Saturday, December 22, 2012

Volant - A Description

Volant – Kingdoms of Air and Stone is in final Beta test. It’s a game set in a world where, at the conclusion of a world wide war between the Wizards of Stone and the Wizards of Living Things, the Wizards of Stone wrought a titanic spell which changed the nature of the world, tearing the mountains and plateaus free of the earth and sending them flying into the air as refuges for civilization when the monsters created by the Wizards of Living Things threatened to destroy it.

In the process, magic was destroyed in human beings, though still available in the stone – in the form of floating stone ships and skylands – and plants and monsters – in the form of alchemical potions. They sail these ships through the air, and ride giant birds and bats down to the surface, where they gather alchemical ingredients and search for ruined vestiges of temples and cities.

In Volant, you design an association the PCs belong to – and run – and allocate resources, before creating characters. Characters are created by stacking templates together, to quickly get variegated characters with histories. Like most of my newer games, various resolution mechanics can be dropped in and used on the fly – there are seven different mechanics available currently, with more coming.

You can create new birds and bats, new alchemical potions, new religions, and new monsters. There are mini-games for dog-fighting birds and for fighting ships. You can explore the lands below, find new skylands, scrounge for ancient relics or new alchemical ingredients, fight other skylands, be holy assassins or wily thieves, play games of espionage or intrigue in the cities, and many other things.

Evolve or Die

On a forum, I was asked whether or not I thought RPGs had evolved, or just fragmented. This was my reply:

Evolved does not mean objectively better. It means better suited to current conditions. With that caveat, I submit that RPGs have evolved, and it is necessary - and this necessity becomes more acute as the main lines of development radiate into more and more instantiation - that they evolve and continue evolving.

Fragmentation may be compared to speciation, wherein a stem RPG radiates out into more and more instantiations, through the mechanisms of adaptation and drift. This radiation promotes competition, which winnows out unfit specimens because no-one is interested enough to drift and adapt them.


Charater Creation

In Volant, I introduced a new kind character generation. In this scheme, you are given a number of build points based on the character's age, and with these points may purchase Templates, which each have a number of Skill ranks, and possibly Edges and/or Attribute improvements. You add up all these ranks given by the Templates, assign 7 points to Personality traits, and the character is complete, with personality, history, Skills, and Edges. It takes about 5 minutes to create a character of moderate (mid-30s) age - longer to create older characters. This compares very favorably time-wise with the usual year-by-year generation the StarCluster system requires, at a small cost in flexibility. Volant also has a much smaller number of skills - though they are still center-defined, just broader - than typical StarCluster games, which also helps a bit.

I haven't yet released Volant - it's due for release early next year - but I am considering using it for upcoming projects as well. My Alpha group has really liked using it, and the results are compatible with other StarCluster games. What do you all think?


Friday, December 7, 2012


I have an idea for a mini-game for handling negotiations, which would work for most any task-based game system. As usual, I look edat the systems people actually use in negotiation, and abstracted the concepts. I'm putting this up for comment!

I. Set the Range

Both sides decide how many demands are involved in the discussion, and how many of these demands are non-negotiable. The non-negotiable bits are important, because both sides have to eventually accept the others' non-negotiable items if a deal is to be made. Examble: Eight demands each, with three of them being non-negotiable. Generally, whoever has the most demands sets the number, and the other side increases its demands to match.

2. Set the Demands

Each side writes down its numbered list of demands. Take a sheet of paper, and divide it into five areas - a non-negotiable area for each side, a negotiable area for each side, and a common discussion area. Put a die in the appropriate area and turn it so that the right number is up - non-negotiable demand seven should show a seven up, and be in that side's non-negotiable area.

3. Pushing Demands

Flip a coin to start. Winner of the coin toss (or die roll) pushes one demand die over the line into the common discussion area. Say the demand aloud - i.e. "We demand industry standard safety conditions in the mine!" - and explain why it would benefit both sides if this demand were met. The other side can rebut this demand with an explanation of why denying this demand would benefit both sides - i.e. "Matching industry standard safety conditions would cost too much, and we'd have to let a number of miners go to afford it." The GM is free to give a bonus to either or both sides appropriate to the resolution system for effective argument.

4. Resolving Demands

Both sides roll as appropriate to the system.

A. If both fail, this demand is locked in discussion, and the other side may go.

B. If the side which advanced this demand succeeds and the other side fails, this demand is accepted and goes into the agreement.

C. If the side which denied this demand succeeds and the other side fails, this demand is rejected and off the table.

D. If both sides succeed, the demand is withdrawn and must be modified in a direction more suitable for the other side before being advanced again.

E. On any critical success, one rejected demand may also be brought back onto the table by the winning side.

F. On a critical failure, the loser must also push one non-negotiable demand into the negotiable area.

5. Resolving the Dispute

Play proceeds, alternating sides, until there are no more demands in negotiation. All currently non-negotiable demands are accepted and written into the agreement.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Starship Albireo

This is the Albireo, the ship designed for my "Star Wars-ish" StarCluster 3 game by Klaxon. Following are more finished, inked in, plan and view drawings for the ship.

Hull               (300 Tons)   12 Tons    Crew 3 Minimum, 6 Regular
Armor           Factor 3       45 Tons
Drives           Speed 3       78 Tons
Hyperspace                       42 Tons
Stand Scan                        3 Tons
Shields          Factor 3        4.5 Tons
Laser Turret  2                  10 Tons
Drone Lure   2                   1 Ton
In-line Lasers 2                  6 Tons

Passengers & Crew
Lounge                              2 Tons
Pass Cabins  3                   21 Tons
Cargo                                28 Tons
Stash A                             6 Tons
Stash B                             25 Tons

Cranky 1
Funny :Looking 2
Unpretentious 2
Reliable 2

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Star Wars-ish Starship - the Albireo

Here's some pencil sketches I did for the Albireo, the smuggler ship. Note the large number of odd shaped niches for smuggling cargo. :

The Views of the Albireo

The deck plans of the Albireo

She's a 300 ton ship, 4G drive, 69 tons of cargo, 34 tons of that in smuggling niches.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Star Wars-ish Aliens

Here are a couple of the 12 alien species I made for the StarWars/StarCluster campaign, to be available as PCs. Six were adaptations from StarWars, and six were new creations, in StarCluster format. These are species sheets, not character sheets:

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Active Materials for StarCluster 3

by Albert Bailey

Active Plasteel

Active plasteel consists of tiny prismatic elements ("bricks") consisting primarily of plasteel but incorporating other microscopic components that allow the ensemble of prisms to reform for form structures of arbitrary shape.  The length, width, depth of the varies from 0.1 to 0.3 mm in size and each brick is capable of joining electromagnetically with the surrounding bricks to form structures with 80-90% of the strength of regular plasteel.  Each brick has is own tiny EM bottle power supply, magnetic attachment and movement points, optical inter-brick communications, and the ability to emit and reflect light of arbitrary color in discrete directions.  These optical abilities allow any pattern to be created, each brick acting as a separate pixel.  These microelements absorb a small amount of light, making active plasteel slightly absorptive, a 1 cm thickness absorbing about half the light impinging upon it, assuming no active retransmission or absorption.  While active plasteel can form arbitrary shapes, it retains the basic stiffness and hardness of ordinary plasteel.  When active plasteel is severely damaged, it can become "confused" and reform incorrectly.  For this reason, it is not generally used as body armor, since incorrectly reforming active plasteel armor can injure or kill the wearer.

Active Fabric

Active fabric consists of tiny active microfibers of approximately 10 microns across and 10 mm or more in length.  Garments make of active fabric have multiple layers where the fibers within a layer are aligned in a single direction but attach to fibers in other layers aligned in other direction, i.e., they are not usually interwoven like most natural fabrics.  The optical characteristics of each microfiber can be arbitrarily adjusted, allowing a garment to appear with any desired color. The fibers can attach seamless to form an airtight surface, or can attach with spacing giving a garment that can "breathe", with spacings from quite tight to arbitrarily gauzy.  While having a tensile strength close to that of plasteel, active fabrics have low flexural strength and cannot form structures of high rigidity.  Tactile properties can be adjusted to simulate most natural and synthetic fabrics  Thermal conduction units in the fibers allow garments made with active fabrics to heat or cool, though this requires their attachment to a thermal source-sink unit at some location. 

Active Foam

Active foam is a material whose density and rigidity can be controlled by electromagnetic stimulation by control fibers that permeate the foam.  The material can take on a density of 0.01 to 2.0 and can change from a fluid to a soft foam to a material as rigid as dense wood.  Its form is not directly controllable; it is ordinarily used contained within structures of active plasteel and/or active fabric which determine its form.  It is most commonly used for reconfigurable furniture, padding, etc.

Active Flesh

Active flesh is a catch-all term for the various artificial tissues used for producing reconfigurable androids.  Active flesh elements are 1-10 mm each dimension but are able to smoothly configure their shapes and density by up to a factor of three.  Active flesh elements  are normally permanently attached to surrounding elements, the changes in shape being created by the reshaping of each element, rather than repositioning of the elements.  While active flesh units are capable of significant changes in shape, texture, and color, several different types of active flesh are generally used: synth-bone is used to form a reshapable skeleton and teeth, synth-skin for the outer covering, and synth-flesh for the major internal tissues.   Some organs (notably eyes) require specific construction and cannot be workably constructed from generic active flesh tissues.  Synth-skin is usually constructed with artificial hair follicles able to emit or retract synthetic hair or fur.  (If the hair or fur is repeatedly cut, the synth-skin may require replacement.)  Active flesh cannot be made as strong as active plasteel, but can achieve strengths many times that of natural tissues.

A Star Wars Prequel in StarCluster

Tonight was an awesome session! Instead of Volant, since one player was out, we decided to start our Star Wars game as a prequel session. The game is set between the defeat at Hoth, and the Alliance victory at Endor. They each made two characters, one a Jedi or Padawan, the other a member of a smuggler's crew. The two halves of the group were forced together because the Jedis are fleeing Imperial eradication, and one of the Jedi was able to play a mind trick on the smuggler captain, and they are now off planet.

It ran smooth as silk, the players dropped into character like they were old friends, and things just felt like StarWars, not StarCluster.  We'll be playing this again next week as a different player will be out, then back to Volant. We sill pick this game up as soon as the Volant playtest is concluded. :D


Friday, November 9, 2012

Using StarCluster 3 to run StarWars

After StarCluster 3 was released in 2010, I made a couple posts on my blog on how one could run Star Wars with SC 3, despite SC 3 being a moderately hard SF game.

Well, Ive committed to run a Star Wars game using the StarCluster 3 ruleset, putting my money where my mouth is. Here's what I came up with as necessary rule changes:

Using the Force

The maximum power you can put into a Force skill is your Force rating. Each Power use will use up one point of the Related Attribute to open the channel. Roll skill chance. If successful, the Force skill can be used. One Attribute Point will return after1 hour of non-use, with one point regenerated per hour thereafter.

Unskilled Force Use

A character with Force can use any Force skill as unskilled, just as any other skill may be attempted unskilled. A character with no Force may not attempt to use a Force skill, even if the character actually has the skill. Any remnant Force a character with a zero rating in Force might posses is just too weak to accomplish anything.


Any character with Force may, by using a LUCK point, have a Hunch. A Hunch is a strong feeling about someone else. The player asks a specific question of the GM, telling the GM he is using a LUCK point:
Player “How does she feel about me? I’m using a LUCK here.”
GM: “You have a Hunch she is attracted to you, and is using the verbal jousting and insults as a form of flirting.”

The Hunch is always correct - the player has paid for it after all! - so do not use the Hunch to mislead a character. Hunches work by telling the character what another character is feeling or thinking. They do not give a character a correct solution to a problem, or give information about a thing or a place.

If a character uses a Hunch on another PC, the other player has to answer the question honestly and as completely as the GM would if the GM were answering, so long as the question was properly asked, just as if it were an NPC asked about.

No-Cost Force Use

Force skills can be used in a low-power, no-cost way. Using a Force skill in this manner does not cost the character any Attribute points. Close observation requires the character to look directly at the target from no more than 3 meters away

The Light Side and the Dark Side of the Force

The Force has two sides, a light side and a dark side. Performing actions which are hurtful, perverted, and destructive increase your dark side potential. Performing actions which are helpful, healing, and constructive increase your light side potential. Each step is far greater than the one before, and in order to focus more than one step far more is required of the character for the next step.

A character’s potential force is increased by focusing on the dark or light side. Characters are born with the force potential which maximizes at five. By focusing on one side or the other, one increases one’s power for that side by decreasing it on the other.

So, for example, a character with the force potential of three by focusing on the dark side intently might have a light side of one and the dark side of five. The light side or dark side may only be reduced to one, never to zero.
The character may use non-light or dark side inclined Force skills at the maximum potential. This would be the larger of either of the dark or light side.

Spaceship Differences

Spaceships in Star Wars operate differently than in star cluster.

Anything labeled G is a measure of speed not thrust. The 3G engine is just faster than the 2G engine.

Jump lines are labeled in light years of distance.

The ship may travel along the jump lines for as many light years as the navigator has transfer skill ranks. The ship may not exceed this limit, nor may it stop between stars along the jump line.

The Jump Drives must rest for 6 hours before initiating another jump line run.

There are no missiles.

All pods are counted as turrets.

Transfer is no longer a Psi/Force skill. Jump routes of ratings 1 and 2 can be performed by droids.

Jumps can happen from any place in a system clear of major gravity or debris.

Combat Differences

All Gun skill is the same as Beam skill.

Storm trooper armor has a coordination limit of six and 30 damage reduction.

Bounty Hunter armor has a coordination limit of 10 and 15 damage reduction.

All armors are ceramic

Miscellaneous Differences

No Uplifts.

No Augmentations

Implants are restricted and crude.

No  StarCluster Specific Humanoids - Sastra, Vantor, Tagris, etc.

Communications Tech works as in the Star Wars movies.

Systems are under control of a single Species.

No Biotech beyond Bacta tanks.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

The River for StarCluster 3

One of the possible results for the SC3 world generation tables is a result of "really physically bizarre". This was the result rolled by Klaxon, my son, when creating one of the playtest settings for SC3. He thought about it, and came up with "the River".

The River is the world partially natural and partially constructed. The natural part is a gas Torus in orbit around a neutron star which is itself in orbit around a normal star in its Goldilocks zone. The gas torus is about 1,000,000 km thick, and circles the neutron star outside its Roche limit a very fast orbital speed. This gas is apparently the result of a gas giant being pulled apart by tidal forces and gravity. The constructed part was found in situ when the world and the system or colonized. This consists of a variety of asteroids – apparently an entire asteroid belt – being pushed within the glass torus, and the eponymous river.

The river is a kilometers wide ribbon of water which meanders throughout the dense central ring of the torus. It is constructed – apparently by the Seeders – with gravity nodes which propel the water of the river along all the way around the torus. It waters many of the asteroids in its path, and can be sailed by watercraft throughout its length.

The central part of the gas torus is much thicker, and is at a breathable pressure. There is life throughout the torus, which gives it an oxygen atmosphere. There are settlements on the asteroids as well as constructed in open air. The asteroids have microgravity, and the river has a heftier artificial gravity, but the rest of the world is gravity free, with only constructed gravity available. The thickness of the atmosphere shields the river from much solar radiation.

This setting can be used in any science fiction game which has FTL travel and gravity manipulation.



Monday, October 29, 2012

Looking for Volant Beta Playtesters

OK, I'm looking for some folks to look over Volant - Kingdoms of Air and Stone and/or play it a bit. It desperately needs feedback I have talked about it throughout the process of designing, and I have taken in and incorporated feedback from you all. If you could email me at clashUNDERSCOREbowleyATyahoooDOTcom, I'll send you the Beta playtest document.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Volant Monster Illo

Here is a monster illo for Volant
I created it for my phase 3 Alpha Test group. Here is the Monster Sheet for it:


Friday, October 26, 2012

Volant Surface Native Tribes

Inspired by  Geordie Racer!

You can create Native Tribes using the following table:

Distinctive Beliefs
An explanation of Distinctive Beliefs follows.
Ascension - One day we too will ascend to the skylands when the Stone gods/Bird people will it.
Punishment - The beasts are a punishment for the forbidden knowledge of our ancestors.
Birthright - The gods mock or test us, and our people must seize our birthright in the sky.
Return - One day, the mountains will return, and on them the bird people. They will be as babes in the wood.
Expiation - We suffer here on the surface to atone for the sins of our fathers.
Curse - We labor under a hideous curse for reasons which we know not. One day we shall find the key and break the curse.
Magic - The God’s have hidden powerful magics inside the monsters  of our world. By killing and eating the right combination, we may free ourselves.
Reincarnation - By a life of purity and nonviolence, when we die we shall be born again as bird people.
False Gods - Our fathers refused to climb on the mountains and ascended into the sky, because those that led the bird people were false prophets of false gods.
Our Land - We refused passage in the skylands because this, here, is our land, where the spirits of our ancestors live.
Subterranean - Heaven, or salvation, lies not in the sky, but deep in the earth. The bird people follow a delusion.

Cultural Oddities
An explanation of Cultural Oddities follows.
Rite of Passage - Only those who undergone a specific rite of passage peculiar to tribe are treated as fully human.
Orgies - All sexual contact is made in these nightly gatherings, both procreational and recreational.
Odd Gender Roles - Gender roles in this tribe are different senders usually found in a tribal society.
Amazonism - Women are the warriors and hunters in this tribe. Men fill other roles as nurturers and gatherers.
Sexual Barter - Paying for items or services with sexual favors is perfectly acceptable in this tribe.
Body Modification - This tribe practices piercing, scarring, tattooing, and/or other forms of body modification.
Odd Facial Hair - The men of this tribe modify their facial hair in a strange and peculiar way.
Nudity - Wearing clothing means you have something to hide in this tribe.
Polygamy - Men of this tribe may have more than one wife.
Polyandry - Women of this tribe may have more than one husband.
Veils - Men, women, or both from this tribe wear veils over their faces.

An explanation of Taboos follows.
Cull Orphans - Unsupported orphans are ruthlessly dispatched.
Left-Handers - Southpaws are counted cursed.
Cull Deformities - Those children born deformed are quickly killed.
Dancing - In this tribe, dancing is prohibited or rigidly controlled.
Bastardy - Bastards are exiled from this tribe upon reaching adulthood.
Eating Meat - Eating meat is forbidden.
Cull Elderly - The old and helpless are left behind.
Slavery - Slavery is practiced by this tribe.
Premarital Sex - Premarital sex is encouraged.
Eating Utensils - All meals are eaten with the fingers only.
Music - All music is forbidden or rigidly controlled.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Expeditions to the Surface in Volant

Expeditions to the surface are very dangerous because of the horrible monsters there, so why do people from the skylands go there? Why co to all the trouble, expense, and danger?

Alchemical Ingredients

All monsters and many plants contain reservoirs of magical energy, which can be harvested and, through alchemical processes, rendered into usable form. Alchemical Ingredients derived from the surface are far more rare and expensive than those derived from ingredients found commonly on the skylands.

Ruins of the Ancestrals

Ruins of Ancestral buildings are sometimes found on the surface. Usually they have been looted at least once, but such run and grab oprations are seldom are thorough, and even looted places can be worth investigating.


With the paths of the floating skylands being determined by the winds, it is not uncommon to be driven out of familiar territory, and into unknown lands. A land pushed south from the Great Northern Gyre through the Grand Processional and into the Southern Gyre would find itself in utterly unfamiliar lands. Finding out where you are and where you are going can be of paramount importance.

Trade with the Natives

The natives are uncivilized, but not stupid. They understand trade, and the value of things. You can sometimes trade with the gives for goods such as artifacts, or alchemical ingredients, or for services. They make expert guides. Natives, however,will not put up with mistreatment, or force..They share the surfacewith horrific monsters, and are not scared of humans.

Food Gathering and Hunting

There are many, many food animals on the surface which are not found on any skylands. This is even more so of food crops. Foods found on the surface and taken back could be very valuable and may be sold to inhabitants of the skylands if proven healthy.

Claiming Land

Occasionally, nations may attempt to claim mountains they perceive to be in the process of breaking away or even about to begin that process. Typically, they will change or anchor a floating castle to the land in question and staff the floating castle with aerial troops and giant birds, in order to protect this land from claim by others. This new undeveloped land, when it does break free of the surface, must be cleared and tamed. This entails hunting down any monster on the surface of the land claimed or hidden in caves in the surface or along the sides of the flying mountain.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Personality Overlays for StarCluster 3 or In Harm's Way: StarCluster

 This is from Dan Potter, one of the players in my StarCluster 3 IRC game.
Quote:  Don't just look different, Think different.

A personality overlay is a program designed to run on an implanted computer, that situates itself between the host brain's layers and translates intentions into actions based on previously defined personality matrix;  changing language, mannerisms, short term intentions and desires to match those of the emulated personality. The strength of these edits is determined by the level of the program, and thus the number of skill slots it takes up, as the program uses one slot per level.

Mechanics: Each Slot functions as an edge for staying in character. 1 Small Modifier per Level Penalty is applied to the difficulty to determine that the person is not who they are emulating.  Half the edge rounded up can be used to apply to social skill roles that the emulated personality should possess but only used in applications that make sense for the design of the emulated personality - usually Engrace, Endear, Entice, Convince, and the like.


1  Virtually every brain hack has at least tried out this level of personality overlay. These are generally very stereotyped and overacted, mostly confined to speech pattern modification and two to five mannerisms. Still its better than just trying the role cold with no acting skills.  The base personality is unaffected.

2.  Level two is a significant improvement over level one and exmples are commercially available as acting software.  Although extremely unfashionable to use, (To accuse a professional actor of using one usually means a duel.) these programs are wide spread throughout the entertainment world.  These programs can completely rewrite the individual's sentence structure and alter body posture in dozens of ways.

3. At Level three body language is now altered in hundreds of ways but the simulation adds emotions specific to the character being emulated and will react to those emotions in an appropriate manner.  Emulating a maid, a broken a vase will trigger a rush of shame, fear and will cower and the operator will grovel in a very convincing manner.

4. At this level the personality matrix becomes deeply invasive, able to suppress and overrule base desires of the character. The emulation now has a completely individual lists of attractions and disgusts, altering base instincts and desires. A human emulating a Hyena uplift would think nothing about eating carrion (although he would still get sick.) Generally these emulations have a name of their own.

5. A Level five emulation is a complete individual, with goals and desires completely their own and separate from the character running the software.  A complete set of memories are fabricated and drawn on. While it is running the character is only very dimly aware of their original thought patterns.  It takes a major act of will to shut off or act out of character with emulation at this level.  A failed roll makes the next attempt harder and can only be attempted once per day. Because of this Level five emulation programs typically have triggers
or conditions that will turn them off in response to an outside stimulus or circumstance as the operator can be lost. 

Personality Overlay software is frowned on within most intelligence communities for many reasons, preferring agents with acting skills rather than software.  Firstly acting out of character with a emulation running or shutting it down is a disorienting experience as the  user must wrestle off the instructions of the software.  This slows the reactions of the user by a significant amount, producing a initiative penalty of the level of emulation times 1 Small Modifier.  If the software is turned off this effect lasts for the software level in turns otherwise it persists until the character resumes their character.  For example our cowardly maid who's actually a special forces marine decides flatten a thug who's holding a gun on her instead of cowering in fear.  She will have a -3 Small Modifier to all initiative rolls for the next three turns.

Secondly while the emulation is a static program, the mammalian brain is not.  It constantly learns and while an overlay is running, it learns all the mannerisms and emotions the overlay puts it through. Spending any length of time running a personality overlay will cause alterations in one's own mannerisms and behavior.  Activating a level 2 is disorienting and at level 5 is downright traumatic as the software does not come online instantly, rather the user can feel his or her patterns of thought changing. Regular use of emulation has been linked to a variety of mental disorders including disassociation, PTSD and multiple personalities disorders.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Volant, Chargen, and the Cards

Tonight we set up for the third - and last - phase of the Volant Alpha playtest. We created the home nation, created the association, then began character generation. Normal chargen in Volant is extremely fast - consisting as it does of stacking templates, and incidentally creating a lifepath as you go. This time we were using the cards to mess with each others' character!

I explained the cards before. - draw five cards, play a club to prevent a character from taking a template, play a heart to force the character to take a specific template, play a spade to force all players to give the character to the player on the right, play a diamond to stop any other card provided it is of higher value - and we were making three troupe style characters each.

The first was a scrounger - a character who goes to the surface to find treasure or alchemical ingredients and such - of around 34 years old. We played with the option of taking one card from the deck whenever we used the last card. Action was furious for over two hours. We had to reshuffle the deck twice, and characters went around the circle at least three times. coincidentally we all ended up with the characters we started with. Some of us found it vastly entertaining, others not so much, but all agreed the single last card should be the most profligate option, and I dropped plans for an option where you kept your five card hand full at all times. That would have lasted forever!

Instead, for the ~24 year old sailors we used a five card hand with no redraws. This proved simpler and far quicker. The ~50 year old Officers we created without the cards, and this proved fastest of all.

One of the players came up with another option. Include the Jokers in the deck, which may be used at any time. use of the joker ,means the player collects all the player sheets face down, scrambles them up, and the players roll off to pick. Highest picks first, then picks go clockwise around the table. We all loved the chaos that would entail!


Monday, October 8, 2012

More Look! Up In The Sky!

Ran a one shot of Klaxon's *Look! Up In The Sky!* supers game this weekend while camping. We had already run games at Moderate, Earthshaking, Cosmic, and Ultimate levels, so we figured we should definitely run a game set at lower levels - Pulp or Street. We chose the higher of the two, Street.

Street Supers are set up to be created as one-power wonders. They have enough power to do one thing really well. We set up our Company, and rolled *real* low on the funding. At first it was like *crap*! Then we started to realize the possibilities! We decided to go with a Great Lakes Avengers theme - an affiliate of a major, powerful supers team set in a total backwater. We crossed that with an Urban Fantasy theme to create "The Shepherds", a powerful nationwide secret society dedicated to prevent the misuse of magic, along with the prevention of exploiting humans by magical creatures and magic-using people.We were the Bloomington branch.

This was a fictional Bloomington, set vaguely in the vast sea of corn that is Middle America. We randomly rolled a totally ridiculous supers city - hard working, prosperous and affluent, few clashing cultures, moderate crime - nothing that makes super criminals come there. No docks. No old warehouses. No abandoned amusement parks. Just nice, wealthy, comfortable Middle Americans.

The chapter was so poor our HQ was in a storage unit. Our investigative hardware was a dial-up internet connection on a Windows ME computer. Our security was a B&W surveillance camera. We communicated with each other through our cell phones. The national organization gave us nothing in funding because - well - nothing happened in Bloomington, and it would be a total waste when creatures of blackest nightmare were crawling out of the sewers of New York on a weekly basis, or slinking though the canyons of LA. On the other hand, most of the members we well off - one being a billionaire - but we refused on principle to fund anything ourselves.

We ended up capturing an entire family of shapechangers who bilked humans out of money by walking up to them and talking them into giving money, or being in position to steal it.

IT WAS AWESOME! We had a BLAST! I laughed so hard my sides ached because of the silly things the characters ended up doing, because it was what their crazy-ass dysfunctional characters would do! As the leader said afterward: "One of us was competent, so competent he was always somewhere else doing important stuff. One of us was useful, but so frail she was always injured. The rest of us were screamingly incompetent."

Best supers game yet!


Monday, October 1, 2012

Two Campaigns

Two campaigns have ended this weekend! My face to face group finished Phase 2 of the Volant playtest on Saturday, with a climactic aerial battle against the deadly hummingbirds of the Elite Halomaran army, while below, the Knights' elite infantry stormed the keep of the Taomaran occupying army. With a miracle in the stormclouds, and heavier, more solid - though slower and less vicious - birds, victory was theirs. The hummingbird weakness was - well - weakness. A lack of strength and bulk, though they attacked like buzzsaws, and sounded much the same.  On the other hand, the Halomans were held to be honorable foes, not evil degenerates, and an acceptable arrangement was worked out after the victory. Next weekend, we go camping, but then, Phase 3 begins!

On Sunday, the final act of the capture of the island of Culebra, off Puerto Rico, by a flotilla of vessels from the British Navy under the PCs. With this, we are firmly in alt-history, no longer creeping around in the cracks of history. The leader was made Post, and a lieutenant made Commander. Amazing deeds were done - an ordinary seaman captured a battery of 24 pounders singlehandedly; a commander captured another with two seamen, a bunch of dead bodies, and a bunch of stripped saplings - and no casualties on either side; a princess pledged her heart; and a marine who thought he had been disgraced became the governor. Next year we continue, in Port Royal, Jamaica, but for now, we move to StarCluster 3 and a new continuance of a game that has been ongoing since 2003, and the first Edition of StarCluster.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

AN IRC Q&A Session

This is a link to the Q&A session on IRC channel #rpgnet held August 2 under the auspices of the gentle Dan Davenport. We cover a lot of territory, and log is unedited, but there's a lot of information there for those interested:

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Volant Religion - Luminism

In my current (Phase 2) playtest of Volant, the players created a religion for their characters, called Luminism. It is a dualist religion - there are two goddesses, one of Light (Luma), whose symbol is the sun, the other of Dark (Hera), whose symbol is the moon. They are the only two gods in the world, and all other gods are views of one or the other, or sometimes odd blends of both. Luma constantly strives to raise up humanity into the Light of knowledge, reason, kindness, and mutual respect, while Hera strives just as hard to keep humanity in the Dark of ignorance, diabolism, hatred, and suspicion. Luminism's theme is that these people are the Chosen, who can see beyond the veil and detect the machinations of Hera and the blessings of Luma.

 The organization is very democratic - priests rise according to their popularity. The influence of the faith is national - most everyone in the nation pays at least lip service to it. It has one major taboo - having sex with only one person at a time - as they are currently in a nation where everyone has sex in massive orgies, and no child knows who his or her father is, this is rather important. There is also one important ritual, the taking of a ceremonial glass of wine at noon every day, in communion with Luma. This communion is of vital importance in play, for it determines who is a Practitioner - one who takes communion only when convenient, who is a Believer - one who takes communion even when convenient, and who is a Strong Believer - one who takes communion at noon, even when it is dangerous. Worship, aside from the daily communion, is held in a Temple with many others. Heresy is tolerated, but not welcome. Every effort is made to reunite schismatics with the body of faithful.

The duties of the faithful are adherence to the daily Communion ritual, along with prayers, and the sacrifice of a goat on the four High Holy Days - Midwinter, with fasting and vigils; Midsummer, with feasting ans celebration; and the two Equinoxes - spring brings cleansing and renewal, while autumn requires repair and preparation. The Holy Sacraments are Age of Consent, when a boy becomes a man and a girl becomes a woman, Marriage, and Death.

All of the paraphernalia are used in worship - reading Holy Books; Incense in the temple worship; Icons in the temple and the home; Ritual Implements used by the priests in blessing the people and projects under their protection, as well as forcasting the will of Luma; Special Clothing worn by the priests to distinguish them form lay people, red scullcaps and stoles over white tunics; Music played and sung in the temples and home; Candles lit on the High Holy Days, as well as in remembrance of the dead; Jewelry worn by worshipers, a golden sun worn as a pendant, earrings, or pin; Dance in the temples on the High Holy Days; and clockwork Devices in the temples, designed to amplify the music and voices, to split the sun's light into prismatic displays, and to waft incense over the congregation.

The PCs all belong to a religious order of knights, who are dedicated to furthering the designs of Luma, wherever they need to be. The campaign *really* picked up steam when their religion came into  it strongly, and the ranking Strong Believer had to make religious decisions based on his reading of Luma's will - which entailed placing certain people in this new land under the Ban - from the Old Testament, the term means the ritual slaughtering of everyone - man, woman, children, puppies, kittens, and birds - subject to the Ban. They have already killed entire households, bands of Special Police, and even enemies who have surrendered. Miracles have occurred, and none in the party doubt their path. So far, it's been a very interesting campaign! :D


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Road to the Majors

The Road to the Majors - a roleplaying game by Antonio Megna

Here's a neat baseball RPG written by Antonio Megna, and free for download. It's optimized for solo play rather than group play, but a group can play it. Antonio was inspired by my Tools of Ignorance game to write this, but it doesn't use the Dice Pool mechanics of ToI, Antonio instead opting for a clean d% roll-under mechanic.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Volant Character Generation Option

The following rules are purely optional, available for your use if you are intrigued. If your group chooses not to use these rules, you’ll be fine. These options are for those with different tastes.
The Cards:
In this option, everyone creates their characters together. After starting chargen - after the choice of the character’s Apprenticeship and before the choice of a first Profession template - deal out a hand of five standard playing cards to each player, placing the rest face down on the table in a stack. These cards are used to meddle with each other’s characters. The suits each do a different thing:
Clubs are played to block a character from taking a template, due to social or familial pressures.
Hearts are played to force a character to choose a specific template (if qualified) so as to follow a romantic interest.
Spades are played to force a radical change by passing all characters one player to the left around the table - interpreted as coercion by the law, government, or enemies.
Diamonds are played to block another card. Diamonds can block any card of an equal or lower value, no matter what suit. Place the diampond on top of the card to be blocked, indicating ist is no longer in force.
When to Play a Card:
All characters are advanced one template together, until there are no more points to spend. Players announce what template they intend to take before cards are played.  Cards may be played or not as the players decide, and players may play as many cards as wanted per round. Once all cards have been resolved, a template is taken for each character, and a new round starts
Defining Plays Option
When a player places a card down, a bit of backstory must be given - “That’s a nine of hearts. Your character falls in love with a thief named Roy, and becomes a thief to be with him.”
Redrawing Cards
You may only draw one card when you play the last one in your hand, so all players always have at least one card. Or, you may pick up one card per round until you have a maximum of five cards in your hand, group choice.
Smaller Hands Option
You may prefer to deal less than 5 cards in a hand for characters who are very young. There just isn’t as much to beddle with...
Whose Character?
Players may play the character they end up with, or the one they started, group choice.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Example Volant Character Gisten Koury

Example Character: Gisten Koury

Gisten Koury is a woman, raised on the streets, stealing her daily bread. She is 33 years old, in her prime, and currently works for the Hands of Justice, a company of ethical Assassins. Thus we know where she will begin, and where she ends up, but what happens in between is the interesting part. At 33, she has 20 points for Templates, and three Maneuvers.
The player elects to use Method One for attributes, and distributes 10 to CHAR, 9 to AGY, 8 to COOR,  to END, 6 to INT, and 5 to STR.
Gisten is a Street Rat, as poor as poor can be. Her Family Lifestyle is Poor, so she can never fall back on her family. She gains +1 to AGY, bringing that attribute to 10. She gains the skills Sneak+1 and Hide+1, and chooses Slight+1 over Overdo+1. She also gains an Edge of Shadows.
She takes an apprenticeship as a Thief. She has the prerequisites, and gains a second AGY bonus of +1, giving her an 11. She gains the skills of Sneak+1 and Hide+1 - bringing her to rank +2 in both, and chooses Athletics+1 over Slight+1.
Profession 1:
She then begins earning her keep, becoming a Thief at a cost of 1 point, leaving her with 19. She has the prerequisites, and gains the skills of Sneak+1 and Hide+1, bringing her to rank +3 in both, as well as Fake+1.
Profession 2:
She then specializes, becoming a Burglar at a cost of 5 points, leaving her with 14. She gains the skills of Sneak+1 and Hide+1, bringing her to rank +4 in both, as well as Slight+1, bringing her to rank +2.
Profession 3:
She further specializes, becoming a Burglar Advanced at a cost of 8 points, leaving her with 6. She gains the skills of Sneak+2 and Slight+1, bringing her to rank +6 in Sneak, and rank +3 in Slight. She also gains an Edge of Rooftop.
Profession 4:
She has to hide from the law, becoming a Warrior at a cost of 1 points, leaving her with 5. She has the prerequisite of Athletics, which gains her access to this profession. She gains the skills of Strike+1, Athletics+1 and Organize+1, bringing her to rank+2 in Athletics.
Profession 5:
Still hiding from the law, she takes the template of Warrior Advanced at a cost of 5 points, leaving her with 0. She gains the skills of Strike+2, bringing her to rank +3, and Menace,+1.
She has picked up along the way 3 combat Maneuvers - Riposte, Lunge, and Environmental Maneuver, all tied to her sword.
Gisten's player chooses the Traits of Quiet+3, Impulsive+2, Cocky+1, and Impish+1

Full Character Stats:
Gisten Koury
STR 5, COOR 8, AGY 11, END 7, INT 6, CHAR 10
Sneak+6, Hide+4, Strike+3, Slight+3, Athletics+2, Fake+1, Organize+1, and Menace+1
Shadows and Rooftops
Riposte, Lunge, and Environmental Maneuver all tied to Sword.
Current Profession:
Recently hired as an Assassin by the Hands of Justice

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Mobile Police Station

Here are a couple of shots of a space ship model Klaxon is working on. It's a mobile police station, itself large enough to deal with quite large threats, and carrying a slew of small 30 ton Police Cruisers - you can see their docks on the side of the ship in the front photo. The station has an integrated jail, and is designed for keeping the peace in a spread out area - system-wide, colony worlds in the same system, or a settled asteroid belt.

Here is the Police Cruiser for the Mobile Police Station - based on a 30 ton runabout shell. The cruiser is fast, well armed, carries a crew of two and contains a small lockdown for criminals

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Investigation and Evidence

When I run a procedural or investigative game - and I do love to run them, in all kinds of different genres - I never have to worry about the PCs finding the right clues. No, I don't automatically make clues obvious, nor do I scatter ten clues in the hopes they'd find one. Not at all.

Then what DO you do, clash? Pray tell!

I don't use 'clues' at all.

What? Heresy! How can you investigate without clues? 

The only baddies that leave clues behind are the ones that are framing someone else, or leading the investigators on in some other way.

Huh? WTF are you babbling about clash? Is this one of your quixotic windmill tilts like 'illustration' vs 'art'?

No, I don't think so. I think it's a very important conceptual step in creating a fun and interesting investigative game.

Well, go on with it, then. How do you investigate without clues?

You investigate by looking at the evidence. From this evidence, the investigators extract the truth. The GM should not 'place' clues, but rather should let the players extract information from the body of evidence. The players establish what is and what isn't a clue, not the GM.

Ummm, how's that work?

OK, example time. Let's take a murder investigation and run with it. So, the GM knows who committed the crime, when the crime was committed, where the crime was committed, how the crime was committed, and why the crime was committed. From this the GM describes the murder scene as a general gestalt when the PCs first arrive to examine the scene. The players now begin their investigation.

The PCs use their various skills and abilities to extract detail from the evidence, first at the murder scene - fingerprints, wound patterns, skin lividity, body temperature, insect larvae, blood patterns, bullet trajectories, etc.; and gradually elsewhere - phone logs, financial records, witness interviews, surveillance tapes, and the like.

Let's call this the body of evidence.

From this body of evidence, the players - and their PCs - use logic and intuition to see patterns in that evidence, and from these patterns, begin to reconstruct the crime. They develop a list of suspects. They do more investigating, focusing on these suspects and this possible reconstruction. It's an iterative approach - focus, investigate, find patterns, refocus, etc. - which winnows out suspects, means, and motives until only one or two solutions fit the established facts.

Now some of these facts may, in fact, be suspect, and some may be unsuspected lies. Witnesses may lie to protect themselves. Alibis can be faked. Even clinical evidence can be deliberately misleading - the right-handed killer may have struck with his left hand in order to muddy the trail - this would be an example of a false 'clue' planted to throw off investigators. Things is, if nothing fits the facts, the facts must be questioned and the evidence re-evaluated.

There really is only one possible complete solution - the truth - but depending on what patterns the investigation sees (no investigation uncovers all the facts) there may be a very small number of possible *partial* solutions which *do* fit the known facts. These partial solutions have to be concentrated on and incorrect fits eliminated until only one fits.

That sounds like a lot of work, clash. Might as well be a detective.

Well, if you are going to model something, model it correctly. That's my motto! This way, the player will feel like detectives. :D


Friday, September 7, 2012

Combat Maneuvers in Volant

Klaxon came up with a whole bunch of these Maneuvers while he was extending the StarCluster Martial Arts rules into weapon-based Martial Arts. I took these special Maneuvers and rolled them into Volant. Now Volant uses a much broader skill definition than StarCluster, so I didn't import his MAs, just their Maneuvers.

Maneuvers are special attacks, perhaps with a penalty to achieve, which, when successful, produce interesting and desirable results. Each maneuver is tied to a specific weapon, and can only be used with that weapon. In Volant, characters gain one maneuver at age 18-21, one at age 22-25, one at  age 30-33, one at age 42-45, and a last maneuver at age 58-61.

Here are some examples:

Shield Maneuvers

Shield Strike
Suddenly punch with your shield, with two Small penalties to hit,  surprising the opponent and giving him a knockback.

Sword Maneuvers

Fast Strike
By using this maneuver, you will always strike just before the opponent. Roll, tell the GM you’re matching initiative, and take the penalty or bonus from the difference in initiative as required.

Maneuver Warfare
Each round assign yourself a penalty to your attack, and you can accumulate that bonus for every round you do so, spending it all in a massive Strike. If you miss at any time before releasing it, it breaks the chain.

Spear Weapon Manuevers

Hold Shift
You shift your grasp on the weapon from two hands on the end (Fullspear) to both hands spread near the middle (Shortspear). This maneuver gives 2 small penalties. Switching from Fullspear to Shortspear negates 10 points of damage reduction from armor per success. Switching from Shortspear to Fullspear doubles the weapon’s damage bonus.

Missile Maneuvers

Chance Flurry
You are able to strike many lesser openings in an opponent’s guard. Roll once for the whole attack - the first strike is at -2 TN, the second blow is at -4, and the third blow is at -6. All blows go in on the same attack, reading the same roll for each new TN.

Axe Weapon Maneuvers

Environmental Maneuver
You can use the environment to your benefit by rapidly changing your position and orientation. At the cost of two large penalties, you gain an extra round all to yourself.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

The Supplement Treadmill

A supplement treadmill is a consentual relationship. Both parties must agree to this relationship in order for it to work. All the onus is not on the supplier end! As a consentual relationship, it must be, by definition, mutually beneficial. Those ending this relationship do so because circumstances have changed, and they no longer get enough benefit to justify maintaining this relationship.

Every designer is faced with choices all along. If they put everything a GM could need in the core book, that book becomes huge and too intimidating. If they keep the core book tight, they limit the game's applicability, scale, and/or scope. If they put out a bunch of supplements to cover the gaps, they are accused of facilitating the supplement treadmill. if they don't put out supplements, they are perceived as not supporting the game. If they revise a game, they are decried for changing things for the sake of change. If they don't put out a revision, they are vilified as old-fashioned and clunky. The list of Damned-If-You-Do-and-Damned-If-You-Don't choices goes on and on.

If a company puts out a lot of supplements, then people must be buying them, otherwise they would stop releasing stuff. If you don't want to buy these supplements, don't buy them. If enough people feel the way you do, then the treadmill will stop, because there really *is* no treadmill. The power to move that rolling walkway comes from your legs.


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Illo for Volant

Here's the latest illo for Volant. Once again, I'm trying to loosen my style, so it looks less like a photo, and more like a painting.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Update on Volant

Last night had a great game in the phase two alpha playtest of Volant. The player characters had not been invested in things til last night, so I upped the religious ante. Now they are fully invested, and care DEEPLY about what is happening. Love how sometimes things just CLICK like that!

Also had another great session today in my IHW Napoleonic naval game over IRC. Good stuff all around!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

StarCluster Projects

My son Klaxon is working on four things for me currently:

  • A spreadsheet-based ship builder for StarCluster 3
  • A spreadsheet-based ship builder for In Harm's Way: StarCluster
  • A document with five ships created using the spreadsheet tool for StarCluster 3
  • A document with five ships created using the spreadsheet tool for In Harm's Way: StarCluster.
The spreadsheet tools are almost finished, and will be available for free download. The documents will be sold in PDF form. I'm uncertain what to call them - suggestions are welcome!

The reasons why we have the duplication is that StarCluster 3 is a game about the civilian side of the Cluster, while In Harm's Way: StarCluster is a game about the military side of the cluster. As such the ship construction - while compatible - is completely different. What is important to the military is totally unimportant to civilians, and vice-versa. Civilians don't need drop tubes or particle accelerator weapons, and the military doesn't need conservatories or swimming pools.

I created several example ships for both games which are in the main books, and those size ships will not be duplicated. I'm leaving which ships are created up to Klax.  Question - would it be better to sell the ships separately, one to a PDF, or all together?


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Got the Print Version of Pigboats

I got the print copy of In Harm's Way: Pigboats today. I must say the cover is far more impressive in person than on the computer. I was surprised by how effective it was. The interior illustrations and maps came out very clear as well. As always, I am pleased with the printing from Lulu. Now I'll be able to use it running the game on IRC! :D


Wednesday, August 8, 2012

In Harm's Way: Pigboats in Print!

Pigboats is now available in print! This project is now set! If interest warrants, I'll be producing variants for German Uboats, British, and/or Japanese subs.



Monday, August 6, 2012

Volant - Finding Alchemical Ingredients

Finding Ingredients

When in a suitable area, once per day, a character can search for alchemical ingredients using a Natural Philosophy check. On a failure, no ingredients are found. For each success, a point may be spent to find ingredients.

One Point

For one point, an ingredient may be selected from the standard list.

Two Points

For two points, a rare ingredient will be found from a custom list pre-created for the campaign, or the player may design an ingredient, which must be added to the custom list.

Three Points

For three points, an extremely rare ingredient may be found, designed by the player, which will not be found anywhere else - though it may be found in the same place again - and should not be added to the custom list.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Volant - Glossy Raven Bird Combat Sheet

And here is the other bird our playtest group will be riding, the Glossy Raven!


Volant - The Olive Crane BCS

Here's the Bird Combat Sheet for the Olive Crane, a giant bird breed we created for our Volant playtest.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Volant - Religion and the Character

What does the character gain from her religion? What use is religion to the character?

First, all characters gain the things anyone gains from religion in our world - comfort in adversity, confidence in the self, certainty of purpose, moral guidelines, and the like.

Second, Believers and Strong Believers can be the beneficiary of miracles.

The Mechanics

When working in accord with the dictates of her religion, and against something antithetical to that religion, a Believer gains an Edge. In the same circumstances, a Strong Believer gains two Edges. Players may declare their characters’ religions strengths when they decide on a religion.


Practitioners are those who follow a religion, but do not hold to it in daily life. When pushed, a Practitioner tends to think of himself rather than his religion, and do whatever is of most benefit at the time. Attendance at worship is spotty, rituals are skimped, and belief is shallow. Many followers of religion are Practitioners.


Believers are those who hold to a religion in more than name only. They practice rituals even when inconvenient, try to hold themseves to the precepts of their religion in their daily life, and would only deny their religion for subterfuge. There are always vastly more Believers than Strong Believers in any religion.

Strong Believers

Strong Believers push their relationship with their religion to another level. They practice rituals even when dangerous, never deviate from the precepts of their religion in their daily life, and would never deny their religion for any reason.Strong Believers are the rarest of adherents for all religions.

Judging Character Actions

The GM must judge the characters’ actions in light of their declared level of belief. If a character does not live up to expectations, the GM should downgrade the status of the character, after informing the player. If, on the other hand, the character seems to be more in accord with a higher level of adherence, the GM should inform the player, and - if the player agrees, move the character up a level.


Miracles are always entirely subjective - they always take the form of something which can be attributed to luck, chance, psychological manipulation, or willpower. A disease can spontaneously remit. A character can survive poisoning. A million to one shot can be made. An earthquake can open the walls of a cell. The impact should be major!

Once per campaign, any Believer can ask for a miracle. Unless there are insurmountable reasons to say no, or the miracle would violate the precepts of the religion, the GM should grant this. If denied by the GM, the character may ask again in other circumstances. A Strong Believer may ask for an additional miracle, that is two miracles per campaign, under the same conditions.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Pigboats Reviewed, and Roll for News!

Joe Wolz has already put up the first review of Pigboats! Here's the review:

Also, Ryan Shelton interviews me talking about Pigboats in Roll for News - which is a very cool podcast. Ryan interviews people with new games coming out in a short - 5 minutes or so -  format. No rambling excursions. it's all cut to the chase!



Monday, July 30, 2012

Pigboats Actual Play Document

Added a thing to the In Harm's Way: Pigboats page - a pdf compiled from the 13 Actual Play reports of the Alpha Playtest of the game. On some fora, I have gotten some reactions like "how could this be fun?" so I posted up links to these APs from I Fly By Night. The reaction was great, getting some folks who were doubtful pumped about the game, so I put them together in a pdf, spell checked them, and put them up for free download - here.

Enjoy! :D


Friday, July 27, 2012

Pigboats Composite

Put this together for Pigboats - a composite of some of the internal pics. Enjoy!

IHW: Pigboats is done!

Last night, I finished up In Harm's Way: Pigboats. The final things were Index creation and a last spell check. I created a pdf, did a last run through, and it looked good. I need to set up the web page, set up a product page, and load it up on PIG games and OBS. I also need to create the print version, which will need a recompilation of the pdf at high resolution, and front and rear covers. That can come a little later. The pdf should be out tomorrow.

If anyone is interested in reviewing the game, contact me.


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Volant Alpha Playtest - Phases 2 and 3

With Phase 1 of the Volant alpha playtest complete, I can see that - while an awesomely fun game - it didn't really test anything of what makes Volant special in play except the Alchemy rules. As Klax put it, "What it tested was how flexible the company and setting generation rules were." The tale of the Assassins could have taken place anywhere. The ships and birds were just transport, and the ground beneath the floating cities was never visited.

Phase 2 will test out the air combat rules, as the PCs will be Avian Knghts of a religious order. It will also test to a lesser extent the air ship rules, both generation and use in combat. The ship rules were written by Levi Kornelsen, and will be a lot of fun to try out! I do need to come up with some "maneuvers" equivalent to those in In Harm's Way: Napoleonic Naval, but that should be trivial.

Phase 3 will center around voyages to the ground, monster hunting, scavenging ruins, and the like. The company will be dedicated to exploration and exploitation of resources. This will test the monster generator, ground combat, and exploration skills.

Keeping you all informed!


Sunday, July 22, 2012

Phase One is done, in a wonderful finish!

Just finished up the first Volant Playtest phase. It was an awesome finish! The last three potential victims were going to be in the same place at the same time, in a ceremony making the General the new ruler of Straum. Pherin let off three potions, setting fire to the long drapes, letting out huge gouts of smoke and letting off a third which affected teh minds of everyone there. Sanjay took another potion turning him into a demon, popped back the altar, and dragged the screaming High  Priestessinto the hidden stairway, then closing it before garotting her. Arjuna, hidden in the ceiling of the rotunda, hit the General with a poison blowpipe ice dart, right in the neck, acusing him to go into convulsions. Nadila tripped the Adjutant as she turned to flee, and Kumar - pretending to help the Adjutant - broke her neck as she fell. Pherin, Nadila and Kumar ran out the door with the horrified crowds, Arjuna crawled out a window in the dome, and Sanjay and Geena left via the undergrounnd river. They flew away to the rendezvous on their giant owls as the city rioted and burned behind them.


Next week, phase two!


Friday, July 20, 2012

And another sketch for Volant

This was a sketch I did of a small boat, while on a looong phone hold at work. Enjoy!


Thursday, July 19, 2012

Sky Ship for Volant

I've sketched up a Volant sky ship, to give my payers an idea of what it looks like:


Monday, July 16, 2012

Volant Moves Into Phase 2 Alpha Playtest

Saturday, we set up for Phase 2 of the Alpha playtest. This phase we are testing the bird creation and aerial combat systems, and the ship creation and combat system. We created a two region nation - Torsina, with the regions Tortuga and Messina - with some fun quirks. Messina, for example, is an Amazonian culture where the women do the fighting and the men are scholars. The PC Association is the Order of the Glorious Sun, a religious order of knighthood based in Messina, so the PCs are preponderantly female. The religion was also created - Illuminism - with a dualist light and dark goddess. We created a large ship as well for the Order, and two flights of Birds - Ravens and Cranes. Then we created characters. This was the easiest thing, as you just slam together a few templates and you are mostly done. Equipping the character takes far longer than creating it, especially with a rich character!

I will not be posting any APs. I just wanted to inform those who were curious where we are in the process.


Friday, July 13, 2012

More on Turmoil In Truk

Pigboats can be played either as officers on a single sub, or in troupe mode, with each player playing a skipper of a sub and as an officer on each of the other subs. Turmoil in Truk is based on the first, single sub variant.

This mission takes place in September 1942. That means torpedoes that don't work most of the time - but no one believes you when you tell them this, superiors thinking this is just like the peacetime Navy and the goal is to get ahead - or who hadn't yet shown their complete incompetence, supply snafus, getting our butts handed to us by the Japanese Navy again and again, and trying to figure out exactly how and where our subs might be best used.
As for the mission:

1: The primary mission is to patrol around Truk and sink ships. The recon mission is a secondary mission, tacked on by the squadron commander. If the PCs just do this patrol bit and sink something, their mission will be a success no matter what happens with the recon mission, and the PCs should really enjoy it.
2: It is driven by the sub squadron commander because it would be a feather in his cap on his way to becoming admiral. He is a dick.
3. It is assumed the recon will be performed by an inflatable boat, not by the sub. This is not to say the sub cannot get in - PCs can be wildly inventive - but it would be extremely difficult for one reason or another. If the sub is detected in Truk lagoon, it will almost certainly die. The water is too shallow and too clear to hide in. Even going in with an inflatable is extremely dangerous.
4. The PCs should know beforehand that this is an idiotic 'suicide mission'. They may just say they tried and failed. They may indeed try and fail. They may try and succeed. It's up to them.
5: Should the recon mission be accomplished, however, we are talking Medal of Honor for the skipper, and Navy Crosses for others. Major league Notice. 
6: I never give a rat's ass what "actually happened" in the war after the game start date. Once a PC sets foot in the world, it's immediately alt-history from that point forward. :D


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Turmoil In Truk

Working more on Turmoil In Truk, the mini-campaign I'm writing for IHW: Pigboats. This is surprisingly difficult for me. I'm so used to running a game from a postcard of incoherent notes that laying all this out in a comprehesible-by-mere-mortals manner is... jarring. As the beta testers said, the point of this is not so much to make a fun game, as it is to lay out how one creates a mission for Pigboats. That it should be a fun game is secondary, but to me only slightly less important.

I am currently working on the Pearl Harbor section. One of the things about any of the games I run is that the time away from the mission is just as important as the time on the mission. The structure starts in Pearl because that's home base, and it gives many advantages:

1: The players have time to feel their way into their characters' heads.
2: The PCs have time to bond with each other before the shooting starts, when they will have to depend on each other for their lives.
3: It gives a space for relationships outside the ship to happen. If there's on thing that ruins the flavor of a game, it's a bunch of PCs who are socially inept monkish orphan recluses whose only joy in life is killing. In Pearl, they may be far from their families, but they may find girlfriends, buddies, and enemies. These things give spice and meaning to life.
4: It gives the GM a time and place to hold training runs, to familiarize the Players with their PCs' jobs under safe conditions.

This short time in Pearl will be doubly precious to the PCs as depth charges rain down from above and attempt to batter their sub into pieces.


Sunday, July 8, 2012

A restart, of sorts!

Sooo - we'll try this. I'll be posting here and on G+, and you are welcome to post comments either place. I just won't expect any here, and be pleasantly surprised if they do manifest. :D

Stuff that's happening:

I'm working on the adventure to be included with In Harm's Way: Pigboats. It's called Turmoil in Truk, and it's set in the Caroline Islands in September 1942. This will be in effect a short campaign rather than a single session game. It has pregen characters which you can use as and if you wish, NPCs with personality and goals, and enemy resources.

Klax is working on a supplement for StarCluster 3 - 5 ships, with floorplans and 3D models. It's designed to show the flexibility of starship creation in the game, so they will be a greatly varied bunch. I have seen one so far - a 10,000 ton resource extraction (mining) ship.

Albert and I have started work on a new game. I have referred to it before - it's currently called "Lowell was Right!" and it's a hard SF game, with the science being the state of science at the end of the 19th century. Development of that science is extrapolated to a time much closer to our own. Elements and molecules are are knots in the ether rather than discrete particles. The universe is some millions of years old rather than billions, and the sun shines from it's own gravitational collapse. The further out a planet is from the sun, the older it is, but life has grown on all these worlds, and some still retain life. The asteroids are the remains of an exploded planet, not chunks of rock left over from the birth of the solar system. Mankind is in space, but so are the other peoples of the solar system. Hopefully it will interest one or two people beside Albert and I.


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Maybe the last post here

I think I am going to drop this blog. I have no idea why I am writing it. I haven't got a comment in months, and it seems any interest in what I write about is no longer there.


Monday, June 18, 2012

IHW: Pigboats update!

I started work last week on a starter scenario for In Harm's Way: Pigboats, to be either included in the game, or downloadable - I haven't yet determined which. This is the most-asked-for addition from the beta-testers. The reason is that Pigboats adventures/issions are structured differently, and this adventure will serve as a template for groups preparing their own missions.

It will be called Turmoil in Truk, and will be based on and around the Truk Islands in the Carolines. Truk was Japan's major base in the Central Pacific, and the line Japan-Saipan-Truk-Rabaul was the main materiel distribution and staging line in the Pacific. Truk is a group of heavily inhabited and developed islands, surrounded by an enormous atoll with five major passages through.

As a Situationalist GM, I have a lot of trouble with writing scenarios. Railroads are just *out*, and prepping a sandbox is boring and tedious. The Situationalist way to prep is to give NPCs as vectors, and assign them goals, personalities, and resources. Thing is, most of the readers will have no idea what to do with these vectors. I have to slot them in with an explanation on how to use them.

For example, a supply convoy is coming into Truk. I would need to establish the composition and starting point of the convoy and its escorts, the *resources*; describe the convoy leader and his second in command - in case the leader is killed, the *personality*; and give their orders, the *goals*.  I would need to do this for the Japanese Naval Task Units temporarily  in Truk, the Naval Garrison, and the Army Garrison. Maps will show geographically the gates and funnels things must flow through in the islands.

I also need to do this for the base in Pearl Harbor, for the period before the mission, defining the Base admiral, Squadron Commander, and a few other sub commanders, both friends and rivals. Then I need to formulate the orders for the submarine itself, allowing the commander to implement them as he wills. there will also be some ULTRA messages which can be thrown in as needed.

A lot of work to do - far more than I normally prep, as all I need to GM are resources and cryptic notes. Arrgh! And probably it will all be ignored to run a linear plot or used to build a true sandbox! :D


Sunday, June 10, 2012

Final Cover for Volant!

Based on feedback from a whole lot of people on G+ and, this will be the final cover for Volant, based on an idea from Klaxon:


Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Here's the projected cover for Volant. Comments?

Volant Fiction Snippet

From the introduction to Volant - Kingdoms of Air and Stone:

Dalgar sighed. “No, little one, you cannot be a wizard. There are no wizards any more.”

Harein pulled her braids and looked cross. “It’s not fair! Why aren’t there any wizards any more, Papa? What happened?”

He sipped his beer and looked out the window at the massive cliff where Jaimar butted up against Loriman. Stout cables and great chains laced the cliff side, pulling the two lands together. “It happened long ago, Hari. Long before I was born, or even Gemma. They used up all their magic, and there was none left over.”

Harein thought about this, pink tongue sticking out and brow furrowed in concentration. Then she frowned. “They should have left some for us. That was mean!”

“It saved us, Hari. You see, in the long ago, there were two kinds of wizards, and they warred on each other. There were the Wizards of living things, and the Wizards of stone, and their war was long and bitter.” Dalgar rubbed his beard. “When the Wizards of living things made their last stroke, it got out of control. Horrid monsters stormed over the earth, and men... and little girls... were their meat.”

The girl shivered. “Good thing we were above them, huh, Papa?”

“We weren’t, baby. All the people were down on the earth back then.” Dalgar shook his head. “There was no where to go.”

Harain’s eyes opened wide. “What happened, Papa? How did we get away?”

“The Wizards of stone cast the mightiest spell ever made. It was so powerful they pulled all the magic from every person on the earth, and put it into the roots of all the mountains, and the mountains tore away from the earth and flew up into the air, and the people were saved.” Here he looked into her wide eyes. “But all the wizards, every one of them - even the baby Wizards, honey - every one was burned to a crisp and died. Since then all the magic of the world is locked in the stone and in the plants and animals, and not a bit is in any human.” Dalgar waited a moment as his daughter wiped her eyes for the burned babies. “Why did you want to be a wizard anyway, baby girl?”

Her fierce glare returned. “That creepy Joslo Horm is being a pest, and I wanted to turn him into a toad!”

“Oh!” said Dalgar. “Why didn’t you say that in the first place! You need a potion...”

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Volant - Playtest #4

Had a short game - we had to integrate a new player and needed to stop a bit short. Anyway, Pherin, the new character, was supposed to go with the others , but had been away on a retreat, Yes, a retreat, He was an alchemist, an herbalist, and something of a soldier. The Company found him, hustled him on a fast ship to Straum, and he figured out where the rest would be crossing from ar Jinnyah and went there.

Now he had been waiting for two days on the top of the cliffs above the Hole, avoiding the Straum border patrols, and waiting for the others to cross the ten mile wide Hole. The others were flying mostly owls, he knew, and he needed some way to signal them without the heron mounted Straum patrols seeing the signal. That day he had brewed a potion from concentrates of Fire Flower, for fire, and Brain Fruit, for concentration. This he unstoppered and poured on the ground. A spot of intense heat without fire grew. The owls, with their fantastic night sight would see it if they passed over.

Meanwhile, at the fall of night, the others left the "safety" of the cavern and headed aloft up the Hole. They spiraled up far out in the hole, miles from the cliff face, where patrols marched and flew, then flew inland over the Straum border. Arjuna and Kumar noticed the Owls were all agitated about something on the ground, right near the cliff. They talked - well, yelled to each other - about it, and decided it was just Straum patrols. Sanjay and Nadila, overhearing this, reminded the others that Pharis might be waiting there instead of in the Straum capital. He *was* supposed to join them when he could. At the insistence of Sanjay and Nadila, Arjuna "volunteered" to fly his kiwi in and see. Nadila would cover him with her bow.

Pherin heard the whirring of wings, and making his Lore check, identified it as a kiwi, which only Arjuna's family bred and rode. He never heard the owls of course, as they were like ghosts in the night. Arjuna came in and landed, on confirming it was Pherin. He and Pherin talked for a moment, as Pherin gathered his things. Up above, Nadila got mischievous and sent an arrow thunking into the ground beside Pherin. Pherin stared at it like it was a snake.

Arjuna figuring Nadila would never let a Straum air patrol get above them without warning, knew she was playing a game and decided to play along. "Run!" he shouted. "They've found us!" Two more arrows thunked into the earth, bracketing Pherin. ""I'll hold them off while you hide!" Arjuna said as he fired into the air, nowhere near where the others would be. Pherin ran to the edge of the cliff, and scrambled out onto a ledge just under the lip, where he should be invisible.

As he looked up, three shadows blocked out the stars above him as they silently glided in to land on the cliff top, Nadila howling with laughter. Realizing he had been had, Pherin sedately walked back up to the top of the cliff, to the razzing of his friends. "Where you been?" "What's a retreat? That doesn't sound very soldierly, does it." "That was nice retreat - right off the cliff!" He put up with it, in his oddly distracted manner, and loaded his stuff on the back of the birdmaster's owl. He himself had just scrambled up behind Nadila when three flaming javelins flew through the air and thudded into the ground all around them.

"It's the patrol! They've found us!" shouted Arjuna. "Go! Go! Go!" Nadila and Pherin, Sanjay and Kumar, and Arjuna few off into the night, but Rupta, the birdmaster, was not so lucky. Three arrows shot through his chest, and dead, he fell forward out of the saddle, slamming his bird's head into the rocks at the edge of the cliff. The bird, who had also taken several arrows, plummeted off the cliff and down the hole. If it wasn't dead, they'd never find it again. "My things! My alchemy kit!" shouted Pherin. "It's gone!" shouted Nadila. "Get over it! You can afford a new one!"

Through the night, they streaked over mountainous Straum, flying just above the treetops. Just after first light, they spied a hanging valley above the valley they were flying down. On climbing up to it, they found an abandoned rookery - a place where giant birds were raised and bred. It had been abandoned not too long ago, and there were lots of buildings still standing. They brought the owls into a huge barn designed to house birds, and went to sleep.

About mid-day, as Pherin was on watch, he noticed a large naval ship flying right towards the hanging valley. He woke they others up and they had plenty of time to secrete themselves around the barn before the ship landed. It few up and dropped an anchor, then a strange rope and bamboo scaffolding folded down from the ship's belly. Sky sailors swarmed down the scaffolding, hauling lines and staking out the ship with a web of lines and stakes. Meanwhile, others swaggered off to another of the buildings, from which they hauled six two-meter cubed boxes on sledges, twelve men to each hauling on the ropes. They started to bring the boxes up to the ship through the scaffolding.

Arjuna and Nadila were high up in the bird barn, in sniper positions. Arjuna motioned to Nadila, and they sneaked across the grounds of the rookery, dodging behind buildings. The sky sailors didn't even look. They went to the barn the sailors were dragging the boxes from, and crept inside. There were four more boxes, just like the first six, and no one was watching. "Nadila whispered "Should we tell the others?" Arjuna agreed, so she wrote a quick note, wrapped it around an arrow, and sent it into the side of the bird barn, right next to Sanjay.

Arjuna opened one of the boxes, and slipped inside, while Sanjay came across without informing the other. Nadila told him that Arjuna had gone into one of the boxes, and Sanjay went into another. Sanjay scuffled around and found under the excelsior that the box was filled with books. He popped out of the box, and returned to Nadila, who informed him that Arjuna never left his box. Unfortunately, at this time, the sky sailors returned and began hitching up all four boxes. At Sanjay's plea, Nadila  Faked him out as a sailor, and he tailed onto a rope behind the last sailor on the last box, and was brought up into the ship.

Meanwhile, in the barn, Kumar recognized his lover Sanjay disguised as a sky sailor. He told Pherin, and they crept out to the scaffolding as the last sailors swarmed up to the ship. Pherin and Kumar used a potion of web shooting to stick themselves to the underside of the scaffolding floor, and they were brought up to the ship as well. Nadila stayed behind, thinking she had to watch Kumar and Pherin, not realizing they had gone as well.

Sanjay, with his tattoos and eyepatch, fit right in among the sky sailors, as did Kumar, but Pherin wwas an aristocrat, and the Chief of the Boat caught on to him in no time, and took him off to see the Captain.

End of session