At Origins, I played in a couple of D&D 5th Edition playtest sessions, for a module and for the online tools. Two mechanics stuck out for me: the new system for preparing spells and advantage/disadvantage.
Advantage and disadvantage are simple to describe and powerful in their implications. If you have advantage, make the roll twice and take the higher number; if you have disadvantage, make the roll twice and take the lower number. Done.
3rd Edition had a similar intent with its “+/-2″ default rule. If the DM was not sure what sort of bonus or penalty something imposed, just go with “2.” That is a 10% difference on a 20-sided die. How does “advantage” differ?
Quite a bit. Several people have run the numbers (I think “enumerate the 400 possibilities” is a better method than running a simulation). As noted, the effect of advantage is small at the extremes and huge in the middle. If you are nearly certain to succeed or fail, advantage is +1 or +2. If you have a 50/50 chance, it is +5. Out of 20, that is really, really big.
Players will also feel advantage and disadvantage very strongly because of the perceived gain/loss of the second die roll. If you roll two 18s, “eh,” you say, “advantage didn’t matter.” If you roll an 18 and a 2, that’s a success with advantage and a failure wit disadvantage, and you can see fate hanging in the balance of that mechanic. It’s a psychologically powerful factor.
I was recently in Las Vegas for a library conference. “Gaming” means something rather different in Las Vegas than in our world. One of the evening events was about (tabletop) gaming. I wonder how many people were disappointed after arriving at an event labeled as a night of gaming at Caesar’s Palace.
…and whether that was intentional.
In one of the more unusual combinations of ideas, AdVenture Capitalist is an idle game that counts offline time. You do not even need to be idle.
Yes, you could just change the date on your computer to get trillions of imaginary dollars, but at that point, why are you bothering with an idle game?
In general, why are you bothering with an idle game?
There are 3+ new story instances in Gates of Maguuma, the most recent update and the start of Season 2 for Guild Wars 2. They are repeatable in that players can always go back to that instance through the new story journal. They also tell the story of how you, the hero, and all the NPC notables travel west to Dry Top.
I need to start with Bhagpuss’s thoughts on the Gates of Maguuma’s story instances:
The plotting now seems to sit somewhere around journeyman comic-book level (that’s a good thing) with the dramatics hitting a solid soap-opera groove (so’s that). No pretensions to be anything more than hokum but at least now it’s competent, professional hokum.
I disagree, and then I agree. His statement infuriates me, but at the same time I think it’s good. One can never tell with a crazy cat. Continue reading
Atomic Robo is a great comic, and it has become a great tabletop RPG, Atomic Robo RPG (“ARRPG”). While the book has been in digital form for a few months, the book is just coming off the dead-tree presses. Early reviews seem to point that not only is it a perfect embodiment of the Atomic Robo setting, but it also is one of the best versions of the FATE system.
Drawn to Rules
One of the highlights to owning this book is how much time was taking in using the Atomic Robo comic to explain RPG rules. I’ll let the book itself do the talking:
There are lots of ways to learn, and adding a slightly more visual style by using the source material was just a fantastic move. I’m a FATE veteran, and even I appreciated all the comics that crossed the line in to RPG mechanics. Continue reading
After what feels like a too-long break, Guild Wars 2 is back in the swing of things with Season 2 of their Living Story. Mrs. Ravious and I were excited, but in a calm, metered manner. It’s amazing how when the pressure of that 2-week window abated to become permanent content, we’ve decided to take consumption of the content at a more metered pace.
This is a good and healthy thing, in my opinion. It makes Guild Wars 2 feel more friendly in my library of never-ending content. I feel Jeromai is taking his time as well. I feel this is healthy for the continuing life of the game. Get people to drop by, the hardcore will always be around, and make something even more sustaintable.
Anyway. Continue reading
I came back from vacation to my two play-by-post campaigns I was at the time playing before I left. I gave fair notice to all participants I would be gone, of course. When I came back only one was still running. The one that didn’t need a gamemaster (“GM”). The other one, well the GM decided he’d got in over his head, and he just wasn’t going to be producing a quality game. So the plug was pulled.
I am incredibly jealous of those gaming group that have had decades long campaigns. I’ve found in my gaming groups that was rarely the case. The current top games, Pathfinder and I guess Dungeons and Dragons, are swinging the pendulum further away by having drop-in type campaigns run at the local game shops. It’s a great idea to get people playing together, but I think it’s also indicative of the fickleness I’ve found in this hobby. Continue reading
Mrs. Ravious and I just go back from our 10th Anniversary trip, which was basically our first childless trip since our honeymoon. It was long overdue, and we drank much fortified grape juice in southern France. I am back now for the remainder of the summer.
Windborne is currently the game of the house. The kids play on it almost every single day. I hop on every once in awhile too. I’ve needed lighter faire, but I still muddle around on my Desert island once in awhile. An update is slated to come in the next few weeks, I hope, and I’m sure the game will rise back to the top for me too.
Guild Wars 2
Speaking of updates soon to come, Guild Wars 2! July 1st is going to be the next update, which starts off Season 2 of the Living World. The big change to come is the Story Journal, where players are able to return to story content to their hearts’ delight. To unlock it, players just have to sign on during the episode’s period. Otherwise a small gem fee is paid to unlock it. Seems pretty good to me.
I am really interested to see how ArenaNet balances the now more persistent, repeatable content with the open world content that will still change.
One Finger Death Punch
This game was the only one I’ve picked up on the Steam Summer sale so far. I’ve just been content inundated otherwise despite having a decent Wishlist. I love this game. It’s basically a rhythm game with some serious twists. It’s so frenetic and exacting. I just feel this is a fantastic intense coffee-break style game.
War of Omens
I’ve also fallen for this online CCG. It’s like a cross between Dominion and Blizzard’s Hearthstone game. In the beginning it’s very PvE-friendly, and unlike Hearthstone, War of Omens pretty much lets you just play against the computer if that’s all you want to do. It is a bit grindy at later stages, but the game itself is quite fun, and the developer updates it every other week or so.
Anyway, just wanted to give a quick update. Zubon’s been doing a fine job as usual, and I figured I’d just put up a small flag waving “I’m Not Dead Yet!” Cheers.
Critical mass of zombie games has long since been reached. We are now at the point where the pit of E.T. Atari games was dug up to create a hole big enough to hold all the excess zombie games being made.
I had not realized how bad the problem was until I went to Origins and walked through the vendor hall. There were at least 100 advertisements for zombie games in the first row I walked down, including zombie tabletop games, zombie dice games, zombie RPGs, zombie survival, surviving as a zombie, zombie superheroes, zombies vs. pretty much everything, everything except a zombie cookbook, which Google tells me also exists.
Someone could surprise me with a zombie game that brings something new to the table, but it would surprise me.
We want our games to present both persistence and mutability in certain degrees and certain forms, but that varies from person to person and time to time. When those factors are not in balance, we can be left thinking, “What’s the point?”
We want the effects of actions to stick around, but not for too long. You want the game to keep track of your score, but it should reset between games. You could completely empty a world where enemies never respawned; you could scarcely progress through one where they all respawned instantly; you could certainly find yourself “done” with either in short order.
In an MMO, character advancement is more persistent, while your effects upon the world are very mutable. Monsters respawn within the minute. The dungeon resets as soon as your group leaves. Your levels and equipment stay with you, and you tend to exploit mutability to farm monsters and dungeons and thereby increase your levels and equipment.
Outside our MMO world, game persistence is largely bound by the unit of a “game.” Little carries over between games beyond a win/loss record. You would not play a “new” game of Monopoly if the previous winner still had all the money and properties s/he ended with. Sports would be very different if winners were determined by cumulative score over an entire season. You reset the world for every game of Civilization, and you reset the story to start over a single-player game. “New game plus” adds more of that between-game character advancement.
Finding the right balance can be hard outside of established norms. Adding a bit of the right kind of persistence is hard, as is mitigating it with mutability. You want your actions to have an impact on the world, but you do not want to be forever bound by others’ actions. You want to be able to reasonably counter other players’ actions, but you do not want them to trivially counter yours, and I think you’ll find that your perceptions of “reasonable” and “trivial” can depend on whether they are your actions.
Sometimes, I feel like fighting that boss again or running that dungeon again. Other times, I really want save the kingdom and have it stay saved after I log off. Luckily, we are not bound to play the same game all the time forever, so we can seek the mix that suits us each best at the moment, but the movement between games is itself a form of mutability.