Sunday, June 19, 2011

Free RPG Day Recap! In case you missed it.

Yesterday (June 18, 2011) was Free RPG Day, so I went to Black Diamond Games and played three amazing games.

For those of you who don’t know:

“Free RPG Day is a day for you to go to your local participating retailer to play new games and get free stuff. Every retailer has their own version of Free RPG Day, each running the games they want to run. What they all have in common is free stuff donated to them by all your favorite publishers. It's a day to play games celebrate the hobby and play games.” --, FAQ, What is Free RPG Day?

I would describe it as a mini con for players in your local area. I’m lucky enough to live close to my “local participating retailer,” the amazing Black Diamond Games located at 1950 Market Street Concord, CA.

As For the games, I’ll introduce each with as little detail as possible so I don’t spoil any of the actual gameplay, and I’ll talk about 3 things I liked about the game and 3 things I think the game needs to work on.

For me, the day started out a little slow. But at Black Diamond, about a dozen people arrived right as the doors were opening. By the time the time of the event the store was flooded with players. I was invited to come by my cousin Mike who works there. He told me that Free RPG Day is always a blast so I just went out of curiosity plus the FREE aspect of the event is too alluring to pass up. Then right around 11am, people started sitting down and opening all the free modules and began to play.

My first game of the day was We Be Goblins! I loved this game. It is a new Pathfinder Module for 1st Level Characters written by Richard Pett. In We Be Goblins, players actually “be” goblins. I chose to play as Mogmurch the alchemist who likes to create chaos by hurling bombs into the thick of the battle disregarding the safety of the victims of his destruction. Now this was also my first time ever playing Pathfinder, EVER! But I heard it was similar in some was to D&D 3.5 which I’m moderately experienced in so I wasn’t too nerves going in.

3 things I like about We Be Goblins!

1. The Goblins and the setting are fun and entertaining. I’ve never heard a bad comment about a pathfinder setting (yet) and I was not disappointed. It was really well written and even though we were playing goblins the story was rich enough to keep us involved in the plot. “Are these Goblins paying attention to important details?” I must be crazy.

2. The module itself was easy to pick up and play. It doesn’t have any of the core rules in it but if you are a fairly new GM (not DM, weird) then this adventure is great. All the monsters and pregens have their own page in the booklet which makes them easier to understand. The game doesn’t throw anything at the players that is too overly complicated, while maintaining a compelling and entertaining style of play.

3. The characters are great! Each goblin felt like a real goblin and the details of the characters draw you in to the role play more than any one shot I’ve ever played. I think the fact that the entire character is on one page makes it easy to understand the character better. A problem I have with most D&D one shots is that the characters have pages and pages of details that are often blended with their stats and powers, which can turn picking up these characters into a daunting task. Except I do have to say “D&D Wednesday Encounters” does provide really nice pregen player cards that are very stream line so I know D&D can and will develop more one shots with shorter character sheets.

3 things I dislike about We Be Goblins!

1. Pathfinder Goblins are not my favorite variation of goblins in the world. These goblins sing songs and mirror the goblins of the old folk tales and children stories while I actually prefer the more fearsome and gritty goblins of Tolkien and D&D. But this is purely a matter of opinion. If you like playing a 5 or 6 year old singing goblin, then be my guest.

2. The combats toward the end of the adventure seemed a little unbalanced. At my table we actually had a party of 6 which is more than the recommended amount of players, but we still had one hell of a time fighting the bigger baddies. I think the table next to us playing the same game had a TPK before the last combat, but they only had 4 members in their party. I would recommend that GMs running this mod should really analyze and evaluated the player party and make adjustments to monsters where necessary.

3. I really liked playing this module which is why I could only think of 2 things to complain about. I’m sure that the people who didn’t like this module have their reasons.

I would recommend this game to pathfinder lovers or D&D lovers who think playing some goblins might be fun and believe me, it is!

At lunch there was free pizza, yum! And then round 2 of Free RPG Day began around 1ish. Out of the many chooses of games I chose to join what sounded like another Pathfinder/Dungeons and Dragons type game but I was surprise by what it really was. My 2nd game of the day was Dungeon Crawl Classics the Role Playing Game Adventure Starter. There is no game board or grid map, only the limits of your imagination and a bunch of “funky dice” which include d3’s to d8’s, d10’s, d12’s, d14’s, d16’, d20’s, d24’s and d30’s. That is a lot of crazy looking dice. The adventure takes a group of 15-20 level 0 characters through a dungeon. All who survive move on to level 1. Character creation feels a lot like a cross between Gamma World and a stream line version of AD&D. Each player gets to randomly generate 2 to 3 peasant characters. It’s like Darwin and Gary Gygax sat down with some coffee on a Friday night and figured that survival of the fittest applies to fantasy as much as it applies to reality and created this trippy adventure to express that discovery.

3 things I like about Dungeon Crawl Classics

1. Whenever I find a game with a random character generation system I always want to try it out. I love playing characters that you have to grow into because you didn’t choose it, it chose you. Dungeon Crawl Classics uses several lists of tables to determine every aspect of your character from race to starting equipment. I made 2 characters this way. One was an Elvin artisan with nothing but a holy symbol and a hand full of clay. The other was a Dwarven blacksmith with a hammer and 1oz of mythril. I’m already excited at this point.

2. The concept is that a group of peasant band together to venture into a nearby dungeon to free the village from some kind of evil ruler. I love this concept! It was super fun playing level 0 and even though characters where dying left and right, and everywhere else, I still had a great time.

3. The Dungeon itself was fantastic. I won’t say much about it because I don’t want to spoil anything but I liked the themes and rooms. It felt very old school while keeping me on my toes around every turn.

3 things I dislike about Dungeon Crawl Classics

1. The characters don’t develop at all during the adventure. So you basically have to assume that after the dungeon the survivors develop their abilities later on their own time. Wait what?!? Why the hell did I drag my level 0 ass through that death trap in the first place if it had nothing to do with my character’s actual design later in life? The whole point of a level 0 adventure should be the character development but not in this game. And don’t tell me I did it for the treasure! My party probably collected about 200 gold pieces worth of equipment and treasure. Divided between 10-16 survivors, I’m only walking away with about 20gp-30gp. Oh joy, now I can buy that one non-magical item I always wanted! Yeah no, I left the table feeling cheated. It doesn’t make any sense for a level 0 character to go into a dangerous dungeon for so little reward and no additional abilities. I might as well use the time I could spend in the dungeon just practicing sword play or learning the basics of magic or something. But if you like playing a game where you and your allies die quicker than Alvin and the Chipmunks on crack can sing, then this could be your kind of game (also try Gamma World, or the Darksun setting).

2. There are too many characters. My party had 10 people (20 characters) in it which was a nightmare because the party split 8 different ways every time we entered a room. I imagine a game with fewer players is a lot easier to manage and the fact that there are still technically 20 lv.0 peasants in a room means rounds take a long time. I had one guy at my table fall asleep from waiting so long for a turn. Not good.

3. 99.999999% of the crap you get at the start of the game is absolutely useless. My Elf had a random ability to spend Luck on spell checks- oh wait, I’m a damned peasant, and I don’t know shit about magic! This means my character must think he is magical, when he is not, and that makes him CRAZY BONKERS!
I wouldn’t recommend this early version of the game. I believe it is a newly designed game that is still under development so I’m going to wait for more material to be released before pursuing another game of this madness.

Later into the afternoon I joined another game as the main event began to end. My final game of the night was Vampire published by White Wolf. There was a World of Darkness adventure featured for Free RPG Day but I didn’t get a chance to play it. Instead, Jesse (new friend, yay) started running an impromptu game of Vampire. I love the d10 story teller system of WOD! But I hadn’t played a WOD game in ages. I created a Brujah Clan member named Malachi. He once was a lowly computer jokey but after he was blessed with the curse of immortality he became Malachi a henchman of the Camarilla. Being a very powerful vampire early on aloud him to gain a bit of recognition from influential clansmen who like to hire him to do some of the dirtier jobs that the clan wanted done quickly and quietly.

3 things I like about Vampire

1. The story telling system is great. There is no map and no game bored. The Storyteller (DM basically) is telling a story and the players are the protagonists. As the story unfolds players roll from a pool of 10 sided dice to perform difficult tasks. This system is really interactive and leaves a lot to the creativity of the players. Sometimes a just need a break from all the tactical combat oriented games like D&D. Vampire makes the perfect vacation spot.

2. The theme is compelling and well developed. The system is flexible enough that you could just play as a generic vampire or you can amerce yourself into the shadowy world of the vampires and their various clans. Jesse described the game to me like this, “every vampire story you ever heard is true, in some respect. It just depends on the clan.” There are crazy fast and strong vampires and then there are mind controlling vampires and then there are shape shifting vampires. So depending on what your preferred vampire lore is, you can play any kind of vampire you want. Except a Twilight vampire, I heard the news version of this game has something like Twilight vampires in it, but anyone who plays as one of these sparkly freaks, should be sucked dry and thrown into the sun! “Does it burn yet you bastard!!” oh man, I’m sorry. I almost lost my temper there. Minus one Humanity point for me.

3. I would go into the finer detail about actual game mechanics, which are fantastic, but I don’t want to repeat myself. The game’s system and themes are great, enough said.

3 Things I dislike about Vampire

1. The books are long and stuffed full of fluff. The actual game mechanics are buried under pages and pages of plot devises and story development. I love the themes and concepts but there is way too much reading involved when it comes to figuring out how to do the simplest thing. But once you know the system pretty well, it is easy to pick up and play on the fly. Just do your homework.

2. There is too great a potential for loner characters. Almost every time I’ve played this game the team splits up faster than Scooby’s gang in a haunted mansion. Each vampire will have their own motivations and style. There is no mechanical aspect of the game forcing the characters to work together unless the Storyteller creates some sort of powerful entity or reason for them to want to stay together. It’s just natural that vampires don’t like each other. But that’s no excuse for slitting the party.

3. This game is not for new gamers. It is role play intensive and a hard game to learn on the fly unless you have a really patient and experienced Storyteller. I would only recommend a World of Darkness game to a moderately experienced role player. Video Gamers however, don’t even bother.

And that’s it. I had a great time at Free RPG Day. I got to play a goblin, a couple peasants and vampire and I can’t wait for next year. The event is a worldwide phenomenon and is 100% free entry so you have no excuse not to go.

Anyway, thanks for reading my rant. Play hard or play safe but at all costs never stop playing.

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