Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pathfinder Online: insane Kickstarter project

Okay, so Goblinworks has put up a Kickstarter project for its Pathfinder Online MMORPG.  What seems insane to me is that the goal is $1 million!  However, it does already have over 400 backers and over $40,000 pledged on just the first day.  There is a pretty big Pathfinder community out there and always people looking for a new MMO to play.  But still.  And I have to wonder how many Pathfinder players will want to play it as a table top game and also as a computer MMO.

Personally, I'm firmly in the table top gaming camp now.  It's what I started with (back before the terms "table top" and "MMORPG" had even been invented) and I prefer it for the human interaction.  Yes, online games include "interaction" with other humans but a lot of them are a**holes and you can't boot them from the game.  I'll be tempted to try the MMO version of Pathfinder, having played World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings Online, Dofus, and D&D Online.  But I'd probably have to get a new computer to handle it, so maybe not.

Monday, November 26, 2012

BESM White Monk

Okay, so what the heck, I guess if I'm posting the chakra jutsus for the White Monk class I should put the class itself out there too.  As with all my BESM classes, it's built with 40 character points (CP) at the starting Novice level.

White Monk

    The White Monk comes from the Bangaa culture.  Few non-Bangaa are allowed to study at a White Monk Dojo.  The Bangaa religious tradition has only White Monks, Templars (a type of Paladin), and Bishops (White Mage).  To become a Templar or Bishop, one must first become a White Monk and then prove oneself worthy of the honor.  The White Monks use a unique class of fist weapons, from some like hardened gloves up to gauntlets with short blades or spikes.

Novice Kit [40 CP]

    Armour 1 [2 CP]
    Combat Techniques (Brutal, Critical Strike, Deflection, Hardboiled,
        Lethal Blow) [10 CP]
    Divine Relationship, Level 1 [2 CP]
    Energy Bonus, Level 1 [2 CP]
    Environmental Influence (Light), Level 1 [2 CP]
    Healing, Level 1 [4 CP]
    Heightened Awareness, Level 1 [2 CP]
    Massive Damage (Focused—Unarmed), Level 1 [4 CP]
    Melee Attack (unarmed), Level 1 [3 CP]
    Melee Defense (unarmed), Level 1 [3 CP]
    Organizational Ties, Level 1 [2 CP]
    Tough, Level 1 [2 CP]

    Acrobatics, Level 1 [2 CP]
    Controlled Breathing, Level 1 [1 CP]
    Occult, Level 1 [3 CP]

    Special Requirement (Faith) [-4 CP]

Chakra Jutsu, for my BESM White Monk class

Okay, so today I'm offering some more cool stuff for the five other people on the planet still playing Big Eyes, Small Mouth (BESM).  My last campaign world (may it rest in peace) ripped off a lot of stuff from the Final Fantasy series of video games--mostly from Final Fantasy Tactics Advance.  One class I was particularly interested in was the White Monk, which is a monk with cool fist weapons and some chakra energy abilities.  So, I put together a set of chakra abilities for my White Monks.  They also had some stuff stolen from the paladins, since I saw them as a sort of martial arts paladin.

Chakra Jutsu

    The White Monks have developed many techniques, called jutsu, which allow them to concentrate their innate chakra energy and then channel it.  To use a jutsu, a monk assumes the special summoning posture and focuses the required chakra energy (Activation -2: takes 1 round).  Once the jutsu is activated it will remain powered for use for one minute (Duration +3).  However, after the duration is passed, the chakra energy will be expended (Depete 1: -10 EP).

Chakra Sight
    Allows the monk to use melee, unarmed, and ranged attacks and defenses even when totally unable to see. (Combat Techniques: Blind Fighting and Blind Shooting).

Chakra Power
    The monks attacks are boosted with chakra energy, doing more damage (+2 to damage multiplier).

Chakra Strike
    The monk adds chakra energy to hit vital points (Critical Strike 1; critical damage is x3)

Chakra Shield
    Chakra energy is channeled to form a spherical energy shield around the monk, and anyone holding or being held by the channeler.  (Force Field 2; Armor +8; 5 times per day)

Chakra Immunity
    Chakra energy shields the monk from attack by elemental or divine forces. (Resistance 2; +2 to resist attacks by a specified element)

Chakra Quake
    The monk punches the ground (or any hard surface), sending a shock wave against a target. (Quake effect added to normal punch damage; target need Body save vs. 15 or knocked down and stunned)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

TTRPGs (桌上角色扮演游戏) in China--or not

 Okay, so with the growing popularity of Pathfinder and D&D in countries outside of the English-speaking sphere I thought I'd check out the table-top roleplaying game (TTRPG) scene in China.  I have a theory that TTRPGs don't take off in a country until it reaches a certain level of economic decadence prosperity.  With Asia that would be further tempered by the massive emphasis they have on academic education, which is a necessity to pass the university exams.  In most Asian countries young people are dissuaded from any activities which might distract them from the all-important academic studies.  However, I thought that China might just be getting to the socio-economic phase where TTRPGs start to be played.

My first stop was Baidu.com, China's best search engine site.  If you want to find something in Chinese don't waste time with Google (even in English I use Yahoo!)--go right to Baidu.  I did a number of searches on likely terms, such as "桌上角色扮演游戏" ( table-top roleplaying game).  Alas, the only real mention anywhere of RPGs concerned computer or video RPGs.  Even Pathfinder only showed up as Pathfinder Online (开拓者OL), which apparently is getting a lot of buzz there.  The English version of the Pathfinder core rule book is for sale on at least one Chinese book seller web site, but that appeared to be the full extent of its popularity.

I was also interested to see if China had any home-grown TTRPGs.  Alas, there too I was disappointed.  The only Chinese non-computer/video RPG appeared to be a card game called "Three Kingdoms Kill" (三国杀).  So, I very much suspect that currently the great majority of people playing TTRPGs in China are probably foreigners who brought the hobby with them.

Friday, November 23, 2012

What is the Most Popular D&D Class? (YouTube contest)

Okay, so I just wanted to give a shout out for an interesting contest going on over on YouTube at the DandDPuzzleOfTheWeek channel.  He's already up to Round 4 (although I didn't actually see a couple of the earlier rounds posted anywhere).   The contest--more of a poll actually--is to start with eight popular D&D core classes and have people vote each round for their least favorite class.  The last class standing will be the winner.

The standings so far are:

I was a bit surprised to see the ranger go so early, since that one's pretty popular with my group, but I was glad the barbarian finally got booted.  Personally I'm pulling for cleric or paladin to win, but I have no idea  what the final outcome will be.  Of course it's slightly rigged to start with because the bard and monk were left out at the start and none of the base/"non-mainstream" classes, such as necromancer, witch, and alchemist are in there either.

While were on the subject I would like to say that my favorite three of the core classes are (in order) cleric, monk, and paladin.  From Pathfinder's base classes I'd add oracle and witch for a top five of:
  1. Cleric
  2. Oracle
  3. Monk
  4. Paladin
  5. Witch

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Unprepared for class again, Mr. Potter?

Okay, so it's a mild pet peeve of mine when people show up to game and they didn't bring most or all of what they need to play.  Yes, I've forgotten thing myself but stop changing the subject.  Some players are chronically unprepared.  Character sheet left at home?  Forgot the dice bag?  Hey, can I borrow something to write with--and something to write on?  You get the picture.  On the other hand there are the true gaming professionals.  Always equipped, always there, always on time, often with cool gaming support technology.   Luckily this isn't a very big problem with my group.  I just felt like venting a bit.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Barbarians of Midgaard (my Midgaard, that is)

 Okay, so there are at least two games out there right now with the name Midgard/Midgaard--and this post isn't about either of them.  About eight years ago I started throwing together a new campaign world which would mix Norse mythology and alternate Earth history (up to circa 1250).  Since it was based on Norse mythology I was using Midgaard as the working title for the concept.

Part of the new campaign background was that after the gods fashioned Midgaard they populated it with four barbarian humanoid "races" and four corresponding dwarf races.  Essentially, the humans would fight for honor, glory, and gold to entertain the gods and the dwarves would mine, build, and craft to create things for the humans (and dwarves) to fight with/over.  Actually, I conceived of the barbarians and humans as actually being different races--albeit ones fully capable of breeding.  (The humans were created later by a different deity on Atlantis.)  Thus "barbarian" would be a race rather than a class in D&D terms.  But, since I assumed at the time that I'd be using D&D 3.5, I planned to use modified half-orc stats for the barbarian race and decreed that all Barbarian characters would start with two levels, one of which must be the barbarian class.  I was also thinking that they should only be allowed to take levels only in barbarian, fighter, bard, cleric, ranger, or druid.

Then I detailed out the four subraces of barbarians (and corresponding dwarves).  This is where the alternate history bit kicked in.  I wanted Vikings in the north, Celts in the west, Zulus in the south, and Goths in the east.  Each race would have a classic racial look, traditional weapons, and tiered fantasy mounts for battle.

Racial Look: big, caucasian, blond hair, blue eyes
Weapons: spear, shield, sword, axe, and bow
Mounts: horse, polar bear, panserbjorn
Lands: Norway, Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Normandy, a few settlements in Ireland

Racial Look: big, caucasian, red hair, green eyes; woad body painting and/or tattoos
Weapons: spear, shield, sword, javelin, and sling
Mounts: horse, wild boar, horse chariot, wild boar chariot, dire boar
Lands: Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, some areas in northwest Hispania, and Brittany

Racial Look: big, african, black hair, brown eyes; many tribes use ritual scarring
Weapons: spear, shield, club/mace
Mounts: zebra/camel, rhino, war elephant with howdah
Lands: Africa, southern Hispania, Balearic Islands, Sardinia, parts of Sicilia

Racial Look: big, caucasian/asian, black hair, gray eyes; tattoos and piercings
Weapons: spear, sword, shield, bow
Mounts: horse, warg, war mammoth with platform
Lands: Finland, northern Sweden, Poland, the Balkans, Romania, Ukraine

 I was also considering giving each race a flying mount, but only the vikings had a creature that jumped out as an obvious one: a huge raven for the Vikings.

Midgaard Barbarian Traits

Standard Racial Traits
  • Ability Score Racial Traits: Barbarian characters gain a +2 bonus to Strength and Constitution, but a +2 to Intelligence.
  • Type: Barbarians are Humanoid creatures.
  • Size: Barbarians are Medium creatures and thus have no bonuses or penalties due to their size.
  • Base Speed: Barbarians have a base speed of 30 feet.
  • Languages: Barbarians begin play speaking Common (Latin) and the language of their Barbarian subrace (Norse, Gothic, isiZulu, or Gaelic). Barbarians with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Draconic, Dwarven, Elven, Giant, and the languages of other subraces of Barbarian. See the Linguistics skill page for more information about these languages.
Feat and Skill Racial Traits
  • Intimidating: Barbarians receive a +2 racial bonus on Intimidate checks due to their fearsome nature.
Offense Racial Traits
  • Barbarian Ferocity: Once per day, when a Barbarian is brought below 0 hit points but not killed, he can fight on for 1 more round as if disabled. At the end of his next turn, unless brought to above 0 hit points, he immediately falls unconscious and begins dying.
  • Weapon Familiarity: As warrior peoples, all Barbarians are proficient with all the traditional weapons of their subrace.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Granatus VI, a Warhammer 40K RPG Scenario

Okay, so I've been fascinated with Games Workship's Warhammer 40,000 (WH40K) game universe for some time.  As I've mentioned in earlier posts my life as a gamer started with historical miniatures wargaming.  Nevertheless I've never played WH40K.  I did run a fun one-shot scenario set in that universe using BESM 3rd Edition once and have been contemplating running another.  After a bit of thought, I decided I'd like to do a convention-style game with pre-generated characters each of whom has some cool background which will seriously influence play...

Granatus VI

On the rough frontier planet of Granatus VI is sited a large industrial complex for processing Thorium.  The thorium is extracted from monazite through a complex multi-stage process where monazite sand sand is dissolved in hot concentrated sulfuric acid.  Naturally this means that there are tanks and piping throughout the facility filled with this hot concentrated sulfuric acid.  In addition, Thorium itself is actually flammable and the crude processing methods used by the convict workers here have left considerable amounts of Thorium dust in many parts of the facility.  The complex is semi-fortified, with heavy walls and doors and some firing positions.  It also has some internal security controls to keep the convicts from escaping, although the relatively isolated location of the complex is itself a deterrent to escape.  The guard force is small, only a dozen or so, since the convicts are mostly non-violent offenders working off their sentences.

As the largest Imperial facility on the planet it also houses a small Sanctum, part chapel and part citadel, used by Imperial officials traveling on business.  There is a small but decently equipped shuttleport with a technical staff of three.  Currently there are six Imperial visitors in the Sanctum, each with his or her own reasons for being there...

Terminator Brother Victronius (legion 1)
    Yes, the new sight was indeed an improvement.  The smoke from the assault cannon wreathed him like a demon arising from hell.  His massive terminator armor was surrounded by a shining sea of expended shell casings left by the test firings.  The Captain-General would be pleased.  The legion needed an edge in the coming battles like never before.  Heavy losses in the last campaign had left them weak--dangerously weak.  And now an ork invasion armada was approaching the legion's planet.  The main imperial forces were tied up with another Chaos Legion eruption from the Eye of Terror.  Help was not on the way.  Then the message arrived from this planet.  A young engineer was offering his new invention.  The design looked excellent, but there was a drawback.  Use of technology not based on the ancient Template Technology approved by the imperium was heresy.  But what was a little heresy in the face of the utter extinction of their honor-steeped legion?  So he was dispatched to test an actual example of the device and bring it back if it worked.  However, there was another problem.  He'd seen almost everything in the innumerable campaigns of the legion, but never could he have foreseen this.  The young inventor.  He wasn't just any young man.  The wild red curly hair, the set of the jaw so like his own, and the wheelchair.  The pain of the tearful goodbye when the legion took him as a recruit returned.  Yes, his younger brother had sacrificed his legs that long ago day to save him from the wild hill beasts.  A space marine may never contact his former family again.  The legion is his new family.  But the reunion was joyous and tearful.  The joy of meeting once again and tears that the contact must never be renewed.  He would be expected to report it so that they would never send him here again.  But now to remove his heavy armor, clean and reload his weapon, and prepare for his last dinner with his brother.  He tucked the little piece of technological heresy in a belt pouch and directed his massive armor suit back to the building...

Valkyrie Sister Constantina
    She water ran down her body, tracing each curve--including the one she dared not think about.  Her muscles ached from the long gymnastic workout required daily for one of the elite Valkyrie warriors.  The womens' showers at the Sanctum gymnasium seemed cold despite the hot water which jetted from the shower nozzle.  She placed both hands on the old ceramic tiles and bowed her head under the stream, wishing it could wash away the confusion.  The morning sickness had begun with a vengeance.  People were starting to notice.  Were she not a member of a House of the Adeptus Sororitas, were she an ordinary woman, it would be a time of joy.  But the Sisterhood was forbidden relations with men.  Discovery would mean her expulsion at the very least.  But before that the child would be terminated to erase the mistake.  Her lover and already died for her sake at the hands of the Imperial Inquisition.  He'd been seen leaving the abbey that night and was arrested by imperial agents.  He took the secret of their love to the grave with him.  Raising their child, the living symbol of their love, would be her new life.  She would have to flee soon, leaving her beloved sisterhood and the hated imperials behind.  Tonight.  Yes, it would have to be tonight because she was due to report on board the shuttle at dawn for transport to her brigade.  There should be vehicles down in the garage bays near the ground level.  Out in the wilds there were plenty of isolated settlements where she could hide, somewhere they'd welcome her special skills both in healing and killing.  She turned off the water and went to get her things together...

Medico-Brother Tironitus (legion 2)
    The tests were conclusive.  It had been hard to arrange time alone in the rather basic lab here at the facility, but it was necessary.  A matter of life and death, in fact.  The gene seeds were dying.  They should have been in their own special type of hibernation.  They should have been patiently awaiting implantation in a newly recruited space marine.  Each one carried the genetic perfection of the legion's founder.  It was his sacred mission, literally, to retrieve the gene seeds of fallen brothers of his legion.  These three seeds should have been perfectly preserved in the special carrier box.  There had been rumors of "problems".  The explanations of the diminishing ranks of the brothers were wearing thin.  Too many were supposedly away on "secret missions" requiring radio silence.  His heart sank.  Failure of the gene seeds meant extinction of the legion.  They were literally a dying race now.  Without healthy gene seeds they were doomed.  Glorious dream becoming rotting nightmare.  There was no real point in bringing these three back, other than to try to maintain the fiction.  Why even go back himself?  But wait...that other space marine medico here in the transit barracks.  He had a carrier.  The other had tried to hide it, but he'd gotten a glimpse.  The attempts to hide it suggested that it contained what he needed.  If he could get hold of some and pass them off as the proper ones perhaps there was a chance...

Medico-Brother Nominar (legion 3)
    He had to be careful.  That other medico had noticed the carrier, he was sure of it.  Oddly enough, the other wasn't making any effort to hide his carrier.  Sure, a Space Marine medico usually had one with him, but it was very sloppy security.  Perhaps that meant there wasn't anything in it--but then why did he take it with him when he'd reserved the lab for tonight?  He was afraid let his own out of his sight, but the urge to hide it somewhere was just as strong.  He must not fail in his mission.  The only one here likely to want to get the contents of his carrier would be the other medico.  Each legion's gene seed was literally the family jewels.  Taken from each legion's founder and then further perfected over the millenia it was a brilliant DNA jewel.  That's why the legion had specialists like himself, trained and dedicated to retrieving, preserving, and reimplanting the precious gene seeds.  And that is why he was the perfect agent of the Master.  Yes, the carrier contained gene seeds, but not of his legion.  Indeed, the Master would reward him for his loyalty and cleverness--all in the service of the invincible forces of Chaos.  The Master's legion was exiled in the Eye of Terror along with the other Chaos Marine legions but their bitter rivals, Nominar's own legion remained insolently undefeated.  Until now.  His slide into the arms of the Chaos pleasure god Slaanesh had begun with over use of the drugs which he had free access to in the legion pharmacy while recovering from critical wounds.  Later he was contacted by a servant of the Master and given these "weapons" which would bring down the legion in an orgy of blood.  Yes, an actual orgy of blood.  It would be as delicious as it would be deadly.  He smiled cruelly to himself.  But the drugs in which he so lovingly indulged were not available here and the withdrawal symptoms were becoming too strong to control.  Once aboard the shuttle at dawn he could put himself in a stasis chamber for the voyage without arousing suspicion.  Until then he must protect the "gift" and try to keep his symptoms under control...

Space Marine Brother Furioso (legion 4)
    It was really only a matter of time.  Soon he would be reported as a deserter.  Officials from the facility's security office had left a message that they wanted to ask him some questions about his orders.  The forged orders had gotten him quarters here in the Transit Barracks at the facility's Sanctum and passage aboard the shuttle headed towards the frontier.  He had the small jammer ready to keep any news of his status being received aboard the shuttle.  On the voyage they would pass the planet he'd picked out and a "malfunctioning" escape pod would get him to the surface.  A flash of anger flared in his head.  Maybe he really should just kill them all.  His legion had been sent in to cleanse the taint of chaos from that planet, that beautiful planet.  They didn't look like chaos cultists or heretics to him, but the executions of ringleaders began on orders from the High Inquisition.  Then they fought back, proving their guilt, and the bodies piled up.  His armor went first red with the blood as it sprayed out, then black as it dried.  He tried not to think about it then, but he knew that street all too well, and that house with the green shutters.  The bodies lying in the front garden, like blood-spattered dolls were familiar as well.  Since then grief fought with rage.  Should he arrange some massive act of sabotage to quench his guilt in the blood of his family's killers?  But he, too, shared in the blood-guilt of that place.  And his brother marines were indeed his brothers.  They had fought so many battles, saved each other so many times, that the bond was strong and deep. The anger drained away.  No, he was done with killing--no matter what the reason.  If he could just keep a low profile until morning and get aboard the shuttle he could leave his past life behind.  It was late now and they might look for him at his bed in the barracks.  He headed for the isolated roofwalk where he could pretend to be walking off a bout of insomnia if anyone ran into him...

Imperial Commissar Augustina
    She hurried down the basement corridor.  The scent of unwashed bodies was just noticeable under the well-guarded barracks of the convicts sentenced to work here at the thorium processing plant.  She went to indulge her one guilty pleasure here in this backwater posting.  She opened the door to the storeroom and the wagging tail said it all.  She hugged the little dog intensely.  Imperial commissars weren't supposed to be affectionate.  They were meant to be the hard enforcers of the will of Emperor, all praise be His name.  She had started out well enough.  She had been a zealous member of the Imperial Girl Cadres as a child and later a volunteer for the Imperial Guard when conscription was the norm.  Ten years of dedicated combat and political service bringing unity to humanity and defeat to its enemies had earned her the title of Commissar.  But then one day, suddenly, it was all undone.  Life as a commissar was lonely.  Always the role model, ever the enforcer of His will; forever a colleague but never a friend.  One day she went easy on one that she had come to feel close to.  He got a second chance, but she didn’t.  As punishment she was posted to this miserable place.  As commissar technically she was second-in-command, but the reason for her posting had preceded her.  She had little standing other than with the convicts, and that was just their fear of her Commissar's uniform.  The board was to meet at the end of the month, with dishonorable discharge the inevitable sentence.  Putting aside her despondency, she took her only friend in the universe for a short walk outside the lower postern gate on his leash.  If only she could have one last chance to redeem herself, even through glorious sacrifice in battle against the enemies of the Emperor...

The players will each take a PC and get acquainted with the various backgrounds.  Each write-up provides the PC's current location and that is where they will be when the Tyranid genestealer raid begins--discovered inbound either by Commissar Augustina out walking or Brother Furioso up on the roofwalk.  The time is 0300 local and the shuttle which several of the PCs were planning to board is scheduled to arrive at 0600 local.  Factors in play during the scenario will include:
  • Terminator Brother Victronius' handicapped brother trapped in a part of the complex and requiring rescue from certain death
  • Rioting convicts (and other staff) panicking, probably upsetting any plans by the PCs and certainly mobbing the shuttleport
  • Huge quantities of hot sulfuric acid in tanks and pipes all over the place
  • Many areas contaminated with flammable thorium dust
  • Numerous tanks of incredibly flammable and explosive prometheum fuel used in thorium processing
  • Solar flares blocking communications with the approaching shuttle until it's on final approach (5 minutes out)
  • Discovery that the shuttle is a small one with only room for four passengers plus the pilot
  • Appearance of genestealer cult members amongst the convicts (who were the ones who alerted the genestealers to the presence of space marine medicos who might be carrying priceless gene seeds)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

BESM 40K! White Witch Sister

Okay, so I've decided that BESM 3rd Edition isn't dead 'til I say it is.  So I thought I'd follow up on my early posting on the blog about the Valkyrie sister with an alternate class for my version of the Warhammer 40,000 Sisters of Battle called the White Witch.

The White Witch is the Sisters' counterpart to the Psyker types.  The source of the Witch's power is their inner divine spirit and it is usually manifested as arcane powers which include healing, a force field, exorcism of demons, a sixth sense, and a spiritual aura.  Few indeed have the innate ability to connect with these powers.  However, this connection to the divine comes with a price: the connection remains open even in dreams, which the Witch cannot control.  In battle the White Witch wears the standard Sisters light power armor and fights with a force mace and bolt pistol.

Cost = 218 CP (147 without equipment)

ACV = 5 (6 with Power Mace)
DCV = 5 (6 with Power Mace)
HP =  60 (shock =12; +22 in armor)
EP = 70

Stat Modifiers:
Body:    -            (Body = 4)                    -
Mind:    -            (Mind = 4)                    -
Soul:    +4            (Soul = 8)                    +40

Attributes                              Notes                                                         CP
Attack Combat Mastery 1    +1 to ACV on all attacks                            +10
Aura of Inspiration 2             comrades get +2 on will saves                      +4
Defense Combat Mastery 1   +1 to DCV vs. all attacks                          +10
Divine Relationship 2                                                                                +4
Energy Bonus 2                    +10 EP                                                        +4
Exorcism 4                             +4 to Exorcism rolls                                   +8
Force Field 6                        (see Holy Shield spell description below)    +14
Healing 3                              Heal 30 HP                                                +12
Melee Attack 1                   +1 to Power Mace attacks                             +3
Melee Defense 1                 +1 defending with Power Mace                      +3       
Mind Shield 2                     +4 to mental/psychic defense rolls                   +8
Organizational Ties 2           Member of a Sororitas Order                         +4
Sixth Sense 2                      +4 to rolls to sense Chaos energy nearby        +8
Telepathy 1                          Minor: only with other Sisters                        +2

Interrogation 1                                                                                         +2
Languages 2                                                                                            +4
Occult 4                                                                                                  +8

Marked 2                           Full-body Sororitas cult tattoos                      -2
Recurring Nightmares          Frequent, moderate effect on lifestyle             -4

Power Armor                                                                                       +56 CP
Bolt Pistol                                                                                              +5
Force Mace                                                                                         +10

Sororitas Light Power Armor (56 CP)
Armor 9                 18 pts. armor                                                           +18 CP
Cbt. Tech. (Far Shot, Hardboiled 1)                                                         +2
Features (radio)                                                                                       +2
Heightened Senses (vision)    telescopic viewer                                         +2
Special Defense (flare) 1    +6 to resist flare blinding                                 +2
Special Defense (freezing) 2    immune to freezing cold                             +4
Special Defense (lack of air) 2    has own air supply                                 +4
Special Defense (low press.) 2    pressurized against vacuum                    +4
Special Defense (high press.) 2    pressurized                                           +4
Special Defense (overheating) 1insulated; only suffer -1EP per day           +2
Special Defense (toxins) 2    pressurized; outside contaminants blocked    +4       
Superstrength 1            carry 1 ton; damage multiplier +1                         +8

Holy Shield (force field spell; 14 CP)
Force Field 6    (24 pts. armor)                                                                18 CP
Blocks Incorporeal                                                                                  +1
Blocks Teleport                                                                                       +1
Regenerating                                                                                           +1
Concentration (slight concentration required)                                            -1
Detectable                                                                                               -3
Deplete (-1 EP per minute to maintain)                                                    -3

Force Mace (10 CP)
Weapon 4                                                                                             +8 CP
Incapacitating 2 (KO'd if not make Body vs 11)                                     +2
Muscle (Superstrength bonuses allowed)                                                +1
Penetrating 6 (ignores 24 pts of Armor)                                                  +6
Piercing 3 (ignores 24 pts of Force Fields)                                              +3

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Wow, 1,000 views!

Okay, so I have reached the 1,000 page views mark!  When I first started out it was looking like just getting to 100 would be a long painful trek.  So, thanks to everyone who has actually taken time to check out my random scribblings!

Friday, November 16, 2012

History as a Campaign Starting Point (a la Chris Perkins)

Okay, so I read the The Dungeon Master Experience written by Chris Perkins over at the Wizards of the Coast site.  I have found this to be a terrific source of ideas and inspiration and I love the write-ups from his Iomandra campaign.  Personally, I find his plot ideas quite inspiring.  A couple months ago he threw out a poll to the readers (http://www.wizards.com/DnD/Article.aspx?x=dnd/4dmxp/20120830) and it went like this:
Hey DMs: Which of the following events from world history would make the best hook for your campaign?
  • The Spartan stand at Thermopylae
  • The assassination of Abraham Lincoln
  • The fall of the Berlin Wall (and the Soviet Union)
  • The Boston Tea Party
  • The Black Death
  • The burning of Rome
  • The Trojan War
  • The French Revolution
  • The Alamo
  • The Salem witch hunts
Hmm, well if I had to pick one to base a campaign on it would be the Salem witch hunts.  Lots of room for wandering about and getting into situations.  Plenty of just the sort of intrigue and mystery-solving I love, plus lots of secret supernatural goings-on.  From what I've read of the game Dogs in the Vinyard, it would be perfect for this type of game.  I'd probably set it in a slightly alternate history, slightly fantasy version of ye olde New England just to freshen things up a bit.

But, wait--you could steal from the Paranoia game and make the party a group of traveling witch hunter "troubleshooters" who's job it is to root out anything "unnatural"--but, just as in Paranoia, every single PC must have a hidden "unnatural" side and ties to forbidden worlds/societies.  The group could include witches, half-vampires, lycanthropes, half-fey, demon-possessed, changelings, reanimated dead, etc., each with ties to others of their kind, secret societies, etc.  Thus they must at least appear to carry out their missions, hide their personal secret, support others of their kind, conduct secret society missions, and deal with all sorts of social and political intrigue.  But wait, it needs a name...how about "Righteous Fear"?

But then I thought, "hey, I know some history stuff too!".  Thus Chris' idea of taking a historical events and using that as a campaign hook really appealed to me as an intellectual exercise.  So without further ado, are a few events from me:
  • Last Days of the Kingdom of Jerusalem (fantasy version): The holy kingdom was retaken from the infidels/heathens/monsters, and you have the honor to hold a small fief.  But the glory days are past and the kingdom grows weaker with each passing year.  The situation is complicated, with marriages and alliances with the infidels, conversions of heathens into allies by both sides, friends and family going native, and newcomers looking for fief of their own--or yours...
  • Fall of Berlin (fantasy or sci-fi version): It is the final days of the empire.  As the enemies of your civilization close in, the political in-fighting intensifies amid the distant thunder from the battlefields.  Struggle with combat at the front, carry out missions behind enemy lines, weave skillful political intrigue, and desperately seek safety for loved ones before it's too late...
  • Settlement at Jamestown (fantasy or sci-fi): Finally, after a harrowing journey across an almost unimaginable gulf, you have put down your first roots in the new land.  The oppressors are far away now, but so is home and family.  In addition your supplies are looking less and less adequate and the surrounding land seems devoid of sources.  And there's something moving out there beyond the perimeter...
  • Trail of Tears (fantasy or sci-fi): Your people were sold out.  The Others lied to your people, but outnumbered and outgunned your choices were exile or extermination.  Now the long journey begins into territory unknown with only what you can take with you. The territories are not as empty and inviting as advertised--and The Others have lied and are coming for you again...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

I'm a Proper Wargamer!

Okay, so I was perusing the offerings over at Grayhawk Grognard recently and he mentioned that he'd taken the quiz on offer at The Wargaming Site entitled "Are you a proper Wargamer?"  Well, as I have mentioned in some of my earlier posts I started my career as a gamer with historical wargaming, both boardgaming and miniatures.  Thus I felt that I must "Man Up" and take the quiz; here are my answers to the two parts combined.

To genuinely call yourself a Wargamer, then you must have done most or all of the following;

* Spent at least £500 on figures / tanks - and you get extra kudos for every £500 you've spent
Um, yeah, definitely

* Pricked your finger or thumb on a pike block - several times
Oh yeah; pikes, lances, bayonets, and swords.

* Tried at least 10 different rule sets and vowed never to play half of them ever again
Yeah, I'm "that guy"

* Bought an army off EBay
Yes I have

* Sold an army on EBay
Yes indeed

* spent months painting an army - then used it in anger once
Sadly yes (although I later sold them for a profit)

* tried several different periods and genres
Well, duh!

* dropped a box of figures on the floor from a great height
You had to remind me

* lost a battle on the last throw of the dice
You had to remind me of that one too

* made at least one enemy for life
Nope, not that kind of gamer

* had a proper, stand up argument over a wargamers table
Back in high school; it sort of goes with the territory, which is why I moved on to RPGs

* thrown a dice across a room
Hmm, maybe, way back in high school; I'm not really the fly-off-the-handle type.

* rebased an army for a different rule set
Yeah, and it sucked

* inflicted a whopping defeat on an opponent
Been on both ends of that

* suffered an embarrassing defeat due to a stupid tactical decision
Yeah, using a borrowed army I'd never played before

* joined a wargamers club
Joined?  Hell, I co-founded one!

* bought a ton of lead that remains unpainted
Stop reminding me of that!

* been to a wargamers show
On numerous occasions, thanks for asking!

* have more dice than is logical or necessary to own - and have used most of them
Well, hey, you never know when you might need them

* have taken boxes of troops down to a club just to show them off to your mates
Umm, isn't that half the reason to join a club?

* You have reference books on each period / army you play (I must have ten samurai books now)
Is this a trick question?

* Having played so many different games you confidently quote rules for a totally different period, scale or ruleset to the one you're playing at that moment
Not really

* You have lied to your partner / spouse about how much you've spent on the hobby (When my wife saw my painting table, I told her that Vallejo paints are only 75p each - I'm going to Hell...).
No, but then I've mostly sold all my historical minis for more painted than what they cost unpainted

* You get genuinely excited when a package arrives in the post - then hide it upstairs quickly before your partner sees it.  If your partner finds it first, you lie about the contents.
Umm...can we turn that camera off now please.

* You have joined a re-enactment society (5 points for this one!)
Yup, American Revolutionary War, but quickly tired of the camping out part of it.

* You have played in an unsuitable venue (I have played in a wooden pavilion in the middle of winter where we had to keep coats, scarves and gloves on to play - and in a social club where we used the pool table as a battlefield (making us the most unpopular people in Wallasey).  I have since vowed only to play where both heat and beer are accessible and in plentiful supply.
The study hall at boarding school: huge, drafty, obnoxious passers-by intruding

* You continue to search for the perfect Napoleonic / WW2 / Ancients / ACW etc. rule set (knowing that it doesn't actually exist).
My soulmate rules are out there somewhere and someday we'll be together and happy forever.

* For that reason you have developed your own house rules for certain periods.  And think them far superior to the original author's efforts.
Umm, they are superior to the original author's efforts, thanks for noticing =)

* You have returned from a wargames show and sneaked upstairs to hide the stash.
I didn't mean to spend that much in the dealer hall...it...just sort of...happened.

* You have an irrational aversion to some genres and vow never to play them regardless of how much fun they look.  Like Dystopian Wars, 6mm Napoleonics, Warhammer 40k, Malifaux etc.
Make mine a Wild West, shaken not stirred

* You have made your own wargames scenery.
Well, yeah.  Who hasn't made their own scenery?

* You have reached a painting 'wall' ("If I have to paint another f________ Gaul, I'm going to scream")
Stop, my fingers are cramping up again just thinking about it (Napoleonic French, if you must know)

* You have lost - and regained - your wargaming mojo.

* You have the occasional (and short lived) sense of guilt with your wife/children when complaining to them about the money spent in clothes, shoes or toys/Xbox games when you have £200 of unpainted metal stuffed in an upstairs drawer.
Yeah, but it's all sold now

* You have done armies in different scales for the same period (e.g. ACW in 28mm, 15mm and 6mm).
My downfall was Napoleonics: 20mm, then 15mm, then 6mm. 

* You have jealously coveted someone else's troops (if Ian pops his clogs, I'll be round his house with a Transit van before he hits the ground).
Well, the widow might need help with funeral expenses...

* You have laughed (secretly or otherwise) as someone else's paint job (Marks' purple camels come to mind)
They were horses in a weird shade of orange, actually (Hi Kevin!)

* You have provided a piece of useless trivia relating to the troops on the table to show off your wargaming knowledge. 
I object to the term "useless trivia"; the basis of wargaming is the preservation and transmission of historical military knowledge of all types.

* You have contradicted someone else's trivia - demonstrating your superior knowledge and giving you a warm glow inside.
Why, yes, I have.  I mean, you can just let that sort of thing pass unchallenged (can you?).

* You have caused a major disaster on a wargames table (spilling a pint, collapsing the table, dropped someone else's figures on the floor).  Mark has flattened two tables in the past year - and he was losing both battles....
Hmm, not a really major disaster that I remember; plenty of minor mishaps over the years

* You have cheered when an opponent's dice lets them down at a critical point (I have literally danced in front of someone when he failed a morale roll)
Yup, but they pay it right back as soon as they get the chance

* You have lied to your partner about going gaming.  "Mothers' not very well - just popping around to see her.  I'll be back in about - oh - seven hours".
Nope, no real need

* You have lied to an attractive woman (man) about your hobby. 
No, didn't really come up

* You have made an opponent cry.  It doesn't count if they are under 8 years old though.

* You have painted the same army in the same scale more than once (Monty, you dawg!) 
(Similar question above, I'll say it's a yes here too)

* You have reference books on armies you haven't even got (I have books on ECW, ACW, SYW, 30YW yet not one solitary figure for any of these periods).
Yes, but I'm a history buff too

* You have bought figures for a period you have never and will never play - because they were cheap.  Step forward my HOTT dwarf and evil goblin armies.
No, never bought any wargaming stuff because it was cheap

* You have inflicted grevious bodily harm on a dice that has let you down.  This includes the guy who used to drill holes in them and impale the offenders on cocktail-stick stakes and Big Lee taking an axe to one offender.
Nope, but I have put dice aside after too many bad rolls because they'd clearly lost their mojo.  I mean, just look at them.

* You blog or have a web-page about your Wargaming activities
Nope, don't really wargame any more

* Your book collection is almost all war and wargames related

Used to have a fairly very heavy contingent, but never larger than my sci-fi novels collection.  Now I have far more RPG books that wargaming ones.

* You critique 'war' movies (especially Hollywood war movies) for historical accuracy (like the use of American tanks - Pershings I think - to represent German Panzers in the 'Battle of the Bulge'.)

You have to be firm with those people or they'll spout all sort of nonsense--even right in front of impressionable young children.

* You spend car / train journeys checking out the lie of the land - considering which way you would attack from and whether it would make good wargaming terrain.

Constantly...and stop looking at me like that.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Mecha Combat My Way (Part One)

Okay, so I've been hankering to run a mecha campaign someday.  Now, when I say "mecha" I really mean Robotech.  My introduction to the genre was a couple episodes of Robotech I randomly spotted on TV in my youth and that incarnation has stuck in my heart as the essence of the mecha genre.  More recently I discovered the Gundam series which has certain similarities.  If I'm going to run or play in a mecha game I want cool flying mecha, like the love child of a robot and a fighter aircraft.  And they should transform.  The lumbering terrestrial walking tanks of MechWarrior are not for me (and besides, the game isn't from Japan).

However, a mecha game featuring flying mecha means that speeds will be high, distances covered vast, and combat very much three-dimensional.  This calls for thinking on a grander scale than land combats.  It also calls for a very different approach to modeling combat.  You need to accommodate the speed, distances, and 3D nature of the combat in a satisfying way.  The combat system has to reflect the general nature of aerial combat yet be easy to run and allow for player creativity in 3D maneuvers.  From a design standpoint that leads to the conclusion that combats will have to be handled in an abstract way, part "theatre of the mind" (shudder) and part tactical diagram.

For an aerial dogfight you first need to determine the relative status of each partcipant:
  • Unengaged (UN)
  • Engaged with disadvantage (DIS)
  • Engaged with parity (PAR)
  • Engaged with advantage (ADV)
Unengaged: participant is currently too far away or in too complex a maneuver to attack or be attacked
Engaged with disadvantage: participant has one or more opponents in position to attack but cannot attack any of them
Engaged with parity: participant has one or more opponents in position to attack and but is able attack at least one of them
Engaged with advantage: participant is in position to attack one or more opponents who are unable to attack the participant

For each of the Engaged statuses there will be relative degrees of advantage/disadvantage as determined by various combat skill die rolls.  The higher the degree of advantage the higher the chance of scoring a hit and the higher the damage and chance of critical damage; in addition the higher the advantage the higher the chance of maintaining or improving the participant's current status.

Certain skill rolls influencing the battle will begin well before the dogfight begins.  These skills should include:
  • Maintenance - Today, high tech military equipment requires huge amounts of maintenance using expensive parts and highly trained personnel.  For a futuristic mecha game you could posit that parts can be made in high-tech 3D printers (replicators) and highly programmed robots do the maintenance.  However, the maintenance--and repair of battle damage--still must be performed.  Lack of maintenance or poorly done maintenance (a low skill roll) will lead to mecha going into battle with certain subsystems out of order or likely to fail at any time (especially in the stress of combat).
  • Strategy - The overall strategic commanders of the opposing forces (admiral of a fleet, air marshall of a planetary force, etc.) will make Strategy skill rolls.  You can handle this as an opposed roll with higher bonuses to subordinate units for larger margins of victory.  Or you can have separate rolls, where a success provides bonuses to subordinate units and failure provides penalties.
  • Tactics - The tactical commanders (probably of units of 12 mecha or less) make rolls in the same fashion as the strategic commanders.
 Now, mecha combat is really all about the pilots.  Thus the bonuses/penalties to the skill rolls of the PCs from the Strategy and Tactics rolls,should either be modest ones lasting throughout the dogfight or ones potentially larger ones which only last for the early rounds of the combat.  For BESM (which uses 2d6 to resolve rolls) I decided to go with opposed rolls for the Strategy and Tactics rolls, since it does represent pitting two commanders against each other,:
  • Rolls a critical success (natural 12 or beat opponent by 6 or more points): pilots get +3 bonus to rolls
  • Rolls a fiasco (natural 2 or lose by 6 or more points): pilots get -3 penalty to rolls
  • Rolls a success (beats opponent, but by less than 6 points): pilots get +1 to rolls
All mecha begin as Unengaged, unless one side gains surprise.  In a surprise attack the attackers begin Engaged with Advantage (ADV) and the defenders as Engaged with Disadvantage (DIS).  I would expect that surprise is something which would normally come about as part of the scenario or roll-played tactics, but you could have it that if one side rolls a natural 12 and the other natural 2, the side with the critical success achieves surprise.  Surprise only lasts 1 round after which the attackers can re-engage immediately, being considered Engaged with Parity or may zoom away and be Unengaged at some distance from the enemy.

I'll continue with another post going on into the rules once the dogfight is on.

Another factor which should probably be included is pre-combat sensor detection.  In modern air-to-air or air defense combat being able to detect the enemy first--and ideally to also be able to evade detection in return--is extremely important.  If you spot them first you can attack first.  Long range attacks would normally be made with missiles.  The defenders would get a chance to detect the missiles as they close even if they still can't detect the firing units.  Now if you want to model this part of modern combat, then there's a lot of detail about sensor types, sensor ranges, stealth, counter-measures, emissions control, etc. which all gets rather complex.

And this brings up the question of how technically detailed the rules should be during play.  A mecha game is a military science fiction game and the mecha themselves, with all their technical specifications, are sort of a second character for the player to build and play along with the pilot.  Thus playing a mecha pilot means knowing exactly what your machine can do and maximizing its potential.  Does your mecha have one or two packs of mini-missiles?  Do you want to trade one long range missile for a countermeasures pod?  Those sorts of equipment build and weapons load-out details are part of the attraction of the mecha genre.  Picking out your mecha isn't like buying a longsword and hide armor for your D&D barbarian character.  As I mentioned, it's almost like creating a second character.

However, I've noticed that wargamers and roleplayers are generally two distinct groups.  Yes there's some overlap but only some.  My gaming group seems to be mostly on the roleplayer end of the spectrum, although I'm pretty sure they've all wargamed some before (like me).  I know they're okay with moderate to high character/mecha detail (they like D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder) but I don't think all of them would want the game to go all wargamey-simulation when it's time for combat.  Actually, I think I'll sound them out on that next time we get together.

I've scrapped my Christmas wish list

Okay, so I was trundling about on the net looking for mecha/gundam sites--don't look at me that way, you know you really want to--and I came across what will apparently be the first commercially available mech.  Why, yes, as a matter of fact it is from Japan.  How did you ever guess?  It's the Vaudeville Project or KURATAS by Suidobashi Heavy Industry (水道橋重工).  They have a cool web site where you can watch videos and also pick the color scheme you'd like.  There is also a small channel on YouTube, including a basic instructional video.

(I have this semi-serious theory that the reason the Japanese are working so hard on robotics is that their answer to a dwindling population combined with an aversion to immigrants is to eventually replace their entire population with robots.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

All Hands on Deck!

 Okay, so Andrew Shields over at Fictive Fantasies has started a cool new project called the Caezarette Cypher Deck.  He's set himself an ambitious goal of 101 cards--but then each card just needs a name and small painting at a minimum.  As I commented to him, I've always been interested in magical card decks, whether the tarot or Deck of Many Things or Pathfinder's Harrow deck.  I find that although I enjoy the cards by themselves they are difficult to work into actual play at the table.  Either a deck is too powerful--essentially a set of magic items, or it's effects are so random and dangerous that the players just chuck the damned thing in a well, or it is treated as a single minor item which simply gives bonuses to divination or whatever.

Maybe a better approach (which I've not actually tried, heh) is to make each card a separate very minor magic item usable by itself.  For instance in this basic mode the tarot Three of Swords could provide +3 to an attack/damage type spell (or penalize defense against such a spell by -3).  You could restrict use of this mode to perhaps once per day or something.  Then on top of that you get bonuses once you've collected a whole suit, such as all cards can now be used in the basic bonus mode twice a day and bonuses are increased by 50%.  Then there would be a third tier for collecting the entire deck.  I've never liked the approach where you draw a random card and have some random nonsense happen.  I want for a player (or NPC) to be able to eventually become a skilled user of a deck.

To add variety, you could also divide decks into types based on their attunement.  A deity of luck/chance could provide divination decks to clerics, prophets, oracles, etc.  Wizardy types could build arcane decks as a spellcasting focus attuned to their mana.  You could have restrictions bonding a deck to just one person and staying bonded as long as they are alive.  Another idea is to have the deck itself be non-magical, but usable as an expendable spell component. In this case you might have the suits in the deck correspond to schools of magic, such as fire or illusion.  When casting an illusion spell the caster could use a card from the illusion suit to boost the spell's power or give it an additional twist.

For the campaign world I'm building I see decks of this type as mostly made by either clerics of deities whose portfolio includes luck, fate, or change or by certain arcane magic users seeking an aid to divination.  I'd also like to have equivalents for non-literate (barbarian) cultures and for nature-attuned types like druids.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Relationships with Absolutely "Everybody"

Okay, so I very occasionally check in at ChinaSmack for random odd news and information from China.  It's not a proper news site--more of a "weird stuff" collection.  Anyway, a recent item was about China's equivalent to Facebook called Renren (人人), which means "Everybody".  They had a bit of text about it which I found fascinating from a gaming perspective:

"...your love rival, your ex-partner, your current partner, your good friend, your ex-partner’s partner, your partner’s ex-partner, your good friend’s partner, your partner’s good friends, your love rival’s ex-partner, your ex-partner’s love rival, your love rival’s good friend, your good friend’s love rival, your love rival’s good friend’s ex-partner, your ex-partner’s good-friend’s love rival, your love rival’s ex-partner’s good friend, your good friend’s ex-partner’s love rival…"

Hmm, that would make a great web of relationships for a more social/politically oriented game, wouldn't it?  The players could come up with character backgrounds which include filling in identities for all the people above.  Or a GM could map out a complex web of NPCs whose interactions drive plot lines.  Some things which stood out for me were the constant references to rivals and the lack of specific mention of family members.  The latter is perhaps because this is marketing copy meant to appeal to a younger generation obsessed with partners and romance and looking for a medium to pursue such obsessions.

Breaking out the relationships in the quoted text in a neat list we get:
  • your love rival
  • your ex-partner
  • your current partner
  • your good friend
  • your ex-partner’s partner
  • your partner’s ex-partner
  • your good friend’s partner
  • your partner’s good friends
  • your love rival’s ex-partner
  • your ex-partner’s love rival
  • your love rival’s good friend
  • your good friend’s love rival
  • your love rival’s good friend’s ex-partner
  • your ex-partner’s good-friend’s love rival
  • your love rival’s ex-partner’s good friend
  • your good friend’s ex-partner’s love rival
At first glance this seems like a lot of people, but since a lot will overlap it's not too many to work with.  If you have a group of players keen on a socio-political game then filling out these slots will be a fun exercise all by itself.  It might help to do this as a cooperative exercise. The players will take turns filling one of their relationship slots with either another player's character, an existing NPC, or by creating a new NPC.  By the end there will be a deliciously complex web of relationships where almost everyone is the rival or partner or friend or ex-partner of somebody.

I'm in! Just jumped in to back the 6d6 RPG Kickstarter!

Okay, so I've heard some buzz about this game and it sounds like the sort of rules-light, flexible game which I generally enjoy running and playing.  So, I took a small gamble and jumped in with a pledge that gets me a pdf of the game plus one of the adventures.  I'll probably go with the Quantum Flex (science fiction) adventure, since I'm still looking for a set of sci-fi rules I really like.

Hmm, WWI as an RPG? Maybe...

Okay, so I came across a new (new to me, that is) RPG blog today called Dark Dungeon 2.  And there was a post noting that today is Armistice Day, marking the end of WWI at 11:00 on 11 November 1918, and noting that there doesn't seem to be a WWI RPG out there.  That got me thinking about the topic of WWI RPG gaming.  I do seem to remember that there is a new one in the works (Kickstarter?) and "No Man's Land: WWI Mythos Action With the Lost Battalion (Call of Cthulhu Horror Roleplaying)" from Chaosium.

At first glance WWI seems a terrible setting for an RPG.  WWI was all about military combat on a massive scale with little room for individual or small-group heroics.  As a history buff I took this as a quick design challenge to see what could be done with WWI as a campaign setting.  Some concepts are:

  • Lawrence of Arabia - daring commando raids and tribal diplomacy in the sands of Ottoman Arabia
  • The Flying Circus - fighter aces in the skies over France (or wherever)
  • The Bolshevik Revolution - political intrigue, battles, and romance (think Doctor Zhivago)
  • Northwest Frontier - despite the war in Europe, there's still intrigue and violence on the Afghan frontier

Sci-Fi/Alternate History
  • Chemical Zombie Apocalypse - chemical weapons used at the front combined freakishly and created zombie hordes
  • Steampunk Mecha - instead of the tank, they've invented the piloted walker
  • The Flying Circus - but with steampunk rocket packs instead of aeroplanes; or possibly small flying mecha suits

Saturday, November 10, 2012

November RPG Blog Carnival: Writing

Okay, so the November RPG Blog Carnival topic is writing.  As a GM you have to do a certain amount of writing (or "meta-writing", if you will), which includes concocting plots, making up character relationship diagrams, throwing down some notes which will be your "bullet points" to keep you on track during play, etc.  But I'd like to make this carnival post about the more traditional types of writing and where they come into my GMing.

I use proper, full-on writing for three main applications in gaming:
  • campaign introductions
  • player game handouts
  • next session teasers
  • campaign wiki
Campaign Introductions
One idea I've picked up from reading lots of blogs (see my blog list) is the idea of doing cool fiction write-ups as a way of introducing a new campaign.  This is when you are all trying to decide what everyone wants to do for the next game.  The GM comes up with a couple concepts for the next campaign and presents them to the players for discussion.  To present the concepts, the GM writes up either a pithy "elevator pitch" paragraph intro or maybe a longer, more in-depth multi-paragraph intro, perhaps with some fiction to transmit the atmosphere in the game.  An example of the shorter presentation is the outline I did at the end of last month for melding the film Underworld: Rise of the Lycans with D&D.  An example of the longer intro is the first example mecha campaign intro I posted last month. or even the first chapter of Ice Road Convoy.

Game Handouts
Players love handouts.  It's like giving candy to trick-or-treaters at Halloween. A letter, a page or two ripped from a journal, a map with notations, pretty much anything to keep them amused.  Letters and journal pages require infusing the writing with the personality of the NPC who wrote them. So there is actually a bit of literary role-play involved.  The DM may have to roleplay that NPC later and thus the personality in the writing will have to relate to the in-person personality.  These sorts of handouts are best when also hand written in a style appropriate to the NPC writer.  A wizard might have interesting runes around the margin, a cleric will include references to her deity, a noble will have better handwriting than a bandit, etc.

Next Session Teasers
In between gaming sessions I like to send out a "teaser" email with cryptic hints about what is coming in the next session.  I do this primarily because the large number of players we have in the group makes it difficult to find a date that works for everyone's schedule.  The teaser emails help keep up interest (and morale) in between the widely spaced play sessions.  They also give me a chance to do some fun writing.  Here's a recent example:

- Wait, so only Jax has a date for the ball?!  Jax has a date?!  What's wrong with this picure?  No, seriously, what is wrong with this picture!  [Jax is the player with the worst charisma in the group and yet he's the only one with a date for the ball.  The super-charismatic paladin is going stag.]

- But at least everyone finally has their costume for the ball now--and thank goodness they all come with a mask, if you catch my drift.  [The players all got invited to the socially important annual ball which is a costume ball to which the must wear a high-quality costume.]

- They took a trip to the beach, and nobody brought any sunblock--absolutely typical for this crew.  But what's with that weird glowing algae-laden water?  Never mind, I'm sure it doesn't conceal anything...unnatural.  [They'd descended to a deep cavern with a lake of weird glowing green algae covering the surface and a beach on the far side with a creepy temple.]

- So which door into the creepy-looking underground structure should they pick?  The one leading to certain death or the one leading to certain, yet suprisingly slow and humiliating death?  Gosh, it's so hard to decide sometimes.  Too bad they didn't think to ask that sketchy informant type dude if he had any maps for sale before they headed out.

- And they'll never expect the huge dinosaur skeleton. [I love to kid with my players about absurd monsters they're going to encounter so I was sure they'd assume this was a joke too.  However, they did actually run into a huge dinosaur skeleton.  And no, they totally didn't expect it. MWAHAHAHAH!]

Campaign Wiki
Another area where I do some proper formal writing is the campaign wiki.  I love wikis and when I found I could make one for my campaign I was stoked.  I use it to present campaign background information for easy access, lists of NPCs encountered so far, treasure acquired, and experience points so far.  The creative writing is mostly in the campaign background information and that's fairly static once posted.  I think campaign wikis are preferable to handing the players a massive tome full of background info at the start of a campaign.  Once a campaign is decided upon, the GM can post the campaign introduction, as noted above, then have links to more in-depth articles for the players to explore when want.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

When It Rains, Does It Pour?

Okay, so I was talking with my old friend John recently about the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.  He commented on how different the weather, and thus human civilization, would be if our planet didn't have a tilted axis.  That tilt gives us our seasons and forces changes in the weather throughout the year.  Yes, you could also have seasons on a planet with no tilt but with an eccentric orbit which changes the entire planet's distance from the sun.  But for now let's just consider some of the ramifications of life on a planet with no axial tilt and a circular orbit.

There is no annual cycle of seasons.  There are climatic-zone equivalents of "seasons" based on the latitude of locations: eternal summer in the tropical zone, eternal spring in the subtropics, eternal fall in the higher temperate zones, and eternal winter in the arctic.  Other than that there are no identifiable seasons as such. 

The calendar would be different.  At first the only things you have to mark time are the rising and setting of the sun and the cycle of the moon(s).  Once the people on the planet discover astronomy, they can begin to chart the movement in the sky of any other planets in the solar system.  But other than astronomical movements, the days and lunar months continue in an unbroken cycle with nothing to mark a "year" in the dramatic and obvious fashion that a cycle of seasons does.  Astronomers in pre-modern societies could carve out a prestigious social niche as astrologers, prophets, and oracles based on their knowledge of the heavens.

Dates for religious and cultural holidays would mostly be based on lunar cycles, dawn and sunset, and famous historical (or mythical) events.  Lack of seasons means no holidays or festivals based on the solstices and equinoxes.  Also, no welcoming of spring, no mid-summer bonfires, no fall harvest festival, or other annual observances.

Weather might seem more unpredictable.  With seasons you know to expect heat waves in the summer and snows in winter.  But without seasons, you have nothing to help predict what, generally, to expect.  This might well engender more worship of and sacrifices to deities of nature, particularly the of earth, sea, and sky/weather.  If the sky god is propitiated then there will be rains sufficient for the crops, but not for flash floods.  People might have more of a craving for stability.

Would there be any animal migrations?  Probably few if any.  Most are in response to seasonal changes as creature move towards warmer climes in winter, then back as the cold recedes in summer.  And what about mating seasons?  Mating seasons are typically timed to avoid birthing during winter.

I'm not sure I see a lot of cool campaign potential in such a planet for a fantasy or modern genre game.  For a science fiction game it could help make a planet unusual and interesting.  Arctic nations with domed cities and economies based on mineral extraction, etc.   For a fantasy game I feel that normal seasons--or even exaggerated seasons as in the Game of Thrones stories--engender many interesting events for the players to encounter and more material for GMs to work into stories.

My GMing style involves a good chunk of storytelling designed to present plenty of cultural atmosphere and texture.  A big part of culture is expressed in festivals, holy days, and other observances of things important to that culture.  The seasons influence all those and also economic activities, such as agriculture and shipping.  Descriptions of the gradually changing weather as seasons changes to season help the players feel more connected and immersed.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Mitiharu, Paladin of Shelyn

Okay, so I thought I'd throw out an off-beat paladin concept I worked up for Pathfinder.  Pathfinder's game world of Golarion has a neutral good goddess of beauty, art, love, and music called Shelyn.  This deity's portfolio doesn't naturally lend itself to the paladin class but I thought it would be fun to see what I could do with it.

    Mitiharu was born at a Pleasure Temple of Shelyn.  By fate, or the will of the goddess, the first person the tiny kit saw as his eyes opened was Shelurana, resident veteran paladin of Shelyn; he has followed her like a puppy ever since.  Shelurana, however, is a serious and active paladin of the goddess and away questing for truth and beauty more often than she is home at the temple.  The temple geishas, on the other hand, were thrilled to have the fuzzy little newcomer and carefully raised him in their ways.
    Mitiharu’s extra tail marked him immediately as something unusual and indeed he was.  His father was a free-spirited faun of the forest fey and his mother a kitsune of noble lineage.  They loved, and deeply, but her family forbade any relationship with a non-kitsune.  As soon as they discovered she was expecting her family sent her away to the temple to avoid embarrassment, explaining publicly that she was taking a course of study in the fine arts there.  The family made it clear that she was to return without the evidence of her indiscretion.
    When Mitiharu entered young adulthood he pestered Shelurana into taking him on as her paladin squire.  Eventually she realized that he was serious and trained him in all that a paladin should know.  In the last couple years he has quested on his own with some success.  His (chaotic) parentage makes it difficult for the young paladin to take too serious an attitude towards life.  But his crush on Shelurana has made him determined make her proud by living up to her principle that art takes discipline as well as talent.  Following the rules doesn’t come naturally but he treats that challenge as a matter of the heart.
    Moreover, his upbringing by the disciples of pleasure and beauty at the temple left Mitiharu with a keen belief in his attractiveness to the ladies.  His two tails, natural magical ability to disguise himself with various looks, and a dashing human form keep the girls delightfully off-balance.  Pleasure is his business, and his business is pleasure.
    While questing, Mitiharu prefers to make good use of his natural disguise ability, social skills, and alternate human form to deftly resolve conflicts and trick opponents into defeat and confusion.  Nevertheless his continuing training and rough experiences keep his combat skill sharp.

Mitiharu, Hospitaler Paladin of Shelyn (Level 7)
male Kitsune, Lawful Good
HP: 60
AC: [varies but will include +2 from Dexterity]
BAB: +7/+2 (melee +8/+3, ranged +9/+4)
CMB : +8
CMD: 20
Str      13    +1
Dex    14    +2    Ref +7
Con    14    +2    Fort +4
Int        9    -1    Languages: Common, Sylvan
Wis    10    +0    Will +5
Cha    18    +4

Paladin Abilities:
  • Aura of Good, Detect Evil (60‘; move action)
  • Divine Grace [+7 on all saving throws
  • Lay On Hands [7/day; heals 3d6; possibly extra 1d6 for Greater Mercy feat]
  • Aura of Courage [immune to fear; all in 10‘ get +4 on saves vs. fear effects]
  • Divine Health [immune to all diseases]
  • Mercy [remove sickened or diseased condition with Lay on Hands]
  • Channel Positive Energy (as Cleric 4 [2d6]; 7/day; does not expend use of Lay on Hands)
  • Divine Bond (glaive)
  • Smite Evil 4/day

Paladin Spells:
  • 1st (2/day): Divine Favor; Lesser Restoration
  • 2nd (1/day): Shield Other
  • Kitsune Magic Tail (2/day): Disguise Self
  • Kitsune Racial Magic (3/day): Dancing Lights
Magical Tail (Kitsune)
You grow an extra tail that represents your growing magical powers.
Benefit: You gain a new spell-like ability, each usable twice per day, from the following list, in order: disguise self, charm person, misdirection, invisibility, suggestion, displacement, confusion, dominate person. For example, the first time you select this feat, you gain disguise self 2/day; the second time you select this feat, you gain charm person 2/day. Your caster level for these spells is equal to your Hit Dice. The DCs for these abilities are Charisma-based.
Special: You may select this feat up to eight times. Each time you take it, you gain an additional ability as described above.

Greater Mercy
Benefit: When you use your lay on hands ability and the target of that ability does not have any conditions your mercies can remove, it instead heals an additional +1d6 points of damage.

Fey Foundling
You were found in the wilds as a child, bearing a mark of the First World.
Benefit: Your strange connection to the First World and the fey infuses you with life, and whenever you receive magical healing, you heal an additional 2 points per die rolled. You gain a +2 bonus on all saving throws against death effects. Unfortunately, you also suffer +1 point of damage from cold iron weapons (although you can wield cold iron weapons without significant discomfort).

Extra Lay On Hands
Benefit: You can use your lay on hands ability two additional times per day.

Kistune Racial Traits (if not noted elsewhere):
    Change Shape (Su) A kitsune can assume the appearance of a specific single human form of the same sex. The kitsune always takes this specific form when she uses this ability. A kitsune in human form cannot use her bite attack, but gains a +10 racial bonus on Disguise checks made to appear human. Changing shape is a standard action. This ability otherwise functions as alter self, except that the kitsune does not adjust her ability scores.
    Kitsune Magic (Ex/Sp): Kitsune add +1 to the DC of any saving throws against enchantment spells that they cast. Kitsune with a Charisma score of 11 or higher gain the following spell-like ability: 3/day—dancing lights.
    Natural Weapons (Ex) In his natural form, Mitiharu has a bite attack that deals 1d4 points of damage
    Gregarious (Ex) Even among his own kind, his gift for making friends stands out. Whenever he successfully uses Diplomacy to win over an individual, that creature takes a –2 penalty to resist any of his Charisma-based skill checks for the next 24 hours. This racial trait replaces agile.
    Low-Light Vision: Kitsune can see twice as far as humans in conditions of dim light.

  • Acrobatics (Dex) 2
  • Appraise (Int) -1
  • Bluff (Cha) 4
  • Climb (Str) 1
  • Diplomacy (Cha) 8
  • Disguise (Cha) 4
  • Escape Artist (Dex) 2
  • Fly (Dex) 2
  • Handle Animal (Cha)    4
  • Heal (Wis)    4
  • Intimidate (Cha) 4
  • Perception (Wis) 0
  • Perform (oratory) (Cha)    5
  • Profession (poet) (Wis)    4
  • Ride (Dex) 5
  • Sense Motive (Wis)    4

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tea with the NaGa DeMon

Okay, so I finally figured out what all this talk of the "NaGa DeMon" is all about: November is National Game Design Month, which has it's own website.    Now, I have designed a set of RPG rules in the past.  It was based on a d20, with difficulty check breakpoints set at 6, 10, 14, 18, and 22.  I stole the skill tree concept from an early edition of Paranoia, and used Palladium's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a critter sourcebook.  The rest was sketchy notes and stuff I made up on the fly.  Later I worked up a separate bare-bones set of rules based on the five polyhedral dice (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12) and everything else also done in fives--I called the Five Elements Rules (clever, eh?).

But for NaGaDeMon I'm going to finally implement a concept I've had on the shelf for quite a while.  A long time ago I realized that to play an RPG usually requires at least one book and few dice.  If your players are very experienced with a particular set of rules you can probably jointly remember enough of the rules to put characters together and run with it.  But what if you have no special game products and the players don't have a common familiar rules set (or are new to gaming)?  Well, most people probably have a deck of cards handy or you can easily buy one at convenience store or other regular "high street" type stores.

So what I'll be presenting is a game which uses only a deck of playing cards, pen/pencil, and paper.  It should be easy enough that you can remember the rules after a bit of play.  Ideally the whole thing will fit on one sheet of paper at most, so that you can easily fold it up and take it anywhere, and all other materials should be easy to acquire almost anywhere you go.  I'll actually try to playtest them with my Wednesday group, but we'll see--the Firefly/Serenity type game my buddy Kaiser started running last session using the Mini6 rules was pretty cool and I'm not sure my "way super cool" playing card game can compete.