Saturday, December 14, 2013

Neverwinter Nights and a Giveaway

I've never really been that into CRPGs. There were some that I loved back in day when I had infinite amounts of time to play over summer breaks (Bard's Tale, Goldbox series etc). My video game playing over the last 10 years has consisted increasingly of playing mobile games when I have a few minutes to spare. I've been turned off generally by CRPGs in recent years because most don't really scratch that tabletop RPG itch that I like. In my experience, game play consists mainly of resource management, grinding, (tons and tons of GRINDING), linear story line (at least in most every JRPG I ever played), and fetch quests (I hate nothing more). Plus, they usually require around 60 hours to beat and that just seems so overwhelming that I won't even consider starting a game like that. So generally I'm not a fan of CRPGs.


Last winter, during a winter sale, I picked up a copy of Neverwinter Nights. I had never heard of it. I am vaguely familiar with some Bioware games. I have played (before bonking out) some of Dragon Age, Mass Effect 2 and I do hope to play Baldur's Gate when it comes out on the Google Playstore so I can play on my tablet. I bought it on a whim to give it a shot because I had read a user review that had mentioned user created content and thought that sounded kind of interesting.

As I became familiar with NWN, I soon realized what an amazing game it is. The original NWN was shipped with a 50 hour campaign that was generally regarded as fairly lackluster by most people. But I think its a mistake to judge it by the original campaign because it more a TOOL rather than a game in the same vein as Baldurs Gate.

So what makes NWN awesome?

NWN captures the feel of tabletop RPGs better than any other CRPG I have played.

There is a MASSIVE amount of user created content unlike any other game I am aware of. Literally thousands of user created modules and adventures...and many of them are really great. Like, better than most other CRPGs I've ever played, kind of  great. Check them out here. Of the the several adventures I've played of 300 or so modules that are rated 9.0 and above, all of them hands down have been really fun.

There is something about user created adventures that really appeal to me. Now I don't presume to know a lot about the video game industry and the business of making games but if the industry is anything like any other kind of business model in the US, the bottom line must be money and appealing to the tastes of wide variety of gamers. With teams of 50 people working on a single game and I imagine a lot of compromises have to be made which often leads to very general game design. Imagine playing a tabletop session with 50 Dungeon Masters. Creativity and ingenuity in game design can happen of course but I have to say that I am lot more excited about playing a adventure created by one person. To play their single vision of the game they created. There is some excellent stuff to be discovered at I'll list some adventures I've played when I provide some links at the end of this post.

Plus...many of these modules take only 3 hours or less to play rather than 50. It feels much more akin to a tabletop session. A lot more manageable with my schedule too. Usually in a week or two I can finish a module of this length.

And many of these modules actually FEEL like a tabletop session. Maybe because many of these modules are faithful recreations of tons of old school D&D modules.

 I have already played through:

Dwellers of the Forbidden City
Keep on the Borderland (I had always wanted to play this with other people but never was able to until I got to play through NWN)
and I've been working my way through the Lost Tombs of Tsonjcanth.

Like Ravenloft? NWN has got you covered. Like Dragonlance? Again you're not going to be hurting for modules to play. Check out this list here.

The single player game play is great. In most CRPGs, of course, you control a party. In NWN, again like most tabletop RPGs, you play as one character. Now, two other party members can join you (3 in later expansions and user created mods), but you don't directly control them. You tell them as your character what to do in the game. “Protect me”, “Use your spells when you think you should”.The henchman mod I list at the end of the post should be downloaded to improve over the original game AI system. 

The multiplayer experience is great too. Many user created modules are on that are tailored specifically for multiplayer.

Perhaps the coolest thing about NWN, and I haven't tested it yet but it just sounds so amazing, is that there is a DM mode. You can play NWN with a DM who controls the world of the game. Like an RPG you can do pretty much anything you want and the DM will respond to it. I would LOVE to test it out. The community is much smaller than it was apparently around NWN heyday in the mid 2000's so I may have trouble finding an opportunity to do it. Anyone who might know of where to find games that utilize DMs, let me know.

There are also around 100 persistent worlds that seem to cater primarily to roleplaying. They do have live dungeon masters who play as specific times that will respond to what players are doing. I played only momentarily a few weeks back on Arelith and hopefully will get a chance again soon.

Never Nights 2 is also really great as well. Maybe not as many user created modules but I have enjoyed what I've played so far.

This fall I picked up some game keys for NWN at GOG for ridiculously cheap. I'd love for people to play this game. So if you're interested, shoot me an email and I will send you a key for free. No strings attached  (solodungeoneer at gmail dot com) . Please only request if you don't have the game and you are actually interested in playing it, I'd love to give the keys to people who are truly interested. I have 3 keys, so its first come first serve. Let me know if you are interested in playing multiplayer and maybe we can set up a game sometime. I'd love to try out Tomb of Horrors with other people sometime.

Tomorrow on, I think NWN will be sold for 80% off for one day as part of their winter sale otherwise it is 50% off through the holidays. So if you miss grabbing a key from me, get it during the sale. You'll pay 4.99 tops. Definitely worth picking up NWN 2 as well.

The Diamond Edition, which is what is available at GOG, comes with the original content and 3 official large adventure modules (full on campaigns) as well as 3 smaller adventure modules. That's over 200 hours of gameplay for the price of a beer.
Go here and you can download the rest of the Premium modules for free.

There are a ton of user created modules but the ones I've gotten into so far are:

A Dance with Rogues (I have played some other bioware games that attempt to give you the illusion that your conversation choices matter, but I don't think I've ever played a game where that is actually true. A Dance with Rogues does this in spades. Apparently it was created by some french woman who created the entire game for herself. A friend of hers discovered it and told her she needed to upload it for other people to play. Its pretty amazing. Avoid though if you arn't up for R rated material)
Darkness over Daggerford
Hordes of the Underdark
Keep on the Borderlands
Mountains of Mirrors

and from NWN 2

Harps and Chrysanthemums

Download these mods:

Also make sure you have a bink player installed to run the intro movies. Google it.

So, I'm done geeking out about NWN and next week I plan on writing up a Pathfinder Adventure Card Game session I played last week using the ideas I wrote about on my last post.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Pathfinder Adventure Card Game - Adding ROLE Playing to the ROLL Playing

As you can tell I don't update much these days :)

So Paizo just released Pathfinder Adventure Card Game, a game I've been eagerly awaiting since I heard about it back in June. I've had it for a couple of days and have a chance to run it solo. It's cooperative card game so it's definitely easy to play solo with one character or two. I'm having a lot of fun with this one and its  worth checking out if you are looking for a board game with RPG mechanics.

It captures a tabletop RPG feel very well. All of the classic FRPG tropes are here: D&D spells, basic armors, weapons (long sword, short sword etc), D&D classes (thief, magic user, fighter, cleric, bard, ranger, sorcerer). It has a campaign adapted from the Pathfinder campaign "Rise of the Runelords", a character advancement system that is actually quite advanced and surprising for a card game. All of the cards have great bits of text that give a great sense of the world. - descriptions of locations, allies, items, monsters, and obstacles. I grew up with HeroQuest, played all the D&D adventure board games (Wrath of Ashardalon, Castle Ravenloft) but I can confidently say that this is the first RPG/Board game hybrid that actually kind of feels like a tabletop RPG.

Anyway this is not a review.

For more info and play examples check out this video:

or read this:

I would recommend watching the video to get a brief overview of the game so that what I say below will make more sense to you.

The game is definitely a ROLL playing game. So any plot that exists is alluded to but never explicitly stated - there is no text other than the initial setup, and descriptions on the cards that has anything to do with a story. But the game is ripe for filling in the blanks and creating a narrative. The obstacles you face are varied and there are many different ways to overcome obstacles based on what cards you have and what type of character you are. There are a lot of decisions to make in this game. The game essentially acts as a GM for you and I've found it pretty easy to treat this as genuine solo gm-less rpg.

Here are ideas that I've been messing around with to make this game have more of story and feel a bit more like a tabletop RPG session. This will work solo (how I've tried these ideas out), or even with others (probably best with children, or people who love storytelling).

I got some inspiration from some RPGs like Dungeon World and Old School Hack. Check them out at RPGgeek.

Here are some ideas for fleshing out a narrative for a session.

Idea #1

Creating Descriptions.

The main part of most turns consists of exploring a location.

After drawing the card, describe what happens in two descriptions.

1) Describe what you're character is doing, where they are at, and how they get drawn into the conflict, and yes Boons are conflicts too. This would be equivalent to a GM describing some immediate danger that is threatening the PC or why something looks dangerous.

2) Resolve conflict, toss your dice, choose which card(s) to play and then describe what happens in the conflict.

Lets imagine I'm playing the first adventure "Brigandoom" and my PC is Marisel the Elf Rogue. I've decided to explore the Farmhouse. The first card I draw on my exploration phase is a bandit henchman.

I could describe my first turn like this:

As night descends, I creep cautiously out of the shadows of the covered bridge towards the edge of the farm. Sitting on the stairs of the front porch, sits a cloaked man smoking a pipe and staring off into the distance. I draw my dagger and sneak as silently as I can from tree to tree. Perhaps if I get close enough, I can quickly rush him before he is aware of what is happening.

I then describe what I do and what happens

(I use my dagger card. I need to pass a combat check of 8. With a dagger I can use my dexterity (d12) + (d4) if I want to use my dagger again)

I get 6. So I obviously I'm not successful and I take 2 damage (lose two cards from my hand).

The second description would be this:

As I reach the edge of the porch, I hide my slender frame behind the corner post, count silently to three and rush as fast as I can. Unfortunately the beams on the porch are old and my first step causes a loud creaking sound. The bandit jumps to his feet, dropping his pipe, and drawing his short sword, turning in time to parry my dagger and deliver spinning elbow to my chest causing me to crash through the porch railing. Instantly I spring to my feet and turn the corner of the house. There is a grove of trees at the edge of the house and I quickly rush into the thicket. I hear shouting from the house. Damn, I've alerted them

Describe how you get engaged with the threat, describe the conflict and resolution. Obviously each turn feeds the narrative of what happens next. Build the events and justify the mechanic results in terms of what is happening in the narrative. Lose your check by a lot and that sends you to your next danger. Win by a lot and you succeed with flair. Barely win and you describe close calls and your character having to fight for victory maybe at a slight cost.

The purpose of all this description is to create a cool story that gets you more engaged with the events of the game and your character.

Ally cards could literally be someone that is with you, or describing a flashback of how you learned something from the ally and how that helps you in the conflict. This also can be applied to when a character helps you by playing a card. Either they are physically there, or you remember something that they taught you or advised you to do. Or maybe there magic is affecting you and describe that.

Blessings of the gods for example could be describing how something happens during a conflict check that you gives you some kind of luck break rather than describing "I feel the power of the GODS which drives me to cleave my enemies in half!"

Idea # 2

Think of each location card as a series of areas within the location.

The Farmhouse could be:

a covered bridge
front yard
grove of trees
small cemetary behind house

Basically anything you come up with. You don't need to list these (although you could for reference to give you ideas as you explore).

Each turn as you "explore the location" you find yourself in a new area. So for example in my last turn I ended up in the grove of trees at the side of the house. Determine where you are based on the next event. So if I drew a zombie, maybe in the thick grove of trees, the bandits have dumped the bodies of the farmers family. So:

As I look back towards the house with my dagger drawn, suddenly something grabs my foot as I spin around I see the decaying body of a groaning woman pulling me down towards her!

Maybe this time, I decide to use my cal-traps which allows me to defeat an enemy of combat value 9 or lower:

As I reach into my side pouch, I am able to kick away from the zombies grasp. It crawls towards me with an inhuman like ferocity, I toss a handful of the cal-traps on the ground of the opening to the thicket as I back away through the opening. The crawling body is tangled up in the spikes. To silence its angry screaming, I give a swift kick, knocking her head off into the bushes.

To sum up this idea here, areas directly impact how you describe each encounter and really do give a sense of exploring a location. Also by drawing a zombie, I justified where I was that made sense to encounter a zombie.

Idea # 3

Get even more specific with location to add even more variety to the narrative. Old School Hack is great little RPG. I've stolen a lot of ideas from and the arena types (on page 12 of the rule book, freely downloaded here: )can again give much more variety to story (and have a slight mechanical influence to the game)

Every time you 'explore a location' roll a d8

1-4 neutral area
5 tight
6 hazardous
7 open
8 dense

If I rolled a 6 (hazerdous) and drew "mercenary' (the bandits have hired help!) for the next round. Maybe I'm cornered in the grove of trees by a rushing mercenary who must have come from the house - I break through the brush and find myself right at the edge of rushing river. I hesitate for a second then plunge in attempting to escape across. As I glance back the mercenary plunges in after me sword drawn. I have no option but to turn and fight.

Heavy weapons (I will try to post a list of cards I deem Heavy weapons and other categories as well by editing this post, didn't have time to look through all the cards, you can also of course just use your common sense) get a -2 to combat checks in a hazardous area while long weapons get a +2.

Your main weapon used in a combat check will be affected in this way:

Tight: Light +2, Long -2
Hazardous: Long +2, Heavy -2
Open: Ranged +2, light -2
Dense Heavy +2, ranged -2

Examples of area types from Old School Hack:

Tight: Narrow corridors, stairs,
balconies, back alleys,
doorways, tunnels, closets, etc.

Hazardous: Crumbly rooftops, floors next
to open pits, thin ledges or
planks over precipices, spiky
areas, murky swamps, foggy
or smoky room with poor
visibility, etc.

Open: The open sky (for flying), large
chambers, big caverns, open
water, courtyard or town
square, an actual gladiatorial
arena, etc.

Dense: The crowded shop, the thick
forest, the thatch village, the
store room or warehouse, the
deck of a ship, the clockwork
chamber, etc.

Combat spells could also be categorized as 'ranged'.

Neutral of course has no penalty or perk.

Idea #4

Use Rory Story cubes to inspire your narrative even more. So along with your d8, also toss a d6 at the beginning of your exploration phase.

1-3 no story cube needed
4 - story cube needed and used to influence first description
5,6 -story cube used to describe conflict/resolution.

Rory Action cubes I think are nice to use. The dice represent verbs.

Voyages story cubes are great too since they have more of fantasy theme. If you have more than one set, mix them all together in a cup and draw a dice at random when needed.

For my first exploration phase listed above maybe I roll a 5 on my d6 and roll a picture of the stick figure building a wall from the action set.

I describe in my conflict that as I rush the bandit he quickly attempts to use the chair sitting next to him as shield, in order to "build" a barrier between us.

Or if I rolled 4 on my d6 and rolled a picture of a stick figure knocking. Maybe I could describe in the moment I jump onto the porch, that I end up knocking a unlit candle off that was sitting on the railing, and it falls to the ground making a loud noise due to it "knocking" against the ground.

The important thing is not to be literal and just to take quick inspiration from the story cubes to generate random story bits that you might not come up with otherwise.

If you would prefer your games not to get weighed down with too many details, maybe limit each part of the two part descriptions to one sentence. Long sentences will occur but this may help to keep the game moving.

To encourage storytelling, maybe everyone's votes for the "best storyteller" at the end of the game (similar to the Tales of the Arabian Nights storytelling variant). The winning storyteller could be rewarded somehow (a +2 token to any check for the next scenario?).

There is a lot of great solo adventuring to be had in this game. Using some of the ideas and playing through the first scenario, Brigandoom, I had a lot of fun. Based on the descriptions I was generating, I crafted a narrative that after torturing the bandit henchman in the bedroom of the Farmhouse I was tipped me off that Jubrayl was last seen down at the docks. After escaping out through the window, I begin burning the house down with the candle that had dropped on the porch. The mercenary, who had been inside trying to break the bedroom door down to rescue his pal, came rushing out in blaze of flame but was unfortunately struck down with a dart to the neck since I was hiding behind the cart ready for him to escape. I then went down to the docks to investigate. In the storage area of a ship I discovered 'Blast Stones' and realized that Jubrayl Vhiski was planning to blow up the Mayor of Sandpoint's mansion that night.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Basic Fantasy Roleplaying FTW!!!

I totally have been MIA for a while. I do plan on doing some updates soon and I apoligize for the delay in posting. I've been working on some huge work related projects over the past few months and have had barely any time to catch up on blogging.

Anyway money conscience gamers might be interested in this:

So my favorite retro clone is Basic Fantasy Roleplaying. There are several reasons for this: It combines old school rules with a few modern tweaks. It has race/class options rather than single classes (a la Moldvay) and overall it is well written. Also, no one is trying to make a profit on these editions and it is clearly a labor of love.

I just ordered my copy via Amazon for the princely sum of 4.62 with free shipping via Prime membership. The price is 4.62!!!!! Order!!!

Apparently, the modules are being set up on amazon as well. I have Morgansfort and the Caverns of Chaos which are both nice modules written in the style of Keep on the Borderlands.

Get them!

Everything you need in order to play D&D is in the core rules. There are TONS of supplements and adventures on the Basic Fantasy Roleplaying website for free. The rules of course are free too but 4.62 for a 160 page softcover is not bad at all. It's a good reminder that gaming should be about having fun and you don't need to drop $120 to start playing. In fact, this may inspire me to purge my all RPG books that essentially serve the same function and stick with the basics instead. I'll of course keep T&T and you would need to pry my Rules Cyclopedia from my cold dead fingers before I give it up ;)