Wednesday, December 31, 2014

GM Wednesday! - Travel and Gear

Gear

I'm still borrowing heavily from DtotSL. It's weapons don't have AP simply because there is only one armor that would make a difference (basically full body stormtrooper armor). It neatly explains the reason that sci-fi heroes don't trudge around in body armor (besides the obvious reason, like why we don't leave home in body armor) and it simplifies my homework. Well played Wiggy.

I also like the Wrist Computers rules and will be rolling it in. Honestly it seems all I am doing is adding some fluff to DTotSLs, but I'm good with that. This is what a toolkit system like Savage Worlds is supposed to do, give me options that I can use without having to houserule or invent systems myself.

Stuff I am adding...
  • DTotSL uses the stats from modern firearms for their Blasters, removing the AP since it really is unnecessary to keep track of. I added in the shotgun stats re-labeled as the Disintegrator Rifle, because why not?
  • I am yoinking melee weapon modifications from the SFC, but only Stun and Power Weapon. No beam sabers. I'm not copying Star Wars. Are melee weapons useful? You betcha. There are planets that won't tolerate a hero wearing a blaster on his hip as you get closer to the core.

Travel

So how long does it take to jump from one system to another? Who cares? I don't want my players bogged down with the minutiae of supplies and fuel unless it's pertinent to the story.

Sorry for the light and late post, but between the fallout of the accident and the holidays I haven't had much personal time.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Sucking Spectacular



So my Christmas was majorly eventful, ergo my motorcycle accident, my wrecked bike, and Geico giving me the run around.

However, my girlfriend gave me an awesome present for Xmas, namely a MAN CAVE (some assembly required). We're talking paint, furniture, big-screen TV, and sound system. She also put most of it together since I was pretty banged up from the accident.

She runs a home improvement blog called Some Assembly Inspired. Click the link and you can see the event unfold.

There may not be an update this Wednesday since my break was about assembly and recuperation. I'll see what I can cobble together.



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Drive Safely




My scooter. My beloved scooter. Your 400cc badassdom has been reduced to 500 pounds of scrap thanks to a careless driver making a left turn in front of me.

Please drive safe out there, and wear a helmet. Even if you're in a car. Helmets are cool.

Fortunately I was able to walk away from this one.

It's Christmas!

Silly kids. Shouldn't you be playing?



Monday, December 22, 2014

Not Game Related, Just Pandora

Yup, my crotchety old self has just got online with that new-fangled Pandora doo-hickey.

I've been using it to re-discover the music of the eighties, back when songs had fun and before everyone jumped on the Kurt Cobain depression-wagon.

It occurs to me that that listening to oldies is way better than listening to today's radio. I'm not saying music to day sucks (even though I'm thinking it) but when you listen to modern stations on the radio it feeds you what's trending right now. It gives you the musical depth of maybe a year or two if you're lucky. But if you go onto Pandora and pick 80's pop, or Classic Heavy Metal, you get an entire decade or two of hits. Thousands of songs distilled to get rid of the garbage but leaving enough good stuff that you can go a good long time without hearing the same song.

It's a good time to be getting old.

Happy Holidays, and get off my lawn.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Thursday's Rant is Full of Wha?

I apparently have one of those brains that doesn't like to stay focused on what I want it to do.

Here I am chugging away on my sci-fi setting. I've got the most of the nuts and bolts out of the way like gear, starship combat, races, overall feel. So I decided to sit down and start writing some adventure hooks for it. I couldn't come up with any that were interesting. In fact they were trite, boring, simplistic and cliched.

I did come up with about six adventure hooks for a fantasy game.

Apparently my brain wants to run fantasy at the moment. I wonder if there's something about sci-fi that's cause my brain to lock up. Maybe I've been emotionally scarred by the cancellation of Firefly, the depression of the new BSG, and the horrible travesty of SyFy's Flash Gordon (well, everything on SyFy actually).

So I'm going to take a break on the sci-fi until I recharge my mojo on it and I'll run some of these Fantasy Adventure hooks instead.

I'm looking at fleshing out about ten of them. If I finish them in time, look forward to a new Free Stuff Friday!

GM Wednesday! - Starships

We focus so much on rocketship style designs in sci-fi fantasy and then complain about how they are just unrealistic analogs of sea-going battleships. Which makes me wonder, "Why aren't we using saucers?" ~ Me.

Starships may not be the focus of gameplay, but they are a huge part of the setting. What's more they require their own special rules systems.

I've been puttering around, looking at how the Sci-Fi Companion, Slipstream, Daring Tales of the Space Lanes, and even 50 Fathoms handles ship combat. Only one fit the bill of what I want.

I wanted to avoid any new rules or subsystems as much as possible. KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) is the order of the day and while I like the Sci-Fi Companion, I think it added too much complexity in a Savage Worlds game. So I am going with Daring Tales of the Space lanes Starship supplement (which I already own). Wiggy approached each genre with KISS in mind when he did his Daring Tales series and if you haven't checked them out, you should (I have links on the Free Stuff page).

I also chose DTotSL because it makes operating the shields an active task rather than flipping a switch. I want starship combat to be a team effort and the more stations available to players to choose from, the less likely that someone will be twiddling their thumbs while the pilot does all of the work.

I considered possibly building my own system to handle starships but I don't have that kind of time and I don't want to go through a lot of revisions as mistakes come out in gameplay.

So the feel I am going for in my ship combat is less Star Wars and more Star Trek, less WWII and more "Age of Discovery/ Piracy'. So no starfighters, nothing smaller than a shuttle. The reasons for this are...

  • Starfighters encourage splitting the party.
  • FTL is a big part the game and who wants to spend a week in a tiny cockpit, let alone how would you fit an FTL drive into something that small.
  • I want more of an 'age of piracy' feel to travel and combat than a 'World War II' feel. Imagine Star Wars during the age of piracy with Luke Skywalker attacking an Imperial Man o' War in his Incom T65 Dinghy.
  • Everybody does starfighters.
  • I've been reading projections of what real space combat will be like and while reality isn't something I'm striving for, most experts agree that a manned starfighter is a fairly useless thing.
It was that last bit that got me thinking about sci-fi without the starfighters. It started to feel more retro, more Flash Gordon and Commander Cody. I liked the idea.

And in searching the web for a "free to reuse" spaceship image, I came across that flying saucer cross section. Maybe it is time to bring that design back and kick the rockets to the curb. 

Extra rules I'm adding: 
  • Heavy Weapons ignore standard armor (honestly I'm surprised this isn't in the RAW).
  • I'm using my simplified ranges instead of the ranges listed for weapons in DTotSL. My conversion is <48=Medium, <96=Long, <200=Extreme.










Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Name Game

I really should name this campaign setting.

I've been mulling it over. What would sound good for a space fantasy romp like this. Believe it or not most of the good names I came up with are taken already. Others seem pretentious like "Ocean of Stars". I'm not making a setting about majesty and poetry. I'm making a setting about the nutty dregs of the universe.

So I'm thinking of going with Savage Spacepunk.

People seem to think the suffix -punk means technology these days with the popularity of Cyberpunk and now Steampunk. But when it was first coined for Cyberpunk, it was focusing on the "punk" as in the anti-establishment views and music. I think that in those terms, Spacepunk fits for my setting.

So now I have a title. If I choose to release this as a fan PDF I may have to clean out the bits I'm borrowing from other Savage Worlds books or get the permissions of the companies to reprint them.

I should really start working on a cover too.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Simplified Ranges - Addendum

Just FYI, it seems I am not the first to come up with this idea. I was looking through some Savage Star Trek adaptions and Mike Callahan also had the idea in his Red Alert starship combat rules.

So once again, I am scooped. Still, credit where credit is due.

(And in case you haven't picked up the hint, next week's post is all about starships).

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

GM Wednesday! - Races

Last week we did a rough sketch of the setting basics. 


Now it's time to fill in the details a bit more. Let's look at some key Sci-Fi setting tropes and figure out if I want them in my game or not.


Aliens


Yes please. But as stated, I'm not going for avant-garde sci-fi here. I want to capture the whimsicality of space pulp. That means most aliens will be humanoid in design or be based on terrestrial animal traits. There may be some truly alien creatures that the heroes run across in their adventures, but it's unlikely that the heroes will be talking to them or relating to them in any way. That's what being truly alien is. If a flower starts talking to you in a British accent, it takes away a lot of the mystery.

So we're talking fur suits and rubber foreheads. And although they may not look exactly human, they'll act like us with the same virtues and vices.



Robots


Servant droids are a staple of 70-80's sci-fi, but it's also thinly disguised slavery. We accept it because we want to believe that droids will never be so sophisticated that we might think of them as a life form. Despite the fact that C-3PO made decisions, exhibited fear for his personal safety, and spoke just like a human...he was still property. Property that could easily pass the Turing test.

Well my initial concept said 70's-80's sci-fi, which blissfully ignored these issues.

And so will I.

However in keeping with the light-hearted feel of this game, I'm going to have to completely alter the racial traits that the sci-fi companion gives to Constructs. If you take a look at Kryten or Marvin, you'll realize that robots in whimsical sci-fi are nuerotic, and are frequently screaming in fear or perhaps boredom. They get Shaken, a lot. But if played right, a droid character could be hilarious. 

Rimmer ~ "Kryten, will it work?"
Kryten ~ "Lie mode... Of course, sir. No worries!"

Military Constructs will keep the +2 vs being shaken since they are meant to be simple-minded killing machines.


Humans


It actually isn't necessary to add humans as playable characters, and some interesting games might come of not having them at all (or making them all npc badguys). It all comes down to what your group wants to play. My old group considered excluding humans from science fantasy to be a cardinal sin, despite the fact that every one of them played alien characters in Star Wars the RPG.

I really don't want to deal with Earth and its development in this game. To me, Earth would only ground the game in our reality. Also I'm a little tired of the Ubiquitous humans making up over 60% of the known universe.

In this setting humans are a minority. In fact they are homeless vagabonds. We arrived in this new galaxy on slower than hell generation ships, leaving our doomed earth behind. How or why was it doomed? Ask three different Humans and you'll get 10 different stories. The fact is, nobody remembers.

As for that long journey, well it made humans a little nutty. We have a hard time with authority and sitting still. We don't eat our vegetables and wash behind our ears. We are the street trash of the Empire's "Polite" society.

So what I will need is...


  • A potential reworking of Humans, possibly adding in the Crude or Outsider Hindrance.
  • Rework the Constructs to be a bit more comical (except for military constructs which should be scary).
  • Rather than stat out every species in the universe, I'm going to go easy on my self and make some species templates (or likely add to the ones that already exist in the Sci-Fi Companion).

Speaking of the Sci-Fi Companion, you're probably asking "Why do you need to prep anything beyond the style of game you want? Won't the Sci-Fi Companion fill in all of the gaps?"

THE SFC is cool and I will borrow some stuff from it. However it is a generic book and includes a lot of things I don't want. Savage Worlds is a toolkit system where you can take and leave whatever you don't want.

What I want to do is present a booklet to my players that they can use where I don't have to keep saying "No, that's been cut from this game." and "No, we aren't doing that." It will help to keep the quibbling down and present a better picture to my players of what the setting is all about.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Theater of the Mind - Simplified Ranges

As I get older or because of all the Pathfinder I have been playing, I feel the need to stay away from minis. I love painting them and I'm fine using them in games like Pathfinder where they are required, but I feel it actual limits the player's sense of imagination. I have discussed this before.

Star Wars Saga did something I thought was pretty neat. It didn't list weapon ranges for each weapon (in yards). They simplified the range of the weapons. In most rpgs, pistols might have slightly different ranges but there isn't enough difference to come up in game that often.

I intend to simplify ranges even further by figuring that distance, not weapon, is the deciding factor in how hard it is to hit a target. It may not be realistic, but it's plausible and it will allow me to make a simplistic "Theater of the Mind" range system.

So here are the ranges and their modifiers.

Range              Modifier        Distance
Point Blank          0                   <25 yards
Short                    0                    <50 yards
Medium               -2                   <100 yards
Long                    -4                   <200 yards
Extreme               -6                   <600 yards

Pistols have a Max Range of Medium
Shotguns have a Max Range of Medium
Rifles have a Max Range of Long
Sniper Rifles or Heavy Weapons have a Max Range of Extreme

A weapon cannot fire beyond its Max Range, unless they use a scope which will extend the range of a weapon by 1 increment while Aiming.

So now when we are playing, I can simply describe the villains at "Short Range" without getting into details about how many yards that is and what range is it for which gun. All modifiers are flat, based on distance to the target.

I'm incorporating this into my sci-fi setting. I like the Sci-Fi Companion but I feel that it is adding a lot of book keeping and specialty rules. I'm going to lean heavier on Daring Tales of the Space Lanes with its "K.I.S.S." mentality.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

GM Wednesday! - Setting Creation: Sci-Fi



the following series of posts was inspired by the fine folks over at Savage GM Hangouts who have decided to broadcast how they build campaign settings. Since I have run out of things to talk about, and since I work well under pressure, I've decided to go step by step through my own process of creating a setting. This will either give you a front seat to my nervous breakdown, or it will be really cool.

If it is neither then I think we will all be very disappointed.


First up...what do I want?


In other words, what kind of game setting will I have fun with. What sort of playground is going to hold my interest long enough to run a game beyond four or five sessions. What place will I create that I will want to keep coming back to, over and over again.

No pressure. 

In my case it's something like Star Wars with a dash of Red Dwarf. I'm looking for Sci-Fi that doesn't take itself too seriously. So I'm settling on Soft/Fantasy Sci-Fi, "have-blaster-will-Smeg" kind of fair.

Why? Because sci-fi used to be fun. Then Blade Runner came along and it seems everyone has been trying to out-do its dark and depressing tones. I loved Blade Runner, but the new BSG can go Smeg itself. It's time to take the pretentiousness down a notch.


Refining the Genre

Just saying Space Opera (or Space Fantasy) isn't quite enough. There are different feels of Sci-Fi fantasy, yes even the dark depressing feels.


  • Dystopian - Waaaaaah! I have a rocket pack but I've lost my soul. No thanks.
  • Transhuman - I can be a dolphin one day and a file in the Cloud the next. Who am I? Who are you? Are you sure? Not the feel I'm looking for.
  • Sword & Planet - It mostly takes the Fantasy genre to heart and adds guns and sky-ships. Cool but not what I'm looking for here.
  • Flash Gordon - This takes pulp down to its roots. I loved the movie from the eighties because it really captured the outrageousness of the original pulp. However it's a bit too outrageous for my tastes.
  • Early 1970's-1980's (I consider a genre unto itself) - Big hair, one-piece jumpsuits, space vixens, evil robots, starships that go "roooarrrwhooosh" in the vaccuum of space. Oh, hell yeah! I want this.


Now that I have a style in mind, it's time to examine the tropes that figure into my chosen genre. In other words what sorts of things would I like to see or happen in my little universe. For instance in this one I'll likely want...

  • Lawless frontiers
  • Overbearing government
  • Evil plans involving super-science
  • Science too dangerous for dimwits to wield.
  • Hives of scum and villainy
  • Alien monsters
  • Criminal syndicates
  • Rubber foreheads (the aliens aren't too alien)
  • Lost civilizations
  • Pirate rivalries
  • Space Vixens
  • Silly robots
  • Deep philosophical discussions about what was really in that bar glass that result in a three week long bar-brawl that migrates to other bars and....
Sorry, my mind was starting to get a little too detailed there.

One thing to remember is that Fantasy Sci-Fi derived from pulp tales of other genres. I can borrow tropes from Westerns, Fantasy, and Pirate movies and integrate them quite easily. And because I am not taking things too seriously, I can pull in sitcoms and teen PSAs if I want. Nothing is forbidden. I can even do a musical episode.

And finally I should figure out what the characters will be doing.


There are a couple of ways to approach this. One is to pitch the idea of running the genre by your players and discuss what they'd like to do there. Are the players more interested in...
  • ...playing spies working for a secret agency in the empire
  • ...rebels waging war against the empire
  • ...free traders just getting into general mischief
  • ...barhopping tourists with really bad luck
Depending on your players they could find a cool angle for themselves in your campaign that you hadn't thought of.

Another way is to just decide for yourself what type of jobs the heroes will be doing and hope your players will dig it. The players I have had in the past were never too picky as long as I was running the game, but when asked they usually went for the Free Trader option.

Since I am prepping this in a vacuum, I'm going to go with the Free Trader angle. However, that means there will be a lot of "finding the job" scenes that could become tedious and repetitive. What if I went with the idea that the heroes are Free Traders, but they are also contractors for a private troubleshooting company. Whenever someone seeks out the company for help, the company acts as an employment agency, hiring out the contract to the right group in their files to tackle the problem. That means that the jobs can find the heroes even if they aren't looking in the right place.

What's more, this troubleshooter bureau isn't official so the local authorities won't recognize or aid these mercenary agents. In fact they'll likely do everything they can to hinder the agents. Maybe the reason that people flock to hiring troubleshooters is because the local authorities are so corrupt that they are charging exorbitant prices from the victims before they start investigating, thus the authorities are only interested in helping the rich. That fits with the oppressive government trope.

So to sum up...



  • I have a space fantasy setting involving cool starships, strange aliens and blasters
  • It will have that light-hearted, near comedic pulp adventure feel
  • And the heroes will be travelling around, solving problems with blasters and bombastity while dodging the corrupt and oppressive authorities, criminal syndicates, star zealots, and power grabbing secret societies


Next week we'll take a look at what I will need to make this setting a reality. What elements of Sci-Fi will I keep, and what am I going to toss?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

GM Wednesday! - Temporarily out of things to say.


Seriously.

No, I mean it.

If there are any topics you'd like me to weigh in on, shoot me a pm or a reply.

In fact, if there's anything you'd like to see on the site, shoot me a pm or a reply. That includes art.

In the meantime (totally not game related)...

I've been preoccupied with my girlfriend and household improvements. We've got most of the rooms painted but we a craft room that needs kitting out and then there's the loft. The loft that I get to choose how to decorate.

Originally I thought it would be a great man-cave, but unfortunately it doesn't fit the bill. A man-cave is aptly named - it needs to be a windowless environment with a door to seal away the outside world. Our loft has four windows and three walls (so no door to shut). Hasta la vista man-cave.

It will primarily be used for video games and I want a sci-fi theme. Do you have any idea how hard it is to decorate a sci-fi theme with store bought furniture. It's next to impossible. Ooohhh there's a lot of designers who post designs that would be perfect, but those designs have either no identifiable way to purchase them or cost $5000 for an end table.

The style I want is "retro-modern" or "retro-futuristic". Think 1960's-1970's idea of what sci-fi furniture would look like. All of the good images off of Google are copyrighted so I can't re-post them here. I want to avoid "square" furniture as much as possible and if it's made of plastics then that's a bonus.

We were considering decking it all out like a starship interior, but the windows to the outside world would destroy that illusion and my gf didn't want the windows covered up. So now I'm shooting for a sci-fi lounge.

Unfortunately it looks like we'll have to build some of the furniture ourselves and save our pennies for the stuff we can't build. Ikea isn't going to cut it for this job.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Mojo Ramblings - Play Unsafe!

I just reread Graham Walmsley's Play Unsafe. It's helping soothe my fractured Mojo.

I recommend it, but if you figure the worth of a book by its page size and count, you will be disappointed. As noted by the first reviewer on DrivethruRPG- the pages are digest-sized and there's only about 80 of them, and the product is $8.00. 

If however, you choose to judge a book's worth based on its content then it might be for you.

Are you GMing, but find yourself dreading the next game?
Are you fighting to keep your players on your storyline?
Do you love reading books about game mastery because your as weird as I am?

Then this book is worth your time.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

GM Wednesday! - Public Speaking

A good GM has a grasp on the rules and the plot-line of the adventure.

A great GM can present the game in a manner that energizes and focuses the attention of his/her players. This skill in public speaking is invaluable.



Like any form of communication, information can be hard for the listener to follow if it isn't clear or if it becomes jumbled by white noise. In this case white noise is the words "uh" or "um". 

Example from a game I played last week:

"So..um..so you guys see a statue and it's...um... two...hundred feet tall. Uh...hmmm..you can tell that...uh...the head used to have a crown... but the...uh..crown...uh.... has been worn away by time."

That's hard (at least for me) to listen to. Here's that same info again without the white noise.

"So you guys see a statue and it's two hundred feet tall. You can tell that the head used to have a crown but the crown has been worn away by time."

Yeah, I know. It's easy to type this out versus actually saying it. However I have trained myself to avoid the white noise words whenever I talk. Every day. No matter who I am talking to or what I am saying. Sure they occasionally slip out, but they don't punctuate a sentence more than once.

But the above examples should illustrate how these white noise words can suck the momentum out of your game. So what can we as GMs do about it?

The biggest step would be to enroll in some public speaking or even acting classes. If that's not an option then consider this. White noise words slip out to fill the gap between our mouth and our brain. The remedies for this are knowing what we are going to say before we say it, and confidence.

When the heroes come to the clearing of the statue, I know that I am going to give a description of the statue and this is the description. After that is clear in my head (it really only takes half a second) then I begin speaking. A lot of the white noise words are generated when a person starts talking but then stops because they haven't thought that far ahead or they don't have a clear idea of how to present the information. So don't rush yourself. Take that second or two to compose the thought before rushing in.

As for confidence, it's not just the confidence in talking in front of other people. It's the confidence in what you are saying. It's knowing that what you are saying is what needs to be said and that you will say it correctly. I know that sounds strange but it's true. 

As long as you believe in what you are saying, you can deliver it clear and with an intensity that your players will pick up on and feed off of. A lack of confidence in the words will give rise to white noise words and/or you will sound bored as you read it, which is another thing that can kill player momentum.

So go forth! Practice! And believe me that this one skill will make a huge difference in how players enjoy your games.

Allons-y!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thursday's Child Is Full Of Advice

Always eat the Fortune Cookie first, ...




...because assassins like to brag.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

GM Wednesday! - The GM PC

I can hear fingernails scraping across desktops right now. Their are few things that a bad GM can pull on his players that are worse than the GM PC. When players see one, they want to kill it with fire.

I'm here to say that a GM PC can work....wait for it!.....under a very specific set of circumstances.

First, for those of you unaware of why a GM PC can be a bad thing, I'll explain.
A GM PC is a character played by the GM and is a part of the party. However, when done wrong (as it usually is) the GM PC is an annoyance because he literally has god on his side. God will fudge his rolls, make rules exceptions, and give plot protection to his beloved character resulting in the GM actually stealing the spotlight from his other players.

This type of character should be murdered on sight.

So why am I advocating that a GM PC can work?

Rule #1) The GM PC should only be considered when there is an apparent weakness to the party dynamic, where the lack of that knowledge or skill will result in the death and failure of the party. 

And before adding that GMPC, make sure to try and get one of your players to fill that roll first by adjusting his character.

Example: In D&D, a party needs a cleric or someone that can cast healing spells. It's a necessity for the PCs to be able to survive the multiple encounters they are likely to face. However, not every player wants to be a Cleric. Most often, this is the GM PC I end up playing.

Rule #2) The GM PC must ride at the back of the pack. 

That means he isn't there to be the star, or even to share in the glory. The GM PC can and should only exist to shore up a weakness in the party, and that weakness should be a supporting roll. The GM PC should never, ever be the one casting offensive magic of great power or standing on the front line with his mighty battleaxe.

Example: Using the example above of the cleric, healing and other clerical abilities that no other party member can do are the only things he will be good at. He must never outshine a PC in a skill that the PC is capable of.

I will say that the only times I have really felt obliged to use a GM PC was in class-based games where PC roles were strictly defined and segregated. This is because these game almost always require a good breadth of character classes to make a survivable party.

Classless games like Savage Worlds typically don't require a GM PC under any circumstances, only the occasional Guest Star who exists only to provide a specific and obscure knowledge skill need for the adventure. And in the event of combat, these "academics" usually run and hide. If the are combat capable, then a player controls that PC during combat, not me.

So in short, a GM PC can work as long as he stays in a supporting role.

BTW, I suggest reading DM of the Rings to see what a GM PC (Gandalf) looks like.

GM Wednesday! - Deleted.

I was letting my stupid do the talking.

Have you ever done that? Basically this post was written a couple of weeks ago and it seemed like a good idea. I reread it this morning and realized that what I had written was insulting and patronizing.

They can't all be winners and if anyone felt insulted by what I had written, I apologize. Sometimes I'm too busy thinking I'm clever to realize that I'm being a jerk.

Monday, November 10, 2014

More Mojo - But I Think I Have a Handle On It.

I think I figured out what my problem is... too many conflicting voices.




So first up, my usual gaming group. They aren't fans of Savage Worlds and vocalize it every time I suggest running anything other than Pathfinder. So as a GM who is trying to work towards keeping his players happy, this becomes a nagging voice. The solution is to run Savage Worlds with a new group of course.

However I have been carrying those nagging voices with me. Then there is the prospect of running this game for a bunch of strangers who may or may not enjoy the system. Trying to make a fun game for people I haven't met yet is a path to madness, and the void of information is getting filled by those nagging voices I have been carrying with me.

Finally the biggest mistake I made was going to RPG.Net as a first stage in my therapy. I'm not knocking the site, but by seeking opinions from the internet I got exactly what I wanted but not what I needed. The conflicting opinions only added to the nagging voices creating a choir that I have been carrying around and that has been tugging my mind in a billion different directions.

So my creative prescription is as follows:

1) Build a loose campaign setting that I would like to run. Ignore the opinions of others and the nagging choir. Keep it loose and plan only for a first introductory adventure. Then trust that the story and the uniqueness will come from and be inspired by the players.

2) Find a group and run it, either at an FLGS or on Hangouts, but run it.  If the setting doesn't garner any interest then weigh whether or not the group is worth continuing with, whether the campaign setting needs tweaking, or if it's time to pitch a new campaign setting.

3) Every day do one of the following: write an adventure seed, come up with a campaign concept, create an interesting villain/monster concept.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Therapy Friday! - More Mojo Ramblings


More stream of consciousness whining on my part, so if you're looking for definite answers, you likely won't find them. It's more therapy time.

So I am still slogging through getting my creative mojo back. Maybe the problem is that I am being too picky.

My issue isn't what rules system I would use: I plan to use Savage Worlds.

It isn't about customizing rules or gear: I can do that easy enough.

The issue isn't so much story: I created over a hundred different adventure seeds that I even shared with you.

I think the kerfuffle has to do with the campaign setting.

I want to do a sci-fi game, but it needs something that will hook me in (or does it?) and keep me coming back to it even though a story has run its course. Am I willing to run a typical space pulp game. I keep looking for that SOMETHING that will make it stand out. Something that will hold my interest for the long haul.

There's this little nagging voice in my head that says "Space pulp just isn't enough. Everybody has done that."

But I looked around at some of the homebrew Fantasy settings that some people have made. What I see is "new maps" but the same old setting. The heroes are adventurers and they'll go into the wild to fight monsters etc, etc. I think the last time I saw a D&D based Fantasy setting that had a hook was Eberron which asked the obvious question "Why isn't everything in the world being run on these low level magics?"

I'm still looking for my hook.

One idea I had was to run a game based on 1970-80's sci-fi. And while that visual really intrigues me, it's mostly visual and not much else. Maybe I should look at some of the themes of the 1970's life style and see if anything there colors the sci-fi setting beyond just bell bottoms.

So I'm wondering...
Do you ever have these problems running through your head, or are you fine with simply running a campaign in the typical tropes of the genre you have chosen?
How do you inject that something new, or is it just me? Is my brain just burning itself up looking for a corner in a round room?


Wednesday, November 5, 2014

GM Wednesday! - Soaking Effects



I've heard Soaking effects described by several GMs as you get hit, damage is rolled, and if you Soak it then the damage never happened.

I've always hated that. It's a rewrite of what's happened that not only negates the damage but the hit as well. And if it really is undoing the fabric of space and time, then why is it based on a Vigor roll? Shouldn't a Tardis be involved somewhere?

To me, a successful Soak roll is a character's ability to keep going without feeling impaired by the wound they have just received (hence the Vigor roll). Here's an example of what I am talking about.

A Yeti hits Combat Carl with a brutal attack that scores a Raise! He deals 2 Wounds to Carl with his damage roll.

Combat Carl spends a Benny to Soak this horrible attack and rolls high enough to Soak both Wounds!

So the Yeti has raked it's claws across Combat Carl's back, ripping his shirt and skin. The bleeding look horrendous, but it looks worse than it is. Nothing vital has been punctured and Carl's adrenaline high lets him ignore the pain to keep on fighting.

Carl looks like he's been gored badly, but it's just a messy flesh wound.

If you want a cinematic example, look at the end of the original Die Hard. McClain is a mess of blood and bandaged feet but while he looks exhausted, he still seems to be operating at near peak performance. This is a man who has made a lot of Soak rolls. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween! Challenge


Someone over on RPG.NET made a post about designing cheap rpg kits that one could give away to kids, adults, whoever. He wanted to find the cheapest method to include dice, pencils, a character sheet, and system into a "boxed set".

I have to say, I like this idea. Especially for Halloween where kids are coming to your door for free stuff anyway. Why not give them an rpg along with some candy?

However, there's a hitch. We are giving away games to people who have never played these games before. I'm not sure that any current systems will be good gateways into our hobby. Sure they are fine for people who want to make an active effort to get into our hobby and are willing to invest in books, dice, and time.

So here is the challenge to you viewers. We need:


  • A game system that is very simple and easy to grasp for someone who is completely unused to rpgs.
  • Including explanation of what an RPG is and how it is played.
  • The system can only use d6's since that is the die people are most likely to have at their house. And they are inexpensive if you want to include them in the rpg gift bag.
  • A simple character sheet.
  • An explanation on how to be a Game Master. Or, if possible, how to play the game without a Game Master.
  • An adventure for the players to enjoy.
  • And it needs to be kept under five pages.

I would love to see your designs. I'm going to hit this one too. Next Halloween, the kids that come to my house are going to get more than cavities!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Not game related, but funny.

I was completely unaware that adults were collecting lunchboxes. I still thought they were meant for kids to take to school. That is, until I saw a "300" lunchbox at a local comic book store. I laughed for about an hour.

A mental image flashed through my brain of a six year old girl, one foot on the cafeteria table and lunch pail raised high, screaming "TODAY, WE LUNCH IN HELL!"

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

GM Wednesday! - Using Initiative Cards For Other Things

There's always one player that wants to jump in to the center of attention. Sometimes there's more.

You know that player. You tell one player that he discovers a chest in the corner and this player screams he/she is going to open it, even though he/she isn't the one who found it. Or he/she is in the back stealing the gems out of the eyes of the golden statue but when another player locates a secret door on the other side of the room, he/she announces he/she is listening at the door.

He/she is an spotlight hog, and his/her behavior needs to be moderated.

Originally I used to go around the table and ask each individual what they were doing before I started feeding them the results of their actions. That way the spotlight hog had to decide what they were doing for themselves instead fo jumping all over another player's actions.

"Ooh, I open the chest!"
"It's not your turn and you aren't the one who found the chest. Besides, you are spending time on those eye-gems, remember?"

It worked fine until one of my players mentioned that the most covetous seats at the table were next to me since I always started at one end of the table and that often times I started on my left. So the next time I ran and it got to the heroes doing exploration, I dealt initiative cards.

At first it freaked them out as they thought combat was starting. My spotlight hog player quickly started shouting all the preparations she had made, trying to get it out before her card was dealt. I told her that didn't matter but she insisted she was ready for combat. Then we had a discussion about her meta-gaming (it fell on deaf ears).

But the initiative cards did help. It allowed each to player to have a moment to announce their actions and it got rid of any accidental favoritism on my part.

So if you find that your having a hard time managing the table, either because it is too large or because you have spotlight hogs, I recommend using initiative cards out of combat as well as in.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

16 Hours To Go!


Aaaand nearly EVERY STRETCH GOAL IS UNLOCKED! Only one more to go. We can do this!

Remember: The more you pledge, the more Jumpcorp cares! Tentacled operators are standing by.

Player Wednesday! - Writing Backgrounds

I rarely ask my players for character backgrounds. Partly because I had players that just wanted to play and didn't want homework, and partly because when players did give me backgrounds then what I got was 10-20 pages of ego stroking that I had little desire to read.

However, when done right a character background can be a valuable asset to adding an extra layer to the gaming experience. And when I say "done right", your mileage may vary. Some GMs are fine with multi-paged backgrounds. The following is just a stream of my own opinions.

1) "Brevity is the Soul of Wit."

If it's important, it can be said briefly. If you have an idea for backstory, try to focus on those things that the GM can actually use and communicate the overall theme of your character in 1-2 paragraphs. It can be done.

2) Don't Ride Coat Tails

I have seen this A LOT. Please stop it.
In a game that is tied to a movie, novel, or TV show, you always get that player who wants his character to be "extra special" by being the brother, sister, cousin, significant other of the coolest character in the show.

Here are some real examples I have come across...
"I'm Drizz't's long lost brother/twin."
"Qui Gon Jin was my husband and we had two kids."
"My last name is Solo."

This is supposed to be your story, your time to shine. Make your character stand on his/her own. You shouldn't need these crappy ties to make your character special. In fact, it makes everyone else at the table roll their eyes. It's a sure fire way to loose the respect of your fellow players.

3) Don't Stick Your Chocolate In Someone Else's Peanut Butter (Without Asking)

Similar to above, don't create a relationship in your character background to another character without first clearing it with that character's player. This is just bad mojo. You are, in essence, writing an element of someone else's character background without their permission and you don't have the right. That's their character. Ask first.



So here's an example...

...of what, in my opinion, makes a good character background.

Mairead
She grew up the only child of a blacksmith and was treated more as a son instead of a daughter. She worked hard with her father, and played hard with the boys giving her the reputation of an unmarriageable Tomboy which suited her just fine. When the opportunity arose to choose her own path in life, she chose the path of steel and blood as an adventurer. Her most prized possession is the sword her father forged for her before she left home.

Joshua Malcott
Joshua was the eldest son in a long line of river smugglers. If asked about why he has chosen to get involved with the war, he mentions that "shadow demons ate his boat". His cavalier manner belies the truth, that it was his family's boat and the demons consumed his father and brothers before his eyes. Under his lazy exterior burns a rage and need for revenge but his lack of trust in others forces him to keep his motivations hidden behind a roguish smile.

To Sum Up

To me a good character background should cover the following points in as few words as possible.

1) Where did I come from/ what type of life.
2) Why am I adventuring?
3) And what motivates me/ why?

Now I'm not an expert on this subject and I'd like to hear any comments people have with what I might have left out.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

42 Hours To Go!


Jumpcorp needs your support! It's a good day to be a backer since so many stretch goals have already been unlocked! 

Won't you help? For the Verminite children?

Just Another Rant Tuesday


Monday, October 20, 2014

Adventure Mon...Uh I Need a Break.

The well is running dry, my free time is running low, and I really need to get back to playing.

So I am taking a hiatus on Adventure Mondays! for a while until I recharge.

There are several articles already written for GM Wednesday! so that should keep.

So what am I doing right now? Well since I'm out in the sticks and my FLGS have devoted their weekend table space to Magic and wargaming tournaments, I'm looking at starting something online.



After looking around, it seems the best options are G+ Hangouts, Roll20, and Fantasy Grounds.

Here's what I've learned about them.

Fantasy Grounds

Pros: It has everything you need to run Savage Worlds, you own the program.
Cons: It has the biggest buy-in. Seriously it costs money. Also it isn't persistent so I have to be online for my players to connect.

If I had the disposable income, I might go this route. Unfortunately I don't so for now I will have to pass.

Roll20

Pros: Robust, free, can be tweaked to cover the Savage Worlds basics, shallow learning curve, persistently online so players can visit it.
Cons: Not originally made for Savage Worlds so it needs to be adapted, designed around miniatures play so may not be necessary for "theater of the mind", also it is browser based so you don't actually own the software.

I am investigating this but it may actually be more than I need. I prefer not to use miniatures as they make people think more about the board than about being cinematic.

However if I can hide the grid lines, I could put up pictures of thematic locations.

G+ Hangouts

Pros: Free and easy.
Cons: I can't find anyone with advice on how to use it to do anything other than chat. It would be neat to share images and handouts and I'm sure it can do it. But it seems I can't experiment with hangouts unless I'm in a hangout with at least one other person. Also it requires that the GM and the players trust each other to not fudge their rolls.

I may just start here if I can figure this doohickey out. Right now I feel that if I try to pre-plan a game session (maps, etc) then I will never run a game session. What I need right now is to just hit the ground running and trust my instincts.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

GM Wednesday! - It All began In the Tavern

People talk about this cliche and how to avoid it a lot. But I'm here to support the tavern trope (well just a bit). While it doesn't seem to have much place in modern or futuristic games, there is a perfectly valid reason for it in fantasy games.



In medieval times, the Tavern was a central part of any town. It wasn't just a place where adventurers could get put up for the night. The tavern was the medieval version of Facebook, LinkedIn, and the help wanted pages.

In a world without electric light, the workday ended at sundown. At that point many went to the tavern to drink (alcohol being a safer choice than water in those days), and to wheel and deal. Contracts, trade, services, all were bartered at the tavern. Neighbors could make arrangements with each other, or with travelling merchants who were staying the night. A man could walk into a tavern and come out with a deal to sell some of his cattle as well as an STD from a local prostitute.

So the idea that adventurers would find work at a tavern is a very realistic concept and a trope that shouldn't be dismissed out of hand.

I recently read Eloy Lasanta's chapter "You're In a Bar" from Engine Publishing's Unframed (a quality book about improvisation for RPGs). He discusses the trope of the tavern as an easy way to get the party together and better solutions should be found to knit the groups psyche to form a stronger bond. I agree in spirit, but I don't blame the Tavern. In fact, I see the Tavern as a role-play opportunity.

For instance, several of the games I have run I used the Tavern as the location for recruitment. A patron wants to hire adventurers to perform a task. I pick one character who seems like a good choice for team leader and have him or her under the Patron's direct employ. What follows is this character interviewing the other characters. If done well, the players can get a peak into what each brings to the table as well as a hint of backstory in the exchange.

Of course there are always those players that want to see what the GM will do if the player intentional makes a mess of the interview. The answer is very simple, if they don't get hired then they don't play. If the player throws a tantrum, he or she is not really someone you want to game with. If they realize their mistake, they will shift tactics and the problem should correct itself. Just make sure that this type of player isn't the one doing the hiring.

Another idea is to use the hiring scene as a flashback. Start your adventure with the team already together and in the middle of combat. After the combat, have a flashback scene where the players describe how they came to be employed by the patron. You could run the tavern hiring then, or you can have them describe how they were approached individually by the patron. Was it just a simple matter of the money being right, did they owe the Patron a favor, did the Patron have incriminating evidence on them? The point here is that the player already knows the result of the exchange (they are doing a job for the Patron) but the way that exchange unfolded can give their characters more depth and Plot Hooks that the GM can use to spotlight that character.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

History Channel Rant



Not game related...but...

I used to love the History Channel, before it became the Ancient Aliens Channel.  Fine, I get that people want to hear about Ancient Aliens, but my biggest issue with H is the day long marathons of a single show.


I like American Pickers. I don't want 12 hours of it.I like Pawn Stars to an extant, but i don't want 12 hours of it.Ancient Aliens can go kiss my sphincter, but apparently that's H's number one show.


So aliens built the pyramids? But they used massive stone instead of metal, and they didn't bother installing lighting, air vents, air conditioning, or anything that would suggest that this was a structure they planned on using. No transporter pads? No control rooms? No complicated Frank Loyd Wright designs?


Nope. Just a pile of (admittedly very heavy) stones.


I'd like to put forward a theory.


Maybe they were capable of doing these incredible things because they weren't distracted by television, radio, pop culture, celebrity news, and the like. I think if I were that bored, I would eventually build a pyramid and have the time to figure out how to do it with heavy stone. In fact, I would need to build that pyramid because just standing around watching cattle poop would drive me crazy.


Now, I liked the movie Chariots of the Gods. It asked some interesting questions. But by turning that book/movie into a regular television series is that they started scraping the bottom of the barrel for conspiracy theory rather quickly.


Egyption gods with animal heads? Clearly the Egyptians witnessed genetic tampering by aliens!


No dude. They had animations and when they looked around and noticed that animals were tougher, stronger, poisonous, and could also fly, they imagined that a superior being would have those traits. Hell, I was doodling stuff like that on my notebooks before I had even heard of aliens or genetic manipulation. 


So as much as Ancient Aliens disgusts me, it wasn't the final nail in the coffin. It was the blocks of days where no history, nothing that enhances my education, could be viewed on a channel that was supposed to be about education.


Strangely enough, I blame the Discovery Channel for this. Specifically Deadliest Catch.Deadliest Catch came on to the scene like gang busters. I admit I watched 3 seasons of it and enjoyed it. The fact that it was reality TV (which is notoriously cheap to make) meant that Discovery had a real cash cow. So History Channel did what all competitors do, they tried do the same thing.


Axe MenIce Road TruckersSwamp People...all of these shows sucked and presented the fact that History Channel was going to dump history in favor of reality TV.


Then they found a hit, by appealing to the lowest common denominators. Ancient Aliens. 
Other channels have their craptastic shows too.

Honey Boo Boo -The (Frakkin') Learning ChannelDuck Dynasty - A&EDiscovery Channel countered flagging ratings with Amish Mafia.

Ladies and gentlemen, education is dead and we killed it, because they are just feeding us what we want to watch.


On a side note, I recently watched a History Channel Documentary that I (had to find) on Youtube about Chinese Super Ships. Everything was going great until they decided to look for an ancient Chinese ship that proved America was discovered by the Chinese and not Columbus. How were they looking for the ship? With a Frakkin' Dowser, you know the guys who use the sticks and the power of ESP to find wells. Apparently it's supposed to work on ancient ships too.


And on a last side note, sure the Chinese could have made it here. So could the Vikings. But if you want to know who discovered America, ask the Native Americans. I'm pretty sure they beat everybody here.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Adventure Monday!- Planet Sulluh

Planet Sulluh. I banged this one out fast. I hope you like it.




OOPS! - RL

Sorry, no planet today. Real life ate up my weekend. I was supposed to paint a room this weekend and I didn't even get to that.

Apologies.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

GM Wednesday! - Retraction

My website gets the most hits when I make a mistake.

In today's post- I Forgot the Dingus - I railed against what I considered to be a poor design decision by Pathfinder and D&D, mainly critters that can only be affected by heroes wielding a Dingus (some specific type of item).

I totally forgot that creatures like this exist in Savage Worlds RAW. 

However, in my own defense-

Many of the creatures in Savage Worlds have Weaknesses to common items, so if it wasn't in your shopping list you can likely improvise something.

Some creatures are only susceptible to magic. Fair enough but if it's available in game there is a very good chance that one of the heroes has that ability.

The same cannot be said for adamantine or cold iron weapons. (Except that by a certain level, you should start packing these in your golf bag because you know you'll need them if you've ever played the higher levels before).

Never-the-less, my argument is thin and spawned by several adventures in Pathfinder Society that were so narrowly focused in weaknesses that I found myself useless and bored.

Apologies.

Bonus! - John Wick Is Awesome

I once considered designing my own rpg system. When I got to magic, my brain burned itself out. I mean it. Every waking moment was consumed with magic design concepts, "feels", philosophies, and a never ending string of mathematical probabilities and die mechanics as I tried to "regulate an imaginary and metaphysical trope within the bounds of a simplified rules system".

Then when my brain had turned to molten lead, I said "Screw this. I need to play." And I went looking for a game system that did what I wanted. That's when I discovered Savage Worlds. 

This new article by John Wick has me thinking about plunging into the torrid fires of game design once again.

Go. Read. Maybe it will change your perceptions of RPGs as much as it has changed mine.


GM Wednesday! - I Forgot To Bring the Dingus

I'm going to pick on Pathfinder and D&D here, but this can be true of any game system. It's just very prevalent in these systems.

Specifically this is about monsters that are more or less immune to damage unless you use the right weapon. In Pathfinder and D&D it's called Damage Resistance (DR for short). The other day my rather low level party and I were fighting a Succubus which has a high DR except against Cold Iron. Being low level there was little chance of hurting it without these weapons. I'd also like to point out that this was a scenario approved by Paizo for Pathfinder Society.

So we got our collective butts kicked and we ran. Once outside we healed up, went to the nearest shop and bought a bunch of cold iron weapons, and came back the next day. She was still there, the monsters we slew to get to her were still dead, the traps still disabled. It was like a video game. Anyway, once we had the cold iron she lasted only two rounds.

That just seems silly. I feel like I need to have a variety of swords on a keychain just to go adventuring because if I don't have the right weapon, I'm useless. I'd need a standard weapon, silver weapon, cold iron weapon, and adamantine weapon to effectively adventure. My hero would need a golf bag full of swords.

This is, in my opinion, bad game design. I get that a monster might have weaknesses (as they do in mythology) but making them nigh immune to everything else forces unprepared players to be sidelined. Even if I could buy all the necessary weapons, I could never carry them all due to the encumbrance rules. I suppose that's why the bag of holding is so popular.

I see this happen sometimes with GMs in other systems that make their own home brewed monster. They want it to be a tough fight, so they make the monster immune to any attack except for the specific tactic they have in mind. Sometimes this works, such as "To kill the monster, you have to target a specific vulnerable area." - Tough but fair. My character is not rendered impotent, he just has to attack a hard to hit spot.

I guess what I am saying is that surviving the encounter shouldn't be based solely on my shopping list.

Edit: So I just played a Pathfinder Society Module that highlighted this problem enormously. It was full of Fey and we just happen to have several characters with cold-iron weapons. If we didn't have these weapons, the adventure would likely have killed the whole party. But because we did have these weapons, no creature lasted into the second round. As for my Cleric, my initiative was so poor I didn't get much chance to act. I burned maybe two channels the whole adventure for healing.

I.....was......bored.....