Author Archives: Ravious

[RR] Stories in Blood and Smoke

In a way this is a review, but not really. This is also a post about what roleplaying can be, at least, within the context of one RPG: Blood and Smoke: The Strix Chronicle (TSC). It is about what roleplaying can be when the constraints of character are large.

TSC is the latest supplement for the Vampire: the Requiem gameline, which is now being handled by Onyx Path Publishing. Unlike the original Vampire: the Requiem, TSC is a standalone book. It has all the rules necessary to play the RPG. It is also a further world revision of Vampire: the Requiem. It’s basically version 1.5, now with boogiemen. If you are familiar with Vampire: the Requiem, I cannot recommend TSC enough.

For all the rest whose eyes glazed over at the last paragraph. TSC is where you play a vampire. Not just any vampire though. You play a Kindred. This is a vampire that tries to maintain some semblance of what it means to be human. You aren’t a monster, least not fully. This isn’t a game about dungeons or solving mysteries. Well, I guess you can to both. Foremost, it is a game about being a vampire. Continue reading

[RR] Character Story Mechanics

The most conventional setup for a tabletop RPG is for a gamemaster (GM) to run the game while the players react. The GM drives the world, and he or she also drives most of the story. The players use their characters (PC’s) to react to the world. Good players will roleplay their PC’s such that the response is what a barbarian would do, and not what Mark the Accountant would do, especially if Mark the Accountant is amoral about the barbarian’s death. In my gaming group we have a wider range with some player sticking to their characters while others blur the line between player action and character action. Either way, conventionally the players react.

A current mechanic I have seen more and more is for the players to be proactive in their character’s storytelling. I would say it is the RPG mechanic of the decade. Players have concrete reasons to push forward with their character’s motivations and ideals in many current systems. I personally love it. Continue reading

[GW2] A Megaserver Divided

The megaserver, which is kind of like an underflow map in Guild Wars 2, has been rolled out across the game. I feel like I’ve had enough time with it to take a shot at talking about it, and so does Mrs. Ravious, whose opinion I will convey. We don’t agree.

I like it. With world boss runs and messing around with Orr, things are lively. It feels really fresh, and is hopping just like those first days of a new Living World update. It’s amazing how adding population to that same, old content can really change the feeling of it.  Continue reading

[RR] Two GM-Free Indies – A Hasty Review of Both

It was the worst of times. I had poured my heart and soul into starting a campaign for my group, and no one seemed invested. We had some fantastic times, but for whatever reason everybody seemed happy to just take from the GM. Perhaps it is just my current group. Perhaps it was the game choice. Perhaps it was me. Either way the table was not an imaginative crucible I had wanted it to be.

I started poking around and came upon two new GM-free games built around crucibles of imagination. Both games are virtual one shots. The first was Our Last Best Hope a game where the players go on an adventure to save mankind from a mankind-ending threat. The second was Microscope, which is a world-building game. I bought Our Last Best Hope in the latest Bundle of Holding, which has quit a few great indie games in their “humble” bundle. Continue reading

[GW2] That Feature Pack

The household sounds were filled with sounds of enlightenment and confusion as Mrs. Ravious and I dug in to the Guild Wars 2 Feature Pack. Jeromai has the right of it. This feature pack shook things up. Hopefully all for the better, but time will have to tell on a lot of it. As Zubon warned us, most of our night was re-learning our characters.

Our first stop was the wardrobe. We ran through our bank and gear to fill our sticker book of skins, and I gained back about two dozen inventory slots. It was confusing at first with how some skins were working. The equipment was easier to understand because it remained an item even when the copy of the skin went into the wardrobe. Continue reading

[RR] Skills as Story

In the ramshackle of numbers we call a character sheet there is usually a place for skills. Skills are usually learned or honed abilities or knowledges. A bootlegger might have some really good driving skills. A mediator will have something like diplomacy. Of course, they are virtually worthless without the gamemaster (GM) presenting a challenge. There are many ways to incorporate a skill in to the story, and I am going to look at a few tools a GM can use to enliven a game with skills.

Skill Checks

Climbing checks have become legendary in my gaming group. We were in some sort of badlands, and we needed to climb some cliff faces. The problem was that none of us were great climbers, or if we had some inkling the dice hated us.

‘Climb check.’ Continue reading

[GW2] Wuv Downtime

I find it interesting to see what happens with the Ravious household when Guild Wars 2 is not pumping out updates every two weeks. This happened earlier during the winter holiday break, and now it is happening again as we wait one more week for the feature patch update (4/15).

First, I’m back to doing Tequatl. I have fun with that “raid”. I like how TTS does it. Zubon muses on the new event timetable that will be coming in a week. I know I am line generally with the comments in his post. With Tequatl, I’ve been on a timetable for quite a long time. Some nights Mrs. Ravious and I do world bosses, and we’ve headed to fan-made websites that use the Guild Wars 2 API to tell us where to head. For me the timetable is just incorporating something that I (and many others) have taken for granted anyway. Continue reading

[RR] PDF Roleplaying

It seems like only a few years ago when Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition (D&D 3e) came out. I remember how almost everybody in our gaming group had the Player’s Handbook. A few of us had the Gamemaster’s Guide, and there was one or two Monster Manuals lying around. Now things are incredibly different.

Tabletop roleplaying has gone digital. Our gamemasters (GM’s), including myself, often have a laptop propped up for reference. Players learn the rules with free quickstart versions of the game. Most of us have printouts of abilities and spells, which stem from portions of pdf’s and other digital files. This is the tabletop of this century. Continue reading

[RR] Scarlet Heroes

I apologize. This week has been a ruddy mess. I wanted to talk about print-on-demand publishing and digital books, but just couldn’t get it together. I kept going off on tangents. Combined with work, barometric headaches, and prepping to start my own campaign… well excuses.

Since I can’t share my grand thoughts, just yet, I will point you to a result of all the good things in tabletop roleplaying games this century: Scarlet Heroes.

Scarlet Heroes started as a Kickstarter where backers immediately received the draft for feedback and the necessary gratification. It then moved to digital / print-on-demand publishing, which is a smart move for any RPG book. And, it rounds out the how-to-do-it-this-century style with a free quickstart.

What is it? It’s a roleplaying game meant to be played with a single player, with or without a GM. It’s an overlay to old school Dungeons and Dragons so you can run that single player through old school modules meant for whole groups. It’s a way to create Dungeons and Dragons style adventures of legend for that single player. Plus it has a nifty setting. Can’t go wrong at least checking out the quickstart.


[GW2] The Wardrobe

In pre-launch days, the one system I disliked the most in Guild Wars 2-to-be was the transmutation system. Coming from Lord of the Rings Online, with its excellent wardrobe system, the design of the Guild Wars 2 transmutation stones felt like a step backwards in usability and a step forwards in the cash shop arena.

This system, I felt, directly went against the idea of Guild Wars 2 rewards. I felt I the cost of using cool skins, for say a week, was too high. At the base level, I had to overwrite a skin or make a new item. It cost inventory slots, or it cost gold. This is ignoring the transmutation stone to begin with.

Thankfully ArenaNet is finally creating a full wardrobe system. Continue reading