s Road is basically a simple dungeon romp, so it felt perfect for an introductory adventure. Alas the encounters don’t really seem to be well-designed or my inexperience as a FAGE GM shines through. The first combat encounter in the adventure really went bad and a well-rounded party of six players was almost wiped out. I had to pull all my tricks as a GM to keep them alive short of cheating. After a hour-long character creation process I really didn’t want them to be killed by some snakes especially since it wasn’t their fault. I don’t want to spoil that much here, but just let me say, that an encounter with 2 enemies per player character, which fall from the ceiling, cannot be run from and which can constrict the PCs easily was perhaps not the best decision. I get the feeling that this adventure has been designed for players who already played through the Titansgrave: Ashes of Valkana campaign and are more experienced.

But aside from that very frustrating combat everyone is really enjoying both the Fantasy AGE rules and the Titansgrave setting. I really hope Green Ronin finally releases a proper setting book later this year. I’ll post more thoughts on Fantasy AGE and Titansgrave in the future, so please stay tuned.

Giving Savage Worlds Another Chance

SWEXYes, it has been quite a long time since my last post. I don’t want to go into much detail here, but my mental health issues have been rearing their ugly head again. But I am still thinking about roleplaying games from time to time. Heck, I even managed to get together a small group of friends who are willing to meet once a week.

At the moment we’re still playing Call of Cthulhu, but I am already thinking about what to run after that. One of the games I looked at was – even to my own surprise – GURPS. Back in the 90s I bought a lot of GURPS material, but actually never really played the game aside from a single one-shot. What I really liked about GURPS was its versatility and pretty simple core mechanic. But aside from that its “crunchyness” is beyond what I normally like. Actually I don’t know why I gave it a cold shoulder in the last few years.

Then – inspired by Chaotic GM’s recent post I gave Savage Worlds another look and realized that it actually can do everything GURPS does, but mechanically it’s much more closer to my comfort level. Yes, it has its flaws, but it’s still a pretty robust and well-supported game system. It also is pretty fast to run and to prepare, which is not something you can say about too many generic roleplaying games.

etu

Savage Worlds also has a couple of very interesting settings. My absolute favorite at the moment is East Texas University. It’s basically Buffy with the serial numbers filed off and set into an East Texas town – and it’s full of awesome! The players are students of  East Texas University, a place where the teachers might try to kill you (literally), where freshmen get sacrificed to old gods, and where the lecture halls are haunted by more than just the spirit of academia. The players’ job is to fight evil, investigate hauntings, banish demons, while going on parties and learning for the finals. Yes, my college years are long past me, I am much closer in age to the teachers than the students, but ETU sounds like it could be a lot of fun playing it.

kickstarter

Another reason why I think now is the perfect time to give Savage Worlds another chance is RIFTS Savage Worlds. The kickstarter is still running for a few more days, and its already way past its initial goal. RIFTS is an awesome setting, actually it’s one of my all-time favorites. But the rules are … just let me say, I am not a fan. I am really hoping a “savaged” RIFTS will be more approachable than the original game and allow me to introduce my friends to this totally gonzo setting.

Tomorrow I am going to talk to my weekly group about my plans to run ETU. Let’s hope they like the idea as much as I do.

Harassment and the Gaming Community – A few thoughts

Recently I was made aware of this article and was shocked and appalled by what I read. What the author of this post has endured is terrible and it’s a shame that all this has happened in the gaming community. A lot of people immediately dismiss the post because it just seems too outrageous, too far away from their personal experiences. But I have no doubts that these things happen way too often.

I actually wrote a long post with my thoughts on the subject, but eventually I decided against posting it because of several reasons. English is not my native language and even though I have a pretty good grasp of the language (at least I hope so) sometimes it’s hard to put my thoughts into the proper words. This subject is highly emotional and very complex, so it’s very easy to offend everyone even if you have the best motives.

My intentions with this post are twofold: first I want to point out the article and recommend everyone to read it and think deeply about it. I especially ask my fellow male gamers to not just dismiss it. Secondly I want to ask everyone to help changing the community for the better. Don’t look away, speak up and point out the bad apples, support your fellow gamers regardless of gender, sexuality, skin color, and religion. Make sure that your own gaming table is a safe and welcoming place for everyone! Remember that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

P.S.: If you want to read more about why we should take such reports seriously, I recommend this article.