Aug 262013
 

It’s been a while since the last update on the up coming Cyberpunk computer game, but since we have a new edition of Shadowrun, plus a PC game too, the interest in the Cyberpunk genre is obviously still high. With that in mind I thought I would try and capture a few important things about people in the dark near future interact with each other. The problem with that is that not every game set in a Cyberpunk world has the same values. My last game using the CP 2020 for instance didn’t really live up to the style over substance and chrome chrome chrome ethos that’s mentioned in the book. Instead it was a much darker take, with cyberware being sinister and the thought of wasting money of frivolities rather than necessities would have seemed very strange indeed.

images (1)So instead of trying to capture the feel of an entire genre, I am picking a setting that I have reviewed in the past and thoroughly enjoyed: Kuro. If you’ve never come across the game or just prefer a more traditional future noir game, then it’ worth remembering that the Japanese are currently the predominate producers of personal electronics – including computers – and robotics, which will surely set them up well to be an important culture in any Cyberpunk future. So here are a few things worth bearing in mind when dealing with the Japanese either socially or in business.

  • The business card. In Japanese culture, the business card is even more important than the calling card was to the Victorians, and has similar uses. There are very important differences though, and the devil is very much in the details. If one is handed to you, it will be while the giver is bowing towards you, presenting it with both hands. You must reciprocate this action. Bow a little deeper to show respect to the person giving you their card, and make sure you take it with both hands. When you have it, take very special care of it. Whatever you do, son’t just slip into your back pocket while the giver is still in your presence. In fact, never stick it in your back pocket, as sitting on it would be a grave insult. Keep in your wallet or in a special case for business cards until you can put it somewhere safe in an office. You see a business card is more than just someone’s contact details. It is a promise that the person will take your call, and maybe even a personal meeting. Keep all such cards safe, as you never know when it may be required to make a call to that one person who can help you out.
  • Being a Gaijin. Unless your game is particularly focused in such a way, it’s probably unlikely that everyone will be Japanese. In dealings with Japanese people, those from outside the country will of course be afforded all due respect – more on this later – but they are still outsiders, and will never have the access or acceptance that fellow countrymen will receive. never draw attention to this, instead do what you can with the help you will be given. You may never be accepted into the inner circle, but it is possible to make very good friends with individuals within said circle and get them to act on your requests.
  • Respect. By far and away the most important thing to the Japanese is respect. For elders, for superiors, for anyone deserving it, and for anyone that is newly introduced. This might seem strange to western eyes, but rather than run the risk of not showing someone the respect that they are due, a Japanese person will show a complete stranger total respect. This comes across very clearly if you walk into a Japanese store. The staff working there will treat you like royalty, bowing deeply and making sure that everything is to your satisfaction. This even runs counter the above point about foreigners in Japan, they will be also be treated exceptionally well by strangers rather than them risking offending anyone by not showing them the appropriate amount of deference.
  • Conflict Avoidance. The point on respect above ties in nicely with this one. It may sound like a lazy stereotype, but it does seem to hold up the vast majority of case; a Japanese person is likely to go to great lengths to avoid any type of conflict or unpleasantness. This means making sure that you show the correct amount of respect, always erring on the side of caution by going above and beyond what might be expected, but this desire for peace and calm runs through most day to day activities. In a working environment for example, it would be unheard of for an employee to complain about their company, coworkers, or superiors whilst at work. Outside of work though there exist a social contract that allows workers to gather together and imbibe alcohol and get all their complaints of their chests without ever worrying about the consequences. It would in fact be a massive social faux par to even bring up these grievances the next day at work.

So there we have it, a far from complete list of social guidelines for dealing with what could quite likely be a dominant super power in a Cyberpunk future. Most of the credit should go to the excellent writer and blogger Héctor García and his excellent site and book, A Geek in Japan. Most of the points in this book have been researched through reading his work, and if you have any interest in checking out more on contemporary Japanese culture, I can’t think of many better places to start.

May 132013
 

So, in my last weekly game, we lost a character. I have written recently about death in Role Playing Games, and I’d like to think I managed to fulfill my own short criteria. The character bowed out with a greivous head wound in a high pitched battle with the US secret service, as government operatives were torturing a prime suspect in an abandoned night club, and a Senator was fleeing the scene on a pleasure boat.

For people who don’t know this, the Cyberpunk 2020 combat system is actually pretty brutal. I have changed a couple of bits of it to give it a slightly more cinematic feel, but it still has the possibility to drop a heroic character with a single round from a handgun. Although I am always happier when the combat is more interesting than that. We’d already seen it happen once, but due to the very high tech medical aid that’s available the character in question got better, and was only out of action for a few days. Still injured when they got back into the fray, so they had some negative modifiers, but future science is almost as good as magic when it comes to healing, or at least, that’s how I see it.

Not actually Diesel, but close enough...

Not actually Diesel, but close enough…

This time, the dice gods were not happy, and the first attempt at healing actually made things worse, meaning that the second attempt failed, and what with time passing, there was sadly nothing to be done.  Diesel died. He died well, and it has created some already kick ass role playing with some of the remaining characters. Mainly talking about Ed Winchester here, but others have really brought their “A” game to the table with regard to role playing.

What a lot of you might not know is that my game is almost over. I had a fixed time frame to run this game, and I expected it to last me until June, and that’s coming up fast. The party – or what’s left of it – have been given an option to get closure on their plot, and the choice about how they want to see it resolved. There’s more than one power block in play, and the characters could end up siding with either, or going it on their own. But what to do with the ex-Diesel?

This close to the end, it seems a bit of a waste of time and effort to create a whole new character, and the player has admitted that she doesn’t really see the point of it. I tend to agree, so instead, I have picked one the main antagonists from the campaign, and since he was at death’s door when they found him, he was no real threat, giving the player free reign for some challenging role playing. All I need to do is drop in a few bits of information that Christ had been keeping from everyone that are crucial in bringing the storyline to its apoplectic finale.

And this is the crux of this article: What do you do when a player character bites the big one? Does your answer change depending on system, or even on when the character dies in the story arc? DO they come back as level one – if the game supports such a thing – or of comparable power to the current characters? Do you feel comfortable handing control of an important NPC to player whose character had been happy to see them die? I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions on this, and the comments box is just down there.

May 092013
 

This is my first real post for one of the new menus I’ve fitted to my home page. After this, each time I put something out that has my brand on it, I’ll post about it here, with links so anyone who is interested can quickly and easily find what they’re after. The aim is to put out a two page adventure seed once a week. Sadly that’s not always going to happen, as with this week. A long Bank Holiday weekend with my beautiful girlfriend, needing to put some finishing touches to my card game so it can hopefully get another play test this evening, and working some odd shifts has set me back a couple of days. Hopefully though, normal service will be resumed next week.

For now, I offer a rundown of what is available so far on DriveThruRPG, all crafted at Shortymonster Industries.

System Neutral NPCs. This one pretty much says it all in the title, but the back story is fun, so I’m going to share it with you. When I hit my first big mile stone on the blog, I wanted to thank everyone who had taken the time to head on over and check me out, so I offered to write up one NPC of their choice. Just prose, and based off as little information as they wanted to give. This ranged from “pirate character” to “Star Wars universe trader on a space station”. All of them were fun, and special mention has to go to the father who had me write up his son as a kick ass fighter in a fantasy game. While it is true that you can grab all of these for free by trawling through the comments section on the original post, I just figured that it’d be easier to collate them all together, and correct a few niggling bits of bad grammar and spelling so that they looked good, and package them up for anyone who needed a bunch of ideas in one bundle.

Death at a Funeral. This one has a slightly bigger price tag than all the other stuff, but it took a hell of a lot more work to get it ready. It is a larger adventure, with non player characters sketched out, and even includes maps. And if you’ve been following some of my other posts, you’ll know I suck at maps, and really don’t like drawing them. The adventure is inspired by a tournament game I ran a few years back using the Unhallowed Metropolis system, but since I have no working relationship with the fine folks at Atomic Overmind (yet) a lot of the specifics had to removed, and turned into a generic game of alternate Victorian horror. I think I managed it quite well, and since it has been played about a dozen times in the writing of it, and the tournament, I know the game works. If you fancy the idea of playing Victorian ladies and gentlemen on the hunt for an underground and unknown foe, as you struggle through undead creatures and humanity at its worst, then this might be just what you’re looking for.

The Midnight Priesthood. I can’t actually take 100% credit for this one, as the original idea was a game my girlfriend ran. I liked the basic concept, but thought it would play better in a standard fantasy setting though. The idea itself is of an organisation who effectively take a monthly tax of one child. The settlement it all happens in is happily complicit in this arrangement, and the players take on the role of adventurers knowing nothing of the reasons behind this barbaric practice. There is a reason for the madness, but even the people of the town have no inkling as to the actual dark and terrifying truth.

Murder Incorporated. This one is based on actual historical fact, but massively altered by the addition of some elder gods and Lovecraftian horror. It started with watching an episode of the West Wing, when we discover that one of the main characters’ Father was an hit man for the Jewish mob. I just loved that idea, and it stayed squirreled away just waiting for inspiration to hit. As I started reading more and more Lovecraft, I realised that it was a very good match, and would significantly alter the dynamic of the investigators if they were constantly questioning whether what they were doing was morally acceptable, or even if the methods they were using justified the end result. Possibly the most fun thing to have written so far, but there will be more to follow as I move forward.

Speaking of which, I have two other little bits on the go at present, that should be making a DriveThru appearance in the near future. Another long form adventure, this time in a Cyberpunk world, and a short horror adventure seed set down an old abandoned mine. For regular updates, email subscribe to the blog, or head on over and hit the Facebook ‘Like’ button.

May 062013
 

I read a lot of books. In this I’m sure I have a hell of a lot in common with almost everyone who plays RPGs. One of the authors I used to read a lot by is Stephen King. I mention him as a fan of his work, but mainly of his short stories rather than novels. In these smaller works of prose he writes with a sense of urgency, and doesn’t use a sentence when a word will suffice, and very quickly gets to the of the horror.

In his novels, he has the time to fully explore ideas and concepts, and for an awful lot of his written work, this is done masterfully. I am not picking out any particular novel though, because when I say most of his work, I mean most of any individual novel. The thing that has effectively stopped me reading novels by Mister King is that he doesn’t seem to know when to end the story. Two examples that I have read in recent years are Bag of Bones and It. Bag of bones may not be quite so well known, and it’s easy to see why. The story is OK, and moves along well, but we don’t get any startling new ground broken. And then, he ends the story well. Maybe not a happy ending, but it satisfied me greatly as a form of closure. For some reason there then followed two more chapters.

Pennywise_shower

Click image for creepy creepy stuff…

It” is a slightly better known story, mainly due to the stellar performance of Tim Curry as Pennywise the Dancing Clown in the movie adaptation. The novel is amazing, and I know of a friend who simply couldn’t finish reading it alone at night. It is a huge read, coming in at a tome like 1300 plus pages, but once again I can tell you that a big bunch of stuff at the back end is almost totally pointless. We get a great resolution to the story, or at least as good a resolution we could expect when dealing with eternal evil. What follows is just uncomfortable and unnecessary padding.

And it’s this kind of thing I want to talk about today. In a previous game I’ve run I ended up having to write a couple of endings just because I wasn’t too sure what my players would do. They had the chance to take the money and run, and the consequences of that action would mean the horror would come to find them. I ended up being in a position to bribe them into taking on the final job, and they got a huge cataclysmic ending at an abandoned country manor haunted by a ghostly child with enormous powers. And that’s pretty much where I ended it.

I then gave them a very brief description of the return trip back to base of operations and what life was going to be like afterwards, but that was all, and it took me less than ten minutes. What I didn’t do was have random encounters on the way back to the City. I didn’t have them role play the meeting once more with the troops that defend the walls of said city from undead incursion. All of this certainly happened, but it would add nothing to the sense of accomplishment that my players were feeling.

Even the stuff I did talk about was largely derived from what they said they wanted, and I think this is the way I’ll be taking it next time my campaign ends. Instead of running through quickly what happened to them, I’ll open it up, and let the players take the time to think about what their characters would do once the dust has settled. Part of my worries that the characters will suddenly become the super awesome bunch of people they have always thought they were but never quite managed to become, but that’s selling my particular group of gamers short. I think that they would relish giving their characters an end that they felt they deserved, and since the tone of the game has been fairly consistent, I know I can trust them to maintain that, even when it doesn’t really matter that much.

What about the rest of you; how have you handled the ending to a long campaign? If anyone was left alive of course…

Apr 012013
 

This is still an idea in progress if you get my drift, but I’ve been thinking about fight scenes lately, and how to avoid repeating myself. I dislike fights that run along those oh so predictable lines of ‘hit with sword’, ‘take X damage’. I’m sure all gamers at some point have ‘been there’, and almost all of you will have ‘done that’. Sometimes the creative juices slow to a drip, and if combat drags on past the fourth round, it can become a rush to get to the end of it, and back on with the game. So keeping instructions simple saves valuable time.

As I said though, I dislike it, and as a GM, I try my best to add descriptions of damage dealt and received to the numbers handed out in terms of hit points lost or wounds gained. I take great pleasure in getting quite visceral, as I don’t want any of my players to take combat lightly. It should be seen as deathly dangerous, and each wound should matter. So I talk about cracked bone fragments, the sounds of blood spattering against windows and other such delights. Even that though can run its course. Well today I ended up over at Beyond the Pale Gate, and in the middle of a post about OD&D combat, there was a sentence that struck home about damage taken in combat, but not necessarily directly from a weapon used to attack.

Click for image source

Click for image source

I really like this idea, and my brain went into Cyberpunk mode as that’s the game I’m currently running. Below is a short list of possible other damage sources that could be applied with a bit of dramatic licence. Be wary of keeping such things in mind as players wanting to know that the huge hand cannon they’ve bought is capable of doing a whole heap of damage, but other than that, I think this could be fun. As long as you let them roll all the damage dice and make sure that every point is applied, I think most players would be up for a bit of inventiveness.

  • The gun shot goes wide, shattering the plate glass behind you, and the large shards fall, cutting through armour and flesh.
  • The arrow/bolt (I know, it’s Cyberpunk, but trust me, the archery weapons are amazing in CP2020) sinks right through your arm and pins it to a wall mounted vid-screen, the electricity running through your body as you twitch helplessly for a few seconds until it short circuits.
  • The Wolvers slash your shirt front open, but you duck backwards out of the way. sadly, you step off the sidewalk and the wing mirror of a passing sedan shatters against your back, tearing the skin open almost to the bone.
  • You’re hit with such force, you stagger backwards trying not to fall, your foot goes back hard, through the plexi-glass of a data booth and you lose balance, your ankle twisting out of joint as you fall hard.
  • The bullet goes wide and hits the wall you’re using for cover, the shards tearing the flesh away from your face, coming close to taking an eye out as you reel backwards.

That’s just a few, and will need to think fast to come up with environmental hazards on the fly in the middle of combat, but I think that the pay off could be worth it. If it goes well, I might think about doing a similar list for some more fantasy/medieval environmental dangers.

This was written a couple o days before my last CP2020 game, and I’ve since had the chance to try it out, and the players were very responsive to it. I did have to explain what I was doing as some damage done seemed to ignore the bullet impact, but once they knew what was going on, it flowed really well. I would advise everyone to at least give it a shot, and if you have any ideas of your own to add to the list, then please feel free to drop them into the comments section.

Mar 192013
 

As promised, I’m back at looking at Necropunk, a new Pathfinder setting currently raining money on Kickstarter. As mentioned in my first brief glimpse at the preview material, I’m not actually that bothered about the pathfinder rules set. I’ve had some fun playing D&D 3 and 3.5, so I understand the basics, but I’ve played them with people for whom any deviance from a D20 based traditional fantasy setting is just something that would not even be considered. They were tactical players mostly, and whenever combat broke out, the game slowed to a crawl, with those of us there for the role playing, pretty much being told what we should do in the fight to garner the greatest positive modifier for the whole group.

I’m sure that there’s a lot of people out there who have fun with that play style, but I am not one of them. So there were a few things that I needed to know before I fully jumped on the Necropunk bandwagon, first being how important combat was going to be. Luckily, they have no problem playing things the way I like them. Although they refer to this mainly in terms of full interplanetary war, it’s an attitude that I bring to almost all of my games when the fighting starts; the fear of mutually assured destruction.

Unless you are a god like being of immense power, the last thing you should want – unless mentally unhinged – is to get into a fight. There is no real way to be certain you’ll walk away from it, and odds are that even if you do, you’ll have the scars and lasting injuries as reminders to be more careful in the future. There’s not a game I’ve run (that wasn’t Feng Shui) that hasn’t had this attitude. And after the first fight, I enjoy watching my players come up with great reasons to avoid getting into scrapes. And if they cannot be avoided, they plan so well for any advantage they can get, that they will have a much higher chance of walking away from it intact.

If/when I get the chance the run a game of Necropunk  that’s what I’ll be looking for. All my players will have to know that it isn’t a normal game of Pathfinder, and that instead of rushing into fights to solve problems, they should be seeking a more indirect form of conflict resolution. So far so good then, and then we get to another thing that I’m looking forward to; equipment lists.

Not everyone’s cup of tea, to be sure, but for me, I like the feeling that you should be able to equip your character in a way that fits in with the world, rather than just generic items and weapons. Plus, the more choice available, the less likely you’re going to find players all going for the same load out of weapons and gear, and adding to the personalisation factor of the character creation process.Add this to the aesthetic that they are going for, and I think I’m in for a treat.

Anything with ‘punk’ on the end is my kind of game. I like the low-fi feel the word brings, even if the technology is of such an advanced level as to be almost indistinguishable from magic. So we have huge interstellar space craft, that are actually alive, and will look as such. the weapons and cyberware are all living tissue, and the thought of blades glistening with ichor as they flash through the air sounds great! The images that are available for the way the game will look are still thin on the ground, but the writers do a damned fine job indeed of painting a picture with words. Still, I can’t wait to take a look at what they have to offer.

I’ll be back later with a more in depth look at characters with the next part of the review, but of what you’ve read so far has piqued your interest, you should head over to their Kickstarter page and pony up a bit of dough to help them out.

Mar 122013
 

Once more I am beginning a series of reviews with some thoughts on general feel and concept, as I think this goes a long way towards grabbing attention of people who might not want to delve too deeply into a new system or setting that they don’t know enough about. It’s also a good idea in this case, as the preview pack I’ve been sent for Necropunk is just that; a preview of basic ideas and concepts over about 40 pages.

These 40 pages did impress me though. Right off the bat I was liking what I saw, with attention placed on the kinds of areas that I look for in a game, and taken away from the kind of gaming that has, in the past, stopped me from caring too much about Pathfinder. They waste no time in making sure that the game that will be played is one of intrigue and honour, rather initiative and hack & slash. True, there is still combat involved, and they do spend some time talking about it, but even without their assurances I would look at this setting as one that involved more social challenges than physical.

There are other things I like too. The aesthetic they are going for sounds like it will be right up my alley. I really wish I had some images for you, and as soon as I have anything to share I will. There are a couple of pictures, but I don’t think they yet do justice to the bone-laced science fiction art work that I’m looking forward to feasting my eyes on. The simple fact that this is called anything-punk was enough to get me interested in the visuals. See my Kuro reviews, and general love of all things Steampunk to get proof of that.

The idea of magic and technology being combined/intertwined is far from a new one, but it is still fairly unusual, and I think will add a lot to this setting. the idea of cyberware like technology created by necromancers is just too delightfully twisted for me not to love it. Just the simple phrase ‘Bone Suit’ gives me a total geek-gasm. It is also nice to know, that although the technology and general feel, both lend themselves well to a horror game, that the designers are focused more on the subtle than the shocking.

I’m not too sure how massive interplanetary living space ships built by necromancers could be subtle, but if that doesn’t have your mind just swimming with possibilities, then you may need to seek help.

So far, this has definitely piqued my interest, and I’m looking forward to getting more under the skin of this one. I’ll have a more in depth look at it by the end of the week, and will hopefully be updating you as more refined versions of the rules become available to reviewers. For now though, I will once again direct you to the Kickstarter page, and ask you very nicely to give up a small amount of your hard earned cash to ensure this book makes it onto the shelves.

Feb 082013
 
Click for Kuro page

Click for Kuro page

Welcome back everyone to this, the final part of my review of Kuro, published by Cubicle 7. If you’re feeling a little left behind, all of the previous reviews can be found by clicking the following links. Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. This will be a slightly shorter review than the others, mainly because a lot of the things that excited me about the last part of the book are chock full of spoilerific goodness, and I don’t want to ruin the surprise for anyone who clicks the word Kuro above and buys their very own copy of this awesome game. So, broad strokes for this one then…

First off we get some great pieces of inspiration in the form of several secret societies and clans that one could encounter while playing Kuro. The descriptions given are short and to the point, leaving a lot up the GM about how to write them into a campaign and even how to present them. What’s never missing though is a seed of inspiration. Without fail I could think of a use for every group in this section, and there were a couple that I think could be seeds for an entire campaign without too much effort. This is exactly the kind of thing I want, and one of the reasons why I don’t tend to buy full expansions for games these days; give me some basics, then I want the game’s designers to trust me to do something with their product, and not prescribe to me exactly what I should be doing with it..

Following on from this we get some choice nasties to play around with. These run the gamut of ghostly apparitions, creatures from Japanese mythology, and even a Lovecraftian feeling horror or two. All very well done, with stats beneath the descriptions; and these cover motivations, personalities and the physical look of the creatures too. Again, we have plenty to work with here, but I found myself thinking of them more as bad guys to be inserted, rather than plot hooks. Might just be me though…

We also get some Kuro themed GMing tips. This seems like quite standard fayre, but with some nice touches. Kuro probably won’t play like most other games, due to the characters you will be playing and their individual motivations. Time is well spent here going over this section in detail to give yourself an idea of everything that is possible, and how to avoid falling into some clichés of the genre. We also have a whole bunch of examples of the genre, and again, this is worth paying attention to, as everything could be used for more plot hooks and ideas.

We end with a introductory adventure, and I don’t want to spoil anything other than to say that it looks like a very strong way indeed to get a disparate bunch of people into the thick of the action without too much exposition as to the whys and wherefores. Based on my own experience of character creation – done before reading the adventure – there would be little to no challenge getting him involved in this plot, and I think the same could be said for any character that could be created.

All in all then, a rather nifty end to the book. Setting the GM up very well indeed for whatever concepts get thrown at him, and making sure that they should have no problem maintaining the right amount of fear and suspense.

Feb 042013
 
kuro-cover-500-233x300

Click for Kuro website

For those just joining us, you might want to jump back a few pages, and take a look at the previous parts of this review, looking at the setting information, and character creation. Now, if you’re all caught up, we’ll take a look at how the system works.

Carrying on from character creation, you will remember that each character has a list of eight traits, spit into mental and physical, and a whole bunch of skills and specialisations. All these numbers are used to work out the likelihood of passing or failing to perform anything other than simple actions. To give you an example, I’m going back to my still unnamed spoilt brat gambler kid I made earlier. Although his primary focus is his gambling hobby, I picked out a couple of extra skills that would be useful for him. Within the ‘Deception’ skill group, gambling was an easy choice to turn into a specialty, but right there next to it was sleight of hand. Had to be done really didn’t it? In a situation where the character needed to palm a card and replace it to give himself even a chance of staying at the table, he would need to make a skill roll. Difficulty would be set by the GM and then the dice wold be rolled.

As this is a test of manual dexterity, the base statistic is easy to determine, but the game encourages creativity in this regard, with no solid tie-in between skill and trait, instead allowing the players and GM the chance to play to their strengths, wherever able. In this case it’s fairly straightforward, but there could be an argument made to use Charisma instead to distract the other gamblers, but that might be a stretch. So, we take the trait number, and grab that many six sided dice; in my case a paltry two. We then take a look at the score I have in the skill. Deception comes in at three points, which would be correct for any specialisation that falls under it, unless you’ve whacked a few specialisation points in it as well. I did that very thing and raised my sleight of hand to lofty height of four. This means I have no ‘Gimikku’ (gained if a specialisation hits five points) to give me any extra bonuses to this roll, so lets just take a shot at it. I roll both d6, and add the skill rank to the total.

Here’s where it gets interesting though, and reminds why I love games where the system becomes more than just a means of randomising success, and instead adds to the feel of the setting. Not only does it throw in my favourite mechanic - that of the ‘exploding dice’ – but it adds its own touch. In Japanese, the number four is ‘Shi’, which also means, quite literally, death. This means that any roll of a four on a d6 is not included in the final score. Might seem harsh, but what with exploding dice, I think it should balance out with no real problems. It also gave me an idea for a particularly sinister house rule.

Imagine a skill check that is almost too important to fail, but fail it does. All because of the player staring down at the dreaded number four on his freshly rolled dice. If the four was included, they would have just scraped by. If only there was something to be done. As the GM, you offer to put that malevolent die back into contention, on the understanding that Death will notice, and seek recompense. Maybe not straight away, and maybe not to anyone immediately connected to the PC, but Shi will take its due…

You must also take into account the degree of any success or failure based on how far away the result was from the target number, but this is simple maths and should not impede game play at any time. All this sounds great so far, but as mentioned in the last review, there are five different ‘Gimikku’ and I think that until the players get a few games under their collective belts, this could slow things down without a cheat sheet for each player. A minor quibble at most though, as I think the system stands up very well, both in how it allows players a certain freedom to play to their strengths, and how well it helps with immersing the players into a highly superstitious game world.

Combat works much the same as regular skill checks, although a lot more of them will be opposed checks, which work exactly as you would imagine them to. One addition I do like though is the simplicity of the combat maneuvers that are available. In either close combat or at range, you can choose to sacrifice accuracy for damage or vice versa. Both are simple to work out, and mean that players can once again adapt to suit the strengths and weaknesses of their characters. Add to this a bunch of situational modifiers that should be fairly standard to most people who’ve played an RPG with a tactical combat system, and you’re done.

So far, I have to say that I’m loving what I’ve been reading. the system seems to flow quickly while being easily adaptable to the fluid situations one would expect to encounter, and even a few one might not. Number of dice plus modifier might seem a less than simple way to calculate a chance of success, but having played original Deadlands for several years, I can attest to how quickly it becomes second nature. There’s just one bit left of this review, and if I get the chance I will treat you all to the GM’s section by the end of the week.

Jan 222013
 

kuro-cover-500-233x300Welcome back everyone to the next thrilling installment of my review of the wonderful little game Kuro, brought to you by the fine fellows Cubicle 7 Entertainment. I left you last time with a taste of what the world was – Japanese horror mixed with cyberpunk – and how it was presented to you by the book. Following straight on from there we get to character generation, so I thought I would give it a shot myself.

If anyone has read my Gnome Stew competition entry, they will know that I’m hoping to run this game myself at some point this year, so I had a rough idea about the type of character I would expect to see. For this example, I thought I would try for a spoiled little rich kid. Someone with no issues in his life who just indulged in his hobbies while the world around him was falling apart. Little would he expect that before long, his own existence would prove to be just as fragile as a house of cards, and when you have more to lose, it can be a lot more painful when it finally collapses.

So, the first thing the book asks for is a concept. That was sorted pretty quickly, along with age and social standing. Next we work out the points allotted for the characteristics based on our young buck’s age. I had decided to make him younger than the average character; this would mean a slightly smaller pool of points, but since I wanted him to be naive and sheltered, this made perfect sense. What comes next in the book, that doesn’t make so much sense. After telling you how many characteristics there are, and how many points you have to spend on them, there is no indication of what these characteristics are until several pages later. I kind of understand why they dropped some pregens in here now; if people wanted to get straight into a game it’s useful to have them good to go. I wasn’t looking for anything pre-created though, so there was a lot of scrolling back and forward through the pdf to get to the info that I needed. Once you get over that jump though, the information is very well presented in a way that makes sense. The stats are laid out nice and neatly, and the derived attributes are easy to work out and are all pretty intuitive. If you’re curious, I took a hit to a couple of stats to get higher scores in some key areas, and ended up with the fewest hit point it is possible to get, but a bloody high defense score.

Next we turn to the skills, and once again I was cursing my choice to play a younger character. The game lays it right out there that doing so will be a hindrance, and should only be done with the GM’s permission, so It was in fact my own foolish choice. Skills in Kuro are split by type, and your skill points are distributed into these categories. Each set has a list of skills beneath it, and each is now set to the level of points you have put into the whole group. For instance, I picked the firearms skill set, and set it to three points. I wanted to be able to play with handguns a bit better than that though, and luckily, Kuro had me covered.

After assigning skill points, you get specialisation points. Since each skill set has a list of individual skills, you can chose to excel in certain specific fields. In my case, I whacked three specialisation points into handgun – bringing the score up to six – and then could only hope my character could lay their hands on one. With my other points distributed amongst the skills and specialisations I wanted, it was time to move on.

Or should I say back a bit, because once again, having the pre generated archetypes in the book before I had finished creating one of my own had confused me. Next to a lot of the specialisations on the archetype, there would be an extra word in brackets. I had to scan back a couple of times, even resorting to a search on the pdf until I was convinced I hadn’t just missed something, and could carry on. Eventually I found out what these mystery words alluded to, and was pleasantly surprised. For each specialty taken above a certain level, you can choose a special trick for it, like adding an extra dice, or a permanent bonus. Lovely idea thinks I, and so I spend a few more minutes adding in some extra words. Not many, but if you’re going to create a standard character, you do get a lot more options. How this will play out during the game remains to be seen, and I can picture the need for crib sheets to begin with to remind the players what each word gives them, but we shall to wait and see…

Final touches next, and this means shopping. Luckily the game assumes that people will have the basics, plus whatever else they would be expected to have for their chosen career. I know a lot of people who find sifting through equipment lists to be the height of tedium, so they could probably jump right past this. I like equipping a character though,so I lost a good couple of hours going through the wares on offer. I have to say, Kuro shines when it gets the chance to dazzle me with cyber tech.

Page after page of things and stuff, with plenty of price lists and stat lines for people who only want the basics, and well written details for people like me. I particularly liked the inventiveness which they’ve applied to making this game feel so fundamentally cyberpunk. I could wax lyrical on this for another thousand words, but my word count is already starting to look strained under the pressure, so I’ll just say that the time was well spent, and I totally winter stealing some ideas from this for my current game. Honest. I would have preferred a few more pictures of some of the more outlandish pieces of future tech, but that’s a personal issue, and I’m not the one paying for artists.

Apart from the fine tuning, that’s all you need to know about breathing some life into a Kuro character. All in all, ignoring my shopping spree, I was done in a little over half an hour, and I can’t see even inexperienced gamers taking too much longer. If you are planning creating the entire group in one sitting though, I would advise you to make a little character generation pack for each player, with the derived stats calculations and the two pages of skill lists on it. Otherwise you’ll be spending most of the time waiting for the players to pass the book round to each other.

I’ll continue the review next week, looking at the rules of play. For now though, this game still receives two very enthusiastic thumbs up from me.