Tuesday, July 25, 2017

[My Thoughts On] RPG Settings

Required Disclaimer for Critics: This is supposed to be taken with a grain of salt as it is just my opinion on how settings can be differentiated, and uses a 1-10 scale for convenience. You may feel that one setting or book is completely different from my interpretation, etc. etc.

In my opinion, settings are distinguished by three factors or scales: time period, prevalence of unobtanium, and general feeling. The time period is quite obvious, being whether it is set in the Dark Ages, modernity, or the the distant future. The prevalence of unobtanium is slightly more complex. Unobtanium is not necessarily metal no. X that doesn't exist in the real world, it is anything that you can not find or possess, such as magic, advanced technology, portals, or anything of the sort. Because of this, a heavy sci-fi campaign with F.T.L. travel has a high level of unobtanium, but so does a high fantasy setting with mighty spell wielding arch mages. In contrast, a sword and sorcery campaign, where there are few instances of wizards and mystical elements, or a campaign set in the modern world, would have a low level of unobtanium. The feeling is whether it is supposed to be a horror or creepy campaign or a light-hearted and funny campaign. I'll rate a few books for example of how I think this works. For time period, 5 is the default, for unobtanium, 1 is the default, and for feeling, 5 is the default.
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy:
     Time Period: 5 (Normal)
     Unobtanium: 10 (Very High)
     Feeling: 8 (Quite Humorous)
     Time Period: 2 (Far Past)
     Unobtanium: 3 (Some Magic)
     Feeling: 3 (Fairly Gritty/Dangerous)
The Call of Cthulhu:
     Time Period: 4 (Recent Past)
     Unobtanium: 2 (Very Concentrated Eldritch Power)
     Feeling: 1 (Horrific and Existential)

Monday, July 24, 2017

Blog Update

I've renamed the blog from Ragtag Grognard Reviews to Ragtag Grognard PRESENTS, and will be posting more free OSR/Pathfinder stuff here, as well as more varied things than reviewed. I am still polishing up a few things about a review and that will be up tomorrow.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Delay in Posting

I've not posted a review in quite a while as I've been very busy with Pagans of the Desolate Wastes. But I do have a copy of The Pod-Caverns of the Sinister Shroom coming, so I'll review that when it arrives. Happy gaming!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Blood Dark Thirst Review

Blood Dark Thirst is currently a playtest being run by one of my favorite authors, Venger As'Nas Satanis of Kort'thalis Publishing. So as I have not done a review in quite a bit of time due to some internet issues, here's a review!

Disclaimer: Blood Dark Thirst appears to be Venger's take on Vampire: the Requiem and the recent 5th edition play test debacle. As I've never played Vampire or even read it beyond skimming it, this review will be without knowing any of the background or inspiration... oh well! I also, unfortunately, have not been able to play it and this is just a review based on reading it.

Setting: The players are from a later generation of vampires, descended from the original corpses with demons trapped inside made by European sorcerers. The art of creating new vampires has been forgotten and now that task is left to the vampires themselves. The players themselves have only been vampires for a maximum of 100 years.
System: Blood Dark Thirst uses a d10 dice pool to resolve all of its conflicts. It has a built in cap at 10d10, which I definitely appreciate as I won't have to deal with munchkin players bringing buckets of dice. You add your ability and skill to determine how many dice to roll and then count successes above a difficulty given by the GM, normally 7. Giving a baseline for a difficulty is also fairly helpful for me the indecisive GM. Also, there are quasi-exploding dice (10: 2 successes and 1: -1 success) and something called bloodlust dice that are not explained in this section.
Combat: In BDT, attacking your enemy and tearing them to shreds can actually be disadvantageous to a hungry vampire, as it would be better to keep them intact and drain them dry. That this is one of the key points of the combat system is quite interesting to me. Having as many pints of blood as ranks in Health is a neat abstraction that helps with the focus on saving every last drop and makes it easy to GM. In this section, it also talks about the fact that vampires are nearly immune to blunt/bludgeoning weapons except for massive impacts (cars, trains, etc.).
Abilities: The three abilities in BDT are pretty generic: Physical, Mental, and Social. They are divided into primary (3 dice), secondary (2 dice), and tertiary (1 die). If you are forced to act during the day, you reduce those numbers by one day, fairly significantly making tasks harder. Besides the limitation on acting during the day, this section is fairly generic.
Skills: This section either allows you to randomly generate skills or to pick them. The method of random generation allows older vampires to gain more traditional skills and younger vampires to get technology and medicine. However, I am not sure how this limitation is supposed to work when you are picking your skills instead.
Types of Vampires: There are six types of vampires: Arcana, Outsider, Genteel, Romantic, Transient, and Vile. Each comes with a neat description that is fairly flavorful.
Name/Background/Predilection: Another neat part are three tables that allow you to generate random things about your vampire to begin playing very quickly.
Blood: In BDT, when vampires run out of blood, they fall into a coma, not waking until they gain blood. New vampires can store up to 10 pints of blood and older vampires can store more. Also in the blood section are six uses for blood, ranging from creating a vampire to waking up at dusk. The variety of options make blood very useful.
Blood Potency: This separates vampires into power levels, based on their rank in Blood Potency. As your rank in Blood Potency increases, you become increasingly scrupulous in what blood you can drink but also gain new powers and immunities. For example, a rank 3 vampire can only drink blood from vampires and mortal virgins and is not effected by faith or religious symbols, among other things. That higher rank vampires can not use more 'base' types of blood is really flavorful, especially because it describes this inability as those types of blood being unable to sustain you.
Types of Blood: This section goes more in depth on drinking blood, including prepackaged blood. If 'sub-par' blood is drunk, the vampire can not drink more than three pints per night or vomit and lose a point of Willpower.
Bloodlust Dice: In this section, those mysterious bloodlust dice from the section on the core mechanic are explained! If a vampire is running low on blood, they roll bloodlust dice. If a 1 is rolled, the vampire flies into a destructive rage! If a 10 is rolled, the action must become darker in order to gain 2 successes. This really helps to establish vampires as creatures barely held back from draining their targets when they are thirst. In addition to rolling 1s on bloodlust dice, vampires can also become frenzied when smelling or tasting blood.
Health, Willpower, and Humanity: These are three statistics that help in various situations. Health is effectively just hit points with a death spiral effect stapled on. Willpower is more interesting, being the vampire's mental fortitude. It is spendable and indeed it is spent quite a lot, such as overcoming 1s on bloodlust dice and other vampires' control attempts. Humanity is the most interesting in my opinion. A table is provided that details your morals and appearance based on your Humanity score. Appearances range from 'your worst nightmare' to 'human with inner glow'. The fact that how human you are allows you to hide your vampire nature and that how human you are can shift based on your actions can lend some depth to the game.
Supernatural Powers: Thirty supernatural powers for any vampire are detailed in this section, ranging from being able to start fires at will to remember moments from your victim's life. Once again, you can either roll or choose. The supernatural powers are not given specific mechanical impacts, although there is a variant rule where a roll based solely on your blood determines how well your power works.
Blood Bonds: With blood bonds, if you drink too often from another vampire, you will become bound to him, becoming his slave servant subject. There is not too much mechanically in this section. You can also give regular ol' mortals a taste of immortality by feeding them vampiric blood.
Weaknesses and Falsehoods: To help the players and GMs understand BDT vampires more, information on what they are weak to (decapitation, sunlight, etc.) and are not (crossing water, garlic, etc.). Although not necessary, this section, in my opinion, does adds a few useful details.

Playtest Survey Answers
As previously mentioned, I could not actually play it, but I will still try to answer these as honestly as possible.
  1. What do you think of the name, Blood Dark Thirst? It does seem to set the tone but could seem a little bit discordant to an outsider.
  2. What did you enjoy most about the game in general? I really enjoyed the style of writing and how lots of the document seemed to drip with flavor.
  3. What was your favorite rule? I really like the bloodlust dice and how they help add to the vampires' bestial nature.
  4. What did you enjoy least about the game in general? I did not like how it's just a playtest document! Jokes aside, I would like some example characters.
  5. What was your least favorite rule? I did not like how Health was effectively just hit points, although using them as the number of pints of blood for mortals was interesting.
  6. What rule do you feel is missing?
  7. Did you choose characteristics or randomly roll? N/A - Didn't get to play :(
  8. How easy was the game to play (for players) or run (for GMs)? I couldn't play, but feel that it would be quite easy to play and run due to the simple rules, as long as you didn't manage to forget something important.
  9. What kind or type of game would you like to see supported in the final version of the rules? Perhaps it would be good to see more information about sneaking around and differentiating weapons for more of a realistic feel in my game about demonic vampires.
  10. 1.      Anything you’d like to share about your experience in order to make the game better? I honestly think the playtest is quite amazing and really look forward to seeing it grow.