Stars without number Revised edition – 1st Gameplay

So, carrying on from the previous post . We hit 9pm and the characters were all generated. Now I already had a sort of vague idea how I was going to get all the characters together.
As I’m continuing the campaign where I left off the previous campaign, a lot of the setting material was immediately ready to go.

The Characters:

  • Chris is running a Warrior/Pilot type character (Warrior/Pilot – named “Stanislaw Nebulant”).
  • Danny was running his Salesman/conman character, sort of a Faceman (Expert – named “Mr Farque”).
  • Hayden ran a Psychic/warrior semi class.  Basically a Psychic cop on a 20th Century tech world (Adventurer/Warrior/Psychic Cop – named “Ironclad”).
  • Nich ran a Psychic medic on from the same world as the Psychic cop (Psychic/Medic named “Master Unbroken”).

I started the session with the Stanislaw.  He was offered a small job by a new Faction, who were originally PCs in my original SWN campaign.
Now they are hiring the new PCs and their representative is an Administrator named Arthur, who is sort of like Rimmer out of Red dwarf, although he’s not a Hologram.
There was no need for any game mechanics or dice rolling at this stage, so it was pure RP.
So Stanislaw is hired to recruit some Psychics from a 20th century tech level planet named Papagos in another system ( TL3).

GM note: I randomly generated the entire sector using the sector generator for SWN. So this planet is TL3, has a Theocracy who idolise Psychic power use and definitely don’t want any psychics leaving the planet.
Furthermore, there IS a functioning Psychic academy on the planet, so the occurrence of psychics on this planet are higher than normal. This is an exception to the limitation to TL3.

After a fairly tumultuous trip to a system 2 jumps away, where the planet Papagos is to find some Psychics, Stanislaw arrives at a small Outstation orbiting the low tech (TL3, approx Early 21st century tech level) planet.  With one exception that it has a Psychic academy and Psychics are about 1% of the population.

I then moved the action back to Papagos where Ironclad, The Unbroken and Mr Farque are living on.

So, Stanislaw lands on the Outstation orbiting Papagos below and talks to the only crew, a man named David, who keeps the Outstation operational.
There’s also a strange blob-like creature who’s human name is “Eddy”. A quite forward, but friendly creature who is innately Psychic.
He has been hired temporarily by the “Flower Federation” to help find Psychics, as he has certain abilities to detect Psychics (Metapsionics).
He also has a strange ability to physically merge with humans (and creatures in general), so they share the same body and have a dual consciousness.

Stanislaw reluctantly agrees to this and is inhabited Amoeba like by Eddy, as it sort of merges with his body in a sort of reverse-Osmosis like effect.

Stanislaw is given some instructions with Eddy how to look for Psychics and recruit them. He has been given the name and description of Mr Farque to assist in find PSychic recruits.
He then lands the ship in the capital city, which is roughly TL3, but a very cold planet, so the main city (roughly 100k people) is quite utilitarian in nature.

There’s only 1 landing pad and the culture on Papagos don’t have space technology yet. But they are aware of the Flower Federations Outstation presence and trade with them from time to time.
They venerate Psychics and see them as superior beings.  It is also forbidden for Psychics to leave the planet according to their local law. So trying to recruit psychics is a risky affair.

At this stage, as Stanislaw lands, it’s in a light industrial zone and it’s considered quite an event for a ship to land.

Mr Farque is currently wheeling and dealing (and waiting for Stanislaw) in a local dive/bar and Ironclad is arriving at the bar to do his usual police checks.
Unbroken (the Medic) is at the local hospital, where he works and has been told to visit the bar, as there has been a call from there with a poisoning. So he’s on the way there.

Meanwhile back at the bar, Ironclad walks in and notices a commotion from the  kitchen and goes in to investigate. He sees a man spread out on a worktop and has a strange bluish liquid coming from his mouth.
The barman, who is there, sheepishly admits the person might have drunk something from the bar that might be somewhat poisonous.  A sort of dodgy drink made/distilled from cleaning fluid.
He points out he though it was OK after some interrogation (I.E. mild beating) from Ironclad, finds he bought the stuff from Mr Farque earlier in the day.
Ironclad calls in Mr Farque who is now trying to smooth over the problem and help out.

At this moment Unbroken (the Medic) arrives and also spots the commotion in the kitchen, so he goes in to see what he can do…
Note that it is not publicly known Unbroken is a Psychic. the Hospital assumes he’s a normal Human Medic. But actually, he’s a Biopsionic specialist.

At this moment, Stanislaw with his Symbiotic friend, Eddy arrive in the bar.
Using the abilities of Eddy, he scans around the bar and by chance (and a REALLY good NOTICE roll), notices the commotion in the kitchen and Eddy happens to scan correctly the Psychic nature of Ironclad and Unbroken. He is sort of trying to hover around the door to the kitchen and watching.

Meanwhile, Unbroken figures out the poisoning and uses his Biopsionics to heal the poisoned person, which Eddy spots..

There is a fair amount of commotion and Stanislaw notices Mr Farque and who is now trying to calm things down, but he notices Stanislaw and between them, they realise recruiting Ironclad and Unbroken for the Flower federation is a good idea.

There’s a lot of RP here. but ultimately, Unbroken and Ironclad agree to somehow ship off planet to find their destiny.
Mr Farque, knowing it’s forbidden to leave the planet if you’re Psychic concocts a plan to manipulate a worker at the landing pad to cause a distraction, so he can sneak Unbroken and Hayden onto the ship.
Mr Farque also wants to come along, sensing opportunity for “Profits”.

The plan is quite convoluted , but it essentially about causing distractions with local authorities and Ironclad using he Telekinesis to move cameras around the landing pad, so they can make their getaway.

GM notes: I did use some dice rolls using TALK, PERFORM and so on do process what actually happen, as there was a time constraint and some risk of danger with failed skill checks. But no actual combat was required.

This plan is largely successful and the whole party gets off planet.  They land on the Outstation and there is a lot of RP, discussing what to do next and how to do that.

Mainly, they are to get back to the Ingirid system, where the Flower federation is based to report back to the PC faction on the cruiser.

Stanislaw is keen to get rid of Eddy the Aeomaeran, which we pick up next session.

The game ran very smoothly and a minimum of dice rolling was required, which was great, as I don’t like to get bogged down into game mechanics.

To be continued in Session 2.

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Stars without number: Revised edition – Character generation session and opinions

Stars Without Number revised edition Cover

So, I finally got a chance to run Stars without Number revised edition last night.
I had 4 players and and we started with character generation.  So it was a fresh start with new characters and this was the very first gaming session with the revised edition of Stars without number.

One of the players was new to Stars Without Number (I’ll refer as SWN from now). The others had played in  my earlier edition SWN campaign. So knew the setting pretty well.

It was 7pm and We dived right into character generation and I went through that with them using the rules as written. No customised rules or changes were made.

Character generation

Roll attributes

 

OPM647706

The first thing we did was roll stats.  SWN uses the basic 6 stats (Strength, Constitution, Dexterity, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma). There are 2 options.
1: roll 3d6 in order.  You can assign one stat to 14 , so it’s wise to replace a really low stat with that, but perhaps not, as the stats are rolled in order, so you might want to assign it otherwise, based on what class you’re interested in.   3 of the players chose this option and were pretty happy with how that turned out.
2: Take a stat block, assign as you like.  Stat block as follows: 14, 12, 11, 10, 9, and 7.

Initially, a player had chosen to roll 3d6 in order, but as he wanted to run a specific class (A partial Warrior/Psychic), he changed to the Stat block.
This means you can be guaranteed of getting the character you want and is less risky/swingy with what stats you end up with.

All in all, stat bonuses associated with Attributes don’t have a massive variance, but it’s nice to see the stats to flesh out your character.

Choose background

 

medic

At this stage, before choosing your Character Class, you get to choose your Character Background.
This is where you choose your character origins. You can choose 2 skills or you can roll 3 times on either of 2 tables that have a possibility to get some skills at random or some Attribute increases.
It means if you choose the random option, you end up with more skills and/or an Attribute increases, but you most likely won’t get to choose the skills at this stage.
Everyone chose to roll randomly. I think partially to get the extra benefits, but also as I think they found it interesting to see what they ended up with.
There’s quite a few background options though, so depending on what one you choose will affect what rolls you get.

Choose class

There’s 3 main classes in SWN revised and an additional PARTIAL class that is made up some attributes of all the classes.
technician.JPGExpert: A good class if you want a lot of skills, but at the expense of combat ability, although is still better than a Psychic. However you don’t get any Psychic ability.
Good for Technicians, Pilots,  Technicians, Criminologists, Hackers etc.
They also get a special ability where they can reroll a Non-combat skill check once per “Scene”.

Finally, they get to choose a Non-combat focus (described later), which adds special abilities, skills etc.

1 player took an Expert and generated a sort of fast talking Conman type character.

Psychic: The pure Psychic user. A Psychic specialist. There’s various Psionic Disciplines available to Psychics, but they don’t get any other special abilities. They’re pretty combat poor in a traditional sense, but there ARE various Psychic Disciplines that have combat applications.
They also have many NON-Combat applications.Psychic You can do a lot of fun stuff with Psychics and matching up carefully what Disciplines you choose with your background and later Foci can result in some really interesting characters.

1 player chose a Psychic character and he went with a pure Biopsionic. Which is a sort of Healing and body modification Discipline.  He also took Precognition, which is being able to foretell and control future possibilities and probabilities.

Warrior:

Warrior

The Warrior is the strongest class when it comes to toe to toe combat, shooting etc. They get superior Hit points, Have an ability to reroll one missed combat roll per combat or force a hit on them to miss once per combat.

They can also choose a combat related focus (which adds skills special abilities etc) and have a faster progressing Base attack Bonus, which gets added to all combat rolls.

 

Interestingly, 1 player chose a Warrior for his mainly Pilot character. Normally a Pilot would be an Expert class, as Experts get lots of skills. But it’s possible to carefully select your background skills and later Foci and Hobby skills to have a pretty well rounded Pilot character and still have the benefits of the Warrior Class.

Ultimately, it’s likely an Expert Class who is a Pilot will over time have a better selection of skills than a Warrior Pilot, but then the Expert Pilot won’t be as effective in personal combat as a Warrior.  So it’s a trade off and is a matter of deciding what sort of character you want.

Adventurer:    The Adventurer is a new Class introduced in the revision rules. It’s a sort of melange of all the Classes, But a master of none. Adventurer

How it works is they can choose 2 of the 3 other classes (Expert, Psychic and Warrior) where they get SOME aspects of the 2 classes they select.

So for example one of the players chose a Partial Psychic/Warrior. As a partial Psychic, he could choose 1 Psychic Discipline, so he chose Telekinesis, which allowed him to create Psychic armoring and weapons (with careful selection of techniques inside the Telekinesis Discipline). He also got the increased Hit points benefits of a Warrior and slightly better Base attack bonus progression (but not quite as good as a Warrior) and a free combat focus.
I was pleasantly surprised how well  rounded the character ended up.  Once you consider Background, Class and later Focus and Hobby skills selection was completed.

All in all , this is a great option if you want something unusual that each of the other classes can’t quite provide.

Choose focus abilities

This is a new thing for Stars without number and is really interesting.  Essentially as part of some classes you get to choose a Focus and in addition everyone gets to choose one by default.
Foci are sort of like special abilities that grant skills and abilities that in some ways work outside the normal limitations of the rules.
There are lots of Foci and I won’t go into great detail about it. But it’s a great way to round out your character and make it feel and look unique.

For example, one player went with an Ironhide Focus, which allows a natural Armor class of 15 due to either faster reflexes or bio-engineered modified skin or whatever. I believe he chose the bio-engineered tough skin.
Generally you will get a free skill and a special ability. You can further develop these foci, as each focus has 2 levels of ability, which you can increase by spending points on character progression.

Choose hobby skills

This is the last opportunity to add any skills.   You can open or increase to 1 a skill.
It doesn’t have to be related to your background or Class or Foci.
It’s handy, as if you feel there’s skills missing for your character, then you have this opportunity to select any skill you want, apart from Psychic skills.

Final touches

We’re on the home stretch now… Most time was spent on class and particularly choosing Foci, as they’re very interesting. We’ve reached about 8:30pm by now, so we’ve been at it for 1.5 hours, which is not bad as this is the first time for generating characters for the revision rules and I fit in a lot of explaining of the setting, rules and so on.

So you set your:

  • Base attack bonus, which is zero for most, but +1 for Warriors.
  • Armor class, which is now ASCENDING, so works in the same way Modern Dungeons and Dragons works.
  • Calculate your specific bonuses to hit and damage.
  • Calculate Hit points, which is 1d6 + CON bonus (and a +2 for Warriors).
  • Calculate your 3 saving throws (Physical, Evasion and Mental) Which is 15 MINUS various Attribute bonuses.
  • Choose equipment packs or roll for money and buy your equipment.  I note that everyone chose equipment packs as there’s many good examples of kits that are very useful and varied.
  • Choose a name, gender etc.
  • Finally, as I’m continuing the setting from an earlier SWN campaign from an earlier version of SWN, I discussed and selected a System and planet each character came from.

Final Thoughts

So finally that was it, Characters completed and it was about 9pm. So to get this far for the first time, it took 2 hours. I expect it’d take about 30 minutes to generate a character in future.

As it wasn’t that late, we decided to actually play a session as well. I already had in mind how to bring the characters together. But I’ll get into the gameplay session in another post.

Overall, character generation was a positive experience.

The Adventurer class was the most complex and I made a couple of oversights at first in character generation, but it was picked up pretty quickly.

Everyone ended up with interesting and well rounded characters.

The character  Generation was pretty fun too,  particularly looking through the Foci and balancing out the very much varied choices.

The Psionics were fun to read too.  They’re quite different in how they’re structured from the 1st edition SWN which was strictly by Psionic power level. Whereas now its grouped by skill level and has techniques you can buy too.

Finally, it’s worth noting there’s a FREE version of the SWN revision rules, which is enough for players to use or a GM to get a feel for the game.
Most of the content is there, just minus some GM tables, Mechs, AI and a few other things.
This is a REALLY nice touch, as it means players don’t have to buy into the game initially if they don’t want to and it allows a GM to “Try before they buy”.

NEXT – Session 2 of SWN revised edition

 

Other Dust RPG review

Other dust

So what is Other Dust?

otherfight1Other Dust is a Post Apocalyptic, OSR Roleplaying game made by Sine Nomine. It’s part of the family of RPGs made by Sine Nomine which are all mechanically compatible with each other.  The setting itself is based on Earth (although you could set it elsewhere if you prefer) and ties in with the Stars Without number setting, but earlier after the “Scream”, a Galactic wide event that killed or drove mad Psychics at the height of the “Terran Mandate”.

Sadly however, the Terran Mandate became dependent on Psychics to control vast jumpgates to transport ships/people many light years across the galaxy. In addition to that, there were also very powerful AI controlling swarms of Nanites on planets, space stations, ships etc,  whose purpose was to keep the citizens of the Terran Mandate healthy and happy, by curing wounds, sicknesses, ensure happiness and so on.

What made this worse is the leaders of the Terran Mandate, known as “Directors” are also VERY powerful Psychics  driven mad by “The Scream”, attacked the guardian AIs, that are knows as “Maestros” that the Directors had originally created to manage the vast Nanite swarms that cared for it’s citizens in the Terran Mandate.

A war took place between the powerful AIs and the maddened Psychics, many on both sides being destroyed or corrupted in some way.   The surviving AIs, most of which had their programming corrupted and twisted by the Psychic/AI wars, the rest of the citizenry caught in the middle.

Thus the Terran Mandate collapsed into a Dark age……. Planets, Sectors and Systems cut off from each other for 100s of years…

The worst of this took place on the Home planet Earth. More than one of the Directors were based on Earth and the most powerful AI were also based there, managing the all powerful Nanite swarms that nurtured the citizens on Earth and Earth itself. In addition to that, Earth had a protective “Mirror Shield” made up of 1000s of defense satellites,  stopping access access to and from Earth, also controlled by the Maestros..

The Directors were killed, suppressed or driven off, however the Maestros were also driven mad by the war and now 100s of years later, do their best to maintain order on Earth, blocking off access to and from Earth, however the wars, radiation, malfunctioning Nanite Swarms, insane Psychics have corrupted the Landscape, the Planet, the people, animals, plant life, ecology….   everything.

Village

Now Earth is a ruin, a Post Apocalyptic world, a shadow of it’s former self, a mutated, twisted, perverted version of it’s past…. This is the setting for Other Dust…. where only the strong and/or clever survive to rise in the ashes of the past on the ruin of Planet Earth….

 


OSR Roleplaying

Dice

Other dust is an OSR roleplaying game. The term OSR, is an abbreviation for “Old School Renaissance”.  OSR means different things to different people. But one thing that is generally agreed on is it’s a style of Roleplaying game that is based on Roleplaying games from the beginning of Roleplaying games. In many cases it refers to the Original Dungeons and Dragons published by Gary Gygax in the 1970s.

Other Dust, Stars Without number and other Sine Nomine games are based on OSR rules, specifically the Original Dungeons and Dragons rules.  However it has been converted to a Scifi/Post Apocalyptic rules set. It also has other enhancements, such as a Skill system and other features to make it suitable for the genre.


Sandbox Roleplaying

Sandbox Roleplaying games compared to other types of Roleplaying games generally don’t have an overall plot or major quest to be followed.  They offer a lot of freedom for players to just do what they want and often it involves exploring and pursuing their own goals.

As a GM (Game Master) a lot of the content is randomly generated and fleshed out as the campaign progresses, whereas often in other Tabletop RPGs, the GM uses a published adventure or campaign.

The great thing about all the Sine Nomine RPGs is they have lots of guidance, random tables and general material to aid in the running of a Sandbox RPG. such as Plot device generation, area generation, creature generation, Faction generation and so on. Actually this is probably the biggest strength of this range of RPGs.


Game Mechanics

Combat rules

Other dust combat

The game mechanics are pretty simple.  They use a D20, Original Dungeons and Dragons to hit a descending Armor Class and if you hit, you roll various types of damage based on the weapon you use and ability bonuses. Very easy and even if you’ve only heard of Dungeons and Dragons you’ll pick up how it works easily.

Combat is pretty deadly, especially at low levels, so you want to play the game smart.

Skill system

The skills differ from dungeons and dragons and play out more like the Traveller RPG. You start as NO  skill in something, which imparts a penalty to the roll, which is done on 2D6 with a Target number.

As you level up, you can buy skills and the first rank is Zero, which means no penalty on the skill. Thereafter Skill ranks add 1 to the skill roll. Also very easy to pick up.

The skills are very broad, less than other RPGs in general, but enough to make a functional RPG, but not so much so you can’t build a well rounded party.


Character generation and Character Classes

Attributes

This has the usual 6 Dnd type stats: Intelligence, Strength, Wisdom, Dexterity, Constitution and Charisma, which is standard fare for many RPGs. You roll them on 3d6, but there are also variations suggested. You can swap out a stat to 14 for one of your prime stats, which is determined by Class later.

Backgrounds

You also choose a Background, which is not related to the class. This awards some skills for your character.   There’s lots of backgrounds to choose from, for example, Bandit, Noble, Hunter etc..

Classses

There’s 4 basic classes to choose from and they all have varied Hit dice, meaning a type of dice to use to roll your hit points, which is a measure of your general maximum health.

Your class will also determine your SAVES, which is how good you are to resist/evade various types of attacks. There’s 5 types of saves as follows:

Physical effect: how to resist disease, poisons etc.

Mental Effect: Sanity, mental strength to resist Psychic attacks.

Evasion: How good you are at dodging things.

Tech: How resistant you are to alien, exotic technology attacks, effects.

Luck: Just pure dumb luck. Being in the right place at the right time and so on.

You roll these saves on a D20 and you must roll equal to or higher to pass. Your class also determines your Attack bonus, which is a number that gets added to your attack rolls.Each class also get a special ability, which is quite handy when things get difficult.They also get a special range of skill packs they can choose from based on class.

The 4 classes are as follows:

Scrounger: A sort of Post apocalyptic handyman who good with Tech (think rogue in Fantasy games I suppose). They have a special ability to auto success a skill check (still fails on 2) once per day. They have average hit.

Slayer: A pure warrior, they fight well at the expense of lots of skills.  They have the best Hit dice as well. Their special ability to auto hit (except on a natural 1 on a D20) once per fight. That’s a pretty brutal ability.

Survivor: A Ranger, Survival specialist. An all round decent character to take if you want to survive out in the Post Apocalyptic wilds. They have  above average Hit dice and get a healing ability that kicks off when they hit zero Hit points.

Speaker: The Face-man, the person who talks to people before things get ugly. Great language skills and generally getting on with or intimidating people. Average Hit points, like the Scrounger.

These classes are pretty general and you could make a character that fits your desire pretty easily based on how you want to approach it. Again it’s pretty flexible.

Mutations

You can also generate Mutations for your characters (or not if you choose). If you don’t choose mutations, you can choose to be immune to the mutations of the Nanite swarms. Otherwise you are allocated points to randomly generate mutations or choose them (more expensive).  The mutations can be really nice or pretty average. you can generate Beneficial mutations and flaws, depending on your choices. You also choose/roll a Stigmata, which is how you look physically different in some way.

Mutations and Stigmata are quite varied and pretty fun. Kind of the most fun part of the character generation really.

Equipment

Finally you roll choose your starting equipment, which can have some decent stuff to start with. So you don’t start like a “Babe in the woods”.


Final notes

Whilst I’d love to run this more as a stand alone game, I’m mostly running Stars Without number and using elements of this game, as they’re 100% compatible with each other.

The layout of the book is superior to Stars Without Number and feels generally more professionally done, which is no surprise, as this came after Stars without number. If you like some pretty hardcore, survival, Post Apocalyptic RPG fun with lots of additional material to draw from from Sine Nomine’s other compatible RPGs, then this is the RPG for you.

 

 

Sword Coast Legends PC game – Not that bad really

Sword coast Legends Drama!

As many already know, N-Space, the developers of Sword Coast Legends have closed shop, at least partially due to the less than stellar reviews it got on release with Sword Coast Legends.
Sword Coast LegendsI did actually buy this game on release, even though I had done my research before buying, meaning it was stated clearly that it wasn’t going to be  a Neverwinter Nights 1 or Neverwinter Nights 2 sequel.  So I tried it out with open eyes and an open mind.

 


So what IS Sword Coast Legends?

It’s a Computer Role-Playing Game. It was touted as being loosely based on Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition. So an Isometric dungeon bash type RPG. It’s set in the Forgotten Realms Dungeons and Dragons setting along the Sword Coast (Obviously). So that’s nice and familiar for DnD fans.


So what’s the Drama?

dramaLike I said earlier, they DID say it wasn’t going to be a sequel to the Neverwinter nights PC games, but people still wanted that. I DO think they pushed the whole “It’s a DnD game” thing too much, as it probably raised people’s expectations.

Dungeon Master (DM) Mode woes

The other thing was that it was advertised to have a DM mode, meaning someone could control the game for other players and make dungeons, areas, plots, quests and so on. Both Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2 had this feature, but with Sword Coast Legends, it was much more limited. you didn’t have nearly the rich adventure creation tools that Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2 had. Which also annoyed a lot of people.

Yeah, the DM tools ARE pretty bad really, you can’t actually edit each specific area you create, it just allows you to place an entire area and than place stuff in it. whereas in Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2, you could edit the layout of the areas in a very detailed way.

It wasn’t really Dungeons and Dragons

This is also one of the big reason for the backlash against this game. For all their “This isn’t DnD”, they certainly emblazoned the “Dungeons and Dragons” Logos and product all over the place. It would have been better to keep the “Sword Coast Legends” name and have “Inspired by DnD” or something like that.  As the game mechanics in the game differ quite dramatically from the Tabletop dungeons and Dragons. So many Tabletop Dungeons and Dragons took issue with this.

Technical issues

Resource hog

There were quite a few technical problems with the game on release and for some time after as well, which didn’t help.  It was a real memory/resource hog, even on low settings. Actually I pretty much gave up on it for this reason. I DID downgrade the Nividia drivers later to an earlier version, which actually helped quite a bit, so it wasn’t entirely the fault of the game itself, some dodgy Nvidia Graphics card drivers  contributed. badDriver

 

Quite recently, I upgraded my PC memory from 8GBs to 16Gbs and I fired up the game again to see how it went. Oh WOW!, did I notice a difference. Whereas previously I had to set some graphics settings quite low when on 8GB RAM, on 16Gb RAM, I had all the settings maxxed out and it played quite smoothly. It’s worth noting that since then I had the Rage of Demons add on and it had been patched quite a bit since I last played it, but even so, I think the game requires lots of memory to have on high graphics settings.   I also have a oldish Graphics card, a GTX 660. Although I could run many other new games on high settings that were graphically quite demanding, so I don’t think the game was optimised very well. whatever the case, the RAM upgrade made a massive difference.


What’s the actual Gameplay like?

First of all, go no further if you’re expecting a dungeons and Dragons game or a Neverwinter Nights Sequel. This game is not for you. It’s kind of loosely based on both, but really it’s not the same thing, apart from it’s a Fantasy Computer RPG.

Familiar ground

Still here?  OK.   Well first thing first.  It’s really easy to get into. The character generation is straight forward. It has Classes, Races, skills and Levels like Tabletop DnD (and many other other CRPGs).  So that’s a big plus for me.  It just works, nothing special or new here, but it’s familiar ground.

Easy to get into

When you actually start the game,  it has the usual introduction you see in CRPGs and in game tutorials to show you the ropes. That’s nice too. I found it easier to get into and get my head around than Divinity Original Sin  (which is a fantastic game BTW, it has lots more depth than SCL). So if you just want to play for an hour, it’s easier to pick up and play SCL and feel like you’ve achieved something.

Basic plot, but good enough

The plot/Storyline is nothing special, but it’s not bad either. It’s good enough to get you going and I enjoy exploring the wilderness and dungeons. You start out in a Caravan trading convoy that is beset with raids and so on..  It’s enough to get you going and to have an excuse to beat up Goblins and Bandits..

Functional UI

The UI (User Interface) is functional and no real surprises here. It has a toolbar at the bottom and number keys associated with it and function keys etc. the usual Mana and Heath status on your characters. Moving around is via Point and click, although there’s lots of customization options on how to play the game. It worked very well for me and was easy to intuitively work out.

How about Combat, Spells, Monsters and so on?

Graphically it’s very pretty, the terrain is detailed and flows nicely. The dungeons, caves etc are detailed and look really nice. It really does look very good.

Spells are quite pretty, functional and feel rewarding to use. fighting itself has some decent animations and in general is enjoyable as well.

The monsters are well detailed and fun to fight, with interesting death animations and so on.

For your NPC companions though the pathing can be a bit crap where they get stuck from time to time or go the wrong way, which can be frustrating, so this at times requires micro-management for movement.


DM (dungeon Master) mode

As I touched upon earlier, there’s a DM mode, where you can actually run games for players online. You can run scenarios that you can download in game and it’s has decent enough functionality to do this really. It’s not as detailed or functional or open as the DM toolsets for Neverwinter Nights 1 and 2, but it’s good enough and pretty easy to learn.

You can also design your own adventures, which is pretty nice, although a BIG negative for me is you can’t specifically design each area, you have to  pick from a list of selected templates and work from there. you CAN add monsters, NPCs, quests, rewards, furnishing etc into an area. So at least there’s that.

Still I had some fun playing with the adventure editor and try not to think about the superior Neverwinter nights toolsets.


Final thoughts, rating and worth a purchase or not

If you go into this game with no expectations of dungeons and Dragons or a Neverwinter Nights Sequel and you just want a good fun fantasy romp. Then for the current price of $20 USD, it’s a bargain. Especially as you get Rage of Demons for free as well.

It’s worth noting you ought to have a decent PC rig to play this with lots of RAM.

So don’t expect too much, but after saying that, I’m really enjoying this game. I’d give it a 7/10. Especially at $20 USD and recently it was on sale for $10 USD, which is a bargain.

 

Silent Legions RPG review

What is Silent Legions?

silentlegions

Silent Legions is yet another Tabletop RPG by Sine Nomine. It’s a Horror RPG with a style loosely based on the works of H.P. Lovecraft.  After saying that, there’s no specific comment of H.P Lovecraft’s Mythos, it’s more portrayed in that style. It’s generally set in a modern period, but could be adapted to other periods if needs be.


Sandbox RPG

As usual with Sine Nomine, it’s a Sandbox style RPG. It’s also mechanically compatible with Other Dust, a Post Apocalyptic RPG,  Stars Without Number, a Scifi RPG and presumably Spears of the dawn, although I don’t have that RPG so I can’t specifically comment on that.

Having actually thoroughly read the rules, prepped for a session and actually run Silent Legions, I feel I’m in a place now where I can review it.


Character classes

As this is OSR and generally OSR is class and level based, like the other Sine Nomine RPGs, it has both.
There’s 4 basic class and they give a nice wide spread of flavor, abilities and in general they’re very flexible. Each class has a set of special abilities they can use based on “Expertise points” which you get 2 of to start with and the number of Expertise points you get increases as you level up.

  • Investigator: They could be a P.I. , Detective, whatever really. They excel in investigations and their special abilities generally aid in investigations, giving more clues and insights. They have average Hit Dice.
  • Scholar:   Scientists, Librarians,  Occultists and so on. They are better at magic, knowledge, researching, but have the lowest hit dice. Their special abilities are about enhanced research and general knowledge enhancement.
  • Socialite: Politicians, general professions or characters that are more social and like to deal with things via charisma than being a “know it all” or using violence as a solution. Their Special abilities focus on being able to influence people better than other classes. They have average hit dice.
  • Tough:  Security guards, Soldiers, bouncers, Street cops, whatever.  They’re best at combat and surviving combat. Their special abilities are mostly about helping surviving combat.

In general, you could be for example, a Cop and be any of the above classes, depending on what sort of characters you want. So you shouldn’t necessarily associate class with profession, especially as at character generation, you choose a background, which gives skills and they’re not classes related.


Deadly combat

Silent Legions, even though it’s mechanically compatible with other Sine Nomine RPGs, it FEELS very different. Like Call of Cthulhu  the RPG setting it’s loosely based on, you REALLY don’t want to get into combat as it’s really deadly, so you don’t want to run it like you might run a Scifi or Fantasy RPG. This is due to several reasons:

  • Characters just don’t get a lot of hit points, so getting hurt, even punched etc really hurts.
  • Weapons have slaughter dice, which means, in addition to rolling for damage, most weapons roll an additional dice and if you roll 6 or greater, you do TRIPLE damage.. which is often fatal.
  • Many of the supernatural creatures are immune to slaughter dice due to special abilities etc.

After saying that, I’ve found it feels more like real life where you really ought to seek solutions to problems that don’t involve violence and the players seemed to enjoy it that way anyway, generally seeking to avoid violence, at least in the gaming session I ran.

The combat itself is pretty standard OSR fare. You have a descending Armor class (the lower the better). You roll a D20 and add you Attack bonus (varies by class), weapon skill and stat bonus, add the Armor class of your target and you have to get 20 or greater. It’s very quick, works well and allows the GM and players to add their own tactics and ideas in combat to modify the dice rolls.


Skill system

Like other Sine Nomine RPGs, the skill system is based around 2D6 and adding a skill rank + stat bonus as appropriate with a target number. It’s very simple, works very well and the skills are very broadly described. I really like this as I can extrapolate skill usage and not get bogged down reading skill descriptions and complicated skill resolution rules. If a character doesn’t have an appropriate skill, you can still use a pure stat bonus if the GM deems it appropriate. I do tend to NOT require skill checks unless there’s a compelling reason to do so, meaning if a character has a skill in something they’re trying, unless there’s a time constraint, an opposed test required or some other reason for a requiring a roll, such as it’s a difficult task, then it’s usually enough to describe usage of the skill well and Roleplay the usage. It keep the game flowing nice and fast and feels more comfortable.


Monsters most foul

There’s lots of guidelines for generic monster templates, abilities etc for creating your own monsters, which is very nice. There’s also several pages with specific creatures, NPCs and so on. In all about 20+ creatures, NPC templates and stuff like that. But really with an OSR game like this, the tools provide a very nice monster generation system for your own needs.


Magic: Grey and Black

There’s essentially 2 types of magic, Grey magic, which is very useful, but potentially corrupting, as it increases Madness when used and will eventually drive you insane and Black magic, which is the most evil and foul and will very quickly corrupt your mind and soul.

Grey Magic

Grey Magic in Silent Legions is, as you’d expect quite different than standard Fantasy magic. It’s all ritualised and takes a minimum of 10 minutes to perform and requires various magical accouterments (candles, ritual knives, whatever).  There’s a lot of Kabbalistic magic and content associated with the magic and game background in general. There’s also references to Hermetic magic, such as Golden Dawn, O.T.O. (Google that if you’re interested) and so on. However there’s no actual instructions about how to practice actual ritual magic (assuming you believe in that sort of thing), it’s all implied.

There’s 5 “Levels” of magic and the maximum limit you can learn is based on your “Occult” skill. low level magic is not very powerful, but quite useful at times. There’s about 10 spells per level available. You can do things like detect “Kelipot” sort of extra-dimensional places, or alternative realities and so on. Think “Dreamlands” and other extra-planar places like in Call of Cthulhu. There other things like healing (with some consequences) and other things. Higher level magic is more powerful, but has heavier consequences as well.

Black Magic

Black magic isn’t formalised into spells or levels. There’s various tables to generate effects, consequences, general flavor and so on. This magic isn’t available for characters and is meant for villains. If a character tried to use it, they’d go mad very quickly.


Disciplines

These are Special abilities, such as Telepathy, Telekinesis, Body Disciplines and so on. They can be used instantly and generally use Expertise points to use. They can also cost madness to use. I’ve not used them in my campaign yet, but I expect it’ll come up at some stage.


Madness

You start out with zero madness points and once you hit 100 madness, you’re irrevocably insane and become an NPC at the mercy of your GM….

It’s somewhat like Call of Cthulhu, but you don’t get a Sanity check, you just get Madness for various reasons such as:

  • Seeing a brutal disfiguration, wounds, getting heavily wounded for the first time.
  • Seeing supernatural creatures and supernatural things in general, although you can never take more madness than they can potentially deal out. This simulates getting used to the supernatural.
  • Using magic and Disciplines.

You reduce Madness by 10 each time you level up, which is nice. It simulates growing confidence in your character as they advance.

You can also reduce Madness by taking weird character flaws, such as a funny ticks, ritualised behaviour and so on. I can see lots of fun RP opportunities using this.

There’s also an optional rule where you can gain insights/abilities  every 20 Madness, but they have side effects and some of them are very nasty.


What about actual Gameplay?

I’ve run one introductory adventure based in my local area and I drew on Local folklore to flesh it all out, which in itself was fun to research. It seemed to go well and I felt the players got pretty invested and immersed in the game.  They said they enjoyed it and expressed keenness to play again.

Gameplay is fast and smooth, much like other Sine Nomine games. It’s really easy to pick up and run and I  noticed the players, having already been playing in my Stars Without Number/Other dust campaign picked up the gameplay quite quickly.

As I expected, combat was deadly. I had a player drop in briefly whilst he was around and he ran an NPC security guard who got involved in an altercation with a possessed woman due to a nasty Slaughter dice roll.  His character died horribly, getting his head clawed open and head ripped off..  Avoid combat if you can..


Final comments

I didn’t follow a Cthulhu style Mythos set up for my campaign, rather focusing on local folklore and injecting my imagination in it. which works perfectly fine for this RPG.

All in all I really loved prepping for this game due to the huge amounts of supporting material, such as tables, advice for Sandbox gaming. running the game was a pleasure and I found I really had lots of time to focus on RP, than having to reference rules.

If you like Investigative, Horror, Sandbox where combat is not the focus, then you will love this.


 

A Stars without Number review

Stars without number
Stars without number

I bought this game a few years ago (I also have Other Dust and Silent Legions) and have been running it off and on quite a bit since then, so I feel I have a good understanding of this RPG.

Overview
It’s made by Sine Nomine and there’s a free downloadable version which has 95% of the rules (minus AI, some random tables, and Mechs).
So if you’re not sure about it, you can just get that and quite happily run it or just read the rules if you’re not sure about buying it.
The CORE RULES are the paid version, which has the missing content I mentioned above.

Sandbox RPG
It’s a sandbox RPG, meaning there’s LOTS or tables provided to generate random content, which you can create on the fly, or with very little prep.
This really is the big strength of this game. Even if you don’t run SWN, it’s worth getting just for the random tables.

Basic mechanics
It plays a lot like the Traveller RPG, but very loosely based on ODnD (original DnD) rules.
Meaning it uses levels for character progression, Descending Armor class (the lower the better), and a D20 for attack rolls.
It also uses a save system, again rolled using a D20.

Skill system
It has a skill system as well, which covers quite a few skills, but not so many that is becomes unwieldy.
Skill resolution is done rolling 2D6 with a target number assigned.

Setting information
The setting is a sort of Galactic Post apocalyptic. There was originally a vast very high tech Human empire called “The Terran Mandate”.
At some stage an event called “The scream” drove all Psychics mad or killed them. As Jumpgates, which the Terran Mandate pretty much depends on are run by Psychics, everything collapses. The Psychics bosses are are war with what appears to be Benevolent AI trying to protect the Human race, but it all goes horribly wrong.
Fast forward a few hundred years and there’s spots of civilization around the galaxy here and there trying to survive.
The setting at this stage is (or can be) about survival, exploration and so on.

Generally you play humans, but it’s very easy to create alien races to play as well.

Character Classes
There’s a few classes being:
Warrior: (strengths are fighting and so on)
Expert: Technicians, doctors, Pilots, engineers.
Psychic: A Psychic specialist.

These pretty much cover what you’ll need to make a well rounded character. Warriors aren’t just good fighters, they do get a decent starting skill set, it’s just Experts progress faster.

Each class gets some special abilities as well, which adds a fun dimension to the game.

Playability
I really like how this RPG moves very quickly and is VERY flexible. It’s also very easy to understand, which is great for new players.

It’s level based, so has character progression, which for me is a bonus point vs Traveller.
After the first couple of levels, character progression slows down, so you want to get an idea of what your character is going to be like in the first few levels.
The game covers up to level 10, which is great, as characters would be crazy overpowered over that level limit.

Combat is pretty deadly, as characters don’t have that many Hit points and even though it’s level based, at higher levels, characters are still pretty fragile.

The Psychic powers are pretty low key, so you won’t see lots of high powered Psychic abilities.
But they are fun and fits into the game quite well.

Additional material
There’s HUGE amounts of additional material available for SWN, much of it completely free. Just have a look at DrivethruRPG for Sine Nomine’s products.
The author, Kevin Crawford really supports SWN very well.
In addition to that, he has other RPGs which are very compatible with SWN as they use the same mechanics.
They are as follows:
Other dust (Post Apocalyptic, somewhat like an early edition of Gamma world)
Silent Legions (Horror RPG, somewhat like Call of Cthulhu)
I own and use these RPGs, in fact I use content from these in my SWN campaigns sometimes and it works very well and easy to integrate into SWN.

There’s another RPG he’s made called “Spears of Dawn” . I don’t own that and haven’t read it, so I can’t comment on that much. apart from it’s a sort of Native African style Fantasy RPG.

Scores:
Layout and organization: 7.
It was Kevin’s first effort (that I know of) and the layout is a bit Haphazard sometimes, but it’s such an easy game to pick up it’s not that much of a big deal.
The art is quite retro in feel and I like it. But if you want very high quality colour images and text etc.. It’s only black and white. For me it’s fine though.

Playability and Fun: 9
It works very well, is easy to run and play and lots of supporting material.
As a sandbox RPG it’s fantastic. Worth getting even if you don’t run the RPG itself and just get it for the huge amount of random tables.

I’d recommend this if you want to play a game that feels like Traveller but with ODnD type rules and you like Sandbox gaming.