Archive for the Games Category

Exalted is a great game, but White Wolf is doing it wrong

Posted in Game design, Gamecraft, Games with tags , , , , , , , on November 10, 2009 by Olorin

I originally intended to write this post in June, but sometimes things just don’t work out as planned. At that time, I had just recently bought Manual of Exalted Power: The Infernals, a great source of information on the Green Sun Princes and their immortal masters.

A week before coming up with the idea of this post I had also bought HeroQuest 2.0, the new edition of Robin Laws’ story-oriented roleplaying game, at the Tentacles Convention. But more about that soon.

So, what actually is wrong with Exalted?

Firstly, I think I have to make clear that I really, really like Exalted. The setting and the attitude, that is. The problem is, the system doesn’t properly enforce either of these two things. Yes yes, we have the Stunts. Big yahoo-friggin’-doodle deal. The system fucks that up, too, especially in the second edition.

Still, it’s not my intent to belittle the work those designers have done. It’s not that the system is objectively bad. Rather, it’s a good system for some other game. You don’t get fast-paced anime-action with a system that makes you count Ticks and micromanage your resources (mainly, Essence).

Yes, the Golden Rule is there. But that is just a smokescreen to go on with sloppy design. You see, if I started to change the aspects that I see as needing fixing, it would brake too many related things. It’d be an endless cycle. Might as well do it myself from the beginning.

For example, dropping Ticks altogether and switching to exchange-based conflicts, would lead to the need of dropping or changing the movement rules. These two changes would brake many Charms. So you’d have to fix those too. Et cetera ad nauseam. Why drop the Ticks? They are just venom to doing Stunts. Ticks force you to break your narration into tiny bits that, when separated, aren’t that impressive.

Like this:
First action: “I run towards the huge two-headed serpent.”
Second action: “I run up it’s back and left neck.”
Third action: “I take a good foothold, raise my Grimcleacer and chop into it’s cranium.”
And between every action, there are (likely) other people’s actions and almost-narrations of almost-cool things almost-happening.

It’s not like all that glorious Stunting-goodness is grinding the game to a halt, you don’t need to come up with specific mechanics to tone it down!

There are also other, smaller things on my list that seem counter-intuitive to the supposed “spirit of the game.” To make your character unique in the field of magic, you have two options. Your combos, and the option to come up with your own charms. And they they don’t support the latter. Why does that feel like there’s a “We’d prefer you playing with our pre-made charms instead of having you, like, being creative” -mentality behind that? The other option is that they’re just either lazy or stupid. And let’s be honest, none of these options is a desired conception.

There are many more small things that just annoy the hell outta me, but it’d take the whole night to go through all of them, so I’ll just stick with these that could be remedied quite painlessly (by changing the core design philosophy).

It might seem odd to state that despite all of this, I won’t abandon the game’s own system altogether. It is still sufficently good when I want to do some semi-heavy character-micromanaging, and of course for powergaming. That system positively welcomes anyone who wants to game the system or play the mechanics. It’s bulk just isn’t for every game.

But, it’s easy to complain about this and that, and do nothing about it.

This is where HeroQuest come in. With it’s flavor-driven character creation the second point above, the uniqueness of magic, is easily achieved. I have also been thinking about how the different magic systems in Exalted should be structured in HeroQuest. I have made some progress, and might put it up as a post of it’s own, some other time.

The first point is quite easily fixed with HQ, too, because it doesn’t have combat system that traces your actions, second by second. You’re free to “Stunt” your brains out.

So in conclusion, the people of White Wolf mean well. Their execution just doesn’t do justice to the game’s spirit.

I think I’ll leave it here for now. Let’s see if I want to poke on the pile of things-wrong-in-Exalted again some time.

Currently playing: Machinae Supremacy – Anthem Apocalyptica

My roleplaying history

Posted in Games with tags , on June 22, 2009 by Olorin

A roleplaying active and a rising name in the finnish scene, Sami Koponen, encouraged a handfull of finnish roleplayers and scene-actives, me included, to write about our roleplaying history.

Because of Other Things(tm) in my life keeping me occupied, I’m writing this quite a bit later than the others, but nonetheless I present you what has happened to me along the Way thus far.

The beginning

It all began some time around 5th or 6th grade. Me and couple of my friends (I’ll call ’em M and R) heard that one guy (I’ll call him T) on our grade was doing something called roleplaying with his big brother & his friends. Well, we were curious and as we were already familiar with the concept of “controlling a character you make up” thanks to normal children’s play, we decided to give it a try. At that point all we knew was that roleplaying involves the use of dice and that every character is given some sort of numerical values to tell how strong they are. Oh and we also knew that one of the players needs to be a gamemaster who tells the players what happens around them. And then we encaged in something that could be described as collaborative storytelling. Much like most of out plays of that time. Yeah, in hindsight I could say the we were proto-roleplaying already before that. That just was the first counscious effort at it.

And that’s actually quite essential concidering the question of why I became a roleplayer. You see, I’ve never been a what you could call a fantasy literature enthusiast. The first fantasy novel I ever read was The Lord of the Rings and I didn’t read that until in senior high school. So during that time, in the lower level of comprehensive school, I mostly read just The Famous Five and Nancy Drew (it’s okay to laugh now). And comics, of course. But still, for some reason, I had the interest towards fantasy stories. Maybe it was some movie I had seen or some comics I had read, but it was there. Also those plays we had had imbued me with a drive to create stories.

Now that’s what I’d call a proper breeding ground.

The real deal

So we did our version of roleplaying for some time, until T asked if we wanted to try Real Roleplaying(tm). And boy did we! That’s how I got into RuneQuest, the first real rpg I ever played. (Do you see a pattern here? First no fantasy novels, then not even D&D. What the hell? I was surely off to a good start.) So, it was truly amusing. First of all were these strangely strangely shaped dice! And a character sheet with lots and lots of text! Good thing I didn’t feel too overwhelmed. I still have memories that I think are from my first RQ-adventure. We wandered in an underground evil cultist temple of some sort. My character encountered his end prematurely when I had to choose between laundryshaft and wasteshaft when trying to hide from the cultists. Well, M and R encouraged me to choose the wasteshaft and so I did. We found out that the cultists disposed of their waste with a tunnel to a pool of lava. Still, I wasn’t traumatized by that (in your face, Tyranny of Fun!) and I kept on playing.

Going on

During the following years we had lots of fun although R grew apart from us during the junior high (7th through 9th grade in here). So for many years it was just me, T and M, T acting as the gamemaster. We didn’t play in Glorantha for T found it more fun (I think) to create settings of his own “on the fly.” At some point we started a little experimental campaign on the side. It was corporation agents in a cyberpunk near-future Russia. It went on for several years. And what system did we use? Why, RuneQuest, of course. It was basically the only one we knew of, and we were familiar with it.

It was all well and good. Then in senior high I started to make my first own game! Well, that project is still on the table (mostly in the drawer) and have been through quite a lot changes during it’s eight or so years. Damn, it’s already been that long. Other changes also happened during that time. First T’s big brother introduced to T some new finnish (and I hadn’t been even aware that such things exist!) game called Praedor. We didn’t get to play it right away, as the book still belonged to T’s brother who lived in another town. But when he came to home during the summer, we got to try it out. And boy, was that a strange experience at first. Years after years nothing but RQ. It definitely took some time to get used to it, but in the end it stuck.

During senior high was also the time when I tested my wings as a gamemaster, and well… it wasn’t that good. It could’ve been worse, I’m sure of that. But it was still quite terrible. No matter what, it was a step I had to take. And I’m happy I did. Also, during 2000 or 2001, we had an occasional member joining our group. Didn’t manage to get much done with him as he was almost all the time busy with other things, but new blood nonetheless.


And then came 2002. M went to carry out his compulsory military service in January. Me and T tried to game once or twice, but it just didn’t really happen. Then when M returned it was T’s turn. Me and M tried to game, too, but to no avail. January 2003, and it was my turn. T was still on sercive as a non-commissioned officer. When me and T finally got out in the summer, there was not much time, as T was going to college in another town. I spent the year wondering what to do with my life, until came summer of 2004. I applied for Degree Programme in Software Engineering in Jyväskylä Polytechnic (nowdays Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences), went to Ropecon the first time and finally moved here.

New horizons

I found a new gaming group (if you’re reading this, guys, you’re awesome <3) which has now quite effectively disbanded as 40% of us have moved to another town. I also found other players and started gamemastering again, encouraged by who knows what.

Since that fall of 2004 I've played more or less regularly with 22 other local roleplayers, 4 of whom have also/entirely been gamemasters and I can soon add two more people to that count.

I have found countless new games to like, exposed myself to rpg theory, gotten myself into the finnish rpg scene, I’ve been an administrator of the roleplaying site Kiukkuisen Oravan majatalo (The tavern of Angry Squirrel) for four years, and the other owner of it for three years. I’ve read a lot and learned a lot, about roleplaying in general and rpg design in particular. These past five years have actually been quite awesome. I’ve also learned about myself and my preferences, which has in the same time made things clearer and easier, but also a bit trickier.

These have been pretty good 15 years, roleplaying-wise, and I definitely could’ve spent my time with poorer hobbies. Now I’m positively excited and curious what the next 15 years will give.

Sami’s own history in finnish: Kehä laajenee: Henkilökohtainen roolipelihistoriani
Other brothers to answer the call:
NiTessine: My Gaming History
Thanuir: My rpg history
Eero Tuovinen, in his usual Eeroish style writing so much he had to divide it into five separate parts: My Roleplaying History #1, #2, #3, #4, #5
Late additions:
Merten: My roleplaying history
Gastogh: How I got into fantasy and RPGs
Navdi: My gaming history, part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.
Sope: Roolipelihistoriani osa 1, osa 2, osa 3, osa 4, osa 5.

Currently playing: The Birthday Massacre – Looking Glass

Things you should know about #1

Posted in Games with tags on April 1, 2009 by Olorin

Damn, I was going to post this before midnight, but after a gap of five years Fallout has once again captured my full attention.

Like the previous post, this one will be kept short, too. (I do have a long long post on the way, though. Maybe even too long, and will be splitted to several parts. Just have to wait and see how it comes together.)

But, straight ro business. Because I’m a finn and a roleplayer, I want to promote some finnish RPGs. These two are of course in english. Would be kinda stupid to tell about the awesome games we have that are available only in finnish. These games are both by the same author, Ville “Burger” Vuorela, who have thus far released six games through the years.

1) Code/X
This game came into being as a logical conclusion to Mr. Vuorela’s ideas about Arcade Roleplaying, in which the game mechanics (and to some extent, the premise) are designed with influences from videogames, to make the game easier to start (e.g. you don’t have to spend the first two hours of the first session explaining the rules and the setting). It was first called Operation: Half-Life, for the setting is inspired by survival horror games like Far Cry and the Resident Evil -series. And Half-Life, of course. The version 0.7 has been the newest for a while now, but it is extremely playable even in it’s current state.

I haven’t done everything with it, not yet. But mutant zombies? Check. Bioengineered beasts? Check. Ninjas? Check. Super zombie mutants? Check. Nazis? Hell yeah, check.

2) Mobsters (pdf 1,5MB)

Downloadable PDF-game of the golden days of the American Gangster. Found your own mob and build an empire of crime in the spirit of Al Capone or Lucky Luciano!

The PDF-layout is arranged so that all you need to do is to print it out, two pages per paper, stack them and put staples through the middle. When you fold it, you’ll have a neat A5-sized booklet.

Click and download. Fun, easy and free!

It has fast system and New Orleans as a setting example. If being a gangster interests you, check it out!

Enter the authors main page here: Burger Games

Currently playing: Pain of Salvation – America