My cousin sent me some pretty cool stuff in the mail. I wish I had some more time to dig into the games. Chitin I, Warpwar, and Starship Troopers: Man vs Monster all look great! I’ll probably have to wait until Christmas vacation to immerse myself fully. Note, there’s some Steranko cards in there as well.
Way back in the day, we had an Apple II+. I think it was an Apple II+; it might have been an Apple IIe. Maybe someone can remind me. This would have been circa 1989 or 1990. The II+ was replaced by the IIe in 1982 and a few new features. To be honest, I’m pretty sure we had a IIe, and Tom had a II+. More on this later.
Ours had a monochrome green screen and two bulky separate 5.25″ floppy drives. Tom’s had a color screen; color back then was around 4 or 16 colors. We didn’t have a lot of games for this thing, or really any software for that matter. Mind you, this computer was already pretty outdated when we got our hands on it. I think my parents acquired it after the local school system (or community college where my dad worked) got rid of them. So it was already unwanted junk by an organization which traditionally is resource starved.
So games. We would have been 10–13 around that time and we naturally wanted games. We had this box of disks that we had copied off of someone my dad knew, but it was a mish-mash of stuff. There was a copy of Zork III, which we played a ton of and never got really anywhere. That’s all I really remember from that batch. Anyway, games. We wanted games. I remember being with my mom at the mall in Software Etc. looking at discount games. There wasn’t a lot of choice; the Apple II was pretty much dead at this point. We got a copy of Questron (or Questron 2) and Wasteland. I think they were in the couple dollar price range.
We played a lot of Wasteland. I remember sitting on the edge of Tom’s bed, each of us ‘controlling’ one character in the game during combat, being afraid of messing up and losing a party member, and generally not know what was going. A few moments stand out:
- Being scared shitless of the Scorpitron. This giant menacing robot parked out in the middle of an intersection in Las Vegas which could decimate you.
- Falling in the river and not being able to get out for quite some time. Characters would fall unconscious, but their swimming skill would get boosted a lot.
- Getting stuck on a stage in some bar in some town and having to use acrobatics to entertain the crowd so they’d let you off.
- Going in through a skylight in Ugly’s Hideout instead of a full on frontal assault.
I played the game off and on after that time, through high school and even doing a long run through it freshman year in college. I even made a website for the game, way back in 1997–8.
Naturally, when Wasteland 2 had a Kickstarter, I backed it. I started playing it sometime last December. I haven’t made it all that far but I’ve really enjoyed it. It manages to capture a lot of the vibe and mechanics of the original while still being updated.
One particular example of staying true to Wasteland is the rocket use mechanic. If I recall correctly, ‘AT Weapon’ (Wasteland anti-tank weapon skill) and ‘Heavy Weapons’ (Wasteland 2 equivalent) aren’t the greatest skills. The reason being is that rockets were somewhat scarce, and the non-rocket weapons the skill controlled weren’t always that great and/or burned through a lot of ammo. So at least when I played, no one was particularly good at them. So rocket use was often unskilled. That was ok, because they did a shit ton of damage and at least in Wasteland 2, are area effect weapons. Still, accuracy left a bit to be desired. So you stockpiled and used them in ‘Oh shit’ moments as an act of desperation. Those ‘Oh shit’ moments helped heighten the excitement of the game for me as a kid, and play some part in how much the game stuck in my mind.
Anyway, the Apple II and the few games we had made a big impression on me. Wasteland (and Zork III) defined games for me in many ways, and I’m happy that Wasteland II captured a little bit of that.
Dick and I played SPI’s Demons, written by James F. Dunnigan, over the Thanksgiving break (Elias hooked me up with the game — props). The premise of the game is that King Solomon was given a magic ring by archangel Michael that gave him control over demons of the land. The Demons get out and all hell breaks loose. To add to matters, magicians, spotting an opportunity (as they do), start showing up and getting the demons to do their bidding and basically plundering the treasures of the land. Players play power hungry magicians.
Like my other experiences with paper war games, Demons is extremely complicated. It took Dick and I a couple hours to figure out. When we finally did, we played for about an hour and realized we were playing wrong. Here are some pictures.
For the past four weeks my friend and I have been playing Time Tripper, a game Elias turned me onto. Time Tripper follows the adventures of a marijuana smoking soldier in Vietnam who travels in time and fights various tripped-out battles. The scenarios range from WWII, to cavemen, to T-Rexes, to really bizzare stuff like something called the Autozoo and King Pong (King Pong gives all new meaning to “tripping balls”).
While I sort of get the sense that Time Tripper is a paper war game aimed at beginners (and the D&D crowd), if you’re like me and grossly unfamiliar with paper war games, be aware that they aren’t the type of things you bust out when you can’t find Jenga for your next dinner party. In addition to being really complex, the rules are far from lucidly written (bear in mind we had two people trying to figure the game out).
If you are up to the challenge, the game is a lot of fun. Though it is a war game, its warped sense of humor make a really fun play once you figure it out, or half-way figure it out like us. If you don’t think you’ll be playing the paper version any time soon, DewKid.com wrote a Java version of the game. While the Java version does all the calculations for you, its insanely tough (I can make it past 3 boards or so without getting killed in a good game). The coolest thing about the Java adaptation is the graphics for the counters. Now if someone would just do a version of the game for Facebook.
Reminiscent of Infantry fight system, and to show dramatic combat with guns, is the final fight scene to the movie Equilirium (2002) by Kurt Wimmer (major spoilers for those who haven’t seen it yet).
At least 20 shots fired and not a scratch on either guy. Notice how it was harder for John Preston to point and pull a trigger than it was for him to wrist-lock the gun from his opponent? That’s because it’s more dramatic that way. Guns are more tricky to pull this off without the dissolution of viewer disbelief (like Mike’s Commando note in the last comments). Wimmer, or whoever choreographed the fights, did a good job throughout the movie.
The two weren’t exchanging blows and deducting hit points. Instead, they were deducting each others’, as I put it in the last post, easily-replenish-able statuses.
So, I have been drumming up ideas for a tabletop RPG combat system, mainly as mental-masturbation, but I think I might have found something I can use for Emporium (the combat system is the largest design hole that I currently have for Emporium). The real goal is for a combat system that is intuitive, not too complicated, yet still interesting and dynamic from round to combat round.
One way to do this is to account for proximity (think Warhammer 40k or Battletech). While that can make combat interesting, it also can turn your RPG into more of a strategic simulation.
Then, two combat systems converged in my mind as the two most interesting combat systems I have witnessed. Unfortunately, both of them are action systems, not turn-based.
I have always disliked how AD&D handles combat, especially the damage system.
Compare a level 4 fighter, who has 40 hit points, and a level 1 mage, who has a whopping 4 hit points. The two are fighting side by side versus some castle guards. During the skirmish, the fighter gets hit with long sword which, for this example, does its maximum damage of 10 hit points and then gets nicked a few times at values of 3, 4 and 5; the mage gets stabbed with a dagger and gets completely knocked out with the max damage of 4 (some systems would have just killed him, but we always played that you get knocked out at 0 hit points and start to bleed to death until stabilized at -1 hit points).
The obvious problem with this is the disparity of damage between both characters, who are, after all, 2 humans. How can a small stab mean death to one character but hardly anything to another?
It’s pretty well established that I like to tinker with role-playing game mechanics, and that I have several dissatisfactions with the d20 (D&D) spellcasting systems in particular which I’ve tried to remedy over the years.
But in spite of my disillusionment with the spell-slots/fire and forget style of casting in it’s several iterations, sometimes I still get the urge to design characters more closely fitting the standard spellcaster mould, though generally I’d prefer them a bit more flexible.
Now the usual spellcasters all have some sort of limitation on how many spells they can learn and/or which ones. Also, excluding the Sorcerer, most classes must prepare spells ahead of time and have an additional restriction on how coppies of each spell they can prepare in a given day, a set of rules which rankles my sense of verisimilitude.
Long have I coveted a class which overcame these restrictions. A class with the spontaneous casting. A class without limitations on how many or which spells can be learned.
The generic “Spellcaster” class presented in Unearthed Arcana perhaps comes closest to this goal, although even that class still has a couple issues. For one thing the Spellcaster, like the Sorcerer, is limited in the number of different spells they can know at any given level. Additionally, the Spellcaster is only intended for use in games where the other generic classes (the Expert and Warrior) are being used.
As an alternative I propose the Magus, a sort of omni-mystical sage or man of power, to provide a suitable player character class.
The magus provides greater flexability regarding the type of spells which can be learned, but with limits: Magi are relatively limited in the number of spells they can have prepared at any given time, also the number of spells they can cast in a day is relativley low, and they gain no bonus feats or other special abilities. Further, to learn and cast spells most effectively the magus must diversify her abilities greatly and learn at least two different skills; while, by contrast, wizards need only concentrate on one ability and a corresponding skill.
I wrote this story in 2001 as part of a “Galactic Noir” setting I was working on back then. In it’s tone Galactic Noir was largely inspired by short stories by George R.R. Martin, specifically those from his now out of print Sandkings short story collection (though not so much by the titular story). But it also drew heavy thematic inspiration from the Orion’s Arm group I was participating with at the time, as well as the old World of Darkness gameline by White Wolf.
Unfortunately, after fleshing out several ideas for this setting via e-mail with a few guys from one of the World of Darkness forums (Bryan Conlon, Gabe Carlson, and “Wolf”), the computer on which I stored all our correspondence had pretty much every one of it’s I/O devices break in some way. As a result the relevant information languished for years on the machine’s inaccessable hard drive.
However, this past Christmas season, while rummaging through Circuit City trying to figure out what to spend a gift certificate on, I stumbled across a kit to convert old hard disks for use as external drives. Now that I have access to this stuff again I’ll probably be sticking at least some of it on the web in the near future.
Dead On Arrival is the only actual story I can remember writing for the setting, and consequently also the only “stand alone” piece of writing that my brief perusal could dig up. So here it is.
Note: This one’s going out to the folks on the Dragonstar mailing list in the hopes that it’ll contribute to the currently ongoing discussion of vampires… in… space…
Keep on keepin’ the faith over there guys.
After weeks of sporadic tinkering the role-playing system I was hoping to run for Protozoicon is finally at a usable stage. Still not polished to the sleek and glossy shine I’d prefer but workable at least and including all the necessary components. Also, at six pages, it’s mercifully brief.
You can find it here in PDF format.
For those really interested there’s more commentary available here on the design philosophy behind it and such.