Three Upcoming Games I’m Excited about

Although I already own quite a few roleplaying games (I stopped counting a while ago), I am usually excited about at least one or two upcoming games. At the moment there are three games which should be released this summer which keep me excited.

Cover-Mockup-2015-04-08-Opt2cThe first on the list is a game I’ve been writing about several times. It’s Monte Cook’s Cypher System Rulebook. The Cypher System was created for Numenera and was also put to great use in the more recent The Strange. What I like about the system is that it’s extremely easy to run, it breaks with a couple of roleplaying traditions and while being pretty easy it has enough depth to even convince players who prefer some crunch at the gaming table.

The upcoming Cypher System will hopefully provide us with enough material to use the system in almost every genre. From what I’ve read so far, the book will have almost 500 pages with no fluff. Since the rules themselves are pretty short, I expect countless descriptors and foci, a a whole lot of cyphers for our games. I already have a couple of ideas what I want to run with it, including a Cyberpunk game. Hopefully there will be support for cyberwear in the core book.

By the way, if you  preorder the hardcover book at Monte Cook Games, you get the PDF for free. The PDF version can also be preordered from DriveThruRPG.

Next in line is Fantasy AGE by Green Ronin. Fantasy AGE is basically the Dragon Age RPG without the setting and a new magic system. It’s the RPG for everyone who loves the rules behind the Dragon Age RPG but want to use it for other settings. While I have owned the rules for ages I just recently had the chance to play it. The AGE system is easy to learn, fast, and the stunt system is the cherry on top.

What excites me even more is the setting Green Ronin will release for Fantasy AGE later this year: Titansgrave: The Ashes of Valkana. Titansgrave is a Science Fantasy setting created by Wil Wheaton and Green Ronin. It’s also the game Wil is running for his new RPG show. If you haven’t watched it yet, I highly recommend you do so.

Savage_Rifts-234x300Last but not least is the Savage Worlds version of RIFTS. I still don’t think that Savage Worlds is the best fit for RIFTS, but I am cautiously optimistic. I like the RIFTS setting a lot. It’s my favorite kitchen-sink setting but alas it’s combined with a mess of a rules system. The Palladium System is playable but only barely so. From what I’ve heard not even Kevin Siembieda uses the rules-as-written, which says a lot. Savage Worlds is definitely not perfect but it fits the over-the-top style of RIFTS even though I doubt it can handle the scales. I still can’t imagine how a Rogue Scientist and a Glitter Boy pilot can coexist in the same party using SW rules. Let’s hope the guys working on it have figured a way out to make it possible.

These are the three games I am currently pretty excited about. What games are you looking forward to? Please share your thoughts below!

Game Maker Studio

Again I am breaking one of the rules that I wrote down when I started this blog. Today I want to write about a topic unrelated to pen & paper RPGs. While pen & paper RPGs are my primary hobby, there are other things I enjoy doing very much. Writing software is one of these.

Of course I am no professional programmer. Back in the 1980s I wrote simple programs in BASIC on my Amstrad CPC 464. Those were exciting times. With a few lines of code you could achieve pretty cool things (at least I thought it was cool back then). Later I switched to Turbo Pascal on the PC. I wrote a couple of pretty crappy games, a simple engine for text adventure games and a database application for my dad.

In more recent years I mostly dabbled in some web-based programming (mostly PHP, some JavaScript). I still enjoy writing code very much, but it has become much harder to be motivated to do so. Generally it has become much harder to come up with worthwhile projects that are also easy enough so I don’t get frustrated too quickly. I always wanted to dabble in game development, but it’s definitely one of the more advanced subjects when it comes to programming.

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Recently I stumbled upon a YouTube playlist by Tom Francis who developed the awesome indie game Gunpoint. He used YoYoGames GameMaker software, which is basically an engine for 2D games with it’s own development enviroment and it’s own programming language called GML. The huge advantage of Game Maker Studio over similar products is that you can get things done very quickly and easily. Of course something like Unity is vastly superior in most aspects, but it also has a much steeper learning curve.

In the free version of GameMaker Studio I was able to write a simple Asteroids clone in about two to three hours. Of course the game is far from being polished. Heck, it doesn’t even has a score counter, no highscore list, BUT you can fly around in a little spaceship, shoot at asteroids and it’s actually fun doing so. So far I think GameMaker is a perfect tool if you want to get results quickly, especially if you prefer the “quick & dirty” approach. The code I wrote definitely doesn’t look pretty and some of the solutions I came up with a at least quirky, but I had a blast adding new features and coercing the PC to do my bidding. Smiley mit geöffnetem Mund

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By the way, if you want to have a look at the latest version of my game (please note that I disabled background music, because it got annoying pretty quickly), feel free to download the Windows executable here (Some antivirus solutions like Avira’s may report the file as potentially malicious, but that’s a false positive – you can trust me). Please let me know what you think.

First Look: Strange Stars

Strange Stars by Armchair Planet is a game setting book of a kind you don’t see that often nowadays – it’s system-less. The 32-paged PDF contains a complete space opera universe for you and your friends to play in, with whatever rules you deem fit for the task.

imageThe artwork and layout of the book are top-notch and the artwork has a strong 1970’s vibe. The setting mixes elements from the golden age of space opra with more modern ideas like transhumanism.

You might think that $9.99 might be a bit much for a 32-paged PDF but considering the high quality of the artwork and the cool ideas contained in these pages, the price is more than fair. I included a piece of artwork to the right as an example. I guess it also shows what I meant with “a 1970s vibe”. Zwinkerndes Smiley

What I really love about this little book is that it doesn’t provide you with a complete setting, but with broad strokes of a setting with some details thrown in (like the character in the image above). There’s definitely enough material to get you started, but not enough to choke the GM’s imagination. The “bottom up” approach taken in the book helps to evoke images of a huge universe players can explore – much like throwaway lines like “I made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs” etc. made the original Star Wars feel so much greater.

imageStrange Stars assumes hyperspace gates which allow travel of interstellar distances and the book provides several maps which show how the various systems and sectors are connected. Each of the sectors and planets is described in some detail, so that you have a general idea of how the Strange Stars look like.

The majority of the book gives some information on the various planets, alien species, and interstellar empires of the setting. The emphasis is on “some” here, because no aspect of the setting is fully fledged out, there’s always enough space for your own ideas. The information which is there is often weird, exciting and just plain awesome. Leafing through Strange Stars feels much like watching Star Wars for the first time. Trey Causey, the author of the setting, did an awesome job creating something which just screams “PLAY ME!”.

If you don’t mind that the book doesn’t contain any mechanics, it’s an awesome value even for its rather high price. The artwork contained in the book is definitely worth the money and the setting itself is just awesome with a capital A. Alas the only weak point of the product is the cover artwork. For some reason it just doesn’t look as great though it’s still fine. As far as I know there are at least two books planned by Armchair Planet containing rules for Strange Stars: one for Stars Without Number and another for Fate Core, but I am pretty sure a veteran GM can easily adopt the setting to any system.

P.S.: Strange Stars is currently part of RPGNow’s Science Fiction Month Sale. You can get it for the reduced price of $8.49 now. This deal is valid until the end of the month.

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