Category Archives: Just my two cents

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On being on the other side of the GM screen

For years I’ve been almost exclusively been in the GM seat, but recently I’ve actually had the chance to play in other people’s games. And I have to admit, I really enjoy being able to play just one character.

I guess I’ve been talking about the SF game I planned to run for ages now. But alas my preparations never reached the point that it would be finally playable. Luckily one of my players offered to run Deathwatch again, so instead of struggling to get the new game ready, I could lay back and just enjoy the show. :)

Storm WardenIn Deathwatch I play Morgan, a Tactical Marine from the Storm Wardens, who recently joined the Deathwatch. My girlfriend takes the role of Skold, a Space Wolves Devastator Marine, who loves to put his Heavy Bolter to action. Last but not least we are accompanied by a Dark Angels Librarian called Xaphan, who is as mysterious as dangerous.

The three of us already freed a planet from a nasty Tyranid infestation, destroyed a Hive Ship almost on our own, and had some quarrels with a Tau army. This time we are sent to help with the reintegration of a lost colony into the Imperium of Man. On the way to this world we also stumbled upon the strange doings of a Tech Adept on board of a Rogue Trader ship. Not even travel to our mission objectives is ever boring and uneventful.

Deathwatch is definitely a bit more crunchy than the games I usually play, but it’s fun nevertheless. But I really hope that the coming adventure will be a bit more about investigations and diplomacy than just killing hordes of monsters. Don’t get me wrong, combat in Deathwatch is a lot of fun, but I want more out of my roleplaying games than just killing monsters and taking their stuff. And as Space Marines we don’t even loot.

Far TraderI also play in a bi-monthly online game. We started with a Realms of Cthulhu adventure, but since one of the players couldn’t join us the last two times, we switched to the Traveller campaign which has been in the planning phase for far too long already. In this game I play Arlen Coronaar, a Solomonai ex-scout who just recently was recruited as engineer for the Far Trader Penthesilea. Last Tuesday the first two player characters where finally introduced to each other, and as soon as possible we’ll start with the “real” campaign.  By the way, we actually use Basic Roleplaying instead of the actual Traveller rules. We even talked about using Savage Worlds. This might seem a bit weird for some Traveller fans but for my GM and me the most interesting aspect of the Traveller game has always been the setting and not the rules.

I have to admit not being in the GM position is a welcome change of pace. Don’t get me wrong, I very much enjoy being a GM, but it definitely puts more pressure on me than just being one of the players. And not having to run a game myself I have more free time to think about future campaigns. At the moment I am looking forward to converting my Fallout Fudged game to Fate Accelerated Edition. So don’t worry, I haven’t hung up the GM mantle yet. ;)

OP

The new Obsidian Portal: A first look

A while ago, Obsidian Portal has undergone a massive relaunch. The way the site looks and works has changed tremendously. Earlier this month I have been contacted by the people running Obsidian Portal and was asked if I was interested in reviewing the site. I have played around with Obsidian Portal in the past, but never done anything serious with it, so I decided to use it for releasing my Fallout Fudged rules.

So what does Obsidian Portal offer to its users? On OP you can create a site for your campaigns which features a blog (called Adventure Log), forums, a wiki, a calendar for scheduling game sessions, digital character sheets and many more. Alas the forums and calendar are for paying customers only. And if you don’t pay for OP’s services everything you create is public.

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My thoughts on Feng Shui

Feng Shui coverLast Friday I had the chance to play in a game of Feng Shui. Feng Shui is a roleplaying game from the mid-1990s inspired by Hong Kong action movies. If you enjoy watching movies where martial artists defy the laws of physics regularly or where gunmen jump through the air blasting away with a pistol in each hand, this game is for you. But instead of being a generic HK action cinema RPG, Feng Shui has an original and quite unique background setting.

The players are fighting in a secret war that is waged today, in the past, and even the future. Several factions try to get hold of special Feng Shui sites that grant its owners tremendous power. Who controls all the Feng Shui sites controls reality. The setting has a limited form of time travel that allows players and NPCs to travel to four points in time: now, 1850, 69, and 2056. The year 69 is an age of magic, heavily inspired by the Wuxia genre. In 2056 a totalitarian government rules about Earth which makes use of cyber-enhanced creatures that they brought in from the past. If you get the impression that Feng Shui’s setting is pretty weird and over-the-top you’re totally correct.

Luckily the rules system is pretty easy. The core mechanic is rolling d6-d6, add your Action Value (which is the sum of the relevant skill bonus + the attribute bonus) and compare it to a difficulty value set by the GM. Combat uses an easy tick system which works extremely well and surprisingly doesn’t slow things down. Special abilities come in the form of “schticks” which can be anything from martial arts maneuvers to  creature powers or sorcery. While the core mechanics are pretty easy and straight forward, the schticks can easily make things more complicated fast – especially for the GM not so much for the players. Each character usually has a small number of schticks in addition to a few regular skills.

Apropos characters, each player picks on of the character types during character creation, which is basically a complete character template. Usually you just have to choose between a few options, distribute a few points, and you’re ready to go. Even with a dinner break character creation took us only about an hour and a half, and neither of us had played the game in the past. Most character types can come from several different ages, and a Big Bruiser or Ninja from 69 A.D. is pretty different from one from the 1990s or the near future.

What I liked the most about Feng Shui is how it treats named and unnamed characters (aka mooks). Mooks are usually very easily killed and there are several schticks that make disposing of mooks even easier. Named characters are much harder to deal with. In the case of mooks you even disregard damage caused. If you attack result was good enough the mook is down. Period. During play I really felt like I was the star in a HK action movie, which was pretty awesome, BUT I also wished mooks would pose a bit more of a threat. If I remember correctly, the mooks actually never even managed to hurt us. Named characters are a totally different story. But even then Feng Shui is not particular deadly.

In my opinion Feng Shui does a great job to “simulate” the feel of Hong Kong action movies. If the players and the GM are into this particular genre, they should definitely give Feng Shui a try. The rules have a couple of minor issues and sometimes feels a bit rough around the edges, but that’s probably because of the rules’ age. Atlas Games is currently asking players to run the introductory adventure as a playtest and then provide some feedback. Our game on Friday was part of this playtest and I hope they’ll introduce a couple of changes and updates to the game before they rerelease it.

What are your thoughts on Feng Shui? Have you ever played it and if so how did you like it? Please share your thoughts below.