Archive for June, 2011

Dance of the Damned

Andrew Peregrine’s “Dance of the Damned” is a morbid role-playing game without dice and without a GM. Instead of dice the game utilizes a standard pack of playing cards, although there are alternate rules for using a Tarot deck. Gamers intrigued by the macabre will get a lot of mileage out of this game. But Peregrine holds no punches, this game is brutal, brooding, and a cookie-cutter happy ending isn’t easy to come by. Peregrine cites the works of Edgar Allan Poe as the premier inspiration for the game.

 The implication of a “GMless” game is that all participants are responsible for telling the story together. Personally, I think that playing a game without a GM ensures that every participant is playing exactly the kind of game they want to. Not to mention, no single GM has to spend hours thinking up a story, especially when some of the best game-sessions are actually tangents delineating from the GM’s main storyline.

The game’s only assumed scenario is that the players are hidden inside a castle keep while the world outside succumbs to a horrific plague. This game is inherently  competitive, and therefore differs from most other cooperative roleplaying games. Ultimately this is a game about bringing out the worst in others for your own gain. Much of the game’s strategy involves reading your opponents cards, and knowing when to take minor defeats so grander victories can be achieved later. Because a given game session lasts about an hour, this is an ideal pickup game. Play-test pending.

Vampire Gang Wars

I’ve FINALLY been able to play-test VtR “New Wave” with some of my buddies. Before play started one of my comrades said something to the effect of “this will be a fun one-shot game, but I don’t see how this would work as an ongoing setting.” By the end of the night he had said that this supplement provided his favorite VtR session to date. To save time we played the characters and the scenario provided. And while my friends seemed more interested in pursuing their own insidious goals (rather than the one presented in the book), the characters made good use of the NPC’s presented throughout the text.

As I mentioned before, the tone of “New Wave” is noticeably different than the tone  presented in the core rulebook. Thus, I allowed my players some leniency for their vampiric eccentricities. To be honest, I’m not very interested in fast-forwarding the campaign. The eighties are ripe with the self-destructive abandon my friends most appreciate in role-playing games. Perhaps the photograph above is misleading. The one below is a bit more appropriate. I’ll be honest – I’ll never look as cool as this.

 So far the players have taken a particularly anti-communist stance, going so far as to challenge a particularly cranky  Carthian elder. This of course will not be without consequence. Already the players have been attacked during daylight hours. Though danger is beginning to snowball,  my players are pushers. None of them complain over characters lost to final death, and since I promised this game as a one-shot, risks are running rampant. But who knows, this game might transform into an ongoing campaign. But it will be tough to pry my friends’ attention away from “A Song of Ice and Fire: RPG,” given the recent success of the HBO “A Game of Thrones” series.

New Wave

HBO’s “True Blood” is quickly approaching with a new season this month, and I’ll admit that I’m pretty damn excited. While “True Blood” doesn’t fit the tone or mythos of the White Wolf universe like a puzzle piece by any means, I’m certainly not the first forum poster or blogger to point out that there are obvious similarities. In short, given the alternatives, “True Blood” is (for me) the most digestible vampire setting on the screen right now. So this is my vampire post… I’m a bit surprised it’s taken me so long. I haven’t run any White Wolf games for quite a while, but now is a really great time. As much as I personally love WOD, my friends from school are Sci-fi nuts (which you might have gathered from reading this blog). “New Wave Requiem” offers a much appreciated energy to the veins of White Wolf’s “Vampire: The Requiem” line. Specifically “New Wave” explores the vampiric condition during a highly superficial and cutthroat 1980’s setting – all the while handling difficult (or perhaps controversial) subject matter with impressive tact.

The text quickly points out that the emphasis of the product is on developing compelling storytelling situations, rather than focusing on the historic realities of the 1980’s. As someone who lived through the late eighties as an infant, I can’t claim a legitimate familiarity. I can ascertain from the unavoidable barrage of pop culture that this game does a fine job encapsulating the mood and values of the eighties, albeit somewhat retrospectively.

Then the game perverts these established values, twisting them into the cruel parasitic shape that is the 1980’s vampire. To be direct – this is good writing, painting a neon portrait of a blindfolded society charging mirthlessly towards an vague finish line that can only end with overwhelming finality. To be a vampire in the 1980’s is either invigorating or it brings about utter ruin. This is an era of polarities, where the tenuous separation line is prone to snap at any moment. But read it from them, not from me. Get this product if you want a not-so-subtle thematic shift in your VtR game. I can’t wait to get a group together to finally try this out.

Urban Sci-fi

Sci-fi it is again. Most of my friends would rather shoot lasers than crawl around in a dungeon. Fair enough. Our next game will be a “Space Noir.” I thought it would be fairly easy to apply Stolze’s “A Dirty World” to a Sci-fi setting. But my buddy really loves the FATE system. Using “Diaspora” we rolled up some star systems just to get our ideas churning. My friend has also agreed to do some art (which I’ll post about later). In short – our game will take place on a cutthroat space station ruled by eccentrically wealthy crime lords. The station is actually built into a massive asteroid ripe with precious ore. We really can’t decide what game system to utilize, but play-testing will hopefully make the choice obvious.

A ship hasn’t landed on this station for over 35 years. Communication has been broken off station for the past twelve. Only a select few on the station have any idea of what has happened to the suddenly distant space faring community, though rumors abound of a dangerous plague. And while the station is certainly self-sustaining, without trade the station has began to stagnate along with social order. Advanced technology, while present – is extremely rare. Only the most elite members of society (leaders of the various crime cartels) can afford such luxuries. I want to keep firearms mostly limited to a “slug-thrower” category. Therefore lasers are RARE, but also potentially too dangerous to use on a space station even for the wielder. I would assume that the sane would wield laser weapons only as a last resort.

Posed as legitimate business transactions, entire slum districts are sold and traded in a kind of game among the bored and brooding criminal elite. I think this game would really work well with “Stars Without Number,” especially given the fairly recent release of “Polychrome” (a cybernetics sourcebook). You’ll be hearing about more of this soon. P.S. I’m toying with the idea of a lurking but gigantic monster stalking the slums, but steadily working it’s way up the corroded towers.