Thursday Review: 13th Age

13th Age isn’t super innovative. Let’s get that out of the way ahead of time. In terms of mechanics, there’s nothing that hasn’t been seen before. The setting is good, but not really anything that we haven’t seen. Where 13th Age succeeds, however, is in its balance of elements. 13th Age is the sort of thing that I love; it takes a game and tears it down to its basics, then reconstructs it. I’m not sure that the d20 system was the best place to apply that, but it’s certainly an interesting take.
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Project Update: Wounds, Infection, and Dying in Ostravia

Today’s not perhaps the least gruesome part of my work on Ostravia, but it’s an important part. Being a somewhat realistic look at medieval life, it’s important for people to be able to meet an untimely and violent end in Ostravia, and this will happen fairly quickly in most cases without the support of allies or the benefit of a moderately merciful foe (i.e. won’t finish you off after you’re down).

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Game Design: Skill Exclusion

Sorry about this article going up late; I’ve been studying for a final and it slipped my mind. Skill exclusion in video games is a common trend; if a player’s skill is below a certain level, they may not be able to play a certain game with players who have a high degree of skill, at least at a competitive level. It’s not necessarily the break-in point for the game, but rather the degree to which skill determines outcome. What I’m going to look at today is skill exclusion in three games that play very similarly at least on a conceptual level, but have different levels of skill required.

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Sunday (Extra) Review: Shadowrun: Coyotes and Gun H(e)aven 3

Shadowrun released two supplements this weekend, and I took a look at both of them. All-in-all, Catalyst releases content at a somewhat rapid rate, and while they haven’t been releasing the sort of content I’d like to see most (namely a Runner’s Companion for 5th Edition), they did actually answer a question I asked on Stack Exchange, so I can’t complain too much. Also, Gun H(e)aven 3 (which I will just refer to as Gun Heaven from here forth) adds sport rifles and more weapons to 5th Edition, giving more flexibility in characters’ loadouts and gear.

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Table Reflection: Play With Purpose Part 1: The Reveal

When running a campaign as a GM, especially a free form campaign, it’s important to consider what the end effect of each of your actions and stories will be. One of the most common novice mistakes, including one that plagued me for years, is failing to consider the impact of even seemingly small contributions to the campaign. In a free-form campaign, this can mean that the game doesn’t gain traction and doesn’t get the full dramatic effect, but it can also have dramatic consequences for any game, including a gradual descent into meaninglessness.

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Thursday Review: Covert Ops Role Playing Game

Covert Ops is a rules-light game of espionage and intrigue that is a great choice for quality and value. In a day and age when  basically everything has been released as a supplement, it packs a surprising amount of content, it includes not only a hundred-and-change page core rulebook but a similarly long GM’s guide, as well as a bulky portfolio of pre-made characters and a ton of additional goodies, such as printable initiative cards, to round out the deal. Continue reading “Thursday Review: Covert Ops Role Playing Game”

Project Update: Ostravia Marches On

Continuing with Ostravia, we’ve seen some significant progress in terms of setting development, namely in that I’ve started to finally make Ostravia a tentative map. I’m not very good at cartography, so it isn’t pretty looking, but it’s sitting there and forming a basis for future progress. In short, not a lot of interest beyond a few musings; I’ve tried to have a couple proto-playtests but finals and the like have been messing with scheduling and they haven’t pulled through.

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Game Design: Impermanence

Impermanence plays a role in many of the most engaging games on the market. It adds a lot of interesting opportunities in games, but it can also frustrate and anger players who miss out on opportunities. However, sometimes it also allows players to customize their play experience and can create a more concise and meaningful narrative than having a messy jumble of content waiting to be played.

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Table Reflection: Character versus Player Morals

One of the challenges as a GM of a decently sized group is being able to know how everyone will act with their characters. The largest issue I’ve seen with this comes from d20 games in which there is a Lawful/Chaotic and Good/Evil scale, or with characters who are inspired by similar “I’m X and Y” archetypes, because quite frankly I’ve never seen two people with the same definition for any alignment who haven’t exchanged notes beforehand.

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Thursday Review: Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones is a traditional western RPG, in so much as such a thing can be said to exist, that actually provides a satisfying experience through the lens of a substandard execution. It is set in the same universe as the television show, books, and later strategy game that have been so dramatically successful, and in this respect it provides a pretty good game, but it fails on the things that make it up.

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