Jan 172013
 

This mini blog is part of Gnome Stew’s New Year, New Game challenge. It will all be posted on the actual page, but I wanted to pop it here too so I can put in all the links for people to follow to get a better idea of the type of game it will be.

Game: Kuro

Adventure: Ravaged.

My Sunday night game group fell apart recently, and since then the efforts of myself and two others have been directed into getting a new group back together. It seems appropriate that this will happen soon in the new year, and that my first choice will be a game none of us has had any experience of before. The game in question is Kuro, and I’m going to be GMing it for a couple of reasons. Firstly, more than one of the gamers in our new group has never role played before, and another is still a relative novice. That means that if I pick a system that no one has payed before, we have a level playing field. Secondly, Kuro just looks amazing; it fits into two of my perfect game slots, covering both cyberpunk and horror.

What will the game be about?

The demise of a wealthy family. All the PCs will be off the same large and sprawling family that has managed – so far  - to stay on top after the Event. That will all change quickly though as their fortune gets destroyed through mismanagement and corporate attacks. The players will then be forced to fell from their ivory towers, taking what they can carry plus any onboard cyberware they’re lucky enough to possess, and try to escape the body jackers who will be after them for anything of value that can be used to pay off the family debts. Will they go into hiding, seeking refuge with criminals and other unsavoury characters? Will they fight back, trying to right the injustice, and hopefully figure out what laid them so low in the first place? Due to the open world nature of my game plan, it all rests in the PC’s hands. But even as they work to put their plans into motion, the supernatural nature of world they live in will be pushing against them. For the first time, they will be unable to hide away from its horrors.

Potential problems

With inexperienced players, I may have to jostle the group along a little more than with a seasoned group, but any trials on my part will be a learning experience for them. I hope…

Dec 282012
 

For the record, I don’t want people to expect too many more book reviews on this site, unless they are actual role playing books of some kind. This is a noteworthy exception though, as within half a dozen pages, I was thinking about how best to turn this bad boy into an RPG. I know that I’m not alone in this, as I lent it to my better half, and after reading the first few chapters, she was contemplating the exact same thing, and even had a base system in mind.

What makes this dystopic, cyberpunk book so suitable as a role playing game then? The setting. Oh lord, the setting. From the off, Mr. Cline paints a vivid portrait of two distinct worlds, both of which are full of rich pickings indeed for game play possibilities. To put this context, the book takes place in a near future where the poverty divide is wider than ever, and global warming paired with energy shortages and wars have made the world a hell of a place to live unless you’re one of the elite. The alternative is the OASIS. A fully immersive VR social media/MMO world, open for anyone with the hardware required to log on.

Even this plane, with it’s countless worlds and settings, is divided, as only the entrance way is available for free. Leveling up your avatar costs money to get them to worlds that provide quests, and for Wade – the hero of the piece, that just isn’t possible. His only options involve hitching a ride with school friends and grinding low level kills for their paltry XP and treasure. That is until he solves the first clue in a game that runs throughout the story. Without going too far into a plot that is much better discovered by reading the book, the creator of Oasis was dead to begin with. And his will involved giving away everything - including the rights to Oasis – to the first person to find the Easter egg he had hidden in the virtual universe he had created.

The first clue? Well, that was just perfect for role players.

The copper key awaits explorers

In a tomb filled with horrors

But you have much to learn

If you hope to earn

A place among the high scorers.

Anyone else getting an idea that they might have a rough idea on this one? This is part of the beauty of the book, it is so totally self aware, not only about it’s content, but also its audience. It could have been heavy handed with this, and become a series of knowing nods that becomes tired so very quickly, but it never does. Cline is obviously in love with the pop culture of his own youth, just as much as the man behind the riddles. Luckily, I’m willing to bet that a whole heap of my readers are too. Any of you ever annoyed the snot out of someone when a movie from your childhood has come on, by quoting the whole thing verbatim? I know I have, and still do.

This simple activity becomes instrumental in the book, and just made me smile to think how well I would do if the movie in question was Ferris Bueller’s day Off…

This is not a real book review, and I’m not going to go into loads of detail about why the author chose the world he did to tell his story or any of the stuff that real reviewers get up to. Instead I’m going to implore you all to try and pick up a copy of this book. It is worth the cost at full price from a real book shop – and since I work in one, I hope you will all pick it from your own local book emporium – but with money being tight, I present to you a link to grab a slightly cheaper copy. 

I hope you all enjoy it, and I look forward to hearing from you what inspiration you have taken from this wonderful book, and how you plan on using it in your own role playing games.

Dec 212012
 

I have had my eye on this little beauty for a while, and when a couple of twitter people I follow started talking about it, I just had to ask if there was a way to get my hands on a review copy of it. Quite selfishly, I also wanted it to run the game at some point. I get a huge kick out of running horror RPGs, and my regular readers will know that I’m currently GMing a CP2020 game for my local gaming society. Seriously, they couldn’t have designed a game to grab my attention better, without rubbing some Steampunk all over it…

Luckily, one of the Tweeps that was talking was the lovely Cubicle 7 twitter account (@cubicle7), who kindly winged me the download code for my very own pdf of said game. Big thanks go out to them for sending me this; as they said themselves, they’re reticent to give out too many review copies as they don’t get that many reviews done. Well, I’m not quite done reading it yet, but what I’ve read so far has been not only killer, but well worth talking about, so with no further ado, lets get into Kuro

What I have read so far is the setting info, which I’m breaking into three parts, and takes up over sixty pages of the book. Some of you might be thinking that this is a bit much, but I love spending a good old chunk of reading time on setting the scene, rather than jumping in too early and then having the setting information drip fed to me in the middle of pages that really should concern themselves more with the system.

The first part is a captivating bit of prose fiction to set the scene in a ‘Show it, don’t tell it’ kind of way. You’re introduced to what is clearly a player character and their sidekick, as they travel through the cyberpunk streets of Tokyo, or Shin-Edo, to give its current name. These are wonderfully described, along with snippets of back story dropped into get the reader thinking about the setting and stories that could be told within it, right from the get go. I always like seeing these intro chapters as I think they do away with the need for a ‘what is role playing’ section. Sadly the game designers didn’t agree with me, and popped one up there anyway. That, along with a glossary of terms that really should be in the back of the book, were the only things I was a bit let down by.

After that we get some description of the actual back story; a very well thought out idea that opens the door to not only cyberpunk genre’d storytelling, but a whole host of horror ideas too. You can play around with cyberpunk styled body-horror, serial killing splatterpunk, supernatural ghost stories, and even Lovecraftian otherworldly eldritch horrors. In other words, perfect for me, and any other fans of horror RPGs. You get tastes of the advances in technology and how it affects the lives of the people condemned to stay in Shin-Edo. All this is good, but on occasion goes over a little bit of ground from the prose piece; not a bad thing though, as I know from other gamers that not everyone likes, or  even bothers to read, the fiction at the top of a book.

Finally we have a lot more detail on the city itself. It is broken down into ‘quarters’, but ‘wards’ seem a better choice of word, as there are considerably more than four of them. Each has its own feel, along with personalities and places of note. It is worth pointing out here a great trick they pull throughout this whole first quarter of the book. Often in RPG rule books, box out text plays a part in the setting info. More often than not it breaks up the narrative flow as it is dropped in seemingly at random. Not so with Kuro. Time has obviously been taken to fit it into the world they are weaving, with thought being given to such fine touches as the frame on the text box making sense for what is inside it. They are all worth reading, as they drop hints and clues about what could be encountered within the city, and even give GMs some great plot seeds. If I’m honest, I’ve already stolen one of them for my own cyberpunk game…

So, what do I think so far? I ruddy love it! I know that I’m pretty much the perfect GM to be reviewing this type of RPG as it ticks so many boxes in what I look for in a setting, but it could still have been handled badly. The pdf is gorgeous though, with stunning art, and some great layouts, along with writing that pops. Sure, there is a typo or grammatical error here and there, but translated work can be forgiven as long as it doesn’t become a constant issue. I’m really looking forward to getting my teeth into character creation, and then the system as whole, but - faithful readers – that will have to wait until the new year.