This report will include “Red Markets,” “Conan”, “Kingdom Death,” “Dice Mythbusters,” and the much anticipated “Altered Carbon RPG.” As per my usual approach I tried playing games that were exotic and new (at least to me). Therefore each of these games was new to me. Enough talk, on to the games!
Red Markets Role-Playing Game
The Red Markets Role-Playing Game looks like a standard, post-apocalyptic zombie survival RPG, but it has an interesting twist. Rather than just survival in the chaos you have to earn a living as well. Money is the motivating factor for the PCs because if you earn enough you can “retire” to a zombie free safe zone. Meanwhile, you have to pay for upkeep of yourself, your equipment and your dependents. This drives the players to go on exploratory missions outside their fortified enclave. Red Markets reminded me a bit of the recent rash of “heist” RPGs because of the two-step adventuring process. The first section involves players either negotiating for more pay from their employer, getting equipment or actively sabotaging competing scavenger teams. Upon completion the PCs head into the wilderness to complete their mission. In our case we were sent to kill a specific zombie so our patron’s son could get “closure.”
We did the preparation phase, got a pay increase, some extra weapons and I used my position as the operator of a local STD clinic to spread disinformation to our competitors. As the party doctor, the STD clinic was the only thing I could think of that always gets customers. The flu comes and goes, STDs are a growth industry.
The party headed out and after some early scavenging we found our target in an abandoned church. Sadly, a competing team beat us to the target. Even worse, they died to the man along with a bunch of zombies. We eventually found the target, confirmed the kill and got out…right after we fought a giant zombie-mutant thing with the heads of eight children. Yuck. It nearly killed us and we ran. On the way out a party member took a bite from a zombie. He had a choice; either hope it was a “dry” bite and he stays human or take a “suppressant” that stops the infection from turning him, but makes him into a social outcast.
He refused the suppressant…
And turned! We shot him in the head.
He choose poorly.
We made it home and added up our money, paid our expenses and saved a bit more towards retirement.
I a deeply ambivalent about this game. I liked the world and the economic focus, but the system hurt me. It is fidgety, with lots of resource tracking, hit locations like a Battletech Mech and questionable design decisions. You have to expend food resource to attack…with a spear. You can run out of food because you stabbed too often. Free of the system I think this is a good world for future adventuring, but it is not enough for me to buy it.
This is not a game, but a seminar. Professor C. Warren Campbell of WKU put some of the common myths about game dice to the test. He wrote a fascinating paper about it you can download for free at this link:
I am also working on a similar project involving testing game dice. I believe that most dice are grossly unfair, especially the cheap plastic dice so many gamers use. Professor Campbell applied some solid statistical analysis and rolled several types of dice 3000 times…each! I highly suggest reading the paper (fair warning, this is a legitimate work of research, so it gets deep into the statistical weeds). However, the bottom line of this seminar is that he found most of the tested dice were unfair, but some were only unfair when pushed passed 1000 rolls. Metal and plastic dice were both tested and only a few made the cut as “fair.” He even tested the salt water float test and determined it was bunk. However, he does not draw any conclusions about any manufacturer of dice because he did not test a large enough sample. Though he does offer some interesting information about bubbles in plastic dice and how they impact rolling. Fascinating stuff.
Conan the Role-Playing Game
Conan, the name inspires awe in gamers. He is the archetype from which all barbarians spring. Much of modern gaming owes its existence to Robert E. Howard so I looked forward to playing in Hyborea. Modiphius published this latest version and this is my first run. I took the rogue (scoundrel) and we set off to protect a small town from “Howls in the Darkness.” The system is simple enough, using a system that tracks levels of “stress” and “harms” rather than pure hit points. I would not call it rules-light, but it is certainly an easier system than Pathfinder/3.5. Definitely has a bias towards cinematic actions and big wins.
We did some quick wolf encounters and finally found the evil cult making werewolves. We went underground and the game master deployed this epic dungeon prop.
Dwarven Forge makes amazing terrain, but I could never afford it or have a place to store it. Still, it was very cool to see it in action. The torches on he walls lit up! Totally unrelated to the game itself, but I thought it worth a mention.
We defeated the enemy in a hard fight and won the day. “Conan” is a fun game with light rules I enjoy, but perhaps I am jaded in my old age. Standard fantasy worlds seem a bit bland and nothing I saw would make me run out and buy “Conan.” That said, I will certainly play it again should the occasion arise.
“Kingdom Death” is successful. It made millions on Kickstarter and drives a rabid following. I am not a miniatures player, but something with that much success drew my attention. I watched a few videos on how to play and jumped into the 24/7 game at Gencon 2019. Players sign up for slots running 24/7 and try to finish the game completely by the end of Gencon. I took the 0800 shift on Friday.
KD has two phases. First you go hunting to fight a monster and second you take your booty back to your village to improve it and your people. It is persistent so if Bob dies in the first round, you need to send some other villager to fight. I arrived about 30 minutes early and they were short a person, so I helped the 0500 team fight a spider-thing.
Combat is the PCs against a deck of cards. The cards describe attacks and as you hit the monster the deck shrinks. Once you remove all the cards, the monster dies.
Once dead, you gather its resources (bones, hides, etc) and take it back to base and buy upgrades.
I basically played two rounds and determined I do not like this game. Sure, the miniatures are amazing, but the combat was flat. The tool…excuse me, player next to me was an avid KD player so he had the monster deck basically memorized and acted accordingly. He was a black hole of fun. Nothing like knowing exactly what the monster does. That said, even without Captain Spoiler the combat was just boring to me. Then the next phase put me into a coma. Tinkering with village building is not my idea of a good time. It felt like a video game without the computer to do the boring stuff. Though the part where you have to use “romance” to make more villagers was worth a chuckle.
I found out later they did not finish the game. The village died. Oh well.
I played “Kingdom Death” and that is enough for my lifetime. Just not my type of game.
Altered Carbon Role-Playing Game
Hunters Entertainment got the license for the “Altered Carbon” books by Richard K. Morgan. I am a huge fan of the books and thoroughly enjoyed the Netflix show. This event was my priority for Gencon 2019.
It was also my biggest disappointment.
A four hour RPG slot at Gencon usually costs $4.00. This slot was a “preview” of an upcoming Kickstarter for the Altered Carbon RPG. It cost $24.00. I thought it was odd, so I reached out via Twitter and got this response
Fine, I am a fan, so I am in. After a lucky draw on registration day I paid my $24.00 and arrived gleefully at the table. I sit down with four other players and get my “first look” at the game. Here it is:
There, I just saved you $24.00. That was the sum total of all material for the new game, a few beta character sheets. Nothing else. Not even a short rules summary. The GM showed up with no other materials and ran a game. To be fair, he was a good GM and it was a good plot. The system is basically roll under a target number based on your stat. So a d10 investigation score is worse than someone with a d4 score. The GM may also add extra dice to make it harder. Sort of a modified dice pool system. Though not clearly explained, there are a couple of stats “Ego” and “Stack” that relate to how old you are and how much time you spent training in VR. Too low of a score has some impact, but it was not clear what impact. It never came up during the game.
The adventure ran well, but nothing about the game really excited me. I understand it is not done and this is a preview, but this felt like it was not started.
Overall, I went from a potential backer of the Altered Carbon RPG to completely ignoring it. I saw nothing that indicated this is going to be worth my money and annoyed they charged $24.00 for a preview with almost nothing to preview.
More games of Gencon 2019 in the next post, including the new Dune game from Gale Force Nine!
Trask, The Last Tyromancer.