Saturday, December 27, 2014

An Example Setting Element From The Necklace

This is one element of the example setting I generated randomly for The Necklace, using the generation tools in the game.

Element Label: Wreck (86)
Element Description: Failed Freestanding Structure
Element Size: Large
Other Element Data:
Settlement Type: Former Rasi Shantytown
Settlement Name: Heiron
Settlement Size: Village equivalent
Settlement Ancillaries/Facilities/Resources: None
Other Settlement Features: Poor Rasi Gravitics
Cultural Oddities:
Economics - Barter within families, theft and pillage outside families.
Interpersonal - Legal Incest
Leisure -
Fashion - Many Braids
Taboos -
Obligations - Frequent Fasting
Slavery -


Heiron used to be part of Thermopolis approximately 40 years ago. It was a shantytown, where Thermopolis’ poor lived. It was shut down and evacuated as unsafe, and sure enough, the next windstorm saw it swept away into the Necklace.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t evacuated very well. Three Rasi families were still hiding in the structure when it went overboard in the storm, and their descendants inhabit it still. The Rasi-made gravitics are weak and wobbly, supplied by salvaged solar panels that used to power billboards, but there’s enough there to live. The inhabitants catch and eat wildlife, and forage for windblown plants that have lodged in the structure.

Life in Heiron is dangerous and precarious. The three families - the Jongs, the Akefs, and the Gardners - vie for supremacy amid the ruins, kidnapping members of the other families for breeding when possible, and inbreeding when it is not. While legal incest is not normally a Rasi custom, in the breakdown of society in Heiron after the storm, it has become a recognized necessity.

Each of the families have about thirty members, frequent births more than making up for the frequent deaths, though two generations of inbreeding has fixed certain undesirable recessives in all three families. Repair of the all important gravitic grids and their power sources are about the only reason for truces.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Difference Between Alpha and Beta Playtesting

Alpha playtesting is done in-house, by a group of people who do a lot of playtesting, and under a GM who knows the intent of the rules completely, preferably the designer. The playtesters are encouraged to do strange and exotic combos, max up rarely taken powers and skills, completely overbalance their characters, and generally be supreme rules lawyers, for the purpose of destroying the game. The GM has to make mid-game rules corrections as problems come to light to fix the game. Alpha testing should be performed for as many variations as possible. Rules changes are incorporated back into the playtest package ASAP to ensure a fast iterative cycle. In short, alpha tests the rules.

Beta playtests are performed exclusively out of house, with GMs and players unfamiliar with the game, as if they bought it cold at the store. Their purpose is to replicate the experience of a customer experiencing the product with no experience of the game at all, AND TO SEND FEEDBACK ON THAT EXPERIENCE BACK TO THE CREATIVE TEAM! (Emphasized for the 75 to 80% of beta testers who do not send a word back!) What they are testing is the way the rules are written - are they clear and concise? Do they confuse more than explain? Are they too long? Too short? Is play turgid? confusing? boring? fun? - etc. In short, Beta tests the expression of the rules.

Ideally, the package sent to the beta testers is fundamentally sound mechanically - that's the Alpha team's job - and problems with play should only occur due to poor choice of words. Unfortunately, the ideal is never completely reached, but it should be damned close.

As for the high proportion of Beta testers never sending back feedback, this is due to a lot of reasons. The best is that REAL LIFE just stepped in and flattened you. That happens, and there's nothing anyone can do. The worst reason is the tester didn't want to hurt the designer's feelings - Hey! That's why it was sent to you! I want that kind of hurt! I'd rather that hurt than the one where paying customers have problems!

A big problem is you can't just use the same good Beta Testers - the ones that give you good feedback - for every game. Beta testers get used to the way you write, and can guess what you mean. You don't want them to do that, as that shortcuts the whole reason for Beta testing! So a designer is always frantically searching for Beta testers, and praying that this one will be one of the few, the proud, the responders!

The Necklace - Characters Enter, Stage Left

We started playtesting The Necklace Saturday. This is an alpha playtest - we are testing the rules, not the expression of the rules. The session was mostly creating the company and characters, but we had time enough to play out a bit of game in character by the time we had finished.

We decided to make a troupe of actors traveling in a showboat around the Necklace, presenting shows to customers - and doing a bit of larceny on the side. The PC actors were a Carnivale actor/acrobat, a Javan acrobat/ dancer, a brace of Puck brothers, both magician/puppeteers, and a Rasi singer/actress.

The Impresario who ran the showboat was named Harcourt Fenton - yes, after Harcourt Fenton Mudd! Fenton entered into the actors' lounge and informed them that their last show of the night before had finally paid for their deuterium fuel and docking fees at Araminta Station, the multi-cultural Trading Post they had been trapped at for a long time. They would be finally be able to leave, and perform a show for a new audience, one which hadn't seen their entire repertory already. After that, they could maybe be paid some of what was owed them.

The actors bitched. Fenton's shows were overblown and intellectual, they said. The Macbeth they played in the cat costumes was the worst. Fenton defended himself, accusing the actors of being incapable of understanding his, Fenton's, literary allusions and references. They hissed and booed, and called him a pretentious hack. Hotly, Fenton demanded they put up or shut up! Show him a better script, he said, and he would produce the play.

The two puppeteer brothers produced a script they had written. It was a comedy, and showed the lives of a troupe of poorly and irregularly played actors - with, coincidentally, the same names as they bore - forced to work under the whip of an overly-intellectual and pretentious windbag of an impresario, who made them play Macbeth dressed as cats.

Fenton took the play and scanned through it. At first he derided the script as entirely lacking such vital elements as an actual plot, but it really was very funny, so he decided to cast the play. Of course, he cast it with none of the actors playing themselves, as he thought them all wrong for the parts, and besides, he thought the audience would savor the meta humor inherent in the situation.

The actors told him where he could stick his meta humor, as the audience would just think it stupid. Fenton defended his decision, claiming that the audience were all fatuous baboons who wouldn't know real Art if it shat on their heads, but confronted with something they couldn't understand, would assign their confusion to Art, and think it deep and philosophical, and not just a comedy.

The actors agreed that the audience were indeed a bunch of baboons who wouldn't know Art if it shat on their heads, but held the position that they should therefore not bother presenting them with any actual art at all so tenaciously that Fenton eventually backed down, and allowed them to play themselves, though at their insistence, and on their head be it! He had gone to acting school, unlike this gang of ruffians, and knew what he was doing.

After he left, the actors began to plan a fond farewell mugging of the casino at the trading post - said plans consisting of "Hey! Let's rob the casino before we leave!" "Yeah! Awesome!"

End Act One, Scene One. Curtain falls.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Setting Generation for The Necklace

Here's the example generated play area for The Necklace. Each of these setting elements are further randomly defined as follows:

Example of a Further Description - Asteroid (45)

Roll 15 - Rasi Settlement on Ruins With Builder Gravitics
(Since this Asteroid has Builder Gravitics, there is a River loop arching up and back to the asteroid)
Roll Asteroid Size - 15 - Medium
Roll Asteroid Composition - 11 - Carbonaceous Chondrite
Roll Asteroid Vegetation - 10 - Jungle
Now we need to define the Rasi Settlement. Switch to the Rasi Settlement table.
Roll Settlement Size - 16 - Medium City
Roll Facility 1 - 5 - Deuterium Fuel Tanks
Roll Facility 2 - 18 - Outworlder Bank
Roll Facility 3 - 3 - Airship Yard
Roll Cultural Oddities: Interpersonal - 3 - Casual Adultery
Roll Cultural Oddities: Fashion - 11 - Body Modifications
Let’s give this Rasi city a name - Manaus, a good Brazilian name.
Let’s also define our starting structure! We’ll choose one from the list that makes sense as a starting point:

Example of a Further Description - Structure 0

Choice from Freestanding Structures - Multi-Cultural Trading Post
Roll Size - 15 - Medium
Roll Culture 1 - 5 - Rasi
Roll Culture 2 - 14 - Javan
Roll Culture 3 - 12 - Puck
Roll for Leisure and Culture 1 - 15 - Gambling
Roll for Leisure and Culture 2 - 7 - Nightclub
Roll for Practicalities 1 - 5 - Airship Repair Yard
Roll for Practicalities 2 - 4 - Deuterium Production

Thursday, December 11, 2014

More on The Necklace - Going Nomad

Altisherpas do not live in towns. They live in their city, THE city, built on, in, from, and around their Slowboat Achilles. When Altisherpas get their wanderlust on, which happens every so often, they find a congenial group that feels the same way, and go nomad - they borrow, buy, or lease an airship and head out into the Necklace. There, they find a place to settle for a while - a "camp" - and begin to work it; sowing food crops that will self seed and flourish in the wild, introducing animals they feel would benefit the place, tinkering a bit with genetics, shaping the land, experimenting with the native flora and fauna, and generally changing the place they have settled. After a while, when they agree they have finished, they move on to someplace else, or if they would rather, return to the city.

Altisherpan Outposts

Sometimes an Altisherpan company or institute of learning will sponsor an outpost, where a number of scientists and techs will observe something of interest for long periods of time. The outposts are airships fixed up with labs and stasis storage for specimens, so that when they are done, they can fly back to the city and leave little trace. Sometimes, for exceedingly interesting subjects, the outpost will be semi-permanent, a modified cargo container will house the labs, and the scientists will rotate in and out as required.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Welcome to Detroit Rock City, Mofos!

Ran another session of my 1980s ska band High Strung campaign Saturday. The band is hurting for certain! John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, the geezer sax player, caught the clap from a groupie, because he stopped wearing condoms when his bandmates kept poking holes in them. He's still out of a job and living in the band's practice space. Rusty Trombone has quietly gotten hooked on booze, and is sliding down the slippery slope. The band finally got a gig at the best club in Detroit, and just when they started to play, there was a loud BANG! and the lights went out. A transformer blew out. This being Detroit in the 80s, there were shots in the dark club, people got trampled, and a couple people got shivved. Lief and Wanda, guitarist and bass player, and both vocalists, grabbed their instruments and ran out the back. Doc Brown, the trumpet player, and John packed their instruments and headed off to loot some new instruments in the riot that was sure to - and did - follow. Each nabbed a new bit of brass - and lucky they did! Rusty, the drummer, also went out to loot, but left his drum kit, which like all instruments, he was responsible for. The roadies left it on stage when they packed up the amps and mics, which were their responsibility. Rusty went by a liquor store and, figuring a drink would only make the looting more fun, smashed the window and crawled inside, where the cops found him, drunk and resisting arrest. Someone stole his drum kit, of course. The band had to come up with his bail, so they sold their old instruments, flushed out savings, and generally called in favors to get the cash. When they got him out, they found out his kit had been stolen, so it was back to the junkyard! They found a cracked high hat , some drum hardware, and an old piano stool he could use as a throne. Rusty used his Repair skill to cobble a bass and snare out of the hardware and some large diameter pvc pipe. Hope is getting hard to come by!

Working on The Necklace - Map Generation

Klax and I worked a lot more on the Necklace last night, on setting generation tables. We came up with a sweet method to generate maps of the local area. Set a center point in the middle of apiece of paper. This is most likely a settlement of some kind, but could be anything - a wreck, an asteroid, some godforsaken mat on the River, whatever. It's Where You Are Now. Roll on the main table, take the result - say Rock in the River, meaning an asteroid that has been lodged in the river, making an island - and then roll 1d100. This tells you how far away from the center it is. Go along the river, up or downstream, and put in the a symbol for the rock and a note "Rock" and the distance, like "Rock (54)". Roll again and do the same thing - say "Jungle Ball (27)". Put a symbol for the Jungle Ball approximately 26 units away from the center, away from the River, floating in air. Continue until your local area map fills up to your satisfaction.

Now for each setting element, roll on the proper sub table. So, for "Rock (54)", roll on the Rock in the River table. You roll up a result of "Carnivale Settlement", then the size of the rock (large) the composition of the rock (Nickel-Iron), and the vegetation (forest). For settlements, there is a further sub-table appropriate to the culture (Carnivale) you can roll on to define things further. Say it turns out to be a Large Carnivale town, with a fishing fleet, river port, and mine. There's a cultural sub-table you can use to create the specific Carnivale culture - because Carnivale tech level is so low, each town or village can be wildly different from its neighbors.

The distances you roll are undefined, and you can define them. Travel time is a good way to define things, say the number of hours it takes to get there, and that would depend greatly on the method you use to travel. A fusion jet airship travels a lot faster than a riverboat, which travels a lot faster than a dugout canoe. You could also define the units as kilometers, or days of travel, or whatever. It's all relative.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Tech Level 9 Technology

An essay Albert Bailey wrote on StarCluster Tech Level 9 Technology.

There are a number of technologies associated with Tech Level 9, notably protium fusion, antimatter production and use, and A-grav. While these may sound like unrelated technologies, they are all based on the same principle: the control of weak interaction forces. Prior to TL9, the electromagnetic force was the only force truly under human command.

With control of the weak interaction force, it became feasible to fuse two protons into a deuteron. This meant that it was no longer necessary to sift out the small fraction of deuterium contained in natural hydrogen; it could be created at will. This drastically dropped the price of deuterium to 1-10% of its previous cost. This has boosted fusion back to the main energy source in most location, though solar energy is still competitive in certain situations. Conversion of protium to deuterium produces only a small amount of energy (by nuclear standards) and with thermal and neutrino losses, little or no useful power is produced by the operation. However, the resultant deuterium can be efficiently fused into helium, releasing large amounts of energy. Efficient deuterium production plants tend to be large, so most fusion-based spacecraft use deuterium as fuel and do not contain protium to deuterium converters. There are, however, a few exploration vessels that do carry p-d converters, allowing refueling from any locally available hydrogen source.

Isotopic field generation, commonly known as "A-grav" is probably the most ubiquitous of the weak force technologies. Despite its common name, it actually is due to a weak-force field that pulls "up" quarks in one direction and "down" quarks in the other direction. Since protons consist of two "up" quarks and one "down" quark while neutrons consist of one "up" quark and two "down" quarks, protons and neutrons will be pulled in opposite directions. The direction an object will be pushed or pulled depends on the relative concentrations of protons and neutrons in the body. Humans, being mostly water, are proton rich. Objects of heavier atomic number, such as iron, are neutron-rich. Planetary bodies may be either. While isotopic field generators are now commonly used for local levitation and for planet-to-orbit transfers, care is required: an isotopic polarity that is repulsive over one surface, such as water, may prove attractive over areas containing metal ores. These attraction differences are generally also believed to account for the sickness experienced by most species subjected to strong isotopic fields. The most common explanation given is that sodium and chlorine are both repelled by a field tuned to attract proton-rich materials, but that this is the actual cause of "a-grav sickness" has not been conclusively demonstrated. The short-range "a-grav" fields commonly used to make surfaces repulsive or attractive actually use combined electroweak forces which either attract or repel both proton-rich and ferromagnetic materials. Most common materials are either one or the other, so they are generally quite effective. However, some materials are not, and will be attracted to what is commonly regarded as a repulsive field; as such, occasional polarity reversal is needed to properly clean these materials. For antimatter storage, very strong pure short-range weak field generation is used; both anti-hydrogen and anti-methane are proton-rich. The occasional proposal to use anti-helium is nonsense.

In addition to providing for its storage, weak field technologies have also provided for the efficient generation of antimatter. Previously, proton-antiproton generation was a somewhat hit-and-miss proposition produced by colliding particles together, normally electrons and positrons, also producing a variety of undesired mesons. However, with the application of sufficiently strong and properly tuned combination of electro-weak fields, protons and antiprotons pairs can be directly boiled from vacuum. This does, of course, require significant amounts of energy. Despite the all too common talk, antimatter is not an energy source, merely a very efficient energy storage mechanism.

All the weak force technologies require weakly interactive massive particles (WIMPs) for operation. WIMP concentrations and current flows differ profoundly across the Cluster, making WIMP collection and interstellar transport one of the most important parts of interstellar trade. Systems that would otherwise be unimportant backwaters have become wealthy due to the WIMP currents present. Some extra-stellar regions have been proposed for WIMP collection; however, the transport times and costs currently make this uneconomical.

Monday, November 24, 2014

More Work on The Necklace

I began work on sketching out the chargen for The Necklace. As this is a game with a setting linked to the StarCluster 3 universe, as well as using the same game system, I had several choices of how to present the chargen process. The StarCluster 3 system is extremely modular. Everything except for the character stat ranges are plug-in modules. Lately, I have been using something I call layered template trees for CharGen - a character gets a number of points to purchase templates with depending on age, then spends them to buy templates laid out in trees, first purchasing the base template, then buying templates further uo the tree, or shifting to another tree root template. StarCluster 3 - the game, not the system - used a different format for CharGen , where the player builds a character up year by year buy taking Skills and Edges from their character's current profession, and changing professions where desired.

Both have their good and bad points - the layered templates produce a very integrated character, with rank inherent in the template, but suffering from the possibility of characters looking much more alike than is perhaps desirable; while the SC3 method takes longer and is somewhat more erratic, but the chances of any two characters coming out anything alike are virtually nil.

I went with the SC3 format, mainly because this game should be usable as a drop-in setting for any SC3 character to play in. Klax and I took the list of professions from SC3, and first pruned it of anything that would not be important in The Necklace, then added in new stuff peculiar to the setting. For example, in the Necklace, Shields - reflective shaped plasma fields and defense lasers - are not very viable, so they are dropped, along whit anything too military; While we added Xeno-Archaeologist for those who study the ruins of the Builders.

Then Klax and I took a look at how these professions would fly with the various playable cultures/species in the Necklace, and marked them appropriately, so a profession marked A, R, C would be suitable for Altiplanian, Rasi, and Carnivales characters. This is not meant to be a block, but a guideline. A player character can have any profession the player wants, but you won't find NPCs of non-indicated cultures in that profession.

The Inner and Outer Stations of the Necklace

Klax, Albert and I did some work on the Necklace this week. and commented on ways to cut across the gas torus, as it is so large. We came up with the following:

In orbit inside the orbit of the torus, but beyond the gasseous envelope are six massive asteroid-stations. They are in an inner orbit, so their orbital velocity is higher than the velocity of the torus - they revolve around the neutron star faster than the torus - so anything in their orbit moves around faster than in the torus. If an airship climbs up out of the Necklace and into the rarified air near the boundary between the vacuum of space and the atmosphere of the torus, tugs from the next station sweeping by can dock with the airship and speed it up to the station.

Here they can dock, either wait to drop back down into the torus when they reach their goal - at a far faster speed than they could flying around *in* the torus - or they can hire, or take passage with, a space ship also docked at the station, as required. Conversely, space ships can dock at the station and hire or take passage on an airship bound for the Necklace.

Also orbiting the torus further out - thus in a slower orbit - are six more asteroid-stations. The procedure to use these outer stations is the same as for the inner stations, but these stations are moving slower, thus they are convenient for reaching areas of the torus behind your starting place.

In effect, they are like highway lanes - the innermost on the left is a high speed lane, the center lane is a travel lane, and the right lane moves slower. If you assume the center lane - the Necklace - as your default, the left/inner lane moved forward faster, and the right lane moves backward in relation to you.

The stations are towns in themselves, with a transient and a permanent population. Some are mining the asteroid, others are storing and trans-shipping goods and passengers, and others yet are selling the transients services while they are there. They are made up of people from all the folks of the Necklace, and outsiders.

Monday, November 17, 2014

High Strung Playtest Session - Dumpapalooza!

On Saturday, I ran another session of High Strung featuring the 1985 ska band, Dynamic Habit. Some of the band heard their demo song being played on the radio, and were totally stoked, not knowing in this day of no internet or email that it was getting scattered national play.

Wanda, at 18 the youngest in the band, let it be known that she had broken up with John Jacob Jinglehiemer-Schmidt, the 40 year old sax player, when she was 17 because not only was he sleeping with her, he'd gone after her 15 year old sister. John had just lost his day job as a keypunch operator, was sleeping on the couch in the rehearsal space, and hadn't money to put gas in his car, so it was a banner day for him. The band was disgusted, but John was a hell of a sax player...

Anyway, Doc Brown called every club in the Detroit area that allowed non-cover songs, and could find nothing. No gigs. No interest. Several prposals to do something fell flat, until Lief suggested they turn the warehouse the practice space was in into a club, and charge admission. This received unanimous approval, so everyone did something. They put just enough gas in John's car to get where they were going, and used that to haul what they could scrounge.

Lief asked his father for some cash and bought the non-scroungable stuff - beer, TP, and a decent PA from a pawn shop foremost. Rusty, who worked as a garbageman, brought Wanda and Doc to the dump, where they scrounged some decent though mismatched tables and chairs, and some nice hardwood flooring a renovator had ripped out of an apartment. Wanda knew about a cinder block wall they could dismantle by night for the underpinnings of the stage, and they cobbled together some passable stage lights scrounged from the dump. John cleared out the practice space, and Doc, who worked for the city's Public Works department, borrowed a street sweeper and cleaned the floor of the warehouse. They called it Club Dumpapaooza.

This is all completely outside the rules, mind! But I know one Band in Boston that did exactly this, the Phantoms, who created Club One in their basement, with scrounged booths, tables, and decor, and had many gigs on their own with other bands. I had to allow it.

Then they decided they needed a band manager to boost the draw. They would pay for it from their Hope in a rotating arrangement. Doc, John, and Rusty decided since they were hiring a Band manager, she might as well be a stripper too, so they hired Brandi Banxxx, who had both requisite talents.

They got a couple other bands to join in with them "Preferably bands who had a decent following but aren't as good as us!" and worked up to the gig. They decided to go on second, so the people who came to see the third act wouldn't leave early.

Right before the second set, John played his Nasty Card, which stated he put laxative in Doc's drink, to incapacitate him. Doc and John had been feuding since joining the band - Doc as trumpet player and John as sax man fought continually over who was the lead Riff player - and Doc had just started dating John's ex-wife to dig the knife deeper. John figured Doc would be unable to play, and that would settle who the lead was tonight!

Doc blew out his bowels, and, cramping violently, went to Brandi, asking for a butt plug and an adult diaper. Brandi, who turned some kinky tricks in her third side, could actually oblige, and with her help, Doc played through the set, though he did not challenge John for the lead.

They had their best gig yet, and went home happy, if in one case rather sore.

Peoples of the Necklace - Stereotypes!

In writing up the Peoples of the Necklace, I am using stereotypes again. This is a good thing, so long as people realize that nobody is bound by these stereotypes. Cultural traits, introduced in StarCluster 3, work by being a stereotype of the culture in question. The smaller the sample size, the farther we statistically diverge from this stereotype. With the Necklace, I'm introducing "What the X think about the Y" This is an interface of two stereotypes, like an interference pattern. An example:

The Rasi

The last major Human settlement was 150 years ago from the UN Slowboat "Ras Al-Khaimah" - Built by the UAE and gifted to the UN, her crew included Icelanders, Koreans, New Zealanders, UK citizens, Arabs, and Malians. They were forced to settle in the Torus as the good real estate - the two icy water worlds in the outer system - had already been claimed. Its people are called the Rasi, and are settled in a city made from their ship, and many towns along The River. The Rasi maintain a culture that varies from TL 9 in their capital to TL7 in their smaller towns. They are fairly tightly bunched, with towns sometimes less than 100 km apart. They make their own grav plates to graviform asteroids which have no appreciable gravity.

Cultural Traits: Greedy 1, Practical 2, Scheming 2, Bombastic 2
Attributes: STR: 9 COOR: 8 AGY: 7 END: 7 CHAR: 8 INT: 6 PSI: 2 LUCK: 2

How the Rasi Feel About...

Javans Predictable marks, if you are careful not to anger them.
Altisherpas We respect them, but they are meddlesome - slow and conservative.
Pucks Lazy, passive-aggressive, clever little monkeys!
Carnivales Trainable cheap labor. Simple and solid.
Hermeans Useful pricks, these jerks. Programmable asshats - total tools.

Airships In The Necklace

So Klax and I talked last night about airships and vehicles in the Necklace. The common mode of transportation in the torus is atmospheric fusion jets. This uses a compact fusion reactor on the ship to compress ambient air with a turbine. At higher speeds the air path can switch to direct heating by heat exchanger as a ram jet. This affords highly fuel efficient travel over very long distances at relatively high speeds. Since the Torus is insanely huge, travel - even high speed travel - takes a long time. These airships are constructed much like space ships rather than airplanes - spaceships with lift surfaces and airflow controls, which are not necessarily air tight.

That led to me looking through StarCluster 3's spaceship construction section. great chunks of it were perfect, along with the overall structure of how one builds ships. But I came to the section on weapons and was struck with how much the expectation of space combat underlay much of SC3. Matter/Antimatter missiles and powerful lasers were a big chunk of the options available - and SC3 is a civilian game! I put all the *big* weapons into a completely separate game!

So - that will not do for the Necklace! It's not about that level of conflict. I talked it over with Klax, and he said the exact same thing! At least it proves we are on the same wavelength! Conflict in The Necklace is on a PERSONAL level. Weapons available for civilian airships would be things like machine guns in turrets, not M/AM missiles! Something to discourage the occasional pirate or swarm or airsharks. The only people in the Necklace to have anything like a fighting force is the Rasi, who have the Rangers- sort of a cross between militia and SWAT police. They have access to laselets and small missiles - the armor piercing or high explosive kind, not nukes, let alone M/AM!

There are other smaller, short range vehicles, but these airships are a big step.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Losonta/Eleena

So, the aliens living on the core of the gas giant in the Necklace!

The Losonta are human-sized winged creatures, omnivores, able to walk upright on their back paws, with three fingered hands on their arms. They are furred, their wings great leathery bat things coming from the centers of their backs. A thick, short tail serves to balance their tops. They started off as pets of the Builders, and inherited the planet after the Builders left.

The Eleena are slick, silvery creatures without eyes, and with six tentacles depending from their undersides. Adults are cat-sized, with their young much smaller. They evolved from parasitic creatures, their tentacles designed to tap into nerves and blood vessels of their hosts.

In combination, the two are symbiotes. The Eleena enhancing the intelligence of the Losonta to sapient levels through their attaching tentacles. The Losonta deliberately introduce Eleena juveniles into their children after birth, the Eleena burrowing in under the skin of the neck, and penetrating into the brain through the unclosed areas of the babies' skulls. There the Eleena attaches, and begins secreting hormones which gradually change the shape of the skull and enhance the Losonta's brain. The Losonta can feel the Eleena in their skulls, and can dimly communicate, as they remain separate beings.

Humans refer to the Losonta/Eleena pair as Pucks.

The gas giant core is now an earth sized world, called Sheelin by the Losonta, and Midsummer by the Humans. It is swathed in the atmosphere of the Necklace, and richly sprinkled with lush islands in a world ocean. In addition, floatweed mats hang in the air, floating by hydrogen-filled bladders, and trailing long tendrils linking the mats to the ocean and islands.

Losonta have the Cultural Traits of Carefree 2, Audacious 2, and Roguish 3. Their sight is superb, their sense of taste as accurate as human sight, and their touch sensitive. Their hearing and sense of smell are weak, and Losonta don't have any external ears.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

More Notes on the Necklace

The Necklace was once home to The Builders - the people who graviformed The River. They originated on the gas giant core, and from there spread out into the Necklace. They left the gas torus and went to different worlds in the cluster, bringing back whole ecologies and planting them on graviformed asteroids in the L4 point as a kind of zoo. They left the Necklace long ago, and went elsewhere or died out.

The Necklace is now inhabited by four peoples, three of them from Earth originally.

Los Carnivales were the first Humans to arrive, almost 500 years ago. They came from Earth on the Brazilian Slowboat Carnivale, and they had left the Earth just before the cut off point between survival and death. Their ship was slapped together in a rush, and was consequently a bit shoddier than most slowboats, but it was faster, and passed the slower ships en route to become one of the first to reach haven in the Cluster.

Unfortunately, the Carnivale broke up on entering the denser air of the Necklace, and chunks of the ship landed in different places along The River. With only the scraps of ship and little technology, their culture crashed down to a very low level in a short time. During that time, the Carnivales were trained by rote in their duties to maintain what scraps of tech they had. This led to several ritual clans spread throughout the scattered tribes, who ritually memorize practices like programming, hydroponics, tending a fusion reactor, mechanics, and the like, which they have no real ability to exploit, but they try to adapt to local materials.

Most Carnivales live in tribes scattered along the river, and maintain at best a Tech Level 4 (Renaissance) life. A few live in cities and towns of the Altisherpas and Rasi, and have adapted to the higher tech levels of these cultures.

Next to hit the Necklace was the UN Slowboat Achilles, some 400 years ago, with a crew of Sherpas, Canadians, Swiss, Fililipinos, and Columbians. Achilies entered into the Necklas and settled in The River, forming an island. The children were bred to be resistant to zeroG - with enhanced calcium retention, larger lungs, and foot-hands. They are called "Altisherpas". They are explorers and able to live anywhere in the torus. The Achilles is now the largest city in the Torus, and site of a starport.

The Altisherpas maintain a fixation on biology, medicine, and genetics - reaching to TL 10 in those areas, but maintain a TL 8 in all other aspects. they travel the Necklace in fusion powered jet craft, and settle wherever they like, as they have no need for gravity.

The last major Human settlement was 150 years ago from the UN Slowboat "Ras Al-Khaimah" - Built by the UAE and gifted to the UN, crew included Icelanders, Koreans, New Zealanders, UK citizens, UAE Arabs, and Malians. They were forced to settle in the Torus as the good real estate - the two icy water worlds in the outer system - had already been claimed. Its people are called the Rasi, and are settled in a city made from their ship, and many towns along The River.

The Rasi are closer to standard Cluster Humans than the others, being more recently come and less adapted. They maintain a culture that varies from TL 9 in their capital to TL 7 in their smaller towns. They are fairly tightly bunched, with towns sometimes less than 100 km apart. They make their own grav plates and use them to graviform asteroids which have no appreciable gravity.

The fourth people are aliens. We haven't created them yet, but they live on the gas giant core, and are not the Builders. They evolved after the Builders left.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Notes on the Necklace

According to Albert, the gas torus of the Necklace has a volume of 9e15 cubic kilometers. So the mass of the ring is about 0.006 Jovian masses. Very different from a planetary surface; Malthusian limits effectively don't exist. Room for lots of native and alien species without even managing to encounter them.

Albert suggested that the Carnival, the second of three Slowboats to reach the Necklace, should break up on entering the denser air at the center of the torus, with the passengers dispersing will-he nil-he all over the torus in random clumps determined by the flight of the wreckage they were contained in. Klax and I talked it over. At first we liked it, a lot, but then we realized it would complicate one of the cool things we thought of for Los Carnivales, the people of The Carnival. Since the ship's educational systems broke down on the flight - one reason their society degenerated - they would have to use verbal memory to transfer necessary skills like hydroponics, programming, mechanics, electronics, and fusion drive tech - basically tending the machines. This would give them chants and songs which taught what was necessary in a ritualistic fashion rather than from first principles. This would give rise to rote specialists who would retain their ritual skills even after the occasion for them - for instance programming - were gone. We were imagining a clan structure for each of the specialties that survived, which would be maintained despite the breakup of the culture into tribes in the torus. If these clan members were randomly distributed in the breakup, would that hurt the chances of the tribes surviving an already chancy life without technology? I'm a bit torn on this! It could be cool, and another way to distinguish tribe from tribe, though I'm thinking hydroponics - farming - would be almost universal, and by far the largest clan. Some cool things - cargo cult religions, programmers communicating by writing programs in ink on tree bark, the ability of these untrained 'savages' to have a marketable skill if they join a town or city, adapting mechanics for found local materials... just interesting stuff

One of the core concepts that led to this project - Klax's idea built entirely from random stuff he heard from me about Niven's Smoke Ring setting and his own fertile imagination - is that The River should be navigable by ship, so it needs its own gravity. That's why we went with it being artificial, rather than naturally formed by shepherd moons. The River does need to corkscrew, for one to reach as much space as possible within the central Smoke Ring part of the torus, thus being a simple and convenient, though slow, way to get from here to there; and for another to avoid the masses of the core and trojans. The idea of ships sailing a river on a journey that will take many lifetimes to return is just inherently cool. And even at very low tech levels, the Carnivales could travel, at least locally. Some may be nomadic, drifting down the river, stopping for a while here and there to harvest resources before continuing.

The core of the gas giant is problematical. Why wouldn't the people settle there instead of the torus? It must be habitable - everything else is! That's why we thought of making it already settled when they got there. Klax would prefer a new humanoid sub species like the Tagris or Vantor, created by the Seeders. I prefer an alien species, as in StarCluster 3, there is no canon on how the Tagris, Vantor, and Sastra got there - they could be just a popular bio-engineered variant, for example - and is entirely up to the Group. Even the existence of the Seeders is open. This torus could have been modified by an ancient alien species, perhaps those that inhabit the planet, more probably another, with the species now on the planet being new. I just prefer to leave things like this open.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Starting Up a New Project

Klaxon and I started work on a new project this week. It's called _The Necklace_, which I have talked about before, and it's a setting for StarCluster 3. It may include a ruleset - very little overhead, and people can use it without buying the main book - but it definitely with have specialized chargen.

_The Necklace_ is a gas torus around a neutron star, conceptually based on Larry Niven's Smoke Ring, but containing lots of differences. We came up with three separate settlings of slowboats from Earth, which will result in three major options for Humans. The first humans to settle the Necklace - about 450 years ago - went in for genetic engineering their offspring to survive quite well in the vast zero/microG torus. They are now called Altisherpas, and they settle all sorts of places in the Necklace. The second group of settlers came in about 250 years ago, and were the victim of shoddy construction. Their slowboat's society disintegrated, and they were flown to the Necklace by the ship's AI and released before the ship fell apart. Their society remains scattered and rather primitive. The third wave of settlement came in about 100 years ago, and settled on various asteroids along The River, in autonomous towns.

Some of the asteroids were set with grav plates by The Seeders, who built The River long ago, and the natives have grav-paved more since. There is an earth sized world in the torus, the core of the gas giant that provided the gas for the torus, as well as substantial agglomerations of asteroids at the leading and trailing trojans - L4 and L5. There are former moons stripped from the gas giant in the torus, as well large asteroids. And uniting it all is The River.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lowell Was Right! Available From Amazon

Looks like Lowell Was Right! is finally available in print from Amazon. Took them long enough! :D

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Blast From The Past on High Strung!

I tripped across a post over on the RPG Site about a rock 'n roll RPG, and in a comment, I stated how I would go about it...

This was in 2006, eight years ago!

What I said was "I'd do it as a straight historical game. Since I know the subject - I was a rock'n'roller - I'd pick the period, research it, describe the conflicts that defined the era, and hinge the game on that. I'd set up metrics for internal tension vs. personal satisfaction - basically internal tension is the drive and ego of each of the bandmembers, while personal satisfaction is fame, money, and artistic worth. So long as personal satisfaction is greater than internal tension, the band stays together. If the reverse happens, it triggers problems. The group can kick out a PC, the PC can voluntarily leave, or the group breaks up and the campaign ends."

That's not too far from where I actually ended up, basing everything on the Hope mechanic. Huh! Thank God I had eight years to learn how to write RPGs in between, though! :D

Kitbashing for Fun and (no) Profit

This weekend, on a camping trip, played a rough cut kit bash of our  WWII Paratrooper game. We had a lot of fun, and kicked ass doing so! I do not anticipate smoothing this into an actual game package. We played out the awful drop against Oran in North Africa against the French - everything went wrong, and only 12 planes dropped their paratroopers anywhere near Oran - many planes ended up in French and Spanish Morocco, and one landed in Gibraltar.

The PC's squad, led by a PC Corporal, was sent off to screw over the airstrip in La Senia, just south of Oran, while the rest of the 12 plane drop went off to attack the more important airfield at Tafraoui. The PC paratrooper squad, using a combination of stealth, explosives, sniping, and mortars wrecked the airfield with no injuries to the squad. They ended up using Luck and cover rolls - they made every single cover roll they attempted - to prevent injuries and deaths, and generally kicked ass. In real life, La Senia was attacked from the air, and eventually taken by an armored company.

Ah! That PC glow! Apparently this game is not deadly enough! :D

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

High Strung - Random Blurbs from Non-Entities

I've included some ersatz reviews in High Strung, including these "Random Blurbs from Non-Entities:"

"Random snatches of mere ugliness sunk in a vast
miasma of yawning horror"
"A sullen, brutish ignorance hammering in vain anger at
the gates of music."
"At times I almost didn't want to eat a shotgun"
"Like the sound of 20 zombies fapping into roadkill, full
of sound and fury, and signifying lobotomy"
"To take the edge off the taste, I stuck my tongue repeatedly
into a nearby socket"
"All the grace and delicacy of a pig on quaaludes lap
dancing in a clown suit."
"I sadly realized I could've been puncturing my testicles
with a power drill instead"
"A buzzkill four lines of coke couldn't dent"

I want to put three of them on the back cover, but which ones would have the biggest impact?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Music Critics for High Strung

Music critics show up at a gig on a d20 roll with a result of 1. They can show up at any club at any time, and it's hard to notice them among the band's following, casual strangers, and bar-hopping groupies. Music critics look like any other person - they don't dress in a suit and tie or little black dress. They might have tats, or piercings, or strange hair, just like any other patron, and can be of any gender, race, and orientation. For every gig, roll a second d20. On a roll of 1, someone in the band will 'see' the critic, whether or not a critic is actually there. If they *do* roll a 1, and a critic is there, the critic will be properly identified. Otherwise, they are deluding themselves.

If a critic is in the audience, they will write a review, so take the raw Performance and Show scores for each aspect of the gig. For every 3 scored, the critic will write something positive, and for every 1 or 0 scored, they will pan that aspect in their review. If there are more positives than negatives, the overall review will be positive, and the band will gain 40 points of Notice, and each member will gain a Hope. If the negatives outweigh the positives, the overall review will be negative, and the band will lose 40 points of Notice, and each member will lose a Hope.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

High Strung out for Beta Testing

I've sent High Strung out to the first Beta Testers today. I think it's all basically there, it all works, and now I need reaction to how it is worded and explained. This should be out finally by the end of the year!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Princess Doodad and Barf Dribble review High Strung (Podcast Transcript)

(Barf Dribble) Tonight we are doing a playtest review of High Strung by Flying Mice Games.
(Princess Doodad) Right Barf! We ran a game with Chicken Eatza, Macho Pizza, and Earthworm Jim - and me of course - taking the parts of the various characters. Barf was the Game Master, and came up with the scenario.
(BD) Yeah... they guy who wrote this piece of crap didn't bother writing an adventure.
(PD) So I made this awesome character, Stephie Dildo, who is like 17 and really cute. She plays like this guitar shaped like an axe, and made of steel. Her costume is this awesome black leather armor  with lots of spikes. Her Race is Jail Bait, Jail Baits get +2 to Cute, and her Class is Headbanger.
(BD) Chick made a Beatnik Soulman named Bob Chick, Machie made a Elderly Funkmaster! named Fred, and Jim made a Hippy Blues Brother named Sunshine Moon, cause he's this hippy. The Races and Classes in this game are totally stupid! Like who wants to be Elderly? But you randomly Roll your Race, so we played it RAW.
(PD) (Giggles) I liked MY character! Stephie was ultra awesome!
(BD) So anyway, Bob Chick's weapon was a bass guitar shaped like a sword, Fred had two drumstick wands that he used to cast his songs, and Jim played a tabla, which is some kind of Hippy drum.
In this game, the idiot who designed it makes you draw Hit Points and Magic Points from the same pool, called Hope...
(PD) Yeah, like they have anything to do with each other!
(BD)... which is another thing that bothered me, along with the no module thing. The designer keeps naming stuff wierdly. Like the Race names are weird, the Class names are weird, and the stat names are just fucked! Like VOIS for casting Songs, or FNGR for fighting. Just stupid!
(PD) I liked CUTE for, y'know, being cute!
(BD) Well, one outa... a lot isn't too good, Princess! Why do designers always gotta change names for stuff that already has perfectly good names? I just don't get it, and it irritated me.
(PD) I think I liked the game more than you, Barf!
(BD) Aaaanyways, The party was, like, totally poor. A total Zero to Hero trip! We had Crap Jobs, Crap Clothes, and Crap weapons... I mean Instruments. See? Why change the name? I had to ask them all these stupid questions about their families and shit. Nothing at all about fighting. I suggested everyone just be orphans who just quit their crap jobs, and everyone was cool with that.
(PD) Remember, the Hippie and the Elderly guy had decent stuff!
(BD) Yeah, but the Hippie sold his stuff for weed, and the Elderly dude was old so he forgot he was rich or something. What kinda stuff you got was tied into your age for some reason, so the guys who couldn't do anything got all the decent swag!
(PD) Yeah, right! I made Stephie's costume, though, so that was cool!
(BD) Yeah - she had the most useful skill there, making costumes!
(PD) She made +2 Costumes!
(BD) Pretty swank for a Jail Bait!
(PD) Thanks, Barf!
(BD) So anyway, you gotta get a gig. A gig is like an adventure...
(PD) And you lose HP between adventures, and gain HP from doing them.
(BD) Totally numb! Why? It doesn't say. I just said you guys all have wounds that didn't heal good.
(PD) Which made sense. That was some sweet GMing there, Barf!
(BD) Ya gotta know when to improvise, Princess! The designer just forgot to explain it, so I had ta improvise.
(PD) So Barf came up with an aawesome gig!
(BD) (Laughs) Yeah! Totally! They went to the tavern and were like dicking around with their weapons, and I had this old geezer...
(PD) ...He had the most awesome songs!
(PD) Then when the Party jumped to their feet, the bottom of the  tavern like opened up and we slid into a pit! Us and all our groupies too!
(BD) Groupies are what this dickhead calls henchmen.
(PD) Stephie had like the most hen... groupies...
(BD) See what I mean?
(PD) ... cause she was so ultra cute!
(BD) And she had the Groupies skill too!
(PD) So we fight the orcs in the pit, and found a door that openend into the dungeon! Oh! There was treasure too! New +1 instruments and armo... i mean costumes.
(BD) Yeah - there was no treasure even mentioned anywhere! I just made it all up!
(PD) So we fought these undead, and like we were wailing with out weapons, and Fred cast a Song. We all had to sacrifice HP to power the song, which was awesomely dark! I was imagining Steffie cutting open a vein to let out the blood! Cool idea!
(BD) But there was no actual songs! We looked through the book and found squat! It's like they dicked around with the formatting and lost like half the rules, and didn't notice! So I made shit up again! Gotta keep the game moving! We allrolled our skill dice, like the RAW says...
(PD) And we rolled AWESOME! We all almost maxed out!
(BD) So I looked up the result on the charts - I'm doing this completely RAW, like I said before - and the party gets some treasure deal with multi albums and creative control. I was like what the fuck? Then it says game over. GAME OVER? REALLY? Totally LAME! LAME OVER I say!
(PD) Yeah! That was weird!
(BD) I fugured multi-albums was like the games gold pieces, and creative control meant something like controlling other people like zombies, but why was the game over? We had jusr STARTED!
(PD) I really liked Steffie too!
(BD) What's the use of getting treasure when you can't use it because the FREAKING GAME'S OVER? That was just NUMB! So I just had the gang make characters for D&D 5, and we started that. So, my verdict? PIECE OF CRAP! Stay away from this insane dogpile of a game! It was incomplete, confusing, and just pretentious as shit!
(PD) I liked it better than Barf, but I still don't know why it ended!
(BD) Talk to you next week, when we'll review another new game!
(PD) See ya!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Current Campaigns

My Saturday High Strung playtest #1 game ended in a win for the PCs. Jazzy's BF Reggie told her she should write a gospel song to please her dad, who is a nationally syndicated TV preacher. She decided she was going to go one better and make it a love song as well. She poured in Hope, and the band premiered it on the Reverend Johnson's TV service. The premiere went very well, and the group decided to record it as a Demo. They absolutely nailed their performances, and ended up scoring a multi-album major label deal with creative freedom. This band was created under the old rules, wherein you chose the age of the character.

High Strung playtest #2 - which we play only when James can make it - is just starting out, really. This one should give me a much better handle on how well the new rules work.

When James isn't there, we'll be playing a kitbash of In Harm's Way: StarCluster and IHW: Aces And Angels, where the PCs are airborne paratroopers in WWII. We'll be starting in early 1942, and going through the whole war eventually. Klax and I hammered out a new chargen which really suits the way they did it in the war, rather than the way they do it now. It looks awesome so far! We'll be starting in three weekends.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Economics and Interstellar Transport in StarCluster

In StarCluster, generally speaking, there are few things which are worth the cost of interstellar transport. Generally speaking, a system will be able to manufacture anything it needs internally, but there are exceptions:

Works of Art
Artists are not rare, but great works of art may be worth enough to transport from one system to another.

Luxury Goods
If people on Humbolt have a taste for Hammerklavier wine, then prices will rise high enough to justify importing it.

News is always salable, and takes up little space.

Intellectual Property
Licenses for designs need transportation. Low mass, high value.

Samples and Prototypes
Samples and prototypes may be sent from system to system for a potential licensee to judge applicability preparatory to signing the license.

People on Ginger in their high tech world are not going to spend hundreds of hours hand-crafting a rug, but the poor people of Hatrack do, and handcrafted rugs are sooo in!

Speaking of what is 'in', Fashion always is!

High Tech Devices
The companies and government of Shasta cannot make the tools that make Locust's robot, but they can pay for the robots themselves, in some cases! remember, each tech level difference is a factor of ten in cost.

Another low-mass, high value cargo! Always, the Data Must Flow!

Pretty obvious, actually.

The Necklace

My next product will be a setting for StarCluster 3, with Klaxon and Albert Bailey. It will be The Necklace - a natural/artificial construct gas torus a la Niven's Integral Trees/Smoke Ring. The natural part is the torus itself - an oxy/nitro ring around a neutron star, which is itself in a goldilocks zone orbit around a normal star, with the gas tidally ripped from a gas giant within the ring, and transformed by the abundant free-fall plant life, orbiting the neutron star. It's a gravity free but livable environment. It has been artificially enhanced with an asteroid belt, and The River.

The River is a ribbon of water which loops around the torus perpetually, captured and propelled by artificial gravity, and designed to actively avoid the gas giant, Mister Doom. The River is navigable by ship and boat, and provides both transport and gravity to those sailing it. The gravity gradient of The River is shallow, and easily broken, so you can fly off from it.

The asteroid belt is green - covered by plant life - and there are cities and towns built on them, using artificial gravity. This makes mini-worlds like in the Little Prince, swimming through the gas torus. Each green asteroid would have its own society, Transport between asteroids would be by aircraft and/or by The River. There are also nomadic societies which ply The River forever, and people who live in the free fall areas, among the plants and animals adapted to that zone.

The Necklace was built by a disappeared alien species, and is currently inhabited by humans, human offshoots, uplifted animals, and a few aliens, in typical StarCluster fashion. There would be example asteroids and societies in the game book, but also there would be lots of setting creation tools to create your own. There would also be setting specific professions and backgrounds, and the full StarCluster ruleset, as that's not a lot of overhead, and you wouldn't need StarCluster to play it.

I am about to get real serious on this very soon, once I put High Strung out for beta testing. If you are interested and have some ideas, comment away!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Agents and Band Managers in High Strung


Agents can help you get gigs. Your agent is played by the GM. The GM rolls 3d20 vs a TN which varies by the quality of the Agent for each club. The number of successes rolled is the Agent’s “in” for that club, and is added to the TN for that club when rolling for gigs. The players do not know the Agent’s “in” and must take it on faith, though they should be able to see the results over time and judge accordingly. The players can drop their Agent at any time to get a new one. Agents can also have an “in” with a recording studio. Roll 1d20 vs their TN to see if the Agent has an in. If so, the band has a +1 to their TNs when recording a demo.

Agent Quality

Agents vary in quality - and bands can hire as good an Agent as they want to hire. The better the Agent, the higher the Agent’s TN, and the more they take for their services. Agents are paid in Hope by the band after every gig or Demo Recording - the Hope coming from the band mambers, however they want to apportion the cost.

Agent Quality                    Pay in Hope    TN
      Poor                                         1                 7
      Fair                                           2                9
      Good                                        3               11
     Excellent                                  4               13

Band Managers

The band can also hire a Band Manager, like the Agent, paid in Hope after each gig by the band. Band Managers run the roadies at a gig, and take care of the Draw - Promote, Graphics, and Organize. Band Managers have 4 dice in each of the three skills, and their TN - as well as the amount of Hope they demand - varies with their Quality.

Band Manager Quality    Pay in Hope    TN
      Poor                                         1                 7
      Fair                                           2                9
      Good                                        3               11
     Excellent                                  4               13

Stiffing the Agent or Band Manager

If you end up not paying - stiffing - your Agent or Band Manager, that Agent or Band Manager will  immediately drop your band and spread the word you can't be trusted - stiffed Agents to other Agents, and stiffed Band Managers to other Band Managers. After word gets out, hiring an Agent or Band Manager increases the cost by 1 for each time you stiff one - if you stiff two, cost goes up by two.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Current Games!

Saturday, we ran a playtest of High Strung, and included the various things I have prepared for enhancing the PC's engagement with their jobs and families. It all worked a treat! The characters' families and jobs were front and center, and even some job days were played out. The Nasty Cards came out again and were flying back and forth!  It brought a whole new dimension to the game. I am *really* happy!

My Sunday IRC game went splendidly, as always. I have a group of the most amazing roleplayers, who literally don't need me to play. Whenever I have to miss a session, they have a GMless session and run a game without me. Today we ran three scenes, none with any appreciable conflict, but it was all wonderful! They delved deeply into their characters and pursued lots of individual goals. This is not Space Opera, this is Space Soap Opera!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Club Names for High Strung

I've just finished up a random nightclub name generator for High Strung. These are some example results:

Amber Lounge, Neon Rocket, Pearl Roadhouse, Rising Underground, Exploding Oasis, Burning Envy, Daring Midnight Paradise, Seeking Crimson Heaven, Howling Ginger Karma, Orgasmic Revolution, Leather Heaven, Passionate Monkey, The Uncanny, The Metropolitan, Lusty, My Brother's Lounge, Bleeker's, Jimmy's Garage, Our Daring Machine, My Dog's Rocking Roadhouse, Boston's Exploding Ballroom, The Palace, The Vault, The Garage

I'm liking these results!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Jobs and Family in High Strung

So I'm thinking now of how to improve High Strung. One of the things my players noticed was that there wasn't much in the rules about anything other than gigging and recording. This is a consequence of my concentrating on getting the core right. I think that's fixed now, so I've been working at honing in the good stuff. There are two areas that I can deal with - Jobs and Family.

Jobs are categorized as either Crap Jobs, Dead End Jobs, or Decent Jobs, and are assigned by age. Crap Jobs are things that are soul crushing, demand no real skill, and are poorly recompensed - thngs like flipping burgers or convenience store clerk. Dead end jobs are a bit better, because the pay is better, but there in no viable path to the future in these jobs. Decent Jobs paw well enough to live on and carry a modicum of skill and recognition, and there are ways to move up and onward if you decide to quit music. Players will have to decide what their jobs are, and name friends and enemies. This will give GMs something to build on and make real to the characters.

For families and friends, I gave the GM a series of questions for the GMs to answer, like "What are your parents like? How do they feel about your rock n' roll lifestyle? Are they proud? Ashamed? Angry? Resigned?" and "Who is your best friend? Why?", and the important "What do you like to do that isn't music?". Again, this will give the GM a base to build on.

Jobs and family are not at the center of this game, but they needn't be desolate wastelands either. Bringing them into the game can only help make the game feel real and immediate to the players.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

New High Strung Game!

Tonight we played High Strung - our ex-player James is returning to the group, so at least once a month, maybe twice, we'll be playing a new game with James. This was the first game we played with the new band.

The band is Dynamic Habit - chosen by the players after randomly rolling five names. They are a ska band in 1985 Detroit. The members are Lief Lund on guitar and vocals, Doc Brown on trumpet, John Jacob Jinglehiemer Schmidt on alto sax, Rusty Trombone on drums, and Wanda Pumpit on bass and vocals. Wanda has previously had brief but intense flings with Rusty and John, but is currently unattached. She is a Baby at 18, while John is a Geezer of 40, and the others are 22-23 year old Dudes.

During the first practice, there was terrible storm and the electricity went out, but Rusty had already put two tabs of acid in John's beer. John freaked - started hallucinating things in the shadows, voices talking to him, imagining two boys drowning in the river... John's player was brilliant, fantastic roleplaying! He ended up running out into the storm and almost drowning in the flooded parking lot outside the practice space - an unused warehouse.

It was a tremendous night - best yet in the playtest! Here's Wanda's character sheet - all the names are made up, by the way, except for Lief.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Odd Squad Redux

This Saturday, we couldn't run the High Strung playtest, as an old friend and ex-player was visiting, so we went back to a one shot set in our Odd Squad campaign. The Odd Squad is a squad of SpecOps troops in In Harm's Way: StarCluster. They are, in effect, a rocket powered tank filled with liquid chaos. they creatively interpret every order to the maximum possible lethality rating  - once they were given the order 'minimize civilian casualties' before being set on by rioting alien civvies in a parking garage, and they excused building barricades of civilian bodies as 'protecting the balance of the civilians from our superiority in firepower".

It was refreshing and fun - think of The Expendables or Guardians of the Galaxy in power armor - to run through a hostage situation like Korben Dallas negotiating with Mangalores. Despite all of the humans beings wearing explosive collars, somehow the Odd Squad managed to kill all the alien terrorists while losing not a single hostage. The speed and lethality of this group was astonishing. it turns out 'Bash in the doors, guns blazing' is a tactic! Also so is splitting up the numerically inferior force in order to surround the enemy, and 'they can't counter our plan if we don't have one.

The bit where Baldy realized half way through that she had forgotten to switch her gamma ray laser from single shot to burst mode - and was still going through aliens like a lightsaber through yogurt was a high point for me...

Anyway, laughed a lot at the over-the-top ultraviolence and the crazy characters, and had a wonderful time!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Further Refining High Strung

I continue in my quest to make the complexities of High Strung simpler.

The latest change is due to the existence of a 'sweet spot' at 25 years of age for the character, where there are sufficient skills to make light of the small reduction in starting Hope.  My alpha test group has discovered it, and all decided that they would make their characters 25, and distribute the non-musical skill needs between them - skills dealing with gig/band promotion and non musical aspects of the show. This allows them just enough excess Hope that they don't need to augment their supplies with internal knavery using the Nasty Cards.

The solution I came up with is to assign age randomly rather than allowing the players to choose it arbitrarily.

The second change is to collapse the performance of the Premiere of a new song  together with the performance of the gig, letting the entire gig generate the TN for the Hope roll for the new song. This eliminates a collective roll entirely at small cost in simulation fidelity.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Lowell Was Right! Finally In Print!

Anyone insane enough to care, I've finally put Lowell Was Right! on sale in print - - at a ridiculous price, because I wanted it available through Amazon and B&N as well. So, if you are dying to throw cash down a rathole, go ahead. Or you could Pay What You Want - which is usually nothing for most people - over at RPG Now/Drive Through for the pdf, or pay the sensible price of five bucks for the pdf at Precis Intermedia. Or you could be happy with whatever game charges your batteries now and forget about this, right? :D

I am so all about the marketing!

Friday, August 29, 2014

The Gamer Motivation Map

Over on the Roludo forums, Thalaba - AKA +Apochriphal Chris on G+ - came up with a sweet way to look at games, gamers and GMs, called the Gamer Motivation Map. It looks something like this. It describes the kind of games we like to play from the standpoint of what we like most about them. Notice that he has used the word 'forward'. This intended to suggest that these things are not mutually exclusive, but that we tend to prioritize one over the others.

1. Action-Forward gamers are gamers that like to focus on the things our characters can do in the game. They tend to be all about abilities, stunts, feats, and so on. Character advancement involves improving these abilities. D&D, Agon, and basic Savage Worlds are the kind of games that would satisfy an Action-Forward gamer. An action-forward gamer can happily play a character just from the stats and doesn't need to know about deep motivations, personalities, or backgrounds.

2. Character-Forward gamers are gamers that focus on who the chararacter is, rather than on what he or she does. They're all about the 'me'. They like big backgrounds, storylines to be developed and resolved around their character, and pets that they can control. Games like Vampire, Exalted, and Ars Magica appeal to these people. Character-Forward gamers like to have powers - not because of what abilities they grant, but because of how it makes them special.

3. Setting-Forward gamers are people who like to explore alternate worlds and milieus. Like Character-Forward gamers, their characters are all about who they are, but really they're about who they are in the context of the setting. They can happily create a reasonably bland character and then let that character grow into the setting as they learn more about it. They tend to like descriptions of places more. Games with rich settings or with rules that create characters that are very integral to the setting are preferred, like, for example, RuneQuest or Artesia.

4. Story-Forward gamers are most interested in what happens during the game, rather that who their character is or the nuts and bolts of what they can do. They can even feel happy about their character dying, so long as it happens in a dramatic and cool way. They will also happily play multiple characters in a single session. They like games that give them the ability to affect how the story unfolds.

5. Genre-Forward gamers really want games that recreate a specific intellectual property. They don't just want a character - they want a character from that particular show. Character motives and actions are secondary to genre. Settings and stories are tightly controlled by the genre. Examples, I suppose, would be The One Ring and Trail of Cthulhu.

To fully use the map, distribute nine points over the five categories, in a standard RPG point allocation way. The way you apportion your points not only tells folks what is most important to you, but *how* important it is relative to the others. Also, you can map your own preferences as a player, GM, and designer. My map is:


Action-Forward 1
Story-Forward 0
Character-Forward 4
Setting-Forward 3
Genre-Forward 1

So, I'm the kind of player you hate - focused on my character and how the setting relates to my character, and willing to go off on my own for what seems the flimsiest of reasons. This is why I don't play much. I *know* I'm bad!


Action-Forward 1
Story-Forward 1
Character-Forward 1
Setting-Forward 3
Genre-Forward 3

Different story here! As a GM I let the players alone, allowing them to push their characters or not. Setting and Genre are what I push, and I push them hard.


Action-Forward 1
Story-Forward 0
Character-Forward 4
Setting-Forward 2
Genre-Forward 2

 And different here as well! As a game designer, I put a *lot* of emphasis on character generation, little on in-game mechanics, none on story, and split the balance between Genre and Setting on average, though which is dominant depends on the game I'm designing. Tools of Ignorance and High Strung are both Genre dominant, and Volant and Outremer are both Setting dominant, for example.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Band Names in High Strung

Band names typically fell into certain patterns back in those days:

Asia, Boston, Kansas, Chicago, Berlin, Miami Sound Machine
Gerund-Noun Pair
Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, Smashing Pumpkins, Burning Spear
Adjective-Noun Pair
Led Zeppelin, King Crimson, Spiders from Mars, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Soft Machine, Blue Oyster Cult, Cheap Trick, Dire Straits, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails
(Leader's Name)(Optionally with Band/Group)
Santana, Allman Brothers Band, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Patti Smith Group, Crosby Stills & Nash
Noun Alone
Styx, Journey, Rush, Queen, Television, Renaissance, Traffic, Scorpions, Nirvana
The Something
The Clash, The Jam, The Police, The Cars, The Cult, The Cure, The Go-Gos, The Bangles
Biblical/Literary/Historical Allusion
Jethro Tull, Uriah Heep, Aerosmith (play on Arrowsmith), Toto, Judas Priest, Genesis, Jesus and Mary Chain, Dead Kennedys

How This Helps You Choose

Roll once on the Type of Name table, then roll as appropriate on the Filling Bits table. For Leader's Name, use the name of the chosen band Leader.

Type of Name Table

d20 die roll    Type of Name
1-2          Location
3-4          Gerund-Noun Pair
5-8          Adjective-Noun Pair
9-10        Leader's Name
11-15      Noun Alone
16-18      The Something
19-20      Allusion

Filling Bits Table

d20    Noun        Gerund        Adjective    Location    Allusion To   
1    Earwig          Kicking        Rusty           Bristol        Old Testament
2    Kneepants    Rocking        Red             California    New Testament
3    Boots            Blazing         Black          Brazil          Dickens
4    Top Hat        Dancing        Glossy        Africa          Western
5    Tractor         Crashing       Shaky          Iceland        American Presidents
6    Lion             Sparking       Sneaky        Paris            Tudor England
7    Outlet          Churning       Lazy            Buenos Aires    Folk Tales
8    Radio           Jumping        Dynamic     Laredo        Hollywood
9    Porridge      Slashing        Green           Alaska        Disney
10    Youth        Towering       Hard Boiled Sahara        Looney Tunes
11    Teeth         Cracking       Wounded     Arabia         The Enlightenment
12    Habit         Simmering    Forgetful     Casablanca  Conquistadors
13    Rodent       Screaming    Drunken      Bangcock     Austen
14    Bishop       Sinking         Cocky         Antarctica     Art Cinema
15    Rooster     Gleaming      Reckless     Tananareve    Noir Cinema
16    Monster     Stomping      Restless      Noumea        Hemingway
17    Bomber      Hopping      Furious        Kingston       Childrens' Book
18    Goblin        Smoking     Sullen          Dover            Classic TV
19    Pistol         Rumbling    Kinky          Calcutta         Pulp
20    Penguin     Flaming       Mad             Mars             Science Fiction


Location        Bangcock, Sahara, Bristol
Gerund-Noun Pair    Gleaming Youth, Smoking Penguin, Rocking Kneepants
Adjective-Noun Pair    Hard Boiled Rodent, Kinky Bishop, Rusty Top Hat
Noun Alone        Bomber, Monster, Goblin
The Something        The Wounded, The Furious, The Mad
Allusion        Doctor Zeuss, Pickwick, Bizarro Pizzaro

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Interesting Bits!

Something I cam up with for High Strung, but which could be used for any modern game with a couple of simple modifications. I call it Interesting  Bits - it's all stuff to build a character around:

Interesting bits!

Roll 1d20 or choose, as you wish!

1. You once had a brief but intense affair with a current bandmate.
2. Your rich parents have totally disowned you.
3. You have a police record.
4. You speak three other languages fluently, and can converse in half a dozen more.
5. Your last band went on to become rich and famous, right after you left.
6. You keep a torrid journal, and you name names. Anyone who reads your journal can make up anything they want to about you, and it's all true!
7. You are in the Federal Witness Protection Program.
 8. You're the illegitimate child of a famous pop idol.
 9. You are a talented mimic.
10. You worked as a prostitute for a short time.
11. You are an illegal immigrant, and your papers are forged.
12. You once did something incredibly stupid and embarassing in public, and you worry someone might recognize or remember you.
13. You are horrible with names, and always have to work around it.
14. Your father is a well known preacher, and somewhere in the back of your brain, you worry that maybe he is right, and you are going to hell.
15. You were once the S.O. of someone famous - before they got famous.
16. You once died on the operating table for a short time, but were brought back.
17. You suffer from amnesia, and can't remember much about anything personal that happened more than two years ago. Some songs on the radio are full of emotional content you don't understand.
18. You stutter when you get emotionally worked up.
19. You were the only one left alive after your father went crazy.
20. You collect something others would probably find disturbing.

Monday, August 18, 2014

High Strung Makeover

I spent yesterday completely reworking High Strung. What had started out as a fairly clean game mechanically had become clunky and over-wrought, as I added bits that *had* to go in, or fixed problems one by one. The last session of High Strung in our  Alpha group had become far too mechanics focused - too much dice rolling, of all different kinds, and not enough roleplaying. Twice I used the wrong procedure - one for a different situation - and got bad results. It was a mess! That we actually still managed to have fun was a testament to my awesome players!

When I looked over the game, I saw patch job after patch job, each one OK in itself, but leading to a point where each and every situation was handled differently. It had become a god-awful chimera. Sometimes you have to do major surgery. I proceeded to anesthetize my patient, and cut it open.

I cut out chunks of system and grafted in a fairly consistent manner of handling things, cloned from the same chunk of mechanics. This is huge! A big help was a suggestion from Klaxon on players who weren't taking a lead. Here's how it works:

In performing the music, there are four aspects or performance - Vocals, Riff, Bottom, and Rhythm. Only one character can take the lead in any one aspect. Since every non-wind instrumentalist - horns and reeds - can sing while paying their instrument, and even the horns and reeds players can sing while they aren't playing - Ian Anderson springs to mind - most bands have more than one person performing in the same aspect. Since only one can have the lead in an aspect, the others can either Help - make a roll and try to add a success to the Lead, enhancing their performance like singing harmonies - or Usurp the lead by attempting to outplay the lead and thereby gaining Hope. If the usurper successfully outplays the nominal lead player, they can gain any Hope points the lead player would normally get.

That mechanic was wonderful! Perfect for a game where players are constantly undercutting each other to snatch a scrap of Hope! It also by itself replaced an awkward, kludge of a mechanic that infected several other fix-it patches, enabling things to stay relatively clean and straightforward.

I have Hope again! :D

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Troupe Play Options

Troupe play is play with each player having more than one character, serving different roles. There are several ways to structure Troupe play - and each is best suited for a different play style.

The Mission Impossible Troupe

The players each have one character in play at any given time, but the group leader selects the particular characters, one from each player, used in this session or story arc from two to three characters offered from each player. The characters should be different types, but roughly equivalent skill level. The name comes from the old Mission Impossible TV show, where the MI leader - Mr. Phelps - would look through the currently available agents and select ones suited to the particular mission at hand. On the TV show, of course, the ones selected were almost always the same, but allowed for selection of particular guest stars. In principle, however, the method enabled the group leader to select an optimal selection of skill sets, and it is this principle that should be followed. it is best used where the PCs are all members of some larger organization, and are all specialists.

The Tri-level Troupe

The players each make three characters ‐ perhaps an older character with lots of skills, a mid‐level character with moderate skills, and a young character with few skills. Another form would be officers, NCOs, and grunts. Groups can be mixed ‐ with varying levels of competence ‐ or matched ‐ with everyone more or less equivalent. This form allows a more hierarchical model, with one or two main characters who lead the others, a couple secondary characters, and the balance as low level cannon fodder, which is great for side-quests, detached parties, and any othe simultaneous play, where two things are happening at the same time.

The Teacher/Trainee Troupe

A player or the GM makes one older, experienced character, the Teacher. The rest
of the troupe are Trainees, just learning their craft, whatever it is. The Teacher leads the groups in learning situations, which can be canned training courses a la the Danger Room, or low risk real life situations. Of course, risks can be deceptive, and a low risk situation can go bad fast. this is a great model for some supers groups - X-Men type supers schools, junior members of a Justice League or Legion of Supers organization, or even sidekicks. It also lends itself to a Harry Potter type wizard school.

The Classic Troupe

This is the form taken by Ars Magica, where PCs played a Wizard and a skilled warrior Companion each, and the relatively unskilled Grogs were played by whoever wanted to play them. The players make two characters each ‐ perhaps a spell‐casting type and a competent warrior type. They also make a group of less combat-skilled types, such as young trainee warriors. Each competent warrior is paired with a spell‐caster played by a different player, and the trainee warriors are miscellaneously played by anyone who wants to as an additional character. This can also be the setup for games where the different groups are different intelligent species, such as riders and dragons, or pilots and intelligent star fighters/mecha. The less-combat skilled types can be attending the dragons, or mechanics for the mecha.

The Battle Troupe

Each player makes a group commander, and the other players each make a character to serve under each leader. This is great for military games, where command is distributed, and small groups are working as parts of a larger whole - such as crews of small military starships, or tank crews, or the officers of a Submarine wolfpack. Each unit functions as a separate whole, yet working together with other units for a single mission or purpose.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A Roleplaying Vacation

I went on vacation last week to Dewey Beach, Delaware. It was a family thing, with my mother in law and my nephew who lives with her, as well as my brother in law, his wife, and their three sons. Along with me were my wife, and our son Klaxon. We had a great time, and loved the family time, but I don't post about boring crap like that! I post about boring crap that has to do with gaming!

They had asked me to bring dice and character sheets to run a game for the boys. I brought OHMAS and Outremer, and they brought StarCluster 3, Outremer, and Blood Games II. We decided to play OHMAS, because it needed little setting knowledge, and we could more or less jump right in. Playing were my brother in law's three boys, 11, 16, and 17; my other nephew, 18, and Klax, 27. My wife did not play so she could fend off the other adults, keeping them entertained with gossip, pinochle, and chat.

We launched into building an Association, the group voting for purchasing an abandoned abbey just outside of London, underneath which were extensive caverns, leading to the old Roman sewer system beneath the city. They decided to be Arcane Bounty Hunters, finding and taking malevolent magical creatures and people. The Association consisted of a powerful Fairy Changeling Warlock, who many thought was evil, a Hunter who had served the queen for long on the high seas as a privateer, a brash and dirt poor female Templar, an Immortal whose first death was long in the past, and a Human Changeling, who was taken by Fairies just after the change of the millennium, and raised for eighteen years in the Fairy pocket while centuries passed outside.

They were asked by Thomas Percy, Earl of Northumberland, to find out why the city of York was now suddenly free of rats. They accepted the job for 9 Association build points, and headed immediately for York. There they rented rooms at an inn - at first they tried to refuse service to the Warlock and his associates, but a thinly veiled threat took care of that - and began talking to people about the rats.

Long story short, the rats were all part of a gigantic Rat King - - composed of perhaps a million rats. A nasty Warlock - with the help of a group of nobles - had created it, then summoned the spirit of an ancient pagan god, anchored it in the Rat King, and dispatched it to kill the Earl. The PCs, realizing that attacking the thing with weapons merely killed a few rats, dumped lamp oil over it from a church steeple then lit it on fire, then when the fire went down, the Warlock summoned a powerful water spirit from the river Ouse and drowned what was left.

We had a kick ass time! The kids were great roleplayers, and we all enjoyed the hell out of the game!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Beginner's Luck - 11th Season

The latest season for my Beginner's Luck StarCluster game over IRC started in earnest last Sunday. I have been running a campaign per year starting in 2003, so this is the 11th season. In it, the crew of the Beginner's Luck made a normal, everyday jump from one system to another, and mis-jumped completely out of the Cluster, some 25 LY from the nearest star of the cluster (as measured by triangulating from known pulsars) into a completely different area of the universe.

They were picked up by a crew of very humanoid looking women in a moderate (frigate sized) military vessel, and are being brought to the nearest inhabited planet. There are four marines/soldiers on the Luck, riding with them to make sure they don't deviate.

These people, the Jeshen, are communicating in an evolved German with the lone linguist among the Luck's crew, who is serving as an interpreter, They call this language "Human Language".

What they have discovered:

The Jeshen may be genetically engineered Humans put here long, long ago, or they may be a case of extreme convergent evolution. They are not female, but hermaphroditic, they are pure carnivores with needle-sharp teeth, and the more they get to know them, the less human they seem.

They welcomed humans into their "Jeshen Space" hundreds of years ago, as allies against the Etvar, an alien race who most likely constructed the wormhole jump network uniting the Cluster. Some of the inhabited worlds in this system are Human worlds.

Jeshen do not own slaves - that is, sapient beings are not property. Self-aware robots, constructs, Uplifts, and aliens are free peoples. Humans, on the other hand, argued that they needed slaves when they entered Jeshen Space, and are allowed to keep their slaves on their own worlds. The Jeshen were shocked that the Uplift and bio-construct aboard the Luck as crew were not slaves of the Humans aboard.

There is no record of any previous contact between the Jeshen and people from the Cluster. The Humans seem to be slow-boat refugees from Earth, like the ones who founded the Cluster.

So far, it is going in strange and unpredictable directions, which is loads of fun!

Friday, August 8, 2014

New Playtest of High Strung

After making some adjustments in the Hope mechanic, we tried a second playtest of _High Strung_. This time the players decided to operate out of LA, and play older musicians 'getting the band back together'.

The Band was _Trouble in Paradise_, which had broken up due to creative differences. The band consisted of Jazzy - the female lead singer and keyboard player, Gaz - the male bass player, Cody - the male guitarist, and Maddy - the female drummer. All the members of the group sang to some extent - a feature of its songs were the fine group harmonies. The breakup had occurred between Gaz and Cody. Gaz always spoke in the the third person - "The Gaz doesn't like country music", while Cody despised this habit. Jazzy and Maddy had roped Gaz and Cody into one more shot at the big time, against their better judgement.

Nobody in the band had achieved any success while the band was broken up, so they grudgingly gave in. Nasty cards were used profligately, especially between Cody and Gaz. For example, Cody stole tubes from Gaz's amp, and replaced them with old tubes from his amp; while Gaz introduced Cody to a girl - Gaz's sister - who he thought Cody would hate, but it backfired when she became Cody's S.O.

While the band was broken up, their agent had died - choked to death on someone else's vomit - so they had to find a new agent. They finally settled on one, and she got the band a gig at a metro club. The band practiced and premiered a new song written by Jazzy, "Good Girls Do", to go along with their old songs. The band did well, drawing a fair crowd and putting on a good show, and the song was well received, but not wildly popular.

They ground through another period between gigs, having made enough Hope to get through, though Cody was getting dangerously low. Being older they had a smaller reserve than kids, though their Hope ablated away slower as well. Their next gig, also at a metro club - clubs are ranked as local, metro, regional, and national in order of importance - went very well, and more importantly, their second new song: "Live For The Moment", by Cody, was premiered to great appreciation. This gave an upswell of Hope to the band, and they decided to record it as a demo.

After some unbelievably good rolls in the studio, and a possibly troubling bit in the rules - a small thing, but something I didn't think of, whether PCs could use their promotion skills for demo songs, which may require a small adjustment to the Demo Release Table - the song was released as a demo, made the local playlists on the radio, and garnered the band a one album deal with a local record company, Hollywood records. This bumped up the band from "Struggling" status to "Aspiring", gaining them an extra die when getting gigs.

We left it there, and will revisit the band next week.