Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hey Palladium, I Have a Suggestion....

All of the talk recently about the Rifts RPG has got me to thinking. I like the game a lot, but have issues with the confusing manner in which the core book is set up. My players have also been reluctant to try it for this reason. While I've already mentioned that I would like to see an updated, better organized version of the rules I doubt that is going to happen.

So if anyone from Palladium is listening I have a serious suggestion that may give me and my group, along with a lot of other players from what I have heard, some of what we want without changing the system. Give us a pocket guide!

Nothing fancy, as a matter of fact the simpler the better. But what should be put in the pocket guide? Glad you asked, because here is how I think it would work best. Keep it small, about the size of paper back novel, so that it will fit in your back pocket. Include the obligatory Kevin Siembieda page just like most of the other Palladium books. I don't think the book needs it but I think Kevin likes writing them and as long as it is a new one I don't mind reading it.

Chapter 1
A maximum 5 page overview of the setting, for newer players. Nothing else just the basics, which honestly could be summed up in 1-2 pages. Leave out the "what is roleplaying stuff" and detailed descriptions of the world. The Pocket guide is supposed to be a quick reference for established player and to help new players, but it should be aimed towards people who own the core book. You should also include info about character stats here with a quick run down of character creation and alignment.

Chapter 2 - 6
Since the stats have already been covered these chapters should cover R.C.Cs(add a few to make a whole chapter), O.C.Cs, skills, psionics, and magic.

Chapters 7-12
Now use these chapters to cover gear, weapons, combat, healing/recovery, experience, M.D.C and S.D.C damage. Basically these chapters should cover what you need and how to play the game.

If there is room you can add a chapter for optional rules and it would be nice to have a few extra R.C.Cs or O.C.Cs as well. Keep the rules and descriptions clear and simple. This is not a book that is aimed at those wanting to learn the game, though it should be clear enough that it is possible to do so, but as I said before a quick reference guide. I also suggest that artwork be kept to a minimu to conserve space, but some charts/tables would be a nice addition as would a very good index. Leave out the GM information, though a second GM pocket guide would be a nice thing to have as well... but I'll save that idea for another time.

The main thing I am looking for in this book is that things be in the order you need them. If you are creating a character you should not have to skip from the front to the back of the book to find what you need, everything should be 1,2,3.. for ease of use.
Keep the page count to a minimum, the price low, and give me the ability to stick it in my back pocket for pickup games during trips, or for easy access during a regular game. Simple, easy to use, small and cheap. I'll pre-order 2 copies today....

Superhero Apocalyptic Horror

Since there are multiple themes running on the various RPG blogs this month, Horror, Superheroes, and the Apocalypse, I thought I would try to combine the three for this post. What follows are just some quick thoughts for a game with all three elements. Keep in mind this is not a detailed adventure, just some basic concepts and ideas I'm toying around with. If you decide to use it you will need to flesh it out a bit more to suit your game.

Character Concept:
First of all the power level for this campaign will have to be fairly low to moderate. Think of a team more along the lines of Booster Gold, Wolverine, Iron Fist, Batman and Cyclops. Thor, Superman, and the Hulk would likely be a bit too powerful for this one. Though if you really like the high powered games you would have to increase the threat level proportionally, but I'm sticking with the low to moderate level. If a player manages to min/max a PC with at least one outstanding power, such as a speedster, make sure to note their inherent weakness. In the case of the speedster example, they are not indestructible, probably can't fly and are still susceptible to the same things as a normal human, which can be exploited.

Campaign Concept:
Towns all across the globe(or keep it in a specific country to start) are being transformed from healthy communities into run down ghost towns over night. The people are all disappearing and the towns themselves look to have been abandoned decades ago. The buildings that were only a few years old now appear to have aged to the point of being run down, and dilapidated shells. The area within a 10 mile radius also appears to be affected by the same thing as the town with vegetation over running the area. Some towns are so over run that they are near impossible to reach by way of vehicle due to the think plant growth that covers the now cracked and broken pavement.
The occurrences are happening more and more often and beginning to affect larger towns. At the current rate over half of the world(or country) will fall into ruins within a month unless these strange occurrences are stopped.

The PC are tasked with finding out about the strange occurrences, either by their own accord or by the government. They find out that Lexington, Kentucky and the surrounding area have just succumbed and is now in ruins, devoid of human life. The PCs arrive by air and begin to investigate.

The PCs and the Mystery:
While in Lexington the PCs confirm that no people, or few animals can be found in the area and that everything seems to have aged many years. If there is a psychic or magic user on the team you could have them get incredibly horrific feedback from the area, such as panic, and terror, apparently from those that are missing. If not just have the PCs experience an overwhelming feeling of dread.
During their investigation of the area they notice some strange smell (sulfur, salt water, corn syrup... you decide) which is very faint but still noticeable in some areas. Communication devices no longer work and the PCs are left without a way to call for back up if needed.
You could also use the psychic feedback idea to keep psychics or magic users from just calling for help. Flyers should not be hampered, since they likely won't be strong enough to cary the whole team out due to the power level. Speedsters will be inhibited by the overgrowth in the area.
During their investigation the team discovers a strange glowing spot in the center of town (the actual center of the occurence). It grows more brightly as the PCs approach.
When they reach a certain distance, you decide if they actually have to touch it, there is a brilliant light and they disappear.

The Big Bad World:
The PCs find themselves in a world that is a horrific, dark reflection of our earth (think of the movie Nightwatch, a Tim Burton film, or Silent HIll). While they still can not find the missing people the area is familiar as it is nothing but the dark reflection of the town they were in. Everything is basically in the same location as in our world.
Allow the group to explore a little bit and have them feel they are being watched, but see no one yet. As they explore have them hear chanting in the distance. They will naturally want to investigate and find it coming from a church or large gathering place in town... you decide. As they approach they see a gathering of robed figures around an altar. On the altar is a statue of some horrific being. You could make it Cthulhu, or any other horrific being you want.
This is when you start throwing monsters at the group.
Again depending on the type of monsters you prefer you could have all the hooded "people" be Cthulhu spawn, vampires, zombies or some combination. This should also give the PCs a little time to shine as they can flex some muscle and smarter PCs will try to do some investigating as well.

The Discovery:
Basically the PCs discover/realize that this is our world's dark twin and that the beings of this world somehow discovered the existence of our world. Every creature in this world is basically some type of monster and pretty much nowhere is safe. The inhabitants of this world, or more likely their horrible leader, is temporarily transporting areas from our world to theirs so that they can kidnap all the people and use them for food and/or slave labor. The side effect is that the area is influenced by the warped world and ages rapidly. The only reson nothing surives upon the towns return is the fact that everything ages so quickly nothing had time to reproduce.

You can really go many different ways with the concept. Here are a few possibilities off the top of my head.
1) Stick with the horror theme and have the PCs fight their way out, finding and rescuing as many people as they can. Only to return to our world, you decide how, to find that while they were gone the creatures succeeded with their plans and our world is being over run by the monsters.
2) Same as above except the PCs defeat the leader and/or smash the device that allows them to access our world, then escape and eveyrone leves happily ever after. For now...
3) They become trapped in this warped world and try to defeat the monsters in an attempt make it a better place and keep the surviving people alive until they can find a way home. This could be an ongoing campaign.
4) You get a TPK and they have to roll up new heroes that go looking for the first group. I like this one ;-)

Out this Month

It's October, the leaves are changing color and beginning to fall, that means my favorite holiday is just around the corner. Yes Halloween is only a few short weeks away. So to celebrate I will be posting about various movies, games, books and websites that are well suited for the occasion. For now here is book Palladium is releasing just in time to run a Halloween night game.

"Dead Reign™", an RPG based in a world where zombies have taken over. It is an SDC setting which, naturally, uses the Palladium rules.
According to the Palladium site "Dead Reign™ is a game of survival, rescue and revenge. Player characters are both the hunted and the hunters as they battle the creeping doom that is the living dead and pray for salvation. "
You play as a survivor who tries to make their way in a world full of the dead where the living are hunted and used as cattle.
Cover by E.M. Gist.
Art by Nick Bradshaw and Amy L. Ashbaugh.
Written by Josh Hilden, Joshua Sanford and Kevin Siembieda.
224 pages (estimated)
Sounds like a lot of fun and I will definitely be posting a review when my copy arrives.

Here is a site that might be of interest to anyone who is a fan or horror.
Flames Rising is an e-zine/blog that focuses on fiction and gaming. There are sections for articles, horror news, fiction, previews, reviews and also interviews with authors such as Z. A. Recht, Elaine Cunningham and Jaleigh Johnson. While the whole site isn't strictly about horror, it does make up a large portion of the content. Very good and interesting site to check out.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Top 10 Apocalyptic Films

The Geek Emporium has posted a couple of fun little posts( here and here ) about gaming and the Apocalypse. So since I think this is fitting for my plans to have a running Halloween theme for the month of October (the Apocalypse can be scary) and I love movies about the Apocalypse I thought I would throw my 2 cents in.
Here is my Top 10 List of Movies about the Apocalypse. FYI, post apocalyptic movies count as well. FYI all of these are very good sources of ideas for running apocalyptic/post-apocalyptic RPG sessions in a number of systems. As always feel free to share your favorites.
  1. Mad Max
  2. Logan's Run
  3. The Omega Man
  4. Dawn of the Dead
  5. Water World
  6. 28 Days Later
  7. Night of the Living Dead
  8. Damnation Alley
  9. Escape from New York
  10. The Day After Tomorrow

Fan Films

Like most people around the world, I love movies. I watch everything from low budget B-flicks to mega million dollar Hollywood productions. While a lot of them have not been gems, I continue to watch, hoping to find my new favorite movie.

I started collecting movies when I was around 12 years old and have amassed nearly 5,000 of them in the past 20 something years. However my collection is growing at a much slower rate lately. Between having a family, school, gas prices and the fact that so many of the movies produced today are just sub par, I have become very choosy about which movies I buy or rent. While the big budget movies coming out of Hollywood these days may have incredible FX, a great many of them are poorly written and a lot of the acting is worse than you would see in a bad B-flick. Don’t even get me started on how bad the B-flicks have gotten. Just as I was becoming more and more jaded about the whole of cinema I was introduced to a new viewing experience, fan films.

Many of these short films have better writing and acting than a lot of the stuff the big studios churn out. Fan Films are a labor of love for most of the people that take the time to make them. Who in the world would make a Blue Beetle short other than a true fan? Well Blinky Productions has done several shorts with Blue Beetle, including the hilarious Blue and Gold PSA. Now before you get the wrong impression Blinky Production isn’t just limited to using Blue Beetle and Booster Gold. If you check out their website, Youtube or countless other fan film sites that feature their shorts, you will see films starring Powergirl, The Flash, Michael Meyers, Hourman, The Question, and many more. Perhaps because I am a Blue and Gold fan from way back I am a bit biased when I say the fan films put out by Blinky Productions are some of my favorites, but don’t just take my word for it, check them out.

While fan films cover a wide range of topics, I tend to search out the Star Wars and Superhero shorts. Some of them have production values that would stand up to anything done in Hollywood, especially some of the Star Wars fan films. There are numerous sites where you can find fan films, just put fan films in your search engine and you’ll see, but I have a few that I frequent and personally think are the most user friendly.

This is the site I use the most. The films are broken down into topic and the site is fairly easy to navigate.

This is another good site with links to some other great fan film sites.

Fanboy Theatre
Another good site with lots of information and links

This one came highly recommended by a few friends.

My list may not be a comprehensive one but it will help you get a good start in discovering some of the often brilliant fan produced films that are out there.

Monday, September 29, 2008

PC/NPC Portraits

Image From Fantasy Clip Inks Spell Casters Set 1

This weeks image courtesy of William McAusland and the gang over at Outland Arts.

Quick Reviews: Rifts Ultimate Edition

After a catastrophe activates the Earth’s ley lines rifts open to other dimensions. These rifts allow all sorts of beings to travel from their own realms to Earth. Demons, vampires, Dragons, and all nature of alien life forms cross over changing the very face of the world. Players assume the roles of characters trying to live in a world that is no longer their own. This is the basic premise and appeal of Rifts.

The Good:
Rifts is a fabulous and original setting that seems to incorporate the elements of every roleplaying genre. If you want to play high fantasy one night and sci-fi the next you can. Pretty much any style of game is possible with Rifts. There are countless races (R.C.C.’s), and character classes (O.C.C’s) for players to chose from. This not only leads to but encourages players to be as
creative as possible.

Palladium uses the same system in all of their games which allows players to jump from one system, such as Rifts, to the next, like Palladium Fantasy, with little trouble. Which is one of the more appealing aspects of the entire system. The books are a great read and even if you don’t play the system, the background and setting itself can inspire tons of great ideas to use in any campaign. The books are a great resource for every gamer.

Rifts has been accused of having a large learning curve, but I disagree to an extent. An experienced gamer would have little trouble figuring out the system. While character creation does take some time, it’s fairly cut and dry. This approach to character creations results in detailed PC’s.

The Bad:
The book Rifts: Ultimate Edition is billed as the only thing you need to begin playing, which is sort of true. While you can begin playing with just this book don’t expect to get much out of it.
R:UE contains only one alternative race, Dragon. While there are numerous O.C.C’s to start they are very unevenly matched, a common complaint about the system as a whole. Making a party with a Ley Line Walker, a Rogue Scholar and Glitter Boy will lead to a party where many adventures will leave one or more members with little to do. Unless the GM takes the time to make each PC shine, but that means a lot of work for the GM. This holds true for enemies as well, some are just too powerful for an average PC to handle.

The system uses two different damage systems depending on how powerful the characters/races/weapons are, which also lends to an unbalanced game. Which is one of the primary complaints I hear over and over about the Palladium System. Though the argument again can fall back on it being the GM's job to create the balance. After all people are generally not evenly matched in real life, but instead a group can compliment each other based on their skills and abilities. The Glitter Boy won't be much good sneaking into a tight area, and the "Theif" won't be much good going up agains a Mega Damage Cyborg.

R:UE also has little information for the game master to work with in terms of enemies. There are no NPC stats, and no monster stats. Instead you will need to buy more books to get these things or else stat everything yourself. If you just don't have the time to do it yourself you will have to buy more books. None of this information, NPC or Monster stats, is contained in any single book, but instead spread out over many books. There is no monster compendium, and the Game Master’s book is pretty much a list of equipment, and skills.

The book is also not well organized. Part of the reason character creation takes so long is trying to find all the things you need. This is very frustrating for newbies. Poor organization is probably my biggest complaint with the book. R:UE also doesn’t contain character sheets. Instead the back of the book is filled with a product catalog so that you can buy more Rifts books. Which you will need to do if you actually want to get the most out of the system.

The Verdict:
All in all a great setting with something of interest for nearly any role-player. Definitely something that should be picked up if you have the cash and don't mind investing it in the game.
While I enjoyed the game, this is fair warning that you will need to invest a lot in books and
time to truly enjoy it. Which may be too much for some gamers.

Rifts is undoubtedly one of my all time favorite settings and despite the fact that things such as character creation are incredibly time consuming, I really do like the game. My primary problems are with what I feel is poor organization in the core books and the fact that so much information, a lot of which is pretty important and useful, is spread over so many books.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Internet Video: Batman/Superman: World's Finest

This one has been around for a while, but it really is good for a fan film.

World's Finest