Playing With My Weiner

Gaming at the mercy of miniature daschunds.

A Sad Day in Weinerland September 28, 2008

Filed under: Games,Tabletop Gaming — Gwyddia @ 4:36 pm
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Today, after yet another great gaming weekend with a bunch of friends, I say goodbye to one of them.  One of my oldest friends, J. is leaving the U.S. for two years for work.  I’m very excited for him, because this is the next logical step in his career path, and he’s going to love it.  That being said, no board game weekend can ever be the same without him.

 

Here’s to years of gaming past, years of games to come, and peace and safety in the meantime.

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Review: Eldritch Role-Playing System September 9, 2008

Filed under: 4 weiners,Reviews,Tabletop Gaming — Gwyddia @ 1:53 pm
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[Full disclosure: One of the co-authors is a family friend, and he ran us through the Quick Start Rules several months before the book was released.]

 

Your d12 doesn’t have to cry itself to sleep anymore (nods to Rich Burlew of Order of the Stick). The Eldritch Role-Playing system has a place for that sad die, and all of its non-d20 friends.

 

Eldritch is a new fantasy tabletop RPG published by Goodman Games. A classic sword-and-sorcery title, Eldritch comes with a serious pedigree. Eldritch creator Dan Cross is the author of Volume V: Insidiae of the Gygaxian Fantasy Worlds Series, and worked with Gygax on a number of projects.

 

Cross and Eldritch co-author Randall Petras have deisgned a simple, but elegant system. Eldritch is skills-based, with a point buy distribution. The available races will be familiar to anyone who played 1st Edition AD&D, and won’t come as a surprise to anyone gamer who hasn’t. Action and combat use most of your standard bag o’ dice, with players rolling more and higher-sided dice for each level of skill they have in an ability. Each ability can be improved through three levels in sort of a “journeyman, apprentice, master” system, with each level providing an additional, progressively higher die to checks. Any basic ability – running, jumping, standing still – can be attempted “untrained” with the tiny d4. This eliminates the “I want to climb the ladder”,  “You didn’t take ranks in Climb” problem that plagues players with overly-hidebound DMs in other systems.

 

Combat is fairly unique. There is no “automatic” hit. The attacker rolls the number and level of die for her attack (e.g. a d4, d6 and d8 for a Master archer), and then the defender chooses an active defense such as dodge, roll, or standing his ground. An attacker needs to wear down the physical or magical defenses of a defender before dealing damage. These defenses are skill-based and their “pools” can deplete and replenish over time. This makes a great deal more sense than “Oh look, I rolled a 20. Your armor fails.” (Really, how does the entire world of D&D survive all these saving throws against wardrobe malfunction?)

 

There is one central “body of magic” in Eldritch, called Arcanum. Players can specialize to gain Mastery as a priest, psychic, etc. Cantrips require little energy to cast, full spells cost considerably more. The most interesting part of the Eldritch magic mechanic is that players are actively encouraged to create their own spells. There is a functional but limited spell list in the book, but there are also detailed rules on how to branch out into your own personal Arcanum.

 

The Eldritch sourcebook is a quick read. 96 pages, softbound, with five chapters and an appendix. It is clearly written and contains grayscale illustrations where needed. Upon reading the sourcebook, one thing becomes very clear – this is a source book. There are some adventure ideas and a preview of the official campaign setting, but what Cross and Petras have really provided is a framework to Make Your Own Adventure. This is both its greatest strength and its biggest drawback. Experienced DMs and world builders will love the freedom and the new mechanics, but newcomers to tabletop role-playing may find themselves looking for more guidance. I expect this to change once supplemental adventures begin to be released.

 

At only $19.99 (or $12.99 for the PDF version) you can’t go wrong picking this one up and at least running three or four friends through the starter adventure. If nothing else, it is a a wonderfully inexpensive night of creative entertainment.

 

For originality, fun, and a chance to stretch your creative muscles, I am giving the Eldritch Role-Playing System Core Rules Book 4 weiners out of 5.

 

The Eldritch Role-Playing System Core Rules Book is available in hard copy at Amazon, and in PDF at YourGamesNow.com.  The official Eldritch website, including free-to-download Quick Start rules, is EldritchRPG.com.

 

Weinercast is go! September 3, 2008

Behold, the first Weinercast!

Weinercast #1!

 

PAX Tabletop Game Reviews

PAX is wonderful in that it features all kinds of gaming.  Here are my comments in the Department of non-video games:

World of Warcraft Miniatures Game:  I swore I would never play the WoW Trading Card Game because I didn’t want to get sucked in like I did in 1997 with Magic: The Money Pit.  My resolve faded when my best friend bought one booster pack to see what the art was like and found a Papa Hummel’s Old-Fashioned Pet Biscuits Card to be used in-game.  Despite the several boxes of cards I’ve bought, I don’t really dig the game.  It’s an improvement over Magic in that anything can be used as a resource, but, just as in Magic, all it takes is a few number crunchers to break the game.

Onyxia's Lair WoW mini set

Onyxia's Lair

The mini game seemed different.  For one thing, it didn’t drag on forever and eighteen days.  There was a solid, achievable win condition that could be reached in a reasonable amount of time.  For another thing, the “inventory management” was much smoother in this game, where you select just a few powers to be in your “hotbar” and use them strategically, instead of managing thousands of options to get a deck of around 60, inside which is that one special card you hope comes up.  Finally, the little pieces look cool.  You can either keep them on their little game pedestals or take them out and let them adorn your desk.  For a WoW geek like me, this seems like a good idea.

The WoW Mini game is coming from Upper Deck in November, and I think I’ll at least pick up the Starter Pack.

Duel of Ages – Imagine that the gods became bored, picked up a handful of people from throughout history, and tossed them into an arena to fight for their deific amusement.  This, then, is Duel of Ages.  It is a board game with a dynamically-constructed hex grid and the ability to play as Beowulf with a flamethrower and and ATV.  Silly, yes, but a lot of fun and some good strategy, too.  Different historical characters have different attacks, defenses, ranges, etc., and with more than a few players the game plays out not so much like a duel but like a tiny war.  There is enough dice-rolling to inject some fluidity into the game, but enough stat-based fighting to make sure it doesn’t become random.  For me, the best part of this game was taking home it and its first expansion (of eight) after playing in a small tourney with me on one side and Peter on the other.  Stacking the odds?  Me?  Never.

Munchkin Quest – Munchkin Quest, Steve Jackson Games’ latest, is Munchkin with a dynamically built, interlocking board and monsters that followed you around.  If you are not familiar with Munchkin the card game, it is a game based on dungeon crawling without all that finicky “character development”. You kick down a door, you fight a monster within, you gain loot, you level.  Lather, rinse, repeat.

Peter and a PAX Enforcer play Munchkin quest.

Peter and a PAX Enforcer play Munchkin quest.

Munchkin Quest takes the ever-growing insanity that is Munchkin (there are several thousand different Munchkin cards spanning several genres, all of which can be used together) and attempts to tame it into a board game.  It mostly works.  I appreciated having a die-rolling element in my battles, as opposed to straight level vs. level.  The movement through the dungeon gave new like to the idea of exploring rooms and finding what lurks within.  My favorite new twist, however is the introduction of a real endgame. In Munchkin Quest, instead of just “I beat a monster, I’m level 10, I win.  Woohoo.”, you have to achieve level 10, then get back to the entrance of the dungeon, where you have to fight a level 20 monster to escape.

One thing hasn’t changed, however.  It still takes forever to win.  One of the more clever mechanics in Munchkin is the ability to throw monkey wrenches at your opponents by growing their enemies, summoning more monsters, or worse.  Munchkin Quest gives some disincentive for this by letting monsters roam, meaning that the level 1 Potted Plant you pumped up to level 25 against your buddy might come to feed on you, Seymour.  That isn’t true of the exit monster, though.  If you lose, it disappears.  Thus, the end of Munchkin Quest is just like the end of Munchkin proper – a war of attrition until someone runs out of whammies.

Munchkin Quest comes out in October, shipping sparing.  Peter wants to get it, I don’t really need it.