Category Archives: Reviews & First Looks

Distress Call, a Starfinder adventure on Kickstarter, an interview with the author.

A couple of weeks ago I found about a new product in Kickstarter. With the success of Starfinder there are a slew of new third-party products available. Many push the system in new and interesting directions.  However, I learned about this project vial the Google+ Stargazer’s World Community. The author shared the campaign, and I was really intrigued by the fact the project was being created in Mexico. I contacted the author, Davide Tramma, to learn more about From Beyond: Distress Call, a sci-fi adventure. He was kind enough to answer my questions, here is the interview.

Sunglar: Davide, before we talk specifically about your Kickstarter project, let’s get to know you. Who is Davide Tramma? Where are you from?

Davide: Well, I’m many things and that depends of the point of view. I’m a husband, I’m a teacher, I’m a cook, I’m a player. Essentially, I’m all the things that I’ve been through during the 40 years I have been here. In few words, I’m what I like to do and at the same time what I don’t.

Sunglar: How did you start playing role-playing games? Continue reading Distress Call, a Starfinder adventure on Kickstarter, an interview with the author.

Coriolis

I have spent some of my down time over Christmas reading up on Coriolis from free league publishing.

I was super impressed with Mutant:Year Zero with its beautifully simple skill resolution mechanics, the D6, D66 and D666 scalability and even a neat little combat system that was both fast to play yet had the graphic critical damage effects that move combat into the narrative.

If you read my take on Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed and the 2d20 system you will know I was far from taken with the game mechanics of that system.

So what do I think of Coriolis?

My background is very much in Rolemaster, that is what started this little tour of alternative systems. Coriolis feels like Rolemaster in miniature. By that I mean in Rolemaster we are used to a characters defined through their skills the same as Coriolis; Characters can have Talents and Flaws in Rolemaster whereas Coriolis has Talents and Problems; I am used to  a whole rainbow of difficulty factors for skill tests from routine to near impossible; graduated levels of success, in Rolemaster that is typically failure, partial success, success, absolute success, in Coriolis it goes failure, limited success, critical success. The latest Rolemaster rules use a 4 action point system per round and Coriolis uses 3 action points. Throughout the rules I have read so far Coriolis looks and feels like a D6 version of Rolemaster. The clever use of the D66 where needed bridges the gap from the granular D100 to the broad strokes of the d6.

I mentioned Conan earlier for one reason. There was a mechanic in that game that I detested, momentum and consequences, and that rears its ugly head again in Coriolis but this time in the guise of Darkness points.

In Rolemaster circles there is a concept of ‘flurry of blows’. The logic goes like this, a combat round is 10 seconds long and you are more than capable of swinging your sword more than once in 10 seconds. So the attack roll you make is not your only attack that round, it is the attack that was most likely to succeed. In reality you actually made many feints, parries and attacks in that 10 seconds. Flurry of blows is almost universally reviled by the players, partly because melee attacks are flurry of blows but spells are not, one fireball is one fireball, missile attacks are not flurries, an arrow is an arrow or a spear is a spear. The rules are not consistent.

Corriolis is based around flurry of blows and it suffers with the same breakdown in coherency when it comes to throws spears, axes or arrows which are quite clearly discrete. I agree that you do not need to count every bullet, Spacemaster used a count of bullets for guns that had small magazines but just a generic ‘burst’ for semi and automatic weapons. You didn’t need to know how many bullets were in each burst but you could still track when the magazine or bullet belt was empty. Coriolis uses the flurry of blows or burst of bullets concept for all the attacks and for me it breaks the suspension of disbelief. I end up feeling like guns are filled with miniature Schrodinger’s cats and until you check what is in the magazine or pull the trigger your bullets may or may not exist.

I know the argument is that if you have to track bullets then it is just more bookkeeping but the flip of that is that there are opportunities for dramatic tension when a player is down to the last few rounds and the enemy are at the door.

So that is quite enough about the game mechanics…

Coriolis as a game

I firmly believe that the setting is all important in a game. Coriolis uses a wonderful fusion of Sci Fi and the Arabian Nights to create a rather mystical FireFly-like game backdrop. I am a really enthusiastic about this set up. I read the Arabian Nights again earlier this year (2017) so I was already on board from the very first paragraph.

Now, here is an interesting thing. I played in a Spacemaster game last year and having read the adventure The Dark Flowers I am convinced that the adventure I played through was the sample adventure from Coriolis. So technically I have never played Coriolis, and you know I don’t feel that happy reviewing games I have not played, I have played the sample adventure. Now I am looking at it with a GM’s eye I think it is an excellent introduction. It also points to the quality of the Coriolis materials.

Incidentally, I don’t know if this is a coincidence but the ‘feel’ of the page layout and design is very much like Eclipse Phase from Posthuman Studios. It could be that this is just a page layout ‘style’ and the fact that both games are Sci Fi and relatively rules lite in my experience.

So over all I cannot really fault the game design, the quality of the materials, the setting or anything. There is one game mechanic I don’t like, but I would house rule around that if I ran the game. That is personal preference.

Finally…

If you have read my recent mini series on GM Emulators, I find it very interesting how the consequences mechanic from both Coriolis and Conan have so much in common with the plot twist mechanics in the GM Emulators. This may sound like a contradiction that I advocate GM emulators for collaborative play but when the same mechanics turn up in a game I object to it. The difference is that when using a GM Emulator there is no plot before you start play and the entire world is created and unfolds before you as you play. The consequences mechanic in these games on the other hand changes the reality for the characters explicitly based upon a bad roll. It just smacks too much of roll playing and not role playing.

And finally, finally,

Happy New Year!

Game Master Emulators

I half expected Micheal to post this morning, it being Christmas eve. In our house we celebrate a Swiss Christmas today and then do a British one tomorrow as the two halves of the family have different traditions. That has nothing to do with RPGs but I was not going to crash Micheal’s post.

He hasn’t so I will.

There are three emulators I want to look at. The first is the grand daddy of them all, Mythic.

Mythic Gamer Master Emulator

Mythic Game Master Emulator cover
Mythic Game Master Emulator

Mythic Role Playing is actually a game in its own right. The Mythic GM Emulator is just part of the game but it is now a standalone product with its own following published by Word Mill Games.

Mythic is the most feature rich GM emulator I have ever seen. It is based upon multiple D100 rolls. It uses the idea of twists, interrupted scenes, chaos and random facts. The intention is to give the players as much inspiration as possible.

In my opinion Mythic is too crunchy for my tastes. There are too many rolls for each simple yes/no question.  On the other hand something that was unique to emulators is that the full RPG and the emulator use exactly the same game mechanics. What this means in practice is by asking a question like “Can I see any guards?” the perception/observation test and the emulator roll are identical. Obviously the better your observation ability the more likely the outcome of the test is going to be a ‘yes’. In the previous article in this series I tried to align the example GME with the M:YZ style of play as much as I could. The way that M:YZ resolves skill tests was a bit to complex to turn into a  yes/no answer generator but I could reference the  and   symbol dice and the D66 mechanic to keep the M:YZ flavour. Mythic is not just flavoured, it is truly unified with its parent system. Normally everything I reference is either free or ‘Pay What You Want’. In this case Mythic is a full paid product ($6.95) and a platinum best seller on both RPGNow and DriveThruRPG. If you want to try an Emulator and want a really professional product and all the supporting material you need to learn how to use it then Mythic is worth the $7 price tag. For me, as I said, there are too many rolls, too many tables (and that is coming from a Rolemaster GM!) that the rules get in the way of the game. On the other hand though once you grasp how Mythic Gamer Master Emulator works you can easily create a much lighter version to fit any game you want to play.

CRGE, Conjectural Roleplaying GM Emulator

Conjectural Role Playing Game Master Emulator cover
Conjectural Role Playing Game Master Emulator

CRGE is a much lighter affair than Mythic and is also a PWYW product. You can grab a free copy and see what you think before going back and making a contribution. CRGE is based around a table called the Loom of Fate that is your basic yes/no generator but with different probabilities for different types of questions. It breaks things down to ‘towards knowledge’, ‘towards conflict’ and ‘towards endings’. The Loom of Fate is a d100 table so there is ample scope for tweaking probabilities. One of the nice things about CRGE is that it is modular. There are different add on products such as a random NPC generator called UNE, The Universal NPC Emulator and BOLD that creates backgrounds, legends and adventures.  There are more bolt ons as well but I have not tried them. As I noted above, I don’t want too heavy an emulator as I feel it gets in the way.

CRGE is a lighter option than Mythic. The Loom of Fate is d100 and the twist part of the system runs off a d20 roll. If you don’t want to risk a whole $6.95 then I would recommend that you download CRGE and soem of the bolt on products. These standalone so even if you do not end up using the emulator the NPC generator, for example, could be useful.

ABS12 Flexible Solo Game Engine v 1.0

ABS12 stands for A Basic System D12 but it actually supports most common dice systems. In addition it also has a number of complimentary products such as a random fact generator and character generators. Of the three emulators here this is least professional, by which I mean you do not get a lot of hand holding and supporting material. You need to be pretty comfortable with GM emulators to understand what is going on. I have included it as it is feature rich and crams everything into just 5 pages. Something else that makes ABS12 stand out in this lineup is that ABS12 is primarily a solo engine. Ken Wickham, the writer, uses ABS12 as a writing stimulation tool on his own blog, World of the Fifth Sun. The blog details the development of the ABS12 solo engine and Ken’s super light RPG where characters have just a single stat. Ken’s rpg has the same ABS12 name as they were designed in tandem.

The advantage of ABS12 is the speed of use. Ken had the advantage of trying many other emulators before building ABS12. This emulator includes more options on the yes/no table for conditional answers. As another PWYW product it is worth downloading if you want to see another alternative system.

The last product I want to look at is something a little different. Rather than being dice and table based this is card based.

ALONe: A Solo Game Engine BETA

I like the way that the income from the PWYW BETA is being used to fund the development of the full products. Each deck of cards costs $9.99 and includes all the information you need. So, although this is pitched as a solo game engine it works really well as a collaborative social game. ALONe gives you half a deck to play the BETA with which is more than enough to get a feel for how it works. There are loads of decks of cards and expansions. ALONe itself is a Silver best selling product so it is certainly popular.

All of the above products are available to try for free, with the exception of Mythic, and they do a better job of illustrating how they work than I ever could. If you find yourself with some free time in the next week why not download a couple and see what they are all about?

Finally, I hope you all have a great Christmas.