Sunday, September 28, 2008

Changeling

My favourite roleplaying game has been Changeling: the Dreaming, ever since it was released back in 1995. I am among the legion of fans who was upset by the way that White Wolf neglected it after the second edition was released, before finally cancelling it right in the middle of an incomplete meta-plot story arc. But what's so great about this game?

Well, for me, the first appeal was that it was about faeries. I have been a fan of faeries (NB: the original celtic vision of faeries, as elves, goblins, trolls, merfolk, &c., not the sanitised victorian image of Tinkerbell) for some time now. So it was only natural that I should be drawn to a game that allows you to actually play one.

Secondly, I became enraptured with the game's focus on dreams and creativity. For those not familiar with the game, Changelings require a special magical energy called "Glamour," which is the force engendered by human dreams and creativity, as well as things like love and hope. Artists and dreamers generate Glamour, which Changelings can then collect to sustain themselves, as well as to fuel their Cantrips.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Gender Gaming

Something else I've often thought was fun was to play a character of the opposite gender. I've done this several times, and I always enjoy it. In fact, many of my favourite characters have been female. Of all the Werewolf: The Apocalypse characters I've played, I liked Michelle the best. One of my favourite Changeling characters was Sarah Storm, the piskey hacker with a sentient chimerical computer.

This probably appeals most to Method Actors, who enjoy stretching their dramatic and psychological muscles with the challenge of getting into a different mindset (and playing the opposite gender IS a different mindset; if you don't believe me, just read Sperm are from Men, Eggs are from Women by Joe Quirk and Self Made Man by Norah Vincent). Storytellers are also quite fond of the challenge, as it affords them new opportunities to develop and explore the storylines of their games. The other types may or may not be interested in trying this out, but are generally indifferent. Butt Kickers and Power Gamers, in particular, aren't likely to care, as the gender of the character killing monsters has no real bearing on whether the characters are effectively killing monsters.

But I personally think it's a great way to expand the game. There are a lot of things to keep in mind, of course. It may be hard to do this with your particular gaming group. There are a lot of stereotypes out there about gamers being reclusive geeks with no real experience interacting with women whatsoever, and so the only way they have of perceiving females is as objects of desire. Such persons can't meaningfully interact with women, and if there is a female character in the party, they're likely to say things such as, "I do her!" Never mind foreplay, developing a relationship, taking her to dinner first, et c.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Multiple Characters

Something I enjoy doing on occasion is playing two characters at the same time. I haven't done it very often, but it's usually quite fun when I do get a chance.

The appeal of running multiple characters differs depending on player type. Butt kickers might like the chance to kill twice as many monsters as normal. Power gamers have two paths to glory that they can walk at the same time. Tacticians have all sorts of added strategic advantages from having more than one person working on a plan. Method actors, or course, are likely to relish the increased difficulty from handling two personas at the same time. And so on.

"But, Mister Game Dork Sir," I hear you say, "Doesn't that mean you're getting twice as much action as the other players?"

Well, maybe. Obviously, it does have to be handled with care. One way of dealing with this problem is running a group in which all the players have two characters. This can be pretty advanced, and not an exercise for inexperienced gamers. Another option is to play in a group that doesn't mind one player running two characters. You may have to find just the right mix of gamers for this one to work. You can always work with the player running two characters to ensure that he (or she) is sensitive to the needs and feelings of the other players, and doesn't overshadow them with his two characters.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Gaming Environment

I forgot to post on Sunday. Damn. I'm really sorry. I even had a topic ready to go and everything. Stupid hectic life being busy and everything...

Anyway. I recently heard about the Sultan. It's being billed as the Ultimate Gaming Table. The surface is a backlit dry-erase surface, which can be covered with a custom-fit felt top. The sides are loaded with cubby holes for books, drinks, dice, pencils, et c. There are dice rolling pockets along the edges, desks that pull out from the side, and all sorts of goodness. It's currently selling for almost $10,000.

A deluxe gaming table, with recessed top to prevent dice from rolling off the edge, green felt cover, and fold-out writing surfaces that open to reveal drawers, cup holders, shelves and cubbies, and all sorts of other goodies, with two chairs on each side.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Films

Before I start, I'd like to point out that I've just recently discovered Asobrain, where you can log in to play, for free, online versions of Settlers of Catan, as well as Carcassone and a couple other silly games. They don't call them Catan or Carcassone; they call them Xplorers and Toulouse, since they aren't actually approved, associated, or licensed by the creators of Catan or Carcassone. But they're the same games, all right. You can play basically with any of the expansions, and you can play against human players or against bots or both. My fans should log in and play with me sometime!

Anyway, on to the topic of today's essay. I started thinking about films about gamers the last few days, over the course of two separate events. The first is that I felt the need to watch Über Goober. The second is that my wife found a video on YouTube that was an ad for a "series" called Gamerz.

Über Goober is a documentary about gamers. It examines the three main types: historical miniatures war gamers, roleplayers, and LARPers. It was made by non-gamers, so it does a good job of looking at gamers from the outside and examining them in a truly impartial way, exploring humour based on gamers both mainstream (like when Lisa Simpson asks a guy wearing a helmet and a shirt that says "Game Master" if she can sit with him, and he says, "Yes, if you can answer me these questions three. Question the first..." and she says "never mind," and walks away) and gamer humour (like the Dork Tower comic). It also examines the controversy involved in gaming, like the James Dallas Egbert III fiasco, as well as the role played (hah!) by gaming in the Columbine shootings and the religious backlash against gamers.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Board Game Review - Settlers of Catan

It's been a while since I've reviewed any board games, so I think it's time to do so now. Let's do Settlers of Catan today. I realise that if you're reading this blog, chances are good that you've played this game before. Still, it's a great game, and I like it a lot, so I'm going to review it anyway.

Remember the review system? Here we go:
Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, andmakes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take.
Strategy: 4
Randomness: 3
Complexity: 3
Humour: None.
Attractiveness: I'm torn between giving this game a rating of "Nice" and "Average."
Expected Length of Game Play: an hour and a half.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A brief rant on computer games

I have a great t-shirt. It was given to me by a friend of mine; it had Igor from Dork Tower sitting on a street corner holding a sign that reads, "Will game for food."

I wear this shirt rather frequently. People see this shirt and think I'm talking about computer games (there was one memorable incident when I was wearing it in a gambling town in Colorado, and someone thought it was in reference to casinos).

I don't generally care for computer games, and I'll tell you why: it's not because of the graphics. It's not because of the gameplay, or the mechanics, or even necessarily the story. It's because of the replay value. Most computer games (especially if we're talking about console gaming, like the PlayStation or XBox or Nintendo) are story-based RPGs. They do have some non-linear games, like the Wii Fit (which has me scratching my head; yes, it's a good idea, but where did anyone get the idea that this was a game?), or old classics like Tetris and Intelligent Qube (there was a great game; the only game for the PlayStation that I really liked, and no one else liked it, so it didn't sell), or things like Mario Kart. But most of them are the sort of story-based games like Final Fantasy or The Elder Scrolls. And in my opinion, once you've played the game once, why play it again? You've seen the story. These sorts of games seem to me more like a very long movie, only at several points, you have to undergo some sort of task or else figure out where to go and what to do to get to the next part of the movie, and if you fail, you have to try again until you get it right. That seems kind of silly to me.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Interactive

Some of you may have seen this video already:

That is part 1, part 2 is here:


For those of you who haven't, and don't want to spend 16 minutes watching it (I think you should; it's an encouraging look at the future of societal entertainment), the basic gist of it is this: People are no longer content to simply sit back and consume entertainment that has been produced by someone else; they are realising that they enjoy producing entertainment of their own.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Munchkin Quest

I just read a review for the forthcoming Munchkin Quest board game by Steve Jackson Games.

For those that don't know, this game is, in essence, converting their popular Munchkin series of games into a board game. The Munchkin games started with the first Munchkin set, and was supplemented by six expansions, all of these being set in a typical fantasy setting. The idea is that it's making fun of the standard D&D game, which is a bunch of power gamers and/or butt kickers running around a dungeon killing monsters and taking their treasure. The cliché is "Open door, insert sword, collect treasure." And Munchkin trades heavily on that cliché.

The game consists of two decks of cards: the first is the "Door" cards. Your turn consists of "kicking down a door" (drawing a door card). Most of these are monsters, which you fight by comparing your level to the monster's level; the higher level wins. If you win, you are rewarded with an increase to your level and a number of "Treasure" cards (the other deck). If you lose, you have a chance to run away, and if you blow that as well, then "Bad Stuff" happens (exactly what Bad Stuff depends on the monster you're fighting). If the door card is not a monster, it will serve as a "game effects" card, allowing you to affect the game play in some way.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

My modified Changeling combat system

Last week, I mentioned briefly that I had devised a system for combat that suited my idea of how combat should work. I suppose this week, it would be a good idea to share that with you. So I will.

Ok, so this is intended for use in Changeling. I'm sure it would work equally well in the other Storyteller System games, especially the 2nd edition original World of Darkness lines. But I have no doubt that it could also be adapted for other systems as well. As noted earlier, this is an amalgamation of the Storyteller System, GURPS, Exalted, and Blue Planet's Synergy System.

First step is to determine initiative. I sill like the old "Roll Wits + Alertness (difficulty 4)" idea, although you can just as easily use the Revised edition's "Add Dexterity + Wits + the result of 1d10" version. In the former situation, you'd subtract your result from 10, and in the latter, you'd subtract from 20. This gives you the number of the starting "tick." The GM will count from zero, and when he reaches your tick, your character takes his action. After you've completed your action, you add the "action speed" of the action you just took (like maybe a two for shooting a gum, or a 5 for swinging a battle-axe, or a 10 for climbing a tree, or so on... I haven't ever actually seen a list of the suggested action speeds from Exalted, so I'm just guessing here) to the tick you just acted on. This can be modified by your Wits, or Dexterity, or both, to indicate that some characters can move and react faster than others. Like maybe if you have a Wits + Dexterity of seven, you can subtract one from all Action speeds. Or something like that.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

The nature of the hobby?

You may have already read this, but there was an interesting article a few weeks ago describing the way that gamers can be a bunch of pretentious blowhards. The author accomplished this by examining this analogy: RPGs, like cookbooks, are a series of seemingly rigid rules that, in practise, "require a certain amount of adaptation for your own tastes." So if people treated cookbooks like they treat gaming books, it would sound pretty horrible, wouldn't it? You can read it to see for yourself.

If you don't remember, I posted some time ago about the different gamer types. The vast majority of gamers are either butt-kickers or power gamers. By far the minority are the storytellers and method actors. (Granted, for the purposes of this argument, I am ignoring the casual gamer.) Given that the butt-kickers and power-gamers prefer hard core rules systems, which empower their particular emotional desire to game in the first place, while storytellers and method actors dislike hard core rules on account of their desire to play less combat-centred storylines, it is not surprising that this should be the case. For the butt-kickers and power gamers, the rules are everything, because it's the exacting script by which they create havoc and chaos.

But you can see the point, can't you? Sometimes they tend to focus on the rules to the exclusion of their own ability to enjoy the game. They tend to forget that the rules, especially in RPGs, are meant to be modified to suit the needs of your particular group. But with the need for rules that most gamers feel, especially the fanatical devotion to the canon as laid out by the authors of the game in question, adaptation and modification are not seen as options.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Damage Systems

Something that never occurred to me until I played Blue Planet: Humans don't have a sliding scale of damage. If you shoot a person in the hand, then the other hand, then the foot, then the other foot, you're not really bringing that person any closer to death. Perhaps the person is more likely to die from shock, but generally, if that's likely, then they would probably die from shock after being shot once in the hand. There are documented cases of that happening.

On the other hand, a single shot to the torso is quite likely to kill a person, especially if it hits lungs or the heart. A head shot is most likely of all to kill a person. But the weapon isn't doing more damage, it's just hitting in different places.

Sure, you could say that rolling more damage indicates that the bullet strikes a more vulnerable spot. For example, in D&D with its flat scale of a certain number of hit points, a sword strike that does one point of damage might be described as hitting the person in the finger, while a hit that did ten points could be said to have struck the ribcage. And maybe that works, but I still find I'm not overly fond of that idea.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

DM of the Rings

I'm sure anyone who's ever played D&D knows that the original premise of the game was Lord of the Rings. Especially if you've ever seen the original first edition rules, which try very hard to guide everyone into following the archetypes as seen in the books. Later additions were made, expansions added, alternate ideas tacked on, and now the game is much more open than it originally was.

The focus of the game has changed as well from the original point of Tolkien's works. In the books, it was all about the battle of good vs. evil. The game became an adventure of slaying monsters and collecting treasure.

Nowhere has this been better illustrated than in the webcomic DM of the Rings by Shamus Young. He describes the point of the comic perfectly in the first strip, so I'll let his words stand for themselves.

But my point is this: so many works (both in RPGs and in literature) are so thoroughly derivative of JRR Tolkien's works that the term "fantasy" has come to be a very cliché term. Whereas it once meant "the creative imagination," or "a capricious or fantastic idea," it now means "a work of fiction involving magic that takes place in a pseudo-medieval (or, on occasion, based on other periods or places in history, such as Roman or middle-eastern) setting and often involves supernatural creatures like elves and dwarves, especially as seen in Lord of the Rings."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Board Game Review - Betrayal at House on the Hill

At long last, I have internet at home again. This means that I can start updating this site again. I'll try to maintain my rigorous schedule of one post every Sunday.

So for my return post, I'll review Betrayal at House on the Hill. This is nominally a horror game, but I always prefer to think of it as an adventure game. What appeals to me is not the horror genre aspect, but the surprise twists of the scenarios.

First, let's get the statistics here:
Strategy: 2
Randomness: 4
Complexity: 4
Humour: None.
Attractiveness: Pretty.
Expected Length of Game Play: one hour.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Board Game Review - Labyrinth

Oh my goodness... has it really been three weeks without a post? Bad, bad Game Dork!

I'm really sorry. I'll try not to let it happen again.

So for this week, let's go with a really simple review of a great board game: Labyrinth. As always, the rating system is right here:
Strategy: 2
Randomness: 2
Complexity: 1
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Useful
Expected Length of Game Play: 30 minutes.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

When Players Collide

I didn't post last week. I'm very sorry. Real Life got in the way.

This week, I'm going to look at conflicting gaming styles. Specifically, I think of the reasons that GMs run games, as compared to reasons that players play in those games.

One example: I had a GM once who loved the feelings of power he got from running the game and having absolute control over what happened. He loved the look of shock and amazement when he caused something to happen that the players not only did not expect, but could not reasonably be asked to expect. He was a very dramatic gamer, and loved the exquisite timing and flow of intrigue that came from having players at his mercy. I sometimes felt as if I was a plaything for a dark and cruel god.

Another GM I played under: he was an excellent storyteller. That is, he told excellent stories, and he told them well. The only problem was that sometimes his own strengths would get in the way. He was very good at predicting how people would react to certain situations, and excelled at arranging events in such a manner that the story would go in the direction he planned by giving the players just the right stimulus to nudge them in the direction that he wanted them to go. Unfortunately, after a while, it starts to feel like the players aren't really involved in the story at all; they're just there to serve the needs of the storyteller.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Gaming Costs

Today, I would like to talk about the high cost of gaming.

Gaming has always been an expensive hobby. In the documentary Über-Goober, one of the interviewees says that gaming saved her from a life of drugs. She follows this by saying, "How can you afford drugs when you're spending all your money on gaming books?"

And I know this to be true. I've been there. I've been the one spending the majority of my weekly income on gaming paraphernalia. I used to get a new gaming book every week. I had quite a collection (much of which was lost when it was in the car that got repossessed).

But today, it seems as though a week's salary won't get you as much as it used to. Things have been easier for me since I stopped playing (or even attempting to play) collectible trading card games like Magic: the Gathering and Arcadia: the Wyld Hunt. And there aren't a lot of standard RPGs out at the moment that I feel a need to collect; the last two games that held enough of my interest to entice me into buying anything were Changeling: the Dreaming (which was put on hiatus and left languishing there until they ended that game line) and GURPS (which is in 4th edition as of a couple years ago, and all the GURPS products coming out at the moment either don't interest me or are basically compiling and updating 3rd edition products for the new edition, so I already have all of the material in these books). I don't play D&D, I'm not interested enough in Cyberpunk 2020 or Shadowrun to buy any of the books, Little Fears folded, and I have only a passing interest in most of the other systems out there.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Play By Email

Hello and welcome to another week of the Game Dork's Gaming Corner. This week, I want to talk a bit about PBeM. For those of you that don't know, that stands for "Play By eMail." See, gamers have been playing games via correspondence since the 60s, when players in wargames such as Diplomacy would operate across miles of distance by sending their moves to their opponent in the mail. The opponent would adjust his own board according to the instructions in the letter, and decide what his own move would be, and then mail that back to the other player, and so on. This system was called PBM (Play By Mail).

RPGs, being as they are a growth of the wargaming community, would of course follow suit. And with the advent of email, it only made sense that this correspondence would move from the mail system to computers.

I am in a unique situation, in that I have moved out of my country of residence to a new continent, and have left all my former gaming partners behind. So it would seem that PBeM is an ideal solution for my gaming needs, as it allows me to play with people thousands of miles away in a different time zone. Unfortunately, none of my former gaming crew think that PBeM is a viable option. So today, I thought I'd talk a bit about PBeM.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Board Game Review - Carcassonne

Here we go again, with another week of Gaming stuff.

This week, I'm going to review the board game Carcassonne. Here is my board game review system, and my analysis of Carcassonne:
Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, andmakes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take.
Strategy: 3
Randomness: 3
Complexity: 3
Humour: None
Attractiveness: Useful
Expected Length: One hour.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Anthropomorphics

It's Easter today! What goes with Easter? Bunnies! Why? Because the Christian Church stole the holiday from pagans, who celebrated Easter (or Ostara; nobody really knows what it was called before the Christians got hold of it. All are merely guesses) as a fertility rite. Thus, symbols of new spring (like baby bunnies and newborn chicks) were common, and the Church just knicked those and said, "They're symbols of Christ's resurrection! Yeah, that's it!"

So to tie in this week's gaming post with the bunny theme, I will discuss an idea that I worked on, briefly, with a friend of mine many years ago. The idea was "Anthropomorphics." We had originally intended it to be a GURPS sourcebook, but that idea never came to fruition.

The idea was that you would play animals. There were three campaign styles: realistic, cinematic, and silly. Realistic is just that: you play an animal in a realistic manner. This campaign style is generally best suited for people who (out of some masochistic reason) want to play someone's pet. However, it can include things such as the Watership Down setting. That is, all the characters are playing one type of animal, living in a colony (a warren of rabbits, a pride of lions, a murder of crows, et c.).

Sunday, March 16, 2008

GURPS Divination: part 2

This week, I'm going to return to the GURPS Magic System for the Divination spell. If you need to review so you know what I'm talking about, you can read the original post. This week, I will detail those variations that involve telling the future by observing an event. We start with:

Alatimancy – This is one of three forms of divination involving salt. The first (alomancy) was detailed in the original post, and dealt with patterns in scattered salt. This variation is the reading of patterns formed in salt deposits left behind by the evaporation of salt water. It requires a special ceremonial bowl, and takes several hours (often a full day or more, if there is a large amount of water). The amount of water used depends on the nature of the question, as well as the level of detail desired. Prerequisites: 3 Water spells and 2 Earth spells.

Anthracomancy – The observation of burning coal. Any coal will do, so long as the spell is properly enacted before igniting the coal. The spell requires at least an hour of observation. The answers to the caster's question are obtained by watching the movement of the coal and the behaviour of the fire as it burns. Prerequisites: 5 Fire spells and 3 Earth spells.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Gamer Types

Greetings again to you, my faithful readers! This week, I shall discuss the Lawsian Gamer Types. A prominent creator of gaming resources in the gaming industry, named Robin Laws, wrote an amazingly useful book called Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastering. Although this book is geared towards GMs, it has some very useful information for players as well.

One example of these doubly-applicable tidbits is the idea that gaming is supposed to be fun. You know, that sounds pretty obvious, but the problem is that a lot of people forget that gaming is a collaborative effort, and work hard to have fun at the other players' expense. The book suggests that everyone involved work to have fun together as a team, rather than antagonistically.

But that's not the topic of this week's rant.

Today, I thought I'd talk about Gamer Types. This was particularly useful for me, both as a GM and as a player. I'd struggled for years with the others in my gaming group, getting upset at them for ruining what I thought was an otherwise incredible game by insisting on doing nothing but killing the enemies for personal glory. It never occurred to me that different people play role-playing games for different reasons. And for that, I owe a debt to Robin Law.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Game Dork Profile Photo

Welcome back! Time for another fun-filled episode of The Game Dork's Gaming Corner!

A blue one-hundred sided die, with two hands superimposed over it, each hand holding up a single finger pointing upwards.
This week, I thought I'd discuss my profile photo. If you're viewing this page on a mobile browser, like a phone, it may not show up, so I'll post it here as well:
It all started many many years ago. I had a friend, a very imaginative and creative friend, named John Trobare. John has a tendency to launch into some lengthy speeches, which are astoundingly funny and will have everyone in the area laughing uncontrollably for twenty minutes or more. Of particular noteworthiness was the time he described the adventure in which he and his friends Mike and Stephen went to Alaska in an attempt to make $30,000 each in a single summer aboard a fishing boat.

But the instance that started this whole mess was when he described the species laevus ludorum, commonly known as the Game Dork. He described their habitats, behaviour, and mating habits. In particular, he devised the Game Dork Mating Call.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

GURPS Divination: part 1

For those of you not familiar with the GURPS Magic System, here's an overview. The spells are divided into colleges, such as Animal, Mind Control, Necromantic, Elemental: Air, Elemental: Fire, Food, Healing, and so on. Most spells have a prerequisite. That is, you need to learn certain other spells before you can learn this one. In each college, there are one or more "basic" spells, that anyone can learn (only mages can actually cast the spells unless you're in a high mana zone, but anyone can learn them). These basic spells are very simple spells with no prerequisites, and in turn are the prerequisites for more powerful spells, which are the prerequisites for even more powerful spells, and so on.

Some have options ("Hide" can be learned using either "Forgetfulness" or "Blur" as prerequisites), some have non-spells ("Activate Runes" requires the "Rune Lore" skill), and some spells require that you be a mage (that is, you have purchased the "Magical Aptitude" advantage). Some spells require a certain number of spells from a specific college, but it doesn't matter what those spells are.

I mention this because I want to discuss the "Divination" spell. The spell itself is pretty straightforward: you cast the spell, and if successful, you receive answers to a question concerning the future. The exact method of doing this varies, and the prerequisites for the spell depend on the method you choose for your character to cast the spell. It lists several examples, from the mundane and standard (such as Astrology, Crystal-gazing, Tarot) to common but less mundane (such as Haruspication – examining the entrails of an animal) to the less common (Belomancy – throwing a bunch of arrows into the air and divining the answer from the pattern in which they land) to the bizarre (Molybdomancy – pouring molten lead into cold water and examining the resulting shapes).

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Board Game Reviews - The Order of the Stick: The Dungeon of Dorukan

Welcome to another week of the Game Dork's discussions of gaming.

This week, I introduce an activity that I expect to do on occasion: board game reviews. To start with, I was thinking once about the way that people review movies, and it occurred to me that what these reviews are doing is saying, "I liked this movie because..." or "I didn't like this movie because..." but that does nothing to let me know if I'll like the movie! Shouldn't we find a more objective way of reviewing things that will actually tell a reader if that reader will like it? So I have endeavoured to do just that.

Thus, I present to you, my system for reviewing board games. Hopefully, this will enable anyone who reads to decide whether or not they would like the game, without having to rely solely on my opinion. Using this system, each game will be rated on the following charts (you can always click on the graphic to see a larger version of it that's easier to read):
Strategy and Randomness are rated from 0 to 6. A 0 means the rated aspect plays no part in determining the game's outcome; and a 6 means that it is the only factor that determines the game's outcome. Complexity is also rated from 0 to 6; a 0 means that it's so simple a six-year-old can play it, a 3 means any adult should have no trouble playing, and a 6 means that you'll need to refer to the rulebook frequently. Humour can be rated as 'None,' meaning the game is not meant to be funny, or it may have one or more of the following: Derivative (meaning the humour is based on an outside source, such as a game based on a comedy film), Implicit (meaning that the game's components are funny, such as humourous card text), or Inherent (meaning that the actions the players take are funny). Attractiveness has nine possible ratings. Ideal: the game is beautiful and makes game play easier. Pretty: The design is beautiful and neither eases nor impedes game play. Nice: The design is beautiful but makes game play harder than necessary. Useful: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but eases gameplay. Average: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Useless: The design is neither beautiful nor ugly, but makes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Utilitarian: The design is ugly, but eases gameplay. Ugly: The design is ugly, and neither eases nor impedes gameplay. Worthless: The design is ugly, andmakes gameplay harder than it needs to be. Average Length of Game Play describes how long an average game will probably last, give or take.

So this week, we start with The Order of the Stick Adventure Game: The Dungeon of Dorukan.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Loosing my gaming rants onto the world

You have found my little corner of the web, where I talk about one of the most important things in the world to me: games.

I am a major fan of games, including both board games and role-playing games.

So here is where I shall talk about it.

First, let me introduce myself. I'm the Game Dork. Hi. Nice to meet you.

Now, for my first post, I'm going to talk about something that I've wanted to try for a while now, and haven't really got the chance to do: chronicle play.

Chronicle play is when you create a starting level character (1st level for D&D, or whatever), and play that character continuously in the same group of players with the same characters for years, until he becomes a truly advanced character.