Thursday, October 25, 2012

Converting D&D Armor Class to Retro Phaze Defense

If you want to use an OSR compatible supplement with Retro Phaze you will need to do some converting to make things work.

The key score you will need to convert is Armor Class.

For the most part, the quick and dirty rule for converting D&D Ascending Armor Class (higher is better) to Retro Phaze Defense is: Armor Class divided by two, round fractions up, and then add one to the result.

This is a pretty quick and easy formula for the Ref on the go, but it doesn't always work when comparing AC to actual RP armor values, so the graphic above includes a table with the true conversion values for when you need to be more accurate.

If you haven't checked Retro Phaze out yet, give it a look. It's awesome!



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, October 19, 2012

I made this character sheet for use with Retro Phaze!

I created this character sheet for Retro Phaze. I would love to have some feedback on it. It's the first time I've done anything like this with my iPad. Let me know what you think, and I am open to suggestions for changes, additions, improvements!



- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Retro Phaze RPG Review

A few months ago I reviewed "The Supercrew" by Tobias Rades├Ąter. I began that review by saying: I believe that good things come in small packages. Along those same lines, the latest game to grab my attention is another example of gaming greatness packaged in only a handful of pages. Let's call this the second in a series of my "Great Games in Small Packages" reviews.

Retro Phaze by John Higgins is an old-school game with a unique flavor that I believe worthy of special mention and more than a little praise. But I very nearly gave it a miss, and that would have been a tragedy.

The cover of Retro Phaze boasts: "Eight-Bit Fantasy Role-Playing" which put me in mind of the games, "Super Console" and "8-Bit Dungeon" which certainly have their charms, but which I feel cater to a very focused and select audience and are limited in scope by the nature of their designs.

My brain immediately relegated "Retro-Phaze" to this same category and but for the fact that Lulu has the PDF version of the game available for free, things might have ended there. But, as the PDF was freely available and I had been browsing around for something to read, I went ahead and gave Retro Phaze a look.

Forget the cover and the "Eight-Bit Fantasy" tag-line for a moment. What struck me about RP as I began flipping through its pages is that it is a very complete and well reasoned OSR Game. Not a clone, but an original interpretation of the first RPG, and a good one ... a very good one.

RP's source of inspiration does not limit it, it elevates it. I liken Retro Phaze to Lamentations of the Flame Princess. LotFP makes changes to the first RPG in order to streamline clarify and re-imagine the system into the best that it can be. The changes that are made keep its setting, "weird fantasy" in mind while staying true to the playability and spirit of the original rules set.

Retro Phaze does the same: new ideas, streamlined rules, and a complete package that stays true to the "old school" while serving its setting ... in this case, not "weird fantasy" but classic JRPG's like Final Fantasy and Dragon Warrior.

Probably the biggest departure in RP from the original rules is an adaptation of the entire system from d20 to the d6. Some may balk at this change, but I was frankly amazed at the elegance with which it is accomplished. I have seen other house-rules that "convert" d20 systems to d6 ... But none of them are as clean and as natural as what I see here. I am a huge fan of the d6, and Retro Phaze proves that you can do OSR just fine without the d20.

Another big change is that Retro Phaze uses a set of four base attributes combining the effects of Strength and Constitution, keeping only Strength. And merging Wisdom and Charisma into a new attribute: Willpower. I like this consolidation as it makes these attributes more important. This change works well in combination with the new die mechanic and it shows that RP isn't tied to legacy mechanics just for the sake of them. Everything serves the system.

There are four races and four classes, culled from the old-school but sprinkled with JRPG flavor. There's the races of Man, Elf, Dwarf and Hob and the classes of Fighter, Monk, Wizard and Rogue. These can be chosen in any combination and they should feel familiar to any old-school player.

The classes do a few new things and I should mention that the Rogue is not a thief class, but rather a ranged combat specialist. RP does have a simple but very functional skill system that would enable someone so inclined to shape their Rogue into a Thief class easily if that's what they wanted.

Also new is optional 'upgrades' at 10th level that allow a Fighter to become a Paladin or a Rogue to become a Ranger. This diversity is a nice addition; it adds a new richness but feels both very old-school and very JRPG at the same time.

The game includes spell and monster lists taken from the game's JRPG inspirations. These are simple and concise. I especially liked the explanations for 'range' and 'spread' that help to define the scope of effect for every spell. All descriptions are minimized reducing the number of pages the game needs to do this job substantially in the process. There are a healthy number of spells and creatures and the game doesn't feel "lite" or incomplete in any way.

The game reminds me a bit of Dungeonslayers (3.5 ver.) in the way it manages to create a complete RPG package as concisely as possible. But, I find Retro Phaze's rules and mechanics to be more accessible, more familiar and more friendly than Dungeonslayers.

Game play itself is pure old-school. RP doesn't try to emulate the game play of an 8-bit RPG the way that Super Console does, and this is a blessing. When playing one of the classic console JRPG's one might think, "It would be so cool to play this as a tabletop adventure ..." that's what RP does.

To me games like Super Console that try to emulate the mechanics of a console's gameplay at the tabletop won't give you that. They work more in the reverse. If you are running your OSR group through an old-school dungeon crawl and you find yourself thinking, "This would make a cool console game ..." that, is what Super Console does. If that's what you want, cool. But, if you want to incorporate all the best tropes of the classic JRPG into your OSR game, then Retro Phaze was made for you.

In the last pages there are a generous number of example magic items and some examples of campaigns and styles of play inspired by early console RPG 's. There's even mention of using RP for a campaign set among the stars, and I could see RP working for that very well.

If you just want a very good, very clean, very complete old-school experience that uses a d6 and does everything that the best that the OSR can do, and does it in only 32 pages, Retro Phaze is for you. It's certainly for me, and since you can download the PDF for free from Lulu, what's holding you up? Give Retro Phaze a look.

On the negative side, RP is not what I would call a very pretty book. The art that has been 'pixelated' to create that 8-bit feel adds nothing very useful to the game's presentation. And as I said, I almost passed over the game all together, based strictly on "first impressions." I am very happy that I didn't. This is compounded by the fact that I didn't find any reviews for Retro Phaze with a cursory Google search. It seems that Retro Phaze has been sadly overlooked.

It would be nice if Retro Phaze could get a facelift. I would lose the "8-Bit" graphics for ones that emphasize the "J" in the JRPG aspects of those same inspirations, using anime style graphics to enforce the same feel. This change in presentation could improve Retro Phaze's visibility without changing a word of its text. And improved visibility for Retro Phaze would make me very happy, because quite frankly, it's awesome!

OSR Friendly original game mechanics.
Uses D6 exclusively for greater accessibility.
Spells, Monsters, Magic Items, Races, Classes, Campaign Settings.
OSR Compatible Skill System!
Handles it's premise (JRPG Console Games) well.
Flexible enough for any OSR Fantasy style campaign.
Complete RPG in only 32 pages!!

No Character Sheet or Sample Adventure.
Presentation would benefit from a facelift.

Nothing Else ... Really!
Retro Phaze is just about perfect!

PS - I bought a print on demand copy of Retro Phaze. If you like what you see, encourage the game's author by doing the same.


Jeff Moore

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Love my Final Fantasy!

My iPad is my console of choice. I like the portability and not being tied to (or tying up) the TV. I had a GameBoy Advance SP which I liked, but it's so tiny that some of the joy of the gaming experience is diminished just because the visual display is so small. I don't feel that way about my iPad. I don't feel like I am missing anything. And as more and more games are finding their way to this platform it really is becoming a better investment everyday. I write on it, email on it, text on it, watch TV on it, surf the web on it, play on it, read comics on it ... It's the most useful toy I have ever owned.

One of the things killing the iPad and Android Tablets as gaming platforms is the incredibly low price point set because of the way these games have evolved as cell-phone "novelties." The average iPad/Phone game probably sells for less than $5.00. Well, at that price you have to sell a lot of units to make back your development costs, especially on a 40+ hour epic scale JRPG like Final Fantasy. This has to impact the final quality of games available, and it also effects the kind of games that are produced.

SquareEnix has been experimenting with a pricing model that I really like, with Final Fantasy Dimensions and also Final Fantasy IV: The After Years. They sell the game in linear "chapters" to lessen the sting of the overall package. With "After Years," I bought the first chapter as downloadable Wiiware for about $5.00. I remember I was really excited about it and I wrote something about it in my blog. But, that wore thin for whatever reason after a few days, and I never finished the first chapter. With Final Fantasy Dimensions the first chapter (actually the prologue) was free. Now it was admittedly short, but it gave me enough of a "taste" for the game to make me realize that I was exactly the kind of old school RPG gamer audience that they were shooting for, and I wanted to see more. I bought Chapter 1 for $2.99 and played it through to the end. It was also pretty short, but I spend more than $2.99 on a hamburger and the game lasted a damn site longer than one of those.

The thing is, people reviewing the game in the App store are slamming it for it's $30+ final price tag (for all chapters) and I find that extremely disheartening. The tendency is to compare the game to cheaper games in the App store as if to say, cheaper is better. This is nonsense. If you have a paper airplane and a gas powered model plane, is the the paper airplane a better toy because it's cheaper? Games in the App store are going to have to pull down prices comparable to other gaming platforms if they are to compete with other gaming platforms in quality and content. SquareEnix is pushing the market in this direction and I for one applaud their efforts.

I spent $5.00 on "After Years" and only played for a few hours before deciding that it wasn't a game that I was enjoying. I spent $50.00 on Xenoblade Chronicles and only played for a few hours before deciding that it wasn't a game that I was enjoying. I played and enjoyed Final Fantasy Dimensions for free for a few hours. I decided that it was a game that I was enjoying and I paid $2.99 to play for a few more hours. Still having fun, I have dipped into my pocket again to buy Chapter 2. This one is $9.99 and promises to be three times longer than the previous chapters. That's cool. I have enjoyed myself so far.

I don't play many games through to completion. I get distracted or bored, or the game gets too hard or frustrating, or I just decide I don't like it. Whatever the reason, I start a lot of games, but finish very few. The pay-per-chapter model is brilliant. I only pay as long, and as much, as I play. If I manage to make it all the way through to the end of Final Fantasy Dimensions I will have paid, $33 for a game that I played for many hours from beginning to end. If I lose interest or get distracted before completing this chapter, I will have paid $13 for what has already amounted to several hours of enjoyment. That's a bargain compared to the $50 investment made in Xenoblade Chronicles that sits unplayed on my shelf after only a few hours.

Uh, I've been preaching much more than I planned to ... Sorry about that. Anyway, I am liking Final Fantasy Dimensions and hope to see more like it on my iPad in the near future.

Talk to you soon.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad