Friday, November 26, 2010

Mini Six Continues D6 System Legacy

The Mini Six Cinematic Roleplaying Game from AntiPaladin Games serves as the next iteration in the more than 20-year history of the D6 System. The 36-page rulebook with a color cover -- available as a free PDF download or an $8 print copy -- streamlines the essentials of a D6 System roleplaying game engine, provides several innovations, and offers options to customize the system to one’s tastes, including retaining mechanics from previous D6 incarnations.

This rulebook isn’t for newcomers; it’s a basic framework geared toward experience roleplaying gamers, especially those looking for the next iteration of the D6 System. Four pages cover the basic character creation and task resolution mechanics of the Mini Six system: four attributes, skills customized to the setting, the usual list of weapon damages, difficulty numbers, wound levels, and even a scale system. The authors offer two kinds of combat mechanics: the traditional D6 System roll skill to hit and roll damage, and a “Fast Static Combat” where opponents roll against pre-determined defensive target numbers, with the difference acting as a measure of damage.

Mini Six displays some other key differences from past D6 games, though optional rules allow one to easily play with the traditional D6 mechanics. The “Fast Static Combat” alternative further streamlines fights with one skill number as the determination of hit and damage; this relies on pre-calculated values for block, dodge, and parry for “to hit” Target Numbers, and soak for resisting damage. Hero Points work quite differently in Mini Six. Spending one grants one of several bonuses: gain a +6 to any roll (up to three times if you have points to spend), lower a wound level by one, make a small change to the immediate location or availability of items, or “buy” a clue (though optional rules allow one to return to the traditional “double all die codes for one round” Hero Point mechanic).

Beyond the basic mechanics of character creation and task resolution, Mini Six retains perks and complications (nicer-sounding alternatives to the advantages and disadvantages in the last incarnation of the D6 System), a version of the wild die (sigh…), and traditional target numbers, weapon damage, and wound levels.

Mini Six makes several interesting game engine choices beyond these. It omits using character points as boosters for individual skill rolls, using them exclusively for experience points. Damage rolls revert to the old Strength dice plus weapon die code formula, instead of a pre-calculated Strength value added to weapon damage (though Strength in Mini Six is called Might). The game prefers the variable wound level system of damage effects rather than the Body Point system.

Of course, all these other mechanics receive mention as optional rules along with notes on renaming and expanding attributes, increasing attribute range, getting rid of attributes altogether, adding paranormal abilities, and varying starting skill dice. If all else fails, a handy “Mini Six to traditional D6” conversion section outlines all the differences, including internal page references.

The rest of the book offers stat examples for vehicles, magic, characters, and creatures across numerous genres (useful at a glance for quick encounters or as guidelines for creating your own stats). Four pages devoted to the magic system cover not only basic spells but magical perks and complications, sorcerer’s tools and spell books, and enchanted items. Five brief, original settings outline suggested characters, adversaries, and vehicles, just enough to get gamemasters going with the right atmosphere and plot elements.

In lieu of any officially published and supported version of the D6 System, Mini Six offers a game engine familiar to D6 fans, but one that still allows a degree of customization in the gameplay styles (classic D6 System or even more streamlined Mini Six) on a rule-by-rule basis. Mini Six is a worthy successor to the long line of D6 System games, one that honors the past mechanics, respects the prerogative of gamers to tailor the system to their own tastes, and puts its own unique stamp on further streamlining the cinematic rules.

My Involvement with D6

Of course my observations are biased. I am a longtime fan of the D6 System and have worked professionally with published D6 material. I enjoyed the Star Wars D6 roleplaying game, first as an enthusiastic player, then as a writer, editor, and game designer at the late West End Games. After Purgatory Publishing’s acquisition of West End Games and the D6 System, I contributed to several D6 System supplements. I have followed the system’s tumultuous development and history.

In 2005 I set out on my own to form Griffon Publishing Studio, and have since released two sourcebooks, Pulp Egypt and Heroes of Rura-Tonga. At first I was intending to use the D6 System as published by West End Games’ incarnation under Purgatory Publishing; but after careful consideration, I decided to publish the material under the Any-System Key, a system-neutral means of describing character skills and task difficulties customizable to almost any game system (setting and adventures being more my strong suit than game system work).

Nonetheless, when I run scenarios based on my own material, I default to the D6 System. It’s easy to teach to both newcomers to the system and newcomers to roleplaying games. The rules remain intuitive without slowing gameplay or story development. Despite seeing other systems worth trying (most notably Pinnacle Entertainment Group’s Savage Worlds), I continue using D6. I’ve even developed homemade versions to cover media properties in which I wanted to game (such as Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who) before officially published games released. After seeing Mini Six, I may start running games using this streamlined version of the D6 System, customized with my own preferences for past rules that worked (or didn’t work).

Other D6 of Note

Although Mini Six is a slick-looking, PDF- and print-published endeavor, one can find other useful D6 System resources online. The Open D6 Wikia contains a host of D6 resources, including free PDF downloads of the Purgatory Publishing D6 System books, links to the WEG Fan Forums, and an entire page of links to D6 materials, many customizing D6 to various media settings.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Big List of RPG Plots

Need an adventure idea for an upcoming roleplaying game scenario? Check out S. John Ross’s Big List of RPG Plots for free at his Blue Room website. It’s been available for a while, but remains one of the most time-tested, useful gamemaster tools ever devised.

S. John has assembled more than 30 basic plot tropes distilled from 40 years of roleplaying game scenarios, though all of them have worked as literary/media themes through the ages. Each includes a simple summary of the set-up and goals for the characters, usually in one or two concise sentences. Gamemasters can port these system-neutral adventure ideas into any game or setting. Each also contains notes on “Common Twists & Themes” providing options elaborating on the core adventure concept. Several “Tips & Tricks” round out the list with additional strategies for implementing plots in your game.

The Big List of RPG Plots stands as an essential component in any gamemaster’s library, one to keep handy as a launching point for an impromptu game session, for general ideas when players run far off a planned scenario’s course, or for inspiration when a new adventure idea remains elusive. The list also provides a challenge for gamemasters: pick one plot (possibly at random) and develop an entire scenario for your game based on its premise.

Read The Big List of RPG Plots online or get a printer-friendly PDF file through a zipped download at S. John’s Cumberland Games & Diversions free downloads page (way down at the bottom, under “Random Toys”). While you’re there, check out his treasure trove of free offerings, from original fonts and samplers of products for sale to entire games like the innovative Risus: The Anything RPG, Encounter Critical, and the brilliantly twisted Pokethulhu Adventure Game.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Preview Game Rules Online

In today’s information age the internet can serve as the primary way consumers can preview rules for games they’re considering for purchase.

Most board game companies maintain websites with a host of information for those thinking about buying their games, plus resources and even online communities for gaming enthusiasts. At the very least they provide a page describing the game basics one usually finds on the box: a teaser blurb, summary of gameplay, and a list of components. If they don’t show the retail price, clicking on the “buy it now” button or similar link sends one to an online storefront that shows the price.

Many companies offer PDFs of their game rules as free downloads. This enables consumers considering a game purchase to preview the rules and get a closer look at the components. It’s not always easy to understand the game without all the pieces in front of you, but it’s better than investing in a game only to discover the mechanics aren’t to your liking. Those who already own the game can print out replacement rules for copies lost or otherwise destroyed. Some websites even provide instructional promotional videos featuring a closer look at the components and demonstration of gameplay.

These online PDF rules and video tutorials also allow those hosting game nights to give invitees a chance to familiarize themselves with the rules beforehand, without having to dive into the game unprepared at the event.

Two other notable resources for previewing games include Dr. Scott Nicholson’s Board Games with Scott website -- which provides online videos about games -- and, a vast, fan-powered encyclopedia of information on tabletop gaming, with reviews, links to resources, and photos.

The online PDF rules model doesn’t work quite as well for roleplaying game companies, which deal in print or PDF books of rules without all the components of a board game. Many roleplaying game companies, though, offer PDF previews or free support materials like scenarios that offer a peek at the game’s atmosphere and mechanics. Like online board game rules, they offer a glimpse at the game without all the necessary components to play.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gamewright Offers Game Night for Schools

The innovative folks at Gamewright offer a program for schools to host a game night showcasing the company’s products and selling games to help raise money for school projects.

Gamewright’s Game Night web page outlines the basic points for school groups seeking to host an event: determining a date, time, and location; contacting Gamewright with details of the event and other information; recruiting volunteers; and promoting the event.

The company provides posters and flyers to help advertise the game night, and gives some basic guidelines on how to spread the word and attract attendees. Two weeks before the event Gamewright sends demo copies of the games appropriate for the event audience, plus cases of the games to sell on site. School organizations receive 50% of the proceeds for all games sold at the event. With prices ranging from $5 to $15 on a selection of engaging and entertaining games, a Gamewright game night seems like a sure bet on an enjoyable event that can help school groups raise much-needed cash.

A quick search on the web revealed several instances where school groups managed to run successful game nights as entertaining fundraising events. People are out there taking advantage of this program to introduce games to families and make some additional money for educational causes.

Those interested can contact Gamewright through their game night website. Though the information outlined there seems primarily geared toward school groups, libraries, youth groups, and other organizations might see if such an event could work for them.

Gamewright has a strong history of creating engaging, award-winning games aimed at different age groups. Their recently released Rory’s Story Cubes was named one of Dr. Toy’s 10 Best Games of the Year and a Parents’ Choice Gold award winner. Forbidden Island won a Mensa Select award for its cooperative gameplay and innovative mechanics. With prices under $20, Gamewright titles offer innovative family fun with educational value.

Friday, November 12, 2010

MACE Gaming Weekend

Every year in early November the folks at Just Us Productions host MACE, an all-gaming weekend convention in High Point, NC. If you’re within driving distance put it on your calendar.

I’m heading down this weekend to run some roleplaying game sessions, chat with con-goers, and generally reconnect with a friendly slice of the gamer population. MACE has hosted me before, so I know it’s a well-organized three days with a variety of games, from roleplaying and miniatures to board and card games. The convention attracts a crowd of game industry notables from the region who come to mingle, play, and run demos; they’re not high-powered media guests, just fellow game enthusiasts who’ve contributed to the industry and want to share their enjoyment of games with others. MACE provides a welcoming, relaxed atmosphere in which to meet them.

MACE also knows how to take care of its attendees and optimize their gaming experience. The schedule follows the usual four-hour-sessions format, with flexible exceptions for demos and shorter games. Hour-long breaks between slots allows folks to relax, browse the cozy dealers room, and grab a bite to eat. With the Grinning Goblin Snacks and Sundries providing food and drinks for purchase, gamers don’t have to go far for meals and can instead spend more quality time in games and with friends. In the past this convenient food service even carted pizza and snacks through the gaming rooms so attendees didn’t have to leave the gaming table.

MACE also includes a few events typical to most sci-fi/fantasy fan conventions: a dealers room geared toward gamers and a Saturday night charity auction benefitting the NC Zoo and Special Olympics.

It’s worth the trip to spend an enjoyable weekend playing a wide variety of games at MACE.