Friday, November 29, 2013

Rally the Troops

You ever need a speech to inspire your players with? Or are you a bard who needs to stand up and Any Given Sunday. You'd need to make some minor adjustments but this speech is too good to pass up on. I will have to use it at some point.
offer words of wisdom to the party before going off into the major game ending battle? If you are in need of words of wisdom than look no further. This speech was given by Al Pacino in

I'll include the youtube video at the end as well as a youtube video to the background music. After all an inspiring speech needs an inspiring beat.

I don't know what to say really.
Three minutes
to the biggest battle of our professional lives
all comes down to today.
we heal
as a team
or we are going to crumble.
Inch by inch
play by play
till we're finished.
We are in hell right now, gentlemen
believe me
we can stay here
and get the shit kicked out of us
we can fight our way
back into the light.
We can climb out of hell.
One inch, at a time.

Now I can't do it for you.
I'm too old.
I look around and I see these young faces
and I think
I mean
I made every wrong choice a middle age man could make.
I uh....
I pissed away all my money
believe it or not.
I chased off
anyone who has ever loved me.
And lately,
I can't even stand the face I see in the mirror.

You know when you get old in life
things get taken from you.
That's, that's part of life.
you only learn that when you start losing stuff.
You find out that life is just a game of inches.
So is football.
Because in either game
life or football
the margin for error is so small.
I mean
one half step too late or to early
you don't quite make it.
One half second too slow or too fast
and you don't quite catch it.
The inches we need are everywhere around us.
They are in ever break of the game
every minute, every second.

On this team, we fight for that inch
On this team, we tear ourselves, and everyone around us
to pieces for that inch.
We CLAW with our finger nails for that inch.
Cause we know
when we add up all those inches
that's going to make the fucking difference
between WINNING and LOSING
between LIVING and DYING.

I'll tell you this
in any fight
it is the guy who is willing to die
who is going to win that inch.
And I know
if I am going to have any life anymore
it is because, I am still willing to fight, and die for that inch
because that is what LIVING is.
The six inches in front of your face.

Now I can't make you do it.
You gotta look at the guy next to you.
Look into his eyes.
Now I think you are going to see a guy who will go that inch with you.
You are going to see a guy
who will sacrifice himself for this team
because he knows when it comes down to it,
you are gonna do the same thing for him.

That's a team, gentlemen
and either we heal now, as a team,
or we will die as individuals.
That's football guys.
That's all it is.
Now, whattaya gonna do?


Thursday, November 28, 2013

What’s On Tap

What’s On Tap
So it’s been a week or so since I last wrote a blog post. I figure I should do one to talk about where things are going for B.R.O.. Artist has been paid and that means that I get my own logo. It’s going to be of a d20 with an afro. I’m debating on whether or not I want the logo to be wearing shades. Hmmmmm

I’ve picked up writing for another blog. It’s where I’ll express things not really relevant to being a black gamer. I am after all a sociologist and the more I write the better my writing style gets. If you’re interested you’ll be able to find them here So far just a few review articles.

Witch Hunter 2nd Edition just released. I’ll be reading that over the next few weeks. So look forward to a review of that game. I loved the 1st Edition material so it will be interesting to see how it all shapes up for a new edition.

And in January I’ll be going on a podcast for to talk about rpg’s from a black perspective. So look forward to that.

Oh and if you’re into Pathfinder you may be interested in this Kickstarter.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Looking into the Darkness

The Void 

A new RPG that I picked up recently was The Void from WildFire, makers of Cthulutech. I haven’t had much dealings with this company before. Cthulutech sounds like something I’d enjoy but overall I haven’t taken the time to look at it. Though if it’s anything like The Void I think I’d enjoy it.

The Void takes a path that I haven’t seen to often from an RPG, in that they have a creative community thing going on. The core rule book is free on DriveThru, with the option of paying for it at the amount you feel is appropriate for the work. Fans of the game are also encouraged to build on what’s in the core book and provide additional material for the game, and if it’s good enough be published by WildFire.

But lets talk about the game. The game is survival horror in space. So if you love Lovecraft you’re likely to like this game. But it also borrows from such classics as Event Horizon. But you could do a Resident Evil in space type thing with it. Or even a looming Mass Effect style Reaper threat. It’s really up to you. I think there is a lot of potential with Saturn revolution themed game.

Storyline wise the Earth has expanded to the stars. There is some kind of human presence on every planet in the solar system, and a bit beyond as well. Well not Pluto. Humanities exploration of the solar system has drawn the attention of an ancient being. A star is on a course towards Earth called the Cthonian Star. Strange and ancient creatures are awakening or in some cases arriving to prepare the solar system for it’s new masters.

All of this is being kept away from the greater populace of course. And that job falls to the PC’s. You play as Wardens, agents of the UWC, tasked with investigating strange things and then … killing them. Oh also covering that shit up. So it’s kinda like being a Man in Black, only in space.

The mechanics are fairly straight forward. If you’ve played the New World of Darkness or Shadowrun then you’re already familiar with how the dice are going to work. You create a dice pool from your attribute and skill and score success on a 5 or 6. Depending on how hard the task is will determine how many success you need to succeed. You also have advantages and talents that could affect the outcome of your roll.

Combat is fairly straight forward. You roll your attack dice pool and the defender rolls a defense dice pool. Bonus success adds to your damage roll. In regards to damage you also have armor that can subtract from the amount of damage you take. Though the more damage you take the less effective it will become overall. And of course you will start to incur dice penalties when you take to much damage.

There are no character classes in this game. Instead you are given 3 templates. You have the Enforcer, which is your typical front line solider type. You have the Investigator which does all the snooping around. Then you have the Researcher who is the science techie guy/medic. Instead of having money characters have wealth, a personal wealth and then your sponsors wealth. You also gain bonuses based on where you come from, getting the chance to choose from a list of planets or colonies throughout the solar system

There are also two pools which can affect the outcome of the game. You have a Fate dice, which allows you to avoid certain doom! There is also a Tension pool which is spent as a group. It can be spent on a variety of things to do such as re-rolls, getting a hint from the GM or buying an additional Fate point for someone who is really really having a bad day.  The trick however with Tension dice is that Tension dice spent by the players are given to the GM who can then use them for nefarious deeds.

On the plus side the game doesn’t take long to get into. One of the first few chapters has an adventure designed for both the players and the GM to learn as they go. The book is also filled to the brim with helpful side bars that sum up the contents of that particular section for quick and easy reference.

All in all if you’re familiar with most games the learning curve on this one isn’t going to be bad. And if you’re not well it won’t be that hard to pick up and go.

One of the strongest points for this game (at least for me) was the diversity in the setting. The 4 PC’s provided for the adventure hailed from different places and had a nice variety in ethnicity. You had an African, Chinese, German and Latina. The fiction that helped set the mood for the game also used a varied cast of characters that made the setting pop and come alive for me in a way that few games do currently.

On the flipside however I did find some things lacking. The book is small, and only has three monsters. I know there is a Monsters book available but the game makes frequent references to a lot of things that go bump in the night and it would have been nice to have a bit more offered. It is a cheap book, but you can’t really describe that many creatures and not really provide more meat for the PC’s to kill and investigate.

Speaking of PC’s there are only three options. Rules are provided to do a template less character but the game seems heavily geared towards using the templates. This should be remedied when the Advanced Players Guide comes out, but for now it feels like a weak spot in the game. I think The Void would have benefited heavily from maybe one to two more Warden templates. I would have likely broken the Researcher into perhaps two templates, one that is more book wormy and one that is more science techie. And perhaps an infiltrator styled template that could be used to do some deep cover work really well.

GM side I was a little bit disappointed with the magic section. I would have preferred a bit more meat to this section too. With luck there will be some additional work put into it in future books. It’s workable, just rules light. As a GM I kinda like my magic to be a bit more rules heavy than what is offered.

Overall though this is a game worth getting. You can’t argue with the price. And it has a lot of themes and places to go. You could do some nice horror style Firefly for instance. With the government theme you could also kick it old school with some space X Files. The politics behind the UWC, Earth and her colonies also leaves plenty of room for more mundane type adventures. And this point bears repeating, the game has a very nice support of minorities and people of color. You see it in the artwork and the stories and it’s something that is praise worthy in any company you find it in.

So I give this game 4 Fro’s out of 5 (I really need an icon for such things!). The game is straight forward and fast to get into. The setting is very interesting. The starter adventure makes it possible for both GM and player to learn as you go. Lack of character options and monsters aside this isn’t a game I feel you should pass on.

P.S. This setting needs psionics. Just saying, it would rule!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Arkham Origins

Arkham Origins

            What’s to say about a game that is likely to receive 9’s and 10’s from most magazines that review it? A lot actually, seeing as how I’m currently playing Mass Effect 1 again as opposed to completing my game on Batman Arkham Origins. Now that’s not to imply that Mass Effect is a bad game (though the first one hasn’t aged as well as the second one did), but I have beaten this game 2 times already and I’m only playing again because a good friend told the Tali romance brings out a lot more character from her and is highly amusing.
            Now I’m a huge Batman fan, so much so that I’m taking one of the lithographs that I got from buying the strategy guide, framing it, and placing it on my desk in my office on campus. But this game does have some flaws. But first lets cover what it did well.
            The game has a pretty interesting story. Black Mask is a semi big villain in the Batman universe. He was one of the villains in Batman: Under the Red Hood (an excellent movie I might add). And while the Joker does seem to play a big role (remember I haven’t beaten the game yet) having the Red Hood play a major part of the story helps to keep the game about something other than Batman and the Joker. I love the Joker, but I don’t need him to be the only thing we see in a Batman game.

            And another point in favor of the story is that it is an origin tale. So we get to see the Joker become … well … the Joker. A pre Oracle Barbara Gordon is also a nice touch. Toss in Jim Gordon as the not commissioner yet and well you have a nice set up to see where things are going later on down the road. It was nice to see the tension between Batman and Jim and for Batman when he has to deal with a corrupt GCPD.
            The combat and the gadgets are pretty much the same as the last game. So controlling Batman isn’t a new learning experience. This is good as it allows you to jump right in and get straight to the action. If you had mastered combat in the previous game then you’ll have no problem here. Though I do miss the electro gun. That thing was crazy fun to use in combat.
            And finally I have to say that I did enjoy the addition of the multiplayer. It isn’t enough to sale the game alone. But it is an interesting diversion, much like the multiplayer for Mass Effect 3 was. It could use more gangs, and I hope that they even add more hero’s to play as, but overall it was fun. The fact that there were three teams each match is an interesting approach to multiplayer play. It’s not just about killing the other team but also avoiding Batman and Robin who are out to mess up both teams.
            On the flip side, as an origin story I question Batman’s gadgets. He starts the game with almost everything he needs. If this is a Batman that is younger and more rookie then shouldn’t he start with less equipment? I would go so far to suggest that maybe some gadgets may have been left off entirely. I haven’t decided which ones I would have removed from the game entirely but I lean heavily towards the sonic batarang and your decoder. In the very least a device like the decoder should have been an item that he picked up from someone else. With that in mind I think the game missed out on a chance to maybe add a development aspect to becoming the Batman that we see in Arkham City and Arkham Asylum.
            Also while it was nice that the game play and fighting was unchanged from the previous game it also made it somewhat boring. Again, this is an origin tale, so I think to some extent Batman not being the combat master that he is in later games would have been justified. I feel that it may have been more fun to build up to being the master and bad ass that you know he will one day become. A combat development path would have added a new aspect to the game. I admit it may have been something tricky to balance, but you already have Batman buying moves with his experience.
            The city of Gotham is also very bland. You’re playing in the same part of Gotham that you played in during Arkham City. Now I’m not asking for a large sandbox to play in. But typically the entire city of Gotham is crime ridden. There isn’t much of a reason to focus on just the part of the city that was featured in the last game. Thus I don’t feel compelled to truly explore the city like I did the last time. Which is sad, because that was fun in Arkham City.
            Also game play wise I feel the game took a step backwards by not including a second character to play as. Being Catwoman last game was incredible fun. It offered up a different style of play that was also integrated into the overall story of the game itself. While I wasn’t looking to play as Catwoman again I had hopes that something like that would return for the next game. Perhaps the chances to play as Nightwing, Batgirl, or Robin and have that play tie in to the overall story being told. Perhaps even having their missions be little side quest that they take up to free up Batman’s time. Now with it being an origin story you can’t exactly go that route with a large number of the possible characters. But perhaps a young Dick Grayson as Robin would have added a bit of depth to the play experience. It wouldn’t have hurt. More so if you consider that you play as Robin in the multiplayer part of the game. Hell you could have had Robin going to get parts for a new gadget for Batman to use and having him bring it to the Dark Knight.

            And finally, no Poison Ivy. You lose points for that automatically.

            Overall this isn’t a bad game. It has its strengths and it has its weakness. The biggest fault of the game I would have to say is that it just doesn’t stand out enough from the second game in the series. That’s what harms it the most, same city, same moves, same bat gadgets. The biggest new thing of Arkham City, the inclusion of Catwoman, wasn’t carried over to the third game and I think that hurts it a lot. I really wish I could give this game a perfect score but sadly when you compare it to the experience I had with Arkham Asylum and Arkham City it just doesn’t overall stand up. So I give the game 3 and half afro’s (out of a possible 5). If you’re a Batman fan get the game. But overall you’re not gonna miss much if you pass on it or wait till it drops in price in the used game market. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

S.S. Blackgate

S.S. Blackgate
            The S.S. Blackgate was a fine ship. A might fine ship, that was left adrift in space. But how did it end up there? Well, it was due to the most evil use of Jenga ever, a little game called Dread
Your characters dead now.
            I had opted had decided to drop in on a game night hosted by my campus gaming club. The theme was horror since it was just after Halloween. I decided t play Dread because …. well it was sci fi and I don’t get to play in a sci fi game nearly enough. The basics behind Dread are simple. The game is very free form, but when the GM decides something needs to be tested you make a pull from the Jenga game. If you collapse the tower then your character dies. If the tower falls because of some other reason then something bad happens in game to the entire party. Each pull makes it harder for the next person who has to make some kind of test. You can opt not to pull and just accept a failure. Oooorrrr you can make the supreme sacrifice and knock the entire thing over. Sure you die, but you die a hero.
            So it becomes a matter of when and not if you will fail.
            My character was Captain Sisko Mannheim, whom we called Captain Sisko. Yes I went with the great Sisko. It’s my favorite show damnit! My crew included an ex spec op’s scientist who was into gene splicing, a ex spec ops doctor; who had a crush on my non human (reptile race like in V) first officer. The crew was rounded out with a tech specialist and a navigator. We were a small time military ship (about the size of Serenity from Fire Fly) enroute to pick up a VIP at what we were told was just a basic colony ship.
            Sounds simple enough right? We arrive at the rendezvous and discover that the ship has gone silent. We pull alongside it and dock. Aaaannnndddd this is where we make the first horror movie mistake, we split up. Ignoring Star Fleet General Order #15 (we had already ignored General Order #12) I go aboard the other ship with the ship’s doctor, my second in command, and the engineer. The scientist and the navigator stay behind to monitor stuff. Once aboard we decide to split up …. again. Yeah I know how bad this is. Horror movie, space, black captain. But we need to do two things at once!
             After we restore power to the ship, I go with my second in command (SiC) to the bridge to see what we can discover from the ships logs while the other two head off to the med labs to see if they can find the person trapped in a research closest (discovered from the only transmission we got). This is when things start to go screwy back on the Blackgate. So we split up again! The engineer leaves the doc so he can head to the med bay and he goes back to the Blackgate.  Surprisingly …. no one has died ….. yet.
            It doesn’t take long for us to regroup back into two groups of 3, and along the way we’ve made a lot of pulls from the Jenga tower. A …. lot. Doom is around the corner, and it hits back on my ship. Space zombie dogs are attacking the navigator and the scientist. Their battle is valiant but in the end we lose our navigator. Damn the Red Queen!!!! To make matters worse there is a random set of creature on the loose who have fucked up both the bridge and the ships engines. Not even a ship lock down is able to slow the creature down. And to top it all off something is causing stress on the docking clamps which forces means the two ships need to do an emergency disconnect!
            Meanwhile I’m facing down an eviscerated man … zombie … thing. He nearly takes out my SiC and the doctor (who admittedly saved the SiC from the zombie creature). We get into the restricted research lab and find the only survivor of the massacre. One private King, whom I begin to order around because well, I’m an ass. It’s at this point that it’s decided that we need to get to the escape pods. There is no hope of salvaging the ship and we can’t make it back to the bridge to redock with the Blackgate. We use our two grenades and make a mad dash to the escape pods, with private King taking point, because … well … I’m an ass. And this is where karma catches up to me.
            I’m having to make two pulls because my character is an alcoholic (a functioning alcoholic!) who drinks to help handle the stress of command. And being chased by zombies is sure stressful. I examine the Jenga tower and come to the conclusion that there is no way for me to pull two and live. So I knock the whole thing over and decide to go out like a champ. Sisko leaps over the railing and punches a zombie in the face and then opens firing on the horde, buying the other two (three if we count the NPC) some time to get to the pods.
            In the end only 3 of my crew members survive. The engineer and mad scientist had to get into the escape pods of the ship. The doctor gave his life saving the love of his life and she makes it to the escape pod (with the NPC in tow). The event is covered up and classified since the colony ship was really a black ops research lab that had discovered something in space better left in deep space. I get a posthumous promotion to admiral. Which is cool. I was personally happy that as the only black character in the game I wasn’t the first to die. That’s an accomplishment considering it was a horror game. J

    Overall I found the mechanic of using Jenga to be different but fun. It built tension in the game. I’ve played a lot of horror games but I’ve never had that much tension in a game. It was a nice change. The free formish nature of character creation and play allowed us to focus more on the characters, which was good for a one shot. The game kinda reminded me of Event Horizon, which was an awesome movie so I didn’t mind. And of course I went out like a champ. If you get the chance I recommend checking out Dread. A simple system that's easy to pick up. All in all a good night.