Friday, May 30, 2014

No Review, just Promoting a Friend

As a writer, I know how difficult it is to get your stuff seen on the internet.  Therefore, I always try to promote and help out my internet buddies as much as possible.  Hence I'm pointing all my readers (however many there might be right now) to The Hungry Reader's new video.

I've been buddies with The Hungry Reader for a while now, and he really is pretty great at this.  I've been enjoying watching him mature as a critic as he becomes the internet critic version of "Reading Rainbow".  He is passionate for this, is almost always working at it and recently submitted his videos in order to become part of Channel Awesome.  You should all check out his channel and give him your full support, constructive criticism and anything you think would help him......Please.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

RPG review of Savage Worlds

Everyone who's ever gotten into tabletop RPGs has started playing Dungeons and Dragons (if that's not the case for you, stop nitpicking my blog hypothetical reader!).  Some people never make it past that rightfully classic game, but some people occasionally take those tentative steps out of heavily Tolkien inspired fantasy and into games involving undead struggling with their immortality, extremely popular space opera films or heavily Tolkien inspired cyberpunk

Vampire the Requiem, Star Wars and Shadowrun; if you were wondering.

Today I'd like to tell you about my first trip outside of D&D with a game called Savage Worlds, made by Pinnacle Entertainment Group.  First published in 2003, Savage Worlds is a system designed to be easy to play and quick to start.  At that, it is extremely successful.  You can probably get an entire party of characters rolled up in under a half hour.  As for gameplay, all you need to know is that your character needs to roll a 4 or higher (with bonuses or penalties applied to make the roll harder or easier).  If you know that much, you've pretty much got half of the game under your belt.

Savage Worlds is unique in that your skills and attributes are not measured by numbers, but what dice you roll.  When you first buy a skill, for example, it is considered a d4 skill, meaning that when you use it you roll a d4.  As you advance your skills, the die you roll will go up a step (a d4 becomes a d6 becomes a d8 and so on and so forth).  I'm sure someone more educated in statistics could tell you that this can be easily exploited, but I never saw any trouble with this way of doing things.  Another way Savage Worlds change things up from the usual RPG rules is how they do the order of combat.  At the start of every round, every character is dealt a card from a standard deck of playing cards.  The GM then counts backwards from Ace, and the player take their turn when their card is called.  Again, this is an interesting way to change things up, and I found it extremely fun when I played Savage Worlds with my friends.

However, my favorite part about this game is the story (or rather stories).  You may have noticed that I haven't mentioned the genre, plot or any story point of Savage Worlds thus far.  That's because the system is actually versatile enough to offer numerous different settings.  Pinnacle Entertainment actually sells books devoted solely to offering new worlds for Savage Worlds players to explore and create in.  These books usually have a few extra rules that go with the setting, extra skills and advantages and a built-in campaign for you to run if you so desired.

Some of the settings Savage Worlds offers include:

Rippers: The players are part of a world-spanning monster hunter organization in Victorian Age.  Led by Van Helsing, you can explore the world, fight off famous monsters (Mr. Hyde, Frankenstien, his Monster and Dracula to name a few) and even ally yourself with famous characters from Victorian literature.

50 Fathoms:  The fantasy world of Caribdus has been drowned in a huge flood caused by three vicious and powerful witches.  The world is still threatened by these witches, so a mysterious force has brought new heroes to the land:  humans who were lost at sea during the Golden Age of Piracy.

Evernight:  A fantasy world has been invaded by a spider-like alien race.  Quickly taking over, the aliens blot out the sun with their smog spewing buildings.  You play as heroes who must stop these aliens, destroy their smog spires and bring the sun back to the land!

Necessary Evil:  Aliens have conquered the planet, wiping out all of Earth's superheroes in one fell swoop.  With all the heroes gone, the only defenders left are Earth's supervillains, who have formed a team dedicated to wiping out the alien menace.

These are just a few of the amazing settings that Savage Worlds bring to the table, and I'll most likely be reviewing these settings and more in the near future.

If you do not like simple games that focus more on cinematic styles than actual technical rules, then Savage Worlds is not the game for you.  However, if you want an RPG that you can easily pick up and play with unique and interesting settings for your players to play in, then I highly recommend you pick up Savage Worlds today.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

One of my New Favorite Tabletop RPGs (that no one else seems to be talking about)

Yeah, I know.  Three posts into this blog and I'm finally talking about gaming.  Crazy, right?

I have been playing tabletop RPGs for about half my life.  I started with Dungeons and Dragons, which is still the most prominent and most well known tabletop RPG in existence.  However, as I grew older I found myself caring less for Dungeons and Dragons and more for other RPGs.  Sometimes it was because the rules were easier to follow, other times I wasn't in the mood for a Tolkien-esque fantasy, but my main reason for seeking out other RPGs can be summed up simply:  I like it when game creators do something new.  This could be a twist on an established setting (such as Savage World's fantastic take on the superhero genre Necessary Evil), a setting where you're playing as something beyond common sellswords (seen White Wolf's epic fantasy Exalted) or just a completely unique world (as seen in the alternate history game Deadlands).

And it just so happens that I found an RPG that uses all of those elements:  Hellas: Worlds of Sun and Stone.

The Premise: The best way I can describe this RPG to you is to imagine Star Wars blended with 300, Clash of the Titans and Greek mythology in general.  Hopefully you're like me and heard that description and yelled "Shut up and take my money!!".  However, if you are still unconvinced, let me continue.

Hellas takes place in a universe that's essentially a space opera version of ancient Greece with the planets representing the city-states of the country (both real and fictitious).  The galaxy is mainly ruled by the Hellenes, essentially humans (specifically Greeks) who were raised to the status of spacefaring race by the gods known as 'The Twelve' (pretty blatant allegories for the gods of ancient Greece/ancient alien versions of the gods) and are still worshiped in the Hellas universe.

Rather than using traditional hyperspace, the spaceships of Hellas travel at faster-than-light speed using an alternate dimension of violet skies, dark clouds and floating islands called Slipspace.  Slipspace has it's own flora, fauna and oxygen, essentially allowing for epic sea battles involving boarding other ships and adventures involving deserted islands.

Who you play as:  Rather than playing as simple adventurers/mercenaries like in D&D, Hellas has you take on the roles of Heroes.  The sourcebook specifically states that the PCs are the movers and shakers in the universe, if it isn't happening to the PCs than it's not important to the story.
Along with the Hellenes, there are seven other playable races in Hellas, among which include the female warrior race of the Amazorans, the savage reptillian Goregons, the mysterious three-eyed Kyklopes, the angelic Nephelai, and the druidic seductive Nymphas.  My favorites are the Myrmidons: a race that consists of a colony of insects which form into a walking, talking 'person', and the Zintar: a race of squidlike beings that operate on land by piloting four legged robotic suits (Zintar, Centaur.  Get it?).

Character Creation: This is arguably the most fun aspect of Hellas.  With your choice of race, you get your base attributes and skills.  You also pick a profession (pilot, warrior, oracle, etc.), of which each race has at least two that are exclusive to them.  Everything else is decided by the roll of the dice, including the planet your character was born on, his family, how his childhood was, the status of his parents and any adventures he may have been a part of before the actual start of the campaign. It is also where the GM finds out each character's Fate (which I will discuss later) While this may seem that it would make for unbalanced characters (which the sourcebook acknowledges), I haven't found any problems with it, and it's balanced out by the 40 'freebie' points you get to spend at the end.  Making characters with your friends who you play with is super fun, especially if you do it together and put together how the PCs know each other via their random backgrounds.

The system used:  Hellas uses a very simple gaming mechanic known as the Omni System.  Basically, you roll a d20, apply any bonuses/penalties and the result will determine if the action succeeded, failed, failed miserably or worked way better than expected.  There really isn't that much to it besides that.

Other Fun Stuff:  Perhaps the most interesting aspect of a Hellas campaign is how it is meant to be played.  The book explains that a campaign should last decades (perhaps centuries), and as the game goes on your character accumulates Fate Points in various ways.  As you gain Fate Points, your character gets closer to his Fate: the way he is destined to die.  It is possible to dodge Fate for a long while, but if you accumulate ten Fate Points, your character must meet his glorious end.  However, your player need not go home, for he/she can roll up a descendant/friend/relative of the character who just died.  By the end of the campaign, it is possible to be playing your original character's great great grandson.  Some people may find this system unfair to the PCs, but I feel it makes for fantastic storytelling tied to the Greek myths that inspired Hellas.

Final Thoughts:  I love this game.  I love the system. I love the races. I love the huge option for characters, the setting, the scale of storytelling.  I love Hellas so much....and yet it doesn't seem to be getting much love on the internet.  It has thus far had four successful Kickstarters for the core rulebook and various supplements, but I can't find any stories of people playing it, online PbP games or anything.  The lack of talk about this game is one of the reasons I wanted to write this post.  Hopefully one day this game will get all the love it deserves from tabletop gamers everywhere.

-Hellas: Worlds of Sun and Stone and all of it's supplements can be found at