The best four days of gaming is over but I am still riding the gaming high. I took a hiatus from Gen Con last year and was anticipating this year being another great year. I was not disappointed. Cos-play was at an all-time high this year. The lines moved smoothly through the will-call and event-registration lines. I went this year I wanted to play games out of my comfort zone a bit.
My first event was a game call 13th Age by Pelgran Press. It is an improved version using some dungeons and dragons 4th edition-like mechanics and an a more organic background system that allows the players background to justify a bonus rather than a more skills based system. It also has “one unique thing about your character mechanic”. You decide, when you create your character, one unique thing that is special about your character. It can be that you created a song so beautiful it made a dragon cry, or you defended the dwarven king and he honored you with a pass that always allows you entry to the dwarven kingdom. Within the campaign, you are the only one with that thing. Combat play has a 4th edition feel in that you have powers you can use once a day, twice a day or all the time. I played this game twice this year and both times enjoyed myself greatly.
The next game I played was an oldie but a goody; Alternity. This RPG has been around since 1998. It was one of the last products the company TSR made before they were bought by WOTC. It is a skills-based system, which differs from most other products from TSR which used the D20 system. Alternity was a universal base system. It has three main product lines published by TSR. The main product line is a far future standard Sci-Fi game that had many options to make it unique from other campaigns run in the same far future base. The second has a modern or near future X-files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural feel. The third is a multi-dimension type game. There are an infinite number of dimensions, each different from ours. The ones closest to ours are the least different. The further away from ours, the stranger the dimension becomes. I enjoyed the nostalgic time playing Alternity. It has a large online community that still updates rules and campaigns.
Savage Worlds came next. First, I really like the Savage Worlds system by Pinnacle Games. Like Alternity, is a base system that has spawned more than a hundred licensees. The difference between the two is that Savage Worlds has spawned all types of genre; Sci-Fi, pulp, horror, modern, post-apocalyptic and more. The system is easy for the player to learn and is modified by whatever campaign specific rules apply. This game was set in a future where an alien race had attacked the earth and mutated many citizens. We called them demons. Another race came and helped us banish them to another dimension. We called them angels. A side effect of the angels was that some people gain powerful mental powers. After the angels left, those with powerful mental powers took charge. The earth is no longer inhabitable so man lives on seven giant space stations each controlled by an emperor. You play a seraph, an elite guard for the emperor. The game was fun and I had a good time. The player to my left knew a great deal about the world but the GM admitted he didn’t know savage worlds rules that well. I knew a great deal about savage worlds but nothing about the setting. I helped the GM in the combat rules and everyone had a good time.
Next up was a Spycraft 3.0 play test by Crafty Games. I love Spycraft. It is perhaps my favorite game to play at a convention. It is a game where every character gets their 15 minutes of fame and pure awesomeness. Crafty has been developing the third addition rules for some time now. I talked with Alex Flagg co-founder of Crafty Games; he said they would soon be putting up a Kickstarter to get 3.0 up and on the shelves for the many devoted players awaiting this game. They have been using the same playtest characters for several years now though they do bring new missions for the agents. Everyone had a blast as usual. The main mechanic is action dice that you can spend to add to a roll or force a critical failure on the GM, but the GM also has these dice as well. Another mechanic of third addition, which seems to work really well, is the escalation die. Every time 5x the escalation die occurs, the side (GM or players) that has spent more action dice gets to decide something to happen in their favor. It is a great mechanic to get people using their action dice, rather than horde them and end up not using them at all.
I spent a good amount of time in the dealer hall this year talking with the many new game companies. There are an astounding number of new companies starting their games with Kickstarter. One such company, Endtransmission, has released two games and several expansions of both through Kickstarter. Their newest game is Splinter which I will be reviewing soon, so stay tuned. The people at the booth were very nice and their games have two different systems rather than using a universal system. They say they are doing quite well and the fact that they have successfully run several Kickstarters with the product out within 6 months of fulfillment of the Kickstarter is pretty amazing. Like the RPG-boom of the DnD 3.0 open gaming license, we are seeing another boom of RPG creative games because of Kickstarter and universal rule sets like savage worlds. People, GMs, and players alike all have great ideas. We have all thought at one time or another, “I can make a better rule set than what we are playing”. Just look at blogs and message boards of your favorite games. They are filled with suggestions of either how to do something better, how to use house rules to fix a mechanic or how to stylize the game toward what a group is looking for. One only need look to Pathfinder to see that someone can do it better than the original. Today we are seeing Kickstarter is giving GMs the courage to try and produce their own games. I am always looking for a new game to try.