Wednesday, August 5, 2020

[GameHack] Improving Game Pieces For Reanimator By Dynamite Entertainment

One of my favorite hobbies is playing boardgames. One of my favorite side-hobbies is tinkering with or improving those same games. I'll create new content or rules for them, or sometimes I'll tweak the game's components to make the playing experience more interesting. Today's project describes the tweaks I made to my copy of Reanimator by Dynamite Entertainment.

A quick overview of the game: You (and a few friends, if you have them) are assistants to Herbert West as he attempts to perfect his reanimator serum. You roam the streets of Arkham, picking up ingredients, research, and corpses for your ghoulish experiments, while avoiding the city watch (as well as any undead you've accidentally let loose). You play through three acts for each player, then attempt to improve the serum. At the end of six rounds, you have one final experiment to finalize the process and either create the perfect formula...or die at the hands of the undead horde you've unleashed.

The game has many nifty 3D buildings that represent the town of Arkham, which is a neat selling point. However, the rest of the components are tokens and chits to represent your health, sanity, the undead, tomes you find, etc. Even Herbert West and the city watch are simple standees. This will not do. So I purchased some bit and pieces here and there and here are the improvements I've made to my "raising the undead" experience:

First, you start with six health and six sanity tokens. Why fool around with 12 easily-lost tokens when one red and one blue die can make an easier-to-use substitute. Just use them to countdown toward death and/or insanity.

For the cadavers/undead, I bought some generic zombie figs. (They glow in the dark too!) If they're laying down, they're cadavers used in experiments. If they're standing upright, they're undead now walking the streets of Arkham.

Tome and ingredient tokens? Feh, how about 3D tomes and small satchels instead! Picked these up from Gamecrafter's Board Game Candy site. (Got the zombies there too.)

For Herbert West and the city watch, I grabbed a couple of DC Heroclix from eBay. Shown here are a Cadmus Scientist and Police Sergeant. I'll swap out their bases for regular mini bases later, but they are a LOT better than the standees.

The Kickstarter for the Reanimator game had a gamemat you could buy that represented the streets of Arkham. I've checked and the mat is no longer available. So I picked up a generic cobblestone gamemat from Frontline Gaming. (Usually used for mini games.)

Put them all together and you have a more immersive Arkham to explore as you play!

Just don't let the city watch track you down and end your research!

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

A Note To Players: The GM Doesn't Need Your "Help"

Hey gang,

Today’s blog post is a bit of a rant session, so if you would rather read a game review or get a new monster for your RPG, this isn’t the post for you. If, however, you’d like to read the tirade of a frustrated GM, feel free to read on.

(One note: I’m paraphrasing and writing in generalities so that I don’t specifically ID or call out anyone. I may have been pissed when I wrote this, but I’m not 100% a dick.)

I had prepped a couple of online games for one of the conventions that was shifting to a virtual presence this year. I made contact with all players, sent out character sheets, and games were scheduled to begin later in the week. A few days later, one of the players contacted me as follows:

“Hi there. I finally got a chance to look over the character you sent me, and I must say, I’m underwhelmed. Do you run a particularly hardcore game with high stakes? If not, he’s not likely to survive. Looking at his hit points, he only has 6. Per the rulebook [snipped math calculations -TS] means this is the absolute minimum he can have. Also, he only has two mutations (one of them Infrasight, which is pretty useless) and, again, according to the rules [more snippage -TS] is the average number of mutations he could have. If you’re trying to have a fun con game, I find it odd you’d provide me with a character who is weak in every possible way. However, I can make it work, but just wanted to point this out to you.”

Huh. OK, so I wrote back and explained that the character was a straight random generation with no GM finagling. I also explained that the character in question had been played in three other games without fatality. In fact, the PC’s other mutation had been instrumental in those games. But if the player wanted another character, I’d send them one.

They wrote back:

“Thanks for the reply. I would suggest in the future that the characters you provide be more substantial for your players so they have more options to work with at the table. For example, when I run a game, I make sure to [snipped suggestions on how to “improve” PCs -TS]. However, I can make this character work, and it will probably be fun to play someone with these many detriments!”

Realizing they were not gonna let this go, I rolled up a new character that had more hit points, better ability scores, and four or five mutations. I sent it to the player as a replacement.

They wrote back:

“Hey, I said I was happy to play the character you sent me. If you’re being passive-aggressive about this, I don’t appreciate it. If you have something to say, just say it. Don’t beat around the bush.”

I snapped, and sent the following reply:

“I was willing to give you a new character because you’ve written to me twice now just to complain about what a crappy character you got. But if you want plain speak, here it is: I found your first email both insulting and condescending. The only passive-aggressiveness is coming from your direction. ‘My character sucks, but I’ll begrudgingly play it if I have to.’ Would you have launched into this diatribe if we had initially met at the table at a convention? Probably not. Your next email was telling me how I could do things better, as if I needed advice on how to improve the adventure I’ve written and run several times before. But the phrase that was over the line was, ‘If you’re trying to have a fun con game…’. I’m not ‘trying’ to have a fun game. I *do* have one. After 35 years of GMing at conventions, I think I have a pretty good notion on how to do it. And I’m stressed out enough trying to juggle 11 other players remotely without unsolicited advice on how I can ‘improve’ things.”

I wrapped up by saying all they needed to do was point out the PC seemed weak and if they could play something else or up the hit points a bit. Not a problem; I would’ve been happy to swap them out. But I didn’t need or want their unsolicited criticism.

The player must’ve been chastised or just didn’t see how they were coming across as they did send an apology as well as an offer to drop out of the game. It became a moot point as I needed to cancel my events due to a personal issue that surfaced.

Now that I have that off my chest, let me remind everyone that – even though we’ve moved to the slightly less personal “online world” – we still need to treat folks the way we’d treat them in person across the game table. GMs, your players have sought you out for the sole reason of having a good time. Treat them with respect because they’ve put their trust in you. Players, your GM has created a world for you to explore. Treat them with respect because they’ve put their trust in you.