Friday, December 16, 2011

Skyrim - finally I am a player in RPG

For some time I have wanted to be a player as I am basically a full time GM. Then I got Skyrim and finally I am a player in a roleplaying game.

What makes me feel like I am a player in a roleplaying game when playing Skyrim? Here are few thoughts.

Obviously first thing in a video game you notice are graphics. They are great. Graphics help the immersion. Landscapes are stunning and you can freely run or ride from east to west, north to south and everything between freely. Also landscapes change from birch forests to snowy mountains smoothly. It's like character actually living in the world what usually in roleplaying games is a map where GM describes the details.

Character looks great and you can custom it to suit your taste. For example my orc looks more trollish with long skinny face and long hooked nose. Also warpaint and facial scars tell his history although in the beginning character is just a prisoner thrown in the world to start playing.
Details in character and armor are great and movement animation at least genre realistic. You can also choose view from the eyes to feel more like being "there" although I prefer seeing my character from third person view from behind.

Character advancement is basically choosing which you choose between health, magic points and stamina. Health and magic points are obvious and stamina is used for example for attacking and sprinting. You also get a point to but into your skill categories to gain access for more powerful skills or for dealing more damage with one handed weapons. Some are more specific for example for certain type of weapons like bigger change for critical hits with one handed swords or extra effect of bleeding for two handed axes.

There are no other characteristics what I find a good solution as it is harder to screw your character build. In example warrior not having enough strength but being unnecessarily agile.

Also as there are on classes you can freely make your own character build and change your character's advancement to different direction when ever you want.

As being a solo hero, I like this freedom. My choices make my character what I want it to be and I don't have to plan ahead too much.

In fantasy adventure roleplaying games usually combat is in great focus. In Skyrim when I play half of the time is something else but fighting but still it is in a big role. Like in pen and paper roleplaying game the story is most important but if combat rules suck it takes some fun off. Luckily there are different powers for also weapon oriented characters to use and two types of blows. Parrying is well done also. And depending on your character and playing styles there are different styles of strategies to use. And if there's a stronger opponent what keeps killing you just change your strategy and you win.

Also in pen and paper roleplaying games this is really important. Instead of just rolling to hit I want other options. If those are not listed in rules I want GM to improvise how my attack or action is rolled. Obviously I cannot throw sand in the eyes of my opponent in Skyrim but different styles and strategies in combat give me enough feel of choices.

Even if you don't start conversation with them they might speak to you when passing by. Or you can hear two or more NPCs talking with each other. Sometimes you see NPCs doing something you think is important for adventuring but they are just doing their thing and don't have nothing to say to you. Not every NPC is there for you to get something. They are just people living there.
There is plenty of voice acting. Some are great, some hilarious. But every single word any NPC speak is voice acted and it is great. Game masters, do voice acting. If not totally changing your voice, at least change your tone. It makes a difference.


-to be continued. On mobile and text feed slowed down. Fearing that memory is drained and post lost. Stay tuned-

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mutants & Masterminds Review PART 1

First time I did read Mutants & Masterminds I did like it. I already had played Dungeons & Dragons 3.0 so I knew the basics how D20 system works and before that played simplified True20 system of Blue Rose. M&M is kind of between those two in complexity and above in character possibilities and customization. Still there are things I don't like about this D20 rules set.

Characters Without Class Nor Alignment

Classes I am ok with. But in this kind of game where heroes are all unique classes wouldn't work that well. But if you don't want to make a character from a scratch there are hero archtypes you can slightly custom to your own taste.
They aren't equal to classes which are base you create your character on but almost ready-to-play. Still, for those who don't want to use whole toolbox or are short of ideas there archtypes are welcome.

There is no alignment but somehow I feel that it (good, evil, lawful) could determine where character stands. BUT what else alignment does except being a part of game mechanics? You can write in your character description lawful evil superhero. Isn't that the same without mechanical use in game? Yes it is. I think D&D alignment system - even though somehow confusing - describes easily both character's moral and order.

True D20 Game With Only 20-Sided Die

This game only uses D20. Well, Dd20 system basically only uses D20 when determining successes but effects are simulated with different dies for example damage.
Which is more simple? In D&D roll to hit then roll damage what is exactly what die shows plus/minus something. In M&M:
"Characters in Mutants&Masterminds do not have hit points based on their level and Constitution bonus, and damage is not rolled using other dice. Instead, each attack has a damage modifier used to calculate a Difficulty Class. The character makes a Damage saving throw against that Difficulty Class and the result of the..." blah blah blah. Roll, calculate, roll against. How does that differ from actually rolling damage and settling for that? Or if you don't like hit points make damage steps. Light, moderate and heavy wounds. Damage dealt between 1-4 points is light, 5-9 moderate etc based on constitution. Character can take more lights but when those are used/marked they convert to next step. Well, check out Kult 1st edition.
Point is that this system in my opinion is too complicated. I didn't like it in Blue Rose either. But more about damage later and when you think about it, is it that bad?

Attacks of opportunity I didn't use in my D&D3.0 game (no minis extra complication) so I am pleased it isn't used here.

Character Creation

I did create a test character some time ago. It was ok. But there is a problem when I think harder. The problem is same I dislike GURPS character creation. You get a punch of points you must use for EVERYTHING. Its really hard to allocate points to abilities when you are not sure how many points your concepts powers will take. And then you try to balance your character so he can fly - well. Or he has this cool megacannon he is shit shooting with. So, you carefully allocate points here to get basics, move to powers to get core and continue jumping back and forward to balance with your points. And don't forget restrictions on max attack bonus etc. I do like point buy system for customization purpose but I prefer different areas of character having different point pools. Makes things less accounting and less mathematics.

The Abilities are same from other D20 games. I think those six cover really well characteristics although I always had a problem making difference between Intelligence and Wisdom. Skills I think work well in this genre.

Feats I am not so sure do I like them or not. They do give this little extra touch for character but they are way too mechanical in nature. I'd like more descriptional use-your-common-sense types and probably when I play I treat them that way. Less I have to open rulebook during the course of the game the better.


Then what makes superhero game a superhero game; the super-powers. This would take ages to review. Let's say. You have tons of powers you can custom. And by custom I mean Xzibit Pimp my powers custom. You take energy say. Decide do you shoot it from your eyes, fingertips or mechanical cannon. Does it explode etc. Point is that you have basic power listed which you can custom for your character from it's origin to flaws. This is the super-power toolbox and it will take most of the time of the character creation. I have to admit this is the first and only supers game I've got to know so I am not sure how big the power section in this game is compared to others.

Back To Character Creation

Earlier I used therm "characteristics" when I actually meant abilities (dexterity, charisma and those). But actual characteristics chapter reads "filling in the details". It contains both writing fiction for your character. About his appearance, origin, motivation and so on. But also gives mechanical details for character sheet for example saving throw values, carrying capacity, hero points and so on. Hero points you can use to re-roll dice, improve defense, eliminate stun hits and other short-term advances for a certain situation. According to book hero points character has are meant roughly to last four hour session. If sessions are shorter GM may consider to award them back slowly or if sessions are longer than six hours more often. Basically hero points are replenished after a certain time mainly determined by GM.
In this chapter you can also choose weaknesses. For every weakness player is awarded 10 extra points for his character to spend in character creation. Weaknesses are common what you find in other games labeled "disadvantages" or "flaws". Those also contain rules how they work and what penalty they give in which situation. Yet again I like to use them when I see appropriate instead of reading when to use those. You know, yet less rules to remember. Particularly when you have several players who might not know or remember to use them right.

Devices are basically part two to super-powers. Super-powers are within character when devices are gadgets and mechanical items giving those super-(like)-powers. Devices can be anything from weapons to headquarters. You can also make super-powers devices just applying device flaw on them. That way you don't fly on your own, but fly with a device; rocket backback for example. Nice additional touch is random powerful device name generator. Roll D20 for first word and D20 for second word to combine with. And you might get a device called "The Kinetic Repulsor" or "The Anti-Matter Nullifier". Deal with those!

For those familiar with D&D 3.X combat rules are easy to learn. To attack roll D20 and add base attack bonus + strength modifier + size modifier. Ranged is similar but with dexterity modifier instead of strength modifier and subtract range penalty. Easy as it is.
Defense is 10 + base defense bonus + dexterity modifier + size modifier. That is the number you try to roll over when attacking to hit and wound your opponent. Lots of calculation but luckily you have already written those down in your character sheet. So just check out the number for your melee or ranged attack and add it to D20 roll. Same way skills work. Roll modifiers to your skill what you try to do, roll D20 and try to score over difficulty number determined by situation or GM.
What is really different from D&D 3.X is damage. This is when my brains crack. So when you hit with your attack you potentially deal damage instead of just rolling damage. Each attack has a damage bonus. Melee attack damage bonus is strength plus possible modifiers from for example super-powers. Ranged attacks use power level of weapon or attack type as damage bonus. If opponent is hit he must make damage saving throw with damage save bonus. Damage save bonus is constitution bonus + power bonuses + modifiers. Roll D20 and add damage save bonus against difficulty of 15 + attack's damage bonus. Then based on your success or failure determine how much damage is dealt. Success means no damage, fail means injured, fail by 5+ means stunned and fail by 10+ disabled. And there are two types of damages: stun and lethal with slightly different effects.
I think when you fight a few fights you get the gist of it but still to make some of the rules more simple why damage rules are this complicated? It does take several problems from hacking hit point per time away though. But still I am not happy with this. But it's similar to other D20 rules. Add this to that and bonus and modifier + D20 against this with that modifier or DC of this plus modifier. When you think about it and go deep enough damage works the exactly same way as other rules. It makes sense, but still I am not 100% convinced.

But there is alternative way to roll damage. After hitting opponent attacker makes roll D20 + damage bonus against opponents constitution bonus + power bonuses + modifiers + 15. Consult the table what type of damage is dealt based on success. I actually like this more somehow. Attacker rolls when attacker attacks. But still it basically is the same mechanics.

Another thing I hate are different types of actions. Free, half and full. Luckily there is a list of these and they most definately are print-to-sheet material for quick access. Other combat rules naturally cover initiative, movement and position, modifiers from situations and surroundings. Lots of tables to check on. Personally I am the GM who strips these and goes with the flow. Depending on what happens in game I give or reduce penalties and rule myself what modifiers take place. Thanks to World of Darkness games I don't need too detailed combats. I want my combat turns to go like this:
Player: "I jump over the cover and shoot him."
Me as GM: "Okay, from jumping and shooting you suffer penalties. It's hard to aim when in movement. Oh, and your opponent is in partial cover. Hmm take -7 to your roll."
Someone might argue that my style is not fair as penalties and modifiers are not written in stone and after few weeks similar situation might only be -5 or even -9 penalty to attack roll. Stable rules, people say, what work same way every time. I partially agree. Rules are good so situations have a norm what player character follows. But I want fast action. Instead of spending tens of seconds calculating every modifier and determining situations by the book I keep action fast and just say it. That is my style and basically rules wise it is wrong.
Breaking items is easy. Substance hardness + 15 is difficulty. There are also other little bits what are nice and easy to deal with. But what about grapple rules what commonly in roleplaying games are clumsy or even hard to understand? Attack roll is basically same as melee attack roll. After initiative grapple when you decide to hold your opponent make opposite checks next turn. You win, you keep your grip. Opponent wins and he breaks apart. There are also different things you can do in grapple like do damage or just pin. You can also make a group grapple... visualizing it makes me laugh out loud.
Also basic hazards and conditions are covered like starvation, falling, disease and radiation (you might re-allocate power points if radiation is exotic, or it might work like poison). I think rules cover in only 18 pages everything needed and personally for me half of that is gibberish. Not bad at all. At this point of rulebook roughly only one third left most of the material has been about character. Character creation, powers, devices etc. and at page 143 only 18 pages of hard rules. Not bad at all again.

Unfortunately, this is where I have read the book and will continue to read from this point. Gamemastering - Creating and running the universe is the next chapter. I will continue this "review" when I finish the book.

Adding flaws to YDIN

In character creation you have three points to share for gifts. Gifts are those specialties what make difference between player characters, powerful NPCs and normal people. Gifts cost between one to three points depending on how powerful they are.

At fists I didn't include flaws. My opinion on forced flaws is that I need to take them to gain something. Sometimes I even forget to play my characters' flaws because of this. That's the reason I originally included gifts in character creation and forfeited flaws.
Flaws and quirks I ment to be only for character description without any penalty.

But then I started to think why would anyone want to play drunk or blind character? For the sake of story of course but it's not fair to be a good player making flawed character what is weaker because of it.

So, there are flaws as an option. You are free to use maximum of three points to buy flaws if you want to. Taking a flaw you get equally points for gifts of 2x points for skills.

It is not forced to balance character's gifts with flaws as gifts in character creation are freebie. But if you think your character concept needs a disadvantage, you can take it and get a small refund.

Naturally there are players who will abuse the system getting flaws to get more gifts or higher skill values. But I don't want to force normal players with flaws. No flaws for player who doesn't want any means no gifts. Flaws for player who wants extra doesn't matter. So anyways he would take flaws for slightly better character.

So my character creation decision is, that every character gets gifts. If you want you can take flaws to get small bonus for gifts and/or skills. Unfortunately it is up to player and gamemaster to execute the flaws. But that's the way it is in every game where you get bonuses from taking flaws or disadvantages.

Planning FARP. Using YDIN. Planning char gen

In forum people were asking for gamemaster to run forum roleplaying game. I thought I could possibly run one. But first I have to be sure I can commit on it.

Started planning game. Setting will be fictite victorian England. Started planning from the basics. Character creation.

YDIN has six attributes for characters ranging 1 to 6. I restrict buying 6th level in the beginning though as it basically is human limits. There will be two options to determine attributes.
1. Place numbers 4, 4, 3, 3, 3, 2 where you like.
2. Share 19 points between attributes one point equals one value.

Second is skills. First I made a skills list looking like this:
Shadower, riding horse, driving cart, lockpicking, sleigh of hand, acrobatics, athletics, first aid, crafts+, intimidation, empathy, leadership, subterfuge, animal handling, charming, streetwise, expertise+, science+*, speak language+*, read/write language+*, medicine, legends and mysteries, finance, survival nature, brawl, weaponry, firearms, dodge, parry.

Skills with + contain sub categories. For example craft wood or speak language latin.
Skills with * cannot be used skilless.

There are 30 points to share to skills (generally points to share equal number of available skills). Skill point cost is 1 point for level 1, 2 points for level 2 and 4 points for level 3 which is maximum. With experience you can get skill level up to 4 though.

Mother language starts with 2 and 1 to read/write.

Gifts you get 3 points to share and they are:
Charismatic - 1 point
Athletic - 1 point
Alcohol resistance - 1 points
Confident - 1 points
Street person - 1 points
Good dark vision - 1 points
Special - 3 points (get value 5 attribute to 6)
Hawkeye - 1 points
Lithe - 1 points
Military background - 2 points
Wealthy - 2 points
Lucky - 2 points
Beautiful/handsome - 2 points
Extremely good sense - 2 points choose one
Medium (to supernatural) - 2 points
Talented - 3 points (+5 points to skills)

I think many of those are self explaining but for the game I will detail them. They both add aspects to roleplaying and game mechanics. I might also write more gifts.

And naturally there are 3 points for hobbies what are skills out from skill list like chess playing, playing an instrument, poetry, cooking etc.

I am quite happy with the skills list. I think it will cover victorian game. Of course there could be skill for mechanical devices but I think it goes under science and is relatively rare.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Quick update on M&M plans

My girlfriend is a student but currently he is working for 8 days. We both have lunch hour now but we work in different places. I got this text message where she asked:

"In Mutants & Masterminds can you create a character what is like super strong and can throw opponents for some distances?"

What is a better way to spend your lunch hour (I think it's 45-60 minutes there) than planning your next roleplaying game character? I have put some pressure on her to make a sketch about her character. I told that at this point I only need some history and who the character is. Why is s/he superhero or has these powers and what will s/he do with those powers. After she has this concept ready we start to go through how to make it happen in character creation.

Mutants & Masterminds has this power level thing. It's basically like D&D levels. Normal characters start in 10th level but you can add or subtract levels according to your campaign. I am going with that 10th level thing if her character doesn't need more to happen. Or if she wants her character to be more down to earth I will adjust the starting power level lower.

Great thing about Mutants & Masterminds is that with just only the core book you can create unlimited amount of character. Basically if you imagine it, you can create it. But there also is a problem (you can find my report of M&M step-by-step test character creation here). When I created my first character without a plan the variety of choices was overwhelming! So with my gf's character I decided that first she decides her characters concept and overview of powers then we find from character creation rules what will suit her idea. Way much easier than starting character build from a scratch without any idea what the character will be.

If she gets her character concept done I will try to create the character with her this weekend (gotta print some sheets). Then when current game ends the new character for new game is ready to go without any delay.

The world? It will be a city inspired by movies Sin City and The Spirit. I will just roughly sketch it and add elements during the course of game.

5 plots. Fantasy swamp tavern

Usually when characters go to pub or tavern, it's generic. If they want rumors or drinks or place to stay I describe it and give usually description for owner. But I haven't designed several pubs with plot hooks. Well, I have designed adventures what you get from pubs (who hasn't) but haven't made these pubs characters stumble in to find something more interesting than just a place to rest, spend money and hear rumors.

So, here are 5 different pubs with plots to use.

Drunken Toad
Location: Next to a road in remote marshlands. Place smells rotten vegetation, mud and swamp gasses. It is always misty and you can hear the ballad of toads in the night. The pub is one day travel from next civilization.
Owner: Owner is old toad hunter. He captured toads some for food, some for wizards and alchemists to use in their experiments or extract poison. When he got old travels to swamp got harder. It's not easy to move in there. He got some wealth and opened this tavern. Today he is thin but in relatively good shape. He has some back problems what sometimes makes his movement a bit stiff. Biffron the Toad he is called because of his severe skin condition on face. He is not social for his time spent alone in swamps.
Outlook: Dark wet boards what smell a little rotten. Somehow the building hasn't collapsed but manages to stay together. Inside is warm and smalls incenses to keep rotten swamp smell away. Downstairs there are four tables with four chairs each. There are no wine but spirits and ale instead manufactured in the backroom. Fireplace is big and smells like urine. Stairs go up where are four simple rooms with two bunkbeds for total of four visitors per room. Behind the desk are three rooms. One is kitchen, one storage and one owners room. It is locked and there are no other valuables except money.
Assortment: Food is stew made with some mud tasting vegetables, herbs found from swamps and toad meat. Also some old bread is available when owner bakes it. Cheese is hard and old also. There is no wine available but ale is brewed and spirits distilled in the storage. Prices are high because of the location. Those who need place to rest in the swamps must pay the price to dry their clothes and seek a dry place to rest their head.


1. Owner Biffron the Toad is sick. He has caught swamp fever (-1 constitution or similar each day until none is left and contaminated is dead. Roll medium resistance test for characters not to get sick). He asks characters to find this rare toad to get remedy. If one of the characters is contaminated the motivation to find the frog might be higher.
2. Nightly robbery. While characters are resting they might wake up in Biffron's yells or hear racket downstairs (50% change which one). There is robbery going on. Biffron might be wounded (75% change he is). Robbers are mediocre for characters to beat. Maybe there is warrant on the robbers or Biffron might need medical help.
3. Biffron the Toad decides to join characters for a drink. Even though he is not social person he still enjoys listening to the stories. Especially when there haven't been customers for a long time. If characters refuse to let him sit with them, he insists even offering free meal or free stay. When listened enough and getting drunk he tells about a treasure in the swamps. He has seen the old ruins himself but never got there because of "strange swamp evil". He can tell the location of these ruins the treasure is but won't talk about the "strange swamp evil". He is uneasy about it.
4. Hooded figure is sitting in corner table. He greets fellow strangers and is willing to serve them drinks. He wants to hear fellow adventurers' story or wants to tell something he knows. What ever characters are interested in. After drinking nothing really important was revealed and characters eventually go to bed. Next morning they feel really sick and hooded figure is waiting for them downstairs. He tells he poisoned characters and before they can get the antidote they need to do what he wants. Hooded figure doesn't have antidote with him but it is in safe place. Hooded figure's condition is that characters escort him out of the swamp area. Actually hooded figure is just a lost traveller who is scared. The poison is mild what only enchants hangover. If characters escort him out of the swamp hooded figure will reward them kindly for their effort. He also tells a rumor he heard what characters might want to pursue (dungeons obviously ;) )
5. After resting the night in tavern and leaving characters notice that the tavern is not next to road but in the middle of the swamp. Asking Biffron about this he doesn't know or think anything unnatural has happened. He just says: "It's always been like this". If characters venture into swamp it is really hard to walk and they encounter giant ugly dragonflies (average combat encounter based on characters might. Flying monster, 20% change attack to paralyze for D4 turns). When all monster dragonflies are dead corpses just disappear. Continuing travel they are back to tavern. If they try again no matter what they do or how they navigate or what direction they move they eventually get back to tavern. (Every time characters walk away from tavern to "circle" back there is 25% change for dragonflies... or even nastier monsters of GM's choice). Tavern owner doesn't say what's going on. But when characters threat to kill him with physical pain he tells, that there is a man eating banshee witch who alters tavern's reality when there are customers. Banshee comes in the second night and eats travelers. That way he lets tavern keeper be alive for providing meals. But banshee told that if tavern owner tells about this trap he is as good as dead. Banshee is really powerful creature what lives in alternate dimension in this swamp. He is really powerful opponent and worth a lot of experience. No gold is gained but banshee body parts might be valuable items to sell for wizards or alchemists.

Naturally you can use these five tavern plots in other taverns also.

Picture of inspiration:
Picture from  Deviant Art. Artist AndreeWallin

Walled in - Horrible movie, one idea to use

Watched the movie Walled in. Oh man it was so bad. But at least I got one inspiration I talk about later in this post.. If you haven't seen this movie this post might include spoilers. Not digging too deep though. But in my opinion if you missed this movie you you didn't miss anything. (Layout in this post is a mess, gotta try to fix it later!)

In 1993, sixteen bodies were found entombed within the Malestrazza Building, a mysterious apartment complex built by one of the worlds most renowned, yet eccentric, architects. The killer was never caught. Fifteen years later, newly graduated structural engineer Sam Walczak (Mischa Barton of THE O.C.) arrives to prepare the site for demolition. But this massive concrete crypt is not entirely empty: Its halls are lined with secrets. Its rooms are filled with fear. And behind its walls, the ultimate horror has lay waitinguntil now. 

Above text is from the Youtube video description. Wow, movie actually looks okay. But no, movie sucks.

There were few residents left who were more or less strange. I think that strangeness was a bit forced and the characters were actually dull.
There was also random haunting what didn't suit in the movie at all. Dead girl whispering. But it was not a ghost story even though I almost thought it would be. No. In the end the story turned and was about this deranged boy who fell in love with Sam (main actress) and captured her. Oh, he also had earlier captured that crazy architect. What the heck?

The movie was a mess.

What a beautiful apartment and such a nice neighborhood.
Anyways, key features in the movie:
- House walls don't sync with blueprint. The house must be "hollow" in the middle.
- Boy is a kidnapping deranged little prick.
- Some people who live there are a bit strange, but nothing special about them.
- Old lady has architect's books held and oh wow Sam grabs one of them what contains the information she needs out of hundreds of books (I call that a lucky roll).
- None of the houses architect built has ever destroyed even though the whole city around them is smashed.
- Architect isn't actually dead what was official report, but deranged boy held him hostage.
- Architect forced Sam to murder him so he will be sacrifice for the house.
- Murdered ghost girl whispers and then is forgotten in the movie.
- There were hidden passages, so pervert architect could spy on people's bathrooms and deranged boy used it also to spy on Sam.
- Blah blah boring.

But the main element is this I could use:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

nWoD has been intimidating. My solution

New World of Darkness has been intimidating to play because of you need at least two rulesbooks to run it. World of Darkness core rules book and a book what you are running (ie. Vampire: the Requiem or Werewolf: the Forsaken). Even though in old World of Darkness similar set of rules took unnecessary space from each of the books it was handy because you only needed one book for rules. In the other hand another problem was that rules where slightly different from setting to setting so crossplaying was a bit hard.

Anyways... in World of Darkness core rulebook there is lots of fluff and rules hidden in there between walls of text of setting fluff. And White Wolf's style of writing is putting so many extra words everywhere it is hard to quickly find a rule you need.

I have got World of Darkness core rules in PDF when they were shared for free at Drive Thru RPG. I got this idea from James Edward Raggi IV who modified Basic Fantasy in A5 format manually from PDF. So, yesterday I opened my World of Darkness PDF and Open Office. Started to go page by page and copy paste essential rules and sometimes re-write them in shorter form. I also got Fineprint to easily print this hand made World of Darkness rules in a booklet.

Not ready yet, but I will make a booklet where are only the rules in simple way to run World of Darkness. Cover will be World of Darkness rulebook's cover with additional (photoshopped) title: Basic Rules Compedium. Maybe that will make it more simple to run the game. Unfortunately because of legal stuff I cannot share the file, but when I print it I can take few photos to show what I made.

You can get Fineprint for free but in each printed document there will be a banner what tells what program was used to print it. Buy it to get rid of it.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How I improvise games?

In pelilauta there was a topic about "GM improvisation" and I posted my response there. I decided to roughly translate my thoughts and blog it also. You can find the topic from the following link (in Finnish, but Google translate can help):,459.0.html

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

[V:tM] Monster: Vicissitude enchanted albino crocodile

This creature is directly related to this post in Cradle of Rabies blog. Even though it is created for my game it is easy to adapt to other chronicles as well. Vicissitude enchanted albino crocodile uses basic stats for crocodile in Vampire: the Masquerade Revised page 302. Although because this creature is not natural the stats are altered radically. Also this creature is statted like monsters in other games to make it a combat encounter. Some of the information provided is for my chronicle but you can easily alter it for your own needs.

What Is This Creature?

It was a normal albino crocodile before the discipline of Vicissitude was used to alter its form to make it a guardian of vampire's haven. It is bigger than any normal crocodile and has more in strength and stamina. Also it has some special qualities what are dealt like disciplines (found in V:tM Revised edition).

The creator is Tzimisce who used both flesh- and bonecraft to create this monster. It also has parts of human brain merged into it's reptile brains to make it more intelligent and calculative rather than just operating by disciplines. Vicissitude enchanted albino crocodile is embraced and also blood bond to whom ever its master is.

It will rather die than escape protecting its master's territory or what ever location it is meant to guard. Crocodiles are ancient beasts still excisting but this one truly is a living monster.


Five to ten times bigger than an ordinary crocodile. It's armor like skin is pale white and deformed to look more a battle armor than something natural. Eyes are in shade of red. From shadows it looks like an ordinary crocodile but huge but when it steps out its true unnatural monster form is revealed.


Strength: 5; Dexterity: 3; Stamina 5; Wits: 2*; Intelligence; 1*
*For partial merged human brain
Willpower 4
Health levels: OK; OK; OK; OK; -1; -1; -1; -1; -2; -2; -5; Incapacitated
Attacks: Bite for 7 dice (aggravated); Tail slap for 6 dice bashing
Abilities: Alertness: 4; Athletics: 1; Brawl: 2; Stealth: 4
Blood pool: 8
Special powers (Disciplines):
Auspex: Heightened senses
Fortitude: 2
Obfuscate: 1
Potence: 2

[V:tM] Fake prince is back - chronicle this far

So, first Vampire: the Masquerade chronicle with this character ended when they got rid of this fake prince. Prince was not what he claimed to be nor member of either Ventrue or Camarilla. So, prince blown up chronicle ended.

Few gaming sessions before the worksite where new Elysium is built on the ruins of last one night there was a hole in the middle of it. Marks that someone dug himself from the ground. Cameras don't show anything but blur. Amanda (player character) got lead on this person to an really old and lousy apartment buildings cellar floors.

There was a big and nasty guard but it was dealt with. Unfortunately this time Amanda didn't catch this digger person. They got this Gangrel (possibly) antitribu for Nosferatus' to hold prison for later interrogation.

Later though leaders of the city Amanda included were summoned to sports stadium (current Elysium) because someone wanted to introduce himself. John Smith he told his name. Amanda was suspicious and got private time talking with him. John Smith didn't deny he's the prince who somehow survived the exploding assasination. Instead he offered Amanda and her sire Anthony something more...

Of course once Cammy always Cammy. Or maybe Amanda didn't like the fact that resurrected fake prince is only interested in subservients and tools...

Now new plan to destroy false prince. For good. Only problem is he is good at disappearing.

City Gangrel antitribu was useless. He didn't know that much about his new master. But he was willing to flee the city if he was let loose and he told everything he knew (or wanted to tell). Amanda didn't get permission to loose Gangrel but she made a promise. Amanda decided to help Gangrel escape but was caught.

Crocodile in my game is bigger, uglier and nastier than this cutie.
Not obeying rules and helping prisoner to escape is not good. But Amanda is elder. His punishment now was to take care of albino crocodile lurking in sewers at lower end of the city. There are eyewitness accounts and of course lousy media feasting with the topic. Amanda needs to cut the wings from the rumors or actually deal with the crocodile - if it is real. Scar (Nosferatu prince) doesn't care as long as people stop paying too much attention in the sewers.

Actually that albino crocodile was supposed to be Halloween game but my gaming style... it will be like 2 more sessions. Can't focus, put more and more interesting things. Find out during playing how things can be more exciting... introducing new NPCs (even those character will most likely not meet again) and start interesting conversations etc. etc. Well, I don't mind as long as player has fun!

So, next session is crocodile hunting what Amanda finds really boring and stupid. But actually...

  • The albino crocodile is enchanted withVicissitude* (bigger, tougher, nastier, uglier).
  • During Vicissitude there was human brain merged in crocodile brains so it is more calculating instead of just working by instinct.
  • It has these "special abilities and powers" what basically are disciplines
  • It actually is (one of those monsters) guarding Jon Smith's haven!
So, dealing with this giant albino monstrosity is actually tied really close to main plot.

*Vicissitude is vampiric power most likely possessed by Tzimisce what crafts bones and flesh of others and self to monstrosities from insane experiments and clawy fingers to monstrous battle machines of several bodies merged together.

My projects suck - your opinion on rules?

Where to start... let's start from where I got this idea. Blogs. I read blogs whenever I have got time. I like to read about projects or homebrew extra material (new monsters, rules, locations, powers and magic etc.). For a Gamemaster experiencing roleplaying in my opinion is also creating something new.

These blogs are full of material. OSR stuff particularly (or that is easiest to find). People have these rules they like to use. Maybe houseruled but they have this basis what they use. So as the rules are pre-made by someone else they can focus on writing the extra material.

Me, I wanted to create these rules to create material for. But there is these problems:

- My time is limited. I don't have got that much time in my hand always so my creation and advancement can be slow even though I get speed bursts every now and then.
- Creating rules and core for a game is wholesome project. Creating other things you can do in bits but still finish something (ie. finishing combat rules is not same thing as finishing lvl 7 mage spells list or finish an crystal-ogre stats).
- My focus is bad. I jump from projects to projects. Today I write 20 pages of YDIN rules but tomorrow I am thinking how to make console J-RPG syled mechanics and day after that I do random table for orc encounters (everything in this blog). Focus wouldn't be that bad if I just could do different things always... like a portfolio for different games and genres. Today I want to create this vampire family with powers, history and plots for adventure but today I want to create full set magical armor and weapons for high level paladin.
- Because I have stress in finishing something relatively long instead of small short projects, my effort and creativity is wasted. I would enjoy more doing these little things than wasting my time creating this big thing.

Problem with my main project YDIN is that I don't have time to finish it. I have waited for the day I can make these little bits of material for it. But before I can do it, I have to finish the system. Naturally I planned that I just make very basics of the system and with these little bits I can grow it with details. But I need that core done.

I also am looking too high. Somehow even though I just need this YDIN core done, I want it to cover everything and it makes it never ending project. I must write down what I want it to do. Create characters, task and combat resolution, character advancement, wounding, death, healing, enviromental hazards (electrocution, falling etc. basic stuff).
In combat how much I need detail? How to hit. How damage is dealt. Special conditions (crippled, dust in eyes etc., shooting partially covered target etc.) but do those actually need rules? I mean when I think about it there are thousands of special conditions in combat. Can a Gamemaster adapt this:

"There are two difficulty levels for positive and negative enviroments and situations. It is Gamemasters job to determine if there is modifier needed, or is the situation:

  • Remarkably harder/easier than normally (1 positive or negative modifier)
  • Extremely harder/easier than normally (2 positive or negative modifier)
Negative and positive modifiers can overrule each other."

Then examples about normal modifier and overruling modifiers. I like examples because in my opinion they are like pictures worth of 1000 words (I have learned many rules from examples).

Problem is, I do want to share my game. And I'd like to have a printed version of it. But focusing on making it printed eats you inside. Art, layout etc. take focus from the actual product.

Problem is, I remember old times some of these really amateurish products. They were dirt cheap also. But today when everything is fancy, shining and full of glittery 4 color pages who wants to buy this 50 pages print copy for 4€ or few bucks? Those who already know:

  • Those who already know what the product is about so they A) buy it because they will like it or B) support it
  • Those know who you are so they A) buy it because they know what kind of stuff you do or B) support you
What about PDF? World is full of PDF's. Countless free also. Who is going to pay 1€ to get my YDIN basic rules what work with things I create?

But why do I want money? Reason is, that I have got kazillion of free PDF products. I never read them. I see something free, I get it and forget.
If I pay for something even a small price it is more meaningful because I actually chose to get it and payed it. So it is more important for me. It was interesting enough to toss away that few EUR (what is not much) and go through all the hassle ordering it (what usually is more painful than loosing few coins).

So, I'd like to have that nominal benefit so I would know people might appreciate it. Why I want money:

  • To show I am in earnest making these things (I have seen awesome products what are free though but )
  • To see that someone actually appreciate what I am doing
  • Get more accurate readings (I can see how many downloads files, but I could see how many actually ordered)
Maybe those are stupid reasons, I don't know. But I would do it this way:

  1. More simple version you can download for free
  2. For small price you will get cooler version or additional material (more time spent)
That way I could spread my gaming material for everyone (what is main purpose) but those who really like the product(s) could "donate" some money. To show they like what I do.

I am inspired. But I think I would be more inspired if people actually sent me like email: "I downloaded your free [Insert PDF title] and it was cool. Thanx!" Problem is, that nothing is ready. I am not competing with others but somehow now as I read other blogs I have set my goals too high. I couldn't finish anything to this day and I propably can't in a long time.
And I am afraid that some day when I finish it my thoughts have changed and I need to rewrite some parts... what will basically start again. Instead of just letting people to play version 1 and later doing version 2. Phew.

And heck I want to use my imagination. Enough with writing rules. So, should I just fart out YDIN (lite) finally? Forget all fancy layout and cover but focus on making it as short and easy to adapt as possible? Then share it free. Then start to do what I really want to do: Write material and my random ideas as actual gaming material?

What you say?

And some day after years when I have done lots of print-ready PDF supplements for free I might be ready to charge people that 1€ for better version. That's an idea?

Monday, October 31, 2011

LotFP excitement and yet again OSR

Because I just bought Lamentations of the Flame Princess Grindhouse edition (not delivered yet, check out my last post HERE for more details) I started to try to find out more what it all is about. And what would be better place to do investigation than the authors own blog?

You can find the blog here: and should check it out. There are interesting posts what keep me entertained.

By reading the blog I have already had some good hints about (oldshool) gaming. Also other tips on gaming and even arranging games. There are also material for games to use or introductions on what kind of material you can buy in very affordable price from LotFP store.

Lamentations and Raggi are both liked and criticized. For some reason Raggi's stuff is what I find easy and entertaining to read and from games what make old games modern without loosing the essence LotFP is the most interesting for me. But as LotFP and all this OD&D and OSR and amazing adventures gaming is unfamiliar for me I kinda need more support for it. Forums aren't good to learn in my opinion but blogs give this one individuals views to observe. Of course this one individual might be wrong but it is for reader to decide if the blog is good or not.
I have read other OSR blogs also and found them great (you might find one or two from my blog roll, but I have read different posts about OSR bloggers from RPG Bloggers). But somehow as I am now waiting for my LotFP order to deliver I find LotFP blog more influental for that reason. Not to dismiss other blogs of course, but to start by focusing on one.

Different Games For Different Needs

I am so excited now and I think that my future of gaming will be in different kind of categories balancing itself with enough variation to keep gaming new and interesting. I think I am a drama player. It's my cup of tea most definately but sometimes it gets a bit boring. When you want more action. You can put action in drama focused games of course. One session is not about Vampires drinking (blood)tea but vampires getting attacked by [add thread here]. It works naturally (same rules, but Werewolf is all about kicking litterers' arse) but still it is not the same. Naturally you can also make combat oriented campaign for drama game (warring city in Vampire, Sabbat shovelhead gang, Werewolf pack against toxic stuff) but it is not same as picking up a game and showing it to your player(s) and tell: "now we play this one."

But sure you can use one game to run all these different types and genres of adventures? Sure. But I like variety. I like playing different games and sometimes make the adventure inspired by the game and its setting. But sometimes breaking the genre can be entertaining. Mix genres to get something new. It gets boring if every time you take your D&D players know what to expect. To keep things surprising and interesting you should do a little experiments every now and then. Maybe not too often if you don't want to go gonzo with it.

You might also want to try this little trick. Take adventure/module/campaign but prepare it for different game it was originally written. You might need to re-write some parts or make big adjustments to make it work, but you might make an unique adventure what is totally different than usually adventures and campaigns in that game. Vampire campaign in D&D Forgotten Realms or dungeon crawl for Vampire?

Cover Art Is Important

In my opinion game title and game front cover - or box if boxed set - has a lot of influence. You take AD&D 2nd edition Player's (warrior riding a horse) and DM's books (wizard battling a dragon) and I bet players have a way different idea what game will be about if you took 2300AD box (dude and chick posing with 80's hair-do and weapons in scifi desert). Same with more stylished games. Vampire: the Masquerade's  green marble with red rose tells different story than D&D 3.0 old magical tome type cover.

And what I said above I come to this. Lamentations of the Flame Princess cover is so neat! Just look at it. (That picture is from Deluxe version and the difference to Grindhouse cover I think is that Grindhouse has mild topless nudity).

You show that to players and say:
"Let's play this." Yeah. It's badass in totally different way that Dungeons & Dragons is.

Unfortunately I don't have much to say about the content yet. But when I get the box (and I got time) I will most definately do the "unwrapping it" post.

And about LotFP art, Something Awful has a WTF moment for it: (partially not work-safe, as there is lot's of gore and partial nudity from LotFP rpg viewed).

Any ways, I want my RPG cover art to show what the game is about. When I am choosing a game I will run next I look at the books what looks like I could use if I don't have clear vision what I want to do next. If I have a clear vision what I want to run I of course pick up the setting or rules to suit my needs best. As we talk mostly about Flame Princess here, that cover is different from Dungeons & Dragons 3 (we already talk here). It gives different vibes. By cover D&D 3.0 (well, also 3.X) is about making characters better and using characters to do quests. It's all about characters, what they can do. But LotFP looks like badass action. Not action in game mechanical way, but badass "this is cool" way.

I can run D&D how I like (when I started playing 3.0 I didn't focus and I didn't DM it I did Storytell it) from tactical minis combat to conversation filled drama. But still, the cover has a huge impact on what kind of game I want to use the game in.

Well, of course there are the rules and settings. What matter also. But... And if I want to run drama I pick up the book with possibly lighter rules. But in the other hand rules don't matter me that much. I can play several sessions without rolling a single die. Or I house-rule. Make over complicated rules easier or strip rules. Or make too light rules a bit more comprehensive.

Why LotFP Suddenly?

So, why I post about LotFP so much? Because I am OVER EXCITED about it. To be frank even V20 Masquerade didn't make me this excited. I don't know much about LotFP and best information is the actual product.

Would I have bought LotFP if it wasn't so good deal past weekend? Yes. Some day but not now. Even though I have considered getting a copy of LotFP this was an impulse purchase. Saw email with cupon code and other great deals. Immediately made an order. Forgot to ask my gf about it and hoping she doesn't be mad about it (gotta go buy some horse stuff for her today to make hobbies even).

I do have free Grindhouse PDF's somewhere in my harddrive though. But I don't like to read PDF's that much and because LotFP is a boxed set it is not the same thing.

So, this ranting is useless and repeating as long as I don't have the actual product in my hand. So, next post about LotFP will be unwrapping.

LotFP- Had to get mine & Thoughts about OSR

First product I bought from LotFP store was Zak Sabbat's Vornheim: the Complete City Kit (buy it HERE, it's cheap and cool). Then this weekend when I checked my email inbox I had this email from LotFP...

Code which provides -20% for list price (LotFP grind house 20€ with this offer).
Free shipping.

What did I do? Ordered immediately!

The offer is no more, but hey, go buy it anyways! With (currently) only 32,50€ you get:

• Tutorial Book (96 A5 pages) Introducing the Basics of Role-Playing
• Rules and Magic Book (168 A5 pages) A comprehensive reference for playing the game
• Referee Book (96 A5 pages) Tools for campaigns and adventure
• 7-piece Dice Set
• Character Sheets

See, I do like OSR stuff. I didn't play D&D or other games now concidered as OSR. It was not my thing. But now as I am growing older both in physical age and how long I have roleplayed I've become more and more curious about OSR.

I do have my own "oldschool" period of gaming. But I don't find it that nostalgic. Basically it was just learning to play and it is just a base for how I play now. If I'd go back to my oldschool gaming it would be just not as advanced how I play now. But still similar (if we forget really early days with random encounters character's die before they get first level).

I have played AD&D 2nd edition when it started to be old-ish because I wanted to play something older and that was a game I had*. I think I've mentioned it dozens of times that in the first session we continued the adventure but switched the rules (to Praedor).
*Actually, I've played Runequest, Stormbringer, Rolemaster, MERP etc. old games but in my opinion AD&D 2nd was still the old fashioned one!

Anyways, then way much later I wanted again try out something more basic what our games usually are not. D&D 3.0 was our choice (not that long ago). It was fun. But I had to strip rules to keep it relatively quick and fun. And we didn't use miniatures so there were plenty of rules what weren't necessary anymore. It was fun, but not oldschool enough. It was just like playing this time fantasy instead of horror or scifi. Fun, but not what I wanted.

What about dozens of free-to-download OSR PDF games? I have plenty of those but haven't found the one I'd like to use. There are actually really cool ones. Some fast and simple, some really detailed with thick rulebooks. But still, something was missing from those. Maybe the fact I am not OSR gamer because I don't have history so from these D&D/AD&D/T&T clones I cannot find the one that ticks.

But Lamentations of the Flame Princess has been one game I've been really curious about. I think it is oldschool but with a little different touch. Also I like how monsters are. They aren't stats you try to remember to be better next time you encounter one or dozen of them. No, in Lamentations of the Flame Princess monsters are unique and that way more horrific. I do like that. Also, I like horror - a lot. And LotFP is bent in the horror direction.

LotFP has it's small unique touch as I am not a fan of generic fantasy with elven and dwarven and heroes and bad guys. It was fun when a kid, but today I want more. Actually I went and bought Ravenloft Campaign Setting for D&D 3.0 to make D&D more interesting. I also got Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (have read novels earlier) but didn't even open it. Too boring.

I am not sure what kind of setting LotFP has, or does it have any. But I already have some ideas how to use it. I'll use some ideas from Ravenloft and will also use Vornheim tool kit.

Maybe coming dark winter gets some dark weird fantasy.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Halloween gaming!

Well, it is not Halloween yet, but this Saturday is close enough. So this post is about Halloween stuff. Let's start with a song, shall we.


So, soon about to start gaming Vampire. Instead of normal session continuing the main story, I'll pull a Halloween session. One or more little stories and plots depending on how it goes. Nothing written down or planned.

Maybe urban legends is a good start. I thought that as player character is a Nosferatu there might be albino alligator in sewers. Enchanted with Tzimisce blood and crafts. Deal with it, as RSPCA cannot.

Also ghost stories are cool. Hitchhiker who disappears from the back seat. I'll use that one also.

Halloween is a night of spooks and it also shows in World of Darkness. More spirits around. Masked killer would be bonus.

Window Decoration

This is window decoration set I bought from store today. Actually art is really cool and well done. Two piece set with a mummy and pumpkin-man.

They are lurking me while I type and Gamemaster.

Bram Stoker's Requiem

Found this cool text from Vampire: the Requiem sourcebook Ordo Dracul.

"Even so, it's a bit of coincidence, and the Ordo Dracul has been searching for evidence of supernatural tampering in Stoker's life ever since his novel first saw print. While true evidence eludes them (and talking to Stoker directly became impossible once the novel saw print, as members of the other vampiric covenants maintained constant surveillance of the author until his death 1912), one very interesting fact points to Stoker having sources beyond those available to normal mortals. He was a member of the Golden Dawn, an occult organization that dabbled in theosophy and Tarot - much like Ordo Dracul itself."

- Ordo Dracul, page 26

Also Ordo Dracul has really, really awesome cover art. It's well done and classical in vampire's appearance.


Interview: Sami Koponen, Finnish game material writer and a gamer

I already have interviewed Finnish roleplaying games designer Ville Vuorela from Burger Games
and it was a success. It gave me inspiration and courage to interview other people who are
publishing or otherwise active in Finnish gaming.

Second in my mind was Sami Koponen. Sami Koponen is Finnish roleplayer, active member of
Finnish roleplaying community and also author of roleplaying material.
You can find Sami's website and blog here:
Sami   also   writes   news   for   Finnish   roleplaying   games   site   Roolipelitiedotus:


Let's start with Efemeros. Efemeros is a published book slash magazine and there are already 
two episodes. First is compilation of roleplaying articles and second unofficial Praedor 
sourcebook with both rules and gaming reports and other Praedor related articles and 
material. Efemeros #2 about Praedor was more successful than the first one. Do you think 
that the key for the success was that you  handled one of the most popular roleplaying game in 
Finland Praedor in it?

Well, success is relative. Efemeros #1 had smaller print run and I wasn’t able to push it to dealers
too well, so naturally the actual number of sold copies was lower. Still, I do think that gamers found
a sourcebook far more interesting than a collection of RPG articles. How did Praedor itself affect
the success is a tougher question. I decided to make a Praedor-supplement in order to gain more
popularity for the supplement, yes. But would an indie-sourcebook been even more successful, if it
was for Dungeons & Dragons or for Heimot? Maybe. Maybe not.

In any case, it seems that there’s a small market for supplements in Finland. Unfortunately everyone
seems to be too busy publishing their own games. Supplements are good stuff in many ways.
Has your Praedor Efemeros had some impact that you know of in Praedor players' gaming?
Feedback from any Finnish rpg publication is scarce at best. I’ve heard of couple of groups, who
used the material published in Efemeros, but I don’t know if it changed their play style. After all,
Efemeros #2 was a collective supplement, so it’s most likely that any group using it would take
some ideas and discard others. Of course, if anyone reading this has used Efemeros in their Praedor-gaming, I’d love to hear about it!

About your gaming history. How did you start playing roleplaying games, what games did you 
play and how? How is your present gaming style different from the early years?

I think I got the idea of roleplaying from my big brother’s friend, who had roleplayed (I don’t know
if he was active gamer). Then a friend of mine bought RuneQuest, and off we went. We were like
ten year olds or something, so rules, setting and whole consistency of the gaming were wacky, but
the idea of shared imagined space carried us.

After the initial “proto-roleplaying” the actual games played were Stormbringer (4th edition) and
Cyberpunk 2020 (2nd edition). I was mostly the GM, but did get to the player’s seat as well.
Stormbringer was our basic fantasy adventure game without any reference to Moorcock’s fine
novels. We didn’t have any metaplot either, just an adventure after another with the same characters.
Besides making my own adventures, I also used any adventure I could get my hands on from other
game lines or from rpg magazines. Cyberpunk had its share of plotting, but characters also ended
dying quite fast after crossing major corporations. I seem to recall that the
game had some serious issues in firefight rules.

These days in my gaming table adventure has lost its ground to drama: The focus is in the
characters, their duties and their relationships and in all the moral conundrums rising from that.
Still, I haven’t abandoned adventure gaming for good. I’ve played several ten-or-so-session
campaigns of RuneQuest and Praedor within a year.

Go ahead, read my whole personal rpg history from my blog
( (editor's note: this site is in Finnish, but you can easily use Google Translate or
other software for other languages.)

You have tried out several different games and gaming styles experiencing for example how 
games run directly as those are presented in the book. Do you think that games give players 
most of it if you play them "straight from the text" or do you think that game material is just 
a toolbox gaming group can use for their own scenarios, worlds and campaigns?

It depends on what you want from your gaming. If you’ve found your way to play and wish to stick
to it, surely you should use games as toolboxes for your style. But if you are interested in trying and
learning new ways to play, discovering new gaming styles, then it’s a good idea to follow the game
rules as is. I myself tend to fall in the latter group, but I’m very aware that it’s not for everybody.

What is your ultimate favourite roleplaying game and how has that changed you as a player?

My Life With Master by Paul Czege, no doubt. The game blew my mind back in 2004, when
Arkkikivi translated it in Finnish. The importance of relationships, simple and effective dice
mechanics, strong emotional content, end game phase… it’s all there and more. I haven’t played the
game excessive amounts and it’s not the best roleplaying game per se, but it had a major impact on
me. Simply put, it showed me that rpgs can offer so much more than mere adventuring.

About Finnish game industry today. It seems that there are more published and upcoming 
games in past few years than ever before. You read constantly about new projects in Finnish 
forums. Do you think that Finnish gaming is at its peak now? What about future? Will in few 
years publishing get slower or is Finnish game publishing growing?

Well, I surely hope this is not the peak, because you can only go down from a peak! Seriously
speaking, while it is true that we have more Finnish rpgs published than ever before, I think this is
mostly because it’s so easy and cheap to publish your own game these days. Finnish game
designing as such hasn’t progressed all that much during the past decade.

It seems  that there are game designers  who are determined to keep on publishing Finnish
roleplaying games, so certain continuity is likely. However, the high numbers of publications are
achieved through new designers. If we are going to see more people publishing their first game is
anyone’s guess. I’ve seen enough to know that forum discussions don’t automatically turn into
published games.

Aside from publishing, I’m more worried whether anyone actually plays these games. It would be
distressing to find out that folks buy Finnish rpgs just to support the game designer, without any
intent to actually play the game. These aren’t books to be read, these are games to be played!

In big world many roleplaying games are going into PDF download business but still in 
Finland printed products are most common. Will this PDF publishing boom catch also 
Finnish roleplaying games industry?

I think it will as soon as someone can produce good and cheap PDF readers. It happens within a
couple of  years is my guess. At the very least I think we’re going to see several projects that use
this new medium.

Then again, there are clear signs of bibliofilia in our hobby. People publish their game just to create
something concrete and gamers buy rulebooks just to feel them and see how nice they look like. As
the gamers’ mean age rises, they also have more money to buy artefacts ie. classy books.

In your opinion, how do you support Finnish roleplaying hobby and what influence do you 
have in it?

By gaming, mostly. I often try to introduce new people to roleplaying. I also support the scene with
filling the ether with game blogs, forum discussions and gaming reports in order to spread the word.
Distant second are publishing projects, my own or helping someone else.

I estimate that during this year I’ve played with maybe twenty people new to roleplaying. If even
two or three of these pick up roleplaying as a hobby, I’m happy. I also hope that my newest game
Pyöreän pöydän ritarit (
) would shed some light into Finnish game designing, but we’ll see. As there are only a few ways to
see any concrete results, I really don’t know my actual influence.

Tell about your future plans. What will you publish, what games or gaming material are you 
working on and will there be more Efemeros? And do you have any plans to publish 
something in English to see does if your ideas catch also others than Finnish gamers?

I actually don’t have any big plans now. I’m looking forward to get to run more games to newbies,
does that count? I do have an idea of a free, short, PDF-formatted rpg, but everyone has ideas. Even
Efemeros is ice-covered at the moment. I was supposed to publish a collection of Ropecon scenario
contest winners as Efemeros #3, but somehow I don’t think that kind of product would find its
audience. It might be rightly said that at the moment I’m more interested in supporting existing
games and hobby projects than publishing anything new.

This English-thing springs on me from everywhere. I’m mostly not interested. I like to focus on
Finnish rpg scene instead; there’s lot to do here. I also doubt that I would have much to say to
English-speaking audience. My gaming stuff is really not that original. The influences go in the
other way: I’m more interested in localising some cool ideas from English rpg scene than trying to
rebound those ideas back at them. Eero, who helped me in designing Pyöreän pöydän ritarit, has
some ideas of the game’s English version, but we’ll see if anything of that ever realizes.

As a publisher and active hobbyist, what advises would you give for starting game writers?

Stay focused. Think about what your game is about and then design all the rules, setting,
mechanisms and whatnot to support this goal. This doesn’t have to mean a single narrow theme.
Likewise, think about why you are writing a game in the first place. If it’s just for fun, do you really
need to publish it? If it’s something for yourself to play, do you need to publish it? If it’s something
someone else has already done before you, do you need to publish it? Publishing is a whole new
project besides game designing, so I’d advice to do it only if your goal requires it.

I'd also like to remind of the supplements. It might be a good idea to get your feet wet by writing a
supplement for an existing game: a sourcebook, an expansion or a scenario. There you have
something to inspire your own writing while still leaving room for your own innovations. The
mother game gives your product some initial popularity as well. Writing a supplement is an easier,
low-risk option well worth of considering.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Reviewing: Ye Booke of Monstres for Call of Cthulhu

Liked re-writing my Vampire: the Masquerade review in the last post, so I thought I'd continue re-reviewing games. This original review I wrote is from 2009 for forum.

Ye Booke of Monstres - The Aniolowski Collection, Volume 1

Ye Booke of Monstres kansikuvaSourcebook for Call of Cthulhu introducing a bung of monsters from a selection of authors inspired by H.P.Lovecraft's work and Mythos. Author of this sourcebook tells that some of these Monsters aren't official Mythos entities but they fit in the world of Cthulhu. Monsters from this books are collected from 70 years of novels and short stories and different writers.

This is a thin book with only 59 pages + a few extra including index. The cover is dark and pretty cool although the art is a bit amateurish. From distance it is great but when examining the details you discover it.

Book is with soft covers and black and white illustration. Layout is lame. Every monster within includes a picture and monsters are divided with big headline and a line what shows pretty well where one description ends and the next starts.

Most of the illustration is similar to Call of Cthulhu rulebook illustration. Monster pictures are a bit scruffy. Illustration isn't that sterling although you can get a picture what the monsters are supposed to look like. I really like the fact that every single being is illustrated when you realize how strange and multi-dimensional some of Mythos beings can be. Points for the effort even though some of the monsters look more hilarious than insanity eating. But it is hard to draw something what is four dimensional, unspeakable and defies all physical laws. 
Olentoja ja hirviöitä

There are plenty of creatures. 69 total. You can do the math yourself. If there are 59 pages for creatures and 69 of them the descriptions cannot be that broad. Also when stats are included for everything here. This is the weakest link in the book, not enough information. Too many monsters tucked in a too small box. Most of the monsters only get few sentences for description.
Usually motives of creature or location is totally missed when information tells usually that monster attacks immediately and fights 'till the end. Also because some monsters are too mighty to fight with rules the stats are just for their ego boast.

I am bitter about this. Now the book is more like monster manual giving combat stats for monsters instead of actually adding more into Mythos and strangeness. You get a picture, stats, small description and that's it. Rest is totally up to the Keeper to use that monster in his adventure. In my opinion Mythos needs more monster information what doesn't tell the stats but how you can use them in your game.

Also for some reason there are plenty of human like monsters with big earlobes who look more like new age science fiction beings than monsters. I personally don't like them.
For Gaming

Even though the books lacks all the interesting information - actually describing the chreatures - it might give inspiration and variety for core books monsters. Problem is, that the Keeper don't get story seeds to use these. He gets combat stats but creating the adventure still depends on the Keeper. I like descriptions what give ideas how to use things. But if your gaming group is bored in ordinary Mythos monsters in core book, this might give small addition from other authors to check out. Although I don't have much of experience about Call of Cthulhu sourcebooks I bet there are better investments to put your money into to get more abominations to use in your games.

Some of the monsters are lame and stupid but there are few I really liked and actually got adventure seeds around certain monsters. Creative Keeper can make adventures from anywhere, so for those this might be a good inspirational source.
 Final Words
Plenty of new Mythos creatures but unfortunately short descriptions. You get stats but not what you really want to use. Thin and fast to read. Cover is not that bad and picture of every monster is great bonus. This could have been so much more. With more information about creatures or narrowing some of those to release more space. Some of these are really stupid.
I am not sure would I like this more if I was familiar with books these monsters are in. You know, saw it on book, get the stats. But for me who is unfamiliar for the fiction behind these this is waste of time. Oh, not so. There are few monsters I actually got inspiration to build campaign around. So it isn't throughout a bad sourcebook.


1 for not providing enough information about monsters.
3 because cover is kinda neat and every booger is illustrated
1½ because I got few inspirations.

1½ final points. You don't need this. If you got almost every single Call of Cthulhu sourcebook, you can buy this. Or if you get this under 5 dollars, consider this. This doesn't change your CoC experience.

Review: Vampire: the Masquerade Revised

This is actually a review I wrote back in 2008 for Finnish roleplaying games forum. I use it as a base for this new review, but modify some parts of it according to today and how I feel Vampire: the Masquerade now.

Short History Of Me And Vampire: the Masquerade

I bought V:tM in late 90's, because I already had Vampire: Dark Ages what I myself enjoyed but my gaming group wasn't that interested in. Main reason was that my group was mainly into fantasy and V:DA was too close being fantasy but it wasn't fantasy enough.
So when I heard about Vampire: the Masquerade and saw it in my local gaming store I decided to buy it. It was set in modern world what made a huge difference. The current version was Revised.

I ran few games and chronicles with it but still my group was more into fantasy so I couldn't play it as much as I wanted. I did know a gaming group who played mostly V:tM but didn't like those guys. You know, later goth Sabbat freaks!

When I met my current girlfriend she got into Vampire gaming and I have played chronicles over 8 years regularly with her. It is our most played and most favorite game. I managed to Storytell and invent chronicles and plots even though I only had the core book. It took many years when I bought my first sourcebook to spice up my gaming.

Vampire: the Masquerade is my ultimate favorite of roleplaying games, and this is the review of it.

Vampire: the Masquerade

A Storytelling game of personal horror.

Vampire: the Masquerade is a game what divides opinions from awe to hate. When the new "edition" of it, Vampire: the Requiem, was launched Vampire: the Masquerade was not forgotten. 20th year edition is a proof of that.
Some of the Vampire players did go with Requiem and never looked back. Some tried the new but decided soon enough that old classical Masquerade was better. New to White Wolf's Vampire are most likely to pick up Requiem, as it is the one in print. But there is still curiosity towards the original 90's gothic punk horror game.


In addition that the book is really stylish with its marble like green cover and simple but catchy logo it is also quite durable. I can say that I have read the book numerous times and its been in darkest corners of earth and used a lot, but still it is in good shape. Only small problem is, that the binding is a bit loosen. Otherwise, it is in really good shape. I could say that the book is really durable.

Prologue: A Gathering of Beasts

Like every White Wolf product, also Masquerade starts with fictive story. Before each chapter there is one page fiction, but in the beginning the story is almost like a short story. Also in the back there are basically two short stories. The last is one page but entertaining and in rules there is also a story about a Vampire in different ages from history to today. It introduces World of Darkness in vampire's point of view.

These stories give nice additional information about Vampire. They are entertaining to read and generally well ridden and usually give individual's view on things what makes them good material to get into the thoughts of vampires. Some of these stories might be suggested for player to read to get a feel. Stories focus on a certain clan you can give for a player to read who is going to play that clan.

Only little problem is that some of these stories have a really messy font. It makes reading a bit slower and you might focus more on the font than actual text.


The first actual chapter, the introduction covers quickly and roughly playing of Vampire: the Masquerade, basics to storytelling and the difference of Storyteller (Game Master) and a player. After that the chapter covers some real world myths about vampires to World of Darkness facts about vampires. Also basic vampire activities like feeding (drinking blood), embracing (making a vampire) and other basics.
Also the book is covered from which chapter you find which thing. How-to-use-this-book guide and also different sources for inspiration are covered from books to movies.

Also LARPing Vampire is quickly covered, but there are no real rules how to LARP (Mind's Eye Theater is for that).

For Vampire elder this chapter is a bit unnecessary but for a fledling it is good information to get an overview what Vampire: the Masquerade is about.

In my opinion maybe the most important part in this chapter is telling the differences of pop-culture and mythical vampires against World of Darkness' view about vampires.
Chapter One: A World of Darkness

This chapter focuses on the setting of World of Darkness and in vampire society, hierarchy and customs. Text is well written and focuses on what is important. There is not too much struggling to get a nice overview of each thing covered. Naturally in core book everything cannot be covered, but this is a good base to get started.

There are no rules or any other mechanics in this chapter. Just fluff and setting text. Vampire hierarchy, what prince is, population, rules of the Vampire society and other basic things are covered but mostly in Camarilla view.

But as these things are explained densely some topics leave questions. It might annoy a Storyteller who wants to know anything but in the other hand it leaves space to fill the holes yourself. It depends what you like and in numerous sourcebooks these details are mostly covered with detail. For a core book this is good basic information although in some parts as a starting Storyteller there were topics I would wanted to know more about.

There is also Lexicon what White Wolf uses. Encyclopedia of words vampires use. Nice detail White Wolf uses to give additional depth for both characters and NPCs to use in dialect.

Chapter two: Clans and Sects

Basically clans are the character classes of Vampire: the Masquerade what you choose when creating a character. Each clan has their own weaknesses, set of disciplines they learn easier, motivations, backgrounds and view of other clans. Clan descriptions are stereotypical but easy to pick up for beginner players. Advanced players can think out of the box and create characters what aren't what clan description says.

For example it is easy for new to Vampire player to pick up between Brujah the gang member, Ventrue the businessman or Toreador the artist. Advanced player might create a Brujah artist, Ventrue gang member or Toreador businessman.

In my opinion it should be more clearly stated that these are only stereotypes, not character concepts. I don't know how many have played or plays clans as told without experimenting with individual characters in the clan. I know I did.

There are three sects. Camarilla what gets most of the attention, Sabbat what leaves too many questions open because of it's different views and is almost unplayable in a more deep way and the Independents, who are clans not following Camarilla or Sabbat. Also Camarilla clan member might be part of the Sabbat and vice versa.

There are total of 13 clans and caitiff. Caitiff is basically your custom vampire. Clanless. There are both disadvantages and advantages for being a caitiff. Mostly disadvantages are in the story, not in rules. Most of the clans are in Camarilla, only two in Sabbat and few in Independent. Although Sabbat does have antitribu members who are individuals from clans belonging in different sect, but whole antitribu concept isn't explained that much.

There is no enough information about clans and sects. I can understand it, but deeper political game is hard to achieve with the information provided. This is when sourcebooks about sects and clans kick in. If you don't want to invent everything yourself, you are going to need these books.
   The variety of these 13 clans is good. Every player can find their own (stereotypically) from figters (Brujah),    businessmen (Ventrue), aesthetic artists (Toreador), sneaky assasins (Assamite), wizards and magisters (Tremere), monsters (Tzimisce), classical sewer dwellers (Nosferatu), cultists (Followers of Set) and so on. Also some bloodlines are introduced for slight variation what usually is about starting disciplines but there is no meta data about these.
Chapter Three: Character and Traits

In default character creation starts figuring out what kind of character you want to play. Background as a human, how he was embraced and who did it. What motivates her and so on. To make this easier there is a list of questions player can answer about her character. When the background is done the technical character chreation begins.

After choosing a clan what determines weakness and starting disciplines character creation is really straightforward, simple and fast. Attributes and abilities (skills) are divided each in three categories from which player chooses what is first, second and third to get different amount of points to divide between those. Attributes are physical (strength, dexterity, stamina), social (manipulation, charisma, appearance) and mental (intelligence, wits and perception). There are total of 30 skills. There are also backgrounds what give different advantages for characters like higher generation, famous sire, fame or wealth. Unfortunately list of backgrounds is in my opinion too short in core book.

Disciplines (the supernatural powers of vampires) get three points to share to and they are determined by clan of character. Some changes for initial disciplines can be made though. Last touch is to spend few points into conscience (or conviction for most of Sabbat vampires), courage, humanity (possible path for Sabbat) and so on.

None of these are marked with a number, but coloring balls. Fours spent points to driving skill means four colored balls. Each ball represents one die to your dice pool what is covered in rules mechanically. Character sheet is simple but stylish.

Further in this chapter skills are introduced what they mean and examples of how they work and what different values represent how good character is in that skill. Every skill has few sentences of fiction.

For normal character range of attributes is 1-5 (exception Nosferatus who cannot get any dots to appearance). Each attribute starts with initial value of 1 (except Nosferatus with ugly face). Skills are in range of 0 not learned to 5. With higher generation higher values might be possible.

In skills there is a small problem though. Some skills are not covered at all, and some are a bit too focused on a certain thing. This serves genre and how Vampire is meant to run but I have had several situations where there is no skill to use in a certain task. Fortunately there are new skills introduced in sourcebooks and players can invent their own skills if they will.

In the end of this chapter there are mechanics directly for playing a character and experience section. Experience points are mostly achieved from good roleplaying, characters personal advancement and advancing in adventure or chronicle. There are no experience values for looting or killing, but experience is more abstract. With experience points player can advance his characters attributes, skills and powers. The price depends on the category and how many dots there already are. Skills are cheapest to advance and disciplines outside of clan are most expensive.

Last you have freebie points to share where ever you want. Also you might get freebie points from flaws or spend them in merits described in appendix.

Chapter Four: Disciplines

Disciplines are vampire's supernatural powers what distinct them from mortals (well, in addition to needing blood, being basically immortal, unable to walk in sunlight and other vampiric characteristics). Disciplines are part of vampire blood so some of them need bloodpoints to trigger. Blood points can be gained more from feeding. And if you get low on bloodpoints, you get hungry and might fall in frenzy - vampiric uncontrollable rage. Bloodpoints might be concidered as some kind of magic points if you will. In addition some disciplines need willpower to be spent. Willpower is mental strength what you use to trigger certain disciplines, get automatic success or to resist some disciplines used on you. You get willpower back playing according to your character or possibly one after each session if Storyteller says so.

There is wide variety of different kind of disciplines each with five subcategories. Each dot in one discipline opens new powers character can use from that discipline class. Many traditional vampire powers are included like mind control, turning into a wolf, inhuman strength, supernatural haste and so on. Also some clans posses magic like disciplines like boiling another's blood.
Some of these disciplines are shared by different clans, but some disciplines are clan specific. One small problem with descriptions is that you need to read a bit to find what exactly the discipline does and how it works mechanically. In my opinion this should be more clear.
Chapter Five: Rules

Basic mechanics of the game are fitted in only seven pages. These seven pages mostly include how you roll dice. More advanced rules like combat are followed after this chapter. Only function of this chapter is to introduce the dicepool mechanics. The basics are fast to learn though.

Rules are really simple. When character tries to do something Storyteller tells what attribute and ability (or other character trait) is used and dots in these tell how many dice are rolled. Only dice game needs is D10, but you need plenty of them. At least 10 (per player if you want) to make playing comfortable.

The basic difficulty is 6 and each die result of a 6 or more is a success. More successes you get the better the outcome is. Faster you fix the computer or more damage you possibly deal. Results 1 decrease successes. If there are no successes at all but one or more 1 you botch. Something goes horribly wrong. If you have a specialty in skill (four or more dots, get specialty for beneficing in a certain situation) you can roll results 10 again (note: I have houseruled this. You roll 10 always again, specialty gives bonus die).

If task is more difficult, the target number needed from rolls is higher. For example 8 or more. In easier difficulties target number is lower. A rule of thumb is that if difficulty is equal to character's dicepool no roll is needed. Exception combat of course. 

Even though system is fast and dicepool is fast to determine as is successes, there is a flaw. Basically better you are and more dice you roll the higher change is that you get those unwanted ones.

Chapter Six: Systems And Drama

Chapter goes deeper in rules with combat. Base is same with basic mechanics. You roll Attribute + ability against a difficulty to hit. Extra successes after the first one give bonus dice to damage dicepool. Damage is determined by these bonus dice and weapon damage dice or in melee weapon damage and strength. You roll as many dice as you have damage and results over 6 are one point of damage. After damage is resolved opponent might have a possibility to soak damage with his stamina, armor and Fortitude if he possesses that discipline. The remaining is how much damage is dealt.

In my opinion Requiem basically does this better. In Masquerade to get a resolution of shooting with a shotgun you first roll to hit, then you roll damage with possible more dice and then opponent rolls to soak the damage. Three rolls with lots of dice in each. Player might have dicepool of 8 to shoot with shotgun and when he gets 7 successes, he can add 6 to damage. Shotgun does 8 damage so now player rolls 14 dice from which you count over 6's to actual damage. And then soak roll is rolled to determine how many successes decrease the damage. For a Storytelling game a bit too clumsy in my opinion.

Remaining of this chapter is for damage rules. Different types of weapons deal different types of damage. Bashing for blunt, lethal for bullets or sharp objects and aggravated for vampires from example fire. Also vampires soak damage differently than humans. Vampires and human characters do share exactly the same health bar, but still shooting the vampire most likely does less damage than shooting a human. Little extra to remember.

Also rules for mental health and conditions are covered and enviromental lethality as fire, electrocution and falling.
Also some technical stuff about embracing a vampire or making a ghoul, but these are more fluff than mechanics. Vampiric uncotrollable rage and fear of fire are also covered here.

Chapter ends with game example what tells in detail how different actions work.

Chapter Seven: A History of the Kindred

Longish few page story vampire telling of history from middle ages through world war to this day. Interesting and well enough written but basically unnecessary information. It can give some ideas for character history and it might give depth for World of Darkness but you can survive without it. Short story in between.
Chapter Eight: Storytelling

For Storyteller possibly the most important chapter. How you run Vampire: the Masquerade? What kind of adventures and chronicles you could run? What about the plot? How to make a good adventure? This chapter answers these questions giving adventure seeds to use. Most of the adventure seeds are good enough to build whole campaign around. Nothing is pre-written though. These are mainly for inspiration. No actual ready to run adventure.

Chapter Nine: Antagonists

This is the "monster" section of game. It lists different organizations and even other supernatural beings with stats and descriptions to use in game. For me this is a little waste of time and space, but if you quickly need stats for a biker gang member of agent, you got it. Also wrights, mages, werewolves, changelings and others are introduced but the information is so narrow you can hardly use them except as a punching bag. Of course as all these other supernatural beings have their own rich in detail game line it would be hard to include information here.
So, if you want to fight a werewolf, here are stats. If you want a plot with mages, you better go and buy Mage: the Ascension to use.


For advanced players appendix provides moral paths instead of humanity for characters who don't fallow humanity any more, but instead a different moral code of vampires. There are several different paths with their own different moral codes. These might be hard to play for beginners but can give more depth for advanced players.

Also merits and flaws to buy in character creation. Merits are advantages you spend points to, flaws are disadvantages you get points from.


So, what Vampire: the Masquerade is? A neat book, good enough system with a bit too clumsy combat resolution... there are flaws and it is not perfect. I think that it is the setting that makes the book great. Requiem might be a bit better in some parts of the mechanics, but the setting is what you like or don't like. Vampire: the Masquerade is blamed to be too complex in setting with too much information to even tangle itself with it. I find that there is plenty of sources to choose from. But as this is core book review and not Masquerade setting review, I'll leave it to that.

Even though Masquerade has been died for some time the 20th special edition tells it is still liked. It still has fans. I am one of those people who love Vampire: the Masquerade. 

It might be that fledlings might be hard to "get" this game as Requiem is more modern in system and obviously easier to obtain. But if you forget the rules and availability you have two different settings. World of Masquerade and World of Requiem. That is what you choose between. I choose Masquerade.

4 points for how it looks. It is neat book with decent art. Some of the pictures are horrible though, but that is what roleplaying games usually get.
3½ points for rules. I like the basic concept of rules but combat is a bit too complicated. Although the game is easy to custom and house rule, so 4 points would be good also. Also you some meta data leaves you cold and you basically need sourcebooks. But as I review the game as it is, 3,5.
5 points for fun. I have played Vampire: the Masquerade a lot. I have enjoyed it so much. I have had great drama, lots of laughs, and dreadful tragedy in games. Players are the ones who make the game but I think that Vampire has been the inspiration.

4½ points total. Might be unfair to give this high score, but it's how I feel. For a game, 3½ is the score. For what Vampire is for me, 4½.