Thursday, April 30, 2020

Griping About GOG Galaxy 2.0 is a great digital store, arguably among the best such online venues in business today. They started as their literal moniker, "Good old Games" and stuck for many years to that premise: a storefront for older games that had fallen to the wayside, presentable for use on more recent machines. Over time started branching out, offering more contemporary or even occasional new releases, but to this date it remains the single best place to go for gamers who aren't too fussy about the most recent digital releases. Even better, GOG is infamous for its DRM-free downloads; you don't have to find yourself locked in to the Steam or Epic environment to enjoy your games.

Last year introduced (or started pushing) a beta load for their store app. I opted in because I like GOG and could not imagine it being a poor experience. The GOG Galaxy v1 was a great experience, uncluttered, easy to find your games in, easy to shop through. They wouldn't make it worse, would they?

As it turns out yes, they totally would. The design intent seems pure on the surface: make the GOG platform a one-stop aggregate of all the games you have across multiple stores. Just link your Steam account, for example, and now you can see your Steam games. It does this for all the platforms, including Xbox and PS4 (but not Switch, interestingly). I tried it out initially but the experience was actually a downgrade on the platform's utility for plenty of reasons:

1. If you want to play in Steam or another platform its easier to just go to that platform anyway;
2. If tracks metrics, lots of metrics, which while interesting didn't feel to me like data I wanted to distribute to anyone, even GOG, freely;
3. With the full 2.0 release I have some games I own in more than one location for various reasons ranging from "free extras copies" to "I wanted to play this without Steam tracking me" to "I forgot I owned it" to "It came in a Humble Bundle" type situations. But when I tried downloading one of these, it kept defaulting to the other platform rather than GOG....I had to open the GOG store to get it to stop trying to download from Steam.
4. This may not be a problem for some, but I have close to 1,500 games between all the platforms. As it turns out, sticking them all in one giant index the way GOG Galaxy 2.0 does it turns your game collection into an endless search function nightmare, and the way this new platform is designed makes it even hard to correctly download the version you actually want. Finally it is utterly pointless to use this with odd platforms such as the consoles. Why GOG, why???

I can see reasons people would like this. It can help you avoid buying a game twice if that's a thing you do and want to stop doing. It can, theoretically, help you navigate your friends lists but I don't even bother messing with that; for one thing, few of the friends I have linked on, say, PS4 are even tangentially relevant to a game I'm playing on GOG or Steam.

All the new GOG Galaxy platform does is make me annoyed with my collection and even more irritated with how much crap I have in the digital and online realm to deal with. I liked the old GOG site, it was just for GOG and made sense for what it's purpose was. This new thing is for....I don't know....young, hip Twitch streaming gamers who need to organize all their platforms obsessively or something. But it feels to me like what it is trying to accomplish has a long way to go before it starts looking me, at least.

I solved this problem, for now, by relinking and then unlinking my accounts. When Galaxy 2.0 rolled over automatically it dragged all of my data from when I tried the beta. As a result I was once again swamped with unwanted information, despite it saying none of my accounts were linked. After relinking and then unlinking the flood of games dissipated. What a pain in the butt. may well be for people out there who want to handle their multiple platforms in one location. That would not be me! I would make all my purchases through GOG if it weren't for the fact that most top dog new releases are Steam or Epic store only. But when I do go to GOG, it is precisely, and very specifically, because I do not want to deal with Steam and Epic. So.....we'll see how GOG's experiment goes, and I wonder how many GOG users will choose not to link up their other platform accounts like me.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Roll20 and the Compendium Resources (aka are those expensive VTT books worth the buy?)

Roll20 has a number of resources available in its online shop, though surprisingly not as many as a competitor like Fantasy Grounds can offer. What Roll20 lacks in content of this nature is made up for by inherent flexibility; you can run just about any game with it so long as someone takes the time to craft a character sheet for you.

As it happens, since it looks like my regular group will be gaming in Roll20 for at least the rest of May and (with any bad luck) June, I decided to investigate the rulebook compendiums on offer for Pathfinder 2nd edition. Worth noting right off, there is a way to link up your Paizo account. When you do this, it immediately gives you some decent discounts on the Roll20 rulebooks. The $49.99 rulebooks, for example, are $38 when you do this. I have only ever bought these books in PDF format from Paizo before, so I don't know if proof you bought a physical copy generates an even better discount.

I started with the book that had the most obvious potential at the virtual game table: The Bestiary for 2E. It was available immediately on unlock, and proved to be a wealth of immediately accessible resources. As a GM, here's what the purchase netted me of immediate and great use: all of the Bestiary monsters in the Compendium, each with the ability to pull standard stat blocks/text of their descriptions, as well as an NPC sheet format that lets me "one click" any action or ability to generate relevant rolls and ability block details. You can also drag and drop to create the icon for the monster, and basically gain roughly all the perks a player has on their end, but for your monsters.

The Bestiary for 2E on Roll20 is the full content of the print book, too. If you do not own it in any form, but planned on gaming only through Roll20, then you will find this book does everything you could want (except detach itself from Roll20). For some gamers, this may be more than enough. I know that just having this content loaded and ready makes it much likelier (and easier) for me to stick with Pathfinder 2E as my virtual system of choice.

I next loaded the Core Rulebook and the Gamemastery Guide. The intrinsic value of these tomes is slightly more ephemeral. You get the ability to directly reference and share content with your players, and you gain entries with full "use at the table" properties for the many magic items, relics, artifacts, NPCs and other details....but with the caveat that prior to loading them the base Roll20 game still gave me the 2E OGL content to reference anyway.

Additional content includes official NPC and player tokens and lots of compendium details on the many special optional rules in the Gamemastery Guide. Both books in total feel very complete, but I think as a GM on a budget you could ignore them and stick to the print or PDFs and not feel like you're missing out. Since I happened to have the cash it was worth it, but if you could only buy one tome, the Bestiary will provide the most traction.

One downside to Roll20 is that while it does offer the rules tomes, it seems to be way behind setting up the Adventure Paths. I am guessing that no one in the VTT business anticipated that in March of this year they would suddenly be the #1 resource for gaming across the country. My understanding from digging around online is that Roll20 does the VTT adaptations and they are way behind; this is a shame, as whether you ran the modules straight up or not, those would be great additional purchases for the compendium, since there's lots of useful content in the modules you can use as-is or pilfer for your own purposes. 

Anyway....the price of entry for VTT compendiums is a bit on the pricey side, and you can use Roll20  just fine with print or PDF books. But, if you want the full luxury experience and every official iota of Pathfinder 2E at your fingertips, then the compendium books are a nice addition to your virtual collection. I may cave and get the Starfinder books next.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Isolation Reviews: Decay of Logos for Nintendo Switch

Here's the problem with Decay of Logos: it looks good, it seems to have a strange blend of Breath of the Wild style mixed with Soulslike gameplay, and it tells you about none of that in the previews. As a result, you either buy it as a fan of soulslikes and are pleasantly surprised, or you get it as a Breath of the Wild fan and are driven to madness in the first hour of the game.

Breath of the Wild is noted for having lots of interesting gameplay mechanics, a good rhythm to its style, the ability to cater to both an intense game experience and a relaxing experience, and it's also a huge game with lots of depth and story. Decay of Logos feels like it might have a lot for you to experience, but it's walled in behind a borderline unpleasant learning curve aimed at a Dark Souls-derived experience.

If you're not familiar with the Dark Souls concept, it basically involves the following key elements: you have camp spawn points you reappear at when you die, but you leave your stuff behind at your point of death and all the enemies you killed respawn. You get little true guidance as to how to play, and part of playing the game is figuring that out (to Decay of Logos's credit it does provide more guidance than some Soulslike games). Finally, difficulty is deliberately punishing, and success depends on testing approaches and strategies in hopes you find the right method to win. In Dark Souls that sometimes was as simple as getting the best class combination for your own play style, but in Decay of Logos you only have one character type to chose from.

Another common element of Dark Souls games is purely riffing off the namesake of the subgenre: obscure storytelling elements mixed with persistent feelings of isolation. Decay of Logos is not much different than others in the genre, though you do get an elk-thing companion you can ride on occasion, and you do occasionally get some story drops that are more informative than one might get in the genre, but it still dives deep into that sense of obscurity and isolation.

The game has also had some developmental difficulties, and was even suspended from the Nintendo eShop for a while before being re-released to fix bugs; the early version crashed, especially when playing on the big screen. Those bugs seem to be gone now, but I just can't motivate myself to pick up where I left off anymore, it feels too much like work and not like a challenge or a worthwhile experience. If it had more story it might help.....but as with so many Soulslikes, the story is implacable and hidden, with no effort at cohesive narrative.*

I played for several hours and managed to get to the second major area or "hub" before I gave up. I might return, but this game felt (for worse rather than better) like the difficulty was a deliberate and unrewarding time sink. It probably did not help that I bought the game thinking "Breath of the Wild-like" and not realizing it was a Soulslike.

If I had identify some good traits, they are easy enough: the game has a great visual aesthetic, it's got a mount mechanic I haven't seen in Soulslikes before, and when I wasn't ticked off at another random death and restart I was enjoying the exploration elements. I'd say overall that if the game had a difficulty scale, or if it had campfires (spawn/save points) closer together then I might not have grown so irritated with Decay of Logos. But as it stands.....there are so many other games on the Switch worth playing I just can't suggest anyone bother with this one unless you are a hardcore Soulslike fan who also likes the Breath of the Wild aesthetic. C-, could be better if it "played more like the game it seems to look like."

*Lack of a cohesive narrative can be a feature instead of a bug, and as a fan of storytelling styles such as is evoked by David Lynch I can appreciate this. I do not think that the obscurity of Dark Souls' method of storytelling works well to construct a tight or meaningful narrative, however; it's narrative is a slave to the mechanical contrivances of the genre, which require careful scripting to avoid going outside of the mechanical limits of design. As an example of this, ask yourself why every Soulslike title needs to take place in a strange world where death seems to be dominant, and the hero walks the fine line between "dead" and "undead." Note how in Soulslike titles NPCs are detached and limited in their ability to speak, often mad, and rarely helpful. 

Friday, April 17, 2020

Isolation Reviews: Ape Out for Nintendo Switch

I grabbed this game on a lark back when it first came out. The premise sounds ridiculously simple: you're  great ape of some sort, and you're trapped in a facility which has been experimenting on you. Suddenly, an opportunity to escape arises, and you proceed to bash your way through wave after wave of scientists, technicians, handlers and eventually spec ops dudes gunning for you.

So...under most conditions this sort of game might at best be yet another forgettable isometric action fest, good for a few minutes until it rapidly gets boring. Ape Out defies this convention however by changing things up a bit.

First, it takes a stark contrasting style of simple tones and colors; you're not seeing a top-down world of apes and experimental labs; you're seeing a tonal universe that looks like it was ripped from a seventies record album cover, or maybe the intro to a funkadelic movie.

Second, it ramps up the beat with reactive music which flows according to the pace of action on the screen. The music from each level comes from intense jungle beat jazz music, and it's a major factor in setting the mood and tone of the experience. If you might notice, this is a common feature of good indie titles: attention to sounds and music. When your graphic design is limited, you can put some of the heavily lifting for the game's feel and tone on the sound design. Ape Out excels at this.

Third (and finally) it's style keeps things simple and to the point. New mechanics are introduced gracefully as challenges, and the levels are strange, complex, rhythmic experiences that beg to be re-experienced. Although the game offers four large stages, each of those stages has lots of replayability.

As a handheld experience Ape Out works great, but I played it almost entirely on the big screen. The sheer audacity and pacing makes it worth playing through more than's a simple yet incredibly visceral, satisfying game to play. Solid A! If you want an action-driven isometric experience which is all about building a cadence of action, music, forward momentum and the victory of escape, then you will likely love this one as I did. A perfect Switch game experience.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Isolation Reviews: Abzu for Playstation 4

Rather than find a screen-capture, I decided that a game like Abzu is better represented by a video showing off actual footage. I think I originally snagged Abzu as part of the Playstation Network free monthly game titles; if you manage to find it for the price of free this game is an utter steal. Although I played it on the Playstation 4 (Pro), it is also available on every other platform.

Abzu is not exactly a game in the conventional sense.I spent about 4 hours in total before completing the experience, but you could easily take your time with it to explore every nook and cranny of this alien underwater world. Abzu does provide a sort of plot: you are an aquatic diver who apparently doesn't need oxygen, exploring an increasingly labyrinthine undersea realm that consists of a diverse and sometimes extinct ecology, ancient ruins, some seemingly mystical segueys of some sort, and later on more obvious science fiction elements manifest as well. The overall experience is about 10% game and 90% event; you play Abzu because you want to marvel at the gorgeous graphics, mood setting music and speculate on the snippets of plot that you float by as you do so.

Occasional minor puzzles pop up, though nothing that anyone would consider challenging; more along the lines of "I must open this door by pulling these chains" type stuff, or "I must swim around these floating mines or be momentarily inconvenienced" events. There is no risk of death or setback, just things to experience as you move your way through the environment.

Ultimately, Abzu is best played when you are in the mood for a relaxing experience. It's Venn diagram falls somewhere in the overlapping plane of "I want to listen to mood music," "I want to ride a roller coaster through Disney's undersea adventure land," and "I want to watch a National Geographic Wonders of Nature Special, but also make the photographer move around according to my whims." If you recognize that this is one of those games that pushed the envelope and broke the mold, then you will be pleasantly rewarded with a fun experience.

Overall, I give it a solid A! But with the caveat that it is better described as an "experience" than a "game."

Monday, April 13, 2020

Isolation Reviews: The Long Reach for Nintendo Switch

When I first played this game I was initially put off by the faux-retro 16 bit graphics mixed with what appeared to be an odious and unpleasant main character, but the game's atmosphere is thick as a knife and I persevered. As it turns out, although odious and unpleasant personalities do pervade The Long Reach, it is in fact a really interesting survival horror/story-puzzle game mashup, and worth the ride.

Warning: a couple minor spoilers ahead!

Your play-through starts with a slacker dude griping to a shopkeeper about his girlfriend, who appears to work at some local lab or facility, when things go horribly south. You might be tempted (as I was) to get intensely annoyed at this character, but fear not, he dies quickly and that's okay.

The game teases you with a transition to a new character, a lab technician who appears to be a guinea pig for some sort of experiment that appears to be totally first. Suddenly, things go horribly wrong and your poor lab tech (who is a mildly less obnoxious personality) is suddenly forced to deal with a situation not of his own making.

The game likes to subvert expectations. Sometimes people you thought were alive are dead. People you thought were allies are not. Scenarios that seem to be playing out in an expected manner are in fact entirely different. The veil between what is real and what is  an induced nightmare is often unclear, even up to the very end. It's a good ride, actually! I got a surprising Silent Hill vibe at times, though the game itself, being closer in etymology to a point-and-click sidescroller does not really play out like one.

The pixel art is used to good effect, with plenty of surprisingly morbid and disturbing moments that somehow manage to feel sufficiently creepy despite (or maybe because of) the simple graphics. Although I sometimes acknowledge my predilection to gorgeous graphics, I have warmed a lot to the simpler approach of so many indie games, especially with their ease of access on the Switch. The Long Reach, looked at as a unique art style, does what it does very well, and its pixel art ultimately makes the experience more memorable, not less.

Some issues did arise during play. On at least three occasions there were classic "Chess Piece Key"* hunts which felt like padding to add about thirty minutes of gameplay to what was (for me) about a 3 hour experience. Basically, these are moments where the game stops you cold and you need to run around, usually with a fair amount of backtracking, to find the things you need to get through the door you need to open to do the thing you need to do. The first time felt reasonably organic though it still resonated with "busywork" but by the third time it just felt like obvious padding. When you're looking for the four keys to open the safe you'll know what I mean.

Another issue was one of "logic gaps," which point-and-click fans know better as the "puzzles that no one in their right mind would ever guess without digging in to the developer's skull for clues." There are about three occasions (for me) where this happened, though thanklfully the preponderance of good FAQs online made these easy enough to ignore. But, I'll be honest, if I hadn't checked an FAQ on the very first such puzzle I would have probably been stumped. Especially since it almost made sense....but I didn't do something exactly right, so therefore found myself unable to proceed without a hint. (Spoiler hint: you need to cut the rubber bone in half using glass. Then you can use it on the elevator. Yeah.)

A final issue is minor but worth noting: the game is a straight port to Switch, and it does not modify the text size presented on screen when you are playing in portable mode. On the Switch Lite, even with reading glasses I found the text too small and had to complete the game on the other Switch in  big screen mode instead.

Despite these failings, the experience overall was worth it. The story is creepy, atmospheric, and manages to subvert expectations in a healthy way while providing all the survival point-and-click horror you could want for an evening of pixel-graphic gameplay. Any longer and the game might have overstayed its welcome; any shorter and it would have felt incomplete.

Overall: B+! Good adventure for those who want an evening's play of puzzle-based survival horror with emphasis on the puzzles and story.

*Resident Evil reference!

Friday, April 10, 2020

Computer Gaming in the Age of Social Distancing

Yeah, this is a thing that exists apparently
The new joke these days is that with social distancing a thing, we find people fall in to two camps:
   1. The group that is learning to cope with social distancing; 
   2. and Gamers.

As such, I've actually been getting more gaming done overall than I am used to. Traditionally when it comes to the computer games side of the equation I've been more of a "collector" and less of an actual player in the last few years, especially with work absorbing more of my time both on business hours and off business hours. But....with the rise of social distancing prodding me to be home more consistently, and also with a convenient library of literally hundreds, perhaps thousands of games at my disposal, getting some gaming in has become much easier. 

You'd think that with my son, at age 8, I'd find more time to game with him as well....but you'd be wrong. My son loves certain games which he obsesses over (when he's not being home schooled, which is a Real Deal for him since his mom is a teacher by trade and his father was also home schooled so for him There Is No Escape). His preferred titles are Subnautica, Fortnite, Minecraft, Pokemon (pick your flavor), and every FNAF (Five Nights at Freddy's) title and their pastiche spawn on the planet. While he and his mom can enjoy Pokemon together, the only common family game is Fortnite right now....and to be honest, we're all already Level 100+ and more or less tired of Fortnite right now.*

For me, it's been a chance to explore the many weird indie tites I keep finding on the Nintendo Switch. The great thing about these indie game that make it on the Switch is that they often tend to be very concise, short experiences which you can get through in one or two nights. On occasion they might take longer, or aspire to compete with the big boy AAA gaming industry in terms of depth of content or longevity of play, but ultimately a good indie game succeeds on its own merits as an experience to be enjoyed and sometimes remembered.

Since I'm actually getting to play these games I think I'll start posting some blog reviews....especially of the fun titles that you can enjoy and maybe even find a little escape into; games that are not "generic military shooter" types, if you know what I mean....I mean, I hate to say it but as much as I've enjoyed a game series like The Division, I have felt zero interest in playing it since the pandemic began. 

Anyway....look for some of these reviews next week! I've already got some stuff to say on Abzu, The Long Reach, Dead Cells, Grimvalor and Risk of Rain 2....and some not so nice things to say about a few titles as well (I'll put all the negative reviews in one post as I rarely make it past 2 hours in a game I quickly learn to hate). 

*Yes, that means my January predictions Fortnite would stop being a thing in the house were immediately proven wrong.  

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Matching Systems to Settings - Worlds Posted on Realms of Chirak and the Systems they Work Best With

I've been scrutinizing other fantasy systems on the shelf with all this extra time spent in social isolation (well, not as much for me...I work in critical services for better or worse) but  it's turned into an interesting case of "find the game system that best fits the world." Or vice versa.

So far, here's where I am finding my campaign settings are landing:

World of Lingusia: With Pathfhinder 2nd Edition it's easy enough to convert any world designed with a D&D theme in mind. In revisiting some worlds, I've found that my Keepers of Lingusia campaign holds up as ever to the rigor of the D&D-esque mechanics and indeed, the more dangerous and low-key component of Pathfinder 2nd Edition gives the experience a somewhat old-school, high-risk tinge to the experience. So for the world of Lingusia, Pathfinder 2nd edition is a natural fit.

Enzada: When Pathfinder 1st Edition released I actually developed a whole new world for it: Enzada. The thematic behind Enzada boils down to these traits: non-western civilizations dominate; it's a world where there are too many gods for anyone, including the GM, to keep track of, and deep down nothing is really as it seems (but in a way that only lends to mystery rather than expose it). I did run some games in Enzada early on last year but alas while the fit is right, many of the non-western monsters and species of Pathfinder 1st Edition are not yet available in 2nd edition so it felt like a project to revisit at a later date. Sometimes a setting really needs its samsarans, catfolk, nagaji, vishkanya and other decidedly exotic races to make things work right, y'know?

Pergerron: this setting has convoluted origins. It started on the blog as a project to design a setting specifically using D&D B/X themes and monsters. In actual play I modified it for a Magic World campaign, and the thematics fit really well for what I wanted out of the setting. Later, when 5th Edition D&D arrived I ran a campaign for about ten levels which went fairly well, but by that point it felt a little off, because even though the starting intent was "a world for classic D&D" the result was something which benefits from the high risk, deadly nature of a BRP system like Magic World or Mythras. My last campaign in Pergerron was a short campaign using Mythras before it was retired, more or less. Could Pathfinder 2E handle it? Probably....but the idea of this setting's themes seem to mesh better with "risky, dangerous, sanity challenging fantasy," so I think BRP/MW should remain the system of choice.

Sarvaelen: Here's another one which was designed as a writing exercise for the blog, and as a result has a convoluted design history. At some point I decided to write up a setting idea for Tunnels & Trolls, but as it developed I started thinking of how this setting could work well with Magic World...Legend....Mythras.....then Fantasy AGE, which in fact became the first system I actually tried running Sarvaelen (that I can recall!). Thematically Sarvaelen is meant to be a dark, post-apocalyptic world facing a recent magical apocalypse, leaving a realm of haunted dominions behind, dominated by the concept of the Sullen Watch, rangers who protect against the badlands. Although my initial efforts with Fantasy AGE felt "off" I really feel like it's a system that could handle Sarvaelen well....if I take some time to really work on it. Time will tell....I recently picked up the Fantasy AGE Campaign Builder's Guide and it's got some good ideas in there.

Realms of Chirak: okay so at last we come to this one, the Big Daddy and the namesake of the blog. Realms of Chirak has always been about some key inversions of D&D elements, including a post-apocalyptic fantasy realm in which the gods are dead, elves are extremely rare and no longer superheroes (remember, Chirak was devised in the early nineties when elves were seriously overdone in AD&D 2nd edition!), and the idea was that mysteries abounded. For whatever reason, I still feel like D&D 5E is a good system for Chirak, probably because it allows for thematic largesse well enough.....but I ran Chirak in Pathfinder 1st Edition for a good number of years....I just don't feel like taking the effort to do tons of conversion work to PF2E, maybe; especially when I am still trying to update it to 5E first! That said.....these days, thanks to time limits and general life complexity, I could probably do plenty of conversion on the fly if I felt like it; but much like Enzada, Chirak has a lot of moving parts, pieces and bits, all of which are better supported by robust systems right now. D&D 5E has all the content needed for this; Pathfinder 2E probably will soon this time next year, when we have a Bestiary 2 and 3 out, and some in depth guidelines (pleaaaaase Paizo) on an Advanced Race Guide to cover the many ancestries currently absent from PF2E. Maybe then I'll consider it.

Oddly, I did work on one area of Chirak for conversion: I worked out extensive campaign details on the Sabiri Lands in, believe it or not, Cypher System. I have to say....the concept of Chirak as a Cypher Setting really has me intrigued; I may run it some day soon just to see how it all flows.

Worlds I haven't mentioned largely because I haven't posted about them on the blog include Ensaria, a setting that works best with Cypher System; Altavir (which has been posted here), a setting I think I'd like to use with 5E, T&T or Savage Worlds at some point; Eridu, my ancient Mesopotamia setting which is very specifically designed for use with Mythras; and my as yet-unrecorded on the blog exclusive new setting Oman'Hakat, the First World setting I've been running all adventures in with Pathfinder 2nd Edition for the last six months. As campaigns in that world start to hit their climactic points and spoilers become less of an issue I'll start posting some of that content soon.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Cypher System Session One Roll20 After-Action Report

Well, our first night with Roll20 for Cypher System worked exceedingly well. The system had the following advantages:

Map functionality optional

Cypher System is designed from the ground up with theater of the mind gameplay as a core conceit, so the need for maps was considerably less important; this let me emphasize illustrative imagery (locations, npcs, monsters) rather than fiddling over maps, minis and distances.

Support via Card Decks Worked Well

At first I was surprised that Cypher System didn't seem to have a lot of support outside of the decks of cards in the virtual storefront for Roll20, but this was a clever illusion; the depth of the character sheet was quickly evident, and I picked up some card decks anyway and found that they were emminently useful. I found the artifact deck, cypher deck, XP deck, NPC deck, asset deck and The Strange creature deck (because they didn't have the generic Cypher System creature cards available) were more than enough to contribute to a good game.

Die Rolling Mechanic Well Integrated

The die roll mechanic merged seamlessly with the character sheets for easy rolls of all....the players who were a bit new or shaky on the rules picked it up easily this time! Best of all for pixel bitching with the die rolls all but evaporated as I really didn't need to roll the dice at all as the GM (yes, a bug to some and a feature to others).

My group has been playing for a very long time. A lot of the negative experience I have had with prior virtual tabletop experiences boiled down to a lack of familiarity between the players; gaming in real life is kind of important; you get to know all the nonverbal communication queues from your players and this familiarity allows for a much more robust transition to the virtual world....and with it the appreciation for the extra tools at your disposal for game playing and story telling.

All told we had a fun game involving a mix of weird science fantasy, detective work and urban exploration. There was a conflict with catfolk gypsies, a skirmish with some sewer kobolds, an investigation at a break-in to a vault containing artifacts from dig sites, and a hoary near-miss battle with an ancient mummy that would have made the gal from Life Force nervous. Plus: my favorite overall GM mechanic, the GM Intrusions. Good stuff!

This game will rotate with the other off-night game which is in Pathfinder, but I have to say: I am really, really happy to be running Cypher System again.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Cypher System Character Builder

My group is going to try Cypher System with Roll20 tonight. An amazingly helpful resource for Pathfinder 2nd edition games was the android app called Pathbuilder 2E; in my efforts to find a similar resource for Cypher System (which is a much easier game, yes, but uses a pool mechanic that can be counter-intuitive to old school gamers) I stumbled across Troy Stories, a blog with an amazingly easy to use character creator.

Check it out! It's an amazing little character creation tool, very easy to use and gives you everything laid out easily enough, by genre choice, and identifies what remaining choices you need to make. I am really impressed.