Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Happy Halloween!

The nice people who pay my salary have kept my busy of late, so October has been a lean month for posting. Still, it’s been chock full of actual stuff happening, so in no particular order:

The End

I finished Dreadful Secrets of Candlewick Manor, after a 6 month hiatus between that and the penultimate session (whoops). I think the players liked it. There was way more mayhem than expected, several people died or nearly died, and the players forgot they were playing children and played the monsters I’d hoped they were going to become. I call that a result.

We came to the conclusion that ORE, or at least the way I ran it, has a bias in favour of hits to the face and head — so the top tip for MaoCT powergamers is to go for a PC with a really big forehead. I could analyse further but I’m unlikely to run an ORE game again, much as I respect the effort that’s gone into some of the titles.

(I do still like the simultaneous rolling and sets counting — but whereas Hollowpoint gets it right, I think ORE is a bit flawed).

Bundle of Holding

Check out the latest Bundle of Holding! I donated and got a whole lot of Cthulhu goodness for it. I really wanted the Trail of Cthulhu and Eldrich Skies titles, but I’m looking forward to reading the Cublicle 7 offerings as well, and the Kenneth Hite Tarot of Cthulhu is proper fun. Recommended, and it’s for two great charities — the Alzheimer’s Association and Cancer Research UK.

Hurry, you have a few days left!


My birthday was low key on account of being jet-lagged (though that didn’t stop me taking part in a fun quarterstaff class with Paul Wagner). This is what my lovely wife had waiting for me when I arrived back in the UK:

Traveller 2

It’s an Olympia Traveller de Luxe S, approximately as old as I am. It’s not too much bigger (or heavier) than either of my laptops:


I expected that (a) I wouldn’t hit the keys hard enough, (b) I’d injure my fingers and (c) I wouldn’t be able to touch type but actually I’m doing fine on all 3 counts. Words are coming out mostly with the letters in the right order, and fast. The pages even scan OK for an electronic copy, though OCR is a bit hit and miss.

Traveller 1

(typing my impressions of Lacuna, for another post — soon!)

And that’s about it. I’ve been travelling for 2 weeks out of four, and you’ll be pleased to hear it’s nice and warm and sunny if you’re not in the UK. Well, based on my sample set of two.

More in November!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Troll and Hollowpoint Probs

A brief nod to the fantastically useful Troll, a dice roller and probability calculator. I used it to estimate the probabilities of rolling matches in Hollowpoint or a similar D6 mechanic. Brief summary in a not-very-pretty table:

  2d 3d 4d 5d 6d 7d 8d 9d 10d
Nothing 83 56 28 9 2 0 0 0 0
Anything 17 44 72 91 98 100 100 100 100
One Set 17 44 65 64 43 20 7 2 1
Two Sets 0 0 7 27 52 62 51 33 18
Three Sets 0 0 0 0 4 18 40 54 54
Four Sets 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 11 26
Five Sets 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
At least triple 0 3 10 21 37 54 71 84 93
At least two sets 0 0 7 27 56 80 93 98 99
At least double+triple 0 0 0 4 17 40 64 82 93
At least three sets 0 0 0 0 4 18 42 65 81
At least quad 0 0 0 2 5 11 18 28 40


p>Interesting outcomes there. If you want to have a system where PCs get more than 1 set per round the sweet spot is a pool of around 6 dice. If triples are significant then they start to appear around the same time; and if quads are significant, you get one about 1 time in 20 for a 6d pool, but they stay relatively unlikely up to 10d.

The thing about Hollowpoint is that burning a trait automatically bumps up the threshold by 2 dice, but the probabilities just shift 2 columns to the right. Also for info, Hollowpoint base dice pools are 1 to 6. To be continued. 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

ORE part 3: Reign

A recap on my previous ORE experiences:

  1. I like Monsters and Other Childish Things for its premise, and I have to admit the stripped-down implementation of ORE is elegant; however it took a bit of selling to my group (and some of them are still complaining).
  2. I didn’t think much of Wild Talents. Personal preference aside I maintain that it’s poorly organised and needs better support for power development. Mostly though it’s too complex in play, once multiple hard and wiggle dice are employed. Maybe that just makes me too stupid to play certain games, but I think that games should meet my standards, not the other way around.
  3. I have read Nemesis, and it does have those delicious madness rules pinched from Unknown Armies, but I haven’t played it. It’s free!

Overall my response to ORE has been mixed. In play it’s OK, at best. It masquerades as an elegant mechanic, beneath which lies an unusual amount of crunch. It hasn’t set my world on fire yet, and it’s had mixed reaction from my players.

Let’s try again:


Enchiridion is a “late latin term referring to a small manual or handbook”. The Reign Enchiridion is a utility book with just the rules, no setting. That suits me fine. Know what else suits me fine? The price. The print book cost me 7 quid and thanks to Arc Dream’s generous Free PDF Guarantee I can read the book on my iPad before the paper copy is delivered. The format is digest, by the way, which means it’s not stupidly small for reading on a tablet screen. Bravo!

So the Enchiridion was a bit of an impulse purchase. Aside from the price a couple of other things swayed me. Firstly it’s terrifically well supported with free stuff: sixteen supplements and bits of rules errata, now available in three bind ups all for free in pdf form. The concepts of Martial Paths, Esotetic Disciplines and the very simple approach to spell and monster construction were intriguing. In the supplements they’re untested, but they’ve actually been rolled into the Enchiridion

Second, it’s setting agnostic. Good, because I don’t want to run in someone else’s setting.

Third, it’s got a really nice character sheet. This was something I bitched about in Wild Talents. It may sound petty, but if attributes directly combine with a subset of skills then the attribute should appear at the top of the skill list, not elsewhere on the sheet. They got that right.

So, what do you get? In a nutshell:

  • The basic ORE approach, using the tried-and-tested Stat+Skill=Dice Pool approach
  • Do it yourself “Martial Paths” and “Esoteric Disciplines” that are tied to skills, and are easy to power balance
  • “Company Rules” for developing factions and scaling up conflict
  • Passions, divided into Missions, Duties and Cravings to signpost behaviour
  • Master and Expert dice
  • Flexible and straightforward spell creation with some thoughtful advice on how to approach magic in your world
  • A “nice” chapter on how people can get hurt in a fantasy game
  • A chapter on topics for your game
  • DIY Monsters


p>The Esoteric Disciplines are fantastic, and remind me of Ki Skills from Runequest Land of Ninja; semi-mystical “powers” attached to a particular skill. Each discipline has five ranks. There are a couple of examples of the Disciplines but the meat of that section is how to build your own disciplines, what kind of effects they would supply, and how to balance the powers at each level. I wish I’d had this tool years ago, instead of trying to adapt bits of Exalted into a similar system.

The Company Rules are also great. These remind me of the faction-building rules in Angel except they deal very clearly with what organisations do, how they fight, and how they get bigger. Obviously Reign has a strong political element. This is a game where your PCs represent an organisation as well as an individual, and the scaling between is quite elegant.

The parts on spell creation are very good too, although with the esoteric disciplines there’s less need for spells anyway.

The Passions section deserves mention. These are the ever-more-popular “negotiated bonus” skills. If your Mission, Duty or Craving applies then you get a bonus die to a given roll, and you get a penalty if you act contrary to that Passion.

Finally, a brief mention on Expert and Master (wiggle) dice. You only ever get one of these per dice pool, meaning that unlike WT where wiggle and hard dice dominate outcomes, these will only nudge the outcome in the right direction. As there’s only one, they won’t complicate the hunt-and-peck for matches too much.

This is the toolkit I was expecting Wild Talents to be, albeit with much more human power levels. A power-crafting system is an opportunity for the players to be creative; but the WT toolkit is so dense that it will put a lot of players off. In Reign the simple five-tier development of Esoteric Disciplines is easy to visualise, particularly as it is tied to a skill; the guidelines for power balancing are clear and comprehensive, making it pretty easy for player and GM to collaborate on discipline creation.

This is clearly a fantasy game; however it could be applied to urban fantasy, martial arts, or even future fantasy. The Company rules would require some interpretation but it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine Companies as Conspiracies in a contemporary setting. Stolze himself has published Out of the Violent Planet as an alternate setting for Reign.

The only bit I’m lukewarm about is ORE itself. Yes, I think Reign is a lot tidier than the other implementations, but the whole buckets of dice mechanic seems to be a gimmick to give players something to do with their d10 collection after they kicked the White Wolf habit. But perhaps that’s unfair, since I’ve yet to run the system.

I balked at using WT for VampORE. Where WT is not quite right, Reign could be spot on with its five-tier disciplines and its rules for power groups. Drop in the madness rules from Nemesis and it could be perfect. Now, what would you call that? Madness Reigns?

If you’re like me and enjoy running your own world and developing your own powers, Reign appears to give a very nice framework for balancing the power levels and tailoring powers to your players’ tastes. The Enchiridion is a great handbook at a bargain price.