Friday, November 30, 2007

Fate: Dark and Stormy report #10

After skipping one week, we were back around the table, continuing the deadly battle against the monstrous spider, deep in the underground passages of Hightower tor.

When last we saw Leo, he was on the ground, having been thrown from the spider's back. Now, he sat up, noted the spider's shaggy back and quickly devised a plan. Reaching into his pockets, he pulled out a phial of sticky potion and threw it so that it splashed all over the spider's hairy back. Then, reaching into a pouch of flammable powder, he tossed a handful onto the layer of sticky substance. Leo ended his turn shouting to his party members, "The spider is flammable! Hit him with fire!"

This is an example of a maneuver. This maneuver placed a temporary aspect of "flammable" on the spider. Below, you can see Leo standing next to J's newly acquired specialty Fudge dice, a gift from gaming buddy AC.

Still enraged by having been stabbed by Elros in the belly (last session), the spider shot his head down to chomp Elros in his hideous pincers. Elros only managed a +1 on his dodge, while the spider rolled a total of +3 for Melee. Elros spent a fate point to gain +1 on his roll, giving him a total of +2. Elros managed to roll mostly out of way, but stumbled on some cocooned carcasses underfoot, giving the spider an open window to deal 1 stress with a bite to the hips.

Rwake, having burned the webbing off of his legs, leaped up, grabbed his knife from the ground, and ran at the spider, brandishing a burning torch. Crossing one zone (-1 to his action), he threw the torch over the spider's head, hoping to ignite its back. He could have tagged the "flammable" aspect, but didn't, and I didn't think to recommend it, but I really should have. Rwake gets a -1 and spends a fate point to bump it up to 0. The spider got a +4 with its Athletics skill and managed to skitter to the right, avoiding the torch and positioning itself with its back to the wall, assessing its attackers. The torch landed on the ground in front of Leo. Below, Rwake runs up to throw his torch.

Recognizing his window of opportunity, Elros quickly wielded a burst of Energy magic to toss the torch once again at the spider's back. He rolled and modified total of +6. The spider, attempting to evade the torch by hiding, managed only a +2. For some reason, I used one of the spider's aspects (I can't name it here because the players don't know the spider's aspects) to add 2 to the roll, which was futile since it only got the spider's attempt up to a +4. So, having needlessly wasted one of the spider's fate points, the spider scurried backwards, climbing now up the wall, butt first. The torch got close enough to set the flammable spider aflame. This maneuver gave the spider a new temporary aspect of "On Fire". This replaced the "Flammable" aspect. Screeching out, the spider hastened its upward climb, keeping it's many eyes on the adventurers below. Below, Elros wields magically throws the torch at the spider.

Leo, using his "Close at Hand" and "Anything Goes" stunts, pulled some old rotten daggers from among the corpses at his feet. Achieving a total of +5 with his thrown weapons skill, he flung the daggers upward. I had set a difficulty for this attempt at Fair (+2). One dagger hit missed, while the other made contact with one of the spider's eyes (eye contact?), inflicting 3 stress to the spider.

On the spider's turn, it managed a +2 on its Climb skill to get a few more yards up the wall, now approaching the ceiling. All above them, the PCs could only see blackness and no sign of the ceiling. But the flames on the spider's back allowed them to keep tabs on their foe.

Rwake, thinking to use his understanding of creatures, attempted to listen to the spider to see if he could guess at what the spider's intent might be. I decided this was a long shot, and therefore gave it a difficulty of Superb (+6). Rwake rolled a -1 and gave up the attempt.

With the spider at a safe distance for the moment, Elros began discussions with his companions about possibly leaving the spider and abandoning this battle. I remembered that Elros had an aspect called "A Score to Settle", which is based on a rivalry from his past. I decided that this would make Elros unlikely to leave a conflict behind. So, I took this opportunity to compel his "A Score to Settle" aspect. He accepted my compel and received a fate point for it. This was very exciting for me because it was perhaps the first time we have ever seen a compel worked out in one of our Fate adventures. I was surprised to see that someone was actually trying to do something that went against their nature. I jumped on this opportunity, just to watch a compel work itself out. So, Elros decided to stay in the room and pursue the spider to the finish.

Elros, using Energy magic again, attempted pull to pull the spider down from the ceiling. The rest of us felt that this was not likely to realistically work out against a spider in its element. But, I finally reasoned, Elros has Energy magic as his highest ranked skill (+5) on the skill pyramid. This is what Fate is about. It may not be likely for an ordinary adventurer to pull a giant spider down from its webs with magic, but for a Fate adventurer, this kind of feat is quite possible. Characters in SotC are intended to be the best of the best, beyond normal humans. That's how we are using PCs in this adventure. So, I told him to go ahead and try. Elros rolled a +5 total. Dissatisfied with this result, he used his "Educated at Prestigious Highcloud Tower" aspect to reroll, this time getting a +6. Against the spider's +5 Climb roll, this gave Elros 1 shift. I decided this was enough to pull the spider's front legs loose. The spider was now dangling face-first, hanging onto the ceiling by its back legs.

Leo fished around in the corpses, this time finding an old rusted dirk. I set a difficulty of Great (+4), against which Leo rolled a +5 for thrown weapons skill. The spider took yet another injury to the face - 1 stress.

At this point, the players were wondering how I was going to play out the fire. After some discussion, I finally looked at my cheat sheet on my GM screen and saw that there are some fire rules. Using this table, I decided that the spider would now take 2 stress from the fire licking its exoskeleton.

The spider now pushed off the ceiling with surprising speed, dropping straight down to land on Elros. Elros rolled Athletics to dodge the attack, achieving a mere +1. Spending a fate point, he notched it up to +2. The spider rolled a +3 for Melee, smashing Elros with one leg as Elros rolled out of the way, taking 1 stress. That made it two close calls for Elros this session.

Next session, we'll see what Rwake plans to do about the flaming, furious, massive spider.

Week after week, J takes nice pictures during the session for me to use on these session reports. This week, he managed this very nice shot of his new Fudge dice, placed among a scattered pile of fate point counters. These new Fudge dice are very befitting J's style. I'm very happy for him.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Thebes: Is this game worth playing?

A few weeks ago, when I first acquired the game Thebes, I wrote a post called "Thebes: What's in the box?". In that post, I mentioned what a beautiful game it is and briefly mentioned that my wife and I enjoyed playing it after a couple plays.

Today, I am going to tell you my impressions after 6 plays. 4 plays have been 2-player, 2 plays have been 3-player. If you are like me, you want to know whether a game is worth buying. Hopefully I can help you make your decision regarding Thebes, if you're still on the fence.

Here's what I admired after a couple initial plays:

- Theme integration: the theme was tied into every part of the game, and the archaeology theme was attractive.
- Visuals: art and components are as good as they come. I love Michael Menzel's artwork.
- Collection mechanics: During the game you hoard lots and lots of cards and tokens to store in your area.

Here's what I admire after 6 plays:

- Theme integration
- Visuals

As eager as I was to purchase this game, as excited as I was to play it at first, and as much fun as it was the first few times around, I am sad to report that I am no longer having much fun playing Thebes. Let me explain.

The most common complaint on BGG about Thebes is the luck factor. What I mean is, when you dig at the dig sites (dip your hand into the bag of tokens) you can be really lucky and score lots of good treasures, or you can get unlucky with a handful of dirt. This is not a problem, in my opinion. This luck factor actually works well with the theme. The game sticks to the theme in every other way so why not here? Realistically, if you do more research, an excavator has a better chance of digging up better artifacts, in a more efficient manner. But even if you have the most research, you might dig and dig only to find nothing. This is well-represented in the game, and doesn't pose too much of a problem. Some people who despise luck in a game will quickly be turned off by this aspect of the game - enough so that they might bail on the game after one play. Really, watching someone dig up all the good stuff, while you pull nothing but dirt, can be very disheartening.

But, that's not my problem with the game. I didn't mind the lucky digs so much. There are other ways to gain points, and you have control over how you manage your time and invest your efforts.

The game really plays out in two areas. As would be true in real life, you research, then you excavate. You can choose how often to excavate, but the meat of the game is researching. Researching looks like this: move your meeple to a city or stay where you are, then draw one of four cards. You do that a lot in this game. If you are going to enjoy playing Thebes, you need to enjoy the process of researching. There are lots of things you can collect during the researching part of the game, including:

- special knowledge
- general knowledge
- rumors and legends
- assistants
- shovels
- congress meetings
- cars
- zeppelins

And, by a different process, you can participate in exhibitions, but it still feels like research. This variety of card types is a strength of the game. It gives you lots of ways to formulate your strategic goals. Working a lot on one thing will inevitably mean you have to sacrifice others. As I mentioned above, you have to enjoy this part of the game to really have fun. I found that after 5 plays, this wasn't fun for me anymore. It didn't feel tedious necessarily, just not rewarding. It didn't feel like well-spent time. It felt like an exercise with little point because the decisions weren't heavy, tricky, or important.

For me, the decision-making in a game is one of the most important aspects. If my decisions don't feel important, the game can feel more like going through motions than actually using my brain for the sake of gaming enjoyment. I want my decisions to matter. I want to feel the tension between options. Which choice will benefit me most? Which choice is strongest for my position and long-term goals? While Thebes gives you a smidgen of this, it is not very stimulating. Too many of my decisions felt like, "Okay. Sure - I guess I'll go dig now instead of grabbing 2 more special knowledge over in Moscow." or "Congress card or 3 special knowledge for Egypt? Do I really care? Both would benefit me. Eh, I guess I'll take the congress card. Yay." Your card choices will matter if you make obviously poor ones. But, good decisions seem to usually be apparent, as in Ticket to Ride.

Well, after having made my sad decision that the game had lost its flavor for me, I decided not to play the game anymore, shelving it and preserving it as trade material (unless my wife decides she wants us to keep it, of course). After a couple weeks had gone by, the game was selected for our Boardgame Wednesday meeting. I joined the Thebes group, resolving to give it another go. Someone else in the group owns the game and so brought his copy.

The three of us started playing and for the first couple rounds, I actually found myself thinking, "This game's not so bad. It's actually kinda fun." Shortly thereafter, I realized, "Wait. I'm not having fun." The rest of the game only drove home what I had learned after my first 5 plays. Thebes was still an unrewarding game in a beautiful package.

Once I find something that interests me, I hope to trade Thebes away to someone who will really enjoy it.

Now, before I finish, I have to explain a comparison I can't ignore: Thebes vs. Mykerinos. Surely, you are thinking, "Those games are totally different!" You're partly correct. Let me show you why I make this connection.

First of all, these games share the excavating theme. It permeates every aspect of Thebes, and is only pasted on to Mykerinos, but it is there nevertheless. But, let me tell you why I would almost always choose Mykerinos over Thebes, when I'm looking to play an excavation game.

Thebes is light weight, unrewarding, and lasts 60-75 minutes, on average.

Mykerinos, on the other hand, is medium weight, very rewarding, crammed with meaningful decisions at every step, and plays out in only 45-60 minutes. It is certainly one of my favorite games.

With these two games side by side, I can't imagine why I would ever choose to play Thebes unless the following were simultaneously true:
  1. I was too mentally exhausted to think through the strategies of Mykerinos
  2. There were no other games available to play
  1. The people I was playing with needed a lighter game than Mykerinos, or already knowingly disliked Mykerinos
  2. There were no other games available to play
The likelihood of one of these two scenarios ever happening is so low that I can't see when I would choose to play Thebes. Now, if it was my wife's turn to pick a game, and she chose Thebes, fine. I'll play because that's how our system works. When you pick a game on your turn, we play it. Although, coincidentally, my wife doesn't like Mykerinos one bit, so I intentionally never pick that when it's just the two of us. =)

So there you have it. A review from someone who started off as an eager fan of Thebes, and eventually became uninterested. I'm hesitant to get rid of a game containing Michael Menzel art, but if it's not going to get played, it does no good on the shelf.

Keep in mind, I know many people really enjoy this game. My guess it that many people will also find that the game will lose its luster after more plays. The only way you'll know if this game is good for you is to try it two or three times and see if the mechanics strike a chord with your brain. For me, what started out as a lush chord eventually lost its resonance.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thankgiving gaming

For Thanksgiving, I took my family over to spend the day at my sister's house with a bunch of family. Once we had settled down and there seemed to be enough people sitting around, I asked if anyone wanted to play a game. No one seemed all that eager at the time except for my brother-in-law. So, I decided it would be fun to teach him San Juan in a 2-player setting.

We sat down and I began explaining the game when my sister (wife of my bro-in-law) pulled up a chair. I asked her if she'd like to play, and she decided to join in, making it a 3-player game.

My sister is what I would consider to be a non-gamer. My brother-in-law is a gamer who is good at strategizing in games. He's usually willing to play, but he tends to brain-burn with his decisions. The games they have played and liked are Ticket to Ride and Bohnanza.

It was an interesting session. I was fully enjoying it, as always. The other two seemed to be distracted with other conversations and such, which kept them from fully engaging. There were a few times when someone would ask, "Okay, what just happened? Is it my turn?" NGS (non-gamer sister) and CGB (casual gamer bro-in-law) didn't take long to grasp what was going on. After a few rounds they understood how each role worked. They asked me questions all throughout the game about what they should do, and what would be a good move. I helped as much as I could. San Juan can certainly bring lots of questions on a first play, with the huge variety of buildings and abilities.

CGB was the first to complete 12 buildings. I had 11 and NGS had 10. I was the only one who had built more than one 6-building (Guild Hall and City Hall). After scoring standard victory points and chapels, CGB was in the lead. When we counted 6-buildings, I pushed ahead. NGS was the only one with a palace, but she was far enough behind that it didn't help her. I came out with a 1-point lead, ahead of CGB.

I think the game felt a bit heavy to them, especially while trying to stay involved in the surrounding conversations. The experience taught me that you really have to gauge the kind of gamers you are planning to teach, and what their current ability to focus is at that time. To really enjoy a game, you have to be able to focus. The heavier the game, the more focus required, unless you're experienced at that particular game. A party game would have been much more appropriate at the time, I think.

We didn't get back to gaming until after dark, when one of the three little children had gone to bed and everyone had polished off their pie. This time around, everyone agreed to give Winner's Circle a go.

Everyone was somewhat tired at this point, so Winner's Circle fit the bill perfectly. The game is so easy to teach and has very few rules. In essence, "Place bets. Roll die. Move horse." Players this time were my two party-gamer parents (not so much into strategy games), NGS, and my gamer wife. Everyone, including my dad, who can always think of something better to do than play games, understood how the game worked quickly. My dad even won the first race with well-placed bets and lucky rolls.

The second race found my mom and me on some of the same horses, as we had been in the first race. This time, we managed to pull ahead, and now my mom was in the lead, so she started the third race. Everyone who chanced being the only better on a horse found out how risky that is, never getting their horses past the finish line. In this last race, my mom and I were on a couple of the same horses again. The rolls came up lucky for us and my mom had a triumphant win with $2000. I was second place.

This was NGS's first play of Winner's Circle. She commented that it was added to her list of games she liked playing from our collection. For those of you who have similar family or friends, take note: Ticket to Ride, Bohnanza, Winner's Circle. Anything I can get my sister to request is a good gateway game.

I was happy to have fit two games into the day, considering how many people there were, with little kids running around, and much food preparation taking place. It was a day of blessings as we thought about how thankful we were for God's rich blessings in our lives. It was a great Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2007

My board gaming story: Noob to Group Organizer

I have been a game teacher and game group organizer for a couple years now. It all began when I visited a FLGS which carried a stock of designer board games. At that time, the only designer game I owned was The Settlers of Catan, as did a handful of other people I knew. I had no idea how huge the board gaming world really was, but I very much enjoyed playing board games or card games whenever I had the chance.

So, while browsing the game selection at the FLGS, I gleefully read the backs of many boxes, eagerly searching for a potential buy. Of all the games I looked at that day, the most interesting was Bruno Faidutti’s Citadels. I didn’t buy the game that day, but I went home and started researching on the Internet.

This was when I first discovered Board Game Geek. I looked around the site briefly and reminded myself to come back later. At the time, I was intent on researching Citadels, so I went to the Fantasy Flight Games website (I had stored away the name of the Citadels publisher in my memory). On the FFG website, I browsed to the Citadels page where they had a free PDF of the rules for download. I read the rules, decided the game sounded fun, ran it by by my wife, and resolved to buy it.

I went back to Board Game Geek and read in the Citadels forums that some people prefer to sleeve their Citadels cards in Yu-Gi-Oh sleeves. I still remember that day: my wife had our only car. I asked her to go over to the FLGS and pick up Citadels. She picked me up from work that evening, and we headed over to the comic store to buy some sleeves. On the way home, I began sleeving the Citadels cards while my wife drove us home.

My wife and I quickly found that we enjoyed playing Citadels as a 2-player game. Shortly thereafter, I arranged for a several of my co-workers to meet me for a game of Citadels at lunch. This was the beginning of a string of lunchtime Citadels sessions. We were soon averaging 5-6 players regularly.

Having newly opened eyes for the world of board gaming, I decided to look at the game section at Walmart one day. In the card game section, I saw a little box with cartoony pirates on the cover - Loot. It said “Reiner Knizia” on it. I remembered reading his name on BGG and so figured maybe this would be a good game. The price tag was $4.98 (or something), so I purchased it. I quickly introduced this game to the lunch group as well, and we found that we had a blast with it.

It was around this time that my friend Jack and I started researching games like rabid beasts, as our eyes were increasingly opened to the gaming goodness that was out there for the grabbing. We communicated about our BGG research every day, and before long we were putting together our first group game order on Thought Hammer.

We found that we were having consistent lunch sessions at least once a week during the lunch hour at work. We work in an IT department, so there are plenty of geeks who enjoy various forms of gaming. After enough weeks of this arrangement, Jack and I decided it might be worth organizing a format for the weekly gaming sessions. This was the beginning of what eventually came to be known as Board Game Wednesday (BG Wed for short).

Jack and I began acquiring more games (as the addiction kicked in...), and inviting others in the group to do the same. We continued placing group game orders to expand our collections. Jack and I were the predominant buyers, while others would get in every so often with perhaps one game they had played and found they liked enough to buy.

Today, BG Wed is a smooth flowing machine. Here’s how it works. Every Monday or Tuesday, I send out an email to the group, including a list of all of the games in our combined collection. This list is organized by weight into three categories: Filler, Light, and Medium. Every person in the group has the opportunity to vote. If they have a game in mind that they know they want to play, they send me a vote for it. If they don't care what we play, they don't vote. All the votes come in to me. Usually 2-5 votes come in. We call the players who send in votes “champions” - they’re championing a game. This is where Jack comes in. Jack maintains a Ladder of Champions, which is just a table containing a list of:
  • all players
  • when they last won or lost a vote
  • how many times they have won or lost when championing a game
When a game you vote for gets played, you get pushed to the bottom of the ladder. Whoever is at the top of the ladder gets priority when they champion a game.

When the votes come in, I look to see which voters are at the top of the ladder. Then, I look at the games they championed and decide how many games we’ll be likely to play considering the number of players we are likely to have that week. Sometimes we can have two or three games played simultaneously depending on how many people show up, and how many players can sit at one game. Then, I send out an email saying which games we will be playing (those chosen by the players highest on the ladder), and I include a number of slots for players to fill in their names for the game they want to play. This way, we can have the groups organized before we meet up on Wednesday. Every so often, the number of players expected to show up can be unpredictable, and we’ll just each bring a couple games and pick one when we meet up, but this is not a common occurrence. We jokingly call this the "arm wrestle" method.

"Let's play my game!!"
"No, MY game!!"
"No, MINE!!!"

Fortunately, the group is pretty chilled out, and we quickly and peacefully select a game.

One of the guys in our group set up an online wiki for us. We use this wiki to track our gaming statistics. One page includes a table of:

  • every game we have
  • how many players each game can handle
  • who owns each game
  • how many plays each game has had
  • when the last play was
Another page is just a simple list of every game we have, ordered by weight (depth of gameplay), as I mentioned earlier. The last page is a statistics page where Jack keeps track of various figures, including:
  • who has won the most plays for each category of game
  • the Ladder of Champions
  • the First Buyer’s Club (how many games each person has been the first to introduce to the group)
Until a few months ago, we were writing brief session logs for every game we played. It turned out that no one was reading them, so Jack and I finally gave up the effort and bailed on logging sessions.

So there you have it - an overview of how I got into the hobby of board gaming, how Jack and I organized a gaming group, and how Board Game Wednesday works.

Currently, my game collection includes almost all games that support two or more players. I also have a handful of 2-player only games. This is because I play primarily with my wife. BG Wed is nice because it gives me a chance to play my games with more than two players, and an opportunity to play other people’s games without having to buy them myself. It’s also a fascinating opportunity to observe different types of gamers and the different ways their brains function with various games. This interaction with others is what makes the hobby so enjoyable. Playing with real people is a chance to talk, share, joke, and get to know one another while engaging in a mentally stimulating activity. Play for fun, not just to win!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

My favorite gaming podcasts

I have tested various podcasts in my life, and have bailed on many. There are lots of fair podcasts out there, but few great ones. After trying out a number of podcasts about my interests, there are only three that I continue to listen to regularly. These three podcasts are worth the time because they always offer something new, they offer information that will benefit me as a gamer, and they are fun to listen to on account of the interesting or funny commentary given by the hosts. Two of these podcasts are boardgaming podcasts, the third is a podcast for game masters of RPGs.

I have listened to The Dice Tower for a long time. I quickly came to enjoy the loads of information presented by Tom Vasel and his co-host, Sam Healey. The Dice Tower hosts are missionaries in South Korea who find time to put together excellent shows.

Tom is into almost every type of board and card game. He has 1000+ games in his collection. He publishes his personal top 100 games every year (this year he did the top 200). He is also a prolific game reviewer. You can read his reviews on a number of different websites, but I usually read them on Board Game Geek.

One of the features which first drew me in to the Dice Tower podcast was their top ten lists. Every episode includes a top ten list from the hosts or from their guests. Of course, when it comes to taste, there are going to be many different preferences, but I always enjoy hearing the top ten lists from these guys. Typically, the top ten list presenters are people with vast gaming experience either in general, or in a specific genre of games.

They used to do reviews, but fortunately, those seem to be few and far between now. Listening to reviews in audio form was very boring for me. I'm glad this part of the show seems to be somewhat absent now. I'm much more interested in brief opinions than lengthy explanations of gameplay, which can be difficult to visualize.

The Dice Tower also runs contests, which typically have easy ways to enter. Winners usually win a new game.

They also have some great guest spots on the show, giving listeners the chance to hear interesting commentary from experts in the gaming world.

I highly recommend this show. It comes out every two weeks and can be downloaded for free from the iTunes store in standard or enhanced format (has pictures embedded).

The Spiel is a fun podcast by two eager game lovers - Stephen Conway and David Coleson. These guys run an enthusiastic show every two weeks, from their "padded cell in Indiana". They use an enhanced format loaded with pictures. The show is very well-crafted and organized, featuring the same segments each time.

They have a feature called "The List". This is a collection of games they own, but have not yet played. Their goal is to eventually get through them all. They will talk about these games each show, as they play them and mark them off the list.

Other interesting features include:
Game Sommelier: one of the hosts is given the challenge to find 5 games fitting a particular need
News and Notes: keeping us up to date on relevant gaming news
Backshelf Spotlight: giving lesser-known games some attention
Truckloads of Goober: a section about games with lots of components, or unique components
Name That Game: a contest with clues which the listeners must decipher to figure out what game the hosts have in mind

One thing you should know: these guys are not very critical. They love almost every game. It is rare to ever hear them dislike a game. If you want to know the good points about a game, David and Stephen are sure to find them.

This is a very fun show, and you will hear lots of information about lots of games. Don't miss it.

The third podcast I listen to regularly is the Sons of Kryos. This is a podcast targeting game masters (GMs), hosted by Jeff Lower, Judd Karlman, and Storn A. Cook. They tend to discuss mostly indie titles. These guys have tons of experience running a huge spectrum of games. They have loads of tips for GMs, as well as detailed thoughts and discussions about every facet of roleplaying, in terms of both playing and GMing.

They also post interviews from cons, and have the occasional guest. If you are a GM looking for pointers from the masters, download this podcast and give it a try.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Fate: Dark and Stormy report #9

After a few weeks off, the whole team was back together to pick up our adventure through Hightower tor. This week, it was Leo's turn to start us off.

Leo, pleased with his new sword, attempted to hack at the nearest spider leg he could get to. I approved the use of his Fists skill for this attempt. His Fists skill (+2), a +1 roll, and a -1 (supplemental action to get up and run at the leg) gave him a +2. Here, I mistakenly rolled using the spider's Endurance skill, which we later decided wouldn't really be the correct roll. I should have simply given the task a difficulty, or had the spider fight back with something like his Melee skill. The spider's roll, in any case, came up a +5. Leo did no damage. Below, you can see Elros and Leo positioned for attack. Our makeshift spider was quickly prepared by Llama before the game.

The spider now lifted a leg to squash Leo, rolling a total of +5 for Melee. Leo rolled for Athletics, hoping to dodge the blow, rolling a total of -1. Leo's player, J, said, "Having been trained in this type of dodging by Sporren, Leo is likely to get a successful dodge". So, using his "Trained by Sporren" aspect, J rerolled, acquiring a +3 total. I informed him that this wasn't enough to dodge the spider's +5 attack. J used Leo's "I've still got what it takes" aspect, saying, "Leo doesn't want to fail in front of his younger party members, he puts in extra effort to use the spider's leg to push off of and move himself out of the way." Adding +2 for his aspect, and spending a fate point, Leo successfully used the spider's leg to pull himself out of the way of danger, rolling to the side.

Rwake, still wrapped in webs up to the waste, pulled out a 10-inch dart, dipped it in spicy hot chubo juice, and loaded his blowgun. Aiming for the spider's eyes, he shot, rolling a -1. The spider rolled a +3, a fact I disclosed to Llama, Rwake's player. Llama used Rwake's "I can blind both eyes of a snake. With one shot. As it strikes." aspect to attempt an improved blowgun attack, paying a fate point. He rerolled, getting a +1 this time, still not enough to succeed against the dodging spider. Below you can see Rwake back in the hallway, launching his blowgun attack.

Elros harnessed as much Energy magic as he could and channeled it at Leo in an attempt to lift Leo up onto the spider's back. I decided the difficulty would be Great (+4) for this feat. After all, he didn't have much time, Leo was a relatively heavy item to lift, and he was trying to lift Leo a long way up with a lot of control. He got a base roll of -1, added his Energy Magic skill of +5, and spent a fate point to invoke his "Trained at Prestigious Highcloud Tower" aspect to add 2, giving him a total success of 2. In my magic system, this is called a Level 2 spell. Because he had rolled a high Resolve check before casting, the spell did no composure stress to him. Leo soared up and landed directly on the back of the monstrous spider.

Leo used his Close at Hand stunt to pull a chisel and hammer quickly from somewhere on his person, with no supplemental action deficit. He felt around for a joint in the spider's exoskeleton. Then, jamming his chisel into the joint, he began hammering it with all his might. Again, I allowed him to use his Fists skill (+2), since this seemed like close range melee combat to me. I gave this attempt a difficulty of Great (+4) because, according to the SotC table of breaking things, the exoskeleton was agreed by all to probably have Great thickness. Leo rolled a +2, giving him a total of 4. He would need more than that to do damage.

Elros wanted to help, so I allowed him to use a feature of Fate 2e: to spend two of his own fate points to give a +1 to Leo's roll. This gave Leo one shift, which I counted as damage against the spider. SotC experts may find some errors with my GMing in here. I admit I may not be right on with the rules, but for our group, flow and cinematics are more important than looking up rules during the session. I run my rulings by the group before using them, and they approve. Here's Leo on the huge spider.

The enraged spider screeched again and reared back to throw little Leo from his back. The spider's roll of +2, plus his Melee skill of +4, gave him a total of +6. Leo rolled a +3 for Might to hang on to the spider's hair, but lost his grip and flew back several feet to land on the hard ground, amidst piles of cocooned corpses. Stunned, he took a moment to look around and decide what to do next.

Rwake, finally fed up with his stationary state, lit a torch and burned up the webs still binding his legs, saturating the area with an acrid stench worse than burnt hair.

Elros had managed to stay safely positioned in front of the spider during all of this, and now decided to use his skill as a swordsman and attack. His initial roll was not great. But with his Swordsmanship skill and his "Never good enough" aspect (for which he spent a fate point), he boosted it up to a +6, remembering his humiliation at being defeated by the king's champion all those years ago. Strengthened by his resolve to succeed, he leaped forward, aiming a deadly stab at the spider's exposed underbelly as it launched Leo from its back. I set the difficulty of damaging the underbelly to Good (+3). This gave Elros 3 shifts. The spider took 3 damage. The sword had pierced the spider's belly, but not deeply.

We begin next time, once again, with Leo.

This was a great session. First of all, we were glad to finally be playing again after the few weeks off. But on top of that, everyone contributed to a very creative and cinematic session. AC always works hard at making Elros' actions interesting, and he really delivered today with his "make Leo fly" action. Then, on top of that, when J took the camera, he delighted us all by having Leo pull out a chisel and hammer of all things! All in all, it was an exciting session, reminding us all what a great hobby roleplaying is.

Spirit of the Century: actual play reports on

On the Fate Yahoo group, some GMs have posted links to actual play reports. "Actual play" means they are recording sessions of actual gameplay, the way I record them here on Games on the Table. Some are in text form, some are in audio form.

Someone recently posted a thorough actual play thread for Spirit of the Century on The campaign is called The Empire City Centurions. Read it here.

I appreciate when people take the huge amount of time required to write detailed accounts like this. If you are still learning Spirit of the Century, these types of actual play reports are useful for learning the mechanics by watching them in action.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Brief Overview Series Ep. 2: The Downfall of Pompeii

I'm posting a bit earlier than normal this week.

Today, I posted the second video in my "brief overview" series. In these videos I explain the basic workings and features of the game to give viewers an idea of whether or not they would like to purchase the game, or just to familiarize players with the game before their first play. The first video in the series was for the game Oltre Mare. Watch the video here. People seemed to find this video useful, and a few people asked for more of the same.

So here's a brief overview of The Downfall of Pompeii. Enjoy!