Other Things to Play: Cards Against Humanity

This weekend I discovered a new game, Cards Against Humanity.  It’s subtitled “A Party Game For Horrible People” and the only thing I knew about it before now was that it’s almost impossible to get your hands on.  It’s rare to catch it online when it’s not sold out.  And after playing it, I can tell you, there’s a very good reason for this.

If you’ve ever played Apples to Apples, Cards Against Humanity will come to you pretty quickly.  Just like in Apples to Apples, one player picks up a card that has some sort of descriptive text on (the black cards) and each of the other players puts down a card with a noun on it (the white cards) and the player who drew the black card chooses the white card he likes best.  Whoever gets the most black cards wins.

Where it differs from Apples to Apple is subject matter.  There are black cards that say things like ‘What ended my last relationship?’ or ‘how did I lose my virginity?’ and the white cards say things like ‘icepick lobotomy’ and my personal favorite ‘two midgets shitting into a bucket’.  The game is a blast.  We were laughing so hard that we couldn’t breathe.  We were laughing until we needed to take breaks, as if we were in the middle of an intense workout.

I think it’s way more fun than Apples to Apples because it solves the major problem of that game.  Apples to Apples isn’t fun with a group of people you don’t know.  It requires a certain amount of knowledge of the people you’re playing with.  Cards doesn’t need that.  Tactless humor is fairly universal and anyone has a great chance of winning with any group of people.

One final great thing they’re doing is offering the core game for free via PDF.  You need to take it to a print shop or similar place to have it put together, then you’ll need something to keep it in.  They go through all of this in the PDF, which you can find here.

If you get the chance to play this game do it.  And if you can purchase this game, don’t hesitate.

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The Other Side of the Table

Recently I was able to play an RPG for the first time in years.  It was weird being on the other side of the table.  We made characters and jumped right in.  My friend was running Nightbane by Palladium games.  I don’t have a ton of experience with Palladium; I know they made a lot of games in the Eighties.  The extent of my experience is that I had a copy of Heroes Unlimited pass through my hands.  I donated it to my college’s gaming club.  I remember it having a lot of charts that you rolled a percentile on to generate powers.

Nightbane wasn’t much different.  There were a lot of charts (that we didn’t find out about until later) that turn you into quite the hideous monster.  In Nightbane, you play as a typical Eighties movie monster.  It’s a pretty cool setting, all of it very old school horror.  Being a huge fan of that sort of thing, this game really hit the spot for me.

Our DM made a smart decision by not having us finish our characters until we transformed for the first time. Usually I don’t like rolling to generate anything in a game, but this time it was a blast.  Maybe the idea of a hideous transformation appealed to me because I’ve been watching too many horror movies lately.  I rolled and found my humble mechanic transformed into a were-weasel with sixteen arms and missing patches of skin.  When I suddenly transformed into a horrible beast and killing a mugger it was awesome.

So we ended up having a neat little session where our characters transformed, dealt with the fact that they were no longer human, ran from the police, and fought a weird creature.  It was fun.  I forgot the simple joy in showing up and letting someone else take my imagination for a ride.  I found myself absorbed in a way that just doesn’t happen when I’m running the show.

The main thing to take away here is to keep things in perspective.  If you usually run the game, never ignore a chance to play.  It will give you new ideas, a new view of gaming, and refresh you for the next session you run.  It’s always good to be on the other side of the table.

The Four Vital Parts of a One-off Adventure

Whether it’s a quick diversion for your regular group or a dungeon to excite your friends, the one-off adventure is an integral part of the role playing experience.  What is a one-off?  A one-off adventure is an adventure that doesn’t affect the ongoing story that usually isn’t longer than a single session.  The best one-offs have four vital parts: A great hook, an interesting locale, proper length, and an exciting set piece encounter.  Let’s take a look at each of these and I’ll give some examples to help your brainstorms.

A Great Hook: You need to entice your players properly.  A lame hook will lead to a lame game.  Just because the characters and locations in this adventure won’t be seen again doesn’t mean you can be lazy.  Trust me; they don’t want to face the nameless wizard in his tower in ‘the mountains’.  They’d rather try to stop Immeral Imenethil, eladrin artificer, from making his deadliest creation or seek the temple of the Sun Dragon deep in the southern swamps to find the a legendary blade or to stop the Lizard King, dragonborn warlord, from raising an army of lizardfolk to wipe the nearby village from the map.  Give them a good reason to do it and they’ll buy into the adventure and have a blast.

An Interesting Locale: Just as important as a great hook is the setting for your one-off.  Again, don’t send them to another wizard’s tower.  Tombs, abandoned fortresses, ancient temples to forgotten gods, these are all steps in the right direction.  Add some history to liven those places up and you’ve got yourself a great locale.  Immeral Imenethil’s workshop is set up in a repurposed dwarven tomb.  The Temple of the Sun Dragon is full of reptilian skeletons.  The little details make the memories.

Proper Length: There is nothing worse than setting up a game with your friends and having to stop three rooms before the grand finale.  It’s important to know just how long you’re going to have and plan for it.  More importantly, plan your beginning, middle, and ending (I’ll go more into this later).  If you know there’s going to a break in the adventure plan for that too.  One last tip, people like to eat every four to five hours.

A Set Piece Encounter: I like to talk a lot about what I call ‘set piece encounters’.  Set piece encounters are those big fights, the fights you hint at, the grand finales, the ones your players talk about for years.  Every one-off needs one of these, preferably at the end.  A well thought, challenging battle will tie the entire adventure together.  Unique traps, epic terrain, power elites with deadly bodyguards, and one of a kind solos can all lead to unforgettable battles.  When the players finally encounter Immeral, they battle him in his trap laden laboratory, when they meet the Lizard King he battles them with his honor guard by his side.

When you give your players a great adventure, you give them lifetime memories.  So, even when it’s just for one night, don’t skimp on your adventures.

Project: Outcasts Part 1

I’ve recently taken up a new game.  It’s a departure from my normal diet of RPGs and board games, but I’m smitten with Dark Age.  Dark Age is a miniatures game I’ve written about before that has slick and fun rules, some of the best miniatures I’ve ever seen, and incredible fluff.

In the game, you take control of a warband from one of various factions and fight on the world of Samaria.  That decision took me a long time to make but I eventually decided to play the Outcasts.  The Outcasts look like characters from The Road Warrior series of films.  There is even a unit of kids with boomerangs, just like the kid in the second movie.

My Brute and my Fixer mid battle

Initially, I purchased a Manhunter, a Fixer, a Brute (the second sculpt), and a unit of Wasteland Warriors.  The models are, as I said, incredible, but they’re all metal.  I’d forgotten how hard metal was to glue until I tried it again.  These are easier than most however.  The few models that aren’t one piece have joints in such a way that gluing is very easy.

My first batch of Outcasts coming together.

Eventually though, I did have to break out some heavy duty stuff.  The glue I was using, Zap a Gap, wasn’t doing the trick and my roommate lent me Locktite.  Locktite holds metal together in the most incredible way and is very inexpensive.

My Outcasts, completely assembled

I haven’t started painting yet, but I plan on a darker color scheme.  Black leather, tanned skin, rusty weapons, that sort of thing.

My first Brute

What I have here is 350 points.  The list does not play well.  The core of Warriors and the Brute hold up nicely, and the Fixer is great for keeping them up.  But the Manhunter is just too many points at 350.  If he’s on a roll, he can be worth every point and more, but if not he just disappoints.  The Brute (or Brutes if you’re feeling enterprising) hit like trucks.  They can also take a beating.  Wasteland Warriors are great troops for shooting or close combat, wherever they’re needed.  Where they really shine, however, is when they’re softening up enemy targets for a brutal charge from the Brutes.

My Wasteland Warriors

Keep checking back as I work on my Outcasts for more updates and reports on how they play out as I expand to higher point games.