Monday, November 30, 2009

Modern20 support from the DM Sketchpad

DM Sketchpad continues to be THE place for regular Modern20 fan support on the web.

Awesome, awesome stuff.

I think everyone interested in Modern20 should check out the sketchpad regularly, cause there's frequently good stuff there for you.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dragon Age Origins: The RPGDesign Review

So I've been covering Dragon Age pretty extensively around these parts. It's arguable that it's the biggest RPG release since Fallout3, so for a gaming and RPG focused blog that seems only natural.

After about 60 hours, I've now completed my playthrough and feel comfortable giving my thoughts on the game.

I'll start by saying I think Bioware has delivered the best RPG I've played since the original Diablo.

One thing I like about the game is its potential for replayability.

Though I spent 60 hours in the game, I've done less than half of the content.

There are party members I didn't get to know, quests I didn't do, and of course, 5 different origins, besides the Human Noble I picked for my first playthrough.

This is a big plus. It makes the world feel positively huge.

Another strength of this game is the way they've integrated downloadable content. I know this is a sensitive topic among many gamers, so let me say I am pro-DLC.

I like coming back to a game later.

I felt like Fallout 3 and Oblivion have set the bar for this continuing commitment to their games. Bioware has announced 1-2 years of support for Dragon Age. If we get a year, or even more, I will be quite happy.

Certainly they seem to have a solid apparatus in place for such support.

Bioware is a challenging game, which is really the only negative I can place at its feet.

Not the hardness per se, but rather the lack of tutorials and the way the difficulty spikes at times. In short, this game has a steep learning curve and even for someone like me, there were frustrating moments in the early hours of my playthrough, as I figured out more or less by trial and error how to manage my party and how the AI responded to various commands.

Dragon Age is also a remarkably stable piece of software, at least on my machine. I had one Crash to Desktop in my 60+ hours with the game.

Compared to Fallout 3 and Oblivion, that's pretty amazing.

Now of course, what I always look for in Bioware games in the story, and here Dragon Age really outdoes itself. While there aren't many "gasp worthy" twists in the story, it's a fairly traditional RPG tale, the story is engaging, well put together, and extremely well-voiced.

In fact, with almost everyone being voiced, it was a bit disconcerting at the end of the game, where they gave the results of my character's choices in text. With all the voice work, they couldn't get Ron Perlman to do his gravelly Fallout 2 ending spiel?

But I digress. Along with the story, something else Bioware games have traditionally excelled at is player choice. Here again, I think they do this very well. The "dark side" and "light side" versions of Knights of the Old Republic felt almost like different games.

Here, Bioware deals with shades of gray. Sometimes, the evil choice (or the "non-good" choice) looks like it will lead to a greater good down the line.

You're a man on a mission: to stop an archdemon. Sure, preserving a dwarven artifact that makes golems (with human souls) might seem horrible, but having golems at your back when you go to take on an archdemon and his raging hordes might bring about more peace and stability in the long run.


This to me, was a marked improvement on traditional moral choice in games, where your choices are Lawful Good or Chaotic Evil, with little room in between.

So there you have it: apart from an overly steep and at times unforgiving learning curve, Dragon Age is a note-perfect fantasy RPG.

It's vast, complicated and engaging, both from a mechanical and story standpoint.

I'm going to give this game a perfect 5 out of 5 rating.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Generic OGL

One of the things I'm trying with Mecha Omega is "generic OGL".

The Mech design rules will be self-contained.

In a nutshell, this means I tell you how to build a mech without really talking about how you build a mech pilot.

This gives me a lot of flexibility. Basically, if you use Mecha Omega with a set of OGL rules that grant characters a Defense bonus, such as d20 Modern, Modern20, Spycraft or Star Wars, you should be able to use these rules with zero modifications.

Mecha Omega: Excalibur and the Knights of the Round

So it's been awhile since I talked about Mecha Omega, but it's stayed on my "next book" thumb space for a freaking reason.

Here's a taste.

Excalibur (Stonehenge, Britain)

Excalibur lies beneath Stonehenge, one of the largest concentrations of Omega Energy on Earth. Energy from throughout Britain is channeled to this one location through lay lines and standing stones. Because of the abundance of energy, Excalibur is not one mech but many. These are capable of joining together into a truly amazing machine, giving rise not only to tales of the Round Table (which is Stonehenge), Arthur and Merlin but also to stories of groups of warriors joining together for common cause.

Individually the smaller mechs, dubbed “Knights of the Round” in more recent times, look like mechanical lions. When they join together, they resemble a gigantic humanoid that wields a sword of energy.

There are 5 knights of the round mech, which join together to form the Colossal humanoid mech, Excalibur.

Knights of the Round

Superstructure: Quadruped (Huge)

Slots: Chest: 3 (0) Head: 2 (0) Arms: 0 Legs: 6 (0)

Heat: 0

Total Attack Modifier: -1 (-1 Size)

Total Defense Modifier: -1 (-1 Size)

Damage Reduction: 9 (14 vs. physical)

Hit Points: 350

Movement Speed: 140 ft.

Damage: 2d6+20 (melee), 4d12+0 (ranged)

Control Stations: Cockpit 3 (Head)

Defensive Systems: Light Armor 3 x3 (Chest, Head and Legs)

Esoteric Systems: Docking Port 3 (Legs)

Heat Sinks: None

Mobility Gear: Hydraulic Piston 3 x2

Power Sources: None

Sensors: None

Weapons: Claws 3 x2 (Legs), Railgun 3 x2 (Chest)

Total Cost: 113


Superstructure: Humanoid (Colossal)

Slots: Chest: 6 (0) Head: 4 (0) Arms: 6 (0) Legs: 6 (0)

Heat: -3

Total Attack Modifier: (-6 Size, +3 Computerized Targeting)

Total Defense Modifier: (-6 Size, -4 Armor, +3 Pilot Station, +4 ECM)

Damage Reduction: 16 (30 vs. physical)

Hit Points: 600 (+180 Energy Shield)

Movement Speed: 40 ft., Fly 540 ft., Swim 540 ft.

Damage: 4d8+52 (melee), 12d6 (rocket launcher), 4d12 (railguns)

Control Stations: Cockpit 3 (Head), Pilot Station 3 (Head), Weapon Station 3 x2 (Chest)

Defensive Systems: ECM 3 (Arms), Medium Armor 3 x4 (Chest, Head, Arms and Legs), Energy Shield 3 (Chest)

Esoteric Systems:

Heat Sinks: Heat Sink 3 x2 (Legs)

Mobility Gear: Jet Propulsion 3 (Legs), Water Turbine 3 (Legs)

Power Sources (Power Level 18): Reactionless Power 3 x2 (Chest)

Sensors: Radar Sight 3 (Head), Computerized Targeting 3 (Legs)

Weapons: Energy Sword 3 (Arms), Rocket Launcher 3 (Arms), Railgun 3 x3 (Arms)

Total Cost: 326

More Dragon Age DLC coming this holiday season

Recently it was announced that Dragon Age might see DLC for two years. There were three pieces of DLC released day 1, with two of those being free for most people, and one running you an additional 7 bones.

It seems we're not going to have to wait long for DLC, as more will be on the way "this holiday season", which I think would be... a week from now? Isn't thanksgiving when the madness begins officially?

Either way, great stuff.

EDMONTON, ALBERTA, CANADA – November 19, 2009 – Leading video game developer BioWare™, a division of Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: ERTS), announced today that the Return to Ostagar downloadable content (DLC) for Dragon Age™: Origins will be available for the Xbox 360® videogame and entertainment system, the PlayStation®3 computer entertainment system and PC versions this Holiday season in North America and Europe. The DLC pack, Return to Ostagar, allows players to exact their revenge and embark on a quest for the mighty arms and armor of the once great King Cailan when they revisit Ostagar, the site of the Grey Wardens’ darkest hour, to reclaim the honor and learn the secrets of Ferelden’s fallen king.

“We are very proud of the phenomenal launch of Dragon Age: Origins and we’re pleased to announce the next installment of downloadable content that will be available to fans of the game,” said Ray Muzyka, Group General Manager, RPG/MMO Group of EA, and Co-Founder, BioWare. “The Return to Ostagar DLC pack is a prime example of BioWare’s commitment to give fans a game that continuously offers new experiences and further enriches a storyline that has already received critical acclaim and positive feedback from the players.”

Return to Ostagar, BioWare’s next thread in the Dragon Age: Origins tapestry, summons players to a new quest in which they will return to the fateful battleground in Ostagar where the Grey Wardens were nearly wiped out. Players will discover King Cailan’s top-secret political agenda and go behind enemy lines to revisit a place that many feared had been lost to history.

Return to Ostagar will be available for $4.99 on the PlayStation® Store, for 400 BioWare Points on the PC and 400 Microsoft Points on the Xbox 360 in North America. Return to Ostagar will be released this Holiday season worldwide on the Xbox 360, the PlayStation®3 console and PC. Dragon Age: Origins is rated M by the ESRB and 18+ by PEGI.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Something else I love (Zero Punctuation edition)

I mean, not only is it an incredibly snarky game review, something the world DESPERATELY needs more of, but he says "it's like the difference between being Lawful Evil [flash picture of Pope] and Chaotic Evil [flashes picture of Charles Manson]".

Too freaking funny.

Your daily dose of crazy

Yu Yu Hakusho is a show I really should hate. Its crazy.

In fact, its more than a little dumb.

But it's the right kind of crazy. It's about a kid who comes back from the dead and becomes a "spirit detective", working to combat demon menaces to the mortal world and... well... just watch this, it conveys what this show is about so much better than words ever could.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dragon Age goes all sam crow

I almost titled this post (Sons of) Anarchy Online, but that would have brought in folks looking for a a completely different game.

For those wondering what the hell I'm talking about, it's Sons of Anarchy of course! One of those shows Modern20 GMs (all modern GMs really) should be watching.

When making my Dragon Age character, I was cycling through the truly impressive array of facial hair available, and at some point it clicked that I should make my character Opie, one of my favorite Sons of Anarchy characters (they refer to the club affectionately as "sam crow" if you're wondering where the title comes from).

Dragon Age Origins: Early quests and the party

So, I am continuing my exploration of Dragon Age: Origins.

Thus far the game is excellent. I've gathered a party around myself consisting of Leilani the Bard, Shale the Golem and Morrigan the shapeshifting mage.

The early adventures have been a great mix of combat and story and thus far, I haven't felt like I got too much of one or the other.

This is good, because Mass Effect leaned a little too far in the story direction, giving you numerous characters to meet at the beginning, who all wanted to tell you their life story.

They were really well WRITTEN stories, I just occasionally wanted to tell incidental character voiced by Seth Green that when I asked him how he was doing, "fine" would have been a perfectly acceptable answer.

Along with parties comes more than stories though. New character abilities to learn and new mechanics to master (such as coordinating four fighters in combat, often against 8 or more opponents).

One of the ones I like best so far is the "party approval", which is definitely one place in which DAO hearkens back to its noble ancestor: Baldur's Gate.

For those not in the know, Baldur's Gate is a D&D rpg in which you could recruit followers of varying alignments, but whether they stayed with you was a matter of how those alignments meshed with yours.

For example, playing a Paladin, one of the first followers you can recruit is a Chaotic Evil thief. How do you guess that turns out? I say well! I'm an optimist!

Here though, things are more complex. There's no boiler plate alignment, just your choices as you play the game.

And frequently, two party members will like a decision, while one will hate it.

Something I like even better is that your party often chimes in, letting you know ahead of time that they will NOT be happy if you make a certain choice. This not only lets you get to know them a little better, it also gives you a chance to make a choice just to please a valued ally.

Of course, behavior is good, but bribery is better. You also find items listed as gifts, which have two purposes: you can sell them for cold hard cash, or you can give them to a party member to raise their approval rating.

How much of a boost you get depends on how much the party member will like the item in question, which gives you a tangible reward for getting to know your party members, so you can dole out the right gift.

Though sometimes its pretty clear, like when you find Alistair's Locket. Hmm, hey *I* know a guy named Alistair! Coincidence?

Other times, its just common sense. Giving ale to the bard? Ouch! Suddenly its the 90's and I'm playing Bard's Tale on the C64. Oh uh, I mean the Leilani the Bard loves ale.

Now, this sounds like a lot of work, so what's it worth? Well, if a party member's approval drops too low, they might just leave. And if you raise it really high, then you can get bonuses in combat.

And with some of the characters, you can get those (in)famous Bioware um... romantic... options as well.

The party is always an interesting facet of Bioware games. They're always stocked with interesting, well written and well voiced characters. But often, they follow whatever path the main PC lays out for them, going along whether he is good or evil.

While this is convenient, and even makes some sense, if you see the main character as a dynamic leader the system they have here is rich, deep and extremely interesting.

And of course, it gives you a reason to tinker, looking for a group that gels, or even a reason to play it again to see how different parties mesh.

More to come as I wind my way through this RPG epic!

Friday, November 13, 2009

A look at Dragon Age's character creation

My review copy of Dragon Age has arrived, and I have begun winding my way through the game.

However, as this game is long, my plan is to do several reviews of different aspects of the game, before summing up my thoughts in a final overview.

I have to say, from a system standpoint, Dragon Age is extremely strong.

There are three character classes: warrior, mage and rogue. However, each character class has a lot of room for specialization.

My warrior is a sword&board guy who knocks opponents down or stuns them with his shield, but I could also be specializing in dual-wielding, two-handed weapons, or archery.

There are also skills I imagine every character class will have a chance to learn. For example, I have begun dabbling in herbalism, since I liked making potions in Oblivion, and have learned how to make simple healing poultices from wild mushrooms.

Looking ahead, even though the three classes are broad right from the start, each class also have four potential specializations later.

For warrior, the specializations are: Berserker, Champion, Templar and Reaver.

For mage: Arcane Warrior, Bloodmage, Shapeshifter and Spirit Healer.

For Rogue: Assassin, Bard, Duelist and Ranger.

As a tabletop guy, Ranger as a Rogue specialization jumps out at me. I can see that, personally.

In short, there's a lot of depth here. I think more depth on the character creation/development front than was seen in Mass Effect (whose mechanics I also liked).

Next I'll be taking a look at combat.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Dragon Age review forthcoming

Just got the word today that I will be receiving a review copy of Dragon Age: Origins!

So definitely look forward to a review for the game after I've had a chance to work through it.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Death from Below: A World of Arkara adventure

Death from Below is an OSRIC-compatible adventure for 1st to 3rd level characters.

Though set in the World of Arkara setting, it is generic enough to run in any fantasy city with a large sewer system.

Death stalks the city of Bondaea, with 17 citizens missing or dead. Clues lead to the sewers beneath the city, where evil creatures have moved in, using the sewers to move unseen, hunting the unwary townsfolk above.

In addition to its adventure content, this module also contains two new monsters and two new magic items.

You can purchase Death from Below here.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

The David Caruso School of Acting

I love David Caruso.

Not in the sense of, you know, watching any of his acting work that is NOT the first season of NYPD Blue but the fact of his existence allows me to sleep at night knowing all is right with the world.

Monday, November 02, 2009

I'm just going to say this once...

I don't think anyone owes me anything beyond basic courtesy.

I have seen a few fits thrown in my day and usually think these are drama queenerie.

This is all I ask and again I think it boils down to basic courtesy:

1. If you accept things for review, give it a look immediately and decide if you are, or are not, interested in reviewing it.

2. If you decide you are, put it in a stack (or folder) and review things in the order you receive them.

3. If not, just let me know.

That's it, and I really think it's an easy and fair thing I'm asking.

I've had many, many reviewers tell me, sight unseen "I don't like system X, so I don't review for it".

This, to me, is a perfectly acceptable stance and I have never been annoyed by that response a single time.


Night Ride Part 1

Night Ride Part 1 “Look, Pa, it’s my turn. Also, Nana is having one of her spells again and she has no idea who I am when she gets this w...