Friday, April 29, 2011

Le Grande Roludothon

I've signed up to run two games at Le Grande Roludothon in Montreal this June. Saturday. I'm running "If You Should See A Great Big Box" - a StarCluster 3 adventure. I ran a version of this for my face to face group when SC 3 was being planned, using the SC 2 ruleset and a number of supplements. In it, the PCs are a group of Uplifted animals and bio-constructs working of their intenture for a huge shipping company. Its set in Diasporan Community space, where non-humans are not always welcome or treated as human under law, though the PCs are from SaVaHuTa, where they are protected as human. There is trouble with a cargo, and one thing leads to another. The time we played it out, one of the PCs successfully shot down a flyer with a pistol on a desert island, using Physics, with a truly amazing roll.

I really doubt the crew at Roludothon will see that flyer, or the desert island. I have no way to predict how the players will react to the initial Situation, or where it will go from there. I know what's in the cargo, who sent it, who is to recieve it, and why. From that, and from the PCs actions, everything else flows.

The second game, on Sunday, will be an Outremer adventure. I ran this one recently, but this will be a very different implementation. The game I ran was part of a much larger arc, and this will be stand alone. it will also be somewhat more complex - I had to run the last game around a crying baby, which doesn't lend itself to complexity. Again, once the initial Situation happens, I don't know how things will proceed. This Situation involves a dream each of the PCs will have involving a young girl, a knife, and change. Religion will play a big part in it, as will politics - I mean it's outremer, after all! We shall see what we shall see!


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Full Slate

Thursday night I played in a playtest of Tim Kirk's Derelict Delvers over IRC

Saturday I ran a playtest of Outremer.

Sunday morning I ran In Harm's Way: A Napoleonic Naval RPG over IRC.

Monday, I ran the first alpha playtest of Klaxon's Look! Up In The Sky!

Forgive me if I haven't been posting as much as normal! :D

DD is a neat pulpy space game based around exploring enormous Ancient artifacts. The current game arc revolves around trying to wrest control of an enormous kilometers long ship plunging into a heavily settled system from a Machine Empire suicide squad. Thursday's battle ended in an epic Beamblade battle between my character - a Fist of God, of the Sacrament of the Holy Flame - and a blue-skinned bioroid, while my character's partner was rescuing a seven foot tall alien princess type from torture.

Our Outremer game revolved around silencing a minstrel whose slyly malicious songs had been fueling sectarian violence in Damascus. More importantly, the party now believes the Old Man of the Mountains, the GrandMaster of Assassins, is returned form occultation, and is behind this, and the attempted kidnapping/murder of the daughter of the Prince of Galilee last week. The first half of the game was the party figuring out just before they left town that they *hadn't* caught and beaten up the minstrel already, and that he *hadn't* told us it was a personal thing between him and the Emir of Damascus. The minstrel had sung and implanted false memories into their heads, convincing them that it as all over and they should leave. The rest of the session was spent tracking him down and making sure he didn't sing again, with an elaborate ruse involving fortunetelling to capture him.

In our In Harm's Way: NN game, in the after-shock of the earthquake in Fort-de-France, the surgeon and surgeon's mate argued over whether to operate on the Governor of Martinique for a depressed skull fracture - a risky and long operation - or treat as many injured as possible. One of the ship's captains almost threw the surgeon's mate in the brig for mutiny before the surgeon agreeed to allow the mate to attempt the operation. The operation was a success, but five patients died in that time that might have lived. The process was fascinating, as both sides had valid arguments - the surgeon that more lives saved outweighed the single life of the governor, and the surgeon's mate that not all lives are equal in value, especially after such an emergency. A passionate conflict, sharply fought, with no blood shed except the operation itself. The commander of the expedition told the surgeon's mate afterward that if he had failed, he's have been flogged and drummed out of the service for disobeying orders. As it was, he should consider himself lucky.

Then L!UITS! slammed in. I ran the game even though Klax was up from Orlando. When we all created the city and the Association, we were all working towards a grim, gritty, and harsh setting - the Association was a gang, HQ'd in an abandoned subway station, with next to no money, and the opposition was the city government itself - rich, powerful, and also metahuman. Then the big dumb Nuke showed up in the first scene, and dumped six video surveillance cameras with ripped off wiring on the table. "They were just sitting there" he explained, deadpan, "No one was watching them." It turned into the funniest game I have ever run. We were howling all night as circumstance after circumstance piled up in the most absurd way possible. We weren't planning on a comedy game at all! it just happened! The game was great, with some rough spots - as expected ion the first run-through - but it's hard to separate the game itself from how much fun we had!


Friday, April 22, 2011

Outremer Playtesting

Feedback is coming in from the Outremer playtesting. As a result, I've started fine tuning the game based on feedback from the playtesters.

  • I added a bunch of name lists/generators in an appendix for Frankish, Arabic, Armenian, Sephardic Jewish, Kurdish, Greek, Bohemian, and Turkish male and female period names. I figure it's easy enough to find English, French, Italian, and German names that I won't bother, but these others are different enough that they need something in the game. Kurdish surnames were the most difficult, as there just was nothing out there on how they formed patronyms back in the 16th century. Eventually I decided to use Arabic ibn, bin, and bint with Kurdish first names. The Kurds in Outremer would be outside their homelands anyway.

  • I put in relationships between the various nations of Outremer in each nation at the end of the description - i.e Nation X has Friendly relations with Nation Y, and Good realtions with Nation Z, but relations with Nation A are Strained, and with Nation B are Tense. These are the terms I have always heard international relations described in on the news, so I figure most players shouls understand them intuitively. At the end of the Nations of Outremer section I put a listing of all the possible relations, from most to least friendly.

  • I put in a dual timeline with what happened in the real world and what happened in the alt-history of Outremer from the preaching of the first Crusade, through the split during the Second Crusade, to 1400. I figure few people who are going to play in this setting understand what actually did happen, and need at least an overview to comprehend the differences.

    More as it happens!


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Society of Night Update

Also being designed under the StarCluster 3 license is Society of Night by Michael Scott and Randolph Allen. SoN is a vampire society game, with Vamp Houses locked in a constant battle for dominance and territory. Unlike Blood Games, SoN has sexy vamps - they can do the dirty, and even have children. In SoN, vampirism is caused by a virus, and can be transmitted on purpose, allowing humans to be "turned".

SoN Vamp Society is highly structured. On top are True Born Vampyres - children born to two other True Born vamps. These are rare and precious. Only True Borns can breed, and they become heads of their Houses in time. They age extremely slowly once they hit puberty and their Vamp natures come to the surface, eventually stopping any aging.

Turned Vamps were once human, but have become infected by the virus. They cannot have children via sex, only by "turning" people. They do not age once they have been 'turned".

Dhamphyrs are the children of True Born vamps and humans. They age slowly, and can walk in the light, but are not immortal. They are usually female, and normally are "Turned" at some point.

Servitors are humans addicted to Vamp blood. This extends their lifespans and gives them some vampiric powers. They can also walk in the light, but have shorter lifespans than Dhamphyrs. Their role is to protect and care for the Vamps during the day. Faithful and useful Servitors are usually rewarded by being "Turned".

Gifteds are humans who have some PSI powers. These they are born with, not given by the virus. They live a normal human lifespan, and can pass on their Gifts.

SoN has a currently full Chargen and skill list, and uses the StarPerc resolution sub-system. it is set in the modern day or near future. Eventually, the designers want to extend their line by bringing in other races - Fay, Weres, Ghosts, etc. It's currently in alpha playtest in Baton Rouge, with online bluebooking, set in the near future. A previous version was played last year based on StarCluster 2, but this one is intended for publication.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Look! Up In The Sky! - Vulnerabilities, Retcons, and Reboots

Vulnerabilities are an important aspect of supers. The traditional "buy disadvantages to gain points to buy advantages" is a model neither Klaxon nor I like at all. For one thing, the disads are always too specific, and for another it tends to produce blind, deaf, socially crippled freaks. Klax went another way.

You and your GM discuss and mutually decide on a vulnerability - not a disadvantage - that ties in with the character concept, including whether or not the character even has a vulnerability. Then, whenever the vulnerability is used in play against the character, she gains a point, which can be accumulated to buy new powers, retcon the character's history, or reboot the character.

Retcon is short for "Retroactive Continuity". This is a device used commonly in comics where the writers selectively ignore something that has happened in the character's historybecause they prefer that it not have happened. By paying the Retcon cost, the player can say "Remember when feeble Aunt May was killed by the Flying Boogeyman? No, you don't, because it never happened. She's been away visiting her younger sister Aunt Elmira, who was sickly. Aunt May is as good as ever!"

Reboot is what happens when the character bites the dust. By paying points equal to the original amount of character points used in chargen, the Reboot cost, the player can create a new character with all the points spent after chargen on new powers, so long as it's a new version of the old character - when the Leaping Leopard dies tragically, saving the city, his offspring/sibling/buddy takes up the cape and cowl to become the new Black Leopard, sion of the glorious departed.


Saturday, April 16, 2011

Mo' 'tivations - from Klax!

From Klax:

'So, I was thinking about some common motivations, and came up with a few, but it was harder to come up with an opposing motivation.

Glory <=> Rectify
Glory is the search for fame and fortune through good works
Rectification is the doing of good work solely for setting things right
Preservation <=> Selfishness
Preservation would be working towards maintaining the status quo
Selfishness would be working towards advancing your own wants and desires, and to hell with anyone else.
Love <=> Hate
Love would be fighting for love, protecting your family, finding your lost love, etc.
Hate would be fighting through hate, Racism, sexism, all the -isms, Years of slights, built up, etc.
Fear <=> Bloodlust
Fear is fighting from being frightened, I'm scared of clowns, so I will fight clowns (Could also call this bravery)
Bloodlust is fighting for the sheer fun or love of fighting
Honor <=> Pride
This is similar to Justice <=> Privilege, but I feel this is more personal
Reciprocation <=> Acceptance
Reciprocation is doing unto everyone, what others have done to you
Acceptance is fighting to be accepted by the populous
(These two are very x-men.)

Singular Goal <=> Indifference
This is an odd duck, as there are plenty of heroes who fight for oddly specific goals, this may not be suitable in the main game, as these kinds of characters don't often mesh well with others, but they'd be great for one-time characters, or NPC's to get a campaign going. Heroes or villains who have this motivation are those that fight to kill one specific person, or perhaps find a specific treasure/relic/place, etc.

Maybe motivations should change depending on how specific or broad they are?
The more specific, the more die bonus?"

I love these!


Friday, April 15, 2011

Super Motivations

Motivation is a core concept for supers. It's what makes them do the crazy stuff they do. I'm thinking about motivations in Look! Up In The Sky! - right now, in the admittedly unfinished state it's in, the characters are without Motivation. They have the HOW, but not the WHY.

When working in a way and for a cause aligned with their Motivation, characters should be *better*, They are motivated - propelled by their own convictions and innermost feelings. I'm going to suggest that whenever a character is motivated, the character should have a bonus - another die, for instance. Conversely, whenever they are working in a manner and for a cause opposed to their Motivation, they should have a penalty, maybe one less die.

So Motivations should come in opposed pairs. Some examples might be:

Justice <-> Privilege

Forgiveness <-> Vengeance

Order <-> Chaos

Liberation <-> Oppression

Protection <-> Exploitation

Duty <-> Power

It's obvious that the Motivations on the left would make great Motivations for heroes, and those on the right for villains, but I can see interesting ways these could all be switched.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Progress Report on Look! Up In The Sky!

Last night I went over the current status of Look! Up In The Sky! with Klaxon. Progress has been slow because of his workload - he's just completed his classwork and is now working with his project team and writing his thesis - but Association Creation, City Creation, Character Generation, and Skills Traits & Edges sections are essentially complete. This means the game is ready for internal play test!

I have the current pdf. Klax and James have separated Powers out into Paths of Power, as in the Blood Games games. When BG first came out in 2004, Almafeta told me that it was a good base for a supers game, and I guess Klax agreed. The Paths are Tank - defensive options, Skill - basically ways to get skills, Nuke - offensive powers, Healer - healing and curing of various types, Buffer - making others perform better in various ways, and Strange - a collection of leftovers from the other Paths. Characters choose a Primary Path, in which they spend at least 50% of their points, and may spend what they like in the others.

The game is using the StarPool variant of StarCluster, the TR subsystem used in Blood Games II, OHMAS, and Sweet Chariot 2, and will not have multiple resolution options - though it could be easily enough hacked to use one of the others. You can scale the game from normals - not it's forte, but doable - through Pulp to Cosmic. Internally, scaling is done by multipliers on effect rather than changing Attributes. Attributes are meaningless except as TNs. For example, A Super-Strong character may have a 9 STR, whicle a normal character may have an 11 STR. Thing is, for each success, the Super Strong guy may get 40 points vs 10 for the Normal.

As I mentioned before, Skills have been vastly reduced in number by increasing their scope. They remain center-defined, but all science, for example, is represented by Academics, Bioscience, and Wierdscience.

Like OHMAS and SC 3, Klax has an Association Creation section. It is assumed that the game revolves around Sentai - Superhero teams - rather than lone heroes. You choose what you want to do by creating the Association all PCs belong to before actually creating the characters. Thus the PCs are created to fit into the team, and are motivated to work with it rather than creating a team to work with a disparate group of existing PCs with widely varying motives.

You also have a section on creating your team's home city, analogous to the system/world design section in SC 3. You can do this randomly, or pick from the lists, whatever inspires you best. The city creation sub-system is designed to define the city abstractly, rather than giving specifics, allowing you to build up a picture in your mind as to how it all fits together. Cultural Traits are used to define the gestalt City culture, which is then varied by neighborhood.

It looks really good and flexible so far! Now to set up a game or two!


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Running a Game with the iPad - and Outremer

I ran Sunday's game - a playtest for Outremer - using only my iPad Sunday. It worked very well! I will be able to carry my complete library of games with me wherever I go. now I tried running games with the Kindle, but the inability to access the bookmarks limited the functionality of the Kindle, so I was forced to leaf through the pdfs page by page, which was very slow and clumsy.

With the iPad, I could access the bookmarks, which allowed me to zip through the pdf, either to the section I wanted directly, or back to the TOC which is hyperlinked to the first page of each section. This was as fast or faster than hunting things up in printed book form, so I was very happy.

In other news, I finished the playtest version of Outremer Monday night, with the addition of the Dervish Path, the finalization of the Nations section with Homs, and finishing the bit on Islam in the Religions section. I'm going to look through the books with an eye to correcting any minor transgressions and maybe adding a paragraph here and there, but I'm ready to send it out for playtest very soon. Anyone interested should leave a comment or email me.


Friday, April 8, 2011

StarCluster 3 Jedi Profession

For your amusement...

Padawan: An Apprentice Jedi

Pre-Requisite: PSI 4+

Waiver Roll: 0%

Lifestyle: Any

Skill List: STR, COOR, AGY, END, CHAR, INT, Focus, Telepathy, Shield, Stun, TK, Blade, Meditation, Observe, Alert, React, Discipline, Dash

Edge: Ranged Defense

Jedi: A Psionic Warrior

Pre-requisite: Padawan or PSI 3+

Waiver Roll: 0%

Lifestyle: Upper Middle Class

Skill List: Focus, Telepathy, Locate, Proxy, Interrogate, Shield, Stun, TK, Transfer, Blade, Meditation, Observe, Alert, React, Dash, Discipline

Edges: Ranged Defense, Mind-over-Body


Got My ipad!

OK, my ipad came yesterday. It was a headachew and a half setting it up - I had to join itunes and set up an account before I could do anything else, and that was a huge pain because my wife had used my email to set up an apple account when we bought Klaxon a Mac last year, and she couldn't remember her password. When I finally got that straightened out, itunes hung on me right at the end of configuring my ipad, so I had to get out of the hung browser - which would not die - and do it all over again. The whole process took me about 1.5 hours. Then I spent the rest of the night finding apps to do what I wanted, and figuring out how to move my game pdfs over to the ipad.

Good news it, it's beautiful. This is the perfect platform for pdf games! The colors are crisp, the display is big, and the speed is very fast - at least with the small sized pdfs I make. The 450+ page StarCluster 3 DE was only about 15 MB. I haven't yet moved any other pdfs over. The process of moving pdfs over is cumbersome and non-intuitive, because the ipad is not a computer at all, It's a glorified smart phone. I had to move the files into my local itunes, then sync.

Still, I'm very happy with the platform. Next, I run games from it! :D


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

StarWars with StarCluster 3?

Wait a minute! StarCluster is a fairly hard-ish space opera. StarWars is as soft and squishy as a sneaker full of poodle poo. What are you thinking of, clash?

Hold on! Hear me out before you react!

Well, if I don't hear you out, there won't be much of a blog post today...

Exactly! Now Star Wars doesn't so much defy real science as ignore it in favor of technology.


Seriously. Any time real science interferes with the setting assumptions, technology comes to the rescue. "We want hand to hand fighting with swords to be important." "But why won't people with blasters shoot the guys with the swords?" "The swords have blades of energy confined in shaped force fields, which can deflect blaster bolts." "Umm, Ok."

Well, StarCluster has light swords, but they don't work like light sabers, and they don't deflect blaster bolts - besides, you don't have blasters in StarCluster anyway.

First of all, what's a blaster but a pulsed laser? Anyway, why can't light swords work like light sabers? If you don't care, I don't care. It's your game. Maybe the force fields are gravitic. Gravity bends light.

What about space travel? The Millenium Falcon travels at the speed of plot! With StarCluster, I use the Transit Calculator and the Orbit map...

So don't use the Transit Calculator. Just say "That'll take about 5 hours."

What about Jump Travel? In StarWars you just engage the hyperdrive.

So drop the jump travel and move through hyperspace in whatever direction you like at the speed of plot.

But the rules say...

Screw the rules. The rules are there for your convenience. If they get in the way of something star-warsy, ignore them. The Canon Police won't arrest you. Really, anytime the rules say something non-Starwarsy, you can usually drop them and use fiat, or there's an optional rule that will work properly in its place.

What about the Force? Don't say use PSI because that's too weak.

Use the optional rules near the end of the book for Attribute-based PSI. It's much more powerful than the standard rules. As long as you have stats to burn, you have PSI powers. Excuse me! Force powers.

What about Jedi? There's no Jedi profession!

Make one! You think there can't be professions that aren't listed? I just put together some common examples! There's nothing difficult about making up new professions! Throw in appropriate PSI - I mean Force - skills, Dash, Focus, Awareness, Observe, Blade, and Meditation. Come up with some appropriate Edges. Remember Augmentations.

What about...

Droids? Robots can do anything Droids can do. In fact I would not allow morphing droids - or morphing anything! StarWars tech doesn't morph.

Aliens? Don't do pure random aliens. Construct your aliens on a more humanoid planiform. Same with vehicles! Create vehicles that use gravitics or legs rather than wheels.

Starship and Vehicle Combat? If you are using the civilians creeping around under the Empire's notice, the main book works fine. If you are doing Empire vs. Rebel Alliance, use the space and vehicle combat rules in In Harm's Way: StarCluster, particularly the optional cinematic space combat rules. Star Wars loves fighters!

The cinematic fights where the heroes kick ass against minions? Use a different Constitution scale to create "named" characters! If the book says use 5X, use 10X for named characters, and 2X for rabble. Use a more cinematic resolution system, like StarPool or StarNova, rather than StarPerc or Star20.

Trust me! It'll work great! StarCluster 3 is designed to do stuff like this!


Monday, April 4, 2011

Running a game for young teens

Yesterday I ran a game of Blood Games II for four of my nephews, ages 15, 14, 13, and 5. My wife El joined in as well, and we had a grand time. Running a game for kids is a very different proposition from running a game for adults - even younger adults, like my current group, who range from 20-24 excepting my wife. Anyone who has played in one of my games knows to expect an intricate web of relationships, npcs defined by goals, resources, and personalities which drives the game. I used a different approach with the kids.

We created characters Saturday - a drawn out affair because of their unfamiliarity not just with the game, but with roleplaying itself, and also with the fact we had to share a single copy of the game betweem us. The 8 year old lost interest here, which I expected. he asked me to make him a character, and I did so, to his specifications. I think 8 is probably too young for most rpgs, but 13 and up is ripe territory. the others had a grand time, creating exactly the characters they wanted. The two oldest - cousins in real life - decided to play brothers born a year apart. They were from a plutocrat family, able to buy anything they wanted. Bruce Wayne territory. They both made ex-Special Forces officers - the older anhanced into a Hunter, the younger a normal human with a quirk of being a seer at times, totally without control. neither was married, and they lived in matching townhouses on Beacon Hill in Boston.

The 13 year old was an Irish Catholic fellow from Brighton, a talented sculptor, married with an 8 month old child, and born a half-Angel. The youngest wanted to be a Templar, a fist of God, who used his guns, punches, and miracles to help people, but who owned nothing he couldn't carry or wear on his back. My wife played the tie that bound this all together - an Irish Catholic priest, also from Brighton, a Magus of Micheal, whc had been the one to Raise the ultra-rish Brahmin from Beacon Hill into a Hunter.

We started out in Media Res. The two brothers were on the roof of a building on Lansdowne Street outside Fenway Park after a home game, at 2 AM, dressed in black, with their MP5s fileld with silver bullets. They were looking for a small group of vampires who were responsible for a rash of deaths recently. They were watching the crowds spilling out of the bars and nightclubs on the street for signs of vamps. One vamp was watching them, though, and knocked the younger brother, the normal human, off the roof and turned to face the Hunter. Why did I do this? I wanted to bring the group together as a group, and nothing creates a better bond than working together for no other reason than to save someone else. The others were below in the crowds, the priest and the sculptor having been to the game and gone out for a couple beers later. There was an NPC they needed to meet down there as well, a nurse who had picked up some Esotericist magic, who could both heal and provide some magical firepower. The youngest was busy doing 8 year old stuff, and wasn't ready to play yet, though his character was there.

I knew the Hunter could keep alive long enough for them to get back up there. A Hunter's Luck is designed to neutralize the power of a vamp - both in the game world, and in the game system - and while in the long run the Hunter would probably die, the others would be able to get to his side long before that happened. I didn't know how it all would happen, but I trusted them. As it turned out, the Hunter used a Luck to have his brother catch a gutter, which peeled off the building, but slowed his fall. He landed oon the roof of a car, the wind knocked out of him. The others ran up to him to help, the Magus recognizing him, and the party was together, scrambling up to the roof. After the battle, they hightailed it to the Hunter's opulent townhouse. When they talked things over, they realized they had left some forensic evidence behind, had acted in front of hundreds of witnesses, and worst of all escaped in a distinctive vehicle just ahead of the cops' arrival. The cops sure enough arrived, allowing for some interesting roleplay and social skills. They were able to fend them off with some quick thinking. I up the action quotient when running for kids, but I make sure there is down time for them to bond. The interplay between the characters is what separates RPGS from other games, and I need to make sure this happens by giving space for it to naturally occur. Remember, kids all know how to roleplay, they've been doing their whole lives. It's putting roleplay in the context of a game that is different.

We finished with a big battle against an older vamp in his lair. They had to research and plan the job - this wasn't to be anotehr slap-dash encounter. They scouted the place out, learned the territory, and went in with a plan. Plannign ahead in-character is an entirely different thing from the reactive nature of a "random encounter" type of action. Seeing what happens to your carefully laid plan when it meets the enemy is also very interesting. The youngest joined us for this end game, and ended up being the one to actually kill the vampire after hurtling in behind the group when no-one knew who he was. He was vastly amused by that!

So - three main phases of roleplaying games were covered in a simple and direct way. unplanned action and initial group-gathering, out-of -action bonding and wit-using, then planning and performing an action as a team. Throughout the process, I let them make the connections, let them use their imaginations to pump the game. They all had a great time and were sad that we had to stop. The three younger boys, brothers, are moving to California, but they have the books, and can start play anytime they want to. They have a built-in gaming group, and are right at the golden age.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Going to the Grand Roludothon

I will be going to the Grand Roludothon - a con in Montreal - June 11-12. I intend to run one StarCluster 3 game, and one other game - I'm soliciting recommendations on just which. So far, I've had requests for In Harm's Way: Dragons! and In Harm's Way: A Napoleonic Naval RPG. Once I figure out which one I'm running, I'll tailor an adventure to the time slot, and run it with my group to confirm the time.

Last time I ran games at a con, I went insane, and ran too many. This time, I will be prudent. Running only two should be sufficient. Now I've got to construct an adventure for SC 3. I'm thinking of running a short scenario I ran with my group once before, where thee PCs were the crew of a merchant spaceship - all of them either Uplifts, bioroids, or robots working off their indenture for the company. My other choice is to set up a new one. Any advice would be appreciated! :D