Friday, November 30, 2012

Do you remember the first time? / I don't remember the worst time

It was February 1996. I was in the rather awkward position of having been invited to my friend Lani's birthday night out, and meeting her at my good friend Eli's house, who was her very recent ex. By about a week.
Eli shared his house with a guy called Camo. Both were (are) colossal geeks. Oh, they tried to hide it - Camo was a professional dancer and Eli was a Jujitsu champ and anti-establishment punk - but more than a five minute conversation with them and you knew they were nerds.
At the time I was friends with Eli for the punk rock and camaraderie. I didn't really know about RPGs.

All that changed on that fateful night. A night that Eli's brother Angus describes as 'the birth of a monster'.

It was snowing when I arrived at Eli's house. A good deep thick settling of snow that wasn't going anywhere fast. It was pretty much a certainty that I wouldn't be catching the bus home to my village in the sticks that night. I was snowed in in Leeds.
Awesome! A night out and a solid gold reason not to go home. Something every teenager dreams of.

The snow kept falling though, and soon we got the call from Lani saying that everyone was staying in.
Ok. What to do?
Eli and Camo fellback to their default position.
"So, what are we playing?"
"I could run a Cyberpunk cops game..." Said Camo. "Nook, you playing?"
I said yes. I didn't really have a choice. Play, sit and watch or take my chances in the blizzard. I'm sure this is how the KGB converted Western spies into double agents.

As mentioned, the game was Cyberpunk - a dark high tech future game dominated by mega corporations and street gangs.
We started creating our characters. Somehow I generated skill and ability scores and worked out the basic numbers. I had, and still have, no idea what they meant or did. It was a strange and arcane experience, reminiscent of the time I bunked a whole term of maths GCSE lessons then had no idea what was going on for the rest of the year.
Once we'd statted up our characters it was time to start buying stuff. And, my god, was there stuff to buy. Camo and Eli started to eagerly devour three separate books of equipment, picking out guns, armour, sunglasses, cyber-appendages, portable computers, tattoos, gadgets... I floundered and was given the advice "it's not so much about utility, it's about cool shit."
I bought my cop some portable electronic bongos, to positive head nods "I think he's getting it"
I most definitely was not.

Play started. We patrolled the mean streets of Night City. No crime was apparent, so I started playing my bongos. Turns out I was shit at it. I felt cheated.
Next I decided that my cop needed to drain his lizard. I hadn't grasped the agency I had to affect the story, so fell back on the mundane.
The Camo responded by making the bar I chose to take a leak a mob run speakeasy. Some stuff happened. My cop was ejected from the establishment.
I still didn't really know what I should be doing. I kind of stood there.
Camo took another tack, and radioed in a mission for us - protect a corporate limo as it traveled through the city.
Less sandbox, more mission based. Ok, I can get behind that.
We followed the limo on our cool cop bikes, keeping our eyes on the road ahead for any danger or ambush.
We didn't look up, though, which I now understand to be a cardinal error.
A rain of explosive fire fell on the street ahead and behind us, penning the limo into a tight spot.
From the rooftop above the world's least subtle sniper loaded a bullet in his chamber and took aim.
Another thing I now understand is that in a ranged fight, tactics, cover and concealment are key elements that help ensure success or, at the very least survival.
Eli's cop took cover behind the armoured limo and opened fire. The sniper was unfairly hidden, with a 12" concrete parapet as cover. Eli missed.
So I climbed on top of the limo, to get a better shot, and started aiming with my standard police issue pistol.
The good news is that I hit. My shot went through the concrete, through the snipers armour, and did him 1 point of damage. I was elated. A few more shots like that, and he'd be down.
Then he blew my arm off.
What The Fuck?! My character's actual arm! I was assured that he'd survive, and could get a cyborg replacement that would be better than the original and would only erode my sanity and morality slightly.

I remember my mind racing afterwards as I thought about everything you could do with this Roleplay thing. I thought about superheroes, gods, knights, sci-fi, everything I'd been interested in so far in my life could be filtered through this new medium.

Throwing away all pretense, here's some dice packaged up like the drug they are...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Horror you can relate to / Changeling: the Lost

I flicked through my copy of Changeling: the Lost a couple of nights ago. It's still the best game that White Wolf have ever produced.

Unlike most of their games, it's a proper horror game. Ok, you're not playing / hunting a Vampire, Werewolf, reanimated abomination or channeling unknowable power. The horror in Changeling is subtle, rather than overt. There's none of the "I am a monster, and I must fight my unnatural urges lest I become nought but a callous soulless killer" angst.
Instead it is replaced with a more human horror, one that regrettably exists in the real world; the horror of abduction, separation, loss of self/identity, loss of family and friends.

It is much easier to imagine and empathise with this type of horror, much easier to imagine and to react to.
Many White Wolf games rely on the players reacting to the game line's driving horror - Vampires clinging onto their Humanity as they hunt humans for food, Werewolves struggling to balance their bestial rage with their conscious mind, Mages fighting the temptation to use magic for everything and anything no matter the cost - yet these horrors are conceptual stretches. These are things that we cannot experience, that are completely outside the frame of human experience.
Changeling, however, centers on a horror that people have experienced. Child abduction stories are unfortunately regular news stories. Tourists are abducted on holiday with alarming frequency. Home invasions happen. I've been held at gunpoint during a bank robbery. It's scary shit, and I can imagine what it's like. I can also imagine what it's like to live in fear of it happening again. Hell, I know what it's like. For weeks after my experience I was afraid that they'd come back, that they'd come to my house because they'd threatened me they would if I talked to the Police.

That's a real horror game. I really want to run it

Got my geek on / Warhammer Fantasy RPG last night

I've not made it to my Roleplay group that much in the last few months, real life shit and other commitments etc, and as a result I've found it hard to get enthused about it.
I've been happily telling more and more people about my hobby, and getting into discussions and conversations about it, with less and less embarrassment, but doing it less and less.
But I made it to a game last night, and had an absolute blast.
The game was already several sessions in, and I was introduced as "a Halfling who's always been with you, but hasn't done much so far". Yes. I play Halflings. What of it?
I've not much idea as to what's going on, plot wise, but I rarely concern myself with such matters. My characters usually don't, so I don't.

Which leads me to the conclusion that I'm the kind of player that I hate.
I'm mouthy, domineering, attention seeking. I don't really pay attention to the plot. I make constant ooc jokes. I distract other players - last night I pretty much spent the evening fist bumping with the Elf whilst making jokes about him being a 'hobo-sexual' - and bug the GM with inappropriate dialogue.

I usually don't enjoy myself as much when I behave myself...

Anyways: I'm playing Onan, a Halfling Entertainer/Thief. Nobody seems to get the joke yet, they think it's a Conan pun.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Ok, maybe I can get behind that / Promethean: The Created

I had a flick through my copy of Promethean: The Created this morning, and didn't hate it.
Well, I've never hated it, but I've not loved it either.
I was excited when it came out. I thought it'd be a bit ... I dunno... More.
I thought there would be more than animated corpses, specifically.
I get the Frankenstein's Monster angle, the perverse and ungodly spawn of mortal hubris, but that's where it ends.
If you're going to have a Golem inspired monster, then why not just have a Golem. Nope, instead we have an animated corpse commonly confused for a Golem.

I thought the game would have the following:
Reanimated Corpses - AKA Frankenstein's Monster
Animated Statues - AKA Golems
Robots - AKA Um, Robots, maybe Data from ST:NG
Dolls, Toys and Puppets - AKA Pinocchio
Clones / Bio-Engineered Humanoids - AKA Tyrell Corp. Replicants
Artificial Intelligences (AI) - AKA Skynet, although I'd use this one as an antagonist rather that a player option.

Promethean does have Clones as an antagonist option, and I believe that Robots feature in one of the supplements, but it's still not what I was looking for.
I firmly believe that the central theme of pursuing mortality and the threats of Disquiet etc are still relevant with the options I listed above, and this disappointment has coloured how I think about the game for years.

This morning I had a look at it with fresh eyes, though, and didn't find myself wanting to completely rewrite it. I just accepted things as they were. Much better.

I still think it'd be a hard sell to potential players - you're a monster who everyone hates, who rots and discolours the very earth and the surrounding environment if you stay too long there, and you are trying to become Human.
I only think Wraith: The Oblivion would be a harder sell.

Monday, August 13, 2012

And now, a short interlude / No messages from our sponsors

I've started getting crappy spam replies recently, so I've reluctantly switched captcha back on.
Believe you me, I hate it too, but not as much as spam...

Embrace the 21st Century and all its technological wonders / RPG apps? Yes please

The new game by Monte Cook, currently being Kickstarted via the link below, comes with an Android/iPhone app to assist with character creation and gameplay.

How good is that?!
And how... Unusual.

RPGs have been flirting with electronic and online play aids for years now, from virtual game boards to dice rollers, from PDF rulebooks to NPC generators.
I have tried out a number of different RPG apps for my Android phone, yet none have been official.
Not that I wouldn't buy an official app, I've just not seen one.

This is the thing... I don't get why there aren't any official apps out there.
I'd buy them. My gaming group would buy them. Apps are usually cheap, and they save a helluva lot of space. I just need my phone, not a bag o' stuff.

I would explicitly pay for any of the following official apps from White Wolf, Pelgrane Press, Paizo, WotC and the indie game press:

Virtual character sheets
Character generators
Dice rollers
Resource managers - Initiative / Health / Items
Rules and quick references
NPC generators
Campaign trackers

I think there's a market for this stuff - if there wasn't, then there wouldn't be so much fan material available - and I think that RPG publishers are missing a trick.

Numenera: A new roleplaying game from Monte Cook by Monte Cook — Kickstarter

Friday, August 10, 2012

Blocking is for chumps / Late to the Skyrim party

I'm late to this party, by about a year, so I apologise for the total lack of news flashes.
I am, however, going to talk about what I've learnt (decided) so far.

1. Blocking is for chumps, dual wielding is where it's at. As far as I can tell, the trick is to not let them get close enough to hit you.

2. Forget racial stat boosts, I want to see in the dark. I played about an hour of Oblivion, not including character creation, and soon realised that I couldn't see for shit roughly half the time. Solution: Khajit. I don't give a monkey's about cat-man cuteness, or claw attacks or bonuses to sneaking (ok, I care a bit about that). What I do care about is being able to see the goblin dog fuck that's just jumped me in the cave.

3. Cleanse with Fire! So far, a five second burst of flame has solved every single problem I've had. Hands down. I'm hoping that there's a "take off and nuke the site from orbit" spell later on.
I suspect that I'm screwed when I meet a foe with some level of fire resistance.

4. Beauty gets you killed. More precisely, stopping to admire the stunning visuals usually means that you're about to get ganked, like a tourist in Glasgow.

5. Minions are kinda cool. I've a guy called Sven following me around. Far as I can tell, his main functions are: distract foes, get in the way of my Flame blasts, stare at me with his piercing blue eyes. He got killed by a giant spider, and I was unexpectedly sad. I missed him. Luckily I was ganked by a group of Druegar (is that right?) and we were happily reunited in the save game.
But we're not a couple.

6. I am totally indecisive. Thief? Warrior? Mage? I'm racially predisposed to stealth, chose a combat blessing and use magic in every encounter. I'm conflicted. I've leveled up a couple of times, and upped my Magica and Health. It's Stamina next.

Admittedly, I'm yet to reach level 3, and I'm still on my first quest, so most of this is probably wrong... Actually, no. I'm adjusting the difficulty down a notch, so I can play like a n00b. Fuck it.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

How the Virtual Adepts have upped my game / Social Media in RPG

I am on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Instagram, Blogger and, um, email, I guess.
When I don't have a data connection on my Android Cell, I get itchy.
People could be communicating... without me!
I probably have a problem. A 21st Century addiction, no doubt.

I do love it when I can legitimately use social media, though, as I'm sure thousands of graduates the world over do when they say "I can set up the businesses Twitter feed, no worry".
I have been running Aberrant for my gaming group recently. It's been going very well. I finally get Aberrant, after 12 years, and can run it confidently.
The players have fully embraced their characters and the setting as well.

My gaming group, being consummate nerds, have always used internet tools to communicate. We originally used Google Groups to organise, share and discuss our games, then moved onto Facebook messages, because, like it or not, we're all on Facebook.
With Aberrant, though, the most delightful thing has happened.

In-Character profiles, status updates and fan pages. It's ace.

May players have set up:
Solar Flair's Official Facebook page and Twitter feed.

The Adonis' Facebook page

A Facebook page for Dan Peterson, the best friend of Max Control

In return, I've set up a Facebook page for a recurring antagonist, Arnold Deekus, as well as a Twitter feed for him ( @deus_rex_ad ), and a local news Twitter feed - @pulsecitynews

The end result is great fun. I've been running downtime activities and in character interactions using a mix of Facebook and Twitter status updates, Facebook messages, texts and emails, which has borne strange fruit, and definitely furthered the plot.

We're taking a break from Aberrant whilst I recharge my GM batteries, and someone else is running Black Crusade. We have been told that, unfortunately, Chaos Marines do not blog.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Platform 14, Piccadilly Train Station, Manchester / The joys of hardcopy RPG books

Platform 14 is a pretty inauspicious platform, as far as these things go. The only remarkable thing that can really be said about it is that it's the only North facing platform at Piccadilly... If you want to go North of Manchester - Bolton, Wigan, Liverpool, Preston, Chorley - you travel from there.

To me, though, it holds an additional significance, one I am reminded off every time I step on it.
When I bought my copy of Vampire: the Masquerade Revised Edition, I sat on Platform 14 and started reading it.
For years, whenever I bought a new gaming book, it was here that I'd get my first proper look.
When I was running my V:tM campaign, it was here that I'd first read through a source book and think about how I could use it in the game.
I remember each of the clan splat books, the Dark Ages: Mage Infernalism book (oddly, this one really stands out in my mind), World of Darkness: Sorcerer, The Time of Thin Blood book (the exact name escapes me right now), all read on Platform 14.

All of this is now long gone, of course. I catch my trains from another station. I don't have the semi-disposable income I used to (whilst I can make the conscious decision to spend my grocery money on a book and not have lunch for a week, my family get really pissed if I apply that to them). Hardcopy RPG books are scaling down to near non-existentence, and the brick & mortar stores along with them.

I miss the old days. I miss being able to walk into a shop, buy a book and then read it on the way home.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012

Where do flies go in the winter? / Gaming room fail

Since my gaming club was resurrected around Christmas, we've been playing at a local pub called The Howcroft Inn.
It's always been quiet, and they let us have the function room for free. Not bad. It could hold about six separate games.
I'm speaking in the past tense.
The Howcroft had been struggling as a business for years, and was finally on its last legs.
They gave out a month ago, and it closed down. It'll be a block of flats shortly.

So the hunt was on for a new place to game...

There are a number of places we could play, but all were prohibitively expensive.
We've managed to muster 12 people across two games at best, but we seem to be averaging six people a week. Expense is an issue.

Other options: pubs and clubs with available rooms.
Royal British Legion, Bolton. They've hosted Vampire and Werewolf lrp before, so should be a good option. No. They've "tried it before" and "it doesn't work". No discussion. Just no.

YMCA. £30 for a room. They close early. No good.

Other locations - don't get back to us.

So we're now at a local Conservative club. Space is free. No hassle. Some slight ideological conflicts with some of the players, amplified by the managers suggestion we pay the very reasonable £10 annual membership to secure our place (it's officially members only, but the manager takes the pragmatic view that if we buy beer, we can stay).

Long time, no blog / Begin posting flurry (speed varies)

I've neglected this blog of late, due to the following reasons (in no particular order)

Playtesting Gaean Reach
Our weekly gaming location closing down, and having to find a new place to play
Getting far too involved in my new Aberrant game
Real life stuff

I'm planning on three posts covering the first three items.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Give in to your poor impulse control / Pathfinder Goblin game

This week at Geek Club both the regular GMs were AWOL, so I ran a one shot Goblin only Pathfinder game.
After getting the Goblins of Golarion book for Christmas I statted up a Goblin version of every applicable class from the Core Rules (so no Paladins, Wizards or Monks [yes, I know you can technically have a Lawful Goblin. It's just highly unlikely]), and sketched out a rough 'plot'.
I realised last night that I put more time into the prep for it than we actually spent playing it.
Not that I'm bothered. I enjoyed the intellectual exercise of statting the characters.
I went with a set score range of 9, 11, 11, 13, 15, 17, reasoning that this split is slightly more interesting than even numbers.
This produced two types of Goblin; all-rounders and specialists.
Any class that likes a high Dex score came out well, specifically the Ranger (bow user) and Rogue.
The classes with a reliance on Str and Cha - Barbarian, Fighter, Bard, Sorcerer - came out as ... Ok. Their highest stat scores went into their racially deficient attributes, building a Goblin that was generally good at couple of things, but not brilliant at their main shtick.
The Cleric and Druid, two classes that rely on Wisdom, were able to enjoy a high Wis score, but were hit hard by the -2 to Str and Cha.
In retrospect, I can see why Goblins of Golarion states that Goblin Rogues are the most common, and that Barbarians don't last long at all.
But that's still to come.

On the night I had four players: Adam, Chris, Jon and Ni. They chose the Fighter, Barbarian, Bard and Sorcerer respectively.

The set up was pretty simple. It's been a hard winter, and the food store is running low. If fresh meat isn't found soon, the tribe will have to eat the turnips. Or the children. Whichever.

I gave them two choices for food:
On the other side of the hills is a big human town, and sometimes they use hated horses to pull carts along the track through the hills.
At the base of the hills is a human place where they build fences around tall grass and keep moocows.

They chose the farm.
Events proceeded along these lines.
The Fighter braced the front farmhouse door shut with wood from the log pile.
The Sorcerer used Burning Hands to set light to the door and fire wood.
The Barbarian and Bard tried barricading the back door with hay, but were startled by a dog barking.
The Bard began using Mage Hand to catch chickens so he could eat them.
The Sorcerer decided to check out the barn.
The Fighter tried to throw a burning log onto the roof, fumbled, and took for points of damage.
The farmers forced their way out the partially barricaded back door, and were instantly sent to Sleep by the Bard, who correctly surmised that they wanted to take the chickens off him.
The Bard, Fighter and Barbarian then spent about three rounds failing to Coup de Grace the helpless farmers.
Some more chickens were killed as well.
Meanwhile, the Sorcerer had discovered that the barn was full of moocows, and jumped into the middle of them with manifested Aberrant Bloodline claws, doing a massive 1d3-2 damage.
Once the two farmers were dead, the Fighter went off to find the dog, the Barbarian went to investigate the sudden, terrified mooing coming from the barn, and the Bard raided the hen house.
By this time the cows in the barn were terrified, stirred up by the smoke and the smelly Goblin ineffectually clawing them and Acid Splashing them. Which is an excellent time for the Barbarian to throw open the doors.
The cows stampede.
The Barbarian survives through sheer luck, rolling a crit on the first cow, knocking its legs out and creating a bovine wall to shelter behind as the rest of the herd trample past/over.
Meanwhile the Fighter has survived a drawn out battle with the ferocious Jack Russell chained up behind a farm building and the Bard continues to loot eggs.
I decide that the night is wearing on, and throw in a CR4 Bison and tell them the Bull is loose. I realise too late that it's got a +10 to hit and does 2d6+12 damage. Damage and attack rolls are fudged to ensure things are not a complete forgone conclusion.
The Barbarian survives the first attack, and is joined by the Sorcerer and Fighter.
Meanwhile, back in the hen house, the Bard faces up against that rarest of fowl, a Dire Rooster. It has baleful eyes and a comb of blood red.
The Fighter is dropped to minus hit points in his first turn of combat with the Bull. The Sorcerer makes it to two rounds and the Barbarian is killed the round after.
The Bard rolls well against the Dire Rooster, which rolls horrendously, and emerges from the hen house to find a farmyard strewn with dead and dying cows, chickens and Goblins.
He eats well, and sings a song about chickens.

The attached picture was drawn by Ni during the session. It's pretty ace.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Wheaton's Law: Don't be a dick / Alert the monopolies commission

My Roleplay group are on a recruitment drive at the moment, so I've 'designed' some amateurish flyers advertising our club.
The aim is to ask local gaming shops to put them up on boards, in windows and maybe have a pile on their counters.

The key point is to ask, and to understand that the shops are under no obligation to help out.

However, I am ... Disappointed by the reaction of the first shop I went into.
Their answer was a definite 'no'.
Their reason: we would be in direct competition with them, because they'd recently started a game night of their own. On a different night.

We play on a Tuesday night.
They play on a Wednesday night.
We play 8pm to 11pm.
They play 6pm to 9pm.
We have a room that will seat 30, for free, in a licenced pub.
They have a room that will seat 20, at a surcharge, in non-licenced premises that does have a 'tuck shop'.

I'm not convinced that we pose a legitimate business competition, being a non-profit, loosely organised group that does not trade in goods or services.

So, my personal opinion is that this guy is being a dick.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Building a geek / My five games

To steal an idea from Character Generation, here are the five RPGs that made me the colossal geek I am today...

Cyberpunk 2020
I've no idea what edition it was, and I've barely played it since, but Cyberpunk was the first RPG I played. I got snowed in at a friends house one February night, and a Cyberpunk cops one shot was the only entertainment on offer.
I had no idea what I was doing. It made no sense. I tried to 'make a cop'. This was acceptable. I bought a pair of bongo drums and was suddenly told 'now you're getting it'.
I wasn't sure that I was.
I still have no idea what happened. I can presume that a law was broken, and we started shooting. I could handle shooting. I understood 'kill him before he kills you'.
What I didn't understand was that I couldn't shoot through the solid concrete wall that I was using as cover. Before having at least two limbs blown off, I did manage to shoot through the wall, through a car door and through his armour. I did the smallest possible amount of damage the system allowed. It's entirely possible the GM just fudged that to give the newbie a break.
Then I got detonated.

From that point I was hooked.
I didn't quite understand what had just happened, but I did grasp the concept that this RPG thing allowed you to do literally anything you could imagine.
Mind. Blown.

Ars Magica
I played a few more games with this group - Call of Cthulhu, Paranoia - but the one that stuck was Ars Magica. Again, I totally didn't get it. I may have only 'gotten it' sometime in the last two years (16 years and two editions later), but it fired me up some more.
Three different classes of characters under my control.
Mid fantasy setting.
Stuff I could learn about without buying the book (Latin, history, folklore, however this did turn out to be my ArM undoing. I worried too much about authenticity).
My first characters were based on Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin, a Merinita magus, Hobbes, Moorish were-tiger companion, and Spiff, a daring grog.
Yeah, I didn't get it. There's a theme running through this.
But I loved Ars Magica. I was enraged that the Tremere were a vampire clan in V:tM. I hated that the Order of Hermes was reduced to just one of nine Traditions in M:tAs.
Yet I've never successfully played it or run it. I always get bogged down in historical accuracy and my fear of the finer points of the rules.
I hope to change that.

Vampire: the Masquerade revised
It's with V:tM rev that I became a GM. I hated the game I was playing, basically because the Storyteller was focussing entirely upon the story, at the expense of the rules and player expectations.
Rules were only ever used to tell us we couldn't do something, not to tell us how we could do something. They were applied inconsistently and unfairly.
It really pissed me off.
So I bought the Revised Edition and a shed load of supplements and set out to show him how a game of Vampire should be run.
Not that I did a brilliant job. I did ok, for a novice Storyteller. I got better.
I think.

Song of Steel LARP club
Ok, not a table top RPG, a Live-Action one instead. I played the pilot game in February 1998 (i think it was then) and finally left in early 2003. In the five years I was there I spent three on the Plot team, writing and running adventures, two months as Club Secretary (I was shit, and quit) and a year as Head of the Rules Team. It was the rules position that broke me, and I was totally burned out after it.
Positives, though. I spent three years exploring various adventure ideas, and towards the end had a good idea of what I was good at, what worked and what didn't, through trial and error. Which means I fucked up a lot, but learnt a little from each mistake. My major error was over reaching, and the best adventures I ran were simple, low resource ones.

World of Darkness Storytelling System
This is what I'm best at. When White Wolf rebooted, I completely ditched all of my old Storyteller games and fully embraced the new WoD.
Yes, I regret giving my 100+ books to charity, mostly because the shop that got them probably didn't know what they had, because it was a rash decision, because there were some gems that I should have kept.
But I totally get nWoD. It's second nature to me. I don't have to think about the rules or the setting, I just kind of default to it. It frees me up to enjoy the game and what the players are doing.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

What would Rick Grimes do? / Being the good guy

I'm playing a Fire Dept EMT in a d20 Modern zombie holocaust game at the moment, and I'm trying to play him good. Lawful Good, to be exact.

It's really hard.
I'm trying to play my Character, Henry Fallon, as someone who will do what's right, not what's convenient or safest. I see him as someone who runs into burning buildings and pulls people out because it's the right thing to do, and it's his job.
Walking to the game last night I got to thinking about playing good characters, and how often I do it.
Not very, seems to be the answer.

I'd consciously decided to play someone solid, reliable, moral and, well, good, this time around, and was wondering why I don't do it that often.
I remembered the Chaotic Good Bard I'd played in a Forgotten Realms game some ten years ago (that long?). He was active and immense fun, but also vain, self interested and a glory hunter. He did good things, but mostly just because it would get him chicks.
It's not hard playing that kind of 'Good'. It's basically win-win with little effort.

Back in the days when I LARPed, the last character I played before I quit was a Priest of Truth, Brother Cornelius Woodrow. He focused on protective spells and had vowed to always tell the truth. He constantly strived to be open and honest and fair. He was constantly frustrated by the inherent selfishness of the world, by the little lies we habitually tell, by shortsightedness.
I had a cracking headache, without fail, after playing him.
Thing is, he was a fun character, or a character who liked fun. He was game for a laugh. He was useful, and a team player.
Yet I didn't enjoy playing him, because RPGs don't often reward selfless altruism. Paladins are seen as boring. Good guys are automatically suspect.

It seems as though most RPG characters default to a Neutral position. Not Evil, not Good, just reactionary beings that do whatever they want as the mood strikes them with no long term plan or consistent intentions beyond their own benefit.

Thing is, I do love me a morally and ethically absent character. I'm just as guilty. I enjoy the freedom and release of acting upon desire and whimsy alone.
I have fond memories of my Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Halfling who gleefully murdered old women and threw children to Skaven because it was what was required at the time for his continued survival and/or entertainment (he was, ultimately, trying to save a city from a Skaven siege and chaos infiltration from the sewers. That makes it alright, yeah?).
I loved my LARP evil necromancer, Hans Karlos, a sadistic, traitorous maniac who betrayed two kingdoms, his friends and allies, to save his own skin. Good times.

After my game finished last night, I sat in on the Serenity game running alongside us and played the ships cook, who is clearly an ex-assassin with the ability and conviction to wipe out a ships crew with ease.<br>
God, I loved it...

I find playing a good, honest character hard work, yet can drop into a dodgy fuck's role in a heartbeat.
Is that normal?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Cheating for fun and profit / Not everyone is created equal

I just remembered something important - NPCs, especially important ones, do not need to be legal starting characters.

They just need to make sense, be memorable and serve a function (other than "wank all over the players").

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Start at the beginning / Aeon Trilogy timeline in Aberrant

I'm on a massive Aberrant kick at the moment, after the successful session I ran for my group last week and their exceptionally positive feedback.
We've one more session before our normal GM comes back from holiday and we resume our normal scheduled zombie apocalypse.

Thing is, whilst plotting out what I want to do with this next, last session, I've started thinking in terms of an ongoing game. This is probably a mistake.

Anyways, that aside, here's what I'm thinking...

Aberrant is very much a game if it's time. It was released in 1998 and is set in 2008, ten years after the first 'Nova' erupted.
Ten years of super (or Mega) participation has resulted in leaping technological progress and widespread cultural change. The world has embraced these enhanced beings, and is a different place because of it.
This is all great, until you run it in 2012. Now, the 'future' technology doesn't seem that impressive, and the world has turned. Events like 9/11, global recession, the first US black president, the Arab Spring, Hurricane Katrina, the Japanese Tsunami, Swine Flu and numerous more have changed our focus away from the direction the game designers predicted. Which is understandable. And inevitable.

The core conflict in Aberrant still stands up - Novas, Terragen, Aberrants, Utopia, Proteus, Aeon, Divas Mal, The Directive et al are all functional and relevant. It's just the timeline that isn't.

Which is why I chose to run the game from the day the day the Galatea exploded in orbit and spread cosmic charged radiation all over the globe.

The player characters are new super beings in a world that has never known supers.
Right now, a lot is going to shit, and the players don't know it. They only know what happened to them, and even then they don't understand it. They're currently running scared with amazing abilities that they can barely control. They'll find out soon enough...

So, my plan is to run with the Aberrant timeline from the start, and make changes where required.
I'm pleased to discover that the Galatea exploded on March 23, and we played on March 27, so that with minimal fudging I could run a campaign in 'real time'.
Which is awesome.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hello, my old friend / Returning to your favourite system

The game that really got me into paper and pencil RPGS was Vampire: the Masquerade, back with the Revised Edition in, what, 98? I'd been playing in a couple of other World of Darkness games prior to that - Vampire, Dark Ages, Changeling: the Dreaming, Mage: the Ascension - and chose the Revised V:tM as my entry point to serious GMing, or Storytelling, to use the game language.
I immersed myself in White Wolf products from then on, with little or no time for other systems.

Of late, I've tried to break out of that thought prison, and expand my horizons somewhat.
I'd already given d20 a shot in the early to mid 2000s, and looked elsewhere.
In the past year I've run Fear Itself and Trail of Cthulhu, both Gumshoe games, and Star Wars Saga Edition, a d20 derivative. I've also invested heavily in Pathfinder and dug out my In Nomine books.

Tonight the GM for the d20 Modern game I'm playing can't make it, so I've offered to run a one shot game.
After a short discussion, we've settled on a supers game, which means Aberrant.
As a result, I've been pregenning some characters, and I cannot express how good it feels to come back to the Storyteller (ing? I forget which is which) system. Filling in the dots. Not having to reference stuff constantly. Understanding things I do have to reference.
It's great.

More, please.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

One night stands / Non-exclusive gaming

I've just wound up the Star Wars Saga Edition game I have been running for my local club. It's a Clone Wars era game that I'd envisioned as a lead up to Order 66 and the fall of the Jedi. The last session ended with the party ambushed unexpectedly by Clone Troopers during a New Hope-esque award ceremony.
I'd only planned past this point in the vaguest of sense, so it seemed like a good end of season cliffhanger for Season One of the game.

I've signed up to play a game next, which is quite unlike me, and have decided to work up some one shots to have in reserve should the regular GM not be able to make it.

As soon as I started thinking in terms of single session or two session games a whole new world of possibilities opened up to me.
I normally have an idea for a game, then see if I can use it as the foundation for a campaign. Which means that I usually end up running games that lose steam after certain story arcs have completed.

Focussing just on one short arc eliminates that.
I feel liberated.

I can run that Trail of Cthulhu game that has bootleggers and feds running afoul of the Mi-Go in the wilderness without worrying how to make the characters work in an ongoing campaign.
The World of Darkness Aliens vs Predator (Azlu vs Werewolves) idea? Perfect for a throwaway evening. It's not as though the characters could be used again.

One mental obstacle I've had to hurdle is the idea of a pre-genned character.
I've always been adverse to doling out ready statted characters to players. I've always enjoyed character creation myself, and pre-gens prevent that pleasurable experience. Sometimes I can't get behind playing a pre-gen, and I've had players from past games tell me that they don't feel like it's their character.

However, I found myself statting characters for two of players my Star Wars players. They told me what they wanted, and I generated something in that ball park.
I thought it worked pretty well, and received no complaints.

I'd run a one shot Trail of Cthulhu game a few months ago, and pre-genned some characters for that. About eight characters. I only got three players, who were spoilt for choice.
They all professed to enjoy themselves, and I loved the interpretations they bought to their characters. It was an experience I'd love to repeat.

At the moment I'm working up a one shot game for Pathfinder, using only Goblin PCs. By necessity it will be a one shot, as I don't expect the survival rate to be high (although the Goblin Barbarian I've statted is surprisingly hard to kill...)

A h8ers regret / I was wrong about Mage Revised

Eels - I'm going stop pretending that I didn't break your heart

I realised something recently. Mage: the Ascension revised took the right path.
Ok, maybe not with the Avatar Storm.
But the whole "the Technocracy have won and the Traditions magical paradigms are fast becoming a forgotten history" thing now makes perfect sense to me.
It was the only way the line could go, without diverging into Shadowrun.

As such, I am hoping to god the Mage20 becomes a thing. The translation guide has the potential to be a genius addition to the Awakened line, and Mage20 itself should take into account the last 10+ years of Technocratic supremacy and progress.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Game ideas I would love to run with / Star Wars Saga Edition

Where: Cloud City
When: During Empire Strikes Back
What: The player characters, all inexperienced youths, flee into the air shafts of Cloud City during the evacuation, hoping to evade the Imperial occupation.
Whilst making their way to an evacuation point, they find a freshly severed human hand and a laser sword.
They know nothing of the Jedi, only that their elders command them to get rid of the weapon, and never speak of it again.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

D&D Next / A concern

The internet is awash with opinion and conjecture about the pending 5th edition of Dungeons and Dragons.
I have no intention or authority to add to it, but I do have a concern.

One of the possible goals of this new edition is to bridge the gap between OSG, 3.5 and 4th ed.

Does this mean WotC are going to sell us conversion guides?

Transformers Tech Specs / Half an RPG already

I may be behind the times, but I've only just seen Transformers Prime. Did you know it was developed by two of the writers behind Lost? Ok, also the two guys behind the Hawaii 5-0 reboot, but you can't have everything..

Anyways, my sudden resurging interest in 'classic' Transformers (as opposed to the Michael Bay travesty) reminded me of a thought I had a couple of years ago.

The classic Transformers toys came with a picture, brief character description and a rating of their various abilities: Strength, Speed, Endurance, Intelligence, Firepower, Skill, Rank and Courage - all rated between 1 and 10.

So, already we have a range of meaningful stats with assigned ranges.

To my mind, we just need to determine what system these stats support.

My original thought was a d10 'roll below your value' mechanic. This works for average stats, but means that characters with a score of 10 would automatically succeed, which is dull.

The other option is a target number mechanic - roll a d10 and add your score to it. Set 10 as a standard difficulty, and increase or decrease as the situation merits. Make 1's an automatic fail, and 10's an exceptional success, and you're away.

Hit points / health and damage

I guess you could either say that Strength and Firepower provide set values for damage inflicted, but again, that's pretty dull. A random element that allows for a range of results is far more interesting.

So, I guess I'd use Strength and Firepower as values to add to a d10 roll, which would give a min/max damage range between 2 and 20.
This would mean that hit points/health would need to accommodate this range, whilst still allowing Megatron to kill an Autobot with one shot from his fusion cannon, and giving said Autobot a chance of surviving said blast.
This would suggest to me a hit point range between 10 and 20, or a soak / damage reduction mechanic.

How's about hit points = Endurance + Rank, with Endurance also providing a set damage reduction value as well.
This would mean an attacker rolls Strength/Firepower +1d10 to determine potential damage, whilst the defender reduces the incoming damage by their Endurance score, and deducts any remaining damage from their hit points.
This makes it possible, but unlikely, for a Strength 1 Autobot to damage Megatron by punching him.

I'm sort of tempted to forego any 'to hit' mechanics, and speed up combat by having attacks hit automatically...
But, that removes a lot of the drama, and turns combat into a straight punching contest...

Speed should also play a part in combat. Definitely in determining Initiative, and also in determining the number of actions per round a character can take (observe Blurr in the original Transformers the Movie).
Speed could also be used to avoid incoming attacks as well. All of this does turn it into a combat super stat, though.

So. Revised system:
Attacker rolls Strength or Firepower + Rank +1d10
Defender rolls Speed +1d10 and deducts the result + their Endurance from the Attackers result.
This equals the amount of damage the Defender takes.

Each combatant has a number of actions each turn equal to their Speed.
They can split these actions between Attack and Defence. For example, a character with Speed 5 could fire two shots at an enemy and dodge three incoming attacks, or throw four punches and dodge one, or make no aggressive moves and dodge five incoming attacks.
To attack, roll 1d10 + Strength/Firepower.
To dodge, roll 1d10 + Speed. Subtract the result from the attackers successes.
Finally, subtract the defenders Endurance from the damage, and apply.

Difficulty to hit = 2x defenders speed. Endurance subtracts from the damage total as before, and any remaining damage is subtracted from hit points.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The NoN List / One shot festive Gumshoe adventure

There's now no chance that I'll run with this idea for the next eleven months, so let's blog it instead.

Before I go on, its probably best if you watch the first Tom Cruise Mission Impossible film, in which Hunt and his team must stop stop a NOC list from falling into the wrong hands.

For a while now I've had a half formed joke rattling around my head about Santa assisting police with their enquiries due to his extensive Naughty or Nice list.
He has clearly established an effective and secretive international intelligence network, and uses the information it gathers to keep records on every person alive in the world today.
Therefore, Santa would possess information valuable to any criminal investigation.

It's a poor joke, but a terrifying espionage scenario.
Especially if that list falls into the wrong hands...

I intended to run this using the Esoterrorists rules with a tweaked setting, although I now think that Nights Black Agents would suit it better, being a Bourne/M:I setting already.
I'll reserve judgement on that until I've read through NBA, though.

The set up is; the players are active operatives for an intelligence agency - CIA, NSA, MI5, MI6, MOSSAD, KGB, etc.
They have been tasked with retrieving an encrypted hard drive from a defector. They are briefed that the hard drive is infinitely more valuable than the defector.
The deal goes bad; a third party intervenes, the defector is killed and the hard drive lost.

Information points to a mole within the players own agency, and they are implicated in the conspiracy.

You'll need to decide who the traitor is, who he works for and how the players can track him/her down, retrieve the hard drive and clear their names.

So, what's on the hard drive? Only the previous years Naughty or Nice list.
This is best played after Christmas Day, and should be delivered deadpan.
The Hard Drive contains one, massive, rich text document - a seemingly endless list of names, ages and addresses in table format, with three extra columns.
The columns are headed Yearly Average, Nice Deeds, Naughty Deeds.
It covers the previous Dec 25 through to Dec 24.
If they specifically look, the players can find their own names with a scarily accurate summary of their activities for that year, including details of any covert, top secret missions they undertook.
They can also find the names of their immediate family, their superiors, known operatives from rival agencies, world leaders and celebrities.
The list could topple governments, compromise national security and ruin lives.
The players may even question whether or not their own agency should possess the list.

It's important to play the game as straight as possible. The only joke is the origin of the list, everything else is deadly serious.

For a supernatural element, you can include disturbing midgets with twisted faces, high pitched voices and bleeding edge equipment who are competing against the players.