Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gaming Podcast Review 20 The Vintage Gamer

The Vintage Gamer is a podcast about older games in a variety of genres including wargames, computer games and card games as well as boardgames.

The presenter Jim Van Verth has an easy manner anc clearly explains the games being discussed. In addition to discusssion of the individual games there are interviews with game designers and publishers like Eric Goldberg and Greg Costikyan and these have been interesting. The games I've heard reviewed and discussed including playing tips were: Ace of Aces, Illuminati and Diplomacy and the Halloween special roundup edition.

The episodes that I listened to were clear and easy to hear the voice and audio on. Downloads via iTunes and direct from the website were easy and quick. The file size is reasonable for an MP3.

I enjoy this podcast, particularly the interviews with Eric Goldberg and Greg Costikyan and hope that Jim Van Verth will be able to continue with them despite other commitments. I will be fair in saying that I probably won't listen to every episode as I will tend to stick to games I know or am interested in getting, but I still recommend this podcast highly all the same.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Gaming Podcast Review 19 This Week in Wargaming

This Week in Wargaming is a new podcast with the presenters coming from a number of established wargames podcasts like Podhammer, The Drop, D6 Generation, Samurai Gunslinger and 40K Radio.

The content is based on discussion of various wargames including the Games Workshop and Privateer press games and general topics like pre painted miniatures and using miniatures painting services. There is also gaming news and discussion related to the news items. This is useful for giving a wider range of opinions and comment than the usual podcasts.

The presenters vary from show to show, but do have a steady core it appears. It hasn't yet been long enough to create a huge interplay between them, but I think this will develop over time.

The downloads from iTunes and the website are pretty fast and reliable. Sound quality suffers from the need to have contributors linked in by Skype or other internet telephone and this is a problem for every podcast that does it, even BBC ones, so it is not a major problem and most of the time it doesn't affect the audibility too badly.

I think this is a welcome addition to the wargaming podcasts out there and I'll probably listen pretty regularly.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Comparative review: Castles & Crusades, Runequest II and Warhammer FRP part I

Comparative Review: Castles & Crusades, RuneQuest II and Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 2

Part I: Settings, Characters and Advancement

I was originally planning to do a comparative review of D&D3.5, Conan RPG (Atlantean Edition), Castles & Crusades and Warhammer FRP 2.0, but as there is now a second edition of Conan and D&D 4th edition I've shelved that project to replace it with a comparative review of C&C, WFRP 2 and RuneQuest II. Why RQII? Because it was an outstanding design at the time it was released and it will be interesting to see how it compares to much more recent designs.

In looking at the three rulesets I'll start with the 'fluff' and then move on into the detailed rules comparison at a later stage. This part will have the detail about character statistics and races and advancement mechanisms. I'm going to consider Classes and Careers in a later installment.

The intended list of parts to this comparative review is as follows:

  1. Setting, Basics, Characters and Advancement
  2. Classes & Careers, Equipment
  3. Melee
  4. Magic
  5. Conclusions

Castles and Crusades does not have the degree of setting content that is in either RQII or WFRP2, though Troll Lord Games do have a world setting of Erde that they use for their own products this is not included in the Players Handbook (PHB) or Monsters & Treasure (M&T) books. Both RQII and Warhammer FRP are strongly linked to their settings and I'll discuss each in turn.

Runequest is set in the world of Glorantha, which was created by Greg Stafford originally and used as the setting for the White Bear Red Moon boardgame. This has several features which were unusual at the time it was published and it is still a distinctive setting with a different approach to many of the usual fantasy tropes. The actual rule book has little setting information other than a general overview of the world and map of Glorantha with a timeline. There is a more detailed map of the Dragon Pass region in the back of the book with encounter tables and the sections in the rules on magic and creatures do help to add to the setting information included. The section on cults with the details of the Orlanth and Kyger Litor cults bring in quite a large part of the background from this book.

The Warhammer Fantasy world is used for both the miniatures wargame and the roleplaying game with relatively few differences in WFRP 2.0 which has been set to match the miniatures game world after the Storm of Chaos. This means that many parts of the north or east in the Empire have been devastated by war and depoplulated. In the Warhammer world many of the standard fantasy setting items are there like orcs, elves, trolls and vampires, with relatively conventional descriptions. The world is set in an early renaissance level of technology with firearms and cannon in use. A map of the old world and a chapter on the Empire and its neighbours is included meaning that there is much more setting detail in WFRP than the other two games here. There is also setting detail in the introduction and the chapter on religion and belief.

C&C and RQ both use a range of polyhedral dice for different things, for example weapon damage, but use an intrenally consistent type for the rolls to resolve combat and skills checks. With C&C this is a twenty sided dice (D20) and RQ uses a percentile roll using 2D20 as 10s and units. WFRP only uses 2 ten-sided dice (D10) for resolution with many rolls being percentages using both, but others like damage in combat will normally be done using a single D10. C&C uses a roll high mechanism of achieving or beating a target number, while RQ and WFRP use a roll under mechanism. I'll discuss these in more detail in the combat section and the conclusions.

Characters and Advancement

Castles & Crusades
C&C uses a system of rolling 3d6 six times and then the scores are assigned by the player for the six primary characteristics used. The maximum and minimum values are allowed to be greater than 18 or lower than 3, but the attribute modifiers table only goes from 1 to 18-19. Usually if a attribute reaches 0 due to a drain a character will be dead. A character will have some of these attributes noted as primes which I will discuss in a later part.

  • Strength - this affects a character's ability in melee combat, ability to carry loads and perform other feats of strength.
  • Dexterity - this affects a character's ability to hit with missile weapons and to dodge blows.
  • Constitution - a character's hit points will be adjusted for a high score on constitution.
  • Intelligence - for a wizard or illusionist this affects the number of spells they can cast per day.
  • Wisdom - the willpower of a character. For a cleric or druid this affects the number of spells they can cast per day.
  • Charisma - the charm and leadership of a character.

Characteristics will be adjusted for a non human character's race which, depending on the GM, can be any of the following:

  • Dwarf - these are the classic dwarves of fantasy literature
  • Elf - classical style elves with a slight build and an affinity for nature
  • Gnome - these have special abilities linked to their affinity for nature and illusion magic
  • Half-elf - a halfway point between humans and elves with players needing to decide which heritage is favoured in the character as it affects their in game stats.
  • Halfling - a common race in games since D&D and of course nothing like any race in a book by JRR Tolkien.
  • Half-orc - the classic strong and ugly half orc race.

Hit points are based on the character's class and level with a modifier for constituion, therefore increase rapidly with level until level 11 where a fixed amount per level is added, e.g. +3 HP at level 11 or above for a cleric.

RQII has 7 characteristics generated by rolling 3d6 in order, unlike later BRP games there are not any primary characteristics generated by using dice and adding a specified number to give a narrower range of options. Some secondary characteristics of the strike rank and various bonuses derived from the rolled ones.

  • Strength
  • Constitution
  • Size
  • Intelligence
  • Power
  • Dexterity
  • Charisma

Hit points in RQ are the character's constitution score modified for the Size and Power characteristics. This gives a much narrower range than C&C as an experienced character is unlikely to have a much greater score than a novice. When I discuss combat I'll cover the effects of this in detail. The maximum for any characteristic is the maximum dice score plus the number of dice rolled which for humans gives 21 as the highest value.

WFRP has eight primary characteristics generated using 2d10 plus a base value, which is 20 on all attributes for humans, with secondary characteristics derived from other stats or based on values cross referencing a die result against a table.

  • Weapon Skill - Melee ability
  • Ballistic Skill - Ranged combat ability
  • Strength
  • Toughness
  • Agility
  • Intelligence
  • Willpower
  • Fellowship - ability to interact with others, similar to charisma in other games

The secondary characteristics are:

  • Attacks - how many attacks per melee round, which always starts at 1
  • Wounds - the equivalent of Hit Points in WFRP and usually in a limited range between about 8-14, found by referencing a die roll on a chart for the character's race and can have limited advances from their career
  • Strength Bonus - derived from the first digit of strength, used in determining damage in melee
  • Toughness Bonus - derived from the first digit of toughness, used to determine how a character can reduce damage suffered.
  • Movement
  • Magic Points - always starts as 0, the magic system will be explained in detail in another part. This can be advanced if the character's career allows it. Usually a character in a spellcasting class will use their free advance to put this to 1.
  • Insanity Points - starting at 0 it reflects characters exposure to the insanity of the Warhammer world.
  • Fate Points - Used to save a character from certain death, there are also fortune points that can be used for less important situations.

Character race needs to be selected before rolling for the characteristics with only four races available: Dwarf; Elf; Halfling and Human. In the base rules player choice is allowed, but some GM only allow human characters or use a dice roll to resolve the race. Unlike the first edition of WFRP Elves do not have a massive power advantage over other character races, but are still strong.

Advancement in C&C and WFRP is achieved by earning Experience Points (XP) by overcoming challenges, winning in combats and depending on the GM by story awards for successful completion of missions. In C&C each character class has a different number of XP required to reach the next level. Increasing level will give improvements in the classes' special abilities such as more abilities or greater performance in an ability. Hit points increase by level with either an extra hit dice, or once 11th level is reached a fixed number. The Base Attack Bonus (BAB) will increase with level, more rapidly for combat oriented classes like fighters or clerics and slowly for wizards and rogues. For the spellcasting classes the number of spells per day and level of the spells available increases with character level.

RQ advancement is by a mixture of experience and training. A character can increase a skill they possess by making a successful skill roll then rolling less than their current skill level deducted from 100 on percentile dice, e.g. Morgan has a 25% skill in broadsword, but is successful in hitting in combat, so after the combat she if she can roll less than 75% on percentage dice (100-25) then her skill will increase by 5%. A character can also purchase training in a skill from an appropriate guild, with this being the only way of learning a skill that they do not possess, e.g. read/write other language. Characteristics can be improved by training and experience, except none can exceed the racial maximum and Strength, Size and Constitution cannot be increased past the highest of these three characteristic's starting value.

Warhammer characters can use XP to buy an advance from their career's advance scheme and once they have completed their advances in the current career change to a different career (either basic or advanced) by collecting the necessary trappings. In the basic career that a character starts in they will recieve all the skills and talents, but once into a second career they need to purchase each skill or talent as well as the characteristic increases. The maximum values for characteristics depend on the career and the starting values, a career will give the highest amount that a characteristic can be raised by and the starting value establishes the baseline.

This review continues in these posts:
Part 1a Character Creation

Part 1b Characters and Careers

Part 2 Equipment and Encumbrance

Part 3 Melee

Part 4 Magic

Part 5 Conclusions

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Gaming Podcast Review 18 The D6 Generation

The D6 generation is a gaming podcast mainly focusing on miniatures gaming, particularly Games Workshop and Privateer press's products, but also boardgames and computer games with occasional discussion of RPGs.

Three regular presenters appear on this podcast: Craig Gallant, Russ Wakelin and Raef "Hollywood" Granger. There is a good interplay between the presenters which is important when you are trying to have humorous content.

There are quite a number of regular features on this podcast including the opening humour segment, Rapid fire; the Hollywood minute; Achievements in gaming; What's in the news and D'ya ever notice. As well as these reviews come up as a pretty significant part of the content with these having included Tannhauser, Descent and Shadows over Camelot. The reviews are good and in depth, particularly the one of Shadows over Camelot. RPG content has been reviews and comments on Dark Heresy, not too surprising given it is WH40K the RPG, and D&D 4e.

Like most of the amateur podcasts the technical quality has improved and I think is pretty good now. It downloads easily from their own site or iTunes.

This is a podcast that I enjoy listening to, but its more one of the ones that I'll dip into rather than listen to every episode as I don't play the WH40K or Privateer Press games so I'm more likely to listen if there is a review I'm interested in.