Sunday, 20 March 2011

20th Aniversary Vampire

On Thursday, White Wolf announced they were going to release a 20th Anniversary Edition of Vampire: The Masquerade. The book will be the ultimate rule book for VtM, containing all 13 clans and bloodlines, discipline powers from level one to level nine, full colour art work, updated rules, and an open playtest design where the fans can contribute to the final product.

This sounds amazing. The only problem, currently it is only being offered for sale to attendies of The Grand Masquerade event in Atlanta. While they have commented that it should be available to the rest of the world, they have yet to confirm it.

To me, this is one of the stupidest mistakes White Wolf could have made. Vampire the Masquerade is massively popular, despite there being no new books being printed for it since 2004 when they destroyed the world.

When it was first released Vampire the Masquerade was something new and something very different to the RPGs that were around at the time. It took from the horror of Cthulhu, the grit and edge that stylised the cyberpunk movement, let you play super-powered unearthly heroes, and it was very, very Gothic. V:tM helped push the idea of vampires out of the dark (so to speak) and made them anti-heroes. Without it the entire supernatural genre would simply not be the same.

To limit this 20th Anniversary Edition to those that can make it to Atlanta would be a travesty. I hope that White Wolf reconsider, and make it available via normal distribution methods. The day they announce that, I'll be putting in my pre-order!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

40K RPG Line Overview

Rather than go back and review all the previous books in the 40K RPG line, I'm going to do an overall review, and just do the latest ones as the come out. Hopefully by reading this will give people a better idea about the game line, and a further insight into my reviews.

Warhammer 40K is Game's Workshops extremely popular Dark Gothic Sci-Fi setting, and was originally just a wargame. Since then it has spawned board games (such as Space Hulk), card games (both a CCG and non-CCG), computer games (Dawn of War being the most popular) and soon an MMO. Originally developed by GW's Black Library publishing arm, Dark Heresy (the first core book) was released to overwhelming acclaim, sold out within 2 days, and was cancelled a week later! Thankfully GW licensed the RPG to Final Flight Games, who have been publishing it ever since.

The 40K RPG line is broken up into 3 core themes (Dark Heresy, Rouge Trader and Deathwatch) each taking an aspect of the Warhammer 40K universe rather than having 1 gaming line try and do it all. This is a good idea, as it allows you to play at 3 different power levels within the universe, and while the 3 game lines can be used together, it doesn't force you to have a set of rules that scale from mook to marine in one book.

The rules do hold together across the line, and if you know one game, there are not much changes to play another. All 3 use an adapted version of the Warhammer Role Playing game (2nd Edition) rules, but with many changes to allow for the difference in setting. This might not have been the best way to go, as Dark Heresy faces a number of odd problems, that have needed errata and revisions in the later core books. The game does work ok as written, but house ruling some things does smooth out play.

Dark Heresy sees you play acolytes in the service of an Imperial Inquisitor. I compare the setting to playing Call of Cthulhu. You are primarily investigators, out to seek out the Heretic and purge them where you can. Most of this is done through research and diplomacy rather than at the barrel of a bolter. If you get into a fight, you'd better hope that they are all mortal, as you generally you won't hold out against many demons or aliens.
Some people coming to Dark Heresy were disappointed that they couldn't run games more like the novel Eisenhorn, where you play powerful Inquisitor's and deal with the diplomacy of dealing with other Inquisitor groups, and much more powerful foes. And while it is true you can't do that with the main core rule book, the source book Ascension, released just after Rogue Trader, allows you to do just that!
Expanding on the main core book, the Inquisitor's Handbook provides you with additional options for your characters and NPCs. This book (and the equivalent for the other 2 lines) is an asset to anyone wanting to play or run a game, as it includes rules and options that really should have been in the main rule book, but they ran out of room.
With the game being out for a couple of years now, there are a number of source books to support players and GMs. Included are a bestiary, a book on cults, a book on playing a "heretical" party and a number of pre-written adventures. I've reviewed the last release Blood of Martyrs.

The next core release is Rogue Trader, which ups the power level. You now play a Rogue Trader a ships captain who has been given the hereditary right to trade and explore the vast reaches of space. The rest of the party is made up of senior members of the crew.
This introduces a different aspect of the 40K universe, taking it away from cults and heresy, and towards exploration and interacting with alien races. Obviously, it also introduces star ships, and ship-to-ship combat. The increase in power and setting makes for a very different play experience than from Dark Heresy, however it does fall into the same problem any Star Trek game seems to. There is a problem with the idea of sending the entire senior staff of the ship down into a hostile environment. With good plotting, this, and other problems (I nuke them from orbit, I send minions etc) can easily be solved, but it does require the GM to give solid reasons, rather than just presuming the players will go along!
Book wise, there are currently a couple of adventures, as well as the "player's handbook" in the shape of Into The Storm where is provides more advance character options (including playing a Kroot mercenary or Ork freebooter), gear, and finally some published rules on vehicles! Soon to be released is a book devoted to star ships, which should be an interesting read.

The final core setting is Deathwatch, where you finally get to play the kings of the 40K setting, a Space Marine. Here the power level is pumped way up, with characters being expected to wade through hordes of enemies that would tax a Dark Heresy character should they take them on one at a time.
In Deathwatch, your marine has been seconded to the elite Deathwatch company that deals with unique threats to the Imperium. You have the option of playing one of 6 chapters, as well as filling one of the many roles a marine can play, including Librarian, Techmarine alongside Devastator and Assault Marine.
They have gone to a lot of effort to try and make Space Marines more interesting to play as characters, with Chapter demeanours giving in game bonuses to those that embody the  feel of their Chapter.
Introduced in Deathwatch are additional special rules that Space Marines have access to when they are operating as a squad, or on their own. These extra tweaks to the standard rules make Space Marines feel different to play, and give players more options in game.
As the most recent core book released, there have been very few releases so far. The player's book, Rites of Battle, was only released a week ago, and I have yet to get a copy, but a review will be forthcoming when I have. <Edit, I started this post a while back. I now have Rites of Battle and am working on the review>

Well thats a lot of information, how about some opinion. The books are excellent quality, all being full colour hardback books, but not surprisingly they are more expensive than regular RPG books are. Having bought a few of the adventures so far, I'm not sure if they are quite worth the cost. The adventures themselves often need a bit of tweaking to make work, and never seem to be quite worth the cost.
The only setting I've so far played has been a Dark Heresy game, but as Imperial Guardsmen rather than acolytes, so I haven't been able to see how most of the fun stuff (like psychic powers) work. The system played ok, but needed the errata in a few places to tighten things up.
As a fan of the 40K universe, I will continue to buy the books. Each book is at least 50% fluff, which while some is well known, a lot does build more on the universe.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Tau Update

New Tau update.

Work is continuing on my 1st Fire Warrior squad, photos to appear when I'm happy to show them.

However here are the Kroot. Bases need finishing, and they don't have any eye colour at the moment, but they are otherwise finished.

There is a unit attachement for the Kroot coming, but they are still bare metal at the moment.

To document my attempts with my airbrush to paint my Devil Fish, I'm posting it just under coated.

When/if the weather improves, I'll give airbrushing it a go.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Posts work in progress

Hopefully at the weekend I'll have something more substantial to post other than brief snippets.

So, watch out for soon:

Another Tau update, including photos
An overview of the 40K RPG line
An look at the Eclipse Phase RPG and recent suplements
I'll try and slot a book review in soon as well, although it means actually reading a novel, rather than a sourcebook.

I have Rites of Battle for Deathwatch, but I can't get into it until I've finished the Eclipse Phase sourcebook I'm reading. However I have had a quick look at the advanced character options, and they look awesome. Its not easy to do, but Dreadnought player characters are available! More as soon as I've read it.

I've recently got round to finishing Portal, given that Portal 2 is on the horizon. For a simple puzzle game, it is quite awesome. In some ways I wish I'd played it when it was released so the twists are actually surprises. The cake is a lie is so ingrained in geek culture these days that its just as well known as who Luke Skywalker's father is. But still, game play was fun, and the puzzles were challenging but never felt impossible. Add to that the crazy computer, and I eagerly await the sequal.

A Dance with Dragons

Some of you reading this will be familiar with George R R Martin and his Song of Ice and Fire series.

Well, good news for you, he has finally announced a publication date for the next novel!!

Official Website Announcement

No, it isn't an early April Fools joke. We now have until July to remind ourselves what the hell happened in the previous books!