Wizards ‘n Zombies II

Wizards ‘n Zombies Part 2

This week’s comic is a continuation of the story begun here in last week’s comic. We are playing Fantasy Flight Games’ ‘End of the World’ RPG series. As I alluded to in last week’s blog post, the USP of this RPG is that the character you play is based on yourself. In fact, it’s more than just ‘based on’. The character you play is yourself.

You can find a complete (and very interesting) article on character creation here but, briefly; there are three categories: physical, mental, and social. Each of these categories has two different stats: physical, for example, has dexterity and vitality. Working from a limited number of points, you assign values to each of these stats. Then, the group you are playing with votes on whether to adjust these, i.e. they decide that no, you aren’t an Olympic level athlete and reduce your vitality to a reasonable number.

Even more fun is then introducing a unique characteristic in each of the three categories. What this will be is up to you. Short-sighted, grumpy, tire easily, great sense of direction, martial arts.

The only thing that then remains to decide is what gear or equipment all of your characters have. As the game begins with everyone sitting around a table at their current location, your items are easy: what is currently in your pockets?

Of course, this kind of character creation is absolutely not going to be for everyone. Typically, roleplaying is about creating a character from imagination. It’s about playing a role, after all, and this is exactly the opposite of that. It’s an exciting, funny, and fun prospect for me, but I understand it won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

The system does allow you to just create a character from your imagination if you choose, but if you want to do that, there are probably 100s of other RPGs to better suit your taste. In the coming years, I hope to explore more than a few of those RPGs myself.

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A Wizard did it

Writer_smallerThe Union of Wizards

It’s strange to look back and realise that in over 100 comics we have never featured a wizard. We have had most of board gaming’s staples: zombies, dice, dungeons, Catan, combat, cards, dice, collectibles, expansions, war, Shia LeBeouf. But oddly, no wizards. Or mages & clerics, as I gather they are more commonly known now.

I guess there a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, neither Aileen nor myself ever did any roleplaying. In fact, Fiasco is as much as we have ever done. So we don’t have that grounding in D&D that is very common to gamers of our age, who would have been weaned on swords, magic and D20s.

Secondly, once we leave the grounded realm of trading, settling, economics and historical settings, we both tend more towards sci-fi than fantasy. This is broadly true in our other interests as well: reading, TV, video games, dressing up like aliens and pretending our couch is a spaceship. That kind of thing.

As good a game as Descent is, it never grabbed us until Fantasy Flight put it in a Wookie suit and called it Imperial Assault. The same with Mage Knight: now that it’s had some pointy ears glued on to make it look like a Vulcan, we’re all over it. Theme is just too important to both of us. A game needs good mechanics, obviously; otherwise, it would never cross our table. But that alone is never enough. Its setting, its world, the story it tells has to interest us as well. Gaming is more than just sitting around a table rolling dice and playing cards. It’s weaving stories with our friends. It’s creating characters and worlds. It’s that unique alchemy where cardboard, dice and cards become something so much more. And that something is the experience of playing games and creating stories. It is, ironically, magical. Almost as if a wizard is always involved, regardless of setting.

We are hoping to do more roleplaying in the future, so it does seem likely that this will put us in touch with our bearded side. Will this be enough to keep the Wizard’s Guild off our backs? Time will tell. Right now, I think it’s more important that we keep the Zombies Union from sending around a representative. Took us weeks to get the gore out of our carpet the last time that happened.

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Fiasco Funnies

Writer_smallerWhat a Fiasco!

Things started when the body was found. In the isolated darkness of McMurdo Ice Station, paranoia and dark ulterior motives quickly took hold: one kidnapping, one attempted seduction, one burglary, several assaults, and a penguin-worshipping death cult later, we all found ourselves in the alcohol-soaked confines of the local bar. We were joined by some dynamite, a mysterious package of toxic waste, a lighter, and some very dark, murderous intentions.

That was how our first game of Fiasco played out, and if that doesn’t recommend it then I don’t know what else to say. On the other hand, it’s probably not for everyone, and you do need to have the right group. I talked a little about it last week, and you can see details here, but in short it is a one-night RPG that runs without a Games Master and simulates a crime caper in the vein of the Coen Brothers, or anything else similarly twisted, anarchic, and ultimately violent. Needless to say, it’s a game with mature themes. And not just mature themes that you’ll be sniggering at on cards, but ones you will have to act out with and in front of your friends.

We picked up Fiasco as a gateway to RPGs. The problem we had with getting into RPGs was that neither of us has experience enough to run a game, so we needed one that didn’t rely on such previous experience. Fiasco circumvents the needs for a DM, although you do still need one player willing to keep the group on track, and keep the game moving in the right direction. In getting by without a DM it uses a set of simple mechanics, albeit non-intuitive ones, that can be hard to grasp. After a couple of read-throughs of the rules, we still needed to see the game being played for parts of it to click (thanks to commenter Zorblag last week for pointing us towards that video). Even then, it was really only in the second act of the game that everyone in the group really understood the mechanics underneath the wonderfully chaotic surface of our caper, and how we needed to play with them in mind.

Having said that, we managed well enough to craft an utterly memorable final five scenes. These all took place in “The Lonely Inuit” (the local bar) within the space of a few deliciously tense, slow-motion seconds, when a naked doomsday cultist burst in holding a stick of dynamite and a lighter, but was knocked out by a flying pint glass (whose owner stumbled to the ground, tripping over another character clinging to his leg in fear), landing the lighter and dynamite at the feet of another unsuspecting character. Seizing the opportunity (and explosives), she exited the bar, throwing the lit dynamite back in, delighted at the opportunity to simultaneously wipe out and frame everyone else in the bar.

It was only after we had finished playing that we realised we never even got to find out how that first body got there, or who was responsible.

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