I got to play about an hour of the next version of Warhammer over at Endgame run by Brian Isikoff, regular Endgame GM and 2d6 Feet co-host. Before this, I played one session of the 1st edition about a decade ago. I've never played the wargame. I played the MMO for a few days. I'm not all that familiar with the setting other than its grim, gritty, and low magic. I also have no sacred roleplaying cows, and in fact relish games that throw away traditional trappings - as long as it makes for a fun experience.
Well, Warhammer has definitely thrown out all of the sacred cow with the bath water and filled the tub back up with a different style of fun. The short answer is that this is still every bit an RPG as D&D, Spirit of the Century, FATE, HERO, GURPS, and many other games ranging from large scale to independent publishing. A lot is different from any of those. And the differences seem bigger than D&D 4E's changes. But they are also superficial. The main difference is that instead of writing down the damage you've taken, you track it via chits. Instead of writing down your special abilities, you use cards. Instead of enacting a special ability, you trade in special dice. Instead of memorizing pages of combat rules, you've got it down on your combat cards.
Immediately the game looked more like a European boardgame with the box's contents spread out on the table. There were cardboard counters for the characters and enemies, a slew of custom dice, cards of various sizes (actually, just two sizes I believe) and lots of chits and counters. I'm told it's a very Fantasy Flight setup. However, there is no map. In a refreshing counter point to 4E, all map oriented stuff is done abstractly. I like this. I love 4E and its use of the map, but I like having another (the only other?) high production fantasy RPG take a different path. Brian did creative things, using the counters arrayed on the table to set the scene for the combat, he used some of the chits to note distance and some setting cards to note where a fallen wagon was, or a particularly thick copse of trees. The system is built for this level of abstraction, and gives you plenty of materials to set it up. I like what it does for my imagination.
As Brian went over the basics I was also quickly struck by how much roleplaying potential there is. I need more than combat from a game, and looking down on the character sheet (which was only about 8" x 5", maybe smaller) I saw there was a great potential for roleplaying. The stats are evenly split between physical and mental, and there's the ability to get worn down in both areas. Although there wasn't time for a non-physical conflict, so, I'm not quite sure how that works. There's a slew of standard skills which you can have at four training levels (including untrained) evenly split between the two categories as well.
Now, I should note, while my mind instantly started swimming with role-playing potential, I don't think this is a revolution in story gaming or anything like that. At best it's a notch down from Spirit of the Century (which is still a very high notch for me), a type of game that still plays traditionally, but allows for a lot more variety in conflicts and player input than we played in the 80's and 90's. This isn't the next Dogs in the Vineyard or Polaris (from what I played), nor is it trying to be. However it appears to have a more modern design and robust play support than GURPS, HERO, White Wolf's Storytelling, or even D&D 4E. (And again, we didn't get to play anything but a combat, so this is just my guess looking at the character sheet and getting a rules overview.) As Brian put it, the familiar trappings of roleplaying games have been removed and replaced by board game elements that do the exact same thing.
Aside from 6 stats and a bunch of skills, your character also has some equipment (weapons and armor seemed to be the only important items), a name and career, and rare or customized skills (not clear if the latter is possible). There are some skills that you can only use if you are trained in them, like Education that the Elf pre-gen had. I like this method intead of asterisks or relying on memorizing which ones need to be trained (D&D 3E I'm looking at you). There was more on the back, such as notes for additional equipment or career path choices, but we did not use any of it for the demo.
Off the character sheet you mainly have action cards and a stance track. The stance track shows whether you are in a reckless stance or a conservative stance. Each action card has two faces, the one you use depends on your stance. Some careers like the trollslayer favor reckless. Others like the elven envoy favor conservative. I was playing a Roadwarden, which was evenly balanced between the two. There's also a neutral stance, but it seems clear you do not want to be there unless you have to (such as when you are moving from reckless to conservative). Action cards tell you what abilities the action is based on, and special effects from the dice. Everything you need. All abilities have a number in the upper corner. This is a recharge number. Many of our abilities had zero's, meaning they could be used every round. Others had a 2 or 3. Using one of these means I need to wait that many rounds before I can use it again. Certain effects of other actions can increase or decrease the recharge time. What was really nice is that I felt like the 0 powers still felt very useful and powerful, unlike 4E's at wills which are often lack luster compared to encounters and dailies. Part of the reason for this is that dice play a big part in action results.
The special dice work very much like Don't Rest Your Head. There's a variety of colors, some of them are good to have in your pool, some of them are bad. They are all custom and come with the box.
You have blue Characteristic dice which are based on the stat you are using for your action.
Then you have green Conservative and red Reckless dice. Depending on your stance, you can swap a certain number of these for characteristic dice. The Reckless dice have some additional risk, but also chances at additional successes. The Conservative dice has very little risk, but there is a chance that your action will go slower (I'm not clear on exactly how, though, I rolled two hour glasses and it didn't delay my action).
There are the gold Expertise dice. If you are trained in a skill (like Melee Weapons) you add this for each level of training. In addition to a chance at more successes, you can get a chance for criticals as well.
Then there are white Fate dice, which you can add to your pool by spending fate points.
That's all the good dice. All the good dice have hammers on some or most of their sides. You count up the hammers to determine success. On all the cards I saw, one was all you needed, but three would give you some sort of bonus. Eagles give you some sort of boon, and you usually need two. And there's the comet, only on the Expertise dice, which can give you a crit.
Now for the bad dice. Bad dice have skulls, which can cause bad things to happen and cancel out eagles. Two skulls usually triggers something bad on many abilities, although if you are reckless you may only need one. And crossed swords cancel out hammers.
There are the Black misfortune dice. These can be added by the GM when conditions are less than optimal (such as its dark, or rainy, or there is interference of some kind). And purple Conflict dice, which act as difficulty dials. Usually you'll have one, two, or three conflict dice for easy, medium, and hard difficulties.
The dice rolling is fun. You are always building a pool, and it's just one roll resolution. There are no opposed rolls. Any active resistance just kicks up the number of Conflict dice that goes into your pool.
Damage is fairly straight forward. It's tracked by wound cards, and when you reach your wound threshold you are out, or dead, or I'm not sure but it's bad. You can flip over wound cards for critical hit results as well, which can have special effects like being dazed to grievous wounds and dismemberment (or at least, so I was told). All the fun of critical hit charts without the chart. The combat seems potentially as gritty as Warhammer should be, but it's hard to say as we didn't have time for a full combat after rules explanation and story set up.
All said and done, it was a fun time, and definitely a game I'd like to play more. Actually, I'm way more excited about the engine and design choices than I am the story and setting. I'm curious how the system lends itself to modding. I'd love to be able to use it like D&D's broad fantasy brush, but I'll have to wait until the box is out to see how flexible the careers are.
For all that you get in the box, the $100 price tag is a steal. Even so, I question whether you get enough. There did not seem to be a huge slew of monster counters. I could see quite a racket from producing box sets of new monsters and characters and other counters (I should note it was all thick card board, no minis of any kind - although you could use them if you wanted). Although outside of the visual element, you can easily use beads, dice, or any other token stand in for monsters, characters, and the various chits.
Another question that remains is GM workload. Brian was referencing the adventure booklet for the enemies. So, I'm not sure if enemies have similar action cards or stat blocks (ala 4E) or what. I hope the GM load is as streamlined as the player side of it, but have no insight into that yet.
The demo proved to me that I'll enjoy this game, and it's everything I hoped it would be. New mechanics that are focused on fun and ease of play, ignoring RPG tropes that have been around since Gary and Dave invented them simply because no one thought to try something else. This is another landmark in what's turning out to be an awesome revolution in RPGs as better game design works its way into the industry. I probably won't line up to buy the game at launch, but I am eyeing the 38% off Amazon price as a great buy. If I loved the Warhammer setting more, or if I had a regular group that I knew I was going to launch a campaign for, I think it's still a steal at the $100 price.
It does have a potential to go beyond RPG players, with its slick packaging and various bits. I'm not one to predict whether it will or not. I'm one who believes that Primetime Adventures should be in every family's game closet, after all.
"If Christianity was going to create an American society, a free and independent liberal democracy, it would have done so when Christianity had power but it didn't. People got on boats, teeny little boats, to cross the Atlantic knowing that there was a good chance that they would die along the way or shortly after they got here to get away from the civilization that Christianity created."
-Brian Dalton, aka Mr. Diety.
One of the arguements against public health care is that ballooning costs will cause it to eventually consume the entire federal budget within a few decades. In short, it's too expensive.
This is based on health care cost increases for the current system in recent years.
Setting aside the debate on whether or not the meteoric rise would remain true, especially with a public health care option, how is it any less expensive to keep the current system? People are paying these costs one way or another, and will continue to do so. If the government cannot afford to pay for it in the coming years, how can we expect you or I to under a private system?
Thursday, April 02 2009 @ 02:48 PDT
Contributed by: EZ
I have a friend. I met him on the internet. He inspired me to take photography more seriously and improve it as a craft. My skill and improvement owes a big debt to his help.
Right now he's in a contest. The rules are pretty simple. Your submit a dream photography assignment. People vote on it. The top 20 assignments will go before a panel of judges as finalists, and the judges will pick the winner.
All he wants is to get his assignment before that panel. The rest is in their hands. Up to that point, he needs your help. He's 21 votes away from being in the top 20. He's been in the top 20 for the entire contest until today. There's just over 24 hours until voting ends and he's 3% of his total votes out of the running. Every vote will make a difference. You will make a difference.
You have to register to vote. But don't worry. They don't send you spam. It's just to keep voting under control and ballots from being stuffed. It takes 5 minutes. 5 minutes and you can make a difference.