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!