Category Archives: News & Reviews

The Siege Perilous

If you are even remotely interested in the Ultima series of computer roleplaying games and D&D you owe it to yourself to check out Michael Shorten’s excellent “The Siege Perilous” rules.

Back in 2009 he took Swords & Wizardry Whitebox to create his vision of a Ultima pen & paper roleplaying game loosely based on the first three games in the series. The Siege Perilous consists of a 46-paged core rulebook, a 54-paged GM’s guide, and a 10-paged gazetteer which unfortunately he never finished.

One thing that makes The Siege Perilous special is its interesting approach to classes. At character creation you can pick between the classes of Fighter, Magic-User, Cleric and Thief – quite standard so far. But at level three you can either stick to one of the base classes or switch to one of the advanced classes like the Alchemist, the Lark, or the Paladin. Sure, advanced classes like this are nothing new to D&D in general, but I haven’t seen the concept in OD&D-based games before.

The playable races in The Siege Perilous are pretty standard as well, which is no surprise since the Ultima series was originally based on the creator’s own D&D campaign, but how they work mechanically is quite different. Humans for example do get an Intelligence bonus in the early Ultima games and so is the case in Michael’s tabletop game.

Another change from D&D is that The Siege Perilous throws out Vancian magic and replaces it by a spell-point based magic system complete with Ultima-inspired spells. The deeper I delve into this game the more excited I am about it. The Siege Perilous combines two of my favorite things into a perfect blend.

Oh, by the way, did I mention that the rules also include space combat? No? The early Ultima games like many other CRPGs of that era often combined fantasy settings with SF elements. Ultima 2’s story for example heavily relied on time travel. In Ultima 1 you eventually got access to Scifi equipment like blaster weapons, aircars and even space shuttles. From how I understand things these artifacts are left-overs from an ancient civilization. Perhaps Sosaria is actually a post-apocalyptic setting. 

Overall I think The Siege Perilous is a great example for a White Box-based game which tries to do something different. While it’s still D&D at its core, it’s also a totally different beast. I also think that some of the ideas of early computer roleplaying games can still be exciting to explore even today. So do yourself a favor, and check out The Siege Perilous!

Hope Playtest

This week I am reading the Playtest for HOPE RPG. I skim read the document when I got it last week but I haven’t had a chance to make a character yet or got a chance to play it.

It is also too new to have any actual plays online.

So my first impression is that this is a fusion of Zweihander and Gamma World with a healthy dose of MY:Z thrown in for good measure.

The Zweihander bit is in character creation and skill resolution. Zwei uses d100 and you roll under your Stat + skill. Typically this is going to give you about a 45-50% chance, all things being equal. In addition if you roll a double eg. 11, 22, 33 all the way up to 99 and 00 you get a critical result. Double when you succeed is a critical success, double when you fail is critical failure.

HOPE uses stats in the 1 to 5 range and skills typically give a +1 or so. To succeed in a skill test you roll under stat + skill so typically four or five. You roll d10 and try and get equal to up under your stat + skill. You also roll a second d10 as the critical die and if it matches you skill roll you get a critical success or failure. So in effect this is Zwei stats and skills divided by 10.

The professions are rather zwei-like but they go hand in glove with the skill system, rather then being more like character classes where everything is bundled up together.

When you get to the combat side, mutants and monsters it starts to feel much more like old school Gamma World. You are using a full set of polyhedral dice with weapons doing from 1d4 for something small and improvised to 2d8 for big bad shotguns and magnum ammo.

And then there is the Hope settlement. This is where it starts to get a bit MY:Z with its Ark or even Zombie Run with Able Township, for the fitter roleplayers (LARPers?). One of the starting objectives in HOPE rpg is to defend and build up the Hope settlement in to something safer and more sustainable.

Impressions?

Given that I have only skim read the rules I have come away with two overall impressions. The first is that although this game claims to be grim and perilous and characters don’t live long, it actually looks a lot more fun than Zwei and more survivable.

The second impression is that this simplification of the core Zwei mechanics means that the game should play quite quickly at the table. I am going to start making characters this week, probably tomorrow. I get the impression that a character on a post-it may be a viable goal for this game. I like games where you don’t need a playbook just to know what your character is capable of.

I will blog about this game later this week or early next week when I know more.

Scion and StoryPath

I don’t know if this is intentional but the more I read about Scion, and watch actual plays on Youtube the more I am seeing this as the Percy Jackson role playing game.

I absolutely loved the Percy Jackson books, even if they were written for teenagers. Reading those books is a lot like remembering your very first forays into D&D, in my case the basic set. The films on the  other hand appear to have been made by someone who hadn’t read the books. The first film was one of the few films I have gone to and I actually felt like I wanted my money back.

So Scion and Percy Jackson share the same basic idea. Your character is the offspring of a god but doesn’t know it. They have gone through their life quite happily, probably, until now and then weird stuff starts to happen all around them.

Scion 2nd edition comes as two books, conveniently called Book One and Book Two, to save confusion and the pair will set you back $35 or so ($29.99 if you buy the bundle of both books).

The biggest change between first and second edition seems to be the adoption of the newer Storypath system from the older Storyteller system. The intention being that storypath is better able to cope with the most powerful of entities better than the previous rules.

I never played Storyteller so I don’t know if this was much of a problem or not. It looks like all the new Onyx Path games will be converted from Storyteller to Storypath. 

So what is it like?

I am developing an liking for ‘dice pool and count the successes’ based systems so I was already onboard before I even started. I also had a soft spot for Percy Jackson so I knew the sort of thing I wanted to experience.

I have not played this game a lot, I have only had the rules for 10 days or so. This is not an authoritative review. The game is hugely fun to play but I found it demanded a lot when running the session. That could be down to me and my lack of experience of the game. Even the more experienced GM I got to play with started to jump back in time within the scene to clear up confusion or occasionally to change facts. I like rules light games and Scion while not really rules light it is certainly no more than rules medium, it that is a thing. With less rules it often puts more emphasis on the GM to paper over the cracks. That is accepted game play. In scion you are asking, or asked, what do you want to do and how are you going to do it. What skill and what attribute are you going to apply. At times I got the impression that the more experienced players were min/maxing on the fly. They has a kind of stock answer to how they could apply their strongest skill and strongest attribute to just about every situation. The players that could leverage their best abilities had bigger dice pools to play with and got more successes.

If everyone is doing this then it really doesn’t matter, if four successes is the norm then the GM can set the target number of successes accordingly. If only one or two are adept as min/maxing like this then it becomes harder as to challenge most of the group is to allow the others to simply walk all over the challenges.

Is this a Good Game?

I would say yes. I enjoyed it and it was quick to pick up and learn. The caveat is that you need good players who are driven by a desire to explore a great story. I suppose your typical power gamer is not likely to be drawn to the storypath system unless it is the only game in town.