Friday, September 23, 2011

Less Magpie in Magpie Night

This past Monday marked the beginning of a turning point for our Magpie Night RPG sessions.  The night was originally designed to try out a variety of game systems using one or two shot adventures.  We did that for a while bi-weekly, then added a Pathfinder Kingmaker campaign on the off weeks.

This was working quite well for some time, but lately things have changed.  First, we lost one of our founding members when she moved away, and the Kingmaker campaign has been dragging a bit since then.  With another of our players now taking a (hopefully) temporary leave of absence, I made the decision to put Kingmaker on hiatus.

Meanwhile, I have been getting some push-back on the core Magpie concept of bouncing from system to system fairly rapidly.  A couple of the players are either frustrated at constantly having to come up with character ideas, or else have a desire to explore their character concepts more deeply than a single adventure allowed for.

Also, I want to explore some games that require more than a single adventure to get into, so while I do want to still do some more one-shot adventures in the future, I am abandoning them for now and doing short campaigns instead.

With this in mind I created a spreadsheet of all the games I am willing to run, along with ratings as to how great my desire to run them is, my preparedness in terms of understanding the rules, and some other factors.  At the top of that list is Ashen Stars, but Trail of Cthulhu is right below it, and two of my three current players are more interested in it than in Ashen Stars.

Thus, we have started a Trail of Cthulhu campaign, while possibly doing some Ashen Stars adventures whenever I need a break from running Trail of Cthulhu.  Since they are both based on the Gumshoe system, there shouldn't be much difficulty in switching between games.  More on this in my next post.

I'm a little sad to see the format change, but we got through a lot of games over the past year or so, which has been a lot of fun, and which I think really helped some of my skills when it comes to roleplaying.  I'm now looking forward to running some longer games.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Space Marine

I just finished the new Space Marine video game, and it's one of the best uses of the Warhammer 40K IP that I've yet to see.  Certainly the best single player experience in a 40K video game.

Playing Captain Titus of the Ultramarines, I feel like I'm capable of accomplishing exactly what a Space Marine Captain should be able to accomplish according to the fluff of the 40K universe.  I can face hordes of orks and renegade guardsman with ease.  With skill, persistence, and a bit of luck, I can even take down an ork warboss solo.

However, even with the abilities and gear of a Space Marine Captain, if I fail to use proper tactics, then I will die.  As Captain Titus I am a super soldier, but I am not Superman.

The way the game plays supports this.  Throughout much of the mission I am accompanied by two fellow marines, my battle brothers in the parlance of the Space Marines.  They aren't very effective at taking down the enemies they face, but that doesn't break the immersion for me, because they are also invulnerable to taking damage.  This is important, because it allows me to stay immersed in the idea that I am a Space Marine fighting alongside fellow Space Marines.  I never have to make a tactically stupid choice in order to keep one of my battle brothers alive because those battle brothers can take care of themselves.  I can focus on my own goals without having to keep track of my companions at every moment.

The way weapons work also contribute to the proper feel of the setting.  A bolter feels like a powerful weapon, but it still takes a few hits to drop an ork.  Opponents take about as much punishment as you would think that they should according to the fluff.  Maybe a little more than you'd expect in some cases, but not excessively so.

While the story is linear, the little tactical choices you make in combat seem to matter.  This is because there are very few places where the enemy spawns continuously.  If you shoot an enemy, that enemy is gone.  It's not going to be replaced by another enemy until I reach some arbitrary trigger point that turns off the respawns.  This lets me use actual tactics, like sniping the enemy instead of rushing straight into the middle of them.

Where there are respawning enemies, there are usually a limited number of respawns, and they respawn in a way that is consistent with the setting, such as coming through a hole torn in the warp.

There are a few tropes of the shooter genre present that can break immersion, but they are relatively minor.  For example, the ability to swap out up to four different weapons, including heavy weapons, at will.  I'm not sure where I was keeping that lascannon while shooting my bolter, but it's a concession to game play that I think is both necessary to maximize the fun, and is easy to get used to.

The graphics and sound are appropriate.  Space Marines are big.  Imperial Guard troopers are tiny next to them.  Proportions are true to the fluff, not to the tabletop game miniatures, which is good. The scenery is appropriately gothic and war-torn, with jury-rigged defenses created by both orks and humans scattered around.  Nothing gets repeated so much as to become annoying or humorous, neither sounds nor graphics.

 All the vehicles and characters are from 40K designs, with nothing really original to the game itself.  I liked this, as you get to see some things animated that I don't think have ever been animated before.

Vehicles in general make few appearances in the game.  Most of it takes place in confined spaces where vehicles can't operate, but when they do appear, they tend to be impressive.  If there is a sequel, one thing they could do to differentiate it from the original would be to include more vehicles.

Overall, a very fun game, despite an ending that was a bit weak (probably to leave room for a sequel), and I strongly recommend this game to anyone who is a fan of the IP of Warhammer 40K.