Subsector Sourcebook 1: Cascadia

From: Gypsy Knights Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Subsector Sourcebook 1: Cascadia is a new RPG Supplement from Gypsy Knights Games.

Subsector Sourcebook 1: Cascadia is a conglomeration of work, merging previously released work done in a PDF series called Quick Worlds with a lot of original material.  Gypsy Knights continues to impress me with their quality work.  This handsome book presents a series of believable systems in a 8×10 hex subsector map (a Traveller standard).  These systems can be inserted into an existing Traveller campaign, used as the center of a new campaign, and even used in another system or setting with a few twists.

From the page # 2:
“This book is intended to provide a Traveller Referee with a subsector full of adventure for his or her players. ”

Cascadia is a region of space with vast opportunity and adventure.  I found it interesting that before the Gypsy Knights released their encompassing setting book, they released a few subsector books first.  I did occasionally find myself needing a little context while reading through the book but not much. Since I started reading before the setting book was released, I just had to roll with it at first.  Enough of the material is presented generically and free of setting that setting context is virtually not needed.

Like most Traveller subsectors, Cascadia is a grouping of settled worlds with their own history and cultures.  Many of the governmental structures and cultures are heavily influenced by American structure and cultures, but there are many other influences like Germanic and other nations. There are 20 settled systems, all with variations in culture, forms of government, social origin and quirks.  The material for each system is not exhaustive.  It gives just enough to give you an idea of the worlds and what they contain yet leaves a lot of information for the GM to fill in.  It might mention a common livestock or predator creature on the world but it does not have a complete zoological listing of native species for each work, for example.  That is done on purpose, of course.  The authors have a good grasp on just how much information to give the reader to inspire while giving room for more.

From page #33:
“As far as the setting we are currently building, we intend for these skeletons and stone tools to be signs of alien, bipedal species which simply died out before it gained the same sort of foothold as humanity did on Earth.”

One thing is for sure about the author – he appreciates the mystery of the galaxy and it is nothing humanity can not handle.  In this setting, human kind flourishes through the sector in a variety of environments, even despite signs that others have been there before and failed.  On the planet Fairfax, a planet of high pressure and high oxygen content, humans flourish on a world that had a civilization once before.  Signs of the ancient alien civilization can be found in various places on the world but what exactly killed them off is a mystery. The planet Monroe, a rather harsh world with a thin atmosphere and low atmospheric pressure, is heavily populated with humans.  Large cities span many areas of the planet.

Each world has subtle differences that a GM can use for adventure inspiration.  I fully recommend reading through each one as they are each very unique and full of story potential.  For instance, in the world of Nyahururu, a world with a politically tumultuous past, a well-meaning dictator of the world rules rather strictly.  This world has the potential for revolt and coup written all over it.  Roskilde is a world ruled by religious sect – worshippers of the Spirit of the Universe.  Religious zealotry and jihad come to mind when I read this one.

There is also the world Talca, populated primarily by scientists and scholars.  Their over-reliance on robots can lead to a Terminator situation.  Or the world of Tlix which is described as a representative technocracy that tries to “preserve order and efficiency of the workers”  and “[allow] the citizens of Tlix as much freedom to enjoy his or her downtime as possible” while at the same time “keep[ing] violence and disturbances to a minimum.”  Just reading that disturbed me, seeing the world a powder keg waiting to explode.  There is only so much you can “control” in human behavior before things go nuts.

This being my first exposure to the Gypsy Knights settings, I realize at first glance that it appears there are no aliens in the setting. 100% humans.  That could be intentional or perhaps they left it to the GM to introduce aliens to the setting on his own.  With a little work – perhaps another wormhole brought other aliens here, for example – a GM can introduce whatever aliens he feels are appropriate for the setting.

This book is available in print as well as PDF.  The print book I have is soft back and the printing is good quality.  The art is appropriately sparse but generic and the print I have is a little dark.  There is a basic table of contents but no index.  This is pretty much a no-frills book.

In conclusion, Cascadia is the first of many sector books by Gypsy Knights.  I found this particular book full of adventure potential and I like the simple, clear and concise way they are presented.  I like the nuggets of inspiration throughout, as well as there being just enough detail to get you started.  I highly recommend this book for any Traveller fan as well as any sci-fi RPG fan.

For more details on Gypsy Knights Games and their new RPG Supplement “Subsector Sourcebook 1: Cascadia” check them out at their website http://www.gypsyknightsgames.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 18

Subsector Sourcebook 1: Cascadia
From: Gypsy Knights Games
Type of Game: RPG Supplement
Written by: John Watts
Contributing Authors: Greg Seaborn, Kevin Smith
Cover Art by: AlgolOnline
Additional Art by: John Watts, Ian Stead, LindaB, Balefire9
Number of Pages: 171
Game Components Included: Softback Sourcebook
Game Components Not Included: Traveller core rulebook
Retail Price: $19.99 PDF, $31.99 (softback w/ PDF), $38.99 (hardback w/ PDF) (US)
Website: www.gypsyknightsgames.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

 

Fading Suns Player’s Guide (Revised Edition)

Fading Suns Player’s Guide (Revised Edition)
From: FASA Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Fading Suns Player’s Guide (Revised Edition) is a new RPG Player’s Guide from FASA Games.

Much anticipation surrounded the much fabled Fading Suns 3rd edition, at least in the circles of Fading Suns fans.  Unfortunately, due to many difficult situations, 3rd edition never really made it to fruition.  Instead a “revised edition” was released with fewer changes to the core system and a new approach to the format of the core rulebooks.

According to the publisher, the goal of the new edition was not to make past published material obsolete but streamline the system while maintaining compatibility.  I say up front, I was not the biggest fan of the Victory Point system.  In so many words, it was anti-player to me.  Perhaps they did not want the players rolling skills as often as I did but I wanted my players to have a sense of accomplishment and most that played the VP system did not get that out of it.  My hope with any new VP system was to make it more player friendly and fun to play.

From the website:
“Nobles… Priests… Aliens… Knights. It is the dawn of the sixth millennium and the skies are darkening, for the suns themselves are fading. Humans reached the stars long ago, building a Republic of high technology and universal emancipation — and then squandered it, fought over it, and finally lost it.”

The hardest part of any game system is updating the system without making previous stuff obsolete.  When you are a big company with lots of backing, you can try to pull that off, but even then it’s not always successful.  The rumors of 3rd edition was that it was too much of a departure.  Call of Cthulhu had a similar situation recently with 7th edition.  Reaction to 7th edition CoC was not entirely positive (although I liked it a lot) and as far as I know that edition has been shelved.  The crazy thing is that it was backwards compatible with a little more.  But the feedback they got was it was too much of a departure from the original.

Fading Suns 3rd edition died a sudden death and so the publisher went with their plan B.  Being a smaller publisher under the watchful eye of the original publishers, Holistic Designs Inc, it was no surprise.  They did not want to see a bookshelf worth of source material just fade away (pun intended) and the new publisher did not want to be stuck with republishing the old books for a new system.  With a game like Fading Suns and it’s fan base, you really can’t do that.

Publishing explanations aside, the new Player’s Guide PDF is a nice looking book with a nice layout and some nice cover art.  Much of the book is reprinting of previous stuff.  Most if not all the flavor is from the second edition book or other books previously published.  In this review, I’ll try to approach it assuming the reader has had no experience in the system.  However, for those that have had experience in the system, I will point out the changes.

The Setting:  The hardest part to describe to newbies about this game is the setting.  I usually default to “… Frank Herbet’s Dune crossed with Call of Cthulhu, with a little Stargate mixed in.”  I might throw in a little Babylon 5, if I think the person I am talking about knows what that is.  I am old school that way.  Basically, the game is a science fantasy setting set in the far future – around year 5000.  After a long period of a utopian society that was the Second Republic (which I related to as Star Trek’s Federation), a new Dark Age has fallen.  Noble houses rule the people, trade guilds of the Merchant League rule the economy and commerce, and the Church of the Celestial Sun rules the people’s souls.  It is the Dark Ages in space, in many ways.  There is an Emperor, a Church patriarch and a lot of people subjugated by the various powers.  Also, long forgotten colonies of the Second Republic have banded together and invaded the Imperial space.  Quite literally, barbarians are at the gates. Players can be anything – a noble questing knight, a eccentric cleric skilled in the art of theurgy (magic), a uncivilized barbarian, or a tech-obsessed cyborg.  The people to whom I have introduced the setting say it is the like the meshing of sci-fi with fantasy.  There is a lot of both in this setting.

What people are most intimidated by, however, is the depth of the setting and some of the terminology.  Theurgy is basically the magic of the system.  Wyrd is a measure of arcane energy a character has access too.  There are many other names and factions, drawn from real life sources that might be a little confusing to the initiate.

The setting is steeped deep in intrigue and political maneuvering.  You are always questioning people’s motives – either NPC or PC.  Because the setting is so rich with background and plot, there is a lot for a GM to choose from.  There is adventure abounding as well, as PCs can explore not only ancient alien ruins but also discover lost Second Republic relics or whole worlds.  One of the things I like most about this setting is its vast opportunity for adventure.  You can have a mish-mash of different things every week – from hard science fiction in the dark depths of space to high fantasy adventure on a lost world of barbarians and alien creatures that might appear like dragons.

There is also a darkness behind this setting that is always lurking.  For the past several hundred years in the setting, suns have been fading.  What that means is unknown but distant stars are just winking out. Also there are dark creatures living in the “darkness between the stars” – demons, leviathans, space krakens, and old gods.  The church hunts down demon worshipers and those that tap the demonic powers to perform evil magics.  There is also a twisted alien threat invading the known worlds called the Symbiots –a cross between the alien creatures of Species and John Carpenter’s The Thing.  If the constant conflict between bickering factions of humanity were not enough to bring us down, there are forces beyond our imagining plotting our demise as well.

Iconic to the setting are these huge jump gates that have been found throughout the galaxy connecting systems in what is called the jump web.  Much like the Spacing Guilds in Frank Herbet’s Dune, one particular guild in the Merchant League controls the means to travel through these gates.  This is one key element (among many) in the setting that really sets the tone.  Another is the conflict that the church has with magic.  On the one side, the church abhors non-sanctioned magic expecially demon magic.  However, at the same time, it approves of certain theurgies because they have proven effective against the Symbiot threat.

I could go on and on with just how fantastically rich and deep the setting is.  The above only gives you a sampling of what the setting is about.  I have said it once and I will say it again – this is my favorite gaming setting.

From the website:
“Fading Suns is a saga of humanity’s fate among the stars — a space fantasy game of deadly combat, vicious politics, weird occultism, alien secrets and artifacts, and unknown and unmapped worlds.”

The System:  In past editions, the system was a major issue for me. Between having to learn a new system and the clunkiness of the native system, it was a hard sell to my players. It always felt like the system was fighting the players every step of the way – something I call anti-player.  Then came the d20 version.  I reviewed the d20 version of the game.  That conversion was not a satisfactory product.  Although I think the d20 system would work for the setting, that particular work was not done well.  I myself have run it in various systems other than the Victory Point system just because I love the setting so much.

Fading Suns was first published in 1996 and the first version of Victory Point System (VPS) was born.  It is based on a d20 roll, with a characteristic (ability score) added to a skill level.  The GDW house system back in the early 90s was similar.  Where it gets interesting is the “roll low but not too low” concept.  It has been described as a “black jack” dice system.  It takes some getting used to.  It switches up conventional thought in dice rolling and instead of making the lowest roll possible the critical hit value, it makes it a moving target.  If you roll a value equal to the skill and characteristic total (Goal Number), a critical success is made. The Victory Point system gets its name from the result of the roll.  If the roll is under the Goal Number, the result is Victory points.  The closer you are too the roll, the greater the success and the more Victory Points you get (found on the Victory Point table).

The new Revised Edition claims to streamline the old Victory Point System.  As I said, the VPS uses a “roll as close to the target goal number as possible” mechanic.  From this roll, Victory Points are derived.  Victory Points can be used for a variety of things – from additional bonuses to damage.  The updated system has been modified to use Victory Points as both the number of successes and as a quality of success.  All of this is displayed in the Victory Point table.  It’s an interesting expansion and streamlining of the system.  For those that know the table fairly well, they expanded the ranges to give more options for Victory Points and make it easier to remember.

The original Fading Suns system had two sets of ability scores or Characteristics – Body (Strength, Dexterity, and Endurance) and Mind (Wits, Perception, and Tech).  In this new system, the characteristics are expanded as well.  There are new Spirit characteristics: Presence, Will, and Faith.  The spirit characteristics can be used to allow characters to perform acts above and beyond what they would normally be able to perform. For example, Faith allows a character to tap into their passion and ignite the fire within. One of my favorite concepts from the original system was inciting a character’s passion and it is good that this was retained.

Characters are made up of more than just characteristics.  The game has a system for advantages and disadvantages which they break out into two different areas – Blessings/Curses and Benefices/Afflictions.  Blessings and Curses represent a character’s psychological quirks or physical endowments and/or handicaps where Benefices and Afflictions are based on the individual’s place in society.  I never really understood why these needed to be separate but that is how it has been since the first edition.  One simple advantage and disadvantage system would work just as well.

One big change from previous editions is Fighting Styles have been added as a Benefices/Afflictions trait to allow characters to choose a fighting style for their character and to provide a guideline for GM or players to create their own unique styles.  They are also tied into the Stances mentioned later in combat.

The Magic of the system is called Theurgy but it also has Psychic powers.  This is not your D&D-style magic system.  Every supernatural (or Occult) has its down side.  Theurgy, for example has Hubris, which is a representation of corruption and separation from the Pancreator, the greater power in this game.  Psychic powers have Urge which represents the breaking down of one’s mind as it is used.  It’s a little more difficult to use these powers early on, and there are not a ton of spells or powers to choose from, like in D&D.  In that way, it attempts, at least, to keep things balanced between non-Occult characters and Occult-using characters.

Changes in this area from previous editions include making Psychic powers more flexible. They can be modified by spending extra Wyrd Points before the power is used or by spending Victory Points after the power is complete to reduce the effect but make the duration longer.

Wyrd Points fuels theurgic rites and psychic powers, but can also be used by any character to reroll a failed goal roll or to reroll effect dice.  This is a common house rule that took the place of their horribly designed Accenting system.  It is good to see a system that I have always seen as somewhat anti-player finally integrate a pro-player element here.

Fading Suns regardless of edition has always had the basic skill list you would expect in most RPGs.  There are some uniquely named skills (Redemption for repairing, Think Machine for computer use) but they are what you would expect.  In the new edition, skills have been streamlined and narrowed in focus. More skills have been added for combat, instead of relying only on a few skills to perform all combat actions. Other skills like Lore and Science have been combined to allow characters to quickly specialize in technology and science skills without sacrificing skills in other areas of the game.

Combat system from the last edition to this one has changed significantly.  Nothing in the old or new system really stands out as innovative or different from other combat systems, but the changes from one to the other are interesting.  Instead of using the activate skill level as the initiative, characters now have a separate initiative stat.  The system introduces something called Stances where combatants can choose different types of Stances, based on whether they want to act aggressively, defensively, or balanced. Those characters that specialize in fighting styles have special stances available to them that can add to or improve the standard stances. Instead of dodging attacks, all characters have a Defense trait that represents their ability to avoid harm. The more attacks they face in a turn, the lower their Defense.  Other than the interesting mechanic around Defense and the introduction of Stances, the overall feel of the combat system felt like a watered down d20 combat system.  However, it is a significant change from previous editions and might be worth trying out.

In conclusion, Revised Edition (or Revised Second Edition as it should be called) does not really feel much different than the old.  Although there were some significant changes to the system, it felt more like window dressing and minor mechanic shifts.  Is it enough of a change to the system to make me rethink my opinion of it? I would say no.  But it is an improvement over the original system.  I love this setting, without a doubt. There are rumors of a possible Pathfinder/d20 version and a Savage Worlds version.  Either one would be fantastic to me.  I think Savage Worlds would work really well with this setting.

I give the writers credit for their effort in this work.  The book itself is cleaned up and much more sharp looking.  I do like some of the subtle changes but perhaps they are too subtle.  This is supposed to be the Player’s Guide. A Game Master Guide is supposed to have been released as well, but I have not seen it.  In fact, I am not seeing a lot of activity on the Fading Suns front.  Perhaps that is a bad sign.  It is disappointing as this setting is very deserving of a good system and it has yet to find it.

For more details on FASA Games and their new RPG Player’s Guide “Fading Suns Player’s Guide (Revised Edition)” check them out at their website http:// www.fasagames.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: (setting) 20 (system) 10

Product Summary

Fading Suns Player’s Guide (Revised Edition)
From: FASA Games
Type of Game: RPG Player’s Guide
Written by: Todd Bogenrief, Vidar Edland, Chris Wiese
Contributing Authors: Richard Ashley, Thomas Baroli, Brandon Van Buren, Phil Cameron, Tristan Lhomme, Rubén Ramos, Mark Stout, James Sutton, Dennis Watson
Game Design by: Bill Bridges, Andrew Greenberg
Developed by: Bill Bridges, Andrew Greenberg.
Cover Art by: Simon Powell, Dawn Sutton
Additional Art by: John Bridges, Mitch Byrd, Tim Callendar, Darryl Elliott, Jason Felix, Sam Inabinet, Mark Jackson, Jack Keefer, Andrew Kudelka, Brian LeBlanc, Larry MacDougall, Alex Sheikman, Ron Spencer, Ken Spera, Joshua Gabriel Timbrook, Jason Waltrip, John Waltrip
Number of Pages: 386
Game Components Included: RPG core player’s guide
Game Components Not Included: RPG core gamemaster’s guide
Internet: www.fasagames.com
Contact:
fadingsuns@fasagames.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

 

Caveman Curling

From: Gryphon Games

Reviewed by: Barry Lewis

I have to admit I’ve grown fonder of dexterity games, or as my two year old calls them “flicky games.”  Maybe it’s that I find them more enjoyable to play or maybe it’s that I have no real grasp of tactics or strategy for other games, but regardless games such as Crokinole and Pitch Car grace my gaming table on a regular basis.  So when I came across the game Caveman Curling in a hobby industry magazine, I shouted “Huzzah!  It must be mine!”  Of course I shouted this in my head since the kids were asleep and my girlfriend already thinks I’m one stiff breeze away from being institutionalized.  Sorry.  I digress.

When you open the game up the first thing you’ll notice about the game is the “board” itself.  The board is not a board, but a sheet of paper-like material called “Tyvek,” which makes it very durable, allows it to roll up for easy storage, and the discs slide well on it.  You’re now probably asking yourself “If it rolls up then how do you keep it flat when you play?”  Well that’s a very good question and one that was answered by the designers very ingeniously.  Provided in the game are two weighted magnetic pieces of wood called “slammers” which clamp at either end of the board helping it to lie flat.  What you’ll also notice about the board is the art.  I always find something new that makes me laugh.  It’s fun and very busy.   It’s kind of like a prehistoric “Where’s Waldo.”

Caveman Curling is a light game that only takes about 15-30 minutes to play and is very easy to learn.  Basically, you and your opponent will take turns flicking your discs or “stones” down the ice and the closest stones to the center will gain points at the end of the round.  First player to 6 points wins.  If the round ends and no one has reached 6 points, then a new round begins. Sounds simple and it is, but included in the game are two usable special items that can make for a very strategic game.  These two items are hammers and totems.  Each player get 2 totems and 6 hammers to use each round.  The hammers come in two sizes, short and long, and are used to reposition your stone closer to the center depending on where the stone stops.  You can also use the hammers to place your stones in the way of your opponent, effectively “screening” your opponent from having a clear shot to the center.  I like this strategy and use it frequently.  The totems are used by placing them on top of the stones and are used to protect them.  If a totem is ever hit and knocked off a stone the player whom owns that stone may re-shoot it at the end of the round or if the stone happens to slide into a better position that player may choose to leave it there.  Also, in case you’re wondering, there’s no rule that says you can’t knock your own totem off your stone for a re-shoot at the end of the round.  Also, you cannot use a hammer and totem together on one shot.  Either use one or the other.

The game states 2 to 6 players, but it seems to works best with 2 players.  The age recommendation states 7 to adult, but it may be played by slightly younger players.  The only real problem that I’ve encountered is that the board can slide a bit when you’re playing, but that can be fixed, supposedly, by attaching felt pads to the bottom of the slammers or just holding the board at the shooting end with your other hand to keep it from moving.   That’s what I do and it seems to work.  Overall this game has a lot of replay value and will continue to make it to my gaming table for a long time to come.  If you’re a fan of dexterity games definitely give Caveman Curling a flick.

 

Codex Rating:   12

 

Product Summary

Caveman Curling

From: Gryphon Games

Type of Game: Board Game, Dexterity

Game Design by: Daniel Quodbach

Cover and Additional Art by: Bony le Ludonaute

Retail Price: $ 49.99(US)

Number of Players: 2-6

Player Ages: 7 to Adult

Play Time: 15-30 minutes

Website: www.eaglegames.net

 

Reviewed by: Barry Lewis

Geek Girls Gaming – Crossplaying Characters

I couldn’t decide what to write about in the first column of Geek Girls Gaming…I wanted it to be explosive and exciting, but at the same time I wanted to provide some relevant good content for readers.

I thought about talking about that whole Fake Geek Girl thing and how it relates to gaming, but I think that’s an entire series of its own posts.

Then I thought about reviewing Pathfinders new NPC Codex, which is fantastic…but I can’t really do it justice yet since I haven’t finished reading all the NPC’s.

So then I thought, ‘what about resources?’   There are a lot of us Geek Girls gaming and where (other than here) can we go for ideas, voices and choices?  But then that didn’t feel much like a real blog…

What I ultimately decided to take on was what our gaming group calls “crossplaying,” or girls playing guy characters (and vice-versa).  But since, currently, our gaming group only has girls’ playing guys…that is the direction we’ll take today.

Crossplay is technically defined as a cosplay (costuming in character) in which the person dresses up as a character of a different gender.   We’ve appropriated the term for our gaming group because we have several female players who will occasionally play a male character.

Since I don’t actually crossplay myself, I solicited the opinions of a few girl gamers that I know who do cross play.   I asked them the following questions:

1) What do you think are the challenges playing a guy character at the table?

2) What suggestions would you have for GM’s to make your experience more enjoyable when playing a guy character?

3) What tips do you have for other girls who want to play guys to make the character more “real”?

 

Here’s what they said, (my emphasis in bold):

From DC McQueen.

“1)    There are always challenges to playing a character well, no matter if same sex or crossplay. Playing a crossplay character of a different gender, I would argue, carries similar challenges to just playing any character well. Gender is a social construct, a set of boundaries set for certain genders appearance and roles. This is outside of sex assignment or sexual identity. When playing a character of a different gender, the biggest challenge is to make that character complete and not a stereotype of what you might think a man or woman might be like. A huge benefit is to be able to explore a different point of view, step into someone else’s shoes and see the world from their perspective. Other challenges may include other players forgetting that you are playing the opposite gender, or otherwise not taking it as seriously as you. I’ve never experienced a GM disliking crossplay, but that could also be a roadblock in game.

As for being a woman playing a man, personally, I find it rewarding to connect with my masculine side and easy to step into a masculine perspective shaped by appearance of the character and his history and his desires. This could be a big challenge for some, but I would encourage all women who game to try it. Playing any gender is still playing a living breathing personality, exploring that is the adventure.

2)      I would ask the DM simply to treat my character as he would if a man was playing him. There’s no difference to my character who is a man and me when we’re gaming. The frame of gender and sexual identity does weigh heavily on how people interact with others, but as a man playing a woman, I would simply ask that my character be tested as any other character would. Nothing else to be made more comfortable than anyone else at the table.

3)      If you want your character to be “real” then forget gender. Who IS your character? What are their motivations? What are their opinions and attitudes? This could be affected by their gender, or how their gender is treated in their society, or their status in that society. Does your character defy gender roles? If so, that’s a constant stress on your character, to either change or fit in or to try to revolutionize the way people think.
Men and Woman are very similar with individual differences. Think of playing a man like you would play a woman (as a woman playing a woman), just be a person, or a personality. Layer that core of truth with the trappings of gender and desire/ambition, status, hormones or what have you. We’re all people with differences. Crossplay, I think, opens one up more to really emphasizing with other genders and other perspectives. Not to mention creates some seriously strong bonds with your own characters. :)”

 

From “Chibizel”:

“Well, honestly, it’s just like playing girls.  If you’re thinking, “Oh it’s a guy. I gotta act all different and dude-like,” you’re seriously over thinking it.

A person’s gender is an intrinsic part of themselves, and their self-identity.  Thought patterns, brain chemicals, the way neural connections are made differ between men and women.  But, this doesn’t mean you approach the rp differently than for a character of your own gender.  You’re not playing a character and also a guy, you’re playing that character.  Being a guy is just a part of them, like being right or left handed, or having a preference for eggplant.

Mostly, focus on who the character is.  Since being male is part of that, the cross-gender roleplay should just follow on its own without having to stretch or constantly remember.  If you’re staying in character to him, then he (probably) won’t skip around and sing without you having to remember to not skip around and sing.  (Though I did once play a sarcastic goofball who did exactly that for a cheap laugh.)

Keep in mind, though, the culture the character comes from and the societal norms he has been raised to.  My night elf, for example, raised in a moon-worshipping matriarchal theocracy, can be “softer” than the hard-bitten mercenary leader.”

 

So really when it comes down to it, the basic consensus is to try to keep gender out of consideration when you are playing the character.  As a player, you want to focus your role-playing on the character as a person or personality.

As for the GM’s, treat the player as their character.  Try to remember that they are playing a male character and don’t have interactions with guys that would normally take place with other female characters.  No bartender flirting, for example, unless they swing that way…  Hmmm, there’s another post!

Before I sign off, I did want to flag one cool website…

http://www.gamingaswomen.com/ – This site comes recommended by Jodi Black (of Beautiful Brains, Books and Games).   The site describes itself as “a collection of thoughts on womanhood and (mostly) analog gaming.”   Topics range from gender roles to game design to advice and education.   Check it out!

So, that’s it for Post 1.  Let me know your thoughts and, again, if you have any suggestions on topics you’d like to see us take on, drop me a note.

 

AttrAction

From: R&R Games
Reviewed by: Barry Lewis

“Let’s see…it’s a dexterity game with magnets.  Must buy IMMEDIATELY!”  Yep you guessed it.  It’s time to delve back into the world of “flicky” games.  Normally this game would not have “blipped” on my radar if it wasn’t for my two year old discovering how cool magnets are.  So it was just “kismet” that I would come across the game AttrAction.

This is not a very long review because this game is very simple to learn and plays very quickly, but it’s still lots of fun.  The basic idea is whoever “attracts” the most magnets at the end of the game wins!  That’s it. That’s the game, but for the sake of having a somewhat longer review let’s just take a quick look at the rules and the pros and cons of the game.

At the beginning of the game each player will take 1 magnet from the 25 magnets provided.  You’ll then spread the rest of the magnets, standing on their short end if possible, on the table.  Pick who will start the game and that person will then place on the table and flick the magnet given to them in the hopes of attracting the other magnets.  The idea is to create a “cluster” or group of magnets.  If this happens you will take that cluster for yourself.  If you happen to make more than one cluster you can only take one cluster and leave the others for the other players.    If you happen to shoot and hit nothing then your magnet that was just shot remains on the board with the others.  If you shoot your magnet off the table or it knocks or pushes another magnet(s) off the table then the magnet(s) goes to the player on your left.  If you find yourself without a magnet to shoot then you may take one off the table and shoot it. That’s it!  Short and sweet.  Most dexterity games don’t take very long unless you’re playing a game like Pitch Car.

Here’s what I like about the game.  It’s easy to learn, easy to play and is portable.  R&R Games even provides a little cloth bag to keep the magnets in.  The game can be played basically on any flat smooth surface.  I also like that it’s noisy, even though this reason finds its’ way into the negatives section as well.  I like the clicking and clacking the magnets make when they cluster.

Now, for every positive there’s a negative (a little magnet humor for you).  The main negative is the magnets are small so you must supervise very carefully when playing with younger children.  Nothing ruins a game night more than having to take your child to the ER because he or she decides they need more magnets in their diet.  Usually before the game I count and make sure all 25 magnets are accounted for and I count again after the game to make sure all 25 magnets are still there.  Also beware of tables with metal in them.  Since these are magnets the metal will affect gameplay.  In addition, be careful where you put the game.  Keep the magnets away from sensitive electronics.  So don’t forgetfully throw them into your laptop bag on the way out the door for game night.  The last problem is they’re noisy!  Depending on where you play you may very well disturb other people with the noise.

I still enjoyed the game even though it looks as if the negatives outweighed the positives.

 

Product Rating: 10

 

Product Summary

AttrAction

From: R&R Games

Type of Game:  Board Game, Dexterity

Game Design:  Jeff Glickman

Editing by:  Frank DiLorenzo

Graphic Design:  Jenn Vargas

Retail Price: $15.95 (US)

Number of Players:  2-4 players

Player Ages:  14 and older*

Play time: 10 minutes

Website:   www.rnrgames.com

*Adult supervision recommended if game is played with small children in the house or persons of any age that are prone to placing small objects in mouth.

When Zombies Attack

From: Attack Dice
Reviewed by:  Barry Lewis

“I don’t have to run faster than the zombies.  I just have to run faster than you.”  That’s the basic idea behind the game When Zombies Attack, a quick, easy-to-learn dice game, which I recently came across while attending a southeastern game convention where the makers, Attack Dice, were showcasing it.

The object of the game is to get rid of all your dice and be the first player to start your turn with no dice to roll.  Each game contains 16 zombie dice and a carry bag.  To start the game you first divide the dice up evenly among the players as best as possible.  If there are any leftover dice put those in the middle of the table or the “quarantine area,” which I’ll talk more about area later.  Designate who goes first and that player rolls their dice.  The dice have 3 different facings.  The headstone, which means you’ve killed the zombie, the biohazard symbol, which means that the zombie is still chasing you and the wandering zombie, which means you have evaded the zombie.  If you roll a headstone you place that die in your “graveyard” and you will not roll this die again unless it comes back into play via a certain roll.  The biohazard symbols indicate that those zombies are still chasing you.  You will keep those dice and reroll them your next turn.  If you roll wandering zombies you get the option of placing those dice in the “quarantine area” or giving them to other players, splitting them up as you see fit.

If you happen to roll all biohazards on your dice then you’ve triggered an outbreak.  All dice in the quarantine area are now added to the dice in your hand.  If there are no dice in the quarantine area when you roll an outbreak then 1 of your dice in your graveyard comes back and is added to the dice in your hand.  If there are no dice in your graveyard as well as the quarantine area then nothing happens and you turn is over.

Example of play:

It’s a 3 player game and you’re player 1.  Each player has 5 dice with the 1 extra die in the quarantine area.  You roll your dice and get 1 headstone, 2 biohazards and 2 wandering zombies.  The headstone goes to your graveyard and your 2 biohazards will be rerolled your next turn.  With the 2 wandering zombies you decide to give one zombie to one of the other players and put the second zombie in the quarantine area.  You now have two dice left to roll next turn, as long as no one gives you any wandering zombies before then.  There are now 2 zombies in the quarantine area. 

Well that’s it.  You now have the basics to play the game; it takes about 30 seconds to learn and about 10 minutes to play a full game.  I must say my colleagues and I were very impressed with the game and we all bought copies.  This game may very well take the place of another certain zombie dice game I normally carry with me.  The company, Attack Dice, hasn’t been around for very long and the game has limited distribution, at least for now, but you can easily buy it from their website.

Codex Rating:   12

 

Product Summary

When Zombies Attack

From: Attack Dice

Type of Game:  Dice game

Game Design by:  Emil Palisoc and John Jacobs

Cover Art by: Tim Lattie

Retail Price:  $ 14.99 (US)

Number of Players:  1-4 (but more can play)

Player Ages: 6 to Adult

Play Time:  5 to 10 minutes

Website:  Attack Dice

“Texter” – a short story by Shane Hensley

Texter
By: Shane Hensley
Reviewed by: Jeff Smith

I am not your traditional reviewer, if there is such a thing. I usually either like something or hate it. There is not much that I am ‘middle of the road’ on.

Texter is a short story written in text speech.

I knew I had to read Texter when I heard about it. The concept is unique and new. I do not text much so my first thought was, “How difficult will reading this story be?”  However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was not difficult at all. I am used to reading plays, so switching back and forth between characters was easy. Following the “dialogue” was simple as well.

Now for the story…I liked it, but I wish that it had been a little longer. I was just getting into the characters and developing an idea of who they were and what they looked like and then it was over. The characters were believable and interesting, and I found myself wanting to know more about them. I wanted to know more about what was going on. I guess if I had more history, then the ending of the story would not be as important. That being said, it did not take long to figure out what was going on. The story was somewhat predictable. The mystery was interesting but easily solved.

Now what did I really think? Overall I liked it and would read more stories written in this style by the author. However, I would hope for longer stories if possible. I am not sure if stories written in “text” speech like this would allow for an involved background of the characters or really give the reader enough information outside of the dialogue to develop a feel for the situation.

Since this is a game review site, I will rate this using a 20-point scale.

On D20, I give it a 14.

Interview with John Watts of Gypsy Knight Games

I met John Watts virtually a few years ago when he expressed interest in attending a con I was involved with and running some games there.  He introduced me to his new company, Gypsy Knight Games, and since then he has produced a ton of stuff for the Mongoose Traveller RPG line that has really impressed me.   I thought our readers would be interested in learning about this new company and the brains behind it.

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Hello John.  Welcome to The Gamer’s Codex.  Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions.

Thanks for asking me.

Tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

Well, my name is John Watts and I’m the president of Gypsy Knights Games.  I started Gypsy Knights Games in 2011 and we currently create supplements in support of Mongoose’s version of Traveller.  I’m married to my wonderful wife Wendy and we live with two cats (Felix and Moneypenny). 

How did Gypsy Knights Games form?

It really formed out of the idea that, over the years, we had created a wealth of material that was sitting in our respective homes gathering dust.  Tons of notebooks filled with ideas for worlds, ships, adventures and characters.  We had always talked about trying to get some of it published and we finally decided to take the plunge.

In one of your “About Us” sections, I read that you guys were a gaming club first.  Tell us a little more about that.

Yes, that’s right.  The group first formed over a Traveller game I ran at a hobby store in Chattanooga, TN called “The Royal Tiger” in the early 90s.  It was built around the crew of the merchant ship “Gypsy Rose.”  Over the next few years, as the campaign continued, those characters became the founders of an interstellar polity called “The Gypsy Refuge.”

Those characters were then retired and the campaign became about a group called “The Gypsy Knights.”  These characters were tasked by the older characters (who were now NPCs) to go around the worlds in and around The Refuge righting wrongs and so forth.

Over time, the players themselves began to use the name for the group at large.  By the mid to late 90s, we were going to SF conventions and calling ourselves “The Gypsy Knights.”  So, when it came time to create the company, it seemed only natural to use that name.

What are you most proud of since you started Gypsy Knight Games?

I’m proud of all of our products.  I think each product has gotten better than the last as we’ve gotten more and more experience under our belt.  Our most recent offering, Clement Sector, is our core setting book and we’re very proud of it.

When did you start playing Traveller?

1986.  I had been running Star Frontiers and James Bond 007 (which I still love!) before that. 

What first attracted you to Traveller over other similar games?

It seems funny to say it but the truth is that Traveller had a lot of books out there.  I was 16 years old and it seemed to me that people I knew who were playing Dungeons and Dragons always had a new book to read.  Star Frontiers hadn’t had that kind of support and, when we wanted to get back into space opera from James Bond 007, it seemed important at the time.

Once we began to play, we had the “Official Traveller Universe” in which to play, but we could also create our own worlds and our own setting.  In the early days, we mixed a lot of Star Wars, Star Trek, Heinlein and Niven into our Traveller universe.  As time went on, we left the official background behind and began to work on our own setting.  It was that kind of versatility that kept us using Traveller.

And the rules are quite simple to learn and to teach new players.  Whereas some of the other games out there can be a bit daunting for new players to learn, Traveller is fairly easy to pick up.  That fact allowed us to gain more and more players over the years.

What is in store for Gypsy Knights in the near future?

As I said earlier, we’ve just rolled out our core setting book.  It ties together all of our subsector sourcebooks, colony books, and adventures into one unified setting.  We intend to continue to support that setting with supplements to flesh out the worlds with more detail and with more adventures and campaigns.  While we will be targeting these books to be used with our Clement Sector setting, we feel that a referee will be able to use them with any setting or version of Traveller.

We are partnered with Chronicle City and that partnership will have one of our books, 42 Plots, in game stores near you soon.  We’re hoping to do the same with Clement Sector later in the year. 

In addition, we’ve expanded into two other online shops:  d20pfsrd.com and Paizo’s webstore.  Between those two shops, Chronicle City and Drive-Thru RPG, we hope to give folks lots of options as to where to found our products.

What are your thoughts on Traveller5?  Are you supporting it?

My personal copy hasn’t arrived yet, but I’m told it’s going to be an interesting read.  It looks to be a return to the T4 system which, while it had some flaws, I liked. 

As of right now, we’re sticking with the Mongoose version for our books. 

After going through several of your products and seeing the plethora of products you have, I have to ask … how do you keep it fresh?  Where are all these new ideas coming from?  Years and years of gaming?

That is the answer.  Just speaking for myself, I have notebooks filled with gaming material in my office and in my basement.  My wife has told people that she has manipulated me into starting the company for no other reason than to get my notebooks organized.  There may be an element of truth in that.

Are there other games that Gypsy Knights wants to write for?

We are exploring ideas for Pathfinder and that may be something you see by next year.  We have a basic outline of where we want to go with those products, but so far it is only an outline.

I love superheroes.  So it is probably a safe bet that you’ll see something for one of the superhero lines at some point as well.

I also have a boardgame that is in my brain and really wants to see the light of day.  So that’s a possibility as well.

What other games do you play, if any?

I don’t get to play nearly as much as I would like.  Currently, I have a friend, Alan Mullican, who runs a second edition D&D game at my house on Saturday nights twice a month.  It’s been a lot of fun revisiting some of the old modules.  Oddly enough, after all these years of gaming, I never really played a lot of D&D.  I was either running Traveller or James Bond 007 or playing in someone’s Shadowrun, Cyberpunk, Champions, or Deadlands campaign.  So while most gamers played the classic D&D modules years ago, I’m currently on a trip of discovery with them.

I’ve had a real itch to run a superhero game as well.  If I ever get time for it, I’m going to try to do a Mutants and Masterminds game.  I’ve also been known to dust off the James Bond 007 game and run a one-shot adventure of that on occasion. 

If there is a TV show that most influences you in your gaming, what is it?  Why?

A current TV show?  Not so much.  When Firefly came out, though, we always felt like it had a very similar feel to our Traveller game. 

Over the years, I’ve been inspired by a number of shows.  In particular, Blake’s 7 always had a strong influence on our Traveller game.  I still love that show despite the horrible special effects.

Thanks again for taking the time out to talk with us.  Good luck and good gaming!

Thanks for asking me.  Hopefully, I’ll see you at a convention again soon!

Introducing…Geek Girls Gaming

Greetings and Salutations!

Jeff and Ron are going to be kind enough to let me take over the Gamers Codex every once in a while with a new series… So I am happy to introduce a new featured column entitled “Geek Girls Gaming.”  First, a little about me…

I have been a fan of the SF genre since first reading C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia in the 4th grade.  I enjoy everything from costuming and gaming to running conventions to writing.

As a writer, I have four short stories published.  My first short story, “History in the Making” was published in the anthology Rum & Runestones in 2010.  “Faith,” was published in Michael Ventrella’s Tales of Fortannis: A Bard’s Eye View, and “Anne Bonny’s Child” was included in Spells and Swashbucklers, the follow-up to Rum & Runestones.  My fourth short story is expected to be released at the end of May 2013 in Tales of Fortannis: A Bard in the Hand.

From the gaming side of life:  I started playing D&D in high school and while I’ve flirted with other systems such as Traveller and Hero Games, I keep coming back to D&D.   Currently, I play in two games (D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder) and run a third Pathfinder campaign.  The two things I like most about gaming are character building and trying to make the world seem real.  I do pretty at well at the first and not so well at the second.

For the Gamers Codex, about once a month we hope to bring you some new and different articles on gaming through the lens of women gamers.

Topics may include:

  • Challenges faced by gaming girls at cons
  • Challenges faced by gaming girls at the table
    •  Crossplaying (girls playing boy characters)
  • Benefits of gaming on education & children
  • Getting girls into gaming
  • Sexism at the table/online/corporate culture
  • Lack of women in the gaming industry
  • Advertising to women

In addition, we hope to bring you world-building ideas, character concepts and other gaming specific thoughts with women in mind.  (Special thanks to Jodi Black for some of the ideas!)

If you have any other thoughts on topics you’d like to see or if you’d like to be a guest author, please feel free to email me!

Thank you and we hope you enjoy!

Red November

From: Fantasy Flight Games
Reviewed by: Sitting Duck

One element that helped Dragonlance stand out from the plethora of fantasy settings that were on the RPG market back in the Eighties was the tinker gnomes. Their Rube Goldberg-style gadgetry introduced some weird science in a genre which traditionally featured pre-industrial societies. It is this interpretation of gnomes which permeates Red November.

From the website:
“Though your comrade is drunk and passed out, he’s not in any danger. But you are! Trapped in the Engine Room you must fix the pressure before the entire submarine blows up and you with it.”

Red November is a game of calculated risks. With Murphy’s Law having struck with a vengeance, it can be tricky to figure out which crisis should be dealt with first. Things like blocked hatches and flooded chambers don’t directly harm the submarine. Yet left unattended, they can restrict mobility, forcing your gnomes to take lengthier routes. The three disaster tracks are a more immediate concern because if any one of them reaches its critical point, the Red November sinks to its doom. Yet the advancement of each track is erratic, so you may be willing to take a chance on not dealing with it immediately. Then there are the Timed Events, which by their very nature cannot be ignored. Whatever action is taken, time is consumed, which is both good and bad. The more time spent on a repair, the more likely it is to be successful. Plus when the end of the time track along the game board’s edge is reached by all of the surviving gnomes, a rescue team arrives to save the crew, thus winning the game. Yet after performing an action, a number of event cards are drawn based how much time has passed. If time is injudiciously used, the crew of the Red November can find themselves quickly overwhelmed.

Event cards are used to determine what goes wrong on the Red November. The bulk of the cards consist of a fairly even spread of the various malfunctions which can occur, including the dreaded Timed Events. Not all is doom and gloom, as there are a few respite cards mixed in to give your beleaguered gnomes a breather.

Item cards provide a wide variety of tools, the majority of which provide a one-time bonus to a specific task. Aside from free draws that occur along certain points on the time track, the only way to gain more is by going to the Equipment Stores. The latter is a calculated risk as well, as not only does drawing item cards use up time, the Stores are located on the opposite end of the submarine from where the bulk of the repair work occurs. More often than not, this can make it an unappealing option.

Of all the item cards, Grog is the most versatile. Not only does it provide a flat bonus to any action, using it gives the player’s gnome the Dutch courage needed to enter chambers that are on fire without the need to carry a fire extinguisher. However, as you might imagine, something this useful is a double-edged sword. Using Grog increases intoxication, which is kept track of on the hilariously illustrated Gnome cards. The higher the gnome’s intoxication, the greater chance he’ll pass out in a stupor at the end of his action, needlessly using up valuable minutes. Therefore, it is not something to be employed lightly.

From the back of the box:
“Great Kraken, please spare the November! We beg of you, don’t eat us!”

One aspect that can be grating is how the player turn order is handled. After each player has had their first turn, the next turn goes to the player whose marker has made the least progress on the time track. It can potentially result in a player who used up a lot of minutes in his previous turn having to sit around twiddling his thumbs. Such a situation can be especially vexing if there is a large number of players. This may be a deal breaker for some gamers, as the mechanic is so ingrained within the gameplay that it cannot simply be houseruled away.

For those who enjoy a Sisyphean challenge, Red November may be what they’re looking for. However, it is best played with a small number of players to reduce the potential aggravation that may result from the non-standard turn order procedure.

Rating: 14

Product Summary

Red November
From: Fantasy Flight Games
Type of Game: Board Game
Game Design by: Bruno Faidutti and Jef Gontier
Developed by: Matt Anderson
Cover Art by: Christophe Madura
Additional Art by: Christophe Madura and Frank Walls
Game Components Included: 1 rulebook, 1 game board, 8 Gnome Sailor figures, 9 Time Keepers, 8 Gnome cards, 56 Event cards, 54 Item cards, 3 Disaster Track markers, 10 Flood tokens, 10 Fire tokens, 15 Blocked Hatch tokens, 4 Destruction tokens, and 1 ten-sided die.
Retail Price: $29.95 (US)
Number of Players: 1-8
Player Ages: 13+
Play Time: 1-2 hours

Website: http://www.fantasyflightgames.com

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck