Saturday, February 20, 2010

CthulhuTech: Anger and Acknowledgment

The most recent addition to my ever-expanding collection of books was Mortal Remains, a book for CthulhuTech. For the...what, three people who must be reading my ranting? If you don't know what CthulhuTech is, then suffice to say that when people say it's Neon Genesis Evangelion meets H.P. Lovecraft, they are in no way exagguerating. And it's very cool.

So, Mortal Remains. I had bought it so I could read up on the Nephilim, something I'd heard of on a couple of forums and wanted to check out for myself. Opening the book to the appropriate section, I found stats for Nephilim and rules for making pilots, but very little explaining what they were. You see, the book explains that fiction on the Nephilim can be found in a different book, Damnation View. So that's fine


This vexes me greatly. The information on one thing is spread across two books, and to what end? Aside from my frustration? Maybe I wouldn't be so annoyed if it wasn't for two things: that other information from Damnation View is happily reprinted into Mortal Remains, and that they've done this before. The core book of CthulhuTech contains references to things that only appear in the expansion Vade Mecum, including at least one thing that is utterly useless without Vade Mecum. I can only imagine how bad it would be for someone picking up the book on release and having to wait for Vade Mecum to be published.


Mortal Remains actually turned out to be a good book. If you wanted to know exactly what it's like to be living in the New Earth Government (the nation everyone in CthulhuTech lives in), then Mortal Remains is perfect. A big part of the book is given over to descrbing how people live in this bleak future, including a comprehensive section on Nazzadi culture. And for a game master who truly knows no limits, there's a section on playing the Migou. The freaking bug aliens! It doesn't feel tacked-on either, and gives normal (sane?) GMs a whole bunch of info on what the Migou are and what they do.

So aside from my little problem with Nephilim, Mortal Remains is a great setting book for CthulhuTech, and I will happily remain indentured slave to Catalyst Game Labs.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Silent Conversation

Silent Conversation is an intriguing little flash game I was directed to by a friend. It's a remarkable fusion of classic literature and gaming. Unfortunately, some bad design choices prevent this game from being a perfect experience.

In Silent Conversation, each level is a different story or poem. You control a little cursor, and the words of the text light up as you move over them. At the end of a level, the game assigns you a score based on how many words you managed to highlight. You can later go back over the levels to try and get a perfect score or go through a time-trial mode, but the main appeal here are the aesthetics of the game.

Each level is, at its most basic, the text in front of a black background. However, the background changes in colour as you read on, with some objects described in the story appearing on occasion (for example, if the story describes a full moon, then some of the words describing the moon will appear above you as the moon). Similarly, the positioning of the text you need to highlight changes into formatting different from simply a flat line, which is a cool way of adding platforming elements into the game.

Herein lies the problem. Silent Conversation becomes a little too 'gamey' in places. Certain words in the text are 'powerful' words, and project their lettering in your general direction. Coming into contact with the lettering clears the screen of highlighted text, neccesitating going back over it again. Powerful words are always distracting and annoying, and occasionly appear within close proximity to each other in difficult areas to platform, leaving you with either the frustration of going over the same block of text again and again until you get it right or the frustration of having to move on, leaving areas incomplete.

Speaking of platforming, some of that is just plain impossible. At one point, I had to jump onto a row of five ellipses. I gave up on trying, as the directional controls were too sensitive, and any attempt I made to just scootch slightly over sent me toppling over the side, resetting me back to an earlier position and requiring me to go over the text on the screen yet again. What this game should be is a unique way to read literature, but these superfluous elements all but ruin the experience for me.

Regardless, give it a try. Your opinion, dear reader, may differ to mine, or you may be able to tolerate powerful words better than I could. Despite this game's failings, it shows a level of creativity and eagerness to try new ideas that we need in the gaming market now more than ever, and that kind of thing should definitely be encouraged.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Fixing Werewolf

Recently on the forums, the balance issues of the New World Of Darkness have become a pretty hot topic, especially vis a vis how poorly Uratha handle in relation to Mages and Sin-Eaters. I had this to say:

"I was thinking about this one earlier too. Now admittedly, W:tF was the last core book I bought for WoD, and I've read it the least, so I might be screwing up details or making in-accurate statements. Feel free to knee me in the crotch if I am.

A werewolf pack with their minds set on something should be a horrific force of nature. If the pack knows what they're up against, then whatever it is should not simply lose. It should be absolutely eviscerated. These guys are meant to be the combat monster splat for WoD. If that mage didn't prepare for a werewolf pack busting down his door, he should be dead meat. If a Sin-Eater walks the wrong streets without his krewe, he should be expecting to have another near-death experience.

But I do think that the above should only really apply to packs. A lone werewolf should still be absolute terror and fury on fluffy, fanged wheels, but he shouldn't be a great threat to anyone who knows what they're doing. So I think that there should be bonuses for hunting in a pack. And not simply everyone hitting harder. An Irraka is that much quieter, an Elodoth that much wiser, and an Ithauer is never more aware of the spirits than when he's with the boys. And they all hit harder.

Also, Gifts should be rethought. Werewolf Gifts currently use the same kind of system that Kindred Disciplines use (get nyar dots in this power, and get nyar abilities). This works pretty good for Vampire, Changeling and Promethean. But it can be observed that the powers have always been the most interesting when this shit gets shaken up.

I'm going to be dipping into fan-games here, but I think the point still stands. Leviathan Vestiges are always on, and in their basic form, are pretty small potatoes. But as a Leviathan changes to more monstrous forms, he gets access to better Vestige powers. Then there's the Sin-Eaters, with the way Keys work with Manifestations. So where does this leave Werewolves?

With the Gifts, they should all have an ability that at least partially relates to hunting something down and killing it to death. Take the Knowledge Gifts. Until the fifth dot, there's not really much martial use in them. But if we add abilities related to, ah, I dunno...let's say that maybe they open up the werewolf's mind, to allow him to better understand the weaknesses of his foes and their plans, that would be pretty cool. And hey, to drive in pack activity, let's make it so that Knowledge Gifts get a whole bunch of combat avenues available to them, but only when the character is operating with one or more members of his pack.

Now, I wish to state again that I'm not particularly learned about W:tF, and everything I've said just now might be completely missing the point or just be flat out wrong. But if we're looking at ways to improve Uratha in relation to other splats, then I think these are the things we should be looking at.

TL;DR: Make the buggers stronger.

Oh, and do some of the stuff people came up with for Death Rage and whatnot, that stuff was cool."

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Dragon Warriors

So I've purchased the Dragon Warriors updated rules from Drive-Thru RPG. It's a pretty big thing for me, since Dragon Warriors was the first RPG I ever played. For the most part, it's a big shiny re-release of the original rules. That's actually pretty good; in the original books, most of the game content was spread out over the six books, which meant insane things came up like requiring another book just so you knew how Sorcerers and Mystics worked, and having to buy another book so you could have the stealth rules. Now, everything you need to run a game is in the core book.

The most notable modification to the game is that Elementalists no longer suck hard. In the original games, Elementalists had an absurd progression curve that had them start off with spells like 'Create Light Breeze' and end with 'Summon Tsunami'. Elementalists in the new rules have the ability to attack using raw blasts of elemental energy, which makes them a decent choice for a character now instead of the only choice left for the guy who joined the group late.

The book also goes into much more detail, with a guide for running games, possible rule hacks and details on life in feudal society. The latter is a great inclusion. Dragon Warriors never really had the spectacular, high-fantasy feel of D&D, it was all about dungeon crawling in this bleak, alternate medieval society.

I can't recommend this game to everybody, though. The system is quite symplistic, with very limited character customization. With the way classes work, starting off as a Knight means that you will always be a Knight, and not that much different from any other Knight to boot. However, try taking a look at the game. It's your best choice for helping a new player get into the world of RPGs.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


This is my new blog, The Gaming Gentleman. I am the titular gaming gentleman, Crowbar. I intend to use this as a platform for my opinions on games of all stripes. Anyone who likes video games, roleplaying and laudanum will hopefully find this to be an excellent and enlightening read.

Stay tuned for more.