Sunday, April 28, 2013

Vast and Starlit

Vast and Starlit is a nano-game from Epidiah Ravachol and comes on four small full-colour cards that can be folded in half to create the game and its three supplements.

The base game is essentially a riff on Blake's 7. The players take the roles of prison escapees and mysterious rogue ship that allows the misfits to run and hide from those who pursue them.

Each player takes a turn to frame a scene and select who is in focus on that scene. Conflict resolution is really simple and involves either selecting a player to tell you the consequences of the action or alternatively having all the other players collaborate on the consequences.

There is a clever provocative questions system for creating alien encounters and the three supplements have detailed sub-systems for love and conflict, travel and technology. These use a twist on the core system of player-driven consequences, introducing tracks and a system of "achieve this before this to succeed".

The only thing that seems mysterious at this point is to decide how to stop playing. I thought there would be some defined goal or sense of success or failure.

I'm really looking forward to giving this one a go and seeing how it plays out in practice.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Gygax magazine #1

Gygax magazine is a new publication that deliberately harks back to the classic Dragon look and feel. It has a painted vignette as the cover with minimal cover text. The interior doesn't feel as lush with more of a print on demand feel than a high quality magazine finish.

The articles are eclectic mix of stuff that feels like it really wants to be OSR and nostalgia but includes some modern stuff in recognition that you can't get a broad gaming audience by being niche. Some of the tropes of gaming magazines past are present and correct in the form of an "ecology" article.

There is a market for a good quality gaming magazine and there is nostalgia for both Dragon and pre-100 White Dwarf but as magazines like GM showed, making it work in a diverse market is tremendously hard. Gygax does have what it takes at the moment but it will be interesting to see if it has enough to build on and find a sustainable audience.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Pathfinder 68: The Shackled Hut

Another good entry in the Reign of Winter series. The Shackled Hut has lots of interesting intrigue and stealth elements initially, introducing some of those who resist the rule of the Winter Witches and focussing on avoiding trouble and acquiring forged papers.

The second half kicks off with a battle in a clock tower with a white dragon which is the kind of epic swords and sorcery I love. And then its back to the slightly ho-hum Baba Yaga storyline with the players acquiring the plane-travelling hut.

Fey continue to be used in an engaging and pervasive way this issue. You get a real sense of a world with two very different groups living in parallel and impacting on one another in a big way.

The incidental NPCs are also excellent. Well-drawn and with engaging back stories. You kind of what to carry them all into future adventures.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


Kuro is an English translation of a French game set in a future Japan. All suitably cosmopolitan. You can almost tell this is a French game as you have involved character creation with secondary attributes and skill trees with pre-requisites.

However to the credit of the French I have often found that while they require a lot of effort up front the character sheets are often all you need to play the game compared to the American and British tendency to require you to dive back into the main book and look up the sub-systems for whatever you are trying to do at a given moment.

From appearances Kuro would seem to be Akira crossed with Ringu. A sci-fi future of biker gangs and cybernetics shadowed with supernatural horrors. Its biggest problem though is that it badly fails the Crane-Sorenson questions.

What is Kuro about really? It says that it is about ordinary people in the near future who are dragged into supernatural situations that question their perceptions of reality. But how is that supported in a system that for the most part is a conventional cyberpunk game with the emphasis on guns and tech?

The sample scenario in the book is no help, as despite having some creepy moments the PCs are mostly passive and railroaded through a violent series of events that seem to make impossible for the characters to return to a normal life without yet more GM fiat and railroading.

I love the idea but I'm not sure this is the system to do it is justice and I'm not sure the game designers really knew what they wanted to achieve either.