Ring Side Report 11-12-12 Pentacon Day 2!

V and I also signed up for a second day of gaming out in Fort Wayne.  Today was DEMO DAY!  I plan to walk through the games we played, then give a little rant about demos in general as well as book construction, lucky readers!

9 AM Dragon Storm I’ve heard of this game before, so I decided to try it.  What drew me in was the game is a “card” game for an RPG.  Thinking that sounded pretty awesome, I persuded V to join up with me on this game.  Game started nice enough with one of the heads of the game walking us through the game.  Then we meet up with a pretty nice few guys and played.  In this demo we were sent to fantasy AsiaLand to stop the capital of fantasy NotChinaLand invade the surrounding provinces, thus preventing a civil war.  Our group derailed this by having the surrounding provinces invade the capital through a very bloody coup.  I’ve got a few problems with this game, so lets walk through the game in general since my problems are with the game.  None of my problems were with the game we played.


Game Basics Game is a 2d6+numbers system.  Easy to grab and master.  Every character starts with a number of not build points and to add cards to your character either cost money or not build points.  Cards give you new attacks, abilities, magic, items, etc.  Not that bad an idea.

Characters Everyone is one of a few basic groups that have group specific powers.  Most powers/magic are up for grabs for anybody however.

World  This work is a pretty simple snow-job world.  Some evil wizards convinced everybody that shape-shifters are the bad guys so every body hates shape-shifters.  You are a shape-shifter, go fight the powers that be.  Ok, not that bad a story.  On par with some of what I’ve seen and better than most.

Cards Now we get into complaint territory.  I have now problems with the basic game or its mechanics.  Dice rolled, stuff happens, people role-play, fun had!  What I think is strange is the cards.  the cards are gimmicky.  Everything your character has is a card.  You don’t have the card, you don’t have the crap.  What that means if you find something, but you or your DM doesn’t have the card you can’t get its stats.  Ok, minor problem, but why not just have a book.  I originally through the game had a shuffling mechanics that made your guys get some randomness, but the dice do that.  When I asked about this, the idea of cards was used because the designers thought that people wouldn’t want to carry around tons of books.  Ok, I carry about 300lbs of DnD 4e books to a con, so I can see this.  But, this breaks down when you see every player of this game show up with several card long boxes of cards.  This really reminds me of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay.  They use cards and dice.  HOWEVER, the designers of this game also saw that people may not want to use all the clutter and cardboard that Fantasy Flight (FF) puts in any product, so they now print books of everything also.  Mischief Managed*slaps hands together*!  Dragon Storm you may be an older game, but look at FF.  They know how to get their crap together and make people buy all their stuff.  I do whenever they print anything!

Card rarity  This is the second edition of the game.  First ed. was random packs of cards.  That’s always off putting to me.  Second ed. does the living card game thing where you buy 9 cards that you know and you get to choose what 9 card packs you want.  That make me happy!  The old cards are still around and I think usable in the game, but now they are a little less powerful so you will get the newer ones.

Card art and theme  Ok here is where we get into some dangerous territory that may piss people off (aside from calling major parts of the game gimmicky).  The art is beautiful.  Susan van Camp is good at what she does.  However, this game defiantly has a furrier aspect to the game.  NOT THAT THEIR IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT!  However, that is not my thing and that’s kind of off putting.  Our DM had a home made DM screen in front of us and one of the pictures was his character either stretching or have in orgasm.  Ok, fine, but it defiantly put my wife off.  For some reason, she does not enjoy staring at semi-porny pictures surrounded by strange men/boys.  Also, all the women were as skimpy as ever and this I do not understand.  Chainmail bikinis are not a thing, nor would any non crazy person run into combat in a bra and panties ( sorry Scottish, your strategy is still crazy!)  Again, art is good, but theme is a concern in the art.  Your thing?  Great buy the hell out of this game.  Not my thing.

Final Verdict I’m mixed here.  I somewhat like the game, but the theme and and gimmickiness puts me off.  Its not a stupid game, far from it.  However, the game does do some strange things. Also, our demo was kind of strange and ill talk to you about that down below (more rants, I know you can’t wait!).  All and all, I think I will pass this one by.  The company local, so that makes me happy.  I almost might like this game better as an online RPG where you do get random card packs and you play on a virtual table with friends.  I know that sounds strange, but it might encourage people to trade crap easier.  What do you guys thing about that?

2PM The One Ring Demo  As our final event at the con, V and I played The One Ring, a semi-new RPG from Cubical 7.  My Mom and Dad got this for V last year for Christmas, so we thought we would try it and see what its like so when she runs it, she will have a better idea of what to do.  Our game had a dwarf (me), a woodswoman (V), and an elf (played by our new friend).  we were going to guide a guy through Murkwood Forest.  Start, end, stuff happens, good demo.  We had to save him from spiders, fight an evil well, and burn lots of stuff.  My dwarf was apparently great at starting fires and I felt that if he thought that was his skill, then he was a pyro.  Thus, fire ensued.  Run down time.

Physical Product This game is two books in a nice box and come with its own dice.  All great and nice art.  Tolken all the way.  However, the books are softcover with glossy pages.  Ok, but the glue on the game is kind of flimsy and our DM’s copy was starting to fall apart.  Now when I see 2nd ed DnD books falling apart, that fine because if I look that good after thirty years, Ill be happy.  However, our DM told us he hasn’t played this game before and has just read through the books a few times.  Thats a problem.

Game basics Game basics are d12 + xd6.  Ok, strange, but cool.  I have my d12’s and now I get to use them.  Even more fun, the numbers are all kinds of strange.  the x in xd6 come from a stat you have points in.  More points, higher x.  Easy enough.  You roll and try to hit a target number.  However, the number you get change your results besides how you add.  A 11 is Gandalf’s ruin or an auto success.  The 12 is Sauron’s symbol and makes the d12’s number a ZERO!  Not an autofail though, so you could still hit your number…BUT now the DM has license to screw with you or the group.  Also, as you bet hurt the results of your d6 change.  You get hurt, d6 results of 1,2,3 now count for ZERO as well.  Good times fun and makes me happy!  Ill talk about this ahead.

Pillars of the Game This game is Tolken to the core!  If you want some Lord of the Rings, here you go.  An example is as you travel, you have to make travel checks.  Mess up, you get lost and weary.  Weary character’s 1,2,3 don’t count above, just like if you get hurt.  It feels like the book and thats awesome!  Magic is few and far between, so more Tolken.  That all makes me happy.

Minor Problems Some of the mechanics like travel checks are both a group and an individual check.  This gets people weary quickly.  So basically its a skill that everybody has to have.  If everybody has to have it, then why even make it a thing?  Maybe we did it wrong, maybe there is errata, but its worth checking into.

Final Verdict  We V owns this game so we already have it, but id tell you t buy it anyway.  I liked what we saw.  Product quality may need some work, some mechanics may need some help, but what you gonna do?  I liked what I saw and want V to run a game of this right away!

6PM Goodbye! At the end of the last game, we said our goodbys and left.  I already miss my time at the con.  Lets bitch some more the forget the sadness


1) Figure out what major things your game does and make that happen!  DnD 4e is very combat heavy, every demo has lots of combat or at least 1/2 the time is.  4e also does lots of skill challenges, all demos have that.  Minions are a great thing so every demo has a few of those guys.  What ever your game does well and is a major part, your demo should do as well!  The Dragon Storm demo didn’t have combat.  Why?  Because our demo was free form.  Ok, but our guys were combat people.  So we only did social.  Fun, but not what we were there for.  If you leave a major part of the game out, I don’t know about it after a few hours then I wont think you game does that at all!

2)Everyone should shine in the demo.  When you make a demo, you know exactly what characters will be in the demo.  You also know what the characters will do in the demo since you’re writing it!  Both those things should go well together.  When you write the demo, you should have what characters you need in the demo and where.  Going into the woods?  you need the scout.  Going into talk to the king, you need the bard.  I’m not asking you to play across type, what im asking is you play to type!  I don’t need George R.R Martin/King reveals, I need to know who has to be there for anything to happen.  Dragon Storm had scouts on a diplomatic mission.  We didn’t have people at the table who could do what had to be done.  That’s a major problem.  The One Ring needed scouts, an some lore, and some exploration.  Everyone had a role and they filled it well.

3)The demo should be standard and written.  As a designer, when your game is done, its not done.  You go back and write a crappy little demo that anyone who loves your game can show your friends.  Here is the plot for 4ed:  King says orks in a town, you go to town and investigate (skill check), orks in woods (exploration skill check), find orks cave kill orks (2x combat, and dungeon crawl).  That’s it!  I don’t need great plot. I don’t want a great plot.  Great plots are like 5 course meals, great but take a long investment to get anything out of it.  Demos are the McDonald’s of the game world: quick, tasty, and get’s you want you need and now!  Standard demo’s make sure that your product is being shown the same way and you have the best face forward for your customers.  Our Dragon Storm demo was free lance and fun, but the only reason stuff worked is because we tried to break everything.  The One Ring was semi-written, but didn’t really require characters and that made things weird when the elf librarian was stumbling in the forest.  Makes some people have major problems with the game.

4) They all come with well vetted pregenerated characters!  STOP BOOING NOW!  Yes, no gamer want to be caught dead with a pregen as any hipster will not be caught dead drinking starbucks when some crazy region you’ve never heard of has coffee in a shop you’ve never even seen.  But, for a quick learning game, you need them.  They make life better and make things work well.  Also, when you make the demo as in part 3, you can make the characters for the problems ahead!  Go ahead and put in the dark forest, we’ve got a scout and hes damn good at scouting!  Everything fits like a puzzle.  Also, tell your DM who is staring at this point in the demo for each thing like my scout in the forest.  Easy and fun.  Also, makes sure everyone is engaged.  The One Ring had pregens, while Dragon Storm did not.  The character we had were freeform and not built for any problems at hand.

5)DEMOs ARE FREE!  Either as a PDF or as a physical copy given out at cons.  This is NON-NEGOTIABLE!  I should be able to google your crap and in under one minute should see your demo and a download button.  Don’t hid your crap on your website.  That just pisses me off when I have to sign up for your store to get a demo.  Give this out easily.  I love Living Arcanis because I was walking through, saw a demo folder and asked.  Got it for free and now I’m hooked.  If you want my money, make me want to give it to you.  The One Ring doesn’t have a free demo (its in one of the books), while Dragon Storm has a great free demo (and FREE PDR CARDS), that we didn’t do.

6)You’re demo is about 2-3 hours.  A nice demo give me some time to like my players, like the game, and hang out.  The DnD Next demo isn’t bad, but its a little to quick.  It does show off the system well.  However, I want my demo to run a bit like a simple game.  Give me some talking time so we can talk about the latest my little pony episode or whatever!  I want to have fun with my friends like we would at my house if it was game night.  Both The One Ring and Dragon Storm were pretty good in this point.

7)You have a quick rules sheet.  I’m not talking about the nuances of the grapples rules in 3.5, but I do want to have a nice sheet that show a turn order and what I can do on my turn with items like a standard action can become a move… simple rules that I as a new player will not know and really should.  Make that free or copy-able from the back of the demo.  Makes life easier for all involved (EVEN THE DM!).


Ok, now lets talk about your books


1)Every book you put out should have a quick play section right in the front that your and your friend could hop in and play in under one hour of reading.  This could be your demo of whatever, but if you put out a game, at least the Dungeon Master Guide should have a section that lets you and your friends play in under an hour.  I dont want to buy a game and not be able to play it until three weeks later.  Would you stand for that in a video game?  How about a board game (looking right at you FF and Mage Knight!)?  No, now video games have tutorials in the game and even complicated games have quick start rules for how to play (An excellent example is Mage Wars with a whole different book how to TEACH the damn game!).  The rest of the book can be convoluted garbage, but the first section needs to be new player friendly.  4e was EXCELLENT at this.

2)  Your book has a nice section of pregenerated characters.  AGAIN WITH THE BOOING!  Here is what pregens do: they show me what the game designers think a standard character will look like in a standard problem.  I will customize my characters, but I use the pregens as a guide.  In 3.5 you don’t see any starting characters with a CON score of 3 right?  That’s because that is important and it will help you characters not die.  If you read on CON you learn this, but the pregens say this also!

3)Remember that demo quick rules?  Those should be here too. ….

4)Your index and table of contents should be crystal clear.  As a designer if you want me to experience your vision of the game, I need to know what the hell you said about any particular problem I have in the game.  If I cant find what you said, the I will make stuff up or go to a different game that does have things spelled out.

5)Product quality!  I want something nice.  Im not asking for the world, but your stuff should be nice.  Early 4th ed manuals rubbed off on your fingers, that was bad.  Those things should be fixed and ready for game time when its game time.

6)Organize your thoughts in a nice way that will make sense to an outside observer.  If your stuff is crazy and scattered (looking right at you Shadowrun) then I wont be able to find what you had in mind and how to do it.


Well those are my thoughts.  Monday combo on the way.  What do you guys thing?


One thought on “Ring Side Report 11-12-12 Pentacon Day 2!

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