Ultima IV is one of my favorite computer games. Released in 1985, it was the first computer RPG that I truly lost myself in, spending hour upon hour chronicling its expansive world. The setup of the game -- that you're an every day person drawn into the world of Britannia, and set on series of virtuous quests -- remains unique to this day, but what really got me was the multi-character parties. At a time when I was in love with Dungeons & Dragons, Ultima IV let me assemble a party of warriors, wizards, rogues, and tinkers and then use them to explore dungeons, towns, and ultimately the Abyss.
And now it's returning. Not the Ultima I knew -- I doubt many would want to play a game with its cutting edge 1985 graphics -- but a new game inspired Ultima IV's DNA called Ultima Forever: Quest for the Avatar. CNN has an article explaining the new game, which is based on a free-to-play model for PCs and iPad.
Skill challenges were the best thing to emerge from our Dungeons Dragons 4th Edition mini-campaign, and when we started playing Star Wars: Saga Edition, we pieced together our own version of the rules. We based them on 4E's examples, the skill DCs established in Scum and Villainy, and personal experience. The end result created some of the most memorable moments in our campaign, including the heroes' disastrous attempt to escape a proto-star nebula.
Galaxy of Intrigue formalizes these ad hoc rules by creating a Skill Challenge system for Saga Edition that improves the 4E iteration in every way. The source book introduces new feat and talent options for skillful characters, nine new species (including the Bith, Defel and Neimodian), an entire world dedicated to intrigue, eight mini-adventures, and the "The Perfect Storm" campaign.
One of the great challenges in running a campaign in your 30s and 40s finding the time to game. Our group's been lucky in this regard as we've been able to pick schedules that worked for most of the group, and still let us game on a weekly basis.
For most of our 16 years as a group we've followed a weekly schedule -- first Mondays, then Fridays -- that was role-playing game heavy. Originally we played all Dungeons & Dragons, all the time, but as our appreciation for board games grew we split the schedule to one board game session for every three RPG sessions. Or something like that. We found it was hard to stick to that schedule because people's time got crazy, and suddenly we were sacrificing board games in the name of advancing the campaign.
As we enter our late 30s and early 40s, we've found the schedule must change again. Weekly RPG sessions are no longer possible given folks work and home schedules, so we've switched to biweekly games. The plan is to alternate RPGs and board games on a weekly basis.
Tumblr is one of those sites I find myself stumbling across time and again, but never lingering on. I suppose that's by design; it's meant to be a platform for quick hit updates, somewhere between the microbursts of Twitter and the full-on blogging of WordPress.
Pandemic is Z-Man Games' globe-spanning game of viral infection in which 2-4 players travel from city to city trying to prevent local outbreaks from turning into full-blown pandemics.
The game is played on a map of the Earth, with major cities connected by highways and flight paths. At the start of the game, color-coded cards keyed to the cities are drawn from the Infection Deck, indicating which metropolises have seen virus outbreaks. There are four viruses in all; the goal of the game is to cure the viruses before the planet succumbs to rampant disease.
It didn't take long for Monte Cook to find something to do after his much-discussed departure from the D&D Next design team. He's launched a Kickstarter to fund Numenera, a rules-light, far future role-playing game
Here's how he describes it:
I've played in a few RPG sessions, mostly one-shots, involving giant rampaging monsters. They've been disappointing because they focus on killing the monster, which reduces this huge lumbering horror to litte more than a 40-story sack of hit points.
At the opposite extreme are monsters who can't be defeated (and I'll admit to unleashing one of these in my campaign; a CR 35 horror that destroyed the city of Stoneheim in the World of Greyhawk). Those can be equally disappointing for players because characters (especially high level ones) think they can defeat anything.
Then again, maybe that's missing the point.
A year after announcing they secured the licence, Fantasy Flight Games released details on their upcoming Star Wars Role-Playing Game and launched a beta test.
There's not much in the way of details about how the game is played. Based on the beta FAQ, it apparently uses custom dice like Warhammer Fantasty; the beta book apparently includes stickers you can put on your own polyhedral dice to emulate the final dice.
Aliens. We always knew they were out there, ready to invade our planet, enslave the population and strip mine its resources. But we also knew that if they should try it, Earth’s greatest superheroes would rise up and save us.
We were wrong.
When the V’Sori came they slaughtered our super-powered defenders just as easily as they did our armies. Now our cities are conquered, our people are terrorized, and the job of saving the world has fallen to the most unlikely of people: Earth’s super villains.
The dwarven warrior D'klar Ironforge stood on the Deep Roads bridge eying the darkspawn before him. Spittle from the creature's mongrel face glistened in the reflected light of the lava far below. Covering its black-furred hide were the crudely-arranged castoffs of dwarven chain and planted, while its obsidian-clawed hands held a short sword wet with the blood of Ironforge's kin.
With a guttural shout, he charged the creature, bringing his battle axe down in a killing arc that sliced through the cracks in darkspawn's armor, cleaving its spine and sending it crumbling to the stone. The dwarf hefted the axe from the corpse and looked up. The rest of the darkspawn horde stood at the other end of the bridge. He grinned. "Who's next?"
Scenes like this one are something we love to recreate in fantasy pen-and-paper role-playing games. How you do it depends: it could be an improved critical feat in Pathfinder or an armor-piercing daily power in Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition, or it could just be flavor text added afterwards. It works well enough, but the game mechanic geek in me finds the feat/power option too limiting. Sure, I want to bury my axe into the darkspawn scum … but when fighting a dragon, I just might rather hit and run instead of going toe-to-toe with the beast.