Welcome back to another new episode of Geek at Arms. Bryan, Mike, and James start off the show with a discussion on the recent events that have shaken our country. Next, in Geek Out, Bryan shares how much he’s enjoyed gm’ing a Tales from the Loop campaign and continuing his march through the Marvel cinematic universe with the show Runaways. James talks about how much his daughter enjoyed playing the games Dragonwood and Unexploded Cow and how much he enjoyed playing in the rpg’s run by both Mike and Bryan. Speaking of Mike, he describes our recent game of Star Wars D6 with the good folks at City On A Hill Gaming Podcast. Finally, we jump back into The Film Club with the 1991 Disney high-flying adventure, The Rocketeer!
Stay inside and listen to the newest episode of Geek at Arms! James starts Geek Out with a review of the historical fiction novel The Ill-Made Knight by Christian Cameron which leads to a long discussion with Mike about medieval archery and it’s effectiveness against armor. James also describe show much he’s enjoyed playing Magic the Gathering: Arena with Bryan and replaying the classic Star Wars: Battlefront on XBox with his wife. Next Mike shares his enjoyment at reading The Lord of The Rings with his daughters and the ups and downs of replaying the platforming game Hollow Knight. Bryan wraps things up with how eager he is for Peace Talks, the newest book in The Dresden Files from author Jim Butcher. He also shares how much he enjoyed playing a Scooby Doo/Call of Cthulhu game GM’ed by the GeekPreacher himself, Derek White. Finally, the guys discuss how they have been dealing with the current Quarantine.
Let’s Keep Calm and Geek On, it’s the new episode of the Geek at Arms Podcast! Kicking off Geek out Mike explains how a D6 campaign he was running, and thought defunct, found a second life on Roll20. Then he gives us a review of Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi and delivers his latest PAX Report! Next, Bryan shares his progress in watching the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, both movies and television. He also describes his enjoyment of the anime Stein’s;Gate and his plans for an upcoming Tales from The Loop game on Roll20. Wrapping up Geek Out, James talks about The Dragonslayer Trilogy by Duncan M Hamilton and give an overview of his likes and dislikes of Star Trek: Picard. Finally, Bryan hits us with a Pop Quiz before we head into the discussion of the first movie in our new Film Club series. Shining the spotlight on superhero movies that are NOT a part of DC or Marvel, the guys take a look at the 1999 comedian-studded cult classic Mystery Men!
Errata: Mike talked for a while about a Kickstarter for a new NES game, but we never actually said the title. It’s called Trophy.
Geek at Arms is back with yet another Super-Sized episode. In Geek Out Bryan shocks us with his purchase of a PS4 and the game Destiny. He then shares his enjoyment of the Netflix adaptation of the graphic novel Locke & Key. Next, James gives an review on the second season of Netflix’s Lost in Space and the first episodes of Star Trek: Picard. Mike finishes Geek Out with his exploration into the history of the spicy foods he loves, how much he’s enjoyed the anime My Hero Academia, and his excitement for attending PAX East. Finally, in a conversation that all three have been anticipating, the guys discuss the recent Star Wars series The Mandalorian. They delve into what it adds to SW Lore and what some of their favorite moments from the show are.
Errata: Bryan thought that Darths and Droids was running screen caps of the Star Wars Holiday Special, but it was actually the Star Wars episode of The Muppet Show.
We return with our first episode of the New Year! Kicking off Geek Out James gives a glowing review of The Powder Mage Trilogy by Brian McClellan. He then dives into everything Star Wars related he’s experienced in the past couple of months: from playing Jedi:Fallen Order to watching The Rise of Skywalker & The Mandalorian. Next Bryan describes a reality-bending campaign of D&D he’s been taking part in and how much he’s enjoyed Magic the Gathering: Arena. Mike shares how he’s begun keeping a journal for when he reads historical fencing manuals and how much his family has enjoyed the board games Ex Libris and the TIME Stories expansion Lumen Fidei. The guys then discuss the final film of the Animated Film Club, the 2018 modern hit Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse!
Merry Christmas from Geek at Arms! In this episode we welcome Bex from the Redeemed Otaku Podcast! As is customary with our guests Bex starts off Geek Out by describing the highs (and lows) of playing Word of Warcraft Classic. She also tunes us in to her current favorite anime’s: Land of the Lustrous and Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. Next Bryan shares his experience playing a Lawful Neutral character in a recent D&D game and his thoughts on the deep, but disturbing, movie Joker. James also shares his a recent gaming experience where he played a dwarf in a friends one-shot campaign and also how much he and his wife enjoyed the recent film Ford v Ferrari. Mike keeps the racing theme going by describing how his family has come together in triumph to defeat difficult levels on Mario Kart 8. Mike also head’s a discussion on the upcoming Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and the divisiveness in the fanbase and how toxic fandom had risen as a result. Finally, Bex and the guys take a look at the works of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki. They explore the characters and themes found within them and which of these animated classics are their favorites.
Welcome to another new episode with the Geek at Arms crew! In this episode Mike kicks off Geek Out by sharing all the new anime’s he’s been catching up on. From Full Metal Alchemist: Brotherhood to Your Lie in April and many more. Plus, he gives a review of the book African Samurai: The True Story of Yasuke, a Legendary Black Warrior in Feudal Japan. Next, Bryan describes how much he’s enjoyed the new action rpg from Obsidian The Outer Worlds and James joins in as well. Next, James talks about recent adventures with his family at the Texas State Fair and the Fort Worth Alliance Air Show. Finally, the guys discuss the next film in the Animated Film Club series, the 2001 Studio Ghibli classic from legendary writer/director Hayao Miyazaki Spirited Away.
In most of my years roleplaying, initiative usually works the same way. We roll dice, whoever rolls higher goes sooner. If you wanted to cut the rope on the chandelier and crash it on your enemy before the party’s combat monkey blasts the baddie back five feet, then you need to roll high. If you want to talk things down before it all goes downhill, the dice had better cooperate. That kind of play changed a while back when I found the Doctor Who RPG.
I have a number of great things to say about the game, but where it really shines is the initiative system. Instead of a traditional initiative roll, what actions you want your character to perform determines turn order. Talkers go first, Movers (usually Runners) go second, Doers go next, and Fighters go last.
Talkers going first is a brilliant emulation of the series, providing an opportunity for players to try to talk their way out of combat. They can rely on skills of persuasion, deception, or de-escalation as a first-order resolution. You can also get your enemy monologing to reveal information. Your character can surrender to henchmen in order to see the head honcho directly. You still have the make a successful skill roll, but you get to use your words before anyone else – including your enemy – comes out swinging.
Movers are up next. While that might apply to sneaking, it usually means running. The game is full of Cybermen, Daleks, and Ice Warriors that can take you handily in a straightforward fight. If you’re confronted with overwhelming danger, run or sneak away so you can set up a plan and do something really clever later on. By the time the fighters are up, you have a head start for your chase scene.
The Doers category covers a large spectrum of actions. Do you want to deadlock a door behind you? Reverse the polarity on the artificial gravity? Making an escape hole with your squareness gun? All of these actions and more are Doing. It’s an opportunity for players to get creative, change the environment, create a hazard for your opponent, or alter the scene to their advantage.
Now the Fighters, with their fists or guns at the ready, get their turn. Except the Talkers may have talked you down, the Movers are already down the hallway, and the Doers have set the ship’s drive to overload before you can pull the trigger.
Emphasis on talking and roleplay
This change of operations massively impacts not only the tone, but the entire style of gameplay. First (and unsurprisingly), it emphasizes verbal problem-solving. Players who want to solve problems in-character through roleplay always have first crack. Never do you walk away from a combat encounter thinking, “Dang. I really wanted to question that guy. Now it’s too late.”
It also allows quick-witted players have a chance to use their creativity to change the situation, shift the focus, or cast doubt in the minds of their enemies. This is not to say that it defaults to roleplay over roll-play. Players still must make high enough skill rolls to convince, intimidate, or use diplomacy. But the resolution is more rooted to the character’s personality attributes than it is their combat prowess.
Allows for asymmetrical encounters
If you look at the Doctor Who television show The Doctor is always facing enemies that are far more physically powerful. In a straight fight between The Doctor and a Dalek, Cyberman, or Ice Warrior, The Doctor would lose every time. The Doctor is outgunned and outnumbered. The adventures modules in the game are very similar. If you played in a standard “who rolls highest goes first” initiative system, the PCs would probably be vaporized.
If your GMing style is anything like mine, you ask yourself the question “Is this enemy too tough for my players?” This question fades away in this initiative system. You never worry about if they are too physically imposing or too powerful in combat. The enemies are supposed to be too powerful to fight, because usually you are not fighting them.
Instead of fighting, players have the opportunity to get creative and use other means to success. The characters can turn their adversary’s own weapon or plan against them (i.e. a “Superman 2 switcharoo”). The party might jury-rig the enemy hyper-spatial field generator (or other fun technobable) to suck an enemy horde into a pocket dimension. In other words, the Doers can use their skills, equipment and creativity to foil an enemy plot without ever firing a shot.
If the scene looks too overwhelming, the PCs have the chance to run away, regroup (usually after a chase scene), and come up with a new plan.
Changes what challenge looks like
A good nine months into playing our Doctor Who RPG, our GM said, “I feel like I’m not challenging you guys.” And we replied, “Oh, you challenging us. We have to stretch ourselves!” In a stereotypical D&D encounter, challenge equates to using your feats, talents, and skills in synergy to beat back a powerful foe. In Doctor Who it is using your skills, creativity, and problem solving to change the scenario to foil the enemy plot. It might well result in your enemy’s downfall or death, but the PCs are not the ones delivering a coup de gras.
The challenge for the players is to look at the assets they have on hand, their unique abilities, and get creative to affect their enemy’s weakness. The challenge is in problem solving and creativity. Though it looks very different from a typical RPG session, it still is very much a challenge for the players.
Applying this to your game
The beautiful thing about this method is that it isn’t system specific. There is nothing stopping a GM from importing it into a D&D, Star Wars, Numenera, Pathfinder, or most other games. Gamemasters often suggest to their players that a particular session is designed to be “combat light.” Applying the Doctor Who RPG initiative system allows the GM to incentivize diplomacy and problem solving over combat. It also offers a change of pace for a group that is growing weary of a “smash the monster and take its stuff” style of play.
This is not to say that combat disappears. It is always an option. And even in my group’s Doctor Who games, we have combat. The difference is the other options come first, but fighting is always there if we want it.
It also facilitates a storytelling element that players of all systems and genres like to talk about. Gamers love to tell stories from amazing moments in their games. And while you do have the occasional, “I critted, and one-shotted the big bad,” I more often hear the amazing and improbable stories of a clever idea gong amazingly well in game. The stories people love to tell are moments like, “And then I bluffed the Stormtroopers into believing my officer disguise and ordered them to escort me through the checkpoint!” Or maybe a scenario of, “We got in by opening a portal above the enemy guards and dropping a boulder through the other end.” Such options make for memorable and enjoyable sessions.
In short, Cubicle 7 has done an amazing job with facilitation stories based on a media where the hero is clever. It supports the players by rewarding clever ideas before facilitating combat prowess. It is a unique, but highly transplantable format of play. Whether for a change of pace, an experiment in a one-shot, or just an alternate mode of play, Who can change initiative in your game.
Bryan, Mike, & James return with a special episode of Geek at Arms. From Innroads Ministries and the Bard & Bible podcast, we’re joined by Mike Perna! His Grace tells us what he’s been up to with these fantastic ministries and his work at various conventions. Kicking off Geek Out, Perna shares his enjoyment of getting the new Cypher System Core Rulebook and the unique board game Holding On: The Troubled Life of Billy Kerr. Next, Bryan describes what it’s like fighting rancors in Star Wars: Vader Immortal – Episode II on the Oculus Rift, and his upcoming D&D session with members of Saving the Game. James talks about how different Skyrim looks and feels now that he’s begun downloading various mods for it and how impressed he was by the Netflix series The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. Our Mike then details his love/hate relationship with the platforming game Hollow Knight and we all chime in with our enjoyment of the delightful animated series Hilda. Finally, James debuts a new segment on the show, Pop Quiz!
Once more into the Geek with Bryan, Mike, and James! In this episode James begins Geek Out by relating how a recent episode of The Min/Max Podcast led to jumping right back into the game Skyrim, and his recent journey to an SCA event to see a good friend become a knight. Next Mike tells us about the weird and wonderful world of New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe and how he shared a great day at the Boston Fan Expo with his youngest daughter! Bryan continues the game talk with his enjoyment of Limbo, his recent work with The Christian Gamers Guild, and how happy he is that we live in a world where a geophysicist can gain a following on Twitter. Finally, the guys discuss the 1982 Don Bluth creation The Secret of NIMH in the first film of the Animated Film Club!