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Mycelia Board Game Review

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What ROLE-PLAYING have you been doing?

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16 Jan 2023 15:31 #337869 by Shellhead
I am preparing to run the epic Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign for Call of Cthulhu, starting this spring. I ran the original boxed set version back in the late '80s, and it was a blast. Actually, the original group mostly consisted of gung ho D&D players, until there was a TPK situation aside from one player who was off investigating a tangential clue on his own. After a while, I recruited three new players (new to rpgs in general) for that survivor to lead, and they went on to complete the whole campaign.

This time around, I have the deluxe edition that includes a prelude in Peru and a lot more going on at each location in the campaign. But I only have two or three players who are definitely interested, and a few of my past regulars for other campaigns are not available. So I will need to reach out to some of my board gamers to see if any are willing to give Call of Cthulhu a try. After recruitment, I will test party chemistry with a standalone one-shot adventure before starting the main campaign.
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16 Jan 2023 15:34 #337870 by dysjunct
A one-shot prior to the campaign is also an excellent way to introduce Jackson Elias as a fun mentor NPC, before the events of Masks.
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16 Jan 2023 16:18 #337872 by charlest

dysjunct wrote: Ran roughly the first half of the scenario in the BLADE RUNNER starter set.
...


That chase system sounds neat. Reminds me of a Burning Wheel spoke.

The time mechanism sounds as though it's riffing off the threat clock in Apocalypse World. It also reminds me slightly of Gumshoe (the board game, not the RPG system).

I haven't tried a Free League game yet, despite all of the positive word of mouth. I love both the Alien and Bladerunner franchises, but I don't have a strong desire to run games set in a pre-existing setting that is so strongly established. I imagine it would be hard to accomplish something unique, and would instead feel very derivative. I get why people would enjoy that, of course, but I have strong personal hangups about wanting to create a unique narrative when I run/collaborate on a game. Maybe I need to get over that.
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16 Jan 2023 17:08 #337873 by Shellhead

dysjunct wrote: A one-shot prior to the campaign is also an excellent way to introduce Jackson Elias as a fun mentor NPC, before the events of Masks.


True, and the deluxe Masks edition that I have now added a prelude adventure in Peru for just that purpose. I should probably just stick with that instead of adding a standalone. The writers of the deluxe Masks put in considerable effort to make Jackson likeable without stealing the spotlight from the heroes or needlessly getting himself killed. But I won't bend time and space to keep Jackson alive, as he could always have a brother who reaches out to the PCs later as part of the opening to the main campaign.
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16 Jan 2023 18:53 - 16 Jan 2023 18:54 #337876 by dysjunct

charlest wrote:

dysjunct wrote: Ran roughly the first half of the scenario in the BLADE RUNNER starter set.
...


That chase system sounds neat. Reminds me of a Burning Wheel spoke.


Definite vibes for sure. Although much more streamlined. It also doesn’t do the BW “pick your next three moves in advance” thing, which is about the only thing I don’t like about the BW design ethos. You just do one at a time, resolve, and pick another one.

The time mechanism sounds as though it's riffing off the threat clock in Apocalypse World. It also reminds me slightly of Gumshoe (the board game, not the RPG system).


Not familiar with the board game. Free League is definitely aware of various indie RPGs, so I don’t doubt there’s inspiration. MUTANT YEAR ZERO basically uses PBTA-style playbooks in all but name. The time mechanism in BR is much more structured though; you don’t do ticks on a clock in response to a failed roll or whatever — each PC gets to investigate one place, then that’s the end of the shift.

I haven't tried a Free League game yet, despite all of the positive word of mouth. I love both the Alien and Bladerunner franchises, but I don't have a strong desire to run games set in a pre-existing setting that is so strongly established. I imagine it would be hard to accomplish something unique, and would instead feel very derivative. I get why people would enjoy that, of course, but I have strong personal hangups about wanting to create a unique narrative when I run/collaborate on a game. Maybe I need to get over that.


I think FL would appeal to your sensibilities quite a bit. They skirt the line between trad and indie (“trindie,” if you will) with strong narrative focus but also familiar core mechanics and high production values.

As far as mucking about in an established setting, I get it. I’m the same way with the LOTR RPGs — I love LOTR but it feels vaguely sacrilegious to try and shoehorn my own story into holy writ. With Blade Runner and Alien, I think it helps that I am only fond of the source material as opposed to in love with it. The games also do a good job at producing stories that feel like they could easily be canon in some spinoff Netflix series or whatever. I’ll probably get there with LOTR eventually — I doubt any story my group could tell at the table would be worse than THE RINGS OF POWER.
Last edit: 16 Jan 2023 18:54 by dysjunct.
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19 Jan 2023 03:32 #337911 by san il defanso
I'm getting underway with the after-school Old School Essentials game I'm running for 8 middle schoolers. I was kind of dreading starting it back up again, because I feel chronically underprepared. But the kids all seem to be having a great time, and that in turn makes a huge difference. I actually was doing some of the DM's homework a few minutes ago, and all the little drawings and notes they've added made me feel a lot more excited for it.

We've been running Keep on the Borderlands, but I'm fairly sure I've totally mangled it up to this point. There are a lot of OSR bloggers who I'm sure would be very disappointed in me.

One thing that I have learned over a few years of DMing is that while it certainly HELPS to have your act together to dungeon-master, it's hardly required. I am one sloppy-ass DM, with notes strewn everywhere, only the barest grasp of the module I'm running, and I haven't the slightest idea what in-game day it is. To hear a lot of people talk, dungeon-mastering requires a very pedantic personality that cares about attention to detail. I am living proof that isn't true.
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19 Jan 2023 05:00 #337914 by Ah_Pook
I've been reading the Talisman Adventures books, and my wife and I are going to try that out sometime soon. The system has some neat stuff mechanically with strangers and followers, and the way the dice and fate stuff works. Plus it's just amusing to read all this lore they wrote about the world of Talisman. Really excited about this one, which I wouldn't have expected from a licensed Talisman rpg.
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19 Jan 2023 14:13 - 19 Jan 2023 14:14 #337917 by ChristopherMD
I'm a shitty always underprepared DM. But people always come back. Ultimately most players just want you to put their characters in situations that give them an excuse to play the game. Its never the overall plot people tells stories about. Its the funny or cool shit they did along the way. An outstanding DM is great but agree that fortunately never required.
Last edit: 19 Jan 2023 14:14 by ChristopherMD.
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19 Jan 2023 14:20 #337918 by san il defanso

ChristopherMD wrote: I'm a shitty always underprepared DM. But people always come back. Ultimately most players just want you to put their characters in situations that give them an excuse to play the game. It's never the overall plot people tells stories about. It's the funny or cool shit they did along the way. An outstanding DM is great but agree that fortunately never required.


Yeah, forums and blogs make it sound like people are expecting something VERY detailed, but that's never been my experience. If you keep things moving along, and allow your players to remind you of details you forgot...you really don't need to worry much.

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19 Jan 2023 14:45 #337919 by Jackwraith
I created a half-dozen games from the ground up, in addition to regular D&D, Gamma World, Villains and Vigilantes, and TORG campaigns. When I was running modules in those published games, I would have a pretty good handle on what was happening and what was supposed to happen. When I was running my own games, I just had the framework of the story in my head. I knew the general direction that I wanted to players to go, but played it by ear on pretty much everything else. That experience, more than anything else, made me want to become a writer because I was creating stories out of random moments and then building them into whole adventures. I don't think I ever had anything prepared in exacting detail because even if I screwed something up, I could just build a story around what the players THOUGHT was going to be the case. ("Wait, Lord Garnet said a couple sessions ago that he knew where the Runestaff had been hidden, but now he's saying he doesn't?" (Me, raising my eyebrows in mock astonishment) "Or maybe he's just SAYING that NOW....?") You just run with it and sometimes it turns out better than what you had in mind in the first place.

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19 Jan 2023 16:20 #337920 by Shellhead
Some systems have crunchy (complex and detailed) rules, and that tends to mean bigger stat blocks for npcs and monsters. When I am running a crunchy game, I tend to do a lot of prep, and if forced to improvise, I re-use stat blocks from past encounters. That leaves me free to save the improvisations for npc dialogue and addressing novel combat situations. With a lighter system, I don't need to do as much prep, but still like to do some advance work involving setting and npc motivations so the players don't feel like I'm just carelessly making shit up on the fly. For example, I sometimes seize up when I need to make up a name on the spot. I don't want the players going "Richard Shaw? So your name is basically Rick Shaw? HAH!" So to adjust for that issue, I might sit down and come up with a list of names in advance, and use the next one on the list as needed.

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25 Jan 2023 12:05 #338006 by Ah_Pook

Ah_Pook wrote: I've been reading the Talisman Adventures books, and my wife and I are going to try that out sometime soon. The system has some neat stuff mechanically with strangers and followers, and the way the dice and fate stuff works. Plus it's just amusing to read all this lore they wrote about the world of Talisman. Really excited about this one, which I wouldn't have expected from a licensed Talisman rpg.


They just made the core rulebook free digitally, if anyone wants to check this out. It's worth a read.

www.drivethrurpg.com/m/product/318483
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24 Feb 2023 19:43 #338453 by dysjunct

san il defanso wrote:

ChristopherMD wrote: I'm a shitty always underprepared DM. But people always come back. Ultimately most players just want you to put their characters in situations that give them an excuse to play the game. It's never the overall plot people tells stories about. It's the funny or cool shit they did along the way. An outstanding DM is great but agree that fortunately never required.


Yeah, forums and blogs make it sound like people are expecting something VERY detailed, but that's never been my experience. If you keep things moving along, and allow your players to remind you of details you forgot...you really don't need to worry much.


I always have real bad GM imposter syndrome, which is objectively stupid because I have a ton of experience and — this is the real metric, ChristopherMD — people keep coming back. Like with you.

Nonetheless I always think I’m underprepared and that everyone’s going to have a garbage time and it will all be my fault etc. Then it all works out okay and everyone has a great time. Maybe I need to do some kind of GM affirmation meditation. “I’m good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like my games!”
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24 Feb 2023 19:46 - 24 Feb 2023 19:47 #338454 by dysjunct
Speaking of RPGing ….

Finally finished this up, after a month of people being out of town or other schedule issues. I joked that if I ever needed to take a break from the group but didn't want to say so, I'd just run the first session of an RPG.

This ended in a satisfying and thematic conclusion. We got to use the combat system for the first time, and boy is it deadly. In the other iterations of YZE that I've played, you only take critical hits when an attribute is reduced to zero, and you take further damage. Here, critical hits are inflicted any time the attacker rolls 2+ successes. So you might only take 2 points of damage (out of 7-8 total) but then get your eye shot out. It makes any combat pretty dangerous, which I think is in-line with setting expectations. Just make sure NPCs are on board; they should be willing to talk or surrender most of the time.

The PCs successfully cracked the case, but then one of them not only decided to let the perp go but, at a climatic moment of crisis, switched sides and joined her in escaping offworld! (The PC was a replicant and was sufficiently convinced that there was no future on earth for replicants.)

There was great pathos and the XP system incentivized it quite well -- humanity points for doing the right thing, regardless of the letter of the law; vs. promotion points for following the letter of the law, regardless of whether it's the right thing.

Good game. I hope the next case comes out soon.
Last edit: 24 Feb 2023 19:47 by dysjunct.
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24 Feb 2023 21:00 #338455 by Shellhead
I'm having trouble getting my Cthulhu players to agree to a schedule. Two guys are so anxious to play that they are flexible. One guy is only available one Sunday a month. Another guy is only available once every three weekends. A couple has expressed strong interest in playing, but only if it is after 6:00 PM, Sunday through Thursday. They apparently sometimes stay up all night long on weekends, which sounds insane to the rest of the potential players. My personal experience has been that nothing good ever happens after 2 AM. The other guy is probably a passive-aggressive no... he initially said maybe but he is fairly busy, and has since gone quiet. My preference would be a weekend afternoon, and I really don't want to play starting after 6 PM when I work the next day. It doesn't help that I am trying to resolve this via polls on Facebook but Facebook apparently no longer has a poll function. It probably got abused by political extremists in recent years, leading to many user complaints.

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