Today I was contacted by Mark Plemmons, designer of the urban fantasy RPG Corporia. He’s a fan of my blog and wanted me to have a complimentary copy of his game. As an avid collector of RPGs I was more than glad to accept his offer. So I downloaded my copy from DriveThruRPG and checked it out.
My first impression: wow, what a great-looking game! Corporia uses mostly photos for its artwork, which I usually don’t like, but in this case it’s done well – very well. But before I get into details, let me tell you what Corporia is about. It’s an urban fantasy roleplaying game set in “The City”, a metropolis rules by an alliance of mega-corps. One of the leaders of these corporations is CEO Lance Martin, who is actually an reincarnation of Sir Lancelot du Lac. The players are members of an elite supernaturally-powered special ops unit which is owned by the aforementioned Mr. Martin. The players got their powers through a phenomenon known as the Flux, which is also the cause for mutated humans, monsters and other things that go bump in the night.
I haven’t dug too deeply into rules or background yet, but what I glanced so far looks very promising. The rules system used doesn’t look to complicated – which is always a plus to me – and the premise of a near-future corporate setting combined with Arthurian legend is pretty brilliant. The game makes use of character archetypes which should make character creation a pretty quick process. The archetypes in the core rules are Badge (employees of private security companies), Hacker (exactly that), Headhunter (employment recruiters and assassins), Journo (reporters, journalists), Knight-Errant (reincarnated medieval knights), Lister (celebrities), Radical (everthing from punks to idealistic college professors), Runner (professional couriers, traceurs), Sorcerer (your regular 21st century spellcaster), Suit (corporate execs), Thinker (basically all kinds of researchers), Witcher (more traditional spellcasters), and Zero (blue-collar workers who are keeping The City running).
The 211-paged PDF contains everything you need to run a game of Corporia including all the rules, a detailed description of “The City”, a GM section containing Adventures, NPCs you can use as allies or enemies, and an extensive index. Overall Corporia looks pretty exciting. At the moment I am focused on other games, but I am tempted to give it a thorough read so that I can run it at one of our next RPG pub meetings. If you want to learn more about Corporia, you can check out the publisher’s website. The PDF version is available at DriveThruRPG and sets you back mere $9.99 which is a more than fair price.
Yesterday the first Kellercon has taken place in Limburg, Germany. We chose the name Kellercon because the location was the Villa Konthor, a local whisky pub, which has an excellent vaulted cellar we use for our monthly RPG pub meetings.
Even though the location was a perfect fit for what we had in mind, attendance was not as good as we hoped. Due to the beginning flu season and scheduling conflicts a couple of our regulars couldn’t make it. Luckily a couple of new people showed up and quickly signed up for the game sessions we were offering.
About half an hour after the con had officially started four players had signed up for my Numenera game and we decided to start. It took about thirty to fourty-five minutes to go over the rules and give the players an overview of the setting. Aside from my girlfriend the other players were new to the game but picked the rules up very quickly. I had decided to run “Into the Violet Vale” which turned out to be a great choice. The adventure had been designed with a con game in mind and it was very easy to run. The player characters were all pregenerated but the players quickly filled them with life and had a lot of fun. Especially one player put a lot of effort into roleplaying his quirky and definitely creepy nano. It’s a performance I’ll definitely not forget and which is pretty rare for con game. I hope I’ll meet this gamer again at our next event. Overall I am very happy with my choice of running Numenera. It works great as a con game because of the simple mechanics and the “everything goes” attitude of the setting. And the most important thing was that everyone at the game table had a lot of fun and enjoyed themselves.
Later in the evening it was my turn to play in someone else’s game. Mirko, our local Call of Cthulhu expert, ran a very interesting scenario of his own design. The investigators were all wine connoiseurs who had been invited to a private wine tasting. Things started pretty normal, but after the host had suddenly disappeared, things went downhill quickly. I don’t want to spoil anything, in case Mirko plans to release the adventure in the future, but let me tell you that it was one of the creepiest Call of Cthulhu adventures I ever played.
Overall I see the first Kellercon as a success. About 23 people attended, which is not as much as on our Free RPG Day event in March, but everyone had a blast. We also met a few new people who will probably show up to our pub meetings in the future. So I wouldn’t mind to organize a second Kellercon next year!
For more information on our regular RPG pub meetings and other events in the Limburg area, please check out our blog.
Today I stumbled upon a blog post by John Wick about game balance, social skills, weapon lists etc. If you haven’t read it yet, please check it out and come back afterwards.
You’ve read it? Good. Welcome back! In his post Mr. Wick has tackled several issues. I already had some discussions about this post on Google+, but I thought writing a blog post would be a good idea. So, here it is.
Let’s first talk a bit about balance in games. I agree with his conclusion that balance between players is totally overrated. If you ever played a successful RIFTS campaign, you probably know that already. It’s not important that the player characters are on the same “power level” but everyone needs to get into the limelight from time to time. If someone is in the spotlight all the time, the game suffers.
He then somehow comes to the issue of weapon lists and brings the example of the famous “tea cup scene” in Chronicles of Riddick. His conclusion is that one should throw out weapon lists completely. I agree that weapons lists and other detailed stats don’t necessarily help to tell an exciting story, but they can help to set the mood of a game. A game like Shadowrun just doesn’t feel the same if you remove the incredibly long equipment lists. Part of the charm of the game is to go shopping and find the perfect gun for your character. Of course you can run a cyberpunk fantasy game without all this, but it’s just not Shadowrun anymore. In my opinion it’s a matter of taste and not a question of whether or not it makes sense from a design standpoint.
Last but not least let’s talk about the most controversial topic of the post: social skills. John Wick tells us that he usually throws out social skills and prefers if players act out their characters. You want to convince a NPC to do something? Let the player act it out. If the GM is convinced, no roll is needed. I somewhat agree with him that it’s better if you can solve social situations in roleplaying games by just acting them out. I even let players succeed if they convincingly played their character. This can of course lead to problems. What is if a player can’t or won’t act out the character? I don’t need to be able to fight with a sword as a player to play a master swordsman in a game, so why make a difference when it comes to social interactions?
I try to always encourage playing out social interactions in roleplaying games. I try to use first person speech and avoid situations like “my character says to your character”. So if a player acts out his or her character convincingly I might not ask for a roll. In a way it’s meant as an encouragement. In non-social situations, an interesting description of how a character tries to break a lock, attack an enemy etc. might also lead to at least a hefty bonus. Generally I try to favor a cool story over dice rolls anytime. BUT I try to never make things harder for the players who are not able to come up with colorful descriptions.
I’ve had a rather lengthy discussion with Chaotic/GM on that matter on Google+ and I have to admit his reasoning is very sound. Treating social interactions differently than non-social ones will give a certain type of player unfair advantages. So perhaps I should rethink my GMing style or at least modify it, so that everyone has a fair chance at the table. So what are your thoughts on the matter?