Friday, March 29, 2013

Majus Kickstarter

Goblinoid Games is prepping to release another Pacesetter-System powered RPG: Majus. The premise sounds a bit like something in the vein of Unknown Armies and Mage: The Ascension, featuring a world of gifted sorcerers (the Maji) who try to control the mysteries of the skein (reality?) in a game of intrigue and conflict (the mehen).

I was uncertain of these references at first, but mehen is a thing, it turns out, and the use of the term here seems especially apt and intriguing.  Majus, of course, is a variation on the term magus, which stems from old Zoroastrianism (wiki here). In games like this one its really important to establish some mytho-historic street cred by referencing upon and drawing from real world myth to create a genuinely interesting modern supernaturalism on which to hang everything, and from what I've read so far it sounds like they've got the trappings to do the job so far, or at least the gist of it.

Anyway, I also like that the Kiskstarter for this is sincere and up front about "this is what it will cost, and we're not muddying the water with stretch goals." Damn straight I'm backing this now! Too many Kickstarters seem to trip themselves up by promising the sun and moon. Goblinoid Games can and will deliver, so count me in.

The Basic/Expert Dungeons & Dragons Project Part I

As a fun side project I've been messing around with some ideas about how to use the Basic and Expert Dungeons & Dragons sets in as purist a fashion as possible while still "doing it the way I used to" back in the early eighties. That is, by creating an unholy union between AD&D for "stuff" and B/X D&D for "rules." When I realized a few months back that the reason I remembered those game days so fondly was because I actually did tend to play this way, cherry-picking classes, races, monsters and some rules from AD&D, but leaning on B/X for the "final call" and all mechanical decisions.

Side Note: the clean PDF copies over at are good enough to print. Which I have done. My printed and tape-bound copies of the Basic and Expert sets along with the much lauded Night's Dark Terror (which I have never previously owned) are in convenient physical form. They are very clean and easy to read, so the new PDFs are well worth it.

Anyway, I've been toying with the idea of blending B/X D&D with the Advanced Edition Companion for Labyrinth Lord. The other possibility was Swords & Wizardry Complete, but that sort of holds its own rather well, and all I actually want is to have B/X D&D presented as "core" with a set of additional rules that will allow for paladins, monks, assassins and rangers if people want to play those classes; and also a way for people to play an elf who can pick locks or a dwarf who prefers something less dramatic than a battle axe, should they so desire. The fact that LL assumes you can blend and mix both AD&D-style classes and classic B/X racial classes is just an extra perk.

Advanced Edition Companion also has all the creepy demons and devils that B/X D&D never got. It's pretty much got "all the extra stuff" that one could want to pilfer from AD&D and stick into B/X, which is pretty cool. and I can slap on Realms of Crawling Chaos as well if I see fit to do so.


Now all I need to do is find some willing victims. I've got two nice groups right now...but my Tuesday night group has a few players who do not want to go back to the old days (and before you ask, they are all older gamers than I, who are pretty well set on exploring the Hot Newness over the Old Classics). My Wednesday regulars are all dedicated to Pathfinder. Well....maybe I can get something up on some late week night...or even take the plunge and try somehow to figure out the best way to run games online (Google Hangouts seems like a good place).

Here's a few B/X D&D starter pregens I worked up for this hypothetical game I'm bandying about. Note that they are built for the Warlords of Lingusia setting (the campaign which was born in Basic D&D back in 1980), and are pure B/X in design (barring some language issues; I am treating "chaotic" as Abyssal and "lawful" as Primordial, because I have never been able to accept alignment languages as anything that made even remote sense). I really enjoy remembering how quickly characters roll up in B/X.

Oh, they all got max HPs too. Just seemed right to grant this....poor B/X adventurers are pathetic enough at level 1 without some decent hit points!

Elven adventurer, male                      Level 1                        Alignment lawful
STR      15        +1 (hit, damage, open doors)
DEX     14        +1 missile, -1 AC, +1 Init
CON    12       
INT      9          Languages: Middle Tongue, elvish, primordial (law), orcish, hobgoblin, gnollish
WIS     8          -1 save vs. magic
CHA     14        +1 reaction
HPs      6          AC       3
Elven Traits: infravision 60 feet, detect secret doors 2 in 6 chance, immune to paralysis
Spell Book: Sleep
Weapons: Sword (1D8+1; THAC0 19), Long Bow (1D6; THAC0 19), quiver w/40 arrows
Armor: Chainmail and shield
Gear: backpack, 50’ rope, 2 weeks rations, 2 large sacks, waterskin
Wealth: 49 gp

Notarios is a journeyman traveler from Yllmar, a high elf and practiced swordmage seeking to make a reputation for himself.

Halfling adventurer, male      Level 1                        Alignment chaotic
STR      11                                                             Prime Requisite Bonus +5% xp
DEX     17        +3 missile, -2 AC (-4 vs.  large foes), +2 Init (these include halfling bonuses)
CON    10
INT      12        Languages: Middle Tongue (common), Halfling
WIS     14        +1 save vs. magic
CHA     6          -1 reaction
HPs      6          AC       2
Halfling traits: 10% chance of being spotted in the wilderness, only 2 in 6 indoors w/normal light
Weapons: Short sword (1D6; THAC0 20), Crossbow (1D6; THAC0 17), quiver w/30 bolts
Armor: Chainmail and shield
Gear: backpack, 2 flasks of oil, 24 iron spikes, hammer, lantern, 2 weeks rations, 50’ rope, waterskin,
Wealth: 68 gp

Grelfaine is a young Halfling adventurer from coastal Golmadras who ran afoul of the law. He’s now on a journey of discovery….to discover his fortune, that is!

Human Magic User, male      Level 1                        Alignment lawful
STR      8          -1 (hit, damage, open doors)            Prime Requisite Bonus +10% xp
DEX     14        +1 missile, -1 AC, +1 Init
CON    12
INT      17        Languages: Middle Tongue, Old Tongue, Abyssal (chaotic), Elvish, Primordial
WIS     14        +1 save vs. magic
CHA     16        +1 reaction
HPs      4          AC       8
Spell Book: Charm Person
Weapons: silver dagger (1D4-1, THAC0 21), 3 regular daggers
Armor: Clothing
Gear: backpack, 2 flasks of oil, lantern, 2 weeks rations,  waterskin, 10’ wooden pole
Wealth: 111 GP

Saddarus is a student of the magical arts from the mountain city of Senempar and a practiced traveler who has been to several major city ports working as an apprentice and courier for his old master. He now seeks his own way, having bought out his contract of indenturment.

Korleska Dann Terenos
Human Fighter, female                      Level 1                        Alignment chaotic
STR      16        +2 (hit, damage, open doors)                        Prime Requisite Bonus +10% xp
DEX     12       
CON    12
INT      9          Languages: Middle Tongue, Orcish
WIS     7          -1 save vs. magic
CHA     12       
HPs      8          AC       3
Weapons: 2-H Sword (1D10+2; THAC0 18), Crossbow (1D6; THAC0 20), quiver w/30 bolts
Armor: platemail
Gear: backpack, 2 flasks of oil, 24 iron spikes, hammer, lantern, 2 weeks rations, 50’ rope, waterskin,
Wealth: 30 gp

Korleska is a practiced Hyrkanian soldier of noble blood, hailing from the city of Kymir. She took a liking to Saddarus and his been acting as his bodyguard..for now.

Human thief, male                  Level 1                        Alignment neutral
STR      11                                                                Prime Requisite Bonus +10% xp
DEX     17        +2 missile, -2 AC, +1 Init                    
CON    15        +1 HP/hit die
INT      15        Languages: Middle Tongue, Golmadran, Orcish
WIS     11
CHA     16        +1 reaction
HPs      5          AC       5
Thief Skills: Open Locks 15%; F/R Traps 10%; Pick Pockets 20%; Move silently 20%; Climb 87%; Hide/Shadows 10%; Hear Noise 1-2; Sneak Attack +4 to hit, double damage
Weapons: Short sword (1D6; THAC0 20), Crossbow (1D6; THAC0 18), quiver w/30 bolts, 4 daggers (1D4)
Armor: leather
Gear: backpack, 2 flasks of oil, 24 iron spikes, hammer, lantern, 2 weeks rations, 50’ rope, waterskin, thieves tools
Wealth: 41 gp

Senespur is a Kymiri Hyrkanian and notorious local second-story man who’s looking to make his fortune by any means possible. He will not admit it, but he is Saddarus’s older half-brother, and feels a measure of responsibility for his younger but wiser sibling.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Dumbassery in New Mexico

Hey look its my state of New Mexico making news at Popehat. Yaaaay NM dumbassery. Sigh.

Central New Mexico Community College is actually where I and/or my wife have considered going to take some courses for fun.* A lot of people locally attend CNM for continuing education, or to get back to school to pursue an A.A. or A.A.S. degree while working. There are students attending for their two years before transfer to UNM, sure, but good grief. This is college, not a high school.

So yeah, shutting down the CNM newspaper over a matter of a bit of educational sex talk...something the local Alibi has in spades anyway, is a bit like turning off the faucet in the bathroom at the Hoover Damn in order to stem the flow of water down the river.

*I keep thinking I really need to take Spanish classes. I grew up in Arizona....why didn't I then? Nope, I had to study German and Japanese. Cool languages, but not as useful in the long run.

Magic World After Action Report #2

The second Magic World session went off Tuesday evening, this time with all six players in attendance (though two of them were a bit unfortunate side effect of a mid-week game, alas!)

I'm not going to go into as much detail this time, but the short of it:

When we left off the group as about to leave for the city of Aramen, hired to escort Chancellor Prion. They met two new members of the group, including Almin, another brother from Neremune who had been waiting for them in the city to arrive. Almin was a trader by profession and an escaped slave who had good reason to stay away from the homeland. The other new member was Physician Cross, a local Aeronostic and physically weak man of no small medicinal prowess, who was already in the employ of Chancellor Prion.

The group journeyed north along the coast for about three days before an unfortunate incident just after nightfall where they chose camp led to a rather dramatic series of conflicts. Cross and another guard in the caravan named Ultus scouted ahead to find a suitable spot to make camp for the night. They stumbled across a ruined keep which had mostly collapsed, and while Cross did recall some local legends about how the keep had fallen into disrepair due to a cursed family and a mad baron who committed suicide after all  his children were killed by a witch's curse, they nonetheless felt it was probably okay to stop here.

The caravaneers set up camp and the adventurers investigated the ruins, finding much evidence of rats and one very large nest filled with exotic eggs in the back wing. They proceeded to take an egg, which the shaman Jafar dropped, breaking open to reveal a half-formed monstrosity. Shortly thereafter a hideous roar in the distance greeted their ears. Something sensed its eggs had been tampered with!

The group got back to the camp site along the eastern wall of the old ruin and instructed the Chancellor and his attendants to flee immediately. This happened just in time to realize something had flown in under cover of darkness. In short order two manticores appeared and attacked the camp, one trying to steal a horse, the other taking advanage to nab the sorcerer Shamus, who had moved to position himself beside the entry to the ruins, an unfortunate spot to be in.

Long story short: they hacked the manticore pair apart, but not before Shamus had been brutally liquefied by manticore venom. Amidst all this Physician Cross bolted on his horse into the night. They ran right into a tree in the dark (not many trees in the area) while in flight, knocking both horse and rider half-senseless. To their dismay, it as the hanging tree from the old legend, with a skeleton in the darkness swinging from a low branch. Worse yet, skeletal arms burst from the ground to try and drag both horse and rider under. The horse bolted, luckily for the physically weak Cross, and dragged the doctor across the ground until the Huntress found and calmed the beast, allowing a senseless and beaten Cross to untangle his foot from the reins.

The group subsequently went looking for the Chancellor and his attendants, as well as Commander Draeson and the other guards who were to see to the Chancellor's safety. They instead found tracks leading to a nearby arroyo, only minutes old, and three bodies of the other carvan guards, killed but not looted. Print suggested a struggle, and that the rest had been captured and escorted down the narrow ravine. Shortly thereafter a new expedition was mounted to pursue whoever had absconded with the Chancellor.

The group headed down the ravine, but by fortune a fellow named Radic, a Katari Horseman and bounty hunter who was in the region tracking a band of brigands which local farmers had hired him to kill was in the area, and had watched from a save vantage point as all went down. He also knew the end of the ravine opened into a low area where the bandits were camped, and that the opening was booby-trapped. He decided to intervene, and communicate to the adventurers their plight, as well as show them a better approach to the bandit camp. (This was the new character replacement for Shamus)

The group, with the help of Radic, formulated a plan to assault the bandits, who had corraled their prisoners and were presently beating Commander Draeson and Chancellor Prion for information. Worse yet, two men in black with the burly leader of the brigands appeared to be Sullari assassins! Somehow the assassins had forged ahead and found bandit allies (not hard, as the caravan is very slow).

So it went down like this: Huntress found another high point in a lone tree from which to fire arrows into the well lit camp. Jafar the wizard crept up the closest point he could for spell casting which Cross watched his back. Radic and Almin rode in from the safer angle with no ambush point, while Zhahir rode on his camel through the Ravine and the ambush point as a distraction.

End result: Zhahir's gambit paid off as the net trap and guys with spears were thwarted due to some lucky rolls from the player and abyssmal rolls from the GM. Then Zhahir massively critted on a charging attack with harpoon on the bandit leader, who pretty much was dead on the spot. A stray bandit spotted Cross who ran into the group and cut down one bandit, while Radic and Almin charged in to take on six bandits in combat from horseback. Huntress methodically picked off bandits who had no idea where the arrows were coming from until they decided to flee under cover of darkness to get out of site.

When all was done there were three bandits surrendered, one Sullari captured who bit down on a poison capsule and perished, and the prisoners were free. They healed up the beaten Chancellor and Commander, and decided the bandits had a very nice camp.

Next: much looting ensues, and the journey to Aramen resumes.

(My group has been incredibly patient and I have to thank them for that. The purpose of this night was to get something going my wife could participate in at home, so our son could be managed without having a rampaging 16 month old in a store environment. Marcus is surprisingly not shy about all these people in the house, but nonetheless wants to get Dad's undivided attention right up until bed time. This includes efforts to take my book and notes to see what I'm looking at, taking my dice which are insanely fun to collect, apparently, and generally act like a crazy little monkey with a captive audience! I'm sure he'll make a great DM one day, in other words)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Good News Everyone! Runequest Book of Quests is out!

Design Mechanism has released The Book of Quests for Runequest 6! It's up on rpgnow and Drivethrurpg right here. It's also only $8, but recent excess prevents me from buying it until this weekend. Bah!

I'll post a review proper on it once I secure my copy. Here's what the cover looks like:

Seven adventures for use with Runequest 6 (and presumably easy enough to use with Legend, too). Good stuff!

Password Idiot Ball and Guild Wars 2

Areanet has a  lot of issues with hacked accounts, which can be troubling no doubt. It's also had some odd management on its account log ins in the past, and in the old days of the original Guild Wars I had found myself on more than one occasion stumped at how to log in, how to get hold of someone to help fix the issue and ultimately even trouble finding the CD Key that was often necessary for this process. I have hardly any physical CDs with keys anymore, its just not something I do in the PC universe thanks to Steam and digital delivery in general. The idea of a CD key as a necessary requisite to resetting a password seems excessive, but maybe its necessary?

I was trying to get Guild Wars 2 set up for remote play on my laptop when I realized I couldn't remember  my password. To recover it I once again need a CD Key, attached to a disc and box that I may or may not still have, mostly likely buried deep in storage. Yay.

Still, GW2 customer service on a query reset my password. Problem solved! Not so fast, human meat space error is guaranteed to insure failure here.

First problem: they won't let me recycle any previously used passwords. I've only used a couple passwords to date, but when I tried to enter some passwords  previously to log on, passwords that were in sync with my "system" for such, it didn't recognize them....but it seems to have remembered them because I can't use any of them at all. I used quite a few (12) figuring maybe I had reset it to one of them at some point. I only show two previous changes on record, so that means at least 10 should be good, right? Apparently not. The system says they have been used previously...or were entered, at least. It remembered my attempts, not merely my actual passwords. Greaaaaat.

Their password reset also suggests the XKCD method, which is to link several conventional words together which our simply meat brains can easily recall but which sophisticated computers allegedly will never get. So guess what happens? I come up with one, and it works. I log in. Yay! I go to my laptop, easily remembered password in mind. It doesn't work. Whaaaa??? Somewhere in the space of two damned minutes I either forgot a portion of the password, or just as likely I mistyped it (twice) in the first place and am not correctly recalling it but not realizing what I typed is not what I entered.

So on the one hand: I get the idiot ball today because holy cow why didn't I write it down carefully before ever typing it in? On the other hand, Areanet's approach to security is infuriating and my ability to get into my account depends on my willingness to write down an elaborate password that is unrelated to any of my previously used password conventions; also, the willingness of the moderators at Areanet to give me a second chance. Ugh!!!!

All I wanted to do was play a bit of Guild Wars 2 on my lunch break. Is that too much to ask? Of my addled brain...and A-net's intense security protocols....I guess so.....

"In Ascalon we Call it the Idiot Log"

FOLLOW UP: Areanet kindly sent me another reset, and this time I thought long and hard about a decent password, wrote the sucker down, and then entered it. I may now pass the idiot ball on to another hapless soul in the interwebz.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday Has Arrived! On Dead Space 2 and the Nineties

Well, nothing ready this week for posting (yet) but I'm sure I'll find a spot of time in my schedule to line stuff up. Or some good news, or something interesting!

I finished the Dead Space 2 campaign over the weekend. Yes, I'm (as usual) about two years behind on this one, but hey, got here eventually. Now I can start Dead Space 3 in earnest, hopefully sooner than 2015. For the record, it was a very good game, and I felt it lived up to the first rather well, albeit with a storyline bigger in scope and style, and slightly less of the claustrophobia that the first visit on the Ishimura generated. Isaac having a voice was a Huge Step forward for the game, and many other titles need to learn from them. I am so very, very tired of the silent protagonist, which is effectively a lazy developer's way of an easy out on creating a decent story and character for the players to relate to. Please take note, id!

My epiphany came while watching Twin Peaks (also, X-Files) on Netflix, and realizing that I know now why I am not really in sync with so much of the rest of grognardia, or the generation which idolizes the seventies and eighties. I was born in 1971, so most of my formative youth in the seventies was spent as a small kid, and the sum total of influences on my life in that period consisted of Star Wars, Alien, Superman, Star Trek, Clint Eastwood westerns and World War II movies. I didn't really hit full-titl nerdom until 1980 with the discovery of Gamma World and D&D, and even then I was still just doing stuff kids did. The eighties were heavily about "doing all this stuff" and enjoying the unique culture of gaming life from a teenager's viewpoint at that time, but the profundity of the experience really didn't slam me until 1990s, I now realize.

Most gamers who were in their teens or older in the seventies probably are the sort who find Dungeon Crawl Classics really endearing. Those who were the same age and deeply into AD&D in the 80's may feel the same way. Well, for me, that was how the nineties were. It's not the most spectacular generation, but it's the decade that impacted me the most, and there is so much from that period that I find myself utterly entranced by. Twin Peaks, X-Files, Cyberpunk 2020, Dark Conspiracy, AD&D 2nd edition, Playstation, Resident Evil, Silent Hill, Runequest (I played more RQ in the nineties than any other time), and so much more, the nineties were a deeply exploratory period of my life, one in which I was master of my own destiny for a time, free of personal, professional and financial responsibilities, and ready to enjoy life as I saw fit.

The thing is, my experience to this period was distinctly my own, and the nineties were an odd decade because, as Movie Bob has aptly pointed out (he's been doing a nice nineties retrospective here), the nineties was really almost a decade of weird retrospection on the last nine decades before the new  millennium.

The nineties in my head aren't even all that accurate, either. I barely played some of the decade's most popular games (Vampire, for ex.) and I didn't own a television for 90% of the decade (not getting one until I met my second wife-to-be at the time, and even then I only used it for gaming). I had a computer, but it was only for school, and in fact the only meaningful PC gaming I got in was in 1995 when I played all the Gold Box AD&D games I had accumulated but not had time to enjoy. I still remember my hazy, fever-dream whirlwind blast through Treasure of the Savage Frontier. I didn't get gaming like that in again until 1996 when I bought a Playstation and (on a lark) Resident Evil.

From 1980 to 1988 I ran a total of maybe 150-160 game sessions, albeit long and engaging, with my sister and whatever friends of hers or mine happened to be around; we lived in the middle of nowhere, so we had limited access to friends and family who would put up with our gaming habits. Conventions, publishing fanzines, play-by-mail and travel were when I got most gaming in, until I swaggered off to college and got my first consistent, large group of regular gamers in to a semester long series of gaming marathons. That paled in comparison to the nineties, when I got, from 1990 (when I married my first wife, who was also a gamer) to 1999 approximately fifteen campaigns in of AD&D 2nd edition alone....massive campaign arcs that during my college years were each timed to last a semester, and after college would go for a year or more. My first Realms of Chirak campaign was in 1992, but my first never-ending campaign started in 1996 and the last official session with those characters wrapped in 2004.

I ran so many different, interesting systems in the nineties, that AD&D only characterizes one corner of the hobby for me, however. Runequest, Dark Conspiracy, Cyberpunk 2020, Mutant Chronicles, Traveller: TNE, Megatraveller, Chill, GURPS, Call of Cthulhu, Dragonquest, Star Trek, Star Wars, and many many more all got decent levels of attention back in the day. The nineties defined my gaming spectrum for me much more so than the eighties did, even if it was as--or more-- important to me in many ways in the eighties. The eighties was all about enjoying a hobby though unusual effort; the nineties were about it being something I could do practically any time, anywhere I felt like it.

So....this is all a long and round-about way of saying, "I finally get it," as to why I'm not quite in sync with the OSR grognard-driven movement as it's currently characterized. I guess I'll need to wait another decade or two before my own nostalgic nineties comes back into proper vogue!

Friday, March 22, 2013

It's Officially "Too Many Games Weekend" - Defiance, Gears of War: Judgement, Resident Evil 6 and Neverwinter

For those who are, unlike me, able to restrain themselves and stick to a single game title for ponderously long periods of time (like...literal hours!) this may not be an issue. But for those of you like me who have an insatiable urge to get all of this stuff while it's hot, and at least dabble in each game as it manifests on my PC or console...this is a tough weekend. A quick recap, and "status of opinions so far:"

Gears of War: Judgement - I haven't played much yet, but the game is looking good, seeing as how it is built on the foundations laid by Gears of War 3. It's a bit weird playing a game without Marcus Fenix, however. Baird's a worthy character, but after the epic conclusion of GoW 3 stepping back ten years in time to a different squad of gears (none of whom I recognize, which suggests they will all suffer horrible fates at some point) is a bit weird.

GoW:J has also taken a moment to shake up the formula a teeny bit. Experienced Gears fans will find that the four weapon selection using the direction keys is gone, to be replaced by a style approaching other franchises a bit. This may or may not bother some. Still....this game has an intensely polished feel.

Resident Evil 6 on PC - downloaded, played the intro again, will probably replay the campaigns I've already slogged through on the Xbox 360, because frankly everything is always better on PC, and you know it. Plus, I noticed the keyboard QTEs were much easier to complete than they were on the 360 controls. Beyond that.....not much to report yet. Graphics of course look better.

Neverwinter - I got into the 3rd beta, and so far its fun. It's more ARPG-like, and the trappings of D&D are everywhere at least terms of story, presentation and name...but the game definitely plays more like a better D&D-skinned version of Tera Online or more elaborate Diablo III with over-the-shoulder cameras. You can tell that the game is built on a much revamped and improved Cryptic engine, but it's far and away more polished than Cryptic's prior efforts pre-Perfect World days. My wife is loving it and has been in all the betas so far. Me....I'm a bit burned out on fantasy MMOs, to be honest, so I am concerned my apathy toward the game has more to do with my general lack of interest in fantasy MMORPGs right now than any actual play issues. The game, as I said, feels very smooth and polished and looks great. I'll reserve judgement for now. It's going to be F2P anyway, so it's guaranteed I'll be playing it on release. Whether or not I'll feel like spending money on it is another matter entirely.

Defiance - I got invited to the weekend beta. I wanted to check this game out because I was having a hard time from the trailers determining quite how this game would play and feel, and was worried it was going to be another Tabula Rasa. Well...guess's actually an unbelievably amazing game, a very polished and extremely immersive experience. Defiance isn't so much competing with other MMOs...or even other multiplayer online shooters like Planetside 2. It's effectively Trion's effort at capturing a genie in the bottle, by nabbing the MMORPG elements people love and blending them with the style of RPGs like Mass Effect 3 and shooters like Halo 4 and Borderlands. It's a third person perspective game which will feel very, very comfortable to you if you've played Mass Effect 2 and 3. Defiance is all about skill while letting you level through additional powers, equipment and looks. It's a huge world....even in the few hours I played I realized I was in a much more expansive environment than most MMORPGs offer, even the really big ones. You get a vehicle very early on, and you need it. The vehicle driving feels great, too. 

Also, the cut scenes, voice acting and character models are absolutely gorgeous. Really amazing production values. 

Defiance went from a "suspicious this will be worth my time" game to a "will be preordering this weekend, and need to reconsider how many other games I really need to buy now, since this one will be occupying all my time."

The fact that it's apparently going for a "buy to play" model supported by a season pass with 5 planned DLC releases is just one more perk. I prefer that sort of model for whatever reason to the subscription model or the (shudder) F2P approach that is designed to gouge you with nickel and diming doom.

I'll be playing a lot more Defiance when it comes out April 2nd, and will let my wife jump on my account this weekend to check it out, too. This game is going to be huge, I think, and people need something that's got the cinematic quality, gorgeous graphics, smooth gameplay and attention to detail that this title is offering. I feel like some sort of Trion groupie praising it, but damn, those guys really know what they're doing apparently.

Oh yeah....God of Wars: Ascension came out, and I snagged it, what with my brand new PS3 sitting around and all. Logged very little time in but the game looks good and plays like God of War did back in the PS2 era....the last time I actually played a God of War game.

Hmmm....what else? Oh, Dungeons & Dragons Next popped out an update. Downloaded it, glanced at the classes. This may be good, I don't know. I've sort of decided I'd rather just see the finished product and make a decision then. My entrenchment with Pathfinder is strong, so D&D Next needs to do something weird and interesting to break the Paizo spell on me right now....and the playtest packets are not showing it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Magic World After Action Report #1: The Vengeance of Kallim Campaign

Tuesday night kicked off with a bang! We had four players, and there should be two more joining in the near future. Of the players, my wife Jody and friend Mark are both BRP/RQ vets, with my wife having run BRP (in her own weird apocalypse setting) and played in MRQ and RQII campaigns I have run. Mark is, like me, an old grognard veteran and has both played and run almost every edition of RQ as well as BRP. My other two players (Mary and Jeff from my Wednesday Pathfinder game) were familiar with Pathfinder and D&D 4E but new to BRP based systems.

We spent about an hour in char gen. The process was fast and the methodology in MW (providing predetermined sets of skill points applied in a rigorous fashion to cultural, occupational and then other skills) made this process much simpler, and avoided decision paralysis on the part of the players. They might want to do specific point buy in the future, but it was an excellent fast and efficient method for a first session.

The campaign I chose is the humanocentric Sarvaelen, about which much has been presented in this blog. This is the first actual game I've run in Sarvaelen...the realm of the Watchers of the Sullen Vigil has up to now been 100% purely a blog exercise. Now it has life! This does mean that everyone rolled humans only.

The characters rolled included two southerners from Neremune (a quasi pagan Nabatean analog), one clansman out of the region of southern Yakhal (a darkest Africa Congo-analog) and  one local Atlenari. When the dust settled we had (in order):

Zhamal, a mercenary bodyguard from Neremune who was of Emon blood (expatriates), who served as guardian and protector to various clients and was looking to reclaim the lost fortunes of his once great family, now brought down by corruption and gambling debts;

Jafar, the other Neremunish adventurer who was a shaman by trade on a quest to find a woman named Asylla who appears in dreams begging him to help her;

The Yakhali was a huntress known as The Hunter (and a very efficient one at that) on a journey from her pagan homeland to find the meaning of a vision she experienced of the goddess Nevereth from the north;

Their guide and advisor to the north was the last adventurer, Shamus, an Atlenari sorcerer and scholar by trade who was looking to reclaim the lost fortunes of his once great family, now brought down by corruption and gambling debts.

(Note: MW has cultural details and distinctive marks as part of character generation, but one thing RQ6 and Legend provide that MW does not is a random chart of "initial background events," that you roll on to get some weird piece of history for your character. For people with a strong vision it may not be necessary, and its certainly not needed, but I like the odd variables it gives to I had everyone rill once on the RQ6 chart to get some strange results.)

The group began while traveling, stumbling across a farmer's convoy of wagons hauling grain to the port city of Alton, where the city needed food and supplies due to recent conflict. The convoy had been attacked, and a troll had run up, grabbed the oxen, beaten two farmhands and run into a field of corn stalks. The farmer and son were in pursuit, the farmer's wife tending to the wounded. The sorcerer and shaman did some quick healing when the troll, having doubled back, charged them from the corn field, using chunks of the dead oxen as a club.

I intended this to be a quick introductory fight, and boy was it quick...the huntress acted first, getting off an arrow with a critical strike, dealing enough damage to drop the troll in his tracks. This was the first lesson the new players got about BRP vs. Pathfinder/4E: it's all about hit faster, hit harder, and most importantly, don't get hit!

The group ended up being invited to join the farmer on his journey, who payed them a handful of bronzes for their help. They camped out while the farmer and son retrieved another oxen, and cooked up the dead one in the interim. During their cook-out, two Grampus (giant whip-tail scorpions) were attracted to the smell and descended on the camp. The ensuing fight was not as quick, but the shaman and sorcerer proved very useful as they Muddled one grampus and cast Sleep on the other. The fight was only a few rounds long, the end result being a butchering of grampus carcasses for shell, meat and the sorcerer and shaman trying to figure out how to extract the acid sacs in the giant vinegaroon tails.

Battle in Alton Harbor

The group eventually made good on their journey to the port city of Alton, where they found a city under siege. An outgoing company of soldiers were heading south, led by a Knight who spoke briefly with the group and even purchased the grampus hide, which he intended to cure and treat for hard leather armor for his men. He explained that the city was not yet in danger, but that Sammarite privateers had blockaded the harbor and were engaged in a vicious sea battle with Alton's own defensive navy. The city needed all the recruits it could find, but his garrison was headed south to guard the pass to Thaerinal, in case the Sammarites had decided to deploy soldiers in safety along the coast and ambush the city from inland.

The group got to stay free of charge at an inn run by the farmer's wife's brother, who also gave them some tips on employment. By morning they had two obvious job prospects to consider: go down to the Militia Watch Tower and sign on to the army, or speak with a visiting Chancellor of Aeronost to the north named Prios, who needed bodyguards to protect his overland caravan on his return to his home city. As it happened, his home city was Aramen, southernmost bastion of the Kingdom of Aeronost.

In the end, they went with escorting Prios. He was paying very well, loaning them horses, paying them a gold each to outfit for the journey, and promising 4 gold on safe arrival in Aramen (gold is worth a lot in MW).

While the group was wandering the markets and upgrading gear, the Huntress spotted some black-cloaked fellows who looked like they were also from Neremune in the south following her oblivious sorcerer and shaman companions. When the two met up with the bodyguard, they made to return to the inn, when they found the street blocked by a broken cartload of chickens. A small thuggish boy nearby stood in an alleyway that would let them bypass the incident...they decided to turn around (didn't like the look of the boy), only to find that the two men secretly following them hard barred their way (and unknown to those two men the Huntress had taken up a defensive position with bow behind an old woman's kiosk full of roasting alligator meat).

The two men revealed each was armed with twin scimitars, and declared that they had a warning to deliver to Jafar: stop pursuing the woman Asylla, it was no business of his, and should he seek to find her only ruin and death would come of it.

Apparently the internet doesn't believe assassins existed before Altair
Naturally the group attacked (Huntress scoring a kidney strike from behind with an arrow setting it off) and after a short and brutal fight from which everyone scraped out okay they looted the bodies. Four scimitars, two robes and a handful of bronzes proved to be a real treasure in MW terms....weapons are expensive, and scimitars are nice swords. They also found tattoos on the men, indicating they belonged to a group known as the Sullari Sect, a radical assassin cult from Neremune. Not good!

The boy from the alley revealed himself to be named Pando, and told them that there were more men waiting for them at the end of the alley, who would likely grow suspicious when neither the adventurers nor the two stalkers appeared and come looking to see what happened. Jafar took Pando under his wing for a bit, and they left to return to the inn by circuitous route, relying on the boy's knowledge of the city in exchange for bronzes.

The game wrapped up with the following morning as the caravan escorting Chancellor Prios left at dawn, a very long road ahead....but technically safer than trying to run the blockade of Sammarite privateers in the harbor.

Next week we will resume, and may have two more of them actually showed but had to leave due to some emergency (that or his cat allergies went into overdrive). The other is an old friend of mine who moved to town recently...he and I have been gaming together since 1990, so this is a major reunion of sorts to get gaming again.

Some observations about the GM Side of Gameplay:

1. The GM screen cannot come out soon enough, too many charts to flip around and look for! I need to pull out my CoC screen for the resistance table in the interim.

2. Everyone thought the Sleep spell should include a line of text indicating that there's a chance the target wakes up if someone assaults them while sleeping.

3. I decided to let everyone do the heroic hit point rule (even though its supposed to be grimdark Sarvaelen). This is proving less noticeable (so far) as they've all been good at avoiding damage.

4. The Weapon Class System is kind of cool, and despite some reservations I had about whether it would cause some confusion or extra paperwork headache to track weapon skills, the players "got it" immediately, which is good. I like the MW method for weapon skills much more than the RQ6 method, which is oddly hermeneutic for the "big daddy with more rules edition" of the system. With MW there is no confusion or guesswork, and a very clear direction on what skills relate to one another, which is good.

5. The "one magic system to rule them all" went over well. The fact that the shaman and the sorcerer both play differently by virtue of their choices was cool.

6. Everyone got into the skill improvement is, as always, a mixture of gamlbing and instant gratification, something quite unlike the class-based D&D stuff the players are normally used to. I personally liked the option to pick a single occupational skill for a guaranteed increase over the RQ and Legend mechanic of a guaranteed 1% increase....everyone knows they will get a single sure improvement this way.

7. Since it's not D&D, I made a big deal about languages and how there is not "common tongue" in my setting. People took note and bolstered their languages...but I did give them a second single free language choice, equal to INTX1 to insure they had some flex in what dialects they knew. I call this the "well traveled barbarian effect" in honor of Conan, who at some point must have learned twenty Hyborean languages in Howard's tales.

More next week!, I mean Asylla

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Shadow Slayers - A Modern Urban Fantasy Campaign Seed

I wrote this years ago...around 2003, I think, when I was running some D20 Modern and was trying to shoehorn the system into a setting that would play to the game's strengths. The actual write-up is fairly system neutral, so I could (and may) one day revise it for use with BRP or GURPS. So continuing with my "lost campaigns" theme for March.....I present Shadow Slayers!

Major Players:
   The Forces of Shadow are dominated by a series of very old, powerful covens. These covens dominate lesser groups of the Shadow and so forth in turn. Each of these covens are tied to their racial heritage, the genetic memories that drive their unifying spirit, and also fuel their ages-old hatred and loathing for both man and each other.
   All beings of Shadow have the following traits in common:

   Veil of the Shadow: all such entities, tied inextricably to the Shadow planes, are veiled within its confines, and when destroyed, are also reclaimed by this nether-essence when destroyed. The lore of the supernatural suggests that they believe the Shadow is the lingering tether they hold to their native dimensional realm, a plane close to Earth, from which all beings of Shadow originate. Some (the vampires, ghouls, and such) believe they were exiled from this dimension, which they call Gehenna and other names. Others, such as the Elohim, believe they chose to leave it and do not wish to return. They see Earth as paradise, the Elysian Fields of which they long ago sought out and found.

   The ancient history of the Shadow has pervaded much occult lore, if one can seek it out. All beings of Shadow believe they descend from an ancient legacy. The Elohim contend that their oldest ancestors were the very Annunaki proto-gods of old Mesopatamia. The vampires ascribe so many supernatural myths of predation to the legacy of their ancestors.

   All beings of Shadow, veiled in shadow, cannot be discerned for what they really are by man. It is believed that the essence of Shadow protects its own, obscuring its kin in a clever mental illusion. As such, the legacy of the Shadow Slayers is frightening to the beings of Shadow, for this small percentage of humans are gifted with the powers to penetrate the illusion.

   The veil of shadow waxes and wanes with the eons, and astrological charts have been known to exist which seem to divine when these periods of strong and weak shadow are forthcoming. During periods of weak shadow, the veil becomes easier for mortals to penetrate, and such periods are a time when the supernatural are more readily exposed, hunted, and destroyed. The last great period of waning shadow was during the middle ages, and then later the renaissance. Waxing periods of Shadow mean that the veil has become noticeably stronger, and the veil is more difficult to penetrate, such that open acts of destruction can go unnoticed by mortals, who become like easy cattle. Such periods always seem to mark a rise in the number of Shadow Slayers, as well. The present day is one such period of Waxing Shadow.

   The beings of Shadow operate under an ancient pact, called the Concordance in the present, which sets aside specific rules of conduct among their own kind. Specifically, it requires that no being of Shadow be allowed to fray or damage the veil under which they have protection. A being that damages the veil, and exposes it or others like it to the mortals in an egregious manner, is punished for his transgressions. However, it is very difficult to do this; such an being would have to go public, and openly display his or her supernatural talents to mortals. Even then, the veil will work to deceive, and mortals will take him to be huckster or stage magician in all likelihood, but his brethren will know, and seek him out for destruction.

   The beings of Shadow have held a secret war for countless generations. At times one faction may ally with another, but they all struggle to maintain their sense of superiority in the world. The Lycanthropes are age-old enemies of the vampires, for example, but loose allies with the Elohim. The Elohim are enemies of the vampires, see the lycanthropes as occasionally useful, and are violently opposed to the Old Spirits (whom they fought against in the ancient days to be recognized as gods by man, before pacts of secrecy drove all beings of Shadow in to darkness). The Old Spirits, of course, are enemies of all, even themselves, and occasionally have been allies of all factions at one time or another.

   Most beings of Shadow strongly believe in the notions of a defined war of Order and Chaos. They subscribe to the notion that agents of their factions are split down these principles, and that it stems from a much older legacy of worship to the True Gods, the gods which they all know, in fact, exist and are the true seeds of creation. These gods are ancient and largely unknown by mortals. The most esoteric and learned of occult writings reference these deities, which are sometimes confused by old beings of Shadow who have long been misidentified as deities by men of old or occult agents in the modern day (Baal, for example, or the Elohim Sol, who are both currently active).

Awesome Source

Current Factions:

   The Vampires: a series of covens defined by their type, and led by dark queens and kings. They answer to no one save the True Lord of Night. The vampires worship a selection of ancient deities believed to be their creators, including Khoth, Nerul, and Yitzam. They believe that their homelands of the Shadow were the true Gehenna, Pandemonium, and Hades.
   In the present day, a movement among the vampires suggest that their destiny is to bring the Shadow to the mortal realm of Earth, permanently. Certain architects, such as the Nosferatu vampire lord Edward Gamble and his minions, are attempting to create occult spells which will drag large volumes of the Shadow Plane in to the mortal realm, with the intent of transforming an entire mortal city in to a new Necropolis. They believe this will herald the end times for man, and will merge the two planes.

   Edward Gamble is also in control of a militant sect of vampires known as The Necropolis Sect. They are led by Malcom Blaylock and others, and are truly grotesque vampires who have lived long but suffered much under the hands of mortals, and who now work as assassins of known Shadow Slayers. They are thaumaturges, summoning demons from the Shadow to destroy the Shadow Slayers.

   The vampires use many pawns, including risen dead, ghouls, enthralled mortals, summoned demons, and an occasional bound spirit. They are also well-entrenched within the communities of man, and in any given city the lord of that domain will have a firm grip in the civic government, police force, or media (and sometimes all three).

   The vampires are opposed by several enemies. The Elohim have held an ancient grudge, and will always seek to destroy the vampire power structure. Some vampires blame the elohim for Shadow Slayer manifestations, but no truth to the matter has ever been established on this. The vampires have also attracted the attention of more conventional mortal interests; Department 7 of the FBI is a well-funded, very secretive unit which operates against the vampire threat on most occasions (though it will just as easily target other factions). Finally, a mortal cult dedicated to Khoth, a subsect of the Rosicrucians who have identified Khoth with Set, seek to attain occult mastery over the vampires. The Cultists of Khoth, led be Araham Al’hadim in Egypt and Clarence Monahan in the US, are well aware of the fire they play with, but have discerned much of the beings of Shadow, and believe that they are an aberration meant to be controlled by men, who are in turn empowered by the mystical teachings of Khoth.

   The Elohim are a much smaller but still very powerful faction, and rival the vampires in tenacity and interest in controlling mortal affairs. Elohim are secreted away at the tops of tall buildings, nestled in corporate offices, or operating secluded communities of enlightened mortals who worship them like gods. They seem to yearn for such worship, and though they contend that they were not exiled from the Shadow Plane thousands of years ago, but instead left of their own choice, it seems clear that some ancient legacy haunts them.

    The Elohim use minions, mostly enlightened mortals, and some summoned demons and other spirits. They never affiliate with the undead, and are violently opposed to the vampires (yet they do not seek to destroy the vampires, merely contain them, explaining that the balance of chaos must always be appeased). Only when the vampires get too strong to the Elohim seek to destroy them, culling their numbers. Some elohim have been known to approach or manipulate Shadow Slayers, but all contend that they have no part in the creation of such enlightened mortals.

   Lesser factions of power include Lycanthropes, who are often loosely organized clans throughout the backwoods of the world, and rarely gentrified. The loose honor system keeps them united against common foes, but they dislike politics, and seek instead to keep to their own diabolic desires and aims. They do not like nature, even though they often hide within it; the embrace of their beastiality drives them to psychotic passions and madness. Too many lycanthropes were once human, and the taint of the beast, said to have been granted to them eons ago by dark gods, along with the racial memories which flood the minds of its victims, creates seriously unstable personalities.

   The Old Spirits are a diverse faction, entities which claim to have been inherent to the land, though a few occult scholars suggest that this is not possible. Likewise, such beings are very well versed in hiding in shadow, and their connection to the Shadow Plane is evident. More likely, they represent a much older migration of supernatural beings, going back to the dawn of mankind or even before. The Old Spirits are highly diverse, having long ago changed and manipulated their forms to reflect the demons and spirits of the day, and are often identified as manifestations of old mythic monsters and gods. Medusa, the Minotaur, Pazzuzzu, and the Black Forest Ogre are all known old spirits, and very powerful. Though not united, each Old Spirit is individually and with its followers an army in its own right.

    Other Shadow beings, which have no true faction, but are often part of the fray as either participants or fodder include the Fae, the ghosts and spirits of the dead, and the monstrous manifestations (horribly mutated beings that defy classification). The demons, summoned and manipulated so often, are also suspected by some to be a hidden faction, and perhaps hold the trump card over all other factions. They may either be summoned from the Shadow Plane, or comprised of the literal essence of Shadow, and are perhaps the dark guardians of its gates, placed there to forever bar the beings of Shadow from re-entry.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Lizard Men in Magic World

When I saw the "crocodilian" entry in Magic World I have a brief moment of hope that it was an entry for lizard men, who outside of the Gloranthan slaarg are seriously neglected in BRP powered systems, despite the fact that they are a great staple of villainy for swords & sorcery campaigns, something BRP-styled systems excel at. My Sarvaellen campaign relies on lizard men as a major humanoid monstrous threat, of course, so naturally it needs them. Like, now...for tonight's game. So here they are:

The Selutar: Lizard Men of Sarvaelen

Sarvaelen is a humanocentric land, dominated by men in a world where no elves, dwarves, halfings or orcs exist…at least, not in a conventional sense. If there are elves in Sarvaelen, they are reclusive and mythical. If there are dwarves, they are deep beneath the earth and kill men on sight. If there are orcs, they are murderous savages in the deeps of the wilderness who slay all that trespass. Beyond this, none can truly say whether such creatures might really exist or not.

Lizard men, however, are a different story. The rapacious and violent Selutar are raiders, marauders and destroyers who seek to destroy humanity and indeed all life itself. They are subterranean dwellers in the dark, sometimes labeled troglodytes and beast men, but in fact unrelated to either of those equally dangerous kindred. The Selutar are driven by the worship of the Dark Mother Eshraggol, an immense, bloated dragon goddess, an Old One from before the Fall of Camrinal that is said to have given birth to their fouls species at the dawn of time, and to have forged her children into an army of shadow destined to seek the extermination of man ever since. As with all such chaoskin, the Selutar are defeated only by their own lack of organization and inability to focus on meaningful military structure, preferring instead overwhelming horde tactics.

Because Selutar are most dangerous when their population goes unchecked, regions like Aeronost employ mercenary companies and some dedicated knighthoods (such as the Vigilant Order of the Dragon) to seek out and slaughter Selutar in their subterranean homes whenever possible.

There are rumors of Selutar dwelling in the deep woods and mountains of some regions who have cast off the religious fanaticism of their underground kin. These remote colonies are usually far removed from men, and when found by their zealous kin are usually hunted to destruction. There is a legend about a pious Saint Erasma, a servant of Nevereth who converted the first Selutar to the worship of the goddess and thus explaining the appearance of rare but nonviolent lizard men.

Despite their religious fervor, there are few sorcerers among the Selutar. Most priest do not cast magic, though they still engage in ancient rituals, often at profane sacrificial sites that contain inherent magic which they call upon through grim sacrifice. The occasional true sorcerer among the Selutar usually seeks to follow the goddess as a shaman or cultist, but occasionally such enlightened lizard men break away entirely to pursue greater mysteries, as the acquisition of such power tends to open their minds to a broader perspective on the nature of arcane power in the world.

Selutar Statistics
STR 4D6; CON 2D6+6; SIZ 3D6+3; INT 2D6+1D4; POW 2D6+1D4; DEX 3D6; APP 2D6; Move 10

Average Statistics:
STR 14; CON 12-13; SIZ 13-14; INT 9-10; POW 9-10; DEX 10-11; APP 7; Move 10; Hit Points 13-14; Damage Bonus (DB) +1D4

Natural Attacks: Bite 35% 1D6+DB and claws 40% 1D4+DB

Attacks: Short  Spear 30% 1D8+1+DB and Medium Shield 30%, HP 12 or Great Axe 30% 3D6+DB

Skills: Climb 45%, Dodge 35%, Hide 35%, Move Quietly 35%, Sense 35%, Track 40%

Special Traits: Selutar have uncanny senses of smell and are adapted for total darkness, able to see with low-light vision in pitch black conditions as if it were an overcast day. Selutar who become priests and cultists of Eshraggol are usually female or strong males, and have a 50% chance of developing a chaotic feature. 

Magic World Tonight


Well, if all goes well the first session of my new periodic Tuesday Niight Game should be underway this evening. It's designed to accomplish the following goals:

1. Start playing Magic World (and other RPGs that deserve attention eventually as well)

2. Get a weeknight game going that operates on a schedule that fits my current limited capacity as busy worker and busy father

3. A game night that is hosted at home so my wife can play again (reason being: our 16 month old is harder to track than a horde of xenomorphs! So a game at home makes this theoretically possible)

Anyway, if it's sufficiently interesting I may try to do an after-action blog report on it. I don't usually blog about my weekly sessions, although I do occasionally post tangential discussions on stuff that spins out of the Wednesday night game, but I can see how it would be fun to do an actual-play write up, and may give it a shot. We shall see...

Monday, March 18, 2013

Post Mortem Review: Rage

So after more than a year of playing this game a bit here and a bit there I am at last finished with Rage (PC version). This poor game...gorgeous graphics, excellent gunplay physics and some cool ideas, all tainted by a shoddily executed storyline, lame race mechanics and a half-assed effort at making the game feel a bit more "open world" in a post-Fallout 3 era of gaming.

The ending to Rage was sort of anti-climatic. If you've played it, you know what I mean. If not, here's some spoilers to be wary of. Basically, the plot of Rage in a nutshell is that you're a survivor of an apocalyptic event, hidden away in stasis inside an "ark" of which a great many containing the best of humanity were scattered around the world before a massive meteor impacted, destroying most life on the planet. Survivors exist, mostly humble wastelanders and raging mutants, a byproduct of "feltrite," a form of unobtanium dropped by the meteor on impact. After awakening you become a pawn of various friendly locals trying to use your unique talents as a armored bad ass from a bygone era to get stuff done. You are, in the finest tradition of all id games, a silent loner. Note that silent loners with no conversation options do not work for games with any meaningful amount of story-driven content anymore. I know that id's devs came out in defense of this option, I guess imagining that the player him/her self would insert their own voice, or something....but not, doesn't work anymore, time to abandon this mode of thought, especially for a Triple A title.

Somewhere around the middle of the game it is revealed, rather unexpectedly, that there is a group called the Authority which apparently has the arms, armor and resources to carve out a fascist military state and for some reason they like to subject people to their control and also don't want anyone waking up the survivors in the many arks. Before you're done with Rage you will kill a lot of these guys, as well as mutants, and eventually end up assaulting the woefully insecure Authority facility where they have the satellite data necessary to broadcast a "wake up" signal to all the Arks full of frozen survivors in the world.

Unlike other id games this one gets you to the end without a boss fight. Heavily armored but still easily taken down authority soldiers do not count. There's a quick cut scene, in which the arks get their satellite signals and then emerge from the earth, and The End.

Not quite. Presumably added with the DLC download, the game gives you a brief "you finished the main story!" message and then kicks you back to town to finish whatever else you missed en route to the end. This is accomplished in the most unsatisfactory way possible, with no evidence that your brilliant strike against the Authority, and subsequent awakening of an army of frozen survivors, amounted to much of anything, at least locally (which, locally, means the Authority's backyard, I should mention).

The game restricts you from taking violent action in designated zones where merchants and quest givers might get shot. This is a shame, because when you're at the end, and a half dozen Authority dudes are messing the town up, it would be nice to at least show up, mow them down, and liberate the population.

I lost my motive for playing at this point. Rage suffers from an interesting problem, which boils down to "it came out after all these other games which do this thing better." It drew too many comparisons both to Fallout 3, Borderlands and other shooters as well as to its own forebears, Doom and Quake.

Rage especially suffers in comparison to Fallout 3, which of course was a fantastic open-world game. Fallout 3 had a plot, sure....but its side plots were usually so involved and interesting it was possible to play for countless hours without ever setting foot down the path of the main quest. Once you did complete the main quest, assuming you had the Broken Steel expansion, Fallout 3 showed a world changed, with evidence of what you had done having a permanent effect on the world around you....hell, all of its quests do this, really.

Rage is the opposite of Fallout 3's sandbox universe, although you can tell that someone somewhere during development thought maybe they should try and structure bits of it to have the illusion of such. Rage is an on the rails shooter where you can occasionally pause for a moment on tedious and mundane side quests before getting back to the only real direction available to you: forward.

Rage also has its vehicle segments, which on a certain level are fun, if a bit trite. Anyone who gets into driving games can attest that there's lots of ways to mess them up, but very few ways to do them right. When you're modding a shooter engine to handle wasteland's just not going to work. The best driving segments are the ones where you need to get somewhere else, and often face opposition in the process. The racing segments were simply hollow, shadowy excursions into a realm I think id ought to stay away from unless they are dedicating more time and effort to it.

Hopefully, since id is a chunk of Bethesda now, Doom IV will benefit greatly from this association in its design...or will at least not feel like some corners were ultimately cut in the story department, like Rage feels. I really got the feeling that somewhere in development there was about two or three times the volume of game and story intended, when someone came in and cut a large chunk of it, then instructed the developers to make the tattered remains work in whatever Frankensteinian fashion they could.

Anyway, if you find this one for cheap ($20 or preferably less) and like other id games you'll probably enjoy exploring Rage, just be aware its going to let you down in the end, and at numerous spots throughout. Since this is sort of a review, I'd have to give it a C-, with the caveat that the actual "shooting and fighting moments" were a solid A, dragged down by poor storytelling, faux open-world design, awkward racing moments, and an anti-climatic ending that did not leave me wanting anything more than for the game to end.