Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Superhero Team Up Issue No. 1

Tonight I trotted out Prowlers & Paragons for my kids to run them through a quick introductory session.  It worked out well, although the dice were all over the place.  Mac played Kroxigor, a monstrous reptile-man while Macy played Menagerie, a shape-shifter.

Kroxigor (illustration from Arkhamverse)
Kroxigor was one of the passengers on TransGlobal flight 246 which was attacked by the mysterious chemical gas.  Menagerie was actually a dog in the hold of the plane, now able to turn into a human.  Another passenger, a petty criminal, also gained powers which he used to burgle the nightclub where Kroxigor (prior to his transformation) was working as a bouncer.  In trying to stop the burglar, Kroxigor turned into his reptilian form and with Menagerie's help managed to recover the money, even though the burglar escaped using his elongating powers.

art by Phil Cho
Need answers about what has happened, Krox and Menagerie seek out Dr. Tom Gilcrest, the scientist who investigated the initial attack and a employee of Equinox Labs.  While meeting Dr. Gilcrest, the lab is attacked by Kesarex, a mysterious supervillain who intimated that he was not from Earth.  As the two heroes battled Kesarex's Shadow Warriors, Kesarex downloaded data from the lab's computers regarding the flight's passengers and teleported away.

Kesarex, illustration by Phil Cho
The game was such a huge hit that Mac immediately wanted to know when I would be running the game with the group.

A Campaign Introduction

So I've been noodling around with the idea of doing a supers RPG campaign, possibly using Prowlers & Paragons, my most recent lightweight supers RPG purchase.  It's like Marvel Heroic Roleplaying with balance.

In terms of the campaign itself, I have been thinking that it might be interesting to provide a kickoff event that could serve as a shared origin and the beginning of plot gears turning.  But how to share that with all the players?

So I made this player handout.  I had to look around until I found a good picture (from a Flash comic book) that I could Photoshop to show the airline flight.  I'm still using Distinctions from MHR to help the players get a handle on certain things, like NPC's or campaign locations.

Now, to see how the game works...

Monday, December 28, 2015

The early 2015 Recap

It's highly unlikely that I am going to do any gaming in the next three days (especially with guests in my house) so I thought I would get an early start on the "year in gaming" posts out there.

Most of 2015 was spent with my trotting out the new fifth edition of Dungeons & Dragons and running it in about every ethos you could imagine: mini-dungeons, mega-dungeons, wilderness adventures, urban adventures...  We are not done with the campaign yet, but it'll happen soon.

In addition to D&D I also ran a session or two of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying with the infamous Deathwish Brigade for the kids, and of course ran the homegrown RPG that is the hallmark of the annual EOW event.  I also trotted out Champions (Hero System, fourth edition).

What's surprising, when I looked over the last year, is how many RPG's I played.  Ultimate Hero, Cypher, Fate, EOW, D&D 5E, and Space d6.  What's really cool is that out of the seven different RPG settings in which I've played, four were from people in my own gaming group and three of those were first-time GM's.  So at least in my own little corner of the RPG-verse, things are growing.

What does 2016 hold?  Beats me, really.  There are now five people in my gaming group who have run a game, and a sixth who has expressed an interest.  Another person in the group has been running a campaign on the side for just himself and his wife.  The days (years) of either me or J Evans running "the game" for the group might be ending, to be replaced by a much more pluralistic culture where there are lots of different games being run all the time.  Now scheduling all that nonsense is probably the least cool thing about it...

I don't think of this blog as being particularly active, but 2015 was the blog's best year to date in terms of visits, clocking in 12675 hits at the moment of this writing of this post, or an average of 1,056 hits a month.  That's a lot of great support from all of you, and I really appreciate it.

I hope all of you have a great time in the year to come.


Friday, December 25, 2015

My Christmas Present

It might look boring, but I'm pretty excited about this...

It is an Office Depot Portable Clipboard Storage Case.  Now I know office supplies are not the sexiest Christmas presents ever, but I am a sucker for a) cool office stuff, b) stuff that holds other stuff, and c) stuff I can use for gaming.

It also has this weird meaning for me about what would be the ideal amount of stuff to haul around for a gaming session.  My own personal disposition likes traveling light: not having loads of sourcebooks or a gazillion dice, etc.  Just pick up the case and off to wherever I'm running my game.  For whatever reason, that appeals to me.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Friday night game recap: sometimes they come back!

Rachel is continuing to run her "Walking Dead" style story using the FATE system, although which each session more things that aren't very "Walking Dead" are making it into the game.  For example the zombies appear to be more cogent.  And they can metamorphose. And there's some kind of weird alien minotaurs running around.

This is kind of interesting for me, as a player, because it has that element of "what the heck?" that horror games should have.  I noticed in the last session that people were saying "well, we know what zombies are, right, because we've seen zombie movies.  So we shoot them in the head."  This is contrary to The Walking Dead series, where zombie is never used and there seems to be no pre-existing mythology, popular or otherwise, about zombies.

So it's not so much a zombie game, it's a wide-open horror exploration game, which is infinitely superior in my book.  Anyways, here's a few photos...

Police hold off the zombie horde
Various players take in the action
Rachel illustrates how the zombies attack

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A First Look at Prowlers and Paragons

For a long time I've been in the market for a new supers RPG.  Since running Marvel Heroic Roleplaying a few years ago, I've been looking at other games, including some that had been passed by the general public, e.g. DC Heroes Third Edition or Silver Age Sentinels.  This was based on the notion that supers RPG's are so niche and so under-performing as a general part of the RPG world that just because the game wasn't making a splash didn't mean it wasn't good.

Plus, I have my own tastes about what I like in a supers RPG, which I've touched on from time to time here, but to summarize I like a game that feels like a comic book, doesn't get bogged down in too much detail, but allows for PC growth and development in a tangible game-system way.  I also don't want to spend hours on character creation using a spreadsheet.  For that matter, it would be an added bonus if it could also accommodate a large number of players and didn't have glaring options for power-gaming.

So I'm basically looking for a supers RPG unicorn, I guess.

Some time I will go into my troubles with the one commercially successful supers RPG out there, Mutants and Masterminds, but not today.  Today I want to kick the tires on a supers RPG that came out a couple of years ago but of which I had not heard until this week: Prowlers & Paragons, by Lakeside Games.

The game is pretty straightforward in a lot of ways.  PC's are defined by "Traits" which encapsulate both skills and powers from other systems, ranked by a number of d6's rolled.  For every even number you roll, you get a success.  Roll a 6, get a success and roll again with a chance to get another success, including another 6, which can be re-rolled and so on.  Compare your number of successes against a target number or the number of successes your opponent gets to determine if you succeed or fail.

PC creation is basically assigning d6's to Traits.  There are "Mundane Traits" that are essentially stats like Might and skills.  The assumption is that PC's have a 2d6 in those by default, so the first d6 spent on them gives you 3d6..  "Super Traits" are the powers, and while you don't automatically have them, the first d6 gives you 3d6.  There are also "Perks" which somewhat unusually are a combination of traits that would be considered in some games powers (like Animal Forms or Super Senses), perks (like Luck or Wealth), or the odd stat (like Lightning Reflexes).  In general Perks are a "you have it or you don't" kind of trait, rather than the scaleable Mundane or Power Traits.  This reveals a certain perspective on the comic book genre by the creators.  Take for example the Perk "Time Travel."  You pay 4d6 and get this Perk, which allows you to travel through time.  For an additional 2d6 you can have it be a gate.  I guess the theory is that you can either travel through time or you can't, and there's not really much of a sense of a way that someone could travel through time at a higher level. Other examples are Invisibility, Wall Crawling, or Precognition.  There are positive and negative modifiers to the traits that either increase or decrease the total cost, which is pretty typical of supers RPG's.

Interestingly enough, there are really onto two "attribute" traits: Might and Will (both Mundane).  Any sense of intelligence is covered through specific skills, while personality qualities are covered through the Mundane traits Charm or Command.

Starting PC's of a typical level are given 36d6 to spend, with a max of three traits at 10d6.  Note that many Traits are not bought on a 1-to-1 basis.

So a quick rundown on combat.  Contested roll of d6's, depending on the offense trait (e.g. Blast or Might) and the defense trait (e.g. Athletics or Armor).  If the attacker scores higher, the difference in successes is the damage.  That means that the game does not distinguish between the powerfulness of the attack and its tendency to hit (a quality it shares with MHR, but is different from M&M).  In a forum I read a comment by the designer that this is intentional, and reflects a perceived quality in comic books of powerful bricks like the Thing or the Hulk rarely missing in hand-to-hand combat, plus removing another step and a lot of complexity out of combat rules.  It's a level of abstraction that some might dislike, although I think I'm okay with it.

In terms of defense, there's active and passive traits when it comes to defense.  Active traits have a negative modifier (removing dice from the roll) if they have to be used repeatedly in the same combat turn.  Passive ones do not.  There are also some offensive powers than can be used defensively in some circumstances, like Blast, which for +2d6 can be used as an active defense against ranged attacks.  Drilling down a bit, let's look at some examples of how similar powers compare and what they are meant to represent.

Might vs. Strike.  Might is your straight-up superstrength, and can be used to attack, and determines how much you can lift.  It can only be used defensively when it comes to grappling or resisting the trait Ensnare.  Strike, on the other hand, represents any melee-combat damaging attack like claws, swords, or most importantly martial arts attacks.  It can be used (with the additional cost) as an active defense against ranged attacks, unlike Might.  In the same forum discussion, the author stated explicitly that Strike (in conjunction with Athletics) was supposed to represent the Martial Artist superhero who can chop through bricks but isn't superhumanly strong.  I figure Strike is also the catch-all for things like super-speed punches and the like, since there is no trait that reflects that power.

Toughness vs. Armor.  Here's where the "Active" and "Passive" Defense comes into play.  If you are using an active defense, you have an increasing penalty for every attack you defend against after the first one in a single combat turn (called, appropriately enough, a "page").  Armor is a passive defense, and stays the same regardless of how often you are hit.  In the book, Armor could reflect actually physical armor, a force field, etc.  Toughness is an active defense, and so can be overwhelmed by multiple attacks, which makes it less useful than armor as a trait, except that Toughness determines how quickly you recover health, so that's the trade off.

This is going long, so let me start to wrap up with two more concepts: Resolve and Adversity.  Every PC takes three flaws, which are basically disadvantages common to most supers RPG's.  For every flaw you have you don't get more dice to build your character (a common conceit) but you get a Resolve point, which can be used for various benefits: stunts, extra actions, quick healing, etc.  You gain Resolve points in play as a result of having your flaws come into effect or intentionally failing a critical roll.  The GM's version of this is Adversity, and works roughly the same way.

There's a lot of other stuff in there about how to run a supers RPG campaign (nothing too innovative for people familiar with the genre) and a surprising amount of material about gear, vehicles, NPC's and the like that you wouldn't think would be in a rules-light game, but provide a lot of stuff with which GM's can play.

But the true test of a game is in its playability, so I plan on taking this game out for a test drive soon with a handful of players, and will report back what I find.  Comments and questions encouraged!

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Double feature gaming recap: Ladies' nights!

So pretty much since this gaming group began, all those years ago when I answered a flyer in my FLGS, there have been two GM's: myself and the guy who comments on this blog as "J Evans."

Not too long ago, my son decided he wanted a crack at running a game, first using a Free RPG Day module and then his own one-shot of a "Fallout" game using d6 Space.  Shortly thereafter, J Evans' son decided to take a crack at running an actual campaign, a D&D 4E campaign that has been meeting about once a month for the past few months.

That seemed to open the floodgates.  My daughter decided she wanted to run a fantasy one-shot, just to see what it was like, and despite being the youngest person in the group they went for it.  I served as her assistant, helping her run combats and citing relevant rules when necessary.

Then, Rachel, another member of the group, wanted to try a mini-campaign of a totally different genre: a "Walking Dead" style zombie game using FATE.  I was excited to take FATE out for a spin, and also curious to see how one of the most detail-oriented players would be as a GM.

In the FATE game I played Doug Spohler, Rural High School Science Teacher.  I felt Doug needed a character sketch on his sheet.

My daughter's game was fun, although sometimes she would go down the rabbit hole of knowing what was going on in the game but not communicating it to us.  Rachel's game was also fun, even though the group was pretty large (eight players, which is more than what I usually schedule at my table).  Rachel will play a second session later this month, so I hope this maybe evolves into something more.

I think it is cool, though, how after several years players feel comfortable enough to try their hand at running a game.  It is a different feel from behind the screen, and a couple of people have mentioned how much they appreciate what a GM has to manage, and how player's behavior impacts what they do.  So in addition to some new gaming opportunities, we all might become better roleplayers as well!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Friday night gaming recap: into the Cauldron

It's a coach of blood-chilling terror
The last session had been a little rough, but nothing helps get me back in the right frame of mind for gaming like a long conversation with Adam from Barking Alien, which I enjoyed the afternoon before the game.  One of his best bits of advice was to talk to my players about where I was in terms of how I felt about the campaign.  I'm really needing to wrap this up, but I also don't want to just see it fall flat--there's been too much time and energy invested in it for that.

So last night was one of our gaming sessions where I'm gaming with the adults, and one of the youth was GMing the other youth players.  I was feeling a little more confident than last week when it came to set-up, and with a particular emphasis on interesting set design and some fun roleplaying the game went off pretty well.  The group took down (with more than a little help), the #2 gang in Grimfest, the Children of the Third House, which only leaves the PC's and the biggest, most powerful gang, the Parliament of Bone.  The Parliament had effectively set up the Children by encouraging them to participate in a ritual that was likely to fail (and did, summoning a Bone Devil to kill them all), and the PC's came in, mopped up, killed the Bone Devil, and the entire hideout ended up being cast into a giant pit of lava.  And...scene!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Listen at the door, check for traps

As is often the case, my friend Adam mentions something on his own blog which then inspires a lengthy response from me.  In this case, it was this post, entitled "An Inconsistent Truth."  In it he complains about this issues of pacing, and the way that players can slow play to a grind by being overcautious.

Unfortunately, they don't know how to police themselves (or so it seems). Many of them forego what would be the most interesting, exciting, or cinematic option, instead looking to the most logical option; often making certain it is the surest, safest plan, devoid of conflict, drama, tension, and sadly, emotional impact, and resonance.
Right, because for some players, survival is the ultimate point of participating in roleplaying games.  Live to fight another day, get more stuff, etc.   Now that's not particularly heroic, it reflects a more picaresque style of play whose roots go back to the very beginning of RPG's.  Those were the days of Gygaxian lethal death traps, fragile PC's, and the notion that clever roleplaying meant doing your best to avoid an untimely end.

But heroes rush into danger, right?  They throw caution to the wind for the purposes of saving the innocent, defeating villains, etc.  Sure, they might play it a little smart and not be completely reckless, but taking a few lumps in the name of what's right is what heroism is all about.

Now Adam raised the question of whose responsibility it is to generate this tone.  That's a tough one, but I feel the majority of the opus is on the GM, mostly in terms of theme. If you at some point spring a death trap, say a poisoned lock, on the PC's, then they will be stopping to look for poisoned locks from them on out.  For me personally, when it comes to traps I don't like the "out of nowhere" option but instead will leave clues and let the players puzzle out what happened.  So rather than have the PC's constantly checking every dungeon wall for traps, I'll just have a headless body lying in the hallway and let the players ignore it at their peril.  Then the players are trained to not bog down gameplay but instead are trained to listen to descriptive language from me.

But sometimes it is just the players.  My gaming group that does the EOW weekend every year is notorious for this, because many of them are former military and/or law enforcement, and by God they are going to throw flash-bang grenades, "cut the pie," and a whole other host of sound tactics because they are projecting their own experiences onto the game (one where you don't get an extra life).

I don't know if the answer is to be as upfront as possible about what kinds of themes you want the campaign to have, or if the answer is to punish the players in subtle way when they start to bog things down (a sort of Pavlovian reflex).  "Oh, you spent three turns checking to see if the door was trapped, well now the guards inside have heard the scratching and are ready for you."

It's tough, and I'm not sure how to deprogram decades of gaming styles, but like Adam I keep trying.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Buiding a Fate Deck

One of the overlooked superhero RPG's out there is the Marvel SAGA game, which came out in between the FASERIP game and the weird diceless game that used beads.  It was released by TSR at a time when they were trying to find a way to rejuvenate the stagnating 2nd Ed. AD&D, and the SAGA system represented a huge break from the mold.  TSR did a Dragonlance version, then a Marvel version of the game.

What made it interesting what it required a deck of special playing cards, which was both an innovation and a huge hindrance for people wanting to get into the game.  Games with specialized dice or cards or something you NEED to play the game other than a gaming book seem to be a hard sell to the general public (there's some exceptions out there that I don't need to get into).

Anyways, the game also didn't have a point-buy system but rather went with a more "just think about what the character is like, and assign stats accordingly" which again for its time wasn't the norm and I think a turn-off for a lot of people who were used to game balance or random PC generation.

So the deck.  Five suites: Strength, Agility, Intellect, Willpower, and Doom, all ranked 1 through 10 (only the Doom suite had a 10 value).  Each player would have several cards in their hand and then could play a card when attempting an action.  If the suite matched the nature of the action (an Intellect card for trying to do something involving scientific inquiry, or an Agility card when dodging an attack), it would count as a "trump" and you could draw a card from the deck and add it to the total.

In addition to the suite and the numerical value, the card would also list one of the 24 callings in the game.  Callings are motivations for PC's or NPC's, like "idealist," "outcast," or "responsibility of power."   Beyond that, it also had a random event listed, like "Never Say Die," "Wild Ride," "Aliens Exposed," or "The Impossible Occurs."  These could serve as little story cues to move the game in an unexpected direction.

An example of a homemade one
So, I own the game and most of the sourcebooks, but lost the deck in a flood.  And, for whatever reason this game is super-expensive on eBay.  What's a creative, intelligent guy to do?

Make his own cards, like this guy did.  Or this guy.  Thanks to this guy giving a rough breakdown of the cards, I was able to reconstruct the deck in terms of suites and numbers.  I've got the callings from the rulebook.  Now all I need are two things:

One hundred superheroes and villains to put on the cards' faces.
One hundred random plot twists.

My Daughter's Fantasy Map

So in addition to all the stuff going on in my home game, my tween daughter decided she wanted to take a turn running a fantasy game session of her own. We worked on the session together with my helping stat out NPC's, etc. Since I also have been developing my cartography skills, I offered to draw up a map. She sketched out a rough draft, and I put it to paper.  

Not too fancy, just showing where various landmarks are in relation to one another.  I'm looking forward to Spell Familiar's game; I'll be assisting her insofar as I'll be on hand to help with running combat and clarifying rules.  Otherwise, it'll be her show.  Four members of the gaming group signed up to play, which just shows how good a group I have.

I'm gaming twice over the holidays: my home game on Friday, and this game on Saturday.  After action reports to follow!

Monday, November 23, 2015

The 400th Post and Friday Night Recap

I suppose it should be some kind of special occurrence to hit 400 posts for this blog.  Let me find some kind of graphic...

But enough of that, let's talk gaming!

Gamed last night, with a mostly youth gaming group, this one composed primarily of players who didn't play in the last session, so I decided to run them as if they were the ones left behind while the rest of the group went to rescue their captured teammate, Sign.  The group uncovered a conspiracy between the two largest gangs in Grimfest to wipe them out, and launched a peremptory attack on the #2 gang and their bizarre lair.

That sounds great, but in reality it didn't work out too well.  Two players kept sniping at each other the entire evening, and honestly my heart wasn't in it.  And if I'm not loving it, my ability to handle players who are clearly having an off night isn't that great as well.

Since the session, the two players have apologized to me and each other, but I think I may try to keep them apart in the way I schedule playing groups.  But I am thinking its time to tie this yarn off. One of the players is going to take over the GM screen for a while in December, and I'll take some time to recharge. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Friday night game recap: the Arena!


After a month off from my home game we got back into things with a bang. The group launched an expedition into the depths of the earth to rescue Sign, who had been captured by Drow slavers to fight in an arena.  Rather than go in guns blazing (or the D&D equivalent) they decided to carefully enter the city under a pretense, enrolled several of the PC's in the arena, and managed to gamble Sign to freedom. 

It really was a great example of how the group has grown. There was a lot of in-character dialogue and even inter-party conflict, all done well. For my end I kept the plot careening around, the tension high, and the NPC's interesting.  It was a solid session. 

Saturday, November 7, 2015

An early map

I'm continuing to refine my fantasy cartography skills, this time bringing together some different elements: mountains, forests, a lake, and a couple of cities.  There's even a strange stone formation west of the mountains that bears some exploring.

Friday, October 30, 2015


More experimentation for my fantasy cartography skills, this time a forest.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Experimenting with mountains

I've been starting on learning to hand draw fantasy cartography.

I'm starting with mountains and hills.  It's just a start, but I like it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What I want in my supers game pt. 1: Diversity

I think that Tumblr is the Wild West of the blogosphere, but there's a couple of tumblr blogs I really like, one of which is Superheroes In Full Color.  It's a blog that focuses on superheroes and comic book creators of various ethnicity.  There's been a lot of movement in Marvel to increase diversity among their roster of superheroes, both in terms of race, gender, and culture, and I think it's a good thing even if it is at the expense of some long-established characters (and honestly, it really isn't at their expense, since the original Captain America, Thor, and Captain Marvel are still in circulation).

A long time ago I read an article (perhaps in Dragon Magazine in their old Ares section, I'm not sure) about diversifying your superhero campaign.  It mentioned, among other things, that if you had about a 1:1,000,000 of superbeings to normal people, there would be over a hundred superheroes or supervillains from Mexico.  (I have read, believe it or not, the defense of the overwhelmingly tendency to have superheroes from "first world" countries to be because of the prevalence of nuclear energy in those countries, because most superpowers come from radiation.  Whatever.)

So, in my superhero campaign of the future, one of the things I am going to have in my campaign is a healthy but not forced bit of diversity among the characters.  What's really great is that Superheroes in Full Color often has pics from small-run indie superhero comics whose images I can "borrow" to represent my own characters and not have them recognized by players.  Let me just throw some of those pics up here so you can get a feel for what I'm talking about.

Monday, October 19, 2015

A quick note to the world

I want my Star Trek to be about solving problems not by jumping around a lot but by being an intelligent, principled human being, I want my Star Wars not to be about emo superheroes but about underdogs becoming swashbuckling heroes.  And for God's sake I want my superheroes not to be a bunch of post-modern crypto-fascist BS but contemporary myths about heroism.

End thought.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Mid-break thoughts: Heroism and Wonder

I decided to take a break from running RPG's through October, not the least of which because my schedule is jam-packed with work that precluded me from running anything if I wanted to.

During this break I've been thinking a lot of running a superhero RPG again.  There are many reasons for this, like the Flash TV series cropping up on Netflix so I can watch it with my kids (we are a Netflix-only household).  DC and Marvel both had universe-shaking summer events, although for the life of my I can not figure out what changed at DC, and can only begin to see the changes at Marvel, which appears to be mostly incorporating Ultimate characters into their main universe.  But in the mix was several really good stories.

I also picked up the rarely-mentioned Silver Age Sentinels, the Tri-stat version not the OGL version.

 SAS has a lot of Champions in it, including a two-page spread outlining the "if you're looking for this Champions power or ability, it is this in SAS."  Like Champions it is front-end loaded, which is to say that making a PC or an NPC will take some time, but the gameplay seems lighter than you might think.  I'm a little vexed by the fact that combat is not a X vs. Y contested die roll, but has both attacker and defender both rolling on their own, independent target numbers, so that in order to hit someone you have to have both the attack succeed and the defender fail, which seems to be a 1:4 outcome of possibilities, all things being equal (if you need me to expand on that, let me know in the comment field).

What I like about SAS is its ethos more than anything.  You can sometimes get a feel for what kind of supers game the creators want you to play, and the Tri-Stat people put that concept in the title itself.  It doesn't hurt that they also have an ersatz Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in the NPC hero section.  Their villains are a little more off the beaten path, although there is a clear Doctor Doom and a archtypical Batman villain in there.

As I have said many times, superhero RPG's have a lot going for them in my mind.  Aside from my love of the genre (which is immense), supers RPG are also fairly episodic and have rotating party members as a staple.  That works for my group, whether it would be the entire group or just my kids at home.

In addition, I like games where heroism is a theme.  I like characters who are essentially positive, virtuous people, even if they are trying to make a living being a starship crew or something.  Maybe it is just my own reaction to all the brutality and violence out there in the world, and the fact that I game with my children, but I am yearning for a game that seeks to enjoy the nobility in humanity, not wallow in its excesses.

Which is why I also am thinking about science fiction.  It's been a long time (not counting the two- or three-session foray into Firefly) since I did a science fiction campaign.  I would not mind trying to create a campaign where the focus was on wonder and discovery.

by Andree Wallin

This genre is more difficult on many levels. It's more complex, it is harder to swap people in and out.  It is also, as I said before, a genre I have not done in a long time, which makes it challenging.  Which also makes it interesting for me, just for the opportunity to grow as a GM.

Anyways, I'll have to figure out what to do next (if anything).  More later.

Monday, October 12, 2015

EOW 2015 Recap (with helpful GM notes) Part Three

So, I've been gradually getting around to writing about my three-day gaming weekend, with particular interest in what went wrong and right with each session. And now the final entry.

Session Three
Genre: Traveller, or more correctly "Traveller" since their game universe has gotten pretty far afield
What went right: a tense, exciting plot
What needs work: There might be too many vorpal swords lying around

This was the "campaign" session, the latest installment in a Traveller game that has gone on for years, but only four sessions a year.  It's important to know the campaign revolves between three GM's, each taking a single session then passing it on.  Over the years the campaign has expanded from a merchant free trader to a fleet of ships belonging to a corporation headed up by the PC's.  In the previous session, the GM of the day decided to take the campaign in a new direction and pare down the scale by having a single ship of the fleet try out an experimental "phase drive" engine which turned out to not move ships through jump space but instead have them move through parallel dimensions.  Now the crew is basically "Lost in Space" moving from dimension to dimension randomly trying to get to home (or as I suggested, as close as possible, thinking of the Simpson's Halloween episode of the same vein).

In this session, the wandering ship encounters a planet where a millennium ago another starship drifted in and the crew, abandoning the ship, tried to survive on the planet.  Turns out this was easy, because there is a microbiotic organism that reverses aging, so there are some of the original crew left, along with their descendants.  It sounded a whole lot like a Star Trek original series episode in a lot of ways, but the upshot was that pirates showed up to pose a threat, and the PC's used the ship of the superannuated crew to bluff their way out.

But in the process, the PC's got a) a huge spaceship (given to them by the shipwrecked crew), b) a fountain of youth that can be cultured and grown in-house, and c) tacit approval to begin trying to develop a torpedo is a phase drive engine mounted on the end of it that they could arm, launch at a ship, and then trigger when it comes into contact, shifting the target into another dimension.  When the GM sounded enthusiastic about the last one, I had to say "what do you do when there are no more dragons to slay?"

I not going to knock this too hard.  They clearly have their style and like gaming it, and I appeared to be the only one complaining about the possibility of having a party driving around with a battleship full of insta-kill missiles and immortal PC's, so what do I know?

So that was the whole roster of games.  Each one was enjoyable in its own right, and for a guy who doesn't get a chance to do much sci-fi gaming, not to mention just being a player, a real treat.  Thanks for reading, and don't forget that comments are welcome.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

EOW 2015 Recap (with helpful GM notes) Part Two

Author's Note: Part One can be found here.

Session Two
Setting: Star Trek, Deep Space Nine era
What Went Right: Some great roleplaying by the GM (if I do say so myself)
What Needs Work: Overestimating player knowledge

So this was my session, and happened on Saturday, which is always the best attended session for the weekend (in this case, nine players).  I had been hankering for running science fiction and Star Trek in general, so I figured the best way to ensure that everyone was relevant was to have the party split into two crews: Federation and Klingon.  With the help of some friends, we put together a DS9-era story rich with the classic elements of DS9: religious and cultural conflict, murky morality, and some Dominion ass-kicking.  I was pretty pleased with the scenario, but I also knew that the group was composed of a lot of die-hard Trekkies, so I crammed the last couple of months for this session watching old episodes, reading articles from online DS9 wikias, and talking to my friends who know Star Trek much, much better than I do.

And in the process, I ended up outpacing the group.  While I had some pretty impressive roleplaying of my own, the subtle nuances of the story were missed by the group.  Nuances that were, in the end, rather important when it comes to the outcomes of their actions.  In this specific case, an artifact which allows the Skrreans to commune with the Prophets would have a major impact on the religious community of Bajor, and possible cause a public rift within the Bajoran community.  When the Skreeans find this artifact and turn it over to the Federation crew, which includes a member of Sector 51, what do they do?  That was supposed to be the real point of internal debate and conflict within the party, but instead they just turn it over to Kai Winn without being truly aware of the consequences, and then were a bit shocked as a result.

In hindsight, I should have included a Bajoran NPC in the Federation crew who would be my own mouthpiece to highlight the cultural/religious tension and help the players make an informed decision.

More to come!

Thursday, October 8, 2015

EOW 2015 Recap (with helpful GM notes) Part One

Most of my posts are gaming recaps, and overwhelmingly they get little to no feedback or comments.  This leads me to suspect that most readers are not that interested in reading about how someone else's game went.  That's cool.

But last weekend was the three-day End of the World mini-convention, and one of the few times I get to be a player, not to mention GM a genre I'm not running now, so I thought it might be interesting to look at less of what we did as a gaming session, and more of what worked and didn't work from a GMing perspective.  I'll do this in three parts, just to make it easier to read and digest.

For those who don't know, at each session we use a home-grown generic ruleset based loosely on the old FASA Star Trek system, altered to suit each session's genre.

Session One
Setting: Morrow Project (80's Post-Apocalyptic)
What Went Right: GMing on the fly
What Could Use Work: Fantasy vs. Physics

So the basic concept is that, in this go-round of the "gonna be frozen in the present so we can fight in the unknown post-apoc America" Morrow Project, the guys are going to have exo-skeleton combat suits to fight with, because that's pretty cool.

Except we spend the first "act" of the session playing the research and development guys for Morrow Project, which is kind of weird in and of itself, but made more complicated because of the tension between guys who are sort of "screw realism and let's build Iron Man" and the "Morrow Project is a realistic RPG setting and Physics happens" people.  Here's an example of a typical dialogue from the first part of the session.

Player One: Let's mount double-barreled heavy machine guns on the forearms of the suit!
Player Two: Why?
Player One: What do you mean "why?"  Because it's cool!
Player Two: No, why double barreled?
Player One: Twice as many bullets!
Player Two: There's no point.  Actually, the whole thing is stupid.  A heavy machine gun will use up 600 bullets a second.  Are you going to mount two, much less one ammo drum on the forearm as well?  That'll look ridiculous.
Player One: Fine, then let's mount twin mortars on the back!
Player Two: A mortar?  I was in the army as an artillery personnel.  Do you know how much kickback a mortar causes?  And how do you plan on loading the mortar?  Those are drop-in rounds.
Player Three (Me): Why don't we just have a shoulder mounted railgun and when it fires spikes shoot out of the feet and anchor the suit to the ground.  And then we can call it a Glitterboy.
(Complete silence because most of EOW lives in an RPG Time Capsule and has never heard of Rifts.)

Now what went right happened in Act Two, set 150 years in the future.  The players, now wielding new PC's, wake up on a critically damaged space station over the post-nuke earth.  The GM wanted the players to realize the situation was critical, abandon the station in an escape pod with their suits, land on the Earth, and fight aliens.  Instead, the PC's glommed onto the fact that there were other cryogenically frozen survivors on the station and launched a desperate attempt to keep the station together until everyone could be rescued.  Which was awesome and fun and had lots of cool heroism and science.  But all of it was pulled out of the GM's butt.  Points to him, since we didn't even know this and were thinking what a great job he was doing, especially considering how the first half went.

Ironically, the GM had a sudden affliction of laryngitis at the end of Act Two, and couldn't go on to run the combat in the final act.  So at least it ended on a high note.

Next up, my own session!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Pre-EOW post and taking a break

Author's note: EOW is the annual three-day gathering of my friends where we spend those days doing three independent day-long gaming scenarios using a homegrown ruleset.  You can learn more about EOW by clicking on the EOW tag on the right-hand menu bar of the blog.

This year for EOW I'm doing a Star Trek scenario taking place in the middle of the Deep Space 9 series around the early part of the war with the Dominion.  I have no less than nine players, so I decided the best thing to do would be to break them up into two groups: a Federation crew and a Klingon crew, each with their own (underpowered) ship.  It is a complicated session for me.  For one thing, I'm not that familiar with DS9.  Two, there's the number of players, although they are used to being in a big group.  Three, the scenario is long and complicated in order to fill an entire day, but I'm worried because you never know when something will go off the rails and the whole thing grinds to an early stop.

In the meantime, I'm taking a little break from the D&D game for the month of October.  While that is happening largely because of calendar issues, I also just felt like I needed the break.  The game has been steaming along nicely, with the players continually engaged in a plot that seems to be going places,  But I have been running this campaign three times a month since January, and the pace is a little exhausting.  Moreover there comes a point where you just need to do something different in terms of genre.  Hopefully EOW will scratch that itch, either between my running Star Trek, playing in the "Traveller" game on Sunday, or whatever is happening Friday.

I keep thinking there should be some sort of "endgame" to the campaign coming up in the near future.  I can see two major plot points that need resolution:

  1. The stabilization of Grimfest.  PC's as rulers, PC's as merchant princes, whatever.  That's for them to decide.  The players have made it clear their intention to wipe out three out of four of the known gangs in Grimfest, while setting up the fourth as part of the rebuilding of the city.
  2. Rescuing their lost assassin, Sign.  Sign died outright two sessions ago, but after consultation with the player I realized that her seemingly irrational actions were the result of not understanding what was going on in gameplay.  As such, I felt like I could give the PC and character a bit of a reprieve, but still hang a plot on it.  In the process, however, I ended up opening a potentially long and complicated quest to recover her from drow slavers.  So on this thread I have three options: go with the campaign for a few more months than I would have otherwise, compress the quest down, or just have Sign never be recovered.  That last one would leave the group dissatisfied, however.
The group, for whatever it is worth, is still really enjoying the campaign, so that's good at least.  I'm just trying to figure out how long I have until it switches to something else.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Moment in a Campaign

If you ask me why the Claremont era of the X-Men was so damn good, I would have to say that it wasn't the whole "Dark Phoenix" saga, or even "Days of Future Past" (although that was very good), it is the in-between moments in the series.  I'm talking about the moments between the fights where you would see the X-Men hanging around in their 70's turtlenecks and mod dresses shooting the breeze about being an unloved mutant superhero or who they have a crush on or whatever.  It was a moment when they were people and not just powers, and you the reader had the chance to actually experience the fullness of their lives.

The X-Men have since lost this.  Just look at any comic book and see how infrequently the X-Men are out of costume.  Our appetites now reflect a stronger desire to more action, more splash pages, and bigger conflicts.  And in my opinion, the comics books are less interesting as a result.  You can see this in other genres, that question of pacing and taking the odd break to allow the viewer/reader/consumer to take a breath and get to know people.

Now, this isn't a comic book blog (because God knows there are plenty of those), it's an RPG blog.  So what does this have to do with roleplaying games?  Because a while back my friend Adam made a comment about moments like this.  For him, it was the moment where the players are just hanging out in the repair bay of the space station waiting for work to get done, or lounging around the base discussing whether Rainbow Archer was a superheroine or villain.  (The answer is villain, by the way.  She's in "Classic Villains" after all, and that book is chock full of pro-establishment politics.)

And what's up with those boot cuffs?

The way I see it, getting any RPG campaign to that moment means that finally the players have stopped looking at the campaign as quests to be solved or villains to be beat down but are now actually living in the world.  They are thinking about how their PC's act outside of conflict.  But most importantly, they are investing in a profound way in the shared imaginary reality of the world at a level that transcends die rolling and the like.

I feel like this should be some of sort of "GM Achievement" like when you accomplish something in a video game.  If you GM a campaign in such a manner than eventually this happens, it should be celebrated.

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Fruit Bat of Frustration (MHR)

For Adam....

The Fruit Bat of Frustration (real name unknown)
Affiliations: Solo d8, Buddy d4, Team d6
Distinctions: Annoying Little Twat, Relentless, Ambiguous Identity

Flight d6
Claws d6
Enhanced Reflexes d8
Emotional Control d10
SFX: Sapping Your Mojo.  When creating a "In a Funk" complication, add a d6 and step up the effect die.
SFX: Right Where I Want You.  When the GM is trying to alter an Affiliation status of a PC in an encounter with the Fruit Bat of Frustration, step down the effect die necessary to do so, reflecting either effectively isolating the PC from contact with friends, or putting him in an unsatisfying gaming group.

Covert Expert
Menace Expert
Psych Master

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Friday gaming recap: the giant falls

Trying to depict gaming in a dungeon that just turned 90 degrees.
After the Prophetess debacle in the last session, the group decided to use the chaos and carnage of the three-way battle between the Puppeteers, the Parliament of Bone, and the Children of the Third House to try to take at least one of the major gangs off the board.  After some research and intel collecting, the group decided the easiest group to neutralize would be the Puppeteers.  And, after shaking down a halfling named Greeble, they knew where to look.

The Puppeteers home base was a weird layout of cylindrical hallways filled with golems and in one chamber a pulsing magical furnace.  After Sign (the party's thief/fighter assassin) ganked the head Puppeteer with one blow, the entire compound began to move.  Or more accurately, stand up.

The whole base was a colossal sized golem with a hollow interior.  It also was about to self-destruct.  Alaric the monk, Corwin the cleric, and Roghanj the sorcerer all make it out before it exploded.  Sirdos the warlock made it down into one of the legs, but Sign stayed in the chest cavity.  

In the rubble of the destroyed mega-golem, Sirdos was found critically injured, but restored by Corwin.  Sign, however, was truly dead.  For the second time in the campaign, a PC had died. 

What you want, what I want

So...Adam at Barking Alien wrote this.  And then some guy who actually thinks you have to type out accented English like you're Chris Claremont writing the X-Men Banshee commented on his post.

Only not that charming.
The issue, and I feel like I can say this without too much concern about misrepresenting Adam, is that over the years Adam has found that he has engaged in more interaction with his players when it comes to building his campaigns than he did when he was a wee lad and he felt more free to run what he was genuinely loved and players would just trust him that it would be good.

Slipped in there is a bit about how players sometimes ignore what the GM is proposing in terms of tenor and theme for a campaign and create something totally out of whack with the campaign.  I know exactly what he is talking about.  It's the guy who wants to play a werewolf in Vampire the Masquerade (happened) or a no-costume mercenary in a four-color superhero game (also happened, although it worked out).  Here's his quote:
Depending on the group, I need a unanimous vote. I don't want to leave anyone out, especially the regulars. If I get a positive majority vote, with one, or two naysayers, I will do the following: If those who vote against are regulars, I'll drop the idea, and go for something else. If those who vote against the idea are not regulars, I'll either try to convince them to give it a shot, or hold the idea off until I can assemble those who liked the idea on their own.
This process right here eliminates the vast majority of my coolest game ideas from reaching the table. Getting four to six people to agree on a single concept is tough these days.
Now, here's his contrast with how things used to go:
I began with a concept, genre, or specific game I wanted to run. It could be teens who are going to school to be superheroes, Anime Action/Romance Sitcom, or my particular Blast City Blues setting for Teenagers from Outer Space. 
I met up with my group, having told them only that I want to start a new campaign. I then pitched them the idea. Everyone would say, "Cool!", or "Great!", maybe even an "Awesome!"
We would immediately begin creating characters. Everyone would create a character that fit in perfectly with the basic idea.
 Now, ignoring the possibility that Adam might be suffering some rose-colored glasses about the past (or ruby quartz, to continue the X-Men theme), what he seems to be suggesting is that as a grown adult, he's having to work more with his players to get them on board, and losing something about his creative je nes sais quoi in the process.

Man, Cyclops is a jerk.
And I think he's probably right, although I'd argue that might be a natural evolution of the changing environment in which he is gaming.  Adults, I think are actually more finicky than teenagers, especially when it comes to this kind of interaction.

When you're a teenager, you're still experimenting with your identity, still trying out different things and generally being open to new experiences.  A friend comes along and says, "hey, I just saw this new Japanese television show" or "I just ate this weird food" or "I just picked up this RPG that looks really cool," the teenager, I think, is more likely to give it a go.  And more likely to view it kindly in the process.  Don't believe me?  Just go back and re-experience something you thought was really cool as a teenager, e.g. a book, a movie, or even an RPG.  I will bet that in at least some of those instances, the adult experience is not as enjoyable as the teenage one.

And why is this?  Because as adults we have done our experimentation and we know what we like.  We are less likely to take risks, especially with something as precious and rare as our free time.  We are also less of a follower (although sadly at times, not enough) and are more critical of following people into the unknown.  That seems sad at some level, but the upside is that as adult you're probably making some more mature, sensible decisions about your own contentment, and are probably being more responsible in the process.

But RPG's are low-risk activities, in my opinion.  I think that players should be more willing to trust GM's when they say they have a great idea, and should risk more in life when it comes to things that might open up their horizons.  And I'm saying this as a person who has sat through some clunker gaming sessions run by GM's who were clearly enjoying themselves.  But I also understand that to get adults to play, with their more critical perspectives and their less copious free time to waste on shots in the dark, you need to work with them as a GM to get their buy-in as well.

I hope this makes sense.  Comments welcome.

Friday, September 4, 2015

How to Soak a Gaming Group for 2,800 gp.

So there's a new force in the town of Grimfest--"The Prophetess," an ancient dragonborn seeress who claims to be able to answer any question as long as you give her 700 gp. and answer a question of hers first.  After impressing the four rival gangs of Grimfest (and getting four of the PC's to ask her questions), she announces that she will answer the question everyone wants answered--where is the tarrasque--but only to the highest bidder.  Three of the four gangs show up with tons of treasure in tow, while the PC's merely offer her a song and a holy book.  After announcing the highest bidder, violence breaks out among the three groups and in all the chaos and carnage the Prophetess appears to have escaped with all three gangs' bids while no one got the answer.  The PC's in the meantime manage to escape and then take advantage of the situation by going and knocking over a stronghold of the Parliament of Bone.

With all hell breaking loose (literally), the players are wondering if there is a chance to eliminate at least one of the gangs from contention entirely.  Their top pick--the Puppeteers!  We'll see how that goes next week!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

RPG Review: Far Trek

So, as I mentioned recently, I've got a lot of sentimentality for Star Trek RPG's, and Star Trek in general.  Three actual honest-to-God licensed ones exist in history: FASA's, Last Unicorn Games, and Decipher's.  I own the first two and have heard mixed things about the third.

But there are also a lot of non-licensed Star Trek RPG's out there, and recently I saw that one of them, Far Trek, was offering a hard copy for a couple of bucks on Lulu.  Never one to let a deal go by I picked it up and thought I'd give you, gentle readers, my thoughts.

Far Trek is a light-hearted, even breezy take on the Star Trek universe, almost exclusively the original series.  There rules incorporate stats, skills, and talents.  There are four stats: Strength, Dexterity, Intelligence, and Charisma, with the stats ranging from about a -2 to a +2, reflecting their modifier on the die roll.  I actually like this mechanic, which I first encountered in True20.  It doesn't make a lot of sense for there to be numerical values for a stat (say, 3 to 18) if the only impact is how it corresponds on a table to a modifier. Why not just have the modifier?

Anyways, stats are randomly generated, or you can distribute 3 points between the four stats.

Stats are then modified based on race, and Far Trek offers four: Human, Vulcan, and right out of FASA the Tellerites and Andorians.  I'm kind of bummed that they didn't offer FASA's other two from the animated series, the Caitians and the Edosians.  The game does say that most Star Trek aliens are effectively just humans with face paint, and to use the rules for humans (which involve getting an extra talent, but otherwise represent the baseline for the game).  Other races are featured in the rulebook outside of player options, just in case you wanted to play a Klingon, for example.

From there, the player has to choose whether the PC is a gold shirt (command and ship control), a blue shirt (science or medical), or a red shirt (engineering or security).  Whichever shirt the PC is determines which skills can be chosen.  There is also a general skill list from which any "shirt" can choose.  Each selection is rated as a +1, and while multiple selections are sometimes an option, the PC can never have more than a +2 at PC creation.

Talents mirror skills, insofar as there are general talents and shirt-specific talents.  This is where some of the light-heartedness comes in, because in addition to some of the more typical talents in RPG's you have general ones like "Torn Shirt" which when used means that the PC has ripped an article of clothing in a fight and can use is as a distraction and gain a one-off bonus, or shirt-specific ones like my favorite "Just Another Red Shirt" which means when the PC is out of a fight you can just scratch off the PC's name on the character sheet, write in another, and have that PC rejoin the game.

Skill resolution is pretty straightforward: 3d6+stat modifer+skill modifer+additional modifiers (including talents) vs. target number.  Contested skill resolution has the target number being the opponents dice+stat+skill+etc.  Easy peasy.

For damage, rather than wound levels or hit points, the game is pretty binary: able to fight or out of the fight.  It is kind of "genre simulationist" of them, with the idea that you might have bloody lips or torn shirts, but generally in Star Trek you were fighting at full capacity or you were unconscious (or in the case of red shirts, dead) on the floor.  In Far Trek if you get hit, you roll against a target number based on the weapon.  Succeed and keep fighting, fail and you're out.  Successive hits in a single combat ratchet up the number.  Again, a simple mechanic.

Ship combat is largely similar, although each side can perform certain actions to affect the outcome of the contested die rolls (like "evasive maneuvers").  But the combat is fairly abstracted--no moving ships around on a tabletop.  Damage isn't binary in this case but you simultaneously lose hull structure points and accrue various hindrances reflecting the details of the ship's damage.

In the back there is the predictable lot of TOS villainous aliens and their ships, etc. which will be familiar to anyone who knows the source material.

So, the final judgment.  First of all, I can not really be too critical of a game that is free online.  Even a mediocre game can be a source of inspiration, and not having to pay for it is a plus.  The print copy I received was perfect bound, in the lingo of the trade, and had some margin/cutting issues on the back cover, but otherwise was fine.  I chuckled to see the Enterprise called a Constitution class ship, because that was a conceit of the FASA game, not the original series, but was made canon in the Next Generation as a "tip of the hat" to the RPG.

As I said earlier, Far Trek could be run as a serious, gritty Star Trek RPG, but that is not what is was designed to do.  It's designed for a lighter touch, which I find pretty in my own wheelhouse when it comes to running RPG's.  Is it better than Last Unicorn Games' iteration (which would be my "go to" version for Star Trek, should the desire arise)?  No, just different, including its being squarely set in the original series.  But I could definitely see me using it, especially for a certain "feel" to a campaign.

Monday, August 31, 2015

RPGaDay Bonus: Zak S's questions

Zak S (from over at the Playing D&D with Porn Stars) has his own RPGaDay questions, which were pretty interesting, and so here's my answers:

1. Worst game you ever played

"Played"?  Not just owned, or ran?  I mean for "owned" I could go with the Whispering Vault.  For "ran" I could say. um...Rifts?  Played?  I haven't played in that many RPG's, truth be told.  I'm more a GM.  And I've liked most of them.  Let's say TORG.

2. Interesting rule embedded within otherwise baleful game

While I'm not the biggest fan of hit location charts, if you want one the clear-plastic-overlay-on-top-of-body-silhouette from Millenium's End is a lot of fun, if just for the suspense of it.

3. Game you never played but you knew it sucked just looking at it


4. Game you most wish didn't suck

Rifts.  I'm pretty excited that Savage Worlds got a hold of the license, although it might count as a sign of the apocalypse.

5. Game about which you have the most mixed feelings


6. Old game most in need of an upgrade

Top Secret

7. Game you can run with the least prep

Marvel Heroic Roleplaying

8. Game with awful art (and who you wish you could hire to fix that)

The Ultimate Hero, and Adam Warren

9. Best houserule you've seen in action and now use in your own games.

See the original RPGaDay entry

10. Game you've most changed your thoughts/feelings about

Marvel RPG Saga Edition.  When I first ran the game it was the first non-Champions superhero RPG I had used, and its abstract, not-point-buy mechanics seemed alien to me.  Now, it seems really ahead of its time.

11.  Game you'd use to run just about any setting if you had to

I'm not a huge fan of generic systems.  Let's say FATE, which I've only used a couple of times, but seems to be pretty flexible.

12. Game that haunts you and you're not sure why

Being "not sure why" is the part that makes this question hard to answer, because I have a good bit of self-awareness (at least when it comes to this sort of thing) and know why many games haunt me.  I mean, the old FASA Star Trek RPG haunts me, but that's because it was the first game I played with adults, and with the first girl who kissed me.

13. Game that would probably be most fun to play a bee in

Over the Edge

14. Best Star Wars game?

West End Games' Second Edition

15. Game that's good in theory but you're kind of on the fence about it to be honest

Most recently that would be the Cypher System rulebook.  I've seen some neat things done with it at Cross Planes, and will admit I haven't finished it yet, but I can't shake the notion that it might be the answer to a question I'm not asking.

RPGaDay 31: Favorite non-RPG thing to come out of RPGing

Darn it, I made this mistake of checking my blog feed and seeing people put down "all the friends I made in gaming," which is a good answer but then I'd just be ripping other people's creativity off.

Here's what I was actually thinking of putting down, mostly because I work with a lot of neuro-atypical people.

"How Dungeons & Dragons Saved My Autistic Son"

RPGaDay 30: Favorite RPG playing celebrity

Hey, I'm a day late on this one because I really don't have one.  Seriously, I need a celebrity that plays RPG's who is not a celebrity because of playing RPG's?

Who does that leave me?  Vin Diesel?  Okay, we'll go with Vin Diesel, because I am sure not going to pick "The Jar Jar Binks of Star Trek."

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Taking Champions out for a spin

So, after Adam's post about the epic-length Champions game in which he played as a child, I got pretty sentimental about Champions, Fourth Edition (aka the Big Blue Book).  Rather than bring in my entire, huge group of players, I decided to start small.  So, I made PC's for both kids, Bubblegum (Champions edition) for the daughter, a guy named "Kroxigor" for the son.  For those who follow these things, Bubblegum is a low-level martial artist with Entangle and Flash, Kroxigor is a straight up light brick at 250 pts.

First, Bubblegum encounters Pulsar attacking the police.  She does a good job switching between her gum powers and her martial arts.

Then, Bubblegum finds Kroxigor fighting Bluejay, who is attempting to recapture him and return him to his creators.  They make pretty quick work of her.

Then, back at the defunct Ultimate Posse headquarters, the pair hear that GRAB is robbing a bank.  Three villains is a lot for them to handle, and they'll have to coordinate their actions to beat them.  Sadly they don't, and both the heroes are knocked out and GRAB makes their getaway...

The group is mixed on it. I could tell they didn't like the weird OCV/DCV math, and the more rigid rules.  They also hated losing, but that happens in comic books....

RPGaDay 29: Favorite RPG website/blog

I don't play favorites with my friends, but three bloggers who consistently create content that I pick out of my massive feedly list are Barking Alien, Tower of Zenopus, and Cross Planes.

In honor of the fact that he and I have a ridiculously similar taste in RPG's (except for my heightened tolerance of fantasy) I present the following photo for Adam.

Friday, August 28, 2015

RPGaDay 28: Favorite Game You Are No Longer Playing

So, before I answered this question I read Adam's post on the subject on his blog Barking Alien.

Possible photo of the author.

So his point, for those who don't have time to read it, is that you should be playing your favorite game.  And to the surprise of few, I agree with him.  I don't have the snark factor he does, and honestly I get how GM's compromise with their players about what game to run for the simple fact that the GM wants to game with them.  And yes, good friends will entertain the notion that a GM might like a game because it is really good, or at the least (and I learned this a long time ago) a game the GM loves he or she will run very well, and that makes it good for everyone.

What's ironic is that I've been talking to my kids about one of my favorite games to see if they might be interested in taking it out for a sentimental test drive.  We'll see how it goes.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

RPGaDay 27: Favorite idea for merging two games into one

First, let me just give credit to the guy who came up with the idea of merging Star Wars and Steampunk.

But for me, I think my favorite idea was to merge Mekton (giant anime robots) and Dune, a concept I floated back in my college days.  Somewhere in my long-term memory I have the concepts for giant robots for the Bene Gesserit, Houses Harkonnen and Atreides, the Sardukar, and the Freemen (who have both the small, still-suit robot frames and the giant kick-ass sandworms).

Why hasn't someone done the manga/anime version of Dune yet?  You'd think the way Herbert's kids have prostituted out their literary inheritance they would have done this already.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

RPGaDay 26: Favorite inspiration for your game

In 2086, two peaceful aliens journey to Earth seeking our help. In return, they gave us the plans for our first hyperdrive, allowing mankind to open the doors to the stars. We have assembled a team of unique individuals to protect Earth and our allies. Courageous pioneers committed to the highest ideals of justice and dedicated to preserving law and order across the new frontier. These are the adventures of the Galaxy Rangers. 

My sister and I loved the animated series Galaxy Rangers so much my sister actually named her son after one of the characters.  The series, for those who have the misfortune of being unfamiliar with it, is a combination Space Opera/Superhero/Western featuring four main characters (Niko, Zachary, "Doc," and Shane, from left to right, above) who each possessed superhuman abilities (or at least gadgets, in the case of Doc) and used them to zip around the new space frontier solving mysteries, catching criminals, and battling the "Crown Empire."  What set the series apart from similar toy-pushing fare is that the characters were well developed, had relatively elaborate backstories, and developed as the series progressed.

Because of the large number of episodes, their quality, and the cross-genre setting, I have been able to shamelessly rip off plot lines for sci-fi, superhero, and even fantasy adventures.  The show borrowed so heavily from Star Wars at times (an evil empire with armored goons, an Abbott-and-Costello comedic duo, a gazillion aliens) that most Star Wars campaigns I have run have had at least a couple of Galaxy Ranger-inspired stories in it.

The real treat is that Zachary Foxx is voiced by Jerry Orbach, so now when I watch Law and Order, I constantly hope Lenny will tap his badge and then blast someone with his cyborg arm.

Over at Strange Vistas