Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Seven Reasons I Prefer Tabletop (even as my state is probably going to go full lockdown again...)

 Talking about why one does or does not like VTT (virtual tabletop) gaming can be a tricky thing.....what usually happens is you are really critiquing VTT in ways that it fails to replicate the experience at a live tabletop, or you critique the extras that it brings to the tabletop which may only be possible in VTT, but done better in other ways.

My recent return to gaming in a live environment has helped me to clarify significant reasons as to why live tabletop gaming provides for a more fulfilling experience, using seven short and easy reasons:

1. You can actually look at someone who is talking to show you are focusing on what they are saying. Even better, the table can see this and other players will react in context.

2. More than one conversation can be had at once (with people recognizing when they need to talk quietly about plans on the side and such).

3. If you did not plan to TPK the party and would prefer the dice fall where you want them to to insure a good time is had by all rather than watch the group disintegrate under a wave of arbitrary RNG misfortune, you can do so.

4. If someone has an issue or is upset/unhappy/needs help you can easily identify that through a range of visual and verbal queues.

5. You will (almost) never feel like you are talking in to the void at the game table. You see who you are talking to, and you know who is listening (and not playing a video game on a second screen).

6. If you are in a public space when gaming you can meet actual new humans who may want to join your game. The vetting process is much more empathic and efficient due to the actual range of physical and verbal communication at play.

7. Small talk before/after a game can be about fun stuff instead of technical issues.


8. Don't ask why, but TotM (theater of the mind) style combat/event resolution seems to go much, much more efficiently at the live table.* On VTT the white space demanding you fill it with virtual maps and minis is like a black hole into which all creativity is crunched up and spat out in the form of nominal tactical gains and amazing lighting effects (at the potential expense of an interesting mental picture and narrative).

*Presumably for my style of DMing, but as always YMMV.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Original Delta Green Kickstarter

 Just discovered this Kickstarter by accident.....count me in at the $300 level!

This reprint/revamp appears to update to the current Delta Green ruleset, which is built off of the Legend OGL. Still, 95% compatible at its core with Call of Cthulhu 6th edition, and close enough to CoC 7E (a pity it's not officially licensed and 100% compatible, though.....yes, I really like what CoC 7E did to the system).

Check it out here.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Considering a new SF Campaign - What System to Pick

 I've been saturated in fantasy gaming for most of this year now (and last year, too!) and I am getting the Scifi itch again. The question is....what system?

Traveller remains a viable and well supported system and the Imperium is a perfectly good, venerable setting. Arguably Traveller is SF gaming's standard candle of excellence.

I happen to really have an interest in The Stars are Fire, which is the SF expansion for Cypher System. I had developed and run a couple one-shots in a future setting where humankind lost Earth long ago (for various reasons), and the distant colonies of this future, once more restored to starfaring powers, stumble across the relics of what mankind's old empire had grown in to before it collapsed. Running this would be a breeze with The Stars are Fire, which is full of useful stuff for SF gaming.

I also have Mothership, which is a curious breed apart. It's core book is a zine game, essentially, with densely packed rules for rolling up space truckers and laborers (it's not shy about its influence coming from Alien, Outland and Dead Space). The meat is in the swathe of supplements which are mostly all in a similar format, with a heavy emphasis on exotic artistically eccentric approaches to outlining a variety of settings in which your space truckers might get eaten, absorbed, mutated or mind controlled. The biggest obstacle I can see if that it's a lot like Call of Cthulhu on overdrive: you can play Call of Cthulhu as a campaign for a long time as long as the GM (and players) are mindful of how often nightmarish situations arise to slaughter or drive everyone mad. In Mothership, each setting seems dedicated to topping off the level of doom and destruction from the last, and some are completely over the top. The digital editions of some of the scenarios even include voice recordings and other fun things. All told, though, Mothership does feel like it works best for one-shots and short campaigns. I may test that theory soon.

There is also Esper Genesis, but I am still holding out for their version of the DMG, the Operations Manual, which is about a year or two past due right now. I've also ruled out M-Space for various reasons, mostly because the underlying design assumptions in M-Space just don't quite align with what I want out of a game. 

Anyway.....still thinking it over. Been re-reading a lot of Larry Niven lately, and also catching up on Neal Asher, so lots of inspirational ideas! I've always been a fan of Known Space, and Asher's Polity is quite interesting.

Monday, August 2, 2021

Month Nine of the New Console Generation - My gaming Laptop is the best!

 Just a few errant comments on having had a Playstation 5 (which I had to drive to another city to pickup) and Xbox Series X (and two Series S's) since roughly December/January: it's nice to have them, but also not really. Despite their popularity, this is starting to feel like the Laziest Console Generation, indeed perhaps even a clear indication that the Big Two have moved from the old notion of releasing new consoles as a demonstration of new computing power for games to merely being incremental iterations in which a virtual dearth of actual timed support is leaving me with the sensation that neither Microsoft nor Sony ever intended for this generation to be anything more than a general purpose hardware upgrade.

I'm not including Nintendo in this because Nintendo is still playing its own game, making consoles designed to be an experience in their own right. It is not trying to compete with the Big Boys, it is trying to cater to the consumer notions of what it means to buy and experience a console. Nintendo has made something of a mis-step with its Switch OLED edition but only because for months now the online buzz has been about an imaginary Switch Pro that Nintendo never said was coming and which likely Nintendo is aware it does not want to release at this time in the midst of a worldwide microprocessor/electronic parts shortage. This has not stopped an amazing number of Youtubers who make their clicks and likes out of insisting they have an inside scoop look like idiots and in turn viciously attack Nintendo for not catering to their imaginations. Nintendo is only guilty of not realizing the narrative that they needed to get out ahead of before announcing the mildly upgrades OLED console.

Meanwhile, Sony and Microsoft might finally have some games by the Fall/Winter season that fit the definition of "next gen" for the new consoles. Up to this point though we've got mostly last gen holdouts with very mild upgrades, and a smattering of "new" stuff. On the plus side it has never been easier to find games and playing old games on the new consoles does give console players a chance to feel, briefly, like PC gamers have felt all along.

For me personally my investment in a decent gaming laptop (with a 2070 TI GPU, mind you) has eclipsed my console experiences. Pretty much everything except for Returnal (one of a handful of PS5 exclusives) is available on PC, and runs great on the laptop, usually at 4K resolution or maybe 2550p for higher framerates. Meanwhile if I play something on console it is purely as a deliberate choice....for example it is still easier to play split-screen Gears 5 or Call of Duty with my son on Xbox Series X, and Returnal is, after all, only available on PS5. 

Most of the newer games to come out so far (including Outriders which my wife and I both like despite its flaws) have been less than stellar, the sort of stuff you usually see coming out on last gen consoles catering to that quiet period between really good releases. For the most part, though, the next gen has benefited the most from the Games as a Service types including Destiny 2 and Fortnite, but I think there's a limit to how much people can put up with the never-ending hamster wheel of repetition and microtransactions these games sustain on, and you most definitely do not need a Ps5 or Series X/S to enjoy either of these games.

This is all a long way of saying, that had I not secured the new consoles I would still have the satisfaction of being envious of those who have gotten them. But because I have them, I now realize it was kind of a trap and I could easily have waited to 2022 without actually missing anything.