Category Archives: News, Rants & Reviews

No Gaming But Lots of Ideas

Circumstances put me into place where there’s absolutely no gaming. Sure lot’s of folks are in the same or similar situation. But I’ve been totally idle on the gaming front. It’s a good time to sit back and plan about future campaigns. Our little group at least had a little time before every thing went crazy to do a little discussion. So I figured what the heck, why not share some of those crazy ideas on the old blog.
Cyberpunk Just for something different. Way back in the day, I ran the hell out of Shadowrun. I still have all my books. I ran a bunch of Cyberpunk 2020 too and have them as well. However, both of them have the same problem for my purposes. The hacking rules aren’t that great and it pretty much turns into one character going off on their own adventure while everyone else sits around and waits. The other problem is that there are so many options when it comes to gear especially weapons and cyberwear, that even character generation would take a couple of sessions. On the off chance of doing a straight up Shadowrun campaign, well, the magic system is cool but it’s probably going to be a pain for a modern newbie to learn. Once again. we’d be using old books so a player’s ability to their own copies would be limited. But hey if they really want to then I’m game.
We also talked a bit about Carbon 2185. This little gem is a 5E take on cyberpunk. It’s a pretty expensive PDF and the reviews have been good. But deep down I just don’t have a great feeling about getting that gritty cyberpunk feel with 5E. I’ve also got the old editions of Interface 0 for Savage Worlds. But once again, it just doesn’t hit the right vibe for me.

That leaves with the new gem that I found, Zaibatsu.I did a review of it a short while ago. In a nutshell, character create is pretty quick. Game mechanics are easy to learn. And the hacking game mechanics are pretty cool and quick. So that’s what I’m leaning towards but then I’ll see what the players say whenever we get back together.

Cthulhu I’ve had the urge to run a Cthulhu game for a while now. The “simple” one would be around Delta Green. But instead of all sorts of Federal Agents, I’m leaning towards something that’s more of a cross between Twin Peaks and True Detective (Season 1). But I’ve got other ideas.

Cowboys: I’ve thought about an Old West horror game for a while then I discovered Down Darker Trails and started listening to Ain’t Slayed Nobody. So Cthulhu is a natural choice. Of course there’s Realms of Cthulhu for Savage Worlds and it wouldn’t be that hard to add in the Old West elements to the game.

Pirates: Because everything is better with pirates. This idea has bounced around inside my head for years using Savage Worlds. There’s Tales of Solomon Kane, Pirates of the Spanish Main, and Realms of Cthulhu. I’ve got all those and it’d be easy to kit bash them together. But then I could also use Blood Tide from Chaosium.
For both Cowboys and Pirates, I’ve the idea to make the campaigns so that mortal vs mortal combat is slightl cinematic and not as deadly as the core CofC rules. But when the monsters come out they better run. So that’s why I’m leaning towards the Savage Worlds versions. There’s a few nobs and dials that I can tweak to make it like that. Of course, the CofC system is pretty simple and I do love doing house rules so maybe I might do some tweaking there.

There’s other ideas bouncing around inside my head but these are the major ones. And of course, we shall see
And remember folks. Sometimes the monsters kill you and take your stuff but still have fun.

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Some Random Thoughts on 6th Editon

Well, folks are already thinking and speculating about 6th Edition D&D. So why shouldn’t I? I will say that I did get one thing right back on the old blog. I made the guess that the 5th Edition OGL and SRD would be much more restrictive than 3rd Edition’s. Also, guessed that WOTC would adapt some sort of spp store model where they’d a bit out of every sold. Hello, DM’s Guild.
So why even think about 6th Edition now? Well, based on other editions its about reached its life expectancy and WOTC just hired a new guy. So. Maybe? I dunno. One thing about 5e is that there’s been many fewer splat books. They left to DM’s Guild. Sure there’s some good stuff there but there’s also a bunch of crap. So maybe there’s life in the edition yet?
Another thing WOTC has to think about is the fan base. Now, I’ve heard tell of a few that just read the books and watch various Youtube stars play. This segment is at least large enough to put a blip on the radar. Another thing there’s many 5e fans who have only played and probably will only play 5e. They aren’t like us grognards who will bounce between games. Sure we’ll bitch about it. But a lot of us play more than one game. If WOTC really wants to keep a very vocal part of their fan base, they’ll need to make 6th edition more like 5.5. Not too many changes to the actual game mechanics but I do suspect that the game would be more friendly to the players in the sense that game would be even less lethal and more, dare I say it, super powered. You know every character is a special little snowflake before character generation is even done. And then there’s the crazy Internet lynch mobs. They’ll find something that upsets them.
So maybe a “6th Edition” might be on the way but my guess it will be like 5th but written like every character is a Mary Sue. But we shall see.
So go out there and roll dice, kill monsters, take their stuff, and have fun.

Zaibatsu RPG: Cyber-Fun

Yes, I’m still around. This are just do damned busy but let’s get this post rolling. A few weeks ago before everything went pear shaped, I mentioned that I was thinking about Cypberpunk games and a kind Tavern goer over at Tenkar’s Tavern Facebook Group suggested that I look at Zaibastu. So I searched around the Net, read some reviews, and decided to pick it up. Wow, I’m glad that I did.
Zaibatsu uses a streamlined version of the Cepheus Engine. And just in case you didn’t know, the Cepheus Engine is basically old-school Traveler. At it’s most basic, it’s a skill based system with 2d6 resolution (which means that +1 means a hell of a lot more than the d20 systems). Unlike old Traveler, you won’t die in character generation.
Character generation is straight forward. Roll 2d6 for your stats, pick a career (that gets characters +1 with one skill and a piece of gear), buy some skills based on your Education stat. Then buy your Retrogenics. This is replaces the old standard of cybernetics. It’s one of the few places that the game has taken the approach of updating based on real world tech. I think of it as Alice from Resident Evil. But if you want to do with cybernetics then just change the name. It’s an old-school at its heart, you can do that. Wrapping up character generation, players can roll up an appearance, a contact, a life event, a pistol, a radio, and 4,000 Yen. And you’re ready to go.
As I mentioned previously, Zaibatsu uses a streamlined version of the rules. It uses Stat checks for “common” type tasks. Half the stat+2d6 and need to roll a total of 10 or better. Simple. Skill checks are basically the same (but ignore Stats) and require an 8 or better. The streamlined rules make the action move quickly. There’s no initiative but attacks are resolved in phases and considered simultaneous within each phase. First is melee attacks then ranged and then movement. This makes melee combat important even if everybody is carrying a gun. This makes combat pretty deadly. Making it even more dangerous, your armor only affects one attack. Ouch.
Since it’s a “modern” era game, there’s got to be some vehicle chase rules. We got those too. And it’s a simple and really easy to use system. It is a little abstract but I’d rather have that then an overly detailed system that would take hours to play out one chase. I especially like the “Weave” maneuver. The chased vehicle makes a check with a penalty and the chasers need to make their check with the same penalty in order to keep up. It kind of reminds me of the auction system from the old James Bond RPG.
You can’t have a cyberpunk game without hacking. And as many have mentioned over the years, this the point were so many cyberpunk games fail. A lot of times, it just ends up that the hacker goes off on their own adventure while everyone else sits around. Way back when I was running Cyberpunk 2020 and Shadowrun, I just house ruled that all the hackers were NPC’s. Zaibatsu solves this with a simple, fast and really interesting way. You sue a deck of cards. (Deck, get it?) Once again, I’ll explain it at its most basic. The hacker gets a number of free guesses based on their Skill level. Start guessing the suit of cards as they are drawn, and hope you don’t trigger the ICE. It’s that simple. Once again, this is some thing that I really like because of not only its simplicity but also it makes hacking different than regular actions in a way that’s fun and quick.

Zaibatsu comes along with its own setting. Characters are working for a megocorp (Zaibatsu) in the a dystopian Tokyo. It presents enough detail to be usable and still gives a GM plenty of room to maneuver and add their own stuff. Personally, I’m thinking of throwing together various bits and bobs from my old Cyberpunk and Shadowrun games. (Don’t worry. No magic stuff for this idea) and using primarily Cyberpunk’s Night City. There’s nothing that says you can’t. Both the crunchy bits of game material and the fluff put the game into a cool retro-future type tech level. It’s very much Blade Runner and William Gibson style attitude and setting. And speaking of Blade Runner. Zozer Games has another game Hostile which is set in the same universe. I havent picked up Hostile yet but it’s basically Aliens. And yes, Blade Runner and Aliens are the same universe.
So overall, I really like this game but… Yes there a couple of little annoyances. This has to do with organization. I noticed this especially with weapons and vehicles. It would be nice if all the stats were in the same place. For weapons, the damage and range are in one chapter but cost, ammo capacity and other stats are in a different chapter. The same goes for vehicles. It’s annoyance but doesn’t really undermine the game over all.
All in all, it’s a good game of low-lifes and high-tech. It’s about quick and dangerous combat. It presents itself with a sensible retro-tech style dystopian setting. I like and it’s probably going to be my go to system for cyberpunk when gaming gets back to “normal”. It’s not “rules lite” but as I like to put it rules efficient. It’s got that old school flair of rulings not rules and there’s plenty of room to house rule and tweak to your own setting or preferences.
You can find more resources over on Paul Elliott’s site.
You can pick up the PDF on Drivethru or a dead tree version on Lulu. NOTE: If you buy they dead tree version, you’ll get a free copy of the PDF.

Playing It Wrong: Wizards’ Guilds

Yes, we’re back after a week’s break. Life is hectic but we’re working around it. This week, it’s a rant about Magic Guilds, or Wizards’ Guilds or whatever you want to call them. What place do they hold in your world? Or do the they even have a place?
And I try to read some more from Supplement III: Eldritch Wizardry. If you thought the psionics were crazy then check out the option rules for combat. You can stream it right here or subscribe on your favorite platform.

Thanks for listening!
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Night Shift: Veterans of the Supernatural Wars

Here’s another Kickstarter that’s landing in backer’s hands but not yet out to the general public. So yeah, I’ve got my PDF of it. Yes, I’ve ranted about it before (here and here) when the Quick Start became available. Now that I’ve got the full PDF, it’s time for more rants.
As I said before, I like the Urban Fantasy genre and have ran a few campaigns of it. And I think it’s under served when it come to RPG’s that fit my own personal tastes and this is even more true when it comes to old-school games. Night Shift does a good job of blending old-school mechanics and making available the wide array of character possibilities in Urban Fantasy.
So if you’re an old hat at RPG’s and especially old school then the system isn’t that hard to grasp. You’ve got your standard array and range of attributes, classes, and “races”. The classes are broad and specific at the same time. There’s isn’t that much niche protection but relies more on the you can try anything, but what you are good at is really based on your character. For races, there’s only two. Mortal Human and “Supernatural”. Supernatural is just the catch all for anything weird that a player may want (with GM approval, of course). On the downside, Supernatural characters basically start off with a deficit of XP (about 3,000) before they can take a class. This add a little balance between the mortals and supernatural.
For the classes, you can see the DNA of the classes from standard fantasy versions. The Chosen One, The Survivor, Witch/Warlock, and Veteran lean towards the Monk, Thief, Magic-User and Fighter respectively. The other classes (Sage, Inventor, Psychic, and Theosophist) each have their own abilities and tricks that they bring to the table.
The basic game mechanics are something that most folks should be used to. Saving Throws are based on each ability (rather than type). Most actions including combat are basically handled with ability checks (d20+ability modifier+other modifiers). Now, specific class abilities are generally handled with a percentile roll. You know just like old-school Thief skills. Players are encouraged to have their characters try anything with an ability check. Characters with specific skills get to use their skill and try with an ability check; giving two chances to succeed. There’s also the Rule of 2 which is basically everybody has at least a 2 in 6 chance of doing something. As always it’s up the arbitration of the GM. And everything does a d6 damage like in really old school games.
There’s other cool stuff in there too. A few campaign ideas. Lots of options for setting the tone of the game (cinematic to gritty) plus optional rules. There’s also some great notes on converting your Night Shift game into a different old-school game. Like BX/Old School Essentials or Swords & Wizardry or White Box or whatever of retro-clone you like? It will take some work but you can convert it. Now, I know my players. And I know that at least one of them will say, “But what about 5E?” I would say that it is possible. It will take a lot more work than with an old-school game but yes it could be done. And you could even bend it around enough to use Basic Roleplaying percentile system with enough tweaking.
There a couple of things I did find a bit annoying. I do think the book could be organized a bit better. I found myself bouncing between different sections of the PDF to make sure I understood a specific concept, rule or ability. This is easier with a physical book, I just found it a pain with a PDF. Plus there are a few rules here and there that I personally think could have been written a little more clearly. But this is all my own personal preference and not a huge biggie.
So am I going to run this? I dunno. If you read the blog regularly, you know that I also like Dark Streets & Darker Secrets and it’s a tough call between these two but then since both have that old-school DNA there’s no reason that they can’t be kit bashed (as I tend to do). But then Night Shift has plenty of inspirational material that I could see myself taking some of the concepts and porting them into Savage Worlds. And of course if my players whine enough, I might try my hand at doing a 5E conversion. So we shall see.
In summary, glad I backed. Glad it’s out there. And I know I’m going to be seriously playing around with this game soon.