Tag Archives: apocalypse world

Open Play 51: SKEW, Tremulus & More!

19 Aug

6pm – 10pm

Tuesday, August 20th

Guardian Games

345 SE Taylor St

Wow guys, sorry for the delay! I’ve got to get caught up.

Welcome, again, to Ready, Set, Game PDX Open Play!

Ready, Set, Game PDX is an easy story gaming event. All you have to do is show up and play a game. You don’t need to bring anything other than the desire to play and the willingness to try something new. Absolutely everybody is welcome! No experience necessary! You are free to invite anybody and everybody; just make sure you RSVP. That helps us make sure everybody has a good time.

A story game is a game where the players create a narrative as a product of play. You might recognize a few things from other tabletop games, but the difference here is that you spontaneously make a collaborative story with the other players. There are always several different ones to choose from, so odds are good there will be one that’s just right. A description of each of the scheduled games will be posted as comments, so check ’em out!

At 6:00 we kind of loosely gather in the “Blue Area” of Guardian Games and socialize for a bit. Please, just relax and chat! At 6:15 we all come together as a group and the facilitators introduce their games. At that point players sign up for whichever game they want and get down to business.

Technically we have the space until 10:00, but we try to get games wrapped up around 9:30 or so. After the games, all who wish to do so go out for drinks and banter at a nearby establishment – which this time is the Speakeasy Tavern on SE 6th & Taylor St. As usual, everybody is welcome!

Here is what we have this week!

SKEWQR

SKEW:
This is SKEW. It is a role-playing game by Ben Lehman.

“when we play this game we will create
a science fiction short story
a protagonist is struggling to understand
a world that is beyond understanding”

http://www.tao-games.com/skew/

tremulus_800x6001
Tremulus:
Tremulus is a storytelling game of Lovecraftian horror where you take on the role of a person who has been destined to live an interesting life, one touched by blood and bile, dark revelations, and horrible sacrifice.

The weight of the world is upon your shoulders as you strive to drive back the darkness threatening to drown it out.

For four erstwhile investigators.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1227949612/tremulus-a-storytelling-game-of-lovecraftian-horro

Ready, Set, Game PDX is brought to you by Play Out Loud. Play Out Loud serves Portland with spontaneous shared storytelling activities featuring non-mainstream games. Learn more athttp://www.facebook.com/playoutloudpdx.

Open Play 50: Tremulus, Witch: the Road to Lindisfarne, Psi.Run

30 Jul

Welcome to Ready, Set, Game PDX Open Play!

Ready, Set, Game PDX is an easy story gaming event. All you have to do is show up and play a game. You don’t need to bring anything other than the desire to play and the willingness to try something new. Absolutely everybody is welcome! No experience necessary! You are free to invite anybody and everybody; just make sure you RSVP. That helps us make sure everybody has a good time.

A story game is a game where the players create a narrative as a product of play. You might recognize a few things from other tabletop games, but the difference here is that you spontaneously make a collaborative story with the other players. There are always several different ones to choose from, so odds are good there will be one that’s just right. A description of each of the scheduled games will be posted as comments, so check ’em out!

At 6:00 we kind of loosely gather in the “Blue Area” of Guardian Games and socialize for a bit. Please, just relax and chat! At 6:15 we all come together as a group and the facilitators introduce their games. At that point players sign up for whichever game they want and get down to business.

Technically we have the space until 10:00, but we try to get games wrapped up around 9:30 or so. After the games, all who wish to do so go out for drinks and banter at a nearby establishment. As usual, everybody is welcome!

Here is what we have this week!
tremulus_800x6001
Tremulus:
Tremulus is a storytelling game of Lovecraftian horror where you take on the role of a person who has been destined to live an interesting life, one touched by blood and bile, dark revelations, and horrible sacrifice.

The weight of the world is upon your shoulders as you strive to drive back the darkness threatening to drown it out.

For four erstwhile investigators.

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1227949612/tremulus-a-storytelling-game-of-lovecraftian-horro
witch
Witch, the Road to Lindisfarne
It is the year of our Lord 1350 and an unholy plague sweeps across our beloved Britain. Measures have been taken to contain and eliminate it, but still families must surrender their mothers, fathers, sons and daughters to the mass graves.

They say that one in three have been marked for death. But marked by whom? Are the sick being punished for their sins by God?

No. This foul curse is the work of the Devil and his wicked agent, the Witch.

The people pray for an answer and now within the great city of London, the source of the vile plague, God may have given it. A woman has been taken prisoner by the Church after confessing the use of Witchcraft to bring the blight upon us.

Three days have passed since then and during this time the heads of the Church have been in consultation without rest. Today they emerged and gave their counsel.

The woman must be taken in a caged cart to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. Once there, an ancient ritual will be performed to cleanse this land of her and her black plague.

It will take two weeks to reach the site, but as the sun breaks the horizon on the Sabbath then the Witch will face her absolution.

This is the story of that journey.

http://www.ukroleplayers.com/witch/
PsiRun
Psi.Run:
Whoever’s after you, you know one thing: they will stop at nothing to capture you and you’ll stop at nothing to stay free. The holes in your memory vie for attention with your startling abilities – stay one step ahead of the Chasers long enough to answer your questions, and hope your psychic powers don’t go wild.

They took your life.
You got away.
They want you back.
Run!

http://nightskygames.com/welcome/game/PsiRun

Ready, Set, Game PDX is brought to you by Play Out Loud. Play Out Loud serves Portland with spontaneous shared storytelling activities featuring non-mainstream games. Learn more athttp://www.facebook.com/playoutloudpdx.

XP: GHOST/ECHO

16 Oct

What to say about GHOST/ECHO? The game is so minimalist that it is difficult to pinpoint specific details. This game plays to a certain kind of skill set. You have to be ready to dive in deep with no assistance at all, fictionally nor mechanically, and just start cramming pieces together to make it work. It’s feels rather like jury-rigging some strange contraption, with an even stranger tool that changes every time you look at it.

See, writing a bullshit sentence like that is almost what playing this game is like. You just have to be willing to roll with it and capitalize on the tropes of your unconscious as you rush past them.

DATASTREAM

The story we made was pretty cool, and equally confusing at times. Sometimes things go so phenomenally bad for the players that a simple situation spirals into a deep crisis in a matter of minutes. This is part because this game is simply brutal, and part because it resolves so quickly and so smoothly that a whole chapters worth of narrative can speed by in just a few minutes.

Our game managed to hit existential issues in the first hour. By the end of the third hour the crew had confronted an infoweapon that targets the nature of intelligence itself, and one character had effectively become an oversoul god of sorts. It took only three hours to get as epic as it comes. That is, effectively, a whole campaign.

BACKLASH

The rules themselves are super open. They begin with a series of questions to which just about any answer is suitable. The setting consists of nothing more than evocative images, a list of words, and a dare to take them wherever.

The conflict resolution seems to be a proto-Apocalypse World application of the Otherkind system. This allows players to choose how they succeed or fail, which is a vastly more engaging means of handling conflict.

The rules themselves work flawlessly. But you’ve gotta have guts to delve into the unknown with no hand rail to hold onto. If you can do that, then this game is everything you could want it to be. But if you cannot get over the initial feeling of free fall, then you may not feel comfortable enough to really get to the juicy bits of this game. This is true for the players and doubly true for the GM.

One player put it aptly: “This is what I would use to play Shadowrun instead of Shadowrun.”

Session 29: Remember Tomorrow, World of Dungeons

3 Oct

6pm – 10pm
Tuesday, October 9
Guardian Games
303 SE 3rd Ave at Pine St


Remember Tomorrow:
Remember Tomorrow by Gregor Hutton is a role-playing game set in the near future. Look at the world today, now flash it forward twenty minutes into the future. Sky Cars: Check. Memory Couriers: Check. Everything Else: Slightly Changed, huh, how about that?

Remember Tomorrow is set in a place called Somewhere. Maybe it was once Glasgow, Milan, Reno, Auckland or Hong Kong. Everywhere in the world is Somewhere. Are you Ready, Willing and Able?

It’s a quick and dirty near-future “cyberpunk” game that features: easy character generation; an ensemble cast of PCs and Factions; goal-oriented stories built in play; GMless, scene-based resolution.

Find the truth at: http://gregorhutton.com/boxninja/remember/index.html.


World of Dungeons:
World of Dungeons, by John Harper, is a complete short roleplaying game that answers the question “If Dungeon World was the latest version of a classic roleplaying game, what would the original look like?”

Looking for that classic high-fantasy adventure role playing experience but with a streamlined, fast paced modern design? This is it.

Adventure awaits at: http://mightyatom.blogspot.com/2012/06/world-of-dungeons.html.

XP: Getting Caught Up

2 Sep

Wow – the last few months have been quite an exciting time.

 

I never really meant to quit posting XPs of the games we have been playing. Lately RSGpdx events have been blowing up, with 12-18 people each event and two or three games being played each time. It has been truly rewarding to share this experience with faces new and old. In addition to that, there has been word of re-structuring some of the greater community events in order to bring all of the cool activities closer together. There has been a lot to think about.

 

So real quickly, I’m going to share my thoughts of all of the games I have played in at RSGpdx that I neglected to write about in more detail.

 

MONSTERHEATRS

Monsterhearts is another game powered by the still beating heart of Apocalypse World. This is the only one that has improved on the formula. It is a lighter, sleeker design which lends an ultra tight, ultra sharp focus to the game. The theming elements (strings, the darkest self and the maturity moves) are so beautiful I want to cry. Very powerful. But for some reason, this game burned me out very quickly. I have a tough time actually sitting down to MC a game of Monsterhearts. Maybe that is totally subjective, but it unfortunately taints the experience of the game for me. A pity, too, being that this is one outstanding piece of work. Find an MC who is hot for this game, drop whatever you are doing, and play it right now.

DREAD

Dread is really cool. The Jenga tower adds a pace to the story and tension to every moment of play. But there are two blemishes. First of all, there is simply no place for player elimination in a game these days. I get that characters die in horror games, but a player should never be left out. Take a page from Zombie Cinema and have the player move from the protagonist side to the threat side. Do anything but remove the player from play. Second, when it got down to tough conflicts, we were just playing Jenga. The use of that tower is almost to grabby and distracting. Lastly, the horror medium has had a difficult time translating to table-top gaming. This might be the best example of a horror game out there, but it still relies upon a very traditional GM role and information control. I would be very excited to see a horror game without either. Totally play it once, but be sure you have the right atmosphere for a tense horror/survival game.

A THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS

What an excellent commentary on the practice of role-playing. The details here are so finely coordinated – the sensory attributes, the shared meal/snacks, the playing a character who is playing a character – it all speaks to great inspiration. I kid you not; A Thousand and One Nights is a sublime experience. I have only one complaint, and it does not compromise the play in any fashion. The game wants you to pursue your character’s ambitions and play out their envies and admirations. But it doesn’t provide any incentive to do so – the game is totally neutral on that count. Super excited for the new edition. Keep this game in your regular rotation of one shots. A great reminder of what it’s all about. Mandatory!

MONSTER OF THE WEEK

Where Monsterhearts did everything right, Monster of the Week missed the mark. The general design is bulky where it is different from Apocalypse World at all (yup, another AW hack). The playbooks were very poorly laid out, the damage and luck mechanics seemed broken and un-playtested, the moves in general, while clever, lacked the interconnectivity that made things in Apocalypse World and Monsterhearts pop and pop. I think this game could shine with about a year of more development, but as it is, I just can’t recommend it. Play Monsterhearts instead.

THE MOUNTAIN WITCH

The Mountain Witch is a delicious story game classic. The trust, dark fate and resolution mechanics work so well that this functions as a treatise of thematic design. You really don’t need to do a damn thing but sit back and watch, occasionally pushing if the action lulls. This game has a long-standing reputation and it has earned it. This possibly ranks as one of my top five favorite games ever. Download the pdf and schedule a game.

THE SHAB-AL-HIRI ROACH

Lots of stupid crazy fun. Never have so many Pembertonians met their demise by whale song and tuba bludgeoning. I will play this game again soon, but you have to be aware of two things. First, the texts is not the finest example of a streamlined coherent text. The Roach sounds like a Fiasco, but it’s not. Second, playing all six events makes for a looooong game. Consider cutting two of them out (we cut our event two and five, and that’s probably what I’d do again). I had way more fun than I expected. If you get a chance to try the Roach, do it.

 

I will try to be more on top of this in the future. As RSGpdx moves into its second year expect to see many exciting developments! Stay tuned!

Session 24: InSpecteres, Monster of the Week, Dogs in the Vineyard

23 Jul

5pm – 9pm
Tuesday, July 31
Guardian Games
303 SE 3rd Ave at Pine St

 

 

InSpectres by Jared Sorensen is a game about the burgeoning supernatural investigation and elimination market. Start a company and try to stay afloat long enough to cash in those sweet, sweet stock options.

Visit http://memento-mori.com/inspectres/ for more information.

 

 

 

Monster of the Week by Micheal Sands is a pen & paper roleplaying game of modern day monster hunters. There are monsters out there. Most people don’t believe in them, but they’re real. Mostly, when someone finds out that monsters are real, that’s just before they die. But some people are mean enough, smart enough, crazy enough, or hurt enough, that they live. They go on a crusade to kill the monsters. That’s who you are.

Learn more at http://www.indiegogo.com/Monster-of-the-Week-rpg.

 

 

 

In Dogs in the Vineyard by D. Vincent Baker you play God’s Watchdogs in a West that never quite was. You stand between God’s law and the best intentions of the weak. You stand between God’s people and their own demons. Sometimes it’s better for one to die than for many to suffer. Sometimes, Dog, sometimes you have to cut off the arm to save the life. Does the sinner deserve mercy? Do the wicked deserve judgement? They’re in your hands.

Check it out at http://www.lumpley.com/dogs.html.

 

Session 21: Monsterhearts

10 Jun

5pm
Tuesday, June 19
Guardian Games
303 SE 3rd Ave at Pine St

Monsterhearts lets you and your friends create stories about sexy monsters, teenage angst, personal horror, and secret love triangles. When you play, you explore the terror and confusion that comes both with growing up and feeling like a monster.

Based on the Apocalypse World engine, this is a game with emergent story, messy relationships, a structured MC role, and a focus on hard choices.

It’s designed to evoke stories like True Blood, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Ginger Snaps or The Twilight Saga. If you like supernatural romances, or stories of monstrosity and personal horror, or if you just like watching sexy people ruin their lives, then you’ll love this game.

Text taken from http://buriedwithoutceremony.com.

XP: Carry A Game About War

21 Apr

Carry a game about war follows an American squad through the unimaginable stress of the Vietnam War. This game tackles some heavy subject matter. In this game you know from the get go that things are going to go real bad for the squad, and we play to see how they are affected by the horrors around them.

Carry is not a game about strategy and tactics. It’s not even set in the actual Vietnam War, rather it is set in our collective memories of the Vietnam War. That may sound trivial, but it makes a world of difference. Just as the Grunts bring their own issues to the war by way of their burdens, the plays bring with them to the game the cultural imprint the Vietnam War left in the American consciousness.

A MEMOIR

The dice economy in Carry is remarkably efficient and riddled with subtleties. Generally speaking, when some mechanical effect is implemented in the fiction you are either giving dice to another player or the GM, or they are cycling in and out of the out of play pool. Once the dice are distributed in the beginning, those dice are the only dice that will be in play. Nothing gets added or removed (well, the burden die may change, but that’s a separate thing). If the GM runs out of dice it may mean an early success for the Grunts, but it will be followed by a massacre.

This is particularly apparent in action scenes. The Grunts pass dice to their ranking officer or the GM based on whether they agree with the orders or not. When these dice are rolled, the high sum gets to distribute the fallout from the fight and the difference between the two pools determines the total fallout received. There are two things to take away from this. First, the squad is going to get hurt either way; it’s only a matter of who chooses which squad members are affected. Second, if the Grunts don’t disagree, and thus don’t pass the GM dice, the fallout will be worse. Sometimes, in the heat of combat you have to make your own decisions, in the moment. Granted, this details was not really internalized by the group and it lead to a few disastrous missions.

Squad scenes allow us to see how the Grunts change under pressure. It is in these scenes that their profiles are truly apparent, and in our game, this is where they underwent the most change. Burdens were also more clearly expressed here (though we still barely got into it). Generally speaking, the more Grunts in a squad scene, and the more escalation, the better. The best moment of our game was a four way conflict in a squad scene with lots of pushing. It reminds me a bit of Apocalypse World where you mark Hx if another player inflicts harm on yours.

A REASON TO BE CARRIED

The one thing that we really didn’t see much of, or enough of rather, was the burdens themselves. This is probably the most important part of the game, so I honestly feel like we missed out on something. The fiction didn’t suffer for it, but it would have been much richer if it had been present.

There are two reasons for this. First of all, to address a burden the player must request a scene, rather than the GM simply setting it. So, that detail needs to be hammered home. Second, there simply was not enough time. Carry is a game that, due to its subject matter, demands its own time and space. It gets pretty dark, and so you may not feel totally comfortable playing it in public and you may need to take it at your own pace. Though Carry is a one-shot, RSGpdx may not be the ideal environment for it.

Though my complaints of this game are minor, there are a couple things you might try to tighten the experience further. First of all, using the approaches in action scenes might give more meaning to die choice and may influence the fiction in a positive way. I’m not sure if this is mechanically sound, so this may do something strange and inorganic with the dice economy, but I think it is worth a try.

The next time I play, I am going to take a page from Dogs in the Vineyard and have a boot camp intro scene where we introduce the character and their burden right away. This would make the burdens unignorable, I think. Also, Full Metal Jacket, anyone? It’s listed as one of the three major influences, so I think it is absolutely appropriate.

THE WAR IS OVER

I am very fond of Carry. Hell, I’m very fond of most games. But Carry is one that I will be returning to very soon. Though there is occasionally some confusion (I wonder what happens when there is a profile change while the out of play pool is empty?), these issues seem to exist more in speculation than in practice.

There is one more thing you should be prepared for, though. After the game finished, and we were all sharing a beer, we realized that we just needed some quiet time. Carry does not leave you with the high-on-laughter excitement of Fiasco. It leaves you introspective and uncertain. Carry hits, and it hits hard.

XP: Dungeon World

14 Apr

Dungeon World is an upcoming AD&D hack of Apocalypse World. Currently it is in the beta playtest stage, so it is not a finished product. While this may seem like a somewhat negative review of the game, please keep that in mind. I think that this game shows lots of promise and I am genuinely excited to see what comes of it.

WHY APOCALYPSE WORLD IS COOL

Damn near every gamer knows what D&D is. Damn near every gamer has opinions about it, too. For many gamers, D&D is a heart breaker. On one hand it was the gateway to the varied universe of role playing games. On the other, many of them have been dissatisfied with the D&D experience.

One of the reasons that Apocalypse World is so cool is that it internalizes a certain play style that removes the need to find or invent one on your own. When you is down for a game of Apocalypse World you know a lot about what the game will be like, about how you engage with the fiction and how you interact with the other players. In a game of D&D those details vary considerably, depending mostly on the playstyle of the DM and of the particular dynamics of the group as a whole.

Not to say that that varied experience is a bad thing, but it does involve some initial guess work. You take the play principles of Apocalypse World, throw in some high fantasy and D&D tropes and you have Dungeon World.

If you are happy with your D&D experience, as is, then Apocalypse World and Dungeon World probably aren’t for you. And that’s totally cool. Continue to have fun. But, if you are a part of that less than satisfied demographic you should really consider giving either of these games a try.

But for Apocalypse World it doesn’t end at the principles of play. This contractual style is encapsulated in the moves, which is the term for “how you get things done.” With the moves, what they say you accomplish, you accomplish. No fussing allowed. If you earned it, you got it.

This is a response to a certain kind of negative experience that has cropped up in D&D for decades. Let’s say you are fighting a tough opponent. You are getting your ass kicked. Finally, you score an awesome hit with a 19 on the d20. But then you discover that they are immune to your weapon, and that that awesome hit has no effect. Or, maybe you scored a critical hit but rolled a 1 on the damage.

In Apocalypse World the mechanics do not undermine a previous success. You earned it, you got it. This means that the players have a huge effect on the fiction and that the MC (Apocalypse World’s GM) is playing a sort of supporting role to the players and their contributions, as opposed to the other way around.

And that is hot.

THE DUNGEON AWAITS

Dungeon world takes a lot from Apocalypse World, and everything it borrows works well. It manages to provide that D&D feel without resistance from the mechanics. The game get’s out of your way. It allows you to explore the world at your own pace and in your own way.

Where Dungeon World falls flat is in the places where it deviates from Apocalypse World and draws too heavily from D&D.

Though it is a comparatively small issue compared to the others, rolling damage completely undermines the contractual form of the moves. I find this very disappointing, and to me it seems to take the wind of of the sails at the table. What puzzles me is that monsters deal a flat damage in the new edition (a good improvement, as having the monsters roll for damage has similar issues) and they took out HP growth at level up (another good improvement for a variety of reasons too numerous to detail here). Why the damage roll still exists is puzzling given the nature of these other changes and the design principles at work. It is flat out against the spirit of the game. And this is doubly confusing because Apocalypse World’s harm system was just fine. Allow the fighter to take a move to extend their harm track, or improve the harm of their weapon, or fight like a gang or something. Apocalypse World had all the answers to this. Why change it?

XP is another example. While the reduction of XP for level up was a good call, my instincts say that it still needs to be reduced further. That said, you mark XP when you fail a roll, which is another great addition, and it may go a long way to address my previous concern. Outside of that the procedure to mark experience between different alignment and classes is uneven. Some classes advance much faster than others. Alignment is a whole separate issue. Unfortunately, importing Apocalypse World’s solution would be underwhelming, as highlighting stats would be a trivial affair. But then, Apocalypse World’s stats are just more provocative and better represent the principles of play. The D&D ability scores are such an icon I’m not sure I could suggest removing them, though.

Speaking of alignment, what’s the point? The implementation takes such a back seat to the play that I have to wonder. Though it would be a very different game, I wonder what would happen if the ability scores were instead alignment? Use this when acting with good, that when acting with evil, and so on. But that is not Dungeon World. Not at all.

So now some things I like. The Last Breath move is all kinds of cool and I wish we had a chance to see it in play. It is pretty much the only mechanic that adds theme to the play and engages the players and the characters in a whole different dimension. Wonderful.

Though Apocalypse World introduced the retroactive moves and custom moves, these things save so much hassle (hassle that brings back some of the more frustrating memories of D&D) that I have an irrational love for them every time they come up. I mean seriously, can we not waste our time on unimportant details and just get back to the things we actually want to do?

CLAIM YOUR DESTINY

As I mentioned, Dungeon World is a work in progress. Hopefully they will continue to hone the features of this game to better match the principles of play.

That said, Apocalypse World had a dozen or so playbook right out the gate. Dungeon World needs more playbooks if games are going to span many sessions. Right now it is almost a kind of BECMI dungeon crawl game (which is my favorite edition of D&D), but I think their ambition goes beyond that, and they will need more playbooks to pursue those ambitions.

There are a lot of things missing from the recent beta edition. Fronts, custom moves, guidelines for designing dungeons, adventures, magic items and monsters. But, the designers know this and those things should be hot off the stove soon enough.

In the end this produces a game that is much like AD&D, scratches the same itch, but provides a healthier social environment for play and a series of positive creative feedback loops that makes play more meaningful, more engaging and more of a group activity. Dungeon World re-lights the high fantasy roleplaying torch, and I for one am much more likely to loot some dungeons now that we have Dungeon World.

Session 15: Dungeon World

20 Mar

5pm
Tuesday, March 27
Guardian Games
303 SE 3rd Ave at Pine St

Dungeon World is a world of fantastic adventure. A world of magic, gods, demons, Good and Evil. Brave heroes venture into the most dangerous corners of the land in search of gold and glory.

You are those heroes. You go where others can’t or won’t. You conquer the unbeatable and laugh in the face of Death. There are monstrous things lurking in the world. Are you ready to face them?

Dungeon World is a roleplaying game by Sage LaTorra and Adam Koebel. It’s a game of epic fantasy with rules based on the Apocalypse World system. It’s also pretty awesome.

Text & image borrowed from http://www.dungeon-world.com/