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!
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
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
Over the past eighteen months, our diligent and dedicated webmaster Bryan has been republishing much of the material generated by and for the Christian Gamers Guild over the previous two decades in a new web format which is thought to be more accessible and is certainly better looking. That has included material from our e-zine The Way, the Truth, and the Dice, a couple of articles from elsewhere, some new material, and of course my own Faith and Gaming series. The upside of this is that many readers have discovered these articles for the first time. The downside, from my perspective, is that it became just a bit tougher for me to refer people to the articles—not individually, but as a collection. The old site had a single “Chaplain’s Corner” index that described and linked the entire series plus quite a few other articles on and off the site, and when people had questions about role playing or other hobby games I could (in addition to addressing the specific questions) refer them to that page for more information than they perhaps would have wanted. That page still has some valuable links, but Bryan agreed with me that now that the entire series has been relocated there ought to be a page that indexes it all at the new locations.
Several thoughts occurred to me as I undertook this. One was that there were a few articles I wrote which are excellent pieces not originally part of the Faith and Gaming series, and they should be included here. The second was that it would seem particularly arrogant of me to index my own contributions and ignore those excellent articles by everyone else, so I am going to attempt in essence to map the entire site—not in the old directory tree mapping style, but in something more useful. Read more
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
Warning: 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