Monday, February 28, 2011

Remaking Gamma World

This Saturday, I will finally be running a game of the new Gamma World RPG (technically the 7th edition of the game, I believe). Now, a lot has been made of this latest iteration of the very popular role-playing game, from its embrace of the nascent silliness of the setting to the trading card aspect of the game.

One of the most common misconceptions is that you need to use the random card mechanic and buy lots of booster packs and have all the players make their own pimped out decks in order to play the game. Unlike anyone else I've heard talk about this game, I'll tell you right up front that idea is bullshit. Of course, WotC would like you to spend money on tons of booster packs, but you don't need them. Of course they suggest players building their own decks, or at least randomly drawing from the GM's deck, but you don't need to.

That's not to say that I don't enjoy the cards in the game. On the contrary: I actually think that they should have included cards for other things - like character Origins. What I really do hate, though, is the insertion of a rarity mechanic into the cards. Perhaps I'll get into that another time. For now, I want to focus on how to make Gamma World a more "stable" and traditional RPG, focusing on the use of the cards - especially the Alpha Mutation cards.

Here are my house rules on Alpha Mutations:

1 - Players do not use their own customized decks. Everything is run with one Game Master deck. First, split up your Alpha Mutation deck into three separate decks, one for each of the Mutant Type keywords: Bio, Dark, and Psi. Whenever a character receives an Alpha Mutation card, roll 1d6. On a 1-4, he draws from the deck associated with his primary Origin. On a 5-6, he draws from the deck associated with his secondary Origin. If both Origins have the same Mutant Type, you can forgo rolling the die and just draw from that deck (DUH!).

2 - Players do not draw new Alpha Mutation cards after each encounter. Powers from Alpha Mutations may be used again after a short rest.

3 - Alpha Flux: Whenever a natural 1 is rolled during an encounter on any d20 roll, and Alpha Flux occurs. Immediately after the action that caused the Alpha Flux is resolved, the character's turn ends. He then chooses one of his readied Alpha Mutation cards, sets it aside, and draws a new Alpha Mutation card in its place. This follows the standard rules for drawing an Alpha Mutation card. The character's previous card is then placed back into the proper deck. A character can avoid discarding and drawing, if he so chooses, but becomes stunned until the end of his next turn.

So, there they are. Makes for a bit of a more traditional sort of character, instead of one who is constantly developing new and often inappropriate new mutations. Though I suggest using the cards to keep track of Alpha Mutations (mostly eliminating redundant Alpha Mutations in the party), you could also have players write down their Alpha Mutations and return them to the deck, giving other characters a chance to gain the same mutation.

But, what about the Omega Tech cards? I suggest also using one Game Master deck instead of letting build their own deck of desired items. If they really want something, have them tell you, and if you're feeling generous, maybe they'll get it. I plan on drawing randomly from the deck whenever it is called for, but if I feel the item is too powerful or something that I don't want the party to have, I'll just a draw a different card in its place.

So, don't feel that you need to use the card mechanics for Gamma World as they are presented in the book. If you want, you can even go so far as to turn it into a standard RPG and let the characters choose their Origins (in which case, you might see a lot of Radioactive Androids and Giant Yetis) and Alpha Mutations and choose what pieces of Omega Tech they will find. In this case, the cards are just a different way to keep track of the information.

I will post a summary of the Gamma World game at some point after this Saturday.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Gaming in La Crosse

Had some good fun playing games in La Crosse this weekend. Did a couple of games of Carcassonne using the PC version on my laptop, then some We Didn't Playtest This At All, and ended the night with some Munchkin Quest.

The PC version of Carcassonne (from Koch Media, Hans im Gl├╝ck, and Meridian 93) is pretty good. It eliminates a lot of the problems that come with playing the physical game in public places. The tile art is identical, so it's still got the wonderful look of Carcassonne. We played it with two actual players and one computer player, and it worked very well, but I can see it being something of a hassle if you wanted to do a game with more actual players. It's also a little hard to take in the whole game board at a glance. You can zoom out, but as the game goes on and the board gets larger, you lose a lot of the detail if you look at the whole thing. The game comes loaded with a few of the early expansions (everything through King and Scout), but if you're a completist like me, you might be a little disappointed that you won't be able to play with some of the later and rather interesting expansions.

Aside from those minor faults, the PC version is an almost identical experience to playing the table top version. Just be sure to use the "Hardcore" mode.

We Didn't Playtest This At All (from Asmadi Games) was a pretty fun game. It's kind of like Fluxx, but without all the well-crafted game balance and detailed strategy. (If you've never played Fluxx, that was a joke.) It's a great time-killing game, and usually results in a lot of laughter. Kristen and I played a bunch of games after I picked it up last weekend, and most of the games only lasted about 45 seconds at most. This time, there were four people playing, and while most of the games took slightly longer (except the one that I won on my first turn), they were still very quick. If you're looking for something to carry with along with you for those moments when there's nothing else to do, this will fill that niche.

Munchkin Quest (from Steve Jackson Games) is a board game version of the popular long-running card game, Munchkin. It's got a lot of the fun of the original, but where it falls a little short is the length of time each individual player turn takes. The four-player game we did took almost three and a half hours, and consisted of two complete turns for each player, with the first player in the order winning the game on her third turn. Sadly, Munchkin Quest's setup requires the inactive players to pay at least a low-level of attention to the game during the active player's turn, with short bursts of more concentrated attention. With each player's turn taking around 15 minutes, this can be a little draining. There were parts of the game that SEEMED like they should have worked differently than indicated in the rules. The biggest instance of this is failing to Run Away from an unsuccessful combat. We were all seasoned Munchkin players, so it mostly went okay, but this game probably isn't a good choice for casual gamers or beginners in the pastime.

So, here are some house rules for Munchkin Quest that I've been thinking about. They are designed to make the game move faster, and some of them are more severe than others, but if you play Munchkin Quest, feel free to mix and match and try out anything that looks interesting.

Players begins with two move tokens instead of three. Players may never have less than one move token. Any effect that reduces a player's move tokens below one stay in play and must be dealt with individually, but the player remains at one move token.

If a player fails his check to Run Away from an unsuccessful combat, the player must spend a move to move into the room to which he was attempting to Run Away. This happens after the monster's Bad Stuff takes effect. If a player has no remaining moves, he remains in the room with the monster. The monster will not move out of the room as long as the player remains in the same room.

If a player fail her check to Run Away from an unsuccessful combat, her turn ends immediately after the monster's Bad Stuff takes effect.

During the Monster Turn, each player with monsters in the dungeon rolls a monster die and moves only his monsters according to the result.

If a monster did not move from its room last turn, and the monster die indicates that it would not move this turn, it moves one room toward the nearest player. If two or more players are equidistant from the monster, the player who controls the monster decides which player it moves towards.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

the new blog

I'm pretty sure I've never had many, if any regular readers of my short-lived book review blog, but after a few years, i've decided to resurrect it, in a manner of speaking. So here's the low-down:

For the last couple of years, almost all of my reading has been done through audio books. Say what you will, but it's what my life allows. In fact, as I am able to listen to audio books while at work, my throughput on reading has skyrocketed far above what it ever was while I was working at Waldenbooks/Borders. However, I really don't feel that it's fair to do a review of a book based on an audio version, as a bad reader can ruin an otherwise great novel.

So, instead of focusing solely on book reviews, Libram X will now cover a wide variety of topics. I'll still do book reviews, as well talking about books more generally, but I'll be talking about board, card, and role-playing games (including my own home-brewed rules and content), comic books, tv shows, movies, music and other geeky things. I'll probably also talk about roller derby.

So, let's get started.

It's currently snowing outside, and I'm sitting in a coffee shop in LaCrosse, sipping hot cocoa and waiting for a handmade veggie pizza. Rilo Kiley's "Under the Blacklight" is playing over the sound system. It's not a terrible way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

Later tonight, I plan on getting together with some friends for some games. There will probably be Munchkin Quest and maybe some Smallworld, for which I just picked up the few expansions that I didn't have, so I'm itching to give those a run. I've also brought along the entirety of my Munchkin card game collection (which is pretty darned close to everything that's out) as well as a strange little card game called We Didn't Playtest This At All, which is kind of like Fluxx, without all the game balance and strategy.

My pizza has arrived, and it smells delicious. Hopefully the next post will talk about what games were played, how they worked, and will have some pictures to go along with it.

Welcome to the new Libram X!