Category Archives: Reviews & First Looks

HOPE Playtest

I randomly generated a mission, to raid for armory resources, and followed through to create random challenges.
Starting play I didn’t use the travel rules as hex crawling it really not my thing. That being said there is a 8 step procedure for hex crawling that will create the world before the characters complete with encounters with mutants and caches of resources.

My adventure started at an ambush, there was a raging sand storm and dragged across the road was a rusted out wreck of a school bus. Our truck slowed down suspecting a trap but the raiders had second guessed us and set their ambush so far in front of their barricade that our cautious position put us right on the perfect ambush site. There was a short fight during which my PC was thrown clear of the truck just before it exploded. The attacker was a huge humanoid that appeared to be covered in chitinous plates of natural armour.

The beast quickly disappeared into the swirling sand carrying the inert bodies of two of my team. On investigation of the wrecked truck the fourth member was clearly dead. I scavenged what equipment I could from the wreck and set off the track the beast. I had noted the direction it went and had a compass. As it turned out it was heading straight up the road past the old bus and towards the point marked on our mission maps for an old arms dump.

I followed as best I could until I reached what appeared to be the dumps location but was confronted with a forest of giant fungi. Approaching cautiously I was caught out when it started to belch out spores that made me dizzy and eventually blacked out. I regained awareness to find the fungus beating down on me but I struggled to crawl out of the mutant plants reach. My body armour had protected me from the worst harm but I wasn’t about to go in there again.

I had no means of making fire, which was my first instinct. I prowled around the bunker looking for a way in and eventually I found the egress point but still needed to get past the mutant. Finding a point where the wind would carry the sound of my rifle away from the bunker, I doctored some bullets to make flare out on impact, hoping that would do more damage to a fungus than a neat hole from a bullet. It took a fair few bullets to eventually rip the visible parts of the fungus to shreds but eventually I had a clear path.

Once I got to the door it was clear that the locking mechanism had been destroyed long ago and I could slip inside. What I was faced with looked like a giant nest made of all the wreckage of furniture from the original interior but no massive mutant or comrades. There was an open door leading to a passageway that turned out to be a gantry at ceiling height looking down on a cavernous warehouse of military gear. This is far more than we had been lead to expect. It would never have all fitted into our truck. A movement caught my eye down on the concrete floor.

The beast was down amongst all the crates. I unslung my rifle slowly hoping it hadn’t seen me. At that point I realised it was feeding and it was feeding on one of my colleagues. I carefully took aim and opened fire. I hit the beast and certainly got its attention, it then charged up the gantry towards me. A lucky shot brought it down as it was about to smash me into a pulp.

I very cautiously investigated the rest of the weapons dump and unfortunately my colleagues we both dead. There was a garage at the back of the place with a jeep, and that probably saved my life. I loaded it up with what I could. Secured the place by blocking the main entrance with debris from the nest and then tried to get back to Hope settlement.

All of my playtest was randomly generated, from the stats for the mutant fungus to the beast living in the weapons cache. My mission was to raid for just a handful of arms resources measured in in ‘units’. The random encounter actually specified an entire arms cache.

In this adventure I got to test drive the random adventures/missions, the skill system and combat. All in all it was fun to play and worked quite well. The negative was that the playtest PDF is scans of pages and as such you cannot search it for text. That lead to a lot of scrolling back and forth to find rules. The playtest rules are 79 pages so I was disinclined to print them off, although that would have solved the problem.

If I was running a session for other people I also would not be rolling for random events during the session. A little prep goes a long way in making games play smoothly at the table. The small adventure above took about two hours to play out from starting character creation to jumping in the jeep to head home. The key moment was rolling a critical for my attack in the round where the beast was in melee range but I still had my rifle loaded and ready to fire. If that attack had been anything less than a critical then the balance of power would have been very much in the mutant’s favour.

Does the game work, yes it does. Was it fun? Yes it was.

The combat is very dangerous and it could easily have turned into a TPK. If you are going to fight then at a distance and behind cover is by far the best idea.

I am not too sure about the setting. It is set 200 years after a nuclear armageddon and to my mind I cannot imagine that much 20th century military hardware surviving for 200 years. I was imagining it to be nearer nearer 20 years than the described 200 but that is personal choice and foible.

The game is a fully funded kickstarter  and it is in the process of unlocking stretch goals.

HOPE is a fun game, a bit more bleak than MY:Z but definitely in the same vein as MY:Z and Gamma World.

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.