One of two RPG books that entered my library this holiday season was the Basic Hero’s Handbook for Mutants and Masterminds (M&M) by Crystal Fraiser.

The book is a great looking rule book and fairly trim compared to some behemoths, The art great and many pieces call to mind classic comic book covers.

The goal book is a simplification of the M&M rules from the Deluxe Hero’s Handbook for third edition. I’m going to be brutally honest about M&M Deluxe Hero’s Handbook, the rules are a bit dense and more math heavy than I usually like but this book breaks down the system basics into more digestible chunks. It explains the rules much more clearly. This makes M&M nearly as friendly to new RPG players as more rules light games.

A big focus of the book is character building. Instead of buckets of power points to create a character it is a series of fairly intuitive steps.

  1. Character Concept
  2. Select an archetype that is closest to your concept. There are 8 to choose from including Crime Fighter (Batman, Green Arrow, Hawkeye etc) The Paragon (Supergirl, Captain America) The Powerhouse (The Thing or The Hulk)
  3. Chose attributes skills and powers and advantages
  4. Some easy math to figure out how Hart your character is to hit/injure.
    Complications to make your hero’s life more interesting: day jobs, motivation, stuff like that.

The rest of the book is the nitty gritty of the rules and basics about advancing the heroes, GM advice and a few short adventures and villains to spice up the game. Baddies to knock through walls are important after all.

As is you could run a fairly satisfying superhero game before needing the Deluxe Hero’s Handbook.

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The hubbub

Over Presidents Day weekend as is my ritual I attended Con of the North, the local tabletop gaming convention here in the Twin Cities.

One of the two games I ran was Tales From the Loop. The game has generated a lot of buzz winning a lot of awards this summer, all well deserved, the game was the darling of this years ENie awards.

The nostalgia

I first discovered the universe of The Loop when art by Simon Stålenhag started popping up in my instagram feed. The art showed the landscape of a 1980s similar but different from our own. A world of robots, weird science, a world changed by discoveries made possible by supercolliders aka Loops! Juxtaposed with the weird science are normal kids doing kid like things in this fantastical world that the adults take for granted.

This is the space where the game lives. Player characters are tweens and early teens living near a supercollider and dealing with kid problems and Loop related weirdness. The kids largely fend for them selves, adults are too busy adulting to notice or care about the wonders or the weirdness.

The game hits all those sweet spots if 80s nostalgia that Stranger Things hits for the Gen X set. No worries the game is still fun for folks under 40. My players at the con ranged from twenty somethings to 40 somethings. If you have seen 80 kid flicks and teen movies you will be just fine, although the lack of cell phones can be a bit jarring for some.

The game features a nice guide to the 80s so you can get the feel of things.

System and gameplay

TFTL is very rules light. The basic dice mechanic is a pool of D6s consisting of an attribute plus any applicable skill. The system puts player agency first and is very narrative. The game works best when players run with the story elements the GM lays out.

In my convention game the players added things into the story that took it into many interesting directions that I wouldn’t have planned or even occurred to me. The unobtrusive rules allow the story to keep rolling.

The game does have a GM screen and it is great all of the minimal crunch fits nicely on the 3 panels. I only had to open the book once during the game almost all rules questions are dealt with in the screen.

Final thoughts

In the whole this is a beautiful game inside and out. It has an elegant rules set that stays out of the way and lets you tell a story with your friends that will leave you wanting to delve deeper into the world.

This lil guy was the first challenge the PCs in my Starfinder game faced

SPYDERBOTCR3

XP800

N Tiny technological construct

Init +3 Senses darkvision 60 feel Perception +8

DEFENSE HP 40

EAC 14 KAC 16

Fort +3 Ref +5 Will +0

Defenses: construct immunities

Weakness: vulnerable to electrical attacks

OFFENSES

Speed 40 (climb 30)

Ranged

Dart pistol +12 1d6 plus poison

Melee

Slasher +8 1d6+4 slashing

Offensive Abilities: Haste circuit

Statistics

STR +2 DEX +4 CON — INT+1 CHA +0 WIS +0

Skills

Stealth +13 Perception +8 Computer +8

Languages common

Gear dart pistol mounted, camera. Data storage

Organization solitary

Ecology

Created by a brilliant robotics engineer and used for missions from spying/recon to assassination the toxin load out on the dart pistol changes by the job assignment.

starfinder: session one

Posted: November 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

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STORY

I have finally ran my first session of Starfinder.  The basics of the story for the night was an entertainment executive with Abadarcorp’s entertainment division is assembling a team to find the missing star of a reality show; Skyp Tracer: Bounty Hunter.  Skyp has vanished after the traumatic death of his partner/sidekick who is hit with a Cryo-cannon and shatters when grenades he is carrying explodes as a result of the sudden temprature change.

The character mix an Android Mystic/scholar, Vesk Solarian/Xenoseeker, Human Soldier/Priest, and a Kasatha Mechanic/Icon. They spread out starting their investigation. In the process  questioning witnesses, and going to Skyp’s apartment and encountering a robotic spider investigating the apartment. Eventually the investigation leads off station and a they go to their new ship where they meet some toughs from a crime syndicate who want Skyp as well, violence quickly ensues, with the PCs winning the day.

THOUGHTS ON THE RULES

All things considered, the Starfinder rules set ran very smoothly. It felt as it did in the demo I played back n June. The soldier dominated the early part of combat encounters but the solarian finishes it once he is fully attuned and goes super nova. The mystic and mechanic fell into a more support role.

I’m curious how the power and survivab of the characters will increase as the game goes on. In the two combats the solarian burned through his Stamina Points and into his hit points, in the final encounter going down to 3 hit points left. the rest of the characters had also lost a few stamina points along the way. No one actually dipped into their resolve pool, so I may have to look at my encounter design.

Starfinder

Posted: June 22, 2017 in Pathfinder, Table Top Gaming
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If you have been paying any attention to table top role playing games this year, you have heard the buzz about Paizo Publishing’s new science fantasy game STARFINDER

STARFINDER updates the PATHFINDER rules and campaign setting. Giving the company the chance to fine-tune the now venerable game engine. It also advances the Golarion campaign setting several millennia into the future. It combines Tolkien with Guardians of the Galaxy, and it looks fun in a gonzo sort of way.

This week I was able to attend a STARFINDER preview event at a local Barnes and Noble. Paizo’s Erik Mona ran the event that featured a Q and A followed by a short demo where four lucky people were able to play a short demo. I was lucky enough to get to play n the demo, more about that later.

The Q and A covered a lot of stuff that had been revealed in various other sources like the Paizo blog and various podcast easily found with a quick search of the internet. Some things did stand out.

Most exciting to me as a GM the monster building systems will be a lot simpler, not requiring all the math and crunch, no adding class levels just for one feat, etc. This will be detailed in the upcoming ALIEN ARCHIVE hardcover due out in October. Plans to add Mecha/Giant Robots in a future book we’re also mentioned, PACIFIC RIM anyone? It sounds like a whole lot of other subsystems were made a bit less crunch heavy.

The highlight of the evening was getting to play in a short demo where four of the iconic characters board a derelict starship infested by goblins.

I played Navasi the iconic Envoy, and I got a decent feel for how lower level combat runs. On the whole it felt much smoother than PFRPG although to be fair it has been a while since I did a low level fight. The new hit, stamina and resolve point system ran very well creating an appropriate sense of peril as the game progressed.

Using the Evoy abilities flowed for the most part, hindered by my inability to roll above a 10 anytime it counted. Although not too effective on offense, those goblins wiped the floor and wall with me.  I was able to keep the Shirren Mystic in the fight by inspiration (I pep-talked him into more stamina points).

After a taste I’m even more excited for the game to arrive come August/September. I will share more thoughts then.

Fear-the-Walking-Dead

Anyone who has followed my blog at all knows I am a fan of the Zombie Apocalypse genre. AMC has just launched a companion  series The Walking Dead titled Fear the Walking Dead(FTWD). The series was created by Robert Kirkman, who created the comic book series that kicked off the franchise.
FTWD  moves the  timeline back to the beginning of the catastrophe when Rick Grimes is in a coma and moves the action to Los Angeles, California. The main characters are a blended family  consisting of a high school English  teacher and guidance  counselor and their children  from  previous  relationships.
The focus initially is on the everyday concerns of a blended family, with an undercurrent  of dread and tension as the evidence of what is to come slowly builds.
For all of the slow burn the cold open stats with Nick the oldest of the teen-aged character, and a drug addict  discovering a friend, now a zombie chowing down on another person in the shooting gallery. Fleeing in terror Nick runs straight into a car.
From this point we see a world where slowly the threads that hold society together start to fray. The narrative examines or at least teases all be it briefly some of these threads. Trust in the government  and mass media are looked at as the crisis builds with no indication given from those whose  duty it is to keep us safe, with information dribbling out via social media posts and videos posted online. Especially timely is the commentary on police violence as protests erupt after the police shoot a homeless man 50 times (presumably he was a walker). As the protest turns into a riot as police take down another zombie and riot police enter the area, and the pot that is the protest boils over, the perfect setting for a slowly growing zombie menace to go unnoticed.
So far the shows biggest strength is the ability to create that undercurrent of impending doom. The scoring of the show by Paul Haslinger helps convey that feeling better than just about anything, giving cues at just the right time to build tension better than any of the visual cues.
I’m looking forward to seeing the final unraveling  as the series approaches the  season finale and as the military comes into play. Will they be a bigger threat than the undead to the protagonists? Or will the military is evil trope as seen in DAY OF THE DEAD be sustained or be subverted? We have already seen some police acting less than  honorably  stockpiling water in their squad car. Will the army/national guard be any better?
I do have a couple of issues one minor the other more serious. The less serious is the one thing that I’ve  noticed that spoils the illusion   that Vancouver is Los Angeles, the acknowledge of palm trees. Having been to LA a few times, palm trees are every where, they are almost ubiquitous in the Southern California landscape.
My second issue, and one mentioned across all media is the fact that almost all the deaths of characters with actual lines have been African American characters. Intentional or not, it is very noticeable, and troubling.

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Two Necronomicons are better than one!

The latest edition to the old gaming shelf is Cthulhu Realms, a new deck building game from Tasty Minstrel Games. The game was designed by Darwin Kastle one of the designers of my favorite deck building game, Star Realms!
For those familiar with Star Realms some of the mechanics will be familiar. The goal of the game is to pummel your opponent to zero sanity, or have the most sanity when the cards for purchase have been exhausted.
Each player gets a starting deck of ten cards: followers, goons and initiates that allow you to purchase Lovecraftian horrors and locations to add to your deck in hopes of bringing on the end of all things.

The cards have different color, abilities and the like with lots of interplay between card types. Creating many different options for play and replay.Opening up many many strategies for victory. Monster hordes, evil books and iconic and creep location it is all here.

imageThe art on the cards is cartoony and wonderful. Some of jokes are subtle enough that it might take a couple of plays to notice them. Aside from the game play the cards are just fun to look at.

All in all I give this game high marks, deck builders are usually not my thing, but I think Cthulhu Realms may well dethrone Star Realms as my favorite, with deeper game play, but it never feels too heavy, or like I am playing solitaire, next to other people playing solitaire (my big complaint about Dominion) It is also has a reasonable price point of $20 its a bargain!