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about 5 weeks isn't it.
If anyone has any tips about the format etc. please let me know by PM, which reminds
me, maybe I ought to get a few copies of the core books together...
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It will be set in Izlavia towards the end of the month of Yersdaw in the Year of the Fall 201. The majority
of player characters are likely to be Izlavian warriors who are members of the various knightly orders -
for instance, any of the 6 pregenned PCs at the back of the Basic Handbook (one blonde-haired brawny
hero, his skilful sword-sister, an axe-maniac, a warrior-poetess, a scout/archer and an archer/scout -
the difference between the scout/archer and archer/scout is quite pronounced as to their relative
skills in those two areas).
These PCs will have travelled to a small port on the west coast of Izlavia, a few days' travel from Bretnav by road.
Their purpose is to escort the passengers of a medium-sized merchant vessel to Bretnav for the great annual
market on the 4th day of Greening. Most of the passengers are likely to be reasonably well-to-do merchants
and their hangers-on. There is known to be a dreadful bandit problem and the PCs will anticipate
having their work cut out defending the merchants. They will be negotiating pay probably as a small
group to act primarily as bodyguards to a particular merchant, i.e. s/he will be their responsibility
if all Hell breaks lose (as it probably will...). Of course this is only a stepping-stone to the real plot,
which is a bit thicker, but that's your introduction.
If you have the core books, you can have a think about which of the characters in Chapter 12 you might
like to play, although I don't want to divvy up the roles beforehand. On the other hand you're more than
welcome to dream up your own characters, who might or might not be Izlavian vigilante warriors. I will
PROBABLY allow ANY character of human appearance created in line with the Expert Manual guidelines,
provided there is some semi-plausible reason for the character to be there, either as a passenger, or
as an Izlavian - e.g. a wagon-driver (though merchants may bring their own cargo of wagons and drivers)
or other hireling - except perhaps vampires, who are at risk of being sun-burnt to oblivion if they can't
protect themselves from the sun. You can send me anything from a character concept to a fully written up
character beforehand if you like, and I MAY have time to check it or flesh it out, but I can't promise that.
I would be hoping for a party of say 4-6 players at a time, probably with 7 PCs, one each, with any
spare ones being kept as NPCs in case a new player turns up or someone dies. However I will still
run a game with any number of willing player(s) up to the maximum I can handle of probably around
seven (seems unlikely that player overflow will be my problem, but you never know!).
I don't know atm what the format will be - I could run a short game, a long game, a middling game
or a number of short games. I'll probably be making half of it up on the fly anyway, though I have
already run basically this campaign (or at least part of it) for two groups of players. One group
are currently about 15 hours of play into the campaign and the other group have played for if memory
serves three sessions of 4+ hours so there's plenty of it, though at about the 10-hour stage what
happens starts to depend very much on choices that the players make, so depending on what they do,
the campaign could in theory be done and dusted in about 12 hours of play or it could last, well, virtually
forever... Of course I'm not saying there will necessarily be 12 hours of playing time at Indiecon,
I guess it depends on the format and I just don't really know much about that atm. A 2-hour session
could be fine for an intro.
- Thanks: 182 given/222 received
Most slots are 4 hours long, so if you run say scenario one twice on one day and scenario two twice another day that should allow enough people to try it, and give you time to play some stuff yourself, maybe even just run one slot each day then do an on demand service, saying bring me 4-6 players and ill run one the spot. As for books id have a lot of the lite rules sheets to give out then maybe your details on a card should anyone wish to purchase. Im really looking forward to playing this. I suggest you paste the above post to the indiecon forum to drum up some interest
- Location: Dover
- Thanks: 1460 given/1224 received
- Playing: Esoterrorists
- Running: Into the Odd
- Planning: Yoon-Suin
- Thanks: 182 given/222 received
I hope to see Omnifray at cons being run by Matt: it's really the best way to get in to it and do it justice
Summary: There is just so much of it! The books present themselves in a challenging way that I found hard to get in to. They seem to be written with putting you off using them in mind. There is some good stuff in there, and the core mechanics are simple enough: but it’s presented in a poorly edited form, where getting to the information is like clawing your way through a thorny bush.
The writing style feels heavy and ‘technical’: it does not embrace the reader and draw them in, it tries to argue them in with logic and algebraic diagrams. Obviously that’s an analogy, there is no algebra skill needed for Omnifray. And that’s kind of my point: the core of the games mechanic and background is actually very good, but it’s clothed in layers of apparent mess.
The artwork deserves a mention separately: decidedly uninspired and not at all representative of the depth of ideas behind the game world. The full page grey tone illustrations are comic book style and focus on the ‘babe’ element of ‘fantasy illustration: perhaps an attempt to appeal to teen gamers? Who knows?
Obviously budget is a huge factor in producing games, and the artwork reflects this: smaller budgets have to rely on smarter styling, layout, editing and frugal use of effective illustrations and art: Omnifray falls well short here.
As a background and world, it has a lot to offer and is well worth exploring, even if it is only to plunder ideas for your own ‘fantasy’ campaign world.
As a game mechanic it works well and allows for some dynamic play, but it’s a lot of work to get at, and it takes a lot to make it work smoothly and quickly. Ultimately I feel that may well be its downfall: it’s not accessible enough in a market where the focus is on dynamic storytelling and sweeping heroic action. In Omnifray you can have all that, it’s just not sold to you that way in the books.
Did I like it? Mostly. Did I think it was hard work? Yes. Will I play / run it? No. Have I nicked anything from it? Hell yeah! Er, I mean, no, course not.
Something about the title having ‘Omni’ in it… what is it that’s niggling, the ‘all things to all people’ insinuation? The generic, almost GURPs like quality of the word Omni? Don’t know. But something niggles.
The cover art and ‘Omnifray’ logo are not at all inspiring. The logo is too ‘computery’, more suited to a comp game or software developer, not indicative of the genre or the game world. Again, this is all niggles, I mean really? How important is this stuff? It’s what’s inside that counts right?
So, let’s look inside.
First impression: Peas and rice! There’s so much of it! And it’s written in such a small font! What are these guys, sub-contracted to spec-savers!? I’m a first edition Chivalry & Sorcery nut, so I know all about small fonts, unreadable text blocks, depth of information poorly presented and bad layout, hey, I almost feel at home. Not sure how someone younger and more used to the stylistically slick offerings of WoTC, or anyone else for that matter, would find it. Probably just put it right back down with a feeling of being defeated by the sheer weight and appearance of the books: huge density of small font text.
Pick up a copy of Savage Worlds and have a look through it. It positively leaps off the page at you, and becomes playable just by flicking through the book.
Now Omnifray is not a ‘Savage Worlds’ and does not want to be, so perhaps not an apples for apples example. But it does lead to my next point: I’m not sure what Omnifray ‘wants’ to be?
After speaking to Matt and having played in a demo game of Omnifray, it’s apparent that Omnifray is of the ‘old school’ type of game in one important area: it’s intended to be the sole game a GM runs and puts time / effort in to. It’s not a ‘pick up’ game.
Not a problem in itself, but that means its market is to replace an existing sole campaign game or sell itself as an alternative to a sole campaign game to new GMs and players. And I don’t think it will succeed in either area. It’s not user friendly enough to draw people in and it’s not immediate enough to allow a casual game to lead to a liking strong enough to drop other games.
So initially thoughts are that it’s a tough game to get in to.
Having played it: it’s really not.
Omnifray works on a concept that everything can be calculated and worked out from the framework of the rules and the numbers they generate. It tries to supply rules and a mechanic for figuring everything out. I think at one stage or another, a lot of us have been there. We’ve wanted to show that we’re not making this shtuff up, that it’s all based on solid reasoning, bringing that all important realism and consistency to the ‘fantasy’ world, as if that validates it, makes it more worthy of ‘serious’ consideration. Something gets lost when you do this, something of the trust, of the excitement, of the story telling. It seems to imply that it’s all about calculation and getting it ‘right’ by the rules and their mechanics. Game play takes a big hit.
For me, there is too much book keeping and tracking of numbery stuff in Omnifray. Too much depends on juggling points, for character generation, feat and magic use and fate. Too many opportunities for having to keep track of the numbers behind the role playing. It is for me the very definition of ‘clunky’.
Thing is, there is a lot to like in Omnifray. The Enshrouded Lands are a nice concept, there is enough background and history to bring it all alive. Feels like a real place, where some real adventure can take place, some great stories await the telling. It has a feeling of researched reality, of consistency that adds to the feel of a real world waiting to be discovered. The idea that the ‘shrouding’ hides the more mystical goings on from the ‘normal’ peoples of the Lands adds an element of mystery to the player characters: why they interact with the supernatural and how they deal with it in keeping the more outrageous aspects hidden from the mundane folk, adds a nice twist to playing the game. Makes the heroes more heroic, gives them more responsibility.
Character generation revolves around the 17 core ability scores, and for humans an average of ‘6’ is then built upon by spending character generation points, with varying costs for the ability increases. It’s not a particularly arduous task to create a character, apart from tracking points for feats: I got the feeling I didn’t understand the full importance of feats and how they allow you to boost your character in play. This is obviously partly due to not having the time to read through all the feats, and I did have access to a lot of them. But in fairness, the information is all there, and it is *all* there, in spades: feats rock. And they really, really matter. I think character gen should be simplified by allowing access to feats by degrees during generation, rather than an open ended approach dependent upon points. Tracking their use and spending of points during game time is a bit of a pain, though it’s not as much book-keeping as I first thought.
Moulding your character can best be done after a good read through and a sit down with an accomplished GM. The Expert Manual really opens things up for variety and scope, but adds a lot of time in reading / digesting and fitting with character concept: time well spent in the longer term no doubt.
A quick word about ‘Alacrity’: it’s really very important in the rules. Go for it with boosting it as high as you sensibly can. It seemed to be governing a lot of stuff in the game I played in too, so I was convinced it wasn’t just me and a selective interpretation.
Task / skills resolution and combat are accomplished using the ‘simple action resolution table’, or were for me, as I chose not to get too in to the more advanced ‘four tier action resolution’ method (hey, I’m old, I don’t have long to live…)
The mechanic of resolving combat or skills use is really very simple: match the numeric value of the skill being used with that of the thing opposing it, find the advantage / disadvantage and cross index on the table to find a % chance of success. So, if I want to hit you with a sword, and my total is ‘12’ and you have a defence of ‘10’ I have an advantage of 2, giving me a base 67% chance (from the table) of succeeding. Once you get the hang of finding the opposing numbers, the resolution is very quick and simple. I like this simplicity. In practice, and it took the game run by Matt to fully illustrate this, getting to the numbers that allow you to find your advantage or disadvantage is incredibly simple and quick. Good feature of the game.
In combat, the % number can also be used as a way to track the amount of injury done to your foe, tracked as a %, when they hit 100%: they die. Or it can be used as a quick way to roll for ‘instant death’ of unimportant NPCs: 67% chance to hit – 67% chance they are killed outright if they are hit. Again, nice quick and simple.
Speed of action in melee, which yields an initiative track for who acts when, is one of the nicest bits of the system. It’s an open ended way to construct a ‘combat round’ that keeps moving things along, allowing the simple calculation of who acts next / when. This aspect of the game should cheerfully be stolen by any that want a more fluid feel to combat, and it’d work well adopted for 1st Ed. Chivalry & Sorcery and the ‘blows’ system. Not that I’d ever plagiarise…
Magic in Omnifray is worked via feats, in that it yields powers that can be fuelled by points to achieve results in game terms. I didn’t like the premise behind the magic in Omnifray and it really didn’t fit with my concept of ‘fantasy’ magic. But the system for working it all out looked as thorough and in depth as the rest of the game, and doubtless once you’ve got to the nub of it, will work just as well.
Spiritual alignment seemed like a bit of a cop out. The suggestion is that your ‘alignment’ means nothing in game play terms, other than the ‘supernatural feats’ you can get access to, but that you might like to use it as a guide to some of your behaviour, or it might be a slight indication to the way some of the powers may or may not relate to you, if at all.
I don’t see anything wrong in having a ‘good / bad’ rating system if one is required for the multi-verse and its mechanisms. And if one isn’t: leave it out completely (use the feats as the driver for power / spell access).
A mention of ‘temporary fate points’: I really dislike these a lot.
The concept is that characters that start life, i.e. generation, with some disadvantages, will have more temporary fate points than those with a fantastic leg up in life, giving the GM an opportunity to ‘spend’ these points in making ‘good things’ happen for the otherwise disadvantaged characters. Quantifying GM friendly fudging when they think the Player deserves a break.
Not my cup of tea at all.
Tip your hat in respect to the GM and give them some hard earned credit: they can manage this sort of thing without having to be given a formulae to work out how many points they can ‘spend’ on helping people. GMs will help (or not) as the game and plot require. It’s not fudging. It’s what they do to keep a good game going. And all Players appreciate this aspect of the game, call it karma, call it fate, call it the whim of the Gods, but it’s not something that needs a number that can be converted to game currency and spent in open play so that all can track it.
Perhaps ‘temporary fate points’ actually sum up the main problem I have with Omnifray: the numbers trying to represent the mechanical control over all aspects of the game.
Perhaps they niggle because they seem like a stupid idea to an experienced GM.
So. In final summary (at freakin last! you cry): I found Omnifray hard to read because of the writing style, the layout and the font. I didn’t like the artwork and thought it hurt the game’s real feel, which to me was doubly lost in the font size and dense layout (have I mentioned the layout and the font?). I found the core mechanics to be simple, but hard to get to for fundamental use and flow because of the writing style. I thought the rules were trying to do too much and didn’t leave enough room for me as a creative GM. For me, there were too many numbers, this will not be a problem for a lot of GMs, but for me it was. I liked the setting and felt a lot could be done here that would yield some really in depth games. There are a couple of mechanics I liked and would like to see adapted in other games I play.
I don’t think Omnifray will sell to a wider audience as it is not accessible enough in presentation: it needs to be much, much more dynamic in its presentation.
Would I buy it? On tough reflection: no, not as it stands. Do I think it has something to offer: yes, but it’s a labour of love to get at the good stuff here and get passed the layers of numbers and dense layout.
Matt has put a hell of a lot in to Omnifray. It’s his baby and his vision and it has accomplished everything he set out for it to do. Omnifray is out there ‘doing it’, unlike many ‘home brew’ systems that simply remain pipe dreams, so respect where it’s due and good luck to them both!
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