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Tales from the Floating Vagabond

Sometimes, I wonder how I find some things.  Then I remember I browse TVTropes and I get my answer.

This is a bit of a departure from my usual reviews, but I’ve been in a silly mood, so I’m going to review a couple silly games while I sort out Mage the Awakening 2.0.  So…

Have you ever wanted to just play a silly game?  Like a game where a cowboy, ninja, rhinoman businessman and a dog man archer settle down for some drinks and a game of cards, only to be interrupted by a cute fluffy alien with a disruptor rifle?

…you have weirdly specific desires…and I have just the game for you!

Grab a beer and a reality stabilizer because this is Tales from the Floating Vagabond!

Plot? What Plot?

Repensum est cannicula


Ok, that’s not exactly accurate.  The premise of TFFV is one of those which is designed so that almost any character becomes viable.  Those familiar with GURPS, this is a kind of Infinite Worlds deal, only instead of everyone being a part of the Infinity Patrol, an elite band of paramilitary operatives, you’re…someone who found himself travelling through dimensions because of the titular Floating Vagabond, a bar in a dimension that’s basically cobbled together from spare bits of other dimensions.  The catch is that the revolving door of the bar goes to others, and any time someone walks into a bar, they have a chance to end up there.

…which really should tell you everything you need to know about the setting, but just in case…

The multiverse is vast, and the laws of reality are…usually pretty bored, apparently, because they let a lot of crap slip by.  The setting itself is founded mostly on hilarity, with enemies ranging from the space nazis (ok, pretty serious, but also inept) to the People’s Revolutionary Temperance League, who want everyone to be temperate…or die… A lot of this is very tongue in cheek and is rather amusing.

The universe itself really runs on what will be amusing.  This is good for a humorous game.  It leaves a lot of room for exploration as well, which is always a good bit of entertainment.

You Walk into an Interdimensional Bar…

Characters (and trust me, that’s an appropriate term) are interesting.

Stats in the game are pretty standard with a couple exceptions. Strength, Nimbleness, Aim, and Smarts are about what you expect.  Somewhat different are Common Sense, Cool, and Luck.  Common sense is how people deal with everyday life and natural instinct.  Cool is the ability to maintain calm under pressure and general awesomeness.  Luck is something you get luck points for as well as how you get by with…well, sheer luck.
Skills are…honestly, hilarious.  Skills include such things as “Hurt People” for fisticuffs, “Hurt People Badly” for martial arts, Chase cars (self descriptive and super important as a dogman), and Look Like Stereotype (think disguise to blend in as generic characters).  Oh, and my personal favorite, Make Wiseass Remark.  Yes, this is a skill in the game, and possessing it forces your character to be a compulsive wiseass.

Race is also a consideration, and some of them are typical, some…not.  Elves and dwarves are about what you expect, though racial tensions in this setting stem more from things like music choice (dwarves love rock and metal, fyi).  Dogmen make excellent trackers, though may be distracted by thrown tennis balls and cars.  Rhinoskins are great if you just want to hit things really, really hard.  Ridiculously Cute Furry Things (yes, that’s a real race) are useless…but often very, very lucky.

The last bit to discuss is a Schtick.  A schtick is basically something your character can do that’s unique or odd.  Each Schtick is useful, and comes with a major and minor effect.  So, for example, someone with the Trench Coat Effect can store almost anything in their trench coat and conceal perfectly.  this ranges from a machine gun to a greatsword.  That’s the major effect.  The minor effect is being able to pull out small mundane items they might have forgotten about if someone asks for them.  So, a screwdriver, pencil, typewriter, etc.  Leads to hilarity when they are being patted down and searched.  Schticks range a bit from being irreststably attractive to bending the laws of reality when it suits you to being a member of a trade union (yes, really).  Each has certain advantages and minor oddities, but all are meant to be amusing.

Playing While Intoxicated

Causality? What Causality?

Honestly, haven’t played this game yet, but the basics are simple: roll and compare to your skill.  The difficulty determines your die size, which is pretty neat, actually.  The game being set in a multiverse of wackiness, you can do most anything.  The game designers seemed to focus on the idea of comedy as a rule.  Weapon sizes include “Don’t Aim that at my Planet” and the Old Gods are the freedom loving Writers, manipulative Agents, cruel editors, and evil Critics.  A lot of the game is streamlined so that there is plenty of time for antics.  One bit I like is that experience is rewarded based on how roleplaying is done in addition to how well you did.  Good roleplaying is good XP.

Grab a Pint

Tales from the Floating Vagabond is a game I can recommend for a weekend of silly antics and wacky roleplaying.  It’s a fun game, and is designed to be much less serious than most others.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t do serious things, but they will take a backseat to making things amusing.  If you’re interested, pick it up!

Wait…his name was Duncan? Oh, that makes sense


Continuing

So…where is Mage…yeah.  I’m actually going to wait until the second edition hits to continue my look at the Chronicles of Darkness (schnazzy new title and all) since, in fairness, I want to see what it looks like.  Awakening was always one of my least favorite games in terms of how it was supposed to play out, and I think I’d like a chance to see where it goes for it’s next iteration.

In other news, will be looking at a few other games, including Mongoose Publishing’s latest take on the classic Traveller series. Hopefully, Mage will hit soon and I can take a gander at it!


Werewolf: the Forsaken

The Apocalypse is done, so now it is time for a new bent on things. Werewolf: The Forsaken was the second gameline released in the New World of Darkness line. It is also the second to undergo an update to the new rules set. And good for it, too. I won’t be covering what the game was like before because…well, frankly, I thought it was a mess…

Pack your silver and get ready to hit some spirits: This is Werewolf: the Forsaken.

This Story is True…

Good sir, you appear to have a lupine on your back.

The first thing you’ll notice about Werewolf is that the background of their story is a bit more unified than Requiem was. Werewolves generally agree: long ago, the spirit world and the flesh world were much closer together. Werwolves are the children of two powerful entities: Luna, the spirit of the moon, and Father Wolf, a hunter and peacekeeper.

However, their children saw that Father Wolf was growing weak, and so they took his life. Not all did, but enough did that they were able to overcome and kill him. Luna, in her rage, cursed her children, forsaking them. Despite this, she still loves them, and does grant her gifts through asupices.

The story of children overthrowing their father is an old one, and worth noting here is the unsaid issues most of the time: once Father Wolf died, it fell to his children to take over protecting and patrolling the Umbra.
So that’s you: basically a beat cop/boarder patrol who makes sure the spirit and flesh are kept apart, unlike you.

Flesh and Spirit

Werewolf characters are made much in the same way all others are. You choose your X axis (Auspice) and your Y axis (Tribe). Auspices are determined by the moon, while Tribes are the choice of prey you choose to hunt. Both factor into what a Werewolf is expected to be with regards to Renown, a sort of secondary experience mechanic.
The Auspice choices are:

Cahalith: The Gibbous Moon. These are the bards, lorekeepers, and war chanters of the Forsaken.

Elodath: The Half Moon. Elodath are judges, mediators, and diplomats, trying to weigh in with an even hand.

Irraka: The New Moon. Stalkers, spies, and assassins, the Irraka are the unseen threat of the Forsaken.

Ithaeur: The Crecent Moon. Spiritualists, mystics, and theurges, these werewolves mediate between the spirit world and the rest of their kin.

Rahu: The Full Moon. Warriors, strategists, and guardians, these are the purest warriors of their kin.

So that’s the X axis. A lot of it has to do with what kind of werewolf you want. One particular note is that werewolves on the hunt cause different effects. An Irraka, for example, leaves his target unaware, in a state of blissful ignorance of what will befall him. Each also gives benefits, such as an Elodath being able to control a werewolf’s rage.
Beyond Auspice is a Tribe. Each Tribe is a collection of Forsaken that band together to deal with a specific prey. I’ll detail prey more later, but here are the tribes.

Blood Talons: “Offer no surrender you would not accept.” Proud warriors who strike their enemies with unmatched fury. Monsters of the highest caliber, these are the most likely to practice war instead of hunting.

Bone Shadows: “Pay each spirit in kind.” Mystics and dealers with the Shadow Realm. The most adept at dealing with spirits and the Gauntlet.

Hunters In Darkness: “Let no sacred place of your territory be violated.” Those who hunt from cover of night. The quintessential terror in things unseen.

Iron Masters: “Honor your territory in all things.” More modern werewolves who dwell in cities. They are highly adaptable and adept with the modern.

Storm Lords: “Allow no one to witness or tend to your weakness.” Leaders and cold, ruthless warriors.  They lead by example.

Five different ways to die…

Of course, a werewolf is nothing without the ability to shapeshift, which, thankfully, is well integrated.  Much like Apocalypse, there are 5 states: human, almost human, hybrid, almost wolf, and wolf.  One of the more interesting aspects is that each one has a role in combat.  The wolf form, for example, excels at speed, while the hybrid Gauru form…basically lets you rip to shreds anything in the area.

Gifts are nice abilities that werewolves can get.  Some of them are fairly simple (making sneak attacks that much deadlier) and others are a bit more interesting (ability to control elements).  Much of them are based upon your Renown, so a lot of your tricks get more powerful the more honorable you are.

Harmony is the replacement for integrity and is likely my favorite aspect of the game. But, then, I like mechanics that try something new within a system. Basically, it works like this: harmony is not a straight representation, but rather a measure of where you are in light of your dual nature. Higher harmony represents gravitating more toward humanity, while lower represents gravitating toward spirit. This means that the ideal point of balance is 5, where you would strive to keep yourself. Going too far in either direction has drawbacks. Going too human makes it harder to enter the spirit world, eventually becoming impossible. Going too spirit gives you bans like other spirits. Both make it harder for you to resist going into a frenzy.

What is a Hunter…

…without prey?
Werewolves fool themselves: they think they are the apex predators, but the fact is, things hunt them right back. As I mentioned, each werewolf has a specific thing they hunt, but the truth is, it’s more like an out and out war. There’s also nice little breakdown of the possible antagonists.

The Blood Talons…hunt other werewolves. Their most common foe is the Pure, werewolves who feel that the killing of Father Wolf was a mistake. While they have no Auspices, they do have potent rites and totems due to their stronger connection with the spirit world. The Pure divide into their own factions. The Ivory Claws are the purest of the Pure, looking to genetics and breeding as well as being top dog…or wolf. Fire-touched are prophets and priests, often having access to strange and powerful rites taken from spirits. Finally, Predator Kings are…just monsters, every bit as fierce as a monstrous werewolf of legend.  As with many games, nothing quite tests a werewolf like fighting his own kind, and it’s a small wonder that the Blood Talons are often just as feared as they are respected.

The Bone Shadows hunt spirits. Spirits are a strange and varied lot, but a Bone Shadow knows enough to exploit weaknesses of Ban and Bane to keep them in check. Most other werewolf tribes respect them for this reason, if no other. Spirits can be of almost everything…except humans.  Spirits are almost ubiquitous in the World of Darkness, and

Hunters In Darkness hunt anything in their territory, but reserve special hatred for the Hosts, strange proto-spirits that seek to alter the Gauntlet itself. The two primary are the Azlu, spider hosts that burrow into a human and turn it into a giant host crawling with spiders, and the Beshilu, rat hosts who do the same thing…but less subtly. The Azlu want to strengthen the gauntlet so that everything falls into their webs, which they can then devour. The Beshilu have the opposite goal, gnawing through the gauntlet in the hopes of freeing their god, the Plague King. What is tricky about these is that when ‘killed,’ they dissolve into dozens, if not hundreds, of spiders or rates. If even one survives, it can bring the whole back.

Iron Masters…hunt humans. They keep werewolves safe from such things as predatory extortion or humans discovering them. Also, humans are well aware of the silver weakness werewolves have, so they can be dangerous in that regard. Their preferred territory is cities and there’s a note that they will tend to be the most likely to interact with and hunt other supernaturals as a result. Iron Masters, therefore, might be called on to hunt vampires, mages…and stranger things.

Finally, Storm Lords fight the Ridden, possessed physical creatures. These entities are far more dangerous than the concept would suggest, especially as they are very secretive and difficult to track down. And once you find them, you have a supernatural creature capable of doing strange powers and is a physical conflict.

Well, this could suck

Of course, there’s one bit of prey that really defies this: the idigam. The idigam are…weird. What they are, their motives, their abilities…are all difficult to ascertain. They are spirits, yes, but not the run-of-the-mill variety. They have two forms: unshaped and coalesced. The unshaped are…well, damned near impossible to fight. Their ban and bane changes in between rounds, meaning that it’s impossible to pin down. They’re also capable of doing…weird stuff. When they coalesce, they gain a ban and a bane, and are now in a more or less solidified state. Thing is, they actually get more dangerous, not less. They basically level up in power (leading to them actually being able to get higher than the scale goes…) and allows them to interact with the world in a more focused way. For that, they gain a bane, so they can be more readily killed. However, even there, they’re unpredictable, having bans and banes that are seemingly random, often related to how the coalesced.

The antagonists presented are a diverse and potentially challenging lot. What’s more, each has unique problems that are presented to werewolves.  As I mentioned, one of the themes of the new Werewolf game is that you’re a hunter, yes, but you’re also the hunted.  It’s easy to see how some of these ‘prey’ might be every bit the hunter a werewolf can be.

Final Thoughts

I will not lie: of all of the game lines, Werewolf: The Forsaken was always the game line I was most disappointed with. It didn’t have the solid mechanics of Requiem or the later over the top potential for camp that Awakening would give. The release of 2nd Edition has gone a long way to soothing those particular issues, giving a solid theme and a well thought out list of mechanics.  The game is far more coalesced than the 1st edition was, and I think feels less constrained to the prior game, much to its benefit.

Next on the list is…Mage: The Awakening…*sigh*  Well, who needs cohesive mechanics, yeah?


Still alive…

Just…stressed. Sorry, life is hitting me like a giant’s club right now. Lots of easily avoidable pain…

Anyway, I’m working on a quick gamecraft piece for a friend who asked me to talk about NPCs, so that’ll interrupt the flow a bit, but then back into World of Darkness.


Where’s Wraith?

So one of the complications with settling into a new location is getting internet. At the moment, having more or less settled here is Tsubame, I’m still waiting. See, the board of education is supposed to help cover the costs of installation. They’re trying to decide how much they can afford to spend on me. Admittedly at this point I wouldn’t mind forking over some money to accelerate the process.

Anyway, lack of internet means I have nothing but my phone and PDFs for my various games. This will give me a chance to chew things over.

And now back to learning Japanese and planning out how to teach.


Off to Anime Expo!

Yep! I am once again off to the magical land of Los Angeles for Anime Expo. Pictures and commentary to follow. Will jump back on World of Darkness once I get back.


What’s Going On

So I’m preparing to leave the country.

No reason to panic! I’m going to be teaching in Japan for a year (maybe more) and so I’m probably not going to be updating as frequently. The flip side is I should have plenty of stuff to talk about after.