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.