Friday, 14 October 2011

Mice With Swords

Is it just me, or is there something awesome about mice with swords? Redwall is the first thing that comes to mind when I think of animals decked out in fantasy form, but I've recently discovered the Mouse Guard RPG.

I recall seeing the Mouse Guard comics at the game store a few times and picking it up, thinking to myself, "That looks cool. Too bad I'm not into comic books."

The Mouse Guard RPG is based on the comics by David Peterson. I came upon it by pure chance but was immediately intrigued. It turns out the game uses a stripped down version of The Burning Wheel, an RPG system I had heard lots about but never played.

The thing that I like about it, besides the fact that mice with swords are awesome, is that there are actual relationships built right into the game. In character creation, you invent one friend/ally and one enemy/rival, and they become a part of the game world, people you can call on for help or people that the GM puts in your way.

You must create Beliefs and Instincts for your guardmouse. A couple examples for these: It's not what you fight, it's what you fight for (Belief), and  Always draw my sword at the first sign of trouble (Instinct). So when trouble comes up and you draw your sword, you just played your instinct and you'll get rewards at the end of the session for doing so. Players are rewarded for roleplaying their characters well.

Lastly, I very much enjoy systems that use dice pools, and this one does! There's something satisfying about rolling a handful of dice. It may be why I also enjoy Warhammer. 

There are tons of other cool and interesting features of the game that I won't get into here, mostly due to laziness. I am quite looking forward to running a game of Mouse Guard in the near future. I'll report back on how it went, with a step-by-step of the rules in case anyone is curious about how it works. I'll also leave a link below to the official site. Check it out!

Mouse Guard

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

From Whence Do Our Wizards Learn Their Magic?

It may not occur to players and referees alike that the idea of acquiring new magical abilities could potentially be role-played. It didn't occur to me until today. "You've got enough XP to level, so choose your spells and update your character sheet." Hang on a minute!

Wouldn't it be way cooler to have an opportunity arise in-game? Don't wizards need other, better wizards to teach them stuff? And don't these other, better wizards require things in return for their tutelage? There's a lot of opportunity for adventure in just learning a new spell, I'll wager!

I'm currently running Goodman Games Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG Beta Rules for my Thursday night game, and some of the characters just got enough XP to choose a class last week.

I think for this week I'll create an NPC wizard who will offer up a few select spells to prospective wizard characters in exchange for an errand or two. Try it! Don't let them pick from a table in a book! Have your players meet real wizards in the game world and see how much more meaningful their spells will be to them.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Dark Souls: Old School in a Delightfully Dark Package

I felt it necessary to share some of my feelings on Namco Bandai Games' new title, Dark Souls. In a word, it's a megadungeon.

Yes, you begin the game by creating a character, choosing from some uncommon archetypes like wanderer, bandit and pyromancer. The game does not, by design, tell you much if anything about the way anything works. It is for the player to figure out. So choose something you think looks cool, because the one-line descriptions are quite brief indeed.

After character creation, it's off to the world of Lordran. Your character is in some kind of asylum for the undead. It seems as though undeath is common throughout the world and those who suffer from it are sent to a big complex far to the north. In any event, you escape and head off on a mission of some sort, a quest, if you will. But how does any of this relate to old school gaming? Well, let me tell you.

First off, the enemies are mean. Button mash and you'll find yourself dead at the hands of a simple skeleton, returned to the last bonfire you rested at, any souls (XP) you had gone. Killing enemies and discovering new areas gets you souls which you can spend on equipment at the very rare merchant or blacksmith you might come across, or on leveling up attributes.

You are given five healing potions which can only be replenished by resting at a bonfire, and bonfires are few and far between. Making it to a new bonfire is very challenging, as every time you die or rest at a previous bonfire, all the enemies you just spent half an hour killing re-spawn. This is something I find very much in the old school spirit. Do you turn back, rest at an old bonfire and spend the souls you've managed to gather thus far, or do you press on, your supplies dwindling, risking all of your work on the hope that a new bonfire will be round the next corner - which is guarded by a massive bull demon boss. And the bosses are tough. Tough as hell. And equally as terrifying. Massive dragons, huge demons, towering golem knights.

The world itself is a series of seamlessly connected areas. There are multiple entrances to each area, which gives it a real megadungeon feel, and after braving an area for hours, you suddenly find yourself on a cliff overlooking the area you started at, a little path you missed before leading down to it. I find that satisfying.

In general, I found myself getting all sorts of awesome roleplaying ideas for adventure settings, enemies, NPC's and traps. If you are a fan of fantasy, horror, and especially old school gaming, this may be the title you've been waiting for.