Category Archives: Fluff/Inspiration

Tales of Promethea

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Dark Harvest: The Legacy of Frankenstein is one of the most impressive games I’ve reviewed in the last years. Dark Harvest is a horror roleplaying game set in an alternative early 20th century. The land formerly known as Romania is ruled by none other than Dr. Frankenstein himself. The country is now known as Promethea and it’s on the forefront of technology and research. But its borders are closed and no one outside of the country knows what really happens in Promethea. And the truth is far worse than what you might imagine…

Tales of Promethea is a collection of horror stories written by the game’s author Iain Lowson and others. I have to admit I haven’t had the time to read it yet, but if it’s as good as the short stories included in the rulebooks it’s a must-have.

The 330-paged short story anthology is available from the Amazon Kindle store and DriveThruFiction for $3.99. For more information on Dark Harvest, check out the official site.

More thoughts on Fate Accelerated Edition

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For the last couple of days I have been thinking a lot about Fate Accelerated Edition. Fate has always been a game I was quite excited about, but it’s definitely not what you would call rules-light. Most versions of Fate are actually pretty complex. Having to wrap your head around the rules, applying Aspects, Skills and Stunts properly can be a daunting task – especially for players and GMs unfamiliar with the rules.

Fate Accelerated looks a lot like it could be what I have been waiting for. It’s a streamlined version of Fate Core and is not much more complex than games like PDQ or even Risus. Skills are replaced by Approaches which makes it much easier to adapt the game to every setting imaginable. Overall the number of Aspects and Stunts a player character has, have been reduced, which makes creating a character easier and faster.

Fate Accelerated has no special rules for magic, equipment etc., so an attack with a gun works the same as an attack using a magic spell or using martial arts. Equipment usually doesn’t play a role at all, aside from gear you mention in your character’s Stunts or Aspects. I have to admit this is something I still have to get used to, but it sounds as if it could make things so much easier!

Thinking about Fate Accelerated and pondering what to do with it, is a lot of fun, but in the long run it’s not enough. Games are there to be played, not just read. Luckily I know at least two players who are very interested in Fate and would love to play in a game run by me. I fear scheduling a game might be an issue, but that doesn’t keep me from making plans.

The question remains what kind of campaign to run. Recently my interest in Shadowrun has increased slightly, probably because of the upcoming Shadowrun Returns computer game. Back in the 90s I ran Shadowrun regularly, but nowadays I can’t fathom how I could stand the rules back then. I guess I am just getting old. Even though I am not too fond of Shadowrun’s rules, I love the setting, especially the early 2050s era. It may feel a bit anachronistic in this day and age, but it has a certain “old-school” cyberpunk feel, I like. I am pretty sure that FAE can be used to run a Shadowrun game, if you focus on characters and story. Special gear, magic, etc. can easily be handled using appropriate Aspects and Stunts.

Alternatively I am also considering a more classic cyberpunk setting. Not everyone wants Elves and magic in their dystopian future. I think I mentioned before that I would love to use the setting from Deus Ex Human Revolution for a tabletop RPG. But I guess before making a final decision I’ll have to talk to my players first. But that doesn’t keep me from throwing a few ideas around. 😉

What I love about Fate Accelerated is that it’s so easy to apply the rules to basically any setting you can come up with – provided you are comfortable with the narrative play style Fate supports. So what are your plans with FAE? Do you want to run a game with it or is it not crunchy enough for your tastes? Please share your thoughts below.

Three computer RPGs every tabletop RPG fan should play

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In the first post on this blog I actually said that I won’t be writing about computer games here. Today I want to make an exception from this rule. I have been an avid fan of computer roleplaying games long before I actually knew that tabletop RPGs existed. Most computer roleplaying games actually are not worthy of being called “roleplaying” games. Often the only thing they share with their tabletop counterparts are the underlying rules systems and several tropes.

But there are a couple of computer roleplaying games that actually allow you to roleplay to a degree. Others are great examples of world-building which could be an inspiration to GMs who love to create their own settings. There are three of these games I want to write about today.

Fallout
Fallout One of my all-time favorite computer games is Fallout. I am actually talking about the 1997 Interplay game here. The original Fallout takes place in a post-apocalyptic Southern California. It’s the year 2161 and family of the hero has survived the apocalypse in a huge underground vault. After a vital piece of equipment breaks down, the hero is sent out to retrieve a replacement from another vault. Of course this is only the first step in an epic adventure. What set Fallout apart from other games of the time was that you really could play the game like you wanted. You could focus on fighting your way through any opposition, outsmart or sneak around your enemies. In my first playthrough I played a charismatic and intelligent character that solved almost any problem with talking instead of shooting. I had a blast. The writing was solid, it had great humor, and a gripping, pretty non-linear story. Your decisions actually mattered, unlike in other games where different dialog options always lead to the same outcome.
In my humble opinion the Fallout universe is also deep enough to be used as a basis for a tabletop campaign. The sequels Fallout 2, Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas are still great games, but the first Fallout is definitely the best title in the series.
Fallout was actually meant to employ the GURPS rules, but Steve Jackson Games was unhappy about the game’s mature content, so the developers had to come up with a completely original system.

Mass Effect
Mass Effect If you’re even remotely interested in computer and video games you must’ve heard about the Mass Effect series. The Mass Effect trilogy spawned several spin-off games for mobile devices, comics, book, an animated movie and there are even plans for a feature film. Mass Effect is a science fiction action RPG developed by Bioware which tells the story of Commander Shepard who is fighting against the mysterious Reapers who wipe out the major civilizations of the Milky Way in a regular cycle. When I first played Mass Effect I was surprised how deep the background setting was. The Mass Effect feels much larger than the game itself. In a way it reminded me of the Star Wars galaxy. Even after watching Episode 4 I felt that I have glanced into a much larger universe. I felt the same with Mass Effect 1.
The gameplay varied slightly during the series. Mass Effect 2 and 3 feel much more like first person shooters than the first game in the series. But like in the aforementioned Fallout, combat is not everything that matters in Mass Effect. The decisions you made actually mattered and sometimes things you’ve done in the first episode of the trilogy affected events in the last episode. The conclusion of the series was a letdown to many gamers, but overall Mass Effect is probably the computer game that had the biggest emotional effect on me. I have to admit that there’s one scene in Mass Effect 3 that brought tears into my eyes. This is something no other computer game has achieved so far.
Why do I recommend Mass Effect to tabletop RPG fans? Mostly because of the setting. Mass Effect is a incredibly deep (for a computer game) and well designed space opera that works great at the tabletop. I’ve successfully run a Mass Effect game in the past using Starblazer Adventures and there are many other conversions available on the internet.

The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim
Skyrim Skyrim is the lastest game in the Elder Scrolls series. Like it’s predecessors it’s set in the continent of Tamriel, which has been ruled by the Empire for millenia. But things started to go downhill after the last member of the Septim bloodline sacrificed himself. The game is set into the northern-most province of the Empire called Skyrim. The game starts with your player character being sentenced to death but a sudden dragon attack gives you the chance to escape and eventually start a new life. After a short and pretty linear tutorial during which you can flee from the dragon attack, a whole world opens up for you to explore. Skyrim is a huge and beautiful sandbox for you to play in. There are countless dungeons, several large cities, small towns, lone farm houses, hundreds of quests, a crafting system, houses for you to buy and decorate… The options are almost endless. The main story of Skyrim is actually not that great, but that’s probably not why anyone plays an Elder Scrolls game. The Elder Scrolls series always provided a great sandbox experience. Other parts of the series probably offered you a deeper gameplay – in older titles you could even create custom spells and own businesses – but Skyrim is definitely the most accessible game of the series. By the way, Ken Rolston, who was lead designer for two games of the series, Oblivion and Morrowind, was a pen & paper RPG designer before he entered the video game industry. I think it’s no surprise that the rules system used in the earlier games of the series reminds me a lot of RuneQuest.

Honorable Mentions
If you are looking for other great games aside from the ones mentioned above, check out the other episodes of the Fallout, Mass Effect and Elder Scrolls series. If you don’t mind the dated graphics and gameplay you also should give the Ultima series a try. It’s one of the longest running computer game series and loved by many, even though the last two installments of the series were pretty bad. If you’re looking for a truly memorable story check out Planescape Torment. In my opinion it’s definitely the best AD&D-based computer RPG out there. Troika Games’ Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magicks Obscura is steampunk fantasy game that plays a lot like the original Fallout. It has some quirks and is still somewhat buggy, but both the story and the world are worth your time. It’s one of those settings I would to use at the tabletop one day. Last but not least, I have a treat for fans of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series: Cyanide’s Game of Thrones is an underrated gem. The graphics are somewhat outdated and the animations and voice acting are not the best out there, but the plot is truly awesome.

What are your thoughts on computer roleplaying games? Do you like them or hate them? Have you ever used elements from video games in your pen & paper roleplaying games? Please share your thoughts below!