Rules VS Setting

A lot of RPGs have their own painstakingly detailed setting and core adventures which the players are intended to at least read through beforehand. I have never run a pre-generated encounter. To me, over half of the fun of GM-ing is world building. So using someone else’s world is just not as engaging to me. On top of that, using a premade world usually means I have to learn about that world. I tend to make up the characters, plots, encounters, and most other things on the spot tailored to what the group seems like they want to do. Doing that in a set world always concerns me, because I don’t want to contradict an established piece of lore, or character. I use general settings as a basis for the stories I tell, but usually change what appears on the map.The players may be on a different continent than any that are listed in the book.

Everything I just mentioned falls under the setting of a game. Separating the rules from the setting can be fairly difficult, or incredibly easy. In the case of Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder, as long as the world you make is in a fantasy-esq setting then you are pretty much good to go. What if you wanted to run a modern era game with the Pathfinder rules? That is also fairly easy. Make up the stats for guns and other technology, decide if magic is present, then limit some of the gear (walking around in a full plate suit of armor is not normal in the modern era… usually). Dungeons and Dragons usually has its rules slightly separated from the setting, at least enough so that it is easy to fudge them to fit into a new world.

The interesting challenges come up when you’re dealing with a game where the setting influences nearly every rule used. Eclipse Phase, Shadowrun, and (to a lesser extent) Numenera come to mind for me. In the first two games the setting is a post human society either with technology (Eclipse Phase) or magic and technology (Shadowrun) having a huge impact on the world. In these cases, the rules are what I wanted to lose. The settings were ones which I actually wanted to make stories for.

Running an Eclipse Phase game in a custom setting is nearly impossible. One of the key features is that your mind can be separated from your body in the form of a digital back up (think Ghost in the Shell), when you die you wake up in a temporary body somewhere at the last time you backed up you memories. It becomes incredibly paranoia driven as you try to find out how much time you are missing and how exactly you died. The setting is one of the coolest I have ever read about, and just writing this now makes me want to play it again. The downside, because of course there’s one, I’m not a huge fan of the rules. Well, I nearly completely hate the rules. It uses a percentile system, something I already don’t like very much, which is varied in slight ways that I don’t fully understand. It’s essentially entirely my own fault I don’t like the rules, but still… percentile systems are lame! The creators have good heads on their shoulders, but my personal dislike of percentile systems makes this game not as appealing to me as others. Though I think I’m going to convert the setting to a D20 system simply because it’s so incredibly cool.

Shadowrun has a similar issue to me. The setting is also super incredibly cool. Essentially, technology has reached new heights and corporations own the world. On top of that, dragons returned to the world bringing Mana with them and re-infusing magic with the Earth. Technology and magic play off of each other in interesting ways throughout the world. You have some pretty cool interactions as a character may pilot a laser tank into a hail of gunfire, fireballs, and magic missiles trying to commit corporate espionage (gone wrong, in this case). Again, I love the setting, but the rules leave much to be desired. This is a dice pool system. Say you attempted to shoot a gun, for instance, you total up the value of the ‘shooting’ skill (we’ll say 4), the value of the ‘aiming’ stat (2, maybe he’s got crappy eyesight),and any additional modifiers (-1, it’s raining. Probably acid rain because it’s the future) to get the total for that skill (5 in this case). You roll that many d6s and total up the ‘hits’ you receive. Hits are usually 5s and 6s, though sometimes they can be 4s, 5s, and 6s. You then total up the ‘misses’ you roll, which are usually only 1s. Then the number of hits minus the number of misses determines if you are successful, and the degree of your success. This system is better than percentile to me, but it can be very punishing. it sucks having a total of over 10 and still rolling 8 1s. In a D20 system you usually only have a 1 in 20 chance of automatically failing (rolling a natural 1), so adding modifiers to your roll has a much more noticeable effect on the game.

The cypher system (used in Numenera and The Strange) is great, they have done a fabulous job making the rules just vague enough to enhance play more than hamper it. There are very few things which actually alter the D20 roll, instead you alter the number you have to match. As the difficulty decrease (because of training or having your character focus on the task) the target number decreases in turn. This makes each encounter much faster to make and run as you essentially pick a bunch of numbers instead of looking up stats and variant rules. In the cypher system character creation is streamlined into writing a sentence about your character. I won’t go in depth into what that means, but just know that it’s really super easy. Making different options for characters in the Cypher system is simple, just follow the power level given by the other options and try not to make the characters incredibly OP (but, again, OP in Numenera is kind of hard to determine). The more challenging part of adapting the rules in Numenera to a new world is all the equipment. It’s not so much a challenge as it is a disappointment. The little items that you can randomly find throughout the world are one of the more fun parts of the experience. Removing the setting from them takes away some of the character they have. Throughout the game characters are intended to find small objects, fittingly called Numenera, which usually have 1 and done effects. Grenades, pills, and single shot guns come up frequently, but sometimes you find something more interesting. Gloves that accelerate someone along a surface, a belt which prevents ALL metal from coming within 5 feet of you, and an emitter which gives everyone around it hallucinations are just the ones which I can remember off hand.

Some RPGs have great settings and poor rules, while some have cruddy settings with fabulous rules. Some have both! To me the setting is more important than the rules for a game. I like learning new rule sets and seeing what different designers come up with for common issues, but what’s most important to me is that the players are having fun. If they are engaged in the setting then, to me, its good enough. It is also important to note that nothing is going to be perfect. There is no ‘quintessential’ RPG world, just as there is no pinnacle of RPG rules. There doesn’t need to be though. The rules just need to be good enough and the setting needs to be interesting enough. The rest is up to the players and the GM.

Abzan Tokens, or Dark Mentor’s Spirits! (Modern)

Main Deck

Creatures (7)
Monastery Mentor
Dark Confidant

Sorcery (11)
Thoughtseize
Lingering Souls
Maelstrom Pulse

Instant (13)
Raise the Alarm
Abrupt Decay
Path to Exile
Surgical Extraction

Enchantment (2)
Intangible Virtue

Planeswalkers (3)
Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Lands (24)
Plains
Swamp
Forest
Windswept Heath
Godless Shrine
Temple Garden
Overgrown Tomb
Murmuring Bosk
Isolated Chapel
Sunpetal Grove
Woodland Cemetary
Vault of the Archangel

When I first started getting into Modern this is the deck I came up with. This was a Standard deck during Innistrad block and I was absolutely blown away by the new Sorin. He was my favorite character in the lore at the time, and I really wanted a BW Planeswalker for my Teysa, Orzhov Scion EDH deck. He was perfect for me. I made a deck using him and Lingering Souls to swarm the board. I had Garruk Relentless backing them up with spot removal and death touch wolves. It was a lot of fun to play, and this deck is similar. It is much more of a control deck though. When Monastery Mentor was printed I wanted to abuse the crap out of it. This shell was still around, so I stuck him in there and have never been happier with how it turned out.

Sideboard

(15)
Timely Reinforcements
Rootborn Defenses
Sundering Growth
Nihil Spellbomb
Intangible Virtue
Beast Within

The sideboard kinda sucks unfortunately. I really like Timely Reinforcements against aggro and burn decks. Taping three in this deck makes people assume it’s Lingering Souls but then to get three creatures off the bat plus a huge life swing feels great. With Thoughtseize, Surgical Extraction, and fetch lands it can be fairly easy to get 1 or 2 points below your opponent to trigger the life gain. The rest of the Sideboard is not terribly exciting to me. I don’t use this deck in tournaments very often, so I don’t get to test out different cards.

GW Hatebears (Modern)

Main Deck

Creatures (27)
Noble Hierarch
Birds of Paradise
Leonin Arbiter
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
Scavenging Ooze
Mirran Crusader
Loxodon Smiter
Aven Mindcensor

Planeswalkers (2)
Elspeth Knight Errant

Artifacts (2)
Sword of War and Peace

Instants (4)
Path to Exile
Lands (25)
Forest
Plains
Temple Guarden
Canopy Vista
Razorverge Thicket
Windswept Heath
Gavony Township
Ghost Quarter

This is my primary competitive Modern deck. While I don’t get to tournaments very often, this is usually what I pilot. I built the deck over the course of a year and some change. Trading for bits and pieces at a time. I wrote the list myself, but I used This article to find which cards I wanted to use. The list went through many versions before I decided on this particular build. The one before this actually ran Sun Titan and a fourth copy of Ghost Quarter as a land destruction package. I took it out because it was super slow and not terribly effective. If I could cast a 6 drop and have an untapped land ready to go, then chances are either destroying their mana base won’t do much or I’m already ahead and it is just rubbing salt in the wounds.

Sideboard

(15)
Voice of Resurgence
Kataki, War’s Wage
Leyline of Sanctity
Spellskite
Qasali Pridemage
Sword of Fire and Ice
Vryn Wingmare

This is the latest iteration of the sideboard. I’m not crazy about the single copy of Vryn Wingmare, but nothing else came to mind for that slot and it was the night before a GPt at a local shop. I may run a fourth Loxodon Smiter to go against control decks, but I’m already fairly well positioned against them. If I can get my hands on a second copy of Sword of Fire and Ice then I think I’d run that instead. The swords work really well with Mirran Crusader, so I may end up putting the one of in the main deck and running additional tech in the sideboard. Spellskite{/mtg_card] is quite good against Twin and Infect, so I may get a third copy of that.

Druid Ramp! (So original)

2x Innervate
2x Living Roots
2x Dragon Egg
1x Mark of the Wild
2x Power of the Wild
2x Wild Growth
2x Wrath
2x Savage Roar
1x Grove Tender
1x Silver Hand Regent
1x Soul of the Forest
1x Swipe
1x Keeper of the Grove
2x Violet Teacher
2x Nourish
1x Loatheb
2x Sludge Belcher
2x Force of Nature
1x Emperor Thaurissan

I don’t think there is anything super special about this deck, but man is it fun to play. While it is an original list it is inspired by Day[9]’s deck which he used a number of weeks ago. I don’t play too often, but this deck gives me a pretty good win percentage as well as being super fun. Violet Teacher is a more recent addition to my collection and she fits right into this deck. She makes every spell better because each [Violet Apprentice] enters play before the spell resolves. Soul of the Forest isn’t a terribly good card, but it is a favorite of mine and Violet Teacher makes it playable.

I don’t know what changes I’ll make when I get more cards, but I’m thinking of either adding more cards to activate the [Dargon Egg]s or removing them in favor of another 1 drop. This is my favorite deck to play right now though, at least until I pull a Justicar Trueheart and make a truly ‘inspirational’ deck.

Ten Summer 2015 Anime You Should Watch

The summer anime season is about half way through and there are plenty of terrific shows to choose from. Here are 10 that if you haven’t checked out yet deserve a watch.

This list is for only season 1 anime that started in the 2015 summer season.

Rokka

Rokka: Braves of the Six Flowers

Based off the light novels by Ishio Yamagata.
Set in a fantasy realm where every 300 years or so a Demon King is awoken. Chosen to stop the demon from destroying the world are six heroes who are chosen as the “Braves.” Each Brave has a unique power and is strong in their own right. The first episode starts with an awesome fight scene showcasing the strength of our main protagonist Adlet Mayer, who we later see chosen as a brave. As the story progresses it turns out that this time around there are 7 Braves leaving one to be an imposter. The story has a great deal of action meshed with mystery.

Rampo

Rampo Kitan: Game of Laplace

Inspired by the works of Edogawa Ranpo and commemorates the 50th anniversary of his passing.

Kobayashi, a middle school student, wakes in his classroom to find his teacher murdered. Naturally Kobayashi is the main suspect but of course he didn’t do it. Not only is he not worried about his position but he is actually excited and sets out to find the real culprit. Akechi, a student detective who hardly goes to school, is also on the case. In order for Kobayashi to win the apprentice slot of Akechi he must solve this first crime that only get more complex. It’s been a while since a really good mystery series has entered the fray and it’s a nice mix into the season. With an interesting main character, plenty of mystery, and a fantastic soundtrack Rampo is not a show to sleep on.

Actually I Am

Actually, I am (Jitsu wa Watashi Wa)

Based on the manga by Eiji Masuda.

Hilarity ensues when a boy who can’t keep a secret for the life of him finds out his crush is actually a vampire. The story follows Asahi Kuromine who really is just your average high school boy, who you never want to tell your secrets too. One day when he’s about to confess to Yoko his crush, he discovers her life changing secret. Yoko is a vampire and no one must know. Forced to keep Yoko’s and eventually many other’s secrets how will Asahi survive his remains school days? This series is funny and sweet at times. This to me is a much lighter handed non-human harem-esque anime compared to this seasons Monster Mususme.

School-Live

School-Live!

Based on the manga by Norimitsu Kaiho.

School-Live! Focuses on Yuki Takeya and her friends in the Megurigaoka Private High School’s School Living Club. The first episode is kinda slow with Yuki chasing her dog around the school and the living club going about normal procedure. But, at the end of the episode the truth is revealed, that the world has ended and these adorable girls are living in the zombie apocalypse. Following in the footsteps of anime such as Higuarashi with cute character designs and bright colors, but dark and depressing story content.

Overlord

Overlord

Based on the light novels by Kugane Maruyama.

It’s the last day for the popular virtual reality video game Yggdrasil. Our main character Momonga, who in real life is a salaryman but in the game is one of the strongest players, decides to stay logged in until the very end. Finding that once the servers shut down he is not booted out. The Npcs in the game start developing feelings and character. Momonga stuck in the decides to make the most of it and plans to become the ultimate ruler of the land. Anyone who likes the stuck in a game SAO, Log Horizon, .Hack anime should definitely check this one out.

Machinegun

Aoharu x Machinegun

Based on the manga by NAOE

Hotaru Tachibana is a girl who prefers to dress as a guy and has a strong sense of justice. Being very strong and quick on her feet, Hotaru faces anyone that deserves it. One day when finding that her friend had been tricked of all her money by a hot guy she decides to get it back. Hotaru finds the guy, named Masumune Matsuoka, is a host and a fan of survival games (essentially airsoft matches). He challenges her to a one on one match. Despite having latent ability Hotaru loses and manages to wreck the host club. Masumune invites Hotaru to play survival games with him to work off her debt. Of course Masumune has no idea that Hotaru is actually a girl.  Full of action and comedy this series is a real blast.

tora

Ushio & Tora

Based on the manga by Kazuhiro Fujita

Ushio stumbles upon a demon that has been living in his basement for 500 years. Bound by a cursed spear lodged in his shoulder the demon Tora quickly asks for Ushio’s aid. Reluctant as anybody would be to let a demon free, Ushio covers him back up until his escaped demonic presence starts summoning more demons that threaten the lives of Ushio’s friends. Upon removing the spear Ushio gains immense strength and really long hair. Together Ushio and the Tora defeat monsters week to week in a reluctant buddy cop dynamic. The animation style harkens back to its manga roots written in 1990, it provides a very nostalgic look. Anyone interested in supernatural/ action with a more 90s manga story vibe won’t be disappointed.

charlotte

Charlotte

Yuu Otosaka is a boy who learns that he has the ability to posses another person albeit for only five seconds at a time. Yuu decides that the best use of his ability is to use it to cheat on his tests and rise through the ranks at his school. Eventually Yuu learns that he is not the only kid with special powers. Being caught cheating, Yuu and his sister are then sent to a Xavier’s school for gifted children-esque academy. There we meet more children with powers and more backstory flushing out the characters. This series is done by Key and P.A. Works, whose last team up resulted in the very popular Angel Beats. As with Angel Beats you can probably expect many feels.

gate

Gate

Based on the light novels by Takumi Yanai

A mysterious portal opens up in the middle of Ginza, Tokyo. Out of the portal comes fantasy soldiers and monsters, but they are quickly dealt with by the JSDF. Japan later sends forces in to open up peace negotiations. Along their journey they discover more of the fantastical world that is around them. The main character Yoji Itami uses his love of fantasy stories to navigate the new world and he is put in charge of one of the scout units. This series kinda reminds me of the American sci-fi show Stargate. With an awesome blend of fantasy and real world this series provides an interesting take on monsters invading the land and exploration type stories.

Snow White

Snow White with the Red Hair

Based on the manga by Sorata Akizuki

So I swear there is a trope in shojo manga about a red haired girl in a fantasy land that has to cut her hair and run away from her home. After winter’s amazing Yona of the Dawn anime this one steps up to plate. Loosly based on Snow White, this anime follows Shirayuki. Shirayuki is a citizen of the Tanbarun kingdom and is also a skilled herbalist. The prince of Tanbarun summons Shirayuki to be his concubine, because of her red hair Shirayuki stands out amongst the other ladies. Shirayuki cuts her hair and runs away instead of marrying the prince. Once outside of the kingdom she meets Zen. Zen helps Shirayuki and has a secret of his own. The story follows their adventures as Shirayuki becomes a pharmacist. Any fan of Shojo or fairy tales should check this series out.

 

Mauler Fiend

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*Mauler Fiend Noises?*

This model took me over a year to finish. Its still not technically done because the tendrils are magnetized and I haven’t finished painting the other weapon option. I painted a large portion of it, didn’t like how it turned out, then I just let it sit for a year. I finished it when I decided that having a painted model was better than having an unpainted model, even if the paint job doesn’t look good. While the painting itself isn’t my best, I really like the way the base turned out. This was my first attempt at using cork board and I think that it looks fairly convincing as stone in some areas.

This model is still fun to field in an army list and it really ties the army together. I don’t have all the models I use painted, so its nice to have an intimidating daemon-y vehicle thing to run at your enemies face.