The Importance of Tabletop

Today, I am going to write a rousing article today about the importance of tabletop gaming. I could simply tell you that nothing beats a night of gaming with your friends and family. That’s more than enough of an argument. No elaboration needed. But what kind of fun would that be? Let me take you on a trip down memory lane…

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When I was young, I was admittedly a video game junkie. I spent my days holed up in my room with my controller in hand and snacks nearby. Loud digital noises assailed my ears, bright pixels assaulted my eyes. And life was good. It was a solitary one though.

Jump ahead to high school, where I picked up Magic the Gathering. I found that there was a certain magic (forgive the pun) that came from spending my time in the school foyer playing with other social outcasts. (Magic was very much a niche thing back then.) It  was the gateway to a lifetime of tabletop experiences.

In college a certain little anime known as Dragonball Z was a big deal. This was the Toonami era. Students of all kinds stuffed themselves into lounges to watch the next exciting installment, and we usually hung around to talk about it afterwards. So, you can imagine my excitement when I visited a local game store down the street from campus, and found that they had a Dragonball Z role-playing game! I had never run an RPG before, but I figured that it would be time to learn. We got a group together and had a blast. And that was it. Tabletop gaming was now a passion rather than a hobby.

I still take time to play, as often as I can. Every week, my friends and I get together, head out to fill our bellies with local Kent cuisine, (Have you ever had a slice of Ramella’s pizza?) and we settle in for a night of gaming. We typically cycle through Dungeons and Dragons one week, and Scion the next, with a smattering of board games for good measure. It’s the thing I look forward to the most every week.

Why? Because there’s something just flat out magical about tabletop gaming, something you just can’t get from a video game or anything else. A group of people playing a board game aren’t just playing, they’re in a battle of wits. Resources are bought and sold, territories are conquered, and deals are made. It brings out our ruthless sides, as well as our benevolent sides. We eliminate our rivals, or we work together to defeat a malicious threat.

Togetherness is the point.  It’s all about being there, in the moment with your hearty band of adventurers. It’s about looking around the table and wondering which of your friends is going to go turncoat and knock you out of the game. It’s about an experience you just can’t get with a headset and an Xbox live account.

As long as there are people who want to play together, to have fun together, and maybe throw down some dice (together!), there will always be a place in the world for tabletop games.

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Exalted: A Primer

Hello again readers! 

I’m going back to the world of RPGs this week, to talk about Exalted! What is Exalted you may ask? It’s basically a high powered fantasy game by White Wolf (Onyx Path now I believe.) Characters are as demigods, and the world will tremble in their wake.

SETTING:

Many many many ages ago, Primordials came. They took the unshaped chaos and turned it into well..not chaos. They gave the world life, then they created gods. The Primordials retreated to what is essentially heaven, to play the mysterious Games of Divinity, while the gods took care of the world. The gods started to hate their lot in life, mainly because the Primordials were callous terrible jerks. They wanted to cut them down, and move into heaven themselves. But they couldn’t raise a hand to their creators. One Primordial, Autochthon, took pity on the gods and helped them devise a way to take out the cruel and terrible Primordials. 

They infused mortals with divine power, and Autochthon gave them awesome weapons and toys. They beat the Primordials into the ground, and after the war was over, the Gods moved into Heaven, and got addicted to the Games of Divinity, leaving the Exalted in charge of things. Luckily, the Exalts were cool with their lot in life, and ruled creation, so the gods didn’t have to worry about them rebelling. The Primordials that were captured were imprisoned in another reality, one that became known as Malfeas, the Demon City. The Primordials that were killed in the conflict became know as Neverborn, and their fall created the Underworld, a dark effigy of creation, where souls linger instead of reincarnating like they’re supposed to. Stupid souls. 

But the death of the Primordials also brought a curse upon the Exalted, whispered with the Primordials dying breaths. People were like, “Meh, no big.” At the time, but later, the curse started to take hold. The Solar Exalted, the shining heroes of Exaltedkind, became corrupt and insane, causing more harm than good. The Sidereal Exalted and the Dragon-Blooded Exalts turned on the Solars, and hunted and killed them. Various machinations happened, and the Solar Exalted’s souls were trapped in a vast cage, keeping them from passing on their Exalted sparks to new people. The Sidereals became the shadowy advisers as the Dragon-Blooded took control of creation.

Many many years later, the Scarlet Empress, ruler of the Dragon-Blooded empire (and the world really..) Went missing. And the realm fell into chaos and disarray. The cage that held the Exalted sparks was shattered, and new people were Exalting! But the Dragon Bloods and Sidereals could detect and kill these potential Exalts before they came into their powers, but with the Empire in chaos, it’s now easier for new Exalts to slip through the cracks. 

And here we are: You’re an Exalt, and the world is now a playground for your awesome powers. You can be the great hero, be a king, be a god to the people, or become a scourge to the land. The choice is yours. But the Dragon-Bloods are still in charge, and they’ll use all their power to put you down. 

Welcome to Exalted. 

So that wasn’t very brief. But you read it. Why not read the rest? 

Types of Exalted

The main characters of the story are the Solars, but there are many different kinds of Exalted out there. We’ll very briefly run through them. 

Solars: The shining heroes of the god known as the Unconquered Sun. The Solars are heroes, dilpomats, warriors, sorcerers, and everything in between. They uphold the Unconquered Sun’s will, and fight to change the world around them. Mostly for the better, sometimes not. They’re essentially the main characters of the story.

 

Dragon-Bloods: Formerly, they were the foot soldiers of the great Exalted empire. An individual Dragon Blood is far weaker than a Solar, but there are MANY more of them. They took control of the world after killing the Solars, and rule it with an iron fist. 

Sidereals: Exalted that are skilled at reading the future. They used their powers to aid the Dragon-Bloods in eliminating the Solars, and are pretty much the masterminds of the Usurpation. They are agents of heaven, powerful martial artists, and very mysterious. 

 

Lunars: The children of the goddess Luna, the Lunars are bestial shapeshifters, and were previously the mates to the Solar Exalted. When the Solars were killed, the Lunars ran into the Wyld, the chaos on the borders of creation. They have used their shapeshifting powers to influence creation ever since, either as local gods, cult leaders, or leaders of  bestial hordes.

Abyssals: The Neverborn pulled the spirits of powerful former Exalts into their Underworld lairs. Those spirits accepted their bargains for power, and became a group known as the Deathlords. They masterminded the shattering of the cage that held the Exalted sparks, even though it didn’t go as planned. The Deathlords created the Abyssals, their agents of death, using those sparks. Abyssals exist only to plunge the world into true oblivion, spreading that nihilism to the world using the powers of death. 

Infernals: In Malfeas, the trapped Primordials became known as the Yozis. They command hordes of demons, but they also have their own Exalts. Infernal Exalted are cackling madmen, villains, and fiends, devoted to freeing their masters and turning creation into hell

Alchemicals: After the war, Autochthon was treated with suspicion by the gods and the Exalted, even though he was instrumental in their success. He took a few thousand people, and basically said “Screw you guys, I’m out.” And blinked out of existence, residing in a void known as Elsewhere. Autochthon’s stolen people formed a society inside of his vast mechanical body, and live their days out there. Autochthon began to show signs of dying some time later, and the people maintain his inner machinery while finding a cure for their god’s ailment. Alchemical Exalted are the champion of the people, and the god’s most powerful agents. They’re essentially robotic Exalted. 

So that’s all for setting. We’re big fans of Exalted here, due to its combination of unique setting and undeniable style. The system isnt PERFECT, but not everything can be. Character creation is fun and allows a lot of customization, but the sheer number of powers you can choose from can be overwhelming. The world is detailed enough to build off of, and left vague enough to allow you to shape it as you want.  It uses a dot and d10 system like most White Wolf titles, but is still unique in its own right. 

Exalted 3rd edition is on its way, and looks to really shake up the game as we know it. I’m super excited. But 2nd edition is still here for quite some time, and is definitely worth looking into. Pick it up and check it out yo. 

 

Indie RPG roundup!

So we got a gaggle of new RPG books in stock at GG this week, and I thought I’d highlight some of them, and show you folks some fun (and often MUCH cheaper) alternatives to your D&D and Pathfinder. So let’s jump into the action!

 

1.) Doll (And Advanced Doll)

It’s really hard to even describe this one. It’s less of an RPG and more of a brief storytelling game, but it still requires a lot of imagination to play. When I say it’s difficult to describe, I mean it! The game comes printed on what is essentially an index card, so it’s light on rules. The game only costs $4 though, so it’s a great budget title.

The premise is simple: One player is a child that has just gone through SOMETHING (Parental problems, dead pet, etc.) And the other plays the child’s doll. The doll can answer questions about the events, but depending on the gameplay, these can be either truths or lies. After a child on doll Q and A session, it’s up to the player to piece it all together, and make a determination about the event at hand. That’s all I can say without blatantly just throwing the game rules right up here.

There is another add-on, call Advanced Doll, which enhances gameplay and opens the game up to more players. It’s the same $4 tag as the main game, so it never hurts to pick up both! I look forward to giving the game a try, and the one thing I really like is that the rules are pretty flexible and can cover a variety of innocent (or macabre) events. Which can turn it from one kind of game to another entirely depending on the players.

2.) Kidworld

Kids can be cruel. So imagine a world more or less run by them. Scary, no? Well that’s pretty much the premise of Kidworld. Most of the adults are dead, and the ones that aren’t have gone blind. So they do the only thing that makes sense: Lock up kids and use them for their delicious delicious eyesight. But the kids got smart, and learned how to fight back. So that’s what we have. A world full of kids, blind adults, and all kinds of mayhem.

I picked this one up based on it’s setting, and I’m not disappointed. Admittedly, I haven’t quite wrapped my head around the rules system yet, but the setting is really nice. You can play as a kid, a blind adult, or a semi-blind adolescent. I find it interesting that two of your choices are somewhat disabled, and that makes potential for some unique roleplay scenarios. (Unless your group chooses to play a group of blind adults that stumble into comedic scenarios. That would be insensitive. Shame on you. But it’s not my place to tell you how to play! Included are variants for rules-light play, and even some supernatural stuff to add to the game, if you want to go there.

3.) In Dark Alleys

From the good folks who brought us Kidworld, we get In Dark Alleys, a game of urban horror. I know, we’re used to this already in World of Darkness, but this isn’t on the same scale. You’re not a vampire. You’re not a werewolf. You’re a person who has SEEN SOME THINGS. The veil of reality is peeled back a bit, showing all sorts of horrors and problems. And that’s in addition to the horror that is real life urban life, such as gangs, drugs, and serial killers. This is not a game for the kiddies.

The ruleset doesn’t seem too different from Kidworld at first glance. The character sheets are even pretty similar. But if the system is good, it’s not much of an issue, I say. It just means you know how to play it if you’ve played other games from the company. I look forward to giving this one a whirl and getting back to you on it!

4.) Umlaut: the Game of Metal

SImply put, this is a game about rocking out. No more, no less.

It’s a very unique game, and tasks players with creating bands and rocking out in the hopes of gaining fans and glory. That’s all there is to it. No shady plots, no evil aliens. Just you, your band, and your gigs. The does not use a GM in any way, and playing cards help determine outcomes rather than dice. There are a set of “Style cards” in the back of the book that you’ll use when playing gigs. You’ll be managing your band through its highs and lows, and melting face the whole time!

It’s a very innovative game to say the least, and kind of a breath of fresh air for roleplaying. The only dragons you’ll be slaying are the huge animatronic ones in your stage show. The only fireballs are pyrotechnics. But that doesn’t make battles of metal any less fierce. Give it a whirl if you love music, games that can be completed in a couple of hours, or anything else. You owe it to yourself to try this one!

5.) Fiasco (And the Fiasco Companion)

Ah, what to say about Fiasco? Imagine a movie. One full of stupid criminals or crazy scenarios. Imagine movies like Fargo, A Simple Plan, and the like. And you’ve got Fiasco. It’s a game about vices, crime, and random happenstance. And the best part about it is that you don’t have to prep for it!

Yep, the shenanigans at hand are all handled with dice rolls, they’ll determine what you’re trying to do, how it’ll play out, and a variety of other things. Even the best laid plans can go horribly awry. The game is designed to be short, typical games are about 2-3 hours, and are always a raucous good time. It comes highly suggested, and is a steal for its low cover price! Pick up the Companion for even more crazy antics! (Do it. I’ll wait here while you do.)

6.) Dread

Dread is possibly one of the most unusual games I’ve ever seen.

At its core, it’s a simple game about horror, be it psychological or what have you. The goal is to craft a world with compelling characters and story. And you can run pretty much any kind of horror game with it. (I suggest something really screwed up and cerebral.) But make no mistake, whatever you do, your life is on the line. Be it madness or death, its always looming around the corner.

And the way we do this is through the Tower. The Tower is a stack of blocks, like Jenga. This Tower is how you succeed or fail at the game. When you need to do something important and potentially life-threatening, you’ll pull a block from the tower, and stack it on top. If you do this, you’ve succeeded at your action. If you don’t…well you’re toast. Enjoy life as a vegetable, psychopath, or just flat out dead. Either way, you’re outta there.

And that’s one of the things I like about the game. Risk. You’re always on edge, and terrified of the next time the GM is going to want you pull that next block. And that just adds to the tension. If you like being on edge, this is definitely the game for you!

Okay, I’ve done six. Six games you can pop by and check out. There’s SO many more out there, but I’ll hit those another time. You’ll have your hands full with the few I’ve given you! Till next time!

Roleplaying Games that are totally worth playing! (That you may not have tried)

I’m a pretty avid roleplayer. I’ve got tons of character sheets in binders in my living room. I have tins and tins of assorted dice, and character creations flow through my head constantly. Yeah, I’m a fan.

I’ve played so many games over the years, including staples like D&D and Pathfinder, and most World of Darkness stuff as well. But we’re here to talk about the lesser played games, the champions of innovation, unique mechanics, and unique settings that make for very different roleplaying experiences. So I present to you: RPGs that are totally worth playing! (That you may not have tried.)

 

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1.) Golden Sky Stories: Heartwarming Role-playing

A game that is almost to print as we speak, Golden Sky Stories was backed on Kickstarter, with a staggering $85,266 funded (from a goal of $7,000.) Here’s a quick description from the Kickstarter page!

“In this game, players take on the role of henge, animals that have just a little bit of magical power, including the ability to temporarily take on human form. You can be a fox, raccoon dog, cat, dog, rabbit, or bird, and each kind has their own special magical powers. Players will then attempt to solve problems around a small enchanted town with ingenuity”

I’ve had a chance to go over the pdfs for the game, and I’m excited to get an actual copy of the book in soon. (I hear they’re almost ready to ship!) Everything about the game, from it’s mechanics to it’s  adorable art style, lend itself towards a very mellow and enjoyable experience. I’ll have more when I get a chance to play it, but we’ll have it on shelf at GG for people who want to try something new and unique!

2.) Scion

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I can never have enough good things to say about Scion. It’s a game by White Wolf where you play the offspring of gods. It doesn’t get much cooler than that! The game takes place in the modern day, but of course, its toolbox nature lets you adapt it to just about any setting you’d like. The enemies are the Titans, sealed away by the gods ages ago. They’re breaking free, and their minions are running loose in the world as well, hastening their return.

You choose from a variety of godly parents at character creation, from Greek, Aztec, Loa, Japanese, and other pantheons. Your powers come from godly relics that are gifted to you by your parents! Giant guns that shoot lightning? Check. Swords that can cut through dimensions? Sure. A neverending flask of rum? Why not? You can choose the book’s example relics, or make your own unique ones. There are tons of godly boons and knacks to choose from, and by the time you grow in power, you’ll be rolling more dice than you know what to do with. I hope you have a TON of d10s handy.

3.) Nobilis: The Essentials Volume 1

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There is a hidden world of spirit that surrounds us.

Within that world dwell the Nobilis.

They are creatures half-human and half-god. Each holds dominion over a single concept in the world.

You have heard the stories and rumors of the Nobilis.

You have heard of the fates of those who encounter them.

Herein you will find a guide to dealing with these Powers and their
attendant spirits.

Herein you will find the third edition of the Nobilis RPG—a diceless roleplaying game, completely updated and rewritten for modern sensibilities, that you may use to tell new stories of the Nobilis’ lives.

Now I’m going to be honest about this one. I was told to buy it by a friend of mine, and I still haven’t really wrapped my head around it. He told me he was the Nobilis of unopened soda, which makes him like, a god of a concept?

What you do get is a diceless roleplaying game, a very unique concept in and of itself. Character creation seems VERY involved, but in a more abstract manner than mechanical. You’ll be drawing charts and explaining various concepts related to your character. Once you have your character made, you’ll feel like you really KNOW who they are. And that’s pretty rad. So the book is worth a read, and if you can parse it all out, it has a really good set of game mechanics in there. So I definitely suggest it!

 

4.) Engine Heart

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Have you ever wanted to play a cold unfeeling metal box? Welcome to Engine Heart! Humans are gone, but the various robots they’ve built are still kicking!

Engine Heart is a pretty simple game to play. Character creation is easy, and you can make a wide variety of different kinds of robots, from mandroids with basic emotions, to servitor bots built with a single function in mind. I tend to think of it like playing an all Droids game of Star Wars in a lot of ways. I can even create a Brave Little Toaster setting and have it work perfectly, and that flexibility is one of many reasons I love this game. (And the book is super cheap too!)

5.) Gamma World

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Gamma World, in one word, is INSANE. It’s a post apocalyptic romp through what is essentially America, fighting robots, aliens, mutants, and all sorts of other freaks. The kick is, you’re a freak too!

At Character Creation, you have the option to choose two different origins. These origins tell us what your character IS. There are such flavorful options as living swarms of rats, psychics, dinosaurs, huge insects, animal men, cyborgs, ghosts, demons, vampires, zombies, psychics, and tons of other options. Those two choices define your character. So if you picked say, feline and rat swarm, you could be a man made up of a mass of mewing kittens! There are tons of options, and the sky’s the limit. The REAL way to play is to randomly roll for your two origins, keeping things fun and random! (I was a ghost train!)

All of your stats come right from your origin, and everything is pretty much laid right out for you and fits on a small character sheet. This makes for a game that only takes moments to build characters for, allowing you to jump right into the action, which is a fairly rules-lite D&D 4.0. Highly suggested!

6.) Dragon Ball Z Anime Adventure Game

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Now, I’m going to be honest here. This game…is not so good. It came out ages ago, and I ran it for a few months with a group of players. Now don’t get me wrong, everything you love about DBZ is in this game. Energy attacks, flying, huge hair, super martial arts, and all that jazz. The problem is, these mechanics kind of dont translate very well to pen and paper. AT ALL. Attacks can cleave through enemies much stronger than yourself, if all you want to do is charge, charge, charge your laser.

No really. My group found that if you spend a few turns charging your big super ultimate attack, anything it hits will die. One guy just has to charge while the others hold off the baddies. Or ALL of them could charge. You can add traits like scatter and homing to these shots, ensuring they hit, and making melee combat useless.

Which is essentially the way it is in DBZ already, right?

Why would I suggest this game? Because there are still DBZ fans out there. If you just want to pick up a simple game and play out your Saiyan fantasies, then this isn’t a bad intro to roleplaying. But spending time with it will show you its faults and cracks. If you’re not too picky, then you’ll have fun. It is literally JUST like the show in combat aspects. And since the show is about 99% combat and 1% plot, there ya go.

(It’s worth mentioning I do love DBZ as a franchise though.)

 

So there ya go, a handful of RPGs. Hunt them down, give them a try. We carry a few of these in store, like Engine Hearts, Golden Sky, Nobilis, and Gamma World, but you’ll have to hunt for DBZ. But any of these games are gems that are worth finding for one reason or another. I’ll be back with more little played RPGs next week!