Friday, June 23, 2017

Predation - Early Thoughts

Predation Wraparound Cover, copyright Monte Cook Games
So, how 'bout them dinos?

I've had the PDF of Predation for a couple weeks now, and the print for about a week. I've started the process of reading through it, and at this point, I feel like I can start speaking about my initial thoughts. A year ago, around this time, I did the same for Gods of the Fall, and if you are a regular reader of this blog you know what kind of rabbit hole I fell down with that setting. Some of you are no doubt hoping I'll tumble down a bambiraptor hole with this game. So let's get into it.

The first twelve pages are introductory. The author's intro, a setting intro, and a concept intro. We get an overview of the everything we need to know going forward. Nothing overtly revelatory, but as an appetizer it does it's job well.

Chapters three through seven are character focused. A handful of new descriptors (savage for the win!), the four Predation-customized Types (Karns, Osteons, Tecs, and Pteryxs (Pteryxes? Pterii??)), and some new Foci (or maybe Focuses, YMMV) including some reskins for existing Foci and entirely new Foci like Predates and Plays God (among others). Some new equipment and such as well. All of this is on par with what we saw in Gods of the Fall in terms of setting customization and expanded options. Chapter six is where Predation really roars...
...or maybe coos? Dino's as birds may not be a new concept but I'm old enough that it still takes a conscious paradigm adjustment at times. 
At any rate Chapter Six is all about dinosaur (and primitive mammal) companions. These aren't your usual brand of generic animal pals that add very little to the game, and even go well beyond the more capable companions we've seen in Foci like Controls Beasts and Builds Robots (or even Leads). These dino companions are essentially secondary PCs. They are in fact played by players other than their "owners" which adds a fun twist since companions are not forced to follow the instruction of their humans.
I got to playtest this at Gen Con 2016 and it was fun to ignore the companion's "poorly worded" request and do what felt natural for the creature. I think in a campaign with a good group of players this could be really great in a lot of ways.
Companions get their own stats and a mini descriptor called "Dispositions" that helps breathe life into the companions and ensure that not all companions of the same type are the same. A Clever stegosaurus and a Clumsy stegosaurus are sure to be VERY different at the table.

Chapters eight through eleven give us the setting of the game, the "world" of Grevakc, or North America in the late cretaceous after some heavy contamination of the time stream. I'm about halfway through this part of the book, having read the "Welcome to..." chapter, the organizations, and a good chunk of the setting's regional descriptions.

The organizations are all unique and interesting. Being a setting that is noticeably difficult to describe (it's a pre-apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, high tech, primitive world (frankly the time travel aspects are just enabling the rest of the setting's wackiness)) each of the groups has been given a very evolved feel (haha, puns). SATI, the setting's antagonistic source of order, has lost contact with the future and as a result they are falling apart in part and parcel for instance. Leadership tries to hold things together, but even they cannot manage their own employees. The group feels very realistically like the crumbling remains of a vast corporation.

The secretive Butterflies feel to me like the boy with his finger in the dam. The flood of temporal damage is probably too late to stop, but they will try their damndest all the same to prevent irreparable damage to the history of the future. Then there is the Genesix Fellowship who seek to prove the existence and location of the Biblical Garden of Eden. It's an interesting twist in a game that leans so heavily on science (and SCIENCE!!) to toss in a group that leans on both science and faith. The idea that "Eden's" location is somehow encoded into prehistoric DNA is one that dovetails into the rest of the setting nicely and ensures plenty of story space for groups that choose to use the Fellowship in their games.

Chapters twelve and thirteen are the bestiary, and present some truly terrifying predators, some awesome modified species, and a smattering of human NPCs. I've not fully read this section yet, but I just glancing through there's a ton to like in here, both in terms of the creature and the awesome artwork.

The remaining three chapters are GM advice, cyphers, and an adventure. I read the intro to the cyphers but otherwise I have not yet completed this section of the book. I'll be sure to give it a look before I attempt to run this setting, but until then it's not a priority. Plus I'm really hoping for a chance to play in this sandbox.

I've read more of this book at this point than I had of Gods of the Fall when I wrote my early thoughts for that setting. I'm not remotely disappointed with anything I've seen so far. If the quality of the remainder of the book only meets that of what I have read, and I have no reason to assume otherwise, then I am certain that this setting will capture the hearts and minds of many a gamer in the same way that Gods of the Fall did. It remains to be seen if I am beginning a long slide down that aforementioned bambiraptor hole or not, but I'd be surprised if I wasn't still discussing this game in six months at the least.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Nuts & Bolts #124 - Dee Eye Why

It's a weird time to be an RPG person. The advent of Kickstarter has been a boon for so many sectors of the hobby, from RPG rules and settings, to dice, dice, dice, and also dice, to accessories like custom dice towers, dice, GM screens, dice, maps, dice, and even gaming tables. Also sometimes dice.

In another 20 years it's be easy to forget that a whole generation is growing up with easy access to makers who want to sell the things they love to make, and that those of us who were deep into RPGs before the Kickstarter explosion often 1) made do without fancy accessories, or 2) made our own accessories. Thankfully that intrepid spirit will never go away, whether from a love of craftsmanship or a death grip on frugality, there will always those who make stuff.

I've been playing RPGs for 25(ish) years and while I am no craftsman (except with words), I am frugal (alternately cheap, but the latter has negative connotations that I don't think apply here). So while I don't tend to make a lot of stuff when I do it's because I have found a way to fill a hole and fill it cheaply.

How? Well, thankfully crafts stores and the things they contain are night infinitely adaptable. On Monday I posted about how I plan to use some blank dice and a sharpie to make my own set of "road dice" for Furry Road. Here's a bunch of similar finds via amazon and some ideas that I've had for them.

Hex Tiles

These plain wood tiles are hexagonal, the favored shape of RPG people ... I think. They are also reasonably cheap (about 50¢ each). If I ever find myself in the position of running a hex crawl for people in person I could buy a bag or two of these and have actual tiles to lay down during play. Do some painting or some sharpie-ing, or even assign your players to decorate the tiles as they "uncover" them during play. You could number the backs for easy "reassembly" or even glue them to a thin piece of MDF board for a more permanent game map.

Blank Dice
These are either the exact dice I used for my "Road Dice" or very similar. Basic 16mm while cubes. Take a sharpie and mark them up however you like. You could do custom attribute dice with ranges different from 1-6, or you could draw some basic dungeon halls and make your own cheap geomorphic dungeon dice.

Blank Cards/Decks
I considered making a "Road Deck" instead of using dice, because cards can convey a lot more information, but sometimes the KISS method is best. Cheap blank cards have TONS of uses though, from cheap cypher cards, geomorph tiles, and secret notes, to replacing dice with card decks. Also useful if you want to make small reference sheets or flash cards.

Sensing a theme yet? I actually don't have a use in mind for this at the moment, but I could see myself using this to present some kind of informational tableau, or as a different kind of battlemap (sometimes giant rolls of paper/vinyl aren't easy to transport). Of course this also reminds me of an older post ...

Chits, Tokens, Health bits and the like. 
Most people just use paper, but some of us prefer a tactile, and easily visible way to track our health, or the health of our players ... player's characters. There are just WAY too many options here, from little wooden blocks, to colored chips, to poker chips, to actual heat shaped chits and tokens. They are usually super cheap when bought in bulk. Like less than a dime a pop, sometimes right down to a penny each.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Furry Road - Road Dice

Since I'm alway looking for neat ways to make the game exciting and unpredictable for myself as GM as much as the players I enjoy using certain random elements. I rarely pre-determine loot for instance. For Furry Road I knew that one of the things that HAD to happen was some vehicular combat, including (I hope) people jumping between moving vehicles and fighting atop them. I considered grabbing a roadway map for the geography that the game will be set in, but that's ... boring. Also this is a post-apocalypse game so I didn't want to have stuff too organized. I also wanted there to be an element of the unknown.

I considered first making a deck of "cards" in the form of geomorphic road tiles with important information drawn in or written. I realized quickly that this would work, but that my artistic skills are a little too limited for such an endeavour for a one-shot. I also wanted something a little more exciting than some flimsy home made cards. Enter these...

Plain white dice/cubes and a black sharpie marker. You can get 25 of these dice to be for cheap on Amazon, like $8 or so cheap. Add a sharpie and off you go making your own dice. I created three types of road representing normal roads (just two parallel lines), high quality/well maintained roads (two parallel lines with a dotted divider in the middle), and broken roads (parallel jagged lines). These will indicate the normal state, driver's advantage, and driver's disadvantage for piloting tests. I also drew in some turns and a few intersections. Lastly I added a couple of sides with "X"s in the roads to indicate a trap or other hazard (pothole, debris, etc.) that could damage a car.

I pretty much drew 3 or 4 straits of various quality and then added turns or intersections for the other two sides. Five dice later and I can roll up a section of road at random during a highway combat for Furry Road. I'm thinking this will make running combat a little more exciting for both the players and myself.