Wednesday, March 5, 2014

DDC 2014 Reviews

Fate Core: Despite all the hullaballoo surrounding the Kickstarter for this project, this was my first real opportunity to pick up this material. (I know the PDFs are PWYW, but I'm a lover of physical products whenever possible.) Fate Core is a clear step above previous Fate games I own; It's refined and flexible and robust. I haven't been able to give the System Toolkit a full grok, but it looks pretty powerful on the surface.

And that slim little volume on the top of the stack is Fate Accelerated Edition, which should not be judged on the basis of its size. It is not a stripped down version of Fate, a playable teaser to get you to buy the big book. It is a neat little game in its own right that can support campaigns as easily as one-shots.

Isle of the Unknown: This one was my wife's pick. Intended for the Lamentations of the Flame Princess retro-clone, it's pitched as a setting, but doesn't have a lot of things that would make it a setting. There are those who regard this as a feature, but I don't see it. It's pretty much just a big list of weird things. It might have been more effectively packaged as "exotic & weird random encounter table/s".

Torchbearer: Another fantasy game from the Burning Wheel gang, this one feels like a mid-point between the crunch-heavy, Tolkein-flavor-filled Burning Wheel and the really very light and approachable Mouse Guard RPG. It incorporates classes and levels very loosely, but neither really seeps into gameplay.

GURPS Fantasy II: One of Robin Law's first published works. This has been on my list of GURPS books that I really want, but didn't have for a very long time. It doesn't have many of the traditional fantasy touchstones that the main GURPS Fantasy setting (Yrth) has. It doesn't really have any of them, actually.

In the Mad Lands, magic is chaotic and distrusted. The worship of gods is suspect, because the only gods in the setting are more or less Chthonic Elder Gods (who just happen to be inspired by Winnie the Pooh and his friends). And the monsters are not random magical mutations of known animals, but people who have fallen to terrible fates. The primary focus of a Madlands campaign is survival in a world that is out to kill you.

GURPS Ice Age: Another GURPS classic. A sourcebook for playing in the eras that Creationists insist never happened. Or maybe it's the era that Creationists insist happened, with all of the early species co-existing all at once. There are even stats for a few dinosaurs, so you can run it that way if you want.

Rifts: Picked up a couple of Rifters this year. I find them rather interesting because of how much material is contributed by fans. The Rifts Sourcebook and Conversion Books were from early in the line, so they give me a good view of what early Rifts was like, before things got totally gonzo.

Ninjas & Superspies: It's a mess, but it's a clearly an enthusiastic mess. Mystic martial arts, spy gadgets & vehicles all in one crazy book.

Not pictured

Mutant City Blues: Now for what Robin Laws has been up to lately. One of the hottest things in recent years is the GUMSHOE System, which is intended for use in mystery/investigation RPGs. The primary conceit of the system is that information gathering does not require dice rolls while still letting other things get dicey. While the second edition of the first GUMSHOE game, The Esoterrorists, was on a couple of shelves, the one that grabbed my interested was Mutant City Blues. The game is intended to emulate cop drama shoes in a world where super powers exist.

The key to making this premise workable is the Quade Diagram, which lays out all of the superpowers available in the setting in relation to each other. So if you've got a crime committed by the use of one power, you don't need to know zoology to know what animal powers your suspect has or high end physics to figure out the limits of someone with energy blasts or whatever.

Even the cops get superpowers. The whole "costumed vigilante" thing got discredited fairly quickly early in the super era of the setting, with several notable incidents involving un-expert civilians being allowed into crime scenes and hot situations and flubbing them totally and tragically. So super heroes have been relegated back to the comics, though some comics companies will license the likeness and abilities of "real" superheroes, who mostly do PSAs and mall openings. If you have powers and want to fight crime, you become a cop.

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