Category Archives: Reviews & First Looks

Long Silence!

It is a long time since I have posted anything here or even commented for that matter. I have not abandoned Stargazer’s World, I have just been exceptionally busy.

Several weeks ago I was given a selection of books by Columbia Games Inc from their Hârn setting. Previously I had heard of Hârn but had never looked at the books. Most of my gaming had been done in either Middle Earth (MERP and Rolemaster),  Shadow World, Forgotten Realms (Rolemaster) or in Sci Fi settings.

When Hârn landed on my desk I was really interested in it from a developers point of view. I like writing and sharing adventures but you cannot publish material for Shadow World as Iron Crown are fairly hostile to indie developers and WotC are not really interested in letting you use their setting for different games.

Hârn on the other hand is a stand alone setting. I have never looked at HârnMaster but I am not in the market for different set of rules (actually that is not true but HârnMaster is not what I am looking for).

I have reviewed the core Hârn booklet over on my own blog but here I wanted to look at HârnManor.

One of the things l like about the HârnWorld materials is that they are fairly ‘bitesize’. Most that I have looked at have been in the 60 to 70 pages. That is manageable and I can read them in an evening.

HârnManor is 88 pages but the second half of the book is five manors fully detailed and ready to use. The first half of the book is all about manor life and how to generate a detailed manor.

Manors are where 90% of the HârnWorld population live and work and is most likely where your players are likely to start their life. The rules presented in HârnManor allow you to create a detailed manor to use as a backdrop for your setting right now to random events. The medieval manor glossary was genuinely interesting and educational!

HârnManor costs $29.99. So would I buy it? I am not entirely sure I would. When I am GMing I may well just tell you that there are fields of crops and there are peasants working the fields. I don’t need to know what the crops are and the exact yield per acre. I just don’t need to know that level of detail. For lots of GMs they love that level of detail. If you are of of those GMs then you will love this book.

If you are into HârnWorld then I suspect you will already have this. It feels like one of the core works and it was published back in 2009. As a standalone setting it is a useful addition I think to most GMs libraries.

First Look Ghost Ops RPG

Ghost Ops RPG by FeralGamersInc is available as a free quick start document. You get an overview of the fudge system, five pregen characters (called Operators) , and overview of the combat system, equipment and a GMs section with introductory adventure.

I have no love of the Fudge/Fate system but this book caught my eye. Some of my dislike about the FATE system is partly down the the whole negotiated world aspect. Call me old fashioned but I still feel most comfortable when I, as GM, build the world, tailor the professions, skills and or magic to reinforce that game world and present the world to the players for them to explore and adventure in. The negotiated world aspect feels like it is robbing me of that particular pleasure I get from writing adventures and prepping sessions.

With Ghost Ops takes that objection and throws it out of the window. The game world is our world immediately following the attack in the Charlie Hebdo offices in Paris. There is nothing fuzzy about that.

The players play the ‘special forces’ on missions I get to plan. They are soldiers or from law enforcement agencies and they will damn well take orders(!), there is nothing fuzzy about that.

This is the first time I have actually looked at a FATE based game and wanted to finish reading the rule book. This quick start is 62 pages and I flew through it. There is a lot of good in here but a couple of negatives as well.

+

I love the setting and I think the treatment of it is far better than I thought possible of a fate system.

This is not an Evil Hat Productions game and the overall production quality, page layout, presentation etc. are not up to the same standard.

There are really important rules missing from this quick start booklet. For example there is a paragraph about pools being locked by trauma but no definition of what a pool is.

This may not sound significant but I actually dug out my copy of FATE Core to look up what the pool was because I actually wanted to know. I now believe that the pool is the pool of FATE points that characters start with.

I know that elements like art and page layout are expensive for small indie game producers. FeralGamersInc have been clever with this game. The Quick Start is free and is featured in this week’s RPG newsletter as free product of the week. They also have a $12 upgraded quickstart with character creation rules and a few extras. Then there is the full game. That is a nice stepped entry into a new game. There are typos in the text, the art is not amazing but the treatment of the setting more than makes up for that. So much so that for another project I have blocked a few hours for a solo gaming project and Ghost Ops RPG is going to be the game system I am going to use. This will be my first attempt at playing a FATE game. That is something I never thought I was ever going to say!

So the conclusion of my first look is that this is the best FATE based game I have ever read.

I will try and report back after the weekend.

EDIT: It has been pointed out to me that Ghost Ops is, in the authors own words “I think of it as more leaning towards Fudge than Fate”. I had assumed Ghost Ops was Fate based when I saw the copyright acknowledgement to for the FATE Core font on the opening page. This is my mistake. It is still really cool though!

EDIT 2: I really should have linked to the games kickstarter. It is already funded and well into the stretch goals but I guess every extra helps.

Star Fighter – Fourth Wish Games

Star Fighter by Lucas Jones, Forth Wish Games, is a fast and loose Sci Fi role playing game released in February this year. I am a fan of games that define characters through skills rather than off the shelf professions or character classes. Star Fighter treats everything as a skill so there is mo rolling stats or characteristics. If you want a physically strong character then you take the Might skill, want to be athletic the choose the Athletic skill.

Every character starts with the same number of skills and at the same levels, you simple have to choose what you excel at and what you are weaker in. This makes character generation extremely fast and easy.

There are two aspects of Star Fighter that make it really stand out. The first is skill resolution.

Skill Resolution

Star Fighter uses a dice pool built of d8s and d6s. You roll your pool and if you get at least one 8 then you succeed, no problem. Anything less that an 8 and you start to build up consequences. So, a 7 still succeeds but with a minor consequence and so it goes down from sucesses with consequences and then failures and increasingly serious consequences. Each scene in the characters story has a break point value and as soon as the number of consequences that the characters have accumulated equals or exceeds the break point value then the story takes a turn for the worse. This is rather like the ‘plot twists’ in a GM Emulator or solo engine, only here there is a GM to decide what sort of nastiness to throw at the characters.

The second stand out feature is dice control. In Star Fighter the GM never rolls a dice. Everything is on the hands of the players. If the players want to shoot someone then they roll their attack. if someone wants to shoot them then the player rolls their dodge. If they fail the dodge then they were hit. As GM all you need to keep the story going.

The rulebook in Star Fighter comes across as a labour of love. Lucas Jones obviously loves this game, style of play and genre. It has a lot going for it and I confess that I have taken some bits and intend to roll them into my future gaming.

I am pretty sure my player would not enjoy this but then that says more about them than Star Fighter. If you are a control freak or power gamer then this game is not for you. If you like free wheeling gaming where you can be fairly sure your best laid plans are going to go awry then you can do a lot worse than Star Fighter. The game is a Pay What You Want download on RPGnow and deserves some support in my opinion.