Tolkien Celebration 2019 – Adding to the collection

As stated yesterday, I’m going to be playing and teaching Tolkien-themed board games at McMenamin Kennedy School’s annual Tolkien Birthday Celebration, on Saturday January 12th from 11am-3pm. I posted the list of games that I own that I’ll be bringing to people to play. But it also got me thinking about a list of games I’d like to get. Maybe I can snatch a couple up before the 12th. So here’s my list of Tolkien games I want to acquire in order of release year:

Tolkien Celebration 2019

Featured image by D.W. Luebbert

So McMenamin’s hosts an annual celebration for Tolkien’s birthday. The event is happening this year on Saturday January 12th at the Kennedy School. This year I will be part of a cool little team that will be teaching and playing Tolkien-themed board games from 11am-3pm that day. I’m very excited! Below is the list of games that I will be bringing to the event.

Games that I will bring that we can play (in order of length of time to play):

Games I’ll be bringing for show but not to play:

Come join me and a good group of friends as we play some board games in celebration of J.R.R. Tolkien!

Project Recreo – First Playtest

Featured Image is Droid Market by Cristi Balanescu

Playtesting or Will this Hold Up to Actual People Playing

Last night I had my first playtest for Project Recreo. First off thank you so much to my friends who were willing to take a risk and try something new that’s coming out of my head!

This playtest had me as the GM, and 3 players. I gave a brief synopsis of the world and the heritages (based heavily on this blog post), then presented 6 pre-generated character sheets (based off the characters developed in these two posts – here and here) that the players were able to choose from. The players chose the AI Walking Computer, the BE Companion, and the Evoluu Shaman.

What was really wonderful is how quickly the 3 players got into the game. As I was explaining the setting, the heritages, and the rules many questions and ideas were being thrown out. I’m glad I took notes because sometimes I had ideas coming two and three at a time. The character backgrounds the players came up with were great. We had an Evoluu Shaman who had plant-based mutations and was a lazy hippy type character, a BE Companion who wasn’t really smart but very attractive and had an illegal marriage to a high ranking military officer, and a sarcastic AI that held military secrets that they were willing to blackmail people with. It was great to hear their stories and concepts.

We even got a little time to start a scenario (not finish). It took almost 2 hours just to get through rules and character sheet explaining, but that gave us about 1 hour to do some playing. So I setup that players were a crew that took less-than-legal jobs from their handler named The Slug. The Slug sent them to steal a package on a land-train (think a really long armored accordion bus) heading from the arcology (think Judge Dredd style mega-city tower) they live in, to a mining outpost. The players got into it. The BE tried to seduce the person who the packaged belonged to, the Evoluu tried to sneak to the baggage car but failed their Espionage draw with a negative side-effect and attracted the focused attention of one of the land train stewards, and the AI tried to cleanup the mess the other two characters were making! It was awesome!

I got to introduce all the elements; deck of cards, character sheets, and the tokens. We did everything but get into combat, so we didn’t get to use the Action Tokens (I think I’m going to rename them Combat Tokens, so not to confuse people) and Wound Tokens.

Things that I learned and will be changing (thank you Darren, Elise, and Jess):

  • Setting the Target number at 10 for untrained actions was too difficult. I got this feedback from some online readers, but wanted to see it in action to verify if they were right. And they were right. So I’m going to test dropping the base Target number to 9 in the next playtest to see how that works.
  • Changing the base Abilities to be called Mind, Body, Spirit, rather than Mental, Physical, Spiritual. Be nouns rather than adjectives.
  • To not play into the traditional binary definition of angels and demons, I.e. demons are black and have bat wings, and angels are white and have bird wings. I need to think more about this, but I appreciate the push-back from the players.
  • To think about possible mutations for Evoluu as not just fauna mutations but also flora. One of the players had a great idea that their character would have plant based hair and could whip people with it like vines.
  • Limitations on the number of Power Tokens a player can collect for their character. Initially setting the limit to 1 of each, but I’m playing with the idea of tying it to an Ability or Aspect.
  • Shuffling the deck after each action. Yes multiple people expressed this when reading my initial proposal of the deck of cards mechanic. I was again resistant to this feedback but then seeing it in playtesting, saw that this route is probably best.
  • Being able to aid another player in an action. I had not yet considered this possibility and one of the players asked if it was possible. I said yes that should be possible so we then discussed how it could be handled. We decided on an aiding player being able to flip cards equal to their level of shared skill (1 for basic, 2 for advanced) and allowing the primary player to add those cards to their hand if they want. I’m still iffy on if this is the right way to do it, but I’m open to see how it works in playtesting.
  • Consider adding a universal thing that the Power tokens can be used for. Let a Power token always be used to decrease the target number by one.*

We also had some discussions about combat but didn’t really get to test them.

  • The Action (Combat) Tokens got a lot of discussion.
  • There was push back on GM actions not requiring draws, and how players should be allowed to react to those.
  • Potentially always allowing characters to be able to make unskilled reactions, even if they are out of tokens.
  • Maybe a Power token can be used for taking an additional Reaction action in Combat.*

I reflected at the end, that teaching both brand new rules and setting from the ground up was tough. It takes a lot more work than just doing one or the other. I realized I’m usually assuming that all the players know the rules system and I’m just presenting the setting. Teaching something coming out of my head and not out of a written work is also difficult because no one else at the table has studied the material like I have. So collaboration of teaching is harder.

Thank you again to my playtesters and I look forward to the next chance to try out more and institute some the changes suggested here!

*Edit – Added to the post at 1pm on 12/14/2018.*

Project Recreo – GM Actions & Wound Levels

Featured Image is The Invitation by Leighton Tsai

GM Actions (or how NPCs do things)

While in the shower this morning it came to me finally, that the GM should not be doing any card drawing in this game for actions. Thank you to those who helped plant the seeds of thought around this. Maybe the GM can draw cards for other reasons, but for most of the things players will be doing or reacting to, the GM should not draw cards….

So that means in combat NPCs will just have some automatic actions that will happen that then players will react to. An NPC will attack and automatically hit unless the player chooses to react and try to dodge or parry the attack.

An example will look like this:

An NPC attacks a PC. The GM declares the NPC hits for 3 damage. The PC has Basic Armor, so the armor will absorb at least 1 damage. But if the PC doesn’t do anything they are still going to take 2 damage. With only a 3 Stamina, that means they will be 2/3rds to being knocked out. So the PC decides to use a Reaction token, and rolls Melee Combat to parry the attack. They will have to roll 2 successes or more to block out all the damage.

Wound Levels (or in D&D parlance, hit points)

PCs have a Wound Level equal to their Stamina. If they don’t have the Stamina Aspect they have it equal to their Physical Attribute.

Once a PC has received Wound tokens equal to their Wound Level they are knocked unconscious and can no longer take actions.

A PC is consider dead once they have received twice their Wound Level in wound tokens. (i.e. if the PC has a Stamina of 3, the PC is considered dead once if received 6 wound tokens)

Each wound token that a PC has that has not knocked them unconscious or made them dead, decreases the number of cards a character draws or redraws (the player chooses).

Example:

A character has 2 wounds, and hasn’t gone unconscious yet, attempts to take an action that they have would draw 4 cards and redraw 3. The player can choose one of those options due to the 2 wounds:

  1. Draw 3 cards, and redraw 2
  2. Draw 4 cards, and redraw 1
  3. Draw 2 cards, and redraw 2 (you can’t redraw more than you drew originally)

This last action here isn’t the best but a player can still choose it.

I’m finally gonna have my first play test here with real players in less than two weeks so I’m looking forward to seeing these ideas in action and see how they hold up to actual play.

Project Recreo – Magic, Take 2 #NaGaDeMon

Featured Image is Spellbook by James Schofield

So I fell down in another wiki hole recently and realized that the mythos behind Alpha Omega was actually rooted in occult history of the 19th & 20th Centuries, and then adapted to a futuristic setting. It had me thinking maybe I should use a tarot deck rather than a standard playing deck for action resolutions. Not sure though…

I fell down the wiki hole while I was trying to do some research on developing suitable magic system for this game. I’m gonna take what I thought of in the first article on magic and adapt it a little further with help from a great game called Ars Magica. So here’s the second attempt:

  • Magic spells will be concocted using elements/components that the magic-wielder has already learned.
  • A 2 component spell will be any Easy action, 3 components will be Average, 4 components will be Hard, etc…
  • Magic-wielders can choose the number of components, they know at character creation, equal to their highest Spiritual Aspect.
  • Which components they can choose initially is dependent upon which Aspects they have.

Here is an updated list of components and which Aspect they are available to:

Universal Components (usable by all 3 magic wielders, Nature/Arcane/Divine)

  • Create
  • Destroy
  • Transform
  • Control
  • Reveal
  • Propel
  • Increase
  • Multiply
  • Combust

Unique Components (only available to the Aspects in parenthesis)

  • Atmosphere (Arcane/Nature)
  • Earth (Nature)
  • Energy (Arcane)
  • Fluids (Arcane/Nature)
  • Fauna (Nature)
  • Body (Arcane/Divine)
  • Psyche (Arcane/Divine)
  • Soul (Divine)
  • Flora (Nature)
  • Light (Divine)
  • Dark (Divine)

Example

So say a magic wielder wanted to cast a fireball at someone. That would need in its simplest form these components: Create, Energy, and Propel. Which would make it of Average difficulty to cast. Now say they wanted it to explode in the person’s face, they would need to add Combust as another component, thus increasing the difficulty. Or say they wanted to have it be larger to hit more targets they would need to add Multiply, and again increasing the difficulty.

Initial Thoughts

I think this system will be very narrative from the beginning as I play test it. It could become crunchier prettier easily but I want to encourage creativity in players, so we’ll see how that balances.

Project Recreo – Pregen characters, part 2 #NaGaDeMon

Featured Image is Fierce Edge by Manthos Lappas

Evoluu Shaman

Abilities & Aspects

  • Mental 2 (Acuity 3, Willpower 3)
  • Physical 1 (Agility 2, Stamina 2)
  • Spiritual 3 (Nature 5)

Skills

  • Animism (Advanced)
  • Cunning (Basic)
  • Detection (Basic)
  • Espionage (Basic)
  • Ranged Weapons (Basic)
  • Survival (Advanced)
  • Vehicles (Basic)

Powers

  • J – Commune with Nature (when casting next Animal Spell, increase your Natura Skill by one level)
  • Q – Muscles of Steel (gain one Physical during the next action)
  • K – Use My Extra Limb (redraw one card)

Heritage Traits

  • Prehensile Tail – +1 to Fitness & Cunning Skill actions
  • Immunities – immune to radiation or natural poisons

Magic

  • Components
    • Control
    • Earth
    • Fauna
    • Multiply
    • Reveal

Equipment

  • TBA

Grigori-touched Avenger

Abilities & Aspects

  • Mental 2 (Acuity 3)
  • Physical 2 (Agility 3, Stamina 3)
  • Spiritual 4 (Divine 6)

Skills

  • Cunning (Basic)
  • Faith (Advanced)
  • Fitness (Basic)
  • Melee Combat (Basic)
  • Survival (Basic)
  • Trade (Basic)

Powers

  • J – Blessed Wings (decrease the difficulty by 1 when you use the Fitness skill)
  • Q – Channel Divine Power (gain Light or Fire component at no increase to the next spell you cast)
  • K – Luck From Heaven (redraw one card in an action)

Heritage Traits

  • Divine Messenger – you gain wings and can fly.
  • Immunities – immune to poisons
  • Weaknesses – cannot gain mutations or cybernetics, and may only cast divine spells.

Magic

  • Components
    • Transform
    • Light
    • Body
    • Destroy
    • Increase
    • Multiply

Equipment

  • TBA

Project Recreo – Pregen characters for playtesting, part 1 #NaGaDeMon

Featured image is Laying Low by Maik Beiersdorf

I finally have a name for this project (rather than just #NaGaDeMon), at least to use through early playtesting. I’m going to call it Project Recreo, which means resurrect in Latin. Thank you Sue, for your input!

This article though is going to outline some of the pre-generated characters I’m going to use in the early playtesting sessions. Here’s what I am thinking the initial options will be:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Walking Computer

Abilities & Aspects

  • Mental 4 (Intellect 5, Acuity 5)
  • Physical 2 (Strength 3, Agility 3)
  • Spiritual 1

Skills

  • Academia (Basic)
  • Detection (Basic)
  • Military (Basic)
  • Ranged Weapons (Basic)
  • Science (Advanced)
  • Technology (Advanced)

Powers

  • J – Increase Speed (flip one of your used action tokens)
  • Q – Analyze Enemy (force opponent to draw one less card in next re-draw)
  • K – Search the Net (decrease target number of next test by one)

Heritage Traits

  • Cybernetic Eye – +1 re-draw when using Ranged Weapons
  • Immunities – immune to poisons, radiation, psionics, and mind-altering magic.
  • Weaknesses – Susceptible to hacking, cannot use magic

Magic

  • None

Equipment

  • TBA

Bio-engineered (BE) Companion

Abilities & Aspects

  • Mental 3 (Acuity 4, Willpower 4)
  • Physical 3 (Agility 4, Stamina 4)
  • Spiritual 1

Skills

  • Detection (Advanced)
  • Fine Arts (Basic)
  • Fitness (Basic)
  • Parley (Advanced)
  • Trade (Basic)
  • Vehicles (Basic)

Powers

  • J – Aid Benefactor (give +1 draw to ally during next action)
  • Q – Fluid Genes (reduce target number of next physical action by one)
  • K – Rally Friends (decrease ally wound level by one)

Heritage Traits

  • Designer Gene – Pain Tolerance (operates at one level higher than default wound level)
  • Weaknesses – Cannot use magic, cannot procreate

Magic

  • None

Equipment

  • TBA

Nephalim-born Spy

Abilities & Aspects

  • Mental 2 (Acuity 3, Willpower 3)
  • Physical 4 (Strength 5, Stamina 5)
  • Spiritual 1

Skills

  • Cunning (Basic)
  • Espionage (Basic)
  • Fitness (Advanced)
  • Melee Combat (Advanced)
  • Ranged Weapons (Basic)
  • Survival (Basic)

Powers

  • J – Reinforce Armor (gain an additional +1 to armor)
  • Q – Full Throttle (draw one additional card in your next action)
  • K – Stars Align (chose a number, that number is considered a success during this action)

Heritage Traits

  • Alien Gift – Nephalim Strength (once per session, decrease the target number for a Strength-based action)
  • Immune to poisons and radiation
  • Weak to psionics
  • Can only cast divine spells

Magic

  • None

Equipment

  • TBA

Human Arcana-Wielder

Abilities & Aspects

  • Mental 2 (Intellect 3, Willpower 3)
  • Physical 1 (Agility 2, Stamina 2)
  • Spiritual 3 (Arcane 5)

Skills

  • Academia (Advanced)
  • Arcana (Advanced)
  • Cunning (Basic)
  • Detection (Basic)
  • Fine Arts (Basic)
  • Parley (Basic)
  • Science (Basic)
  • Trade (Basic)

Powers

  • J – Hamper Opponent (cause an opponent to draw one less card on their next action)
  • Q – Boost Magic (add an additional component to spell without increasing the spell difficulty)
  • K – Clever Insight (ask the GM a yes or no game-related question that must be answered truthfully)

Heritage Traits

  • One free piece of equipment
  • Humans can gain mutations and cybernetics during game play, but not at character creation

Magic

  • Components
    • Create
    • Energy
    • Control
    • Propel
    • Multiply
    • Fluids (provided by Ancient Book of Water Magic)

Equipment

  • Ancient Book of Water Magic (provides the Fluids component for trained magic wielders)

More options to come…

In the next installment I’ll work on these two pre-generated character options

  • Evoluu Shaman
  • Grigori-touched Avenger

Magic or scientific mysticism?!?! #NaGaDeMon

Featured image is Grand Armillary by Emilio Grasso

I want magic to be very different in this game. As the game is set in a science fiction setting I believe it needs to execute differently than the spell list, spells per day, etc. form of magic as exemplified in the world’s most popular RPG. The title of this article gives some semblance of how maybe magic could be defined in the future. But how will that look game mechanics wise? I was mulling around with it being based in components and elements. So a PC would learn different “parts” of magic that would allow them to “create” a spell. So say a PC wants to cast a fireball, in this implementation, they would need to know how to create fire, create a ball, project it over a distance, and have it explode where it lands. So I’d hazard these different components/elements could be called:

  • Fire
  • Shape
  • Throw
  • Explosion

As you add each component, it would make the spell more difficult to cast. So a one component spell will be easier to cast than a two, three, four, etc. and maybe some components are harder to caste than others? So here’s a tentative spell component list:

  • Water
  • Earth
  • Fire
  • Air
  • Life
  • Shape
  • Wind
  • Throw
  • Explosion
  • Pierce
  • Pin
  • Touch
  • Time
  • Thought
  • Seek
  • Other ideas?!?!

A newly created magic user PC would be able to select maybe 3 starting components, and then as they gain in experience gain more components, and/or have the ability to make the components get more potent (increase damage, range, potency, etc)

Then there is creating the differences between the 3 “schools” of magic I’ve introduced earlier, i.e. arcana, divine, natura. How do I clearly define them and make them distinct from each other?

Arcana is studied/learned magic

Divine is magic given by the gods

Natura is an innate magic present in all living things (including PCs).

Now the reality of trying to combine the two ideas; spell components and different magic focus areas. That’s the growing area I’m still contemplating. Any ideas?

Setting the mood – art inspirations #NaGaDeMon

Featured image is by Danny Kundzinsh

Here is some artwork that I feel sets the right tone in atmosphere.

Final Check by Ismael Inceoglu
Ketevan Dji (mutated) by Sikarbi
Possession – Tinkering by Riana Moller
Across The Divide by JM-Henry
Heavenly Warrior by Ariel Flores
Through the Breach by Darek Zabrocki
Portfolio Slug by Riana Moller

Heritage traits #NaGaDeMon

Featured image is Storm by Mavrosh

In determining how I wanted to handle heritages; i.e. different options for base Abilities, Aspects, and Skills, I determined I need another way to give uniqueness to each heritage tradition. So in comes Heritage traits. Here we can add some additional factors that can’t be summed up in other places. And here is my initial list of ideas:

Humans

One free piece of equipment

Humans can gain mutations and cybernetics during game play, but not at character creation

Weaknesses – susceptible to poisons

Evoluu*

One free mutation, chosen from Mutations list. Examples:

  • Tough Skin – +1 to Armor vs melee attacks
  • Prehensile Tail – +1 to keeping balance, +1 to jumping, +1 to sleight of hand, or ???
  • Claws – allows unarmed melee attack +1
  • Cat Eyes – grants ability to see in low light conditions
  • Gills – allows breathing underwater
  • Acid Breath – allows ranged poison attack

Immunities – immune to radiation or natural poisons

AIs

One free cybernetic enhancement, chosen from Cybernetics list. Examples:

  • Cybernetic arm – allows unarmed melee attack +1 or +1 to weapon based melee attack
  • Cybernetic hand – +1 to Agility based non-combat Skill
  • Digital brain – +1 to Academia, Technology, or Science Skills
  • Cybernetic legs – increased speed and movement
  • Iron Lung – +1 vs exhaustion effects

Immunities – immune to poisons, radiation, psionics, and mind-altering magic.

Weaknesses – Susceptible to hacking, cannot use magic

BEs

Gain one designer gene, chosen from the Designer Genes list. Examples:

  • Gain immunity to one specific type of effect (such as poisons, radiation, psionics, etc…)
  • Gain a +1 to an Aspect of your choice
  • Gain +1 to a Skill of your choice

Weaknesses – Cannot use magic, cannot procreate

Grigori-touched

Gain one godsend from the Godsends list. Examples:

  • Divine Messenger – you gain wings and can fly.
  • Holy Avenger – gain a lightning ranged attack.
  • Voice of the Gods – you gain +1 to your Parley skill.
  • Curse the Unbeliever – cause an opponent to draw one less card from a chosen Aspect.
  • Fear Monger – strike fear in an opponent, causing them to have a -1 to a Skill.

Immunities – immune to poisons

Weaknesses – cannot gain mutations or cybernetics, and may only cast divine spells.

Nephalim-born

Gain one legacy from the Alien Legacies list. Examples:

  • Nephalim blood
  • Nephalim strength
  • Nephalim stamina
  • Nephalim senses
  • Nephalim speed

Immunities – immune to poisons and radiation.

Weaknesses – especially susceptible to psionics, and can only cast divine spells.

—–

*On 11-21-2018 changed Remnant to Evoluu*