Author: Bryan

Bryan is a visual effects artist living in Hollywood, CA. He serves the CGG as a board member and the web administrator, and he is one of the voices of the Geek at Arms podcast. He can be found lurking in many nooks and crannies of the Internet under the alias Midgardsormr.

Tales From the Loop

Last weekend I was invited to participate as a guest star in a session of Tales from the Loop (TFL), Simon Stålenhag’s RPG set in a science-fictionalized small town from the 1980’s. The Player Characters are a band of kids (12 – 15 years of age) who are caught up in mysterious events surrounding a secret maybe-government project called the Loop. Released on the heels of Netflix’s Stranger Things, TFL borrows from all of the adolescent fantasies of the ’80’s such as E.T., The Goonies, and Explorers with a healthy dose of Eureka mixed in. As a guest, I got only a small taste of the system and world, but what I saw definitely left me wanting more!

The Review

Mechanically, the system is fairly simple: Characters have four Attributes: Body, Mind, Tech, and Heart; and a number of Skills, each of which is associated with one of the Attributes. When the GM calls for a roll, a dice pool is filled with d6’s equal to the character’s Attribute + Skill, and any 6’s are counted as successes. A typical task is accomplished by rolling just one success, and “Nearly Impossible” tasks are accomplished with three successes. There is no failure or critical success mechanic—a 6 is the only result that matters, but in a game filled with young teenagers, everything is critical. Children don’t have professions, so the role of character classes is played by middle-school stereotypes: The Jock, the Rocker, the Popular Kid, the Geek. Each class allows the kid to specialize their Skills—the Jock, for instance, can take up to three points in Force (applications of physical prowess, such as fighting or opening stuck doors), Move, and Connections (the ability to get help from allies other than the PCs), but they can’t take more than one point in any other skill. Younger kids get fewer Attribute point, reflecting that they’re still developing, but they make up for it with Luck points, which can be used to reroll failed dice. Read more

Monkey Business, a Circuit Breakers adventure

Some time ago, I shared a play report and review for my Primetime Adventures campaign Circuit Breakers. For the purposes of discussing PTA’s mechanics and concepts, I will assume that you’ve already read that article. If something is confusing, I recommend going back to read it again. Or better yet, pick up a copy for yourself. 


Background:

The Circuit Breakers’ headquarters was destroyed in an attack by a mysterious platoon of hostile robots that infiltrated the building, then self-destructed. The protagonists managed to capture one of the bots using an experimental expanding foam substance that Simian has named “Protectium.” (Remember that scene in Ang Lee’s Hulk?) They are using Grey’s penthouse apartment as a temporary new base, but they’ve lost contact with the rest of their secret Agency, and Director Connor is missing.

Earlier, Grey had been injected with some kind of nanotechnology that may have modified his behavior. While he was under its influence, the artificial intelligence ELLA somehow interfaced with it. In the course of chasing down the scientist who created the nanotech, the group encountered another covert organization of some kind. The scientist helped the Circuit Breakers create a cure for the nanotech, but it is uncertain if it or ELLA’s contact with Grey has had a lasting effect.

 

From the Producer:

The player who created the group’s Genius Engineer, Simian, never showed up to actually play the game. Generally when a player doesn’t show up, I run the character as an NPC. PTA’s character arc mechanism made it a little tougher to handle the issue, as I didn’t want to effectively railroad a session by running the character during his spotlight episode, particularly since, with the group’s leader MIA, it meant that Simian was the natural choice to take charge of things. With all that in mind, I temporarily turned the character over to the guy who plays Grey, who had a very low Screen Presence during this episode.

The central premise of the show is that in order to prevent a near-omniscient artificial intelligence, the Machine, from accurately predicting threats to its own existence, the people chosen to oppose it must be irrational to some significant degree. There was certainly some metagaming on my part when pitching the show, since PCs/Protagonists are by their very nature impossible to predict.

I promise that none of us had seen Person of Interest prior to developing this story. It was pretty amusing when I started watching that show and realized how closely it paralleled our game. Read more

What Does God Think About Hacking?

Sometimes I look at the search queries that lead people to this website, and I see something interesting. One day last year, I saw that someone had asked Bing “is hacking a sin in christanity” (sic). I have no idea what that person actually had on their mind—if they were wondering about software piracy, or cheating in a video game, rooting their phone, or penetrating the computer systems at NORAD. All I know is that they were interested in God’s view of hacking. Now, bear in mind that I’m no theologian nor a professional minister. I am just someone with a platform who thinks he has something to say. Maybe it will help somebody.  Read more

Gen Con 2017 Events

The Guild’s primary convention activity takes place at Gen Con, where we offer a Sunday morning worship service and a panel on the intersection of our faith and our hobby. As of last year, we also help to coordinate a memorial service for those who have passed away. Unfortunately, we’ve been priced out of having a booth the past couple of years, so if you want to make contact, these events are your best bet.


Christian Worship Service

SEM17108454  — 8/20 — 10:00 – 11:00 a.m. — Westin, Capitol III

Join us for a non-denominational Christian worship service sponsored by the Christian Gamers Guild. We’ll read scripture, sing familiar hymns, hear a sermon, & offer an optional communion.


Christianity & Gaming Panel

SEM17108467  —  8/18 — 4:30 – 6:00 p.m. — Crowne Plaza, Victoria Stn C/D

Join us for discussion with Q&A on balancing faith & gaming, gaming as a ministry, defending gaming from attacks, the use of evil & magic in games, & other topics.


Fallen Gamers Memorial Service

SEM17108656 — 8/20 — 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. — Westin, Capitol III

In 50 years of Gen Con, many of our friends have passed on. Join us for a few minutes to help us celebrate their lives & honor their memories. A brief prayer service will be held at noon.

Circuit Breakers—a Primetime Adventures play report and review

GREY, in his powered armor, grapples with the huge Guardian robot, keeping its grenade launcher aimed away from CONNOR and TANG, who continue to exchange fire with a dozen smaller robots. Meanwhile, the android ELLA is hacking into the mainframe as quickly as she can, hoping that once she’s in, she can defeat the government’s despotic artificial intelligence on its home turf…

My regular RPG group recently wrapped up a season of Primetime Adventures (PTA). Our campaign is called Circuit Breakers, and it focuses on a group of lunatics who are the world’s only hope against an artificial intelligence that has taken over several world governments. As busy adults, we can only play every three weeks, and many of our games have been preempted for various reasons, so it took us ten months to play just nine sessions. That got us through an entire season, though, and the group is ready for more, so I count it a tremendous success. If you’re interested in the play-by-play, feel free to drop by the campaign website at Obsidian Portal, where I’ve posted up each episode in screenplay format, as befits the game. In this article, though, I’d like to talk a little about how PTA plays, what I like about it, and what I don’t. Read more

Chaplain’s Bible Study: Revelation a.k.a. Apocalypse

Having completed the last of the epistles, the Chaplain’s Bible Study will be beginning a study of the Revelation, or Apocalypse, of John—the last and most controversial book in the New Testament.  The preliminaries post will go out sometime on Sunday, May 7th, 2017, and thereafter the study will progress at the rate of one thoroughly-examined verse per day, five days per week.  You can join the study by sending an email to cgg_review-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or through the Yahoo!Groups interface as cgg_review.

Mark Joseph Young, “MJ” to much of the gamer community, has been Chaplain of the Christian Gamers Guild for nearing two decades, and has been teaching this Bible Study since beginning with Romans in 2006.  He hold degrees in Biblical Studies from Luther College of the Bible and Liberal Arts (formerly in Teaneck, NJ) and Gordon College (Wenham, MA), received a Juris Doctore with honors from Widener University School of Law, and is Mensa qualified.  He is the author of our Faith and Gaming series, and of quite a few books and many online articles on quite a variety of subjects.  Some of his articles have been republished in French and German.  His online presence is maintained largely by support through Patreon and PayPal.me.

The study, officially sponsored by the Christian Gamers Guild, is open to all, has participants including ministers from a wide variety of denominations, and is focused on an analytical and exegetical study of the text.  We look forward to your participation.

Shifting to a Weekly Format

At our previous posting schedule, we’re going to run out of content somewhere in March of next year. I am therefore shifting to a weekly schedule in order to stretch the fun out for at least several more months.

Expect a repost of Faith and Gaming every two weeks. Experience Talks and Lands in the Clouds will now be monthly.

Chaplain’s Bible Study: 1 John

bible-839093_640CGG’s Chaplain, Mark Joseph Young, has completed his study of II Peter and will be moving on to I John soon, making this is a good time to join the study. You may do so by sending an email to study-subscribe@christian-gamers-guild.org.

In addition, we would like to encourage anyone and everyone who has found Mark’s writing helpful or edifying to consider becoming a patron, to enable him to continue providing enlightening material in a variety of forms and places. In case you hadn’t made the connection, Mark wrote the Faith and Gaming series, which is currently being reposted on this web site and is also available in print. He also has written several other books: Game Ideas Unlimited (out of print), Christian life works About the Fruit and What Does God Expect?,  the roleplaying game Multiverser (co-author) and two supplements for that game, and Verse Three, Chapter One, a novel based on the game. In addition, he has been a contributor to numerous web-sites and on-line magazines, including his popular Temporal Anomalies in Time Travel Movies for The Examiner (which has recently been shut down).

If you have enjoyed any of that material and look forward to seeing more in the future, please help support Mark through his Patreon page.

You Have No Choice: Fallout 4’s Missing Dynamic

mathildaWarning: Some generalized spoilers for Fallout 4 are ahead.

I am on my way through a second play-through of Fallout 4. While the settlement-building mechanics and the amazing Survival Mode (after the recent update) are stars in Bethesda’s crown, I feel like they’ve missed the mark on creating a role-playing experience. It’s a problem, actually, that’s been going on for a while across multiple games (and multiple publishers). It seems like every new iteration of Elder Scrolls removes a little bit of the role from role-playing game, and Bioware RPGs give you so little control over character design that they may as well not bother. I understand that they’re simplifying and streamlining for the benefit of people with shorter and shorter attention spans, and in response to focus group testing, but it’s gotten to the point where Fallout plays more like a shooter than an RPG. Read more