Thursday, January 14, 2021

Detroit Suck City: Episode 14


The crew spends a few days resting, healing, and just enjoying the environment of the Undercity. The hospitality of the crew's hosts allowed them to be the most well fed and rested they have been since they can remember. A good number of the crew entertained their vices while 9s spent time with Ren as Kamanji hangs out with the green faerie.

The fateful morning finally came when it was time for business and as they are discussing the job with Azarel and Mr. Doyle, Kruder walks in with a very large crate full of gear and says, "suit up". The crew finds that all of their requests for gear were met and as they are still picking through it Kruder reminds them that when they are done, head down the tunnel to the end of the tracks.

The crew soon finds themselves at the end of the tunnel with Kruder and a few other Undercity guards as they roll out an old beat up truck that has been modified to ride on the rails. As the crew starts loading up their supplies, one of the tunnel walls explode outward and multiple bug like creatures emerge from it charging at the crew and friends. Kruder yells, "the bugs are back" and unloads with his shotguns. During this time, one of the bug creatures takes a bite out of Huey and 9s retaliates with a claw swipe that sends pieces of the bug flying off in the distance. The bugs continue their assault as one of them takes out the driver of the truck and another one snaps one of Kruder's legs but as he is falling, he unloads another volley of shotgun blasts and swings madly with his lead pipes. Huey then teleports to Kruder to try to help him out and give him cover. 

Kamanji pushes the dead driver over and slams the truck in reverse are starts backing up quickly but not quick enough as two bugs jump onto the truck - one going throughthe drivers side and the other in the bed with 9s. Kamanji takes a claw to the face as 9s gives the one in the bed of the truck a lesson in personal space. During this time, Kruder blows another bug a apart with some well places shotgun blasts as two more bugs come through the hole and Parrot takes this opportunity to mental blast one of them. 9s is able to dispatch his unwanted guest as Huey steps into the tunnel and fires his crossbow at the bug still trying to get in through the driver side and connects which causes a shriek from the bug as it looses its grip and falls out of the truck in a twitching heap.Parrot takes a shot and misses at the bugs still coming out of the tunnel. As Kamanji slams on the brakes and puts the truck in drive to run over the bugs he can see in the tunnel the doors behind Kruder open up and two Undercity guards emerge with large flame throwers and light up the bugs and the hole they are coming from. When 9s and Kamanji returns with the truck Kruder lets the crew know to get into the truck and head - they have this under control. 

The crew rides the truck to the end of the tunnel and finds themselves in front of a large concrete staircase. The crew climbs the staircase that eventually opens up into a big warehouse with a heavy reinforced door and Kamanji knocks on the door. A voice from the side asks for a password and 9s explains who they are and who sent them. The door opens quickly after that and the crew is shown around in what appears to be a mechanics ship with various vehicles in different states of repair. One of these vehicles was a supped up, armored, dune buggy with tires bigger then some of the crew. The crew then inquires if that is what they are getting and the workers just laugh and explain that is the bosses and they do not even have the keys. The workers then lead the crew over to the hovering mini van and one of the workers slap one of the panels and says, "she doesn't look like much but she will do .5 past light speed". The reference fell on deaf ears as the crew rolls their eyes and begrudgingly starts to load up. 9s then notices a hover bike and bribes the workers to let him have it. Once packed up, the crew heads out into the Burn. 

Just another day in Detroit Suck City...

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Fear of the Rules that are Lite

It has come to my attention that rules lite games make people weary and it has been frustrating for me. I have had many conversations with people trying to pitch a game like Sword and Backpack, Swords and Six-Siders, Supercrew, Blood of Pangea, or other games on or around that crunch level. The most common response is something along the lines of "I get it, but I am not sure if there is enough there for structure".  I am not sure what type of structure they think is missing; character creation? check,  resolution mechanic? check, and obstacles for them to overcome? check.

So, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about this from different angles and I have come up with three conclusions as why people in general have an aversion when you talk about a game with a 32 page rule book instead of a 300+ rule book. 

  1. Spoiled and Lazy:  These two create a symbiotic relationship, one feeds into the other and vice versa. By spoiled I mean a lot of the modern games and rule books have a rule for everything and hyper detailed character creation. So, there is actual minimal effort that needs to be put into character thought, actions, and background as there is a rule for that. These type of rules take away the player agency and make the game harder to manage on both ends of the table. So, being spoiled by the rules leads into people being lazy. Why actually put effort into role play when you can roll a skill to see if you get that discount or not at the store (etc.)? Why expand on your backgrounds (outside of the description in the book) so you can pursue your characters own agenda in game? Or give the GM story hook to use? Or put effort into exploring a dark and dangerous place as your character has never been there before (instead of relying on perception checks, etc.)? This type of laziness happens on both sides of the table as the GM does not have to make calls at the table or decide if there is need to a roll or what the roll should be. 
  2. High Trust vs. Low Trust and Lack of Said Trust: A lot of people have had bad experiences playing games on both sides of the table. Sometimes this results from abrasive personalities at the table, people treating it has a video game and feel the need to win, and just people trying to exploit every rule or lack thereof that is possible. Due to these experiences (most commonly in public settings or cons) people feel the need to lean towards low trust games for built in protection. This means that these are games that require little or no trust in the players because the system is well-tuned enough to prevent the worst player abuse and well-phrased in order to minimize the need of GM calls. Thus, the system actually minimizes the degree to which players and GM have to be on the same page about what the story is about or what is possible within the story. There is a clear and stable framework within which everybody can work (such games often restrict the creative freedom of players and GM's). Due to this, players avoid high trust games. By high trust, I mean games that require a lot of trust between GM and player, so that nobody abuses the system, that everybody is on the same page and knows what is expected from and within the story. These games require much more establishing of a "common ground" and constant re-evaluation of this common ground. They allow for a much more open and flexible play, but can "break" more easily if there are miscommunication or problem players. People with this mind set makes me want to break out a doll and tell them to show me where the bad GM or player touched you. This has also created a odd war akin to edition wars where people line up on each side and act their opinion or preferred style of play is the only right way. I think the trust are edition wars are both redonkulous and people need to chill out, but I digress.
  3. Newer is Better: There is this common idea that new is better, things have evolved form the old ways for a reason. and 300-600+ rules books are the norm. I think today's gaming environment we have seen massive movements where the mindset is going back to more of the rules light style. Even mainstream games like Dungeons and Dragons have come along way and the current iteration of 5th edition has been a really good evolution all the way around. I am not saying there are not more tactical focused games like Pathfinder that are still being produced and have their own fans and are thriving. It is just the idea that newer is better creates a mental block and I think this is especially true for older games or have been there throughout the ages. 

I think that it comes down to the Player's Responsibility and if they want to be entertained then they can go play a bored game. Maybe I am just being an old grognard but I have been around the block more then a few times and I would rather role play then roll play. 

I guess I wish more people would just relax, try something new or old, participate, get into character, put input into the world, and let the immersion happen. 

You cannot tell me that waiting got for the GM to look up a rule, the players looking up spells or characters abilities, or adding up modifiers before they decide what to do (in and out of combat) helps with the flow of the game or supports immersion. 

This has been another episode of What Really Grinds my Gears...

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Review: Alpha Blue

 Where's it slacking, frack face? The name's Amaranthia. You like what you see? Yeah, I can tell... or did you just pop a couple of blue dreamers?

There's a few things you should know about Alpha Blue, assuming you're planning on staying a few parsecs. You are, right? Otherwise, how are we supposed to get acquainted? That's good. So, this space station doesn't stay as stationary as you would probably imagine. Don't get me wrong, we're not trekking all over the universe like a battle cruiser... but Alpha Blue? She moves. One day-cycle we're orbiting that planet populated entirely by sexy gum-chewing twins, the next we're moving out of the neutral zone - which has just shifted boundaries by a few light years because of some intergalactic incident.

You also gotta know who to trust. Pretty much no one. The  girls are out to screw you out of your blue bucks - literally; the guys usually have allegiance to a large and dangerous group of space-hombres. As for the aliens... who even knows what crazy shit is on their three brains?

Me? No, I'm not a satisfier. However, I never turn down quick credits... especially when they're as cute as you. I see you eyeing up my new arm. She's a rental. Almost got it paid off. Just one more job for my boss - he's the one smoking over there in the corner booth. That's right. I'm not just a pretty face. I also jack people up with a blaster. Hey, maybe you could come with? Gars Amax likes to hire new blood. Wait right there, I'll go ask him.

So, this is a game I was aware of but it fell off my radar for awhile. It was not until I was reading about rules light science fiction/space opera games that the mechanics of Alpha Blue was mentioned and the game jumped back on my radar. I have been wanting to take a break from fantasy and I jumped on the opportunity to get my hands on something where the system focuses on narrative. 

Disclaimer: I was provided a physical copy for this review. 

Presentation: In a 112 pages you get full color covers and a very organized two column layout. The interior is full of black and white art with tables galore. Who does not like random tables? There are tables for careers, for creating your own alien species, mutations, cybernetics, personality traits, etc. They are all full of flavor of not boring at all. Non of the tables feel pointless or space fillers. The art is also black and white and has an old school theme - something that you can find in old copies of Heavy Metal, 1st editions of Gamma World, Star Frontiers, etc. There is a range of style of sharp pen lines to a softer pencil look. The art really fits the theme of the game. It really makes the aliens and cybernetics look interesting. There is also some amount of NSFW art inside the pages which depicts bare breasts, butts, and both sexes in skimpy outfits but there is no shown genitals. 

Character Creation: Character creation follows the steps below;
  1. Determine Occupations: You get two rolls (or choices) on the scoundrel and the respectable career table split up anyway you want. Can choose two rolls or choices on one table, etc. If you have an option on the scoundrel table then you roll on the scoundrel sub-table which determines the level of interest the law as on your activities. If you choose to use the Something Special table, to create an alien, or to play a mutant (roll or choose three aspects on the mutation table) you only get one choice on the career options instead of two. The reasoning is because humans need to be more versatile to complete against all of the crazy stuff out there. 
  2. Determine Starting Finances: Each roll on the Scoundrel Career table provides you with 2d6x100 blue bucks but you only get 1d6x100 blue bucks on Respectable Career table. 
  3. If your an Alien: You roll once once on the Alien Form Table, roll once on the Alien Size table, and roll once on the Alienism table - which is basically out of this world quirks and what not. Also, you need to roll a 1d6 as your alien has a 1 in 6 chance of not being able to survive in normal "Earth" like atmosphere. 
  4. Prior Experiences: There are three tables labled A, B, and C. A requires a 1d6 roll, B a 1d8 roll, and C requires a 1d12 roll. These tables are designed to give a character a little more background and examples of how gonzo the universe can be. 
  5. Fashion: Can choose to roll or use the fashion tables or make up what your character is wearing.
  6. Weapon of Choice: Your first weapon is free, the rest you need to buy yourself.  
  7. Astrology/Known Associates/Nature of Relationships: These are tables to continue to round out your character. Lots of fun. 
  8. Determine Sex Stuff: There are more tables for this but it is basically deciding what your character is into. 
  9. Record Health: All characters start with 25hp.

This is one of the few systems where character creation should be done in reverse order. Go through the character creation process and then determine your backstory and reasons for being. I also really like how the mutations and creating an alien are very alien. It is definitely not a universe filled with bipedal humanoid creatures with different face ridges or colors of skin. 

Resolution: Alpha Blue using a house system called VSd6 and it uses a base roll of 2d6 to determine success or failure and the degrees in-between. If you have advantage you roll 3d6 and if you have disadvantage you roll 1d6. The highest result on a single dice is counted;
  • 1 - Critical Failure ("No, and..." Something bad happens)
  • 2 - Failure ("No")
  • 3 - Mostly Failure ("No, but..." Something good happens)
  • 4 - Partial Success ("Yes, but.." Something mildly bad happens)
  • 5 - Success ("Yes")
  • 6 - Critical Success ("Yes, and..." Something even better happens)

That is it. The players careers allow them to roll on career related (non combat) activities with advantage and if the players are able to convince the GM about something in their background would let them roll with advantage then that could work too. It very narrative driven which I like. There are also some caveats for ship weapons, crazy alien gizmos, and horrors from beyond space and time rolling 4d6/5d6.

Combat is handled in a slightly modified way;

  1. Initiative: In smaller groups initiative is handled by whoever speaks up first then in follows what makes sense in the narrative. For larger groups or if you need something more organized, go in order of seating. 
  2. Roll for Attack: Roll using the core mechanic. There is no defense roll or to hit roll and tactics/situations in combat determines if the roll is made at advantage or disadvantage. The effectiveness and if the attack hits is determined by the attackers roll - 1 is a critical failure, 2 and 3 are failures, 4 the player rolls 1d6 for damage, 5 the player rolls 2d6 for damage, 6 the player rolls 3d6 for damage, double six 4d6, triple six 5d6, and quadruple six the player rolls 6d6 for damage. REMEMBER - ALL DAMAGE DICE EXPLODE!
  3. Determine Damage: Subtract armor rating from total damage and apply remaining damage to HP total. Most NPCS will have the stand 25hp while mooks will be taken down in one hit and more powerful opponents will have more HP. 

Crunch: Outside of the core mechanic, there are only a few additional crunch items that need to be addressed:

  • Saving Throw: If something happens that could end your character their is a d6 table to be rolled on. Good luck!
  • Stealing the Spot Light: Once per session, each player (and the GM) has the ability to "Steal the Spotlight". The player announces their attention to Steal the Spotlight and goes ham describing the crazy thing the character is going to pull off. This effectively doubles the characters dice pool for that action. 
  • Indulging in the Characters Preferences: If a character takes advantage of all Alpha Blue has to offer in conjunction with their preferences, then they get a bonus "Stealing the Spotlight" option for the next session. They do not carry over and if the session ends with a character having two Stealing the Spotlights, they start the next session with one.
  • Indulging in Pleasure: If a character decides to have physical encounters out of scene, they gain d6 bonus HP for the next day. 
  • Armor: Armor has a rating from 1 to 4 and reduces damage by that amount. 
  • Healing: Characters can heal 1d6 without medical help and 2d6 with medical help once per day. After an 8 hour rest they regain their full HP. 
  • Character Death: If a character is reduced to beyond their level in negative HP they have a 2 in 6 chance of being able to be saved by cybernetic or other synthetic parts. 
  • Leveling up: Each time a character levels up, they gain 5 hp. Level up is generally up to the GM but a simply XP system could be used. 


Final Thoughts: This is a really well put together game and it catches the crazy gonzo Heavy Metal vibe. I am sure the sex stuff is going to be the point on most people's mind when reading this review and the reality of sex and how a good check of Alpha Blue is dedicated to the universes greatest whore house is part if the setting. Though, it is presented in a tongue and cheek, campy, gonzo way where the group can give it as much or as little focus as possible (it is actually pretty funny and not as in your face as I thought it was going to be). It is not designed or meant for people to enact their deepest fantasies in Matrix slow motion - there are other avenues for that, like seriously.

At its heart, the station of Alpha Blue is a combo of Babylon 5, Jabba's Palace, Mos Eisley's, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, and Deep Space 9. About a 1/4 or a little more of the station is devoted to the Universes best whore house where the Satisfier's (think of Inara from Fire Fly - the whole Companion system) work and other people who are less skilled. The station also hosts about 30-40 other sections that have their own descriptions. In addition to these sections, there is 20+ pages devoted to "Everything you want to know about Alpha Blue but were to Afraid to Ask". This goes into detail about the operations, the Capt., the Computer and its systems, etc. Alpha Blue is described as the Wild West - Alpha Blue itself has its own Security, though their are section appointed Sheriffs,

The book also expands on the setting for the rest of the Universe. There are over 10 pages that talk about space phenomena and another couple pages that talk about different major factions such as The Federation, The Draconian Empire, The Krylon Protectorate, The Interstellar Caliphate, Brain Bugs, The Mega-Corporation Conglomerate, and Clerics of the 7th Age. There is also the Knights in White Satin, Knights in Black Satin, and Knights in Blue Satin which follow "the way" and are commonly known as Zedi. 

One of my favorite things about Alpha Blue is the adventure generator. It can lead to all kinds of crazy shenanigans in addition to a lot of inspiration. 

Some of the character creation is is mixed in with the core rules section but the core rules come before character creation so it is not that big of a deal. I do also wish there was a PDF of a more printer friendly character sheet without the grey scale and not just a jpeg. 

You can find it here:

There is a lot of supplements for it as well and the Alpha Blue Quikie adds in a new and improved character sheet and two layouts for star ships. These character sheets I greatly prefer but they are in 300dpi images and not a user friendly PDF. Though I am working on fixing that.

The final piece of advice I would give about Alpha Blue is do not let the 80s gonzo, tongue in cheek sleaze be the deciding factor of picking up this game or not. It is an amazing game with an amazing system even if you completely ignore the sleaze altogether.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Detroit Suck City: Episode 13


As the crew finds safety in their tank they start to relax and discuss their options. They decide that it is definitely to hot for Kamanja and the related people who were the upstarts in the Killbox to be seen out and about. It was also discussed and decided that first thing in the morning they need to finish up their supplies and get the hell out of dodge. 

During the night as the crew tries to get some rest, Kamanja  and 9s here a tapping and a scratching on the outside of their tank. They peer outside of the windows and to their surprise they see a large mutated possum. As they start to tell the possum to scram the possum explains in a commanding whisper that  they are in danger as the crew have made quit a ruckus and pissed off a lot of people, especially with that stunt at the Killbox. The possum starts to laugh in a raspy whisper and goes on to explain that he personally thought the riot was genius and those tight wads that run this place needs their cage rattled once in awhile. The possum finally introduces himself as Tonic and says they all need to come with him. 9s and Kamanja goes about waking the rest of the crew up and explains to situation. The crew nods an agrees that this is probably in their best interest but they are smart enough to expect a trap. 

Tonic leads them through a maze of back alleys and through various train cars as the crew realizes they are starting to head underground. Tonic leads them to a hidden latter that leads directly underground and explains that someone in the Undercity wants to talk to them and actually needs their help, and Tonic reiterates that is not safe for the crew on the surface and they have closed the city. There is no traffic going in or going out. The crew continues to follow Tonic through a maze of old sewage tunnels (with all of the smells that go with it) and they eventually come to a large reinforced metal door. Tonic gives the door a pattern of knocks and a pattern of knocks is rapped in response. The large metal door opens and the crew finds themselves in a large cavern that is full of nefarious looking rift raft which all gave the crew a once over before most of them returned to what they were doing before the interruption. 

Tonic continues to leads them onward and they find themselves inside a very deep buried base of connected rail cars and Tonic opens one of the doors and the see a room filled with tables, a bar, and there are various people sitting on the tables and the bar. The crew is offered food and drink and Kamanji takes a shot of a green liquor that the bartender explained makes people see things. 

As the crew eats and drinks their fill while Kamanji fist bumsp a green faerie Tonic gets their attention and explains to them that it is time for them to meet the boss and get down to business as it were as Tonic points to the far end of the room that is separated by a heavy red velvet curtain. Tonic pulls the curtain aside and waves them over. The crew is greeted with a large round table that hosts a large rodent with no eyes and meter long antlers that introduces himself as Azarel (the boss), a well dressed man in a bowler hat that just nods as Azarel introduces him as Mr. Doyle, ans behind those two stands a very large four armed toad that is armed with shotguns and lead pipes that introduces himself as Kruder, Captain of the Undercity. The crew is then offered a seat by Azarel and they sit.

Azarel, The Boss

Kruder ,Captain of the Undercity

Mr. Doyle, Azarel's Trusted Friend 

Azarel welcomes the crew and starts right off explaining how it is not safe for them on the surface right now as their various stunts has put a lot of heat on them and the city has been locked down. During this time Azarel turns to Mr. Doyle and appears to have a one sided conversation with them as Mr. Doyle never speaks. As the crew watches this conversation with curiosity a man opens the curtain and enters the private area that is dressed in a crimson cloak and black armor with the mark of the city guard on it. Azarel turns to this new comer and says, "Ah, Capt. Drasticos glad you could join us". Azarel sighs and explains to the crew that he will Drasticos explain the situation and why he needs the crews help as the crew has obviously proved to be very capable, even in the most dire of situations. 

Capt. Drastico expains how one of his trusted operatives has gone freelance and is doing business and causing trouble where he shouldn't be. The operative is known as Ficas and has been smuggling anti radiation tabs into the city for his own gain. Drasticos continues to explain that this needs to stop as it is hurting the common people and that he found evidence that Trey, the Mayor of Rail City has been dealing directly with the  leaders of the Star Children.  The crew then learns that their task is to go into the burn and find Ficas who we want brought in alive at all costs (but dead is better then letting him escape).  Azarel then picks up the conversation and tells the crew that the Star Children has multiple heads and each head needs to be destroyed for the menace of the Star Children to be stopped. The crew then realized that they have met the heads of the Star Children snake before - it was the people that were throwing torc grenades at them and flying drunk in a yellow hover car.

 During this conversation some of the guards open the curtains and the drop a person who has been chained up to the ground. Azarel turns to the person who worked his way up to his knees and says, "You disappoint me Lisam, I had a lot of faith in you". As Lisam tries to stutter out a defense his body goes rigid, Lisam makes a gargling sound, and then drops to the floor, dead. Azarel nods to the guards and they silently pick up Lisam's body and makes their exit. 

Azarel apologies for the interruption and continues talking to the crew. The crew learns that Pike is Trey's brother and they run the entire corrupted operation. Azarel also explains that their person that was on the screen in the lab and in the Killbox is known as Bel Starks and is a construct like 9s.  Bel Starks runs the cryolab and how the crew can be tracked by their electronics. The crew then hands over all of their communication devices they have lifted off the Star Children to Kruder who then smashes them to pieces with his bare hands. 

Azarel sighs and says it has been a long night and this has been enough talk. I will provide you all with rooms, food, medical care, and even companionship if you wish. Azarel then waves the crew off with his paw and Tonic motions them to follow as Tonic leads them all to some rooms and says, "Get some rest, there is a lot to do still".

Just another day in Detroit Suck City...


PLAYER THOUGHTS: This was a great session full of a lot of roleplay and a lot of information. We all learned how interconnected a lot of our encounters have been and we all started to piece together the bigger picture. For me, one of the biggest surprised I learned how Pike was in the thick of mess at the very top and how the band Kiss (Yep, exactly) are the leaders of the Star Children and how each variant we have faced as tattoos that match the individual members. Definitely looking forward to more shenanigans and story.

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Review: Vampire the Masquerade 5th Edition Part 2

So, in my initial review that can be found here. In it, I left a few things out and I also want to talk about two of the supplements that came out at the same time or shortly after and all three books were eventually sold in a box set. I am not going to do full reviews but I want to touch base on them as those two products are closely related to the Core book in time frame, company, and people. Then, I will briefly touch about the Chicago by Night book which was produced by Onyx Path Publishing.

One of the things I did not get into was the system for Resonance. It is basically emotional flavor the blood and it is meant to add greater depth to feeding. Though, by design V:tM 5th edition already brings feeding and hunger to the forefront in regards to role play (and mechanics). The PC's themselves can gain resonance and disciplines require a certain resonance to gain an additional dot when the player has met the XP requirements for it. I understand the theory behind this but in practice it falls flat and in my experience (and talking to a lot of other Storytellers) it is something that gets ignored nine time out of ten. Just like how the Predator's Taint is treated in Vampire: The Requiem. 

The second thing I left out is how armor is handled. Armor turns aggravated damage into superficial damage. That is really great for a mortal because they also half superficial damage and turning things like gunshots into non life threatening damage goes a long way. With that being said, armor does not help Vampires and to an extent other supernaturals at all. Vampires reduce just about everything (except their banes) to superficial damage and then halve it. I am not sure how or why this was overlooked. Vampires just like everyone else would like to benefit from armor. 

The third thing that I just forgot to mention is that the core book includes the Clans Brujah, Gangrel, Malkavian, Nosferatu, Toreador, Tremere, and Ventrue. 

The final thing I think I want to touch base in is regards to the XP system. It is a basic system of you gain an amount of XP per session and then the costs of new dots are multiplied by a current rating or base number. The idea of the system works fine but the math does not work. The costs are to high for the amount of XP the book tells you to award. This is another aspect of where a lot of people use their own XP systems or give out more XP per session. 

The Camarilla book got more consistent with layout, art, and tone but it still suffered from the same issues the core book did. It had information about the the Sect and gave a good overview of everything. Thought I feel like the the Third edition Camarilla gave more information in about the same amount of pages. In this book, we get new loresheets and another clan, the Banu Haqim (formally known as the Assaamites) - they joined the Camarilla. This book is missing two things that irk me but I will only touch one in this section. This book lacks a city building chapter which is something I think is really important. 

The Anarch book got more consistent with layout, art, and tone but it still suffered from the same issues the core book did. It had good information but the way it was written really made the Anarchs seem less then a political movement for the better of the younger generations and turned them into roving gangs. Whether it was the intent or not, I do not know but that is how the writing came off to me. I feel like the V20 book Anarchs Unbound does the movement a lot more justice and makes them more three dimension. This third dimension is important because Anarchs are one of the two main movements in the new meta. In this book we get the Ministry (formally known as the Setites). I really like their rebranding and all of the meta reasons why the ended up joining the Anarchs (the main reason is they got snuffed by the Camarilla - big surprise). The Ministry is the lore sheets are some of my favorite parts of the book. I also really enjoy who the book talks about each clan in the eyes of an Anarch - those pages were really full of flavor and plot ideas.

So this book is is produced by Onyx Oath Publishing and has an obscenely successful kickstarter and all of that jazz. This book has consistent layout, tone, and art throughout the whole book. It is easier and more enjoyable to read and feels like an RPG book instead of a coffee table art book. The art is all the same style as is what I would call a painted style? I think this is one of the best books out so far for V:tM 5th edition. The lore sheets found within are so fun as well.

This is no fault of Onyx Path (as I think they were trying to do damage control) but there was a lot of generic setting information in this book that should have been included in the core, Camarilla, and Anarch books. In addition, we get the Clan Lasombra in this book and it meta about 50% of the clan has joined the Camarilla and they rest of the clan are slowly trickling over. This is the second thing that really bothered me about the Camarilla book. The Lasombra joining the Camarilla is something the is well established in the meta but they somehow got left out of the Camarilla book? I get it per meta they have not been voted in as an official pillar clan but come on! It is just something that is very frustrating.

Friday, December 18, 2020

The Players Responsibility


Must of us who have gamed for any amount of time have heard of or experienced RPG horror stories. Though, this is not about those. This is about the players responsibility at and away from the table. Lately, I have had a lot of personal experiences and known people who have had a lot of experiences with players not putting in the effort, being opening antagonistic, and other things to take away from everyone else's enjoyment. I am not sure what has causes this trend - maybe it is the generation, the phones attached to everyone's hand, brainwashed by video games/instant gratification, unrealistic expectations set forth by professional voice actors playing RPGs, and whatever other reasons their could be.

I am going to list responsibilities players should have at all tables. They are not in any particular order but these are a players responsibilities for in person games and online games. 

  1. Be Prepared: If a player is part of a campaign, they should be prepared at the session (even if it is session zero). Have your dice, character sheet, concepts, ideas, notes, pencils, etc. ready to go. If it is a new system to you and you do not have the book, take the time to read up on some reviews to get an idea of the setting and system. Also, read whatever material the GM sends your way. 
  2. Get Access to the Core Book: If it is a game or system you are interesting in or are going to participate in an ongoing campaign, get access to the core book, spend time reading it, and gain a mild understanding of the basics. I get money can be tight (especially in the current state of affairs) or some of us may have an unsupported partner/family in regards to the hobby. There are ways - pool your money with the other players and get a table copy for the group or buy the PDF. If not of these work, ask the GM for his copy and take some notes off of it. There are a lot of games now that have SRD's and preview copies. Plus, a lot of online reviews usually spell out character creation and the core mechanics to get you started. I have run into players who I do not think even own a players handbook from anything and they have been gaming longer then me (and these same players won't even take the time to research the game as stated above).
  3. Communicate: Seriously, take the time to respond to emails, group texts, or whatever apps the group uses. I know everyone is busy but take the time to be active in communication. It really helps build the bond of the group and all of that jazz - plus it is just common decency. You do not have to active all  the time in the everyday BS chat but if people are talking about game dates or ideas, input is helpful and encouraged. If something unexpected comes up and you need to step away or miss a session let the GM and other people know. I know sometimes things get chaotic and it slips the mind (I did this recently where I got called into work in the middle of the night and I totally spaced about my morning game) but don't let that become a habit.
  4. Effort at the Table: Role playing is a team effort. It takes everyone working together to have a good time and build a story. As a player, put effort into your character - do your best to immerse yourself in the setting, the story, the character. Don't be antagonistic and don't metagame like a madman. Look, I get it - everyone metagames a little bit as it is hard to completely avoid it and that is understandable but don't do it blatantly and put effort into. The type of metagaming starts to run the immersion for everyone. I had a experience recently where I was really excited to play in this horror game that is based of a famous franchise but one of the players did not want to work together as a team and then continued to be the worst case of metagaming I have ever seen. It really bummed a lot of people out. In addition, a few of the players did not take the time before hand to look over the cheat sheets of the rules/pre-made characters/etc and a lot of time was spent explaining the rules over and over again when they would come up. Also, pay attention to whats going on and be active participate (be ready on your turn and be proactive in the story! Follow those plot hooks! Create your own plot hooks, etc).
  5. Put the Phone Down: Seriously, put the phone down. This kind of goes along with #4 but it is important enough to be its own responsibility. Put the effort it, and unplug for a few hours. Let everyone know you are going to busy for a few hours, etc. To be honest, I do not even like players have character sheets on their phones. It just leads to temptation and I think it breaks immersion as well. On the same note, borrow or buy some dice. Dice rollers are not the business and take away a lot of the experience. 
  6. Be Respectful: Respect the GM's rules and table preferences when it comes to content and whats expected/acceptable within the game. Don't push boundaries or ignore agreed upon rules and etiquette. This is not even about being a responsible player, it is about being a decent human being. 

Maybe I am being a Gronard but by all that is holy in the nine hells, if you want to sit back and be entertained with minimal/zero effort go play a video game or read a book. Stop ruining the enjoyment for the other players and the GM. 

As a disclaimer, I am really impressed and applaud what all of the celebrity streams are doing for the hobby. They are making it main stream and bring a lot of new people to the hobby. The problem is with the people to watch and lose touch with reality at their local gaming scenes. 
This has been another episode of...

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Detroit Suck City: Episode 12

 After gathering some intelligence from the locals the crew learns that no firearms are allowed in the Kill Box and the Kill Box is basically an gladiatorial arena. Wilhelm locks up some gear and sets a trap on the tank that makes use of a musket and a stun grenade. Wilhelm leads the way and the crew comes across a large structure that is made up of stacked rail cars with the words "Kill Box" painted sloppily along the sides. As the crew heads towards the building, Parrot notices a scuffle between some of the rail cars and the crew decides to intervene. 

As the crew gets closer they call out and realize that three star children were beating up to city militia and as the Star Children realize they were caught they take off running past of the crew. The crew were able to down one of the Star Children but the rest got away. Wilhelm called for more militia and everyone was interviewed about the situation. 

Once the final statement was taken, the crew swings by the booky's office to place bests for their friend (who has 7 to 1 odds) before entering to watch the main event. As they entered the Killbox they are met with stadium seating filled to beyond max capacity of yelling, sweating, and drunk spectators. The only thing more awe inspiring then the horde of people trying to escape their bleak existence was the stench of death mixed with body order. The crew manages to fight their wait to the second floor and all the way to edge so they can get the bet view.

As their eyes travel down to the ring, they are met with a shirtless tattooed, scarred psychopath who is screaming at the crowd, throwing various items found on the ground, swinging a large chunk of concrete at the end of a bent metal pole around, and wondering between the various piles of junk and scattered gore. From the noises of the crowd, it appears this guy is the reigning champion and his name is Hezad. 

Before they know it, Kamanja is dumped unceremoniously out of a box into the ring and as soon as Kamanja gets to his feet he is charged and takes a solid shoulder into his stomach which sends him sprawling some drums. As Kamanja struggles to his feet, he realizes that he was hit so hard he literally crapped his shorts but the Hezad wastes no time. He reaches into a pile of junk and throws a Habatchi grill at Kamanja which goes and Kamanji takes this opening and pushes Hezad into the junk pile. As Hezad struggles to get up, Kamanja picks up a sharpened golf club and tries to stab Hezad but misses.

Kamanja then quickly backs up into a defensive position but before the tattooed man can find something else to through the sound of the crowd is broken up by screeching metal and one of the metal tubes in the ceiling (that the crew is just noticed) opens up and drops a flaming corpse close to Hezad which explodes in a fiery mess. Hezad then takes a swing at Kamanja with his make shift sledge hammer and connects as he backs up into a more defensive position. 9's takes notice at his friends serious disadvantage and starts to concentrate on Hezad's weapon - it does not take long for the metal to heat up and Hezad to scream outloud, drop the weapon, and yell obscenities to the crowd as he realizes he was being messed with. 

Kamanja charges at Hezod with his golf club but Hezod is able to stop out of the way, pick up an old rusty flail, and make contact with Kamanja's backside as he moves past him into a better position in the arena. At this time another one of the ceiling tubes open and an odd metal barrel falls out and explodes into a cloud of noxious gas in a far off corner of the arena. 9s again, takes it upon himself to help his friend and Hezod screams out in pain after giving Kamanja a flail to the face. Parrot tugs on 9s shoulder and nods over to the entrance of the floor. 9s sees a small bug like creature with two rather large looking security people scanning the crowd. Parrot whispers, "that they must have a way to tell if other abilities are being used but he does not think that have pinpointed you yet. I would calm it down." 9s nods his head in approval and he turns back to the match to catch a big box of ball point pens drop from one of the tubes which scatters between Kamanja and Hezod.

Kamanja takes the advantage and reaches into one of the junk piles and pulls out a small orange television screen that screams to life as the face of the man from the lab appears on it and starts talking - explaining how dead he and the rest of his friends are. Kamanja throws the television at Hezod (which misses) and then tries to use that distraction to charge. Connection is made but as Hezod counters with another strike of his flail but over extends and twists his ankle, falling to the ground. Kamanja takes this chance to create distance between him and his opponent as one of the ceiling tubes opens up and a giant bird with two heads (known as an Oub) flies out with a screech. 

As the crew sees this, multiple members spring into action simultaneously. Huey teleports into the ring and starts taunting the bird teleports into the ring and starts yelling at the bird to distract it. Wilhelm stands up on a chair and starts winding the crowd up and explaining how the game is rigged to take their money. The crows quickly explodes into anger and starts rattled the fences and starts to destroy whatever they can. Huey rips of his shirt, exposing his Masters of Clean tattoos and yells, "Come and get me" to both the bird and Hezod. This gives Kamanja the time to reach into one of the piles of junk to hopefully find something more useful then a television and pulls out a cooling rod from a micro reactor. With one mighty swing, Kamanja makes contact with the side of Hezods head and Hezod instantly goes pale and splotchy as the radiation wracks his body and he falls to the dirty ground, lifeless. Wilhelm turns invisible and pills a pin out of one his grenades to help Kamanja but then sees Hezod drop and struggles to put the pin back in as he notices dive for Huey. 9s concentrates on the bird to heat it up as Parrot unleashes a mental blast bouncing the bird closer to Wilhelm as Wilhelm throws the grenade at the bird. The subsequent explosion was the last straw as the crowd bursts into a full fledged riot breaking the arena fence down, trampling people, fighting, biting, and it some cases trying to eat each other. Wilhelm then tries to throw a medikit down to Kamanja but misses his mark and the kit gets lost in one of the many piles of junk. 

Just as the rioting crowd makes it into the arena a nails on the chalkboard sonic sounds reverberates inside everyone's skull and everyone starts to rush to the exits in an every man for himself mentality. The crew makes it down to the arena floor by fashioning a rope out of clothes and other items from the scattered bodies of the riot and helps Kamanja to his feet. The crew reunited, heads to the exit.

As they make it to the surface streets they realize it is utter chaos. People are getting robbed, there are fights, and buildings on fire. The crew decides to pay the booky a visit as it is on their way but the office is closed with a sign that says, "ALL BETS ARE OFF" in hastily written letters. Vengeance is sworn on the booky as Kamanja won but it is best left for another time as the crew deemed it more important to get off the dangerous streets and to avoid the increasing amount city militia spilling into the streets to control the crowds.

The crew eventually makes it back to their rail car.

Just another day in Detroit Suck City...


PLAYER THOUGHTS: It was definitely an interesting situation watching another player in a situation where they were own their own. The GM was using custom gladiatorial combat rules that acted as a mini game and depending on the result of the roll every turn determined what you could do on your turn. It seemed to work really well and was very entertaining. The player who played Kamanji had some serious bad luck with dice rolls and I think some tactical errors were made during the combat but the rest of the players were able to help him out. It was a good experience and we also started a riot that was bad enough where the city had to disperse mind effecting sonic technology or powers to get the crowd to disperse. Everyone was also pissed about the booky and if anyone runs into him, it will not end well. 

 Oh, and as for the pooing of the pants? Well that was on the critical hit table...though to be fair there are worse things on that table.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Review: Vampire The Masquerade 5th Edition Part 1

I have always been a huge fan of the Wold of Darkness and Vampire has a special place it my heart. My first two experiences in gaming was Vampire 2nd Edition and AD&D second edition. I then spent a lot of time playing Vampire (and other World of Darkness games) including Live Action Roleplay experiences. After my enjoyment of the iterations of Requiem and Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary edition, I was stoked to learn about a new edition continuing The Masquerade game. The game was suppose to overhaul the mechanics and update the metaplot into the Modern Nights. Well, my excitement as dampened due to some situations that arose during the play testing and my dying excitement was further murdered how Modiphius handled the release (as Modiphius was put in charge of the shipping and distribution). The lack of funds at the release did not help my attitude either. Though, a few years later I was able to acquire the books, read through them, interact with the community, and play in some games. 

Presentation: You get a full color 400+ book that has been printed on high quality paper. The quality is equivalent to the rest of Modiphius RPG releases. Once you start giving it a through look/read through is when the glitter starts to fall off. There seems to be multiple layout styles that is not organized. It feels like the design team had multiple layout ideas/templates, could not decide, and then went with all of the ideas. So you end up with light typing on dark pages, dark writing on light pages, various letter/report pages, different picture and type mixes, etc. It does not flow at all.

Then, there is the art. Most of the art that is used is model art mixes in with digital art. Before I go further, I know a lot of people are going to try to accuse me of not liking the art because I do not like model art. That is not true because my critique of the art comes from the quality/set choices of it and how it fits in with the layout and the rest of the non model art. Most of the model art is high quality but the set/design choices do not seem to match their placement and the tone of what is trying to be conveyed seems off. Once again I feel like there was a bunch of different directions pitched and they decided to go with all of them. The model art also does not mix with digital art and the digital art is of dubious quality. It appears to be taken direct from a video game where they were testing new engines on how to make hair move and things like that. I think the video game art is does not fit the tone, theme, and it breaks immersion. On the flip side, the book is pretty organized and the layouts are clean.

Just so there is not any confusion, Paradox handled all of the writing, art, and layout. Modiphius was the distributor. 


Character Creation: Character creation follows the below steps:

  1. Core Concept: Think of a core concept and what your characters mortal life and unlife like? When where the embraced? Etc.
  2. Choose Clan and Sire Information
  3. Attributes: Take one attribute at 4, three attributes at 3, four attributes at 2, and one attribute at 1. The attribute options are Strength, Dexterity, Stamina, Charisma, Manipulation, Composure, Intelligence, Wits, and Resolve. Health = Stamina +3; Willpower = Composure + Resolve.
  4. Pick one skill distribution: Jack of All Trades (One skill at 3, eight Skills at 2, and ten Skills at 1), Balanced ) Three Skills at 3, five Skills at 2, seven skills at 1), and Specialist (one skill at 4, three Skills at 3, three Skills at 2, and three Skills at 1). There are 27 skills to choose from. Add free specialties to Academics, Craft, Performance, and Science skills. Take one more free specialty.
  5. Disciplines: Choose two of your clan disciplines. Put two dots in one and one dot in the other. Caitiff characters choose any two disciplines and put two dots in one and two dots in the other. Thin-Blooded characters have no intrinsic disciplines. 
  6. Predator: Choose your predator type and apply one of the listed specialties, and one dot to one of the listed Disciplines, and apply any associated Advantages or Flaws. 
  7. Advantages: Spend 7 points on Advantages and take 2 points of flaws in addition to any gained from your Predator Type.

Resolution: Vampire the Masquerade 5th edition uses a modified Storyteller System which uses a dice pool system with d10s. Attributes, Skills, and Disciplines are rated 1-5. The player can create a dice pool in one of the following ways:

  • Attribute + Skill (most common)
  • Attribute + Discipline (common)
  • Attribute + Attribute (uncommon)

Once the pool is determined, the player rolls all the dice vs. a target number of successes or against a contested roll. Difficulty is scaled by the number of successes that is needed and in some cases certain situations will (such as called shots) will subtract the number of success achieved in the dice pool.

Each result of 6+ is considered a success. Each pair of 10s is considered a critical success and counts as 4 successes instead of two. If there are more successes then the target number of successes then the action happens as the character wants or if the character has more successes then their opponent. 

The book then goes on to advise that rolls should be kept to a minimum and conflicts should last a maximum of three rounds. 

Speaking of conflict, conflict is split into rounds and initiative is considered to follow the narrative. All the characters declare their action and follow this basic order:

  1. Existing Close Combat
  2. Ranged
  3. New Close Combat
  4. Other Actions (this includes disciplines) 

Conflict happens has contested rolls simultaneously and depending on the narrative, the winner of the roll deals damage. Some exceptions to this is if a character is shooting at a target that is to far away to close into melee range and other situations like that. For a character to take two actions, they must split their dice pools. A character who is acting purely on the defensive does not have to split their dice pools to avoid multiple attacks.  

Damage is split into two forms. Superficial damage and Aggravated damage. Superficial damage is things like being being punching in the face, falling from a small height, etc. Aggravated damage is things like knives, firearms, car accidents, explosions, claws, swords, etc. Now everything does Superficial damage to vampires (except sunlight, fire, and various supernatural effects) and vampires half all superficial damage. Humans also half superficial damage as well. Damaged is calculated by the damage bonus of the weapon and the number of successes achieved over the opponent on the contested roll. 

Crunch: Outside of the base resolution system, there are some various sub systems that are prominent.
  • Rouse: A rouse check happens when the kindred calls upon the power of their vitae for mending (healing), blush of life (to appear and feel human), boost (adding a bonus dice to a discipline for an action), using a discipline that requires a rouse check, and waking up for the evening. When a Rouse check is required or called on by the ST, a single Hunger die is rolled (a d10) and on a success the kindred's hunger does not increase. On a failure their hunger increases. 
  • Hunger: The classic blood pool has been replaced by hunger dice. The dice are different colored d10s that replace one of the dice in the players dice pool. All characters start with one hunger die and when their hunger increases, they replace another normal die with an additional hunger die. Hunger dice ranges from 1 to 5 and the only way to truly get rid of the hunger is to drain a mortal dry (killing them). At hunger 4 or 5 things get really edgy with the kindred and frenzy. Hunger dice can also cause bestial failures and messy criticals. 
  • Bestial Failure: These happens when a "1" (or skull on the themed dice) show up on a hunger dice at the same time the roll failed. The beast is able to take heavy influence over the kindred and they suffer a compulsion that needs to be role played until the conditions are met. Each clan as their own clan compulsion, there is also a list of generic compulsions for different situations, and the ST can create a thematic appropriate compulsion. 
  • Messy Critical: This happens when a "10" (or a fanged ankh on the themed dice) is part of  the critical and the hunger dice is always counted first. The result is still considered a critical but the beast takes a hand in it. Like if the kindred is trying to open a door quietly but after a messy critical, the kindred ends up ripping off of the door, etc.
  • Frenzy: When it is required for a kindred to resist Frenzy, the player rolls their characters current Willpower + 1/3 (round down) of humanity rating vs. a difficulty set by the ST. 
  • Willpower: Willpower can be spent to re-roll three normal dice. Hunger dice can never be re-rolled. 
  • Advanced Combat: There is a section on advanced combat that provides a Dungeons and Dragons like initiative system. 
  • Blood Potency: How effective the the power of the blood is.
  • Succeed at a Cost: The ST can offer an option to the player to succeed at a cost. 

Final Thoughts: There is a lot of to unpack here I am not sure where to start, but here it goes. 

The tone of this game is greatly improved as it really focuses on the personal horror aspects and has gotten away from high fantasy/superheroes with fangs/trench coats and Katanas elements of the 90s. The presentation of this new adult oriented tone (there is a 18+ warning on the book) is hit and miss. In some areas it is a very serious tone, in others it seems to be tongue and cheek, and yet it others it seems things are presented for shock value alone. The tone suffers from what I can only guess is multiple writers not being on the same page in regards to tone or a lack of direction from an editor or project manager. 

Like I have stated before, the mechanics are an improvement over the Revised Storyteller System and the even Vampire: The Masquerade 20th Anniversary Edition. With that being said, the system suffers from lack of clarity in certain areas and the explanations (especially in the conflict/combat section) are horrible. It took me reading The V5 Combat Primer (this is a treatise of conflict and its examples) that was written by players to fully wrap my head around how conflict is suppose to work, etc. There are other instances were rules are not explained well and some seem even contradictory. I am not sure if this is by design or just something to be aware of but small dice pools are relatively weak. This article breaks down character creation on a pure mechanical level and discusses some of the pit falls of it and how to be more efficient.I was having a discussion about this games mechanics with someone and they said, "it is like halfway through the design process they realized they were not making Vampire: The Requiem and continued with a Masquerade mindset." Also, during the initial release of the book their ended up being two pages of errata and most of the errata seemed really important not to miss (like an error in the character creation instructions). This errata is in addition to the original print run missing lore sheets and three whole appendix's including one talking about inclusion at the table and things revolving around that - which I think it very important. The PDF of the game has all of these things included and so does the Second Printing of the physical book. 

As I move onto hunger, this new feature seems to be the thing that people get heated about the most. To be honest, when I read it I did not like it at all. After some experience with it, the hunger dice has started to grow on me and I understand why it was designed the way it was. It really keeps the beast present and makes so that feeding is an actually conscious act of the-  characters and not something that just happens in the background or on the sidelines. I think it is still a little heavy handed and I think the same objective could have been achieved by altering with the blood pool mechanics (and no I do not have an idea for this). 
I think various damage ratings of weapons need more variance and they are grouped together oddly - like the 9mm and the .308 deal the same amount of damage. This is something I have been thinking about house ruling but I am not sure how as of yet. I also think it is odd that humans also halve bashing damage but the templates for humans are relatively weak and on average players will be a rolling a lot more dice in their pools then humans (outside of special characters). 

The final aspect that does not sit well is something I am on the fence about. The merits and flaws have been seriously reduced which is good because it got rid of a lot of pointless bloat and flaws that never game up in game (as in V5 you are required to pick flaws). On the other hand, I think they have been reduced to a point where there is a lack of variance and some of the flaws do not fit every character concept. I hope we see some more options in the future.

I think some of my favorite things about the book is how the metaplot has advanced (this is going to be a whole post in itself), the lore sheets, and how the game really focuses on new vampires to vampires of a few hundred years old. Lore sheets have dots like a background and is considered an advantage. Lore sheets really allow characters to become directly involved with or connected to various instances of the metaplot. This can be in the from of famous well known characters or various events that have happened. The way the game has been designed the need or drive to be elder is almost non existent There is no generation background (and other such backgrounds) and a lot of the discipline levels have been moved around so we see a lot of the old powers that were on the 4+ levels in the current 1-3 levels of the the disciplines. Some of the more oddball stuff has become amalgams/lore sheets and most of the unique disciplines are non existent as they are not really needed anymore. It really brings the game to a more street level and realistic feel of vampires in the modern nights. 

The last two things I really enjoy is how individual characters do not need to take the Haven background as they are all considered to have a basic safe place to sleep. The coterie gets points to spend on a domain that is very helpful. The second one being the succeed at a cost - I really like it when games provide this option in the rules.

So, in conclusion I think Vampire: The Masquerade is an almost great game. It could have really used another 6 months or so in production to clean up the mechanics, the explanations, to catch the important errata, and make sure all sections where included. It could also have used a more coherent direction in art, layout, and tone. The mechanics surpass the Revised/20th Anniversary edition but falls short of the smoothness and solid game design of Chronicles of Darkness. 

With that being said, I do enjoy the game, have most of the books, and I recommend it. Another bonus is that the community has been really great and welcoming. 

You can find it here...
Something that I give a lot of props to Modiphius for is that the core book, the Camarilla Book, and the Anarch book all come with PDF codes. You can also email Modiphius with a proof of purchase for the Storytellers screen and they will send you a free code for the PDF.  
Onyx Path has stated they do not offer a PDF coupon if you purchase the book separately (from various vendors) but can get a discount on the pdf when ordered through drivethru rpg as a physical/PDF combo .

On the downside of Modiphius (besides what has already been discussed) is that they have cantinued to have distribution issues with the game (and their other products from what I have read) because my local store checked three different distributors and the Vampire 5th Edition books were unavailable.