Friday, March 22, 2013

Tomb Raider 2013 or Lara Croft in Die Hard Island

Lara Croft on Nakatomi Plaza Island
So I  finished the recent addition to the Tomb Raider franchise this week, and I decided I should post my thoughts about the game and it'll probably turn into a discussion about my general ideas about things this game touched on. 

An enclosed but explorable environment, filled with hostiles and littered with treasure, and a powerful story about a young woman who becomes a hardened adventurer and discovers the world is not as innocent as she hoped. In fact the narrative is the strongest aspect of Tomb Raider 2013, during which we watch a girl become a woman who faces hardship, violence and loss. It's an intense story, and punctuated with violence, set-backs and moments of catharsis. It's great, except the problem is that verb. "Watch". Watching is a passive action, and for a video-game it's probably the biggest sin. There are too many occasions where the control is taken away from the player and we must watch Lara do something awesome (or worse, somethings stupid) in order to advance the plot. Whenever this happens what the game does is remind the player that you are not Lara Croft, you are watching Lara Croft. In a game punctuated by such vicious violence against our protagonist , loss of control is probably the most dangerous sin of all. A character you don't have control over is an object rather than a subject, and Lara Croft being a female makes this a sensitive and dangerous issue. That said, it's a great story but like any adventure it suffered from too much "narrative pull", would you really stop to look for hidden tombs and gewgaws when your friends and allies are constantly in danger of being captured, tortured and killed? Probably not, so again the game's immersion suffers for being so tied to a narrative. 

Okay, so I've talked about the negative but I'd like to move on to why I think Tomb Raider is an easy contender for Game of the Year despite these common mistakes. First - when you are in control it's an amazing experience. Every time you die, you know it was because of a stupid mistake you made rather than poor controls or impossible enemies. Cover matters, and Lara can only take a couple of hits before biting the big one (the death animations are a little too brutal for my tastes but whatever). The puzzles are intuitive and use the full range of Lara's movement abilities and the player's cerebrum. For an adventure gamer like me the puzzles may have been a bit light for my tastes, but in a game this focused on momentum and action I suppose it makes more sense to simplify the puzzles a little. 

The environment was a joy to traverse, and sublime to look upon. The environment is Lara's greatest antagonist, and I would often just stop to take a good look around before bursting into action leaping, climbing and swinging my way from one end of an area to another. I can't say enough about how much I enjoyed just running, exploring and finding hidden salvage boxes, relics and challenge bits. The "survival instincts" mode is a good addition because sometimes this could be reduced to pixel hunting.

Combat was pretty simple, and I pretty much only ever used the Bow and the Shotgun. The bow was pretty much always deadly, worked great from range and had the added advantages of rope arrows and fire arrows. The shotgun was fun because I am bad at shooting and shotguns have that wonderfully large reticle! Actually the evolution of the combat from nervous and distant kills to up close and personal climbing-axe finishers was one of the best aspects of the game. At no point did I feel like Stallone mowing down waves of enemies without a care (even if that was the reality). I mostly felt like McClane stuck in a bad situation and making the best of the tools I got. At one point you receive a grenade launcher, and I just wanted to yell at the antagonist over the radio: "Now I have a grenade launcher, ho ho ho." 

In fact Die Hard is the perfect analogy for this game. McClane and Croft have a lot in common but the biggest thing is that they are ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances (which is my favorite kind of story). They aren't the impossible ideal of the action hero and that's why we root for them. They are post-modern but not entirely self-aware. They just know they have to "keep moving" or otherwise fall apart. The enclosed space, the better armed and prepared enemies and the use of wits over weapons is why this game is the best. 

There's been a lot of discussion on the nature of the violence in the new Tomb Raider, and I just want to speak my piece on it. This game has some serious brutality in it but it didn't seem any worse than what John McClane goes through in any Die Hard movie. Lara gets pierced, cut, shot and severely injured more than once in the game, but then so does McClane. Does it seem to happen more to Croft? Sure, but remember a game needs to fill at least 20 hours, a movie only needs 2. So the frequency is about the same considering the lengths of time. 

The other homages this game seems to make is the Descent and Apocalypse Now, which if you're going to reference, those are some strong references to make.

Tomb Raider is an experience that you really should give yourself a chance to enjoy. While this game is a little more action heavy and narrative directed than I would have liked, there is a pure and wonderful terror, curiosity and catharsis to be experienced here. So give it a go, and when you take down those truly monstrous bad-guys yell out: "Yippee Kiy Yay."

Note: I played the game on an Xbox 360. So I have no idea what TressFX does to the game experience.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Fiasco - Saturday Night '79

Today was the first time I ever played fiasco. I had the brilliant Derek, Kim and James as coplayers. It was a bit of a slow start at first, and the players were a little reticent, and since I had the strongest rules knowledge I facilitated the game. It didn't take long for the players to get into it. Kim and I were immediately in a criminal relationship (which she defined as "Muscle and Mouth", though neither of us could figure out which was the muscle and which was the mouth we set our need to "to get free... of our criminal charges). Kim and James were in a romantic relationship, with him obsessed with her (totally friend-zoned!), James and Derek were cops on overlapping beats (they were both detectives), Derek's relationship with me was Secret (faithful spouse and the other man/woman) - we interpreted it that Derek was a faithful partner to James' character. While on the take from me).  We determined an important location to be an Alley Behind a Sex Shop, and an important object to be a wad of twelve $100 bills ready to go.What followed was a strange tale of criminals on the lam, trying to pull together a plan to get out of the city before their trial and silence their accusers once and for all. Some highlights include: 

Tina Sparkles: Stripper and object of Detective Hank Doright's obsession accepting a wad of $100 bills but failing to realize that they were marked.

Rico Chavez slamming his car into Hank Doright in order to meet Detective "Catches" Craven.Then failing  to convince Craven to betray his partner. 

Tina Spakles coming up with the money, and the pair of them deciding that they would be better off bumping off the police chasing them. 

Detective Hank Doright convincing Detective Craven to kill off Rico, but failing to convince Tina to stay out of it and her swearing to kill Doright for threatening her partner.

In Act 2 Tina and Rico decide that Petrol Bombs (half tequila/half petrol) would be the best weapons. The police decided on automatic fire-arms. It was a complete fustercluck! (We had run out of white dice by the time the characters met in the alley so everything backfired). Tina threw a petrol bomb at Hank Doright, and his reflexes caused it to explode in mid-air covering Tina in flames. Doright turned in time to see Rico's sweet chevy driving into the alley and Hank opened fire, causing Rico's car to flip and slam into the nearby Detective Craven the flipped car of course exploded. Aftermath: Rico miraculously unharmed crawls out of the car, and races out of the alley; the two cops firing on him, one of the bullets catching him in the ankle.  Rico falls to the ground and gets arrested by Craven. Meanwhile Tina Sparkles in burning agony looks up to see Hank Doright pick her up just as it starts raining the cool water sweet on her skin. Rico went to prison, for the rest of his natural life. Doright ended up married to the terribly burned (mummylike) Tina Sparkles, selling heroin from the evidence room to pay for her expensive skin grafts. Craven was fired from the force for his role in the back-alley battle. Rico meanwhile built a criminal empire from within the prison, ordering a hit on the police who put him there. 

The game was very whacky and could have gotten gonzo very quickly. We had some pacing problems by the end because I had accidentally put too many dice on the table (whoops). We loved how even characters who got what they wanted found it tainted, and those who got the opposite of what they wanted found some redemption. The game was super easy to play and I'm going to go ahead and play this again SOON. It's such a great rules lite story game, and so much whacky fun. Next time I think I want to try LA 1920s playset. I think we could have pulled the Object in a little better (it seemed to take significance but then lose it pretty quickly), but over all the dice forced some interesting decisions.

Games You Might Try II

Okay gang, it's been near a month since my last one of these so I'm writing another. I consider myself a big gamer, but I actually don't play a lot of games. I play games that I feel will be fun, or have something to offer. As always tastes vary, and if you trust my taste you might get to experience something new. So without further ado.

XCOM: Enemy Unknown
(Available for Xbox 360 and PC)
I'm seeing all sorts of reviews and suchlike for XCOM, and a lot of them are playing the nostalgia angle. I didn't play the original XCOM, so I have the luck of being able to talk about this game purely for the game's merits. I'm a sucker for a certain type of small-squad strategy game. 4-6 brave soldiers facing the unknown in turn based combat, with base building in between. It's like something ripped directly from my brain. Sometimes I like to just sit there and look at the  battlefield and ponder my next move, before a flurry of clicks and choices. I highly recommend Iron Man mode no matter what difficulty you're playing. It means to take-backs for your choices, and sometimes your choices will be bad. When you lose a squad member you put significant time into levelling you feel responsible. I refuse to rename my squad members to anybody I know or I'd be unable to risk soldiers for victory.
That said the game isn't perfect, I'm playing on PC and sometimes the camera will be niggly and refuse to co-operate (learn the keyboard shortcuts folks) and there's a weird thing where whenever you uncover a group of aliens they basically get a free turn which is dumb (but not game-breaking). Just take uncovering the Fog-O-War slow and steady.

Zombies, Run!
(Available for iOS, Android, Windows Phone)
I've decided to walk for charity ( I notice none of you slobs have donated for my run yet). Now as a bona fide fattie, fattie, boombalattie. I decided to at least do a little training before hand. I decided to try Zombies, Run! as a training tool. Tonight was my first run, the game itself is simple, keep your earbuds in and run. The story plays automatically and weaves into your regular playlist. I really got into the story, and found myself liking the characters involved. I am not by nature a runner, there's too many bouncy parts of me for that to be a comfortable proposition. But today I managed 5k in less than an hour. Maybe that's not fast for you, but for me it near brought me to tears. I was surprised that my body didn't aggressively attack me for trying to move so far so quickly. I'm sure I will pay for it tomorrow, and double the day after. Even so I'll keep you guys updated. My next target will be 5k in under 50 minutes, assuming I don't get eaten by zombies. OH! Also if you finish the mission before your run is over they have a survivor radio station. Pretty funny stuff. If you want something to make your afternoon walk more interesting give Zombies, Run! A go.

(Avaliable for tabletops in PDF and book form)
I gave Fiasco its own post the other day so you can just go back in time and check that one out. I wanted to give Pathfinder a shout out because I am enjoying a wonderful glut of gaming. I am GMing Three Groups at the moment:
Kingmaker, always a pleasure things are getting pretty politically complex. Plus I got to use my Kermit voice for a village of Grippli.
Skull & Shackles, an unfortunate chicken incident had to put our game on hold this month, but my players are loving the piracy on the high seas.
Jade Regent, just enjoyed its first session and I got to attack the players with Goblins and out of control caravans, giant water bugs and shapeshifting psychos. This is going to be fun. Also playing with the narrative style a little bit. A GM gets the same joy that a comedian or a magician gets. Where you know what's about to happen and the players don't and you know their minds are going to be blown. The best part is the players get that moment too!
I'm playing in:
Rise of the Runelords: Seeing a new GM figure out where the rabbits are hidden is magical for me. It creates a sustainability to the game. Brett is becoming a great GM, if he offers you a place in a game snap it up.
Legacy of Fire: GREAT FLAAAAAAAMING EYEBROWS! Need I say more? Darren is a craftsman and always finds a different angle for combat.
Way of the Wicked: I haven't played this one in MONTHS. DANIEL >:(. My alchemist must perform his experiments. Daniel's a great GM and absolutely embodies the spirit of saying "Yes". Unless the question is "Are we playing this week?" :-P

Games You Might Try I

Hey folks, 

I'm just taking a breath here to write up some brief thoughts on games that I'm playing (both video and table-top). You might have heard of these games, you might not have. If you get a chance to play these games do so. They're mad fun. 


Faster Than Light, is a wonderful little game (Find it at, a kickstarter success story and a GREAT way to spend a few hours of your life. The conceit is that you are controlling the crew of a space-ship travelling through the galaxy trying to deliver a message to the federation about dangerous rebels (who are chasing you the whole time), it's got flavors of Firefly, Star Trek, Star Wars in a wonderful roguelike. Every game feels different and there's still mysteries to be solved. Odds are you've seen me tweet and post about FTL, because it's a game that asks the player to meet the game part way there. There's something wonderful and simple about the 16-bit graphics and abstraction. You'll care about your crew and the moments of tooth grinding tension, mixed with fist pumping victories make this a must buy. It's pretty cheap, and pretty fun. At around $10 you can't deny it's a good game. (I got my copy as a gift though, and am super thankful for it.)

Mark of the Ninja 

Be like unto a silent wind of doom. Flit between shadows and feel like a ninja master. Mark of the Ninja is a sneak 'em up done right. With just, beautiful animation and excellent art the team at Klei have completely updated the genre. The control scheme is masterful, at no point will you blame the controller for a screw up wherein the guards are alerted or alarms sound madly. Generous check-points make it easy to jump back if you make a mistake and the ability to freeze time in mid air so you can take out a light, distract a guard and zip into the cherry blossom branches simultaneously will make you feel like a master of the shadowed arts very quickly. The story is mostly a clothes hanger on which to drape the cleverly designed levels, but I know most of you love ninjas because of being raised on a steady diet of Three Ninjas, Ninja Turtles and Beverly Hills Ninja so I know story isn't really a concern. You can't help but be mesmerized by the beautiful art, and hot chocolate smooth gameplay.
If you've got an Xbox 360 you'll find it on the Arcade is definitely worth $20. 

Zombie Dice 

Some games are like appetizers, they're what you eat, before you eat to make you more hungry. Hungry for brains! Zombie Dice is an excellent risk vs reward game pitting your bravery and luck vs. the dice is a tricky preposition. The game is fairly simple you're a zombie chasing down  civilians, each dice has either a brain (worth 1 point), footsteps (for a reroll) or shotgun blast (take 3 and you're dead). Each turn you roll three dice, trying to accumulate brains before deciding to stand, but if you accrue three shotgun blasts first then all your progress for the turn is lost. You win if you're the first to twelve brains and nobody can beat you in the lightning round. It's fast paced, takes about a minute to learn and is a good way to get the game juices flowing before a table-top game or between board-games on game night. Give it a shot. Oh wow, and you can play it on your iPhone or iPad for free? Steve Jackson, you're crazy. 

Little games, but beautiful and smart and cool so don't complain to me about boredom because there's lots you can do.

Sticky Dead: The Walking Dead Review (SPOILER FREE)

In gaming there is a term known as "stickiness". The term refers to how long it takes before a player stops playing a game, multi-player adds to stickiness for example. Adventure games tend to have a low stickiness. Being puzzle games by nature, once a puzzle is solved there's not much replay value. Except perhaps for nostalgia, or the rare branching middle chapter (I'm looking at you Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis). Why am I talking about stickiness? Because I am beginning to wonder how well it applies to Telltale Games' "The Walking Dead". A huge tonal shift from previous adventure games, the Walking Dead may have the highest stickiness of any adventure game to date. The game is full of dialogue trees and difficult choices you can't just take back, and the big decisions are on a timer so you make those decisions fast! Sometimes you'll say something dumb and the person who you said it to might not back you up where you need them to. With so many choices the temptation is there to start a new game and decide differently to find out what happens if you moved in a different direction, adding a lot of stickiness. 

Then again, there's a part of me that likes the purity of my decisions. Good or bad. I've realised that some characters might have died unnecessarily, but I don't see me making any decision much differently. My first play through the decisions I make are the decisions I hope I'd make in those situations. Sometimes I disappointed myself by losing my temper, making decisions hastily (not helped by the timer the game places on every choice). I'm not sure if I have the heart to play the game all over again because the story so far has been deeply personal to me. I worry that playing again might dilute the impact the first play through had on me. Make no mistake this game does impact emotionally.

In fact the puzzles themselves aren't super difficult to negotiate, and in fact their simplicity serve as a sort of tension release valve, giving you plenty of time to puzzle out a solution. An incautious button press might alert the zombies if you jump for your gun instead of a handy melee weapon, but such puzzles are rare. So puzzle solving is a way of ramping back the tension, giving you a long moment to breathe and take in the weight of what happened. If anything the challenge of Walking Dead is negotiating the emotional problems and moral conundrums.

So, while I agonise over the wait for episode 5 (Telltale says November Release), I wonder if I could do it all over again would I change anything? I can't help but think, probably not. Then I ponder how much I'm thinking about a game even when I'm not at the computer and realise The Walking Dead: The Game, is much stickier than I could have imagined. 

- Johnpocalypse.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

March of Evil - Part III: Interlude... of eeevil

Hey all,

Just a short blog today I'm super swamped under at work and really not feeling up to posting a long spiel about gaming, morality and the like.

So instead I'm going to try to write an encounter in less than 500 words that you can drop in to your own game. Sometimes challenging yourself to write a little goes a long way.

The Den of Stinking Evil CR 3 (low tier) CR 6 (high tier)
A stench permeates the walls of this roughly circular room, a ramp of refuse and rotting vegetable matter dominates the southern end of the room leading to a trap door in the ceiling. While the rest of the ground is ankle deep in fetid water, bits of trash and organic matter bob sickeningly when disturbed. Occasionally a trap door in the ceiling opens causing more feculent matter to rain into the room with heavy wet plopping noises.

This room is the Fleringen family's garbage disposal, and one of the reasons they've never been caught committing their sick human hunts. Those they capture are mostly eaten, and what scraps are left are thrown to the Otyugh. It has dined on so many bones since its childhood that its stomach has grown sensitive to the smell of humanoids causing it disgorge the bits of bone and skin that its body is unable to digest.

Hazards and Terrain: The room itself is ankle deep in sitting water, with bits of garbage, meat, vegetation and refuse. Treat the ground as difficult terrain. Characters who are tripped or otherwise submerged in the water must make a Fortitude save or risk contracting Filth Fever.


Low-Tier: CE Young Corpse Feaster Otyugh (hp 32) (CR 5)

CE Corpse Feaster Otyugh (hp 51) and 2x Advanced Troglodytes (hp 17 each, equipped with Masterwork Flails; Attack +5, 1d8+3, x2) (CR 7)

Low-Tier: If the Otyugh hears the sound of combat coming from either the Hunting Lodge or the Secret Lab he immediately buries himself in the ramp of refuse, taking a 10 on his Stealth check in order to catch the PCs in Ambush. He vomits on the first round, attempting to catch as many PCs as possible. Fighting to the death to protect its lair and home.

High-Tier: If the the Otyugh and the Troglodytes hear commotion from the Hunting Lodge or the Secret Laboratory they immediately hide. The Otyugh buries himself in the refuse ramp, while the troglodytes take position behind some of the pillars. When combat breaks out the Otyugh allows the troglodytes to get into combat before bursting forth and blasting as many as possible with its Rot Vomit attack. The Troglodytes will use CMB and Aid Another in order to trip foes, and subject them to the filth fever.

Low-Tier: The Otyugh has been hording a small pile of gold and silver teeth, all that remains of the Fleringen family's victims. These masterfully crafted teeth are worth 50 gp in all. Furthermore the Otyugh has a potion of remove disease hidden in the refuse ramp (Perception DC 15 to find).

High-Tier: The trogs are equipped with masterwork tridents. Furthermore the Otyugh has a second potion of remove disease (harder to find DC 20 Perception).

Encounter Notes: A further +1 CR is given to the Encounters because of the monsters have favorable terrain.

494 words. Not bad, not bad at all.

In any case I hope you get to use the Den of Stinking Evil, at some point. If you do feel free to discuss it below, on my facebook page, or on This Thread at

As always, good night and good gaming.

Your Dudemeister,

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

March of Evil - Part II: Corruption and Falling

The popular theory is that nobody starts out evil. We're all born adorable, pure souls unfettered by this world which slowly acts to corrupt us. Tell that to the evil baby who keeps stealing the attention of that pretty lady on the train. I'm on to you evil baby, you and your schemes.

In any case today's blog is all about falling from grace, exploring the issue on both sides of the GM screen. As usual I'll be discussing this under the assumption of the Pathfinder, or 3.5 rule sets, but any game that makes some nod towards objective morality and alignment can adapt the advice and rules options below.

Letting the Bad In

Many GMs don't allow Evil Alignments (some also don't allow Chaotic Neutral, or Paladins), and their reasons are simple. These alignments and options have a tendency to be disruptive to group cohesion. Essentially the person playing evil will get frustrated as his party members constantly thwart his attempts to do evil, or the party will resent the evil party member for his acts of blatant badness.

So like all hot button topics in a game, the group of PLAYERS (GM included) should discuss what level and kinds of evil they are comfortable playing with. The following is a list of things to consider when allowing evil party members.

1) How evil? Having a character that is willing to torture enemies, or raise zombie minions is a whole magnitude of evil different from a puppy killing, baby eating, sexual predator. Basically choose your taboo topics early. If as a group you can agree to a line that nobody will cross then there's one disruption nipped in the bud.

2) How to deal with blocking? There will be times when the evil guy will want to do bad things, it's part of the fun of playing such a character. Whether it's pickpocketing a soul for sale on the black market, or setting fire to an orphanage, the player who is evil should be allowed to indulge occasionally without fear of being kicked from the party or constantly thwarted. Conversely a party should not have to constantly put up with a back-stabbing public nuisance that can't be trusted. Below I give some tips on how to play an evil character in mixed company (containing Lawful Good types as well as other evil types). I recommend that as long as the evil character's actions further the party's goals it should be allowed.

3) The Sudden Yet Inevitable Betrayal? Sometimes an evil character will get an offer he'd rather not refuse, betraying the party and placing them in sudden peril. Betrayals happen regularly in popular fiction and they are effective for a reason, being the guy who sells the party out to the BBEG can be a lot of fun, but should be used sparingly. My recommendation is that if your evil character does make a major betrayal strictly for personal gain, then at that point he becomes an NPC under the GM's control. You should have a back-up character ready for this contingency (preferably one who is less inclined to evil and betrayal).

The Renegade Option, or Playing Evil in Mixed Company

Okay so the group has agreed to let you play evil. Now's your chance to put together that mad necromancer, self-serving monk or demonic cultist you've been itching to play. Now lets start with a few ground rules for your character:

1 - Your first loyalty should be with your fellow PCs. If you're Lawful Evil - You have a code that you value above your ambitions. If you're Neutral Evil you see these people as useful tools for your long reaching plans. If you're chaotic evil, destroying stuff is better if someone cheers you on while you do it.

2 - The ends justify the means. Unlike the other PCs who have to risk compromising their morality, you can safely indulge in torture or deals with lesser evils in order to achieve greater ends. When playing in a campaign or Adventure Path, as long as you work towards furthering the plot then you can be an utter bastard, you're saving the world after all.

3 - Be polite, be professional, have a plan to kill every single person you meet. It does yourself and the party no favors if you act like a complete tool-bag to people who are offering your party quests, rewards or people you shop from. On the other hand, if anybody crosses you feel free to brutally, and efficiently murder them. Tell the coroner to put under Cause of Death: "Got in my way".

4 - Be indispensable. If you fill a niche the party relies on they'll be more willing to indulge some of your more annoying foibles. Some groups have trouble filling certain slots (healer, trap-finder or arcane caster I'm looking at you). Find the niche that your party lacks and then be excellent at what you do, the party might find it distasteful when you occasionally take blood samples from monsters you fight, but they'll let you get away with it if you can heal the hundreds of wounds they'll take across an adventuring career.

5 - Make a deal with the Paladin. If your party includes a paladin, then you'll need to hash things out early, I recommend a contract stipulating: A) You will commit no act of evil in the paladin's presence. B) You will not try to corrupt the paladin in any way. C) The Paladin won't ask awkward questions about your actions while not in the paladin's presence. D) The Paladin will not spend an inordinate amount of time trying to redeem you. This mutual non-aggression pact worked for a very long time for an assassin and paladin in my Curse of the Crimson Throne game.

If you follow the above considerations you'll have an evil character who doesn't attract the ire of your fellow party members or your GM.

Falling From Grace

Sometimes a player wants to undergo a corruption/redemption arc. Sometimes a GM wants to keep track of a player straying from their listed alignment. Often it can be difficult to keep track of a player's alignment especially from week to week. Mandating a sudden alignment shift can seem arbitrary and unfair to some players, the following is a simple method of tracking a PC's alignment shift using the all too fun: 7 Deadly Sins.

Each time a player commits one of the following sins give that player a Sin Point (make sure there's an obvious method of keeping track of Sin points on the player's character sheet). If a player accrues 7 Sin Points from any source their alignment moves one step further towards Evil (from Good to Neutral, from Neutral to Evil). The Taint of Sin never really goes away, and a character who commits a sin registers as an evil outsider equal to their hit dice for one hour after committing a Sin when seen under a Detect Evil spell. Doing good deeds does not wash away any Sin Points unless a character is committing an act of repentance. Such a penitent character will undertake a quest, or some act of personal sacrifice (following a Monk Vow without gaining any of the benefits for a full month (or session of game time), doing so removes one Sin Point (to a minimum of 1 sin). Alternatively they can be removed by the casting of an atonement spell. Gaining a full level without gaining a single Sin point also removes 1 sin point (to a minimum of 1 sin).

Lust or Lechery - If a character indulges in sexual talk or acts in such a way as to break the morals of their character/the church or perhaps is disrespectful to the object of their lust they may gain a Sin Point. (Don't be too heavy handed with this one, flirtation and banter shouldn't be discouraged after all).

Gluttony - If a character indulges too heavily in drinking or eating (being drunk during an adventure for example) the character may gain a Sin Point. (Don't be too heavy handed with this one, but if a character is trying to gain sin points by being a violent or mean drunk go for it).

Greed - If a character takes more than his fair share of the treasure, or demands payment for a deed from a poor man he is probably guilty of the sin of greed. This is particularly aimed at those adventurers who haggle on the price of their services when matters are urgent.

Sloth - If a character takes the easy way out, either by taking a deal with a devil or casting a spell with the [evil] descriptor he is committing the Sin of Sloth. Essentially that character is looking to take a short-cut like burn the dungeon down (risking property damage to nearby buildings) rather than going in and facing danger like a hero, or sending waves of zombie minions/demons etc to do the work they should be doing.

Wrath - If a character chooses a violent course of action when an obviously peaceful solution exists then they are guilty of wrath. Killing a village of cowardly kobolds might be worth easy xp, but if the kobolds are cowardly then how much of a threat could they have been? This particular sin is aimed at those characters who tend to execute prisoners without discussing it with fellow party members. Or those that tend to draw swords the second they don't like somebody.

Envy - If a character is jealous of his fellow PC's popularity, piety or treasure drop, or picks on his fellow PC for whatever reason he's probably displaying Envy. If a PC is racist towards elves, or dwarves or halflings and ignores or belittles anyone of such a race they are probably displaying envy (damn those pretty, pretty elves).

Pride - If a character treats NPCs like walking plot speakers, talks himself up and downplays the efforts of fellow PCs in the party then he's probably displaying vainglorious pride.

Other Methods of Gaining Sin Points: Destroying nature and natural creatures can be considered a sinful act especially if committed by Druids, Rangers, Barbarians or other nature based classes. Ignoring the tenets of a character's religion in character also counts as a sinful act. Breaking a code or vow as dictated by a class can also count as a sinful act at the GM's discretion.

A GM can give multiple Sin Points at once if a character commits multiple sins with one act.

Example: Shallo Graves, Neutral Human Necromancer, lusts for the bride of an NPC knight, so he uses a spell with an [evil] descriptor to create a group of skeletons to attempt to murder the knight. This act has Lust, Sloth, Envy, Wrath and Pride all wrapped up together. He gains 5 Sin Points for this particular act of maliciousness, possibly more at the GM's discretion.

In any case there is no perfect system for quantifying evil. The above is just a simple method of a GM and player to track their behavior from game to game and to act as a warning for players who chose to play certain alignments and have trouble sticking to it. The system can be gamed (commit 6 acts of sin and ask for an atonement badabing badaboom), but then if they aren't actually sorry atonement won't work. Essentially it's a trick that can only be pulled once, after that the PC needs to change their behavior and redeem themselves the hard way.

I hope you've enjoyed my exploration of the sinister path. On Thursday I'll cook up an evil NPC your characters will love to hate. Until then feel free to discuss this post either below, on my Facebook Page, or on This Thread at Until then, feel the powah of the Darkside.

Your Dudemeister,