Total Rickall Card Game Review

It seemed a little odd at first, but crazy Grandpa Rick wrote the number six on the wall and you only conviniently noticed it now. Turns out the house has been infected by brain parasites and th number was so that he could remember how many people were truly in the household. Total Rickall is a cooperative card game put out by Cryptozoic Entertainment. The game is based on the episode of Rick and Morty which, for anybody not in the loop, is a cartoon on the late night program, Adult Swim. In the episode, the familyis subject to brain parasites that puts fake memories into your head, forcing people aware of it to question whether anyone you remember is real or fake. 

The episode itself is a confusing mishmash of false memories that is ultimately hilarious, a vibe that the game captures extremely well. You don’t need to watch Rick and Morty to enjoy this game, but seriously, why wouldn’t you? The game features character cards and identity cards for the board. You set up a 3×3 grid of face down identity cards and then flip character cards face up on them. The character cards are the crazy characters from the episode like Baby Wizard and Amish Cyborg. Representing the uncertainty of the episode itself, each character can either be real or a parasite. Character cards are color coded to help the cards in the player’s hand of action cards be useful, as they allow them to interact with characters of a certain color. Whether it’s shooting them or simply peeking at their identity, players are encouraged to work together but they can’t explicitly say what cards they are going to use or have in their hand.

That little rule makes this game not only strategic, but a hilarious form of roleplaying that is simple and fun. Saying that you have a blue shooting card is against the rules, but saying that one of those red guys are going to get smoked next turn isn’t. There are cards to shoot, peek at character identities, swap identities around, or even force other players to shoot charaters. You have to be careful with the shooting, though, because when four real characters are shot, the team loses. This mode of the game is called cooperative mode and is good to get the rules down. When your group is looking to stir the pot, there’s advanced mode. Advanced mode assigns players identity and character cards, making it so that players can’t be completely trusted as they may be a parasite. 

Advanced mode makes the game hilarious as it quickly devolves into players with “real” identities only trusting themselves. When your identity card is parasite, you win by making the real characters lose. When you’re killed, real or not, you’re assigned a new identity and character card, continuing the game. Interestingly enough, when cards are played where identities are shuffled, it includes the identity of a player with a character card of that color. In short, trust no one but your ammunition!

A friend of mine picked up the game because it was really cheap (around $10 US) and simply showed up with it one day. Calling the Avengers to assemble, we had four Rick and Morty fans total to play the game and it was a complete blast. Being involved in RPGs normally, the roleplay part oft he game became a huge part of the game, giving us an endless amount of laughs throughout the duration. It’s a mechanically simple game that we were able to pick up in just two rounds of play, making it a quick game to play. The only thing that could make this game take long is an indecisive group, because the only way to win is to get through the character deck and kill all the parasites. It’s safe to say that this game has made it into our options list for off nights when we don’t have enough players for an RPG. It’s a pretty easy game to find, as it’s on Amazon. Pick it up, gather your friends, and trust no one.
Stay Metal \m/

Favoring Dice

Recently I ran Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars: Edge of the Empire. It was not my first time using FFG’s dice system, but it was my first time GMing a game within that system. Nearly needless to say, it was a little clunky for multiple reasons; The group I got together was a bit of a last minute one, it had been over 5 months since I had last played this system, I didn’t have a grasp of the rules in order to run it smoothly, I had only read the first 5 pages of the adventure I was running, the list goes on.

Miraculously, we all had a blast playing through the first two “Episodes” of Under a Black Sun, an adventure you can get for free on Fantasy Flight’s website. We used the pregens you could get in the same location, but having only three players, we fielded only the wookie, human and trandoshan. That left the bothan and rodian off the table, the bothan being the hacker. Considering the adventure was about stealing digital information from a Black Sun hideout, it was kind of silly but we glossed over the details. The adventure started us right in the middle of the heist, the PC’s making their getaway.

As I’ve mentioned before, the dice system powering this game does an immaculate job at making the game feel epic, action packed, and ever-changing. While we were playing though, one of the players brought something to my attention. He made a roll, where all successes and failures cancelled each other out leaving a lone advantage symbol. According to the rules, this resolves as a failure with an advantage. When I revealed this to him he seemed a little disappointed and said, “That’s weird that the dice favor the house.”

It took me a minute to digest what he had said but, damn it, he was right. After the game was over I stewed over the statement for a while, thinking why games are “meet or exceed” while others are simply “exceed.” Honestly, I couldn’t think of an answer, but I could think of how it affects game play. Most games I’ve played weigh their dice in favor of the players. Dungeons and Dragons, any edition, is probably what comes to everyone’s mind when discussing this sort of topic. When you roll an attack, it has to be equal to or higher than the targets armor class. When you make a save, it has to be equal to or higher than whatever the save value is of the spell/poison/whatever. We don’t think about it often, but that actually does affect the statistical outcome of how likely it is for you to succeed or fail.

With that, generally speaking, the player succeeds more than they fail. Obviously, that hinges on how difficult a task is or how the PC is statted, etc. etc., but overall that tells you the tone the writers had intended. FFG’s system is the first I’ve played that is slanted away from the player, and I find that really interesting because I can’t decide if it really is. On the one hand, you don’t have the “equal to” type of roll result. On the other, you can still fail and get something out of it because of advantage and triumph, so in actuality, is it really slanted against you? I say no, and here’s why: The mechanics of advantage and triumph add that third dimension to the game. It’s not just success or failure, but rather catches the complexity of performing a task in our real world. Maybe the rocket you were trying to craft takes off and flies for a bit but quickly overheats and blows up prematurely, taking out a small ship instead of damaging the big one you were aiming for.

Ultimately that goes back to the “fail forward” type mentality. In essence, the Star Wars FFG game is very fail forward-centric, but with a huge emphasis on the fail since you lose ties. I’m not entirely sure I prefer this idea over the D20 mechanics I’ve grown so accustomed to. but I can say that it makes it an immensely interesting game to play. From a design aspect, I tip my hat over to you guys at Fantasy Flight. You’ve instilled thought into me, and that’s what interacting with people is about, right?

 

What do you prefer? Reach out and start a conversation!

 

Stay Metal \m/

Computer RPG’s vs. Tabletop

photo from Geek and Sundry

It’s the eternal struggle, gamers continually being divided by the platform in which they game. Strong opinions, pigheaded preferences and perhaps a little misunderstanding on both sides of the tape. Some of the younger people won’t understand that expression, but it matters not! A role playing game is a role playing game, no ifs, ands or buts about it. However, a very different experience can be pulled from the platform in which you experience them. We know which one I personally prefer, just based off of the content of this blog, but what’re the main differences between the two? There are some that I believe are overlooked.

The first thing that comes to my mind as the stark difference between the two is the visual experience. GM’s for TTRPG’s can create handouts, use miniatures and maps, maybe even dress up occasionally (though I certainly have never done that myself). It’s no secret, though, that a computer or video game console does this not only differently but, in my opinion, better. Playing a CRPG is like watching a movie, sometimes. Imagination can be a very powerful and mind-altering thing, but sometimes it can’t stand up to a good movie or video game. Descriptions from a good GM can help catapult us into the world in which we are playing, without question, but the visual power of CRPGs, or just video games in general, is colossal. This could be one of the reasons why CRPGs have exploded. Actually seeing a character with an unfamiliar voice that is acted out is a completely different experience than having your friend of twenty years pretend to be someone else.

Visual immersion is certainly not the only reason, however. CRPGs take a hell of a lot less time and coordination. Having just switched my personal game to a bi-weekly schedule, this point really hits home. Many TTRPG sessions are missed or interrupted because it involves multiple people with their own schedules and lives. A single player, or even a massive multiplayer online (MMO), CRPG can be picked up and put down based off the schedule of one person: You. That certainly makes getting your dose of imagination incredibly easier. Usually being able to play such things in your own home also helps squeezing in the time to do it. Not having to travel, wait for other people to travel to a specific location and then considering the ride home makes a huge difference in how we manage gaming in our schedules.

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For those who really disdain math, a CRPG has a leg up on tabletop again. With the computer doing it all for you, all you have to worry about is your base stats, if that particular game even lets you customize them. There’s always a degree of customizability in CRPG’s, but it’s not always the same as things like Strength, Constitution and Dexterity. Changing how these functions work may be appealing to some people because this cuts down on the work you put into the game. Running around, killing things and finding stuff in a video format is very pleasing. Especially without having to add or multiply numbers and remembering how a spell or attack functions rules-wise. With the computer being the GM, you also don’t have the added preparation of making up a story, building encounters and everything else that role comes with. You just hop on, have your fun and move on from there.

For the tabletop people reading things, you’re probably thinking, wow, he’s really bashing tabletop right now. Think again, because that is about all the CRPGs have to offer, in my opinion. There’s a reason I have a preference between the two. For me, CRPG’s are really bad at one thing in particular: person to person interaction. I don’t mean inter-character, but actual people. The internet has taught us that being physically removed from a situation changes the way some people interact with said situation. If you’re sitting at a table with a bunch of friends, you have pretty much no choice but to be there and experience whatever is happening. How you deal with that is very different between the two gaming platforms. That personal connection between everyone you’re sharing a room with makes the gaming bond stronger, or at least to me it does. It doesn’t help with being in the game, everybody has to buy into that on their own, but it does help you realize that there’s people behind this and it’s not completely make believe. This whole concept does come with its own drawbacks, but seeing how people deal with each other in matters like government and society, it’s not surprising as to how it can play out.

A huge part of why people play RPG’s is to experience a story. In the case of CRPG’s, the story is laid out for you. Sure, you have agency, but programming is limited to what it has been told it can and can’t do. Consequently, implementing your  own imagination into the game is limited to what the programmer of the game has outlined. TTRPG’s win the contest on that front. If you have a good group and GM, a story can last years and you’ll have an immense amount of control over what happens. Being more collaborative, it doesn’t always go your way, but you at least get to talk about things and give it a shot. The world is your canvas, and the GM has handed you a brush!

To some, it may be a little strange that I give up a lot of the luxurious aspects of computer gaming to sit in a probably too humid room with a bunch of people and play pretend. But for those people: remember where you came from. It’s debatable whether or not computer role playing games would have existed without pen and paper ones, but would they have gained as much traction without them? I personally say no. So for those who have grown up with computer games, I highly recommend giving tabletop a try. It’s a different way to experience an idea that you love, and don’t let a bad first experience ruin it for you.

Start a discussion, I’d love to hear your ideas.

 

Stay Metal \m/

 

Adventure Game vs. RPG

When I think of an adventure game, I personally think Talisman. I sat down to randomly play that one time at Battleground Games and Hobbies, the local watering hole. It was my first shot at an adventure game (besides some early run ins with HeroQuest) and it was actually really interesting and fun. The problem was mainly the length. But is that really a problem though?

Sticking an adventure game next to, say an RPG, no. RPG campaigns last years and years, sometimes. Are they really that different from one another? It’s a complicated question. In spirit, they are very much the same thing: a means of telling an interactive story with a group of friends. That’s about where the similarities end, though. However, I really think that adventure games have a huge relevance among role playing enthusiasts. They’re really good at introducing somebody who, say, likes board games but thinks RPGs are weird or archaic to the concept. The Dungeons and Dragons adventure games (though I have no experience with them) seem to be a happy medium between board and role playing games. That sneaky idea won’t work with an IP as huge as D&D but  something more subtle like Talisman might be appealing to someone who thinks RPG’s are silly.

I could also see adventure games being really useful in a gaming group that struggles to get everybody onboard every week. Games of HeroQuest have been played with only two people and been immensely satisfying, and that could work when only some of your group is in for the night. In my opinion, adventure games don’t scratch the same itch as RPGs but they get pretty damn close. We all know that missing a game one week can throw the whole flow of the group off kilter. Adventure games could definitely help combat that. An itch that could be scratched by adventure games, however, is that hack-and-slash type tendency that so many role players have. If you find yourself in the midst of a campaign saturated with politics and intrigue, maybe it’d be a good idea to take a break one week and play something like HeroQuest, where you literally go room to room and beat monsters up.

What’s greater still, and an important lesson I learned at that game store, an adventure game can be exactly like a role playing game but with less math-ish mechanics.  The session I played in was riddled with dialogue and character interaction instead of just roll dice, move, draw a card, see what happens. It was very rich and engaging and incredibly personal. If the guys who read that remember playing with me, total shout out to you because it was an eye opening experience. Just like with most games you can get a lot more out of it if you just put some effort in.

Starting a Hobby

After many weeks or months of curiosity, you’ve finally located your friendly local game store to browse around and purchase your first RPG book. You walk in and see a group of people crowded around a table, clearly playing a game with no pieces, board or tokens. Nothing but oddly shaped dice, excited voices and stacks of worn tomes. Turning to the large wall strewn with books of various shapes, sizes, art styles and color schemes, you’re almost a bit intimidated. That begs the question: Where do I start?

Navigating the world of tabletop RPGs can be like taking an evening stroll through a minefield. Your first experience can be so touchy and can shape the way that you view the hobby as a whole if it’s bad. The first nugget of info I can honestly give; don’t let that first experience be your last if it was terrible. Before you dive headlong into this great hobby, try to play with some people who have experience first, for good or for ill. Mainly this is to see how the idea of the game is brought to life rather than learning mechanics specifically. Every system is different and therefore the rules aren’t terribly important until you’re playing that particular game. A first time game that goes well can be something that puts you up on cloud 9 and fills you with a ravenous hunger for more. Search for that good experience, it’ll be the best thing you ever do. That leads us to where specifically to start. If you’re lucky enough to find an established group that’s willing to let you take a whack at it, jump in head first.

Not all RPGs are particularly friendly to newcomers, however. A game like Shadowrun or Legend of the Five Rings very much have reputations for being “elite” level role playing games. Don’t let the term “elite” fool you, it doesn’t mean that there’s a hierarchy of role players like there is in, say, a tabletop war-game community. The mechanics are very specific, pretty complicated and can be very demanding of attention. This takes away from the overall balanced experience of role playing and execution of mechanics. My advice would be to avoid those games for a first RPG experience unless you’re in for the challenge. That might warrant a lot of hate from the community, but I believe it’s a good idea to start simple and work up to complicated according to taste of the individual player. It’s far better to be underwhelmed than overwhelmed.

This is where things get tricky: What if I can’t find a group that will take me in and have to start my own? Learning an RPG in a group setting without someone that’s familiar with what you’re playing can be tricky. Especially if you simply purchase a book based on the artwork and no resources to indicate what the game itself is like. In fairness, we do live in an age where every piece of information you could ever want is at your fingertips, but this is hypothetical. So where do I recommend starting? Most people come from a video game community into the tabletop RPG world, so my opinion may be unpopular…

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Image credit to Monkey in the Cage

Yup, D&D 4th edition. Before you slip into an edition wars rage, hear me out. If you’re coming from a video game setting and are completely unfamiliar with RPG’s, this is probably the most clear cut parallel to video games. Therefore, it will be the easiest to understand in translation from screen to table. It’s also the most similar to a board game, making it very relatable and new player friendly.

There’s  long list of drawbacks that come with this edition, don’t get me wrong. It falls apart at higher levels, the combats take an incredibly long time, miniatures and a battlemat are required, and role playing is entirely up to the players with no mechanics to speak of that back it up. Not to mention that you need to buy three books to play the game essentially, but there’s a lot to be taken form 4e that has helped shape the modern RPG community. As a warning, I may be a little biased because this is where I started. Would I go back? Maybe for a one off, but not for a long term campaign. It is the easiest transition piece in my opinion, though.

If you’re not coming from a video game background, there’s a lot of other games I’d recommend. With more bias, 13th Age is a fantastic blend of mechanical role playing, mechanical combat, player agency, epic stories and, to wrap it up with a pretty bow, can be played with only one book. From there, if you want to go more narrative and less mechanics, a game like Lasers and Feelings has a huge advantage. The rules are one page long for both the player and game master and you need one six sided die. That’s the entire game. If you’re looking for that epic story, that’s certainly not the game for you, but such a story requires more mechanics.

For a more modern/investigative game, Night’s Black Agents lends itself well to new players due to the simplicity of Pelgrane Press’ Gumshoe system. Fantasy Flight’s Star Wars role playing series (Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion and Force and Destiny) has some pretty awesome starter box content that gives you a little of everything to get the dice rolling. Finding a group is a challenge within itself, but there are great mediums like the website Meetup  that lend themselves nicely to people looking for some social interaction. I had a great experience with Meetup when I moved to Phoenix, AZ for six months. I found a very nice 3.5 group that I played with the entirety of my stay and had a blast.

Be persistent, be patient, and most of all, don’t forget to have fun.

 

Stay Metal \m/

At A Glance: Age of Rebellion

Fantasy Flight Games has the licencing for the Star Wars IP in a death grip, and man, are they doing it right! I’m a little late to the party, seeing how Force and Destiny is already out to either augment this game or stand by itself, but this is what I’m playing at the moment. So why not talk about it?

Star Wars: Age of Rebellion Role Playing Game is the ultimate cinema-to-tabletop experience. The setting is during the original Star Wars film trilogy and the rules in place really help bring that feeling to the game. Although we know that Disney is running Star Wars now, this game takes a lot of the extended universe into mind. HA! Take that, nerfherders! For me, it was love at first sight when it came to the art. I was totally invested in playing this game before I even read a single word out of the damn book because of how well the art was done.

Upon cracking this sucker open and devouring the contents inside, I wasn’t disappointed. There’s enough complexity to the system to keep you interested, but it also heavily leans on story telling and dramatic situations. Hell, it’s even built right into the game! At the start of the session, each player rolls a special, white d12 (though, that’s not saying much seeing how all the dice for this game are unique to it) to see how many Light or Dark Side points are available for use in the session. What does this mean? Well, for all you guys that follow me regularly on here, you know that I’m a fan of the Icon Relationships mechanic of 13th Age. This is basically the Star Wars equivalent. The difference here is that the Light Side points are for the players where the Dark Side points are for the GM to use. It’s essentially an auto-succeed type mechanic but to create an interesting situation, whether it’s dramatic or comical.

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So I mentioned unique dice, and it’s truly marketing genius on Fantasy Flight’s end. You either purchase these dice separate, or you buy the starter box before you get the core book. Personally, I don’t mind shelling out cash for a quality product, but the unique dice could be a drawback for someone who’s less liberal with their budget than I. Anyway, how do they function? The game focuses on the idea of a cancellation system. Green dice are ability dice, yellow are proficiency, purple are difficulty and red are challenge dice. Based off the picture above, you can see that they have special symbols instead of numbers on them to kind of iterate how they work. The little hit symbols cancel with the triangles and the U-shaped symbols cancel with the Imperial insignia-like symbols. Uncancelled results determine the outcome of the check. It’s a pretty nifty way to handle it, very different from d20 systems and a very refreshing way to play. Anybody who is familiar with their X-Wing Miniatures game will be very familiar with the concept.

Anybody who reads this blog knows that I love simplicity, and this game has it nailed down. Everything is rolled at the same time, so you get to roll the difficulty dice directly against your dice. It adds this layer of tension to any roll because you can tangibly see what happens, as opposed to an arbitrary target number that the GM comes up with in d20 games.

Having yet to GM this game, I can’t give it a truly proper review. This was my GM relief system when some people from my group and I came back from Gen Con. We had someone else from the group that didn’t come on the trip run the game, seeing how he’s the epic Star Wars nerd out of all of us. With around a hundred novels of knowledge under his belt, who better to run the game? Needless to say, he knocked it out of the park and helped make the rules system in place play like the movies feel. Age of Rebellion will definitely be in our regular rotation of tabletop games! Keep your eyes peeled for a proper review once I gain some more experience with it.

 

Stay Metal \m/

Post Gen Con 2016 Give Away!!

Well, hello there, gaming guys and gals! If you haven’t read it yet, I had an amazing adventure at Gen Con 2016 with many friends and notable peoples in the industry. Pelgrane Press in particular had a fantastic deal going on at the booth: buy four books for the price of three. An absolute snag, if you ask me.

So, I did just that (or rather Fancy Duckie did because she loves me), and procured some fantastic supplements for 13th Age. With the purchase of those books, I got a free copy of the Free RPG Day setup from this year, the two Pelgrane adventures. Being a Pelgrane Press GM, I already had one of these but they insisted we get another gratis anyway.

Essentially, I had a free copy of this sitting around after the convention, not entirely sure what to do with it. I thought of a cool way to give back to you guys who have so valiantly supported me and this website, and thus am running this free giveaway! Cat Tobin over at Pelgrane was more than gracious to give me the green light to send this little gem out.

With that, it begs the question, what the hell am I giving away? It’s a printed copy of the Free RPG Day adventures from Pelgrane Press: Swords Against the Dead for 13th Age and The Van Helsing Letter for Night’s Black Agents, both written by Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan, the author of the brilliant supplement Eyes of the Stone Thief. Both adventures come with six pre-generated characters that are ready to rock and roll. Sadly, the pages aren’t perforated so one can assume to make use of them they need to be copied or scanned/printed. The disclaimer here is that this is a GM book, designed for people who know both systems (the Archmage Engine and Gumshoe).

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Give Away Entry/Guidelines

  1. The give away will be run from today, August 14, 2016 to Septermber 14th, 2016
  2. Enter by subscribing to the Heavy Metal GM using your email or WordPress account
  3. Your contact info (either WordPress account or email address) will be recorded and given a number.
  4. On September 14th, 2016 a random number will be picked and that person is the winner.
  5. Product shipping will be covered for North America ONLY! Recipients on other continents will have to cover shipping via Pay Pal.
  6. Only ONE entry per-person.

 

This is my way of giving back to you guys, my wonderful community. Thank you so much for the love and support.

Good Luck

Stay Metal \m/

KICKSTARTER REVIEW: Murders & Acquisitions RPG

This game sounds ridiculously funny, fund it if you can!

Melvin Smif's Geekery

Hey all! I’m deeply embroiled in board games today at Geekway to the West but through the magic of computers I’m speaking to you about yet another excellent Kickstarter run! This time it’s something most assuredly a bit more “indy”. Speaking of Kickstarters though, the Acadecon 2016 Kickstarter has run its course…and FULLY FUNDED! So I will hopefully see you in November. If you missed the Kickstarter have no fear, you can still get a badge and attend. Just head over to the website and buy one. It’s also a good place to check out details for Dayton, look up hotel rooms, check the special guests, and even the schedule of events.*

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The Murders and Acquisitions RPG comes to us from Craig Cambell, you may have seen some of his work as a freelancer for various RPGs like D&D, Iron Kingdoms, or Gamma World. M&A RPG is his first foray into publishing…

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Gen Con 2016 Events!

I woke up to a pleasant surprise this morning, I hadn’t realized that the Gen Con event list had been released! Referencing my own GMing schedule, I was trying to get a basic outline of what my con experience was to be like. Have to admit though, I’m pretty sad that I’m missing a lot of school stuff, like the 13th Age Monster Building seminar.

But hey, I’m also running some sweet games! Since the event schedule is out, I’ll post what I’m running up here now:

  • Into the Underworld: Lost in the Dark Part 1: Friday 4pm-6pm (ID: RPG1688397)
  • Into the Underworld: Lost in the Dark Part 2: Friday 6pm-8pm (ID: RPG1688367)
  • Into the Underworld: Lost in the Dark Part 3: Friday 8pm-10pm (ID: RPG1688366)
  • The Gauntlet: Saturday 10am-2pm (ID: RPG1693211)
  • Into the Underworld: The Undying City Part 1: Saturday 4pm-6pm (ID: RPG1688392)
  • Into the Underworld: The Undying City Part 2: Saturday 6pm-8 pm (ID: RPG1688393)

There was supposed to be one more adventure I was running called Swords Against Hell but I didn’t see it on the event list. I sent an email to Cat Tobin to see what’s up so as soon as I know, this will be updated!

Besides this stuff, I’m not entirely sure what my con schedule looks like. I’d love to meet up with some people who follow the blog at the con, so please, reach out to me!

Stay Metal \m/

Striking A Balance: Reality vs. Fantasy

 

Photos from Deviant Art and Final FantasyXIV

Hey folks! Something I see more and more every day is discussions about realism in fantasy. As someone interested in history, but is also a huge fantasy nerd, it’s something I would really enjoy talking about.  So, for your viewing pleasure, I put above two reasonable examples of each side. The left is a drawing from a Deviant Art page that seems to represent a medieval infantryman wearing plate armor and carrying something akin to what appears to be a hand and a half, or bastard, sword. This guy historically would have had to been pretty rich to afford that armor and blade, but the structure of the image at face value is very realistic in comparison to archaeological finds. Then on the right, we have some sort of knight from Final Fantasy (not a game I’m familiar with) wearing terribly spiky armor with a low visibility helmet and a ludicrously large blade, something the franchise seems to be famous for.

So where am I going with this? Well, the most fun (for me) in a tabletop setting seems to be somewhere in the middle of realism and over the top fantasy. As a fan of history, seeing works, be it stories, movies or games, that pay close attention to the detail of real arms and armor hits a bit of a soft spot with me. Real arms and armor serve as a good model for one simple reason: It worked! Armor had one function and that was to protect the wearer. Armor evolved over time because weapons were being similarly modified to combat the quality of armor. But here we see the creators of such things in our world focused balance between protection and mobility because they’re held to the cruel laws of our reality. Fantasy arms and armor seem to take this concept and say, “To hell with that!” and just create anything and everything that looks cool.

A great sword is one hell of a weapon, even when crafted conservatively. That beast in the picture on the right would be hard to swing at the broad side of a barn effectively, never mind hit a living being that wants to protect itself. But it looks so damn cool! It’s a shame that it doesn’t make sense in real life.

This is where we find our middle ground. I suppose this post will turn into a GM advice post approximately… Now.

In a creative game setting, finding your perfect middle ground is totally subjective to your group. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with crazy, over the top fantasy if your players find it amazingly fun, but hear me out. Having some sense of realism in your fantasy world reinforces the fact that player choices have consequences that the may or may not like. If you describe something that sounds closely related to the world we live in, it gives the setting weight. At the same time, a fantasy setting should have the marvelous, strange and wonderful in certain places as well. It helps bring about that surreal feeling of magic and awe. Usually, with arms and armor, I tend to keep my descriptions more on the real side, with a slight touch of fantasy. A perfect example of this would be Link’s Master Sword from the Legend of Zelda. Ultimately, the sword design is a little sketchy as far as a functional sword. However, at first glance, it’s marvelously beautiful and brings about that sense of mystical power. Another good example is the visual representation of Ice from the Game of Thrones television series. The design of the sword is plausible when compared to real swords, but it’s on steroids because it’s over sized. I’ll be blunt and admit that I’m not sure if headsman’s swords ever existed, but I suppose it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility (though, likely expensive).

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Deviant Art

On the flip side, being a little too realistic can sap your fun. Plate armor is a total beast to carry around for long periods of time. It’s heavy, it’s  relatively hard to move and even harder to see out of while fighting. If this translates to the game in a mechanical sense, it makes plate armor an unappealing thing to pick.  Nobody wants to play a Fighter if you take a -4 penalty to all attacks and suffer half your base speed because it’s heavy. That ruins a player’s initial character concept and may be largely discouraging. Though that rule would be realistic, it’s not exactly fun.

 

Realism can be fun, but a mix between realism and fantasy is really the best way to bring the smiles to the table. If your Fighter can’t jump across the ravine and behead the orc before his boots hit the ground because his armor is too heavy, it’s a drag. If your Fighter does three cart wheels followed by a front flip before beheading the orc though, well… yeah. For my group and I, realistic imagery with the absurd fantasy stunt in an epic moment makes for the most enjoyable gaming experience. Find what works best for your group, what works best for your style of story. Above all else, for goodness sake, have fun!

Stay Metal \m/