Hearthstone: RPG or TCG?

Hearthstone: RPG or TCG?

 

You should already know I’m a noob in the game universe. Following my post “RPG: Hearthstone, my  newest addiction,” some of our readers pointed out to me that Hearthstone isn’t exactly an RPG, but first and foremost a TCG.

I made my case, they made theirs, and in the end we still had doubts.

While Hearthstone is based on as hardcore a roleplaying game as World of Warcraft undoubtedly is—or is it? We’ll get back to this—Hearthstone itself is more of a card game. You do get into character, but you don’t create the whole persona—I mean, you can’t even edit or change their speech bubbles during games. You’re stuck with the personality that each class has been given.

You can’t actively trade cards with other players either. You can disenchant yours, get dust and then craft new ones, but it’s not like your friend can entice you with three awesome cards just so he can have your Ragnaros.

However, when you’re playing against your friends, be it a friendly banter or the ultimate challenge, you’re not “you.” There’s this Mage, Warrior, Hunter, or Rogue who molds your actions—and therefore how your personality comes through. Of course you will have a determined gaming strategy that sets you apart. Maybe you like to attack the Hero directly from the very beginning instead of wiping all its minions off the table. Nevertheless, one can argue that you are indeed playing a role. You don’t have as much creative freedom as you get in other RPGs, but you are in character nonetheless.

“How about the cards?” I can hear some of you shouting. “How can you not see that you’re playing freaking cards?!?”

Well, yes, cards are the gateway to your actions, they’re how you express yourself—outside of the speech bubbles. You can change the backs of the cards, and you can choose whether or not to use the golden ones, giving your personal touch to the game. Hey, you can even buy new characters that will, in turn, grant you access to new card backs.  And don’t forget that you can interact with the different settings where you’re playing.

Then again, what makes an RPG or a TCG? Wait. You didn’t think there were just these two terms did you? Because there are more to count, starting this small list—and this is just concerning the CG part as a constant:

BCG: Battle Card GameCCG: Customizable Card Game
ECG: Expandable Card Game
LCG: Living Card Game
OCG: Official Card Game
OCG: Original Card Game
TCG: The Card Game
XCG: Expandable Card Game

This IS confusing.

Even worse, did you know some people claim that WoW goes by the name of TCG? Hey! Don’t crucify me! I have yet to play it to reach any conclusion.

If you look for definitions of each of the aforementioned terms, they vary from source to source. Opinions differ and the rules get hazy when you scan through different forums.

So… Here I am. New at this and without certainties about nomenclatures. But you know what? Even though most of you would probably smack me in the face for saying this, I do have to admit that I don’t really care what it is called. The important word on that fancy and—sometimes confusing—pot of acronyms is the G word. I simply want to enjoy myself playing GAMES, no matter if they’re slightly more TC based or RP oriented.

May I just add how interesting this whole acronym thing is? It makes you feel like you’re an old soul gamer. No? Is it just me? Well, at least it impresses non-gamers… Anyway…

What do you think? RPG or TCG? Weigh in with your opinion in the comments and see if you can convince me!

S.G.

Sharing your world: game writing | By Alana Joli Abbott

Sharing your world: game writing | By Alana Joli Abbott

When I was in high school, I ran my first D&D game. I hadn’t been gaming very long, and I had a ton of fairy tale tropes that were stronger influences than the D&D cannon. My game did not really fit the D&D archetypes, and while I did a great job rolling with the way the players took my material (because, hey, they were upperclassmen and veteran gamers and it was my first DMing experience), I learned a lot about the difference between writing—and writing for gamers. The core of the difference is that when you’re writing a work that stands alone, you know where the story goes and where it’s going to end. When you’re writing for gamers? Well, be prepared for everything.

As a game master, one of the nicest tools in the arsenal is the ability to go off script. So, your tabletop Shotguns and Sorcery gamers have decided that they don’t want to do the mission given to them by the Dragon Emperor, and instead want to spend the day shopping in Gnometown? You roll with it. That may mean arresting them and getting them back to the hook (because when is saying no to the Dragon Emperor a good idea?), but you humor them. It may mean changing the adventure to be about evading the Imperial Dragon’s Guard, and taking the bones of the adventure you designed and changing all the flavor so that when they get chased out of Dragon City, the zombies you prepped are there for a different reason than the quest they were supposed to go on in the first place.

But what if you’re writing an adventure, or interactive fiction, for players you’ve never met? If you’ve played with gamers who like to go off script, you know how challenging it can be to anticipate their options. But that’s exactly what adventure writers and interactive novel writers are asked to do. I’ve written my fair share of tabletop adventures and I’m now three apps into writing multiple choice novels, and I still don’t know the best solution to this conundrum. But I know the first thing that I have to do when I start writing is realize: I’m not the only writer.

Is that a surprise? If you’re a gamer: congratulations! I’m not writing my story when I’m writing a game. I’m trying to write one for you to make your own. And that’s the real key. Any game story I write, the player should feel like the star. As the player, you should be able to make choices that suit the backstory you’ve created, beyond the text I’ve written. You should be able to tailor your character to reflect the culture and romantic inclinations you think suit them best. You shouldn’t be held back by my imagination.

Am I always going to have all the options everyone would like? In a word: no. My playtesters will tell you, though, that if they present an idea I haven’t thought of, I’ll work it in if I can. And—to some degree—if it suits the framework of the story as I’ve envisioned it. Because that’s your job as a gamer too: you’re the star, but we’re working on the story together. I hope you’ll see some of me in the world I give to you.

If you’re a game designer or an adventure writer yourself, this can be one of the most mind-wracking, brain-twisting challenges you’ll ever have—and you’ll come out on the other side better for it, because your imagination has to expand beyond a single point of view to encompass the potential points of view of thousands of players. And when you walk away, you can guess that as memorable as your NPCs are, as great as the details are in your world, the character the players will remember the best are the ones they created. And that’s exactly as it should be.

RPG: Hearthstone, my newest addiction

RPG: Hearthstone, my newest addiction

For a long time, RPG was a foreign word to me. I knew it from my so called geek friends, from the newest CGI games, and from hearing references of classics like Dungeons & Dragons. But I didn’t really know what it meant.

This summer, I was introduced to Hearthstone. It had something to do with the universe of World of Warcraft. Ok: a familiar name. I had never played it myself, but had seen people addicted to it and talking about how awesome it was.

hearthstone_scre

And…I’m dead…

My first reaction: cool graphics, but… so many cards with… numbers… and what do they all mean? There’s the little diamond shape thingy and then the other two on the bottom… And the ones with a skull have “Deathrattle”? My inner monologues ended pretty much with “Wait. Why did that monster die? No! Wh-why am I dead?!?”

Yup. Not the easiest game ever, I give you that. Especially if you have no experience with card games or RPGs in general. But I was hooked. I continued to try. I had help building my first decks and got used to playing with the same character: Mage (c’mon, you’ve got to love a good Flamestrike!).

hearthstone_flamestrike02-pc-games

Flamestrike: Deal 4 damage to all enemy minions

But besides the everyday ranked games, daily challenges and solo adventures, there’s something that, sometimes, is incredible: the Tavern Brawls!

These consist of a weekly challenge that changes its rules every time and is only available for three days. You get games that go from cooperating with the other player in order to destroy a common enemy to using only one type of card to destroy your enemy—or even to using chess pieces.

Something that captured my attention was the cooperation game. In a question of seconds—and without the use of chat—strategies were made and put into action. Just by playing a certain card and maybe highlighting your partner’s hero power, you gave each other signals and you were in fact working towards a common goal from across the world. It seems something ridiculous, right? What’s so important about destroying an imaginary monster in a fantasy game?

co-op_tavernbrawl

Co-op! Co-op!

Well, picture this: it’s not a random monster, it’s a problem that two people who have never met are joining forces to solve. Within seconds, tactics are created and acted upon.

This shows how we are more than capable of solving problems and collaborating. We just have to be on the same side—and that’s the tricky part of any conflict.

See how this quickly went from mere game to world cooperation? Ok, ok, I’m not preaching RPGs as a solution to World Peace—everyone knows that the answer to that is tickling; we are just afraid because it’s so obvious, as comedian T.J. Miller pointed out.

Anyway, back to Hearthstone!

I am now proud to say that I have conquered my good share of victories, currently trying to push myself beyond my comfort zone by playing with other characters. I know the difference between a Battlecry and a Deathrattle and more or less how to prioritize my mana spending and energy losses.

card

Deathrattles and Battlecries: let’s mix it up!

I love that it is a game that needs more than sheer luck, that you have to actually think when playing if you want to create certain combos and get cool cards.

But there was another thing that helped me get addicted: the possibility of playing with friends from around the world! It’s fine to chat on a regular basis to keep tabs on how everyone’s doing, but it’s much cooler when you’re able to share these funny moments in an RPG. Challenging your friends for battles, arguing about what characters have the best powers and cards, giving tips and advice on how to improve your decks or what web pages to visit for extra news—it’s all part of a shareable experience. It’s something that takes the game to a new level and makes it less impersonal.

It’s almost like having that cosy boardgame night where you just goof around and have fun, using the game as an excuse.

The funny characters, the subtle humor on the card descriptions, and the whole sound and graphic landscape make Hearthstone an enjoyable experience for anyone wanting to give the digital RPG world a try. It’s free, so why not take a chance?

cardshs

Are you an avid player of online RPGs? Which ones would you recommend?

Let us know! I’ll be playing the ones you suggest and writing my impressions here. Yes, I’m a complete newbie but that’s why it’s going to be fun for you to hear the struggles and nonsenses of a rookie in worlds you’ve traveled so many times.

S.G.

Shotguns & Sorcery RPG: Robert Schwalb’s Journey

Shotguns & Sorcery RPG: Robert Schwalb’s Journey

Matt Forbeck already enlightened us on his latest interview, but we also wanted to hear directly from the other man of the RPG game: Robert Schwalb.

Forbeck & Schwalb have worked closely to finish the first of the S&S RPG manuscript. With around 180,000 words and a little over 300 pages long it seems it’ll be one of the biggest game books of the year.

Let’s find out what they’ve exactly been up to while working for the upcoming Roleplaying Game based on Forbeck’s IP Shotguns & Sorcery.

 

How was it to integrate the Cypher System™ seamlessly with the S&S setting?

It was a whole lot of fun to be honest! As my fourth RPG adaptation of fiction to game material, the process was really comfortable and made easier having Matt just an email a way to answer all my finicky questions. Plus, Cypher is a flexible game engine and can handle a wide range of stories, so that was a benefit.

 

Was it an organic process?

To some extent, yes. The novels have a some strong world-building elements, but they are short, so we inferred a lot about the world from the books and Matt filled in a lot of the blanks. As far as adapting the game system, we didn’t have to make many significant changes. Cypher uses a universal mechanic for dealing with narrative complications, regardless of what those complications are.

 

Was it more difficult to adapt an already existing IP into the rules of the RPG universe or is it the same as when you start a game from scratch?

I wouldn’t say it’s more difficult. Rather, it’s a different kind of difficult. Building a game from the ground up presents its own challenges—you have to nail down the kinds of stories you want to tell, the stakes involved, and build the system to meet the story’s needs or build the story to match the game system as in the case of original creations bolted on to an existing game system. With fiction adaptation, the author creates a world without thought given to game balance or telling stories outside the story involving the protagonists. So the challenge really is to look at the world around the protagonists and find stories and characters that could exist within the same story and then building the game for them.

System work is also tricky since the objective is to match the mechanics to the narrative. For example, the novels show a wide range of magical effects, from enchanted bullets to nets of blue magical energy that catch falling people to astral projection. The characters in the book don’t “grow” into these things. Rather, they just have them. While Cypher does not place an emphasis on growing one’s individual power, it does feature a system of Tier advancement and from those tiers, characters gain additional benefits and options. It was a bit difficult pinning certain effects found in the story to particular tiers and/or character building blocks such as focus and descriptor, but it wasn’t an insurmountable difficulty.

 

What exactly was your job on this specific part of this big venture?

It was my job to put the Cypher System through its paces, bending and adapting the core rules to fit the needs of the game and to create new mechanical content to help players and GMs express the story in play. Sometimes, I took existing mechanical content from the Cypher System rulebook and embedded them in new story wrappers. Others, I rebuilt certain rules to make them more suitable for Shotguns & Sorcery. And I also spent a great deal of time creating new content for the game, such as new horrible creature, descriptors, cyphers, and more.

 

What was the biggest challenge or even obstacle you found?

Shotguns & Sorcery places a considerable amount of importance on race and the tensions of disparate peoples forced to live together under the tyrannical reign of the Dragon Emperor. As the Cypher System doesn’t sweat race/ancestry/people/whatever too much—though there are guidelines in the Cypher System Rulebook—I had to find a way to make the race choice important within the system’s framework. After four or five attempts, I finally settled on extracting a few game elements granted by type and presenting them in a second adjectival choice point called race. This approach allows race a greater impact on how characters take shape and helps differentiate characters who share the same type.

 

Did the results so far assume the form you wanted?

Oh yes! I’m quite happy with how the game turned out and I’m eagerly looking forward to seeing it in its final form.

 

What is it that you’re most looking forward to show the audience as soon as the RPG is available?

Fans of the novels are going to find out so much more information in this game and Matt added a lot of detail to Dragon City, which really brings the place to life. I’m just excited to get this game in the hands of the customers so they can start playing!

 

Can you give us any scoop on a favorite character, magic, cypher…?

So many things! But let’s talk about magic. Spells operate as benefits gained from your Type choice. You can access spells from one of two types, the Wizard or, if you want to be a dabbler, the Freelance. Now, anyone can pick up additional spells too by selecting a magical focus such as Conjures Monsters or Commands the Dead. And then there are cyphers. We introduce a subcategory of cyphers called Words, which are spells in written form. They can be written on pages in books, on scrolls, etched onto tablets, or painted on the walls of an ancient, ruined building. Magic is fully integrated into the game, so it’s pretty easy for most characters to have a bit of mojo.

 

People are already wondering about GM advice you could give them. What’s the one recommendation you would share?

Make Dragon City your own. While we go into detail about the city, there’s plenty of room to add your own creations and characters. Don’t feel locked into the story told in the novels. This is your city now and you can do with it whatever you like!

 

Thank you, Robert! We are very excited to be part of the 1st third party game licensed with newCypher System™ from Monte Cook Games.

S.G.

Shotguns & Sorcery RPG: Matt Forbeck’s Journey

Shotguns & Sorcery RPG: Matt Forbeck’s Journey

A lot has changed since the last time we spoke. Matt Forbeck has worked closely with Robert Schwalb to finish the first draft of the S&S RPG manuscript. With around 180,000 words and a little over 300 pages long it seems it’ll be one of the biggest game books of the year.

Let’s find out what they’ve exactly been up to while working for the upcoming Roleplaying Game based on Forbeck’s IP Shotguns & Sorcery.

 

Matt, could you explain to us how it is to transform a universe you made famous in novel format into an RPG?

It’s fantastic fun. The world of Shotguns & Sorcery actually started out as an RPG setting in my head, although the world first got to see it in fiction, so it’s a real thrill to watch it develop into a full-blown RPG.

 

Was it an organic process?

As organic as anything can be that comes from people typing at each other. For me, it felt very natural. I started out as an RPG developer over two decades ago, so working on another RPG again felt like coming home.

 

What exactly was your job on this specific part of this big venture?

I wrote the background for the book and supplied all of the details about the world. My pal Rob Schwalb did all the heavy lifting with the rules, while Outland’s CEO Jeremy Mohler is creating all the art.

 

What was the biggest challenge or even obstacle you found?

It’s been a while since I wrote the Shotguns & Sorcery stories, so I actually had to back through and read them, taking notes as I went. This gave me all sorts of ideas for new material for the setting, but it’s kind of odd to study something you once wrote.

 

Did you have to compromise a lot? Did you feel like the S&S characters and universe had to change a lot to fit the RPG model?

Not much at all. As I mentioned, I originally developed Shotguns & Sorcery as an RPG setting, so bringing it back to its roots left it fairly well intact.

 

Did the results so far assume the form you wanted?

So far, I’ve been thrilled with every part of it. I can’t wait to see the finished book. There’s nothing quite like holding a book like that in your hands.

 

What is it that you’re most looking forward to show the audience as soon as the RPG is available?

Jeremy’s artwork. It’s really going to breathe new dimensions of life into the world and draw players right into it.

 

Can you give us any scoop on a favorite character, magic, cypher…?

I really like what Rob did with the cyphers overall. That’s something new to Shotguns & Sorcery, and he made it fit well.

 

Any future plans regarding this I.P.?

After re-reading all the books, I have ideas for lots more Shotguns & Sorcery stories. I don’t know when I’m going to get to writing them, but hopefully soon.

 

Thank you, Matt! We can’t wait to delve even further into the Shotguns & Sorcery‘s Universe!

Stay tuned for Robert Schwalb’s interview comming to you on April 27th!

S.G.

LARP : living in a made up world

LARP : living in a made up world

I won’t pretend to be an expert on RPG, let alone live action role-playing or “LARPing”. However, even I can easily see why LARP is considered a descendant of games like Dungeons & Dragons. The catch? Here the players physically act out their characters’ actions. [ Awesome, right? ]

 

Fortunately, a few weeks ago I saw myself in the middle of a LARP for the first time.

I have to say I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the whole process from building the setting to fleshing out your own character.

There was so much to explore after you got the little paper with your character’s description! It didn’t just motivate me to pursue the tasks I was given, it made me want to explore the other characters involved in the game. And not only the ones I was directly connected to, but everyone that crossed my path.

For as little as an hour and a half I was someone else, living in a post-apocalyptic world – yes, you guessed it: there was a zombie threat. I wasn’t seeing my friends running around in extravagant outfits and saying the most weird things. No, on the contrary, I saw people starving, people looking for jobs that didn’t exist. I watched refugees seeking shelter afraid of being sent back to the outside where the zombies were waiting. I didn’t trust people easily. In a camp like this, inhabitants could be persuaded to work for the enemy, be it an outside emissary that says they have better military skills or even your brother who unfortunately has just brought the first zombie into the camp.

But setting all of this aside, it’s not just the story we built together during that period of time. What matters is the fact that we were putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes. On that moment, we were living in a camp, there was little to no hope for a better future and what shaped our reactions were the problems of this post-apocalyptic existence.

I’m sure that if you have taken part in a LARP before, you will identify with at least one or two things I’ve mentioned. I believe that there is much more to it and that my experience was very limited compared to the five hours even the whole day LARPs that exist out there. But for me, as a newbie in this gaming world, I found it extremely interesting to say the least and it has made me look for other LARP experiences for sure.

None of this would have been possible without the people who wrote the setting and the characters and, of course, the awesome group who played it all out and made the game as crazy and funny as it was.

 

And how about you?

Have you ever taken part in a LARP? If so what was your favorite one? And how about the worst…hmmm…I mean your least favorite?

Tell us all about it in the comments and if you’ve got pictures don’t hesitate to share them on our Pinterest board or on any of our social media platforms!
We want to see YOU in character!

 

S.G.