Tuesday, January 17, 2023

a videro grame review

Fateful Lore is the first outing from Fantaseel Interactive. It's a tiny Japanese-style retro RPG for your phone (iOS or Android). You play a lone hero trying to save the kingdom. You level up by defeating monsters. Along the way you learn some spells, all combat related. You spend gold on potions and better equipment (though you can find a few of both in dungeons). You visit towns, dungeons, towers, etc. on an overland map.
The world is just big enough that I got lost a couple of times.  The first spell you can cast (for zero points) is Teleport, which always takes you back to the starting castle. It's very handy in the first third of the game. Also, I had trouble navigating the second tower (the mini-bosses live in the towers) and got frustrated at one point. So I cast Teleport to go home. By the time I got back to the tower, I had leveled up. Which was nice.
I'm no JRPG player, but I think this style of combat screen will be familiar to a lot of people. Also, I adore that the slimes in this game all show up in their own buckets. Sometimes they bonk you with the bucket rather than use a normal slimy attack.
This is an example of a dumb little detail of the sort that makes this game delightful even though it is super vanilla. These wizards are having a wizard convention in a basement. Not in a dungeon, just an ordinary basement. If you go up those stairs, you find yourself in a cottage where a peasant couple are complaining about the noise and regretting renting their basement to the wizards. This has nothing to do with the plot.

Look at this adorable little pink demon! The first one of these I encountered almost kicked my ass. Nearly all the monsters are cute as heck despite being deadly.

The developer says the game takes about 8 hours to play through. I spent a wee bit over ten to complete the game, but I am not very good a video games. But I enjoyed those 10 hours. A couple of the dungeons were a bit too twisty and the mini-bosses more grindy than I like, but overall I recommend Fateful Lore to any casual dungeoneer.

True Fact: The last phone game I gave a crap about was Snake on my Nokia.


Monday, January 16, 2023

one more quick one on the OGL

 I am going to quote myself from an unrelated kerfuffle in 2005, with one edit:

Also, the fact that one or more decision makers at White Wolf WotC actually thought the first policy was okey-dokey and that the customers wouldn't react still leaves me a tad bit uneasy. "Yay! Coke decided not to put dogshit in their beverages after all!" is not exactly a cause for celebration. Why didn't anybody at the Coca-Cola company understand the blindingly obvious fact that no one wants to drink dogshit?!?

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Monday, January 09, 2023

Game of Theseus?

FULL DISCLOSURE: I was comped a copy of this game and I played in one of the playtest sessions.

I think that says Encounter Critical.

Q: If you take a game, replace the mechanics AND swap out the setting, is it still the same game?

This is the question that Venger Satanis's new Encounter Critical III demands an answer to. At first, I thought the answer was "No, duh." But consider how many changes have been made to D&D and how many settings have come and gone. Even with all the various changes over the years, the spirit of the game somehow remains.

That's kinda my conclusion with ECIII. In the S. John Ross Hank Riley and Jim Ireland original, Vanth is only a "sample setting." There's no real reason you must keep Vanth, Venger's setting Cha'alt (an Arrakis/Tatooine/Arabian Knights mash-up) works just as well. Hell, I ran a short Encounter Critical campaign set on Tatooine several years ago.

And as much as I like the intentionally arcane and fiddly mechanics of the original game, that's not everyone's bag, baby. Christian Conkle's Challengers of Vanth keeps the setting but swaps in the fast and functional Mörk Borg rules light d20 adaptation. Venger also has a light touch d20 approach here that looks quite functional to me, even slick.

What my mind's eye sees every time someone mentions Mörk Borg.

But Jeff, without the setting and the mechanics, what is left of the original EC in Venger's version? Well, for one thing, there's nearly all the weird races and classes from the original, albeit in streamlined d20 format. Venger also adds some new races. I quite like the Banana-Man, the Cereal Spooks, and the cyclops from freakin' Krull. One of the fun things about EC is that you can play all these weirdo race/class combos.

In the valley of the shadow a booberry attacks!
But for the other thing, a game has something beyond mechanics and setting: a tone, an attitude, a spirit. For EC, I always felt that tone was my god, this has so much goofy stuff in it. The ridiculous mishmash of it combined with the wonky rules all gave a sense of wahoo freedom, inviting you in as a co-collaborator. ECIII has that as well.

What might go too far for some is the sleaze. I thing Venger makes a pretty decent argument for why his brand of self-professed sleaziness intersects with Encounter Critical, so I am just going to quote the forward:

Remember, Encounter Critical supposedly came out in the late 70s. There’s something I’m about to call “sleaze inflation” or “sleaze-flation” that should help explain. What seems innocuous now was not so back in the 1970s because our culture is progressive – it’s progressing towards degeneracy. Back in the days of bell-bottoms and flower-power, a mutation such as “strange sexual gifts” was pretty damned sleazy.  

By today’s standards, “strange sexual gifts” is the title of a book handed out at your local library during story-hour. Gamers wouldn’t even raise a current-year eyebrow. If you want the same punch today that Encounter Critical had (or would have had) back in the 70s, you’d have to really go for it... ramping up the blue language, explicit details, and depraved ramifications (wink wink, nudge nudge).

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that Encounter Critical has always been sleazy (you just didn’t know it). Furthermore, I learned my decadent ways from reading Encounter Critical. I LEARNED HOW TO BE SLEAZY BY WATCHING YOU, DAD... uh, I mean... Encounter Critical.

This sort of thing is, of course, a matter of taste.  ECIII is naughtier than I normally get in my own games, but in general I'd rather be the most vanilla guy in a room full of freaks than hang out with the puritans.

Here's a few things individual items I want to note about the new ECIII:

  • The d100 mutation table is pretty effin' sweet.
  • Venger's command of the in's and out's of roleplaying are more sophisticated than his book titles and cover art choices let on. Heck, some of his roleplaying concepts are downright indie in nature.
  • Where the heck is the equipment list??? Is this a riff on the omission of the armor chart from the original game?
  • Some of the art is AI generated. I know this is a BIG CONTROVERSY right now, so I just wanted to warn folks.
  • I like how the sample adventure combines some palace intrigue with good ol' fashion dungeoneering and some cthulhoid horrors, but, man, that dungeon map does nothing for me.
  • I honestly thought I was done reading RPG products with faux aged-parchment effect on every ding dang page. It's not unreadable, but I still kinda hate it.

So would I run ECIII? Yes, if I had players requesting it. Would I play it? Again, yes, but I am not breaking down any doors to do so. Is this game a betrayal of the true fans of EC? Hell, I dunno and it doesn't even really matter since there were never more than like 16 people super into the original. Would someone who didn't know the original game get the wrong impression of EC from ECIII? Almost certainly, but I think it would be the right kind of wrong impression.

If you like gonzo games or if you consider yourself a connoisseur of retro stupid roleplaying products, you could do a lot worse than dropping 10 bucks on Encounter Critical III.

Sunday, January 01, 2023