Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Years Resolutions / Gaming in 2012

It's that time of year when bloggers and social networkers churn out predictable lists of goals and aims for the coming 12 months.

Why should I buck tradition?

I'm not going to include the boring "become a better person", "lose weight" or "learn to paint" articles. They never happen, anyway. I'm 36 and still fat, unskilled and reprehensible.

Instead, here's what I intend to do with my gaming this year, and related topics, in no particular order. (that's clearly a lie. They appear in the order I thought of them)

Use the hundreds of interesting pictures I've downloaded over the past year. No, not porn. I already use those. I refer to the pictures of murder, monsters and weird shit I've stumbled across.

Run Pathfinder, Trail of Cthulhu, Changeling: the Lost and Mage: the Awakening this year, amongst others.

Blog with more regularity. I found a link to this blog listed under dead, irregular and (something else) blog's earlier today.
Probably true, but an uncomfortable truth.

Get a new, decent laptop. I broke our Samsung laptop earlier in the year, and my wife bought herself a netbook as a replacement, which is incredibly shit. Remarkably shit. And tiny.
So I'm putting money aside every month to get myself something worth having, which I will use for gaming prep, writing and blogging.

Invest in my gaming group. I would really like to build up my gaming group, attract new players and give a wide range of gaming options to our players.

Improve as a GM. I think I'm pretty good at running games, but not perfect. I've only just started saying "yes" more than I say "no", and I'm still pretty weak at preparation.

Licences fade, systems are forever / Star Wars Saga Edition Hacks

I was thinking this morning about how good a game SWSE is, and that it's a shame that it's dead now.
I was also thinking that if you remove the official licensed elements of Star Wars from the game, you've still got an excellent system for a Sci-fi game.

Are there any Star Wars SE hacks out there?
If not, here's my initial ideas...

Rename The Force to, say, Psionics or Psychic Ability, as well as the classes and races, and you're away.

Scoundrels can become Criminals.
Jedi become Psychics (and lose the combat feats and hit die to become more like a Cleric instead of a Paladin).
Nobles can become Politicians or Celebrities or Traders.
Soldiers and Scouts stay as is.l
You could even add some more classes as required - Scientist, Bureaucrat, Investigator etc.

For Races, I'd use the Pathfinder/4e approach to Humans, and give them a +2 to assign to any attribute, as well as the extra trained skill and Feat.
I'd formalise Droids into a race, and call them Androids or Artificial Beings (a 'pc' term) (I believe the term 'Droid' is a Lucas trademark). They'd receive a +2 and a -2 to assign to fit the concept. No CON score and a choice of pre-programmed skill bonuses. I'd also add a Feat to appear Human/other race (+4 to Disguise attempts to pass as a member of that one race, or something. Probably used by Spy, pleasure and care Androids). Without the Feat, they'd be obviously mechanical. Finally, Androids start with a budget for extra appendages and tools, and can spend credits on upgrades. Androids would not be able to take levels in the Psychic class.
I'd include Clones or Replicants as a race. They'd be bio-engineered and artificially grown Humans (to prevent the number of Races nearly doubling). Replicants would get a +4 to one Ability and -2 to two more. They'd not get the extra Human Feat, instead they'd get the extra trained skill and either a faster movement rate, low-light vision, a +2 bonus to one Defense or faster healing rate. Clones would not be able to take levels in the Psychic class.
Other Races would be a mix up of standard sci-fi races, with hopefully a couple of original ideas. I'd probably rule that Races with remarkably high physical bonuses could not take levels in the Psychic class, just to avoid the rampaging twinks that would result.

The Use the Force skill should be split into three, and key off a different Ability - INT, WIS and CHA. The INT skill would govern affecting the physical world with telekinesis etc, WIS would govern perception and ones own body whilst CHA would be used to mentally affect anyone else.

Psychic powers would pretty much crib off the existing Force powers.

Mechanically, the system can be utilised with little adaptation.
The setting is another matter...

What kind of Sci-fi setting would this work for? Maybe something in the vein of the revamped Star Trek, with a focus on exploration and competition for resources. Maybe pioneers, with less of the wild west/Firefly-isms.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I shall rely on my feminine grace to avoid ... Oww / Women in Reasonable Armor

I was watching the final episode of the current series of Merlin with my wife last night, when it was remarked that one of the characters seemed to be practically naked in comparison to the others.
The main cast were joined by two new characters, Tristan and Isolde (yes, I know...), for the final two episodes, and these two participate in the final, epic battle.

In this battle, Arthur and his knights are wearing chainmail, the bad guys are wearing studded leather and Merlin does not engage in physical combat (he's a fucking wizard! They're doing it wrong if they have to enter melee).
Tristan and Isolde are not so well armoured. Tristan wears a long leather coat and leather top, so is at least making the effort. Isolde looks like she's just gotten back from a run, and didn't have time to change (see image below).

In fact, I'd say that the costume designer for the series really could not be bothered...

So, we talked about this for a little while, my wife and I, and I recalled something I'd seen awhile ago, a blog called Women in Reasonable Armour, which I would recommend to anybody looking to visualise a capable and competent female fighter. It covers several genres.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Conspyramid / Designing your insidious plot of evil

Pelgrane Press Ltd » Blog Archive » Night’s Black Agents Competition

The link above takes you to an article at Pelgrane Press's See Page XX, about the forthcoming Nights Black Agents and a tool for designing a Conspyramid - a hierarchical structure chart depicting a supernatural conspiracy from the ground level cells up to the vampiric menace organising it, that can have in game effects.

I absolutely love the idea behind it, and how it can be used in game. The concept itself isn't just limited to Gumshoe games, it can be applied to any conspiracy based story.
It's a beautiful idea.

I encourage you all to read it, and invest in NBA's when it comes out.
Actually, you can pre-order it now and get an advance pdf copy for free.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Other Mother / Gaiman inspires Changeling (again)

We bought Coraline on DVD for our children (4 and 1) to watch this holiday period.
It's an awesome film, but not what I'd consider a traditional children's movie; what with the dead children, mutilation and horror.

The plot, briefly, is Coraline feels ignored and unloved by her parents, and discovers a passage way to another world, like our own, but better.
There she meets her Other Mother, who is prettier, nicer and a better cook than her real mother, and her Other Father, who is more fun and attentive than her real father.

The only jarring point is that everyone she meets in this other world has buttons instead of eyes.

Soon Coraline's Other Mother is inviting her to stay in the Other World forever. All she needs to do is replace her eyes with buttons (black is traditional, but they could be any colour she wants).

From there we meet the ghosts of the previous children who sewed buttons into their eyes, a talking black cat and see The Other Mother's true form.
Coraline must then save her real parents and retrieve the lost souls of the dead children (who were eaten by The Other Mother).

After watching the movie, I started thinking "This would make a kick ass Changeling: the Lost game".
The Other Mother serves as a member of the Gentry, luring children into Arcadia with promises and illusion before forcing them to accept a contract (the buttons) and imprisoning them.
She even manufactures Fetches out of sack cloth and sawdust.

The tunnel that Coraline crawls through to get to the Other World can only be opened by a special key, and is a fixed gateway to Arcadia.

I doubt that a whole Changeling campaign could be made of the film, definitely a story arc with incumbent Fae villain.
The players Motley learn that children keep disappearing from an old house, and suspect that a True Fae is involved. One child has escaped, and has now become an Elemental Mannequin, with visible seams and buttons for eyes.
One of the missing children could be linked to a member of the Motley, or maybe the house. The escaped child could even be a member of the Motley.

Piper in the Darkness / Trail of Cthulhu One Shot adventure

I ran a One Shot Trail of Cthulhu adventure for my gaming group last month, and have finally gotten round to typing it up. 
Servitor of the Outer Gods
You can find it here.
Doomed Investigators if ever I saw them

I also produced a shit load of pre-generated Investigators for use with it, which you can find here. They're generated with the presumption that you'll have four or more players, but as it's a short adventure, you can get away with not modifying them if you end up with less. 
Miskatonic University Library

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Session Autopsy / Star Wars Saga Edition as she is played

Hey, I know, let's talk about a discontinued game that you can't buy anymore.
AYes, let's.

So, Star Wars Saga Edition. I ran my first session session two days ago. I've owned the book for pretty much four years, and have held the system in high regard compared to the two previous d20 incarnations and D&D 3.5.
Much of my disappointment with D&D 4e stems from it not being like SWSE.

Having said all that, it's been a couple of years since I read the rules in depth, and a system always contains surprises as you move from theory to practice.

My first surprise was the hardiness of the antagonists.
When I ran D&D 4e, the first encounter the party faced was a swarm of Rats (as is tradition). Each rat was CR1, and they took an entire session to defeat.
My Star Wars players faced off against 12 CL1 Battle Droids, and still had half the session to do two smaller encounters as well.

My second surprise was the amount of damage being thrown about by both sides.
It is unlikely that a Rat could kill a PC in one hit, yet one Battle Droid was able to deliver 18 points of damage in a single shot.
So, Star Wars antagonists are credible threats, and guns are very dangerous.
At one point I was seriously worried that the first encounter would result in a Total Party Kill.
No such luck...

My third surprise was the general ease of the system. It's streamlined, but intuitively streamlined.
The Use the Force skill, for example, makes Jedi Force Powers painless.
Maybe it makes them a little bit min-maxy powergamery, maybe. It seems ok at first level, though.

As mentioned in a previous post, I don't use miniatures. The current primary reason is twofold
1: Star Wars minis have been discontinued
2: Miniatures cost money, that thing which my wife does not like me spending frivolously, and trust me, miniatures are regarded as frivolous.

To overcome this potential hurdle, I took two props along to the session.
A beat up old chess board
An A4 double sided chalk board, one side having a predrawn grid.

As it turns out, I didn't need the chess board, and used the chalk board exclusively.
If combat becomes more complex and/or tactical, then I can see me using chess pieces and sheets of pre-printed A4 grid paper.